Brain Tourniquet …An Expression In Pain LP (Iron Lung)
DC’s Brain Tourniquet tackle the tricky territory of a power-violence full-length with …An Expression In Pain. The style is best suited to brisk split seven-inches, not long-players, but Brain Tourniquet bypass that issue by keeping it short – at roughly twenty minutes (half of which is a single ten-minute track), …An Expression In Pain doesn’t twiddle its thumbs. And though they’re named after a Man Is The Bastard song (and the album title comes suspiciously close to Excruciating Terror’s Expression Of Pain), Brain Tourniquet avoid tribute-act status by merging in thrash, stoner-doom and fast-core motifs throughout, often more frequently than the traditional blast/dirge combo itself. The looped noise that opens the record is a nice touch too, something they certainly should keep in their arsenal. If anything, the polished recording and athletic performance reminds me most of Mind Eraser, another group of mosh-core enthusiasts who turned to the dark side (Crossed Out) while developing their own take on the technique. The long closing title track displays the most ingenuity and promise, as it covers a variety of stylistic paths (including the dirge-stomp about halfway through, riding a riff that recalls Mind Eraser’s also-ten-minutes-long “Unconscious”). Maybe I’ve heard this before, but when it’s this powerful and raging, I want to hear it again!

Burns & Tubbs Burns & Tubbs Vol. II 12″ (Public Possession)
Exquisite minimalist house here from, you guessed it… New Zealand? There’s nothing more universal than the groove, and New Zealanders Eden Burns & Christopher Tubbs wrangle it nicely here on these four percussive-based club tracks. All four cuts put their strengths on display: opener “Shaker”‘s is its bass-line, slipping down a half-note and landing directly in the listener’s pelvis. There’s also a repetitive vocal snippet of some guy saying “it’s so good” and I’m in firm agreement. The other three cuts focus on the percussion, with lots of bongos, hand drums, shakers, congas and djembes in full syncopation as either Burns or Tubbs scuffs the surface with dub effects, vocal clips and sampler effects. Has kind of a DJ Fett Burger way of moving through the room, conjuring images of animated rainforest jamborees with colorful critters executing their signature dance moves under the canopy of wet foliage. At least that’s how I’m hearing it! I’d love Vol. II even if I was stranded in some drab scientific research camp in the permafrost of northern Greenland… these tracks bring warmth and jubilation no matter where they travel.

Cool Moon Crossing The Finish Line LP (Exotic Fever)
Houston’s Cool Moon take me back a little with their third Exotic Fever full-length, Crossing The Finish Line. They’re new to me, but their sound transports me to that moment in the early oughts where poppy emo got so polished and accessible that it felt like a mainstream breakthrough was only a matter of time (which was exactly the case). These songs fit that moment well, calling to mind Jejune and The Anniversary, the mysterious rise of Vagrant Records, and even a little Evanescence (it’s in the emo-angelic vocals of Andrea Lisi and not necessarily a bad thing!). Some moments are more pensive and anxious in a manner befitting Texas Is The Reason and Mineral, but for the most part Cool Moon sounds radio-ready: “Is This Thing On?” behaves like an early Paramore b-side awaiting discovery. I presume the majority of my readers aren’t clamoring for poppy emo-derived radio rock, and to be honest I wasn’t either, but I’m not impervious to the style; Cool Moon made a believer out of me with Crossing The Finish Line.

CS + Kreme Orange 2xLP (The Trilogy Tapes)
CS + Kreme entered my life in 2020 care of the stellar howwouldyoufeelwithoutthatthought EP, which sent me on an impassioned mission to scoop up some prior EPs and Snoopy, their album of the same year which cemented them as a unique sonic entity in the all-too-homogenous experimental field. I was thrilled that they were coming to town in 2022 (and bummed when they cancelled!) and eager to dive into their follow-up full-length Orange as soon as the vinyl dropped. It certainly sounds like CS + Kreme, from the reptilian drum machines to the gothic fairy-tale strings and keys, but I’m having an unexpected difficulty settling in and connecting with Orange. A track like “April Fools’ Day” struck a chord with me immediately, its sixteen-minute run-time passing in a blip, but the tracks here feel more passive, like they’re milling about at the station waiting for some sort of train that never arrives. The disposition is unsettled and grey, much like the frothy, toxified seaweed on the cover, and while I certainly dig that mood (and CS + Kreme are masters in conjuring it), I only really find myself pulled into “Would You Like A Vampire” (featuring Bridget St. John). Its richly melodic acoustic guitars and ominously repeated vocal offer some sort of poisoned Balearic folk groove, all churning and spooky, as if Shackleton lightly remixed Comus (and perhaps he should). Even though I’ve instantly fallen into CS + Kreme’s sonic portals in the past, I’m going to keep spinning Orange on the chance that there’s some upside-down hidden doorway I’ve managed to keep missing.

Earnest Knuckle Plays Banjo And Guitar And Snippets Of Samples LP (Vwyrd Wurd)
You heard the man: Earnest Knuckle (aka Bethlehem, PA’s Earl Kunkel) plays banjo and guitar along with, that’s right, snippets of samples. The acoustic guitar and fingerpicked banjo can be lively, lyrical instruments full of rich melody, but Earnest Knuckle doesn’t dive deep so much as briefly idle away on them in the way one might whittle a piece of wood into a smaller piece of wood. They’re definitely more “pieces” than songs, appealingly simplistic and unhurried. In between each piece is one of those sample snippets, and I can’t piece anything together but randomness from them. As they all appear to be short bits of TV dialogue, this album often feels like I’m sitting on a worn-out couch next to Earnest Knuckle as he mutes the TV during every commercial break and teases out moody little tunes on his banjo or guitar until the show comes back on. Taken as a whole, it’s an agreeable domestic affair thanks to its rigid conception: a private lonesome evening at Chez Kunkel. Available now at his elusive Bandcamp page for a prehistoric price of ten bucks, or as he puts it: “the item is operating at a loss, yes, a horrible business model but that isn’t the point”.

Factory City Children Factory City Children 7″ (Toxic State)
Props to Toxic State for staying true to their mission of scabrous punk lunacy, embodying the low-level delinquents that Robocop and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toss in garbage cans on their way to the final boss. This one comes from resident rocker Mateo Cartagena, whose work you surely know from Warthog and Dawn Of Humans, now messing around with a drum machine and the rest of his gear for some zonked-out devil-worshipping bedroom punk. The drums are clearly synthetic and the guitars are clearly overdriven, rolling out in a continual metallic racket not unlike Midnight covering The Misfits, or Venom (if Venom from Spider-Man was also a member of the band). Factory City Children feels kind of throwaway by design, but some of my favorite punk records are the ones with absolutely zero aspirations besides “somethin’ to do”, so why not? “Gut The Pig” ends with some nice robotic malfunction sounds and “Hell Man 88” follows with a fist-pumping Flying V riff, evil goblin vocals and a great improvised rant to close it out, leaving none of Cartagena’s enemies unscathed. Pretty much exactly what I’d want out of a Toxic State solo project!

The Fall-Outs Fine Young Men LP (Hex Enduction)
Sometimes it’s easy for me to forget that underground rock happened in Seattle between the first punk and hardcore waves (think Solger and The Fartz) and the grunge explosion of the late ’80s. People who “were there” often champion The U-Men as the saviors of that mid ’80s time, but until I really dig into their records, I’ve got this reissue of The Fall-Outs 1986 cassette album to fill in at least one gap. I hadn’t heard of them before, but the fine folks at the charming Hex Enduction record shop gave this one a new coat of paint and a fresh vinyl issue and I can understand their compulsion to do so. These songs are fast and fun poppy garage-rock / borderline-punk, calling to mind their compatriots The Fastbacks as well as The Replacements and maybe even a touch of Nasty Facts (“The Other One” in particular). Looking youthful in their striped sweaters and mod haircuts, I can picture The Fall-Outs schlepping their Fender combos across town, livening up the same dive bars that Mark Arm and King Buzzo frequented. Do you think they slammed and wormed to the Fall-Outs lively rendition of “Bright Lights, Big City”, or did they already have other ideas in mind?

Gluer Gluer LP (Push My Buttons / Svart Ljud Rekords)
There are no shortage of American hardcore bands trying to sound Swedish, but a lesser known phenomenon is the Swedish hardcore band trying to sound American. Could be nothing more than a coincidence, but Stockholm’s Gluer seem to be reflecting many of the current trappings of underground American ‘core, from the spooky tattoo flash artwork to the band name that adds an R to a pre-existing American hardcore band name. Of course, it’s the sound that matters, and Gluer operate in a similarly grimy American fashion, stomping and sulking like Gag and Spy and the like. If we want to split hairs, Gluer seem less interested in mosh breakdowns, preferring to focus on frowny mid-paced grooves with a scratched-up attitude, which positions them closer to the punk end of the spectrum as opposed to the ever-growing tough-guy beat-’em-up scene. Cool with me – punks beat thugs any day – and to be honest, for as derivative as Gluer might be, it still sounds pretty good to me. Plus, it seems that the singer wears glasses, and there needs to be more bespectacled front-person representation in hardcore.

Hard Ton Release 12″ (Balkan)
Luomo’s “Tessio” is without a doubt my favorite house track of all time, so you can imagine my surprise hearing its vocal lines reworked by Italian electro-sleaze artists Hard Ton! Someone had to do it, I just wouldn’t have guessed it’d be them. “Tessio Acido” is a fine tribute, a pulsing Knight Rider bass-line with acid gulps that minimizes the deep emotion of the original for a surface-level flirtation. It seems secondary to “Release” anyway, the title track featuring the vocals of Roy Inc., who offers a breathy leather-daddy presence well suited to Hard Ton’s general aesthetic (and ball gag sleeve art). Kinky can easily be corny no matter what the medium, but Hard Ton is too much fun (and too proudly gay) for even minor second-hand embarrassment to stick. One of the few acid-house groups who can title a track “Electrosexual” or “Chocolate Black Leather” with impunity. In Hard Ton’s world, there’s no shame in freely participating; it’s the self-conscious wallflowers who need to check their inhibitions.

Heaven’s Gate Heaven’s Gate 12″ (Beach Impediment)
There’s gotta be a hundred intentionally-evil bands or noise projects out there going by the name of Heaven’s Gate, and while I was skeptical on face value, I’ve come to the conclusion that this Heaven’s Gate is now the only Heaven’s Gate I willingly acknowledge. Check the credentials: current and ex-members of Combatwoundedveteran, Warthog and Municipal Waste with goddamn Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse on drums! Logistically there’s no way this doesn’t rage, and rage it does. Heaven’s Gate opt for kind of a fast-core / thrash combo, mixing Terrorizer’s grind beats with S.O.D. style dirge pitting. The recording is punchy and clean, somewhat recalling the more inspired moments of the Y2K thrash revival, although Heaven’s Gate approach the staunchly underground style with steely professionalism. Only five tracks here (and a masterful b-side etching), but they average a few minutes a piece, moving between modes of attack with fluidity and intention. I swear, there will be full nuclear armageddon decimating the planet and there will still be great grind bands popping up in Florida, long before the water’s drinkable again.

Heavy Metal IV: Counter Electrode Iron Mono 2xLP (Total Punk)
The Heavy Metal madness continues unabated, now that their fourth album (originally released by Static Age on cassette in 2019) has received the royal treatment from Total Punk. They’re a punk duo(?) from either London or Germany (or both?), and if you haven’t already heard them, you can really start anywhere, just be sure to start somewhere. They seem most at ease when skewering the world around them, from war pigs to the grumpy convenience store owner across the street and everyone in between. Just be warned though, their punk doesn’t follow any traditional aesthetic guidelines so much as lampoon them – it’s like if the DIY squat-punk of the early ’80s was airlifted into Cleveland’s scene of outlandish punk comedians. The vocals sound more like sketch-comedy characters than any sort of consistent vocalist; someone named “MC Ice Brainiac” is credited with vocals on the rousing “MF Golf”, but that can’t be some actual other person outside of the band, can it? The presentation is all so demented and funny and inexplicable that Heavy Metal would probably manage to alienate even the least-serious members of Woodstock ’99 and Perverts Again at a party. Some of the songs here are already released, some probably should’ve never been released, and if you want to start with a prime example of Heavy Metal’s glorious lack of sanity, the one-two punch of “Sprinkle To Cone Ratio” into “Straight Jacket” lands like Men’s Recovery Project on a Crass Records diet.

Heavy Mother This Time Around LP (Feel It)
You might see the cover photo of Heavy Mother seated at a table in wacky wigs and sunglasses and think “nope”, but after I explain that they’re members of The Cowboys alongside a one-time drummer for Circuit Des Yeux and gosh-darn Eddie Flowers of The Gizmos on vocals, I’m expecting to you change your answer to a yes! This Time Around is their debut and it’s a good-time rock n’ roll affair with a bad-boy attitude. The music is straight-forward and somewhat typical by garage-rock / first-wave punk metrics, tuneful in the right spots and always willing to party down. Reminds me of The Sonics with a touch of Tha Retail Simps (who were probably influenced by The Gizmos in the first place), punk music meant to be accessorized by pool tables, cigarettes and bad mustaches. Perfect stuff if you’re the type of delinquent who rips bongs to “Louie Louie” on a weekday night (which is covered here!), or simply wish you were.

Human Inferno To Piss Warm And Drink Cold LP (iDEAL Recordings)
Curious one here from the always engaging iDEAL label (who apparently relocated from Sweden to Portugal?). Featuring an ex-member of the Brainbombs-related No Balls, this is something else entirely, a grotty collection of aggressive electronic shocks and industrial synths deployed in a loosely dancehall fashion. Imagine Beau Wanzer’s splatter-core synths played one finger at a time by The Bug and you’re in the general sonic vicinity – oppressive tones, aggressive pulses and, most strikingly of all, vocals that resemble some death-metal form of Reggaeton. British-born Jamaican vocalist Tony F. Wilson really digs into his guts for these vocals, sounding like Flowdan going full Gollum, or Nazamba if he fronted Darkthrone. “Liquid Breakfast” and “At War” are great places to start, with tweaked synths spiraling into the ether in a manner redolent of post-reunion Throbbing Gristle as Wilson chokes on his evil growl with zero reverb and maximum compression. Seems like every form of music can benefit from being absolutely distorted to hell along with the addition of guttural vocalizing; Reggaeton’s now part of that club as well.

Index For Working Musik Dragging The Needlework For The Kids At Uphole LP (Tough Love)
By chance or pre-meditation, London’s Index For Working Musik squeeze a lot of different stylistic choices into their mostly straightforward sound, and I can’t get enough of it. These songs move with the effected guitars and hushed vocals of Duster, the alienated emo of Elliott Smith, the languid momentum of Bedhead, the trippy ensemble feel of The Olivia Tremor Control and the loose noise of Minmae. Sounds like a great way for a band to be, and in the case of Index For Working Musik it truly is! Plus, they seem to share some unspoken kinship with groups far less pop-oriented and palatable, as if they could easily take their rock band on the road with one of those field-recording ambient keyboard projects and it would still make for a pleasant and coherent evening out. They write songs, to be sure, but make the absolute most of their eight-track recording, imbuing these songs with a wonderfully woozy headspace… at any given time there’s at least one musical aspect disconnected from all the rest, and it rules. There aren’t many groups that I know of that could bridge the gap between Grouper and Lewsberg or Amateur Hour and Modest Mouse, but Index For Working Musik aren’t many groups.

Lousy Sue Artless Artifacts LP (Sweet Time)
Jim Kuczkowski was responsible for recording and mastering some of Loli & The Chones’ records, so it comes as no surprise that someone as close to God-tier punk like that ended up starting his own band and playing in a similar style. Lousy Sue are budget-rock punks ready for the 11:00 am opening slot on Goner Fest, proudly simple and even more proudly dumb. The drums are all snare and tom (with crash on the chorus), the guitar strums along to every eighth note and multiple members of the trio provide vocals, either backing each other up, cheering each other on or stepping on each other’s toes. Certainly not as fast as your typical Loli & The Chones tune, and while I prefer more of a nervous tempo to Lousy Sue’s penchant for laid-back swinging, it’s a matter of personal taste. Pretty simple and timeless, and if you didn’t know their version of “Shut The Fuck Up” was a Buck Biloxi original, that might just mean you spend most nights sleeping in a bed instead of on someone else’s couch. Artless Artifacts is almost anonymous in its delivery, so timeless and true is their troglodytes-on-beer garage-punk.

Mioclono Cluster 1 2xLP (Hivern Discs)
Pour some water on your sauna’s heat rocks, the duo of John Talabot and Velmondo have arrived with this rich debut collection of tropical new-age ambient. John Talabot has been early to a number of dance trends over the past fifteen years or so, but is arriving on the blissful wellness-ambient tip a little late; no worries though, Mioclono offer strong support for the timelessness of this sound when done right. Take a track like “Myoclonic Sequences”, for example: it’s patient and exotic, with lush tones pulsing and vibrating at various angles throughout, tuned wood-block percussion keeping effortless time, and some sort of flute that starts puffing a few minutes in, as pleasurable as a parrot on your shoulder. “Fog And Fire” comes next, and is a rich sixteen minutes of synthesized hand percussion, ominous vocals and lush hum, like Nuel’s Trance Mutation stretched across the Amazon. “Pell De Serp” is very much in line with electro-Gamelan acts like De Leon and Journey Of Taro (as well as Raime’s spacious minimalism), as all three replicate traditional Eastern percussion for heady synth-worshipping audiences. Unlike those other two, who opt for sketches and truncated drafts, Mioclono stretch and extend their grooves from sunrise to sundown; the results are calmly eternal.

Model/Actriz Dogsbody LP (True Panther)
Been a while since the phrase “Brooklyn sass-rock” entered my consciousness, but as society tries to reconfigure itself into something reminiscent of the pre-Covid era, it’s only natural that this style would rear its head yet again (much like an old-timey STD). New group Model/Actriz are precisely Brooklyn sass-rock, and they seem almost tailor-made for usurping the niche previously occupied by the disgraced (and disbanded?) Daughters, one of psychosexual drama relaid over sass-industrial beats and violent digital guitars. The Daughters similarities are plenty (in fact, both bands are produced by modern industrial svengali Seth Manchester), but Model/Actriz aren’t a carbon copy – these songs are far more Meet Me In The Bathroom than England’s Hidden Reverse. Dogsbody calls to mind the first couple Liars records care of trash-picked disco beats, harsh noisy textures and a vocalist who simply won’t shut up, though Model/Actriz push things further into electro/wave territories, utilizing more of the studio’s features than a live-to-tape recording. Vocalist Cole Haden sounds like Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart clearing the room at an emo karaoke night, trying to wedge a narrow path between The Jesus Lizard and Panic! At The Disco, and while it’s certainly not for everyone, those for whom it’s for will absolutely love it. As someone who thinks The Vogue’s As Brass In Satin is one of the greatest unheralded albums of Y2K (and a travesty it was CD only), I’m partial to some serious sass; Dogsbody delivers in a fresh and novel way (much like a hot up-and-coming STD).

Moron’s Morons High-Tension Situation LP (Sweet Time)
To all my haters who never thought I’d amount to anything, how do you explain that this is the second album by a band called Moron’s Morons that I’m writing about, here on my very own website?? Check and mate! If their outfits on the cover and name of their band didn’t already clue you in, Moron’s Morons play snot-nosed first-wave punk in the spirit of The Damned, The Dead Boys and The Pack. The riffing is incessant, the clothes are leopard-print and duct tape, and the lyrics are anti-social and proud. This is extremely typical punk rock as it exists all over the world, and in the case of Moron’s Morons it comes from Warsaw, Poland. How they ended up on Nashville’s Sweet Time Records is a testament to the power of the international punk network, especially if your singer is named Philo Phuckphace and your drummer is named Turd Awesome (as is precisely the case with this bunch of rascals). They sneak in a cover of TSOL’s “Nothin’ For You”, which more or less sounds like their originals, of course. Only you can determine if you need more of this in your life, particularly from a contemporary group of punky Polish jesters such as these. I won’t judge either way.

100 Story Building Drowning In Cum Elderly Juvenile Delinquents On Parade LP (Wheelchair Full Of Old Men)
Extremely not-for-everyone content here, but for those of us whom this is for, rejoice! I can’t think of a label more continuously, joyously ridiculous than Wheelchair Full Of Old Men, endlessly releasing unlistenable projects from the same bunch of Impractical Joker-looking weirdo normies since the late ’80s. Sockeye is their flagship band, and while their anthem “Buttfuck Your Own Face” enters my brain at least once a month, they haven’t really been any sort of an active band for many years. This leads us to 100 Story Building Drowning In Cum, the newest project from Sockeye’s Food Fortunata and Poopy Necroponde (on vocals and guitar, respectively). They cover a couple Sockeye classics, like the uncharacteristically boastful “Tour Song”, and twist the aforementioned classic into “Buttfugg My Whole Life”, with the originals following in the same basic style. They even end with a Collective Soul parody! It’s high-school talent-show rock, simple dopey riffs that are the first ones anyone ever learns, almost engineered to repel anyone who cares about being cool, and it allows Fortunata’s lyrics to take center stage, absolutely ludicrous, nearly Dadaist nonsense humor. Sense is never, ever made, just gloriously impossible stories that make life-long fans out of some people (including me) and send everyone else clamoring for the exits. If you don’t like 100 Story Building Drowning In Cum, see ya!

Indira Paganotto Lions Of God EP 12″ (KNTXT)
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I try to pick up at least one hard-banging fundamental techno EP a month… I don’t care if it sounds basically the same as the one I got last month, or the month before, deep down I know it’s fresh and that’s kind of all I need. Techno can be so elemental and pure and nameless, and I appreciate that about it in a way I wouldn’t with other genres I enjoy. Which is to say, Lions Of God by Spanish producer Indira Paganotto is the opposite of experimental, and I find it perfectly appealing exactly how it is. These four tracks are trance-indulgent big-room rippers, each element precisely formulated and deployed as if luxury automotive engineers were in charge of production. “Legend” sounds like it’s ready to soundtrack TV commercials for a new line of luxury hybrid Mazdas, so maybe I’m not far off on that analogy. Best of the bunch might be the title track, which takes a minute to ruminate on the angelic arpeggio before dropping the kick and an alien voice that seems to be saying “body… butt” over and over, emotional chords seeping through like spilled coffee in a takeout bag. When the acid line hits three minutes in, I close my eyes and picture the scores of young unemployed Europeans throbbing in unison, fully connected to this eternal and derivative beat. I’m right there with them.

Rat-Nip My Pillow 7″ (Song Book)
No one can point out the inanities of modern life quite like a sharp hardcore band. I mean, how stupid is it that we have to hear about someone known as “the My Pillow guy”? Pittsburgh hardcore band Rat-Nip clearly see the world through They Live glasses, blasting through these six fully-burled tracks in what is quickly becoming the Pittsburgh tradition (I can hardly believe it myself). Rat-Nip clearly take cues from Pick Your King, Urban Waste and Cause For Alarm – the grittiest first-wave urban ‘core – but the thing that stands out most to me about My Pillow is the absolutely lethal guitar tone. It’s rich, thick and heavier than it should be while maintaining a crisp layer of fuzz, truly the meat on the rest of the band’s bones. In a way, My Pillow reminds me of the Denver Youth Attack scene too, although Rat-Nip don’t seem self-consciously desperate to convince us how mean and scary they are… there’s no tolerance for pretense in Pittsburgh. Along with drumming that’s tighter than my lower back when I wake up and a vocalist who enunciates his words with a fierce scowl, you’ve got a pretty unassailable hardcore EP.

Receptacles The Pie LP (Maternal Voice)
Not sure what Stockholm’s Receptacles are on about with the pie theme here, but then again I’m not sure what they’re on about in regards to much of anything! They’re a severely deconstructed rock trio, seeking out not only wrong notes but wrong chords, wrong rhythms, wrong noises… it’s a true delight. The Pie reminds me quite a bit of Sightings circa City Of Straw, although Receptacles never get dirty or harsh or come close to breaking a sweat. These songs slowly churn like sneakers in a dryer, each player locked into each other yet in a way that defies outside understanding (much like the late great Sightings). Joe Williamsson’s vocals are spoken more like the casually glum stand-up of Mitch Hedberg or Hannibal Burress than any sort of rock singer… the Captain Beefheart similarities are certainly in there, but Williamsson’s delivery slows the proceedings down in a uniquely jarring way. Sometimes The Pie calls to mind US Maple dozing off in those airport massage chairs, but the closer I follow Dennis Egberth’s drums, the more that functional and intricate patterns emerge. There’s plenty of proof here that Receptacles meant to do this, and I’m glad they did.

Shirese Rose Of Smiling Faces LP (C/Site Recordings / Grapefruit)
Loving the picture of Shirese on the cover: it features all seven of them lounging in bisexual lighting, looking like they were just told that the VIP lounge they’re in was reserved for someone else. I liked their first vinyl album that came through here a couple years ago, and they maintain their warped path on Rose Of Smiling Faces. Theirs is kind of an all-things-considered indie-garage sound, as likely to dip into disorienting tape manipulations as a repetitive Rolling Stones strut, a thorough Velvets strum-down or a Roky Erickson acid splash. No anxiety or uptight attitudes here; Shirese love nothing more than to hang in the cradle of a loosely-written psych-rock tune and let it play out naturally. These songs are about the journey, not the destination, with a playfulness that occasionally reminds me of Los Cincos or Eat Skull rinsed of their shit-fi glaze. There are lots of articles about how people have less friends than ever these days, how everyone’s all lonely and scared, but here are Shirese, all seven of them, jamming happily in some carpeted Connecticut basement for hours on end, getting along just fine. Who needs mental, spiritual or emotional help when you’ve got a band?

Society Problem Stolen Moment EP 7″ (Molech Monnex)
My Mind were a profoundly disorienting punk group, and Society Problem, featuring at least one of their members, pushes even further towards a sonic strobe effect with Stolen Moment. Imagine a live recording of Neos where the only microphone is in a rack tom, the first Hair Police album if they only covered Fat Day songs, or Harry Pussy if they were a band of cartoon elves. Many of these songs are dominated by the tumble of percussion, with youthful shouting and lo-fi guitar slashes coming from somewhere close by, instruments linking up seemingly at random. The songs are short (there’s something like ten of them), and they’re interlaced with brief and appropriately confounding samples (is that Angela Lansbury run through a reverb pedal?). The record comes in a fold-out screened sleeve with a cardstock insert of Society Problem’s MySpace confirmation email circa 2007, as if I wasn’t already deeply confused about every aspect of the group and this release. Punk can be hard to mess with while remaining punk, but Stolen Moment rips the whole idea to shreds in the punkest way possible.

Sweat Lodge / Shawnte Orion split 7″ (Related)
Spunky split single here on the Related label, this one pairing Sweat Lodge with Shawnte Orion, whom I keep reading as “Shawnte Onion” in my head no matter how hard I try. I appreciate the confusion inherent in Sweat Lodge’s existence, as it appears they put out a tape in 2013, then became a band called Turquoiz Noiz for two albums’ worth (both released on Related), and now are back as Sweat Lodge? Who can say the inner workings of this trio’s minds, but I like the name Sweat Lodge more, and they offer some fun, crusty indie-rock here. Reminds me of Hickey in that there is a melody buried underneath squalls of noise and muck, delivered without the slightest hint of insecurity or sense that they’re seeking anyone’s approval. Makes sense then that they’d be down with Shawnte Orion on the flip, as he reads his spoken-word poetry over incidental street sounds and, as it turns out, the strum of a guitar, simple percussion and semi-melodic backing yowls. He clearly comes from a punk background, dropping conspicuous references and adding the sound of curbs being grinded to “Pavement Any Flavor”, his oblique ode to skateboarding. Two different approaches to sonic art but both artists seem to be having plenty of fun with their respective choices.