Baby’s Blood Baby’s Blood 7″ (Neck Chop / Blast Of Silence)
After finally warming up to the work of self-aware punk rocker Drew Owen care of his Sick Thoughts album on Goner a few months ago, this EP by his new project Baby’s Blood arrived on my doorstep. Thankfully I’m over 18, because they could get in trouble for distributing this sort of punk-rock filth to minors! This group is Owen and at least one or two new friends he made while currently residing in Finland (you never know if his projects are “real” bands or just him playing all the instruments), and it’s rougher, meaner and undoubtedly more Finnish than Sick Thoughts. Jesus Christ Allin seems to be the main influence at play: tracks like “Against The Law” and “Ready II Die” are delivered in the classic early-GG style of nihilistic-yet-melodic punk, with exaggeratedly disgusted vocals and tight memorable choruses. For whatever apprehension I may have had upon first glance, there’s no denying the righteousness of Baby’s Blood – they come correct with all the right swear words, drug references and gleeful promotion of self-harm, and they’ve got the riffs and style to pull it off. I’ve always been one to live slowly and (hopefully) die old, but records like this tempt me to quicken the pace.

Bruce Sonder Somatic 2xLP (Hessle Audio)
Hessle Audio has been one of my favorite British electronic labels for a while now, but the few full-lengths they’ve released in the past (Pangaea, Pearson Sound) have housed some of the label’s least-enthralling moments. I’ve been loving the past few years’ worth of Bruce EPs, both on and off Hessle, and remained hopeful that he could put together a compelling full-length, especially when I saw the eerie-dance cover image. He didn’t let me down! Sonder Somatic is a big album, if not a surprising one – it makes good on the promise of his previous singles, retaining his signature style of pulsing grooves and oddball production tics. Tracks like “What” and “Elo” are primed to push a hall full of dancing partygoers toward euphoria, but are just as valuable for those of us planted on a couch and eager to dissect the ornate detail and mind-bending construction that went into these tracks. At his best, Bruce excels at connecting with the cerebral as well as the primal, crafting lush techno jams that are as fun to mentally investigate as they are to physically engage in rhythmic gyration. It’s a pretty long record too, eleven healthy cuts across four sides of 12″ vinyl – other techno full-lengths might leave me feeling fatigued, but Sonder Somatic continues to energize.

Bummer Holy Terror LP (Learning Curve)
It says “Holy Terror” at the top of the cover in Black Flag font, but the band is called Bummer, as evidenced by the logo on their kick drum. Or maybe they’re called Peavey, based on all those amps? Anyway, this is the first full-length from this Kansas City-based metal-core outfit, and if you are saddened by thick guitars, screamed vocals and frequent heavy breakdowns, this group will surely live up to their name for you. Their vibe seems to be that of “depressed wise-guy”, full of snarky puns as well as lyrics like “I am just the leftover piece of trash that you forgot to throw out”. Their music is heavier and more metallic than most of the groups who share Bummer’s outlook, calling to mind a punker Strife, or maybe a less-tricky Converge? The vibe is AmRep, whereas the sound is Deathwish. This one comes on fancy tri-color red, white and blue vinyl, as if there was any question as to Bummer’s country of origin. As far as I’m concerned, us Americans originated this art form!

C.H.E.W. Feeding Frenzy LP (Iron Lung)
Through my previous encounters with records by Chicago’s C.H.E.W., I had mentally filed them away as a solid lower-tier hardcore group, one of the many unremarkably-good hardcore-punk acts of today. I was a little surprised to see Iron Lung partaking, but upon listening to Feeding Frenzy, it makes sense, as this debut full-length is a firm step up from their previous EPs. Maybe they simply needed the extra vinyl inches to fully deliver their goods, or perhaps they’ve improved as a group in the past couple years – I’m guessing it’s a little bit of both, as this album sincerely rips. In what manner does it rip, you ask? Well, they blaze through a good number of fast hardcore tunes as though possessed by the ghosts of Talk Is Poison and No Comment, mix it with head-spinning thrash similar to No Statik or Permanent Ruin, and throw in just enough demented weirdness to ensure their dignified position within hardcore-punk’s colorful tapestry. I read somewhere that they were initially influenced by Crass Records and Dead Kennedys, which of course is a fine place to start any band (particularly teenaged ones though, let’s be honest), but those influences seem more mental and emotional than musical, as Feeding Frenzy is a hard-pounding menace in league with S.H.I.T. and Impalers. I wouldn’t expect to see a new release on Crass, but my fingers are crossed for a C.H.E.W. record on Alternative Tentacles.

Chronophage Prolog For Tomorrow LP (Cleta Patra)
Very cool debut here from Austin’s Chronophage on a new label run by Candice Metrailer of Mystic Inane. Chronophage take the opportunity to hone in on the art-rock that was created in the brief window of time that starts after cool punks grew bored with punk and ends before they fully transitioned into college rock. I’m hearing the tuneful yet abstract style of Homosexuals throughout Prolog For Tomorrow, a touch of Eat Skull’s feral pop sensibility, a big heaping of Doc Dart’s Patricia and the first couple Tactics albums, too. Chronophage’s songs are diverse in fidelity, structure and mood – a DIY country skiffle might butt up against a tenderly twee melody that segues into a distorted tape experiment, like a mixtape that seamlessly sticks Girl Ray next to Flying Calvittos and Thin Yoghurts. Chronophage are really bursting with ideas, but it comes out focused and fascinating, not messy or confused, even as seemingly every member of the group takes lead-vocal duties at some point or another. Strongly recommended for any fans of off-kilter DIY rock and the joy it brings.

Civic Those Who No 7″ (Anti-Fade)
Been hearing good things about Melbourne’s Civic ever since their debut 12″ came out last Spring. This new four-track 7″ EP is my first experience with the group, and even considering the large quantity of high-quality, melodically-minded punk bands that’s come out over the past few years, Those Who No is a standout! For some reason, I had it in my head that Civic were a hardcore group, but this is hook-driven anthemic punk, in the manner of groups like Radioactivity, Dillinger Four or even The Exploding Hearts. Probably a little Cocksparrer and Jawbreaker in there too, but Civic don’t sound remotely British or Oi-inspired, nor are they remotely emo or poetic, so more of a slight whiff than a stink of those two. On this plainly-designed EP, Civic jam through their great upbeat punk tunes with choruses that catch your brain by the third verse. They wrap it up with a cover of Brian Eno’s gem “Needle In The Camel’s Eye”, which could easily pass to an unlearned ear as a Civic original thanks to their assured delivery and unflinching attitude. A touch of glam suits this versatile punk group! And as is true with the very best Australian rock groups, Civic feature a member by the name of Roland; he plays bass.

Color TV Color TV LP (Deranged)
Minneapolis’s Color TV follow the preordained path of punk behavior by releasing this, their full-length debut, after a couple 7″ singles and a demo. That’s really the way to do it, isn’t it? Anyway, they were clearly up for the task, as this is a strong effort of frantic skinny-tie punk rock, akin to Jay Reatard, The Vibrators, The Time Flys, Clorox Girls, Dark Thoughts, Buzzcocks, that sorta thing. As far as the style goes, Color TV’s sound is somewhat anonymous – they certainly don’t make any wrong moves, but they don’t do anything to particularly establish themselves from their peers, either. Maybe by just being really tight and good, that’s how they stand out? Actually, scratch that – there are probably more really-good power-pop punk groups playing now than any other time in the past thirty years. It even goes through to their name, which certainly fits well within the genre of established punk tropes, but doesn’t really offer any fresh new angle. I’d be intrigued if they went with something more specific like “Big-Ass Projection Screen Box TV From 1994 That No One Wants And Is Too Heavy To Throw Away”, but honestly then I’d probably accuse them of trying too hard. You just can’t win with me!

Convenience Stop Pretending 7″ (Iron Lung)
Here’s a new hardcore band featuring old hardcore peeps: members of No Statik and Iron Lung ripping through seven tracks of ugly American hardcore-punk. I love that the members of Convenience have clearly played countless hours of hardcore music in their lives, and decided to get together with each other to do what? Play it some more! Across these tunes, No Comment and Capitalist Casualties come to mind, as well as early MDC (if they were a little heavier) and Cold Sweat (if they were less chaotic). Those are all reliable bastions of hardcore, and Convenience does it right too, mixing in fast-core pummels and thorny mosh parts to ensure the listener’s full attention is paid. My favorite is probably “Adult Contemporary”, for both the white-collar evisceration and the breathless vocal repetition that concludes it. As long as there are thoughtless, selfish jerks out wandering around and making life harder for everyone else, there will be pissed-off hardcore-punk bands taking them to task for it.

Dewaere Soft Logic LP (Phantom / Bigoût / Dewaere)
Far too frequently, I encounter underground rock bands where the act of singing (or screaming or yelling) seems like an afterthought, as though the vocalist picked the shortest straw and was assigned the role rather than begged his or her bandmates for the mic. Maybe it’s just the vocalist-pride in me, but it’s nice to encounter a group with a commanding vocal presence like Dewaere. This French group doesn’t sound French so much as manically European, thanks in no small part to the vocals of Maxwell James Farrington – he sings like a game-show host with his pant-leg on fire, some sort of unstable mix of the guy from The Pineapples and a mocking impression of Julian Casablancas. Attach that voice to the METZ-like throb of “Garden” and you’ve got a winner! Farrington varies his approach wildly, as though he’s auditioning for France’s Got Talent! one moment and French Impractical Jokers the next, and it works excellently with the group’s plunging riffs ala Drive Like Jehu and Girl Band. Playing loud rock music with your friends is supposed to be fun, and I have no doubt that the gentlemen of Dewaere are having a marvelous time.

Ryan Dino Chapter One: The Final Chapter LP (Scavenger Of Death)
If you didn’t stifle a slight chuckle upon reading the album title, check your pulse: you might be dead! Ryan Dino aka Ryan Dinosaur is the name used by Ryan Bell (of Predator, GG King, Hyena, Bukkake Boys and so on) for his “solo” material, but this album appears to be a deeply collaborative effort between Bell and his various hardcore-punk friends, not a lonesome basement recording. Chapter One features full-band lineups for essentially every tune, with varying personnel, and it certainly sounds like a real band, not a facsimile of one. If you’re familiar with any of his other bands, the music on here shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it all tends to orbit the same speedy, melodic, slightly-raw punk aesthetic. There’s less hardcore here though, and more forays into poppy punk and downer melodic ‘core ala Wipers or Rikk Agnew. “Krog St. Tunnel” sounds like Boomgates (the twee-ish Eddy Current side project), whereas a track called “Funeral War” ends with echo-laden screams and heavy riffing. “Breakin’ The Danelaw”, on the other hand, goes full-leather into Judas Priest territory, because why not? This album comes with an enormous poster of Ryan Dino and his friends hanging out in the street, probably fresh from practicing the genre-impure punk music that comprises this album, as if they weren’t already endearing enough.

?FOG 7-Inch Round Black Thing 7″ (Bunkerpop)
I’m waiting to hear someone say this band name out loud, but seeing as I don’t get into nearly enough conversations with experts of early ’80s New Zealand post-punk, I may never know how it’s pronounced. And don’t even get me started on where to properly file it in the alphabetized 7″ bins; that’s still up for lively debate! Whatever this band might be called, they released this 7″ on their own ?Fog City Enterprises label back in 1985, and now it has been rescued from total obscurity and placed into semi-obscurity care of the great reissue-punk label Bunkerpop. It certainly has that mid-’80s Flying Nun recording quality, with roomy drums and twangy guitars, but this group plays with the fierceness of early ’80s punk, which is to say it ends up sound like a particularly agitated session from The Fall around that same era. The vocalist angrily spouts his words, the drummer rips on the closed hi-hat, and the group lock into their succinct melodies for a couple minutes before stopping and starting a new one. Picking up some early Birthday Party vibes too (maybe the Boys Next Door days before any gothic drama entered the picture), as well as some standard snarling punk rock moves, a little late for 1985 but sounding sweet to these ears right now. The name has me shook, but if you can get past the zany and offbeat presentation (the back cover features a comic-book-style illustration for the song “Fatman With A Big Dork”), ?FOG are deceptively sturdy and ripping.

Geld Soft Power 7″ (Iron Lung)
Really quick, can we talk about the way that most of the new Iron Lung 7″ releases have a die-cut back cover in the shape of their logo? This is a hardcore label that considers the big things as well as the small, and we’re all quite lucky to have them with us. Of course, it’s not difficult to enjoy something like this 7″ from Melbourne’s Geld, one of the most ferocious contemporary hardcore groups currently active, offering four new tunes following last year’s Perfect Texture full-length. As expected, this EP is full of ragged searing hardcore: “L.O.W.A.G.” features the same melody as one of my favorite Agents Of Satan songs (always a plus), and the title track ends with a smoky piano dirge, reminding me of something Orchid would’ve done back in 1998. Whereas Geld’s album really honed in on psychotic, feedback-laden Japanese hardcore, this EP reveals other paths for the group… I don’t want to say more “mature” styles, because I hate the insinuation that primitive noisy hardcore is immature, so let’s say equally ugly and intense sounds, just more diverse in their application. Melbourne has quickly become the land of carefree, feel-good indie pop, so it’s nice to know Geld are helping balance it out. It can’t all be sailor caps, silly mustaches and wool cardigans.

Globsters Express Everything LP (SPHC)
“Kentucky’s Ultimate Noise” is prominently written on the a-side label of Express Everything, and I dunno about you, but my interest is piqued! This is a vinyl pressing of what was initially a cassette of Globsters’s sole full-length released back in 2014, which makes zero business sense (aka completely normal SPHC sense). I don’t think Globsters are still a functioning group, but who knows, and I guess who cares, too – I’m not planning on tracking them down, but I’m happy to listen to their proudly messy tunes. They play a very unintimidating form of noise-core punk: imagine if No Fucker called themselves No Fudger instead, or if Gloom were into video games and Slurpees instead of crust pants and alcohol. It’s kind of endearing, as Globsters clearly want to make impressively abrasive music, and they do, it’s just not particularly forceful or menacing. “Original Series Fuck Off” could’ve been a Chemotherapy song had it been recorded a little cleaner, which is a net positive. All this and multiple recorded-from-the-TV pro-wrestling samples, which go on longer than most of the tracks (an aesthetic choice I personally shared when I was nineteen). Globsters come from a sincere, unpretentious place, and while they won’t be winning any Hardcore Awards for style or popularity, there’s a soft spot in my heart reserved especially for them.

Gong Gong Gong Siren / Something’s Hapening 7″ (Wharf Cat)
A few years ago, a Chinese group called The Offset:Spectacles released one of my favorite albums of the decade. Quite simply, it’s just so good, a gloriously sideways take on perpetual Velvet Underground-style strum with minimal percussion, guitars working overtime on rhythm as well as melody, supremely catchy but also dark and inscrutable. Anyway, turns out the main force behind that group, Tom Ng Cheuk Ki, has continued this practice under the name of Gong Gong Gong, and this is their vinyl debut, somehow picked up by the sensible Brooklynites of Wharf Cat. “Siren” does exactly what The Offset:Spectacles did, and I love it – monotonously cyclical guitar, some primitive guitar heroics on top, vocals that provide a sense of structure and song, all delivered in their own distinct style. “Something’s Happening” is an instrumental, which I find to be less potent by default, but the progressions utilized are just as ferocious and shades-on cool – am I wrong in hearing some Randy Holden circa Population II on this one? I wouldn’t throw around the name of The Lord Our God Randy Holden carelessly, but The Offsets, and consequently Gong Gong Gong, are guitar groups of a truly elite caliber. Please tell me there’s a full-length on the way!

Graf Orlock Examination Of Violent Cinema Vol. 1 LP (Vitriol)
I recall Graf Orlock from over a decade ago as being the band that released a record that was also a backpack, or packaged in a backpack, or something ridiculous and hard-to-file like that. This new album, their fifth, is packaged in an opaque black plastic bag, and the LP jacket within is sealed shut diagonally across its front, requiring its owner to perforate it open, revealing the inner guts of a cyborg human in the form of a glossy inner sleeve. Are all their records completely crazy? I appreciate the band’s dedication to making striking visual pieces – you’ve gotta do something to stand out – but musically, Graf Orlock are fairly unremarkable, at least on this record. They play a fairly straightforward form of metallic hardcore / grindcore, reminiscent of Coalesce, Page 99 and early ’00s Pig Destroyer, not unlike a group that would’ve made the cut for a Hydra Head split single but not a full-length. It’s honestly kind of surprising how dated their music sounds, as it seems as though, for better or worse, most bands have moved on from this sound, either to more esoteric and experimental realms, or more primitive and bare-bones aggression. Graf Orlock squeeze in lots of movie samples of aggressive violent dialogue in between the songs as well, presumably in support of the album title, which also feels like a throwback move, although I suppose it’s not really a “throwback” if you’ve never left. Boilerplate metalcore with crazy graphic design, which would be an astonishingly perfect combination if they press their next album into some form of edible pancake-like material, so that you can headbang along until you get hungry. Maybe the cover could be printed on a biodegradable napkin?

Laurel Halo Tru / Opal / The Light Within You 12″ (Livity Sound)
Laurel Halo and Hodge: two artists that I routinely enjoy, whose most recent works I’ve either missed or spent insufficient time with. For as much as I love Laurel Halo’s second and third albums, I haven’t gotten around to peeping her fourth, and Hodge has dumped at least half a dozen new EPs over the past two years that I sill need to check out. Good thing then that they came together on this three-track EP for Livity Sound, as it’s a fantastic melding of their particular methodologies. “Tru” and “Opal” inhabit a similar aural zone, both with big vibrant beats, ornate melodies and lush pads. Halo’s unrestrained eccentricity pairs sharply with Hodge’s precision-guided room-fillers, no doubt. I’d say that’s most evident on “The Light Within You”, the standout track of the EP. It spotlights a self-help, spiritually-mindful sort of vocal sample (“all good things come to me”), ceaselessly repeated as the music slowly blooms from a hovering buzz into a playfully prismatic groove – it makes me want to book myself not simply an hour-long massage, but the deluxe all-day spa package. Fits right in with recent work by Peder Mannerfelt, Joy O and Batu, while plucking its own particular combination of emotions. If all good things weren’t coming to me before I listened, they’re certainly on their way now.

Dirk P. Haubrich Robinson Out Of Context 12″ (Quanta)
Not to be confused with any other Dirk Haubrich you might be listening to, Dirk P. Haubrich is a German composer and producer, and after years of composing music for various dance and ballet companies, his music has landed on vinyl care of Quanta Records. Robinson Out Of Context features two pieces scored for modern dance performances; they’re both around twenty minutes long, and while I was hoping to hear something along the lines of Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll (Part 2)” extended into infinity, there are no obvious rhythms or grooves to be found on either of these compositions. Rather, Haubrich takes to microtonal electronica here, wielding lavish slabs of sustained synthetic ambience, intricate clicks and intermittent puffs of bass to situate the mood. I bet it works well with limber, strapping dancers in leotards contorting themselves into prepossessing forms, but as far as a home-listening experience, this music quickly fades from focus, like a subtle sonic screensaver that is easily tuned out. Perhaps I don’t have the Dolby surround sound mega-speakers needed to truly immerse myself in Robinson Out Of Context (the promotional material does note that this record “is challenging and requires a lot of attention from the listener”), but whatever the case, this EP fades to pleasant musical wallpaper much quicker than many other artists plowing similar meticulously-arranged avant-ambient fields.

Heavy Metal Too OZ 4 I.T. 7″ (Total Punk)
The ingenious Heavy Metal are without a doubt one of the punkest bands in Europe at the moment, so it’s only fair they were given some airtime on one of the finest purveyors of the craft, Total Punk. Unlike many Total Punk artists, who seem to be in competition with each other to release the shortest 7″ singles possible, Heavy Metal contribute four tunes here, a meaty EP’s worth of their acerbic punk tantrums. At any given moment, it seems as though half of the instruments being performed are fully synthetic in nature, which lends Heavy Metal their own unique luster – the bass could be a four-stringed Fender blasting out of a crusty amp, or merely the lowest keys on a child’s Casio run through effects – who knows for sure? It’s a great sound, and Heavy Metal make excellent use of it here, writing songs that are 75% repetitive hook, 25% attitude. I’ve found myself singing along to “Overtime”, and I don’t even know the words! The vocal delivery reminds me more than a little of Ed Schrader this time around, which is particularly effective on “Gasmask Factory II”, a putrid strut that verges on the mean-spirited electro-sass of Virgin Mega Whore. Or maybe some sort of crime-ridden collaboration between Le Shok and FNU Ronnies? No matter how you slice it, Too OZ 4 I.T. is one of the more essential Total Punks in recent memory.

Khidja Și BalabaÈ™ Khidja Și BalabaÈ™ 12″ (Malka Tuti)
I fell pretty hard for Khidja’s Plot 12″, so I immediately went looking into what else this Romanian duo had to offer. This new one is a collaborative effort with violinist Mihai BalabaÈ™, and the first track, “Chloe”, was exactly what I didn’t expect – a decidedly non-electronic foray into jazzy jam-band grooves, like John Mayer guesting with Dead & Company on a European vacation. What gives! I don’t necessarily mind it, but… still pretty distant from my preconceived notions of what Khidja are all about. The following three tracks, however, turn directly away from that fusion jam-band style and move in a direction I would have anticipated: opulent and hypnotic grooves with emotive live instruments worked into the mix. The twelve-minute “Mos Ene” is particularly alluring, slowly building a slurpy churn with minimalist keys that resembles Bruno Pronsato tackling the works of Steve Reich, whereas “Apa Grea” simmers like the fourth-world groove of Nuel’s Trance Mutation. The record closes with “Komagome”, a sparkling cut that melds glitzy synths with manipulated vocal snippets, as if Luciano got into vaporwave. Could this be the gateway record that gets Dave Matthews fans into contemporary experimental techno? Is the world ready?

Nick Klein Bathroom Wall 12″ (Bank Records NYC)
Based on his resume, Nick Klein could easily be described as a maker of techno music for noise enthusiasts. With releases on Monorail Trespassing, Alter and Ascetic House, his music is revered by those with a shared appreciation of Marshstepper, Richard Ramirez and Sickness, which is cool with me, but also a little surprising, as at least here, Klein’s music consists of no-fuss jacked grooves direct from a modular synth. The kicks and snares are a little crispy, and the melodies occasionally push into red-lined distortion, but mostly there’s nothing overtly noise-like about Bathroom Wall, both sonically and aesthetically. Sure, it goes well in a damp and darkened subterranean bunker at inappropriately loud volumes, but Klein taught his gear to dance, not destroy. I particularly enjoy the red-hot acid of “American Gut” and the relaxed-fit funk of “Poor Me Another”, both of which call to mind the distinct personalities of Beau Wanzer, Delroy Edwards, Mammal, and some of those ’90s-era Esplendor Geometrico records. Fine company for any practitioner of the synth-based arts, and Nick Klein’s Bathroom Wall is equally worthy of your time.

Lady Lynch Lady Lynch LP (Cut Surface)
More seductive gloom n’ doom from the Swiss Cut Surface label, this time from a group whose name I can’t help but misread as “Lydia Lynch” each time I see it. It’s not too far fetched to imagine Lydia Lunch and David Lynch getting hitched, although I have a feeling he’d be more likely to change his name to David Lunch than Lydia giving up her famous mantle. Enough fantasizing, let’s get to this record, which is a pretty par-for-the-course take on dark and gothic indie post-punk. I’m reminded of groups like DVA Damas and Savages, although Lady Lynch aren’t nearly as noisy and hypnotic as the former, nor are they as fiery and impassioned as the latter. I get that Lady Lynch are in it for the the slinking, simmering grooves, rather than any sort of bombast or pop hooks, but they don’t quite possess the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to push things to the next level, say like The Xx or Cold Beat. Still, Lady Lynch firmly establish a mood through this self-titled debut, one of dark velvet, lace and candle-smoke.

Mülltüte Mülltüte LP (no label)
Curiosity got the best of me, so I had to look up the English translation to “Mülltüte” (my money was on something like “mule toot”, so maybe “donkey fart”?). Apparently, it’s “bin liner”, which is even better! Anyway, this German group has been releasing their own 12″s and 7″s for a few years now, and I’m surprised a larger hardcore label hasn’t snapped up their taut and raucous hardcore-punk. It certainly sounds right up the alley of Deranged and Sorry State – maybe they tried, and Mülltüte politely declined? Whatever the case, this 45 RPM 12″ LP features twelve fast and pulsing tracks of clean-guitar hardcore. I’m reminded of groups on the moodier end of the spectrum, like The Vicious and early Iceage, as well as classic Euro-core like Zmiv and Electric Deads. The vocals are gruff and stoutly enough for any self-respecting street-punk group, and they work nicely with these high-energy tunes. I appreciate the commitment to the undistorted guitar tone, too – when they blaze through “Schimpf und Schande”, I’m getting Feederz sensations, which is imperative to my mental well-being (I usually get my daily supplement direct from listening to Feederz, but this works too). Next time I take out the trash, I’ll think of Mülltüte!

Neo Neos Kill Someone You Hate LP (Neck Chop)
The Neo Neos 7″ on Neck Chop from 2017 was a surprise hit here at the YGR office, a real treat of scatterbrained and primitive hardcore-punk, so I was excited to give this album a spin – not even the egregious Anime artwork could stop me. I have to say, while there has been a good bit of music I’d describe as “meme-like” or “meme-inspired”, Kill Someone You Hate seems to truly embody the meme form, much to my surprise after their notably less-deranged 7″. Hear me out: good memes are hilarious, display poor technical craftsmanship as well as advanced cynical wit, are often grossly pixelated from repeated re-posting, and are ultimately pretty disposable. The same could pretty much be said for this Neo Neos album! These songs are bristling with lo-fi crud; they share a uniform fidelity, each song falling into the next with another frantic series of parts; hilarious recordings of friends (or enemies?) talking about punk (and Quiznos) are interspersed throughout. Listening to this album feels like a manic late-night scroll through Instagram meme accounts, one poorly-Photoshopped gag after another in a seemingly infinite stream of shitposts. Musically, I’m strongly reminded of Coneheads and Liquids thanks to the nasal-alien vocals and high-speed Angry Samoans riffs, which works nicely, but the way Neo Neos have compressed all those tunes into this messy pile of in-jokes and sonic chaos is their true achievement. Even the insert seems to be hand-assembled over printed-out memes – someone could make Kill Someone You Hate their post-grad thesis on the brain rot induced by digital media consumption, I swear!

Overmono Whities 019 12″ (Whities)
Simply can’t go wrong with the Whities label as far as I’m concerned, so when I saw that the British duo Overmono (brothers Ed Russell and Tom Russell aka Tessela and Truss) dropped a fresh one, I had to investigate. Three tracks here, all varied in concept and delivery, and all pretty sharp and modern revisions of time-tested techno and IDM forms. “iii’s Front” opens it as a dramatic dissection of the “Funky Drummer” break – for at least a couple minutes, the track is little more than live drums, pulled apart and reduced and maximized. I didn’t realize such a concept would be as fascinating and pleasant to the ears as it is! “Quadraluv” sounds like one of those stylized Nissan Maxima commercials given a Whities makeover, with various colors disintegrating and fading as the pulse persists, eventually leading to some soft jungle breaks. “Yell0w_Tail” reads like a pesky computer virus, and I guess it kinda sounds like one too, albeit a virus that permanently loops clips of blissful waterfalls and cloud patterns on your screen. Not entirely unlike the more relaxed cuts by Bruce or Ploy, and an appropriate cool-down after the opening cut’s brilliant drum work. Add to cart!

Richard Papiercuts Twisting The Night 12″ (Ever/Never)
I still can’t believe “Peanut Butter Is Back” from Richard Papiercuts’s 2015 album If never became a worldwide smash-hit ala “Gangnam Style” or “Hey Ya”. As far as I’m concerned, that song demonstrates all that is glorious and fun about pop music, guided by the universal theme of peanut butter (sorry, those of you with nut allergies) – it must’ve somehow gotten lost in the algorithm. That tune earned Richard Papiercuts a place in my heart forevermore, and while the four tracks on this new 12″ EP do not achieve that same level of greatness, they’re a welcome addition to his trim discography. On Twisting The Night, Papiercuts and his gang deliver more tender, New Romantic-inspired pop, sashaying across similar meadows as Tears For Fears, Strange Boutique, Simple Minds and other ’80s groups with haircuts that were mocked in the ’90s but are carefully emulated by the teenage tastemakers of today. I’m hearing some sonic similarities to Dark Blue this time around too… maybe if Dark Blue were infatuated with Kate Bush and Spandau Ballet instead of Blitz and The Stone Roses? What’s striking about Richard Papiercuts here is the way the surface-level cynicism and irreverence is undercut by a sympathetic tenderness, visually represented by the softhearted inner-sleeve photo of children (the offspring of the group, perhaps?) hanging out on a city playground, looking like a GAP Kids ad in a world that somehow defeated capitalism. I wish more male artists could confront complex emotions with the unguarded sincerity displayed by Richard Papiercuts, but until that becomes the norm, he will continue to stand out.

Red Delicious Far From The Tree 7″ (Slugsalt)
Did you know about Great Lakes Hardcore? I’m sorely under-informed, but thankfully Red Delicious are here to blast some in my face. Theirs is a sloppy and turbulent form of hardcore – eight tracks, no fuss, all raw and petulant like Necros’ I.Q. 32, Svart Framtid’s 1984 or Hysterics’ Can’t I Live?. The vocals are menacing and exclusively shouted in Spanish, which hopefully means lots of pot-shots are taken at people who only understand English. Not sure I understand why this group named themselves after something as non-raging as an apple, but after blasting this EP a few times, I am certain there’s a vision behind it. All this makes for a very cool hardcore 7″, but the penis-as-recliner drawing on the back cover makes the whole package something you won’t want to miss, unlike the penis on the cover of Street Trash’s Five Dirty Fingers EP, which has haunted my nightmares since 2004.

S.B.F. Same Beat Forever LP (Neck Chop)
At first I thought the group was called “Same Beat Forever”, which I guess is partially true based on their revolving-acronym name (in the spirit of MDC), and I was immediately behind the concept – why not fully embrace the sameness inherent in so much good punk music? Unfortunately, this punk duo (two guys on guitars and vocals plus a drum machine) actually mixes the beat up a bit, but I’ll forgive them for not following through, as Same Beat Forever is great mean-spirited punk. In a weird way, I’m reminded of the earliest Fucked Up singles, as S.B.F. seem to hold classic street-punk progressions close to their hearts, but they channel those melodies through their own particular delivery system. “Rock To The Head”, for example, sounds like it was written by Cockney Rejects, but it’s performed by a digital drum machine, buzzing guitars and throaty American vocals. Unlike many studio-punk bands, it feels like S.B.F. are having a lot of fun – “Hole” sounds like the missing link between Suicidal Tendencies and Ministry – and their sort of fun is contagious. If your new year’s resolution was to mosh to a drum machine, S.B.F. is precisely what you need.

Schiach Schiach LP (Phantom)
German punk label Phantom Records put out German punk band Schiach’s debut LP, which is what I’m talking about right here. It’s already very German in origin, but I swear it sounds extremely German too, in the dry and rigid delivery and production, and vocals, of course. Schiach play rudimentary post-punk, similar to Crisis, but with a brusque delivery and a foreboding sense of the walls closing in around them, the same sort of tension inherent in great groups like Abwärts and Slime. Schiach aren’t as flashy though, and have instead decided to kick through their songs with the insistent aggravation caused by an itchy bug-bite or rash. The guitarist often picks at single notes, and the band as a whole never displays any swagger or pomp, just workmanlike and grueling punk sounds. Punk can be fun, but it can also be a viable outlet for miserable frustration – whether or not Schiach felt a spark of joy in making their self-titled debut album remains to be seen, but I liked listening to it!

Stern Missive: Sister Ships LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
There are some famous Sterns out there, but vocalist and composer Chuck Stern is bold enough to claim the surname for his own group. And what a strange group it is! Featuring notable NYC avant-garde players like Toby Driver on guitar and Tim Byrnes on synth, there’s not much else out there that sounds like Stern, or if there is I’m sorely uneducated. Missive: Sister Ships isn’t unlistenable or crazy, but rather its own distinctive form of brooding, maudlin, shoegaze-inflected slow-core. Phew! I’d liken it to Swans in their Burning World era, or perhaps if Jesu and Scott Walker got together for an album? The pace is slow, deliberate and oddly timed, and Stern’s vocals dance around and over the music, never harmonically matching but somehow always in place. You can tell these guys took some advanced math classes back in school, and have found ways to apply those concepts to the unlikely field of depressive avant-garde post-rock. Stern mostly sings like a comforting angel, but he occasionally screeches as well, black-metal style, which has me wondering if this is what it’d be like if Talk Talk and Khanate shared a practice space. It’s always satisfying when records prompt previously-unrelated neurons to connect, and there’s a lot of that happening here.

The Suburban Homes E.P. 3 7″ (Neck Chop)
I’ve seen this band around long enough now that I no longer think “Descendents cover band?” when I see their name, which of course is completely incorrect. Nope, they’re a DIY punk mostly-solo-project out of Billingshurst, UK run by a man named Paul Messis, and whereas my previous encounters with their music was fairly unremarkable, this new EP carries an urgency that works well with the beyond-simple chord progressions and delivery. From listening, I’m reminded more than a little bit of Desperate Bicycles, particularly their angriest songs like “Advice On Arrest”, as well as the quaint amateurism of Taco Leg (remember them?). What’s most remarkable to me about this EP, and The Suburban Homes in general, is the varied reasons for the ire he puts into his songs. In the liner notes, he calls out In The Red Records for being a “bigger label” only in it for the money, which by any metric is an amusing claim, and in an interview in the latest issue of the indispensable Dynamite Hemorrhage fanzine, he states that 7″ EPs are “being killed off by the pressing plants”, that live music was great in the ’80s and ’90s but now is only about being cool, that you shouldn’t take selfies because the person who made your phone may have killed themselves, that the ’60s garage revival is dead (although he apparently releases a large amount of ’60s garage under his own name, dressed up in garage-revival outfits), and so on. He’s probably got some reasonable points buried somewhere in all that fussy indignation, but mostly he just strikes me as an exasperated doofus, which of course is more entertaining than having nothing to say at all.

Ritchie Venus Demetria / Demi Dream LP (no label)
Ritchie Venus is one of New Zealand’s underground-rock legends, operating the fantastic Onset/Offset label as well as playing in the Flying Nun group Blue Beetles. I swear, does New Zealand have more underground-rock legends per capita than any other country? It’s like one in four, I think. Anyway, he’s got no plans of slowing down as he reaches retirement age, as music is clearly a passion, not a career, for this man. As for this single, I can’t comfortably judge it against his vast discography (of which I’ve admittedly heard very little), but it’s entertaining enough. “Demetria” is a lounge-y, unhurried tune with the sonic attributes of a low-rent karaoke rendering of a normal rock group – I can practically picture Venus in the corner of a dive bar, singing about someone named Demetria as the lyrics slowly populate on a wall projection. “Demi Dream” seems to pick up exactly where “Demetria” left off, riding a similar wave of schmaltz, as if Tom Jones was in charge of booking an All Tomorrow’s Parties based in Tasmania. I tip my hat to this endearing rock personality, and while this single isn’t beckoning for repeat performance in my household, I am certain that at least one WFMU DJ pumped their fist when they saw this 7″ in the bin.

Vessel Queen Of Golden Dogs LP (Tri Angle)
Vessel’s last album, 2014’s Punish, Honey, was my favorite album of the year and continues to receive frequent rotations. It was a bold reimagining of “industrial techno”, crafted from scratch on proprietary electronics, so naturally I was on the edge of my eat for Queen Of Golden Dogs. Not one to repeat himself, Vessel has moved on entirely from the sounds of Punish, Honey, and while I expected that and was ready for whatever bold new horizon he was charging toward, Queen Of Golden Dogs isn’t quite doing it for me. It seems to suffer from a similar circumstance of many of his peers: the boundless possibilities offered by today’s software processing power and digital workstations. Vessel charges out in many directions, almost all at once – there’s plenty of disturbed chamber music, for starters, often sculpted into unfriendly drones, clattering footwork rhythms and cybernetic beats. Similarities to Arca are undeniable, in the non-linear, unintuitive song structures and microscopic sonic detailing, as well as the predilection for orchestral composition. There’s even a part in here that sounds directly borrowed from the hyper-plastic cyber-pop of Sophie, and some that recall the imposing architectural noise of Emptyset. Vessel is unbounded by genre or stylistic limitation, but his experimentation sounds a lot like everyone else’s experimentation this time around, and doesn’t stick to the ribs the way his stylistically-limited, sonically-specific masterpiece Punish, Honey did and continues to do. Perhaps there’s something to be said for limits.

Viagra Boys Street Worms LP (YEAR0001)
Trust me, it took more than a couple proddings for me to look past this band’s name and give them a try. They’re from Stockholm… maybe Viagra is still a funny idea over there? Anyway, I hope you can give them a break with the name thing too and check out Street Worms, because it’s certainly one of the catchiest, funniest, least-pretentious-but-still-quite-smart rock records of last year. Imagine if Idles or Protomartyr were into Huey Lewis and George Thorogood instead of Ceremony and The Fall, and it’d probably come out sounding a lot like Viagra Boys: superbly memorable, proudly silly post-punk with an emphasis on punk and a saxophone never far behind. Their songs are all simplistic and direct, the sort of thing you might wonder “why hasn’t anyone written this before?”, to which the answer is “well, many other bands have”, just never quite like this. The vocalist really makes it, writing lyrics worth paying attention to, if not for universal profundity then for some cheap laffs, his arid and nicotine-stained voice illuminating various characters, sometimes indulging in strange American South accents and always with an endless supply of references to dogs (beats me). His deadpan baritone elevates the single “Sports” into a delirious party anthem, as if Andrew WK gained sentience and tried to play it cool. I’m also reminded of The Hives, not just geographically but in the way that Viagra Boys create a full-throttle and ludicrous form of punk rock that succeeds through its own overwhelming enthusiasm and commitment. “Shrimp Shack” smacks like the unguarded intersection of Watery Love and LCD Soundsystem – if you try to clown music like this, I’m afraid you might just be clowning yourself.

From The Bottom Of The Earth To The Top Of The Wazir compilation LP (Altered States Tapes)
Congrats to Australian electronic label Altered States Tapes on their 100th release, as running a sub-indie label focusing on marginalized, overtly-weird and tiny-fanbase artists can be thankless. So thanks! This comp features nine new tracks from a variety of mostly (all?) Australian producers, all of whom exist in the wide and hazy environs of electronic beats and techno. Which is to say, there’s sub-industrial clatter, chintzy vaporwave, 100% Silk-style lo-fi house, slinky EBM and seasick ambient, created by what is surely a dazzling array of electronic devices with little flashing lights plugged into each other and of course a laptop or two. Some names are familiar to me, like Lucy Cliché (previously of the late great Naked On The Vague), Trevor (aka James Vinciguerra of Total Control) and Tarquin Manek (of F Ingers with Carla dal Forno), but those that aren’t are equally intriguing, like the seedy pulse of Oil’s “VIP Lounge” and the smoothed-out, Kyle Hall-esque acid of WRX. To date, Altered States has released music by artists named Incompetent Cervix, Club Sound Witches, Static Cleaner Lost Reward and Suburban Cracked Collective, and for the simple pleasure of reading those names alone, I extend my gratitude.