After Hours Sleepwalker 12″ (Not Not Fun)
With records like this After Hours 12″, I can no longer reasonably determine the fundamental differences between Not Not Fun and 100% Silk. Maybe this is just a hair too slow to be considered “dance” music? I guess it really doesn’t matter either way, because no matter who released Sleepwalker, I’m appreciating its subtle, sensual charms. The name is incredibly apropos – Sleepwalker is filled with early ’90s made-for-TV-movie soundtrack moves. I’m reminded of the programming that earned Cinemax the “Skinemax” nickname, or any of the hundreds of movies with plots that involve a hardened detective befriending a prostitute in order to solve the murder. Very slow, head-bobbable beats, but that’s really only if you’re absolutely dying to move around to some music – generally, After Hours keeps you chill and sedentary, deep within the cushions of your couch. For as nostalgic as the music is, there’s still a sense of modern-day motion to it, and the random images these tracks conjure are fun and easy to get lost within (and if you’re lacking in imagination, a track title like “4 A.M. On The Local 83” helps get you started). While the rest of the world sleeps, After Hours makes sure all those nympho-insomniacs are getting their fill.

Art Of Burning Water This Disgrace LP (SuperFi / Bed Of Nails / Riot Season)
One guitar chimes on a discordant note, an audio sample of some depressed man is played over-top, and then the chugga-chug explodes all over your room like a shaken Pepsi. Art Of Burning Water are the walking definition of metal-core, proudly wearing their Converge / Cave In / Keelhaul / Jesuit / Dillinger Escape Plan influences like pins on their hoodies. It could almost be an expert parody of the genre if Art Of Burning Water didn’t seem so damn serious about their metallic riffing, endless breakdowns and tense build-ups. They definitely serve the genre well; the vocalist has a nice frothy bark to go along with the eighteen guitar tracks, the guitarists are more than capable at creating the right sounds, and the drummer is heavy without being flashy. My only question is: who really cares? Art Of Burning Water are so relentless with their riffing that I quickly become numb to what I’m hearing – the songs churn continuously, to the point where it just fades into a mushy, strung-out pile of non-descript heaviness. Maybe I’ve just already reached my personal quota for this sort of thing, because Art Of Burning Water are good at what they do, it’s just that This Disgrace is so unrelenting and same-y that it becomes easy to tune out.

The Blind Shake Garbage On Glue / Go Go 78 7″ (Sweet Rot)
I haven’t had a good experience with many “shake”-related garage bands out there today, but I trust Sweet Rot to treat me right. This band features the brothers Mike and Jim Blaha (good last name) and their bud Dave Roper, and they play a taught, Wire-y form of minimal punk rock that feels pretty good. “Garbage On Glue” is little more than two notes, but they picked a good pair, with a nervous tension running through the chords and crisp, snappy drumming. “Go Go 78” is a song title I’d generally try to avoid, a little too “hot rods and Betty Page” for my taste, but musically it’s pretty much the same deal as the a-side, super simple and speedy, like Hot Snakes raging up an A Frames tune, or Jon Spencer sitting in with Lamps. Proof positive that as much as people can try to kill garage-punk by endlessly sucking at it, there will always be some folks dishing out the sweet stuff.

Case Studies Villain / Dull Knife 7″ (Sweet Rot)
Some surprisingly “sensitive soul” stuff here from the Sweet Rot label, who usually take pleasure in torturing garage-rock secrets out of guitars. Case Studies is Jesse Lortz, and he’s gotta be some sort of garage-rock guy, right? A-ha! Apparently he was the “Duke” (in The Duchess & The Duke), and while I avoided that group, this Case Studies single is a pretty nice stroll through an Allegra-commercial meadow. The lyrics are printed on the back cover in neat little stanzas… know what I mean? “Dull Knife” sounds like a direct continuation of the a-side, like The Band or The Yardbirds or Crosby, Stills and Nash or any of those bands my parents liked that I am forced to pretend to know about because many of my friends have grown out of punk and into craft beer and non-ironically following sports. Now please pardon me while I reach for my Dawn of Humans 7″ and figure out what sugary cereal to eat for dinner.

Cold Cave Oceans With No End 7″ (Deathwish)
Ah, just another band doing the Dais to Matador to Deathwish label route. Say what you want about Cold Cave, but Wes Eisold has done his own thing with this project since the very start, and it’s that sense of freedom from the usual “indie band trying to ‘make it'” nonsense that has always attracted me to Cold Cave (well, that and their knack for writing music I enjoy). This new single is just Wes at home in Hollywood, resting up after that tour with the AFI and Samhain guys, and it goes in a different-yet-understandable direction. Guitars take center stage here, ringing out with out-the-box distortion and a serious Depeche Mode sort of “black leather and sunglasses in the desert” feel. Not too far from The Jesus & Mary Chain either, although the electronic drums ensure that both tracks are ready for dance-club performance. I suppose I prefer Cold Cave when they are at their most synthy, but this single is another good one for sure, two more tracks from Wes Eisold’s seemingly endless wellspring of ’80s nostalgic melancholy.

Counter Intuits Counter Intuits LP (Pyramid Scheme)
Heard rumblings that this Counter Intuits LP, the product of Ron House and Times New Viking’s Jared Phillips, was an “album of the year” contender for a certain fella named Roland, and if that’s not the sort of approval-stamp that will get my PayPal finger itching, I don’t know what is. I can’t keep up with all the various Columbus side-projects and side-projects of side-projects, these folks just do nothing but make music all day everyday, but this one cuts through the noise loud and clear, a spirited and unhinged trip into one man’s psyche with a DIY art-punk soundtrack. Songs like “Anarchy On Yr Face”, “No Computer Blues” and “Non-Essential Personnel” really hit home with me, particularly with Phillips’ tin-can punk rock forcing me to show my ID upon entrance. There’s an image of House on the cover, screaming into a pencil-thin microphone as he stands at a desk stocked with paper and glue-sticks, which is exactly how I want Counter Intuits to be. No indie riffs, no hummable melodies, just a bunch of messy, nervous clutter that has me grinning so hard that you can actually see the one cavity I got as a kid. It’s back there pretty far.

Dead Ghosts I Sleep Alone / Spot A Trend 7″ (Randy)
I appreciate the redundancy of this group’s name, and went into this single pretty open-minded, looking for a good time. I suppose they don’t really let me down, but there’s nothing here that will have me searching for MP3s and telling my friends about Dead Ghosts – this is super-simple, by-the-numbers retro-garage twang, the sort of thing that Black Lips cast out in their ever-widening wake. There’s a tasteful organ solo on the slow-dance of “I Sleep Alone”, and a stompy, swampy beat to “Spot A Trend”, and it’s all well and good, just nothing I will ever intentionally listen to again. The back cover notes that these songs were recorded in 2008 and 2009, and I’m pretty damn sure this record was released recently, so I’m kinda just wondering why? If they haven’t written anything better than this in the past four or five years, maybe Dead Ghosts should call it a day.

Founding Fathers Rapid Transit LP (Snax)
Founding Fathers should probably be a Philadelphia band, what with their historical band name, or at the very least be a Columbus band, what with their driving, weathered indie-rock. Geographically, I’m wrong, but close – Founding Fathers are a Cleveland band, who somehow avoid being inebriated rock n’ roll miscreants (or at least do a good job covering it up with their music). I like this record – it doesn’t seem in place with any of the lo-fi trends, nor does it ever strive to be anything weird or crazy. Founding Fathers got themselves a nice, suitable recording, put together a bunch of catchy-at-best, pleasant-at-worst riffs, figured out a way to tunefully sing over them and let that be that. I suppose they’re kind of in that whole Dinosaur Jr. / mid-’90s Matador bucket, but they don’t seem to be striving for any sort of ’90s nostalgia; more like they just want to rock. Maybe I’m just thinking too hard, but Founding Fathers seem like one of the least conniving bands I’ve heard in a while, like there is no secret and unsavory scheme to their band. Even if I’m completely wrong, I’m having a fine time being fooled by Rapid Transit.

The Fucking Party The Fucking Party LP (no label)
This LP by The Fucking Party arrived at my doorstep with a note from a band member, going off about how drunk and drugged-out he is. Whatever purpose that was supposed to serve, I’d imagine it did the opposite, because who would be impressed by that? Did GG Allin have to go around telling people how crazy he is? They already knew, and if you’re really that drunk and drugged-out, it’s gonna come through the music; don’t worry. The Fucking Party, for example, make it clear they weren’t of sound mind and body when putting this album together – there are two songs with “Craig” in the title, they screened the front and back cover images on the wrong side of the sleeve, and they slapped some other sticker across the center sticker. Musically, they go a very Jesus Lizard / noise-rock (that isn’t actually too noisy) route, maybe with a touch of Shellac in the riffing and a hint of grunge when they break it all down. They might want to come across like The New Flesh, but their songs are mostly pretty coherent and deceptively intricate, the sort of thing that would take my gang of friends at least a couple weeks to get down. Maybe if the vocalist stood out, I’d be poking these guys on Facebook or something, but ultimately The Fucking Party are a good band that doesn’t offer much personality beyond your average heavy, herky-jerky underground-rock group. Which I suppose is exactly what they are.

Kerridge Waiting For Love 12″ (Downwards)
Downwards is easily one of the coolest, punkest techno labels of all time, so when I get the rare chance to scoop a new release that isn’t already instantly sold out, I make it happen. Never heard of (Samuel) Kerridge before this 12″, but it’s a name I haven’t stopping thinking about since I first threw on Waiting For Love. “Waiting For Love” comes in four numbered parts here, and with mean and imposing electronic fudge like this, I’d imagine Kerridge’s roses will have withered away long before love walks through his door. It’s certainly another entry in the overcrowded “techno gone noise / noise gone techno” field, but Kerridge proudly stands out from the rest due to the weighty production and technical superiority. The whole thing is incredibly thick, with very little space that isn’t flooded by sub-atomic bass. I’m reminded of Regis and Rrose, but Kerridge barely glances at the dance floor with Waiting For Love; sufficient beats are provided, and the music moves forward, it’s just that it’s such a flush of heaviness that you’re better off melting into a smelly leather couch in the basement of a club than soul-strutting under a spinning disco ball. The great utilitarian packaging only adds to the “futureworld in the grips of a fascist alien regime” vibe, but really there’s no aspect about this record that I don’t find highly appealing.

Leech Tusks 12″ (100% Silk)
I’ve never known an uncool Leech, so this new 100% Silk 12″ from a person I’d never heard of before (which is most of them) was on my good side from the get-go. I’d like to think I let my ears do most of the judging, though, and this four-track EP is pretty palatable in its own right. Leech does a pretty straight-forward, Trax-style acid-house thing, but with the ebb and flow of Tri Angle’s average tempo. Not entirely a world away from Ital either, but far more restrained and buttoned-up… Leech probably just slightly bobs his head as it hangs over his gear, and if he’s wearing sunglasses, no one is going to tell him to take them off. He (is it a “he”?) is more than a “let the pre-sets roll for the duration of the track” artist too, deftly mixing different patterns and rhythms into one song without it feeling rushed or overblown. There’s a nice mix of samples too, from disembodied vocals to wild sax, all of which fits nicely into nostalgia for places like The Loft and The Garage for people who weren’t there (yours truly). Last night this DJ probably didn’t save your life, but if you’re filling your Juno or Boomkat cart in a wild post-paycheck spree, I can safely say you won’t be feeling any remorse over the Leech 12″ that arrives a week or two later.

Love Chants Love Chants EP 12″ (Quemada)
I always enjoy getting these Quemada releases, as it’s a label with a distinctly fragile aesthetic. All of their records just sound so wounded and frail, it’s crazy – it’s like Quemada just hangs around the music ward of the terminally ill with blank record contracts in hand. Love Chants certainly fits their MO, and is even quieter, weaker and more patient than Mole House, even. Picture a one-handed Loren Mazzacane Connors by candlelight, his drunk cousin who just came back from a funeral on tear-stained vocals, and a drummer who’s into all that deep-listening / improvisation stuff (and probably has no business being a part of Love Chants). Quite a rag-tag trio, and it puts me in that strange place where I am both actively liking and disliking their music as I listen. Very late-night, cigarette-burned-to-the-filter music, kinda like if most of The Garbage And The Flowers was inside their one-room shack while one of them soothed the rest to sleep, or if you fell asleep with a mix of Jandek and The Velvet Underground playing at a low volume on your iPod. Not sure I can fully recommend this one, but check back with me in a few months when I’m laying in an un-air conditioned room with seasonal allergies and mild insomnia – there could be no better company for my misery than Love Chants.

Nostalgist Monochromatic 7″ (Nostalgium Directive)
The logical endpoint for the goth aesthetic has gotta be death, right? Like when you finally die and your soul can turn into a black butterfly or whatever the standard belief is. This Nostalgist 7″ seems to exemplify that, moving past “woe is me” thoughts to the point where the medication overdose starts shutting down the body’s organs one at a time, sending you peacefully across the river Styx. “Illusory” is the a-side, and I know it can’t be incorrectly slow because I’m playing it at 45 rpm, but this song barely has the will to live – it’s so plodding and woozy that it can barely be considered “rock”, and the waterlogged vocals just add to the confusion. “Twisting, Slowly (Cleansing Doubt)” rocks a bit harder, but it’s still traditional shoegaze goth-rock, without even the slightest hint of post-punk or modern tailoring. It even breaks down into some jam that sounds like Steve Winwood choreographing a Black Tape For A Blue Girl performance. This isn’t my cup of tea, I find it to be just a bit too one-dimensional, boring and cheesy, but they certainly hit the nail on the head with what it seems they were trying to accomplish as far as being traditionally, unerringly goth (doubly confirmed by their “Addams Family: The Next Generation” band portrait on the insert).

Oaks Field Beat LP (Ass)
That’s right – Ass Records! I love it. Hi, your band is good, would you like to sign to Ass? This label should really just put out Quincy Punx and Showcase Showdown reissues all day, but Oaks couldn’t be further from that. They don’t even crack a smile through the duration of Field Beat, a very modern-sounding record that incorporates trebly drum machines and ethereal goth-strum into a hazy day at the lakeside cabin. The inner sleeve reveals photos of the woods, a cat, and Oaks themselves (the duo of Jim Kolles and Erica Krumm), and it’s a perfectly suitable Pinterest with which to gauge their sonic sensibility. Kinda like a less interesting Tamaryn with heavy drumming, or My Bloody Valentine if the valentine actually wasn’t bloody at all, but lightly stained with some sort of artisanal ketchup one of the band members has started selling at the local farmer’s market. I can get down with Field Beat, as there’s this slight touch of Vermin Scum-style emo deep down in it that I will always appreciate. Regardless, I hope this is surely the start of a prosperous relationship between Oaks and Ass.

Octa#grape As Long As I Forget / Elephant Telephone 7″ (Thing Thing Thing)
Bands, I implore you: think long and hard about whether or not you really need a symbol in your band name. It’s not an advantage! !!! are the only exception that comes to mind, because when you start throwing dashes and pounds and asterisks in your name, you’re just begging to be ignored. I had enough problems with “Wzt Hearts”, and they’re entirely alphabetical! Anyway, this is a pretty good-natured single, mining the usual overblown garage-rock tropes with a touch of inclusive hippiedom. “As Long As I Forget” relies on a big “Ooh-OOH!” chorus, and “Elephant Telephone” takes a Flipper bassline and gives it the Wavves / Ty Segall / Oh Sees / King Tuff treatment, dressing it up in Raybans, scuffed sneakers and a pizza t-shirt. Not bad, even when graded harshly, but I feel like there is so much Octa#grape-style music out there that they’ll really need a grape-eating octopus on drums to stand out and catch the public’s eye. It’s gonna take more than a hash-tag in the middle of the band name, that’s for sure.

Ooga Boogas Ooga Boogas LP (Aarght!)
I maintain that Ooga Boogas’ debut album Romance And Adventure is one of the unheralded punk-rock gems of the past decade. It was just hit after hit of rough-and-tumble, snarky, stubbly punk, shoplifting artsy influences when no one was looking and selling them out back behind the pub. They followed it up with the half-baked Sentimental Stranger EP, which I desperately tried to like but couldn’t, and now on this self-titled follow-up… I dunno. I am pretty sure this band is smarter than I am, so I find myself cautiously wondering what it is that I’m not getting when listening to Ooga Boogas. There are some really long tracks on here, and the Ooga Boogas sound I loved so much seems to have been infiltrated by ’80s coke-rock, like Dire Straits or Squeeze or bands that seemed too old and out of touch when I would see their videos on MTV in 1989 or whatever. “FYI” is driven by chintzy organ, like it’s some sort of elevator music based on a spy movie, and “Sex In The Chillzone” kinda squanders that killer title by reminding me of Ariel Pink. I’ve stuck with it and played this record a bunch, in spite of myself not immediately digging it, and while it has definitely grown on me, I’m still a bit uneasy about it, like that feeling you have after drinking a glass of milk that was sitting out on the table for a few hours. I hope to come to terms with this record soon, but in the meantime I’m gonna keep subjecting myself to it, because I love Ooga Boogas, even if this record doesn’t love me.

Permanent Makeup The Void…It Creeps LP (No Clear)
“Permanent Makeup” sounds like the best synth-screamo band-name that was never used, but that’s not what this group is going for (which is probably a relief to most readers out there). No, this group goes for a loose n’ rugged take on noisy ’90s indie-rock, mixed with a touch of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and the multitude of roughshod Ohio rock that circles in the same orbit. Like an American take on The Fall, played by folks who spent the ’90s smirking at the Monica Lewinsky scandal and drinking cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon before hipsters discovered it (back when hipsters were called “scenesters”, at least)… maybe? Except I presume that Permanent Makeup exist today, exhausted by the disappointment of Obama and the inability to do a meager tour because gas is four dollars a gallon. I’m reading a hell of a lot into this group, and am probably entirely wrong, but while their music may not be the finest (or even fourth-finest) rock record I’ve heard this month, it has me envisioning and fantasizing over their lives a little, which is almost all you can really ask for a rock band to do at this point.

Pleasure Leftists Elephant Men / Not Over 7″ (Katorga Works)
I had all but forgotten about Ohio’s Pleasure Leftists, but I place the blame on the endless deluge of new bands and my deteriorating memory, not them. They’re probably the most distinct-sounding group that’s doing the whole new-wave goth resurrection thing, and while the music plays a part, the vocals of Haley Morris are key – she absolutely wails, like a zombie Kate Bush on the hunt for brains. Actually, maybe she’s just half-Keith Morris, half-Hayley (close enough) Williams (of Paramore, of course)… or not human at all, but a highly evolved sentient computer interface? At times it sounds like her vocals are in reverse, but I know that can’t possibly be true. I absolutely love her singing, and the way she commands the rest of the Pleasure Leftists, who keep to their dour, flange-effected post-punk pop with tidy efficiency. Both of these songs keep true to the sound established on Pleasure Leftists’ Fan Death debut, and are worth inviting into your residence. Esben and the who? Cold Show-what?

Purling Hiss Water On Mars LP (Drag City)
If I was a really lousy record critic, this is where I’d yell “rock is back!”, but since I’m just a moderately lousy one, I can assume we all know better than that. I’ve been watching Purling Hiss blossom from a feedback-drenched, one-man guitar meltdown into one of the most formidable rock trios around, and it has been an incredibly pleasant transformation to take in. I’d been waiting on this, their first studio record, for a while, with the exciting knowledge that people who don’t frequently see the band live can enjoy their catchy, riff-wild songs without having to strain their ears over a tinny, boombox-esque recording. And just when I figured I knew what the album would sound like before I even heard it, Purling Hiss go and flip the script with Water On Mars. Sure, opener “Lolita” is a prime-time shredder, but the ‘Hissers go straight-up mellow on most of this record! I was expecting street-walkin’ riffs and grizzled blues, but much of this record reminds me of The Lemonheads, the softer Dinosaur Jr. material or Soul Asylum. Who knew? After a mental realignment, I was able to grasp these songs for the slacker-rock jams they are, like a band that wants to be Nirvana but are deep down far too sweet and thoughtful to ever lash out and smash their gear because of failed father/son relationships. Water On Mars grew on me for sure, and if there’s any sort of heart under your denim vest, you might learn to love this record too.

Repeater Pan Together LP (no label)
It amazes me how some bands get other people to finance the release of their records while bands like Repeater Pan are putting it all in themselves. Maybe it’s more of an intentional choice than their only option, as this band really seems to have their act together, and it’s an act worth hearing. Coming right out with “Together”, they lead with their strongest foot – imagine some sort of Wire-influenced, snappy punk group with Jeff Buckley crooning his eyes out. The singer Dylan DiMartini really has such a Jeff Buckley voice, and he makes good use of it alongside the rest of Repeater Pan. “Together” is the hit and album highlight, an album that quickly tones down to NPR-friendlier adult-rock tunes, but it’s still quite enjoyable, and the songs never dip into dull territory. Repeater Pan is kind of what I wish Radiohead sounded like, big and sophisticated guitar-rock with distinct vocals that doesn’t go to such overcompensating lengths to prove how intelligent it is. And much like that one Radiohead record, Together is free on the internet (or I guess you can buy MP3s too, if you’re really that nutty), so why not go hear what I’m excited about?

Sauna Youth False Jesii Pt. II 7″ (Static Shock)
Am I even allowed to review this one? Am I breaking some sort of moral code here? Whatever, Static Shock sent it in and I’m not about to break my “review all recent vinyl” promise! Sauna Youth are an interesting English punk band, kinda taking ideas from various generational smart-alecks like Wire and Fucked Up, but generally just doing their own thing in the name of speedy, tuneful punk. The a-side is a surprisingly sweet rendition of “False Jesii Pt. II”, proof that certain chefs can make cilantro and garlic into palatable gelato flavors with the right expertise. I’d like to hear their angelic takes on other loud punk bands, as they managed to find the buried melody and wipe it clean. B-side “Oh Joel” is just as friendly, but with a high-strummed energy that reminds me of The Ramones or The Busy Signals or anyone else who can play guitar while wearing a leather jacket two sizes too small. I swear it’s not just the subtle ego boost this record’s existence gives me – Sauna Youth have done right on this simple and effective single.

Soviet Valves Death Trumps Romance 12″ (Vertex)
I remember reading high words of praise toward Soviet Valves a few years ago, when they did a 7″ on Smart Guy Records (or was it Cool Guy Records? I’m so confused). I wasn’t too impressed, so after spinning Death Trumps Romance a few times, I’ve concluded that either my ears were off back then or this is far and away their best stuff. Highly taut, poppy punk, but very classic sounding, and with lots of frequent changes… it’s like the drummer can’t go more than a couple measures without throwing in a tightly-executed roll and changing the direction of the riffs. Maybe like The Undertones, played with the urgency of Nasty Facts? Or The Exploding Hearts if they were released on the same label as that raging Burning Sensation LP and they felt they need to intensify their music at an exponential rate? On a nice slab of 12″ vinyl, these six songs sound thick and full as they whiz by, the guitars jangling near my throat and the vocals tapping my forehead. It’s my understanding that Soviet Valves broke up years ago, and while I don’t often understand the purpose of posthumous odds n’ ends records, this one is a clear necessity – Soviet Valves wrote some top-shelf, frenetic punk rock and the documentation is deserved.

Trade Untitled (Sheworks 005) 12″ (Works The Long Nights)
Works The Long Nights has quickly become a “buy on sight, no questions asked” label for me. All its releases seem to revolve around Blawan collaborating with someone else cool, and the Germs-esque logo seals the deal for me. Trade is the work of Blawan with Surgeon, a definite aesthetic predecessor to the techno punishment Blawan likes to dish out. I really dug the Karenn double EP, but this one is better – there are at least four cuts here, and they’re all massive and ugly, but with plenty of subversive groove, too. Whereas Karenn was grey-scale and minimal, Trade is bludgeoning with overblown 4/4 thuds, acid-bass carcasses and errant noises, but it has the structured, knowing flow of any seasoned Perlon producer. The second-to-last track on the b-side (they’re all untitled – there’s basically no writing on this record anywhere) is my favorite, with its Blawan-specific skittery chirps and a truly pounding beat. Add in the scratchy, metallic effects and spoken-word ending and it’s as if the Broken Flag label was reborn in the form of contemporary dungeon-techno – Ramleh ravers, perhaps? Can’t stop spinning this one!

Violent Change Violent Change LP (Catholic Guilt)
This is the third record in just as many weeks to feature a photo of Tony Molina on the back, and that’s starting to become a seal of quality of sorts. I liked Violent Change’s debut EP, even if I didn’t fully understand it (or find myself putting it on all that often), and this self-titled full-length helps extrapolate why this band is both interesting and cool. Somehow, Violent Change do the same things that bands like The Hospitals, Eat Skull, Sic Alps, Psychedelic Horseshit and pretty much any other pop band that did a record on Siltbreeze do, but their sound doesn’t tire me out. It’s probably the sweet, pop-punky blood that runs through many of their tunes, doing the sort of pop moves that many of their contemporaries seem more comfortable mocking, or Violent Change’s aversion to “the jam”, as these songs are all quick and tidy and leave no room for improvised interludes or messy detours. The recording quality is still a little too thin and lightweight for my tastes, but it’s been fun getting to know this album, one that grows on me further with every listen.

Violent Reaction Violent Reaction 7″ (Quality Control HQ / Static Shock)
It’s been almost fifteen minutes since the last “Violent ____” band showed up, and I’m getting a little antsy… oh wait, here’s Violent Reaction! They’re a British straight-edge hardcore group, and I’d say the Painkiller influence is plentiful – even if the one guy wasn’t wearing a Boston Strangler shirt in the insert pic, it’s clear that these guys are digging hard into Waste Management, Knife Fight and No Tolerance records. Many of their riffs come with the feel of a fresh Fred Perry right off the rack, melding Oi into angry, youthful hardcore (much like 86 Mentality). They’re ready to break your cigarettes in half and flush your pills down the toilet, and don’t even think about trying to stop them! Pretty good stuff for what it is, which is the same thing it’s been for years now, but some people don’t just listen to records like this, they build their entire personas off of them. At least Violent Reaction do it well, I suppose.

Wild Child Wild Child 7″ (Fashionable Idiots / Rock Bottom)
Can always count on Fashionable Idiots for trashy, smashy hardcore punk, so I had no fear going into this Wild Child 7″, which I believe is their demo pressed to vinyl. It’s good! At least one guitar has that clean-ish jangle to it, and the songs are frantic and tumbling, kinda like that recent Manic 7″ that I loved so much, or maybe The Grabbies or Brown Sugar. The singer does a lot of “yow!”s and “wow!”s, which might push Wild Child from punk rock to the dreaded “punk rawk” territory, but it never quite gets to be too bothersome. The songs are in-and-out and always pretty fast, and the energy nearly reminds me of early Gang Green, if not necessarily in speed but the feeling of youth on drugs. Wouldn’t mind hearing some more!

Zulus Zulus LP (Aagoo)
I know I had a Zulus 7″ floating around here somewhere that was a part of one of those “singles club”-ish punk labels. (Lemon Session? Total Punk? I’m getting old.) Pretty sure I liked it, and I like this full-length too – Zulus aren’t reinventing the wheel, they’re just coating it in a little extra reverb. It’s generally pretty heavy, roomy punk rock… the drummer pounds the toms for as long as he can reasonably stay away from the snare, and the guitars are twangy but loud. The vocalist is pretty sassy, not far from Sonny Kay or Lars Finberg (not that either are close to each other, but maybe I’m making sense anyway). Definitely sounds like something that would’ve worked in the waning years of GSL / Three.One.G, where screamo was moving out in favor of garage-punk and goth and other more interesting influences. This is a 45 RPM record, and it moves along briskly, so that by the time I find myself growing weary of the shrill, echoed vocals, it’s over. Brooklyn has done far, far worse than Zulus!