The Aerosols Fake Mirror LP (World Famous In SF)
Nope, this isn’t an unexpected new record from Youth Attack! recording artists Aerosols, but a similarly-named, San Francisco-based psychedelic power-pop group. I remember hearing about (although admittedly not really listening to) a hippie-ish psych-pop scene blossoming in the Bay Area in the past few years, and while The Aerosols probably won’t be headlining any Sundays In The Park festivals, they’re a reputable act just the same. Generally, their songs are either messy, weird-guy power-pop ala The Soft Boys or perhaps Hubble Bubble, or bouncy psych-garage that calls to mind Elf Power and Jennifer Gentle. It’s so often that this style lives or dies by its vocalist (why do so many of these bands let the annoying high-pitched guy sing lead?), but the Aerosols’ guy stays in key and sings in a higher register without becoming a cartoon. Not really my thing, but if I ever find myself getting into vintage clothes and clove cigarettes I might have to re-locate Fake Mirror and dust it off.

Joey Anderson Head Down Arms Buddha Position 12″ (Tanstaafl Planets)
Not sure why I haven’t checked out Joey Anderson sooner (okay, maybe because his name is “Joey Anderson” and not something intriguing like “Gunnar Haslam” or “Kassem Mosse”) but wow, what a great way to start! “Head Down Arms Buddha Position” bursts with its rapid-fire analog sequence from the get-go, like an advanced alarm system you’d expect to hear in a space-station when the oxygen level dips below five percent. That arpeggio continues to ripple as various distorted claps, frightening effects and off-time bleeps race out of the speakers. Fantastic! “Tears Can’t Bring You Near” kicks off the b-side with a mercifully subdued, hi-hat-led groove that recalls those great Joy Orbison / Boddika collaborative tracks from a couple years ago, like a club filled with only cool people and a large plume of smoke that constantly shifts colors. “You Gave Me Life Again” wraps it up with snaps, clicks and an uplifting chord progression that repeats long enough that you’re not just in the sky but Heaven itself. Really love this EP, very sophisticated and strong work from a man I’m sad to say I slept on. Maybe this means I might like yoga, too?

Blanche Blanche Blanche Hints To Pilgrims LP (OSR Tapes)
Blanche Blanche Blanche have released an alarming number of records and tapes in their career – I consider myself a casual fan at best and can safely say I’ve heard at least fifty of their songs. It might be a bit much to take from any one band, but I can at least say that Blanche Blanche Blanche have really gotten quite good at what they do, which is write these teeny-tiny little bedroom-pop songs on Casios and guitars so adorable they were probably bought at Kay Bee rather than Guitar Center. Something is always moving within these songs, with one hand grooving on a two-note melody while the other strums a guitar and flicks a pre-set percussion track. Imagine Systematics covering Billy Joel’s “I’m Moving Out” and that’s the general steez offered by Blanche Blanche Blanche, a sort of ’80s AM pop re-imagined as DIY cassette culture. There’s a ton of songs on here too, or at least it feels like it, but I think it helps to be bombarded by a ton of Blanche Blanche Blanche at once – this sort of cutesy miniature pop music works with Netflix-style binge listening.

Buck Gooter The Spider’s Eyes LP (Sophomore Lounge / Feeding Tube)
Glad to see Buck Gooter’s still kicking around, making their noise in some severely rural Appalachian town the rest of us wouldn’t last a day in. This new album does a great job of concentrating their attack, aided by a better recording than Witch Molecules, which allows the grime to shine, free of collateral tape hiss. Here’s how Buck Gooter do it: they basically slam through their songs on a slow-paced prehistoric drum machine, calling to mind Ed Schrader’s Music Beat back when it was just Ed and his floor-tom, with outrageously inappropriate guitar tones ala Killdozer and a nihilistic, hate-’em-all bent that calls to mind Culturcide (which naturally I consider high praise). Of course, these songs aren’t about political hopelessness or mundane day-to-day dealings, so much as celebrations of random insects, from having sex with hornet nests to the self-explanatory “Ants Are Cool”. “Fun In The Sun” even captures a “We Will Rock You” vibe, albeit with a repeated chorus of “motherfuckers fuck shit up” and guitar that sounds like it was run through Nautical Almanac’s gear. This is underground electro noise-rock in the Jackass tradition: if you’ve ever needed music you can both staple your butt-cheeks together and mosh to, look no further than The Spider’s Eyes.

Deformity Deformity 7″ (Katorga Works / Toxic State)
Always nice to get my hands on a new Toxic State transmission, and at the rate Katorga Works has been slam-dunking it, I figured Deformity would suit me just fine. I suppose it does – this is thrashy, scorched-earth hardcore, seemingly recorded in an evacuated airplane hangar just after the last humans fled the planet due to some sort of catastrophic event, leaving behind only Deformity and a few of their drunken buddies to wreak havoc for the length of this 7″ (not long). The guitar feedback rings it in, a fast part defies standard timing, then the modern-day standard oompah mosh-part rears its ugly head. Perhaps not as much personality here as many of their Katorga Works and Toxic State brethren, but this record is like two minutes of barely-audible hardcore thrash, so it might not be the best way to really figure Deformity out. I just wanna know more about that bass sound – it’s gotta be some sort of electrified rubber-band taped to a broken wine bottle, right?

DJ Oa$is Vs. DJ Ape Sleng Again 12″ (FuckPunk)
So Vessel, who released my favorite album of the previous year, started some super-gimmicky vinyl label called FuckPunk that placed sweet visions of Slap A Ham silliness in my head (their third release is a one-sided 5″ limited to 20 copies!) upon contact. What could be better! Anyway, I ran out and grabbed their other release, this 12″ that features one and a half tracks and an etched b-side that contains a few locked grooves (I told you it was wonderfully stupid). I figure Vessel is one of these mysterious DJs, and when it comes to the actual music, it’s pretty dope – these two are battling over a blown-out dancehall beat through various electronic means, as if The Bug were trying to impress the Wolf Eyes dudes. It grooves hard, and will have you wondering if your speakers blew even if they didn’t. Naturally, this record has a very limited target audience, but I’m sitting right in the middle of that bulls-eye and I can’t wait until they drop more ultra-limited, low-run, playable-from-the-inside-out double-lathe cut picture disc nonsense on me!

Exhaustion Biker LP (Aarght!)
Took me a while to figure out what this one even was – the cover and a-side center sticker say “XHAUS BIKER” in big letters, and besides the song titles, that’s pretty much all the info this one provides. Not sure if I should admire their anti-promotional efforts or be annoyed that they made me check the spine and then Google it to figure it all out, but either way, they’ve produced a fine full-length record of primal noise-rock, and that’s really the important thing. During my exhaustive (get it?) research, I’ve confirmed that they’re an Australian group (and I think they might share drummers with Ooga Boogas), and while they are gnarly, repetitive and unrepentant, I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed the Australian part, as there are no signs of The Birthday Party or Lubricated Goat in their amplifier feedback or bass-lines. If anything, I’m kind of picking up an early Sonic Youth vibe, maybe if Sonic Youth did an Action Swingers tribute album and tripled the length of those songs in the process? And while I’m trying to uncover influences, Exhaustion love locking on their grooves not unlike Neu! or Can, just with The Gordons’ monochromatic color palate. The drumming is so air-tight that it doesn’t really matter how far off course the guitar wanders; they always reach their destination. Theirs is a post-marathon satisfaction sort of exhaustion, and a contact high is possible.

Fogg Death LP (Play Pinball!)
Fogg are a Fort Worth, TX band who play a form of music best described as “Black Sabbath worship”. I gotta say though, what kind of person doesn’t want to worship Black Sabbath? Not only are they one of a tiny handful of truly godly rock bands, their specific form of music is incredibly fun to play, no matter if you’re on the bass, drums, guitar, or posed gargoyle-like in front of the microphone. As far as Fogg’s efforts, they’re pretty good at it – they’ve got the practice-space, early Pentagram-style recording quality down, the riffs are all in proper order (and guitarist Chase Jowell can cook up an extended solo or two fierce enough to make Joe Perry blush), and while the vocals of bassist Brandon Hamilton sometimes push a little too far into the comical end of Ozzy’s distinct style, they certainly fit the bill. I’m not sure if I want to listen to Death right now or just go jam on some Sabbath riffs with friends, but either way I’d consider the existence of this LP a success.

Forward Against Their Insanity 12″ (540)
So often you’ll read a punk album title declaring war or inciting a revolution and think “yeah right”, but I dunno, if there’s one band I could picture actually declaring martial law and usurping power, it’s Forward. Or at the very least, I could see them going a full season on Sons Of Anarchy, murdered only in the finale. They are real-deal hardcore-punk, infusing the Burning Spirits path of rage with Motörhead’s unwavering glory, truly living fast but not dying hard because their muscles are too big and their skulls are made of metal. This new six-song 12″ EP goes by quick, and while I haven’t picked out a standout track ala “What’s The Meaning Of Love?”, you can’t go wrong with the metallic riffing, gang-shouted choruses and general steamroller vibe of Against Their Insanity. No one tells Forward what to do!

Ghost Town Harsh Light 7″ (Gilgongo)
Here’s another exercise in superfluousness care of the Gilgongo Records label. This guy’s day job must pay real nice, because he’s just churning out records that have no reason to really exist, Blackbean & Placenta style (but not quite as charming). This one pairs label-head James Fella with Jessica Jurgens, and it’s a one-sided 7″ that features the one song they recorded together, a sort of lumpy, loose track of poppy post-punk that I would’ve expected to hear on one of those Little Darla Has A Treat For You comps back in the mid ’90s. It’s mediocre and inoffensive, and while I’m sure it was fun to write and play, the insistence on paying money to have it pressed on colored vinyl with a printed cover and everything boggles my mind. Why not write another song and save it for a two-song 7″ single like the rest of the population would? But hey, if putting out records like this one bring the people doing it joy, who am I to ask them to stop.

Steve Gunn Way Out Weather LP (Paradise Of Bachelors)
Steve Gunn’s Time Off hit me like the perfect pair of jeans, the sort of record that is so pleasant and comfortable, you just want to leave it on forever. I don’t believe it’s possible to have a bad time listening to that album, so I was especially excited for this follow-up, and after spending a couple months with it, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like it very much indeed. It’s a bit different – on Way Out Weather, we get to see Mr. Gunn trying out a few different styles and sounds, pushing further into jammy Grateful Dead territory, dusting off some electronics for their rhythmic qualities and simply trying his hand at pop song-craft. Consequently, I found it a little harder to get into right away, as it doesn’t have that fantastic Time Off flow, and it expresses more moods than humble relaxation. Now that I’m accustomed to its charms, however, I find myself reaching for it just as frequently as Time Off, happy to oblige Gunn’s travels down stranger and more colorful paths. I’ve still got my favorite jeans, so let’s say this one is a trusty new coat.

Gunnar Haslam Mirrors And Copulation LP (L.I.E.S.)
L.I.E.S. comes through with some year-end heat care of Gunnar Haslam, a name I’ve seen around (pretty sure he was the non-Tin Man half of Romans, too) but yet to hear. Really digging this one, for both what it is (patient, vibrant, methodical electronic music) and what it’s not (stagnant distorted industrial techno). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Haslam takes a zen-like approach to his music, allowing things to bloom naturally rather than prying them open (it’s like a flower opening, not a door being kicked in). He’s like the missing link between the world of Manuel Göttsching / Emeralds’ brainy-ambient and the feverish basement rhythms of Legowelt and Kassem Mosse. It’s like Boards Of Canada if they wrote music for spas and Pilates classes instead of art films, perhaps. There’s a delightfully krauty feel to Mirrors And Copulation, but Haslam never loses sight of his fellow humans and their need to engage socially. Good daytime techno, if that makes sense. Or maybe, it’s simply like Petar Dundov on weed – yes, on weed.

Helena Hauff Shatter Cone 12″ (Lux Rec)
When it comes to modern acid, the first name I’m reaching for these days is Helena Hauff – she’s just the best, playing within the style’s confines with an adventurous spirit and high level of quality. This new 12″, the four-track Shatter Cone EP, might be her best yet, really stepping things up into a sound that is at once timeless yet distinct. It kicks off with the rusted-shut beats of “Accidie” (if there isn’t already a metal band named Accidie, there should be), and it’s followed by the sublime and moody groove of “Hiemal Quietus”, which takes a depressed cold-wave melody and transforms it into a paranoid dance cut, the sort of beat that constantly watches over its shoulder. The b-side has two more sharply-dressed hard-techno cuts, with hi-hats capable of deadly incisions and acid bleeps that mutate with the gusto of a flu virus without a suitable vaccine. I can’t get enough of this one – no matter if I’m in the car or cleaning dishes, Hauff cures what ails me, and I can only hope her somewhat brisk release schedule continues into 2015.

Herva Instant Broadcast 2×12″ (Delsin)
Can’t remember what it was about Herva that caused me to pick this one up (maybe it was the Delsin label connection with Vril and Morphosis?), but regardless of how I ended up with Instant Broadcast on my turntable, it’s a pretty nice result. I’m frequently reminded of Martyn as I listen to this one, in the way that Herva constructs his tracks with the keen experience of a big-room club DJ but uses sounds and effects that are far too wonky, weird or distinct to please the general populace. There’s plenty of UK funky / updated drum-and-bass rhythms at play, but their frequencies feel more akin to Actress or Autechre, with visions of virus-ridden hard-drives and modified USB plugs doing the Humpty Dance together. And the second 12″ takes more of a house direction, with sweet grooves that sound like they were awoken by a dusty needle after years of rest. The whole thing flows nicely too, with various beatless passages providing ample breathing room, just long enough that when the beat drops I’m envisioning Mike Dehnert passing a blunt to The Mole in a darkened 200-capacity club in some unclassified European city. If I ever get an invite to such a scene, I’m inviting Herva as my plus-one.

Jackals Violence Is… 7″ (Hardware)
Opening with a moshable instrumental intro, Jackals continue their classic approach to violent hardcore-punk on this new five-song 7″ EP. They do a pretty good job of mixing the modern scene-approved touchstones of hardcore, from ’82 Boston to Shitlickers and Discharge, with modern nods to Impalers, Hoax and Destino Final, presumably unintentional but very much there (although Hoax really should’ve trademarked the way they break a slow mosh-part down into a half-time metal stomp, utilized here on “Sanitised”). Very hard to find fault with hardcore that rages like this, even if its formulaic predictability matches that of a Law & Order episode. Sometimes I like guessing the ending before it’s over, and Jackals offer a similar sense of streamlined prowess, theirs in terms of gruff and heavy hardcore-punk.

The Jazz June After The Earthquake LP (Topshelf)
Not sure what I was expecting less, a new Jazz June album like a decade after their last one, or for me to enjoy it as much as I do? They’re an emo band who went to the same rinky-dink college as myself, so naturally I feel some sort of kinship, and they always had at least two killer tracks per album (although their previous album The Medicine was pretty solid the whole way through). And now I checked out this new one, almost entirely out of morbid curiosity, and it ends up being the best pop-rock album I’ve heard since John Mayer moved to Montana. Crazy! After the Earthquake is pretty much hit after hit, taking their emotive, rhythmic approach to poppy emo-core and updating it with chiming wall-of-sound guitars and simpler, easily-digestible melodies. It’s funny that these guys existed at the same time as The Promise Ring and always sounded so different, because there are a few tracks on here that are cunningly Promise Ring-y, and it totally works! Regardless of expectations, I keep coming back to this one, and it makes me feel young without simultaneously feeling stupid. Show the youngsters how it’s done, gentlemen!

GG King Unending Darkness LP (Scavenger Of Death)
GG King (he of Carbonas, Predator and Frantic, among many others) plays nearly everything on Unending Darkness himself, and it’s an interesting, sometimes-great look into one man’s musical psyche. Kinda hard to not compare Atlanta’s GG King to Jay Reatard, as they are both prolific musicians raised on garage-punk and seemingly unquenchable in their need to play in bands and put out records, both with friends and entirely on their own. The difference between them is evident in their specific influences, as King is particularly interested in melding black metal with garage-rock, a feat that he might be the first person to attempt. I can’t say it really works, but I applaud the effort. Personally, I prefer when he funnels that darkness into his melodic punk rock, landing somewhere between early Agent Orange and Crisis (“Another Dimension” is the sort of DIY downer-punk I’d pay big bucks for, were it exclusively distributed on 7″ single by Rough Trade in 1978). Overall, I dig the album, not just because some songs are great, but because it’s interesting to hear a man as capable as GG King try something different without coming off as intentionally weird or attention-seeking. Has Scavenger Of Death put out a bum record yet?

Leather Easy LP (Slugsalt)
All praise Slugsalt, coming through with a slab of vinyl I was afraid would never see the light of day, Leather’s posthumous debut album. I try not to care about things like “underrated”, but I’ll be damned if Leather weren’t the best heavy punk/grunge-leaning band during their short tenure on Earth and never quite seemed to get their due. While their Sterile EP remains their pinnacle achievement, Easy is a close second, raging with fresh riffs, John Joseph Jr. vocals and a heaviness usually reserved for crust bands on Relapse. You can mosh to all of it, you can dive whenever, and yet Leather retain their singular presence through all of the chaos, be it mostly from their specific heavy-flange guitar sound and Alex Agran’s impassioned yowl. I’m delighted that the song with the “Breaking The Law” riff (“Expat”) is finally available for repeated spins on my turntable, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing with Easy. You should too!

Meatbeaters Tug Of Phwoarrr! LP (Swashbuckling Hobo)
I can’t wait until the next time I get together with all my professional writer friends, so that when they ask me what I’ve been writing lately I can say “oh, I’ve been writing about Meatbeaters” and watch their impressed and jealous facial expressions. Seriously though, I think I audibly groaned when I pulled this one out of the record mailer – I shuffled it back in the stack, and eventually pulled it out and threw it on, to find out that hey, it’s actually pretty decent. Meatbeaters play high-octane rock n’ roll not unlike The Hellacopters or Turbonegro, with any sort of flashy charisma or gimmickry replaced by a steadfast Aussie working-man vibe. With a name like that, you’d think Meatbeaters might try to put their sense of humor on display, but after spinning Tug Of Phwoarrr! a couple times, it’s clear that they beat their meat as another lifeless chore in their daily grind, the same as choking down convenience-store coffee or taking their boss’s crap. They’ve got the right sound for the style, with plenty of scorching solos and a snare drum that’s as heavy as it is sharp, and I dunno, here I am, telling you I like Meatbeaters. Damnit.

Mercy Killings Snuffed Out EP 7″ (Beach Impediment)
Hope you’re hungry, Mercy Killings are fresh from the kitchen with a platter full of meat n’ potatoes hardcore. I dig the cover art of a man slowly becoming more constipated, and I can feel that futile strain in these five burly tunes. I’m not hearing as much Boston Strangler here as their debut – if anything, I’m hearing the ex-Wasted Time tag more than ever before, with slight hints of Violent Minds (or maybe even Shark Attack). You know, Boston-influenced but only influenced, not re-enacted, the sort of speedy-yet-tough hardcore that could come from any decent American college town and get the straight-edgers and drunk idiots pitting in unison. I’m not sure I’ll be spinning this one too often into the future, it kinda just blends into everything else, but if I lived in the same town as these guys, I’d be glad to see them live at least a few times a year. You can’t really go wrong with the songs Mercy Killings are playing.

Messrs Untitled 7″ (Savage Quality)
About time Savage Quality got into the 7″ game, don’t you think? I couldn’t wait to tear in to this one, just from its sheer Bulb Records-esque presentation – the lowest-quality-paper 7″ jacket was beckoning me like Medusa (and the garbage bag design recalls the Radio Shack / Radio Shock split 7″ in all its undesirable dollar-bin splendor). Someone needs to pick up Bulb Records’ dedication to horrible no-popularity rock, and who better than Savage Quality? I’ll stop projecting my wishes now, and get to Messrs, who offer five frentic-yet-muffled tracks of basement garage-punk. Garage-punk isn’t quite the right tag, though, as Messrs thrash in a manner closer to Solger than The Makers, each song running straight through without any sort of break (and if the drums were actually audible save for the snare, I’d confirm whether or not any actual drum fills take place). They get a little groovy on “After”, kind of Columbus Discount-y even, as if Watery Love shared members with The Floor Above instead of Birds Of Maya, but the rest is a feast of blurry slop-rock. I might like this one more because of the label it’s on than its purely sonic properties, but no one’s gonna arrest me for that, now are they?

Kid Millions & Jim Sauter Fountain LP (Family Vineyard)
There’s a small pool of underground musicians out there where you can essentially pull any two of them out and force them to improvise an infernal racket together and it’d be great, and Kid Millions (drums in Oneida) and Jim Sauter (saxophone in Borbetomagus) are two of them. On Fountain, these two generally butt heads like rams fighting over territory, Millions doing his best octopus impression (and content to avoid cymbals for long stretches of time) and Sauter squealing on top of squeals, the saxophone equivalent to Axl Rose’s voice. It can get somewhat strained and tense (“Turkana” feels like you’re watching a rubber-band pulled to its limit, waiting to snap) but mostly these two fire away as though they aren’t just trying to clear all humans out of the room but any rodents or insects, too. As I sit here trying not to freeze to death, it’s nice to sit back with Fountain on blast and consider the sheer amount of sweat they must’ve produced. It’s like hot chocolate for the ears.

Modus Adderf Arreug 12″ (Marmo Music)
Italian techno is distinct in its difficulty to be pigeonholed or categorized – guys like Donato Dozzy and Nuel have released so many records that are as surprising as they are great, seemingly unbound by genre convention. Might as well add Modus to the list, as he’s another Italian guy operating on his own plane of thought. This one starts off with some heavy ambient that shines like a particularly brown piece of amber (“Airplane Grim Edit”) and it’s followed by basically another rumbling engine sound, this time lifted up by a peppy, early-electro beat that recalls Rammellzee jamming with Lawrence English, before turning into a molten house track (“Exhibition II Airplane”). That’s probably my favorite, but the following “Voice Of Vatiikan” is a nice n’ woozy edit that recalls Wolfgang Voigt’s Kafkatrax if tailored for the chill-out lounge. The b-side is held down entirely by a stellar Hieroglyphic Being remix, Mr. Being confidently taking Modus’s strange parts and pumping them up like a caffeinated Eats Tapes jam. It’s a 12″ EP as great as it is hard to pigeonhole, and I hope I don’t have to wait long for the next Modus installment.

Multicult Variable Impulse LP (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia)
Third LP for Baltimore’s Multicult, a band who manage to keep writing math-rock songs (I can only assume it means the equations become more and more complex with each new riff). It’s pretty good, and while I’m not going to revisit their other LPs right now for a comparison, I feel safe saying this might be their strongest effort yet, diversifying their portfolio with various tempos, moods and angles yet never falling off course. At times, I can’t help but assume the bassist wishes she were Flea, shoeless and furiously headbanging over some slap-bass moves, but she restrains herself just enough to maintain her composure. A few tracks also recall the effortless mechanical swing of The New Brutalism, and while I might’ve said that about them before, it still rings true. I don’t know, Multicult’s style has never totally been my thing, so while I probably won’t be pulling out Variable Impulse anytime soon, I recommend it to anyone who owns more than one Big’n record or exclaimed in delight when they found out Polvo was getting back together. There’s no shame in that game!

Rollins Band Life Time LP (2.13.61)
Okay, here’s a reissue I can get behind, the 2.13.61 edition (manufactured and distributed by Dischord) of the first Rollins Band LP. As a teenage punk, it was easy to overlook any of Rollins’ post-Flag material as self-indulgent rock-star posturing from a washed-up frontman, but I’ve long since come around to heavy groove-rock, of which Life Time is a real gem. This is Rollins starting fresh, working with a bunch of heshers / friends-of-friends without the weight of Greg Ginn (and the iconic Pettibon artwork) on his shoulders. He copes with fame, misery and an unfortunate passion for spoken-word here, and with the riffs of “You Look At You” and “Burned Beyond Recognition”, I don’t think anyone can question the raging toughness of Life Time. I just love thinking of Rollins sleeping on some kitchen floor in Trenton, NJ, writing these songs – it’s a perfect fit. Pretty straight-forward reissue (I actually just did a quick side-by-side comparison), but the back cover photo of Ian Mackaye with an afro might make this new pressing a mandatory purchase.

Sapat A Posthuman Guide To The Advent Calendar Origins Of The Peep Show LP (Sophomore Lounge)
Damn, has it really been almost eight years since Sapat’s Siltbreeze debut? Where have all these wasted years gone? Anyway, everyone’s favorite new-weird free-noise rock collective out of Kentucky is back, with an album title to make Fiona Apple blush. It’s been a while since I listened to Sapat, and I don’t remember them being this wildly raucous, like one of those traveling big-band vegan side-shows that would appear outside a punk music festival and busk in their homemade outfits. It’s as if Barnacled enlisted Wild Man Fischer on vocals, careening through ramshackle Gypsy melodies and improvised breakdowns while a figure more beard than man hollers over top. They find some restraint on the b-side, almost entering this weird “Don Van Vliet fronting Ex-Cocaine” territory that I’d like to hear more of, and they simmer it out that way until the record ends. Intriguing stuff, as it has me imagining a world where Jim Rose’s Circus Sideshow stole the cultural zeitgeist from Nirvana and nipple rings never faded out of fashion.

Sewers Chain Of Command 7″ (Tenth Court)
I remember Sewers came through here before with a solid-if-unremarkable album of dirty AmRep Aussie rock, and here they are again in the succinct 7″ single format. Maybe it’s the brevity that helps keep my interest, but they sound especially good here. “Chain Of Command” sounds like Pop. 1280 if they got heavy into Feedtime instead of Marilyn Manson, and “Life’s A Boar” stomps down the hallway in muddy boots, surprisingly Lamps-like in its delivery and general disregard for others. Not sure it’s a strong enough showing for any international fans to plunk down the shipping costs, but if I wandered into a shop that had Chain Of Command proudly on display (this is assuming there are still record shops out there that stock new 7″s), I’d probably make eye contact with the sales clerk long enough to give them a sincere head-nod. Is Australia still sending five of their bands over for American tours every year? I’d cast a vote in Sewers direction, so long as Total Control are already confirmed.

S.H.I.T. Feeding Time 7″ (Sorry State)
I just can’t help but wonder, do these guys’ parents know their band is called S.H.I.T.? Even “Fucked Up” seems more explainable to a baby boomer. Anyway, I’ve heard good things about but not actually heard S.H.I.T. until now, care of the top-quality Static Shock label. It’s pretty much what I was expecting: basic Hellhammer-via-Hoax riffs metered by Dawn Of Humans- and Blazing Eye-style oompah drumming, topped off with snarled vocals encased in Destino Final’s echo effects (which have become more of the standard than non-echoed vocals at this point in underground hardcore). S.H.I.T. probably only differ from Gag and Glue by the placement of the pins on their denim vests, and yet I can still appreciate S.H.I.T.’s two brief cuts of modern hardcore, particularly as it seems like their hearts are truly in it. Giving up on hoping for originality is really the only way to appreciate hardcore in 2015, don’t you think? After all, some new hardcore band just called themselves “Fury”, so we’ve got the go after the most egregious of uncaring imitators first.

Tit Tit 12″ (FDH / Volar)
Remember when Digital Leather was putting out like two LPs a month for a couple years there, running up credit-card tabs for every Italian or Midwestern garage label? I never quite understood the appeal, but clearly others did, and I can’t help but think that the two men of Tit (yes, Tit) were fans. If anything, Shawn Foree and Bobby Hussy are late enough for this trend that it almost seems quaint, as mostly everyone has traded their Blank Dogs singles collections in for ’70s outsider-folk reissues by now, so it’s kinda nice to hear this sort of thing, even if I don’t think Tit are particularly noteworthy. Theirs are essentially garage-punk melodies and song structures that are re-fit for keyboards and drum machines – you’d have a much easier chance covering these tunes with a live rock band than anything Gary Numan or Cold Cave ever wrote. So yeah, “electronic dark-wave post-punk” for the Burger Records set, which isn’t meant as a diss – everyone’s gotta come to different styles of music from their own angle, and this one is as valid as any, even though Tit don’t offer anything new or exciting (and the vocals on “On Your Side” are almost hilariously bad enough to be really good). They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them if they want to come anywhere close to Digital Leather’s bountiful output, though.

Total Heels Total Heels LP (no label)
Total Heels are a Danish indie-rock group that put together this LP themselves, and if the word “Danish” has triggered thoughts of Posh Isolation, Iceage and Young Wasteners, please go ahead and remove those thoughts at once. Total Heels have nothing to do with any angsty punk teenagers, as they come across more like angsty young adults. It just sounds like music made by guys in their late 20s and early 30s with successful careers, like architects and graphic designers who do a band because it’s fun. I applaud that, but the music of Total Heels isn’t for me – it sounds like a mix of The Holdsteady and The Monorchid, maybe, but with the annoyingly meta “talking about the song” vocal approach via a jittery, excitable nerd voice, and the music just kinda sounds like anything else, with organ poking through the sometimes-speedy, sometimes-slow riffing. I have no plans to listen to Total Heels again – the music is fairly basic and I don’t like the singer, but I’d love to come over and see what amazing Danish furniture they’ve got in their homes, even though this bad review probably burned that bridge.

Dan Trevitt / Westov Temple 2.2mi 12″ (Great Circles)
Dan Trevitt and Westov Temple make for a great pairing of heavy-duty techno circuitry, and while I knew I was gonna dig this one before it ever hit my turntable, I am pleased to say that it’s all I could’ve hoped for. Dan Trevitt provides two tracks on his side, with “Mendacious Truths” seeming starting mid-track, all pistons already firing. I’m imagining multiple Terrence Dixon tracks mixed at once, but in a logical way, as this is dense, robotic and impenetrable. He follows that with “The Vapid”, which is far lighter in weight and removed from any dance-floor; it could’ve easily worked on one of those “fumbling for a grip” scenes in Gravity, with its constant electronic chatter like a million tiny car alarms. Westov Temple offers “Dr. Sardon” and I’m instantly reminded of those sad kids who climb into their laundry machines as a joke and end up in need of severe medical attention, in the way the beat relentlessly pours its weight upon us. I understand Westov Temple comes from the realm of dance music, but it has the same feel as listening to The Rita or Militia or some other mean-spirited power-electronics act, it’s just so continuously heavy and bleak. Great Circles operate on a somewhat restrained release schedule, so collecting them all is quite easy to do, and comes highly recommended.

Charlie Tweddle Fantastic Greatest Hits 2xLP (Mighty Mouth Music / Ever/Never)
Ever/Never have been a fun underground rock label to follow during their brief existence, and I gotta say, I was a little disappointed to see them putting their money into a weird ’70s private-press folk reissue. Maybe there are lots of people who care about this stuff, but I dunno, I’m not one of them, and I am continually creeped out how the underground scene seems to look longingly into the past rather than into the present and future. How sad for me, I know. Anyway, this one comes in a sturdy gatefold, with a repressing of the original album in one slot and an extra LP of b-sides in the other. The first side is fairly simple, silly and unexciting, like Country Joe & The Fish or Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show or one of these other outlaw hippie freaks who would allow for a kazoo solo or two, singing about “Juicy Lucy” and whatever other ditties amused them in their doped-out haze. Not my thing at all, and then the b-side of the LP is mostly silence and frogs; it’s like a field recording of nothing, as if your stoned uncle called to leave you a voicemail (it’s only uncles who actually leave voicemail these days) and forgot to hang up. I was dreading the second LP, but it turns out it’s the most interesting part, a hazy collage of songs, song-bits, radio samples and Lord knows what else – just imagine “country music released by Kye” and you’re there. The second LP is a cool trip, but I can’t rightly say you need to go through the trouble of buying this thing to hear it. I kinda wish the Mighty Mouth and Ever/Never folks took their most estranged, unbalanced aunts and uncles to Applebee’s, got them fat on appetizers and loose on Coors and recorded and released all the nonsense they spat out while ESPN blares in the background from various TVs instead of this unnecessary reissue. Life can just be your own personal field recording if you want it to be.

Ulaan Markhor Spiral Horns, Black Onions, et al. LP (Soft Abuse)
Steven R. Smith has no difficulty coming up with band names that sound like Lord Of The Rings monsters, this being his third to start with the “Ulaan” moniker. He can just keep ’em coming for all I care, because this new one is really fantastic, just a beautiful album of uplifting, sun-kissed guitar-rock that locks into a groove, be it meditative or righteous, and fires it off toward the horizon. I think I’ve got the perfect comparison, actually: imagine if current-day Earth was led by Steve Gunn instead of Dylan Carlson and you’ll arrive somewhere within the orbit of Ulaan Markhor, with cyclical, pleasant riffs played with loose precision and a strange sense that the players are wise beyond their years, all with a solemn and undeniable heaviness. This one has been in my bin for a month or two now, and each time I try to write about it, I just get lost in its beauty and feel too good to settle into any words, but I forced myself this time, all because I want you to share in this joy with me.

Vanity Vain In Life LP (Katorga Works)
“Studio-project hardcore” is something I generally try to avoid, but Vanity’s Vain In Life album has me re-thinking my personal philosophy… it’s really that good. These two dudes went ahead and basically Jurassic Park’d Skrewdriver’s All Skrewed Up, taking its tempos, attitude, guitar sound, chord progressions, song structures and distinct vocal style and recreating them with startling precision. These two dudes are Americans, yet the singer even nails a “two fwee fouh!” when the song cuts out at one point! I suppose you could say there’s a bit of Rose Tattoo in here too, maybe even a subtle aftertaste of Ivy Green, but I have no doubt in my mind these guys were deliberate in this marvelous re-imagining of All Skrewed Up. I realize this all might sound like a bit of a turn-off to some, a band copying some notoriously racist band’s “pre-racist” album, but Vanity injects all their songs with the same sense of anger and catchiness that makes boots n’ braces punk-rock great, all without the guilt of listening to something sketchy. Although if it turns out that these guys join the Klan five years from now and later die in a car crash, I can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

Warthog Chain Wallet Demo 7″ (no label)
Most bands don’t need their demo pressed to vinyl, but Warthog makes a strong case for such treatment with theirs, five tracks from back when they still went by Chain Wallet. It showcases Warthog in their most basic, first-round approach, which is pretty great – Poison Idea urgency with a hint of Youth Attack! nihilism and a working knowledge of New York hardcore’s first wave (Antidote and Agnostic Front, let’s say). Not every band has the gall to come up with song titles like “Control”, “Pig” and “Shit”, but Warthog came up with all three. Their approach became more ferocious on the singles that followed this demo, but it’s nice to file this one right alongside them. I hope an album is on the way, as previously promised (they promised one, right?), but either way Warthog has already confirmed their place in the ’10s class of New York hardcore freaks.

Xetas The Silence / The Knife 7″ (12XU)
Austin’s 12XU label is an interesting one, handling Euro distribution for various big-indie titles in the early ’00s and in recent years, dedicating itself toward underground punk and indie, frequently within orbit of the Austin scene. It’s nice to know that thoughtful and interesting guitar-based music has a home like this, and much in the way Sub Pop fostered the cool Seattle scene in the late ’80s, 12XU releases random 7″s by local bands like Xetas, whom those of us outside of Texas might not have otherwise discovered. “The Silence” comes at messy early ’90s indie/noise-rock with a garage twang, with a metaphor about fruit for the chorus. “The Knife” is not an homage to the electro-Swedes, but a gruff pop-punker that calls to mind Dillinger Four or V. Reverse or some other portly Midwestern band that Sub City would’ve shown interest in a decade ago. I think I prefer Xetas in under-two-minutes pop mode, it’s just more fun and effective, but they’ve got an LP coming on 12XU and have plenty of time to stretch their legs in any direction they desire.

Normalised – The Detonic Collection compilation LP (Detonic)
Damn, sure is nice to see a smartly curated, high-quality compilation LP show up, particularly in this age where compilations are considerably less useful and more difficult to sell. This one comes from the young Detonic label, and it offers a great variety of mostly-unknown-to-me underground artists who tend to focus on the electronic / cold-wave / DIY industrial end of punk. Over the first side, I’m reminded of Void Vision, the Bippp compilation, and Crash Course In Science to name a few, and it wraps with the fantastic Men Oh Pause, who I’ve been meaning to check out – their demented take on shambolic DIY noise-rock is genius. Diesel Dudes kick off the b-side with a creeping Front 242 vibe, and even a band called “Trippple Nippples” kinda kicks ass, with an aggro Les Georges Leningrad vibe. There isn’t a dud track on here, and I’m so glad Normalised has me trying to figure out if any of these bands have other records out while I fantasize about them all hanging out together, which is pretty much the desired reaction of any good comp.