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Records Reviews from Razorcake #78
2 of 5

By Staff
Tuesday, February 04 2014

COOL PISS: Cool As Piss: Cassette
Cool Piss is a great new-ish band from Houston that includes ex-members of The Cutters and White Crime, among others. Musically, imagine a more straightforward version of the Spits if the Spits paid more attention to tuneful hooks in their songs. It’s fucking great! There are seven songs, and comes with a digital download if that’s your preference. Can’t wait to hear more from these guys. –Mark Twistworthy (Bummer Tapes, bummertapes.bandcamp.com)

Blunt instruments with outrageous torque moving cubic yards of dirt. There’s nothing pretty about the Cosmic Psychos, nothing complicated (fight, fuck, work, drink, lift weights, repeat) and that’s their charm. (One song’s just called “Pub.”) Go the Hack was their second full length, originally released in 1989 in Australia, and if there was ever a missing link between Lemmy Mötorhead’s no-bullshiting thud, mid-period Sabbath’s sonic rake of blood and tension, and proto-grunge, this’d be it. My memory’s that the Cosmic Psychos (formed in ‘82) and Beasts Of Bourbon predated what would happen in the Pacific Northwest in the early ‘90s, but since they weren’t ever as popular as their American counterparts (Nirvana, Mudhoney, L7, Soundgarden), that bit of grunge history gets glossed over in “official” reconstructions for sake of convenience and self-service, as should be expected. No matter. This is a welcome and timely reissue. Ross, Cosmic Psychos lead singer, continues to run his farm. –Todd Taylor (Aarght, aarghtrecords.com / Goner, goner-records.com)

COSMIC PSYCHOS: Self-titled and Down on the Farm: LP reissues
How can you not love a band that sings about the joys of eating sausage? The reason I’m not including Go the Hack here is because I already own the original, and it’s in good enough shape that I don’t need to replace it. Strictly budgetary reasons, you understand. Looking at the cover of the Go the Hack reissue, the only difference I notice is the color contrast seems sharper. Anyhoo, this is the kind of Aussie rock’n’roll I dig. Hard-driving, meat and potatoes type shit. And beer. On top of being able to finally own these early records, I got to see the Psychos at Gonerfest 10, as they toured in support of the Blokes You Can Trust documentary. Hadn’t seen them since 1998! The self-titled EP is not at all what I expected. The fuzz bass definitely drives the songs, as in many of their songs, but these tunes are more groove-oriented, some clocking in at six or seven minutes. Down on the Farm, however, cuts to the bone and gets me where I need to go! Thudding rock’n’roll punk. Working class music by actual members of the working class (singer/bassist Ross Knight still owns the farm). Goner truly scored with these records. –Sal Lucci (Goner/Aarght!)

Re-mastered version of this Australian band’s debut LP that originally came out in 1987. I’d never heard this band before, but after one listen I realized I’d obviously been listening to bands that have been influenced by them for years. It sounds like the missing like between The Saints and The Sultans. I also feel like there are exact riffs that Sex Vid would later play. Heavy, plodding punk that hits you like a punch to the gut, and then drinks all your beer. Solid, rockin’ tunes with sporadic, nasty guitar freak outs. –Daryl (Goner / Aarght)

CRAZY SQUEEZE, THE: “Younger Girls” b/w “Terminal Love”: 7”
Not so much a bee-zerk version of Difford and Tilbrook as a Hollywood version of the Hollywood Brats, the Crazy Squeeze emit an A-side that sounds like a track off the third Boys album, and a B-side that actually IS a track off the third Boys album ((featuring Boy Honest John Plain on guitar, no less)). I initially thought “Terminal Love” sounded so indiscernible from the original as to not be worth bothering with, but then I noticed they updated the list of pseudo-solemnly intoned dead punker names in the break, which justifies this record’s existence entirely. Buy this and a cute hat! BEST SONG: “Terminal Love” BEST SONG TITLE: “Terminal Love”. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I have just now decided that no male is sexy who poses with a bottle of Stella Artois. ¬–Rev. Nørb (Rapid Pulse / No Front Teeth, undergroundmedicine.com, nofrontteeth.net)

This two-piece from Scotland is doing the “wild rock’n’roll thing.” I hate to say it, but it seems like they’re just trying too hard. I have this prejudice about big beat because I worry people learn the beat, get some leopard print and talk about seedy-sounding things, and feel they’ve got it. This record just never takes off for me. The whole thing rides one pace and never screams. The opening song, “Black Cat,” is the best song and it’s a downhill snooze from there. I bet they’re better live. –Billups Allen (Dead Beat)

CRIATURAS: Espiritu de Libertad: LP
There’s something about the Spanish language that is perfect for hardcore (the same goes for Italian, too) in that it somehow has more of a snap to it as well as providing me with a learning experience as I seek translations of a host of words and phrases. This Austin, TX-based band employs Spanish to good effect as part of the whole battering ram approach that the thirteen tracks provide. Criaturas comes across like a mix of Slöa Knivar and a slightly less frenetic Ruidosa Immundicia, with a female-fronted hardcore delivery that steamrolls through the door having had no intention on knocking politely. Whilst there is no doubt that this album rages, it certainly contains enough melodic elements to stop it from sounding one dimensional. Definitely the strongest material I’ve heard from the band. –Rich Cocksedge (Hardware, chris@hardware-records.com, hardware-records.com)

Misery can be inspirational. Poverty can breed meaningful art. Criminal Damage play top-tier existential street punk. Instead of working class bravado, questionable nationalism, and gang stompers, they create a bleak, high-contrast grey and black world. Call of Death is also an LP of disparity between its words and sounds. Textually, it’s Orwell future-present. Tough and godless. Cracked concrete, cracked teeth. Never-bright skies. Broken cities. Empty cupboards. Solitary drinking. Fucked fuckedness of which the bad fucking has no end. Lyrically, it’s in line with early ‘80s peace punk, thorned with spools of barbed wire cynicism, then wheat pasted over with the sticky hopelessness of modern existence. Musically, however, Criminal Damage burn brightly like a lighthouse, shining a path through ever-quickening darkness. Rough, melodic barking is buckled to knifey, slashing, guitar work. Snapping drums give this batch of songs a rigorous and crisp feeling. The enterprise is reminiscent of Blitz, Partisans, Templars, Cock Sparrer, and Hard Skin. Good company to have, in my book. Great record. –Todd Taylor (Feral Ward)

CRUSADES: Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment with Greater Fear Than I Receive It: CD/LP
I’ve been curious to see how Crusades would follow up to their outstanding debut LP, The Sun Is Down and the Night Is Riding In. And their second album with an equally lengthy title, Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment with Greater Fear than I Receive It, is just as good, if not better, than the first. At ten songs (nine, if you don’t include the spoken word intro track), this thirty-three minute album is tight and punches hard. The band is still catchy as hell, which is really remarkable considering that the lyrical content centers around a sixteenth-century heretic, Giordano Bruno. Somehow they are able to take lines such as “Fear not the shaft; fear not the hunter’s aim: into the splendors of the living flame” and make them appealing. All of this just goes to show how well these four Canucks have been able to marry their metal and pop punk influences. The assault of three vocalists also impresses. The listener is never bored with one singer’s tone, as another one pops in on the next track (and sometimes even in the same song). They all complement one another well. The band certainly is making their metal influence felt on more than just some of the lyrics, though. There were times I heard Propagandhi (especially when the vocals and guitar were both exceptionally harsh), but Crusades stand unique in their lyrical content and preference to lean toward the melodic side of things as opposed to the thrash side. What I love about Crusades is that they are able to take my love for metal and channel it through my interest in pop punk (a guilty pleasure). While a normally carefree, often silly genre, Crusades make pop punk sound dark and slightly sinister. Perhaps You Deliver… is further proof of their unique place in the punk scene. –Kurt Morris (No Idea)

CRUSADES: Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment with Greater Fear Than I Receive It: LP
The shorthand for Crusades is deceptive because it runs the risk of sounding hokey: melodic occult punk. It could be such a cheese factory, a Lord of the Rings meets Strange Brew mess. It’s the opposite—it’s both musically and textually powerful. First the music. Crusades are a chainmail fist. The power comes from a tense grip of four musicians playing as a single-focus one. As a casting-off point, think Today’s Empires Tomorrow’s Ashes-era Propagandhi (Pro-pagan-dhi). Tinges of sharp metal at the edges. Quick punk thrusts. That’s sonically laid atop ‘90s hardcore like a semi-permeable loam that seeps in and adds textural smoke. There are guitar flourishes and drum fills, but they’re filigrees and accents, not the spotlight. Side one begins with a single-voiced recitation and ends with a piano solo. Lyrically, instead of international or scene politics, Ottawa’s Crusades explore and exalt the inner logic of “light” and “delights” turned inside out and crosses turned upside down. Invited blindness. Sweet grief. Giving into to a higher power to spin the wheel of fate. Eyes adjusted to darkness. Wings spreading. Living flames. Life without fear of being hunted. Inviting terrestrial death. “Unholy craft.” Christianity as a fable. After being burned at the stake, unrepentant, what happens to the ash? It flits into the sky, becomes weather, rains down, seeps into the soil, and germinates once again. Perhaps… reads and sounds like an epic dis-illuminated manuscript. I’ve been listening to this record compulsively. Highest recommendation. (No Idea #333 by accident? Methinks not.) –Todd Taylor

CUNT LICKER: This Mess Is Home: CD-R
They call this their debut album, but come on guys, just ‘cause you put a hand-cut sticker label on a CD-R don’t elevate it from demo to album, especially with that boom box recording. Sorry, facts are facts! That said, this is something I actually wish I could hear properly. As you might suspect, this is in Antiseen / Hammerlock / Dwarves territory and with songs like “The Fuckin’ Song,” “How to Stuff a Taco” and “Drink My Life Away,” you know it’s time to crack a “cold Coors in a can” and use your favorite Yankee liberal’s picture for double barrel target practice. (Jokes, people!) Attention any Kentuckian with gear: help get these fuckers a decent recording! Also maybe a bassist. –Chad Williams (No Hope In Hell, reverbnation.com/label/nohopeinhellrecords)

CUT UP, THE: The Gateway Drug: CDEP
Five songs in seventeen minutes and the whole time I kept thinking, “This sounds like Q And Not U’s first album, No Kill No Beep Beep, with only one singer.” The more I listened to it, the more I thought about how it also sounded like Moving Units and an obscure early 2000s Wisconsin band, Proudentall. If you like any of those acts, or if you feel as though indie rock peaked in 2001, then this is the band for you. It’s not bad, but I’ve got plenty of other music in my collection that sounds similar and I don’t really need any more. –Kurt Morris (thecutup.bandcamp.com)

This record was a pleasant surprise this month. The bright, cubist cover made me feel like there was going to be some fun tracks on this record. Right off the bat, this is a party record. The opening track, “Violation,” has an angular post-punk feel to it; think Jay Reatard meets Pylon. The rest of the record doesn’t let up and gets really spazzy and nervous-sounding. These guys have a sound that I bet sounds even better live and, judging by the photo inside, this is a band you want to drink beers with. So let’s recap: You’re going to have a party, you’re going to play Mutability, and everyone is going to dance their ass off. –Ryan Nichols (Southpaw, southpaw-records.com)

DALAPLAN: Redan Död: 7”
Sixties-meet-eighties pop on the title track, with a catchy chorus and a bouncy lilt. The flip, “Siste Kvar,” is considerably darker, slower, and more brooding. Broader range showcased here than on previous singles, but no less interesting. –Jimmy Alvarado (Gaphals, gaphals.se)

DALAPLAN: Self-titled: CD
As on prior EPs, these Swedes mix equal parts ‘60s beat rock and ‘80s new wave with modern recording technology and serve up with a combustible, beguiling stew that’ll get a body groovin’ and singin’ like a fool in a foreign language. Makes a guy wish American radio wasn’t so language-phobic, snooty, and irrelevant, ‘cause songs like “Paniken Växer” should be dominating the airwaves. –Jimmy Alvarado (Gaphals, gaphals.se)

DANCER: Self-titled: 7”
Three songs of sloppy, lo-fi power pop with clean guitars, a glam stomp to the drums, and a sullen, loose-jawed vocalist. “My Car Drives Fast” pulls out all the stops, with back-up singers, a guitar solo, and a couple extra parts. The two songs on the flip are hooky, but breeze by faster. I’d love to see these guys open for the Del Fuegos. –Chris Terry (guitarsandbongos.com)

DARK COUNTRY: Self-titled: LP
I’d be willing to bet that the vocalist of this band loves Black Sabbath. The Sabbath worship is something that is immediately evident once the vocals kick in on this eight-song LP. Sometimes, at their most exciting moments, this reminds me of a metal-tinged skate punk band, not unlike S.T.R.E.E.T.S. or RKL. Other times, this band has more of a classic rock/metal vibe going on, bringing to mind contemporary stoner/rock bands like The Sword if they decided to go into the studio after a weekend long speed bender. –Mark Twistworthy (Dark Country, darkcountry.bandcamp.com)

Dead Mechanical’s visual trajectory over three albums is making me consider OK Night as the third part of a trilogy, although it may just be a cluster with more to come. Their first album, Medium Noise features man without two-thirds of a face on the front and a photo of a weathered thrift store window filled with shoes and a framed picture of Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas. Invisibility. Location. Found objects. Reaction. Their second album, Rhythm Addicts is pure font—tracking, kerning, leading, proportion—letters manipulated in graphic design. Control. Detail. Manipulation of basic building blocks for reevaluation and reinterpretation. OK Night’s artwork is all hand-rendered and handwritten; pastelly mountain with triangles and shapes implying buildings. Softer. Personal without explicit personal narrative. The more frequent use of “You” vs. the use of “Them.” Wobbly. Fanciful. Anecdotal. For anthems, I reach for Addict Rhythms. For short stories, I reach for Medium Noise. Curiously, OK Night fits in the middle. It’s less instantly hooky, but it has that hypnotic, crunchy shimmer and sway of bands like Seaweed and Superchunk. It’s more one-on-one. More artful, but not in a shitty way that serves as a divorce from their earlier, more explicit material. Totally worth soaking in. Dismiss as pop punk at the risk of overlooking an excellent band. –Todd Taylor (Toxicpoprecords.com)

DEAD MOOSE: The Night: 7”
Geez, guys, I guess all the good band names are taken, huh? Anyway, a reasonable outing by a Finnish trio that sounds uncannily like they’re fronted by Bruce from the Detonators. Solid enough batch of songs that are almost over before they start. Brevity helps, sure, but it’s all still a little unmemorable, and I really don’t think we need any more tunes about zombies, do you? Sorry, guys, gotta pass on this one. –Keith Rosson (Dead Moose)

DEAD ON, THE: Self-titled: CD
The Dead On are a better band than my honest review would give them credit for. The more I listened, the more I realized that this band would one day make their mark, or money, by selling a song to MTV to be used on the credits of a reality show about a small town _______________ moving to the big city of _______________to make it as a __________________. The show’s finale ends as the music begins softly and, in tears forced for the camera, _______________ and his/her ___________________ decide to part ways. The song plays. –John Mule (Boss Tuneage)

DEFEATER: Letters Home: CD/LP
This five-piece Boston hardcore band continues the literary device around which they have built their entire band: the struggles of a family in the post-World War II years. It’s gritty and dark, with murder, guilt, and hopelessness. This is not a lyrically upbeat album. And yet it is all done in a mature manner. Many bands wouldn’t be able to utilize the device effectively, but Defeater does so in a way that makes me want to know more about these characters; I’d love to read short stories of these individuals. The shorter run time (ten songs in thirty-four minutes) makes each track seem urgent and important without being rushed. Defeater gets their point across and moves on to the next track all the way up until the closer, “Bled Out,” the longest on the album, that culminates with vocalist Derek Archambault yelling, “All I see is the bastard in me,” the same lyric that anchored the opening track, “Bastards.” Yet Letters Home isn’t a blistering album, as there is melody even if Archambault’s vocals are primarily screaming. Hell, when I heard the guitar at the beginning of “No Saviour” and “Bled Out,” I would’ve thought I was listening to something from Sonic Youth’s Murray Street. Joe Longobardi’s drumming is worth particular note, as it’s not only solid, but also at times complicated. He doesn’t just settle for fills in spots where other drummers might have done so. The point is that Defeater hasn’t gone soft, nor is their fierceness unbridled. Instead, they’ve found a way to put it all together just right. –Kurt Morris (Bridge 9)

DESTRUCTORS, THE: The Sublime, the Perverse, the Ridiculous: CD
Before the Destructors first self-destructed (don’t blame me for that one; it’s straight from the promo sheet) in 1983, they drafted a blueprint for what was intended to be their second full-length. Thirty years later, the current lineup has revisited the songs to give the album the chance it never had. The effort generally avoids sounding like a lukewarm reenactment—after all, this is no feeble reunion but a band that never really gave it up for good, multiple hiatuses notwithstanding. That being said, there’s no new ground to be covered here. This is straightforward streetpunk from the ‘80s played by guys who have been playing since the ‘70s. The band plays tightly but predictably while Allen Adams barks scathing couplets on the usual topics: war, religion, and capitalist exploitation. The album trails off with unnecessary renditions of “Wild Thing,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “Louie Louie,” perhaps the most exhausted covers in rock’n’roll. A few surprises do stand out, including the grim sludginess of “Body Bags” and the ominous breakdown in “Nerve Gas.” But at its heart, this is gruff, working-class U.K. punk rock to listen to with your boots on. –Indiana Laub (Rowdy Farrago, thedestructorsuk@googlemail.com, destructors666.com)

DEZERTER: Blasfemia: LP
Here’s a reissue of these Polish punks’ fifth LP, the original having emerged in 1992. Blasfemia contains no shortage of ripping solos and intricate basslines, rocking hardest when the band locks into these irresistible metal grooves. An atmospheric chorus effect cuts in and out, reminiscent of darker ‘90s hardcore in the vein of Inside Out. Robert Matera’s vocals are at once bitterly venomous and catchy as hell. Luckily for me, English translations accompany the Polish lyrics—I’ve read that some of their other translations have been lacking, but these are more or less on point. The lyrics are heavy with angst in the true sense of the word: the crushing anxiety of existence, a suffocating sickness that’s futile to resist. The sentiment is all the more powerful given Poland’s history of censorship and political repression. For me, the first truly cathartic moment of the album comes halfway through “Pierwszy Raz,” when Matera’s threatening vocals erupt into a seething, snarling rage. The rest of the album never lets up as it oscillates between haunting, metal-tinged hardcore and straightforward, melodic punk rock. If you’ve been sleeping on this classic for any part of the last twenty years, now is an excellent time to catch up. –Indiana Laub (Pasazer, pasazer@pasazer.pl, pasazer.pl)

DIÄT: Every Day: 7”
Tribal-beat post-punk, with thick, thudding bass, chanty vocals, and some out-of-the-box guitar twanging. Both tracks here are alternately engaging and detached, inviting you to move while still managing to feel cold and gray. Here’s hoping a full-length ain’t too far away. –Jimmy Alvarado (Iron Lung)

DIONNA: Avenue X: CD
When I was fourteen or fifteen, the act of buying a new record was an instance of titanic financial and emotional investment. Like most kids that age, I generally felt pretty shitty and was staking a huge chunk of my liquid assets and also my complete short-term emotional well-being on the supposition that the record purchased was gonna SAVE MY FUCKING SOUL. Almost everything I had was riding on the wager that THIS RECORD WOULD BE SO FUCKING FANTASTIC that it would change my life immediately; my problems wouldn’t disappear, but they would be rendered irrelevant. My life would take a new and awesome quantum leap this way or that, and, once that occurred, pretty much everything else could kiss my ass. I’m thinking of the times when I dropped the needle in the groove of “Rock & Roll Girl” or “Cretin Hop” for the first time— HUGE, life-changing events, never to be repeated. I’m not sure why some horny loner fourteen or fifteen year old kid would buy this CD—other than the fact that there’s a girl dressed in nothing but an American flag and a goofy hat on the cover—but, if one did, and he plopped it on his music-producing device, glum and alienated and forlorn, and the first thing he heard was some punky rock diva growling “I WISH SOMEONE WOULD FUCK ME… TONIGHT!!!”—would it be one of those massive, life-changing events for him, where the virtual presence of some imaginary kindred soul suddenly shed light in the darkness of insanity? Would he bond to this record in the manner of how feral wiener dogs raised by mallards don’t know they’re not ducks? I think it’s possible. If not, I feel no shame in giving it the benefit of the doubt. I, of course, am too old and jaded to imagine I am anything but a feral wiener dog, so I think this mostly sounds like what I imagine L7 would have sounded like if Rod Swenson would have managed them and wrote their songs instead of doing similarly unto the Plasmatics. The one exception to this is “Come Home,” which reminds me that no matter how much “I wish someone would fuck me tonight” the punky rock starlets hit ya with, in the end, they all really only wanna sing “Me and Bobby McGee” anyhoo. Oh well, best of luck with the fucking, dearie. BEST SONG: “Tonight.” MOST PLASMATICS-LIKE SONG TITLE: “4:20 24/7.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Marky Ramone plays drums on three songs on this record, but it sounds kinda like he was never in the same room with anyone else in the band when recording his drums…kinda like the instrumental break in “Dream Lover” by the Plasmatics! AHA! THE SMOKING GUN!!! –Rev. Nørb (Rokarola)

DIRTBOMBS, THE: Ooey Gooey Chewy Ka-Blooey!: CD
The long-threatened Dirtbombs bubblegum album! If memory serves me correctly, Mick Collins’ original idea for The Dirtbombs was to have each release be a different concept. (Who woulda thunk the band responsible for Horndog Fest could have put out a pop record?) This batch o’ tunes is good, captures the spirit of ‘70s bubblegum rock, but Mick Collins has too much soul to write a true pop album. You can feel this even in the first note on the first song (“Sugar on Top”). The Dirtbombs patented fuzz is indeed present. “Crazy for You” might be the catchiest, taking you on a trip backwards in musical time, showing you how The Ramones put their own spin on bubblegum music. To me, the Beach Boys-esque trio of songs (“The Sunshine Suite”) was only good for one or two listens. I’ve often thought that the bubblegum genre is too silly and childish, relying heavily on double entendre. So with that said, the pervert in me hopes “We Come in the Sunshine” means something filthy. –Sal Lucci (In The Red)

DIRTY KID DISCOUNT: Sharpen Your Knives as Evil Threatens the Land: 7”
Well, gypsy punk and crust punk have officially joined forces to become one ridiculous genre. Dirty Kid Discount sound way more “gypsy” than “crusty” if you’re just listening to them, and if it weren’t for the aesthetics of the record sleeve combined with the fact that this is on Profane Existence, I am doubtful that a connection to the crust scene would exist. The lyrical content ties this back to the punk scene with anti-religious and environmentally conscious topics, which, as we all know, are commonplace for many punk bands (or at least the good ones). I can’t imagine the run-of-the-mill crusty punk being into this, as it lacks the heaviness and aggression synonymous with the genre. This record reminds me of a line from Repo Man which sums up my thoughts of this scene exactly: “Goddamn dipshit… gypsy dildo punks!” –Mark Twistworthy (Profane Existence, profaneexistance.com)

DIVINE RIGHT: Self-titled: LP
Noisy hardcore with lots of feedback and fuzz pumped into the sound. Musically they run along the Tear it Up/Double Negative side of the street, alternating between thrashing and menacing boil. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

DIVISION FOUR: 1983 Demo Cassette: LP
Here’s what I was able to dig up about this bad boy: Division Four was an early ‘80s band hailing from Perth, Australia that managed to spurt out this, their sole recorded output, in 1983 before fading back into obscurity. The titular demo has become quite the collector’s item, so this reissue will no doubt be hailed ‘n’ huzzahed in certain quarters, and with good reason: the shit’s pretty danged good. Dual bass guitars, drums, synths ‘n’ vocals bubble and brood aplenty, but ain’t averse to getting all punky-aggressive on occasion so that their results are in just as good company with mid-’80s UK punk as they are with post-punk and the quirkier wing of the new wave. Fuggin’ choice listening here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smart Guy, smartguyrecords.com)

DOBERMANN CULT: Lions Share of the Dog Years: CD
Swedish dudes doing the NYHC thing. While I was kind of looking forward to trashing this—this is easily my least favorite genre of punk—Dobermann Cult made that pretty difficult to do. Sure, the template never strays very far from the one laid down long ago by oldie-moldies like H2O and Sick Of It All, but what sets this band apart is their absolutely refreshing lack of meatheadedness. The lyrics contain reasonably articulate and meaningful calls for unity, tolerance, and compassion that span the gamut of racial, sexual, and economic differences, something that really endeared me to this band. Still not really a fan of the music—though admittedly they’re good at it—but I’d wholeheartedly suggest fans of the genre check these dudes out well before listening to yet another beefed-up ignoramus yell about how he’s been stabbed in the back. –Keith Rosson (Gaphals, gaphals.se)

DOT WIGGIN BAND: Ready! Get! Go!: CD
Dot Wiggin is hopefully a familiar name as the lead guitarist and front woman of The Shaggs. Ready! Get! Go! is Wiggin’s first new recordings in over forty years. For the uninitiated, The Shaggs’ (1968-1975) music was sonically more revolutionary than punk rock. The Shaggs were inimitable—true pioneers of outsider music in the rock era (although that was never the band’s intention—Wiggin and Co. were sincerely creating their own music from scratch). Unfortunately, they were too far out there to sell any records. (To get the band’s story, check the Internet or the outdated-but-great Songs in the Key of Z.) Ready! Get! Go! is a great album. Wiggin gets backing from people who can play. They support her well in most instances, only occasionally infringing/imposing on the uniqueness of Wiggin’s work. That being said, Ready! Get! Go! was tastefully done. If you’re a Shaggs fan, you probably already own this album. If you’re on the fence about picking it up, rest assured: this is another great album by Dot Wiggin that captures the uniqueness of her songwriting, done with great understanding and support by the band and the label. Wiggin’s imprint is still there and putting her in a more “musical” environment (the album includes a cover of “End of the World”) is rewarding. Way to go, Dot. ¬–Ryan Leach (Alternative Tentacles, altenativetentacles.com)

DOWN BY LAW: Revolution Time: CDEP
Fresh off the heels of last year’s Champions at Heart, the band returns with this innovative blast of seven songs. The influences are here, some damn good ones too. From Stiff Little Fingers to Thin Lizzy to Motörhead, it’s a hearty mix. But there are some mellow passages too. “Radio Silence” slows the tempo to great effect with some intricate acoustics. “Midnight Fighters” ratchets up the racket to bring this too short record to a close. Down By Law knows this is new age, but they are still able to keep up and fly the flag high for punk rock and the true believers. That’s admirable beyond belief these days. Join the cause! –Sean Koepenick (Self-released, downbylaw.com)

Following an EP, single, and album, the A-side track, “Victory,” is easily the best song these guys have done. Most of their previous output was too soft for my taste; decent songs but not enough balls, not enough punch. “Victory” has the catchy melodies these guys obviously have the skill to write, but sounds much more urgent in its delivery. The obvious reference point here is Smalltown, another good band that gets too soft at times. The B-side isn’t quite as good, but still captures that same raw, urgent quality. A solid pickup. –Chad Williams (Pirates Press, piratespressrecords.com)

DRUGLORDS OF THE AVENUES: “Macgowans Seeth” b/w “Forward to Fun”: 7”
As far as I’m concerned, the gravel-voiced Johnny “Peebucks” Bonnel can front as many fucking bands as he wants and every single one will have a fighter’s chance with me. I’m a huge fan of the legendary San Francisco-based Swingin Utters, and the more folky, Pogues-inspired Filthy Thieving Bastards. As a side note, seeing the latter tour with the Pogues’ Spyder Stacey is one of my all-time favorite memories. Fans of any and all of the previously name-dropped bands and artists should not be disappointed by this release. Bonnel’s voice and writing are in prime form here, and the rest of Druglords Of The Avenues provide as good a backing band as anyone could wish for. –John Mule (Pirates Press)

DUMBSTRUCK: It’s Still Broke. The First Two Records: CD
No fucking brainer. Timely reissue of one of the 2000’s most underrated and overlooked bands. Post Ricord, pre-Violent Arrest hardcore ripping. While every old cunt from back in the day is reforming, Ripcord moved on, changed names, and still delivered. Sometimes we forget there are really talented people buried in the mire of punk and hardcore. Steve “Baz” Ballam’s resume speaks for itself, Ripcord, Heresy, Dumbstruck and now Violent Arrest. He is the master of channeling the sounds of Boston and Sweden into a melting pot that has since been rehashed through bands like Boston Strangler and No Tolerance. This is the backbone of Ripcord with a crusty singer. SSD and Siege filtered through the Varukers. The 7” is unstoppable and worth the price of entry alone. Again, thanks Boss Tuneage for delivering. –Tim Brooks (Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.com)

Edhochuli’s single contribution opens with a frenetic mishmash of interwoven riffs and pulsing percussions. The extensive instrumental layering is mind boggling. I imagine that some flow charts must have been involved. With a hard right turn, the screams rip through the guitar-laden veneer, transforming the song into a death waltz. Eventually, what follows is a frantic interlude and a tormented, atonal climax. This is expansive, heady stuff. Almost hardcore geometry. Definitely one of the band’s most memorable outings. Waste Age’s two songs don’t slack off either. Both begin with pleasant guitar interplay and silky crooning evocative of ‘90s emo like Sunny Day Real Estate. When the vocalist strains, he sounds eerily similar to Guy Picciotto of Fugazi. Also, the integration of keys is a plus. Overall, this is a varied split from two sets of very distinct musical maestros. –Sean Arenas (Ethospine, ethospine.com, ethospine@gmail.com)

EDHOCHULI: Self-titled: LP
According to my research, the name is derived from Ed Hochuli, an attorney and longtime NFL official. Thankfully, the band avoids both legal mumbo jumbo and meathead hoorah. Instead, these Pittsburgh punks grant us six dizzying tunes full of Black Sabbath solos, finger bass noodles, harsh vocals, and genuine eardrum abuse. Although they exhibit technical hardcore and sludge influences, pure rock bombast—sans the machismo, misogyny, and ill-fitting pants—bleeds through every note. (There’s even a song that features an extensive acoustic guitar intro that deviates into a tasty tapping riff.) The tunes are impressively composed with tempo changes, thick licks, and long, playful titles (“Dude, Here Comes the Sweet Part”). Edhochuli is the type of band that warrants watching while dumbfounded and agape as they shred without a hint of smugness and modestly gyrate their hips. –Sean Arenas (Ethospine, ethospine.com, ethospine@gmail.com)

EPICYCLE: You’re Not Gonna Get It 1978-81: CD
Just when you think that the Killed by Death series and its myriad of imitators has squeezed the last bit o’ goodness from the underground, another gem plops right into yer lap. Epicycle was a band outta Chicago that released several singles and an LP during the titular years, yet somehow have gone relatively unnoticed in the years since despite the adoration of early fans who went on to great success during the underground’s “grunge” era. The music here, culled from the aforementioned releases as well as demo tracks and one live cut, is giddily good from a band that gleefully defies any immediate assessments—just when you’ve got ‘em pegged as a buncha street hoods cribbing influences from the same records as the Runaways and the Damned, they wrench you in the earhole with rough and tumble power pop complete with twangy guitars and multi-part harmonies—and stands as another great example of an era when the whole point to “new” music was to experiment and create instead of playing to the same staid, cookie-cutter pigeonhole. –Jimmy Alvarado (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)

An instrumental album by Alex Cuervo of the Hex Dispensers and Brotherhood Of Electricity. Compared to the Hex Dispensers’ fast-driving, Ramones/Misfits-concise stabs of songs that watershed around repeated phrases, Espectrostatic is almost the opposite on the surface—no words, long song structures invoking alien landscapes turning from night to day, sounds as overlapping textures, synthesizers with the keys depressed for stretches (and if there are guitars, they’re definitely not the focus). But there is some overlap to Alex’s previously released material. Same mind. Different production. There’s a walnut-sized part of the brain called the temporoparietal junction. If it gets wonked, it can lead to adverse effects, like difficulty making moral decisions and the production of out-of-body experiences. This record’s creepy, like unearthly fog billowing underneath the threshold instead of an axe splintering a door (smoke opposed to blood). It’s atmosphere, insidious patience building, marching, swelling, constricting, releasing. It sounds like the score to a movie set in outer space made by ghosts. Intriguing. –Todd Taylor (Trouble In Mind)

Eureka California play strummy, melancholy indie pop. Good Grief sound like a mix of psychedelic garage rock and ‘90s emo rock. No, really. Both bands are catchy and punky and have fuzzed-out recordings that forefront their garage rock tendencies. They’re different enough to be distinctive, but enough in common to make sense back-to-back. Adding to the big picture, the packaging is nice, and sorta looks like a 1970s PE uniform. –Chris Terry (roklokrecords.com)

Is it me, or does Mark E. Smith, with each successive Fall release, sound more and more like your drunk uncle hollering random shit while some band plays in the background? –Jimmy Alvarado (Cherry Red, cherryred.co.uk)

FALTER: Self-titled: Cassette
I recently got my hand on a Falter demo, and, shit, was I impressed. Ripping straight out of Milwaukee, WI, Falter is a heavy sound that needs to grace your ears. If I had to throw in a genre, I would say it’s hardcore with a mix of crust in the vein of Dystopia. There are some Disclose-sounding riffs and you can easily hear all the instruments. Their sounds all match up really well. The recording isn’t the best, but it sounds raw, and doesn’t really take anything away from the music. Vocals are a little on the higher end and remind me a bit of earlier Martyrdod, but it definitely works for what they’re doing. The demo is damn good, and the artwork is sick too; what more could you ask for? They have a 7” coming out soon that I’m looking forward to checking out. –James Meier (Reality Is A Cult, realityisacult@gmail.com)

FIRE EXIT: Time Wall: 7”
Another reissue from Last Laugh, this time a one-off single from an obscure Scottish punk band originally released in 1978. The title track is a potent bit of slashing-guitar and anger-type punk and the flip, “Talkin’ About Myself,” is a bit more sloppy, introspective ‘n’ brooding revolving a two-to-three chord riff. Essential? Not really, but it is a good single. –Jimmy Alvarado (Last Laugh)

FIRE RETARDED: High Horse: 7”
To date, I don’t think I’ve heard a band that sounds this much like The Motards. Seriously, this could’ve been on Empty Records, if the label still existed (RIP). Sloppy, fun, and fast garage, just the way we all should’ve been taught. Fire Retarded have the rolling, up-tempo, drum technique down pat. Like Nine Pound Hammer did once upon a time—though this group is less country-fried. Apparently, there’s a member of The Hussy in this outfit. And while The Hussy is great, they sound nothing like this single, so keep ‘em separate. Is this a new trend? Are more bands going to bring this sound back? I fucking hope so. –Steve Adamyk (Glory Hole, gloryholerecords.com)

FIRST BASE: Self-titled: CD
Bouncy, buzzsaw bop-pop for retro-lovin’ futurists. They keep the delivery Ramones-straightforward, the hooks dripping straight outta Bay City, and the sound authentically apple-pie-and-dimples clean. This stuff is hard to pull off without drowning in a puddle of saccharine, but they do so in spades, with one bubbly hit after another. –Jimmy Alvarado (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)

This is the epitome of my favorite type of new modern hardcore band… fast, noisy, lo-fi, and seemingly nihilistic. I’ll use the band NASA Space Universe as a point of reference, but the audio fidelity of this record sounds way worse than anything they’ve done—like if you dubbed your older brother’s black metal tapes playing through his stereo speakers to a boom box using the built-in microphone. Yes, it sounds that shitty, but I mean that totally in the best way. There are twenty blistering songs here that will surely not disappoint if you like your punk rock fast with a low fidelity and DIY aesthetic firmly in place. –Mark Twistworthy (Savage Quality, savagequalityrecordings.com)

FM 359: Some Folks: 7”
Members of Street Dogs and Dropkick Murphys try their damnedest to be the next Eagles. Seriously gorgeous packaging with a “Maker’s Mark” type wax seal, but not much else worth the trouble. –Jimmy Alvarado (Pirates Press)

Another long-forgotten release by a long lost band gets pulled from the early ‘80s void, dusted off, and reintroduced to the world of the living, if only for a brief moment. Virtually nil is apparently known about the band other than that they once called Italy home and, judging from the cassette packaging, weren’t strangers to the whole anarcho punk thing. Make no false assumptions based on that info that you’re gonna get something that lives between Raw Power and Crass, though. No-ho-ho. That would be a mistake. First off, the sound of the whole endeavor sounds like it came straight from a boom box, quite a common practice among the more financially challenged bands of the time, so it’s all cardboard-boxy, with things getting a bit muddy on occasion, no doubt the kiss of death for a modern populace with ears keyed to even the skintest band spitting up something that’s been run through ProTools or some equivalent. The band itself sounds like it’s peopled with folks no more than a few months out from first picking up their instruments, thrashing ‘n’ howling one second, then plodding ‘n’ plunking the next. Yeah, I know, I know, I’m not exactly selling this bad boy, right? Well, here’s the thing: what makes this worthwhile is that it manages to capture the creative process of a band unhindered by commercial expectations, the rules of how to properly make music on an instrument and the “correct” way to write a song. This utter freedom is so fuckin’ hard to come by these days, when even so-called anarchist bands are so busy trying to conform to some preapproved pigeonhole that they end up sounding like one big faceless blob of mediocrity. Is it “good” listening? Well, that’s easily up for debate. It is a poignant reminder of what’s too often lost in punk’s progression from revolt against mediocrity to coveted career trajectory—you can’t truly be free if you care even the slightest if someone else will approve. –Jimmy Alvarado (S.S.)

FRENCH EXIT: Guts & Black Stuff: CD
A slightly different take on the rough pop punk formula that’s definitely interesting enough to keep me listening past track one. An upbeat-but-melancholy vibe similar to For Science’s later output, but with a mid-paced, somewhat heavier approach that reminds me of OWTH a bit, but less moody. Even kinda Weezer/Nada Surf-y at times. A cool, refreshing record that folks who’ve moved on from cookie-cutter pop punk might seriously appreciate. –Dave Williams (It’s Alive)

FRENCH EXIT: Guts & Black Stuff: CD
I have a tenuous relationship with backup gang vocals. On one hand, it can undermine the tone of a song and cause it to slip into outright silliness. On the other hand, it can really solidify a chorus and make something instantly catchy. French Exit somehow maintains the latter, like a trapeze artist, on their upbeat anthems; lesser bands would warrant major eye rolls. The rest of the songs are taut dramas, especially “When There’s a Fork in the Road, Take It” and “Bridges,” with tempo changes and Weezer-lite balladry. The production is slick which highlights every bent note, bass line, and tom fill. I would be lying if I said that these songs aren’t infectious—they snuggle up in the back of your head, like the adorable Maine Coon pictured on the cover. For fans of ‘90s guitar chugs and confident pop hooks. Recommended. –Sean Arenas (It’s Alive, itsaliverecords.com, adam@itsaliverecords.com)

FRUSTRATION: Disintegrate: 7” EP
Portland crust punks Frustration contribute to a 7” single series on the long-running label of all things crust: Profane Existence. Somewhat of a departure from their last record on Inimical; this time incorporating a butt-load more melody into the mix à la Severed Head Of State. I’m not complaining though; the songs fucking rip. You don’t need to own a dog that you take to shows or sport dreadlocks to be into this record, but I do suggest picking this up ASAP as it has been pressed in limited quantities. –Juan Espinosa (Profane Existence, profaneexistence.com)

FUCKTARDS: Self-titled: 7”EP
Took me some time to find any information on this band since the only thing printed on this 7” is the band name and names of songs. Turns out Fucktards are a Swedish band, from Hisingen, Gothenburg Sweden. Wouldn’t have guessed this by my first couple of listens. It’s straight early ‘80s hardcore punk/surf rock. Think Circle Jerks/JFA/Black Flag. Surf guitars with circle pit-inducing beats ready to work shit up into a foamy lather. It’s solid. –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, o.kilstrom@gmail.com)

FUTURE BINDS: Self-titled: 7” EP
I’ve said it before, but I seriously wanna know how Deranged stumbles upon all these great bands. Yet another winner of an EP here ‘em, featuring a band well versed in Negative Approach-styled hardcore, who keep things tighter than hell, frantic yet coherent, zippy without getting ridiculous. Mind appropriately blown, room appropriately damaged. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

FUTURE PRIMITIVES: Into the Primitive: CD
Voodoo Rhythm is another one o’ those labels that ain’t afraid to put out music that grays up the areas around the “garage rock” niche its releases often fall into. This is a prime example of that, wherein you have a band that strips the whole garage thing down to its sonic and structural bare bones while still somehow managing to drop shades of ‘50s rock’n’roll, ‘60s beat, trash punk, and even some psychedelia into the mix. No simple hat trick, that. The results echo the storied careers of both The Cramps and Thee Headcoats whilst not sounding much like either. Danceable, raw, and not aiming to sound like the rest of the punters. –Jimmy Alvarado (Voodoo Rhythm, voodoorhythm.com)

This record looks exactly like it sounds; sometimes you can judge by the cover. The Gaggers are a U.K. band that sound like an exact cross of The Briefs and The Stitches. Parts are quite reminiscent of the Hatepinks and The Distraction as well, with a real snotty Le Shok kinda vocal style. Fans of early Dirtnap, Modern Action, Hostage Records, and Southern California style beach punk will absolutely want to track this down. –Mike Frame (Wanda, wandarecords.de)

One of those strange amalgams that succeed flawlessly: dense, riff-heavy, melodic, and mercilessly catchy punk fronted by a veritable sasquatch of a monster on vocals. In lesser hands it’s a combination that wouldn’t work, but this record just decimates. Vocalist Peter Woods (a Milwaukee noise artist, and brother of Direct Hit’s Nick Woods, who plays bass on this record) bellows some of the most bleak, brutal, and poisonous lyrics I’ve read in years, and there’s a certain joy in that catharsis, you know? Buoyed by the melodies and velocity of the songs, this is kind of what I wished Off With Their Heads had sounded like the first time I’d heard them. Anyway, We’re Fucked is a stunning, ferocious batch of songs that I’ve listened to dozens of times in the short amount I’ve had it, and I can’t recommend it enough. May actually be the record of the year for me. Variants of the word “fuck” are used no less than forty-six times on this album. –Keith Rosson (Lost Cat)

Radius Records, the folks who put out The Smoking Popes’ Inoculator back in 1991, has risen from a twenty-year nap, moved from Chicago to San Diego, and released a mighty fine split featuring two contemporary L.A. punk groups. It’s hard not to be pulled in by the beauty of Paul Aguilera’s cigarette-smoking devil kitty paintings, the art that adorns each side of the sleeve, though the irreverence of the painting doesn’t fully capture the depth of each group’s contribution. To that point, Gentlemen Prefer Blood are one of those groups that has cracked the code and crafted a melodically catchy and lyrically engaging sound in the pop punk genre, a genre which I love, but which I think offers a challenge for being inventive within. They carry the pop in their songwriting sensibility, and the punk in the look-life-in-the-eyes effect. On “Rochester,” my favorite of their two tracks, Todd Smailes sings of “keeping guarded in the underground/saving smarts for the showdown” in a gravelly tone set over inviting palm mutes, and in seconds, your ears are met with a rise of vocal harmonies that somehow make the song arrive both emotionally and sonically, a rare accomplishment in just over two minutes. Hands Like Bricks, maybe the more straight-forward rockers of the two, stands as catchy, singable, moshable, and drinkable. And are we talking 7-Eleven fountain drinks—yes?—then, yes, even refillable! Songs like “The Old Crowd” and “Sunday Stuff” work for me, but I’m not sure if they really show the band’s dynamic and range as well as their last EP II does. I recommend this split for all the tracks, particularly Gentlemen Prefer Blood’s, but afterward, consider checking out Hands Like Brick’s II as well. –Jim Joyce (Radius, radiusrecs.com)

These two bands fit neatly into the past couple years of Southern California gruff-dude pop punk. If that means anything to you, you already know exactly what this sounds like. Gentlemen Prefer Blood plays along the lines of L.A. compatriots American Lies and The French Exit—or Latterman and Off With Their Heads, to be less regional. “New Year’s Resolution” kicks right off with a killer singalong chorus, a definite highlight of the split. Hands Like Bricks picks up the tempo on the flip side, two tracks of raucous punk reminiscent of Dear Landlord and early Social Distortion. The off-key vocals are really throwing me off, but the music is solid and fun. Lyrical content is mostly limited to being drunk and nostalgic about old friends. You know, punk stuff. As far as Los Angeles-area pop punk goes, this split is just about par for the course, but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. –Indiana Laub (Radius, radiusrecs.com)

GHOSTS RUN WILD: Black Sails on a Sea of Blood: CD
This one-man band plays grumbling, synth-heavy garage rock to accompany the moment when your face peels off and your skull escapes and grows arms and starts shooting everything up with a laser gun. –MP Johnson (Goblinhaus)

GINO & THE GOONS: “Troubled” b/w “I’m a Big Boy Now”: 7”
Mid-tempo punk’n’roll is always welcome when it’s done well. This record contains two stone cold winners. The vocals are snotty. The guitars are loud and grinding. “I’m a Big Boy Now” makes a solid declaration. Total Punk is on a roll. It’s a keeper. –Billups Allen (Total Punk, totalpunkrecords.tumblr.com)

GINO AND THE GOONS: “Trouble”: 7”
GINO AND THE GOONS: “Oh Yeah!”: 7”
And then repeat it! Proving their 12” EP wasn’t a fluke, the Goons continue their brilliant Budget Rock-style assault on the ears and soul of the world. Gino is apparently a big boy now and has been taking the show on the road. Total Punk keeps scoring with the hits! Their Rip Off Records aesthetic fits every release perfectly. The liners describe the Goons perfectly, “fast and loose—loose and loud.” The Pelican Pow Wow record is just as powerful; no sassy liner notes but the cover does have some sassy ladies showing their stuff. This band is so stupid and simple and perfect, yet I can’t do it. Argh! –Sal Lucci (Total Punk / Pelican Pow Wow, pelicanpowow@gmail.com)

GITANE DEMONE: The Reflecting Shadow: CD
Another solo effort from this former Christian Death chanteuse. Melding bits of goth, blues, jazz, and industrial with gobs of gloom and heaps of theatricality, she delivers nine tracks that sound like the possible fruits of Brecht, Waits, and early Coil collaborating on some morose musical, with her voice giving the whole undertaking some added class. The casual listener might find it all a wee bit too dark, but fans and folks who prefer their Halloweens without all the stifling modern day-glow jollity will find much to sink their filed teeth into. –Jimmy Alvarado (Manic Depression)

GRINGOS: Pearly Gates: LP
This is how you summon Satan. “Conception of the Jackal in 6/8 time.” Satan wants you to give him your all. Satan wants you to get weird. He has no special affinity for black metal or death metal, but if you want to knead a sprinkling of those genres into a dough that you concoct from grumbling grooves and slobbering fastcore, he’s not going to kick you out of bed. But you’ve got to do it right. You’ve got to do it like you mean it, with psychotic horned animal masks. You’ve got to take your shirt off and show your hairy chest so the devil can see what kind of man you are. Satan approves of Gringos. –MP Johnson (Wrecked ‘Em)

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