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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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RAD PAYOFF:
The Good, The Rad, and The Ugly: LP
You can let the awesome “drunk voodoo luchadores on a couch” drawing on the record cover thrill you. Same with the song titles, thirty percent of which mention bongs. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the music is no joke. Ten churning and choppy Am-Rep influenced punk anthems. From Chicago. Members of the Sass Dragons.  –Chris Terry (Let’s Pretend)


RADIOACTIVITY:
Self-titled: LP
I plopped this puppy on, fully expecting it to be great—I’ve made it no secret that I’ve dug pretty much everything I’ve heard from the Denton-based collective of musicians with which this band is affiliated, starting with the Reds—and fully expecting to wax poetic about its inevitable awesomeness once it was done. Sure, the Marked Men would be a point referenced, along with Potential Johns and maybe Mind Spiders if they decided to get a bit “weird” in places. Lazy reviewin’? Yeah, maybe, but a musical thread one can easily defend referencing, ‘cause truth be told, those aforementioned Denton punkers have eked a strain of punk/pop/garage/wave that, good or ill, is all theirs, and it can be heard/felt throughout their oeuvre. Anyway, the point is that I already had this badass muthafucka sussed out and I hadn’t even put the needle to wax yet. Then I did. Hooooo-doggy. They’ve done what some would’ve considered impossible: they’ve rendered my blustery, pontificating ass utterly speechless. Are all the above referenced pre-judgment points true? Absolutely, and then some. This, friends, is perfection embodied, a distillation of all that’s come before it, honed into a juggernaut of punk precision and pop hooks and delivered with an anyone-can-do-this-but-not-really sort of unassuming brilliance. Those who whine about there not being any good punk bands anymore need to shut the fuck up and just listen.  –jimmy (Dirtnap)


REIGNING SOUND:
Live at Goner Records: LP
Greg Cartwright is a practitioner of a rare form of musical telepathy. He got into my head as early as the count off to “TimeBombHigh School” and never left. From the beginning to the end of each song, I was able to foresee what was around each corner, not because Reigning Sound is predictable, rather they emit a distinct clarity of vision. They somehow strike every resounding chord, sing every soulful note, and charge through a catalog of memorable tunes without a misstep. As a live recording from nearly a decade ago, the production is crisp and Cartwright’s journeyman croon is in full force. Most importantly, all sixteen songs are remarkably prescient. The necessity for unfiltered, sweltering rock’n’roll (“Bad Man” is a prime example) is more dire than ever, given the latest trend of reverb-saturated punk that is afraid to be exposed. Instead of indulging in self-gratifying blues riffs, Reigning Sound exercises power in brevity, truncating songs into their purest, most refined elements. Now, I’m in the enviable position where I must dig through their entire discography.  –Sean Arenas (Goner)


RIPCORD:
The Complete Demos: CD
This venerated band’s demos are herein collected on a single handy-dandy CD for your mind-melting thrash-o-rama pleasure. It’s interesting to hear these cats again so many years down the line, because my memory is that American-influenced thrash bands were a bit of a rare commodity in mid-’80s Britain. While they didn’t receive the same immediate international attention as, say, the Stupids, they did dish out some viscous, vicious hardcore in their own right, and I think in the long run, they had more of a lasting impact. This collects six demos spanning a period of about a year and a half between 1985-86, all of it short, abrasive, and heavy.  –jimmy (Boss Tuneage)


ROWLAND S. HOWARD:
Pop Crimes: CD
This is a reissue of Rowland S. Howard’s second solo album, which was also his final release—it was originally released only months before his death in 2009. Howard’s legendary stint in The Birthday Party will be most listeners’ point of reference, and the reference is solid. Like much of his earlier work, Pop Crimes is a sparse, plodding offering that is both sultry and unsettling. Howard’s resonant drawl seems to seep up from under the surface of every song, through the title track’s primitive backbeat and “Wayward Man”‘s squealing guitar effects. With songs creeping into six- and seven-minute territory, this album is probably best enjoyed as an atmospheric experience—as long as you like your atmosphere dismal and brooding. Thank god the sun is shining and I didn’t have to play this on repeat in the middle of winter.  –Indiana Laub (Fat Possum)


ROY AND THE DEVILS MOTORCYCLE:
Tino—Frozen Angel: CD
A soundtrack to an apparent film called Tino—Frozen Angel, Roy and his gang don’t exactly sound like you’d think. Half expecting this to be a rockabilly album, it almost falls closer to a dirty, ‘60s-sounded Velvet Underground, or a raunchier 13th Floor Elevators. There are a few instrumentals cuts here as well that are a bit tamer. But don’t let that sway you—plenty of cuts on this disc worth your time.  –Steve Adamyk (Voodoo Rhythm)


S.S. WEB:
North: CD
Country-twanged rock—or rock-twanged country, if you prefer. I prefer neither.  –jimmy (S.S. Web)


SAVE THE RADIO:
Calculating the Sum of Your Life: CD
Nope. Slick douche-rock runoff from some sleazy label that stops just short of sending glossy headshots. The artwork consists of context-free physics equations scattered all over the gatefold; the band is called Save The fucking Radio. The best it gets is this occasional Tom-Petty-fronting-the-Foo-Fighters vibe (not as good as it sounds). The worst it gets is Christian-radio-calibre butt rock. This is clearly a band that took a severely wrong turn in the process of trying to make it. Good luck to you. Go forth. Go save the radio. Whatever.  –Indiana Laub (Tazbull)


SHARKS FROM MARS:
Self-titled: CD
Plodding garage fronted by a mush-mouthed Danzig. Filthy trash rock. Rock’n’roll in a garage filled with trash, basically, though the sound is more Demented Are Go than Hunx And His Punx. Sharks From Mars also seem to be going for a surfy stoner aesthetic—song titles like “Harsh My Buzz” and “Let Me Be Your Marijuana,” let alone the band name itself, don’t leave much up to the imagination, really. I know this is someone’s thing.  –todd (Self-released)


SPIRIT OF DANGER:
Malus Web: Cassette
Somewhere between chugging and blistering, sanity and satanism is where Spirit Of Danger contorts, playing Twister on the whole mess. Well done. It also comes with the tiniest most adorable booklet I’ve ever seen in album packaging.  –Jackie Rusted (Self-released)


STALINS OF SOUND:
Tank Tracks: CD
The best synth punk band in San Diego. These guys have been playing for a while now and it’s about time they put out a full length. Stalins will get you hyped even before you put their music on. For one, you’ll look cool with their record in your hand but also when you flip it over to look at song titles like, “El Cajon Beatdown” or “Rules for Your Mouth,” you’ll know it’s good. Check these guys out.  –Ryan Nichols (Slovenly)


STAY HUNGRY:
Ambitions: EP
Bless this lot from Sweden for keeping the straight edge flag flying. Typical graffiti style cover with bald and hooded dudes, songs about ambitions, judging, and being above the influence. The music is ‘88 youth crew with breakdowns, you know the drill. Fuck it, I love this shit. I get it, they aren’t reinventing wheels, but who gives a fuck, if you dig current straight edge you will be all over this and the other discs these dudes have put out.  –Tim Brooks (Refuse)


STRAND OF OAKS:
HEAL: CD/LP
First things first: I have known Tim Showalter, who is Strand Of Oaks, for ages, and our parents are still neighbors. In fact, last year at Christmas, Tim’s parents brought my parents cookies. They were delicious, but in no way influenced this review. The fact of the matter is that HEAL is an incredible album. Things start with “Goshen ‘97,” a scorcher of a song that will be my summer jam, thanks primarily to guest guitarist J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr). From there, however, the sound tends to mellow and diversify. Throughout the album I could hear Vangelis, Editors, Bruce Springsteen, M83, and Neil Young. While the opener is guitar-focused, the rest of the album tends to rely heavily (but not exclusively) on synths and keyboards, more reminiscent of Strand Of Oaks’ last album, Dark Shores. There is a break from that sound at the start of the B-side on the LP with the slow-burning guitar rocker, “JM,” a tribute to the late Jason Molina. The last four songs go back and forth between a reflective sound and a few more guitar-fronted tunes (“Mirage Year” has a primal scream and explosive guitar meltdown and “For Me” is a foot-stomping, fist-raising jam). Lyrically, the songs can be intense. While “Goshen ‘97” is about Tim discovering music in his parents’ basement in our hometown in 1997, other songs deal with the tension in his marriage and the attempt to restore it after his lack of attention to his wife and her infidelity. There’s no blame or anger at her, there’s no wallowing in the misery of his failures: everything is just what it is. Tim’s opened up and is sharing. The subject matter can be forceful and emotionally moving, but, ultimately, reassuring as Tim proclaims in the closer, that he’ll “wait for love.” The album works because the emotional vulnerability is matched by the weight of the music. That being said, Tim seems musically conflicted; he’s someone who loves both synths and guitars. There’s a bit of both on here and it’s all good, but given my tastes and interests, I’d love to see him write an entire album of songs that are just rockers; heavy guitars, and his black metal influences (yes, he’s a fan of the genre) funneled through his singer/songwriter sensibilities. (Perhaps something like “Giant’s Despair” off of Pope Killdragon, but more fleshed out.) As it stands, this is a great and highly recommended album—easily in my top five for the year—but I’m also interested in seeing Strand Of Oaks continue to push themselves, sonically.  –Todd Taylor (Dead Oceans) –kurt (Dead Oceans)


SUDDEN INFANT:
Wölfli’s Nightmare: CD
Tedious, deeply awkward political performance art noise from wherever it’s from (doesn’t matter). Avoid at all costs. Listen to Man Is The Bastard instead.  –Matt Werts (Voodoo Rhythm)


SUNSHINE STATE / DEAD BARS:
Split: 7”
Gainesville’s SunshineState serve up anything but warmth on their side with their two entries. “Lunchblood” echoes with the same passion and craftsmanship as that one really fucking good One Man Army record with the phone booth on the cover while “Long in the Tooth” slightly flexes a Jawbreaker muscle while driving the point home with relatable depressing lyrical subjects. Dead Bars from all the way across the country, namely Washington, plug in and bash out some anthemic “you don’t need a lyric sheet” singalong punk with raspy vocals and a RVIVR-esque rhythm section. A formidable pairing of contrasting gruff punk styles worthy of your attention.  –Juan Espinosa (No Idea)


SUPERCRUSH:
“Lifted” b/w “Melt into You”: 7”
Unexpected release for what is mostly known as a hardcore label. Shimmering alt rock, sounding like Dinosaur Jr, Teenage Fanclub, or Swervedriver. Sounds of the ‘90s when everyone had long hair and dressed like lumberjacks. This type of sound has a place in my heart as it reminds me of a time and this trio has the sound nailed. Both songs have hooks and don’t get into navel gazing like some of these bands can. I wonder if this is a start of a new trend? Hope so. This shit is great, if not particularly punk.  –Tim Brooks (Grave Mistake)


SWEARIN’:
What a Dump: 12” EP
I was partially disappointed by Swearin’s latest LP, Surfing Strange, but this vinyl pressing of their original demo tape makes up for any soreness. Like P.S. Eliot’s (Allison Crutchfield’s previous band) The Bike Wreck Demo, Swearin’ hits me at a subcutaneous level when they’re uptempo and a smidge lo-fi, singing over swift chord changes and distorted leads. Crutchfield’s tender, yet assured, vocals cut through the warm fuzz that blankets each song. It’s impossible to get sick of these brief poppy punk gems.  –Sean Arenas (Salinas)


TALBOT ADAMS:
On: LP
I always wonder at what point you start using your name instead of a band name. Do you recruit people based on the idea that you’re gonna be the guy, or do you gather everyone together and slowly work on them? Either way, Talbot Adams seems to have done it tastefully. He writes excellent pop songs with a spacey consideration in the vein of early Robyn Hitchcock with a hint of big beat garage influence. The bass and drums are solid. It’s simple trio rock with depth invested in variety. It sounds like an album rather than a bunch of songs.  –Billups Allen (Spacecase)


TANK:
Demos - 2006: Cassette
I don’t know if it’s the 1980’s model cassette player I used to listen to this but for demos, the sound is surprisingly good. This is a collection of tunes that were originally released on CD-R when the Buffalo band was active. It’s everything you’d expect from a band that plays d-beat, but with a lot of vocal-less interludes and tighter than a Republican’s fist. Definitely a good addition to your collection if you’re into the likes of Skitsystem and 9 Shocks Terror.  –Lisa Weiss (Black Dots)


TERMINAL A / SASHCLOTH AND AXES:
Split: 7”
“We don’t have sex, we’re from space,” is what Terminal A singer Colin said to someone in the audience when I saw them a few years ago. Both these bands were on the bill and Colin crawled and lunged at people around the whole bar all the way to the door and made sure people were standing there like statues. SAA is a one-man band from Huntington Beach, but the music sounds more like something from the LondonBatCave scene. “Girls in Black” reminds me of a sped-up version of “Ahead” by Wire—but all the lyrics are about bondage and S/M—so it’s obviously a hot jam. The TA song, “Oedipus Kiss,” is a danceable anthem. You’ll want to dye your hair and hate your parents to this record. There are two covers, both with great artwork and it comes on red vinyl.  –Ryan Nichols (Self-released)


THIRD WORLD:
Under the Magic Sun: CD
Yeeouch. New album by one of the better known reggae groups comprised primarily of covers by REO Speedwagon, Marvin Gaye, Eagles, Paul McCartney, Credence Clearwater Revival, Jackie DeShannon, Blackbyrds, Paul Davis, and Benny Mardones, with reworkings of a few of the band’s best known songs thrown in for good measure, all of which is “livicated” to recently deceased singer Bunny Rugs. Nothing is inherent terrible about their versions of all the above, and I know they’re known for pulling tunes from pop and R&B, but the collected whole here feels a bit too much like it was culled from the set of a band playing a cruise ship’s lido deck. Sorry but I much prefer my reggae steeped in revolution.  –jimmy (Cleopatra)


THUGXLIFE:
Jungle Life: 7”
Upon setting eyes on this EP, I thought it was a cool Jolly Rancher red, but after listening it’s clear that it’s more the color of fresh blood. Savage hardcore punk out of Poland with heavy-throbbing bass, d-beat madness—it’s gonna build you up just so it can break you down. Short, brutal songs; just enough to sink its teeth into you. One thing is for certain, this mosh is gonna hurt. Tough. As. Nails. Fans of GAG, In School, and Condition won’t be disappointed.  –Camylle Reynolds (Refuse)


TODD CONGELLIERE:
Wrong Side: LP
Like crowding into the den with your family to watch old home movies—the blurry, over-saturated type that are developed on reels of film and fed through a beat up projector—Todd Congelliere epitomizes everything homemade. “I Like the Lights Off” was the tune you’d hum while riding bikes around the cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids until the streetlights came on and your mom would call you in for dinner. The honky tonk piano in “Some Are Fake” has the perfect beat to choreograph a routine with your cousin for the family talent show. Golden Age nostalgia, hearkening back to a make-believe era of safe streets and block parties, an era long fictitious before I was even born, washes over you like the scent of freshly baked apple pie. Todd C infuses this ideal with contemporary punk sensibilities to create something equally anachronistic and timeless—simple songs for simple folk.  –Ashley (Recess / Lauren)


TOTALLY SLOW:
Self-titled: LP
Around age thirty, I decided that perfection is when nothing is wrong. I no longer needed to get that heart-in-a-vise feeling to recognize the greatness of a record, a book, a moment, a meal. It made the world far more satisfying. The guys in Totally Slow have been playing in North Carolina bands like Eagle Bravo and Rights Reserved for around twenty years, and I bet they feel the same way. There’s a touch of angst to their melodies, like remembering being a teenager half your life ago. These ten songs are so well planned and masterful that you might miss their genius. This debut goes off without a hitch. It’s perfect.  –Chris Terry (Self Aware)


TWEAK BIRD:
Any Ol’ Way: LP
Lightweight stoner pop that feels more like a collection of psych signifiers than a record with any ideas. “Inspiration Point” is decent because they finally ditch some of the clichés. The rest of the LP is a beige hologram—average riffs, tepid out-there sounds, negligible lyrics. Probably chill dudez to hang with and maybe they melt your brain live and so on, but I’m not looking for either one of those things, honestly. I’d rather go to the desert by myself.  –Matt Werts (Let’s Pretend)


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