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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BEFORE I HANG:
Rock-N-Roll Deathwish: LP
Before I Hang have a vibe in their artwork and lyrics that I can best describe as hick punk. From the gun toting and NRA-loving images in the album artwork and insert, to the casual misogyny of tracks like “She’s a Whore (But Who Cares),” my initial impressions were not good. While their image didn’t do anything for me, Before I Hang can sure shred! Spastic, thrashing riffs and strong leads with a bit of a metal influence made me almost want to like them.  –Paul J. Comeau (Before I Hang, beforeihang.com)


BECKY LEE & DRUNKFOOT:
One Take Session: CD/LP
Becky Lee (who is the only person in the act) recorded these eight songs back in 2008 after having played guitar for only two months. With that in mind, this is pretty good. It’s bluesy, electric guitar with bluesy vocals to match, and limited percussion (I guess that would be the Drunkfoot portion of the act). In other words, Lee is a one-woman band that plays blues, or blues-influenced, music. Given that Lee was pretty new to the guitar thing when these songs were recorded, none of this is too complex. But between the guitar, some percussion (usually a tambourine), and her vocals, the songs fill out well. When she’s not channeling the blues as much, the vocals and simplicity of the tunes reminded me of Audrey Ryan, whom I love. But, Lee doesn’t have the diversity that Ryan has. Before this, I had never heard Lee, but if this was a brand new album I would say I wouldn’t mind hearing more. But given that she has other albums out, I can’t say any of this intrigued or interested me enough to seek out her other material. So, take from that what you will.  –kurt (Voodoo Rhythm)


BATTLEHOOCH:
Hot Lungs: LP
Horribly named band that seems to have the pretentious idea that they’re creating something new and original that has never been done before. Referring to themselves with the ham fisted term “Shapeshifting Orchestral Rock” pretty much tells you all you need to know about the attempt. Problem is they are not doing anything new or original or even interesting. In fact, just across the bay in Oakland the band The Cuts did this type of thing with panache and great songs a decade ago and with not an ounce of the pretense that Battlehooch bring. If bands like The Make-Up and Shudder To Think float your boat, you will love this offering.  –frame (Chuur, facebook.com/battlehooch)


BANGERS:
Crazy Fucking Dreams: LP/CD
Most bands would probably start off an album with as much energy as could be mustered in order to grab the listener’s attention, and, to be fair, it’s an approach that generally works well on me. However, on Crazy Fucking Dreams it’s obvious that Bangers see the world differently with the lead track, “A Curious Mix,” easing me in almost apologetically at first, hinting as it does towards a more varied approach to the standard melodic punk the band has used as its medium in the past few years. It’s not as if Bangers has altered its sound hugely but there’s an added maturity and assurance which allows most of the tracks to surpass previous work from the band. Roo Pescod’s lyrics are like short stories that draw you in, leaving you wanting to know more about what lead him to write them in the first place—he’s one of the most compelling lyricists around today in my book. Musically, the variations come from more changes in pace that, at times, provide a relaxed sense to songs, but which can, in a flash, still offer an altered direction containing a more feverish delivery. It’s reassuring when a band evolves whilst managing to retain its original core appeal. That’s certainly the case with Bangers—the whole package could only be from that one band but it’s all done in a way that builds on what’s gone before.  –Rich Cocksedge (Love From Beach Community, lovefrombeachcommunity@gmail.com, lovefrombeachcommunity.com)


BAD SAM:
Working Class Holocaust: LP
I have to admit that this album floored me. As much as I like Bad Sam (a band which includes a number of Welsh punk veterans from the likes of Cowboy Killers, Dub War, and Four Letter Word) I just hadn’t expected to be on the receiving end of such an outright winner when first listening to the band’s second long player. Bad Sam sounds quite a bit like any number of Jello Biafra collaborations and it’s no surprise, really, given that Dean Beddis has occasionally been compared to Biafra in terms of his vocals. However, where Beddis channels the same anger and vitriol as his American counterpart, he steers clear of the more verbose and erudite approach favored by Biafra, tending towards a delivery which avoids preamble and goes straight for the throat. The lyrics hit the spot throughout with the likes of “Dicks with Dogs” (attacking the trend for owning aggressive dogs) and “Snake with Tits” (about Margaret Thatcher) being delivered with a simplicity that complements the fury they contain. This is backed up by a hardcore punk sound with the odd moment of metal, all based around some massive riffs that make for a tight and raucous outcome, perfectly suited to accompany the messages being communicated and thus helping to make this one of the best punk rock records of the year.  –Rich Cocksedge (Kriminal, kriminalgood@gmail.com)


BACK TO BACK:
Flesh and Bone: 7”
This record contains six songs of perfectly executed negative hardcore. It’s a great soundtrack for those days when you just can’t seem to find anything positive to latch onto so you start punching a brick wall until your knuckles bleed.  –mp (Lockin’ Out, lockinout.com)


AUSTRALIA:
Robot: CDEP-R
Names are deceiving—Australia is an Italian duo who sings simple, cheeky lyrics in slightly accented English. This debut release features blown-out vocals buried under arpeggiated synth leads and palm-muted chords that chug poppily away through the verses. “­It Will Be” is an early standout, a danceable garage number that might have been a dirtier Strokes demo. But the tracks begin to drag toward the end of the EP, lapsing into rambling fuzz rock that seems to lose its way amidst the distortion. This kind of noisy pop works best in short, infectious bursts, and I just wish some of the songs on Robotended a repeated chorus or two closer to the two-minute mark. Crackling fuzz saturates every layer of the recording, growing a little tiresome and grating as the EP wears on. Fortunately, the post-punk wistfulness of “Two Distant Beds” comes as a welcome relief to finish things off. The slapdash CD-R presentation—jpegged-out print job and all—isn’t doing Robot a ton of favors, but apparently a cassette version exists somewhere in the world that might better suit this decent lo-fi release.  –Indiana Laub (Self-released)


ARMAGEDDOM:
Dez Mil Anos De Terror: LP
Kick-ass crust from Italy, with touches of grind and d-beat and a black and white drawing of skeletons in business suits chaining a guy up. Nothing new, but it’s done with conviction, and I sure as hell air-guitared to it.  –Chris Terry (Insane Society))


AR-KAICS, THE:
“She Does Those Things to Me” b/w “Don’t Need Your Love”: 7”
This is two solid slabs of snotty ‘60s-esque punk. Both songs would be right at home on Back from the Grave comps. Snotty, echo-laden vocals backed up with overdriven guitars. Both songs are up-tempo and have catchy-as-hell choruses. A must have band-to-look-out-for if you’re into it.  –Billups Allen (Speakertree, speakertreerecords.blogspot.com)


ANTEENAGERS M.C.:
Campo-logy: CD
This is also subtitled Steve & The Jerks, but really only two songs on this album are credited to that name. So not really a split. Most of the Jerks became Anteenagers M.C. It’s herky-jerky garage rock that existed from 2000 until 2010. The yells and the beats all fall in just the right spots. This proves that Italy can produce something besides tasty meatballs!  –koepenick (Area Pirata, apirata@areapirata.com)


ANIMAL HAIR:
Auz Poj/Image Is Nothing: Cassette
This is a cool psychedelic/droney jammer that brings to mind many different bands (that I could list), but at the same time sounds like none of them (so I won’t). It’s heavy at times with (for the lack of a better term) “pretty”-sounding guitar leads interwoven over an unmodulated backbone. I just wish there was more here, as it’s a quick listen. Good stuff.  –Mark Twistworthy (Bummer Tapes, bummertapes.bandcamp.com)


ANCIENT SLANG:
Fake Future: 7”
Raw, yet well recorded, no wave-style punk. Straight forward and catchy, though. I’m not talking shoegaze or heavy psych here. Close to what some of those really great, fast Viva L’American Deathray Music gems sound like. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from Ancient Slang. Another winner for Glory Hole Records.  –Steve Adamyk (Glory Hole, gloryholerecords.com)


AMBER:
Lovesaken: LP
Amber is a post-hardcore outfit from Marburg, Germany. The songs all fall into the genre’s typical trappings: reverb-drenched clean guitar sections, distorted crescendos, strained vocals, and songs on the longer side. (“Lovesaken” is a whopping ten minutes.) The more notable moments conjure Envy or City Of Caterpillar, but the album quickly grows redundant. Amber would benefit from tempo changes or musical variation other than the clichérise-then-fall patterns and absolute despair tone that is analogous with the genre. Otherwise, it’s a solid—but forgettable—addition to any screamo or post-hardcore fan’s collection.  –Sean Arenas (Halo Of Flies, halooffliesrecords.com, halooffliesrcds@hotmail.com / Narshardaa, narshardaa.com, info@narshardaa.com / Protagonist, protagonistmusic.com)


ALEC MORRISON:
Nowhere Is the Place for Me: CD
At first I was wary, because this CD’s artwork looked like that of so many hopeful but ultimately dull singer-songwriters of the sort I used to encounter in New Hampshire when I went to college there—y’know, well-meaning and earnest but ultimately disposable, just like the drawings or, worse, photographs of guitars which appear on their album jackets. But! That’s what I get for judging a book (fine, CD) by its cover, because this fine slab from Alec Morrison upends expectations. Sure, it’s primarily acoustic, but this dude’s stuff takes little heed of the form and conventions dipshits like me associate with being a singer-songwriter. His voice, which manages to sound both otherworldly odd and completely grounded, vacillates between raspy and reedy, a fine complement to riffs which are obviously purposeful and skilled technically but operate with inner logic like a puzzle which unlocks after several listens. This music’s hard to pin down, which had me coming back repeatedly for more, which is what a good record’s supposed to do. Fantastic, expectation-defying stuff. Holla!  –Michael T. Fournier (Self-released, morrisonalec.ca)


AFTER LAUGHTER:
Said and Done: CD
Polish punk rooted in ‘80s D.C. with a decidedly ‘90s California bent and vocals that remind of Russ from Good Riddance. Elements of pop punk and hardcore melded together with fairly generic lyrics and melodies; decent stuff but not quite there yet. In the past, this would have been a good demo from which build off of instead of what amounts to a pretty mediocre album.  –Chad Williams (Pasazer)


ABUSE:
Self-titled: LP
Thrash, thrash, thrash. Abuse take the powerviolence style and kick the shit out of it by injecting an insane amount of speed into their sound. Interestingly enough, there are some catchy elements in the songs via the short breakdowns, and the plodding intros to some songs helps break up the white blur. The instrumental “Same Shit Different Death” is the stand out on this album, with its mid tempo and plodding elements bringing in a darker sound. I like how a song like “Dictation” can have this pummeling tempo, then switch into a slightly moderate pace for a moment. It helps break up the monotony that comes with constant speed, which happens around the middle of the second side of this LP. But on the whole, this is not a bad record, and far better than many of the powerviolence bands that get hyped up these days.  –Matt Average (To Live A Lie)


WILT CHAMBERLIN’S BABY:
Black Rage: CD
Can’t find out too much about this band online. They are from Boise, ID and this recording was done in 2005. I hope the band is still not stuck in some treacherous time warp, since they only list their Myspace account here. These guys really dig anal sex. One of the songs is called “Anal Sex.” They also advise you to “have a nice bite of anal sex baby cakes” on the front cover. I would guess that their live shows are packed with hot girls.  –koepenick (1332)


WILD EMOTIONS:
“Hey Everybody” b/w “Wild Emotions”: 7”
This five-piece from Jackson, Mississippi rocks out a solid party anthem with “Hey Everybody”and follows it up with more punkness on the B-side. Wild Emotions’ guitarist is the bass player for The Overnight Lows, another Jackson band with the pedigree of a must-have fistful of singles. Fans of the Bobbyteens’ family tree should take note.  –Billups Allen (Blahll!)


WHITE REAPER:
Self-titled: 7”
This album is catchy as hell. The A-side starts off with some quick drums and a quick sliding riff. It’s definitely poppy, but it doesn’t sound like everyone else; the sliding vocals over top the fuzzy guitar and bass make for an energy that I don’t hear too often. It has a uniqueness to it that at least I haven’t heard. The guitars and bass are noisy with nothing but high end. What really stood out about this album was the singing. The way the vocals slide around is awesome. I don’t hear too many bands do it, and even fewer bands do it well, but White Reaper does a great job. I had the song on the A-side stuck in my head for a good few days. The flip side is just as good as the first. The recording is fuzzy as hell, and while nothing groundbreaking, this is an awesome album that has just the right amount of pop in a noisy, fuzzy setting.  –James Meier (Earthbound, earthboundrecords.bigcartel.com, earthboundrecordz@gmail.com)


WHATEVER BRAINS:
Self-titled: LP
They’ve battened down the noise quota a bit from the last album I heard—seem to recall ‘em kicking it up something mean—but they do keep the “weird” intact here. One moment yer thinkin’, “they clearly love their Devo, Neubauten and Foetus records,” the next yer all, “what is this, fuggin’ circus music?” and then you find yourself pondering if they’d cop to the musicals that inspired their cacophonous caterwauling. Definitely not the same ol’ shit and this listener couldn’t be happier.  –jimmy (Sorry State)


VISITORS, THE:
Yeti: LP/CD
Strong vocal melodies are a serious business. Canadian punks, The Visitors, are making out like bandits. From the get go, the group’s sound is akin to The Soviettes and The Marked Men. It’s a style of pop punk that bombards the senses with sugary sweetness and causes auditory hyperglycemia. The riffs strike like a whip, the background vocal harmonies are robust, the lyrics are playful, and the hi-hat-laden beats are relentless. “GoldenCoast” just might be one of the catchiest songs ever concocted. Highly recommended for a long head-bobbing drive; you’re neck might end up hating you, but it’ll be worth the bone-creaking aftermath.  –Sean Arenas (It’s Alive)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
The Songs of Tony Sly: A Tribute: CD
Does anyone ever really dig a tribute album? I mean, how often do you hear a cover that trumps the work that it’s paying tribute to? It happens, sure, but it’s rare. And, sadly, that’s the case with this beautiful sentiment as well. Granted, Tony’s shoes are no easy fill. These songs were the soundtrack to so many lives, mine certainly being no exception; and, inevitably, a slowed-down ska version of, well, any of them is going to fall way short of the mark. And, fuck, I’m getting tired of the, “I’m an old punk dude but now I play folky-country-subpar-lazy garbage now” thing. Luckily, there are a few amazing, fist-biting, tear-jerking heartbreakers on here (Karina Denike and Joey Cape’s contributions brilliantly display an obviously intimate and memory-filled relationship with Tony), and even a couple of the ragers are exciting enough to make me smile (Strung Out’s “Soulmate” is a shredder), but the rest of the record mostly makes me wish I was hearing the far-superior originals and leaves me aching for a dude I felt like I knew. A wonderful tribute, no doubt, and what an honor it must have been to be asked, but, unfortunately, the final result is too hit or miss for my liking. Rest easy.  –Dave Williams (Fat Wreck)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Shake! It Up Vol. 1: LP
Faboo comp of Canuck rock. Them last two words might sound off-putting to some if not for the fact that the compilers were meticulous in keeping the sounds varied, so yer getting driving hard rock, punk, and various stops in between, courtesy of Electric Empress, Greenback High, The Poor Choices, New Tricks, Shitty Neighbors, and others. Most of the participants pull out all the stops, keeping the energy high and the listener adequately rocked.  –jimmy (Shake!)


VARIOUS ARTISTS :
Puke and Destroy III: 7”
Three bands (two songs each) from the Land of the Rising Sun again served up by the illustrious Snuffy Smiles. Your Pest Band is this generation’s Teengenerate. Fast, blown out, incomprehensible, fantastic. Dog Hotel brings the jangle with a Beatles’ beat behind drunk Replacements tunes and an almost Dead Milkmen delivery. But Car10 is the gem and the lyrics to “Get Drunk” alone are worth hunting down the 7”. Both Car10 songs strike a Blotto cord. We need more Blotto in our lives, ergo, more Car10.  –Matt Seward (Snuffy Smiles)


ULTRA BIDÉ:
DNA Vs DNA-c: CD/LP
The Japanese three-piece Ultra Bidé has been together since the late 1970s, and this is the first I’m hearing of them. Researching the band, I learned they were on the forefront of the avant-garde, punk, and noise scenes in Japan. (In an alternate universe, I can see Ultra Bidé as the bastard child of a late 1970s Japanese version of Andy Warhol.) It seems as though those genre descriptions still apply on this latest album, DNA Vs DNA-c. This is their fifth release for Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label and their first U.S. release in over ten years. The music is chaotic—but still cohesive—with strong playing by the bass and drums and crazy, broken vocals. The band sings in English, but many of their lyrics make little to no sense: “Such a fuckin I’m a killing dead / Such a fuckin I’m a thinking dead / Such a fuckin I’m a living dead / What’s going on human race, what a liar” (“Civil Action”). Or: “Phase is massive power attack weapon” (“Phase Is Massive Power Attack Weapon”). At the risk of losing some listeners, I wish more non-native English speaking bands would sing in their native language. I’ve always appreciated those bands more because it doesn’t seem forced and the songs almost always flow more naturally. Ultra Bidé has obviously never concerned themselves with making popular music and it doesn’t seem to have changed now. I know there are fans of obscure Japanese avant-garde (is there ever non-obscure avant-garde music?) out there. They’ll probably eat this up, and I might have too, even with my lack of knowledge of the band, but the vocals really turned me off.  –kurt (Alternative Tentacles)


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