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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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UK SUBS:
Riot: LP
This, along with Quintessentials, marked something like twenty years of the UK Subs and original guitarist Nicky Garratt coming back temporarily to mark the occasion. I remember liking this quite a bit when it was first released around 1996/97. It’s nowhere near as good as the early stuff, but held up against a lot of what was coming out in the 1990s, this isn’t too bad. They had one foot in the past and one in the present of that time. The punkier edges were softened to some degree with the poppy tendencies of what was passing as punk in the dreadful ‘90s. “Paradise Burning” has a main riff that recalls the Subs in their glory years, though the reggae influence derails the song. There are some moments, with songs like “Human Rights,” “Preacher,” and the title track, but none of them are exactly scorchers. Nowhere near on par with “C.I.D.” or “Stranglehold.” On the whole, this record did not age well—okay songs surrounded by a lot of filler and not something I would go back to when I can listen to the earlier, stronger, and better material.  –Matt Average (Papagajuv Hlasatel, phr.cz)


TWOPOINTEIGHT:
Outburst: 7”
Based on the (admittedly quite nice) cover art, was kinda expecting some hardcore or dark metal variant, but no, it’s more of a punky indie rock variant. There’s maybe a whisper of soul buried in the A-side, while the flip ups the punk quota with singalong elements in the chorus. Nice single.  –jimmy (Pirates Press)


TWO COW GARAGE:
The Death of the Self Preservation Society: CD
The early records by this band, particularly the masterpiece, The Wall Against Our Back, are some of the best rocking alt-country stuff that I have ever heard. Unfortunately, the last couple of albums have been a little more “interesting” and mature, though still good. Well, I am glad to report that Two Cow Garage are back to rocking, and this record is fantastic. Take a little of the Figgs, some Uncle Tupelo, the rockin’ side of Lucero, and you will be in the area that TCG are when they’re at their best. Glad to see them come back swinging with this great new record and hoping to hear more.  –frame (Last Chance, lastchancerecords.com)


TV FREAKS:
Two: LP
I’m liking this a lot better than their other LP, which was pretty good. This one has more fire in its guts, I guess you could say. They pace the album with peaks and valleys to keep you interested and to keep everything from becoming one long blur. You get the ragers like “Overreacting,” “Knife,” “Battle,” “Game,” and the rest. Garage punk’n’roll done right. Which is saying something, because a lot of bands of this style are bleh. But TV Freaks rise above the rest.  –Matt Average (Schizophrenic)


TUNES, THE:
Love Uncool: LP
I feel lately we are unearthing a lot of shitty eighties music and calling it power pop. I’m a sucker for a haircut and a Rick Springfield lean, but I see a lot of that in dollar bins and, as we all know, buyer beware. However, whoever put this out has taste. It takes an ear to appreciate it, I think. It’s more on the lighter side. It doesn’t have balls, but it has heart. It’s catchy as hell. I put the needle back on “Elevator” a few times before I even got through the whole thing. Awesome vocal harmonies, great choruses, and upbeat themes are prevalent. If you’re only into the heavy power-chord power pop and don’t dig the poppier stuff, then this isn’t for you. But it’s high quality for fans of The Shoes, Squeeze, or better Elvis Costello. For a more obscure reference, that Colors’ song “Growing up American” and the Trainspotter’s “High Rise” also come to mind. I’m keeping it.  –Billups Allen (Cheap Rewards, cheaprewards.net)


TIM TIMEBOMB:
“30 Pieces of Silver” b/w “Ooh La La”: 7”
In general, white people trying to do ska and reggae make for a lot of embarrassment, in my humble white ass opinion. There are some exceptions to this rule, the most immediate being the late, great, magical Joe Strummer (may he rest in peace), and former Operation Ivy guitarist, current Rancid co-frontman, Tim Armstrong. His latest project falls under the name Tim Timebomb and represents a wide arrange of musical genres and cover songs, from Cock Sparrer to The Specials to Tom Waits, as well as reinterpretations of songs from his past as country and ska tunes. Here, Tim performs ska legend Prince Buster’s “30 Pieces of Silver” and The Faces’ “Ooh La La.” I would like these tracks even if I didn’t know the originals, but listening to them had resounding effects. After hearing and enjoying them, I went back to listen to the originals, then listened to the Timebomb versions again, then spent some more time listening to more of Tim’s latest work. You would have time well spent if you did the same.  –John Mule (Hellcat / Pirates Press)


SWEATSHOP BOYS:
The Great Depression: LP
Sweatshop Boys are relentlessly miserable and I don’t know why I respect that, but I do. They don’t want to live, or can’t see any reason to go on living, and they live in their heads, and they eat dinner and they listen to Spazz and they feel like shit, and they possibly break up the band. I can’t think of a more relatable record, subject-wise. They partly do a kind of peppy British pop punk, sometimes in a “whoa-oh” kind of way, which can get tiresome. But they also slow down, and when they do, they become a bleak power pop band, which feels like their real strength. They’re capable of something broader and arguably more powerful when they pace themselves. They also add little touches—surfy guitar, organ, backing female harmonies (why aren’t Finger and Lady Ganja on every song? why aren’t they in the band?)—and those touches make all the difference in the world.  –Matt Werts (Rapt, facebook.com/raptrecords / Crapoulet, crapoulet.fr / Kuskus, facebook.com/kuskusrecords / Drunken Sailor, dunkensailorrecords.co.uk / Dirt Cult, dirtcultrecords.com)


SWARM, THE:
Parasitic Skies: LP
Considered a classic of the powerviolence genre and originally released as a 10” back in the late ‘90s, Parasitic Skies gets the reissue treatment in LP form this time around. Penned by dudes with pedigrees that included Left For Dead and Cursed, this album sounds like road construction—and I mean that in the sense of ruination inherent, things being concisely demolished—with a couple of articulate, morose bridge trolls belting it out over the music. Personally, I was a bigger fan of Reversal Of Man and Combat Wounded Veteran (though much of that had to do with their visual aesthetic), but considering how short The Swarm’s lifespan was—less than two years—they had a lasting impact on the genre, and I’m sure fans of “hardcore played by belt sanders” are shitting themselves right about now. A nicely done reissue.  –keith (No Idea)


SUNNYSIDE:
Welcome to San Diego: LP
Sunnyside play melodic, riffy pop punk straight out of 1998. I guess this is timeless music because nobody has ever stopped playing it. They remind me of that wing of Epitaph/Fat Wreck bands I could never get excited about (No Use For A Name, Strung Out, etc.)—not bad necessarily, but unremarkable. Like barre chord wallpaper. They’re gravel-voiced bros who sound like they’ve done a little bit of living, and now they’re going to tell you about their relationship problems. Great. The lyric booklet is pretty well done, and I appreciated the photo of Tony Gwynn on the cover. So yeah, this record is boring, but check out the cool pic of an MLB Hall of Famer.  –Matt Werts (Little Deputy, littledeputy.com / ADD, addrecs.com / It’s Alive, itsaliverecords.com / Eager Beaver, eagerbeaver.shop-pro.jp)


STEVIE DINNER:
Mystery Flavor: Cassette
One of the best parts about reviewing music is that I constantly have to reevaluate my approach to music and my taste overall. For example, I took one look at this tape and figured it was junk. It looks like the self-consciously quirky sort of shit that really gets on my nerves. But it’s my job to look beyond the packaging, and I’m glad I did. This is a joyous musical dumpster dive that yields all sorts of treasures. Trashy disco beats. Warped keyboard parts. Throwaway vocals. Rotten banana peel guitar solos. Layers and layers of wonderful musical refuse from one dude’s stinky bedroom.  –mp (Muckman, muckmanrecords.bandcamp.com)


STEVE IGNORANT WITH PARANOID VISIONS:
When…?: CD
Crass’s former lead singer joins up with a long-lived Irish anarcho punk band to deliver some new tuneage with loud guitars and pointed barbs directed at everything from the greater society to modern punk’s slide from a vehicle for revolution into a fashion phase one “goes through.” Their attacks regarding the latter are, of course, largely on point, but one can’t help but wonder if anybody’s really listening, but one can only hope. Tunes are strong, their outrage sincere and yet not overly preachy.  –jimmy (Overground)


STALINS OF SOUND:
Pool of Piranha: 7”
Another fine effort from San Diego’s extraordinary synth punk trio, and again released on Craig Oliver’s (of Christmas Island) very fine Volar Records. First side includes two fast and heavy tunes, loaded with crunchy, smartly played guitar and moody synths. Second track is a gem of a cover, “Panik” by French paleo-punk outfit Métal Urbain with a shredding solo and ray gun synth blasts. The B-side track, “Rapture in Blood,” features a much more subdued slice of doom and gloom, droning vocals and instrumentation, and dense and layered keyboard sounds that sounds like it could be a missing track from Digital Leather’s Warm Brother.Excellent stuff.  –Jeff Proctor (Volar)


SPARROW FALLS:
Maelstrom (Thus Perishes the World’s Glory): CDEP
I was going to call this EP a bag of emo clichés and clumsy male feelings and leave it at that. Like, it’s corny but harmless and there’s probably a market for this or whatever. Teenagers will be down with this. The musicians are competent. But there’s a song on here (“Maelstrom”) where the singer belts out a line with that bullshitty, overblown vocal style that could almost be the guy from Fallout Boy (or insert Alternative Press band singer), and then he laughs. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. He laughs in this knowing, smug way. He’s arrogant. I listened to this EP twice through, and I have no idea where his arrogance could possibly come from. You will likely never hear this record, and you will likely never hear about this band ever in your life, and that’s maybe the only real justice I can hope for.  –Matt Werts (Amsterdam Recording Company, amsterdamrecordingcompany.com)


SNAKE CHARMER:
Self-titled: EP
How much noizecore can you take? I know it’s all the rage at the moment, and if you want more, then here you go. I’ve had more than my fill of the stuff over the years. Next!  –Matt Average (Schizophrenic)


SMALLTOWN:
Square One: 7” EP
Wow, been a helluva long time since I last heard these Swedes. Multiple helpings here of poplicious punk: mid-tempo, hooky, impassioned. Singer’s gruff without being clichéd, melodic without being operatic, while the band keeps things simple but not staid. Buy many, crank loud.  –jimmy (Pirates Press)


SICK SICK BIRDS:
All the Fins in the Sea: 7” EP
It’s the details in the craft that make me pause and breathe. All the bits fit artfully, but it doesn’t garishly draw attention to itself. All the Fins in the Seasounds handmade, yet celebrating the natural grain of song. Part of the reward is the repeated contemplation, be it punk-made pop songs, sunsets, rural roads, or the ocean ebbing and flowing. It’s the opposite of quick edits, manipulated stadium roar, and flash! flash! flash! It’s also cool to see how some legacies unfold. The Thumbs left a huge impression on me years ago, but I know better than to gag and bind Mike Hall by his legacy. On this four-songer, Sick Sick Birds play poetic, slow-rolling, shimmering music that gains weight with repeat listens. It’s really quite beautiful and poignant at every angle, from the lyrics (“You’ve got to speed up to keep up with the rising cost of flesh and the falling price of tenderness”), to the hand-cut (not die-cut) cardboard stock cover, to the watercolor on the download card.  –todd (Ghostbot)


SHANKS, THE:
Backstabber: 7”
Squealing, feedback-drenched guitars and howling, screeching vocals, this is exquisitely intense. The Shanks’ songs on this here 7” sound like some long-lost nugget of Northwestern garage punk: Wipers weirdness, dirtier and nastier than Mudhoney, faster and more ferocious than Murder City Devils. This is a ripper. Comes highly recommended.  –Jeff Proctor (Tic Tac Totally)


SEASICK:
ESCHATON: 12”
I hadn’t heard that Seasick had gone on “indefinite hiatus” and thought the band was just in a dry spell for a few years. Their sort of jammy, sludge-tinged HC always made me a little smitten, but I just assumed that maybe I had lost track of them. When this hit my doorstep, I was legitimately surprised at the progression they had made as a band, and even more surprised (and disappointed) that this recording is three years old and is being released after their break up. The range of influence here is huge, from early East Coast hardcore to the Slap A Ham catalog to Sleep and everything in between. This record will most likely be a slow seller because there is no tour to support it and the label isn’t a hype machine, but this will be a record that stands up to time because it shows a band in their prime playing out their influences without catering to an audience. These are songs that get stuck in your head at once and continue to surprise over repeated listens. It’s November and I’m calling this out as the probable record of the year.  –Ian Wise (To Live A Lie)


SCHONWALD:
Self-titled: 7”
It wasn’t until the very moment I started listening to this record that I realized how much a band like The Spits has in common with dreamy synth-pop bands from the ‘80s such as Pet Shop Boys or OMD. Schonwald definitely sound like the latter bands, but I still get the feeling that they are one bad, drug-frenzied night away Spitstown… That said, this is mesmerizing, beautiful music with a definite darker overtone. I like it.  –ty (Hozac)


RVIVR:
The Beauty Between: LP
One of the most scrutinized and adored bands in DIY punk. I recently saw them play their fiftieth show on a fifty-five date tour. If that’s not putting in the time, what’s the point of trying at all? And how was their set?They destroyed! You can’t deny it. There’s a mighty force within this band. And your criticisms are so obviously rooted in your own jealousy that it’s making you look like a chump. Jealous of their conviction, talent, and success; I know I’ve been guilty of all three. They spent a couple years confronting typical show situations that they weren’t comfortable with, and for those of us who stuck around, the music rages on. Catchy and melodic, but not without a ragged weirdness to it. My favorite new addition to the RVIVR catalog is definitely the hardcore-esque “Bleed Out” on the B side. But, overall, this is a truly exciting record that shows a band that has put a lot of work into not only finding, but creating, their place. And if you can’t hang, it’s probably for the best.  –Daryl Gussin (Rumbletowne)


RIFLE DIET:
“Abuse Begets Abuse” b/w “The Affected”: 7”
Another release in the Profane Existence Singles Series (the review copy was on black vinyl and I really don’t understand why anyone would want thundering crust on anything else), Rifle Diet delivers two great tracks of what you would expect musically from a Minneapolis-stereotyped Profane band featuring members of In Defence and Garmonbozia. However, Rifle Diet flips it up for us, delivering the ultra-heavy plodding At A Loss-type track as the A-side and saving the thrashing ripper for the B. The raging, distorted lyrics stay topical (cyclical abuse, “the scene”), but are well-written and heartfelt enough to keep you coming back until memorized. As of this review deadline, copies are still available from PE… grab one.  –Matt Seward (Profane Existence)


RICHIE RAMONE:
Entitled: CD
So it’s here and although I think Designated Dale should be reviewing this, I will give it the old college try. Richie handles drums and vocals here. Guitar is served up by Tommy Bolan and Jiro Okabe lays down the bass. Two classic Ramones tunes are re-recorded here (one more is LP-only), along with new songs from Richie. “Criminal” blasts off the proceedings here in fine fashion. “Someday Girl” gives off a cool Iggy vibe while “Forgotten Years” is also a really cool tune. Repeated listenings will draw the casual listener in to the fold. Definitely curious to see how this will translate in a live setting.  –koepenick (DC Jam, dcjamrecords.com)


RED DONS:
Notes on the Underground: 7”
There are bands that are content to sit within a pigeonhole and there are bands that diligently push against the edges, rebelling against expectations to find a sound all their own. From the quasi-tribal drumming beginning the opening salvo here, “Cold Hearted,” Red Dons make it clear they aren’t content just fitting in. The tune, at its core a smart bit of minor chord pop, is rife with echoes of time past and present—a bit of post punk here, some garage there, drone, and the ubiquitous, insistent thud in the drums—rearranged and repurposed so that all are present but none overwhelms another. The remaining tunes follow along the same lines, each familiar yet retaining its own sound. The whole? A gritty-yet-tasty selection from a band that continues to wow with each successive release.  –jimmy (Grave Mistake)


REALITY RETURNS:
Self-titled: 7”
If hardcore bands were math equations, Reality Returns would be like the Pythagorean Theorem. They’re a relatively straightforward formula of heavy mid-tempo riffs, plus crew vocals, plus breakdowns, divided by five members. While I can credit the band for doing their homework, I found this too derivative to give it a passing grade.  –Paul J. Comeau (Take It Back, takeitbackrecords@gmail.com)


RATCHETS, THE:
“Hoist a New Flag” b/w “The Way Things Are”: 7”
Ratchets fans are still waiting for a true comeback, but until then, this surprising 7” of two unreleased songs recorded seven years ago is a big time treat. Reminiscent of Reducers SF, this band gained quick notoriety with their unmistakable, extremely catchy middle tempo streetpunk. I’m not sure why it took so long for these instantly lovable tunes to get released, but kudos to Pirates Press for putting them out. As is always the case with the label, the record looks amazing, too, pressed on beautiful marbled vinyl. The Ratchets really need to return with a new album. It’s time for a ratcheting up for the Ratchets!  –Art Ettinger (Pirates Press)


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·Ceremony Living Laser, and The Suicide Dolls
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