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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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AGAINST THE GRAIN:
Motor City Speed Rock: 10”
I will give this band credit for something: everything from the title of this record to the artwork gives an idea of exactly what they sound like. I was expecting a combination of Zeke-style speed and Hellacopters-style Scandi rock riffing. That is precisely what Against the Grain offer up. It is basically the style that labels like White Jazz and even Sub Pop were flooding the market with at the turn of the century: garage punk played at hardcore tempos. This band is as good as most but I have been burned out on this style for a decade and a half and am not likely to come back around. Fans of Gluecifer, Peepshows, Adam West, Puffball, and Roadsaw will want to be all over this Detroit band.  –frame (Self Destructo)


ADIOS MAFIA:
Hot-Blooded American Awesome: CD
Nope. I feel “Nick Marvelous” likes the sound of his own voice. Every moment of every song, no matter how inane or repetitive, is compressed full of lyrics delivered in that over-done Blag Jesus style. This CD would fit easily next to a Drink Fight Fuck compilation you never listen to (or are secretly ashamed of still owning).  –Matt Seward (287, adiosmafia.bandcamp.com)


AARON POEHLER & RYAN TULLY-DOYLE:
Dietrich: CD
Well, I hesitated when I got this in my pile. Cover art smells indie so I didn’t bite at first. Organic, contained, sunny wash with a hollowed facade of a building and electric organ—just bones, some broken. The music is so much stranger, deeper than the cover could ever allude to. I’m constantly learning this lesson. Aaron Poehler has such a deeply disturbing and stirring voice. The kind that enters your ears and finds its way deep into your gut. Analogies like early Bowie, David Byrne, and Ian Curtis come to mind. And really, musically, it’s a mix of ‘70s Bowie to ‘80s Dead Kennedys, to new wave Talking Heads—at times early ‘90s pop punk—to electronic and ambient post-punk. All over the fucking place. This whole album was a journey, one that I wasn’t expecting to take. It’s weird, in the most sincere way.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, apoehler@gmail.com)


ZATOPEKS:
About Bloody Time: CD/LP
Zatopeks surprised me. From the cover art and the band name, I expected their sound to be as moody as the cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking woman on the back cover. Instead, I was greeted by a polished sound and meticulously crafted hooks that were just as well researched as the lyrics, which are dense with history—complete with footnote citations on the insert. “Mechanised” taught me more Russian references than any world history course in my five years in college. “Acetate,” a duet that verges on sentimental without crossing the line into sappy, is a break from the momentum of the other songs, though I think I would have preferred it being a female solo. Their songs are content-rich but are catchy enough to be digested easily.  –Ashley (Monster Zero, themonstzeromash@gmail.com, monsterzero.nl / It’s Alive, info@itsaliverecords.com, itsaliverecords.com)


YOUNG AND IN THE WAY / WITHDRAWAL:
Split: 7”
Young And In The Way does the heavily black metal-infused hardcore thing better than anyone else, and it’s no surprise that Deathwish snatched YAITW up for its upcoming LP. Just blazing, venomous, dissonant-yet-melodic black metal-core that reminds me of both Catharsis and Spread The Disease at times. Withdrawal delivers more straightforward Ringworm/Integrity-influenced hardcore that isn’t quite as refreshing or impressive as YAITW’s side, but is still furious, pummeling, and well executed enough to keep me psyched throughout. Great split.  –Dave Williams (A389)


YES MISTRESS!:
Drunk Again: 7”
Generic, obnoxious, and annoying. Stereotypical “hard” rock mixed with punk tempo changes. Lyrical gems such as, “You want motivation but there’s none to be had / Go outside and ask some money from dad” and “Layin’ in bed like a girl on her rag.” Rag? What are you, twelve? Sadly, the members of Yes Mistress! are actually old enough to know (and do) better. Avoid.  –Alanna Why (Ken Rock, ken-rock.com, kensplastic@hotmail.com)


WORRIERS:
Cruel Optimist: 8-song LP
“Worriers” and “warriors” are homophones. When I say ‘em out loud, they sound similar. On record, Lauren Denitzio’s exploration of her vulnerabilities is what makes her songs so strong, what makes the Worriers so compelling. She’s got a wonderful voice and it runs the gamut on this record from exuberant and strident, to romantic, to questioning, to angry, to resolute. That’s a broad range for a voice to convey. It shows the complexity of not merely bumping through life, but living it. As a collection of songs, there’s a sea change afoot, as happens with age and an inspected life. Some people around Lauren are giving up and giving in. Their ideals are being swapped like fashion accessories of conspicuous consumption. Instead of flat-out blame, Lauren digs deeper into herself. At the end, we must find ourselves. We are our own captains. We are our own ship. Take care of yourself. That’s not a bad headspace for a record to put the careful listener into. It’s, at its essence, a thoughtful pop punk record. Also features Rachel of Bridge And Tunnel, Mikey “Million Bands” Yannich, and Tim Burke! of The Measure [SA]. Beautiful, emotionally smart music.  –todd (Don Giovanni, dongiovannirecords.com / worriers.bandcamp.com / laurendenitzio.com)


WONDERFUL THING:
Intimate Dream: CD
With cheesy cover art and cheesier guitar solos, I initially classified this one as simple yet harmless dadcore. Then I got to a track called “Space Girl”: “Now it’s time to take a taste / Of the slags from outer space.” Seconds later, a middle-aged man crooned off-key: “I don’t care if you’re a dyke, girl.” What the hell?! Then, he goes on to sing about how this girl should “get off of her knees” because he doesn’t want to “taste her disease.” Every other song is just about an old man longing for love. Where did this patriarchal, heteronormative crap come from? I knew it was shit the moment I looked at it, but I didn’t know it was sexist shit too. This makes me mad and sad at the same time. Ugh.  –Alanna Why (Self-released)


WILD EMOTIONS:
“Hey Everybody” b/w “Wild Emotions”: 7”
Wild Emotions are an all-girl band with a lo-fi, keyboard-punk sound. The song on the A-side, “Hey Everybody,” would be a perfect track to spin at a Halloween party. It’s a fun, simple song you could easily pogo to in your ironic costume. The B-side song is called, well, “Wild Emotions.” This song is a bit more chaotic than the other. The vocals are blurry and it has a drunk-speed tempo. All in all, this is a fun little party record.  –Ryan Nichols (Blahhll!, blahrecords.com)


WE LIVE IN TRENCHES:
Life Crisis: LP
We Live In Trenches could well be the bastard offspring following a messy tryst involving The Rollins Band, Big Black, and Dead And Gone, such is the deep-rooted intensity that permeates each and every track on the band’s second album. The record pulsates with a nihilistic thunder, topped off with a bear-like growl exuding a rib-crushing threat which keeps me in a state of high alert throughout. The songs benefit from being well structured and, therefore, do not fall into the trap of getting lost in a repetitiveness that would dull its impact. Surprisingly, I quite enjoy listening to this in a relaxing bath!  –Rich Cocksedge (La Familia, stachel@lafamiliareleases.com, lafamiliareleases.com / Farsot, info@farsotfarsot.com)


VEXX:
Self-titled: 12”EP
I am thankful that people are able to use hardcore as an inspiration for making music that isn’t necessarily hardcore. Vexx are definitely a hardcore punk band, but they aren’t confined by the label. X’s Americana accent; Vexx’s clenched fist intensity. The track “Strength” is one of the most captivating tracks I’ve heard all year. I’m also thankful for the unholy combination of Maryjane’s vocals and Mike’s guitar playing. The balance of sounding totally unhinged and totally in control takes these songs to a level many strive for, but rarely reach. Like fellow Olympians, Hysterics, I’ve heard this band’s live shows are absolutely devastating, so check ‘em out if you get the chance. I know I will be.  –Daryl Gussin (Grazer, grazerrecords.bigcartel.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Wolf Party: CD
Killer surf/garage/weirdo compilation from New Zealand featuring nobody you’ve heard of slaying everybody you already know. Knife Fight’s “Woof Woof Woof” and The Chandeliers’ “Diamondo” are the real holy shit goddamn moments (also: the singer from Mr. Slackjaw sounds a lotlike Mark Sandman), but there’s so much to take in here, all gnarly and deranged and goofy and cool. There are little stop-offs into U.S. Girls and maybe fake, dumb cold wave territory (Full Fucking Moon’s “Litany of the Oceans, Pt. 1” and Golden Axe’s “Dognapped,” respectively), but mostly it’s psych and rock’n’roll and dirty side roads and head trips. The bands know their history, and they also care enough to fuck with tradition. Very pumped to see King Loser mentioned in the liner notes, too. They could be the spiritual parents of this garage crew, kind of? Would love to tour New Zealand and hang at all the Kiwi dives with all these bands.  –Matt Werts (Voodoo Rhythm, voodoorhythm.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Maximum Rocknroll Presents Sound the Alarms: 2 x LP
Another international comp from this fanzine mainstay, this time a double-disc affair featuring thirty-two bands repping fourteen countries, courtesy of Silla Electrica, Synthetic ID, Anti You, Lotus Fucker, Cülo, Kuudes Silma, Nuclear Spring, Hondartzako Hondakinak, and a buncha others. As can be expected given the mag’s musical tastes, this slants heavily towards the hardcore end of the rainbow, yet they keep things from degenerating into a thrashy blur both by collecting a pretty solid selection of tunes and having the foresight to toss in enough bands working in lower gears to break up any potential monotony. Given the dearth of any true scene comps, and the even fewer worth listening to with any regularity, this is a nice, timely addition to the platform.  –jimmy (Maximum Rock’n’roll)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Guided By Voices Tribute: 7”
Okay, confession time: when I eat spicy foods, I lose hearing in my right ear. No, no, that’s not right. Oh, here it is: to my knowledge, I have never listened to Guided By Voices. Not once. I’ve probably surreptitiously heard them at one point or another, but not so I remember them. So I have no idea how faithful or jaw-droppingly creative these covers are. Four bands: Screaming Females, Waxahatchee, Upset, and Swearin’. The record’s over quite quickly, the vinyl’s the color of cherry-flavored Chapstick, and if nothing else, I’m even further convinced that the woman from Waxahatchee could sing a recipe for beet borscht and I’d still be into it.  –keith (Salinas)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Drop the Needle: Boston Punk Anthology: CD
The Stilphen brothers (Chuck and Glen) dig through the basement and come with some hidden gems here. Smegma and The Nunz dates back to the early ‘80s. Sadly, original vocalist Alec Steere passed away in 1999. There is also the original version of Gang Green’s “Let’s Drink Some Beer,” from 1985. Not radically different from the song I remember, but still cool to have in the collection. Scratch and Mallet Head are more in the metal arena, but they still bring it. I love the inside cover picture. Classic!  –koepenick (Trev, trevrec.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Defend Hamilton... Eat Shit: EP
Compilation of new bands from Hamilton, Ontario paying “ohmage to the underbelly” of the city they call home. Songs about murderers like Jon Rallo, Loujack Cafe, Evelyn Dick, even more murder, and corruption. The bands on here are on the thrashy hardcore side of things, with some “noizecore” bands popping up here and there. Standouts for me were Laid To Rest with “Evelyn Dick the Torso Killer” and Pick Your Side’s “Janice D Is Dead.”  –Matt Average (Schizophrenic, schizophrenicrex.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
A Brilliant Escape: CD
I like to think I’m kind of a hip guy. Hippish. Hipful. On the cusp, at least somewhat, of the wacky shit the kids are into these days. Strange thing is I haven’t evenheard of a single band on this sampler, which is kind of impressive in and of itself, or a case of some PR/label guy just firing things out willy-nilly into the void. A Brilliant Escape, with its minimal packaging, brings back the dark days when label samplers were replacing thoughtful, well-constructed compilations. Saccharine pop and indie rock bands abound here. Skytone, Armstrong, Self Love, Dot Dash, and the Social Icons are just a few of the bands I’ve never heard of before.  –keith (Beautiful Music)


UNDECIDED:
Complications: EP
The past is being plumbed for all it’s worth, and it’s turning up some stuff that was never “all that” even when it was new. Such is the case with Undecided. These songs were recorded between 1986 and 1988, and I believe the band was from the DC area. You can hear traces of the regional influences in their sound, like some of drumming in “I Can’t Stand Another Day” reminds me a tad of the Bad Brains, and “Tomorrow” has that tuneful quality that late ‘80s Dischord bands possessed. But then there are songs that sound like they came from a Santa Cruz skateboard video (not exactly a compliment), like the last two songs, “Don’t Look Back” and “Caught in the Game.” The vocals are a little annoying with the nasaly delivery and biting on HR’s style. This is demo quality-type songs that, if the band had stuck it out, should have been looked at as a building block, on what to improve, and what to keep.  –Matt Average (Eye 95)


TRUE BELIEVERS:
Accept It!: 7” EP
This here record is a reissue of Mike Rep and Tommy Jay (Mike Rep And The Quotas/Ego Summit) 7” from 1980, and first in Hozac’s Ohio Underground Series, which makes me hope for the early Vertical Slit 7”s. Anyhow, the songs are pretty cool U.S. DIY, but that shouldn’t be too surprising given its birthplace is a hotbed for weird and wonderful. “Accept It” sounds like it was informed by the Stooges and a hearty portion of art rock. The first on the flip follows a similar trajectory, but gets a bit more artful, and then the record closes out with a real weird one about being locked in a meat freezer. Another fine record from Columbus, Ohio.  –Vincent Battilana (Hozac, hozacrecords.com)


TROPICAL DRIPPS:
Cool Dude: Cassette
Melancholy weirdo surf from Ottawa, Canada, a city better known for its wild winters than its wild waves. With Dick Dale leads and ʻ60s drum beats, Tropical Drippsʼ second release includes back-up vocals from bassist Kurty Coastline for the first time, drawing a strong resemblance to James Leroy from fellow Canadian garage worshippers The Ketamines. “Head Wound” clocks in at less than ninety seconds, while closer “We Are All Going Away” gets your hips swaying no matter how much your mind may protest. The trio’s last release had three songs; this one has five. Hopefully the next one will have more than seven.  –Alanna Why (Bruised Tongue, info@bruisedtongue.com, bruisedtongue.com)


TRANSIENT:
Self-titled: LP
I pretty much loathe grindcore as a genre, and even I can see why people are freaking out over this band right now. A flawlessly executed, woefully punishing, seizure-inducing batch of sixteen songs on a 12” 45, with the requisite doom-laden lyrics that are actually quite well-written, dense with creepy imagery and non-dorky Greek references. The record label’s pretty indicative: if you’re into Six Weeks stuff, you’re in for a treat. This album will give you severe heart palpitations right before it peels your skull like a little bezitted tangerine. I can hardly even form thoughts when listening to this thing.  –keith (Six Weeks, sixweeksrecords.com)


TRAMPOLINE TEAM:
Velveteen Dream: 7”
An unassuming xeroxed cover belies the charm of Trampoline Team’s brand of distorted garage pop. Velveteen Dream is a blast of jangly guitars squealing with feedback and surfy buzz. The band’s real strength is in the irresistibly catchy melodies, which the front woman belts out with effortless cool. “Rabbit Foot” and “I’m So Popular” could have been lost Pangea tracks from a few summers ago. These four quick songs hit a nearly perfect balance, sweet with just the right amount of snarl.  –Indiana Laub (Pelican Pow Wow, pelicanpowwow@gmail.com, pelicanpowwow.com)


TOXICS, THE:
Self-titled: Cassette
Four-song cassette from Finnish garage rockers The Toxics. No bassist, but there are two guitarists: one that plays “baritone” while the other handles “fuzz.” The frantic energy and howling of “Fix Me” reminded me of Canadian weirdo Strange Attractor, while closer “Most Wanted” is just slow enough to bring Mudhoney to mind. Considering the format and the fact that the only thing written in the liner notes is “Ahead the dim blur of an alien land,” I don’t have a clue as to what any of the lyrics are, proving that this release is, quite literally, too punk for words.  –Alanna Why (Mono Mono, monomonorecords.tumblr.com, monomonorecords@gmail.com)


TOP SHELF LICKERS:
Heart Beats Brain: 12” EP
Top Shelf Lickers deliver overproduced, wish-they-were-popular, cookie cutter, third wave Alkaline Trio music (I will not call this punk). Six songs that felt like twenty from their generic tediousness. With Chicago’s punk pedigree, the city probably wishes TSL would move out. In a review box containing possibly the worst/most ridiculous/most misleading album art, this took the cake. Took looking at the spine to figure out the name of the band. If you’re going to get picked up by Warner Bros, hire an ad exec or graphic designer to make your cover art choices for you. Your eleven-year-old sibling likes Top Shelf Lickers because you haven’t taught them better. ‘Nuff said.  –Matt Seward (PickMeUp!, topshelflickers.com)


TOHTORI KOIRA:
Tammelan Pojat: 7”
I’ll admit that I found the cover art on this record to be a little cheesy so I wasn’t in a hurry to hear this record. But once I put it on, I was surprised. The first thing that surprised me was that it was in Finnish so I understood nothing. Next I found that these guys play good old punk rock. They sound like a Fat Records band inspired by all the good old school punk like Sham 69, Blitz, etc. Sometimes I like that you can’t understand foreign bands lyrics. You have to hear the music and just make up your own words. This record is limited to three hundred.  –Ryan Nichols (Blast Of Silence, info@blastofsilence.org)


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