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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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HOWL:
Self-titled: Cassette
The lead singer of Howl has a great voice, a ragged shout that owes as much to singers of Black Flag as it does youth crew bands. The rest of the band backs him up on vocals, but minimally, just enough to add a flourish here and there to the youthful lyrics. There’s a pleasant contrast between the roughness of their sound and the positivity of their message. The guitars are a crunchy, raw throwback to eighties hardcore possibly more suited to songs of a more pessimistic nature, but it actually really works with these songs of resistance and affirmation like “On Holding On” with its lyrics: “they deny our alienation/while we fight their indoctrination/we can(‘t) let it hold us apart/we gotta seek what can be shared/Find The Way.” Howl proves that current hardcore bands worth their salt are as awesome as they are rare. –Craven Rock (Common Thread, onethousanddreams@hotmail.com)


HORROS:
Self-titled: EP
This is probably their first record. I’m just reviewing them in where they come up in my stack... On this recording they are a three piece and stick to the crust core formula. D-beat style, throaty, growly vocals, and songs about war, the apocalypse, and the downfall of mankind. Nothing that really stands out. The addition of a new member for the Iron Birds record was definitely a wise choice, as it improved their sound and gave them a little more distinction in this overcrowded genre. –Matt Average (Face Your Gods, faceyourgods@gmail.com)


HORROS:
Iron Birds: EP
Metallic crust kind of racket. They have the whole smashing and bashing down-tuned thing happening, but then they break out with these NWOBHM-type guitar breaks here and there that catch you off guard at first. Then it’s right back to the crust stuff, with throaty vocals and words about war and the apocalypse. They’re not breaking new ground by any stretch, but if they keep at it, they will find their sound and could become a force to reckon with. –Matt Average (Face Your Gods, faceyourgods@gmail.com, K.Tuotanto, decadence_666@mail.goo.ne.jp)


HITCHHIKERS:
Tell Tale Heart: 10”
Eleven songs of herky-jerky Dangerhouse-style punk on a white vinyl 10”, easily the lamest format and vinyl color of all time. Aesthetic bias aside, this is some pretty strong punk for fans of the Hatepinks or the entirety of the Modern Action Records catalog. –frame (Wanda, mailorder.wandarecords.de)


HIDINGINSIDEVICTIMS:
Self-titled: LP
Mostly slightly-slower-than-raging tempo crust that takes a lot from His Hero Is Gone and Wartorn. The recording is cleaned up a little and there are nods to some Japanese influence, but the songs are unique and hold their own. Some songs like “In the Black” feel a little more modern simply because you can pick out other influences, but, on the whole, this record has sort of a vintage feel to it, right down to the way the sleeve and insert are designed. Lyrics about all the stuff crusty bands sing about. Nothing stupid or hokey, but it would be nice to see someone try and tackle some ideas other than feeling smothered by society. Fans of Profane Existence Records and the like should take to this easily. –Ian Wise (Rotten To The Core, rotteninfo@yahoo.com)


GUTTERS, THE:
“Should We Make a Seven Inch”: 7”
It’s 1978. Two trains leave separate stations at the same time traveling the same speed. One is coming from Hersham, traveling towards Bolton carrying the members of Sham 69; the other train is traveling the opposite route, carrying the gentlemen of The Buzzcocks. In one of the less reported mysteries of the railway era, the two trains collided in front of multiple witnesses just outside of Birmingham, only to reappear seemingly unscathed one hundred meters apart from each other down the track. One thing that is rarely discussed is what happened to the members of the two bands. While they were only gone from 1978 England for what felt like the blink of an eye, they were actually cosmically merged and transferred through space and time to 2012 Portland, Oregon where they became known as The Gutters. Retaining their penchant for pop hooks submerged in mischievous, bratty, punk rock, and, of course, their British accents, but expounding upon more current subjects such as trips to the 7-Eleven and denizens of the laptop state The Gutters brought a slice of honest working class England to a place rife with the petite charms of the bourgeoisie. Never a bad thing. –Noah W.K. (Tadpole, spudutat@hotmail.com, tadpolerecords.blogspot.com)


GRASS WIDOW:
Milo Minute: 7”
Grass Widow released Milo Minute on their own label, HLR, last year, and when I got it, I didn’t listen to it right away. Something about their Past Time LP left me worn out, although I’ve since come to my senses. Past Time is excellent; an album of effortless, slightly mathematical hooks. It’s tempting to just emphasize the radical girl-ness of them, to place them on a riot grrrl continuum (they’re all-female, they have a record on Kill Rock Stars, they’ve played with the reunited Raincoats), but there’s more. The video for “11 of Diamonds” almost feels Maya Deren-ish, like avant-garde beach noir from the earliest days of counter culture America. On the flip side of Milo Minute, they cover Neo Boys and Wire, and they’ve cited ‘60s Brits the Move as an influence. And while their strength is often in their restraint (no wild distortion, no super fast parts or freak-outs), they have something of the pop rush and bounce of the Buzzcocks, and they hint at the briskness and poetics, the guitar jangle and bass rumble and adventurousness, of the Minutemen, but take it in another direction. They’re a model female punk trio, no question, but you can go deeper and wider with them. “Milo Minute”, the song, feels like their attempt at a jaunty two-minute pop burst—plenty of craft, without a ton of overthinking. In the video for “Milo Minute,” they go to Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo and play music for gorillas, and it’s here, with the band on one side of the plexiglass and a gorilla habitat on the other, that the song seems to grow. The band is so charming, they seem like they were going to the zoo to play anyway, and then said “Oh! You should bring your camera, we need to make a video!” I did have some questions, mainly about whether or not it was good for gorillas to hear amplified instruments and drums, and then also what their hearing frequency was like. Is it like a dog’s? Dogs don’t seem to notice bands. The gorillas seem fine with it, especially by the end. Grass Widow have a way of making the complicated very uncomplicated and natural. They make it look not only easy, but desirable. –Matt Werts (HLR, no address listed)


GOONZ, THE:
Death Is Purpose: CD
Despite the “z” spelling, this is the umpteenth punk band that’s used this name—I can think of a DC band and another in East L.A. that have used it in recent years alone, both of them pretty goddamned good in their own right. So yeah, this ain’t exactly screaming “heavily original and creative” right off the bat. Musically, they fall within in that hardcore subgenre where the lion’s share of melody is in the music backing the howling singer, with metal influence making its presence known throughout. In the end, I can’t say they’re terrible at what they do, with the caveat being that said subgenre they’re aiming at ain’t all that impressive to begin with. –jimmy (The Goonz, thegoonzband.bandcamp.com)


GATOS NEGROS, LOS:
Self-titled: LP
Black cover with no info, so I know fuck-all about who’s responsible. Musically, it’s a chaotic mix of garage/hardcore with a bunch of other stuff thrown in the blender, resulting in a dissonant, almost schizophrenic set of songs that fly from one direction to the next with little warning. Dunno if it’s a “greatest thing I’ve ever heard” contender, but it’s definitely not boring, and that is always a good thing. –jimmy (Plan-It-X)


FUTURE NOW, THE:
Hangman: 7”
Imagine if J. Robbins joined The Young Widows and they took their new band in a slightly more rock’n’roll direction. Place this band in the post-grunge scene of the mid-’90s when every label around was looking to sign the “next big thing,” and lots of the bands were trying to be “the next big thing.” This reminds me of those times. Like a lot of those records, this 7” is almost good, but ultimately flawed and not quite there, if you know what I mean. –Mark Twistworthy (Kiss Of Death, kissofdeathrecords.com)


FULL OF HELL:
Rudiments of Mutilation: CD
Heavy, powerful, chaotic powerviolencey hardcore, infused with plenty of electronic/noise flourishes that create an overall very unsettling record. To me, this second FOH LP suffers from the same issues that 2011’s Roots of Earth Are Consuming My Home did, which is, where a band like Converge has mastered the art of creating flowing, cohesive pieces out of their frenzied approach, FOH still seems somewhat disjointed to me. Like, the ideas are cool, the performances are dead on, and it’s certainly vicious as all hell, but it lacks any feel of real songs, y’know? That said, I know a lot of people really freaked out over this record (and the debut), so perhaps I’m missing something. –Dave Williams (A389)


FUGUE:
Self-titled: Cassette
Really well-done post-hardcore that owes far too much to Fugazi and Dischord Records. Worth a few spins for sure, but how much you’ll Fugue depends on your tolerance for mimicry. I gave it a good number of plays myself and appreciated it, but they owe everything to their influences, from the loud-quiet-loud riffs and vocals, to the dubby reverb on their guitars. –Craven Rock (Fine Print, fineprintrecords.com)


FREEDOM CLUB:
Demo: CDEP
They know how to rock up in Portland. Steady tempos with killer vocal deliveries that stand in line with greats like Adolescents and The Heartburns in that beautiful part of the Venn diagram where garage rock and hardcore punk intersect. Three songs without a moment wasted. Not bad for a band whose CD made me think I was going to listen to a bad Crass ripoff. –Bryan Static (Bulkhead, bulkheadrecords.com, no address)


FRANZ NICOLAY / MISCHIEF BREW:
Split: 7”
Franz Nicolay covers “Je Bois,” translated into “I Drink,” by Charles Aznavour on this two song split. In listening to Frank Nicolay’s version (and knowing his contributions to The World/Inferno Friendship Society) you’d imagine that his cover is significantly more whimsical, given that it utilizes clarinet, tuba, and an accordion. But Aznavour’s version, sung in French with swooning finesse, is unbeatable. Ultimately, it’s a decent cover and worth multiple listens if only to imagine yourself drinking a cup of coffee in Montpellier. Mischief Brew does an unremarkable and overly reverential cover of “The Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers. Erik Petersen’s major contribution is his unique snarl as opposed to Rogers’ baritone. The split makes you wonder what’s the point of recording a cover song 7” if only to record covers that sound practically identical to the original. Regardless, both songs are solid, but the split’s major selling point is the wonderful art by Mitch Clem. –Sean Arenas (Silver Sprocket, silversprocket.net)


FOUR-STROKE:
I Was a Teenage Suicide Bomber: CD
Haven’t heard of these Canadian cats before, but this is apparently a reissue of a 2006 album. Their brand of straight-ahead punk/hardcore harkens back to times past—hearing bits of early Dayglo Abortions and Subhumans in places—but they manage to keep things in the here and now, as evidenced by the album’s title. It probably ain’t hard to deduce, but they have a decidedly obnoxious streak running right down the middle of their tunes, scoring stinging points whilst still managing eyebrow-raising titles like “(I Wanna Be a) Suburban Jihadi,” “Blow Yourself Up,” and “Is That the Hand You Hit Her With?” If grampy starts to lament the days “when punk was punk,” slap this baby on and watch him dive from the top of his walker with rigid digits held aloft. –jimmy (Crusty)


FOUR-STROKE:
Work Today Pay Today Drunk Tonight: CD
Latest (as far as I know) release from this pack of Ottawa shit-stirrers. Thirteen tracks of (mostly) mid-tempo punk/hardcore with enough obnoxiousness to annoy some segment of the population, as it should be. –jimmy (Pesticide, no address listed)


FILTER KINGS:
Drink You Away: 7”
Sleeve looks like this is going to be some hot rod garage deluxe, like a million mid-’90s singles. Luckily, what comes out of the speakers is some good, solid alt country-sounding stuff that I can dig. Uncle Tupelo comparisons are unavoidable but the Filter Kings are heads and shoulders above most of the bands that work that angle. Not nearly to the level of say Drag The River, but I would be interested in hearing more from this Nebraska band. Strong songwriting and excellent vocals make this one a keeper, to be sure. Would like to hear a full length. –frame (Speed! Nebraska)


FALSE IDLE:
Threat: CD
An album of positive punk rock for all you Christians out there. The playing was good, the production was good, but I really can’t get into this kind of stuff. –Rick Ecker (Thumper Punk, thumperpunkrecords.com)


FAKE SURFERS:
Self-titled: Cassette
Two piece vocalist/guitar/drums combo from Detroit who play garage rock just how I like it—sloppy and catchy. Sloppy garage rock with a touch of an ‘80s Southern California-area punk influence recorded with all of the levels pushed in the red, making the recording totally distorted and blown out. I suspect they named their band after the Intelligence album of the same name, which actually makes much more sense after you hear this. –Mark Twistworthy (Flesh Wave, fleshwave.bandcamp.com)


EX-OPTIMISTS, THE:
Bee Corpse Collector: LP
Wow, this is great! At their most subdued moments, this sounds like a shoegaze record that should have come out in the early ‘90s. I hear similarities to bands like Ride, Slowdive, or Pale Saints. You know the sound: quiet yet tuneful pop songs often with layers of guitar effects and softly sung vocals. When the songs here venture out and get more aggressive, they almost veer into Superchunk-esque pop songs. Both options work great together and compliment each other, as the band keeps a single identity throughout the record rather than sounding like someone changing their style from song to song. Recommended. –Mark Twistworthy (Sinkhole Texas, sinkholetexas.com)


EMPTY PALACE:
Self-titled: 7”
Competent keyboard-driven pop/rock. Inherently I find this more charming than other bands that use a similar formula because of the vinyl warmth that carries through the music. Don’t be fooled, this is classic rock, full throttle. The Who, Jethro Tull, that sort of thing. Empty Palace echoes that better part of that genre, but whether that’s worth the effort is a matter of debate. Grade: B-. –Bryan Static (Snappy Little Numbers, snappylittlenumbers.blogspot.com)


ELSINORES:
Demo: Cassette
This is the third cassette I’ve heard by this ragtag group of Kentucky punks, and it’s just as good the third time around. Ramonesy, keyboard-driven pop songs with the charm of a dashing prince. Honestly, at this point, the only thing that’s left to wonder is where is that long-awaited LP? Here, I’ll go ahead and write a review for that while I’m here: Hey, this LP is really good. You guys should buy it. Grade: B+. –Bryan Static (Self-released, theelsinores.tumblr.com)


‪ELEPHANT RIFLE:
Party Child: LP‬
The latest full length by Elephant Rifle, Party Child is psychotic bliss. The album artwork alone should give you some insight to that. (The cover is black and white and has an illustration of a zombie couple giving birth to what looks like a dog on one side and another zombie regurgitating a similar animal.) If that doesn’t get you to pick it up, then check out the song titles, such as “Nurse Feratu,” “Rib-Eye for the Dead Guy,” and my favorite “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Part II.” These Reno boys blew me away the first time I saw them. They are the type of band that you may have never heard of, you see them play, and you’re instantly stoked and want to buy all their merch. Their live show often features the singer, Brad, shirtless, climbing around anything in sight, and exposing his lovely belly. This record is artistic, heavy, chaotic, and will make you wanna go do something creative or destructive when you hear it. Imagine The Birthday Party and Nirvana having a baby and then imagine that baby smoking drugs and then you have an idea of Elephant Rifle’s sound. If you missed it, to raise money for this record, the grand prize for the highest donation got you a sexy bikini car wash. It was geographically limited, but the winner truly scored on this LP. I highly recommend checking this band out.  –Ryan Nichols (Humanterrorist, humaniterrorist.tumblr.com)


EGO SUMMIT:
The Room Isn’t Big Enough: LP
Awkward one-off folk/punk project band from “five veteran Columbus, OH scenesters.” The music isn’t bad, but for some reason I expected something a little cleaner. The more I listen to this, the more it grows on me, but after a half a dozen spins it still feels like there’s a very inside joke here that I’m not hip to. The music runs a huge gamut, from folksy jams to goofy takes on early Leonard Cohen. The tracks that really pop (“Novacaine,” “Queen of the Underground,” and “Half Off”) are essentially deconstructions of pop songs, but I tend to like it more when they really digress with “American Dream,” an awkward bass-driven march that just keeps going until the lyrics literally run out. This record is punk in the sense that it’s certainly music for outsiders, but you need to understand this is more a creepy smile while drinking beer with your friends than it is a folk punk record of anthems about smashing the state. –Ian Wise (540, timmy@chaosintejas.com)


EASY ACTION / SNAKEWING :
Split: 7”
Easy Action are one of the best bands of the past decade or so, spewing their hard rock meets noisy hardcore attack with John Brannon of Negative Approach/Laughing Hyenas on the mic. The addition of Toni Romeo from the Trash Brats on bass is a nice addition to the mix and an inspired choice. The two tunes on this single are the most like the Laughing Hyenas that Easy Action have ever sounded, but there is still a good bit of rock in the tunes. Snakewing turn in two tunes of lo-fi guttural metal that doesn’t quite veer into thrash or quite into death metal. Fans of lo-fi sludge of the New Orleans persuasion will probably find a whole lot to like with Snakewing. –frame (Underground Communiqué, undergroundcommunique@gmail.com)


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