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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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SPECIAL GUEST / NOT HALF BAD:
Split: CD
Now this is the punk rock that this dad wants in his Christmas stocking! This is an oblong split of sorts from two Ft. Worth bands: eight songs by Special Guest, and four by Not Half Bad. Both bands are poppy, but not overly slick and certainly not overproduced. Not Half Bad is a bit more confrontational, less poppy, and more folksy (but in a great way). Lyrical content: songs about punk rock and the DIY spirit, for the most part. I like Special Guest a little better than Not Half Bad, but that’s only because I like the sound of Special Guest’s vocalist better (snottier and not as throaty). That’s just personal taste, however; either of these bands could challenge the pack’s alpha male. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Self released)


SONIC69:
Out of Town: CD
This is slower rock’n’roll, played by some older guys (based on the pictures). They are from Arizona, although the singer sounds like he could be Irish or English. One track is faster, and there is also an acoustic number which just drags on. Really kind of boring is a good way to put it. –Nighthawk (Unprotected Sex)


SOLID ATTITUDE:
B.B. Gun Picnic: LP
Snot goes a long way with me. If you feel the same way, you will probably enjoy this album. The vocalist hemorrhages a lot of attitude with a high-pitched wail: one of those shrill vocal attacks that you just can’t fake. The vocals occasionally get into breathy, Iggy techniques. They don’t sound like they’re ripping off The Stooges, but the singer shows the influence once in a while and the band gets the dynamic. It works because they only dip into it a little and it’s effective. The sound strikes me at times as a snottier version of the OBN III’s. When they are not playing in that field, the songs are simple, three-chord drivers with mildly distorted guitars. Works all around. Really nice record. –Billups Allen (Rotten Tooth; rottentoothrecordings.com)


SLUGGING PERCENTAGE:
Ghost Runner: Cassette
A change of pace for everyone’s favorite baseball-themed powerviolence duo. After two full-length cassette releases, this tape features just one song centered around the story of a boy who got a line-drive right in the eye and now haunts a field where he and other kids once played ball. The lyrics also exhibit disdain from those who remember the glory days of empty fields and lots that have since been converted into shopping centers. I’m smitten with the way the tempos vary from sludgy to a thunderous mid-pace and how the two vocalists belt out their vocals quickly, bringing to mind the early Spazz recordings (see the splits with Romantic Gorilla and C.F.D.L.) Great stuff yet again! –Juan Espinosa (Shout Out Loud, no address)


SLATES:
Wangwee: 7"
One part angry melodic No Idea Records mixed with noodle-y emo-ish lo-fi stuff. The song structures are nonsensical and seem to base themselves on one catchy-ish riff and then beat, dropping into pretty emo parts. Unnecessary/out of place/misguided guitar solos pepper the material in a way that make me just turn around and look at something else. The drums really kill it for me because during the verse parts he tends to accent every downbeat, which makes it hard to pay attention to anything else. Pete Repellent says: “I don’t even know.” Their cover of “The Most Forgotten French Boy” is somehow really well done, but a lot of that is because they don’t deviate from the original song structure. –Ian Wise (Debt Offensive)


SIDEKICKS, THE:
Awkward Breeds: CD
This third full-length album by these guys from Columbus, OH has eleven new songs that veer from punkish to power pop to slow rock. About half this album is slow songs that just didn’t do much to grab me and the others went from Weezer-type songs to songs that would sound great on a compilation from the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s. I really liked the few power pop songs on here. I hope that they go more towards this style, leave the Weezer-type songs alone, and cut back on the slow ones too. –Guest Contributor (Red Scare, redscare.net)


SEVERANCE PACKAGE:
What’s Yr Function?: CD
What you get here are six tracks of unexpected fun from this Chico, CA three-piece. My ears hear some trashy garage punk mixed with some cool male/female unison vocals that give the songs a nice buoyant, fun feel. This is the soundtrack to your next beer bash or it very well should be! –Garrett Barnwell (Severance Package, severancepackage.org)


SHAME, THE:
The World Is Ours: 7"
This three piece oi / streetpunk band from Tulsa, OK has just released a single on Profane Existence with four hard-hitting songs. The opening song is great with its oi oi oi chant, but all the songs are great to sing along to and have a few pints while doing it. I really love this band and look forward to everything that they release. They are that good! If you are a fan of non-racist skinhead music, you need to get this release. It comes on red, white, blue, black, and, if you are quick enough, a glow in the dark vinyl single that comes with a patch. –Guest Contributor (Profane Existence, profaneexistence.org)


SELF-EVIDENT:
We Built a Fortress on Short Notice: CD
It’s amazing when a band is around in the independent rock scene for fifteen years, touring, and putting out records—and I have never heard of them. But that’s the case of Self-Evident. It’s especially amazing when I am familiar with some of the band’s peers. Self-Evident has toured with Chicago’s Bear Claw, a band whose album Slow Speed Deep Owls I reviewed a long time ago for Razorcake. While there are similarities between the two bands, Self-Evident has the ability to pull back and play some indie rock influence with occasional build ups and bursts, something which I have always appreciated, as it seems a very base expression of emotion. The band also seems to know how to lay the delicate lines when necessary as well as lock into a nice groove on some tracks. The attack on the songs is occasionally there, but the band also is familiar with melodies and uses them effectively to give the listener a wide range of emotion through the music. The ten songs flow very well, and clocking in at thirty-six minutes, it seems just the right length. If you’re a fan of Shellac, Bear Claw, or melodic math rock, We Built a Fortress on Short Notice comes highly recommended. –kurt (doubleplusgood)


SEB AND THE RHAA DICKS:
Self-Titled: 7"

I frickin’ hate when big hole 7”s play at 33 1/3. Hate it! You think you can trust the big hole, and then you gotta jump outta yer chair and stop some chipmunk-sounding garbage. Also, the big hole wasn’t quite big enough for my adapter, so I had to jam it in there. So I was annoyed and writing sentences that sounded suspiciously porn-like (read ‘em again) before I ever managed to listen to this damned thing. Apparently, this fella Seb’s some hot shit in the French DIY world. You now, this ain’t bad. Pretty all right, when it comes down to it. Catchy tunes, some energy, and (here’s a statement I’m not sure I’ve ever penned before) some downright unobtrusive and non-annoying keyboards. I’m still pissed about the big hole fiasco, but give Seb a listen anyhow.

–Ryan Horky (Echo Canyon, echocanyonrecords.com)


SASHCLOTH & AXES:
Self-titled: 7" EP

Minimalist synth worship here. “Sound of Solace” consists of a synth droning a single note through a sequencer accompanied by someone laughing and muttering, “You’re all gonna die.” The flip, “Just One Night,” livens things up with a dance beat and a few more notes. It’s oddly effective, and a nice change of pace, I gotta say.

–jimmy (Sashcloth & Axes)


ROMAN CANDLES:
Gracious Living: 7”EP
These two slice-of-life folk punk tracks from the creator of The Stowaways zine out of Southern California observe the apathetic, weed-smoking adults our friends have turned into. Solid song structure and lyrics tell of friends shedding their raucous, rebel-rousing youth behind to shut themselves in their rooms and medicate. Not a bad intro to the band, but I wish there was more variation in the material. –Kristen K (romancandlesmusic@gmail.com, fuckthestowaways.blogspot.com)


RITUAL MESS:
Self-titled: 7”
Intense and concise three-songer here. My initial review cited Orchid, Yage, and La Quiete as reference points. Turns out this actually does feature folks from Orchid, Ampere, and Panthers, was recorded a few years ago, and just now released, so there you go. Brevity certainly works in this band’s favor: less than five minutes of material, minimal packaging, and it doesn’t remotely have time to get stale. Searing, ferocious emo stuff, and apparently already out of print. –keith (Clean Plate, cleanplate.com)


RED VS. BLACK:
Excuse to Exist: Cassette
This tape starts out with some bass heavy, art punk that’s kind of noodly and mathy, yet, really muddy sounding too, as if it was recorded through a blown-out speaker. When the vocals come in, they’re equally as distorted and far beneath the pop-popping of the drums. On first listen to the opening track, you think you’re just hearing another shitty demo, but by the time you get a few seconds into the weird noise/sound collage, you realize you’re getting into something way more intentional and calculated, a sort of garagey, jazz punk. I have the feeling the song “Caught Fleas,” in which, the singer laments, “I don’t know where I caught fleas but I can feel them biting me” is just about that. You know, literal. Um, yeah, I think so, but the fact that I questioned it shows the band’s almost autistic intelligence, which doesn’t take itself seriously and is a lot of fun to listen to. The first side of the tape fades out with more collage and some soundbites about abortion clinics mixed with eighties sax samples. It flips over into the next side and a drum machine starts, then a bass sample and a short, bursting voice advises, “What you gonna do, you’re gonna try a little fascism, what you’re gonna do is smoke a little hash-ism.” Well, there ya go. That would be a perfect way to wrap up this review if I didn’t feel the need to mention the killer song, “Cops Don’t Have P.M.A” a lyrical posi-punk/cop hatin’ song combination with the lyrics “they’re not really your friends / they all got blood on their hands” and with a sneaky positive self-reliance message mixed in there for the punks. This is a gem. Its originality is rare in the internet age, when frustrated punks are just a google away from the isolation that makes for good rock’n’roll. Recommended for fans of God Is My Co-Pilot and self-effacing fans of The Fall. –Craven (Mouthbomb)


REALIST:
Demo 2012: CD
Realist describe themselves as “DIY dirty basement hardcore,” a description which I not only love, but feel is very accurate. This is raw, stripped-down hardcore with no frills or pretense, and brimming with rage. The riffs are fast, simple, and super-catchy. The vocals roar with barely contained anger, spitting lyrics which are as straightforward as the music. Lyrical topics focus on personal problems and emotions, but in a language to which the listener can easily relate. There are no convoluted metaphors or ironic introspection here, just simple and direct feelings put in words and set to music. The complete package is undeniably catchy hardcore punk that fans of the genre everywhere should rightfully embrace. With only three songs, clocking in at only a minute and a half worth of music, this demo is a kick in the face or a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart that you’re going to want to experience again and again. If it doesn’t make you want to mosh or sing along, call 911 because you might be dead. –Paul J. Comeau (pattyjquinn@gmail.com)


RATFACE:
Dead Rats Blood: 7” single
Somewhat noisy hardcore that mixes of influences of early U.S. bands with stuff like Discharge and Sweden. The bass is heavy and has a way of pushing the songs forward. The guitar is a hazy wall of sound and the vocals sound desperate. Both songs end pretty quickly. “Chaos Never Die” on the second side is the strongest of the two (“Bleak Futures” is on the first side). From the way the guitar opens up with the cranking riff and the drums come thundering in, you know they’re not going to fuck around. It all builds up into one ball of sound, then it’s over. Two songs? How about four or five on the next record, at the very least? –Matt Average (Sit & Spin, sitandspinrecords@gmail.com / sitandspinrecords.blogspot.com)


RANDOM ORBITS:
Heart Attacks: LP
These guys are partial to mainline, Fat Wreck-fueled punk, but that’s not a horrid starting point to build off of. If Lagwagon was a little less focused, they’d be Random Orbits. There are way too many weird guitar solo-ish licks thrown in, but the songs are otherwise palatable enough. I like the incessant we’re from Washington state theme that permeates Heart Attacks, including the imprint on the sleeve that reads, “Northwest or Get Fucked.” Definitely the kind of band that could get big quickly, Random Orbits aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Now that’s punk! –Art Ettinger (La Escalera, laescalerarecords.com)


RAD:
Live on KDVS: Cassette
Thirteen songs on this cassette, with five of them being covers of JFA, Negative Approach, Jerry’s Kids, and two by MDC. This female-fronted band rips through these songs and really does a great job of getting the feeling of being there with the band live in the studio. They do a great job on the covers, adding a bit of freshness to these great songs. This is one of my favorite bands right now. I can’t get enough of them. –Rick E. –Guest Contributor (Pleasant Screams / Sacramento, pleasantscreams.com, sacramaniacs.com)


QUESTIONS:
Life Is a Fight: CD
This is a great little record. Questions are from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and play hardcore that would be right at home on the Revelation catalog in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The specter of Sick Of It All rises high on this one, but Questions never sound like they’re merely aping their mentors—they’re really good at this sound. I was a little leery at first, because I always cringe a bit when I see a Minor Threat cover among the goods (the record closes with “Filler”), but these dudes nailed it, possibly even upping the ante on the urgency of the original. This is one of those records that you pull out when times are hard and fucked because it will inspire you to cut through the shit and get on with it. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Seven Eight Life, seveneightlife.com)


PROSTHETIC ARMS:
Lung Explosives: CD
Fairly rote pop punk stuff. The sound’s clean, the songs are catchy, and they have a bit more Descendents than Queers as their base, but nothing really sets ‘em apart to these ears. –jimmy (La Escalera)


PREGNANCY SCARES:
Facelift: 7” EP
Canadian punkers serve up three tracks per side of noisy punk/hardcore. The songs kinda blend into one another, but they make their point quite effectively without resorting to parlor tricks or relying on ridiculously fast tempos. –jimmy (Deranged)


POLISH HILL STRANGLER:
Self-titled: CD
Apparently named after a villain in a second-rate Bruce Willis movie, Pittsburg, PA’s Polish Hill Strangler specialize in meat and potatoes hardcore with enough vitriol to keep the most ardent admirer of the musical form happy. While nothing on the disc particularly sticks out, it’s a solid release. If I were about twenty years younger, you can bet you would find this in regular rotation in the boombox on the neighborhood skate ramp. Subject matter isn’t too heavy, which I dig. Worthy of mention is “No Wonder You’re a Cripple”—a track that would undoubtedly make the Meatmen proud. –Garrett Barnwell (Polish Hill Strangler, myspace.com/lifeandtimesof)


POISON IDEA:
Darby Crash Rides Again: LP
In a scene already packed to its roof with pissed off, often dangerous people, Poison Idea stood out as one of them bands you just did not want to fuck with. It wasn’t just because they looked the sort that would use your entrails to decorate their Christmas tree if you so much as annoyed them, it was also because, as their myriad releases attest, they dealt in a brand of music that radiated a feral violence that exceeded many of their punk/hardcore peers—their tunes felt like an ass-whoopin’, but they also made you wanna bounce off the walls and do a little goin’ off yourself. Adding to an already stellar back catalog, TKO and Southern Lord dish up a couple of demos, including the legendary one from which this collection derives its name, a couple of outtakes from the Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes EP, and a 1983 radio recording, all of it great, both in sound and performance quality. Bands like this are few and far between, and this is definitely one of those must-have items for even the passive punk aficionado. –jimmy (TKO)


PINK REASON:
Ache for You: 7” single

Must confess, this is my first time hearing this group. I know, I know, they’ve been around for some time, and I do remember seeing the name in a lot of the zines, blogs, and whatever forms of media the kids are talking about these days. So, without that out of the way... “Darken Daze” on the B-side is the more down feeling of the two. Sounds like a mix of early American punk with some bastardized take on the blues. Then they put a slightly noisy spin on it towards the end. Nothing overbearing; it just creeps in and makes itself known as the song unrolls. The A-side, “Ache for You,” is more upbeat musically, though the lyrics and the way they are delivered give one a sense of desperation and confusion. I like how the guitar is up and has this noisy way about it. The playing is urgent and really pushing things around. The way both guitars come in towards the end and ratchet up the dissonance is great! I like this, but I can’t help but think to really develop an appreciation of this band, one would need to listen to an LP’s worth of music.

–Matt Average (Savage Quality, savagequalityrecordings.com)


PEOPLES TEMPLE:
Looters Game: 7”
“Looter’s Game” is a stomper steeped in reverb-drenched production, tambourines, and an overall sensibility straight outta 1967. The flip, “Highs and Lows,” is slower and lysergic-friendly, with the sound vacillating between stereo and mono and a woozy guitar lead dropping in throughout. –jimmy (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)


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