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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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WE THE DROWNED:
When I Can I Will: CD
Poppy U.K. punk with a very early ‘90s bent to it and a considerable amount of sophistication in the songs’ structures. There’s also a bit of a dark, moody edge to it, making it more akin to Jawbreaker than another in the endless parade of Queers/Screeching Weasel xeroxed clones. –jimmy (Can’t Drink Flowers, cantdrinkflowers.com)


VARUKERS, THE:
Vintage Varukers (Rare and Unreleased 1980-1985): CD
I’ve never actually owned a Varukers record; an English pen-pal once put some songs of theirs on a comp tape he made for me in 1982, but that’s as Varukery as i get. I’ve always liked that song “Destroy The Youth” ((which ain’t on here)), but, as a non-owner of any portion of the Varukers primary canon, i feel about as qualified to provide valid insight on this “rare and unreleased” suite of Exploited-singing-Discharge tunes as my little cousin would have been to write an in-depth review on the Beatles’ career after dancing around all Christmas to her first Beatles album, which was one of those weird ‘90s rare/unreleased compilation things, and thus, presumably, so far afield from a legitimate jumping-on point as to render her enthusiasm somewhat silly. Plus she danced weird. I can say with some authority that these guys were among the faster U.K. punk bands in the early 80’s, so, y’know, there’s that... but, to be brutally frank, i really just came to hear “Destroy The Youth” and go home, so what the fuck am i still doing here? BEST SONG: Well, “Destroy The Youth,” if it was on here. BEST SONG TITLE: “Varuker.” I applaud their thematic unity. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: If you listen carefully to the live tracks at the end of the disc, you can hear various MacIntosh computer system sounds, like the little piano trill made when a process has been completed, and numerous pointer clicks. –norb (Antisociety)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Spokanarchy!: Original Soundtrack: CD/LP
This soundtrack is the accompaniment to the documentary Spokanarchy!, a look at the Spokane, Washington, punk scene during the late 1970s into the ‘80s. Bits of these songs are played through the documentary, but here are sixteen tracks in fifty-three minutes, from a number of bands you’ve never heard of. At first, this caused me to question the purpose of such a release, but as I thought about it I realized that not being well-known doesn’t mean a band is bad. This is more of a document of an unknown punk scene from a particular time that, until now, had not been recognized in its whole and displayed for the outside world. Spokane wasn’t a traditional music scene when it first started, though. There wasn’t an overriding influence from New York City or Los Angeles. Spokane was a mish-mash of styles: new wave, Ramones-influenced punk, freaky art scene stuff, and a little bit of this and that. So the range of bands here include the Pink Floyd-influenced new wave sound of Sweet Madness to the hardcore punk of Vampire Lezbos and the reggae influence of M’na M’na. I can’t help but be reminded of my suburban Indiana punk scene in the ‘90s and how, despite our location and lack of culture, some of the bands really were quite good and interesting. Spokane had the same thing going on a decade or two earlier, it would seem, just with different genres. I wouldn’t want to say all the songs on here are great. Just like a compilation of bands from my home area during my high school and college years, there would certainly be some subpar songs. The actual bands may be quite good, but it’s hard to say based on just hearing one or two songs. But, on the whole, I really enjoyed a number of these tracks. Terror Couple’s “This is Spokane, Fuck L.A.” and Vampire Lezbos’ “Plasma” were among my favorites (although both VL songs were up my alley). If you’re feeling adventurous, have some connection back to Spokane or Washington state, or want to hear an example of people building a punk scene far away from its traditional foundations during punk’s early days, then this soundtrack is for you. –kurt (spokanarchy.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Sacramento Records Anthology: 1999-2004: Cassette
If you’ve been paying attention, then you are aware of the fact that Sacramento harbors many amazing bands. You might have missed some of California’s capitol city’s great offerings even if you have been paying attention, as that’s just the way it goes. Either way, here’s a chance to get some history. Charles Albright’s Sac Records has been documenting some of Sacto’s best for over a decade now. Sacramento tape label Pleasant Screams teamed up with Sac to bring you this here tape that covers the earlier years of Sac Records’ existence. Some of the best from the actual releases fill out the A side while the back is constituted of releases that never materialized, with the only exception I know being the Horny Mormons (Sac did a CD comp of their stuff). Starting off the tape are an excellent track each from The Bananas and The Knockoffs that were harvested from the Sac reissue of the Swimming in the Secret C comp originally on Secret Center, making Pleasant Screams the third Sacto label to put ‘em on a comp! Other highlights that help form the front side are tracks by the goofy Four Eyes (took me over a decade to recognize their awesomeness), Milhouse USA (quite possibly the best female-fronted punk band from Sac ever—Milhouse SMF could give ‘em a run for their money, though), and The Colonels (who will step forth and release a collection of this bands gems?!). Besides Horny Mormons leading off the flip with their killer “Discombobulated” (which mentions biting the mighty Sewer Trout!), you get more screwball tracks from Four Eyes, some aggressive and dancey yet jarring punk numbers from The Gynas, and one of the best songs from popsters Bright Ideas (recorded back in ‘02 with their Saturdays record). Fifteen bands, twenty-six songs, not a dull moment. Extremely recommended. –Vincent Battilana (Pleasant Screams, pleasantscreams.storenvy.com / Sacramento, sacramaniacs.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Cashing in on Christmas: CD
Red Alert, The FUs, Angry Snowmans, The USM, Evacuate, and oodles more launch an offensive to stave off the Christmas blahs with eighteen holiday-themed classics and originals. The results are expectedly mixed for this kind of endeavor —good, bad, and “keee-rist what were they thinkin?” all well represented—but ultimately should serve as the perfect punk-fam stocking stuffer and mood music for the annual Torching of the Christmas Tree. –jimmy (facebook.com/blackholerecs)


VACANT FEVER:
Kill Kill Kill: 7” EP
Brief, fuzzy, and precise barely-post-minimal almost-art-rock that seems at times like it is trying to mentally insert a large, densely-studded silicon rubber centipede into my lower intestine so it can teach me to enjoy it when it pulls the centipede slowly out of my butt. The first couple songs were over three minutes long and i thought maybe they were too serious/pretentious/whatever for me, but the minute-something songs like “Yeah Yeah” and “Like It Or Not” are actually pretty cool, and briefly reminded me of “Psychocandy” era Jesus & Mary Chain doing Wanderers covers, although i overcame that hallucination with the power of my oversized mutant brain. Now, if you’ll excuse me, i have to see a man about a large, densely-studded centipede. Good day. BEST SONG: “Yeah Yeah” BEST SONG TITLE: “Yeah Yeah,” especially if you’re the Revillos. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Not surprisingly, the tits on the cover prevented me from noticing the bloody nose on the cover for quite some time. –norb (Vacant Fever)


USELESS ID:
Symptoms: CD
I always kinda assume that any Fat Wreck band I haven’t heard of or didn’t make their way up on a label I dig is probably “for kids.” That’s probably a shitty generalization, but it’s one that seems to be pretty accurate in the case of Useless ID. Straightforward, fast, melodic-yet-snarly punk rock played by guys who likely grew up on the same rather-accessible Southern California skatepunk that most of us found our stride with, but never really moved on from there. I’m sure a jillion kids love this shit, but I won’t be jumping on board. –Dave Williams (Fat Wreck)


UNRELEASEABLES:
Crewe Boys: 7” EP
Lo-fi, lo-rent Ramones aping. –jimmy (Batshit, batshitrecords.com)


UNHOLY MAJESTY:
Self-titled: 7” EP
I can’t think of another adjective for this debut, except for “lovely.” The chords are enough to make you forget what you’re doing and take notice. These three doom and gloom tracks feature melodic U.K. grindcore with throat-ripping growls spliced with sound bites. Throw in some serious guitar solos that remind me of early Kirk Hammett and Dave Mustaine and Unholy Majesty have my full attention. “Age of Affliction,” my fave, opens this Pandora’s Box with a slow, bone-grinding riff and turns things up with a double kick drum. Delicious. Recommended for those who want a little more than a wall of noise with their reign of terror. –Kristen K (A389, a389records.com)


TWO TEARS:
Eat People: 7” EP

Simple trash rock from a former Red Aunt. The two tracks on the A-side are up-tempo, while the flip, “Senso Unico,” slows things down with just a hint of western flair.

–jimmy (Kind Turkey, kindturkeyrecords.com)


TROPHY WIVES:
Old Scratch : LP
Ex-members of Elliott, Lords, and Coliseum attempting to bridge the gap between the Wipers and Kyuss. I suppose it is a successful attempt, but this is not a bridge I am interested in crossing. –frame (Latest Flame)


TOUCH COMMITTEE:
Winter Beard: LP
Super winsome throwback to mid-’90s emo rock like Braid, Texas Is The Reason, or Sensefield, with an emphasis on that scene’s smiley, bouncy aspects. Emo without the angst, but with handclaps, smiles, and great guitar work. And they pull it off without being dippy. The punker in me prefers the faster songs, but it plays all the way through, enhanced by meaty production. –CT Terry (20sidedrecords.com)


THOR’S TEETH:
Sonar: LP
I like imagining the singer describing this record to his friends, “Dude, so I dressed up like a crazy Gwar Viking, and the guys from Pulling Teeth played all these W.A.S.P. riffs and, dude, we totally have a song called ‘Thunderhawk.’ We recorded a live album. You shoulda been there!” Being there was important. The sound is fine, but I feel like I’m missing out on the fun by not seeing it. The fact that there’s almost as much onstage banter as music drives that point home. –CT Terry (A389records.com)


TENDRIL:
Planet: Cassette
I was standing by the boombox, frowning, when my girlfriend walked in and asked, “Is the tape fucked up or is that the band?” Then I said, “You just wrote my review for me.” –CT Terry (tensionheadrecords@gmail.com)


SUN OF EYES:
Bedroom Demo: CD-R
One o’ them bands that prance around the gray area between noise rock and industrial music, which means that it’s in turns noisy, sludgy, plodding, brooding, and often more interested in mood than rocking the party. I reckon it’s an acquired taste, but I thought the six tracks here were nifty. Back says this is limited to forty copies. –jimmy (No address)


STONE KINGS :
Self-titled: CD
Visually, this is as cheesy as it gets, complete with logos of huge corporate online locales to “network” and “follow” this band. Sonically, somehow, this is an almost ridiculous approximation of ‘90s stoner rock. Imagine Kyuss with a really crappy singer and you have the Stone Kings. It would not have been bad at four tunes or so, but this thing is over an hour and really starts to grate. Honestly, this should probably be worse considering this band proclaims both Incubus and Nickelback as huge influences. Hell, even the putrid Queens Of The Stone Age will beat out that shit. –frame (Rebelseed, stonekings.co.uk/contact.html)


STITCHES, THE:
Do the Jetset: 12” EP
Damn it. I like the Stitches. Despite its obvious limitations, I’ve really been getting back into the whole Modern Action/No Front Teeth snotty punk thing lately. And the Stitches are not only stalwarts of the genre, but they’re generally really good at it. So yeah, it pains me to say, but this EP is pretty much unlistenable. Recorded in one day, Do the Jetset consists of reworked versions of various b-sides and covers spanning the Stitches’ career. The only catch is that these reworked versions pretty much suck and pale in comparison to the originals. Featuring a drum machine, woefully tinny guitars and vocals, and a resounding sense of awkwardness, these six songs are totally unnecessary. I just don’t understand why these guys wouldn’t have used their available resources—the packaging for this record is impressive, and surely wasn’t cheap—to do something new, instead of rehashing fifteen year-old songs in a way that takes every ounce of energy and fun from them. –keith (Vinyl Dog)


SONIC AVENUES:
Television Youth: CD
This sophomore full length from the Montreal-based band is a solid chunk of power pop with a hearty Exploding Hearts sheen. It’s driving, it has hooks, and it there’s a nice amount of raggediness. It’s pretty much a winner. The album has the vibe of an album one would throw on their portable record player at a summer barbeque, where one would expect a bunch of record collector friends to show up. My favorite part of the album is the Jay Reatard-esque outro to the last song, “Always Looking for Something.” Also, quick observation, but Killed By Death pop punk bands really love their television songs. Punk godfathers The Adverts had “Television’s Over,” the Adored had “Television Riot,” Clorox Girls/Red Dons side project Suspect Parts had “17 Television,” and now Sonic Avenues have the title track to this album. Viva le cathode rays! –Adrian Salas (Dirtnap)


SONIC AVENUES:
Television Youth: CD
Picking up right where their self-titled debut left off, Sonic Avenues dish up ten more choice cuts of punk-edged power pop (or is it the other way around?) with tunes that recall the best parts of both worlds and have more killer hooks than a bait and tackle shop. Another stunner here from these guys. –jimmy (Dirtnap)


SILO HALO:
Night and the City: CD
This debut from a DC trio drifts from post-punk to Southern gothic and right into psychedelic with subdued male/female vocals and lo-fi acoustics. Moody, unrequited Angelinos may take note of their likability to early Great Northern, particularly with the smooth drum beat and female vocals on “You Don’t Dream.” “Out of Your Fugue” conjures up Nick Cave or Concrete Blonde with languid, melancholic guitar chords. My fav, “Stones inside Her Chest,” reminds me of early Cranes with minimalistic, haunting bass and drums like crashing waves. For the sullen hipster in you. –Kristen K (Etxe, etxerecords.com)


SIDEKICKS, THE:
Awkward Breeds: CD
I saw these guys last year with Bomb The Music Industry, and they were alright live. I can’t really get into this album, though. The clean indie rock, punk/emo here makes me think of the early Get Up Kids but with less danger and grit. Which is a bit of an odd thing since I never really have thought of TGUK as the most incorrigible crew of degenerate brigands. Singer Steven Ciolek does have a distinct yelp though, which pushes some songs into noticeable territory. “1940’s Fighter Jet,” in particular, has an ear-worm of a vocal melody. I would say this falls into the odd Lemonheads territory of a netherworld between melodic punk and indie music. As such, it’s tough to ever be in the mood to throw this on for a listen, as it never really quite satisfies the mood for either. –Adrian Salas (Red Scare)


SHOCK FUTURO:
Ruido Destructivo: 7” EP
Sloppy, rudimentary hardcore en español from a band that hails from New Zealand. –jimmy (El Paso, elpasorecordsonline.com)


SHIT THE COW:
Volume/Cow: CD
Big sound modern alt-rock stuff primed and ready for radio consumption. Unlike so much of the shit on the radio, this would actually come off as a bit of fresh air scrunched between the slabs of cow shit being programmed on KROQ and its clones. –jimmy (Shit The Cow, no address)


SHIT GETS SMASHED:
Shit Happens: 7” EP
Early hardcore feel here, somewhere between the thug-pop of California’s beaches and the catchy politi-core of Reagan Youth. The lyrics themselves don’t appear to take themselves too seriously, but the tunes are tight and catchy. –jimmy (Shit Gets Smashed, myspace.com/shitgetssmashed)


HOMEBREW:
Last Orders: CD
Pedestrian street punk stuff from a band that’s been around a good spell. The songs are solid and catchy without really standing out, production is clean, the lyrics address micro and macro issues and there’s even a Chaos U.K. cover that ain’t chaotic in the least. In the end, not something one would rip off the player and send flying out the nearest window, but it ain’t exactly mind-bogglingly good, either. –jimmy (Bombed Out, bombedout.com)


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