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Record Reviews

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ARMALITE:
Humongous: 7”EP
If you’ve been into punk rock for more than a couple years, chances are you make rules for yourself. Here’s one of mine. The difference between a band and a “band” is that they have to write, play, and record at least one new song every ten years. X is a “band.” Descendents are a band. It takes a lot for me to ever go see a “band.” As we all know, nostalgia’s expensive and I’m not talking the price of admission. Armalite were coasting up to their ten-year mark since their one and only LP. Armalite features Atom (of …And His Package, chemistry and physics teacher), Dan Yemin (Ph.D., Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black), Jeff Ziga (tricycle operator/co-owner Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Affirmative Action Jackson), and Mike McKee (Kill the Man Who Questions, fan of Flag Of Democracy). There’s a light-handed clown/professor, Chuck D/Flavor Flav dynamic in Armalite that makes it all work. Atom sounds like puberty. Dan’s guitar sounds like it’s laying a trap made by a smart brain. So it’s Sid and Marty Krofft in one ear, Decontrol (not SSD; the Philly one, with the motorcycles) in the other, and they get a ten-year punch on their card, to continue being a band, not a “band.” A totally respectable and pleasing way to hear a band age. –todd (No Idea, noidearecords.com)


ANCIENT FILTH:
Self-titled: EP
‘The Fuck? Void meets Flag? My prayers have been answered! No half-assed, cookie cutter, yawn-inducing tunes on this record at all: this is commandeering hardcore punk with a conscience and an air of mysticism. Fantastic artwork. Hateful lyrics. 45RPM. You can’t go wrong! –Juan Espinosa (Shock To The System)


AMERICAN LIES:
Listen, That’s Disco: 1-sided 12” EP
My geography’s not the best. Neither is my sense of time. The East Bay late ‘80s/early ‘90s has shifted to the Inland Empire (2009-201?). I don’t think anyone’s gonna deny that without the early Lookout and Fat catalogs shipping into chain stores in the dryer and hotter parts of Southern California that American Lies wouldn’t exist in its present state. American Lies is less beef jerky and more fruit leather. Sure, you can reduce all the ingredients to their original fruit components: Crimpshrine, Pinhead Gunpowder, Fifteen, NOFX, Sludgeworth. The good news with fruit leather is that all those musical notes are still pliable, flexible, shapeable, provide some nutrition. It’s not over-salted, dry, brittle relying on artificial preservation. American Lies are also playing with tangible excitement. The B-side is a bitchin’ silkscreen. Not for fans of disco. For fans who wish there was a record that bridged Today’s Empires… Tomorrow’s Ashes and Fallow. –todd (americanliesband@gmail.com, Way Out West / Muy Autentico / Mouse House)


AGE OF COLLAPSE:
Burden of Beast: LP
Waves of guitars and distortion come crashing out of your speakers, breaking across the room, decimating furniture, and ruining your carpet. Or something like that. Age Of Collapse have spun a few His Hero Is Gone records in their time, but they’ve built on that structure, put more of a crushing edge in their sound, and added some atmospheric touches to get the point across. I like that they pick up the speed and get into some thrash with songs like “Silver Lining,” as it helps to offset the mainly mid-tempo crawl of the other songs. The riff they kick into on “Hands That Take” is a killer. Fast, jittery, and direct. When they do stuff like this I’m like, “Fuck yeah!! More please!!” as they shift down the speed and move at a moderately hurried gait. Such actions only intensify their sonic power. Plus they have some NWOBHM influences—that come to the fore in the song “Life of Misery”—that make me wonder what they could do if they just went for it and wrote some songs that were more in that vein and less in the punk realm. Then there’s a song like “Final March” which has a cold and dreary introduction that gives way to a head banging riff, eventually going over into blinding speed. But the slower and mid-paced tempos in this song are the ones that crush the most. Opposing dynamics compressed in a short time span, pulled off with good results. –Matt Average (Aborted Society, abortedsociety.com)


AGATHA:
Self-titled: Cassette
In a time when punk bands are merely social clubs to grow beer bellies in and hardcore bands are just genre-centric, font-fetishists, a band like Agatha couldn’t be more timely. Agatha stands out as art in a world of photocopies, because they are relentless in their directive. They are unabashedly queer, feminist, and radical and, thus, reconstruct a dialogue that hasn’t been present in punk for a long time. Listening to their songs and reading their lyrics often makes me uneasy, even though they are not particularly confrontational or reactionary. Their songs come from a more personal place, so it’s the courage of their convictions that challenge me as a listener and, more importantly, as a human being. They come from a personal demand to be recognized and respected that makes me question my privilege, complacency, and apathy. Why has it been so long since I’ve felt this way in anything involving punk? This isn’t easy-listening music like crust, restating the obvious like “war is bad” in a clichéd and detached manner. No, Agatha is so fresh in their anger that they render the “preaching to the choir” argument irrelevant because the punk scene itself has become so complacent and apathetic and “anti-P.C” (a term that I refuse to recognize) that the scene itself needs to be shaken up. I know that I’m shaken up. The power in these songs does more than move me. It moves me to be a better person. –Craven (Self-released, agatha206@yahoo.com)


ADELIT@S:
No Hay Descanso: LP
Interesting mix of street-level Mexican music and anarcho-hardcore from a band hailing Portland, Oregon. The songs bounce back and forth (sometimes even within the same song) between almost folky bits vaguely influenced by huapangos and rancheras to blazing thrash. Nice hand-screened cover with lyrics (including translations for the Castellano-challenged), too. –jimmy (Tomorrow Belongs to Us, punkisaghetto@gmail.com)


ACCORDION CRIMES:
Songs to Drive Wives Away: LP
Spot-on skronk rock, for the most part, with quieter moments and passages (one even including what sounds like cellos) interspersed to keep things from degenerating into a monotonous din. These kids would’ve surely been the belles of the Touch & Go/AmRep/noise rock ball two decades ago, and are definitely worth a listen now. –jimmy (Cash Cow)


TIGHT FITS!:
Demo: Cassette
Nihilistic punk that declares “I hate everyone around me and everything that I see.” So you can rest assured there’s no songs about changing the world, or skateboards, or dumb shit pop love songs. Instead, you get demands for drugs. These guys can play, as evidenced by some of the solos (check out “Release the Poison” for proof). The guitars and drums, together, have a solid punch. I imagine live they could deliver. The vocalist reminds me of Jeff Klein (NOTA) and Andrew Lersten (Vilently Ill), with that strangled growl sound and vitriol. “Das Wuff Wuff,” “Release the Poison,” and “Are You Wounded / Dog Jaw” kind of bogs down, but, other than that, it’s hate and more hate. If they use this demo to see what works and what doesn’t, they could be a band to watch for. –Matt Average (Self-released)


THESE CHARMING COBRAS:
Dime Sized Deaths: CD
Sludgy rock with no shortage of grunge pumped in, right down to the In Utero-esque production. To their credit, they’re pretty good at it, and the singer, whose voice has a wee bit of the same timbre as like Vaginal Crème Davis, adds an additional sense of uniqueness to what they’re doin’. –jimmy (thesecharmingcobras@gmail.com)


TERRORDACTYLS:
Unknown Terror: 7”
Ten seconds in: this could go either way; starts with a pretty cool, driving riff that could either build into some great post punk ala Drunkdriver or go into thrash metal territory. Annnnnnnnd it’s thrash metal. Don’t get me wrong, I own some Nuclear Assault and Mortal Sin LPs, but I just can’t get behind the thrash revival. Municipal Waste was fun for a little while, but I rarely feel the urge to pull out Waste Em All, and whenever they come on shuffle on my MP3 player, nine times out of ten, I hit next. This just all sounds the same to me. I can’t relate. Given their lyrical content, I’m pretty sure these dudes don’t take themselves too seriously and are just having a good time. More power to them. I’d probably party with them; might even watch (and enjoy) their band. I just don’t wanna listen to it at home. –Chris Mason (World Won’t Listen / Gonin Ape Shit / Suicidal Logic)


TENDERIZOR:
Touch the Sword: LP
There’s an eagle clutching a sword on the cover. I wonder if there’s any chance this will be metal? It’s well done, good, solid thrash with high-pitched vocals; probably as good as any band from your town, and better than most. –frame (Sick Sick Sick)


SURROGATE ACTIVITY:
Demo: Cassette
Chaotic punk-type music that has a hint of indie rock in there. The dual vocals kind of remind me of Brain F≠—where they’re off kilter from one another—though this is nowhere near as dark or out of whack. The instruments sound like they’re in a wagon, hauling ass down a bumpy hill: non-stop forward motion that races with a reckless intent. Not really thrash, just up-tempo and raw. This isn’t bad, though there is an air of preciousness I could do without. Less cute and more attitude, please. –Matt Average (julsgeneric@hotmail.com)


SUPPLEMENT:
Self-titled: CD
Reminds me of an old Epitaph garage rock band from the ‘90s, but I don’t remember which one. Maybe Gas Huffer? Or the Red Aunts? Those were fun bands where I’d be like, “Oh, this is pretty cool, but I don’t know anything about them,” and this is about the same. –joe (Thesupplementrocks@gmail.com)


SSSSNAKES / THE SLOW DEATH: ::
Split: 7”
Ssssnakes: I have a cognitive dissonance with Ssssnakes. Visually, on flyers, on their interwebs, they drop that they have an affinity to both old school and skate punk. So when I go into this thinking JFA, Big Boys, Clay Wheels, Faction, it’s not that at all. It’s more Millencolin, MXPX-y. There’s other stuff in there, but big, clean production and snotty, rasp-huff vocals wasn’t what I was expecting at the tip of the spear. Miami Vice color scheme website. The Slow Death: Daryl and I work within ten feet of one another for about twenty-four hours a week. I fully admit I have a bad memory. He’ll say something about a record or a band, I’ll listen, then a couple days later, I’ll totally believe I had an original idea. “You know what? It takes more than a 7” for The Slow Death or Pretty Boy to really make a mark. Like, with a full-length, you can just stew in it. The power’s in the full lengths. Born Ugly Got Worse is great.” I’m all, “You’re right.” This time, Daryl gets the credit and no one on the record sounds like Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou of Wham! The weird thing is when their side of the 7” gets put into a collection, I’ll be all, “This is so rad.” Slow Death sounds different—and shines brighter—in the longer formats. –todd (Kiss Of Death / SWFU / Not Shy Of The DIY)


SONIC DISORDOR / NATHAN SURFACE:
Self-titled: Cassette
This is a noise cassingle, which is weird and seems like a waste. But maybe they just happened to have a bunch of archaic five minute cassettes lying around from the nineties. If that’s the case, I congratulate them on putting such a thing to good use. It sounds like—I don’t know—noise. It’s five minutes on both sides of beeps and scrapes and static and shit. If that’s your thing. –Craven (Disorderly Domain, no contact listed)


SOFY MAJOR / MEMBRANE:
Split: LP
Both of these bands are from France, and I had never heard of either of them and don’t know how well they’re known in Europe. I do know that it took me a second to get into Sofy Major, but when it clicked I was hooked. They remind me a lot of SST-era Soundgarden, but with more modern stoner leanings. Their guitar tone is excellent and the recording sounds really polished and commercial. That aspect sort of irks me at certain points, but they’re doing what they’re doing so well that I can look past it. Membrane are sort of a less chaotic version of Anodyne. Their side tends to get overly drone-y. I get it, but it just doesn’t pull me in like I wish it would. No matter, the Sofy Major side is worth it alone. –Ian Wise (Bigout, bigoutrecords.free.fr)


SOFT OPENING:
Self-titled: LP
Spaced-out guitar music that varies in tempo and mood. At times, I’m reminded of Earth, then they sometimes channel early Can. For the most part, these songs are slow and deliberate, at times bordering on sludge, but they don’t downtune and get heavy. Much like the aforementioned Earth, they play their heaviness out in more subtle ways. The songs breath, letting sound rise. The drum beats are deliberate, as though they’re contemplating every move. There are vocals, but they’re sort of in the background, giving added texture. There are a couple songs that want to soar, such as the opener, but they show restraint and keep everything cool and collected, building a tension that increases as the song plays out. This is good listening, but something that requires the right mood for putting on the turntable. –Matt Average (Humdinger, humdingerrecords.com)


SHELL CORPORATION:
Force Majeure: CD
It’s like nothing’s changed since the nineties with this melodic hardcore stuff. A time when I—like many other young punks—owned Fat Music for Fat People among other similar compilations which I listened to in search of new punk bands. I also had Epitaph compilations like More Songs about Anger, Fear, Sex and Death. But I quickly moved on. It was always too clean and watered down for me, and a lot of it was just dumb, like songs about not wanting to take a shower. Stuff like Pennywise and Strung Out seemed to, at best, be gateway bands for most of the punks I know. It was quickly replaced with better stuff by simply getting out to shows. The fact that it’s still happening is always kind of a shock to me. Who’s listening to this kind of super over-produced mediocrity? Is it even the punks? Or is it just snowboarders and alterna-bros these days? Is it the same folks who listened to it back in the ‘90s having never scratched the surface, or a revolving door of fourteen to eighteen-year-olds? I really doubt there’s any money to be made in middle-of-the-road Vans Warped Tour punk these days. That bubble is long popped. So is this a sincere effort? These guys will even let you download this album for free, so they can’t be all bad. Their songs are politically relevant, too. If they were all teenagers, that might make a little bit more sense. I’m not, by any means, saying they look old, but nobody would fault them for doing the ex-punk, beard-country thing. Who’s their audience? –Craven (Fat)


SHARKPACT:
Ditches: LP
Sharkpact is a male/female, drums/keyboard duo out of Olympia, WA. They may only be two people with two instruments, but they make that little bit go a long way. Unfortunately, I don’t like the saccharine emo punk way that they take it. Features members of Mutoid Men and Chin Up, Meriwether. –Vincent Battilana (Rumbletowne / Ditch)


SCARRED, THE:
Live Fast Die Poor: CD
Catchy, well-played and produced songs that, in the end, just don’t resonate with me. Reminds me of the stuff I used to hear back in ‘96/’97 on 120 Minutes when they decided to play “punk” music for a second. The singer has just a hint of Billie Joe Armstrong in his voice and there’s a bit of a Rancid feel. You could really look at it like this: if you read the name of this band and their album title and said “Hey, that sounds interesting!” than this record is probably right up your alley. If you let out a slight groan and set it in a rapidly growing review pile that you swear you’re going to get to one of these days, then maybe not so much. I’ll let you be the judge. –Ryan Horky (Jailhouse, jailhouserecords.com)


SARKYNEET:
Ei Enaa: CD
Hrrmmm... I really like their “Mitã On Olla Devton?” from not too long back. Had high expectations for a full-length as a result. What’s on here is too polished and watered down, for the most part. They could easily fall into the realm of 10,000 Maniacs and R.E.M.: pop rock music mixed with folk and “Americana” (I imagine there’s a better description for this, since it’s not a sound only found in the U.S.). They do what they do well, and the singer has a great voice. I was hoping for more songs like “Mitã On Olla Devton?” (which is on here), but that’s not really found elsewhere. I can’t fault them for that. It’s just not my preference. –Matt Average (Combat Rock Industry, combatrockindustry.net)


SALEM RAGES:
Disturb Not the Sleep of Death: 7”
This record comes with a coupon that states: “Free!! We guarantee to bury you without charge if you die of fright during Salem Rages.” I’m writing this review from a shitty coffin that I had to pay for myself because I died of boredom, which isn’t covered. Lame. Salem Rages, despite an awesome band name, puts a little too much effort into being spooky and not enough into writing catchy songs. On first listen, I couldn’t really discern the choruses from the verses. I still can’t on some of the songs. Somewhere amidst all the wispy woooo vocals, the stab stab stab guitars and the tinkle tinkle keys is an awesomely frightening band. I hope they find it by the time they put out the next record, because I love free shit. –mp (salemrages.co.uk)


ROWDY DOWNSTAIRS:
Demo: Cassette
There’s something about the overall feel of this band that’s really familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The best comparison I can come up with is Blatz, but there’s something else that’s very specific that I can’t pinpoint. They’re from Tennessee, so I may have seen people in this band in other bands when I was younger and am picking up on that, but I can’t be sure. Their songs are all played just-faster-than-mid-tempo, but each track is unique and the guitar riffs put in a lot of work on the top three strings and sound distinct. The lyrics are mostly about relationships in and out of the punk scene, and the plainness, naivety, and earnestness in them is endearing. Some of the music feels like the band isn’t synched up quite yet—and the drums could be louder—but I’m really impressed with this as a demo and think this band could do something really great when they settle in with each other. –Ian Wise (Self-released)


RISK:
Self-titled: LP
Anger is probably the best musical emotion, due its sheer versatility. The description of “angry people music” already conjures up a particularly brutal pallet of sounds. Anger only implies the inflection of the notes, but does not determine speed or texture. Juggling between lightning fast and sludge metal slow, Risk offers up eight particularly raw specimens to examine. All in all, a thumbs up from me, though not a record I’d have ever have checked out on my own. I would compare it Dillinger Escape Plan, but I haven’t bothered to listen to them in like four years. Instead, I’ll contest that this record sounds like the parts of Leftover Crack when Stza pretends to not be into ska. –Bryan Static (Self-released)


RESTARTS, THE:
Slumworld: LP
New fuckers in this town got the Koran wrong way round / their rise don’t blame me logic defy middle east nazi. These are the lyrics to The Restarts song “Jihad.” When put in context with the rest of the lyrics to the song, I’m able to gather that it’s against religious fundamentalism, which I can get behind. But is it too much to ask for something besides a whole lot of non-sequiturs strung together and sung really fast? Or are they trying to dumb it down for the audience, it being working-class streetpunk and all? This is a repress of an album from 1995. It seems somewhat anticipated and well-loved. It’s also a great package. (My vinyl was clear with white splotches through it.) Their hearts are obviously in the right place: left-leaning and totally D.I.Y. I really wanted to like it, but it didn’t grab me. Their entire aesthetic, which, much like the lyrics to “Jihad,” just seems... stupid. I would expect a band informed enough to take on such radical platforms would be able to present it in a more relevant and intelligent way. Or at least to raise the bar that Wattie from The Exploited set. –Craven (nolabelrecords.org)


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