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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD:
Knife Man: CD
Getting this in the mail was a strange experience. It took me back to my first Razorcake summer, to seeing these guys live in L.A., buying an EP, and submitting it in my first batch of reviews. I spent a week listening to all my AJJ material before opening this. In other words, I was able to put it into a sort of context as a definite fan. They slow down the tempo here and, while on some songs like “Reign on Me,” it takes them to a perfect place; on others they just get stuck somewhere in the middle. There’s a strange grey area in between folk music and straightforward rock songs where a few of these tracks reside. It’s also kind of long. The track “Sad Song (Intermission),” sounds so much like Bright Eyes it just blows my mind, though I must note I’m only referring to the actual recorded versions. Live, it’s a whole different experience, as AJJ mostly tour as a duo and take the songs back to their bare bones, for better or worse. To be quite honest, I didn’t really dig the production on this. It’s one thing to have a well-produced album with a full rock band instead of the usual acoustics (Can’t Maintain) and quite another to have one with songs that seem to reach for REM greatness via over-instrumentation and constant sound clips (this one). There are gems here, but there is also coal, which has never been the case with this band, as far as I’m concerned, so I am a bit bummed. –Rene Navarro (Asian Man)


AMPERE:
Like Shadows: CD/LP
I used to listen to screamo a lot back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s and loved it, but thought that stuff akin to Hot Cross and pg. 99 had seen its day. Little did I know that Will, the guitarist from Orchid, has been blazing away since 2002 with Ampere. Where have I been? Then again, it’s taken Ampere nine years to come out with their first full length of fifteen songs, clocking in at thirteen minutes. I understand the interest in brevity, but I usually prefer my screamy hardcore a bit lengthier. That being said, I think that if my life was going to end in some glorious, severe manner, I’d like this to be the soundtrack. This is the sound of the world collapsing, caving in on itself; this is the sound of everything you love going to shit; this is the sound of desperation, of intense hemorrhaging, of nervous breakdowns. Imagine an English-speaking version of Japan’s Envy with much shorter songs and only their full-on blasts of intensity. Former screamo fans—come out of the woodwork and get this! –kurt (No Idea)


AMOEBAS:
Self-titled: 12”EP
One of the supreme difficulties of being a record reviewer is having seen these waves roll in before in sets. It’s far from the first time you’ve surveyed these waves, seen the gales, know how it’ll break, where the kooks’ll cluster. You’re not as in a hurry to suit up and run into the ocean when the yellow flag with the black dot in the middle is flappin’. So, in attempts to not become Ye Olde Jaded Fucke, I took my New Beach Alliance time with Amoebas. I took my paperback out, sat on the sand, took naps, got an unexpected sunburn with crisp lines as the Amoebas played over the public announcement speaker. All this metaphor is to say that there’s a definite line in the sand between bands worth listening to and bands that are just, “Blah, whatever.” The Amoebas are a Michigan band that enjoys the Stitches and the Carbonas in equal measure. It took a few spins to figure, “Yep. They know how to structure a song and how to ride a wave, instead of sneer and expect people to clap at their limited abilities and obscure vinyl collection.” Good stuff. –todd (Modern Action / Gimme)


AMISTAD, THE / NEW BRUISES:
Split: 7”
I’m really digging All In Vinyl’s series of U.K./American splits. They’re totally carrying on the Snuffy Smiles tradition (you know, just with a different country involved). The Amistad: Shit yeah. Catchy-as-hell punk rock from the U.K. Definitely in the same league as their fellow countrymen like Dauntless Elite and Bangers. A couple side notes: 1.) the guitar tone on these recordings is perfect and 2.) “If you find some answers, you’ve got 140 characters” - totally made me look up how many characters you get in a tweet, and lo and behold the answer is 140. New Bruises: One of my major complaints with a lot of “gruff” punk is that a lot of bands, try as they might, aren’t nearly catchy or interesting enough that I find myself humming their songs when alone. New Bruises is one of the bands that I’ve never really had that problem with. Solid stuff! Good split. –Chris Mason (All In Vinyl, allinvinyl.com)


ALICJA-POP:
“I Play the Fool” b/w “Water Death": 7”
Incredible 7” from legendary Memphian Alicja Trout. Alicja-Pop is her power-pop outlet—sort of removed from her darker Lost Sounds/Black Sunday work. “I Play the Fool” has hints of the Rich Kids and The Breeders. B side, “Water Death,” is amazing. Alicja’s vocals and Ramones-inspired rhythm and lead guitar lines (Walter Lure) are supported by a great drum machine track and Theremin-sounding synth. Alicja continues to put out the greatest records with regularity. I’ve heard Billy Childish referred to as a “cultural treasure” of Great Britain. If that’s true, Alicja’s likely our best response. Recommended! –ryan (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)


ALEX CUERVO:
Hallo Mein Name Ist: 7"
Back when Lux Interior left this Earth, I was upset and my friend Adam consoled me by informing me that at least we still have the Hex Dispensers. I had heard the name, but had no idea that my life was about to change. That band proceeded to take over my being. They instantly shot to the top of my go-to music list. A while later, HD front man Alex Cuervo put out a solo 7” that was also amazingly creepy. Well, here is another solo slab and it’s a nice addition to the catalog. Two off-kilter songs that sound so perfect with that odd feeling that something is amiss in the background. Catchy yet menacing. This man can do no wrong in my books! –ty (Red Lounge, redloungerecords.com)


ADAM FINCHLER:
Hair Gimmicks of Apathy: CDEP
Formerly of Rubber Molding, Finchler delivers his latest acoustic project of six new tracks. Showcasing his different facets, each song differs from its predecessor. With “Elvis Thermometer” and “Freaky Painting,” Adam’s brand of quirky narrative is both laugh-out-loud and introspective, reminding me of They Might Be Giants. “I Love the Woods” veers off into a wistful lap steel solo while the intimate acoustic strumming of “President Coolidge” sounds like it could have been recorded in his bedroom. Where some singer/song writers fall into repetitive song structures and maudlin lyrics, Adam deftly avoids these pitfalls. And I love the album title! Recommended. –Kristen K (Self-released, adamfinchler@gmail.com)


ACID BABY JESUS:
Self-titled: CD
These Greek noisemongers thank Davila 666, and I reckon that and the underwater photography on the cover are pretty good places to start. You get simple, yet effective, psych-freakout rock, heavy on the rumble ‘n’ reverb, with perhaps a bit headier doses of Vitamin L than their Puerto Rican pals have heretofore evinced. Play it loud while your party attendees are peaking and watch them clear out in a mad rush. –jimmy (Slovenly, slovenly.com)


ABSUM:
To Whom It May Consume: 7” EP
Everything I said about this band when I reviewed their demo still applies. Absum play hardcore with blazing fast riffs, brief spots of guitar wankery, and epic amounts of crew vocals. The three songs from the demo appear here, plus two more, “No Escape,” and “Buried Alive.” Of the two new songs, “No Escape,” is my favorite. The driving guitars and crash accents get you pumped before the vocals even come in, and when they do, you have no choice but to sing along. The guitar wankery here is great, rivaling the title track “To Whom It May Consume,” which was my favorite track from the demo. If there’s one complaint to make about this 7”, it’s that it’s over too quickly. LP soon please? –Paul J. Comeau (Absum, absumCT@yahoo.com)


1984:
Why Not?: LP
This reissue of a very campy 1987 Polish new wave demo comes with a cool foldout lyric sheet / poster of the band. They look like a punker Duran Duran and sound about the same. 1984 was a very important group in the history of Polish punk and there’s an undeniable charm to the sheer silliness of it all. From what I can tell, this release is an attempt to restore a recording previously only available as a self-released demo cassette. Major props go out to Pasażer and Underground Reality for trying to preserve historic Polish punk. I’m putting the poster up on my wall until someone asks if it’s Duran Duran. –Art Ettinger (Underground Factory, xfactoryx.blogspot.com /Pasażer, pasazer.pl)


TORNADO RIDER:
Jark Matter: CD
After careful deliberation and debate, I have concluded that the best way to describe this band is Dungeons and Dragons punk. Tornado Rider’s punk, metal, cello hybrid seems like the perfect soundtrack for a Wednesday night at the comic shop. One definitely needs to approach this band with a sense of humor and a willingness to play along, because—long story short—the lyrics are kind of dumb. It’s definitely a knowing dumbness, though, as it really does take some effort to come up with the weird sci-fi/fantasy mash-up that the band uses as its modus operandi. Some examples: “Giant Tree Man,” which is about being a giant tree man, “The Goat God,” which is about being the goat god, and “Sawed-off Heads,” which is about being in a land of floating, sawed-off heads. Trust me, these usually aren’t metaphors. The music itself? Pretty damn catchy. Also, for a band featuring a lead cello with nary a guitar in sight, this is surprisingly heavy. At nearly an hour, this album starts to run a little long, but it definitely has its moments. “I’m a Falcon” is a ridiculously catchy song, for having basically one lyric. (Can you guess what it might be?) Also, I have to give points to the ridiculously elaborate packaging which includes postcards, a button, a hidden map, and a nearly incomprehensible story written in the liner notes. –Adrian Salas (Silver Sprocket)


X RAY EYEBALLS:
Crystal: 7”
The title track sounds like some In The Red Records band’s channeling their inner Jesus And Mary Chain for a woozy ditty that is oddly reminiscent of the Brigade’s “I Scream,” which sounds much, much better in reality than it may seem here in print. The two tracks on the flip, “Broken Beds” and “Kam Sing Nights,” sound like the same band taking a stab at Urinals/100 Flowers glory. –jimmy (Hozac, hozacrecords.com)


YOUNG///SAVAGE:
New Flesh: CD-R
This came packaged in a small brown paper bag, with lyrics glued to one side of said bag, then folded in half as a makeshift CD cover. Missing? Band/label contact info. Knowing fuckall about ‘em, what you get here is a band clearly trying to push at the boundaries and find a patch of dirt to call their own. It’s clear they are acquainted with the post punk thang, that they can play their instruments, and they manage to come up with some interesting balances between catchy bits and dissonance. The buzz kill for me, however, is an emo influence that coats things with a sheen of whiny pretentiousness that distracts, and detracts, from what might’ve been something a bit more engaging had they factored in another influence instead. –jimmy (No address listed)


WRONG ONES:
Deceiver: LP
The Wrong Ones play fairly strong, catchy, hard-rockin’ punk that reminds me of that first Catheters LP from about a decade ago. The inference being that there is a whole lotta Dead Boys style action to be found on this full length album. Not as glam punky as I hoped from the band photo/album cover, but a good record nonetheless. The band is from Houston and may have an Urgencies member in the ranks. Looking forward to hearing more and seeing what the Wrong Ones come up with in the future. –frame (Cutthroat, myspace.com/cutthroatrecs)


WEIRD FEAR:
Demo: Cassette
Some thrashy, angry goodness could be wrapped up in this cassette demo, but it’s difficult to tell considering how terrible the recording and mixing are on this tape. That said; if you can bump the levels on your stereo to eleven, you might be able to pick up the intense wailing and raging this PDX-based group appears to be doing to their instruments. It sounds like it could be good, the way standing outside and down the street from a venue makes a band sound. Unfortunately, until Weird Fear come out with a better recording, I’m withholding either praise or condemnation. –Paul J. Comeau (weirdfearofbands@gmail.com)


WEB DATING:
Self-titled: 7”
These guys have the power pop genome down to a science, from the upbeat riffing to the adolescent lyrics. They do it really, really well, but it’s about as wooden and soulless as you would expect from something coming out of Brooklyn’s gentrified hipster haven, Williamsburg. “Now, now. Not everyone in Williamsburg is a trust fund hipster douchebag,” you say. Yeah, and I might be making a reach here, but if they aren’t, they probably work three jobs to make rent. If they had the time to be in a band, they’d probably be pretty fucking pissed off and have a lot of nasty shit to say about a bunch of candy-asses singing wimpy songs about girls. But I may be wrong. So check out Vice magazine’s review of this record for another opinion. Really... there is one... they like it. –Craven (Oops Baby)


WAR IS ON, THE:
Welcome to the Rust Belt: CD
This bad boy appeals to that pissed-off teen who still sulks around somewhere inside me and loves tuneage that further fuels whatever it was that got my undies in a bunch in the first place. They rarely ratchet things up past a gallop, but they have no shortage of antagonism infused into their sound. They aren’t looking to reinvent the mold, but like most truly good, tried and true hardcore bands, they’ve apparently sussed that one doesn’t need to rely on speed or metal influence to get things a-hoppin’. –jimmy (myspace.com/thewarison)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
PML Zine Compilation: 7” EP
According to the front cover, this is the “foreign edition” of a compilation featuring Four Finnish bands, originally released in 2010 with issue four of PML zine. Lebakko drop another virulent bit of punk/hardcore, Escape To Death take a more traditional thrash route, No Heroes brings to mind the best of DS-13, and Anvils Drop are more on the pain/hardcore end of the spectrum. Excellent teaser of what’s going on in the Finnish underground—four rock solid tracks and zero bullshit. –jimmy (PML, pikakelauksellamaailmanloppuun@gmail.com)


WAGON BLASTERS:
Trail Songs of Love, Loss & Regret: 7”
This tractor punk outfit from Nebraska harvests the best qualities from country and punk and makes it their own. With crackling drums, strong guitar, buzzing harmonica, and electric bass fiddle, Blasters have created three tracks that can stand alone with quality production and sound throughout. On ruby red vinyl, this is solid punk’n’roll done right by some good ol’ boys. Davis, the vocalist and founder of this local record label, reminds me of Jeff Pezzati, with brawny, blow your house down kind of vocals. “Golden Lariat” and “Fortified” are my faves for their sheer boot stompin’ energy. Pass the whiskey! Recommended. –Kristen K (Speed! Nebraska, speedneb@yahoo.com, speednebraska.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
8Up Records: CD-R
Once again, another shoddily thrown-together compilation from 8Up Records. Packaged in a photocopied paper sleeve—one that doesn’t bother to list the band’s song names—is a CD-R simply marked in Sharpie with an 8 and an arrow pointing up. Of course, this is probably free. Nonetheless, a little effort goes a long way. If you’ve written for Razorcake for any length of time, you’ve probably got a compilation from this label to review. You’re just as likely to have reviewed something by the ever-ubiquitous and prolific A Disco For Ferns, who always seem to sound completely different. The first CD-R demo I got from them was really shitty, growling grindcore or something of that sort. I also got a tape of joke punk songs from them that was equally as shitty in quality, but was, nonetheless, quite funny. This time, they play some weird stuff with a hugely distorted bass and a male/female vocal exchange. The bass was often so distorted it sounded like Suicide’s synths. I kind of liked it. Everything else on here is shitty punk rock. –Craven (8Up)


VACATION:
Self-titled: LP
Intriguing new release from this Ohio trio. Although I dug their Smiths cover that they did live when I saw them (and dedicated to Mikey Erg, no less), it is their original material that is drawing me into the hubbub. Some songs veer into lo-fi, but not so much as to be annoying. Great song titles like “Columbus Is Not a Hero,” and “Cop Knock,” for example. These guys toured with The Dopamines last time around. So if they didn’t bring it, they would have been sitting at home looking for spare change underneath their couch cushions. Not that they don’t do that on their off days, but you get my drift. Give this a spin. Something will tug at your eardrums in a pleasant fashion. –koepenick (Mandible)


VACATION CLUB:
Self-titled: 7”
Full disclosure: I have become friendly with these guys over the past year and a half. My band has played shows with them and I try to see them whenever they play my town. Brandon and I play the same bass (Gibson Ripper… well, mine’s the Epiphone version, but close enough). I have to say Vacation Club is my favorite Indiana band these days (not to slight all my friends’ bands) but, goddamn, do they know how to make a show fun! Indiana is quite the hotbed of low-fi rock’n’roll these days: Vacation Club, Happy Thoughts, Perennials, Apache Dropout, Moscow Moscow Moscow, The Half Rats (well, I think they’re at least half an Indiana band). Vacation Club plays jangly, power pop-ish rock’n’roll with snotty vocals. My only complaint with this record is that the drums could be more present. Huh… thought I’d never say that! Vacation Club is best experienced live. I dare anyone not to dance! –Sal Lucci (Glory Hole, gloryholerecords.com)


UNITED SONS OF TOIL, THE:
When the Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful: LP
Sometimes this sounds like a bad rip off of Fugazi; other times it kinda sounds like Tool. Is that a thing, sounding like Tool and Fugazi? I hope that it was just a mistake. –Vincent Battilana (Phratry / sacredplague.com)


UNION ELECTRIC:
“Tunnels” b/w “An Irish Orphan”: 7”
I’m pretty sure that I used to play hall shows here in Michigan with the accordion player’s old band. Weird... anyway: “Tunnels” is a pretty decent little country tune with some solid Emmylou Harris-like harmonies. “An Irish Orphan” is the same crappy b-side country bands have been writing for years. Seriously, every country band writes a stupid throwaway song like this. Cut it out! –todd (Rank Outsider, rankoutsiderrecords.com)


UNCLE SKUNKLE:
Happily Ever After: 7”
In my eternal search for the stupidest band name ever, I believe I may have a contender. I mean, really guys? Uncle Skunkle? Yikes. At least you didn’t misspell uncle with a K. I believe I may have returned your 7” to Todd unlistened at that point. Fearing that maybe this was some incredibly cool reference that I in my ignorance was missing, I did what any red-blooded American male with an internet connection would: I Googled that shit. Uncle Skunkle is the name of a toy manufacturer. I dunno, man. Doesn’t seem like it’s a cool enough thing to name your band after. Honestly though, in this day and age, are there any good band names left? Perhaps we’ve slipped to the point where “Uncle Skunkle” is pretty acceptable. Hell, with a name like that, I expected to be pullin’ what little hair remains outta my scalp and screaming “Why God why??!!??” about three seconds into this platter. The music really ain’t too bad, with hints of surf, rockabilly, and other roots forms combining into one pretty tolerable stew. The ballad on the A side is pretty good and the surfier shit on the B side would make fun party music, for sure. They ain’t squarin’ the circle or anything over here, but they’re havin’ what sounds like a hell of a lot of fun and the tunes ain’t bad. But that name... –Ryan Horky (Pug Face, pugfacerecords.com)


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