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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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CRUELSTER:
First Demo 2006: CS
The cassette is spray painted black and, I suspect, taped over another band’s tape, probably bought in a thrift store clearance bin. The cover is a photocopy of a photocopy of a hand drawing. The band’s name is spelled differently on the packaging than it is on the actual tape. The music: it rules. Imagine a mashup of your favorite ‘80s hardcore bands: Dead Kennedys, Big Boys, Germs. The sounds are as pleasantly chaotic as the packaging. I want to put this tape in a boom box, stick it in the back of my old 1988 Honda hatchback, and drive to the skate park.  –John Mule (More Power Tapes)


CUNTZ:
Force the Zone: LP
This is my favorite record of the lot this month. These Aussie Cuntz know how to make punk rock fun and not take music so seriously. They have short songs that could have easily come out on SST Records in the ‘80s. There’s a blend of post-punk, spazz punk, and drunken rock’n’roll. When you finally get tired of the Spits and Jay Reatard, put this record on.  –Ryan Nichols (Homeless)


D.O.A.:
Hard Rain Falling: CD
I had to check to be sure this wasn’t a reissue of one of D.O.A.’s early-’80s albums, because these Canadian punk pioneers have hardly changed for nearly forty years. They still bang out primitive, electrified protest music with all the subtlety of a giant middle finger. Anyone can pick up on what’s going on, and it’s hard not to shout along with hardcore songs like “Racism Sucks” and “The Cops Shot a Kid.” Twelve songs, including a truly excruciating cover of the reggae classic “Johnny Too Bad.”  –Chris Terry (Sudden Death)


D.O.A.:
Hard Rain Falling: CD
The decades-long love affair between D.O.A. and I has been... rocky. Up to War on 45 I considered them all but untouchable, a position I still staunchly defend. After that, things get a bit problematic, first with the creeping influence of very bad ‘80s rock—both in sound and production—then a succession of spotty records albatrossed with an exasperating insistence on including terrible ska punk filler—and by filler I mean a half-album’s worth in some cases—and a seemingly endless assortment of repackaged, reordered, and resoundingly pointless compilations, collections, and themed concoctions. Mind you, it’s not that I didn’t want them to grow and expand their palette, and there were definitely some interesting moments peppered in through the years, but what was coming out seemed more like uninspired paint-by-numbers than one of the most ferocious punk bands ever to stomp terra pushing at boundaries. Ever the optimist, I remained undeterred, picking up every release I came across in the hopes that they would come around and remember what once made them so goddamned crucial. Some glimmers of hope shone through with the Talk-Action=0 album of a few years back, a mostly solid release, but this bad boy here is easily their most keyed in and consistent album in decades. The chutzpah, the feral swagger, and Joey’s snarl are in abundance on tunes that go right for your inner “fuck yeah!” button and set you careening off the nearest wall. Lyrical subject matter is topical and right on the money without coming off as preachy or slogan-heavy, and, hell, even the cover of The Slickers’ song “Johnny Too Bad” is inspired in its delivery, relying more on the hint of Caribbean rhythms than going for full-ska mode. Faboo this is, a release worthy of their good name and formidable reputation.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Sudden Death)


DARK MATTER:
Self-titled: 7”
Four songs of dark punk from Denmark in league with Nervosas and Terrible Feelings. Their range is somewhat mid-tempo to shoegaze-y, with the song “Nothing” in particular having the sharpest claws.  –Juan Espinosa (Self-released, darkmatterpunx@gmail.com)


DIE NASTY:
Take a Ride: CD
Seattle trio Die Nasty play skeevy, nasty bar rock. The woman up front takes on an exaggerated bad girl persona that brings mean-spirited camp to rock’n’roll trash like, “I’m High” and “I Don’t Wanna Play with Your Kids,” but the humor gets heartless on songs like the slut shame-y “Bulimia.”  –Chris Terry (dienastyseattle.bandcamp.com)


DIRTY FEW / ROOTBEER AND MERMENTAU:
Set ‘Em Free: 7”
Dirty Few tread the well-worn rock territory of Electric Frankenstein with enough garage spit to perk up your ears and enough singalong crecendo to concrete their tunes in your psyche. Rootbeer And Mermentau deliver similar rock bounce with a bit more NY-distorted snottiness. If you ever find yourself in a conversation with a music fan prattling on about the grittiness of the Strokes or White Stripes, break this 7” in half and stab them with the jagged edge to show them what the rock is all about. Gray/ blue marble wax.  –Matt Seward (Snappy Little Numbers, snappylittlenumbers.blogspot.com)


DISCO LEPERS:
Open Sores: 7”
Not sore about Open Sores! This is the first time I’ve heard from Disco Lepers, though they’ve been a band for over a decade, and I’m pleasantly surprised. The band members have cheeky disease names like Chrissy Coli and are running rampant with the malady theme. The EP features three quick-fire punk ditties with gritty guitar, blown-out vocals, piercing sharp solos, and a rhythm section that’ll give you a rumbly in your tumbly. They’re “blow your nose” rock in the sense that they’re snotty and fast. I can’t help but compare them to The Cute Lepers even though they only share the one word in their names. But like The Briefs offshoot, these guys come packed full of energy and sharp, powerful leads. Only thing that makes me sick about this release is that I didn’t know about them sooner.  –Kayla Greet (No Front Teeth)


DOG PARTY:
Vol. 4: CS
A few years back, my friends Jen and Marco were married by Mike Park, founder of Asian Man Records. After the ceremony, I took the opportunity to gush to Mike about how much I loved Lost Control, Dog Party’s new release at the time. His response was more or less “those girls are going to be huge.” Here we are, two years down the line, and we’ve got a new Dog Party album to grace our presence. Without missing a beat, Vol. 4 is just as catchy, intricately composed, and sugary sweet as their previous efforts. It’s no wonder Dog Party has been chosen to be Kepi Ghoulie’s backup band, or that they released their first vinyl records before both members are out of high school. I’m not only impressed, I’m jealous. They’re one of those bands where every song has a perfect melody and I just never want to play guitar again because I’ll never write a song that good. Long live Dog Party. This record rules. Grade: A.  –Bryan Static (Asian Man)


DON HOWLAND:
Life Is a Nightmare: LP
Don Howland, he hates the bass. He hates the bass and he’s willing to name his LP something so overwrought that any bummed thirteen-year-old could get behind it, and he’s recorded a handful of songs over four years that take some of the bright and trebly piecemeal work of folks like The Motards, Hasil Adkins, and the Murder City Devils—and manages to make it his own. The first track, I shit you not, is something that wouldn’t have been terribly out of place on Raw Power.Or at least something written by dudes wanting to write Raw Power a year or two after Raw Power came out, if that makes sense. I mean, Nightmare is more sparse than it is ferocious—instrumentally speaking—and at times the tinny quality and medium tempos make it seem like this thing is just resolutely plodding along, but there are still some lo-fi garage gems buried here. Just wish the guy didn’t hate the bass so much. –Keith Rosson (12XU)


DUDES:
Ultra Vague: CS
Pretty sure More Power Tapes stealthily crept into my bedroom and stole a tape from my demo collection. In 1988. And held out on releasing it until 2015. Dudes are the mashup of punk, metal, and dirt rawk that ruled skate ramps and venues/ “sports bars” of the late-’80s. Atonal barking over equal parts speed and groove with complete disregard to blending in solos or silly swinging jazz breakdowns. Hilarious, greasy fun, and recommended.  –Matt Seward (More Power Tapes, morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)


ELSINORES, THE:
New Forms: LP
After an intro that seems to go on forever (I was tempted to just pick the needle up and forego the whole thing out of annoyance) this album finally starts. I kind of wish it hadn’t. This is one of those situations where I’m desperately trying to find something positive to say about a record and finding nothing. This is basically demo-quality “post-punk” with sharp inflections of the Cure and Smiths-y phrasing that I really want to like but sounds boring as hell. The vocals remind me so much of late-’90s alternative rock that it distracts from anything I may find appealing about this. I’m sure I’m supposed to come up with a bunch of more obscure references, but I’m not going to because that would just be splitting hairs. Some of the songs (“Generation”) are sort of verging on something good, but are lost in muddy structures and uninspired vocal melodies that sear over the top.  –Ian Wise (Dead Tank)


EPIC PROBLEM / HOLIDAY:
Split: 7”
Two songs from each of these superb British bands are showcased on this worthy split 7”. Both bands sound similar and remind me of Reducers SF or Swingin’ Utters, with a dash of Leatherface thrown in for good measure. There’s an unfair tendency to write off slick, melodic streetpunk recordings as “overproduced,” but this record presents catchy, singalong punk at its finest. The U.K. accents are light, and the melodies are tight. Neither band is especially new, so their fans are presumably lining up for this release. You should be, too.  –Art Ettinger (Brassneck)


EPIC PROBLEM:
'11 – '14: CD
Some releases are a joy to review and this compilation is one of them, as I already possess all but two of the featured seventeen tracks. This CD brings together all of the songs that the band—which includes former Blitz bassist Mackie on guitar—recorded during the first four years of its existence. It’s good to have them all compiled together. With a punchy melodic punk quality along the lines of The Great St. Louis and a penchant for Rancid-like basslines, Epic Problem has already amassed a fine body of work in a short time. There are countless hooks and riffs which only took a few listens to take root in my head. This album is an inexpensive way of catching up on some excellent tunes.  –Rich Cocksedge (Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.com / Pumpkin, pumpkinrecords.co.uk, bo@pumpkinrecords.co.uk / Savage Amusement, savageoi.com, trevhagl@hotmail.com)


ESE:
All In: CD
High octane punk rock, with an emphasis on the “rock,” straight outta Tejas. No heavy political commentary or unrelentingly dour lyrical content, just hard-driving and pummeling from beginning to end, culminating in a medley of Texas Tornados’ “Guacamole” and “Who Were You Thinking Of?” and the promise of live sets that must be something to see.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Sudden Death)


ESE:
All In: CD
These dudes must love Zeke. “Drink, fuck, and fight” style, fast-and-furious punk rock’n’roll from Texas. Zeke, The Dwarves, and a hundred other bands have covered this territory before, and Ese doesn’t really offer anything unique—except of course “Guacamole (Texas Tornados).” It’s about damn time the king of dips got its due in a rock’n’roll song. Is that what caught Joey Shithead’s attention? I don’t know, but it’s no joke. Guacamole? I’m all in!  –Chad Williams (Sudden Death)


EXHAUSTION:
Phased Out: 12”
From Melbourne, Australia, this band has ex-members of some of my favorite Aussie bands, notably The Onyas, Ooga Boogas, and Witch Hats. It’s a good thing that I’m not a gambling man, because if I had to bet my life savings on what a band with the above lineage would sound like, I would have lost it all. On this record, the sound is primarily stark, with electronic-based, dark songs that at times ride the fence between noise rock and dark, minimal synth-sounding tunes, slogging along and dragging everyone with them. Of the abovementioned bands, the closest reference point would be if the dark and noisy Witch Hats went on a synth-based bender, but this is unique enough to really stand on its own.  –Mark Twistworthy (12XU)


EX-OPTIMISTS, THE:
Phantom Freight: LP
I don’t know if the band planned it this way, but the first seven or so minutes of the first side of this LP sound like an audio interpretation of the cover art, like the listener is being submerged into an intense-sounding ‘70s science fiction movie in a futuristic world. Once the song really gets going though, it seamlessly bursts into a swirl of guitar like the best Swervedriver-influenced noisy indie rock song you’ve ever heard. Taking up the entire A-side, I was shocked to see how fast fifteen minutes had passed and I already needed to flip the record. The B-side has shorter, more traditional offerings that can hold their own with any other guitar-centric indie rock going on right now. After opening with a slightly twangy song reminiscent of something from Athens, Ga. in the ‘80s, there are even more songs that mix the swooping, catchy, and fuzzed-out guitar lines of the abovementioned Swervedriver with the songwriting of Hüsker Dü, as well as a couple other ‘90s-influenced alternative rock gems and a true-to-form cover song from a perennial ‘90s favorite. I can really hear the Bob Mould influence in a song like “Whoop Stop,” one of the many favorites of mine on the record. But truthfully, it’s impossible to even select favorite songs on a record when you really like them all. Phantom Freight is a great record from start to finish, doing its part to bring back the loud, hooky guitars that were prevalent in ‘90s indie scene partnered with overall great songwriting—something that is often missing from the arsenal of many contemporary indie rock bands. This LP receives my highest recommendation, as I really cannot stop listening to it.  –Mark Twistworthy (Sinkhole Texas, sinkholetexas.bandcamp.com)


FACILITY MEN:
Self-titled: CS
Fluid post-punk stuff with strained, distorted vocals and song structures that veer and slalom more than a drunk kid in a go-kart. Decent stuff, if a smidge run-of-the-mill.  –Keith Rosson (More Power Tapes)


FACTION, THE:
Pegged for Live 1985: LP
It’s Alive. No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith. Evilive. These are essential live albums. Liveage. Night of The Living Dead Boys. Gig. These are interesting live albums. Pegged for Live 1985fits into neither of these categories, unfortunately. However, it is an interesting artifact of the time and worthy of preservation. If you used to have this originally cassette-only release and loved it back then, you’re gonna want to pick this up. If The Faction, Battalion Of Saints, Drunk Injuns, and J.F.A. are your jam, then this piece of history is probably already on your want list. Limited pressing, so get on it!  –Chad Williams (Not Like You, notlikeyourecords.com, notlikeyouzine@gmail.com)


FAMILY FRIEND:
Self-titled: CS
If Paul Westerberg were to nearly drown in an enormous milkshake only to be rescued, a bit too late, by Tommy Stintson, and Paul said, “I’m not the same anymore. From now on, I only play acoustic guitars and drink skim milk,” it might sound like Family Friend. A random sampling of lyrics: “It’s a short life of trouble, girl / for a boy with a broken heart.” Nine songs, cover art features a sleepy dog.  –Jim Joyce (Self-Aware)


FEVERS:
Febriphobia: EP
Noise gunk spunk that sounds more improvised than supervised. Chunks of drums rain down among the dense grind, guitars churn, and the vocalist sounds like he’s suffering a dehydration headache. Eight chaotic blasts of this stuff. Think of No Babies meeting Discordance Axis with Arab On Radar on the sideline. As much as this is chaotic and wild, it tends to get tedious after a couple songs. Maybe their strength is in the live show. –Matt Average (Fevers, febriphobia.us)


FILIAMOTSA:
Like It Is: CDEP
Experimental music from Nancy, France. As far as I can tell, they are influenced by the ‘70s sounds of King Crimson. Unfortunately, when I play this disc everything is CAPITALIZED. The song titles, the band name, the album title—EVERYTHING. It feels like they are screaming at me when I play it back. One song called “Maybe” is over ten minutes long. Sorry, but this feels like a prog blanket covered in molasses. Hopefully I can escape soon. –Sean Koepenick (Aagoo, press@fiverosespress.net)


FILTHY TWOLIPS:
Complete Discography: CD
Long Island punkers that first existed from 2003-2008, but now seem to be putting their feet back in the water. These guys are not kidding with that title. There are a whopping forty-eight songs on here. Tunes about the ladies, washed-up actors, and adult beverages are popular topics. I like the variety with the covers here, too. ZZ Top to Minor Threat? Hell yes. At the very least, I learned Brian Baker’s real first name. Thanks, dudes. –Sean Koepenick (Self-released, facebook.com/filthytwolips)


FLAG OF DEMOCRACY / DEAD MILKMEN:
Split: 7”
As a publicity stunt, this release from two of Philadelphia’s finest bands was originally announced as a lost record, recorded in 1985. It isn’t. But it is a fun attempt at trying to sound as 1985 as possible by two groups that were there. Love them or hate them, Dead Milkmen mean a lot to a lot of us. When I first started listening to punk and hardcore in junior high in the mid-1980s, they were one of the first things I heard. A lifelong fan, I’ve grown to accept the fact that some of their output isn’t as remarkable as their classic early records. Their track on this split is one of their strongest in a long time, channeling the best of the primary Milkmen by combining biting, satiric lyrics with catchy, wacky, fast music. F.O.D., perhaps most famous for being referenced in a Dead Milkmen lyric, are an underrated group in their own right, with their three entries on this split being highly enjoyable as well. Forget the fact that this isn’t a lost record and find it, if that makes any sense. Neither band has put out anything this vital in ages, so it’s a welcome return to form for two crucial outfits of punk—past and present. –Art Ettinger (SRA, srarecords.com, srarecords@gmail.com)


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