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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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COMA REGALIS:
Mixed Manias and Sorrow Songs: Cassette
Good tape, but I’m getting kind of tired already of the Return of the Cassette, even though I dig the green and black hand-painted case. Coma Regalis fit into a number of different punk subgenres and defy easy categorization. They’re a bit of a pleasurable pot pie mix of crust and sludge and doom and angst, served up in a bed of mid-tempo power. This is a horrible description, to be sure, so for best results serve this record with a side of Squalora and enjoy. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Utarida)


CLOSET DRAMA:
Dream State: CD
You know those movies that come along every now and then about a group of outsider kids who decide to form a band, get some attention, and start their rise to fame playing stuff that sounds pretty much like a Disneyfied version of punk with a dash of indie-rock and emo to make it palatable for the masses of status quo teens who will hopefully buy up movie tickets and oodles of soundtrack CDs? Guess what this reminded me of. All told, catchy, watered down, and professional-sounding in all the wrong ways. –jimmy (Closet Drama, closetdrama.fourfour.com)


CHURCHWOOD:
Self-titled: CD
Smart, bluesy bar rock with an occasional nod to other stuff, like zydeco. Nice bit of diversity in their approach to the songs here. The downside, however, is that they sound exactly like what they are, namely a bluesy bar rock band—something nice to nod and holler at on the bandstand while yer drinkin’, but nothing lasting long enough to sink its teeth in and follow you around once the sun comes up and the hangover sets in. Love the cover art depicting an x-ray of someone shooting themselves in the foot. –jimmy (Saustex)


CELL MATES:
Shoulda Kept That Quarter: 7”
Garage punk with a slight hardcore tinge. I think that these tracks were culled from a demo, though I can’t recall why I think that. Neither insipid nor inspired. If you still have your New Bomb Turks records, which I’m guessing that you do, you could probably let this one pass you by. –Vincent Battilana (Wallride, wallriderecords.com)


CARNIVORES:
“German Flower” b/w “Sense of Dread”: 7”
Bombastic, dramatic garage with Teutonic new wave flourishes. Think Lost Sounds plugging in a machine with a lot of mysterious wires into Gary Numan at his most jumpy. Digital dark wave slabbiness with lots to chew on and little to spit out. Nice. –todd (Dirt Cult)


CAPITALIST KIDS, THE:
Too Big to Fail: CD

Like its predecessor, this release is up to its neck in zippy, catchy pop punk. What separates ‘em from the pack here is their ability to meld Ramones/Queers thudding with All/Descendents’ more sophisticated chord choices, with a bit of geekcore buffing on the body. Also a bit off the beaten path is their lyrical dance between the political (and the sense to temper some very pointed commentary with a bit of humor) and the personal, which gives ‘em a bit more dimensionality in a sub-sub-genre that too often comes off more like vapid parody with each generation of Xeroxed, template-hugging band. As evidenced here, sometimes a little bit o’ brains makes a big diff.

–jimmy (Grackle, no address)


CAMPAIGN:
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!: CDEP
While the album title lives on the border between stupid and annoying, the music itself sounds akin to a poor, poor, poor man’s Hot Water Music. Like, when all the stars align and the other Hot Water Music rip-off bands are taking the night off, these guys could fill in. It’s not horrible or poorly played, but who needs another band like this? –kurt (itlikestoparty.com)


CALLOUS:
Demo: Cassette
There’s a bunch of really good demos coming out lately. Makes me think we’re in store for some awesome records from these bands. Callous sound like a lot of the classic powerviolence bands—No Comment, MITB, Agents Of Satan, Crossed Out, etc. It’s brutal, ugly, somewhat minimal and heavy as fuck, and faster than hell. When they slow down, the songs are crunching, with a dominant groove that’s necessary to pull you in. When they throw songs into high gear, they hit a velocity that’s near chaotic: throttling blast beats, ungodly low end, and the guitar is abrasive and razor sharp. So f’n nice! I’m generally not a fan of dual vocals, but they work well here. I particularly like the bridge in “Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs.” It adds to the dark despair expressed in the lyrics, as well as gives the music that much more depth. Can’t believe this is a demo. Vinyl soon? –Matt Average (Blastcat, callous.bandcamp.com)


CAIN MARKO:
At Sea: CD-R
Michigan’s Cain Marko play mid-tempo, strained vocal, Hot Water Music punk. What’s garnering this EP repeat plays are the rock-solid drums and the expert knowledge of songwriting dynamics. The changes between parts are always smooth, but never predictable, and usually marked by a perfectly planned drum fill. I’ll file these guys alongside Make Do And Mend as Current Bands Who Are Making A Tired Sound Vital. Four songs. –CT Terry (cainmarko.bandcamp.com)


BUSTED BEARINGS / BULLY:
Split: EP
Busted Bearings sound like they really like Infest. A lot of people do. And if you can’t have enough Infest-inspired bands in your life, then add another one to the library. Bully go down a different path: fast hardcore with a vocalist who shouts at the top of his lungs. Very loud, very abrasive. Makes me wonder how he does it in the studio. Even in the faster parts he keeps it going without cracking. I’m impressed. Interested to hear what Bully does in the future. –Matt Average (Goin’ Apeshit, goinapeshit.com)


BOTOX RATS / MODERN ACTION:
Split: 7”
Modern Action (both the band and the label) are very high on the ol’ favorite list these days. I’ve always been a sucker for a band who can make being a drunken waste of space sound so damn endearing. As usual, the Modern Action track here had me bobbin’ my head up and down, only stopping to slam back some more beer. Botox Rats (amazing band name!) hail from London, and are as snotty and trashy as they come! It’s like Ricky Barnes defected to the U.K. and joined a band! So great. There is nothing on this label that I don’t want! –ty (Modern Action)


BOTOX RATS / MODERN ACTION:
Split: 7”
Botox Rats: Like the appropriated riff from Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” that starts off “Nasty Business” would imply, these kids are well versed in the classic beach punk sound, which is interesting considering their mailing address implies they’re based in London. Heavy thud, a mid-tempo beat and shrill, up-front vocals will no doubt wet the jeans of the most diehard Stitches fan. Modern Action: Another fine, catchy ditty, “Drink to Win,” that belies less Briefs and more Bodies influence this time ‘round. –jimmy (Modern Action)


BOO FROG:
Undead at Satyricon: Cassette
Portland, Oregon’s Boo Frog was apparently formed for a Lux Interior tribute show and found playing together so rewarding that they kept going. What you have here is a well-recorded live show at the now-closed Satyricon with said band plowing through a set of pretty inspired swampy songs in the vein of (not surprisingly) The Gun Club or The Cramps meets the Stooges. I am reminded of the Starvations as well, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. This must be a soundboard recording, as crowd noise is minimal. Good stuff. –Garrett Barnwell (Skullman, skullmanrecords.com)


B-LINES:
Self-titled: 12” EP
Kinda reminds me of the confused 1984-1986 period of life, where what-was-once-hardcore had decided that it wanted to do something other than be shorter and faster, but wasn’t really sure what that was, and that there should be some other influences involved, but nobody could really tell what those other influences were, and, heck, even all the “smart people” were suggesting that aspiring young noise units should scrape enough dough to release a 12”, not a 7”, because the fucktards at college radio were too mentally incapacitated to deal with seven-inch records. Heck, even the black-and-red cover art is period-appropriate. So anyway, submitted for your approval: Nine blasts of short and fast 1985-ish-ness with taut guitars, ranging from fifty-some seconds to a minute-fifty-some seconds, and devoid of pretty much any excess ornamentation whatsoever. Everything generally goes verse, chorus, verse, chorus, out, with even a measure or two of intro guitar seeming like a wacky extravagance. A reasonable facsimile of a smash hit here would probably lead future generations to venerate this disc with the same ardor as, oh, say, that Breakouts 12-inch; as it stands, they seem to be in a relatively energetic holding pattern. WE AWAIT YOUR FIRST EFFUSION OF RAW NAKED GENIUS! Well, that and the dawning of bratwurst-flavored Ruffles®. BEST SONG: “World War Four” BEST SONG TITLE: “Hastings Strut,” because i really don’t understand it. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: This band does not appear to be related to the A-Lines. –norb (Nominal)


BIRTH:
Self-titled: LP
Dark, heavy, and sludgy stuff that sounds heavily influenced by the Birthday Party, Scratch Acid, and Big Black. The music is well played and everything is tight. However, this lacks immediacy. There’s no energy or any balls in the overall delivery—two things you really need if you’re going to play music like this. It’s just “there”. When I hear “Factory Line,” I know the potential is there. For now, it just falls short. Demerits for lifting a line from Blade Runner for lyrics (“100 Year Old Egg”). –Matt Average (Dead Beat, deat-beat-records.com)


BILL GOULD AND JARED BLUM:
The Talking Book: CD
An experimental instrumental music collaboration between Faith No More bass player Bill Gould and San Francisco avant noise artist Jared Blum. As a disclaimer, I have a difficult time appreciating most experimental and/or instrumental music and this release was no exception. The Talking Book is not completely without merit, as I do like some of the soundscapes created by buzzing amps and electronics over an unpredictable array of instruments. But unlike an experimental instrumental band I can enjoy, like Mono for instance, this music does not provide enough hints of structure and epic climaxes to motivate me to listen to the several minutes of drone that preceded it. It would be a good film score, but it just seems too aimless to draw my attention for any length of time. –Jake Shut (Koolarrow, koolarrow.com)


BIG KITTY:
“The Carp Song” b/w “Waterfall of Love”: 7”
Being a record reviewer sometimes sucks. Billy and Cole of the Future Virgins play behind this solo dude. I want to say something nice, because I really like Billy and Cole and don’t want to be a royal dick. Take in the following from a dude who owns and plays a big chunk of the Kingston Trio catalog. Compared to Big Kitty, the Kingston Trio sound like Slayer. It’s Renaissance faire-sounding stuff that I imagine is performed in bright green tights, while prancing, and full of lute solos. One song’s told from the perspective of an overfed trout. Please, no. Beautiful silk-screened cover. –todd (Young Monster, no address)


BIG KIDS:
Hoop Dreams: LP
I can excuse many things. For instance, I can excuse being influenced by Hot Water Music and Latterman. I can excuse goofy band names and album titles. I can even excuse an album’s worth of songs that all seem to center around reminiscing and hope for the future. I cannot, no matter the intent, excuse a cover of the Family Matters theme song. –Vincent Battilana (Topshelf, topshelf-records.com / Protagonist, protagonistmusic.com)


BEAT THE RED LIGHT:
Salt the Lands: CD
This record sounds like the Flaming Tsunamis. That is, brutal metal riffs punctuated with a ska horn section. I even went so far as to check the liner notes to see if it’s the same dudes. (Apparently, they are not related entities.) If I put this in the player with a Flaming Tsunamis CD, I wouldn’t be able to tell which band was which. I’m sure fans of either band will take me to task for that claim, however, and accuse me of inaccuracy. So be it. Another banal comparison would be to describe this as Napalm Death meets Less Than Jake. I liked it (not loved) because I like this sound (not love). –The Lord Kveldulfr (TNS)


BAD CO. PROJECT:
Mission Mohawk: CD
This band has nothing to do with ‘70s supergroup Bad Company, instead being a five piece street punk band from Berlin fronted by Sucker from the band Oxymoron. Very straightforward upper mid-tempo punk with hardcore tendencies. The lyrics are sung in English and cover a lot of themes common to the genre such as punk unity, dangers of drug abuse, having a hardscrabble upbringing, and resisting the state. They are working with a lot of classic and obvious influences from early ‘80s melodic hardcore legends as well as ‘77 punk and plenty of classic oi. My favorite track on the disc is “Borderline,” which shakes things up with a guest female vocalist trading verses with Sucker and an almost gothic post punk vibe. But for the most part, Bad Co. Project plays it a bit safe by sticking to well-traveled paths of street punk and it’s nothing special. –Jake Shut (Joe Pogo)


BACKSLIDER:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Thirteen tracks of manic hardcore that blurt and stumble by before you’ve even a chance to ask who the fuck it was. –jimmy (Blastcat, myspace.com/blastcatrecords)


AUSTRA:
Feel It Break: LP
As a fan of most things dark and moody, the current darkwave resurgence (or “gravewave” if you prefer… I sure don’t) should be a real treat for me. But it isn’t. It just seems like a bunch of the turds who were wearing god-knows-what in the pages of Vice Magazine a few months back have now appropriated all of the cool iconology of black metal and are rocking custom Chucks with inverted crosses on them. Fuck that. But luckily, amidst this new parade of clowns, there are some groups expertly nodding to the gloomier side of the ‘80s without quite as much shitty irony (though there always seems to be a smidgen…). Toronto’s Austra, fronted by classically-trained, Latvian-Canadian chanteuse Katie Stelmanis, is one such group. It’s hard to make any comparisons that haven’t been tossed around already (Kate Bush, Eurythmics, even Diamanda Galas’ more accessible moments), but I will say that Austra does a terrific job of blending danceable pop and chilling operatics (think Depeche Mode meets Der Ring or Ligeti maybe? Orff too?), and I’m totally digging it. I had the opportunity to see them play a couple of weeks back, and aside from playing to a backing track (I don’t know if the keyboard was even played at all), Katie Stelmanis’s voice was a mindbomb. So rad. –Dave Williams (Domino)


SHEGLANK’D SHOULDERS:
Skate Assassin: 7" Flexi
Calgary’s now-legendary skate rockers return with their final release. A little bit of full disclosure is necessary here. These guys are friends of mine and our bands have toured together. That said, I would also never stretch the truth in reviewing some skate rock, so here it is. Heaviness abounds. Izzo and the boys deliver another couple songs with the power of mainlining an energy drink. Great to get the blood pumping before raiding a construction site for lumber to build a ramp. My complaint: A flexi-disc? Really? It sounds great and all, but it just feels... weird. A release with such an amazing cover painting deserves a proper vinyl release. –ty (Handsome Dan)


SHARP OBJECTS:
Zero Ambition, Another Victim, Five Song EP: 7", CDEP
I know someone will inevitably come forth to decry this statement, but I’d say on the west coast there’ve been two labels that are pretty much the go-to places for ‘70s punk/power pop/kitchen sink influenced stuff. In the south there’s Hostage (been a while since I’ve seen something from ‘em, so they may or may not exist at this point), who unleashed Smogtown, The Stitches, Broken Bottles, Bonecrusher, Smut Peddlers, and tons of others, while the north has been ruled by the mighty Dirtnap, who’ve released crucial material by The Briefs, The Gloryholes, The Spits, the Epoxies, and a veritable who’s who of the subgenre. With recent releases by The Bodies, Modern Action (the band), The Orphans, Smogtown, and others, it appears that Modern Action (the label) is now making a play to fill the void left by Noma Beach’s absence and rule the territory both literally and figuratively between the other two, and these releases are a few more warning salvos over the bow of anyone trying to move in. Like so many of their label mates, the songs on both singles feature an amalgamation of northern quirky punk pop sensibilities and southern thud-punk muscle. Yeah, the style might be starting to get a bit cookie-cutter, if you wanna be nitpicky about it, but I’ll be goddamned if these guys aren’t milking it for all it’s worth and ending up with some choice hits here, and there ain’t a clunker in the bunch. For those who prefer their music on a more recent dying format, The Five Song EP CD has the four songs from the two singles, plus a Satan’s Rats cover. –jimmy (Modern Action)


SHARP ENDS:
Self-titled: 7" EP
The “art” and dark brood are still very evident in the four tunes here, but the tracks here have a bit more of, oh, a groove imbedded into ‘em. According to a piece of paper included on the release, this is a reissue of their first self-released EP, which I guess would mean the stuff here is closer to the base from which they expanded on subsequent releases. It also says they’ve called it quits, which is a fuggin’ drag, ‘cause they were one of few who are really trying to push a bit at the boundaries and coming up with interesting results. Gonna miss ‘em. –jimmy (Mammoth Cave Recording Co., mammothcaverecording.com)


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