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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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HEAT TAPE, THE:
Raccoon Valley Recordings: CD
I am so tired of all the hype swirling around this record. Yes, okay Red Scare, we fuckin’ get it: Brett lives in a trailer. This was recorded in a trailer park. Ergo, it must be “real” and authentic. (Has “punk” [whatever the fuck that even means anymore] really degenerated to the point where we ape hip-hop culture’s tedious attempts to “keep it real”?) The sad thing is; this is a pretty solid album. It doesn’t need the stupid trailer park campaign blitz. It could just (I know, I know, this is insane) stand on the tunes alone. The songs are catchy and about as well written as could be expected, as it only took a day to write and record each one. The melodies actually remind me a lot of The Jesus And Mary Chain. (The fuzzy guitars too—how has nobody picked up on that yet? I guess they’re all too focused on how “real” this is. Skinny English people aren’t very “real,” so best not to mention them…) Any of these songs could have worked on the next Dear Landlord record if they were recorded/played a little differently. Though I would have preferred that Brett had saved them for that (I can only spin Dream Homes so much—I need more!) I’ll take what I can get. Ignore the hype and check out The Heat Tape. –Ryan Horky (Red Scare, redscare.net)


HEARTLESS:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Angry hardcore alternating between slow howls of pain and thrashy breaks, with lyrics that match the musical sentiments. To their credit, they’re good at it, and the hand-screened cover shows they put some thought into what they were doing. Limited to three hundred, I believe, so act fast, punker. –jimmy (Heartless)


GUNDOWN, THE:
Endless Roads of Rage: LP
During my early show going days, I do admit that I was a bit easier to please. If the Bouncing Souls or the Dwarves were playing, chances are I was there. And while neither of those bands has anything to do with The Gundown, the music on this record is reminiscent of the kind of opening bands I would painstakingly sit through at those shows due to the fact that I was not old enough to enjoy the liberty of ins and outs. The kind of band who, I will admit, are great musicians but who I also hope unconditionally have fun playing music because their songs don’t excite me enough to rave about them to my friends. –Juan Espinosa (Sell Our Souls, selloursouls.com)


GIRLS AT DAWN, THE:
Back to You: 7”
Picked up their “Never Enough” single a while back and thought it was quite good. Far better than the vast majority of “girl groups” out there. Easy comparison is Vivian Girls, but TGAD are much, much better. The sound is fuller, the songs are much stronger, and the vocals are bright and full of life. “Back to You” is a killer. Starts off light and a little fragile, especially how they harmonize, then around the end the airiness of the vocals becomes more solid and singular, with the repeating of “Back to You.” “WCK” has a bit of punk in their sound, mainly the guitar riff. I like the “I’m gonna getcha” with the back vocals taunting the listener. –Matt Average (Tic Tac Totally, tictactotally.com)


GETTING EVEN:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Four tracks of mid-tempo, angry hardcore. A tinge of early Midwestern hardcore influence buried in there somewhere adds a bit of oomph and it’s great they don’t resort to hyperspeed tempos or heavy metal riffage in an attempt to add power, ‘cause as the resulting tuneage demonstrates, all that shit ain’t necessary in the least. –jimmy (Getting Even)


GETBACK, THE:
Halfway Home: CD
Hey, this ain’t bad! I’m sure we music reviewers would all tell you that we don’t do this, but I must confess: I tend to size up everything I get by the way it looks. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time I’m pretty dead on. If it looks like a turd, it generally is. I had this pegged for some overly slick “rock’n’roll” that just stole parts from older bands to great critical acclaim. Don’t know why I thought that, because looking back at the CD, it now elicits no emotional reaction whatsoever. Just some dudes standing there with a really plain logo, like they want to let the music speak for itself. And it is rock’n’roll—and I can spot some riffs/melodies that they lifted from other sources—but, who hasn’t? (And there’s nothing overly slick here either.) These dudes are just rockin,’ and it sounds like they’re enjoying themselves. One singer sounds like Joan Jett (only it’s a guy) and one sounds like Lou Reed. There are some actually genuinely enjoyable guitar solos. (I have never written those words in a review before!) This isn’t anything genius or original at all, and I get the feeling I might listen back to it years from now and it won’t have any impact on me whatsoever. It’s just nice to be so wrong. I was expecting to have to slog my way through this to get a review, when it was really pretty enjoyable. –Ryan Horky (Livid, lividrecords.com)


GATEWAY DISTRICT:
Perfect’s Gonna Fail: CD
For the uninitiated, Gateway District is a four-piece female-fronted band from the Twin Cities. Their members have amassed quite a resume, with current and past stints in The Soviettes, Banner Pilot, Dear Landlord, Rivethead, and many others. This is their second full length record and their musical perfection on these twelve songs is the diametric opposite of failure: catchy mid-tempo punk that balances raw passion and an invigorating air of triumphing over the adversity in the human condition that we all reside within. The lyrics are bold, unique, and cut right to the bone with my favorite example being the strongest song on the record “New Hands,” that begins with: “When they cut off my hands they threw me money/I grew new hands so I could pick it up/When they cut off my legs they all came for me/I grew new legs to escape this love.” The vocal interplay between Maren Macosko and Carrie Bleser is a joy to listen to and very well arranged. While I thought the debut Gateway District album was strong, they totally stepped up their game on this one. Serious contender for record of the year. –Jake Shut (It’s Alive, itsaliverecords.com)


GASOLINE GRENADE / THE MINDLESS SHOW:
Split:: Cassette
Hell yes! Man, releases like this one make me glad I still have a functioning cassette player. Both bands are from Malaysia and I’m happy to say both bands pretty much rip. I’m sadly not that aware of the Malaysian punk scene, but this tape makes me want to start digging a little deeper. Both bands offer up a nice dose of mid-tempo pop punk done in such an earnest fashion that even an old fart like me has to take notice. Nice packaging, cool art, and good production make this a total winner. –Garrett Barnwell (Pissart)


FUZZTONES:
Preaching to the Perverted: CD
Have you ever climbed out of bed at four in the morning, turned on the TV, and found a bunch of luchadors bodyslamming werewolves while go-go dancers shook their stuff in the background? Remember the music? That’s what this CD sounds like. These guys have been around since the early ‘80s, so it’s no surprise that they have the fuzzed-out garage rock thing perfected at this point. It doesn’t sound old and dusty though. It sounds fresh and vibrant, with Vox organ and guitar solos running through its veins. They’ve even got a song called “Old” (“I’m past my prime, I’ve done my time”) that somehow manages to sound youthful and reckless. –mp (Stag-O-Lee)


FREEDUMB:
The Freedumb Curse: CD
Metallic hardcore from Norway. Tunes are fast ‘n’ angry, the band is tight, and the wankery is blissfully kept at a minimum. –jimmy (Freedumb, myspace.com/freedumbfromnorway))


FREEDUMB:
The Freedumb Curse: CD
I’m sure this band gets the Municipal Waste comparisons often. That’s the thing I thought of at first listen. But it does not detract from what this band has to offer. What they don’t lack is the ability to bring on the power and speed. Add great production; this release is a joy to listen to. It automatically activated the headbanging function to this aging listener. Definitely not one dimensional. They add touches of their own personality by infusing bits and pieces of punk rock, hardcore, and metal to their crossover mayhem. Big drum and bass sounds are achieved in this recording. Add that with the clean distortion contributed by the guitarist, the songs feel well balanced. This three piece from Norway sure got things right. Another band I need to put on the list to keep an eye out for upcoming releases. –don (Tonehjulet Kraftpest, kraftpest.com)


FOUR STAR ALARM:
The Siren Sound: CD
I remember when this Chicago band’s first EP came out awhile back, and some naysayers slagged it off saying it was too “emo.” I’m not hearing anything like that here. Jeff Dean (The Bomb, Noise By Numbers) on guitar ensures that it will just be a rock fest. Theodore Moss’s vocals are confident and assured and the rhythm section of Eric Kane and Greg Mytych propel the songs along with precision and emotion. “Degeneration Kids” has a hook-filled chorus that will drag you in to its intensity. “Knife” builds a groove and keeps it going to good effect into a soaring chorus. Good stuff all around, now if they could only find the time to tour! –koepenick (Solidarity)


FOREIGN OBJECTS:
“A Kind of Life” b/w “The Key”: 7”
Foreign Objects carry on a long tradition of driving, clear, catchy punk rock in the vein of Legal Weapon (think more along their Hell Comes to Your House than their Dudes soundtrack appearance), that’s lead by a strident, tuneful female voice and backed by tight musicianship. Positive contemporary comparisons to Nuclear Family and the Libyans wouldn’t be too far off the mark, either and in my book, that’s hitting the target with each round. Only caution? It’s really fuckin’ short. –todd (Dirt Cult)


FIRESTARTER:
Saturday Night (Is the End of the World): 7”
Two-song 7” featuring two members of the late Teengenerate (and somehow associated with a third member?). Power pop rock’n’roll (heavy on the power) that’s not necessarily hi-fi but nowhere near as blown out as Teengenerate. I like the songs but someone didn’t get the memo that rock’n’roll bands shouldn’t use the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” in their songs anymore. Seriously, it takes away from the song. I rate it thus in the the Teengenerate-related canon (that I’m aware of): Teengenerate, Firestarter, Raydios. Probably fun live. –Sal Lucci (Shit Sandwich/The Modernist)


FIALKY, THE:
Pruser: CD
I’ve said it before. I’ve got a thing for good European punk rock. Usually it’s the German stuff that catches my ear, but there was that great Polish band I reviewed a while back, and now there is The Fialky from Prague in the Czech Republic. 1977 style is the order of the day with soaring sing-alongs and statements on unity and punk and such. It may be old hat in English, but it sounds much more fun in a foreign language! I’d be singing right along if I knew the language. Listening to this puts a smile on my face. –ty (Papagájův Hlasatel)


FATHER FIGURES, THE:
Lesson Number One: CD
Again I say, I dunno what they put in the Kool-Aid out in Arizona, but true to form, this three-piece, featuring former members of North Side Kings, the Voice, and the mighty Jodie Foster’s Army, dishes up stuff that sounds familiar but is tweaked just enough to bend the noggin a little. This is Arizona sun-damaged surf-meets-Baiza post-punk less interested in loping dub bass influences than creative restructuring of the “loud and angry” template, and melds urgency with intelligence, catchiness with dissonance, sophistication with blunt force. Could this be the missing link between early Saccharine Trust and Fugazi? Can’t rightly say, but it is some pretty fuggin’ good ruckus-makin’. –jimmy (AZPX, azpx.com)


FAMINE, THE:
The Architects of Guilt: CD
The Famine’s latest release finds them adding a “The” to their band name and getting a new vocalist, Nick Nowell, who was formerly their bassist. While I can’t say whether Nowell’s switch to vocals was also the catalyst to a style change, The Famine finds themselves faster, more technical, and more brutal than on their debut, The Raven and the Reaping. And that’s really saying a lot because it was a pretty intense release. From the first listen it’s hard not to compare The Famine’s new sound to Misery Index. The precision of the guitar work, the range of Nowell’s vocals (a contrasting higher scream and a lower growl), and the speed of the band shows a lot of similarities. However, that doesn’t mean that The Famine is totally ripping off Misery Index. They can certainly hold their own. Not to mention, the cover art is amazing. However, now I move on to my complaints. There is no bass on here. Maybe it’s there, but it didn’t stick out in any noticeable way. An addition of some bass in a noticeable way would help the band add more depth and a well-rounded palate. When I listened closely, I felt like I was getting a weak version of Pig Destroyer. With the direction they’re trying to go, it would be nice to hear The Famine pummel the listener, and that would require a full-on bass assault on occasion. And after a few listens it became apparent that despite their skills and intensity, The Famine still seem to lack that final knockout blow—that final bit in their bag of tricks that can deliver. I can tell they’re close but in a field of so many death and grind bands, it would be nice to hear something that really set them apart. Finally, the last song, “To the Teeth,” starts with this guitar riff that sounds similar to the beginning of Metallica’s “Sad But True.” I was really hoping it would turn into The Famine doing a cover of that song, but, unfortunately, it did not. –kurt (Solid State)


DUSTED ANGEL:
Earth-Sick Mind: CD
Former members of B’last!, Gargantula, and Spaceboy get their stoner metal on. –jimmy (Mankind)


DURBAN POISON:
Tonite: 7”
Whatta killer single from this Victoria, B.C. band! Fantastic sound—like pop punk distilled through early Australian punk and fellow Canadians Teenage Head. In the same way as the amazing Diskords from Portland a few years back, these kids take the classic sounds and put their own spin on it. This reminds me a whole lot of that first Crumbs LP on Lookout, with the Saints smashing headlong into the classic pop punk sound. Cannot wait to hear more from this amazing Canadian band. –frame (Shake)


DURANGO 95:
Self-titled: 7”
When I first saw this, I thought it might be a horrific late ‘90s ska band. Man, I am so glad this came into my possession, because I was way off. This is some very solid soul music. Gets me bumping early in the morning and ready to throw on some Al Green and Jimmy Cliff. If you see anything by this band and are more into the Skatalites and the Specials than Less Than Jake and the Suicide Machines, I highly recommend you give this a shot. –Rene Navarro (Vinyl Solution)


DRAMAMINE:
Emphasis: 7”
One of my current favorite Euro bands, Germany’s Dramamine features ex-members of Idle Hands, Press Gang, etc, and deliver stellar “revolution summer” by way of Swami Recs. um… “emo” in the most proper sense. This EP, and their awesome LP on Sabotage Records, are doing very well to fill the void left by the members’ old bands, and fans of the mid-to-late ‘80s DC sound, the Hot Snakes extended family of bands, the more “emo” side of the Ebullition records catalog, and my hometown heroes Shotmaker/Three Penny Opera should certainly take note. Terrific. –Dave Williams (Narshardaa)


DON KINGS, THE:
Surfin’ Sickles: 7” EP
Auckland, New Zealand’s The Don Kings play lo-fi surf rock. Fans of The Mummies and The Trashwomen will want this EP. Surfin’ Sickles was recorded live in The Don Kings’ rehearsal room and it sounds like hell; and I mean that in a good way. These guys know what’s up—on bass The Kings have Andrew Tolley (head of Kato and Perpetrator Records) who’s been putting down some mean NZ garage rock for about fifteen years now, seemingly in a vacuum. Added bonus: a nice cover of “Parchman Farm.” Well worth the investment! –ryan (Kato, myspace.com/katorecords)


DISRUPTERS, THE:
Generation Retard: CD
One of the old U.K. bands that managed to have one foot in the Punk and Disorderly crowd and the Crass crowd (at least compilation-wise), these guys have decided to give it another go with this, their first album in twenty-five years. Pretty much gone is the youthful, clamorous hardcore of songs like “Young Offender” and “Bomb Heaven,” and in is a more refined punk sound with a bit of a rock undertow and vocals more often growled than shouted. Not that this is a bad thing, per se, but it’s definitely a marked change in sound, but it has been twenty-five years, for fuck’s sake. The lyrics remain topical as ever, addressing corporate corruption, religion and such, and retain a sophistication that’s still light years ahead of the average parrot punk band’s abstract whinnies about an amorphous “system” that apparently suffers irreparable damage by singing about ingesting copious amounts of beer. The thought put into the proceedings is evident, and that makes all the difference. –jimmy (Overground, overgroundrecords.com)


DISCO FOR FERNS, A:
Three New Songs: CD
For the life of me, I can’t figure out what these goofballs are going for. Did one of them consciously decide to have the cymbals louder than any of the other instruments? Do they really love the way that sound combines with their shouting about zombie roaches? I sure don’t. –mp (8 Up, adff.vze.com)


DEZERTER:
Prawo Do Bycia Idiota: LP
Woohoo! second Dezerter LP that I got for review! This is a new one recorded in 2010. A big difference, at least to me, from their 2004 recording. The music, this time around, has more elements of post punk intertwined, making the music more adventurous than what I have heard in the past. It’s mature-sounding, but they still have that underlying melody imbedded in the music. It’s also adventurous that they’re working outside the confines of their past to create something that’s fresh. There is a darker feel to the music, yet they’re playful in their approach. When they go into poppier territory, they come out shining with the energy of a pogo party. Hate to say it, but I like this record more than all of their output I have heard in the past. A nice and varied recording that never loses my attention, but it definitely is a record that you have to let simmer for a couple of listens before the appreciation starts to surface. –don (Pasazer)


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