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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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STOOGES, THE:
Have Some Fun: Live at Ungano’s: CD
New live record from the vaults that documents the band playing all of Funhouse to a perplexed NYC crowd. Elaborate packaging with a foldout poster and clip-out repo’s of the ad for the show and some snapshots of Iggy raging. This was a transitional period for the band. Roadie Bill Cheatham was on second guitar and Zeke Zettner had replaced Dave Alexander on bass. But the Asheton brothers keep things moving along with Steve Mackay on sax. Iggy is Iggy full-on. Not the greatest sound quality, but it’s above bearable. If you like The Stooges, you need this one without a doubt. –koepenick (Rhino)


STATE OF FRANKLIN:
The Cancer E.P.: CD
Boy, do I feel like a heel bagging on a song whose only lyrics are “Fuck you, cancer.” Maybe if I knew the backstory, it would mean more to me. As it is, it’s just rudimentary punk, played with minimal energy and recorded inside a glass of water. –CT Terry (Girth, girthrecords.com)


STAMFORD BRIDGE / BASTARDS CHOIR:
Split: 7"
I like me some of that “oi” type of punk rock, but I can get a little picky about it. As I dropped the needle on this record, I read the back and realized that StamfordBridge is essentially a one man band featuring Carl from The Templars (with Phil Templar on drums). I love The Templars, so I geared myself up for the unexpected. StamfordBridge is more of an oi-tinged pop group—and it’s really amazing! I am on the hunt for more from these guys now! I couldn’t imagine how Bastards Choir could hold their own after that, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t kick ass as well. Super catchy songs that have to do with roasting pork and such. A real Beltones flavor to the sound that I loved. What a great split record! –ty (Oi! The Boat)


STAGGER AND FALL:
Smash the Bottle Smash the State: CD
If you can get past the terribly trite title, Stagger And Fall is actually a remarkably thoughtful, Bay Area melodic streetpunk band. Reminiscent of Reducers SF, the songs are mainly mid-tempo, with lyrics about love lost and growing old in a subculture. There’s almost a Mike Ness feel to the vocals, and anyone who can look past the on-the-surface silliness will probably find themselves toe tapping and having a good old time. It’s the musical equivalent of a snack cake; easy to go down and relatively harmless, despite what your greedy dentist tells you. –Art Ettinger (Stagger And Fall, staggerandfall.com)


SPRAINS, THE:
Imitate Art: CD
The second I started to enjoy any of these songs, they end up taking an overwrought turn toward mall punk town. Are you looking for all the conventional trappings of whiny emo pop punk in one CD? If so, this is a great specimen. Most of these songs are pretty juvenile, and the lyrics will grate if you pay enough attention. For instance, on “Pity Party”: “pity party/it’s a pity party/are you feeling sad or are you feeling sorry?” As I type this out, I can hear the trite melody smashing around in my brain, probably destroying some happy childhood memory. I’m not necessarily saying I have a problem with song titles like “I Farted (Let’s Get Started)” or ones about gangrene asses, but songs about butts need to be fun and/or funny, otherwise they end up sounding way too much like a middle school talent show. I realized about halfway through listening how spot-fucking-on the title of this CD is. The Sprains aren’t creating anything new, just rehashing a genre that is pretty dead tired already. Maybe when these guys graduate high school, I’ll check back and see if they’ve moved on to any other parts of the body. –Candice Tobin (Cheapskate, cheapskaterecords.com)


SPIDER BAGS:
Take It Easy Tonite: 7"
There seems to be a real trend at the moment of bands playing vaguely garagey, vaguely psych, fuzzed-out, lo-fi music. This band perfectly encapsulates the sound that I seem to be hearing a lot of. Fans of Hozac Records and Columbus Discount will find a whole lot to like here. –frame (Churchkey)


SPAZZ:
Crush Kill Destroy: LP
I still have the sticker on my sock drawer: “Making powerviolence a cheezy catchphrase since 1989!—Slap-A-Ham Records.” Oh, powerviolence. How big the bubble got, then popped to almost nothing. It was a good run (being generous: 1990-2000). It rallied against pop punk. Think of it as the angrier, more abstract, crushing, funnier, crushinger yet, hostile cousin to Lookout! Records in an EastBay smackdown. Spazz was a “power(violence)” trio of Dan Boleri, Chris Dodge, and Max Ward. Spazz, in particular, introduced Snufalufagus (played at 78 RPM) and The Cookie Monster’s (at 16 RPM) voices to blast beats and “After School Special”-style soundbites into powerviolence’s oeuvre. And Slap-A-Ham—founded by original No Use For A Name guitarist and Me First And The Gimme Gimmes liner notes writer Chris Dodge—was at one of powerviolence’s epicenters, releasing between sixty and seventy records during its eight-year existence. Max’s label 625 Thrashcore is responsible for this re-issue and it sounds and looks great. And Chris Dodge now lives in Alhambra. It seems to me that he can’t seem to get away from things with “ham” in them. –todd (625 Thrash, 625thrash.com)


SPACE STATION 5:
If This Doesn’t Mean the World to You: CD
Oh Space Station 5, you have a horrible band name and your sound is derivative of a million other emo pop bands out there, and yet I find myself falling for your smooth, radio-friendly sound. Why? What’s that you say? Hooks? A reminiscence of other mildly popular, polished bands in style amongst teenage girls? Eight songs about relationships, parents, and being young? On second thought, maybe this really isn’t my thing. –kurt (Livid)


SOLAR BEAR:
Captains of Industry: CD
The copy I was sent was faulty and only twice did my trusty Kenwood DP-R3080 even recognize that there was a CD in its guts. I heard the entire thing only once, and wasn’t really into what I heard. Solar Bear categorizes themselves on their promo sheet as “angular, dissonant rock.” That’ll do. –The Lord Kveldulfr (no label)


SOFY MAJOR:
Permission to Engage: 2 x LP
In the same realm as bands like Converge and Isis, this is post hardcore mixed with progressive metal. It’s the sort of music that takes repeated listens to even begin grasping where they’re coming from. The production is massive. Everything is loud as fuck. They switch from sludge to manic speeds, and there’s a definite urgency running through the entire double album. The one thing that kills this record is they get too bogged down in being technical. It’s hard to remember any song within seconds of it being over. “Dearth of It All” starts out decent, but eventually descends into many time changes, and just going on too long for its own good. After a point, I was bored. If they’d just let it rip here and there it would make a world of difference. The packaging for this album is pretty impressive. The artwork is primo (by Gérald Jay and Nicolas Deschamps), and the clear vinyl with splattered colors is a sight to behold. –Matt Average (Basement Apes Industries, basementapesind.com)


SOCIAL UNREST:
Songs for Sinners: EP
Don’t believe the sticker on the cover that claims this is their best material since Rat in a Maze. That’s a tall order, and though this record isn’t bad, it doesn’t come close to Rat in a Maze or any of the early, or later, SU material. Social Unrest are definitely one of my all-time favorite bands. I love everything from Making Room for Youth to Now and Forever, but I’m not blinded by fandom to let things get a pass. The material on here is good. “High Rollers” should have been put on the B-side, as it comes across as a throwaway, and the two songs on the B-side, “Get It Together” and “No One’s Tool” should have been the A-side. In fact, “No One’s Tool” is the best of the bunch, and recalls the early years of these guys the best. Parts of it remind me of “General Enemy” (from Rat in a Maze). One thing is for sure. Creetin K-Os still has a great voice. A good bellow, but the lyrics are intelligible. I hope these guys write more songs like this—fast, melodic, and tight—all the ingredients they used with great results in the past. –Matt Average (Dr. Strange, drstrange.com)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
The Speakeasy: CD
The third full length from this band originally from Richmond finds them exploring new sounds and pushing their songwriting capabilities with spellbinding results. Joe McMahon is asking a lot more questions on this release, and the world does not seem to be providing any answers. “Monsters Among Us” asks, “I’m trying to find a way to understand how people justify how much they take/white collared crimes by well-dressed thieves everyday in the casinos on Wall Street.” “Neon Light” weaves a downtrodden tale of someone looking for redemption on an off night through the bottom of a drink. It’s not pretty, but it works. Politics also weighs in on songs like “1968” and “Honey, I Was Right about the War.” Musically, McMahon’s songs are powered by the one-two punch of Gwomper on bass and Ryan Parrish on drums. Fiery guitar leads from Jeremy Cochran brings it all together on each track. This is a rock and roll record that shows that you can think and burn all at the same time. A must-have for your collection. –koepenick (Fat)


SLT:
Gone Dead Gone: CD
Someone really likes their Iggy Pop record collection. –jimmy (earringrecords.com)


SLOAN PETERSON:
Second Chances: 7"
The song on side A reminds me of a less tuneful, punker Shins. So I guess I mean a better Shins? Side B consists of two songs that are quite a bit faster and quite a bit better. I’m thinking Sloan Peterson would fit in well on an Art Of The Underground Singles Series. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s already happened. Wait…yup, the internet says it has. –Guest Contributor (Hang Up, hanguprecords.com)


SKY BURIAL:
Self-titled: CDEP
Taking their name from a Tibetan funeral rite of dissecting and placing a body for the birds to dismember, these guys out of Tennessee similarly offer up their own body of three tracks for dissection. Simply labeled “One,” “Two,” and “Three,” the songs blur together with melodic—almost minimalistic—guitar instrumentations riding above a festering undercurrent. Incorporating two drummers, the song structures swim from gracefully somber to a wall of guitar and black metal barks. Part doom, part metal, this five-piece band is something to keep an eye on. –Kristen K (Anti-Corporate Music Inc., Audio-Rat-Poison.com)


SIVLE SI DOG:
Room 30: CD
Man, I just couldn’t get into this record, a reissue of Sivle Si Dog’s last recording from 1997. For the most part, this is grind-your-face-into-the-pavement punk rock with churning, frequently spooky-sounding guitars and vocals dripping with punk rock sturm und drang (as well as welcome doses of immaturity), but it just wasn’t for me. I think what puts me off is that I’m not into the breakdowns and tempo changes that SSD have in their songs; such switches consistently create an effect of two separate songs sewn awkwardly together like a musical Frankenstein’s monster. But that’s just me. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Girth)


SIRCUSCUS:
Brutal Enthnology: CD
A ten-song, twenty-minute disc from Finland. Sircuscus identify themselves as ethno/circus rock and it prominently features plenty of Middle Eastern and Eastern European influences along with angular song changes, some heavy riffs, and ample energy. The main comparison that comes to mind is the cerebral punk mindfuck of NoMeansNo, but with a bit more stoner metal and hardcore influences cropping up. It’s a fine release if you are looking to explore some envelope pushing artpunk. –Jake Shut (Self-released)


SIC ALPS:
Napa Asylum: CD
I’d never heard Sic Alps before, but apparently they’ve done some semi extensive touring and have a couple full lengths under their belt already. However, since I was completely unaware of them until now, I don’t have a good point of reference for this record. The music is kind of a sleepy take on ‘60s pop and garage. The guitars are distorted but there isn’t anything loud about the album except in a couple short bursts at the end. All the instruments are panned out to the extremes in either channel, making good use of the negative space in the stereo range. Since each song lacks consistency in where those instruments wind up, the album has a very intimate and live feel, like the members of the band are moving around a practice space and putting together the songs in front of the listener rather than presenting something fully formed and executed to a paying audience, which works in the band’s favor. The vocal melodies, which borrow a lot from doo wop and—more than just a little—the more subdued numbers in the Led Zeppelin catalog—are the focal point of the material, presenting catchy melodies that don’t trap themselves in repetition or hooks. Fans of Elliot Smith or similar styles should dig this a lot. –Ian Wise (Drag City)


SHORES:
Coup de Grace: LP
Slowcore was an indie subgenre in the ‘90s, characterized by a moody sound with whispered vocals and sneaky grooves. Some of the popular slowcore bands were Slint, Low, and Codeine. Shores are staying true to the style. It sounds like they recorded this record in a giant cabin in the woods, each band member standing twenty yards from the next. I tend to find this type of stuff tedious, hookless, and devoid of joy, and Shores are no exception, but this record is heavy on atmosphere and grew on me as it spun, drawing me into its hushed, dark world. –CT Terry (No Idea)


SHIRKS, THE:
“Disease” b/w “No Way St.”: 7"
A band that wears their Saints influence on their sleeve, The Shirks just keep getting better and better. The band plays Ramones-style power chord punk that keeps getting tighter and faster. Good vocal play, hammer-down guitar riffs, and a tight rhythm section comprises their third 7”, which is just a white sleeve with black writing on it: again including no information about themselves. The whole thing smokes. Punk. Punk. Punk. –Billups Allen (Windian, no address listed)


SHATTERHAND:
Compliancy Is Not an Option: CD
Let us examine the nature of Shatterhand. Here we have a band from Scotland who sounds like a mix of Descendents and Leatherface. At points, you might think that they have two different singers, but no. There is only one vocal credit on the insert (note: lyrics are not included). This is a compilation with no inherent logic to the order of the songs. I have no idea which ones are earlier or which ones belong to the same releases. Shatterhand definitely sounds better when the singer is channeling Milo Aukerman than those few awkward attempts at his Frankie Stubbs impression. For the sake of continuity, pick a vocal style and stick with it, or at least tell me if those were early songs so I don’t complain about them so much. Otherwise, a fine retrospective of a band I had never heard of. Good job. –Bryan Static (Unsane Asylum, unsaneasylum.com)


SEX ROBOTS:
Night Moves: LP
Gotta appreciate when a band puts in some great work, and it’s clear early on Sex Robots do just that here. Deciding on an approach that mixes early ‘80s rock with pop punk and playing it pretty straight down the line, they come up with a slew of catchy tunes that are smart, infectious, and blessedly thin of Ramones aping. Very nice. –jimmy (Roadhouse Tunes, no address)


SEVEN FOOT SPLEEN:
Reptilicus: CD
A collection of tracks, some from seven-inchers, some comp tracks, and some heretofore unreleased, with dates ranging from 1995-’98. Like a variant on Monty Python’s “Spam” skit, you get sludge, sludge, and more sludge, with a heaping side of sludgy punk on the side—all of it loud, strangly, and fucked up, just how ye like it. –jimmy (Tsuguri)


SERIOUS TRACERS:
Self-titled: 7"EP
Rumbling, bass-heavy lo-fi punk with some French (and maybe new wave?) influences. This EP is a spastic, fuzzed-out punch straight to the gut. Songs start at a breakneck pace and descend into these fragmented, jolty guitar melodies. Strap yourself in and prepare to wear the grooves outta this vinyl. –Candice Tobin (Sick Thought, no address listed)


SCREECHING WEASEL:
Television City Dream: CD
I didn’t think that this would ever happen: Television City Dream has been reissued. There are a couple of reasons that I never thought that I would see this reissued. First, it has more or less remained readily available on both CD and vinyl since its initial release. The other reason that I never thought that this one would be reissued is that it isn’t that great. Despite my thoughts, it was reissued. It includes five bonus tracks, a new mix, and new artwork. Four of the five bonus tracks were originally released on the Four on the Floor comp that Panic Button did. That comp had twelve other good songs by three other bands; TCD has three other good songs. “Dirty Needles,” which was also on the Short Music for Short People comp, “Outside of You,” and “Identity Crisis” compromise the three good songs from the original issue. The other thirteen songs on here are not necessarily bad, but they are bad for Screeching Weasel songs. Those thirteen songs seem to go one of two ways. They either go too aggressive for SW or they are on the level of SW rip off acts. Since it has been about a decade since I listened to the original issue, I can’t say for sure what’s different about the mix; it sounds like the vocals were turned up while everything else was flattened. Weasel has never had great cover art, but the original cover was pretty decent (a piece by Aldo Giorgini, the father of Mass). The new cover art is far from decent: a skeleton in business attire with its skull on fire, holding a TV in a city aflame. Given that the Four comp shouldn’t be too hard to find and that the original issue of TCD may be lingering in a used bin near you, this reissue is inessential and easy to skip. –Vincent Battilana (Fat, fatwreck.com)


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