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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ASOUND, THE:
Self-titled: CDEP
Three tunes of sludgy stoner rock with a vocalist who prefers to sing rather than imitate a strangled badger. –jimmy (Tsuguri)


ARKHAMS, THE:
The Valley of…: CD
New York rockabilly (or possibly something like “psychobilly” or “punkabilly” that I don’t really know anything about, which I’ll get to in a second). It’s pretty easy to write stuff like this off, but at this point I’d rather just try to find the good instead of shitting on it, which is why I look at stuff like this as simple fun (admittedly in small doses). It sounds like pretty standard stuff for the genre, and I prefer a quick barrage of the faster numbers than the slowed down ones, so I don’t get bored. –joe (myspace.com/thearkhams)


ANTIDOTUM:
Jedna Plaga Ludzka Plaga: CD
Rock solid Polish punk/hardcore with female vocals. Songs are tight, anthemic, and catchy without sounding too formulaic, preachy, or professional. Good stuff. –jimmy (nnnw.pl)


ANTI YOU:
Two Bit Schemes and Cold War Dreams: LP
Straight-up hardcore punk attack in sixteen movements. There’s a definite late ‘70s/early ‘80s SoCal punk influence. The choruses are direct and memorable, the vocals are more talked than yelled, and the guitar is more jangly than buzzing and distorted. The songs on the first side are more straightforward, whereas the songs on the second side have a little more going on. “Cop-Out” has a cool introduction that reminds me of the Adolescents with the lone guitar creating the mood of despair, then there’s songs like “Dead End World” and “Operation SS” that switch back and forth (“Operation SS” stays mostly mid tempo and is a definite stand out on here). At times, they sound like a rawer Smogtown “Fuhrers of the New Wave.” “No One Like Me” is definitely the best song on here, and kind of brings all the elements they mess with together in one great song. It’s catchy, it’s fast, and it captures the mood of the lyrics perfectly. –Matt Average (Six Weeks, sixweeksrecords.com)


ANCHOR:
Relations of Violence: 7”
Fast straight edge hardcore from Sweden. Downtuned for extra heaviness. Breakdowns that reach early Metallica levels of epicosity, but get out of the way fast in favor of more circle pit parts. Introspective lyrics building on Chain Of Strength’s “I can’t believe another year’s gone by and still nothing” prompt. This style of hardcore has been done to death, but Anchor play it with a ferocity that makes it sound fresh. If moshcore is your poison, you’re gonna want to drink this Kool-Aid ASAP. –CT Terry (Refuse, refuserecords.com)


ANB/ANS:
Tribute to Gang Green: 5”
I thought this was a CD until I slid the little piece of clear vinyl out of the sleeve. Ah, I love the skaterock, and Gang Green is a big part of that... Come to think of it, Gang Green might have something to do with my love of alcohol, too! Well, we’ve got a couple of flip-brim “initials” bands paying tribute, and they do a great job. ANB does “Alcohol” faithfully and competently. They get a special kudos for recreating the famous Gang Green coke mirror photo. I have a feeling it’s photoshopped, but regardless, nice work. ANS go balls-out by not only doing “Let’s Drink Some Beer,” but slapping in an original on the sly. A great one, at that! Two great bands paying homage to some drunken legends. What’s not to like? –ty (Tankcrimes)


ANAL WARHEAD:
Time to Die: 7”
It’s almost astonishing to think about how many different types of music fall under the umbrella of “hardcore.” I knew before hearing it that Anal Warhead would be playing a more fatalistic, spikes and mohawks style, and I wasn’t wrong. Fortunately, they do it well. I’d much rather listen to the “nuclear holocaust, kill the pigs” scene than see some joker in a basketball jersey up there calling himself “hawdcoa”. This sense of bleak depression somehow makes me a little happy. –ty (Suburban White Trash)


ANAGRAM:
“Butcher” b/w “Fish”: 7”
Another solid outing from Telephone Explosion. “Butcher” is a lo-fi blues-punk number that’s driving. B side “Fish” carries in the same vein with a surf-punk sound similar to the great and underappreciated New Zealand band, King Loser. A lot of fucking reverb and tremolo…while I can’t make out all the lyrics, they’re fucking sordid…like something you’d come across in Herbert Huncke’s work. Pretty fuckin’ rad all the way around. –ryan (Telephone Explosion, telephoneexplosion.com)


AMERICAN HABITS:
Empty Pockets: CD
It’s clear from first blush that the cats responsible for this release have been around the ol’ punk rock block. The tricky thing with older punkers playing in a modern setting is that oftentimes things get a bit too caught up in pining and/or attempting to recreate the “good ol’ days,” but these guys manage to keep the mothball stench of nostalgia at bay and deliver some strong tunes with lyrical content teetering toward more personal subject matter without coming off like a confessional session transcript, addressing not fitting in, lost love, being broke, and the like. They hail from Northern California, but there’s a definite mid-’80s Southern California feel to the tunes—catchy riffs, the vaguest wisp of oi influence, and tempos that rarely ratchet up past a solid gallop. All told, some solid work here. –jimmy (americanhabit@yahoo.com)


ALTARS, THE:
Self-titled: LP
Great mid-paced hardcore punk from Texas. These guys are definitely not afraid to mix it up with a bit of melody here and there. Sum up the best qualities of early Naked Raygun with their former bands Storm The Tower and Signal Lost, then add them to the talents of a vocalist who actually knows how to sing. The result is a very solid full-length album. –Juan Espinosa (Adelante, adelantediscos@gmail.com)


AGALLOCH:
Marrow of the Spirit: CD
I’ve known about Agalloch, the Portland, Oregon based black metal band, for a number of years. I worked with a guy in Seattle who is good friends with them, but beyond the name I didn’t really know much of them. I passed them over as just being another dumb black metal band that was “extreme” but lacking any real musical substance. And now I would like to eat my words, as I was severely wrong. What I have come to realize is that Agalloch is a complex four piece that is crafting way more than just some stereotypically evil-sounding music. The six songs that comprise Marrow of the Spirit are rich and diverse, especially if you come into this thinking (as I did) that you’re only going to hear some growling vocals and heavy guitars. What the sixty-five minutes of music on this album proves is that Agalloch has a depth to them that is lacking in so many metal bands. They’re not afraid of being creative and plumbing a range of sources to make for music that is able to touch a deeper, emotional chord that you’d expect to be hit when you listen to Sigur Rós or something more cold, atmospheric, and dark. While many fans of metal will no doubt hear strains of Isis’s later work in Marrow of the Spirit, Agalloch offers a wider array of sound than just heavy music mixed with a contrasting growling and singing vocals. There is a good dose of cello, neo-folk guitar work, and crystalline keyboards alongside blast beats and sinister vocals similar to such an act as Gorgoroth. It makes for compelling listening that often crosses the line into beautiful. Songs clocking in at twelve or seventeen minutes don’t drag whatsoever. Instead, they’re part of a skillful arrangement of ethereal beauty. It’s akin to that feeling one gets when they find themselves in a cold, snowy field and the sky stands grey. It’s not oppressive or depressing; rather it’s a capturing of the notion of environment that makes Marrow of the Spirit stand as remarkable in its delivery. –kurt (profoundlorerecords.com)


ADD/C:
Busy Days: LP
On its best days, DIY punk is a joyous reaffirmation that there is something worth fighting for in our day-to-day lives, no matter how big and sloppy the shit sandwich we’re constantly served is. ADD/C has created an existential—as in, why do we exist? What we do today is more important than yesterday or tomorrow—and soulful record. I’ve enjoyed past ADD/C records, but Busy Days has than earnest, honest ache for communication that doesn’t come around all that often. It has many of the earmarks of contemporary Chattanooga DIY punk—gruff, but clear and sung vocals, excellent-but-not-pro-dude tech playing—in line, but clearly far from aping The Hidden Spots, The Jack Palance Band, and The Future Virgins. I know so very little about what records will stick close to others record players for the long haul, but I see Busy Days’s chances pretty good that it’s going to keep company with Bent Outta Shape’s Stray Dog Town and The Tim Version’s Decline of the Southern Gentleman in my household.The record comes beautifully packaged with a full-sized zine lyric sheet and great artwork throughout. –todd (Mauled By Tigers, mauledbytigers.com; Plan-It-X South)


ADAPTIVE REACTION:
Terminal Hate: 7”
Fairly solid synth punk in the vein of Nervous Gender. Not grabbing me like some of their contemporaries—Nervous Patterns for example—but I am digging the female backing vocals and energy. One thing’s for certain: I doubt anyone can question Adaptive Reaction’s commitment. This 45 came in a hand-folded sleeve; the record is on colored vinyl and is hand numbered. Fuckin’ awesome. –ryan (Conduktiv Produkt)


ABSINTHE ROSE/HUMANWINE:
Split: CD
A split of singer songwriters with six songs by Absinthe Rose and five by Humanwine: Rose has an uncanny likeness to early Ani DiFranco with acoustic guitar, trembly vocal cadences, and folk punk leanings. Here the chords are more textured than her previous effort; however, the first three song melodies run into each other, making it difficult to distinguish one song from another. Holly Brewer, or Humanwine, takes a turn into a deeper, darker thicket confronting free speech, counter surveillance, and fear mongering. Each song has a distinct tempo and male background vocals are tossed into “Death Wish for the Impostor” and “Our Devolution Is Televised,” which I particularly enjoyed for the strings. The minimal instrumentation on “Breath” paired with her haunting vocals perfectly conveyed the isolation and doom of the lyrics. By comparison, Humanwine has made the fortuitous moves that Rose hasn’t. –Kristen K (Rodent Popsicle, rodentpopsicle.com)


ZOMBIE DOGS:
Self-titled: LP
All female feminist skatecore on an awesome new female-run label? Please give me more bands like this. Infectiously catchy riffs, intelligent and witty lyrics, and dynamic vocals make for an album that you want to sing along with to every song. The tracks “Braincrush,” “Thrashin’,” and “Nerd in the Pit,” alone are worth the price of admission, and there are eight other tracks on this album to rock out to. Get this one before it’s sold out. –Paul J. Comeau –Guest Contributor (Strength In Numbers, strengthin123.com)


YOUR PEST BAND / DEFECT DEFECT / GROANING GROOVE:
Puke and Destroy: Split: 7”
Three bands—two Japanese, one American—each with two songs apiece. Your Pest Band: Landing somewhere between The Urchin and the Raydios; a proficient Japanese punk band. Thankfully, they’re not sterile, but they’re also not as memorable as the two signposts I just mentioned. By far, my favorite tracks are by Defect Defect, and although the delivery’s convincing and I like the song, the phrase “Fuck God Lets Punk” is pretty cheesy. Groaning Groove sounds like a grunge band attempting metal, featuring the voice of an angry, lesser-known Muppet. Not my bag. I have total respect for Snuffy Smiles, but this 7” delivered mixed results. –todd (Snuffy Smiles)


YOUNG GOVERNOR:
“Call Me When the Cat Dies” b/w “Fade Away': 7”
Hey man, someone slipped the Guv the Ryan Rousseau broken digital, sand-scratched, blood-trickling-down-forehead melodies handbook, and I’m not complaining. I loves me some Tokyo Electron, Digital Leather, Destruction Unit, and the Reatards. And this follows suit. It’s like seeing a transparency on the overhead over the Guv’s formidable power pop diagram. This release is skuzzier, more fractured, somehow Teutonic, and just as excellent. I liked the trick that that Guv’s pony was pulling before. I like him more now that I hear his pony’s got more than just one trick. If you have to decide between paying off a medical bill or buying this 7”, I’d go with the 7” because it’ll definitely make you feel better… but that’s just me. I’m no health care professional. –todd (Criminal IQ)


X:
Under the Big Black Sun: LP
Beautifully re-issued by Porterhouse, this album is a god damn classic. Not without its duds, but a classic nonetheless. X has a pretty extensive catalog, some of it great, some of it of questionable quality. In my eyes, this is one of those albums that’s a little of both worlds. When it’s good, it’s unfathomable. Who were these people? What universe did they live in? What bus line takes me there? Beautiful, tragic, truly poetic, and full of character. Not timeless, but close, and definitely not trapped by the tropes of 1982. That’s when it’s good, when it’s bad, it’s pretty pathetic, and they really are wearing way too much make up. But it’s easy to take cheap shots at X, so call off your dogs and pick up this record if you haven’t already, because Bonebrake may be playing the marimba, but it’s still punk as fuck. –Daryl Gussin (Porterhouse)


WRECK OF THE ZEPHYR:
Self-titled: 7”
Starts out with some crazy guitar picking then barrels into some bouncy-ass shit. This band always makes me want to dance and shout. Very, very tight musicianship on this. These guys take every step in the right direction, completely synchronized. When I first put this on my record player, I was nervous it wouldn’t sound as great as it does live, but somehow it does. The energy of the music and the earnestness of the lyrics just floor me. “Through and Through” is a seriously beautiful song about, well… buy this and find out for yourself. Only one hundred copies made. The paper is handmade, and everything on said paper is hand written. Is that DIY enough for you, huh? Is it? –Rene Navarro (Pass The Fist)


WINSLOWS:
Didn’t Do That: Cassette
The coolest thing about the resurgence of cassette tapes is that, when the gratingly tone-deaf pop punk contained within causes a violent reaction, smashing a tape is way more fun than smashing a record or CD. –mp (People’s Republic Of Rock And Roll)


WINGNUT DISHWASHERS UNION:
Self-titled: CD
More annoying gelding-voiced shout-folk with lyrics that go something like “and what if all the anarchists...” Insultingly devoid of reality, it throws down an unrealistic, one-dimensional view of the world. This stuff is becoming far too common in punk and offers up an offensive, head-in-the-clouds positivity that is in no way applicable to reality. In doing so, it makes both punk and positivity look bad. If Mr. Union were the first of his kind, I might have gone easier on him. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Punk is being overrun with this trite, I’m-on-the-side-of-good crap. –Craven (DIY Bandits)


WILD, THE:
Set Ourselves Free: CD
This band is pretty great. It’s catchy, emotional, full band folk-punk that avoids the pitfall a lot of other folksy bands fall into of just being annoying. In fact, they remind me of another favorite folk punk band of mine, Rosa, but with access to better recording equipment. It wouldn’t be quite right to say the record was unabashedly optimistic (there is a song called “The Saddest Thing I Ever Saw” after all), but it contains a definite innate joyousness that reflects in the music. For instance, “Dear Noah” has a driving soul element to it due to the organ that supplements the banjo and acoustic guitar, and “Breathe City Lights”‘ train-like rhythm would befit a ‘60s country song about riding the rails. An interesting sidenote is that the album was recorded and produced by Joe Queer and Jeff Rosenstock of Bomb the Music Industry! I never would of thought of either of those two as candidates to produce a largely bluegrass and Americana-informed punk band, but the results are pretty good. I highly recommend this. –Adrian (Asian Man and Quote Unquote)


WILD DOGS IN WINTER:
Homba: CD
This has the airy qualities of Gregor Samsa, the light, male vocals of Seven Percent Solution, and the calm peacefulness of Low’s I Could Live in Hope. I’m pretty content with my collection of those artists already so I doubt this will be going in regular rotation, but if you like any of the aforementioned acts, you should check this out. –kurt (myspace.com/wilddogsinwinter)


WILD AMERICA:
The Sea: 7”
In the heat of things, it was hard to believe it, but now I notice a fuzzy, melodic link between Hüsker Dü, The Promise Ring and Green Day. I wouldn’t have caught that in high school because, back then, I knew that old college radio dudes liked Hüsker Dü, straight edge girls liked The Promise Ring, and people who hadn’t discovered cooler stuff after buying Dookie still listened to Green Day. Now, along comes Austin’s Wild America to give me perspective by drawing from all three of those bands’ subgenres, making a rad musical mixture of almost everything I liked in eleventh grade. Thanks guys. I expect nothing less from thinking men whose record cover is their band’s name written in the sand and whose lyrics say things like, “I understand religion. I’ve read enough to know there’s no god to pray to, to make you come to me.” –CT Terry (Freedom School)


WHITE NIGHT:
Self-titled: 10”
Dysfunctional and productive: the two most activated features of White Night/Small Pool. They may lose their singer in a drunken maelstrom of events, but hey, they still set up the show and got people to show up. Anyways, he was hungry. I’m never too sure about their discography or lineup, but whenever they play or I come across a new record, it’s always great. They started with a formula and have steadily been distorting it with their own bizarreness to a point where it’s pretty fucking original and still possesses everything that was once awesome about it. So why care about what Screeching Weasel “classic” is being remastered this month, when you can care about what living room White Night is tearing up? –Daryl Gussin (No Breaks)


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