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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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VIRUS:
“Illuminati” b/w “Vanity”: 7”
Crabby, dour Brit-punk. Well-played and produced. Sounds like two songs off an old compilation album I would have gotten when I was seventeen and not listened to for the last twenty-five years. I do enjoy the pineapple Life Saver® colored vinyl, however. BEST SONG: “Illuminati.” BEST SONG TITLE: Don’t care. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Record self-identifies as “LOUD PUNK.” What ever happened to “File Under Power Trash?” –norb (Subversive Haircuts)


WAR//PLAGUE / VASTATION:
United in Darkness: 7”
War//Plague sounds a lot like The Awakening, who were pretty solid. Crusty stuff, with that wonderfully dirty guitar tone. One original and a Totalitär cover. Vastation is the new name for Portland’s Night Nurse, and they have the Cookie Monster/metallic licks/gloomy, drawn-out riffage thing down pat. They dedicate their side of the split to a recently deceased dog, which I thought was pretty sweet. –keith (Profane Existence)


WATERTANK:
Destination Unknown: LP
Melodic sludge/grunge with hints of shoegaze bombast thrown in for good measure. While not breaking any new ground, the hooks are strong, the delivery sounds sincere, and the tunes might’ve been able to find a home on terrestrial radio two decades ago. –jimmy (Solar Flare)


WAX WITCHES:
Centre of Your Universe: CD
This is something. Part fuzzed-out power pop, part space garage. There’s a ton of guitar pedal fuckery going on here, but it never feels like it’s at odds with the song’s overall power and energy. Witness this: a musician so high on his own supply, so into the science he’s laying down that his work shines with an unabashed jubilance. When the music comes out so certifiably fun, it’s hard to judge the more minor artistic inconsistencies. This record doesn’t start a party, it is the evidence that a great party once occurred, and the sounds that bellows from your speaker systems infect the air like a virus, turning unsuspecting civilians into partygoers. Grade: A-. –Bryan Static (Burger, burgerrecords.org)


WILD MOTH:
Inhibitor: LP
The Wild Moth boys have one of the cleanest aesthetics in punk. My eyes feast on everything they put out. It’s a bonus that this is their best release to date. The guitars are dense and chuggy, Cal’s drums attack, and the bass blends into the ocean of fuzz. Nothing feels sedated or meandering. Austin’s vocals are the most confident they’ve ever been, sometimes veering into Stephen Malkmus territory of talk-singing. Wild Moth are less ambient and more focused on crafting tightly wound post-punk ragers. “Gallery of Walls” is a hardcore-tinged blitz that resembles The Proletariat. “You Found Out” is an epic closer with enough noise and power chords to overload your ear drums. “Traces” is my favorite tune, though, because of its haunting riffs, fast tempo, and restrained—but aggressive—vocal delivery. For all of the good, it’s a shame that there are two throw-away instrumentals (“Silver” and “V”) that reduce the LP to only eight songs. I’m just bitter because I want more. –Sean Arenas (Iron Pier, ironpier.net)


WILD WINGS:
World War Wild Wings: CS
Loud music played by clearly inebriated people. Sloppy and not incredibly fun to listen to. Somewhere between bar rock and ‘80s SST bands. Grade: C. –Bryan Static (Stale Heat, staleheat.bigcartel.com)


WIMPS:
Suitcase: LP
This reminds me of the early-’90s wave of punk and punk-related bands, when being a punk band could just mean being a sloppy pop band with a loud guitar. I’m going to go ahead and pull the “music critic dick move” of comparing them to prominent labelmates Bikini Kill, but with a bit more twee and power pop to it. As a whole, the album is damn good, even if every song isn’t a winner. There’s variety, there’s dirt and grime—hell, there’s charm! Listen to those “ooooo-WHIP”s on “Modern Communication” and tell me you didn’t feel a joy of youthful exuberance. The kind of thing you would have done in high school if you had the talent for it. Grade: A-.  –Bryan Static (Kill Rock Stars, killrockstars.com)


WOLFPACK:
Seen Not Herd: CD
Pretty pissed-off shit from this Melbourne, Australia three piece. Wolfpack sets their sights on corporate music, corruption in the church, and rampant consumerism—among other things—with conviction. Most of this disc veers toward the metal side of the punk spectrum but, thankfully, isn’t full of guitar wanking. Musically, the Pack is pretty much spot-on: tight riffing, interesting instrumental interplay, and spirited drumming. I mean these guys aren’t reinventing the wheel here or anything, but I have no complaints and the band apparently chooses to give any profit they make from the band into charities. Profits from this CD all go to a dog rescue organization, which I am totally behind. –Garrett Barnwell (Sudden Death, suddendeath.com)


YEAR OF GLAD:
Self-titled: EP CS
Grab your lover’s hands and skip into the time machine that is Year Of Glad; set it back, waaaaay back. Back to your lovesick, overdramatic teenage years. Having been hidden away, cloaked in the shame and embarrassment of your own coming of age for so many years, you might wanna stretch a bit, dust off the cobwebs, and prepare to frolic. If there was ever a time to frolic, this is it. I may just be extremely over-caffeinated right now, but this tape is really percolating something within me. Sweetly sung perfect harmonies—this is pop-pop-poppy punk. Year Of Glad has me positively giddy! Even the saddest song “Flowers” leaves a big old smile on this mug o’ mine. This debut from a gang of Philly veteran punkers is something of pure beauty, and it would be a disservice to yourself not to indulge. –Jackie Rusted (Lame-o, lameorecords.limitedrun.com))


YOLKS, THE:
Don’t Cry Anymore: 7” single
The A-side is a nice mid-tempo number that brings to mind The Kinks in their prime. Well-done vocals. It’s catchy and driving rock’n’roll that’s never overbearing, but you are well aware of its presence simply because it’s a nice pop song. But it’s the B-side that really kicks ass. “I Wanna Be Dumb”—think of Ramones mashed up with Pagans and some obscure KBD type of band. Simple and to the point. A winning formula that is actually hard to attain. Yet, The Yolks pull it off with style and, dare I say it, grace. Such a great punk song. One that gets repeated listens. First time I heard this was on WFMU, and I was in awe. The kind of song that embodies all that makes punk great. –Matt Average (Randy, randyrecords.bigcartel.com)


YOUTH BRIGADE:
Complete First Demo: 7”
Rescued from the vaults, here comes this eight-song turbo blast of early-’80s harDCore. No song is longer than a minute and a half. There are excellent pictures from the brief time the band existed, and lyrics within the insert. Only two songs have been previously released. This is essential punk, and it is on colored vinyl, to boot. Pick this up and find out why J. Mascis loves Youth Brigade (D.C., not the California band). –koepenick (Dischord, dischord@dischord.com)


YOUTH BRIGADE:
Complete First Demo: 7”
There’s something awesome about walking into a record store having heard of a record, wanting to buy it, and finding it. This is a bit off-topic, but I had that experience twice this week. Walking into a D.C. record store and finding the latest Dischord release is no real trick, but wanting that release can be. Dischord has opened the vaults so much lately I was afraid I’d have nothing to say about this record, but it’s on the high end if you’re into ‘81. All the songs sound angry and classic. There are many variances from their Possible EP, the band’s only output besides a Flex Your Head appearance. This is one of those times the demo exceeds the product. A must-have. –Billups Allen (Dischord)


YUPPICIDE:
Revenge, Regret, Repeat: CD
I first discovered Yuppicide in the late-’90s thanks to a compilation called Mindset Overhaul from Wreck-Age Records. I was immediately stoked on their blazing guitars and Jesse Jones’ distinct vocal style—possibly one of the most distinct and badass voices in hardcore. Lyrically, the band swayed between topics political, personal, and nihilistic. It was a formula many could relate to at the time, myself included. So what does Yuppicide sound like twenty-five years in? To my ears, every bit as ripping as their first 7”s. The core of Yuppicide—guitarist Steve Karp, vocalist Jesse Jones, and bassist Joe Keefe—has remained unchanged for nearly twenty-five years, and veteran drummer El Guapo is once again on drums for this recording. On Revenge, Regret, Repeat, the raw power and aggression of Yuppicide’s earlier material is here, but tempered by experience into two- to three-minute bursts of white-hot rage. The album is rife with singalong parts and ample opportunities for moshing and circle pitting, whether at the show or in your living room. I was particularly fond of the opening track “Spread the Infection,” and the track “Bad Blood,” for the mosh-spiration, but Yuppicide isn’t just about the moshing and raging. You can count on the band to take things down a notch from time to time, as they do on the track “Ghosts,” which has a bit of a ska vibe to it that I was into. Revenge, Regret, Repeat is so full of good material that you’ll have a hard time picking a favorite track. It’s a worthy addition to Yuppicide’s catalog, and one of my favorite albums this year. –Paul J. Comeau (Dead City, deadcityny@yahoo.com)


ZEBRAS:
The City of Sun: LP
Fire up your search engine or pull out your books of esoterica for this one. Zebras musically remind me of early Neurosis with their complex structures that meander and climb, growing in intensity, and they have this all-demanding presence. Lyrically, Zebras are on a whole other plane. Secret histories and esoteric ideas are brought out into the (dark) light. “Levitation” presents the idea that sound can move large objects (I had a co-worker who is a musician and would talk about this all the time), and “The Bell,” which is about bending time and gives points of reference. These lyrics point the way. It’s up to you, listener, to dig deeper. This is some interesting and fascinating stuff. –Matt Average (Secret, secretrecords@live.com)


ZULUS:
II: CD
Not to be confused with the Zulus that were signed to Slash and had ties to Human Sexual Response, these Zulus are heavy on the skronk tip. Things gel best when they lay back on a simple, repetitive groove underneath all the dissonance and let things get hypnotic—almost psychedelic—and much of what is here is in that vein. This is good, but it’s gonna be interesting seeing what they develop into over time. –jimmy (Aagoo, aagoo.com)


(STOP WORRYING AND) LOVE THE BOMB:
Noun: CD
At first listen, you might be inclined to write Noun off as a just another decent garage punk album. Dig a little deeper and you will find it to be kind of like an onion: each layer is sweeter and more substantial than the one before. It looks to have been recorded in 2012 so I am a little puzzled how this is just now seeing the light of day. No matter, as this shit pretty much rips and is culturally informed in a very punk’n’roll way, with nods to The Who and Ted Nugent as well as fellow pen pusher Mitch Cardwell. What really makes Noun stand out are the dual male/female vocals. Usually, I find such arrangements to be rather jarring as the difference in styles can often make the band sound like two different ones. Not here. Both vocalists actually complement each other as they both operate in the same relative range. Two words? Snottily infectious, or maybe... new favorite?  –Garrett Barnwell (Big Neck, bigneckrecords.com)


ABSINTHE ROSE:
Black Earth: CD
Circle A, circle E. Gasmasks and upright bass. You got this one figured out, right? Maaaabye.Black Earth is a weird amalgam of anarcho-folk and, I shit you not, lounge music—or, if that sends you running for the hills, how about this: the album is tempered with a strangely timeless quality due mainly to vocalist Kimbo’s confident and often smoldering delivery. It harkens back to the jazz era—seriously—and makes what might be a solid-if-kinda-typical effort something else entirely. While the songs are admittedly strongest when they stick to the folk punk stuff —”Roots of Anarcho” is a chugging, solid number—they take some pretty fascinating risks here. All in all, Absinthe Rose is an odd beast, and while not all those risks pay off, Black Earth is way more varied and nuanced than releases by many of their contemporaries. Fans of Mischief Brew, Ramshackle Glory—or for those of you with ears pressed hard to the tracks—Ari And Her Banjo should all take note. Also some of the best and most fitting album art I’ve seen in some time, courtesy of somebody with the moniker of JXRXKX. –keith (Screech Owl, facebook.com/ScreechOwlRecords)


ABSINTHE ROSE:
Black Earth: CD
Kimbo Rose leads this anarcho-folk band from Boston, Massachusetts. Musically, this album would not strike me as punk, not even folk punk. It reminds me more of jazz with gypsy and folk influences. The musicianship is good enough to play any venue in the country, but the message embedded in the songs is true to the roots of the DIY punk music and scenes we all love: “I’m not their idea of beauty / I won’t sit stay and come clean / They tried to sell me on their ideas / That they have everything I need / You ain’t got anything I want / You sure ain’t going to satisfy me.” –John Mule (Screech Owl, facebook.com/ScreechOwlRecords)


AGAINST THE GRAIN:
Road Warriors: CD
From the trippy cover art on the front and back, you know these dudes mean business. I should have guessed that they are from Detroit. “Guillotine” and “Comin’ in Hot” are the standouts. Not sure what comes first here—the peanut butter or the chocolate? But punk and metal sometimes go well together. Pick this up and hear why. –koepenick (Self Destructo, againstthegrainmanagement1@gmail.com)


AGGRESSIVE RESPONSE:
Self Destroyer: LP
Life is short. Records like this remind me of that. This is hardcore punk played adequately, with barked vocals that sort of sound like a mix of Roger Miret and Damian Abraham, though a bit harder to decipher. Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with this record and the dudes in the band look like nice enough, well-intentioned contributors to their scene. It’s not so bad that it makes me mad. It’s not so good that it gets me excited. All it really does is make me wish I had those twenty minutes back. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out. A thousand bands have played hardcore punk just like this. Half have done it worse, half have done it better. I don’t know what the scene is like in Albany, New York. All I know is that it’s the capital of New York. I can’t recall ever hearing a band from Albany, so I’m guessing the scene is pretty small. Aggressive Response might be an important part of it right now, I don’t know. Keeping a local scene alive and healthy will always include a lot of very average bands, and that’s okay, actually crucially important. In order for a leader to emerge from a pack, there has to be a pack to begin with. The problem here is that recording and releasing a record has become a lot easier and cheaper than it used be, which means a lot of very average bands are committing very average music to vinyl. Bands used to face the barrier of not having a label willing to shell out the bucks to make it happen unless that band was something special, or at the very least, above average. Anyway, life is short, and it’s hard enough finding the time to listen to all the music I know that I love already. So call me jaded, but spending twenty minutes with very average music makes me wish I’d just listened to Start Today again instead. –Chad Williams (Wax Deli, waxdeli.com, dave@waxdeli.com)


AGGRO:
Maelstrom: 7”
Maelstrom is the right title for this three track single, as it sums up perfectly the turbulent approach of this new Japanese band. Aggro takes the driving force of Zeke, mixes it with the chaotic sound of Brutal Knights, and lays down some gloriously unhinged and chaotic punk. This is one of two 7”s the band released simultaneously on the same label. I’m sure all five songs could have fit on one record but as both feature excellent artwork I’m not complaining. If you like raging guitars and clattering drums colliding to kick up an almighty hullaballoo then this should be up your street. –Rich Cocksedge (Beerdrop, aggrotheband@gmail.com, beerdrop.bandcamp.com)


AJAX:
Self-titled: 7”
Thunderous d-beat hardcore from New York with nods to Scandi-core gods such as Krigshot, and Motörhead’s deafening wall of sound. I wonder if any Swedes are pissed that the Yanks have hijacked their style and run away with it (see also: Skemäta). No matter: should Ajax find themselves in your town, you’d do best to park yourself front and center for the face shredding of a lifetime. –Juan Espinosa (Beach Impediment, no address listed)


AL SCORCH / DAVID DONDERO:
Split: 7”
I think this split was made to go along with a tour, which makes a lot of sense—Scorch and Dondero make a good pair, trading banjo and guitar duties on each other’s songs. Al Scorch’s “Hold on Right” is a sad-smiling ballad that does exactly what it should. There’s this perfect mix of banjo that can happen in a folk song sometimes—if your punk response to that is, “Yeah, none,” then go away, this isn’t for you—and this one hits just the right mark. David Dondero’s “Country Cliché,” while similarly thoughtful, takes a darker turn. The opening lines call back to country legends, but Dondero’s blunt, brazenly confessional tone and cadence is all him. Where Scorch is gentle and quietly optimistic, Dondero is bitter and unforgiving, hammering his rage home with each repeated phrase. It’s a duality that works well on this split, showcasing each person’s songwriting abilities for exactly what they are. These guys are where DIY punk ethics and folk music really intersect.  –Indiana Laub (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecs@gmail.com, letspretendrecords.com)


AL SCORCH:
Live at the Spirit Store: CS
Some fairly strong bluegrass/folk/Celtic pickin’ on this live recording. The cassette consists of thirteen songs, including a version of “Slipknot” by Woody Guthrie. This is not my favorite kind of roots music but the musicianship is top notch and the songs and singing are quite good. I would definitely check out other releases from this Chicago-area performer.  –frame (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecs@gmail.com, letspretendrecords.com)


ALRIGHT:
Self-titled: 7”
Charlotte, North Carolina! Home to one of my favorite airports and also home to Alright. If Alright were ice cream, they would be Rocky Road: sugary-sweet indie pop with some crunch, namely in the buzzing guitar sound that brings Dinosaur Jr. and Hüsker Dü to mind. The three tracks presented here are all fine examples of what Alright brings to the party. Did I mention ice cream?  –Garrett Barnwell (Negative Fun, negativefun.com)


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