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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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AVA MENDOZA:
Shadow Stories: CD
Perhaps it’s because I’m not a musician, but this sounds like just a bunch of fucking around on an electric guitar to me. –Vincent Battilana (Resipiscent)


AV CLUB, THE:
Not Your Heart: CDEP
Finally, we get new songs from this outfit after their stellar debut. In this case, it was definitely worth the wait. Two songs here are exclusive to this release. Two songs are alternate versions of songs that will appear on their next full length that should come out next year. “Not Your Heart” is a melodic rocker with a catchy chorus and some nice hammer-on fretwork in the guitar solo by frontman/guitarist Aaron Carr. “Ear to the Speaker” is propelled by drummer Jens Guettel’s insistent backbeat that gives the song a raw feel. “Something’s Going on Tonight” paints a pleasant picture of Carr’s hometown, wherever that may be. The record ends on “Not Tonight,” powered by bassist’s Jon Moser’s riffs and backing vocals. I even ended up digging the whiz-bang keyboards on this last track, too. If you ever liked any songs by The Replacements or even the totally underrated Pursuit Of Happiness, then you will want to have this EP in your “go-to” rack. I guarantee it! –koepenick (Self-released)


ARTS:
Vault of Heaven: 12”
Arts play raw, thrashy hardcore with black metal-tinged drums and growly vocals that remind me more of Thou than anything else. The analog recording is raw as all hell, but everything is balanced and easy to distinguish, and the grit lends merit to the heaviness in their sound. The whole album flows well as a full piece and sounds more like two long songs than a collection of a bunch of short songs. The artwork and packaging are completely over the top and awesome. –Ian Wise (Youth Attack)


ANTILLES / STAPH:
Split: 7"
Two bands share this piece of white vinyl. Both bands sound a lot like early ‘90s Ebullition and Gravity Records make up the bulk of their record collection. I have always found this style dull on record but, occasionally, good live. Fans of the style will like both of these bands just fine. –frame (Inkblot, sam@inkblotrecords.net)


ANGRY SNOWMANS:
Self-titled: CD
Classic punk tunes from the likes of Adolescents, Angry Samoans, Ramones, Misfits, etc. are done up by some of Santa’s most disgruntled elves, protesting the horrid working conditions on the North Pole as a result of the jolly old slave driver’s increasingly demanding schedule as the heavily commercialized take on Christmas becomes a year-round endeavor. These elves just wanna cut loose and drink some ‘nog, but Santa’s always harshing their mellow. What a dick. There is something, however, that you can do, dear reader. And that is pick this up and listen and merry make so that you can help the elves restore some of their lost Yuletide cheer. –Jeff Proctor (myspace.com/angrysnowmans)


ANDROID HERO:
Broken Hearted Love Songs for Sensitive Tough Guys: CD
These guys sound a lot like Karp with a healthy splash of Wrong-era Nomeansno. I have been in love with this kind of stuff lately, so I’m stoked on getting something newer in the same vein. Basically, you take a ridiculously heavy punk power trio that alternates between sludgy and frantic and add some incongruously non-heavy lyrics. (At least not heavy in the standard apocalyptic imagery way a lot of extreme punk and metal tends to work with.) In this case, most of the songs are actually about relationship breakups. (There’s even a song that’s called “Bad Breakup.”) There’s also a random song about Daniel Johnston called “Daniel Johnston.” Most of the twelve songs on here are under the two-minute mark, but when you can get your point across with some tuneless—but scruffily compelling—shouting, why fuck around? Also, one of the guys in the band sounds scarily similar to Rob Wright of Nomeansno at times. My only critique is that the production comes off a bit underwhelming sometimes and leaves some of the songs flatter than they should be. I would love to hear these guys after hitting the studios with someone like Steve Albini, who knows how to really let music like this breathe. All in all though, Android Hero is a welcome addition to my collection. Hell, this is the kind of stuff I would play if I were in a band at the moment. –Adrian (Algerbay and Mustard Pack, algerbay@hotmail.com)


AMERICAN WEREWOLVES:
Wanderers Forever: CD
For a band of thugs with a picture of their neck-tattooed selves giving mean faces on the cover of their album, their music sure is mushy. They put the brass knucks and blood-stained razorblades aside and decided to get misty eyed on this one, reminiscing about the old days and girls, but mostly the old days. Street punks get old too, I guess, and when they do, they break out the whoa-oh-ohs and wedge them between lyrics about remembering and redemption and change. If I labeled it emo street punk, I’d run the risk of them breaking out those brass knucks and razorblades again. But what else can I call it? Thugs and hugs? Yeah, that might work. –mp (Warbird Entertainment)


AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER / BUKKAKE BOYS:
Split: EP
What do one of my favorite eats and a very taboo sexual act have to do with one another? Not much other than that combining the two bands named after them makes for some of the best hardcore (music, that is) in recent memory. I first picked up American Cheeseburger’s split with Canadian Rifle as per the highest recommendation from Daryl “no metal!” Gussin. When I first heard their side of that split, I thought to myself: “The Repos.” Not having listened to anything else of theirs until now, I figured I would dig their side of this record. I was wrong. I don’t dig it. I fucking love it! What’s it sound like? Like Poison Idea’s Pick Your King cassette with Cobra Commander taking over on vocals while a totally zonked out Greg Ginn wanders in and tries to play along to it. You think I’m kidding? I’ve come across Bukkake Boys’ EPs on several occasions and like the moron that me be, I did nothing but flip past them in the record bins. No longer shall I ignore the Boys and their silly name. Anyone who worships at the church of Jan’s Room is all right by me. I can spot Jon Kortland’s artwork a mile away and it’s what has led me to believe that I will not likely come across a better split for the remainder of the year. An absolute must own. –Juan Espinosa (Vinyl Rites)


AL SCORCH:
This Lonesome World: 7”
This is one ferocious hoe-down. Rapid-fire banjo picking, percussive stand-up, and stomp box pound out the first three porch party jams, while the last number, “Betsy Bay,” is a traditional Scottish sailing song where the violin is given space to cry. This is some of the best roots/Americana I’ve heard in some time. –Jeff Proctor (Let’s Pretend/No Breaks)


AL & THE BLACK CATS:
Through Thick n’ Thin: CD
I’m a petty person; I’m well aware of this. I’ve always hated the clicking of the psychobilly genre. You know what I’m talking about. The effect of the microphone on the stand-up bass being so close to the strings that you hear a constant clicking throughout the songs. It’s all I can ever focus on. If I could get past that (and the stupid haircuts), I might actually like some psychobilly. Despite my hang-ups of the genre, Al & The Black Cats manage to write some great songs. Just don’t ever expect me to listen to this again. They get some major points for their singer sounding like Chuck from the Mad Caddies. –Bryan Static (Joe Pogo, joepogorecords.com)


AGRIMONIA:
Host of the Winged: CD
I was very fortunate to catch this band from Sweden on their West Coast tour back in August. An amazing show. The music translated well in a live setting. I first listened to this CD before I saw them. I was captivated by the power they brought forth. It’s a dark, brooding mix of dark metal and Swedish crust. The first song clocks in at over thirteen minutes and instantly comes across as the color black. You are dragged along in the dark and can only imagine what might be just ahead; just the feeling of pain until the music charges forth and displays the power. Like war at night. Quiet until the artillery starts falling. Another image I have is the stories I have heard of long lasting night, where the sun never comes up and it’s a constant battle against depression. This is what I pictured in my mind when I saw them live and recorded. I really like the impeccable production on this release. The bass guitar punches through the mix with impact. The drums are hit with strong force and keep the rhythms and tempos intact. The guitars are bit clean for this type of music but they cut through with precision, adding to the layers of sound. The vocals are so low and almost guttural; it could be easily thought not to be sung by a woman. The nuance of keyboards adds subtle touches to the emotion. Over an hour’s worth of music to mess with your senses. Listening to this, I hope they come back again on these shores. –don (Profane Existence)


AGATHA:
Nothing Is Static/Panic Attack: 7"/CD
Consider the musical explorations and visual aesthetics of Submission Hold and the ferocity of Spitboy. The willfulness and sarcasm (and vocal delivery, too) of Bikini Kill, and the musical nimbleness of DesArk. That’s the template—Agatha doesn’t sound exactly like any of those bands, but it’s a rough blueprint. Now add a dollop of the chalkboard-versus-fingernails jaggedness of post-punk, some wire-tight musicianship, an energy level that’s on ten the entire way throughout, and you’re getting closer. Abrasive punk rock that’s provocative as hell and brimming with ideas.Challenging ideas. About gender, community, depression, and more. All of it run through a funnel of grating hardcore that eschews melody for sharp angles, with little guitar flourishes and rhythm section tomfoolery that stick out like bits of colored glass in a gravel pit. At their core, Agatha is one of those bands that remind me of how it feels to be politicized—or at least challenged to think—by the ideas behind punk rock. The music is awesome—there’s hardly a stumble here, even in the Panic Attack demo—the lyrics are whipsmart and acerbic, and the whole thing reminds me of what I found inspirational about punk in the first place. –keith (Rumbletowne)


ACROBRATS, THE:
Hair Trigger: 7"
From Wikipedia:“their song ‘Callout’ was featured as a bonus song in Guitar Hero. Also, their song ‘Laughtrack’ was a bonus track in Guitar Hero II. In 2007, their song ‘Day Late, Dollar Short’ is a track featured as a bonus song in Rock Band.” –Craven (no info)


AC4:
Self-titled: LP
Dunno what the fuck they put in the Kool-Aid over there in Umea, but the number of flat-out kick ass punk bands that hail from there is mind boggling, and AC4 is no exception. Tune after tune of grade-A thrash here—tight, speedy and catchy in a Minor-Threat-in-their-prime way—which comes as no surprise considering we’re talking about a band with members of Refused and The Vectors here. –jimmy (derangedrecords.com)


ABSINTHE ROSE / HUMANWINE:
Split: CD
Interesting release from Rodent Popsicle that I was personally surprised that they co-released. From first impressions, I thought this was going to be a punk release. I was definitely wrong. Absinthe Rose: Female-led band armed with a banjo or switching to an acoustic guitar writes a charging blend of what I would call rawhide country punk. Backed by a strong and powerful rhythm section, the bass and drums are what catch my attention. The guitar and other string instruments add the texture and nuances that add the color to the music. After a few listens, I definitely found the music enjoyable. Humanwire: This band comes from a different direction. The female vocals are more ethereal. I feel more of a Middle Eastern vibe in delivery on one of the songs. But she uses different techniques to give each song its own identity. The music complements it with the use of string instruments like the cello, violin, and bass fiddle. It gives the music a haunting tone that gives me a mental image of swamps at night then moving to a scene from a cabaret act. Both bands truly surprised me. I was moved and captivated. Co-released with Screech Owl Records and Nervous Relatives Records. –don (Rodent Popsicle)


ABSINTHE ROSE / HUMAN WINE:
Split: CD
Absinthe Rose: Acoustic guitar-driven rock music with a country feel to some of it. Human Wine: Moody, mostly acoustic music with folk elements dropped in here and there. –jimmy (rodentpopsicle.com)


ABSENT MINDS:
EmergencEP: CDEP
Excellent cello punk from Portland, featuring my good friend from New Mexico, Joel, in the lead shouter and guitar spot. So I’ve never actually heard another punk band use a cello for more than a song or two and then usually only as an interlude between tracks, but this actually works with the cello is a vital, integrated part of the band’s sound and not just a tacked-on flourish. Think of it as adding a new lead instrument that sounds a little more melancholy and bassy to compliment the guitar lines, but is played just as fiercely by Isaac, the cello player. My favorites are the two lead-off songs “No Questions, No Lies” and “Bacon Cheeseburger.” These are two perfectly catchy ragers that are some of the better dissatisfaction anthems I’ve heard as of late. Some of the later tracks, like “No Rest” and “Scraps” flirt with slowing things down a little, but they keep things interesting with catchy group vocals and odd little change-ups peppered throughout the songs. This is a promising little EP from a band doing things a bit off the beaten path. –Adrian (Self-released, myspace.com/absentmindspdx)


97-SHIKI:
Showing Teeth Is a Good Decision: Cassette
Chicago’s 97-Shiki have simultaneously become more mathy and more accessible. The vocals are toned down and they’ve thrown in some horns, which make the comparisons to free jazz all the easier. I like it when they base the groove around a guitar figure instead of a traditional rhythm instrument. But really, how did they get more complicated since their last release? They still sound like D. Boon and Ornette Coleman falling down a flight of stairs, but now the other speaker sounds like a lid rattling on top of a boiling pot. This music has the right kind of “What the fuck?” quality. It makes you want to return to it to decipher it, as opposed to casting it aside because it’s too cryptic. Headscratcher of the year, for sure. –CT Terry (97-Shiki.com)


50 WAYS TO KILL ME:
Gnarly Deth Wish: CD
What it sounds like is more or less what it is—one dude (and occasionally a little help from his friends) with access to ProTools and/or cheap studio time cranks out fifty songs with song titles providing specific examples of how the intent inherent in the band’s name can be executed (pun intended). It’s clear that all involved are quite proficient musically and have a definite sense of humor, but this ultimately gets kinda dull about six songs in. –jimmy (Scene Destroyer)


20BELOWS, THE:
For Better Days: CD
Scandinavia, you will be the death of America! Apparently, not only have you bested us on the health care and quality of living fronts, you are also capable of producing superior pop punk bands! Americans, take note! The only way that we can resolve this problem is by using a “drone mouse trap” to kidnap the 20Belows and force them to salute the American flag and/or play a basement show in Minneapolis! Amazing pop punk, with a singer who sometimes sounds like (in a good way) John K. Samson, of the Weakerthans, Propagandhi, et. al. Super catchy pop punk! Lyrics include, “We’d get drunk and play for fun’s sake, sing along to punk rock mix tapes, now and then I long for those days.” I’m guessing that this band’s name is a Teen Idols reference, and this entire band is a Screeching Weasel meets Swingin’ Utters reference. If this were a cereal, it’d be a cereal from Europe that’s better than Trix and that I don’t even know about! Buy this or be forced to buy it when Denmark invades the United States and turns it into a socialist state! Your choice. –Maddy (Monster Zero)


LYCKA TILL:
Self-titled: CD
Really jolly-sounding scrappy punk from Sweden, with some quite prominent trumpet. There’s an acoustic guitar along with the electric, so I would say this comes off more folky than ska-like. I know part of it is the voices, but this actually reminds me of some of the early Millencollin. Since a lot of the songs are in Swedish, I didn’t notice how dark or political a lot of the songs were until I looked up the lyrics with translations on the Plan-It-X site. A lot of the songs sound so happy and poppy that I kind of assumed they were about hanging in the woods with some reindeer, gathering lingonberries, sledding, and whatever other chilled-out activities people do in Sweden. All in all, it’s a pretty fun record that is worth picking up. Also, I dunno if it’s just me, but I swear like four of the songs use the melody from “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Anybody else getting that? –Adrian (Plan-It-X)


LENGUAS LARGAS:
Lonely Summertime b/w Are You Scared?: 7”
It won’t be the first time where I’m belly up to the all-you-can-eat buffet of eating my own words. Lenguas Largas occupy the kinder sonic climes of what’s become “indie rock.” It’s a form of music I’ve come to associate—through more than ample exposure—with designer tags, secret shows, douchebags, future expensive baby strollers, current attempts at irony, and is shooting for the Juno soundtrack (of the mind). Lenguas Largas is a bunch of dirty DIY dudes playing stony, pleasant, intricate music that builds tension then releases. It’s subtle, yet pleasant; thick, swirling, and as fingering as white smoke exhaled deeply from a pipe. The vocals are reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins without the ick. Mellower than the first 7”, but I like it. –todd (Dirt Cult)


LACKEY DIE:
Self-titled: 7” EP
According to the liner notes, Lackey Die was Charlottesville, Virginia’s first hardcore band, forming circa 1982 and managing to survive until 1986. Collected here are two demos, the first recorded in Richmond in 1984 and the second recorded in 1986 at Don Zientara’s legendary Inner Ear Studios. The music’s fast, tight, and very much of its time. The recordings are quite good considering the most recent one is twenty-four years old. Nice bit of history here. –jimmy (Feel It)


KICKING SPIT / STYMIE:
Split: 7”
Let’s begin with saying that melodic Midwest punk with heart and punch is becoming a sound that’s far larger than its original geography. It’s also a destination with a legacy that includes the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Mary Tyler Fuckin’ Moore, Dillinger Four, and Selby Tigers. Put that in a blender and down with a raw egg. Kicking Spit: From St. Paul” New Jersey. In that microsecond prior to “grunge” getting a name, like the first Mudhoney single, shit was super tight and Kicking Spit expand it like taffy with a Dinosaur Jr. finger. Stymie: From “Minneapolis,” New Jersey. Who’ll give Dear Landlord a run for the money by out-”Dear Landlording” them. It’s music about honesty, rust, “trailer parks of the mind,” and weathering storms. Both sides build on one another. Progress through fucking up on a daily basis. –todd (Cowabunga)


KALASHNIKOV:
Living in a Psycho-Chaos Era: LP
Ever since my discovery of this incredible collective from Italy, I have tried to spread the word of them like gospel. So much so, I put money into their Angoscia Rock 7”, their previous release. I had every intention to put money into the CD version of their current release but the money I had intended to use was sucked dry by bills. Shitty U.S. economy! They do releases funded by worldwide participation. Chaos Rurale out of Canada who participated on a few of their releases went a step further. On top of being part of the new CD, he went ahead and did a vinyl version. Four hundred on black and one hundred on clear with a beautiful two-sided color fold out poster sleeve. The music is adventurous and I stand by my claims that they have elements of punk, post-punk, new wave, and the music of the early productions of Cirque du Soleil. The growth of this band musically and production-wise has been by multitudes. This release storms out from the get-go on the first track: a charging yet not aggressive song that has the energy of a protest march. Other tracks give me a post apocalyptical picture but with hope and survival. On others, you get the feeling that you can still have fun while being angry. The end track is a cover of The Mob’s No Doves Fly Here. It’s haunting and emotional and paints the picture perfect of post-war. Every person who has an ear for music that I have played this band to or given them a copy of the music has become converts. So, hopefully, you are reading this and my words will make you seek out this great band. The CD version contains tracks from the latter 7”, all packaged in a double gatefold booklet. –don (Chaos Rurale, chaosrurale.com)


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