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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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SQUIRES, THE:
Going All the Way with The Squires: LP
Being inclined to like anything like this sometimes causes me to feel like I’ve run out of things to say about the endless parade of reissue albums that receive a blast of praise and then fade away. Not that I’m complaining. I could listen to ‘60s reissues for a living, like some sort of headphoned Jabba the Hutt absorbing twelve-string guitar licks and turning them into energy. That aside, this one is rock solid. There are extensive liner notes that I’m too stoned to read and regurgitate and pretend I knew that. They likely say something like: this band got big locally and faded because everyone can’t be The Rolling Stones. This is the album someone will snobbily inform you is better than The Rolling Fucking Stones. If you buy one album like this a year, this is a good candidate for 2015, especially if you liked the Chants R&B record, the one that’s better than The Rolling Fucking Stones –Billups Allen (Crypt)


ST. CHRISTOPHER:
Last Chance at Freedom: CD
Dunno a thing about the group, but they’re puttin’ down simple, straightforward punky rock tunes with the occasional country western twinge thrown in for seasoning. Singer is sometimes reminiscent of both Jimmy Dean and Freddie Blassie.  –jimmy (Sxratch Native, sxratchnative.com)


STEEL CHAINS:
Demo 2015: CS
Seriously catchy up-tempo punk brimming with Pacific Northwest darkness. This may be a demo but Steel Chains sound like a band with a few tours already under their belts. If you’re into Red Dons, Daylight Robbery, and Arctic Flowers then get ready to hear your new favorite band. I’m getting more and more impressed with every listen.  –Juan Espinosa (Self-released, no address listed)


STRAIGHT CRIMES:
Songs Don’t Cry: CS
A duo out of Oakland with members of Violence Creeps and Baus, Erin takes the helm with vocals and guitar, while Thomas provides a steady flow of straightforward drums. Song melodies seemingly sway back and forth, sometimes with ease and at other times with pure force. Their sound is a more simplistic, ruckusy, and rough-around-the-edges No Age. What really adds another dimension to what otherwise could sound monotonous is Erin’s uneasy falsetto vocals, which are at times shrill and add an overlying melody to each song. Screaming things like, “You look like a wet cigarette” conjures up all kinds of weirdness and I like it.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, straightcrimes.bandcamp)


SUEVES, THE:
Liquid Hounds: 7”
Both sides sound like some long-lost gem of Midwestern punk one usually encounters on some Killed By Death comp or one of that series’ many knockoffs. Much primal stomp and smash going on, with high nasal vocals piercing through the carnage via some reverbed transistor radio. Thee birthday gift of the season for that record snob buddy of yours who says nothing interesting has come out of the underground since 1975.  –jimmy (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)


SWEAT SHOP BOYS:
Always Polite Never Happy: EP
Holy shit! A good chef knows how to add just the right ingredients to make a dish sing. One wrong move and the dish is too sweet, too sour, too bland. This band from Israel know how to blend the best parts of bands like the Red Dons, with the quirkiness of Toys That Kill and the pop smarts of any of the Dirtnap crew. Handclaps, organs, sing-a-long choruses? Where do I sign up? Fucking A+. I love this.  –Tim Brooks (Crapoulet, crapoulet.fr)


SWEET MADNESS:
Made in Spokane 1978-1981, Volume 2: LP
I can’t imagine what kind of musical wasteland Tacoma, Washington might have been in the early ‘80s, but there are little kernels of cultural influence that I’m picking up here, on Sweet Madness’s second collection of material: David Byrne/Talking Heads. Small town power pop. Wiry synth lines butting up against fever-bright guitars. A few melodies that strongly remind me of, if you can believe it or not, a precursor to Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” It’s fascinating stuff, if at times somewhat aged. There’s a few missteps—”Flight Number 77,” with its veering, overwrought piano balladry, seems very much a melodramatic product of its time. But then “I’m Not Vicious” is a great, simmering piece of power pop ala Cheap Trick. Seriously might be the heaviest gatefold/vinyl combo I’ve ever seen; they did not skimp on the packaging here. Probably mostly for fans of the era and/or locale, but a cool listen regardless.  –keith (Light In The Attic)


SWIFTUMZ:
Everybody Loves Chris: LP

This Bay Area band seems most at home playing a mix of lush indie pop and the type of bouncy power pop that Mick Jokes was working into “London Calling.” It’s a surprise combination that totally works on the handful of songs where they make it, but the album features a lot of co-writers and isn’t cohesive.

–Chris Terry (meltersmusic.bandcamp.com)


SYMBOL SIX:
Dirtyland: CD
Sounds like Motörhead and looks like an Affliction T-shirt designed by Captain Spalding.  –Jackie Rusted (Jailhouse, jailhouserecords.com)


TAPE REC:
Death Friends: LP
I was hanging out with my buddy Dugg the other night and randomly decided to put this record on. Out of nowhere, Dugg said, “What the hell is this? Smashing Pumpkins early demos or something?” This is the perfect description for the first song on this LP, and largely representative of what’s to expect from the rest of it. Still listening with Dugg, we both agreed that the next song sounded like the Breeders. Multiple songs have Sonic Youth-esque “guitar freakout” feedback noise parts where sometimes the placement of these “guitar freakout” parts seem like a natural progression within the song, while other times it just seems forced, awkward, and out of place. Dugg and I discussed their overuse of the “guitar freakout” just as an especially awkward-sounding freakout came from the speakers. The ‘90s alternative rock influence prevails throughout, as these guys seem to really wear their influences on their sleeves. The distortion is super heavy on every song, and the songs are all quite poppy with simple single string guitar leads. It would be remiss of me if I did not mention that Tape Rec are from Brazil, so the songs are all sung in Portuguese. While I absolutely think this record is highly derivative and not very original, I’ve found myself listening to it over and over again, which I guess means that I begrudgingly like it.  –Mark Twistworthy (Transfusao Noise, transfusaonoiserecords.blogspot.com)


TEENGENERATE:
Live at the Shelter: LP
I’m not big on live albums, but if there’s a list of essential live albums, this album is solidly near the top. Teengenerate blow through a set of their classics along with a couple of rock’n’roll covers with the reckless abandon expected of them. Besides the rage factor, the recording quality is first-rate. It’s a particularly interesting recording with regard to the guitars. Some of the patented chainsaw fury Teengenerate is famous for is removed, but it only accentuates the guitar playing in a way that brings new light to the band via lowered distortion levels. It goes from chainsaw to lead pipe. It’s a full-on rage. Historically, academically, and thrashingly relevant. Essential? Yes! Do not sleep on this one.  –Billups Allen (Ugly Pop)


TERRIBLE FEELINGS:
Tremors: LP
Terrible Feelings hail from Sweden, which is experiencing a renaissance of dark, disarming melodic punk featuring the likes of Vånna Inget and Hurula. Like Vånna Inget, Terrible Feelings are a bit ‘80s power pop, a smidge goth, and a dash of first generation California punk like The Bags and Avengers. Manuela Iwansson’s vocals are full-bodied apparitions that give Pat Benatar a run for her money. The A side is mostly comprised of aggressive jams that resemble a more rock’n’roll White Lung. “Black Water” and “Demon Tonight” are hard-driving, angst-riddled pop behemoths. A side closer “Down the Road” is a heart-wrenching ballad where Iwansson hypnotically croons over brooding guitar chords and demonstrates her vocal virtuosity. The B side has a few lulls, like the overlong, country-ish tune “Bastard Child” and the instrumental, but the remaining songs remind you how good it feels to head bob to Terrible Feelings’ brand of hook-laden melodrama. I eagerly anticipate the next Swedish feel-bad record.  –Sean Arenas (Deranged, derangedrecords.com)


TERVEET KADET:
Lapinhelvetti: LP
Doozy of a full-length here from this venerated Finnish thrash unit. The tunes are ADD-friendly and the beats as frenzied as ever, but in addition to the obligatory Discharge influence, it sounds like they’ve also been grooving heavy on South Of Heaven-era Slayer. The latter figures most prominently in the guitars, which launch into full-on shred mode on occasion. All told, most bands of this ilk will have a fucker of a time coming within tail lights distance of these cats. –jimmy (SPHC, sphc.bigcartel.com)


THIS IS GONNA TICKLE / THE DIXXX:
Split: 7”
This split single looks and sounds like something that would have been available from Mutant Pop in the mid-’90s. The bands are both from Wisconsin. This Is Gonna Tickle sound like a band on Fearless Records before the label went all slick emo (think Bickley or 30 Foot Fall). The Dixxx have a bit more of a sub-Dwarves feel and have a song called “Drink, Fuck, Fight” that is just as dull as it sounds.  –frame (Urban Pirate, urbanpiraterecords.storenvy.com)


TOM DYER’S NEW PAGAN GODS:
History of Northwest Rock, Vol. 1: CD
I don’t know much about Tom Dyer except that he’s from the Pacific Northwest. And this is an album of cover songs from 1959-’68 by bands from the Pacific Northwest. Most of the songs I didn’t recognize, but there were a couple that stuck out: “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen and “Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush. A lot of this album sounds like a generic rock band with a slight blues influence covering old songs from the ‘60s, perhaps something I’d see at a wedding or a summer party at a public park. It isn’t bad, musically speaking, but nothing stuck out to me. Then again, it is hard to top Black Flag’s cover of “Louie Louie”—everything pales in comparison. I suppose if you are a big fan of the bands from the time period then this might be up your alley, but that seems like a pretty limited audience.  –kurt (Green Monkey, greenmonkeyrecords.com)


TOSSPINTS, THE:
The Privateer: CD
Listening to their album The Privateer, I imagine that The Tosspints are a fucking riot to see live. Sadly, this feeling does not translate to the music coming out of my headphones. The songs are written with interesting, pirate punk premises, there are fun harmonies and backing vocals, and lead guitarist Don Zuzula is a motherfuckin’ shredder. The whole thing, however—the sum of the parts—just does not come together for me. I would still go see them live, if they would have me.  –John Mule (East Grand, eastgradnrc.com)


TOTALLY SLOW / BLACK MARKET:
Split: 7”
What we’ve got here is one of them split singles where both bands have one song on each side. Both bands are from North Carolina and feature guitar-driven indie rock. Totally Slow is a little more driven and rocking while Black Market has a bit of a shoegaze vibe.  –frame (Self Aware)


TOXIC REASONS:
Independence: LP
I know I’m not the first to say this, but Jesus wept, “How the fuck does one ‘review’ a bona fide classic?” To say this is one of those releases that should be in the collection of punks of every stripe is understating things—it should be imbedded in your DNA by this point, right along with all the other classics that pollute those “best of” lists folks like to make and then argue about. This is prime pickin’s here, with a sound that melds the “street” of the British oi that was making the rounds when this was released back in 1983, the primal thud of early Canadian punk, and the abrasiveness of Midwestern hardcore into something entirely their own—guttural, primitive, raw, yet catchy as all get-out. Mind-boggling thing is they cranked out a few more albums after this that were monsters in their own right. This, though, is the starting point, and to those of you out there who haven’t yet picked it up, lemme beg you to do so. You’ll thank me later.  –jimmy (Beer City)


TRENCHES:
Self-titled: CS
Sick line up of members of ex-Hunting Party, The Light, Replica, and No Babies. Trenches fucking slays. Boo Boo’s screams and primal growls are melodic, focused, and clear to the ear. Metallic riffs are calculated and well executed, keeping the mayhem contained into razor-sharp cuts one right after the other. This shit rules.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, trenches.oakland@gmail.com)


TROPICAL TRASH:
UFO Rot: 12” EP
Maybe I’m just a masochist, but UFO Rot is my favorite album of 2015 so far; listening to it is like being held hostage on a rusty, derailed train steered by a demon conductor chugging straight toward Platform Hell. A loathsome trio of sonic tormentors, Tropical Trash is bent on fucking up your day: monotonic yowls pepper syncopated sandpaper riffs and brash bass, conjuring up traces of Cows, Tweez-era Slint, or David Yow on a hot tin roof. Each song flows perfectly into the next and is more brutal than the last, and when you come to after hemorrhaging out of your ears for thirty-four minutes straight, you find yourself caked in blood and left for dead in a landfill. Take me to your leader, Tropical Trash. –Simone Carter  –Guest Contributor (Load, loadrecords.com)


UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND:
The People Are Home: LP
A fairytale of good versus evil.This album is centered on a shipwrecked boy named Todd. He is eleven years old when he arrives on the island and turns twelve in the episode called “The Birthday Party.” Wait, hold up… I’m thinking of the plot to H.R. Pufnstuf not Underground Railroad To Candyland. Well, either way, close enough. In the best way possible, this band makes children’s music for adults. It is bouncy and playful, full of whimsy and imagination, while still relatable and rooted in punk; a cracked kaleidoscope of relevancy depicting characters and experiences flowing in and out of each other; birth, tension, resolve, and everything in between. Maybe this isn’t children’s music for adults; maybe it’s just music that people of all ages can enjoy. Either way you want to look at it, this is another fantastic record from an already treasured band.  –Daryl Gussin (Recess)


UNIFORM CHOICE:
1982 Orange Peel Sessions: 7” EP
Yep, that Uniform Choice and nope, it doesn’t really sound like ‘em—which is actually a good thing. Not that their celebrated, if mind-bogglingly derivative “Youth Crew” period was terrible (you wanna hear terrible? Give a listen to Pat Dubar’s post-U.C. band Mindfunk), but if you’re looking for a bit of the “We really wish we were Minor Threat” sound that made ‘em millionaires, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. What this is, is a collection of demos originally recorded in 1982 to generate interest from (in)famous punk label Posh Boy. The band sports a different lineup than the one that made waves a couple of years later, and a sound slower and snottier in delivery. The four tunes here are a mighty fine testament to the band’s starting point, and one can’t help but wonder where they might’ve ended up had they continued down this particular road.  –jimmy (Dr. Strange)


UNIFORM:
Perfect World: LP
Uniform’s version of a perfect world seems pretty bleak. Perfect World is a chaotic record. Some of the songs go on for a while, like when you’re in an argument with someone and they’ve already walked away but you’re still in the doorway yelling obscenities. It is good chaos though, pissed off and institutionalized. Uniform are a two-piece out of Brooklyn, NY but even before I knew that I couldn’t help but be reminded of a modern version of Suicide. Their songs are very minimal and artistic sounding. When it’s not the intensity of the music building up, it’s mostly the vocals that carry the songs. Fans of noise and minimal stuff will love these guys.  –Ryan Nichols (12XU, info@12XU.net)


UPSILON ACRUX:
Sun Square Dialect: LP
This isn’t your dad’s prog record; Upsilon Acrux sound like the future—a chaotic ocean of white noise and (dis)information. Rob Sato’s cover art is a kaleidoscope of organic elements mutated by a post-industrial society (think H.R. Giger), which emphasizes the prescience of Upsilon Acrux’s cyberpunk sound. Noah Guevara and Paul Lai’s guitars overlap, intertwine, and diverge in the blink of an eye while Patrick Shiroishi’s Fender Rhodes shimmers over the often dark, mathematic noodling. The song arrangements are intricate and head-spinning as Upsilon never falls into repetitive “grooves” or same-y phases that cripple other instrumental bands. Instead, they opt to create lush, frenetic tapestries that constantly unravel. Having seen these folks live a handful of times, I’m always struck by the flawless timing of the two drummers, Mark Kimbrell and Dylan Fujioka. Kimbrell and Fujioka gel the disparate elements together and somehow find the sonic space for rhythmic attacks. Much like the way Blade Runner and The Fifth Element stimulate your eyes with scenes overloaded with futuristic, dystopian details, your ears will be similarly titillated (and perplexed) by Sun Square Dialect. Highly recommended.  –Sean Arenas (New Atlantis, newatlantisrecords.com)


USELESS EATERS:
Singles 2011-2014: LP
The title says it all: a collection of their singles released during the era identified. I remember hearing a single some time back and thinking it was nifty, but this shows they were a bit more nuanced than the usual lo-fi fodder I pretty much lumped them in with, with more ambitious fare—check out “Addicted to the Blade” or the almost Chrome-esque “Bloody Ripper”—peppered amongst the primal bash-bash. Would love to see what they can do live.  –jimmy (Slovenly, slovenly.com)


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