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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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PROGRAMMERS:
Boring: LP
German garage punk’n’roll that unfortunately lives up to the expectations put forward by the album title as often as it doesn’t. At their best ((e.g., “I Just Wanna Do It”)), they sound more or less like a next-country-over version of the Kids, with slightly more on-the-nose lyrics ((“I just wanna do it with my baby!” Yeah, well, join the club, pal)); other times you wonder if they could pull off more of a 999-sounding thing if they radically upped the production budget. It’s decent, but face it: If your album cover is just the word “boring” typed over and over and over again and you’re not throwing knockout punches straight out of the gate then you’re just looking for trouble. BEST SONG: “Friends in a Box” BEST SONG TITLE: “Alles ist Kaputt” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I was going to count how many times the word “boring” appears on the album cover but then decided that was too stupid, even for me.  –norb (Wanda)


PUP:
Self-titled: LP
PUP brandishes rock-infused punk à la The Bronx and Titus Andronicus. The opener, “Guilt Trip,” fooled me into thinking that these Torontonians would be both angular and driving, articulating the frenzied riffs and percussion of At The Drive-In bridged by anthemic Menzingers-ish vocal melodies. Although some songs boast hooks that sink deep, especially “Mabu” and “Dark Days,” tunes like “Back Against the Wall (with the stadium-sized “woah oh” chorus) and ballad “Yukon” are sterile. Ultimately, there’s too much polish on a record that screams to be raw and exposed. There’s a teenager somewhere whose mind will be blown by these ten songs, who will hopefully discover punk outside of the white noise of internet hype. I’m optimistic like that.  –Sean Arenas (Side One Dummy)


RAPIDS:
Traction: 10”
Rapids descends from some pretty highly esteemed Chicago punk lineage, including Smoking Popes, Colossal, and Tuesday, so it’s no wonder that Traction hits so many pop punk sweet spots: right between clean-cut and rough-around-the-edges, bouncy and contemplative, straightforward and intricate. I’m a sucker for that second when noodly emo riffing gives way to driving power chords, so I’m clearly part of the target audience here. Take the straight-up punk energy of a band like Dear Landlord, mix in some of the careful introspection of The Jealous Sound or The Weakerthans, and make it Midwestern through and through. This is about what you’d get, and I hope to see more of it.  –Indiana Laub (Artistic Integrity)


RAT HAMMER:
Baby Carrots: 7” EP
Mix of hardcore and catchy, over-the-top punk stuff that is a lot smarter than it lets on through its mix of serious and silly subject matter. They keep things interesting by mixing in chanty choruses, odd time signatures, stop-on-a-dime fireworks, and an overall sense of fun. Betting these cats are a hoot live.  –jimmy (Rat Hammer)


RATS KILL BATS:
Self-titled: CD-R EP
Here’s something you don’t come across every day: Hungarian death rock. Like more local (to me, anyway) kindred spirits, things are kept gloomy and dirgy, with vocals that are thankfully more Dinah Cancer than Sister Eldritch. Though the demo quality production keeps things a tad less punchy than they could be, but the sound isn’t terrible in the least, and the tunes are definitely there. Gonna be interesting hearing where they take things from here.  –jimmy (Rats Kill Bats)


REAL MCKENZIES, THE:
Rats in the Burlap: CD
Despite having endured for twenty-three years, these Celtic punks still possess more energy and heart than any of the young neds and moshers coming up today. Often lumped in with Irish-identified punks such as The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, and Flogging Molly, The Real McKenzies are actually Scottish… and Canadian… and I’m sure there are those who possess a sonic palate sensitive enough to discern the difference. To a troglodyte such as myself, it all just sounds like the same boot-stomping, fist-pumping fun. It’s hard to deny the folky bagpiping on “Wha Saw the 42nd” or the emotional resonance of the more straightforward pop punk “CatchMe.” The strangely jazzy, lo-fi addition of “Bootsy the Haggis-Eating Cat”—an homage to a real, now dearly departed feline—is an endearing break from the raucous, drunken party that makes up the bulk of the album. Whether you know their every lyric, or are likely to confuse The McKenzies with one of their brethren, prepare to be charmed. Both diehards and dabblers will find something to love about Rats in the Burlap.  –Kelley O’Death (Fat Wreck Chords)


RED DEATH:
Permanent Exile: LP
This is feverish metallic hardcore that gets me reaching for a bandana and makes me think of bands such as Corrosion Of Conformity and Suicidal Tendencies. Permanent Exile is almost all about the guitars and the speed—the repetitive riffs within the songs are easy to get into whilst the majority of the tracks are played at a breakneck pace. With only a couple of exceptions that is the modus operandi of Red Death, but the saving grace is that it avoids sounding like one long track with enough light and shade distinguishing the songs from each other. I’m not the biggest fan of the crossover genre but I’m enjoying this.  –Rich Cocksedge (Grave Mistake)


RULETA RUSA:
Me Dan Asco: 7”
These venerable punk malcontents deliver three more rip-roarin’ tracks of angry, anthemic, stompin’ punk rock. Taking on topics such as the government’s fear-mongering, the media working as a tool to disseminate propaganda, and humanity’s persistent attempts to destroy itself and everything on the planet, they back their righteous outrage with the kind of tunes that make you wanna pump that fist and sing along. That these cats aren’t a household name yet is a crime; that they’ve seen fit to kick down with three more scorchers is a gift.  –jimmy (Modern Action)


SARAH BETHE NELSON:
Fast-Moving Clouds: Cassette
Hmm. Feel pretty out of my depth here, ladies and germs. To this untrained ear, Fast-Moving Clouds is very reminiscent of stuff like Mary Lou Lord or the Cowboy Junkies or something; mid-tempo, mostly quiet stuff that toes the line between folk and rock. It’s calm, searching, and more than a little sad. Even when things get revved up a bit (such as the title track with its propulsive percussion and almost ‘60s-sounding chorus), there’s still such a sense of solemnity about it all. Pleasantly surprised that Burger put this out. It resonates strongly, to me, with older 4AD and Matador catalogs.  –keith (Burger)


SATYR/ELFHEIM:
Winter Growths: CD
What makes for good or bad noise? How do noise fans critique noise? Can one make feedback-heavy drones that totally suck just like some punk bands completely fail at rocking? If so, how? These questions came up when I played Winter Growths. Would a reviewer for a noise zine or blog be able to clearly define which and how some drones are better than others? This is one guy using “guitar, contact microphone and, a bucket of hardware pieces” to make these sounds. Does that make all the difference? I’m just thinking out loud because I’ve gotten stuff in a similar vein to review here, for instance, a project called I Want To Kill Every Human and liked it enough for multiple listens, but this one doesn’t grab me in the same way and I can’t figure out why. Is it because that one made noise out of different instruments (“instruments”?)? Maybe my taste is strictly tonal; IWTKEH had bit more melody under the washes of feedback. Satyr/Elfheim probably isn’t executed a whole lot differently. And it’s really not bad. I think I could get into a meditative space hearing it live. It would also blend in well with the kind of stuff they play on Hollow Earth Radio, my preferred medium for experimental music (knowledgeable DJs doing a show). Mr. Elfheim seems efficient at what he’s doing, but I’m just not qualified to review this. I think that’s what I’m trying to say.  –Craven Rock (satyrelfheim@gmail.com)


SEAN GOSPEL & THE NIGHT STALKERS:
Good Times with Bad Acid: Cassette
It’s like they tapped straight into the jugular of Ty Segall and just let all the thrash and scuzz squirt out to the heavy bass thump of his sleazy, soulful heart. With many a tambourine slap, bass drum thump, rolling, wandering melodies, and heavy-graveled, distorted vocals, Sean Gospel stays true to a lo-fi garage sound. Castle Face loyalists take notice.  –Camylle Reynolds (Ghoulhouse)


SEVERED LIMB:
If You Ain’t Livin’: 7”
The title track is a swaggering, skiffly bit of trad rock’n’roll. The flip, “Tidy Is a Vulture,” has a skank-friendly feel that recalls Alternative TV’s “Love Lies Limp.”  –jimmy (Damaged Goods)


SHEER MAG:
II: 7”
This is music you can get lost in. Blue collar catharsis, like a people’s history of raw rock’n’roll filtered down by the punx, for the punx. Next time you come home from work and are too exhausted to even begin to consider how you might spend your precious, supposed “free time,” do a quick, ol’ internet search and track down the first song on this EP: “Fan the Flames.” If you’re not feeling it, save it for a later date when things have gotten worse. And they will. The day will come; dead on your feet, wrought with worry, desperate for passion. And then you’ll know, you’ve got to “Fan the Flames.”  –Daryl Gussin (Katorga Works, katorgaworks@gmail.com / Wilsuns, wilsunsrc@gmail.com)


SHIT HITS THE FAN:
Unstuck in Time: CDEP
Four-song record from this gang of rabble rousers from The Netherlands. Strong influence of ‘90s punk here. Shades of Pennywise and Offspring are definitely sprinkled into the mix. The music is energetic and played well. Only time will tell if these guys will find their own voice with their next offering.  –koepenick (Morning Wood, info@shithitsthefanpunkrock.com)


SILVER SHADOWS:
Self-titled: 12” EP
One side’s worth of post-punk, heavy with shoegaze and ‘90s dream pop influence. “By My Vampire’s Side” may actually be one of the finest moments of that increasingly resurgent mix of genres. It’s just so goddamned catchy. Somewhat like the distorted text that melts over the front of the jacket, the guitar tone flutters and flanges, never quite disintegrating all the way into pure noise. Somehow it sounds exactly like a heat reflection looks. It’s the vocals that really make this—ethereal, almost sweet, but deceptively eerie. If you can imagine the vengeful ghost of The Cranberries, something that might descend on you when you’re broken down on the side of a desert highway, you’re more than halfway there.  –Indiana Laub (Gilgongo)


SIVLE SI DOG:
Concussion: CDEP
Here is something that a lot of people don’t know about me. I have a huge appreciation for The Jesus Lizard. The vast majority of my music collection sounds nothing like the mighty Lizard, but that is because few can hold a candle to their chaotic majesty. Sivle Si Dog is the exception that that rule. Without sounding like a carbon copy, they instantly gave me the same heavy, creeped out feeling that I get when I hear David Yow and the boys. These four songs are a mental workout the likes of I haven’t experienced in a while. Definitely not an everyday listen, but I will gladly put this in the rotation for those alienated, off-kilter days.  –ty (Girth)


SIVLE SI DOG:
Concussion: CDEP
Man, these guys are total dads and totally old. Kidding! I’m a big Kevin Dunn fan and it’s good to hear him being an angry misanthrope instead of a responsible man constantly making Geneva, NY a cooler place to live and work. Sivle Si Dog are dirty hardcore rock’n’rollers, like a cross between The Jesus Lizard and something from the Crass universe, and their songs are so filled with understandable hate and misery that I honestly don’t care about the technical missteps (slightly weak production, clicking bass tone). This EP is like twelve minutes of “Fuck. This. Shit.” I want Sivle to keep making music even when they’re total granddads and embarrassingly, horrifically old.  –Matt Werts (Girth)


SKY WE SCRAPE, THE:
Broken Ladders: 12”
Slick, technical alt rock with metal flourishes. The first track sounds like The Foo Fighters playing that Three Doors Down song from the Army recruiting ad. The other three sound like The Foo Fighters plus emo rock. They thank “the fans,” which is usually done by the type of band who argue until they get to “headline,” then get pissed when no one sticks around.  –Chris Terry (undercomm.org)


SLUGGA:
Parasite: 7”
This would be the best kind of record to get me out of bed in the morning, if it weren’t so angry and ugly. Maybe it’s more a midday record, hours after you’ve woken up to your Gorilla Biscuits record and Patti Smith’s “High on Rebellion” life brings home the point—it can really suck and you’re miserable. Then it’s Slugga time for a release of rage and nihilism that’s built up. The singer has some of the snidest and most venomous vocals I’ve heard in a long fucking time. In two quick blasts of energy and ire, Slugga nails hardcore’s rawest essence without mimicking old shit. “Parasite” seems to be about bullshit junkie business and the B-side, “Shaved Heads,” gives a boot to skinheads. How fitting.  –Craven Rock (Total Punk)


SOFT MOON, THE:
Deeper: CD
Some interesting gains and losses here. On the one hand, the production is markedly clearer—the gray noise, echo loops, and feedback usually pumped in their sound are employed more judiciously, and the vocals are clean enough that actual lyrics are frequently discernible. On the other, there is more employment of trad synthpop sensibilities than may have been in evidence on previous efforts, such as on the song “Wasting.” There’s no shortage of machine-like repetition and the structural character remains reliant on sheets of sound layered upon a simple foundation, but the beats are downright danceable in places, and sometimes what’s coming at you sounds more akin to Depeche Mode-Meets-Nine-Inch-Nails than the Joy Division-Goes-Batshit-For-Industrial of previous efforts. This is not meant as a dismissal, merely to point out main-Moon Luis Vazquez is stretching even further out and exploring other areas while still maintaining a foreboding paranoia, which simultaneously nurtures and infects throughout. All told, the dipping of digits into other puddles works well here, adding even more depth to an already impressive discography. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop over the course of future releases.  –jimmy (Captured Tracks)


SOFT SHOULDER:
Fabric: 7”
Why are you singing so loud if your vocals are going to be so low in the mix? Why are the drums so fucking loud and clattery? And are they even drums? It kind of sounds like you’re banging on some rusty sheet metal you found in the woods. I also don’t understand what you’re doing with the guitar and bass. Were they covered in mud when you were recording them? I’m having mini syncopated spasms in all of my joints because of your herky jerky madness. Was that what you wanted, Soft Shoulder?  –mp (Gilgongo)


SPEARS, THE:
Live at the Emerald: CDEP
A new record that is hotter than two fried eggs in a skillet! Not sure why that description fits; maybe it is time to chow down. While I’m on my second cup of black coffee, you should roll down your car windows and blast “Nothing’s Funny Anymore” at full volume. Like a bastard son of Black Flag and Gang Green, this baby burns each cigarette down to the filter. –koepenick (Floricore, facebook.com/thespearsrule)


SPOILERS:
Stay Afloat: 12”/CD
Spoiler alert: this band reminds me a lot of Snuff and that is definitely a positive comparison for this debut release from a band from Kent, the Garden of England. This is a strong six-tracker which employs a hectic skate punk delivery offset by a more considered mid-tempo sound, often switching between the two at a moment’s notice. As with Snuff, Spoilers makes use of keyboards/organ to provide an added warmth and depth to its songs. All in all, this is a highly enjoyable record and is likely to remain on regular rotation.  –Rich Cocksedge (brassneckrecords.bigcartel.com)


SPOILERS:
Stay Afloat: CD
Since the early 1990s, when bearded Floridians and Californians co-opted the Leatherface sound and based an entire American punk genre on it, I’ve been waiting for the Brits to re-appropriate something from our shores and turn it around on us. Twenty-five years later and that time has come. Spoilers join the ranks of Bear Trade (who unsurprisingly make the Spoilers “Thank You” list) and the Murderburgers showing us Yanks how it’s done. If you’re digging on currents like Success! and Western Settings, but also have a huge affection for pints from the pub, soccer, and Snuff, the six songs on Stay Afloat will not be nearly enough. Highly recommended.  –Matt Seward (Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.com))


STALIN VIDEO:
Animalistik: LP
Members of the Gaggers and Now In 3D go full-on garage-wave on this full-length. Both root bands can be heard in the mix, along with echoes of Servotron, Le Shok and a few others that have in the past plied similar wares. Sound is raw, aggressive, primal, and suffused with woozy organ. Purty red-splattered yellow vinyl, to boot.  –jimmy (Wanda, wandarecords.de)


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