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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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OPPOSITION RISING:
Aftermathematics LP + Get off Your Ass Get off Your Knees EP: CD
A CD reissue of their Get off Your Ass Get off Your Knees EP and Aftermathematics LP, released 2013 and 2011, respectively. Truth be told, “angry political punk” is as dicey these days as most of the other cubbyholes that fall under the “punk” banner, so, naturally, I was a bit skeptical when approaching this. True to form, a lot of the expected subject matter—class war, religion, war, and other examples of how fucked up society is in the twenty-first century and calls to revolt against it all—is in evidence, but instead of ladling out more of the insipid, watered-down U.S. variant of “street punk” that seems all the rage among the perfectly coiffed and Manic Panic-colored parrot punk contingent, they back up specific gripes with some tasty (mostly) mid-tempo punk/hardcore delivered with enough verve that those of us who find ourselves a bit more cynical might be swayed to believe they actually mean what they’re saying. I know that might come off as a backhanded compliment, but believe me it’s not. Too often anymore “fuck the system” is more a punk conceit than conviction, and while I can’t profess to know these cats or where their heads are at, the tunes here are put across in such a way as to come off more the latter, which makes all the difference, even when they divert off in an occasional reggae direction.  –jimmy (Profane Existence / Opposition)


PIG HEART TRANSPLANT:
For Mass Consumption: LP
Twenty-eight tracks—none of which break the forty-five second mark—of assorted noise, howling, thumping, scratching, and screeching. It likely would’ve worked more effectively broken down into smaller, more digestible servings, but as-is, I found myself losing interest three songs—or about two minutes—into the meal.  –jimmy (Iron Lung, ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)


PISS ON AUTHORITY / SLUG:
Echoes of the Past Reverberate into Our Future: CD
Piss On Authority: Crusty thrash taking on the cult of Obama, society, scene police, and so on. Not particularly groundbreaking work, but they’re effective nonetheless. Slug: Was half hoping the old L.A. noise band that previously used the Slug moniker had moved en masse to Tottenham. Alas, no. Ye get U.K. ‘82-influenced (or templated) punk/hardcore, also not exactly breaking new ground, but in possession with just the right amount of vitriol to sell it.  –jimmy (Riot Ska, riotskarecords.com)


PISS TEST:
Self-titled: 7”
Here is Portland, Oregon’s Piss Test’s second self-titled 7”. I reviewed the first one in these very pages and it quickly became one of my go-to singles. This one is no different. More seething anger and snotty humor up front while the rhythm section gets you grooving before you even realize it. This band is a prime example of why those “punk rock died years ago” types can go fuck themselves. If you don’t already have all of Piss Test’s records (there is a killer LP as well), you best get on it!  –ty (Taken By Surprise)


POPULATION:
Beyond the Pale: LP
I really dug their first EP on HoZac a good while back, which was some prime Joy Division worship in its own right. Haven’t heard anything from ‘em since, so just how marked the leap forward here is a bit of a surprise. Echoes of that early influence are still very much apparent, but they’ve upped the gloom exponentially and added some other interesting bits—a little bit of very early Sisters Of Mercy here, and more than a little early Death In June there, all of it steeped in a nice sheen of 4AD ambience—to round the sound out quite nicely. While not as sonically aggressive as some of the retro-nouveau death rock outfits making the rounds in recent years, they more than make up for it in the way the sheer oppressiveness of the overall mood is counterbalanced by loping bass lines, alternating dancey and quasi-tribal drumming, and ethereal synth lines. The results are superb, handily standing toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters of the much ballyhooed first post-punk/goth go-’round.  –jimmy (Mass Media, massmediarecords.com)


PRETTYS, THE:
Empty Heads: Cassette
This kind of retro-gazing glam rock kind of walks a line for me—it’s either a neat take on what proto-punk garage bands would sound like if Iggy Pop or Johnny Thunders were born in 1992... or it’s obnoxious cock rock dressed up in leather jackets and Beatle boots. The Prettys land a few songs on each side. At their best, they’re a bouncy, raspy reissue of “Fell in Love with a Girl”-era White Stripes, so that’s fun. On the other hand, I think I just heard the dude sing that a “red-headed slut”‘s friend thinks he’s a creep, which is probably true. Apologies if there’s some lyrical context I missed that makes that less gross, but that’s what you get for not printing lyrics.  –Indiana Laub (Shake!, records@experienceshake.com, experienceshake.com)


PREVENGE / WANK FOR PEACE:
Split: 7”
I lived through the earnest, suburban hardcore of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s and I have no desire to go back. If that’s your thing, that’s your thing. You do you. I’m not judging; I’m just quietly backing away. Both Prevenge and Wank For Peace are declarative and impassioned, technically capable, full of emotions and gang vocals (so many gang vocals). At times I thought, “This is musical theater, but with Marshall stacks and maybe one guy in cargo shorts.” I’m about to list the six labels that helped put this out. Six.  –Matt Werts (Pavones / Rad Girlfriend / Housebreaker / Local Orange / Guerilla Asso / Can I Say?)


PROTECTORS:
Soul and Fire Is All We Ever Need: LP
Recently, I was struck low by a virus which had as one nasty side effect—me not wanting to listen to music for the best part of a week. These indie rockers from the North of England provided me with the perfect way to recover and regain that important part of my life. At first I was barely aware of what I was listening to, but as my health improved so the tracks seemed to blossom into fully formed pieces of beauty. The album kept pace with my recovery, gradually opening itself up, displaying its charms in a piecemeal fashion. Suddenly, it was like seeing a beautiful flower blooming for the first time as I was able to acknowledge and enjoy the melodies, well-crafted songs and the delicious harmonies that were on offer—I was healed.  –Rich Cocksedge (Bombed Out, bombedout.com)


PUBLIC ASSAULT:
No Way Out: 7”
This band is from working class Lake County, a shithole that starts with Gary, Indiana and sprawls out cancerously into places like Hammond, which Public Assault calls home. It’s an ugly violent, dog eat dog, crime-ridden rustbelt hell, the kind of place where friends of mine played a show afterward to leave in a high-speed chase running from Nazi skinheads only to get their van t-boned in an intersection by someone in another high-speed chase with one perp trying to kill the other in a drug deal gone wrong. The runner that hit them died. His car and their van went up in flames. I lived in a nearby town called Lowell when I was a teenager and, honestly, think it has lot to do with why I’m still fucked up. But you don’t need to know this when you put on No Way Out; to feel their music comes from a dark place. It’s pure rage and survival they put into these four songs. Nothing new here, simply Minor Threat, Void, Agnostic Front-style hardcore but with such uncut anger and vitriol that it stands with the best of them. The lead singer shouts, spitting his frustration at “ignorance and violence fascism and racism and brutality.” He does so crudely and artlessly but with so much fervor with the band backing equally fast, dirty, and desperate. Get this to remember why you like hardcore and you’ll quickly forget hardcore not worth remembering.  –Craven Rock (Foreign Legion, ourwayoflife.storenvy.com)


RAD COMPANY:
“Friends like These” b/w “Dress You Up”: 7”
Part of Juke Box’s singles subscription series and apparently already “Out of Stock.” Like all the singles in the series, an original A side and a cover song on the flip. “Friends Like These” is a piercing piece of thrash pop that will win you over first spin and have you dropping the needle again and again (which is actually the annoying part of only getting one song on one side, but I suppose justifiable considering the juke box format). The Madonna song is humorous and adequate, but let’s be honest… you don’t often come back to the cover song. Good thing the A side slays. Worth picking up if you can find it. Sexy see-through snot green vinyl.  –Matt Seward (Juke Box, jukebox-records.com)


RAGING NATHANS, THE:
Jukebox Records 7” Series: 7”
I admittedly grabbed this 7” solely because of Peter Bagge’s art. Bagge’s Hate is a seminal comic series, while oft-overlooked graphic novel Other Lives is a personal favorite. Sadly, The Raging Nathan’s don’t live up to Bagge’s contribution. “Long Way Home” is cookie-cutter pop punk complete with uplifting chorus, and “Rewards” oozes Epitaph circa late ‘90s, you know, when Millencolin and Pennywise were “relevant.” Originality can be overlooked when execution is spot-on, but The Raging Nathans offer a brand of mall punk that’s as cringe-inducing as Hot Topic T-shirts and bullet belts.  –Sean Arenas (Rad Girlfriend, radgirlfriendrecords.com)


RAGING NATHANS:
Losing It: LP
Pop punk as a descriptor has either become passe or carries too many potentially negative connotations. Bands with releases of this caliber, that transcend those former shackles, will be said to bring the boom jangle. Heavy-driving low end holding down fuzz-filled bratty pop hooks coupled with bummer party lyrics about relationships and altered states. When three of the best and most consistent record labels are coming together to release your three-piece from Dayton, OH’s first full-length, you know you’re on to something. Losing It, a handful of cold ones, and a tubin’ trip to the river will provide a nice respite from this summer’s heat.  –Matt Seward (Rad Girlfriend, radgirlfriendrecords.com / Dead Broke, deadbrokerecords.com / Recess, recessrecords.com)


RANDOM PRICE:
My Kidnap Money: CD
Releases like this one really frustrate me. On one hand, you have a batch of decent, melodic, mid-tempo punk only to be impaired by not being played by a full band. On the other hand, you have a batch of songs that tend to circle a theme —love, loss, and relationships; again due to basically being a two-person band. Trust me guys, a bassist and someone else to help write and sing would really make this baby shine.  –Garrett Barnwell (Unable, unablerecords.com)


REALLY RED:
New Strings for Old Puppets: LP
Volume three of the Really Red reissues is a collection of 7”s, compilation, live and unreleased songs. It really ties everything together nicely. The band lasted for about six years and wound up having a lot of quality music recorded. Having listened to all of their output now, it is easy for me to understand why people who are fans of the band (especially those who had the chance to see them live) are incredibly passionate about them. I can’t recommend picking up all three of these volumes enough. Really Red is a band that deserves to be heard far and wide, even if it is thirty years later.  –ty (Alternative Tentacles)


REALLY RED:
Rest in Pain: LP
Volume Two of Really Red’s discography reissues on Alternative Tentacles is their less known second LP Rest in Pain. Originally released posthumously in 1985, it is finally getting a wider release. This record shows the band moving a little bit away from the artiness of the first record and into a more straight-up hardcore sound. The good thing is that they do it really well and manage to stay away from a “cookie cutter, hardcore by numbers” situation. This album is relentless. The second side only has two tracks that just kind of go on and on with a lot of noise and such. I guess they saved all the art for the end.  –ty (Alternative Tentacles)


REALLY RED:
Teaching You the Fear: LP
If you pay attention to any of my music ramblings (both in print and in person), I will inevitably express my love for punk rock from Texas. Being from Canada, it took a long time for me to hear a lot of the amazing bands from the ‘80s from the LoneStarState, but every time I did I fell in love with them. Really Red was among the best. This is the first of a three volume reissue of the Houston band’s discography, featuring their debut album Teaching You the Fear. Simply amazing and intense, Really Red came out of a more interesting art-damaged corner of punk rock (much like fellow Texans Big Boys and Dicks). When they played hardcore, it was relentless and pitch perfect, but they would turn around and lay down something arty and different at the drop of a dime without losing any of the anger or urgency. It’s a tough trick, but Really Red really nailed it on this record that put them in a league with the likes of Minutemen and Nomeansno in my mind. I, for one, am incredibly excited about these reissues. Everyone should own this record and now they can.  –ty (Alternative Tentacles)


REALLY RED:
The Complete Collection 1979-1985: 2 x CD
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating yet again: I dunno what the fuck they were putting in the barbecue sauce in Texas at the dawn of the 1980s, but some seriously amazing stuff came outta that state’s punk scene roughly from the tail end of the ‘70s through the ‘80s—Big Boys, Dicks, D.R.I., Offenders, Kamikaze Refrigerators, Dot Vaeth Group, Cargo Cult, The Hates, M.D.C., Culturcide, Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, The Nervebreakers… suffice to say that only scratches at a list that is long and wildly varied. Also sitting in that pantheon is Houston’s Really Red, a name that one doesn’t come across quite as often these days as maybe some of the others named might, but one no less important or jaw-dropping awesome were they, and at the time they were rightly well regarded in the greater scene back then. What they brought to the table—and is in full evidence throughout this collection of their recorded output—was a sound that kept a toe on the punk/hardcore template while lurching in every which direction: thrashing with the best of ‘em on second, meting out some choice punk tunes the next, adding some psychedelic art-damaged hardcore the next, and going off on an almost industrial excursion the next, lurching rhythms, howling vocals, and pummeled guitars in tow. Collected here is pretty much everything one could hope for: the crucial Teaching You the Fear LP, the über-rare Rest in Pain LP, all their singles/EP tracks, comp tracks, and some unreleased gems, plus a booklet with lyrics and a version of an interview with vocalist U-Ron that I remember being included in David Ensminger’s indispensable tome, Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons. In addition to being two discs-worth of challenging and wildly creative music, the collection is yet another testament to just how wildly creative some bands remained even within the rapidly tightening “rules” hardcore’s adherents insisted on shackling themselves with as time went on. Boiled down to three words: THIS IS ESSENTIAL.  –jimmy (Alternative Tentacles)


REBUILD/REPAIR:
Damage Stories: CD
This is what it would sound like if Henry Rollins sang over the music from the video game Contra for fifty-six minutes. It’s up to the listener to decide whether or not that’s awesome.  –Nicole Madden (Self-released)


RED DONS & TV SMITH:
A Vote for the Unknown: 7”
This was an unexpected treasure in the review pile. I never thought to myself, “I wonder what it would sound like if TV Smith did vocals on a couple of Red Dons songs,” but now that I am hearing it, it seems very natural. Dark and moody in the best way possible; it’s a match made in post-punk heaven.  –ty (Deranged)


RED MASS:
White Nights: 7”
The title track starts out with a guitar lead brazenly appropriated from the Buzzcocks’ “Boredom” welded onto the promise of something twisted and weird before instead veering into a nice punky ditty with darker edges than appear at first blush. The flip, “Animal,” is the more traditionally “punk” of the two, with a bit more stomp to it and a structure that would have all the ‘77-punk dweebs soiling their leather pants if the guitars were more Marshall crunch than Fender slash.  –jimmy (Zaxxon, zaxxon.ca)


REMAIN IN VAIN:
Self-titled: CD
This is a tough one to nail down—it starts off with a traditional hardcore vibe and then moves into a series of breakdowns and tempo changes which, in my sometimes-humble opinion, works quite well. Sometimes it sounds like 1983 and 2008 in the same song, but into whichever era Remain In Vain’s song propels me at a given moment, the fury is the same, and it works. This isn’t a magnum opus of punk rock by any stretch, but it makes me feel like a kid again, so I’m happy with it.  –The Lord Kveldulfr (10:39)


REMAINDERS / BARONS:
Split: 7”
Charmed by the bear devouring a sub sandwich on the front, and the giant sub sandwich devouring a tiny bear on the back—artwork compliments of Righteous Indignation, better known as Jason Lubrano of Iron Chic—I was sold on this Pittsburgh-born 7” split before even listening to the tracks. “Band of humans,” Remainders, slam through catchy, riffy punk rippers—”You’re Living a Lie? I’m Living Like 20!” and “Standstill” on Side A—both bolstered by minimal production that suggests the immediacy and emotional investment of a basement show. Side B features Barons taking a more tempered, anthemic approach on “Tradition” and “Lessons,” with fist-pumping choruses, swinging breakdowns, and well-paced crescendos that make you quiver with antici… pation.  –Kelley O’Death (Between The Days, betweenthedaysrecords@gmail.com, betweenthedays.storeenvy.com)


REMAINDERS:
Fine Exits: 7” EP
Pittsburgh, PA, dudes Remainders would sound just as at home on a mid ‘90s Warped Tour alongside Face To Face and Down By Law as they would at a contemporary fest alongside Hold Tight! and Iron Chic (whose frontman Jason Lubrano designed Fine Exits’ album art as his illustration alter ego Righteous Indignation). Remainders are not reinventing the melodic punk rock wheel, but they are keeping stride with their forefathers and contemporaries. This debut has established the strong foundation of addictive riffs, quotable heartfelt refrains, and winking humor that will help them fit in to the modern punk scene. Time will tell if they’ll isolate the unique attributes that will help them stand out.  –Kelley O’Death (Between The Days, betweenthedaysrecords@gmail.com, betweenthedays.storeenvy.com)


REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN / BOOTSCRAPER :
The Bear and the Tiger: CD
Bootscraper is from Leeds and is a folk punk band, as opposed to Manchester’s Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man, known for fast-paced melodic hardcore. The joke here is that each band covers songs of the other, which works better than expected. Reminiscent of the famous Born Against / Screeching Weasel split from the 1990s, it’s refreshing to see bands this disparate pay tribute to one another. Also available on vinyl with a download card, TNS Records did a class act with the presentation here.  –Art Ettinger (TNS, tnsrecords.co.uk)


RIFLE DIET:
No Solace: 12”EP
Pummeling, relentless, heavy-as-hell crust from Minneapolis. Most of it is fast, but they mix up the speeds, making for some truly epic moments. There’s an unbelievably gallivanting part at the end of the second song where the vocals change from being screamed to being yelled. “Break down the walls of this box / Break down the walls like this, break them down with you fist / Break down the walls of this box / Kick them out at the root, kick them out with your boots.” It continues on for a couple more lines, getting better and better. Not just crust fans, but fans of any hardcore subgenre need to check that track out. Solid.  –Daryl Gussin (Profane Existence / Blood Of The Young)


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