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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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RIGHT HERE, THE:
All Herky-Jerky: CD
Hailing from Minneapolis, The Right Here is what would happen if some of my favorite punk bands made a crazy talented baby. Imagine The Lawrence Arms with Tim Barry at the helm or if early Alkaline Trio featured Tim Armstrong. To be fair, though, that’s what comes to mind immediately. After getting to know the songs better, it becomes quickly apparent that The Right Here has created their own sound that fits in perfectly with that punk rock’n’roll scene that’s happening in Minneapolis (they share a keyboard player with local powerhouse Nato Coles, if that helps clarify). Song title winners like “Freddie Mercury Poisoning” and “Who Framed Roger Lodge?” are the perfect combination of punk, blue collar rock, and alt-country that still make me want to dance. Anyone that pull that off is a winner in my book.  –Nicole Madden (Self-released)


RITUAL CONTROL:
Inoculation: EP
Certainly heavy and pummeling. Though these folks have been around for a while, this is my first time listening. Pretty much what I expected from a band that features someone from Artimus Pyle: one super massive wall of sound, abrasive guitar, ungodly bass sound, thrashing percussion, and a vocalist who’s screaming from the gut. All good elements, and this does have its moments. The riffs are good, the drumming is solid as hell, and there’s a lot of power in the music. However, even after six or more listens, there’s nothing that really stands out, or stays in my mind after the record is over, other than the fact that this is heavy. I’m pretty sure live this slays, but on record it’s just okay, and not something I’d listen to again down the road.  –Matt Average (Sabotage, info@sabotagerecords.net)


RULETA RUSA:
Me Dan Asco: 7”
Instructions: Put record on turntable. Drop needle. Curl fingers into fist. Raise fist overhead. Pound fist in air. Jump around. Sing along. Get sweaty. This is the kind of riffy, impassioned, anthemic punk rock that makes 7” records seem too short.  –mp (Modern Action)


RUSSEL STREET BOMBING:
Self-titled: LP
Abstract, psychedelic post-punk damage situated in the land of Gong, Thee Homosexuals, Rat Columns, and Swell Maps. Truthfully, this is too good and too smart to be easily categorized and filed away. So, just ignore that opening line. Think of that as a way of luring you into their world; one where usual song structures are thrown out and replaced by trance-inducing droning, strumming, and rhythmic time keeping that’s effective and unobtrusive. This is the kind of music you stop all else and just listen to. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all worth making the time for and getting familiar with. I think the whole year-end best-of lists are shit, but if I was to ever keep one, this record would be in the upper portion, and possibly at the tippy top. Treat yourself right and get this.  –Matt Average (Smart Guy, smartguyrecords.com)


RUTABEGA, THE:
Shiny Destination: 7”
The two songs on this seven inch both clock in at exactly 2:38, but couldn’t be more different from one another. The title track is a fun, fast romper with great drumming that propels the song along. With the yelling backing female vocals on the chorus, it reminds me of RVIVR. The b-side, “Ladder,” is an unused track from The Rutabega’s last full-length, Brother, The Lights Don’t Work. I can hear how it would’ve fit in with those songs, as it’s more of a somber, indie rock tune. I like the excitement and energy of “Shiny Destination,” but the reflective tone on “Ladder” gets me every time. Both are winners for entirely different reasons, but it’s a great example of the diversity of The Rutabega’s sound. Whatever way this Indiana duo goes in the future, I can’t wait to hear it.  –kurt (Triple Eye Industries)


RYAN BARTER:
Discography & Book Collection Data Disc: CD-R
I am not sure how to approach this material, but Ryan Barter wants to share his work for free. Also available for download via his website are many of the included items on this CD-R, which range from full-length books to screenplays and albums. Musically, his interests are more metal than punk, although it’s definitely punk-friendly. His writing is mainly about underground metal in Europe, including a fascinating book on present-day Romania. I’d rather listen to his best band, Vulture Locust, on vinyl, than as part of a densely packed data disc, but it’s hard not to recognize the boldness of this unique, egalitarian distribution methodology.  –Art Ettinger (Self-released, bigshinyprison.com)


SAINTE-CATHERINES, THE:
The Art of Arrogance: LP
I’m of the opinion that this band got better with age. I think Fire Works, their last full-length, was hands down the best thing they ever did, and it still gets regular listens around here. The Art of Arrogance, their third full-length, is ten years old now. It’s getting the reissue treatment here, and while it’s not my favorite SC record, it’s being repressed for a good reason: Arrogance offers an almost different picture entirely of the band than Fire Works and, in between, Dancing for Decadence. With Arrogance, they were a band still couched somewhere between emo, hardcore, and the musical angularities of stuff like Hot Water Music. The sense of fatigue and world-weariness so prevalent in their later shit is filled instead with an abject fury here: “While living this dream, I become my own fucking nightmare / I never believed in this bloody lie. Head first in what I hate about life.” It’s a furious, thoughtful, jarring record that more than holds up a decade later and manages to have its toes in a few different genres without ever seeming scattered or diluted. Fierce, seething, whip-smart, and probably the last record they did that fully eschewed melody for barbs. –keith (Housebreaker)


SAINTS OF 35th STREET, THE:
Sorry for the Mess: LP
I want to like this. I try. It’s almost there. I can only relay the unsatisfying feeling by describing a very unfortunate Leonard Cohen cover on Side A of the LP. “Hallelujah,” Cohen’s nearly perfect 1984 ode to god, doubt, and orgasm, is given the punk treatment here, much like Johnny Ramone effectively did with Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” It’s sped up and played with chunky, driving guitars, and that lip-curling sneer. Again, the lyrics, the chord progression, the familiarity of an incredible song. The parts are all there but the goddamn thing just doesn’t fucking work. I don’t get it. This one doesn’t do it for me.  –John Mule (Tree House)


SANHOSE:
Japanese: CD
Co-released with Snuffy Smiles, so you’ve got a good idea of what you’re getting into: this is pop punk stuff for sure. Yet unlike label (and country) mates like Pear Of The West and Minority Blues Band, Kyoto’s Sanhose seem more gritty, less concerned with melody. Pretty slim packaging, so I have no idea how wise songs like “Pour Oil” and “Tape Me” might be, though they do manage to punch out a cover of “Attitude” by the Misfits. Solid work from this three piece, if not terribly memorable.  –keith (Sanhose)


SAVAGE AMUSED:
Mind Cure: LP
Savage Amused was a Pittsburgh thrash band that originally released the titular demo in 1985. While their sound had its share of the obligatory fast ‘n’ angry mind frame pumped in, there’s a distinct sense of melody infused that doesn’t so much translate into a poppiness as it does lending a level of catchiness amidst the sturm und drang. It’s also interesting to hear a marked level of complexity in the structures, rhythms, and approaches utilized from one song to the next—they ain’t just content to take a ride on the thrash-o-rama railroad right through to the end. The recording’s, well, demo quality raw, but remarkably clear for something three decades old. As with other releases on this label, the packaging is also a hoot, with a large poster crammed with liner notes and pics, plus a download card with the full album and a live set from around the same time.  –jimmy (Mind Cure)


SELF-EVIDENT:
The Traveler: CD
This latest full-length from Minneapolis’s Self-Evident is eight songs that stretch from 2004 to 2015. There are two new songs, four recorded from 2004 to 2009, and two covers (Bear Claw and Traindodge, both bands that have played with Self-Evident). I can understand wanting to record songs by friends, but it would’ve been interesting to hear Self-Evident try out songs by bands more different than them. I don’t know what other artists Self-Evident is into, but taking a hardcore or punk song and playing it in their own style would’ve been pretty great. The four older songs I could take or leave. There is still the same melodic math rock sound, but nothing about them strikes me as urgent and inspiring as the material from Self-Evident’s last album, We Built a Fortress on Short Notice. By contrast, the new songs, “A New Way” and “House” display the range the band is capable of. There’s some edgy aggression and more introspective, somber tones. While I can only really recommend this for fans of the band, it does make me excited to hear what they’ll be coming up with next. –kurt (Doubleplusgood)


SEXT MESSAGE:
Generation Sext: CD
If name and packaging steered you in the direction of assuming that this was some manner of low-budget mixed-gender synth-punk mini-ruckus like the Poppets or Nazis From Mars or even Stereo Total, name and packaging have steered you wrong. This is a slightly more synthy and marginally less slick version of the breathier stuff they play on the radio stations that play Katy Perry and Juicy J and what-not. I guess if you’re the type that goes to gay bars just to listen to the music, this might be some slight improvement over the standard fare. Good for you. BEST SONG: Fuck, dude, come on. BEST SONG TITLE: “Smut Wars” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I have the same lightning bolt guitar strap as Stephanie.  –norb (Self-released, sxtmsg.me)


SHADOWHOUSE:
Hand in Hand: LP
Shadowhouse describe themselves as “post-punk/goth” from Portland, Oregon. I don’t get around to those genres too often but, for the most part, appreciate what is going on here. Reverby guitar riffs, big drum sounds, synthesizers, and a deep, booming voice. Every piece sounds like it was recorded in a different section of a spooky cave on the Oregon coast. If you’re tired of your favorite ‘80s singers acting like assholes or paying two hundred dollars to see some cover act at an embarrassing convention, try this LP out. It’ll get the job done.  –John Mule (Mass Media, massmediarecords.com)


SHALLOW CUTS:
Storm Watch: 7” EP
On the surface, San Diego/Minneapolis trio Shallow Cuts don’t sound terribly dissimilar from their pop punk brethren, but there’s something lurking in their melodies, song structures, and chord progressions that lingers in the ether between the two genres. The cheery guitar line on Side A’s “The Mission” feels more like The Cure than Alkaline Trio, while recalling both. When placing “89 Suzuki” on a mixtape, it could play just as well next to Billy Joel as The Lawrence Arms. Side B’s “SLC” feels like a brighter Gaslight Anthem with lyrics by John Cougar Mellencamp, but it possesses a purity all its own. Final track, “Calamine” boasts an intro and breakdown that scream for a place in the life-affirming climax of a twee indie film, and finds ways to integrate subtle, refreshing key changes and vocal runs throughout. Its title, lyrics, album art, and marbled grey vinyl may seem foreboding, but Storm Watch is like an injection of serotonin and nostalgia straight into your brain.  –Kelley O’Death (No Idea, matt@noidearecords.com, noidearecords.com)


SHAMS, THE:
One and All: CD
The Shams play straight-up rock’n’roll that isn’t quite punk, not quite bar rock, but too edgy-sounding to be pop. The tunes sound like the smell of lilacs in a horse paddock—there’s something seamy and fundamental under your feet, but up top things are fresh and light. Thus works the earthy, rumbling bass with The Shams’ clean, bright guitars. And tambourines and fiddles! Love me some fiddles! Through it all, The Shams just sound so damn Irish (partly because they quite clearly are), but it’s not simply the sum total of Emerald Isle accents on the record and those lovely fiddles. It’s like this record wants to be classified as “Celtic pub rock” or crammed into some other overused pigeon hole, but it simultaneously defies such easy classification. It’s like a drunken night of multi-Guinness at the pub with a rollicking fistfight—it could have been anywhere, but it just happened to be at the Irish joint, so that becomes the overarching context for the memory, even though it would make for a great story regardless of the setting.  –The Lord Kveldulfr (Shams Music Productions)


SHANGRI-BLAHS, THE:
Rankka Päivä: 7” EP
They open and close things nice and strong here with a couple of fine, stomping punk anthems. Sandwiched between are a couple o’ beefy pop tunes that make effective use of the spare hooks the band employs. Their first EP was a hoot and this one carries on the same trajectory in fine form.  –jimmy (The Shangri-Blahs, facebook.com/theshangriblahs)


SH-SHAKES:
Self-titled: Cassingle
Well, to this untrained ear, these dudes are doing a damn nice and authentic-sounding surf/psych thing. I mean, if you told me, dunce that I am, that this was from 1964 or something, I’d be like, “Huh. Cool.” So there’s that. And yet! My hypocrisy is boundless! For some reason, 7” vinyl is fine, full-length tapes are fine, but I hate cassingles. (And at four quick songs, that’s essentially what we’re looking at here.) Still, these guys are really good at what they’re doing, and this cassette’s limited to seventy-five copies, so if this is your thing, ya better jump on it.  –keith (Shake)


SICK THOUGHTS:
Beat on Beat: 7”
Holy shit, how many records has this guy put out in the last year or so? I know I can’t keep up, no matter how hard I try. If you missed my review of the 10” a couple of issues ago, Sick Thoughts is frapped-out, lo-fi punk rock destruction. I think I get a little bit of brain damage every time I listen to this band, but that ain’t stopping me. Time to dummy up and flip the record again!  –ty (Goner)


SIERPIEZ:
Zawsze Hasze: LP
Sierpies have an interesting sound. You could put them on the post-punk spectrum, and I do hear shades of Joy Division in their music, but they’re not entirely dark or morose, as there are poppy elements in their stew, such as the song “Dagon Loves Surf.” Plodding and catchy, and though I have no idea of what they’re singing about, there is a sense of sun breaking through the gray clouds. The percussion here is really good, very effective without being bombastic. The pace is steady, sometimes tribal, with just the necessary amount of flash. The bass keeps everything moving forward, while the guitar brings the cold. Artem speaks the words more than he sings, effectively conveying emotion and giving you an idea what the song may be about. I can’t find too much information on these guys. Song titles are mostly translated into English on the sheet that would usually have lyrics printed on them, but here you just get lineup (two folks: Artem, and Denis), and where it was recorded, which was at Same Day Records in Moscow. Other than that, I can’t find anything else, such as what label this is on. Good luck.  –Matt Average (No address listed)


SIR LORD VON RAVEN:
The Age of Machines: LP
I was worried the name of this band was trying too hard, but the songs back up my knee-jerk reaction to the moniker. This is a double LP and the songs remain catchy. There are jumpy elements of early glam mixed with ‘60s pop. The beats are framed with great keyboard and bass lines. It’s tight and poppy without losing the rock’n’roll train wreck. There are even interspersed sax solos. This album has the gait of Diamond Dogs-era Bowie and early T.Rex but keeps its own voice nicely. The cracks that appear when you’re faking it are not here. Good songwriting and solid presentation all around.  –Billups Allen (Guitars And Bongos, guitarsandbongos.com)


SIXBREWBANTHA:
Intravenously Commodified: LP
Savage and pulverizing grindcore utilizing the brute force of current heavyweights such as Insect Warfare and Quattro Stagioni while worshipping at the altars of Discordance Axis, Asterisk, and Phobia. There’s a slight touch of metalcore detected in the strategically placed heavy breakdowns. Fear not, however. This record is strictly for grind freaks and moshers with a refined palate and definitely not for the trend ears who would rather listen to whatever Bridge 9 is trying to pass for hardcore these days as they wait for a barber’s chair to free up to get a fade haircut.  –Juan Espinosa (To Live A Lie / SPHC, sixbrewbantha@gmail.com)


SKEMÄTA:
Self-titled: LP
Gotta admit, my initial gut response to this was, “Oh, for fuck’s sake. First we have a global scourge of a billion bands basing careers on pretending to be Discharge, now we’re gonna have a wave of American bands pretending to be Scandinavian bands pretending to be Discharge?!” It’s an easy dismissal to make, ‘cause facts bein’ what they is, this is conceptually little more than a wholesale mooshing of Wolfpack, Totalitär, and Skitsystem with all the bluster, guttural vocals, and metal flourishes of those bands in full evidence. What makes me refrain from tossing this out the nearest window in disgust is, wonder of wonders, they fucking pull it off. In fucking spades, no less. This is just as scathing, tight, and immediate as some of the best stuff the Scandinavian wing of Cal-worshippers has put across in recent decades. No faint praise, that. It may not be all that original, but it is definitely a monster. –jimmy (Sorry State, sorrystaterecords.com)


SLOW DEATH, THE:
No Heaven: LP
More than what it is, it may be easier to describe what this record isn’t. It’s not sterile, it’s not sober, it’s not experimental, and it’s not sorry. Midwestern basement punk leaning towards straight-up, earnest guitar rock. This record is a chained up mutt in a dirt yard barking its ass off about how fucked up its situation is. Pretty much all the humanoids in hearing distance find it all quite obnoxious, but to the fellow canines, it’s a bark they can relate to. No graduate student is ever gonna write their dissertation on The Slow Death, and that’s kinda what I like about ‘em. –Daryl Gussin (Rad Girlfriend)


SLOW WALKER:
Self-titled: LP
The cover of this album had an assuredly accidental psychological effect on me. It’s cheap looking, to the point of appearing classic. The band is framed in a wavy circle, cheaply printed in black and white, with a wavy circle photo of trees on the other side. The label is blank with “Side One” and “Side Two” written in ballpoint pen. I’m sure the band probably just wanted to save some money, but they should be commended on how to create a good-looking record on a budget. This album is a grungy offering with hints of ‘60s beats with fuzzy bass seeping in on the first side. “Desperation” has a slow-fuzz walking bass line into a catchy chorus. In the grunge to ‘60s range, it’s a bit all over the place, but in an interesting way. There are loads of catchy choruses. There’s a bit of ether in the production, particularly in the vocals, similar to what I hear from a lot of San Francisco bands doing the pseudo-retro thing. All these elements are rolled together tightly into an interesting album. It’s got good songwriting and an appropriate amount of production, whatever I mean by that. It’s solid and not immediately identifiable in a way I like. There’s a lot to like about it. I’m definitely going to listen to it again instead of going on a tirade about how bands are spending too much money on expensive vinyl pressing and how I feel unpunk for continuing to support vinyl releases because of a ridiculous and childish hobby I’ve held on to for too long. What did I say? It’s a good record.  –Billups Allen (Stale Heat, slowwalker.bandcamp.com)


SNAGGLETOOTH:
Kids Stuff: Cassette
Totally smitten with their packaging. Very creative DIY handmade envelope with a rad design by Michael Graves closed with a hot wax stamp. Much props for that. Next up, and most importantly, the music! Snaggletooth is a straight-up emo, queercore take on Jawbreaker. Full of heartfelt angst with an amateurish sound. Raw and charming.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released)


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