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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ARCADE INFERNO/THE ROGUE SET:
Tonight, St. Pete Burns: CD
When this came in, I thought it was a DVD since it was in a DVD case. I think some grindcore band did the same thing a couple of years ago, and when somebody tried to convince me that it was a brilliant idea, I responded by pointing and laughing. So this isn’t a DVD, it’s a regular old CD. Both bands are treading on the same ground as the Jack Palance Band and American Steel, and while I wouldn’t exactly call that “hallowed ground,” it’s definitely not a bad thing in my book. And I’ve said this about fifteen times already, but hand-screened covers are pretty cool.  –Josh (Network of Friends)


ANY LAST WORDS:
self titled: 7"
Eight songs of all thrash, no flash from this Twin Cities band. Any Last Words mine the same territory as other bands on Havoc Records like Vitamin X and Tear It Up, mixed with some youth crew-y bits here and there. It’s certainly nothing to scoff at, but it wouldn’t hurt for these guys to throw a monkeywrench into their thrash-thrash-thrash formula.  –Josh (Havoc)


ANTELOPE:
self-titled: CD single
...And that, ladies and gentlemen, was four minutes of my life I could’ve better spent doing something constructive, like gouging my eyes out with a soup ladle.  –jimmy (Dischord)


ANNALISE/GUNMOLL:
Split: 7"
I’m at a bit of a loss here, so I’m going to flat-out steal Maddy’s compare-a-band-to-a-brand-of-breakfast-cereal reviewing technique: As cereal goes, this 7 incher is a five bean salad. Maybe fine when you’re at a post-bris party with a bunch of your elderly blue-haired relatives, but nothing you’d want to encounter when you’re sitting down to a big brimmin’ bowl of Capt Crunch with Crunch Berries. As is often times the case with this sensitive stuff, it’s not totally without merit. Overall it’s a bit like lukewarm Hot Water Music. Musically it moves around and has some energy to it. But it shoots itself in the foot over and over again with it’s irksome self-consciousness posturing. Gravel up your voice all you want boys, you’re not fooling anyone – not even your friends, who are too nice to tell you to quit writing songs to assuage your stupid girlfriends. Urgh. Oh, and this was two bands? I couldn’t really tell.  –aphid (No Idea)


AMERICA IS WAITING:
In the Lines: CDEP
If I kept listening to emo, I would stop having to take sleeping pills.  –don (Die Die Diemond)


ALREADY DEAD:
This Was Never Yours: CD
By-the-numbers metallic hardcore, never deviating from a well-established template and never stepping outside of the box. Kinda sad when you’re listening to supposed “radical” music and you realize that Barry Manilow took more chances.  –jimmy (High Fidelity)


ALPHA CONTROL GROUP C/PHOTON BAND:
Split: 7"
This 7” comes with a copy of Chumpire #166, which is a tiny zine with quick reviews of shows. The Alpha Control Group C sounds like a lost late-’80s band. Photon Band sounds like a lost late-’70s band, both painless but also okay to be lost.  –mike (Chumpire)


ALLI WITH AN I:
I Learned By Watching You: CD
Wow, these guys sound as tough as their name! They’re almost as hardcore as the Get Up Kids!  –Guest Contributor (Law of Inertia)


ALEXISONFIRE:
self-titled: CD
For every Black Cross, Give Up the Ghost, or Fairweather record that Equal Vision releases, there’s at least one album by a band like Armor For Sleep or Alexisonfire (which is to say that for every interesting, experimental, and artistically challenging record, you get one incredibly commercial release which offers no surprises and nothing new). Like bands such as Waterdown and the rest of the screamo hordes, one vocalist screams as if he wanted to be in Morbid Angel; the other sings in sweet, angelic tones. Like most bands of this ilk, the musicianship is passable to good; that’s rarely the problem. The problem is that the actual music begins at pop-punk with the sweet melodies to get the chicks in and then tries to add a tougher edge so that, you know, the dudes will like it, sounding like every other band with dyed black hair and bangs, ear plugs, and star tattoos in the process. In that respect, this album offers something for everyone who will be listening to the next big trend in two years. However, by nearly every measure that I can use to gauge a good – or even decent – album, this doesn’t even begin to register.  –scott (Equal Vision)


AARITILA:
...Ja Kaikki Kuitenkin Paattyy Kuolemaan!: CD
I’m going on a mini tirade now. It’s going to be real quick. I wish more kids would seek out bands from around the world. If they did, even more bands would come here to tour. Okay, I’m finished. Now I have two copies of this CD. I received the Finnish pressing of this CD that was released by 1000dB Records about six months ago from a good friend there who sings background vocals on this recording. Interestingly, Hardcore Holocaust released it here in the States. I think they are great for doing this because I believe they truly stand behind their releases, not worrying if they are going to be big sellers. You can see they love the Finnish punk. Awhile ago they put out the Viimeinen Kolonna CD. Did you buy one? Or was the Casualties CD the preferred purchase? Even more interesting is that I have a review copy in my box. I’m glad to see that more extreme punk labels are giving this mag try. I can’t tell you how much bad emo and alternative rock I get to review. Oops, I went on another tirade! Back to this release. I’ve been listening to this for a while now. It’s a good, angry release that is not overly fast and fits into a Discharge niche. It’s got a heavy bass and haiku-like lyrics, which are sung in Finnish. The guitars were recorded well and come off powerful. The drums hold down the background with an even pounding. Even though I don’t understand a lick of what’s being said, anger crosses all communication lines. From start to finish, it feels like you are being dragged behind a car holding your breath. Collector nerd note: this release has a greener tint in the artwork and the Finnish one is more yellow.  –don (Hardcore Holocaust)


A STATIC LULLABY:
…And Don’t Forget to Breathe: CD
There are two other albums I know of that start with “… And” and both of them are better than this screamotic hardcore for kids who dye their hair black. No, darker. Blacker than that. No, dude, I mean fucking black –scott (Ferret)


999:
Concrete: CD
Lemme start off with a big caveat: I have never liked this album. I bought a copy for fifty cents back when it first came out and felt I was ripped off. Why, you ask? Can’t really come up with one outside of personal taste. Granted, they do a serviceable version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” but the ‘80s pop feel prevalent on the disc just never blew up my skirt in the right ways. Being the open-minded fellow I am, I decided to give it another go. The verdict: still don’t like it, although not as venomously as before. The pop vibe still leaves me with an icky feeling, but I can better hear the sound that 999 had mined to better effect on previous efforts than I could two decades ago, which raises its level up to tolerable for these ears. The B-sides added to this reissue, namely “Scandal in the City” and the two live tracks, make it that much more listenable.  –jimmy (Captain Oi)


STRIKE, THE:
The Oi! Collection: CD
Outside of their Oi! compilation appearances, I never really knew much about this Scotland band, so this overview, a collection of those aforementioned compilation cuts and some demo tracks, was a welcome schooling in their tuneage. Unlike many of their peers, they appear to have been able to maintain some semblance of quality in their songwriting, which no doubt makes for a good case in getting in the fray, making your point and fucking off before the popularity starts swelling your head and you end up playing bad disco or something. If you’re looking for some fine ‘80s bald-boy music from a band other than those whose names are usually invoked, this is a good place to start your search. –jimmy (Captain Oi)


STIMULATOR:
Self-titled: CD
This is what I dug up. First off is that this is a LA band. Singer Susan Hyatt used to be in a band called Pillbox and had some acclaim in the UK. Geoff Tyson, who does all the instrumentation, was taught by Joe Satriani and used to play in rock bands Snake River Conspiracy and T-Ride. This release sounds like it should have come out in the late ‘80s. It has elements of new wave and the big production pop rock of the period. There is a lot going on here. Layers and layers of instrumentation. The singer is strong and can carry a note. From sultry to aggressive, she can belt it out with the best. The cover of the Olivia Newton-John hit “Magic” comes off as their own. I have to admit that I was hooked by the vocals mixed with the overblown production that took me back to a place in time that I haven’t been in a long while. Sugary sweet on top and a little dirty underneath makes for a surprising discovery. I was so ready to write this off. –don (Stimulator)


STIFF LITTLE FINGERS:
Guitar and Drum: CD
There’s no debating SLF’s legacy. It’s as revered as ever. Just listen to the newest crop of oi and street punk bands. The blueprint they drafted is a trusty one. SLF’s songs, “Alternative Ulster” and “Suspect Device” alone, bands would stab their own mothers to write. It took balls as big and hairy as coconuts to be an uncompromising punk band in the midst of a war: 1977 Belfast. Inflammable Material, their first, is a near-perfect album. They held their own with the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Granted. That heritage is in check, and that’s not in doubt. That’s the good news. The bad news is that with Guitar and Drum – including The Jam’s Bruce Foxton on bass no less – the pendulum has swung from the SLF of old with grit, gasoline, and Jake’s unmistakably cigarette growl to run-of-the-mill shit-poppunk territory. It’s so pro-dude, pro-equipment wank, gloss, and sheen with hot licks and tasty chords that it almost sounds like a “punky” soundtrack to an ‘80s movie starring Molly Ringwald hosting a bunch of crappy bands like Simply Red, INXS, the Outfield, Genesis, and, at times, The Fifth Dimension. (“Be True to Yourself” has more in common with “(The Age of) Aquarius” than any sort of punk rock.) It is varied. I’ll give it that. It gets drunk from sucking a wide variety of stylistic cocks. That said, there’s a couple decent songs on here, remnants of SLF of yore – like “Who Died and Made You Elvis” and “Guitar and Drum.” If this whole affair was under the moniker of Jake Burns and the Big Wheel (since he’s the only original member by a long shot), I wouldn’t be so hackled up. Smalltown’s new CD annihilates the present-tense SLF at their own game. No contest. –todd (Kung Fu)


STEREOTYPERIDER:
Under the Influence: CD
Here is a release every musician has wanted to do at one point or another. Grab a bunch of songs that you have listened to while you were growing up and cover them like they were your own. Well, this band chooses songs by The Cure, Archers of Loaf, Fugazi, The Pixies, Seaweed, Descendents and Quicksand. I know I wouldn’t have personally covered these songs except for maybe the Descendents song. But these were their choices and not mine. I bet you it was fun for them to record this. –don (Suburban Home)


STARLITE DESPERATION:
Violate a Sundae: CD
Raucous rock’n’roll with more than its share of punk rock influence. Not a bad listen by any stretch of the imagination. –jimmy (www.coldsweat.com)


SPLITHABIT:
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: CD
As smooth as a talcum-powdered baby’s butt and just about as excruciatingly sappy as a Family Circus cartoon. In fact, as I listen to this, I picture the band with big balloon heads like the kids in the Family Circus – which somehow makes the whole thing a bit more palatable. But not even cartoony visions of ridiculous hydroencephalus can save this cloying heap of sweet dung. I bet even Hillary Duff would think Splithabit is lame. –aphid (Double Zero)


SPIDER RICO:
Self-titled: 7”
Being a big-shot music critic, I know I should know this, but are the Hellacopters still around? I guess it doesn’t really matter because that band, whether they realize it or not, left one monstrous spider egg-sack behind and now there are little Hellacopters bands dangling like Michael Jackson babies everywhere you look. Spider Rico is one such band. White trashy fun sounds shaped and filtered by the architecture of someone’s garage. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers. –aphid (Kuriosa)


SOVIETTES:
LP II: CD
You can’t accuse The Soviettes of simply remaking their debut LP, which is a blessing. The funny thing is that it took me about twenty listens to come to that conclusion. LP II was a slow grow on me. Their debut was instantly glued to my ear. Still in effect: irresistible charm, gleaming punk hooks, infectious energy, and the smart yet partying vibe. Think of a broken, jagged lollipop. Very sweet, but watch out how you approach it. It might poke the inside of your cheek. The Soviettes are still rife with sneaky songs. Until I sat down and read along to “Angela,” I had no idea it was a song about a lady who shoots a man. The infectious “Portland” with the boppy chorus of “Shelly, Shelly” is about an ex-friend who became a dope fiend. The Soviettes also have the uncanny ability to make political statements in serious, yet charming, ways. (For instance, like how the TV news focuses on diet trends and stars instead of world politics, but it’s said in a way that’s like an intelligent friend making a comment instead of a blowhard pounding a podium.) It’s all very conversational. Some changes from the first LP: each of the four members makes more distinct signatures on songs. There are much more varied tempos from song to song, and my only caveat is that a couple of the songs themselves don’t have as complex a texture as the first record. What had me scratching my head at first was that LP II didn’t have instantly recognizable anthems, but that’s okay. When I began listening to it for what it was – a different album by a talented band that’s very far away from painting itself into a corner – I just got down to digging it. Now it’s on high rotation. –todd (Adeline)


SOOPHIE NUN SQUAD:
Pasizzle Slizzle tha Drizzle: CD
I came up with a loose sliding scale for the Soophie Nun Squad. If the song has drums and electric guitars, they’re as good as anyone out there. Earnest, fun, energetic basement punk that reminds me of bands like This Bike Is a Pipebomb and the Grabass Charlestons. As for the other songs, well, I’m sure that it was a lot of fun to record a bunch of hip-hop songs and cheerleader chants, but I’m grinding my teeth the whole time. It’s probably fun to watch live, but there’s only a handful of songs that make the cut for me. Sorry. –Josh (Plan-It-X)


SMUT PEDDLERS:
Coming Out: CD
Five LPs from a SouthBay or OC punk band? It’s almost unheard of. As a matter of fact, I can think of a handful. I’m sure there’s more. The Circle Jerks’ VI LP (not so good), Pennywise’s Straight Ahead (proficient), and TSOL’s Disapear (I’m not counting the Joe Wood ones, and, strangely, their latest, Divided We Stand is better than Disappear), FYP’s Toys That Kill (excellent, excellent stuff), and the Minutemen’s 3-Way Tie (For Last) (not their best, but far from slouching and I’ve got a soft spot for D. Boon). OC and the SouthBay breed a special, more resilient fuckup. Bands just usually can’t stay together and tend to crack from member’s jail visits, egos, addictions, old-fashioned wig-outs, or any cocktail of the four. For a band to keep it together when the lead singer’s fixated on skate parks and rattles on about pharmaceuticals better than your average neighborhood Sav-on white coat, the wheels should have flown off this dysfunctional wagon long ago. No so. For all the yahoo, numbnutty attention OC gets, it’s still nice to hear that neither dank and rank rock’n’roll nor the first wave of English punk have been abandoned for designer t-shirts and empty caskets of nostalgia with “1977” spray painted on their lids. The Smut Peddlers keep blapping along with a wacky-assed lead singer with a heart of gold and a short attention span, gun-rattling guitar work, and a wrecking ball, rock solid rhythm section. Coming Out’s a good listen, neck and neck with their last full length, Ism. My only complaint? Since I have the Exit Plan 7” and their self-titled 10” that preceded this album, only half of the songs were new to me. –todd (TKO)


SMALLTOWN:
The First Three Years: CD
I’ve reviewed this previously in bits and pieces from their four 7”s. This CD corrals all of their previous works and adds one new song, “The One.” This Swedish trio has the immaculate knack of polishing up the cues laid down, then abandoned, by Stiff Little Fingers and then reinspected by the likes of pre-Life Won’t Wait Rancid. What you get is ultra-catchy, smart and anthemic songs. To mark them as solely street punk would be too cheap of a branding, although I could understand if they get put under that umbrella. They’ve got tight yet fluid songwriting, the crisp attack and ultra bounce of early Jam, the blood-runs-freely, ringing energy of Cock Sparrer, and the teeth-clenching grit of a largely unknown band making great, rugged punk songs. There’s not a stinker in the dozen. This is a sleeper hit. –todd (Deranged/Snuffy Smile)


SKEW WHIFF:
Taedium Vitae: CD
For some reason, I thought this would be a grindcore noise band. Far from the truth. First thing I thought of was crossover-period ‘80s UK punk mixed with Discharge, kind of like the English Dogs or Broken Bones. It also has that modern day crust sound where the music is metallic yet dark. Being from Belgium explains a lot because they have easy access to the music mentioned prior and Europe, in general, having a thriving crust scene. This is extremely intense and shows that the genre constantly reproduces a good amount of talented bands. –don (Life is Abuse)


SK AND THE PUNK ASS BITCHES:
The True Saviors of Rock N Roll: CD
“Whoo yeah, who’s your daddy?!” These are lyrics, and I don’t think they’re trying to be ironic. If they truly are the saviors of rock’n’roll, then we are in for some trouble, folks. I’m investing in polka. –megan (We Got)


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