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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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FLESHIES:
Baby: LP
Fleshies’ 2000 self-released demo is now available on vinyl thanks to SF’s Thrillhouse Records. Fleshies are one of my favorite bands and this is just another reason why. The scattered and relentless barbed blob of noise that they tend to create is at an all-time high on these recordings. The masterpiece that was their 2006 release, Scrape the Walls, was an amazing display of innovative, unconventional punk with pure pop sensibility and flawless production. Baby is very much the opposite—still unconventional, yet pure East Bay-gritty-warehouse-show-malt-liquor-taco-truck-pissed-off-fuzzed-out-fury of rock. A couple of these songs went on to show up on later recordings. After all, it was a demo. –Daryl Gussin (Thrillhouse)


FLATLINERS, THE:
The Great Awake: CD
Damn! I got relegated down to the generic paper sleeve with the record label logo and sticker indicating what release it is promo. This is a first from Fat to me. In the past, I would always get a retail-ready package. At least it’s not a CD-R like some labels have been sending lately. Oh, well. New signing on the label and the band’s sophomore release. Kind of reminds me of early Rise Against but this band also melds in elements of reggae and ska to their music. Very melodic and the music is well played. Should be well received by the fans of the label. As usual, a well-produced Fat release. –don (Fat)


FIX MY HEAD:
Self-titled: Cassette
The dinosauric part of me that staunchly resists change wants to give these guys two points for doing their part to keep the cassette format alive. And a few more for kicking out some pretty blazing thrash stuff ala Reagan SS and/or Cut The Shit in such an expedient manner. It’s over before you know it. –keith (Fix My Head)


FIRST TO LEAVE:
Forging a Future: CD
San Fran outfit with distorted guitars, cool vocal melodies, and a whole lotta rock’n’roll pep. The second track is called “My Aim Is True,” but, amazingly enough, it is not an Elvis Costello cover. Spirited hi-jinks dudes! Produced by J. Robbins, he gives the record his patented “tools and chrome” finish to great effect. I like “Drag the Lake” and “You’re the Canyons” specifically. Expect great things from these rapscallions. –koepenick (Wednesday)


EXPLODING HEARTS, THE:
Shattered: LP
2003 seems so close to now when listening to The Exploding Hearts. Out of the tragedy of all but one member dying in a van crash on their way back home, it’s the most bitter-sweet aural post card possible: the release, for the first time on vinyl in one place, of all their singles (some of which hit around $500 a piece on Ebay, days after the crash, you savages), unreleased final recordings, and alternate mixes. (The CD version of this came out last year, but my heart’s in vinyl.) Ever see people with their heads down, crying, but with a slight smile? That’s my initial response to Shattered. It’s some of the best modernizations of power pop and punk—from The Jam and Elvis Costello—to modern Northwest punk—from The Briefs, Tranzmitors, and Epoxies—all played with such confidence and swagger that the songs themselves sound like monuments. And then comes the sobering fact that The Exploding Hearts will never release anything ever again. But least there’s a last testament… and it’s great. The final irony’s doubly thick because they died right near the middle-of-nowhere, on-the-way-to-somewhere-better small town I was born in. –todd (Dirtnap)


ELDORADO AND THE RUCKUS:
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: CD
The break up of the Porch Ghouls was, indeed, a crying shame. Even more difficult is the fact that it freed up Sun Records aficionado and frontman Eldorado del Rey to concoct this ridiculous, emo new wave bastardization of Memphis blues and garage. Apparently, the album is titled after the Philip K. Dick story that became the film Blade Runner, which explains, well, pretty much everything. The resonator guitar adds a great Pell Mell touch, but when mixed with repetitive electronic “drum triggering,” the result is disquieting. On the same parallel plane as Electric 6 and as uncomfortable as Buck Rogers running through the Twilight Zone with a room temperature speculum. –thiringer (Big Foot)


DRIVER OF THE YEAR:
…Will Destroy You: CD
DOTY is synthy, glam-flavored, bass-heavy; like a funky Talking Heads (they cover “Girlfriend Is Better” just in case you don’t come to that conclusion on your own). It has one of the trippiest album covers I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it makes me kind of uncomfortable (but since I assume that was their aim, cheers). –Sarah Shay –Guest Contributor (Future Appletree/Nail In The Coffin)


DISNIHIL:
Self-titled: CD
Speedy hardcore with breakdowns that would be right at home on Bridge 9. Not as much grit as I prefer to have with hardcore and more breakdowns than I personally like. Good as most, better than some. –frame (Chainsaw Safety)


DIRECT FROM HOLLYWOOD CEMETERY:
Six Feet under the Mason-Dixon Line: 7”
Hell yes! They used to be a Halloween party band in Richmond back in the olden days. They did cool, spooky cover songs like the Misfits and Screaming Jay Hawkins. Now they all live in Brooklyn, have written some of their own songs and put out a record, and it’s great. Funny, goofy ‘60s frat rock with a “Monster Mash” kinda feel. The Farfisa and occasional hipster snarl add a Murder City Devils aspect, but not too annoyingly. It’s a good, fun record. I haven’t seen them play in ten years, but they were great then. Buy this record and maybe they’ll go on tour again. –ben (Go Ape!)


DICKTIONHEAD:
Because the Scene Could Suck Less: CD
True, it could suck less, but this definitely ain’t helping matters much. –jimmy (ODS/Dicktionhead)


DENY EVERYTHING:
Fire This Time: CD
I really love this album. Admittedly, I grabbed this CD mainly because the band was named after the Circle Jerks song and my convoluted thought process went something like this “Circle Jerks = godlike, therefore, this band = good maybe…” What I discovered is some excellent melodic hardcore that’s pissed off in all the right ways. These guys fall on a very pleasant middle ground that is so narrow that I didn’t even realize existed before listening to this. The band is just a bit more aggro than Kid Dynamite, but ever so slightly more melodic than Paint It Black. I’m saying this partially because the bassist is wearing a Paint It Black shirt in the booklet, but I find this description fits the band perfectly. Did I mention these guys are from Germany? Well, they’re from Germany. In the tradition of many of the best hardcore albums, this clocks in at around twenty minutes for fifteen songs (many of which manage to include at least one breakdown), so get it and prepare to memorize some lyrics for the inevitable stage-diving sing-along if these guys ever tour state-side. –Adrian (Yo-Yo)


DEADLINE:
8/2/82: CD
Ah, DC. Much was its influence on a young East L.A. punker kid in the early ‘80s, and few of those bands from the nation’s capitol held sway like Deadline. Their three tracks on the Flex Your Head compilation just seemed so different on an album filled with some truly unique bands—Minor Threat, Iron Cross, Red C, Government Issue, and the mighty, mighty Void—and just sounded so much darker and, dare I say it, more mature than others on that revered record, even though they were essentially mining the same territory. “Stolen Youth” quickly became a part of the earliest of my band’s set lists, although we never did it proper justice. For the most part, those songs were all we had to go on from this band, until Peterbilt released 8/2/82 towards the end of that decade, whereupon it went almost as quickly as it came and has not been seen since. Thankfully, someone has decided that being out of print for two decades was long enough, and another generation of kids now has the opportunity to glean some influence from this unsung powerhouse. Those who like their hardcore loud, fast, and direct will be more than happy with what’s on here, but just as important are the slower tunes, which are sick with unexpected chord changes, lyrics much more accomplished than “the president sucks/go screw a duck/I have a rad truck/fuck fuck fuck,” and is steeped with a passion that just doesn’t rear its head enough these days. I may be an old East L.A. punker dude these days, but these guys can still get the blood boilin’ in all the right ways. File this under “holy shit, how does anyone survive without this in their collection?” –jimmy (Peterbilt)


DAS LLAMAS:
World War: CD
I am probably going to get kicked out of the Seattle Scene Clubhouse for saying this, but Das Llamas doesn’t really do anything for me. It’s not bad by any means, and I can see why a lot of people would dig it: new wave and dance influences weave into punk drive and good old-fashioned rock’n’roll cockiness, with solid vocals and competent musicianship. I’d dance to it in a club or bob my head along in a friend’s car, but I wouldn’t pick it out to play at home. I’ve heard nothing but good about them from local press, friends, and acquaintances, so this may just be a perfect example of an album being unable to live up to too much hype. –Sarah Shay –Guest Contributor (Aviation)


CONDORS, THE:
Wait for It: CD
“The absence of boundaries is the enemy of art.” It’s an Orson Welles quote, and while I’m not sure what Orson thought of skinny tie power pop—I have a difficult time picturing the legendarily rotund thespian at a Knack concert circa ‘79 sipping a glass of Paul Mason, singing “Good Girls Don’t”—his theory fits that genre well. Give someone unlimited resources and they will likely return the favor by producing crap. Give them limitations, challenges, something to overcome, and things might click. Power pop’s boundaries are clearly marked: harmonies, hooks, and heartache. A lot of The Condors’ predecessors couldn’t handle the restrictions, falling victim to the “wee bit of killer, whole lotta filler” syndrome, putting out albums that felt like singles that overstayed their welcome; too many songs that didn’t function well within the confines. These days, there is no brass ring for a power pop band to snag, no commercial incentive to rush out a half-baked record, just the challenge of rearranging those power pop building blocks a dozen times over. The Condors, led by Pat DiPuccio, come up aces, especially on “Spare Time” (which had me searching the credits for a mention of Gary Frenay of Flashcubes fame). Wait for It is barebones and fashion-free (the roots rock camp could claim The Condors as easily as the power poppers) and it’s really, really good. –Mike Faloon (Rank Outsider, www.rankoutsiderrecords.com)


BUCKY SINISTER:
What Happens in Narnia, Stays in Narnia: CD
Recorded live in San Francisco, What Happens in Narnia opens with references to the C.S. Lewis books and role-playing games. The message is clear: everyone’s welcome, geeks are preferred. It doesn’t matter that I’ve barely dabbled with the Narnia books and never fell for the charms of twelve-sided die, I quickly came to trust Bucky. That’s key for a comedy record. I’m a sensitive progressive type and I need to know that the performer isn’t a mean-spirited twerp making jokes for the sake of making jokes (Howard Stern). Once they clear that barrier, they have free reign, and those are my favorites. Bill Hicks. David Cross. Patton Oswald. Bucky Sinister mines similar territory. His approach is simple: let’s laugh at the dumb shit I’ve experienced. The first half of the record feels loose, off the cuff. Most of it works well, especially “Renter’s Shame,” though the excessive “you know?”s clog the works at times. The second half of the record sounds like Bucky is reading or, if going from memory, working from a well-crafted script. His phrasing is better and the humor pays off more consistently. I think Bucky’s a good comedian but a great storyteller. Enough talk of generalizations, let’s get to examples. There are brilliant exercises in “What if…?” speculation like “My Date with Wonder Woman” (“Next to all the books are (her) pictures of runways and airport hangars with nothing else in them…Those are my plane. My plane’s invisible. I’m the only one who can see it.”) and “My Date with Laura Ingalls” (they meet at an estate sale, he’s stealing a diary, she’s stealing a Betamax machine). I only wish they were longer. “Like a Real Life Adam Sandler” is the perfect closer, a laugh out loud funny and oddly touching tale of Bucky’s stalker. He might laugh at people, but he still treats them like people rather than punching bags. What Happens in Narnia is a lot of fun. –Mike Faloon (Talent Moat)


CRIMINAL DAMAGE:
No Solution: CD
I assume that most fans of this band (myself included) initially checked them out thanks to the “featuring-members-of-Tragedy” line found in most of their distro write-ups. However, there’s no trace of Scandinavian thrash or Japanese crust here. Criminal Damage chose the ‘80s U.K. No Future Records oi route (think Blitz, Attak, Red Alert, etc.) while managing to avoid the pub-centric, tough guy cliché typically associated with the genre. All the tried and true oi staples are present; group choruses, Chuck Berry leads, downstroke power chords, but the thoughtful lyrical content sets Criminal Damage far apart from their boots-and-braces brethren. Fist-pumping street punk rock for smart kids. –Dave Williams –Guest Contributor (Feral Ward, www.feralward.com)


CONNIPTION FITTS:
Bullfights on Acid: CD
I wish this were recorded just a tiny bit better. It’s very cheaply done, which is super punk, but just a little more lo-fi than it should be. This band is capable of a lot more than this recording allows. Think about the “classics”. New York Dolls, David Bowie, Rolling Stones, that kinda stuff. Filter it through the blown-out amps of a bunch of punk kids huffing keyboard duster in southern Illinois, and you get the Conniption Fitts. I can’t wait for them to put out a better recording! –ben (Let’s Pretend)


COG:
Course Over Ground: CD
I was intrigued by this band when I read their one-sheet and saw that these guys are total Steve Albini nuts. Now, seeing as anything that Albini has played on is pure gold to me, I had to give this a listen. Cog gets the sparse sound of Shellac down pat, with trebly guitars, heavy bass, and syncopated drum lines. The problem with the whole affair is that even though the band has the indie-noise rock sound and style of Shellac, they seem to be missing the personality that shines through on Shellac albums. It’s hard to call any of this bad, but it is pretty indistinct in the long run, as it is very competent musically, but without the eccentricities that define the bulk of Shellac’s amazing body of work. Did I mention this band is from Croatia? They’re from Croatia. –Adrian (Moonlee)


CLOSET FATTIES:
Ghetto Girls: 7”
The first two tracks on this 7” remind me of the catch-your-breath moments in Scared of Chaka albums. You’re fully aware that the band’s capable of gorilla-with-chainsaw-and-fireworks time, and you know it’s coming, but it’s real fuckin’ nice, just kicking back and chugging some beers before you’re wrestling a rabid, hairy-armed simian of a song through a glass table. And, lookee, the hidden track (on a 7”, mind you) is that gorilla. Bam! Bam! Bam! Features “scab members” (their words) of Witches With Dicks. Neat. –todd ($4ppd., Spent Planet, Ltd.)


CLOAK/DAGGER:
We Are: CD
White hot abdomen-tearing record from this Richmond four piece. If you like Black Flag, B’last, and even a little Scream, this may be the band to singe your eyebrows off. “Walk the Block” and “Set the Alarm” really aimed for the gut. But this one never lets up from start to finish. Gritty, stark, and real. Goes great with black coffee in bed with a hangover. –koepenick (Jade Tree)


CHINESE HAPPY:
Bear Hands: CDEP
I said NO MORE BANDS with “CHINESE” or TOKYO” IN THEIR NAMES!!! Kind of reminds me of F.Y.P. before they were any good, although i’m not entirely sure what makes me say that. Also reminds me a little bit of that song by Th’ Inbred, where they’re pretending to be stoned straightedgers, but i don’t know what makes me say that either. The weird Riot Bbboy earnestness of the early songs is completely upset by “Friday I’m in Love,” which, while charming enough, will do little to make anyone forgot either “Friday on My Mind” by the Easybeats or “Sunday You Need Love” by Trio. I’m sure that someday a beautiful butterfly will emerge from this chrysalis, spread its silken wings, and flutter gracefully towards the sun. Today, however, is not that day. Tomorrow isn’t looking particularly good, either. BEST SONG: “Friday I’m in Love” i guess BEST SONG TITLE: “Thank You But I’d Rather Die behind the Chemical Sheds,” which also might be the best song, but that title is too long to type more than once. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Never mind, i was just reading thru the lyrics and found out “Friday I’m in Love” was a Cure cover. Strike the whole review from the record. Well, fuck you. I SAID no more bands with “Chinese” or “Tokyo” in their name. You brought this on yourself. –norb (Waiting For Lunch)


CATHOLIC BOYS:
Fixed: 7”
You gotta admit, releasing four 7”s after you’ve already broken up is a pretty class way to go out, especially for a punk band. Milwaukee’s Catholic Boys are a cathartic mixture of listening to Little Richard and sticking two nine volt batteries to both the right and left side of your tongue: a memory you’ll never forget because of how fun it was and the brain corpse. –Daryl Gussin (Sweet Rot)


CATBURGLARS, THE:
You May Be Dumb, but I Don’t Care: 7”EP
I was just in Prague and I noticed that most of the statues there were of people with huge clubs whacking something down by their feet, be it a dragon or another human being. Over time, little’s changed. The Catburglers do the same. Club and hack and pound at the listener. Nothing fancy, just brute power, and there’s something nice, simple, and primal about that. No frills—even to the point of denaturing a Zero Boys cover—and all operating within their swinging capacity: whack, whack, whack, done. Reminiscent of early Smut Peddlers, without John’s distinctive voice. Comes with an extensive booklet. –todd (Cowabunga)


CANADIAN RIFLE:
Self-titled: 7”EP
Think if Billy Bragg’s consciousness was born into the skin of Johnny Peebucks of the Swingin’ Utters: that self-effacing, self-loathing, street-wise, community-friendly, rough poetry backed by fiery, tuneful musicianship. Canadian Rifle is also similar to Off With Their Heads, in the fact that it’s catchy as all hell, and you’ll be singing along at the top of your lungs… to sickness. I don’t know how they’ve fused the acute awareness of one’s own shortcomings into rollicking anthems, but they have. Good stuff. Yet, if you only have a couple bucks and have to decide: “This 7” or the one on Squirrel Heart?” I’d go with Squirrel Heart. –todd (Criminal IQ)


BUSY SIGNALS, THE:
Self-titled: CD
Absolutely, positively strange. Of all the material I pulled to review this issue, I listened to Knugen Faller and The Busy Signals back to back, and the similarities are incredible. Observations: 1.) The bands are probably not aware of one another. 2.) They are both female-fronted punk bands. 3.) The Busy Signals are from Chicago and Knugen Faller are from Sweden and both sing in their respective languages, so Knugen Faller could be telling me to put puppies into a cheese grater and I’d still be bobbing my head in a little dance. 4.) Josie Cotton is probably smiling really fucking broadly right now because two bands have stepped up to the “Johnny Are You Queer?” plate. 5.) The Knugen Faller grabbed me right off the bat, while it took some headphone time for The Busy Signals to take root. (I chalk it up to a Ramones thing, where, on the surface, it’s simple, but when you start putting all the tiny bits together, they become addictive. Strange, still, because The Busy Signals’ debut 7” shook the change right out of my pocket on the first listen.) Conclusion: The world’s way big enough for both bands. Awesome. –todd (Dirtnap)


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