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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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COPYCATS:
An Idea Died: LP
If you had told me this record came out in 1977 I might have believed you. And then I would have asked, “Why did people ignore this record?” If I had to compare it contemporary bands, Rough Kids and Red Dons are probably the closest, but, oddly enough, despite their name, I can’t really pinpoint who I think they sound like. That’s a point in their favor. Grade: B+.  –Bryan Static (CCATS, copycats-punk.bandcamp.com)


CRAYON:
Brick Factory: LP
Back in 1993 I stumbled upon the indie pop scene via a late listening of the classic Unrest LP Imperial F.F.R.R. at Blacklist Mailorder. I was listening to Velocity Girl already, but something about that Unrest LP really affected me, and put me on the path to wanting to hear more bands that were in the genre. About a month or two later, I picked up the One Last Kiss compilation and was floored by the lineup. Crayon is on that comp, sandwiched between Tree Fort Angst and Jane Pow. I listened to that comp on a daily basis for most of the year, playing it for anyone who happened to visit me. I looked for material from all the bands on there that I liked. Crayon was definitely one of those bands.  –Matt Average (HHBTM)


CRAYON:
Brick Factory: LP
Crayon were an early ‘90s lo-fi twee punk band from Bellingham, Washington. They thrived on zine culture and shared the stage with Superchunk and the Melvins. HHBTM have lovingly reissued their album, Brick Factory, which has been out of print for years. Besides the LP, the download code also includes twenty-one extra songs from compilations and various singles. Upon my first spin, I am immediately struck by the similarities to Sebadoh. (The liner notes point out that Lou Barlow once “cited the album as one of his favorites of the year.”) The guitar playing is sparse and minimal, while the vocals are shrill and aggressive, like a disgruntled sixth-grader. Crayon only partially grew on me after repeat listens. Songs like “The Snap-Tight Wars” and “Reason 2600” are delightfully understated and sincere like scrappy Silkworm or Guided By Voices, but the amateurishness and high-pitched vocals verge on aggravating during “Hope in Every Train,” “Crown,” and “Knee-High Susan.” I suspect that if Crayon pushed onward then subsequent records would have featured more mature songwriting. As it is, Brick Factory is only for collectors of lo-fi indie punk of the ‘90s ilk. For everyone else, Crayon may leave you tickled but unsatisfied.  –Sean Arenas (HHBTM)


CRAZY & THE BRAINS:
Good Lord: LP
Who the hell uses a xylophone as an instrument in their main lineup? Crazy & The Brains, that’s who. They actually make it work by using the instrument as a “flavor sound” over super catchy pop punk, somewhere between the Queers and Mean Jeans. It’s party music, something to play that people couldn’t possibly get mad at. Or, if they do, you know that they’re probably not friendship material. I’m serious. Cut out all of the people in your life who don’t like this record because they don’t like fun. Once you do that, you’ll be comforted by the loving embrace of Crazy & The Brains. Grade: A-.  –Bryan Static (Baldy Longhair)


CRIME DESIRE:
Your Power: LP
Metallic hardcore with a singer that’s cribbed a more than few notes from bands like Negative Approach. They keep the wanking to a minimum and the tempos ratcheted up. Not bad at all.  –jimmy (Crime Desire)


CROSS:
“Pyre” b/w “Repetition”: 7”
I was trying to think of ways to not compare this to Masshysteri. Then I realized that it actually was the singer from Masshysteri. I loved that band and was completely unaware any members were already onto other projects. This single takes a departure from the seamless post-punk that I fell in love with when I first heard Masshysteri. There is a psychedelic element to these songs. Cross is a two-piece band exploring the more experimental side of post-punk and art punk without being obnoxious. It’s a great direction for these guys. Buy this record.  –Ryan Nichols (Deranged)


DAHMERS, THE:
Demons: LP
This is some perfectly passable “spooky” glam punk/power pop from a band from Sweden. The songwriting chops are decent but the songs are too fast and the production on the recording leaves a lot to be desired. I would have flipped my lid for this record fifteen years ago but tastes have become much more discriminating in the time since. The Dahmers basically sound like a lo-fi version of early Backyard Babies or a less glammy Black Halos or maybe the Trash Brats without the charm. Add in a little NWOBHM-style dual guitar work and you have the basis for this European band. Not bad, and with a little fine tuning, the Dahmers could turn into a great band, but, for now, file under just okay or not quite there.  –frame (Farsot)


DARKSIDE NYC:
Optimism Is Self-Deception: Vols.1&2: CD
The incredibly long-awaited return of this truly terrifying and vile NYHC institution, Optimism Is Self-Deception is the first full-length offering from Darkside NYC since 1989’s Ambitions Make Way for Dread, and time has certainly not mellowed this maniacal force even slightly. With a pedigree that includes membership in Sheer Terror, Merauder, All Out War, and more genuinely frightening, classic hardcore acts, Darkside NYC builds upon its roots in New York’s urban soundscape with nods to first wave black metal, d-beat crust, and even incorporates elements of dark industrial noise. The outcome is a brutally heavy, vicious record with one foot in familiar territory and the other in a bleak, metallic world all its own. Incredible.  –Dave Williams (Satan Wears Suspenders)


DEAD DOG:
Precious Child: LP
Dead Dog from Athens, Georgia do power pop and power trio just right. The crashing drums, fuzzed-out guitar notes, rumbling bass, and scratchy sing-song vocals each have room to breathe, but come together as a loud and jubilant whole. The songs celebrate underdog life and present as punk, but move along with an undercurrent of the sweetest ‘90s alterna-pop. The eight-song album (ask Nørb if this counts as an LP) comes together with such sureness that the Ramones cover at the end could pass for an original.  –Chris Terry (Dead Broke)


DEAD ON TV:
Creeper: CDEP
Their follow up to Fuck You, I’m Famous sees ‘em stomping on similar terra, namely pristinely recorded (courtesy of the Blasting Room) “electro-punk.” An aggro-infused, yet fairly faithful of Tears For Fears’ “Pale Shelter” should tell you all you need to know. This ain’t my bag at all, but I can totally see the under-twenty set grooving on their next Warped Tour set.  –jimmy (deadontv.org)


DEATH:
Leprosy: 2 x CD
This sounds tame in comparison to what came a short time later in death metal. However, that’s not to discount the importance and impact this album had at the time of its release in 1988. It just shows how fast the death metal genre progressed and has continued to do so to this very day. Not sure if these guys were the first death metal band, but I do know that, from my perspective, they reached a bigger underground audience. At the time I was deeply entrenched in hardcore punk, and anything remotely metal was considered “the enemy” (despite the fact that I loved bands like Iron Maiden, Venom, Nuclear Assault, Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer, and Exodus). But if you were part of the underground music scene at the time, you had to at least be aware of who Death were. I had a couple friends who were starting to gravitate towards metal at the time, so Death was something played in the car on our weekend skate excursions about town. Speed metal was one thing, but hearing Death, things started to get a little darker and heavier. No songs about Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Satan; instead it was death and despair—something that really alarmed the hell out of parents and other watchdogs of “good taste.” The guitar sound on here is great: crushing riffs, filthy distortion that buzzes and rings in your ears long after the song ended, and the drums are like a mad chopping machine, held together by the evil low end rumble of the bass. This has all the traits of classic death metal. From the screaming guitar slows and embellishments, rapid-fire drumming, growling vocals, and headbanging riffs that you would have to be comatose to not react in kind to. Relapse has done a pretty nice job with this reissue. Not only do you get the full original LP, there is also a recording of rehearsal nearly a year before the album came out. Then there are the liner notes, a sketch of the cover art, photos, and lyrics. Remember, “Relief does not exist / When you are born to die.”  –Matt Average (Relapse)


DEFORMITY:
Self-titled: 7” EP
Very noisy hardcore from New York. The songs, from what I can make out, sound a bit more nuanced than the usual thrash-o-rama, but the lo-fi production values maximize the “noise” at the cost of clarity, which probably goes a long way with those who like their shit to sound like, well, shit, but doesn’t quite do ‘em justice here. Not lookin’ for Loggins & Messina, just something that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a cheap handheld cassette player. Dig the purty silkscreened cover.  –jimmy (Katorga Works)


DEZERTER:
Większy Zjada Mniejszego: LP
I can tell you I’ve heard of Dezerter, but never listened to them, and if you’re like me, it’s about fucking time you do. These Polish punks have been around since the early ‘80s, surviving Poland’s Iron Curtain and Communist fall, and prolifically releasing thirteen albums throughout the years. “Większy Zjada Mniejszego” which translates to “Bigger eats smaller” is their newest release, and it’s clear the fight is still very much alive. Dezerter has an ‘80s HC punk sound that’s incredibly catchy. It has an underlying metal edge, and, at times, drum machine-like beats. Likening it to Polish band Cymeon X or perhaps a more metallic version of Generacion Suicida would also be apt; it’s clean, mid tempo, straightforward, and punk as shit. Bonus that liner notes and lyrics come in both Polish and English. Like I said, if you’ve ever been curious about Dezerter but never taken the time to listen, pick this one up.  –Camylle Reynolds (Pasazer)


DIALS:
School Girl: 7”
I found myself surprised by how much I like Dials. Despite sleazy lines in their song “School Girls,” stating they want to “ride a high school girl to horny town,” Dials’ brand of punchy, Japanese garage punk had me singing along after the first listen. Side B’s “Nervous” had me hip shaking and clapping away. My only gripe for this two-song 7” is I wish it were longer.  –Ashley (Secret Mission, secretmissionrecords.com, info@secretmissionrecords.com / Mangrove)


DINERS:
Always Room: LP
I don’t know how they do it in Arizona, but that desert is home to a circle of hard-touring multi-instrumentalists that rivals any scene I’ve ever encountered. Diners is near the center of the web, meaning that the band overlaps in membership with the likes of Dogbreth, Blanche Beach, Amadou’s Crew, and a host of other Phoenix-area artists, to their immense benefit. I’ve seen Diners play at least half a dozen times in the last couple years, and the day that guitar harmony in “Good Zone” doesn’t make me go, “Oh shit!” is the day I give up on DIY shows. Much like, oh, the rest of their entire catalogue to date, Always Room is unbelievably tight and impossibly smooth—but not at the expense of depth. Sweet as it is, to sum this up as simple saccharine pop would be a disservice to what this band is capable of: shimmering harmonies, complex songwriting, unexpected progressions. Diners play something that’s accessible to literally anybody, but I mean that in a sense far from “bland and inoffensive.” It feels more like a warm welcome from a new friend. Now that I think of it, that’s a pretty decent description of Always Room as a whole.  –Indiana Laub (Phat’n’Phunky, bob@phatnphunky.com, phatnphunky.com / Diet Pop, dietpoprecords@gmail.com, dietpoprecords.com)


DISCONNECTS, THE:
Wake up Dead: LP
Like Johnny Thunders and Lou Reed, the Disconnects seem to possess the natural ability to turn on a dime, making room for ballsy, bluesy, punk rock’n’roll as well as teenage, lonely hearts ballads. This is not to say that Wake up Dead is some sentimental, copycat walk down memory lane. It sounds new and old at the same time. It has style and attitude without punk kitsch. Turn this mother fucker up, loud!  –John Mule (Baldy Longhair)


DISSOLVE:
Self-titled: EP
This is a great little EP for all you shoegaze fans out there. If you like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, My Bloody Valentine, or any of the Captured Tracks (records) bands, you’ll enjoy this record. There’s lots of fuzzy, static-y sounding guitars, female vocals, and consistently mid-paced tempos. Dissolve is a two-piece from San Francisco, which is the perfect city to compliment their music. For me, this record really picks up on the B-side with the song “Innocence.” You hear piano parts and a more defined guitar melody. Great stuff.  –Ryan Nichols (Painter Man)


DRUNK DRIVERS:
It’s Always Weekend: CD
The black, white, and red spray can and stencil style artwork of Drunk Driver’s grammatically questionable It’s Always Weekend did not prepare me for the Midwestern quartet’s sonic approach. Far from snarky, rebellious youths, these twenty-year veterans may indulge in puerile “fuck you, dad” aesthetics, but deliver something more akin to ‘90s radio alt rock than ‘90s streetpunk. The drawl-then-growl vocals, mid-range tempos, and guitar tones occasionally feel dated, but the musicianship and songwriting are solid, and it’s evident that everyone is having fun. Pleasant surprises sporadically disrupt the vibe, with catchy moog creeping into “A M Gold” and “Girls Gone Wild,” the former offering a rousing round of “woo-oo-oo”s, and the latter featuring one excellent Diamond Dave ad lib.  –Kelley O’Death (Crustacean)


DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS:
The Difficult Second Album: LP
I hadn’t heard Duncan “Kid” Reid’s old band The Boys until I bought their second album at age fourteen, so I guess it only makes sense that I start my Duncan Reid And The Big Heads exposure with the second album as well. And, whilst this record will hardly stoke the teenage froth of The Boys or Alternative Chartbusters —the OOMPH factor here is somewhere between the third/fourth Boys album and Blaze by Herman’s Hermits—I gotta say, I fricking LOVE Duncan Reid and this record. The guy just seems so dang cheerful, ya know? Whatever he sings about— having kids, getting old, getting drunk—he does it with such a easy wit and charm that I am quite unable to muster any symptoms of being grouchy or ill at ease, and quite unable to say that I wished it sounded more like The Boys, or less like The Boys, or anything of the sort. Like the smallest bowl of the three bears’ porridge, it sounds just right. The band is two girls and two guys, and they’re all good-looking, all dressed cool, all having fun—the cover art is cool, the photos are cool, the songs are cool—as far as i’m concerned, Duncan Reid is officially The Guy Who Made Being In Your Fifties Cool. Don’t laugh, asshole, that’ll come in handy some day. BEST SONG: “One Night in Rio” BEST SONG TITLE: “End of the World” because it solidifies the Peter Noone claim. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The lyric sheet is a big hunk of paper, approximately 16”x12”, folded in thirds, and i’ve never encountered a lyric sheet of that shape before.  –norb (Wanda)


DWARVES, THE:
Gentleman Blag: 7”
I have an uneasy relationship with The Dwarves. The band’s overt sexism is something that doesn’t sit well, tongue in cheek or otherwise, causing me to cringe when seeing the covers of releases, song titles, and/or lyrics. It’s a damn shame, really, because this is a band that knows the art of writing hugely catchy tunes which, unencumbered by dodgy lyrics, I would listen to a whole lot more. For the record, the four tracks on this single all sound pretty good, especially “Kings of the World,” which is one of the songs I can listen to without wincing. –Rich Cocksedge (Fat)


EARLY DISCLAIMERS:
Self-titled: Cassette
My wife walked in and asked why I was sad. She’s not off base when discussing Early Disclaimers: serious heavy bummer rock here, with spooky minor keys and chords aplenty, picked leads, and gradual builds to understated crescendos. Easily a star in the same constellation as the New Year, Low, and Codeine.  –Michael T. Fournier (Let’s Pretend)


ELDERGAAD:
Day Zero: CD
I don’t care about trends, and I’m glad that bands like Eldergaad don’t either. Right now, metal is all about doom. If you’re into gloomy, stonery, Sabbathy stuff, the metal section is full of it. I’m not super into that. A few years ago though, there was a big thrash resurgence. I was way into that. Of course, I was way into thrash when I was twelve. I was into thrash during the thrash resurgence, and now that it has died out and been replaced with a new fad, I’m still into thrash! Eldergaad is too. There will be no slow headbanging while listening to this disc. This shit moves fast, despite the epic length of some of the songs. It’s very old school, with a lot of riffing, a lot of wild solos, and a lot of fun.  –mp (Zero Budget)


ELEPHANTS:
Strange Waves: CD
Sophomore effort from these Boston, MA locals finds the band expanding somewhat from the template set forth on their first full-length. The overall feeling is a little more subdued and, dare I say, melancholic? Lauren Garant’s vocals continue to compliment the shards of atmospheric guitar that Ryan Young serves up. Comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and/or Guided By Voices are not totally unwarranted, though not entirely accurate either.  –Garrett Barnwell (Self-released)


EXPERIMENTAL TROPIC BLUES BAND:
The Belgians: LP
Lo-fi garage punk that starts off sounding like a raucous rock’n’roll band played through an A Frames/S.S. Records filter, but by the end of the record sounds completely different. The song “Belgian States of Frustration” sounds like a lost B-side from the latest Spray Paint LP—angular and disjointed. Other more straightforward parts of this record are fucked-up, bluesy garage punk in an Oblivians kind of way. There’s a complete curveball thrown in every once in a while—the song “She Could Be My Daughter” sounds like an old traditional drinking song—while “Belgians Don’t Cry” comes off sounding like an European electro-punk dance track. Overall, it is really good stuff. When they stick to the trashy rock’n’roll, I’m convinced that this is the best record I’ve heard in months.  –Mark Twistworthy (Jaune Orange, jauneorange.be)


EXTRA FEELER:
Queen for a Day: Demo 2013: Cassette
Eight tracks of melodic, DIY pop punk from some people who used to live on one coast of the country, then lived on the other coast, and then moved on the other side again. Extra Feeler includes Erick Lyle and Gaybob, whom you may remember from outfits such as Black Rainbow, Miami, Crybaby Macarthur, Blonde Ambition, and a couple bands with “dirty” in their names. If you enjoy any of their previous bands, from either coast, it would do ya well to check out this one, as it stays on track with their prior worthwhile efforts.  –Vincent Battilana (Dead Broke)


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