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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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SPARKLE MOTION:
Self-Titled: CD

Dear Sparkle Motion,

I think I love you. I love you because you have made an album of eleven excellent pop punk tracks, most of which clock in under three minutes. I love you because you manage to remind of some of my favorites of yore, namely Bikini Kill and Babes in Toyland, and yet you don’t sound derivative or boring. And wow, I love the sweet, sneery harmonies on songs like “Resortaphobia” and “Meltdown.” But most of all I love you because I listened to this CD over and over again while I painted four coats of a color called “Lemon Tart” on my kitchen walls and it kept me from going crazy from fumes and monotony. –jennifer (Super Secret)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
This Sinking Ship: CD
Second album from this band out of Richmond, VA. Continuing on with their melodic obsession and pro production that you get with Fat, I’m really surprised that this band has not been snapped up in a bidding frenzy by the majors. Songs that sound like a cleaner Rise Against mixed with some Anti Flag, they would market well to the melodicore set. The songs are catchy and could easily be recognized as being commercial. They have a knack of finding a melody that makes their music palatable. Added this time around is Dave Atchison the former drummer of From Ashes Rise, to replace their drummer who they parted ways with. Coming from a band like that, it only could be good. He adds a solid punch to the music. With their constant touring, I could only see them gaining an ever-growing fan base. –don (Fat)


SMD:
The Devil Made Me Do It: CD
Wow, what a difference a few years make. Last thing I heard from these guys was a CDs-worth of boozy, good natured, but ultimately nondescript hardcore. This disc, however, demonstrates a marked improvement light years from that earlier release, with tempos ratcheted way the fuck up, more thoughtful lyrical content, and the introduction of a bit more metal in the geetars. The result recalls the glory days of metallic L.A. punk bands like Bloodcum, Pig Children, and others who managed to toss a lead into the mix without sacrificing the “core” in “hardcore.” Calling this impressive would be an understatement. –jimmy (Six Weeks)


SKATE KORPSE:
Limited: LP
Like skate punk pioneers JFA, these guys mix up the thrashin’ with liberal doses of surf music. They also manage to eke out a very unique sound for themselves, which automatically earns them “cool” points for taking an influence and running with it rather than just aping the tried and true. Apparently they’re now but a memory, and we’re the worse for it. –jimmy (Punks Before Profits)


SIRENS, THE:
More Is More: CD
Note to glam bands that suck: This is how not to suck. Although I’d like to hear the group take a whack at an original song or two, covering three Chapman-Chinn era Sweet songs, a pair of tunes off the MC5’s “Back In The USA” album, the Hollywood Blondes and a generally overlooked Slade gem (“Rock & Roll Preacher,” fuck yes) is not a bad way to go, especially when you toss in the fact that I’m not familiar with a bunch of the songs they’re covering (gasp!), rendering them de facto originals for all intents and purposes. Any band that covers more than one song I have on my jukebox is obviously worthy of intense veneration, so venerate away, masses, or they’ll suspect you just haven’t got a clue what to do and you will be summarily killed with a wink of their eye. So it is written. BEST SONG: “Rock ‘n’ Roll Preacher” BEST SONG TITLE: “1-2-3-4 Rock & Roll” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: “Saturday Night” IS the Bay City Rollers song. Contrast with Venus review. FANTASTIC AMAZING CODPIECE: Malarsh. –norb (MuSick)


SIGNAL LOST:
Prosthetic Screams: LP
Signal Lost got it all together for this release. It’s like the bringing together of the storm from all these little pieces: the artwork, the recording, and most importantly, the songs seem to etch fresh, new tattoos on their body of work. I don’t know if this makes sense, but Prosthetic Screams sounds like an interpretation of L.A.’s early ‘80s deathrockers Super Heroines via modern DIY European hardcore band like La Fraction. There’s that nice, dark ethereal quality backed by a modern crunch, fight, and crispness. It’s both foreboding and forceful. Both dark, yet defiant. Great stuff. Makes me imagine that this would be one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite bands if he were alive today. –todd (Prank)


SIGNAL LOST:
Prosthetic Screams: LP
Signal Lost got it all together for this release. It’s like the bringing together of the storm from all these little pieces: the artwork, the recording, and most importantly, the songs seem to etch fresh, new tattoos on their body of work. I don’t know if this makes sense, but Prosthetic Screams sounds like an interpretation of L.A.’s early ‘80s deathrockers Super Heroines via modern DIY European hardcore band like La Fraction. There’s that nice, dark ethereal quality backed by a modern crunch, fight, and crispness. It’s both foreboding and forceful. Both dark, yet defiant. Great stuff. Makes me imagine that this would be one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite bands if he were alive today. –todd (Prank)


SICK SICK BIRDS:
Chemical Trains: 7" EP
Since I often think that six years ago was last weekend (not out of nostalgia but from concussions), my memories of the Thumbs are still fresh. The Sick Sick Birds are like the natural progression of The Thumbs, if the Thumbs had been recording since the time of their disbanding, had released three more records, and loosely followed the trajectory of those type of bands that started out real fuckin’ fast, but when they slowed down showed that there were songs buried under the roar the entire time; and that’s what made the listens repeated. (I mean, who knew when Land Speed Record was released that a song like “Everything Falls Apart” was going to come from Hüsker Dü?) Anyhow, the Sick Sick Birds take their time and populate these well-constructed houses of songs and, yeah, it’s mellower, but it sounds like their house from foundation to roof, not a house from the past they’re merely tourists in, scavenging cheap souvenirs from their past. –todd (Toxic Pop)


SICK SICK BIRDS:
Chemical Trains: 7" EP
Members of The Thumbs playing post punk that’s arty, yet still rocking, somewhat in the vein of Hot Snakes. This EP’s a little mellower, but still a great listen. It doesn’t do them justice live though (again, not meant as a put down of the recording, so much as an endorsement of having seen them a few times now). As they say in their native Baltimore, “Recommended as a chicken”. –joe (Toxic Pop)


SHORT ATTENTION:
Clever, Maddening, Annoying: 7"
A novelty? Maybe. Novel? Definitely. Short Attention is a pop punk super group that plays extremely short, yet surprisingly catchy, songs. On this 7” there are twenty-six originals, two Chixdiggit covers and a Velvet Underground adaptation. It contains members of the Ergs!, the Unlovables, Dirt Bike Annie, Slaughterhouse Four, and the Steinways. This is the record you go for when you can’t decide which song to put next on the mix tape. There are so many different songs with different topics and levels of seriousness you’re bound to find one that fits. I even have a sneaking suspicion that’s what they were going for, too. If you are fanatical about any of these members’ other bands, you need this. If you are just a fan, this would be fun to have. And if you don’t really care about pop punk, then just keep on doin’ what you’re doin’, you silly bastard. –Daryl Gussin (Cold Feet)


SEVERED HEAD OF STATE:
Power Hazard: LP
These guys mete out some great hardcore here that sounds rooted in the metallic wing of the celebrated U.K.82 tradition while managing not to sound a whit like the hordes of “drunk punx” who profane said tradition with endless tirades on the glory of hops and generic calls for rebellion. Eight tunes here, all pitch perfect, heavy and worth a listen. –jimmy (Havoc)


SCREAMIN’ CYN CYN AND THE PONS:
Screamin’ Target Heart Rate: CD
Whoa. This album blew me away. Looking at the band’s name and the cover art I thought it might be some overly ironic hipster garbage. But no! This is actually a collection of hilarious, clever, pop punk songs (and lots of them! Twenty tracks!) performed with an almost alarming amount of energy and skill. My favorite track on the whole thing is the pro-dance, anti-standing-around anthem “Rock Your Body,” which includes the line “Get on the floor/ turn off the emo-core.” If my aerobics teacher had taste, this is what she would play during class. –jennifer (Crustacean)


SAINTS, THE:
Imperious Delirium: CD
New record from the punk rock legends. There’s no “I’m Stranded” here, but some great songs throughout. I’m guessing they are down to a trio again since Marty Willson-Piper of The Church has flown the coop after one release. Chris Bailey carries all the guitar parts quite well without him. Amazing how cohesive this sounds considering it was recorded in Amsterdam! “Other Side of the World” could be a radio hit if the radio didn’t just play shit all the time. –koepenick (Cadiz)


SAHUA:
Arm a Ghetto: CDEP
Full disclosure up front: I’ve been friends with both Tito and Billy (Sahua’s vocalist/rhythm guitarist and bassist, respectively) for more than half my life (and did time in Plain Agony, Los Traviesos and Ollin with one, the other or both) and remember when their lead guitarist (and Tito’s son) Michael was but a few days old. Does that bias me favorably towards their music? Maybe, but my affinity for their musical efforts (Tito was singer for the legendary Chainsaw Blues, which changed its name to The Fingers and became a trash punk institution; and Billy has been in tons of off-kilter L.A. punk acts, including Trash Can School, Aphrodesian Heads, and Jazz from Hell, to name a few) has always been an honest one. Both have much in their past of which they can be proud, and this latest venture is no exception. As illustrated by both the sly appropriation of the cover layout of the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex and the drawing of a gun-toting Virgen de Guadalupe inside, they incorporate non-punk influences amassed over the years into a punk sound and come up with something decidedly different in approach and content from the slew of vapid pop punkers whoring for the elusive big money label deal. From the outset, the music is a rough and tumble ride of both subtle experimentation with form and primal thud-punk reminiscent of proto-hardcore bands like the Cheifs and The Klan, while the poetic lyrics address the use of fear as a tool for population control, the appropriation of religious imagery, fascism, police brutality, and the plight of both the poor in southern Mexico and the hundreds of murdered women in northern Mexico. Though some of the songs may run a little on the long side, the strongest of the five tracks here is the longest, “Sheriff’s Gonna Die,” which pulses with righteous anger and recounts a bleak reality many of us know too well: “Count the black and whites/Count the flashing lights/Chasing cars at night/Better run the end is near/Believe in what you hear/The force the rounds are here/To knock your voice down.” All told, this is some good stuff. –jimmy (www.myspace.com/sahua13)


RINGERS:
Detention Halls: CD
I swear, this may sound like it has a back hand to the compliment, but there isn’t one. Okay, Bent Outta Shape, I’ll say it. They broke up to soon. I have no why idea—nor do I care about—how the band imploded, but I thought they were on the verge of flat-out greatness. So, like with when the space shuttle exploded, right, there were these huge chunks falling back to earth? Ringers caught, refurbished, and re-launched one of Bent Outta Shape’s fallen chunks of musical missile. Tell me “Nothing to Show” doesn’t owe more than a passing blush to “Solitary Now.” Now, here’s the weird part. Fuckin’ go for it, Ringers. Take that baton (with that Rancid O ring). Run with it. Bent Outta Shape stumbled, broke up, kaput. It’s your turn in the relay to run that year 2000+ torch of the Replacements/Hüsker Dü/good music/Leatherface up the stairs, and, I, for one, am cheering you on because it sounds like you’ve found your legs. What an infectious album. –todd (1-2-3-4 Go!)


RINGERS:
Detention Halls: CD
Although I liked their first release enough, Detention Halls blows it out of the water. With a sound that’s both more indescribably Boston and more than a little Bent Outta Shape (who the Ringers played with a whole bunch before BOS called it quits), they’re sounding like a more confident version of what they were (and still very much are). With lyrics about looking for your own name in the obituaries and watching all the buses driving in the opposite direction you’re headed (a feeling I’m all too familiar with), it’s surprising how upbeat it leaves me feeling. Great album. –megan (1-2-3-4 Go!)


RETURNABLES, THE:
Self-Titled: CDEP
There is something intangibly Chicago-sounding about the Returnables. I can’t quantify or explain it, but it’s there, the same buzzing, energetic undercurrent that made Naked Raygun and Pegboy so memorable. This CD collects four studio and three live tracks from 2005, and illustrates how fantastic this band was at writing catchy power pop tunes. And when I say catchy, I mean the kind of songs that get stuck in your head and are impossible to pick out, like a gob of chewing gum in a little kid’s hair. “What Would Mother Say” and “Teenage Imposter” are would-be smash hits that call to mind the Replacements and the mighty Firestarter. The singer’s low, Quaalude drawl sways to and fro on the studio tracks, but is betrayed by blasts of emotion and energy on the live cuts. Having these guys on a bill in the late ‘70s with the Fast Cars would have been brilliant, were time travel possible and all that. Tragedy struck the Returnables in July of 2005 when their singer was killed in freak automobile accident, which is too bad for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it cut short the life of a fantastic band. –benke (Dirtnap)


RED DONS, THE:
Escaping Amman: 7" EP
Unmistakably a continuation of The Observers. Doug Burns, the chief songwriter and voice of the band, is involved in two new bands, the Red Dons and The Revisions. The good news—if that Observers itch of yours needs some serious scratching—these are the fingers that’ll do it. The songwriting’s impeccable—catchy, jumpy, bright—and the songs are in league with anything The Observers recorded. (Crib notes that don’t do the band justice: think Adverts, Youth Brigade, and instantly classic.) The bad news? I’m no technical music guy, but something along the way put some invisible pantyhose in this recording that stretches between the needle and the vinyl. It sounds a little distant, a little muted and off, and it’s distracting enough for me to prevent giving it a whole-hearted thumbs up. –todd (Deranged)


REALITY:
Singles and More 1982-1984: LP
This collection of singles, demos, and live tracks charts the remarkable transformation of this obscure band’s sound from generic Crass-influenced anarcho-punk to a more sophisticated post-punk sound. The latter stuff literally shimmers in contrast to their uninteresting beginnings and I’m wholly surprised “Who Killed the Golden Goose” didn’t take them to the top of the U.K.’s indie charts back in the ‘80s. –jimmy (Rockin’ Bones)


RADIO BIRDMAN:
Zeno Beach: CD
Colossal return to action from these Aussie legends. Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, and Chris Masuak are joined by Russell Hopkinson (You Am I) on drums, Jim Dickson on bass, and Pip Hoyle on keys. There’s not a weak track to be found here. But “We’ve Come So Far (To Be Here Today)” and “If You Say Please” are a couple that won’t vacate my cranium anytime soon. Go see them live if they come your way, and get this CD ‘cause it really shreds. –koepenick (Yep Roc)


QUEERS:
Don't Back Down: CD
Although once a huge fan of the Queers—their Kicked out of the Webelos EP remains, in my estimation, one of the unsung greats of ‘80s punk rock, and their Grow Up and Love Songs for the Retarded albums of the early ‘90s are must haves for any fans of Ramones-derived pop punk—this was the last album I heard by them that I had any real interest in. Part of it was the fact that the subsequent releases I heard were not particularly interesting or good, but a good chunk of it was also because of the inundation of clone bands that were an unfortunate byproduct of their popularity and the chronic herd mentality of so many so-called “free thinking” punks. I freely admit they had no control over the latter, but I do feel that they would’ve more than easily secured a lofty place in punk’s hall of fame if they had packed up the tent and went home after this release. Going one step beyond their heroes the Ramones and actually incorporating into their sound the Beach Boys influence Joey and the boys only hinted at, The Queers managed a rock solid release of smart-assed attitude, catchy hooks, and solid delivery. The Beach Boys influence goes so far in places—check out the title track and their cover of “Little Honda”—that the mind reels with wonder why Brian Wilson never dropped Joe a call to collaborate on something. If anyone ever asks why these guys were such a big deal, steering them in the direction of this CD wouldn’t be a bad idea. –jimmy (Asian Man)


QUEERS, THE:
Grow Up: CD
I know the Queers are a punk rock institution, and I know that this being a reissue of their first full length should probably make it a classic, but no matter how much I listen to it, nothing sticks out other than “Goodbye California,” and “Burger King Queen.” Those two songs are great chunks of pop punk goodness. The rest just feels like non-descript Ramones-core, and that’s that I love the Ramones. As a bonus on the reissue, there are also five demo songs on here that were partially engineered by Jimmy Miller, who apparently worked with the Rolling Stones at some point. The highly entertaining liner notes actually talk about that a lot, among other stuff. The only song on here that I would actually say is bad is “Gay Boy,” which is plodding and listless (and on here in two versions). If “Goodbye California” and “Burger King Queen” were a single, I would call it a classic, but as a whole this album is pretty much take it or leave it for me. –Adrian (Asian Man)


QUEERS, THE:
Beat Off: CD
My third favorite Queers record has been remixed and re-released on Asian Man! (Love Songs for the Retarded and Don’t Look Back are just a bit better.) If you already have this record, here’s an excuse to get a fresh copy, and if you don’t own it, you should, so pony up the cash. Essentially the same as the original Lookout! release, but it also includes a good Angry Samoans cover as the closer. Ben Weasel has also contributed some significant and insightful liner notes regarding the spirit and the persona of the Queers, a welcome addition to the package. A great record made even better. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Asian Man)


PTERODACDUDES / SHRED SAVAGE:
Split: 7"
Do you need some party back in your punk? Look no further my festivity-deficient friend. Both these bands offer super high quality rockin’ rollin’ guitar-rippin’ punk rock in the drunkest/highest, stinkiest sense of the word (which is pretty fucking drunk and stinky.) No release has ever made me chant “soar” quite like this one. –Daryl Gussin (Small Pool)


PROTESTANT:
Self-Titled: 7"
Protestant play hardcore punk that frequently crosses into grind and sludge territories. The tempo changes are done really well and never feel hokey. The packaging on this 7” is really interesting. It’s silver ink screened on black construction paper, but it’s a single piece of paper 18” x 12” and is folded in a way that holds the record well and offers a quite innovative layout. If you like your punk heavy, this is a quality release that won’t leave you feeling like you just bought the same 7” you’ve bought many a times before. –Daryl Gussin (Halo of Flies)


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