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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ZATOPEKS:
Ain’t Nobody Left but Us: CD
Catchy UK pop punk apparently influenced by the sounds of early rock‘n’roll with a smattering of Tom Waits-ish sensibility. There’s an air of retrospective sentimentality to this, in the sense of “Where have all the good days gone when greasers spent Friday nights getting into fights?” and rock‘n’roll was still fresh and simple. Based on the mood on this record, the Zatopeks are hard-charging, looking to rock above all else, but they seem to be a bit ill-at-ease in a modern world that doesn’t always appreciate the beauty of simplicity. The lesson here is that there can (and should be) excitement in the seemingly mundane, be it a three-chord tune or chance meetings that seem innocuous at first but still haunt us for reasons unknown. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Stardumb)


YELLOW BELTS, THE:
Self-titled: CDEP
The first thing that pops in my head is old dirty leather, hot rods, and flaming skulls. Back in the ‘90s, there was an upswing of dirty garage rock bands on the East Coast. This is what this band sounds like: early White Zombie but with a Duane Peters and Die Hunns drunk punk sound mixed in. Hives fans would also find an appreciation for this if they wanted a more balls-to-the-walls rock sound. Good stuff. –don (Yellow Belts)


WITNESS THIS:
Money to Burn: CD
I had just listened to this band called the Fried Chinese Donalds that I wasn’t particularly interested in. I tossed it into the bag of trade-in stuff. I put this band’s CD in and the singer sounds exactly the same as the band I had just heard. The music was more pop punk but the vocals and production were the same. I dug the previous CD out of the bag and sure enough, it’s the same singer/guitarist recorded at the same studio. As with the previous band: mid tempo 4/4 that just was not exciting. –don (No label or address listed)


WILLOWZ, THE:
Talk in Circles: CD
Sonic elements here include ‘60s psychedelia, ‘60s garage, and maybe a smidge of ‘70s L.A. punk on those rare occasions that they smack their Converse onto their distortion pedals. They take minor risks with stuff like kazoos, chimps, and phone dialtones smattered here and there throughout the songs, but generally it's solid and reliable garage stuff that couldn't have been more synonymous with Sympathy had the label written a contract with a mad scientist and leased a laboratory and built this band from the stem cells up. –keith (Sympathy)


VIVISUK:
US Disastwhore: 7”
The first two songs on side A sound like pretty good Aus Rotten mixed with Anti-Product. Reminded me of the many peace punk shows I had attended in the ‘90s. The rest of the songs pretty much suck. –mrz (Bacon Towne)


VIOLATORS:
The No Future Years: CD
Remember these guys from their appearance on one of the Punk and Disorderly comps and not being all that impressed with ’em, but this release is another matter entirely. A collection of assorted singles and such that they made while signed to No Future, the bulk of the music here is very dark and experimental, almost post-punk in sound, which was a surprise given their look and their fairly by-the-numbers punk name. The songs, many of which are a bit on the long side, are nevertheless a good listen, with their non-Xerox take on punk, and specifically English punk, it’s a nice change of pace in an era (both then and now) when everyone seems more interested in sounding like everyone else. Good stuff. –jimmy (Captain Oi)


VIKINGS, THE:
The Best Head Ever: 2 x CD
There are some releases I have no business reviewing. This is one of them. I will pick up practically anything up at Razorcake HQ to review so I can see if it will float my boat, especially the “Mystery Meat” pile where only a few (including the infamous Jimmy Alvarado!) will venture. The Vikings are not my thing, but this band compromises of a former Devil Dog (who I have never listened to) and some Scandinavian dudes including a Turbonegro (who I admit, I have never really spent that much time listening to either). From what this looks like, this is a discography CD with a bonus live disc from a show in Sweden. I can’t say that this one grabs me by my sweaty balls. This is a little too straight forward rock for my tastes. But I can tell you that they do it well. I wasn’t completely turned off by listening to this. –don (Just Add Water)


VCR:
Self-titled: CD
This EP is not as bad as the cover art and song names would lead me to think. Best description I can think of is 2005 post-art-punk/synth-rock like the sort of nose-in-the-air stuff you’ve come to expect from Dim Mak or GSL. It's like a comatose This Is Revenge. For the band consisting of only two keyboards, drums, and bass, it’s not all that bad. One thing is for sure: it doesn’t seem like the type of band that would be signed to Side One Dummy. I know, tripped me out too. –mrz (Side One Dummy)


VARUKERS:
The Riot City Years: CD
I had a buddy, Matt, back in the ‘80s with an unflagging adoration for English punk and girl bands. On one trip to the Rock Shop on Hollywood Boulevard, he procured a dubbed cassette with Skrewdriver’s All Skrewed Up on one side and another band we’d never heard, the Varukers, on the other. Once his initial fascination with the A-side wore out, he began playing the flip with increasing regularity and it soon became a listening staple while cruising East L.A. in his Toyota truck. This disc acted like a kind of time travel back to those misspent summer days for me. Those not familiar with the band will find on this CD tunes that musically fall somewhere between Discharge and the Exploited—mostly fast ’n’ furious with lyrics a little more complex than either of those bands were able to manage in their prime. –jimmy (Step-1 Music)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Walk the Plank Vol. 1: CD
DISCLAIMER: My band is on this compilation but I won’t mention them any further. Here we have a benefit compilation for a member of one of the bands who has Multiple Sclerosis. That is as good a cause as any, as MS is an evil disease that needs to be stopped. On to the music. The first few bands here kind of dashed my hopes for this. Sort of a post-hardcore emo deal. Uhh…yeah. My discouragement was soon forgot when I got to the middle portion of the disc. Bands such as Love Me Destroyer (ex-Pinhead Circus), Handy with Shovels, Whiskey Kiss and Sack had me rocking. The majority of this rocks and you can’t beat a good cause. –ty (Mutiny)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
The Free Design: CD
The Free Design were apparently some ‘60s band who stomped the same mellow rock terra as bands like the Association. They have developed some modicum of cult status in the ensuing years since their dissolution, which explains why musicians like Madlib, Stereolab, Super Furry Animals, Dangermouse, Peanut Butter Wolf, and others have “redesigned” some of the band’s tunes. The resulting remixes are actually quite good, coming off as something Holly Golightly (the heroine of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and not the Headcoatee) might be rockin’ on her hi-fi if she was feelin’ a tad funky. This could’ve been really, really bad, but those involved have pulled it off, coming up with something that manages a level of hip freshness while showing proper respect for the past. –jimmy (Light in the Attic)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Punx Unite—Leaders of Today: CD
This has all the earmarks of one of those lame ass, cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers punk comps: crazy mohawked dudes on the cover, vaguely political title that instills some nameless "call to action," wacky, pseudo-cut and paste font and the requisite use of the word "punx." But guess what? I really fucking like this. A comp featuring thirty-two bands of the charged hair and bullet belt ilk, but it's all totally solid, anthemic shit. You listen to enough Combat Wounded Veteran and sometimes you forget that it's okay to be melodic, catchy, and mildly repetitive. Certain tracks don't electrocute me the way some of the others do, but nobody on here lags at all. Really nice surprise. Above-and-beyond standouts: Street Brats, The Casualites (I know, I can't believe it either), The Briggs, 86'd, A Global Threat, Drastic Actions, and Wednesday Night Heroes. –keith (Charged)


SOD HAULER:
Self-titled: CDEP
Heavy stoner rock that would benefit measurably (I’d reckon about eighteen to twenty percent) from Josh and Aaron keeping their fucking mouths shut (I guess growing up in Seattle might expose a rocker kid to a little too much Eddie Vedder?), and maybe too (here, I’d go around seven percent) from some cut-it-out on the guitar virtuoso finger doodling. In other words, why can’t everyone be Sleep? I will say, however, that about a hundred years ago, a sod hauler would have held a pretty good stature in places like Nebraska and North Dakota where pioneering Americans had little else from which to build their homes but sod, and you can imagine hauling blocks of dirt and turf even short distances would’ve been a tiring job. And after all that, snakes would live in their walls and go in and get on the bed. Go to sleep right there in front of the fire. –Cuss Baxter (Inimical)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Punx Unite—Leaders of Today: CD
A collection of thirty-two so-called “relevant punk bands of today,” of which a grand total of three truly stand out, with the remaining “leaders of today” falling somewhere between “very mildly diverting, like a heat rash” and “why bother?” Special mention goes to Complete Control who, in addition to saddling themselves with such a creative and original moniker (yes, I’m being sarcastic), have ripped off Cocksparrer so blatantly that I’m surprised they’re not up to their eyeballs in lawsuits. Bands contributing to this include Toxic Narcotic, The Voids, Monster Squad, Cheap Sex, the Casualties and a myriad of parrot punk bands heavy on the Crazy Color and fashion but anemic on originality, conviction, or substance. Maybe I’m getting a bit old, jaded, and cynical, but as I listen to this, I can’t help but think the only thing relevant here is the Dead Kennedy’s line, “Punk’s not dead it just deserves to die when it becomes another stale cartoon.” –jimmy (Sideonedummy)


SOCIAL DISTORTION:
Sex, Love, and Rock n'Roll: CD
Here is a release and a band that really needs no review; a band that has managed to survive the hardships of drugs, death, and turnover in their twenty-plus year history. Me, being the music geek that I am, ran out the day it came out to make sure I got it on sale. Retail CD prices are ridiculous! After a few days of listening to it non-stop, I got a call from one of my longtime friends from Canada. As usual, we shot the shit and start discussing the album. First is favorite song. I said my choice was “Winners and Losers,” his being “Highway 101.” Then we discussed place of importance amongst the band’s discography. We both agreed that SD will always be remembered for the Mommy’s Little Monster LP, so he said that this up there or even better than Prison Bound. I have to agree. My only complaint on this release is that it’s too damn short. Only ten songs. I thought I read somewhere that they had recorded over thirty songs. The last record came out in 1996 and I expected more songs. But the chaotic life of a musician might make it real hard for them to get themselves back in the studio. This way, they have two more releases in the bag. If the other songs are as good as these, we are in for a treat in the future. –don (Time Bomb)


SOCIAL DISTORTION:
Sex, Love, & Rock n Roll: CD
If you asked me fifteen years ago if I thought that Mike Ness would still be blasting it out with Social Distortion, I’d say you were crazy. No, I would have told you that he would more likely be locked up or in the ground. Good thing I’d have been wrong. 1997’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash was a turning point for the band. It finally found a balance for Ness’s need to amalgamate the dirty, evil aspects of country music with the energy of punk rock. It started with Prison Bound and has been perfected with Sex, Love & Rock n Roll. The album has everything that a Social Distortion fan could possibly want. Hot, angst ridden punk blasts. Slow, drawn out angst ridden rockers… well, there’s a lot of angst all around. The tunes here manage to pull you down to the deepest despair and elevate you with an amazing sense of hope almost simultaneously. I know I can tell a good record when I get a chill down my spine when I listen to it. This record just might be the best rock’n’roll record of the year. –ty (Time Bomb)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Punk O Rama 10: CD
Picked this up outta the “nobody loves me pile” solely for the as-yet-unreleased Coup track, which is great, as can be expected. I also snuck a peek at the Dangerdoom (Dangermouse and MF Doom) track, which is also hella cool in its own right. Feeling daring, I put on the unreleased Bad Religion track and found that it wasn’t too bad, either. So I figured, “fuck it, the rest can’t be all that bad,” and started the disc at the beginning. Somewhere around the third emo-tinged pop tune that sounded like a Toto outtake, I lost control of my excretory bodily functions, my eyes started bleeding, weird yellowish goo started oozing from my eardrums, and I found myself writhing on the floor and screaming uncontrollably. Nice to know Epitaph’s releases still have that same ol’ charm. –jimmy (Epitaph)


SNACK TRUCK:
Harpoon: CD
I like snacks, and trucks that deliver them. However, I do not like this arty screamo CD. –megan (Perpetual Motion Machine)


SMALLTOWN:
The Music: CD
The Music is a fitting title for this album, because that’s the only thing driving this band. They’re not in it for a spot on the Warped Tour or a hair gel endorsement contract or anything else. It’s all about the music, and you can hear that love dripping from every chord that they wring out of their instruments. So many bands have done this wrong. So many bands sound like they’re reading from Cliff’s Notes of Classic British Punk without anything resembling conviction or originality. There’s literally not enough room in Razorcake to name all of them, and quite frankly, none of them are worth the teeny-tiny space that their names would take up. Listening to Smalltown makes me realize just how wide the gap is. Last issue, Todd said something to the effect of “listen to Smalltown instead of the new Stiff Little Fingers,” but I think you could probably listen to this instead of old Stiff Little Fingers. Their heads and hearts are in the right place, and lest I forget to mention: they can fucking play. Tracking down every song this band has ever recorded is well worth the import prices that you’ll probably have to pay. –Josh (Deranged/Snuffy Smile)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Oi! Made in Holland: CD
A decent enough overview of all things oi coming from Holland. Musically, it’s pretty much along the lines of oi from most anywhere else in the world, with gruff vocals and lotsa violent sounding band/song names, like “Bootknife,” “Fuck ’Em Up,” “Another Dead Ref,” “Banner of Thugs,” and the like. Of the twenty-five tracks here, Discipline’s “Hell Is for Heroes” is the standout track, just as it was on their most recent Captain Oi release. Overall, not bad, although I will admit I made a point of not paying any attention to the lyrics lest the illusion be shattered and I would come to the realization that Holland’s batch of baldies were just as lame and thick-skulled as so many of their brethren elsewhere. –jimmy (Rebellion)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Norrland D-Beat Compilation: CD
It never ceases to amaze how the Scandinavians have managed to take the sound and style of a single band, namely Discharge, and turn it into an entire sub-genre. On this comp are nine bands from the northern end of Sweden who take the basic template invented by Cal and the boys more than two decades ago and manage to come up with nine wholly different takes on it. From the metal of Ambulance to the grinding noise of UrUg to the more traditional thrash of Human Waste, a whole host of noise is here, waiting to lay waste to your eardrums and induce convulsions if you crank up the volume anywhere past four. Besides the above, other bands representing here are Ana Barata, Earth Died Screaming, 365 Dagar Av Synd, Reign of Bombs, Auktion, and Uncle Charles, the latter of which provides the requisite Mob 47 cover, “Rustning är ett brott.” Most definitely a comp worth tracking down. –jimmy (Wasted Sounds)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Mixo de Punko! Vol. 2: CD
The faux-Spanish title of this now-series of punk comps still sticks in my craw (I bet naming a comp Gringos Going Gaga or A Hectare of Honkies would raise all kindsa hackles), but musically this is a marked improvement over the pop punk crap that permeated the first volume. So far as I’m able to tell, the bulk of the bands here are from California, a number of them residing to the north of Los Angeles County. All but one specialize in hardcore (the lone exception being a noise piece by The Mouse and the Moose) and some heavy hitters are represented here, including KatKiller, Ill Repute, Dr. Know, Bad Samaritans, and The Missing 23rd, with nearly all of them turning in some good work. In short, this is a good compilation (a rarity these days) marred by a truly stupid title. –jimmy (LTE)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Live at The Continental / Best of NYC Vol. 1 & Live at The Continental / Best of: CD
Both of these discs showcase NY bands and artists doing their live thing at the Continental bar, a place where many a van-travelling band has done a gig or two at when their tour pulls through NYC. Both discs boast a gang of names you’ve come to be familiar with: Joey Ramone, The Ramainz, Jesse Malin, Cheetah Chrome and Handsome Dick Manitoba, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Murphy’s Law, The Bouncing Souls, Lunachicks, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Toilet Boys, The Bullys, The Waldos, and a helluva lot more. While the sound lags a bit on some of the tracks, these discs are great background music to crank up for your next inebriated get-together. –dale (The Continental)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Kicked Outta Purgatory: CD
The funny thing about this psychobilly compilation is how little “billy” there actually is here. A good chunk of the songs are no more than sub-par punk rock with slap bass, and one song even sounds like an outtake of one of Ministry’s more metal albums. To be sure, there are a few good tunes to be found here, most notably Deadbolt’s “Billy’s Dead” and the Guana Batz’ “King Rat,” but there’s also a piss-poor cover of Skrewdriver’s “I Don’t Like You,” courtesy of the Photon Torpedoes (a dubious choice of bands to cover considering the number of redneck Klansmen-in-training that embrace, without irony, anything resembling rockabilly), and a bunch of other songs that should’ve been allowed to slip off the set list during practice rather than recorded and put on a compilation for the whole world to hear. Ultimately, the bad outweighs the good here, so it might be a good idea to look elsewhere if psychobilly is your bag. –jimmy (Hairball 8)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Get Outta Philly: CD
A mighty fine compilation of punk in all its permutations from, drugged-out surf rock to ‘60s trash to borderline hardcore to Dolls-influenced rock. Given that this is subtitled “Rock’n’Roll from the City of Brotherly Love,” I was wholly expecting bad bar rock, but this is quite possibly the most consistently good scene overview I’ve heard since the Let’s Get Rid of L.A. comp. Featured bands include Thee Minks, The Bad News Bats, Bad Penny, The Chance, Toothless George and his One Man Band, The Blow Goes, The Party Wreckers, Econocaste, The Misteriosos, Dragon City and the Jukebox Zeros. This is gonna get worn out pretty quick. –jimmy (Tick Tick Tick)


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