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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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SYZSLAK:
Destroy the Light: 7"
Hyper sludgemetal of the highest class, and by a threesome, no less. I don’t remember them standing out on the label’s recent Genrecide compilation, but I must have had my whole ass in my face if that song was anywhere near as goat-getting as this set. Five songs, clear vinyl, guitar man looks like a Vulcan, bass lady is a lady, “Shove your tie up your ass.” –Cuss Baxter (Worldeater)


SWITCH, THE:
Surviving the Transition: CDEP
The first release from this Long Beach-based band. It consists of former members of Madison Bloodbath and Midway. It’s very solid and tight and leans toward comparisons of Jawbreaker, Samiam, or Knapsack, although vocally it’s more grainy. Every song has a buildup or breakdown. Lyrically, there’s a sense of reflective optimism through years of failure. I’m glad to see this band around. They rule. –Buttertooth (Something in Ohio)


SWIMS:
Snackfood Junction: CDEP
It’s in a 7” sleeve and the label says “CD Version Included” but there’s no record. Weird, huh? Almost as weird as the pencil-and-marker artwork. The music however isn’t all that weird; just standard pop-psych-garage fluff. Nice but not necessary. –Cuss Baxter (Prison Jazz)


SWEET J.A.P.:
I’m Only Moonlight/Found There “No Go”: 7"
Had to do a little research to see what this band is all about. First off, this is a Japanese band transplanted to Minneapolis. Interesting choice. I see they are compared to Teengenerate, Registrators and Guitar Wolf, all of whom I have never listened to but have heard of the names. So here I go again and have to do this going in blind. Noisy, buzz filled, dirty three-chord rock mixed with a punk nastiness. The songs are a mixture of ‘60s garage punk toughness and yet they still paint a fun-filled ride. Glad they didn’t go for the low–fi sound because the power would have been lost. I also like the fact that the songs seem to be barely over a minute each. With such a small dose, you feel like you need more to finally reach your high. –don (Dirtnap)


SUBMISSION HOLD:
What Holds Back the Elephant: CD
These female vocals are trying way too hard to be pretty. Somehow it reminds me of Zounds. Of course, that is if Zounds became a terrible hippie indie rock band. The bass guitar thumps through tracks and the guitar melodies carry along so redundantly they still can’t compensate for the art they are blatantly failing to create. I can imagine their shows having interpretive dancing, incense, and mimes. Vegan mimes. The songs’ lyrics are translated into three different languages—which is a spectacular idea—but whatever language, it isn’t my cup of tea. Gabe Rock –Guest Contributor (G7 Welcoming Committee)


STRIKE ANYWHERE:
To Live in Discontent: CD
The impact of this CD is somewhat lessened for me, having lucked into Chorus of One shortly after its release in 2000 and also having the songs on the 7” that Fat released. And then listening to both of them for years on end. But if you’ve never heard of Strike Anywhere (who were on the cover of Razorcake #9) or just have the albums, it’s definitely a treat to be able to pick up some rarities, extras, and covers in one big scoop. In a time and place where smart political punk that confronts and investigates the world around us in ways that are valuable and meaningful (instead of just “Fuck the Man,” “Kill the Pigs,”) Strike Anywhere is a rare commodity. It’s great to see beyond a shadow of a doubt that their music isn’t as perishable as a flavor of the month and hasn’t become dated in four years. It’s a testament to how considerable the band really is. The music? Fucking awesome. Anthemic in the best sense, where heart is directly translated into soaring guitars, pummeling drums, and Thomas’ unmistakable voice. They’re one of those far-too-few bands where their integrity and message is matched by how powerfully their songs are actually arranged and played. This release also includes three covers (Dag Nasty, Gorilla Biscuits, and Cock Sparrer), an unreleased track from their Exit English session, and a song from their first demo. Highly recommended. –todd (Jade Tree)


STOCKYARD STOICS:
Catastrophe: CD
This is in the take it or leave it pile. Very Rancid-like in their sound. Street punk mixed with some ska overtones. They play well and their songs are catchy. But nothing exactly won me over. –don (Bankshot)


STAR STRANGLED BASTARDS:
Red, White and Dead: CD
Wow, did these guys move to Norway or something??? Don’t remember their last album being this heavy. We’re talking “Negative Approach covers Discharge” kinda heavy here, the result sounding reminiscent of both Out Cold and pretty much the entire Scandinavian region. This is gonna stay in my player for quite a while, partly because it’s so damned good, but mostly ‘cause I’m afraid it’s gonna up and kick my ass if I get too close to it. –jimmy (Rodent Popsicle)


STALINS WAR:
Rebirth from Flames: CD
I had a feeling that this was going to be an emo release. Something about the way the cover looked. But my intuition was wrong on this one. I know this is not an inventive description, but they sound like Kittie meets Shadows Fall and Good Riddance. It’s metallic hardcore that is piercing with precision and powerful in delivery. The vocalist, Moana Strom, has a deceivingly beautiful voice that is almost romantic in its beauty, but can turn on you with her shrieking vocals bursts. The production on this recording is top notch. The only thing missing is the double bass drumming. (Not to say that the drumming is mediocre. It’s not.) By addition, it would further enforce the music they are producing. –don (Un–Fun)


STAGGERS, THE:
The Sights, The Sounds, The Fear, and The Pain: CD
I love it when a band confounds expectation. The Staggers are primarily—for lack of a better term—rockabilly punk. They sway. The bass is prevalent and jumpy. The singer can croon and hold a note. Although it’s obvious he’s not aping Glenn Danzig, an argument could be made that his vocal stylings are similar. Some of them have high triangle haircuts. I was all ready to listen to a band from a limited universe that’s listened to Tiger Army and the Reverend Horton Heat and regurgitate stories about hot rods, Betty Page, and burning rubber. Or maybe some ooky spooky graveyard stuff. How wrong I was. Shame on me for pegging ‘em before pushing play. They pump new life into rockabilly by using it as a springboard to cannonball into a new pool of ideas. They pull off a great western-themed instrumental. They cover Masters of the Obvious’ song, “Primeval,” fuckin’ spot-on (which is super hard, figuring on the damage quirk pop to rockabilly conversion charts are a bitch to compute). And the clincher? They take lyrics from the great kid’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends and make it a song I want to hold a beer over my head and shout along to. An unexpected, fun, and cool surprise. Also includes a soulful, enjoyable campfire acoustic set and three videos. –todd (Haunted Town)


SPEND 4:
AYAYAYAYAYAYAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!: 7"
Wow. Have I just discovered the Japanese equivalent of the Grabbies?!? Holy shit. There are so many Japanese bands that I like—Guitar Wolf, Teengenerate, Crucial Section, Sweet J.A.P., Coastersride, Thug Murder—that I got my hopes up as soon as I saw that these gents hail from the Land of the Rising Sun. But this is way fucking better than I was allowing myself to hope for. Slashing, frenetic, swarming, unrelenting walls of amplified rage that you can fall in love with upon first listen. Ye Gods, as Hunter Thompson might say, this is a motherfucking scorcher. –aphid (Acme)


SOUND OF DISASTER:
Lagar Och Forordningar: 7"
Some people may call this a fan club release. Some may even call this a bootleg. But what I could gather through the rumor mill is that this is a semi-legitimate release that had the blessing of one of the actual band members. So the story goes that an influential member of this legendary Swedish band did not want this 1983 demo to see the light of day, but an eccentric record collector had made contact with another member of the band and secured a copy with his blessing. So a gem has been unearthed and has been given life once again. All thirteen songs are contained here from the original demo. It has the distinctive early ‘80s Swedish buzz saw sound of bands from that time period. What may be construed as thin production recorded on a boombox constructs itself as an original sound and distinctive attack. At the time, you knew that this was definitely not from America. The first time I had heard bands like this twenty years ago, I knew I was hearing something special and different. It is so hard to recreate an era like this. I believe this has already gone out of print but many copies are still lingering around many mailorder distros. So if early Swedish hardcore is your thing, do some research and find a copy. –Doctor Strange (Georg Becker Schallplatten, No Address)


SOPHOMORE YEAR, THE:
You Are Here… She Is There: CD
Strike one: The utterly lame band name. Strike two: Contains a song entitled “Heartsick.” Strike three: Three of the four members start off their “thank you” list with “God.” The music: an embarrassingly weak fly into über-suckass emo-popland. You guys are outta here. –jimmy (Search and Rescue)


SOMETHING ABOUT VAMPIRES AND SLUTS:
We Break Our Own Hearts: Cd
Art, minimalist, drum machine-propelled art pop. Resulted in a resounding “eh.” –jimmy (Morphius)


SOCIAL DISTORTION:
Sex, Love and Rock'n'Roll: CD
I approached the new Social D album hesitantly, as if it were a historical lover returning to town. Turning the album over in my hands, I ruminated. What was it like last time we met? Should I bother calling? Would it be the same? Would I feel that old familiar flame? I’d heard he’d been successful, become iconic, reached all his worldly goals. News of his return had reached fever pitch across town. Had it gone to his head? The artwork and the titles are so quintessentially the “new RAB revolution.” I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was the one who had changed. I set it aside, disaffected. He had gone soft, an old pander. Pangs of guilt plagued me. My anger surprised me. For over fifteen years, that voice, those lyrics, and that guitar had been the only thing that could rid me of life’s little aches and pains. About a week after dismissing the album, I fell on some hard times and reached for my cure-all—I put that album back on, turned it up and was sustained. All is as it was and as it should be. Don’t mistake the painfully optimistic song titles (“Reach for the Sky,” “Live Before You Die,” “I Wasn’t Born to Follow”) for glibness—Ness has traded his anger, remorse, spite, hate, self-loathing and pain for insightful satisfaction, stability and self-acceptance. Some things have happened in his heart, mind and soul since the band’s last studio release in 1997. Musically and lyrically, it sounds just like Social Distortion should—merely humbled and faithful instead of reckless and dejected or full of self-pity. One of many examples: “I triumphed in the face of adversity and I became a man I never thought I’d be. And now the greatest challenge is this thing called love, I guess I’m not as tough as I thought I was.” In my mind, I’ve been asking him to marry me since I was thirteen... I wonder if he’d accept now that we’re both grown-ups? –thiringer (Time Bomb)


SNFU:
In the Meantime and in Between Time: CD
I was worried a little when I heard about a new SNFU record coming out. How could I possibly avoid being biased? I mean, this band was pretty much responsible for my punk rock existence. How would I take it if this didn’t live up to their near flawless back catalog? I can handle a lot of other bands losing their luster, but the mighty SNFU? I was nervous. To put it bluntly, this record kicked me square in the ass! I was not expecting to be blown away but I sure was. I can honestly say that this new record captures everything that an SNFU should be. Tight rhythms? Check. Soaring guitars? Check. Mr. Chi Pig? That’s a big CHECK! No one can write like he writes. It’s like when an abstract painting suddenly makes sense. No matter if he’s writing about his own issues, or about those around him, you know that it’s going to be clever and biting. Musically, the band has really come together. The new rhythm section fits in perfectly. The songs somehow maintain the SNFU feel while managing to sound fresh. There are many bands from the “glory days” of hardcore that continue to play today. The numbers are thinner when you count the ones that are still viable. I am happy to report that SNFU, aka “The Most Important Band in the History of the World According to Ty” are more than viable. They’re still the best! –ty (www.snfu.com)


SNAKE, THE CROSS, THE CROWN, THE:
Mander Salis: CD
This album is nothing if not ambitious—combine the soaring vocals of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke or Jeff Buckley and Elliott’s instrumental experimentation and you’ll have an idea of some of the reference points. It’s a headphone record in the best sense of the term; this album rewards people who own a good pair and can hear the nuances and subtleties, yet still sounds awesome on a cheap pair of speakers. The problem with this record is that while it’s ambitious and more musically complex than the average indie band, it doesn’t actually sound that different. While I wish I could take it on its own merits as a single work, it’s hard because the album sounds young—it’s not that these songs are immature so much as they are bursting with ideas, some of which seem incompletely expressed, sketches of musical brilliance which don’t necessarily last long enough to indicate whether more rewarding material lay further along down that path. Likewise, the lyrical content is all about transcendence, transformation, overcoming—the big stuff that more mature bands seem to forget as they grow older and try to describe how lives become more complex and more difficult to explain. These lyrical themes are more commonly the province of younger, less experienced and more earnest bands which haven’t yet been given sufficient opportunities to find themselves as jaded and detached as characters in a Richard Ford novel… or have somehow managed to side-step that loss of innocence and hope. I suspect that’s part of the reason why bands don’t (and, arguably, shouldn’t) last forever—the language required to describe youth is fundamentally different from that which is required to describe the transition from youth to middle age; trying to speak the old dialect seems foolish and the new one simply doesn’t translate with any significance. I recognize the language spoken here, much as I recognize Spanish being spoken after a few years away from California and several years after speaking it in any meaningful way; I can piece together what is being said here even though my conjugations are rusty, even though I don’t remember as much of the vocabulary as I used to. With all that said, even though fans of the aforementioned artists will probably find much here to like—and I’ve spent quite a bit of time appreciating this record as well—I’m curious whether the next album will show further progress and additional exploration of the more interesting musical ideas expressed here (much as Elliott’s False Cathedrals was leagues beyond U.S. Songs in its complexity and depth) or whether it will also suggest other directions that might have yielded more curious fruit. –scott (Equal Vision)


SLAUGHTERHOUSE FOUR, THE:
Broken Hearts and Broken Strings: CD
Weak, flat punk with weak, flat vocals. –jimmy (www.slaughterhousefour.com)


SKITSYSTEM:
Allt E Skit: LP
You know how when your yuppie hipster neighbors are having a party, and all their yuppie hipster friends want to hear some Euro dance pop, so they play it so loud that there’s nowhere in your apartment where you can sit without having to hear the Euro dance pop, not even the bathroom or a closet, and you need something to drown it out? Skitsystem is perfect for occasions just like that. Hammering, furious Swedish hardcore that nods to traditional Swedish hardcore bands but definitely forges its own sound. This is a compilation of older releases, and they’ve only gotten better since then. –Josh (Havoc)


SKINTONES, THE:
Rock Scene Problem: CD
I really liked the opener, “H-Bomb,” but the rest was just a little too “big rock sound” for me to pay much attention to. –jimmy (Crustacean)


SKATE KORPSE:
Self-Titled: 7" EP
I like what they’re going after. 2004’s answer to JFA’s Blatant Localism, perhaps with some McRad and Clay Wheels thrown in for good measure. In other words, they want to resuscitate skate rock in its original form. (Think Barking Trucks and Blazing Wheels, not the soundtrack to that asshole of a movie, Grind.) The instrumental, “Badlands,” is fantastic, but as a whole, Skate Korpse lacks the deep and fluid styles that past bands have already developed and mastered. If I saw them live and they sound like they do on record, I’d have to yell out, “More Los Olvidados in the monitors, dudes!” Decoded, that means I want it more snarling, more visceral. I want more kinky twelve-foot backyard pools to be directly in their music, not just the words they’re singing. Definitely has some potential. –todd (Punx Before Profits)


SILENCIO:
Dead Kings: CD
This sounds like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with no holiday cheer and evidence of too many John Zorn albums in their collection. –jimmy (The Mountain Collective for Independent Artists, Ltd.)


SICK56/HIGGINS ++:
Split: 7"
Sick56: UK street punk in the vein of Sick on the Bus meets A Global Threat. Higgins ++: The “++” means Sick56 and they team up with some dude or band named Higgins. An updated version and parody of the Dead Kennedys California Uber Alles titled Cool Britannia Uber Alles. On the heaviest gram pink vinyl I have ever seen for a 7”. –don (JSNTGM)


SICK OF IT ALL:
Outtakes for the Outcast: CD
Here is a band that has outlasted many bands before and after them, so I am not totally offended by this in-between release. It’s a collection of tracks from assorted comps, b-sides, bonuses and previously unreleased. This New York outfit should need no introductions. Being the current leaders and, to a certain degree, grandfathers of the hardcore movement, they have not strayed far from their initial formula. Play hard and make the audience feel it. I can hear this band’s music from far away and nine times out of ten I can guess that it is them. If you are like me and only have bits and pieces, this will definitely add to the collection. –don (Fat)


SICK OF IT ALL:
Outtakes for the Outcast: CD
An odds and sods compilation from one of NYC’s longest running hardcore acts. Includes material starting as early as ‘93 (the DJ Lethal of House of Pain remix of “Just Look Around”), on into ‘94 (covers of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout,” and “Straight Ahead” from bassist’s Craig Ahead’s first band of the same name). Also includes covers of The Misfits (“All Hell Breaks Loose”), Hüsker Dü (“Target”) and still more Sham 69 (“Rip Off”). Despite the diversity of the material they chose to cover, somehow the band still manages to make every song sound the same. How do they do that? It must be that city water. –greg (Fat)


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