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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BLACK LIPS!:
Does She Want b/w Stoned: 7"
With all the talk of the Black Lips! maniacal and projectile puke-filled shows and band-playful stuffed gorilla fights with the Tyrades, it’d be easy to try to cast them off as a live experience, like a skinny, poor GWAR with trigger-like gag reflexes. These two tracks from their first ever recording session in 2000 in Atlanta dispel that shit. “Does She Want” is stompy reverie, along the lines of the Porch Ghouls or Almighty Do Me A Favor, where old country meets new fire, alcohol abuse, and a shitty van idling in the background. “Stoned” follows suit. What’s satisfying is how cocksure these songs are; not relying on speed, antics, or gimmicks to give them power. Just two simple, solid, well-placed punches. –todd (Slovenly)


BLACK DAHLIAS:
Self-Titled: 7"
Close but not quite. I mean, really close. They’re really close to power pop. They’re really close to straight-ahead punk. But it’s one of those deals that I, as a reviewer, fully agree that I’m not going to be much help. I don’t think I’d ever put it on again by myself but I wouldn’t complain if someone else put it on. There’s something that just doesn’t click for me, yet all the parts are sitting there like pieces to an un-put-together puzzle. Like the Black Dahlia herself, for some reason, these songs seem cut in two and bled, instead of them being bouncing, fleshy, and full of life—and I can’t tell you why. It’s recorded well. It’s sounds fine, but it just rolls on by without much of an impression. –todd (Plastic Idol)


BETTIE AFTER MIDNIGHT:
Exploits of a Girl Gang: CD
For a power trio, Bettie After Midnight is a pretty heavy outfit. Think L7 and a select few of the punk/metal bands that were ruling the early ‘90s. Choice cuts here: “Step Aside,” “The Last Time,” and “Lorax” (this isn’t Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, is it? You have Razorcake’s own Gary H. as a fan if it is). The rest of the disc kinda runs together, not that that’s such a bad thing—it’s just not my cup o’ tea. I could totally see these NYC-based ladies supporting Rob Zombie on a states tour, so if Gene Simmons is thinking of swooping in on them, he needs to clear that shit up with Mr. Zombie first (Rob’s a better choice anyway). If they keep more of the upbeat tunes coming without going poppy and switch off on vocal duties a bit more, Bettie After Midnight just may give all the half-assed punkers with instruments a serious run for their money. –dale (www.bettieaftermidnight.com)


BALZAC:
Out of the Grave and into the Dark: CD/DVD
Here is the second domestic release from Japan’s horror punks. This includes the Came out of the Grave LP that came out last year on the band’s own Diwphalanx label in Japan and G-Force Records out of Germany. Also included are the tracks from the Dark-ism EP that was released earlier this year in Japan. Throw in the bonus track “Gimme Some Truth,” and you get a jammed pack release. But wait, there is more! There is a bonus DVD with three music videos, a short movie, five songs shot from a live performance in Tokyo, and five more songs. What a package! That is even more than was offered in the 2003 domestic release of Beyond the Darkness. So that is a lot of bang for your buck. The way the exchange rate is with the Euro or Yen, you will spending some bucks to get all this stuff. Don’t know who this band is? Well, simply put, this band from Japan are heavily influenced by the Misfits and Samhain. They took what those bands had started and improved upon it. Now they have built a large cult of fans around the world with their brand of horror punk. Their popularity in Japan can be compared to that of AFI in the states. So check out another great band from Japan and see what the excitement is about. If you are hooked, look up Horrorwood Distribution to pick up those Japanese-only releases that will fill up your appetite. –don (Misfits)


AUTISTIC YOUTH:
Banned from the Roseland: 7"
Some pretty good snotty, catchy punk from Portland, OR. There is a Diskords member in the ranks and there is a lot of good youthful energy here. Dumb, pissed, and fun—you can sure as hell do a lot worse. For fans of the early, Wimpy-era Queers, this is as good as it gets. Looks like there is an Autistic Youth full-length out now as well. Now when are we gonna see that second Diskords LP? –frame (Blind Spot)


ATTACK FORMATION:
Somebody As Anybody: CD
Noisy skronk rock. “Russian (Glacier Song)” was interesting, but the rest kinda came and went without evoking much of a reaction either way. –jimmy (www.australiancattlegod.com)


ANS:
Romancing the Phone: 7"
Two mid-tempo ditties and two thrashers with an ‘80s feel and lyrics about alienation, Rove-America and skateboarding make for one sweet little hardcore disc. Excuse me while I crank this motherfucker up and piss off my neighbors. Fuck yeah, man, I needed this. –jimmy (Banal Existence)


ANOTHER OPPRESSIVE SYSTEM:
Discography 2000-2004: CD
Let’s face it, in this day and age there are those bands that defy classification and those who don’t. Another Oppressive System falls into the latter category. The telling elements include: gas masks and assault rifles on the cover; black and white album art; more than a few skeletons; use of Stencil font; on Profane Existence; song titles that include “Release the Dogs” and “Desperate Cry for Change.” You know what you’re getting into before you even crack the jewel case open. This CD contains the songs from four split 7”s and their self-titled one. There are brief moments where they’ve almost got that same kind of urgency and undercurrent of melody that Tragedy utilizes so well, but most of the time they just sound like a slightly-better-than-average crust band. –keith (Profane Existence)


ANNALISE:
Here’s to Hope: CD
I could sit here all day and draw comparisons to Exeter, UK and Minneapolis, MN and bust out big names like Hüsker Dü and Dillinger Four mixed together, and point out how this band also runs the Cavern Club in their hometown of Exeter, much like D4 runs the Triple Rock. I could also waste your time talking about how they really sound like Samiam or pre-throat surgery Jawbreaker and even a little bit of Superchunk. And I suppose I could mention how much I like the lyrics and cover art and stuff, but instead of all that I’ll just say HOLY FUCK! This is amazing. I could listen to this over and over again all day. Oh wait, I already did. –ben (No Idea)


AK47:
The Fucking Enemy: CD
There are cops in riot gear on the cover and a war image on the back—any idea what this is gonna sound like? Actually, this is not the Dis-worship that image might conjure up. It’s pretty damn good fast hardcore for the most part. Tows the line between Vitamin X/Tear It Up hyper thrash and Strike Anywhere/Trial By Fire style melody. This is just the kind of hardcore that I like. I imagine these kids would tear some serious ass in a live setting. –frame (Reason)


AGAINST ME!:
Searching for a Former Clarity: CD
Todd and I decided we wouldn’t form an opinion on this for a week. We played it at HQ every day, and did quite a bit of talking over it. I was impressed that they tackled the issues that they were going through as they were becoming a more successful band. That sounds awful when I read it, but here’s my thinking: there have been a lot of bands who start to become successful, get kind of freaked out about it, and don’t address it. Hot Water Music has been brought up along these lines a lot in our discussions. I think that for Against Me! to actually write about what they’re going through as far as growing pains, feeling compromised, and questioning themselves is highly commendable. The willingness to be that honest with what they’re going through, and to knowingly open themselves to what I’m assuming is going to be a lot of criticism takes a courage that most people just don’t have. For that, I’m really proud of them. At the beginning of the week, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the music. On the whole, it isn’t nearly as instantly catchy as their previous releases. They put “Problems” on there, which has been one of my favorite live songs for some time now, and “Condaleeza” kept getting stuck in my head. By the end of the week I liked it. I really liked it a lot. It grows on you a bit slower than the rest, but once it takes hold, there’s no shaking it. I know there’s going to be nay-sayers, but I, for one, still have my tent spikes planted firmly in the supportive camp. –megan (Fat)


AGAINST ME!:
Searching for a Former Clarity: CD
This band has not been my cup of tea, but I do not discount their music. I never put in a lot of time to get into their music. Not to disregard my opinions, other staffers at Razorcake are fans and put in more listening time than I ever have. I was really impressed with their DVD, We’re Not Coming Home. I really got a good charge watching that DVD and appreciated their efforts more. But this release shows a lot of maturity. The band seems to have pushed past what was preconceived as their sound and looked for more challenges. The opening track’s vibe reminded me of a cross of the Pogues meets Tom Waits. On others, I got the same feeling of musical challenge as if listening to Fugazi. I might get ripped for this, but I hear things on this release that could even be compared to Franz Ferdinand. So for me, I’m pretty intrigued by this one. It now goes into the car and into heavy rotation to see if I become one of the converted. –don (Fat)


ACTUAL BIRDS:
The Sky Is Full of Ghosts: CD
Hey, this guy gets two points for trying to make this look like an actual CD rather than just some shitty, tossed-together demo. Unfortunately, the back patting kind of has to stop there. Actual Birds is one dude and a four-track, with the occasional buddy helping him out vocally or instrumentally. At its best it occasionally sounds like an older and fatigued Soophie Nun Squad when they decide to go a capella. But mostly it sounds like some nasally voiced dude singing folk songs in someone’s basement with too much reverb in the mike. –keith (C.T.E.C.)


ACTIVE SAC:
Beavers Were Once the Size of Bears: CDEP
Singing out of tune about why you don’t deserve to have cereal is a sure way to avoid getting laid, which is probably the void this EP was made to fill in the first place. Too bad the title is so good. –megan (www.activesac.com)


SPIDER FRIENDS:
Self-titled: CD
So this dinky and repetitive drum machine and synth beat is playing, and a dude's whining over it, and you think that more drums or a guitar or a melody or something are going to kick in soon so the song can start. Joke's on you! Track 2: steady drum machine and synth, dude whining, end of song. This formula gets a workout over eight tracks with a couple of deviations (once, an actual riff!) and some catchy Kraftwerk melodies, but it's mostly like the disc has been shot up with Novocain. Anthony Bartkewicz –Guest Contributor (www.myspace.com/spiderfriends )


LUXURY PUSHERS:
Quitter's Holiday: CD
This is coming from a few weird directions at once: '90s grunge pop, Boston-y sing-along street punk, and a little bit of Turbonegro's purposely obvious hard rock like on their last record. Oh yeah, and Mike Ness' scab-pickin' lyrics about "[having] nothin'" and "Bruises to Prove It" and shit like that. Points added for titling a song and penning a chorus based on a line from Ned Flanders' dad: "We've tried nothin'?and we're all out of ideas!" and then immediately deducted for making it not funny. Anthony Bartkewicz –Guest Contributor (Ready-Wear Ltd., www.luxurypushers.com)


LAWRENCE ARMS, THE:
Oh! Calcutta!: CD
Somehow, this is my first time hearing the Lawrence Arms. Their name was always bundled with Jawbreaker (as in "they sound like?"), and none of those bands that were supposed to sound like Jawbreaker ever really delivered. (You heard me.) So the Arms stayed under my radar and I can't put Oh! Calcutta! in context with however many previous records they have. [Dramatic pause.] But this one is good! While Jawbreaker's songs belied its members' youth, the Arms still have a distinct feeling of "excited kids." Even with most of the lyrics sticking to bummer territory, there's an audible joy to be playing fast and yelling. WARNING: This next part of the review contains a SPOILER regarding the album's SECRET TRACK. The Arms do country-rock, a catchy disillusionment/oh-yeah- that's-why punk anthem that sounds as genuine as any other decent alt-country act. But those bands probably don't write songs about punk rock or reference His Hero Is Gone in their lyrics. I'm seriously impressed. Anthony Bartkewicz –Guest Contributor (Fat)


DEEMED USELESS:
Self-title: CD-R
What are the odds of all of the songs on a pop punk demo breaking the three-minute mark? Seriously, one is a mind-crushing 4:49. That would be "Sweetheart," which spends a full thirty-five seconds showing off Deemed Useless' harmonizing skills acapella. No surprise then that the "punk" part of the equation goes in quotation marks, because this is total pop, and not the good kind. The singer sounds a lot like Milo Aukerman on "Donkey Show," but after that it's all harmonies and emotional choruses and a friggin' POWER BALLAD. Also, the lead guitarist is clearly a frustrated metal shredder stuck in an emo-pop gig. Anthony Bartkewicz –Guest Contributor (www.myspace.com/deemeduseless.inc )


ZEKE:
Super Sound Racing and Flat Tracker: CD
Picked this up because I’ve always been fond of this band’s high speed, high-octane rock’n’roll and having these two early records seemed like a swell prospect. Anyway, I noticed a little square on the back cover that says, “This CD contains copy-protection technology. Any attempt to copy this product may result in damage to your audio or computer equipment. Relapse Records, Inc. and its licensees and distributors are not liable for any damage that may result from such actions.” Now, in the first place, I had no intention of copying this for anyone, and merely playing it for the purposes of review. Since, however, the label has decided to include a threat implying that it is now in the business of fucking up the stereo equipment of consumers who may decide to rip a copy for their kid or best friend, allow me to counter by saying that a) this will never be played on any audio equipment I own, and b) I will never willingly buy a Relapse release, c) I will actively encourage anyone I know who might be interested in the (mostly) crappy cookie monster metal they peddle to look elsewhere for their musical entertainment, as use of any of their product may potentially cost more than the sticker price. Oh, and since I’ve been warned on the front not to sell this, which again I had no intention of doing since I don’t want bad karma stemming from my willingly selling what could be a damaging product to someone else, and seeing as the release in question has been deemed utterly devoid of any use other than beer-coaster, you will find it, should you want it back, residing at the Whittier Narrow landfill, which is where I believe the trash dudes that serve my area empty their trucks. –jimmy (Relapse)


YOUNG AND SEXY:
Panic When You Find It: CD
Mellooooow underground rock with keys and country rock flavor. Next. –mrz (Mint)


YEAR FUTURE:
First World Fever: CD
Another band here with an interesting racket being made by the band—in this case arty skronk with a melodic undertow—marred by an annoying singer. –jimmy (GSL)


WITCH:
Self-Titled: CD
As you can probably guess from the band name and the fact that it’s on Tee Pee, Witch plays stoner rock. But, to their credit, it’s considerably better than the typical tuned-down riffage of every other goddamned stoner rock band in the world. While they definitely have a Kyuss thing going on, I hear a bit more authentic U.K. doom influence, a la Orange Goblin or Cathedral. The airy female vocals are a nice change as well. This isn’t something I’d listen to everyday, but if I ever find myself smoking grass in a graveyard behind a Scottish castle, I’ll probably wanna put this on. –ben (Tee Pee)


WILLIS, THE:
Bathtub. Lightbulb. Heart Attack: CD
This is straight-up polished indie pop rock utilizing unconventional breakdowns, electronic noises, ambient noises to try and help it stand out from the already saturated market in which it comes from with lyrics like “The fender guitar cooks the porn star out of his mind.” Wha? –mrz (Double Plus Good)


WILDLIFE:
Self-Titled: 10" EP
These five songs sound really nice at 45rpms. I wish more bands would go this route as opposed to a 7”, where there is a lot of sound lost in the pressing. The recording is great. Fronted by the ex-keyboardist from the Holy Ghost Revival, Wildlife isn’t very easy to classify. It’s not whiny enough to be considered screamo. Too metal to be considered indie. Short mid-tempo songs heavy on the percussion and plenty of cool breakdowns and vocal parts. Really not what I am into anymore, but can acknowledge the musicianship and songwriting skills are up there. I’d recommended this to people into mid ‘90s San Diego Gravity Records post-hardcore stuff. –Guest Contributor (Get Nice/Bodies of Water Arts & Crafts)


WHITE HASSLE:
: 7"
New York style faux bluesy garage for fans of Royal Trux and Jon Spencer. That is the furthest thing from a compliment coming from me. One of the worst styles of music ever. –frame (High Maintenance)


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