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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BALLAST:
Fuse: LP
I never get over the feeling of having no expectations for a band, and then being blown away. If This Is My Fist was a whole lot darker and angrier and had both male and female vocals, you’d be pretty close to where Ballast is. And that is a damn fine place to start. Throw in intelligent lyrics and great artwork and you’ve got something special. –megan (Trujaca Fala / Stonehenge)


BAD BACKS, THE:
Tombstone Town: 7” EP
This seems to take from a lot of different influences; it’s not quite hardcore, and there are some pop punk/Jawbreaker aspects to it that are slight, but definitely there (especially in the song “Should Have Spoken Up”). The title track is also about being against pollution and cutting down trees, which scores points in my book. –joe (Dirty River)


ATOMIC GARDEN:
Reversing the Curse: CD
This band plays power pop in the vein of Samiam or Jawbreaker. These guys are French and have been around about five years. The music is tight and solid with pounding, melodic, power chords, but I think I might have outgrown this style of music a bit. It’s worth a listen even if you are jaded about the pop punk idiot parade of today. –Buttertooth (www.myspace.com/atomicgarden)


ASSASSINATORS, THE:
Self-titled: 7”EP
Much in the same vein of France’s La Fraction—but not quite as bombastic and fuel-breathing—it’s female-lead, melodic punk; this time from Denmark, sung in Danish, with English translations (with a nice balance between songs that range from police brutality to tender love). The music’s got a seamless, watertight quality, much like Funeral Oration’s instrumentation. It’s so well realized, I’d be totally surprised if all the members haven’t been slogging in out in other bands for a long time before forming this one. Good stuff and I have a feeling that folks in the Profane Existence and Slug and Lettuce camps would totally dig this. –todd (Alerta Antifascista)


ASSAILANT, THE:
Colera: CD
I like the fucked-up disparity between this album’s sounds and visuals—visually, there are all these really nice, subdued watercolors of a girl on sitting and walking on train tracks; it’s a gatefold CD and there’s quite a few of these panel illustrations, looking like graphics that could very well be splash pages for a Delia’s catalog or something, right? And by the look of things, I figured I was about to be subjected to what may possibly be the shittiest emo band ever. Then I put the album on and just about got my skull caved in by these dudes who’d be right at home on a bill with Curl Up And Die, Dead Hearts, or Drowingman. Really punishing and technical hardcore stuff with a metallic undertone, they’re a band that’s absolutely unafraid to slow things down and slap your head with a sonic brick over and over again. Not a huge fan of the genre, but they come across as if they know exactly what they’re doing, and if you’re into any of the aforementioned bands then you’ll be wanting to give this one a listen or three. –keith (Rome Plow)


ARSONS, THE:
Too True to Be Good: CD
Comprising the bulk of this is really annoying pop punk filled with just enough market demo targeting and emo pretense to make the whole thing feel about as “real” as Justin Timberlake playing a tough guy. The lyrics, which try to be relevant but really don’t succeed in being anything other than a vapid attempt at being conscious yet unthreatening, don’t help matters much, either. –jimmy (Mad at the World)


ARMITAGE SHANKS:
Smash the Cistern!: 7”
These guys have been around for ages, so you know what they sound like, right? Well, I sure didn’t. I’ve seen their singles, albums, and shows advertised and listed in punk magazines, big city weeklies, and on the interweb, but this is the first time I’ve actually heard their music. Boy, do I feel like a dolt for coming to the Armitage Shanks party so late. If this 7” is any indicator of the quality of all their releases, I’ll have a great time collecting their back catalogue. Four songs played at 33 1/3 rpm, the best of which is “Buzzcocks Mug,” a tongue-in-cheek piss-take that’ll have you rolling on the floor with laughter. “Me and Your Granny on Bongos” sounds kinda arty, but is equally hilarious. Great mid-tempo punk rock that ain’t afraid to have a sense of humor. Go get it. –benke (Cock Energy)


AQUARIUM, THE:
Self-titled: CD
There is so much going on here, but not in a way that would turn you off. No. Let me start over. The Aquarium consists of two people: one playing drums and one playing keyboards and singing. That’s it. But the sound that jumps out of the speakers is so full you’d call me a liar in ten seconds flat. This album reminds me a bit of ‘70s acid-influenced synthpop (as opposed to ‘80s coke-influenced synthpop), and at the same time the music is refreshingly not a rehash. So many influences can be heard throughout the disc like The Cure, The Gossip, Weezer, and Juliana Hatfield, to name a few. Really great stuff. Apparently when they play live they also run random movie clips too, and that kind of stuff is always a plus. Now, if I were making a movie…track one would be the soundtrack to the undercover cops meeting at the strip club to discuss the current situation and to deliberate where to go next. You bet I would. –mrz (Dischord)


APPALACHIAN TERROR UNIT:
Armageddon Won’t Be Brought by Gods: 7” EP
Anarcho-hardcore with the now-requisite alternating male/female vocal style. I’m all for being conscious of man’s effect on the planet, understanding the evils of the monetary system, and how fucked war is. These are serious topics and really should be at the forefront of many a discussion. I do, however, have a real hard time taking seriously anyone who says things like, “Every single time we turn on the lights we’re guilty,” and have insert art obviously laid out on a computer and then can’t even bother to copy edit their lyrics, especially when one of the words misspelled is “monetary.” –jimmy (Profane Existence)


ANTI JUSTICE / CHINESE TELEPHONES:
Split: 7”
Anti Justice: I’m not so sure about all the theories that the Japanese live longer because of their diet. My money’s on the music. I don’t know what it is, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be giving much credit to any U.S. band singing “He is a rainbow,” but here I am, singing along giddy as all heck every time that line comes on. Gruff and anthemic in all the right ways. Chinese Telephones: Justin Telephone can write a damn good song. Catchy enough to stay in my head for days and interesting enough to not have the same song in my head for days annoy me in the least. These two tracks just add to my already well-established adoration. –megan (Snuffy Smiles)


ANGEL SLUTS / THE SIX STRING JET:
Split: 7” EP
Six String Jets: Loud, overdriven, and full of swagger. Angel Sluts: Their side isn’t as sonically overbearing as the Jets, but the tunes are filled with just as much attitude. Good stuff. –jimmy (Wrecked ‘Em)


ANDREW DOUGLAS ROTHBARD:
Abandoned Meander: CD-R
This guy used to play in The Slaves, then VSS, then Pleasure Forever. I saw The Slaves at a house party back in ‘99 in Tempe, AZ. I thought they ruled. They played spaced-out noise music that was almost danceable. I think they were even playing in the kitchen but my memory might be a little foggy. All that said, this is the noisy, space part of the band. The vocals and mix of acoustic guitar make it seem ‘60s-out. I’m sure this guy’s brain is partially composed of hash. I feel that he became inspired to write this record while studying the different Hindu gods and goddesses one night. This could be on the movie Felix the Cat, when he is getting totally baked in the bath tub and starts floating. –Buttertooth (Smooch, www.smoochrecords.com)


AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER:
Self-titled: 7”
Decent thrash to get you through your day. The mama bear in me wants to make a pot of tea with honey and lemon for the singer, though. –megan (Tsunami)


AKIMBO:
Harshing Your Mellow: CD
(This is a reissue of their 2001 release and while the bands I’m about to compare them to probably weren’t even around when it was released, I also have no idea whether they were influenced by this band. All I can do is use them for comparisons.) With that said, Akimbo has a pretty insane release here. They take the off-the-charts, super-charged guitar rock’n’roll aspects of the Bronx and mix it with the experimental “modern” hardcore of bands like Lickgoldensky. This album is consistently menacing, chaotic, and heavy as fuck. If you were already a fan of the band and its music, this re-mastered reissue comes with all new artwork and a cover of the Screamers’ “Vertigo,” which is really good and doesn’t compromise the band’s sound to the uniqueness of the Screamers. –Daryl Gussin (Alternative Tentacles)


WESLEY COLEMAN:
Self-titled: 7” EP
“The Hasil of our generation” I’ll dispute, but he does spill some fine monkey business all over the carpet, and I’m hearing a good bit of Billy Childish and a short bit of Plastic Bertrand, and maybe some Demon’s Claw. Probably from Austin. –Cuss Baxter (Boom Chick)


VORTEX REX:
Powermess: CD
All kinds of lo-fi/lo-impact weirdness from an Austrian whose voice is like a creepy-charming male counterpart to Joanna Newsom’s. Instrumentation’s all over the quiet map with a couple excursions to the loud one. Powermess, indeed. –Cuss Baxter (Fettkakau)


VISITORS, THE:
Self-titled: CD
Straight forward garage punk. Reminds me quite a bit of Capt. 9 and The Knickerbocker Trio. Never a good idea to tackle a Roky Erickson tune, but they fare as well as most, I guess. Seems like a band that would have had records out on Baylor or Get Hip in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. –frame (Eschatone)


VERSOMA:
Life During Wartime: CD
A little bit proggy, a little bit post-hardcore, a little bit screamo. I know that might come across as me not liking this, but it’s actually not bad. Think Drive Like Jehu, the Exploder, and a touch of Black Cougar Shock Unit, all mixed together with some kinda nondescript, shouted vocals and you get the idea. Not really my jam, but totally good for what it is. –ben (Robotic Empire)


VELVEETA HEARTBREAK:
I Shot the Invisible Man b/w Secret Beach Boys Fans Parts 1 and 2: 7”
One drop of the needle on the title track and I searching for the best place to stitch my Velveeta Heartbreak Army patch. The title track is a wonderful slice of low budget bubblegum pop, from the opening “yeah yeah yeah”s, to the simple but steady piano plunkings to the absurd lyrics (“I shot the Invisible Man/ I shot him with my own hand /Now I don’t know who I am”). Neither part of the flipside, “Secret Beach Boys Fans Part 1 and 2,” sounds anything like the brothers Wilson, but they work really well in the Technicolor world of Velveeta Heartbreak. I’ve since learned that Michael J. Bowman, the one man behind this band, has fifteen self-released cassettes and CD-Rs dating back to 1989. I’m getting the Robert Pollard/ Paul Caporino “overlooked pop genius” feeling again. –Mike Faloon –Guest Contributor (Semper Lofi, www.myspace.com/velveetaheartbreak)


VEGETATIVE STATE:
Self-titled: 7”
For some reason, like a giant infant, I seem to really have a big soft spot in my head for raw, no frills punk that harkens back to that gloriously golden era when hardcore was just starting to sprout peachfuzz. This is just such a band and it reminds me, in turns, of the Angry Samoans, the Adolescents, and Reagan Youth. And you really can’t lose when you’re drawing comparisons to bands of that caliber. Plus any cover art that has a Barney Fife motif immediately softens me up like an Ex-Lax and prune juice parfait. –aphid (Death By Noise, www.myspace.com/deathbynoise)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
I Killed Punk Rock: CD
First, a request: If you’re planning to release a compilation, please select a sound level and do your best to be consistent with it from band to band. Few things are more annoying than having to crank up the volume to hear one tune, only to have your speakers blown to shit one song later, and so on. That said, this is pretty much the kind of mixed bag one expects from most modern punk comps, with the lion’s share of the groups being interchangeable and pretty much in lockstep with each other sound-wise. The bands that stick out here—the Sleazies, Hollow Points, Fang—are ones I pretty much appreciated to begin with, those that never really left much of an impression before—Total Chaos, Naked Aggression, Lower Class Brats—remain just as uneventful, and those in between—Teenage Bottlerocket, The Migraines, The Pink Spiders, Dead To Me, and a boatload of others—melt into this kind of gray moosh that isn’t exactly the worst stuff I’ve ever heard, but ain’t exactly blowing off the barn doors. Does it kill punk rock? Nope, but it ain’t exactly killer punk rock, either. –jimmy (www.bouncingbettyrecords.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Go Kart Vs. the Corporate Giant, Vol. 4: CD
For this review, I was thinking about rolling up my sleeves and digging into my Razorcake back issue archive to locate where Go Kart Vs. the Corporate Giant volumes 1 through 3 were reviewed. I cannot imagine this being dissimilar from the preceding editions of this compilation, let alone the ones the have not even been released as of yet. This being said, this release sounds quite like most of the releases that Go Kart are responsible for. Sometimes I wonder if all of these bands use the same producer and engineer because they all have the same exact guitar tone. They simply must because many of these tracks sound remarkably similar. This style of punk has this really distinct sound that reminds me of when sixties labels would have one house producer working on everything that the label was going to drop on the public. Perhaps Phil Spector beat that rap on killing that blonde B-movie starlet and came back to tweak the knobs for the chain wallet generation? Some of the bands on the compilation are (but not limited to): Ten Foot Pole, The Parasites, The Cougars, and I Farm. If you are a fan of them, you would also probably appreciate the other bands on this release because they sound like a mirror of them. –Guest Contributor (Go Kart)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Doing Time: CD-R
Four bands doing two songs apiece. Outside of that, I know fuckall about ’em. Filthy Skanks: Decent, if uneventful, mid-tempo punk/hardcore. The Pumpers: Swagger-heavy rock’n’roll with loud geetars. TCB: Sounds like a demo for a Bay area ‘80s punk band devoid of any energy. Even the volume is mixed way down. Blanket of M: More uneventful punk stuff. In all, no big whoop. –jimmy (Jail Bait, no address)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Death by Salt II: 2 x CD
Volume two of this ambitious scene-comp series with about the same uneven quality of music, and a less interesting packaging scheme with metal boxes instead of cardboard, and trading cards instead of a book. If my notes can be trusted, it appears I liked the following (as denoted by a little arrow next to the track number) Flying Missiles (“Stoogesy”), !Andale! (“Karen O singer, simple pop punk meets Fuzzbox?”), Thunderfist (“Actual rock”), Union of the Snake (“Grind/death”), Lollipop Guild (“Goofy lo-fi”), Assault & Batteries (“Electro blues”), A. Vanvranken (“Nice noisy, sequenced ambient thud”) and AODL (“Noise, harsh”). Which makes eight out of forty-two. Looks like there’s probably some other passable stuff on here, but further notes include things like “Noise hop” and “Jazz/ prog, Nardwuar singer” and “Trippy intro, Rush wank” and not one but two Black Crowes comparisons. Anyway, I have a hard time getting the cards back in the tin properly and it taints my listening enjoyment. –Cuss Baxter (Eighteen Percent Gray)


VALIOMIERDA:
Self-titled: CD
Gotta give these guys their propers for a) describing themselves as a “metal band with punk sensibilities,” which is much more accurate a description than “hardcore;” b) wearing their Ratos De Porao influence on their sleeve. While they don’t quite work themselves into a heavy-duty froth like RDP, they do keep things nice ’n’ uptempo, with growly vocals, downtuned guitars, and lyrics in Spanish, Portuguese and English. –jimmy (www.5corerecords.com)


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