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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Atlanta—Inside Out: CD
A surprisingly solid compilation of bands that (I’m assuming) hail from the titular locale—El Fossil, Hotels, Stevie Dinner, MTN ISL, Bodyfather, Terminally Ill Babes, Ryan Dinosaur, Horus, Landline, Rochelle Rochelle, New Junk City, Wymyns Prysyn, Cheap Art, and Burners—whooping it up. They cut across a wide swath of sounds here, from punk to art-damage, to art-damaged reggae, to pop, to surf, and so on. More important than the diversity, however, is the quality of the tunes delivered—unlike too goddamned many other comps, the contributions here don’t feel like castoffs and B-team selections, but rather songs the bands are proud of. Makes for a whole different listening experience when even the worst tune on a comp is pretty damned good. Recommended? You betcha.  –jimmy (Muckman)


TOUMING MAGAZINE:
Self-titled: 7”
Taiwan’s Touming Magazine plays chipper indie punk reminiscent of Japan’s Four Tomorrow, Shinobu, and Aye Nako. The shimmering guitars are interwoven with sudden bursts of jaggedness, but the understated vocals keep the pop melodies from becoming cloying. “Touming Magazine FOREVER” is a feel-good hit in which “We are forever young!” is chanted like a PMA mantra. It’s the type of song to start your morning right. “Sexual Hell” opens with angular Pavement-esque noise then sprawls into a lush dance chorus. My only ding is that there’s no lyric sheet; I want to know why this hell is sexual in nature. Recommended.  –Sean Arenas (Phat ‘n’ Phunky)


SURROUNDED BY THIEVES:
Self-titled: LP
This Las Vegas band has a red vinyl record out that makes ten attempts to remind the listener what Avail, Hot Water Music, and Strike Anywhere sound like. Nothing wrong with that, but this is really just a watered-down version with less good recording quality. If you absolutely cannot get enough of anything that sounds like it is off the No Idea Records tree, you will most likely like this. I’m off to throw on Over the James for the thousandth time…  –frame (Squidhat)


SUBSETS:
Twothousandfourteen: Cassette
I’m going to hazard a guess and say that live, these Cincinnati dudes probably flatten rooms. On tape the energy’s a little muted, so what comes across is an entirely serviceable punk band with simultaneous nods to both the swagger of the Murder City Devils and the ferocity of hardcore. Not bad, but missing that little something extra necessary to make it leap out and slap the ears off of me.  –keith (Subsets)


SO COW:
The Long Con: LP
I’ve listened and listened to this, hoping to make some sort of connection to the music, but nothing is happening. Maybe it’s the “too precious” aspect, like the song “Sugar Factory” that I find off putting. They do what they do well, which is indie pop rock that sort of reminds me of Cause Commotion, only more influenced by the Junosoundtrack instead of the Kinks. It’s just not “my thing.” All a matter of taste.  –Matt Average (Goner)


SLUGGA:
Demo 2014: Cassette
Tough grime hardcore with vocals that remind me of the guy from Raw Nerve or young Cobra Commander. They could be going for a less unhinged Crazy Spirit thing. I’m kind of over negative dude posturing, but this tape is solid. Riffs and whatnot for the drunk heads and wild kids.  –Matt Werts (Muckman)


SLEDGEBACK:
Land of the Freak: CD
Decent punk’n’roll from this Seattle, Washington four piece. I gotta say, though, I don’t really think the treated vocals a la Ministry do these songs any great service. It’s really a shame as there are some hints of good stuff here. “Hooligans” is a great example of a song that could have been potentially great if afforded a dryer mix and untreated vocals.  –Garrett Barnwell (Sliver)


SLANG:
Glory Outshines Doom: CD
Slang is what happens when a Japanese band decides to emulate Discharge and mixes in some 1980s New York City hardcore. They’ve been doing it since 1988, so I’ve got to give them props for that, but I had my fill of ‘80s NYC hardcore in high school and Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing has always been enough for me when it comes to the Discharge sound. So I think I’ll pass, but if this sounds like your type of thing, then I say go for it.  –kurt (Cleopatra)


SICK THOUGHTS:
Fat Kid with a 10 Inch: 10”
This is the kind of depraved garage trash punk that makes my blood pressure soar (even higher than normal!). Holy shit, apparently they have released ten records in 2014! It looks like I’ve got some searching to do because I need more!  –ty (Slovenly)


SEX RAYS:
Self-titled: 7”
This is a major pet peeve of mine—why do you need an adapter to listen to 7” these days? The entire purpose of those large holes punched out in 45s was so the arms of jukeboxes could pick up the record and play it. At this point, most jukeboxes are internet connected and hardly store any music at all. So when I see that I need a spider (adapter) to listen to new records, my brain hurts. Sex Rays have a fitting sound for that era, though—straying close to the ‘60s psychedelic / mod revival stuff with organ-style keyboard parts. Real stripped-down guitar and drums a la The White Stripes for most of the A side, backed with an instrumental jam that’s appropriate for any hipster coke party.  –Kayla Greet (Pinata)


ROSELIT BONE:
Blacken & Curl: CD
This here is some very self-aware Nick Cave/Howe Gelb worship from a band from Portland, OR. This is what happens when you self apply a term like “Dark Americana” to your music instead of letting some lazy music reviewer do it. If you like Calexico, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and the like, you may be into this.  –frame (Self-released, roselitbone.bandcamp.com)


RITUAL MESS:
Vile Art: LP
Wild tempo changes wherein they bounce from ultra-thrash to off-kilter sludge usually during the course of a given tune, a singer that sounds like he’s gonna bust a vein in his forehead any second, an almost industrial dissonance to the instrumentation, and yet it’s kinda catchy. Now there’s a fuggin’ hat trick for ye. Definitely not for the faint of heart, but they’re putting in some serious work here.  –jimmy (Clean Plate)


REAL TEARS, THE:
Self-titled: CD
Upon putting this on, five songs of high-energy punk rock’n’roll that would likely fit in nicely amongst Nashville Pussy or Zeke flow from the speakers. It seems staggeringly unpretentious, like they’re just four friends getting together every Monday night to play some rock’n’roll, drink some beers, and have a fucking good time.  –Mark Twistworthy (therealtears.bandcamp.com)


RAWHIDE:
Murder One: LP
Swedish “white trash rock’n’roll savagery” (their words!). Despite a nagging feeling of “haven’t I heard this riff before?” that permeates each song, this is a style of hard rock/motörpunk that always lends itself to playing loud while drinking and getting ready to head out on a Saturday night. You don’t need to pay close attention to get the idea. Recorded by the dude who did the early Hellacopters records, this fits right into that scene, though maybe a bit more Hookers than Hellacopters, and slightly more metal. And though it lacks memorable stand out songs, it is a solid, ballsy rock record, perfect for blasting at your next kegger.  –Chad Williams (Patac)


RAKTA:
Self-titled: 7”
Rakta from Brazil recently played here in Los Angeles at the Dog Haus (L.A. punks Generacion Suicida’s spot to host touring bands) and for whatever fucking reason I assumed two very stupid things. One: that Rakta were a thrash band. Two: I didn’t need to go to this show even though GS and the Bay Area’s Flesh World were both also playing. This two-song 7” will forever be a painful yet endearing reminder of bad, bad life choices. I’ve tried to sit through Siouxsie And The Banshees records. I’ve never made it past more than two songs. I get that they were innovators in the post-punk/goth realm but always felt like there was a key DIY punk element missing. Rakta have not only found that element but have run off with it and nurtured it back to health in dark rooms full of empty wine bottles, bone-chilling keyboard notes, and echoing incantations. The packaging and artwork is nothing short of perfect: silk screened cover and dust sleeve with a printed vellum insert. What more can I say? I’m smitten.  –Juan Espinosa (540, La Vida Es Un Mus, Dama Do Noite, Nada Nada)


QUITTERS:
Contributing to Erosion: LP
Twelve songs of EpiFat meets screamy hardcore from this Las Vegas band on blue vinyl. I really can’t come up with much more to say than that. Here’s what they think of themselves: “With such diverse influences as Refused, Bad Religion, Queens Of The Stone Age, The Bronx, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Mars Volta, Green Day, Offspring, MGMT, and Dillinger Escape Plan their powerful sound punches you in the face with lightning-fast drumming, shredding guitar and bass and frantic high-energy vocals.”  –frame (Squidhat)


PURPLE 7:
Jewel Finger: LP
There’s a sweet spot right between punk and lo-fi indie rock, where the aggression shines through on occasion, but so does the more complicated song structures of more—ahem—”refined” music. I like to call it bedroom pop, but I honestly have no idea; I ain’t no music scientist. What I am, though, is impressed by this record. If I had any idea of the pedigree involved in this band before I turned it on, it would have been no surprise. There are members of Hot New Mexicans, Defiance, Ohio, and Landlord on this thing. That’s a hell of a lineup. This is a hell of a record. It’s just so nice to hear a group of people who actually know how to harmonize correctly and build a sound that takes the best parts of each of their musicianship. Highly recommended. Grade: A.  –Bryan Static (Self-released)


PUNCH:
They Don’t Have to Believe: CD/LP
Punch’s latest (and perhaps last?) offering is full-on blistering hardcore punk. (At the time I write this, vocalist Meghan has left the band, but the rest of the members haven’t said whether they’ll continue.) They Don’t Have to Believe is fifteen songs in nineteen minutes, ranging from five seconds to two-and-a-half minutes. It isn’t as catchy or emotionally powerful as their Nothing Lasts EP. Instead, it reminds me of early 2000s youth crew hardcore that itself was trying to imitate 1980s youth crew hardcore. There’s not a lot that’s original here, which is disappointing in light of the potential they’ve shown on past releases. All the pieces are there and this isn’t a bad album, per se, just not fulfilling my expectations.  –kurt (Deathwish)


PULLING PUNCHES:
Lighten Up, Burn It Down: CD-R
I hesitate to say this, but the packaging of this CD was DIY to a fault: burnt onto a CD-R and a badly photocopied cover. That being said, the recording quality was impressive and not at all reflective of the disappointing packaging that I received in the mail. The album features riff-o-rama guitars, a killer drummer, and a vocalist whose voice might make it on a primetime, major network vocal contest like The Voice or American Idol. Truth be told, this is not my jam at all, but the music is high quality and there is an audience for it somewhere.  –John Mule (Self-released)


ORATIONS:
Demo: Cassette
There has been an explosion in recent years of new dark wave, or dark wave-influenced bands, typified by reverb-y guitar, chunky bass lines, ethereal-sounding vocals, and in some cases, synthesizers. Lyrical themes can vary widely, but trend towards the dark, depressing, or introspective. I’m not always crazy about the genre, but when it’s done well, it is certainly worth listening to. Orations are one of the better sounding bands of the genre. While they stick rather close to the formula of this style of music, there are enough quality riffs and songwriting chops to maintain my interest. Where Orations particularly shines is lyrically. Each song on this cassette acts as a sort of word painting which the music brings to life. I almost wish the vocals were a little more prominent in the mix and less layered behind the rest of the band, to give some extra power to this effect. Small gripes aside, this is a release worth checking out, particularly for existing fans of the genre.  –Paul J. Comeau (Sheets Of Tens, sheetsoftens.com, failuresunion@gmail.com)


OMEGA MOO:
The Sound and the Fury: CD
They gallop, they trot, they will all-around rock your face off... and may make ya wanna pick it up, to boot. Pure, unashamed, straight from it. I’ve seen these guys be called surf punk, but this isn’t that regurgitated ‘60s-hollow-bodied-reverberated-bullshit. They’re a flat-out rollicking good time. It may be cold and dreary in Seattle, their hometown, but these dudes will warm yer heart... and goose yer throttle. Don’t miss out on this!  –Jackie Rusted (Self-released, omegamoo.com)


NO MARKS, THE:
Light of One: LP
I was really shocked to find out that this band wasn’t Canadian. Right from the get-go, the No Marks sound to me like they stepped out of the indie/pop punk scene in Canada circa 1993. I think the singer sounds like KJ from Chixdiggit!, but Elise doesn’t really hear it. Musically, they remind me of some other Canuck bands of the era like Bum, The Stand GT, and Trigger Happy (when they sounded more like Big Drill Car than Good Riddance), but alas, they are from the U.K. I am told. No matter, I am claiming The No Marks as an honorable early ‘90s Canadian pop punk band. They can claim their status cards when they come and play here.  –ty (Brassneck)


NIMBWITS, THE:
To Punk or Not to Be: CD
This is some good, raspy drinking punk with lots of gang backups. Not breaking any new ground, but definitely breaking into another case of beer and that is something I can get behind.  –ty (Schizophrenic)


NARCOMAN:
Demo: Cassette
The four songs on this cassette were my first introduction to Narcoman. While the recording is a little rough around the edges, there’s some solid guitar playing on this. The track “PTA” is particularly great for its guitar lead. I felt the drumming on the demo was very straightforward, with little to speak of in terms of fills or transitions. This had the effect of making the beats feel flat and almost boring in comparison to the guitars they were accompanying. Lyrically, some of the metaphors at play might have gone over my head, but, overall, I found them only slightly more interesting than the drums. While there was a good amount of promise in these songs, apart from the guitar work, I felt mostly unfulfilled.  –Paul J. Comeau (Sorry State)


MYSTERIOUS SKIN:
Demo ‘14: Cassette
Damn, these cats can play. What initially sounds like pretty standard hardcore is underscored by moments of tight chugga-chugga and stop-on-a-dime riffery. I think a shift of a few degrees would find ‘em as a thrash band. Everything comes together well, with screamed, high-pitched, hoarse vocals leading the charge (and whoa, actual words are evident in said vocals! Crazy!)  –Michael T. Fournier (mysteriousskin.bandcamp.com)


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