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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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MUFFS, THE:
Whoop Dee Doo: CD
My roommate thought this sounded like something he would have listened to when he was sixteen, during his “quasi-punk phase or whatever.” I thought it sounded like The Muffs. In the end, we’re probably both right.  –Vincent Battilana (Burger)


MOVMENT:
Driven: 7”
A bit of a dance-rock mash up here, with some buried synth lines and rhythmic drums. Not terrible, but also not particularly memorable.  –jimmy (Distort The Scene)


MONSTER JAW:
Losing All My Friends: CDEP
This five-song EP is pretty much just an excuse for this British three-piece to get their song “Losing All My Friends” out there. There’s not only one, but two versions (the regular and “extended mix,” which I actually prefer) of it on here. It’s easily the best song on the CD with an infectious power pop punk sound. The rest of the album doesn’t have anything that stands out nearly as well as that song (although “Low” isn’t a bad track), so I can’t really recommend this wholeheartedly, but as with many albums, I’d be interested in hearing what they do next, especially with a full length.  –kurt (Cobra Kitten)


MONSIEURS, THE:
Self-titled: LP
I can usually tell within about the first ten seconds of the first listen of a record if I’m going to be feeling it. This one grabbed me instantly, presenting a distorted guitar so far up the red in the mix that I knew it would be just right for me. The Monsieurs are a noisy, primitive garage rock’n’roll band consisting of an ex-member of Tunnel Of Love. Fans of the Gories or the Oblivians will likely dig this—the mix of unpredictable yet catchy garage punk, loud distorted everything, and lack of a bass player all contribute equally to really knock this release out of the park. Recommended.  –Mark Twistworthy (Black Gladiator / Slovenly)


MIKE REP AND FRIENDS:
Darby Creek Drifter: LP
Country bluegrass and folky sort of stuff that, if it had a murky production, would sound like something from the days of Woody Guthrie and the era of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Sometimes I think exceptional musicianship is becoming a thing of the past, but listening to this I’m reminded I’m not listening to enough variety of music and being open to what’s out there. Just listen to “Grandfather’s Clock” and it’s crystal clear these guys can play like the masters of the past. The cover of Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” is pretty good, and really translates well into this genre (a song that is, at heart, a country song anyway). I have to give a nod to the re-working of “Mr. Bo Jangles” into “Mr. Bo Derek.” But it’s the cover of the Doors’ “Five to One” that is superb. Mike and company put a bit more dirt and attitude into the song and make it their own. I’m a fan.  –Matt Average (540)


MIDNIGHT PLUS ONE:
Like Camera: 7”
North Carolina’s Midnight Plus One churn out two cuts for Negative Fun’s singles club. Confident post-punk/indie rock that almost reminds of Protomartyr with female vocals. Only two hundred copies, so move fast.  –Steve Adamyk (Negative Fun)


KOMPLIKATIONS:
Going Down: 12”
This short three-song 12” of European no-wave, quirky, synth-punk craziness brings to mind bands such as The Screamers, Units, or Nervous Gender. There are no guitars here, only synths, drums, and vocals, making it imminently danceable yet frantic enough where it sounds as if it can really come off the rails at any minute.  –Mark Twistworthy (Rockstar)


MERCY MUSIC:
When I Die, I’m Taking You with Me: CD
Loud guitar pop, sorta what they were trying to label as “power pop” a few years back but sounds more like Foo Fighters not trying too hard. Not stunning, not terrible, just kinda lost in the middle of the crowd.  –jimmy (Squidhat)


MEATBODIES:
Mud Gals: 7” Single
Tripped-out, groovy rock’n’roll that’s thick like syrup with some real heft. These two songs got my hips shaking then finish smooth with some slick guitar riffage.  –Jackie Rusted (In the Red)


MDFY:
Derivative Processes: Cassette
Ambient music made by punks. For some reason, I thought that would make it more aggro. But aggro ambient is an oxymoron, so this is just chill. It’s so chill that when I got about thirty minutes deep, I was like, “This is so chill I can barely hear it.” Then I realized that the music had actually ended and the tape was just running long. Really though, these soundscapes are clever and relaxing, but way too short. I need at least an hour to get a full-on ambient zone-out going. So, dear mdfy: Get to work!  –mp (Self-released, mdfy.bandcamp.com/releases)


MASK FACTORY:
Self -titled: CDEP
Brand new band rises from the rolling hills of Virginia to offer up five tracks that feature catchy riffs and top notch song craft. Longtime DC music fans will recognize Patrick Bobst as the former axe-slinger in Kingface. This ship sails into The Replacements waters with a touch of Slobberbone grit to keep things flowing. Ably supported by Andy Meltzer and Pat Fitzgerald, Bobst handles lead vocals and the guitar lines with ease. “Forget” starts things off and there’s even a bit of Dumptruck flavor on “Slow Down.” Wrapping it up is balanced thrashing of “Nine Things.” I think Tommy Stinson would say this has sea legs. Give it a test run yourself to be sure.  –koepenick (maskfactory.bandcamp.com/releases)


MANATEEES:
Sit n Spin: LP
Funny, that in the review cycle that I received another record that showed how average and bland that garage rock can be, that I receive another record that I hold the same opinion about. The problem here is a question about identity. Musically, it just seems so faceless. There are qualities that could be described, but not in a way to make them unique or special. I guess what it reminds me most of is the Reatards, but before they became listenable. The parts that are memorable are sometimes just repeated noises. Not high quality, but I wouldn’t completely count out the Manateees yet. It’s very possible their next LP could make me forget about this one completely. The pieces of a great band are in this record, but they’re just not on this record. Despite my complaining, proper kudos must be given to the band for writing a song as good as “Cold & Rhythmic.” That song is a beast. Grade: C+.  –Bryan Static (Pelican Pow Wow, pelicanpowwow.com)


MANATEEES:
Sit n Spin: LP
Funny, that in the review cycle that I received another record that showed how average and bland that garage rock can be, that I receive another record that I hold the same opinion about. The problem here is a question about identity. Musically, it just seems so faceless. There are qualities that could be described, but not in a way to make them unique or special. I guess what it reminds me most of is the Reatards, but before they became listenable. The parts that are memorable are sometimes just repeated noises. Not high quality, but I wouldn’t completely count out the Manateees yet. It’s very possible their next LP could make me forget about this one completely. The pieces of a great band are in this record, but they’re just not on this record. Despite my complaining, proper kudos must be given to the band for writing a song as good as “Cold & Rhythmic.” That song is a beast. Grade: C+.  –Bryan Static (Pelican Pow Wow, pelicanpowwow.com)


MAD DOCTORS, THE:
Snake Oil Superscience: LP
Bluesy sludge rock delivered with equal parts fuzz, reverb-surf, psych, and lo-fi sensibilities thrown in for color. Somehow it works quite well here.  –jimmy (King Pizza, facebook.com/kingpizzarecords)


LESS THAN JAKE:
See the Light: CD
Honesty first: I feel totally unqualified to review any ska album, much less the latest release from Less Than Jake, a band often credited with defining the sound of third-wave ska. These guys have a two decade long history and substantial catalog that is worthy of consideration. All else said and done, ska is fun. Less Than Jake has a formula, but it’s effective, and why mess with that? See the Light kicks off with classic punchy horns and adolescent energy that never quits. These guys aren’t tired, but seem to be struggling to both maintain the reliable sound that long-term fans want and stay fresh. “John the Baptist Bones” is a standout track with playful, intricate brass work in which the horns almost become an additional voice. “American Idle” swings in a heavier direction with a Green Day flavor and takes on surprisingly dark, political subject matter for such an upbeat, sunny tune. This music is made for veteran fans to skank, shout gang vocals, and swim over each other’s heads to, not contemplate the meaning of life to—but it’s missing some of that raw, DIY passion that perks up my ears. The production is polished and tight, perhaps a bit too shiny. They’re trying a bit too hard to hold on to that high-pitched teenage pop punk vocal sound. I think there’s something a bit wrong if I find a punk record relaxing. Seeing this live would get me head-nodding, but not circle-pitting. It’s satisfying in a weekend beach party way, but unremarkable. I prefer grittier, less bouncy punk, but these guys can laugh that in the face because they’ve made it—to the point where they can return with a safe record after a half-decade of silence, and pick up the crowds as if they were never gone.  –Claire Palermo (Fat Wreck Chords, mailbag@fatwreck.com, fatwreck.com)


KNAVES GRAVES:
Discography: Cassette
Hmmm, first impressions can be deceiving. This is a weird mix of punk. On the tape cover is’80s-style comic art of cool girl punkers at the beach. Then there’s boy-dumb song titles like “Get Off My Dick,” “Aarp,” “Calypso Cunt,” and “Fuck Off/Like Totally,” but my contempt was soon proven wrong. Love that. Each song progressively pulled me in tighter with their unmistakable underlying Go-Go’s ‘80s vibe, Brit sound—ala Joanna Gruesome for vocals—and infectious song melodies. “Heaven Is Hell” harkens the Strokes, with a strong guitar hook and super catchy melody, while the lax drag of Sebadoh informs “Green Coat.” There’s definitely a new wave, post-punk, surf guitar sound as well, which sets the tone. Never heard of this band from Florida before, but I’ll be keeping my eye out. Into it!  –Camylle Reynolds (Muckman, Muckmanrecords.bandcamp.com)


KLITZ, THE:
Sounds of Memphis, ‘78: 7”
Here’s a band I’ve long heard of but thought I’d never hear. The Klitz may or may not be Memphis’s first punk band (in the “yes” camp is longtime Memphis musician Ross Johnson; in the “no” camp is Klitz founder Gail Elise Clifton). The Sounds of Memphis recordings are lo-fi (likely more out of necessity, considering the time, than stylistically) but there is power that jumps off the tape. More powerful than, say the Like Flies on Sherbert sessions (of which The Klitz cover “Hook or Crook.”) As an aside, I put off buying LOFSfor so long, due to high sticker price and being wary of Alex Chilton’s self-sabotaging tendencies. When I finally got LOFS, I was let down. I could tell the songs have a solid foundation, but the half-ass playing and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude really take away from the songs. The Klitz make up for this in spades. Brought to you from the vaults by Austin-by-way-of-So Cal Spacecase Records, the label that loves Memphis music more than I do!  –Sal Lucci (Spacecase, spacecaserecords.com)


INANICION:
Demo: Cassette
Loud and fast grindcore that makes your ears bleed. They could probably take you in a fight. Grade: C.  –Bryan Static (Rigid, rigidrecords.bigcartel.com)


IMPALERS:
Psychedelic Snutskallar: 12”
Texas’ Impalers kick start this 12” with an epic side-long hardcore punk assault with the fast but steady pace of d-beat influences and a reverb-y guitar tone to coincide with the record’s “psychedelic” theme. The second side has four songs in the same vein as the lead off track though obviously not as lengthy, which makes for easier digestion of this hardcore smorgasbord. As varied as this may sound, I can hear elements of Mötörhead, Totalitär, and later period Black Flag throughout. Not sleeping on this band anymore and neither should you.  –Juan Espinosa (540, no address listed)


HILLTOP RATS:
Self-titled: CD
Hi, we’re NOFX, but better. For the first couple seconds of the disc, I really thought I was listening to something on Fat. Personally, I think Fat Mike is a shithead, and I know that’s not an uncommon opinion. Hilltop Rats might be shitheads, but so far I’m not convinced. They’ve got one song, aptly called “Party,” about a house party where some dudes are trying to score with drunk chicks, people are puking, and just rallying in general. Pretty standard punk party scene. But they also have “Mondayne,” where they sing about living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to pay rent, and wanting to wake up from this American dream. Props. They shot a video for “Take It Back” featuring strippers and a female bartender getting treated like shit. I was worried at first, but the message is a positive one with lyrics like, “She’s waiting tables while finishing her degree / late nights and bar fights are getting really old.” It’s pretty refreshing to hear something current that sounds like it was written fifteen years ago and is actually good. If you can imagine a pop punk world where instead of band members kicking you in the face, they’re treating you with respect, check these guys out. I guess this is growing up?  –Kayla Greet (Self-released)


HAUNTED HEADS:
Self-titled: CDEP
Decent bit of indie pop here. In addition to the obligatory odd chord structures belted from jangly geetars and non-”professional” sounding vocals, they mix in occasional psychedelic flourishes to keep ye on your toes.  –jimmy (Double+Good)


HARD CHARGER / SOTOS:
Split: LP
Gnarly, international, head-to-header between Fargo’s SOTOS (Shit On Top Of Shit) and Fredericton’s (it’s in Canada) Hard Charger. Not much punk here, just raging metal for those who want it without all the pretty bullshit. The riffs are sick and the headbanging is involuntary; just got be in the right mood. Thrash on!  –Daryl Gussin (Bigger Boat)


HADDONFIELDS, THE:
That’s My Bike: CD-R
Fans of the Haddonfields usually know what to expect with each new album—a healthy mix of songs about love, drinking, and monsters. It’s like pop punk with a dark side. While That’s My Bike is no different as far as subject matter, it’s safe to say there are still plenty of surprises to be found on their latest full length release. There are some insanely epic guitar solos (thanks to special guest Party Nate of Cape Girardeau’s Guy Morgan & The FT Crew and a definite maturation of the band’s tightness as a group. Additionally, their song writing has really grown lyrically. Whether it’s a soul-bearing love song with a serious side or a short, fun ditty about the end of human civilization, the composition and storytelling is better than ever. Not every song is a homerun but, overall, it’s my favorite Haddonfields release to date. If I had to pick the three strong points, I’d say be sure to check out “Last Goodbye,” that love song with a serious side I mentioned earlier; the warning to all humanity about the dangers of technology that is “Robots,” and “Dumber Every Day” which reassures us that “the zombies are all gone because there’s no more brains left.” You won’t be sorry, I promise.  –Nicole Madden (Throwing Things, throwingthingsstl.com / Rad Girlfriend, radgirlfriendrecords.com)


GREG HOY & THE ENABLERS:
Hair of the Mouth: CD
CDs like this really make me wonder how people end up with Razorcake’s address, as at best these guys could be your next-door neighbor’s just-for-fun, Friday night, six-pack jam session. Nothing wrong with that, just sayin.’  –Garrett Barnwell (30peak, 30peak.com)


GLOBAL UNIFIED:
Self-titled: CD
This concept record is the musical form of that backyard sci-fi film that everyone wanted to make with their best friend as a kid: vivid and ambitious in vision—except this is disappointing upon execution. Prog rock requires confidence to pull off, and this band isn’t sure what it wants to sound like. Tremendous effort went into the lyrical construction of Global Unified’s dystopian world, full of robots and state surveillance. However, their story does not grab the listener and set us on a logical course; rather, we are plopped into a post-apocalyptic scene without a map. Quiet guitar and hesitant vocals were surprising to encounter after reading the bombastic, political stage setup in the liner notes. It’s as if someone recruited Trey Anastasio of Phish into Genesis, but imbued his lyrics with quavering, ominous darkness. There is some grunge or drone exploration waiting to happen, and I hope they go for it in the future. The standout track, “Desert Soliloquy,” dips toes into Queens Of The Stone Age-ish heaviness with down-swinging core notes, but following tracks then spiral out into bizarre electronic dance music territory. It’s beautiful to drift from sparkly to brooding and back, but there are too many lighter-waving moments where I waited for songs to get to the point. When a new band gets caught up in the “we gotta be different, man” mantra and smashes disparate genres together without establishing what they’re out to accomplish, the sound is fragmented. I hear elements of Blue Öyster Cult heavy rock, the symphonics of the Who, and the Pixies’ loud-quiet-loud dynamic. Within each song, these genre shifts work, but between tracks they are jarring. These guys are technically advanced musicians, and I trust they’ll find a way out. It lies not in abandoning their concept, but in making it relatable. Global Unified needs to give their well-illustrated RPG a soundtrack that vacillates between a couple of genres rather than trying to pack in absolutely everything.  –Claire Palermo (Self-released, resistance@globalunified.org, globalunified.org, globalunified.bandcamp.com)


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