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Self-titled: CD
Look, the fact that I was a member of a later version of this band is of no consequence because A) That version of the band was completely different from the version presented here and B) I was a fan long before I was a participant in any of their shenanigans. So there. All of you screaming "conflict of interest" can kiss my ass. Now, on with our story. I first saw the Black Jax in late '85/early '86 at a party in Montebello, if I'm not mistaken. I was a little, bald, hardcore shithead who thought that you had to play fast and hard to be considered a good punk band. They proved that particular belief of mine was ridiculous. The band was hard, up‑tempo and (gasp) melodic at the same time. The fact that Pogo was a fuckin' madman didn't hurt much either. We later got chased out of the party 'cause a drunk Vietnamese kid who was with us was claiming to be a "Suicidal" in a party filled with skinheads (Suicidals and skins didn't get along back then, mind you) and he ended up jumping into the swimming pool. I left that party humming the song I later learned was called "Fooled By a Pretty Face" and considered myself a fan from that day forward. Over the next year, I saw them many times and, each time, I stood awed at how utterly goddamned good they were. They could pull hooks out of thin air. They laid waste to almost any band dumb enough to play with them. They were, to sound like a high school geek, fucking awesome. Sadly, though, they never got their moment in the sun or the chance to put their amazing set on vinyl. This release, which consists of two demos, will hopefully rectify that injustice. The first nine songs were recorded in 1986 and later (coupled with a live show from Raji's that ain't on here on the other side of the tape) became the band's official demo. The sound is what is now referred to "77 punk" with a good dose of old So Cal punk for good measure, yet, 14 years later, they don't sound dated at all. The recording is excellent (which is amazing considering that it was recorded on a four‑track in a bedroom) and the tracks are tight and fat with instantly hummable hooks. Their finest moment, the song "Growing Pains," which begins with a quiet guitar intro and quickly kicks into overdrive, still gives me chills. The remaining three tracks are from an earlier demo that I've never heard (dammit, Gary, you were holding out on me!). The sound on these are a little rawer, but the songs shine through and transcend the primitive recording limitations. A note of gratitude goes out to Steve Stiph for finally giving this great, long‑gone band their due. Now those of us who have been listening to shitty, worn out cassette copies of the demo all these years can give them a decent Christian burial and rock out once again to one of the best punk bands East LA/San Gabriel ever produced. –jimmy (Wankin' Stiphs)

3-songs: CDEP
Can you be any hipper? I bet at least one band member has bought leather pants since they started the band. My guess would be that it’s whoever is playing that groooovy tambourine. Plus, it’s on that “vinyl CD” which I just don’t get at all. It sure as hell doesn’t fit on my spindle. –megan (www.theblackjetts.com)

Bleed Me: CD
Take one part MC5, one part Dead Boys, add a dash of ‘60s trash rock, and you get this. While it ain’t anywhere near the vicinity of crucial listening, they do make a nice enough racket to make their way into your next party’s soundtrack.  –jimmy (Deadbeat)

Boogie, You Don't Love Me b/w I Don't Mind, Please:: 7"
This is straight-ahead blues, akin to what Fat Possum's been putting out. It's good. They're a talented and competent band, but I think Joe Lewis' voice is a little thin. It's ragged and weathered, which I like, but if that's the centerpiece, it's lacking because there's no boom, boom, boom or fog in it. I was hoping for a little more stank, more Gories, or more Pinetoppers (pre-solo Otis Redding) in the mix. It's standard blues, well played. Nothing for me to rag on and nothing I'm that excited about, either. –todd (Shake Your Ass)

The Moan: CD-EP
Bluesy southern-fried rock, not punk. Not bad for Fat Possum fans (although not on that label). Hey, I just got done working eighteen-hour days for two weeks. My verbiage output is low and that tired description seems to fit juuuust right.  –mike (Alive)

The Big Come Up: CD
I recently returned from a five-day, sin-filled excursion to New Orleans where the abundant bayous and waterways are densely shaded in a thick forest of moss-enshrouded cypress trees. It’s a unique and archaic region of the Deep South where dragonflies aimlessly buzz through the droopy, humid air and the spicy smell of boiling crawfish seems to forever linger heavily in the atmosphere throughout all hours of the day. So I’m here to tell you all, The Black Keys perfectly capture the magical, forbidden, and mysterious essence of the fetid, snake-infested river bottoms of Dixie country. This hoodoo-daddy duo authentically replicates the sparse, poverty-stricken sounds of an old, gnarled black man sittin’ on the front porch of his ramshackle shanty-shack and musically moanin’-and-groanin’ to the all-natural rhythm of a mid-summer night’s howlin’ wind. But these two disheveled white-boy minstrels add enough of a flavorfully piquant dash of lean and mean, blue-eyed aggression to the mix that it flawlessly gels into a sumptuous swirl of Mississippi mudwater garage-blues. The vocals are soulful, pained, emotional, and profusely drenched in gritty, downtrodden manliness. The gut-tormentin’ guitar wails, weeps, and shrieks, but it ultimately cavorts like a sun-baked alligator slithering through the dark, murky waters of an uninhabited backwoods marsh. The shuffling, loose-steppin’ drums mercilessly pitter-patter along like huge drops of torrential rain ricocheting off the tin roof of a dilapidated old chicken shed stuck way out in the boonies somewhere all by its lonesome. Mercy, mercy me; I’ve now heard this century’s Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix all rolled into one (but “Busted” could very well be a long-lost outtake from ZZ Top’s first album, “Leavin’ Trunk” sounds uncannily like Cream’s “Politician”, and the blazin’ ragtag rendition of The Beatles’ “She Said, She Said” is raucously southern-fried to all-out exquisite magnificence!). Indeed, this hot and zesty CD pristinely possesses the bare-bones, back-to-basics sound of long, dusty dirt roads, vast overgrown stretches of thriving cotton fields, and grandiose Southern antebellum architecture surrounded by squalor, misery, heartache, and hardships aplenty. Pass the jug, Uncle Jed, I’m a-comin’ home. –Guest Contributor (Alive)

Songs Written While Things Were Changing: LP
This is the sonic equivalent to getting your brains bashed in with a baseball bat. The songs are technical, with time changes throughout, some quiet pauses here and there, but for the most part it’s a lot of bashing back and forth. Black Kites remind me of bands like Acme, Judas Factor, and Overcast, though I think these guys have better results with their experimentation and bending of the rules in the hardcore genre. At times they get too bogged down in technical musicianship, such as on the song “Upsides”: too many time changes and the voiceover is a bit much. But when they let it rip on songs like “Masochist,” “And I Like It,” and “Futures” is when they’re at their best. The more focused songs are blistering. I heard there’s a member from Bloodtype in this band. –Matt Average (Protagonist Music, protagonistmusic.bigcartel.com)

Songs Written while Things Were Changing: LP
Three-piece playing Saetia/Reversal Of Man-type chaotic hardcore with the requisite howling wind screams for vocals. Instead of tempering the fast parts with clean guitars, they go into sludgy grooves in weird time signatures. Considering that this is ‘90s screamo mixed with tech metal, it’s remarkable how listenable and downright catchy it can be. Good shit, fellas. –CT Terry (Protagonist)

Guitarmageddon: CD
Loud rock’n’roll stuff along the same lines that bands like Zeke have trod prior. They pump in enough energy to deliver one overcharged, hell raising salvo of guitar-driven noise and manage to make it sound fresh. Only gripe is “A Change Is Gonna Come” ain’t a Sam Cooke cover, which would’ve been truly impressive if they’d manage to pull that kind of an endeavor off. –jimmy (Dead Beat)

We Know the Future: Cassette
Style-wise, the Black Lantern sounds like it could easily fit somewhere on a Three One G or GSL sampler. The first few songs have some dance-y punk, neo-wave elements—not unlike the Julie Ruin or maybe even Sweden’s The Sounds which—then give way to sudden tempo changes akin to Melt-Banana’s frantic unpredictability or the 400 Blows stomping heaviness. Even with all that positive influence, I can’t help but feel like I just can’t get a firm grasp on what audience The Black Lantern is looking to appeal to. This is being released on Burger records’ “little brother” imprint Wiener Records, which means you can look forward to another few hundred cassettes being released next month.  –Juan Espinosa (Wiener)

Split: 7"
Black: Ho hum. Frantics: So this is what the Dickies would sound like if they were a hardcore band. –jimmy (No address)

3-song EP: 7”
Perfectly okay lo-fi, mid-tempo (read: pretty slow) homage material that touches on the porches claimed by Link Wray and Hasil Adkins, only nowhere as good. Sorta deranged (read: not that deranged) and rambly. Although they’ve got the countrified/ electric hillbilly distortion down, the deep hooks just don’t set in. The voice doesn’t contain the haunt, menace, or pathological liar/ saint quality to make this unique while the instruments plod down heavily trodden blues paths. Nothing to make fun of. Nothing to praise. I almost forget what they sounded like, seconds after the needle lifted up. –todd (Die Slaughterhaus)

Let It Bloom: CD

Very trashy ‘60s slop stuff that sounds true to the era. While I don’t quite get all the hoopla surrounding these guys, I readily admit they’re good at what they’re doing and the fact that it sounds like they’re having a blast give the proceedings a sense of "fun" that’s definitely infectious. Loved the title "Hippie Hippie Hoorah."

–jimmy (In the Red)

We Did Not Know the Forest Spirit Made the Flowers Grow: CD
Trashy slop more rooted in the ‘60s definition of the word “punk” than the modern connotation that word is saddled with. The music sounds authentic to the times it’s trying to evoke, the singer sounds drunk and the rest of the guys sound like they’re having a ball bashing their instruments in wild abandon. –jimmy (Bomp)

Self-titled: CD
Nuggets-soaked ‘60s trash rock. I can also hear maybe just a pinch of Modern Lovers in there as well. –jimmy (www.bomp.com)

Arabia Mountain: LP
I had a moral dilemma when I bought this album—CD or LP? The LP comes with a bonus 7” but I own the rest of The Black Lips’ albums on CD and my OCD likes to have albums by bands on the same format. LP won out because of the extra 7”, but my decision bothers me every day! Some pre-release speculation I read hypothesized that this album would suffer from The Black Lips using a “real” producer, but it doesn’t sound “clean” or “overproduced.” The vocals are less muddy, on most tracks the drums are more prominent, and there’s extra instrumentation (saxophone, saw, I think I hear piano on some songs but there’s none credited), but, overall, it still sounds like The Black Lips. I notice a progression over the course of The Black Lips’ releases: the band seems to focus more on songwriting and less on chaos and noise, and the quality of the songs and hooks consistently improves. After seeing them live recently, a friend pointed out to me that the drummer is key to keeping the band’s performance together—not that he puts the kibosh on the rest of the guys’ shenanigans, but he reins the songs in and keeps them as songs. Most of the tunes on Arabia Mountain run the typical Black Lips gamut of bad kids having fun at all costs (“Don’t You Mess Up My Baby”) to the twenty-something existential desire to enjoy life while you can (“Time,” “New Direction”). “Dumpster Dive” sounds like a Rolling Stones piss-take on a country song with its exaggerated drawl. And I’ll be goddamned if “Bone Marrow” doesn’t sound like Screeching Weasel. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no Black Lips review has ever compared these two bands. The chorus is total Weasel-style and if you replace the saw with Weasel’s pop punk melodic solo, you could fool almost anyone. –Sal Lucci (Vice)

Split: 7”
Black Lips are a little more pop oriented these days compared to their raw beginnings. I still follow them with much enjoyment. “I Wanna Dance with You” is a spacey rocker utilizing low quality recording in the best way possible. It’s a good song and a winner for those who like to say things like: “I like their old stuff.” The Mark Sultan track, “Oh Summertime,” contains quality fuzz with good keyboards and a heavy ‘60s surf influence. Good record. –Billups Allen (Hozac)

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)

Valley of the Dolls: 7”
Now I’m not sure how popular Alexisonfire was in the ol’ US of A, but man, north of the border, those dudes are/were massive, and AOF’s first offshoot City And Colour (a solo project of guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green) was equally, if not more successful. So it stands to reason that Black Lungs, the side project of AOF’s other guitarist/vocalist Wade McNeil, had a sizeable built-in following from the get-go. But as opposed to treading the same singer-songwriter path as AOF cohort Green, Black Lungs veer in a more traditional punk rock direction, taking cues mostly from late ‘70s U.K. and N.Y. groups (think early Clash and Blank Generation-era Voidoids) but on a slightly more aggressive gruff-punk tip. Good stuff. –Dave Williams (Deranged)

Halfway to Hell: CD
I’m not really a big fan of duo bands. I know these are all the rage with bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys leading the movement. But as a bass player, I cry foul! But life goes on. These dudes are creepy and offer up fuzzed-up songs about death, murders, and murky swamps. If that’s your thing, then dive in.  –koepenick (Big Money)

Self-titled: CD
This trio has a lot of the appealing sensibilities that the Minutemen brought to the table. The most noticeable is that most of the songs are between :45—1:45 minutes long. There is nothing funky about the band, but the chaos is similar. The lyrics and arrangements are very stream of thought and the riffs are punchy. I like this CD a lot in that there is something simple about the songwriting, but something layered in the ideas and playing. This band will ultimately suffer from the comparison; Minutemen fans are an over-thinking and contrary bunch. But I like it and I think other Minutemen fans would see the connection. Or call me an idiot for making the association. Either way, Boon/ Watt/ Hurley enthusiasts will get some sort of enjoyment from listening to this. –Billups Allen –Billups Allen (Jeetkune)

Zengakuren: CD
Black Marias play ‘77-style streetpunk and they play it pretty well. I like this, but it doesn’t have the unbridled passion of Sham 69 or Stiff Little Fingers, who I’d rather listen to. It just seems like some old guys sticking to what they know. It’s good, though. The ever prolific Destructors stick to their guns and play some more punk in the style of The Damned or maybe The Dictators. They also give us a cover of “Sonic Reducer,” which isn’t really necessary. –Craven (Rowdy Farrago, no address listed)

Split: 7”
Richmond’s Red Money mix alt-rock and stoner rock, kinda like Torche. They play just slow enough that it sounds suspenseful. There are cool harmonic guitar lines and I think I heard the singer go, “I was born with a leather jacket on.” Uh, LP please? Charlotte’s Black Market play an early ‘00s-ish rock’n’roll/post-hardcore hybrid. A little International Noise Conspiracy, a little Hot Snakes, and plenty of attitude. These songs are part of an EP-a-month project that they did in 2013, so get to Googlin’, because they’ve got a “Double Nickels on I-85” worth of jams floating around.  –Chris Terry (hip-replacement.co)

Coulda...Shoulda...Woulda: CD
Though it may seem to the contrary, Washington D.C. had many bands that weren’t part of the whole hardcore/Revolution Summer thang, which enjoys the lion’s share of popularity. One of the best non-Dischord bands was Black Market Baby, who musically stood at another end of the punk rock spectrum from their younger contemporaries, opting to crank out solid, hook-filled stompers instead of thrashing in atonal abandon, and they continued pretty much along the same path for the bulk of their existence. Collected on this CD are twenty-six career-spanning examples of some of the finest punk rock you’re ever gonna hear, from the rockin’ “Back Seat Sally” to the jaw-dropping-good “Potential Suicide,” with not a crappy tune in sight. If the extent of your D.C. punk experience is limited to Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and Fugazi, then pick this up and consider yourself that much cooler. –jimmy (Dr. Strange)

Coulda… Shoulda… Woulda—The Black Market Baby Collection: CD
Give thanks to the gods above ye seeking great punk rock (Okay, just thank Dr. Strange when you see him in the parking lot of Ralph’s) from the late great ‘80s. Black Market Baby were a DC band of roughnecks who played hard, partied harder, and along the way wrote some great anthems of our time. After having their recorded output languishing out of print since the mid-‘90s, music fans’ prayers have been answered. Twenty-six songs of hard driving, no-holds-barred punk rock. You get classics like “America’s Youth,” “World at War,” “Strike First,” and “Nobody Wanted Us.” Taking their cue from bands like Circle Jerks, TSOL, and Gang Green, the band molded a more melodic style to their tunes, but it still has plenty of fire and brimstone in the mix. Although they sported a few different line-ups, I’m guessing the definitive line-up of the group would be Mike Dolfi on bass, Tommy Carr on drums, Keith Campbell on guitar, and of course the irreplaceable Boyd Farrell on vocals. I’m making this broad assumption based on the fact that this was the line-up that played the farewell shows at the “old” 9:30 Club in DC in 1996. If this is wrong, send hate mail to the editor at Razorcake! But seriously, how can you not like a song like “Drunk and Disorderly” that features the classic line “they wanna punk me in the butt!” But get this CD—every track is a winner. The CD was remastered by Tom Lyle and the liner notes are by the one and only John “Stabb” Schroeder (Government Issue). That’s if my word is not enough! Black Market Baby = fantastic. –koepenick (Dr. Strange)

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