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Self-titled: 7”
Debut release from this San Diego trio, featuring a gaggle of longtime scene veterans who’ve cut their teeth in a plethora of punk, hardcore, and metal bands over the last thirty years or so (past bands include Life Crisis, Death Crisis, Titanarum, October Allied, amongst many, many others). Fantasy Arcade rips through a half dozen quick, pummeling blasts of incredibly tight, intricate, and complex hardcore with heavy-as-fuck guitars, monstrously pounding drums, dizzying time signatures and tempo changes, plus healthy amounts of doom and thrash mixed in to satisfy the cravings of your inner hesher. Also, the fantasy in the band’s name is no coincidence, as song titles, such as “The March of the Gnome Army” and “The Dwarves Are Missing” are found here, along with other lyrical themes, such as wizards and warlocks. The fantasy game is strong with these dudes. This is a fun listen. Blast this shit at your next D&D game or Game of Thrones watch party.  –Jeff Proctor (Too Old To Die, fantasyarcade.bandcamp.com)

Self-titled: 7”
As the name indicates, this is fantasy-themed doom metal hailing from San Diego, featuring members of Life Crisis and Death Crisis. There are moments that thrash (which I prefer) and moments that sludge onward (although with a welcome brevity). The record has enough references to dwarves and gnomes that your local D&D or Magic, The Gathering meeting will thank you for putting it on so long as they enjoy rocking.  –Lyle (Too Old To Die, fantasyarcade.bandcamp.com)

Wig Wam Bam b/w Love Me Till the Sun Shines: 7”
It’s got a girl singer who sings kind of flatly, then they take a really good Sweet song and just kind of push it around on a dusty floor. If you’re gonna crap up a Sweet song, pick one that wasn’t so good to begin with (ask Nørb which one, probably). B side is a Kinks song I don’t know, so I can’t tell how well they do it, but it sounds pretty good to me. –Cuss Baxter (The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars)

Getting Fantastic with…: CD
At first glance, I’d almost bet these guys are fans of the Kung Fu Monkeys (it’s got a very ‘60s look to it and refers to “being popular with the teens,” although James KFM would never write a song titled “Fuckin’ A Right.”). Upon listening, they’re a bit more ‘90s alt-rock, like a good step in between classic Lookout and Sub Pop. If they were playing around my neighborhood, Full Of Fancy would be a good fit for the bill. –joe (Pancake)

The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars Travelling Road Show: Split CDEP
Each band gets three tracks to show their stuff: Maplewood, Missouri’s Fantasy Four is a dual-female vocal tuneful indie-pop guitar band whose “Hometown Rockstar” is the clear standout of their three raw tracks. Not too far off from a nascent Chubbies, or maybe Scrawl twenty years ago. A good start. St. Louis band Julia Sets’ cuts are more polished, smoother and prettier despite having male vocals – a bit more “mature,” I suppose, but less attractive in their drama and measured choices than Fantasy Four, who sound freer and definitely less pretentious. Kind of along the lines of Pinetop Seven, and I definitely get the feeling someone in this band has math-rock discs in their collection. I think Julia Sets kind of misses the spirit of the split release by having one of their three tracks last for over nine minutes – nearly as long as the other five songs put together! Between the two bands, I have to say I’d much rather see Fantasy Four, but neither band has anything to be ashamed of here. –Aaron J. Poehler (The Bert Dax Cavalcade of Stars)

Millennium Monsterwork: CD
State-specific tuneage that is the musical equivalent of a non sequitur. I wouldn’t try listening to this without drugs. If you have neighbors who suspect you do dirty, nasty, dangerous things in your abode late at night, you might want to pass on this. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you want out of your of life and is slow on the uptake, put this in and select “repeat.” –jim (Ipecac)

Living in the Fallout: CD
There is so much going on here it’s hard to comprehend the final product. So Mark Lind from The Ducky Boys and his own solo career is the bass player, they toured with The Dropkick Murphys amongst some other fairly decent names, and the ingredients are here for a decent Boston punk band. But it’s so fucking polished I can barely stand it. It almost sounds like Sugarcult moved to New England. There’s potential here but they sanded all the character off it in the studio. What’s really weird is they insist on being labeled “hardcore,” which absolutely nothing about this record is. –Steveo (Think Fast!, www.thinkfastrecords.com)

Universe: LP
I’m a complete sucker for a hook, and this LP by Houston’s Far Out has so many catchy hooks that I don’t think I could possibly dislike this if I tried. These guys blend straight-up pop mixed with punk sensibilities in a way most bands don’t get right... but Far Out got it right. Any comparison I make will not do this record justice, but imagine a less crooning and slightly more punk Smoking Popes with a depreciated sense of self worth and a worldview so gently dismal and narcissistic that it paints a sugary yet bleak picture of hopelessness for the future without forcefully ramming it down your throat. Not exactly being a ray-of-eternal-sunshine kind of guy myself, I can relate to this, and therefore I immediately connected with this record. Aesthetically inconspicuous in that the record doesn’t have the band’s name (or any text for that matter) anywhere on the cover, I predict this will be inadvertently overlooked, which is a damn shame because it’s really, really fucking good. Recommended.  –Mark Twistworthy (Honeygold, faroutuniverse.bandcamp.com)

Another Day at the Office: CD
Man, these guys can't tell if they want to be a run-of-the-mill oi band or a lackluster thrash band. You've got your standard street rock fare here making up the bulk of the record, coupled with the occasional speedier, harsher number. Either way, it's consistent in its dullness, but at least the accents are sincere. Pretty much yawnsville all around, sorry. –Guest Contributor (Step-1)

The Thorns: 7” EP
A marriage of gothic gloom, shoegazey echo ‘n’ howl, and the more experimental of the early skronk-punk tribe. Oddly catchy, they somehow get their hooks into you and drag you down a dark road you ain’t really sure you wanna go, but end up all the better for it. This would’ve easily fit into Subterranean’s “classic” catalogue thirty years ago, which is no small compliment. –jimmy (HoZac)

Anthology 1997-98: CD
The musician in me says, “Jeezly crow, these guys can play the fuck outta their instruments.” All sortsa noodling, time signature changes, dynamics and such are smooshed into every song. The punker in me says, “Jeezly crow, I wish there was some fuggin’ ‘edge’ to their delivery.” I kept expecting the songs to build and then kick into overdrive, but that sadly never happened. In the end, I felt pretty much the same way I do about most prog rock: impressive playin’, but the end result makes me drift off in contemplation of my shoes and their place in the universe. –jimmy (Dischord)

The View From This Tower: CD
Disjointed, taut, noisy pop with some serious jazz leanings. They were a little reminiscent of the Minutemen, albeit without the good sense to know when to end a song. –jimmy (Dischord)

If Not Why Not?: CD
Serious nerd-out from 29 Palms, CA. First track: “Grammarchy,” a discourse on language to the tune of “Anarchy in the UK” (barely). Others include “Who’s Got Time to Build Infrastructure?”, “Here is a Cake,” “Bela Lugosi Loves Honky-Tonkin’” and “If the Egges Don’t Cooke.” It’s a huge mess of samples, talking, countless musical styles, and goofy nuttiness. Brings to mind the stuff on Eerie Materials, a label that put out scads of weird homemade weirdness (is it still around?), or maybe a Negativland-obsessed Sockeye. Must get pretty boring out there in the desert. (Incidentally, I saw another Farces Wanna Mo CD at the Children’s Hospital thrift store yesterday. I didn’t buy it.) –Cuss Baxter (My X-Lover)

: CD
Boring Epitaph punk! If this were a cereal, it’d be Lame-Ohs. The End! –Maddy (Epitaph)

The Gas Station Soundtrack: CD
Some serious Guided By Voices worship going on here. There are certainly worse bands to copy, but I wish this was GBV worship of the “we used a 4-track to record these great rock songs while we were drunk” variety and not the “this is such a copy that I had to check the liner notes to make sure Bob Pollard wasn’t involved in some way with this record” school. –Ryan Horky (Activities, Activitiesrecordings.com)

Boxing Clever: CD
Ska is what they are going to be labeled as, but this band is definitely presenting more to the listener. Ska, two-tone, punk, dub, metal, reggae, new wave and rock are all incorporated to keep the songs individual here. The finished product is an interesting melodic blend that keeps this listener intrigued. The vocalist is one strong tongue twister when he belts out his lyrics. The guitars are recorded superbly and can start off clean and turn at a moments notice into a fierce metal sound. I truly enjoyed this and hope others will too.
–don (Moon Ska Europe)

Injustice: CD
Ahh, that’s more like it. I thought that, after the waste of time that was their last album (why release your back catalog and then release new recordings of the same songs hot on its heels?), these guys were just gonna be content to sit back and rehash all their oldies like so many old bands that’ve reformed, but no, here’s some brand new stuff, back to form and sportin’ some kick-ass shit to boot. Although the reworking of “Buried Alive” was a mistake, the tracks here pretty much stand up to their “classic” work and blaze along quite nicely, thank you. You like your hardcore mean, nasty, and with some semblance of a point? Look no further than this. Recommended. –jimmy (Alternative Tentacles)

What: CD
I don't get it. They just released a discography no more than two years ago and it's still available. Now they release this, which consists of re-recorded 15 tracks, versions of all but two of them were on the other disc and one of those two is a Motorhead cover. They sound as swell as they ever did, but what's the point? They add nothing new to the songs. After the long silence at the end of the last track, we're treated to the whole thing all over again. Fuck, "Buried Alive" isn't even on this. –jimmy (Alternative Tentacles)

Self-titled: 7" EP
Four songs you can already get on their latest Alternative Tentacles CD. I don't get it. –jimmy (Transparent)

Self-Titled: CDEP
Assembled as a supergroup of sorts, from bands I’ve never heard before. If it helps: The Homosexuals, Attica 9, Universal Order Of Armageddon, The Uniform, Double Dagger. All I can say is that this EP is great! Eight hardcore songs sending me back to when I first heard Dag Nasty and Born Against! The music is mostly straight forward hardcore with some cool break downs. The best part is the vocals. The only way to explain would be to have you picture (or hear) Dave Smalley as a girl, minus the melodies he sometimes busted into. It’s a refreshing change to the trend of girl singers in hardcore bands who need to scream and sound tough, or try and sound like Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile). There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that, but when every other band I hear tries to have a certain sound, it’s so great to hear something as cool as this. And the lyrics friggin’ rule! Songs about self hatred and hating parties. Not taking themselves too serious, preachy or pretentious, but through sarcasm and humor, throwing out their message. This is a great EP. –Guest Contributor (Reptilian)

I Saw You Coming Closer So I Ran Inside the Door: Cassette
Disposable, cheaply recorded punk rock. It’s hard to even describe it any more than that. If I told you to just imagine a punk band, no adjectives involved, I’m sure your brain could come up with something pretty close to Fashion Foreskins in a number of seconds. The production of the release leaves a lot to be desired, in as much as I would have desired some production. Recorded live, it sounds like a one microphone affair with no editing involved. It starts off grating, but five monotone songs and one unlistenable poem later, you’ll want to chuck your boom box out the window. I’ll give the band credit, because at least they designed the cassette with garbage in mind. The liner notes give instructions to “listen, copy, destroy,” but I’d recommend skipping to step three. Grade: D+.  –Bryan Static (Self-released)

Pret-A-Porter: LP
This record came with a short background on the band that honestly threw me off. Either these guys are funny or they’ve actually been around since 1987. As far as the record goes, Fashion Week is a three-piece from New York. It has a post-hardcore, post-metal sound mixed with some alternative ‘90s rock. There’s a heavy Converge, ISIS thing going on with the music mixed with some melodic vocals. I think the bass player and the guitar player switch off on vocals duties, otherwise someone has some serious range. At times it reminds me of what Mastodon does vocally. They do a good job of giving the songs more dimension by constantly changing tempos, breaking the songs down into melodic instrumental parts, and playing straight-up heavy riffs to keep you from standing there with your arms crossed.  –Ryan Nichols (Solar Flare)

Over Before It Ever Began: 7” EP
Going off the cover (where everyone has typewriters for heads), the band name, the band photo (jackets, sunglasses, and buttons), and a theremin listed, I was thinking new wave. Nope. More in line with the Candy Snatchers than the Epoxies, it’s blades-out, beaten-by-clubs rock’n’roll fronted by a guy whose eyes I can easily imagine popping out of his skull from screaming so much all the time. The more I gave up on the new wave idea of the band, the more I liked ‘em on their own merits. –todd (Floridas Dying)

Smash the State (With Your Face): 7” EP
The A side is a super-duper bubblegum glam hit that sounds like Chapman/Chinn crossed with U.K. power pop circa 1979, and is pretty clearly Jeff from the Tranzmitors singing. The flip is a less buzzworthy number plus a cover from ‘80s Rocky Horror Picture Show follow-up Shock Treatment, which I admit I had to google, despite once using the picture from the movie poster in a collage for my fanzine about thirty years ago. Obtain this item and keep yourself on the right side of the manifesto! BEST SONG: “Smash the State (With Your Face)” BEST SONG TITLE: Duh, same. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Observe closely and you will see that one of the black stripes on the image of the girl on the cover is reflex blue instead of black.  –norb (Hosehead, hoseheadrecords.ca)

4-Track Demos: CD
This is new wavish super-distorto janglish stargazin' sonic splendor that's all-at-once trippy, poppy, funky, sludgy, and feel-good giddy. In an unusually odd display of audial diversity, the succulently sweet songs contained herein are a magical mishmash of infinitely mind-reeling instrumentation ala Cheap Trick, Badfinger, Stereolab, Smashing Pumpkins, Devo, Spacemen 3, and even a bit of "Rubber Soul"-era Beatles. I especially enjoyed the invigorating spontaneity of the spastic tribal drumming, the sporadic eruptions of a synthesizer's ebullient emotings, and the intermittent effervescence of fuzz effects. The whiney bratty schoolboy vocals are strainfully similar to The Judys, Violent Femmes, and Dead Milkmen (annoying at times, but certainly unique and vividly impressive). All in all, this delightful lil' disc possesses a euphoric childlike innocent quality to it that's both endearing and uniquely divine... –Guest Contributor (Geff Grimes, Crystal Clear Sound)

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