Saturday, December 22, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #54


HOLY MOUNTAIN

CATCHING UP ON THE 7” BOX

For this blog, I decided that all the reviews would be of 7” vinyl I’ve received over the last few months. It’s not going to completely empty out the box—and some will be reviewed in future blogs--but it’s about time to pay more attention to them and get out the word on the good ones before some of them go out of print after two days. Not that my opinion or recommendations necessary represent any sort of validity—it’s just one person’s take. A take, of course, that you WILL treat as the gospel truth being delivered from the top of Suburban Voice Mountain.

Goddamn I’m full of myself. In any case, a point that I want to makes is these are music reviews, not CD reviews. I’ll sometimes call them record reviews since the medium is often vinyl. I’m not opposed to CDs, and that often attracts the ire of vinyl elitists that I know. A lot of music I review gets sent to me on CD, although if I’m offered a choice, these days, I’ll take vinyl. The thing is I sometimes can’t track down the vinyl if it’s pressed in ridiculously-small quantities. That’s something I’ve discussed before. Also, if a CD has a bunch of extra tracks, then I’ll end up getting that instead.

The reason I bring up the fact that these are music reviews is because I was just glancing at the Boston Globe’s Sunday arts section and there’s a roundup of “2007: The Year In CDs.” The inevitable best-of lists and I’ll be doing my own in the coming weeks. I’ve already started to put that together and you can damn well bet that not one recording on my list will match the “tastemakers” at the Globe. And vice versa. There’s actually a wide variety of music on those lists, covering rock, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, pop and folk. And, as always, the writers sometimes act like lemmings—it’s amazing how they all fall over themselves for as mediocre a band as the White Stripes. I know they’ve “evolved” beyond their garage roots but, even when they were plying that sound, I can think of plenty of bands doing that style a LOT better. Hell, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, as overrated as they were, were much better at it. From what I read, it appears that Jack White has gone the dilettante route by embracing different styles. I’m not interested. Don’t try to convince me I should be. There’s enough underground/DIY stuff to keep me happy. Amy Winehouse is another critical favorite. I’ll admit I’ve only heard a few songs by her, including that “Rehab” song. It’s a matter of taste but it doesn’t do a thing for me. She also seems to be this year’s Courtney Love, heading down a path of personal destruction. Hell, just today I heard she’s been arrested for “perverting the course of justice,” i.e. they tried to buy off someone who alleged that her husband beat him up. There’s one difference, I suppose—Winehouse seems to have at least a modicum of talent. Courtney had ZERO talent.

I’m not here to dissect their choices, though. It’s just a case of a minor annoyance--that thecritics list them as CD reviews, instead of music reviews, because that seems to indicate they ignore music released in other formats. Those being vinyl-only releases, be it 12” or 7” releases. Even 10” releases… hell, in this section, I review a 5”! I think it fails to present a full scope of worthwhile music released during the year… but I tend to complain about things so take it as you will. So let me get off the soapbox and give you the rundown of some recent 7” records.

ANTI YOU-Pig City Life EP (Punks Before Profits)
A one-sided EP, cramming seven short hardcore blasts on there. An Italian band mining the early 80s quarry and hitting paydirt. And, for all the US influences, their cover choice is Discharge’s “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” and peeling away the overpowering bombast to something effectively stripped down. Succinct rage. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

BORED TO DEATH-s/t (Sorry State)
I remember someone had an MRR column called “In Praise of Generic Thrash” or something like that. Well, this is the kind of EP that deserves that kind of praise. This is standard US style thumpa-thumpa thrash, for the most part, by this Japanese band. The cheesy 7 Seconds-ish “whoaaa-oh-oh” during the chorus of “I Don’t Care” makes me smile, as does the sputtering guitar solo on “Borderline.” None of these four guys look as though they’re old enough to shave yet (well, the drummer has sideburns) and their boisterousness is endearing. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510, www.sorrystaterecords.com)

BROKEN-At The Border (Vex)
Connecticut veterans Broken are back with more of a metallish sound on the title track of this EP, a tale of difficulty in trying to cross the border into Canada. Don’t you just love living in this post-9/11 universe? The other three songs occasionally flirts with metal but Broken remain a bruising punk band and vocalist Jim Martin refuses to mellow with age. To quote the title of an earlier release, I hope they remain mad as fuck! (PO Box 1271, New Haven, CT 06505-1271, www.myspace.com/vexrecords)

BURNING TIMES-s/t (Tadpole)
Kind of an epic quality to some of these songs—well, “Keep ‘Em Coming”--and it’s also somewhat disjointed sounding. Burning Times (who recently split up) let out a rush of rage but don’t fare too well with the blastier/thrashier moments. There are powerful elements but they just don’t come together that well. Sometimes, intensity isn’t always enough. (www.myspace.com/tadpolerecords)

CATBURGLARS-You May Be Dumb, But I Don’t Care (Cowabunga)
Some of these guys used to be in hardcore bands Def Choice and Get It Away but this is completely different. Straight-up garage/punk/rock ‘n roll with a snotty, humorous approach. There’s something of a Pedestrians mid-tempo sturdiness, as well. The exception is their cover of the Zeros’ “Don’t Push Me Around,” which is handled well. They have another 7”, “Holy Shit,” that came out around the start of ’07 on the Tooth Decay label—that EP favors a rougher sound and, is actually somewhat better than this one but both are recommended and meant to be played at a loud volume. This EP is accompanied by a colorful sleeve (purplish pink) and that contains a lyric booklet so you can sing along. (195-D S. Armstrong Way, Upland, CA 91786, www.cowabunga-rex.tk)

CROSS LAWS-Ancient Rituals (Cross Laws/Sorry State)
Another dose of no bullshit hardcore with an old-school feel. As always, it’s tough to come up with nuanced descriptions but I’d argue there’s a Midwestern feel here—Articles of Faith’s flail, for instance. “The Relic” made me think of a rougher version of that band’s “American Dreams,” for instance. In other words, there’s rawness but also a hint of melody in the guitar playing. Guitarist Daniel Lupton runs the fine Sorry State label and this fits in perfectly with the type of records he generally releases. If I could offer one minor point of criticism, it’d be the playing is sloppy from time to time but not to the point where things fall apart. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27501, www.sorrystaterecords.com)

CROSSED EYES-Rattled (Sorry State)
This North Carolina trio take a page from the likes of the Observers and The Vicious and have a semi-poppy/semi-nervy take on ’77 era punk only Crossed Eyes aren’t as mannered-sounding in the vocal department. The lyrics have a sardonic quality—taking on self-righteous white guilt for “Broke Bike,” for instance. Other songs are about seeing through phoniness and fakery, as well—then retreating back home or to the nearest bar. The songs bash along nicely with a surging hookiness and the lower fidelity (though not lo-fi) recording quality works to their advantage. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27501, www.sorrystaterecords.com)

DAGGERS RULE-Gleaming The ‘Cuse (Barbarossa)
A vinyl press of two demos from this now-defunct Syracuse band—their vocalist Pat Wilding is now the frontman for Boston band Mecchnibal. This is a raw tandem of hardcore, punk and a little metal with tough riffing and Pat’s hoarse, angry-as-fuck vocals at the fore. The lyrics are also up-front—dealing, for instance, with the tough-guy “crews” from their area (“You Chose Poorly”) or avoiding a “conventional” existence (“Never Deny”). Proving it was possible to be from Syracuse and have a bare-knuckled sound with the “firestorm” stuff. (Joshua Smith, 8175 Rt. 13, Canastota, NY 13032, www.barbarossarecords.com/)

DEATHCYCLE/THE HOLY MOUNTAIN-split (Gloom, 5”)
The one non-7”—this is a 5” and these records are such a fucking pain in the ass to deal with. After adjusting the return function on my turntable, I was able to get this to play and it’s worth the trouble. Deathcycle’s song, “Ten Years Later,” sounds like a heavier, bare-knuckled version of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Ron’s vocals have a pissed-off urgency. The Holy Mountain’s “Birth” is a piledriving piece of blitz-speed crust and Dan’s vocals are equally pained. Limited to 425 copies, one time press, etc etc. (1463 Ocean Ave., Apt. 2B, Brooklyn, NY 11230, www.gloomrecords.com)

DEPRESSIVE STATE-Total Annihilation (Thrashbastard)
Mid-paced stuff straddling the line between hardcore and piledriving rock—not RAWK, but a surging/stinging element punctuated with beefy guitars and irritable vocals. The name of the band and EP, along with the tortured-looking soul on the cover indicates an overriding negativity about people, about life and that fits here, culminating in a burst of rain that ends up in a locked groove—endless unless you lift the needle. (Warschauer Str. 57, 10243 Berlin, GERMANY, thrashxbastard@yahoo.de)

ECOLI-s/t (Stress Domain, 7” EP)
A vicious EP—a piercing signal of feedback hovers over the band’s frantic hardcore punk, bridging one song to the next and tearing off a few nasty leads. While the emphasis is on thrash-a-mania, the playing navigates time changes and the like very well. Drawing from the well of Void, Poison Idea and Black Flag but still making their own type of noise. Some vivid lyrical phrases, as well—“my head feels like some fucking rat’s asshole” on “Social Anxiety.” I’m not sure what thought process conjured that up but it meshes well with the band’s heart-racing onslaught. (www.stressdomainrecords.tk/)

EVERYTHING FALLS APART-Tension (Art Of The Underground)
Another session of agitation therapy, courtesy of Everything Falls Apart. A howl from the innards—Pat’s voice conveys the pain and anger and there’s also an aggressive musical punch in the gut, if I can be alliterative for a momen. This isn’t as thrashed out as their first EP and it misses a bit of the roughness in production but the songs still pack a mid-to-fast paced wallop. (PO Box 250, Buffalo, NY 14205, www.artoftheunderground.com)

HUMMINGBIRD OF DEATH-Diagnosis: Delicious (I Deal/625/Give Praise)
This one’s a rager—no sweet bird noises here. This is a pure thrash attack and, even when they go into double-speed overdrive, it doesn’t come apart. As crazy as they sound and even with 18 songs crammed onto the record, it doesn’t lose its focus—well, the ridiculously short songs on side two do blur by but I still like the overall effect here. There are even some cool breakdowns to be heard if you don’t blink and miss them. Tight as fuck and it’ll rip you a new one. Also, there’s no way you’ll be able to read through the lyrics and explanations before the record ends but I’m glad I made the effort because, no matter how many times bands rail against homophobia, stupid scene politics and religion (of course), the sentiments here seem genuine. (19 Goldsmith St., Littleton, MA 01460, www.i-dealrecords.com)

KYLMÄ SOTA-s/t (Raakanaama, 7” EP)
Complete sickness from Finland. Four blazing tracks of D-beat raw thrash done in an appropriately over-the-top fashion. No lyric sheet, songs in Finnish but there’s no missing the anger or outrage expressed by their vocalist Ronnie—and his bandmates are Breznev (sic), Maggie and JFK—clever. Familiar terrain and planting some musical landmines. OK, I’ll stop now. Just track this down. (Rauhankatu 23 E 53, Turku, FINLAND, www.raakanaama.fi)

NOJONS-s/t (Punks Before Profits/Feral Kid, 7” EP)
They lie because the singer/guitarist is named Jon. I’m not always that enamored with the pop/punk stylings here but the lyrics are humorous and cutting—poking fun at hipsters and Philly punx, wistfully wishing that they could go back to ’83 and skate in Calfornia and ultimately stating ”I don’t wanna be afraid to keep on being a kid”… AWWWW… (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

OI POLLOI-Mind The Bollocks (Kämäset Levyt)
The lyrics are in English for Oi Polloi’s latest EP (the last few releases were in Gaelic) and there’s a theme, as well—namely men’s sexual health. “DIY” isn’t about the music scene, it’s about self-gratification. “A Whole New Ballgame” encourages guys to self-test themselves for prostate cancer. “Mutilation Of The Innocent” isn’t a Discharge-type rumination on the horrors of war—it’s about circumcision and, finally, “Violation” concerns prison rape and how little is done to stop it. Hell, I learned some stuff reading the lyric insert. Oi Polloi also continue to be a musical dynamo—stirring stirring tandem of anarcho punk and oi elements (natch) with drive and passion and that hasn’t dissipated since their beginnings in the early 80s. (www.punkfinland.net/kamanen)

OLDE GHOST-s/t (Handstnad/Rok Lok)
A few folks from the underrated (to me, at least) Books Lie and these songs provide an outpouring of nervy/screamy rock. Vocals howled at the top of the lungs and accompanied by bashing drums and jarring guitar lines, bringing Drive Like Jehu to mind but, where that band had more of sinewy, nuanced approach, Olde Ghost utilize a more straight ahead clamor and utilize it quite well. Nice screened sleeve on cardboard stock. (PO Box 110398, Brooklyn, NY 11211, http://handstandrecords.com)

SKUDS-Hellbound/REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH-Locked Inside (self-released)
Two trios from Georgia and this split is packaged inside a lavish gatefold sleeve. They may be coming from the same outlook but there are musical differences. Skuds opt for a blazing thrash/crust sound with absolutely rabid vocals and no let-up from start to finish. The darkly themed lyrics echo the band’s sound. Revolutionary Youth also have a political orientation for their title track, a song about the detention facility at Guantanamo, while their other song is about alcohol abuse. They use anarcho/punk stylings, coupling aggression with screamier elements and it falters during the dragged-out “After Another Drink.” I prefer the Skuds’ side quite a bit more. (804 Ellis St., Apt. B, Augusta, GA 30901, www.theskuds.com)

THIS SHIP WILL BURN-Servant Of Servants (Thrashbastard)
Fired-up up punk/rock ‘n roll with inherent melody. Along the lines of early Fucked Up and I also hear a hint of late 80s DC but without any sense of whininess—in other words, there’s emotional content, especially for “So Frowned The Mighty Combatants.” Vocals are conveyed with an impassioned roughness and I’ll even give the soul-baring lyrics a pass. Good mesh of burn with tuneful inclinations. (Warschauer Str. 57, 10243 Berlin, GERMANY, thrashxbastard@yahoo.de)

VASELINE CHILDREN-s/t (Thrashbastard)
Double speed hardcore by this Croatian band. The vocals are harsh and the songs have a viciousness but it doesn’t always hold together that well. The best song by far is the more reasonably-paced “Nothing To Give.” Their hearts are in the right place and I concur completely with the words to “E-Bay Punks Fuck Off,” but this ultimately isn’t too hot. (Warschauer Str. 57, 10243 Berlin, GERMANY, thrashxbastard@yahoo.de)

2 comments:

harry said...

Courtney Love is fucked up now but you're wrong to say she has no talent. Hole, particularly the "Live Through This" LP, fucking ruled musically and lyrically.

Suburban Voice On-Line said...

pfft... well, everyone's entitled to their opinion. OK, she has a SMIDGEN of talent. No way "Live Through This" ruled. My wife would beg to differ with me but I'll stand by my opinion.