Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #69


TOTAL ABUSE

BEST LIVE BANDS/SHOWS OF 2008
Something a little different this time--and I'll also be doing a best of 2008 record list in the next week or two as well. First off, I'll be including a few photos with the text but, if you want to see a bunch more, go to my Flickr page.

On with the shows (sorry). I didn't go to quite as many of 'em this year. Probably just a shade over 40, in fact, which is probably still a lot to most people. And out of all of them, only a handful were club shows, at the Midway in Jamaica Plain, one at Church, near Fenway Park, one at the Paradise and two (on the same day) in New York City. The rest were at arts spaces, halls, basements, warehouses and other DIY venues. I haven't been to the Middle East or TT the Bear's in Cambridge in years. It's got to be hitting ten years for TT's (maybe longer) and 4 or 5 for the Middle East, I think. It's not because I necessarily dislike those places but there hasn't been much to draw me there and, truth be told, I didn't have the energy or inclination to go to the shows that did catch my interest. I just hope that some larger spaces continue to be available/start doing shows again--I'm talking about the Ratscellar, which is in the basement of a warehouse and holds up to 200 people.

These are more or less in chronological order and, for each show, I mention the bands that stood out, besides the 'headliner.' Incidentally, with very few exceptions, shows shouldn't be more than four bands...

VITAMIN X, 1/15 and 10/17... with FRUIT SALAD on 1/15 and PERDITION on 10/17, Democracy Center/Papercut 'Zine Library, Cambridge
I've never been disappointed seeing Vitamin X live, going back to when they played a tiny room at the Art Haus at Tufts and there was a big circle pit going through a couple of rooms and through the hallway. Both of these shows were wild and sweaty affairs, a wild whirlwind of activity on the dancefloor and a slam-bang array of hardcore punk. Fruit Salad have really come into their own the past few years, mixing up grind, thrash and heaviness into a killer combo--and that wasn't the only good set I saw them play this year. Crust/thrashers Perdition were excellent for the one song I saw them play in October. Unfortunately, some nimrod "traveler" assholes, who had been ejected, decided to throw a couple of bricks thorugh the window behind the drummer, ending the show and costing hundreds of dollars in damages. Real punk, fuckheads...


WASTED TIME

DIRECT CONTROL, SOCIAL CIRCKLE, WASTED TIME, ACID REFLUX, CHEAP TRAGEDIES, Ratscellar, Boston, 2/16

This was my birthday show and could have also been a de-facto No Way/Grave Mistake mini-fest. Cleveland's Cheap Tragedies, fronted by the one-and-only Tony Erba, didn't garner much of a response and this band is a little more tuneful than his other units. He was sick as a dog so there weren't many stage antics and I completely botched Black Flag's "Police Story" when doing a guest vocal--I thought we were doing "Where There's Smoke" by Slapshot and didn't realize what song it was until the first chorus. Oops. Anyway, Eric from DC/WT was late so, during the wait, Acid Reflux did a quick impromptu set. Eric showed up, his bandmates seemed mighty pissed at him and they harnessed that anger into one of the most punishing hardcore sets I've saw all year. Just ruthless. Social Circkle celebrated the release of their 7" with a fun, energetic showing and Direct Control wrapped things up with their aggressive old-school thrash. My kind of birthday party!

AMERICAN CHEESEBURGER, Ratscellar, 2/29
One of the wildest hardcore punk bands going right now. Amazing stage presence from everyone, including their drummer Jason, who was running around with toilet paper wrapped around his head before they played. Here's the proof in this short clip I shot:

video

PISSED JEANS, WASTE MANAGEMENT, Oxford Cafe, Tufts University, 4/12
Pissed Jeans are a good example of a band who I'm not all that into on record (although I've warmed up to 'em a bit) but, live, it's a much different story. Completely unhinged in a noise-laden/Flipper/Jesus Lizard/Birthday Party sorta way. Vocalist Matt Korvette is a focal point, including when he was humping a large African drum (I think). Waste Management are one of my favorite newer Boston area hardcore bands. Boiling over early 80s NY/Boston aggro. They sometimes start off with a cover and it was Negative Approach's "Lost Cause" here. Good crowd-pleasing angle but their own songs accomplish that by itself.

SYSTEMATIC DEATH

SYSTEMATIC DEATH, DROPDEAD, AS-200, Providence, 5/3

Systematic Death are, hands down, the best band I saw in 2008. Anyone who thinks reunions are lame/a waste of time didn't see these Japanese legends tear the place apart for nearly an hour. The show sold out well in advance (they added an earlier one, in fact) and people traveled far and wide. Raw, ravenous and never flagging, powered by some amazing drumming. I won't forget this one soon. I don't get to see Dropdead that often and they didn't disappoint either with some blazing fodder. I missed almost all of Tragedy, who played between the two bands but I saw them play a pretty decent set at Welfare Records a week or so before that that was pretty potent. And, truth be told, I was there to see one band and it was mind-blowing.

CAREER SUICIDE

CAREER SUICIDE, STRAIGHTJACKET NATION, MENS INTEREST, Cake Shop, Manhattan and The Charelston, Brooklyn, 6/7

The only overnight roadtrip I took for a show this year and it was because SJN didn't play Boston--they did play Providence, but that was the same night as Gasmask Terror in Boston--a French d-beat band who do the sound very well and are one of the "runners up" for this list (can't list every show I saw!). Considering Career Sucide have played the Boston area a grand total of one time and I usually end up seeing them out of town, this was an added treat as they remain one of the most energetic punk bands in existence. SJN are from Australia and I've been a fan of their high-powered old school hardcore sound since hearing their first 7" and they didn't disappoint one bit. Mens Interest, a band with Shaun from Cold Sweat/Repercussions on vocals and people from Waste Management, Mind Eraser, etc, dishing out some intense, off-kilter hardcore. Hot as fuck in the city that weekend and, thankfully, both spaces were in the basement and cool. I just wish I'd known about the free pizza if you purchased a drink deal at the Charleston. Oh well...

MISSION OF BURMA, Paradise, Boston, 6/13

$20 is a bit steep for a show in this economy; hell, it's steep period but this was the second of two shows where Burma played their vintage stuff. The night before was "Signals Calls and Marches" (wish I'd seen it) and this show was "Vs.," played in order, along with some of the newer songs. I do get puzzled when I hear youngsters say the modern-day Burma songs blow away the old ones. Actually, it makes me want to violently shake some sense into these misguided people's brains. Anyway, this was a lot better than the rather subdued, sit-down show I saw at the ICA (an art museum) last year. By the time Burma released "Vs." in 1982, they'd perfected their tandem of abrasive and tuneful elements although I found out recently that some of these songs actually came from their early days. It was topped off with a cover of Unnatural Axe's "They Saved Hitler's Brain," featuring guest vocals from that band's Richie Parsons. An electrifying trip down memory lane.

TOTAL ABUSE, Ratscellar, 6/16
The last (as of now) show at the Ratscellar almost didn't happen there but it's a long story. The Texas band's show has expanded from its chaotic thrash base into something that pushes those parameters. Vocalist Rusty Kelley set up a table in front of the stage with effects and an amplified tin can. They mixed up the straight ahead songs with clattering, heavier abrasiveness and it made for an intriguing, unpredictable performance.

SEX/VID

SEX/VID, Cottage Street Studio, Springfield, 7/19

So Sex/Vid's Boston show fell through and it was relocated to this space, next to a potato chip warehouse in a desolate part of Springfield, with nothing much around except for a Dunkin Donuts but if you spit more than a few feet in Massachusetts, you'll hit a Dunks. The studio is actually a warehouse space itself and in a hot room on the second floor. No Fucker opened and Mind Eraser played last. No Fucker do the distorto d-beat thing very well but you couldn't hear the guitar this time--they were better at the Ratscellar in March. Mind Eraser are always intense live but this was Sex/Vid's night. Probably 20 minutes in length, maybe a bit longer but no let-up with the thrashed-out sizzle-whizzle assault, then culminating with the dirge-like intensity of "Always Home," from the "Nests" EP. Worth the drive...

COP ON FIRE

COP ON FIRE, MALE NURSES, Democracy Center, 9/26

I saw a couple of bands from Spain this year. Invasion in May and Cop on Fire at this show. They were late arrivals, barely having time to set and play but they were pillaging. Crust 'n thrash that wails away with savage riffs, walloping drums and hoarse vocals. Male Nurses, who opened up, are a promising new local band playing in an old-school vein.

WALLS, MIND ERASER, BREATHING FIRE, MENS INTEREST, Quincy Cage, Harvard University, 11/14
As of now, this is the last show I attended in '08 and it was interesting from a few different angles. First off, it was one of those shows where the feelings of alienation built up over the evening. Just one of those shows where I felt like an outsider. The venue itself was interesting--in the basement of a Harvard dorm. You get off an elevator and the show space is inside a fenced area, essentially. Considering how crazy things got at times, one thought of the possibility of a steel cage match or even the "Beyond Thunderdome" Road Warrior movie. All four of these bands play off-kilter hardcore in one way or another. Actually, Breathing Fire and Mind Eraser both follow the slow-heavy/grind-blast/sick vocal blueprint and Mens Interest were covered earlier in this piece. Walls, from Washington state, consist of former members of Cold Sweat and it's another band I enjoyed better live than on record. Dark, heavy, lurching sounds. The best was saved for last, though--a brief Cold Sweat reunion and things got crazy once Shaun grabbed the mike and it was a treat, considering I never got to see them when they played here earlier. An eruption of speed and chaos. I don't know if this is necessarily one of the best shows I saw this year--as I said, there were sour feelings when I left--but it was one of the more memorable ones. Walls are definitely a subject for further research, to quote Robert Christgau.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #68


RADIO SILENCE: A Selected Visual History Of American Hardcore Music (Nathan Nedorostek and Anthony Pappalardo, MTV Press)

Add this book to the growing number of archival treatments of hardcore. “Radio Silence,” compiled by Nathan Nedorostek and Anthony Pappalardo (ex-Ten Yard Fight/In My Eyes guitarist), approaches hardcore with more of a visual emphasis, in case the title didn’t tip you off! The images have catalogue numbers for each “artifact,” like in the sort of book you’d get from an art exhibit. But those items alone can’t provide a complete presentation of US hardcore punk throughout the 80s and 90s, in its different incarnations and dispersal into various permutations. That comes from reflections from the participants and the photography that accompanies the ephemera that’s “survived.” Blessed be the pack rats so Anthony and Nathan could, for instance, borrow my original Siege demo and hand-written lyric sheet that one of the guys had given me before it had even been officially released. And I’m grateful to have gotten it back in the same condition or this book might have been a posthumous effort from those two! The leather jacket with hand-painted logos that hangs on the front cover is nothing by itself—it has to be filled in by a human, breathing entity and the photographs that follow manage to present it in at least a two-dimensional form and the stories flesh it out further although, as I said, that’s more of a sidebar than in the “oral history” type books about this music. And they’ve collected an impressive array of stuff—original layouts for milestone records like Minor Threat’s “Salad Days,” personal letters, t-shirts and records. Not flyers, though... and that’s been covered more extensively in other books, anyway.

One of the more interesting pieces is on the graphic design of hardcore, written by a designer/artist/filmmaker named Mark Owens. In his piece “On To Greener Pastures,” Owens traces the evolution of Dischord Records’ visual presentation, pointing out the block, rub-on letters used on the early releases to the transitional nature of the “Salad Days” sleeve. And the lettering sheet is pictured across from a Dada journal from 1923 and it features an X with “DA” in the four quadrants. I don’t know if that was intentional on the part of Dischord co-founder and Minor Threat drummer Jeff Nelson but it’s interesting, nonetheless. And I never knew that the Dischord logo itself was inspired by the Saints’ logo but it’s true.

A lot of ground is covered—the birth of independent punk itself, in the LA and SF scenes, the early 80’s origins with the DC bands, of course, Boston, NYC, LA, the nexus of skating and hardcore, the introduction of graffiti style and the late 80s sXe eruption. Then it goes in different directions in the 90s, such as with the more chaotic-sounding hardcore created by bands on the Gravity label, for whom the visual packaging was just as important as the music inside. There’s a gallery of records and t-shirts that show similarities of design, the use of certain icons, such as the American flag, which is used for more of a patriotic purpose on an Agnostic Front record, but the flag-covered coffins on Hüsker Dü’s “Land Speed Record” and Born Against’s “Nine Patriotic Hymns For Children” cover show how it can make a not-so-subtle political statement in the former’s case and an ironic one in the latter.

A combination of coffee table book (although not really big enough to fit that description) and written history, with a good ratio of each and the book does a pretty decent job covering the subject matter.

REKKIDS AND SUCH...


WARTORN

FPO-Ne/Znaes/Sto/E/Toa/Covek (Third Party, LP/Junk Cola, CD)

FPO/SEEIN RED-Split (Refuse, CD)
SMART BOMB-demo (CD-R)
Wow—“Ne Znaes etc...” is the best stuff I’ve ever heard from the Macedonian band FPO (Forever Positively Obsessed). While the velocity remains from previous material, there’s not as much of the warp-blast and things are kept musically interesting within the band’s hard-edged framework. There’s a tough rock’n’roll quality to “Do You See, Do You Hear?” and “We’re Not In ‘17/’77/’99” (both are English translations). “It’s Other’s Fault” bounces back and forth between medium speed and “Seein’ Red”-inspired thrash. Vasko’s voice sounds like a cross between Kurt from DRI and Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith. Speaking of Seein Red (the band, not the Minor Threat song), FPO’s split CD with the long-time Dutch band came out around a year ago but I got it at the same time as “Ne Znaes.” FPO’s portion is a 14 minute untitled song or “suite” or whatever you want to call it since one segment flows into the next without any separation. The totality of their hardcore musical arsenal appears, ultimately hitting a chaotic conclusion and fading out with a spoken segment in their native language. Seein Red’s speed attack has always been hit and miss and that remains the case here although it’s still a powerful approach. One thing I really enjoyed about this package, though, are the essays written by Vasko from FPO, the guys from Seein Red and Robert from Refuse Records, who lives in Poland. They tell their life stories, talk about their countries and relate it to their love for punk. Vasko comes from the former Yugoslavia and talks about the fall of communism, as does Robert, and how capitalism in each of their countries have had a worsening effect. Finally, Vasko has a new band called Smart Bomb and their four song CD demo is a fairly good start, although they could work on their tightness a bit. Basic, stripped-down old school hardcore. (Third Party: www.myspace.com/thirdxpartyrecords, Refuse: www.refuserecords.prv.pl, Smart Bomb: www.myspace.com/smartxbomb)

KUNG FU KILLERS-Fists Of Fury (BGT, CD)/5 separate 7” singles (Zodiac Killer)
This “mysterious” New Jersey band did an EP on TKO Records in 2001 and are back from... well, somewhere. Rumor has it some people have played in Electric Frankenstein, the Undead and Slap of Reality, to name just a few bands. You have your choice of formats here—13 songs on CD, including three cover songs (Bad Brains, Adolescents and obscure 80s power poppers the Monroes) or 10 of ‘em (sans covers) spread over five 7” singles, limited to 300 sets and, if you put the covers side by side, it forms a panoramic illustration of a ninja attack on the band. The Moby Grape’s record label did that in 1968, simultaneously releasing five singles and an album but KFK don’t sound anything like that. No hippie shit here—in fact, they don’t much care for “Hippies In Punk Clothing.” It’s hardcore punk with a number of older influences, including a strong west coast bent. Naming one of their songs “Raise High The Black Flag” shows the hand a bit—quite a bit with the name-checking of old-school bands. “Fairly energetic and catchy in spots, though hardly groundbreaking. I like the lyrics, “Welcome To The Prison Planet,” about the encroaching police state. (PO Box 294, Whippany, NJ 07981, www.myspace.com/thekungfukillers or www.zodiackillerrecords.com)

LIMB FROM LIMB-Death.Famine.Plague (No Options, LP)
Cheery and heavy sounds. Voetsek had a song about not getting a record if the band’s logo was illegibile and I had to cheat and check the spine to make it out but that’s just a trifling detail. Plenty of volume and the sound is forged from a band like Sacrilege. After the Bombs do a similar thing but there’s no echo on the vocals and the microphone is commanded by a guy (Barnical Byron) and he has an unholy growl Sure, there’s an apocalyptic vision on some songs but, within these dark musical trappings, there are also laments about the day-to-day existence and how people get conditioned and ground down by it. The riffs are bludgeoning and, even if there aren’t really any hooks, Limb From Limb’s sonic pound is more than enough. (PO Box 22285, Oakland, CA 94623, www.myspace.com/nooptionsrecords).

RATIONAL ANIMALS-Perception Becomes Reality (Feral Kid/Crotch Rot, 7” EP)
This is a musical mental breakdown announcement—with guitars, if I may be so bold to make a half-Clash reference (“Know Your Rights”—look it up). Rational Animals create a Flag-ish tumult to muck up your senses. Actually, I make the reference to the four-bar boys due mainly to the guitar slash but there’s a similar darkness, a lurking danger. Howling vocals on the edge of sanity and a shattering sound to give ‘ya nightmares. (29 Custer St., Buffalo, NY 14214, www.myspace.com/feralkidrecords)

RESIST-Resistography (Profane Existence, 2xCD)
With 50 songs and over a dozen live video clips, this is an exhaustive (and exhausting if you play it all at once) compilation from Portland’s Resist, whose heyday was in the early 90s. They definitely drew a page from Final Conflict and, being from Portland, some faster hardcore influences ala Poison Idea definitely rubbed off on ‘em as well. By the time they got around to recording the “Innocence Is Bliss” album in ‘93/94, half done with original vocalist Tom Nims and the other half with his temporary replacement Tony Mengis, they’d tightened up considerably and created some powerful music but all of it is pretty raging. As for the visual content, on the first disc, it’s taken from the early 90s. The stuff on the second disc is from some recent reunion shows and it looks as though that reunion will be permanent. Judging by the live footage, they still sound vital. (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418, www.profaneexistence.com)

RUNS-Piss and Shit (Criminal IQ, 7” EP)
Got this as a CD-R awhile back and now it’s been waxed on CrimIQ. Hmm... considering the title, should I use that term? Too late. This is silly, minimalist punk made by two guys from Ottawa, assisted by their loyal rhythm machine. In fact, there’s an ode to that on “Beatcraft Rules” (“I don’t need no fucking drummer...”) The pain exuded on “Constipation” is more real than any screamo-yowler could ever muster—fiber deficiency is as real as it gets. To quote the ever-quotable Spinal Tap, there’s a fine line between stupid and clever and the Runs know that. I’m not sure if it’s all that clever, but it’s fun, in a novelty sort of way. (3057 N. Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618, www.criminaliq.com)

SBV-Raw Nerve (Mankind, CD)
SBV have been around for a bit but this is their first album. The sound is upbeat, youthful hardcore with Chad’s Dubar-esque vocals, meaning they’re high and soaring but the problem is they’re also off-key quite a bit of time. The other problem is on the thrashier material, they sound disjointed, the problem being the drumming is on the stiff side (not the case for the slower tempos). Well-produced and with buzzing riffs but it doesn’t really hold together all that well. The two earlier 7”s I have featured the same sort of approach and the same weaknesses but the rougher sound quality actually worked to their advantage a bit. Not so much here. I’ll give ‘em kudos for the clever song title “Excuse Me, But Haven’t We Met Before?” and what’s funny is the scream from the song that leads into that one is very similar to the one that ends Minor Threat’s “No Reason.” Does that make sense? (PO Box 265, Bellflower, CA 90707, www.mankindrecords.com)

SAID RADIO-Tidal Waves And Teeth (Mankind, CD)
Well, they didn’t exactly go all-out on the artwork—just a black cover with the band name and title—but this record grew on me a bit after a couple of listens. The latest band for Eric Ozenne, late of the Nerve Agents, Redemption 87 and Unit Pride way back in the day and he’s joined by his Agents compatriot Dante Sigona. Said Radio retain some elements of the Nerve Agents’ dark, edgy hardcore sound and there’s also some TSOL-like nightmarish atmospherics in the guitar sound, as well. I guess the black cover fits the mood. Eric retains the bark ‘n bite but he also sings in a mournful timbre at times. “Cue The Crickets” is probably the closest thing to a throwback hardcore assault but the guitar lines float over the chorus. There’s nearly a self-improvement message to some of these songs—breaking out of life’s ruts, breaking free of self-medication or, in the case of “Killing Her Softly,” anorexia. Not a rerun of past projects but harnessing the intensity into different musical modes. (PO Box 265, Bellflower, CA 90707, www.mankindrecords.com)

SEASICK-Ouroboros (Soulrebel, 12”)
Interestingly, there’s another recent record with this title, that being the Germ Attak LP. It’s a symbol of a snake swallowing its own tail. An endless circle? People doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over? I don’t know crud about Greek Mythology (its origin, apparently) but there’s some heady, near-intellectualized lyrical matter here that cover issues of religion, economic division and even those who wish to separate the political from the punk, to simplify things a bit. This one-sided 12” (the other side has an etching of said snake) begins with a tribal intro called “Fallacies” that gradually builds up before careening into the speed bomb of “Leviathan.” The double-speed hammer assault for “Collapse” isn’t quite as effective but that’s only a brief misstep (and not even a major one) for this band’s dramatic, energetic hardcore sound. There’s a 90s era vibe for me, in terms of pairing musical intensity with esoteric lyricism but this is furious, in-your-face stuff, concluding with a lurching emanation about the “human anguish, pain and evil” brought on by religion. Amen. Incidentally, both this record and the Soulrebel comp reviewed below come with a download card so you can load up your MP3 player with these loud sounds. (www.myspace.com/xsoulrebelrecordsx)

TITANARUM-Spastis Progressivus Aggressiorum (self-released, 7” EP)
Vocalist Kenny Leek used to growl ‘n scream for the underrated Neighbors and this newish San Deigo band have a similarly fast, unfettered hardcore attack, although there’s a little more metal molt/damage in the guitar lines and jerkin’ tempo shifts. Along with the music, Kenny’s lyrics show a man unwilling to tone it down, as it says on “Aging Quickly”—and that’s both musically or in the way he approaches his life. Pessimistic, angry, doubtful, questioning but also maintaining a defiant individualism. A “Muckhead,” as he calls himself. Shit, did this guy just attend the same high school reunion I did? So what’s the coping mechanism? This music, of course—“the spastic bands I that I get to play in/That’s why I live life.” The music keeps him going. Same here. (www.titanarum.net)

VARIOUS-A Tribute To Unnatural Axe—Ruling The World From The Back Seat (Lawless, 2xLP)
The first release on Lawless Records (in 1997) was the “Unnatural Axe is Gonna Kick Your Ass” anthology and, if you need a history lesson, they were one of the early Boston punk bands and they still play out from time time. Their opening salvo was a mega-collectible debut 7” that featured the classic “They Saved Hitler’s Brain” and three other rippers. Snarly, snotty, nasty stuff. So Eric Law and the Axe’s vocalist Richie Parsons have put together a 27 song (plus intro by Rev. Nørb) tribute with bands from around the globe. I’m not too big a fan of tribute albums for the most part and not everything here is particularly mesmerizing but there are some ravaging interpretations. Since the Axe’s oeuvre wasn’t that vast, there are some repeats—four takes on “Summertime,” four “Hitler’s Brains,” three versions of “The Creeper” and a couple of “The Man I Don’t Wanna Be” a later, more melodic/introspective song. Unfortunately, those takes aren’t particularly good—one’s done by The Neighborhoods, who used to be the best live band in Boston ca. ’80 but, these days, sound like a lethargic bar band. Ditto for Classic Ruins’ rendition, another vintage Boston band who had their moments but, once again, it sounds too much like bar rock. Enough negativity. There are other local bands who have come out of retirement or semi-retirement for the occasion. Mission of Burma have actually been back for several years and they capture the seething nature of “The Creeper.” Stranglehold bash their way through “Big Noise” and Jerry’s Kids rock out for “Bombing & Burying.” Dim Stars, a band with Richard Hell and Thurston Moore, do a good job with “The Plug,” from that classic EP. It’s the younger bands (in relative terms) who really breathe life into the songs, though. There are super-raw takes on “Hitler’s Brain” by Italian bands Dick Dastardly and UFO Dictatorz and Germans “Demolition Girl.” Johnny & The Reforms add a Childish/garage bash for “Summertime.” The Mongrolls’ “3 Chord Rock” (another early Axe fave) has plenty of rawness, which is bound to happen when you do it on a four-track in your practice space, as they didOnly 500 of these suckas so you might not want to dawdle. (PO Box 689, Hingham, MA 02043, (elaw@fieldfabrics.com)

VARIOUS-The Right To Assemble Volume Two (Soulrebel, LP)
The first RTA comp came out in the late 90s and was a 7” EP. This time around, there are 21 songs plus a spoken intro about “unity” and “diversity” from a self-described Puerto Rican homosexual skinhead named Pedro Angel Serrano. The comp features bands from New Brunswick, NJ, aka the Hub City. There is musical diversity here and a variance in quality but I think the common thread here is passion, a sense of community, even with the accusations of being “too cliquey” or “too PC,” according to Craig from Degenerics/Kamikaze/Soulrebel. Truth be told, I think that happens in just about every town—certainly in Boston, where there are even factions in the DIY “community.” In any case, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of going through the motions with these bands. All the songs are unreleased New music from the hard-hitting Degenerics is always something to be happy about and that’s followed with an equally intense song from Seasick. Other stirring hardcore comes from the likes of Fanshen, Flash Attacks and RSO, who throw in some cool guitar damage. The Hunchback’s “Creepshow” fuses surfy punk with a near Minutemen vibe. The Ergs’ track is one of the better songs I’ve heard from them. Not as compelling are the more melodic stylings of Scream Hello and Rock, Star. Very few comps are going to satisfy everyone but there wasn’t that much that made me want to move the needle. (www.myspace.com/xsoulrebelrecordsx)

VITAMIN X-Full Scale Assault (Tankcrimes, LP/CD)
VX are back with their first full-length album since 2004’s “Bad Trip” and, even if it’s a cliché to use the expression, “Full Scale Assault” really is the best one they’ve done to date. It was recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago and there’s a boldness and richness in the mix. There’s also a guest appearance from Negative Approach’s John Brannon, who lends his tortured tonsils on a couple of songs. The speed and ferocity remain but there seems to be a slightly more prominent rock ‘n roll flavor here, especially in Mark’s hot guitar licks and willingness to “borrow” a bit, such as the “Detroit Rock City” quotation for “Deal With It.” “Whatcha Gonna Do” mixes some “whoahs” into a driving rock sound. “Time Has Come” favors a crossover tinge. The LP marks the recorded debut of their new drummer Wolfi (also from the Tangled Lines) and he provides a hard-hitting anchor to the sound. Kudos has to be given to the lavish packaging, as well—a gatefold sleeve featuring colorful artwork from John Dyer Baizley of Baroness, a poster, colored vinyl, cardboard inner sleeve, the works. It’s almost as cool as the gatefold for the first Bad Company album. OK, not really... I mean, how could it be? As for the contents inside, they’re quite cool or, more accurately, pulverizing. It’s available on CD but you really need the vinyl here. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609, www.tankcrimes.com)

WAKING THE DEAD/THE SHINING-Thrash Attack (Dead Area/Pick Up, LP)
Two ravenous bands from the Netherlands. I’ve got a couple of EPs by the Shining, but wasn’t familiar with Waking The Dead before. Let’s start with The Shining—I would have said thrash attack even if I hadn’t seen the title. Looking at the band photos, I see a bandana, I see a denim vest with some patches and pins and, as expected, they play in a crossover vein. That’s something they’ve been moving towards since their first EP and this more less completes the transition. A streamlined, speedy sound with crisp execution and some hot guitar riffs ‘n licks. Covering the Accüsed’s “Slow Death” endears them to me, as well. This is definitely from the hardcore side of the street but, really, the lines were blurred (much to some HC purists’ dismay) but I never had any problem with it. Waking The Dead do something stylistically similar although it sounds a tad more metal to my ears. They’re also not quite as instrumentally-adept as the Shining but keep it convincingly-energetic. Bonus points for the purloined Exodus stage banter. (www.skateordiemotherfucker.nl/wakingthedead.html and www.myspace.com/theshiningtrash)

WARTORN-Tainting Tomorrow With The Blood of Yesterday (Crimes Against Humanity/Profane Existence, LP/CD)
Powerful crust-core with a sense of drama and foreboding, while Bitty threatens to tear his innards apart. The lyrics deal with certain topics from a personalized perspective, such as a friend’s suicide after being diagnosed with a terminal disease, dealing with Tourette syndrome and post traumatic stress order (members of the band have those afflictions) and another friend’s arrest on trumped up fraud charges—that were ultimately dismissed—while he was helping out with Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. There’s a weight and gravitas to the band’s sound but it maintains a driving hardcore edge, as well, as they bash through Poison Idea’s “Taken By Surprise” (they also cover State of Fear’s “Bloodthirsty System”). The vinyl version has a gatefold sleeve and poster—I’m not really into the skeleton imagery although I suppose it matches the mood. The musical contents are fine, though. (www.cahrecords.com, www.profaneexistence.com)

THE YOUNG-s/t (Criminal IQ, 7” EP)
Inside this colorful sleeve that features a collage of birds on one side and sea life on the other, you’ll find record containing a scrappy combination of melodic punk done with a garage bash. The tunefulness emerges from the mess instead of being obvious and the last song, “Cemetery Song,” has chiming guitar and a dense swirl to bring a more primitive, stripped-down My Bloody Valentine to mind. It’s very poppy but with plenty of edge and that’s the case throughout. (3057 N. Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618, www.criminaliq.com)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #67

LOST CAUSE

WRITER’S BLOCK REALLY SUCKS

I figured it was time to post what I’d written lately, since it’s been over a month and despite the fact I’ve been suffering from miserable writer’s block. I mean, I get a lot of cool records, I play them but it’s sometimes tough to come up with an original way to describe records that I thoroughly enjoy but have to rehash the same words over and over to the point where it might become boring for the reader. Or become one run-on sentence! So this may not be my best work but read between the lines and it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out what’s lighting a fire under you-know-where. And I'm going to keep hammering away at that pile of records and books and DVDs and...

BALLAST-Fuse (Inimical, LP)
Inimical did a remaster of this Montreal band’s album and it was released earlier this year. Melodic crust but the guitars aren’t downtuned and Spoke’s vocals have a rasp but are sung clearly and forcefully. And the haunting quality on a song like “Untitled” has a Wipers-ish feel, as well. I’m not always into the somberness but there’s a warmth and richness paired with the band’s aggressive drive. (PO Box 2803, Seattle, WA 98111, www.inimical.com)

BROWN SUGAR-Deportation EP (Feral Kid, 7”)
The title of the EP is in reference to their vocalist Eddie’s “undocumented” status but that’s the only song with any sort of mention of the immigration issue. The balance of the time, it’s the laundry list of plaints against conformity, big-mouths and the like. Energetic hardcore with a few west-coast elements; basically, it’s loud and catchy (well, my definition of catchy) rough-hewn fodder. (379 Ontario St., Buffalo, NY 14207, xFeral_Kidx@yahoo.com)

CEREMONY-Still Nothing Moves You (Bridge Nine, CD)
Unpredictable, often explosive hardcore from Ceremony. There are brutalizing, hammering properties but also intros and bridges with ominous and droning elements. The instrumental “Overcast,” for instance, leads into the furious “Birth.Conspire. Be. Upset.” The opening song “Dead Moon California (Midnight In Solitude)” slowly builds up and develops over a few minutes until the soul-scream comes in. Quite a dramatic entrance. Their earlier records also had a kinetic attack but, this time out, it comes across as more focused and they’re the better for it. (www.bridge9.com)

CHRIST ON PARADE-Loud and Live-KFJC-08/15/07 (Prank, CD)
A live on the radio recording from the reunited Christ on Parade and they sound like they haven’t lost one step. People can bandy the whole reunion argument back and forth but these songs from the mid-80s spring to life and maintain the aggressive nature. This was a time where things were crossing over a bit and maybe there was the occasional hint of that here but COP still found themselves very much on the thrashy hardcore punk side of the street. If you’re curious, this is the lineup that appeared on “Sounds Of Nature,” with Barrie on vocals. And, as history repeats itself ad infinitum, the lyrics maintain their resonance. OK, the reference to “Ron” on “Another Country” is of its time but lines like “We do it all for the rich/we’re buried in a corporate ditch” may not qualify as poetry but I’d say it’s still relevant. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)

COLA FREAKS-Dødt Batteri/Nej! (Local Cross, 7”)
Two jittery gems by the Danish Freaks. Enough rock-crit speak. The Cola Freaks’ first EP (which is all I’d heard up to this point) had a jabbing, stripped down punk sound and it’s maintained here while also adding some haunting melody to the mix. “Dødt Batteri” has a pronounced nervousness, especially vocally. Flip it over and there’s a slightly more straight-forward riff but the tension still bubbles. Definitely a step up for these guys. (16 ½ Suffolk St., Cambridge, MA 02139, www.bloodstainrecords.com/localcross)

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST-Life’s Hateful Seed (Inimical, LP)
A provocative band name isn’t enough... you’ve got to have the sound to back it up and, once again, that’s the case for this trio. There’s a familiarity with JFC that harkens back to bands like Christ on Parade and, with some of the bass-lines, Final Conflict. I could see this coming out on Alchemy Records in the late 80s. Flirting with metal, at times, and also packed with haunting riffs. Vocals going back and forth and if one of ‘em’s a little too cookie monster-ish for my tastes, it’s not a deal-breaker. They also go instrumental for the foreboding “Forty-Third” (about a certain 43rd president about to leave office, one wonders?). And I don’t know what pissed these guys off about the 924 Gilman space in Berkeley, as they rant on “A Living Hell,” but it sounds like they mean it with the refrain “Jesus fucking christ! You’re all assholes! Jesus fucking christ! Go to fucking hell!” Incidentally, not that it really matters and this is a complete non-sequitur but I found out recently that their bass-player Dave Ed is also in Neurosis, who I saw on my honeymoon at, of all places, 924 Gilman! (PO Box 2803, Seattle, WA 98111, www.inimical.com)

LIBYANS-s/t (Upstate Chamber of Commerce, 12”)
Since this band’s 7”, Libyans have had a change in guitarists and the sound is slightly more stripped-down, with less distortion on the guitar. Still, the older lineup wrote most of the songs here and it remains a strong combination of fast old school hardcore and more melodic, west coast punk properties—especially for “Missing Pills.” Also, as with that 7”, the packaging is really cool, with a transparency over the cover and it came with a Libyans wooden airplane, which has been getting a lot of use around here and, fortunately, I still haven’t broken any lamps or windows. One of my favorite local bands over the past year or two. (www.myspace.com/thelibyansarecoming)

LOGIC PROBLEM-s/t (Sorry State, 7” EP)
Some slammin’ hardcore, with four songs culled from two different sessions and there’s definitely a noticeable difference. The “-“ (or negative) side has a rough, demo-like quality with a thorny, gnarled guitar sound leading the way through the slammin’ tunes. Things don’t get much prettier on the other side, since it remains a wailin’ attack but the production has a tad more punchiness but the rawness remains a part of it. Those songs do have more presence, though. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510, www.sorrystaterecords.com)

LOST CAUSE-Walk Alone (Love The Music, Hate The Scene, 7” EP)
Four blazing new songs from this Philly band, their second piece of vinyl. The opening song “Ending Time,” in addition to being a virulent critique of shallow interactions and the search for “meaning” in life (amen, Brother Ned), has a hint of rock ‘n roll swagger. “Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds” also follows a medium-paced blueprint while the other pair of songs have a go-for-the-throat speediness as Ned spits out the angry words of alienation. Still pissed, still raging. (www.myspace.com/trackedtofail)

OUT COLD/FOR THE WORSE-Split (Kangaroo/Even Worse, 7” EP)
No bullshit hardcore and a perfect pairing. That’s pretty much all that needs to be said but I imagine a little elaboration wouldn’t be a bad thing. Well, Out Cold don’t need any sort of deep explanation. The three songs here are pure roughness although “Colder” changes the pace and throws in some formidable lead breaks. For The Worse keep up the raw pace with a tight, classic sound and include a solid version of Cops and Robbers’ “Dropping Like Flies”—now, there was an underrated Boston band. Mike McCarthy barks away in typically rabid fashion and the songs possess the usual ferocity. (www.geocities.com/tysonkanagroo or www.geocities.com/evenworserecords/)

RAMMING SPEED

RAMMING SPEED-Brainwreck (Teenage Disco Bloodbath, CD)
Thrash metal maniacs who also embrace some NWOBHM moves—you should have heard their live cover of Grim Reaper’s “See You In Hell”--but the spirit of ’87 is the main emphasis. While there’s a nod and a wink in the execution, it’s interesting that the lyrics explore some serious topical issues. Well, sometimes—“Shane Embury Is The Brad Pitt Of Grindcore” is a tribute to the Napalm Death bassist. But “Immigrant Song” is about nativism, “Bogus Facade” deals with racism and “Speed Trials” deals with the drudgery of day to day existence (actually, for the latter two songs, that’s a timeless theme). Shredding with a sense of purpose. (www.tdbrecords.com)

SHELL SHOCK-Comics, Transformers, & Punk (multi label, 7” EP)
Sadly, this ends up being a posthumous release—not only the band’s recorded swan-song but, more poignantly, in that vocalist Jeff DiLorenzo passed away earlier this year at the way-too-young age of 32. That’s something difficult to get my mind around. This five song EP was released as a tribute to Jeff and given away at a benefit show for a non-kill animal shelter. Continuing in the same no-bullshit hardcore vein as their fine album a few years back (with their original vocalist Andy). That means blunt, aggressive sounds and lyrics. Scoot, their guitarist, mentioned that he wasn’t satisfied with the three songs on the b-side but I think the roughness adds something to it. And there’s a sad irony to the opening song “Not Like You,” with the chorus that states, in part, “I may have inherited my father’s addictions, but I refuse to live with his curse... You may be gone but I wish you were here/Unlike you I’ll do something good with my life.” I hope that Jeff found that sort of satisfaction during his brief life. (www.myspace.com/shellshock)

SMART COPS-s/t (Sorry State, 7” EP)
Italian band with people from the late, great La Piovra and Ohuzaru. As with La Piovra, it’s a fast/rough hardcore punk attack with a whole lotta snot. There’s a mid-tempo thump for the righteously rockin’ “La Soffiagta” and “Tra Le Reclute Un Pessimo Soggetto. No idea what it’s about but I suppose I could punch it into a translator. I’ll tell you this much—if Italian is one of the romance languages, the Smart Cops are trying to refute that tradition. Their tradition is punk fuckin’ rock and that’s something worth preserving. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510, www.sorrystaterecords.com)

SPECIAL PATROL GROUP-s/t (tape)
Just ripping old-school hardcore with a skate punk flavor on occasion and an anti-authoritarian bent—what else would you expect with songs like “Ignorant Assholes” and “Destroy”? Wouldn’t mind hearing more from these guys. (www.myspace.com/spgspecialpatrolgroup)

STATIONS-s/t (Abiology, 12”)
Stations, in case you hadn’t heard of ‘em before (I did review a previous 7”) are a Philadelphia wrecking machine that let forth a formidable hardcore sound. Vocalist Kane sounds as though he’s trying to expel demons or at least a particularly awful Geno’s cheese steak from his inner being. Or perhaps he’s vegan or has the common sense not to patronize such a lousy establishment, since their food is always awful and they’re right-wing assholes, anyway. No matter. Stations have a sound that brings 9 Shocks to mind, especially in the vocal dept. In other words, it careens like a motherfucker, with an abundance of speed and hot riffs. All of ‘em fast, except for a slight respite with “Recycled Air,” which closes the first side. J. Robbins’ recording brings out a fullness without making it sound overproduced, keeping the rawness a part of the equation. Lyrical concerns tie together, for one thing, a sterile middle class existence and consumption, while “Shepards” is a critique of band reunions that are divorced from any sort of sincerity and how that inspires a defiant DIY attitude. Blazin’. (www.myspace.com/stationspunx)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #66


THE LAST POGO

It was the spring of 1978 and I was listening to one of my favorite radio shows, The Demimonde, on one of the local college stations. I had the tape deck ready to go and the host with the odd moniker Oedipus (whose real name is Eddie Hyson) announced a song by a Toronto band called Teenage Head. Over the intro to the song, Oedi went “you’re tearin’ me apart honey.” It was one rockin’ tune, still a favorite. And, it turns out, a different version from the one that appeared on their debut single of the same name, possibly a demo version. In any case, I’ve never heard/seen it anywhere else so I imagine I have something of a rarity, there. Actually, some months before that, Circus Magazine, which generally covered more mainstream rock and pop and with little of the irreverance of Creem, has a “Punk Rock Special” issue in November of 1977. Henry Winkler was staring out from the cover, there were pieces on Foghat, Black Oak—they’d dropped the Arkansas by then and Jim Dandy Mangrum was calling himself JD--and the woman who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. There was also a Star Wars poster of C3PO. So it was as much for the nerds as the rockers.

The “punk special” had kind of a world-wide roundup with the usual suspects, although some of the descriptions were rather humorous—Generation X were “ghoul rock”? Maybe due to Billy’s shock-white hair but I can’t think of another reason anyone would use that description. There were small segments on LA, Boston and then Chicago, Ohio and Toronto. A few bands were mentioned including Teenage Head and the Viletones (“with their lead singer Nazi Dog”) With the latter, I was simultaneously repulsed and intrigued and, once I heard the two (or was it three?) chord buzzsaw riff, the repulsion went out the window.

I was thinking about those introductions to Toronto punk while watching “The Last Pogo,” a documentary about the city’s punk scene ca. 1978. Actually, this 26 minute piece, shot in 16mm, is a document of the last show at a venue called the Horseshoe Tavern, which had hosted punk gigs for the previous 9 months. Each band is represented by one song plus there’s commentary from band and audience members between each song and the best one comes from the vocalist of a band that wasn’t invited to play—that’s Mickey DeSadist, mastermind behind the Forgotten Rebels (of “Surfin’ On Heroin” fame, who were actually from Hamilton). He calls the event “one big farce” and complains that they can’t take a real punk band. He then starts mocking the voice of the Mods’ frontman and the film goes right into this skinny tie band’s performance. Actually, Mickey has a point about the annoying nature of that guy’s melodramatic timbre. In a more positive vein, the two guys named Gary behind the bookings talk about their motivation, which basically boiled down to booking music they loved and said the “new generation deserves recognition.”

Punk is a fairly broad definition here. The Scenics had a Who-ish/60s beat influence. There’s a little of that with the Cardboard Brains, Secrets and Mods, as well. The Ugly, on the other hand had the pure punk snottiness and attitude. Ditto for the Viletones and things started getting rowdier during their set. The cops eventually showed up to shut things down, due to overcrowding but Teenage Head still got to do one song, “Picture My Face.” That’s a fairly laid-back song in their repertoire--who knows what would have happened if they’d played one of their faster-paced songs. Actually, things did get smashed up anyway when it was announced the show was over. A chaotic conclusion.

This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to see live footage of these bands and it definitely whets the appetite for more. Because, while not all the bands here are mesmerizing, I’m a punk history buff and enjoyed seeing it documented at the time it unfolded, as opposed to a more “modern” take like “American Hardcore.” Just a few extras—commentary by Chris Haight from the Viletones that you can play with the film and there’s also a full recorded-in-the-studio set from the Scenics that showcases their taut approach.

And here’s some good news. Brunton is doing a more comprehensive film, “The Last Pogo Jumps Again, about the punk scene there from ’76 to ’78. He’s also set up a website, www.thelastpogo.net, with a blog that includes updates, stories, etc. plus ordering info for the DVD.

AVSKUM (Boston, 2005)

WORKING ON THE REVIEW PILE

Once again, the caveat that some of these records have been out for awhile but just came into my possession. Hey, better late than never. I suppose, anyway.

ADRENALIN OD-The Wacky Hijinks of... (Chunksaah, 2xCD)
Thrashin’ was AOD’s business and they were quite proficient at it, especially on these recordings. This double disc includes their debut album plus there’s a second disc that features their “Let’s Barbecue” EP, live stuff (including a complete set from Pat Duncan’s show on WFMU in ’82) and a few other obscurities. Raw throughout but introducing some sneaky rock ‘n roll touches by the time the album was recorded in ’84, with a thickened up two guitar attack. Most (all?) of this material was released on Grand Theft Audio’s “Sittin’ Pretty” AOD anthology in the mid-90s but I’d say this usurps it.You want speed? You want volume? You got it here, along with a wise-assed worldview that was always one of AOD’s winning characteristics. And what a wicked wit they had, right down to barbs at sports cars, cock rockers and other thorns in their collective side. It’s obvious they had an anti-norm (for want of a better term) attitude. Lyrics like “How are you? Who cares? Why even talk if you get nowhere/Idle talk for idle minds/I got better things to do than waste my time” on “Small Talk” could be on any modern-day hardcore record written by this generation of misfits. It’s a timeless sentiment, in other words. Is it possible to sound pissed off while having a great time? These speed mavens proved those qualities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I mean, how serious can you be when writing songs like “Hijack the Senior Citizen’s Bus.” The antithesis of tough-guy hardcore but holding their own in the aggro sweepstakes. (PO Box 977, Asbury Park, NJ 07712, www.chunksaah.com)

AVSKUM-Uppror Underifrån (Prank, CD)

A molotov mix of perfected Swede-core and lyrical anger—Avskum are back, once again, to blast through the dreck. They’ve honed it down to the essence—blazing riffs driven by rumbling bass and crashing drums. Three of the songs are in English, the rest in Swedish and it’s not too tough to ascertain that these guys are quite pissed about the state of the world—I don’t even need to look up “Masskonsumtions Helevetet” to know where they’re coming from. One little wrinkle that stood out was the undistorted riff that begins “The Massacre In Fallujah,” before the burn kicks in. Incidentally, that’s about an American obliteration of an Iraqi village. My advice? Plant yourself between the speakers and prepare for the bombardment. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)

Gx3-En Nuevo Enemigo (Lengua Armada, LP)

The name (alternately spelled G3 or G-3) comes from the fact all three members of this band have first names that start with “G.” Simple, eh? Gx3 were from Peru and formed from the ashes of Autopsia (Cochebomba Records released a 7” of that band awhile back). This has been a widely-circulated demo over the years and is now available in a more permanent format. A rough-sounding recording that doesn’t hinder this band’s energetic approach. A mix of hardcore and early 80s UK punk, all of it fairly tuneful. There are also times where they draw from a US influence, especially 7 Seconds. That’s particularly true for “Presion” and “En Tus Ojos (Nunca Mas), right down to the “woooahs” on the former. A fine punk rock excavation and with a creative hand-made sleeve. (martincrudo@yahoo.com)

GAUZE-Binbou Yusuri No Rizumu Ni Notte (Prank, 12”)
I had to copy the title of the album from the Prank website, since the translations for the song titles are clumsy—the title loosely translates to “Riding In The Rhythm of the Poverty Shaking.” But is it really necessary to be concerned with these types of details when it comes to the unholy sound that Gauze unleashes? I don’t think so. The band’s first record in over ten years rages like a motherfucker. A raw, uncompromising 13 minute onslaught, favoring a razor-sharp guitar attack , rabidly delivered vocals and drumming that flails away without letup. Would you expect anything different? Once again, I don’t think so. And the cover art looks like the Gauze logo as interpreted by Van Gogh (or someone inspired by him), as tumultuous looking as the music in the grooves. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)

LOST BOYS-s/t (Shogun/multi-label)/Fuck You (Still Holding On, 7” EP)
A new EP and a vinyl pressing of their demo (that’s the record with “Fuck You” on the cover). This French band know how to kick out the rough ‘n ready punk rock. One of those bands who bring a hardcore attitude to a garage-tinged sound. Or maybe it’s a garage attitude to hardcore. I don’t know but bands like Dean Dirg are very good at that kind of mix ‘n match to create a sound that grabs ‘ya and the Lost Boys are no exception. A fatalism in the lyrics and also a desire to stay out of the workaday environment and climb trees or lie on the grass—hard to argue with that. And, on “Nerds,” a willingness to let the world burn as long as the record collection stays intact and the cover of the new EP reflects that sentiment. It reminds me of when my house got flooded and the first question people asked me was if my records were OK (they were). These two records (and the demo one is limited to 300) are worth protecting and, more importantly, playing nice ‘n loud. (Band contact: http://stillholdingon.free.fr/lostboys)

NOISE A GO GO-Rock ‘n’ Noise Grind ‘n’ Roll (HG Fact, CD)
Like it says in the album title and it is a weird kitchen-sink combo, a stylistic collision, often in the same song. An amped-up trad rock/blues/garage framework throwing in blast beats and low-register growls accompanied by some shrieks. It’s a mess—and that’s the intent. It’s also giving me a mixed response—it’s a lot of fun on first listen but there’s also something of a novelty element and it’s questionable as to whether it would stand up to repeated listening. There’s definitely a fun atmosphere, though, and I can’t say I’ve heard anything quite like this in recent memory. (www.interq.or.jp/japan/hgfact)

PISSCHRIST-Victims Of Faith (Yellow Dog, CD)
The Australian terror known as Pisschrist return with another burning dose of crust-core. No surprises, no change in formula—just loud ‘n fast Scandinavian-inspired wreckage. Vocals that are hoarse beyond belief and pounding riffage and drumming. I mean, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before but lest that come across as damning with faint praise, this is a solid effort. Hopefully they’ll get back to the states so I can stop whining about missing them in ’07. (www.yellowdog.de/)

SACRED SHOCK-s/t (Schizophrenic, 7” EP)

In case you forgot or didn’t see my review of their demo, Sacred Shock are from Texas and include three of the four members from Army Of Jesus, with a new vocalist. Speedy hardcore punk punctuated by Alex’s hoarse vocals and and plenty of guitar pyrotechnics, from the string scrape on “Overshadowed//Underestimated” to the speed metal trill on “Double Standards,” which also has feisty circle pit break. Some of those guitar lines also add a dash of melody to the proceedings but make no mistake—this is obliteration. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)

SLANG-The Immortal Sin (Schizophrenic, CD)

Savage sounds on the latest from this veteran Japanese band and age ain’t slowing them down one iota. An overdriven Discharge influence imbued with searing guitar and punishing drums, accompanied by the obligatory harsh vocalizing. It’s not cookie cutter tribute, either, but just one element of their attack. One ripper after another and achieving the desired (by this listener) gut punch. I’m writing euphemistically, of course. There are four cover versions appended onto the disk, including yet another take of Negative Approach’s “Ready to Fight”—and it’s the second time they’ve done it, with the previous version on a comp called “Back On The Streets.” More interesting are their versions of songs by Kuro, Ratos De Porao and Ripcord which adapt well to their full-bore pillage. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)

SLOPPY SECONDS-Endless Bummer (Kid Tested, CD)

Wow, I didn’t know these guys were still around. But it’s now two decades of naughtiness from Sloppy Seconds. Their calling card has always been catchy punk in a similar vein as the Queers, Weasel, etc and these guys started in the same decade. No Johnny-come-latelys, in other words. The source for all of those bands was the Ramones—and tribute is paid with “You Can’t Kill Joey Ramone.” BA sounds as snotty as ever and there’s more of a pronounced rasp this time around. Tweaking the PC sensibilities with a song like “Thanks For The Mammaries.” Still, the boys are getting more responsible in their old age—“Let Me See Your Driver’s License” urges care in checking the age of a potential partner lest one be busted for statutory rape. Ummm... moving right along... “Everybody Hates The United States” has a souped-up Beach Boys inspiration and straddles the line between satire and flag-waving. And they cover Sweet’s “Action” (my favorite song by the band), turning it into more of a pop/punk song than the more hard rockin’ pulse of the original but it’s tough enough for me. Proving that tuneful doesn’t have to mean wimpy. (www.kidtestedrecords.com)

VARIOUS-I Thrash, Therefore I Am (Schizophrenic, LP)

This compilation of vintage international hardcore sounds originally came out on BCT as a cassette in 1985 and also had a CD release some years back with 55 songs (as opposed to the 30 here). No complaints, here. That’s impossible when you drop the needle down and get assaulted by Mob 47’s classic raw thrash and that’s just for starters. I’m sure the connoisseur is familiar with the likes of Anti-Cimex, Enola Gay and Moderat Likvidation but Product Assar, Existenz and Akutt Innleggelse (including a future member of Turbonegro!) might not be as well known. The blueprint is loud, fast ‘n buzzing and done in wanton fashion. For people who are unaware of BCT’s history, it was a tape-only label that featured a wide array of bands from all over the world and, along with comps like “Welcome To 1984” and “Cleanse The Bacteria,” introduced many of us ‘mericans to formidable noise outside the country. After hearing Raw Power’s “Fuck Authority” on “WT84,” for instance, I sent away for BCT’s Raw Power release. I look at a comp like this an introduction to spur further exploration. It provides an impetus to track down more music by these bands. In those pre-internet days (aka the Dark Ages!), you relied on trading with pen-pals overseas to dig even further. Hopefully, that’ll be the case with this album. Nicely packaged with the insert/foldout featuring an interview with Chris BCT where he tells the story behind the label. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #65

.... another long overdue installment. Once again, my apologies...

BRAIN KILLER

CATCHING UP ON SOME MORE LOCAL DEMOS


Brain Killer’s 8 song tape is, pardon the pun, totally fucking killer and this is one of the better new local bands to come along in a bit. Including folks from Libyans (Marcus Benamati, trading in his guitar for a microphone) and Terminal Youth. Raw, aggressive distorted hardcore with each song flowing into the next with a flourish of feedback and punctuated by searing guitar, rampaging bass and drums and Marcus’s bowel-moving growl. Sure, there’s the Dis-aspect (Dis-respect? Never mind...) but some variations in tempo and arranging separate it from your run-of-the-mill rehashing of dis sound. (610 Cambridge St., Allston, MA 02134, DIYcrust@yahoo.com)

The women in Eunuch offer bass-driven lurch ‘n grind, mainly the former. Slow and ominous before erupting into a blast zone. Eunuch recently added a guitar player to their lineup—or, more accurately, a creator of feedback but Liz Panella’s thick, heavy bass lines remain the focal point, along with Nay Rosario’s soul-screaming vocals. (59 Myrtle St., Somerville, MA 02145, eunuchcave@gmail.com)

Draize’s CD-R demo has the lurching element, as well, along with whirlwind thrash parts. Laying down some fierce, heavy sounds and the lyrics, angrily expelled by Tom, even bring up some local topics, such as a bio-lab being built in the South End of Boston that’s created quite a bit of controversy. (11 Alleghany St. #1, Boston, MA 02120, xdraizex@gmail.com)

Male Nurses’ full-tilt thrash makes a pretty good impression and that was further proven seeing them live. Ranting vocals and a thorny attack on this brief 5 song demo that includes a cover of Koro’s “Dear Sirs.” These guys need to get in a real studio pronto. (hotmalenurses@gmail.com)

Morne’s debut demo is actually a proper CD release, jewel case and all. Doom ‘n gloom, as you’d expect, incorporating heavy riffs. The demo is introduced with tribal rhythms with a melodic/somber undertow and former Filth of Mankind guitarist Milosz’s pained vocals don’t appear until six minutes in. That soon turns over to the relatively sprightlier “Force.” And while there are lumbering pieces, Morne also choose to pick up the pace fairly frequently. The atmospheric keyboards are something that Morne have eschewed live and, given that they’re going to re-record these songs for a “proper” release, I don’t think they’d be missed. Think Amebix and “Souls At Zero” period Neurosis and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. An epic ‘n heavy approach. (www.myspace.com/mornecrust)

...AND NOW THE REST OF THE STORY, UH, REVIEWS...

ANTIDOTE-No Communication (Rodent Popsicle, CD)
Just in case you didn’t know, this is the veteran Dutch band Antidote, not the early 80s NYHC band. Uptempo, no BS punk rock with an adequate amount of drive ‘n burn. Drawing from the more tuneful side of the early 80s UK spectrum ala One Way System or Partisans, for instance. Yep, been done before and they’ve stuck to their guns for a decade, now. It’ll get the kids with the mohawks running in circles in no time flat and it gets this old fart’s toe tapping from time to time. Just don’t expect any sort of mind-blowing revelation. (PO Box 1134, Allston, MA 02134, www.rodentpopsicle.com)

BRING DOWN THE HAMMER-s/t (Know, CD)
When I got this album from BDTH vocalist/guitarist Chad Malone, he mentioned how psyched he was to be playing hardcore again, as he did with Brother Inferior and Assembly of God. The urge to rage continues to grab at his being and it comes out loud and clear with the sentiments expressed. As you would expect, given his past lyrical history, Chad continues to have a major issue with religion and also throws barbs at reactionary “pundit” Ann Coulter and those who suppress the rights of the worker. On the more positive side, there’s a salute to the over-30 punk folks with the street-punk flavored “Never Give In, Never Give Up.” Musically, it’s mainly a barrage of double-speed thrash with some more measured arranging from time to time and, truth be told, those are the best songs here. I also smiled when the first riff heard on the album nicks from Love’s “7 and 7 Is,” leading right into the pillage of “Bring Down The Hammer.” For a complete changeup, the album ends with a punked-up treatment of folk song “The World Turned Upside Down,” a modernized version of a Diggers protest song from the 17th century and it was also covered by Billy Bragg (thank you Wiki)... I’m not going to write a book report here—look it up, if you’re curious. I’ll let other reviewers use the “hammering” description and, uh, I just did. Fits, too. (PO Box 90579, Long Beach, CA 90809, www.knowrecords.com)

FIX MY HEAD-s/t (Vinyl Addict, 7” EP)
When the wife and I visited SF in 2000, we went to a show at Mission Records (RIP). If memory serves me correctly, I wasn’t really familiar with the bands and one of them, Scurvy Dogs, blew me away. Some years later, Matt’s got a new band, Fix My Head, and these guys are also quite ass-kickin.’ You need the lyric sheet to figure out what Matt’s ranting about and it runs the gamut from environmentalism on “Garbage Existence” and “Swirling Vortex” to “jock edge violence,” as he puts it on “I Sharted My Pantaloons.” Semi-raw production brings out the thrashy intensity to blast a hole in your skull, euphemistically speaking. For a non-euphemistic flavor, just put it on, crank it and prepare to bowled over by the savagery. (1835 De Bourgogne, Sherbrooke, Quebec, CANADA, J1J 1B1, www.vinyladdictrecords.com)

ICON GALLERY-s/t (Dear Skull, 7”)
A couple of people in this band—vocalist Chani and bass-player Aaron—used to be in Die Screaming (aka Aphasia) but this takes a much more melodic route. Mid-tempo rock with searing guitar lines and a solid bass/drums foundation, accompanying Chani’s dramatic vocals—and she’s still capable of summoning an angrier side. These two songs have plenty of forceful presence. (www.myspace.com/dearskullrecords)

I HATE THIS-Serious/KILLIN’ IT-Party 4 Ever (Give Praise/self-released, 7” EP) RAW SEWAGE/I HATE THIS-split (BS Propaganda/Give Praise, 7” EP)
A pair of splits, both of ‘em including I Hate This, who have a murderous-sounding style. Fast, piledriving hardcore thrash along with some impassioned lyrics and that includes topics that aren’t very ordinary—such as the commodification of herbal medicine (their vocalist De is a herbalist). And “Reprieve” is a gutsy revelation of a sexual assault. There’s even a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut. Those all come from the split with Killin’ It. All of their songs serve as visceral primal scream therapy and they’ve come quite a way from their first demo. Moving on to their vinyl partners (sounds interesting!), Killin’ It are a compatible pairing. Good ‘ol ripping thrash, albeit with some monorhythmic drumming affecting things a little. Raw Sewage operate in more of death metal/grind realm, not really offering anything particularly memorable. (www.myspace.com/wehatethis, www.bspropaganda.com, www.givepraiserecords.com)

KULTURKAMPF-Existence EP (Trench Rot, 7” EP)
Crusty stuff with metallic overtones and at its best for “Whores Of War,” which follows a good ‘n raging blueprint and their cover of Aus-Rotten’s “Fuck Nazi Sympathy” isn’t too bad. On the other hand, the death-metal fodder of “Existence” is an ill-advised side step. The vocal grunts hurt things—I never understood why bands opt for something that detracting. The first song shows some promise but still nothing all that spectacular.
(www.myspace.com/upthebonerpunx)

LEGIT!-s/t (Loud Punk/Shit Son!, 7” EP)
Legit! pack their music with a sense of foreboding and drama, contained within a framework of powerful hardcore. The howling vocals are accompanied by a combination of thrash and the occasional technical flourish in the guitar playing, with an on-a-dime navigation between tempos. The lyrics read more like prose taken from a journal and lash out at conformity and complacency, to shine something of a light on it—and that’s in the punk scene as well. That’s presented on “Legitimacize,” where people “dream of a brighter world through colored vinyl.” Because, as we all know, that’s what leads to change, right? “Three cheers for all the punx.” My kind of sarcasm and those words are accompanied by a musical attack that reinforces the overall cynical outlook. (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12203, loudpunx@gmail.com)

MASSGRAV-This War Will Won By Meat Eaters (Sound Pollution, CD)

The air-raid warning sounds and the blitzkrieg commences. Double-speed thrash craziness, a pair of vocalists hoarsely screaming out the words. I was thinking it had something in common with the speed-blitz of fellow Swedes Diskonto and it reminded me that they did a split together some years back. The instrumentation has a chainsaw intensity but really loses something with the blinding tempos. Standard lament—it’s still a powerful sound, regardless. And the lyrical synopses are to the point. My favorite: “Let’s fact it—your life sucks and it ain’t gonna get better.” Definitely not posi youth, here. (PO Box 11742, Covington, KY 41017, www.sound-pollution.com)

RELIGIOUS AS FUCK

MEHKAGO NT-s/t (Vinyl Rites, 12” EP)

RELIGIOUS AS FUCK-Collection (Drugged Conscience, tape)

RELIGIOUS AS FUCK/MEHKAGO NT-split (No Idea, 7” EP)

I let Mehkago NT’s 12” sit for too long and that’s a pity ‘cause it’s a crusher. A heavy sound with an arsenal of speed and heaviness. I hesitate to call it crust but it’s definitely got some elements of that, especially in the gutteral howlings and lyrical negativity. The leadoff track is called “Negative Outlook,” in fact. Their new split with Floridians Religious As Fuck continues in a similar vein. Moving on to RAF, they’ve got more of a thrashy hardcore punk approach but not in the early 80s sense. This is angry and visceral music and taking it up another level from their debut 7” (which was quite good). Blazing loud/fast fodder. The cassette collection includes the tracks from this split and their first, self-titled 7” plus, on the b-side of the tape, a live performance. Everything here, from both bands, provides a potent soundtrack for these bleak times. (Vinyl Rites: PO Box 924, Gainesville, FL 32602, vinylrites@gmail.com/Drugged Conscience: 5140 Tamarind Ridge Dr., Naples, FL 34119, www.druggedconscience.com/No Idea, PO Box 14636, Gainesville, FL 32604, www.noidearecords.com)

SHORT CHANGED-Burn Down Wagon Town (Goat Power Recreation/Pyrate Punx, 7” EP)

Lovely green/gray vinyl mixture and, in the grooves, this is romping, stomping fast hardcore punk. “Bottle or The Knife” is another song offering a reflection on ones life and, as they put it, “how you deal with it is the key.” Amen to that and this band’s charged sound. Down with the (Oakland) Raiders but up with the Pyrates! (http://pyratepunxrecords.com)

SOCIALCIDE-Unapproachable (Even Worse/Kangaroo, 12”)
A hot mix, with these dozen songs spread over 12 inches of wax. Hmm... perverted description—again? (second time this blog!) Anyway, the production is cleaned up a bit from their other records and doesn’t suffer at all. Blazing, no BS hardcore punk with a pretty negative attitude or perhaps, more accurately, impatient and accusatory. “SDA,” for instance, which stands for “Stupid Drunk Asshole.” Even the double-speed moments are done with ruthless efficiency. Poison Idea provides some of the inspiration and a song like “Will Call” has an old-school west coast ‘core flavor, as well. Really comin’ into their own here. (www.geocities.com/evenworserecords or www.geocities.com/tysonkangaroo)

STATE-Sanctimony EP (Punks Before Profits, 7” EP)
The State continue to crank out the vinyl and, once again, they’re blasting out the thrashy punk with rawness and anger. The lyrics are fragmentary sentences and blunt in their intent—critiques of “white male dumbinance,” to quote BGK and, at the end of the day, owning up to being a bleeding heart, raging against social Darwinism and shitty politicians. Some impressively sputtering git-playing from Mr. Art Tendler to accompany Preston’s emanations and his style has always been a defining factor for this band. Another effective, pissed-off missive. (www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #64


THE CONVERSIONS’ LAST WALTZ

Hey, that’s what the band called it, not me. And it comes from the Band’s documentary (directed by Marty Scorcese, no less) of their final show in 1976. Of course, like many “classic rock” bands, they did reform in the 80s—well, most of ‘em, anyway. So now it’s 2008 and the Conversions were playing their “last ever” show, since vocalist Terry Cuozzo will be moving to Austin. This noisy soiree occurred at the Democracy Center at Harvard or the Papercut Zine Library, if you want to call it that, since it’s housed in that building. It’s a pity they have to pack it in because the Conversions were constantly expanding their sound. The arrangements became increasingly complex and moved away from straightforward hardcore while not abandoning the style and any band with Terry’s in-your-face presence and acerbic scream is going to keep it in that realm. Some bands can’t achieve such a widening of scope without adding an aura of pretense and that never happened here. They wrapped it up with a completely enjoyable change-up—a cover of Sham’s “If The Kids Are United” and it was one warm, sweaty group hug to bid them farewell. By the way, if the Conversions ever did decide they wanted to play again, I sure as hell wouldn’t complain about it.

This was a pretty crazy show, overall—Scapegoat preceded the Conversions with their spasmatic/lurching hardcore tandem, Mark stalking the floor like a madman and the bodies were flying everywhere. There were people getting hurt—for real. Ah, the war wounds of hardcore. Between that and the Sham sing-along, I felt like I’d been beaten up after that show. I was scolded by Ellen for still wanting to engage in this sort of physical participation—despite the fact that I’m “pushing 50,” as she reminded me. OK, that’s true and so what if I didn’t want to leave my recliner the next day? Where’s that ice-pack?

Brain Killer opened things up with a scorching take on the Disclose type of raw thrash distort. It’s not a completely noise-drenched attack but there’s more than enough buzz to go around and Marcus proves himself to be an aggressive frontman. I was told they’ve been sloppy in the past but this was dead-on. Life Partners were the other band—it’s an indescribable combination of art-punk, stoner rock and psych—I guess. The set up is guitar, drums, a trumpet treated with pedal effects and a vocalist alternating between keyboards and bass. The visual spectacle was intriguing, although the music seemed formless and ponderous at times...

CHRONIC SEIZURE

THE REKKID REVIEW SEKTION...

ANTISEEN-The Best Of (TKO, 2xCD)
Let’s get this straight—Antiseen don’t like you. Especially if you’re one of them crusty or hippy punks or lookin’ for spare change, are a vegetarian or fall into any other “PC” category. In other words, they like to push buttons but do so with a knowing wink. At least I think they do. Antiseen’s credo is “Fuck All Y’all” and, while I don’t share quite a few of their political/social viewpoints, I do subscribe to that credo a hell of a lot more in recent years. Antiseen never wanted to be cool or loved. They just wanted make bile-filled, buzzsaw punk rock and they’ve been succeeding at that for 25 years, without any sign of packing it in. I’d say it’s a distinct possibility that Jeff Clayton’s parents force-fed him sandpaper stew when he was a young’un because, even in the beginning, that voice was a nasty instrument. And, speaking of nasty instruments, Joe Young’s guitar fills that bill. That’s where the buzzsaw description comes from. Two discs/40 songs covering their illustrious history of mayhem. Antiseen have never really refined their approach all that much over the years. Truth be told, that’s the way it should be. No compromise, just volume and a bad attitude to match. I still start grinning ear to ear when hearing the opening chords to “Hippy Punk” and it makes me want to smash their skateboards, too. (8941 Atlanta Ave. #505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646, www.tkorecords.com)

BASTARD SONS OF APOCALYPSE-Strangled By The System (Adelante/Todo Destruido, 12”)
Great god of hell, this is absolutely killer, essential, ripping and every other adjective you want to attach. After a few EPs, BSA’s new 12” lives up to the promise on those records. These boys lay down ferocious Discharge-meets-Poison Idea mania. I don’t know if it’s a D-beat in the strict sense and I don’t give a fuck about the nuance; all I care about is shredability and BSA definitely possess that quality The galloping drumming is what really keeps things moving here and the occasional lead guitar break always happens at the right moment. BSA do allude to their musical approach in “No Charge D-Beat RocknRoll.” Amidst a not-so-cheery worldview, that’s the sole moment of lyrical levity here, a celebration of “kids playing with no future.” Crank it, motherfuckers and get a move on ‘cause there’s only 525 of these PVC slabs. (adelantediscos@gmail.com or http://www.myspace.com/tododestruido)

CHRONIC SEIZURE-Ancient World (No Way/Fashionable Idiots, LP)
The opening chords strike, it sounds like the Dead Boys’ “Ain’t Nothin’ To Do” but the speed burst comes in and it’s quickly apparent that this band’s anarchic spirit is from a pure hardcore punk muse. That’s always been the case with this band. Chronic Seizure’s first 12” effort is slightly more “produced” when compared to the previous EPs but it’s still a full-bore trebly attack. There’s also more variety in tempo than in the past, not always relying on the brute speed—“Disaffected” is an out and out pounder, for instance. Vocals spat out with agitated urgency, both from Austin and bass-player Pat, who logged time as the Rat Bastards’ frontman. With titles like the previously-mentioned “Disaffected,” “Stark Reality” and “Slow Death In The City,” it’s not too difficult to figure out where these guys are coming from message-wise, if that’s the term. Meeting, hell, exceeding your daily throttle allowance. (No Way: www.nowayrecords.com; Fashionable Idiots: PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458, www.fashionableidiots.com)

CITIZENS PATROL-Dead Children EP (No Way, 7” EP)
Nothing like keeping it simple and that’s what Citizens Patrol do—pure hardcore mania, with a razor-edge rasp in the voice (Kenny could be Blaine Fartz’s baby brother) and thumping songs that move like a motherfucker to the point where your head’s still moving even after the last chord has burst from the speaker. I’d say they’re not too enamored with day to day life, given the words for “I Want To Be Boring” and “Life On Repeat.” I’m definitely enamored with Citizens Patrol’s musical nailbomb. (www.nowayrecords.com)

DISKELMÄ-Fun Is Over (Kämäset Levyt, LP)
Ah, the magic three letters at the head of this band’s moniker. I wonder what they sound like? Actually, it’s not a pure tribute although there’s definitely an element of that in there. What we have here is shredding hardcore imbued with an abundance of speed, red-hot riffs and leads and the words expelled with the requisite agitation. Blending some metallic guitar flourishes into the burning rampage. And a formidable rampage it is—this is searing fodder. (Valliktu 28 A 2, 33240 Tampere, FINLAND, www.punkinfinland.net/kamanen/)

FORCA MACABRA-Aquié O Inferno (Black Water, LP)
Forca Macabra are back with their first album since 2002. Around since the early 90s, the band’s from Finland but they’ve always had a kinship with Brazilian hardcore, going so far as to sing (or bark) the words in Portuguese. Ratos De Porão is at or near the top of the list for their inspiration and, like that band, there’s a blending of the thrash and metal impulses, even more now than in the past. “Guerreiro Do Rock” is a salute to all that is heavy with the title translating to “Soldier of the Rock” and words that vow to fight to the end for it and for the women and the beer. Sporting long hair and a beard as symbols of rebellion. OK, maybe I goofed a bit on the translation but it’s definitely a bit tongue in cheek and also more of a trad metal sidestep from the speed pillage that dominates the rest of the time. Uma guerra worth supporting! (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208, www.blackwaterpdx.com)

HUMAN MESS-s/t (No Way, 7” EP)
A slightly less-recent No Way release and Human Mess offer a rough punk sound that would have fit in nicely with the Rip Off Records bands. The DGAF (“Don’t Give A Fuck,” ©A. Quint) attitude, spewing out the antisociality with all the bile they can muster and reinforced with a jagged guitar minefield. (www.nowayrecords.com)

LIFE TRAP-Solitary Confinement (No Way, 7” EP)
At the risk of being redundant, more of that rough, fast hardcore punk stuff and if you think it sounds a bit like Direct Control, you wouldn’t be mistaken and Nico sounds like Brandon from DC with a sore throat. And it’s music/lyrics for the new recession, at least on “Too Young To Die,” a lamentation about being unable to afford life’s necessities. These youngsters continue to prove themselves adept at the style and there are some shit-hot guitar and bass-lines. (www.nowayrecords.com)

REPROBATES-Stress EP (No Way, 7” EP)
Kinetic energy unleashed on the debut vinyl from Toronto’s Reprobates. These guys could be the descendents of Jerry’s Kids and Gang Green—it has that kind of feel. A slammingly chaotic charge of raw hardcore punk—it sounds as though everything going to come flying apart, a din of guitar, bass and drums that somehow manage to make a cogent attack out of this seeming mess. The buildup for “Failure” creates an ominous foreshadowing that something unhinged is on the way and that’s exactly what happens. (www.nowayrecords.com)

SEX VID

SEX VID-Nests (Dom America, 7” EP)
The week before Sex Vid played in Springfield, Mass., I was giddy with excitement, to the point where it was starting to annoy my wife. She even said she was thinking of starting a Sex Vid drinking game where she’d do a shot every time I mentioned the band. Now that I’ve listened to this record, I hesitate to go upstairs to give her my opinion because it’s too early in the day for her to start drinking. “Nests” and “Exorcism” dishes out the speed but also add hammering accents. “Always Home” eschews the thrash for a slower attack. It was the set closer at that Springfield show and is a brooding song using the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” as a starting point and the guitar playing becomes increasingly frayed by the song’s conclusion. The lyrics create an image of a psychological bunker, the protagonist screaming to be left alone and the music creates the perfect mood. Damaged-sounding? No Flag illusions intended but the damaged description fits the bill. (available from www.bistrodistro.com)

SOTATILA-Eepee (Kämäset Levyt/Plauge Bearer, 7” EP)
Scandinavian perfection—Sotatila are a Finnish band favoring blistering tempos, dead-on instrumentation and harsh vocals with the accent on the last syllable (lots of “ahrrrs”). Once again, I could spend all day analyzing the various nuances, micro-influences but it’s hard to analyze anything when being hammered with Sotatila’s tumult. Honoring the tradition but it’s also a modern sound, particularly production-wise. In other words, no “distort” but it fucking blazes. Yep, there’s an aura of familiarity here with no surprises... just everything falling perfectly into sync. (Valliktu 28 A 2, 33240 Tampere, FINLAND, www.punkinfinland.net/kamanen/)

STATUES-Terminal Bedroom (Deranged, CD)
Collecting early EPs and Statues are one of those brash ‘n poppy bands with a jumpy spring in their musical step. Taut, tuneful songs with an abundance of energy and even if they don’t wear skinny ties, I could almost visualize them fitting in with the more accessible version of late 70s punk. That’s not meant as a dis, either and, even with the older touchpoints, it doesn’t come across as retro nor, more importantly, twee. That’s become a dirty word in some quarters and justifiably so—that sort of shitty pop seems have taken over most of the commercials I see between innings of the ball game, for instance. Statues do pay tribute to the roots by covering fellow catchy Canadians (Statues are from Ontario) the K-Tels and the Pointed Sticks. Sure, the vocals are melodious but that’s accomplished without being mannered. And things are toughened-up with a hint of garage rock for “Adult Teeth.” The guitar tone has enough jabbing growl to give things an edge and it seems as though they try to make that point with the unreleased 24 second thrashin’ throwaway that ends the disc. These guys have nothing to prove on that account. (2700 Lower Road, Roberts Creek, BC, V0N 2W4, CANADA, www.derangedrecords.com)

THREATENER-The Hammering, The Fastening, and The Bending Of Throats (625/I-Deal, CD)
The first thing you hear is the uttering “18 wheels of hell” and then the hammering mentioned in the title begins. 18 wheels of hell? Try 28 minutes of it. An anthology disc covering all of this Michigan band’s 7” releases, their appearance on one of the “Tomorrow Will Be Worse” comps, their first demo and a live radio set that lasts all of 7 or so minutes. These boys loved brevity—their Boston set some years back lasted less than 10 miniutes as well. Enough numerology. Thrash ‘n blast, getting increasingly raw and distorted-sounding as time passed. The first EP almost sounds conventional by comparison, although that ain’t no sonic day in the park, either—it just sounds cleaner and I can’t believe I hear a tambourine on “Societal Runoff.” That’s also the most palatable segment. Each of their 7”s had part of what could be loosely termed a short story of desperate lives in ruin and they’re combined here. I’m being vague but, in detailing sick sexual encounters, it attempts to get to the core of humanity or, more accurately, the animal that lies within and that seems to be the lyrical thrust, as well. Not that you can make out what they’re screeching about, anyway. Very uneasy listening and only recommended for those who like the effect of a two by four applied viciously to the back of the skull. (www.i-dealrecords.com/fatalist or www.625thrash.com)

VIIMENIEN KOLONNA-Tuhat Aurinoka (Kämäset Levyt/Hardcore Holocaust, 7” EP)
New noise from VK and I like the overall sound on this EP more than previous releases, a raw, hammering approach that brings the band’s power out in bolder relief. Yep, this is dis-worship but, man, if they don’t have it nailed. There are sick bass-runs to accompany the guitar chord inferno, pounding drums and from-the-gut vocals. And reading the translation for “Tuhat Aurinkoa,” which means “people are ugly” makes me smile. So does everything else here. (Valliktu 28 A 2, 33240 Tampere, FINLAND, www.punkinfinland.net/kamanen/ or www.hcholocaust.com)

WARKRIME-Tighten Up (No Way, 7” EP)
I’ve always found this band’s semi-spastic take on hardcore to be somewhat disjointed and that continues to be the case here. I imagine it’s a change from the standard verse/chorus/verse setting that many hardcore bands follow, a case of defying the convention a bit. There’s some early Void and COC in the buildups and guitar damage, along with the ranting vocals. And, somewhere, Arthur Lee will roll over in his grave if he hears their cover of Love’s “7 and 7 Is.” Maybe he’ll be grooving on it—they do batter it up pretty well. The idea to create something that goes against the grain is intriguing and there are moments where everything does fall into place; I just wish the execution was more consistent. (www.nowayrecords.com)

WINNING LOOKS-s/t (Waiting, 7” EP)
Down ‘n dirty rock ‘n roll in a guitar/drums, both of ‘em sing format, recorded in ’06 and just seeing the light of day in the past few months. Whew. This four song EP from these two NYC ladies was recorded by Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and there’s a slight hint of her musical pedigree. But it’s just as much garage, really cooking on a song like “Breakdown,” although all four songs have plenty of thump in ‘em. Two voices chanting in near-unison, in a hearty high register and the music has a complementary brazenness. The EP comes with a free digital download of the songs, too—best of both worlds and I’m glad that more labels/bands are doing that. (band contact: http://www.myspace.com/winninglooksrock)

WOMEN-s/t (FDH, 7” EP)
Wrapping my ears around this one and it’s a mish-mash of punk, hardcore and garage. Yeah, that’s real helpful I’m sure. Well, the songs all don’t sound the same. There’s the thrash of “Strangler,” but most of the other songs take a snottier punk tone.” “Radiation” has one of those snappy choruses that sticks in your head. There’s a loose spiritedness infused into these raucous tracks. (http://fdhmusic.com)

WORLD BURNS TO DEATH-The Graveyard Of Utopia (HG Fact, CD)
A new 8 song mini-album or whatever you want to call it. It’s brief compared to its predecessor “Totalitarian Sodomy” and features a streamlined, full speed ahead sound, compared to that album, which had some much heavier material. Recorded in Japan and featuring appearances by the late, great Chelsea (Paintbox, Death Side), Souichi from Forward and Keiro of Akutare, all of ‘em laying down some fierce guitar leads and WBTD axeman Zac Tew does a fine job, himself. There’s no doubt that the surroundings inspired the songwriting beforehand and it ends up sounding like a throttling Japanese hardcore record, blending in the speed with overpowering metal licks. There’s a conceptual gist to the lyrics, emitted with strangled-larynx aplomb by Mr. Control. The subject matter deals with historical atrocities in Russia and other Soviet regions. “Come And See” states “come and see the beauty of inhumanity” and mentions how flowers grow best on top of mass graves. While perusing the lyrics, all I could think about was a former co-worker’s pet phrase that summed up the world’s ills as being “man’s inhumanity to man” and that’s detailed throughout this album. And, of course, there’s the perverse juxtaposition of things of beauty with the obliteration of the innocent. It’s not as graphic as on “Totalitarian Sodomy” but still conveys some powerful imagery and that’s paired with equally powerful music. (www.interq.or.jp/japan/hgfact; vinyl available on Prank Records, PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141, www.prankrecords.com)