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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ZATOPEKS:
About Bloody Time: CD
Zatopeks has always been one of those bands that have been on the fringes of my knowledge of pop punk. I wouldn’t say that they’re bland, but their songs never sounded like anything I couldn’t find on other records. So, I don’t know if I’m just in a less angry place or if Zatopeks have changed their strategy, but About Bloody Time might be their defining statement as a band. The songwriting is clever and incredibly catchy, the vocals ride that line of being clear and blending in with the fuzz, and the songs have a range that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve heard all of them eight times before the record ends. They still play in the same vein of Copyrights without the continual feeling that the entire song is just one long chorus. Over a decade in and three albums down, Zatopeks have released a damn good record. I guess what I’m saying is, about bloody time! No? Yeah, I’ll just hide myself over here until you leave, then. Grade: B+.  –Bryan Static (Monster Zero / It’s Alive)


ZAKON ZEBRZACYCH:
A.L.F.: LP
Tough listen. I can tell that this late ‘80s Polish punk band had some decent music, and the translated lyric sheet bears out a good message. But the recordings on this retrospective LP are nearly unlistenable. I’m all for documenting a scene or band of the past, but when even semi-decent recordings aren’t available, perhaps the internet is the best place for whatever does exist to be archived. That said, this is a nice package, with liner notes from the band. I suppose if you know the band and are already familiar with their songs, this could be of interest. –Chad Williams (Pasazer)


YOLKS, THE:
“$2 out the Door” b/w “Pretty Thing”: 7”
Not sure quite what to make of this one. The Yolks are a three-piece who put forth “$2” on the front of the record, which is a reductionist take on old bubblegum rock, which kills. Then on the flip, the bassist swaps out strings for a harmonica, and they lay down a shambolic, stripped-down rootsy cover of a Willie Dixon song. The front is quite fantastic, but “Pretty Thing” is quite understandably buried on the back. Not sure if it’s because of my lack of interest and general annoyance with most music that is overtly bluesy or what, but I ain’t feelin’ it. I could totally get behind this if it were a one-sided number with just the original, or originals in lieu of the cover. Can’t win ‘em all. –Vincent Battilana (Randy)


WOOLWORM / GROWN-UPS:
Split: 7”
One thing that really gets to me is when there is no information about the bands, songs, or label included with a record. I really get into listening to a record while reading lyrics or about the band. Getting a feel for what they are all about. This record has nothing but band names, song titles, and the name of the label. Ah well, let’s focus on the music. Woolworm is very dreamy indie pop that brought back memories of bands like Eric’s Trip. I like it. Grown-Ups are more upbeat and definitely have more of a “Razorcake-y” thing going on. This is the band that really grabs me on this record. I guess I’m going to have to go online and search more stuff out by them. This is a solid release… Wait, I’m back after looking the bands up. Apparently these bands are both from my part of the globe. Woolworm are from Vancouver and Grown-Ups were (sadly now defunct) from Calgary. Yay Canada! –Ty Stranglehold (Debt Offensive)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Welcome to 2013: LP
A lot of hardcore comps are failures from the get-go. It seems like all reviews of compilation records mention how the format lends itself to being a dumping ground of throwaway tracks and unfocused additions to get a band or label’s name out there. Compilations succeed when they are focused around a singular idea and, typically, those that focus on a time and a place are the ones that are the most interesting and stable. This compilation focuses on a time—right now. The place, however, is a little tricky. The bands are from all over the U.S. and parts of Europe, but while their geography may make them distant in a literal sense, their goals and affinity for one another keep them close. These are DIY hardcore bands. Their sounds vary and their ideas are different, but their expression of those ideas within their community is what makes them important because that’s what draws them together. Not Normal is a label that has been putting out and distributing some of the most eager and confrontational punk records over the course of the last five years, and this record is less a culmination of their focus than it is a step in their move towards being one of the most important current hardcore labels. They are a not a hype fest, and the bands presented on this record show the label’s insouciance towards the status quo. Yes, well-known punks like Tenement make an appearance on this comp, but they follow the relatively unknown Inservibles. Cülo are followed by a very young, very un-hip band from the Pacific Northwest called Adjustment To Society, and Broken Prayer are sandwiched between Bored Straight and Thee Nodes. This album is not an attempt to move you to buy a record; this album is an attempt to move you to think for your god damn self. –Ian Wise (Not Normal)


WONK UNIT:
Nervous Racehorse: CD
The too-cliché-to-be-relevant adage of “never judge a book by its cover” applies here. I get this CD in the mail: four Brits too old to be wearing their hats sideways and too European to be throwing up “Westside,” even if it is meant to be ironic. I reluctantly put this in the player and waited impatiently through the first song, an acoustic one that used the word “titties.” Sigh. What came after was a pleasant surprise. Think Descendents when you put on tracks like “Nan” and “Go Easy.” Fucking great, right? Short songs. Fast songs. There are some things I don’t get here. Some tracks seem to drift off course. Maybe I’m too far “across the pond” to get it, but the tracks that do work, work well. –John Mule (TNS)


WINONA FOREVER:
Wake up Slow: CD-R
When you get a CD-R with no song information and cover art that apparently was intended for a cassette, you kind of set your expectations low. With this approach I was not disappointed. Ten or so tracks of lo-fi grindcore stuff intertwined with some cabaret-ish piano numbers. –Garrett Barnwell (Self-released)


WARTHOG:
Exterminate Me: 7”
This record has grown on me a lot since I first listened to it. It’s got a very modern hardcore vibe and this band very well could have been from Florida four years ago instead of New York now. I kind of feel like despite all the influences they claim, the band is more informed by recent hardcore than they are whatever obscure Japanese bands they point to themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that and this record is good, but there seems to be a little more focus on form over function with this band—if you know what I mean—and I think that the way the label and some internet nerds describe this record should just let it be what it is without a lot of needless references to the demo tapes they downloaded from whatever blog is getting all the hype at the moment. –Ian Wise (Katorga Works)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Punks, Skins & Psychos: CD
Twenty-nine tracks of previously released, high quality psychobilly, street punk and power pop. The only name I recognize is The Dwarves. Not my usual pint o’ piss, but it’s doing me well over a couple drinks this Sunday afternoon. –Chris Terry (Zodiac Killer)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Poncho Records Compilation Vol. 1: Cassette
I certainly wasn’t alive when Nuggets caused such a stir. Hell, I wasn’t even a fetus when Kurt Cobain died. Still, I think it’s safe to say that this is the modern-day Canadian equivalent of that pioneering compilation. This cassette features nineteen bands, with twelve songs by Halifax groups leading the neo-psych revival, including heavyweights like Walrus and the insanely phenomenal Monomyth. Seventy minutes of non-stop jams, with each track seamlessly flowing into the next. First run of aqua tapes is limited to thirty (!), but luckily enough for you there are “more to follow.” Highly recommended. –Alanna Why (Poncho)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Not So Quiet on the Western Front: 2 x LP
Reissue of a pretty decent document of punk in California (and Nevada to a much lesser extent) in the early ‘80s. Good assortment of fast, menacing, personal, political, and so forth, but you probably aren’t gonna find much on here that will blow your mind about three decades after the fact. That’s not to say that this comp is void of excellent tracks—it does have 7 Seconds’ “Fuck Your Amerika,” which is perhaps the band’s best song period, as well as killer cuts from Flipper, Fang, and other name bands. I don’t feel the need to move the needle around when I’m listening to this. However, a lot of the songs lack distinct personalities (just like a lot of punks, har har har) and don’t do much more than satisfy the desire to kill the dead air in your living space with generic, old U.S. hardcore punk. A couple songs, like “Turmoil” from the Frigidettes, were unique and enjoyable enough to make me grab the cover and figure out what the hell was blasting, yet it was much too much like listening to a decent station radio for me: a bunch of mediocre whathaveyou punctuated with some all right stuff, but not good enough to keep me from playing DJ myself. –Vincent Battilana (Alternative Tentacles / MRR)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Philadelphia Cock ‘N’ Roll Showcase: LP
My copy of this record is rainbow sherbet colored (exactly half-magenta, half-orange) and the edge of it has a little piece knocked out of it, like the record is a round chipped tooth, and the cover is a photocopied picture pasted to a blank white sleeve, and it’s on a label called Piss Drink. I was ready to love this. Then I put the record on. The bands don’t do anything technically wrong; they cover the garage spectrum as it is now. I respect Gories worship and soul power and chiming ‘60s pop that connects to folk. It’s just that everything feels like a faithful reproduction. Nothing’s really invented and nothing’s really perfected. They’re all capable. I’d see them live while visiting friends, but my heart and mind and peen aren’t exploding, at least not yet. –Matt Werts (Piss Drink)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Live Evil IV – A 2013 Music Sampler: CD
The latest installment of 1332’s label sampler. Not much has changed from the earlier samplers. You get a shitload of Boise, ID-based bands, most being on the metallic side of the road. Worthwhile in that it seems to document the local Boise scene and that’s a good thing indeed. –Garrett Barnwell (1332)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Dubois / Miijas / Rye: Cassette
Dubois: Sort-of melodic punk in the vein of Jawbreaker and other early- to mid-’90s fare, but with some twangy bits that make things more interesting than much of that ilk. As far as recent stuff, they kinda remind me of Highway Cross or a stripped-down version of Off With Their Heads, but I will stand by neither of those comparisons since both include a wide margin of error. Miijas: The first song sounds a lot like the weirdly enthralling Polish punk/new wave band that the Rhythm Chicken recorded for our chaotic, thunderingly drunken trip to Kansas City ten years ago. For all I know it might be the same band, but these tunes are sung in English, not Polish. The second song seems right out of the Agent Orange playbook. The third song kind of blends the previous two. Rye: Sounds like what I imagine Mazzy Star would sound like sans that wonderfully hypnotic organ and smoky female vocals. –The Lord Kveldulfr (No address listed)


UNFIXED:
Battleside: CD
Intense three-piece hardcore band from London comes out with smoking bullets (or at least very pointy ones as featured on the back cover) and guns a-blazin’. Things start to get interesting in the middle with “Maggie,” and “Maybe Tomorrow” bookends that will singe your eardrums nicely. You can tell there is conviction here, so check them out; it just may resonate with you. –Sean Koepenick (Nikt Nic Nie Wie)


TURN IT OFFS, THE / BRUISER QUEEN:
Split: 7”
The Turn It Offs do some Elvis / Danzig-inspired punk rock’n’roll. Competent but unimaginative. Bruiser Queen does garage rock with excellent female lead vocals, hitting that ‘50s vibe just right. –Chad Williams (Miss Molly Music)


TUNABUNNY:
Kingdom Technology: LP
My first thought: Is this record playing on the right speed? Because I’m already deep into the first song and it’s mostly indistinguishable, meandering, reverb-drenched keys and not much else. My second thought: Hey, this second song is raging! Cool! Oh, it’s over already. Bummer. Next thought: I suspect that the reptilian portion of my brain is unwilling to embrace the droning beats and twee melodies. Furthermore: A lot of this record sounds like extraterrestrial transmissions with intermittent bursts of blitzing pop songs and keyboard-driven ballads. Ultimately, my final verdict is akin to how I perceive art in general: I don’t give a rat’s ass what some college grad deems high or low art, but if I like the way something makes me feel (even if it’s a “bad” feeling) then I have to commend the artist. Sadly, Tunabunny doesn’t make me feelvery much with the exception of a few fleeting portions of inventiveness. Overall, it’s neither haunting nor savvy enough to execute its musical deconstruction. It ends up feeling a tad highfalutin’. I half-expect someone to tell me that I just don’t get it. –Sean Arenas (HHBTM)


TIM TIMEBOMB:
Winding Far Down: CD
I can’t say enough about these cover songs from Rancid frontman Tim “Timebomb” Armstrong. This release of twelve tracks includes covers of The Bodysnatcher’s “Let’s Do Rocksteady,” Cock Sparrer’s “Working,” and my favorite, Bad Manners’ “Lip Up Fatty.” My only wish is that he would stick mainly to the ska and reggae tunes. His version of Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69” is a bit of a dud. –John Mule (Self-released)


TERRORISTS, THE:
Crazy Life: 7”
Don’t see the point of releasing a record when it’s the same song on both sides. The main difference is one side is live, the other studio. The live side has a little more energy and character, which says that it’s best to experience this band live than in the comfort of your home. The song is a minimalist type of KBD influenced punk, with a weirdo edge. The song is not bad. The live version displays a bit more depth to the song. The delivery is more desperate and urgent. But, still, two versions of the same song on one record? –Matt Average (Going Underground)


STRANGE REBEL FREQUENCY:
Through Dust & Ash to the Falling of the West: CD
This Americana quartet out of L.A. drops their second full length with baritone vocals mimicking NickCave’s later mellowed-out sound. These eighteen new tracks opens with crooners, “Face in the Crowd” and “Xs for Eyes,” while male and female vocal harmonization in “Careless Heart” lend another layer to a somewhat flavorless cake. Unfortunately, SRF checks off all the components of Southern Gothic (deep, male whispery vocals, sparse, jangly soundscapes, and songs of lost and disaffected girls) but fails to add another shade to the beleaguering landscape. The majority of these songs have the same structure and similar melody, some repeating chorus and verse well past what is necessary. “DVB” edges into six minutes long, breaking from the monotony of tortured ballads bringing a screeching guitar like early Bauhaus, while “War Machine” might just get people on their feet. Hopefully, SRF will tighten up their game and trim the fat on the next go round. –Kristen K. (Self-released)


SPORT:
Colors: LP
Pop punk outfit from Lyon, France will time warp you to a ‘90s sun-drenched summer despite its time skipping trajectory. Like a soundtrack to the Olympics, the track names read like a photo album for the international games vaulting from one location to the next with titles like “Barcelona, 1992,” “Lillehammer, 1994,” and “Sydney, 2000.” Like a snapshot of times past, the tracks are nostalgic, soaring from jugular, vein-popping vocals to the gradual build of drums and elongated guitar notes and back again. “Helsinki, 1952,” shows off nimble guitar work. Despite my effort, I was unable to determine whether there’s a tie between song and title. Released in 2012 in the same pipeline of Surfer Blood and Red House Painters, this is stuff meant for Sunday beer-fueled barbeques and down hilling on your bike. Recommended. –Kristen K. (Self-released)


SPACE RAFT:
Self-titled: CD/LP
This Wisconsin four-piece was started by Jordan Davis of Mystery Girls, a band that released a couple albums on In The Red Records. While Mystery Girls had more of a garage sound, Space Raft is rooted in power pop with psych rock flair and some classic rock riffs. I can hear some Matthew Sweet as well as some Badfinger. The nine songs clock in at forty minutes and they all have a more summery, blessed-out feel, which is appropriate given the style of music the band plays. This is one of those albums that I can say is recorded well and sounds good, but didn’t have anything strong enough to win me over to a sound of which I’m not a fan. Still, that’s much more positive than I can say about most of the stuff I review.  –Kurt Morris (Dusty Medical)


SOTAVAMMA:
Stressiyhteiskunta: 7” EP
When these guys are in their sweet spot—namely mid-gear thrash and slower—they handily deliver some snarling Finnish thrash that stands toe-to-toe with the “classic” fjordcore bands of yore this region’s produced. Things get a bit sloppy and less impressive the couple of times they set their sights on breaking the speed barrier. Given the number of tunes crammed in here, the final tally is three-quarters quality and one-quarter take or leave. Limited to 350. –Jimmy Alvarado (Svart)


SONIC AVENUES:
Mistakes: CD
The vocals sound like they are sung riding a sick wave. I immediately donned a pair of blue wayfarers and board shorts ready to soak up some rays. But I quickly realized after the drop in that every track has a repetitive guitar progression that is pleasantly familiar, making them accessible and catchy, yet not distinguished from every other garage punk band. It’s like bringing your board to the beach only to be greeted by some flat waves. This could have been bitchin’, bro. How are the waves in Montréal? –Ashley (Dirtnap)


SONGS FOR SNAKES:
Year of the Snake: LP
This San Francisco-based band’s record was heavily influenced by Hüsker Dü, Jawbreaker, undertones of Guided By Voices, and sprinkled with hints of Superchunk. They pull it off beautifully and have resurrected the sound of ‘90s Bay Area motherfucking magic in one gorgeously colored LP. I want everyone to fall in love with this band and go apeshit over them. Hell, I’m going apeshit over them. –Genevieve Armstrong (Timid Crusher)


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