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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ZX ELECTRIC:
Memory Palace: CD
This is an incredibly lengthy album for a sound I’m not very much interested in. There are twenty-two songs clocking in at fifty-two minutes and all I needed to hear was about two of them to realize this wasn’t my thing. Think a mix of Tallest Man On Earth, Joe Pug, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen with soft, computerized synth and jangly electric guitar. Except it’s not even anywhere close as good as any of those artists. I’ll pass. –Kurt Morris (satorirecrdings@live.com)


69 ENFERMOS:
Beyond Borders: CD
Dateline: mid-‘90s. Punk rock has reared its slightly less ugly head. The sound is different now. Bands are getting signed by record labels worldwide. Harmonies, galloping drums, and soaring guitars rule the day. Bands like No Use For A Name, NOFX, and Lagwagon are some of the leading names in this new style of rebellion. Flash forward twenty years. The aforementioned bands are still among the top names in this subgenre. The thing is; it is hard to play this style and not sound like those bands. 69 Enfermos are very capable at this. Hell, if someone put this on and told me it was the new Strung Out record, I would have absolutely no reason to think they were lying. Not bad, but not terribly stimulating.  –Ty Stranglehold (Morning Wood)


A.S.D.:
Another Social Disease: EP
Straight-up NYC ‘80s thrashcore with a mean dose of metal. Vocals are almost robotic—mechanical—that add to its hard edge. Tough as nails. Best stand back or get sucked into the pit.  –Camylle Reynolds (Social Disease)


ACTIVE MINDS / THISCLOSE:
Split: 7”
The Active Minds side of this single is pretty raging hardcore with melodic vocals. This band has been around forever, with their first single released in 1987. Pretty solid stuff for a band this far along; rages pretty good. The Thisclose side of the single is mining similar terrain, but is a little thrashier, and they do a Discharge cover.  –Mike Frame (SPHC, sphcrecords.bandcamp.com)


ADACTA:
TMA: LP
Dark, melodic, fevered crust stuff somewhere between Protestant and the awesome-but-unfortunately-named Chicken’s Call. And I love the urgent, morose cello in “Katastrofy.” It brings to mind Saké or Submission Hold. And I don’t understand Czech, but there’s no denying that as a physical artifact, TMA is pretty much a textbook example of beauty and care: chipboard gatefold, glossy black-on-black artwork, foldout poster, patch, and download code. Fans of the dark and menacing should eat this stuff up like—I don’t know—the souls of the unrepentant or something. Not my preferred genre, but holy smokes these guys are good at it.  –Keith Rosson (Adactive)


ADVERSARY:
Self-titled: CD
Great stuff from the vaults at Boss Tuneage. I wasn’t terribly familiar with this Stoke-on-Trent band from the early ‘90s prior to acquiring this collection, but it’s way up the alley of the crux of the Razorcake brain trust, that’s for sure. Poppy – yet sloppy—melodic punk in the vein of Leatherface meets Goober Patrol (and that’s not just due to U.K. origins).  –Steve Adamyk (Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.com)


AGADOR SPARTACUS:
Agadawesome: CD
Time and time again, I’m easily impressed by elaborate packaging. Agadawesomehas certainly earned praise for its layout. These Hamburg-area musicians refer to themselves as post-hardcore, but it’s much more straight forward and catchier than that. It’s well recorded and tight as fuck.  –Steve Adamyk (Self-released)


ALBERT SQUARE, THE:
I (Assume I) Know What I’m Doing: LP
With The Weakerthans as the compass, The Albert Square explores narrative lyricism over sharp, distorted guitar chords and a driving rhythm section. Sim Castro’s voice is reserved and achingly melodic, emphasizing the lyrics: “When these houses are no longer homes now / and it feels like there’s nobody on your team.” Each song is poetic, situated in a particular time and place. Every few minutes you’re transported to a different American city and a relatable state of mind. Although the melodies are soft-spoken, the fuzz bass and Spencer Taplin’s vibrant beats keep the tunes from slipping between the cracks. The Albert Square has crafted a thoughtful record at a time when most human experiences are reduced to a 140 letter character limit. With poignant lyrics (“It’s hard being a black girl here in Missouri / when immaculate births are at the bottom of the list of your worries”) and catching hooks, I (Assume I) Know What I’m Doing should be shelved beside Fallow.  –Sean Arenas (Phat ’n’ Phunky, phatnphunky.com)


ALL TORN UP:
Drone Life: 7”
Powerful, political New York hardcore is what you’ll find on this 7”. Six short but stellar, pummeling blasts of socially conscious hardcore punk with lyrics covering topics including immigrants’ rights and drone warfare. Sonically, you’ll find crunching guitars, an incredibly tight and heavy rhythm section, and a throaty rasp from frontman Joey Steel. Comes on a lovely translucent blue swirl of vinyl and includes a collage zine containing the lyrics to the tunes.  –Jeff Proctor (Self-released, alltornup.bandcamp.com)


ANARCHUS / DISROTTED:
Split: 7” EP
Anarchus have been around for longer than some people reading this review have been alive, and that’s no exaggeration. I was a little surprised to see they were still around, but I don’t follow grind as closely as I used to. Maybe if there were more grind bands of the same caliber as Anarchus I would. On this release they do a great cover of Lords Of The New Church “Open Your Eyes,” definitely making it sound like one of their own songs. It has the perfect amount of heaviness, the guitars sound thick and dark, and the vocalist sounds evil. Disrotted is a stark contrast to Anarchus style-wise. Here you get some slow doom sludge that I’d love to experience live. From the opening hum and everything crashing in slow motion, this is capital-H heavy. Throaty vocals, impenetrable guitar, and plodding—though hard-hitting—percussion. Despite the slow crawl of “Oblivion Lull,” there is a groove that hooks you in. I think I need to work towards attaining their entire discography if this song is any indication.  –Matt Average (Rigid, rigidrecords.bigcartel.com)


ANOTHER SOCIAL DISEASE:
Self-titled: 7”
Metallic hardcore that sounds heavily influenced by later period U.K. acts like Broken Bones. They keep the songs catchy, the tempos gallopy, and the guitars mostly wank-free. I can totally see cats who whine that shit ain’t been cool since the initial crossover wave going apeshit over this.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Another Social Disease, socialdiseaserecords.bigcartel.com)


ANTIBODIES:
Happy New Year Zero: CD-R
Mid-tempo U.K. punk of the early ‘80s variety. Songs are simple, catchy, and play well to the subgenre they’re aiming for.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Antibodies, pete_antibodies@hotmail.com)


ANTICHRIST DEMONCORE:
Self-titled: Postcard flexi: EP
Postcard flexi that plays! These three songs slam with metallic hardcore. Think No Statik and Condition, with low hung bass. Screamy, possessed vocals tear through each song.  –Camylle Reynolds (To Live a Lie, tolivealie.com)


ANTLERED AUNT LORD:
Ostensibly Formerly Stunted (and On Fire): LP
The pale cheap shots taken at Robert Pollard, R. Stevie Moore, and R.E.M. in the press release accompanying this record are a turn off but whatever, I get it. You’re trying to sell a record, and in particular you’re trying to sell an undiscovered, underground pop genius in a country already littered with them. I suppose you have to puff your chest out a little. There isn’t a single moment on this record that rivals “Jar of Cardinals” or anything off Phonography, and that’s the cold truth. And the more obvious connection to be made—given Jesse Stinnard’s home base of Athens, Ga.—is to the ‘60s psych inflection and often overly pronounced aesthetic of the Elephant 6 scene. Stinnard is gifted—tracks like “Sigil to Noise” and “Throwback Bikes” are worth hearing more than once—but he’s not surpassing the greats; he’s repeating them. And there’s the attendant queasy feeling that, like those Elephant predecessors, his music sits on a kind of sliding scale and could, intentionally or not, drift into something like the pop bloat of Arcade Fire.  –Matt Werts (HHBTM, hhbtm.com)


APOCALYPSE MEOW:
The End Is Nigh: LP
Enjoyed the Bats Bats Bats 7” and would expect nothing less of a band called Apocalypse Meow to have brilliant song titles like “The Haste and the Curious,” however The End Is Nigh swings too violently, pendulum-like, between fantastic Queers/Masked Intruder harmonies and just plain out-of-place, spooky feelings-laden “The Route” or Dr. Hook cover (including a rap?). Barrel straight ahead with “Baby, I’m a Scientist,” or for the more adventurous, the pop-epic three-part “All Dinosaurs Are Ghosts” (a valiant attempt), but overall, too many spices spoil the stew. Endnote: would still purchase next release to see what happens.  –Matt Seward (Night Animal, nightanimalrecords.storenvy.com)


ATLANTIC THRILLS:
Vices: LP
Be not perplexed by the skull-o-centric packaging; this sounds like an East Coast version of Nobunny—with that omni-epoch hook worship and the what-not— coupled with a more legit Nuggetsapproach, but with reverb instead of fuzz on the guitar (except when there’s fuzz on the guitar instead of reverb), and sublimated Barraracudas-like harmonies, and occasional faux glam excursions. Actually, perchance “a New Englandized version of the Barraracudas” is closer to the truth than the Nobunny reference. Either way you crack this particular Kit Kat, it’s the best album of the first five weeks of the year. My long-held respect for the Providence Steam Roller—the last NFL Champions to go belly-up—is thusly rekindled. Roll on, you crazy steamroller! BEST SONG: “Treat My Baby.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Bed Bugs.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The album is divided into two sides: Side A and Side R.  –Rev. Norb (Almost Ready)


BANDAGES:
“All Extreme Measures” b/w “Tokyo Carwash”: 7”
Part of Sorry State Records’ North Carolina Singles Series, this two-song entry from Bandages serves as their long-awaited debut. One of several offshoots that grew after the disbanding of Raleigh hardcore heavyweights Double Negative, Bandages exemplify their pedigree without allowing their music to be hindered by it. This is hardcore, but hardcore rife with fascinating and often unsettling left-field flourishes. The spooky intro of “All Extreme Measures” paves the way for the guitars to occasionally transform into a UFO sucking the listener up into the air with its tractor beam. On “Tokyo Carwash,” their furious riffing pairs with the drums to form the aural equivalent of descending into a literal spiral of madness. A musical recreation of spinning until I lose my balance is something I didn’t know I needed, but now that I’ve experienced it, let me tell ya, it’s a fucking marvel. Fingers crossed that a full-length—or even an EP—is soon to follow!  –Kelley O’Death (Sorry State, sorrystaterecords.com)


BASEMENT BENDERS:
Lydiad: LP
It’s easy to have high expectations for Basement Benders because they feature folks from Future Virgins, Sexy, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Tulsa, Hidden Spots, and Black Rainbow. When talented folks start a band, they bring with them experience, expertise, and fine-tuned ears, but your gut might mistakenly assume that there’s no way Lydiad can be as good as say, Front Seat Solidarity or Late Republic. I’m here to put your worries to rest and assure you that Lydiad is twelve tunes of pitch-perfect DIY punk. The live wire energy never lets up and the belted vocals pull you right in, especially on “Up North” and “Trick of the Light.” The songs are both deeply personal (“Betsy”) and universal, sharing experiences and tricky feelings that many of us can relate to. This is indispensable listening for any fan of DIY punk. The first pressing also includes a bonus 7” with two additional songs.  –Sean Arenas (No Idea)


BEEKEEPERS:
II: LP
With a neo-dada illustration on the cover, it’s no surprise this record is super trippy—trippy in a psychedelic sense—and the addition of saxophone and organ gives more texture to the songs. This record would suit fans of the early Park The Van releases, Burger Records, Cass McCombs, or Pavement.  –Ryan Nichols (Self-released, no address listed)


BI-MARKS:
If You Can’t Swim, Drown: LP
Holy smokes. This Portland outfit’s been around for a number of years now, but apart from a few cuts on a Sabotage sampler, this is my first introduction. Maybe the physical act of dropping the needle on the vinyl is what it took for me to really hearthem, but goddamn. Unrelenting, snarling, fierce punk working from the same playbook as, I shit you not, the first Bad Brains record and Christ On Parade’sA Mind Is a TerribleThing, both of which are pretty flawless in my opinion. And those aren’t comparisons I fling out all willy-nilly, okay? This is “Top ten of the year” quality shit right here. Absolutely worth seeking out.  –Keith Rosson (Blackwater)


BIRTHDAY SUITS:
Spin the Bottle: Adult Party: LP
I’ve seen Birthday Suits many times live, which is always a raucous and unpredictable time. This two-piece always puts on a show, leaving destruction in their path while furiously belting out their brand of chaotic, garagey punk. On record Birthday Suits still bring the rock, but it’s a different experience. The studio really brings out the best parts of these songs, especially the hooks and the melody. Listening to them on vinyl, and I mean really listening to them, I feel like I finally “get” this band, and I’m really into it. Fans of other Recess Records staples, like Toys That Kill for example, would undoubtedly get into this as well.  –Mark Twistworthy (Recess, recessrecords.com)


BISHOP:
Everything in Vein: 10”
Bishop plays tough guy straight-edge hardcore with thoughtful, decidedly non-macho lyrics. The explanations of the lyrics included with the lyric sheet lend themselves to criticism that Bishop is overly preachy, but it’s hard to get upset when they’re talking about important issues in a relatively insightful way. I especially enjoyed the sentiment on “Huey P. Was Right,” a potent anti-cop track that tries to tie historical info with a current movement. More influenced by hard, second wave New York Hardcore than by early, classic hardcore; anyone into clomp around stomp punk will enjoyEverything in Vein.  –Art Ettinger (Dead Truth)


BLACK CHEERS, THE:
Sick Gun: CD
Third release from this Boston band and it’s a corker with raunchy guitars, sleazy bass runs, pounding drums, and vocals that sound soaked in whiskey (not the cheap stuff either). “Inside Out” slashes and burns, while “Take My Head” is a full-tilt anthem. You will be hooked before that song is even over. Rock solid and a must-have for your collection.  –Sean Koepenick (Self-released, theblackcheers11@gmail.com)


BLEED THE PIGS / THETAN:
Split: LP
Thetan bears a very close resemblance to San Diego’s Jenny Piccolo: a band lost in the shuffle during the mid-to-late ‘90s powerviolence/hardcore scene due to the Locust’s overshadowing popularity. Down-tuned and manic hardcore with some dirgey moments to allow you to catch your breath—yeah it’s been done to death, but not always as well as this. Bleed The Pigs’ side of the split jams digital shards of glass into your ear holes with some circuit-bending harsh noise before walloping you with a steady stream of powerviolence savagery. Save for the brief moshcore breakdowns, Bleed The Pigs’ songs had me checking the turntable to make sure I wasn’t playing an Endless Blockade record. Great stuff.  –Juan Espinosa (Dead Tank, deadtankrecords.com / Anti Corp, anticorporatemusic.com / IFB, ifbrecords.com)


BONVIVANT / SNACKS?:
Split: 7”EP
Both bands have clearly spent some time drinking from the well of Hot Water Music / Leatherface if this release is anything to go by. On the evidence provided, Snacks? has made better use of what was imbibed, managing to steer clear from being an out-and-out copy and writing two very good songs which don’t overly rely on those influences. My problems with Bonvivant are that the songs lack any memorable moments and that I really can’t get past the vocals, which take gruffness into the realms of unintelligible. Therefore I definitely want more Snacks?.  –Rich Cocksedge (Get Party, getparty.limitedrun.com)


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