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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BELLICOSE MINDS, THE:
The Buzz or Howl Sessions: 10”
I dunno, man. When the death rock thing started popping up everywhere again, I was excited for little while, but like any subgenre resurgence, it quickly became oversaturated and far too few bands were really nailing it. And honestly, to me, The Bellicose Minds simply aren’t one of the few standouts. They’re totally fine. Chorus-y guitars, spooky synths, goth-y vocals… there’s just not much new or exciting going on here.  –Dave Williams (A389)


BAUS:
Idol Minds: Cassette
Baus, pronounced “Boss,” out of Oakland offers up their first release. It’s really hard to conform their sound to any one genre. They are a unique hybrid of noise, no-wave, post-punk, and funk. It’s got a quirky funk groove that really gets the hips moving without being cliché in the least. A foundation of bass bounces in step with funk-influenced drums. That’s layered atop with odd and anxious post-punk guitar and shrill and uneasy vocals from Mike. It’s punctuated by some pretty rad shrieks from Sierra. It’s not too often you find a band that sounds this unique; an oddity of sorts. Don’t hesitate to pick this up.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, BausBand510@gmail.com)


BAT COUNTRY:
Love’s the Only Engine of Survival: CD
On a late Seattle morning in May 2012, a man suffering from depression walked into a café and took out a gun. Killing five and wounding others, Joe Albanese, Bat Country’s upright bass player, was one of the victims sitting at that café. Distraught after his death, the band decided to call it quits but wanted to put out an album in Joe’s memory. This, their debut and swan song, serves as a eulogy to a man active in the Arizona punk scene and neocabaret stage. Despite their homebase of Seattle, a southern gothic aura radiates from this nine-piece ensemble. The album title swiped from Leonard Cohen’s “The Future,” which they cover, adds to the NickCave & the Bad Seeds murky mystique of coffins, faeries, and ramblin’ countrymen. Accordion, clarinet, and Joe’s upright bass lend pomp and swing like Amanda Palmer’s Dresden Dolls, while piano threads of Rasputina can be eked out as a parlor lilt fades into the ether. Fit for a steampunk, cabaret variety show.  –Kristen K. (Self-released)


BARE MINIMUM, THE:
Hit after Hit: CD
Four-piece Toronto punk outfit lets loose here with their first full-length. “Destroy the Human Race” and “Nerd at the Punk Show” are two of my favorites on this platter. Give this one a few spins and it will definitely grow on you like a tick that takes a chunk of flesh without asking first. Plus, you know these dudes are classy since they used Roman numerals for the track numbers.  –Sean Koepenick (Self-released, thebareminimumband@gmail.com)


BAG: THEORY:
Tap Dancing in a Mine Field: CD-R
Remember that band that your aging “I used to be a punk rocker, then I grew up” co-worker plays in? You know, the one he keeps bugging you to “come check out” even when you politely decline his offer of free tickets. Bag: Theory is that band and they’re the prog-jazz-freeform-avant-garde clusterfuck that you cringingly envisioned. These sorts of bands are the reason noise cancelling headphones were invented.  –Juan Espinosa (Homeless Publishing, paperbagtheory.com)


AVERAGE TIMES:
Self-titled: CD
Canadian punks Average Times remind me of my attitude as a teen, nothing is the matter but I’m really worked up about it. These are head-bobbing songs about high school excess and having a good time late into the summer night. Musically, it’s solid but most of the lyrics get lost in the heavy reverb; this might cover-up for bad vocals, but, come on, don’t be shy. I want to be able to sing along but instead I’m only able to tap my toes to the beat. Overall, not bad. It seems like everyone is partying in Ottawa.  –Ashley (Hosehead, hoseheadrecords.com / P.Trash, ptrashrecords.com)


ATLANTIC THRILLS:
Self-titled: LP
I try to come at new releases—be it music, literature, film, or television—with low expectations. If something is good, I can appreciate it that much more. If something is so-so, then I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. I really liked Atlantic Thrills’ Day at the Beach 7” from last year and was really looking forward to a full-length, but when I got this record, I gotta say I was disappointed. The psychedelic-ish cover isn’t necessary and the tunes just didn’t hit me like that first 7”. They’re derivative and middle-of-the road at best. Atlantic Thrills’ take on ‘60s rock’n’roll is seen through a Black Lips prism, which is different than say viewing ‘60s rock’n’roll through the same prism the Black Lips do (see “Acid Rain.”) And it seems that every song is the same—”we like to get high.” That’s all well and good, but it’s like hanging out with that one friend who doesn’t talk about anything else but getting high, which gets old quick.  –Sal Lucci (Almost Ready)


ASOUND, THE:
Self-titled: CD
Sludge with affected, Josh Homme-y vocals. Even at a crawl, the drums can’t keep up.  –Chris Terry (tsugurirecords.blogspot.com)


ARROYO DEATHMATCH:
Through the Fear of It: CD
Besides a ukulele, drums, and three vocalists, this band is comprised of a flute, a washboard, and an instrument they created (a bejota) that kind of looks like a banjo but doesn’t sound exactly like it. They describe themselves as anarcho punk folk and belong to a music collective. Do I really need to spell this out for you?  –Kurt Morris (Goathead, goathead.record.collective@gmail.com)


AM/FM’S, THE:
Self-titled: 7”
Mid-tempo Ramones revivalism at its most lovably predictable: catchy choruses (“baby” / “maybe” / “crazy” rhymes sprinkled throughout), power pop progressions, and swaggering rock’n’roll leads. “Damn Right (It’s a Saturday Night)” is a solid, if familiar, opener that details how Saturday night makes these guys feel—you guessed it—all right. On this night they are also going to have a good time. Damn right. This is very much along the lines of what plenty of fellow nostalgics like The Mandates are doing. Nothing new here, but that’s not what the AM/FM’s seem to be going for.  –Indiana Laub (Radio Guru, theamfms@gmail.com)


AGAINST THE GRAIN:
Motor City Speed Rock: 10”
I will give this band credit for something: everything from the title of this record to the artwork gives an idea of exactly what they sound like. I was expecting a combination of Zeke-style speed and Hellacopters-style Scandi rock riffing. That is precisely what Against the Grain offer up. It is basically the style that labels like White Jazz and even Sub Pop were flooding the market with at the turn of the century: garage punk played at hardcore tempos. This band is as good as most but I have been burned out on this style for a decade and a half and am not likely to come back around. Fans of Gluecifer, Peepshows, Adam West, Puffball, and Roadsaw will want to be all over this Detroit band.  –Mike Frame (Self Destructo)


ADIOS MAFIA:
Hot-Blooded American Awesome: CD
Nope. I feel “Nick Marvelous” likes the sound of his own voice. Every moment of every song, no matter how inane or repetitive, is compressed full of lyrics delivered in that over-done Blag Jesus style. This CD would fit easily next to a Drink Fight Fuck compilation you never listen to (or are secretly ashamed of still owning).  –Matt Seward (287, adiosmafia.bandcamp.com)


AARON POEHLER & RYAN TULLY-DOYLE:
Dietrich: CD
Well, I hesitated when I got this in my pile. Cover art smells indie so I didn’t bite at first. Organic, contained, sunny wash with a hollowed facade of a building and electric organ—just bones, some broken. The music is so much stranger, deeper than the cover could ever allude to. I’m constantly learning this lesson. Aaron Poehler has such a deeply disturbing and stirring voice. The kind that enters your ears and finds its way deep into your gut. Analogies like early Bowie, David Byrne, and Ian Curtis come to mind. And really, musically, it’s a mix of ‘70s Bowie to ‘80s Dead Kennedys, to new wave Talking Heads—at times early ‘90s pop punk—to electronic and ambient post-punk. All over the fucking place. This whole album was a journey, one that I wasn’t expecting to take. It’s weird, in the most sincere way.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, apoehler@gmail.com)


ZATOPEKS:
About Bloody Time: CD/LP
Zatopeks surprised me. From the cover art and the band name, I expected their sound to be as moody as the cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking woman on the back cover. Instead, I was greeted by a polished sound and meticulously crafted hooks that were just as well researched as the lyrics, which are dense with history—complete with footnote citations on the insert. “Mechanised” taught me more Russian references than any world history course in my five years in college. “Acetate,” a duet that verges on sentimental without crossing the line into sappy, is a break from the momentum of the other songs, though I think I would have preferred it being a female solo. Their songs are content-rich but are catchy enough to be digested easily.  –Ashley (Monster Zero, themonstzeromash@gmail.com, monsterzero.nl / It’s Alive, info@itsaliverecords.com, itsaliverecords.com)


YOUNG AND IN THE WAY / WITHDRAWAL:
Split: 7”
Young And In The Way does the heavily black metal-infused hardcore thing better than anyone else, and it’s no surprise that Deathwish snatched YAITW up for its upcoming LP. Just blazing, venomous, dissonant-yet-melodic black metal-core that reminds me of both Catharsis and Spread The Disease at times. Withdrawal delivers more straightforward Ringworm/Integrity-influenced hardcore that isn’t quite as refreshing or impressive as YAITW’s side, but is still furious, pummeling, and well executed enough to keep me psyched throughout. Great split.  –Dave Williams (A389)


YES MISTRESS!:
Drunk Again: 7”
Generic, obnoxious, and annoying. Stereotypical “hard” rock mixed with punk tempo changes. Lyrical gems such as, “You want motivation but there’s none to be had / Go outside and ask some money from dad” and “Layin’ in bed like a girl on her rag.” Rag? What are you, twelve? Sadly, the members of Yes Mistress! are actually old enough to know (and do) better. Avoid.  –Alanna Why (Ken Rock, ken-rock.com, kensplastic@hotmail.com)


WORRIERS:
Cruel Optimist: 8-song LP
“Worriers” and “warriors” are homophones. When I say ‘em out loud, they sound similar. On record, Lauren Denitzio’s exploration of her vulnerabilities is what makes her songs so strong, what makes the Worriers so compelling. She’s got a wonderful voice and it runs the gamut on this record from exuberant and strident, to romantic, to questioning, to angry, to resolute. That’s a broad range for a voice to convey. It shows the complexity of not merely bumping through life, but living it. As a collection of songs, there’s a sea change afoot, as happens with age and an inspected life. Some people around Lauren are giving up and giving in. Their ideals are being swapped like fashion accessories of conspicuous consumption. Instead of flat-out blame, Lauren digs deeper into herself. At the end, we must find ourselves. We are our own captains. We are our own ship. Take care of yourself. That’s not a bad headspace for a record to put the careful listener into. It’s, at its essence, a thoughtful pop punk record. Also features Rachel of Bridge And Tunnel, Mikey “Million Bands” Yannich, and Tim Burke! of The Measure [SA]. Beautiful, emotionally smart music.  –Todd Taylor (Don Giovanni, dongiovannirecords.com / worriers.bandcamp.com / laurendenitzio.com)


WONDERFUL THING:
Intimate Dream: CD
With cheesy cover art and cheesier guitar solos, I initially classified this one as simple yet harmless dadcore. Then I got to a track called “Space Girl”: “Now it’s time to take a taste / Of the slags from outer space.” Seconds later, a middle-aged man crooned off-key: “I don’t care if you’re a dyke, girl.” What the hell?! Then, he goes on to sing about how this girl should “get off of her knees” because he doesn’t want to “taste her disease.” Every other song is just about an old man longing for love. Where did this patriarchal, heteronormative crap come from? I knew it was shit the moment I looked at it, but I didn’t know it was sexist shit too. This makes me mad and sad at the same time. Ugh.  –Alanna Why (Self-released)


WILD EMOTIONS:
“Hey Everybody” b/w “Wild Emotions”: 7”
Wild Emotions are an all-girl band with a lo-fi, keyboard-punk sound. The song on the A-side, “Hey Everybody,” would be a perfect track to spin at a Halloween party. It’s a fun, simple song you could easily pogo to in your ironic costume. The B-side song is called, well, “Wild Emotions.” This song is a bit more chaotic than the other. The vocals are blurry and it has a drunk-speed tempo. All in all, this is a fun little party record.  –Ryan Nichols (Blahhll!, blahrecords.com)


WE LIVE IN TRENCHES:
Life Crisis: LP
We Live In Trenches could well be the bastard offspring following a messy tryst involving The Rollins Band, Big Black, and Dead And Gone, such is the deep-rooted intensity that permeates each and every track on the band’s second album. The record pulsates with a nihilistic thunder, topped off with a bear-like growl exuding a rib-crushing threat which keeps me in a state of high alert throughout. The songs benefit from being well structured and, therefore, do not fall into the trap of getting lost in a repetitiveness that would dull its impact. Surprisingly, I quite enjoy listening to this in a relaxing bath!  –Rich Cocksedge (La Familia, stachel@lafamiliareleases.com, lafamiliareleases.com / Farsot, info@farsotfarsot.com)


VEXX:
Self-titled: 12”EP
I am thankful that people are able to use hardcore as an inspiration for making music that isn’t necessarily hardcore. Vexx are definitely a hardcore punk band, but they aren’t confined by the label. X’s Americana accent; Vexx’s clenched fist intensity. The track “Strength” is one of the most captivating tracks I’ve heard all year. I’m also thankful for the unholy combination of Maryjane’s vocals and Mike’s guitar playing. The balance of sounding totally unhinged and totally in control takes these songs to a level many strive for, but rarely reach. Like fellow Olympians, Hysterics, I’ve heard this band’s live shows are absolutely devastating, so check ‘em out if you get the chance. I know I will be.  –Daryl Gussin (Grazer, grazerrecords.bigcartel.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Wolf Party: CD
Killer surf/garage/weirdo compilation from New Zealand featuring nobody you’ve heard of slaying everybody you already know. Knife Fight’s “Woof Woof Woof” and The Chandeliers’ “Diamondo” are the real holy shit goddamn moments (also: the singer from Mr. Slackjaw sounds a lotlike Mark Sandman), but there’s so much to take in here, all gnarly and deranged and goofy and cool. There are little stop-offs into U.S. Girls and maybe fake, dumb cold wave territory (Full Fucking Moon’s “Litany of the Oceans, Pt. 1” and Golden Axe’s “Dognapped,” respectively), but mostly it’s psych and rock’n’roll and dirty side roads and head trips. The bands know their history, and they also care enough to fuck with tradition. Very pumped to see King Loser mentioned in the liner notes, too. They could be the spiritual parents of this garage crew, kind of? Would love to tour New Zealand and hang at all the Kiwi dives with all these bands.  –Matt Werts (Voodoo Rhythm, voodoorhythm.com)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Maximum Rocknroll Presents Sound the Alarms: 2 x LP
Another international comp from this fanzine mainstay, this time a double-disc affair featuring thirty-two bands repping fourteen countries, courtesy of Silla Electrica, Synthetic ID, Anti You, Lotus Fucker, Cülo, Kuudes Silma, Nuclear Spring, Hondartzako Hondakinak, and a buncha others. As can be expected given the mag’s musical tastes, this slants heavily towards the hardcore end of the rainbow, yet they keep things from degenerating into a thrashy blur both by collecting a pretty solid selection of tunes and having the foresight to toss in enough bands working in lower gears to break up any potential monotony. Given the dearth of any true scene comps, and the even fewer worth listening to with any regularity, this is a nice, timely addition to the platform.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Maximum Rock’n’roll)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Guided By Voices Tribute: 7”
Okay, confession time: when I eat spicy foods, I lose hearing in my right ear. No, no, that’s not right. Oh, here it is: to my knowledge, I have never listened to Guided By Voices. Not once. I’ve probably surreptitiously heard them at one point or another, but not so I remember them. So I have no idea how faithful or jaw-droppingly creative these covers are. Four bands: Screaming Females, Waxahatchee, Upset, and Swearin’. The record’s over quite quickly, the vinyl’s the color of cherry-flavored Chapstick, and if nothing else, I’m even further convinced that the woman from Waxahatchee could sing a recipe for beet borscht and I’d still be into it.  –Keith Rosson (Salinas)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Drop the Needle: Boston Punk Anthology: CD
The Stilphen brothers (Chuck and Glen) dig through the basement and come with some hidden gems here. Smegma and The Nunz dates back to the early ‘80s. Sadly, original vocalist Alec Steere passed away in 1999. There is also the original version of Gang Green’s “Let’s Drink Some Beer,” from 1985. Not radically different from the song I remember, but still cool to have in the collection. Scratch and Mallet Head are more in the metal arena, but they still bring it. I love the inside cover picture. Classic!  –Sean Koepenick (Trev, trevrec.com)


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