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Record Reviews

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ILL CONTENT:
Self-titled: CD-R
Metallic hardcore from some Oakland cats who were around in the ‘80s when that scene was feeling the effects of bands like Attitude Adjustment, Metallica, Exodus and so on. Not surprisingly, the three tunes here recall the much ballyhooed “crossover” period when hardcore bands were getting their muffled chords and geetar solos on. My personal taste/stomach for that style of hardcore is notoriously finicky, but, all told, they do it well, and they don’t embarrass themselves by staying on the hardcore side of the fence and refraining from going overboard with Cookie Monster vocals and/or metal screams. –Jimmy Alvarado (Ill Content, Illcontent@comcast.net)


VIBROLAS:
Van Wars: CD
Bluesy garage rock that strangely enough reminds me of early ALL (especially some of the longer ongoing guitar noodling) as well as the Minutemen (ditto with the guitars, plus the singer has a bit of a D. Boon gruffness to his voice). But, ultimately, it’s super bluesy garage rock, so I guess if you’re still hurt about the Black Keys getting so huge, this will help calm your nerves. –Joe Evans III (Transistor 66)


VIBRATING BEDS, THE:
Sing the Blues: 7”
The title of this record is pretty spot-on in describing the slow and melancholy A-side. It’s a powerful blues number that really lets the vocalist show off her pipes. But for me, the songs when you flip the record over are really way more my speed (no pun intended). Two fast, no-frills garage rock stompers can be found on the B-side and really steal the show here. With a sound in the same ballpark as The Detroit Cobras or The Sunday Sinners, this will please anyone who enjoys female-vocalled garage rock with balls. Good shit. –Mark Twistworthy (Transistor 66, transistor66.com)


VARUKERS, THE:
Vintage Varukers (Rare and Unreleased 1980-1985): CD
One of the best of the U.K. 82 bands, The Varukers are living legends. This collection is full of true rarities, including the band’s first demo, as well as a series of studio outtakes and live tracks. Before becoming one of the first and best d-beat bands, The Varukers already stood out from the pack with their fiercely paced anarcho hardcore punk. Their continued popularity stems both from their recorded greatness as well as the fact that they’re one of the U.K. bands that lots of us got to see in the 1990s. They’re always amazing live. Vocalist “Rat” (Anthony Martin) also sang for Discharge when Discharge toured the U.S. during the current millennium. The booklet that comes with this stellar release includes informative liner notes by Rat himself, as well as a very fun Varukers interview. Naysayers assume that The Varukers are all about fashion, but that’s really not the case. They do look cooler than you, though. –Art Ettinger (Antisociety, antisocietyrecords@yahoo.co.uk)


VARIOUS ARTISTS::
Sciana Wschodnia… Vol. 1: CD
I put ellipses in the title there ‘cause it included some letters I couldn’t find available in the font I’m a-workin’ with here. From what I can glean from the accompanying booklet, this is a comp spotlighting the diversity of talent to be found in Poland’s punk scene and features a total of twenty-six tracks courtesy of K.A.S.K, Agonya, Ortodox, One Way Back, Ceaseless Desolation, and many others. Can’t say all of what’s here is stuff I’d listen to with any regularity, but the selection is indeed diverse and there are some gems to be found. –Jimmy Alvarado (Sciana Wschodnia Fanzine, scianawschodniazine.pl)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Sacramento Records Anthology 1999-2004: Cassette
It’s interesting to me that, historically, since the late ‘80s, SacramentoCalifornia has always had a scene and loads of bands which all play a version of punk rock which, while it doesn’t all sound alike, it all seems to be similar in general aesthetic and style. Thinking back to some of the releases on Very Small/Too Many Records that featured Sacramento bands, a lot of really unique stuff has come out of that city. This compilation features everyone’s favorite Sacramento band, The Bananas, along with many other bands I’m familiar with (Horny Mormons, The Knockoffs, etc.) as well as many that I had never heard of before (Rock The Light, The Coz, etc.). Like most compilations, not every track is a winner, but I will say that the majority of this is really cool. This cassette only release is limited to 250 copies, so I would seek this out quick! –Mark Twistworthy (Pleasant Screams, pleasantscreams.com))


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Fast Songs for a Violent World: CD-R
The lion’s share of the bands here hail from Marseille, France (though Auch, Grenoble Arles, and even Zangreb, Croatia are repped here) and the sound is almost uniformly rooted in hardcore. Inquisition, Hobo Erectus, Satan, Filthy Charity, Violent Grannies, Thirteen Fight, La Mort, The Butcher Project, (In)Conscience, Our Roots, and Maljutka thrash, grind, trudge and scream their way through twenty-one tracks of assorted noise. It’s particularly nice to see that Satan’s finally gotten a group together after decades of untold bands singing about him. –Jimmy Alvarado (Neanderthal Productions, neanderthal-prod.org)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
A Butcher’s Waltz: CD
A four-way split featuring Gay Witch Abortion, Power Take Off, Seawhores, and Skoal Kodiak. Each provide enough skronk, squawk, and general noisemongering to keep that migraine pounding just a wee bit longer, but do it in such different and individually intriguing ways, from song to song and band to band, to keep your attention throughout. –Jimmy Alvarado (Learning Curve, learningcurverecords.com)


VANNA INGET:
Allvar: LP
Female-fronted Swedish punk akin to contemporaries Hannah Hirsch and Masshysteri. Fleeting, desperate vocals that are just so damn melodic and well sung you can’t avoid being completely consumed by them. It’s hard not to love this stuff. The only question I’m left with is why on the insert they printed the lyrics for four songs multiple times, rather than printing the lyrics for all the songs. Possibly a commentary on American punks lapping up international punk with absolutely no concept of what they’re singing about? I like to think so. Big ups to 1-2-3-4 Go! for releasing this record stateside. –Daryl Gussin (P. Trash / 1-2-3-4 Go!)


UZI RASH:
I Saw U: 7”
This is weird, lo-fi, and all over the place. The A-side sounds like if you were on the worst acid trip in the world and were forced to listen to “Space Aged Love Song” by A Flock Of Seagulls, and just as you are making a decision that it’s almost unlistenable, you realize that you’re wrong and it’s actually brilliant. Flip this 7” over, and the first song on the B-side sounds like if you mixed Doc Dart with the banjo-playing boy from the movie Deliverance followed by a garage-stomping cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On.” The weirdness of it all really adds to the charm of the record and would lead me to recommend this to anyone into lo-fidelity, weird garage, anti-rock. –Mark Twistworthy (1-2-3-4 Go!, 1234gorecords.com)


UTAH PHILLIPS:
Making Speech Free: CD
By my reckoning, there are tons of truly remarkable people breathing air within America’s borders, but how many of them could be classified as bona fide national treasures? Now I know any list would totally be subjective and would likely differ from person to person, but I have a few folks that’d likely make such a list. Lalo Guerrero and Harry Belafonte are two I can think of right off the top of my head, and a third would be Utah Phillips. Though he’s best known for his infamous “Moose Turd Pie” story, made popular by the Dr. Demento radio show, Phillips was a bit more than the teller of off-color tales of vengeful Gandy dancers. While it’s true that he was a folk singer well versed in once-ubiquitous songs that most couldn’t even pretend to know these days, he also was self-described anarchist, a Wobbly, a labor organizer, and former candidate for the U.S. senate, trainhopper, and a myriad of other things—and yes, he was one helluva fine storyteller, the kind that could spin a tale about folks familiar and obscure and leave you feeling like you’d known ‘em your whole life. This release, recorded at a 1999 Free Speech Teach-In, is a fine example of what Phillips did so well. Interspersed between songs not “learned from books or records, but from sitting in front of live people and saying, ‘Sing that again,’ until I finally got it,” as he explains in the album’s liner notes, are tales of people who lived the essence of the First Amendment—Emma Goldman, Mother Jones, and Ammon Hennacy, to name a few—and of long-ago strikes, massacres, and moments when common men stood up and used their right to free speech to demand something more from those who were trying to give them less. Inspirational, smart, funny as hell, and always engaging, Making Speech Free serves as a fine example of why Utah Phillips was an American treasure: When he passed on in 2008, decades of stories, histories, songs, and life experience went with him and, though he left many fine recordings, nothing can replace the loss of the man. –Jimmy Alvarado (PM Press)


UNNATURAL HELPERS:
Self-titled: LP
Unnatural Helpers might just be my new favorite band. The songs on here are herky-jerky but not quirky, full of fuzzed-out guitar and are all super catchy. While they don’t sound like them, the closest thing I can think of to compare them to would be The Intelligence, although these songs are way hookier with more riffs than you can shake a stick at. Sometimes, I hear a little Mark Arm in the inflection of the vocalist, but they don’t sound anything like his band. The songs are all short, cut straight to the point, and are, ultimately, super addictive. I must hear more from them. Absolutely recommended. –Mark Twistworthy (1-2-3-4 Go!, 1234gorecords.com)


UNCRUBED / WARVICTIMS:
Split: LP
Warvictims: This one guy in the band has a mohawk and a mustache. That’s classy. Discharge-loving Swedes that throw out a side’s worth of convincing d-beat. Nothing I get too excited about these days, but they do a passable job. Uncurbed: these guys are presumably also from Sweden, but there seems to be even less info floating around about them. They’ve apparently been around for a decade or more, releasing records on Sound Pollution and tons of other labels throughout the years. Similar to Warvictims, they’re playing a threateningly dark and moody offshoot of hardcore that’s led by a frontman who sounds like a super-pissed German Shepherd. Fans of the genre rejoice. –Keith Rosson (Sacred Plague)


TUMOR WARLORD:
Bio-Machine: 7”
Some dudes from Copenhagen are playing some synth-driven punk that, to coin a phrase, I would call hard new wave. It’s raw and driving, taking the cold, futurist android style of Milemarker and making it aggressive and jarring. Dudes who play in this band, unfortunately, aren’t actually robots, but some of them used to play in bands like Cola Freaks, Spider Babies, and Idi Amins. –Craven (Jethro-Row)


TOM GRRRL:
Rough Demonstrations: CD
Sweet, cute, dancey, and rad. A more reserved, yet more maniacally in love Atom And His Package. This demo comes with liner notes in zine form. –Katie Dunne (Tom Grrrl)


TITAN BLOOD:
Too Much Talk: 7” EP
Somehow I inadvertently mined a chunk of releases that sound like they’re hot off some 1970s punk vinyl press. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, ‘cause what I’ve been hearing has been mighty tasty, and this is no exception. You get primo spit-dribbling punk as only Texas can serve it up mixed in with some R&B flourishes, and even an instrumental with organ/piano is slopped on the side to clean the palate. –Jimmy Alvarado (Titan Blood, tbcollective88@gmail.com)


TIN ARMOR:
Strange and Estranging: 7”
This was a very pleasant surprise indeed. Parts (that dreadful word) Americana, slacker pop, ‘80s MPLS punk, Brit pop, and alt country, Tin Armor have got a pretty unique amalgam going here, but would also likely be right at home playing alongside, say, Cheap Girls, Ninja Gun and/or Ben Folds. After a few months of non-stop Lemonheads, Smudge, Buffalo Tom and 14 Songs, I’ll be spinning this one a few more times. –Dave Williams (One Percent Press)


TIKI POODLES, THE:
Self-titled: CD
Oddball Demento-type stuff here, pulling from a lot of different bathwaters—disco, jazz, punk, skronk, and garden variety freakout weirdness. Gotta respect a band that sounds nothing like the Childmolesters, the Dicks, and Captain Beefheart, but brings all of them to mind at the same time. –Jimmy Alvarado (The Tiki Poodles, myspace.com/thetikipoodles)


THINGZ:
The Thingz of Shapes to Come: CD
If you ever find yourself on Mars with nothing but a thermos full of spiked punch and a robot you made out of the insides of a toy guitar and you’re surrounded by horn-nosed aliens who speak only in the colors pink, green, and yellow, this is probably the CD you want to put on to get the dancing started. –MP Johnson (Coffee Addict)


THERAPISTS:
Hate Sweats: 12” 45
Played the whole thing at 33 before I realized it was supposed to play at 45, so i had to play the whole thing again at the right speed. I honestly did not like it either way, but repeated listenings ((on the correct speed as a consumer service)) are causing me to question what the fuck my original problem was. Rapid, raging punk with some rock leanings, but not to the extent of throwing a bunch of dumb guitar bullshit in there and making me crabby, or sounding like some bland Stooges clones like the Weaklings and also making me crabby. If the evil monkey who lives in Chris Griffin’s closet ever joined a band, i’d imagine he’d play bass for these guys. It would also be cool if his eyes were Hypno-Coins while he was playing. Sold! BEST SONG: “Slow Thaw” BEST SONG TITLE: “Jesus Loves You Judy” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Transcending the putrid morass of “A” and “B,” the sides of this record are designated “Rama Lama” and “Ding Dong.” All hail the New World Order! BEST SONG: “Boyfriend Street” BEST SONG TITLE: “Enslaved Outraged” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: “This Record Is Guaranteed To Get You Laid!” –Rev. Norb (Jonny Cat)


TENEMENT:
Blind Wink: LP
This record is a beautiful oddity. While it might not have been as essential if the impact of Napalm Dream was still in the air, as a continuation of that record, it feels just as important. In a perfect world, Tenement would release an LP every year, and the awe-struck astonishment of this band’s creative capability would last forever. On this outing they may stray further from the Midwest punk comfort zone. But who doesn’t like to get a little adventurous? Due to hours and hours of over-analyzing records and bands, sometimes it’s hard to see past the clichés and trends. But, in the most refreshing way possible, this music makes me feel like a human. –Daryl Gussin (Cowabunga)


TEENANGER:
Frights: LP
Remember hearing their previous album and not really bein’ swayed one way or the other, but there’s a lotta great troublemakin’ going on this time ‘round. At its core, Frights is a punk album by a band smart enough to know the best of that genre never relies on self-cannibalizing to come up with something that’ll stick out of the pack. There’s more than enough loud geetars, thud ‘n’ atonal, apathetic vocal delivery to go around here (hell, “Walking on Eggshells” could’ve easily fit into the early Buzzcocks’ repertoire), but underneath are smart bits of post-punk, ‘60s garage, and an occasional country swagger to add a bit of sly sophistication to the crash-boom. This screams to be played loud, and this punter is only too happy to oblige. –Jimmy Alvarado (Telephone Explosion)


TAKE WARNING:
Self-titled: EP
Poppy punk stuff with a driving guitar sound that gives it an edge, backed up with whoa-oh choruses. I hear traces of Naked Raygun here and there, but this is speedier. Lyrically, they tackle media manipulation, the tyranny of wage labor, and more. It’s not bad. I just wish they would add a little more crunch to their songs. –M.Avrg –Matt Average (Crapoulet, cool@crapoulet.fr / Meantime, meantime42@wanadoo.fr / Purepainsugar, pary@purepainsugar.com)


SUZUKI SMITH:
Ends: CD
Oh lovely. Two of my most loathed punk subgenres (Boston-based street rock and “Celtic” punk) collide in a mess of amateurish musicianship and lyrics that are subpar even in a scene known predominantly for its pedestrian rally cries and odes to macho buffoonery. Godawful. –Dave Williams (Trueno Blanco)


SUBURBAN & COKE:
It’s My Party and I’ll Get High If I Want to: CD
Punk rock trio from Perth, Australia wins the award for nastiest album cover ever. But it is the music that’s important here, folks. The songs are sharp and quick and most are under two minutes. “History ‘N’ Shit” and “Mosquito Whiskey” will earn repeat listens with me. Unfortunately, after two years of raising hell, it looks like these dudes have packed it in. Oh well, they can always reunite in five years. –Sean Koepenick (Self-released)


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