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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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ACROBRATS, THE:
Hair Trigger: 7"
From Wikipedia:“their song ‘Callout’ was featured as a bonus song in Guitar Hero. Also, their song ‘Laughtrack’ was a bonus track in Guitar Hero II. In 2007, their song ‘Day Late, Dollar Short’ is a track featured as a bonus song in Rock Band.” –Craven (no info)


AC4:
Self-titled: LP
Dunno what the fuck they put in the Kool-Aid over there in Umea, but the number of flat-out kick ass punk bands that hail from there is mind boggling, and AC4 is no exception. Tune after tune of grade-A thrash here—tight, speedy and catchy in a Minor-Threat-in-their-prime way—which comes as no surprise considering we’re talking about a band with members of Refused and The Vectors here. –Jimmy Alvarado (derangedrecords.com)


ABSINTHE ROSE / HUMANWINE:
Split: CD
Interesting release from Rodent Popsicle that I was personally surprised that they co-released. From first impressions, I thought this was going to be a punk release. I was definitely wrong. Absinthe Rose: Female-led band armed with a banjo or switching to an acoustic guitar writes a charging blend of what I would call rawhide country punk. Backed by a strong and powerful rhythm section, the bass and drums are what catch my attention. The guitar and other string instruments add the texture and nuances that add the color to the music. After a few listens, I definitely found the music enjoyable. Humanwire: This band comes from a different direction. The female vocals are more ethereal. I feel more of a Middle Eastern vibe in delivery on one of the songs. But she uses different techniques to give each song its own identity. The music complements it with the use of string instruments like the cello, violin, and bass fiddle. It gives the music a haunting tone that gives me a mental image of swamps at night then moving to a scene from a cabaret act. Both bands truly surprised me. I was moved and captivated. Co-released with Screech Owl Records and Nervous Relatives Records. –Donofthedead (Rodent Popsicle)


ABSINTHE ROSE / HUMAN WINE:
Split: CD
Absinthe Rose: Acoustic guitar-driven rock music with a country feel to some of it. Human Wine: Moody, mostly acoustic music with folk elements dropped in here and there. –Jimmy Alvarado (rodentpopsicle.com)


ABSENT MINDS:
EmergencEP: CDEP
Excellent cello punk from Portland, featuring my good friend from New Mexico, Joel, in the lead shouter and guitar spot. So I’ve never actually heard another punk band use a cello for more than a song or two and then usually only as an interlude between tracks, but this actually works with the cello is a vital, integrated part of the band’s sound and not just a tacked-on flourish. Think of it as adding a new lead instrument that sounds a little more melancholy and bassy to compliment the guitar lines, but is played just as fiercely by Isaac, the cello player. My favorites are the two lead-off songs “No Questions, No Lies” and “Bacon Cheeseburger.” These are two perfectly catchy ragers that are some of the better dissatisfaction anthems I’ve heard as of late. Some of the later tracks, like “No Rest” and “Scraps” flirt with slowing things down a little, but they keep things interesting with catchy group vocals and odd little change-ups peppered throughout the songs. This is a promising little EP from a band doing things a bit off the beaten path. –Adrian (Self-released, myspace.com/absentmindspdx)


97-SHIKI:
Showing Teeth Is a Good Decision: Cassette
Chicago’s 97-Shiki have simultaneously become more mathy and more accessible. The vocals are toned down and they’ve thrown in some horns, which make the comparisons to free jazz all the easier. I like it when they base the groove around a guitar figure instead of a traditional rhythm instrument. But really, how did they get more complicated since their last release? They still sound like D. Boon and Ornette Coleman falling down a flight of stairs, but now the other speaker sounds like a lid rattling on top of a boiling pot. This music has the right kind of “What the fuck?” quality. It makes you want to return to it to decipher it, as opposed to casting it aside because it’s too cryptic. Headscratcher of the year, for sure. –CT Terry (97-Shiki.com)


50 WAYS TO KILL ME:
Gnarly Deth Wish: CD
What it sounds like is more or less what it is—one dude (and occasionally a little help from his friends) with access to ProTools and/or cheap studio time cranks out fifty songs with song titles providing specific examples of how the intent inherent in the band’s name can be executed (pun intended). It’s clear that all involved are quite proficient musically and have a definite sense of humor, but this ultimately gets kinda dull about six songs in. –Jimmy Alvarado (Scene Destroyer)


20BELOWS, THE:
For Better Days: CD
Scandinavia, you will be the death of America! Apparently, not only have you bested us on the health care and quality of living fronts, you are also capable of producing superior pop punk bands! Americans, take note! The only way that we can resolve this problem is by using a “drone mouse trap” to kidnap the 20Belows and force them to salute the American flag and/or play a basement show in Minneapolis! Amazing pop punk, with a singer who sometimes sounds like (in a good way) John K. Samson, of the Weakerthans, Propagandhi, et. al. Super catchy pop punk! Lyrics include, “We’d get drunk and play for fun’s sake, sing along to punk rock mix tapes, now and then I long for those days.” I’m guessing that this band’s name is a Teen Idols reference, and this entire band is a Screeching Weasel meets Swingin’ Utters reference. If this were a cereal, it’d be a cereal from Europe that’s better than Trix and that I don’t even know about! Buy this or be forced to buy it when Denmark invades the United States and turns it into a socialist state! Your choice. –Maddy (Monster Zero)


LYCKA TILL:
Self-titled: CD
Really jolly-sounding scrappy punk from Sweden, with some quite prominent trumpet. There’s an acoustic guitar along with the electric, so I would say this comes off more folky than ska-like. I know part of it is the voices, but this actually reminds me of some of the early Millencollin. Since a lot of the songs are in Swedish, I didn’t notice how dark or political a lot of the songs were until I looked up the lyrics with translations on the Plan-It-X site. A lot of the songs sound so happy and poppy that I kind of assumed they were about hanging in the woods with some reindeer, gathering lingonberries, sledding, and whatever other chilled-out activities people do in Sweden. All in all, it’s a pretty fun record that is worth picking up. Also, I dunno if it’s just me, but I swear like four of the songs use the melody from “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Anybody else getting that? –Adrian (Plan-It-X)


LENGUAS LARGAS:
Lonely Summertime b/w Are You Scared?: 7”
It won’t be the first time where I’m belly up to the all-you-can-eat buffet of eating my own words. Lenguas Largas occupy the kinder sonic climes of what’s become “indie rock.” It’s a form of music I’ve come to associate—through more than ample exposure—with designer tags, secret shows, douchebags, future expensive baby strollers, current attempts at irony, and is shooting for the Juno soundtrack (of the mind). Lenguas Largas is a bunch of dirty DIY dudes playing stony, pleasant, intricate music that builds tension then releases. It’s subtle, yet pleasant; thick, swirling, and as fingering as white smoke exhaled deeply from a pipe. The vocals are reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins without the ick. Mellower than the first 7”, but I like it. –Todd Taylor (Dirt Cult)


LACKEY DIE:
Self-titled: 7” EP
According to the liner notes, Lackey Die was Charlottesville, Virginia’s first hardcore band, forming circa 1982 and managing to survive until 1986. Collected here are two demos, the first recorded in Richmond in 1984 and the second recorded in 1986 at Don Zientara’s legendary Inner Ear Studios. The music’s fast, tight, and very much of its time. The recordings are quite good considering the most recent one is twenty-four years old. Nice bit of history here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Feel It)


KICKING SPIT / STYMIE:
Split: 7”
Let’s begin with saying that melodic Midwest punk with heart and punch is becoming a sound that’s far larger than its original geography. It’s also a destination with a legacy that includes the Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Mary Tyler Fuckin’ Moore, Dillinger Four, and Selby Tigers. Put that in a blender and down with a raw egg. Kicking Spit: From St. Paul” New Jersey. In that microsecond prior to “grunge” getting a name, like the first Mudhoney single, shit was super tight and Kicking Spit expand it like taffy with a Dinosaur Jr. finger. Stymie: From “Minneapolis,” New Jersey. Who’ll give Dear Landlord a run for the money by out-”Dear Landlording” them. It’s music about honesty, rust, “trailer parks of the mind,” and weathering storms. Both sides build on one another. Progress through fucking up on a daily basis. –Todd Taylor (Cowabunga)


KALASHNIKOV:
Living in a Psycho-Chaos Era: LP
Ever since my discovery of this incredible collective from Italy, I have tried to spread the word of them like gospel. So much so, I put money into their Angoscia Rock 7”, their previous release. I had every intention to put money into the CD version of their current release but the money I had intended to use was sucked dry by bills. Shitty U.S. economy! They do releases funded by worldwide participation. Chaos Rurale out of Canada who participated on a few of their releases went a step further. On top of being part of the new CD, he went ahead and did a vinyl version. Four hundred on black and one hundred on clear with a beautiful two-sided color fold out poster sleeve. The music is adventurous and I stand by my claims that they have elements of punk, post-punk, new wave, and the music of the early productions of Cirque du Soleil. The growth of this band musically and production-wise has been by multitudes. This release storms out from the get-go on the first track: a charging yet not aggressive song that has the energy of a protest march. Other tracks give me a post apocalyptical picture but with hope and survival. On others, you get the feeling that you can still have fun while being angry. The end track is a cover of The Mob’s No Doves Fly Here. It’s haunting and emotional and paints the picture perfect of post-war. Every person who has an ear for music that I have played this band to or given them a copy of the music has become converts. So, hopefully, you are reading this and my words will make you seek out this great band. The CD version contains tracks from the latter 7”, all packaged in a double gatefold booklet. –Donofthedead (Chaos Rurale, chaosrurale.com)


KERMIT’S FINGER:
Grudge: LP
Wow, loooooong has it been since I last heard anything from these guys, and judging from this release they haven’t “matured” much in sound, which is just fine. Sixteen tracks of rudimentary punk tackling some of the most pressing topical topics: would-be punks who just don’t have a clue, proper undergarment fashion choices, and the tragedy that befalls a man spreading salt on snow, to name but a few. If you’re looking for the fastest, angriest, catchiest, technically proficient and politically charged punk stuff around, yer gonna be sorely disappointed with this, but if you prefer occasionally sloppy punk from a buncha guys who are a lot smarter and funnier than they put on, this’ll go down nicely. –Jimmy Alvarado (Poorest Quality)


JUNK, THE:
Glad to See You’re Back: 7” EP
Blunt, catchy, snotty, itchy OrangeCounty punk rock. The legacy’s all there from The Crowd to Shattered Faith to The Stitches and this 7” would have fit right in on Hostage Records and in the New Beach Alliance without a blink five, ten years ago. These three songs are also an understandable continuation of The Smut Peddlers—Gish and Julia are the bulletproof rhythm section. With another vocalist, the lyrics remain dark, but, this time out, are looking for redemption instead of reveling in being king of the fuck-ups. Solid stuff. It’s like a motorcycle with all the attention paid to the motor, not the paint. I’m looking forward to them opening up the throttle on the open road of a full length. Limited to 150. –Todd Taylor (Bad Idea Music, badideamusic.com)


JUNIUS:
The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist: 2 x LP
Gloom pop re-imagined as arena rock, with tons of reverb and massive echoing bluster. The songs spread across the four sides are long, with shades of what occasionally sounds like Tears For Fears and other similarly gloomy ‘80s new wave groups blown up to epic proportions. Surprisingly, it works quite well, A lot of care has been put into this release, from the recording quality and delivery to the packaging, which includes a nice big booklet with lyrics and artwork highlighting each song, as well as two vinyl slabs the color of honey throat lozenges. Was a bit wary of this, but glad I took a chance on it. –Jimmy Alvarado (The Mylene Sheath)


JACKIE SHARK AND THE BEACH BUTCHERS:
2nd Generation Rising: 7”
According to the blurb on the back, Jackie Shark founded Riverside, California’s first punk band, Rabies, in 1977 and said band managed to play the Masque. Wanting a document of the band’s original tunes after it had broken up, Jackie enlisted the assistance of one Jeffery Blast and the result was the original pressing of this single, released in 1978 with a pressing of 250 copies. Naturally, collector geeks froth at the mouth for copies of the original pressing, but Artifix in its infinite wisdom has seen fit to repress it for those of us who are more concerned with hearing the music than paying the equivalent of a college tuition for one fucking 45. Is it worth the trouble, you ask? Well, if you’re big on punk history, Southern California punk history, Riverside punk history, or simply dig primitive rock’n’roll served up with heaping helpings of attitude, then yes, it’s definitely worth the trouble. –Jimmy Alvarado (Artifix)


IRRITONES:
Negative Dots: LP
“Don’t talk, don’t talk to me about Jesus Christ!” With lyrics like that you know this is a record to get! Punk rock that doesn’t aim to be warm and cute. This is catchier than the bird flu, with a style heavily borrowing from the late ‘70s, and features the singer from the Hate Pinks who brought the world “Kissing Cops With My Ass.” Irritones pretty much pick up where that band left off. Mainly mid tempo with some slow-burning tension and guitars that have a sort of gritty distortion. Songs like “Japanese Cars,” “Danse en France,” “Cannibal Kids,” and “Rejection Is All We Got” are just four of the many reasons you should get this white platter. The best band out of France since Magma. –Matt Average (P.Trash, ptrashrecords.com)


HOUNDS AND HARLOTS:
Are You With Us?: CD
Really good, straight-forward street punk in the vein of Reducers SF and Forced Reality with great choruses. These guys can really play their stuff. The timing is right on, the lyrics are good, and you find yourself not wanting to get too far from the stereo. Very solid three songs. I’m with you. –Rene Navarro (hounds and harlots.com)


HOTDOG / HAIRDOS ON FIRE:
Split: 7”
I can’t shake that I’m listening to the equivalent of Lomax field recordings, yet instead of recordings of musicians directly on the Mississippi delta in the early ‘30s, the tape recorders were set up in living rooms in Tempe and Las Cruces, 2010. To me, the effects are the same: sound technology capturing folks playing; celebration and preservation of local color; struggle against the homogenization of a dominant media culture through creative activity. This split is lo-fi, melodic DIY punk made by circumstance, not predominant aesthetics (and more Bananas than Leadbelly). Both sides are fun, honest, and memorable. Let’s hear it for fuck-ups, the fucked-over, and democracy. –Todd Taylor (Dirt Cult / Margin Mouth)


HOT NEW MEXICANS:
Self-titled: LP
I’ll fully admit that I live in a music bunker. I’m not being a dick when I say I have no opinion about, say, today, Lady Gaga. It’s just that I don’t care, like I don’t care about fast food chains or I don’t care about Fox News. That shit’s ninety-nine percent designed to accelerate your death through constant radiation. Paradoxically, by being everywhere, these systems are designed to keep everyone isolated and alone. I hate the systems of control so much that I don’t even know the current players. So, pardon me if I’m all pissy about the music company that’s attached to a multinational that’s currently trying to privatize the rain that’s falling down on Bolivia and don’t know a current hit or artist. But by not being “plugged in” to a 24/7 influx of distractions, I can sit in my room—most often by myself—and listen to records and read books. If I like the records—this one’s fuckin’ great—chances are I’ll go see them if they come through town. Chances are I’ll be, “Oh, fuck, I know that dude. He was the bassist in the Carrie Nations.” Chances are, if we talk, I’ll learn a bit about Cleveland, Mississippi, write down where the best BBQ is in the area. The Hot New Mexicans play ragged, melodic, approachable DIY punk that reminds me of scuffed floors, long drives, cracked-open beers, proportionately incorrect tattoos of bands from the ‘90s, cracking-open-the-sky sunsets, secrets and stains rolled up in frayed carpets, hairy dogpiles, body odor, and the really beautiful parts to Tortilla Flats. Like when the house burns down and no one gets too mad because it’s just a house and not the people inside of it. –Todd Taylor (Houseplant, houseplantrecords.com / Recess, recessrecords.com)


HOLY MESS, THE:
Benefit Sheesh: 7”
“It sounds like Latterman!” I declared, entering the room with the gusto of a more confident man. My friends, visiting from out of town, agreed, but also disagreed as the comparison was apt, but not necessarily the most accurate. “Damn, Razorcake must like you if they send you stuff this good. It sounds like something I would have listened to in the ‘90s,” Matt decided. “Bryan, you should put that in your review. Everyone needs that sentence as a frame of reference.” And so I did. –Bryan Static (Eevil Weevil/Weird Skull, weirdskull.com)


IDI AMIN AND THE AMPUTEES:
Self-titled: 7”
Dunno when this was originally recorded, and there’s precious little on the record itself, but it could easily pass itself off as some long lost punk gem with song titles like “Disco Bitch” and “Nasty Nazi,” not to mention the full on skronky punk attack of the music itself. –Jimmy Alvarado (Going Underground)


HEWHOCANNOTBENAMED:
Sunday School Massacre: CD
As can be expected from the Dwarves’ guitarist, this sounds like more recent Dwarves fare, just as demented (cf. “Duct Tape Love”) with maybe more rock/glam influences than usual. It ain’t even close to Blood, Guts, and Pussy, but if you’re a fan of the (at least musically) kinder, gentler Dwarves of the past decade or so, this’ll get you going nicely. –Jimmy Alvarado (MVD Audio)


HARLEY POE:
Wretched. Filthy. Ugly.: CD
On the dirt roads that crisscross the fires of hell, rusty pickup trucks drag trailers full of the hay that’s used to keep the flames burning high. Once in a while, when Satan is feeling uncharacteristically sadistic, he hires a band to ride on the bales of hay playing music to make the damned smile, to taunt them with a moment of horrific joy before they are forced to go back to their eternal torture. That band is Harley Poe, and they do their job graciously, grinning sardonically in the heat as they pound on their keyboards, bash their acoustic guitars, and watch demons dance circles around them. –MP Johnson (Chain Smoking)


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