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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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HOGBITCH:
Self-titled: CD
After writing reviews for a number of years now, a lot of the vitriol I may have once felt for a bad record is gone. I don’t want to unjustly bum anyone out with an acerbic review. Putting out an album is hard work on many levels. Every once in a while, when a record’s downright fucked up, I’ll throw out a little venom, but other than that? It’s just not worth it. However, with that being said… this is a pretty tough one to like. Southern-fried nü metal with bright and operatic female vocals, an odd visual steampunk aesthetic, and song titles like “Life Begins and Ends in the Subterranean Oceans of Ceres.” And, well, there’s the name, Hogbitch. I just find it baffling that four people could have ever fervently high-fived each other over that name, like, “Dude, perfect! Hogbitch!Yes! Our place in rock history shall evermore be solidified!” I don’t think Razorcake’s the right place for this one.  –Keith Rosson (Dogfingers)


HIGHWAY CROSS:
Locked In: 7”
Highway Cross play a muscular and musically varied version of modern hardcore, and they’re really good at it. At first I thought that this record sounded like a lot of others that I’ve heard recently (in my head, the closest parallel is Stalwart Sons), but I’m finding something new and interesting to like about it with every subsequent listen. Perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be to say that Highway Cross sound like a less jazzy and more obnoxiously rockin’ version of Quicksand.  –The Lord Kveldulfr (Highway Cross)


HECTOR’S PETS:
“Station Wagon” b/w “Teenacher”: 7”
If I’m remembering correctly, these cats are from Texas but hoofed it up to Brooklyn and have a dude from Indiana on the bass guitar. Dig the continental sound! The singer has a Mick Collins-esque timbre to his voice. A combo of steady down stroke punk rhythm and the harder rockin’ bands of the ‘70s (like, say Thin Lizzy). The doo-wop backing vox are a nice touch, something I wasn’t expecting that makes Hector’s Pets stand out from the rest of the longhairs in their neighborhood.  –Sal Lucci (Burger City, burgercityrocknroll.blogspot.com)


HAPPY CAMPERS:
Dancing with Demons: CD
This is the sort of driving, melodic punk rock that Epitaph wished it was putting out in the ‘90s. Unfortunately, I mostly remember Epitaph’s output from that time period as being tepid and homogeneous. This disc is anything but. While it touches on all the cornerstones of the genre, from the sing-along choruses to the not-quite-buzzsaw-but-still-kind-of-cutting riffs, this is very pure and heart-on-sleeves. I just hope people are still into this stuff.  –MP Johnson (Self-released, happycampers.org)


GIRLS IN LOVE:
Self-titled: CD
I couldn’t find much information on this band except that they possibly took their name from the Loverboy song, “Hot Girls in Love.” The band is comprised of a guitarist and a drummer who sings. The sound is fuzzy guitar rock mixed with some garage influence. Sometimes I could hear the Stooges and other times it was The Reatards. It’s a little rough sounding in the recording area (even for the style), but that’s still not bad company to be in.  –Kurt Morris (Coeur D’Alene)


FUGUE:
“Solitude” b/w “Traffic”: 7”
Did you go to high school in the mid-to-late ‘90s? Was your institution home to a token “punk” outfit? Did its members wear too-big trench- coats and smoke cigarettes in the parking lot? If not, don’t worry. Fugue is that band. The only reason to listen to this one would be if they were playing at lunch and you didn’t have anything better to do but listen to their pain and angst while chowing down on the PB&J sandwich your mom packed for you.  –Alanna Why (Avocado, avocadorecords.blogspot.ca / Mountain Man, mountainmanrecords.com)


FULL OF HELL / CALM THE FIRE:
Split: 7”
I want to love Full Of Hell, I really do. But it always seems like something’s missing with this band. I appreciate that chaos and noise are essentially part and parcel of FOH’s brand of hardcore, but they just don’t seem to pull it off as well as the genre’s forebears—your Converges, your Botches, etc. Calm The Fire’s side of the split is a bit more interesting, but also leaves something to be desired. Crusty, punk-metal from Poland that is probably total destruction live, but as is the case with much of this particular sub-sect, the recorded version just seems to blur and run together.  –Dave Williams (A389)


FREAK VIBE:
Presents II: Cassette
If Cult Ritual mated with The Cramps, then the offspring would be Freak Vibe. And, boy, is it a disfigured child. The heavier portions are sludgy, mid-tempo ventures through hell. There are shimmering psychedelic rock’n’roll interludes that sound like Kid Congo Powers riffs. This shit is mixed up. Yet, there’s something charming about it, but, as it stands, this tape is a definite curiosity rather than a remarkable listen.  –Sean Arenas (Self-released, freakvibe.bandcamp.com)


FLAGITIOUS IDIOSYNCRACY IN THE DILAPIDATION:
Wallow: LP
The follow-up album from Japan’s grindcore maidens, Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation, Wallow showcases a wider range of influence with touches of crust and metal to their already perfected all-out-grind-assault, similar to the transition the mighty Assück made from their monumental album Anticapital to Misery Index. Sixteen cuts of bona fide fighting music which was undoubtedly pressed onto extra-thick vinyl to sustain the heaviness within.  –Juan Espinosa (Six Weeks, sixweeksrecords.com)


ERNEST GIBSON:
Island Records: LP
I don’t feel entirely qualified to review this record, but I do like this sort of thing once in a while, and this album grabs me. The bulk of this record contains drudgey, echo-laden drums with lots of Bauhaus-style rim shots and washy moaning. It’s less minimal and less precise than Throbbing Gristle, but eerie and ominous in a similar way. There are few vocals; when the vocals come in the pace is pushed into the realm of slower Jesus And Mary Chain songs. But I like the washy stuff the best. It sounds like the score to a good movie. The title, Island Records, is oddly appropriate even though it’s not island music the way you generally think of island music. Like Martin Denny on Quaaludes. It just works.  –Billups Allen (Skrot Up, skrotup.com)


DZIADY KAZIMIERSKIE:
Kazimiernikejszyn: LP
I feel like it’s not fair for me to review this record until I learn enough Polish to write the review in it. With the exception of a courtesy English insert from the label, the entire record is in Polish and it describes the band as “The Pogues meets Gogol Bordello and having a pint of brew somewhere in scenic countryside.” It goes on to tell us this band includes some credible Polish punk musicians doing something completely unexpected. I get the feeling that this label is just as confused as me, though some things just get lost in translation. There’s whistling, slide guitar, roosters crowing, and some acoustic instruments that I suck at identifying, with folk-style vocals that sound like they’re sung with a smirk. Most of the songs have upbeat rhythms that mimic a ska sound, though there are other times when the guitar gets closer to a Latin sound ala “La Bamba.” One of the songs includes a few measures of Lou Reed’s “Wild Thing,” translated and sung in Polish out of nowhere. While I’m not sure what they’re up to lyrically, it’s obvious they’re way laid back and having an awesome time.  –Kayla Greet (Pasazer, pasazer.pl)


DOBERMANN CULT:
Lions Share of the Dog Years: LP/CD
This Swedish quintet uses an NYHC style to hit hard and fast as it explodes across thirteen songs that clearly owe a debt to the likes of Sick Of It All and Agnostic Front. I’m not that enamoured with the tough guy image some groups portray. The name Dobermann Cult, along with a photo of the band with such a dog on the insert, left me a bit cold. However, the music is well executed and songs like “No Tolerance for Intolerance” display a side of the band I can get behind, alleviating my initial reservations. –Rich Cocksedge (Gaphals, gaphals666@gmail.com, gaphals.se)


DIME RUNNER:
“Can’t Express” b/w “Drink It Up”: 7”
Long Beach’s Dime Runner assaults European fans via Wanda Records with this catchy new single, featuring two very Orange County-sounding tracks that won’t be forgotten any time soon. Terrifically snotty vocals punctuate both songs included here. Regional punk grooves sometimes occur organically, while at other times seem forced. Dime Runner doesn’t come off at all contrived and instead presents as another proud O.C. contribution to the annals of subculture.  –Art Ettinger (Wanda, wandarecords.de)


DEECRACKS:
Beyond Medication: LP/CD
This Austrian trio offers up a pretty solid homage to the legacy left by the Ramones on this, the band’s second album. Saying that though, DeeCRACKS kicks off with an incongruous surf instrumental that provides a strong opening salvo before a more expected path takes over. There are a number of things that Beyond Medication has going for it, including loud guitars, rough vocals, and a production which, thankfully, lacks any hint of slickness that could push this into the saccharine-tainted area of the furthest reaches of the pop punk genre. The songs, and most notably the choruses, are damn catchy and that is the icing (sugar free, of course!) on the cake for me.  –Rich Cocksedge (Monster Zero, monsterzeropunkrock@gmail.com, monsterzero.nl)


DECRANEO:
Self-titled: LP
I’m friends with Ken who runs F.Y.B.S. records, so my interest was piqued when I got my grubby little hands on this Spanish LP. Didn’t even know he was a part of this release. That and the bitchin’ cover art, all weird and neon pink with a Godzilla-type flea. Rad cover art never hurts. More great punk from Spain spews forth from DeCraneo. Ripping female vocals, a mix of newcomers Destruye Y Huye and icon Alice Bag over late ‘70s punk riffs. Fast and furious guitar. Anxious as fuck, with a kick. It doesn’t let up. I have to say it reminded me of the Spanish band Sudor that I was lucky enough to see (and play with) who recently toured through the U.S. Failed politics and social unrest of Spanish youth has really shaped a new generation of punks. It’s disheveled and dark and unbelievably epic on the ears. Pick it up!  –Camylle Reynolds (F.Y.B.S. / Crapoulet / 1984 / Impala Un O / Primitive / Derrick Hunter Rcds / MMM Discos)


DEAD MORTICIANS, THE:
Back to the Grave: CD
Total headscratcher. Songs run the gamut from hackneyed spooky rock to turgid straight edge anthems. Plus, the vocalist sounds like the bastard son of Jello Biafra and Dance with Me-era Jack Grisham. Releases like this remind me of why I often do not believe the post ‘90s explosion of inexpensive recording mediums to necessarily be a good thing for popular music.  –Garrett Barnwell (Burial Vault)


DC FALLOUT:
Objector: CD
Thinking man’s hardcore from Los Angeles. To me, this stuff comes across as a little to preachy for my tastes, but if you like a healthy dose of leftist politics in your listening, you could do far worse than this.  –Garrett Barnwell (Self-released)


DAY CAMP:
Self-titled: CD
This four-piece from Cincinnati is like a super group of all the good things going on with indie and punk in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. Their self-released and self-titled EP starts off with soft and airy male vocals over a strong and melodic rock guitar leads, sprinkled with sharp but brief guitar solos. Day Camp’s rhythm section is what’s really making this band for me. Bass lines are muffled and slightly buried under the guitar, yet pop at just the right times. They meld in well with the dancey and somewhat frantic drums which are very much in tune with the rhythm guitar. “Five Year Plan” is about apathy and settling with lyrics like “My five year plan / is mostly just to be alive / and maybe happy.” It’s probably the weakest and most boring song on the record, though there is a guitar part where it sounds like a clock ticking, which is a little interesting. A heavy Pixies influence comes through on the song “Seatbelts,” and the last track, “The Fridge Gets It in the End,” harkens to an early Sonic Youth sound. I only wish their singer would strengthen his voice more instead of the hollow, breathy thing he’s going for. It works well in the last song, but after an entire album of someone whispering songs in my ears, it doesn’t have as much effect as it should. Maybe focus more on the Jawbreaker / Leatherface styling than Bright Eyes / Elliot Smith because the current vocals just sound wimpy. Musically and lyrically, this band is super solid though.  –Kayla Greet (Self-released, daycampband.com)


DAMAGE:
Weapons of Mass Destruction: LP/CD
This is the second album from a Swedish band which undoubtedly has a thing for 1980s USHC. Generally it’s a fast and frantic approach that reminds me more of The Stupids, one of the U.K.’s earliest aficionados of that sound, rather than any particular stateside band. I take my hat off to Damage for making this an album, which is a highly enjoyable romp. –Rich Cocksedge (Gaphals, gaphals666@gmail.com, gaphals.se)


DAGGERPLAY:
Urban Campfire Songs: CD
Finish punk with a strong melodic edge. The material is strong and the playing competent. The packaging kind of misled my mind into expecting a raging hardcore disc, so I was happily surprised to find such strong melodic sensibilities on every song. Recommended.  –Garrett Barnwell (Self-released, facebook.com/daggerplay)


CREEPOID:
Self-titled: CD
Creepoid start off sounding like big, atmospheric Americana, but they quickly grow into something closer to Interpol, or even something Brit-pop in size if not in swagger. They’re familiar, but they don’t seem to reference anything directly, which is a skill. There’s something grey and cloudy about them but they’re also not without color—it’s not just steady gloom. Sort of optimized for a long, pointless winter, or a rare afternoon off with nothing to do. They could end up in the faceless mass of Indie Rock 2K14 or they could skyrocket, it’s hard to tell, but shit is decent.  –Matt Werts (No Idea)


CRAVING STRANGE:
A Life Exceptional: CD
If you listen to bands like Creed, Three Doors Down, and Good Charlotte then this record of sonic wankery may be right up your alley. This was a true endurance test that I may never fully recover from in my lifetime. I craved the minute I hit “stop” on the player.  –Sean Koepenick (Horian, no address listed)


COWARD:
Self-titled: 7”
Rawer than a skinned knee, louder than lit M-80s lodged in your ear canals, and more abrasive than drinking rusty water, Coward bring the fucking noise (think Homostupids under the influence of the Fleshies). This copy’s cover, a tour version, depicts a tender moment shared between the Pope and Ronnie Reagan which will only mildly offend if you’re a total square. Not trying to knock the Coathangers or even Japan’s beloved Guitar Wolf—both with whom they toured—but if I were in attendance at any one of their shows, Coward would be the band I’d be gushing to all my friends about. Total Punk is probably doing their next record, although I base that on nothing.  –Juan Espinosa (Coward, coward@gmail.com)


CLARA BELL AND THE CREEPS:
Black Owl Radio: 7”
Clara Bell And The Creeps is a band with a father and his twelve-year-old daughter, which, I have to say, is pretty damn rad. I personally have two albums with my children on them, so I know this is more about a labor of love than anything else. What saves this single from being sickeningly sweet with sentiment is that Clara actually has some really kickass vocals which match very nicely to the ‘60s soul doo-wop sound. The A-side’s “Dumb Boys” sounds like something you might pluck from those dusty bins of used vinyl, all those unknown gems from the ‘60s, covers all tattered and yellow. Sweet, clean, retro, and melodic. The B-side is a bit more sugar sweet with “Beach Baby”—some bubblegum doo-wop, with vocals a bit more syrupy. But hey, she’s twelve. It’s pretty fitting.  –Camylle Reynolds (Arkam)


CIRCLE CURSE, THE:
Glass City: CD
The Circle Curse play noisy, ‘90s post hardcore like Unwound or pre-buttrock Rye Coalition. The musicianship is outstanding, and the songs are played hard enough to not lose their punch when the band breaks into a noodly, jazzy part. A trumpet shows at one point. If you like your ‘90s-core dark and unpretentious, zip up your garage jacket and go see these guys rip a basement show. Hey, it even came with a barely legible, typewritten lyric sheet. Are we sure this hasn’t been lost in the mail since 1996? Wocka wocka wocka.  –Chris Terry (thecirclecurse.bandcamp.com)


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