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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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BLUE CHEER:
What Doesn’t Kill You…: CD
Forty years since the bone-shattering debut of Vincebus Eruptum? Hard to believe, but these guys are back with a new release. It rocks from start to finish. Heavy grooves, great guitars, and pounding drums. “Rollin’ Dem Bones” and “Young Lions in Paradise” are my current faves. There’s even a killer Albert King cover on here, too. Blue Cheer—they still play hard enough to “make cottage cheese out of the air.” Gut, where are you?  –Sean Koepenick (Rainman)


BLACK WATCH, THE:
Icing the Snow Queen: CD
Picked it up ‘cause the one-sheet claims they’re influenced by My Bloody Valentine and the Beatles. That combination of influences apparently translates into lackluster alt-rock. Who knew?  –Jimmy Alvarado (The Eskimo Record Label)


BLACK JACKET:
Citizens Epidemic: CD
Is there a time when the message is more important than its musical vehicle? That’s the tough call, here. These guys make some valid points with regards to politics and the world situation, but their take on hardcore just didn’t quite do it for me. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.blackjacket.ca)


BIPOLAR BEAR:
Mountain Dewd: CD
Picked it outta the pile ’cause, c’mon, it’s a pretty interesting band name and the album cover’s an altered take on a drawing of Vincent Price didn’t hurt matters in the least. As a result, I came to this disc with a lotta expectations, and, frankly, they didn’t really live up to most of ’em. While their approach to noise rock was promising with quirky rhythms and some intriguing guitar riffs, it ultimately wasn’t catchy enough to really register as too memorable. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.yosada.com)


BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME:
Start from Skratch: CD
I’m going to cut to the chase. I don’t even know if I can disgrace any cereal by comparing it to this band. The very act of cereal comparison implies a connection between the best food of all time and the band in question. I mean, even a disgusting cereal is still cereal! But this? I can’t handle it! There shall be no comparison! The press release informs us that, “Better Luck Next Time has made their mark in the DIY scene, shooting them onto the Top 10 pop punk charts on MySpace.com daily.” And check this out from their website: “Hot Topic is now carrying Third Time’s a Charm at select Southern California stores for an unbelievably low price of $4.99! The more albums we can push out of those locations means the more other stores will pick it up!” Oh yeah, this sounds like, I dunno, Blink-182 or whatever sound brain cells make when they begin to die. –Maddy (World)


BELOW JUPITER:
Step into Home (Act I): CD
Below Jupiter is primarily two dudes, but there were a bunch of guest musicians for the album. It seems that a number of the lyrics have to do with political topics, but I can’t tell because there are no lyrics included. The MySpace page for this band said their influences included Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Ben Folds, and Simon and Garfunkel, amongst others. I would mention that there is a similarity to Spoon somewhere in there, too. I’ve said it many times before, but DO NOT PLAY YOUR INFLUENCES. If I want to hear a band that sounds like Dylan or Ben Folds, I’ll listen to Dylan or Ben Folds. Take your influences and use those to play another genre. You’ll find you’re much more creative and unique that way. That doesn’t just go for Below Jupiter, though, but for all bands. You know who you are. (You’re usually the ones either playing for fifteen people at the local dive bar or selling millions of records.) –Kurt Morris (Self-released)


BEAR PROOF SUIT:
Objects in Mirror May Be Fucked Up: 7”EP
Hair brained punk music theory #428: What’s the word for “stereotype” that’s positive? Oh yeah. Stereotype. The Midwest’s crappy winter has helped American punk rock through some lean times. Away from the constant diversions of the East Coast (despite the weather) and away from California, where one can pretty much survive in flip flops and shorts except for a couple of days a year, Midwesterners have a good four to five months to hole up, hide out, work on songs, listen to records, shovel snow, and watch things rust (from cars to brains). So, for those on the coasts who look at the Midwest as constantly lagging culturally, the reality is the Midwest is strong like bear and just doesn’t give in to constant whimsy. Bear Proof Suit recently found punk, circa 1980-1982 (in its entirety, nationwide) a couple years back and are currently kicking its ass into a pulp, like every day is Groundhog Day, and damn, it sounds great. –Todd Taylor (Repulsion)


BAZOOKA FALCON:
Self-titled: CD
Big rock in the vein of The Hives. This stuff is always so hard to pull off right. This band does a decent job although I’m still not bowled over. My preference would be for a little more garage nastiness in the vein of Mudhoney. Fans of the more abrasive dirty rock might get into this band as well as those that habitually delve into the stoner rock genre. Nurture your bowl to these sounds.  –Buttertooth (www.myspace.com/bazookafalcon)


BATTLETORN:
Terminal Dawns: CD
Two piece metal that’s still brutal in light of being a little stripped down. Reminds me of the kind of stuff you usually hear at ABC No Rio these days—way “crunchy” and growly vocals. Another plus is that there’re twenty-two songs in about seventeen minutes, so it’s hard to get tired of it.  –Joe Evans III (Mad At The World)


BAD REACTION:
Dare to be Dull: 7”EP
Straight-ahead early-’80s style hardcore that owes quite a bit to Uniform Choice, The Circle Jerks, and The Zero Boys (in the guitar). Thankfully, it doesn’t come across as history being listlessly recited, paragraph by drool-mouthed paragraph. The energy’s high, the lyrics are current-day topical, the songs are ultra-tight and catchy, and they play their instruments well (but not too well; they know when to put the kibosh on a potential solo). There are little indicators sprinkled throughout these four songs that they listen to much more than hardcore—that hardcore just happens to be their weapon of choice—and that’s always a blessing.  –Todd Taylor (Blind Spot)


BAD REACTION:
Dare to Be Dull: 7”
This can easily be taken wrong but it shouldn’t be; this 7” contains four (or five?) tracks of easy listening NYHC-influenced punk. It’s by all means not a bad thing, somewhere between good H2O and good Kill Your Idols, this L.A. band brings it with tough, jerkless vocals and guitar riffage that will remind you how much you hate crossover, and make you thankful that this most certainly is not crossover. And after the four (or five?) songs, they end it with an audio clip of a popular social commentator that will make you think, “Goddamn it, why don’t more punk bands use audio clips by that guy?”  –Daryl Gussin (Blind Spot)


BAD LUCK CHARMS:
Bad Luck & Heartbreak: CD
Reminds me of Three Bad Jacks. BLC is standard rockabilly revival, technically skilled, blue collar, blues-tinged, romantically warm and fuzzy, and singsong with oodles of harmony. Head-bobbing but not lead-footing, the difference between a supporting act and a headliner.  –Jessica Thiringer (Independent, www.indierec.com)


BACKDOOR STAN AND THE BACKZITS:
Ooze With: CD-R
Primal, bluesy, lo-fi rock’n’roll stuff that doesn’t bother much with the pretense of pretentiousness.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Backdoor Stan)


AURYN:
: CD-R
Interesting. Played this thing on the computer and while the lyrics match up to the lyric sheet they included, the band on the CD-R is listed as The Dogs D’Amour, not Auryn. And the Auryn song titles—menacing ones like “The Untamed Sun” and “The Reward of Oblivion” on the lyric sheet—are totally wimpified by the fact that the computer lists them as “Pretty Pretty Once” and “How Come It Never Rains.” I don’t get it at all. Anyway, as far as the actual music, we’re looking at some late ‘90s screamo stuff with strained vocals and a very slight metal tinge, though much better than I make it out to be. Think, you know, Ebullition Records in its heyday, skinny dudes in hemp necklaces screaming while they roll around on the floor, grainy woodcuts from the 1800s used as a band’s visuals, etc. Definitely takes one back (which is a good or bad thing, depending on how you look at it) and reminds me more than a bit of bands like End On End, Staircase, that first Shivering full-length. The band/song title discrepancy was a little weird, but if I’d just put the shit in a CD player like a normal person, I’d have been none the wiser. My tastes may have changed over the years, but there’s no arguing with the fact that bands of this ilk are capable of sounding pretty goddamn powerful, and Auryn’s a tight band who sounds like they know exactly what they’re doing.  –Keith Rosson (Auryn)


ANGRY 4 LIFE / ULICZNY OPRYSZEK:
Split: 7”
Reviews like this are sometimes the hardest to write. This split just isn’t terribly arresting, but at no point did I feel the urge to throw my record player out the window. It’s just one of those cases where there are some punk songs on a little piece of vinyl that spins around when you put the needle on it. Uliczny Opryszek is a Polish band that sings songs in their native tongue (with English translations) about religion being dumb and staying punk forever, complete with namedrops of the Exploited and Conflict. Angry 4 Life’s from San Jose and are generous enough to include the chord progressions to one of their songs. It’s recorded well (always good to see Bart Thurber and House of Faith are still around) and both bands seem to be shooting for that anthemic, songalong kind of streetpunk thing, but again, there’s just nothing to really grab onto and lurch around with while the record spins. Sorry, guys. –Keith Rosson (Cat Food Money)


APE CITY R&B:
Firestarter: 7”
The gas can and cheesy orange flames on the cover of the Ape City R&B 7” aren’t nearly foreboding enough for the scorching garage blues contained on the wax. “Firestarter” has a guitar lick nastier than the ones your girlfriend gives you “back there” when passions explode in the heat of the moment, and the drums gallop along loosely, a thumping invitation to shake the stiffness from your hips and move. The lyrics are as menacing as Big Black’s “Kerosene” and delivered with an abject snotty vitriol generally reserved for the face of someone into which you are about to spit. “Wot I Say” could be a variation of the A-side with rapid-fire drum fills and similarly executed guitar leads. I put this in league with the Golden Boys stellar “Whiskey Before Sleep” from a couple years ago. Their Slovenly single was pretty great, but Ape City R&B shows us their next level shit on this release.  –Josh Benke (La-Ti-Da)


APATIA:
Uleglosc: CD
Melodic hardcore from this band from Poland. Fifteen tunes that sound similar enough all the way through. Not bad.  Fans of Strike Anywhere, early Strung Out, or other lead guitar-oriented melodic HC will find a lot to like here.  –Mike Frame (Trujaca Fala)


ALLEY DUKES:
…Go Back to College: CD
Lighthearted, loose, tongue-in-cheek fun from Montreal from a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing for an honest, man’s perspective release about the importance of a lady keeping her trim, well, trimmed, jailbait, hymens, flat chests, and the nostalgia of carefree college days. Overall, Alley Dukes have a mature, smooth-yet-jangled sound similar to Robert Gordon. Best ever is their cover of “American Nightmare,” not included on this release.  –Jessica Thiringer (Flying Saucer, www.flyingsaucerrecords.com)


AL BURIAN:
Ill Eagle Live at the White House: 7”
Al Burian (of Milemarker and various punk zines) recorded this tortured, bizarre record live in D.C. at the start of the current Iraq War. He heckles his audience as he plays noisy, weird semi-covers and tries to talk to the crowd about politics. This is a very unique record, but hardly anyone without multiple Axis I mental health diagnoses will want to listen to it more than once.  –Art Ettinger (Hello Asshole)


AGAINST EMPIRE:
Destructive Systems Collapse: 7”
A band that I have kept track of now for a few years. Starting with their first release, a split 7” with Holokaust, followed by their LP The One Who Bear the Scars Remember. They did another split after that I have yet to pick up with Iskra from Canada. I have also seen the band live through the years, so it is great to see firsthand this Los Angeles crust band grow and develop. On their latest release, a two-songer, they focus more on the music instead of just blasting it out. With songs in the four to five minute range, the band is showing more cohesion and displaying greater musicianship. That doesn’t mean this band is getting soft. They continue to play metallic crust that charges forward like a pack of bulls on a rampage. You get the drive to rock out to, hearing the chunky guitars force their way out the speakers. Growled, guttural, yelled vocals ensure that nothing pretty is going on. Drumming that is tight and pounded out with force. On this recording, I like how the bass was recorded: punchy and bright while still bringing forth the bottom end. If bands like Hellshock, Bolt Thrower, or Amebix fit your musical palate, I would believe this band would slide right into your tastes.  –Donofthedead (Threat To Existence)


50 MILLION:
Broad Side of a Barn and Shit on a Single: CD
This is the type of album, err, retrospective (of sorts) that makes me hate myself for doing whatever it was that I was doing to miss this when it first came out. This is a CD compiling an EP, some singles, comp tracks, unreleased stuff, and a recording done with Hickey called Hickey Million all spanning the late nineties—and the it came out in 2005. The tracks on here, up until the Hickey stuff, sounds like what might’ve happened if Steve Albini or Thurston Moore tried to produce a Sebadoh album. Still, 50 Million totally makes it their own. They go from acoustic bits to hectic indie noise to small doses of dingy, poppy punk. (If it helps, Shell of Shellshag is in the band, and Jen is included under “Other performers.”) The Hickey Million recording is awesome. It has the swirls of a cassette that has been listened to beyond its expected life span, giving it a sense of familiarity and down home goodness. Take that and add a tiny hint of indie (à la above-mentioned) to Hickey, and there you have it. Also, the two bands made an outrageously fantastic cover of Billy Bragg’s “A New England” together. –Vincent Battilana (Starcleaner, www.starcleaner.com)


ABLE BAKER FOX:
Voices: CD
So this is the new Small Brown Bike/Casket Lottery band, huh? Well, that’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Take The River Bed, add some Casket Lottery mellowness, toss in some Fire Theft-esque “progressive” songwriting and rhythm section lock-up and you’ll have the idea. Don’t get me wrong, this record is killer, it’s just not particularly surprising. It’s almost what would’ve been the next logical step for Small Brown Bike with a bit of quirkiness thrown in the mix. I can’t imagine any of the Bike’s rabid fans being disappointed, that’s for sure. Glad you’re back, lads. –Dave Williams –Guest Contributor (Second Nature)


ACURSED:
Tunneln I Ljusets Slut: CD
This is some great d-beat from Sweden. I don’t really listen to a lot of crust/d-beat because it usually gets really boring after the initial energy rush of the first song (I’m looking at you, Discharge’s Never Again), but this gets it right. Like Tragedy, these guys know how to throw in just a little bit of a frantic or desperate-feeling melodic edge to keep the 1,000 mile-per-hour drums and bloody murder screams fresh. There’s actually some damn sweet dynamics with the guitar playing. Gasp, there’s even some acoustic strumming on here! I also like how the bass has that distorted but not inaudible tone that I love so. There are several spoken interludes thrown in, but since there’s no lyric sheet and everything is in Swedish anyway, I have no idea what they’re talking about. I’d like to assume that some of the topics that are being covered in the interludes and songs include filing tax returns, dealing with post office clerks, and running out of toilet paper while on the can. This isn’t happy music by any means, but it ranks near the top of my list of music to usher in the apocalypse with. –Adrian (Prank)


ACTION ANDY:
Sings Haunted Honky Tonk & Other Cryptic Tales of Life, Love and Woe: LP
Fourteen excellent, saloon-fueled honky tonk and crackling western tracks with a purposefully primitive roots, rock’n’roll, and spookshow bent. Best enjoyed in rum rooms and fleshpots, where reckless abandon and rawness roam unhampered. Completely appreciated, fresh and new, yet reminiscent of bands like the Readymen, Embers, and The Runabouts, and newer incarnations like the Flat Duo Jets.  –Jessica Thiringer (Relampago-go)


26 BEERS:
Self-titled: CD
Tightly wound riffs of death and screaming crust-metal-something-core. I’m not the best judge of music like this because I find it aggravating and aurally assaulting, which is most likely the point. So, good job?  –Jessica Thiringer (Rodent Popsicle)


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