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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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VIVA HATE:
Hateful and Hollow: CD
This sounds like mid-‘90s Epitaph/Hellcat music. They have hair like the Nekromantix. I don’t even know if I spelled that right. –Mr. Z (Self-released)


WATCHING THE MOON:
Perception Is Bent: CD
These guys do a nice job of recalling the alt-rock hype circa 1993. Unfortunately for them, this is 2008, which means they’re fifteen years too late for the initial wave and five years too early for the revival. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.universalwarningrecords.com)


WAR TRASH:
Distort Disaster: Cassette
Lo-fi, filthy crust out of San Francisco. They stick like glue to the genre and make no attempts to venture out, yet this is still a pretty good listen. I love that creaky bass sound and the tinny guitar. No kidding. If you like bands like Asbestos, Neurose Urbana, Anti-Cimex, etc., you would and should dig this. Worthy of being on vinyl. –Matt Average (War Trash)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
We Do What We Want: Olympia Punk Comp Vol. 1: 7”
I listened to this record and somehow I got “DIY” tattooed on the inside of my lip. Maybe it was the hand-screened/hand-stamped covers or the sixteen page photocopied booklet filled with notes, lyrics, and collages, or maybe I didn’t actually receive the tattoo and all this stuff just made me want to. Whatever actually happened, the bottom line is there are some sweet, DIY punk bands in Olympia, WA playing some tight music. Very heavy EastBay influences, but nonetheless, a group of bands and people that are well worth checking out. –Daryl Gussin (Rumbletowne)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Rhode Island Rejects: CD
If you were looking for another reason to be happy you’re not from Rhode Island, I’ve got fifteen of them right here. –Megan Pants (Reject)


UNNATURAL HELPERS:
Earwax: 7”
Skewed, smartass Northwestern punk that sounds like the era before punk, indie pop, and grunge all shot out in different directions. I’m hearing some Half Japanese or maybe the Crucifucks at their blurtiest. If I had a band, I’d like it to sound like this. Or The Pharcyde. –CT Terry (Dirty Knobby)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
America’s Unknown: LP
Dunno quite how to approach reviewing this. On one hand, you’ve got a great compilation of now-obscure U.S. punk from Ash Tradition, Identity Crysis, Stukas Over Bedrock, PTL Klub, Horror Planet, Stevie Stiletto and the Switchblades, Chronic Disorder, Entropy, and Maggot Sandwich. On the other, you’ve got the twenty-year anniversary issue of Artcore Fanzine, with interviews and features on Career Suicide, State, Smalltown, Direct Control, Bad Posture, Bemisbrain Records, Frontier Records, and the irrepressible George Hurchalla (whose book Going Underground is a must-own). Both are packaged together in an LP format, and both are definitely worth the hunt. Better hurry, though, ’cause this is no doubt a limited edition release. –Jimmy Alvarado (http://www.damagedrecords.co.uk)


VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL:
Unlucky: CDEP
VBS, who hail from Elgin, Illinois, has hints of Screeching Weasel and Green Day, which totally makes it sound like it could be some ‘90s-era Lookout! stuff that fell through the cracks. Everything tells me that I should be all about this. But I’m not. Parts of it aren’t that bad, but those parts aren’t making me think that I’d put this on again. The songs are just too long—or at least they seem that way—and they seem too orchestrated, too produced. –Vincent Battilana (Cassette Deck)


UV RAYS:
Are Sick of Humans: 7” EP
Five tracks of street punk rock and roll from upstate New York that comes in somewhere between the U.S. Bombs and the Unseen—especially on the last track “Party Rat.” Loud and obnoxious. Sign me up for the full-length. –Jim Ruland (Feral Kid)


US POLICESTATE:
Release the Chemicals: CD-R
By the numbers hardcore, with nary a variation in the beat from one song to the next. While that may sound like an insult, and it’s true that they ain’t exactly breaking new ground here, they are proficient enough at the style to keep the attention span from waning over the course of the nine songs here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Age Of Risk)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Dancehall Troops III: CD
Given the 7” record-type packaging, I was a little apprehensive when I picked this out of the pile. With a name like “Dancehall Troops,” I had visions of a single filled with piss-poor ska-punk drivel from a band that probably never heard of Desmond Dekker. Well, it ain’t any such thing. What it is, is a CD compilation featuring some of the finest punk in a number of permutations currently making the rounds. Of the thirty-three tracks collected here—courtesy of Red Invasion, the Cute Lepers, The Handgrenade Hearts, Suicide Dogs, Sick Fits, The Steaknives, Soda Pop Kids, Fishnet Stalkers, The Main, Black Beauties, and more, much of which is either heretofore unreleased or available only on vinyl—nary a one dips lower than “pretty danged good,” and makes for quite an impressive mix tape for those who don’t wanna work to hard at making one of their own. Given the bad shape of the compilation in recent history, it’s nice to hear one so consistently strong. Best of all, there ain’t a ska punk tune in sight. Someone put some quality work into compiling this, it shows, and that makes all the difference. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.nofrontteeth.net)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
I Thrash, Therefore I Am: LP
Finally, a vinyl reissue of this classic tape that was originally released on Bad Compilation Tapes. This is where I was first introduced to bands like Mob 47, Anti Cimex, Moderat Likvidation, and Enola Gay back in the ‘80s. Don’t really know where the actual tape is; probably mixed in with my brother’s collection. There are some bands missing on this release, like Raw Power that was on the original tape. It probably was due to limitation of time for a LP and probably because the sound quality issues of the more obscure bands. But, overall, this is not lacking in any sense. I didn’t even notice it until I looked up the original tape to see who was originally on it. Schizophrenic Records didn’t hold back on the packaging. The records are multi-colored vinyl for you collector nerds and an even more special mailorder edition is available. Even though this a great history lesson, this record is full of straight-up blazing, raw tracks of classic international punk. –Donofthedead (Schizophrenic)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Hours and Hours: A Tribute to Seaweed: CD
Seaweed was one of the Sub Pop bands that toured heavily, reaching their peak when they opened for Bad Religion (along with a pre-major label Green Day) on the Recipe for Hate tour in 1993. Seaweed sucked, so why shouldn’t a tribute to Seaweed suck as well? In that regard, I suppose this is an appropriate tribute. The original songs were depressingly dull and these covers capture that bland mentality perfectly. I did enjoy Kane Hodder’s cover of “Stagger,” but this is a fairly tortured release. Fans, if there are any left, will appreciate the included Quicktime video of Seaweed performing “Sit in Glass” in TX in 1992. The rest of us will remember why we wouldn’t have been caught dead at a Seaweed show in 1992. –Art Ettinger (Engineer)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Emergency Room Vol. 1: LP and Book
Here’s a comp worth picking up. The music is quality and the packaging superb with a 12” x 12” photobook of some of the bands on this record, and some who aren’t. The whole shebang is a document of one year at the Emergency Room, an all-ages performance space in Vancouver. The bands tend to lean towards the punk end of the spectrum, with various flavors added and subtracted. Defektors remind me of early L.A. punk, similar to Dangerhouse fare. Petroleum By-products are the sort of punk Olympia, WA bands wish they were. Vapid remind me a bit of Bikini Kill, only tougher and nastier. Whitelung have jumpy rhythms that’s danceable, but not disco. Mutators churn out neo no wave in a mix of minimal and noise. Twin Crystals are art damaged with a menacing undercurrent. Nu Sensae are raw and fast. The vocals are venomous. Gotta hear ‘em! Sick Buildings emit noise to either contemplate or run out of the room. You pick. Either way, get this record. Only 924 copies have been pressed up. –Matt Average (Nominal)


VARIOUS ARTISTS:
Killer Workout Mix: CD
One of my favorite sets of compilations were the Dry Lungs series put out in the ‘80s by Placebo, the label that brought you fine music by Feederz, Conflict (Tucson), Mighty Sphincter, and the always faboo Jodie Foster’s Army. Those compilations featured none of the punkier bands like the aforementioned as the more industrial wing of the underground (and when I say “industrial,” I’m talking about sandbelts on sheet metal, not Nine Inch Nails) and some seriously odd shit. They were really cool listens when you wanted something a little different to clear out a party in eight seconds flat. While light on clanging pipes with wood mallets, this comp is no slouch when it comes to odd noises. One moment you’re listening to some weird dirgy electronica song, next some punky quasi-jazz combo is screeching in your ear, and then suddenly there’s two minutes of what sounds like someone trying to create dance beats with sounds from assorted video games. Bands like La Mere Vipere, Tickley Feather, Wigger Mom, Leper Colony, and Mountain Husband keep things blissfully out of whack, offering the listener stuff they’re not likely gonna hear anywhere else anytime soon. Easily one of the better comps I’ve heard lately and also sure to clear out a party in eight minutes flat. –Jimmy Alvarado (CNP)


TROPIEZO:
El Manual de La Perfecta Cabrona: CD
Absolutely essential, fast-as-hell hardcore from Puerto Rico. Sixteen tracks clearing in sixteen minutes! This is the fucking shit! From what I can make out of the packaging, the lyrics seem to be of a political nature and their packing is kind of cool, if awkward. It’s a wide booklet with goofy cartoons in it. But whatever, who fucking cares about their packaging? This is seriously some of the best hardcore I’ve heard in a long time. Everybody I’ve played this for has been all, “Dude! What the hell is this?!” So, I’m far from being alone in being stoked. I don’t care if you don’t listen to hardcore anymore and just listen to (insert more listenable punk subgenre here) these days. Hell, that wouldn’t be too far from my own situation. Just sayin’, if you don’t get into this, you don’t like punk rock. Yeah, it’s like that. –Craven (Self-released)


TOTAL CHAOS:
Avoid All Sides: CD
I avoided all contact with Total Chaos when they came out because at the time I was moving away from Great Big Haircut type punk (Vincent and Cochrane were throttling me at the time, and early Lennon/McCartney had me in a noogie headlock). I also feared that Total Chaos would seem like a total joke to me with the punk uniform and all. So, after many years, I finally get a taste. And the gastronomical conclusions: sure, it’s a bit clichéd at times (an early expectation of mine and one that kept me away), but it rocks often enough that I can doff my battered cap to them. Fast and angry. This is that wholesome meal that you keep going back to after trying some exotic crap at a new-fangled fusion restaurant. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Punk Core)


TOKYO POLICE CLUB:
Elephant Shell: CD
When a Saddle Creek band is at its strongest, it can take the idea of indie pop or rock and turn it inside out, substituting any preconceptions of blandly delivered histrionics for something that is a powerful and necessary listen. Unfortunately, this Tokyo Police Club disc doesn’t have the urgent crush of the Desaparecidos or Cursive’s impassioned confessionals to take it into superior territory. Instead, it’s a bland and bloodless affair that accomplishes nothing extraordinary with its sparse sound and maybe Morrissey vocals. It doesn’t have to be something loud and fast, but this brand of tepid, hesitant delivery never helped anyone get the feeling of their music across. Hell, even The Smiths had some flair to the most dour of their ballads. –Reyan Ali (Saddle Creek)


TURPENTINE BROTHERS:
Self-titled: LP
Now this is the kind of band that makes one excited about music. Garage rock done right. Raw, rocking attitude, and all with a swinging rhythm. The organ that runs throughout is great. Not overbearing, but essential. Giving this an air of cool that can not be faked. The whole time I listened to this record—and repeated listens at that—all I could say to myself, wide-eyed, is, “Fuck, this is great!!” And great this record truly is. You get your rippers, some in between, and some slow stuff (“Tired Luxury”). Great album the whole way through. You really have to hear “Time/Min” and “Forget Loyalty.” Great songs! –Matt Average (Alien Snatch!)


UNDER ANCHOR:
There Is No End: CD
Hardcore, but not consistently straight up. Sometimes it sounded more neo-metal, sometimes more like crust punk. Some of these songs I loved; some kinda bored me. I’m mixed on this mixed bag and I freely admit that this mixed review is entirely subjective in its mixed-up nature. This record’s hitting or missing at various points is only a matter of my quirky tastes and not any sort of qualitative judgment. However, let me make a modicum of effort. The hardcore-sounding songs tend to be real scorchers, and they get the proverbial thumbs-up with goofy grin in tow. The crusty songs were okay, but Under Anchor sounds a lot better doing a more classic hardcore sound. The metally tunes can be left off the record, in my opinion. Bad comparison number two for this issue: imagine Nausea meets Ann Beretta. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Veritas et Aequitas, myspace.com/veritasetaequitasrecords)


UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND:
Bird Roughs: CD/DVD
Anytime I hear a URTC song, I smile. Whether it’s live, on CD, on youtube… it doesn’t matter. And this album is no exception. Recess has officially gone global with this re-release of Bird Roughs. This version is also accompanied by a DVD that has clips of traveling and playing music in Japan. As if the album needed anything else other than the music to entice you to buy this sucker. But I’m not complaining; this DVD is a pretty nice addition to the collector’s edition first-ever Recess Japan release! –Mr. Z (Recess Japan)


TITANARUM:
Spastis Progressivus Aggressiorum: 7” EP
Two assumptions I gotta make about this band while listening to this 45: 1) They must spend oodles of money on espresso; 2) They just hafta be living on a steady diet of jazz. These two assumptions are the only way my noggin can comprehend the audacious aural onslaught they set forth over the course of the six tracks here. Dude screams his lungs out, his buddies flail on their instruments, and all of it is done at warp speed. Okay, you say, I get the caffeine connection, but jazz? Well, they lay all that clamoring and wailing on a solid bedrock of tempo, rhythm, and timing changes that fly all over the place in each song, giving an extra added spastic, ADD sheen to the proceedings. Shit, if you listen closely, you can even hear a bit of Slayer in their prime in there, which is quite a feat considering there’s precious little in the way of metal to be found. I know we’re only at the midpoint of the year, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this will handily make it into the top three hardcore releases this year. –Jimmy Alvarado (Titanarum)


TILTWHEEL:
Hair Brained Scheme Addicts: CD
It seems that with every batch of stuff that RC sends me, there’s some release from a band that’s been around forever and I never really listened to them. Tiltwheel is that band this time around—this was my first listen. I liked it, but I have absolutely no frame of reference in regard to their previous work. The record had a certain operatic feel to it, as if each song is the separate movement in a symphony. Good stuff overall. If you want an honest and detailed review though, check out the reviews of others in previous issues. I’m simply riding their coattails on this one. –The Lord Kveldulfr (ADD)


TIDES / GIANT:
Split: CD
I’ve heard both of these groups couched in terms like post-metal—and mentioned in the same lists as Red Sparrowes and Pelican. Not having enough familiarity with either of those groups and thinking a term like “post-metal” is kind of dumb, or at least hard as hell for a dolt like me to grasp, I’ll say instead that they’re messing around in that same dark and haunted candy store as Amanda Woodward and their closely related brethren Aussitot Mort. Tides hits us with two instrumentals and Giant delivers “Horned and Blind,” an epic (is that where the metal reference comes in?) thirteen minute-long jam that features five lines of lyrics throughout. Both bands are staunch believers in allowing the tension to simmer through repetition and a melody that finally erupts into a near-chaos wall of noise that manages to avoid total meltdown through the fact that both bands know exactly what they’re doing. It’s all intentional, and it’s precise and pointed enough to read your license plate from space. I’ve been finding myself drawn to this kind of stuff more and more and I’m sure this one’ll get some occasional plays; but even at twenty-six, twenty-seven minutes, three songs total just feels a bit like I’m playing a cassingle or something. –Keith Rosson (Level Plane)


THIS RUNS ON BLOOD:
Youngre, Strangre: 7”
No idea what’s up with that title. Certainly no typo. And the band name is ridiculous as hell. I will say this; the packaging for this is excellent. Four color screen printed covers, sewn pocket to hold the split red/white vinyl that looks like melted candy, great hand lettered booklet which is sewn together as well, not to mention the screen-printed obi strip that holds it all together. Musically, these guys crank out herky jerky, supremely spastic art damaged something or other. Not necessarily my cup o’ tea, but I know there’s legions of people who dig this sort of stuff (An Albatross, Locust, etc). 500 were pressed up, if you’re inclined. –Matt Average (This Runs On Blood)


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