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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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CHRIS STRAWN:
I Left My Hat in Hades: CD
Mix tapes are a remarkable thing, often serving as collections of our absolute favorite songs strung together, like a child’s dream team of their favorite sport, only for music nerds. But that’s the main reason we love them; they’re collections of our (or, our friends/admirers/etc. etc.) songs that we’ve listened to over and over again. I bring this up because this solo record goes back and forth genre wise, from simple folk to some electronic jams, as if trying to recreate that feeling, as if it were an “original” mix tape, so to speak. The problem is the familiarity isn’t there, so while I think the songs are pretty good on their own, it’s a bit tough to listen to in one sitting. I could be wrong though, and realize that it’s just more of a “grower” record than I have time for before I send in the review. Here’s to hoping.  –Joe Evans III (Drazzig, www.myspace.com/chrisstrawn)


CHRIS EVIL AND THE TAINTS:
Wanna Kill! Kill! Kill!: CD
These kids fall somewhere between proto-hardcore and Oblivians-styled trash rock. While personal preferences lean toward the former, this is decent enough meat and potatoes punk on the whole.  –Jimmy Alvarado (www.75orlessrecords.com)


CHOOSE YOUR POISON:
Party Zone: 7”
Straight outta Appleton, Wisconsin, comes Choose Your Poison, a band that is firmly committed to partying, as you can tell by the name of the record. Sure, they thrash out about the usual subjects, like drinking the booze and getting pissed off at tough guys in the pit (“Save all your beef for Philly cheese steak,” they warn), but they also take the time to do a song about those shitty pay day loan businesses that prey on people in economically unstable positions. That means this record is great for partying and for thinking!  –MP Johnson (Bacon Towne)


CHINA LOCA:
I Like How: CD
Oh, man, you caught me again. Here I am, the editor of this zine, reviewing something that one of our contributors put out. Conflict of interest! I tell you what. When three other zines run a review, I’ll retract this. You just send me the links. It’s not like we have contributors to this here publication because we think they suck and they should be ignored. China Loca are: Amy Adoyzie, Imposing ‘Stache Gus, and a warp speed Casiotone providing the drumbeats. Let’s not gussy this up beyond what it is: Amy sing/screaming, Gus plonking through a practice amp, and a machine, but, damn, if the minimalism doesn’t play in their favor in a Crass-meets-Bikini Kill-meets-cheap-beer-belly-basement way. There’s anthems (“SOS”—“same old stuff” (roller rink mix)), there’s ballads (“This Is All”), and there’re straight-up rockers. Take your Warped Tour, cell phone excuses, and viral marketing. I’ll take a band that had three months to exist, practiced in their pajamas, and DIY’d furiously any day.  –Todd Taylor (China Loca, and if you have Razorcake #43, there’s a link in Amy’s column to download this album for free.)


CHIEF SMILES, THE:
Great for Terrible Times: CD
A little tough, this one is. On the one hand, they have an interestingly addled take on the pop thing with flashes of “rock” sensibilities pushed up against artier pretensions, prodigious use of a violin, and some decent hooks. On the whole, however, they seem to be missing a key ingredient to take them over the county line from “eh” to “whoa.” In the end, there’s enough here to pique interest, but not enough to hold it. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.thechiefsmiles.com)


CATALYST, THE / BRAINWORMS:
: Split 7”
The first Catalyst song, “Born with a Buzz,” sounds like a robot trying to make itself throw up. The second song, “Dunna Nanunna,” is a righteously fucked up bullet train blast of growling, screeching hardcore. The third song is an aimless instrumental that should have been left off the record, no matter how close the band is with the friend to whom they dedicate it. I’m not sure I’d listen to this side again, but fans of jaw-cracking hardcore might wanna pick it up. The Brainworms side starts off with an ode to Rites Of Spring called “Winnie Cooper.” Not my cup of tea, nor is their second offering, “Art Thou Bored.” Emotional hardcore that, unfortunately, is lost on these ears.  –Josh Benke (Rorschach)


CAESAR HOLIDAY, A:
Self-titled: CD
This is a mostly instrumental album of what the band describes as “an inspired interpretation of post-rock and avant-garde.” I’m not familiar with too much of anything that falls under that umbrella, so I can’t really say it sucks, but I can say that this isn’t my thing. Lots of melodies throughout this record, the songs are about five minutes each and follow a prog rock structure. Plenty of violin and complicated guitar work as well. I guess I could see using some of the songs with a less menacing vibe to them as white noise while trying to fall asleep, but otherwise this one will be collecting dust until I can get it off to the used record store. Give me The Copyrights any day. 
–Guest Contributor (Self-released)


BRUTAL KNIGHTS:
Living By Yourself: 12”
A super quick one from this knucklehead bunch of punk misfits from Toronto. Ten songs of short and sweet trashiness fly by in twelve minutes. This time around, the production is more raw and sounds self-recorded. It adds an element of Nervous Breakdown Black Flag meets the Nihilistics. A good thing in my book. They come across more like their live show. I have actually seen them a couple of times and they are especially great on their home turf. I know when I think of bands from Toronto, I think of this band in the same breath as Fucked Up and Career Suicide. I have heard that there is a European tour version of this 12” as a picture disc 7” with fewer songs. If anyone wants to donate one to me, I would be forever grateful.  –Donofthedead (Deranged)


BRUISES, THE:
Connected: CD
Two old clichés come immediately to mind with this disc; one is wrong and one is right. The first is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. I expected this to sound like Tegan and Sara and that is exactly what I got. The cover summed it up perfectly. The second is if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. This looks and sounds just like a Tegan and Sara record; the songwriting is not as strong but it is not bad overall.  –Mike Frame (Self-released)


BROADWAY CALLS:
Self-titled: CD
I picked this album up mostly because it was released through Adeline, which I thought had actually stopped being a record label. Seeing as Adeline has a track record which includes One Man Army, Pinhead Gunpowder, and The Living End, I was willing to buy into the press sheet’s claim of this being some essential pop punk. Well, in summation, this album is a whole lotta pop and very little punk. This is, basically, a mall-core album that Hot Topic can probably push on pre-pubescent girls, but for anyone else it just ain’t that good. This is in the same league as later day Blink-182 and Ataris’ albums, after the bands had any semblance of attitude or edginess drained from them. In all fairness to early Blink and Ataris, maybe this fits more in the Fall Out Boy/Good Charlotte category of bands who started out completely sanitized for mass consumption from the very beginning. Actually, considering that Billie Joe or Adrienne Armstrong aren’t even included in the myriad thanks, I wonder if maybe Adeline at this point is just another “independent” incubator label that majors use to build “cred” for bands before they have their official major label debuts. Blechh.  –Adrian (Adeline)


BRIDGEWORK:
World Disappears: CD
I’d believe you if you told me that this CD had been lost in the mail for ten years, because it sounds exactly like what was coming out on Crank or Revelation around ’96 or ’97—back when post-hardcore sounded like Sunny Day Real Estate mixed with alternative rock, and emo wasn’t quite on the radio yet. The problem with a lot of those bands was that hardcore dudes didn’t always know how to write rock melodies, and a lot of their new projects were hookless and monotonous. Bridgework has the same shortcomings, but gets a few points for making me feel like I’m in eleventh grade again, getting dumped by straight edge girls. –CT Terry  –Guest Contributor (www.bridgeworkmusic.com)


BREAKS, THE:
…Are Broke: one-sided 7”EP
The format’s curious. A five-song, one-sided EP that goes at 33. Perhaps it’s a money-saving enterprise because the band had already broken up or they wanted to laugh at all the suckers who drop the needle on the blank side? The Breaks were a straight-ahead St. Louis (they’re very no-coast proud) hardcore band in the 1981 (coasts), 1983 (Midwest) sense of the word. The good news is the bad news: tight, powerful, heartfelt music that was close to twenty years old when The Breaks were around. I believe that they believe what they believe; it’s just that the musical mold they chose had already been cast and hardened. The Breaks pour right into what Minor Threat and Youth Of Today had already formed and settled right into that shape. You know exactly what the music’s gonna look like. The band broke up in 2006. –Todd Taylor (Firestarter)


BOXCAR SATAN + GHOSTWRITER:
Hobo Nouveau: CD
Not quite as over the top as previous releases, Boxcar Satan, this time along with the like-minded Ghostwriter, still manage to mine the odder, darker depths of swampy blues. Whether slogging brooding originals or making covers like Bob Dylan’s “Serve Somebody” and Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ” sound like they popped outta their own twisted noggins, they manage to evoke the memory of Scratch Acid as vividly as Son House. If you ever thought early Gun Club stuff could’ve used a bit more psychosis in their delivery, this’ll no doubt do the trick for ye. –Jimmy Alvarado (End Of The West)


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)


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