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Record Reviews

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Below are some recently posted reviews.

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KETAMINES, THE:
You Can’t Serve Two Masters: LP
Surfy, reverby, drugged-up freak pop. Mixing it up with different instruments and multiple vocalists, it’s got a very free-form feel. There’s a particularly earnest song on the B side where the singer sings about his mother. Makes me wish there was a lyric sheet. But, for the most part, this record has a sunny, afternoon-at-a-cartoon-park type vibe. Visualize it.  –Daryl Gussin (Southpaw, southpawdistro@yahoo.com / Mammoth Cave Recording Co., mammothcaverecordings@gmail.com)


KETAMINES, THE:
So Hot!: 7”
Two songs flailing in spooky sci-fi sounds, echo surf tones, keyboards, jerkin’ back and forth Devo, Zappa vocals, Pere Ubu territory followed by a quick jangle pop number. Three tracks that I have a hard time fathoming. If Hozac weird (not the noisy style, just the quirky side) is your bag, grab this or its coinciding Ketamines singles series brethren (this is three of four).  –Matt Seward (Hosehead)


KATA SARKA / BODDICKER:
Split: 7”
Kata Sarka play very death metal-influenced black metal with production that is actually really good. This is fucking…brutal. That’s what metal guys say, right? I mean, this is metal in the way that you kind of don’t know what’s going on half the time. I don’t have much of an idea for band comparisons because I don’t really keep up with the black metal scene, but I like what I’m hearing and this is a far cry from the blown-out, fuzzy sounds of the stuff I know, like Burzum or Darkthrone. Boddicker are from Detroit and do a more technical type grind thing that reminds me of older Converge taking a lot of influence from Unholy Grave. This is actually a really solid split and one in a recent series of total wins from Profane Existence (Rang, Sick/Tired) that are putting them back on the map as a serious label.  –Ian Wise (Profane Existence)


JIMMY SINN:
Another Punk Monday Night: CD
Wasn’t really blown away by the last release I heard on this label, and when I found out it was just gonna be one guy and a guitar singing songs with titles like “Heroin in Hollywood,” I was pretty much ready to route the disc to my local used prerecorded music emporium and construct the review via randomly-chosen pieces of magnetic poetry. Catholic guilt forced me to listen to at least the first few songs, however, whereupon—curiously—I found I quite enjoyed the bountiful one-man acoustic/electric lamenting that this disc had to offer. At its best, it sounds like an unlikely and well-produced slush of Billie Joe Armstrong, the Exploding Hearts, and “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard.” At its worst, it also sounds like that. I listened to this disc twice now, and that’s two times more than my original plan. Tasty victory to you, Mr. Sinn! BEST SONG: “Don’cha Get It.” WORST SONG TITLE: “Boston Song.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: This gentleman appears to have a ukulele on his wall!  –Rev. Norb (1332)


JIFFY MARKER:
Winston: LP
Quirky, bouncy, garage jams that lie somewhere between MOTO and Mean Jeans. There’s also a very real budget rock vibe going on. Silk-screened covers, hand-drawn labels. Cramming all the songs onto one side of the LP. Which makes me think that there’s some real thought going on beneath all these hair-brained, pop songs. Evidently, making it all the better. For fans of skateboarding dogs, beer-fuelled pogoing, DeLoreans, and power pop!  –Daryl Gussin (Self-released)


INTERRUPTERS, THE:
“Family” b/w “This Is the New Sound”: 7”
Sturdy and reliable whatever-millionth-wave ska stuff. Aimee Interrupter’s got a nicely careworn, scratchy voice and the band themselves—made up of the three Bivona brothers, the same guys who were Tim Armstrong’s backing band during his year-long Tim Timebomb project—are confident in their musicianship. There’s nothing truly jawdropping here, but like I said, they’re a consistent and solid enough pair of songs. A-side features Armstrong taking up co-vocalist duties. I’d like to hear a full-length from this band and see how that grows on me because this two-song 7” just doesn’t quite have the depth and resonance I’d hoped for.  –Keith Rosson (Pirates Press)


HYSTERIA WARD:
From Breakfast to Madness: LP
This is the vinyl re-release of a cassette that was originally released in London, circa 1987. Hysteria Ward plays synthy, female-fronted goth punk. Pretty slow, pretty sad sounding, but played with conviction. The singer’s voice is so strong, she might as well be boarding up my windows, forbidding the California sun from entering. Dreary, haunting stuff. The release includes a CD-R with some extra tracks and the liner notes include a history of the band. My favorite anecdote from it is in 1983 when they were looking for their first drummer they placed in ad in Melody Maker that said, “Drummer wanted. Must be into The Cure, Wire, and Associates.” That’s a good start for describing their sound, but Hysteria Ward is much, much punker.  –Daryl Gussin (General Speech)


HELLGASM:
Infernal Raids Hellnautic Torment: Cassette
With a name like Hellgasm, I knew I was taking a risk on this satanic pastiche tape. At first, I didn’t know what to make of it. It nearly sounded tongue-in-cheek in a Spazz sort of way. Then, after mulling it over, I concluded that Hellgasm is serious. Suddenly, the tape became an anomaly in my collection. Almost the Troll 2or Plan 9 from Outer Space of powerviolence, crust music. It’s bona fide Ed Wood demon worship. My car is officially possessed.  –Sean Arenas (Self-released)


HEALTH PROBLEMS:
A Glut of Plastic: Cassette
It took two of four songs for me to realize that there is no guitar on this album. I didn’t miss it. As a guitar player, I didn’t even take it personally. We’ve had our share of spotlight. Besides, the superior musicianship, riffage, and controlled chaos created by David Dempsey on drums and Dan Shaw on bass is enough to please the ears and keep the brain alert. Vocalist Ian Kurtis Crist does a mix of hardcore vocals and spoken word with thoughtful lyrics. He’s got a real presence that is working overtime to keep up with the band, but succeeding nonetheless.  –John Mule (Self-released)


HDQ:
Lost in Translation: CD
Some of these dudes are/were in Leatherface, but this stands on its own two feet. First new release from this band in over twenty-three years. Very melodic, very riff-oriented, very good punk rock here. “Room with a View” and “Wake Up Call” are a couple of my favorites here. I’m glad this came my way. I’ll be digging into the back catalog and keeping my eyes peeled for a U.S. tour in 2014.  –Sean Koepenick (Boss Tuneage)


GRINGOS:
Pearly Gates: LP
This is how you summon Satan. “Conception of the Jackal in 6/8 time.” Satan wants you to give him your all. Satan wants you to get weird. He has no special affinity for black metal or death metal, but if you want to knead a sprinkling of those genres into a dough that you concoct from grumbling grooves and slobbering fastcore, he’s not going to kick you out of bed. But you’ve got to do it right. You’ve got to do it like you mean it, with psychotic horned animal masks. You’ve got to take your shirt off and show your hairy chest so the devil can see what kind of man you are. Satan approves of Gringos.  –MP Johnson (Wrecked ‘Em)


GINO AND THE GOONS:
“Trouble” & “Oh Yeah!”: 7”s
And then repeat it! Proving their 12” EP wasn’t a fluke, the Goons continue their brilliant Budget Rock-style assault on the ears and soul of the world. Gino is apparently a big boy now and has been taking the show on the road. Total Punk keeps scoring with the hits! Their Rip Off Records aesthetic fits every release perfectly. The liners describe the Goons perfectly, “fast and loose—loose and loud.” The Pelican Pow Wow record is just as powerful; no sassy liner notes but the cover does have some sassy ladies showing their stuff. This band is so stupid and simple and perfect, yet I can’t do it. Argh!  –Sal Lucci (Total Punk / Pelican Pow Wow)


GHOSTS RUN WILD:
Black Sails on a Sea of Blood: CD
This one-man band plays grumbling, synth-heavy garage rock to accompany the moment when your face peels off and your skull escapes and grows arms and starts shooting everything up with a laser gun.  –MP Johnson (Goblinhaus)


GENTLEMEN PREFER BLOOD / HANDS LIKE BRICKS:
Split: 7”
Radius Records, the folks who put out The Smoking Popes’ Inoculatorback in 1991, has risen from a twenty-year nap, moved from Chicago to San Diego, and released a mighty fine split featuring two contemporary L.A. punk groups. It’s hard not to be pulled in by the beauty of Paul Aguilera’s cigarette-smoking devil kitty paintings, the art that adorns each side of the sleeve, though the irreverence of the painting doesn’t fully capture the depth of each group’s contribution. To that point, Gentlemen Prefer Blood are one of those groups that has cracked the code and crafted a melodically catchy and lyrically engaging sound in the pop punk genre, a genre which I love, but which I think offers a challenge for being inventive within. They carry the pop in their songwriting sensibility, and the punk in the look-life-in-the-eyes effect. On “Rochester,” my favorite of their two tracks, Todd Smailes sings of “keeping guarded in the underground/saving smarts for the showdown” in a gravelly tone set over inviting palm mutes, and in seconds, your ears are met with a rise of vocal harmonies that somehow make the song arrive both emotionally and sonically, a rare accomplishment in just over two minutes. Hands Like Bricks, maybe the more straight-forward rockers of the two, stands as catchy, singable, moshable, and drinkable. And are we talking 7-Eleven fountain drinks—yes?—then, yes, even refillable! Songs like “The Old Crowd” and “Sunday Stuff” work for me, but I’m not sure if they really show the band’s dynamic and range as well as their last EP II does. I recommend this split for all the tracks, particularly Gentlemen Prefer Blood’s, but afterward, consider checking out Hands Like Brick’s II as well.  –Jim Joyce (Radius)


GALACTIC CANNIBAL:
We’re Fucked: LP
One of those strange amalgams that succeed flawlessly: dense, riff-heavy, melodic, and mercilessly catchy punk fronted by a veritable sasquatch of a monster on vocals. In lesser hands it’s a combination that wouldn’t work, but this record just decimates. Vocalist Peter Woods (a Milwaukee noise artist, and brother of Direct Hit’s Nick Woods, who plays bass on this record) bellows some of the most bleak, brutal, and poisonous lyrics I’ve read in years, and there’s a certain joy in that catharsis, you know? Buoyed by the melodies and velocity of the songs, this is kind of what I wished Off With Their Heads had sounded like the first time I’d heard them. Anyway, We’re Fucked is a stunning, ferocious batch of songs that I’ve listened to dozens of times in the short amount I’ve had it, and I can’t recommend it enough. May actually be the record of the year for me. Variants of the word “fuck” are used no less than forty-six times on this album.  –Keith Rosson (Lost Cat)


FUTURE BINDS:
Self-titled: 7” EP
I’ve said it before, but I seriously wanna know how Deranged stumbles upon all these great bands. Yet another winner of an EP here ‘em, featuring a band well versed in Negative Approach-styled hardcore, who keep things tighter than hell, frantic yet coherent, zippy without getting ridiculous. Mind appropriately blown, room appropriately damaged.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)


FRENCH EXIT:
Guts & Black Stuff: CD/LP
I have a tenuous relationship with backup gang vocals. On one hand, it can undermine the tone of a song and cause it to slip into outright silliness. On the other hand, it can really solidify a chorus and make something instantly catchy. French Exit somehow maintains the latter, like a trapeze artist, on their upbeat anthems; lesser bands would warrant major eye rolls. The rest of the songs are taut dramas, especially “When There’s a Fork in the Road, Take It” and “Bridges,” with tempo changes and Weezer-lite balladry. The production is slick which highlights every bent note, bass line, and tom fill. I would be lying if I said that these songs aren’t infectious—they snuggle up in the back of your head, like the adorable Maine Coon pictured on the cover. For fans of ‘90s guitar chugs and confident pop hooks. Recommended.  –Sean Arenas (It’s Alive, itsaliverecords.com, adam@itsaliverecords.com)


FOTTUTISSIMA PELLICCERIA ELSA:
Self-titled: LP
Another long-forgotten release by a long lost band gets pulled from the early ‘80s void, dusted off, and reintroduced to the world of the living, if only for a brief moment. Virtually nil is apparently known about the band other than that they once called Italy home and, judging from the cassette packaging, weren’t strangers to the whole anarcho punk thing. Make no false assumptions based on that info that you’re gonna get something that lives between Raw Power and Crass, though. No-ho-ho. That would be a mistake. First off, the sound of the whole endeavor sounds like it came straight from a boom box, quite a common practice among the more financially challenged bands of the time, so it’s all cardboard-boxy, with things getting a bit muddy on occasion, no doubt the kiss of death for a modern populace with ears keyed to even the skintest band spitting up something that’s been run through ProTools or some equivalent. The band itself sounds like it’s peopled with folks no more than a few months out from first picking up their instruments, thrashing ‘n’ howling one second, then plodding ‘n’ plunking the next. Yeah, I know, I know, I’m not exactly selling this bad boy, right? Well, here’s the thing: what makes this worthwhile is that it manages to capture the creative process of a band unhindered by commercial expectations, the rules of how to properly make music on an instrument and the “correct” way to write a song. This utter freedom is so fuckin’ hard to come by these days, when even so-called anarchist bands are so busy trying to conform to some preapproved pigeonhole that they end up sounding like one big faceless blob of mediocrity. Is it “good” listening? Well, that’s easily up for debate. It is a poignant reminder of what’s too often lost in punk’s progression from revolt against mediocrity to coveted career trajectory—you can’t truly be free if you care even the slightest if someone else will approve.  –Jimmy Alvarado (S.S.)


FM 359:
Some Folks: 7”
Members of Street Dogs and Dropkick Murphys try their damnedest to be the next Eagles. Seriously gorgeous packaging with a “Maker’s Mark” type wax seal, but not much else worth the trouble.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Pirates Press)


FLOOR ABOVE, THE:
Bishop: LP
This is the epitome of my favorite type of new modern hardcore band… fast, noisy, lo-fi, and seemingly nihilistic. I’ll use the band NASA Space Universe as a point of reference, but the audio fidelity of this record sounds way worse than anything they’ve done—like if you dubbed your older brother’s black metal tapes playing through his stereo speakers to a boom box using the built-in microphone. Yes, it sounds that shitty, but I mean that totally in the best way. There are twenty blistering songs here that will surely not disappoint if you like your punk rock fast with a low fidelity and DIY aesthetic firmly in place.  –Mark Twistworthy (Savage Quality, savagequalityrecordings.com)


FIRST BASE:
Self-titled: CD
Bouncy, buzzsaw bop-pop for retro-lovin’ futurists. They keep the delivery Ramones-straightforward, the hooks dripping straight outtaBay City, and the sound authentically apple-pie-and-dimples clean. This stuff is hard to pull off without drowning in a puddle of saccharine, but they do so in spades, with one bubbly hit after another.  –Jimmy Alvarado (HoZac)


FIRE RETARDED:
High Horse: 7”
To date, I don’t think I’ve heard a band that sounds this much like The Motards. Seriously, this could’ve been on Empty Records, if the label still existed (RIP). Sloppy, fun, and fast garage, just the way we all should’ve been taught. Fire Retarded have the rolling, up-tempo, drum technique down pat. Like Nine Pound Hammer did once upon a time—though this group is less country-fried. Apparently, there’s a member of The Hussy in this outfit. And while The Hussy is great, they sound nothing like this single, so keep ‘em separate. Is this a new trend? Are more bands going to bring this sound back? I fucking hopeso.  –Steve Adamyk (Glory Hole, gloryholerecords.com)


FIRE EXIT:
Time Wall: 7”
Another reissue from Last Laugh, this time a one-off single from an obscure Scottish punk band originally released in 1978. The title track is a potent bit of slashing-guitar and anger-type punk and the flip, “Talkin’ About Myself,” is a bit more sloppy, introspective ‘n’ brooding revolving a two-to-three chord riff. Essential? Not really, but it is a good single.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Last Laugh)


FALL, THE:
Re-Mit: CD
Is it me, or does Mark E. Smith, with each successive Fall release, sound more and more like your drunk uncle hollering random shit while some band plays in the background?  –Jimmy Alvarado (Cherry Red)


ESPECTROSTATIC:
Self-titled: LP
An instrumental album by Alex Cuervo of the Hex Dispensers and Brotherhood Of Electricity. Compared to the Hex Dispensers’ fast-driving, Ramones/Misfits-concise stabs of songs that watershed around repeated phrases, Espectrostatic is almost the opposite on the surface—no words, long song structures invoking alien landscapes turning from night to day, sounds as overlapping textures, synthesizers with the keys depressed for stretches (and if there are guitars, they’re definitely not the focus). But there is some overlap to Alex’s previously released material. Same mind. Different production. There’s a walnut-sized part of the brain called the temporoparietal junction. If it gets wonked, it can lead to adverse effects, like difficulty making moral decisions and the production of out-of-body experiences. This record’s creepy, like unearthly fog billowing underneath the threshold instead of an axe splintering a door (smoke opposed to blood). It’s atmosphere, insidious patience building, marching, swelling, constricting, releasing. It sounds like the score to a movie set in outer space made by ghosts. Intriguing.  –Todd Taylor (Trouble In Mind)


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