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Record Reviews

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“Go West Old Bastards” b/w “Close Ur Eyes”: 7”
Musical genres are word corrals. For people new to a genre, or mere consumers, they’re helpful. Garage rock. To me, as a term—it’s almost as meaningless because it’s so vast and has such a rich and continuing heritage. Then there are the compartments in the corrals. The subgenres. They use hyphens and the hyphens cordon off smaller chunks of musical landscape. Mummies-inspired-proto-Crypt-rock. Gunk-punk. That sort of thing. But, as a music lover and an American who loves wide open spaces, I give thanks to artists like James Arthur and Alicja Trout. Instead of can’t-turn-around-in-this-cage, I’m-going-to-die-in-here, veal-fattening pens of much of corporate-sponsored garage rock today, these two are on wildly different trips. James Arthur: best instrumental soundtrack to a movie that hasn’t been made. I would like that movie to have a robot, a monkey, and a cowperson. Alicja: for those familiar with her work in Mouse Rocket and Alicja Pop, she sounds like a deconstructed “New Rose” Damned, sung with palpable heart, open artful stitches, and wide-open wonderment. Excellent pairing. –Todd Taylor (Spacecase, spacecaserecords.com, info@spacecaserecords.com)

“Hygiene” b/w “Hygéne”: 7”
Big ol’ question mark punk rock. Are they really primitive moderns channeling the Monks and Black Time? Kraut rock with beans on toast? Wire unraveling into uncomfortable, spiked strands? Sham 69 deconstructionists? Intellectual skinhead revivalists? My guess is that they know exactly what they’re doing and that confusion, obfuscation, and unanswerability are part of their concrete-small-flats-and-parka mystique. –Todd Taylor (Sorry State, yourgeneration@gmail.com)

Crows and Cranes: CD
This is a dark, dreamy album with gorgeous vocals and guitar melodies. Hunters, Run! sounds totally unique and unpretentious. –Lauren Trout (Battle Standard / At Arms)

Self-titled: 7”
Rambunctious female-fronted hardcore. This disc chugs like a malfunctioning microwave. There are moments every once in a while that make you worry. The moments where you think, “Maybe it’s not going to make it.” Those whirring noises of d-beat hardcore and borderline-shrill vibrating vocal dissonance, but the job gets done. When this wax works, it’s solid. In practice, I hear the same things that make bands like Night Birds and Autistic Youth awesome. –Bryan Static (One Percent Press, onepercentpress.com / Feral Kid, feralkidrecords.com)

Worms and Dirt: LP
I guess this could be safely housed under the Holy Terror umbrella, but I don’t want to pigeonhole it too much. I will say that this is a contender for my favorite hardcore record of the year. It’s got everything I look for in a hardcore record: dark, heavy, bleak, disgusting, King/Hanneman leads, and songs about Satan. Toss in a tasteful use of blasts and breakdowns, an almost Disembodied-esque general feel, and a perfectly fitting layout and you’ve got a modern “evilcore” classic. –Dave Williams (A389, a389records.com)

Almost two years in and HLB crack out yet another collection of tunes to keep its L.A. fanbase and beyond raisin’ fists and singin’ along, beginning with the two opening tracks, “We Made This Mess” and “Beers and Cards” (which is definitely the better of the two). Think Fat Wreck Chords pogo/skate fucker-uppery, but with balls. “Go Away” is the standout tune here, and for some unexplained reason, I can totally hear The Crowd re-recording a version of this—no, that’s not a slag, that’s a total compliment. The hit-the-gas stomper, “Satellite Phone Calls” calls to mind the leaner, meaner Social Distortion circa 1983-’84 live onstage, not to be confused with the band of the same name Mike Ness leads these days. Let’s be crystal fuckin’ clear here that HLB isn’t at all derivative of the two above mentioned bands or label, I’m merely stating some parallels that I happen to hear when checking out this EP. And speaking of checking ‘em out, this band delivers it and then some onstage, so don’t fuck up and skip the chance to catch ‘em next time. –Designated Dale (Modern Pop, facebook.com/modernpoprecords)

“I’m Better than You” b/w “(Don’t Mess With) Heinis Punks”: 7”
About seven-eighths less glammy than one’d expect a band of such nomenclature to be, these Helsinkoids come off as a slightly more punk and less talented version of the Yum Yums, which isn’t a bad place to be, really. They clearly put plenty of time and energy into trying to build the a-side into a legit sock-knocker of a hit single; problem is that the song itself really isn’t exceptional enough to warrant such attention, and i can’t help but wonder if the band had other songs more suited to this position of great prominence. I’m more roused by the simple territorial stompings of the B-side, augmented by traces of some kinda bagpipey-sounding thing, and surely following in the grand and glorious tradition of Finnish punk bands singing half-joking anthems about their local crew established by Kohu-63’s “Harpsala Kids” some thirty years ago. Good B-side, nice try on the A-side, overall results inconclusive. More gruel, sirs! More gruel! BEST SONG: “(Don’t Mess With) Heinis Punks” BEST SONG TITLE: “(Don’t Mess With) Heinis Punks” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Label spells it “Heinis PUNX,” in defiance of conventions established by front and back covers. –Rev. Norb (Hurdie Gurdie Heebie Geebie Greenie Meenie Man / No Bullshit)

Modern Vision of the Erect Nightmare: 7”
Continually pushing against boundaries and exploring the outer realms, Gas Chamber are one of those bands where I know I’m not going to hear a band do the same thing over and over again. Each record of theirs makes the past release seem puny in comparison. This may very well be my favorite from them. The noise at the beginning is excellent! Seriously, my favorite part of the song. When they kick in to the main body, they bring to mind Dystopia, but a little more direct and to the point. The vocals are shouted with a sense of pain and disgust. The second side of this record paints a scene of hell—with sounds coming in and out of the dark—and the vocals shouted with a shredded throat rasp over the din. Rightfully so, as the lyrics are bleak, detailing the fall of civilization. The acoustic playing at the end comes out of left field and is a great way to go out. It puts a very different mood on the whole thing. Excellent record, to say the very least. –Matt Average (Nerve Altar, nervealtar.blogspot.com)

Click to Switch: USB Card
The first half of this is mostly guitar-only, instrumental experimental/post-rock from Australia. This is actually okay, but in a kind of music for musicians type of way. Or maybe in a “put on in the background” type way. I mean, it is fairly pretty music and never devolves into sounding like those wanky wannabe Randy Rhoads/Stevie Ray Vaughn guys that are in every Guitar Center I’ve ever been in. About halfway through the album, some rhythm instruments show up, and some songs start getting lyrics. The music still stays in the same kind of arty, indie vein, but it does pick up a little—shall we say—”umph”? Maybe a little too ethereal for its own good at times, but never anything offensive to the senses. Two things of note: these guys name a song “Song for D. Boon to Sing,” and get Mike Watt to throw down some spoken word on a track called “Ode to the Ship ‘Tainer” and some bass on another songs. Not to mention there is some Steve Mackay saxophone contributions. So these guys are cool in my book. –Adrian Salas (Diepunkdeath, diepunkdeath@yahoo.com)

All Said and Done: CD
The late 1980s was an interesting time for hardcore and punk. It went from being loud, fast, and short to something a bit more tuneful, melodic, and poppy. At the time I didn’t really give it much thought. Maybe it was a gradual change, or maybe I was just stoked to hear new music. Hearing and seeing how punk was growing and changing was pretty damn amazing at the time. Granted, when Frogs Of War first came on the scene, the U.K. had bands like Ripcord, Heresy, Napalm Death, and more. But these guys seemed more influenced by Snuff, and maybe Thatcher On Acid (whom they remind me of, especially on the song “U.S.A.”), and bands like Soul Side, and Naked Raygun. The music is driving and catchy without being sappy or saccharine. You can hear the bass pushing everything through and the guitars riding over the top. The vocals are sung and not screamed, while the backup vocals emphasize the melodic elements. Political and social commentary without being heavy handed or blatantly obvious. This CD collects their LP (which is the title of this collection), a four song session from 1991, and The Gunpowder Plot Noodle demo from 1990. It definitely sounds dated by today’s interests, but that doesn’t mean this is not worth listening to. As much as I love the early hardcore sound, I’m also hoping today’s participants look around for different inspiration. If you’re looking at what punk of the past did, you might want to look here for something a bit different from today. Glad I got this! –Matt Average (Boss Tuneage, bosstuneage.com)

“Red Headed Strangler” b /w “Tammys of Tomorrow”: 7”
Out of Phoenix, AZ, Cesar Romero’s friends issue another bag of pure sunshine for your turntable. Pressed on slate gray vinyl, this single of ‘60s-era garage pop brings up the jangle and fancy footwork of The Strokes. With a bouncy lo-fi riff, “Red Headed Strangler” conjures up shag hairdos, while “Tammys of Tomorrow” rides the wave between surf and psychedelia with a dyslexic snippet of the track played backwards. Reminiscent of those lazy, hazy days of summer. They ain’t on Snappy Little Numbers fer nuthin’. Recommended. –Kristen K (Snappy Little Numbers)

Freaked Out & Psyched Out: CD
I gotta tell ya, I don’t know a hell of a lot about the world of rockabilly, or psychobilly or any of those other billies. It’s not that I don’t like it—because I do—I just don’t go rabid for the stuff like a lot of people out there. That said, I like this disc. I can’t give you any good reason. It sounds like a lot of other bands like this. They sing about zombies and drugs and… Well, that’s pretty much it. –Ty Stranglehold (Drunkabilly)

Too Big to Fail: 2 x 7”
“Oh man, the Flesh Lights are awesome!” “What? Gross. You use those things?” “Uh… I meant the garage rock band.” So the conversation has gone, I’m sure, a few times as this band rises in infamy. They’ve put a very distinct handicap on themselves by creating a name that turns away the weak at heart and makes it hard to justify buying a T-shirt at their shows. A name like the Flesh Lights demands that your band has a hell of punch to your rock. Is it any surprise that they actually deliver? Struts like protopunk, soars like hardcore. Kind of like if the Adolescents tried to play something like Reigning Sound. Highly Recommended. –Bryan Static (Super Secret, supersecretrecords.com)

The Day Gravity Stopped: 2 x LP
Though my own knowledge of their existence dates back only a couple o’ years at most, The Figgs have apparently been twangin’’n’ sangin’ for nigh on two decades and have released an impressive number of records over the years. This latest is a double album featuring twenty tracks chock full of modish pop, country twang, and points between. The tracks remain surprisingly consistent throughout, and are a bit of a treat in an era when so many wading in the pop end of the pool seem so hellbent on sounding like carbon copies of each other. –Jimmy Alvarado (Peterwalkee, peterwalkeerecords.com)

Here Come the Cops: CD
Something has to be done. Somebody get a telethon going. We need to eradicate the world of the terminal illness known as S.T.S. (Suicidal Tendencies Syndrome). S.T.S. overtakes once great punk rock and hardcore bands and compels them to write and release wishy-washy cheese metal. As of now, there is no known cure for S.T.S., but with your help that could change in our lifetime. Bands like Fang are counting on you. Operators are now standing by. –Ty Stranglehold (Malt Soda)

: Split 7”
Hmmmm.... Family Curse crank out some wound up tighter than tight punk rock with a style that reminds me of the Tyrades, Night Birds, and more recent bands. I like it quite a bit. The energy is infectious, and I like I get pulled into it. The only thing I don’t really like is the chorus of “Middle Age America.” The attitude of the delivery sounds forced. Other than that, pretty good. Maybe it’s something that has to grow on me, like a mold. White Murder are a little less stabby in sound, but they have a smash and burn style with a urgent delivery. Even in their tempo changes, the song flows and keeps the tension constant. Kind of like an updated version of the Bags. So fucking good! Only one song? I need to hear more. –Matt Average (Doormat, drawingroomrecords.com)

Man Feelings: LP
The songs on this record fuse ‘90s Dischord-style staccato with pseudo-stoner metal riffs. The singer is kind of interesting in “more hoss than vocalist” sort of way, but the music never reaches much of a pace for me. It plods along in the one Black Sabbath riff it nearly rips off note for note. The one-sheet also makes too many outrageous claims. Here are a few I agree with: “These four dudes play,” “post-hardcore flavoring,” “includes digital download.” Here are a few things I don’t agree with: “on par with the legendary likes of Jesus Lizard, Pere Ubu, and The Stooges,” “finest frontman since D. Boon,” “this is the record for [me].” –Billups Allen (Blvd, blvdrecords.com)

Pig Factory: LP
Pure radio rock. Moments of competent songwriting mixed in with bits that remind me of why mainstream rock records are unappealing. I truly detest the production. The moment when this record lost me was when the guitar pulled itself to the forefront of a particular song and all the other instruments dropped out. All alone, the guitar decides to go into a flanger-induced blender noise that just made me think of the Foo Fighters. I get that the band is trying to go for a Dinosaur Jr./Hüsker Dü alt rock sound, but the execution doesn’t fit. The grit isn’t there. Dinosaur Jr. works because of the noise—the levels between the vocals and the instruments. Here, the style is too clean cut. I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t work. –Bryan Static (Animal Style, animalstylerecords.com)

Self-titled: LP
Some kind of Northwestern super group with heads from the A Frames, Lights, and Intelligence; you probably know where this is heading. It’s music by the kids who pulled apart stereos and ate aluminum foil. Drug music. Multilayered fuzzed out jams… feedback… drunken, slurred vocals. Kinda like the UV Race from Oz…or hell, the Gun Club for an easy reference. The ex punks lap this shit up… same people who went gaga over Hozac. I get it… but where’s the hooks, maaaaaan? –Tim Brooks (Sweet Rot)

Life Destruction: LP
This album is as simple as rice and beans, yet as crusty as a two-week-old baguette. Gymnasium vocal effects with doomsday lyrics and uptuned Tragedy riffage. Song titles like “Shadows of the Sun,” “Darkness,” and “Desolation.” Fans of malt liquor, industrial wastelands, and amateur quilting will enjoy this head banger. –Matthew Hart (Headache Hardcore)

: Split LP
Recorded at Missing Link Records, Melbourne in 2008 and originally released in a three-hundred run of cassettes through Mikey Young’s Aarght label, this is an awesome-sounding live set by two of Australia’s finest bands. As one who celebrates the entire ECSR catalog (that’s available in the States, which is all but the earliest singles), I’m stoked. Live energy and on-point playing make up for brief lapses in fidelity (as should be expected and embraced for any authentic live recording). The day the egg cracked for me with ECSR was a long desert drive with Primary Colors on repeat in the player. The songs stood up to the large vistas; painted them. The blip-blip-blip of close-by cacti matched the tick of the guitar. That’s a lot of space and time to fill without being bored. The UV Race don’t slouch. More blunt and harder than their compatriots, yet distinctly in the loosely defined New Wave of Australian Garage Rock (NWOAGR), it’s a great pairing of two brother bands. It’s rare that I’ll say that both completists and folks new to the bands can rejoice over a live record. In this case, it’s true. Cool stuff. I’m glad it got the vinyl treatment.  –Todd Taylor (Almost Ready)

Unit B Sessions: Cassette
Crust is in a fucking coma. Pull the plug. –Craven (Less Art)

Victoria!: CD
Chicago band’s new release is a breath of fresh air from the current crop of records flooding the market. Elements of The Clash and The Replacements pop up in small doses. But the band’s songwriting skills are evident on each song. “Back to N.Y.” and “Mexican Graffiti” should have fans singing along to the words in no time. A solid album that will hopefully make a big splash. –Sean Koepenick (Pirates Press)

Hits: 7” EP
Focusing less attention to the thrashy, “Poison Idea” side of their equation in favor of a more “Black Flag”-tinged approach, Double Negative dish up three tracks of churning, grating hardcore like only they can. According to SorryState’s site, this is the last recordings with vocalist KC and the first with new drummer Bobby. Should be interesting to hear where they go from here, ‘cause this is already pushing quite nicely against the boundaries they’ve already established for themselves. –Jimmy Alvarado (Sorry State)

Vices: CD
Well, I guess it’s about time I have an opinion on this band one way or the other. I met the Dopamines once. They were playing the back patio of a bar in San Antonio and I told one of the Jons how my friend wanted to come down because he loved the line “drink a little sake and get a little cocky.” The Jon looked me at me, pondered seriously for a moment, and tried to remember if that was actually a lyric that they really sang at one point. This anecdote illustrates the ridiculous, but forgettable, quality about the early parts of their discography. The earlier records had moments that stand as great pop punk moments, where others stand in mediocrity. If I put money on it, I would probably say this is the best thing I’ve ever heard by them. As someone who’s been watching them since their debut years ago, this is the first records of theirs that I could see coming back to more than half a dozen times. For the longest time, it had to do with the fact that the Copyrights filled the same basic functions as the Dopamines, but I think this album marks the official point where I can really say that a band can sound like the Dopamines or The Copyrights, with clear distinguishing marks between the two. –Bryan Static (It’s Alive, itsaliverecords.com)

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