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Razorcake #90
White Murder, both LPs
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Record Reviews

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Garden City: CD
Hardcore. Passionate, pissed off, pummeling hardcore. A few ripping metallic solos and a few catchy breakdowns keep it interesting. Good thing there’s a lyric sheet, these guys have something worthwhile to say, with songs about Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and other victims less known but with equally fucked up stories. With apologies to my Floridian friends, the best song title and concept here is “Annihilate Florida.” Go see these Victoria, B.C. Canadians and pick this up.  –Chad Williams (Self-released)

Split: 7”
As they say on The Antiques Roadshow, it’s the provenance—the documented story—that increases the value of a piece. On the surface, AK-77 is serviceable tongue-in-cheek oi (along the lines of Oil!). Death Statistic provides roughly recorded songs played at home. Their band name / logo takes a bit of time to visually decipher, so I’m saying they’re going for something along the lines of Bathory or Entombed, but don’t hold me to that, since my time in those dark corners are limited. What this 7” is really about is an audio tribute to a Ukrainian punk—who had formed both bands—and died before his twenty-first birthday. And in that context, it’s oddly sweet that making fun of bald xenophobes and sidling up to dudes who prove their commitment by burning churches is this guy’s swan song. –todd (Do Ya Hear We)

The Fucking Enemy: CD
There are cops in riot gear on the cover and a war image on the back—any idea what this is gonna sound like? Actually, this is not the Dis-worship that image might conjure up. It’s pretty damn good fast hardcore for the most part. Tows the line between Vitamin X/Tear It Up hyper thrash and Strike Anywhere/Trial By Fire style melody. This is just the kind of hardcore that I like. I imagine these kids would tear some serious ass in a live setting. –frame (Reason)

Self-titled: CD
I have a weird hate of bands reusing band names. A quick search shows that this band name was used by a Texas band that has a single that is heralded by KBD record collectors and the name also was used by a prominent punk band from Croatia. Using the excuse that those bands do not exist anymore is lazy if that is what they are going to use. Going in their favor, they do offer a jam-packed affair with twenty-four blistering hardcore punk songs done in about twenty-two minutes. It’s a well-recorded batch of songs that adds to the power of their to-the-point songs. The band shows that they have some musical chops in between their blasts, too. Vocals remind me of Deek from Oi Polloi and the lyrics of all things that anger them makes me think of the Nihilistics. This is definitely worthy of being uploaded to the iPod. –don (AK47, akfortyseven.net)

Samurai Punk Rock Girls: CD
Attention: Dichotomy alert! Super silly, fun, fast music played by a group of Japanese girls with super serious lyrics about the bombing of Hiroshima and World War II. My body wants to dance, but my brain wants to think! Oh, the horror! This is Kix (serious!) with a bunch of Froot Loops thrown on top! –Maddy (Asian Man/Einstein)

Forging Steel and Laying Stone: CD
What we have here is thunderous, crusty metal that would seem more likely at home on Relapse Records then Alternative Tentacles. For fans of Unsane, High On Fire or Darkest Hour. –greg (Alternative Tentacles)

Harshing Your Mellow: CD
(This is a reissue of their 2001 release and while the bands I’m about to compare them to probably weren’t even around when it was released, I also have no idea whether they were influenced by this band. All I can do is use them for comparisons.) With that said, Akimbo has a pretty insane release here. They take the off-the-charts, super-charged guitar rock’n’roll aspects of the Bronx and mix it with the experimental “modern” hardcore of bands like Lickgoldensky. This album is consistently menacing, chaotic, and heavy as fuck. If you were already a fan of the band and its music, this re-mastered reissue comes with all new artwork and a cover of the Screamers’ “Vertigo,” which is really good and doesn’t compromise the band’s sound to the uniqueness of the Screamers. –Daryl Gussin (Alternative Tentacles)

Navigating the Bronze: CD
This is fucking MAN music. Well, by that I mean music that’s heavy and hard, like a man should be, not necessarily music to fuck a man to. Although, if you think about it, what could be much more MANly then a load of buff man flesh all getting it on with each other, preferably all while wielding implements of destruction like battle axes and double barrel shot guns... and doing it all in the back of a kickass conversion van with a giant black widow fighting a wizard on top of a volcano airbrushed on the side. That scenario is the music of this CD if it were to be given a visual counterpart. Navigating the Bronze has some of the heaviest drumming ever heard outside of a Melvins record, while the guitar and bass compete to see who can be the most punishing of all. And who can argue with a lyric like, “You’re going to kill some cats, surf on a shark, and then devour your young. It’s solid gold!” Pick this up if you’re into heavy stoner rock like Fu Manchu, or bands like the Melvins at their rockingest. There’s even an entire three-minute drum solo which takes up an entire track. As an added bonus, “Wizard Van Wizard,” “Dungeon Bastard,” and “Huge Muscles” are all tied for the toughest-sounding song names of the year. –Adrian (Alternative Tentacles)

Clues in the Chaospile: LP
Tweaked-out grindcore from these guys. They land somewhere between Scrawl and No Less. Think of a heavier version of John Zorn. If they didn’t have the gargled vocals and distorted guitars, they could be free jazz. The drummer is pretty damn good! The songs are thrashy as hell, then they have these complex time changes and jazz-influenced breaks that display these guys have the chops. I like that they’re not sticking to a tried and true formula. They throw in clarinets, vibraphones, and more to add to their sound—and it’s not some random shit. You get the sense they actually put a lot of thought into the music. Could be interesting to see how far out this band will push their sound. –Matt Average (Timekiller, timekillerrecords.com / Tofu Carnage, tofucarnage.com)

Dis Manibum Sacrum: EP
Akupunktio play traditional Finnish hardcore with some current influences thrown in. The songs are driving, though never full-on speedy or thrashy. The rhythm section definitely hammers away, but there are a lot of tempo changes in the songs to keep it from being one long blur. “Koira” is the standout track of the four. The guitar dominates and sets the mood with ringing notes over a din of distortion and a somewhat pummeling mid tempo. –Matt Average (Havoc)

Riot City: 7”
I heard a buzz about this band from Tokyo on a message board. Live they are supposed to be amazing. From what I hear, I can believe that it would be a great band to see in a live setting. This band is, undeniably, a guitar-heavy band with a ton of blues licks: three guys banging out the dirty punk’n’roll with a heavy Motörhead vibe. They also add elements of Japcore—reminding me a bit like countrymen Testu Arrey—giving it a punk edge. The singer reminded me of a cross between the latter mentioned band and the transplanted band from Japan, Peelander Z; a gruff voice but definitely having a good time belting out the lyrics. Even though the band sounds loose, they play with controlled precision to perfect the intended sound without falling apart. Worthy of a few shots of whiskey and a packed club of energized fans getting rocked out. Now I need some cash to get to Japan so I can see it for myself. –don (Schizophrenic)

Through Thick n’ Thin: CD
I’m a petty person; I’m well aware of this. I’ve always hated the clicking of the psychobilly genre. You know what I’m talking about. The effect of the microphone on the stand-up bass being so close to the strings that you hear a constant clicking throughout the songs. It’s all I can ever focus on. If I could get past that (and the stupid haircuts), I might actually like some psychobilly. Despite my hang-ups of the genre, Al & The Black Cats manage to write some great songs. Just don’t ever expect me to listen to this again. They get some major points for their singer sounding like Chuck from the Mad Caddies. –Bryan Static (Joe Pogo, joepogorecords.com)

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)

This Lonesome World…: 7” EP
These four tracks from Chicago’s Al Scorch And The Country Soul Ensemble are foot stamping and banjo shredding. Two songs are Scorch’s own and the others are traditional tunes Scorch and company adapted. My favorite, “BetsyBay,” a Scottish sailing song, incorporates a violin and is rife with homesickness and longing. This snapshot of Al’s talent, although impressive, makes me wish he employed the Ensemble more to cook up a truly potent folk punk brew –Kristen K (Let’s Pretend)

This Lonesome World: 7”
This is one ferocious hoe-down. Rapid-fire banjo picking, percussive stand-up, and stomp box pound out the first three porch party jams, while the last number, “Betsy Bay,” is a traditional Scottish sailing song where the violin is given space to cry. This is some of the best roots/Americana I’ve heard in some time. –Jeff Proctor (Let’s Pretend/No Breaks)

Live at the Spirit Store: CS
Some fairly strong bluegrass/folk/Celtic pickin’ on this live recording. The cassette consists of thirteen songs, including a version of “Slipknot” by Woody Guthrie. This is not my favorite kind of roots music but the musicianship is top notch and the songs and singing are quite good. I would definitely check out other releases from this Chicago-area performer.  –frame (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecs@gmail.com, letspretendrecords.com)

Split: 7”
I think this split was made to go along with a tour, which makes a lot of sense—Scorch and Dondero make a good pair, trading banjo and guitar duties on each other’s songs. Al Scorch’s “Hold on Right” is a sad-smiling ballad that does exactly what it should. There’s this perfect mix of banjo that can happen in a folk song sometimes—if your punk response to that is, “Yeah, none,” then go away, this isn’t for you—and this one hits just the right mark. David Dondero’s “Country Cliché,” while similarly thoughtful, takes a darker turn. The opening lines call back to country legends, but Dondero’s blunt, brazenly confessional tone and cadence is all him. Where Scorch is gentle and quietly optimistic, Dondero is bitter and unforgiving, hammering his rage home with each repeated phrase. It’s a duality that works well on this split, showcasing each person’s songwriting abilities for exactly what they are. These guys are where DIY punk ethics and folk music really intersect.  –Indiana Laub (Let’s Pretend, letspretendrecs@gmail.com, letspretendrecords.com)

AL Self-titled: 7"
My favorite part of reviewing 7”s is when you can’t tell if you’re playing something at the wrong speed. This one is at 33, and I thought for sure I had it on 45. Nope, Al Scorch just plays that banjo that fucking fast. Lightning-speed, sloppy folk punk songs about ninjas and liquor made of corn. At least, I think so. The lyrics insert was copied so barely as to be illegible, but I still loved all four tracks. –Sarah Shay (Half Day)

Back in the Sad Hole Again: CD-R
Alabaster Skeleton is Harvest Moon Society’s Nick Zigler performing a nine-track-long solo adventure into the wild, unpredictable world of blunt honesty. While the musical tone of these songs may somewhat vary, the earnest crooning of lost love and lost faith remain constant throughout the CD. The musical change ups are never desperate for a style to cling to; rather they demonstrate Zigler’s talent and versatility. Everything from the Troggs-meets-Sonic Youth whirlwind of guitar on “Ten Little Indians,” to the Postal Service-inspired adaptation of Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farwell,” is consistently high quality and remains interesting. With fast tempo-ed rock tracks placed sporadically within the majority of folk-esque and indie rock, Back in the Sad HoleAgain is a romp of a good time for anyone who appreciates well written songs of overwhelming candor. –Daryl Gussin (Griznar, myspace.com/alabasterskeleton)

Stay Cool, Have a Great Summer: CD
This was a welcome musical relief for me. Twelve songs of crooning from what seems like a bygone era with a take on relationships that doesn’t sound naively antiquated. Everything here is really simple, straightforward, and delightful. Most of the songs are played on acoustic guitar with occasional keyboard or drums. Sometimes, this reminded me of a broken Buddy Holly or Elvis. Other times I felt like I was listening to that friend we all have who plays his songs on his acoustic guitar for you in his bedroom and you wonder why the hell he isn’t playing out because he’s that good. And, sometimes, he sounds like Steven Hawking (“Somethin’ Stupid”). A couple of the songs on here were mediocre and could have stood to be tossed. That’s not to say that they brought the album down, but there were just a few tunes that didn’t do anything for me. This album may not be the most emotionally draining listen from a singer/songwriter (i.e. Elliott Smith), but it’s honest and endearing and I’ll take that any day. –kurt (www.myspace.com/alabasterskeleton)

Clockworks, Juliet: CD
“Isolation,” the opening track on Clockworks, Juliet, is the rare song that lives up to its title. Synthesizers trickle like raindrops and the forlorn melody plays like a face pressed up against a cold windowpane watching the night. Alan Replica sings on the verge of tears, all cracking chords and congested nasal passages, as the song beckons listeners to continue on with the album. Alan Replica works with slow, plodding beats that increase in speed and intensity as the album progresses. Soon, the strings enter, and it becomes apparent that this is one of the most genuine attempts at producing high-quality synthpop to make it onto album in some time. There is no trace of tongue-in-cheek ‘80s posing, no cries for the rhythmless nation to take to the dance floor and make like dying robots. This is music for people who find romance hidden within Japan and Ultravox records. –liz (Ninth Wave; www.ninthwaverecords.com)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Not by any stretch a new single by the old Welsh band of the same name—the opening tune here sounds like a Brujeria outtake with English lyrics. The rest alternates between the same and down-tuned thrash stuff that dances on the hardcore and metal borderline. –jimmy (Inkblot, no address)

Nov. 7, 2009 Live: LP
A rather nondescript cover, no song titles on the back, looks hand-made. A flyer for an Alarm Clocks show in 2009? Yes, it’s the band from Back from the Grave. Gotta admit I ignored the album Norton Records put out a few years ago but I think I need it now. Normally I disregard live albums (unless I’m a completist about a certain band) but I kept reading raves about this record on the internet. Sounds pretty good, and it should, being engineered by Jim Diamond (of Dirtbombs/Ghetto Recorders fame). According to the liner notes, the idea to record this live set came last minute to Diamond and he missed a few songs while tweaking the console. Sounds almost like it could be a studio album. Both cuts from BFTG (“Yeah,” “No Reason To Complain”) are included. Best song is their wild, wild cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m Alright” although it’s misspelled in the liner notes.
–Sal Lucci (My Mind’s Eye)

Split: 7”
Alarms And Controls released a full-length on Dischord in 2013, and the sonic tethers to other D.C. luminaries, like Hoover and Circus Lupus, a band which guitarist Chris Hemley cites on his punk resume, are audible in the band’s inventiveness. The funky bass groove and tight minimal drumming on “Your Mamma’s Sleek Ride” conjure Minutemen. “Flood Plane” features nearly spoken word lyrics, like “Sibilance in the birdless trees / Grey and the black before the freeze.” The cryptic words pirouette off the tongue and stumble over the jangly guitar. Both songs are memorable and constantly unraveling without ever being mathy. Secret Smoker’s contribution picks up from where they left off on their debut LP Terminal Architecture.If you’re familiar with the LP then this 7” has few surprises, except that the vocals seem to be mixed inaudibly low this time as opposed to simply sitting in the music. Regardless, both tunes are solid emo punk tinged with post-hardcore that is more conventional than revisionist.  –Sean Arenas (Protagonist, protagonistmusic.tumblr.com / Zegema Beach, zegemabeachrecords.com)

The Weak & the Wounded: 12" EP
Heavy and drawn-out modern metal that seems to have influences by bands like Kylesa and From Ashes Rise, but with some late 1990s emo introspection parts in the songs. The vocals are dry in sound and delivery. It’s as though they’re really trying to give the songs more power by screaming their heads off. But despite all the things they do in the songs, from the time changes, movie samples, and all that, the songs don’t have any real grabbing power. They tend to drone on and on, building up this wall of sound, and it goes nowhere that you would want to follow as a listener. –Matt Average (Dwyer, dwyerrrcords.com / Moment Of Collapse, info@momentofcollapse.com)

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