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Razorcake #85
Pale Angels, Imaginary People LP
Toys That Kill / Joyce Manor, Split 7"
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Record Reviews

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Goodbye New World: CD
Hell yeah. These ears are always thirsty for great music that rocks in new ways. The Arrivals amaze me. Their lyrics are whipsmart, heartfelt, and honest. The instruments crackle like unharnessed lightning and contain an untraceable chemical that has me reaching for the repeat button again and again. What gets me is how catchy they are without being either too simple and boneheaded about it, and the songs are relatively complicated, but they make the music flow so easily and forcefully. With bands like The Arrivals, I get the feeling that it’s four guys playing the exact same song for the exact same reason at the exact same time. That may seem like a real obvious thing, but it’s not. How many bands do you see or hear, and it sounds like they’re going for an effect or are aping an already stripped sound, or they endlessly tinker, or the individual members can’t wait to boost themselves in the mix? Far too many. Not only are The Arrivals technically tight, they’re seamless. The result is pure propulsion, complete charge, a completely new take on punk that jettisons cliche. Take the solid fuel rocket boosters of Naked Raygun, bolt it through an honest sounding voice (a strong, sure, non-mimicking one), structure the songs so they sound instantly classic, yet couldn’t have been made ten years ago (fuck if I know how they do it), and dash in a little Dillinger Four (I’ll never say that lightly), and let it all sizzle and pop. Don’t let the emo-y, bulb-setting blur-fest picture on the cover steer you wrong. This is crystal clear explosion. Snatch this fucker up. It’s fantastic. –Todd Taylor (Thick)

Volatile Molotov: LP
One of the Grand Punk Paradoxes for me is this: I have loved punk rock for the past twenty-five years on a continual basis. I continue to love punk rock. Yet the music, the form, the approach, the culture, the intent, the delivery—practically everything about it—has fundamentally morphed away from its origins somewhere in the late ‘70s. So, if the Ramones, The Bags, The Weirdos, and the Clash are punk, and punk died, what’s left? (Punk’s death is something I don’t believe. I do believe that punk dies in people and that if you repeat something enough times, regardless of truth, people start believing it.) Are punks in their late thirties—too young to surf the first wave, but old enough to put a lifetime in—delusional? Merely hangers-on? Leeches attached to ghosts of nostalgia? No one seriously talks about a wide-scale punk music revolution anymore. Almost every lifer punk I know doesn’t even look like what when someone from the outside shuts their eyes and imagines a punk rocker. But no other term has come along, no other label’s ever stuck. Saying that it’s “music” is too broad; like the term “world music” is just fuckin’ stupid and racist (because I don’t know any bands that have recorded in outer space yet, all music is world music). Digging into smaller and smaller subgenres doesn’t do anyone any good. Parts further isolated will eventually be mocked, suffocated, and destroyed. The Arrivals bring all of this thinking to the forefront. Bar none, they are one of my favorite bands, and have been since their debut Goodbye New World, in 2000. So, I could say, “They’re so much more than punk,” but why divorce them from my favorite form of music so some squares will have fewer wrong preconceived notions and may actually give a wonderful band a chance? I want to celebrate it, bar none, not serve it on a clean plate to fancy, fickle people who mostly suck anyhow. So I came up with a quick, personally helpful device. If someone calls any band that I like “punk,” and they mean it as a compliment, I’ll take it. If someone dismisses music as “just punk,” and they mean it as a slag, that they’ve got the entire enterprise figured out and it’s now a waste of anyone’s time, they can go fuck themselves. With all that mind, The Arrivals have just made one of the best records—and have one of the strongest catalogs—of any band in the past ten years. Punk or not. It’s a big, fat fuckin’ paradox. –Todd Taylor (Recess)

Split: 7”
The Arrivals are one of the best bands in the entire world. They make music so good you can cry to it and, when the song ends, you have a smile on your face. Sometimes I forget how weird they are, but then they do something really weird and it’s pure magic. If you’re not familiar with this band, don’t start here. Get your hands on any—and all—of their full-lengths. Doing a split 7” with the Arrivals is a ballsy move, but The Arteries bring it with their two songs. A little more of the EpiFat sound than I’m used to, but it’s heartfelt and energetic. Mandatory tracks from both bands. Hunt this one down. –Daryl Gussin (All In Vinyl)

Split: 7"
I picked this up for The Arrivals and wound up a big fan of The Arteries. Go figure. It’s not at all as if The Arrivals’ songs aren’t rad, because they are. It’s The Arrivals, man! I’d never heard The Arteries and was instantly impressed. The two bands aren’t unlike. In fact, seeing them play together would be pretty great. I might have to go looking for the other volumes in the split 7” series. –Ty Stranglehold (All In Vinyl)

ARRIVALS, THE: Volatile Molotov: LP:
Volatile Molotov: LP
If the last record made me feel like a pirate (because of songs for the working class through eyes that are both brutally honest, yet romantic), this one feels like I’ve come ashore, only to find that all that’s left is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. There are a lot of songs about the end of the world, and coping; musically ranging from thrashers like “Two Years” to the more anthemic and beautiful “The Last Testament” that feel like they’re slowly building up to something really big. I say it’s a masterpiece. If this is what’s going to be playing as the world comes to an end, I say bring on 2012. –Kristen K (Recess)

All the Little Ones Are Rotting: CD
Just your run-of-the-mill ska-punk outfit. What points they may have earned by maintaining their DIY status they lost the moment the first song started. There was an “enhanced” portion to this disc, but I wasn’t feeling masochistic enough to subject myself to it. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.asobrock.com)

All of Them Witches: CD
I was going to call this “anarcho-flamenco punk,” but I don’t think what Arroyo Deathmatch plays is technically flamenco. There’s a definite Spanish feel to it and there’s a lot of flute work and there are moments that made me think of The Spirit of the Beehive. But, really, this is just a standard, excruciating folk-punk record—ostensibly radical/populist/authentic, though in truth it’s contrived and ridiculous and completely at odds with what people actually listen to. You get one singer who sounds like Chuck Ragan and another who sounds like John Darnielle, basically a lumberjack and an accountant screaming at you about straight edge and voting over acoustic fast-core with prog time shifts. I groaned and rolled my eyes, even when the band did something sort of cool like make an album without the use of electricity (you wonder how they manufactured the CDs and the answer is naturally occurring forest disc-burners running on syrup and good vibes). Another bohemian punkhouse vanity project, light years away from Wallace Berman or any of the real cool outliers.  –Matt Werts (Self-released, arroyodeathmatch.bandcamp.com)

Through the Fear of It: CD
Besides a ukulele, drums, and three vocalists, this band is comprised of a flute, a washboard, and an instrument they created (a bejota) that kind of looks like a banjo but doesn’t sound exactly like it. They describe themselves as anarcho punk folk and belong to a music collective. Do I really need to spell this out for you?  –Kurt Morris (Goathead, goathead.record.collective@gmail.com)

Self-titled: CD
Dark and gothicky. Imagine, if you will, the screwed-up offspring of Glen Danzig putting together a band, but they’re a bit more sensitive to human relationships than their Father of Doom. These could be some really interesting songs (I particularly like “The Part that Hurts”—less gloom and a bit more rock on that one), but as it stands the band just isn’t all that tight. I suspect that they might be a much better live band than this record indicates, but the recording is held back by juvenilely simplistic drumming of spotty quality. With time and practice AOTR could be an innovative and enthralling band—they’ve already achieved a level of subtly layered complexity—but the sloppiness of certain points is too much to ignore. –The Lord Kveldulfr (no label: www.myspace.com/arsenicontherocks)

Too True to Be Good: CD
Comprising the bulk of this is really annoying pop punk filled with just enough market demo targeting and emo pretense to make the whole thing feel about as “real” as Justin Timberlake playing a tough guy. The lyrics, which try to be relevant but really don’t succeed in being anything other than a vapid attempt at being conscious yet unthreatening, don’t help matters much, either. –Jimmy Alvarado (Mad at the World)

Bridges Down: CD
After many years of listening to a variety of bands, you can’t help but instantly peg a band to sound like someone. Thirty seconds in, I assumed immediately that I knew this is what it sounds like to me. A band that I have been a fan of since their first 7”, this band sounds so much like Good Riddance that I almost thought I was listening to one of their CDs. Beer can do that to you. If you need another band to compare this to, I would have to say Only Crime. –Donofthedead (Mad at the World)

Bridges Down: CD
Boy howdy, do I like the Arson’s first record, Full Life Crisis. Anthemic, melodic, and almost flawless in a Strong Reaction Pegboy sort of way. With Bridges Down, there are flashes of their early work, but two elements have put flies in the taffy. 1.) Guitar solos all over the fucking place. Ungh. Go Yngwie Malmsteen on your own time. 2.) The desire to mix hardcore tempos into Jawbox-like breakdowns and prettiness. Both of these elements drag the songs out, dilute the initial impact, and ultimately give off the impression of a band not quite sure what they want to do as a cohesive unit. Unfortunately, my lasting impression of Bridges Down—which I listened to fifteen times over two months to see if it’d grow on me—was this: it’s just boring. I wanted to like this. –Todd Taylor (Mad at the World)

Degeneration: CD
A truly pathetic aping of mid-period Megadeth packaged as some sort of new direction in heavy metal. God, this sucked bad. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.arsyn.com)

Degeneration: CD
A truly pathetic aping of mid‑period Megadeth packaged as some sort of new direction in heavy metal. God, this sucked bad. –Jimmy Alvarado (Arsyn)

Screaming over the Dull Roar: Cassette
I’ve listened to this live demo countless times since it showed up in my mailbox, but still don’t know how I feel about this band. Their sound is a fusion of early ‘80s post punk and new wave, which sounds—on the surface—like something I’d be into. Many of the songs on this though, felt almost mind-numbingly monotonous. Thankfully, flipping the tape over to Program Two offered some refreshing changes of pace, including faster tempos and more interesting riffs, as on the track “The New Math.” The closing track “Pills & Alcohol” was also quite good, featuring some of the best riffs and a healthy dose of guitar wankery. Ultimately, I think what made it difficult for me to like this as much as I might have was the terrible quality of the live recording. With a proper recording fleshing out this band’s sound more fully, I might be into it, but my feelings about this live recording are lukewarm at best. –Paul J. Comeau (artinstitute.bandcamp.com)

People Like It When You Fail: LP
The band name is apropos—a lotta “art” pumped into the sound of a band that isn’t afraid to dive into the post-punk pool and do their best to avoid coming off like yet another Gang Of Four tribute band “addicted to the drug of nostalgia.” Tunes are sophisticated, diverse, and only a wee bit pretentious at times. The singer occasionally sounds reminiscent of Lee Reynaldo. –Jimmy Alvarado (Artificial Head)

Self-titled: CD
This is one of those instances when one can’t help but wonder if the person responsible for sending the discs out has ever bothered to look at a single issue of any of the mags he sent them to. Mostly mellow stuff that sounds like Stephen Bishop trying vainly to be Tom Waits. Nice musicianship, snoozy tunes.  –Jimmy Alvarado (www.theartofwalking.com)

The Law: 7”
A very little bit of history about this Boston band, based on the info contained on the insert: The two tracks here date back to a cassette compilation released in 1981, which looks to be the only release they were involved with back when they were active (the two songs here and two more also appeared on 2007’s Boston Underground 1979-82 compilation, according to the Kill from the Heart website) and this release is dedicated to one of the members, who died in 2010. “The Law” is a whip-smart slice of sophisticated pop brilliance that recalls a less abrasive Mission Of Burma. “Something in Your Eyes” is a bit slower, more experimental and akin to 100 Flowers, maybe. Both, however, retain a sense of freshness and vitality that often eludes the lion’s share of their peers, which I guess translates to the fact that this has that much-ballyhooed “timeless” factor to it and I’d bet dollars to donuts that folks would shit their pants if this were a contemporary band. Looks like this is limited to three hundred copies, but it’s definitely worth the mad dash. –Jimmy Alvarado (Ride The Snake)

Texas Idiot: CD
Oi-ish mid-tempo punk tunes covering Bush, Jehovah’s Witnesses, “anorexic princess of pop,” and skateboarding. Songs are pretty good for what they are, but the mix leaves them sounding a tad flat. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.afs.me.uk)

New Normal Catastrophe: 12” EP
Bit of a surprise finding this in the bins. For those not in the know, this revered Chicago hardcore band hasn’t been active in at least twenty-five years and this recording shows they haven’t lost that spark that made ‘em so special. While the thrashing’s a bit tempered compared to the full-bore days of Buy This War, the righteous anger, topicality, and intelligence are still very much in evidence, and they can still mix it up quite nicely when they see fit. The real treat, though, is when they slow it down a bit and dabble in melody and sonic layering, coming up with something that straddles the line between later Hüsker Dü and the very early period before “emo” became a sad cliché. Faboo return to form and it’s definitely nice to have ‘em back. –Jimmy Alvarado (Alternative Tentacles)

New Normal Catastrophe: 12” EP
I have to admit I was late to the AOF party. I had become a Vic Bondi fan after catching a couple Report Suspicious Activity shows a few years back. Then I went and chowed down on his back catalog, enjoying both Jones Very and Alloy. But I was lucky enough to catch both of AOF’s reunion shows in Chicago this fall. In a word—intense. But in addition to doing those shows, they have also put out a new five-song EP, their first new music in many moons. Every song on this record will put hair on your chest. Sorry ladies—no Nair included with the LP. With song titles like “With a Vengeance” and “The Hammer” what do you expect? No one in the band has lost their chops. This flies by with unbridled fury in fifteen minutes. Recorded by Jeff Dean (The Bomb) and mixed by J. Robbins (Office Of Future Plans), the production is rock solid without sounding too slick. Excellent return to form by these Chicago pioneers. Seek this out and thank me later. –Sean Koepenick (Alternative Tentacles)

Complete Session November 1981: CD
It’s quite a coincidence that this session is put out by Dischord now, along with a recently unearthed Government Issue session. At Government Issue’s one-off reunion show recently, drummer Mike Manos of Artificial Peace got up and played a few songs with the opening band. Okay, maybe that’s not amazing, but this record is. Only released in pieces back in the day, this is seventeen songs clocking in under twenty minutes. That’s how old-school harDCcore should be played. “Suburban Wasteland” and “Neighbors” stick out for me here, but they all spill over with youthful aggression. The only misstep is the goofy cover of “Wild Thing,” but it’s good for a laugh. Three of the members of A.P. went on to greater success with Marginal Man. But get this to hear where it began back in 1981. –Sean Koepenick –Sean Koepenick (Dischord)

Civil Dead: CD
This collects their 12” EP and recent 7” EP, both from Prank. Heavy and pounding hardcore that rains down in a drowning torrent of rage and hope. Political as well as personal. One listen and you’ll be hooked for life. –Matt Average (Prank)

Fucked from Birth: CD
Holy shit! I haven’t listened to this band in a few years since their Civil Dead LP, but I was fortunate enough to see them live recently. What I remember from the past was laid to waste very moment they started to perform. As loud as they were live, they are loud on this CD. Brutal, bass-heavy power riffage. The amplifiers sound like they are on maximum overdrive. They do not rely heavily on the powerviolence sound but incorporate more of a dirge of feedback and atonal noise to create the sound of pure pain. Like Kylesa and Dystopia, they take noise and anger to another level. It’s an aural rampage that jerks you from fast to slow without sacrificing the energy. If music can be used to describe a migraine headache, this would be it. –Donofthedead (Prank)

Self-titled: 7"
I've been listening to more Black Sabbath lately, and for the first time in my life, I think it's finally seeping in. I skip the trippy songs. That makes the listening easier for me. While they aren't the fastest band in the world, Sabbath can sure make songs heavy. Artimus Pyle – although by way of crusty punk instead of acid rock – have developed a similar sensibility. When they slow down, they don't screech to a halt, they just dig in deeper and let the sickness settle. They have the uncanny ability to be both atmospheric and then thrust a knife to the listener's throat. I've also read a lot about World War I and there's something very trench warfare, mustard gas, bayonet, gangrene about how Artimus Pyle sound. It's dirty business. There's a lot of hand-to-hand combat. The songs are creepy and dark without being formulaic or cheesy. Very listenable, much how Tragedy is.
–Todd Taylor (Prank)

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