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Record Reviews

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Empty Set: LP
I love this. It feels like the golden half hour of a party, when all my friends are there and I’m laughing loud but not yet sloppy or sleepy. Brain F≠ is from Charlotte. They play scrappy four-chord punk with motormouth lyrics delivered by a woman with a matter-of-fact voice. Say it, “Brain Flannel.”  –Chris Terry (Grave Mistake / Sorry State)

American Dreamer: CD
Here is something that doesn’t come across your hand too often: street punk out of China! Not just some boombox or cheap studio recording, but recorded here in the states and produced by Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys. Most of the songs are sung in English, but the three that are in Chinese are the best. The delivery is more natural. You can tell that when they write in English, it is not their native tongue. The English is broken and is rough around the edges. But that adds to the flavor, like so many Asian bands that came before them. They pull off great sing-a-longs and really seemed to have really studied the early UK bands. Fun from start to finish, I should have made the effort to go see them when they were touring with the Unseen. –Donofthedead (Thorp)

Split: CD
Brain Failure: Rancid worship mixed with some Social Distortion from China. I remember liking their CD American Dreamer enough to keep it but haven’t listened to it in a long time. I would have been so into this 5—7 years ago. Big D: They seem to be one of the last few standing of the big ska punk wave of the late ‘90s. For me, I much rather see and hear ska live these days than have to hear a recording of it. It brings up images of boring adults thinking Sublime is still the shit. –Donofthedead (Bad News)

Self-titled: 7” EP
It’s straight ahead meat and potatoes hardcore from Pennsylvania, the land of Electric Love Muffin and Flag of Democracy, and I like it. You know what you’re getting ten notes into the first song. The menu’s straight forward, you order it, and it’s on your plate, glad it’s nice and hot, not just reheated. It fills you up; not too greasy, not too dainty, not art-confusing. I’d put them in the modern company of Career Suicide, Direct Control, and the Pedestrians: very interested in resuscitating the early ‘80s while not willing to jump down in its grave to violate the corpse of old music. Solid stuff. –Todd Taylor (Fashionable Idiots)

Demo: 7”
Just like their debut 7”, I can’t fucking tell what speed this record is intended to be played at. With their debut 7”, I finally resided with 33. But the interesting thing is the music doesn’t really change that much between the two. Either way, Brain Killer still plays noisy, feedback-infected hardcore punk. The demo 7” is cool to have, but for anyone interested in checking out this band, I definitely recommend picking up the debut on Deranged. –Daryl Gussin (Deranged/Vinyl Rites)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Some heavy Discharge worship here with a big sound, feedback, short songs, anti-war lyrics, etc. They play to the template well, though, with enough personality seeping through to make ‘em worth a listen. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

Every Actual State Is Corrupt: LP
D-beat-influenced hardcore is nothing new. In fact, a new band seems to sprout every other month stateside. What Brain Killer brings to the table is far from dismissible. There are some great spoken word parts leading into each side of the record. The noisy feedback complements the crushing heaviness of the guitars very nicely. Not to mention the songs compositions; they’re completely fresh and unpredictable (something that d-beat is not particularly known for.) Fans of noisy Japanese hardcore like Nightmare should give this a close listen. –Juan Espinosa (Deranged)

Demo: Cassette
Decent demo here. The execution is mainly mid tempo, though they do pick up the pace here and there, which gives you, the listener, something to hang on to. There’s definitely more power in bands slowing it down instead of hitting blur speeds all the time. The vocals are thick and heavy growls of disgust and anguish. The guitar is the same as well; just this mass of grind and buzz. I can’t help but think they look to Brainbombs for musical inspiration, as the songs are more about crushing and bludgeoning instead of moving and rocking out. The lyrics aren’t as dark and misanthropic, though they definitely air their dislike of the world. “Permanent Bummer” is the definite standout track. If they listen to this demo and hone in on what works and what does not, then they could be on to something. Just tighten up the songs a bit and this stuff will sting. –Matt Average (hardcorebrainslug@gmail.com)

Self-titled: EP
One of the more interesting hardcore records I’ve heard recently. Brain Tumors can thrash it up with the best of them with blazing tempos and a crushing attack, such as “Improper Execute” and “Self Server.” But there’s some other stuff going on in their sound as well, and this is what helps them stand out. For instance, the song “Shadow People” shows a more tuneful approach to their sound. It’s pretty unexpected after listening to the first side, where the songs are a barrage of speed and sound. But that song really grabs your attention because it’s contrasting to everything else. There’s a bit of darkness in the music. The song structure is a bit more complex while still retaining the hardcore sound with its high-tension pacing. Then there’s the opening to “Rules of Abuse” that has a sort of power pop riff, though distorted and more punchy before they kick into the speedier side of things. –Matt Average (Pass Judgement, passjudgementrecords.com)

Fuck You Forever: 7”EP
At their core, Brain Tumors are a band that mete out potent hardcore that eschews any metal trappings in favor of sloppy, full-bore thrash. The devil’s in the details, though, with sly hooks embedded into the tuneage, over-the-top performances, and obligatory slower sections that don’t come off as obligatory. Dunno where Deranged finds all these sick friggin’ bands, but this is another winner. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

The Musicians: LP
Experimental punk, if you will, from a group hailing outta Chicago. There’s no shortage of noisemongering here, but just when you think you’ve got ‘em pegged, they pitch up a slider and yer again scrambling to get a bean on ‘em. Elements of noise, (dis)harmony, punk, and such melded into a changing mess o’ controlled chaos. –Jimmy Alvarado (Wall Of Youth)

Genius and Brutality…Taste and Power: LP
Like its relative, industrial music (and when I say “industrial” I’m talkin’ Einstürzende Neubauten, Whitehouse, Throbbing Gristle, SPK, Minimal Man, and so on, not dance music with drill samples to make it “edgy”), noise rock is a bit of an acquired taste. It involves an appreciation for repetition, abrasive sounds played/performed at often excessive volumes, a willingness to overlook the fact that the standard verse/chorus/verse song structure is goin’ right out the window, and a tolerance for subject matter that’s bound to offend/upset someone, oh, every fourteen seconds or so. In short, it’s not something one wants to play at the next pinochle social. This reissue from these Swedish malcontents, originally released in 1994, fits right in with peers like early Swans, Cop Shoot Cop, and so on. With a guitar sound that’s part sheet metal/part sledgehammer, the music is often plodding and based around a simple riff or two played ad nauseum, and with titles like “Fuckmurder,” “Wash in Blood,” and “Queen of Necrophiles,” you know you’re not gonna get something high on the annual “most recommended PC listening” list, which is as it should be, goddammit. Everyone needs their tastes and mores affronted now and again, especially those associated with a scene as regimented and myopic as punk rock can be. –Jimmy Alvarado (Skrammel, skrammelrecords.se)

Last Will: CD
This is their goodbye to the scene in which they say that they are tired of fighting to get gigs in the UK and letting others make money off of them. Our loss since they were one of the better street punk bands that were around. Ten years is pretty good for most bands. By looking at their discography, they put out many a release. I only have one other record by them and it was a keeper. Too bad. –Donofthedead (Combat Rock)

No Consequences: CD
To their credit, these guys try to stir things up by soldering a smidge of pop sensibilities to the nouveau hardcore template, but ultimately the lack of conviction inherent in said template results in something that’ll probably appeal primarily to the scads of kids who think Hot Topic is the punkest fucking place on earth to spend twenty-five dollars on a Converge T-shirt. –Jimmy Alvarado (Burning Bridges)

Welcome to the Revolution: CD
I believe it is my duty as a record reviewer of integrity and honesty to give each record I get a fair shot. This one was a case of true grit and extreme endurance. This is a live-in-the studio recording from 2005 from this Seattle outfit. Musically, these guys have some chops. The vocals left me cold. Cookie monster vocals just don’t translate to my personal enjoyment. They also cover a Venom tunes that has already been covered by over five bands. And when you are competing with The Meatmen, why bother? If this was my lump of coal for the holidays I will take it on the chin.  –Sean Koepenick (1332)

There’s No Eye in Pussy: CD
...yeah, and there’s no good bands in Madison, either. Worse than Pachinko; how many orders of magnitude worse i cannot rightly say. BEST SONG: I don’t mind “MDS” and, curiously, “White Bitch” BEST SONG TITLE: “So Seattle” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Band’s a perfect four-for-four on the facial hair tally. –Rev. Norb (Crustacean)

Animal Mother: CD
My snotty review of this Madison band’s last disc prompted such a shitstorm of local message board flamejobbery that i’m tempted to do it again, just for the sheer sport of it all. However, the band has now cut their otherwise uninteresting White-Grungers-On-Gein faux Sub-Pop shenanigans with a few neat tricks, like briefly sounding like a fucked up Joy Division ((the first fifty seconds of “Jesus”)), or even coming across as tangentially glammy ((“Tabula Rasa”)), thus i cannot dismiss this record outright just for the time-honored purpose of “starting shit,” although i did consider it. Other than that, i dunno, i think this sounds like what grunge used to sound like. Wisconsin’s progressive reputation continues unabated! BEST SONG: “Tabula Rasa” BEST SONG TITLE: “Ed Gein,” of course! FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Looks a lot like the Dwarves “Blood, Guts & Pussy” album, but redder, and without the midget. –Rev. Norb (Zodiac Killer)

Self-titled: CDEP
Ugh. Bro-ish vocals, edgeless metal-lite chord progressions, and overly sleek recording. I was expecting more based on the cover art/band name. –Will Kwiatkowski (Zodiac Killer)

Animal Mother: CD
Cover art looks like it was rejected by the Dwarves. Music alternates between grungy rock and southern fried stoner rock. End results are no big whoop either way. –Jimmy Alvarado (Zodiac Killer)

Self-titled: CD
The vocalist reminds me of James Hetfield in parts. I’m assuming he is the dude in the picture with the Rollie Fingers ‘stache. I hear some Alice In Chains mixed in with Black Label Society’s pummeling riffage. “Powerlines” even sounds like “Spoonman.” Who knew the ‘90s were back? –Sean Koepenick (Zodiac Killer)

Self Titled: LP
This is an eight song LP of what they call noise. Noise was very popular around the early and mid ‘90s. Seems like it died down and went away for a while. Maybe it’s making a come back or maybe this is one of the bands keeping it alive. I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t like this music at all. That doesn’t matter. I have heard many a band do this style, and for what they are doing, this is good. In other words if you are a noise fan, get this because you will like it. The songs are slow and sludgy and the vocals are rough. Like I said, I am not a fan, but, if you are, you will like this record. –Mike Beer –Guest Contributor (Life is Abuse)

Zombie Nation: CD
Pretty standard horror-themed rockabilly. I’m not exactly in love with the thousand bands that sound just like this one (who all, it seems, also have songs called “Evil Never Dies” and “We Will Rise”), so I can’t get too psyched about this disc, no matter how many pictures of half-naked zombettes are included in the album art. –MP Johnson (NMG)

Hell N’ Back / No Brain, No Pain: CD
I’m not a massive rockabilly fan, but I know and appreciate a fair amount. I enjoy it, but in moderate doses. The Brains just might be the exception to that rule. This disc seems to be mashing two albums together. It better be, clocking in at twenty five songs. That’s a lot of twang and pomade for anyone, but I had no problem getting through the whole thing and enjoying it. They do a horror thing, so the majority of the songs are zombies, blood, corpses and such. Not really original by any means, but a lot of fun. Worth searching out. –Ty Stranglehold (Stumble)

Drunk Not Dead: CD
Montreal’s premier psychobilly band is back with thirteen news songs about horror, cars, and drinking, but they do a damn fine job within those confines. They throw in some pretty good punk on here as well—nice and speedy. They put a lot of feeling into what they do and make it convincing, plus you get one song in French and one in Spanish for something a bit different. The songs have a ton of singalong parts and on this third album, great playing and production. These guys should be in jukeboxes in bars and you should throw some coins in and dance around like a nut to these songs. –Guest Contributor (Stomp, stomprecords.com)

Styrofoam: Cassette
Interesting live radio set with great sound quality. There’s a fair amount of stuff going on within these songs—blues, swamp, rockabilly, psych—enough so that the Brainstems manage to sound as if they’re riffing off of material as varied as old Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, the Cramps, or one-man boom-bap stuff like Bob Log or Almighty Do Me A Favor. Not for everyone, but convincing enough. –Keith Rosson (Don’t Touch My Records)

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