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Record Reviews

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The Bottom of the City: LP
Wow! I have the two singles, and they’re pretty good, but this album totally surpasses any expectations I had towards these guys. The music has become more urgent and direct, shedding some of the instrumental touches but gaining more power. There’s definitely an early Wipers influence in the music, with the jittery rhythms and skirting the territory between punk and post punk. The influence is really apparent on the “Burning Light,” which goes off into “Youth Of America” territory with its duration and surf guitar sound. Songs tend to stay in the mid-tempo range, but can get really lit up, as on “Kickfirstone,” which starts off much in the same way as the others, then it’s fast and in your face. Head on over to the last record store in town and get it. –Matt Average (Nominal / Grotesque Modern, recordsnominal.com)

“Animal Eyes” b/w “Time to Say Goodbye”: 7”
The pedigree’s legit. L.A. band that started in 1980. Songs recorded in 1982. Took thirty years to release. It’s a family affair. Defenders’ vocalist Paul Maurer is Justin Maurer’s (Clorox Girls, LA Drugz) father. I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but it sounds like a band that really loves the Doors and Hendrix, but realized that punk was really happening. (Shit, The Alley Cats were that way—great musicians who were on the hard rock/punk rock fence and “Nothing Means Nothing Anymore” smokes.) Although I appreciate this 7” for what it is—archival, nice fidelity—there are a couple of things that are preventing me from going bananas. The music’s a hair too slow. It’s a hair too “actor”y and “musician”y. Again, I’m fine with theatrics (see TSOL, Dead Kennedys), but with all these elements in play, it’s a definitely a cool artifact (nobody likes to be forgotten), but nothing like stumbling upon something truly startling that rarely gets mention, like the Cheifs’ Holly-West Crisis. –Todd Taylor (17 Television)

Demo 2010: CD-R
Some serious ‘80s hardcore worship from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Very reminiscent of bands like Cryptic Slaughter and Attitude Adjustment in bearing and feelings evoked, you know, if not entirely in execution (Defenestrator is not a particularly fast band). But goddamn if there is not some definite crossover worship going on here. Packaged in a piece of written-on cardboard, stenciled on and duct-taped shut, there’s a very clear “use what ya got” aesthetic here, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Here it just comes across as sloppy; luckily the music fared much better than the packaging. Not bad at all. –Keith Rosson (Defenestrator)

Out of the Ashes: CD
Revisionist anarchy-core, meaning it’s heavy on the oi influences and yet maintains the stereotypical sloganeering first popularized by Crass, utilized by Discharge and Conflict and thereafter taken to ridiculous extremes. While I don’t disagree with most of the sentiments expressed here, their lyrics come off as one big whine and their fuckin’ use of the fuckin’ word “fuck” was pretty fuckin’ ridiculous if not fuckin’ gratuitous, and didn’t fuckin’ make them sound any more fuckin’ angry than they fuckin’ did before, which was the intended fuckin’ effect, I fuckin’ think. Overall, they were better than some I’ve heard wallowing in this pigeonhole, but this complacency with sounding just like everyone else is just exasperating. Ain’t a damn thing defiant about being yet another cheap knockoff. Then again, I guess individuality and creativity are anathema when you’re “another cheap product for the consumer’s head.”
–Jimmy Alvarado (Punk Core)

The Very Best of…: CD
Pretty shoddy packaging for a “Best of,” which smells of cheap cash-in. The tunes lying within, however, are tremendous. As with stuff from the past, there needs to be some context to understand the present. Long before the Warped Tour and clowns with mohawks in shopping malls, there were a select few American bands with liberty spikes, studded jackets, and a political agenda. While Fat and Epitaph started their roads to glory, bands like Resist, Deprived, and Defiance carried the torch for UK82. I saw Defiance in a squat in London in the early ‘90s and they were great, even though we laughed at how “punk” they were. This shit all stands the test of time, sounding like a politicized Abrasive Wheels. I have all this shit on vinyl, so this crap CD is landfill. If you missed out, dig in.  –Tim Brooks (Jailhouse, jailhoserecords.com)

Born in Sin, Come On In: CD
This one surprised me; from the tattoo-flashesque album art, I was planning on hearing some sub-par Devil Dogs/Humpers stuff here, but instead Defiance Of Authority manages to occasionally and nearly brilliantly stumble into the same oeuvre as the Descendents. Not always, but at least half the songs here have that same tuneful, tough-but-decipherable, “rocks in a bag of velvet hitting you in the nether-region” kind of quality. There’s something inherently modern at work here—they’re right on the cusp of that radio-friendly punk sound, taking pointers from plenty of bands on the Fat roster, but there’s just a slight tinge of venom that makes the whole thing palatable. Six studio songs and five demo tracks. Cracks me up that two of their songs are titled “Fuck It, Let’s Roll” and “Fuck It, It’s On.” As a whole, they strike me as a band right on the cusp of nailing down their sound totally and completely, and when they do they’re going to be a band we’d all better watch out for. –Keith Rosson (www.defianceofauthorityrocks.com)

The Great Depression: CD
I first saw Defiance, Ohio in a small space in L.A. as the last band after Toys That Kill, The Bananas, and This Bike Is A Pipebomb. It’s no small feat to follow any of those bands (let alone the three of them together), but they held their own. The room was still filled with kids shouting, swinging on a rope from the ceiling, and dancing and sweating the little sweat they had left. The Sissies mixed with the folk leanings of This Bike with violin, cello, and upright bass. Interesting recorded, fun as hell live. Good stuff indeed. –Megan Pants (No Idea)

Midwestern Minutes: CD
Defiance, Ohio seem smart enough to know that they’re dancing on sharpened swords. They see that the edges are honed and so shiny they’re reflective. These swords can be melted down into plows that will irrigate future fields of highly productive records that’ll bloom bountiful and beautiful. They also can see that these swords can be turned into guillotines. Or can remain swords and people get stabbed and gutted and beheaded by swords. Oh, folk punk, what a mistress, what a double-edged sword. Defiance, Ohio are dancing on the sharpened swords of folk punk and they’re one of the best bunch of dancers on the planet right now. Do they supersede a made-up label—that they didn’t ask for—slapped to their side like international luggage going through customs? What do I know? I know that Midwestern Minutes is a well realized record that’s super duper pleasant, played with traditional instruments and high levels of conscientiousness and preciousness. –Todd Taylor (No Idea)

Split: 7"
The song “Collecting Complaints” by Defiance, Ohio left me feeling very awkward. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a song that critiques collecting records and fliers. Maybe I am sitting in my room and hiding, but it’s the only place I feel safe. Two very solid songs by Defiance, Ohio. Environmental Youth Crunch cover “Fortunate Son” by John Fogerty, and it really gets the blood flowing. I like this version better. Punk is the hot sauce to Fogerty’s burrito, the right flavor added to the right foundation. This 7” kicks major ass. It makes me smile inside.  –Rene Navarro (Dead Tank)

The Calling: 12” 45

Is this a failure on NPR’s music director’s behalf? Why isn’t Def:OH being transmitted on radio waves coast to coast? Here’s my pitch, coconut water totebag patron. Defiance:Ohio are poetic. They don’t swear (on this 12”, for sure) but they question the government (yet don’t come across as libertarian dooshbags who want to hand education over to Wal-Mart and the national parks to Exxon.) The music’s clear and confident. They’re pretty-sounding. No confusing or potentially listener-angering, pledge-drive-ending distortion. There’s a violin played pertly, sometimes harrowingly. Listen carefully once and you’ve pretty much got all the lyrics bagged. High production values. Sparse but lush. Precise botanical line drawings of modern protest songs, akin to the Weakerthans, gardened by Billy Bragg. They’re undeniably catchy and teach new words. (“Prehension” is an interaction of a subject with an event or entity that involves perception but not necessarily cognition. Chew on that for a bit.) Endnote: when I’m drained or sick and don’t want to be blasted by music, Defiance:Ohio are like a nice cup of nice. I don’t say that derisively. Mellow, yet meaningful. They’re uplifting. Serious. No back hand to that compliment.

–Todd Taylor (No Idea)

Metal Mountains:: CD
This is totally not what I was expecting, judging by the band name and album cover. It's actually heavy, downtuned rock that's sometimes up-tempo, like Karp with more melody in the vocals, and sometimes slows down to a more Fu Manchu-type vibe. They do a nice Pentagram cover, too. Nothing too original here, but it ain't bad either. –Guest Contributor (thedefilers.net)

Look at Me Mom I’m Not Dead: 7”
An old Killed By Death band gets back together to make some more racket. The title track is a decent slab of punk rock noise in that KBD style that refuses to die. The B-side, a live version of their “51 Percent,” is pretty damn snappy and not embarrassing in the slightest, which is a relief. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smog Veil)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Very noisy hardcore from New York. The songs, from what I can make out, sound a bit more nuanced than the usual thrash-o-rama, but the lo-fi production values maximize the “noise” at the cost of clarity, which probably goes a long way with those who like their shit to sound like, well, shit, but doesn’t quite do ‘em justice here. Not lookin’ for Loggins & Messina, just something that doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a cheap handheld cassette player. Dig the purty silkscreened cover.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Katorga Works)

Self-titled: CDEP
This sounds like Tampa’s answer to One Word Solution, which is really weird because I don’t know why Tampa would have an answer to One Word Solution. Angry, pissed off punk with a fancy fingered guitarist. This EP was recorded, mastered, duplicated, and is in my hands before the band has even been around for half a year so who knows what’s up with them or what they’ll be up to. –Guest Contributor (degenerateelitefl@yahoo.com)

The Final Chapter: 7” EP

The funny thing about this is that I’d picked this up, kind of forgotten about it, and my friend Joe sent me some of their earlier stuff, which then reminded me that I had yet to listen to this. I’m guessing by the title that this might be their last release, but I’m hoping I’m wrong (or that they may be following the lead of Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter). Hardcore that makes the term seem not as tainted as it has been lately. They are definitely aware of their history: taking some of the best elements of lower Northeast hardcore from the ‘80s, while maintaining a contemporary sound. Definitely hope to hear more from them.

–Megan Pants (Don Giovanni)

Self-titled: 7"
Longstanding weirdo experimental punks the Dehumanizers teamed up with infamous groupie/GTO member Pamela Des Barres for this intentionally irritating, pretentious jumble of a single. Des Barres does rhythmic spoken word over the odd musical rumblings of the Dehumanizers. Both songs are truly bizarre and interesting, but only in that they’re such gleeful train wrecks. I’d much rather read one of Des Barres’ books or check out earlier Dehumanizers records than suffer through this tripe again, but you can’t fault them for trying. What a mess! –Art Ettinger (P.I.G., myspace.com/portnowintertainmentgroup)

Split: 7”
Two French punk bands. It’s oddly reassuring that—barring a shared language, over 5,000 miles of separation between France and L.A., and two different cultures—that punks can artfully gripe about essentially the same things (internet warriors flaming bands but having no real friends and the over-ubiquity of back patches are in the laundry list). Deja Mort is right at my speed. They wrap and warp cataclysm, sinewy keyboard, desperation, ‘80s punk, and misbehaving android background vocals around a French-sounding version of Ass Cobra-era Turbonego. Cool. Tekken: You can almost hear the bullet belts tinkle in the background. It’s world hardcore with a crust center and metal hinges. Thankfully, they’ve got more than one speed, so the drumming doesn’t sound like a direct feed into a metronomic cement mixer. Actually, they kept on making me think of infested rats playing dungeon music at hyper speed while being attacked by vultures made of poop, which is probably exactly what they were shooting for. Liked it. –Todd Taylor (Trahison)

Whattata: CD
One of their guitarist/singers is like twelve years old and the oldest person in this band is about eighteen years old. Pretty much what you’d expect from a band of teenagers who, according to their website, think their band can provide the daily dose of punk for you. The phrases “take a middle finger and shove it up your ass” and “fuck you!” were also uttered on this album, and pseudo-Johnny Rotten vocals were utilized as well. That was all the icing on the cake needed for me to declare this a big fat thumbs down. –Kurt Morris (Finger, www.fingerrecords.com)

Boner: CD
They look like Born Innocent-era Red Cross, they read like Shonen Knife, and they sound like an old punk band covering a new punk band. Dunno if I would recommend ‘em, per se, but they were entertaining. –Jimmy Alvarado (Finger)

3-Dimensions: CD
Deke Dickerson has this sweet, resonating voice that he really knows how to use. This CD showcases his versatility of voice, as well as guitar across rock’n’roll, rockabilly, and hillbilly with about five songs dedicated to each of the three genres. He’s always reminded me a bit of Ricky Nelson, but with a little something more. Dickerson has the voice you could easily swoon over. I’m personally drawn to the rock’n’roll section more than the others, but the other sections follow closely behind. –Megan Pants (Major Label)

Between the Waking and the Dying: LP
Really diggin’ the whole death rock resurgence and this is a prime example why. Taking sonic cues from bands like early Death In June and VoodooChurch, things veer away from the now almost obligatory post-Sisters rock/metal and bass vocal trappings of goth and instead bathe in a female-fronted tribal gloom that recalls the best of L.A.’s dark, dank glory days. Broken Bottles once sang about a time “when gothic chicks were cool,” and Between the Waking and the Dying would’ve easily earned this band a prime spot on their playlist. –Jimmy Alvarado (Chaos Rurale, chaosrurale.com)

Flowers to Blossom: LP
Exceedingly chuffed to see these Canadian gloom-merchants have released another full-length. Following along the same lines as their last,Between the Waking and the Dying, this latest effort maybe tempers the aggressiveness of its predecessor by just a hair, but the band still knows how to lock into a groove and wield those loping post-punk bass and guitar lines with deadly precision. Normally, this sort of fare features heavily in my late-autumn listening, but this has managed to worm its way into a featured position into many a summer’s session. This comes highly recommended, with the suggestion that you start scrambling ‘cause it appears only a little over 330 copies exist.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Chaos Rurale)

Us Vs. Them: CD
Sleater-Kinney wannabees trying desperately to capture the sweet angst of the Corin/Carrie vocal play. And unlike the important relevance of S-K, this just sounds average and dated. –Kat Jetson (Lovitt)

The Fajita Monologues: CD
First thing that came to mind was this band sounds like the Monkees. The melodies are the key and they give me the same feeling I had when I first heard the Redd Kross record Third Eye. Bubblegum pop with multi-layered harmonies and a production that is super clean. Perfect soundtrack to a ‘70s romantic comedy for television. –Donofthedead (Lightning Bug)

The Fajita Monologues: CD
While it would be easy (and unfair) to dismiss these guys as a pop band with more than their share of ‘60s influence, one can hear a cornucopia of different bands and sounds in there, from the early work of the Who and the Byrds to later power pop darlings like the Quick, as well as a twinge of ‘80s paisley underground, and maybe even a little bit of the Dickies thrown into them multi-part harmonies as well. A tough dance it is these days to do this stuff effectively, but they manage to do so quite well. A glance at the songwriting credits indicates these guys (or at least their guitarist/vocalist J.R. Jones) have been slogging it out for at least twenty years, and it shows. Good stuff. –Jimmy Alvarado (Lightning Bug)

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