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One Punks Guide to Pinball, by Kayla Greet
Razorcake #92
Spokenest, Gone, Gone, Gone LP
Pinned In Place, Ghostwritten By LP
Razorcake #91


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Record Reviews

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GOVERNMENT FLU / POISON PLANET:
Split: 7”

Imagine two dogs, one either side of a fence; both animals are mightily pissed off as they’ve been left in the sun with no food or water and, as a result, they are making a hell of a racket. To add to this situation there’s bad blood between the beasts, which only adds an element of rage to the on-going furor. That is what this split release is like—on one side, Polish band Government Flu is snapping away at a fair pace with an obvious nod towards an ‘80s USHC sound, whilst on the other, the Americans, Poison Planet, add a bit more grit and sludge to the mix with hints of Black Flag infusing its four songs. This 7” is fast, furious, and should not be taken lightly.

–Rich Cocksedge (Refuse, refusexresist@go2.pl, refuserecords.prv.pl)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
G.I.’s First Demo: 7” EP
Another archival slice of precious vinyl, once in the sole realm of collectors, gets the official release treatment with the blessing of the band. Happy day. It’s a full-on 1980 harDCore sprint from a long-running band that’s been through a decathlon of styles. G.I. (the matrix etch claims it stands for “Genital Inspectors”) were kindred spirits to the Teen Idles, SOA, and the east coast Youth Brigade. It’s both nostalgic and fun stuff. Although fast, you can already here the fungus of melody creeping in that would later infect the band’s central nervous system and steer them into distant musical seas. After all this time, it’s funny and charming that the lead singer, John Stabb, can’t figure out the chorus to his song, “War Zone Casualty,” because it’s so fast and so slurred. John also mentions this in liner notes, but it’s worth repeating – G.I. has a lot in common from the often-overlooked first ever American hardcore band, Middle Class. This demo EP could have easily been the companion piece to Out of Vogue, and that’s a high compliment. Cool stuff. –todd (Spontaneous Combustion; www.spontaneous.com)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
Complete History Volume Two: 2XCD
Dr. Strange finishes up its look at the career of Government Issue on this disc, compiling their last three albums (two studio and one live) and a couple unreleased tracks onto two CDs. Taking both volumes of this as a whole, it’s pretty neat to see how the band went from point A to point B, from playing tuneless, over-the-top hardcore to mid-tempo punk with pop overtones. You can hear the progression and see more clearly how they ended up where they did. While I’ve never been a fan of their later work (and still ain’t, to be honest), I can now say I’ve earned considerably more respect for it, and can now see that what I once thought was a total 180-degree turn in abject wimpdom was actually (as was the case of many of their peers in DC) an attempt to stretch the narrow parameters they found themselves in by aligning themselves with punk rock, and create a new kinda ruckus from the old. Can’t say it works for me, but it is good for what it is and I appreciate their effort, even if my appreciation is 10+ years too late. As I said in my review of the first volume a few issues back, I really wish they’d seen fit to include the early demo with “Everybody’s Getting Mad” and their version of “Stepping Stone,” but, this gripe aside, both volumes of Complete History still serve as an essential look at an often essential, usually underrated band that had the gumption to slam and spit with the rest of ’em and had the balls to take a chance on growing up. –jimmy (Dr. Strange)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
Strange Wine/Live at CBGB: CD
Primarily a live set from this legendary band blessed with good sound and a nice mix of tunes spanning their entire career. The last three songs are studio reworkings of some of their older tunes, the best being a pretty thrashin’ take of “I’m James Dean” and the worst being a sub-par version of “Teenager in a Box,” which has none of the intensity of the original version. Serves as a nice, concise overview of their career for those who want to know what all the fuss is about but aren’t willing or aren’t financially able to invest in their two-volume discography. –jimmy (Dr. Strange)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
The Punk Remains the Same: CDEP
Five tunes, recorded live in their prime circa 1982-83. Seems a measly amount of tuneage for a CD, but, apparently, it is also on 7”, so it makes more sense. If you dig ‘em, you’ll definitely dig this, but if you don’t know who they are, you seriously gotta go back and catch up with this venerable hardcore band’s back catalog. I suggest you start with the Legless Bull EP, collected on Dischord’s Year in Seven Inches compilation, or the Complete History Vol. 1 collection on Dr. Strange and progress forward. Oh, and yes, a version of “Sheer Terror” is on here. –jimmy (DC Jam)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
Joy Ride: LP
Cool that Dr. Strange is doing vinyl reissues of this stuff. Originally released on Fountain Of Youth in 1984, this was/is GI’s second LP. From what I could glean about this reissue, this is the European version with extra songs. For some reason I never picked this up when it originally came out. I’ve always liked these guys, even when the sound started to shift on the later records, which was the stuff I found I listened to the most. However, I don’t think this LP is entirely solid. There’s some filler on here, like the cover of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’,” and the live tracks. Not to mention the pacing, which seems disjointed. That said, this does have songs like “Understand,” “Notch in My Crotch,” and “Joy Ride” which are great songs where they were transitioning from thrashy and raw to something more tuneful. –Matt Average (Dr. Strange, drstrange.com)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
The Fun Just Never Ends: LP
I’d say by the time this LP came out (1985), GI was pretty much on a new path in their sound. Still hardcore, but more melodic and textured in their style. Yeah, Legless Bull is a great record, but it would lose its impact and get predictable had they kept playing the same style over and over for the duration of their existence. The songs on here are catchy, tuneful, and still focused. “Bored to Death” is a mid-paced song that’s a little poppy, but still has an edge. “Written Word” is one of those songs that has stuck in my memory for the past twenty-five years, and one I find I still sing to myself on occasion. There’s no denying “World Caved In,” which is catchy and smooth. Every time I hear this song it’s like a Freedom Rock moment—“Turn it up mannn!!” The outtakes and alternate versions should have been added to the very end of the record instead of ending each side. They disrupt the original flow. Outside of that, if you don’t have this, then now’s the time. –Matt Average (Dr. Strange, drstrange.com)


GOVERNMENT ISSUE:
Self-titled: LP
Although the band’s initial Legless Bull ten-song 7” was among my very favorite records of the initial hardcore era, i pretty much lost interest in the band after the blue album with the yellow letters and don’t even remember this 1986 album existing ((although i did like the song “Melancholy Miss,” which appears to have been on an even later album, so i guess i was even more out of the loop than i knew)). I don’t hold records like this—and, when i say “like this,” i mean “mid-’80s albums by early ‘80s hardcore bands where they are trying to figure out their ass from a hole in the ground in regard to performing non-hardcore music” in terribly high regard. I mean, here are these bands that got their start—and excelled at—playing fifty-second hardcore songs. Fast-forward a few years, and everyone’s outgrown hardcore, so now we have to listen to these guys try to create and execute three-and-four-minute songs, an area in which they have neither particular abilities nor gifts. We have to listen to them attempt to figure out HOW TO PLAY ROCK MUSIC, as they fumble along with the process. I dunno about you, but i’d rather listen to a ROCK band play rock music, or a COLLEGE ROCK band play college rock music, than listen to a PUNK band try to FIGURE OUT how to play rock music or college rock music or fuckin’ world beat or whatever the fuck they thought was cool at the time. Consider the irony: Here we have Government Issue, a band who excelled at playing fifty-second hardcore songs, making these ho-hum, can’t-quite-get-to-the-point, college rock-ish FM punk-ish records, and the only reason these guys are known enough to have enough of a platform to throw their ho-hum, can’t-quite-get-to-the-point, college rock-ish FM punk-ish records against a wall or an audience is because, at one point in time, they grew a fanbase based on the fifty-second hardcore songs which they no longer play. I mean, i didn’t hate 7 Seconds because they started playing college rock; i hated 7 Seconds because they SUCKED at it. Leave the complex shit to people who actually have the skill set to pull it off, that’s what i’m sayin’. I mean, take “Hear the Scream” as an example. You have about thirty seconds worth of lyrics, padded out to make a three-minute FM radio-friendly college rock-ish punkish song. You got a sixteen word first verse, then a ten-word chorus ((repeated a few times)), then a fifteen word second verse, then the chorus again, then some guitar stuff, then repeat the sixteen-word first verse and the chorus and start the whole thing over again. How is that a good punk song? How is that a good college rock song? How is that a good ANYTHING? All it is is a stretched out, heavily diluted thirty-second punk song with delusions of grandeur. I was happy as hell when that whole lo-fi/garage thing came along in the early ‘90s and eradicated any lingering confusion over whether “these kinds of records” could be anything other than Rock & Roll Bullshit. That said, the too-brief bits of electric sitar playing herein are uniformly awesome. BEST SONG: “Last Forever” BEST SONG TITLE: “Visions and ?” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Bass player is depicted wearing a DC 101 ((a Washington-area commercial AOR station)) t-shirt on innersleeve. –norb (Dr. Strange)


GOVERNMENT SATIRE/DEFIANT TRESSPASS:
Split: CD
Government: run-of-the-mill peacenik crustcore that has all the necessary trappings (screamed male/female vocals, pc politics) yet still seems to ring a little...umm...fake. More succinctly, they sound about as real as any one of those Doors tribute bands. Defiant: More of the same, a little better, but cheesy lyrics bring ‘em right back down into the gutter. I guess this is the end result of the musical equivalent of taking an original and Xeroxing it over and over and over until the quality of your copies is so bad that you can no longer see what the original was about. Whatever. –jimmy (Square of Opposition)


GOVERNMENT SATIRE/DEFIANT TRESSPASS:
Split : CD
Government: run-of-the-mill peacenik crustcore that has all the necessary trappings (screamed male/female vocals, pc politics) yet still seems to ring a little...umm...fake. More succinctly, they sound about as real as any one of those Doors tribute bands. Defiant: More of the same, a little better, but cheesy lyrics bring ‘em right back down into the gutter. I guess this is the end result of the musical equivalent of taking an original and Xeroxing it over and over and over until the quality of your copies is so bad that you can no longer see what the original was about. Whatever. –jimmy (Square of Opposition)


GOVERNMENT WARNING:
No Moderation: LP
Perhaps I’m retarded. I’m willing to accept that. But I just don’t get how, twenty-plus years into listening to punk rock, and especially hardcore, it still catches me a little unawares how much I like short, fast songs. It’s supposed to be diminishing returns, right? You can only go so fast, and then it’s a blur. All the fast points have been covered, and better, by the biggies, right? But once or twice a year, a band that’d definitely be aware of hardcore’s legacy tears right back into it, ripping pages right out of that history book. Government Warning’s not only fully loaded with razor-sharp playing and insightful lyrics, they’ve got so much controlled speed in one song alone, that if hooked up to a hamster wheel, would power a suburban home for a day. This makes me feel thirteen again, in all the cool ways (without the short shorts and such), and I’m hoping some kid just loses their shit to Government Warning just like I did when I first heard JFA, learning to ollie on my Variflex in my garage. Crazy good and I’m super glad this is coming out now, today. –todd (Feral Ward)


GOVERNMENT WARNING:
No Moderation: LP
My friend Joe says he likes Government Warning because it makes him feel like he can listen to hardcore. I totally understand that. They’re easily accessible to people who don’t listen to all that much current hardcore because their sound isn’t new. It’s a sound that’s steeped in a tradition of pushing how fast it can get, but it never loses control. It’s fast with a reason, and not just fast for speed’s sake, so there’s still a well thought-out, well orchestrated song in there. Fantastic stuff. –megan (Feral Ward)


GOVERNMENT WARNING:
Arrested: 7”EP
I just finished watching a fun bicycle movie, Breaking Away, from 1979. It was sorta unnerving that a film shot on location in Bloomington, IN close to thirty years ago had a lot of the same fashions that are being picked up in hipster circles in the U.S. now. (Dude, I don’t want to know your religion from across the room. Loosen those shorts a bit.) The Necros released their first self-titled 7” a couple years after 1979, and it’s a bleak, broken, jagged, and fast testament to the crumbling of America’s foundations. It sounds like music made by the people at the bottom who constantly get crushed. That made me think this: hipster irony (in fashion and music) is dispossessed, disposable (they’ll be onto something “new” soon), and future-less and past-less, where as these pure strains of hardcore that keep recurring—the type that Government Warning is in the skin of—doesn’t make me feel like I’m hopping into the throwback machine because they’ve inherited the initial spirit, reclaimed the ghost, and are bearing the weight now. Shit’s fucked up-eder more than ever, and here’s the soundtrack. –todd (Grave Mistake)


GOVERNMENT WARNING:
Paranoid Mess: LP
Let me start this review off by saying there isn’t a Government Warning release that I don’t champion. I’m a fan. Now an anecdote: a couple years ago a friend told me he had never heard Government Warning. I was shocked, but prepared. Discography time. First stop: No Way Out EP. Thirty minutes, two 7”s and a 12” later, they had a new fan; it was quite the bonding experience. I knew he would love it because they’re just that good. Undeniably good, and unbelievably powerful. Like a steamroller on steroids. Like an exploding pit bull coming through your living room window at three in the morning. They’re fast with their punches and they hit fucking hard! If you’ve ever considered yourself a fan of old school hardcore (especially SoCal and Midwest), it is extremely important that you track these records down. And if one of your friends doesn’t know what you’re talking about when you start rambling on about how good the new Government Warning LP is; sit ‘em down. Let the music speak for itself. –Daryl Gussin (Grave Mistake/No Way Out)


GOVERNMENT WARNING:
Paranoid Mess: LP
There’s nothing wrong with formulas. Science, when expanding armed with before-discovered numbers, often goes beyond empiricism into artistry. So, when I say that Government Warning is perfecting upon an equation that many thought ultimately and definitively solved in the early ‘80s, it’s the opposite of a dig. The raw ore they’re purifying is as potent as it’s ever been: fresh-from-the-musical womb hardcore swagger played as an unboring blur, mixed with paranoid anxiety, and steeled with conviction. “Solos” are imbedded inside of the songs instead of tacked on the end like donkey tails. The thirty-seven-year-old me likes this as much as the fourteen-year-old me would have. The proof’s in the pudding and the pudding’s fuckin’ tasty. –todd (Grave Mistake/No Way Out)


GOZERIANS, THE:
Squatter: CDEP
Five-song EP from this St. Louis power trio. The theme to this release seems to be taking a shit. The front and back cover feature dogs doing their business and there is a picture of a toilet in the insert that looks like it is frequented by the band members. Now that we have that cleared that up, what do the actual songs sound like, you the reader are probably screaming at me. The singer has the snottiness of Fat Mike, coupled with the off the wall humor of Guttermouth in the lyric department. The music is definitely hard rocking with some clever hooks spread out in the songs. “Pornable Education” is my favorite just because it’s nice and dirty. Promising debut and I think we will hear more good stuff from these dudes in the future. –koepenick (Self-released)


GRABASS CHARELSTONS / ERGS!:
Split: 7"
Grabass: Sometime last year, I said, “Fuck it. I give up. No màs.” But then, when I can’t sleep, I start thinking… what mechanisms make rafts of shitty bands super popular while bands that I absolutely love—and plenty of people seem to dig, too—remain relatively obscure? The Grabass Charlestones are one of those bands. Two absolutely great songs—one about the world going to shit and that’s why Will likes cats (infallible logic), and one about a dude who burned everyone in his wake. Is it because the drummer’s the singer? (That worked for the Carpenters.) Is it because they don’t pander to any sort of trend? (That worked for the Ramones.) They don’t pander to any sort of scene? (That’s working for the Ergs!) Conundrum. But the band doesn’t seem to mind, so I’ll stop here. Ergs!: On the flip side, a band that’s getting its due. People are rightly amped up on them, as they show that pop punk isn’t a terminal trajectory into a musical cul-de-sac. It’s like looking at a fancy rock: durable as all hell and with slight twists, something new sparkles from them again and again. –todd (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
When the Funk Hits the Fan: 7”
I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that Grabass is pretty heavily ingrained in the rotation at Razorcake HQ. Number One, they’re some of the Best Dudes Ever. Number Two, they write songs that acknowledge the shit and the drudgery of life, but somehow manage to leave me feeling damn glad to be alive. And finally, they put out great music, but it’s a music that’s pretty hard to categorize. They play really, really well and you can tell that a lot of thought goes into their (dare I say it?) musicianship. Is it too slow too be punk? Too raw to be rock? You can go ahead and waste your time classifying them if you want—I’ll be busy dancing. –megan (Barracuda Sound)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
When the Funk Hits the Fan: 7" EP
In my mind, the Grabass Charelstons have reached the level of Rocket From The Crypt, Tiltwheel, or Fugazi. I’m willing to follow ‘em to places I probably wouldn’t go by myself and I find myself being constantly rewarded by the journey. Ragin’ full-on punk, this isn’t, but how can one discount heart-felt, original music made by solid gold dudes? Grabass fights and fights; they know the score often before lacing up, gets their asses handed to them on occasion, and they dust off, and come back with secret hooks and crooked smiles. It’s this scrappy, for-the-music quality that makes me, less and less, able to critique their songs and just let them soak in, note by note—like every other song they’ve ever written, it seems—and let them reveal themselves on their own time, play by play. It’s been several years since I was first exposed to them on their split LP with Billy Reese Peters, and since I haven’t tired of listening to them yet, I doubt I ever will, and that’s a monolith of a recommendation. This batch of four (one’s a Guided By Voices cover) is full of destructive feelings—somehow making suicide not seem so bad and dark—brightly played. –todd (Barracuda Sound)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
When the Funk Hits the Fan: 7" EP
In my mind, the Grabass Charelstons have reached the level of Rocket From The Crypt, Tiltwheel, or Fugazi. I’m willing to follow ‘em to places I probably wouldn’t go by myself and I find myself being constantly rewarded by the journey. Ragin’ full-on punk, this isn’t, but how can one discount heart-felt, original music made by solid gold dudes? Grabass fights and fights; they know the score often before lacing up, gets their asses handed to them on occasion, and they dust off, and come back with secret hooks and crooked smiles. It’s this scrappy, for-the-music quality that makes me, less and less, able to critique their songs and just let them soak in, note by note—like every other song they’ve ever written, it seems—and let them reveal themselves on their own time, play by play. It’s been several years since I was first exposed to them on their split LP with Billy Reese Peters, and since I haven’t tired of listening to them yet, I doubt I ever will, and that’s a monolith of a recommendation. This batch of four (one’s a Guided By Voices cover) is full of destructive feelings—somehow making suicide not seem so bad and dark—brightly played. –todd (Barracuda Sound)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Ask Mark Twain: CD
I own more Grabass shirts than I probably should. I’ve worn one to class and didn’t realize it until one of my students started calling me Grabass, which continued through the semester. I love watching them live; it’s sweat and smiles and backbends—they have the most flexible bassist I’ve ever seen—and every song is an anthem to raise your drink high and throw your arms around a friend, singing at the top of your lungs. Recorded is another dimension entirely. The energy is slightly more subdued, but the music is more complicated in that “Are there three guitar tracks on this song? Wait, was that a horn right there?” kind of way. Their regionalism (Gainesville) is apparent, but they make sure that their own mark is more prevalent than any of their influences. Impressive release by a band I didn’t think could impress me more. –megan (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Ask Mark Twain: CD
Var Thelin and Master P have a lot in common. They both live in the Dirty South, they both run successful independent record labels, and they’re both responsible for promoting and inspiring the music of their region; creating their own sound and look. A No Idea record is as easily recognizable as a No Limit record. Case in point, Ask Mark Twain, the newest record from No Idea’s answer to Silkk the Shocker, the Grabass Charlestons. This record is so Florida it should come with a beard and flip-flops. Thirteen songs of whiskey-soaked swamp punk that come out sounding like a less-Midwestern Modern Machines. They draw heavily from their Floridian blood: I hear a lot of Hot Water Music and Against Me! influence, and track two, “Atlanta Is a Cocaine Town” is a tip of the hat to their western neighbors, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. There’s a lot of cool shit coming out of Florida these days, and the Grabass dudes are the top of the heap. –ben (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
The Greatest Story Ever Hula’d: CD
Sounds more or less like a punk-basement version of the first Rites of Spring album (which, now that i think about it, is the only Rites of Spring album) (and which is curious, as one would have previously assumed that the Rites of Spring album was its own punk-basement version), with a few scattered punk-basement Hüsker Jünior (“Hüsker Jü?”)-isms as some manner of yeomanly garnish. And, while there are a couple of cool lyrical moments here and there (“Breaking bottles in the streets/’til the coppers bring the heats,” from “Youth”), overall things are are pretty much in that same muddled and cryptic “i-am-working-out-some-emotional-issues-here” vein as latter-period Connie Dungs, but minus the precision elements that occasionally led me to give Brandon Dung the benefit of the doubt that he was actually singing about something of relevance. The occasional lapses into the merely trite (“Suicide at $8 an Hour” – like every 20-year-old mop jockey in the world hasn’t written this song in their head at one point in time [except for those of us who were 20 year old mop jockeys in the Reagan era, in which case the song was called “Suicide at $4 an Hour”]) don’t affect things much either way. I dunno. When i listen to punk rock, i’m looking for a tribal war-whoop so mighty that the forces of my oppression, including but not limited to the mundanity of my daily existence, are rendered, at least for a time, inert. This CD is more like an annex of additional mundanity. What, i re-boot from this disc in case my existing mundanity files crash? BEST SONG: “Youth” BEST SONG TITLE: “Beer Exile” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Appearing on the cover of Razorcake is no guarantee your album won’t be routed to a fucking prick like myself for review!  –norb (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & the Careeners: LP
Where to start? I’ve been a fan of Grabass since the Billy Reese Peters split LP in 2002. I celebrate their entire catalog; I’ve reviewed their entire oeuvre. They were on the cover of Razorcake #17. I have the story of Replay being arrested in Texas on the fourth of July memorized and I tell it to kids during library readings. Razorcake Records put out a Sister Series 7” of theirs. I took the photo of the painting for their side of the TTK split LP. Bias? You fucking bet. They’re my friends and that friendship was first started because their music struck a deep chord in me. My bias is this: I think they’re woefully underrated. (Your guess is as good as mine as to why. Maybe it’s the name. Maybe it’s because we live in a classist, image-conscience, artifice-saturated, lead-by-the-nose culture (even in punk. Especially in punk.)) So instead of complaining, I’m a facilitator when the opportunities arise. I was not expecting Dale & the Careeners, didn’t see it coming, and that makes me happy. Because, at this stage in the game—living adult lives as human beings who happen to not be able to divorce themselves from punk rock and dealing with music—I want contemporaries who aren’t regurgitating their own expelled fluids. I want people who are musically much smarter than me showing that uniforms can dissolve, that others’ expectations are gravestones waiting for inscription, that suburban cul-de-sacs of the mind can become bike lanes, that aging and collapse aren’t one in the same. Dale & the Careeners does all of that as a record. Lyrically, it’s complex. It takes multiple voices (first, second, and third person) and acts as a prism that looks at addiction, safety, impulse (and a baseball game). It’s poetic and direct. To put this in a bit of context, think of folks like Todd Congelliere, Isaac Reyes, Isaac Thotz, and Mark Ryan—all people who were/are in dynamite bands that have broken music wide open in the past couple of years in an almost absolute vacuum beyond their immediate families, friends, and close peers. On a cultural level, it’s so fucking bittersweet to be a front row listener to their world-class bands. I feel like simultaneously laughing and crying; getting fucked up and remaining cold sober; shaking my head and shaking my fist. If meaning still has meaning for you, I highly recommend Dale & the Careeners. Soak in it like the sea. Let it crash around you. Let it hypnotize you like waves. –todd (No Idea)


GRABASS CHARLESTONS:
Dale & The Careeners: CD
Is it a surprise that I don’t think about the Grabass Charlestons all that much anymore? Seven years since the release of their last LP finally brings us the third Grabass Charlestons full length and, boy, is it different. The growl and harshness of the previous records has been turned down and the Replacements influence turned way, way up. All of this might have been abled by the addition of a fourth Charleston, who seems to have taken over drumming duties from Will. If you are a fan of previous Grabass albums, I would suggest you check this out, but be warned about the potential shock value of what’s to come. If you’ve never dug the Charlestons before, I’d recommend giving this one a listen. As songwriters, I don’t think the band has ever come close to some of the songs on this record. –Bryan Static (No Idea, noidearecords.com)


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