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Record Reviews

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Let Me Show You How Democracy Works: LP
As mentioned in my Countdown To Oblivion review, Left For Dead was pivotal in my hardcore youth, as was Hamilton, Ontario’s Chokehold, both of which featured known troublemaker Jeff Beckman on guitar. A few years back, Beckman became somewhat infamous in the underground hardcore scene fronting the band Haymaker, whose live antics were more-often-than-not described as violent, dangerous, and totally furious. Pick Your Side is Beckman’s new-ish project, and with his very distinct “high growl” vocal style and fast, simple, brutal hardcore base, Haymaker comparisons are both inevitable and accurate. But I’m not complaining. Vicious hardcore with venomous lyrics that still seem so right out of Hamilton to me. That city just breeds rage, no doubt. –Dave Williams (A389 Recordings, a389records.com)

Let Me Show You How Democracy Works: LP
Thrash punk with all the trappings, from the political caricatures on the cover, to the photo collage of dudes drinking beer on the inside, to the sick breakdowns, to the misspelled political lyrics. Fun stuff, but didn’t quite pass the flip test, meaning that I was not motivated to turn it over and play side two. I bet if I saw these guys live, I’d have a blast getting beer all over me but, as it stands, I think I’d rather hang out with them than listen to their record. –CT Terry (A389, a389records.com)

Sex War: CD
I guess I’m not down with UK Punk ’82. I mean, I never got drunk with them, so I’m not among the ones they thank. They up the punk by writing songs about stuff like war and crap, then write about sex. In the same song. I know, I was floored, too. –Megan Pants (Cult Jam)

Sex War: CD
Picture Frame Seduction are a UK punk/oi band from the ‘80s. The album Sex War contains eleven new songs and nine bonus live tracks recorded at the UK Punk All-Dayer. The music is fast and hard, with quick drum beats and bass riffs that scream savage skill. “UK 82” is a catchy song that plucks at your musical bone with a fierce bass intro that leads into a classic skinhead sing-along circle pit song. Many songs discuss politics, with a heavy focus on the war and current U.S. politics, with song titles such as “Blair Bush Project” and a lot of album art of Bush and war. At times, the lyrics are elementary and not incredibly impressive like in the song, “Spit or Swallow” with lyrics like “Who should they follow/Spit or swallow” repeated multiple times in a long song. The live portion of the CD displays the band’s ferocious playing speed and ability to start a circle pit. Fans of UK punk, especially the Exploited and GBH, will most likely embrace this CD with open arms. –Jenny Moncayo (Cult Jam)

Skateboarding Down Merlins Hill with Penny Harry: CD
This is kind of a split disc where you have the “Old Guard” and the “Young Upstarts.” In this case, both bands are from Wales. Picture Frame Seduction kicks it off. They’ve been around since the ‘80s and you can tell in their UK82 “charged hair and bullet belt” style. In 2008 it’s still sounding good. True Sounds Of The Revolution are the teenage band here, but they definitely sound more experienced that that. Though they have the same style as PFS, there is a slightly more youthful urgency to their songs. They’re more raw. Both bands here are worth checking out. –Ty Stranglehold (Cult Jam)

From Gutter with Love: CD
Discordant, disjoined noise. These songs try to have an expansive sweep, but wind up sounding like a mess of screamed and crooned vocals, mismatched instrumentation, and misguided attempts at swooning shoegaze—it’s a bit like combining the worst excesses of early 1990s indie bands with none of the melodies or artistic conceits that made any of them interesting. Rapidly shifting between styles really doesn’t make the music more dynamic or engaging—it just makes this album a stylistic, inconsistent, and incoherent mess. –Puckett (Absolutely Kosher)

All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time: CD
You know, I could say that this record makes “She’s Like the Wind” by Patrick Swayze sound like “Whole Lotta Rosie,” but I don’t think anybody who listens to this band has ever heard “Whole Lotta Rosie.” Thanks for the jewel case, though. –Josh (Side One Dummy)

Piedmont Charisma: CD
Sweet merciful Christ. Here’s the recipe: combine equal parts The Faint with annoying synth-poppers from the early 1980s – clone The Thompson Twins and Soft Cell to make sure the mix is right – then blend until smooth. Drink. Approximately fifteen minutes later, you will feel a pressure in your bowels and after rushing to the toilet to relieve yourself, you will find this record floating in the bowl. Do yourself a favor and flush without retrieving it.
–Puckett (Slave)

Greatest Hits: CS
Close your eyes. I want you to think back... back... alllllll the way back to that party at that one dude’s gross apartment. You remember him. He’d let all the kids come hang out at his place and probably even buy the beer so he wouldn’t feel so alone. A few beers in, you are feeling like pure magic. But one too many “pussy!”‘s in your direction and you give into the peer pressure. Remember specifically the first few breathes you took after the last fateful exhale of that Devil’s Lettuce. Think about how you sank down into that beer-soaked couch all warm and fuzzy. Stale cigarette smoke and BO in the air. Think hard, What is that music playing in the background? Can you hear it? Almost, right? Like it’s in a distant room? Rippling, fading in and out, unintelligible, like it’s in another language—the intensity of the music waxing and waning, super slow in the blink of an eye. Now close your eyes and smile. Sink just a little deeper into that romantical and oh-so-fragrant couch. Then it hits you all at once... yer gonna barf! The urgency! No time for a Plan B here. Take immediate action and everyone makes it out of this situation safely. There’s no wounded pride if no one sees you spew! This is the kind of wild ride you are in for if you give these French punkers a chance. These tracks are recorded over some years and range from drum machine to live drummer to just one dude fucking around in his bedroom. I don’t know what they are singing about, but I like it.  –Jackie Rusted (Frantic City, franticcity.bandcamp.com)

oolooloo: LP
Originally released in ‘95, oolooloo finally sees vinyl as part of The 3rd Wave Ska Preservation Society Vinyl Reissue Project. Funnily, while I’ve known all the songs on this album for just shy of twenty years, I’ve never owned the album ‘til now (most of them are on the live album, Strapped Live, which is the only album I ever held on to). In the late ‘90s I loved the Pietasters. Loved in the way that I only went to see Joe Strummer because they were opening. They got on stage and said they had the best job, playing for fourteen minutes before getting to watch Joe Strummer play. I almost left after their set. (I wasn’t that into the Mescaleros. A friend had seen the show the night before and Strummer threw in only one or two Clash songs.) I stayed and promptly had my ass handed to me as Strummer launched into almost a full set of Clash songs with tons of energy. Seriously one of my favorite show memories ever. As time passed, I listened to The Pietasters less and less. To be fully honest, I picked up the album because I wanted to support the project, but it’s gotten to be one of the most-played records since landing on my doorstep. It’s catchy as hell and it doesn’t take more than two seconds of “Girl Take It Easy” to pick up (pick it up, pick it up) my mood. They were one of the few ska bands at the time who seemed to have a sense of humor without being a shtick and just wanted to party. I appreciated it then, and hell, it’s 2012 and I’m not scared to admit I goddamn love this third wave ska record. –Megan Pants (Asbestos, asbestosrecords.wordpress.com / Underground Communique, undercomm.org)

Phantom Limb: CD
The name conjures up images of a butcher slicing some bacon off a meaty hog’s ass, but in reality it’s code word for “Cop Killer.” So, somewhere Tracy Morrow, or Ice T, as he likes to be called, is happy his message wasn’t wasted. Even though he plays a cop on television... But, as ridiculous as that is, it still isn’t as ridiculous to me as grindcore. I know these guys are talented n’ shit, but goddamn, this music is for kids dressed up like wizards throwing twenty-sided dice. I could have maximum hit points and total charisma and I still wouldn’t know what the fuck this guy is saying. Probably something about cutting up his girlfriend, but I couldn’t care less. –Dave Disorder (Relapse)

Book Burner: CD/LP
I’ve been waiting five years for a new Pig Destroyer album. The band’s last release, Phantom Limb, came out in 2007, and is in my top five all-time favorite albums. It would be tough for this Maryland/Virginia four-piece to top that glorious slab of excruciating grindcore. The nineteen songs on Book Burner arrive in thirty-two minutes, being reminiscent of older albums in their catalog like 2004’s Terrifyer in so far as the bursts and brevity of the tracks. Guest vocals are prevalent on the album, which is unusual for the band. Vocalists include Kat Katz and Richard Johnson from Agoraphobic Nosebleed (Pig Destroyer guitarist Scott Hull’s other band), and Jason Netherton of Misery Index (Pig Destroyer drummer Adam Jarvis’s other band). Upon first listen, these guest vocalists seem to upend the sound of J. R. Hayes’s rough screaming, but after more listens, it’s good to hear some different vocalists trying to hold their own with Pig Destroyer’s aggressive sound and not just doing so but complementing it. One of the things that made Phantom Limb so great was the grooves of the songs. They were long enough (more than two minutes is a rarity in grindcore) to build the song into a groove, work it through, and then end the tune, all while still pummeling the listeners’ ears. That’s not the case on Book Burner. Like Terrifyer, these songs are primarily blistering, fast, and to the point. The ones that shine (“Baltimore Strangler,” “The Bug,” “The Diplomat,” “Permanent Funeral”) are the ones that extend past the three-minute point. The rest of the songs are still good, but seem insignificant in light of the material that has depth. The lyrics also don’t seem as intelligent (no, I’m not kidding—see “Gravedancer” or “Alexandria” on past albums for examples of J. R. Hayes lyrical capabilities), either. They’re blunt, like the music, and seem to be drawing more from the Kerry King style of lyricism than the Henry Rollins school, which is a disappointment, as I had always considered vocalist and lyricist J. R. Hayes to be amongst the better lyricists in the hard music genre. Let’s face it—it’s hard to top an all-time favorite album, so despite these reservations, Book Burner is still far above almost anything else you’ll hear in the grindcore scene this year and a good place for the unitiatied to learn about Pig Destroyer. –Kurt Morris (Relapse)

“Weapon” b/w “Gut Pleasures”: 7”
As you’ve probably read elsewhere (or heard by now, as this has been out long enough to be sold out at the source), noise project Pig Heart Transplant toys around with something like song structure on this one. The last thing that I had heard from PHT was the devastating Hope You Enjoy Heaven LP+7”, which was rather menacing. This is a bit of a departure from previous output, to be sure, though not in a manner that makes it seem to be anything but begotten from the same maniacal vision. Both songs are slow, heavy, and center around repetitive drum-pummeling: the sound of torment carefully making its way down a hall to corner you in terror. The main accompaniments on “Weapon” are the repetition of a discomforting guitar riff and quiet, raspy vocals, though pieces of noise are still present. “Gut Pleasures” gets much noisier and has ominous bellowing throughout. Both tracks convey a feeling of being tracked by an opportunistic, malicious predator and nightmarish paranoia. Inhuman and brilliant. –Vincent Battilana (Iron Lung)

For Mass Consumption: LP
Twenty-eight tracks—none of which break the forty-five second mark—of assorted noise, howling, thumping, scratching, and screeching. It likely would’ve worked more effectively broken down into smaller, more digestible servings, but as-is, I found myself losing interest three songs—or about two minutes—into the meal.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Iron Lung, ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)

Root Porno: Cassette
One of the best listening experiences I’ve had in a long time was over the summer, driving with Zach Rooney to our friends’ house while he played rough demos of his new Pig Welt songs. It was a warm day and breezy, and here was Zach playing genius home-recorded desert rock by way of Unwound and Slint through his iPhone (might have been an iTouch). I think I briefly understood the universe, no joke. On Root Porno, he finds the common ground between Up on the Sun and David Grubbs, between a cluttered attic bedroom and the expanse of the Mojave and the cool, damp woods of the Northwest. It’s effortless, catchy head-space rock with bonus droning, for people who want to drive/float/smoke on a long, slow day. Get this immediately. –Matt Werts (Holy Page, holypage.org)

Self-titled: EP
This record is fuggin’ awesome! It’s fast and crushing hardcore punk with some noisy elements permeating the overall sound. Guitars churn and crank over thundering percussion, while the vocals have a dry, raspy style that spits the words out with contempt for religion, the elite, and more. The songs race by at a quick clip, but it never blurs into grind. Think of early Die Kreuzen, mixed with some Scandinavian sound, and coming out of Germany. I like the feedback lock groove on side one. Nice touch! On side two is the long and punishing “Trauma.” Cold feedback sets the dark and bleak tone. It builds tension as it goes a few measures before everyone else comes in to blow the whole thing apart. And when they do start playing, the results are excellent. The song has a crushing and yet catchy riff that rocks like hell. Then they hit whirlwind speed, go for some chaos, and end with lumbering drums. Great record! The more I listen to this, the more I find myself starting to obsess over these guys. More records soon! –Matt Average (Heartfirst, info@heartfirst.net, heartfirst.net)

Trauma: 7” EP
I thought their self-titled EP from a while back was pretty crushing. This was one is just as heavy, and maybe more devastating on a sonic level. Each song is a huge, rough, and raw chunk of sound that sounds like it’s being torn apart and slammed down onto the pavement. The guitars are drenched in feedback and distortion. They push noisy leads that sound like they were pulled from the outer reaches of the cosmos. Percussion hits hard and fast with chaotic abandon while the bass gives everything a nasty grit and solid-as-hell low end. Vocals are delivered in a rabid rapid-fire bursts, and yet every word comes across loud and clear. The first three songs come at you in quick and noisy bursts tied together with dread and distortion. I find I’m a fan of their songs on the second side (such as “Trauma” on their self-titled EP), which tend to be slightly longer workouts than the A side material. “Kein Frieden” is a heavy and noisy number that mainly stays on the mid-tempo side, with a brief foray into faster territory. It’s catchy as hell, with head banging rhythms that eventually give way to whirlwind fury before collecting itself once again and washing out into a gurgling foam of sick distortion as the drums punch holes into the wall. Fantastic!  –Matt Average (Heartfirst)

The Power of Beef: CD
Wow, there's more chugga-chugga metal in their sound here than I remember them having. If my mind is playing tricks on me and I have blocked out the fact that this is what they sounded like back in the '80s, I am flabbergasted that they never managed to break into the Sunset Strip scene all them years ago so Michael could assume his throne as the "King of L.A." –Jimmy Alvarado (Go Kart)

The Power of Beef: CD
Wow, there’s more chugga-chugga metal in their sound here than I remember them having. If my mind is playing tricks on me and I have blocked out the fact that this is what they sounded like back in the ‘80s, I am flabbergasted that they never managed to break into the Sunset Strip scene all them years ago so Michael could assume his throne as the “King of L.A.” –Jimmy Alvarado (Go Kart)

Illuminati House Party: LP
Heavy stuff here. But it’s not all doom and thud. This is a good mix of straight-up rock, with songs like “Population Control” and “Hard Lovin’ Van,” and then they give you stuff like “The Call,” which is in the realm of Sabbath and Sleep. But the crème de la crème is the Sabbath-inspired riff godhead “Lurch,” which is so undeniably good it requires a couple more listens before moving on to the next song. Then you get the epic “Taser Trilogy,” which is, as the title suggests, a three-part instrumental jam. At points this stuff reminds me of mid- to late-’80s SST output: jam heavy and out of left field. Would love to see these guys live. This record comes packaged in a foldout, two-color screen printed cover, along with a CD-R of the album to listen to in the car. Fuck yeah! –Matt Average (Sugar Mountain, sugarmountain@gmail.com)

Gaffe: 10”
Unh. Hell yes. Exactly the filthy, off-kilter, pissed-off result I was expecting from Dave Unsane and producer Andrew Schneider (Cave In, Converge, etc). Certainly in the Unsane world, with more quirky Melvins-esque swagger and a seriously mesmerizing rhythm section. Often reminiscent of Tomahawk’s first record, as well. Heavy, just weird enough, and way dirty. Rad.  –Dave Williams (Coextinction/Solar Flare)

Split: Cassette
Let’s say you happened to be having a BBQ, and your house backed up to a hospital filled with mental patients. What if those patients somehow escaped and climbed over your fence because your burgers smelled real good? This is what you would put on your boom box by the grill. I think they would really enjoy both band’s efforts. –Sean Koepenick (Multiverse)

Oink!: CD
…when i first saw that this was on a label called “Disturbing Music,” i immediately assumed that that meant “Disturbing Records”—house organ of Chicago’s The Cunts (occasionally “The C*nts”) for like the last twenty years or so—and that the Pigs were some manner of post-Cunt or perhaps merely Cunt-affiliated project, which had me contemplating their competent yet unincisive Oingo Boingo/Skafish-isms in an entirely different manner than i was forced to contemplate them in once i found out Disturbing Records and Disturbing Music are two wholly unrelated entities. In this case, i can only ask the listener to compare Oingo Boingo’s Only a Lad to the wholly unoriginal by comparison (yet still, musically, in the same ballpark) Stand Back, then ask thyself if thee thinketh that Geoff Westen of The Pigs will ever be writing the score for Batman movies like Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo. One thinketh not. Decent record though. BEST SONG: “Saturday Night,” because it doesn’t sound like Oingo Boingo OR Skafish, it sounds like the Kings! The Kings are Here, binch! BEST SONG TITLE: “Saturday Night,” because it sounds like the Bay City Rollers! The Bay City Rollers are Here, binch! FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Danny Elfman sucks, and don’t those keyboards at the beginning of “Saturday Night” sound frighteningly like those of REO Speedwagon’s “Ridin’ The Storm Out”??? –Rev. Norb (Disturbing Music)

Dripping: CD
College rock, alt-rock, skronk and post-hardcore melded together in one noisy package. I prefer their noisier, disjointed moments, like “Grunt Like a Pig,” over their more structured, musical moments, but I imagine this’ll get no shortage of plays by people cramming for a Chem 203 exam. –Jimmy Alvarado (Exploding in Sound, dan@explodinginsound.com)

Music from Little Pink: CD
Adequate, yet uneventful poppy rock music. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.pillowofwrongness.com)

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