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Record Reviews

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Split: 7"
A pair of rather generic indie rock bands together on the same split 7”. The most memorable thing about this record is that The Phoenix Foundation’s name is a sweet ‘80s pop culture reference (Macgyver). –Paul J. Comeau –Guest Contributor (Unsane Asylum)

Falling: CD
I yawned fourteen times listening to this CD. It’s not that these guys are horrible; they are just uninspiring. It’s roots rock melodious punk. Their label is from Finland, so maybe this is a new thing there, but I doubt it. I did enjoy a song or two that could’ve been a Lucero riff. I didn’t break out my guitar to check, but I have a feeling they use the same chord progressions on at least half the songs. The lyrics are nothing to gaze at with wonderment either. Mix things up a little; diversity is the spice of life. –Buttertooth (Combat Rock Industry)

Under the Covers: 7"
Side one is a Johnny Cash cover and side two is an Adam Ant cover. Both sound like they were recorded underwater. –Jimmy Alvarado (Transparent, 6759 Transparent Drive, Clarkston, MI 48346)

Da Me Tus Besos: EP
At first I thought these guys were from Europe, instead of San Francisco (ex-FM Knives, and Mothballs). There’s something about their sound that is a bit more free than how U.S. bands play it. Jangley garage pop that’s a tad raw and unrefined, and that’s where their sound has strength. The drums crash and rumble, the guitars go heryky jerky and a little chirpy, and the rhythms are catchy and even danceable. “Da Me Tus Besos” may be the A-side, but the two songs, “You,” and “3 In The Morning,” on the flip are more upbeat and driven. No complaints, really. You’re not going to lose with any of the songs on here. –Matt Average (Daggerman)

“Pretty Baby” b/w “Kill the Weekend”/”Boston Strangler”: 7"
Pop, pop, pop! This is some retro-sounding rock‘n’roll with lovelorn lyrics, sing-along-able choruses, and straight-ahead music to back it all up. I did a lot of happy bopping up and down as I listened to these three tracks. The record jacket features a bunch of girls in photobooth pictures, so originally I thought this was an all-girl band. It is not. But for me to get over that kind of disappointment, you know this has to have something going for it. Thumbs up all the way. –Jennifer Whiteford (Raw Deluxe)

Self-titled: CD
If the press one-sheet that came with this is any indication, these guys fancied themselves the U.K. answer to Blondie, which I reckon is not too far off the mark, if that’s the only reference they had available at the time. For my money, though, they sounded like the Brit counterpart to East L.A.’s The Brat, who in their prime were contemporaries of the Photos when they originally released this album. Both bands were much more streamlined, tighter, faster, and to the point in their pop, with more of the punk engine (the band’s core is the remnants of cult punk darlings Satan’s Rats) that got them going in evidence than Blondie had by that time. Although the pop can get a wee bit sticky-sweet in some places here, they’re really something when they put it in overdrive and just rock. –Jimmy Alvarado (www.cherryred.co.uk)

Songs of Fight and Failure: CD
Thunders worship with mixed results. –Jeff Proctor (myspace.com/phrasemongers)

Plethora: CD
Ranchero punk! Or maybe Norteño punk… possibly cumbia punk? I probably would have to ask my parents to be sure. Either way, this is awesome. Probably one of the best party albums I’ve heard in a long while. Also, this finally fulfills my longstanding wish of hearing a band do something like this, with the extra plus that it doesn’t suck. In fact, quite the opposite. Get a fast punk band, add an accordion, get them to do polkas (“Polka Time”) and some ballads (“Love Taco”) and a taste for Tex-Mex music, and you have this band. That sounds like a recipe for a novelty disaster, and in the hands of a lesser band it might be, but these guys pull it off. “Cantina” and “Campesino” are some rippers that could start off both a rowdy backyard BBQ full of either punk rockers or my extended family from New Mexico. The mix of good ol’ anarcho style Spanish and English lyrics in the mix on songs like “Suckcess” and “Maquilapolis” is a nice touch tambien. Also, the title of the album has to be a reference to Three Amigos and who didn’t like that movie? This gets thumbs up all around and my seal of approval. –Adrian (Saustex, saustexmedia.com)

Survival Times: 7” EP
Ten songs that come off as one long, angry rant. Last one is a thrash cover of the Crucifucks’ “Hinkley Had a Vision.” –Jimmy Alvarado (A389)

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)

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