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Record Reviews

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Split: 7”
Plate-o-Shrimp: Their website describes them as “high-energy punk-style/power-pop rock,” and I guess that’s accurate, based on what’s here. The one original and cover of DOA’s “Fuck You” here ain’t bad, but not quite memorable, either. The Unstuck: Punk rock, poppy in an un-bad way, catchy in a head-bobbing way. The Unstuck win this round. –jimmy (www.plate-o-shrimp.com)

Do It for You: 7”
Unabashed Velvets worship abounds throughout this. Not a bad thing, if done well, and while their lyrics don’t appear at first blush to have the same focus on the seedier side of life, they do make good use of repetitive riffs and stomping rhythms that are more “Waiting for the Man” than “Venus in Furs.” Is it genre defining? Probably not, but I’ll take a couple of these over one more NOFX clone any goddamned time. –jimmy (HoZac)

Wasting Time: 10”EP
Let me just state first how glorious the pastel splatter starburst pattern on this vinyl 10” is. Its front cover plays this up front and center with a cutout design and the contrast of some dark, strange yeti type creature. I suppose it adds some intrigue. Plateaus have an unseasoned vernal sound—a fresh mix of pop with the stoner glaze of, say, White Fang, but much more clean and polished. Both “Wasting Time,” and the faster “Look Out,” have melodic guitar that arches over the underlying flat vocals, leaving wisps of echoes, laden with fuzzed-out bass, and some pretty sweet riffs. “Air Head” is a bit more ‘60s garage pop, with a solid bass line, warped surf guitar, and weird, nasally vocals. It’s a damn good song that gets the hips moving.  –Camylle Reynolds (Mt. St. Mtn.)

The Garth Butcher: 7” EP
Plates, by way of Buffalo, NY provide us with three songs on this here 7” titled The Garth Butcher EP (in an earlier incarnation, the band apparently went by the moniker Garth Butcher, named after a retired professional hockey player), released on Feral Kid Records. Side one’s track, “Sentimental Jenny Jones Fodder Has Been Around for Fucking Ever,” has a taut, tense feel to it, observing the quiet/loud sensibilities of big fuzz forebears Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, though here like a heavier bit of shoegaze, not quite as heavy as say, Tad or the Melvins but fuzzy, heavy shoegaze nonetheless. Second side takes a dip, in my opinion. “Pop Country Blowjobs” with its hollow drumming and “It’s all Billy Joel to me, motherfucker” chorus could have probably been left off of the record and no one would have missed it. Things pick up a little with the next song, “Romanian Rich,” which, despite its bleating vocals, brings to mind Poison Idea, ‘80s hardcore where the rock and roll is still evident. I’d like to hear more “Sentimental Jenny Jones…” and less punk-by-numbers, and I think Plates has it in them to do it. –Jeff (Feral Kid)

Taking Pictures of Poor People: 7” EP
A-Side: L7-style hypnotic sludge riffin’ with a dude who sounds like he listened to a lot of Second Wind. B-side has two more tracks that are nary a whit faster, but definitely heavier. –jimmy (Feral Kid)

Self-titled: LP
A band that’s not easy to pin down stylistically (which is a great thing). A lot of noise and weird sounds bubbling up in the songs, and despite all that, the songs are catchy. The riffs are solid and have this winding and meandering way at times; others that are a little more direct (“Sociology 101”).  Then sometimes they throw in some sounds from left field, putting a different feel in the music. Mix up garage rock, psych, hardcore punk, and you get something along the lines of Plates, though they’re not that narrowly defined. A song like “Arrows” hearken back to early to mid-‘80s hardcore, where the song goes back and forth between mid to fast pacing and builds and builds as the song winds on. “Local Legend” has a manic energy. It’s fast and speedy, then slow and lumbering with an almost “blehhh” vibe akin to a string of overcast days. Their cover of Gun Club’s “Sex Beat” is so-so, but the rest on here are worth your time and attention, especially the awesome “Day Planner,” which has a psych vibe crossed with a mid-tempo hardcore temp and execution. Hearing bands like this, where they’re taking a few genres and mashing them up into something new and different, make me wonder what sort of new sounds and styles await us on the other side. –Matt Average (Big Neck, bigneckrecords.com)

Future Hits: LP
Future Hitsopens up with a fiery little power pop number about smoking, drinking, cocaine, and cars and trucks. That is essentially the extent of Platinum Boys’ subject matter and interests, making for a rather redundant-sounding record. I do detect a Southern-fried influence in the guitar hooks and overall attitude (the words “punk sucks” printed on the album insert) which explains the disconnect I have with the record. I wish I could say that I relate to a rock’n’roll lifestyle of boozin’, cruisin’, and one night stands, but I have enough problems as it is. The truth is that while this brand of Southern-influenced power pop is lost on me, I do see these guys appealing to the Goner Fest type of crowd of handle bar mustachioed, tattooed, jean vest-wearing anti-punk rockers.  –Juan Espinosa (Dusty Medical)

Coextinction: CD
I think that when one picks up a CD by a group that calls themselves the Players Club, it’s perfectly valid to expect rap music and not post-Helmet/Unsane sludge metal. Shit, now I gotta put my Kangol and Adidas away, cuz these guys be bringin’ the wrong noise. –jimmy (Arclight)

Self-titled: 7”
Playoff Beard isn’t afraid to play pop punk despite the backlash mounted against pop punk since it gained commercial success in the 1990s. Comprised of members of legendary Pittsburgh-area bands including Tommy Gutless, Remainders, The Radio Beats, and The Shutouts, Playoff Beard borrows from other subgenres, including garage and streetpunk. They play earnest, heartfelt songs about growing up in subculture, doing the right thing, and finding balance in life. Decidedly non-trite, this isn’t “la la” pop punk, despite its catchiness. All five of the tracks on this fantastic 7” are instantly lovable and each deals with relatable themes. “First Day of Summer (Pt. 2),” for example, is about hanging out with friends and listening to Screeching Weasel. The vocals are expressive, with a slight, poignant gruffness, keeping the proceedings from becoming corny. The production perfectly captures how tremendous Playoff Beard sounds live, which isn’t an easy feat given how kick-ass their live shows are. A must-have 7” for anyone into melodic punk, Playoff Beard’s new release is easily one of 2015’s best records so far. Seek it out now!  –Art Ettinger (Between The Days)

Throw a Beat: CDEP
Arty skronk rock. Songs are short, vocals are screamed; you know the drill. –jimmy (Pluto)

Throw a Beat: CDEP
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I fucking get it already. You scream a lot, play angular guitar lines and throw in some choogling keyboard lines for good measure. Slow it down a little and it sounds like electro-clash to me—the Numbers, maybe? Erase Errata? I’m sure there must be some bastardized new wave of no-wave connection that I’m missing, but this just sounds like jumping on the bandwagon of a trend that’s already over and wasn’t hugely interesting to begin with. –scott (Pluto)

Here’s to the Life of the Party: CD
The singer of this band seems to have some sort of glandular dysfunction which causes his mouth to produce too much saliva, which in turn comes flying out of his mouth into the microphone as he screams his atonal lyrics. It’s kind of like that drunk guy you stood next to in that club the other day, who was trying to shout something in your ear, but all you got out of it was a wet ear. It’s too bad, ‘cause the rest of the band has got some really interesting stuff going on, including an occasional farfisa organ bleeding through the fuzzed-out guitars and the pounding drums and bass. I gotta think one of the other guys in this band could do the singing, they’d each get a larger cut, and they’d be a decent hardcore band. –brian (Pluto)

Self-titled: 12” EP
Pleasure Cross certainly appear to worship the early Earache catalog, as evidenced by a non-stop beat down of thrashing grindcore, demonic vocals, and some serious guitar tremolo bar bending. Imagine, if you will, Heresy’s Never Healed as interpreted by members of Napalm Death and Bolt Thrower. Seattle powerhouse Walls disbanded as a result of vocalist August Alston’s departure from the group to focus on Pleasure Cross. Shed a tear as you bang your head and pump your fist.  –Juan Espinosa (Iron Lung)

Alter: CD
If Tom Waits were thirty years younger and had a hard-on for college rock, I bet his band would sound just like this. –jimmy (Sub Pop)

Self-titled: CD
Pleasure Forever offer for their debut full length a first-hand listen to a world steeped in lives gone wrong and scenes of sinister occult. Like Nick Cave’s often violently demented lyrics, the songs on this record are equal parts urban tragedy and circus sideshow morality play. Instrumentally they offer a simple piano, guitar, and drum three piece, but with each player’s wide range of quietly atmospheric jazz to grinding rock, Pleasure Forever manages to defy categorization. I think within that quality lies their greatest power over the listener. Often on this record they musically turn on a dime. They hold the listener suspended over the railing with one thick forearm, only to pull them back onto solid footing with a smirk. I left this record feeling a fondness for their bitterly dark mood and the almost vaudevillian originality of their sound. –Guest Contributor (GSL)

Self-titled: CD
Andrew Rothbard. Josh Hughes. David Clifford. Two-thirds of this San Francisco-based trio initially impacted independent music as The VSS in 1995. With one full-length ("Nervous Circuits") and a handful of singles, split albums, etc., The VSS were part of an early wave of keyboard-heavy art rock. Theirs was music for kids who liked Joy Division and Gang of Four, but never really went goth. After an abrupt split in 1997, The VSS reformed as Slaves, an equally dark experience in rock music. Which bring us to Pleasure Forever, the trio's most recent moniker, and its self-titled, Sub Pop debut. From the heavy swirl of keyboards that mark "Goodnight," Pleasure Forever opens like some Baz Luhrmann fantasy of 1920's Berlin invaded by the Birthday Party with Ray Manzarak on keyboards. As the album progresses, Pleasure Forever's post-punk cabaret swells to fierce proportions, marked by the industrial-tinged chant of "rise, rise, rise" on "Meet Me in Eternity," before moving towards a more guitar-driven path. With the album's eight minute, forty-two second climax, "Magnus Opus," Pleasure Forever channels the spirits of rock music's darkest spirits from Black Sabbath to Bauhaus without ever really sounding like anyone other than Pleasure Forever. –liz (Sub Pop)

Self-titled: 7”
I guess retro-power pop is the flavor du jour. These kids are quite proficient at it, which is a definite plus, with either tune here conceivably being a minor hit back when power pop wasn’t retro. –jimmy (Polypore)

Bring Me a Match: CD
This has a little more punk in the guitars than I remember the ones on their 7” having, but their new wave/power pop vibe is still more Madame Wong’s than the Hong Kong Café. –jimmy (Polypore, no address)

Self-titled: 12”EP
Driving, spacious post punk. Imagine Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures LP on, say, 38rpm with more guitar effects, and a singer that sounds like a Siouxsie Sioux 45 played at, say, 38rpm. Six quick songs that don’t hang around moping, but bring you to a couple of surfy places to prove that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Good live show, too. –CT Terry (Fan Death)

Self-titled: 7”
Spot-on post-punk here, with a pitch-perfect mix of brooding bass lines, clean channel guitars, and howling vocals. I could probably gripe about the mono mix of the tracks—that bass is screamin’ out for stereo, dammit!—but, to be honest, I’m so busy playing this bad boy over and over that ultimately it really doesn’t matter either way. Here’s hoping a full-length is on the way. –jimmy (Katorga Works)

Self-titled: 12” EP
Loved their single, and that sentiment is amplified threefold along with the three tracks that accompany the two from the single on this EP. More bass-heavy post-punk for your ear hole, with all-but-unintelligible wailing vocals, loping bass, and danceable-yet-not-dancey rhythms. The tunes are hypnotic and catchy, moody without being out ‘n’ out goth, redolent without being rote. Back slaps all around; they’ve got another winner here.  –jimmy (Deranged)

The Woods of Heaven: LP
The Woods of Heaven is recorded with muted vocals, which I don’t think does Haley Morris’s deeply rich and haunting voice justice. With that said, this sophomore release is everything you’d expect from the Pleasure Leftists. Copious amounts of tedious, post-punk guitar is both anxious and melodic. It flutters back and forth between a constantly throbbing bassline. Their dark punk, new wave signature sound is both upbeat and somehow utterly laid back at the same time. They are at their strongest in their mid-tempo songs—(with beats that sway and propel), like “Protection” and “Reality Changes”—and bounce into danceable songs, like “Private Persons” and “You You.” The songs “A New Name” and “Burning Down” have a darker churn that slows down the momentum built up on each side. The Woods in Heaven is consistent and solid but explores no new territory to differentiate from their first breakthrough self-titled LP. Still worth picking up. –Camylle Reynolds (Deranged)

Hasta La Muerta: CD
La Plebe is a band I would normally fall over myself liking, but that just ain’t the case. While their lyrics aren’t too bad and touch upon things more relevant than “Beer beer I like beer,” and they’re quite good on their instruments, the post-Rancid feel of the tunes relegates their efforts back into the gray din of generic modern “street punk” bands, and the inclusion of horns gives it all a Voodoo Glow Skulls sheen that just ain’t helping matters much. Is subject matter more important than music? Dunno, but I do know that no matter what, I probably won’t remember this at all within three days, and that’s a real bummer. –jimmy (www.redscare.net)

Exploited People and Conquista 21: CDEP
Hardcore punk from la Misión, with a wholly unnecessary horn section. While I can totally relate to some of the sentiments expressed here (being a Chicano raised in abject poverty in East Los, I find myself nodding in agreement when they speak of barrio and lower class hardships), I have a hard time swallowing lines like “don’t call me addict ‘cause the drugs help me heal.” I’ve seen too many good people, including myself, fall for those lies and end up embodying the stereotypes that others have created to pigeonhole us (Chicanos and punks alike). Which is not to say that I’m some fuckin’ teetotaler who walks a straight line or anything, but there’s a fine line between having a beer or a toke with the boys and using alcohol and drugs to drown out life’s pain. My suggestion is to take a little time and read Rudolfo Acuña’s Occupied America and learn why you are in the position you’re in instead of focusing too much time on “healing.” –jimmy (www.laplebe.com)

Conquista 21: CD
Think Voodoo minus the ska and with a much better grasp of the Spanish language. –jimmy (www.laplebe.com)

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