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Record Reviews

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Burner: 12” EP

There was a bit of a ska influence creeping into the riffs opening the record, which quickly gives way to slightly generic pop punk sound that didn’t really move me. I was also slightly annoyed that Side B was the same tracks as Side A. At least some art on the other side would have been cooler than simply a repeat. Speaking of art, my favorite parts of this record were the dark and gritty-looking hand-drawn and painted cover artwork, and the collage art in the liner notes, all of it dope as hell. I think if more of this record sounded like the title track, I’d have been into it, but as it stands, I’ll pass.

–Paul J. Comeau (Hella Mad, hellamadrecords.com)

Self-titled: CDEP
You know what I love? I’ll tell you what I love. I love good thrash music. I usually can’t take too much of it (whoever invented discographies has the musical stamina of a god), but an EP or 7” is usually the perfect dose. Pointblank is good. They play fast hardcore that would fit on 625 or Havoc, and they sound pretty original. They still definitely keep that punk tip, too...minimal metal here. Fast, hard, stressed vocals, basic progressions, etc. Keeps up with the greats, fo’ sure. –Will Kwiatkowski (myspace.com/bloodshotmind)

Waiting for the Real Thing: CD
If you have any love for sweet-toothed new wave punk from the original wave, the Pointed Sticks are a go. I put them in that awkward-fitting triumvirate of The Vapors and The Human League: bands perhaps known for one or two songs (like “Turning Japanese”), but much more solid and talented than that. The good news: this here is a collection which includes many unreleased and super-duper-hard-to-find songs. Awesome. These Canadian obscurities from the late ‘70s/early ‘80s hold up. You get peeks into the rawer beginnings and also the polished bone snap (with sweet candy marrow) of songs that spanned their short career. The so-so news: a good clump of these songs were just recently re-released on the Perfect Youth album. The archivist and pure music lover in me would like two totally separated experiences where you’d get to pick which collection of songs fit a mood better. In the end, that’s a small quibble that gets shadowed by this simple fact: man, what a great, fun band to listen to. –Todd Taylor (Sudden Death)

Perfect Youth: CD
Don’t let the name fool you into thinking this is a hardcore band. This is the 25th anniversary re-issue of some of the best Canadian pop with punk sensibilities (spiky pop) ever released. I put this up on a pedestal with The Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat, The Vapors New Clear Day, and Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True. Non-sappy, exciting, timeless (well, two and half decades with no sign of obvious wear) pop that, if you’re in the mood to sing along to instead of shaking your fist to, you can’t go wrong with. Great for dates, also great as “ambassador music,” music you can introduce to people who “don’t really like punk,” so they’ll soften up a little bit before you turn up the heat. Geek notes: Dimwit, drummer of the Subhumans, joined them pretty early on and the songs off of their 7” are the bonus tracks. –Todd Taylor (Sudden Death)

Perfect Youth: CD
This album is a re-release of the only album by Vancouver sensations the Pointed Sticks, which was originally released twenty-five years ago. Pointed Sticks formed in 1979 and they broke up in 1981, leaving a highly influential mark on the Canadian punk scene. This album is impeccable. To my embarrassment, this is the first time I have heard it. I hang my head in shame for not already being familiar with this album. But I am sure happy I can enjoy it now. The vocals sound like they are stuck in Nick Jones’ throat. They are a high pitched, semi-whine, clogged nose kind of a sound, as he belts out great lyrics to pop/rock/punk songs with a subtle keyboard to compliment him. The vocals are intoxicating and they automatically catch your ear for their unique sound. “Marching Song,” “Perfect Youth,” “True Love,” “Way You Do,” and “Out of Luck” are fantastic. –Jenny Moncayo (Sudden Death)

Xmas: 7”
My love of Canadian punk rock and Christmas punk has finally been merged. Living legends of the early Vancouver punk scene Pointed Sticks have brought forth an early gift to put under the tree. For those not in the know, the Sticks could very well be described as Canada’s answer to the Buzzcocks (or for a better, more detailed description, check out Sam Sutherland’s amazing Canadian punk tome Perfect Youth). The single kicks off with “Power Pop Santa” and it is the catchiest Christmas list I’ve heard in a while. They name check a lot of bands and people all while reminding us how to pogo. The flip side gives us “Xmas Time Again,” which is easily the lesser of the two tracks. It’s still pretty good, but just can’t keep up to the former track. It’s a bit slower with piano accents. For some reason it reminds me of a mid-era Stiff Little Fingers B-side or something. This slab of festive green vinyl is a very welcome addition to my ever-growing Xmas punk collection. –Ty Stranglehold (La-Ti-Da)

Self-titled: CD
I’ve got to be completely honest. I was scared to listen to this when I saw it in my stack of review stuff. I love Pointed Sticks. They are full-blown Canadian legends. They were architects of Vancouver’s punk rock scene along with the likes of The Young Canadians, DOA, The Subhumans, and others. I love them, but I was scared because I have seen them play twice in the last couple of years and I just wasn’t feeling it. I was worried that I would put this disc on and all of those great tunes from the old days would end on a sour, dull note. I can’t say how relived I am that isn’t the case. Pointed Sticks are old punks in their fifties and sixties who just managed to put out an amazing pop album. These songs are beautiful—not just in how they sound, but in how they are built. I can guarantee that there are legions of hacks out there—being played on the radio and getting awards for music—who are half of the songwriters that these guys are. Is it punk rock anymore? Not really. Do Pointed Sticks really have to prove anything to anyone at this point? No. It’s just good, relaxing music.  –Ty Stranglehold (Sudden Death)

Best Bruises Collection: CD
Bland, faceless youth crew hardcore stuff from either Brazil or Portugal, judging from the members’ names. –Jimmy Alvarado (Third Party)

Best Bruises Collection: CD
Bland, faceless youth crew hardcore stuff from either Brazil or Portugal, judging from the members’ names. –Jimmy Alvarado (Third Party)

Self-titled: CD
Yer basic thud punk here from a three-piece with a keyboardist where a bassist usually goes. –Jimmy Alvarado (Mud Memory)

Split: CD
Poison Anthem starts this thing off with a flop. Not a fan of this kind of this Epitaph records-style punk. “Choke and Die” and “Sinking Ship” are aptly named. Perhaps too harsh? What I can say about Poison Anthem is that the vocalist has some serious range and the drawl of Chrissie Hynde. Things pick way the fuck up with Sibannac, with their “fuck pop culture” sermon and kicks into a pretty gnarly pit-worthy ska beat. It’s some serious skank that’s charming and well done. It reminds me of my confused skater punk youth. However, things take a turn for the worse, yet again, with “Decades 2 Late,” which has even grizzlier vocals and ska beat breakdowns that are 311-esque. Never a good thing. They close out with the live “Pick & Choose,” which is poorly recorded, but not terrible, and probably kind of fun to see live.  –Camylle Reynolds (Self-released, sibannac.bandcamp)

Straight into the Drift: CDEP
This features an ex-member of Don Caballero, but that does little to save this one: devoid of any type of excitement whatsoever, and meandering to the point of oblivion. Oh shit, guess my indie card will be revoked post haste. –Sean Koepenick (File 13)

The Violent Years: 7” EP
Four servings of punchy, mid-tempo hardcore. I kept expecting them to shift into overdrive at any second, but they never did, which made it all the better. Keep ’em guessing, you know? Good stuff. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

The Violent Years: 7”
Guttural, fierce hardcore always has its place, but doesn’t always leave its mark. The first three songs of this 7”, for example, are great hardcore songs, but don’t really have any chance of staying in rotation of my listening. That’s why it’s all about the transition from the third to fourth—and final—song of this record. Halfway through the B-side, the music does a 180 and turns from an all-out attack of fist-pumping punk to a genuine introspective of someone who suffers from social anxiety, while maintaining the energy and fury of the first three songs but raising the intensity to an almost frightening level. One of the top 5 B-sides of 2007, and definitely one of the most intense songs as well. If you were at the Fest this year, that dude who sang those SSD songs with Witches With Dicks is the lead singer of this band. –Daryl Gussin (Deranged)

Feel the Darkness: LP
This is a reissue of Poison Idea’s classic 1990 album. If you’re a fan of the band, you know you need this album. If you don’t know Poison Idea, Feel the Darkness is a good introduction. It shows the band at their best—blending straight ahead rock’n’roll elements (like being able to play their instruments amazingly well and texturing songs with guitar parts that flirt with the idea of a solo without once wanking off) and punk rock (in the gruff vocals and raw honesty of the lyrics). On a first listen, Feel the Darkness gives you a lucid insight into where bands like Turbonegro and the New Bomb Turks got so many good ideas. On repeated listens, you’ll just think, man, I need to own more stuff by Poison Idea. –Sean Carswell (Farewell)

Darby Crash Rides Again: 7"
I know I don’t have to review this, but what the hell. TKO released a repress of this rare gem for International Record Store Day and I’m sure happy to have snagged one. Poison Idea are one of the greatest bands to come out of the early American hardcore scene. The songs still rage after all these years! Nice pale blue clear vinyl is just the icing on the cake. Listen to me... record collectors are pretentious assholes! Haha. –Ty Stranglehold (TKO)

Pick Your King: 7” EP
TKO Records celebrates another record store day with another amazing Poison Idea reissue. This time we have the Pick Your King EP pressed on clear vinyl. Chances are that if you are reading this magazine, you know the importance of this band, this record in particular. It doesn’t get much better than this. Essential hardcore. I can’t wait until the next PI reissue! –Ty Stranglehold (TKO)

The Fatal Erection Years 1983-1986: LP
Early Poison Idea is pretty damn near unimpeachable in my book, so if you’re new to Portland negativity or don’t have five hundred or more bucks laying around to get the Pick Your King 7” or Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes EPs, TKO’s done a nice service for you. Sounds great, looks great. Live and comp. tracks are pulled in to fill out both sides of a long-player. There’s honor in keeping the legacy alive. What’s new and interesting are Jerry A.’s liner notes. They clear some things up. He admits to PI being a product of their environment, that they were drawn into the most negative aspects of L.A. punk—both the music and the people—and that they tried to outdo their contemporaries. Basically, outpunk the punks. It’s an honest reaction. It explains both what makes Poison Idea’s music so believable: their rage, their damage, their directness. They were fucked up kids who became fucked up adults playing ugly (a compliment) music. It also admits one of the great shames of the first wave of hardcore, where Jerry reconciles that “being creative, smart, and having any kind of sympathy toward your fellow man was not allowed.” –Todd Taylor (TKO)

The Fatal Erection Years: CD
The sideshow cavalcade of human oddities in punk rock has always featured an unsettling array of freaks of earnestness; some punks pickled in jars of their own self-righteous juices, others with rigid dogmas pounded into their heads like the nails hammered into the heads of sideshow blockheads and human pincushions. Take Ian MacKaye, for instance. MacKaye was not only very, very earnest, but he also seemed like a very somber chap. Like a very serious librarian or a Mennonite or Norman Mailer. But Poison Idea was every bit as earnest as Ian MacKaye. The main difference being that they did let a certain very dark nihilistic sense of humor shine through—the “Violence Is Funny” clips on their Mating Walruses DVD immediately spring to mind as a good example—but it never tempered their intensity or earnestness one iota. They were possessed of a rendering plant level of earnestness, which was fitting for a band that, if you were to put their carcasses through a giant meat grinder, would produce more pounds of ground beef than three normal bands. Not to mention that they would probably make a hamburger that you could get drunk off of. They were Rabelaisian giants and they were to hardcore what King Kong Bundy was to wrestling. Brutal, massive, stroke-inspiring. Looking at them, you’d think they’d be ponderous and elephantine like Crowbar, but they weren’t. With a Bobbitted Ibanez Iceman in his hands, Pig Champion’s ham hock arms moved as fast as Bruce Lee’s. Poison Idea combined heavy and fast like no other band dared. The Fatal Erection Years gives you a veritable feast of mid-’80s Poison Idea all on one CD, including Pick Your King, Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes, compilation tracks from the Drinking Is Great 7” and the Cleanse the Bacteria LP—PLUS previously unreleased live tracks from Portland in 1983. And if the release of this CD wasn’t in itself good news for modern man, word on the streets is that Southern Lord is going to be re-releasing several more Poison Idea classics on CD, including the long lost Ian MacKaye recordings. I just hope that these wonderful plans don’t go up in a cloud of bong smoke; I glanced over the Southern Lord website and they seem to be big purveyors of stoner metal and that does cause me some concern. Short-term memory lapse might be fairly commonplace at that particular office. The best laid plans sometimes just don’t happen, I’d wager. I also really, really hope that the brain trust at Southern Lord has the fog-free horse sense to re-release the Ian Mackaye recording using the original uncensored cover photo—which is a sort of Poison Idea’s hairy proctological valentine to the Messiah of Straightedge, Mr. Mackaye himself. Poison Idea were behemoth motherfuckers— to borrow an apt designation by Tad Doyle, himself a connoisseur of things large, loud, powerful, and dangerous. It’s doubtful we’ll ever see another band quite like them. –Aphid Peewit (Southern Lord, southernlord.com)

Darby Crash Rides Again: LP
In a scene already packed to its roof with pissed off, often dangerous people, Poison Idea stood out as one of them bands you just did not want to fuck with. It wasn’t just because they looked the sort that would use your entrails to decorate their Christmas tree if you so much as annoyed them, it was also because, as their myriad releases attest, they dealt in a brand of music that radiated a feral violence that exceeded many of their punk/hardcore peers—their tunes felt like an ass-whoopin’, but they also made you wanna bounce off the walls and do a little goin’ off yourself. Adding to an already stellar back catalog, TKO and Southern Lord dish up a couple of demos, including the legendary one from which this collection derives its name, a couple of outtakes from the Record Collectors are Pretentious Assholes EP, and a 1983 radio recording, all of it great, both in sound and performance quality. Bands like this are few and far between, and this is definitely one of those must-have items for even the passive punk aficionado. –Jimmy Alvarado (TKO)

Kings of Punk: 2x LP
What else can be said but “essential”? Poison Idea is an anomaly in the pantheon of American hardcore. They withstand the test of time. This beautifully reissued record is a testament to that. You should already know that the tunes here are amazing. The second record features live stuff from 1984-1986 that brings all the fury that is PI. I could only imagine what it was like to see them back then, and now I don’t have to wonder. There is also a poster, photos, artwork and Jerry A. telling the story of shooting the grotesque album cover. Keep the reissues coming TKO! –Ty Stranglehold (TKO)

Kings of Punk (Bloated Edition): CD
When you look at an album cover and see a bovine-like beer belly carved up with X-acto gashes that crudely spell out a band’s name, you can rest assured that, by buying this particular recording, you’re getting a genuine strain of hardcore nihilistic punk that will tear your nostrils open, separate the meat from your skull, and pin the ragged flaps of your face back against your ears. The photograph of Jerry A’s X-acto work in scarification “branding” on the Kings of Punk cover is like the Good Housekeeping seal for punk nihilism; it tells you in no uncertain terms: this is the most “rotten, dirty, damnable, filthy, putrid, filth” your money can buy—satisfaction guaranteed. Now of course, whether or not the malcontents in Poison Idea were really proper “nihilists” is debatable. They were most likely not nihilists in the sense that I don’t think any of them ever spent nights curled up on the couch with some Lorna Doone cookies and a good Max Stirner book. I seriously doubt they read much of anything outside of maybe a beer-stained Bukowski book or two. But if one is to believe the snuff-spittled rantings of the famous Hillbilly Hot Head, self-styled nihilist and all-around professional “Bad Man,” Jim Goad, both Pig Champion and Jerry A were drunken, thieving, drugged-up, hypocritical Man Mountains of amorality. Specifically, Goad claims that a certain Tom Roberts (aka Pig Champion) ratted him out to the fuzz, resulting in Goad landing in jail for an extra zealous bit of performance art wherein he beat up his girlfriend. Particularly bad form, says Jimbo, for the seemingly earnest composers of several brutal anti-cop/anti-snitch ditties like “The Badge” from the Feel the Darkness album. He also makes more broad claims that, while P.I. bassist Myrtle Tickner was merely a “sweet drunk,” Pig and Jerry were both luridly conniving smack addicts who would turn on anyone for a quick fix. Of course, I have no way to gauge the veracity of Goad’s accusations, but it seems at least plausible that his strident protestations are little more than the attention-getting “I’m-Badder-Than-You” bellowings of a person looking for a little more notoriety to heap on his already “dangerous” reputation. Don’t forget, Jim Goad was a reality TV type personality before reality TV even existed. And, seriously, can anyone with a straight face call Jerry A and Pig Champion gutless? But even if Goad is right in portraying them as dangerously obese back-stabbing junkies, they at least weren’t sickly, simpering little heroin-chic nihilists hunched and on the nod in some dark corner somewhere, watching their own grey drool accumulate in their navels; these were rotund, heavy-breathing brutes whose every blackened fat cell was bursting at the seams with utter nihilistic rage like Momma June—a Goadian Hillbilly heroine herself—bursting at the seams from a particularly gluttonous session of pork rind binge eating. And that comes through each and every song on Kings of Punk like a runaway herd of rutting bull elephants trampling Jeep-fulls of ivory poachers underfoot. What more can be said about this album that hasn’t already been said? Eleven sternum-cracking, just-don’t-give-a-fuck, meat-nado classics from the Billy and Benny McCrary (look ‘em up, you have a smart phone) of hardcore punk and a memorable album cover guaranteed to pop into your mind every time you take a sharp knife and cut up a nice plump hotdog. Plus, with this re-mastered re-release from Southern Lord/TKO, you get an additional all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of previously unreleased live recordings, circa 1984-1986. So with this double disc version of Kings of Punk you can listen to the very dark sounds of raging drunk-junkie nihilism until the cows come home. There are even freshly-penned liner notes from Mr. Jerry A, detailing the back story to the stomach-slicing photo shoot and including a proud profession that he has not mellowed with age and is, in fact, more pissed off than ever. I’ve watched enough classic WWF to know a thinly veiled challenge when I hear one. By the time this issue of Razorcake hits the streets, cocky rapper DMX should’ve already pounded celebrity killer George Zimmerman into Alpo at the Celebrity Boxing event. I say that next up, as a way of promoting their on-going series of “extra gravy” classic Poison Idea re-releases, Southern Lord should try to orchestrate a Celebrity Nihilist Death Match between Jim Goad and Jerry A. And let’s put in a stipulation allowing X-acto knives. Whaddya say guys? Do it for Pig.  –Aphid Peewit (Southern Lord)

Split: 7” EP
Poison Idea: The original tune here, “Something Better,” is a seething bit of virulence—slow, yet you can feel the power they’re known for coiled up and waiting to unload. Also included is a live recording of them running through the 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” Rösvett: Two thrashers that showcase the power they’re known for—fast, but weighted with more heft and rage than the usual lot who rely on speedy parlor tricks. The cover of P.I.’s “Die on Your Knees” is serviceable, if wholly unnecessary. Good split.  –Jimmy Alvarado (Just 4 Fun, j4f.dk)

Out for a Kill: CD
The fourth LP from this Swiss trio with an across-the-ages sound similar to the U.K.’s Four Letter Word, GBH, and Guitar Gangsters. Well-coordinated, bottom-heavy rhythm section, metal guitar, and raspy, shouted choral vocals move at a decent clip. Catchy and sing-along at times; repetitive at others. Early in their fifteen-plus year career, they oddly added a second V in ivy. –Jessica Thiringer (Colibri/Crazy Love, colibri-records.ch, crazyloverecords.de)

Oblivious: EP
So many reasons to like this record... Poison Planet crank out some blazing hardcore punk that has a rough and burly edge. Elements remind me of Negative FX, such as the vocals, and the straight-forward approach to the music. The guitar has a nice sound and the guy can actually play. I like how the bass is right up in the mix as well. More hardcore bands need to do this! There are some cool intros to the songs, and this stuff is as catchy as it is speedy. Then—something I unfortunately don’t come across too often in today’s punk scene—here’s a band that actually has something of worth to say. Not one song on here is about what the “scene” means to them, or about straight-edge. Instead, they bring up animal rights, staying true to your ideals (as they say, “This is about something much greater than breaking Edge, or ceasing to be vegan/vegetarian. This is about selling out your soul like a fucking coward”), religion, and apathy. Well worth your time and money. –Matt Average (ThirdXParty, thirdxparty.blogspot.com)

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