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Razorcake #92
Spokenest, Gone, Gone, Gone LP
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Record Reviews

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“Act Like It” b/w “Little Bit of Hatred”: 7”
Let me say this: on the strength of hearing these two songs (less than four minutes of combined music) I was driven to seek out and purchase much of Plow United’s back catalog. That’s some songwriting, okay? That’s how good they are. And a testament to how lucky us reviewers are sometimes. The A-side’s a cut from their new album, Marching Band, with the flip exclusive to this record. Both songs are stupidly catchy and skull-deep in a soaring, dark, and anthemic quality that manages to become redemptive by their sheer awesomeness; the fact that they do it twice, and do it so effortlessly, and do it when their last record came out fifteen years ago, well, I’m impressed. You know those singing Christmas cards? You open em up and they play a little tune? I wish this issue of Razorcake was like that: “Little Bit of Hatred” would start playing whenever you opened up the pages. If you can’t guess, this one’s recommended. –keith (Kiss Of Death)

Goodnight Sellout!: LP
Plow United’s Marching Band is one of my favorite records of the last few years. It’s exuberant, smart, hopeful, sarcastic, and catchy as living shit and they make that shit look ridiculously easy and, yeah, you should consider getting it if you don’t already. Goodnight Sellout!, their sophomore record from 1996, has gotten the reissue treatment from Dead Broke. 1996 was a crazy time for punk in general and pop punk specifically, and this LP was, according to the band, written as a way to distinctly try something new. To step out of the confines of the pop punk genre. Test themselves. It’s a frantic, almost hardcore-sounding record at times, with a lot of textures and varying parts. There are a lot of chances being taken here and, no, they don’t always succeed. Mostly, I feel like it’s a collection of songs that are slippery, disjointed, and hard to get a handle on. (Hell, that may have even been intentional.) As a document of an era and product of a particular scene, it’s probably a pretty integral record to folks who were there. But as someone who’s hearing Goodnight Sellout! for the first time, without that historical context, I can’t help but feel that the band’s continuing to get better and better, that their best work may be before them, and that I can’t wait to hear what they do next.  –keith (Dead Broke)

Self-titled: LP
This is a loving reissue of Plow United’s 1994 debut LP. I can understand why this was a formative record for a lot of people who heard it when it first came out —it’s personal, fun, fast as shit, and indicative of the great stuff they would go on to do later. That said, I think their best work was years in the future—their most recent full length, Marching Band, was phenomenal. This? This is just okay. Quick, endearingly awkward pop punk songs that rely less on melody and more on a stuttering, veering kind of song structuring, frequent blitzkrieg lyrical passages, vocal interplay, and the occasional stroke of musical brilliance. I don’t think it’s held up amazingly well twenty years later, but it’s irrefutably better than the shit I was making in 1994, so there’s that.  –keith (It’s Alive)

Move b/w Mindless Contentment, Let Go: 7"
Hell yeah. The band that often got mistaken for being from East LA because they were Mexican and played LA all the time (they were from Hollywood), The Plugz were part of the very first wave of Southern California punk rock – full of desperation, sharp pain, and great songwriting. Fuck, it’s just such good music that’s the obvious bridge between straight-ahead, no bullshit Chuck Berry rock’n’roll and where early Los Lobos launched from, soaked in the same type of infectious swagger and rockabilly dance that The Gears and The Zeros would embrace and tackle in tandem to The Plugz. So, when Xene says X were the first and only band in the world to operate in a void by plugging the patchchords of punk, rockabilly, and poetry together, you may hold this seven inch aloft and say, “Nay. History is here, in these grooves, pressed in 1978. Although you may control the museums, this piece of vinyl contradicts thee.” This is another “fanclub release” (with the matrix number scratched off from the acetate, no less), but I don’t think this 7” has been available for years and years besides on eBay, so it’s well worth the hunt. Hell yeah. –todd (it’s a bootleg, smartypants)

Whatevers Forever: CD
Well this grabbed me right off the start. Fast-paced, kinda punky indie rock with a male vocalist with an almost cartoony kind of voice and a female vocalist with the sweetest layered tones this side of vintage Kim Deal. That first song really smacks you around a bit. In a good way. I guess the part that sucks about that is that the rest of the disc is left trying to pick up the pieces. Sometimes it’s beautiful pop, sometimes off kilter pseudo hardcore. The band starts to lose the identity that is very clearly defined by that opening track. Having said that, I really like a lot of the songs on here, but, as a whole, it’s not flowing together. I’d give them another listen for sure. –ty (Good Time Gang, myspace.com/goodtimegangrecordings)

The Plurals Today, The Plurals Tomorrow: A Futurospective: CD
Certain artists pull you in. Hearing them makes you say, “I could do that. I should do that!” The Ramones. The Minutemen. (Shit, The Minutemen said it from the damned stage! Watt still ends concerts by tellin’ folks to “start their own band, paint their own picture, etc…”). The Plurals belong in this company. Seeing them live is revelatory. They’re one of the few groups today whose influences aren’t merely contemporary, yet they don’t fall into some retro trap either (the days of them being some ‘90s knock-off are, like, over, man). They simply play rock music, styles and conventions and trends be damned. Futurospective is the record I’ve been waiting for them to make, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s their Zen Arcade, their Double Nickels. The record where they truly put to disc what we’ve always seen them do live. The record that, if there were any justice in the world (or if people still liked rock and roll anyways) some schmuck would be writing a book about twenty years from now. When you have a band that is this goddamned rockin’, it’s just undeniable. These guys and gal play like their life depended on it. It does. They reach new heights of musical interplay (there’s a phrase usually reserved for Rush reviews, eh?) without sacrificing one ounce of face-blowing-off power or catchiness (and this is easily the catchiest The Plurals have ever been). I’d list song titles or whatever people expect reviewers to do, but everything on this record is so all-fired great I’d have to talk about every damned one of them. (Nobody’s paying me by the word here!) I will say that “Happy Songs” is probably the best Plurals song ever written and that the moment where Nick says “Guitar!” like he’s going to introduce some rockin’ guitar solo, but Tommy just comes in with some palm muting and ends the song is a wonderful bit of probably unintentional humor. (The kind that makes me write run-on sentences, apparently.) Futurospective is the past and the future all in one place, with a voice that is undeniably their own. No hype, no bandwagon-jumping, no bullshit. Album of the year, hands down. –Ryan Horky (Good Time Gang, gtgrecords.net)

An Onion Tied to My Belt: CD
Nich, Hattie, and Tommy make up The Plurals, bringing really good songwriting and tight musicianship from Lansing, Michigan. They immediately remind me of another Midwest band, The Replacements. The back of the CD announces, “For fans of Hüsker Dü, Pixies, Dinosaur Jr.” Like all those bands, there is no compelling need here to be any genre, any thing, any level of cool. This is just sonic pleasure with a teaspoon of dry, center-of-the-country sense of humor thrown in. Standout track: “Fine.”  –John Mule (Diet Pop, dietpoprecords.com, GTG, gtgrecords.net)

Split: 7”
Okay guys, seriously: how cute are The Plurals? I hate to say it for fear of sounding condescending, but for real. There’s something about their seamless blending of fuzzy, frenetic riffs and warp speed drum fills with their inexplicable wide-eyed twinkly-ness that is impossible to resist. “How About the Weather” and “Clouds” call to mind words that seem pejorative—haphazard, hasty, helter-skelter—but in the capable hands of The Plurals, these qualities are gifts, tempering the band’s confidence and talent just enough to make these tracks seem warmly honest. Camping out on the B side are Black Sparrow Press’s “Adult Braces” and “Lady, I Love You,” two equally adorable tracks that are appropriate bedfellows for side A’s compositions. The juxtaposition between the music’s unlikely-animal-friendship levels of delight and drummer Danny Andrew’s gruff vocals ensures Black Sparrow Press’ sound stays sweet without ever becoming cloying. –Kelley O’Death (GTG, gtgrecords@gmail.com, gtgrecords.net / Something Dancey, facebook.com/somethingdancey / Minor Bird, minorbirdrecords.blogspot.com)

It’s a Calling: CD
Goddamn the Plus Ones. I hate most pop music these days, but the same thing happens every time I hear one of their friggin’ releases: just as I’m about to dismiss it as the pile of pop pap it is, they throw in that one song that just puts a wrench into the whole thing and I gotta go back to square one and reevaluate the whole damned release again. This release is no different. The song in question is “Serve in Heaven/Rule in Hell,” a nearly flawless piece of Teenage Fanclub-esque punked-out pop with a seriously infectious hook. Before that song made its appearance, I was pretty icked out by the whole affair. Now I’ve gone back and, lo and behold, I’m hearing all kindsa weird shit buried under those guitars, including echoes of the Who, the Jam and, of all things, the friggin’ Vapors. Now I gotta keep this damned thing ’cause I found I actually like more than three quarters of the songs on it. I hate when that happens. Goddamn the Plus Ones. Who the hell are they to make a pop album that doesn’t blow sheep? Cheeky bastards. –jimmy (Asian Man)

Split: CDEP
Plus Ones: The songs aren’t as immediately catchy as their first disc, but are pleasant enough as pop goes. The third song, “You’ve Been Had,” was by far the best. Travoltas: Yet another post-Queers pop punk band to fill up space on the music racks. They’re good at what they do, but there’s already literally millions of others already strip mining this plot on the punk rock landscape. Give it a rest, already. –jimmy (Asian Man)

Drag en Tejp Runt Mina Lår: 7” EP
Here you get a drummer aiming for the tribal end of the spectrum; a bassist embedding simple, repetitive riffs straight into yer cranium; a guitarist who loves his drone; another guitarist who sounds like he’s running through three distortion boxes and has a cord that keeps shorting out at inopportune times; and a Swedish cat who actually tries to sing over the top of the ensuing chaos. Hardcore, noise, art-punk, whatever hole you wanna cram it into, this is definitely worth extended listening sessions. –jimmy (Gaphals, gaphals.se)

Self-Titled: 7"
Very Ramonesy, but done really well. The thing that confuses me is that, although they appear to be in their late twenties, they’re singing about being rejected at the high school dance. Maybe they do things differently in France, or maybe they need to let something go. –megan (High School Reject)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Thuddy garage punk, very Loli and the Chones/Rip Off Records. Songs are approximately twice the length they need to be, but this’ll do the trick in a pinch. –jimmy (High School Refuse)

Automatic Pistol: 7"EP
If you were wondering whether there are any French bands that strike a garagey midpoint between Les Hatepinks and the Four Slicks, there are, and these are they. I would jump around some, but my boss called and told me i have to work early tomorrow, so when this record is done i’m just going to go to bed. Maybe i’ll jump around some tomorrow. BEST SONG: “Computer Girl,” because no native English speaker could pronounce “computer” that way, even if they tried, which i did. BEST SONG TITLE: “Automatic Pistol.” Actually, that’s really stupid. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: I had pneumonia when i was four. –norb (Frantic City)

Still Lurkin’: 10”
The Pneumonias—France’s awesome response to The Spider Babies—celebrated their ten-year anniversary by recording ten songs for a 10”. Obsessed with American culture, violence, and fun, this is the sort of record that’s only polarizing in a room full of people who hate fun. There’s a delightful viciousness to the vocals, as if you might get hurt if you turn the volume up, down, or go anywhere near your receiver. Recorded right at the beginning of the year to ensure proper 2014 anniversary delivery, this is as kick-ass as anything else I’ve heard from The Pneumonias. This record will be lurking near my turntable for a long, long time.  –Art Ettinger (Frantic City)

Discrete and Powerful: CD-R
This is straightforward grunge-style barroom rock that’s musically similar to Thelonious Monster, Dinosaur Jr., Meat Puppets, and early Soul Asylum. Although the vocals are just a tad too slurred, whiny, and annoying for my inebriated tastes, the tight instrumental interplay is perfectly created with the utmost of talent and finesse. And even though a couple of the well-versed songs on here suffer from watered-down sluggishness, this is still a fairly unique aural offering that will assuredly receive a decent amount of attentive affection from my ears. The Pocket Rockets just might be on their way to a higher plateau of sonic splendor in the very near future, so be on the look-out, folks. –Roger Moser, Jr. –Guest Contributor (Independent)

Police Story: 7"
I think, logically, this is what my old band would have sounded like if they kept me on vocals. Hell, even the pictures remind me of my stupid freshman haircut. My only conclusion is that this band is from an alternate universe where I still like street punk. I didn’t realize street punk was getting into quantum physics. Just to be clear, if a street punk band were to start singing about science, it would be metric buttloads better than this 7”. –Bryan Static (Loud Punk)

Self-titled: 7”EP
Point Blank’s self-titled 7” is hardcore done right. You’d expect nothing less from Danny D., a founding member of Underdog who plays bass, and Ken “KWE” Wagner, a scene legend in his own right who rocks the mic. The opener “No More” was a fast one, setting the tone for most of the record. Point Blank’s namesake anthem was a slower jam certain to inspire epic singalongs and pile-ons when played live, and it was one of my favorite tracks. Lyrically, the band tackles issues both personal and political. I was particularly a fan of the positive messages in the tracks “Live for You” and “Well Defined.” They were a nice juxtaposition to the violent imagery in the band’s name, logo, and interspersed in their other lyrics. These negative images didn’t detract from my appreciation of the band. On the contrary, this record was one of my favorite discoveries of 2015. If you’re a fan of Underdog, or classic NYHC in general, you need to check this out. –Paul J. Comeau (Not Like You, pointblanknyhc@hotmail.com)

Heart to Elk: CD
How this came to Razorcake, I’m not sure. This sounds very coffee shop to me. I mean that it’s something that one of your local baristas would probably enjoy, but it’s not anything that would scare off the morning rush who are there only to get their coffee (or whatever) on the way to the office. It’s kinda drone-y and ambient indie rock while not forgetting to have some aim at pop. Nothing on here gets out of control, but nothing gets too accessible, either. –Vincent Battilana (Self-released)

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 (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 (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 (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 (La-Ti-Da)

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