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Record Reviews

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Automatic Cars: 7”
Odd change-ups keep you on your toes on this single. Positive No’s EP is a release off of Negative Fun’s Singles Club, a label out of North Carolina, in a series with Bad Daddies, Hot Dolphin, Midnight Plus One, and Positive No. The vocals undoubtedly sound like Björk, and even the song title and chorus (“Automatic Cars”) on Side A sounds like an oddball topic that Björk herself might sing about. With a bit of controlled chaos and noise here, a bit of a disco beat drumming there, and a whole lot of bass drumming all over, Positive No creates a unique sound all their own. B-sides “Slumber Sequence” is notably less odd and a bit sweeter. Keep it coming. –Camylle Reynolds (Negative Fun)

Negative Fun Singles Club 2014: 7”
Kinda sounds like some sort of clash between At The Drive-In and Kim Gordon, but no screaming. Goes a variety of different ways but remains cohesive and well executed. Not sure if I’d wanna listen to much more than two songs of this, but that’s all you get here. Despite the name, I don’t think you hafta join any sort of subscription club to get this two-song 7” of art school indie rock.  –Vincent Battilana (Negative Fun)

Glossa: CS
Another Positive No release from Negative Fun, this time on cassette. Everyone has a cassette player in their car, a Walkman, and two tape decks as part of their everyday lives like I do, right? No? All grievances aside, cassettes are easy and cheap to produce, and are by far one of the best DIY tools to get your music out to the masses… or a lucky few. Positive No steps it up to the plate with twelve songs. There is no escaping that the lead vocals sound like Bjork. Coincidence or not, it adds a little quirkiness to their indie, Silversun Pickups punk sound. Positive No is sweet but not syrupy, with simplistic but catchy melodies. Pleasant tunes for these tired ears. Just buy a damn tape player already.  –Camylle Reynolds (Negative Fun)

2008 Hardcore Punk: Cassette
From the state that gave us Negative Approach, Michigan punks Positive Noise compiled all of their up-to-date released output onto one convenient blue cassette. Musically, they’re as fierce as they come. Straight-up hardcore with nods to Youth Of Today and R.A.M.B.O. As far as the lyrical content is concerned, so much of it is nothing you haven’t already heard before: cries for social, political, and communal activism with concern for the betterment of punks and humanity as a whole. Though, after reading their mission statement and liner notes, I couldn’t help but feel being preached to. I eat meat but I don’t necessarily feel that it makes me less of a person. If the band’s members can get past their hang ups about other people’s personal choices I wouldn’t doubt that it would be fun seeing them live, and possibly moshing alongside them. –Juan Espinosa (Otherwise Dead)

Cold and Blind: CD
Some pretty damn good Texas blues and folk stuff on the Swiss label of Lightning Beat Man. Not as blown-out as most of the Voodoo Rhythm output and, in my opinion, this is a good thing. Some bluesy stuff and a real folk feel on some tunes; there is some really pretty stuff in places on this disc. At times, there are even a few tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on one of the Roky Erickson acoustic records. That is about the highest praise I can give. Just a great collection of tunes sung with heart and soul. Check this great songwriter out. –Mike Frame (Voodoo Rhythm)

New Dad in Town: Cassette
This is great! Garage punk that was recorded (I think) on a boombox. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and there are some good fucking songs. Sloppy and dirty and all the things that made mud fun when you were a kid. – –Bryan Static (Super Sick Tape, no address)

So Sick of Your Dependency: CD
You’d almost swear that Chi Pig of SNFU is singing here, but instead it’s a guy named Mark from the Netherlands. The first song is decent; not a bad listen at all. By the time I got halfway through the album, I realized that it’s quite possible that they only recorded one bass and drum track and just play each song on guitar over it. It’s repetitive, yup repetitive. I say repetitive. Hey! Hey! Hey! –Megan Pants (Mad Butcher)

Czarzly: LP
Nice! A re-press of their second LP by this legendary band from Poland. My love for Polish punk with female vocals does lead back to this band. To actually own a copy is a treat. I missed the boat the first time around due to it not being on my radar at time of release. But I did manage to get a download. From what I can tell, there was great care to re-release it with the original artwork for the cover. Not sure about the liner notes though. I have nothing to compare it to. But what is important is the music. It’s one of those few records where you can play from start to finish, flip it over, and listen over and over. It’s charging hardcore punk that does not lose its melody while straying beyond the boundaries of the conventional to add to the originality. Matching the dynamic attack of the vocals is the supreme musicianship of the guitarist. You get an aural experience from the textures and emotions he brings to the songs. Listening to current bands like El Banda, Slowa We Krwi and Eye For An Eye, also from Poland, you can hear how influential this band was. –Donofthedead (Nikt Nic Nie Wie)

Ordinary Miracles: CD
Bands like this make me feel like the owl on those old Tootsie Pop ads. How many tracks ‘til it goes in the trade-in pile? Ah one, ah two, ah didn’t make it that far. –Megan Pants (The Control Group)

Self-titled: 7” EP
Sometimes that overdriven, lo-fi approach to recording is pitch perfect to what a band’s trying to get across, and this is a perfect example. The muddied, blown-out sound complements well the piledriver beats ‘n’ slashing hooks the band’s doling out like some sorta hardcore band trying their best at breaking the Top 40. Not quite as poppy as, say, the Marked Men, but no less intense. –Jimmy Alvarado (Post Teens)

The Heat: 7” EP
Goddamn, this is great! Six tunes of superbly performed mid-paced punk that packs quite a punch from beginning to end. It reminds me so much of the noisier Marked Men jams, but with just enough of their own touch to make their songs shine on their own. These boys be straight outta Gainesville, which means yes on the beards but no on the country/southern influence. Do yourself a favor. –Juan Espinosa (No Idea)

In the Event of Tomorrow: CD
All I could think of is, “Am I listening to the Cure or is this the Birthday Party?” I don’t know. –Donofthedead (Jalisco)

Untitled: CD
One of those bands that sound interesting enough to pay attention when you hear ‘em on the radio but not interesting enough to find out who they are. –Jimmy Alvarado (Ionik)

A Tale of Debauchery: LP
This suuuuuuuucks. Hard. Stupid, generic thrash music played by fat troglodytes with idiotic, purposely offensive lyrics about sluts and drugs that my eighth grade English class students wouldn’t even write. (And those kids are pretty dumb—some of them are ICP fans.) The cover art is pathetic and there’s even an enclosed comic book done in the same style. This is like Gwar, without the costumes and stage show, but if Gwar were severely unfunny. And untalented. And huffed glue to the point of mental retardation. (Umm, wait...) Sometimes they switch it up and add in an acoustic guitar or a “ska” part and sing about weed. Whooo. Seriously, this really wasted an hour of an otherwise beautiful and enjoyable Saturday. To the band’s credit, they admit in their last song that they suck and recommend using the record as a frisbee. Believe I’ll do just that.... –Ryan Horky (PIG, myspace.com/portnowentertainmentgroup)

2011: A Spaced Oddity: CD
Uh oh. You’ve accidentally stumbled into open mic night at the local comedy club. Brace yourself for obvious jokes and expired subject matter. “Why is it that death metal singers sound like Cookie Monster?” “Boy, that Fred Phelps / Sarah Palin / Michelle Bachman / Dick Cheney sure sucks, right?” “Vaginas are cool, huh? Huh? Huh???” If only this laugh-free experience could be set against a backdrop of tepid and generic punk rock. Your wish is Potbelly’s command. –MP Johnson (1332)

Izzy Alcantara: 7"
Hey, did you know Izzy Alcantara is a baseball player in the Red Sox minor league organization who kicked a catcher in the face karate style and then charged the pitchers mound? He was suspended for six games for starting the brawl. I Googled him, so I’m a pervert. I like to Google people. Didn’t find much on Potboiler though, not the band anyway. So I had to actually listen to the record, which totally was an effort on my part. So here’s my convoluted reviewer explanation. “Pop punk that reminds me of defunct North Eastern bands like Mid Carson July, El Secondhand, and Weston. There’s also a hint of Fay Wray in there for the dudes in the South.” I could say, “Mix ‘em all up in a pot, boil it, and you get Potboiler.” But that would just be stupid. But, if you think about it, music reviews are stupid. –Dave Disorder (Salinas)

Rolling Boil: Cassette
A reissue of a 2007 release on Tapes Not Bombs. Imagine early Samiam with some rockabilly-ish licks thrown in here and there and with vocal stylings from the early twenty-first century—a good mix of familiar sounds that comes out sounding new. I know that I’m not doing justice to this with sentences such as the previous, but so be it. All in all, a good record. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Dead Broke)

Nunns & Heroin: 7”
Folk punk doesn’t get any more awesome than this seriously addictive two-piece band from the Midwest. They sound like an angrier Ghost Mice or This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, the latter of which influenced the hilarious title of their previously released demo, This Bike Is a Crack Pipe. Four angry songs are included on this instant classic 7”, including the anthematic “You Fucking Left Me” and “Sinners Unite.” This is easily one of the best acoustic punk records ever. It’s that fucking good. –Art Ettinger (sXe Cat, www.myspace.com/sxecatrecords)

“Can I Really Not Go with You” b/w “Past Due”: 7”
I’ve been a big fan of counting small blessings lately; carrying around things that are precious to me. Most of those precious things can’t be held in my hands. They’re tucked inside. Friendships. Lines from books. Chords from songs. Lyrics. Memories of live shows. These are the inoculations against overwhelming darkness and cynicism. Jeff Burke—the one man behind all of the Potential Johns in the studio, and one quarter of The Marked Men—we’re fortunate to have him on our side of music. It does no one any good to say that he’s a genius, a savior, or a voice of a generation. (Geniuses usually go batshit crazy, saviors get crucified, and voices of a generation have a way of becoming douchebags selling upper class consumables.) But Jeff, undeniably, has a talent of writing and playing songs that are intricate yet simple, punk yet genre-less, personal yet inclusive. Listening to this single spin, and you can almost hear another universe of music opening up. And that’s fuckin’ dazzling. –Todd Taylor (Dirtnap)

Can I Really Not Go with You: 7”
The title track is a brooding piece of minor-chord pop that grinds its hooks into your noggin. The flip, “Past Due,” is also on the slower side, but, again, they just slather on the hooks before launching into the same moody, interconnected guitar playing they used to such great effect on “Only Time” on a prior EP. Given this band’s pedigree, it’s damned hard not to throw in Marked Men comparisons, but while there are definite overlaps in some areas, they do manage to eke out their own unique patch of terra and are quickly finding a soft spot of their own in my blackened little ticker. –Jimmy Alvarado (Dirtnap)

Self-titled: 7"
Here’s the secret. Jeff Burke—many of you may be familiar with him being a vocalist and guitarist in the Marked Men—is a prodigy, a shy, unassuming, and humble guy. And, over the years (these songs are from ‘96 and ‘03), he’s gone into the studio (his own, I believe) and made recordings of his music. He plays every instrument, tracks them, mixes them as an exercise, keeps the tapes, and had no desire to ever release them until Justin of the Chinese Telephones convinced him otherwise. If I didn’t tell you any of that and played the 7”, you’d say, “Todd, fuck you. It’s some Marked Men I haven’t heard yet.” And, in a way, you’d be right because this is one of the many secret backbones to one of the best bands going right now. I suggest you hunt this little guy down. Might as well get the Potential Johns / Chinese Telephones split LP when you’re at it. Just trying to be helpful. –Todd Taylor (Sandwich Man)

Split: LP
Potential Johns: So imagine that one member of The Marked Men—we’ll name him “Jeff”—had an entire studio to himself that was in a back yard. “Jeff” had a lot of time at his disposal. Months. Maybe years. “Jeff” is a musical prodigy. He can play every instrument a normal punk band would play and he sings. “Jeff” records all the bits, tracks them together, and makes recordings for himself. Due to humility, he does it purely for the joy of music. But, those recordings quietly leak out, one visiting band at a time. Unlike a self-indulgent misunderstood “genius,” “Jeff’s” songs are awesome, accessible, complex, but in no way pretentious. Like a slightly different universe Marked Men: if ‘60s AM radio existed in the 2000s, overlaid with the garage grit of The Dirtbombs, you’d have the headspace, but you still wouldn’t be prepared for how good these songs really are. Five songs of complete bliss. Chinese Telephones: Here’s the deal: heroes suck. This is why. All of your musical “heroes” have to have failed somewhere. It’s in human nature to be imperfect (the monkey vs. robot wars. Go monkeys.). And that’s rad because if you get inside of your “heroes’” heads, really deep inside, you can finish what they couldn’t. If you don’t deify them, you realize that they can fail, even musically. They’re human. You’re human. You can pick up the thread they missed and stitch into your own creativity. I have no idea if the Chinese Telephones have any “heroes,” but I do know that they’ve come out of their comfortable pop punk cocoon (formed by the exoskeleton of Screeching Weasel and Midwest pop punk), and are starting to spread their wings. (I know that sounds fruity, but their songs aren’t.) Man, they’re getting great. –Todd Taylor (Cheeky Git)

Dizzy Spells and Garden Talk: CD
From the handclaps to the noisy teenage freak-outs, Long Beach brother and sister duo The Potential Lunatics is fucking adorable. Emma Simons-Araya evokes an angrier, more contentious Bethany Cosentino (BestCoast). She delivers stunning vocals that travel effortlessly from breathy whispers, to angelic singing, to gritty, riot grrrl growls that don’t sound like a toddler having a temper tantrum—sorry Kathleen Hanna. If legend is to be believed, Emma coerced her brother Isaac into drumming, but he seems stoked about it now, choke slamming the rhythm section and backup vocals like a badass sass dragon. The real star of Dizzy Spells and Garden Talk is the youthful freshness of Emma’s witty, socially conscious lyrics. Her brand of feminism doesn’t posture or ask you nicely; it punches you in the throat and then laughs at you for crying.  –Kelley O’Death (Self-released)

Dance to the Potshot Record: CD
This is their fifth full length? Where have I been? Not that I have been the biggest fan of ska lately, but this band from Tokyo plays some fun stuff that reminded me of Screeching Weasel, Beatnik Termites, and a little bit of the Queers if you added some horns. Catchy choruses of bad Engrish mixed with some solid fun. It really brings me back to the ‘90s when I really loved this kind of stuff. I really could dance to this record, but not in public. That would be embarrassing! –Donofthedead (Asian Man)

Dance to the Potshot Record: CD
I found this in my review box with a note saying, “Megan, Japanese ska-punk,” which pretty much wraps it up. I’m not the biggest fan of ska-punk, ska-pop, ska-core, ska-whatever. I like my ska traditional with very few exceptions. That said, this is okay. The vocals are on the nasal side and none of it makes me want to dance to this record. –Megan Pants (Asian Man)

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