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Record Reviews

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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)

Sun Damage: 7”
When I was a teenager, though I never fully immersed myself in the K Records and Kill Rock Stars catalogs outside of the obvious stuff like Beat Happening, Bikini Kill, and Bratmobile, I had a few compilation CDs that I loved. This stuff kind reminds me of a lot of those songs: jangly and kind of spacey pop songs with a hard edge. Really cool stuff! Also, did they take their name from the first Bratmobile record? I sure hope they did! –Chris Mason (Puzzle Pieces / Ride The Snake / Feeble Minds)

Got Your Back: LP
Ugh. Fat Wreck skate punk that’s so clinical it comes up pretty much sterile. Probably my distaste for the new breed of bands of this ilk dates me a bit (I mean, does anyone really think that these guys or, like, Rise Against are on par with Hoss, Riches to Rags, etc?). This record just doesn’t have the feel that was present in the bands they so obviously grew up on. Like, the desperation’s gone… or something. –Dave Williams (Fat Wreck)

Nightmare Soda: CD
Sloppy, plodding garage rock with a bit of indie-tinge to make it a wee bit more annoying than the rest of the pack. –Jimmy Alvarado (Get Hip)

One Eyed Scorpion: 7”
This sucker is sexy coming out of the sleeve: sky blue clear vinyl with an almost shockingly contrasting red-orange label. Really nice layout of the cover art as well. “One Eyed Scorpion”is the first track and, after a quick simple guitar intro, I got excited. I heard what made me think of The Observers for a couple of seconds and then came the droning vocals. They lost me that quick. The vocals really took the wind out of my sails as it sucked all of the energy from the music. I’m not a huge fan of synth either. And it happened the same way for remaining three songs, glimmer of hope... lethargic vocals, synth. They definitely have their sound, I am just not in their particular demographic. –Jackie Rusted (Grazer Records, grazerrecords.bigcartel.com)

Opposing Furies: CD
Hardcore punk with occasional rock flourishes. Not good, not bad, not particularly memorable. –Jimmy Alvarado (Rat Town)

Self-titled: 7”
I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but this band really has a Jesus Lizard vibe going on. And, hey, that’s A-okay with me! This four-song 7” features angular guitar riffs and driving drums with snotty shouted vocals that somehow remind me of a cross between David Yow and Chad Malone (from Brother Inferior). Good stuff that’s warranted repeated listens. –Chris Mason (Manhattan Chemical and Electric, manhattanchemicalandelectronic.bigcartel.com)

Quick Guide to Heart Attacks: LP
Coliseum rock…the band, not an arena. Ripping guitar leads and dark, obtuse lyrics. Some screaming (good), some singing (eh….). The songs have enough hook to interest, but may fail to burrow into memory without repeated listening. The production sounds thin at times, which could have delivered the dynamics to make this a slam dunk, but may prevent those repeated listening. Solid effort and a band that I imagine would deliver live. I’d like to put the LP and live pieces of the puzzle together and call myself a fan.  –Matt Seward (Manhattan Chemical And Electronic, manhattanchemicalandelectronic.bigcartel.com)

More than Me: 7”
The title tune is pure strain power pop, rife with the requisite hooks and occasionally jangly guitars. The flip, “Chemical Girl,” is a bit more punky with shades of early Dickies buried in there. Nice little single. –Jimmy Alvarado (Bachelor)

Renovate at All Cost: CD
I think that it must be clear to Todd that I like shtick bands. Hell, I play in a few of them. He had to know that I would most likely appreciate this more than the average reviewer. Well, here’s the rub; I like a good shtick, but not at the sacrifice of having to listen to bad tunes. First, the shtick: Powercup is all about building and home renovation. The songs titles alone had me laughing out loud. “Bob Vila,” “Ballad of the Saw Dust,” “Tim Allan,” Renov8 2 Sk8”... You get the idea. I was looking forward to the hilarious lyrics in the liner notes, but instead I got fuzzed-out crusty, grindy stuff with screechy and growly vocals that I can’t understand. Boooo! Well, I’ll give you the cover of “Bob the Builder” is pretty fuckin’ funny... If you’re a fan of the genre and need a laugh, this will work. –Ty Stranglehold (aphmusic.com)

Split: 10”
The thing about grind is that if you know what you’re doing, you don’t really have to do anything special because if you write catchy riffs and a drummer that can keep time, it will always be good. Thus is the case with both of these bands. The front cover for this record includes six crossed out quarter notes, two smiley faces, four upside-down crosses, skulls, beer, pizza, zombies, and a several general depictions of chaos. The back cover is a picture of a dude putting a power drill to his head. Credits include references to: “Thrashcan Dan,” “Blast Commander,” and “The Mighty Wizard,” and you can play either side at thirty-three or forty-five and it basically sounds the same. You know what you’re getting, and you can never own enough goofy grind records to throw on at parties. –Ian Wise (Give Praise)

It’s Raceday and Your Pussy Is GUT!!!: CD
Swampy, stripped down, and distorted Danish release. Clearly influenced by SCOTS, Supersuckers, Andre Williams, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Flatlanders, garage, Appalachian folk, and honky tonk. There’s even a corrido! Surprisingly good, indeed. However, is “gut” missing an umlaut or am I missing something? –Jessica Thiringer (Crunchy Frog, www.crunchy.dk)

More Practice: 7”
This seven inch starts off with a Chip Hanna-style marching drum beat. It’s almost enough to make you think you’re listening to an old US Bombs record. Then the guitars kick in and you’re in for something completely different. I hear touches of the second Clash album, of Dillinger Four basslines, of punk rock that’s poppy without being Ramones influenced pop punk, of so many influences, really, that it makes the songs very original. Like the first Practice seven inch on Snuffy Smile, More Practice has three amazing songs that make me want ten more. –Sean Carswell (Snuffy Smile)

Fight Back: 7"
My feelings on Japanese punk rock summed up in two words? Woo hoo. Snuffy Smile Records, in particular, is practically flawless, and this is no exception. Practice is along the lines as the Tim Version, with the tunefully chaotic melodies and the tighter-than-fish-pussy instrumental interlock. The vocals sound a lot like their Japanese forebears Screaming Fat Rat, and it may in fact be the same guy. If you can find this record, or any Snuffy Smile release, buy it on sight. –Josh (Snuffy Smile)

Split: 7"
What a perfect idea for a split—to combine a Japanese band with a Swedish one who’re both approaching music in similar ways. Practice wear the Clash influence a bit more obviously, but it doesn’t matter. They come across neither as an extended Clash medley nor do they sound like they’re just rearranging the ashes of long-ago written songs. It’s fun, great stuff. Fourteen songs down, from a slew of 7”s and splits, Smalltown has done no wrong. They make water-tight unpretentious, instantly likeable yet stronger on repeated listens songs. “Fifteen” is an ode to turning off the TV and going for a walk and “Jimmy” is a cover of the neo-mod band, The Purple Hearts. Great stuff that fans of prime Jam and Stiff Little Fingers would sit up and pay immediate attention to. What’s odd about Smalltown is that they don’t come off as a revival band. They’ve studied the past and sheared off the best parts, but have their fingers on a map that’s leading them into places few bands have ever found. I’m not sure how they do it. That’s why I’m all ears. –Todd Taylor (Snuffy Smile)

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