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Razorcake #90
White Murder, both LPs
Treasure Fleet, The Sun Machine LP
Razorcake #89
White Murder, Form Early LP (CLEAR VINYL)

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No Idea Records

Record Reviews

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The Music: CD
The Music is a fitting title for this album, because that’s the only thing driving this band. They’re not in it for a spot on the Warped Tour or a hair gel endorsement contract or anything else. It’s all about the music, and you can hear that love dripping from every chord that they wring out of their instruments. So many bands have done this wrong. So many bands sound like they’re reading from Cliff’s Notes of Classic British Punk without anything resembling conviction or originality. There’s literally not enough room in Razorcake to name all of them, and quite frankly, none of them are worth the teeny-tiny space that their names would take up. Listening to Smalltown makes me realize just how wide the gap is. Last issue, Todd said something to the effect of “listen to Smalltown instead of the new Stiff Little Fingers,” but I think you could probably listen to this instead of old Stiff Little Fingers. Their heads and hearts are in the right place, and lest I forget to mention: they can fucking play. Tracking down every song this band has ever recorded is well worth the import prices that you’ll probably have to pay. –Josh (Deranged/Snuffy Smile)

The First Three Years: CD
I’ve reviewed this previously in bits and pieces from their four 7”s. This CD corrals all of their previous works and adds one new song, “The One.” This Swedish trio has the immaculate knack of polishing up the cues laid down, then abandoned, by Stiff Little Fingers and then reinspected by the likes of pre-Life Won’t Wait Rancid. What you get is ultra-catchy, smart and anthemic songs. To mark them as solely street punk would be too cheap of a branding, although I could understand if they get put under that umbrella. They’ve got tight yet fluid songwriting, the crisp attack and ultra bounce of early Jam, the blood-runs-freely, ringing energy of Cock Sparrer, and the teeth-clenching grit of a largely unknown band making great, rugged punk songs. There’s not a stinker in the dozen. This is a sleeper hit. –todd (Deranged/Snuffy Smile)

Years, Months: 7”
It’s always a gamble to steal from pockets of the dead, especially their songs. And although Stiff Little Fingers aren’t technically dead, Smalltown pull off an original track, “Years, Months” which Jake Burns would give five years of his own life to record. Urgent, catchy, street punk/oi that’s more than a stiff breeze wafting through a field of propped-up corpses. Smalltown are tweaking and reanimating a genre that gets much more lip service than creative sparks, and my ears are happier for it. One of Smalltown’s feet is firmly rooted in tradition, and one foot’s not afraid to kick past idols square in the ass. The b-side “When the Oil Runs Out,” a Newtown Neurotics cover, proves this beyond a doubt. Great stuff.  –todd (Deranged)

Fall into Line: 7"
Some bands have it. Most don't. It. You know, that spark that wakes the monster. That chord that ignites a roar. That phrase that makes you go "shit yeah" and you find yourself yelling happily at your record player for being so good to you today. You dance a little retarded dance. Smalltown's somehow nailed the bright, jangly, slashy guitars of frantic Jam and hooked into a fresh keg tapped with foaming modern oi. (Let the liquid layer and get real pretty in a glass as the bubbles settle, with flashes of the Swingin' Utters when they strut through cool flourishes and grinning mid-pace punk steadiness on top of songs reminiscent of the Dropkick Murphys pride-swelling bar thumpings {before they resorted to songs about fucking fat girls}.) I don't quite get how bands like Smalltown can approach a form of music that's been a dead end for so many before them (admit it, the last couple of Stiff Little Fingers records were such huge stinking logs, they wouldn't even flush), and make it all fierce and bouncy again, like it'd just been born. A trio of Swedes pulled it off. This is excellent.
–todd (Bridge)

Implosion: CD
Razorcake #24’s cover band from Sweden are back with their second full-length. The instantly recognizable departure is the inclusion of more instruments: vibes, handclaps, horns, zigger fish, and accordion. Still in place are Kalle’s melancholic lyrics sung in a smoke-and-exhaustion voice, clean but toothy musicianship, and the overwhelming evidence that these are some down dudes making the music they want to without trapping themselves in previously made boxes. The extra textures aren’t bothering me in the slightest. I celebrate Give ‘Em Enough Rope and London Calling equally. And we’re not talking a huge leap, as, say, from The Jam to the Style Council. Although, technically, I may be wrong since I’m no musician, Implosion is ensnared at mid-pace from the first song to the last. It never explodes—and there a couple of gangbuster opportunities in this album. It never jumps, shouts, skitters and wails, and it never goes completely quiet. So, although I can appreciate the care that went into the songs—like the details on miniature plastic models—I just don’t feel that buzzing impact of The Music or their early 7”s. This record is definitely well made, but as much as it pains me to say, Implosion bores me. I tried. And twenty-five listens in, it’s not taking hold. Man, I feel like a dick. –todd (Deranged)

Read between the Lines: 10"
This may sound weird: It’s sometimes better to forget what got you into a band in the first place, especially when raging fire and uncontained electricity are replaced with a hand-warming smolder and reliable indoor lighting. Critically, it’s unfair for me to return to the head-and-rock space of their first couple of 7”s and lament that that boat’s sailed. Smalltown’s more introspective and musically slower now, with frequent incorporations of reggae, but all in a style that’s immediately recognizable as them. I can’t say that this 10” lit my head on fire like a match, but like really hot water, I’m slowly adjusting, inch by body inch, dipping into Smalltown’s new musical pool. Side A is four originals. Side B has covers of The Strike, The Statues, and Elvis Costello. The packaging on this 10” is gorgeous: die-cut “rising sun” cover and delicious-looking red vinyl. Sneaker hit or just a sleeper? Only time and more spins—which I’m more than willing to give them—will tell. –todd (Pirate's Press)

Square One: 7” EP
Wow, been a helluva long time since I last heard these Swedes. Multiple helpings here of poplicious punk: mid-tempo, hooky, impassioned. Singer’s gruff without being clichéd, melodic without being operatic, while the band keeps things simple but not staid. Buy many, crank loud.  –jimmy (Pirates Press)

Split: 7”
Smalltown: Since I wasn’t out buying punk records when the Clash were active (I was digging Pac Man Fever), I didn’t experience that first-hand jolt between London Calling and Sandinista. It’s amazing to me how many expectations are heaped on bands—bands I like—and if they change in unexpected ways, it’s a reevaluation and the fear that they’ll never be as good as their first stuff. I have faith in Smalltown, so I listened to this several times before making a call. The songs are slower, taking their time, reflecting, with an organ in back. And it’s great stuff, much in line with how the Swingin’ Utters and Filthy Thieving Bastards still remain faithful to their first firecrackers but aren’t picking up the ashes and trying to convince themselves, nor their fans, that those’ll blow up in the same way again. The Crump: I’m now convinced that the Japanese have fully functional time machines and they’re not sharing the technology with us American slobs. The Crump, somehow, take mid-’90s Midwest pop punk and put it right at the feet of the altar of early Elvis Costello. Finger snapping, toe tapping good stuff. –todd (Snuffy Smiles)

“RSVP” b/w “Cutting through Life”: 7” single

I love the mod bands: The Who, The Jam, The Buzzcocks. If you do too, you should check into Smart Boys. This single took me back to some of those bands and their sound: big drums, power chords, and vocals with a shark’s bite. “RSVP” is a great tune, but I really liked the b-side, “Cutting through Life.”

–Guest Contributor (Deranged, derangedrecords.com, derangedyouth@hotmail.com)

Self-titled: EP
The latest bands from ex-members of La Piovra and Ohuzaru. Snotty punk that recalls early Italian punk. The playing is loose yet solid. Hyper paced and all that. Sticks like glue to the formula. The b-side is the strongest, with the songs given more space. The a-side is okay, but the first two songs sound too much alike. This isn’t bad, but it’s one of those records that you won’t remember listening to a couple minutes later. –Matt Average (Sorry State)

Per Proteggere E Servire: LP
I (usually) have a spot-on memory and I knew that I already owned a 7” by this band but, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what they sounded like. That’s not a good sign, for starters. So I dug it out and threw it on as a memory jolter and I quickly remembered why I didn’t pay these guys much mind. You see, Smart Cops has members of L’Amico Di Martucci, Ohuzaru, and La Piovra: all of whom I loved! Starting from L’ADM, all bands succeeded the prior in that exact order and while there wasn’t much progression in their styles, every band just seemed to get better and better. That first Smart Cops EP just sounds too similar to La Piovra and I couldn’t get into it. It’s too bad that this full length wasn’t my introduction to Smart Cops because I would instantly have been all over them. The speed dial has been turned down from full speed ahead to a steady/winning mid-pace. The guitar work is no longer just a buzzing of thrashing riffs: these are some catchy, crafty hooks that demand your full attention. The vocals are much more full of harmony and less raspy and yelled. Dare I say this is a more rockin’ version of L’ADM/La Piovra? In any case, these Italian stallions won me over big time with this record. Now if they could just ditch those cheesy matching costumes. –Juan Espinosa (Sorry State, no address)

Chaos and Lawlessness: 7”
A year ago, one of the first reviews I submitted to the good ol’ Razorcake was Smartbomb’s split with Prevail Within. I pretty much insulted them and compared their lyrics to the Casualties. I’m not sure what they did, but after this release I’m singing a different tune; specifically track five, “Standard Issue.” –Bryan Static (Mightier Than Sword/Slab-O-Wax/Think Fast)

Diamond Heist: CD
I reviewed their last release just two months ago and I must say; this one complements it quite well. It’s an enjoyable experience following a band from their start and watching them grow. This release makes me hope that I’m able to keep watching them until their final moments, which, if this CD is any implication, will be epic. This one has more of a melodic influence then previous releases and the single best moment on the record is the song “Blood and Sand.” Keep it up, guys. –Bryan Static (Think Fast!, www.thinkfastrecords.com)

E=MC Hammer: CD
Smashing Pumpkins play the Dickies. Hey, that’s what it sounded like to me. –jimmy (Opulence, PO Box 2071, Wilmington, NC 28402-2071)

Self-titled: CD
Pretty standard oi/ street punk stuff. It’s far from bad, but there’s nothing really jumping out at me. I think that the problem may lie in the mix on the record. The vocals seem to blend in with the music a bit much to the point where it’s all a little muddy. The girl on the cover is really pretty, though. –ty (Step-1)

The Devil Made Me Do It: CD
Wow, what a difference a few years make. Last thing I heard from these guys was a CDs-worth of boozy, good natured, but ultimately nondescript hardcore. This disc, however, demonstrates a marked improvement light years from that earlier release, with tempos ratcheted way the fuck up, more thoughtful lyrical content, and the introduction of a bit more metal in the geetars. The result recalls the glory days of metallic L.A. punk bands like Bloodcum, Pig Children, and others who managed to toss a lead into the mix without sacrificing the “core” in “hardcore.” Calling this impressive would be an understatement. –jimmy (Six Weeks)

Pissing Beer: CD
Yogi said that one of the guys in the band gave this to him at Al’s Bar recently to, in turn, pass to me to review. Drunken speedcore here from the breweries of East Los Angeles. Pico Rivera to be exact. They chug along, sounding like a sloppy, pissed MDC, singing the praises of drinking, being drunk, anger, assault and battery, and even take nearly a minute to cover GG Allin. Musically, they’ve got the goods, but it’s hard to distinguish them lyrically from the thousands of oi bands that sing the same kinds of things. Hell, Gang Green made a career out of this exact thing 10-20 years ago. In short, I like the songs, but the beer’s getting a little stale. –jimmy (www.kingofdrunk.com)

Volume One: Drug Sounds: CD
I was expecting something really weird here, especially when I tried looking up the label to find more info, only to find a site that makes it look like the whole thing is just a tax write-off or money laundering scheme. The songs have influences ranging from later-era Smiths to some of the mid-to-late ‘90s Epitaph garage/rock’n’roll, in part due to its slick production. However, the whole album is practically repeated in “demo” form, which, to me, sounds like the exact same versions but with a whole ton of gain added so everything sounds distorted and “rough.” I can’t really decide which versions I like better, though it’s probably a better idea to leave the straight-up goofy demos off there. –joe (NMG)

Take This Precious Edge off This Treacherous Ledge: CD
This band lives just over in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, a few miles from where I reside. I’ve never heard of them until now and they remind me of this obscure band from Atlanta back in the ‘90s called Loudflower. Except Loudflower had horns, but weren’t ska, and were actually pretty good. The Smile Brigade is not. It’s fairly generic-sounding coffee house rock music with cheesy backing vocals and nothing exciting to offer. Next time we do the reviews, Todd, I want some of the faster, harder shit, not this wimpy, boring crap. –kurt (Tilton House)

Split: 7”
Smirk: Some bands can pull off the three chord song; this isn’t one of them. Learn how to play before investing in any form of studio recording. Learn how to sing too; between the two vocalists, the lady sounds like a bad Dolly Parton impersonator while the man has a deep, nasally voice (that is not a good thing). They sound terrible solo as it is, but imagine the duo together. Jesus Christ help us all. If that isn’t enough, the second song cuts off before it is even finished. It doesn’t matter if that was done on purpose or not, it sounds awful either way. Best Pals: The lead singer sounds like he has a jawbreaker in his mouth at all times. The only thing he seems to be saying is “a la ba da da da da”. Again with the terrible three chord songs. A ten-year-old could have written better. Honestly people, it’s not 1976 anymore and you are not The Ramones. The second song, “You’re Number One,” sounds like a terrible Descendents cover with an autistic child spitting out unlistenable lyrics. Thumbs down. –Guest Contributor (Broken)

No One Gets Lost Anymore: CD
I enjoy the Weakerthans and Cheap Girls. I don’t really listen to much other contemporary music that would be comparable to either those bands. I’ve just found myself becoming less and less interested in most music that might, for lack of better descriptors, have passed for emo or pop punk over the last ten years or so. And those two bands in particular, in my opinion, have stood head and shoulders above many of their contemporaries. Smith Street Band seems to fall somewhere in between Weakerthans and Cheap Girls and I can’t help but think that this just makes me want to listen to the two that I already have and already like.  –Jeff Proctor (Poison City)

Demo: CD-R
It’s that one local band that can’t figure out how to write a song without using some phrase that was hilariously clever when you were nine years old. (Underwear jokes? Hell yeah!) Of course, I can only really guess what they’re singing about. All I have to judge off is song titles. Now, I’m no genius, but my guess is that “Sticky Panties” isn’t a metaphor for the never-ending class war that plagues our world. One positive thing: hand drawn cover. Thumbs up for that! –Bryan Static (Self-released)

Self-titled: LP
After years and years of reviewing, my expectations are incredibly low. Then an LP like this one comes along! The Smith Westerns play psychedelic power-pop really well. There’s a lot going on with this record—sure, the music of the Soft Boys and the lyrics of John Felice are obvious influences. But what I’m into is the Smith Western’s guitar playing—amateurish Roger McGuinn-style playing pervades—and the production of this LP, which sounds like dynamite on your speakers. On repeated listens, this album only gets better. It’s like a fucking raucous version of the Rain Parade, then shit starts going T-Rex on your ass. One of the most eclectic albums I’ve heard in a long time, with the variation and prowess of the Deadly Snakes at their best. Unless a musical revolution happens—one that makes the Nerves sound like Captain and Tennille—this album will be one of the ten best of 2009. Good lord! –ryan (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)

Rocky Road: CD
This made for a fascinating listen not so much because Smith is talented singer, which he is, as for two other things: 1) so much of the modern reggae I run into these days is of the ragga variety, which seems much more interested these days in being the Jamaican equivalent of gangsta rap or 2 Live Crew than imparting knowledge and consciousness, so it was a bit jarring, not to mention refreshing, to hear some honest-to-goodness roots reggae for a change; 2) he really loves his influences, man—the chorus of opening track, “Tour the World,” is a variation on Black Uhuru’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and the backing track to “Freedom” sounds like it was lifted wholly from Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” In short, this is quite good, but hardly treading uncharted waters. –jimmy (http:/myspace.com/culturetalentagency)

The Coolest Thing about Love: CD
This band is very doo wop. And they are very clear with the album artwork, lyrics, and song titles that they are all about “love.” It’s not hippy music, though, so don’t misunderstand. It’s more like cutesy ‘50s music. It’s kind of adorable to a point of being disgusting. But I like it nonetheless, even though listening to it is the equivalence of me puking in my mouth after the sight of an adorable couple riding a tandem bike. It reminds me a lot of The Magnetic Fields with the types of instruments they use, the tone of voice, and the song pace. I like that about it. –Corinne (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)

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