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· 1:Chris Pepus, In Memoriam
· 2:#366 with Susan de Place
· 3:D4th of July at The Triple Rock on July 4, 2015
· 4:Razorcake #87 Now Available
· 5:Webcomic Wednesdays #133


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Razorcake #87


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Record Reviews

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SMOGTOWN:
domesticviolenceland: CDEP
Smogtown continues to blow me away. They're like surgeons who can cut the cancer that is the suburbs out of us, hold it up and show us what a gross, mutated tumor it really is, then put it back in our body and say, "Think about that." And not just lyrically - though the lyrics are pretty insightful. The music is so rich and textured and rocking that it feels like a tumor growing in your gut. It's disturbingly amazing. This release is just a three song EP, with one song that'll be on their upcoming album and two songs that you can't get anywhere else. It's only seven minutes long, so I have a hard time not listening to it twice in a row every time I play it. And that just makes the tumor grow bigger. –Sean Carswell (Disaster)


SMOGTOWN:
Audiophile: 7"
“Hey, stupid ass, didn’t you review this last issue?” Why, yes, I did. The news is that it’s got a non-lame cover of a giant 45-hole filler instead of the Photoshop’d emboss-filtered dohickey cover that pissed me off last issue and the vinyl’s red. And I just want to remind you that Smogtown’s one of the best bands to never have left California and you should urge them to come to your town. –Todd Taylor (Hostage)


SMOGTOWN:
Tales of Gross Pollution: CD
Yes! I love Smogtown! A Southern California retro explosion! The sort of thing that would not be out of place on the Beach Blvd. compilation (for the record, the greatest comp of all time!). And that’s saying a lot! Totally crazed beach punk ‘80s new wave hardcore insanity! This CD puts together nineteen early recordings – great stuff! But if you haven’t heard ‘em yet, buy this AND their album DomesticViolenceLand. If you don’t like it, you must not like punk! And if you do like ‘em, it’s time to put a gun to your head, ‘cause they just broke up! This is Corn Pops! –Maddy (Disaster)


SMOGTOWN:
Tales of Gross Pollution: CD
You know what? Fuck Smogtown. Do they not know how fucking hard it is to simply FIND a favorite band these days, let alone flat-out adore every release said favorite band manages to release? This has been the case for notoriously picky-ass me, who has not gone more than a few days without listening to something by them since having Beach City Butchers blasted into my ears while taking a trip in the Retoddmobile not long after its release. I even became a “Smog City Waver,” the first time I’ve EVER come close to belonging to anything even remotely resembling a fan club (thanks Todd, by the way). Smogtown was the ultimate statement of “real” Southern California at the turn of the millenium, a final “fuck you” to the limp joke that the ‘90s turned out to be and a rousing “where’s the fucking party, asshole?” welcome to the zero years we currently find ourselves in, a reaffirmation to those of us who’ve been around longer than Green Day has existed that the good shit was still alive and kicking and still not making radio waves. With two albums, a 10-inch and a slew of singles and comp tracks, these guys are responsible for ramming some truly crucial “we just don’t give a fuck” punk rock noise up the ass of an American punk underground that had apparently forgotten that it was supposed to be a threat to the cultural mainstream and not a breeding ground to tomorrow’s boy band heroes. And now they’ve fucked off and broken up. Yeah, they were kind enough to toss us this helping of early demos on their way out the fuckin’ door, and it is some righteous shit, but it just ain’t the same knowing that, aside from a rumored final album due from TKO, this is all there’s gonna be. They’re history now, the fucking bastards, and we are all the worse off for it. In emulation of Money’s sign-off on their obit a couple of issues back, I remain… –Jimmy Alvarado (Disaster)


SMOGTOWN:
Audiophile: 7"EP
The question I find myself presented with is this: How or what makes Smogtown the best at what they do ‑ surf punk? The title track fucking kills and plays along like an air raid siren blasting over a bong‑toking beach party. It's the fun, nervous tension that they capture which is so addictive. I can hear echoes of the past of Orange County punk, but those echoes are distant compared to the absolutely fresh scree Smogtown continues to provide. They even tackle and champion an instrumental on this one: "Blackout in Beach City." As with anything that has Smogtown on the cover, you'll be a better person if you buy it. That all said, the cover blows. Sorry, but it looks like someone just learned computer layout, found the emboss filter and had a 45 spool to play with. My only qualm with the band? Tour, you fuckers, tour and the world will be yours. –Todd Taylor (Hostage)


SMOGTOWN:
Incest & Pestilence: CD
After more than a decade of constantly playing their assorted releases, I think I’m well versed enough with their oeuvre to say with some authority that, by my reckoning, there are two Smogtowns: Compilation Smogtown and Album Smogtown. Album Smogtown (which, for the purposes of this discussion, includes Singles and EP Smogtown ‘cause otherwise we’re just chopping things down into tiny little bits and lose the whole point of discussion), is responsible for some of the best punk/hardcore/whatever to come out of OC over the past decade, doozies of releases like Beach City Butchers, Fuhrers of the New Wave, Domesticviolenceland, and the legendary Smog on 45 EP. Utterly faboo stuff for the listener, but one helluva line of nine-hundred-pound gorillas for Compilation Smogtown to get over, and let’s be honest, if we were talking about damn near any other band, the B-list songs these cats hand off for their compilations would be grade-A contributions. When stacked up against “Bad Vibrations” or “I’m a Jerk,” however, a tune like “I Wanna Fuck My Chick in the Skate Ditch” just doesn’t have a hope in hell. Both Smogtowns make their presences known on the album under discussion and they make for an album that, given the monsters it has to live up against, is uneven by comparison. A number of factors no doubt come into play—this is their first full-length in a good long while, lineup changes resulting in only half the original lineup being involved all the way through, and the fact that it was recorded by their own admission “over a long period of time”—that likely mucked up the process of coming up with enough tunes to satisfy both Smogtowns, so a melding of the two became a necessity here. What all this blathering boils down to is this: While this is by no means a shitty album, the boys have, to their detriment, set the bar pretty goddamned high for themselves. Some truly kickass moments are in abundance here, like “Subdivision End Product,” “If We All Have Guns We Can Melt All the Love,” and the “stray way the fuck off the beaten path” brilliance of “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing,” to name just a few. Peppered here and there, however, are songs that are clearly B-listers, and as a result, this falls just shy of their own standard, making it “good” instead of “mind bogglingly great.” Could I recommend this release? C’mon, dude, this is Smogtown we’re talking about. My adoration remains unchallenged and I have yet to run into a release of theirs that ain’t working miles ahead of their peers, this one included. I just wish they’d left the comp tracks where they belonged and had been content with unleashing another doozy of an LP (albeit it a shorter one) on the unsuspecting public, ‘cause there’s one definitely in evidence here.
–Jimmy Alvarado (Modern Action)


SMOGTOWN:
Incest & Pestilence: CD
This is a hard place for any band to be. 2000’s Fuhrers of the New Wave stands as one of the best punk records in the past ten or so years. It stands—as an album—as one of the definitive monoliths and testaments to the best of California punk rock. No gaps. No hesitations. It’s a conceptual whole, a united front, and an achievement. If all goes well for a band, with age comes depth. Smogtown’s at their best in their exploration behind the cinderblock walls, the gated communities, the sale and the harmful fiction of Orange County “paradise,” the cul-de-sac of suburbia’s “culture” that’s sold as a type of “freedom.” In reality, it’s where teenage animals are made and caged and where they often attack. Songs like “Subdivision Endproduct” are perfect examples of Smogtown continuing to X-ray and debunk these sacredly-held real estate and high capitalism illusions. In Incest and Pestilence, Smogtown branches out in several directions. In “Waste of Breath,” it’s sunny, pop-pleasure tackling organized religion. “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” nods to Saccharine Trust-style horn skronking. In “Let’s String up the New Marketeers,” Smogtown addresses the world outside of their geography: “You can wear their shoes and steal their blues / let them clean up the waste.” But not all of the risks paid off for me. What follows isn’t a “You should never change; Bad Religion yourselves forever.” They aren’t even flat-out disappointments, but elements that are preventing me from unequivocal praise of the record as a whole and the ridiculously high and unfair bar I’ve set for the band. 1.) The song “Fuck My Chick in a Skate Ditch.” You can do better. 2.) The way-too-long sound clip about guns. (Sorta interesting the first listen; annoying every other time.) 3.) The last song on side two ends sounding almost like practice outtakes, then goes into an acoustic jam. The album ends with a whimper, not a cage breaking. Leave the acoustic jams for the compilation tracks. Uneven, yet still very worth picking up.
–Todd Taylor (Modern Action)


SMOGTOWN:
Incest & Pestilence: CD
I had almost given up any hope. It seemed that Führers of the New Wave had gone deep underground in the early ‘00s. Sure, they appeared for a show here or there, but where were the vinyl transmissions? We need our Orders From Headquarters! When I least expected it, there it was. The call to arms that all the Smog City Wavers were waiting for. Word came that our beloved Beach City Butchers were coming back. Not only that, but the new orders would be released courtesy of the hottest label going right now. Anticipation was off the charts! After more than a decade, what was a couple more months, right? It seemed like eternity I tell you! As I wait for my special surf waxed LP, Razorcake HQ took pity on me and hit me with the CD. The time had come. The return of the mighty Smogtown! Let me preface this with an opinion on reviewing a Smogtown record. It is tough when a debut record comes out and is as mind blowing as Führers Of The New Wave was. Everything you do after that is destined to be compared to it. In Smogtown’s case, that’s not really fair. Sure, all the songs on that record are amazing stand-alone tunes, but it’s the way they go together that makes it one of the best California punk rock records ever. That said, the singles, and Domesticviolenceland are also phenomenal! Does Incest & Pestilence fit in? Just fine. The boys come back at us with another twelve blasts of audio turmoil that reveal more tales of the California façade. Behind the sun and glitz, the paint is peeling and the real problems in society are starting so show through. While the rest of the world seems to fall apart around us, Chavez and the boys are still telling it like it is. The creepy saxophone skronk of “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” is new, and somehow fits in. If it’s not apparent already, Smogtown are one of my favorite bands. They came out with both guns blazing and never really got their due last time around. I’m glad to see them sticking to it. SuburbanBeachCity just got dangerous again –Ty Stranglehold (Modern Action)


SMOGTOWN:
Incest & Pestilence: CD
It’s been forever since there’s been a Smogtown full-length, but this one picks right back up where this classic California band left off. Like everything on Modern Action, this is available in many versions, including a highly collectable “surfwax” LP version. Wherever you are as you listen to this, you can feel the OC sun beating down. There’s a regional feel to Smogtown that’s always been one of their most pleasing qualities. That and the kickass music, lyrics, and vocals, of course. There are some instant classics on this album that can stick in your head after just one listen. Who can’t relate to the song, “I Wanna Fuck My Chick in the Skate Ditch,” for example? Incest & Pestilence is a welcome return. –Art Ettinger (Modern Action, modernactionrecords.com)


SMOGTOWN:
Incest & Pestilence: CD
Smogtown will forever be one of those bands I’ll have fond memories of. The best shows I went to at Al’s Bar were Smogtown shows. Especially when Ray was ripped and throwing bottles from the stage at the bartender one weekend night, at one point shouting to her, “You’ll never get laid wearing a hat like that!” Then they released Fuhrers of the New Wave, which is a perfect album and a definite classic of the era. Then they weren’t as active for a long while. Then this comes out. Must admit, it starts off shaky, but then picks up steam and reminds me why I was/am stoked on this band. Their sound is still intact—beach punk that sometimes skirts along hardcore lines (even the vocals). “Penchant for Screwing Up” is my favorite on here. But that’s not all. You get some other good tracks like “If We Have All the Guns...,” “Let’s String up the New Marketeers,” “Subdivision End Product” (nice guitar solo here!), and some more. “Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing” is very different from anything they’ve done before. It actually has more of an early L.A. punk sound, when bands would experiment with their sound, and throw the song in the middle of the album. Here, they throw in a saxophone, mess with the rhythm, and also toss in a piano. Hope they do some more stuff like this again. In fact, I hope they become more of an active band again. –Matt Average (Modern Action, vom.com/radio77/mar.htm)


SMOGTOWN:
Dictoria: 7”EP
Few things are worse than a backseat driver punk. Guilty. Take one: Why the fuck weren’t these two ragers on the last full-length, replacing the too-long sound bite and the acoustic closer? Take two: Hostage Records (after a six year hiatus!) brings out the best of Smogtown once again, on the heels of their first LP in too many years. Smogtown’s strengths are nuclear-radiation, nuclear-power, and nuclear-suburban-decay. Some say that, for better or worse, California is the harbinger of the rest of the United States. (The foreclosure of the American dream, in particular.) Smogtown’s your early disaster warning sirens. Smogtown’s your prophecy that’s coming true. Take heed. Take notes. Stock up on clean water. Ripping single. –Todd Taylor (Hostage)


SMOKE:
Self-titled: CD EP
Stoner rock from LA. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smoke, PO Box 27663, LA, CA 90027-0663)


SMOKE:
Follows Beauty: CD

I thought Iron Butterfly broke up decades ago. Damn, if I was a hippie with a fatty, a six pack, and nothing but time to worry about, this would be blasting the walls of my apartment down.

–Jimmy Alvarado (Kozmik)


SMOKE:
Self-titled: CDEP
Stoner rock from LA. –Jimmy Alvarado (Smoke)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
The Sinking Ship: CD
These guys are like the In-N-Out Burger of punk rock. Their really good, pretty satisfying, and definitely a lot better than a lot of the other stuff out there (I.E. Fall Out Boy = McDonalds, Hatebreed = Carl’s Jr.). The music’s speedy hardcore pop punk with plenty of harmonized vocals to sweeten the deal. In fact, they sound a lot like Rise Against but with a less scream-prone singer. Their topics tend to be both explicitly political and more personal, which strikes a nice balance (sometimes it gets tiring to have to fight the system without a little breather). This is a really good album, but also like In-N-Out Burger, it seems to lack that extra little bit that would make it really special, like a well-crafted burrito from that taco truck on Glencoe Ave. in Marina Del Rey. These guys have gobs of potential though, and I look forward to seeing what they can do live. –Adrian (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
This Sinking Ship: LP
It’s got some very good lyrics and the music is tight, but it’s basically disc two of their last album Above the City. If you were a fan last time around, this LP won’t disappoint. High points include the song “Patty Hearst Syndrome” and the title track. –Bryan Static –Guest Contributor (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
This Sinking Ship: CD
Second album from this band out of Richmond, VA. Continuing on with their melodic obsession and pro production that you get with Fat, I’m really surprised that this band has not been snapped up in a bidding frenzy by the majors. Songs that sound like a cleaner Rise Against mixed with some Anti Flag, they would market well to the melodicore set. The songs are catchy and could easily be recognized as being commercial. They have a knack of finding a melody that makes their music palatable. Added this time around is Dave Atchison the former drummer of From Ashes Rise, to replace their drummer who they parted ways with. Coming from a band like that, it only could be good. He adds a solid punch to the music. With their constant touring, I could only see them gaining an ever-growing fan base. –Donofthedead (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
Above the City: CD
So I had heard that this was Jericho’s first release for Fat but had to change their name because a ‘70s Christian rock band originally had the name. I wonder if it would have been worth it to contact the old band and had a tournament of dodgeball, drunk bowling, and marbles. Winner gets the name. I never heard Jericho’s music before. If I did, I don’t remember. I can’t just make this stuff up. I have to actually listen to this. So the singer sounds like Justin Sane from Anti-Flag. The music sounds like water balloon fight between Rise Against and Hot Water Music. Not a bad combination and a worthy addition to the Fat family. This release will definitely get a few more rotations on the player. –Donofthedead (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
Above the City: CD
There’s a perishability quotient involved with gruff, melodic, socially conscious punk. Many bands have found and explored the hallmarks: the understated poetics of Leatherface, the soaring jet fighters high in the sky guitars of Hot Water Music, the riot of anthems of Strike Anywhere, the hidden complexity presented through mugs of beer of the Tim Version, the playful seriousness of The Grabass Charlestons. There’s actually a pool of bands that stand comfortably in those waters, and although very good, don’t warrant extra spins. At first, I was just okay with Smoke or Fire. The vocals seemed just a hair too processed. Several of the songs blended together. But then I started to realize that the CD wasn’t going out of rotation. And then—here’s when I know a band’s got me, because I listen to so much music on a continual basis—I was humming one of their lines while shampooing in the shower. Ever since the first couple of listens, I’ve taken this CD on trips through three states, it works well both in traffic jams and wide open spaces, and all the little bits that first bothered me have disappeared. They remind me of a mix between Avail and early Explosion: catchy, sincere, and a full body experience (head, chest, and legs are all affected), and that’s pretty darn good for a debut. –Todd Taylor (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
This Sinking Ship: CD
Second full-length from this four-piece. Does it beat the stellar Above the City? It comes pretty fucking close, my friends. Songs about loss, family, pain, and just getting through the day. Solid arrangements backed my actual melodies? This is getting to be a real rarity in punk rock. Play this one over and over again—I doubt you will ever get tired of it. Seriously.  –Sean Koepenick (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
Prehistoric Knife Fight: 7”
Remember those old fast food ads that would go something like, “We take a sizzling beef patty and pile it with crisp, smoky bacon, then drizzle on melted cheddar cheese and add a handful of zingy caramelized onions…?” By the end of the commercial, your mouth is watering because they’re exploiting your hungry, hungry senses that already know and love what a bacon cheeseburger tastes like. Well, I’m going to attempt the same thing with this 7”. “Smoke Or Fire flame broil Richmond by taking driving Hot Water Music punk and throwing in a sweaty former member of Avail. They top it off with high, clear vocals that make you miss those Richmond summer days when it’s so hot that you sweat in the shower.” Does that work? Does it trigger a Pavlovian response? Are you drooling and growing a beard and cutting some Dickies into a pair of Daisy Dudes? One question. Since when is it okay to give a title to a two-song punk 45? Isn’t there some kind of rule about this? Shouldn’t this just be called “Speak Easy b/w Modesty”? Rev. Nørb, where are you when I need you? –CT Terry (Fat, fatwreck.com)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
The Speakeasy: CD
The Speakeasy builds on the strengths of Smoke or Fire’s previous full length The Sinking Ship and tops it by adding the little extra pop that was missing before. The catchy, political discontent starts right away from the lead off track “Integrity” and holds sway with its melodic punk all the way to the closer “Utah.” Actually, there’s one stumble and that’s the acoustic track “Honey I Was Right about the War.” While I understand the song’s sentiment of “I told you so,” it comes off mostly as arrogant. If I was dating the dude, I don’t think I would be changing my politics so much as punching him in the nuts. That aside, the rest of the album really is aces. –Adrian (Fat)


SMOKE OR FIRE:
The Speakeasy: CD
The third full length from this band originally from Richmond finds them exploring new sounds and pushing their songwriting capabilities with spellbinding results. Joe McMahon is asking a lot more questions on this release, and the world does not seem to be providing any answers. “Monsters Among Us” asks, “I’m trying to find a way to understand how people justify how much they take/white collared crimes by well-dressed thieves everyday in the casinos on Wall Street.” “Neon Light” weaves a downtrodden tale of someone looking for redemption on an off night through the bottom of a drink. It’s not pretty, but it works. Politics also weighs in on songs like “1968” and “Honey, I Was Right about the War.” Musically, McMahon’s songs are powered by the one-two punch of Gwomper on bass and Ryan Parrish on drums. Fiery guitar leads from Jeremy Cochran brings it all together on each track. This is a rock and roll record that shows that you can think and burn all at the same time. A must-have for your collection. –Sean Koepenick (Fat)


SMOKEJUMPER / PILLOWFIGHTS, THE:
Split: 7"
Smokejumper: I’m aware they’re a new band, but my best way I can think to describe them is that I saw them in a New Jersey VFW Hall in 1998. They played with a bunch of generally pop punk bands, and played what I assumed was a cover (again, I can’t keep track of all of these covers these days). The Pillowfights: They played the same hall in 2003. A little more of a Jade Tree hardcore sound that veers more towards cutesy than chugga chugga, in the vein of Lifetime, or stretching, the Bouncing Souls. It mildly bothers me that their side seems to end with the “serious” song. It’s a fact that you’re supposed to end on the laugh (unless this is meant as the cliffhanger, in which case shame on me). –Joe Evans III (Silver Sprocket)


SMOOSH:
She Like Electric: CD
This drum and keys sister duo of pre-teens are playing and writing better songs that three quarters of the self-important and “vital” bands out there. The collection of songs on this release is so chock full of fun and creativity that it’s no wonder the band has already played shows with Sleater-Kinney and Death Cab for Cutie. Adorable without being cutesy, light-hearted without being fluffy, and smart without wondering if it was someone else who wrote the songs… Smoosh are deserving of your attention, and not just for novelty’s sake. The only bummer? You probably won’t be seeing them play live until school’s out and they’re on summer vacation. –Kat Jetson (Pattern 25)


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