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Razorcake #81
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Nights and Days in a Dark Carnival by Craven Rock
Chantey Hook, Underground 7" *Limited Color Vinyl

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No Idea Records

Record Reviews

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Who Cares?: 7"
Another bootleg, this one featuring a couple of Mutants lending their respective talents to Mr. Tate. The guitar has a really cool, early Saints sound to it, hollow-sounding but really raw and fuzzed out at the same time. It’s pretty unmemorable. I never would have guessed that the demand for this record was so great that a bootleg would be necessary. –Josh (no label)

Rookie: Cassette
While I usually despise most things that fall under the moniker “power pop,” I found every song on this four-song cassette quite catchy. So Adult have a very rock’n’roll sound to them that fuses with their pop sensibilities, creating memorable hooks sure to get imbedded in your brain. Great vocals and solid production for a self-released effort make this is a must-have for anyone into the genre. The limited edition cassette comes with a digital download. –Paul J. Comeau (So Adult, myspace.com/soadultnow)

Self-titled: LP
So Cow is a one-man lo-fi indie pop act from Ireland. This record was recorded over the course of three years and is more a collection than an album. The variety of sounds—including Casios and weird noises, along with the tape hiss and varying fidelities on different songs—keep things from getting samey. The songs are smartly written and lyrical, with a bit of an Elvis Costello flair. I’ll definitely play this a few more times. It’s a breath of fresh air for people who have been known to take sweaters and tea over hoodies and coffee, but still think that some of the current twee revival bands are too tight-butt and affected. –CT Terry (Tic Tac Totally)

Meaningless Friendly: LP
I got the mail-order version of this record as soon as I saw that it was available, which differs from this version I got for review by adding a bonus 7”. I got it based on the strength of the first LP on Tic Tac Totally, a collection of some of the one-man band from Ireland’s output. The first time I heard So Cow’s punky, happy-yet-melancholy, jangly rock’n’roll songs, I immediately swooned. Meaningless is more of a continuation than a progression, but it is a slight progression. The songs seem more centered and focused with less variation, which isn’t terribly surprising given that the previous LP was a collection of sorts. Lyrically, So Cow centers on common disappointments that seem unavoidable as one grows older with youthful hopes diminishing and adult fears growing larger. This LP is a damn fine follow up, and I recommend it just as much as the rest of the So Cow catalog. As I said above, I purchased the mail-order edition with the bonus three-song 7”. I wouldn’t mention it, but the A-side, “Ain’t No Fun,” should have been a proper album track. It’s definitely one of my favorite So Cow tracks. Midheaven is handling TTT’s mail-order now, so I’d get over to their site ASAP to grab the LP + 7” (as well as any other So Cow you ain’t got your grubby paws on yet). –Vincent Battilana (Tic Tac Totally)

GMT: 7”
It was love at first listen for me with Brian Kelly’s So Cow. This four-song 7”, GMT, made me realize the extent of Mr. Kelly’s pop genius, or at least my willingness to make hyperbolic declarations in his favor. I’ve been a sucker for So Cow for a few years now, but this release is a bit different than some of the other output. The songs themselves are still jangly, punk-edged up pop, but the recording of these is of a lower fidelity than I have become accustomed to. But, you see, it’s that potential detraction that made me realize my appreciation for So Cow is on the level of that for Boyracer; even when the recording is shit, the intent is brilliant enough to shine through. I hope this guy doesn’t quit anytime soon. –Vincent Battilana (Ride The Snake, ridethesnakerecords.com)

Out of Season: Split 12”
Two contemporary Irish bands. So Cow: Prejudices. I have them. I like my pop to be ragged or at least crafted by people who don’t sound rich. (It’s called a prejudice because it doesn’t bear scrutiny. Yup. Fuck you, Richie Rich.) Pristine, bourgeois pop is like flipping through an Ikea catalog: plastic veneer on pulp in a world that never needs dusting; a world where “the help will take care of the mess.” My first impulse is to kick and smash right through the particleboard. So Cow are pop as all hell, but they treat their songs like nice pieces of real wood. They carefully cut like craftsman, showing both great finesse and are interested in displaying the unique character of the sourced material. I have a feeling that fans of XTC, Go Metric, and the Clean would find a lot to like in their five songs. Squarehead: We’re dealing with two sides of the same coin with these two bands. Tons of natural sunshine and shimmer. They bring to mind a section of Memphis’s Alicja Trout’s oeuvre to mind: Mouserocket and Alicja Pop, in particular. Appealing, bubbling-up pop that’s got just the right amounts of tang, sour, and non-chemical sweetness to balance it all out. All-around enjoyable. –Todd Taylor (Inflated)

self-titled: 7"
It was a shitty time when the Selby Tigers called it a day in the Spring of 2002. They were one of the first two bands I interviewed for Razorcake and were equal parts rock’n’roll showmanship, sweat and shake new wave, all wrapped in a world of fireworks. My hesitation to plop this 7”er down was unwarranted. There are definitely remnants of the Selby sound from the weird but kept-in-check guitaring and the pound the sky drums. But the most obvious overlap is Arzu’s voice, still strong and resonant. These four songs are definitely not throwbacks or rip offs. If anything, So Fox is more of a constant straight-ahead push forward than the Selbys. The first, “Teen Beat,” is my favorite. Effects and intricacies are replaced by a more sleeves-rolled-up, non-ass rock’n’rolling. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes…  –Todd Taylor (Nice and Neat)

Tremulous Quavers: LP
So Pastel plays it heavy, somewhere in the middle of Jesus Lizard and Hoover. Twenty years ago, this was called post-hardcore. Maybe it still is. The songs have a complicated feel to them and never really flow. A lot of stop-go parts and time changes—which never allow the songs to take off or burn themselves into your memory. I do like the way the bass sounds, and how much presence it has in the mix. Other than that, everything gets tedious after a while and nothing about this warrants repeated listens. –Matt Average (So Pastel)

Self-titled: LP
Some more indie kids trying on the rock’n’roll hat, complete with cheesy ‘80s song cover. Comes off like a slightly more rocking OMD, if that sounds like your cuppa. –Mike Frame (Antifiesta)

In the Key of Whiskey: CD-R
They’ve aptly written the review for me. In “This Song Is Definitely Not About Vampires,” they have the lyric, “my songs are poor excuses for all the music I adore.” Against Me! is a pretty safe guess for one of the bands they adore. Although SST is a lot faster, there’s a definite resemblance to their statemates there (This is also recorded by Rob McGregor, who has recorded AM!). There’s nothing bad about this in and of itself, but it leaves me wondering what they’ll be like once they develop their own sound that isn’t derivative of those who they admire. I’ll look for it. –Megan Pants (self-released)

“Volunteered” Civility & Professionalism: CD
A current Dischord employee teamed up with a former Dischord employee to record some tunes on four- and eight-track machines. The feeling is that of a four-track demo for a band who is still finding itself. It’s slightly amusing but quite often veers off into artsy yawn land. –Mr. Z (Dischord)

Expiration Date: 7” EP
Another entry into the “influenced, but not shackled by the 80s” niche of the current hardcore scene here. The tunes are zippy yet not ridiculously fast, angry yet catchy, and reverent yet timely. Fans of bands like Career Suicide or Direct Control will find this to their tastes. –Jimmy Alvarado (Side Two)

Social Combat:
Mail from Hell: CD
Spanish street punk band that covers Johnny Cash’s “Country Boy” and Rose Tattoo’s “Nice Boys Don’t Play R’n’R”—their hearts are in the right place. By-the-numbers stuff here. No complaints if you dig this genre. –greg (Step-1)

The World Against Us: CD
The eastside backyard scene has long been fertile ground from which numerous bands have spawned, made their noise of choice, and either withered on the vine or moved on to the greater music club scene. Just shy of their two-decade mark, Social Conflict are one of the backyards’ elder statesmen still keeping a foot in the old stomping grounds—no strangers to club dates yet still not above gracing the odd backyard gig—and the scene’s influence on the band is all over their latest release. What sets them apart from the pack, and quite frankly has set them apart almost since their inception, is their desire to push against the popular oom-PAH-oom-PAH thrash and post-post-post-quasi-”street punk” lyricism considered de rigueur amongst too many generations of local punk/hardcore bands. By occasionally lacing their frenetic rhythms with shards of psychedelia, utilizing the odd clean channel guitar and working with lyrics that address horrors both imagined and all too real with a bit more poeticism, they create a sound that is firmly rooted in the hardcore template, but isn’t afraid to branch out and—HORRORS!—show some creativity and originality. In addition to recording the basic tracks here, former Screamer Paul Roessler lends some keyboard work to an ace cover of his old band’s “122 Hours of Fear,” adding a nice bow on top of an already choice release. Play loud, play often, and play for pals. –Jimmy Alvarado (Innocence Lost)

Sex, Love and Rock'n'Roll: CD
I approached the new Social D album hesitantly, as if it were a historical lover returning to town. Turning the album over in my hands, I ruminated. What was it like last time we met? Should I bother calling? Would it be the same? Would I feel that old familiar flame? I’d heard he’d been successful, become iconic, reached all his worldly goals. News of his return had reached fever pitch across town. Had it gone to his head? The artwork and the titles are so quintessentially the “new RAB revolution.” I scoffed and rolled my eyes. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was the one who had changed. I set it aside, disaffected. He had gone soft, an old pander. Pangs of guilt plagued me. My anger surprised me. For over fifteen years, that voice, those lyrics, and that guitar had been the only thing that could rid me of life’s little aches and pains. About a week after dismissing the album, I fell on some hard times and reached for my cure-all—I put that album back on, turned it up and was sustained. All is as it was and as it should be. Don’t mistake the painfully optimistic song titles (“Reach for the Sky,” “Live Before You Die,” “I Wasn’t Born to Follow”) for glibness—Ness has traded his anger, remorse, spite, hate, self-loathing and pain for insightful satisfaction, stability and self-acceptance. Some things have happened in his heart, mind and soul since the band’s last studio release in 1997. Musically and lyrically, it sounds just like Social Distortion should—merely humbled and faithful instead of reckless and dejected or full of self-pity. One of many examples: “I triumphed in the face of adversity and I became a man I never thought I’d be. And now the greatest challenge is this thing called love, I guess I’m not as tough as I thought I was.” In my mind, I’ve been asking him to marry me since I was thirteen... I wonder if he’d accept now that we’re both grown-ups? –Jessica Thiringer (Time Bomb)

Sex, Love, & Rock n Roll: CD
If you asked me fifteen years ago if I thought that Mike Ness would still be blasting it out with Social Distortion, I’d say you were crazy. No, I would have told you that he would more likely be locked up or in the ground. Good thing I’d have been wrong. 1997’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash was a turning point for the band. It finally found a balance for Ness’s need to amalgamate the dirty, evil aspects of country music with the energy of punk rock. It started with Prison Bound and has been perfected with Sex, Love & Rock n Roll. The album has everything that a Social Distortion fan could possibly want. Hot, angst ridden punk blasts. Slow, drawn out angst ridden rockers… well, there’s a lot of angst all around. The tunes here manage to pull you down to the deepest despair and elevate you with an amazing sense of hope almost simultaneously. I know I can tell a good record when I get a chill down my spine when I listen to it. This record just might be the best rock’n’roll record of the year. –Ty Stranglehold (Time Bomb)

Sex, Love, and Rock n'Roll: CD
Here is a release and a band that really needs no review; a band that has managed to survive the hardships of drugs, death, and turnover in their twenty-plus year history. Me, being the music geek that I am, ran out the day it came out to make sure I got it on sale. Retail CD prices are ridiculous! After a few days of listening to it non-stop, I got a call from one of my longtime friends from Canada. As usual, we shot the shit and start discussing the album. First is favorite song. I said my choice was “Winners and Losers,” his being “Highway 101.” Then we discussed place of importance amongst the band’s discography. We both agreed that SD will always be remembered for the Mommy’s Little Monster LP, so he said that this up there or even better than Prison Bound. I have to agree. My only complaint on this release is that it’s too damn short. Only ten songs. I thought I read somewhere that they had recorded over thirty songs. The last record came out in 1996 and I expected more songs. But the chaotic life of a musician might make it real hard for them to get themselves back in the studio. This way, they have two more releases in the bag. If the other songs are as good as these, we are in for a treat in the future. –Donofthedead (Time Bomb)

Weight of the World: LP
This is the second album by a rising German band that is heavily influenced by popular stateside groups. The production runs on the overly slick side, but the songs carry themselves fairly nicely. There’s nothing special here, but then again, there’s nothing special about Pennywise either. Yet I can’t deny digging Pennywise. Bland, but in a respectable way, Social Distrust is spreading American monotony to Europe. I kind of like that fact, in an ass backwards sort of way. –Art Ettinger (Wanda, wandarecords.de)

Sound Formula: CD
Very mid-to-late ‘80s sounding east coast hardcore with squeaky-clean production. I initially didn’t think too much about this release, but it kinda grew on me after two or three songs. I liked the fact that they tackle political topics instead of the standard youth crew/straight and alert stuff that seems to go hand-in-hand with this sound. Not bad. –Jimmy Alvarado (Radical, 77 Bleecker Street #C2-21, New York, NY 10012)

Destination Nowhere: CD
Really good political punk rock. You know, the old kind with mohawks and leather jackets. Great male and female vocals offset each other nicely. This disc does a great job of staying urgent without sounding cliché. The message isn’t old if nothing ever changes. I like this.  –Ty Stranglehold (Dead Lamb)

1979 Studio Recordings: 7” EP
As has been noted in numerous books, periodicals, and other sources, the influx of kids from the suburbs and beaches of Southern California into the punk scene created a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, most of the new kids were considerably more aggressive and, in some cases, downright sociopathic compared to the more laidback, arty attitude of Hollywood’s punks. Thing is, along with all the aggro, the music these kids were dishing up in their bands gave the scene a much-needed shot of creativity and intensity, and soon the old guard was being overrun by bands like Black Flag, the Slashers, China White, The Blades, Non-Fascists, The Outsiders, the Screwz and others who laid the foundation, good or ill, for hardcore, modern pop punk, and the now stereotypical Southern California punk sound. Social Task was one of these early bands, comprised of former members of the Slashers, The Idols, Non-Fascists, and China White. The five tunes on the first side of this EP, recorded in 1979 and summarily forgotten about until a few years ago, deftly showcase all the hoopla surrounding those early beach bands. While spare on technical finesse and more straightforward than Hollywood’s artier punk bands, the tunes are chock full of interesting chord progressions and ramped up with the same level of intensity that made bands like the Bags and the Germs such a hoot. Side B here presents four more tunes from 2007 with most of the lineup remaining intact, and it appears that age has not mellowed them one whit. Last I checked, they’re still out and about, playing gigs all over Southern California, so definitely make a point to check ‘em out and, by all means, pick this up before you later end up kicking yourself repeatedly in the ass while paying outrageous amounts for it on Ebay. –Jimmy Alvarado (Artifix)

Self-titled: CD-R
This band is chunky metal/ hardcore from Huntsville, AL. Every song is about two minutes or less and they recorded the whole thing in five hours. You can tell that in the quality, too. The sound is kind of muffled, but if you dig ‘80s hardcore and think there needs to be more in 2007, never fear. Oh yeah, they released this on tape, too! If all these pissed-off kids could just get organized, maybe this country could have the revolution we all want. –Buttertooth (socialtreason@hotmail.com)

Self-titled: CD
Songs short and straight to the point. Using the formula of fast and slow, they mix metal riffs with mid tempo punk blasts. The punk parts remind me of bands that would have appeared on Mystic Records. The band Don’t No comes to mind. If you had told me this band and recording came from the mid ‘80s, I would totally believe you. –Donofthedead (Social Treason)

Songs for Sinners: EP
Don’t believe the sticker on the cover that claims this is their best material since Rat in a Maze. That’s a tall order, and though this record isn’t bad, it doesn’t come close to Rat in a Maze or any of the early, or later, SU material. Social Unrest are definitely one of my all-time favorite bands. I love everything from Making Room for Youth to Now and Forever, but I’m not blinded by fandom to let things get a pass. The material on here is good. “High Rollers” should have been put on the B-side, as it comes across as a throwaway, and the two songs on the B-side, “Get It Together” and “No One’s Tool” should have been the A-side. In fact, “No One’s Tool” is the best of the bunch, and recalls the early years of these guys the best. Parts of it remind me of “General Enemy” (from Rat in a Maze). One thing is for sure. Creetin K-Os still has a great voice. A good bellow, but the lyrics are intelligible. I hope these guys write more songs like this—fast, melodic, and tight—all the ingredients they used with great results in the past. –Matt Average (Dr. Strange, drstrange.com)

Narrow Minded Entertainment for a Close Minded America: CD
Female-fronted minimalist punk reminiscent of a less catchy Urinals. –Jimmy Alvarado (Stay Real)

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