A FEW DVD REVIEWS...
When I reviewed Colin Brunton's first film, The Last Pogo back in 2008, I said it was on the short side and whetted the appetite for more. Well, this film provides an embarrassment of riches, over three hours long, telling the story of the Toronto punk scene from 1976-1976. When I say exhaustive, I mean exhaustive--maybe a bit longer than it needed to be, in all honesty, since it gets somewhat repetitive and meandering after awhile.
This work is a visual collage of present day interviews and historical documentation--live performances and an in-depth overview of what was happening back then. As with many cities, Toronto's punk scene wasn't large in numbers but tight-knit, despite some of the carping you might hear back and forth. And the scope extends beyond Toronto to include Hamilton, which is more of a blue collar city and produced bands with a bigger chip on their collective shoulders, particularly the Forgotten Rebels and Teenage Head.
Extensive attention is paid to the Viletones and their provocative vocalist Steven "Nazi Dog" Leckie, interviewed 'back in the day,' as well as in the present (well, relatively present--it took over six years to finish the documentary). They were definitely the punkest of the lot and Leckie was a ticking time bomb who somehow managed to survive. Teenage Head also get a lot of screen time. Sadly, their vocalist Frankie Venom did not survive. He passed away in 2008 and, in all honesty, didn't look long for this world when interviewed at CIUT (who have a long running punk show, Equalizing Distort). Joey Shithead from DOA provides something of an outsider's perspective, since he relocated his band at the time, The Skulls, from Vancouver to Toronto--and talks about the trials and tribulations of not really fitting in.
As some of the interviewees point out, the definition of punk was wide-ranging, from the bile of the Viletones, Forgotten Rebels' sickoid sense of humor, the all-female Curse's blunt and caustic punk, The Ugly's in-your-face stylings and the Diodes' poppier approach. The Diodes actually had a lot to do with getting Toronto punk off the ground, by opening the legendary Crash and Burn venue. They talk about the DIY aesthetic but a rift happened when they were the first Toronto band to sign to a major label (CBS).
It isn't just band members who are interviewed--fans, record store and label owners, show promoters, managers and others who contributed in one way or another. One thing you notice is there are mixed emotions and still some interpersonal wounds that haven't healed.
In addition to the film, there's a second disc with other interviews and even a few shorts and trailers they used to show at the old Roxy Theater, another starting point that brought together future movers and shakers of the Toronto punk scene (including Brunton, who worked there as an usher). One of these is the infamous Bambi Meets Godzilla. And there's a 24 page booklet filled mainly with vintage flyers. All in all, it's definitely worth seeing and the standard-issue punk doc talking heads (Rollins, Grohl, Morris et al) are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only "outsiders" who make an appearance are the aforementioned Joey Shithead, as well as Cheetah Chrome and Tommy Ramone. You might want to stretch it out over a couple of nights, though! (www.thelastpogo.net)
What do you get when you mix punk rock, complete with some obscure references, along with quasi- religious overtones that include a shameless lift from Jesus Christ Superstar, straight-edge stigmata with bleeding X's and evil plots of world domination? That would be Sacrificial Youth, the latest film from Joe Losurdo, who did the Chicago punk documentary You Weren't There and played in Life Sentence and Regress. It's a fun romp--schlocky for sure, cringe-worthy at times but that's probably the intent. Rob Bakker plays TJ, a straight-edge, skater high schooler who is the vocalist for Sacrificial Youth. Fiercely DIY, a staunch defender of The Scene, the home base of which is his beloved Youth Center. TJ adamantly refuses to sell out, even when presented with the opportunity to tour with hot-shot emo band Hellbound Boy, on a tour sponsored by a rather vile-looking drink called Bluud. His ideals are reinforced when Sacrificial Youth's bass player Jud gets them an opening slot for Hellbound Boy at a shitty corporate rock club called Starzzz. That's the basic plot and did I mention it's mainly a musical? The hardcore and punk rock selections do sound a bit sanitized and the lyrics are beyond parody. Losurdo gets some screen time as TJ's dad and even breaks out the bass, offering to replace Jud, who has succumbed to the lure of the almighty dollar and joined Hellbound Boy.
As I mentioned, there are some obscure and not-quite-as-obscure references--TJ mentioning a gig with Caustic Defiance, who were an 80s era Illinois hardcore band or saying he'd been weaned on Flipper records and that probably explained a lot of things. And the two villains behind the Bluud promotion (their goal, of course, is destruction of The Scene) are played by members of 80s-era bands the Mentally Ill and Rights Of The Accused (Larry Gutkin and Mike O'Connell, respectively).
One of the extras features commentary by Losurdo, Bakker, O'Connell, Porter and John Kopanski, who plays Simon of Sacrificial Youth. A cut-up session, pretty much revealing that they're amused by their idealistic punk rock past and there's even a snarky reference to Life Sentence's original singer. It comes across as a hell of a lot more self-deprecating than, say, Suburbia or SLC Punk (the latter of which is one of the worst movies I've ever seen). Fun stuff. Comes with a fanzine booklet filled with cut 'n paste lyrics and even a couple of scene reports. (Regressive Films, regressivefilms.com)
I'm biased--I'll admit it. I've known Bob Suren for over 20 years at this point and always found him to be an honest, straight-shooting individual. He has my respect. No pretense about this guy--what you see is what you get and his viewpoints are direct and to the point. Until a few years ago, his life was immersed in the DIY punk scene in Brandon, FL--running a record store and distro called Sound Idea, playing in such bands as Murder-Suicide Pact and Failure Face and putting out records on his Burrito imprint and helping publish a zine called Burn Brandon.
Crate Digger is more than just your typical A to Z record guide, although that's the format. Some of the records are well-known classics, some are more obscure. Some are records that Bob put out on Burrito. The book allows us to accompany Bob on his 30+ year punk rock journey. Instead of straight reviews, the entry for each record may tell a story about a place in time, the way he discovered the band, how he was able to coordinate putting out lost and forgotten recordings that he felt deserved to be heard. Often, the record at hand is only mentioned in passing, not even discussing the musical contents. The writing is sometimes choppy and abrupt but often poignant. He writes openly about the collapse of his marriage and other heartbreaking tribulations. There are also essays about different individuals he's known during his life.
The anecdotal approach reminds us that, for the passionate music fan, there's a personal connection to a particular record that often conjures up various memories, both good and bad. When I hear side two of the Clash's "Give 'Em Enough Rope," it reminds me of my first date with Ellen in 1979 and who I've been with ever since. When I hear The Avengers' self-titled compilation, it reminds me of another romantic encounter. When I hear "5 O'Clock" by Articles of Faith, I think about my shitty bank job. This book is for the person who always has a song playing in their head, who are happy to tell you at-length why this record or that was important to them, what it means to them. That's what Bob is able to accomplish with Crate Digger. The book is due to be published in June. (microcosmpublishing.com)
Click here to hear an interview I did with Bob on Sonic Overload
AND NOW SOME RECORD REVIEWS...
... including some that have been out for quite some time. That's what happens when I neglect my blogging duties for too long.
3 NEW 7"s FROM WARTHOG SPEAK
... and, as usual, each of them has an ugly and visceral sound in their chosen style of hardcore. It does get numbing after awhile, especially played back to back but each band does have something to offer. Narcoleptics, from Chicago, make their vinyl bow with a six song self-titled effort. A full-on blitz, starting with a hearty ARRRRRGGGHHH!!! to introduce things and ending with what sounds like shit getting broken as bassist/vocalist Joe Aquilina continues to howl away. A d-beat frenzy, with thick bass and razorwire guitar. "Trench Knife" is a mid-tempo crusher that will have you want to, well, break more shit.
Scalped are also making their vinyl debut on their self-titled EP that came out and also utilize plenty of feedback and another harsh-larynxed vocalist. But they take a tougher approach, occasionally packing some NYHC crunch into the speedy onslaught.
Vacant State, on the other hand, have a number of releases under their belts. Their latest, the Chains EP, provides some boot stompin' hardcore with a vocalist whose timbre bears more than a passing resemblance to Choke's. Many early 80s US hardcore bands (although these guys are from Vancouver) embraced an oi-style feel and that's the case here. Mean 'n angry, pulling no punches, particularly when it comes to spanging punks ("Not The Same"). (2109 23rd St., San Francisco, CA 94107, warthogspeak.com)
.... AND MORE...
BAD JESUS EXPERIENCE (photo: Arto)
AJAX-s/t (Katorga Works, 7" EP)Mean, bare-knuckled hardcore from Noo Yawk. Ajax had a pretty good demo awhile back and this 7" isn't bad, either. A mix of old-school US and Swedish HC, topped off with gutteral vocals. Did I mention they sound mean? Members of other NYC bands you know and love (Creem, Nomos, et al). (katorgaworks.bigcartel.com)
AMERICAN HATE-Dead Squeeze (Not Normal, 7" EP)
The sound of turmoil, both musically and lyrically. Vocals that are yelpy and the music is chaotic and intense, starting with the 30 second blast "Social Exposure.""The Best Advice" flip-flops between dark dirge and a speedier tumult. Things wrap up for a noisy 'n incendiary take on Devo's "Mr. DNA." Not a carbon copy reading but adding their own stamp that sounds like a free-for-all for the last minute or so. From Oklahoma City--no wonder they sound like they're about to go off the deep end. (notnormal.bigcartel.com)
Boston band Aneurysm play in a dark, emotionally-tumultuous vein, mixing punk with edgier alt-rock (for want of a better term) although it's sprightlier than I might be indicating, especially on tracks like "Stop this Ride" and "Dio, Priest and Maiden" (how can you go wrong with a title like that?), after the Slint-ish touches for "All In My Head." Pretty good, overall. This demo came wrapped in paper bag material and I gave up trying to keep it around the tape box and just cut it down to size--I hope I didn't hurt the value since it's limited to 100 copies. (aneurysm666.bandcamp.com)
BAD DADDIES/HARD LEFT-Split (Emotional Response, 7" EP)
Bad Daddies' side is loud 'n fuzzy 'n catchy, especially for the last song, "It's Not You." There's a wicked hook on the chorus, both musically and in Camylle's vocal. "Stay True" is also quite tuneful, following the 22 second opening burst of "War." Hard Left are from Oakland but you might mistake them for a UK band with their boisterous street punk. Gruff vocals spouting out populist sentiments, accompanying the sharp 'n brash sounds. A winnah, as we say in Massachusetts. (jenandstew.com)
BAD JESUS EXPERIENCE-III (Nunchakpunk/Pupu's Bistro/Popo's Bistro, 10")
All three of this Finnish bands' releases have been on a 10". Some people hate the format but I don't have a problem with it. I can't quite figure out why they put Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits on the cover (I actually thought it was Al Gore until I was set straight) and there isn't a cover of "Money For Nothing." Nope, this is pretty far from that band's laid back rock sounds. BJE play powerful, dark hardcore mixing burn with dramatic properties--ominous and nightmarish, especially for the brooding opener "Aina Vaaraan." Mixing up tempos a bit, although it's mainly at a fast clip and the vocals from Cyanide Lauper (clever) cut through with a venomous fervor. (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org)
CADAVER EM TRANSE-s/t (Nada Nada Discos, LP)
Moody and dark goth-tinged punk, but it's far from funereal. On the contrary, the songs have an energetic drive, especially on the burning "Confinado." "Inverted" has a stinging guitar hook accompanied by sturdy drumming and a bass-line carrying the melody along. That's pretty much the modus operandi throughout. The musicianship is dexterous and textured but also slashing. The drumming does a great job of mixing up traditional elements with tribal rhythms, adding other percussion effects at times. And the vocals, which I thought were flat-sounding in the past, have presence and emotional range. No Ian Curtis tributes here. Engaging and ear-grabbing throughout, with much more oomph than some of the other bands working this territory. (nadanadadiscos.bandcamp.com)
CHEM-TRAILS-First World Problem, Third World Solution (Vex, LP)
Chem-Trails is Jim Martin from Broken's latest band. Jim's been around forever--not quite as long as yours truly, but he's got around three decades invested in the Connecticut hardcore punk scene, going back to when he did the cover art for the old Connecticut Fun compilation. As you'd expect, this is angry-sounding music. A beefy, two guitar attack leaning towards Swedish hardcore but with the occasional metallic element, as well. The lyrics have a conspiratorial tone to them--the band gets its name from a conspiracy theory about chemicals or biological agents being dumped on the public--but, at the end of the day, they state on "Maniacal Laughter" that "you have to laugh or you'll go crazy." Indeed! And playing this sort of aggressive music provides one hell of a coping mechanism. (email@example.com)
CRIME DESIRE (2007)
CRIME DESIRE-Your Power (Standards, LP)
First new sounds from this band in awhile and they're back with a vengeance. Meat-cleaver, boiling-over hardcore with the instrumental crush accompanied by Colin's harsh vocals. "Move Forward" is a concise, pumped-up mid-tempo rocker and one of the best tracks here. "Weak Men" rides on a near-tribal drum pattern. The rest of the time, they bring an abundance of speed and burn and it gets the job done in razor sharp fashion. (standardsrecordlabel.bigcartel.com)
DAVIDIANS-Night Terrors/Gimme All Yo' Dope (Sorry State, 7")
NO LOVE-Dogs//Wolves/Bad Things (Sorry State, 7")
Two releases from Sorry State's North Carolina Singles Series. Davidians stretch the boundaries beyond their first EP and it's a dark, jarring journey. Two taut and rhythmic songs, snaky guitar lines dueling with a supple rhythmic base. No Love's pair of songs provide surging, semi-catchy punk. Even with the melodic elements, it's not overtly poppy--the songs are edgier and tougher. Check out their earlier demo on the Sorry State Bandcamp page as well, especially the tuneful "S.C.A.B." (www.sorrystaterecords.com)
DEFORMITY-s/t (Toxic State/Katorga Works, 7" EP)
Not that their recordings were ever that clean-sounding but this is more frenzied than their 2013 demo (one of my favorites of that year, by the way) and it peels off the semi-garage propensities of that recording. Back in the 80s, a song like "Bug" might have been called pigfuck, since it wrapped up arty punk into a twisted sonic morass but this is much more visceral. Three cacophonous, frayed and ugly-sounding tracks. (katorgaworks.bigcartel.com)
FIRING SQUAD-s/t (Agitate, demo tape)
Four songs filled with pure venom and hatred from this Richmond band. Burning thrash, slowed down a tad for the mid-tempo pound of "CTO." Nothing stretching the parameters or really offering anything out of the ordinary but making its impact felt in five or so minutes. People from Cretins and Violent Outburst--some of whose members are now in Mercy Killings and it has the same sort of feel. (PO Box 61014, Richmond, VA 23261, agitaterecords.bigcartel.com)
FUCKING INVINCIBLE-It'll Get Worse Before It Gets Better (Atomic Action, LP)
Relentless, chaotic hardcore from Providence mixing grind, thrash and floor-pounding elements. Build up and release, favoring meat-cleaver riffage and soul-ripping screams. As always, it's a style best experienced in small doses and it's not exactly tune oriented--more a case of creating a bludgeoning effect. Fucking Invincible prove to be more than proficient at this sort of pure aggression and it's not all blasting all the time. At times, it's not all that dissimilar to Dropdead and they share two band members. This pressing is on pink vinyl, limited to 113 copies. (atomicactionrecords.bandcamp.com)
FUTURE CRIMES-s/t (No Profit, 7" EP)
Queer-themed punk that sure ain't subtle, lyrically. The first song is "Growlr" and that describes the vocals to a tee. Rudimentary stuff, with buzzing guitar and fairly tuneful. Things get damn near sentimental with "Spend The Night With You." They take a break from the gay content for the pro-voting "Romney Riot Oh '12". A bit out of date, but the record's not that old. It's not all wise-assery either--"The Adonis Factor" is about how gay magazines present an unrealistic body image ideal the same way other magazines do. Pressed on pink vinyl, of course. (2724 Glastonbury Rd., Apex, NC 27539-8663, noprofitrecords.com)
Girls Living Outside Society's Shit... G.L.O.S.S are from Olympia, WA although a couple of them--Sadie and Jake--just moved there from Boston, where they played in such bands as Peeple Watchin', Baja Blatz and Rash Tongue. Pounding and in-your-face hardcore punk and the lyrics are equally in-your-face, screamed in your face, in fact, by Sadie who details the shit she deals with as a transgender individual. The overall sentiment for this band is made in resounding fashion on "Outcast Stomp," a call to arms for those who have been rejected due to sexual orientation, gender identity or any other "norm" that is forced on people and, frankly, they don't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Can't wait to see this band live. Due for a vinyl release at some point. (girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com)
IMPALERS-Psychedelic Snutskallar (540, 12")
The title track takes up an entire side of this 12", rumbling on for over 12 minutes, a relentless attack of motor-charged d-beat mayhem. Not a conceptual piece, no separate movements or time shifts, just sheer adrenalin that never flags and I imagine it must require a tremendous amount of stamina if they play this song live. Flip it over and there are four more boilers. Impalers are damned good at what they do--a twin guitar fusillade that also throws in the occasional melodic shading and drumming with enough cymbal crashing to wake the dead. Nothing psychedelic about it but I imagine more than a few skulls (not just cop skulls either) could get smashed to bits along the way. (chaosintejas.bigcartel.com)
JAWBOX-My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents (Arctic Studio Recordings, 2xLP)
A double LP pressing (plus a CD of the whole thing) for Jawbox's odds and ends collection that was originally released in 1998, following the band's breakup. There's a BBC session, live material from some big-ass concert at RFK Stadium, a few unreleased songs and tracks from various compilations. About one-third of the album consists of various cover versions--a wide array from the Big Boys to the Minutemen to Buzzcocks (decent cover of "Airwaves Dream," off a split with Jawbreaker), even the Big Boys and Frank Sinatra. It's nicely packaged with two booklets--one of photos, one that provides recording details and lists all the shows they ever played.
I'm pretty sure Jawbox were the first band who recorded for Dischord who ended up on a major label (Atlantic, for their final two albums), during the post-Nirvana signing frenzy. They were always a polished-sounding unit and there's plenty of melodic accessibility throughout, although they never had a mainstream breakthrough. At the same time, they continued to put our songs on various indy and DIY labels and this collection originally came out on their DeSoto imprint. Straddling both worlds and, in retrospect, somewhat hit and miss. At their best, they were able to harness sturdy rock with a rhythmic, post-punk undertow. The earliest song is "Bullet Park" (represented here by the version on a Maximum Rocknroll compilation) that sounded more than a bit like early Fugazi and that should be taken as a compliment. "Low Strung" has a churning pulse and it makes sense the song would appear on one of the Amphetamine Reptile "Dope Guns-n-Fucking In The Streets" comps."Tongues," from the BBC session, percolates with a potent rhythm and killer chorus hook. It hasn't all aged well and, while the covers aren't carbon copies, I don't really think I need to hear their rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin" again. I'd say this would mainly appeal to long-time fans although it is a well-put-together artifact and provides a pretty good overview of the band's lifespan. (arcticrecordings.com)
KOWARD-Desperate (Side Two, 7" EP)
Koward have been around for a number of years (off and on) but this is only their second 7". Ravenous hardcore punk that goes for the throat. Two fast ones, two at a medium pace and with a pronounced Swe-d-beat inspiration. With Jesse's hoarse vocals reinforced with a potent two-guitar musical attack, Koward quickly make their presence felt. (side-two.com)
LOAD-Drunken Warrior Chief (Rat Town, LP)
When I think of Florida, it's not just the tourist areas that come to mind but the uglier undercurrent--hot, sticky, miserable and Load's sound was a prickly, aural expression borne of that. It's dirty, nasty and loud. This 12" is a collection of this 90s-era Miami band's output. The late Bobby Load spat out the vocals with a demented and unhinged cadence and the band's musical arsenal combined blistering hardcore with a nettled-sounding heaviness (some Black Flag-inspired touches in there, as well). The speed-driven "Pastor's Day" remains one of their best tracks, careening like an out-of-control firebomb.The download tacks on another dozen songs, including the wanton and manic "Palomino Steaks" and "595 A Lezzin." The lyrics can get dark as fuck, especially for the lurching, murderous "Pa's Moonshine." When people talk about 90s era hardcore, Load often seem to get unjustifiably overlooked and they stood apart from knuckle-head metal core, youth crew silliness and angst-filled emo-core. (PO Box 50803, Jax Beach, FL 32233, www.rattownrecords.com)
LOUDER-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
I have to admit it took awhile to get into this one and some of the cheese-whiz vocal harmonizing remains a love/hate affair. Catchy as all-hell, though. Louder are a Japanese band plying tuneful songs finding a middle ground between power pop, mod revival and more straight-forward rock 'n roll, all of it infused with punk energy. There are real ear-grabbing guitar riffs 'n hooks throughout, occasionally bringing early Joe Jackson or the Jam to mind. Closing track "No Escape" is a quick-paced corker that shows they do have the ability to add on some aggressiveness into the mix. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)
MERCY KILLINGS-Snuffed Out EP (Beach Impediment, 7")
Second vinyl offering from Mercy Killings and picking up where the last one left off. A mix of d-beat hardcore and American bile (Poison Idea, in particular). Mark Shubert sounds as bellicose as ever, projecting the words with in-your-face antagonism. Nothing poetic in the lyrics but they don't rely on simplistic sloganeering, either. "1914" is about the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the "centennial celebration of new ways to kill," noting that those so-called advances in weaponry that came during that conflict have created destruction and bloodshed that have lasted over a century. Quality stuff. (beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)
MODERN WARFARE-Dayglo Shadows Delivered (UT, 7" EP)
Reissue of this California band's first 7" from 1980 (they had one subsequent 7" and a number of compilation appearances). Vocalist Jim Bemis was previously in The Moderns, whose 7" was reviewed in SV Blog #112. Embracing brisk post-punk, hardcore and even a little surf with jittery guitar and semi-hyper/peppy vocals, in the same vein as early recordings by Angst. The later material was slightly more aggressive, especially by the time "All For One," on the American Youth Report compilation came out, but the barbed sounds on this EP come from a time where everything wasn't codified yet and bands were willing to cross-pollinate influences. Nicely packaged in a screened cardboard cover. (ut-records.com)
OPPOSITION RISING-LP + EP CD (Profane Existence/Opposition, CD)
A repackaging that includes their Aftermathematics album and Get Off Your Ass, Get Off Your Knees EP on one handy disc. They've been around long enough--almost four years--that I can probably stop referring to them as the new band with Bill from Toxic Narcotic. Aggressive, pissed-as-fuck hardcore punk and also adding reggae to the brawny attack--in fact, almost half of the album has some skankin' in the mix and there's also a dub of "The Rich Are Killing The Poor" on the EP. A more-than-cynical worldview summed up with "FTW" and it's just as cynical towards the sacrosanct punk scene for "Brick By Brick." Still angry after all these years. (www.profaneexistence.com/www.oppositionrising.com)
PILLAGE-s/t (Residue, 7" EP)
First vinyl waxing from Chicagoans Pillage, with Ebro (Crudos, Punch In The Face et al) barking out vocals with plenty of harshness and anger and the band's bare-knuckled bruising hardcore is an appropriate accompaniment. The songs are connected with squalls of feedback and it's a full-court blitz. The drums are mixed up-front and threaten to fly off the rails, sometimes into powerviolence territory and that's a slight hindrance, to be honese. Still, if you crave something raw and ugly, this will work for 'ya. (www.residue-records.com)
PRAG-s/t (No Patience/La Vida Es Un Mus, 7" EP)
Prag, from Australia, dish out some ear-wrecking noise on their self-titled four song 7” although they take a different path with the darker-hued, early 80s UK goth-inspired “Winter Mute”—that’s mainly due to the bass line but it’s still wrapped in a barbed cocoon of distortion. The balance of the songs follow a thrashy route, with raspy vocals that sound like Darby Crash or Walker from Crazy Spirit and possessing rawness and power (not so clever, I know) throughout. (No Patience, www.nopatience.org; La Vida Es Un Mus, www.lavidaesunmus.com)
RDHP-Parusa (Tension Head, 7" EP)
A Virginia Beach band who sing in Tagalog and play fired-up rock 'n roll mixing punk and '70s influences. Along the same lines as Annihilation Time and coming to a real boil on the last song, "Maltrato." Surging along at a sturdy mid-tempo clip and enhanced by the rough-hewn production. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
REALLY RED-Teaching You The Fear--The Complete Collection 1979-1985 (Alternative Tentacles, 2xCD)
I've been a fan of these guys since I first heard "Too Political" on one of the college stations around '82 or so. That songs featured slashing guitar on the verses and post-punk lines during the chorus, accompanied with a resounding "No More Ghettos". I liked it so much that it ended up on two mix tapes and still get a thrill when hearing that opening bass/drums throb. You'll hear this band or that referred to as underrated or underappreciated or what have you and it's true with these guys. Really Red were somewhat known beyond their hometown of Houston (their track "Prostitution" was on the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation) but, since their music has been unavailable for years, they sometimes get lost in the shuffle when talking about top-notch Texas bands from that period. Really Red didn't fit any set mold--they were a punk band at the core but in the same way that the Minutemen or their Texas compatriots the Dicks and Big Boys were punk bands. There's an abundance of high energy punk throughout but other influences seeped in, from jazz to post-punk to psychedelia to something more melodic ("Nico"). In the liner notes, vocalist Ron Bond (aka U-Ron Bondage) talks about how inspirational Roky Erickson had been and they cover another Houston band, the Red Crayola's "War Sucks."
This two CD set includes all the songs from their Teaching You The Fear album and posthumous Rest In Pain album, plus all the songs from their 7" releases and a few unreleased tracks. Nervy and thorny, with a jarring instrumental interplay, but they could also get downright anthemic on a song like "I Refuse To Sing" and, of course, "Too Political." There's a seething intensity to the title track of "Teaching You The Fear." It's not all perfect--the cacophonous roar of "Star Mangled Banner" and the nearly 20-minute free-form sound collage "Just The Facts Ma'am" don't sound any much better now than they did in '85, when "Rest In Pain" was originally released. All in all, though, this is an indispensable collection, a band with its own style that still sounds riveting three decades later (PO Box 419092, San Francicso, CA 94141, www.alternativetentacles.com)
SEX DWARF-Non-Stop Erotic Noise Cabaret (Konton Crasher, LP)
I wonder if there are still any Soft Cell fans around. If they somehow ended up throwing this 12" on the turntable or walking into one of Sex Dwarf's shows, it might scare the living fuck out of them.Well, I love the song Sex Dwarf named themselves named themselves after (Soft Cell's shining moment, in my opinion) and this album, whose title is punny take on Soft Cell's first album, is pretty good. It's a full-on noise attack (natch) that might scare the living fuck out of a lot of other people besides Soft Cell fans. An incessant, ear-wrecking distorted brand of Swedish hardcore buzz, accompanied by slightly-buried, reverb-drenched vocals. It'll grind your senses to a numb 'n bloody pulp. These kinds of bands are usually better-experienced live and no one should live on a steady diet of this sort of sonic tunelessness but there's definitely a place for it. (PO Box 393, Lakewood, OH 44107, kontoncrasher.blogspot.com)
SKEMÄTA-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
Pulverizing and punishing hardcore on this NC band's vinyl debut. Vocals that howl from the depths of pain and a thick sound working in some Die Kreuzen-via-Voivod guitar inspiration to go along with the d-beat driven approach. The lyrical content has some of the Discharge haiku going on and paints a bleak, doomsday scenario. Uneasy listening. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)
SLEAFORD MODS-Chubbed Up + (Ipecac, CD)
There's apparently a "buzz" on these two 40-something gents from Nottingham in the UK. Someone I know who saw their one recent US show (in Brooklyn, natch) said the crowd was insufferable. Someone quipped it looked like a theater audience going into the venue. But I didn't know all this when I first heard the Mods and, if trend-sniffing Brooklynites want to like them, that's OK with me. Sleaford Mods are doing something different. Observational rants--not spoken word, not rap, but ideas sputtered out as quickly as you can digest them. This is accompanied by a post-punkish musical minimalism--bass and mechanized drums mostly (executed on a laptop during live performances)--and it's hard edged, rhythmic and propulsive. Vocalist Jason Williamson's ruminations cut to the quick, with sharp wit and a whole lotta cussing. "Jobseeker" voices what people who have to visit unemployment offices to receive their benefits might wish they could say: "So Mr. Williamson, what you have you done to find gainful employment since your last signing on date? Fuck all! I sat around the house wanking!" Williamson could be Mark E. Smith's younger brother--it's not exactly the same cadence but it's a similar sort of curmudgeonliness and you hear the occasional sonic nod to "Live At The Witch Trials" and other early Fall stuff. This disc is a singles collection and they've got two other full-length albums that have come out in the past few years, Austerity Dogs and Divide and Exit and they're also quite good. I can almost guarantee you'll be walking around all day saying "JOLLY FUCKER" (or FOOKER) to friends, enemies and strangers once you hear that song. (ipecac.com)
SNOB-s/t (self-released, 7" EP)
This came out awhile back but I just managed to get my paws on a copy and this should be an addition to my Best of 2014 list. From London, with Ellie from Good Throb on guitar and she provides a whole lot of burn to their sound. It’s darker and denser than that band—no angular scrape, no plucky bass. A hard-driving, fuzzed-out punk beast with some anarcho-sounding overtones and pissed-off sentiments. The vocals have presence but they’re not that harsh, considering some of the lyrics, such as ripping eyes from the sockets of people who harass her. Better late than never with this review, right? There are some great bands coming out of London right now. (snoblondon.bandcamp.com)
SURVIVING BROTHERS OF THE LAST CRUSADE-Bleed Or Leave (self-released, CD)
Also known as SBLC, this Detroit five piece specialize in feisty hardcore punk mixed with a rock 'n roll sensibility and delivered with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. Fired-up riffing, full-speed-ahead drumming and Keith's Drano-gargling vocals. They even do a fired-up rendition of Deep Purple's "Fireball" (pun intended), a band you don't hear covered all that often and it lends itself well to a punk workover. (sblc.bandcamp.com)
SUNSHINE WARD-Demo EP (Hardware, 7")
Sunshine Ward include 3/5 of the final lineup of Brain Killer, joined by Jordan Clarke on vocals. The approach isn't quite as blown-out or purely d-beat driven as that band but it still provides a heady dose of hardcore noise. There are remnants of what Brain Killer did but a song like "Progress" has a punkier feel to it. "No Control" (which wasn't on the original demo tape) mixes noisy, bomb-like effects into the mid-tempo pound. Promising start. (hardware-records.com; sunshineward.bandcamp.com)
TRENCHES-2014 (demo tape)
OK, it's now 2015 and I reviewed this Oakland band's first demo in 2014. If they get another demo out this year, I should hopefully catch up. Or maybe vinyl... they're due! Some more raw 'n rough hardcore from this band that includes transplanted Bostonian Boo Boo on vocals and Replica's guitarist Juliana. As with their debut, there's a tougher East Coast feel to this band's sound, Boo Boo summoning all the rage he can muster. Slightly fuller production than on the debut (though far from slick) and it brings out the band's strengths. (email@example.com; trencheshxc.bandcamp.com)
2 X 4-s/t (Twerp, 7" EP)
More energetic, old-school Boston hardcore with people from Bloodkrow Butcher, Male Nurses, Positive Reinforcement etc. Nothing complex, just rough and throttling songs delivered with all the piss 'n venom they can deliver. They're so tough, they've written their set list on an actual two-by-four (true story). Definite up and comahs. (twerprecords.storenvy.com)
VARIOUS-Hardcore--Gimme Some More (Beach Impediment, 7" EP)
Six bands ripping out various strains of no-bullshit hardcore, including the vinyl debut of Atlanta ragers Mercenary (ex-Bukkake Boys), whose offering rides a careening d-beat and that's also the case for S.H.I.T. Peacebreakers and Ajax both have an early-80s Boston hardcore influence. Impalers' thumping track and Violent End's straightforward, muscular thrash round things out. All unreleased. (beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)
VORTIS-Safety First (self-released, CD)
Vortis have been around since 2000 and have a number of releases under their collective belts but this is the first one I've had the opportunity to check out. Drummer Jim DeRogatis (the sole original member) is a longtime rock scribe and once played in a Wire covers band, Ex-Lion Tamers, who I saw upstage the real deal in the mid '80s by playing a letter-perfect version of "Pink Flag," while the real Wire only played their current (at the time) material. Anyway, this is a pretty good effort. Bright, brash, tuneful punk delivered along with politically-inspired lyrics and the sentiments are a bit obvious but with a hint of sarcasm. In the same vein as a band like the Briefs. Not bad. (www.facebook.com/vortisrock)
WETBRAIN-s/t (Painkiller, LP)
Finally, some vinyl from these Clevo miscreants--they've got the pedigree (GSMF, 9 Shocks, Darvocets, Inmates, blah blah blah) and they're here to kick ass and accomplish just that. Bare-knuckled thrashy hardcore with some rock 'n roll touches ("What Are We Supposed To Worship?" is downright tuneful) and metallic guitar licks, powered along by Wedge's always rock-solid drumming. Larry's vocals still sound somewhat helium-filled but nowhere near as much as when he was in the Darvocets and Folded Shirt. Starting with "Occupy This," the lyrical content expresses paranoia and cynicism--stating at the outset that protesting ain't gonna change shit but a more direct approach might. They also have impeccable taste in movies, name-checking "They Live" and there's also a tribute to "Repo Man" with "Best Damned Car On The Lot." (www.painkillerrecords.com)