2014 seemed to be a better year for releases than 2013. I had more go-to records, this time around--ones that logged a lot of time on my turntable or on my iPod. I was definitely a lot more dependent on digital music for the radio show in the past year. I still refuse to review digital promos and, as a result, some stuff might fall between the cracks. I'm an active record buyer but my budget is limited. I do the best I can and know the cost of sending out review copies is prohibitive so my usual deal stands--if a publicist or band want me to review something, I'll check out a digital promo and, if I like it, I'll see if they can send a physical copy. If I don't like it, I won't ask for a review copy and no hard feelings. Maybe I'm being a stubborn old-timer and, yes, I could publish more than I do but also keep in mind I do a monthly column for an actual print 'zine (Maximum Rocknroll)
Enough yakkin'... I did the list a bit differently this year. The top ten is a combination of 12"s, 7"s and demos/tapes--the ten releases I liked this year, regardless of format, and it's more or less in order. I follow that with an alphabetical list of other releases I liked in each format.
Thanks to everyone who continues to support SV and have a Happy New Year!
1. IVY-s/t (Katorga Works, 12”)
This NYC band’s vocalist Eddie used to be the frontman for the late, great Brown Sugar and there are some musical similarities but it’s with completely different personnel. A gnashing mix of hardcore, punk and garage, with an offbeat lyrical sensibility. Vocals are buried in the mix a bit, sharing space with this band’s mind-melting amalgamation of drill-press guitar buzz and rhythmic thump. Fitting in well with the thorny, chaotic sound proffered by many bands from that city.
2. SAVAGEHEADS-s/t (X-Ploit/Twerp, 7” EP)
It’s a good thing a certain friend of mine is a good friend of mine or I might not have forgiven him for neglecting to tell me about Savageheads’ final show a few months ago. Actually, I am still pissed about missing it because Savageheads were one of the better MassHole punk bands to emerge in the past few years. Boisterous punk with a little bit of a UK-82 influence that’s tough as nails and also catchy as hell. The four songs are perfectly executed. These guys came and went way too quickly.
Another band I’m kicking myself for missing but I have no one but myself to blame because I knew about this show ahead of time and could have easily made it in if I hadn’t been such a lazy asshole (sorry, Bryony!). Fuck Off is a perfect title because of the in-your-face sentiments dealing with the day-to-day harassment and abuse that women deal with, no matter where they are. All of this is delivered with Ellie’s scathing vocals and a jarring ‘n jabbing post-punk attack that has prominent bass plucking, jagged guitar and a blunt backbeat. Yes, Kleenex and Delta 5 are easy touch points but this is lot more caustic—and that should be taken as a compliment.
4. A.D. SKINNER-s/t Demo
Four of the songs on this ten song demo came out as a 7” but you really need to hear the whole thing. Australian garage/punk/hardcore bashers, recorded by Mikey Young from Eddy Current Suppression Ring and UV Race (among others). You can hear bits of each band in their tumultuous sound, although it’s closer to what UV Race do, in that it does away with any of that band’s artsier (for want of a better term) impulses. There’s a newer demo, Dicksweat (great title), that continues in a similarly raucous vein.
Sometimes you just want good ‘ol fashioned bash-your-skull-in hardcore and Stoic Violence fit that bill on this 12”. Mean and stomping, without any excess, just an expression of pure fury. The title track, "Two Faced," "Choke" and "No Escape" are bruising fist-pumpers and “Empty Inside” is the crushing conclusion, with Branden Hutchins howling his guts out, repeating the song's title until there's nothing left and it's been stripped down to his emanations being accompanied by an ominous bass-line. The whole thing's over in a bit over 10 minutes and, sure, it might have fit on a 7" but the full-blown sonics aren't compromised and the disc is packaged inside a gatefold sleve and has a full-sized fold-out lyric insert. Sorry to hear they broke up.
I managed to see these guys twice this year and it was quite entertaining. At the first show, vocalist Jimmy Rose (ex-Annihilation Time/GSMF) came brandishing an angle grinder and, unfortunately, one kid leaned in a bit close and lost a chunk of his forehead (he was OK, though). Jimmy felt so badly that he pretty much retired that tool although I heard it made a return at the Varning Fest. Ellen is getting really sick of me showing the YouTube video of that show to just about everyone who came to our house last year (although you can’t see it actually happen). Anyway, Eel incorporate that power tool and electronic effects into a stew of punk-ala-Chaos UK and Disorder, along with more tuneful touches. It's noisy but not blown-out or covered in sheets of distortion. A new wrinkle on raw punk.
Austin’s Breakout released two 7”s this year—the more recent True Crime on Grave Mistake, which is pretty good but I think this is the stronger of the two. That’s due in no small part to the title track, an inescapable earworm carried along by a scintillating bassline that ends up bouncing around in my head for hours just about every time I hear it. The songs are sharp and tuneful, while maintaining an edgy punk energy.
I still don’t have a physical copy of Tercer Mundo’s 12” (although I’ve got some people working on it) but there’s no way I’m leaving this out of the top 10. Just about everything I’ve heard involving Dave Rata has been worthwhile and this 12” is no exception. A fair amount of buzzy, fuzzy hardcore but the title track, with its Rudimentary Peni vibe, really stands out while “Caidos” has a mid-tempo, near-anthemic burn. I hope I’ll soon be able to slap a copy of this album on the turntable.
Ancient Filth have been cranking out kick-ass hardcore for quite some time but, since they’re not scenesters or beholden to any of the elitist Boston cliques, they’re sometimes undeservedly overlooked, compared to the better-known bands from these parts. Fast and frenetic, sometimes incorporating a melodic element or two, and executed with crack efficiency and impassioned vocals from Matt. Heartfelt, inspiring lyrics dealing with both worldwide and personal concerns. The elaborate package includes a fold-out poster and a lyric booklet with thoughtful explanations for each song.
Another Boston band, this one consisting of four women and the vocalist is Jen Millis (Red Thread, 40 Watts, St. Ripper). This ain’t exactly heavenly, sedate music. Raw, rough and chaotic punk pounding through the floor and Jen’s vocals are pissed-off and nasty sounding. Animal Mother have been somewhat hit and miss live but they nail it on this demo.
SOME MORE STUFF I LIKED IN 2014:
BRAIN F≠-“Empty Set” (Sorry State/Grave Mistake)
COMBAT ZONE-s/t (Side Two)
EX-CULT-“Midnight Passenger” (Goner)
GAS RAG-“Beats Off” (Beach Impediment)
RASPBERRY BULBS-“Privacy” (Blackest Ever Black)
BAD DADDIES-“Negative Fun Singles Club 2014” (Negative Fun)
FLACCID-s/t (Nothing Is Real)
GAG-“Locker Room” (Iron Lung)
GLUE-s/t (Katorga Works/Toxic State)
INSTITUTE-“Giddy Boys” (Katorga Works)
S.H.I.T.-all three 7”s (Iron Lung/Lengua Armada/Static Shock)
FACILITY MEN-s/t and “Futility Men”
FLYKILLS-“Lump of Flesh”
WHITE WHALE-“Demo 2014”
VARIOUS-“Cream of the Crop” compilation