Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #41


A note to my readers: This will likely be the first of two blogs this week. Plenty more reviews to come as I continue my attempt to catch up a bit…


So here I sit at my desk the night after a sick basement show. I’m on a serious caffeine jag at the moment, having downed a tall glass of homemade iced coffee—I drink it without the ice but it’s cold and caffeinated and that’s enough. I’ve had less than six hours of sleep and I imagine when I crash a little later on, it ain’t gonna be too pleasant but, right now, I’m riding the moment. A mix tape I made in 1981 is playing in the background and pumping out great songs by the likes of DOA, The Germs, The Adolescents, The Lewd, DKs, Red Cross and The Dogs. That was taped from a radio show called Media Blitz where I got my first extended exposure to west coast punk and hardcore. In my summer of ’81 blog last summer, I discussed that program.

I’m still basking in the afterglow of that show which featured the Pittsburgh wrecking machine Brain Handle. You ever have that moment at a show where everything just clicked? It may be the caffeine talking but that’s the feeling I get at the moment. Last night, it may have been the 24 oz. bottle of Beck I consumed shortly before Brain Handle took the stage, uh, concrete floor. Hell, I wasn’t even sure it was going to be that great a time earlier in the evening when I kept wandering around outside from one circle/clique of discussion to another and felt like an interloper. So superficial—not friends, just acquaintances. It’s the time I wish that my FRIENDS lived in the area, not just show-hanger acquaintances. I felt alone until some people I do want to associate with showed up later on.

Still, it’s the music that’s the draw, of course and there was enough to be drawn to, starting with the Libyans’ energetic hardcore punk. Liz Panella, who played in such Midwestern bands as Get It Away, Plan of Attack and filled in with Formaldehyde Junkies, is the vocalist and she has an in-your-face presence, much like Terry from the Conversions who, by the way, have taken it to another level. A tight-as-fuck band and the songs continue to evolve in a direction that separates it from standard hardcore but isn’t diffused whatsoever. I regrettably missed noise rockers Heathen Shame since that was when I made the jaunt to the liquor store with one of those people whose company I DO enjoy and, somewhere between the house and the store, I figured it’d probably be worth enjoying some liquid refreshment and, perhaps, that’s what spurred more pit activity than usual. It was impossible to resist. Such a small, contained space and people goin’ off. Hell, even the two punk caricature women from Maine, one of ‘em wearing pilot headgear with rubber spikes, couldn’t wreck the evening. Someone called ‘em the tank girls. Cute. Come to think of it, they were pretty cool.

When we got back to the house, Scapegoat had set up to play. Some moron set off some firecrackers during their set and it made me glad I’d staked out a space next to the guitar amp and resisted the urge to go to that spot. Another solid grindin’/thrashin’ performance. As for Brain Handle, their records are pretty good (haven’t heard the new album yet) but seeing them live really brings out the inherent power of the songs and the two dirges that they concluded with (one of them was “Cold Pavement”) enhanced the intensity a bit.

FUCK, the caffeine is starting to wear off a bit. Too quickly…


ALARME-Walk Together, Thrash Together (Give Praise, 7” EP)
There’s definitely a predilection towards an older hardcore sound here, and it’s not given away only by the title and Deep Wound cover, although the latter is part of the equation. Plenty of thrash, some double-speed and slower parts, as well and tightly played. The production is in-your-face without being too slick. Lyrics in Portuguese, with English explanations. Could have been part of the thrash “revival” in the earlier part of the decade but the songs have more presence than a lot of those bands. (PO Box 494, Barnstable, MA 02630-0494,

CHRIST ON PARADE-Sounds Of Nature (Prank, LP)
“Sounds Of Nature” was originally released as an 11 song 12” on Pusmort in the mid-80s and has been out of print for a long-ass time. This reissue has that recording on one side and, on the other, there are two songs from a Thrasher compilation, the “Isn’t Life A Dream” EP that came after “Sounds Of Nature” and an unreleased cover of the Avengers’ “The American In Me.” Also, as reported in an MRR review, the tracks on “Dream” are an earlier mix with original mouth Barrie on vocals. Looking at the photos on the insert, the guys don’t look as though they were out of their teens and played these songs with skull-rattling aggressiveness. An ugly clatter with flailing guitar and bass-lines, trash-can drum bash and Barrie’s semi-hoarse vocals. Listening to this album made me realize that some of the more recent Bay Area rippers drew some inspiration from this band. More than 20 years later, I’m also drawing inspiration from their no-bullshit sound. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,


BILL BONDSMEN/OUT COLD-Split (Schizophrenic, 7” EP)
For a band that have been around for awhile, the Bill Bondsmen’s output has been a bit scant. They have a slightly different twist on hardcore. I’ve always had a tough time trying to describe this band’s sound. There’s a complexity here, with jolting stops and starts and an abundance of burn. “Owaranai Wa,” the second of the pair of songs here, has a melodic intro and bridge, sandwiched between the speedier segments and Gabby’s braying vocal. Meanwhile, the always-reliable Out Cold slam out three more songs. “Instinct” is a standard Out Cold speed bomb. The short “You Have My Word,” meanwhile, is a hard-rockin’ medium speed tune and “Make It Disturbing” follows more of a galloping tempo, a cool combination of clipped guitar lines underpinned with hornets’ nest buzz and it comes out sounding different from their typical stuff. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA,

CHRISTIAN CLUB-Final Confession (Sorry State, 7” EP)
This San Diego band were around for three years—they had a previous 7” on Get Revenge Records--and here are the last rites for Christian Club. Clever? Nah. Every song has a bug up its ass about religion, taking aim at Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics and people who put Jesus fish on their cars. Revved-up thrash with brute force and rage and pissed-off vocal tradeoffs. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

CROSS LAWS-Behind The Curve EP (Cross Laws, 7” EP)
No muss, no fuss hardcore punk in a stripped-down format from this trio. Looking around at all the books, magazines, records and CD’s in this room, it’s easy to relate to Dennis’ plaint about being “Buried Alive” by “murderous mountains of pulp and black ink.” The playing is sometimes rudimentary but it’s the cliché of the sum being better than its parts—the band’s roughness is enjoyable. Only 300 copies and they’re apparently sold out of it. I guess I was a little “behind the curve” in reviewing this. Sorry. According to the Sorry State website, some distros may have it and they have a CD-R with this EP and ten more songs. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

FORCED MARCH-Wasted Existence (self-released, 7” EP)
RAISER/FORCED MARCH-Split (multi-label, 7” EP)

Portland ragers Forced March have two new records, one of ‘em a split. High powered hardcore that would fit in well with the angry-sounding Bay Area bands. The four song “Wasted Existence” was released first (in fact, I’ve been a bit slow to get to it—sorry) and then the split with Spanish band Raiser—all the tracks were recorded at the same time. Taking on the “racist fucks” and “right wing nuts,” as they put it on “No Fucking Way,” and the force comes out both musically and lyrically. Raiser also operate in a fast, powerful vein with heavier touches, a good complement to Forced March. A stylistic tandem of Poison Idea and Discharge and, no, they’re not those bands by a long stretch but that’s not a bad place to be coming from. (2619 NE 6th Place, Portland, OR 97212,

POLICE & THIEVES-s/t (Higher Conscience, 7” EP)
These guys are from DC and take a page from some of the late 80s “emo-core” bands but it’s fused with a punchy, energetic hardcore sound. Police & Thieves’ songs veer more towards the latter and that adds to the songs’ impact. I suppose I dropped the “e” word because of former Worn Thin vocalist Carlos’ emotion-packed vocals that surge over the music like a clarion call. (2821 13th St, NW, Washington, DC 20009,

REAGAN SS-Bon Apetit (Rabid Dog, 7” EP)
Fast and ripping—sometimes to the point where things are so sped up that Matt Average is struggling to get in all the words. The music is played with a lethal precision. The opening song, “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” begins with a classic floor-pounding intro and middle part. The two songs on the b-side are so short, I barely had time to sit down. Come to think of it, this isn’t music to listen to in a passive manner. It does command attention. (PO Box 14821, Haltom City, TX 76117,

RELIGIOUS AS FUCK-s/t (Vinyl Rites, 7” EP)
Hammering thrash with dramatic riffing and near off-the-rails speed, but not hitting the grind realm. “Save Your Breath” adds a little bit of locomotive speed metal before hitting the breakdown. I mention grind because two of the guys from this band are (were?) in Asshole Parade. In any case, it’s raw and chaotic. Consider this another missive from the church of hardcore and I’m still a strong believer. (PO Box 924, Gainesville, FL 32602-0924,

TOTALITÄR-Vi Är Eliten (Prank, CD)
The deal here is Totalitär played their last shows in 2003—including two raging performances at the Pointless Fest in Philly—then decided to record one last studio album, which they did in 2006. One more ride on the D-Beat-Go-Round. An up the middle charge of prime Swedish hardcore with speed, as well as punkier elements, such as on “Fienden” (“The Enemy” in English—they have English translations and synopses). I know at least a few people who may try to write multi-paragraph dissertations on the assorted nuances found on this album but, seriously, Totalitär aren’t re-writing the book here—nothing will surprise you. Still, turn it up, do the D-Beat fist pumping and have a blazing good time. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS-The Master’s Voice (Smog Veil, CD)
An SST Records reunion, I suppose—Mike Watt and George Hurley from the Minutemen, Joe Baiza from Saccharine Trust and vocal accomplices Dan McGuire, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas and even illustrator Raymond Pettibon on one song. The releases on SST in the 80s were always a crap shoot. For every Black Flag or Minutemen or Husker Du or Bl’ast release, there would be many more less-than-worthwhile or head-scratching efforts. I mean, does anyone pine for Always August or Tom Troccoli’s Dog or Slovenly? That doesn’t even include all the terrible Greg Ginn projects in the 90s. In any case, this kind of falls into the latter category. Impressive musicianship, with Watt’s nimble, but understated bass-lines and Hurley’s always solid drumming being the standout elements. Baiza’s spare guitar playing comes from more of a jazzy muse although there are also psychedelic touches, such as with “At The Center.” The lyrics are mainly spoken “spiels,” to use a Watt-ism. The more driving “Tar Baby & The Rising Sun,” with a distorted Thomas vocal, does leave a stronger impression. Still, I don’t think it’d be of much interest beyond unconditional fans of these artists. I’d have to admit I’d probably play it more than fIrehose, at this point. (1658 N. Milwaukee Ave. #284
Chicago, IL 60647

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