Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #58


Usually, I’ll just post a photo of a band who I’ve seen live and hope that it at least partially captures what the experience was like. Of course, that’s not really possible which is why the advent of YouTube and other video venues are such a great tool. Well, it’s great for a number of reasons—digging up episodes and clips of long-lost TV shows, embarrassing moments for the well-known and not-so-known and even as a pathetic way of getting attention. And, while a video clip doesn’t put you there, I like the fact it’s available for people to at least get an indication of what I’m talking about.

I saw American Cheeseburger play at the Ratscellar in Boston a few weeks ago. Their set was off the fucking rails. Fast, frenetic and non-stop. I don’t know how James, their vocalist, gets through a set without collapsing—a non-stop ball of motion and shredding vocal chords. And I’ve got the visual proof right here:

Pretty sick, isn’t it? As I’ve said countless times in the past few years, while I feel withdrawn and alienated from a lot of the so-called hardcore/punk scene (and all the cliquish sub-scenes), what you see there is the elixir, what keeps me going. I don’t think there’s any more need to elaborate. Maybe I’ll expound on other musical matters next time but I’ll leave you to peruse the lengthy review section…

ACID REFLUX-Secret Power EP (No Way, 7”)
The whistle sounds—for real--and Acid Reflux’s second EP is out of the starting gate with the thrashy adrenalin of “Paid To Ruin Fun” and that’s maintained for “On The Run” and “Not Another Day,” the latter song even featuring a brief (very brief) drum solo, if that’s the term. The somewhat slower “Half Spic” has a “lalalalalalalala…” and I can’t quite decide if it’s annoying or endearing. There’s also an uncredited reggae dub track to wrap things up and I was trying to remember what other hardcore band did that one time and it was the Cro-Mags on their original “Age Of Quarrel” demo. Acid Reflux aren’t nearly as mean as the Cro-Mags but they still kick ass. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA, 23221 www.nowayrecords.com)

ACURSED-Tunneln i ljusets slut (Prank, CD)
No song titles, no lyrics, a mysterious image of what looks like a tunnel with a shadowy figure off on the distance—translation “light at the end of the tunnel”? (that’s what an internet tool says). Those are the elements that accompany this sonic opus from Acursed, which was recorded in late ‘04. The album is introduced with a spoken word piece (in their native Swedish) that leads to the throttling attack of anguished vocals, low-tuned guitar blaze and clattering drums—hallmarks of some of the modern-day Swedish bands (and Tragedy draw from this well, too). There are other spoken segments that bridge the onslaught of certain tracks. A mournful ominousness and heavy cloud of despair inform the ambiance but it’s not quiet by any means, as the songs possess plenty of speedy burn. I tend to gravitate towards other strains of Scandinavian hardcore and would probably prefer these songs in the live setting but the brevity of the songs does increase their impact. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)

AUTOPSIA-Poder Represion y Corrupcion (Cochembomba, 7”)
Rough, crude punk out of Peru from the mid-80s and their vocalist Silvio went on to be in Ataque Frontal and the others were in Gx3. Most of the tracks are medium-speed and almost have a street punk essence to it. This is rudimentary stuff, both from a playing and production perspective but it has a winning determinedness, like the little engine that could. (23 Concord Sq., Apt. B, Boston, MA 02118, cochebomba@msn.com)

BORN BAD-Moron Music (Fashionable Idiots, 7”)
Born Bad return with another scorcher. The emphasis remains on full-bore hardcore punk that boils over with pissed-offedness, to coin a phrase (which I just might have done). If you ever heard a band like Deathreat, it’s in that vein, from both a musical and vocal perspective. US-inspired hardcore but with a relentless quality but I imagine these guys might have listened to Discharge a little, as well. If you liked the last one, you’ll like this and if you haven’t heard them yet, get on it. (PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458, www.fashionableidiots.com)

Brain Handle released this 10 song 12” last year in a quantity of 300 and it sold out just before they got to Boston and laid waste to the small basement they played. Still, I had it in the MP3 format and it made my year-end best-of list and, now that it’s got a wider release on No Way, there’s a damn good chance it’ll make this year’s list as well. Look at the flowery cover and you’d think it’s going to be some 60s psychedelic retread and, on the lyric sheet, there’s a reference to “psychedelic trout droppings for boss.” But throw the needle down and, within seconds, the band’s potent hardcore quickly eviscerates that notion. Insert the adjectives here if you’d like but most of the songs take a loud/fast tack yet the influences aren’t instantly definable, except to say it’s not a straight-forward 80s tribute. The final song, the slower “Wallet Sniffin’” will make you want to wreck things whenever you hear it—it even got this jaded old fuck to try to take over the pit when they played it. Vocalist Ed Steck aka The Family Circus (or whatever pseudonym he’s going under here) spits out the words with a restless irritability, trying to “make sense of this decay” while escaping the M-F existence with the weekend’s crazy events. Brain Handle’s music not only creates that type of cathartic escape for themselves but anyone caught up in their hardcore whirlwind. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA, 23221 www.nowayrecords.com)


CIVIC PROGRESS-Disposable EP (Fashionable Idiots, 7”)
Maybe Civic Progress are trying to make a point with the minimalist packaging—just a white sleeve with the band name and title stamped on there and a small insert plus there’s the recycle symbols on the record’s label. Some of the lyrics here do have an environmental/anti-conspicuous consumption theme, at least on the first side. On the flip, the commentary comes from more of a perspective of personal alienation. It doesn’t come across as preachy; rather, it’s a plain statement of facts. Basic 1-2, 1-2 thrash and the vocals have a hoarse, almost voice-cracking quality that also goes into more of a spoken style, as well, particularly for “Falling Apart,” which is delivered at a slightly slower speed with some accented drumbeats. Another good effort. (PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458, www.fashionableidiots.com)

COMPLETE WASTE-s/t (Give Praise/Rock Bottom, 7”)
Fast, loud, to-the-point and divided into the short and shorter sides. No, I didn’t get out a stopwatch to see if that’s the case. The double-thrash segments for “Why Do I Bother” are a slight misstep. Othewise, these six songs are spot-on. The kind of hardcore that continues to grab my interest, even if this band isn’t in the super-strata. (www.givepraiserecords.com)

CRIMINAL INTENT-s/t (Sewercide, 7”)
I think this is a concept EP—the concept is how much life sucks. Boring zines, in fact a boring life in general, getting hassled by the fuzz, relationship problems and the final act results in suicide. OK, it’s probably just some steam-blowing-off and, actually, the 2 AM skating session on “GSD” indicates that “nothing’s wrong, all is well.” Skating and some ripping, thrashy hardcore with an abundance of frenetic, intense energy, to quote Agression. All is definitely well. (Dave Brown, 1211 College St. 2,Toronto, ON M6H 1C1 CANADA, www.myspace.com/sewerciderecords)

DEATH IN CUSTODY-Infected With Rage (Insurgence, CD)
I played a little word game while playing this long-overdue release from Detroit maulers Death In Custody (their previous demo came out quite awhile ago). I played a little word game while blasting this on the stereo and wrote down various impressions while listening and came up with “agitation,” “mean,” “toughness,” “no BS.” I mean, start with the title. That tells you right there this ain’t no garden party. Death In Custody come right at ‘ya with a tough, about-to-explode hardcore sound that has a brawny approach but avoids the chug/breakdown element. Instead, part of the influence comes from older Boston and NYC hardcore and I was thinking that before hearing their cover of Last Rights-via-Slapshot’s “Do What You Want.” A lyrical line that sums it all up? “That smirk that covers your face is where my boot will find its place.” That’s from “Done,” it’s about an asshole boss and there’s also reference made to said individual “staring down the barrel of a gun.” Subtle. That’s one word that didn’t make my list. (2 Bloor St. W, Suite 100-184, Toronto, ON M4W 3E2, CANADA, www.insurgence.net)

FRIGHTENER-Guillotine (Chainsaw Safety, CD)
This will frighten you if you’re not ready for Frightener’s death/thrash pummel. Some slow/heavy lurch to go along with the speed attack and sub-gutteral vocals. Frightener are from the UK and remind me a bit of early Entombed stuff, both in the vocal cadence and the lower-tuned riff crush. “Legion,” with a slightly less ooze-like tempo, showcases the band at their most effective. Several listens have beaten me into submission—this is the way to play this style of crushing music. (PO Box 260318, Bellerose, NY 11426, www.chainsawsafetyrecords.com)

KAKKA-HÄTÄ-77-Totaalinen Kakkahätä (Combat Rock Industry, CD)
Combining two EPs from this Finnish band and providing some tough, catchy punk rock. Packing some Heartbreakers’ punch without any sense of rawk posing, just in the way they dish out the licks ‘n riffs. Hmm… that sounds as though it could be taken a few ways but never mind. Add in a hint of street punk (but not the boots ‘n braces variety) and this will pound its way into your heart in short order. (Fredrikinkatu 58, 00100 Helsinki, FINLAND, www.fireinsidemusic.com)

ROT SHIT-Have You Scene Rot Shit? (Fashionable Idiots, 7”)
Crude, damn-near psychopathic bash. The recording is primitive, the attitude really bad and I absolutely love the sentiments behind “Fuck Yer DJ Night” and “What The Fuck Is Weird Punk, which concludes with a hearty, chanted “FUCK FUCK FUCK...” etc. Hardcore and garage thrown together and then dragged through the gravel until bloody and disfigured. Five quickies on side one, one more on the flip (“Drive Fucked Up”) and that ends with another chant, this time it’s “DEAD DEAD DEAD…” This music will definitely fuck with ‘ya and, even without a lyric sheet, it’s not hard to feel the malevolence. (PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458, www.fashionableidiots.com)

SOCIAL CIRCKLE-I’ve Got Afflictions EP (No Way, 7”)
On their second EP, Boston’s Social Circkle have taken a hardcore turn, favoring a faster approach ala Career Suicide in particular for “Afflictions” and “Canned Response.” “I Don’t Want,” meanwhile, harkens back to the more anthemic punk style of the debut and “Life Crisis” is along those lines, as well. There’s a change in drummers, with Ryan Abbott (Positive Reinforcement/Blank Stare) stepping in and his aggressive style definitely powers things along. The words convey a first person narrative of nervousness, frustration and apprehension. There isn’t quite the catchiness of the songs on the first record but Social Circkle are one of Boston’s best bands and “I’ve Got Afflictions” will give you damn solid proof. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA, 23221 www.nowayrecords.com)

UNKIND-Hangen Syliin (Combat Rock Industry, CD)
The deceased figure on the cover and blood drops on the inner tray indicate something ominous and that’s what’s present here. Dark, heavy, crusty hardcore that has those so-called “epic” qualities i.e. there’s an attempt at a sense of drama and some of the song lengths are up there. In the main, there’s a speed driven ferocity at work, accompanied by harsh vocals throughout. This is not cheery, uplifting material and the final song, the 6 minute plus “Hangen Syliin” (“Into The Arms Of The Snow”) ends things on a somewhat laborious note. A manic aggressiveness yet sometimes on the ponderous side. ((Fredrikinkatu 58, 00100 Helsinki, FINLAND, www.fireinsidemusic.com)

UNSEEN FORCE-In Search Of The Truth (Grave Mistake/Vicious Circle, CD)
UGLY LAW-s/t (Atavistic, 7”)

So I was in San Francisco in 1986, staying at Maximum Rock ‘n Roll house and this band from Richmond called Unseen Force were staying there, as well. Tim Yohannan, the moving force behind MRR, even had the brilliant idea of me interviewing Unseen Force on the radio show, even though I’d never heard their music up to that point and it went surprisingly well. Anyway, they were nice folks and gave me a copy of this album, which has finally been given a CD pressing. Good loud/fast fodder with a scrappy nature and a hint of metal guitar but without falling completely into crossover. Lyrically, there’s an anti-authoritarian/anti-religion and populist bent, appropriate for the age of Reagan. In fact, appropriate for this day and age, as well. Unseen Force came along at a time when hardcore was in a transitional phase of embracing some heavier elements without giving up the thrash. There’s going to eventually be a vinyl reissue but if you’re not a complete purist, this CD is an expanded edition, with an entire live radio set from 1986 and a dozen songs from the band 2000 Maniacs, based in Pennsylvania and including two future members of Unseen Force (Greta and Scott). The live set includes a few songs that were written after the album but are in a similar vein. The 2000 Maniacs songs favor a rougher hardcore approach, although you can hear the roots of what Unseen Force would be doing. Pretty basic stuff and the drumming is occasionally stiff.

Twenty years after Unseen Force packed it in, Scott and Bobby (guitar and drums respectively) have teamed up with bassist/vocalist Andy in Ugly Law. It’s back-to-the-roots time with a fast, ferocious sound and Andy’s wailing vocals have a similar cadence as Kevin from Double Negative. The parallels are inevitable, of course, because this is a band with “veteran” folk having another go at it, although they’re not musically identical. Prickly and angry-sounding, both musically and vocally, with lean production and each instrument has presence, especially the bass lines, ending with a FlagSab flourish for “Wasted Space.” Long may they agitate. (Grave Mistake: www.gravemistakerecords.com; Ugly Law: www.myspace.com/uglylaw)


WEEKEND NACHOS-Punish and Destroy (Cowabunga, LP)
Unless I’m missing some deep meaning, the band’s name is pretty goofy, this double-blast thrash is typically better experienced live but there’s definitely some punishing, destructive (oof) music here. Mixmastered Infest/Crossed Out style murder-core played with tightness and solid execution, incorporating blinding speed but, also, some slow, bring-the-hammer-down sludge and it was recorded with two people, Aaron Ross on guitar and bass and John “Caution” Hoffman handling drums and vocals sounding like a bear with its foot caught in a trap. The lyrics are pointed—not much positivity to be found as there are tirades against fucks who bring dogs to shows and other assholes who show up and make people’s lives miserable. Notice I managed to say all this without using the word “brutal.” Oops. And, of course, any record that has a song called “Suburban Voice” is GUARAN-FUCKING-TEED a good review in this space. (www.cowabunga-rex.tk)