Sunday, July 13, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #62


TOTAL ABUSE

THE SUMMER DOLDRUMS

Actually, no doldrums in terms of quality music coming through SV world HQ, either from the generosity of bands, labels, etc or my own purchases. The doldrums come from a lack of shows I’ve felt like attending. I did skip this year’s No Way Fest. Definitely some regrets there. I should mention, though, that there are finally some good shows coming up so I can now stop whining! As of this writing, it’s been four weeks since I’ve been to a show—Total Abuse, at the Ratscellar. It ended up being a six band show on a Monday night, although late minute additions Tipper’s Gore and Bad Reaction basically split a set. And wouldn’t you know that the show started at the advertised time of 9 on the dot, I got there at 9:15 or so and managed to miss Tipper’s Gore. FUUUUUUUUCK!! Oh well. Total Abuse were an interesting band. Their earlier material was more or less straight hardcore. There was an indication something would be different when there were a bunch of effects set up on a table in front of the stage and their vocalist started banging around on them, including a wired-up tin can. Alternating between the expected thrash and heavier, more (for want of a better term) offbeat material. Something other than expected and that’s meant in a positive fashion.

Another apology for the delay and, yes, I know I’m behind on reviews. Believe me, I feel badly about it. No excuses but there has been some writer’s block of late and I don’t want to half-ass it... although some might feel this batch of reviews are half-assed. Well, let’s get to it...

AMEBIX-No Sanctuary—The Spiderleg Recordings (Alternative Tentacles, CD)
These early recordings, from ’82 to ’85, are exercises in often-potent, anarcho-primitivism. The liner notes by vocalist/bassist Rob “The Baron” Miller, seem almost dismissive of some of the earliest work but I think he sells it a bit short. You can hear that they’re in an embryonic phase but the Stooges “1970”-inspired “Curfew” is a liberating sonic blast. For much of the material, there’s a numbing repetitiveness but, for the most part, it’s entrancing. A doomy ambiance with sheets of guitar underpinned by tribal rhythms and pumping bass-lines, strained through Killing Joke ca. “What’s THIS For.” It sounds like a blueprint for what followed with “Arise.” It may be sacrilege to the Amebix diehards but I like some of the songs here better than on that album. (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94141, www.alternativetentacles.com)

ANGRY 4 LIFE-Some Songs We Recorded 2004-2006 (Vinehell, CD)
As it says, an anthology from this band. A tough melodicism and encompassing a few different styles—rootsy and folky elements but played with loud electric instruments, except for the fiddle on “The Sky Is Falling.” I’d prefer to live without those influences on some of those songs but they do hit the mark every so often. There’s the sturdy/catchy “Smoke,” for instance. Covering Asta-Kask’s version of “Who Can Sail Without The Wind” (aka “Vem Kan Segla”) makes me think there’s some kinship with that classic Swedish band’s approach, as well. Hitting the middle ground with the occasionally inspired moment. (PO Box 36131, San Jose, CA 95158, www.vinehell.com)

BILL BONDSMEN-Swallowed By The World (Dead Beat, LP)
Finally, the Bondsmen’s first album and it maintains the trigger-finger animosity of other compatriots from their native Midwest region—the guitar buzz certainly sounds like some of the wanton Cleveland acts like 9 Shocks Terror or the Inmates. Add to that the pure rage of MassHoles (that’s a term of endearment for people from Massachusetts) Out Cold, with whom they shared a split 7” last year. It’s not a musical carbon copy but it’s all in the attitude and feel and the Bondsmen still manage to add their own stamp onto it. Lyrically, it doesn’t present all that cheery a picture. These songs scream about lousy jobs, making mortgage payments, paying for prescriptions, having the electricity shut off when they can’t pay the bill. These guys KNOW the score. Instead of going for any sort of slick sound, things sound rougher, especially with the vocals. To my ears, the production on those sound cruder and that’s meant in a positive sense since it enhances Gabby’s larynx-rending utterings. There’s an abundance of go-for-the-throat thrash but other little elements. The circle-pit inducing breakdown for “Another Wave” is one such moment. So is the stop/start thrash of “It’s Always Darkest After Shutoff,” interspersing guitar and bass atonalities, if that’s the term. Everything comes to a screeching halt for the final cut, “A Bird In The Hand Means You’ve Been Dead For A Few Days” and it’s a slower, desperate-sounding song, the culmination of all that’s been touched on already, building up and then slowing down as the guitar mimics the sound of something/someone lingering and abruptly stopping. Think of it as a cautionary tale and, as Black Flag sang on “Depression” all those years, “they say things are gonna get better—all I know is THEY FUCKING BETTER.” “Swallowed By The World” may not make you feel better but it’s still some damned good scream therapy. (PO Box 361392, Cleveland, OH 44136, www.dead-beat-records.com)

DESTROY EVERYTHING-Freedom Of Speech Means Talk Is Cheap (Tent City, CD)
Destroy Everything are a punk rock band, in case you couldn’t tell by the haircuts and silly names like Stiff Mittens, SeƱor Citizen and Cheddar Nines. If those are their given names, I apologize. But looks are deceptive. This isn’t simple-minded street punk. Instead, it’s a tuneful mix of influences—speedy west coast-inspired stylings, old-school hardcore and some ’77 era UK nods—the intro to “Alter Or Abolish” nicks from The Professionals’ “The Magnificent,” for instance. They sport two vocalists, one of ‘em handling backups. The lyrics are far from cliched—there’s not a lot of optimism, a strong disdain for everyday life and an outsider’s perspective. That perspective applies to the world in general but also to those who turn rebellion into money (my words and where have I heard that before?), rebellion co-opted, as stated on “The Kids Are All Liars”: “the road to pop-star opulence is paved with false belligerence/And every time the call goes to take it to the streets, the kids turn to the corporate mother and suckle at her teats.” The guys in this band aren’t kids and I imagine that cynicism is born from experience. Definitely a heartfelt quality, both lyrically and musically. (101 W. 23rd St., Box 2341, NY, NY 10011, www.tentcityrecords.com)

THE ESTRANGED

THE ESTRANGED-Static Thoughts (Dirtnap, CD)/Entranced (Dead Ideas, 7”)
I could mention the band members’ resumes but that’s kind of irrelevant—they’re from Portland, OR and have played in some other bands that are stylistically different. So I’ll just attempt to review the music from the Estranged on its own terms and this is one of the better albums I’ve heard, lately. Considering they’re from Portland and are a trio, Wipers comparisons have been inevitable but it’s not really accurate, although “The Message” veers into that territory. There’s definitely the emotionalism in the vocals and Mark Herman’s voice also has a similarity in timbre to Clint Conley from Mission of Burma. I could mention a plethora of bands that give the Estranged inspiration—early 80s US and UK post-punk, mainly, but there’s a harder-edged undercurrent. On this album, they assimilate it into something striking and contemporary-sounding. The playing is tight as fuck and the songs engaging, blending power with strong hooks. And, just before posting this installment, a new two song 7” showed up. These tracks were recorded before the album, at the same time as the band’s previous 7”. Slashing and energetic, possessing more raucousness than on the album—particularly for the title song. “Vilified” isn’t quite as manic but still packs a nervy hook. (Dirtnap: 8615 SE Clinton, Portland, OR 97202, www.dirtnaprecs.com/DeadIdeas: PO Box 851, Austin, TX 78767, http://deadideas.com)

IMPERIAL LEATHER-Do You Know Where Your Children Are? (Profane Existence, CD)
Since Imperial Leather’s last album, “Something Out Of Nothing,” they’ve shed the twin vocalist lineup and tweaked the sound a bit. Guitarist Kenko contributes secondary vocals but Amyl Nitrate becomes the focal point and there’s a raspy grittiness that wasn’t there before. And, for want of a better term, the musical approach sounds a tad more stripped down. Jarring punk with an older California vibe and garage/riot grrrrl tandem and Amyl’s commanding vocals. Lyrics expressing disillusionment, disappointment with the human condition—that’s a rather catch-all description but it fits for several songs here and the words seem to be directed at specific individuals without naming names. Wedded to a musical performance that’s taut, edgy and muscular-sounding. (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418, www.profaneexistence.com)

KAIBOUSHITSU-Dokuro Dokuro Dokuro (HG Fact, CD)
An interesting amalgam of hard rockin,’ metal-tinged punk that would have fit in well with some of the Amphetamine Reptile bands of the early to mid-90s but also operating in a faster hardcore vein on some of the songs. An aggressive guitar fusillade equally capable of dishing out the powerchords and heady, falling-apart effects, especially on the last track. The semi-melodramatic vocals are something of an acquired taste but, ultimately, add uniqueness and the playing is solid throughout. Something a bit different. (http://www.interq.or.jp/japan/hgfact)

MOB 47-Dom Ljuger Igen (Communichaos, CD-EP)
There’s always skepticism/controversy/what have you when a band with “legendary” status gets back together. What are these guys thinking of? Shouldn’t they leave their legacy alone and not tarnish it? Out with old, in with the new. Well, if I didn’t know this 8 song EP was a new Mob 47 release, I’d still think it’s a ripper. Pillaging hardcore going over the rails, the drums scamper but things somehow stay together. “Brutal Nedladdning” works in more “Dis”-ability (sorry) than the other songs, a very slight change of pace. The production isn’t raw distort but not slick, either. Whatever the motives, these songs hold up on their own merits. (www.communichaos.com/distributed in US by Profane Existence, PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418, www.profaneexistence.com)

NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE-s/t (Even Worse/Way Back When, 12”)
As mentioned last time, the first copy that showed up was warped and that’s now been rectified (thanks Noel!). For their first big-sized record, the mode remains the same—pulverizing hardcore punk done right. One change, though, is in the production. The thick bottom end on previous recordings is muted and the recording has a slightly cleaner sound. That doesn’t negate the band’s power—the hot guitar licks emerge from the speakers like poisoned tentacles and equally poisonous or venmous or what-have-you is Jeff Corso’s vocal agitation. “Calling you out, bringing you down/black and blue... callin’ you out/now it’s coming back to you.” Paraphrasing Slapshot, ain’t no friend of his! This record has become a friend of mine, though, having spent a fair amount of time on the turntable, already. (www.geocities.com/evenworserecords or www.waybackwhenrecords.com)

RELIGIOUS SS DISORDER-Demo (tape)
Scrappy hardcore from this band, with former I Object bassist Ryan on guitar and, as with that band, there’s a female vocalist. Claire expresses the words in sort of a spoken/sung cadence and the songs favor a medium speed, for the most part, with occasional bursts of thrash. Despite the band’s moniker, the lyrics are more about personal issues, such as commenting on such things as sexism and overuse of prescription medications. Very basic but not a bad start. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

RESTARTS-Outsider (Rodent Popsicle, CD)
UK vets with a new full-length. Tough, catchy 82-era inspired punk punctuated by gruff vocals (low ‘n high), buzzsaw riffs and pealing melody lines. I can even live with the ska songs here, since they’ve got a punk pulse to ‘em. One ironic thing, though, and this isn’t blaming the band—they’ve got a song on here called “Bored,” which talks about how “as soon as we get a venue, the council shuts us down.” The Restarts recently played Welfare Records around here and, due to the stupidity of some of the show’s attendees (as mentioned in the last blog), it ended up being the last show there. So perhaps their audience should consider those words. Come to think about it, one of the Restarts was complaining a little about the prohibition against alcohol at the venue. Sigh... In any case, some good ‘ol headbangin’ punk rock here. (PO Box 1143, Allston, MA 02134, www.rodentpopsicle.com)

SATANIC THREAT-In To Hell (Gloom, 7” EP)
Clevo crazies—members of Gordon Solie Mofos, Nunslaughter and Midnight--doing a darkside tribute to, well, you can probably guess the subject of the tribute but, if not, visualize DC and pay attention to titles like “Guilty of Hating Christ” or “Don’t Follow Him.” The over-the-top vocals, though, are from more of the Pat Dubar (Uniform Choice) school and best taken in short doses. They nail the old-school hardcore sound. Scorching songs and scorching sentiments taking a dim view of religious topics. Packaged inside a six panel sleeve with two overlaps. (1463 Ocean Ave Apt 2 B, Brooklyn, NY 11230, www.gloomrecords.com)

SEE YOU IN HELL-2003-2007 (Not Very Nice, CD)
An anthology of this band from the Czech Republic, covering the years mentioned—I’m sure my astute readers were able to figure that out themselves. Solid hardcore punk with some 80s era European influences but still managing to not sound dated. Metal leads pop up from time to time and that adds some flair to the proceedings, but it’s not a constant element. Ripping, full-bore material. On the inside of the sleeve, it says to “play loud” and I recommend you obey that suggestion. (PO Box 2, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0002, chaosnonmusica@gmail.com)

SQUALORA-s/t (Repetitively Futile/Wantage USA, CD)
Released in late ’07, Squalora consists of guys from Ass End Offend, now transplanted from Montana to Portland, OR. This is visceral hardcore with some crust elements, not dissimilar from what the boys were doing in Missoula. Thick slabs of riffage, dished out at both a raging pace along with the heavier crush. “Sugar Coated Submission” has a weighty, ominous tone yet doesn’t get bogged down in the mire. The same description could apply to the intro of “Identity Crisis,” before turning on the speed attack. A prevailing doominess, an appropriate sonic setting for the lyrical mood, yet avoiding an oppressive murkiness. That mood expresses disappointment with inertia, with allowing shit to happen unchallenged and, when brought up, being labeled as “pc nazis.” And the anger is produced with a powerful sound encompassing varying musical shadings. (Wantage USA: PO Box 8681, Missoula, MT 59807, www.wantageusa.com)

STATE OF THE UNION-To The Bitter End... A Discography (Profane Existence, CD)
A band originally from South Dakota who eventually relocated to Seattle and were around from ’92-’01. Lumbering, drawn-out compositions drawing from the well of Neurosis, especially with the gloomy, ominous intros. Heavy and plodding, with harsh, throat-rending vocals, metallic guitar riffs and a rhythmic undercurrent that does hit a solid groove. This 79 minute disc features an unreleased album recorded in 2000 plus an earlier LP and trio of EPs. In all honesty, none of the material here, earlier or later, is all that scintillating. The differences are in the recording quality, with the earliest songs sounding muddy and the performances less-refined--if refined is an appropriate term. Whatever the appropriate description, the results are tedious, in spite of the nimble musicianship. (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418, www.profaneexistence.com)

STRAIGHTJACKET NATION-Cheap Kicks (Shortfuse, 12”)
Hard kicks from SJN... kicks, punches and other attacks of brutality. That’s in the figurative sense although seeing this band live brought out quite a physical reaction and some of that was provided by their vocalist Daniel. He howls his way through these rampaging compositions. One cool transition is the conclusion of “Winter,” with a nasty concluding exhortation, then it stops cold, there’s a break and it goes into the appropriately-titled, floor stomping “Get In The Boot.” I could just say “old school” influence at leave it at that but, to put a finer point on it, there’s a strong nod to early Boston hardcore on some of these songs. There’s no need to put a fine point on it. There’s nothing fine—it’s quite blunt in execution. If you have any interest in current hardcore punk, you need to hear this band. (PO Box 239, North Carlton, Vic. 3054, AUSTRALIA, www.culthardcore.org/straightjacketnation)

TEACHER’S PET-s/t (Smog Veil, CD)
Obscuro late 70s Ohio noo-wave/ garage punks who played catchy ditties laced with cheese-whiz vox organ and a whole lotta teen angst. A bouncy vibe with rapid-fire vocals and nervous-tic musical accompaniment. The lead guitar breaks give away a rock ‘n roll background (some of these people were in a covers band called Wizard) that indicates familiarity with the Dolls, for one, although it’s wrapped in an era-fashionable cocoon. The band only released one single so everything else here is previously unreleased and it also includes three live songs. The cover band origins surface for an eclectic selection including Herman’s Hermit’s “I’m Henry VIII (I Am),” given a lyrical tweaking, 999’s “Let’s Face It” and Status Quo’s “Big Fat Mama.” The disc also includes some very badly lip-synced video clips with hilarious posing and dubious fashion sense—just the sort of entertaining visual element one would expect. (www.smogveil.com)

VARIOUS-Fuck Detroit, This Is Grand Rapids (Punks Before Profits, 7” EP)
Done in one day, with 8 different bands recording one song apiece at the same locale, namely Ryan from PBP’s livng room. The results are widely varied. The thud-core of Final Word is quite wretched, for instance. The best song (by far) comes from The Real Bitters, who dish out their straight-forward punk with gritty aplomb. Attention Span’s raw hardcore comes across fairly well, as does the twin vocal/speed attack of Jesus Crisis—definitely no love for religion on some of these songs. Religious SS Disorder have a similar musical vibe as I Object, Ryan’s former band. Overall, there are competeent moments but, for the most part, not a lot that transits into anything that blows me away. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

YOUTH OF TOGAY-Tossed Salad Days (Rejected, LP)
The balancing act of tribute, parody and, at its core, attempting to combat homophobia in the hardcore scene—particularly in the straight edge universe. I guess their modus operandi has created some controversy with some folks from that corner of the hardcore spectrum (Have Heart, in particular). This is ’87-inspired youth crew hardcore brushed with modern elements, such as the tougher sounding “Tough Gays.”. Some of the songs are covers with altered lyrics—“Banned In Tennessee,” for instance, which borrows a riff from a certain Bad Brains song and there’s more irony when you consider the Brains’ undisguised homophobia. The slide whistle (in lieu of a guitar solo) is a humorous touch. So is the “sproing” noise on their cover of Righteous Jams’ “Bust It.” Still, I think Limp Wrist do this sort of thing better a lot better, especially from a musical perspective. (mero32@eircom.net)

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