Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Suburban Voice blog #77


I figured it was time to finally publish a new one despite the fact, as usual, I haven't reviewed everything I'd have liked to. So, in addition to sporadically writing this material and actually getting out of the house occasionally, I made the trip to Richmond, VA the weekend of June 19-21 for the third No Way Records fest. Three days of music and over 20 bands is a bit much, especially since I didn't get to do quite as much non-show stuff as I would have liked. I did have the pleasure of spending most of the Saturday afternoon with an old friend, Briant, who is from my hometown of Swampscott, MA and I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Had a nice lunch with him and his wife.

As for the fest itself, I performed the first No System set since 1986 with the superb assistance of Biff, Glenn and Brandon from Buffalo band Brown Sugar and that was a lot of fun. I managed to get through the set without blowing out my voice or needing oxygen. Big thanks to Brandon and Alex for letting us borrow their practice space for the one full band practice we had! The Zero Boys headlined the second and third nights and it was cool to finally get to see them play after nearly three decades of fandom. Among the other highlights were the scorching garage/punk/hardcore of Italy's Smart Cops and crazed performances from Government Warning, Wasted Time, Omegas, Direct Control and Chronic Seizure. And it was great getting to spend time with my pal Donna, whose sister and brother-in-law were gracious enough to provide a place to crash over the weekend. The central AC was especially appreciated with all the heat and humidity (98 on Saturday... gross...)

So let's move on the main part of our program... the music reviews!


BOMBER-Mourning (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
I got these songs on a CD demo awhile back but, as often happens, it got a bit lost in the shuffle. Now I get a second chance as it’s been pressed on vinyl by Cowabunga Records. Punk with a garage tinge and slobbering, ranting vocals. This is some quality noise that makes me feel badly about missing it before. Brief, tough-sounding songs—6 of ‘em in about 7 minutes—with the verbal sneering accompanied by barbed-wire guitar/bass/drums jolt. (1441 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, www.cowabungarecords.com)

BRAIN KILLER-s/t (Deranged, 7" EP)

Brain Killer are one of the most exciting bands to emerge from these parts in awhile. Overdriven, chaotic scorch. Marcus’s vocals are gutteral as fuck and it’s not a stretch to say there’s a bit of a DISCLOSE influence here. Wild thrash with each song connected by a whizzle of feedback and the delivery is manic, to say the least. The connector from “Black Cloud” to “They Live//We Sleep” pushes it to an even more ominous level, as if the black cloud is about to burst, much like all this fucking rain around here lately. If you like it loud and raw, these four guys will make your day. (www.derangedrecords.com)

DARK AGES-Vicious Lie (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
Manic hardcore packed with a musical and vocal urgency, punctuated by creative guitar lines, some formidable bass runs and a good amount of instrumental intricacy. No musical masturbation from this Kansas City band, though, as the chops-flexing never becomes excessive. It makes me think of the period in the mid-80s where bands built on a thrashy base but also added different elements without crossing over in metal territory. (1441 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, www.cowabungarecords.com)

DIRECT CONTROL-Farewell (Feral Ward, 12")

"Farewell" was originally released in a limted-to-100 copies pressing for No Way Fest 2 but now it's been given a wider release. I haven’t been completely blown away by much of this band’s output since "You’re Controlled" but this is a fairly good effort. Just don’t expect "You’re Controlled." Fast, throttling hardcore with rough production and Brandon’s vocals sound raspier than in the past. Definitely a fatalistic world view... society’s collapsing but all anyone cares about is what’s going on in Hollywood. Half of the second side is taken up by the title track, a four minute instrumental written by the late, great Mikey Offender but I’m afraid it goes on a bit too long. I do have to compliment Eric’s bass playing, though—it’d do Mikey (one of the best hardcore bassists ever) proud. (http://feralward.com)

GARBAGE STRIKE-United and Slam Against The System (demo)

A new Boston band with the legendary Dan Wars, late of Poison Control, on vocals. I'm not quite sure if I've got the title right but that's what it says on the cover of the booklet. In any case, the demo is nicely packaged with that booklet that includes lyrics, photos and a few collages, a pin and my copy came with a CD-R as well. Good ‘n snotty punk rock with a hardcore edge. Another cool thing is the use of samples from an early Boston rock ‘n roll DJ named Arnie “Woo-Woo” Ginsburg. I imagine one of ‘em must have had the knowledge handed down from a parental figure because I’m an old guy and only vaguely remember hearing him on my small red transistor radio when I was a youngster. The radio motif goes further for “Coast To Coast,” the overnight conspiracy-oriented radio show. They’re off to a hell of a good start, here. Stirring songs with plenty of punchiness. (GarbageStrike@gmail.com)

GENERAL INTEREST-Right By The Beach (Ride The Snake, 12")
General Interest's overdue vinyl debut (good rhymin' or what?) showcases a nimble, ultra-tight band dishing out some formidable post-punk, for want of a better term. The lazy critic will mention the Minutemen and Gang Of Four and yes, I’m lazy. Add some Nation of Ulysses to that, as well. Still, it’s just a starting point. Guitar, bass and drums play off each other, hooks occasionally emerge but the main attraction is the dynamism in these compositions. Meanwhile, Steve Shea’s lyrics could be “shit from a new notebook” to quote one of the above bands. There are political/sociological messages, though it’s combined with a smart-assed sarcasm. “Crusty Dog Show” aims a vicious barb at, well, crusties who, while being “freegan” and “going green” still bring dogs to shows. The ultimate hope is that “your dog eats you/when you OD.” “Capricious Youth” pokes fun at the type of people who can’t make up their minds about everything from education choices to relationships. My copy came inside a spray-painted cover that looks pretty damned cool. So are the aural contents. (www.ridethesnakerecords.com)


GOVERNMENT WARNING-Paranoid Mess (Grave Mistake/No Way, LP); Executed (Grave Mistake/No Way, 7")

A new LP and a 7" with songs that aren't on the LP. Following me here? While you get a good share of pummeling thrash, Government Warning further embrace the west coast blueprint created by Agression, Adolescents, et al. That applies to “Urban Warfare,” “Stop Again,” Blurred Yellow Line” and a few others. Kenny rants like a post-adolescent (sorry) maniac, emitting words of confusion, anger and, as the LP title would indicate, paranoia. The cover drawing, by Scott Langlais, is reminiscent of the Cro-Mags’ “Age Of Quarrel” inner sleeve, a frightened-looking guy in the midst of mayhem that swirls around him. "No Martyr" remains this band’s recorded pinnacle but I’m definitely not damning with faint praise here. The praise is genuine and this is some razor-sharp hardcore punk on both the LP and 7.” The latter includes an unlisted cover of Battalion of Saints’ “Modern Day Hero.” (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com or 324 S. Pine St., Richmond, VA 23220, www.nowayrecords.com)

GROINOIDS-Radio Beat Sessions (Boston's Finest/Fatalist, 7" EP)
You might remember The Groinoids from the "Boston, Not LA" and "Unsafe At Any Speed" hardcore compilations from 1982 where they contributed a pair of songs, the speedy “Angel” and thumping “Empty Skull.” Those songs and three unreleased tracks show up on this 7". A scuzzier take on hardcore, with “Burn” being up to the standard of the previously-mentioned song and mocking for the brief and stoopid “Doy.” “4.6 Billion Vampires” is a slower, murkier track. The Groinoids had a kinship with other local bands like The Sickness and, later, Kil Slug (and shared some members)—hard-edged but also on the verge of collapse. This 7” sold out almost immediately but a repressing is being discussed. (www.i-dealrecords.com/fatalist)

KOROVA-Another Happy Customer (self-released, CD)
Korova's style of hardcore punk doesn’t follow any set blueprint. On this album, there’s an abundance of thorny anger. Howls from the gut and a dollop of Black Flag-ish damage on the slower songs and even the bluntness of The Nihilistics at times. They go between hammering ugliness and bursts of speed. It wraps up with the heavy ‘n epic crawl and bash of “Factor X.” I haven’t heard too many good bands from Alabama and these guys are an exception. I’m guessing there’s a lot of political retrogression in their state and if I lived there, I’d probably want to express myself the same way as these three guys. (i_hate_you_too@hotmail.com)

LIKE RATS-s/t (Like Rats)
Like Rats' vinyl debut is hit and miss. There’s a whiff of Poison Idea from time to time, especially with Pat’s gruff vocals, but also some melodic properties. “Receptor Potential” hits all the right buttons--a mid-to-fast tempo and solid riffing. When they try to speed things up, the results are less than stellar. Has its moments but I like ‘em better live, at this point. (610 Cambridge St., Allston, MA 02134, Likeratsboston@gmail.com)

LOGIC PROBLEM-No Center (Grave Mistake, 7" EP)
"No Center" picks up where Logic Problem's first EP let off—in fact, I’d argue they’ve gotten even better. It’s loud/fast hardcore but there are some knottier, dense elements lurking beneath the surface and it enhances the songs’ kinetic qualities. The words on the lyric sheet are laid out willy-nilly like puzzle pieces. Scattered thoughts but everything falls in place from a musical standpoint. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com

REVILERS-Isolation (Patrac, 7" EP)

A kick-ass debut for this Cape Cod band although I don't think they're all from that area. No matter. Four songs of sturdy, street-wise punk and rock ‘n roll is the name of the game, here. You can hear a little bit of Blitz at times, particularly for “Dead End,” but a song like “Next In Line” is fired up, rockin’ fodder. Beefy guitars and gruff, heartfelt vocals. The songs are melodic without being wimpy, exuding a defiant spirit and a pure punk heart. (www.patacrecords.com)

ROGUE NATIONS-Be Your Own Rogue Nation (Suicide Watch, LP/CD)

After a not-so-bad 7" comes the debut full-length from North Carolina band The Rogue Nations. This is sharp, catchy mid-tempo punk with strong burn ‘n hooks and vocal back-ups. The lyrical sensibility is also sharp—sure, there’s “political” content and it seems as though they spend quite a bit of time watching cable news and drawing out the day to day absurdities, tragedies and the like. The upbeat music almost seems as odds with the ideas expressed. I can hear a bit of Marked Men and Naked Raygun from time to time although vocalist/bassist Chris Peigler sings in a higher voice than Jeff Pezzati. Plenty of punk bash to go with the poppier inclinations. (PO Box 9599, Charlotte, NC 28299, www.suicidewatchrecords.com)

SACRED SHOCK-You're Not With Us (Residue, LP)
Following a couple of 7"s and a split with Deskoncidos, Sacred Shock have released their first full-length album--or, more accurately, Residue have released it. A rampaging, modern-day Swedish hardcore inspiration along with some later period Poison Idea-ish riffage. And Alex Hughes’s hoarse vocal style makes me want to loan him some lozenges. Not always blindingly fast but still a speedy rumble and it creates something powerful and driving. The lyric sheet—handwritten white lettering on a washed-out background--is tough to read, right down to the song titles but the expressed rage comes through loud and clear. Best stuff to date for these Texans. (www.residue-records.com)

SMART COPS-Cominciare A Vivere (Sorry State, 7" EP); Untitled "Cop Medley" one sided 7" (Hell Yeah!)
One of the best bands I saw at No Way Fest (and I’ve seen them one other time since then in Boston) was Smart Cops. They may wear silly costumes when playing live—black t-shirts with an “SC” logo and black running pants with a red stripe—but there’s nothing silly about this Italian band’s kick-ass punk sound. On "Cominciare A Vivere," they continue with the jabbing tandem of old-school punk, hardcore and garage—the latter most evident for “Gambe Levate.” I’m a sucker for this stripped-down, catchy approach. The other record doesn't have a title on it, just the band's logo screened on one side and the music on the other. Those contents are a medley of anti-cop songs. Favorites from The Boys, Doom, The Kids, Black Flag, The Dicks and and others, played seamlessly in their own sharp style. Hell Yeah! Records made only 300 of ‘em and it was for their tour. I’m not sure how easy it’ll be to get at this point but it’s definitely worth mentioning and seeking out. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 25710, www.sorrystaterecords.com).


WASTED TIME-Futility (Grave Mistake, LP)

Futility? Try hostility! This record just boils over with a ferocious aggressiveness and I’m not being hyperbolic. When I was in Richmond for the No Way Fest, someone said to me that there weren’t many other bands doing American-style hardcore this well and I’d say there might be a more than a few grains of truth there. Fast rippers, circle pit starters and if “Withdrawal” isn’t a fucking anthem, then I don’t know what is. A full-bore attack and Mark Shubert’s angry vocals are appropriately nettled-sounding. No sunshine and flowers in the lyrics, as you might imagine, and “For The Fatherland,” another stomper, is an effective critique of the military/industrial complex. It's been awhile since Wasted Time released anything and "Futility" was definitely worth the wait. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com)