Friday, October 02, 2009

Suburban Voice blog #79


Hi! Remember me? While Suburban Voice has been lagging in the print arena for, oh, six years, I've been trying to keep the blog running on a regular basis. And not successfully of late. I'm REALLY going to try to have another one of these posted in the next week or so since I have a backlog of record reviews. I do appreciate all the fine music sent my way and, even if I somehow fail to publish a review here, I try to get it on the radio show at least. So, with that in mind...

... the last three shows I went to, during the span of 17 days in September, featured what one would call "heritage" acts i.e. bands who have reunited or been around a wicked long time, as we say in MassLingo. One of 'em, Youth Brigade, were only broken up for a few years anyway. Their show and the one featuring Naked Raygun were both at the larger downstairs room of the Middle East and it was the first time I'd been there in a number of years. I was trying to remember when it was but it could have been 2002, when I saw the Rezillos. I did get to the upstairs room for the first time in perhaps five years in August to see another reunited band, Chronic Sick but that wasn't particularly good so I think I'll move on. The other show was at the ICC in Brighton with Rorschach, reunited for their first shows since '93.

People I talked to after the Naked Raygun show were telling me how they thought it was awesome, incredible etc. I wasn't nearly as overwhelmed. It was definitely great to hear the likes of "Treason," "Home of the Brave" (the opener), "I Don't Know" (yes, I was singing "what poor gods we do make" like everyone else) and especially the killer "Rat Patrol" and "Surf Combat." But it wasn't all that energetic. I know that Jeff Pezzati hasn't been in the best health but the playing was still on the tame side. I still don't think that Bill Stephens was ever an adequate replacement for John Haggerty. Incidentally, Haggerty's own "heritage" band, Pegboy opened for Face to Face at the House of Blues the following week but I refuse to patronize that corporate club with oppressive security unless it's the show of a lifetime or something. Getting back to this show, though perhaps it's something being lost in the large club environment. I've become accustomed to the intimacy of basements and smaller venues. Whatever the case, hardly a mindblowing performance.

That was pretty much the same case for Youth Brigade. They're out for a 25th anniversary tour, a couple of years late actually, to promote the "Let Them Know" project--a package with a book, DVD that tell the story of the band and BYO Records and either a double LP and CD or a smaller version with the CD. The musical portion features bands covering songs from the BYO catalog. I got the DVD and CD discs sans book and haven't had an opportunity to check out either one yet.

The Brigade did a career-spanning set and, truth be told, I haven't listened to much after "Sound and Fury" in recent years. It was fairly enjoyable and, yes, I sang along to "Sink With California" like everyone else! Just like with Raygun's songs. And like Raygun, the songs are strong on melody and this lineup has plenty of instrumental dexterity, particulary their newer bass-player Joey, who also contributes strong backing vocals.

Rorschach, on the other hand, did deliver the goods and then some. Hell, the usually-abysmal sound at the ICC was tolerable for once. Still plenty of echo due to the high ceilings but you were able to hear the vocals and that's a rare occurrence. I'm pretty sure the last time they were here was in '92 with Econochrist and Face Value at a church basement near Harvard Square. A heavy, lurching sound given to spasms of speed and Charles Maggio's throat-shredding timbre hasn't been dulled by the passage of time. This was also likely the first time I've ever heard both King Crimson ("21st Century Schizoid Man") and Black Flag ("My War") covered in the same set. Lots of old faces came out of the woodwork for this one and it was great to see one-time Suburban Voice photographer Justine DeMetrick for the first time in years.

REVIEWS OF RECORDS, TAPES, CDs (but no 8-tracks):

(taken from their MySpace page/pic: Simon Faulkner)

BATTLE RUINS-s/t (Rock'n'Roll Disgrace, tape)

New Mass. band with Brendan Radigan (XFilesX, Mind Eraser) on vocals and the ubiquitous Justin DeTore on drums. A sturdy rock-core sound with lyrics about the ravages and glory of various battles, with "traitors stomped out," to quote one of the song titles. Imagine Criminal Damage without the blatant No Future Records-isms and you're on the right track. Brendan's vocals soar with authority and the volume-drenched sound wears well. (

DAMAGE-Our World (self-released, 12")

There have been any number of bands called Damage over the years. These four lads are Swedish and have a decidedly old-school hardcore sound. Or, rather, taking those influences and playing them with the non-distorted guitar attack utilized by the likes of Smart Cops, Amdi Petersens Arme, et al. The drumming is a little bit one-dimensional but, otherwise, I have few complaints about their no-bullshit style. I got a nice note with the record talking about how it was co-released with a "DIY human resource bank called Eldsjal" (hope I spelled it correctly) that provides info on releasing records and printed matter, booking shows, etc. Anyway, this band has a winning scrappiness. (

EQUALITIES-On The Street! (Loud Punk, LP)

The view on the back cover is facing the stage and you see people in leather jackets festooned with the logos of Abrasive Wheels, Special Duties and Adicts and hair spiked or mohawked (?) and getting ready to sing along with the Equalities. There are plenty of boisterous singalongs on thie LP from this Japanese band. Hearty UK-82 inspired punk that also dips into the '77 yearbook for the Pistols-ish "The Spring Of "Haruko," with the "Holidays In The Sun" guitar sweep. This sound kind of played itself out for me some years back but, every once in awhile, it's fun to hear this sort of "up the punx" fodder and the production is booming instead of slick. (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12202,

IN DEFENCE-Into The Sewer (Learning Curve, CD)

The Minneapolis band who have their name spelled wrong, claims to contrary on “In Defense Is Our Name Spelled Wrong” (maybe they think they’re from the UK), go over the metallic cliff here and welcome the collision I’d imagine. This is some fired up riffa-thrash-a-rama starting with the opening chords of “Lessons In Headbanging.” Crunchy bits of NYHC slip in there, as well. Ben Crew barks out the vocals with conviction as he emotes about such pressing issues as the lameness of pizza (“The Only Good Thing About Pizza Is The Crust”), a dearth of circle pits (“Don’t Call Me A Moshist”) and even throws in an anti-Reagan sentiment or two (“Total Filler No Killer”). Yeah, it’s kind of silly and one wonders how much of it is wise-assery and how much is serious. I used to wonder the same about Good Clean Fun but In Defence are WAY better than those guys and these songs throttle nicely. (PO Box 18378, Minneapolis, MN 55418,

MURDER-SUICIDE PACT-Summer 2009 demo (CD)
This Florida band, fronted by the one and only Bob Suren (of Sound Idea/Burrito Records fame), are back from the dead and come back with a vengeance. Fourteen songs of damage-core played in a deliberate and full-bore fashion. A Black Flag/Bl'ast inclination has always been part of the band's sound and they harness it in a somewhat similar fashion as a band like Annihilation Time but with only a smidgen of the metalisms of the former. While a good chunk is at a medium clip, they'll occasionally bring on the thrash, such as for "Get Bored And Die." For a "laptop" recording, the sound isn't bad at all--good and punchy, not overly slick. I also think they're better now than 'back in the day.' Dark aggression and that darkness extends to the lyrics. Well, sometimes there's a self-improvement, keep forging ahead theme, as with the fiery "Full Time." Bob has a sinister, close to murderous (sorry) timbre in his voice, matched very well by the music. Good to have them back. (PO Box 3204, Brandon, FL 33509,

PAINTBOX-Trip, Trance & Travelling (HG Fact, CD)
As I wrote about the "Gemstone" EP earlier this year (I referred to it as "Raw Ore" but that was one of the songs), Paintbox follow a musical everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. In that particular song--re-recorded for this album--you've got 70s-style rock guitar, female harmony vocals and a thrash break with sax bleating. In one song. Quite a few of the 16 songs here are mini-epics and you hear everything from traditional Japanese hardcore to balladry to metal to a reggae take on a traditional Japanese dance. Some of the songs are re-recordings of earlier material accompanying the new compositions. At their crazed best, the riffs have a ferocious attack as the late great Chelsea juggles power-chords and soaring metallic leads. That's the attraction, along with Mune's inaniac vocals and the pummel often has an inherent hookiness. And weird references come to mind--the opening guitar line for "Cry Of The Sheeps" has me thinking of "Laughing" by the Guess Who, the horn charts echo Chicago, the harmonica on "Save The Ground" conjures Blues Traveler and THAT's not good but made up for by the rampage and Ziggy Stardust guitar strum. It's a lot to get through and pretty overwhelming in one sitting but it's also an album you're not likely to forget, be it good or bad and that's definitely the case here. For instance, I don't think I need to hear the jazzy ballad "A Field In The Moonlight," even with the heavier takeover in the midsection, again. But, man, I can't stop singing "Cry Of The Sheeps." If you're adventurous, this is one thrilling ride.
It's something of a cliche but I can't think of another band that sound quite like this. I should mention that the packaging is stellar, with a colorful gatefold sleeve and lyric booklet. (

RAKKAUS-Jokainen Paiva On Taistelua (Tuska & Ahditus, LP)

A blending (sheesh, sounds like I'm talking about coffee) of different styles but this is a melodic sound with elements of Swedish and Japanese hardcore and the occasionally epic propensity. The guitars aren't tuned that low so things don't collapse under their own weight. When the compositions are kept brief and throttling, it's the best display of this Finnish band's power. Katri has a commanding vocal presence--sandpaper rough but not one dimensional. There's the occasional instance of dreaded snare slam taking a shortcut to speed things up but that hinders more than helps. Definitely not a light-hearted affair--the lyrical translations mention daily struggles, pain "within me that cuts deep," etc. "The sky is filled with dark clouds" from the song with the English title "Rain" kind of sums thing up. Nothing really bogs down to a crawl and the band's inherent power is effectively conveyed. Might be a little somber for fans of the raw/aggressive Scandi-core. (Kannaksenkatu 6 as.7, 33250 Tampere, FINLAND,

RF7-Hatred On The Rise (Just 4 Fun, CD)

Kind of a round-robin deal here or maybe showdown, if a band can have a showdown against itself. The deal is there are two lineups of RF7 on this disc--the original lineup from the 80s play on the odd-numbered songs and the newer lineup on the evens and they're all current recordings. Vocalist Felix Alanis and guitarist Nick Lamagna are the only performers in both of them. Differences? To these ears, the '00s version has a tad more sprightliness in the playing. In both cases, it's the same sort of straight-forward fast west coast punk they've always plied and Felix's vocals remain some of the gruffest in the business, without degenerating into indecipherable growls. Read closely and there's a religious element to a few songs, particularly "Witness," basically offering a warning of a "burning fire/gnashing teeth" fate for the non-believer. Hmmm... In any case, RF7 have always been a decent but not outstanding band, with the occasionally killer song and that's the case for this album. In other words, fairly average. (

ROT IN HELL-Hallways Of The Always (Grot, CD)

Metal, hardcore and crust merging together. I’m tiring of having to compartmentalize everything but that’s the broad description. The riffing is hot and heavy and Rot In Hell utilize a few familiar riffs here and there, be it the Celtic Frost-isms of “Final Word” or the even-more-brazen appropriation of Slayer’s “Angel of Death” for their own “Black Omega." It does falter towards the end, with the lengthy “Psionic Annihilation” and “Now, Today, Tomorrow and Always,” more of an experimental piece with acoustic guitar fading into some sort of sonic collage with a religious sermon underneath it. I’m sure there’s some kind of grand statement being attempted but it’s not worth spending the 8 minutes to wade through it. Otherwise, a more than adequate amount of ragingness. (

SLAP THE CULTURE-s/t (Cock Suck, CD)
This came out awhile ago (as in last year) but just landed in my mailbox recently and it's been landing on my CD player quite frequently. It also made its way into my iPod, which doesn't happen that much for newer albums. This Japanese band have a snotty early 80s-inspired thrash sound along the lines of Street Trash or Total Fury and the vocal delivery is similar to those bands' vocalists Josh and Kenji . Brief catchy-but-flailing songs following each other in quick succession. The three bonus songs--adding up to a total of 16 in around 12 minutes--are rougher and a tad more chaotic, especially "I Wana (sic) Skate." Lyrics are in English and aren't exactly poetic but convey a middle-finger attitude quite effectively. Inspiring wrecklessness. (

SPITS-The Spits (Recess, CD)
The Spits release their fourth self-titled album, their first for Recess. It's unofficially called "IV," much like Led Zeppelin's fourth album was called the same thing. And they get through about 7 of the 10 songs in the time it'd take you to listen to "Stairway To Heaven." The closest thing to an epic here is "Flags," timing out at 2 1/2 minutes. This is punk minimalism possessing a crude '77-era catchiness but they let wavier/nervier chunks in the mix--synth lines and washes and plenty of distortion effects on the instruments and vocals. "Flags," mentioned earlier, is the roughest song here, driven by muffled guitar and prominent bass and the chorus "wooah" perfectly played.
You might be thinking of accusing them of "d-u-m-b" schtick but it's very clever, dark schtick that'll have 'ya pogoing around. And "School's Out," with the line "we're gonna burn the teacher's car tonight" is way cooler than "Rock 'n Roll High School." (

TIMEBOMBS-Belong In Hell (Cowabunga, LP)

Hell? Hellacious! A cataclysmic barrage of pure energy music from the feedback-laden intro to "Safe For The Whole Family" to the bombastic conclusion of the final pair of songs, "I Belong In Hell" and "Not Safe." That's for sure! The instruments sputter and squeal in an eruption of pure craziness while vocals fight to rise over the clatter. You won't be humming the songs but you'll certainly feel the impact. This is the same sort of heady noise that's been plied by Sex Vid the past few years and I could see this band being a violent force of nature in the live setting. It's a pretty formidable force right here in the listening room. (

WITCH HUNT-Burning Bridges To Nowhere (Alternative Tentacles, CD)

So I've been watching all this back and forth about the health care debate, how it fosters socialism, a takeover of the government and so on. It's time for a musical respite but that doesn't mean it's time to stop thinking about those issues and Witch Hunt's "Sick Industry" puts it into an angry lyrical focus. "Burning Bridges To Nowhere" continues the move to a more tuneful sound while maintaining the energetic hardcore emphasis. There are moments that bring late 80s DC 'core like Gray Matter to mind (as with the aforementioned "Sick Industry" and "Counting Down The Days") and the warm guitar textures channel a Leatherface influence. There's also a sense of dramatic intensity for "Void" and parts of "Counting Down The Days." One change is Rob Fitzpatrick handling an increasing amount of the vocals although Nicole and Janine are hardly silent here. The progression continues and nothing's diluted. (PO Box 419192, SF, CA 94141,

No comments: