Less of a delay this time. Maybe I'm finally getting my shit together. Maybe not. In the meantime, things are picking up show-wise and I've seen three--count 'em--three bands from Sweden in the past month or so. There was the old-school Swedish hardcore of Project Hopeless, who played the Guns of Brighton basement space. Then, at Great Scott, there was Victims, whose over-the-top assault just might be the best set I've seen so far this year. Their vocalist Johan has taken over bass duties but it doesn't mean any less presence. That ain't gonna happen when you have Jon on guitar and he has the fucking moves. Finally, Nitad were just in town this week at the Midway and come from more of a hardcore punk direction with catchy bits and their vocalist Modde has an in-your-face presence.
I should also mention Sex Vid's long overdue return to Boston, part of an intense bill at the Democracy Center/Papercut Zine Library that also included Mind Eraser, Failures, Confines and the debut of Boston Strangler, who damn near stole the show with their spot-on replication of early 80s Boston hardcore. The sound was pretty abysmal all night--the vocals were inaudible. Someone joked it was the best instrumental show he'd been to all year. Sex Vid have added a second guitarist and his axe-mangling makes 'em sound even crazier. I loved their cover of Bauhaus' "Dark Entries." The other cover version that blew me away was Confines' take on Born Against's "Well Fed Fuck," one of the best encapsulations of the soul-sucking nature of the work environment from both a musical and lyrical sense. And speaking of presence, any band with Andrew Jackmauh (ex-Cut The Shit) on vocals will likely grab your attention. Andrew was a busy man that night--he also plays bass in Boston Strangler and the crazed-sounding Failures. Good, hard-driving hardcore punk stuff. What an awesome way to spend part of my wedding anniversary although my lovely wife might have a different opinion. But I did take her out for a nice dinner beforehand and she was an incredibly good sport about indulging her husband's punk rock obsessions.
A WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF FROM TRABUC RECORDS
I don't usually do label spotlights in this space but Eduard from Spanish label Trabac Records sent me a huge package a little while ago that included five LPs and a 7" (by the Lost Boys and that was already reviewed in Blog #66).
In a letter that came with the package, Eduard, who is the vocalist in Anti-Playax, mentioned that Derrota, Desguace and Anti-Playax have common members and they're at the core of "Orxata Negra" collective in Valencia. They also do DIY booking, zines and silk-screening. He writes that they're in the process of opening a social center/DIY venue there and they're also organizing their third "Orxata Fest" in a local squat. A social center/DIY venue... wouldn't that be something great for Boston? Or any other city for that matter? This city's come close a few times--I think of the original Regeneration warehouse space in Dorchester, which had a handful of shows and was also going to do silkscreening and have a zine library but it only lasted a month before getting shut down by the authorities since it wasn't up to code. There are non-club spaces for all-ages/DIY shows here but they're often fleeting or not always available on a consistent basis.
So let's get down to it, starting with Anti-Playax and their album "Valencia Marca Registrada." Released in April '08, these guys feature a rippin', stripped-down sound. The guitar has no distortion, as was the case with Amdi Petersens Arme, Anti You, etc. It's that kind of no bullshit punk approach. They concentrate on some local issues in the lyrics, such as for "Treball-Platja-Mort," which is about the contrast between asylum-seeking Africans attempting to enter Europe via boat in a way the bigots would call "illegal" and then coming in contact with whom they describe as "luckier" people lazing on the beach. Then there's the anti-tourist rant "Ole!" And big ups for "You Smoke, I Die" (sung in English) about tobacco smoke at shows. I can relate after attending a couple of recent shows in a sickeningly smoky basement.
Horror have a brutallizing sound with a Scandinavian bent that comes across as equal parts Finnish (in the vocal delivery, mainly) and Swedish, with the hot guitar and bass riffing and relentless drumming. Their 9 song 12" "Descontroladas" is a non-stop attack of hardcore mayhem. Sure, it's pretty much by the numbers but the band's rawness really grabs me.
Derrota also possess a similarly raw attack--speedy, crusty hardcore but, in this case it's thicker and heavier sounding. On the lengthy closing song "Abismo Interior," there's some Sabbathy heaviness wrapping things up but without any sort of stoner rock-ism although it drags on a tad long. This one has a full-sized 20 page booklet with the lyrics translated into a few different languages including English. Quite a bit of rage on this one along with the occasional hint of melody.
Melody is at the fore on Insomnio's second album "Happy Loneliness" (released in the US with a different cover by No Way Records). This ain't no pop record, though--it's just that the band have an accessible punk sound. There's an abundance of rock 'n roll burn and a decided west coast punk inspiration, much in the same way that No Hope For The Kids looked that way. That means beefy rhythm guitar overlayed with some tasty lead licks. Insomnio don't change tempo that much--it's a sturdy mid-tempo style that has a lot of presence. The production isn't as gritty as on their debut album "No Escape" but you won't hear any complaints, otherwise. And it REALLY sucks that this band has been denied entry to the US because of one of them having a criminal record. Fuck you, US Customs!
The final record in this package is "Yo Me Se Cuidar" by Desguace. Another band who rely on a more melodic approach (once again, think of the Danish bands) but there's also a nervy/edgy guitar sound to go with the punk and hardcore trappings. A rootsy rock undertow, at times, coming to the fore on "El Hombre Mas Fuerte De Cornella." Desguace will jab their way into (or through) your heart.
Here's the contact info: PO Box 160, Carcaixent (Valencia), SPAIN, www.nodo50.org/trabucrecords.
AND NOW THE REST:
THE HORROR (2007)
ABADDON-Life Out Of Balance (Sacred Plague, 12")
A crush of death metal 'core with wanton riffing and a tandem of blast, thrash and pummel and covered in crust. Inhumanly low vocals that growl out incomprehensibly and, with the band's attack, this has all the subtlety of a meat-cleaver to the head. "Peace Maker" is more of a piss-take with stop/start instrumentation and goofy vocals in all possible accents/accentuations that had me reaching for the tone-arm. Brutal? Sure... but that's not always enough and, with a lack of memorable songs (except for that infernal "Peace Maker"), there ain't much more here to recommend. (Kaleb Keefer, 7746 Whitehall Cir E, West Chester, OH 45069, www.sacredplague.com)
ACCIDENTAL GUN DEATH-Skies Are Blue (Blind Spot, 7" EP)
Absolutely raging hardcore punk as this three piece rip through 11 songs in a small space of time. A definite Minor Threat bent at times, only with much more rawness and a nastier tone in the vocals, except for "Forward," where there aren't any vocals and they get to show off their instrumental muscle a bit. The lyrics are filled with thoughts about battling against self-doubt and trying to overcome it. That might read as a tad corny but it isn't expressed that way and they've got the electrified rage to back it up. (PO Box 40064, Portland, OR 97240, www.accidentalgundeath.com)
CRAWLERS-Level The Forest (Blind Spot, LP)
After a mighty impressive 2007 12", The Crawlers return with another crackerjack punk rock attack. These guys have it nailed--aggressive without any bluster and a good mixture of thrashy hardcore and pounding mid-tempo fodder. If any of you remember a Chicago band called No Empathy, it's along those lines. If not, I hope the above description at least provides adequate information. And to use a trite expression, they have "something to say," as well, with songs about overdevelopment in their hometown of Portland, OR, football player Michael Vick, who was convicted of murdering dogs, "righteous" evangelists and a rather visceral rant at someone who done someone else wrong for the creatively-titled "Cold As A Veal Farmer." It's a bit early but I think this will definitely end up on my best-of 2009 list. Everything that's still good about hardcore in one head-grabbing package. (PO Box 40064, Portland, OR 97240, www.myspace.com/thecrawlers)
DEATHCAGE-Chaos Nightrider (Schizophrenic, 7" EP)
On the record label, it says "Distort Sydney" but this Aussie band's sound is more in league with some of the 'burning spirits' Japanese bands. That means a coupling of aggressive thrash and metallic guitar leads. Hardly groundbreaking but the band's overall roughness is definitely a plus. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA, www.schizophrenicrex.com)
DETONATE-s/t (Distort, LP)
If the drawing on the front cover of a peace sign with the barbed wire outer rim and the sign itself consisting of a dove impaled on a missile doesn't give you an indication of Detonate's approach, you're not really paying attention. Fast-paced thrash/crust with Yvette's piercing yelp trying to rise over the fray (Yvette's duties have since been taken over by someone else). Not much deviation from one song to another after the buildup on the opening track "Boys Don't Cry" (NOT a Cure cover). Fans of bands like Aus Rotten, Detestation et al will love Detonate. Nothing that really makes it stand out from the pack but they've got the sound down quite well. (PO Box 80338, Minneapolis, MN 55408, email@example.com)
DISCO ASSAULT-Saturday Night Bleeder (Schizophrenic, 7" EP)
Cranked up and ready to kill, or at least assault. Sorry--rock writer lameness at work. But Disco Assault accomplish that, at least in a euphemistic sense. Loud 'n fast hardcore with throat-shredding vocals. There's the same no-bullshit mode as Out Cold, particularly for the opening song "My Fate" and the vocalist who calls himself The Mangler lets out some hellacious screams, especially on "Work To Survive." Covering semi-obscure Florida punk legends Roach Motel's "More Beer" shows an astute sense of history and they even offer a shout-out to that band's George Tabb, urging support (George has suffered from health issues since 9/11). Angry as fuck but I get the feeling they're having a blast making this noise and I'm having a blast listening to it. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA, www.schizophrenicrex.com)
GIANT HAYSTACKS/YOUNG OFFENDERS-Split (625, LP)
The tracks on this album were recorded in 2007. There’s a “sale” sticker printed on the upper-right corner of the cover and I suppose you could say this is Giant Haystacks' going-out-of-business sale since these are their last recordings. They’re probably sick of having the Minutemen and Gang Of Four reference points pinned on ‘em but they’re hard to avoid, especially with the spaciousness and tension for “We’re All In This Together.” Still, it’s more in the structure of the music as these gentlemen also add some strong hooks here and there. So it’s a starting point but not the totality of their sound. They might have been popular in their Bay Area home base but I still don’t think this band totally got their due. Meanwhile, Young Offenders have a sharp, brash sound with melodic properties underpinning their jabbing attack. Strong harmonizing and a solid mesh of instruments. I like the way the guitar and bass play off each other on the last track “Battleships.” A nice break from the hardcore. (www.625thrash.com)
THE HORROR-Spoils Of War (Grot, CD)
A party not heard from in awhile since it's been approximately three years since the last Horror album. For those who need a refresher course, they've been together since early in the decade and spun off from Voorhees, with four-fifths of that band's membership at the time adding a new vocalist, the hoarse-voiced Andy Bryant. Fast, brutallizing hardcore sticking to the UK tradition established by the likes of Ripcord, early ENT and some US bands--"The Menace," for instance, has a mid-period Poison Idea feel. In other words, loud and blazing throughout. Sure, they borrow on occasion, such as the intro to "Blame The Kids" coming from the Bad Brains' "Big Takeover." Once in awhile, the speed doubles but, for the most part, this is streamlined, ruthlessly efficient fodder. There's also a lyrical pragmatism. Sure, there's plenty of ranting against political atrocities but there are also barbs aimed at social climbing and affluenza. "Choose Your Fight," though, lays the claim that "For all our talk of repression, control and faux democracy; if there's one thing this country gives guys like you and me; this is the privilege of being angry; the gift of biting the hand that feeds." Stating that not all battles can be fought, not everything can be changed but then there are still doubts about that kind of compromise and acquiescence. In other words, significant change could be a load of bollocks. Some might view that as giving in too easily but I think it's a credible reality check. Or maybe I'm just cynical. Whatever the case, there's no missing the impact of these sounds. (www.myspace.com/grotrecords)
VARIOUS-Toronto's Burning (Schizophrenic, LP)/NO T.O. (Schizophrenic, 12")
A pair of comps from the ever-busy Schizophrenic Records, both of them featuring Toronto bands (in case you couldn't tell). "Toronto's Burning" is one of them thar scene comps and a pretty good one, overall. There's some stylistic diversity, from the rippin' hardcore of the Reprobates and School Jerks (I imagine there's some punnery at work since "High School" sounds more than a bit like the Circle Jerks' "Red Tape") and Black Spokes. Hazardous Waste favor the less-distorted hardcore punk attack. The thrashy UTI's vocalist Leah unleashes vocals that sound as though her vocal chords have had an acid rinse. They slow it down for "Schadenfreude," where she really gives those chords a workout. Rammer bring on the crossover metal for their sole track, "Leatherface." Living Darkness have a lower-tuned Swede-core assault. Black Spokes also incorporate a hint of crossover but it's clearly on more of the punk rock side of things. Madmen, a project for Jonah from Career Suicide and Fucked Up, provides some formidable, high-energy bash. Urban Blight have a raw, speedy tumult with a strong breakdown for "Waste." Only the power-poppy Dangerloves don't do all that much for me.
As for the other comp, it's actually a tribute to the "Yes L.A." Dangerhouse Records compilation--the original was a 6 song, one-sided picture disc and that's what you get here, with bands from T.O. covering those songs. The bands add their own touch to the songs and the results are very mixed. Stef and The Studs go through fairly standard renditions of the Bags' "We Don't Need The English" and the Alley Cats' "Too Much Junk." There's a snotty gnash to the sound although Stef's vocals chafe a bit. Instead of organ, Career Suicide use piano for their take on the Eyes' "Disneyland." It's a good song but I'm not particularly enamored with their treatment and it could be one of the weakest songs I've heard from the band. Actually, considering the fact that it's been bouncing around in my brain since hearing it, perhaps there's some sort of subliminal charm that's connecting. Perhaps. The Brown Knuckler's reading of Black Randy's "Down At The Laundrymat" doesn't deviate much from the original but manages to replicate the song's offbeat charm. Meanwhile, as much as I wasn't too into the Dangerloves on the "Omnibus" comp, they fare better with X's "Los Angeles" and the John 'n Exene vocal parts are well-done. Finally, metallions Legion 666 bash through a rockin' rendition of the Germs' "No God," complete with acquired-taste cookie monster vocals. I'm kind of looking at this as a novelty deal but if it piques your interest, there are only 300 of these suckers. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA, www.schizophrenicrex.com)