Friday, June 03, 2011

Suburban Voice blog #94


Yeah, I suck at this blog business. I've been rather hermit-like--as of this writing, I've only been to half a dozen shows the entire year. It's been almost three months since the last blog and I figured I was long overdue to post one even though the review pile hasn't diminished all that much. Ah well--it happens when you get old, the weather gets nice, you're suffering from writer's block or some combination thereof. It's not like I don't listen to the new music that shows up here and I manage to get a lot of the material onto the radio show at least.

I did manage to get through the biography about Hüsker Dü by Andrew Earles, Hüsker Dü: The Story Of The Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock. It's kind of a lofty premise, I suppose, and Earles spends over 200 pages trying to make that claim. The Hüskers certainly deserve their legendary status and it's an entertaining read but there are some flaws/shortcomings. The biggest one is that Bob Mould, who is publishing his own memoir, wasn't interviewed for the book although Grant Hart and Greg Norton were, as well as people involved with the band over the years.

Earles also tends to repeat certain passages and the chronology gets a bit jumbled. He over-analyzes in spots and there's the occasional factual error, such as saying that Television and Blondie recorded for Sire (it was Elektra and Chrysalis, respectively). And while the inter-band conflicts are given mention--particularly between Bob and Grant--it doesn't delve into them that deeply. Not that the book has to be a tell-all soap opera but it doesn't need to be glossed over, either. And while Earles is complimentary towards their hardcore-leaning material, some comments seem to be a tad ridiculous: "No hardcore band offered the acute wallop of something like Land Speed Record or In A Free Land." I could think of a lot of records in that time packing that kind of wallop but LSR is admittedly raw and over-the-top. I also don't know if I agree with the description of "Wheels" (from Everything Falls Apart) as being "No wave influenced." And while side two of Zen Arcade is arguably their most visceral eruption of hardcore since Land Speed Record, I don't hear the Discharge influence that the author mentions. At least there isn't unconditional love for each release--Warehouse gets a much-deserved panning.

I should also mention that Earles never got to see them play live. It shouldn't disqualify him from writing about the band but I'll admit I'm prejudiced in that regard. I saw them around a dozen times. I obsessed over Zen Arcade for months. They were an IMPORTANT band to me and some of those records are reliable "go-to" albums to this day. As an (irrelevant?) aside, I was stoked to see Earles use quotations from the interview I did with Bob in issue #8 of my 'zine. Surprised would be a better term, actually, since it wasn't all that great an interview--not Bob's answers but my lame questions. He was more than gracious and patient.

Criticism aside, there are some cool photos, flyers and other artifacts displayed. I think he manages to tell the Hüskers' story fairly competently--how they came together, the "scene" they helped create, a peek behind the scenes of the recording process and dissection of their records. Earles tends to look at them through the prism of how they inspired a more mainstream pop/punk and indy rock aesthetic, even going to far as to list bands they've influenced, who have covered them, etc--and that doesn't seem overly-necessary, although I never knew that Robert Palmer did a snippet of "New Day Rising" live. Go figure.

I'm really looking forward to Bob's book (which has just been published), especially if he doesn't filter himself. I definitely want to hear his reflection on things...

RECORD REVIEWS... just skimming the surface...

I'm going to begin this segment with a rundown of the most-recent batch of records from Lengua Armada, Martin Sorrondeguy's label. Maybe not so recent since, as I said above, this blog is ridiculously tardy. Hopefully, some of them are still available. Martin’s records tend to go out of print fairly quickly so you might want to shoot him an email at to see what’s available or check with your friendly distro. We begin with Bay Area band Vaccuum and their massive onslaught of distortion. The buried-in-the-mix vocals are provided by Robert Collins (Artimus Pyle, etc) and, while the attack isn’t as noisy as, say, Lebenden Toten or Nerveskade, the aesthetic leans towards that. A sonic terror. Japan’s Totsugeki Sensya offer a similar type of terror for the five song Chain of Tragedy EP. Harsh vocals and a trebly, distorted blaze that has an old-school Japanese hardcore fervor. Necromongo, from Peru, offer plenty of speedy d-beat wreckage on their five song Grabaciones Desde La Ultratumba EP, although “La Perdicion” slows things down. “Vamos” takes a Raw Power-ish turn, especially with the guitar buzz.

Upon hearing some of the shredding guitar leads and overall tone on Criaturas’s Aranas en el Corzon EP, I thought it sounded a bit like Vaaska. It turns out Criaturas are from Austin and include a couple of Vaaska-ians, namely guitarist Vampis and that band’s vocalist Eddie appears here on bass. Dru’s vocals are sometimes more offkey/abrasive than I handle but the songs have a potent surge. Actually, their songs do have a hint of melody here and there, such as on “Paranoide.” Solid d-beat thump with metallic flourishes.

Finally, there’s Porcodio, a project with Anti You drummer Paolo on vocals joined by various Richmond luminaries from Government Warning, Direct Control, etc. Bass-driven hardcore providing a pummeling effect—as always, Brandon Ferrell’s drumming provides an abundance of locomotive-like bash. Given their Euro/American composition, the sound draws from both regions although the main emphasis is old Italian hardcore and Paolo’s nasally timbre sounds inspired by the vocalist from Indigesti.

RECORD REVIEWS... (and still just skimming the surface)


BANRAN-Stop Kor (Even Worse/Way Back When, 7" EP) 
A band from South Korea who play in a fast thrashy vein with buzzed-up guitar and howling vocals. And while South Korea is the “democratic” part of Korea, that doesn’t mean that its leaders were admirable. For instance, there was Park Jeoung Hee, who was the president of the country in the 60s and 70s and had an apparently oppressive regime (yes, I did a bit of research while the record was spinning). Banran rant against his racist, anti-Japanese sentiments. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a review of a punk record and this is a mostly-effective blast. The noisy, whizzling tumult during “Being Retarded” stands out a bit. (Way Back When, Taskinlaan 9, 2361XM Warmond, THE NETHERLANDS, Worse, Van Ostadestr 93-F, 1072SR, Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS,

BLACK CLOUDS-s/t (Ride The Snake)
OK, so this 7" has been out for quite awhile but I only got a copy in the last few months and you punters need to know about it. The Black Clouds play simple, bashing ‘n bluesy garage rock that fans of the Oblivians, Cheater Slicks, et al will enjoy. I’m enjoying it myself. The best of the four songs here is "5 Years Behind My Time” and maybe it’s a sly in-joke about playing this music after any sort of so-called trend. I’m too busy being mesmerized by the string slamming and delirious tempo. Recorded at the late, great Twisted Village store in Harvard Square.(6 Wadleigh Place, Boston, MA 02127,

BRAIN F≠-So Dim (Grave Mistake, 7" EP)
Another record I neglected for awhile and shouldn’t have because it’s a real keeper I’ve been playing this record and tracks from their earlier demo on the radio show. From North Carolina and also known as Brain Flannel, this is some spirited, rough-hewn garage/punk bash, with semi-distorted male/female vocals. A full-length is due in the not-too-distant future. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

COKE BUST-Degradation (Grave Mistake, 7" EP)
As always, Coke Bust's music has all the subtlety of a jackhammer. While this band's musicianship has always been stellar (their drummer Chris Moore is a monster behind the kit), I still wish they didn’t rely so much on the velocity, although I guess it makes the crushing, if brief, breakdowns stand out. And “Deathbed” is a pounder in the tradition of Negative Approach’s “Evacuate.” I’ve enjoyed Coke Bust when I’ve seen them live but I don’t listen to their records all the time. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,


DEEP SLEEP-Turn Me Off (Grave Mistake, LP)
Deep Sleep's full-length debut, following three previous EPs (which were compiled by Grave Mistake on the Three Things At Once CD that came out last year). Turn Me Off is a little more polished than the earlier records but the songs still have a good amount of energetic drive. This Baltimore band have always emphasized a Dag Nasty-meets-Descendents-inspired melodic pulse in their sound, reinforced with Tony Pence’s urgent and emotional (but NOT emo!) vocals. Still, they come storming out full-force for “Live Forever” and other songs. Speaking of the Descendents, that band’s Stephen Egerton mastered the album, so I imagine the band wanted that kind of biting-yet-tuneful ambiance. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

HELLMOUTH-Gravestone Skylines (Paper + Plastick)
A scorching metal eruption with a no-nonsense leanness. Sure, you definitely hear mid-80s thrash ala Slayer--ominous riffs and all that, along with various hardcore and crossover influences. There are also chuggy and blastbeat moments but they're not detracting factors. Hellmouth, who hail from Detroit, charge through their songs with ruthless, relentless efficiency and the howling vocals more-than-effectively convey the lyrical ruminations on a world in decay, if I can use such a trite expression (too late!). When they sing about resisting control, I admit I clench my fist a bit. A good mix of heaviness, speed and haunting riffs. I haven't been too impressed with metallic fodder in recent years but this album is an exception. When it comes to this type of music, maybe I'm not such a jaded fuck, after all. (

HERDS-Michigan (Residue, 7" EP)
Each of Herds’ records have had a common theme running through them. For their album, the loose theme was about seasonal cycles and how it affects nature, wildlife and humans. For Michigan, Herds write about tragic events in different areas in their home state—a devastating mine explosion, the collapse of a building, a tornado and slow death caused by toxic contamination. So these songs are mainly about man-made atrocities although, in the case of the tornado in “Bay City,” the tables are turned to an extent. But it’s the music that really commands your attention. Pillaging, crust-tinged hardcore with ferocious instrumentation and vocals. Many bands playing this style put reverb on the vocals (sometimes to good effect) but Herds resist that temptation and it enhances the songs’ impact. A familiarity in the music, perhaps, but powerfully-executed and the lyrical themes don’t cover the standard-issue topics. (

IMMORAL DISCIPLINE-Complete Discipline (DSI, CD)
UNION STRIKE-The [Demo]lition (demo)
Passable bootboy punk from DC recorded from '87 and '89 and including Immoral Discipline's demo, EPs and an unreleased album's worth of material. The music is simple and straightforward punk--definitely paying tribute to early 80s UK strains, both oi-ish material and faster material. Flyin' the flag for the good 'ol (?) USA on "Boots and Braces, Stars and Stripes," but also exuding an anti-racist attitude. Punks and skins unite, etc... Shawn Garard has kind of a flat voice in the vein of the vocalists from the Hates and Crucial Youth. Can't say this didn't make me smile, at times. For a good cause--proceeds are being donated to St. Jude's hospital, the Human Society, a food bank and the ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease) Association. The same package brought a CD pressing of Union Strike's 1988 demo. They were another street-style DC punk band from the same period. A slightly heavier sound punctuated by gruff vocals, buzzing guitar but not all distinctive otherwise. And there's a ton of hiss on the recording--cleaning it up might have helped a bit. (PO Box 346, Dunn Loring, VA 22027,

NOTHING BUT ENEMIES-Creepy Crawl (Welfare, CD)
Creepy crawl was part of the Black Flag/SST Records vernacular and NBE have taken it to heart. Unsettling punk that crawls its way into your brain and rips it apart. OK, that's hyperbolic, even more than usual for this writer. This is one of the best albums to come out Boston in awhile. Ominous and fiery from the outset, as Opie brays over the Flag-meets-Fang sonic setting that appears most prominently on such songs as "Dropout" and "Another Day Of Nothing." "Tonight" is more upbeat, with a tuneful No Future Records pulse. The title track is also melodic but in a different way--fusing a nearly goth-like arrangement to the punk burn. Punk is supposed to be the music of the rejects but it often ends up with elitist pecking orders, just like in so-called real life. NBE are the rejects of the rejects and perfectly happy with it. And there's an originality in the songwriting, sparked by solid, powerful musicianship and reinforced with an animated vocal presence. (58 River St., Haverhill, MA 01832,

OLDE GHOST-Use Yer Illusion 3'N'4 (Handstand, LP)
The cover for Olde Ghost's debut album  parodies a certain west coast hard rock band (guess) but that’s the end of the similarity. This is nervy, pounding rock with howling vocals and a muscular musical focus—a few Drive Like Jehu touches but you can also hear bits of Swiz and Rorschach (especially vocally) in there, too. Former members of the underrated Books Lie and it’s a heavier-sounding proposition. Only misstep is an ill-advised cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by the Animals. (PO Box 110398, Brooklyn, NY 11211,

OUR BAND SUCKS-Pic 'N' Save (self-released, CD)
West coast old-timers return for another go-round. Sloppy Seconds-ish poppy-punk with semi-goofy lyrical matter although the liner notes inside the disc are actually more humorous. Four quick songs, mildly entertaining and the title track is catchy but nothing essential. (

POISON PLANET-Nothing Gets Done (ThirdXParty, 7" EP)
Nothing seems to get done around here, that's for sure. That's why it's been three months between blogs and this record review is also overdue. Oh, that's right--this is a record review. ThirdXParty honcho Nick Baran is the vocalist in this Chicago band, who have shown steady improvement with each subsequent release Poison Planet ply the kind of rough hardcore you’d expect, also inspired by early Boston rumblings (though not exclusively)—that point is made obvious by a cover of DYS’s “No Pain No Gain.” And, as I’ve said before, while I’m old, jaded and cynical, I recognize and admire this band’s idealism and attempt to shake people out of their apathy. It’s a tough battle.


This relatively new Boston band play various permutations of punk, garage, rock and even hardcore on their debut demo. “Pet Sounds” provides some jabbing garage rock, “Control” picks things up to a thrashier pace, while “Suffocation” and “Men For Men” are both moody rockers. There’s post-punkish flavor for “Vaccine” that intersperses a steady pulse with freeform bursts. The cover choice is pretty obscure—the Rings’ ’77 one-off “Automobile.” Jessica sings in a lower register but she’s expressive and has range. An auspicious debut and reinforced with warm, punchy production. (

RATZ-Uniformed Youth (Kink, 7" EP)
This German band showcase a west coast hardcore guitar surge on their five song EP, fusing it to a fast-paced attack on side one and, for the second side, slowing it down and coming up with a pair of catchy songs. Those are the stronger tracks here although the whole thing is pretty decent. (

SCHOOL JERKS-s/t (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
Another self-titled EP for Toronto's Jerks, their third and another snotty punk excursion. Yep, the Jerks in the name is appropos since they occasionally bring to mind another west coast band that shares part of their moniker and other bands from that time/region--Amdi Petersens Arme did the same sort of thing. As I've mentioned before, some of the personnel here used to be in Terminal State and this has a similar feel--ranting vocals accompanied by taut, razor-sharp compositions. (

SHARDS-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
Here's a band that's not all that easily-classified. Shards merge a shadowy west coast punk and Naked Raygun vibe (without the “whoahs” or overt pop influences) and take those elements and stomp all over ‘em. And while it’s a shortcut to call lyrics “dark,” what else to make of songs about “watersports” (and I ain’t talking about diving or polo) or ingesting harmful items? The production sounds a bit muddy at times and the songs don’t have obvious hooks but there’s enough burn to hold interest. (

SLOBS-Look Busy, Do Nothing (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
Here I sit at my computer, reviewing a record for my on-line blog and the song playing is "Technophile Society," about "being connected yet so alone." I suppose there's some truth in that statement and the songs here have an overall theme of dehumanization and alienation. Montreal's Slobs might be alienated, but they connect furiously with three thrashers and one song (the concluding "Assembly Line") with a garagier touch. Hardcore punk that's endearingly scrappy. (

SORRY STATE-s/t (Lifeline, 7" EP)/Listen With Prejudice (Third x Party, 7" EP)
One new, one not-so-new record. Both of 'em serve up some mean hardcore with pounding breakdowns interspersed with speedy thrash. Elements of Infest and early Boston HC, both from the “crew” bands and Siege. These guys are “nailed to the X,” so to speak, but straight edge themes doesn’t permeate the lyrics. On the Lifeline EP, there’s a lament about losing a family member to smoking and there’s no attempt to conceal the anger. Actually, there’s nothing held back on either of these records. (Lifeline, PO Box 692, Midlothian, IL 60445,,

STRIPMINES-Sympathy Rations (Sorry State, 7" EP)
Hammering hardcore punk that’s somewhat reminiscent of a band like Deathreat, at times. The drumming seems a bit off on occasion but the riffs are thick and mean-sounding, along with the hoarse vocals. A reliance on speed but they can get you pounding the floor, too--see the intro to "Aneurysms" or "Empty Threat." Not too shabby a debut. Not at all. (

SWEET TOOTH-Japanese Void EP (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
Blasting hardcore done in relentless fashion--sometimes too relentless in the speed department where the drumming becomes a tad monorhythmic. Still, it's not grindcore--this is flaying thrash with some solid breakdowns and tempo changes and the lurching conclusion for "Don't Come Close To Me" is attention-getting. Definitely something you have to be in the mood for--a bad mood. (

THINK TWICE-National Sacrifice Zone (Give Praise, 7" EP),
This band, with former Life Crisis vocalist Sean, create some savage crust-inflected hardcore. A three-piece with harsh back and forth vocals that are buried in the mix a bit. Opposed to corporate bailouts, thinking that the Obama administration is just more of the same ‘ol shit and, of course, chafing at the dehumanizing nature of the workplace. They sound properly and credibly agitated over the course of these five songs. (PO Box 494, Barnstable, MA 02630-0494,
TO HELL AND BACK-Will We Be Torn Apart (Peterwalkee, LP)
Straight-ahead hard rock/metal and somewhat better than THAB's first album, a few years ago. That could be due to a revamped lineup. There's still a propensity for vocal overkill and some of the arrangements stretch out a lot longer than necessary. NWOBHM meets 70s inspirations that occasionally pushes the right buttons, with punchy riffing and strong drumming but the vocals really do hurt things here. A mixed verdict. (408 Richmond Ave., Buffalo, NY 14222,

URBAN WASTE-Recycled (Rebel Sound, LP)
Urban Waste's 1982 EP is one of the greatest to ever come out of NYC. Almost 30 years later, there's this new album. It probably isn't fair to make comparisons to the first EP but it's inevitable and I'll give it a fair assessment. This isn't a complete failure, by any means. Some songs do have a speedy, semi-metallic feel and they also hammer out some credible straight-ahead rock 'n roll (particularly the opening song "Eat Cake"). On the other hand, some of the attempts at old-school hardcore (songs that were actually composed back then) feel forced, especially "Urban Waste." Kenny Ahrens' voice lacks little of the manic intensity of old. And I can definitely live without the groove rock of "No Joke." In all honesty, I kind of wish they hadn't done this. Even with 3/4 of the original lineup involved, it's a shadow of their one-time greatness. (PO Box 281 Dalton, MA 01227-0281,

VILE NATION-Tight Leash (Way Back When/Even Worse, 7" EP)
A stripped-down, somewhat lo-fi thrash attack with bass up in the mix and, along with the thumping drums, creating the foundation for the guitar slash ‘n sputter. The playing is definitely on the primitive side yet I ended up liking it. Just don’t expect anything exceedingly original. (Way Back When, Taskinlaan 9, 2361XM Warmond, THE NETHERLANDS, Worse, Van Ostadestr 93-F, 1072SR, Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS,