Sunday, November 27, 2011

Suburban Voice blog #97



... and I won't review them. Never. No exceptions. It seems more labels and publicists only want to send digital files for review. What's especially ridiculous is some send them at low bit-rates like 128 or 160, which sound like shit. Why even bother if you're not presenting the music with the best sound quality? An acquaintance of mine said that's like sending a scratched record for review. Truth be told, I'd rather listen to the scratched record. I know how expensive it is to blindly send out promos in this day and age so I have a compromise--I'll check out the digital download and if it's something I like and would review, then I'll ask if it'd be possible to send a physical copy. If I don't like it or you won't do it, no hard feelings and you've saved both of us the trouble. As for digital-only releases, as far as I'm concerned, they don't exist if they're not in a tangible format.

Taking a hard line? Damn right. Like it or lump it... I've been at this almost 30 years and I'll continue to review music the way I always have--blasting records or even CDs on my stereo. The day those formats aren't available anymore is the day I finally hang up my reviewer's pen or, more accurately, word processor--although I'm not sure if you can actually hang up a word processor...


Yes, I still get them from time to time and it makes me want to bring back a print version of SV. Never say never, I guess. In the meantime, here are five that have showed up in my mailbox lately (well, one was given to me in person but I digress).

Matt Average, late of Engine zine and one-time vocalist of Reagan SS, returns to the zine wars with the first issue of Taste Maker. It has the basic column and interview format but no reviews--he's thinking of only putting them on his on-line blog--but there's a cool "ephemera" section where he displays various set lists. I also collect set lists, but not as much as in the past. I'd actually like to see him go more in depth with memories about the shows or even a thought or two on the band. The interviews are with Total Abuse, Timebombs, artist/musician Gary Panter, Glass Candy and The Secret Society of The Sonic Six and are fairly in-depth. I like the fact that Matt's not sticking to one style although he said the next issue will probably have more of a hardcore bent. (PO Box 25605, LA, CA 90025,

The first issue of Stay Cool is a thick effort and was many years in the making (hmmm, that sounds familiar). A smorgasbord of interviews, photo essays and ruminations on various topics, from vegetarianism (even including Mexican recipes) to racial issues to various musings about punk and hardcore and it's with a Latino bent. Interviews are with Lifes Halt, Faded Gray and El Mariachi (that's the sole newer one). Cut and paste and you can tell that Fernando, the creator, is still passionate about this music even at an 'advanced' age. (1920 Jones Ave., LA, CA 90032,

Narcomensaje takes its name from "drug messages" disseminated by drug cartels in Mexico, mainly to threaten government security forces and rival drug cartels--that's the gist of the intro to the first issue of this zine. As for the contents, there are interviews with Men's Interest and Nuclear Cult, along with a smattering of reviews and full-page photos. Pretty basic, both layout and content-wise. (

Fastcore Photos is pretty self-explanatory. The second issue, published by Will Butler from To Live A Lie Records, is half-sized and on heavy stock. Actually, half of the zine consists of in-depth live reviews accompanying the photographs, followed by a photo-only segment. The bands veer towards the grind/powerviolence end of the spectrum although there are exceptions. Nice-looking effort. (

And, finally, Craig Lewis has published the 14th installment of his long-standing zine Upheaval. One double-sided page this time, with an essay that has Craig detailing his ongoing battle with (and recovery from) his ongoing mental health issues, plus reviews of punk and hardcore bands from around the globe. (



The band Chicago used to number all of their releases with roman numerals. Since they got back together, Systematic Death  have been numbering theirs, starting with the Systema-6 LP. And now we have the three latest installments, the just-released Systema-8 on Way Back When/Even Worse, Systema-7 on Armageddon and a split with the Czech Republic's See You In Hell on Insane Society. The latter pair are actually from 2010 but I'm including them here since I'm having a Systematic Death marathon--well for about 20 minutes anyway. Do you really need me to tell you about these guys? True legends, one of the greatest Japanese hardcore bands of all time. They went into hibernation for nearly two decades and then picked up as if no time had passed--both on record and especially live. The hallmarks remain--furious instrumentation, especially the drumming and the hearty lead and backing vocals. Systema Seven sounds a tad muddy production-wise compared to the other pair but it doesn't diminish the savagery all that much. I should also mention See You In Hell, of course. Their split w/SysDeath was pressed for a European tour and the two songs are raw, fast and hammering--a strong Japanese hardcore influence, themselves, so it's certainly a compatible pairing. (Even Worse: ;Way Back; Armageddon Label:; Insane Society:


Mr. Jeff Clayton sent me a package of five 7" EPs awhile back--new studio recordings with originals and covers, a live EP, a split with veteran hellraisers Zeke and Clayton backed by another band with the moniker The Mongrels and a few other friends join in the festivities. So let's run down the latest from these legends, whose style of punk pays attention to the music's traditionally loud trappings but you'll also hear traditional country, blues and rock 'n roll. The best one is the three song "Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match." The title track is an average Antiseen rager but things pick up on the flip--covers of Cocknoose's "Invader #1 Must Die" and their associate Mad Brother Ward's blazing "Kill The Scene." The next one features a pair of covers, the slow, bluesy take on Louisiana Red's "Sweet Buzz Call," with the band's patented buzz and backed by a rocked-up version of a traditional country song, "Black Eyed Susie," with banjo by their pal Joe Buck. That song reappears with just the banjo (by Buck) on their split with Zeke. Mr. Buck also lends his vocals to Zeke's hard-driving punk rock and Antiseen's  pounding"At The Crack Of Dawn."

Moving along, there's a live EP (World Wide Live Ass Kickin') with two songs recorded in scenic Pittsfield, MA and another three from the Speedfest in Holland. The highlight is a blistering version of "Sabu" and their cover of the Sonics' "The Witch" is perfunctory. Finally, the Clayton/Mongrels EP has a lengthy Skynyrd-meets-AC/DC brooder, "Warhero," with tasteful guitar work but drags otherwise. Two medium-speed punk rockers on the flip, covers of Mad Brother Ward's "Need It Bad" and the scurrilous Rupture's "If I Had A Thousand Dollars."

All in all, this is far from the band's best work and probably for completists, only. I'll stick with the likes of  "Eat More Possum," "Southern Hostility" or the early EP like "Drastic Plastic" and "NC Royalty." The discs are on various labels but if your interest is piqued, visit the band's website at Quite a bit from the band's extensive back catalog on there.



BRAIN F≠-Sleep Rough (Grave Mistake/Sorry State, LP)
Finally, a full length from the artists-formerly-known-as-Brain Flannel, or maybe it's still pronounced that way. I have no idea about that but know that this is a mind-melting excursion. It took me a few listens since some of the songs aren't as immediately-accessible as on their previous demo and 7"s but it's worth the effort. Brain F≠ create a gnarled and gnashing punk sound. It's a distorted whirlwind of tumultuous guitar, bass and drums. It's not an atonal mess, though--in that fray, discernible melody lines emerge from the dense arrangements. And then there are the vocals--Nick and Elise aren't John and Exene or Kevin and Bilinda (from My Bloody Valentine) but their harmonies and tradeoffs are engaging and give the band another distinctive element. I don't have any niche descriptions at the ready except to say they play raucous, boisterous, garagey punk that actually was recorded in a garage. Hopefully, that's enough to convince you. (Grave Mistake, PO Box 12492, Richmond, VA 23241, State:

BROWN SUGAR-Get Fuckin' Mugged (Feral Kid, flexi)
Ah, the crackle-crackle-crackle of a flexidisc, although you can't hear it too much during the songs themselves. Spirited, non-predictable punk these guys have been honing over the past few years and these recordings are actually from 2009. Three rough compositions pulling in thrash, garage and rock' strains, stretching out and freaking out with sax to wrap things up for "Mind Funk." In all honesty, the first 7" and split with Mayday are better and I'm really looking forward to the LP, because they were kickass when playing here over the summer. (

BURNING ITCH-s/t (Tic Tac Totally, LP)
Yes, punk rock exists in Knoxville, TN--although where doesn't it exist?--and the songs on this album possess a tuneful quality along with the rough-hewn production values. Certainly rooted in various strains of '70s era proto punk. Slashing, raw guitar underpinned by bubbling bass-lines, trashy drums/tambourine and Ian Lawrence's resonant croon. Some real burners here--"Dead End Street" and the sweetly titled "You Should Fucking Die" stand out although things take a somewhat poppier turn for "Brains Fall Out" and "Stay." Doing it right--with a not-too-slick buzz. (PO Box 558383, Chicago, IL 60655-8383,

COUGHING FIT-s/t (Loud Punk, 12")
Faaaast and hyper-fast hardcore that also breaks down into mid-paced floor-pounding parts and there's nary a break between songs. Once in awhile, they have a punkier moment, as with "Flash In the Pan." Then, completely out of left field, this one-sided 12" ends with a rowdy (and uncredited) cover of the Kinks' "All Day and All Of The Night." Unhinged, raw aggression threatening to ride off the rails and I think a bit less reliance on brute speed would be to their benefit because there are some moments of dead-on rage here. (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12203,

DAMNABLE EXCITE ZOMBIES!-Discography 1990-1996 (Not Very Nice, CD)
90s era Japanese hardcore band (if you weren't paying attention to the title) and more-than-credible Systematic Death worship. That's meant as a compliment, not a slight--this is pure rage, with just about all the songs played at a fast and throttling clip with the hallmarks of the classic sound. Razorwire guitar, merciless bash-em-up drums with plenty of cymbal involved and harsh vocals from Markey on the majority of songs (they were a three piece with the guitarist and bass player sharing vocal duties in '96). Not as much of the metal influence associated with the "burning spirits" bands, although there's the occasional guitar lead. There's a bonus track featuring a live reunion performance from 2010 that suffers from substandard sound quality. Collecting various EPs and compilations and a handful of unreleased songs. Non-stop obliteration. (

DRY HUMP-Fucks Your Ears (SexCult, LP)
Dry Hump come right out and tell you what their album is going to do to ‘ya—Fuck Your Ears. The front cover is rather provocative, with a couple of demonic creatures doing... well, see the photo above. On the back cover, it says "This is Lowell: Fuck Boston." A bit of parochialism directed at a city that is a HUB (pun intended, although only locals might get it) of parochialism itself, both in a universal sense and punk scene sense. Since their Culture Fuck Experience EP, vocal duties have passed from Erik to PJ Kuda, whose formidable drumming skills are on display in such bands as Male Nurses, BloodKrow Butcher, Brain Killer and probably a half-dozen I'm forgetting. Whereas Erik's vocals were delivered in a high-pitched rant, PJ emanations are harsher and gutteral but the music remains the same--rampant, thrashy hardcore with rock 'n roll riffing and leads sprinkled in, such as on the Black Sabbath-y (without the doom) "Sex Cult Pt.2." "I Am The Doorway" has a solid mid-paced Discharge pulse. These gentlemen mainly hail from the suburbs surrounding Lowell and there's a large amount of annoyance directed at their stifling surroundings or "Fucksville," as they call it. Dry Hump effectively channel their bile into a walloping sonic attack. (

FAITH-Subject To Change (Dischord, CD)
Dischord's catalog overhaul continues with a reissue of the Faith's "Subject To Change," the 1983 follow-up to their split LP with Void, appended with their first, 11 song demo. "STC" represented a stylistic leap for the band, having added a second guitarist and fusing melodic shadings with their straight-forward, speedy DC hardcore sound. "In The Black," from the split, was kind of a harbinger of what would follow with this EP--moodier, more inventive. And it's a stirring fusion. The bass-playing really shines on songs like "Limitations" and the title track. Whether this disc represented the end of that original era or a bridge to what followed in '85 with the Revolution Summer bands, there was definitely a change, a transitional moment. The demo tracks include 10 songs that were re-recorded for the split and one for STC ("No Choice"). They were still finding their footing a bit and the songs were played at a slightly slower tempo--and I don't think that's to their detriment--but these recordings sound warmer/fuller than the versions on the split. No hyperbole--this is absolutely essential. (3819 Beecher St., NW, Washington, DC 20007,

FATAL FIGURES-Blue Zed/Alright (Big Neck, 7")
Ugly, bluesy garage/slop with echo on the vocals for this pair of songs, one an original, the shufflin' "Blue Zed" and the flip being a cover of Pussy Galore's "Alright." The latter title sums things--'tis alright and nothing more. (PO Box 8144, Reston, VA 20195,

GERM ATTAK-Fear Of The Unknown (Loud Punk, LP)
As I've written before, Germ Attak started out pretty strongly inspired by Chaos UK, Disorder, etc and they've still got the UK-82 bug but it's been coming from the Varukers/Exploited/GBH side over the past few albums. The songs are mainly fast-paced ragers that conjure up visions of mohican youth running around in a big circle. If there's a running theme, it could be give us a future, to paraphrase another early 80s UK band, One Way System. Or, more accurately, it might seem as though there's no future, given the sentiments of "Poisonous Lifestyle," "Face The Reaper" or "Back's Against The Wall." This album was recorded by two Germ Attak-ers, with Jo handling guitar, bass and vocals along with his drummer compatriot Will and this will likely be their final missive. I always thought these guys were slightly above average, if not exactly top tier and "Fear Of The Unknown" reconfirms that opinion. Solid, competent headbangin' punk. The limited package is great, by the way--huge poster, flexi disc with two extra songs and colored vinyl. Just watch out for your fingers when handling the rough edges of the record--you don't want to get any blood on it like I almost did! (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12203,

HOLLYWOOD-Stunts (Big Neck, CD)
If you didn't tell me, I'd swear this was a new Mudhoney album, with the Mark Arm-type vocals, tongue in cheek lyrics and somewhat grungy, swampy guitar sound. It could even have been a new Monkeywrench disc, the sporadic collaboration with Mark and his Mudhoney compatriot Steve Turner, Tom Price from Gas Huffer and Tim Kerr. I've heard a new Mudhoney album in recent years and Hollywood's album is quite a bit better. Enough about those bands--let's get to Hollywood's rock 'n roll stew. The best song here is the raucous, rump-shaking "Toe-To-Toe," with a spacy instrumental break. The opener,"(Scary) Cemetery," borrows a lyrical line from the Ramones "Pet Semetary," and pounds along nicely on a sturdy bass-line, thunder-crack guitar and single note piano plink during the chorus. Bluesy, garagey, down 'n dirty rock done with simple, enjoyable aplomb. (

NAIFA-s/t (Faca Cega Discos, LP)
I'm fighting through a bit of writer's block today and having trouble coming with any sort of clever prose in reviewing this album but I'll press on because it's a winner. Naifa are a Brazilian band playing tuneful punk inspired by (though not entirely) classic 80s-era west coast fodder.  Plenty of drive and chops from all three musicians, with the guitarist, Arthur, handling the vocals as well. They complement each other perfectly. It's tough to miss the burn and hooks on songs like "Nada," with the jabbing, angular guitar underpinned by a bass line that pushes the melody along and that's also the case for "Pau No Cu and "Colisao." All of this is reinforced with impassioned vocals and it adds up to a strong, power-packed collection. As Arthur yells at the end of side one, all right! (

NEO CONS-Hardcore Elite/Kill The Police (Abscess, 7")
A two song 45, with an original backed by a ravenous cover of a  Jezus and the Gospelfuckers song. Speaking (or writing, actually) as someone who has been carping, at times, about the "hardcore elite" in Boston and other places--and lost some people I thought were friends in the process--I have to give this feisty, snotty punk song a big round of applause. The song's target is people who pull the age card and slag off younger kids but I think it can work the other way, as well. You respect me, I'll respect you. OK, end of lecture. Time to turn up the buzz. (

NIGHT BIRDS-The Other Side Of Darkness (Grave Mistake, CD)
After a passel of 7" releases, Night Birds unleash their debut album and it's more of the west coast Adolescents-meets-DKs punk sound. Surfy guitar and driving arrangements exhibiting a high level of musical skill fuel the band's catchy oeuvre. Lyrical inspiration comes from plenty of time watching movies, bookwormery and even catching up on the news, occasionally, as with "Paranoid Times." "Hoffman Lens," is based on the schlocky John Carpenter movie "They Live" (you know, with Rowdy Roddy Piper) and there's a Woody Allen reference on "Landfill Land," which is one of the better songs here, encapsulating this band's energetic appeal. Snappy 'n catchy. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

OBN IIIS-The One And Only (Tic Tac Totally, LP)
OBNIII is actually Orville Bateman Neeley III and this is his rock 'n roll combo and it's an enjoyably rockin' permutation of various influences. There's the Stooges/Radio Birdman bent on "If The Shit Fits" and "New Innocence," the bluesy stomp of Wager My Heart" and catchy Stones-inspired rock on "No Enemies." In lesser hands, this might veer into bar rock but there's enough looseness and ornery, beer soaked spirit to prevent that from happening here. (PO Box 558383, Chicago, IL 60655-8383,

OILTANKER-The Shadow Of Greed (No Funeral/Slainte, LP)
Throttling, crusty hardcore and it's what you'd expect--a tumultuous sound with dramatic riffing, an earthplow bottom end and scampering drums. Only it's not done in d-beat fashion but with more of a rumble and it's all accompanied by harsh vocals from three of 'em. A thick sound drawing from the requisite Swedish/PDX influences. They're from Connecticut and that state has a long history of these types of bands going back to the 90s. Adept at the style although they don't distinguish nor differentiate themselves all that much. (

POISON PLANET-Bleed For Me/Nazi Punks Fuck Off (ThirdxParty, 7")
DKs tribute, with two of their better-known songs given a raw bludgeoning--Nick is certainly a lot meaner-sounding than Jello and, even with the faithful surfy guitar trill on "Bleed," this ain't exactly a subtle treatment. The intro for this version does convey a good amount of menace. The short essays state, in essence, not a whole lot has changed since the 80s regarding economic or foreign policy and that there are still idiots who, pretending or not, think it's funny to spew racist and other hateful terminology. Not bad but not really essential, either. (

RESIST CONTROL-Dissipation EP (Feral Kid/Shock To The System, 7")
Is it thrashy powerviolence or violent power thrash? I dunno but these are short/fast/loud songs that the Short, Fast and Loud zine would love but I'm not quite as enamored. Standard criticism--rat-a-tat drumming fused to some hot riffing but the over-reliance on that kind of drumming hurts 'em. The final track, "In Time Of Actual War," is a good example--a solid mid-to-fast song but they feel the need to blast during the chorus where it's not necessary. Ah well. (

RETOX-Ugly Animals (Ipecac/Three One G, CD)
People from the Locust and affiliated bands playing frenzied, chaotic hardcore with more than a modicum of relentlessness, as you'd expect. The parties involved have made a career out of playing abrasive head-throttling music. Cacophonous, but there are distinct songs and a few standouts--the Dead Kennedys guitar signature for "Thirty Cents Shy Of A Quarter" or the haunting bash of "A Funeral On Christmas Sunday" and "Piss Elegant Beats," for instance. Cut from the same cloth as the Locust only they've left the keyboards home. The "mysterious guy" hardcore aura although these guys were successfully bashing out this sort of inspired noise long before there was an arguably vague, catchall term for it. (

SOKEA PISTE-Ajatus Karkaa (Karkia Mistika/Tuska & Ahdistus/Kamaset Levyt, LP)/Oire (Peterwalkee, 7" EP)
Two power-packed discs for this Finnish band, comprised of members of Kyklooppien Sukupuutto, Aortaorta and a few others bands, some of which have names I'm too lazy to spell out. Dark and nasty-sounding, a doomy ambiance harnessed to moderate and slower paced material. Imagine an amalgam of "My War" era Black Flag, the Wipers, Killing Joke and Voivod in various permutations. Something like that and I'm grasping for a description that really captures this band's essence. These aren't happy-sounding, overly accessible compositions but there's a potent, dramatic, near nightmarish dynamic at work. Colorful artwork with kind of an abstract style and the 7" cover is screened. (Band contact:

TINO VALPA-Walk The Walk (Kangaroo/Even Worse, 7" EP)
Kind of a hideous cartoon-style cover--head stabbings, hangings, etc. On the vinyl, though, there are 15 brief old-school hardcore blasts with bright production and an abundance of well-executed, single-minded aggro. And, offering a reverse on the old Blondie Is A Group statement, Tino Valpa is a guy, not a band and this is his solo project. He plays all the instruments here, along with bellowing the words. "Walk The Walk" is actually his second EP. If there's a theme, it's an exhortation that age ain't shit, that it doesn't mean you need to give up what you love, especially playing music. 13 originals plus a Verbal Abuse and Poison Idea cover. (Way Back When: Taskinlaan 9, 2361XM Warmond, The Netherlands, Kangaroo Records: 9 Corniche Andre de Joly, 06300 Nice, France,

ÜBERKRØPPLING-Kroppen (Blood Sausage, 7" EP)
Snarlin', nasty punk mixed with Detroit-honed garage swill. Vocals are harshly spat out in Danish and the guitars have James Williamson-manufactured guitar venom ready to sink its fangs into your skull. I have a toothache at the moment and this EP's mean, sputtering ugliness somehow seems appropriate. The vocals are a bit much after awhile and the title track is a mid-tempo rocker that goes on way too long. They get it right(er) on the shorter tunes. (

VARIOUS-Noise Ordinance (Maximum Rocknroll, LP)
It's been almost 30 years since the first MRR comp, Not So Quiet On The Western Front came out (and that was released on Alternative Tentacles). It was a two LP collection of Bay Area bands. This is the third comp of area bands--the other was the double 7" Turn It Around. And like the Not So Quiet comp, this one is hit and miss although there aren't any songs I'd consider completely unlistenable. Still, I don't think I really need to hear the grunt 'n grind of I Will Kill You Fucker (great band name, though) or the Mamas and Papas meet punk of Love Songs. But there are different shades of punk here--from the tough, melodic sounds of NN, Ruleta Rasa to the off-kilter Fleshies (they've been around a long time and remain underrated) to post-punk-inclined Airfix Kits and Rank/Xerox to hardcore ragers like Fix My Head, Morpheme and Conquest For Death. I didn't really feel the need to get up and move the needle--I imagine that's a sign it's a pretty good comp. (PO Box 460760, SF, CA 94146,

WAX MUSEUMS-Zoo Full Of Ramones: The Singles 2006-2008 (Tic Tac Totally, LP)
Entertaining, goofy punk from this Denton, TX band, who also have two other albums to their credit, including the recently-released Eye Times, after a three year hiatus.. Some of the songs here are (to quote Don Imus) laugh out loud funny--"I Eat Vomit" and "Billy's Room," for instance, the latter of which starts with the kid's 'grandpappy' asking what he does after school and the answer is "looking at pictures of naked chicks in Billy's room." Simple '77-era, garage punk that was really primitive and minimalist on their earliest EPs although none of the songs here are exactly high fidelity. One of the unreleased songs, "Livin In The Eyeball," has glorious buzz-fuzz guitar, accompanied with what sounds like a rhythm machine. Hell, there's even a conceptual trio of songs from one 7", Ancient Structures, with the titles "Pyramid," "Stonehenge" and "Catalcombs." In addition to the 7" releases, there are a handful of comp tracks and unreleased songs. A deliriously fun time. (PO Box 558383, Chicago, IL 60655-8383,

WHITE WHALE-Widow's Peak/Rats In The Snow (Big Neck, 7")
White Whale's previous demo and 7" were decent-enough but the two songs here don't immediately grab me. Frayed, semi-melodic punk working best on the higher-energy "Rats In The Snow," but something's missing, that extra spark to singe the ears. (PO Box 8144, Reston, VA 20195,