Thursday, May 17, 2012

Suburban Voice blog #99

Only two and half months this time. I'm still not publishing quite as often as I'd like but at least it's a step in the right direction--and only one away from the century mark!

Before hitting the review section, I should mention that the Boston hardcore documentary xxx All Ages xxx recently had its "world premiere" at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, as part of the Independent Film Festival. Directed by Drew Stone, who was in the early local band The Mighty CO's, it covers the 1980-84 period and features the requisite talking head interviews along with photographic images and show footage. It should be noted that one of the prime movers, Al Barile of SS Decontrol, refused any involvement. The premiere was fun, since it was essentially another reunion of people who were around back then and it proved to be a rowdy gathering. In fact, the vast majority of the audience was over 40. At least one critic in attendance was put off by that, saying it seemed self-congratulatory. To an extent, that's true--there's really not a lot of objectivity nor one single narrator--but I think it does a pretty good job capturing the essence of what went on back then. [Disclosure: I did archival work for the film and was interviewed]. More screenings are planned and a DVD will be released around the end of June. For more info, go to



BOSTON STRANGLER-Primitive (Fun With Smack, LP)
The Strangler have been a much-hyped band of late and it's justified. The Strangler started as a solo project for Ban Reilly and he played everything on the Outcast demo released in 2010. He then put together a lineup for live shows and this album is a full-band effort. After too many delays (like a year), Primitive has been unleashed. Let’s be blunt—this is an absolutely shameless Boston hardcore tribute, borrowing more than a few riffs here and there and that’s from just about all of the early-80s crop of bands. It’s humorous to realize that all of those bands had broken up (some would re-form, of course) before or soon after Ban and his bandmates were born. Primitive is Boston through-and-through, with the opening and closing “busts” having local references—the Winter Hill Gang and its boss, Whitey Bulger, who was arrested last year after nearly 15 years on the lam, which explains the title “Bulger Breakout.” Then there’s Ban’s Mass accent (“get out of HEAH,” “doesn’t MATTAH...”). Mostly, though, it’s in the music—SS DECONTROL riffs figure most prominently but you also catch snippets of DYS and the FU’s (“First Offense” sounds like “Civil Defense” sped-up). The stomping, circle storm-inducing title track is instantly memorable and will likely end up being one of the best songs of the year, even though it’s not even half over at this point. I’ve had arguments with other “old timers” about the whole “it’s been done before so why bother” argument. 100% true, in that it’s been done before but when it’s as dead-on as this, why should anyone complain? I’d much rather hear a band do this in 2012 than old bands getting back together and doing it half-hearted or releasing embarrassingly-bad new music (cough*DYS*cough). There’s nothing half-assed about Primitive. It boils over with lyrical and musical maliciousness. (872 Pleasant St., Raynham, MA 02767,

BROWN SUGAR-...Sings Songs Of Birds and Racism (Feeble Minds/Feral Ward, LP)/Tropical Disease (Fashionable Idiots/Feral Kid, 7" EP)
Two impressive musical missives from Brown Sugar. The full-length has been out for awhile (but quickly sold out the first press) and the 7" is brand new. Brown Sugar bring creativity and cleverness to their music although the messages in the songs are pretty straight forward--racism, gender issues, general stupidity and ignorance and Eduardo's vocals have an almost conversational, sarcastic tone. On the album's cover, there are visions of death and decay juxtaposed with an American flag on the front and the Statue of Liberty on the back but it's different from the standard issue, cliched imagery seen on countless other albums. From a musical perspective, it's hardcore but there are other elements at work--hints of garage, melodic touches and a few sax squalls along the way. Different guitar shadings as well, sometimes slashing, sometimes turning down the distortion and that adds to the garage-like ambiance for certain tracks (such as "Sweet Water Pink Boat"). Even a nod to Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" on "I Wanna Be A Somali Pirate," the track that closes the album. On the new 7”, the opener “La La Land” starts a suggestion to a friend that eating bugs isn’t such a great idea, accompanied by a nearly Nirvana-esque vibe before settling into garage-hewn rock. An air of unpredictably but maintaining an energetic focus throughout. (


CEREMONY-Zoo (Matador, LP)
Let me get this out of the way, first--Zoo, Ceremony's debut album for Matador, doesn't eclipse what will probably remain their masterwork, Rohnert Park. This is a more polished effort, less jarring than that album and representing nearly a complete break with their hardcore past. There's an increasing warmth in the guitar tone and an embrace of differing influences. The brief “World View” is one of the best songs here, stopping and starting and possessing a nearly mantra-like chorus (“talking into telephones...”). “Citizen” and “Ordinary People” provide some fired-up garage-tinged rock. “Brace Yourself” takes a page from Wire’s “Pink Flag” (the song). “Community Service” is influenced by The Fall. A few of the songs drag on a bit, particularly the bluesy closer “Video.” I’ll admit I was mildly disappointed at first, but Zoo continues to reveal its depth with each subsequent spin on the turntable. It’ll grow on you. (

CHROME CRANKS-No Life In Blood (Thick Syrup, CD)
The Cranks reconvene for the first time since the late 90s and they're back in righteously rocking form. Though initially from Cincinnati, a few of the members moved to NYC in the early 90s and hooked up with Bob Bert and Jerry Teel, who toiled in such bands as Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore and Boss Hog. The latter two followed a down 'n dirty bluesy punk oeuvre and that's what you'll find here, along with some Birthday Party strut, most noticeably on "Rubber Rat." There's some fiery straight-ahead, stompin' rock with "I'm Trash," "Living/Dead," "Broken Hearted King" and "Black Garage Door" (originally by Cincy band the Libertines) and those are the songs I keep coming back to. "Broken Hearted King" has some nasty slide guitar action. There are two other cover versions, including a 10 minute take on the Byrds' "Lover Of The Bayou," that's quite a bit more energized than the original but does go on for too long and a few other songs drag, as well. All in all, though, this is a fairly impressive return. (

CHUMPS-s/t (Forge, LP)
Everything goes in cycles--in the past few years, there's been a revival of heavy, nervy rock that used to be affiliated with labels like Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile in the early to mid 90s. Chumps could very well have recorded for those labels back then. On this 12", Chumps play heavy music but without the metallic bombast and a good amount of suppleness. It's got a dark, nearly sinister vibe to it. There's a seethe in the vocals similar to Scott from Girls Against Boys and some decidedly Jesus Lizard-like touches on a song like "Dirt." That song features lumbering bass and drums joined by jabbing guitar accents. They even add a catchy hook on the chorus of "Black." Guitar, bass and drums churn out a dynamic tapestry, Pushing and pulling and drilling its way into your psyche with dynamic precision. (

Two San Diego hardcore bands dishing out the aggro. Death Crisis are dead-on with their full-bore thrash blitz over the course of their three songs. Potent riffs power this band's aggressive approach, in something of a Poison Idea vein. Diatribe, who were around in the 80s and got back together in recent years, go for more of a D-beat inspiration, a mesh of barbed-wire guitar intertwined with vocal howlings and bridging the two main songs with a wash of feedback acting as a sound bed for some right-wing paranoid prattle (at least I think that's what it is). I like the Death Crisis side a bit more but they both offer some quality stuff here. (

HANGOUTS-A.D.D. Generation (Cutthroat, 7" EP)
Loud, boisterous 'n catchy punk rock with plenty of guitar buzz and attitudinal female vocals. There's something rather endearing about the way she sneers out "you're such a fuck face" on the song with the same title. The title track and "Derby Doll" are tough and taut. Only the faster-paced songs ("Get Well," Get Straight") fall flat. (5711 Hoover St., Houston, TX 77092,

IMPALERS-Demo (Beach Impediment/No Way, 7" EP)
In case you weren't paying attention, this is a vinyl pressing of this raging Texas band's 2010 demo. Explosive Discharge/Swedish-inspired, rockin' rollin' mayhem with echo on the vocals and a speedy attack, except for the pounding  mid-tempo "Return To Eden" that will have you furiously banging your head. OK, "Turn Me Loose" couldn't sound any more like Discharge if they tried but the problem is? The rest of the songs aren't as blatant about it but you know where they're coming from. And they're coming to tear you a new one. (

JOINT D ≠-Strike Gently (Sorry State, LP)
This band was known as Joint Damage until recently but had to change the spelling of their name to what you see above since there’s a really bad rap-rock duo from Rhode Island who have a legal claim to it and even had their lawyer send a nasty cease and desist letter. What’s funny is their guitarist/vocalist Nick Goode also plays in Brain F≠ aka Brain Flannel and this album has vocal assistance from two other members of that band. It’s more of a hardcore affair than Nick’s other unit although there are some sonic similarities. There’s a density in the sound—gnashing and bashing throughout—along with the spat-out vocals. Still, many of the songs are infused with a speedy scamper driven by wild drumming and thorny guitar flail. The middle section of “(I’m) Haunted” is louder and has a head-grabbing noisiness that’s offset by Elise’s soothing backing vocals. Not ghettoizing themselves into a generic hardcore sound but there’s a nastiness imbuing their songs. A winning, whirling cacophony. (

LEGION DCLXVI-The Final Days (Schizophrenic, LP) 
These self-described disseminators of True Canadian Misanthropic Blackened Hardcore do, indeed, peddle the metal on their latest opus The Final Days, their first album since 2008. Raw venom in the vocals and a meat-cleaver attack covered in crust. These are punks who are well-acquainted with the work of Bathory, Hellhammer and other purveyors of thrashy and heavier nastiness. Despite the intense, gloomy lyrical matter about the coming apocalypse (as predicted by some religious figures), it does seem a bit tongue-in-cheek and they wrap things up on an exuberantly upbeat note with their cover of the 4 Skins "Evil." It'll make you want to get down with your evil self. (17 W 4th Street, Hamilton, ON Canada L9C 3M2,

MEAN JEANS-On Mars (Dirtnap, CD)
Sunny, power-poppy rock that brushes the edge of syrupy without getting too cute, although I could live without the xylophone that pops up on a few tracks. I like a little more brawn, a bit more oomph with my melodic rock and the Jeans achieve that for the opening song "Ready To Rip" and, especially, "Nite Of The Creeps." In the same vein as the Marked Men, Exploding Hearts, etc. I still wish it rocked harder. (3840 SE Gladstone St., Portland, OR 97202,

MIND SPIDERS-Meltdown (Dirtnap, CD)
Ostensibly a solo project for the Marked Men's Mark Ryan, this is the second Mind Spiders release and it follows a path from pleasant, poppy compositions into darker and nervier territory, though never straying too far from its melodic underpinnings and the sonic densities are present at the outset--a mesh of guitar warmth, happy sounding organ and Ryan's nasally vocals. There are certainly songs with a Marked Men flavor, such as "Play You Out." The final four songs of the album descend into synthy realms, although the last song on the first side, "Fall In Line," hints at what lies ahead with a numbing, repetitive riff and concluding with a clattering effect. I actually find these compositions more intriguing, especially the jolting "Wait For Us."  By the time of the instrumental title track that closes the album, there's a bliss that mines Krautrock, along with early OMD tinges--I'm thinking of their song "Bunker Soldiers," with a similar melody. An enjoyable, engaging musical excursion. (3840 SE Gladstone St., Portland, OR 97202,


NEGATIVE DEGREE-s/t (Offside, 7" EP)
Real basic, raw stripped down hardcore punk with primitive production and that becomes part of its charm. Not a lot of distortion on the guitar, ala Amdi Petersens Arme, and Negative Degree have a baaaad attitude about stuff. The middle finger is thrust into the air and they revel in telling various annoying people and nemeses to fuck right off. I could see "Punch Out" and "Service Industry" becoming Labor Day perennials on Sonic Overload. Doin' it the right way. This is a vinyl pressing of their demo. (

THE NERVOUS-Genital Panic! (Nervous, 7" EP)
The Nervous and Negative Degree share the same guitarist, Johnny, but the Nervous operate in more of a garage/77 punk region. Jen's vocals go from singing to screaming in the same song (sometimes in the same verse or chorus) and the compositions are sharp and memorable. They can be driving and aggressive on a song like "Greatest Generation" or more tuneful, as with "Dead Fret," although that song also has a punchy fervor. This reminds me of Gorilla Angreb's early recordings, at times. A fine debut. (

REPORTS-Dimano Cambridge (Ride The Snake, LP) 
Head-messing rock with a density of sound, a gnash of guitar, bass, drums and organ, along with soothing vocals. Not as in some sweet pop style but there’s a certain amount of joyous blissfulness in the band’s approach. It’s poppy without being pop. They create a heady drone, especially for the 12 minute title track that settles into a Krautrock-styled motorik, and it’s rough enough to appeal to punk fans. To save you the trouble of consulting Wiki, it’s a repetitive rhythmic style that was used primarily by NEU! in the early 70s and also adopted by Stereolab in their early days. And there’s the hovering spectre of the Velvets. Lest you think this is something that falls outside the punk realm, the rough-hewn pound of “Turnaround,” “Kittenface” and “The Valley,” with an ear-grabbing organ hook, should quickly dispel that. It's hard not to get caught up in this band’s joyfully cacophonous swirl. (

REVILERS-s/t (Patac, LP)
The ReVilers have both a punk and rock 'n roll heart and mix those together in their boisterous compositions. Heart on the sleeve, to use a cliche--I mean, it's hard to miss the point of "Quit My Job," with the refrain, "before I kill my fucking boss."  There's a winning energy to some of these songs--"First Law" and "1860" in particular--which pack a catchy, surging punch. Still, there's not a lot that stands out here. (

ROGUE NATIONS-Regi Mentle Rides Again (Suicide Watch, 7" EP)
The Nations take a break from their politically-oriented lyrics to write music that accompanies lyrics written by Regi Mentle. To provide a brief synopsis/encapsulation, Regi was a mainstay of the early LA punk scene, part of the Germs' "inner circle." I remember reading his contributions to Flipside in the 80s and they were always provocative. He was convicted of killing a man in the early 80s (most likely in self-defense), given a 16 years-to-life sentence and is coming up for parole. This record's proceeds will go towards his legal defense fund. The musical contents are a successful take on classic west coast punk, especially the Germs, as you'd probably expect, although Chris Peigler's vocals are in a higher cadence than Darby's style. The lyrics have a dark, twisted nature, some of it autobiographical, especially for "Parole Board." This is the Nations' sharpest-sounding music to date. (

ROTTEN CADAVER-Hi-Jacked Reality (Black Water, 12")
This album was recorded in 2007 and, after ridiculous delays, it's finally been unleashed. Blistering, loud 'n fast hardcore/crust by this Portland wrecking unit. Fast picked-guitar relying more on tension and fray than pure powerchords, thumpa-thumpa drums, nimble bass-lines and hellacious, throat-ripping vocals. The lyrics don't really follow a verse/chorus/verse pattern but are brief exclamations of, to quote two of the titles, "Our Rage" and "Disillusion." The band's name insinuates something ugly and you get your money's worth on that account--and it commands your attention (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208,

SISTA KRIGET-8 Track Horror (Black Water, 7" EP)
And, for the millionth time (give or take), here's a band playing straight-ahead, Discharge-influenced Swedish hardcore and damn if they aren't quite proficient at it. The band includes members of Fy Fan and Pisschrist so that should tell you right there that it's going to be some quality music. Everything you'd want--just a pummeling, raw (though not noisily-distorted) sound, harsh vocals and relatively catchy. Well, as catchy as this sound gets i.e. it's not just a wall of noise. Recorded in 2009 and this is a reissue. (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208,

STRIPMINES-Crimes of Dispassion (Sorry State, LP)
If there's one thing that could be said about Stripmines, it's that they're hardly dispassionate. They muster every bit of passion, every bit of bile and rage to fuel their boiling-over style of hardcore. Stripmines batter their songs to a pulp with a tandem of guitar burn, drum bash, roiling bass and harsh vocals. Not slavish to one stylistic aspect--there are Swedish influences but you can hear echoes of Lifesblood's bruising nature and "Political Correction" even has a slight Cro-Mags inflection. That song also takes aim at people in the punk scene who have arrogant, know-it-all, judgmental mentalities that can alienate potential allies. Starting and ending with the same ominous tone and, in between, hell is unleashed. Raw, fast and just plain MEAN sounding, especially in the vocal department. (

The front cover is a reinterpretation (I guess) of the Germs' logo, with a bomb fuse on the upper right and doves flying out of the lower left. Two veteran bands continuing to ply the same sort of full-bore Swedish hardcore they've been at for years. In Uncurbed's case, it's about two decades and this might be their swan-song. There's a running theme for Uncurbed's songs, depicting the harsh, cruel realities of life for the less-privileged, brought on by everything from homelessness to imprisonment to personal demons. Warvictims follow, commenting about a world on the brink of destruction. Both bands have the thick, heavy sound and gutteral vocals, although Uncurbed's guitar tone is a shade lower. Recorded in 2009 and this is the US release. (4919 NE 33rd Ave, Portland, OR 97211,

UNRULED-s/t (Schizophrenic, 7" EP)
Unruled released a CD awhile back with the guitarist and bassist from the original lineup joined by the singer and drummer from Inepsy and the songs from the original EP were included. Now there’s a vinyl reissue. Well-done fast punk in a decidedly UK-82 vein, complete with the catchy Blitz-type guitar for “Time Is Running Out,” which is the best of the bunch. The other three songs (they’ve added an extra song which has demo-sounding production) also sound as though they’d fit in nicely on any Riot City/No Future release at that time, with “Forced Mistake” taking a Discharge turn. Not bad but “Time” is the pick-to-click here. (17 W 4th Street, Hamilton, ON Canada L9C 3M2,

URBAN UNREST/PARENTAL SHOCK-Split (United Shoebrothers/Rabbit's Foot, LP)
Pretty basic '82 inspired hardcore by both of these Finnish bands and more ties to the 80s with cover art by Brian Walsby although his graphic style has certainly evolved since those days. I mean, the songs here are OK--fast, peppy and tight but not essential. Urban Unrest pack more a punch on their songs and the lyrics exude frustration and disillusionment in a convincing manner. As we say here in Mass., wicked average. (

VARIOUS-PDX Vol. 2 (Black Water, 7" EP)
There's a certain sound emerging from Portland besides the power-driven hardcore/thrash style. It shows an affinity for something gothic or, perhaps more accurately, early 80s UK doom 'n gloomers. A melodic, melancholic sound from the four bands here, including the superb Arctic Flowers. An earlier version of one of their best songs, "Crusaders + Banshees" leads things off with a punchy, melodic sound and that also comes out on the Funeral Parade track. Speaking of Banshees, Moral Hex certainly borrow from early music by that band (as in Siouxsie and...). Meanwhile, with the synth lines, Bellicose Minds take a page from New Order. Not happy-sounding music by any stretch but the punk undertones sidestep prevent these songs from sinking into a mucky abyss. (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208,
WILD//TRIBE-Endless Nights (PunkAlive, CD)
Burning hardcore done with a full-throttle blitz. Wild//Tribe hail from Austin and bring their hometown brethren Spazm-151 and early World Burns To Death to mind. In the latter case, it's due to the low, strangled-sounding vocals offset by higher emanations. "Power" is the perfect title for the leadoff track since it sets the stage for what follows. A relentless barrage of hardcore drawing from Swedish and Japanese influences and underpinned by a pure rock 'n roll kick. Not reinventing the sound, just reinvigorating it a bit. This is a scorcher. (

WYMYNS PRYSYN-Payday (Scavenger, Of Death, 7" EP)
A dense thundercloud of blown-out sounding punk/garage/noisy rock and the two songs on the a-side ("Payday," "Cat Pills") bury the songs' melody lines inside. The flip, the instrumental "John Titors Blues," approximates Dinosaur-meets-shoegazer rock. Something like that. The songs with vocals fare better. Loud, heady stuff. (