Thursday, December 27, 2012

Suburban Voice blog #103


So here we are again, tardy as always. 2012 is drawing to a close and it's almost time to work on my Best of 2012 list, which is underway. That will be in the next blog. In the meantime, here's the latest, long-overdue installment.

ARTCORE #30 + STATE FUNERAL Protest Music 7"
I've got to hand it to Welly, the head honcho of Artcore --he's certainly a lot more diligent in sticking to the printed format than yours truly and he's been at this zine thing almost as long as I have. Not that I've given up on ever publishing a print issue again but he's kept plugging along for years and doesn't seem to have lost his passion for the music or the anti-authoritarian sentiments at its core. And Artcore remains a quality read, both in content and printing quality. In his latest issue, there are interviews with Drew Stone, the filmmaker behind the xxx All Ages xxx film about Boston hardcore, Aston from the Boss Tuneage label, a short one with Ron Reyes from Black Flag, an assessment of the Faith/Void split involving members of both bands, "historical" pieces on Dutch hardcore and Government Issue and an excerpt from Helge Schreiber's Network of Friends book about '80s Euro hardcore. My only complaint is the review section is hard to read because of the background. Welly should know some of us old-timers have faltering eyesight!        

In addition to the printed contents, there's also a 7" by State Funeral, Welly's current band. No skimping in the packaging department here, either--it's an 8 page lyric booklet. It presents a harsher sound than his previous band Four Letter Word. There's still some melody in the driving, politically-oriented punk but Welly's vocals are nastier sounding and it comes across as a more aggressive package. The only drawback is the drumming, which is a bit one-dimensional for the faster segments and there's too much snare in the mix. (



AGNOSTIC FRONT- Live At CBGB (Bridge Nine, LP) 
"This is the title track of our first album, an album called Victim In Pain... this song's also called Victim In Pain." So began AF's first live album, originally released in 1989 and given the semi-deluxe treatment in 2012--embossed cover, limited-edition RED, WHITE and BLUE vinyl (natch). The set list is culled from all of their records up through "Liberty and Justice For," with more than half coming from "United Blood" and "Victim In Pain." It includes the still-idiotic anti-welfare "Public Assistance," where Roger Miret claims, this is not a racist song, it's just the goddamned fucking truth." OK, maybe not racist but still dumb (and since it was written by Pete Steele, who had some dicey lyrics in his Carnivore days, well...). There's also the pledge of allegiance because, after all, they're an AMERICAN band (they'll come into your town, they help you party... ). I'll stop now. At the time, with the five piece lineup, the sound was more metallic and it definitely fit in with the era--bands that were blurring the line between metal and hardcore. While most of the earlier songs stand "the test of time," the grittiness is missed. It's a good performance and not without merit, but, in retrospect, I don't think it was the best era for AF.  Best stage banter? CBGB's stage manager Dennis stating that, "a lot of you ain't gonna live to see tomorrow if you keep fuckin' around this way." (

ALLIGATORS-Time's Up, You're Dead (Bridge Nine, LP)
Speaking of Agnostic Front, Roger teams up with three members of Insted to rip through sixteen songs of old-school hardcore, complete with venomous, succinct anti-authoritarian sentiments. They play the songs with veteran aplomb yet it doesn't really connect The production's not really slick but something's missing, here. And the world certainly doesn't need another cover of Negative Approach's "Ready To Fight."  I've heard worse and the playing is more-than-competent but the songs come and go without leaving much in its wake. Time to put on "Victim In Pain," again. (

ANOTHER SOCIAL DISEASE-Brain Damage EP (Social Disease, 12")
Another Social Disease--or ASD for short--include former members of early '00s hardcore thrash merchants Down In Flames but their new band goes straight for a late 80s crossover NYHC sound, Leeway in particular. A cleanly-executed sound with meat-cleaver guitar riffs and searing leads, punchy bass and drums and tough vocals from Sean that sound like he's channeling Lou from Sick of It All, although he starts things off with some nasty gutteral pukes for "Heroin." I'd imagine most of the guys in this band were too young to have experienced these bands during that period but they have the sound down pat. The kick drum is a little too prominent in the mix but, otherwise, there's little else to complain about. Fast and heavy--this could have been on Combat or Profile back in the day. (


ARCTIC FLOWERS-Procession (self-released, 12")
Five new songs by the Flowers and they maintain their forceful melodicism while offering different shadings. There are the sturdy, hard-edged rockers like "True Words" and "The Wrecking" but "Strange Ports Of Call," takes a different turn. It fades in and then out and sounds like an excerpt of a longer song. While other songs hint at it, this one delves into the early 80s gothic/post-punk realm, riding a New Order-ish bass-line and adding effects to Alex's voice so it sounds like she's beneath the surface. Once again, there's stellar and dynamic interplay between the instruments, with Lee's supple bass-lines complemented perfectly by Stan's stinging, haunting guitar and nuanced drumming that picks up the pace where necessary or percolates gently under the melody. There's not one song that really grabs you like "Crusaders + Banshees" on the first album--it's a bit more tempered, overall, but the songs have stick-in-head presence. (

This is a US pressing of Barcelona band Belgrado's 2011 album. They're another band playing in an early 80s gloomy, post-punk vein ala Arctic Flowers and many others. It's a spacious sound with shimmering, haunting guitar, bubbling melodic bass-lines and soothing yet emotional vocals. But it's not just an atmospheric approach--there's an assertive punch on such songs as "Zapomnijmy" and "Visions of Massacre," which utilizes a similar drum pattern as Killing Joke's "Pssyche." And, as with other bands playing this style, there's the echo of early Siouxsie and Joy Division. A "hot" style at the moment but Belgrado are quite adept at it, drawing you into a blissful yet forceful musical realm. (

BILL BONDSMEN-Nineteen/Things Fall Apart (4TG, 7")
I've probably said it before but the Bondsmen are one of the more underrated, overlooked punk bands in the US and have been banging out quality sounds for years, without fitting any strict mold. Here are a couple of more songs from the session they did in late 2011 (I have 9 songs in the digital format but only four have been released so far). Dark and menacing, with vocals teetering close to the edge of sanity and a fiery, hard-edged mid-tempo wallop, especially for the frayed charge of "Things Fall Apart." Let's hope the other songs from that session see the light of day at some point. (15106 Paris, Detroit, MI 48101,

BI-MARKS-Sleepless (Black Water, 7" EP)
Three revved up hardcore rockers--punks playing music inspired by NWOBHM and Lemmy's crew with all the piss 'n snot they can muster, at least on the two a-side tracks. On the flip, there's a thrashier flavor with heavier segments. I should probably go back and check out their previous full-length because these songs are fairly impressive. (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208,

CITIZENS PATROL-Retarded Nation EP (Way Back When/Too Circle/Spastic Fantastic 7" EP)
More rampaging, old school hardcore from Citizens Patrol, who haven't tinkered with the formula over the past half dozen-or-so years. The opening guitar chords for "Short Attention Span" makes you think they're about to try their hands at a tuneful UK-82 sound but, uh uh, the thrash quickly comes in and things stay that way until the end, where they cover fellow Dutchmen Seein Red's "Diktatuur Van De Wekker," the only non-English song on here. More of the same but played with a good amount of musical adeptness, especially the shit-hot bass runs. (

DESPERAT-Demokrati Eller Diktatur? (Beach Impediment, 7" EP)
This Swedish band, with members of the legendary Mob 47 and Warvictims, have several releases already and this is a US pressing of their first 7", from 2011. On the lyric sheet, it says "Once hardcore, always fucking raw hardcore!" And they live up to it--blazing fodder in a classic Swedish vein. No low tunings, just a razor-sharp sound. In addition to the lyrical themes about governmental and religious abuses and environmental destruction, there's also a lament about people being tied to cellphones, with the clever title "Mobilterror," while "Bandlogga" simply states that band names and logos don't need to be so complicated. Yeah, I think these guys know what they're doing. (


DOUBLE NEGATIVE-Hardcore Confusion Vol. 3 & 4 (Sorry State, 7" EP)/Hits (Sorry State, 7" EP) 
One brand new record and one not-so brand-new record from the always pummeling Double Negative.  HC 3&4 is just one disc with four songs, this time, instead of two separate singles with two songs apiece as on the first two volumes of HC and if you put the three sleeves together, it makes a full -/- logo. Confused? Don’t be. It’s their first release with Cameron on vocals, replacing Kevin Collins. Their new drummer Bobby Michaud had already joined for Hits. There’s not a dramatic change in vocal style and the band continue to rip out furious and frenzied hardcore with blistering guitar and scampering speed. Some of the sounds that Scott Williams pulls out of his guitar are mind-blowing--unsettling chords and whizzling noise. Hits has rougher production with less bottom-end, but Bobby's locomotive drumming makes an immediate impression on the opener "Suicide Suicide." That song mentions Scott's 48 years on this earth and how he's "worm(ed) my way back." Yep, let's hear it for the old-timers! The guitar and bass intertwine into a howling mesh and, if there aren't any hooks per-se, the cumulative effect on both of these discs remains riveting. (

ENDLESS GRINNING SKULLS-Fear, Ignorance, Control (Viral Age, 7" EP)
Hammer-smash sounds from the Skulls (I know--hammered skulls; not original), with a fast, crusty hardcore assault, and harsh vocal tradeoffs although things get slowed down for "Grovel". On that song, the vocals that sound like Nick Blinko from Rudimentary Peni with a sore throat or mixed with Deek from Oi Polloi and it does have a Peni-like cadence. But in the main, they go straight for the jugular. The sleeve folds out into a poster that offers a bleak, black and white visual accompaniment to musical contents.

FATAL FIGURES-Caterwaul (Big Neck, LP)
Most of this band’s membership was in The Blowtops, who hammered out dirty, noisy garage blues churn. There’s still something of that here and they drag their songs through the muck pretty well. The songs that favor a spirited shuffle work best here—“Party Girl,” “Break Me” or “Blue Zed,” the latter song previously appearing on a 2011 single. It’s less-successful for the dragged-out “Wayne Bent” and “New God,” sounding like a musical interpretation of a hangover. Maybe not as much “VROOM” as their previous band (you should check out the Blowtops’ Blackstatic if your curiosity is piqued) but they have the right idea at times. (PO Box 8144, Reston, VA 20165,

FERAL FUTURE-Come Out Swinging (Western Medical, 12")
They do come out swinging, that's for sure. Abrasive, yet textured rock from three women and one guy who stomp 'n bash their way through five songs on this one-sided `12". The best song, "College," has a ranty chorus and sarcastic theme about going to college for the "MRS" degree, if any of you ever heard that term and does have a hint of melody during the verses. Churning fodder that definitely has a 90s riot grrrl (at times) feel to it and an endearing spirit. (

"Go Home" came out some months back but I was finally able to score a copy. It’s on Toxic State so of course it was going to be a pain in the ass to come by (the same thing happened with the Crazy Spirit 12") and I'm glad I was persistent because this is one of the year's best. Raw 'n nasty garage punk, adding organ and various percussive twists into its spirited gnash. The lyrics are cantankerous and, at times, repeated until you’ve been numbed into submission—“It’s murder” or “walking down the street/fuck walking down the street” or “I don’t play games, I’ll kill him” stated ad infinitum until you think it might be a good idea to avoid the narrator at all costs. Don’t avoid their musical attack, though—whether it’s the strut of “Trouble” and “It’s Hard On The Street” (great drum clatter on that one) or the charging rave-up of “I Don’t Play Games.” this is attitudinal stuff that backs it up with raucous might. (

HYGIENE-Hygiene/Hygene (Sorry State, 7")
Hygiene have always been a mixed bag--let's just say a little of the offkey vocals go a long way and it was tough to get through their album. However, for this 7", with one song in English and one in French, there's a loopy charm. The English side has a clunky, offbeat hookiness that comes across like the Television Personalities. The French side is bouncy and jabbing, but leaves out the poppiness and devolves into a chaotic instrumental mesh. It sounds like a recipe for disaster yet somehow works--that's the case for both songs. (

ICON GALLERY-Valiance/The Pact (Solar Funeral, 7")
Straight-up tuneful hard rock--you could even call it metal, with the NWOBHM guitar lines. I give the edge here to the more concise "The Pact." Burning arrangements along with soaring vocals, which veer into near-overkill territory but it doesn't detract from the band's churning power. Thumping bass and drums complement the six-string authority quite well. (

KABUL GOLF CLUB-Le Bal Du Rat Mort (Uproar For Veneration, CD)
Here's another band working the visceral, 90s-era AmRep sound. From Belgium, KGC utilize tribal rhythms that stomp and swing around like a tetherball that’s going to wrap itself around your throat, along with nightmarish guitar squalls and jabs and a vocalist who howls like the spawn of Ministry’s Al Jourgensen. No real hooks to grab onto but it's very easy to get caught up in the power of these compositions and there are things you notice, like the snaky guitar line for "5 Minutes 2 Midnight." (

LEGENDARY WINGS-Making Paper Roses (Dirtnap, LP)
I wonder if you can get good wings in Kalamazoo, MI? That's something I was pondering a little while listening to this band's album. Power-poppy rock that sounds like it could have come out of the late 80s/early 90s Berkeley scene--if any of you remember Sweet Baby Jesus, it's somewhat in that vein. And while the songs have a good amount of tunefulness, there ain't a lot of power to go along with it. "Too Far" comes close, with a stinging guitar melody line and ear-grabbing vocal harmony but this is mainly on the lighter side of the melodic punk spectrum and I like more buzz with this style of music. (

A strong split by Mexico's Los Monjo and Bay Area band Ruleta Rusa, with a pair of songs apiece. Los Monjo favor a sturdy, buzzin' mid-tempo punk sound on their songs. Ruleta Rusa, with former Peligro Social vocalist Jose, come down on the more melodic side of the spectrum for "Delincuencia"  but this is still hard-edged, driving fodder, especially for "Destruye La Television." Killer split. (

MÜLLTÜTE-2nd EP (HeartFirst, 7" EP)
German punk band with a trebly style that reminds me a bit of Amdi Petersens Arrme and the Regulations mixed together. In other words, there's something of a Danish bent here. Jabbing and thumping, along with a judicious amount of feedback. Both of their 7"s (the earlier EP was self-released in 2011) are worth hearing. Yep, it's old school and, as I've said, there's been a burnout factor of late but these guys have an appealing sharpness. ( contact:

NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS-Ocean Beach Party (Falsified, 7")
Two song quickie from the Brats and it's a pair of rockin' punk ravers. It's a rough time--shitty weather, sharks. Not much of a party. "Ocean Beach Party" is quick and to the point, with an energetic burst while the flip, "Shark Beach," is slower and moodier, but 'ol Jaws does have a way of disrupting the fun. I'm still kicking myself for missing this band when they came through my area in 2011. More, please! (4940 Franklin Ave #7, Los Angeles, CA 90027,

NERVOUS IMPULSE-s/t (Undercurrent, 12")
Serge from the Goons is the vocalist in this DC band and his vocals are a double-edged sword. Distinct, for sure, soaring and whooping over the music but a little goes a long way with his throaty croon. Musically, it's not far-removed from Serge's old band or some of the other units his bandmates toiled in, such as Striking Distance and VPR (who had a pretty good album in 2003 or so). Loud, fast hardcore with rock/metal leads, slowing it down a bit for "Build A Bomb Or Shut Up." If there's an overall theme, it's about life's difficulties, disappointments and disillusionment (say that three times fast). You vote but nothing happens. Hours wasted working but still falling behind economically and, in the meantime, as Serge sings on "Louder Than Stupid," all you get for information on TV or radio comes courtesy of bloviating "pundits" while "level heads just get ignored." Anyway, if you can get past some of the vocal excesses, this is pretty good. (

NO TOMORROW-Nuclear Exposure (Sorry State, 7")
Ravenous, crusty hardcore with thick 'n meaty riffs dished out in a mid-speed manner for "Nuclear Exposure" and a faster-paced attack on "Burning Inside." Something of a Japanese influence with the metallic, but tasteful guitar trills punctuating the band's onslaught. There ain't much discernible enunciation in the twin howlings but the music crushes quite effectively. (


NÜ SENSAE-Sundowning (Suicide Squeeze, LP)
Nu Sensae started as a bass/drums duo playing aggressive rock with an early 90s muse ala Babes In Toyland. Even with just two instruments, the sound was booming—that was certainly the case when I saw them play in the summer of 2011. Both bass and drums had an authoritative punch and Andrea Lukic accompanied her four string calisthenics with vocals ranging from howling to measured. Since then, they’ve added a guitar player and, if it’s a somewhat more conventional approach, the results on this album are hardly disappointing. In fact, it has more power and, yes, fullness. After a quiet guitar intro, it’s full on for “First Born” which does, indeed, sound like the Babes. And the new member, Brody McKnight, doesn’t just add powerchords to the equation. There are nervier shadings, as well, like on “Dust.” There’s some desert twang for the lengthy instrumental passage on “Whispering Rule.” “Spit Gifting” offers a jarring, post-punk drive while the relentless “Eat Your Mind” sounds a bit like Sonic Youth. A heady whirl. (PO Box 80511, Seattle, WA 98108,  

RED DONS-Auslander/Mauvaise Foi (Dirtnap, 7")
Another pair of melodic songs from the Red Dons, whose members are scattered around the country (and globe) at this point. A warmth in the compositions but there's a sting just beneath the surface. There's something almost Buzzcocks-ian about what they do, in terms of the guitar harmonics, albeit without the pop trappings--in fact, the guitar lines go in a chaotic direction at the conclusion of "Auslander," before abruptly ending. Nothing that rises to the heights of "Pieces" on their 2010 album (still my favorite song by this band by far) but this is more than simplistic tuneful fodder, both musically and lyrically. (

REPLICA-s/t (self-released, flexi)
Blistering Bay Area hardcore (Oakland, to be precise), showing off some strong instrumental chops and appropriately agitated, gutteral vocals from Dharma. A good mix of thrash and medium-paced burn, staying away from tuneless blasting. All of this is expertly navigated from one song to another--B, the drummer, has long shown-off his skill in such bands as No Statik and Scholastic Deth and it makes a difference. Good debut. (

RIPPER-Death Rider/Never Enough (Black Water, 7")
Two new tracks for Portland metallions Ripper. More than a bit of Fast Eddie era Motor-you-know-who in the engines, played in a semi-fast manner. You know the drill--train-like drumming and searing riffing 'n leads to go along with the husky vocals. Something to appeal to your denim jacket-festooned soul. They were a pretty damned good when I saw them with Warcry awhile back. (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208,


SCHOOL JERKS-s/t (Grave Mistake, LP)
Snarlin' and snotty punk from this band, who have a handful of 7"s under their belt and now commit to the 12" format, pressed on lime-green vinyl or maybe an approximation of the color of infected nasal discharge. I have no idea. But it's quality burn. There are older touchpoints for sure--it has that SoCal flavor (they ain't called Jerks for nothing), executed in the same manner that Amdi Petersens Arme used a decade ago (yes, like mentioned above in the Mulltute review above although these guys have a sloppier take on it. Vocals aren't so much enunciated as spat out with a tantrum-like cadence. The music is lean and mean--slashing guitar, ratty drums, played fast and not messing around with anything too complicated. No grand statements, no polished production--just a bashing good time. (

THE SHAME-The World Is Ours (Profane Existence, 7" EP)
The first release for Profane's "Limited Edition Singles Series" is this four-songer by Tulsa's The Shame. Singer/guitarist Chad Malone is probably best-known for his time in Brother Inferior (he's also played in Bring Down The Hammer in recent years) and this is straight up oi-style punk with a tuneful boisterousness. That means buzzin' guitars and hearty vocals, to go along with lyrics espousing a working class point of view and also extolling a love for soccer (or football, as its known everywhere else) and raising a pint or three. Oi Oi Oi! (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418,

SHORT CHANGED-We Will Bury You (Rodent Popsicle/Goat Power Recreation, LP)
Short Changed's second album introduces their new vocalist Bekka but the band’s attack remains similar—fast ‘n crusty hardcore played at a breakneck tempo and I’d imagine this is best-experienced in one of their home base of Oakland's warehouse facilities, if they still exist. And it could be scream therapy for ‘em, since the lyrics are about people and institutions that disappoint them but then they take solace in the music they’re laying down here—a release and that’s something we all need. While there are global concerns for some of the lyrics, there are also tongue-in-cheek sentiments, such as “Fuck You, Fight Me” which is about differences of opinion over... video games? Don’t laugh—I’ve been in heated arguments over which side of Black Flag's "My War"  is better (for the record, I’ll take side one). One of the standout songs here is actually an unlisted cover of Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist,” the closing track and an absolute crusher from that band’s best album Chaos AD. It’s fairly standard fodder and, while I miss the rougher production of the debut, it’s still a good, hard-hitting effort. (Rodent Popsicle/Goat Power Recreation,,

Two power poppy punk bands from Houston--OK, enough with the alliteration already. Both of these bands pack their songs with bright, brash arrangements and catchy hooks although Occult Detective Club imbue it with a harder edge. The vocals are gruffly emotional, the bass-lines throb--that instrument really carries the melody line for the opening song "Brick By Brick." The vocals are higher and sweeter for Something Fierce, who I wish sounded more fierce than they do. About the closest they get is "Get On Or Get Off," and that's still on the lightweight side, despite some decent guitar/bass gnash. Ear-catching but slight. (

URBAN WASTE-s/t (Way Bay When/Even Worse, 7" EP)
Repress of one of the greatest 7"s to come out of the early 80s New York hardcore scene and one that should be included with the best-ever, period. Few records have had as SICK a guitar sound as Johnny Waste, with a trebly, hornets nest effect, while Kenny Ahearn emits the vocals in harsh, larynx-shredding fashion. With the abrupt jolt of "Police Brutality," your attention will be immediately commanded, with all the subtlety of a truncheon to the skull. "Public Opinion" remains an anthem of individuality for the ages: "I'm not into punk rock/I'm not into hardcore/Don't you try and label me..." and they're just getting started with the antisocial agitation except for the tender love ballad "Banana-Nut-Cake." Um, yeah. It's neither tender nor a ballad. Hard to believe it's been almost 30 years since this sonic timebomb was unleashed but it sounds as manic and raw now as it did back then. No legitimate hardcore record collection is complete without this. (

VITAMIN X-About To Crack (Tankcrimes, LP)
Vitamin X are still going strong after a decade and a half and return with their first new album in four years, the second in a row recorded by Steve Albini and Pushead-inspired artwork by John Baizley. They continue to dish out boiling-over hardcore punk that includes metallic and hard rockin' leads (Marc knows his stuff in that department). Call it crossover, if you want, although it's from the hardcore side of the aisle and not the same as what, say, Municipal Waste are doing. The opening riff for "Carnival of Fools," for instance, is reminiscent of "Screams"-era Raw Power. And while there's certainly anger in Vitamin X's sound, it still manages to sound upbeat. A rip-roaring good time, as always. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609,

ZEITGEIST-s/t (Cobra Cabana, 12")
Fired-up rock 'n roll from this female fronted Pittsburgh band. The music has a formidable thump to it, especially the blistering rockers "Let's Play House" and "Relationshit." Tilley's vocals have range, from soaring to screaming and, unfortunately, they're somewhat overwrought and that hurts things. This disc has its moments but it didn't completely grab me. (201 N. Fairmount St., Pittsburgh, PA 15206,