Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Suburban Voice blog #108--THE BEST OF 2013

[Note: this is a revised list... after reconsideration, I decided to have Retox top my list so I've flipped it with Criaturas] 

Another year with plenty of good and near-great records although I think 2011 and 2012 were a little better. When putting together a top ten list for any year, I want albums that will stand the “test of time,” so to speak. There have been some definite go-to albums in the last few years—Crazy Spirit, Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Foreign Objects, Rank/Xerox, The Energy and Joint D≠ immediately come to mind as albums I’ve yet to tire of. That said, all of the 12”s, 7”s and demos on this list are worthy of your attention, at least in my humble opinion.

Boston definitely had an up and down year and I’m not just talking about music—there was the Marathon bombings on Patriots Day this past April where three people were killed and over 250 injured. That’s why it was a feel-good moment for the city when the Red Sox unexpectedly won the World Series. I know many of my readers hate sports and can’t understand why so many punks around here are huge sports fans (mostly for the Red Sox and Bruins) but I think it’s ingrained into Boston’s social fabric. And even if it’s “only a game” and the players are paid obscene amounts, what’s wrong with something that lifts people’s spirits? I think David Ortiz summed it up perfectly in this clip:

Also, let’s have a moment of silence for a pair of great local bands who called it quits this year—Bloodkrow Butcher and Brain Killer.

On to the lists—more or less in order of preference (and some of these reviews have been condensed from previous reviews, in case you missed ‘em). One side note--if you happen to see my list in Maximum Rocknroll and wonder why Retox isn't listed there, it's because it's distributed by Epitaph and they're blacklisted by MRR. Whattya gonna do? 



1. RETOX-YPLL (Three.One.G)
A friend of mine referred to another band we saw this year as “math-core.” It seems like a cheesy rock critic crutch term (and he didn’t mean it as a compliment, either) but if that means a band that shows instrumental dexterity and dynamism, Retox fill the bill. Justin Pearson (ex-LOCUST, etc) fronts this band and it’s what you’d expect--dizzying, chaotic hardcore that also allows for some breathing room and it doesn’t come across as one-dimensional.

2. CRIATURAS-Espirítu De Libertad (Residue)
Charging and aggressive hardcore but there’s also a strong melodic element, as well. Dru Molina’s vocals are a wonder to behold, as she goes from full-on rail to something more soothing. Crack musicianship, especially from Victor Gutierrez, who is one of the best guitarists in punk. The title track is catchy as hell while simultaneously bowling you over. D-beat inspired hardcore doesn’t have to be just noise.

3. OUT COLD-A Heated Display (Painkiller)
A posthumous album of sorts—the basic guitar and drum tracks were recorded in 2005 by Mark Sheehan and John Evicci before Out Cold quietly split in 2009. Sadly, Mark passed away in 2010 and the tracks remained unfinished until now. John brought in Mikey and Deuce from the last lineup of the band to contribute bass and extra guitar and the vocals were done by the band’s original singer Kevin Mertens. And Kevin NAILS it and the music is as lethal as ever—razor-sharp thrash and mid-tempo hardcore played with clockwork precision. A band who never compromised their sound to fit trends, who unjustifiably seemed to fly under the radar and this is a more-than-fitting epitaph. And there are 14 more songs that will come out on a subsequent release.

4. JOINT D≠-Satan Is Real Again, Again (Sorry State)
The follow-up to my favorite album in 2012 and, while not on that level (and I don’t think they’ll ever top “(I’m) Haunted”), this is still better than a lot of what I heard this year. Frenetic hardcore with a dense, cloud-like atmosphere hanging in the air and some memorable riffs/arrangements, especially for “False Flag” and “ERV.” Guitarist/vocalist Bobby Michaud’s other band BRAIN F≠ will be back with a new album this year and that’s definitely something I’m looking forward to hearing.

5. TV FREAKS-Two (Schizophrenic)
The only other band besides Joint D≠  to find its way onto this list two years in a row. TV Freaks mettle continues to be jabbing, jittery punk with garage and post-punk elements. Definitely some Eddy Current moves here and there but there’s more aggression, even a whiff of early Nirvana at times—and that shouldn’t be viewed as a negative. Nervy and hard-hitting.

6. STOIC VIOLENCE-s/t (Video Disease)
Bile-filled, no-nonsense old-school hardcore punk from these chip-on-shoulder Californians. Nothing complex, just a tough and bruising sound to get the pit started. Hits the same way a band like Wasted Time did a few years back. 8 songs, over in less than 10 minutes and I don’t really feel cheated.

7. MANIPULATION-s/t (Sorry State)
Pure burn, pure rage on this Chicago band’s long-overdue 12” debut. A havoc-wreaking hardcore punk sound driven by a two guitar attack, piledriving bass and drums and Jordan’s anguished vocals. Swedish hardcore meets mid-period Poison Idea blaze and the end result is relentless and punishing from start to finish.

8. HOAX-s/t (self-released)
This is an impressive package, with six fold-out posters and an impressive hardcore album, period. Jesse’s vocals have a psychotic nature and the dark, stomping mid-to-fast paced music is a fitting accompaniment. Churning and heavy, a near nervous-breakdown on wax. Dark stuff.

9. CÜLO-My Life Sucks and I Could Care Less (Deranged)
These button-pushing Chicago miscreants finally deliver a full-length album after a bunch of 7”s. I STILL think they’d benefit from a bass-player but this is a fun smorgasbord of thrashy hardcore and more tuneful punk stylings (the title track in particular) that will hammer its way into your heart. Bonus points for not only pilfering from DEVO’s “Mechanical Man” but leading off the album with it. Haven’t heard anything that brazen since John Browns Army started their album with the intro to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.”

10. RUNNING-Vaguely Ethnic (Castle Face)
A last-minute entry. I only checked out this album a few weeks before putting this list together, after seeing it on Gerard Cosloy’s year-end round-up. For those of you who don’t know who the hell Gerard is, he used to do Conflict zine back in the day, put out the legendary Bands That Could Be God comp and was running Homestead Records and working with bands like Naked Raygun, Big Black and Sonic Youth when he was in his early 20s. I consider Running punk in the same way I considered those bands punk. I already had their 2012 Asshole Savant 12” in the digital format but this somehow escaped my notice. Edgy rock with a buzzing spaciness in the guitar playing (there’s some inspiration from Helios Creed from Chrome, methinks) and underpinned by an anvil-sturdy bass/drums tandem and echo-laden vocals that are buried into the mix a bit. Music to mess with your head.


11. BROKEN PRAYER-s/t (Sorry State)
12. SOCIETY NURSE-s/t  (Iron Lung)
13. RULETA RUSA-Aqui No Es (Sorry State)
14  BANQUE ALLEMANDE-Willst du Chinese... (S-S)
15. THEE MIGHTY FEVERS-Fuck'in Great R' n 'R (Dead Beat)
16. KROMOSOM-Nuclear Reich (Distort Reality)
17. RASPBERRY BULBS-Deformed Worship (Blackest Ever Black)
18. CONCRETE CROSS-s/t (Man In Decline)
19. MELT-BANANA-Fetch (A-Zap)
20. WORMS-s/t (Last Watt/Darkworld)


To paraphrase a certain gun-toting rock ‘n roll has-been, there’s nothing mellow about any of these 7” selections (or anything else on these lists for that matter) but they don’t all sound the same. There’s the boiling-over hardcore of Mercy Killings, Creem, DiE and Gas Rag, the goofy noisemongering of Vaginors, the riot-grrrl-inspired Bad Daddies and the more rockin’ punk of Neo Cons and Neighborhood Brats (I still need a vinyl copy of the last one, by the way). More or less in order...
VAGINORS-Total Nonsense EP  (No Patience/Video Disease)
CREEM-Curator (Static Shock)
MERCY KILLINGS-s/t (Beach Impediment)
GAS RAG-6 Track EP (Even Worse)/Human Rights EP (Beach Impediment)
NEO CONS-Idiot Circus (Deranged)
NEIGHBORHOOD BRATS-Birth Right (Deranged)
DIE-s/t (Sonic Terror)
BAD DADDIES-Bad Year EP (Central District)
GAG-40 Oz. Rule (Warthog Speak)
SAD BOYS-s/t (Toxic State)


The Deformity demo was one of my most-played releases of the year. Head-rattling garage/hardcore/punk with an ear-grabbing rawness. That pretty-much applies to just about all of the demos here. The ear-grabbing rawness, that is...


LIVE (in no particular order)


Infest, Vaginors, Bloodkrow Butcher, Brain Killer, Green Beret, Missionary, Warthog, Gas Rag, Glue, Gag, Impalers, Society Nurse, Neo Cons, Crazy Spirit, S.H.I.T., Gasmask Terror, Kromosom, Ruidosa Inmundicia, Savageheads, Combat Zone