Friday, October 23, 2015

Suburban Voice blog #116


For those of you who aren't regular readers (or non-readers) of Maximum Rocknroll, I've had a monthly column since 2005. I'm going to occasionally post some of the recent blogs (minus the review sections), once the issues have been out for awhile.


I try not to pay a lot of attention to Dave Grohl or his band the Foo Fighters. It’s kind of impossible these days, given that Dave is in just about every music documentary in the past few years—he seems to have usurped Henry Rollins in ubiquity—plus he has that HBO series and was profiled on 60 Minutes last fall. I don’t know Dave personally—I might have met him briefly when he played with Scream but honestly don’t remember. An acquaintance of mine who played in a pretty good Connecticut hardcore band in the 80s told me he and his son ran into Dave near where the Foos were playing that night and Dave remembered his band and hooked them up with tickets for the show. He said Dave couldn’t have been nicer. Other people I know say the same thing.

Dave recently broke his leg when he fell of the stage at a show in Sweden and they had to cancel some tour dates. He did finish that set, after getting his leg bandaged up and then played a July 4th show at RFK Stadium in DC sitting on a throne. That’s right... a fucking THRONE. I read things like "Rock is not dead, Dave Grohl is the spirit of rock and roll I am now convinced." You often hear them referred to as the last great rock ‘n roll band. Good grief. Anyway, when a friend of mine posted the throne pictures on his Facebook page, I dug into my digital photo archives and found shots of Jon from Victims on their 2004 tour playing while seated after having broken his foot and completely rocking out like he does on two feet. Someone related the tale--Jon broke it getting hip tossed into a tree by trying to drunk wrestle (I’m not sure what drunk wrestling is but it doesn’t sound all that safe). The break was pretty bad and he and Felix Havoc, who was driving them around, had to go back to a hospital in Allentown, PA a few times on that tour for check-ups. No throne for Jon—it was a wooden chair and the foot was propped up on a stool.

Jon and Dave aren’t the only ones who have hewed to the “show must go on” ethic. Far from it. I’ve seen several musicians playing seated while they had their legs in casts. Keith Morris did a Circle Jerks tour in a brace after having broken his back. Bruce from Flipper performed while hooked up to a heart monitor and Will Shatter did a tour in a cast. Jeff Beccera from the death metal band Possessed now performs in a wheelchair. He was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in 1990 and started playing again in 2007 with a revamped lineup. Leonard from the Dickies also did a show in a wheelchair and on crutches after busting his leg.

One of my favorite stories is about Todd Cote from the Western Mass. band BIU (alternately standing for Brain Injured Unit or Bonded In Unity). This is something I actually witnessed. Todd broke his neck stage diving at an Angry Samoans show in Boston in 1983. This happened early in the show. Fortunately, he wasn’t paralyzed but spent the rest of the afternoon lying on his back in the rear of the club. He refused to go to the hospital until after the show because he didn’t want to miss the Samoans. He ultimately ended up with a halo brace screwed into his skull for awhile and did a BIU show in a wheelchair. Top that, Grohl. Or top the guy I saw getting in the pit in his wheelchair a few years ago at a club in Boston. Sure, he toppled over once or twice but it only stopped him momentarily. Speaking of sons (which we were, earlier in this column), my band Shattered Silence played a show awhile back at the Boiler Room basement space in Boston and one of the other bands was V-Sect, who were nice enough to lend us their bass amp. That band’s bass-player, Brendon, is the 22 year old son of a guy I knew from the old Newport, RI hardcore scene—Brian Simmons, who does the recently reactivated Atomic Action label and did Constant Change zine back in the day. I loved going to shows down there. They were at a jazz club called the Blue Pelican and my band back then got a hell of a lot more acceptance than we did in Boston. It was the same for Western Mass. for that matter.


The first time I saw Brian in years was in 2010 at the big Gallery East reunion show with all the old Boston warhorses like DYS, Jerry's Kids, FU's and Gang Green, footage from which was used for the “All Ages” Boston hardcore documentary. Brian brought Brendon along and I found it mind boggling that he had a son as old he was when I first met him back in the 80s. And then I played with his kid’s band some five years later. Brian gives his son space, though. He mentioned that he doesn’t want his son to feel weirded out by having his old man around. In fact, when I was talking to Brendon at that Boiler Room show, I wondered if I should avoid the topic. I did mention it in passing, anyway, but decided not to regale him with stories of the good old days. The show almost didn’t happen, as it was. When we got there, a couple of guys were carrying out shop-vac canisters full of water to clean up a flood that had happened down there. Luckily, everyone still got to play and no one got electrocuted.

Yep, we’re getting older. Punk rock people I knew in the 80s are not only fathers but grandfathers—Denny, the former drummer for the Mass. band Psycho, was telling me about his grandchild not too long ago. His former bandmate Johnny X is August Spies’ vocalist Christian’s step-father. We’ve now got over-60 year olds or people approaching that age still involved in punk. Keith Morris turns 60 this year and Dave MDC hits that milestone next year. Bob from Kontrasekt and Urbn-DK is over 60 and still plays raw, noisy, no-bullshit hardcore in the DIY scene. As I said a few columns ago, anyone who thinks DIY punk is strictly a youth movement can go fuck themselves. Back off or I’ll hit you with my walker someday.

(July 7, 2015) 



I turned 55 in February. I joked that instead of taking out the AARP card, I was going to celebrate it by having a punk show. It was at the Cambridge Elks (aka Hardcore Stadium) with Dropdead, Fuck You Pay Me, Stranger and my old band Shattered Silence (see YouTube video above). It was great fun. We got a good turnout and all the other bands played solid sets. Robert Williams from Siege sat in with Dropdead to play a few of his old band’s songs. It was our band’s first show in over 20 years and the first time I’d played with our bass-player Christian since 1989. We recruited two new people—Ian on guitar and Jimmy on drums. Our original guitarist lives in New Hampshire and our original drummer couldn’t do it. All four of us are over 40. Originally, we were supposed to do one show at the 15th anniversary party for Sonic Overload but I ended up adding us to this one and also played a basement show at the Boiler Room space in Boston.

As it turns out, we didn’t even play the anniversary show since one of the guys had an emergency. As of now, we have one more show planned before Christian moves out west. We’ll probably play when he comes to visit but I don’t want to be the only original member (already did that with a reunion show for No System, which was also fun) so there’s going to be another hiatus. The shows went well and people of all ages seemed to be into it. I really don’t want to take it any further than that, though. Some people might think it’s pathetic or mid-life crisis fodder for us to have reunited but fuck ‘em. It’s not like we’re cashing in on anything. And I’ve already talked to a few people about starting something new. I don’t know if it’ll happen or not but it’s a possibility.
At the birthday show, I made a point of mentioning that there were 10 people who were over 40 years of age playing the show and got a nice round of applause. I wasn’t seeking validation, just making the point that anyone—young or old—who thought quote-unquote-older people shouldn’t be involved in DIY punk or hardcore could go to hell. I didn’t break into a rendition of “Young Til I Die” by 7 Seconds because, as I’ve said before, I do find that song cheesy as hell.
I made that little speech (the only thing I said the whole set) for a couple of reasons. I was talking to an over-40 friend who’s been involved in punk for a long time and he mentioned how he’s heard people with the attitude that punk should be a youth rebellion and that older people into punk are (in his words) creepy perverts who like hanging around kids and are reliving their youth. That they think they deserve special privileges because they were around back in the day. These are people who express disdain at racism sexism and homophobia, but don’t see a problem with age-ism.
I was also inspired to bring that up after getting into a pretty nasty pissing match with an old acquaintance on Facebook. Yeah, it’s the internet, it’s Facebook, it’s not real life, but it’s a conversation that could have happened off the internet just the same. And oh boy did it get personal. I posted a story about a pretty well-known rock performer who had played a university and the paper there leaked his rider and the amount he got paid. I said, in essence, what an asshole! Just blowing off steam—I mean, I don’t know the guy personally so I probably shouldn’t call him an asshole. I’m not into his music at all, mainly finding it overhyped, overrated garbage that mainstream rock critics gush over. Anyway, it turns out that said acquaintance is his publicist and took great offense at my admittedly gratuitous potshots. I did back off on the asshole comment.
I’ve known this guy since the 80s—not as a friend but, like I said, an acquaintance. He played in a couple of pretty well-known bands and broke into the music biz as a label manager/publicist in the late 80s and has a successful publicity company with some pretty high profile clients. He always had his eye on a music business career and that’s fine. It’s just not for me. But even back then, he always tended to look down his nose at those who held to DIY ideals.
Anyway, he described his client as “one of the last great guitar players still playing rock, creating all of his music on his own label with no input from outside label people or producers. He's a huge musician and not playing basement shows so you gotta tear him down I guess... Doesn't matter that he played basements and bowling alleys in the 90s.” He also bragged about being at the Grammy rehearsals, “defending a real musician from a bunch of small town shit talkers who've done NOTHING. If I'm wrong, please disabuse me of my ignorance and tell me what great band you've played in, what impact you've had on music or who cares about your band etc etc.” Well, his guy did win a Grammy but the record was licensed to a major label so what he said isn’t 100% true. And, whatever label it’s on, it’s still a crappy record—yes, I’ve heard it.
I mentioned how DIY continued to thrive, including in NYC, where he’s based out of. He said, “the NYC DIY scene can thrive all it wants and that's great, but I'm happy working with artists my age or older or at least in their 30s--rather than being the weird 50+ year old guy creeping out the kids at some DIY show.” Ouch! Damn right I took that personally, even though he admitted he was just being a dick because of what I’d said about his client—still, I’m sure he meant it.

I’m done with the self-indulgent navel-gazing and this shouldn’t be taken as the ruminations of a bitter old man. I accept the fact that some will have a snotty attitude about older punks but not everyone’s that way. Bottom line—ideally, age shouldn’t matter. One of our songs goes, “the youthful spark, it burns so bright/it flickers but it won’t go out.” Damn, that’s way cheesier than “Young Til I Die.” It doesn’t seem to always burn as brightly as it once did and I’m tired of a lot of the drama, cliques, etc, even more than in the past. I won’t deny it—there’s some second guessing. I do feel the effects of aging a bit. But, like it or not, I’m not going anywhere.

Incidentally, I have an AARP card. Finally took the plunge last year. $16 a year and with a lot of good deals and discounts? No embarrassment about that, although I don’t think it gets me any discounts from record distros. Damn...

(April 4, 2015)


I was doing some spring cleaning not too long ago (it’s still spring, as I type this) and was going through all the crap in the rickety wooden desk that I’ve owned since I was around ten, complete with my name carved into it. It serves as a TV stand but still holds various treasures—old eyeglasses (god, those aviator frames—what the FUCK was I thinking?), plastic mini football helmets, a baseball signed by Wendell Kim aka “Wave ‘em In” Wendell, one of the worst 3rd base coaches the Red Sox ever had and a banana yellow Panasonic Toot-a-Loop radio that was my sister’s but somehow ended up in my possession and ended up with a sticker of the underrated Boston band Sorry plastered on it along the way. I think it still works, too, but it needs a battery.
Mainly, though, it’s various clippings, photos, report cards and papers I wrote from grade school through college and assorted lyrics I wrote for my various bands—some of which I should burn before they’re discovered. There’s a cute half-page essay I wrote in the second grade about “The Nicest Person I Know,” who was a “very good girlfriend and name is Amy Esterkes.... I love her and might even marry her. She will be my girlfriend forever.” Amy was one of my many grade school crushes—after Linda Weiner in the first grade (she peed her pants outside when we had a “date”)  and before I moved on to Christiana Beatrice in the third grade and Tina Millot in the fourth. Tina quickly quashed my romantic intentions by scratching my face when she found out I liked her. The school nurse got a big kick out of that one. Yes, I remember all this shit. Amy claims I was the first guy who ever kissed her—she told that to Ellen when they were chatting at one of our high school reunions. In all honesty, I don’t remember that but I’m pretty sure she didn’t scratch me like Tina did. As for that essay, my teacher Mrs. Lane left a comment on it before I brought it home—“you better watch him!!” Mrs. Lane didn’t always watch me that well. She once sent me out in the hall because I’d been misbehaving and then forgot I was out there until school ended. It was only half an hour, at least. Maybe I was singing Electric Prunes or Blues Magoos lyrics too loudly.


My college doesn’t even exist anymore—well, the school I went to at Boston University, the School of Management aka SMG (aka School of Money and Greed). SMG reacently changed its name to Questrom School of Business. That’s because some rich guy named Allen Questrom (hey, same initials as mine!) donated $50 million to SMG and they changed the name to honor him. So instead of my alumni info being listed as SMG ’82, it’s now Questrom ’82. Not that it really matters in the grand scheme of things but that irks me a bit. It irks me that my school’s name has been eradicated and the fact that someone, for all intents and purposes, bought the name. If you try to put your school as SMG on that well-known social network starting with F, it switches it to Questrom so I changed it to just going to Boston University and, in the description, said I’d been in the School of Management. Yes, I know it’s a first-world problem. And it’s not like I have lots of great memories of BU although it wasn’t all bad and I really can’t complain about the education I got. I could still kick myself for not taking a course with the great historian Howard Zinn, though. He was still teaching while I was there.
There was a paper I wrote for one of my senior management classes—it might have been Business Policy but it doesn’t say which one. It was titled “Attitude Towards Work” and I began by saying that work has always “played a central role in my life.” I mentioned how I’d get my schoolwork done ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to worry about it last minute. That has definitely changed during my years as an MRR columnist and I’m sure my mom is tsk-tsking me, wherever she is.
Then I got to the part about work for pay—that I felt as though I couldn’t enjoy my leisure time unless I’d earned it through hard work, saying that it was fulfilling to be rewarded with two days off after having worked hard the entire week. My parents’ philosophy was work comes first, above all else. I wrote about how I went into work for a few hours on a day off even though I had a guest staying with us who I didn’t get to see all that much.
Ah, yes, that good ‘ol American work ethic. Work hard and you’ll be rewarded. The gap between the highest paid and lowest paid is OK because, dang it, they’ve earned it and so can you!! What a fucking crock. A friend of mine just got offered a full-time job in a restaurant with zero benefits. Nada... no insurance, no sick time, no paid holidays. He was looking into it because he has a long commute with his current full-time job but he’s keeping it because it does have some benefits. The standard of living for working Americans is pathetic when compared with the rest of the industrialized world. Americans have been made to feel guilty for taking time off even if they have earned it. That their jobs could be at risk. And they seem to accept it, scoffing at those lazy Europeans and Scandinavians with their socialized medicine, longer vacations, better work hours and less income inequality. It makes me want to ask “...and the problem is?”
The state of things makes me think of the lyrics to The Jam’s “Smithers-Jones,” after the protagonist has been sacked. “It's time to relax, now you've worked your arse off/But the only one smilin' is the sun tanned boss/Work and work and work and work till you die/There's plenty more fish in the sea to fry.” I know The Jam were a UK band but ain’t it the truth, at least in this country?

Anyway, the paper did have a happy ending, in addition to the A- grade. I wrote that I couldn’t “imagine spending my life doing something that I do not enjoy, no matter how much it pays... I also hope that my job will never so dominate my life as to squeeze out my other interests... I should not feel guilty for enjoying life and should try to allow proper room for both work and leisure.” It took awhile but that did eventually happen, to an extent.

(June 6, 2015)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Suburban Voice blog #115


No excuses--this is LONG overdue. Here's a new batch of record reviews. I also include reviews in my monthly Maximum Rocknroll column and this is a partial aggregate of what I've written over the past several months.

I'm also supposed to have done some book reviews for this one and I'm sorry to say it's going to have to wait until next time. In this case, I do have a legitimate excuse and it’s something I haven’t really mentioned before. I've been having problems with my eyes, something that the prescriptions for my new glasses aren't helping all that much. It’s a LONG story but the short version is my insurance doesn’t allow the lenses I really need and I’ve had to settle for something substandard. In the meantime, I've been having trouble getting through books, lately. I'm working on it--sorry to the nice people who sent books to review. I'll get them done...  I just didn't want to delay posting a new blog since I haven't done one since April.



ACTIVE MINDS-New Puppets/Same Old Machine (Loony Tunes, 7" EP)
It's always inspiring to see bands stick around a long time and never lose their edge, never lose their passion and continue to critique the world’s sad state of affairs. Active Minds are one of those bands. They came through Boston not too long ago and played their hearts out in front of way too small an audience. One of the set’s standouts closes out their new 5 song EP “New Puppets/Same Old Machine.” That would be the catchy-as-fuck, goddamn near-punk anthem of “We’re Still Angry” that I was singing along with by the time they hit the last chorus. Active Minds imbue their punk with the occasional dose of Motör-rockin’ (“Economic Migrants”) and bursts of speed, making a full-sounding racket for just a two-piece. Long may they rail. (69 Wykeham Street, Scarborough, N. Yorks Y012 7SA England,

ADULT CRASH-Unfinished Business (Standards, 12")
Adult Crash should just make out a royalty check to SS Decontrol because their five song, one-sided 12”, comes straight from the “Get It Away” songbook. Riffs piled on top of each other, climbing up the ladder and then careening down the sonic slide. Think of ‘em as a west coast counterpart to Boston Strangler and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. They do a pretty convincing job, too. Packing power. (216 E. Broadway, Vista, CA 92084,

AGENT ORANGE-Demo's & More (Gummopunx, LP)
Spelling it as they did--even though there's an inappropriate use of an apostrophe. Yes, I'm a proud member of the spelling police. I'm also a proud fan of Agent Orange--this is the Dutch band, not the US one. Raw, fast, nasty hell-raising hardcore punk although there could be surprisingly melodic turns, as with an instrumental track and "Dope." The insert features an interview with a French 'zine in '83 and details the band's drunken exploits and rather interesting crowd interactions, such as the time someone tried to throw a molotov cocktail at them. Agent Orange played with a devil-may-care, not-too-serious attitude, unafraid of who they offended. I'd say a title like "Your Mother Sucks Cocks In Hell" makes that readily apparent and the song's buzzbomb fervor more than lives up to that title. Getting down to specifics, this LP is compiled from their first demo, raw mixes from the first EP and demos from the second EP plus one song that actually appeared on that EP, "Kill The Police," a timeless anthem for sure. This is timeless stuff, period. (

AGNOSTIC FRONT-No One Rules (Radio Raheem, LP)

Very late in reviewing this but I was late in getting it. This LP collects AF's 1983 and 1984 demos--the tracks were previously released on the Grand Theft Audio "Raw Unleashed" CD but you NEED this because, in addition to the record, there's a 48 page 12x12 glossy booklet filled with photos, flyers, reviews, interviews, etc. The recordings are rough-sounding but would you want it any other way? This is real deal, as they tear through songs that appeared on "United Blood" and "Victim In Pain," along with a few songs ("Smell The Bacon/What's With You?") and the cover of the Animals' "It's My Life" that ended up on the first Madball EP. Raw fury unleashed. And I laughed when there was a false start at the beginning of "Victim In Pain" and Roger says, "don't do that again" and someone yells PUNK'S NOT DEAD!" A treasure trove both aurally and visually. (

AJAX-s/t (Beach Impediment, 7" EP)
Ajax's new self-titled 7” (their third release) provides a lesson in violent fury. Harsh vocalis and a sound rooted in mid-period Poison Idea (the vocalist even sounds a little like Jerry) and Swedish hardcore. Burning and driving, the blistering tempo occasionally giving way to a medium-paced stomp. “Paper and Steel” follows that pattern, fading off into a sheet of noise and cutting off abruptly, an appropriately jarring conclusion. (

CHARLES ALBRIGHT-Short Skirt (Sacramento, 7")
MATT K. SHRUGG-... Goes Bananas (Sacramento, flexi)
A pair of releases from the Sacramento Records label located, oddly enough, in Sacramento, CA. Charles Albright is a band led by, oddly enough, a guy named Charles Albright. Loud, squalling rock with sheets of feedback and fuzz. This one sided 7” has one original, “Short Skirt,” and a raucous cover of one of Nirvana's best songs, “Territorial Pissings.” Set the controls to kill for this one. The other disc is a flexi from Matt K. Shrugg called “Matt K. Shrugg Goes Bananas” and features three cover songs from another Sacto band, The Bananas—the flexi is yellow, of course. Brash-sounding trebly garage-pop-punk with gigantic hooks and plenty of bash. Not lo-fi but far from polished and it makes the speakers shake. Killah. (331 21st St., Sacramento, CA 98511,

ANCIENT FILTH-Everything In The Void (tape)
The latest musical missive from one of Boston's best bands, their first new recording in a year and half, is an 11 song tape. The recording quality is a bit sharper and so is the music. Speedy hardcore with sound snippets leading from one track into the next. “This American Lie” gives you a pretty good idea of their worldview but they do more than rant and rail. There’s a search for humanity, for empathy, for hope, working ones way through life. Punk is supposed to be music for the rejects, those who feel pissed on. Ancient Filth’s music is for those people. Includes a raucous cover of a somewhat obscure Dead Kennedys' song“Shrink” (from “Bedtime For Democracy”). No excuses--check these guys out if you haven't already. (

ANNEX-Después De Vi (Mass Media, LP)
There’s certainly a familiarity to the ground covered by Annex on their debut album. Melodic goth-tinged punk/post-punk although there’s less shimmer and a lot more bite in their sound and Nikole’s shouted vocals also add a lot of punch to the proceedings. There’s a bit of a surfy feel to the guitar lines, underpinned by strong bass lines and drumming. This isn’t something to listen to in a dark room with the shades drawn—well, you can do that if you want—but there’s a certain amount of emotional uplift in these songs, as well. Gripping and energetic. (

BIG CRUX-We Got A Jam (B < X/Not Normal, tape)
I snuck a look at Big Crux's Bandcamp page while listening to “We Got A Jam!”, the cassette compilation of their previous releases recorded from 2010 to 2013 and one of the descriptions was “neo bop.” I remember that was a term the Big Boys used and when I interviewed them, they said it was something that producer Spot had come up with to describe bands like the Minutemen and Saccharine Trust and he also applied it to the Big Boys. Their vocalist Biscuit said “Neo-Bopism is happenin’!” Well, it’s still happenin’ with Big Crux. Their music is imbued with a funk/post-punk eclecticism inspired by those bands, especially the Big Boys and “Warship” could be an outtake from the Minutemen’s “Double Nickels” album. They also refer to proto-core on one of the songs here and the lyrics have a clever reference to the Feederz’ Frank Discussion. Don’t think that makes it sound like a relic, though. Big Crux sound fresh and vibrant. The tape includes an unreleased Plugz cover (“In The Wait”). Their vocalist/guitarist Felix Reyes also sent me along their 2014 album “Ponchito,” which is equally impressive. It widens the range a bit, incorporating Latin music shadings and the melody is somewhat more prominent but there’s still an abundance of kinetic energy. If a song like “Buscando” doesn’t make you want to dance around, you should probably check your pulse. (B < X,; Not Normal,

BLACK ARMY JACKET-222 (Brainscan, LP)
Originally released on CD in 1999, this is the first vinyl pressing (remixed, even) for Black Army Jacket's debut album. Thrash, grind and heavier material in the same vein as early Dropdead (especially the higher backing vocals) and Napalm Death, with inspiration from Siege working its way into their blistering sound, as well. The lengthier "Empire of Tears" has a Celtic Frost feel. There's a nostalgic reminiscence of 80s era thrash metal on "U68" that references bands like Possessed and Death and CombatCore Records and these guys might have fit in with that label or Death (Metal Blade's subsidiary). Even with the occasional wanton blasting, the songs have solid structures and it doesn't hurt having an incredibly adept drummer in Dave Witte (Dillinger Escape Plan, Municipal Waste). The cookie monster vocals are a bit much at times but this is a musically explosive statement. (;


BLANK SPELL-s/t (World Gone Mad/Cruel Noise, 7" EP)
Philly's Blank Spell follow up a pretty damned good demo with their first vinyl effort. A merger of hardcore adrenaline and goth-tinged guitar, creating a dark and haunting ambiance.There are echoes of early Die Kreuzen in Cassidy's playing, accompanying her forceful vocals. It's the speed that moves it out of pure death rock territory. It's hard to wallow when going full-tilt. (

BÖRN-s/t (Total Negativity, 7" EP)

Haunting goth punk from this Icelandic band. The four song EP (following an earlier 12") merge punchy early 80s (Joy Division, et al) bass lines with a powerful and chilling attack. The vocals have a Siouxsie-ish swoop to them, with a sometimes-abrasive, overbearing timbre but they’re certainly attention-grabbing. (

BROKEN PRAYER-Misanthropocentric AKA Droid's Blood (Sorry State, LP)
As with their first album, Chicago's Broken Prayer throw some Screamers-inspired synth wash and melody lines into a chaotic hardcore sound.While it's pretty relentless a good amount of the time, powered with some drill-press guitar mangling, it doesn't all sound the same. There are varying moods and shadings. "Colors," for instance, has one of those earworm synth-pop hooks, while "Good Dudes" rides along on an ominous bass-line. "Blood Suckers" starts with vocalist Scott Plant braying along with a clattering din of drums and synth and when he shouts, "This world is a piece of shit," you're goddamned fucking right I can relate to that sentiment as I'm sure many of you can as well. Is this the way to cope with it? Beats any other method. Comes with a lyric booklet so you can read along and admire the offbeat artwork while your senses are being pummeled. Misanthropy you can believe in. (


CHAIN RANK-Up Against The Wall (self-released, LP)
If you've never been to the Boiler Room in Boston, it's in the basement of a dilapidated building that's like a graffiti-covered bomb shelter. It’s spawned some mean-as-fuck sounding bands and Chain Rank is no exception. They up their game from their demo bigtime on their first record, "Up Against The Wall." Muscular, no BS old-school hardcore punk with Kevin’s sore-throat vocal bellicosity. Having one of Boston’s better drummers, Ryan Abbott, doesn’t hurt either, as he provides the engine to the stripped-down and energetic compositions. Nothing ground-breaking or original—the stomping “Time For It To End” has a similar feel to DYS’s “City To City,” for instance, but they get the job done. (

CLITBOYS-We Don't Play The Game (Beer City, 7" EP)
The CLITBOYS???!!!” Yep, the band forever immortalized on the Meatmen's song “Punkerama,” really did exist. They were a three-piece from Milwaukee and Beer City will be doing a reissue of their 1983 “We Don’t Play The Game” 7”on Black Friday (i.e. the day after Thanksgiving). Three teenagers railing against conformity both in a general sense as well as within the punk scene (“Slogan Boy”), as well a rant against homophobia (“Gay’s Okay”). Sticking to the loud and fast template but tightly-executed and played with a whole lot of youthful enthusiasm. The remaster sounds great—nice to hear this again, without a bunch of surface noise. (Beer City, PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

CONCEALED BLADE-Demo (Beach Impediment, 7" EP) 

Concealed Blade are from Braddock, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh. Their 7” is a vinyl pressing of a demo from earlier this year (in case you missed the title) and it’s a rager. Throat-ripping vocals and a bare-knuckled hardcore attack. Thrash and floor-pounding crunch pulled from a late 80s NYHC inspiration, along the same lines as Mark from Beach Impediment's current band Mercy Killings and it’s pretty fucking tough-sounding. The transition from the speed of “Terminal Vice” into the thumping “Hell To Pay” is perfectly executed. The lyrics are appropriately pissed-as-fuck—“I fucking wish you would give me the chance to end your worthless life right where you stand.” Yeah, I like these guys. (

DAWN OF HUMANS-Slurping At The Cosmos Spine (Toxic State, LP)
I can’t keep up with who’s in this or that NYC punk band of the so-called “bung”/New York’s Alright crop—it’s so incestuous—but Dawn of Humans have been around since the dawn of the decade (sorry). They started a few years before that, in fact, but just released their debut album.” It’s got that same noisy, spazzed-out, fuzzed-out sound that’s also been utilized by Crazy Spirit, with the strangled/nasally vocals. The arrangements follow a certain pattern with shuffling, tinny drums and distorted guitar and bass, but varying in tempo. They slow it down to a dirge for “Grapitudonce of Hinsenctor “ and “Horse Blind,” the latter having the same feel as a song like Rudimentary Peni's “Army of Jesus.” The album has the top-notch Toxic State packaging, including two posters. An entrancing weirdness on this one. (

DEATHWISH-Out For Blood (Beer City, LP)
The man called Bitty is probably best-known as being the vocalist for Wartorn but he’s been moonlighting lately in Deathwish, handling the bass duties along with vocals. After a 7” EP awhile back, the band’s debut album “Out For Blood” has been unleashed. Hot ‘n heavy Motörpunk played at a healthy (unhealthy?) clip. Smoldering riffs, gut-bucket drumming and it really kicks hard when they pick up the pace on songs like the title track, “Six Bullet Roulette” and especially “Flat-Line.” It’s a very simple formula and Deathwish prove quite adept at it. Something to get the skull rattling. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

EEL-s/t (Beach Impediment, 7" EP)

When I reviewed Eel's “Endless Fucker” 12” someone poked fun at my observation that what they were doing was a “new wrinkle on raw punk.” Nonsense, this person said, that it wasn’t a new wrinkle but tribute to bands like Confuse. Well, it does say “We believe in Confuse” on the back of Eel's new EP and I suppose it does give a new perspective. However original or non-original it is, Eel do still bring the noise (sorry, Public Enemy) with four more songs of high-energy, buzz-drenched punk. “Fuck Off The Human Insect” adds in a few metal licks. While that song is relatively clean-sounding, sonically, “Hell” and “Noise For Neighbor” have a dirtier sound than on the 12”. They also do a pretty straight-forward reading of Disorder’s “Tomorrow’s World”—another influence, of course. I’m done splitting hairs. Just listen to the fucking record. (

THE FACTION-Destroys OC--Cab's 50th B-Day Bash (Beer City, DVD/CD)
In case you couldn't figure it out, this is a live set recorded at a Vans event last year to celebrate skating legend/Faction guitarist Steve Caballero's 50th birthday. All original members and a tight, very professional sounding set. They look as though they're having fun although the crowd response seems muted and there's really not a ton of edge. To be fair, it's nowhere near as watered-down sounding as bands you'd see on the (ugh) Warped tour and they do mine the classic SoCal punk sound pretty well. Oddly there aren't any songs from their debut "Yesterday Is Gone" EP--wouldn't have minded hearing a song like "Bullets Are Faster Than Words." The DVD comes with a CD with the same program. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

FLYKILLS-Colombia Tour Tape/Squirrel (demo tapes)
Flykills have been quite prolific over the past year, pumping out one demo after another and their two latest are a compilation of three demos on one tape (including one released for a tour of Colombia), with almost 20 songs, and a brand new demo called “Squirrel” that features a few previously-released songs, three new originals and two somewhat obscure (at least to me) cover songs. Gustavo is a nasally-sounding vocalist and there are different punk strains inspiring their music—anarcho-punk, goth and more tuneful fodder to name a few--that are twisted into their own vision and done in sharp, economical fashion. The covers show a different side—the poppy, goth-tinged “Vamos Jugar” by early 80s Spanish band Paralisis Permanente (which is so good, I decided to track down more of this band’s music) and the melodic “Sin Reaccion” by Colombian band Mutantex. Buzz and burn but also adding texture and nuance, especially with their guitar sound. (


FRAU-Mira (self-released)
Frau bash and flail their way through four songs on their second EP. Abrasive, harsh punk with agitated-sounding vocals and primitive instrumentation. The barbed-wire guitar lines are underpinned by basic bass and drum patterns. Frau come from the same inspiration as their London sisters Good Throb, but without as much of the post-punk angularity. Despite singing “communication is hard for me” on “EBD (Emotional Behavioral Difficulty),” Frau communicate their ire in no uncertain terms. (

GAY KISS-Preservation Measures (Sorry State, LP)
The sound of pure pain. Not sure if the term "mysterious guy" hardcore is still in use or obsolete but if that describes painful and dark howlings and a stomping, menacing sound with frayed elements, this fits the bill. Sonic squalls of feedback accompanying soul-rending vocals and some twists 'n turns--there are breaks in some of the songs where the crush gives way to frenzied sonic mangling.That occurs on opening track "Failed City" and they're just getting started. Speed does figure into some of the compositions but the main emphasis is on a pounding effect and there are also some tribal drum touches, especially on closing song "Relent." The aural equivalent of a nightmare. (

HOLDER’S SCAR-Sin Without Doubt (To Live A Lie, 7" EP)

This Greensboro, NC band rip out some solid fast hardcore on their first EP. Will from To Live A Lie Records included a note with the record and said they have a ton of heart. I’d say that’s true. Quite a few of the bands on his label tend to operate in more of a powerviolence or grindcore vein but that’s not the case with these guys. Mixing in some heavier parts without devolving into chug territory. (

Two veteran bands hook up for this split. Holokaust haven’t been all that active on the recording front over the past decade or so but they still sound as pissed-off as ever on their three songs. Armistice’s first new material since 2000 also shows them in fine form—blistering crusty hardcore packed with adrenalin and hot riffage. Not life-changing but still pretty good. (PO Box 90579, Long Beach, CA 90809,


Mod punk/pop/soul/new wave/what have you. The songs are catchy, especially lead-off track "Blood On The Wall" but when things take a less blatantly pop turn, that's where it gets interesting, as with the somewhat spacy sounding "Stutter" or darker, new wavish "Reptoid Rock" and "Funny." The basic guitar/bass/drums setup along with saxophone and occasional synth effects. "I Got Soul" is a bit kitschy but even that has some tasty guitar lines. Despite what I wrote in the first line of the review, Mr. Human and his Reptoids aren't that easily compartmentalized. (

INSTITUTE-Catharsis (Sacred Bones, LP)
Finally, a full length from Institute, well-worth the wait. While there’s a dark side to this band, “Perpetual Ebb” gets things started with and upbeat, Eddy Current flavor—in fact, that applies to a number of songs here and you can hear a Wire echo, as well. What they do is so simple—a deceptively-catchy minimalism, percolating bass and steady drums mixing it up with guitar lines that pack melodic nuance, as well as straight-ahead power. There’s a nice six-string chime for “I Am Living Death.” Moses’ vocals have kind of a flat, detached cadence and are semi-slurred but expressive. There’s even a brief poem that leads into the full-tilt “Cheaptime Morals,” the most aggressive song on the album. Most of the songs have a self-analytical lyrical bent but the song with a relatively small number of words makes the strongest social statement—“Christian Right,” building up a heady mesh over the course of its 8 plus minutes. This one’s probably going to find its way into my year-end top ten. (

IVY-A Cat's Cause, No Dog's Problem (Katoga Works, 7" EP)
Fuckin’ Ivy—how DARE they break up right before they’re supposed to play Boston, only I find this out when I get to the show. Anyway, Ivy leave this world with one final four song 7”. More hard-driving, psyched-out, blown-out  thumping punk/hardcore/garage, along with surrealist lyrics. Got all that down? It’s a heady mesh of a sound that simultaneously fucks the senses and kicks the ass. Once again, got all that down? A fine follow-up to the best album of 2014. (

JOHNS-Grift Marks (Peterwalkee, LP)
An off-kilter, melodic indy rock record and that's probably a rather broad description. Let me try to narrow it down a bit. Harmonized vocals, tuneful arrangements that aren't overly poppy and an overall somber ambiance, getting downright funereal for songs like "Here Comes The Snake" or "Erase Them." It works better with guitar-driven, uptempo songs like "Palace of Ill Control" and, especially, "Cemetery." There are Wipers-ish guitar licks at times, although Johns aren't a tribute band by any stretch. Only a handful of tracks that are truly gripping. While this doesn't conjure images of shades-drawn, sitting alone in the room despair, it's still not consistently electrifying. (


LEATHER DADDY-s/t (Failure Recordings, 7" EP)
Leather Daddy have improved quite a bit over time and emerge as a pretty damned good band on their first 7". Thumping punk in a mid-to-fast vein, with a hint of UK-82 along the same lines as another local band, Savageheads. Lauren sings in a pissed-off cadence and the lyrics come from a personal perspective--given the finger-pointing nature, I'd imagine at least one person has attracted her ire ("I dream at night of smashing your head") Not polished and that works to their advantage, with an appealing grittiness. (

MALE PATTERNS-Thinking Too Much (Shock To The System, 7" EP)
 “This world sucks and I just don’t give a crap”—that line is on the leadoff track, “Blow Me Up." I’m feeling that one and also feeling “Pissed and Old.” Pure trigger-finger hardcore from Albany. No nonsense, no bullshit, just bile done with ruthless precision and you NEED that sometimes. Mean. (19 Grant Ave, Albany, NY 12206,

METZ-II (Sub Pop, LP)
Loud 'n heavy music that certainly belongs on Sub Pop but it's not a grunge or heavy metal retread. There's a buzzing drone in their sound--guitar generating sonic squall and big-ass riffarola, accompanied by a punishing, but skillful bass/drums tandem. The beats shake the floor, in fact. "Kicking A Can Of Worms" could be retitled "Kicking You In Your Face," leading the way towards a cacophonous conclusion before abruptly cutting off and you're left with your head in a daze. The packaging is lavish, too--the "Loser Edition" comes tucked inside a shiny outer cover and the sleeve is a gatefold, there's a poster and colored vinyl. I imagine all the losers have snapped this up by now but even with plain 'ol black vinyl, the sparks will still fly off the stylus. (

MYSTIC INANE-Ode To Joy (Negative Jazz, 7" EP)
Another primo platter from one of the best punk bands N’awlins has to offer these days. The title track isn’t the Beethoven song, you chowderhead. It’s pretty joyous in its own way, though, strutting and bashing its way into your psyche but doing it in an off-kilter way. These guys sound like Institute jamming with Lumpy, if I had to pin it down a bit. A haunting, melodic guitar signature jolted along by a thick bass-line and abrasive vocals.  That’s also the case for “Grease Inna Hair,” while the aggression level goes up a bit for “Pervert In Society.” Punk music that stretches the parameters a bit. (

OFFENDERS-Live At CBGB's 1985 (Beer City, 2xCD)
I’m not a fan of live albums but I did see The Offenders on their 1985 tour (twice, in fact!) and they were the real fucking deal. They sound as though they’re about to fly apart but these guys could play their asses off, especially bass-player Mikey Donaldson. The two CD version adds on six live tracks recorded in Austin in 1982 that has so-so sound quality. Disc number two is a reunion set at Emo’s in Austin from 2002 involving all four originals (actually, JJ was the band’s second vocalist) and they play with spirit and gusto. The double LP package on Southern Lord is more essential to novices but this is worth a listen or two. Due out at the end of November (on “Black Friday”). (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

OPPOSITION RISING-Riot Starter (Pine Hill, 7" EP)
The late, great Punch In The Face once had a song called “Not Here To Make Friends.” That’s been Bill from Opposition Rising’s credo going back to his days in Toxic Narcotic. The “Riot Starter EP” is the latest salvo from this Boston mean machine. Bile-filled hardcore punk with vocals that get angrier with each subsequent release. They’ve dropped the reggae skank that’s been mixed into previous releases and just go for the throat here. One of the songs  is “Elitist Punks Fuck Off” and I want to give them a round of applause for that one, speaking as some increasingly sick and tired of the cliques and elitism that exist in the punk scene here and doubtlessly just about everywhere else.That's something that's really been sticking in my craw, lately, and it's voiced perfectly here. Mellowing with age? No fucking way. (

PERMANENT MAKEUP-Taker (New Granada, CD)
Post-punk trio Permanent Makeup return with their second album “and it’s another trip into nervy regions. Distorted bass, jazzbo and otherworldly guitar touches and son-of-D. Boon vocals. It’s not constant cacophony but Permanent Makeup aren’t afraid to go against the grain, as with the nearly free-form segment for “Adult.” Songs like “Weak In The Knees” and “Moderation” jab away with an incessant urgency. If anything, they sound feistier than in the past although they’ve never been an easy listening band. Uneasy listening? That’s more fitting. (


PERSPEX FLESH-Ordered Image (Static Shock, 12")
The six song "Ordered Image" follows up this UK band's self-titled 2014 full-length. A powerful and dramatic sound incorporating anarcho-punk ala Rudimentary Peni cross-pollinated with Killing Joke and adding the occasional hardcore infusion. Dark and haunting throughout, balancing aggressiveness with nuance and texture, accompanied by soul-ripping vocals. (

PHANTOM RIDES-Demo One (tape)
A three piece with Terry and Melissa from Foreign Objects and Chris from Conversions (and Terry was also in Conversions). Both ladies contribute vocals and harmonies. While there are some poppier touches for "Way Out," Phantom Rides still have an energetic punk/post-punk sound accompanying the melodic properties and "Social Climbers" is particularly driving. Good start, hope to hear more. (

PRESSING ON-s/t (demo tape)
A Portland band including people from Talk Is Poison, Raw Nerves and From Ashes Rise. The sound maintains some of the elements of those bands and adds a slightly more traditional hardcore approach. Fast ‘n loud, with hearty back-up vocals, searing leads and they also take a street punk turn for “Liberation.” Good-sounding stuff. (


SADIST-The Shadow of the Swastika (self-released, 7" EP)
The debut vinyl from these noise-drenched hellions from Boston only not so noisy that it drowns out the actual songs. The title track is a mid-tempo pounder with Tim's reverbed vocals accompanied by guitar flange, thick bass-lines and electronic effects. "Minotaur's Maze" picks up the pace before morphing into the pounding "Mask." Their live show is attention-grabbing and they pull it off in the recorded format, as well. (no info)

SAND IN THE FACE-Music Made To Riot: New Jersey Hardcore 1982-1983 (Mad At The World, LP)
So much hardcore punk in the early 80s was the end result of suburban revolt—quickly realizing you didn’t fit in with accepted norms. Getting shit from the jocks, the popular kids, the cops, etc. Realizing you were DIFFERENT from everyone else. That was the root of New Jersey’s Sand In The Face, if you read the liner notes of their LP, penned by bass player Pete Wegele, who some of you might know as Peter Aaron from Chrome Cranks. Yep, Pete has a hardcore past (he also played in Sluggo when he lived in Cincinnati and, on a personal note, he’s the guy who turned me onto The Pagans!). Mad At The World Records has unleashed an 18 song 12”, 14 of which are from a demo and previously-unreleased. Two ended up on “The Master Tape Volume 2” and two, recorded with a different bass player, were on the “Hardcore Takes Over” comp. While they embraced the speedy tumult of the hardcore of the day, SITF had a few other tricks up their sleeves—some more traditional and west coast punk stylings, for instance. They sometimes sound like they’re about to fly apart but it’s fairly tight and youthful energy does count for a lot. (

SCREATURE-Four Columns (S-S, CD)
This Sacto band ply 80s goth-tinged punk with Siouxsie vocal stylings, as well. It’s not exactly the same, though. The bass isn’t as prominent but the guitar lines have an atmospheric, stinging ambiance. It really comes to the fore on “Lost Ones” and the edgy “Laws of Intrigue,” which bristles with energy and the concluding song “Graves and Heirs” is a formidable sonic workout. (

THE SHINING-Infinite Reign of Madness (Pick Up/multi-label, LP)
This Dutch band have been plying crossover thrash for almost fifteen years at this point and show no signs of slowing down. This would have been right at home on Metal Blade or Combat or New Renaissance back in the day, right down to the photos on the insert. What goes around, etc... No rewriting of the book or anything, just a pillaging good time with molten riffing and no acoustic interludes or progressive elements to mess anything up. The Shining have it down, with clockwork, ripsaw precision (

TOXIC REASONS-Essential Independence (Beer City, CD+DVD)

A deluxe repackage of the Toxics' 1982 debut album and tucked inside the DVD box is the album, appended with 7” tracks and a live set from Berkeley Square in 1981 (that set came out on vinyl awhile back), plus a DVD from a 1999 reunion. This is the only full-length to feature original vocalist Ed Pittman. His Brit-inflected, sandpaper growl is the perfect accompaniment for the Reasons’ scrappy ‘n catchy punk. Songs like “Mercenary,” “Killer” and “Noise Boys” are pure, fist-pumping anthems. While they were eventually more or less aligned with the Midwest hardcore scene, the Reasons’ sound had a strong UK punk inspiration. I always liked the grittier-sounding single version of the reggae/punk song “Ghost Town” and that’s here. So is an unreleased version of “God Bless America.” The live set from ’81 has a handful of songs that never got recorded and hold their own against the album tracks. Finally, the DVD features a rowdy 1999 reunion of the 1981 lineup and they tear through a loud ‘n sweaty set, including a few songs off “Kill By Remote Control.” Accompanied by a booklet with essays, reminiscences, etc. Essential, indeed. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

T-TOPS-s/t (Big Neck, CD)
Crushing, iron-wrought 90s style noise from a three piece out of Pittsburgh (with a guy from Don Caballero). Heavy as fuck from the outset, starting with "A Certain Cordial Exhilaration," which isn't all that cordial but certainly exhilarating. Lurching, savage riffs punctuated with bashing drums, thick bass and assertive but not harsh vocals. They would have fit perfectly on a bill with Hammerhead, Helmet, Janitor Joe, et al, but it doesn't sound like a relic. Gets the floor shaking. (

VAASKA-Todos Contra Todos (Beach Impediment, LP)
Vaaska's first 12" release since 2010 and it’s introduced with a loud fanfare and quickly getting down to some serious d-beating. The lyric sheet states it’s not on Clay Records. I don’t know what label Discharge’s new single is on but I’m not as interested in hearing that as I’m interested in hearing the latest by these guys. Yeah, they’re DIS-sciples (argh!) but not pure copiers. One secret weapon is Victor’s shit-hot fret work and the production is lively and not polished. It gets the fist pumping, hitting all the right buttons, and the mid-paced “Guerra Sagrada” makes the floor shake. This one’s the scorchah (MassHole speak) that you hope it’d be. (PO Box 8335, Richmond, VA 23450,


VEXX-Give and Take (Katorga Works, 7" EP)
I saw this Olympia band play one hell of a set in an Allston basement not too long ago. Super-catchy 70s-inspired punk rock 'n roll but the real attraction is vocalist Maryjane Dunphe. At times, she sounds like she could be a long-lost relative of Penelope Houston, but a bit more unhinged sounding. "Black/White" is one of the catchiest, stick-in-head songs I've heard all year. Gigantic hooks, while Maryjane's vocals work in and around the music. "Sleeping In The Attic" is a brief, fiercely-rockin' corker. I'm not quite as enamored with the more ballad-like "Walking In The Rain" and the shuffle rocker "Flattened Scenes" is OK but "Black/White" is the song here and an inescapable earworm. (

VIOLENT ARREST-Life Inside The Western Bloc (Boss Tuneage, CD)
Violent Arrest have a new vocalist--Welly from Artcore 'zine and formerly of the more-melodic Four Letter Word, but nothing else has changed. Violent Arrest have always had an 80s US hardcore inspiration and that remains the story. Welly has toughened up his vocals for this band, matching the full-bore blitz this band have always traded in. Starting with a sample from one of the best movies of all time, "Network," Violent Arrest come storming out of the gates with their politically-driven hardcore punk--"The Game Is Rigged," "Wage War," "Our Dearly Deported"--you get the idea, and life's dehumanization process is tackled for "Grind You Down." The CD tacks on their previously vinyl-only "Distorted View" album, done with their old vocalist Steve and there's one song from a split with Endless Grinning Skulls and a cover of the Mau-Maus' "Clampdown." I'd say they've got it down at this point. (

VIOLENT REACTION-Marching On (Revelation, CD)
Straight-edge hardcore done in a tough, bootboy fashion. This UK band have the same US hardcore-meets-oi inflection as a band like 86 Mentality did. Sharp and catchy, with efficient instrumentation and hearty singalongs, reaching anthemic proportions with the likes of "No Pride" and "Marching On." This is music borne of hatred--work, politics, bullies or "crust funders," as they call a certain group of punks. No-nonsense, mean-as-fuck sounding. (PO Box 5232, Huntington Beach, CA 92615,


Fastcore Photos, #4 
The latest issue of Will from To Live A Lie Records' photozine is a half-sized, 52 page effort. Some of the black and white photos aren’t that well reproduced and I might have been interested in reading some of his thoughts on the bands or shows, but it’s a good mix of known and lesser-known bands covering the hardcore spectrum—Forward, Coke Bust, Nasa Space Universe, Cress and Boston’s own Chain Rank are just some of the bands pictured. (

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Suburban Voice blog #114

Yes, finally... still have some reviews to catch up on. The next blog will have the latest batch from Sorry State Records (some good ones!), another book review and who knows what else...



When I reviewed Colin Brunton's first film, The Last Pogo back in 2008, I said it was on the short side and whetted the appetite for more. Well, this film provides an embarrassment of riches, over three hours long, telling the story of the Toronto punk scene from 1976-1976. When I say exhaustive, I mean exhaustive--maybe a bit longer than it needed to be, in all honesty, since it gets somewhat repetitive and meandering after awhile.

This work is a visual collage of present day interviews and historical documentation--live performances and an in-depth overview of what was happening back then. As with many cities, Toronto's punk scene wasn't large in numbers but tight-knit, despite some of the carping you might hear back and forth. And the scope extends beyond Toronto to include Hamilton, which is more of a blue collar city and produced bands with a bigger chip on their collective shoulders, particularly the Forgotten Rebels and Teenage Head.

Extensive attention is paid to the Viletones and their provocative vocalist Steven "Nazi Dog" Leckie, interviewed 'back in the day,' as well as in the present (well, relatively present--it took over six years to finish the documentary). They were definitely the punkest of the lot and Leckie was a ticking time bomb who somehow managed to survive. Teenage Head also get a lot of screen time. Sadly, their vocalist Frankie Venom did not survive. He passed away in 2008 and, in all honesty, didn't look long for this world when interviewed at CIUT (who have a long running punk show, Equalizing Distort). Joey Shithead from DOA provides something of an outsider's perspective, since he relocated his band at the time, The Skulls, from Vancouver to Toronto--and talks about the trials and tribulations of not really fitting in.

As some of the interviewees point out, the definition of punk was wide-ranging, from the bile of the Viletones, Forgotten Rebels' sickoid sense of humor, the all-female Curse's blunt and caustic punk, The Ugly's in-your-face stylings and the Diodes' poppier approach. The Diodes actually had a lot to do with getting Toronto punk off the ground, by opening the legendary Crash and Burn venue. They talk about the DIY aesthetic but a rift happened when they were the first Toronto band to sign to a major label (CBS).

It isn't just band members who are interviewed--fans, record store and label owners, show promoters, managers and others who contributed in one way or another. One thing you notice is there are mixed emotions and still some interpersonal wounds that haven't healed.

In addition to the film, there's a second disc with other interviews and even a few shorts and trailers they used to show at the old Roxy Theater, another starting point that brought together future movers and shakers of the Toronto punk scene (including Brunton, who worked there as an usher). One of these is the infamous Bambi Meets Godzilla. And there's a 24 page booklet filled mainly with vintage flyers. All in all, it's definitely worth seeing and the standard-issue punk doc talking heads (Rollins, Grohl, Morris et al) are nowhere to be seen. In fact, the only "outsiders" who make an appearance are the aforementioned Joey Shithead, as well as Cheetah Chrome and Tommy Ramone. You might want to stretch it out over a couple of nights, though! (


What do you get when you mix punk rock, complete with some obscure references, along with quasi- religious overtones that include a shameless lift from Jesus Christ Superstar, straight-edge stigmata with bleeding X's and evil plots of world domination? That would be Sacrificial Youth, the latest film from Joe Losurdo, who did the Chicago punk documentary You Weren't There and played in Life Sentence and Regress. It's a fun romp--schlocky for sure, cringe-worthy at times but that's probably the intent. Rob Bakker plays TJ, a straight-edge, skater high schooler who is the vocalist for Sacrificial Youth. Fiercely DIY, a staunch defender of The Scene, the home base of which is his beloved Youth Center. TJ adamantly refuses to sell out, even when presented with the opportunity to tour with hot-shot emo band Hellbound Boy, on a tour sponsored by a rather vile-looking drink called Bluud. His ideals are reinforced when Sacrificial Youth's bass player Jud gets them an opening slot for Hellbound Boy at a shitty corporate rock club called Starzzz. That's the basic plot and did I mention it's mainly a musical? The hardcore and punk rock selections do sound a bit sanitized and the lyrics are beyond parody. Losurdo gets some screen time as TJ's dad and even breaks out the bass, offering to replace Jud, who has succumbed to the lure of the almighty dollar and joined Hellbound Boy.

As I mentioned, there are some obscure and not-quite-as-obscure references--TJ mentioning a gig with Caustic Defiance, who were an 80s era Illinois hardcore band or saying he'd been weaned on Flipper records and that probably explained a lot of things. And the two villains behind the Bluud promotion (their goal, of course, is destruction of The Scene) are played by members of 80s-era bands the Mentally Ill and Rights Of The Accused (Larry Gutkin and Mike O'Connell, respectively).

One of the extras features commentary by Losurdo, Bakker, O'Connell, Porter and John Kopanski, who plays Simon of Sacrificial Youth. A cut-up session, pretty much revealing that they're amused by their idealistic punk rock past and there's even a snarky reference to Life Sentence's original singer. It comes across as a hell of a lot more self-deprecating than, say, Suburbia or SLC Punk (the latter of which is one of the worst movies I've ever seen). Fun stuff. Comes with a fanzine booklet filled with cut 'n paste lyrics and even a couple of scene reports. (Regressive Films,


CRATE DIGGER: AN OBSESSION WITH PUNK RECORDS (Bob Suren, Microcosm Publishing, 192 pages, paperback, $14.95)
I'm biased--I'll admit it. I've known Bob Suren for over 20 years at this point and always found him to be an honest, straight-shooting individual. He has my respect. No pretense about this guy--what you see is what you get and his viewpoints are direct and to the point. Until a few years ago, his life was immersed in the DIY punk scene in Brandon, FL--running a record store and distro called Sound Idea, playing in such bands as Murder-Suicide Pact and Failure Face and putting out records on his Burrito imprint and helping publish a zine called Burn Brandon.

Crate Digger is more than just your typical A to Z record guide, although that's the format. Some of the records are well-known classics, some are more obscure. Some are records that Bob put out on Burrito. The book allows us to accompany Bob on his 30+ year punk rock journey. Instead of straight reviews, the entry for each record may tell a story about a place in time, the way he discovered the band, how he was able to coordinate putting out lost and forgotten recordings that he felt deserved to be heard. Often, the record at hand is only mentioned in passing, not even discussing the musical contents. The writing is sometimes choppy and abrupt but often poignant. He writes openly about the collapse of his marriage and other heartbreaking tribulations. There are also essays about different individuals he's known during his life.

The anecdotal approach reminds us that, for the passionate music fan, there's a personal connection to a particular record that often conjures up various memories, both good and bad. When I hear side two of the Clash's "Give 'Em Enough Rope," it reminds me of my first date with Ellen in 1979 and who I've been with ever since. When I hear The Avengers' self-titled compilation, it reminds me of another romantic encounter. When I hear "5 O'Clock" by Articles of Faith, I think about my shitty bank job. This book is for the person who always has a song playing in their head, who are happy to tell you at-length why this record or that was important to them, what it means to them. That's what Bob is able to accomplish with Crate Digger. The book is due to be published in June. (

Click here to hear an interview I did with Bob on Sonic Overload

... including some that have been out for quite some time. That's what happens when I neglect my blogging duties for too long.

... and, as usual, each of them has an ugly and visceral sound in their chosen style of hardcore. It does get numbing after awhile, especially played back to back but each band does have something to offer. Narcoleptics, from Chicago, make their vinyl bow with a six song self-titled effort. A full-on blitz, starting with a hearty ARRRRRGGGHHH!!! to introduce things and ending with what sounds like shit getting broken as bassist/vocalist Joe Aquilina continues to howl away. A d-beat frenzy, with thick bass and razorwire guitar. "Trench Knife" is a mid-tempo crusher that will have you want to, well, break more shit.

Scalped are also making their vinyl debut on their self-titled EP that came out and also utilize plenty of feedback and another harsh-larynxed vocalist. But they take a tougher approach, occasionally packing some NYHC crunch into the speedy onslaught.

Vacant State, on the other hand, have a number of releases under their belts. Their latest, the Chains EP, provides some boot stompin' hardcore with a vocalist whose timbre bears more than a passing resemblance to Choke's. Many early 80s US hardcore bands (although these guys are from Vancouver) embraced an oi-style feel and that's the case here. Mean 'n angry, pulling no punches, particularly when it comes to spanging punks ("Not The Same"). (2109 23rd St., San Francisco, CA 94107,

.... AND MORE...  


AJAX-s/t (Katorga Works, 7" EP)
Mean, bare-knuckled hardcore from Noo Yawk. Ajax had a pretty good demo awhile back and this 7" isn't bad, either. A mix of old-school US and Swedish HC, topped off with gutteral vocals. Did I mention they sound mean? Members of other NYC bands you know and love (Creem, Nomos, et al). (

AMERICAN HATE-Dead Squeeze (Not Normal, 7" EP)
The sound of turmoil, both musically and lyrically. Vocals that are yelpy and the music is chaotic and intense, starting with the 30 second blast "Social Exposure.""The Best Advice" flip-flops between dark dirge and a speedier tumult. Things wrap up for a noisy 'n incendiary take on Devo's "Mr. DNA." Not a carbon copy reading but adding their own stamp that sounds like a free-for-all for the last minute or so. From Oklahoma City--no wonder they sound like they're about to go off the deep end. (

ANEURYSM-DemO (tape)
Boston band Aneurysm play in a dark, emotionally-tumultuous vein, mixing punk with edgier alt-rock (for want of a better term) although it's sprightlier than I might be indicating, especially on tracks like "Stop this Ride" and "Dio, Priest and Maiden" (how can you go wrong with a title like that?), after the Slint-ish touches for "All In My Head." Pretty good, overall. This demo came wrapped in paper bag material and I gave up trying to keep it around the tape box and just cut it down to size--I hope I didn't hurt the value since it's limited to 100 copies. (

BAD DADDIES/HARD LEFT-Split (Emotional Response, 7" EP)
Bad Daddies' side is loud 'n fuzzy 'n catchy, especially for the last song, "It's Not You." There's a wicked hook on the chorus, both musically and in Camylle's vocal. "Stay True" is also quite tuneful, following the 22 second opening burst of "War." Hard Left are from Oakland but you might mistake them for a UK band with their boisterous street punk. Gruff vocals spouting out populist sentiments, accompanying the sharp 'n brash sounds. A winnah, as we say in Massachusetts. (

BAD JESUS EXPERIENCE-III (Nunchakpunk/Pupu's Bistro/Popo's Bistro, 10")
All three of this Finnish bands' releases have been on a 10". Some people hate the format but I don't have a problem with it. I can't quite figure out why they put Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits on the cover (I actually thought it was Al Gore until I was set straight) and there isn't a cover of "Money For Nothing." Nope, this is pretty far from that band's laid back rock sounds. BJE play powerful, dark hardcore mixing burn with dramatic properties--ominous and nightmarish, especially for the brooding opener "Aina Vaaraan." Mixing up tempos a bit, although it's mainly at a fast clip and the vocals from Cyanide Lauper (clever) cut through with a venomous fervor. (

CADAVER EM TRANSE-s/t (Nada Nada Discos, LP)
Moody and dark goth-tinged punk, but it's far from funereal. On the contrary, the songs have an energetic drive, especially on the burning "Confinado." "Inverted" has a stinging guitar hook accompanied by sturdy drumming and a bass-line carrying the melody along. That's pretty much the modus operandi throughout. The musicianship is dexterous and textured but also slashing. The drumming does a great job of mixing up traditional elements with tribal rhythms, adding other percussion effects at times. And the vocals, which I thought were flat-sounding in the past, have presence and emotional range. No Ian Curtis tributes here. Engaging and ear-grabbing throughout, with much more oomph than some of the other bands working this territory. (

CHEM-TRAILS-First World Problem, Third World Solution (Vex, LP)
Chem-Trails is Jim Martin from Broken's latest band. Jim's been around forever--not quite as long as yours truly, but he's got around three decades invested in the Connecticut hardcore punk scene, going back to when he did the cover art for the old Connecticut Fun compilation. As you'd expect, this is angry-sounding music. A beefy, two guitar attack leaning towards Swedish hardcore but with the occasional metallic element, as well. The lyrics have a conspiratorial tone to them--the band gets its name from a conspiracy theory about chemicals or biological agents being dumped on the public--but, at the end of the day, they state on "Maniacal Laughter" that "you have to laugh or you'll go crazy." Indeed! And playing this sort of aggressive music provides one hell of a coping mechanism. (


CRIME DESIRE-Your Power (Standards, LP)
First new sounds from this band in awhile and they're back with a vengeance. Meat-cleaver, boiling-over hardcore with the instrumental crush accompanied by Colin's harsh vocals. "Move Forward" is a concise, pumped-up mid-tempo rocker and one of the best tracks here. "Weak Men" rides on a near-tribal drum pattern. The rest of the time, they bring an abundance of speed and burn and it gets the job done in razor sharp fashion. (

DAVIDIANS-Night Terrors/Gimme All Yo' Dope (Sorry State, 7")
NO LOVE-Dogs//Wolves/Bad Things (Sorry State, 7")
Two releases from Sorry State's North Carolina Singles Series. Davidians stretch the boundaries beyond their first EP and it's a dark, jarring journey. Two taut and rhythmic songs, snaky guitar lines dueling with a supple rhythmic base. No Love's pair of songs provide surging, semi-catchy punk. Even with the melodic elements, it's not overtly poppy--the songs are edgier and tougher. Check out their earlier demo on the Sorry State Bandcamp page as well, especially the tuneful "S.C.A.B." (

DEFORMITY-s/t (Toxic State/Katorga Works, 7" EP)
Not that their recordings were ever that clean-sounding but this is more frenzied than their 2013 demo (one of my favorites of that year, by the way) and it peels off the semi-garage propensities of that recording. Back in the 80s, a song like "Bug" might have been called pigfuck, since it wrapped up arty punk into a twisted sonic morass but this is much more visceral. Three cacophonous, frayed and ugly-sounding tracks. (

FIRING SQUAD-s/t (Agitate, demo tape)
Four songs filled with pure venom and hatred from this Richmond band. Burning thrash, slowed down a tad for the mid-tempo pound of "CTO." Nothing stretching the parameters or really offering anything out of the ordinary but making its impact felt in five or so minutes. People from Cretins and Violent Outburst--some of whose members are now in Mercy Killings and it has the same sort of feel. (PO Box 61014, Richmond, VA 23261,


FUCKING INVINCIBLE-It'll Get Worse Before It Gets Better (Atomic Action, LP)
Relentless, chaotic hardcore from Providence mixing grind, thrash and floor-pounding elements. Build up and release, favoring meat-cleaver riffage and soul-ripping screams. As always, it's a style best experienced in small doses and it's not exactly tune oriented--more a case of creating a bludgeoning effect. Fucking Invincible prove to be more than proficient at this sort of pure aggression and it's not all blasting all the time. At times, it's not all that dissimilar to Dropdead and they share two band members. This pressing is on pink vinyl, limited to 113 copies. (

FUTURE CRIMES-s/t (No Profit, 7" EP)
Queer-themed punk that sure ain't subtle, lyrically. The first song is "Growlr" and that describes the vocals to a tee. Rudimentary stuff, with buzzing guitar and fairly tuneful. Things get damn near sentimental with "Spend The Night With You." They take a break from the gay content for the pro-voting "Romney Riot Oh '12". A bit out of date, but the record's not that old. It's not all wise-assery either--"The Adonis Factor" is about how gay magazines present an unrealistic body image ideal the same way other magazines do.  Pressed on pink vinyl, of course. (2724 Glastonbury Rd., Apex, NC 27539-8663,

G.L.O.S.S.-Demo (tape)
Girls Living Outside Society's Shit... G.L.O.S.S are from Olympia, WA although a couple of them--Sadie and Jake--just moved there from Boston, where they played in such bands as Peeple Watchin', Baja Blatz and Rash Tongue. Pounding and in-your-face hardcore punk and the lyrics are equally in-your-face, screamed in your face, in fact, by Sadie who details the shit she deals with as a transgender individual. The overall sentiment for this band is made in resounding fashion on "Outcast Stomp," a call to arms for those who have been rejected due to sexual orientation, gender identity or any other "norm" that is forced on people and, frankly, they don't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Can't wait to see this band live. Due for a vinyl release at some point. (


IMPALERS-Psychedelic Snutskallar (540, 12")
The title track takes up an entire side of this 12", rumbling on for over 12 minutes, a relentless attack of motor-charged d-beat mayhem. Not a conceptual piece, no separate movements or time shifts, just sheer adrenalin that never flags and I imagine it must require a tremendous amount of stamina if they play this song live. Flip it over and there are four more boilers. Impalers are damned good at what they do--a twin guitar fusillade that also throws in the occasional melodic shading and drumming with enough cymbal crashing to wake the dead. Nothing psychedelic about it but I imagine more than a few skulls (not just cop skulls either) could get smashed to bits along the way. (

JAWBOX-My Scrapbook of Fatal Accidents (Arctic Studio Recordings, 2xLP)
A double LP pressing (plus a CD of the whole thing) for Jawbox's odds and ends collection that was originally released in 1998, following the band's breakup. There's a BBC session, live material from some big-ass concert at RFK Stadium, a few unreleased songs and tracks from various compilations. About one-third of the album consists of various cover versions--a wide array from the Big Boys to the Minutemen to Buzzcocks (decent cover of "Airwaves Dream," off a split with Jawbreaker), even the Big Boys and Frank Sinatra. It's nicely packaged with two booklets--one of photos, one that provides recording details and lists all the shows they ever played.

I'm pretty sure Jawbox were the first band who recorded for Dischord who ended up on a major label (Atlantic, for their final two albums), during the post-Nirvana signing frenzy. They were always a polished-sounding unit and there's plenty of melodic accessibility throughout, although they never had a mainstream breakthrough. At the same time, they continued to put our songs on various indy and DIY labels and this collection originally came out on their DeSoto imprint. Straddling both worlds and, in retrospect, somewhat hit and miss. At their best, they were able to harness sturdy rock with a rhythmic, post-punk undertow. The earliest song is "Bullet Park" (represented here by the version on a Maximum Rocknroll compilation) that sounded more than a bit like early Fugazi and that should be taken as a compliment. "Low Strung" has a churning pulse and it makes sense the song would appear on one of the Amphetamine Reptile "Dope Guns-n-Fucking In The Streets" comps."Tongues," from the BBC session, percolates with a potent rhythm and killer chorus hook. It hasn't all aged well and, while the covers aren't carbon copies, I don't really think I need to hear their rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin" again. I'd say this would mainly appeal to long-time fans although it is a well-put-together artifact and provides a pretty good overview of the band's lifespan. (


KOWARD-Desperate (Side Two, 7" EP)
Koward have been around for a number of years (off and on) but this is only their second 7". Ravenous hardcore punk that goes for the throat. Two fast ones, two at a medium pace and with a pronounced Swe-d-beat inspiration. With Jesse's hoarse vocals reinforced with a potent two-guitar musical attack, Koward quickly make their presence felt. (

LOAD-Drunken Warrior Chief (Rat Town, LP)

When I think of Florida, it's not just the tourist areas that come to mind but the uglier undercurrent--hot, sticky, miserable and Load's sound was a prickly, aural expression borne of that. It's dirty, nasty and loud. This 12" is a collection of this 90s-era Miami band's output. The late Bobby Load spat out the vocals with a demented and unhinged cadence and the band's musical arsenal combined blistering hardcore with a nettled-sounding heaviness (some Black Flag-inspired touches in there, as well). The speed-driven "Pastor's Day" remains one of their best tracks, careening like an out-of-control firebomb.The download tacks on another dozen songs, including the wanton and manic "Palomino Steaks" and "595 A Lezzin." The lyrics can get dark as fuck, especially for the lurching, murderous "Pa's Moonshine." When people talk about 90s era hardcore, Load often seem to get unjustifiably overlooked and they stood apart from knuckle-head metal core, youth crew silliness and angst-filled emo-core. (PO Box 50803, Jax Beach, FL 32233,

LOUDER-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
I have to admit it took awhile to get into this one and some of the cheese-whiz vocal harmonizing remains a love/hate affair. Catchy as all-hell, though. Louder are a Japanese band plying tuneful songs finding a middle ground between power pop, mod revival and more straight-forward rock 'n roll, all of it infused with punk energy. There are real ear-grabbing guitar riffs 'n hooks throughout, occasionally bringing early Joe Jackson or the Jam to mind. Closing track "No Escape" is a quick-paced corker that shows they do have the ability to add on some aggressiveness into the mix. (

MERCY KILLINGS-Snuffed Out EP (Beach Impediment, 7")
Second vinyl offering from Mercy Killings and picking up where the last one left off. A mix of d-beat hardcore and American bile (Poison Idea, in particular). Mark Shubert sounds as bellicose as ever, projecting the words with in-your-face antagonism. Nothing poetic in the lyrics but they don't rely on simplistic sloganeering, either. "1914" is about the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I and the "centennial celebration of new ways to kill," noting that those so-called advances in weaponry that came during that conflict have created destruction and bloodshed that have lasted over a century. Quality stuff. (

MODERN WARFARE-Dayglo Shadows Delivered (UT, 7" EP)
Reissue of this California band's first 7" from 1980 (they had one subsequent 7" and a number of compilation appearances). Vocalist Jim Bemis was previously in The Moderns, whose 7" was reviewed in SV Blog #112. Embracing brisk post-punk, hardcore and even a little surf with jittery guitar and semi-hyper/peppy vocals, in the same vein as early recordings by Angst. The later material was slightly more aggressive, especially by the time "All For One," on the American Youth Report compilation came out, but the barbed sounds on this EP come from a time where everything wasn't codified yet and bands were willing to cross-pollinate influences. Nicely packaged in a screened cardboard cover. (


OPPOSITION RISING-LP + EP CD (Profane Existence/Opposition, CD)
A repackaging that includes their Aftermathematics album and Get Off Your Ass, Get Off Your Knees EP on one handy disc. They've been around long enough--almost four years--that I can probably stop referring to them as the new band with Bill from Toxic Narcotic. Aggressive, pissed-as-fuck hardcore punk and also adding  reggae to the brawny attack--in fact, almost half of the album has some skankin' in the mix and there's also a dub of "The Rich Are Killing The Poor" on the EP. A more-than-cynical worldview summed up with "FTW" and it's just as cynical towards the sacrosanct punk scene for "Brick By Brick." Still angry after all these years. (

PILLAGE-s/t (Residue, 7" EP)
First vinyl waxing from Chicagoans Pillage, with Ebro (Crudos, Punch In The Face et al) barking out vocals with plenty of harshness and anger and the band's bare-knuckled bruising hardcore is an appropriate accompaniment. The songs are connected with squalls of feedback and it's a full-court blitz. The drums are mixed up-front and threaten to fly off the rails, sometimes into powerviolence territory and that's a slight hindrance, to be honese. Still, if you crave something raw and ugly, this will work for 'ya. (

PRAG-s/t (No Patience/La Vida Es Un Mus, 7" EP)
Prag, from Australia, dish out some ear-wrecking noise on their self-titled four song 7” although they take a different path with the darker-hued, early 80s UK goth-inspired “Winter Mute”—that’s mainly due to the bass line but it’s still wrapped in a barbed cocoon of distortion. The balance of the songs follow a thrashy route, with raspy vocals that sound like Darby Crash or Walker from Crazy Spirit and possessing rawness and power (not so clever, I know) throughout. (No Patience,; La Vida Es Un Mus,

RDHP-Parusa (Tension Head, 7" EP)
A Virginia Beach band who sing in Tagalog and play fired-up rock 'n roll mixing punk and '70s influences. Along the same lines as Annihilation Time and coming to a real boil on the last song, "Maltrato." Surging along at a sturdy mid-tempo clip and enhanced by the rough-hewn production. (

REALLY RED-Teaching You The Fear--The Complete Collection 1979-1985 (Alternative Tentacles, 2xCD)
I've been a fan of these guys since I first heard "Too Political" on one of the college stations around '82 or so. That songs featured slashing guitar on the verses and post-punk lines during the chorus, accompanied with a resounding "No More Ghettos". I liked it so much that it ended up on two mix tapes and still get a thrill when hearing that opening bass/drums throb. You'll hear this band or that referred to as underrated or underappreciated or what have you and it's true with these guys. Really Red were somewhat known beyond their hometown of Houston (their track "Prostitution" was on the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation) but, since their music has been unavailable for years, they sometimes get lost in the shuffle when talking about top-notch Texas bands from that period. Really Red didn't fit any set mold--they were a punk band at the core but in the same way that the Minutemen or their Texas compatriots the Dicks and Big Boys were punk bands. There's an abundance of high energy punk throughout but other influences seeped in, from jazz to post-punk to psychedelia to something more melodic ("Nico"). In the liner notes, vocalist Ron Bond (aka U-Ron Bondage) talks about how inspirational Roky Erickson had been and they cover another Houston band, the Red Crayola's "War Sucks."

This two CD set includes all the songs from their Teaching You The Fear album and posthumous Rest In Pain album, plus all the songs from their 7" releases and a few unreleased tracks. Nervy and thorny, with a jarring instrumental interplay, but they could also get downright anthemic on a song like "I Refuse To Sing" and, of course, "Too Political." There's a seething intensity to the title track of "Teaching You The Fear." It's not all perfect--the cacophonous roar of "Star Mangled Banner" and the nearly 20-minute free-form sound collage "Just The Facts Ma'am" don't sound any much better now than they did in '85, when "Rest In Pain" was originally released. All in all, though, this is an indispensable collection, a band with its own style that still sounds riveting three decades later (PO Box 419092, San Francicso, CA 94141,


SEX DWARF-Non-Stop Erotic Noise Cabaret (Konton Crasher, LP)
I wonder if there are still any Soft Cell fans around. If they somehow ended up throwing this 12" on the turntable or walking into one of Sex Dwarf's  shows, it might scare the living fuck out of them.Well, I love the song Sex Dwarf named themselves named themselves after (Soft Cell's shining moment, in my opinion) and this album, whose title is punny take on Soft Cell's first album, is pretty good. It's a full-on noise attack (natch) that might scare the living fuck out of a lot of other people besides Soft Cell fans. An incessant, ear-wrecking distorted brand of Swedish hardcore buzz, accompanied by slightly-buried, reverb-drenched vocals. It'll grind your senses to a numb 'n bloody pulp. These kinds of bands are usually better-experienced live and no one should live on a steady diet of this sort of sonic tunelessness but there's definitely a place for it. (PO Box 393, Lakewood, OH 44107,

SKEMÄTA-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
Pulverizing and punishing hardcore on this NC band's vinyl debut. Vocals that howl from the depths of pain and a thick sound working in some Die Kreuzen-via-Voivod guitar inspiration to go along with the d-beat driven approach. The lyrical content has some of the Discharge haiku going on and paints a bleak, doomsday scenario. Uneasy listening. (

SLEAFORD MODS-Chubbed Up + (Ipecac, CD)
There's apparently a "buzz" on these two 40-something gents from Nottingham in the UK. Someone I know who saw their one recent US show (in Brooklyn, natch) said the crowd was insufferable. Someone quipped it looked like a theater audience going into the venue. But I didn't know all this when I first heard the Mods and, if trend-sniffing Brooklynites want to like them, that's OK with me. Sleaford Mods are doing something different. Observational rants--not spoken word, not rap, but ideas sputtered out as quickly as you can digest them. This is accompanied by a post-punkish musical minimalism--bass and mechanized drums mostly (executed on a laptop during live performances)--and it's hard edged, rhythmic and propulsive. Vocalist Jason Williamson's ruminations cut to the quick, with sharp wit and a whole lotta cussing. "Jobseeker" voices what people who have to visit unemployment offices to receive their benefits might wish they could say: "So Mr. Williamson, what you have you done to find gainful employment since your last signing on date? Fuck all! I sat around the house wanking!" Williamson could be Mark E. Smith's younger brother--it's not exactly the same cadence but it's a similar sort of curmudgeonliness and you hear the occasional sonic nod to "Live At The Witch Trials" and other early Fall stuff. This disc is a singles collection and they've got two other full-length albums that have come out in the past few years, Austerity Dogs and Divide and Exit and they're also quite good. I can almost guarantee you'll be walking around all day saying "JOLLY FUCKER" (or FOOKER) to friends, enemies and strangers once you hear that song. (

SNOB-s/t (self-released, 7" EP)
This came out awhile back but I just managed to get my paws on a copy and this should be an addition to my Best of 2014 list. From London, with Ellie from Good Throb on guitar and she provides a whole lot of burn to their sound. It’s darker and denser than that band—no angular scrape, no plucky bass. A hard-driving, fuzzed-out punk beast with some anarcho-sounding overtones and pissed-off sentiments. The vocals have presence but they’re not that harsh, considering some of the lyrics, such as ripping eyes from the sockets of people who harass her. Better late than never with this review, right? There are some great bands coming out of London right now. (

Also known as SBLC, this Detroit five piece specialize in feisty hardcore punk mixed with a rock 'n roll sensibility and delivered with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. Fired-up riffing, full-speed-ahead drumming and Keith's Drano-gargling vocals. They even do a fired-up rendition of Deep Purple's "Fireball" (pun intended), a band you don't hear covered all that often and it lends itself well to a punk workover. (

SUNSHINE WARD-Demo EP (Hardware, 7")
Sunshine Ward include 3/5 of the final lineup of Brain Killer, joined by Jordan Clarke on vocals. The approach isn't quite as blown-out or purely d-beat driven as that band but it still provides a heady dose of hardcore noise. There are remnants of what Brain Killer did but a song like "Progress" has a punkier feel to it. "No Control" (which wasn't on the original demo tape) mixes noisy, bomb-like effects into the mid-tempo pound. Promising start. (

TRENCHES-2014 (demo tape)
OK, it's now 2015 and I reviewed this Oakland band's first demo in 2014. If they get another demo out this year, I should hopefully catch up. Or maybe vinyl... they're due! Some more raw 'n rough hardcore from this band that includes transplanted Bostonian Boo Boo on vocals and Replica's guitarist Juliana. As with their debut, there's a tougher East Coast feel to this band's sound, Boo Boo summoning all the rage he can muster. Slightly fuller production than on the debut (though far from slick) and it brings out the band's strengths. (

2 X 4-s/t (Twerp, 7" EP)
More energetic, old-school Boston hardcore with people from Bloodkrow Butcher, Male Nurses, Positive Reinforcement etc. Nothing complex, just rough and throttling songs delivered with all the piss 'n venom they can deliver. They're so tough, they've written their set list on an actual two-by-four (true story). Definite up and comahs. (

VARIOUS-Hardcore--Gimme Some More (Beach Impediment, 7" EP)
Six bands ripping out various strains of no-bullshit hardcore, including the vinyl debut of Atlanta ragers Mercenary (ex-Bukkake Boys), whose offering rides a careening d-beat and that's also the case for S.H.I.T. Peacebreakers and Ajax both have an early-80s Boston hardcore influence. Impalers' thumping track and Violent End's straightforward, muscular thrash round things out. All unreleased. (

VORTIS-Safety First (self-released, CD)
Vortis have been around since 2000 and have a number of releases under their collective belts but this is the first one I've had the opportunity to check out. Drummer Jim DeRogatis (the sole original member) is a longtime rock scribe and once played in a Wire covers band, Ex-Lion Tamers, who I saw upstage the real deal in the mid '80s by playing a letter-perfect version of "Pink Flag," while the real Wire only played their current (at the time) material. Anyway, this is a pretty good effort. Bright, brash, tuneful punk delivered along with politically-inspired lyrics and the sentiments are a bit obvious but with a hint of sarcasm. In the same vein as a band like the Briefs. Not bad. (

WETBRAIN-s/t (Painkiller, LP)
Finally, some vinyl from these Clevo miscreants--they've got the pedigree (GSMF, 9 Shocks, Darvocets, Inmates, blah blah blah) and they're here to kick ass and accomplish just that. Bare-knuckled thrashy hardcore with some rock 'n roll touches ("What Are We Supposed To Worship?" is downright tuneful) and metallic guitar licks, powered along by Wedge's always rock-solid drumming. Larry's vocals still sound somewhat helium-filled but nowhere near as much as when he was in the Darvocets and Folded Shirt. Starting with "Occupy This," the lyrical content expresses paranoia and cynicism--stating at the outset that protesting ain't gonna change shit but a more direct approach might. They also have impeccable taste in movies, name-checking "They Live" and there's also a tribute to "Repo Man" with "Best Damned Car On The Lot." (