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. (