Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Suburban Voice blog #121--The Best of 2016

No one wants to read yet another intro about how shitty a certain year was but, alas, 2016 really, really sucked. Two friends of mine—Brandon Ferrell and Shawn Wenzel—passed away this year, as did some other people I was acquainted with, including John Stabb and Barker Gee. Good people, all of ‘em. Then there’s what happened in early November. At least on a personal level things are tolerable and I always try to stay cautiously optimistic. What else can ‘ya do? And there’s still lots of good punk rock to help me (and many of you, I’d imagine) get through it.

Note: this list has a few changes from my list for Maximum Rocknroll. I had to submit that in early December and came across a few other releases since then that deserve to be in this top ten. I've also appended it with other choices for 12"s, 7"s and demos, as well as live performances...

Happy New Year!


1. BLOOD PRESSURE-Need To Control (Beach Impediment, 12”)
As much as hardcore has become predictable and perhaps a bit stale, there are bands who push the envelope a bit and Pittsburgh’s Blood Pressure are one of them. Nothing complicated—loud as fuck rage, from the vocals to the music’s relentless nature, imbued with a Swedish/d-beat tilt. It’s over before it hits the 13 minute mark but to use the cliché, it’s quality, not quantity. Best live band I saw in 2016, as well, as they ripped apart the late, lamented Boiler Room.

2. REPOS-Poser (Youth Attack, 12”)
A pain in the ass tracking down a vinyl copy of this but worth it, as this is the best Repos material since their first two 12”s. As with Blood Pressure, there’s nothing complex. Blistering, aggressive hardcore done right and the production brings out the band’s ferocity without making it sound slick. Only a few songs top the minute mark and it’s one rager after another.

3. JOINT D≠-Intelligence (Scavenger of Death, tape)
I didn’t know there was going to be a new Joint D≠ album, as it’s been a few years since Satan Is Real Again, Again. That was a fine effort (and their first album Strike Gently topped my list in 2012) and this one is even better, packing much more of a wallop. A burning and intense sound, with a complexity in the arrangements while maintaining a straight-forward forcefulness. I love the clever nod to the Swell Maps, with the titles of two instrumental passages, “The Weather ///” and “/// The Leather,” which comes from that band’s “Vertical Slum.” “Atlas Rote” is a nice little dig at Ayn Rand and that’s reinforced by a burning copy of Atlas Shrugged on the cover. Just available as a tape or in the digital format for now, although Sorry State is doing a vinyl pressing in 2017..

4. QUANGO-Fatality (Danger, 12”)
This is technically a 2016 release, although the songs were originally released in demo and 7” forms in 2013, with a few different permutations. Got that? Anyway, there’s a certain sepia-toned quality to the songs here—an aged, vintage feel. The title track is a total earworm, a stinging guitar hook accompanying a spoken word narrative about someone getting hit by a train. Punk and post-punk mixed together, in glorious low fidelity, inspired by Swell Maps, Buzzcocks and Joy Division's Warsaw era. A heady bash throughout.

5. VIRUELA-s/t (Runstate, tape)
Two people from Mexico, one from Montreal (who played in Dead Wife) and they've already come and gone but left behind one hell of a demo. A thick, blistering and pounding punk sound with buzzing guitar and bass. The lyrics take no quarter at all, especially on "Gettin' Home," telling predatory misogynists to fuck off--"if you touch me, I'll fuckin' kill you." "Never Enough" is about sexual assault. In a time where sexual violence is as much a fact of life in the punk scene as well as the "real world," those are words to be heeded and they're reinforced with a good swift musical blow to the skull.

6. RUNNING-Wake Up Applauding (Castle Face, LP)
Kind of an unheralded band, in my opinion, although I'm kind of out of the loop as to what's heralded or not. Third album from this Chicago three-piece and it's another furious, howling bit of drill-press rock. A screechy, squalling ultra-fuzzy guitar tone ala Helios Creed and you can hear bits of Chrome's harder-edged material, without the experimental impulses. This is very much a punk concoction, if your conceptions of punk branch beyond the ordinary.  

7. NOTS-Cosmetic (Goner, LP)/Cold Line (Goner 7”)
Memphis’s Nots conjure up a scintillating concoction of post-punk and cold wave on their second album. Percolating compositions with synth washes, guitar effects and sarcastic vocals. This isn’t a goth revivalist unit by any stretch. The best qualities of the band come together for the 7+ minute mind-numb of “Entertain Me.” There was a single released beforehand, with a different, slightly more minimalist take on album track “Cold Line,” backed with a driving, repetitive cover of The Normal's “TVOD” and that’s also worth seeking out.

8. NANDAS-s/t (Toxic State, 7”)
This NYC band have the Crazy Spirit/Dawn of Humans sound down pretty well. Four quick songs with buzzing guitar and bass and thumpa-thumpa-thump drums, presented with barbed-sounding production. One slight change is Anahit's vocals are breathier than on their 2014 demo. While some of the musicians who developed this sound are moving on to other things, Nandas keep it alive.

9. LEISURE WORLD-s/t (demo)
Leisure World are a band who don’t really fit any sort of set hardcore or punk genre. Their seven song demo has them carving out their own path, with sputtering and frayed guitar licks and a manic intensity topped off with nightmarish vocals. Outsider hardcore? Yet another genre? Just listen to the demo. They make their own nervy sort of noise, with the axe-mangling accompanied by a thick, propulsive bottom end. It’s kind of along the lines of what Bill Bondsmen or NASA Space Universe do and one can hear some Pissed Jeans-ish touches, as well. The gut punching recording brings out those attributes in bold, head-grabbing relief.

10. LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-Huff My Sack (Lumpy, LP)
I was laughing like a junior high kid when I saw the album’s title and cover. Lumpy’s 12” debut (besides the singles comp) revels in its bad attitude, driven by Marty’s nasally vocals and a prickly (sorry) sonic dust cloud. Brief, thorny blasts save the epic “Spider Bite” and moody, nasty cover of the somewhat obscure UK band Slime’s “Loony,” a band that included the Damned’s Captain Sensible. Scabrous punk at its best.


EX-CULT-Negative Growth
MONGOLOID-Plays Rock and Roll
REACHAROUNDS-Hunter Gatherer
SCUZZ-Songs Of The Sordid

ANCIENT FILTH-Earth Brains (flexi)
DYE-Savages With Power
G.L.O.S.S.-Trans Day Of Revenge

GROTTO-Manic Evil
MACE-Tour Tape
TRASH KNIFE-s/t and Trash Life