Friday, October 06, 2017

Suburban Voice blog #124


We start with three recent tapes from Buffalo's cassette-only More Power label. Big Bleach's demo Riffin' With Biff was a happy accident of sorts. When Biff Bifaro (who's played in a zillion bands, including Brown Sugar, I Object, Plates and the list goes on) came through Hattiesburg, Mississippi with the Brazilian band Pessimists, he decided on the spot he wanted to record a demo with Big Bleach. They dutifully obligated and it's a fun, rough-hewn dose of catchy punk and garage, even adding a surfy guitar trill for "Long Groover." A triumph of spontaneity.

Speaking of Biff, he has a solo project, Nervous Tick and the Zipper Lips. Enjoyable minimalist tuneful punk, with Biff's rough vocals accompanied the standard instrumentation and programmed drums. He even sneaks in a cover song by pro wrassler Exotic Adrian Street, "Breaking Bones," complete with sound effects.

Finally, Western Massholes Accident connect with some nervy punk on their Platinum Summer demo. There may be a concept or theme here--an internet cowboy yarn? Can't tell with no lyrics but that's my guess with titles like "Lone Riders of the Infinityscape," Oxbow Cowboys" and "Thee Battle At Net Deep (World Wide West)". Whatever the case, they play in a gnarled, jabbing vein, getting really abrasive for "Idle Spurs" and it makes a heady ruckus. By the way, all of the releases on More Power are available as free downloads on their Bandcamp site (


ABSOLUT-Demo 2013 (Schizophrenic, 7")
A vinyl pressing of this now-defunct Toronto band's demo from 2013 (in case you weren't paying attention). It’s an unholy mess of raw crust madness that sounds like it’s about to fly apart and there’s an abundance of metallic guitar flourishes. A little definitely goes a long way here but it’s a tumultuous excursion. Their subsequent releases upped the musical skill level a bit. Punk Survival, in particular, is an absolut(e) rager. Pun very much intended. (

BLANK SPELL-Miasma (World Gone Mad, LP)
Blank Spell merge shimmery and stinging guitar and bass lines with driving punk, without going into total goth/darkwave territory, although that's certainly part of their sound. It's kind of like early Siouxsie and the Banshees jamming with Die Kreuzen or a speedier Part 1. Cassidy’s high-pitched vocals turn this into a nightmarish hellride, with lyrics that read like poetry spat out in rapid-fire bursts. (

CRIATURAS-Ruido Antisocial (Todo Destruido 7")
Criaturas' first release since 2013 is a 4 song 7” and it's a d-beat driven blitzkrieg, once again, with smokin’ guitar work accompanying Dru’s fierce, echo-laden vocals. Past efforts had the occasional melodic flourish. That’s absent here—just pure bile and rage, done to perfection. (

DAGGER-Writhing In The Light Of The Moon (Lengua Armada, 7") 

Six tracks of low-fi, raw as fuck 80s style hardcore. I’d imagine they didn’t break the bank on the recording budget but who needs flashy production, anyway? Pure hit and run. (


DAUÐYFLIN-Ofeldi (Iron Lung, LP)/split tour tape
This Icelandic band (whose recent tour with Xylitol is one of the best shows I've seen so far this year) follow up their demo and 7” with their first full-length, the title of which translates to “violent.” That’s a good description of their sound. It’s an aural hornets’ nest, with a sputtering, barbed-wire guitar tone. A fusillade of feedback, thick bass-lines and strong drumming, both at a fast ‘n thumping clip and at a more deliberately pounding pace. The swirling “Níðstöng” has a nightmarish quality. By the way, I wasn’t able to bribe anyone into requesting a Bjork song while they were playing. Hey, don’t laugh—she has legit punk roots, having played in K.U.K.L., who were on the Crass label. And K.U.K.L. aren’t anywhere near as good as this crew. The Dauðyflin songs and a pair from Xylitol. Explosive tracks from both bands and there’s an offbeat cover choice from Xylitol, taking on '77 era UK band The Jerks' "Get Your Woofing Dog Off Me," which is given quite a battering (;

EXCESSIVE CRUELTY-s/t (Sorry State, 12") 
When I put on this one-sided, self-titled 12” slab (the other side has an etching), I thought these guys kind of sounded like Strung Up, a somewhat overlooked Bay Area band from the 2000s (one of their records was a split 12” with the great Direct Control). Well, it turns out Excessive Cruelty consists of 3/4 of that band’s personnel and the sound is similar—no-nonsense, fast ‘n scrappy hardcore punk that’s always been a Bay Area mainstay. A hint of crossover but no metallic lead breaks, just plenty of six-string burn, with Klint yapping out the words in a rough, rat-a-tat-tat cadence. (

GAY KISS-Rounded Down (Sorry State, 7")
The swansong release from these Phoenix ragers. More “outsider” hardcore, as I’ve called certain bands—savage, frayed and intense. They come charging out of the gate with the raw attack of “Conceit” and then navigate through some hammering, damaged-sounding twists and turns. It’s another scream from the soul and clawing against life’s oppressiveness and, to use the title of the final song, they really expel the vitriol. (

GLUE-s/t (self-released, 12")
Glue's first vinyl release since 2014’s self-titled 7” and it’s a scorcher. Buzzing and burning hardcore, stomping all over everything in front of it and Harris’ guttural growl is the perfect complement. “Flowers Of Friendship” pushes things in a catchier direction. Overall, the lyrics express plenty of alienation, summed up nicely with “I’ll Never Be Like You.” Striving for individuality and having no patience for people who choose to live as victims or won’t escape their dreary existence. (self-released, available through 540,

HALDOL-The Totalitarianism of Everyday Life (World Gone Mad, LP) 
On Haldol's latest album The Totalitarianism of Everyday Life, there’s an energetic burn and a variety of ebbing and flowing mood shifts. Goth/dark/post-punk, although it doesn’t go into sit-in-a-dark-room-with-the-blinds-drawn territory. There’s dynamic interplay between Matt Martin’s rubbery bass lines, powerful, multi-faceted drumming from Aaron Muchanic (who also plays in Blank Spell) and the dazzling array of guitar tones and textures from vocalist Geoff Smith. There’s an otherworldly quality on “Nostalgia for Dreams” while “Decentrement” goes through a spacy middle passage. The lyrics do have a bleakness and the totalitarian theme is overarching and it’s just as much about personal oppression—many songs touch on physical abuse—as well on a wider scale. Somehow, though, you’re left feeling invigorated instead of wanting to, well, go sit in a dark room with the blinds drawn. (

IMPALERS-Cellar Dweller (540, LP)
Impalers' latest disc doesn’t even give you a chance to prepare yourself. No intro, just the immediate bombardment of “Secret Beach.” A relentless, burning onslaught ruthlessly-executed and punctuated by Victor Gutierrez’s string shredding lead work. and he takes the reigns for the instrumental “Cellar Dwellar III” (the other two “Cellar Dweller” songs were on last year’s promo tape). The full color lyric poster has a drawing for each song and it shows society’s ugly underside—from gentrifying yuppies to cops to racist rednecks to ruthless business operatives. No wonder wanting to barricade yourself away from all this shit sounds like a good idea—that’s the gist of “It’s So Hard.” A sonic wrecking machine. (


INSTITUTE-Subordination (Sacred Bones, LP)
Institute's previous longplayer, Catharsis, was one of 2015’s best so there’s plenty to live up to and Subordination is a solid follow-up. One noticeable difference is the guitar tone—it’s much more fuzzed-out and has the band leaning in more of a rock direction on some tracks. The intro to “Powerstation” nicks from Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II.”  It’s not a major departure, though. There’s still an early goth/post-punk inspiration poking through There are some knockout songs, starting with the punky rush of “Exhibitionism.” You won’t be able to get the guitar line for “Only Child” out of your ears, with its Crisis echo (think "Holocaust"). The butcher-block bass lines for “Oil Money” are a perfect accompaniment for the noisy guitar swirl. Mose Brown’s against-the-grain sing/speak vocals wrap around the music in an off-kilter intonation. The somewhat oblique lyrics touch on looking back to what it was like growing up and personalized takes on social issues although “Powerstation” is a more direct expression. Institute continue to evolve without losing its core grittiness. (

JOINT D≠-Intelligence (Sorry State, LP)
As I said in my Best of 2015 column, this band's third album was originally released on tape last year by Scavenger of Death and actually recorded in 2014. It's kind of a comeback from their Satan Is Real Is Real album, which was good although not on the level of their debut Strike Gently. This packs a real wallop, with a dense, burning intensity. There’s some complexity in the arrangements but it doesn’t get in the way of this band’s full-bore attack. And they sure don’t seem to like Ayn Rand all that much, given the burning copy of Atlas Shrugged on the cover and caustic lyrics aimed at materialistic go-getters on “Rote Atlas.” Nothing rote about this. (

KATASTROF-s/t (Beach Impediment, 7")
Five tracks of Swedish hardcore devastation from this project that pairs Poffen from Totalitär with Martin from Herätys (they were also in Institution, together, a band I REALLY wish I'd seen when they came through here some years ago). Poffen's been doing this for over three decades and hasn't lost a step. Martin proves himself adept at all of instruments--even the stampeding drum attack--to create a blazing wall of sound. I'd love to see this in the live setting if they ever get over here. (


LIMP WRIST-Facades (Lengua Armada, LP) 
I'm not sure if Limp Wrist's new 12" is  an attempt to reach out beyond the hardcore punk realm or an exercise in musical enlightenment for the closed-minded. Maybe it’s all of all of the above. Whatever the case, Facades is probably not what a lot of their fans expected, at least for the three tracks on side two, where they delve into electronic dance music. That’s right—EDM. Thing is, they’re not throwaways, as one of my friends opined, but meticulously constructed excursions. The best of the three is “Systems In Place,” mixing electronic rhythms and synth blips with live drumming and stinging guitar licks. If that’s a bit much for you, on the top side, they still effectively hammer out sharp and blistering hardcore punk with lethal musical skill. A few melodic flourishes here and there, particularly on  “Como Vos” and “They Tell Me.” The theme for the latter is about how people try to lump all queers into one group. Enlightenment is at the core of what Limp Wrist do, along with affirmation. It’s OK not to become part of the “gaystream,” as it’s called, but to revel in being queer, being different, being an individual. There’s a 40 page zine that accompanies the records and, in addition to the lyrics, there are essays, photos and artwork done by queer contributors from around the globe—pieces about oppression of gay people in places like Singapore and Indonesia, a lengthy piece on queer photographer Alvin Baltrop and even a Martin paper doll. Provocative in many ways and provocation is what we need more of. (

NATURAL CAUSES-s/t (Sorry State, LP) 
The second self-titled album from Natural Causes (the first came in 2015) has them plying nervy, garage-new wave-post-punk concoction (I think that covers it), mixing synth into the jabbing gnash “Brat,” Bad Habits” and “Behave” all provide a gnarled adrenaline rush. “Like It Should” The two lengthier tracks—“Average Cost of Living” and “So It Goes”—have head-messing properties, even if they drag a bit. Along the same lines as bands like Mind Spiders or UV Race i.e. there’s a punk spirit, as well as a willingness to experiment a bit, without getting all pretentious about it. (


PERSONALITY CRISIS-s/t (Sounds Escaping, 2xCD)
One of a pair of re-releases of vintage Winnipeg punk (the other is from the Stretch Marks, review below). Personality Crisis favored a hard-hitting punk attack but infused it with hard rock and metal, “rock ‘n roll that shocks people,” as vocalist Mitch Funk described it when I did an interview back in 1984. According to the liner notes that accompany this two disc compilation, PC actually eschewed the punk label but they certainly moved in that direction over years. That’s readily apparent as you trace their history from the three demos included on the second disc to their Creatures For Awhile album on the first disc, which also includes pair of compilation tracks. The band’s shifting personnel definitely had an effect.

Their earliest demo, from 1981, comes from more of a Joy Division realm and isn’t particularly good. Things started moving in the right direction with their second demo, recorded late in 1981, after drummer Jon Card joined the band, with songs like “Shotgun” and “Empty Sky” hinting at what was going to follow. The transition was completed on the 1982 “Club Foot” demo, their hardest-edged material up to that point and six of its seven songs were re-recorded for Creatures. The album itself is an explosive, high energy affair, especially the fast and furious “People In Glass,” while “Mrs. Palmer” (about, uh, self-gratification) and “Name Dropper” are burning rockers. PC could play their asses off, but it wasn’t show-offy and, at the center, is Mitch’s distinctive, nearly basso profundo vocals. It takes some getting used to but his voice effectively conveys the sometimes dark lyrical matter. Mitch said that that a lot of their lyrics came from dreams, as well as personal observations and there’s no lack of imagination. (

PRESSING ON-Future (Deranged, 7")
Pressing On has quite a pedigree—former members of Talk Is Poison, From Ashes Rise and Raw Nerves, among others. Their Future 7” is a combination of bare-knuckled hardcore fury and crunch, with hearty lead and background vocals. There’s an urgency in the playing and the lyrics—instead of taking a fatalistic approach, it’s more of a call to arms. Sounding tough without sounding like tough guys. You can almost hear Bluto in “Animal House” yelling “LET’S GO!!!” (

RADIATION RISKS-Goodbye Money (Lumpy, 7")
Buffalo band with a couple of ex-Brown Sugar people. Definitely an offbeat sound--garage, punk, thrash, jazz and soul punctuated with sax to go with gnashing guitar and hard-driving rhythm section. Its pretty damned brash to name a song "Help! By The Beatles." It's not even about the Beatles, it's about sitting in a bathroom stall contemplating suicide. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't (I'm generally not fond of sax in punk with a few exceptions--X-Ray Spex and Rocket From The Crypt, in particular) but it's not predictable and Radiation Risks have an engagingly kinetic sound. I'll bet they're a blast live. (

SICK OF SHIT-Fuck You Volume One (Schizophrenic, 7")
The title should give you a pretty good idea about Sick Of Shit's mindset—raging against the world—and working it out by playing loud, fast ‘n raw hardcore punk. Musical primal scream therapy, as Adam casts out all the rage he can muster and it's damned effective. (

SKEMÄTA-A Bright Shining Hell (Sorry State, LP)
Skemäta's second album takes its title from a piece written by Mumia Abu-Jamal and that song and “Justice For All” deal with the prison/industrial complex. The latter mentions the drug war and how it disproportionately affects people of color. Very timely given the fact that (as of now), you have a racist attorney general wanting to take an increasingly punitive approach to drug usage. As always, this is a punishing Swedish-styled hardcore attack. A formidable bass rumble, powerful drumming and blazing guitar dishing out powerchords as well as tasteful leads to accompany the throat-rending vocals. An ass-kicking hellride and Skemäta are one of the better US bands playing this style. (

STRETCH MARKS-Who & What—The Complete Studio Recordings (Sounds Escaping, CD)
A collection from this Winnipeg punk band that's drawn from their Who’s In Charge 7” and What D’ya See? album, plus a few compilation tracks and one unreleased song. They had a bit of a gimmick, that being pro wrestling. When I interviewed them for Suburban Voice in 1984, we actually spent a fair amount of time talking about that instead of music. But this isn’t any novelty act—only one song dealt with that topic, “Turnbuckle Stomp.” Stretch Marks were a boisterous, rough ‘n tumble punk band, packing a thrashy punch, topped with Dave McCombe aka Dik Savage’s gruff vocals but it’s also deceptively melodic at times. The lyrics were thoughtful and often poignant, dealing with such topics as suicide, child abuse and societal decay.  And if the goofy “Dogs World,” with its barking chorus, or their enjoyable cover of CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising” don’t make you smile, then give up ‘cause there’s no hope for ‘ya.(

TARANTÜLA-s/t (Lengua Armada, 7")
Tarantüla is the new band with three former members of Cülo and, this time, they’ve brought in a bass player. After a couple of kickass demos, their vinyl debut is a self-titled six song 7” and provides no let-down. The sound is fuller and more tuneful in spots (“Dawning," in particular), along with some darker shadings and there’s plenty of punk kick, such as on “Pulverized By PCP.” In other words, this isn’t really Cülo Part II but trying something a bit different. The bass playing really adds another dimension. The lyrics exhibit some serious demon-wrestling but you have to respect the candor. Looking forward to hearing what comes next. (band site:

Skemäta guitarist Jeff Young plays in this band and their debut demo tape (limited to 100 copies) is equally ravaging as those guys. The Swedish influence is found on a few tracks but “Fatal Light” takes more of a hammering approach. There’s also a subtly haunting tone in the guitar playing alaDie Kreuzen," such as on “Hands Around Your Neck.” There’s nothing subtle about vocalist Sea Bass’ harsh, visceral screams. A pulverizing debut. (available through Sorry State)

XYLITOL-Is Toxic To Pigs?? (Total Negativity/Thrilling Living, 7"); Demo EP (25 Diamonds, 7")
Xylitol have unleashed a pair of 7”s—a vinyl pressing of their demo and the brand spankin’ new Is Toxic To Pigs?? Fast and blazing hardcore on both of these slabs, save for the Black Flag “Damaged” feel for “Extruder” from the demo. I really love the sentiment of “I Don’t Wanna Be Punished” from Toxic. The lyrics mention the whole “so what do you do” smalltalk starter, something I’m sick of. I’m me, I’m not what I do. It’s about trying to compartmentalize people and put them into strict categories. You know, individuality. Raw, scalding punk attacks and Laura casts out the venom with frightening, larynx-shredding aplomb. (Thrilling Living,; Total Negativity,; 25 Diamonds,

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