Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Suburban Voice blog #126--The Best of 2017

DAME (Halloween show at Harsh House)

The end of another (somewhat) fucked-up year, to quote Embrace. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but DIY punk in Boston is at its lowest point in recent years. Sure, there are some shows at clubs with stage barricades and bouncers and high prices. At least there’s still the Democracy Center, the one steady DIY punk venue that’s still left, and they do a great job. The Cambridge Elks is also steady, although it’s expensive to rent out and doesn’t exactly have the same charm as a basement show. People are moving to NYC, Philly and Olympia, among other places and there are many bands who are skipping the area. I only went to one basement show all year and it was actually about three minutes from my house here in Peabody, in a vacant building owned by the dad of Gary from Bombers, Banshee, GSG and others. They’re calling it Harsh House and hope to do more shows. I love the shorter drive, anyway, although it’s tough for others, of course. 

Enough whining... let's get to my top ten favorite recordings of the year, followed by the "honorable mention" list.

And if you want to hear the Sonic Overload Best of 2017 show, with a lot of other releases that didn't make this list, here's a zip folder where you can download the whole thing. Just click on this link.

Happy New Year!

1. MOD VIGIL-s/t (X-Mist, LP)
The record jacket is a tribute to Gang Of Four’s first EP. So it’s not a major surprise that there’s an angular, post-punk pulse but this is hardly a derivative tribute. The nervy jab is hitched to a full-bore punk attack. Distorted, nasally vocals and songs that build themselves into a whirlwind frenzy, especially album closer “Trout Casualty.” The stop/start “Rare Au Pair” slows it to a moodier clip. And the trebly production by Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring and others) gives it a restless edginess. Just an incredible debut.

2. INSTITUTE-Subordination (Sacred Bones, LP)
Institute's second album adopts a pronounced fuzzed-out guitar tone and has the band leaning in more of a rock direction on some tracks, but it’s not a major departure. There’s still an early goth/post-punk undertow. 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. 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. Continuing to evolve without losing its core grittiness.

3. NURSE-s/t (Scavenger Of Death, 7")
Nurse's second self-titled 7” is just as intense as their first. Nasty, scalding hardcore punk but there’s also haunting guitar textures to go with the onslaught. These guys actually sound like Out Cold with darker musical shadings, especially on opening song “Foreign Objects.” Also, like that band, the lyrics reveal a tortured, tormented soul. Ear-rending sounds. 

4. DAME-s/t (Charm School, 7")
Melodic, yet stinging 80s-inspired goth-punk by these five ladies from Boston and a big jump from their demo. Lauren’s synth isn’t quite as prevalent as on that recording, creating more of an atmospheric effect. Anna’s mellifluent guitar lines come to the fore, underpinned by solid bass lines and drumming. “Hush” speeds things up to a punkier pace without losing the tuneful glow.

5. LA VASE-s/t (tape)
This German band kick up a fucking storm on their first full-length, which came out in tape in November but should be out on vinyl early in the new year. A driving mix of punk, post-punk and garage packed full of hooks and burn. A little Eddy Current here, a little Mission Of Burma there but with an amped-up, caffeinated intensity. 

6. MACHO BOYS--s/t (Neck Chop, LP)
Timeless hardcore punk, both in the band's direct, rough and tumble 80s-inspired sound and pointed lyrics. Mixing thrash with a classic SoCal punk inspiration ala Adolescents and Agression, with a driving backbeat. "Stone Cold," with its wrasslin' theme, definitely falls into that realm. And being a Bostonian, I applaud their pounding cover of Decadence’s "Slam," from This Is Boston, Not LA. I mentioned the timeless lyrical themes and that's rather a pity since the same shit that angered punks back then is still around. And this type of music remains is still a good way to cope.

7. 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 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. In other words, this isn’t really Cülo Part II but trying something a bit different. The lyrics exhibit some serious demon-wrestling and you have to respect their candor. Released on Lengua Armada in the US and Erste Theke Tontrager in Europe)

8. THE COWBOY-The Cowboy Album (Fashionable Idiots, LP)
Steve Peffer and Drew Banaszak from Homostupids comprise 2/3 of this band and, as you might guess, they rely on a volume-drenched attack although it's not nearly as blown-out sounding as their former unit. An engaging, nervy amalgam of old Clevo scuzz punk, garage and post-punk. Big, cascading, swirling riffs come through to envelop the senses but there's also nuance and a strong rhythmic punch. The occasional melodic hook pops up as well.

9. VANILLA POPPERS-s/t (Lumpy, LP)
No-nonsense, ass-kicking punk/garage/rock 'n roll. Many of the lyrical themes deal with the dynamics of human interaction i.e. people can really, really suck--sexist, useless wastes of space and so on. A straight-forward, fuzzy, three chord attack, along with Christina's pissed-off sounding vocals. Nothing complex, just loud and burning in its most basic form. Why fuck with what works?

10. HARAM-When You Have Won, You Have Lost (Toxic State, LP)
The current NYC buzz-punk sound is at Haram's core but they take things well beyond that in a number of ways. Straight pummel 'n burn, ala Dawn of Humans and bands of that ilk, but there are also songs that go in experimental directions. Lyrics are in Arabic but you still hear the passion and anger in Nader's voice. "Your President, Not A President" and "Not A Terrorist" are cogent anthems for a new dark age. 


BLANK SPELL-Miasma (World Gone Mad, 12”)
CONFIRMATION-++++ (demo)
DREAM PROBE-Demo II (demo)
EEL-Night Parade Of 100 Demons (Beach Impediment, 12”)
ELIX-R-6 hrs (demo)
EXOTICA-Musique Exotique #2 (La Vida Es Un Mus)
girlSPerm-GSP (Thrilling Living, 12”)
GLUE-s/t (self-released, 12”)
HALDOL-The Totalitarianism Of Everyday Life (World Gone Mad, 12”)
OWNER-Demo 2017 (Nervous Energy, demo)
RUT-Attraction (Secret Bathroom, 7”)
STRUCTURE-s/t (demo)
UBIK-s/t (demo)*
UGLIES-Keeping Up With The Uglies (Nopatience, 12”)
XYLITOL-Demo (25 Diamonds, 7”)/Is Toxic To Pigs?? (self-released, 7”)

(*released December 2016)


NOTS (in photo above)

Dave Bakkari
George Czernetzky
Xtina Lloyd 
Susan Tanner

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