Friday, December 28, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #134--The Best of 2018

SIAL  (photo: M. Thorn)

Yup, another year passes and this one wasn’t as completely fucked up as recent years. Sure, we still have a fucking fascist asshole for a president. There are also some personal challenges ahead but nothing insurmountable. On a very happy note, my beautiful wife Ellen and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past June. The Red Sox won the World Series. And punk rock continues to be the balm that helps me cope with life’s pressures. 

So here are my favorites of the year, more or less in order, subject to change, void where prohibited, mileage may vary, check with your doctor or pharmacist… (note: there are a few changes from my Maximum Rocknroll Top 10... what did I say about subject to change?)


1. MARBLED EYE-Leisure (Digital Regress, LP)
This band operates in a similar realm as Institute, in that there's an air of melancholy and detachment, both lyrically and vocally. One difference, though, is the enunciation is sharper i.e. neither vocalist sounds as though they're slurring their words. The songs are built on sublime chord progressions and changes that often add a subtle, sneaky hookiness. It's not somber music, though. Everything is sharp and energetic, melodic and muscular. It all meshes perfectly, twin guitar lines swirling around each other, supported by a hard-hitting, rhythmic versatility. Some jarring post-punk moves here and there but, for the most part, the songs aren't herky-jerky. They have a steadier flow and will burn into your brain.

2. BETA BOYS-Late Night Acts (Feel It, LP)
Their best stuff to date, following a number of 7”s. Snotty, snarly hardcore punk with textured guitar shadings ala Dance With Me era TSOL. There’s an overarching darkness both musically and lyrically but not really falling into the goth category, even with doomy-sounding songs like the title track and “L’Appel Du Vide.” A power-packed journey destined to give you nightmares.

3. NO LOVE-Choke On It (Sorry State, LP)
Feverish and frenetic punk by this NC band. There's melody but there's also a high bash quotient that keep the songs surging along. I hear a little bit of White Lung (without the gothic trappings) and No Love’s label mates Joint D≠, the latter due to the sonic dust-cloud effect, and these are thrown into a hardcore swirl. Three years since their first 7", worth the wait.

4. BLOOD PRESSURE-Surrounded (Beach Impediment, LP)
The return of one of the best hardcore bands in the US, this is just as relentlessly raging as Blood Pressure's Need To Control album. Fast and burning with Adam Thomas' angry-as-fuck vocals and one blazer going straight into the other. The execution is perfect and the anti-social attitude remains as in-your-face as ever. "Misanthropy," "Useless," "Hate"... you get the idea. Suffering no fools. This is the real shit, accept no substitute. Unfortunately, this is the end of the line as they're splitting up at the end of the year.

5. PHYSIQUE-Punk Life Is Shit (Iron Lung, 12")
We make noise because noise is natures (sic) own politic.” That’s what it says on the back cover of this one-sided 12” and noise is what you get, although it’s not wrapped in an impenetrable sonic cocoon. This Olympia band dish out blistering/pulverizing fodder with the requisite Discharge/Disorder/Kaaos bent, all of it done at a fast clip, save for the pounding “Game.” Reverb on the vocals and a razor-sharp musical attack.

6. LITHICS-Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars, LP)
Sharp, jabbing art-punk or post-punk or whatever hackneyed expression you want to use. Tightly-executed compositions with busy instrumental interplay and Aubrey Hornor's detached-sounding vocals. At times, there's a UK flavor to them. "Still Forms" is reminiscent of the Fire Engines, for instance. "Boyce," meanwhile, has a No Wave vibe. Sometimes, they go for more of a straight-ahead punk sound, as with "Flat Rock" or "Dancing Guy," the latter of which also has some stop/start no wavish-flourishes. Nervy and edgy, throughout.

7. SIAL-Binasa (La Vida Es Un Mus, 7")
This band from Singapore played Boston a few months back and there was something I had to do that I absolutely, positively couldn’t get out of, so I missed their show. And that’s something I’m going to be kicking myself about for a long time to come. That’s especially true when listening to this crushing EP. Trebly raw punk with barbed-wire guitar mangling and reverb on Siti’s vocals and she sounds like she could be Dru from Criaturas’ Singapore sister. A sonic buzzsaw, as dangerous as a disturbed hornets nest.

8. COLD MEAT-Pork Sword Fever (Static Shock/Helta Skelta, 7")
Another Aussie band, this one from Perth, and they play tough, gnashing post-punk and Riot Grrrl-tinged punk (you following me here?). Ashley’s commanding vocals are pissed-off sounding and, right from the outset, there’s no missing the point of “Boys Riot”—“Alpha fuck off mate!” An exploration of interpersonal relationships and roles, done in stomping fashion.

9. BB & THE BLIPS-Shame Job (Thrilling Living, LP)
Bryony Beynon (Scepters, Good Throb) has relocated to Sydney, Australia and didn’t waste a lot of time putting together a pretty damned good new band. Snappy and catchy songs, accompanied by Bryony’s low to high, back and forth sweeping, sarcastic vocals. It flows easily from the title track’s punk punch to the fast and furious “L.I.B.I.D.O.” to thumping “Bitcoin Baby” to brooding “The Ballad of Personal Growth” to post-punkier “Cyborg.” Sorry for the run-on sentence. This is a joy from start to finish, brimming with passion and fury but it’s also charming as hell.

10. TERRORIST-American Today (Toxic State, 7")
A killer 7" by NYC band Terrorist. Pancho's vocals are gruff and pugnacious and this unit delve into some furious anarcho punk, with a pounding mid-tempo stomp and plenty of guitar pyrotechnics. "Corruption and Lies" is a numbing mantra that embeds itself in your brain. All of these songs will.

JUST BUBBLING UNDER (in alphabetical order)

MUJERES PODRIDAS (from Bandcamp page)

BAD BREEDING-Abandonment (One Little Indian, 12")
BILLS-Take Two (demo)
BRANDY-Laugh Track (Monofonus Press, LP)
COLLATE-Limited Returns (self-released, LP)
DAUÐYFLIN-Dauþiflin (Iron Lung, 7")
DONKEY BUGS-Ancient Chinese Secrets (Fish, 12")
IV-Magnesium (Total Punk, 7")
JUDY AND THE JERKS-Roll On Summer Holidays (Earth Girl Tapes, demo)
LIÉ-Hounds (Monofonus Press, LP)
MUJERES PODRIDAS-Sobredosis (demo)
NAJA-s/t (demo)
NASHO-s/t LP (Nopatience, LP)

BEST LIVE (in alphabetical order)



The album didn't quite make my top ten but I can't get enough of this song by the Cleveland duo Donkey Bugs, which features Steve Peffer (9 Shocks Terror, Homostupids, Pleasure Leftists and more) and Haley Morris (Pleasure Leftists)


Lillian Shapiro (my cousin)
Todd "Youth" Schofield
Francesca Araya