Friday, December 27, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #142--The Best of 2019

UBIK (photo: Nick Nolan)

Damn, where does the time go? The end of the year, the end of the decade. Another batch of pretty good to great records. I'm done making resolutions to publish these installments on a more regular basis. Best laid plans, etc... although I've been working on the regular blog simultaneously to this one so they're being published at the same time. Happy holidays, New Year, etc... 

1. ISS-“Alles 3rd Gut” LP (Sorry State) 
ISS (which I've found out stands for In-School Suspension) are the punk rock masters of found sound permutations. I'm not sure how much is live instrumentation and how much comes from samples but it coalesces into something that doesn't come across as cold experimentation. And there are tunes--sublime melodies popping up on "Workshopping and "Fake V Flake," the former sampling Julie Cafritz's FUCK YOU from Pussy Galore’s "Cunt Tease." The spot-the-sample game is always fun. I smiled when hearing the animal noises from Flux's "Neu Smell" and the drumbeat from SS Decontrol's "How Much Art" merging for "Aromatherapy." There are other nods to hardcore, as with "Mac N Me" and "DDYSWHP" (Daddy's Whip) and the back cover is taken from the Beastie Boys' "Pollywog Stew." "White Man In Hammer Pants" rides a dubby PIL bass line. ISS's lyrics are clever and make a strong point without relying on slogans. A common thread is, my god, being an adult can really turn into a suburban soul-sucking existence, can't it? Save your sanity--play this loud and avoid such misery. 

2. UBIK-Next Phase (Iron Lung, 12" EP)
Another power-packed outing on Ubik's first 12", following a demo, 7" and a split with fellow Aussies Cold Meat. They're successful at cross-blending various punk shadings, including goth, anarcho, tuneful US west coast and even full-on thrash for the closing song "You Make Me Sick." An sense of urgency and anger come out in Ash's vocals. The lyrical emphasis is worldwide, whether at home ("Peter Dutton Is A Terrorist") or worldwide ("John Wayne Is A Cowboy (And Is On Twitter")).The urgency comes out in Ubik's music, as well.

3. KØHTI TUHØA-Ihmisen Kasvot (La Vida Es Un Mus, LP) 
Ravaging hardcore by this Finnish unit and their third album ups the ante with powerhouse playing and production. A statement against a world that "breed psychopaths, cold-hearted monsters who will never regret a thing," according to the English translation of the title track, which translates to "The Face Of Man." And that rage is served up in short, succinct doses. The stomping "Pinnah Alla" has a damaged, head-messing guitar line and that flows seamlessly into the full-blitz attack of "Mulkkujen Maailma," Doing it the right way, with concise, methodical aggression

4. SAP-2 (demo)
SAP are a scrappy, high-energy punk band who mix different strains together--incorporating post-punk, hardcore, garage and melodic touches into their sound, accompanied by Alex's hyper, expressive vocals. Well-played--the bass playing, in particular, is stellar throughout. Some impressive runs on "Carrot and Stick" and providing a solid counterpoint to the stinging guitar on "Short Stick.”

5. CRISIS MAN-The Myth of Moderation (Digital Regress, 7")
Ranty, snotty hardcore punk with Ross Farrar from Ceremony on vocals... this is real back-to-the-roots stuff for Ross, as Ceremony moved away (evolved or devolved?) from the punk ferocity of their masterwork "Rohnert Park." Ross punctuates his vocals with painful interjections, like someone's giving him a hotfoot. Gnashing, slashing guitar lines create a heady, twisted effect that goes straight for the skull.

6. THE VICTIMS-s/t (In The Red, LP)
Yes, a reissue of sorts. This is an archival godsend of early Aussie punk. I'm sure that anyone with even a passing knowledge of KBD fodder has heard this band's "Television Addict." Details are scant (no liner notes, even with a gatefold jacket) but, essentially, this is a reissue of a Japanese collection from 2011 called "Sleeping Dogs Lie" and side one features all of their recordings from '77-78, plus an unreleased song, "Perth Is A Culture Shock." Side two consists of previously-unreleased demos, just about all of 'em rough, fast and scorching. You could almost call many of these songs proto-hardcore  and the demo material sounds akin to UK-82 era bands like the Partisans five years early. A poppier side emerges for "I Understand" and there's a Kinks-ish vibe on "High School Girls." The tour-de-force is the nearly six minute, cacophonic mania of "Disco Junkies." Essential shit.

7. HASH REDACTOR-Drecksound (Goner LP)
Charlotte and Meredith from Nots join Alec from Ex-Cult and one other individual to form this unit. It’s closer to Ex-Cult’s loud punk/post-punk mesh. The bouncy "Floral Pattern" and "Lotion Poet Laureate" owe a debt to The Fall, more from a musical point of view than Alec's vocal cadence, although it's not completely absent. Some brooding properties are introduced for "In The Tank," with a bluesy guitar undertow. "Down The Tubes" goes straight for the throat with jabbing basslines and drum patterns and twisted guitar lines. A good balance of aggro and darker properties.

8. NOTS-3 (Goner, LP)
The 3 has a dual meaning here--it's Nots’ third album and their first as a three-piece, with Natalie Hoffman handling all guitar and synthesizer/keyboards, complementing her detached-sounding vocals. Some songs eschew guitar completely, as the synth creates a heady sonic tapestry --beeps, blips, washes sometimes generating a frenzy, as with "Floating Hand." The bass and drums lock in perfectly, moving things along at a driving pace. Paring down the lineup doesn't compromise Nots’ sweeping sound one bit.

9. NEON-s/t (Square One Again, LP)
Neon are abrasive. They’re atonal. They have a way of getting under your skin and there’s no way to break loose. It’s an incessant assault of frenetic punk/post-punk/no wave, accompanied by a repetitive word attack that becomes an extra instrument. Not so much lyrics as words phrases and narratives repeated ad-infinitum, drenched with sarcasm and cynicism. Those vocals are wrapped around and run counter to the musical chaos, punctuated by jarring, slashing, sliding guitar lines, busy bass and walloping drums. It’ll leave your head spinning. 

10. SKIZOPHRENIA-Undead Melodies EP (Kick Rock, 7")
Skizophrenia were one of the more-entertaining bands I've saw in 2019 and this 7" gives you a hint of their trigger-finger power. Classic Japanese pillage ala Systematic Death and these guys can playyyyy.... One of my local musical compatriots mentioned that they reminded him of Laukaus, too, and I'd concur. They've been around for over a decade and these four songs show they're not letting up one bit. Four loud and fast ragers. Out on different labels around the world, including Distort Reality in the US.

15 MORE RELEASES I LIKED THIS YEAR (in alphabetical order)


CHAIN WHIP-14 Lashes (self-released, LP)
COLLATE-Symptomatic (demo)
CUNTS-s/t (Ipecac, LP)
DOTS-s/t (Dirt Cult, LP)
DROIDS-Droids Blood (Drunken Sailor, LP)
FUTURA-End It All (demo)
IRREAL-Fi Del Mon (La Vida Es Un Mus, LP)
KALEIDOSCOPE-After The Futures (Toxic State, LP)
MACK ENEMY-s/t (demo)
MOD VIGIL-Automatic Remorse (Fozmo, LP)
PCP & THE KNIVES-LSD For Breakfast (demo)
SCIENCE MAN-s/t (Swimming Faith, LP)
SLANT-Vain Attempt (Iron Lung, 7”)
SOGA-Demo MLP (Iron Lung, 12”)
UROCHROMES-Trope House (Wharf Cat)

BEST LIVE (in alphabetical order)


AXE RASH (News Café, 8/6/19)
BOOTLICKER (Ram Ranch, 10/18/19)
IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO (O’Brien’s, 5/12/19)
IMPULSO (Democracy Center, 4/20/19)
JAD (Banshee Den, 10/29/19)
MACK ENEMY (Black Lodge, 6/4/19)
PCP & THE KNIVES (multiple times in 2019)
RUBBLE (Harsh House, 1/26/19)
SKIZOPHRENIA (Great Scott, 8/12/19)
URANIUM CLUB (The Firehouse, 7/1/19)

Suburban Voice blog #141

(photo: Mik Mellen)


I’d imagine a fair number of you aren’t familiar with Peter Laughner but you’re probably familiar with some of his bands that he passed through—Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu, for instance. He also logged time in The Original Wolverines, Fins, Cinderella Backstreet and Friction. His song “Ain’t It Fun” made it onto the second Dead Boys album, “We Have Come For Your Children” but the original was by Rocket and co-written by Gene O’Connor, better known as Cheetah Chrome. To give a short history lesson, Rocket basically split off into Pere Ubu and Frankenstein, who eventually changed their name to the Dead Boys. 

Smog Veil has released a five LP or CD box set of Peter Laughner's music, spanning from 1972 to 1977, although he started playing in the 1960s. It's accompanied by a book (my copy of it came in PDF format) that includes a biography, photos and other ephemera. The best part is the collection of Laughner's musical musings that appeared in local arts papers in Cleveland and, later on, CREEM magazine. Peter Laughner's life was short. He died from acute pancreatitis in 1977 at the age of 24. Given his copious alcohol and drug abuse, it wasn't all that surprising. Let's put it this way--if his level of self-abuse was too much for even rock scribe Lester Bangs (who also died very young, at 33), then it was probably beyond the pale. Bangs' tribute to Laughner, originally published in New York Rocker (and later reprinted in the "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" collection of Bangs' writing) is included and says as much. 

Laughner's writing came from a self-referential muse, definitely Bangs' spiritual kin, and he called 'em as he saw 'em. He wasn't a Kiss fan--my notes say he referred to them as phony degenerates. Of course, his inspiration came from the real-life degenerates and hard-lifers, not cartoon characters. And his writing from back then has piqued my interest. I'm interested in checking out those Charlie Parker and John Cale records he's raved about. And his review of Lou Reed's contract-breaking double LP of experimental noise, "Metal Machine Music," from Exit magazine (see below) made me laugh out loud. All I can say is, if the internet had been up and running in 1975, the review would have won it that day. Maybe that year. And I can only imagine what sort of Twitter feed he might have had. 

Still, is anyone who some might regard as a musical footnote worthy of a five CD set? Made up mainly of practice tapes, home demos, radio broadcasts and live material?  It's not hard to figure out where he was coming from. Laughner was a music fan with a great depth of knowledge and he wore his influences on his sleeve--Dylan, the Velvets and Lou Reed, in particular. He embraced Television, for whom he auditioned when Richard Lloyd left the band for a bit. A lot of the earlier songs, mainly those done with the Original Wolverines, have a folk, blues and country approach and there are cover versions of Dylan, Jimmie Rodgers and the Lovin' Spoonful, among others.The late night recordings on "Nocturnal Digressions" (1977), done shortly before his untimely death are acoustic demos, once again including a number of cover versions, including a slashing version of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation."

Truth be told, there are only a handful of songs that would appeal to the diehard rockers (i.e. your loyal scribe) and that's mainly on the "Rock It Down" (1974-1977) and "One Of The Boys" (1973-1974) discs. There's only one Rocket From The Tombs' song (a live "Ain't It Fun") and nothing from Pere Ubu. "Rock It Down" includes the Rocket song, as well as The Fins and Friction (the latter of which is the best of the non-Rocket/Pere Ubu bands). 

There are fiery covers of the Velvets' "What Goes On," Television's "Prove It" and there's also a jam-out version of the Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso" on "Rock It Down.""One Of The Boys" has a crazy cover by Cinderella Backstreet of "White Light White Heat" that's pretty out there for 1973, disintegrating into a drone they title "Call The Ambulance." I wouldn't mind a collection of the heavier moments. And the book is a must and I'd love to see it as a free-standing item someday, although that might not be practical.

Laughner was always evolving and eventually found his own voice. There was talent and he tried to get the musical ball rolling in Cleveland, aspiring to create something running counter to the mainstream, with a DIY aesthetic. Bangs quotes Laughner's review of Lou Reed's "Coney Island Baby"--"... if you are going to get anything done on this planet, you better pick it up with both hands and DO IT YOURSELF." 

I should note this review was largely composed while on a serious caffeine jag. That's my drug of choice and, now that the inevitable crash has happened, my notes look like a few pages of jibberish that required some piecing together. Hopefully, it makes some sense. (



ADRENALIN OD-The Wacky Hijinks of... 35th Anniversary Millenium Edition (Beer City, LP)/Humungusfungusamongus (Beer City, LP)
Following Beer City's reissue of AOD's "Let's Barbecue" EP comes re-waxings of their first two LPs. By the time "Wacky Hijinks came out, the lineup had shuffled, with guitarist Jim Foster departing and Bruce Wingate coming on-board, while vocalist Paul Richard also picked up a guitar. Thrashin’ was AOD’s business and they were quite proficient at it. Raw throughout but introducing some sneaky rock ‘n roll touches with a thickened up two guitar attack. The production was cleaned-up a little for "Humungus etc" and there were poppier touches mixed into the fray but the modus operandi didn't change that much. You want speed? You want volume? You got it here, along with a wise-assed worldview that was always one of AOD’s winning characteristics. And what a wicked wit they had, right down to barbs at sports cars, cock rockers and other thorns in their collective side. 

It’s obvious AOD had an anti-norm (for want of a better term) attitude. Lyrics like “How are you? Who cares? Why even talk if you get nowhere/Idle talk for idle minds/I got better things to do than waste my time” on “Small Talk” could be on any modern-day hardcore record written by this generation of misfits. It’s a timeless sentiment, in other words. 

Is it possible to sound pissed off while having a great time? These speed mavens proved those qualities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I mean, how serious can you be when writing songs like “Hijack the Senior Citizen’s Bus" or claiming you recorded a song in your underwear? Or doing a surf version of "Hava Nagila" for "Surfin' Jew"? AOD were the antithesis of tough-guy hardcore but still held their own in the aggro sweepstakes. And they even snuck in a message or two, as with the anti-authoritarian "Crowd Control." A frenzied joy ride. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1759,


BOOTLICKER-Nuclear Family (Neon Taste, 7")
Sound the fucking battlecry--Bootlicker is back. Mean 'n ugly, thumping, d-beat laced punk providing the full air-raid effect. The crash 'n wallop of the drumming really pushes things along here accompanying Lewis' throat-ripping vocals and the six 'n four string assault. "Shellshock" mentions "the bang of hell's drum." Sounds like a perfect description. (

BORIS THE SPRINKLER-Vespa To Venus (Beer City, LP)

First new album from these wiseacres in a couple of decades and it's just as silly and funny as ever. Rev. Nørb and his band of now middle-aged merrymakers are back and, if you think they've matured, think again. Granted, there's almost a bit of political protest for "[What Did The] Dog [Now?]"--"when you hear the news/don't it make you want to cry-yi-yi-i-yii." The orange turd isn't mentioned by name but it shows that Nørb has his hand on the pulse of current events. He probably has his hand elsewhere but I'll leave that one alone.  He introduces each song in his cartoonish voice. Musically, it's on the poppy side of the punk spectrum, as they've always been--those Rezillos recores are probably still in regular rotation on the 'ol hi-fi. Vocals are a tad more understated--sweeter, maybe? And this isn't going to blindside you with any raging power but if hearing him read a title like "My Cock's On Drugs" doesn't make you giggle like you were in the 7th grade, you need to lighten the fuck up, Francis. Or Dave. Or Amber... or whatever the hell your name is. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1759,

BROTHER-s/t (Atomic Action, 7")
13 songs (all with single word titles) of crazed hardcore in under 10 minutes and it's not all done at blurry speed. Yes, they're capable of blasting away but it's not mindless grindcore or powerviolence. There are lots of tempo shifts in even the shortest songs. Closing track "Manifest" is heavy and ground-shaking, damn near an epic. George from Dropdead plays bass in this band and it's not far-removed from those guys or Infest. (

CHAIN WHIP-14 Lashes (self-released, LP)
14 lashes? More like 14 blows to the skull. Completely ass-kicking hardcore punk infused with speed, venom and hints of melody. The venom comes from Josh's phlegm-emitting messages of disgust, delivered with all of the anti-social rage that he can muster. Different themes are explored, though, such as the false alarm about a nuclear attack in Hawaii for "Hawaii CBM." There's also the creepiness of "Crawl Space Boyfriend" and "Turner Street Ghost Motel." The music is appropriately bare-knuckled, infused with a tinge of brawling, bootboy attitude and darker musical shadings. Inspirational line: "I don't wanna live in a fucked up world." Yeah, that sums it up nicely although I think it could be wanting things to be better than just throwing in the towel. (

CLITERATI-Ugly Truths//Beautiful Lies (Tankcrimes, LP)

Tough as nails, both musically and attitude-wise. Hardcore that flirts with crossover but avoiding boring chuggishness. Big-ass riffs tied to fast 'n raging arrangements and with a strong message. Vocalist Ami is trans (they/them) and one of the standouts is "Trans Is Beautiful," an important message given that trans people are still subjected to violence and abuse. Ruminations on an increasingly toxic and divided populace (particularly for "Red Neck White & Blue" and "Tribal Politics") and there's a LOT to be pissed off about these days. Cliterati express that succinctly, while bowling you over with a furious blitz. (

CUNTS-s/t (Ipecace, CD)
Hot 'n heavy hardcore/punk/noise. Guitarist Mike Crain slung the six strings for Retox, among other bands. Some of the tracks here follow that chaotic and fast muse, such as "Cholos On Acid," "You Should See My Dad," "Fail At Failure"), but a good chunk of it is crushing, a swirling block of bile aiming straight for the cranium. Pounding and intense, especially for "A Hero's Welcome" and "Cholos On PCP" (I guess different drugs have different effects on cholos). And let's just say they don't exactly fall into the "support our troops" mentality for "Fuck You For Your Service," with a "Semper Fi... die die die" refrain. Packing on the tension until submission is inevitable. (

DAS DRIP-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
The insert for this record has the original ad looking for a vocalist--"Angry freak to front new mid-brow Raleigh hardcore punk band. For fans of nihilism, not using chorus pedals and the first Meat Puppets 7"." It sounds like they got what they wanted. Well, I'm not sure if their vocalist Rach is a freak or not--or what qualifies as mid-brow. There's a definite appreciation of that first Puppets' EP, though. Frenetic punk with busy instrumentation and feeling a bit off-kilter. I mean that in a positive sense. I'm not sure if it's complete nihilism but the musical proceedings are certainly chaotic. Only one song breaks the 90 second mark and the adrenaline never flags. (

EYE WITNESS-Demo 2019 (demo)
Tortured Skull vocalist Ben Lynn also fronts this band and, instead of the more metallic style that band plies, this is straight-forward hardcore punk, delivered with all the subtlety of a boot to the groin. Fast 'n raw, expressing sentiments of dissolution and rage. Sometimes, you need that. (

FRENZY-s/t (Distort Reality, LP)

Frenzy, indeed--that's what this PDX band create, a total musical frenzy. And while this could be loosely described as noise punk, there's a lot at work here. It's not just a wall of indecipherable rawness.The scampering drums that start "Oblivion" have a similar feel as Disorder's "More Than Fights" but, instead of a d-beat assault, the rhythm quickly becomes whirling and chaotic. Bouncy thump also pops up, as with "Zcum" and "Calculated Genocide." A fusillade of guitar effects and burn, working in phasers and smokin' leads. Vocals aren't larynx-shredding or gutteral, but barked in a rhythmic cadence. Frenzy have a strong pedigree--most of these people also logged time in Nerveskade and Bi-Marks, among many other bands, but it's a different approach. A loud one that will shake you up, of course, but still a bit off the well-trod path. And on bright yellow vinyl and a full-color cover with a spiked, studded and smiling creature. (

HAIRCUT-Senstation (Beach Impediment, 7")

The follow-up to their 2017 EP on Feel It and with all the hardcore buzz 'n burn you'd want. Juliiana raspily barks out the words in both English and Spanish, accompanied by a beefy, razor-sharp attack falling in between rawness and cleaner production i.e. something that's not slick-sounding. Four songs to get your blood pumping. (

HELL BENT-Apocalyptic Lamentations (Atomic Action/Armageddon, LP)

Three members of 2000s era Providence band Straight To Hell reconvened a few years ago as Hell Bent and here's the debut album, following a demo. Whereas STH followed the Scandinavian blueprint, Hell Bent play in a decidedly metallic vein, retaining some of the Swedish elements. When I say metal, I mean 80s thrash and death metal. The riffage for "Ichthyosis" has a Celtic Frost tinge. They even do a medley of 80s Chicago thrashers Znowhite's "Sledgehammer" and "Hell Bent." Aaron sounds as agitated as ever... age sure as hell hasn't mellowed him one bit... and the band operate with ruthless, meat-cleaver efficiency. (

HOLY SHIT!-Not My Tempo (Vinyl Smash/Snuffy Smiles, 7")
Milwaukee hardcore hellions Holy Shit! seem to resurface every so often, with a history going back to 2001. And their approach to hardcore has a lot going on, maybe because their background came from the KBD punk-inspired scene (Chinese Millionaires, Catholic Boys, etc) and, being older guys, they have a wider historical scope. So they've always been a bit off-kilter. Midwest hardcore ala The Fix, early Meat Puppets and Black Flag, the latter on "Narrow The Goal." And on the title track, they say that Weezer, Radiohead, US Bombs and the Chicago Cuts are not their tempo while they take you aboard a well-wound whirlwind (yes, I stole that but I ain't saying where from). That makes me like them even more. (


IRREAL-Fi Del Mon (La Vida Es Un Mus, LP)
Spanish punk with a cleaner-sounding take on what Destino Final and Invasión did before that... that means reverb on the vocals and a loud/fast, sometimes mid-tempo blueprint. The latter creates some floor rattling intensity, as with the title track and "Ens Venen A Salvar." Slashing guitar with extra-terrestrial effects. Hitting all the right buttons, a powerful surge of sound. (


JAD-Strach (self-released, LP)
Tough 'n nasty hardcore punk from Warsaw. It's not all at one velocity, either. Along with speed, they throw in some bruising breakdowns and thumping, pounding medium-speed tempos. In other words, it's not pro-forma thrash but coming from a dark and intense region, without devolving into mosh-metal nonsense. There are some sick guitar pyrotechnics on the instrumental outro. Krzysiek's gruff and gutteral vocals have a small amount of echo on them, matched perfectly to the full-bore guitar, bass and drums tandem. (

JUDY AND THE JERKS-Friendships Formed In The Pit (Neck Chop, LP)/Music For Donuts (Thrilling Living, 7")/Bone Spur (Earth Girl, demo)
It's been a busy year for Judy and her Jerks--a 12" anthology, debut 7" and an even newer demo. "Friendships" is a compilation of their first two demos, adding on unreleased cover songs and it's funny how they show off their diverse roots. Versions of Floorpunch's "True Colors" and Die Kreuzen's raging "Think For Me" share space with the much sweeter renditions of the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed" and Buzzcocks' "I Don't Mind." Embracing hardcore, snotty punk and post-punk, played with malicious glee. If anything, their hardcore side has come out more on "Bone Spur." Julie (aka Judy) has an engagingly sarcastic, singy-songy vocal style. And they sound like they're having a great time doing it. (

LARMA-s/t (Beach Impediment, LP)
People from Skitkids, Heratys, Institution and more. Needless to say, this is straight up classic Swedish mangel hardcore drawing from past endeavors. It's not blown-out or over-the-top and largely eschews any sort of rock 'n roll influences that Skitkids plied. Larma don't really push the envelope, opting for standard hardcore operating procedure but that's enough. Just play it loudly enough. (

LAST RIGHT BRIGADE-Hoy Por La Libertad (Kick Rock, 7")
Scampering hardcore from Mito, Japan with lyrics in Japanese, English and Spanish (well, one line for the title track). No matter the language, they stick to a hard 'n fast blueprint, occasionally veering into hyperspace, as on "What's Freedom?" It definitely has that classic Japanese attack--high energy, throughout. (


Two Wisconsin bands operating in a not-too-serious garage punk vein. Last Sons of Krypton have been kicking around (off and on?) for a few decades. Fast-paced three-chord swill played with instrumental looseness and a wise-assed attitude and it'll keep your toes tappin.' The first track on the two man band Foamers? (that's how they spell it) side, "I Drew A Dumbass," is a trashy joy with squiggly guitar trills. After that, the fidelity drops to transistor radio quality and it's a drive through punk, blues, garage and old-time rock 'n roll. It sounds like an exhumed recording that was recorded in a shack. And it somehow holds together. Spirited sounds from both parties. (


A pummeling attack of hardcore punk out of Melbourne, from this band of pissed-off miscreants culled from the likes of Gutter Gods and Geld. Old school ravage with the throat-ripping vocals subsumed into a blown-out, nearly impenetrable cocoon. A more-recent 7", "Eye Of The Scared," provides more of the same. (

LOOSE NUKES-Behind The Screen (Beach Impediment, 7")

Boiling over rage. You want hardcore? This is the real shit. A gathering of Pittsburgh luminaries from a number of killer bands (Direct Control, Blood Pressure, Machine Gun, Sickoids, etc...) and having one of the best drummers in the game, Vince Klopfenstein, doesn't hurt. An outburst of pure, raw fury that reminds me of Out Cold at times, although it's dirtier sounding. Attitude? As they say, "call it cliche... I don't give a fuck." Amen. (

PCP AND THE KNIVES-LSD for Breakfast (demo)

New band from Salem, MA (home of the witch trials and way too many tourists in October) with a few people from Similar Items. Rough 'n tumble rage with snotty vocals conveying a bad fuckin' attitude. They don't have much use for cops, for one thing, rather pointedly stated on "Paid Vacation." A good mix of thrash and bile-filled punk and the trashy, 4 track production gives it a nasty edge. (


Persistent Aggressor include a couple of guys who played in early 2000s hardcore band Don Austin. This is a meaner, more vicious-sounding beast (not that Don Austin were exactly pop music)--Persistent Aggressor infuse their dark and intense thrash attack with metallic fury. The closing song, "Old, Grey, Feral," crawls through a damaged-sounding, twisted morass. Aging not so gracefully, with a ferocious statement. (


Pure thrash 'n death metal outta Milwaukee. The unholy offspring of Slayer, Bathory and Obituary--at least those are the bands that came to mind when listening. Evil-sounding vocals, meat-cleaver riffing, some furious bass runs and drumming that varies from a straight 4/4 beat to death blasts. All of it is well-executed and it's heavy as fuck, tending to work best at standard thrash velocity. The fact that it still mainly comes from a traditional metallic approach, instead of tuneless, grunted death stylings makes this a more listenable excursion. (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1759,

POWER-The Fool/Give It All To Me (Feel It, 7")

Two new tracks from Melbourne's Power. A pair of revved-up metallo/boogie rockers. "The Fool" has a Motörcharged feel, while "Give It All To Me" sounds like a sprightlier Saint Vitus. The latter is my pick to click. Deadly even at low volume. (

SCHOOL DRUGS-Modern Medicine (Indecision, LP)
The first 12" by this New Jersey band mixes driving west-coast influenced hardcore punk with melodic flourishes--kind of like Night Birds without the surfy twang. The double guitar attack creates full-on aggression, accompanied by a walloping rhythm and at-times howling 'n growling vocals. Lyrics that look inward and reveal tortured thoughts and emotions that are expressed passionately. Forceful production, although not too slick-sounding and that gives it a winning edginess. A scream from the soul. (

THE SHAME-Friendly (Crowd Control Media, LP)
Rowdy singalong oi/punk from this Tulsa firm, who have been doing this thing for close to a decade. Or vocalist/guitarist Chad Malone (who you may remember from Brother Inferior many years ago) has, along with some new recruits. Nice and beefy, with a boisterous twin guitar attack and songs centered around beer, football (soccer, not the gridiron kind) and some pointed political/sociological commentary to go along with it. Hooligans, but thoughtful ones. I'll bet they even say thank you when the next round is served. (

SLUMP-Flashbacks From Black Dust Country (Feel It, LP)
I don't get high but Slump's new album might be a good one to listen to if I did. Expansive psych/space/stoner emanations which tend to push things a bit--only two songs under four minutes--but when they rock, they do it hard. "(Do The) Sonic Sprawl" has an abundance of head-messing fury. "Tension Trance" has a deliberate power, with all sorts of otherworldly effects, although it sort of floats off into the ether. "Sensory Cocoon" is the opposite--a slow build-up to swirling cacophony. I tend to prefer this sort of thing in short, sharp doses and/or with an explosive nature and that's only true part of the time. (

SOGA-s/t (Iron Lung, 12")
Vinyl pressing of this Mexico City three piece's demo and, while they're not the most polished-sounding band, who needs it when the energy level is so high? Scrappy, energetic songs with buzz, wheedle and sting in the guitar lines and raspy, ranting vocals to go along with it. Some anarcho punk shadings, as with the Peni-esque "Resistir." They can be near-catchy at times, as well ("Medianoche"). People from Cremalleras and Ratas Del Vaticano, leaning towards the latter stylistically. (


TOUCH HEADS-Nostalgia Is Poison (demo)/Try To Get Some Sleep (demo)
Two demos in rapid succession from this Boston band. Rockin' punk with a sturdy, straight-forward flow. Big-ass bass lines, snaky, sometimes surfy guitar lines, rock-solid drumming and super-gruff vocals. Even a "woo-hoo-hoo" for "Simulcara," on the "Nostalgia" tape. And they're not a nostalgic lot. "Bought A Memory," reading between the lines, is about musical nostalgia being commodified, i.e bands on the classic rock or punk or whatever circuit. And, truth be told, while I'll sometimes see the old-timers, I'd rather see bands like this playing in a more intimate environment, where it doesn't feel like it's just something for sale. (


THE VOIDS-s/t (self-released, 12")
First time I've heard from this band in over a decade, but they're back with a reshuffled lineup. Fast, melodic punk ala Vice Squad, along with older west coast influences. The former is an easy comparison since Adri's vocals are akin to Beki's. It's well-played and produced and hits the right buttons. Nothing life or game-changing but it goes down easy, as they say. An energetic blast. (

WET SPECIMENS-Haunted Flesh (Brain Slash, 7")
Haunted, indeed--from the caverns of horrorific misery. Bruising, bare-knuckled hardcore with reverb-laden hoarse vocals and plumbing the dark side of the psyche. There's the occasional gothy guitar shimmer to the bloodcurdling attack on "In Secretion Room" and "Tongue & Teeth." Burning with a cold-blooded intensity. (

Two bands grindin' it out here (pun intended). Wound Man sound like a more metallic Infest, going between lurching tempos and pure speed.  I prefer RGC since their music doesn't spiral out of control and provides a bashin' good time. Speed and heavier breakdowns but it's more damaged-sounding than chuggy, (

Monday, September 30, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #140

DOTS (photo: Cam)

I know, I know, where the fuck 'ya been, Al? Story of my life. Onward! And it won't be as long until the next one.

ADRENALIN O.D.-Let's Barbeque (Beer City, 12")
Super-duper deluxe 12" reissue of AOD's debut EP from 1983 and also including the first vinyl appearance of "Scare Tactics" (previously on the 1995 Grand Theft Audio "Sittin' Pretty" compilation CD), plus five unreleased demo recordings from 1982. During the Reagan era hardcore, uh, era, AOD didn't engage in any sort of political diatribes. They were ranting about what was going on in their suburban environment--annoying well-to-do showoffs, annoying senior citizens (BINGO!) and then taking revenge on "Mischief Night" where they smash all that shit up. Something like that. This is fast, let 'er rip, revved-up buzzsaw hardcore punk, with the tongue dug deeply into the cheek.  BINGO! (PO Box 1759, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1759,


ALPHA HOPPER-Aloha Hopper (Radical Empathy/Swimming Faith, LP)
Spacey, abraso-punk and post-punk, accompanied by against-the-grain, nearly taunting vocals. Guitar tones that are heavy and snaky, with a lot of effects, including a synthy-sounding one on "Once Again With Feeling." Hints of 90s AmRep rock, Drive Like Jehu, Jesus Lizard, etc, where the six string slam is underpinned by solid rhythms. Furious, but also nuanced, as the songs don't crush under their own weight. (

BLOWBACK-Great Again (Collateral Damage Limited, 7")
In case the title isn't a giveaway, Blowback ain't too fond of the man in the Oval Office, in case you weren't paying attention to the lyrics of the title track or "Don't Need Advice." Nor is it possible to miss the anger expressed on "Out Of Control Bullshit," since the lyrics pretty much boil down to those words. Muscular hardcore but there's a little post-punk mixed into "Frog Trolling" and "A Brief History Of Genocide" The heart's definitely in the right place but it gets a bit overwrought at times. (

BONEFIRE-Fade and Decay (FTWNU2, LP)
Thrash/metal/hardcore from this Minneapolis band that includes a few former members of Misery. Overarching sentiment? That's stated on opening track "Conceived The Same"--"the world is fucked" and there's plenty of reasons for that. Racism, xenophobia, drugs, mass media control and so on, but there also seems to be a willingness and determination to fight back against all of that. Musically, there's an abundance of speed along with heaviness and a few melodic touches. These guys have been around the block a few times in various bands so the music is executed with a seasoned, lethal skill. The clicky, double-pedal drum sound is a tad distracting but made up for with the mighty riffage and harsh vocals. (PO Box 822, Hopkins, MN 55343,


BRUISED-Rotten Codex (Chicago Research, LP)
Moody post-punk delivered with an energetic kick. The latter is particularly evident for "Psychic Strain" (with clinking percussion), "Satisfying Texture" and closer "Ceramic Dish," the latter of which attacks with a hardcore ferocity. "No Neutral Architecture," with a lumbering bass-drums signature, creates a burning and hypnotic effect. If bands like Institute, Rank/Xerox and Marbled Eye float your boat, Bruised will have a similar effect. (

That's a sample of Dee Dee's "1-2-3-4" that starts the record, it crashes and then the real crush begins. Richmond band Cement Shoes kick out some jams, motherfucker, taking rock 'n rollitude and harnessing it to a hardcore punk engine. Or maybe it's the other way around. In any case, this is high energy stuff. I might be breaking punk omerta, since they use pseudonyms, but the guitarist is Brandon Gaffney from Brown Sugar and that band's muse definitely informs Cement Shoes. Grunted vocals that sound like the descendant of Mike Brown from United Mutation, reinforced by hot riffing, rubbery basslines and strong drumming. Also, any album that starts with a song called "Unite The Right In Hell" is alright with me. So is one that ends with someone cursing out a sample of Willy Wonka. They've got 'yer musical golden ticket right here. (

CHRONIC SUBMISSION-Sick of Reality (Schizophrenic, LP)
Schizophrenic released this Toronto band's 1984 demo "Empty Heads Poison Darts" awhile back and now they're pressed Chronic Submission's '83 demo. Loud 'n fast hardcore punk with an abundance of youthful piss 'n vinegar. It's a rougher-sounding take than the other demo and the musicianship was also a bit more primitive but they rip their songs out with a snotty, malevolent glee. There's a four song "medley" songs that checks in at just under a minute. No doubt they were influenced by much of what was going on in the US at that point, especially midwest bands. Some of the songs veer into territory staked out by The Fix. Not bad for a bunch of teenage troublemakers. (


CONDOR-Singles 2017-2018 (Beach Impediment, 12")
Condor is a solo project by Maxime Smadja (Rixe) and the two recordings that comprise this 12" were actually cassette singles. Presented in glorious low-fidelity and the roughness is a huge attraction here. The hooks of the songs come ringing through, especially for "Que Jeuenesse Se Passe" and "Chacun Pour Soi." There's an Oi flavor but he also takes a UK-82 turn for "Condor." The disc includes one extra track, a punchy cover of 80s band DEM's "Vengeance." A rousing good time. (

CRISIS MAN-The Myth of Moderation (Digital Regress, 7")
Ranty, snotty hardcore punk with Ross Farrar from Ceremony on vocals... this is real back-to-the-roots stuff for Ross, as Ceremony moved away (evolved or devolved?) from the punk ferocity of their masterwork "Rohnert Park." Ross punctuates his vocals with painful interjections, like someone's giving him a hotfoot. Gnashing, slashing guitar lines create a heady, twisted effect that goes straight for the skull. (

DERELICTS-Life of Strife (Digital Warfare, CD)
The Derelicts are back with their first new album in 30 years, although there were a few 7"s after that. Still, a long fuckin' time. Two originals return--vocalist Duane Bodenhemier and guitarist Neil Rogers and their new drummer is Donny Paycheck from Zeke. The 14 tracks include re-recordings of old stuff and a handful of new material. Their forte remains snotty, high-powered punk rock 'n roll. The Supersuckers certainly learned a lesson or two from this band... Zeke, too, for that matter.A no bullshit style with vocals that sound like a cross between Mark Arm and Stiv Bators. They can also be surprisingly melodic sometimes, as with "Boxed In" (which was one of my favorite Derelicts songs back in the day). Middle-aged punks with all the "get off my lawn" attitude they can muster. (

DESPERATE TIMES-Peace At Last (tape)
Both their 2018 and newer "Peace At Last" demos on one handy tape and the newer recording benefits from better recording quality, as well as tightening up as a band. Rough, raw crusty hardcore with anarcho punk overtones. There are Møb and Flux covers and, while they don't slavishly mimic either band, Desperate Times (who are from Nova Scotia) lean towards the latter in terms of the harder edge. And they don't show a whole lot of patience towards crustfund" kids and privileged college students (although I do think secondary education can be a useful thing--unfortunately, it's out of reach for a lot of people). A lot of passion here. (

photo: Lisa Putignano

DIRECT ACTION-Tomorrow Is Too Late--Complete 1984 Tape (Schizophrenic, LP)
Another vinyl pressing of an old demo from a Toronto band. Direct Action's song "Hate Generation" was a stand-out on the "Primitive Air-Raid" compilation LP, where they were the only non-Montreal band.  Some of these songs were on a Bitzcore release that combined them with songs from their "Trapped In A World" LP. I always liked this demo a lot more because of its rawness. Pure thrash-driven blitz with Bones-y metallic guitar squeals, threatening to run off the rails, taking you with it. They navigate those hairpin turns with instrumental mettle. Underneath the six string slam, there are sick bass runs and thumping drumming, accompanying Tim's over-the-top vocals. Pulverizing. (

DOTS-s/t (Dirt Cult, LP)
Two people from Bad Daddies (Camylle and Matt) are in this band and it's a strong debut. Dirty, fuzzy punk with echo on the vocals and spacey keyboard swooshes to go along with the gnarled guitar/bass/drums attack. Jabbing compositions that also sneak in the occasional hook. And the album keeps picking up steam throughout. Some real potent bashers, especially "Surfs Up" and "Spinal Tap," with the closing track "Judgement" taking a Chrome-ish turn. Not far removed from what their former band were doing--mixing driving punk with quirky elements. (

DROIDS BLOOD-Be Free (Drunken Sailor, LP)/Bleaker Broadcasts (demo)
Droids Blood basically formed from the ashes of Broken Prayer in 2016 (taking their name from the latter's final album), with Scott Plant and Nick Donahue on board. Not far removed from that band, following a frenetic noisy-punk/synth-laden blueprint, although eschewing Broken Prayer's hardcore inclinations. Not that they've eased up on the intensity level, but there are also melodious moments. The title track, punctuated by funereal keyboards, has a brooding, numbing catchiness, as does "Sympathy." It's a head-messing clamor. "Bleaker Broadcasts" is a newer demo and deviates from the path a bit. It plays up an experimental side, veering into abrasive, industrialized realms. Only the pulsating bash of "Murder" sounds more-or-less conventional--we're talking matters of degree, of course. There's still plenty of other-worldly effects. An intriguing departure. (;

FLESHIES-Introducing The Fleshies (Dirt Cult, LP)
The first new Fleshies album in a decade and a band I've been listening to long enough that they were actually reviewed in the last few print issues of SV (the dark ages!). Embracing punk, thrashy hardcore and pop-inflected ravers, the Fleshies play everything full-tilt, storming right out of the gates with the 1-2-3 blitzkrieg of "Bruisee," "NOMaste" and "Comin' To Get Out Cousins." The melodic side shows up for "Hold Me Up" and "Stone Mason," without compromising the energy level. Buzz 'n burn... good to hear from them again. (


FUNERAL CONE-Kill A Ghoulie For Julie (100% Breakfast, 7")
Jabbing, hyper garage punk/new wave and there's a Buzzcocksian guitar line for "ABBA C.A.B." (clever title). Flip it over and you get hit with three frenetic quickies and more title/lyrical cleverness, delivered with twisted presence of longtime punk vet Dan Wars. Recorded a few years ago and finally given a vinyl pressing. (

GAME-No One Wins (Beach Impediment, LP)
Debut vinyl (finally) from UK-based band Game, which includes Ola and Nicky from Arms Race and Jonah from Career Suicide and Fucked Up. Booming production creates an ugly sonic detonation that brings out the band's heaviness, which is a combination of 80s UK metallic thrash (Sacrilege, for one) and Japanese hardcore. They go the full doom metal route for closing track "Foundation & Empire." Ola's vocals (in both English and Polish) have a nasty, from-the-gut fervor and the band's sonic roar is relentless. (

GLUE TRAPS-Future Shocks (To Live A Lie, 7")
I reviewed this Baltimore band's demo awhile back and now there's the full recording on a 7". 12 doses of power-packed hardcore, sometimes adding a catchy twist, as with "Bury Me" and "No Utopia." Songs for short attention spans. Why stretch things out? Hit hard and fast and move on. (2825 Van Dyke Ave., Raleigh, NC 27607,

GROSS POLLUTER-Cynical Scumbaggery (Rat Town, 7")
Most of the people from Smogtown playing similar high energy west coast punk rock 'n roll that their former band specialized in. Good 'n loud, somewhat catchy, although I wouldn't call it groundshaking. (

HARAM-Where Were You On 9/11? (Toxic State, 7")

Haram's latest missive features the same provocative punk as on previous releases, starting with the cover art showing the Twin Towers drawn with Arabic letters. Lyrics are also in Arabic, although it's tough to miss the point with titles like "Bomb In The Sky" or the title track. Haram's vocalist Nader happened to be in school that day and his life immediately changed, as he was subjected to abuse and harassment. Galloping punk with a slight industrial/tribal undertow and razor-sharp riffing. (

HASH REDACTOR-Drecksound (Goner, LP)
Charlotte and Meredith from Nots join Alec from Ex-Cult and one other individual to form Hash Redactor. This is closer to Ex-Cult's loud punk/post-punk mesh. The bouncy "Floral Pattern" and "Lotion Poet Laureate" owe a debt to The Fall, more from a musical point of view than Alec's vocal cadence, although it's not completely absent. Some brooding properties are introduced for "In The Tank," with a bluesy guitar undertow. "Down The Tubes" goes straight for the throat with jabbing basslines and drum patterns and twisted guitar lines. A good balance of aggro and darker properties. (


IDIOTA CIVILIZZATO-Civilta Idiota (Static Shock, 7")
Idiota Civilizzato are from Berlin but the members are from all over the world. Their vocalist is Italian and that's where they come from musically, in a decidedly Indigesti and CCM vein (there's the occasional yelp in the vocals), along with some 80s-era US hardcore influences. Loud, fast and a bit twisted-sounding. (

JACKETS-Queen of the Pill (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
Pretty standard garage rock/pop. Well-played, with an abundance of fuzz, psych guitar, tambourine and an in-the-pocket rhythm section, topped off with Jackie Brutsche's soulful vocals. They maintain a consistent energy level throughout, tossing off one brash and catchy rocker after another. It comes across like a revival of a revival, as this has the cleaner sound of the '80s era garage renaissance and not really the rawness of the original article. It hits hard, though, and Jackie's guitar has plenty of bite to go along with her confident vocals. (

KALEIDOSCOPE-After The Futures (Toxic State, LP)
Kaleidoscope's angriest and hardest-edged release to date. Anarcho-meets-2010s NYC bashing punk viciousness with shuffling, tribal rhythms and nasty, nervy guitar flail to go along with Shiva's hoarse-sounding, spat-out vocals. The instrumental "Suicide" pushes the limits with some free-form wreckery, leading into the throbbing "Exhaustion.' As with their earlier 12" "Volume Three," it's something of a cautionary tale or, perhaps more accurately, a fiery critique of global capitalism, surveillance and oppression. But maybe there's some light? Inside the booklet, there's a dedication to "all of those who are in despair and all of those who demonstrate the courage to fight for something better." Kaleidoscope have put together a pretty damned good collection of fight songs here. (


MACK ENEMY-s/t (demo)
Thorny punk from Philly with a Rudimentary Peni bent mixed with thrash. Buzzing guitar and bass, along with demented vocals. This is Mack Enemy's second demo and they've stripped away the occasional synthy flourish on their debut into something a little punchier. A dark, twisted journey brimming with high-energy fervor. The first demo's worth checking out too. (

M.A.Z.E.-s/t (Lumpy, 12")
A tad disappointing after their demos and split 7" although there's still a good amount of charm. The same merger of post-punk and trad Japanese music that sometimes gets a little cutesy, particularly on the wispy pop of "Eight Channels." The edginess is muted somewhat, but after awhile, the hooks find a way of sinking into the consciousness and, goddamn it, they've got you. (

MOCK EXECUTION-Reality Attack EP (Lengua Armada, 7" EP)
A relentless attack... there's plenty of noise but it's not a sheet of impenetrable sound. Howling vocals and a battering-ram approach as they flail away without let-up. A Finnish/Japanese cross-breeding and tipping their hand with a Kaaos cover. Intense, but still something I prefer experiencing in the live setting. (

Rough, tough and catchy punk and it's the first time the Brats have been heard from in a bit. Sticking to a high energy approach, with big powerchords and stirring melodies. Jenny's vocals echo Kat from Legal Weapon's and there are a few sonic similarities, as well. There's a little country/rootsy tilt to a few songs, particularly "Searcher" and "Touching The Void," although it's not in terms of the instrumentation--you don't hear a pedal steel or slide guitar--but from the arrangements. "Down 3rd" is sweetly poppy ala the Fastbacks. Pure west coach punch. (

NOTS-3 (Goner, LP)
The 3 has a dual meaning here--it's Nots third album and their first as a three-piece, with Natalie Hoffman handling all guitar and synthesizer/keyboards, complementing her detached-sounding vocals. Some songs eschew guitar completely, as the synth creates a heady sonic mesh--beeps, blips, washes sometimes generating a frenzy, as with "Floating Hand." The bass and drums lock in perfectly, moving things along at a frenetic pace. At its core, Nots remain a punk band and that's evident on hard-driving "Surveillance Veil" and "Woman Alone," both of which do feature guitar, as does the post-punk flavored "Persona." Paring down the lineup doesn't compromise Nots' sweeping sound one bit. (

OBEDIENCE-MMXIX (Fair Warning, 12")
Relentless hardcore punk with a fuzzy rawness. Yeah, you've heard that a million times but, goddamn, this is the real deal. Not 80s US revival, not tough core, just a fast and furious sound. That's to expected when Dave from Tear It Up and members of the Austin Punk Rock Wrecking Machine are involved. One rager after another, with blowtorch guitar, rumbling bass and scampering drums. And as I sit here contemplating the latest news headlines (taking a break from them right now, though), "Snake Oil" perfectly captures the current situation--"we let a madman fabricate a reality of fear and hate/This will never go away when we listen to what you say." Dave could have yelled the same thing in the 80s--shit never changes that much, unfortunately. In the meantime, prepare to be obliterated. (

OUT COLD-Living Is Killing Me (Sorry State, LP)
The final salvo from Out Cold and done in similar fashion as "A Heated Display." Mark Sheehan (R.I.P.) and John Evicci recorded basic guitar and drum tracks in late 2005. Then, between 2013 and 2017, the remainder was finished--vocals by original frontman Kevin Mertens, bass and lead guitar from Mikey and Deuce, who were in Out Cold's final lineup, plus guest guitar turns from Bill Close from the Freeze and Michah Smaldone from Pinkerton Thugs. Got all that? Anyway, the same loud, energetic meat and potatoes hardcore punk Out Cold always traded in. Bruising speed burners, along with mid-tempo bashers like "Resentment," featuring duel guitar leads from Close. Even with everything done piecemeal over a dozen years, it flows well. I really miss these guys. It's a fitting epitaph. (


PANDEMIX-In Condemnation (Dirt Cult, LP)
There's an overarching seriousness in Pandemix's approach, a lot on the proverbial lyrical plate. This is music for the outsider, for those who feel marginalized by society and, to paraphrase the title of one of the songs, can't or won't assimilate. Sonically, Pandemix pump out loud, powerful melodic anarcho-style punk. There's even a reggae jab popping up for "Through The Night," although it's wed to the arrangement's surging fury. The disc comes with a booklet of drawings and collages to go along with the lyrics and a two-sided poster that also has striking visual images and quotes two lines from "Past Selves": "I've searched for light within the darkness, with no reprieve/I've searched for meaning in chaos--no clarity." Alienation remains a timeless theme and this album helps provide a coping mechanism. (

PHYSIQUE-The Evolution of Combat (Distort Reality, 12")
"Silence is death, we make noise" is stamped on the record's label, as well as the back cover of the fold-out sleeve and it continues to be Physiques modus-operandi. A relentless sonic assault, blown-out as fuck. You want noise? How about an unholy acid-bath of blown-out guitar mangling, to go along with rumbling bass and battering-ram drumming that doesn't change speed, save for the thumping "No Better Way," which is the best song here. This style of punk is still better experienced live, where there's no escaping the merciless volume but, underneath the noise, everything is executed with a ruthless precision. (

Straight-ahead hardcore punk mixing rat-a-tat thrash with different guitar textures--alien-like washes for both "On the Inside" and "Embrace The Freeze or the atonal, short "instrumental" "Reading Books About Zen.." The offkey vocals throw things off a bit but there are some good musical ideas here and there. (

PISSER-Breaking Chains (Schizophrenic, 12")
Thrash metallers from Ontario... six tracks on a one-sided 12" (with an etching on the flip) taken from two different sessions. A crossover blitzkrieg leaning on Bay Area thrash and darker strains. Exodus meets Possessed and vocalist Bonez, with her over-the-top growls could be Paul Baloff's younger sister. Maybe daughter. Hot 'n heavy. (

THE PROLETARIAT-Move (Radiobeat, CD)
The social conscience of Massachusetts punk has returned, even reactivating the old Radiobeat label. The first Proletariat album in over 30 years (preceded by a 7" last year) shows the band have no shortage of bones to pick, with both current and historical events. Critiques of the prison/industrial complex, the attempted smashing of unions with scab labor and looking back to the police bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia in the mid-80s. That's just for starters and it shows that not enough has changed since their lengthy hiatus. 3/4 of the 80s-era lineup return, along with new guitar player Don Sanders. The music is just as driving as back then, albeit a slightly more rocked-out, cleaner-sounding take on their post-punk roots. Sputtering, sizzling guitar lines underpinned by the always-sturdy bass/drums tandem, topped off with Rick Brown's agitated vocals--he sounds even more pissed off than he did in the 80s. It's not "Soma Holiday" but The Proletariat are still a vital-sounding band. (

PROTRUDERS-Poison Future (Feel It, LP)
Skewed, sometimes meandering rock bringing together different strains--psychedelia and Clevo proto-noise for starters. The opening title track and "Hydrophytol" introduce some free-form elements. Squalling sax on both songs and widdly violin on the latter are subsumed into the aural mire, making for a heady racket. "Stabilizer" is a fiery sub two-minute rocker. Other songs, though, don't always have that spark, despite some outside-the-box musical ideas. The proverbial musical mixed bag. (

RECKONING FORCE-s/t (Not For The Weak, 7")
Pretty by-the-numbers hardcore punk from this Virginia Beach crew, which includes people from Socialcide and other bands. The thumping drums lead the way into the crossover-tinged "In My Head" and they stick to a fast, steady speed throughout, except when slowing down a bit for "Slip Away." Competently-played but not really rising above the ordinary. (


SAP-2 (demo) 
One of the best local demos I've heard in awhile.. one of the better demos from anywhere, in fact. SAP are a scrappy, high-energy punk band who mix different strains together--incorporating post-punk, hardcore, garage and melodic touches into their sound, accompanied by Alex's hyper, expressive vocals. Well-played--the bass playing, in particular, is stellar throughout. Some impressive runs on "Carrot and Stick" and providing a solid counterpoint to the stinging guitar on "Short Stick." Apparently, they're on hiatus for awhile as two of the people are moving to Philly. I hope it's not permanent--I'd love to hear more from them. (

SLANT-Vain Attempt EP (Iron Lung, 7")
South Korean band with one ex-pat in its ranks, namely MassHole Garrett Belair (Male Nurses, Zipperhead, Bloodkrow Butcher, etc) on drums. Straight-ahead hardcore punk, not off the mark from Garrett's old bands or Out Cold, particularly on "Dry Heave." Not reinventing the wheel but played with scalding rage, both musically and in Yeji's vocals. (

STACKED DECK-s/t (Same Side, CD)
Tough hardcore with some late 80s NYHC moshability. Mean, fast and pissed off and they're definitely sick of it all (pun intended). A couple of guys from used to be in Detroit bruisers Death In Custody about a decade ago and time hasn't softened the rage. (

UROCHROMES-Trope House (Wharf Cat, LP)
Ten songs, three of 'em covers on the latest from Urochromes. Mechanized/electro punk that's always drawn a page from Chrome, particularly for "Spy In The House Of Love" and "Trapped On Planet," although there's the occasional poppier touch ("Rumshpringa"). Their version of Bikini Kill's "Resist Psychic Death" and Leather Nun's "Ensam I Natt" ("Answer Me Not") hew semi-closely to the original, while given a manic thrust, while their take on the Lemonheads' "Style" takes a hardcore turn. Lots of buzz for your buck and, to use a cringeworthy Sonic Youth reference, taking an expressway to your skull. (


WITCHTRIAL-s/t (Beach Impediment, 12")
Another six song EP from the bowels of... well, Washington, DC to be exact. Scorching thrash metal, with more ominous passages. A definite early Celtic Frost feel on "Void of Form." and "Ripped To The Crypt." "Wait For The Reaper" has a Motorcharged fervor. Witchtrial press all the right buttons--meat-cleaver riffs, hammer-to-anvil drumming and vocals straight from the gut. (

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #139--The final MRR column

SIEGE (photo: Cindy Mendes)

While I continue to work on the next SV post, here's a reprint of my final column for Maximum Rocknroll (Issue #432, May '19). And the good news is I just submitted my first column for the digital edition. That should hopefully be out sometime in July. 


Imagine you’re riding up a roller coaster. Slowly you ascend to the top. The intensity level builds, then over the pinnacle you go, plummeting downward, feeling as though the car is going to go off the track or completely out of control…

Those were the first words I ever wrote for Maximum Rocknroll, in issue No. 15 (July ’84) and it was for a piece on the legendary (not a word I use lightly) Massachusetts band Siege. I’d met and interviewed the band a few months earlier and they asked me to write an intro of sorts. I’d been reading the zine since the beginning. I can’t recall if writing for them had crossed my mind up to that point. I wanted to write something that captured the feeling I had the first time I saw them play. Maybe the writing was a tad pretentious but I wanted it to stand out more than “Siege are a fast hardcore punk band from Weymouth, MA.” And it got my foot in the proverbial door, as I soon began contributing the Boston scene reports on a fairly frequent basis, as well as pieces on such bands as Rhode Island’s Vicious Circle and Bostonians Sorry. Speaking of the latter, check them out if you never have—their second album “The Way it Is” is one of the most overlooked discs of the 1980s.

I was flattered when the coordinator at the time, who I knew from his old band, asked me to come on board as a columnist in 2005. I think I’ve only missed a handful of them over the past 14 or so years and that was mainly due to family emergencies. I wanted to make sure I got at least something published every month, while I was slacking on my own zine/blog—which I still am, but that’s another story.

I wrote that Siege piece at a time when punk became a way of life for me, so to speak, or at least an escape from a dreary day-to-day existence, spending eight hours a day working at a job I hated, in a bank. Putting on that fucking shirt and tie every day and, at that time, working in a windowless office with co-workers’ whose chain smoking rivaled the cast of “Mad Men.”

At least there were a few fringe benefits. When I worked in that office (the loan department), I’d open the envelopes with the loan payments and there would be at least a few uncanceled stamps. There was a xerox machine nearby so when I had the office to myself or at least the boss was away, I could make copies of flyers for my penpals all over the world. They probably figured I wasn’t too into the job because I eventually got demoted back to teller.

Even before I wrote the Siege article, I was already making contacts through the scene reports and classified ads. The high point of the day would be going home from work and seeing what treasures waited by the mailbox, then excitedly carrying them up the stairs to my one room studio apartment and immediately putting a record on the turntable and clearing away any residual misery from the last several hours. I can’t stress enough how important that was and how it kept me more or less sane.

It’s really sad to see the decline of print publications. I used to get a fair number of zines in the mail but that’s pretty much dried up to nothing. And more publications are going on-line or offering either print or digital versions. It’s understandable, because mailing and printing costs have become astronomical. So I have to give respect to individuals who still crank out print publications. Welly has kept his Artcore print zine going since 1986. German zine Trust started in 1986 and is up to almost 200 issues, printing on a bi-monthly basis. Jack Rabid (an early MRR columnist) still publishes The BigTakeover. I don’t like about 95% of the music he covers but he knows his shit and I admire his dedication. I discovered some favorite bands through his writing, especially Leatherface. He was an early champion of that band and right on the money.

I also have to give a tip of the hat to Razorcake, who continue to produce a quality read every other month, filled with interviews of punk musicians from the past and present. I have a huge pile I haven’t read yet because, to be honest, it’s tough to find the time. Story of my life—books, records, magazines—I have a backlog of all of them. Once in awhile, I’ll open one and read an interview or two. I’ll think maybe it’s time to throw them out because there’s little chance I’ll ever catch up but it’s hard to do. A lot of effort went into those publications and the people at Razorcake, most of whom are lifers (some of them got their start with Flipside or wrote for this esteemed publication back in the 80s and 90s), have always been supportive of my writing over the years and you can tell they’re doing it for the right reasons. They’re not cutting and pasting press releases and passing it off as music journalism or doing “premieres” on their websites. They’re not acting as an arm of a music or publicity company.

And, man, there’s some wretched music writing out there these days. To be honest, there’s always been bad music writing. There aren’t a whole lot of Lester Bangs or Mick Farrens out there anymore. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, look it up. Or read my column because I’ve shamelessly stolen from both over the years (shhhhh).

The terrible writing not only applies to reviews but also for press releases. Someone must have sold or given my name to dozens of publicists because my email inbox is clogged day after day with solicitations for music that is far outside of my scope of coverage. We’re talking hip-hop, Americana, folk, dance music, etc. Once in awhile, I’ll write back and ask them if they’ve actually seen my blog, read my columns or listened to my radio show. There are a few who are at least in the same ballpark—companies that feature some punk, metal, industrial and so-on. I’ll occasionally bite and find good music for the radio show. Of course, these are “digital” promos, which I still generally won’t review.

Speaking of cutting and pasting, one way I’ve been amusing myself and others lately is posting passages from some of the most ridiculous press releases that come through the inbox on my Facebook page. These reek of pretentious drivel that usually amounts to impenetrable word salad and leaves you scratching your head wondering what they fuck it is they’re talking about? I know the Siege piece I wrote in 1984 is also hyperbolic and my reviewing has been criticized as “useless” by a few people but, as I said a few columns ago, you can’t please everyone.

Anyway, this release, received from a PR firm a few months ago and originally published by the band in question’s record label, pretty much takes the cake. The introductory paragraph says they’re a blackened hardcore outfit. But then it goes on to say: "While lyrically ruminating in the abstract emptiness of an impervious void and grappling with paradoxical duality, the auditory gloom of (album title) conjures sorrowing burial strings that furiously discharge into an onslaught of punishing resonance wrought with crushing despair, depression, and scavenging hopelessness."

Shall I continue? "Pummeling blasts and d-beats pound into peripherally orbiting shadows of the pixelated black, beneath the pulverizing density of nihilistic bass distortion in a mournful offering of somber funeral strains; the digested celestial nothingness of the eaten, frozen in dimensions of cyclical nooses and gnawing bacterial ether. Conceived incarnations of sorrowful mists from the harvest, bereaving the morbid light in which we suffer."

I think they could have saved time by just saying they’re a blackened hardcore outfit. I might have added they mixed hardcore, death metal and crust into a gloomy concoction. There you go. In fact, it’s not really that bad. The songs are on the long side—the shortest one is still nearly five minutes long—but I could see some of you who like the heavier stuff enjoying this (I’ll spill it—the album is “Lament” and the band is Totaled). I might have written a bit more but I think it conveys things effectively. There’s really no sense in being as verbose as the author of the press release since I don't get paid by the word. Hell, I don’t get paid anything.

There were some funny responses to it in the thread on my page. One individual said it looked like something from Mad Libs: Metal Edition. Someone else succinctly called it “word diarrhea.” Rick Sims, from the late great Didjits, opined, “whatever happened to “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it??” If you don’t get the reference, Google “Dick Clark good beat” and you’ll find out. While you’re at it, go on YouTube and type in “American Bandstand PIL.” That was one of the more surreal appearances on Clark’s long-running show.

After that, look for Yellow Magic Orchestra’s appearance on “Soul Train,” where they do a very cool cover of
Archie Bell & The Drells’ “Tighten Up.”  Seeing a very confused Don Cornelius interview them is pretty humorous. He asks YMO’s drummer/vocalist Yuki Takahashi about influences. Yuki mentions Kraftwerk and asks Don if he knows them. Don goes, “of course. Hey, this is Big Don here, brother!” but then he admits he’s not familiar with the record.

Music criticism is rife with trite phrases, tropes, clichés and so on. Michael Azerrad is the author of the 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life—Scenes from the American Underground 1981-1991. I’ve only read it once and that was when I got it but it was more or less an overview for people who generally think nothing happened musically between the Sex Pistols and Nirvana. The chapters center around individual bands and covers the “big names” of the 80s era, like Black Flag, Minor Threat Minutemen, Hüsker Dü, Mission Of Burma, Sonic Youth and Butthole Surfers. It gives a somewhat adequate overview of what happened then. MRR is mentioned and the bibliography includes a number of underground publications, including yours truly’s. But it doesn’t go too far underground. DIY is only given a passing mention and not always in a positive fashion. And it’s criminal that a band as important as The Wipers doesn’t garner any attention at all.

In recent years, Azerrad has a Twitter account called @RockCriticLaw, which basically pokes fun at music critic crutches and clichés—overused expressions like “seminal,” “criminally underrated” or “angular.” Writing things like, “Quickly strummed guitar chords with a lot of distortion MUST be compared to “a buzz saw” or that a singer with a raspy voice has been “gargling with broken glass.” Those tweets have been collected into a book called Rock Critic Law: 101 Unbreakable Rules for Writing Badly About Music. It’s Azerrad’s first since Our Band Could Be Your Life. It’s a fast, funny read and it also strikes very close to home because I’m guilty of using many of those expressions and phrases. I’ve called drummers “sticksmen” and referred to second albums as “sophomore efforts.” However, I have never used the term seminal in any column or blog I’ve done in this century. And I’ve only used “visceral,” a word that someone once said I use too often, about 15-20 times in the past 14 or 15 years. Once a year? Not too bad, I say.

Azerrad’s not completely innocent, either. In a Slate magazine article, Matthew Kassel decided to investigate Azerrad’s books to see if he’d “obeyed” his own laws and Kassel finds that he’s obeyed about 18 of them—saying that undistorted guitars are “chiming” or “ringing” or “jangling,” saying a vocalist is “prowling” across a stage” or a bass player is the only musician who can be “nimble.” He got busted for those and I’ve used them as well. I use “post-punk” as a common description and say those bands are “spiky, angular or arty” quite frequently. In fact, the number is probably a lot higher for me than Azerrad. I didn’t count how many because, well, it’d be too embarrassing. My only defense is, after 35+ years of writing about music that’s usually in a limited stylistic ballpark, at least in the grand musical scheme of things (another cliché! Ah-HA! You’re so busted, Al), it’s sometimes tough to come up with new and creative ways to say things and not descend into the maelstrom of pretentiousness (Oops… I did it AGAIN!).

I’d better quit while I’m still ahead. Thanks to everyone I’ve worked with at MRR, both past and present, even those I’ve had the (very) infrequent disagreement or difference of opinion with. And I hope that I’ll be able to continue contributing on-line.

This column and every project I’ve ever done or will do are in loving memory of Jane Simpkin (1965-2001) and Chelle LaBarge (1966-2015).