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. Some brooding properties are introduced for "In The Tank," with a bluesy guitar undertow. "In The Tank" goes straight for the throat with charging 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).

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #138

Another reprint of a Maximum Rocknroll column, from issue #426 (November 2018) with a few edits... Incidentally, the final print issue is this month...


So there was something called MC50 out on tour last year and it was touted as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams album, which was recorded live in October,1968 and released in 1969. In fact, the tour ended in Detroit, a few days before the 50th anniversary of the two live shows that the album was drawn from. Wayne Kramer was the only original MC5 member involved—all the other original members are dead, except for drummer Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson, who wasn’t asked to participate. The personnel included people from Soundgarden, Faith No More, Pearl Jam, Afghan Whigs and, somewhat surprisingly, Zen Guerrilla (vocalist Marcus Durant) and Fugazi (Brendan Canty).

There was a Boston show and I could have probably scored free tickets from the publicist who handled the tour but I couldn't have imagined it'd be that great. I never did get to see the original band—I’m not that old, although I did see Brother Wayne on his first solo tour in the 90s and he played a few MC5 songs. It was enjoyable and he couldn’t have been nicer when I did an interview with him. I engaged in some total fan boy stuff—I had him sign my copies of Back In The USA and High Times, the latter of which I scored for a quarter at the Goldfish Pond flea market in Lynn sometime in the 80s. I caught a few clips here and there and, in retrospect, it might have been worth seeing for free, at least.

I’d imagine this was tied in with Kramer’s autobiography The Hard Stuff, which I read last year and it’s a pretty candid look at the ups and downs of both his musical career and personal life. One thing I learned is they recorded four songs for Elektra that were never released, since they got dropped by the label following Kick Out The Jams. Three of them were re-recorded for Back In The USA, which had some killer songs but rather tepid production. About the original recordings, Kramer said, “these were the best quality, most creative recording sessions we’d ever done, and it left me filled with confidence for the future.” Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have ever seen the light of day. I can’t find any other information on them.

Growing up, in the 1960s and 70s, I discovered most of the music I loved through the radio and various music magazines and books. When I was a kid, I had a little red transistor radio that I had tuned to the Top 40 station WMEX. I’d hear something I liked and ask my folks to get it for me and they usually obliged. The only time my mom refused was when I asked her to get me Bloodrock’s gory hit “DOA,” which details a plane crash in bloody detail and somehow made it into the top 40, despite being banned on a lot of stations (not in Boston, though). 

Usually, though, it was the standard hits of the day—Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, Paul Revere & The Raiders, etc. But I’d also hear more psychedelic stuff like Electric Prunes' “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” and the Blues Magoos' “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet,” both of which remain favorites to this day. And here’s a bit of trivia--Erika Daking from the underrated late 90s/early 2000s LA hardcore punk band F-Minus’ dad is Geoff Daking, who played drums in the Blues Magoos! Yep, I’m just full of useful information… or not-so-useful. Or just full of it. But let’s move on…    

I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up and the ones I had didn’t tend to have the most-adventurous musical taste. But then my second cousins on my mother’s side moved back to our neighborhood, after having lived down south for a number of years. There were five kids and I started hanging out with the two oldest, Jimmy and Steve. They were both a few years older than me—I was 14 and I think Steve was 18 and Jimmy was 20. They were both big music fans and were mainly into blues-oriented rock. I’ve referred to them as my “stoner cousins” because they liked the weed but they didn’t share it with me. 

They did share their record collection with me, though, letting me borrow and tape them. They were musical mentors and opened my ears to a lot of great stuff. Some of those records ended up in my collection for good since they, uh, moved to Florida before I could return them. Things like Jimi Hendrix’s Smash Hits album, the first Captain Beyond, a terrific hard rock album that had a 3D cover, The Yardbirds’ Having A Rave-Up and Ted Nugent's Tooth Fang and Claw. I know, but as I joked in my April Fool column for MRR last year, it was pre-racist Nugent. They were both talented guitarists and Jimmy, who I’ve reconnected with in recent years, still plays in a blues band. And, for the record, he’s just as disgusted with the Nuge’s racist political views as I am.

Getting back to the MC5, I took a slightly different path to discovery. I’d probably seen the name here and there but hadn’t encountered their music. Anyway, when I was about 16, I was visiting my Aunt Bette and Uncle Bernie’s house and their son, my cousin Richard, was in his room listening to records. Richard’s about the same age as I am but we didn’t really like each other that much. I remember walking in and he was listening to America’s “Sister Golden Hair” and playing a flute along with it. That was one good reason to have a low opinion of him, with such dubious musical taste. And a flute? Not quite as cool as Jimmy and Steve’s guitars. They probably would have laughed at him or done something nasty with that flute. They were pretty bad-ass. My childhood friend Mark, who lived across the street from them, told me there always seemed to be a police car showing up at their house. They were troublemakers, but my mother loved them and they were always great to me.

Richard, on the other hand, was a studious, upper-middle class Jewish kid and a bit of a snot, to be honest. At that time, I was rockin’ out to Aerosmith, Bad Company, The Sweet, Blue Öyster Cult, and bands of that ilk. So the America record ends and Richard takes out another record and he said, in essence, we’re about to hear something completely ridiculous. I thought him playing America was ridiculous enough (although I’ll admit I liked “A Horse With No Name” when I was 11 or so). The record was Kick Out The Jams and, the minute the opening chords of “Ramblin’ Rose” burst through his stereo speakers, it was love at first listen. He thought this was silly, stupid music. 

I figured the record belonged to one of his older brothers or, less likely, his sister since he was the youngest of four kids. All I know is that it was some of the highest energy shit I’d heard up to that point. Around the same time, I also heard the censored, “brothers and sisters” instead of “motherfuckers” version of “Kick Out The Jams” (the song) on one of those cheapie comps on the Warner Bros. “Special Products” imprint. I found it at the Paperback Booksmith (later a Waldenbooks) in the Swampscott Mall. They had a pretty good record section and would have some decent cutouts, if anyone remembers what those were. I probably didn’t pay any more than $4 or $5 for that double elpee, which was called Heavy Metal but, while it had bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, it also had decidedly non-metal acts like The Eagles, Grateful Dead and Yes. I can’t recall if I picked that up before or after the visit to my aunt and uncle’s house.

Over the years, I always wondered whose record it was. As I said, Joanne, the oldest, was probably didn’t seem like the rock ‘n roll type. She was a Presidential scholar and I still remember the picture of her shaking hands with LBJ that was on top of my grandparents’ TV set.  That left the two middle sons, Jeff and Robert. I was at a family gathering a couple of years ago so I thought I’d try to solve the 40 year-old mystery. When I asked them, it turned out it was Robert’s record. That made complete sense, in retrospect, because I remember when they visited us at our cottage in New Hampshire and, at the time, Robert had mentioned how much he liked the Joe Walsh album with “Rocky Mountain Way” on it (and I still think it’s a great song and if that makes you laugh, piss off). So it turns out he was the rocker in the family and we had a good time talking about records for a bit. Better than talking about politics, because he’s a Trump-lover and retweets garbage from Ted Cruz. I sent him a picture of my three MC5 records through Twitter—and he got a kick out of it-- but I ended up unfollowing him after seeing some of the right-wing drivel on his page.

By the way, Richard grew up to be a pretty great guy and I find him a lot more likable now. He’s an economics professor at Wesleyan and writes books about banking and other financial topics. A bit different from the drivel I've been peddling for decades (oops). I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he’d ever changed his mind about the MC5, though. Maybe at the next get-together, I can play him some of their stuff on my iPhone. It is the 2010s, after all. I’ll bet those MC5 and America albums are long-gone…

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #137


Big Neck Records specialize in provocative sounds most of the time. There's spirit, there's attitude and the bands often make a(n) (in)glorious messy racket. And some of the same parties are responsible for different shades and slices of this sort of mayhem. The split record with Football and White Savage is one such example. Both bands include Jimmy Hollywood and Jered Gummere, who, between them, have logged time in such bands/projects as Tyrades, Baseball Furies, Ponys, Bare Mutants, A/V Murder and a slew more. Both of these bands will bash your fucking skull in although White Savage have a more expansive stew, as the standard guitar/bass/drums instrumentation is augmented by sax and keyboards thrown onto the heap. Football just keep things brief and ugly, with "Hit By Flying Glass" delivering what the title promises.

Richard Vain isn't a person but a band spearheaded by the aforementioned Jered Gummere and quite different. As in totally different. His/their 12" Night Jammer is a mix of shoegaze, Jesus and Mary Chain, early Stereolab and strains of krautrock. Throbbing, fuzzy soundscapes with melancholy vocals and creating a bliss-filled effect. The exceptions are the brief, harder-edged tuneful rush of "Ratz" and the more-bashing "Tar Pits." Music that envelops your senses with volume and hooks.

Dumb Vision's Modern Things is a hard-driving, mainly fast-paced dose of punk energy. It's a dense sound--hammering drums, guitar lines with surfy and garagey tinges. This is delivered with a full-bodied roar, with vocals having a flat, sort of non-expressive nature that are bubbling near or just below the surface. This Madison, WI band create an inviting cacophony that doesn't fit into an easy niche. It's just loud.

Wood Chickens are another Madison band and Well Done! is their second Big Neck album. Cowpoke punk that sometimes gets a little corny although when they nudge up against a Meat Puppets influence, things get interesting. That's the case with "Mall Cop" and "I Live In Your Basement and Eat Mice," while "We Skate In Boots" and "Porkfinger" are manic punk rock joyrides.

Moving on to a couple of archival items, Sweet JAP (or J.A.P. or Japanese American Princesses) were an early 2000s Minneapolis band that included native Japanese members and they released a few EPs and a full length and appeared on a few comps. Be My Venus is a one-sided 12" of unreleased and compilation track material from '03-'04. High energy garage-tinged rock 'n roll cooking up a nice head of steam on "Debusen," "SJAP" and "I'm Only Moonlight," along with the occasional poppier tune (the title track and "La Rock"). I'm not sure this was an essential unearthing but there's some spark here.

The other exhumed offering is a reissue of Lost Sounds' 2000 debut album Dead In Memphis album. It's a more primitive-sounding affair than what followed. Lost Sounds were a three piece at this point--Jay Reatard, Alicja Trout and Rich Crook. A spooky, nightmarish keyboard-drenched collection of gothic rock and garage. Alicja sounds perfectly possessed on "Satan Bought Me." There's a tough garage undertow to "Memphis 99," "Don't Bother Me."and "Don't Ask Why." Some worthy moments, although I think Black Wave remains their high water mark, especially the dramatic and haunting "Don't Turn Around." (


Time for Round 7 of Neck Chop's campaign of destruction. Two LPs and three 7"s this time around. Starting with the smaller round slabs, UK purveyors of rough trade rock Suburban Homes will jitter their way into your hearts on their E.P 3. These four songs were originally slated to be released on In The Red some years back but the label kept dragging its feet and it got delayed until now, with Neck Chop coming to the rescue. The sound of '79, given a modern finish and delivered in glorious mono. "Corporate Hijack" layers on a psych-fuzz guitar flourish and is as angry as they get here, although there's a good amount of drum bash for "City Life." Observational straight-forward assessments, described as songs that, "at least say something about our crappy society."

With an opening song titled "Everybody Looks Like a Fucking Idiot," Baby's Blood capture my heart right away on their self-titled EP. Mean, agitated punk masterminded by Drew from Sick Thoughts, joined by three Finnish friends and recorded in Helsinki. Growling guitars and vocals conveying a kick-you-in-the-nuts attitude. All 47 seconds of "Sex Punk" list all of life's necessities--"gimme death gimme booze gimme punk gimme sex." Not necessarily in that order, of course.

Natural Man & the Flamin' Hot Band are a different kettle of fish altogether. Sax-laden, funky, punky and soulful no-wavy rawk  (is that a little "TV Eye" I hear for "Sudden Wave"?)--more or less. I imagine they're aiming for something revolutionary or righteous and I get the feeling they're a bit tongue in cheek but it's not something I'm ready to raise a fist or take up arms for.

For pure unadulterated awfulness, there's Neo Neos' Kill Someone You Hate. Yes, I said awful. It's also funny as fuck, so you could say it's awful in a good way. Loopy, rough, raw minimalist punk barely holding together. Rantings and ravings from Minnapolis resident Connie Voltaire, who has cranked out a couple of full-length cassettes and a handful of 7"s since 2016. Some of the songs here have appeared on those releases and these versions were recorded throughout 2016. The funniest thing is Connie is taking the piss out of all of those lo-fi home recording projects--"The Boneheads," as he calls them and doing exactly the same thing only more sloppily and way more obnoxiously. Yup, "Drum Machines Are So God Damn Lame" is accompanied by a drum machine. For deep philosophical treaties, look no further than "Life Sucks and Then It Doesn't." Want historical epics? Try "Hitler Wuz A Nazi." "The Kinks Are Who's Who" will rock your socks off. The lyric sheet is a collage of hand-scribbled words on pieces of scrap paper. And it was double take time when the last thing heard was a sample of the intro to FOD's song on the first Flipside Vinyl Fanzine comp... "the Ardmore assault is on!" So is the Neo Neo's assault. And it's also far from dumb.

Finally, S.B.F.'s first album Same Beat Forever (or Sour Bee Fiasco) is a  mechanized joy created by two punk rock wizards, Cruz Somers and Ray Schmidt. This isn't some quirky, new wavy weirdness but much more aggro. The rhythms are punchy--perhaps the descendants of Roland from Big Black--and sometimes veer into near-industrial territory, as with "Mortician Bee," "Honeycomb" and "Rock To The Head" (the latter of which also has a near-catchy chorus). Harsh vocals accompanied by burning guitar textures. The earlier recordings were pretty damned good but this pushes it into a more intense realm. Cruz's solo recordings are worth pursuing, as well, especially Take Me To Hell When I Can Dance, which is cut from similar cloth from S.B.F., albeit a tad more minimalist. (



ANEURYSM-Awareness (Tor Johnson, LP)
Throwing it back to the 90s, in a way, with heavy riff-rock-a-rolla. Not metal but bashing volume-soaked fodder that might have fit in on Sub Pop or Amphetamine Reptile, yet it doesn't sound dated. You can hear some echoes of Nirvana and even Mudhoney on a few songs--"Newport" comes across as a merger of both bands. Keeping things up to date, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out who "National Embarrassment" is aimed at and it's emitted with a whole lot of ferocity. That's the case for just about every song here. Walloping drums and an unholy tandem of big-ass guitar and bass crush, to go with the somewhat-buried expressions of rage revealing a tortured soul. Or something like that. This doesn't require deep analysis--it just rocks like a motherfucker. (

ARCTIC FLOWERS-Straight To The Hunter (self-released, LP)
Arctic Flowers' first full-length in four years and, after a decade, they remain a potent band. Raw melody men and women, to borrow a title from New Model Army, who have certainly influenced this band but it's harnessed to a punk-infused attack. The songs have a haunting melodicism but also a good solid punch, especially with songs like "Waking Things." "Rose In Bend," "In Silence" and a cover of Toxic Reasons' "Dreamer," which appeared on that band's third album Within These Walls. I didn't even realize it was a cover until their guitarist Stan mentioned it--it's not one of my favorite albums by that band and, after listening to it again, Arctic Flowers' version is a lot harder-edged and forceful. And the lyrics about an increasingly divided world are just as pertinent now as they were then. Maybe more so. They also delve into music inspired by shimmery 80s post-punk/goth, although it's not the main focus. Forgive me for this but Straight From the Hunter goes straight to the heart. (

COMBATANT-Witness To Destruction (Not Like You, 12")

Same program on both sides--stop trying to confuse an old man, Combatant! Standard d-beat hardcore punk delivered at a healthy clip, with lyrics about police abuse, foreign entanglements and fascism at home. Proof that even in small town Mane, there's plenty of anger about the state of the world. Loud and fast, just how you want it. (102 Richmond Dr. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106,

COWBOYS-The Bottom of a Rotten Flower (Feel It, LP)
The Cowboys are one of those bands I've just never been able to get into and that remains the case. I'd say it's power-pop but it's not powerful enough to even fit that category I don't hate music that has a tuneful bent but these songs mainly come across as cloying and precious. Only a few songs have enough fire to catch my (passing) interest, those being "Pie In My Eye" and "Red-headed Girlfriend," which pack a slightly more energetic surge. Ultimately, it's still innocuous and inoffensive. Maybe that's the problem--at least for this listener. (


DISSEKERAD-s/t (Varning, 7")
By-the-books Swedish hardcore from people who have been around the block... a few blocks, in fact, with their vocalist Poffen, whose pedigree goes back to the 80s with Totalitär and has continued with Institute, Krigshot, Makabert Fynd and others. Four song EP that was pressed for the Varning fest last year (yes, I'm late). Loud, fast and angry, the genuine article. Accept no substitute. (no info)

DRUX-s/t (Static Age Musik, LP)
Mean, well-played hardcore punk from Leipzig, Germany and balancing speed with stompier elements. Rough and tumble production to prevent it from sounding too slick. Lyrics are in English and concerned with hating people, hating romance, hating being judged and just hating life in general but, in the end, "I want to free myself," as they say on "Stuck In The Past." Did I say it's mean-sounding? Tucked inside a heavy stock, screened cover. (

FRIED EGG-Square One (Feel It, LP)

The sound of alienation, a soundtrack for coping with misery and disappointment. Not exactly cheery but Fried Egg's first full-length provides an effective platform to work through it. Edgy, sense-warping hardcore that's evolving and maintaining their core intensity. Ravenous thrash, as well as slower creepy crawl bringing Bl'ast to mind a bit and this is definitely coming from a dark place.The vocals exude snarly rage and that alienation I mentioned earlier comes from a lyrical standpoint as well, with titles like "Why Bother," "Fatalist" and "Grin and Bear" ("sold a lie. told life was fair, it's all a ruse.") The older I get, the more I feel that way. Life often sucks. Idealism is dead. Thankfully, this sort of provocative music isn't. (

HEAVY MANTLE-Weights & Measures (Tor Johnson, LP)

12 songs pressed onto a clear single-sided 12" and--I hate to use the phrase--emotionally-charged punk and indy-style rock that sounds like a throwback to the 90s/early 00s. Not overwrought but there's definitely some soul-baring going on here. There's strong instrumental interplay and a warmth in the tone. The best songs here--"Sleep Escape Artist" and "Filming Cops"--have a gyrating, cascading hookiness. It's not quite enough, though, and the somewhat sludgy production doesn't help, either. (

HYÄNE-Demontage und Zerfall (Static Age Musik, LP)
Hyäne do a great job of mixing melodic post-punk and gloomy elements with surging punk. That's especially true with songs like "Regress/Exzess" and opening track "Kreisel." "Eiszeit," underpinned by a rhythm machine and synth lines, goes into more of a goth realm, as does "Leitung Tot." A mixture of moods and textures, always with an ear-grabbing presence. (

MASK-World Gone Crazy (Slugsalt, tape)

People from Urochromes, The Guests and Stagger and it's a dark-hued punk excursion. Gothic guitar shimmer but it's more of a sonic accoutrement to the band's fury. Definitely a potent, haunting quality but, to be honest, I wish the sound was better because it mutes their power a bit. Maybe there's some vinyl in the offing? A re-release of their 2017 demo. (

M.A.Z.E. (photo: Naoshi Sugiura) 

M.A.Z.E.-Tour Tape (demo)
M.A.Z.E./NICFIT-split (Episode Sounds, 7")
Japanese band M.A.Z.E. was one of those random discoveries I made last year, either through a blog or surfing Bandcamp. I honestly can't remember but their demo ended up being one of my favorites of 2018. This year starts with two new releases and M.A.Z.E. have been gradually getting tougher sounding. The tour tape includes three thorny new compositions with an engaging edginess, plus re-recordings of all of the songs from last year's and the band's garage/post-punk/punk is a lot more in-your-face. Same for the songs on their split 7" with another Japanese band, NicFit. Their pair of tracks connect with some fierce post-punk, punctuated by gnarled guitar lines. M.A.Z.E. have a record due on Lumpy sometime this year. I'm definitely looking forward to that. (

RED DELICIOUS (from Bandcamp)

RED DELICIOUS-Far From The Tree (Slugsalt, 7")
Buzz and burn from this Illinois Portugeuse-language band. They alternate tempos, from mid-speed Rudimentary Peni-inspired fodder to thrashier compositions. Nasty, raspy vocals, along with a trebly tandem of razorwire guitar, thick basslines and cymbal smashing drumming. Nothing nice here. (

RUBBLE-s/t (Distort Reality, LP)

UK82-inspired punk from PDX and the songs are loud 'n catchy with a thumping beat, burning guitar and dynamic bass playing, the latter of which really stands out. With Mare's high-pitched vocals, there's definitely a Vice Squad and Action Pact feel on a few songs, especially "B.P.A," Lyrical themes are timely/timeless--pollution, police brutality and the meaningless trope of "Thoughts & Prayers," which has become a buzz-phrase to offer meaningless platitudes instead of doing something about rampant gun violence. One of those bands with a winning scrappiness that makes this album very enjoyable. (

SCIENCE MAN-s/t (Swimming Faith, LP)
After a fine demo, here's Science Man's debut album. In case you missed the review, it's a one man project masterminded by John from Radiation Risks and, according to the letter he sent me, while some of it was recorded in a van traveling between cities, he also recorded it in random attics, basements and kitchens ("including my own"). And he's created something that sounds human and fleshed out--nervy, guitar-oriented punk, new wave and rock with a mechanized backbeat. Even with the bargain basement (literally) recording approach, there's a vibrant brashness that doesn't sound like it was recorded in those settings. Music that sears your nerve impulses and hits hard. (;

THESE BASTARDS-Old and Pissed (self-released, 7")
At LAST, a band I can truly relate to at this point in my life. At LAST, a band with a song called "Get Off My Lawn" although it's about a larger lawn being spoiled--their Bay Area environs being taken over by the tech boom. Raw, fast, sometimes griniding thrashcore with metallic guitar licks and featuring miscreants from such bands as Conquest For Death and Venkman. While there's a whole lot of ranting going on, it's not mindless or completely negative. In fact, some of the lyrics have a fair amount of intellectual heft. Up the old punks! (

TROPICAL TRASH-Southern Indiana Drone Footage (National Waste Products, LP)
Head-messing music that has expansive properties without becoming some hippy-dippy excursion. We're talking bad trip time but with a punk attitude. They're capable of Stooges-informed bash with the title track, awash in fuzz and wah-wah, along with through-the-floor drumming. "Third & Fourth Ingredient" dips into some no wave skronk--sax and clarinet pop up in the mix and that occurs elsewhere. It provides a drony effect for the methodical crush of "Leather Charm." A dense, chaotic aural concoction you just might drown yourself in. (39 Emeline St., Providence, RI 02906,

VAASKA-Inocentes Condenados (Beach Impediment, 7")

Continuing to bash out the relentless d-beatery with shit-hot guitar work. That's what separates Vaaska a bit from other bands playing this style--Victor's six string wizardry. "Atrapados" starts with the same sort of fanfare as Discharge's "Fight Back" and they proceed to fight their way through six tracks without any sign of losing their fired-up rage. (

VILE-Vile Says Fuck Off (Radio Raheem, 7")

An unreleased song ("Overload") and a pair of alternate takes from their album--"Definitions" and perhaps their best known song, "5 to 10." I imagine many of you know the story with this band but in case you don't, Vile were from Mansfield, MA (near the Rhode Island border) and made a rather strong impression at their show opening for the Angelic Upstarts in 1982 (I was there). What I mean by that is they engaged in some pretty nasty crowd baiting--racist and homophobic taunts, a mike stand fired off the stage--and then thrown right back at the vocalist Bill Bile. They barely made it out of the club in one piece. This was followed by back and forth letters in Boston Rock magazine between someone who was offended by their act and the band pretty much saying they didn't give a shit. There was also an ad that's reproduced for this cover. Their drummer Joe O'Hare (who sent me "Overload" in 2012). told me they had kind of a tough time getting shows after that.

Anyway, they recorded an album and distributed it by leaving it on car windshields in the Channel parking lot and throwing the rest into the Fort Point Channel. Yeah, the lyrics are really nasty but it was a complete wind-up, aimed at pissing off the local hardcore scene. Some people dug it, though. I remember Choke from Negative FX and Slapshot saying that Vile was his favorite new band. I still have my copy. Anyway, that's the gist of the story. As for this record (oh yeah, this is a review), it's quite entertaining. Musically, they were damned good at what they did--fast and snotty hardcore punk, skillfully played, and that's what you get here. "Overload" doesn't sound like some crappy outtake and, since the album's again out of print after a 2004 reissue, this is the only Vile disc currently available. (