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. (

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #136


I'd imagine many of you have heard the news that MRR will be ceasing the print version of the zine with the May issue, after nearly 37 years of publishing. It's a tough time for print zines. I haven't done a print issue since 2003. A lot of it has to do with procrastination or, as somewhat less benevolent might say, pure laziness. I know a blog isn't the same as a print zine and I DO want to return to print for at least one more issue and some kind of book that people has asked me about for years. I just don't know if I have the dedication, ambition or perseverance to do that again. Cost is another consideration, with printing and shipping rates having increased astronomically since I last published. I'd have to sell some advertising, like in the past, but might find that a bit more challenging. That's one of MRR's problems--a large decline in print sales. There are other problems, as well, but that's one of the biggest. 

I'm sorry to say that there will never be a 100+ page issue of the zine again. It's not all that necessary since this (sporadically published) blog features record reviews. I know it lacks the interviews and live reviews that the print issue featured. I haven't done a band interview in several years at this point and the last few I did weren't really up to snuff and I never even bothered transcribing them. Maybe someday I'll see what I can salvage. 

Getting back to MRR, I've been reading it since almost day one. My collection starts with the second issue and I have every single one of them up to the present, except for issue #1, which I have a copy of. Those of you who have spent your entire lives gleaning musical knowledge strictly from the internet might not understand the importance MRR and other print zines. I touched on that in my tribute to Tim Yohannan that ran in SV blog #129 from last year. I'd scour the interviews, record reviews and ads looking for new records to order or try to trade my zine for. I connected with penpals all over the country and around the world from the classifieds in MRR and Flipside. I even found romance (briefly) through one of those ads. I still have the tapes, records and flyers I received in trade--many of my classic Finnish and Swedish hardcore records come from those penpals. 

I sound like a fossil but there wasn't the instant access to information that you have now. I love that too... best of both worlds. I'll read a review about a band in MRR and if it piques my interest, I'll hop on-line and try to find their music. Within a few minutes, I'll be putting the good ones on my iPhone, plugging it into my home or car stereo and playing it nice and loud. If I like it, I'll try to track down a physical copy. The process is definitely streamlined. I fully support instant gratification but I also love perusing the stack of various books and magazines next to my recliner, although I do have a tablet and now read digital books in addition to printed ones. 

Anyway, as of now, MRR will be increasing its online content, including the records review. I'm not sure what other content will be moving there--I'd like to continue my monthly column but that's up in the air. They'll also eventually be launching an on-line digital archive that will include "the complete print run of the magazine, dating back to 1982. Each issue is meticulously catalogued to the article level and presented as a high-quality searchable PDF, completely free of charge."

So, yeah, it's the end of an era but, whether people like it or not, MRR isn't going away. I just hope I'm part of their future.

In the meantime, here's a column you might have missed... let's just say...


Putting one’s opinions in print—or online, for that matter—occasionally leads to criticism or objections. It goes with the territory, of course. It’s been intensified in this era of social media. Such things moved a bit more slowly back then. Instead of jumping on-line, you had to write letters to the editor. This publication used to have a very lively letters section, with people going back and forth over several issues.

The thing is, some people hang onto their resentments. I know a few people who have carried grudges for that long over perceived slights I gave them in the 80s. One of them admits he’s still a dick to me because I didn’t give his band enough respect back then. In fact, he crossed the line once, meddling in my personal life but I’d rather not go into it. And all over a fucking review. Sheesh, get a life, will ‘ya?

I’ve been pretty fortunate over my writing “career” to have not received all that much in the way of harsh criticism, abuse or threats. Maybe I’m doing something right or maybe people just don’t care all that much or have the fortitude to call me out. Anyway, it’s happened from time to time, starting with one of my early issues. One of my writers at the time, Kathi Whalen, did a review of a show where she said the Boston band Stranglehold “tore through a typical hardcore set that actually wasn’t too bad at all, just a little on the predictable side.” This apparently inspired the members of the band to call me—collect—to take issue with what she’d written, even though the criticism was mild. Of course, being an idiot, I accepted the charges. It sounded like they were a bit more than inebriated while giving me grief and asserting that Kathi’s assessment of them being a typical hardcore band was far off the mark. They did have a point. After hearing their music later on, which came from more of a hard-driving melodic punk impulse, it’s obvious that Kathi’s review wasn’t entirely accuarate. She was a good writer, though, and eventually parlayed her talents into a “legit” writing career with the Washington Post and City Paper.

I got a call another time—not collect, thankfully—from a woman who objected to a review I gave of SSD’s third 12”, How We Rock. You know, the one where they “went metal.” She didn’t identify herself but we went back and forth for a good 20 minutes, debating the accuracy of my assessment that the album was basically second-rate AC/DC. In retrospect, that’s not completely accurate but it’s still mediocre rock with incessant guitar wanking and really awful vocals. Anyway, neither of us convinced each other to change our opinions and, while the conversation was spirited, it never devolved into nastiness. I eventually realized who it probably was some time later—someone close to the band—although she claims she doesn’t recall it and/or flat-out denies it. I’m not buying it but I won’t name names.

Annoying phone calls aren’t as bad as physical threats, of course. I was only threatened physically one time. There was a small group of Nazi-wannabes who came to shows in the mid-80s and would engage in sieg-heiling. I called them out in the ‘zine. The main instigator, a guy named Flea (not to be confused with the bass player from the west coast), confronted me in the parking lot of the Channel club in Boston. He basically said bad things would happen to me if kept saying bad things about them. I told him I wasn’t going to stop and, wouldn’t you know it, nothing ever came of it. I’ll admit it made me nervous.

Speaking of skinheads and Nazis, one of the biggest incidents involved a skinhead zine in the early 90s called Under Siege. The issues the publisher sent me featured interviews with racist bands like Stormwatch and Straw Dogs (the UK one) and other bands who flirted with sketchiness. There was also a pathological hatred of gay people. In fact, there was a pathological hatred of anyone who didn’t embrace their nationalist right-wing ideology. Their slogan was “Burn Fags, Not Flags.” One columnist who said he was a kindergarten teacher suggested that his readers “Bash fags. Bash satanists (sic). Bash homeless winos. Bash feminists. Bash drug dealers but most of all, bash liberals! Let them know that we will not give into their pseudo-hippie ways.” I could go on but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, I published an ad for this zine in issue #32 of Suburban Voice, before I’d seen it. I’d been assured by an acquaintance whose band was also interviewed (a non-racist band, I might add) that there wasn’t anything objectionable in it. Oh boy was I embarrassed. More than that—it made me sick. I actually sent a letter to MRR that was published in issue #113 (October 1992) where I offered a mea culpa, stating that I’d been taken and felt like a sap. I followed that up in my column in the next issue of SV. Well, needless to say, the individual behind Under Siege didn’t take it too well. I made their “no thanks” list, where I was listed as “Al Queer” and the review of SV said it was a “fag rag.” (I think I detect a trend here).

Not only that, but I got a letter from one of the ‘zine’s fans, a gentleman named Joe whose nickname, if I remember correctly, was “Animal.” He was writing from a prison in New York state where he was apparently doing 6 to 12 years for what he said was a “bullshit” charge, namely that he “stabbed a cop like 30 times, and then his friend 20 times at a biker bar.” Now I’m not saying the Animal is guilty—I wasn’t there after all—but he did send me a rather nasty missive. Yes, I keep all of my fan mail, good and bad. It was addressed to “Dickie Do aka The Traitor, Commie” and the salutation was, “Hey Al, you mother fucking commie, cock sucking…” um, I think I’ll leave out the rest except to say it was two pages of every gay slur you could possibly think of. Once again, I think I detect a trend. Animal definitely had some anger-management issues. I hope he was able to eventually overcome them and once again become a productive member of society.  

There were two songs that had my name attached to them. One was “Al Quint Is An Emo Pussy” by Tiltwheel and the other was “Mr. Quint” by the Connecticut thrash band Atrocity. The former, on TILTWHEEL’s Hair Brained Scheme Addicts, wasn’t meant to be anything malicious, it was just their guitarist/vocalist Davey poking fun at me for thinking that Uriah Heep was better than Thin Lizzy. Davey’s a real diehard fan of Thin Lizzy—he has a tattoo of their logo. In recent years, I might come down on the Lizzy side of things. Maybe not—depends on the day. In any case, the lyrics don’t even mention me. The entirety of them are “Wonder why I’m so depressed? Fuck the world and then I’ll take you with me.” People have sent me messages over the years asking for an explanation and why Davey would write a song with such a nasty title.

On the other hand, the Atrocity song wasn’t any sort of love bouquet. Nope, it was pure malevolence and a response to a negative review I gave the band when they played their first area show, at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge. This was confirmed by their bass player Rich, when I contacted him on Facebook. I wrote that they had the stage presence of a “sack of potatoes.”       

I didn’t even know about this song until the early 2010s, when Brian from Dropdead told me about it. It appeared on their 1988 demo Mangled. I tracked it down on YouTube. 40 seconds of grind/thrash bile that breaks down into a riff on the “Mr. Grinch” song from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Here are the lyrics: “Quint, Quint can't you see?/Your opinion means shit to me/We don't play to please you/Take your fucking rag and screw/He's a dickhead—Mr. Quint/He's an asshole—Mr. Quint/You talk shit—Mr. Quint/You maggot Mr. Quint…”

Anyway, Rich and I had a good laugh about it. He also said I was probably right and that they always found the review to be “funny as shit.” The demo even came out on vinyl in 2016. Rich was nice enough to send me a copy and it’s still available. Let’s just say it falls into the unnecessary reissue category but if you can’t get enough of late 80s thrash/death/grind mayhem, go to In all honesty, it’s fairly entertaining.

I’m always open to constructive criticism, though. And I’ve set up a special email address for it. Share your thoughts with me at

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #135

GLUE TRAPS (photo: Punk Betty)


Glue Traps have Tony Pence from Deep Sleep on vocals but, instead of Descendents-inspired punk, they go for a traditional loud, fast hardcore punk style on their Future Shocks demo. Five songs in under four minutes and it's pure burn. Except for brief "Nuke DC," the lyrics veer more towards the personal, just getting through life theme. Doing it well. And plenty of blank tape to fill it up with your own hardcore mix, just like I used to do. (

Bloomington, IN band The Bills have a taut, minimalist punk sound on their Take Two demo. Not cutesy and while there's a hint of new wave, there's not a keyboard in sight. The tape also includes their Take One demo. One of the songs on there, "Isolation," has a slightly more post-punk feel. No excess, no fucking around, just short songs with a good amount of sarcasm in the vocals. (

London continues to produce a promising crop of young bands and Naja are one those. Their self-titled EP has a snaky goth/dark hue to it but also dips into the Rudimentary Peni well. Hitting a sturdy mid-to-fast clip, with a slight amount of echo on the vocals and a thick yet textured guitar tone. (

Also operating in somewhat minimalist vein are XL hell, whose Evel demo provides gnashing punk although they have a harder, faster, thrashing edge. Vocals climb the ladder up to a piercing squeal and the arrangements are really basic. Proving the point that the simple approach is often better. (

Podium, from Valencia, Spain, don't have song titles on their demo--there are seven in all--but they're all sharp blasts of nervy, new wavey punk. From what I've been able to glean about Podium on-line, it appears to be a solo project that has just started doing live performances. Drill press guitar, synth shadings, mechanized rhythms and low-in-the-mix vocals, all generating some catchy hooks. Echoes of Devo, some Chrome, not really low-fi and it sounds like it'd be at home on Lumpy or Neck Chop. (

Tired of Everything (are they pals with Sick Of It All?) hail from North Carolina and Will Butler fromTo Live A Lie Records handles vocal duties. Six songs of thumping, thrashing uptempo hardcore punk with strong words, among other things, about animal abuse and hypocritical "punk progressives" who commit sexual assault. Tired of Everything pretty much stay away from the grindcore and powerviolence that Will's label usually specializes in, opting for something at a more measured pace and they're good at it. (



Three recent 7"s on the Neon Taste label offer different slices of bruising hardcore punk. Chain Whip's self-titled EP starts off with a thrasher, "Self Destruct," but the rest operates in more of a mid-tempo oi-tinged, street punk vein. Brash and to the point and quite catchy at times. Another self-titled EP is by Cheap Appeal, featuring people from Vacant State, and they work in various shadings from Negative FX (the vocalist sounds like he could be Choke's meaner younger brother), Minor Threat and even some Motörhead. No excess, just meat 'n potatoes hardcore with a rockin' edge. 

Finally, Bootlicker's 6 Track E.P. is also rough 'n tough, starting with the martial drums and machine gun riffs leading into a good musical ass-whuppin'. The mentality can be summed up succinctly by a phrase from "Fragments"--the songs are, indeed, about "societies atrocities." In more of a UK-82 vein than the other bands. The only distraction is the production is a bit muddy. Not that one would expect high fidelity, of course. By the way, Bootlicker have another 7", Who Do You Serve on the Warthog Speak label in the US and it's just as ripping. (


Five, count 'em, five new releases from Schizophrenic Records, two of them plumbing the archives of 80's Toronto hardcore and the other three of more recent vintage. The older material comes from Chronic Submission and M.S.I. (aka More Stupid Initials). Chronic Submission's Empty Heads Poison Darts was originally released as a demo in 1984 (I have a copy in my collection). Brian Taylor from the old Toronto band Youth Youth Youth produced it and there are some musical similarities. Chronic Submission were young teenagers when they started the band in 1981. The songs on the demo are fast, peppy hardcore thrash with a sense of melody, as well as metallic flash. The record's accompanied by a booklet that features an a reprint of an extensive 2012 interview done by Stephe Perry from Equalizing Distort. In it, the members mention that Jello Biafra was interested in recording them for Alternative Tentacles and advanced them some money, which they proceeded to spend on glue to huff. Oh well. Better late than never. This is high energy stuff and, needless to say, this vinyl pressing was long overdue. 

Unfortunately, the M.S.I. material hasn't aged quite as well, although it's still enjoyable. Taken from 1986 and 1988 sessions and it's fast, peppy hardcore that doesn't take itself too seriously--how can it with covers by the Archies, Village People and a song taken from the "Wizard of Oz" cartoon series--although some of the lyrics express serious concerns. Slam-bang thrash with hints of melody, occasionally out of sync but with energy to burn. The accompanying booklet is filled with lyrics, photos, flyers and anecdotes, including the time they played with Slapshot and one of them was mocking Choke's hockey stick moves. 

Uncontrollable Urge don't sound DEVO-esque, as you might have expected, on their debut album. Instead, it's a tandem of garage, punk and even a little psych No hippy-dippy excursions but tight and rocking, particularly on the hard-hitting "Never Now," "Never Mine" and "Dark Days." "Your Way Out" and "Faked It" have a knotty post-punk fervor. Former members of TV Freaks, adding vocalist/guitarist Angie Lanza and it's not far removed from what that band was doing. 

Flesh Rag's Inside Your Mind is pretty much straight-up rawk. Right from the outset, the influences aren't tough to figure out. The title track is an amalgam of the Stooges' "I Got A Right," "1969" and "Little Doll." "Just One Kiss" is MC5-ish. "Love Dump" starts with some AC/DC style riffing. It's on the ordinary side and "Ballad of Nova" is definitely a skip-over track but there are some good rump-shakin' moments here and there, "Bleed For Me" in particular. Checking out some of their back catalog, this album seems to have smoother production. Their debut, self-titled 12" has a lot more of a raw edge to it. I kind of wish they'd maintained that. 

No Blues' A Collection of Love Songs is limited to 100 copies on vinyl and collects their demos and 7" tracks, plus five previously-unreleased tunes. Masterminded by Scott Paige from hardcore band Born Wrong (he's also dabbed in Crime-inspired rock with X45), No Blues are quite a different animal. Unabashed power-pop-punk that's catchy as fuck. No high-fidelity and, even with the yearning vocals, there's enough distortion on it to avoid any saccharine OD. Most of you probably won't remember New Sweet Breath but they were a 90s band who did this sort of thing very well. And if you're into the Marked Men or Exploding Hearts (one of No Blues' songs has that title), you'll love this. 



Three (relatively) new 7"s from the Philly label Ryvvolte are by Syringe, Nightfall and a split 7" with two acts from South American, B.E.T.O.E. and Besthoven. The latter is a tribute to Swedish legends the Shit Lickers EP, where each band (or in Besthoven's case, one man project) offer their own interpretation of this classic EP. I'd give the slight edge to B.E.T.O.E., who come closer to the original's raw spirit, although both are played with affection. I wouldn't call it essential, though.

Nightfall's Deadly Game is a rampaging dose of encrusted Swedish hardcore, done in go-for-the-throat fashion and with Discharge-haiku type lyrics. Self-deseribed as "noise and distortion against the fucking bloodsuckers." That sums it up. Finally, Syringe's vinyl debut, the Rotten Cycle EP, features raw-throated twin vocalists and a fast 'n burning crust-core/d-beat assault, with feedback and wah-wah being part of the guitar aresenal. Syringe also have a new two song flexi, The Leash, on the Dark Raids label ( that continues in a similarly loud and raging fashion. (


VANILLA POPPERS (photo: Angela Owens)

BAD MOJOS-I Hope You OD (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
This Swiss band have no doubt listened to more than their fair share of Spits records because that comes through both musically and vocally. Totally blatant, in fact, but they do it damned well. Succinct and to the point, avoiding deep lyrical poetry and just going for a knee to the groin. Plenty of snot, fuzz 'n buzz for your buck. (

BRANDY-Laugh Track (Monofonus Press, LP)
Big-ass riffarola noise-rock with one former member (Matthew Hord) of Running, who specialized in this sort of ear-splittery. While Brandy could very well have been on Amphetamine Reptile and the music is heavy, it's not metal. El distorto bass-lines pulverizing everything in their path, hornet-swarming guitar and whomping drums, to go along with the buried-in-the-mix vocals and everything turned up nice and loud. Chome, Unsane and Jesus Lizard could be some touchstones. "Blandy" is about as close to melodic as they come and even that song rages like crazy. Prepare to be wrecked. (

CELEBRITY HANDSHAKE-That's Showbiz, Baby! (Eastern Prawn, 7")
Two songs of noisy-as-fuck garage bash--just guitar, drums, barely-audible rinky-dink keyboards and unhinged vocals. About as primitive and tuneless as it gets, a wanton sonic excursion that's abrasive as fuck. In other words, it'll clear the people from any room... including me. (

DEATHWISH-Rock 'N' Roll's One Hell Of A Drug (Beer City, 2xLP)
When I was much younger, you'd occasionally come across two-fer vinyl packages, combining two previous releases into one. There were a pair of them for early Who albums, as well as sets for Syd Barrett and Jeff Beck. Of course, the CD era made those types of pairings a lot more common. Now this Wisconsin powerhouse have put their first two 12"s (2015's Out For Blood and 2017's Unleash Hell) together for maximum kill effect and, of course, it's limited to 666 copies. The term "Motörcharged" is becoming overused but it's an accurate description for this loud 'n fast unit. Searing, blazing double-barreled guitar riffing along with a rumbling bottom end. At their core, Deathwish are just a fast 'n furious band. Songs like "Flat-Line," and "Six Bullet Roulette" and while "There Will Be Blood" rocks like a motherfucker. Rock 'n' roll definitely remains my preferred kind of drug. (

EXOTICA-Musique Exotique #03 (La Vida Es Un Mus, 7")
More noise from Casa de Rata, that is Dave Rata, who's played in a number of bands over the years (Ratas Del Vaticano, Muerte, Pobreza Mental) both in Mexico and NYC. Exotica keep the thumping and chaotic NY bung-punk tradition alive, with scampering drums and buzzsaw guitar (the sizzle-whizzle effects on "Desciendo" are mind-melting), merging it with anarcho touches. Pure burn.(

LIÉ-Hounds (Monofonus Press, LP)
Everyone who bags on Maximum Rocknroll probably haven't read it in decades, if ever. One reason I'd read it, even if I wasn't a columnist, is that I still find out about new bands or ones I've missed. A recent interview with this band in those pages piqued my interest and "Hounds," their third, is a scorcher. Surging, jarring, jabbing rock with a dark edginess and a goth tinge. Ear-messing, swirling guitar lines, throbbing, distorted bass and hard-hitting drumming, along with vocals that pack both sadness and rage. You can hear a little Siouxsie Sioux, although the timbre is lower. Like a fierier version of White Lung. (

MAN DESTROYS-Everything (Not Like You, 7" EP)
Pretty standard raw, fast and angry hardcore with Simon from Supermarket Trolleys and Jeff from Final Conflict. A vinyl pressing of their demo, it's a d-beat infused attack, accompanied by well-tread lyrical concerns--cops, war, puppies... OK, I'm kidding about the last one. Pink vinyl--maybe blood red would have been better? (102 Richmond Dr. SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106,


NASHO-s/t (Nopatience, LP)
This multi-racial, multinational band based in Australia have very strong feelings about colonialism, racsim and gentrification, to name a few things, on their first album. Nasho is short for nationalist, something that's on the rise in Australia (as in many places). Those sentiments are combined with a dark, power-packed sound. Echo and reverb on the vocals buried a bit in the mix, along with a dense musical ominousness. Hardcore, punk and goth, with Peni-esque shadings and it's a potent statement. (


NIGHT BIRDS-Roll Credits (Fat, LP)
A band steeped in the history of punk, trashy TV, real crime and also with a bit of a political conscience. You get all of that here, starting with the back cover parodying the Killed By Death comps and the Stiff Records nod for the record's label. Running the gamut from hardcore ("Onward To Obscurity, with backing vocals by Poison Idea's Jerry A and the anti-Trumpster rant "White Noise Machine"), tuneful west coast-inflected punk and opening and closing instrumentals--truth be told, the closing title track goes on a bit long. "Uranium Girl," underpinned by spooky organ and shit-hot guitar playing, is catchy as fuck and kudos for covering the Suicide Commandos, although I might have picked a different song than "I Need A Torch." Maybe "Burn It Down" or, if you wanted to keep in more of a sci-fi bent, maybe "Mr. Dr." Get on it, guys! (

PRIORS-New Pleasure (Slovenly, LP)
Nervy punk/new wave/garage from this Montreal band that have me thinking they're a more guitar-driven, less mechanized cousin to ISS. Gnashing guitar spearheading this band's heady attack, topped off with squiggly synth lines and echo-laden vocals bubbling just beneath the surface. A psycho-head blowout--yes, that's borrowed and you'll have to look it up--to mess up your mind. A new EP, Call For You is already in the pipeline. (

TOMMY AND THE COMMIES-Here Come (Slovenly, 12")
Technically a one-sided 12", with the program repeated on the second side. Sneaky bastids! Anyway, this is unabashed bright 'n sprightly power-pop/punk although it's tougher than your garden variety skinny tie combo. Tommy and his Commies add a sharp mod revival flair, as well as Undertonesy guitar licks percolating through the hook-laden arrangements. Infectiously fun. (

U-NIX-Nuke Portland (Feel It, 12")
Nuke Portland? But what about all of those cool record stores? Voodoo Doughnuts? Poison Idea Park? OK, I realize there is no Poison Idea Park but there should be or, at the very least, a Pig Champion statue. I feel 'em, though. I sometimes wish they'd nuke the city where I live. U-Nix's guitarist John Cardwell used to do the fretwork for the somewhat underappreciated Nasa Space Universe, who tread in oftentimes unpredictable off-kilter hardcore. U-Nix have some of those qualities but it sometimes sounds even meaner and more unhinged. Sputtering and angry, borth musically and vocally, negotiating hairpin time changes with ruthless efficiency. Threatening to fly apart at any second but they're too tight for that happen. Not even nine mutes long and you're left spent. Time to play it again! (

VANILLA POPPERS-I Like Your Band (Feel It, 7")
Four more rockin' rollin' punk songs from the Poppers, who had one of my favorite albums of 2017. Christina Pap's vocals have a cutting, ranting quality and the lyrics are pointed, semi-satirical observations about human interactions and struggles (?). "I Am Adult Baby" shows how hard it can be to get your shit together while the title track is a wise-assed poke at scenester types. Big-ass riffs with plenty of fuzz and an abundance of rhythmic wallop. (


WASTE MANAGEMENT-Tried and True (Painkiller, LP)
Well, it's about time this longtime (as in over a decade) Mass. band got an album out and, to use the cliche, yes it was worth the wait. This is a primer in classic hardcore, both from early 80s Boston, as well as NYHC later in the decade and given a modern feel. SS Decontrol, Negative FX and Jerry's Kids figure into the equation from this neck of the woods. Craig sounds pissed off as hell and, while the lyrics express disgust, there's a surprising amount of positivity. Don't let anything stand in your way, fight through it. It's almost like a musical power of positive thinking course. Yes, I'm being a bit of a joker but this is well-played, powerful and urgent hardcore. (