Friday, December 27, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #142--The Best of 2019

UBIK (photo: Nick Nolan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

BEST LIVE (in alphabetical order)


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

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