Thursday, May 06, 2021

Suburban Voice blog #147


Time for another reprint of a Maximum Rocknroll column, this one from MRR #394 (March 2016), with a few modifications…
I’m an obsessive maker of playlists for my iPod—either putting together sequences from my old mix-tapes or having various “best of” collections spanning different years and decades. I’ve been listening a lot to my best of the 2000s mixes, lately—the oughts or zeros or whatever you call them, and there are quite a few songs/bands that might have been lost in the shuffle (not a pun about the iPod shuffle, honest). So this column is dedicated to those that I feel flew under the radar a bit. They might not be obscure to everyone but some of you might want to check these out. And they’re pretty easy of find and won’t set you back that much, except maybe Nazti Skinz.. So in chronological order…
FAMILY DOG-So Cal Hardcore (El Pocho Loco, CD, 2000)
Another CD-only release and another band doing the simple and straight-forward hardcore punk on their one and only release. Definitely not taking themselves too seriously in a lyrical sense but not devolving into forced funny-punk. From a musical sense, this is loud, fast, rough and buzzing stuff, stripping it down to its high energy essence. Family Dog included Monty Messex from Dead Fucking Last and it’s very similar to that band’s approach. What more could you want?

REGRESS-Price of Power (Boot Camp, 7”, 2001)
Regress had quite a pedigree—Joe Losurdo from Life Sentence, Anthony Illarde from Rights of the Accused and Chopper Stepe from Negative Element, all 80s era Illinois bands. As you’d imagine, this is throwback hardcore and the production is raw and trebly. Even an anti-Reagan song for good measure. They had another 7” after this and actually appeared on MRR’s “Public Safety” comp and the second “Histeria” comp on Lengua Armada so maybe they’re not that obscure but this is the best one and worth hunting down. Check out some audio here.
SPAZM 151-s/t (Mind Control, LP, 2001)
Obliterative from start to finish. This Dallas band had a gigantic chip on their collective shoulders, as well as a love for classic US hardcore, including Poison Idea, Jerry’s Kids and fellow Texans The Offenders (the last song on the album are a medley of songs by the latter two bands). Thrash that rocks and rolls and it’s injected with pissed-off venom. Plus cover art from Randy “Biscuit” Turner. How can ‘ya go wrong?

NAZTI SKINZ-Sic Semper Tyrannis” (Youth Attack, 7”, 2002)
This is the record that actually gave me the idea for this month’s column. Every time I listen to it, I wonder why more people don’t know about it. It’s probably because this LA band was very short-lived, playing only 5 shows and this 7” had a one-time pressing of 500 copies. They seem to have disappeared without much of a trace. With members of The Locust, Le Shok, C.R.A.S.H., Monorchid and others, the band’s name might have caused some confusion (although if you look closely, it’s pronounced “nasty skins,” not “Nazi skins”), along with titles like “Defending Liberty” and “Race War.” It’s a twisted mix of basic old school hardcore and darker Midwest touches (Mecht Mensch, for instance). Six songs, none of ‘em topping a minute.

IKARA COLT-Chat and Business (Fantastic Plastic, 2002)
Being that they were a UK band and had split up by the middle of the decade, I’m not sure of their level of familiarity these days but I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be a household name to a lot of my loyal readers. Nervy, sometimes moody math/post-punkish rock, if you want to pigeonhole it. You can hear bits of The Fall Wire and late 80s/early 90s AmRep rockers Tar, although there’s more drive in their compositions. It’s perhaps closer to what a band like Hot Snakes did, minus the Wipers inspiration. Paul Resende has a subtle, yet expressive vocal style that accompanies the sound, instead of dominating it. A heady mesh.

R’N’R-“I’ve Had It/Your Rules” (Cadmium Sick, 7”, 2002; re-pressed by Dead Alive, 2003).
A band with members from different parts of Massachusetts, this was their shining moment (along with their furious track “What’s Your Damage” on the “Stab To Kill” comp on Stab and Kill). After a piss-take rock ‘n roll intro, R’N’R get down to business with a throttling, mid-paced scorcher and Joe Shumsky (who played in many bands, including Fit For Abuse, Think I Care and Vaccine) unleashes the anger full-on. By the time he finishes with the long list of things/people he’s had it with, you say, “yeah, I guess he really HAS had it.” The b-side also kicks ass.

READ YELLOW-Read Yellow (Fenway CD, 2003)
This Western Mass. band’s albums were just so-so, but this four song EP is a scorcher, especially the title track/theme song and “The Association.” Head crushing riffs and  hooks played with a go-for-broke fervor and edge-of-sanity vocals. Not really punk, not really hardcore but it’s loud and crushing.

SHELL SHOCK-Born To Kill (Puke N Vomit, CD, 2005)
Kill, kill, kill and kill again. A firebomb of hardcore punk—hard ‘n fast and catchy, especially the circle pit breakdown for “Declaration.” From the opening exclamation of “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON,” this was one of those albums that made me remember what I liked about hardcore. Combine that rage with angry lyrical sentiments and it’s a good way to channel the disillusionment that even middle-aged reviewers still feel—“We don’t want to be like you” is still something easy to relate to, even to this day. Adhering to the KISS rule—“Keep It Simple, Stupid!” Only released on CD.

VIOLENT MINDS-Eyes Of Death (Parts Unknown, LP, 2007)
Philly band connecting with pure Motorcharged aggression. As with Nightstick Justice above, this band has songs that make you move and the transition from the slow to fast part on “Fight Authority” is seamlessly-executed. The driving drums and bass are the engine and the guitar riffs possess a brilliant simplicity, throwing in the occasional lead line. There’s a perfect balance between the instruments and Zach’s hoarse vocals.
NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE-Claustrophobic  (Grave Mistake, 7”, 2008)
There’s been an endless glut of old-school hardcore punk bands from the turn of the century on, but a lot of it starts to run together after awhile. What made these guys stand out was their fucking RELENTLESSNESS, particularly on the opening song “Control.” This song just MOVES-- guitars on stun, bass on bulldoze, with a tinge of over-the-top Cleveland hardcore burn. And when Jeff Corso bellows “get the FUCK out of my way” on that song, you get the feeling you’d better do just that. One song going into other with a feedback transition, slowing down only for “Hypocrite,” an epic at over 3 minutes. They had three 7”s and a 12” over their fairly brief tenure and this one’s the best. Alex from Grave Mistake sent me a test pressing of this record for my 50th birthday because he knew how much I loved this one.


BASTARD SONS OF APOLCALYPSE-Strangled By The System (Todo Destruido/Adelante, 12”, 2008)
Vocalist Eddie Leal has been in a number of bands over the years—Vaaska, Criaturas and Deskonocidos, to name a few. BSA dished out ferocious Discharge-meets-Poison Idea mania. I don’t know if it’s a D-beat in the strict sense and I don’t give a fuck about the nuance; all I care about is shredability and BSA definitely possessed that quality The galloping drumming is what really keeps things moving here and the occasional lead guitar break always happens at the right moment. BSA do allude to their musical approach in “No Charge D-Beat RocknRoll.” Amidst a not-so-cheery worldview, that’s the sole moment of lyrical levity here, a celebration of “kids playing with no future.” SV record of the year for 2008.

WINNING LOOKS-s/t (Waiting, 7”, 2008) 
Down ‘n dirty rock ‘n roll in a guitar/drums, both of ‘em sing format. This four song EP from these two NYC ladies was recorded by Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna and there’s a slight hint of her musical pedigree. But it’s just as much garage, really cooking on a song like “Breakdown,” although all four songs have plenty of thump in ‘em. Two voices chanting in near-unison, in a hearty high register and the music has a complementary brazenness. Recorded in 2006 but I'm pretty sure it came out in 2008.

GENERAL INTEREST-Right By The Beach (Ride The Snake, 12”, 2009)
This Boston band were an offbeat, nimble, ultra-tight musical unit dishing out some formidable post-punk. Guitar, bass and drums play off each other, hooks occasionally emerging but the main attraction is the dynamism in these compositions. But what really makes them unique are Steve Shea’s almost cartoonish semi-spoken vocals and lyrics that could be “shit from a new notebook” to quote The Minutemen, one band who were an obvious influence (Gang of Four and Nation of Ulysses also figured into the equation). There are political/sociological messages, though they’re combined with a smart-assed sarcasm. “Crusty Dog Show” aims a vicious barb at, well, traveler crusties who, while being “freegan” and “going green,” still abuse their dogs (“I’ll bet you’re not spanging for Kibbles & Bits”). “Capricious Youth” pokes fun at the type of people who can’t make up their minds about everything from education choices to relationships.

CATBURGLARS-s/t (Criminal IQ, LP,  2009)
Garagey punk rock that's full of vim, vigor and fun times. Buzz and bash in the vein of some of the Rip Off Records bands i.e. the sound is rough and the songs snotty as hell. Willfully stoopid lyrics... want an example? "You make me mad/you make me mad/You make me so mad/You make me mad/You never give me what I want/All you ever do is piss me off." Heavy sentiments there! A winning tandem of wise-assed attitude and the burn to back it up and their cover of The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” rocks like a motherfucker.