Saturday, December 25, 2021

Suburban Voice #148--The Best of 2021

ANTI-MACHINE (photo: Rachael Shorr)

Yes, I know it's been the better part of a year since I posted/published anything. But I finally pulled it together for a Best of 2021 list. Hope you find something you hadn't heard before. 

I don't have to tell everyone how much this year sucked, yet again. I made it to a grand total of three shows, so having a "best live" listing doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but much appreciation to Kyle for keeping the Banshee Den open and everyone else making an effort to keep DIY punk alive. 

As I said, this year sucked. My friend Pat Lynch passed away last month. He was only 51. We were friends for over 20 years and, before the print version of Suburban Voice went on "hiatus," he helped out with the zine. And he was usually my companion when I took road trips around the country--Thrash Fest in Minneapolis, Chicago Fest a few times, another trip out there to see Infest and Los Crudos and countless shows in the local area. He was just a great guy and I wish he'd taken better care of himself. His family gave me his music collection and I've been having a blast going through it and checking out some music I might have overlooked in the past. 

2022 will be the 40th anniversary of Suburban Voice, which started as Suburban Punk. How will I mark the occasion? That remains to be seen... 

It was a bit tough picking out a "record of the year." So keep in mind that the top ten are the records I listened to and enjoyed the most and what my favorite was depends on the day...

One last note... thanks to the photographers who allowed me to use their work in this blog. Since I've only been to a handful of shows the past few years, I didn't have many of my own to use or they're bands who haven't made it up this way. 


1. M.A.Z.E.-II (Lumpy, LP)
This is a vinyl pressing of M.A.Z.E.'s 2019 tour demo and their best recording to date. It's also the band's first vinyl release since their tepid-sounding s/t 12" on Lumpy. In between, there's been another demo and live tape but this is the best of the bunch. M.A.Z.E. are so goddamned charming sounding. Cute, without being cloying, putting punk, post-punk and pop, along with a whiff of trad Japanese musical touches into a blender and getting it both sweet and coarse. The re-recordings of the songs from their 2018 demo added quite a bit of thorniness. It's their own thing--I really can't think of another band who sound like this--and its quirky appeal will find its way into your heart. 

2. SLANT-1집 (Iron Lung, LP)
Blazing hardcore punk from South Korea, although their drummer Garrett "Tits" Belair is from Massachusetts. And Slant certainly favor the no-bullshit sound that emanated from Boston's Boiler Room. Double guitar scorch and a solid rhythmic foundation provide the perfect setting for Yeji's scalding razor howl, which doesn't dominate the proceedings but is one part of the band's deadly attack. A good mix of tempos, while never letting up on the intensity. 

3. LYSOL-Soup For My Family (Feel It, LP)
When I was a kid, my old man used to call me an "insolent little bastard." In retrospect, it probably wasn't very nice but maybe he was pissed at me for playing my music too loudly. This is an album I would have played loudly back then and am doing so today, only there's no one here to give me a hard time about it. Lysol ooze insolence and garage/punk/rock 'n roll smarts. They do tip their hand a bit--the Iggy yell during the "TV Eye" rave of "Glasgow Smile." It's not all strut, either. They also take the speedier trek on occasion, as with "Dissociation" and "Blessures Graves." It's not a complex formula but, sometimes, keeping it simple and raw is the right path to follow. 

4. ANTI-MACHINE-EP (Toxic State, 7")
Walker Behl, late of Crazy Spirit, is the vocalist in this band and he lends his nasally snarl to a straight-forward hardcore punk attack. Buzzing and burning guitars powered by solid, in-the-pocket drumming. The lyrics document day-to-day frustrations, unable to focus and seemingly unbothered by that. What is bothersome are the nationalists and other right-wing scum, and the death of friends, something that seems to have affected most people I know over the last few years. And this ear-grabbing ass-kickery as least provides some sort of coping mechanism. 

5. CHAIN WHIP-Two Step To Hell (Neon Taste, 12")
This isn't a pleasant country step dance and you sure as hell don't need to honor your partner, unless it's picking them up off the dance floor if they slip in the scrum. Slam-bang, semi-catchy punk aggro, with the lyrics spat out with phlegmy venom. And damn they're pissed off, with a pointed critique of late-period capitalism, although this isn't an intellectual dissertation, it's punk rock. Wrapping up with a punchy cover of Subhumans' "Death Was Too Kind," fitting in perfectly with the band's malevolent intent. 

6. COLLATE-Medicine/Genesis Fatigue (Domestic Departure, 7")
Two songs from their 2019 recording "Symptomatic" and they both pack a wallop. Jarring post-punk remains their calling card and it's particularly churning for the hectic "Genesis Fatigue." Tight instrumental interplay that's enhanced by not-too-slick production values. It's over way too quickly--the remainder of the songs from that session deserve a vinyl pressing, as well.  

7. COCHONNE-Emergency (Sorry State, demo)
Post-punk minimalism with abrasive, sarcastic, taunting, high pitched vocals in both French and English. For the English language "Asking For A Friend," things take a dark turn exploring (consensual or non-consensual?) sexual adventures. The final song, "Vampire," with its rollicking organ, is reminiscent of underappreciated Houston band MyDolls (whose lyrics also plumbed uncomfortable regions--yes, I realize there's a potential double meaning there). The instrumentation is sparse but it still sounds full, the way the rhythms, guitar and keyboards bounce off each other. There was also a 200 copy vinyl pressing.

8. THE COWBOY-Riddles From The Universe (Feel It, LP)
The latest from Cleveland's prolific The Cowboy doesn't mark any drastic change in direction nor does it aim for any sort of musical "maturity." Instead, the idea is to make a sense-enveloping racket, albeit one that's not completely devoid of melody. Throbbing bass-lines, bludgeoning drums and guitar trills that occasionally have the ghost of Keith Levene hovering above (OK, I know he's not dead), if he played more power chords. I'm thinking mainly of "Breeze Machine" there. Post-garage-punk, maybe? Steve Peffer and Josh Banaszak's musical partnership goes back over a decade and a half, starting with Homostupids, and they've perfected it, at this point. 

9. X-INTRUDER-Punished For The Crime Of Lacking In Judgement (Discos Enfermos/No Front Teeth, LP)
Solo project for a gentleman named Marco Palumbo, who owns the No Front Teeth label and has played in a number of different bands. Mainly mid-tempo anarcho-inspired punk that had me thinking of Cross-Stitched Eyes a bit, minus the Killing Joke proclivities. Peni to an extent, as well. Double-tracked nasally vocals and a sonic, mind-messing buzz of guitar and bass to go along with the beat (man? machine? I'm not sure). Throbbing, repetitive and, if this was some sort of way for Marco to get through the shutdown in 2020, it was a great use of his time.

10. SPECIAL INTEREST-Trust No Wave (R.A.T.S.)
Special Interest in their embryonic phase, their 2016 demo finally given the vinyl treatment. Vinyl treatment? Get your mind out of the gutter although there's an abundance of dark sexuality and sensuality to go with Special Interest's churning industrial punk. Minimalist rhythms accompany a fusillade of other-worldly, piercing guitar emanations and formidable bass plow, as Alli's vocals weave through the mesh. It's not any sort of rock 'n roll backbeat but a swirling, enticing cacophony. They add on a bonus track, the bad-trip ambiance of "I'll Never Do Ketamine Again." Aiming for the mind, as well as other areas due south and hitting both with gleeful deviance.


DOLLHOUSE (photo: Séamus)

BOOTLICKER-s/t (Neon Taste, LP)
No joke--the last time I saw Bootlicker, at the Ram Ranch in Boston,  I started punching the wall. Thankfully, there was no injury to me or the wall. I wouldn't want them to lose their security deposit. On their first 12", after a number of 7"s and a live tape, Bootlicker play the sort of mean-sounding, bootboy punk (pun intended)-meets-hardcore that could still cause wall-punching. The recording quality isn't pretty at all and it brings out the band's blunt force and Lewis' agitated vocals into bold relief. Speaking of relief, they're searching for an escape from the mundanity of everyday life and finding a whole lot wrong with the world. What's right about the world are kickass bands like Bootlicker. (

BRUTE SPRING-The Perilous Transformation of Kid Spit (Swimming Faith, demo)
Another one of many projects for John Toohill (Radiation Risks, Science Man, etc). This is in an industrial-meets-early Suicide vein. I'm not talking about Suicide's first album but their original rehearsal tapes on which the accompaniment was even more primitive and the at-time whispered vocals barely audible, as with "Spiritual Leader." Still, there's a higher level of energy for many of the tracks, ala the Wax Trax aggro units--"Into Ribbons" and The Orange Strain," for instance, or the high-speed "Escape Armistice," sounding like a computer in an emergency state. It's not all mechanized, either... slashing guitar lines percolate through a few of the songs. A good balance of intensity and sutblety. (

CANAL IRREAL (photo: Zeltzin Vazquez)

CANAL IRREAL-s/t (Beach Impediment, LP)
A band with Martin from Los Crudos, Limp Wrist and many others and Scott Plant, who has played in Droids Blood and Broken Prayer in recent years. Dark-hued goth-tinged punk with Martin's vocals howling through the din. It sounds closer to Scott's recent projects, minus the keyboards. Some haunting guitar lines that stick in the brain. It's not trapped in a morass of gloom 'n doom stasis. Canal Irreal infuse their songs with a burning energy and that prevents the former from happening. (

DOLLHOUSE-The First Day Of Spring (Toxic State, 7")
A few members of Mommy resurface in this NYC band, including vocalist Mike Caiazzo and the band's name (likely) comes from Mommy's song "In My Dollhaus." Mommy had some industrial elements but that's absent here. It adheres more to the NYC sound spearheaded by Dawn of Humans and Crazy Spirt, especially for "This Is Heaven," with Hank Wood's recognizable drum patterns. One thing that continues is the exploration of mental health issues covered with Mike's previous band. "The Shadow Baby" starts with a gigantic, ear-worm guitar line. "It's The First Day Of Spring!" has more of a melodic pulse harnessed to the sonic mesh, even throwing in some acoustic guitar. A potent statement. (

ELECTRIC CHAIR-Social Capital (Iron Lung, 7")
It's 2021 and I still love hardcore punk--when it's done right, that is. No bullshit, no chug, just fast and loud, along with pissed-as-fuck lyrics, be it about disgust with everyday life, social climbers or Proud Boy scum. Even some whiddly metal leads that will annoy those "hardcore has nothing to do with metal" purists but it fits in perfectly, especially for the semi-epic title track. (

This oddly named Cleveland band (another one with Steve Peffer) don't play jazz. Nope, this is nervy, expansive rock with ear-piercing, otherworldly, earwormy guitar lines, a thundering bass undertow and synthesizer washes and shadings, all delivered at a steady mid-tempo pace. Hints of early Pere Ubu (the synth, in particular), although it's just one part of their modernistic sound. A sarcastic bent to the vocals and lyrics--I'm not 100% sure if "V.R." is meant as a tribute or paean to Elvis and Kurt Cobain--maybe it's both. An aural thundercloud. (

FREAKEES-Freakee Deakee (Tomothy, 7")
Coming to you from the new wave punk garage--three fast ones and one slower track, "Freakee Friday" that takes up the entire flip slide and sputters its way to the end. It kind of drags to be honest. Not the case for the semi-abrasive punk of "Haha" and "The Middle" or the thrashy "Republicans" (their one "political" statement, I suppose). Freakees are a prolific band, having put out over 10 releases in four or so years. A sampling shows this to be one of their more "accessible" efforts but still rough-sounding. (

GOLPE-La Colpa e Solo Tua (Sorry State, LP)
Banging hardcore from Italy. The drumming has all the subtlety of a battering ram, the engine behind the band's mainly mid-to-fast tempo full-on attack. Definitely some d-beat/Swedish scorch in the equation, with surging guitar, along with hoarse vocals. One of the better albums in this particular style I've heard lately--it's loud and in your face, just the way it should be. (


HEZ-Guerra Interior (Discos Enfermos)
Hez are from Panama but there are some Spanish punk influences, namely the offbeat noise-mongering of Una Bestia Incontrolable. Echo on the nasally vocals and swirly whirly guitar on occasion. On "Esposas," it's like a six string conversation with some sort of alien force. Still, for the most part, this is a loud and fast attack, moreso than in the past. Their first release in four years and back with a vengeance. (

IMPLODERS-s/t (Neon Taste, 7")
The bands on Neon Taste have a certain sound--a prickly brashness mixing punk attitude with bruising hardcore. That's an accurate description for Imploders and "Dimwit" is a point-making calling card, although I think the vocalist is saying "I don't want to be a nimrod." You get the idea, either way. Being that they're from Toronto, I'd say Career Suicide informs their sound to an extent, and that's never a bad thing. (

KRIMI-Demo (Helta Skelta, demo)
Two members of Cold Meat in this band. Post-punk legends Kleenex had a song called "Krimi," so you can probably guess the band's style and they do it very well. Authoritative vocals from Ashley and some strong lyrical matter, as with "Vicious Cycle," which is about the inevitable result from cutting the social safety net--"destined to fail, doomed from the start." Musically, it draws from the UK well ca. 1979-80, favoring a melodic approach to go with the slash and jab. Still, there's a sharp punk focus, as well, particularly for "Friction." (

MUJERES PODRIDAS-Muerte en Paraíso (Beach Impediment, LP)
Another Austin band with Dru Molina (Kurraka, Criaturas) along with compatriots who have played in such bands as Vaaska, Bastard Sons of Apocalypse, Breakout and many others. A serene beach scene on the cover and it's decidedly more melodic than some of the other bands these people are involved in. Instead of guitar shredding, the playing is textured, with a warm tone and adding West coast punk shadings and even a hint of goth on the intro to "El Chico En La Discoteca" and "OVNI." It's not a full-blitz attack, but there's still bite to go along with the tunefulness. (

NAG-Observer (self-released, demo)
Second album in under a year for this Atlanta band, following 2020's "Dead Deer." The production is a little fuller but the band's modus operandi remains pretty much the same. New wave meets post punk meets 80s goth. "Satellite Rock" veers towards the latter, but there's a harder-edged punk feel to "Burning Books." Cyborg rock? It's more human-sounding than robotic. Released digitally and on tape last spring, with a vinyl pressing on Drunken Sailor due this month. (

PARANOIAS-Napalm Springs (Helta Skelta, 7")
This came out in mid-December 2020 but close enough. It was probably 2021 by the time it reached the States from Australia anyway. This Perth band play gnashing garage/punk/rock 'n roll with high, singy songy vocals that have an inescapable charm. My guess is they might have borrowed the "Murder Punk" comps of old Aussie punk from their parents or older siblings... who knows? There's a brashness in their playing--sometimes surfy/sometimes slashing guitar lines and it all starts with some hearty bass strum. It's just so goddamned likable that you can't help but smile, while jumping around. (

PIGEON-Deny All Knowledge of Complicity (Adagio 830, LP)
Hailing from Berlin, Pigeon present a bleak vision, both lyrically and with the blurry black and white images in the accompanying lyric booklet. "Can't Cope With It" states "it happened, that's why it can happen again" and, given their location, it's not hard to figure out what Pigeon are talking about. A kaleidoscope of early 80s influences--Joy Division, Killing Joke, Echo and the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, played with a sharp finesse and the arrangements are quite sprightly, nothing doomy or echo-laden. An abundance of drive and a strong sense of melody, as well. (

RESEARCH REACTOR CORP-Live At Future Techlabs (Sweet Time, LP)
...or live in the lounge room. Is that the same as a den? In any case, hopefully there's soundproofing because this is plenty loud. RRC is from Sydney, Australia, the mastermind of Ishka Meades. It's a solo project but my guess is he had some help, since it's a live recording. Wild lo-fi punk/new wave/garage mania with Devo-esque guitar and cheesy synth, untamed and unleashed. Aussie kin to the Coneheads, VCR and bands/projects of that ilk? I'd say that's accurate. (


TØRSÖ-Home Wrecked (Revelation, 7")
Short, and not very sweet. The latest from Tørsö is another dose of high-powered, hardcore punk. Blazing guitar, a powerful rhythm, (Giacomo is a monster behind the kit) and Ethan's soaring vocals. Two originals and cover of the Faith's "You're X'd." (

T-TOPS-Staring At A Static Screen (Magnetic Eye, LP)
First full-length album for this Pittsburgh band in about 6 years and it's pretty ground-shaking. T-Tops have always specialized in beefy 90s rock that would have fit in well on Amphetamine Reptile. They check the right boxes with plenty of loud axe-mangling, bludgeoning drums and rough-hewn vocals. Hammerhead did the same thing back then and there's also a hint of "Bleach"-era Nirvana. Heavy without being metal... mental, maybe. (

TWOMPSAX (photo: Rob Coons)

TWOMPSAX-Disgusting Me Out (Manic Noise, demo)
On their new demo, Twompsax vocalist Cher Strauberry states right up front what her band is all about--encouraging transgendered people to fight back against systems of oppression and take what's rightfully theirs: the freedom to live. Aurally, it's impassioned, low-fidelity, raucous bedroom punk with a barbed hookiness. It's even more primitive-sounding than their previous demo and two of the songs are just Cher accompanied by guitar, but it ain't no "unplugged" bullshit. (


7 SECONDS (1984, photo by Cindy Mendes)

GUN CLUB-Fire Of Love (Blixa Sounds, 2xCD)
Hard to believe it's been 40 years since this incredible album was released. And if you were listening to it for the first time, you'd assume that the members of the Gun Club were Texas rednecks but they were an LA band and vocalist Jeffrey Lee Pierce actually co-wrote the title track for the Circle Jerks' "Group Sex." And while Gun Club evolved from the punk scene, their sound was inspired by traditional blues, given a revved-up treatment, especially for their cover of Robert Johnson's "Preaching The Blues." There's also a slow-simmering cover of Tommy Johnson's "Cool Drink Of Water." Originals like the punky "Sex Beat" and tour-de-force of "For The Love Of Ivy" are all-time classics. The latter song does have the n-word in it (something they got a lot of grief for) but it also has some truly inspired playing, with the concluding soft to loud jolt and the great line "I was all dressed up like an Elvis from hell." Jeffrey Lee's untamed yet soulful vocals were the obvious focal point, but the secret weapon was Ward Dotson's slide guitar. 

In addition to the album, the CD tacks on alternate takes and demos, some of which were sketches for their second album "Miami." I've always thought the four track demo of "Devil In The Woods" was superior to the "Miami" (it appeared on the "Keats Rides A Harley" compilation). The second disc is a live set recorded at Club 88 in LA in March of 1981, where the band are going full-tilt. Gun Club were always a live gamble--I saw them nearly upstage the Cramps when they toured this album but they were a complete debacle a few years later at a show at Boston University. Not the case here. "Fire of Love" comes from a dark place and I've played this album more than a few times when driving through rural areas late at night. Perfect accompaniment. (

7 SECONDS-The Crew (Trust, LP + 7")
Deluxe... and I mean deluxe reissue of 7 Seconds first full-length album from 1984. The production was cleaner at this point but, truth be told, it took some of the edge off and the drum patterns are pretty similar throughout--thumpa-thumpa, with few rolls, except during the slower portions. Still, their upbeat songs remain infectious and take me back to when life didn't seem so, uh, complicated, although I might not have known that at the time. And, along with the more melodic sound they'd semi-adopted, there was a positive message throughout, against misogyny, racism and maintaining as much of an optimistic outlook as possible. Aesthetically, it's a beautiful package, opening into a gatefold, with an 18 page glossy booklet. It tells the 7 Seconds story and includes flyers, photos and explanations for the lyrics. And some copies (like mine) include a bonus 7" of six songs taken from a 1983 recording session. They were from an aborted album on Alternative Tentacles (and later released in the mid-90s as "Old School") and have the raw production of the first two EPs. In other words, more of a bootboy feel and embryonic takes of such songs as "Here's Your Warning," "Young Til I Die" and others really kick ass. I'd like to see the full session get another re-pressing. (

WASTED YOUTH-Reagan's In (Jackpot, LP)
"Reagan's In" is both very much of its time, as well as timeless. Loud and fast and catchy. They had a nasty teenage attitude, mainly expressed for "Uni-High Beefrag," a rather misogynistic rant. But the songs are quick, razor-sharp and snotty as fuck, with an anti-authoritarian chip on its shoulder. Pressed on minty (or puke green) colored vinyl. (