Best Albums of 2016

January 16th, 2017

The Blind Shake - Celebrate Your Worth
The Blind Shake
 - Celebrate Your Worth LP (Goner)
After 12 years of flexin’ midwest muscle, this Minnesota trio has honed their craft into something bigger than the punchy garage punk scene they’ve flourished in. Their jams are instantly craveable and continue to reap endless rewards with every listen. Each release has gotten better and better and this one is easily the best written and best recorded one yet.

 

Leather Towel - Leather Towel IV

Leather Towel - Leather Towel IV (Hozac)
Leather Towel takes postpunk’s angular, severe regimen and shocks the shit out of it with punk’s reckless energy and speed. Decoding the twin guitar attack as it circles over you with a reverbed bass throb and breakneck 1-2-1-2 hardcore beat will put the wheels-flying-off thrill of this record on your must have list in no time.

 

The Lithics - Borrowed Floor
Lithics
 - Borrowed Floors LP (Water Wing)
Ya might think in the year 2016 that there’s not much life left in angular postpunk tunes, but this Portland quartet, true to the hype they’ve garnered over the last year or so, deliver the goods on this 10 song platter. They’ve injected vibrancy into the form by punching out smart, tightly knit songs that crackle with an assertiveness that’s somehow both detached and impassioned. It’s an impressive debut with solid songwriting executed perfectly. Looking forward to hearing more from Lithics.

 

The Lumpy & The Dumpers - Huff My Sack
Lumpy & The Dumpers
 - Huff My Sack LP (Lumpy)
These St. Louis freaks are pretty much the jizzy cream of the punk crop. After a number of killer 45s and demos below their belts, like 2013′s “Sex Pit” and 2014′s “Gnats in the Pisser” — recently collected on their Collection LP for your listening pleasure — Lumpy & The Dumpers have proven that they can keep their crude punk damage fun in larger doses.

 

Oranssi Pazuzu - Värähtelijä
Oranssi Pazuzu
 - Värähtelijä 2xLP (20 Buck Spin)
This Finish metal band’s double album expands on their shamanistic sound often described as black metal psych, but that really doesn’t give a satisfactory description of what’s going on the 4 sides of this beast. Sure it’s massive and it does have a buzzing psychedelic squall, but the sounds here are warped and fucked beyond anything else you’ll hear in this world. Texturally, their sound is layered and dense in a way that’s wholly unique and intriguing, and even more remarkable is that the songwriting also pushes things a few steps further out with riffs that mutate to defy expectation and convention with every expansive minute. Give this monster your undivided attention and get ready for a journey you’ll not likely forget.

 

The PUFF! - Living in the Party Zone

PUFF! - Living in the Partyzone LP (Slovenly)
Pretty much knew after hearing PUFF!’s Identitätsverlust ‎7″ that anything this Berlin group put out would be required listening. And even though this album doesn’t match the explosive electrospasm of that brainstomping single, it does take their mutant synthpunk sound into so many twisted directions that your attention will not wander.

 

Terry - Terry HQ
Terry
 - Terry HQ LP (Upset the Rhythm)
Fuckin’ A Australia is cranking out the quality jams. I’ll admit that I was a little put off with my first spin of this record, since I was expecting something more in line with Total Control and UV Race with a little more grit and in-the-red volume. So after tabling my disdain for acoustic guitar (featured on just a few tracks) and the overall cleaner sound of Terry, I gave it another listen and soon realized that I was approaching it all in the wrong way. Now Terry HQ has had more listens than pretty much anything else this year. Its Breeders-by-way-of-The Fall sound is charming and plays well for pretty much any mood. It’s a patchwork of great ideas bringing life to staid rock elements with a level of creativity that few bands are brave or playful enough to explore.

 

The Tørsö - Sono Pronta a Morire
Tørsö
 - Sono Pronta a Morire LP (Sorry State)
Okay, so this technically came out Dec 2015, but for all intents and purposes this rager made big waves well into 2016 with ferocious hardcore played fast and hard as hell. There are plenty of D-beat hardcore groups out there plodding similar territory, but few are able to whip up the feral energy Tørsö has on all 11 tracks of their debut LP. Every song thoughtfully builds and explodes with enough power to level your local all-ages space and the gazillions of by-the-numbers hardcore bands unfit to share the bill.

 

Useless Eaters - Relaxing Death
Useless Eaters
 - Relaxing Death (Castleface)
You may remember at time when Jay Reatard was releasing a ridiculous amount of material. It was impossible to keep up with his prolific output and too easy to stop paying much attention. Fast forward past his sudden departure in 2010 and of course it became crystal clear that all those records he was cranking out year after year were all worthy of attention even if it seemed like overkill at the time they came out. I’ve taken that lesson to the equally prolific Seth Sutton and his flagship Useless Eaters band who continue to make instant classics ever since they started spitting out wild ass 7-inches in 2009. With increasing frequency the Eaters have sharpened their sonic attack and traded in the frantic garage fury of their earlier releases with a finely tuned machine that hooks you in and continues to hook deeper and deeper as every one of the 12 tracks on Relaxing Death wraps itself into your DNA.

 

Wet Ones
Wet Ones
 - Wet Ones LP (Black Gladiator)
Ensuring that punk still aims straight for the jugular, Kansas City’s finest lowlifes spat forth one of the nastiest piss-colored slabs of hate ever committed to wax with their self-titled debut. Merrily puking out gnarly punk in its basest, visceral form, the Wet Ones push the punk rock needle well past the point of accessibility/mediocrity into something so beautifully ugly one can’t help but to mainline it again and again and again…

 

Mick Harris

December 20th, 2016

Hed Nod SessionsHednod Sessions 2xCD
Hidden Art, 2005

There’s a poetic beauty in the fact that the inventor of the blastbeat — that blazing, ridiculously aggressive machine gun drum style that came to spur entire genres of extreme metal — later went on to create some of the most chill beats known to man. In addition to Harris’ essential heavy dub Scorn project, which pretty much was dubstep before dubstep became a one dimensional punchline of IDM culture, his solo work explores spacious, minimal expanses tied together with massive beats in an even more reductive way. This double CD release collects a series of 12″ singles he did for Canada’s Hed Nod label, offering an appropriately expansive runtime that allows a deep slide into the zone at nearly 2 and a half hours long. No matter where you stand on Harris’ work, from the inhumanly fast, dense blurs of sound in Napalm Death, to the wide open spaces propelled by relentless, sickened beats of Scorn and these solo recordings, you’ve got to give the guy props for being at the forefront of both the grindcore and dubstep genres.

Hednod Sessions on iTunes

Wet Ones

September 5th, 2016

Wet Ones LPWet Ones LP
Black Gladiator, 2016

For too many years the musical exports of the Kansas City area rarely captured the quality and quantity of what this midwestern mecca in the middle of the swollen gut of the United States has had to offer. For all the good shit tearing up sketchy, short-lived clubs and out-of-control house parties, the only groups ever to get much attention outside the sprawling expanse of the I-435 loop tended to be on the tame and conventional side of the rock ‘n roll spectrum. And while that’s probably how things should be, it’s always disheartening to witness how little of the crazed energy buzzing around the KC/Lawrence area ever gets adequately captured on wax. Thankfully that all changed early this year when the ace Slovenly offshoot label Black Gladiator unleashed this 13-track wrecker delivering frenzied garage punk every bit as vile as its predecessor Fag Cop. With the in-the-red burn of The Fatals and the panicked contagious energy of The Reatards earliest excretions, this record has slowly festered into the feel-bad hit of the summer. That’s fitting too, since the Wet One are a lot like summer in KC: hot, nasty and ready to beat your ass.

Wet Ones on Slovenly.com

Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2015

January 17th, 2016

Bummer - Spank 10

BummerSpank 10” EP (High Dive)

From the gimp cover art and band name, you pretty much know what you’re in for with this KC trio and that is lurching, noisy ass heavocity with a gnarly edge. Music in this vein doesn’t need many flourishes as it’s all in the execution, but Bummer does manage to stand out with a supremely tight rhythm section and riffs that shapeshift enough to keep things interesting and dangerous with unexpected twists and turns.

 

Creative Adult - Ring Around the Room 7
Creative Adult
Ring Around the Room 7” (Run For Cover)

A-side is a strung out noisegaze swirl with a fog of synth and feedback that refuses to leave your ringing ears, while the B-side comes in with a few massive riff punches on “Travel” and a dramatic end track “Motgu.” If their Dead Air 7” and Psychic Mess LP didn’t get your attention, give this one a few listens and you’ll be lulled into their darkwave cloud.

 

Sie Lieben Maschinen - June Gloom demo
Sie Lieben Maschinen
- June Gloom cassette (Haymaker)

This ex-Season to Risk duo has managed to mutate their former band’s noiserock foundation into a beautifully sci-fried punk space where bouncing bass lines, dancy beats, and perfectly chilled postpunk vocals that sound like Randy “Biscuits” Turner on ecstacy collide in the future world Chrome foresaw in Alien Soundtracks. More than a few moments on this unassuming little tape summon the greatness of Six Finger Satellite’s late ‘90s output with enough tension and thrust to knock your shitty speakers off the shelf. Plus they tastefully end out their 11 tracks with a well done, stylistically stamped cover of Public Image Limited’s song “Public Image.”

 

Leviathan - My War Decibel Flexi
Leviathan
- My War Flexi (Decibel Flexi Series)

Black Flag’s My War album was one of the most oppressively depressing records of its era, chock full of Rollins’ most self-loathing, hateful and crushing catharsis and Greg Ginn’s sickest guitar eviscerations, so of course, why not a black metal version of its breakneck title track? While this easily could’ve been a formless glop of typical trendoid black metal, this sacred song is in great hands with Wrest, who simultaneously strangles the original version as he whips the already hyperaggressive riff into a buzzing swirl. I hadn’t even bothered to notice the song title before I put this on for the first time, and when I realized what I was hearing it was as if the freight train called “My War” that had run me over in my teen years had somehow passed through time and ran my ass down once again. It’s the heaviest damn flexi you’ll ever hear.

 

Loop - Array 1 12
Loop
- Array 1 12” EP(ATP Recordings)

One of the highlights of 2014 was to see this late ‘80s juggernaut regroup for a series of North American shows, blowing eardrums and minds with their uniquely haunting space rock. When word of new material came out, it was hard to imagine what a nearly 30-year-old Loop might sound like and I’m happy to say that the four tracks presented here can stand up next to the 1990 masterpiece A Gilded Eternity with a dreamlike presence that easily submerges you in a blanket of psychedelic sound. This new formation does update Loop’s sound with a few ethereal ambient touches ala Robert Hampson’s post-Loop group Main, and other members weave in the multilayered rhythmic sound of Hair & Skin Trading Co. into the fabric of this release. I’m seriously hoping and looking forward to a second Array and more.

 

Nature Boys - Pissy Wind 7
Nature Boys
Pissy Wind 7” (Replay)

There are a number of punk bands in KC that’ve received more attention than this killer trio, but you won’t find a better mix of off-the-rails, tuneful ragers played at breakneck speed with sweaty energy. This latest release slays and shows that they aren’t mellowing out anytime soon.

 

Pampers - Right Tonight 7
Pampers
Right Tonight 7” EP (In The Red)

The weight and force of The Pamper’s jabbing riffs is so ridiculous and massive on this 7” that it somehow manages to be even more obnoxious than their early records. The 4 songs here are so focused and relentless that ya gotta wonder if they could carry this amount of energy over the length of an album, and judging from their amazing 2013 debut LP ya gotta admit these monsters probably could. Here’s hoping for a new LP!

 

Phantom Head - South of Heaven cassette
Phantom Head
- South of Heaven cassette (Self Released)

The Phantom Head cassette is full of downer dirges that occasionally bares its teeth with lumbering lowend guitar stabs and songs like “Do You Like This Life”, “Disconnect” and “Embrace the Beast.” The biliousness is much more severe here on hissing tape than on their early Bandcamp tracks. Fans of early Swans, Drunks with Guns, and the drone of Pissed Jeans Throbbing Organ 7” will find loner bliss between its two tiny, unstable reels.

 

Repairs - Decay/Cycle 7
Repairs
Decay / Cycle 7” (Hozac)

Hozac’s has a knack for stretching a bit outside the garage punk core they’re known for with some top shelf synth bands. Like Hozac’s 2013 7” from Italy’s Schonwald, this release from Australia’s Repairs is another buzzing electroblanket that deftly envelops the listener/victim into a cocoon of synthetic sound and lulls them further in with ghostly voice tracers. Imagine the inverse equation of Suicide covering Joy Division in the wettest dream scene of an adolescent Goth and you could almost explain what’s going on within the haunted grooves of this record.

 

Ufux - You Look Dark 7
Ufux
You Look Dark 7” (Jeth Row)

Ufux is the latest symptom of the sick strain of Chicago weirdpunk that can be traced back to the Functional Blackouts on through The Daily Void. This time the virus is a bit more cerebrally and aurally damaged in the vein of Drunks with Guns and Tractor Sex Fatality, dosed with a noisy neanderthal swagger that knocks back The Daily Void’s future shock a few millennia. Even though the theme song “Ufux” closes out the B-side at a fairly quick pace, the plodding tracks that precede it deliver the real meat.

Best Albums of 2015

January 12th, 2016

Andy Human and the Reptoids
Andy Human and the Reptoids - Andy Human and the Reptoids (S-S)

No other album had the ability to get under your skin quite like this debut from the Bay Area’s finest export. With a timeless sound that draws inspiration from, but doesn’t directly ape the gurgling glops of glam and protopunk (Brian Eno, Pere Ubu, Devo) that spouted them, this band’s exceptional songcraft has given this LP a high rate of return and listenability. Soon all the references to classics will fade as this records has all the indicators of a classic in and of itself.


The Chewers - Dead Dads
The Chewers –
Dead Dads (Self Released)

There are weirdos and then there are people trying to be weirdos. These freaks from Nashville couldn’t be normal if they tried and their musical output benefits from this tragic anomaly in that they’ve been able to create a truly unique body of work that allows more adventurous listeners a glimpse into a world that’s more fascinating, frightening, and funny than nearly any other band you’ll hear. Truly unique and truly weird. Read more about it here.


Dan Melchior's Broke Review - Lords of the Manor
Dan Melchior’s Broke Revue –
Lords of the Manor (In The Red)

Dan’s prolific discography of solo records and records with Das Menace have been a steady source of brilliant ramshackle rock n’ roll on par with other masters of the form, like Billy Childish, Jay Reatard or Jon Dwyer. As great as that gravy train has been with multiple releases hitting the vinyl bins year after year, I have to admit that when I heard the Broke Revue moniker was being tossed out for a new record, the first since the band’s last recordings in 2004, I was more than a little amped, being that Oldtime-Futureshock, Heavy Dirt and Bitterness, Spite, Rage, & Scorn still sit high on my list of all-time favorites. Lord of the Manor has all the rickety hooks and stomp of those earlier records, but now wraps it in a detached psychedelic swirl that darkly spins off into fractured Chrome solos or relentlessly heads down krautrock. The new Broke Revue is an entirely new beast and one I hope rears its ugly head again sometime soon.


Killing Joke - Pylon
Killing Joke
Pylon 2xLP (Spinefarm)

After 35 years, you might expect the legendary UK postpunk pounders to loose a little steam and/or piss and vinegar, but so far they’ve kept right at it and have continued to make killer records decade after decade. From the masterpiece of their eponymous debut LP through 1983’s percussive Fire Dances, even through their weaker new-wavy late ‘80s records on to the more metallic Pandemonium in 1994 and through the 2000s, there’s been enough trace amounts of their original fire in all their releases to make ‘em worth paying attention to. And this double whopper again shows how malleable their sound can be by pleasing not only lovers of metal, industrial, dub, EDM, punk, and all points in between, but by demonstration how their unique vision has influenced underground music overall. The tracks on Pylon span from drifting hypnotic anthems to bombastic marches, all roaring or at least gurgling with layers of texture and Geordie Walker’s unrivaled minor key guitar swells. Needless to say, Pylon is an epic addition to an already epic discography.


Male Gaze - Gale Maze
Male Gaze
- Gale Maze LP (Castle Face)

Delivering on the promise of their 7”, Gale Maze reels in the noise a wee bit and serves up a cool slab of postpunk built with commanding gothy vocals and thick fuzzy bass-driven songs that channel the frenetic dark energy of Tones on Tail or the coldwave songcraft of Total Control. It’s instantly catchy and will wrap itself deep into the folds of your brain as it also rumbles in your gut. Body music for the brain or brain music for the body?


Mick Futures - Banned from the Future
Mick Futures
Banned from the Future (Telephone Explosion)

Only the Andy Human record earlier this year got as many plays as this surprise treat from Canada’s Mitch Houle. Endlessly listenable pop damage for mutants of all ages, Banned from the Future pulls you in with hooks in the form of synthetically-enhanced punk so catchy that you’ll finally be able to put something new between all those classic Chrome, Devo, and Roxy Music records you’ve spun into oblivion.


Shadow in the Cracks
Shadow in the Cracks
- Shadow in the Cracks (Goner)

What could be seen as a side project of Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake, this 9-song convulsive devotional deserves some credit for discovering a new space in the well travelled garage punk sound continuum. They exist in a plane where tranced out shamanistic krautrock mingles in the open, singular spaces Wire discovered on Pink Flag, while getting scorched by the burning, grizzled fire of Dead Moon. One of the freshest records the garage canon has seen in a long time.


Sleaford Mods - Key Markets
Sleaford Mods
- Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)

If you consider the mountains of halfwit shitass punk bands out there clogging the bins and clubs with formulaic and conventional tripe, you have to wonder how it is that two Brits armed with nothing more than minimal beats and primitive bass lines can lay waste to all of it with 12 cuts of spittin’ working class rage. Key Markets is what the The Fall would’ve sounded like if Mark E. Smith grew up listening to Crass and Wu Tang Clan instead of Can and The Seeds.


The Soupcans - Soft Party
The Soupcans
Soft Party (Telephone Explosion)

Toronto spazzoids The Soupcans are back with 13 hits of Grade A ass-whooping garage punk jolts. Their tantalizing 7” EP, Parasite Brain, from 2013 left a thirst for these lads brand of huh that can finally be quenched, with pleasantly deranged bangers like “Hairicide” and “Razorface”, full of tales about who the fuck knows what. They even put up a splash of quasi black metal blast beats and howls with the punishing track “Murder Parade“ that shows a wild new angle on the Soupcans sound. They’ve managed to both hone their sound and push it even further too. Absolutely as essential as their previous LP.


Ufomammut - Ecate
Ufomammut
Ecate (Neurot)

As the various branches of metal continue to mutate and push into new territory, it’s always rewarding to slog through a few tons of tedious metal clones to find records as remarkable as this monster from Italy’s finest metal trio. The riffs on Ecate are unforgivingly heavy and relentless, textured with mysterious samples, buried vocals, and vicious electronics that pound you into putty while also giving what’s left of your brain a psychedelic treat on a trajectory as convoluted as its retina frying cover art. It’s a sublime sludge stew to fuel 45 minutes of infinite astrological exploration.

The Chewers

September 14th, 2015

TheChewersDead Dads CD
Self Released, 2015

Right as the July heat began to simmer the sickly humid air and warp the atmosphere into a sweaty stew, the latest collection of madness released from this Nashville duo became an unexpected soundtrack to summer, permeating the psyche with tales of madness and absurdity told through the most weirdly seductive freak bungle. Plodding, lopsided, and spacious, The Chewers have honed their oddly odd sonic stew on Dead Dads, their third album, with disciplined songwriting that forces every pit and peak of their idiosyncratic music and madcap storytelling to shimmer in the haze. While they’re completely in a league of their own, those who are susceptible to the spaces between Tom Waits and King Missile, or in league with indie oddities like The Guinea Worms or The Country Teasers, may also be attracted to this lumbering freak feast.

LINKS

The Chewers on Bandcamp

The Chewers on Facebook

The Chewers on Soundcloud

The Chewers website

Threes and Will + Huerequeque

November 28th, 2014

blue thirteen C30
Blue Tapes, 2014

Threes and Will + Huerequeque

The UK’s Blue Tapes cassette microlabel (that now also serves vinyl, books, and film!) has steadily released noteworthy releases in small batches, each capturing wildly inventive takes on diverse genres. Acapella death metal, sound art, rock improv and whatever fits between, they’re always up to something interesting and always worth a listen, even if they end up being a bit of a novelty or one of those “challenging” listens you partake in when the mood is right. Their description of this mysterious Estonian duo links their expansive rock noise sound to the most focused LP from the long-running UK group Skullflower, IIIrd Gatekeeper, and holy fuck does it ever deliver on that promise. Starting from that sonic reference point, this 5-song (a solo track by each artist and 3 collaborations) tape stretches buzzed riffs into hypnotic, transcendent sounds that twist, turn, and drift for just over 30 minutes of blissed-out heavy psych. This link is not really a reference to Skullflower as much as a mark of quality on par with the greatness of that essential album, or the sublime quality of Skullflower’s 15-minute mind-melting “Diamond Bullet” from Obsidian Shaking Codex, a track so expansive that it could almost be its own genre. If you like your noise rock to push beyond the predictable and formulaic trappings of the form, prepare to meet this true form destroyer.

LINKS

Threes and Will + Huerequeque on Blue Tapes website

Watch “Sea Fourth Pt. II” by Threes and Will on Vimeo

Don’t Mean Maybe

July 28th, 2014

Don't Mean MaybeBig Day for Blimps 7″ EP
Self Released, 1989

A handful of bands get referenced to a degree that it almost becomes a insult when they’re used to describe a lesser-known band. The work of Fugazi, Slint, Black Flag and others get name dropped so much that you can’t help but dismiss a band described as such, assuming that they try too hard to follow in the footsteps of a greater band. That hazard shouldn’t really stand when those bands’ collective output is in fact so noteworthy that any band that earns such a nod should at the very least be worth checkin’ out once. Don’t Mean Maybe definitely fall in that camp with a sound that admittedly cribs more than a few notes from The Minutemen — shit, the cover of this debut 7″ is even an homage to their 1984 landmark double LP Double Nickels on the Dime — but this San Diego trio’s slightly more forceful twist to their songs that makes this 7″ a compelling listen. If you love The Minutemen, you’ll find it hard to resist this one or their Doctor Dream Records releases.

 

DOWNLOAD
Don’t Mean Maybe – Big Day for Blimps EP (13.8mb Zip file)

LINKS
Don’t Mean Maybe albums on iTunes

Sex Scheme

June 15th, 2014

Self-Titled 7″ EP
Puppet Combo, 2014

If The Fall were hardened by the pummeling misanthropy of the Brainbombs and fueled by Big Black’s dynamic of jarring guitar shards slashing across throbbing, propulsive bass lines, you’d find yourself on the receiving end of something like this Brooklyn trio’s excellent vinyl debut. The repetitive and tattered anti-songs on this seedy 4-track stumble through the gutters of Gotham, detached and rambling, barely coherent enough to wrangle enough tortured notes together to make any sense of the mess. In other words, brilliant.

LISTEN

LINKS

Sex Scheme on Bandcamp

Sex Scheme on Tumbler

Red Monkey (Reissue)

June 8th, 2014

How We Learned to Live Like A Bomb LP
Our Voltage, 2014

Scan through the reviews section of any recent issue of MRR and you’re likely to see gallons of ink touting a substantial percentage of vinyl being pressed of 10+ year-old punk. Many of these reissues pimp bands that continue to sell to an established fanbase, while others give light to some bands unknown and underrated during their day. This reissue from the German label Our Voltage is a record you’ll want to take note of as it gathers some of the most essential tracks from one of the late ’90s most underrated bands. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with Red Monkey yet, check out this previous post about their first 7″, then find yourself a copy of this vital collection before it disappears as quickly as the original pressings of these killer slabs of angular post-punk. 18 remastered tracks (16 on red vinyl, plus an additional 2 with album download) collecting all their 7″ releases and compilation tracks, plus a 20-page zine style booklet featuring anecdotes and art from the band members make this an essential release for those new to the razor-sharp sounds of Red Monkey as well as longtime fans.

LISTEN
Listen to the first track “Trespass” on Soundcloud

LINKS

Get How We Learned to Live Like A Bomb from Our Voltage