Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2019

January 19th, 2020

Alien Nosejob - HC45 7″ EP (Iron Lung)
In 2019, Iron Lung continued to kill it with a steady stream of left-field weirdness, power violence, pedigreed punk, and truly raging hardcore, as showcased on this ripping EP. While the vinyl release won’t be available until sometime in early 2020, it’s been tearing up Bandcamp and streaming portals with its amped version of bedroom weirdo punk that could hang with the other stars of that realm, like Janitor Scum, Erik Nervous, Neo Neos, CCTV, etc. It appears that this is a departure from the typical Nosejob sound, but I’m really hoping for a HCLP full-length release as HC45 definitely leaves you craving more.

 

Bummer - Thanks for Nothing 7″ EP (Learning Curve)
Following up last year’s Holy Terror album, KC’s loudest riff mammoths serve up 2 new tracks of weighty grunge sludge, plus a couple classic digital tracks that haven’t been committed to vinyl until now, including an epic cover of Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People” that honors that ’90s staple of disenfranchised youths with a few extra tons of electrified spite and volume. There seems to be a moment of ’90s noise rock rumbling up from the fringes of the metal and hardcore scenes with Bummer being one of the best examples of bands revitalizing the core elements of volume, distortion, and force into something compelling and significant in the second decade of the new millennium.

 

Crisis Man - The Myth of Moderation 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
Starting with the bouncing stomp of the title track, this Oakland wrecking crew reignites the wild spirit of hardcore with five tracks of fiery fury, complete with guitar riffs that twist themselves inside out from their own inertia and scatter unexpectedly as barking vocals and tempo shifts prod the listener from complacency. They’ve mastered the hardcore technique of building and releasing tension without relying on cliched chugga-chug breakdowns, while also managing to add a righteous swagger to their breathtaking mess. The closing track “Superlunary” wraps it all up with a defiant pounder of a riff that keeps that wild spirit focused and alive.

 

Homeless Cadaver - Fat Skeleton 7″ (Iron Lung)
Coming out of the gate in early 2019 came this total rager from Iron Lung’s Systemic Surgery series, which apparently means that it’s limited to 200 and includes a fancy diecut and risograph  print, so don’t snooze on a copy or be happy streaming it. The A-side serves up punchy, staccato riffs with just enough slop around the edges to keep the ugliness dripping wet, while a rabid psycho with an Ausmutants flair shouts you down between howling synth spasms. The flipside “Art. Eat It.” downshifts into a churning stew of repetitive guitar fuzz decorated with harsh electronic effects and punishing vocals, all serving as an earworm to relentlessly remind you of the aural and psychic trauma this 7″ slab of plastic (or digital stream) has just inflicted upon you.

 

Loose Nukes - Behind the Screen 7″ EP (Beach Impediment)
Holy shit, this one ripped my head off the first time I heard it and continues to kick it splattering blood and grey matter down the street. Six raging tracks of fierce hardcore punk played at breakneck speed, only letting up on the second-to-last track “Rizzo’s Dead” for a queasy Rudimentary Peni-playing-Flipper downer riff before exploding into the last track “I Could’ve Been A Killer” which sounds like a Poison Idea 45 played at 78rpm. Ridiculously relentless. Remarkably raging. What’s not to love?

 

Mitraille - Hoopschroot 7″ EP (Belly Button)
As mentioned in this post, Belgium’s Mitraille’s first vinyl release wreaks havoc on the garage punk form, energizing it in ways that defy convention and keep the listener throttled to the last, ripping note. A stellar vinyl debut that’s not to be missed.

 

Rainbow Grave - No You 12″ EP (God Unknown)
OK, so Discogs lists this as an LP as do the distros and even the label who released it, but I’m going to call it an EP since it’s got 6 songs and clocks in at 34 minutes. It is almost LP length, especially with a couple of tracks that churn past the 7 minute mark, and it certainly carries the heavy sonic weight of an LP with a relentless pounding and contempt, but I still want to call it an EP if it doesn’t eclipse 40 minutes. Regardless, this beast is built upon the throne of Flipper’s darkest dirges, Drunk With Guns’ ugliest ugliness and the harrowing menace of the Brainbombs — a particularly effective approach to sonic annihilation that becomes especially severe as blasts of howling saxophone penetrate the distorted din. One-dimensional hate vibes here with very few frills and very oppressive riffing and bombast. It’s a beautiful thing to succumb to.

 

Scorn - Feather 12″ EP (Ohm Resistance)
After eight years of silence, Mick Harris‘ Scorn project reignited in 2019 with this shimmering slab of black, black wax, thumping deep dark bass on three distinct versions of the title track plus closer “Whatever Is Touched Turns.” Priming the world for a new full-length release Cafe More, this 4 dose set makes an excellent quick hit of atmospheric space dub, full of echoey effects and slowly shifting tectonic subwoofer slides that requires half the downtime of the 48 minute album. Contemporary Scorn takes a starkly minimalistic approach compared to lush classics like Logghi Barogghi, but only in form and not atmosphere, as each track pulls the listener into a dense but simplified domain that’s uniquely Scorn and uniquely breathtaking.

 

 

 

Skull Practitioners - Death Buy 12″ EP (In The Red)
As the first few seconds of  the first track “Death Buy” fade in with a wicked groove, a heavy vibe is set and exploited for genuine guitar freakouts and psychedelic delights that might be the feedback of ethereal brainwaves Simply Saucer launched into the universe over 40 years ago. “Grey No More” shifts things in high gear and powers along an MC5 motorway through a mountain of guitar roar. “The Beacon” finishes off the A-side with another stomper complete with sliding guitar flourishes and a feverishly-paced Gun Club seediness. “Miami,” the lone track on the flipside, stretches another heavy dub-flavored groove that effortlessly chugs past the 10+ minute mark before ending with a harsh lock groove that’ll leave you salivating for the LP that’s in the works.

 

Tokeback Mountain - Tokeback Mountain Demo (Self Released)
In case you were unaware, at any given time the quaint college town of Lawrence, Kansas, is home to dozens of bands well worth your attention. In 2019 this band of weirdos is the cream of the crop, shredding your psyche and shaking your shitter with seven tracks of nutty guitar-drum-psycho noise rock. Like Bunnybrains on amphetamines, the ramshackle genius of songs like “Bong Rip Yr Dick Off” and “HyperMart,” an ode to a long defunct KC area Wal-Mart experiment in retail monstrosity, or the queasy throbs of “Banquet” prove to be some of the finer moments in outsider rock in 2019.

Best Albums of 2019

December 31st, 2019

Acrylics - Sinking In (Iron Lung)
After rounds of small doses in the form of demo tapes and 7″ releases, Santa Rosa’s (and probably California’s… and maybe even the United States’) sharpest hardcore punks released their first official full length in 2019. And while many young, raging bands can’t quite manage to extend the fury of their short-form ragers to proper album length, I’m happy to report that Acrylics not only fill two full sides of an LP with killer, grade-A punk, they do it in a way that leaves you wanting more. So even though this is the first Acrylics release with songs that surpass the 4 minute mark, none of the tracks on Sinking In drag or feel like filler, including a pair of atmospheric interlude tracks. Instead, Acrylics’ warped vision of what hardcore could be, not what it was, burns bright and cements their place as one of the most vital punk bands of 2019.

 

Andy Human & The Reptoids - Psychic Sidekick (Total Punk)
The slow trickle of killer 45s from Andy Human & The Reptoids after their 2015 debut album spurred even higher expectation and really built anticipation for this, their sophomore album. Coming out at the beginning of 2019 it easily eclipsed most of the “best of 2018″ hyped bands that already started sounding stale a few weeks into the new year, and kept smoking synapses through the heat of summer and on through the end of the year. Destined to be a classic, this might just be the brightest jewel in the impossibly dense resume of Andy Human, whose time and efforts in an obscene quantity of excellent bands such as Jackson Politick, The Beatniks, The World, The Cuts, The Time Flys, and probably a few dozen others yet to be exposed, has resulted in a fully realized work of art that sounds great at first listen and gets even better over time. It’s instantly catchy, yet hardly conventional as songs and lyrics careen sideways and get slathered in layers of mystically weird texture and dimension. Not only one of the best from 2019, but surely one of the best of the decade.

 

Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race (Dark Descent)
As one of a handful of metal releases that stood high (cough) above the metal multitudes, Denver’s Blood Incantation have paid their dues in the form of a stream of steadily solid, interesting twists of the death metal formula. From their early demos and especially with their first Dark Descent releases Interdimensional Extinction and Starspawn, this Denver quartet has adapted an astrological bent to the technical death metal spectrum. As incongruous as icy cold, alien themes are to the very human blood and guts and gore that 99.9% of death metal bands gurgle out, Blood Incantation somehow makes it work by layering in psychedelic flourishes, commanding song structures, and studio wizardry to the very recognizable staples of the genre. As Voivod’s sci-fi aesthetic and off-kilter keys made them a unique specimen in the thrash metal world, Blood Incantation are charting a new course that adds layers and complexity to death metal without getting too proggy, or worse, mired in cliché.

 

Dan Melchior Band - Negative Freedom (In The Red)
Over the last two decades, the name Dan Melchior has merited a seal of quality whenever attached to a musical artifact. From early Billy Childish-influenced garage stompers through the bad vibes of the Broke Revue or Dan Melchior und Das Menace’s essential catalog, all the way through more experimental solo records like Assemblage Blues, he’s covered a lot of ground within the generally limited garage rock set. Every release is immediately identifiable as a Melchior product, while also tweaking any known formulas or confidently pushing the envelope into inventive new terrain. Negative Freedom in particular showcases one of his strongest amalgams of expert songcraft and inventive sonic textures, with guitar sounds being mutated and processed into strange new shapes and augmented with masterfully dispensed analog synth buzz and fuzz. Sample the echoplexed beat of “One Dollar” and its wild guitar spasms or the downer drone of “They Insulted Me in Mojo” seasoned with decades of sarcasm and spite and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more worthy slab of wax to throw your expendable or non-expendable income at.

 

Dead Normal - There Is Nothing Left but the Enjoyment of Senseless Destruction (Harbinger Sound)
Along with Rainbow Grave’s No You, this welcome blast of negativity from Barcelona’s most snarling noiseniks is an appropriate response to madness bubbling over in 2019. And while it could be argued that Dead Normal draw heavily from the soundwell of 1980s Whitehouse, it can also be said that they bring a thrilling, albeit slightly more accessible take, on power electronics and screaming lunatic vocals. In fact, it seems mighty fucking appropriate to level this degree of scorn towards society versus the personal S&M of 1980s fetish taboo of prime Whitehouse, as Dead Normal’s split male/female shouts eviscerate humanity’s weaker tendencies and bring reckoning to the state of the species in 2019. And where subtle rhythms could be found in Whitehouse’s squall, Dead Normal bring a stronger, martial pulse to the aktion, bludgeoning the chance of this being an exercise in mimicry or mediocrity.

 

Full of Hell - Weeping Choir (Relapse)
Ever pushing the boundaries of hardcore, punk, metal, noise/experimental whatever “music,” Full of Hell once again exceed their previous output by rescrambling whatever faint templates any genre may contain and obliterating the listener with a level of extremity that only a time like 2019 could bring. At first listen it’s too much to take in and truly requires a few spins before it even makes a lick of sense, and when a picture does finally come into focus, it quickly shifts into volatile territory again. I feel my age listening to Weeping Choir, as there are many moments where it ventures down annoying avenues, like the machine gun-esque blasts that lead from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” into and out of “Aria of Jeweled Tears” but you have to appreciate the offense of the severity and the overall reach of what Full of Hell does. The range of aural assault from the sound collage of “Rainbow Coil” to the epic churn of  “Armory of Obsidian Glass” as it nears 7 minute mark to the Halo-style pound of “Angels Gather Here” or the sax-enhanced freakout in the middle of “Ygramul the Many,” it all adds up to help define Weeping Choir as a truly unique listen.

 

Hash Redactor - Drecksound (Goner)
The promise of Hash Redactor’s excellent 2017 demo comes to full fruition on their debut LP, rising to the top of Goner Record’s remarkably strong 2019 release pile. Mixing the tense churn and burn guitar punk of Memphis’ Ex-Cult and the nerve of Nots, featuring member of both bands, Drecksound brings a ringing American twist to the gnarled sort of Australian growl that birthed the likes of bands like feedtime and Grong Grong. But in addition to the thick, knuckle-dragging driving bass lines and guttural vocals of the Aussie version of the sonic virus, Hash Redactor injects brilliant twin guitar interplay that sounds like a woozy Delta version of Marquee Moon played with steady, young hands. Along with The Intelligence and Possible Humans’ offerings in 2019, Drecksound was in heavy rotation and continues to spin often at the NFZ compound.

 

The Intelligence - Un-Psychedelic in Peavey City (Vapid Moonlighting Inc)
Over the span of 15 years worth of essential LPs, EPs, and singles, not to mention the stellar solo record Moonlight Over Bakersfield, Lars Finberg’s prolific output and contributions to other bands in the garage punk gamut have put him in league with likeminded overachievers like John Dwyer, Jay Reatard, and Ty Segall. All are driven to crank out music at a pace that’s hard to keep up with and even though Sir Finberg’s name hasn’t grabbed the rapt critical attention his peers receive, his output in my opinion is of an even higher quality as it continues to earn longer stints on my turntable than nearly any other. Layered with an increasingly diverse palette of sound and exceptional wit (the album title alone is one of the best of the year) his group The Intelligence continues to offer up some of the most satisfyingly scrappy garage sonic poetry committed to vinyl. Like album cover’s fake marked down 50¢ price tag, the latest offering from The Intelligence is the hidden, unknown gem in the thriftstore bin that’s absurdly more valuable than the public at large knows.

 

Oceans of the Moon - Oceans of the Moon (Castleface)
To fill that fizzling void that once throbbed with the vibrations of Six Finger Satellite, stemming from the nucleus of Helios Creed and its primitive Chrome origins, Castleface thrusts forth a malformed cyberorganism called Oceans of the Moon, which somehow cycles out the initial heat of its predecessors for a chilly, calculated future shock. Sharp, contained guitar clips cut sparse marks in time as the motorik beat throbs on, with tracks like “I’m On a Roll” sounding something like a Wire LP played at 16rpm. Executed by Providence mutant rock all-stars with a rap sheet that includes La Machine, The Chinese Stars, and Landed and more, Oceans of the Moon delivers the freakified soundtrack for your cyber armageddon post party.

 

Possible Humans - Everybody Split (Trouble In Mind)
A description of Possible Humans’ sound probably wouldn’t get me excited enough to give it much playtime among the giant piles and raging streams of music that offer much more compelling reasons to earn some time between your earholes, but fuckin’ A, this album has completely saturated and colored 2019. Maybe it’s because they’re Aussies and Australia has been churning out a ridiculous amount of quality groups lately, but I still can’t explain why a fairly conventional guitar-based indie rock band can sound as essential as this debut LP. While comparisons to Guided By Voices and Wire are somewhat accurate, the ebb and flow of their songs lean more towards GBV, but with a twinge of dejected collegiate rock like For Against or the psychedelic twist of Radar Eyes. Whatever the reason, it’s earned a lot of spins on the NFZ turntable in 2019 and will likely earn many more.

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Typically I like to keep these to a tight list of 10. It feels like lazy editing, but what the heck, it’s been a rough year and these excellent releases also helped keep toes tapping and pulses pounding…

Black BeachTapeworm (DSPS)
Boy HarsherCareful (Nude Club)
ExhumedHorror (Relapse)
Foster CareEl Abuso (Total Punk)
The Natural Man Band – Living in a Chemical World With… (Lumpy)
Nots3 (Goner)
ObsessióObsessió (La Vide Es Un Mus)
POW!Shift (Castleface)
RaktaFalha Comum (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Tomb MoldPlanetary Clairvoyance (20 Buck Spin)

Stalins of Sound

December 1st, 2019

Stalins of SoundTank Tracks LP
Slovenly, 2014

While their singles on Volar Records were fun electropunk that paid homage to Métal Urbain and the charming dummy punk of The Spits, this debut from San Diego’s Stalins of Sound ups the recording quality and songwriting to a level that rivals the work of any of their influences or contemporaries like The Lost Sounds. Like the crazed army vet who stole a tank and plowed through the streets of their hometown back in 1995 — the inspiration for the album art and title — the Stalins manage to steer their sound in directions that no one can see coming, pulling the best aspects of drum machine punk ala Big Black, the raw industrial burst of Babyland, and the coming-out-of-your-skin fury of Black Bug.

LINKS

Buy Tank Tracks at Slovenly Records

Stalins of Sound on Bandcamp

Mind Control

November 18th, 2019

Mind Control 7" EP

Mind Control 7″ EP
Forward Records, 2015

Sure, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover nor a record by its sleeve, but when I stumbled across this visually intriguing little gem at a local used vinyl emporium, I was curious enough to throw down the $3 price of admission just to see what it was all about. Needless to say, I’ve discovered that it’s a fine document of midwestern hardcore, played on par and with the requisite intensity and fire of genre aces like Bib, Condominium and Q. Asylum-bound shouts, sudden gear shifts and a relentless track sequence glued together by squealing feedback, always poised to strike with snarling bass lines and a properly muscular guitar assert the . Tracks 1–6 go by in a flash while the final track “Trends” locks into a noisy rotation that sounds something like a skipping Big Black record pounding away while a five-star lunatic positively loses their shit next door. It’s an effective end to a memorable ride that leaves a mark.

Mitraille

November 11th, 2019

Mitraille - Hoopschroot 7"

Hoopschroot 7″ EP
Belly Button Records, 2019

Belgium’s Mitraille crank out six amped-up bangers on this EP that take the bursting-at-the-seams energy of modern day basement hardcore and inject it into a strain of diseased garage punk that detonates with the ferocity of Henry Fiat’s Open Sore and Dean Dirg, except you can’t count on these nutters to stick to the script. Squealing feedback, psychotic in-the-red vocals, false starts and stops, noisy SFX and a track with nothing but bleating horn blurps keep you guessing what’s next and anticipating the next jolt of ripping raw rawk riffage. It’s definitely some of the most fun you’ll find scratched into a 7-inch vinyl disc in the year two-thousand nineteen.

Best Reissues of 2018

January 20th, 2019

The Carbonas

The Carbonas - Your Moral Superiors: Singles and Rarities 2xLP (Goner)
For whatever reason The Carbonas never quite clicked for me despite many attempts and many recommendations from highly trusted sources. They always seemed a bit too conventional during their time but I’ve been slowly backing into their back catalog, mostly on account of band member G.G. King’s first rate output since The Carbonas ended. And while I still lean a bit towards the boundless creative calisthenics of G.G. King’s oeuvre, it’s hard to deny the righteousness of the 37 snotty razor-sharp punk rock bangers by The Carbonas collected on these two slabs ‘o vinyl. Cheers to the Goner label for delivering the the massive payload necessary to finally convert my dumb ass into being a fan.

 

Chandra
Chandra
 - Transportation LP (Telephone Explosion)
Toronto record label Telephone Explosion worked its way into NFZ’s heart through a consistently solid lineup of garage punk’s finest, but recently the sound of the label has mutated into some interesting new directions. In particular, the label has released some really intriguing reissues from artists like Bruce Haack, Steve Roach, Melodic Energy Commission, Fist of Facts, and this gem from 1980, Chandra’s Transportation. Suspicions about the novelty of a 12-year old girl fronting a post-punkish new wave group in the 1980s New York club scene are immediately tabled as the tensely-wound lead track “Opposite” stomps with the righteous thump of ESG, the loose energy of The Fall’s “three R’s” of rock n roll (repetition, repetition, repetition), and the Slits’ dub-fused punk punch. It sounds fresh by today’s standards and even has a bit of a no wave edge with clashing, discordant keyboards and violin that are guaranteed to repel normals and delight weirdos.

 

Cows
Cows
Effete and Impudent Snobs (Amphetamine Reptile)
AmRep’s boutique reissues continue to mine noisy gold from their back catalog, this time resurrecting one of the Cows’ more overlooked records. While every Cows record is worthy of your attention, I’ve always thought this one has a slightly different vibe than the rest of their discography. To me, Effete always felt grimier and more akin to the dingy bludgeoning of Drunks with Guns than the drunken warble of their earlier records or the punchy skronk of their later, more widely known classics like Peacetika and Cunning Stunts. It’s bleak and relentless, caked in noise, almost like an R-rated version of the Brainbombs. Granted, this is still the Cows as evidenced by the stomping old gold classic track “Cartoon Corral”, a song propagated by the first Dope, Guns, and Fucking Up Your Video Deck compilation with a doublespeed oompa oompa wobble kinda like the Butthole Surfers playing a demented polka. A couple other tracks kick up the pace a bit too, but overall, the pace is lumbering and queasy, and a bit gnarlier than their other records. Recommended!

 

ESG
ESG
Come Away with ESG LP (Fire)
Along with the Chandra reissue and Superior Viaduct’s Liquid Liquid reissues a couple years back, the minimalist NYC beat party never has to end. It’s shocking how badass and fresh this 1983 LP still sounds after 35 years. It’s a stone cold classic that defies genre, slipping somewhere in the space between new wave, hip-hop, post-punk. And even though 98% of Record Store Day releases tend to be utter wastes of oil (Sugar Ray on vinyl anyone? Anyone?) causing record dorks to convulse with vulgar spasms of consumerism, it’s essential reissues like this that almost justify the whole lurid affair.

 

The Fall
The Fall
The Rough Trade Singles (Superior Viaduct)
Of the hundreds of releases from The Fall, some of their (specifically Mark E. Smith, R.I.P.) finest moments were captured on wax during their first stint on the Rough Trade label, four of which are collected here. These pillars of postpunk progeny have been reissued in many formats over the 40 years since their initial run, including 7″ box sets and expansive double CD collections of these four singles and a grab bag of related recordings, but the fine team at Superior Viaduct have lovingly packaged these indispensable classics into the perfect format LP with great sound and liner notes by WFMU’s Brian Turner. We lost MES in 2018, but his music lives on.

 

Goblin "Profondo Rosso"
Goblin
Profondo Rosso Original Film Soundtrack (Death Waltz)
With nearly 50 reissues of this classic Argento movie soundtrack (aka Deep Red) and counting, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to experiencing this piece of wild ass Italian prog rock from 1975. This edition from Death Waltz however is one of the best-looking and best sounding editions you’ll hear, as it fully lures you into the era with enough slithering bass lines, percussive calculus, and analog synths to paint your world into the psychedelically-tinted world of psychotic killers and blood red splatter.

 

Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Into The Vortex (Amphetamine Reptile)
Happy to see another one of AmRep’s finest get a reissue of their killer sophomore album, even if it is a limited edition art version that sold out before it was even a twinkle in Tom Hazelmeyer’s eye. But hey, you can still get the CD version or stream it somewhere (gasp!) and revel in one of 1994′s best documents of midwestern noise rock. While Hammerhead’s debut Ethereal Killer still holds up and their raging swansong Duh, The Big City is worthy of your attention as well, Into The Vortex is the record where these Minnesota-via-North Dakota-via-Nowhere spazzoids kicked their amped up their aural attack to a whole new level with obscenely propulsive guttural buzz bombs that leveled every wanker wannabe “grunge” band and their impotent distortion pedals.

 

Punk 45: Approaching the Minimal with Spray Guns
Punk 45: Approaching the Minimal with Spray Guns
  – 5×7″ Box Set (Soul Jazz)
Also justifying Record Store Day 2018, maybe, was this exquisite collection of primo punk singles by the fine folks at Soul Jazz, whose expertly curated Punk 45 compilation series has revived tons of obscure and way out of print gems with copious liner notes, excessive titles and electrified mastering that pumps new life into these lost classics. This set collects full, faithful reproductions of 5 raging 45s, with a mix of large holes and small holes, accurate labels and even the origami-like sleeve from The Scabs 1979 EP. And despite being featured on two of the LP comps, Cleveland’s X____X’s A-side from their second release, “No Nonsense”, not included on the LPs or featured as the comp title like the B-side for this limited edition box set, is an essential chunk of mangled, tense weirdo punk that still sounds fresh 38 years later. Also included is the stomping Bizarros/Rubber City Rebels split 7″, the KBD-approved Hollywood Squares “Hillside Strangler” 7″ and the Flesh Eaters’ essential “Disintegration Nation” 7″ EP from 1978, all lovingly reproduced

 

Simply Saucer
Simply Saucer
Cyborgs Revisited 2xLP (In The Red)
Cult archival collection that’s been issued by at least four other record labels gets a deluxe double LP treatment from the always reliable In The Red label.  The 16 tracks here, 6 studio recordings from 1974 and an extended live set from 1975, demonstrate how completely out of time and ahead of their time they were. There’s a touch of punk snarl, some expansive VU-like jams (whose influence is captured in 2 additional bonus tracks, “Sweet Jane” and “I’m Waiting for The Man” with a download code) and a wacked out space vibe that falls somewhere between the trance state of Hawkwind and the jarring sci-fried buzz of Chrome.

 

Unwound
Unwound
Leaves Turn Inside You 2xLP (Numero Group)
In addition to a stellar box set reissue campaign from 2013–2016, the Numero Group saw fit to provide a deluxe reissue of Unwound’s 2001 swansong, Leaves Turn Inside You in 2018, a record which marked the end of one of the most dependably solid bands of the 1990s without much fanfare. At the time of its release, Unwound had evolved so much from their 1991 debut that most saw this double album simply as the next step of the band’s forward thinking approach to post/noise/wave/indie/core/whatever/etc, rather than the final transmission of a group whose 10 years of constant touring, evolution and reach were clearly taken for granted. While Unwound seemed to be a known quantity in 2001, Leaves proved to be an elusive beast that could be identified as Unwound, but an alien form of Unwound that had evolved into a hard-to-pin genre in a league all of its own. Kudos to Numero Group for resurrecting this monumental document.

 

Vector Command
Vector Command
System 3 LP (Hozac)
System 3 is a previously unreleased archival album by two members of Crime that taps into a sci-fi strain of chilly electro postpunk orbiting in the same stratosphere as early Chrome. While not as cut-up and revolutionary as Chrome, Vector Command certainly stands on its own as a noteworthy otherworldly demonstration of punk’s wide-open possibilities in 1983 as members of one of U.S. punk’s earliest groups (Crime’s Hot Wire My Heart 7″ released in 1976) could make a departure this dramatic from the codification of the genre in the early ’80s. Deviating from the fiery stomp Crime was known for, Vector Command took a detached, robotic approach that coils like mildly-stimulating electrodes through the cerebellum with seductive, analog electronic buzz and thump.

Best Singles/EPs/Demos of 2018

January 14th, 2019


Brutal Birthday
Brutal Birthday
 - Commotion 7″ (Total Punk)
You can always rely on Total Punk to dredge up the ugliest punk from around the globe and spew it forth upon the world in bite-sized 7″ chunks. 2018 brought one of the gnarliest yet in the form of Italy’s Brutal Birthday, who pound out 3 simplistic, noise-addled hate ditties that are more fun than Brainbombs, livelier than Drunks With Guns, and nearly as hideous as Flipper.

Listen to Commotion on Bandcamp

 

Des Demonas
Des Demonas
 - Bay of Pigs 7″ (Slovenly)
Washington DC’s Des Demonas debut LP slipped past me last year but I’ve been catching up with this solid 45, their sole 2018 release. With two songs of churning punk soul accented by a Farfisa organ and a righteous swagger, this will spend some serious time on the turntable.

Listen to Bay of Pigs on Bandcamp

 

Ecstacy
Ecstasy
 - 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
The proper vinyl release of this Oakland band’s 2017 5-track digital demo is one of the tightest and punchiest hardcore records I heard in 2018 and it earned a number of spins on the turntable and iPod. With a go-for-the-throat sound that doesn’t let up, bleeding from track to track with propulsive riffs that have a Black Flag urgency played with the intensity of more recent hardcore groups like Kim Phuc. Hoping to hear more from this group in 2019.

Listen to Ecstasy on Bandcamp

 

Erik Nervous
Erik Nervous
 - Nervoloid 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
Another gem in the growing oeuvre of Hoosier state’s greatest bedroom punk star, Nervoloid pays proper homage to some of Devo’s deep deep deep cuts. The 5 tracks on this EP sound fantastic and fresh and hardly have a whiff of being over 40+ years of age. It’s a thing of beauty to see young blood putting some new life into proto synthpunk delirium.

Listen to Nervoloid on Bandcamp

 

Gumming
Gumming
 - Human Values Cassette (Not Normal)
Vicious, knuckle dragging noise from Richmond, Virginia that has the relentlessness and mentally unstable frame of mind necessary for making this plodding strain of hardcore punk essential. Human Values features 13 punishing tracks with painfully no-frills percussion, snaking buzzbomb bass and tense, warbling guitar that’s just a few clicks out of tune. Featuring many of the songs from their 2017 8-song debut recorded with fuller production values, shifting some of the treble to their pounding rhythm section.

Listen to Human Values on Bandcamp

 

Hologram
Hologram
 - Build Yourself Up So Many Times Only To Be Brought Down Again And Again 7″ EP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The psychotic strain of hardcore that bubbled up in the 1980s midwest with Die Kreuzen and Spike in Vain has few contemporary equivalents in 2018, even though those bands get cross referenced to many current groups. Truth is, many of them don’t have the creative what-the-fuck fire that Hologram has demonstrated on this 5-song ripper. It’s creative, confusing and full of unexpected contortions, but doesn’t trade in any of those qualities at the sacrifice of velocity and fury.

Listen to Build Yourself Up So Many Times Only To Be Brought Down Again And Again on Bandcamp

 

Lithics
Lithics
 - Of You, Photograph 7″ (Thrilling Living)
In addition to their cruicial sophomore LP, Mating Surfaces, Portland’s Lithics bestowed 2 more essential tracks of their austere angular postpunk on this 45. They continue to fine tune their distinct style with a detached yet catchy sound that proves the strength in a “less is more” approach that makes the most of perfectly executed, cleverly sparse songs. Mandatory listening along with their other releases.

Listen to Of, Photograph on Bandcamp

 

Natural Man & The Flamin' Hot Band
Natural Man & The Flamin’ Hot Band
 - 7″ EP (Neck Chop)
Channeling the spastic energy of early punk skronk from The Deadbeats’ Dangerhouse 7″ through the modern rolling punk lens of Oakland’s The World, KC’s Natural Man polish up four tracks from their demo for your listening pleasure. And what a pleasure it is, full of hooky choruses and sax blurts wrapped around jerky rhythms that would make James Chance and The Contortions slip a disc.

Listen to Natural Man & The Flamin’ Hot Band on Bandcamp

 

The Shifters
The Shifters
 - Just Sat Down 7″ EP (Digital Regress)
The four tracks on Just Sat Down have a scrappier feel than the tracks on their Have a Cunning Plan LP, charming with instantly catchy Fall-esque tunes that lodge themselves into your brain as head bobbers and minor key earworms of the highest caliber.

Listen to Just Sat Down on Bandcamp

 

Witch Jail
Witch Jail
 - Music for Magic Moments demo (Self Released)
After a handful of digital singles, a single vinyl single, and a digital album, this KC band signs off with a demo tape capturing their best tracks yet. Always one of the more interesting groups around the garage punk scene, this 7-track swan song haunts their mutant rockabilly with a detached cool that grabs hold with the first track “Saucer Season Revisited” and never lets go. The non-digital cassette version also includes their first album Spellcasters Anonymous as a bonus. Snag one today and hope that Guy Slimey (aka Scary Manilow) has something else brewing for 2019 and beyond.

Listen to Music for Magic Moments on Bandcamp

Best Albums of 2018

December 31st, 2018

Blac Kolor

Blac Kolor - Awakenings (Hands Productions)
Like metal, it takes a bit of digging to find buried treasure in a music genre that’s as formulaic and derivative as industrial music in 2018. So when something interesting finally rises above the mediocre glut of Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails replicas, it’s time to open up your fleshy ear holes and let some sublime synthetic sounds drill their way straight into your psyche. After the solid 24U Vols. 1-3 digital singles in 2017, Germany’s finest dark ambient/industrial/techno DJ producer Hendrick Grothe assembles a thoroughly engaging listen with Awakenings that keeps an oppressive beat woven through waves of deep atmosphere texture. Sample the title track if you’re skeptical, as it literally connects that best elements of prime ’80s industrial music to a contemporary space, featuring grunting guest vocals by Front 242′s Jean-Luke De Meyer over a thunderously unrelenting pulse. You hear people complain about electronic music having no soul, but I’d argue that there’s soul at work here — just a really dark and fascinating form of it.

Listen to Awakenings on Spotify

 

Bummer

Bummer - Holy Terror (High Dive/Learning Curve)
Kansas City’s noise rock kings have been building their aural assault arsenal over the last 5 years, fine-tuning their high-velocity, gut-punching riffs with relentless, scientifically-engineered doses of volume and aggression. Holy Terror follows the cumulative trajectory of The Stooges through Black Flag through Unsane on the endless quest to perfect the most explosive riffs possible, crackling new life into an ugly form of rock that has long been plagued by half-assery and imitation.

Listen to Holy Terror on Bandcamp

 

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt

Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt - Brace Up! (Palilalia)
The cover photo on Brace Up! perfectly captures the crackling electric energy of this duo, whose telekinetically improvised guitar and drum explorations/explosions burn a 10,000MHz bolt of punk jazz straight through your liquified skull. Being familiar with Orcutt’s solo guitar work and the infamous Harry Pussy discography, which still manages to baffle after 25 years (!), it’s great to see that his high-voltage angle on guitar abuse has continued to mutate into wild new forms. Being unfamiliar with Chris Corsano, a quick Discogs search yields a slew of records due for investigation that feature his drumming talents, which on this album absolutely throw a spastic fireball right through all 12 tracks here, sounding something like Weasel Walter’s drum tracks being spliced and reassembled in a blender. Brace Up! is one of those records that exists well outside the margins of any particular genre yet connected to a handful just enough to not be ignored.

Listen to Brace Up! on Bandcamp

 

Constant Mongrel

Constant Mongrel - Living in Excellence (La Vida Es Un Mus)
The steady flow of killer slabs-0-vinyl coming out of Melbourne in the last few years shows no sign of waning, as The Shifters, Terry and the contagious spawn of related bands continues to hurl killer shit into the northern hemisphere to make the US/UK mass of musical mediocrity painfully apparent.  Constant Mongrel tread in similar sonic ground as Ozzie heavyweights Eddy Current Suppression Ring (whose Mikey Young mastered this excellent LP) but with a bit more snarl and swagger (and sax!), sounding something like Total Control covering a warped Dangerhouse 45 for an Adolescents tribute show. Living in Excellence offers instant hooks to pull you right into their universe, as well as unexpected flourishes executed to perfection to keep it interesting for years to come. A classic in the making.

Listen to Living in Excellence on Bandcamp

 

Pig Destroyer

Pig Destroyer Head Cage (Relapse)
It’d be hard to imagine spinning Pig Destroyer’s debut release, a split 7″ with Virginia screamos Orchid, way back in 1998 and see the progression the band would make from a standard-issue 3-piece to its current 5-piece lineup and the boundaries they’d breach within the genre’s perceived limitations. Like the Rush of grindcore (OK, with 5 now instead of 3) each player not only brings technical prowess and skill to the table, but a unique way of bringing it all together into something much more compelling than a bunch of showboat exercises in musical endurance. From J.R. Hayes’ and Blake Harrison’s vocal noise venom to John and Adam Jarvis’ full throttled, precision-tooled rhythm section and mastermind Scott Hull’s monsterous guitar tone, Head Cage covers more than the recommended daily requirement of heavy chug and blazing grind in a single 30 minute dose.

Listen to Head Cage on Bandcamp

 

Priors

Priors - New Pleasure (Slovenly)
Thanks for Slovenly for introducing Montreal’s Priors to the world with this blazing slab of highly concentrated, primitive garage punk. Despite the riffs being brutally efficient and unadorned, there’s a level of songwriting skill here that makes the most of these basic tools, providing a much more flavorful set of songs than your typical 1-2-3-GO punk. There’s some great synth accents sprinkled in, but it’s used to focus the songs and hardly the ordinary rally cry of a Screamers-worshipping band trying to be all synthpunk and new wavy in an ironically unironic way. It’s crafted perfectly for the vinyl format too as each side begins with a lightweight synthy intro track (“Life Pt. 1″ on side A and “Life Pt. 2″ on Side B) that gives way to an ass-smoking set of ripping punk rock. Bravo to Priors for becoming one of the best newcomers of 2018. It’s truly been a New Pleasure.

Listen to New Pleasures on Bandcamp

 

Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth - Deaths (Upset! The Rhythm)
If I weren’t so fickle, I’d probably declare this the best album of 2018, but I’m reluctant to declare anything yet despite my ongoing infatuation with this record. I remember hearing the first track “Percentages” for the first time, totally being pulled in and surprised to learn that it was Sauna Youth whom I’ve always dismissed as a bit of a novelty due to their moniker. After digging further into the album, each song, like effortless angular riff chopping of “In Flux” and the breakneck track “Problems” bolstered my respect for London’s most deadly trio. Taking the sharpest stomp of The Ex and somehow mutilating their skronk into something almost as catchy and memorable as the finest grade garage punk without losing any of the sting makes every track compelling and memorable. Even the spoken word piece “Swerve” is a dazzling example of their brilliance, pulling you into a nearly-lucid headspace while mangling our shared reality into something new and uncomfortable — and captivating. Long live Deaths.

Listen to Deaths on Bandcamp

 

The Shifters

The Shifters - Have a Cunning Plan (Trouble in Mind)
The Shifters join Constant Mongrel and barely edge out Terry’s also excellent I’m Terry to represent Melbourne’s next-level scene because Have a Cunning Plan proved to keep permanent residence on the NFZ turntable with 10-tracks of brilliant, ambling post punk that almost fills the void left by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith’s passing in January 2018. While less ragtag than their supreme demo and 7-inches, the cleaner production doesn’t smooth over this quartet’s scrappy charm and musical personality.

Listen to Have a Cunning Plan on Bandcamp

 

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Wasteland - (Rise)
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats is one of those bands that took a while to pull me in since the world truly doesn’t need another Sabbath-inspired doom metal band, unless, of course, it can be done this well. Ever since The Night Creeper made a convert out of me, I haven’t been able to get enough of Cambridge’s finest doom riders and their latest LP once again delivers the goods. A written explanation of what Wasteland and Uncle Acid’s previous records sound like can’t really explain how they’re so much more effective than the hundreds of thousands of bands that cover the same territory, but you might start with Kevin Starrs’ otherworldly vocal style and guitar work that gives the music a sinister edge that no other band, save Black Sabbath, has been able to achieve.

Listen to Wasteland on Spotify

 

Warm Drag

Warm Drag - Warm Drag (In The Red)
Being a fan of Paul Quattrone since his Pittsburgh days drumming in fantastic groups like Rot Shit, The Modey Lemon and Midnite Snake, it’s been great to see him become part of the latest version of the Oh Sees as well as engineering whatever genre-defying musical realm Warm Drag exists in. His talents beyond the drum seat are apparent here as he and Vashti Windish of Golden Triangle and The K-Holes conjure up loads of atmosphere that sounds something like Portishead and Tricky playing Suicide covers with Dick Dale in an impenetrable fog of bong smoke. Song titles like “Cave Crawl”, “Cruisin’ the Night”, and “Parasite Wreckage Dub” set the tone for the echoey headtrip Warm Drag charts out in ten smooth steps, along with spot-on production by Spacemen 3′s Sonic Boom. Without question the coolest album of 2018.

Listen to Warm Drag on Spotify

 

Prong

September 5th, 2017

Prong - ForceFedForce Fed LP (Spigot, 1988)

Seeing Decibel magazine give Prong’s Beg to Differ album the Hall of Fame treatment made me want to revisit their first two albums, as they have always been underrated and overlooked slabs of relentless and bleak thrash. While Beg to Differ is a fairly solid cruncher of an LP (not to mention that it features Pushead artwork and a live cover of Chrome’s “Third from the Sun”) I’ve found that their debut Primitive Origins and sophomore followup Force Fed really deliver the goods. Prong may have made a slight blip on the underground radar when Force Fed was first released but it was definitely eclipsed commercially by Beg to Differ, which was delivered with a slick polish on a major label and nearly instant acclaim for it’s dynamic songwriting and musical prowess. And while those qualities are all well and good, they don’t deliver the same visceral punch of a focused trio slaying it with monstrous riffs played at double speed. I used to think that all the guitar solos on Beg to Differ were what weakened it, but with fresh ears I’ve realized that Force Fed is packed with them too, although here they function to spiral the songs out of control instead of fancy finger flourishes. If your opinion of Prong is based on their later records, you might want to give this and Primitive Origins a spin.

Force Fed on Apple Music

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…