Thursday, December 07, 2017

Suburban Voice blog #125


BANSHEE

Nearing the end of the year. The next installment will be the Best of 2017... and, no, I'm STILL not caught up with everything.

ABOLITIONIST-The Pinnacle EP (1859, 7")
Melodic punk with a full-bore sound and from-the-gut vocals. Not wimpy, poppy stuff or dull street punk. Abolitionist's song feature loud, beefy riffing and bashing drums. Echoes of Leatherface, particularly on closing track "Not Alone." First time I've heard from these guys in awhile and they still provide a solid kick. (1859records.storenvy.com)

BANSHEE-Caw! (self-released, LP)

Seeing Banshee live is quite the experience... half a dozen or so (I lost count) guys playing an arsenal of guitars, bass, drums, sax and keyboards, fronted by a vocalist doing his best to channel both Iggy and Stiv. And the music is total widescreen, kick-out-the-jams-motherfuckers psyche-rock-a-rama. A thick 'n heady stew. All of this is executed by members of Boston bands Male Nurses, Casanovas In Heat, Combat Zone and many others. And it rocks like crazy, punk guys flying their freak flag and imbuing that kind of attitude into the fray. Banshee tend to stretch out on their songs--five of seven top the five minute mark    When they're on, they're on, as with the fired-up fury of "Wave To The Police," "Culture Vulture" and "Cop Caller," which fades off into noisy mayhem. Sure, it can get ponderous or hazy on occasion and I get the feeling ingesting various substances might enhance the effect. But this hits you between the ears. Get out the black light and boogie. (www.bansheemotherfuckers.com)

B.D.-Over 30 Singles (Emotional Response, LP)
B.D. is the band formerly known as the Bad Daddies (although they apparently answer to both) and this is a compilation of songs taken from various demos, 7"s, splits, etc, along with a few unreleased songs. This is their first 12" release as B.D. never did an album, although they've been prolific. It's not complete--in fact, the accompanying booklet doesn't provide info about the songs on the album but about the songs they left off and there are interviews with past and present members, photos and flyers. While the songs are mostly wrapped in a noisy cocoon of feedback squalls and fuzz and are mainly brief bursts of spirited, ranty punk, it's not the whole story. Poppy touches come through and those elements are played up on songs like "We Never Will" (which has a knockout chorus hook), the more-recent "Panama Papers" and their utterly charming cover of Smoking Popes' "Not That Kind Of Girlfriend." Camylle can sound sweet and she can also sound pissed as all-hell. And the fury flies for the likes of "Regress" and near-epic (3 minutes!) "You Ain't Right." Many of the songs are under a minute, as they flow from one thorny composition to another, not following any set formula. If you've missed the boat on these guys/gals, here's a good way to at least partially catch up. A few people have said that "underrated" should be stricken from the music critic lexicon but I'll say it anyway. (jenandstew.com)

BOMBERS

BOMBERS-Loaded Gun (demo)
Bombers are quickly becoming one of my favorite local bands... stomping, mean-as-fuck punk rock 'n roll. The last words you hear out of guitarist/vocalist Eric's mouth are FUCK YOU (that's how he usually starts their sets, as well)--such a lovable guy. Well, sometimes everyone needs a good 'ol dose of bile and hate and Bombers are more than happy to give it to you. About as subtle as a brick to the face. And it rocks like a motherfucker. (bombersma.bandcamp.com)

THE BUG-Humbug (IFB, 7")
A relentless aural bombardment by this Chicago band, on their first 7", following two demos. Dangerous and frenetic, a cyclone-like gnarl of sputtering guitar lines and off-kilter bash.  The axe-mangling for "Opinionated" will shred your brain. It comes with a booklet that includes the lyrics, artwork and explanations behind the songs. Damn fucking straight it has a message but there aren't any slogans, just ruminations on mental health, gender and political issues. And lest you think the political vitriol is meant for the current occupant of the White House, it's actually aimed at the previous one, as the title track is about the "hoax of hope." One can hear echoes of early Die Kreuzen, although this is a lot more twisted-sounding and not any sort of dated relic. (ifbrecords.com)

CINDERBLOCK-The Executioner EP (Loud Punk, 7")
Four new songs from this Boston punk crew--a tough 'n tuneful UK-82 inspiration, delivered with a solid kick. The title track starts with a Blitz "Warriors" nick and then and settles into a punchy mid-tempo pounder. "No Means No," about sexual assault, slows to a bootboy stomp. Enjoyable, if fairly average. (loudpunk.blogspot.com)

CONFIRMATION-++++ (demo)
Post-punk messthetics with melody, although that comes from more of a haunting nature instead of blatantly poppy elements. Moody but energetic and building to a manic, jarring level for "V" (the six songs have Roman numerals for titles). Even with the vintage feel, Confirmation bring it up to date with a churning intensity and fresh approach. I also concur with the lyrical sentiment of "II"--"most people seem useless." I imagine their music acts a sort of coping therapy. Works for me. (confirmationpunk.bandcamp.com)

THE COWBOY-The Cowboy Album (Fashionable Idiots, LP)
Steve Peffer and Drew Banaszak from Homostupids comprise 2/3 of this band and, as you might guess, they rely on a volume-drenched attack although it's not nearly as blown-out sounding as their former unit. An engaging, nervy amalgam of old Clevo scuzz punk, garage and post-punk. Big, cascading, swirling riffs come through to envelope the senses but there's also nuance and a strong rhythmic punch. The occasional melodic hook pops up as well, starting with opening track "Everyday We Grow." Surging, stinging and brain-piercing. (fashionableidiots.blogspot.com)  


DAME

DAME-s/t (Charm School, 7")
Dame craft melodic, yet stinging 80s-inspired goth-punk on their debut 7". Lauren’s synth isn’t quite as prevalent as on their demo, creating more of an atmospheric effect, as Anna’s mellifluent guitar lines come to the fore, underpinned by solid bass lines and drumming. “Hush” speeds things up to a punkier pace without losing the tuneful glow. Their demo was OK but this 7” is big leap forward. (charmschoolrecords.bigcartel.com)

DIRTY & HIS FISTS-s/t (Feel It, 7" EP)
Vinyl debut for west coasters Dirty& His Fists. The four songs were originally released on their summer tour tape. In case you missed the demo review, it's a dose of high energy, burning, buzzing punk rock ‘n roll at a sturdy mid-tempo clip, with the occasional synth coloring, as on "23rd Century." The brash production adds to songs' energetic kick. (feelitrecordshop.com)

EEL

EEL-Night Parade Of 100 Demons (Beach Impediment, LP)
With each successive release, Eel get increasingly raw. The vocals get buried further into the mix and the trebly guitar sounds like a buzzing hornets' nest at this point. Lyrics? Who needs to hear lyrics? They even state as much on "Always Never"--"Lyrics are stupid/lyrics is boring... I can't remember any words/Impossible to remember." Is the increasing primitiveness some sort of completion backwards principle? (Tubes reference--look it up). The modus-operandi remains the same--full-bore Japanese inspired hardcore, as well as a little Anti-Cimex thrown in, and topped off with noisy effects. Their Endless Fucker album almost sounds like pop music by comparison. A deadly sonic brainbomb. (beachimpedimentrecords.blogspot.com

girlSperm-gSp (Thrilling Living, 12")
Boisterous and engagingly abrasive--no, that's not an oxymoron. girlSperm--or gSp for short--is a thorny-sounding post-punk trio bringing to mind the likes of Delta 5 and Kleenex, along with 90s era riot grrrl. That's not a stretch or easy categorization, since Bikini Kill's Tobi Vail plays in this band. Guitar and bass lines snake around each other, accompanied by martial drumming and gang-style vocals. A nervy racket that will pierce your brain. '79 meets '92 in '17, still sounding timely. (thrillingliving.com)

HARAM-When You Have Won, You Have Lost (Toxic State, LP)
The current NYC buzz-punk sound is at Haram's core but they take things well beyond that in a number of ways. Straight pummel 'n burn, ala Dawn of Humans and bands of that ilk, but there are also songs that go in experimental directions--the atmospheric collage "Voice of the Hari'meen" or slow-churning tribalism of "What Is This Life?" and "Road To Liberation" that bring to mind some of the newer Una Bestia Incontrolable material. The lyrics are in Arabic but you still hear the passion and anger in Nader's voice. He was investigated for ties to ISIS last year, so songs like "American Police" and "Not A Terrorist" are born of personal experience. And in the midst of our current national nightmare, "Your President, Not A President" is a dissident anthem. The whole thing moves like a motherfucker, with unstoppable fury. (haram.bandcamp.com)

HOT TIP-Hold Me Closely (One Percent Press/Radical Empathy/Bitch-Face, LP)

This one's been out awhile--it came out at the tail end of 2016--but just showed up here recently. I've actually had MP3s for awhile and it's nice to have the real thing to play nice 'n loud on the turntable. Hot Tip, from Buffalo, had a pretty good demo in 2014, but this album shows growth. You can hear that immediately when comparing earlier versions of songs with the re-recorded versions. Bracing post-punk with bits of 80s goth and melody and it's a churning excursion. Along with Katherine's urgent vocals, the band create a head-messing mesh punctuated by textured guitars--shimmery, nightmarish, jabbing--accompanied with thick, fuzzy bass lines and tribal-inflected drumming. This comes out most forcefully for the penultimate song "God Feels" and the driving opener "DNA." Uneasy sounds that weave a potent spell. (hottip.bandcamp.com)

MACHO BOYS

MACHO BOYS-s/t (Neck Chop, LP)
There are actually two girls and two boys in the Macho Boys--okay, two women and two men--and their debut album is a throttler. A timelessness, both in the band's direct, rough and tumble 80s-inspired hardcore punk sound and pointed lyrics, mixing thrash with a classic SoCal punk undertow. I'm not talking EpiFat shit, I'm talking about bands like the Adolescents or Agression, with its driving backbeat. "Stone Cold," with its wrasslin' theme, definitely falls into that realm. And being a Bostonian, I applaud their pounding cover of Decadene's "Slam," from This Is Boston, Not LA. I mentioned the timeless lyrical themes and that's rather a pity since the same shit that angered punks back then still remain. Yet, with the rage, there's still a warmth, a "we're all in this together" vibe. Punk as a sort of group therapy. (neck-chop-records.myshopify.com)

NO SKIN-Paying The Fine EP (Give Praise, 12")
New(ish) band with Ben Crew from In Defence and Damage Deposit. In Defence traded mainly in crossover thrash metal but No Skin are a different beast. This is straight-up ripping hardcore, a mix of US influences and the occasional Dis-sertation. Anger unleashed, as Ben barks like a rabid dog and the band sounds muscular and in-your-face. From the one-two opening blast of "Knee Jerk Circle" and "Neck Deep" to floor rattlers like "White Elephant" and "Drill Pressed," No Skin kick up a power-packed storm. Only 100 pressed. (shop.givepraiserecords.com)

THE NERVOUS-s/t (Nervous, LP)
ZERO-FORM-s/t (demo)
A couple of Denver bands--The Nervous, who are now on hiatus (I think) have been around since 2009, with a 7" and a few demos under their belts. This album was recorded in 2014 and it's a second pressing of 200 copies. Punchy, melodic punk that reminds me of the some of the early 2000s Danish bands like Gorilla Angreb or Swedish band The Vicious, with an edgy roughness. Zero-Form is a newer band that includes Jen and Johnny from the Nervous and not far-removed from that band, although there aren't as many poppier touches. Snotty, dual vocals from Jen and Sara and basic, straight-forward arrangements. Some serious lyrical matter, as with the domestic violence theme of "Perineal Fallout." Sharp, tough, catchy punk done the right way. (toonervous.blogspot.com, zero-form.bandcamp.com)

OBEDIENCE-2017 Demo (demo)
Three songs from an upcoming 12" and more rage from this Austin band, fronted by Dave Ackerman (ex-Tear It Up). Basic, raw hardcore punk with a d-beat influence and the drumming provides a solid wallop. Looking forward to the vinyl. (obedience.bandcamp.com)

OXIDANT (photo: Jessica Domino)

OXIDANT-Deconstruct (To Live A Lie, 7")
The hammer effect as Oxidant maneuver their way through blazing speedcore/powerviolence territory. Perfectly executed and unrelenting. KJ howls at the top of their lungs, spewing out lyrical fragments as opposed to a verse/chorus/verse structure. Includes a cover of an early Hüsker Dü song, "Bricklayer," which originally appeared on Land Speed Record. Maybe the Hüskers were early purveyors of powerviolence. This is probably something I'd rather experience live and in my face but they do nail the sound with skilled mettle. (www.tolivealie.com)

OWNER-Demo 2017 (Nervous Energy, tape)

Some hot new London punk from this three-piece. The start of "Spent" makes you think it's going to be a d-beat assault but it's a feint, as the band settle in a loud, mainly mid-paced mode and they mix in a few different influences--90s riot grrrl, even some Nirvana riffage for "Nothing To Say." A fired-up blast, making for a strong debut. (ownerpunk.bandcamp.com)

RASH-Midnight Crooner (IFB/Hawthorne Street, 7")
RASH/C.H.E.W.-Split (Slugsalt, 7")
Chicago's Rash is one mean-sounding band. Face-melting hardcore that provides a loud and dark scream from the soul. That's evident on their latest 7" Midnight Crooner (following up their Skinner Box 12"). Screeching and squalling riffs underpinned by a sturdy crunch, slowing it to a pounding creepy crawl for "Tick." There's also a split where Rash is paired up with C.H.E.W., another edgy and provocative Chicago band. C.H.E.W. (which allegedly stands for Cocaine, Heroin, Ecstasy, Weed) connect with an aggressive and driving hardcore sound and also add a Jesus Lizard-like twist for "Moral Panic." Doris' vocals exude a savage, murderous intensity. The same can actually be said for Eric from Rash's verbal emanations. That'd make for one hell of a duet, I imagine. A perfect pairing. (ifbrecords.com; www.slugsaltrex.com)


RIXE

RIXE-Collection (La Vida Es Un Mus, LP)
A handy dandy collection of this French Oi band's first three 7" EPs. An even dozen loud, boisterous, catchy ravers. Gruff vocals, whoahhing backups and a meatgrinder powerhouse of sound. What's old is new again or at least keeps regenerating itself and, while Rixe draw from the obvious 80s touchpoints--what was happening in France back then (Komintern Sect and Kidnap, to name a few), as well as the No Future bands, there's a gusto to the proceedings. Songs like  the peppy "Razzia" and stomping "Coups & Blessures" make me want to start a boot party. At that big bar in the sky, I'm sure the late, grate Bruce Roehrs from Maximum Rocknroll would raise a glass to them and go, FUCK YES! Exactly, Bruce, exactly. (lavidaesunmus.com)

ROTTEN UK-Waiting For The Bomb/Protest & Survive (Loud Punk, 7")
Two songs from this upstate New York (not UK) band. The title track is a somber, melodic punk song ala Crisis. The cover of Discharge's "Protest & Survive" is perfunctory but that's about it. Nothing that great here. In other words, I'd rather listen to Crisis and Discharge. (loudpunk.blogspot.com)

RUT-Attraction (Digital Regress, 7")
The cover is the comic strip character Nancy kicking the band's name and that fits the mood of the record. "Provoked," indeed, as the opening track with that title gets things started with a storm of feedback leading into pounding hardcore punk. Dense and thumping, guitar pyrotechnics that don't veer into wank territory and thick basslines. Rut are from California, although they remind me a bit of UK nasties like Snob or Frau. One of the people in this band also plays in Acrylics so you know this is music with a bone to pick with the world. (digitalregress.com)

SUBURBAN HOMES-Unemployed/Anxiety Attack (Total Punk, 7")
Only two jittery gems here and maybe it's s concept, with unemployment leading to an anxiety attack? Whatever the case, Suburban Homes have perfected their late 70s DIY post-punk sound that draws from Swell Maps, O-Level and other bands of that ilk. Non-distorted guitar lines, a sturdy bass/drums combo and plaintive vocals and lyrics. "Unemployed" has a cool little guitar break while "Anxiety Attack" ups the bash quotient and urgency of the vocals. More, please. (floridasdying.com)

SYSTEMATIC DEATH-Systema-Ten (FOAD, 12")
A one-sided disc with an etching on the flip and really fucking expensive for 9 minutes of music that could have fit on a 7". Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, I suppose, because Systematic Death remain as raging as ever. They've changed guitarists and new axeman Ryu is a little flashier but the style remains the same. Fast, blazing hardcore punk with delivered with savage relentlessness. One of the few exceptions to the rule that older bands shouldn't release new music. (www.foadrecords.it)

VANILLA POPPERS-s/t (Lumpy, LP)
No-nonsense, ass-kicking punk/garage/rock 'n roll. Many of the lyrical themes deal with the dynamics of human interaction i.e. people can really, really suck--sexist, useless wastes of space and so on. That comes out for "Time To Say Goodbye, "Dead Inside" and "Where You Told Me I Belong," in particular. A straight-forward, fuzzy, three chord attack, along with Christina's pissed-off sounding vocals. Nothing complex, just loud and burning in its most basic form. Why fuck with what works? (spottedrace.bigcartel.com)

BOOK REVIEWS:


DEAD BOYS 1977: The Lost Photographs Of Dave Treat (Signature Book Printing, 88 pg.)
Just what it says, a collection of mostly-unreleased images tracing the early days of the Dead Boys. It's divided into three parts--the first is a photo shoot of the band, before they moved to NYC. The backdrop for the black and white images are the decaying buildings and urban landscape of downtown Cleveland, before its resurrection. Then there's a collection of color live photos from two shows--one set in color, one in black and white. The final segment is a collection of black and white photos of Stiv Bators, done for Treat's student portfolio and taken in his apartment (Cheetah Chrome pops up in a few photos as well). Even though they're not music shots and Stiv is largely in repose, you have a pretty good idea what his life's destiny will be. Cheetah and drummer Johnny Blitz offer brief snippets of commentary throughout the book. Although it's a nice looking, hardcover/glossy book, at only 88 pages and a $30 retail, it seems a bit steep, to be honest. Probably for the diehards only. (deadboys1977.com)



xXx FANZINE (1983-1988) Hardcore & Punk in the Eighties by Mike Gitter (Bridge Nine, 288 pg.)
Years in the making (the idea was originally conceived in 2005), this is a  compendium of original content from the 20 issues of xXx published by Mass. native Mike Gitter from 1983 to 1988. The book is augmented with updated interviews of people interviewed “back in the day,” as well reminiscences by Gitter and other individuals who were involved, along with additional photos and flyers. (full disclosure: I wrote one of the forewords and contributed a few other written passages). Those items surround the original zine layout. In addition to the interviews, the vintage content includes scene updates, show, zine and live reviews. It’s a history exhibition unfolding in real time.

Gitter started his zine in the spring of ’83, some months after the first issue of mine. As with most embryonic zines, the layout was a primitive cut and paste format and the quality improved as time progressed—half-toning the photos, using offset printers instead of going to the copy shop etc. xXx never got away from its fanzine look, though. He never went to a full-color glossy format.The writing and depth of interviews also improved as time progressed, as did the scope of bands that Gitter interviewed. At the beginning, he wrote about and interviewed mainly hardcore and punk bands and spoke with just all of the “legends”—Minor Threat, Black Flag, Necros, 7 Seconds, Void, Negative Approach, Battalion of Saints, etc., as well as all the classic local hardcore bands and even some that didn’t always get a lot of ink, like Psycho. He didn’t just stick to one style of hardcore or punk either—it ran the gamut from UK bands to west coast punk to straight edge purveyors. He eventually moved a bit beyond strictly punk and hardcore to include acts like Lydia Lunch and Swans and expanded into the metal realm with the likes of Metallica (around the time that Ride the Lightning came out), Exodus, Voivod and Motörhead, along with second and third generation bands like Dag Nasty, Kingface, Ignition and All. It’s a documentation of Gitter’s musical journey, as things went in different directions. One thing Gitter didn’t do was editorialize about political issues. It was always about the music for him.

The then-and-now aspect of the book is a different wrinkle and it’s fun to see people giving their current day perspective on what happened then, now that they’re older and wiser (maybe the latter is sometimes questionable).You have Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith revealing that the band had already broken up when he did the interview but it wasn’t public knowledge yet and the members of Void talking about their unreleased Potion For Bad Dreams album. All in all, it’s an enjoyable trip down memory lane, while also tying things to the present day.

The book comes with a 19 song download  of a compilation album, Still Having Their Say, with (mostly) modern day bands covering 80s hardcore tunes. It's also available as a limited vinyl pressing as part of a package deal that also includes a couple of posters and a 64 page paperback book compiling the three issues of Gitter's pre-xXx zine Suburban Mucus that he produced with a partner, Mark Dincecco (who was actually in Siege for about 5 minutes). I'm a little leery of all-covers or tribute albums these days. The versions often sound uninspired or rote or perfunctory. Strife's adding youth crew backups to their version of Void's "Who Are You?" An acoustic/folky version of Agnostic Front's "Society Suckers" by Walter Schriefels? Jesse Leach turning Minor Threat's "Salad Days" into lilting reggae rock? Nope, not feeling it. On the other hand, Nomads smash their way through a medley of Crucifix's "How, When and Where" and Agnostic Front's "The Elminator" with pure malevolence. Tombs' bashing of Samhain's "Kiss Of Steel," American Nightmare's raging version of Cro-Mags' ""It's The Limit" (recorded in 2001) and Fuck You Pay Me's spirited take of Subhumans' "Relgious Wars" are both enjoyable, as is  Dan Kubinski from Die Kruezen joining Voivod for a live version of his band's "Man In The Trees." Some good tracks, if not 100% essential.

The Suburban Mucux book is stretched out with reproductions of classic Boston hardcore flyers and photos from Claire Sutherland, who did work for a number of zines back then, including my own. It's very much the effort of two high school kids reviewing not only punk and hardcore but also new wave (Soft Cell! Adam Ant!), post-punk and industrial. By the third issue, it was moving into the direction Mike would pursue with xXx with interviews of the Freeze and the criminally-underrated Sorry. (bridge9.com)