Record Reviews

BEN EDGE & THE ELECTRIC PENCILS: Yellow House: LP

Cheeky art school punk from the singer of Thee Spivs. While that band had a rough-and-tumble, late ‘70s punk approach like the TV Personalities, Ben’s new band are a bit more cerebral. Sounding like a crisp and clean Headcoats, Ben wears his love of the Medway on his sleeve along with the distinct Britishness of the Kinks. No lyric sheet but songs like “Lowrey at the Door” and “Sunday Painter” nod towards Ben’s day job as an accomplished artist. Think Billy Childish lite or a more polished English Ty Segall. –Tim Brooks (Almost Ready, almostreadyrecords.com)

BENT: Mattress Springs: 7”

Bent brings us minimalistic female-fronted post-punk from Brisbane. For a good while there, it seemed like Australia was generating nonstop bizarro punk hits. That wave has seemingly crashed. Bent relies heavily on the rhythm section and the guitar seems to be an afterthought. Resultantly, these songs seem incomplete. I liked the idea of the sparseness, but it fell a bit short. –Vincent (Emotional Response, jenandstew.com)

BERNAYS PROPAGANDA: Na to igrišče ne smem: LP

Macedonian three-piece Bernays Propaganda have made a sandwich I didn’t know I wanted to eat. The meat is groovy-as-hell techno—driving and propulsive—while the bread that holds everything together is goth (think Bauhaus). For condiments, add post-punk. And that’s all you need to make a damn fine sandwich. Fuck lettuce. I’m eating up all nine songs and going back for seconds. The lush production strengthens the spell-binding arrangements, and Katrina’s fierce vocals accentuate the dreamy melodies. This isn’t music to lull you to sleep; it’s meant to get you on your feet. Hell, if they played Bernays Propaganda at dance clubs, I would seriously consider putting on my best shoes and gyrating the night away. –Sean Arenas (Ill In The Head, illinthehead.com)

BIG BLEACH: Riffin’ with Biff: CS

Goddamn, Big Bleach gives me faith in the present (the future is still bleak). They whip up four fast, punk-as-fuck tracks on this cassette: snotty vocals and irreverent lyrics over danceable and wild instrumentation. Can’t help but think of good Sacramento bands and early ‘90s Recess Records. Just powerful and fun. Why can’t more bands be like this?! –Vincent (morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)

BRAIN FEVER: Self-titled: 12” EP

Pummeling, dissonant hardcore courtesy of members In/Humanity, Scrotum Grinder, End Of The Century Party, Assück, Hankshaw, Guyana Punchline, Scholastic Deth, and No Statik. Things are largely mid-paced, the addition of an organ to the instrumentation brings to mind Deep Purple, and they deliver the goods with uncompromising ferocity. Ear damage all but guaranteed from this. –Jimmy Alvarado (Tsuguri)

CELLO PUDDING: Soundscrapes: CD

Some members of punk supergroup Carnage Asada strap on some cellos and go to work. Vacillating between free jazz and avant-classical music, tunes at times sound like they’re off the soundtrack of some hip Otto Preminger flick. Engaging throughout, and I often found myself trying to figure out what was improvised, what was written down, and so on. Not suited to everyone’s tastes, sure, but “punks” should be pushing their palates further toward the fringes. Thumbs up. –Jimmy Alvarado (Cello Pudding, facebook.com/cellopudding)

CHOKE CHAINS: Trace Amounts: LP

Blown-out and obtuse garage-y punk from Michigan that retains a danceable rhythm throughout and has great distorted vocals. There’s enough variety through these songs to keep you interested but they have a good core sound that lends the band their own aesthetic. The phrase “simple but effective” could be used to describe so much about this record: the vocal harmonies, the guitar leads, the drum style. RIYL: the Spits, Guitar Wolf, Fidlar but don’t expect a rehash of any of those bands. –Ian Wise (Heel Turn)

COMPLICATORS: Self-titled: 7” EP

Gruff-vocal street punk with lyrics covering working class life, class conflict, and the like. Not bad in the least, but not anything that hasn’t been done a million times before. Fans of the genre will no doubt find much to love, but this former baldie is wishing folks would start looking for new, more interesting directions to take things. –Jimmy Alvarado (Pirates Press)

CØNDITIØN: Subjugated Fate: 7”

The term d-beat is becoming almost meaningless in that it’s being used to describe so many divergent sounds. Yet Cønditiøn typifies what I’ve always considered to be d-beat in that it’s hard to imagine any of its members not having serious Discharge obsessions. All four songs are brutal in that classic d-beat style with harsh vocals and Discharge-influenced drum beats. The 7” has excellent packaging, too. It’s not to be missed for fans of this time-tested brand of hardcore. –Art Ettinger (Iron Lung, ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)

CONVERGE: The Dusk in Us: LP

Even though the average age of the members of Converge hovers around forty years old, they’re putting out some of the best material of their career. This thirteen-song, forty-four minute album is full of tracks that beat you up one side and back down the other, with a couple of breathers along the way (“The Dusk in Us” and “Thousands of Miles between Us”). This follows a familiar pattern for the band, but some of the heavy-hitters such as “Under Duress” and “I Can Tell You about Pain” are more brutal and intense than anything they’ve ever released. Even the slower songs are wonderful, with the singing portion at the end of “A Thousand Miles between Us” giving me goose bumps every time. Showcasing some diversity in their sound, “Trigger” has a bluesy guitar and the bass brings a heavy swagger. It’s got a definite Rollins Band feel. As more time has elapsed since Converge’s classic Jane Doe, and as I’ve seen so many bands try and ape that sound, the album impresses me less. Fans of the band constantly put it on an altar and I think it’s important to acknowledge how it changed the hard music scene. It’s also fair to say The Dusk in Us isn’t breaking new ground in metal in that same sense. However, it’s certainly the most mature, fully developed album Converge has released since Jane Doe and, given more listens, I can easily see this being my favorite album by them. –Kurt Morris (Epitaph, epitaph.com)