Record Reviews

BACK TO BASICS: Shaded Eyes EP: 7”

Secret Mission continues to bring incredible Japanese bands to turntables worldwide, with Back To Basics delivering two marvelous new tracks on this perfect single that self-describes as an EP. Hailing from Kyoto and featuring members of Louder and First Alert, this is definitive Japanese powerpop that’s irresistible from the first listen. Only two hundred of these are available stateside, so make sure to swoop it up while you can. Secret Mission’s momentum is on fire right now, with them churning out hit after hit. No one’s throwing shade at Shaded Eyes! –Art Ettinger (Secret Mission, secretmissionrecords.com)

BAD TIMES: Streets of Iron: LP

Bad Times was a one-off band that was comprised of a trio of influential garage punkers: Jay Reatard (The Reatards, Lost Sounds), Eric Oblivian (The Oblivians), and King Louie Bankston (Royal Pendletons, Missing Monuments). This is a reissue of their lone studio LP rebranded with the title Streets of Iron, and it’s a good one, re-mastered and with a slightly different track listing. Musically, I can’t really say there are any surprises here if you’re familiar with the other bands these guys are associated with, as it’s chock full of lo-fi snotty garage punk rock’n’roll. With the impressive list of really great bands that the members of this trio has been involved with, I can’t say that this is my favorite thing that any of these guys put out, but it’s still a fun listen and definitely worth checking out if you’re unfamiliar. –Mark Twistworthy (Goner)

BLANKZ, THE: White Baby: 7”

Cherry picking the most infectious parts of bands like Smogtown, The Consumers, and The Spits, The Blankz crank out two snotty, amped-up bangers on this EP. Fans of Hostage, early-2000s Dirtnap, or Modern Action Records should definitely look into this. If they can play as well as this record sounds, I bet they’re blowing a band off the stage as you read this. Gritty lyrics, clean production, winning combo. –Daryl (Slope)

BLUES LAWYER: Guess Work: LP

Tales of love, crushes, and infatuation gone south presented via a mix of Messthetics and Flying Nun sounds at their best. Honest poetry of frustration and heartbreak that even the most emotionally cold can relate to—in the dark and alone of course. “Pretend” embodies that with: “I saw you in the street light, waiting on a car, you were right in front of me, but never seemed so far.” Through all of this, musically and lyrically, there is a sublime quality that can not be denied. –Matt Average (Emotional Response, jenandstew.com, emotionalresponserecords@gmail.com)

BOMBPOPS, THE: Dear Beer: EP

The title track to this EP seesaws between craving social drinking with friends and pushing everyone away so the narrator can drink alone. I suppose it’s a fairly common back and forth fight with your own brain, which is pretty evident in the lines: “I’m so sick of drinking by myself / No one likes a fucking downer.” Then they also say they hate their friends, but they’re too lazy to get new ones. So it’s a bit of apathy with a side of social anxiety—which is not always paired well with alcohol—though it definitely always wants to hang out when you’re bummed. Listening to “Dear Beer” makes me think a lot of Dillinger Four’s “Fruity Pebbles,” which used to be my go-to song for drinking alone. At first listen, I really didn’t like this EP very much. It’s super polished and everything is perfectly on point. Not a hair out of place. It definitely put me off at first because it’s so sugary and calculated pop punk. But the more I sit with it, much like passing time with a pint and your own thoughts, it starts to become more familiar and enjoyable. It’s certainly got a producer’s touch all over the tunes, though I know that’s not always a bad thing. I even kinda enjoy “Polluted Skies” for reminding me what it’s like to live in L.A.—too hot to keep your windows closed, yet too fucking loud to keep them open at night. If you like super saccharine, innocuous pop punk (who are not the female version of TBR! I get so sick of seeing that comparison!), pick this one up. Maybe even get it put into the jukebox at your favorite dive for those nights you’re drinking alone. –Kayla Greet (Fat)

BRAIN TRAPS: Hobo Cobra Action Tracks: LP

I’m pretty sure I’ve reviewed Brain Traps before, I don’t believe they’ve made it out to the U.S. and they’re not a well known band outside of Cologne, Germany, however I know I’ve heard them before. With all of the lo-fi garage that graces my turntable (the good, the bad, and the ugly) Brain Traps does have a signature sound. It’s super catchy, and easily danceable, like early Black Lips trash garage. Hobo Cobra Action Tracks is at worst an easy listen, and at best a true fist pumper… depending on your mood, of course. With six songs though, I wonder why a 12”. I know that 7”s don’t sell, but ya know, I’m all about efficiency… but I’ll let it slide. –Camylle Reynolds (Stencil Trash)

BRUISER QUEEN: Heavy High: 12” LP

Bruiser Queen is undoubtedly one of St. Louis’ best kept secrets. They consistently revive the most critical elements found in the best female-fronted acts of ‘90s and ‘60s. A little gritty, a little poppy, strong vocals, and guitar that replaces bass. I don’t often let the last one slide, but I do for Sleater-Kinney and Bruiser Queen. This album kicks off with “Sugar High,” and it should come as no surprise that the track itself reflects the theme of the lyrics: find a way to coat the rough times in all the good you can find. It continues on with strong, upbeat, pop/garage rock tracks for most of the album, but things do take a turn for a slower in the second half. I’m not sure this is where Bruiser Queen shines but vocalist Morgan Nusbaum can certainly carry a track with little instrumentation. Standout tracks: “Telepathic Mind” and “Teenage Fire.” –Nicole X (Certified PR, thickbootyhos@yahoo.com)

CHARNEL GROUND: Self-titled: 12” LP

Charnel Ground is a N.Y.-based noise rock supergroup of sorts. It’s instrumental, it’s good. If you need something less aggro than Pelican but not as chill Pinback, Charnel Ground is a good bet. Might as well skip “Playa La Ticla” (about fourteen minutes in) which brings a surfy, Spanish-inspired, twist that just doesn’t fit. –Nicole X (12XU)

CHESTY MALONE AND THE SLICE ‘EM UPS: We’re Still Dead!: LP

Kinda metal-laced horror punk stuff. Even at fifteen years old, I probably wouldn’t have dug songs like “Show ‘Em the Snake” or “Gorilla Girl from Outer Space,” but then again I unflinchingly loved both Gwar and the Accused back then, so who knows. Anyway, an LP’s worth of silly, quasi-questionable songs about monsters and madhouses and robbing old ladies, all with an unabashed metallic thread running throughout that doesn’t quite hit me in the feels or the fun-zone a few decades later. The band logo incorporates a zombie woman with huuuuuge breasts and a pair of butcher knives, and that’s pretty indicative of the album as a whole. Lead singer’s moniker is Jaqueline Blownaparte, which is maybe one of the best punk names ever, but all in all, I gotta give this one a pass. –Keith Rosson (Wrecked)

CHOKE THE POPE: Who Cares: CS

Godamnit, this band is fantastic. In just a year, I went from blindly reviewing their last cassette, seeing them live a bunch, and then totally falling in love with them. Their songs are deftly satirical and brutally honest. They cover things like rehab in “Milam High” (“You can study or you can fuck off / I’ve never met so many sober jerkoffs”), AA in “Depression and Cigarettes” (“I’m struggling to pay the rent / But all my money has been spent on quick fixes and paranoia”), and how they feel about people sucked into their phones on “Must Be Nice” (“When I see somebody Snapchatting at a show it makes me go “Oh no, what an asshole” / Just live your life!”). They branch out in some nice ways musically also. “Bad News” is a fuzzed-out slow jam, while “Depression and Cigarettes” is a somewhat bluesy tune. I also love that there’s a song titled “Fuck You,” directly followed by one called “Fuck Me.” Everything on this record is so fucking catchy and wonderful. The jangly guitar comes through sharply, the bass rumbles along in the low end, the drums are always on point, and the vocals are much like talking to a good friend, but one who can carry a tune with attitude. Easily a top contender for album of the year for me. This rules. –Kayla Greet (Den Tapes, dentapes@gmail.com)