Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake 106: The HIRS Collective

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Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake 106: The HIRS Collective, The Brokedowns, Daylight Robbery, Night Birds, Pinned In Place, War On Women

HIRS COLLECTIVE, THE: Friends. Lovers. Favorites.: LP
This is a thoughtful piece of music and art. All of its elements. Lyrics in peaked, gothic font embossed over a photo of a rose garden so that they are hidden. In order to read the lyrics, you have manipulate the record sleeve to find the right angle of light with which to reveal them. It demands your attention and focus; a concerted effort to engage with it. But these words are meant to be read. And heard. Agitated and directed audio/verbal violence aimed at the systems which tell us boys wear blue and girls wear whatever they’re told to. It is fast. It is aggressive. It is impassioned. It’s noisy and nasty and beautiful. A knife through every episode of Will and Grace and every de-fanged, stereotyped depiction of queer and trans identity where we meekly acquiesce to what hetero, white America wants of us. We aren’t here for you. We will be whatever we want to be. And we will be dangerous to all of those who endanger us. There is despair and overwhelming pain and necessary rage in this record. They are used as fuel to the collective’s march to the future, and without unrealistic optimism for some ideal future against a world that would see us invisible and hating ourselves. There is triumph here in the single moment. Every moment of every day where we don’t kill ourselves. Every moment we continue to exist in our beautiful trans bodies of all shapes and colors. Even when we cannot bring ourselves to step outside our rooms; to continue to live and survive is an act of radical bravery. This is a celebration of that triumph. A celebration of our community. And a needle in the eye of every person who thought calling us faggots was an insult or that being trans meant we were broken. I’d like to play this record for every piece of shit who told me which restroom I was supposed to use. T4T thank you. –CJ Miller (SRA / Get Better)

BROKEDOWNS, THE: Sick of Space: CD
Here is a band that has been on my radar to check out and, for some reason or another, I have never got around to it. I need to re-evaluate my priorities. Immediately I was reminded of The Arrivals (which is always a good thing) and quickly confirmed that they are indeed a Chicago band themselves and Lil Dave himself appears on two songs. I don’t know what it is about the Midwest that makes for great music, but the proof is there. This entire album is fucking phenomenal! I feel like I need to smack myself for not picking up on these guys sooner, but I am pretty damn excited that I have a back catalog to explore. Also, “Mommy, Can I Go Out and Chill Tonight” is the best song title this side of a Dillinger Four album. Get this! –Ty Stranglehold (Red Scare)

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY: Signal Bleed: EP
After Daylight Robbery perfected their sound on their previous LP, Accumulated Error, I wondered how this long-running Chicago band would stretch out to keep things fresh. I got this German tour EP and now I know. They went goth and pulled it off! The first two songs are slower and moodier than their usual fare, forefronting Christine’s haunting vocals, while the drums and bass churn and David’s reverby guitar slashes over everything. The B-side has two songs of their usual blend of spacious post-punk and Aussie garage rock, and they’re satisfying entries into the band’s catalog (especially “Superstition”), but the most intriguing part of this record is the strong steps they take in a new direction. –Chris Terry (daylightrobbery.bandcamp.com)

HARD FEELINGS: Sideways: LP
This record should come with a case of Rhinelander shorties and a pallet to dismantle and burn. The northern territories’ purveyors of the finest region rock return with an LP that’s drenched in that beautiful bristled sound and executed with Eric Nelson-like precision. It’s a reflection of life lived and lessons learned. Just because people have been bad to you doesn’t mean you have to be bad to other people. Can someone help me figure out how to get this album to automatically load onto everyone’s iPhone with a scrolling text banner that reads “It’s okay to just be yourself!” in Mike Wilson’s handwriting? Anyone?! Either way, I’ll be playing this record, daydreaming about bonfires in Superior, Wisconsin, and cherishing the honest and genuine people who play this scrappy punk sound. –Daryl (Dirt Cult / Lost Cat)

HIVE / NO SKIN: Split: 7”
Minneapolis hardcore punk never dies. Hive start things off with two “neo crust” detonations: heavy, mid-paced, apocalyptic hardcore punk similar to His Hero Is Gone. No disrespect to Hive, but No Skin win this split with three songs of venomous hardcore with nary a trace of melody or positivity: an eviler Poison Idea or Long Knife. Not since the now classic Totalitar / Tragedy split are you gonna find a more perfect pairing of contrasting hardcore punk styles that work so well together on the same disc. Get this, get drunk, and burn down a bank. –Juan Espinosa (FTWNU2)

LOVESORES: Gods of Ancient Grease: LP
I can’t believe The Lovesores aren’t a goddamn household name. First off, they’re fronted by Scott “Deluxe” Drake (Humpers, Vice Principals, Suicide Kings, et cetera.) The man is rock’n’roll royalty in my house. Lovesores stomp and swagger and play the kind of music Johnny Thunders wished he could have. Yeah, I said that out loud! Secondly, guitarist Saul Koll is an absolute force of nature. He can sling axe like Wayne Kramer and is better than James Williamson. Yeah, I said that too! Koll’s leads are muscular but tasteful, always white hot. No unnecessary wankery here. The rest of the band ain’t slouches either, folks. Gotta have a solid bassist to hold things down, a John Entwistle to whoever that other guy in that band was. I’m not sorry for any continuing Humpers comparisons, as they’ve been one of my favorite bands for over twenty years. I’ve followed Drake’s subsequent projects, from solo stuff to World’s Strongest Men and beyond. The Lovesores are the outfit most worthy of carrying the torch the Humpers lit then snuffed out in the punchbowl of your grandmother’s party. But, I do have one question—why isn’t Designated Dale reviewing this album? Didn’t he get his rock’n’roll name from a Humper? –Sal Lucci (Dead Beat)

MALE PATTERNS: Headaches: 12” EP
As Mike Thrashead used to say, “Yeeouch!” Fans of Long Knife, Econochrist, and SFA sit up and take note. This record rules! Kicking off with “Depression” and upping the intensity with every song after. It’s mid to somewhat fast hardcore punk with a catchy beat (not a bad thing). “Hype” scorches, and the title track doubles down. “Bought and Sold” slows the roll, but intensifies the punch. I say this is one of the best records of the year. Go ahead and quote me on it, I won’t deny it later. –Matt Average (Peterwalkee, peterwalkeerecords.com)

NIGHT BIRDS: Roll Credits: LP
I have been reviewing Night Birds records since I got my first one in 2011 and they quickly became one of my favorite bands ever. That’s right, I said “ever.” I love thousands of bands in this wide world, but these rippers from New Jersey really do it for me. That said, I often feel like I might sound like a broken record when I gush about their records. I plead “no contest,” your honor. This new “mini-album” is their first after a bit of a hiatus, but they haven’t slowed down in the least—surf-tinged, genre-themed punk rock that is incredibly well put together. The record begins and ends with the instrumentals they have become known for and packed between are some of their best songs to date (like I said, I am a broken record). Original guitarist Mike Hunchback is back in the fold slinging git right alongside his successor PJ Russo, resulting in a huge sound. I look forward to seeing them live in their new, five-piece format. I also have to mention the work that went into the design of this album. I am reviewing the LP version of the album, but there was also a limited edition box set that includes four 7”s (of course I bought both versions… I am “that guy” about this band!). The band tapped eight of their talented artist friends to create a cover for each song. The LP cover collects all of the 7” covers together much like a Killed By Death compilation. I dig the concept and it all looks amazing. I also have it on good authority that nothing is to be read into the title of the record. Night Birds aren’t calling it a day any time soon, and that is something I am thankful for. If for some reason you aren’t familiar with the band, I am a little shocked but mostly excited, as you have a lot of fun catching up to do. –Ty Stranglehold (Fat)

NOTCHES: Almost Ruined Everything: LP
Friends’ bands in Worcester and New Brunswick played with these cats recently, so I tracked ‘em down and hey: Notches live in Dover, N.H., a town where I lived for a while in college. My Dover days were during the height of both New Hampshire-based Ringing Ear Records—who put out great records by, among others, Sinkhole, Doc Hopper, and New Sweet Breath—and the Elvis Room in Portsmouth, the dearly departed coffeehouse where I saw a zillion bands (including but not limited to Boris The Sprinkler, Jawbox, Giants Chair, and Man Or Astroman?). I mention all this because it’s easy to imagine Notches as seamless fits into that old Elvis Room/Ringing Ear scene: their thickly fuzzed hooks remind me of some of that old stuff. Outside of their geography and associations (and what might rightly be called nostalgia on my part), the songs on Almost Ruined Everything pick up where the band left off on their debut long-player High Speed Crimes. They switch off on vocals and meld sweet (like sugar) riffs and chunky heft, again providing song after song that got stuck in my head after a single listen. I love when bands compel me to buy shirts and drop their name to all my friends. Notches is such a band, and it’s been their records which have been the soundtrack to my summer—and hopefully, now, to your fall. –Michael T. Fournier (Salinas, salinasrecords.com)

OLD CITY: Future Dead: 10”
Blindsided by another great band from Portland, Ore., a city that has yielded some of the best and darkest punk over the decades. From the Wipers to Poison Idea, Coldbringer to Long Knife, there’s a common thread. Old City continues that tradition of creating the soundtrack to a bleak present and desolate future. Reminiscent of Terrible Feelings, this music is dark and infectious, epic and raw. The three tracks on this EP evoke a sense of dread and doom, expressing frustration with modern life and the very real demons unleashed by a society that has evolved to spend the lives of the underclass in its perpetual wars. A society that has constructed a way of life for the populace to keep them complacent, a way of life that is really just an alternate form of subjugation, without true freedom. From the song “Open Sleep”: “The city’s cold and dead / With plastic tombs for rent / And in our arrogance / We’ll never live again.” And this is the value of great music: it helps us exorcise those very demons that threaten to destroy us. Listening to music like this and connecting with kindred spirits through the songs can give us a sense that we’re not alone in the daily struggle to live freely, to escape the clutches of that world that would bring us down. –Chad Williams (Old City, oldcity.bandcamp.com)

PINNED IN PLACE: Rubbernecking at the Gates of Hell: CS
It is incredibly tough, at least for this reviewer, to write about new releases without reference points to other bands. That being said, I try my best to make it really count when name-dropping. Pinned In Place has delivered an absolute knockout album of indie punk ear worms. Looping guitar leads and fills leading pop hooks leave my stomach in excited knots, not unlike the first time hearing Wreck Of The Zephyr (which I’ve referenced as the Rush of punk rock). Punk players doing guitar algebra around indie hooks. Would be a dream gig to have Pinned In Place open a show with Screaming Females. –Matt Seward (Reflective Tapes, reflectivetapes.bandcamp.com)

SLOW MASS: On Watch: 12”
So far, my top record of 2018. I fucking love this band. It’s like they took everything good from the early 2000s and carefully stitched it together without making something incomprehensible. It’s the perfect combination of melodic and dissonant that made that era of emo/hardcore so good along with a promiscuous dedication to sound that necessitates organs, saxophones, pianos, vibraphones, and synths to really get the feel right, leaving the faint feeling of The Anniversary hanging in the air. There are moments, like the beginning of “My Violent Years,” where I feel like I’m listening to the careful but understated guitar work of a mid-career Neil Young song, but then there are songs like “Suburban Yellow” and “Oldest Youngest” that come up to the five-minute mark, using alternating vocals, gutting drum fills, and unrelenting riff repetition that remind me of Portland’s excellent Longclaw or other heavier shoegaze stuff that’s been the sort of surprising descendent of a post-Fall Out Boy reclamation of emotional music with a heavy bent. This record is great, beginning to end. Just take an hour and listen to it, you won’t be sorry. –Theresa W. (Landland, landland.net)

WAR ON WOMEN: Capture the Flag: 12”
This is the long-anticipated (to me, at least) sophomore follow-up to 2015’s self-titled debut LP and an über-promising EP from 2012. Right now, I can’t imagine this won’t be one of my favorite records of 2018. It’s everything that you’d expect from War On Women—unapologetic and clever lyrics over fast and clean hardcore that is creative instead of derivative (surely, this is what makes some people reluctant to call it hardcore, like Pitchfork’s description of the band as “hardcore inspired alt-rock,” but they can bite me). Even with some lineup changes, they sound tight as ever, losing none of the exuberance of Potter’s live performance that makes the band such a force. The lyrics are as biting and aggressive as you’ve come to expect, but a bonus for this record is that the band also released a college-level workbook that is “based on the lyrics and themes” of the record. To my mind, this speaks volumes to the spirit of punk and hardcore that’s aimed at actually communicating with people on multiple levels. I can’t believe how much I learned as a young person reading the liner notes of records like Propagandhi’s Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes and I’m stoked that this could do that for young people today. –Theresa W. (Bridge Nine, bridge9.com)

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