Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake Issue 104: Bundles, Gino And The Goons, Hot Snakes, Red Dons, Screaming Females, Shark Toys

Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake Issue 104

Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake Issue 104: Bundles, Gino And The Goons, Hot Snakes, Red Dons, Screaming Females, Shark Toys

Illustration by Danny Rust: @phantom_winslow


BUNDLES: Deaf Dogs: LP

I mean, the end of 2018’s a ways away, but damn if Deaf Dogs isn’t contending for album of the year for me. Holy cow. I loved last year’s split LP with Dan Webb & The Spiders, and now there’s twelve new songs to freak out over. They’re short, compact, frantic, rough-hewn, ferocious and catchy songs, and just about perfect. See, Bundles—and this is important, folks—is one of those bands in which I have zero idea as to what they’re saying, but they say it with such emotion and conviction that I am wholeheartedly convinced anyway. “If I’m convicted, I’ll resign. But I’ve killed all the judges and it feels right. Now I’m taking hostages and bullet wounds and all I think about—you just move the way I like.” I… you got me, guys. No fucking clue what you mean in any of this stuff, but there is such inherent, unbridled passion in these twelve songs, and buoyancy and joy and anger and teeth, that I just love it anyway. Catchy and fierce and recommended. I really hope they tour here. Punk. –Keith Rosson (Gunner USA)

BEND SINISTER: Tape 2: LP

A while back I thought to myself “What would the perfect garage noise band sound like if it ever could exist?” I dreamt up a scenario where this could be achievable whilst being completely oblivious to Bend Sinister or the A Frames (who they later came to be). After listening to this collection of tracks, I’ve concluded that there is no need for anyone to try anymore: Bend Sinister was that perfect band. Listening to these songs I can’t help but imagine a band rehearsing in the laundry room of a shitty apartment building by guys who could give half a shit if they were to be caught. You like Wrangler Brutes, Retainers, or any band on Rip Off Records? That’s nice but Bend Sinister rends all those bands and several others obsolete. There’s only four hundred copies of this floating around out there so don’t sleep. –Juan Espinosa (Homeless, homelessrecords.bandcamp.com)

BRUISER QUEEN: Heavy High: LP

Whoa-oh- and ooh-heavy garage pop punk. I’ve heard plenty of combinations of those sounds, but Bruiser Queen puts the ‘60s pop influence front and center, from the soulful vocal harmonies to the well-placed hand-clap and organ parts. “Have Fun” is simultaneously a total banger and chill as fuck. I have to mention that the album art is one of the best things about this release—whoever was responsible for the carnival photographs, you nailed it. –Indiana Laub (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)

GINO AND THE GOONS: Rip It Up!: LP

I was already a big fan of Gino And The Goons, having previously reviewed one of their older records in these pages. But, hot damn, this new LP hits the near fucking perfect mark for me with its DIY ‘90s garage rock worship—catchy yet snotty, fitting perfectly amongst the big name “budget rock” titles of yesteryear. This is everything I want in a garage rock record in 2018. Listening to this is like having a full LP of only the Jon Von penned Rip Offs songs—raw as fuck but catchy enough to get stuck in your head an hour later. There’s no doubting their adoration of raw rock’n’roll. The super limited first fifty copies of this record came with actual dirt from Bo Diddley’s gravesite, ferchrissakes! This is an early contender for my favorite record of 2018—it’s that good. If you like your garage punk sounding like it’s straight out of the best releases from 1994, then this absolutely must be in your collection. –Mark Twistworthy (Sunwray)

GREAT PLAINS: Born in a Barn: LP

The only review needed for this re-issue of Great Plains’ remarkable debut album appears on the sticker affixed to the front cover, a quote from Will McRobb—co-creator of The Adventures of Pete & Pete—that reads: “Great Plains is a spazzoid cry from the wilderness that was my inspiration for everything Pete & Pete had to be.” I’ll also add: They’re an underrated example of the agitated weirdo pastoralism, the farmland afternoon boredom turned into art that became a side effect of the endless American Midwest of the 1980s. It’s a strain of nervous punk psychedelia that showed up in The Feelies and The Soft Boys, among others, but in this case it’s from Ohio, where all the good records come from. It’s a rarity to hear someone write and sing about Rutherford B. Hayes, the pains and highs of love, baseball fields, and local newspapers with so much post-adolescent brilliance and humor and subtlety. “Lincoln Logs” and “Serpent Mound” will make it onto your next mixtape, if you’re smart. This is one of those missing-link records we didn’t know was missing. –Matt Werts (Rerun, rerunrecordsstl.com)

HORROR SQUAD: Death Posi: LP

Some of the folks who ran the legendary, sadly defunct venue VLHS are in Horror Squad, an absolutely fantastic pop punk band with a lead singer that has a truly distinct voice, kind of reminiscent of Jeff Ott’s, but with a bent all its own. Either he is able to sing a bunch of different styles, or some of the songs feature lead vocals from the peeps who sing backing vocals on the rest of the tracks. Either way, the vocals are at times harsh, at times light, but at all times awesome. Easily one of 2018’s best records so far, so don’t snooze on it. VLHS might be gone, but Horror Squad lives on! –Art Ettinger (Black Cats Record Klub, thehorrorsquad.bandcamp.com)

HOT SNAKES: Jericho Sirens: CD/LP/CS

The latest noise from Hot Snakes is their first since 2004’s Audit in Progress. It’s ten songs in thirty minutes which seems appropriate for many bands but for Hot Snakes’ return seems a bit short. As is typical for the band, the lyrics make little to no sense but are catchy as hell. (I found myself singing the phrase “Death Doula” on a regular basis after listening to this album.) Stylistically, the band picks up where they left off, as though no time had passed. Some tracks have a great groove (“Six Wave Hold-Down”) others have killer riffs (“Death of a Sportsman”), and there are yet others with a progressive, marching beat (“Death Camp Fantasy”). Those critical of Hot Snakes (show yourself!) may fault the band for not re-inventing themselves after not releasing a new album for over a decade, but Hot Snakes always leaves me with such a good feeling and their music is so catchy that I have no problems with their status quo. –Kurt Morris (Sub Pop)

HOT SNAKES: Jericho Sirens: LP

There is no debate that Hot Snakes were one of the most consistently original bands of the early ‘00s. It was a formula destined for greatness. Three untouchable albums, and then they seemed to dissipate like some kind of fever dream. I’m not sure I would have believed they even existed if the songs hadn’t been stuck in my head and heart for the last decade and a half. Then word came that tours were forthcoming, followed by a record. Could they possibly achieve the levels of intensity and near religious fervour that they were known for? The short answer is yes. Jericho Sirens not only takes top spot on my albums of the year list (or at least tied with Mind Spiders), but I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be the best Hot Snakes album. From the opening blasts of “I Need a Doctor” through the throbbing pulse of the title track. From that unmistakeable off kilter beat in “Death Camp Fantasy” to the sheer power of the album’s closing track “Death of a Sportsman,” Hot Snakes show us there is still art in guitar rock. This album gives me the chills so hard it makes my eyes water up when I am listening to it. That’s right, this album is so good it made me fucking cry. Take that as you will. –Ty Stranglehold (Sub Pop)

PERVERTS AGAIN: Friday Night Light: LP

I lived in Ohio for a while. I bought some of my first records at Van Leunens. I’m not a native, but I lived there long enough to know it’s a weird and wonderful place America doesn’t appreciate enough. We have documented proof that something in the water there produced great art. All the New York Water Authority can claim is good bagels. The band plays solid punk drudgery with driving guitars, sarcastic cyborg delivery, and strange keyboard squeaking. I’d like to write this whole review and not once mention Devo, but Perverts Again succeed so well at doing what Devo did in creating a world around their weirdness that they should be applauded for it. The mechanical Ohio “cronk” can be reproduced, but to give the delivery meaning in the way Friday Night Light does is beyond what the average Devo copycat can manage. Friday Night Light is a weird punk world of which you’llwant to be a part. –Billups Allen (Total Punk, floridasdying.com)

REAL KIDS, THE: The Kids – 1974 Demos, The Real Kids – 1977/78 Demos/Live: CD + Book

Length restrictions (I think the title alone ate up about half my three hundred word limit) won’t permit getting you up to speed on the Real Kids 1978 self-titled debut album; in the unlikely and unfortunate event you are not familiar with this ideal synthesis of punk, power pop, and rock’n’roll, buy it and double back here when you’re ready. We’re gonna start without you. Anyway, I’ve never seen anything quite like this before—it’s a 200-page CD booklet, bound like a book, plus a glued-in CD—a sprawling epic marvel detailing not only the rise and fall of the Real Kids, but also the early Boston scene in general and John Felice’s musical career in specific. Musically, what I found most arresting were the eight songs on the church basement demo from 1974, when the band were still hobbling along as “The Kids.” One generally thinks of the Real Kids as a taut, economical unit, but in ‘74 the Kids were bringing the THUNDER, dude. I never really saw the Real Kids/MC5 connection before, but the Keith Moon-esque, arena-demolishing kit-pounding anchors a sound which the band’s balls, guts, and heart seem to be pushing towards Kick Out the Jams territory, while their brain tries to angle it towards Back in the USA or maybe the Flamin’ Groovies instead. When the scene shifts to ‘77/’78 and the sound and songs move into familiar focus, one can’t help but notice how the drums get relegated to mere time keeping and flourishes and wonder what might have happened had they articulated their ‘74 vision more fully. We’re obviously all going to have to buy this. BEST SONG: Reggae!!! Reggae!!! BEST SONG TITLE: Reggae!!! Reggae!!! FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Reggae!!! Reggae!!! –Rev. Nørb (Crypt, cryptrecords.com)

RECONSTITUTE: Self-titled: CS

Oh, shit yes. A response to the election of 45, this tape is fucking brutal and beautiful. It’s four driving, political supplications that are biting indictments of a system we all know is fucked up. But because of its witty lyricism and tempo shifts, it manages to move from, “Yeah, no shit to dude,” to, “Holy fuck, you’re totally right.” Lyrics like, “when you have to decide between being well and poor, I’ll save the co-pay, dig my own grave” probably won’t tell you anything you don’t know (or already agree with) but the clever digs at this particular brand of American bullshit (“I’ve prepared a treaty, for which you will sign. It’s tweet-length, so I know you can read it”) make it enjoyable. And instead of being all driving, all pushed out, all the way, there’s some interesting more development stuff as the short tape goes on. I’m pretty blown away by the last song, “Digging for Coal,” which I think is a project in trying to explore how a music experience can invoke the same pace and charge of mining. It rules. –Theresa W. (Crass Lips, crasslipsrecords.bandcamp.com)

RED DONS: Genocide: 7”

These cats have long carved their own niche within the non-Ramones influenced poppier wing of punk. These latest two additions to their oeuvre continue along the same path previously trod—slashing downstroked minor chords over mid-tempo beats and vocals that know their way around a good melody. Both get the head bobbing easily while the mind marvels at the swell sounds the ears are picking up. Another couple of rockers here and no filler to diminish the effort. –Jimmy Alvarado (Man In Decline, manindecline.limitedrun.com)

RICKY HAMILTON WITH THE VOIDBOYS: Welcome 2 Hell: CS

Not at all what I expected from the cover art; I assumed this was another harsh noise project with a couple of oscillators plugged into cheap delay pedals, but instead I get some sort of artsy garage in the Flying Nun tradition. This is a weird but refreshing listen, like the Spits doing their take on Dinosaur Jr with some weird-as-fuck instrumentation that somehow never sounds gimmicky. I’ll bet these Cleveland weirdos are really into those fucked up Beach Boys albums where Brian Wilson was out of his mind but these guys can still write that hook (and for any interested readers, Surf’s Up is absolutely the best Beach Boys LP). The chord progressions are simple and the arrangements are pretty to-the-point but there’s something about every song on here that makes it a dense gem, worth revisiting. Definitely the best thing I’ve heard this month. –Ian Wise (Quality Time, qualitytimerecords@gmail.com)

SCREAMING FEMALES: All at Once: 2 x LP

What would you say the lifespan of an average band is? There has to be an equivalent like dog years, because bands implode all the time after six months, a year, a tour, a single album: “Oh, this band has been together for an EP and a tour, so they’re like thirty in human years.” So it’s funny to think about Screaming Females. I’ve been a slobbering, annoyingly advocative fan since 2012, when I got Ugly. Anyone who’s been to my house since then has endured my Screaming Females evangelizing—but by the time I heard about them, they were already something like seven years in. I wasn’t clued into the first four LPs, f’r chrissake! It’s a minor miracle that they’re still going, close to twelve hundred shows later. And it’s even more miraculous that their new double LP All at Once might be the best stuff yet. After so much time together, the Scremales know what works, and what doesn’t—and have the uncanny ability to stretch the former beyond listener expectations. I think they’re more dynamic than ever, with each member coming to the fore and retreating as needed. This isn’t to say that things have changed dramatically, because they haven’t: Marissa still ululates and shreds, with Jarrett and Mike as the reliable anchors. But after so long, the band is dedicated only to what makes them happy—the reason for their sustainability and, of course, for their utterly inspiring albums and (especially) live shows. The greatest. –Michael T. Fournier (Don Giovanni)

SHARK TOYS: Labyrinths: LP

Los Angeles’s modern post-punk sweethearts are all in with this skronky, jangly full-length. If the classic skinny tie L.A. power pop sound is a beat up VHS tape, Daniel and crew are leaning over in front of the VCR joyfully turning the tracking back and forth, seeing how fucked up they can make it. Glory be the damaged brains that make the damaged music for all the other cretins to bounce around to. Shark Toys and In The Red are both making L.A. proud with this one. –Daryl (In The Red)

SINCERE ENGINEER: Rhombithian: CD

I’ve been listening to this record, or something from it, once a week since it came out and was so stoked to see it in my review pile, especially since I never managed to get to their set at Fest last year (though I will see them with Larry Arms soon). Anyways, what’s the big deal about Deanna Belos songs? They seesaw between way-glaring honesty and not giving a fuck. She even repeats that sentiment in “Overbite,” singing about how she could have been a doctor if she really cared enough. The very next track is about how she’s gonna ignore the advice of her best friends and fuck something up again. But here’s the key to the whole song: “I’m sick of feeling stuck, just because I’m too afraid of falling back.” From a distance one might get the idea that the main theme of these songs is apathy and depression. But they truly come from an ambitious and caring mind who has been through one too many let downs, one too many disappointed benders. Listening to Deanna growl out the words, “I am nothing / I’m just an empty bottle shattering,” is a bit of a heart break and a bit of an inspiration. There’s something about hearing others tackle the darker parts of life that make me dream real big and float back to reality, but with an extra spark and determination. Yeah, these songs are a gut punch and a kick in the ass. I will add that it’s been interesting getting struck by this record while I was still drinking, and then getting to know it again sober. There are some real gems in there for both sides of the coin, if that’s what you’re looking for. –Kayla Greet (Red Scare)

SUBSONICS: Flesh Colored Paint: LP

Atlanta weirdos continue their garage exotica assault on their eighth full length. Super cool B-movie garage rock’n’roll, taking the best of some smoky Vegas bar; a fired-up Little Richard concert; old, dusty, long-forgotten ‘60s garage 45s; slicked-back ‘50s rock’n’roll; and some late ‘70s Dead Boys sneer. These days, it’s tough to find originality, but some folks beat their own fucking path. These cats have been at this shit for a couple of decades and have worked out they don’t need to be part of your club. I’m sure they don’t want me a part of it, but fuck, sign me the fuck up. –Tim Brooks (Slovenly, slovenly.com)

SUPERCHUNK: What a Time to Be Alive: LP

I love Superchunk. I have ever since 1990 and I was a dumb teen looking for new music. Spin magazine ran some kind of “up and coming bands” piece, and there was a live photo of Superchunk. The energy conveyed in that photo was enough for me to start the search that resulted in my finding No Pocky for Kitty, and I was hooked. After many albums I’ve remained a fan, so obviously I was excited to hear a new album was coming our way and that it was a scathing indictment of what passes for society in this day and age. Expectations were high, and I wasn’t let down. It kicks off with the title track and doesn’t let up. Labels quickly fall by the wayside. Indie rock? Punk rock? I don’t know and don’t care. This music is speaking to my very core. It is a nice feeling to know that there are bands that I started listening to over half my lifetime ago that are still making relevant music. This is my favorite album by them since On the Mouth. –Ty Stranglehold (Merge, mergerecords.com)

WANNA-BES, THE: Out Went the Lights: LP

I went into this record with zero preconceived notions as to what might be contained in these grooves. Never heard of the band, never heard of the record label, and inferred nothing from the album cover (except that this band must be from Seattle). Needle drop… instant recognition… classic Ramones-inspired pop punk. And I mean that in a good way! (An unfortunate but necessary qualification.) First off: the sound. This record’s sonics remind me of the Riverdales’ Storm the Streets record (their best by far). The drums are dry and dark, the guitars are raw and thick, there’s a nice fat bottom end, the vocals are melodic but strong (and with a subtle Leonard Grave Phillips vibe), all combined in a perfectly balanced mix. Were it not for a few Marked Men-ish melodies, this band and record could very well have been straight outta Lookout! circa 1995, influenced only by the Ramones, Teenage Head, The Queers, and Dan Vapid, but acknowledging the future existence of the Spits. …And second, the most important thing: songs. Too many bands get the perfect sound, all click-tracked and auto-tuned, the requisite oohs, ahhs, harmonies, breakdowns, fast songs and love songs; all the boxes ticked. But the songs sound ripped off, clichéd, dull, or just not fucking punk rock! Contrarily, each and every song on Out Went the Lights works. It’s a punk record with melody. Familiar but original. This is the rare, new pop punk record that deserves a slot in the discerning punk’s collection. –Chad Williams (Mom’s Basement, momsbasementrecords.bandcamp.com)

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