One impulse in DIY punk rock circles is to go for the obscure because there is safety there. It’s safe because the odds are heavily against a larger audience, and with that, the lessened possibility of widespread exploitation. The obscure can be a highly regarded secret. You know the story. Thousand-dollar 7”s. Publications that laude intimate knowledge of those obscure bands, their knowledge measured by the cache of exclusion. (i.e. “I have this. You don’t. I’m better.”) And don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of stuff that happens to be obscure, not because it’s obscure, but because I think it’s freakin’ great and underappreciated. El Banda is a current Polish punk band. They’re melodic. They’re hardcore. They’re much more than that; adventurous as shit. They have been one of my favorite bands during the last couple of years. Since they sing in Polish, the chances of them becoming popular in America is minimal (which is a shame). With Side Effects (all the lyrics are translated in a gorgeous gatefold with full-sized inserts in both Polish and English), El Banda have put out a dark, epic, “you’re in their world now” concept album. The four album sides are broken into suites. Its pace is more varied than their previous LP, Przejdzie Ci el Banda. It’s more like a hand-held drill that slowly twists into the cranium, splitting skin, cracking skull, worm-driving deeper and deeper. Bleak. Weathered. Wintry. Murderous. It’s like you, as the listener, are slowly dissolving into the acid of the record. I’m going to enjoy soaking in its notes for years to come. (Fucked Up’s Hidden World comes to mind when I listen to this.) So, I’m willing to stake a lot on this record and this band because they reaffirm that punk’s as strong, as adventurous, as crucial, as meaningful as ever. And I’d bet you a dozen donuts that their own locals don’t know how good this band is. Yet. I rarely give advice, but don’t sleep on El Banda. It’ll get expensive if you do, and I’m not talking about the money.