Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake Issue 90: Feat. Generation Suicida, Flag Of Democracy, Dead Milkmen, Radioactivty

Feb 23, 2016

BABY SHAKES: Starry Eyes: LP
Few bands are writing songs this good these days and none are better looking. I want to take this album into the bedroom and do terrible, terrible things to it. Perhaps I already have! Horizontally-striped Rock’n’Roll Girl rock’n’roll, that transcends the (admittedly not unwelcome) clichés of the art form. If I told you to quit your job, drop out of school, buy this album and run away from home, I wouldn’t be that far off the mark. BEST SONG: “All The Pretty Things.” BEST SONG TITLE: I dunno, do I get to make a joke about the Records song now or later? FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Packaging includes a photo of them getting their Undertones records signed by John O’Neill. THAT’S class. ­–Rev. Nørb (Lil’ Chewy)

ABORTTI 13: Punkit Ei Kuole: CS
I’m not really sure about the chronology of Abortti 13. Their first documentation is their classic 1984 split with Pyhäkoulu (which seems to be climbing in price as the current wave of KBD hoarders learn of its existence after running through the other classic Finnish releases by Terveet Kadet and Lama), but then there were no records until 2009—though I managed to find a reference to a bootleg tape that collects those “lost years.” This tape is a retrospective of some songs I know (all their tracks from that split are on here) and a lot I don’t know, so maybe they’re intending to close the gap with this release. The songs were re-recorded this year, which bummed me out at first. I was found to be mistaken though, as these songs sound great. I’m not quite sure how they managed to make this sound so fresh and new after all these years, but I honestly think this is some of the best material this band has churned out. The production is heavy and has more bite to it than their last LP, but is just as urgent and retains a classic Finnish punk sound. Sadly, this was limited to one hundred copies and looks as if it was only released in Finland, but maybe there will be a vinyl pressing in the future. –Ian Wise (Self-released, abortti13.bandcamp.com)

Blobs are the Platonic ideal of punk. This Buffalo quartet has a woman doing the shouting, early-Black Flag riffing with surprising guitar hooks, a sloppiness that adds power, and seven songs in eight minutes. The results are feral, like mid-’90s Recess Records stuff or a wilder Neighborhood Brats. Total win across the board, I played it three times in a row. Gonna go throw a trash can at something now. –Chris Terry (More Power, morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)

Not to focus too heavily on their name, but I just read Josh Max’s piece in the New York Times about becoming a nude art model (“Zen and the Art of Art Modeling”), the quiet exhilaration and anonymity of it, and the support he got from both the teacher and the students, until he saw a drawing of himself by one student, “a lanky guy wearing a fedora, a beard and a slight smirk,” who had drawn “basically a blob with arms and legs.” Max feels stricken that he’s rendered not as “a lovable blob, a sexy blob, a confident blob,” but as “a repulsive blob, a loser blob.” Buffalo’s Blobs have perhaps dealt with the fedora smirk in one way or another (we are all dealing with fedora smirk), and are perhaps alienated blobs, wondering-why-life-is-so-terrible blobs, Charlie Brown blobs. But they’re also relatable, high energy weirdos who have made one of the best tapes I’ve heard in a while. Singer Amelia is just on the border between exhausted and unhinged, reaching her limit and going crazy over hyper rock’n’roll. She’s not accepting calls today. The band as a whole are not wasting any time. You are dancing no matter where you are when you hear this, you cool, smart blob. –Matt Werts (More Power, morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)

“Won’t you come inside the Butterscotch Cathedral / You can fly.” So begins a pseudo-concept album from the mind of Matt Rendon, the principle songwriter for long-standing Tucson psych band The Resonars. The Resonars have languished in the desert sun for years, amassing an arsenal of vintage equipment. The Butterscotch Cathedral is a graduation from the pop-psych of the Resonars. With heavy distortion and Hollies-inspired vocal harmonies rising from the blacktop, the album creates a haunting meringue. The album sandwiches two eighteen-minute songs around a two-minute offering called “Heavy Sun.” Heavy fuzz riffs underlined by clannish drumming and ethereal vocal harmonies make a modern psych classic. –Billups Allen (Trouble In Mind)

So Stevie Ray Vaughn, Meatloaf, Van Morrison, and your stoner uncle’s drone-y psych/jam band walk into a bar. Okay, I have no idea what the punchline might be, but it involves Creatures Of Space and their downright baffling, batshit-odd LP. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this is probably way, way outside of the vast majority of Razorcake readers’ interests. Weird indeed. –Keith Rosson (Luminal / HeavyJazz, no address listed)

D.O.A.: Hard Rain Falling: CD
The decades-long love affair between D.O.A. and I has been... rocky. Up to War on 45 I considered them all but untouchable, a position I still staunchly defend. After that, things get a bit problematic, first with the creeping influence of very bad ‘80s rock—both in sound and production—then a succession of spotty records albatrossed with an exasperating insistence on including terrible ska punk filler—and by filler I mean a half-album’s worth in some cases—and a seemingly endless assortment of repackaged, reordered, and resoundingly pointless compilations, collections, and themed concoctions. Mind you, it’s not that I didn’t want them to grow and expand their palette, and there were definitely some interesting moments peppered in through the years, but what was coming out seemed more like uninspired paint-by-numbers than one of the most ferocious punk bands ever to stomp terra pushing at boundaries. Ever the optimist, I remained undeterred, picking up every release I came across in the hopes that they would come around and remember what once made them so goddamned crucial. Some glimmers of hope shone through with the Talk-Action=0 album of a few years back, a mostly solid release, but this bad boy here is easily their most keyed in and consistent album in decades. The chutzpah, the feral swagger, and Joey’s snarl are in abundance on tunes that go right for your inner “fuck yeah!” button and set you careening off the nearest wall. Lyrical subject matter is topical and right on the money without coming off as preachy or slogan-heavy, and, hell, even the cover of The Slickers’ song “Johnny Too Bad” is inspired in its delivery, relying more on the hint of Caribbean rhythms than going for full-ska mode. Faboo this is, a release worthy of their good name and formidable reputation. –Jimmy Alvarado (suddendeath.com)

A few years back, my friends Jen and Marco were married by Mike Park, founder of Asian Man Records. After the ceremony, I took the opportunity to gush to Mike about how much I loved Lost Control, Dog Party’s new release at the time. His response was more or less “those girls are going to be huge.” Here we are, two years down the line, and we’ve got a new Dog Party album to grace our presence. Without missing a beat, Vol. 4 is just as catchy, intricately composed, and sugary sweet as their previous efforts. It’s no wonder Dog Party has been chosen to be Kepi Ghoulie’s backup band, or that they released their first vinyl records before both members are out of high school. I’m not only impressed, I’m jealous. They’re one of those bands where every song has a perfect melody and I just never want to play guitar again because I’ll never write a song that good. Long live Dog Party. This record rules. Grade: A. –Bryan Static (Asian Man, asianmanrecords.com)

DUDES: Ultra Vague: CS
Pretty sure More Power Tapes stealthily crept into my bedroom and stole a tape from my demo collection. In 1988. And held out on releasing it until 2015. Dudes are the mashup of punk, metal, and dirt rawk that ruled skate ramps and venues/ “sports bars” of the late-’80s. Atonal barking over equal parts speed and groove with complete disregard to blending in solos or silly swinging jazz breakdowns. Hilarious, greasy fun, and recommended. –Matt Seward (More Power Tapes, morepowertapes.bandcamp.com)

EX-OPTIMISTS, THE: Phantom Freight: LP
I don’t know if the band planned it this way, but the first seven or so minutes of the first side of this LP sound like an audio interpretation of the cover art, like the listener is being submerged into an intense-sounding ‘70s science fiction movie in a futuristic world. Once the song reallygets going though, it seamlessly bursts into a swirl of guitar like the best Swervedriver-influenced noisy indie rock song you’ve ever heard. Taking up the entire A-side, I was shocked to see how fast fifteen minutes had passed and I already needed to flip the record. The B-side has shorter, more traditional offerings that can hold their own with any other guitar-centric indie rock going on right now. After opening with a slightly twangy song reminiscent of something from Athens, Ga. in the ‘80s, there are even more songs that mix the swooping, catchy, and fuzzed-out guitar lines of the abovementioned Swervedriver with the songwriting of Hüsker Dü, as well as a couple other ‘90s-influenced alternative rock gems and a true-to-form cover song from a perennial ‘90s favorite. I can really hear the Bob Mould influence in a song like “Whoop Stop,” one of the many favorites of mine on the record. But truthfully, it’s impossible to even select favorite songs on a record when you really like them all. Phantom Freight is a great record from start to finish, doing its part to bring back the loud, hooky guitars that were prevalent in ‘90s indie scene partnered with overall great songwriting—something that is often missing from the arsenal of many contemporary indie rock bands. This LP receives my highest recommendation, as I really cannot stop listening to it. –Mark Twistworthy (Sinkhole Texas, sinkholetexas.bandcamp.com)

As a publicity stunt, this release from two of Philadelphia’s finest bands was originally announced as a lost record, recorded in 1985. It isn’t. But it is a fun attempt at trying to sound as 1985 as possible by two groups that were there. Love them or hate them, Dead Milkmen mean a lot to a lot of us. When I first started listening to punk and hardcore in junior high in the mid-1980s, they were one of the first things I heard. A lifelong fan, I’ve grown to accept the fact that some of their output isn’t as remarkable as their classic early records. Their track on this split is one of their strongest in a long time, channeling the best of the primary Milkmen by combining biting, satiric lyrics with catchy, wacky, fast music. F.O.D., perhaps most famous for being referenced in a Dead Milkmen lyric, are an underrated group in their own right, with their three entries on this split being highly enjoyable as well. Forget the fact that this isn’t a lost record and find it, if that makes any sense. Neither band has put out anything this vital in ages, so it’s a welcome return to form for two crucial outfits of punk—past and present. –Art Ettinger (SRA, srarecords.com, [email protected])

FLESH EATING CREEPS: The Book about the Movie: Complete Recordings1995-2000: CS
Ripping, manic hardcore akin to brutality experts Goat Shanty and Society Of Friends, also known as the Quakers, who practically wrote the book on speed picking in hardcore—though Flesh Eating Creeps do it fairly well themselves. There are moments when things settle down long enough to reveal a little bit of indie and math metal influence—but the overall nature of their sound is unhinged aggression at times—coming across as unpretentious freeform jams. It’s important to keep in mind that these tracks date back to the mid-’90s and carry on into the new millennium: a weird time when powerviolence’s first and second waves were quickly fading, emo was evolving into screamo, and mosh-core was ignorant as fuck but at least the riffs were still good. In listening to these tracks fifteen years after the band’s demise, it becomes apparent that this band may have been underappreciated at the time, seeing as how they probably didn’t fit in with their contemporaries. Certainly not a band that everyone will agree on but definitely one that deserves consideration if you’re into bands on Vermiform, Gravity, or Initial records. Comes packaged in a book on cassette-style shell cover with extensive liner notes, alternate j-card artwork, stickers, buttons, and limited to fifty copies. –Juan Espinosa (Handstand, handstandrecords.com, flesheatingcreeps.com)

GENERATION SUICIDA: Edicion Especial Para Lantinoamerica: Flexi
First things first: I listened to the first thirty seconds of this on the wrong speed and it was fantastic, so when you finish reading this review and inevitably buy this record, make sure to do the same. Now that it’s running at the appropriate 45 RPM, it is still ripping hard. I know there’s been a minor amount of hype behind this band for the last year or so but, I for some reason, have not heard them until now. The songs are both mid-tempo romps that reminds me in part of early Finnish punk (the punk punk not the hardcore punk) and have a feel like the Rayos X singles (they apparently share members so that makes sense) but is more melodically driven than Rayos X. The guitar tone is clean and the bass drives the music while the drums maintain a pretty basic presence in the background and leave room for the vocals to carry the tune on the top. The recording and style is still really rough around the edges, but it seems very calculated an intentional. This style of punk is really my bread-and-butter and these folks are nailing it here. Track this down and buy it! –Ian Wise (Going Underground)

HI-LITES, THE: Self-titled: LP
On the surface, this looks like the typical lo-fi garage rock record. It’s got a retro design with images of vampires and ghouls all over the cover. As soon as the needle hits vinyl, however, it becomes clear that there is nothing typical about this record. There’s no goofy, ghoulish rock’n’roll. The true theme here is the sea. But it goes deeper than that. In songs with titles like “Lighthouse” and “The Fall and the Shipwreck,” boats and the sea really only serve as metaphors for finding clarity, for searching for meaning and truth amidst life’s complexities. It’s thoughtful stuff, and so is the music itself. Not content to just stomp and be fuzzy, the band creates a dense tapestry that really pulls you in and makes you feel the waves and smell the salt of the sea. It’s very powerful. –MP Johnson (Purepainsugar)

I feel like if Ian Curtis was still alive and well, he’d be in a band that sounds like this. But more so if Ian Curtis found happiness, or at least discovered a way to curb his depression. It leans heavy on the Joy Division influence, on more of an upbeat, rock’n’roll tip. Right about now I’ve probably lost you. Just hear me out—things can be contradicting and coalescent at the same time. Vocally, I can hear Ian right there with Hue Blanc. Musically, it’s like an age progression from a sketch artist. Much like when the man is looking for someone years after an initial testimony and they have to guestimate what someone will look like later on in life, this is what I think Curtis lead post-punk would sound like today. Only swap the keys in for horns and less shoegazey than you might imagine. Though, for whatever reason, the band’s name is printed nowhere on this record and I was lead to believe they were called Stoning Josephine. The only indicators are “Produced by Hue Blanc” and “Everything else by the Joyless Ones.” –Kayla Greet (Certified PR, certifiedprrecords.com)

MINDLESS SHOW, THE: 10 Years of Epic Failures: CD
This partial discography documents the past decade’s worth of music from these Malaysian punks. The twenty-three tracks are an eclectic mix of styles, including melodic hardcore, streetpunk, pop punk, weird jazzy breakdowns, and a handful of ska moments. It’s raw and scrappy as hell, and the weirdness is really what makes it. These guys play with so much unabashed energy that they frequently knock themselves a little out of time and key, especially in the early tracks. The lyrics are mostly in English, and while some of the translation is rough around the edges the underlying messages shine through. They’re fed up with dead-end jobs, conformity, capitalism, racism, and media bullshit, to name a few targets of their vitriol. Pretty relatable stuff. This gets especially good toward the end of the CD, predictably; it’s rad to hear how much they tighten up over the course of a few years. Definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of international punk. –Indiana Laub (Pissart, [email protected], pissart.blogspot.com)

Radioactivity has cracked the code. They have discovered the chemical formula for the perfect hook and leaked it in the Denton, Tex. water supply. Need proof? Check out the resumes of Jeff Burke, Mark Ryan, Daniel Fried, and Gregory Rutherford: Marked Men, Potential Johns, Mind Spiders, Bad Sports, and Video. Burke’s penchant for Carpal Tunnel-inducing down-picking and punk rock’n’roll is rawer than ever on “Battered,” “No Alarm,” and “Silent.” But there are some searing mid-tempo tunes as well (“No Connection” and “Where I Come From”) that slow the pace and demonstrate Burke’s vocal virtuosity. He’s one of few singers that can belt “I’m all out of love” and not sound sappy. I can’t help but think of ‘80s musical Shock Treatment’s “Denton, U.S.A.” when listening to Silent Kill: “Denton, Denton, you’ve got no pretension.” That’s just it. There’s nothing pretentious about Radioactivity. There’s no studio trickery or sleight of hand, just punk perfection. –Sean Arenas (Dirtnap, dirtnaprecs.com)

Sits firmly between garage rock and hard rock, but gets a little too close to cocky glam rock for my taste. If I can confuse your band’s intros with Mötley Crüe songs, I think I’m right to react a little adversely to that. The parts that work for me are the bits that are aping Ramones riffs, not the flanger-flavored sluggish breakdowns. Not that these are influences that the Razorbats are ashamed or embarrassed of, in fact they flaunt it proudly with single-ready tracks like “Kids of the 70s.” I can’t knock off points for musicianship or songwriting, but this is a standard case of “not for me.” Listen if you think punk rock could maybe use more leather jackets, but more for the sake of fashion. Grade: B-. –Bryan Static (Self Destructo, selfdestructorecords.bandcamp.com)

SELF DEFENSE FAMILY: “When the Barn Caves In” b/w “Alan”: 7”
Sentimental, dramatic post-rock born from the fires of hardcore and gutters of punk. There are some mornings when nothing sounds better than Lungfish. The plodding tempo that helps the transition from slumber to labor. An emotional weight that can put some distance between your dreams and realities. Self Defense Family are chipping away at a similar sound/approach/gravitas. It’s solemn, it’s entrenched, it’s preparing for what lies ahead. –Daryl (Iron Pier, ironpier.net)

Allentown, Pa. enigma Tape Monster’s first three tracks are basically the aural equivalent of connecting to the internet via a dial-up modem. By the fourth track, you are online discussing EVP phenomenon with teenagers on 4chan’s /x/ board, and playing 4 Wheel Thunder for Dreamcast while your mom uses the blender to make margaritas so she can momentarily forget she gave birth to you.Austin’s Gas Station Of Love turns in tracks five through eleven. Respectively: “Meggs Nog,” a street corner knockoff of Naked City. “Spacepussy,” which could’ve been recorded by RuPaul’s cystic twin. “Pepp Pizza,” which might’ve been a Baz Luhrman song, had he sustained a serious head injury. “Codeine Outlaw,” which I imagine is what having no friends sounds like.“Herb222,” which is twelve and a half minutes long, and I respect you guys too much to lie and say I listened to it. “U.N.,” which either features slow-mo Donald Duck descending into H.P. Lovecraft levels of madness or a fussy baby being shot with a machine gun. The cassette finishes out with “Tranny Porn.” Epic trolling, dude. –Kelley O’Death (Self-released)

Orlando, Fla. punk’n’roll band Vicious Dreams appears to take their ‘77 punk aspirations very seriously. The fashion sense, vocal style, and chord progressions read like a calculated Enid Coleslaw approximation of ‘70s punk authenticity. Plus, the “Vicious” half of their moniker naturally evokes a certain hack bassist who many still scramble to lionize. Their throwback aesthetic seems calibrated from top to bottom to reference the era with an unwavering devotion that leaves little room for innovation. The song structures and just-lo-fi-enough production serve their intended purposes, but the general talent and competency on display make me wonder if there isn’t something more interesting lurking beneath Vicious Dreams’ this-is-what-we’re-going-for vibe. –Kelley O’Death (Self-released, viciousdreams.bandcamp.com)

Thankful Bits

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