Featured Record Reviews From Issue #85: The Brokedowns, Castro, Hobo Bastard and more

Apr 20, 2015


BROKEDOWNS, THE: Life Is a Breeze: CD/LP
“The Brokedowns go to the Beach.” It’s not just the palm tree imagery or the lyrical allusions to sand, waves, or tans; this album’s got some serious beach punk vibes. Before you start imagining White Wires or Guantanamo Baywatch or what-the-fuck-ever else “beach punk” means to you though, remember that we are still talking about The Brokedowns: the gruffest, heaviest, meanest-sounding band in DIY punk. The record recalls the tropical guitar riffage from the band’s 2010 song, “ApocalypseSeasideHeights,” expands on it, and spreads it across an album. But as the most creative band in our scene, they’ve got plenty of other tricks up their sleeve, so don’t think this is some one-note show. There’s nothing beachy about the title track and when the guitar riff creeps across the bridge, it’s so calculated and evil that I’m pretty sure it could fucking kill people. And the song’s refrain—that “life is a breeze—at least it’s always for me”—is the kind of sardonic, pissfaced snark that makes my insides smile… Let’s just say it’s the best album of 2014. Pick it up if you like Insomniac, Witches With Dicks, or anything catchy and caustic. –Sam (Red Scare)

ACID BABY JESUS: Selected Recordings: LP
Psych rock is a bit tricky to pull off with any effectiveness. Lose your footing and you’re sliding down a very slippery slope into a rather deep puddle of pretentiousness. ABJ are good at knowing where to go next, adroitly avoiding overt Pink Floyd worship while still recalling the heavily dosed experimentation of that band’s early years and knowing that changing things up and throwing in a teensy bit o’ pop can go a long way. “Head” music of fine vintage here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Slovenly)

ALIANS: Gavroche: LP
Want to learn more about Polish punk? I know I do. Here’s a twentieth anniversary reissue of a classic, crunchy, Crass-influenced release from the 1990s. There’s a lot of junky weird interludes, flutes, and accordions at work. But when it gets moving, it moves. The vocals are completely fucking zany, and the fast breakneck speed is welcome when compared to the creepy bits between tracks. Pasażer is a label that specializes in fancy packaging, with them pulling out all the stops for Gavroche, including a cool foldout poster lyric sheet. Even the most peaceful of peace punks will want to break shit upon spinning this apparent classic, which is brimming with rage. –Art Ettinger (Pasażer)

A-TOWN SLUTS: Steal Your Drugs: CD-R
Juvenile. Thoughtless. Unoriginal. Given the content of this disc, I think that the band members would tend agree that these adjectives aptly describe them. However, we’d probably disagree on whether these are positive things to say about their moronic, wastoid punk. The least stupid and immature point on here is their cover of GG’s “Bite It You Scum,” if that’s any indication of what you’re dealing with here. Sources of lyrical inspiration include the classic Jack and the Beanstalk, as they lift the Mighty Giant’s catch phrase “fe fi fo fum” for the beginning of one track. The music itself is fair enough, but the vocals are a goddamn tragedy, taking the punk ethic of “no talent needed” to mean, “no effort allowed.” I don’t know which question was more prevalent in my mind during the course of listening to this disc: “Why didn’t they mix the vox down into oblivion?” or “Why am I still listing to this?” If you want a free copy of this, you can sort through my trash. –Vincent (

BLACKBIRD RAUM: Under the Starling Host: LP
Pop quiz, class. Please circle the correct answer. Under the Starling Host is: A) straight-up, unabashed anarcho-folk. B) an excellent document to illustrate that Blackbird Raum will make a solid living as a post-apocalyptic marching band once the world’s plummeted into a terminal ruination. C) showcasing a buoyant merging of Celtic, klezmer, and folk influences. D) similar in scope and tone to bands like Mischief Brew, Bedlam Rovers, Ramshackle Glory, and some of the Taxpayers material. E) a well executed record, if a bit of a muffled one. F) clearly a labor of love by all those involved, as there’s new and wonderful full-color cover art by Joshum Hardy, as well as an accompanying color poster, insert, and stickers. G) All of the above. (Answer on pg. 456.)–Keith Rosson (1859,

CASTRO: Nocturnally Yours: 7” EP
Slick record cover, first riffs sounded hella rock… uh oh. Wait… what’s this?? Amazing female vocals?? Synapses start snapping. Sounds familiar. Head nods, more guitars. This is great, really great. More pulses through the brain. Life But How To Live It? from Norway, that’s what the vocals sound like, a real fave from the ‘80s. The music is pretty slick but works just fine, almost like the first Ten Foot Pole album (that’s a compliment, by the way). After a few spins I check my facts and, low and behold, the vocalist is Katja from Life But How To Live It? I can’t remember what I had for breakfast but can spot a vocal from twenty years ago. Other members have done time in well-known Norwegian bands like Angor Wat and seem to be even older than me! This is fantastic, driving punk with great songwriting and those vocals? Oy vey. Get. On. It. –Tim Brooks
(Boss Tuneage,

A heady mix of “classic” hardcore, arty sensibilities, and a deep, dark undertow from a seriously good Austrian unit. The tempos are kept right around second gear and the song lengths are trim, but they cram a helluva lot of chord structures, droning guitars, and really good ideas in every available space. At times, I’m hearing early Die Kreuzen and TSOL mixed in equal measure, which is no small feat. Really fuggin’ impressive this is and an instant fan am I. –Jimmy Alvarado (Dirt Cult)

CJ RAMONE: Last Chance to Dance: LP
On the plus side of non-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee CJ Ramone’s new album, he manages to sound reasonably Ramone-y ((i’m thinkin’ Animal Boy and maybe the good tracks off of Halfway to Sanity, that era)) without sounding like a complete stylistic slave to his former masters, adds some cool harmonies, delves into the occasional straight-up punked-out Buddy Holly four-chord bopper like you wish the Ramones would have done more often over the last ten or fifteen years of their careers ((“One More Chance”)), and delivers a decent Alice Cooper cover ((“Long Way to Go”)). On the minus side, one’d like to think that, were the Ramones still a going concern, Joey would have found some way to filter some of the blatant bozo fuck-and-chuck aspects out of a song like “Pit Stop” ((then again, Joey was the guy who wrote “Go Home Ann,” so what the fuck do I know)), and, if I wanted to listen to music made by right-leaning ex-servicemen who like guns and think Obama is a “disgrace to God and country,” i’d go down to the fucking plant and give my co-workers a bunch of guitars. Kind of a wash, all told. BEST SONG: “One More Chance.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Last Chance to Dance.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Steve Soto of Agent Orange/Adolescent fame is on guitar, and Tony Cadena sings the Alice Cooper cover. ­–Rev. Nørb (Fat,

Holy sweet Christ. I’m already embarrassed as I write it, but here goes: there’s grind and then there’s Cloud Rat. Goddamn. I can see why this record has been repressed a bajillion times. Flawless, fierce as nails, punishing, precise, just jaw-droppingly good. This a genre that almost always bores the living shit out of me, but there’s something here that’s tempering the blast beats and cranium piercing and placing Moshka head and shoulders above its peers. I don’t know if it’s the way the band occasionally lets the instrumentation breathe a bit, or the way the fury is tempered with a few surprising and downright haunting interludes, but everything here—every note and scream and subdued, layered tidbit of background collage, every bit of minutiae—seems entirely intentional and perfectly placed. This is a fucking great record. It just came out of nowhere and laid me to the quick. –Keith Rosson (IFB)

DINERS: Always Room: LP
I don’t know how they do it in Arizona, but that desert is home to a circle of hard-touring multi-instrumentalists that rivals any scene I’ve ever encountered. Diners is near the center of the web, meaning that the band overlaps in membership with the likes of Dogbreth, Blanche Beach, Amadou’s Crew, and a host of other Phoenix-area artists, to their immense benefit. I’ve seen Diners play at least half a dozen times in the last couple years, and the day that guitar harmony in “Good Zone” doesn’t make me go, “Oh shit!” is the day I give up on DIY shows. Much like, oh, the rest of their entire catalogue to date, Always Room is unbelievably tight and impossibly smooth—but not at the expense of depth. Sweet as it is, to sum this up as simple saccharine pop would be a disservice to what this band is capable of: shimmering harmonies, complex songwriting, unexpected progressions. Diners play something that’s accessible to literally anybody, but I mean that in a sense far from “bland and inoffensive.” It feels more like a warm welcome from a new friend. Now that I think of it, that’s a pretty decent description of Always Room as a whole. –Indiana Laub (Phat’n’Phunky, [email protected], / Diet Pop, [email protected],

DUNCAN REID AND THE BIG HEADS: The Difficult Second Album: LP
I hadn’t heard Duncan “Kid” Reid’s old band The Boys until I bought their second album at age fourteen, so I guess it only makes sense that I start my Duncan Reid And The Big Heads exposure with the second album as well. And, whilst this record will hardly stoke the teenage froth of The Boys or Alternative Chartbusters —the OOMPH factor here is somewhere between the third/fourth Boys album and Blaze by Herman’s Hermits—I gotta say, I fricking LOVE Duncan Reid and this record. The guy just seems so dang cheerful, ya know? Whatever he sings about— having kids, getting old, getting drunk—he does it with such a easy wit and charm that I am quite unable to muster any symptoms of being grouchy or ill at ease, and quite unable to say that I wished it sounded more like The Boys, or less like The Boys, or anything of the sort. Like the smallest bowl of the three bears’ porridge, it sounds just right. The band is two girls and two guys, and they’re all good-looking, all dressed cool, all having fun—the cover art is cool, the photos are cool, the songs are cool—as far as i’m concerned, Duncan Reid is officially The Guy Who Made Being In Your Fifties Cool. Don’t laugh, asshole, that’ll come in handy some day. BEST SONG: “One Night in Rio” BEST SONG TITLE: “End of the World” because it solidifies the Peter Noone claim. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The lyric sheet is a big hunk of paper, approximately 16”x12”, folded in thirds, and i’ve never encountered a lyric sheet of that shape before. ­–Rev. Nørb (Wanda,

HARLAN T BOBO: Too Much Love: CD
Harlan T. Bobo mixes the vocal inflections of Andrew Bird and the tone of Tom Waits. Too Much Love opens strong with “Only Love,” which is just the right amount of melancholy. Reminiscent of “Back in the Crowd,” the song sounds as if Tom Waits were singing me a bedtime lullaby. After the first two songs I was excited, expecting a texturally rich and unique experience. Instead, I was met with a mishmash of genres and loose ends. Harlan never pushes his singing into realms that are exciting or interesting. Rather, he relies on the same vocal inflections that are too well within his comfort zone. Also, he overuses spoken word portions, which emphasizes a lack of lyrical prowess and ranges from dull to creepy—I would not recommend listening to “Stop” alone in the dark. With the exception of few standout songs that leave me with hope for a stronger LP the next time around, Too Much Love left me feeling meh. –Ashley Ravelo (Goner,, [email protected])

HOBO BASTARD: Strange Wang: LP
Who are these guys? Are they someone’s favorite band somewhere? Is this cover supposed to be a tribute to the bad Photoshopped graphic design of twenty or twenty-five years ago, or is it on the level? Do they think they sound like the Ergs? Does the singer not know he keeps missing notes regularly, or is that his thing? Wouldn’t a good working definition of “good production” on a punk album be “it sounds good but it doesn’t sound like anyone spent a lot of time or money trying to make it sound good?” Where do these songs end and begin? Wouldn’t a lyric sheet have been a good idea? What happened to choruses? Are any of these song titles even in the song lyrics? Why do people write songs in time signatures where the top number is a multiple of three and the bottom number is a power of two? How many tempo changes can a record have before it stops holding any hope of a claim to being rock’n’roll? Oh! I kind of like this line in “Four Chords of Fucking Shit” that goes “I hope when my song is gone no one remembers.” Challenge accepted!BEST SONG: “Four Chords of Fucking Shit” BEST SONG TITLE: “Stoner Jam in BonerLand” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The message “I am the walrus, coo coo cachoo” (sic) is etched into the run-off grooves of both sides. ­–Rev. Nørb (Boomchock!,

INSTITUT: “Giddy Boys” & “Success” b/w “Fate in a Pleasant Mood”: 7”
The record’s insert includes a pic of Gustave Courbet’s “A Burial at Ornans.” “Burial” is a huge (approx. 10’ x 22’) painting of a provincial French funeral in the mid-nineteenth century. Centered in the painting’s foreground is the burial plot, which suggests to its observers that the plot is theirs, given the plot’s size and placement. It is one of many moments of genius in Courbet’s impressive oeuvre; here, however, it is shrunken down, leaving only a glimpse of its brilliance. The painting is fitting with Institut’s attitude, as it is an unflattering and unforgiving representation, which has obvious preoccupation with the certainty of one’s own death. But like the insert, Insitut is serviceable, and the band doesn’t really do anything but pay homage to its forbearers’ (see, e.g., Wire and The Fall) moments of genius in a shrunken down manner. The two songs that fill out the front are fast, bouncy post-punk with a doomed-to-live mindset. The backside takes a little risk, hinting at an ability and desire to experiment, with the background chanting and a death rock dirge, but Institut plays it pretty straight for post-punk, while retaining the existential crisis touched upon on the front. –Vincent (Katorga Works,

LETHAL OVERDOSE: Unfinished Business: LP
Hard not to get behind this story. Dude from Collision Course Records comes upon a Lethal Overdose cassette some twenty-five years ago, loves it for easy reasons, and rather than let it disintegrate after a dozen moves or have it fall into the hands of some careless sibling who he’s maybe already losing to the radio, the guy re-releases these seventeen songs on vinyl. Unfinished Business is it, an unrelenting collection of Australian thrashy hardcore that hews more to melodic coherence over growling brutality. The rhythm and vocal pacing makes me think early Dischord or SST, as the opening track “Against the Grain” has the manifesto feel and pacing of an Australian take on the anthemic “Minor Threat,” but Lethal Overdose is wholly bizarre in its own way. “Don’t Vote for Judges” shifts from song into some sort of geometric noise machine where singers Dicko and Dave trade shouts of “no judges” until the lyrics give up and become sounds, and seconds later—zoom—more whirring hardcore goodness of “City Limits.” The easy first place for this season’s record time capsule contest—no itchiness, bumps, or lumps and it comes in milky-yellow vinyl with red and black splashes, a speckled beauty. –Jim Joyce (Collision Course,

LIFE IS BONKERS: Greatest Hits: CD
As a kid, I was in love with shitty movies with punk aspirations—think Penelope Spheeris’ Dudes or Glory Daze starring Ben Affleck’s goatee—and the main selling point was their frenetic soundtracks featuring a smattering of bands you’d heard of and some you’d never hear from again. Sacramento’s two-man band Life Is Bonkers would have fallen into the latter category, but their Jello-Biafra-and-Adam-Goren-force-feeding-synth-to-Dave-Quackenbush styling would have felt right at home squealing non-diegetically while Henry Rollins pursued Charlie Sheen at top speeds. Their Greatest Hits is a cacophony of dance-y keyboard, irreverent lyrics, and fuzzy guitar that both caught me off guard and entranced me immediately. So weird and so wonderful. –Kelley O’Death (Hydrozoan, [email protected],

Low Culture radiate hook-laden tunes like a punk pop supernova. Everything I have ever loved about Shang-A-Lang and Marked Men are scrambled together to formulate these two songs, “Reservations” and “Don’t TellMe.” Although the lively singing barely peaks over the rapidly strummed guitars and nearly lo-fi production, the vocals still support each song with their head-bobbing catchiness. The twists and turns of “Reservations” are brilliant, emphasizing the fact that Low Culture isn’t simply another garage punk band: They are crafting thoughtful punk music for those of us who have heard it all before. Needles//Pins are the ideal companion to Low Culture’s scrappiness as they are confident and awe-inducing. “Hateful” is an anthemic pop behemoth with more bravado and expressive crooning than a dozen other bands combined, while “Bored” is one of the best fuck-all garage songs I’ve heard in years. (“I’m bored, motherfucker, and I just want to go home” is the motto for disaffected Generation Y.) By definition, this is a perfect split. Both bands are genius pop songwriters, and what better way to enjoy them but to listen, back to back, to some of their best efforts yet. –Sean Arenas (Dirtnap,

LOWEST, THE: Self-titled:CD
Oh my, oh my, it smells like Milwaukee, ca. 1993... stale beer, cheap cigarettes, and a basement show in the bowels of Riverwest, replete with gutter-bred punk rock mayhem. But I’m soooo wrong! These dudes are from Warsaw, Poland! I would not have guessed; this is much in the vein of early ‘90s Midwestern bottom-scrapers like Demise, F-, and Dis. This has got a good combination of mid-tempo fury and churning, sludgy desperation, all wrapped up in minor chords that lend an ominous and threatening quality to the whole thing. I’m a real sucker for this sound, but it’s not often that I come across an example of it that sounds completely new (as this does) within this tried-and-true genre. I was in the middle of some sort of important work-related shit listening to this and I had to stop what I was doing and just listen, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Then I opened my eyes and I was standing in front of the stereo, screaming along with the songs, tasting my long-forgotten twenty-two-year-old’s angst in my mouth again. Nice. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Pasazer)

Fuckin’ Murmurs. The surprise of last year’s Awesome Fest. The schedule was off, I was a tad inebriated. I had no idea who I was watching, but I liked it. This is hangover opera—soaring, beautiful melodies being belted out in burly chaos. Epic, unforgiving, and dynamic. You’re always only a minute away from another mind-blowing part. When I listen to Bound, I hear more than the record. I swear there’s an orchestra tucked away in these grooves. It’s a sound that’s larger than itself. Bound by nothing, this record feels as free as the night air. Crisp and invigorating. –Daryl (Dead Broke)

Okay, must refrain from showy displays of geekdom. This is a legitimate, authoritative magazine and….HOLY SHIT, THIS FUGGIN’ THING SMOKES!!! Ahem. Sorry about that. As I was saying, there’s a certain level of politesse one must maintain or risk besmirching one’s reputation. Well above-average punk rock is embedded into both sides of this, their first proper full-length album, and…SWEET MINTY JESUS, I’VE DIED AND GONE TO PUNK ROCK HEAVEN!!! ‘Scuze me, there…. I’m hearing shades of prime-era Legal Weapon—tell me “Painted And Gutted” doesn’t hold its own against anything on Death of Innocence—mixed in with all the things that Off! is getting hyped to death over, and are delivering the latter at higher levels of sophistication and flat-out catchiness. Not to besmirch Keith ‘n’ his latest cabal of neo-retro-hardcore malcontents, but these kids are just on fire here AND I’M BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS IN GLEEFUL ABANDON TO THIS FUCKER REPUTATION BE DAMNED OH MY DEAR MAHFÜ THIS THING IS SOOOO GODDAMNED AWESOME!!! Heh. My apologies. Anyway, is this worth the time and green of Razorcake’s urbane, discerning readership? You bet yer sweet posterior it is, bucko. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

OH MY SNARE!: Hoyeste Gang: LP
Hot damn! All right, so my standard reaction to a Leatherface comparison is one of doubt and disinterest. And typically, rightfully so: more tuneless, derivative, gruff-vocalled nonsense that is entirely unrecognizable from the legions of clones doing the same disgraceful crud. So when I say that Montreal’s somewhat-oddly-named Oh My Snare! sounds quite a bit like Sunderland’s favorite sons, I mean it in the most enthusiastic and beautiful way. Main vocalist and guitarist Jorel certainly has his Stubbs down to a science: a gravel so thick that some of the heart-wrenching melodies only reveal themselves in time. Combined with bassist Lily’s amazing, almost Cinder Block-meets-Quin-twins-like voice and guitarist Dan’s quite melodic delivery, Oh My Snare! packs a wallop that could very well be the most welcome addition to the post-Boat canon since some bearded Floridians first dropped Fuel for the Hate Game. Not to be so easily pigeonholed, OMS! also injects a hearty dose of Gilman-heyday flavor, hardcore-tinged gang singalongs and a sincerity and joie de vivre that is wonderfully typical of French Canada. Fans of any of the above namedrops (and, y’know, any of Rugger Bugger’s more melodious output, most of the Snuffy Smile releases, essentially the entire first half of the Lookout! catalog) should absolutely not hesitate to check out this criminally brief LP. So, so great. –Dave Williams (Say-10, / Sick Scene)

PALLBEARER: Foundations of Burden: CD/ 2 x LP
Pallbearer’s second full-length is another exploration of hopeful doom metal. I’m not entirely sure how they do it, but this Little Rock four-piece is able to take the normally gloomy, morose sound of doom metal and insert bits of optimism in the songs. They do this through the use of guitar solos (“The Ghost I Used to Be”) and piano (“Watcher in the Dark,” “Ashes”), and, at times, the melodies flow together to the point where it’s actually beautiful, which is something I never thought I’d say about a doom metal album. The vocals still sound a lot like Ozzy Osbourne, but a couple of the other guys in the band are also providing some vocals as well, which gives an even greater depth to the sound. Foundations of Burden may only be six songs, but it’s fifty-five minutes of music, which makes for a real engaging listening experience. It’s one of those albums that is great to turn on, put headphones in your ears, and just let the sound wash over you. –Kurt Morris (Profound Lore,

PENN’S WOODS: What Good We Do: Cassette
I’m sure I’ve been accused of being “the girl who cried Leatherface” before, but, really, this time I mean it. Take a bit of the gravel and rasp out of Frankie Stubb’s voice and you’d have Penn’s Woods. And not at all in a bad way; it’s not like they’re totally biting their sound. The melodies, lyrics, and cadence are all their own—but you can tell that these guys grew up with what is my favorite British band, right behind The Smiths. As soon as I put this on, I got those heartstring tugs and swelling of emotions, just as if I ran into an old friend or an unrequited love. These are my preferred bristles of the wide brush of pop punk that we paint on countless bands. And Penn’s Woods makes me want to blast What Good We Do just as much as Mush—falling in step with every beat and belting out every word until I’m as hoarse and raspy as Stubbs. Flowery language and poetic waxing aside, this album very well will make my Best of 2015 list. –Kayla Greet (Self-released)

POTENTIAL LUNATICS, THE: Dizzy Spells and Garden Talk: CD
From the handclaps to the noisy teenage freak-outs, Long Beach brother and sister duo The Potential Lunatics is fucking adorable. Emma Simons-Araya evokes an angrier, more contentious Bethany Cosentino (BestCoast). She delivers stunning vocals that travel effortlessly from breathy whispers, to angelic singing, to gritty, riot grrrl growls that don’t sound like a toddler having a temper tantrum—sorry Kathleen Hanna. If legend is to be believed, Emma coerced her brother Isaac into drumming, but he seems stoked about it now, choke slamming the rhythm section and backup vocals like a badass sass dragon. The real star of Dizzy Spells and Garden Talk is the youthful freshness of Emma’s witty, socially conscious lyrics. Her brand of feminism doesn’t posture or ask you nicely; it punches you in the throat and then laughs at you for crying. –Kelley O’Death (Self-released)

RADIOACTIVITY: “Danger” b/w “Why”: 7”
Few would argue with the fact that Marked Men are one of the greatest punk bands of all time, a band in which Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan are both alumni. Few would argue against the absolute brilliance of Radioactivity’s self-titled debut LP. Ultimately, new Radioactivity songs make me buzz with electricity. Well, here they are, and they are a step in a slightly different direction. The melodies are reserved, thoughtful, and succinct when compared with the sugar-y bombast of “Don’t Try” or “World of Pleasure.” None of this is to say that these gents have slowed down, mellowed out, or stopped wrecking their wrists with rapid down-picking. Rather, these two songs require listening on repeat and active engagement. You are forced to turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and ensure your headphones are on snug, as the choruses aren’t as obvious, but the payoff is just as gratifying. The layers of complexity reveal songs equally as brilliant as any by Marked Men. Especially “Why,” a languid and hypnotizing opus, which suggests the influence of Mind Spiders. These two songs potentially foreshadow a more textural Radioactivity on future LPs. If so, I welcome the change. –Sean Arenas (Secret Mission,

REAL KIDS: Shake… Outta Control: LP
The first “real” Real Kids album since 1977? I always considered Norton Records’ No Place Fast a Real Kids album, but I guess it’s not, as it consists of Real Kids and Taxi Boys recordings. Some of the songs on Shake… have been floating around since Real Kids founder John Felice was planning the second album way back in the late ‘70s. Even before I heard this record was coming out, I would often wonder what happened to the album the Real Kids was working on in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s. So, what to say about Shake...? It doesn’t suck! But is that really something to say, when the first thought that came to my mind was “this doesn’t suck?” Really, it’s reductive and oafish of me to write that, but I did think those thoughts. The recordings are good and warm, a much better mix than on the Down to You EP from 1999 (something about the drums on those recordings will always bother me). John Felice’s voice has held up pretty well. He was never a good “singer,” but that’s not the point. It’s just that sometimes I feel he’s reaching for notes he can’t hit. What Felice really is is a good songwriter: the man can write a hook, he’s got a signature guitar sound that any Real Kids fan can pick up on immediately, and he does the heart-on-sleeves thing but doesn’t make it feel cheesy. There’s an updated version of “Common at Noon,” slowed down and with extra instruments that improves on the original. The back cover photo should really have been the front cover. –Sal Lucci (Ugly Pop,

ROBOT REPAIR: Never Trust a Human: Cassette
Never trust a human, eh? Fair enough. One thing’s for sure—don’t trust Robot Repair because nothing about them is robotic. Nope. Too human, too heartfelt, and although far from sloppy, far too raw and uncalculated. What you get here is that sort of catchy punk rock that comes out of places like Chattanooga and Asheville: long, slow rock riffs and dorky vocals that build tension until breaking down into fast punk songs with lots of shouting. I love the blast beats at the beginning of the third track, “La Fin Du Monde.” Thinking I was going to hear a powerviolence song for those few seconds, I worried that maybe this band was still trying to figure out who they were and what their sound was—then... nope, they go right into the same awesome, fun sound they were shooting for the whole time. I’m keeping an eye out for these guys. One complaint: no label on the tape! Bands, next time this happens, I’m getting high and mixing your tape up with some goregrind tape I got to review—Pukerot or whoever—will get far more attention than they deserve and who’ll always be remembered as another shitty grind band! Sorry, to have to make an example of you, Robot Repair. Please carry on with the rockin’. The people need it! –Craven Rock (Boomchok!)

SICKS, THE: Pretty Plastic: 7” single
Okay, I know I need to tell you more than just “This record is fucking awesome! Run out and get it, now!” Tough and catchy modern punk rock (which is not always as bad as it may sound, especially in this case) from out of Pittsburgh that features a lot of ex-members from other bands from that city, but, really, this band is damn good enough that we don’t really need to walk down that path to want to pick this up. Really, you could say that all their prior experience was a warm up to this record (and I’m imagining future recordings). The title track is well deserving of being a title track, for sure. They tap into that primal energy with the repetitive beat that is no frills, just lean and mean. The guitar is up in your face, pulling you in and shoving you from place to place, while the vocalist declares himself with “It’s a sickness!” and everyone else piling in right behind him. “Dose” on the flip brings the lights down just a little bit, with the bass starting off as the song steadily builds over time to a solid mid-tempo gait. Okay, now I’d like to say, “This record is fucking awesome! Run out and get it now!” And it comes on pink vinyl, in case you get jazzed about those sort of things. –M.Avrg (Fair Warning,,

SLICE OF LIFE: Love and a Lamp-Post: CD
Two affirmatives and one negative: Yes, this is Steve Ignorant’s latest musical endeavor; yes, the lion’s share of musicians making up the rest of the band are folks who joined him on his “Last Supper” tour a few years back; no, my spiky-headed homie, this sounds nothing like Crass, Conflict, Stratford Mercenaries, or any other band he’s been in prior. Hell, if you base such things on sonic equivalencies and definitions that have been hammered home over several decades, most wouldn’t even define this as a “punk” album. Gone are Steve’s chord-shredding vocals, the staccato guitars and martial drums, and in their place are soft pianos, acoustic guitar, upright bass, the odd trumpet, harmonies, and :::GASP!::: the man actually singing, thick Cockney accent ‘n’ all. Often more contemplative and introspective, but no less angry, bitter, and outspoken, the songs get their point across more effectively via personal snapshots than Crass’s more obvious finger-wagging moments. It’s an ambitious effort—part singer-songwriter, part-Billy Bragg activist, part storyteller—and one that will no doubt polarize the legions of fans expecting him to blast them against the back wall. As anyone with some knowledge of the breadth of what once fell under the umbrella definition of “anarcho-punk” can tell ye, though, this falls right in line with that scene’s “express yerself how thou wilt” mentality. Is it my personal cup o’ tea? Not sure quite yet; my initial reaction is “no,” but I can see myself quickly warming to the “art” and sheer chutzpah, not to mention that, on the whole, they’re not terrible songs in the least. Would I recommend it? Most definitely, especially to the average punker ‘cause, let’s be honest here, if this record challenges your sensibilities, you need to play it until you realize that’s exactly what “punk” is supposed to do. –Jimmy Alvarado (Overground)

TEAM UGLY: Meat Prize/Screaming in Tongues: Cassette
The cluster headache kicked in immediately. Pain in the temples. Pain in the back of the skull. Pain somewhere in the flaps of my brain. It felt like getting a scalp massage from someone with skeleton hands. Then it spread to the rest of my body. The skeleton-hand masseuse took out my heart and tried to inflate it. My lungs felt weird about that. Unwanted. All of this hurt. But for some reason, I didn’t run away. My curiosity about these sensations kept me in my seat. And then something wild happened. About halfway through, my body and mind just accepted these odd manipulations and even began to derive pleasure from them. I reached the end, and instead of throwing the tape away, I flipped it over and started again from the beginning. One more time. Just one more time. –MP Johnson (Self-released,

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the Aquabats adopted a science fiction theme and went even more mainstream in an Offspring “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” sort of way? Of course you haven’t. No one has. But that’s exactly what this travesty of band called Thirst Things Thirst sounds like. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I just threw up out of my ears. –Juan Espinosa (Self-released, no address listed)

TIM VERSION, THE: Ordinary Life: LP and 7” EP
In a more righteous world all of our government’s money isn’t spent on funding global wars and protecting crooked corporations and politicians, the poor have a fighting chance, loves flows freely, and The Tim Version is played loud on the airwaves for all to hear. It doesn’t hurt to dream. I’ve been a fan of this band for years and have always held their albums and songwriting in high regard, but with Ordinary Life they’ve released what I consider to be, far and away, their best record to date. Over the last fifteen years The Tim Version has fine-crafted their own unique sound, mixing elements of punk, country, and classic rock. Dirty guitar solos that cut through, a backbone of steady rhythms and blistering drums—one of the best drummers you’ll hear in a punk band—and Russ Van Cleave’s arm-raised catchy singalongs and confessional lyrics that balance darkness and hope with words that you can go straight to the edge with. “Nobody thinks that nothing ain’t worth anything. Well I wish it was. Nobody understands the possibilities. But I’ve seen it done.” And somehow they’re able to transition from an upbeat punk tune to a slow, beautiful, and haunting country gem like “Holidays and Birfdays” or “Die in Yer Sleep” with complete ease. What really sets The Tim Version apart from a lot of other bands, though, is a true underlying sense of honesty. There are no illusions hiding in those grooves of vinyl. This album was some five years in the making. I’m a believer that creativity, whether it’s music, writing, or art, takes time to craft and a lot of sacrifice. As age creeps up on us there are more obstacles: family, careers, and money. Somehow we have to learn to juggle it all, and yet still try to be true to the sound. “It is fun, but it ain’t always easy.” Dreams about the dead, fishing, company men, the grind of work, drugs, honky-tonks, depression, weak birds, and cheap motels. It’s a world I can relate to and Ordinary Life is music we can all find solace in. –Seth Swaaley (No Idea,

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Back from the Grave Volumes 9 & 10: LP
All hands on deck!!! If there’s a more important series of a certain time that shines light on another certain time, I don’t know it. Many years have passed since Back from the Grave 8. These two LPs go to show we’re not running out of old. I guess it’s obvious I’m excited about this, but I did listen objectively and these are right up there with their predecessors: old and unheard. Not that I claim a profound knowledge of lost singles, but I’ve been burned with recycled comps and BftG has not disappointed yet. Taste, taste, taste still reigns at Crypt. So if this is what you’re into, you don’t really need me to tell you that you need these. If you think you might be into it, get a job mowing lawns and pick up the rest. These records remind me of the parties I wish I had been invited to. –Billups Allen (Crypt,

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Phoenician Microsystems Presents Shortshorts: 7”
Here are twelve short sentences about this record. This is pretty good. There are twelve songs on this record. All of them fit on a 7”. Not all of the songs are phenomenal. Sonically, they’re all over the place. Some pop punk, some thrash rock, some shock rock-inspired synthpop. More labels should try experimental releases like this. There’s a small chance I’m only giving this a good review because of how much Short Music for Short People means to me. Thirty second songs are the best. I need an eleventh sentence or my premise is shot. Here’s to volume two. Grade: A-. –Bryan Static (Phoenician Microsystems,