Featured Record Reviews From Issue #86: Badlands, NOFX and Friends, Gift Shop Girls, War On Women and more

Illustration by Vee (http://poisoniby.tumblr.com/)

BADLANDS: Dark Dreams: 7”
Adrian Chi currently known as the drum basher in Spokenest, illustrator of Bite the Cactus, and formerly of L.A.’s beloved God Equals Genocide, has taken a moment to slow things down and project through music her more laid back/mellow nature in the form of Badlands. The amps have been turned down and the mood is much more somber than most of Adrian’s previous projects, but her gift of genius songwriting is stronger than ever. “Dark” is a folky punk number that perpetually builds momentum as the song progresses. “Dreams” is slightly more upbeat and integrates some nice arpeggio guitar strumming while Adrian’s voice echoes in the background like a ghost happily singing in a desert prairie. Lyrical themes include the day-to-day struggles of life but with an overall positive message encouraging us to not succumb to our own fears and hold those close to us even closer. Just like on previous Badlands recordings, Adrian is the sole songwriter and musical performer, but I’ve recently learned that she now has a full live backing band, including current members of Bird Strike and Wreck Of The Zephyr. Can’t recommend this record enough. –Juan Espinosa (Porchcore, no address listed)

ALUMINUM KNOT EYE: Northern Secrets: CDEP
Boy, oh boy. Opening tune takes my hand and leads me to a slide show of the times I’ve fallen in love in my life and I slow dance with the memories. I can’t understand the lyrics, but I’m happy the name of the second jam is called “Mapping Her Contours,” and not “Homicidal Lubricant.” I say jam, and it’s jammy, but not lame. Upon further inquiry, it turns out they are MIDWESTERN! Specifically Haunchyville, WI, pronounced “Honkyville,” I’m sure. My first listen, I was in the garage, building shit, ripping and chopping, drilling and sanding. I listened to it five times in a row, appreciating it more with each spin. This is a perfect soundtrack for the creative process. –Jackie Rusted (Self-released, aluminumknoteye.com)

BAD FUTURE: Golden Age: LP
The fact is that we live in a time where pretty much any band in the world is listenable at the click of a button. The internet changed the way we discover music. Gone are the days of just stumbling on a band and being blown away. Almost. Bad Future is from Seattle. I had never heard of them until I found out they would be opening for the Hex Dispensers on their Washington stop. I hadn’t heard a single note of their music until they played, and when they did I was impressed enough to buy this record. Upon listening to it I was blown away. I haven’t stopped listening to it for weeks now. I remember this feeling from the pre-Bandcamp or Youtube days. No hype or anyone telling me I need to check this out, just hearing it and getting chills. The record has everything that clicks for me. Winding bass parts, quick drum fills thrown in everywhere, weird feedback squeals, simultaneous meticulous hooks and disjointed madness. I can’t get enough. –Ty Stranglehold (Bad Future, ourbadfuture.com)

BIG SUZE: You Guys Suck and It’s Too Loud: Cassette
Hitting “play” on this cassette is like jumping into a pit of rabid wolverines that have been starved for weeks. Or fighting lions in the Roman coliseum with no weapons. Or entering a dark room full of ninjas who think you killed their family. Whatever the metaphor, I was not ready for this. It’s aggressive as fuck and dirty and angry and chaotic. But that kind of controlled chaos. There are a few sludgy breakdowns where you can catch your breath, and try to regroup for the fight, but you better do it fast. As soon as you think you might be ready, they take the same sludgy tempo and just start adding more beats and notes in there. Your heart never has a chance to slow down; they thrust right back into the high speed intensity just when you thought you could let your guard down. They don’t even let you relax in between songs. There’s not a break in sound until the end of the tape. Those short lulls I mentioned earlier are transitions into the next track and I wouldn’t be surprised if each side was recorded as one long continuous take. Lead by vocals that make you imagine burst blood vessels and strained cords, they are also backed up by a set of vocals that are slightly less intense. This band totally rules and should only be played as loud as possible. –Kayla Greet (Drug Party, drugparty.storenvy.com)

BLOSSUM HILL: Illustrate Your Grub: EP
What a trip; I put this record on in the house and the missus asked if this was Green Day. Not the “in the charts on major labels” Green Day, but the “1000 Hours, 39:Smooth Green Day,” the soundtrack to summer Green Day, the staying up all night in the attic with Jono drinking cheap cider Green Day, the stealing milk and doing LSD with the band Green Day. You want innovation? Get into experimental jazz. Reliving a sound or a feeling can be as vital as reinventing noise. This band from Finland brought back memories and feelings I thought long forgotten. It sounds exactly like the very best Green Day records. I’ve been known to be offhand and cynical, and so I should be, I’ve spent a ton of days on this earth ingesting shit. I love this. Unapologetic to all. Constant rotation; remembering being nineteen. –Tim Brooks (Hold On, blossomhill.bandcamp.com)

CHOKECHERRY: The Future Was a Long Time Ago: LP
Imagine for a moment that folk punk in 2015 does not mainly consist of angry boys filming themselves playing tone-deaf Pat The Bunny covers on guitars made out of coffee cans. I want to call what Chokecherry does folk punk, because that’s what it is, but I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea. It’s more like if This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb could—just barely—get away with playing an actual non-punk barn dance. It can come off as a little affected at times, but that tends to come with the (cactus-studded, tumbleweed-blown) territory. If you like some wistful fiddle and twangy Hank Williams yelping with your pop punk, this could be for you. –Indiana Laub (Self-released, [email protected], chokecherrympls.com)

GIFT SHOP GIRLS: Aloha, Paradise: 7” EP
As we all know, the best format for a hardcore record is an eight-or-ten-song ((nine is right out)) 7”; and, thirty years ago, this is what that would have been ((although nobody was really making eight-song 7” hardcore records any more thirty years ago, because everyone wanted to make albums and be metal, but whatever)). However, I recently saw an ad for some purported “hardcore” label, which boldly trumpeted “THIS IS HARDCORE” over a group of photos of their releases, followed by “THIS IS BULLSHIT” above photos of the records we used to call “hardcore” thirty or thirty-five years ago, when we were inventing the genre ((you’re fucking welcome)) but apparently screwing it all up for everybody. With this new HC/BS revelation in place, I guess this record isn’t really an eight-song hardcore 7” in the eyes of whomever currently controls that word, it’s an eight-song “bullshit” 7”. WELL PARDON US ALL TO FUCKING PIECES, WON’T YOU? It sounds decent enough to me; seems like a logical successor to the We Can’t Help It If We’re from Florida crowd. Carry on. BEST SONG: Songs are bullshit! BEST SONG TITLE: Song titles are bullshit! FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Fantastic amazing trivia facts are also bullshit, but it should be noted that the word “straight” in the song title “Straight and Narrow” is missing an “a” on the back cover. ­–Rev. Nørb (Passion On Plastic, passiononplastic.com)

LOAD: Drunken Warrior Chief: LP
1991. My eleventh grade. The grooves of this full length collection are chock-full to the brim with Vision Street Wear, Armory shows, underage drinking, and circle pits. The metallic k.o. of Florida’s humidity coupled with bored rage. When you’re from Miami, the only way to go (geographically) is up, right? I remember Load toured, what seemed, quite heavily through the South, and while Florida does not actually count as a southern state, this LP carries a dank punk/crossover weight, coupled with southern cable TV-wrestling humor. The LP is a loving memorial to Load’s singer Bobby (who passed in 2012), culling tracks from EPs, compilations, and two unreleased songs on heavy black vinyl. Crucial release for memory lane and fantastic snapshot or starting point for the interested. –Matt Seward (RatTown, rattownrecords.com)

MIKE HUDSON AND THE PAGANS: Hollywood High: LP
A new Pagans album? This took me more by surprise than when The Real Kids dropped their latest record in late 2014. As far as I know, Mike Hudson is The Pagans, but why is this “Mike Hudson And…”? I did some internet research and found some interviews with Hudson (mid-to-late 2014, when this album was coming out) and it looks like Hudson had not just the blessings of—but the insistence of—his former band mates to use The Pagans moniker. Classy touch from a guy who doesn’t come across in the best light in his own memoir (Diary of a Punk.) These interviews also reveal that Hudson had been writing songs for a country-styled album, which may account for the slow to mid-tempo feel, and possibly the unnecessarily long “Fame Whore.” Hudson’s voice has held up remarkably. One would think his punk bark-snarl would have permanently damaged it in his younger days. The backing band is solid, with great guitar tone. The recordings are better quality than The Pagans’ early releases, due simply to the band having access to better recording equipment. The sound of Hollywood High evokes the late ‘90s rock’n’roll punk bands that were likely influenced by The Pagans. I will always love The Pagans, and when I think of what punk rock should sound like, I think of The Pagans (Crime being a close second.) My only real complaint is that the cover is pixilated. The image evokes what Hudson is shooting for, but the way the photo looks when enlarged to LP cover size makes the artwork look blown-out. Bonus points to the band and label for selling the LP (plus download) for remarkably cheap through their Bandcamp page. –Sal Lucci (Ruin Discos, ruindiscos.com)

NO FRAUD: Revolt! – 1984 Demos: LP
No Fraud were/are a hardcore band from Venice, Florida. Though they’ve apparently been around for quite a spell and penned quite a few releases, I freely admit that my only exposure to them prior to this was their 1985 debut EP, which was a blistering, glorious slab of spastic thrash. That sound is all over the tracks here, recorded in a “party like” atmosphere, according to the included brief liner notes. The tunes zip right on by nice ‘n’ tight, only occasionally slowing down before zipping off on another tear. Why this stuff wasn’t issued back then is a question for the ages. I know record distribution was tight back then, but this shit is so fuggin’ great it would’ve easily burned a path through the tape trader circuit in short order. One can only be glad it’s making the rounds now, and a little sad, I guess, that so much of its lyrical content remains painfully relevant thirty-one years later. Crucial listening most definitely found here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Six Weeks, twitter.com/sixweeksrecords)

NOFX & FRIENDS: Home Street Home: Original Songs from the Shit Musical:CD/LP
An admission that may exclude me from some punk circles: I like musicals. I like Les Misérables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, and Phantom of the Opera, and have seen a number of others in my life. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t own soundtracks or go see them every month, but the mixture of music and acting can really pack an emotional punch. (Yes, I cry during Les Misérables. Fuck you.) There’s a good chance I might be the foremost expert of musicals amongst the Razorcake writers. That being said, it seems fitting that I was the one sent to review a copy of the Fat Mike-penned musical, Home Street Home. Yeah, Green Day did the “punk musical” first, but from what I’ve read and watched and listened to, Home Street Home is much different. There’s talk about cutting, drugs, BDSM, and prostitution. It’s the story of street punks trying to figure out how to make it on the streets. The music is done by a bunch of different people, including members of NOFX, Descendents, Alkaline Trio, Dropkick Murphys, No Use For A Name, and so many more. Obviously, the vocals are done by the cast, with a distinguished mix of women and men whose voices complement one another (and one who sounds like a young Tim from Rancid). Obviously, if I had already seen Home Street Home, I’d probably think a lot differently about these songs. As it stands, these eighteen tracks are what Fat Mike calls “demos” for the musical. There are actually twenty-eight songs in the musical and everything is subject to change over time (until there’s an official “cast” album). So this is what you get for now. A lot of the songs have the typical NOFX sense of humor in the lyrics, but there’s more wit than normal, which is probably due in part to the fact that one of the other people behind the musical is Jeff Marx, who worked on Avenue Q. The music has a wide range of instruments including banjo, piano, ukulele, vibraphone, and the standard rock lineup. It’s catchy and fun, and serves a wide range of styles. After listening to this, I have to admit that I’m surprised. I really didn’t think Fat Mike could pull off something so mature and accessible to so many people beyond the typical NOFX fan. But this is pretty solid stuff that, like any good musical, can pack an emotional punch. I’d definitely check out the musical if it comes to where I live. –Kurt Morris (Fat)

NOTHING BAND: True Refrigerator: Cassette
Annoying, discordant home recordings of a guy whining over pan-banging and flute-fluting and out-of-tune guitar plinking. The most insufferable, indulgent turd I’ve listened to in some time. NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE RELEASED, right? Goddamn. I mean, I’m no tastemaker, but sheesh, this cassette’s giving home recordings a bad name. I’m sure there are avenues in which genius such as this can finally be recognized, but Razorcake—and my speakers—are almost assuredly not it. –Keith Rosson (24/7)

OPPOSITION RISING: Aftermathematics LP + Get off Your Ass Get off Your Knees EP: CD
A CD reissue of their Get off Your Ass Get off Your Knees EP and Aftermathematics LP, released 2013 and 2011, respectively. Truth be told, “angry political punk” is as dicey these days as most of the other cubbyholes that fall under the “punk” banner, so, naturally, I was a bit skeptical when approaching this. True to form, a lot of the expected subject matter—class war, religion, war, and other examples of how fucked up society is in the twenty-first century and calls to revolt against it all—is in evidence, but instead of ladling out more of the insipid, watered-down U.S. variant of “street punk” that seems all the rage among the perfectly coiffed and Manic Panic-colored parrot punk contingent, they back up specific gripes with some tasty (mostly) mid-tempo punk/hardcore delivered with enough verve that those of us who find ourselves a bit more cynical might be swayed to believe they actually mean what they’re saying. I know that might come off as a backhanded compliment, but believe me it’s not. Too often anymore “fuck the system” is more a punk conceit than conviction, and while I can’t profess to know these cats or where their heads are at, the tunes here are put across in such a way as to come off more the latter, which makes all the difference, even when they divert off in an occasional reggae direction. –Jimmy Alvarado (Profane Existence / Opposition)

PUBLIC ASSAULT: No Way Out: 7”
This band is from working class Lake County, a shithole that starts with Gary, Indiana and sprawls out cancerously into places like Hammond, which Public Assault calls home. It’s an ugly violent, dog eat dog, crime-ridden rustbelt hell, the kind of place where friends of mine played a show afterward to leave in a high-speed chase running from Nazi skinheads only to get their van t-boned in an intersection by someone in another high-speed chase with one perp trying to kill the other in a drug deal gone wrong. The runner that hit them died. His car and their van went up in flames. I lived in a nearby town called Lowell when I was a teenager and, honestly, think it has lot to do with why I’m still fucked up. But you don’t need to know this when you put on No Way Out; to feel their music comes from a dark place. It’s pure rage and survival they put into these four songs. Nothing new here, simply Minor Threat, Void, Agnostic Front-style hardcore but with such uncut anger and vitriol that it stands with the best of them. The lead singer shouts, spitting his frustration at “ignorance and violence fascism and racism and brutality.” He does so crudely and artlessly but with so much fervor with the band backing equally fast, dirty, and desperate. Get this to remember why you like hardcore and you’ll quickly forget hardcore not worth remembering. –Craven Rock (Foreign Legion, ourwayoflife.storenvy.com)

REALLY RED: Teaching You the Fear: LP
If you pay attention to any of my music ramblings (both in print and in person), I will inevitably express my love for punk rock from Texas. Being from Canada, it took a long time for me to hear a lot of the amazing bands from the ‘80s from the LoneStarState, but every time I did I fell in love with them. Really Red was among the best. This is the first of a three volume reissue of the Houston band’s discography, featuring their debut album Teaching You the Fear. Simply amazing and intense, Really Red came out of a more interesting art-damaged corner of punk rock (much like fellow Texans Big Boys and Dicks). When they played hardcore, it was relentless and pitch perfect, but they would turn around and lay down something arty and different at the drop of a dime without losing any of the anger or urgency. It’s a tough trick, but Really Red really nailed it on this record that put them in a league with the likes of Minutemen and Nomeansno in my mind. I, for one, am incredibly excited about these reissues. Everyone should own this record and now they can. –Ty Stranglehold (Alternative Tentacles)

REALLY RED: The Complete Collection 1979-1985: 2 x CD
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating yet again: I dunno what the fuck they were putting in the barbecue sauce in Texas at the dawn of the 1980s, but some seriously amazing stuff came outta that state’s punk scene roughly from the tail end of the ‘70s through the ‘80s—Big Boys, Dicks, D.R.I., Offenders, Kamikaze Refrigerators, Dot Vaeth Group, Cargo Cult, The Hates, M.D.C., Culturcide, Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers, The Nervebreakers… suffice to say that only scratches at a list that is long and wildly varied. Also sitting in that pantheon is Houston’s Really Red, a name that one doesn’t come across quite as often these days as maybe some of the others named might, but one no less important or jaw-dropping awesome were they, and at the time they were rightly well regarded in the greater scene back then. What they brought to the table—and is in full evidence throughout this collection of their recorded output—was a sound that kept a toe on the punk/hardcore template while lurching in every which direction: thrashing with the best of ‘em on second, meting out some choice punk tunes the next, adding some psychedelic art-damaged hardcore the next, and going off on an almost industrial excursion the next, lurching rhythms, howling vocals, and pummeled guitars in tow. Collected here is pretty much everything one could hope for: the crucial Teaching You the Fear LP, the über-rare Rest in Pain LP, all their singles/EP tracks, comp tracks, and some unreleased gems, plus a booklet with lyrics and a version of an interview with vocalist U-Ron that I remember being included in David Ensminger’s indispensable tome, Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons. In addition to being two discs-worth of challenging and wildly creative music, the collection is yet another testament to just how wildly creative some bands remained even within the rapidly tightening “rules” hardcore’s adherents insisted on shackling themselves with as time went on. Boiled down to three words: THIS IS ESSENTIAL. –Jimmy Alvarado (Alternative Tentacles)

RUSSEL STREET BOMBINGS: Self-titled: LP
Abstract, psychedelic post-punk damage situated in the land of Gong, Thee Homosexuals, Rat Columns, and Swell Maps. Truthfully, this is too good and too smart to be easily categorized and filed away. So, just ignore that opening line. Think of that as a way of luring you into their world; one where usual song structures are thrown out and replaced by trance-inducing droning, strumming, and rhythmic time keeping that’s effective and unobtrusive. This is the kind of music you stop all else and just listen to. There’s a lot going on, and it’s all worth making the time for and getting familiar with. I think the whole year-end best-of lists are shit, but if I was to ever keep one, this record would be in the upper portion, and possibly at the tippy top. Treat yourself right and get this. –M.Avrg (Smart Guy, smartguyrecords.com)

SHALLOW CUTS: Storm Watch: 7” EP
On the surface, San Diego/Minneapolis trio Shallow Cuts don’t sound terribly dissimilar from their pop punk brethren, but there’s something lurking in their melodies, song structures, and chord progressions that lingers in the ether between the two genres. The cheery guitar line on Side A’s “The Mission” feels more like The Cure than Alkaline Trio, while recalling both. When placing “89 Suzuki” on a mixtape, it could play just as well next to Billy Joel as The Lawrence Arms. Side B’s “SLC” feels like a brighter Gaslight Anthem with lyrics by John Cougar Mellencamp, but it possesses a purity all its own. Final track, “Calamine” boasts an intro and breakdown that scream for a place in the life-affirming climax of a twee indie film, and finds ways to integrate subtle, refreshing key changes and vocal runs throughout. Its title, lyrics, album art, and marbled grey vinyl may seem foreboding, but Storm Watch is like an injection of serotonin and nostalgia straight into your brain. –Kelley O’Death (No Idea, [email protected], noidearecords.com)

TIGHT BROS: Self-titled: LP
Tight Bros are not from way back when, they are from now. If the Ramones were a ‘59 Cadillac then Tight Bros are a fucking Tesla. (Yeah, I don’t know shit about cars.) Tight Bros have produced one of the finest pop punk products on the market in this here first half of the 2010s. The speed is relentless. Starting out at a double-time speed that most pogo-ers would strain a muscle and only relenting when you find yourself at the one or two songs that require head banging instead. As a three-piece they sound so full. The intricacies of the vocals weaving in and out is complex without seeming heady and pretentious. This is the kind of record that makes me confused why everyone in the world doesn’t listen to pop punk. It follows the pop rulebook, makes it dirty and noisy with complex, but accessible, melodies. It’s a hard spot on the musical landscape to find, but the Tight Bros. have a great home here. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a champion of this band for a long time. I remember actually paying for MP3s of this record because the vinyl wasn’t available yet. The excitement on my face when I saw this disc was obvious. If you’ve been wondering where all the good pop punk is lately, it’s here. It’s the Tight Bros. And you’re a fool for not seeing it. (I am also going to use my once yearly “Go buy this fucking now” power by saying you have to buy Good Shade’s self-titled LP. (Which shares a member or two.) I’m not super educated.) Grade (for this and Good Shade’s LP, why not?): A. –Bryan Static (Let’s Pretend / Rad Girlfriend)

UK SUBS: Yellow Leader: CD
The Subs are just one letter away from completing their twenty-six albums of the alphabet! If medals were given for commitment to the cause, Charlie Harper would have the Purple Heart. How many punk rockers do you know who are still knocking out records at the age of seventy? Seventy. That’s right. I’m a huge fan of the late ‘70s Subs with hits like “Stranglehold” and “Warhead.” How does the twenty-sixth album fare? Not half bad, actually, and still a head and shoulders above most of the swill that passes for punk these days. No wheel reinventing, just got some uptempo ‘77-style punk. Mandatory? No. Worthy? Yes. –Tim Brooks (Captain Oi)

URINALS: Next Year at Marienbad: CD
I bought the third ((and best)) Urinals 7”, with “Sex” and “Go Away Girl” ((fairly logical couplet, that)), when it came out circa 1980 or ‘81, its crazy fucking thunderous raw basement smashing was a revelation—an absolute overload of VOLUME and POUNDING and the types of acoustical traits that drive “real” sound engineers to the bughouse. The next song I heard was “She’s a Drone,” off the Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself compilation, which kept the minimalist frenzy going, but sounded like it was being tapped out on Quaker Oats® containers, thus was still cool, but in a much different manner. They then changed their name to 100 Flowers, got artier, and lost my interest, although I did like their early song “Salmonella” okay. They apparently put out an album as the Urinals in 2003 which I managed to ignore entirely, which brings us up to the immediate now. I think this record is pretty cool—it doesn’t sound like a basement full of metal garbage cans being kicked around by pelicans, or some homeless nut banging on oatmeal containers—it all sounds pretty “normal,” give or take—but all the songs are good, reasonably memorable, and generally to the point. The range of bands of which I am reminded during the course of this album ranges from the somewhat logical ((Gun Club, Guided By Voices)) to the unexpected ((Reducers, They Might Be Giants, Jason and the fricking Scorchers??)), but it’s all sort of knit together logically, in one big happy urinal. This album will not save your soul, but it will add a fresh urinal cake to the pee-sodden porcelain of your existence! BEST SONG: “Close Our Eyes” BEST SONG TITLE: “This Song Is a Virus” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Gleert & Simka appear courtesy of Finn-a-Fon Diskq! ­–Rev. Nørb (Happy Squid, happysquid.com)

WAR ON WOMEN: Self-titled: LP
War On Women’s in-your-face, empowered attitude and visceral aural assault is a breath of fresh air when suffocated by the ignorant, sexist, hate-filled poison that floods the internet message boards and Youtube comment sections. “Is the wage gap not big enough to get your ego through?” spits Shawna Potter, taking to task workplace inequalities and willfully blind men. On “Second Wave Goodbye,” she pinpoints another target and unleashes a scathing barrage: “You’re a relic of the second wave, and we’ve waved goodbye.” Although Potter may seem divisive, she repairs the bridge: “Hey! We’re all, we’re all women.” There are a lot of exposed nerves (read: no minced words) as sexual assault, abortion, and chauvinists in ally clothing are not handled delicately. War On Women want to dig into your shoulders and jolt you awake, proof that punk can still shock in the right ways. Although the lyrics are clearly center stage, the music is an engaging mixture of Propagandhi’s metallic chug, Neighborhood Brats’ swagger, and Feral Future’s pensive poetics. Highly recommended. –Sean Arenas (Bridge Nine, bridge9.com)