Featured Record Reviews from Issue #87

Aug 31, 2015

DIVERS: Hello Hello: Cassette
There are a lot of things people tell you when you move to the Pacific Northwest from down south, mostly having to do with rain and “hipsters.” They do not tell you that every single punk you meet from here on out is going to be prostrated at the altar of Portland’s Divers. I found out pretty immediately that there was some big deal about them up here but avoided every opportunity to find out what it was. I’m gonna skip the self-flagellation and get to the part that matters: Divers fucking rules, Hello Hello fucking rules. If Gaslight Anthem never really lived up to what you thought “Springsteen punk” had the potential to be—or even if they did, honestly—Divers are the guys you want. But it’d be a mistake to distill Hello Hello down to that most obvious comparison, as soulful and Boss-like as frontman Harrison Rapp’s whispery rasp may be. Slow burners like “Listen, Teller” and “Last Dance” dig up layers of ‘80s influence that don’t surface nearly as often as Springsteen and Westerberg do in modern punk—I’m hearing strains of U2, Simple Minds, Human League, all these little scraps and strands of nostalgia pieced together in strangely wonderful ways. Of their contemporaries, Restorations is the most comparable, unsurprisingly. But despite the long list of unmistakable influences, this band is anything but derivative. They pull off every angle: pensive, plaintive, anthemic, dreamy… it all just works in this many-layered, unpredictable way. This is a special band. –Indiana Laub (Stay Punk,

ADOLESCENTS: La Vendetta... É Un Piatto Che Va Servito Freddo: LP
Hafta admit it’s been a good spell since I last heard something new from the Adolescents (my fault, not theirs), so this is a welcome catch-up visit. As can be expected, Tony’s got some things on his mind—pigs running amok, the threat nuclear energy poses to the planet, the peaks and valleys of relationships, and the sorry state of society in the twenty-first century, for starters—and he does so with his usual élan as Steve and the boys lay down the solid sonic terra from which he promulgates. The tunes may occasionally have a bit more “rock” swagger to ‘em, but the wicked hooks, dual-octave guitar noodling, multi-part harmonies and overall feel of the proceedings are unquestionably Adolescents. Seeing as this release marks both the band’s thirty-fifth anniversary and its first new full-length on Frontier since their rightfully revered debut “blue” album, it’s especially sweet that this is as good as it is—a worthy addition to an already stellar, influential career from a band that remembers that punks should be undaunted by careerism to tackle heady, potentially controversial topics, especially in this era when taking a stand on damned near anything can be twisted into controversy, and back it all up with the kind of tunesmithing that’ll burrow into the noggin for decades. A tip of the worn beret is most definitely in order here. –Jimmy Alvarado (Frontier)

CITIZEN FISH: Dancing on Spikes: LP
Back in high school I used to be really, really into ska. I had a boyfriend at the time who hated it (probably still does) because it was “too happy and sounds like circus music.” To that I told him legend of bands like the Mephiskapheles, the satanic ska band, and it still wouldn’t sway him. For that, I wish I had known about Citizen Fish in my youth. With Dancing on Spikes, the band is up to its usual political calling out and taking a stance on issues. Though this record came out originally in 2011, this is the first time this album has been on vinyl. Themes include rejecting religion and 9/11, so it’s much heavier than the aforementioned then-boyfriend’s version of ska, though I have to say that the song, “Write It All Down” does sort of sound like a circus. My favorite lyrics are the chorus of “My god’s bigger than your god’s bigger than his god’s bigger than mine / Hands together, eyes close / Who do you believe in? Cus I don’t,” peppered throughout the song “Beyond Belief.” Dick and crew always bring through a quality project though, and I’m guessing if you’re a fan of Citizen Fish at all then you already have a copy, but this one is on vinyl! –Kayla Greet (PHR)

COLISEUM: Anxiety’s Kiss: CD/LP
After starting out as a hardcore band whose releases include an album on the metal label Relapse, the past few albums have found the Louisville trio Coliseum rotating between post-punk and catchy, driving tunes. Songs like “Drums & Amplifiers” are great punk anthems while the following track, “Dark Light of Seduction,” the longest song on the album (clocking in at over six minutes), is a hypnotic number that gives the listener a breather without losing any muscle. The mix of the fast and heavy combined with the Killing Joke-influenced sound is sequenced so well, giving the listener a great emotional ride. J. Robbins produced this latest offering, just as he did with Coliseum’s last album, the excellent Sister Faith. As per usual with a Robbins-helmed album, it sounds great; clean without losing its edge, and every instrument is represented just right. What makes Coliseum most remarkable is that they really don’t give a fuck. They play the music they want—punk or post-punk or whatever you want to call it—and have no interest in creating that perfect single that might get them noticed. And what they do create are catchy, powerful, and emotionally resonating tunes. I only wish more acts could create as well-rounded an album as Anxiety’s Kiss. –Kurt Morris (Deathwish)

DFMK: TV & Dirty Trash (EP, Demos and Crap 2010-2013): Cassette
A cassette collection by DFMK from Tijuana, MX compiling its earliest material. These cats have been a Razorcake HQ favorite for a few years now but have recently gained the respect and admiration of like-minded punks all over the West Coast, having built quite the reputation with their over-the-top live shows and constant touring. Musically, it’s on track with some of the bands who don’t fit the typical hardcore mold (think Neighborhood Brats). There aren’t any speed limits being broken and the guitar hooks are catchier than most. The vocals are mostly sung as opposed to being shouted, which is certainly not very typical in punk these days but is still as effective. As previously stated, these guys are native to Mexico and thus all the lyrics are in Spanish, but you don’t need to understand the words to speak the international language of friendship through DIY punk. Pick this up at one of their shows, and while you’re at it, ask them about one of their Don’t Fuck My Kids T-shirts which are perfect for Sunday church with the fam. –Juan Espinosa (Get Better,

FLOOD DAMAGE: Instructions for the Assembly of God(s): CD
The kind of industrial music I enjoy the most is the kind that, when I close my eyes, makes me feel like I’m a cyborg, fresh out of a mech-shop, just repaired by a goggle-wearing, smirking mechano-doctor whose agile hands are caked in equal quantities of grease and blood. I wander a wasteland of scrap metal and sparks, where a random bullet is just as likely to come my way as a drop of rain. Flood Damage takes me there, manipulating mechanical soundscapes that move through triumphant, fist-pumping anthems to carnal, hip-swaying tunes to wire-melting, synapse-smashing stompers. With diverse and refreshing, yet respectfully retro, takes on industrial, this CD opens a window to the sort of world that I want to spend a lot of time in. –MP Johnson (Self-released,

GAY KISS: Preservation Measures: LP
Gay Kiss straight rips. Preservation Measures switches back and forth from a deep, dark void to full-out mayhem, building to a maniacal, frenzied froth that whips and thrashes to just fucking falling apart into a million sick little pieces. Build that shit up just to tear it down. Hardcore bands GAG and Inservibles come to mind. Fucking bonkers. –Camylle Reynolds (Sorry State)

LIPPIES, THE: World Happiness Dance: 7”
“302”, the first song on this record, is so unbelievably awesome and bubblegum catchy. I wish I could quit playing it. It’s getting stuck in my head and I find myself singing it out loud: “I think you’re funny, I think you’re cute. I’d like to drink my brains, my brains out with you.” A man of my age gets some weird looks singing such dorkisms on elevators and such. The lead singer has a voice so completely unbelievably gorgeous and powerful she’s lucky to have a band that can carry her. Not to mention the songwriting—I’ve heard far too many bands with a great female vocalist where the songs or the rest of the band just fall flat around them. On the second side, “Give Him the Squirrel” is a little more cryptic, a song whose character is “feeling lost and lacking in direction” and forced into “information overload!” The songs ends with the shouted “my heart’s exploding and it’s splattering all over your face, your face, YOUR FACE...YOU SHOULD SEE YOUR FACE!” “Beat It into Me” doesn’t let up on the pop, but the lyrics take on a socio-political tone: “they beat it, they beat it, they beat it into us. We get it, we get it, we’ll never fit in. We figure out your equation to gain validation. Where lies accountability, in our vanishing communities?” The pairing of the lighthearted nature of the first side with the angst of side two works perfectly. Just found my summer jam. –Craven Rock (Independent Fries, no address listed)

MOON BANDITS: Property Damage: A Love Story: CD
A couple years back, I reviewed Moon Bandit’s last full-length release, Action Changes Thinking, and wrote, “This album is, in the most wonderful way, apocalyptic. The end is here. A new beginning is upon us.” Property Damage: A Love Story continues that vision only—if this is possible—in a much more poignant, time-sensitive way. Take, for example, the song “Joe.” It is easily my favorite track on the record and possibly the most personal to Tommy, banjo player and singer. It tells the story of a young man who starts an ACLU-influenced, students’ rights organization on his high school campus and is eventually the victim of physical abuse by the campus police officer. As the song says, the officer loses his job but the speaker’s life is ruined by resentment, anger, drugs, and alcohol as a result of the stress of the incident and the court hearings that follow. Tommy and Astrid, the dynamic duo behind Moon Bandits, would be the first to point out that, being white, they do not know the full extent of police oppression in the United States. But, in a year when there seems to be another example of police abuse in the news on a daily basis, songs like “Joe,” “It’s Gonna Roll,” and “We Ain’t Lazy” are important and need to be written, sung, screamed, sung along to, and taken into the streets, living rooms, venues, bars, city halls, churches, schools, public spaces, and occupied territories of the world. –John Mule (Diet Pop,, Mountains Of Yucca)

NO///SÉ: Lower Berth: LP
Oakland’s No///sè has crafted the most refreshing genre-warping punk LP I’ve heard in ages. Each song departs from the previous tone and engages a different facet of punk, lighting up synapses in my brain and making me numb with joy. Everything is inspired, curating familiar sounds without repackaging nostalgia. “One Step Behind” opens with a raging Spits-like chant of the song title, then detours into “The Little Things You Love to Hate,” which recalls melodic punk like Libyans and No Problem. The haggard vocals are positioned equally alongside the razor sharp guitars, masking—but not burying—the infectious melodies behind a wall of distortion. But surprises abound. “Buried Alive” is pure power pop with enunciated singing and a driving bassline that plunges into “Neglect,” one of Lower Berth’s harshest songs. These tonal shifts demonstrate that listeners don’t need to be repeatedly spoon-fed the same song in new clothing. On “Wiped Out,” the chorus repeats “no point / no cure” as a nihilist mantra, followed by “Given Up,” a solo song that’s less fatalistic and more empowering: “I’ve given up on your stupid lie... because it’s always wrong.” No///sè reassures me that the rusty frame of punk and hardcore can be constantly spit-shined and polished into a pedaling beast. Bonus: If you listen to the LP on its Bandcamp, No///sè also shares a tasty, sped-up cover of Tom Waits’s “Dirt in the Ground” and a stripped-down version of “Buried Alive.” –Sean Arenas (Man In Decline, / 1859,

This is music you can get lost in. Blue collar catharsis, like a people’s history of raw rock’n’roll filtered down by the punx, for the punx. Next time you come home from work and are too exhausted to even begin to consider how you might spend your precious, supposed “free time,” do a quick, ol’ internet search and track down the first song on this EP: “Fan the Flames.” If you’re not feeling it, save it for a later date when things have gotten worse. And they will. The day will come; dead on your feet, wrought with worry, desperate for passion. And then you’ll know, you’ve got to “Fan the Flames.” –Daryl (Katorga Works, [email protected] / Wilsuns, [email protected])

SPOILERS: Stay Afloat: CD
Since the early 1990s, when bearded Floridians and Californians co-opted the Leatherface sound and based an entire American punk genre on it, I’ve been waiting for the Brits to re-appropriate something from our shores and turn it around on us. Twenty-five years later and that time has come. Spoilers join the ranks of Bear Trade (who unsurprisingly make the Spoilers “Thank You” list) and the Murderburgers showing us Yanks how it’s done. If you’re digging on currents like Success! and Western Settings, but also have a huge affection for pints from the pub, soccer, and Snuff, the six songs on Stay Afloat will not be nearly enough. Highly recommended. –Matt Seward (Boss Tuneage,

STRUNG OUT: Transmission.Alpha.Delta: CD
We’ve reached a new era in the life of punk music: a band who has reached a career span of twenty years or more isn’t necessarily one of the founding (or pioneering) groups from the late seventies or early eighties anymore. This is uncharted territory. Point being, it’s difficult to speculate what music will be like in fifty years or so. Will people still look to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and consider them timeless classics? Or, in the case of punk rock, will kids still be looking back through the Ramones discography, as many of us did so vigorously? Strung Out is most definitely a pioneer—skatepunk wouldn’t be the same without them—but they go along with the rarely mentioned subgenre of just that: skatepunk. Not to be confused with skate “rock,” either. Same place (and state) of origin, but for a different world and, more importantly, a different generation of kids. And, one would argue, that it’s their mutual relationship with Fat that’s kept both the bands and the label alive, due to neither of them ever quitting. They owe that to each other. If either Fat or the core groups (Lagwagon as another example) had called it a day, neither may have carried on. Coincidentally, modern skatepunk turning twenty also marks the anniversary of my life as a punk enthusiast. Strung Out’s first album, Another Day in Paradise, was one of my earliest favorites. When I first heard Mad Mad World, my brain exploded. There literally couldn’t have been a better song at that time for me. Then, in came Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues, which didn’t leave my walkman for months. You could imagine my excitement when I first heard through the grapevine that they were coming to my town—shitty little Ottawa—playing Spodee Odee’s, that summer of ‘95. Shows of that era taught me that the scene was a safe, fun place. Punk wasn’t dangerous anymore. If you fell at an all-ages show, someone was there to pick you up. These gigs were integral to my upbringing. Fast-forward twenty years and times have changed, but not that significantly. Nineties nostalgia is in full swing, but not that it matters; Strung Out has always drawn good crowds, and from what I gather, it never really fluctuated. Not all bands have been so lucky. I’ll be truthful and admit I haven’t heard any of the records the band has released in years, at least until Transmission.Alpha.Delta landed in my lap. It’s great, too—not to mention exactly what’d you expect (and desire) from such a consistent band. It’s not impossible for them to still be winning over new fans, either. While the sound’s typical, it’s still fresh, in the sense that wouldn’t be hard for someone who listens to, say, From First To Last or something similar to be into this. But let’s back up here and clarify that they don’t sound anything alike. At all. That said, the production and overall youthful sound of this new album could win over fans of all walks of life, which is the crux of the issue. With all that in mind, it’s still the same Strung Out. There may be a few NWOBHM nods in there than I would have imagined, but the band hasn’t been shy about their fondness of metal. Take in all that, and add that Jason Cruz’s voice is still as sharp as it ever was—not something a lot of bands/vocalists can say. Tracks like “The Animal and the Machine” are ragers, while “Modern Drugs” could be a borderline ballad/hit. Comforting to know some things… don’t always change. –Steve Adamyk (Fat,

It’s easy to forget what a record represents, especially if you listen to a lot of them. There’s much more than screams and chords and drumbeats packed into that wax. There’s the moment of inspiration in which the song was conceived, along with whatever triumph or turmoil the songwriter might have been going through at the time. There’s the hours of practice, building an idea for a song into something that works. There’s the friendship. There’re the arguments. There’s the sweat put into the recording process. There’s life itself. It’s all there, etched into the grooves. And it will always be there. While both sides of this split are killer, the songs on the Sweet Cobra side of this split are particularly packed with life, with energy. It’s inescapable and it’s amazing to listen to. The first two songs were the last conceived by Sweet Cobra’s old guitar player, Matthew Arluck. He died before the songs were recorded. But here they are, together with a third track, a raw guitar piece, the last thing he ever recorded. He may be gone, but he left a bit of his life on this record. Here’s hoping for many, many spins. –MP Johnson (Hawthorne Street)

TEENAGE CHAINSAW: Self-titled: Cassette
This six-song demo packs a lot of the correct things onto a cassette. Awesome, overdriven punk’n’roll with Guitar Wolf-quality feedback, ratchety drums, and angry vocals. “Get Bent Baby” has the curiously classic-sounding chorus. There’s nothing like it when a chorus grabs you for the first time in the midst of six songs you’ve never heard before. Lyric sheet included and appreciated in this case. It’s a solid tape, most certainly a band to look out for. –Billups Allen (teenagechainsaw.bandcamp)

TENEMENT: Predatory Headlights: 2 x LP
Appleton, WI’s Tenement unveils at long last (three years without a release) its magnum opus Predatory Headlights in the form of a twenty-five song double album. Carefully constructed and sequenced, we are treated to the sounds of a genius band at its pinnacle, utilizing its perfected approach to pop punk songwriting without a throwaway track to be heard. I’m not a fan of the word “accessible,” if only because it’s often misused in describing a band when they’ve attained a certain level of mainstream attention or acceptability. Being mentioned and acknowledged by quasi-mainstream outlets the way Tenement recently has makes me suspect of the intentions of “alternative” music sources. However, Predatory Headlights has the sort of instant appeal found only in certain records such as Descendents’ Everything Sucks: a classic album so masterful that working your way backwards through the band’s back catalog only makes you appreciate their prior works all that much more—and believe me when I say that Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink are masterpieces in their own right. The dream for most bands is to live comfortably from their art but then, sometimes, you have a band like Tenement who also appears to spend their free time super gluing cigarette butts and empty tall boys to their porch. Knowing that about them puts my mind at ease of the thought of them possibly ever betraying any of my expectations, and so I wish continued success for them. –Juan Espinosa (Don Giovanni,

THURNEMAN: De Räknar Vara Dagar + The Early Years: CD
Describing Thurneman as a “hardcore” band is about as inadequate as calling gumbo a “soup.” All the usual ingredients are there—frenetic beats, flailing chords, angry vocals, and heaps of aggression—and they make it quite clear they can fuck shit up with the best of ‘em, but what they do with all the above within the confines of the forty-three ADD-length tracks here (the disc’s opus, “U.Ä.R,” clocks in at an epic two minutes and thirty seconds) is what gives the meal its sabor. Just when you think you’ve got ‘em pegged, the often guitars veer off into single-note, ringing leads, or they start off on an oddly melodic churning and grinding tangent, the bass lines start loping, and you suddenly realize you’re in some tastier territory than you’d initially bargained on, something that vacillates between the gritty Midwestern and the melodic wings of the hardcore genre. This does serve as a (more or less) discography for the band, featuring tracks from a full-length, assorted EPs, and some comp tracks, so you get the one-stop convenience of picking up some great tunes from one of the more interesting hardcore bands that have come along in recent years, and serious value for your buck. Recommended. –Jimmy Alvarado (Gaphals,

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Destroy Poserton: LP
I was looking through some of my back issues of Ugly Things earlier this week, and one issue had an article by Johan Kugelburg about early punk parody albums, and towards the end of his introduction he opined that maybe the genre of punk is itself turning into a parody at this point in time. Here’s a compilation that really helps back up that opinion. From the cheesy cover art of a giant skinhead and two giant fashion plate punks laying waste to a cityscape, add the goony title and you know you’re in for some punk rock Civil War re-enactment aimed at the lowest common denominator. Turning the cover over, you’re greeted with the names of the bands, and see a couple clichéd rip off logos for The Extorted, who wholesale rip off the Exploited logo, and Disposable, who rip off—take a wild guess. Yep, they, just like a billion bands before them, use the Discharge logo to sell themselves to the unquestioning masses with low standards. Practically ever genre is touched on this compilation. The only things missing are the Ramones knock off bands and the beard core bro bands. A few “we are da’ punx” songs from the likes of Kontra:Diction, Kids Of Alright, some run-of-the-mill oi from Proper Lads, Cheap, one throwaway song from Endzone, the previously mentioned Disposable, who sound like Disclose, who themselves were simulacra—copy of a copy of copy—further deteriorates from the original. I will give credit to Disposable for being true to their name, though. From this review you might gather I’m some bitter asshole who just, “Doesn’t get it, maannnn...” But here’s what’s up. I believe punk is great, and can forever be great. I can still remember clearly when it was great, and something I forever wanted to be a part of. But bands and “punks” who are just taking on the look (which has been completely co-opted and absorbed into the mainstream—so maybe it’s time for something new instead of another stupid mohawk haircut and a studded leather jacket with painted on logos of bands that were long gone a decade or more before the wearer was even born—like what Kanye wears), and playing music that sticks tight to the formula, adding nothing new, and taking no risks is a waste of fucking time and an insult to anyone who even takes the time to listen to this kind of music and take on the ethics of punk (remember those things?). There really is no need for the compilation to exist. –Matt Average (Total Fucker, Smash Art,