Featured Record Reviews from Issue #91: Mind Spiders, Basement Benders, Daylight Robbery, Lost Balloons

MIND SPIDERS: Prosthetic: LP
Any time any former member of Denton Texas’s Marked Men releases some new music, it is cause to celebrate. It is no secret how much this group of guys’ music speaks to me, especially Mark Ryan’s Mind Spiders. For those unaware of this amazing band, here’s the run down: off-kilter, guitar- and synth-driven pop songs with heavy science fiction themes throughout. I often describe them as Marked Men meets Devo through the filter of a 1950s comic book. I love them. So here we are with Mind Spiders’ fourth full-length offering Prosthetic, and we find the sound evolving again. Right from the first song it is apparent that there is a harder, scrappier sound (perhaps the influence of long-time bass player Daniel Fried) and ever-further leaning into digital and synth territory. There is a heavier Devo spirit lurking within and it works masterfully. Over everything, we have Ryan’s words telling stories of alien loneliness and frustration. I keep playing it over and over, and every time I hear something new that gives me the shivers and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. With Prosthetic, Mind Spiders are going on the attack. We are seeing the beginning of their full-fledged invasion. –Ty Stranglehold (Dirtnap)

ALBERT SQUARE, THE: I (Assume I) Know What I’m Doing: LP
With The Weakerthans as the compass, The Albert Square explores narrative lyricism over sharp, distorted guitar chords and a driving rhythm section. Sim Castro’s voice is reserved and achingly melodic, emphasizing the lyrics: “When these houses are no longer homes now / and it feels like there’s nobody on your team.” Each song is poetic, situated in a particular time and place. Every few minutes you’re transported to a different American city and a relatable state of mind. Although the melodies are soft-spoken, the fuzz bass and Spencer Taplin’s vibrant beats keep the tunes from slipping between the cracks. The Albert Square has crafted a thoughtful record at a time when most human experiences are reduced to a 140 letter character limit. With poignant lyrics (“It’s hard being a black girl here in Missouri / when immaculate births are at the bottom of the list of your worries”) and catching hooks, I (Assume I) Know What I’m Doing should be shelved beside Fallow. –Sean Arenas (Phat ’n’ Phunky, phatnphunky.com)

ATLANTIC THRILLS: Vices: LP
Be not perplexed by the skull-o-centric packaging; this sounds like an East Coast version of Nobunny—with that omni-epoch hook worship and the what-not— coupled with a more legit Nuggets approach, but with reverb instead of fuzz on the guitar (except when there’s fuzz on the guitar instead of reverb), and sublimated Barraracudas-like harmonies, and occasional faux glam excursions. Actually, perchance “a New Englandized version of the Barraracudas” is closer to the truth than the Nobunny reference. Either way you crack this particular Kit Kat, it’s the best album of the first five weeks of the year. My long-held respect for the Providence Steam Roller—the last NFL Champions to go belly-up—is thusly rekindled. Roll on, you crazy steamroller! BEST SONG: “Treat My Baby.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Bed Bugs.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The album is divided into two sides: Side A and Side R. ­–Rev. Nørb (Almost Ready)
BANDAGES: “All Extreme Measures” b/w “Tokyo Carwash”: 7”
Part of Sorry State Records’ North Carolina Singles Series, this two-song entry from Bandages serves as their long-awaited debut. One of several offshoots that grew after the disbanding of Raleigh hardcore heavyweights Double Negative, Bandages exemplify their pedigree without allowing their music to be hindered by it. This is hardcore, but hardcore rife with fascinating and often unsettling left-field flourishes. The spooky intro of “All Extreme Measures” paves the way for the guitars to occasionally transform into a UFO sucking the listener up into the air with its tractor beam. On “Tokyo Carwash,” their furious riffing pairs with the drums to form the aural equivalent of descending into a literal spiral of madness. A musical recreation of spinning until I lose my balance is something I didn’t know I needed, but now that I’ve experienced it, let me tell ya, it’s a fucking marvel. Fingers crossed that a full-length—or even an EP—is soon to follow! –Kelley O’Death (SorryState, sorrystaterecords.com)

BASEMENT BENDERS: Lydiad: LP
It’s easy to have high expectations for Basement Benders because they feature folks from Future Virgins, Sexy, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Tulsa, Hidden Spots, and Black Rainbow. When talented folks start a band, they bring with them experience, expertise, and fine-tuned ears, but your gut might mistakenly assume that there’s no way Lydiad can be as good as say, Front Seat Solidarity or Late Republic. I’m here to put your worries to rest and assure you that Lydiad is twelve tunes of pitch-perfect DIY punk. The live wire energy never lets up and the belted vocals pull you right in, especially on “Up North” and “Trick of the Light.” The songs are both deeply personal (“Betsy”) and universal, sharing experiences and tricky feelings that many of us can relate to. This is indispensable listening for any fan of DIY punk. The first pressing also includes a bonus 7” with two additional songs. –Sean Arenas (No Idea)

BRUDTE LOFTER: Kobenhavn: 7”
I hate guitar solos. They are tedious exercises in vanity. Rarely do they even make sense within the confines of the song and, more often than not, the playing isn’t all that great anyway. They kill a song’s momentum. They are the equivalent of a singer taking thirty seconds mid-song to do some scatting. Fuck guitar solos. But! If a guitar solo is legitimately good, I fall in love hard. The solo in the title track of this record is the perfect example. It’s not flashy, but it’s smart. It builds upon what has been happening in the song. It takes the song to another level, and then lets itself get eaten up by the remainder of the song, and is used as energy to build something greater. This record does everything the right way, not just the guitar solos. It’s the work of an angry punk band that spent time crafting three songs that deserve immortality on wax. Give them a listen. –MP Johnson (Halshugga, brudteloefter.bandcamp.com)

CAFFIENDS: No Gods No Decaf: CD
I fucking love this band. I am a firm believer in not taking life too seriously. You gotta be able to laugh at yourself and this ridiculous existence or you’ll never make it out alive. The Caffiends embody this ethos and flawlessly put a soundtrack to it. Each track on No Gods No Decaf is a pop punk gem, interlaced with some samples that actually add to the music rather than distract from it. A couple of these songs ended up accidentally reminding me of how much I used to listen to Guttermouth, and, conversely, how I never got into NOFX (my apologies to SoCal brethren). In my ears, the Caffiends can do no wrong. I appreciate that their music, at least for me, makes the world a little bit better place. All the thumbs up! –Jackie Rusted (Anti-Authority, AntiAuthorityRecords.com)

CREATURES OF SPACE: Wrynar 7:LP
When you’re really hooked on music and it’s something you spend more time thinking about than just about anything else, you are going to start to branch out from whatever genre you may have focused on for years and years, start exploring and hearing what’s out there, and broadening your mind and auditory horizons. Punk rock is great, but have you ever wondered what else is out there? Think of it like this: the music you listen to is a tiny blip in the cosmos of sound. All around you is this vast universe and each genre is another galaxy, and some of the heavy hitters are planets within that galaxy. Creatures Of Space fill that search in spades. Their music is way out there, somewhere in the universe of psych, Hendrix-style blues, German prog, and far left of left field. The opener “Way up There” sounds like some obscure track that could fit on the Bonehead Crunchers series, and doesn’t really set up what lays in store. “Incoming” is like a tear in the fabric of reality, with its blast of distortion and guitar mangling. From there things really begin to happen. The inner space of “In the Woods” gives way to spaced out “Hard Road” and “New Rays,” which reminds me of Funkadelic’s XXXX. “Lizard Box” takes them a little further out, and then they start come back to earth at the end of the record. –Matt Average (Luminal)

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY: Accumulated Error: LP
Accumulated Error is a third album in the way that Rocket to RussiaDookie, or Raising Hell are third albums. Not that Daylight Robbery sound a thing like Ramones, Green Day, or Run DMC, but they’re at a similar stage in their creativity. They’ve honed their sound, invested in a powerful recording, and come forth with their strongest set of songs yet—songs that should define them as a band. Daylight Robbery are a Chicago three-piece fronted by bassist Christine Wolf and guitarist David Wolf, a married couple whose dark croons have earned their band countless X comparisons. Throughout this album, they both nail notes they’ve only hinted at in the past, especially on “New Threat,” “Rememoration,” and “Shadows in the Snow,” which hit like a two piece with biscuit in the middle of the album. Over the years, Christine’s driving bass and the compact clatter of Jeff Rice’s drums have spread far from David’s reverby guitar, resulting in music that’s developed from garage to sharp post-punk. Accumulated Error’s big recording forefronts the band’s musical progress, with new guitar tones pushing David into surf and ‘80s alternative territory and Christine moving further toward New Order bass lead status. Jeff even plays the organ on a rootsy song later in the album. Maybe these new sounds hint at what’s to come next for the band. At this point, it’s hard to believe that Daylight Robbery could get any better at what they’re doing, but they’ve proven that they’re not a band to ever stop evolving. –Chris Terry (Deranged)

DEZERTER: Kolaboracja:LP
It took me a second to recognize this as a new pressing of Dezerter’s classic 1987 LP. Dezerter were an influential early Polish punk band (anyone who has ever traded records with a label in Poland knows this because they are referenced over and over again). Think of a Black Flag or Crass for Poland. I’d been hearing about this record for years, but had never actually heard it. I was excited but not sure what to expect. I’ve found that that there seem to be a handful of standard bands that influenced a large part of the punk bands from outside the U.K./U.S., and most sounds from the ‘80s are easily traced back to Black Flag or Discharge in some way. But Dezerter seem like they’re from a totally different world. I guess the driest way to describe their sound is like the Minutemen with some hints of the Red Wave bands (Kino, et cetera) that probably had recordings make their way into Poland. I was floored by how mature the band sounded, and how little “mainstream” rock had impacted their sound. The record comes with a booklet with a lot of historical information (in both Polish and English) explaining the context of the record’s release when it was censored by the government. It gives you an idea of how difficult it was just to be a “deviant” in Polish society in the ‘80s, let alone publically criticize the government. But outside of its context, the truth is the record is good enough to hold up on its own and if these songs had been penned by Californians or Manchester punks then we wouldn’t need to discover this in 2016. This is an absolutely critical punk record from a legitimately tumultuous time. –Ian Wise (Pasazer, pasazer.pl)

DIÄT: Positive Energy: LP
This is one of the absolute best records I have ever heard. A bold statement, and I would not make it if weren’t true. I have been listening to, and involved in, punk and post-punk for well over thirty years, so I can be a bit jaded on what is and isn’t good. This album is great—something so great that nothing else is allowed to get in the way. Put the record on, get out the lyric booklet, and just listen. Post-punk akin to bands like Joy Division, early Section 25, The Mob, Crisis, and others. They cover the Cannanes (“Blue Skies over the Ocean”), so use that as part of your guide. Minimalist, yet so much is going on with texture and atmosphere. “Toonie,” which has now become one of my all-time favorite songs, will pummel you with its raucous beat and urgent delivery. “Nausea” will just blow you away. The aforementioned Cannanes cover will have you believing that life is wonderful (despite the darkness that seeps out of this music and somewhat droll vocal delivery). The way the ender “Sinkhole” comes in is perfect. It has a different texture than the dark, train engine beat of “Hurricane.” It really stands out with its fuller sound and tempo that builds and builds. Had this come out thirty-five years ago, it would have been on a label like 4AD, Factory, or Rough Trade. So many are attempting this sound these days, and there are some really good bands, but Diät are the leaders and the high standard that the rest should take notes from. –Matt Average (Iron Lung, lifeironlungdeath.blogspot.com, [email protected])

JOHNSON FROM ACCOUNTING / MOLEDEBATER: Split: CS
Cheap, shitty, and fun. Johnson From Accounting starts this off with some one-to-two-minute blasts of ‘90s-style skate punk. The vocals are hilariously toneless shouting (in a good way, I think), and everything has that signature possibly-recorded-in-a-trashcan sound. This gets bonus points for lyrical content: “Macho Bullshit” offers great lines like, “I’m sorry that you’re sad, but that makes no one a whore,” while “I Wanna Skate” just boldly states what everyone’s thinking. “Another Casualty” is about how much The Casualties suck. The Casualties really, really suck, so I am on board with this. The Moledebater side starts out heavier and thrashier, but there’s some unexpected melody buried in there somewhere. This side sounds like it was recorded at the bottom of a far worse trashcan than the previous side, and I can’t really tell what’s going on. But I can dig it, I think. –Indiana Laub (Faxed, faxedrecords.storenvy.com)

L’ASSASSINS: “Fire of Love” b/w “Liar”: 7”
Minnesota’s L’Assassins have a clear mission statement. Their surfy girl-power tunes fall somewhere between The Cramps and Annette Funicello, and their aesthetic falls somewhere between Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beach Blanket Bingo. The fuzzy, DIY sensibility of the band’s previous efforts served up a tasty cocktail of dirty, campy, self-aware homage; this single steers them closer to the realm of style over substance, its newfound polish canceling out much of the messy exuberance that made L’Assassins’ gimmick work. The accompanying music video for “Fire of Love” follows suit, portraying the band’s members less as tough, inhabited characters and more as pinned-up Masuimi Max clones. The higher production value does no favors for the music either, which now evokes the yeah-okay-we-get-it of HorrorPops as much as the transformative energy of The Sonics. While “Fire of Love” and “Liar” are still catchy, solidly composed songs, the dash of sandy grit that once made L’Assassins’ rebelitas-without-a-cause image resonate has begun melting down into a glossy veneer that’s just not as fun or memorable. –Kelley O’Death (Piñata, pinatarecords.blogspot.com)

LAURA STEVENSON: Cocksure: LP
Breezy Midwest fields of grain. Intimacy of a house show, but a barn. Airy, not thin, perfect fuzzy pop with toes in possibly both the No Depression and punk pools. Imagine seeing a band with enough warmth in sound to fill a storehouse. You might be the only attendee, but still never feel alone. The root of the experience lies in Laura’s voice, with the songs breathing and swelling forth. Went into this LP with only peripheral name recognition, but fell in headfirst on initial listen. Cocksure being her fourth full-length, cheers to a Neko-esque output future. –Matt Seward (Don Giovanni, dongiovannirecords.com)

LEFTOVERS: This Time Tomorrow: CD
This might be harsher criticism than Leftovers deserve to shoulder alone, but I can’t listen to any more of this style of pop punk. I’m certain that nine out of ten bands I see in promo photos asking for votes to get them a spot on Warped Tour sound exactly like this. “Party Fucker” is basically a Blink-182 tribute song that drags on about two minutes too long and is about getting beat up by tall dudes after trying to kiss their girlfriends. The entire last verse turns out to be a dick joke. Really struggling to find anything remotely interesting in this, except the knowledge that this kind of music sounds exactly the same in Italy as it does here. Album of the month for drunk boys looking for new creepy pickup lines to use on girls at parties. –Indiana Laub (Morning Wood, morningwoodrecords.com)

LOST BALLONS: Self-titled: LP
The Jeff Burke hit parade rages on! This most recent installment is a fourteen-track collaboration with Yusuke Okada (Suspicious Beasts) of dreamy, ethereal, often-acoustic ‘60s pop-influenced songs. The tempo may be slower than most of these two’s sonic output, but the melodies are just as crushing as ever, the songwriting crafted with precision, and the emotion all too relevant. Imagine if Love spent twenty years wreaking punk chaos on the scene before they wrote Forever Changes. Continue the ride you’ve taken with Lenguas Largas and Treasure Fleet; transcendence never felt so free. –Daryl (Alien Snatch)

MEDICTATION: Warm Places: LP/CD
Medictation, a collaboration between ex-members of The Sainte Catherines and Leatherface, offers up a bittersweet listening experience with Warm Places. On one hand, it serves as a posthumous release of Dickie Hammond’s final work. It also allows for a celebration of that man’s talent and influence. Obviously the album is not all about one man, but it took me half a dozen plays before I could get beyond trying to identify anything other than his input. There is a relaxed—and at times sombre—feel to a lot of the tracks with Hugo Mudie showing that his voice is the perfect fit for that tone. However, his input is overshadowed by Hammond who takes up the mic for “Stalingrad,” a song which has more of an Americana quality as he documents the downs of his life and offers a reason why alcohol was such an important part of his existence. It truly is a beast of a track and brings me to the verge of tears each time I hear it. The one surprise I found is in “Saptor Raptor,” which seems to have a dual personality, trading back and forth between being in the same vein as the rest of the album and also fancying itself as an up-tempo Down By Law track. Regardless of the poignancy surrounding this record, it stands on its own two feet as a piece of work and is worth checking out. –Rich Cocksedge (Paper + Plastick, paperandplastick.com)

R.U.T.A.: Gore: LP
Polish punk rockers and folk musicians united to play and record an album of traditional Polish serfs’ rebel songs, using traditional instruments. The power in politically relevant folk songs, in rebel songs, in protest songs, lies in the words. Consequently, even though an English translation is thoughtfully included in the lovingly assembled booklet that comes with this album, I find it difficult to really feel the music, to connect in the same way I can with a Joe Strummer, Billy Bragg, or Tim Barry. My loss, I’m sure. If you have any understanding of the Polish language, or are better at absorbing music sung in a foreign language than I am, then this record would be a solid pickup. –Chad Williams (Pazazer, pasazer.pl)

REV. NØRB AND THE ONIONS / LAST SONS OF KRYPTON: Split: LP
I have no way of being objective when reviewing this record. But, really, what kind of robot listens to music objectively anyway? My first move out of my hometown was to Green Bay, Wis. This move was driven almost entirely by the fact that, at the time, Green Bay’s punk scene was super fun. I was closer to Minneapolis, but that was kind of crusty back then and not really my thing. With the Concert Café at the epicenter, Green Bay was packed full of bands that were less into posturing and more interested in having a good time. So I moved to the other side of Wisconsin, got a shitty job at a factory, and spent my nights rocking out to bands like Last Sons Of Krypton, the Onions, and Rev. Nørb’s old band Boris The Sprinkler. This record brings me back to those nights, when I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had. These bands still rock with zero pretension. There is no objective in these grooves other than to have fun, and they still deliver smiles with every lyric, every riff. That’s timeless. –MP Johnson (Self-released)

SONNY VINCENT: Bizarro Hymns: CD
It’s always exciting to see a current release on Get Hip, which is such a solid label, and this is the first thing I have seen since the last Mullens album. This appears to be a U.S. pressing of a 2011 release from the ever-prolific Sonny Vincent. Considering how much stuff this guy releases, the quality level is incredible; nearly everything is great. From the early outings with the Testors on through to current day, he just keeps cranking out stuff with his friends along for the ride. One song on here has Scott Asheton on drums, which is pretty cool. This is more of the usual mid-tempo and faster punk stuff, which is usually embarrassing out of someone this age, but Sonny Vincent just nails it, time and time again. Highest possible recommendation for fans of Jeff Dahl, Mike Hudson/Pagans, The Dogs, and other “old guy punk.” –Mike Frame (Get Hip)

STICK MEN WITH RAY GUNS: Grave City: LP
Stick Men With Ray Guns were a Texas punk outfit who, like most legendary cult bands, existed for mere moments and were allies with bands who would go on to become household names—in this case the Butthole Surfers. Notorious in Dallas for their unapologetically offensive lyrics and deliberately violent behavior onstage, they were a certified opening band for scores of popular touring bands including the Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, and the UK Subs. Most of the tracks on this album were recorded between the years of 1981 and 1984 and previously only appeared on long-out-of-print compilation albums (among them the classic Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death LP) with no proper full-length or singles ever released. Often mentioned under the same breath as Flipper due to their atonal wall of dirge, the songs on the first side of this record certainly bring to mind Generic’s alienating experimental punk qualities as well as the bizarre nature of Butthole Surfers’ Locust Abortion Technician. The second side wanders further more towards cow punk territory with a Dicks and Big Boys twist, save for the final track “Kill the Innocent,” which is the musical equivalent of watching a plane crash in slow motion for hours on a loop. I have a soft spot for the ugly side of punk and Stick Men With Ray Guns is as ugly as it gets. –Juan Espinosa (End Of An Ear, endofanear.com)

SUPERSUCKERS: Holdin’ the Bag: CD
The Supersuckers are as peculiar as a two-headed cow. They are a Janus-like, teet-wielding beast that sports two seemingly separate heads; one bovine head representing the side of the band that is a sort of American Turbonegro—in other words, a swashbuckling hedonistic band that effortlessly combines the disparate elements of arena rock and punk—and the other head representing the puke-encrusted, cowboy-hat wearing, chaw-drooling side of the band. Despite the differing orientations of each head, they are both ultimately connected to a hind quarters equipped with a dung-spackled tail and two hoofed legs, all too capable of suddenly rearing up and kicking your Adam’s apple down your throat. As Eddie Spaghetti himself points out in the liner notes of Holdin’ the Bag, the key to making it work is finding that stripped-down, deeply honest core at the heart of both punk and country—a bullshit-free core that existed in both country and punk’s nascent forms, before corporate pirate tendrils snaked into openings in both and polluted their naked honesty quotient. Here’s to the Supersuckers for pulling out their bowie knives and chopping those encroaching corporate tendrils into bloody chunks and tossing them into their bubbling pot of booya. Holdin’ the Bag is the Supersuckers’ second “country” studio album, coming some eighteen years after 1998’s Must’ve Been High. We’ll have to wait to see if any of the bruised ditties on this album become new classics, but after a few listens, I dare say that it’s a pretty safe bet. Help out Mr. Spaghetti as he battles cancer by picking up a copy of Holdin’ the Bag and tossing a few dollars his way. And in so doing, let your inner Hellbilly out and let him/her ride nekid and tendril-free on the two-headed cow of the Supersuckers. –Aphid Peewit (Acetate)

UTAH JAZZ: The Ivory WaveLP
Though Utah Jazz are based in Buffalo, I keep thinking of something Brett Kucharski (of Bad Taste, Live Bait, Reel Time Records) wrote about Rochester—home of Eastman Kodak, maker of the raw material for our projected desires—and its status as an almost exact midpoint between rust belt industry and cinema dream space. As he puts it: “…the absolute physical connection between industrialism and art… the link between urban squalor and imagination.” It’s not quite either and also an extreme combination of both. We have our feet very much on the ground and our heads very much in the clouds, and we do the leg work so that out West (or anywhere, really) people can, I don’t know, be shaggy and laid back or make party records ad infinitum. Utah Jazz fit into the current upstate/Midwest/rust belt golden age of psych punk that’s both caustic and fun, far enough away from their influences to resemble only themselves, even on “Growin’ Stuff,” the best X song to come out in a long time. I’m not trying to pick a fight with the West Coast, either (look who I’m writing for), and even if I am, I’m not saying anything nearly as strong as the lyrics to “Moontan.” I’m not even saying you have to suffer for your art; I’m saying Utah Jazz actually made some art. –Matt Werts (Black Dots, blackdotsbuffalo.bandcamp.com)