Every review we’ve published can be browsed here: /reviews
And no offence. We won’t review your Bandcamp upload or your PDF of a book or zine. That’s why we have a strict policy of reviewing solely pieces that are sent to our PO Box. We’re up to our ears in revmats (review materials) as it is.
Just so you can see that we’re not just hashing out reviews for stats, below the infographics that Candice made are a core sample of evocative reviews from #74’s review rotation.
BAD TASTE / BRAIN CAR: Split: 7”
I remember the first time I ever heard a bootleg of Songs We Taught the Cramps and feeling uncomfortable in the way all the songs sounded so dated and strange, more punk than punk. There were thousands of these little 45s out there, which I found later through more bootleg comps and tape trading. Some were great in that they were just weird rock’n’roll tracks by frat dudes who never fit into their crowd (“Hammerlock”), others were bouncy carnival tracks that were so much more evil than any metal (Anton LaVey), but the point was that there was no cohesive style or aesthetic to tie them all together; they were all just genuinely weird. These bands both fit that style. There’s no real modern point of reference for their sound. Bad Taste are like a Rick Nelson LP that’s been left out in the sun and then dusted off and played at the wrong speed, the needle bouncing all over the place as you stack pennies on the tone arm to keep it all in check. Brain Car fit more into that frat rock style, adhering to a sound that’s popular at the high school dancehalls while jeering at those who just want to dance some to an angry punk rendition of the Grease soundtrack. –Ian Wise (Reel Time)
BETTER DAYS: Good Luck Tonight: 7”
This record had me cross-referencing to find out what members of Good Riddance were involved. Turns out, there were none. Doesn’t sound that way. –MP Johnson (Encapsulated)
BETWEEN THE EARTH AND SKY: Of Roots and Walls: CDEP
So this band is a supergroup of nineties hardcore luminaries from band such as Trial, Catharsis, and By A Thread. It sounds a lot like some of those bands—with its long builds with poetic spoken lyrics—which all come crashing down into a bunch of screaming and pounding drums. The only difference is that it’s a bit emotionally flat in comparison. The packaging for this CD is another throwback to nineties hardcore with its list of Humble Suggestions, things to “read,” “see,” “listen to,” and “search for” in one of the last pages of the insert. A lot of the stuff is what you would expect: radical literature, stuff on straight edge, but it gets weirdly subjective, for instance, when they recommend Google-searching for Ronnie James Dio and “greatest hockey fights” or that you read Stop Walking On Eggshells, a book about how to deal with people with Borderline Personality Disorder. Huh? Besides their own lyrics, they print a lot of pull quotes from books about mortality and the way humans are always in resistance to their own demise. This is the album’s concept, humanity’s desperation for immortality and battle with the inevitability of death. After the songs are over comes the “Band Interview” track where the members sit around and interview each other about how it took them ten years to make this EP of six songs and they talk for forty-five minutes! They go on and on about every metaphor and symbol on the album, explaining each in great detail. They ramble on about how they’re trying to make something both “timeless and immediate.” But it took them ten years to make this album, so I would say that the latter of two is pretty much shot to hell. The album certainly makes its point, but maybe not in the way that the band intends. Their (and humanity’s) struggle is ironically apparent in the interview where we get to hear these old dudes who once made crucial and important hardcore ramble on and on. They seem confused and bewildered at their places in life after once being so essential to a long-faded style of hardcore and trying to cling to some of its fire. Hearing them, desperate for relevance and rambling about their belated album is, ironically, a much better metaphor than the okay ones they make in their songs. Add it all up and what you get is one of the most genuinely depressing, existential crisis-triggering pieces of art I’ve heard in a long time. –Craven Rock (Refuse, refuserecords.prv.pi, [email protected])
BIG BOYS: Where’s My Towel / Industry Standard: LP
Anyone who knows me also knows my affinity for Austin, Texas’s Big Boys. I first learned about them in Thrasher magazine and heard them on the Skate Rock compilations. It wasn’t until much later that I would realize how much this band meant to me. Big Boys take what many would consider the cornerstones of punk rock (be yourself, do it for yourself, create, and have fun) and distill it to its purest form. There is no set uniform or posture. Anything goes and anyone can do it. Light In The Attic has lovingly reissued the Big Boys’ debut album and has done an amazing job. It has a beautiful gatefold cover with all the original artwork, as well as an unreleased photo of the band and a classic sticker. It looks great and sounds even better. Musically, the band is untouchable. Their sound is simplistic yet intricate. It’s incredibly hard to put into words the feelings that this music invokes in me. It’s like tiny fireworks going off in the back of my head that simultaneously make me shake my ass, jump up and down, and sing at the top of my lungs… or something like that. All I can say is that if you don’t have Big Boys in your life, you are sorely missing out and you best do something about that. I’d like to send a huge thanks to Light In The Attic for giving this amazing record the reissue love that it deserves. Now pick it up and go write your own review. –Ty Stranglehold (Light In The Attic)
EVENS, THE: The Odds: CD
The third Evens record, after a gap of more than a couple years, finds the duo of guitarist/vocalist Ian MacKaye and drummer/vocalist Amy Farina continuing to explore the sound they developed on their first two records The Evens (2005), and Get Even (2006). For all the simplicity of their formula, only two instruments and their voices, there is a great deal of power in every Evens song. The two share vocal duties, moving back and forth between trading off vocal parts and frequently harmonizing. These harmonized parts are great because they achieve a depth of sound neither vocalist achieves alone. The scream-singing MacKaye developed over the years with Fugazi are here, but he also shows a more melodic range. Farina’s voice is as smooth as her drumming, and the Evens songs flow without pauses or disjointed transitions. Both musicians have been honing their songwriting craft for decades, and as a duo, their craft is at its peak on The Odds. Each song is tightly constructed, both musically and lyrically. Even on slow and meandering tracks like “I Do Myself,” there is not a single moment that made me lose interest or want to skip to the next track. While I appreciated the first two Evens records, this one is definitely my favorite so far. –Paul J. Comeau (Dischord)
EVENS, THE: The Odds: CD/LP
The Evens latest album is their first in six years. It once again consists of Ian MacKaye on baritone guitar and Amy Farina on drums with both trading off vocal duties. The Odds is comprised of thirteen songs clocking in at forty minutes, and while there are perhaps a couple of tunes that might be fit to cut, it’s not a major complaint. There is a good mix of vocals with MacKaye capable of being gentle in his delivery and Farina singing harsh and passionately. Their range in emotion and expression complements each song. While nothing is as aggressive as Fugazi’s material, MacKaye’s guitar work at times seems reminiscent, although with baritone sound. There are some good grooves on the songs and they can be quite catchy, too. The biggest surprise with The Odds is the strength of Farina’s vocals and how nice it is to hear her singing lead on so many of the tunes. While not negating their past two albums, The Odds is easily The Evens’ best album. –Kurt Morris (Dischord)
FLAG OF DEMOCRACY: Shatter Your Day: 2 x LP
For every Black Flag, Misfits, and Dead Kennedys—pretty much world-wide known punk bands—there were “regional” punk bands that could toe up the to the heavyweights on any given night. Battalion Of Saints in San Diego, Toxic Reasons in Dayton, OH, Articles Of Faith in Chicago. Flag Of Democracy ruled Philadelphia (technically Ambler, PA). First show in ‘82, they opened up for Minor Threat and Agnostic Front. Through whatever machinations—luck? Secondary market? Drugs? Starting families? Van troubles? Someone’s flakiness?—who knows why the roulette wheel’s ball of worldwide recognition didn’t end up in F.O.D.’s slot. It definitely can’t be from lack of persistence. Lead singer/guitarist Jim McMongale’s been at it for thirty-one years and 2010 saw the release of a new record (of which I had unreleased demos, from 2005? 2006?). Nope, they’re not resting on laurels. They ain’t rock stars in paupers’ clothing or 40oz. dirtbags with 401(k)s. Their twenty-fifth anniversary was held in the FirstUnitarianChurch. Shatter Your Day was F.O.D.’s debut album in 1986. It’s fast-as-hell, noisy, and strange. Jim’s voice is strangulated, cartoony—comparative to Jello Biafra’s—but not a put-on. Some folks just have unique voices when they start yellin’. What I unabashedly enjoy is that in 1986, so much of American hardcore’s foundation had been cemented—shit, by that time, a lot of it had started to crumble—and F.O.D. sound so fucking exuberant, like there’s this joy in marking up a sidewalk of freshly poured concrete. Another thing strikes me is how, beyond the blur of speed there are all these wound-up melodies and flitting guitar notes. It’s not slash-burn-chest-beat-caveman-rawr. What makes this packaging superior? Thirty-three bonus tracks. The Chinese Food and Love Songs EPs in their entirety, comp tracks, live tracks, demos, previously rejected versions of songs, sticker sheet (!), big-ass button, mini-poster, MP3s. It’s obviously a labor of love, an act of unmitigated appreciation, and a punk public service. SRA, thanks for putting this out. F.O.D. is an American punk rock building block. –Todd Taylor (SRA, srarecords.com, flagofdemocracy.com)
FOUR SLICKS, THE: Four on the Floor: LP
Four reasons why i love the Four Slicks: One, they love rock’n’roll. Not just ANY garden variety rock’n’roll, but, very specifically, the non-instro, non-Perry-Como sounds of 1958-1962, as filtered thru the Purple Onion and/or Estrus-o-Scopic two-color prism of the early ‘90s garage thing ((of which, obviously, guitarist Jon Von was a part)). THEY HAVE FOUND THE FORMULA, AND THE FORMULA IS GOOD. Nine of the album’s thirteen songs’ lengths are within eighteen seconds of each other ((1:33-1:51)). A la classic monotonists like the Ramones or Head, they are not afraid to beat the listener over the head with umpteen variants on a single theme, and I appreciate this. Two, like expert Rock Plunderers such as the Polecats or Swingin’ Neckbreakers, the band’s ability to stockpile obscure covers matching their style ensures a wealth of top-notch material, with little to no negative impact on the perceived quality of the finished product ((I mean, let’s face it: When’s the last time you heard anybody say “Heavens, no—not another Bracey Everett cover!”)). This album contains all of three originals ((written, on an apparent strict annual basis, in 2010, 2011, and 2012)). Does it matter? Three, Jon Von’s guitar playing is awesome, because he plays how i imagine i would play if i actually tried to play guitar in a band and practice and stuff: Bang on suspended chords for a minute, play a two-finger lead after the second chorus, bang on suspended chords for another twenty seconds, the end. I’ve never really found anything else about playing guitar to be any fun whatsoever ((okay, except for pickslides. I’d do more pickslides. I cannot lie)). Four, you can download this album from the band for any price you want to pay, up to and including zero. If you need more than those four reasons, you are an oaf and a cad and likely cannot drive stick. Good day, sir. I SAID GOOD DAY! BEST SONG: “Hey Little Girl.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Baby Come On.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Both copies of this album that I own are signed “Cheers! Jon” on the back of the shrink wrap. –Rev. Nørb (Slick, music.fourslicks.com)
GARDEN CITY REFUGEE: When Language Runs Dry…: CD
This one man band out of Oregon specializes in disillusioned, acoustic folk punk. With a voice a shade lighter than NickCave, he laments over lost girls and big business oppression, spewing words as fast as the disclaimer of any pharmaceutical commercial. While I think what he’s got to say is worthy of listening to, I can’t help but wish the tracks had more cadence. One of my gripes with acoustic stuff is that without a huge rhythm section, the singer has to be able to convey rhythm or it just sounds like a stream of words with someone strumming disjointedly in the background. Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary. –Kristen K. (Self-released, [email protected])
I WANT TO KILL EVERY HUMAN: Newfoundland: Cassette
This is just several minutes of white noise. Christ, if this is to be considered music (I hope not), I might as well record a running humidifier for five minutes and submit it for review. This is just dumb. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Bill Murray Tapes, [email protected])
LEECHES: Rott: 7”
This is the sound of hanging from a cliff by sore fingertips. There’s kicking. There’s screaming. All of the energy falls into the canyon below and then echoes everywhere. The sound is so intense it’s likely to crumble everything down. –MP Johnson (Bridge Sounds)
RIVAL MOB: Mob Justice: LP
There are some people in this little world of hardcore and punk who are just good fucking creators of sounds. Take Jeff and Mark from the Marked Men, for example. They can craft something that you and I could never do, over and over again. In Boston there’s a small group of dudes who pretty much dominate the hardcore scene in bands like Boston Strangler, WW4, No Tolerance, Give, Magic Circle, Battle Ruins, Free Spirit, and all come together in the Rival Mob. I’ve heard plenty of bleating about how their stuff goes for outrageous sums on eBay. Waa fuckin’ waaa. It’s supply and demand, fuckers. This band brings the truth and all kinds of nerds are feeling it, from the yoked-out windmill kids to the sketchy skins. This ain’t no trip to the library, this is well-crafted fuck you mosh music. Taking cues from SS Decontrol, Warzone, and even U.K. oi, this band brought the hammer on their 7” of eons ago and upped the stakes on the legendary Revelation Records (who, in all fairness, haven’t released a record this good since their heyday in the ‘80s). Songs about justice, revenge, and stomping you the fuck out. This is the soundtrack to my life. Best LP of 2013? Sure, I’ve called it. Mob rules all. –Tim Brooks (Revelation, revelationrecords.com)
RUN FOREVER: Settling: LP
Let me preface this by saying I really, really liked their previous album, The Devil, and Death, and Me. It was an album dense with a feeling of loss and yearning, but that same sense of loss proved jubilant with repeated listens. It’s an album firmly floored in the idea of being down but resolutely not out, culling what was salvageable from tragedy. Of trying desperately to move on. (Hell, that’s what I got out of it anyway.) It’s a great punk album couched in solemnity and earnestness, and I knew it was going to be a tough record to surpass. And unfortunately, I don’t quite think Settling does. It’s a strong record, but it just doesn’t have the same searing, knuckles-to-the-heart quality. I’m hoping it’ll continue to grow on me, but that quality of jubilation, of muscling through the darkness, just isn’t there this time around. It feels, to me, like it’s simply a dark, dark record. Like it’s been aptly titled. Which is fine, clearly. But I personally miss that duality, you know? Still, I’m a sucker for Anthony Huebel’s voice, and the production here is solid, the songs are succinct (something The Devil… had a bit of a problem with) and Settling remains an undoubtedly solid album. I just hope it grows on me. –Keith Rosson (Tiny Engines)
SINKING SUNS: Vicious World: 7”
This is the sort of music that plays in a bar that you have to get to by sneaking through an alley filled with bubbling barrels of toxic waste while mutant rats dive for your feet. When you finally get inside the bar, the bouncer punches you in the face just to give you a bloody nose so you fit in with all the other people jumping around to this cacophony with knives in their teeth and life’s failures left behind. –MP Johnson (facebook.com/SinkingSuns.rock)
Spit and PassionBy Cristy C. Road, 157 pgs.
If anything, Cristy Road is super prolific, to the point of being ubiquitous. Over the years, I’ve been both super annoyed by her work and genuinely impressed. I’ve gone from being bored shitless by her “went here/did this” stories of punk travel in her zine Green Zine, to totally immersed in writing she’s done on race and class. I’ve been completely irritated by trite drawings she’s done of open-mouthed punks in dumpsters shocking suited yuppies, to enamored by surrealistic and saintly portraits she’s done of people who could be her friends. Or, just as easily, someone any of us could know, elevating the mundane to the sublime. And, frankly, I’d just as soon have it this way. I’d rather have someone keep things interesting, even if it means being a bit spotty at times, than a reliable one-trick pony.
The thing with Road is that she’s been in punk for a long time and, as a result, her distinct, black and white illustration style is as recognizable as Cometbus’s handwriting to anyone who’s been involved in DIY punk for the last decade. And as time passes, I see less of the wide-eyed posi-fetishism that I found frustrating and a more distinct take on her punk rock world, with thick lines of realism slipping into the visceral hearts and blood that symbolize the radiant and near-divine passion of her and her community.
Spit and Passion is a thick graphic novel about Cristy’s attempt to come to terms with her queerness at thirteen. It’s not so much a story of her coming out, but more her staying in the closet. Her identification with Green Day, and how the band empowered her, gave her some of her only clues to another life being out there. She describes the conflict she had with being proud of her Cuban heritage but feeling like an outsider when faced by the homophobia of her family and friends.
A cold way to put it would be to say that it’s simply a great piece of music journalism, documenting how something as simple as an ex-punk band could be so influential to a young girl, leaving breadcrumbs to a better life where she could be out as queer and wouldn’t be stuck in her youthful closet. But that would throw this memoir in with all those bougie hacks who write all those horrible books about how Morrissey taught them to be proud of being a wusscentric, self-centered jerkoff or how they lost their virginity to (or in spite of) Black Sabbath. Road isn’t using Green Day as a pop culture shoe-in to a book deal—it’s deeper than that. It brings you into the claustrophobic closet and desperate longing of a pubescent lesbian girl trying to find something of herself in anything and finding not much anywhere. The closest she gets is Green Day, who she clings to like a talisman.
The most impressive thing about Spit and Passion is Cristy’s ability to so clearly recall her youth; the strength she’s had not to block out the hardship she dealt with. Maybe I’m projecting here, but as someone who remembers little of his pre-teen years—choosing to forget fundamental Christianity, family, money problems, and strife, and all the hell I went through in middle school—one has to respect the sheer force of memory that Road must have to be able to describe this story in such detail.
It will, hopefully, fall into the hands of kids as confused and alienated as she once was. It’s not the tired old story young punks are always regaled with about creating a scene and a community out of nothing, nor is it about a punk’s first show where she realizes there are other outcasts and misfits just like her. Instead, it’s a far braver story, one that takes place earlier,when a closet is a place of refuge for a confused young girl until the day she won’t have to be surrounded by fag jokes at school or religious uptightness at home. And the only clue she has of this is in the integrity of one rather mundane ex-punk band who weren’t afraid to stand up for queers or what they believed in. Through them she found faith that there was a better, more open-minded community that one day she might find, and one I think she ultimately did. In turn, she leaves some clearer and more direct markers behind for others to find their way, as well as a damn good memoir. –Craven Rock (The Feminist Press, 365 Fifth Ave, Suite 5406, NY, NY10016, feministpress.org)