Razorcake Issue 76’s Featured Reviews: Harboring an unhealthy love for music makes you a better person.

Oct 15, 2013

I don’t understand people who think music isn’t personal. They operate in a world where selecting music is no different than changing the brand of coffee or detergent they buy. Music becomes a soundtrack to their vacuity, something to fill the gap between TV and pumpkin-flavored espresso forays. Literature professors will tell you that reading fosters empathy and will make you a better person. That’s their bias. Here’s mine: harboring an unhealthy love for music makes you a better person. It’s the personal nature of a music review that gives it weight. A lot of music reviewers don’t love music; they love themselves and the sound of their fingers typing. It’s possible to criticize something without being a dick. If you love something it’s bound to piss you off sometimes. But every relationship is dependent on communication. Make it clear and make it honest. Reviews will always be personal here at Razorcake because punk rock is as personal as it gets. This is our culture, this is our community, these are our friends.
–Matthew Hart, Esquire

Enjoy these and many more reviews by picking up a copy of issue #76. Get yer hands filthy.

Okay, that’s enough. The bearded, gruff melodic punk stuff can come to an end right now. I like Hot Water Music as much as the next guy, but when I get a split between two clone bands that I can’t even tell apart, that’s where I draw the line. If these bands continue to emote this hard, they’re going to give themselves hernias. Ripping themselves apart inside literally and metaphorically. It’s gonna be gross, so just stop. Everyone stop. –MP Johnson (Underground Communiqué, undercomm.org)

BIG BOYS: Fun, Fun, Fun…: 12”EP
Simultaneously the coolest thing and the curse of punk rock is its lack of a definition. Cool, because we are left to write our own story and a curse because so many people feel the need to define it. Well, I’m going to plant a foot in each camp here because I will proclaim right here, right now that Big Boys’ Fun, Fun, Fun… EP is the definition of punk rock because it has no rules or definitions. There is hardcore, there is funk. There are singalongs with all their friends. This record literally encompasses it all, yet never feels strained or stretched thin. To me, this record feels like riding a skateboard down a deserted street in the middle of the night. The warm breeze on your face and the smell of pavement in your nostrils as the sound of your wheels echoes off the buildings. It is the soundtrack to endless freedom and possibility with a hint of danger. It’s not hard to tell that I take Big Boys seriously and I’m sure glad I’m not the only one. 540 Records has reissued this must-have record with the love and detail that Big Boys deserve. The massive booklet is exploding with the amazing visual art that has always been a huge part of the band’s identity. A hilarious and lovingly written piece by Beth Kerr (who, in all honesty, should be considered a member of the band in my opinion) is the perfect way to kick it off. It is amazing that the band’s material is being reissued on various labels. There are few bands out there that deserve heaps of praise more than Big Boys and the thing is they could care less about praise. They only care about having fun… That’s why they rule! –Ty Stranglehold (540, chaosintejas.bigcartel.com)

BISHOPS GREEN: Self-titled: CD
Bishops Green hail from VancouverBC, and they play that brand of punk rock for the “boots and braces” set. Call it “oi” or “street punk” or whatever. All I know is that these guys do it well. The songs are catchy, urgent, and clearly sung. You can drink your pints and sing along with your pals. You can hear that there is some serious musicianship going on here, and the production is great to. An all-around great package here. This usually particular subgenre of punk rock isn’t usually my go-to, but I am really digging this disc. They’re great live, too. –Ty Stranglehold (Rebellion)

COMMON GOAL, A: Blessings and Battles: CD
Man, I am really bothered by a band with an agenda, especially one as overt as this one. The band makes no bones about it—they are straight-up Christian punk. The message of working hard and doing good might not be such a bad thing, but when cloaked in these trappings, it just comes off as judgmental preaching. To be fair, I would feel the same about a band with any obvious agenda. That said, the music cannot seem to escape the dogma, kind of half-heartedly chugging along, content to tow the Christian line. I don’t know, man. I grew up on punk that inspired me to challenge ideas and notions of religion and politics and stuff like this just seems anathema to my core beliefs. Sorry dudes, I just can’t objectively recommend this release to anyone. –Garrett Barnwell (Thumper Punk, thumperpunkrecords.com)

HAMMER AND THE NAILS: “Rome Is Burning” b/w “A Product of the Modern Age”: 7”
When I was a kid, skinheads had the best taste in music. I mean, the best. They owned soul music, obscure British mod rock, ska music that sounded like it was recorded inside a tin can, and the late-’90s crop of U.S. oi like The Trouble, Patriot, and the Templars. But as the years wore on, the older guys moved on and a lot of the people who replaced them were, sadly to say, less than zealous. For a subculture that was supposed to be a cut above the rest, we sure did churn out a lot of really lame clunkers. The past couple of years has seen a little bit of a resurgence of oi and, while there are still plenty of lame “drink beer, have sex, fall down” coming out to satiate the masses, I’ve noticed a few really great releases in the past couple of years that I don’t feel embarrassed to share with my friends with more hair than me. Hammer And The Nails put out one of those records in the form of a 12” EP a couple of years ago, and I have (along with a lot of others) been waiting on the follow-up since. This sucker is only two songs, but drives the point home harder than if they’d pulled for more tracks in the grooves. The A side is a dense, lyrically-driven track that is at least as good as any of the more thought-out “high art” punk, without the pretense, while the B side is driven more by the beat than the lyrics. The best thing about this band is that for all the nods they give to bands like Section 5, Sledgehammer, Breakdown, and a lot of others that you’ve probably never heard of, they have a sound that is cohesive and unique. You can pick up odes to old styles in their sound, but they don’t pander. If you pick up one band from this oi revival, let it be this one. –Ian Wise (Rock n Roll Disgrace)

IRON LUNG: White Glove Test: 2 x LP
It’s been well over twelve years since I first witnessed long-running powerviolence juggernauts Iron Lung opening up for Spazz’s last show at Gilman St. I can still remember how utterly amazed I was with the duo’s ferocity and tightness as well as being equally disappointed with the fact that they had no demos/records for sale. Luckily for me, they’ve been constantly releasing new records left and right since then, including a multitude of splits, two full lengths, and even some live cassette-only recordings pressed in insanely limited quantities. White Glove Test is the band’s third full length and their newest material since their Brutal Supremacy compilation tracks from 2011. Setting a new standard for innovativeness and maintaining the good name of the often tainted name of the powerviolence genre has been the Lung’s business ever since and this new album is continued evidence of just why Jon and Jensen are the undisputed kings. Twenty tracks of Crossed Out-styled stop/start beat-downs lovingly crafted and thematically centered around the unseen horrors of the medical/health industry, ultimately outlining why there’s absolutely nothing left for you to do but tag your own toe and shuffle on down to the morgue after you become gravely ill. Depending on how lucky you are, there are two versions of this album: the limited copies (this being one) come with a companion LP, which features some unsettling noise and sound collage arrangements designed to be played simultaneously with the first disc. An adventurous experiment if you’re so equipped with two turntables, but still worth owning for the first disc which should only be played at two volume settings: loud and seismograph inducing-ly loud! –Juan Espinosa (Iron Lung / Prank)

LEMURIA: The Distance Is So Big: CD
One of the interesting things about punk’s first few runs was watching which way the waves broke in the mid-’80s—at the risk of waaaay oversimplifying things for the sake of a lame metaphor, one direction went the way of crappy glam metal, one went the way of speed metal, and yet another laid the foundation of what became known as “alternative rock.” Those that chose the latter—Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, Die Kreuzen, Replacements, Minutemen, M.I.A., Washington DC’s hardcore faction, and many, many others—took the intensity and creativity that fueled so much of those early first waves and added liberal doses of art-rock, roots rock, and pop to come up with varied hues of sound with the only unifying factor being a desire to push beyond the boundaries that the puritanical hordes had tried to fence everything in with. Though not always with the exact same results, subsequent waves of punk have ultimately bred similar moments when clusters said “fuck the rules” and strived for something off the beaten path. Lemuria falls squarely in this tradition. Melding hardcore heft (you can almost feel the weight of them guitars when they kick in) with egghead structures, effective vocal interplay, and delicate pop hooks, they deliver a full-length’s worth of tunes filled with fun contradictions—heavy but light, intense but laid back, complex but accessible. I imagine Bridge Nine regulars looking for something to succeed the thick-necked virulence of Agnostic Front’s most recent endeavor will likely be put off by “wimpy” shit like this at first blush, but those who take a moment to actually digest what’s going might actually find much here to keep them coming back. –Jimmy Alvarado (Bridge Nine)

OBLIVIANS: Desperation: LP
I have a story I love to tell about missing The Oblivians on what turned out to be their last tour during their active period. It was February 1997 and I lived in New Jersey. The Oblivians were scheduled to play at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on a weekend when I already told my mother I would come home from college to visit for her birthday. I didn’t want to spend the gas money, or time, to drive all the way to Hoboken from my parents’ house (probably thirty miles each way) after driving from my apartment to their house (probably seventy-five miles.) I figured I would just catch them on their next pass through the area... which didn’t happen until 2010! By that point, I was living in Indiana and had seen them play a reunion show in Detroit in 2009, but to be able to see The Oblivians at home, I had to make the trip! I love The Oblivians, have since first hearing them circa 1995. They had such an intense anger I identified with at that time. I’ll put it this way, and maybe it sounds dickish, but I never had a “hardcore phase” like many of my friends, and The Oblivians were the angriest band I listened to at that time. Some internet message boards that I frequent debate the merit of the sound of this new album. (As an aside, I find it one of life’s funny contradictions that people use the technology of the internet to complain that something isn’t “lo-fi” enough.) Desperation doesn’t sound like any other Oblivians album, just like Soul Food doesn’t sound like Popular Favorites. And none of these albums sound like the shit they did with Walter Daniels. The songs on Desperation are just as solid as any other album (I actually like Desperation better than Play Nine Songs...) and several songs are contending for a spot on my next road trip mix CD. “Pinball King” looks like the winner. A reliable source says that one of these recordings is actually left over from 1994. Just buy this record and enjoy the fact that you get to even listen to new Oblivians songs. –Sal Lucci (In The Red)

UV RACE: “Gypsy King” b/w “Charlie Sheen”: 7”
UV Race continue to take the States by storm. Australians on a mission. For the benighted, this group is hard to categorize. Sort of LiLiput, sort of early Fall. “Gypsy King” has a Memphis horns feel to it. Slow and lazy....While it’s dangerous to make generalizations, here I go: Australians love American culture. We sell more Bondo-lined Yank tanks to Australia than just about any other country. When I was in New Zealand in 2011, Kiwis told me how awesome Charlie Sheen was and that he had to be making America proud. (Australia is right above New Zealand for the geographically challenged; the two countries share a friendly rivalry and close trade relations.) Marcus (UV Race vocalist) wrote a song about Charlie Sheen. There you go. Like all UV Race albums, he included liner notes to this 7”, describing his fascination with Sheen—the porn stars, fast cars, and millions of dollars. It’s a funny song. And thirty years from now—when America is totally impotent and exhausted, the logical conclusion to Reaganomics—I imagine it’ll be a source of pride that another industrialized country produced a generation that cared enough about American pop culture to write a song about it. Should you get this record? No doubt. I bought this from the band about a month before Razorcake sent it to me. –Ryan Leach (HoZac, hozacrecords.com)

VIBRATORS, THE: On the Guest List: CD
I don’t think it would be unduly untoward for me to state that the Vibrators haven’t felt like a vital, going concern to me since they left Epic Records in 1978 ((“Amphetamine Blue” and a few other standout tracks from the last thirty-four years or so notwithstanding)). Out of the twenty or so albums the band released since then, the only one i’ve actually purchased was Fucking Punk ‘77 a few years ago, which was basically them playing old punk covers ((including their own stuff)), seemingly underscoring my point. This time, they’ve recorded mainly new originals ((plus remakes of their own “Baby Baby,” “Whips and Furs,” and “Automatic Lover”—in case you didn’t catch the remakes a few years ago on Fucking Punk ‘77 i reckon)), with the twist being that they’ve enlisted a shit-ton of guest guitar players to do solos for them—Walter Lure, Wayne Kramer, Brian James, Ross the Boss, Stan Lee, Hugh Cornwell, Chris Spedding, Ty Segall. And, while i gotta admit that it’s kind of fun to see who’s playing on the song, then eagerly awaiting their guest solo, sitting around waiting for guitar solos isn’t really at the top of my list of things i wanna be doing when I’m listening to a punk album. I guess if you enjoyed Knox’s guest appearance on Die Toten Hosen’s cover of “Baby Baby” on 1991’s Learning English, Lesson One, you’ll surely thrill to the Die Toten Hosen guitarist’s guest solo on “Baby Baby” here. It’s worth a listen, but if you can sit all the way through it without the phrase “twenty-second album by a two-album band” periodically blinking into and out of your consciousness, you got way more Zen than i got. BEST SONG THAT HASN’T BEEN RECORDED FORTY-EIGHT TIMES BEFORE: “Rain to Town.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Birdland Is Closed.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Nigel Bennett uses PRS® guitars and Marshall™ amplification. Eddie uses Avedis Zildjian® cymbals and Eddie Ryan™ drums. Pete uses Genz Benz™ amplification and Epiphone® and Gibson™ basses. They didn’t list what Knox uses. –Rev. Nørb (Cleopatra, cleopatrarecords.com)