999: The Sharpest Cuts: LP

Truth be told, I stopped paying attention to 999 by Concrete. Sure, I dug their first couple of albums but, like most of my young teenaged punker peers of the time, I’d fully embraced local hardcore and had little time for anything that wasn’t fast, angry, and witching walking distance to see. In short, there’s a big gap in my knowledge of anything they did past the point I—in my infinite teenage-dumbshit wisdom—dismissed them as going the “crap pop” route. Enter this, with its selection of songs culled from assorted European CD-only releases circa 1993-2007, to make me lament such youthful self-righteous folly. Each of its eleven tunes—every goddamned one—rivals the band’s best work during its “glory days”: potent Molotov draughts of snotty punk, disguised musical aptitude, and, yes, pop served flaming and essential. Tacked on for good measure are choice live renditions of “Boys in the Gang” and “Nasty Nasty” to lure in those still not convinced it’s worth the trip. Kudos to Joey Mad Parade for pulling together probably the best “best of” album I’ve heard in decades and schoolin’ my ignorant ass, once again, that one should never simply dismiss the originators out of hand. –Jimmy Alvarado (Gutterwail, madparade.biz)

ADRENALIN O.D.: Cruising with Elvis in Bigfoot’s UFO Millennium Edition: LP

By the mid ’80s it appeared as if several of the defining American hardcore punk bands were growing tired of mindlessly playing fast and were coming up with new ways to reinvent their sound. Bands like DRI and Corrosion Of Conformity were some of the first to successfully integrate metal with thrash and coin the term “crossover” after DRI’s second album. New Jersey thrashers Adrenalin O.D. were one of the few bands that decided to go in an entirely different direction from their previous two albums of hyper speed hardcore. On Cruising with Elvis in Bigfoot’s UFO AOD enlisted the production help of Daniel Rey who had just worked with the Ramones on their album Too Tough to Die. The resulting sound was in fact a lot more crisp and clear as opposed to their wall of noise guitar and reckless drumming on their previous two albums while still retaining the speed (“slowing down to fast from insanely fast”) and the humor (a cover of “Baby Elephant Walk” by Henry Mancini) that made their first two records classics. The album was so well produced in fact that the band remarks in the liner notes that they were extremely happy with the way everything turned out, particularly drummer Dave who says, “I was for once happy with my drum sound.” There’s a bonus live performance in 1987 at none other than the Mecca of the west at the time, Gilman St. tagged on at the end of the album. Sound quality notwithstanding, it’s a fun little six-song set of their patented frantic speed and tightness and showcases some of the humor they became known for: did you ever wonder what Darby Crash would sound like if he joined the Doobie Brothers? AOD can answer that for you. –Juan Espinosa (Beer City, beercity.com)

AJJ: Good Luck Everybody: CD

To be perfectly honest, I stopped paying attention to AJJ in 2007. Even when Shellshag opened for them last year, I left before AJJ played. Their lyrics are always really insightful and smart; I just am not easily grabbed by acoustic acts. This latest release strays away from the folk punk label so often thrust on any unplugged band. Instead, their songs are garagey and poppy. With all that in mind, I enjoyed this record and was happy to revisit this band. In particular, the track “Body Terror Song” is a standout. It deals with body image issues in a poppy and haunting sound. And look, AJJ is not just acoustic guitars and an incredibly distinct vocalist, Sean Bonnette. A litany of great musicians like Jeff Rosenstock, Kimya Dawson, and Laura Stevenson appear on this album as well, playing piano, keys, and xylophone amongst other instruments. I’ve been won over by this catchy record about how terrible the world can be. –Kayla Greet (Specialist Subject)

AK-47: Undefeated: CD

Victoria BC hardcore legends AK-47 are back with another album packed with searing rage at the state of the world we live in. A staple of my local punk rock community for almost twenty-five years, a new AK album is always cause for celebration. Short songs with soaring guitars and heavy messages remain the band’s calling card but with a little more emphasis on the melodic side of things that harkens back to some of the members previous bands such as Hudson Mack and Section 46. The result is stunning. You still have classic AK (a nineteen second ode to our Prime Minister entitled “Smarmy Little Fuck” for instance), but with different facets that were only touched on here and there on previous albums. If you love fast, political hardcore played really well, you need to hear this. –Ty Stranglehold (Self-released, ak47hardcore.blogspot.com)

AMERICAN TELEVISION: Watch It Burn: LP

There are many bands playing melodic punk/hardcore these days and to come out anywhere near the top of that bunch, there must be more than just good songs to hold onto. Fortunately, American Television gives me some of the additional things I need to make me want more. There are snapping drums, a strong guitar sound, and a sense that this band is giving its all on the recording. I know that latter element is difficult to actually quantify—and it’s usually a sense gained from seeing a band live—but I certainly get something coming through the speakers which feels heartfelt and complete. To top it off, there is an abundance of energy from start to finish too. Finally, there’s a line in “Misprint” which might come across as a bit cheesy but I found it a welcome nod towards a man who has opened the minds of many: “I found a new religion, Greg Graffin was my priest.” It’s so often Joe Strummer who gets mentioned in songs, so it’s nice to see Graffin get his due for inspiring people. –Rich Cocksedge (Wiretap, [email protected], wiretaprecords.com)

AN INVITATION: You Can’t Love Me: CS

Two-song cassette single (cassingle?) of old school, raw punk rock. Not bad but not so great that I want to go buy a tape player. –Chad Williams (What’s For Breakfast?, wfbrecords.com)

ARMCHAIR MARTIAN: 1995 Demo: CS

This inspired 1995 pop punk demo from Fort Collins, Colo. was released right at the height of that subgenre in the underground. Reissued for the first time since then, it’s a tear-jerker in that it shows how arbitrary it was for some bands to make it in that scene and others to fall into obscurity. On the softer end of pop punk, these five songs are absurdly good, taking me back to one of my favorite eras. Armchair Martian put out a slew of records and those of us in the know worshipped them then and now. It’s a pleasure to revisit these songs on cassette, the format in which they initially appeared. Pressed professionally, the tape itself sounds as great as the songs themselves. It’s definitely a release worth coveting. –Art Ettinger (Snappy Little Numbers, snappylittlenumbers.com)

BAD SAM: EP: 7”

South Wales’ punk stalwarts Bad Sam, are back in action, initially with this single ahead of a new album which will hopefully see the light of day sooner rather than later. Nothing has changed from previous releases and Dean Beddis remains one of the best front persons around; his Biafra-like vocals are sounding even more powerful as he progresses in years. Of the three tracks “Alcoholic” and “Tag” feature the more breakneck approach that Bad Sam excels at, whereas “Looking Back” brings to mind the Jello Biafra/D.O.A. Last Screams of the Missing Neighbors collaboration in its more varied style and sound. Bring on the new album. –Rich Cocksedge (Armistice, [email protected])

BARRENFIELDS: Palmistry: LP

This Spanish outfit offer up ten songs with an occasional horror vibe, vocally and musically, and which put me in mind of Glenn Danzig fronting Fabulous Disaster. The delivery is maintained at mid-tempo throughout and that suits Grace’s singing style perfectly as it has a warm, smooth quality that sits well with the music. In fact, everything about this has an effortless, melodic feel to it, all of which makes for a really enjoyable listen. –Rich Cocksedge (Up The Punx, [email protected] [email protected] / Mass Productions, [email protected], massprod.com / Inhumano, inhumano.org / Killer Pandereta, [email protected], killerpandereta.es.tl)

BAUWAVES: U R Everything: LP

This album has the emotional impact of songs written alone in a bedroom with the polish and breadth of a slick studio performance. Lew’s vocals make you feel something whether you were ready to or not, and the songs as a whole will leave you wavering in a state somewhere between Jay Reatard and Hüsker Dü. All in all, this is an impressive album that feels not quite of this time. –Liz Jones (Salinas, salinasrecords.com, bauwaves.bandcamp.com)