Record Reviews

E.F.S.: Songs of Waiting: CD

I’m not really sure what this is supposed to be, and the part of me that’s willing to admit that maybe I “just don’t get it” is overwhelmed by the other part of me barking that there’s really nothing to get here. It started out fine enough, with super-low-fi basement-y mid-tempo punk, with some spooky, arty angles appearing by the third song in, but after that things devolve into a more experimental noise-art boondoggle. Meh. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Wow Cool)

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ELECTRIC PEACE: Hate Is a Special Feeling: CDEP

New tuneage from this long-lived band. Bit of a shift in sound, to my recollection, from a psych punk bent to more of a groove rock/punk bend. Results are more akin to a slightly funkier/punkier Deep Purple in their prime. Good stuff, and I’m betting these tunes howl live. –Jimmy Alvarado (Barred, [email protected])

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EMBARRASSMENT, THE: Death Travels West: 12”EP

Self-proclaimed “blister pop,” on Death Travels West (released in 1983) The Embarrassment sound like the blister has burst and a fully developed, cohesive universe has emerged. A universe that still doesn’t seem to have a functioning name. I guess that’s why they relied on “blister pop,” at the same time Westerberg & Co. opted for “power-trash.” It’s whatever Ork Records had been doing. It’s music made with Chilton always in the back of one’s mind. It’s not really punk, but it also doesn’t suck! Listenable and sorta strange outsider music made within the framework of the post-punk, early ’80s rock landscape. If they had moved to L.A. and this had been released on Slash, it could very possibly have been heralded as a “proto alt-country” classic and treated as canon. But for now it simply exists and it’s great music. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the references above, or of groups that members would go on to play in, such as Del Fuegos and Big Dipper. –Daryl (Last Laugh)

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EUGH: The Most Brilliant Man Alive: 7” 33

Eugh is pretty out there. I’m not kidding, he’s from Melbourne. That’s out there. Be that as it may, I’m gonna go out on a limb and dub this one the pick to click for all you way gone synth cats making the scene. All seven of these rapid one-man techno-zaps (one clocks in at under a minute, one at over two minutes, and the other five are all a-minute-something) are virtually guaranteed to have you jerking around spasmodically in your most ridiculous sunglasses. At least that’s how it worked on me, although I suppose that’s not really a notable deviation from my usual routine. This reminds me of a cross between the Spits and a synthpunk version of Klark Kent, that mysteriously flippant 1980 new waver who turned out to be the drummer for the Police incognito (and also the brother of the guy who owned IRS Records, which might go quite a ways towards explaining how he got the record deal). If this record would’ve come out forty years ago it would have been bootlegged twenty-five years ago and you’d be pissed you missed out on even the bootleg. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. BEST SONG: “Nice Guy II.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Don’t Trust Harry.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: Never before can I recall a record that ended the first side with a song title that ended in Roman numeral “II,” then started the other side with two songs that both began with the numeral “2.” You? –Rev. Nørb (Marthouse, marthouserecords.bandcamp.com/music)

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FACE TO FACE: No Way Out but Through: CD

Face To Face has always been for me a band that is never on my list of outright faves, but is nonetheless always well worth the price of admission, and on just about every record I’ve got by them there’s at least one song whose bitter optimism cuts me to the quick and affects my life for years to come. Yet somehow their more recent offerings, while sounding more or less just like Face To Face should, didn’t get me as excited and frenetic as in the past, as if the those newer records were a bouncy house that was just slightly but not quite noticeably deflated. Not this record, though. Face To Face sounds pretty much like they always have, but somehow (not sure just how) this record has more of the energy of the Don’t Look Away or Face to Face days. “No Way Out but Through” and “Ruination Here We Come” in particular are as good as anything they did back then, and the rest of the record is no slouch, either. I’ll be playing this one for a while. –The Lord Kveldulfr (Fat Wreck)

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FACE TO FACE: No Way Out but Through: CD

Face To Face have been doing their thing for over three decades. I’ve listened to a lot of it over the years and I’ve seen them live on a few occasions. In all that time, I can’t say I’ve ever been into their sound. Not much has changed with No Way Out but Through. The slick polish of their sound gives almost every track a kind of mundane sameness. The exception here was “Ruination Here We Come,” about the only track with any musical teeth. I can’t say one track out of an entire catalog is enough to make me enjoy them. –Paul J. Comeau (Fat Wreck)

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FACTION, THE: Greatest Grinds: CD

Following in the footsteps of Fear and T.S.O.L., this is band re-recording earlier material. I’m not sure if there’s any additional back story with this one, but these “new versions” still seem to have a sharp edge. Of course diehards will say you must listen to the original versions only! I’ll leave that one alone and just say I like what I hear on this collection. “Dark Room” and “Let’s Go Get Cokes” are some of my favorites, but they all rip. It’s a good place to start and then you’ll probably want to dig deep into the back catalog. –Sean Koepenick (IM, imrecordsstore.com, thefaction.bandcamp.com)

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FACTION, THE: Greatest Grinds: CS

Snotty, melodic, and metallic, with a Bones Brigade member on guitar and a healthy dose of Reagan-era paranoia in the lyrics, The Faction were the quintessential 1980s skate punk band. In 2020, they re-recorded twelve favorites from their original run, slapped a pic of a skeleton grinding a pool on the cover, and, voilà, we have Greatest Grinds. I’m pleased to report the band is still fast and energetic, and, after playing these songs back-to-back against the originals, some of the new recordings are louder and fuller than their ’80s counterparts. These dudes have definitely still got it, but is it weird to hear fifty-somethings banging out songs they wrote as teens? Well, cheese anthem “The Kids Are the Future” sounds even nicer coming from some middle-aged guys, but “Tongue Like a Battering Ram”’s misogynistic lyrics about a gossipy “wench” who ought to be put “in her place” are cringey as hell. That song was probably written about a high school girl, and it sucks to hear it sung by someone who is old enough to have a teen child of their own. Why still play it, never mind put it first on this album, when your band’s got dozens of classic songs to choose from? This raises a bigger question: why make this album when good versions of these songs are still available? Judging by the collage of recent concert pics in the j-card, it seems like The Faction are making a case for themselves as a live attraction. Listen to Greatest Grinds and you can tell that the band has not lost a step, even if some of the nostalgia belongs in the past. –Chris Terry (IM, imrecordsstore.com, thefaction.bandcamp.com)

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FACTION, THE: Late Night Live!: 2 x LP

What were you doing Halloween night, 1984? I was seven and trick-or-treating in Goleta, California, probably dressed as Darth Vader or something awesome. 297 miles north and equally awesome, legendary San Jose skate punks The Faction played live on KFJC in Los Altos Hills. That live radio set was preserved on half-inch Ampex tape for the last thirty-seven years and is now released on vinyl; a powerful testament to what this underrated band sounded like in their prime. Recorded before the Dark Room record was released, this is a superb live-in-the-studio document of what are essentially the best Faction songs up to this point, including early versions of those Dark Room classics. Complemented with interview segments and liner notes from the KFJC DJ who championed the band, this is an essential piece of history for Northern California punk rock. –Chad Williams (IM, imrecordsstore.com, thefaction.bandcamp.com)

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FATTIES: Self-titled: 7”

Rumbly, bass-forward punk, delivered with a sneer and a sense of humor by this Florida trio. I picked this up off the strength of the cover, which lands somewhere between blotter acid graphics and black light posters: it’s a cartoon raccoon with a striped headband and smiley face fanny pack running across a bunch of dice and yin-yangs. It fits the vibe. I wish they included a lyric sheet because I bet the words to “Double Shift Shake” are a hoot, but this band still gets the issue’s “Seems Like a Good Hang” award. –Chris Terry (fatties.bandcamp.com)

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FLIXS, LOS: Self-titled: CS

Punk trio from Vienna/Bremen with members hailing from Latin America (Argentina, Chile). Despite at least one member spending time in hardcore bands (Caro, ex-Ruidosa Inmundicia) these six songs are delivered with a straight-forward punk delivery in league with ’90s American stalwarts such as Pinhead Gunpowder and Screeching Weasel, although not nearly as catchy. This is the kind of punk that I feel is similar to the quality of Little Caesars pizza: it’s okay but you can definitely do better. –Juan Espinosa (Sabotage, sabotagerecords.bandcamp.com, [email protected])

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FREEZING COLD: “Stuck on Hold” b/w “Drawn to Scale”: 7”EP

Has Salinas Records ever put out a disappointment? Not for me at least. Your mileage may vary, but I feel a quick emotional connection to nearly all the punk / indie rock they release. And here we are with Freezing Cold from the Bronx. The wax is single-sided lathe cut vinyl, which I usually don’t care for. But that’s because I had a shitty record player for a long time and lathe cut records tend to skip on those. Thanks to pandemic stimmys, my setup is pretty killer now and this record sounds so great. Though they only have two tracks on this release, this trio packs in bright and beautiful guitar leads blanketed by harmonizing vocals that quickly become ear worms. What I’m saying, basically, is stay close to your record player ’cus you’re gonna want to start it over before the needle catches the run off. –Kayla Greet (Salinas)

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