Featured Record Reviews Issue #93 with Taxpayers, Bill Bondsmen, DFMK, Lenguas Largas, Spokenest

Aug 30, 2016

TAXPAYERS, THE: Big Delusion Factory: CD
Glory be The Taxpayers, who have, for what ever reason, added a heavy pop-rock (ala Huey Lewis) element to their already unique sound. And somehow, despite all inherent logic: come out on top of it all. It’s very good! It’s a concept album about the trauma and healing a city must go through together after experiencing a large-scale disaster—the personal issues, systematic oppression, how it’s connected, and how it divides us. It’s a goddamn rollercoaster. It’s music that’s unsuspecting, is unexpected, and executed with unmitigated wingnut triumph. Taxpayers are the salt of the earth, while never dulling their vision or stifling themselves to fit into a pre-determined idea of what their band should sound like—or even more basically—what is acceptable for a punk band. I recently listened to this album in a house that had construction going on in the other room, and I felt like I was in the album. It’s not a necessary experience to enjoy it, but if you’re a super-fan like me: you might wanna give it a shot. –Daryl (Useless State, thetaxpayers.net)

BILL BONDSMEN: Until the Razor Cuts:LP
I lucked out in managing to catch the Bill Bondsmen at the ground level, beginning with their first demo and, while I haven’t been able to amass all their oeuvre to date, I’ve followed along closely enough to be able to track their progression from an ace thrash unit into an entity much more singular. This latest release shows the band expanding on the more mid-tempo forays of recent releases, peppering their brand of pummeling hardcore with drone and psychedelic influences into an unrelenting assault on your eardrums that recalls greats like Die Kreuzen while sounding nothing like them. Believe me when I say that you’re truly missing out if you haven’t caught onto these cats yet. –Jimmy Alvarado (Mastermind, mastermindrec.com)

DESGRACIADOS: Humanidad en la Oscuridad: 7” EP
Some flat-out scorching hardcore en Español coming at ye from, of all places, Canada. Even at its fastest here, the band keeps the tempos within the “human” range, yet delivering the goods in such over the top fashion they end up hitting that sweet spot that makes ye wanna bounce off the walls, drool uncontrollably, and beg for more than the four blasts of tuneage offered up here. Here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor ‘cause, if they keep things up the level of quality in evidence here, I’m predicting they’re gonna be fuggin’ huge. –Jimmy Alvarado (Deranged)

DFMK: 7 Canciones Sobre un Individualismo Radical: 7”
After about two years of hearing the praises of the Tijuana superstars known as DFMK sung by a large swath of friends, I finally got to see them last fall during the Razorcake residency at Pehrspace. I was blown away both by how great the band is musically, and also by the completely visceral and engaging performance, led by the extraordinarily animated and charismatic frontman Mr. Cap. And the greatness of the band is fully captured on this here slab o’wax. Here you’ll find an incredibly tight and focused band that’s firing on all cylinders and delivering a ferocious, bombastic, confident, and swaggering blend of punk and rock’n’roll. To my ears, I’m hearing a nod to early ‘80s Southern California hardcore pioneers, a la the Circle Jerks, with heavy heapings of blistering rock’n’roll in the vein of Mudhoney and New Bomb Turks, however, with even bigger, beefier, guitars. This is some crucial shit that you’re going to want to own. –Jeff Proctor (La Escalera / Get Better)

DISSIDENT CLONE: Creating the Consumed: 7”
Is it possible to play bass while simultaneously using the strings to strangle people? Because that’s what this sounds like. Heads just locked against the fretboard while faces turn red and eyes pop out of their sockets. Rumbling. And I’m sure the guitar is slick with blood. Are those drums or electric skulls being beaten with severed arms? The singer’s voice is like the howl of a yeti, blasting out words and the undigested bones of his enemies. I just listened to this record eight times in a row and I’m not entirely sure where this pig carcass came from. And that’s definitely not my blood. –MP Johnson (FTWNU2)

DYSNEA BOYS: Forgot How to Read: LP
It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but hear me out. “Skate rock” is not the same as “skate punk.” The former was a movement in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s spearheaded by Thrasher magazine and a number of bands who rode boards, like Big Boys, JFA, Drunk Injuns, The Faction, and others. Skate punk, on the other hand, is more of a ‘90s-centered thing (think big pants and chain wallets). I like skate punk just fine, but skate rock is where my heart is. Dysnea Boys know exactly what I am talking about. They are a band that would fit seamlessly onto any of those early Thrasher compilations. You can feel the same hit of adrenalin listening to this that you would when discovering an untouched skate spot—anticipation, aggression, and joyous freedom coming together to an explosive moment in time. Canadians, Americans, and Germans came together to make what I would consider a damn near perfect album. Vocalist Jason Honea (formerly of Social Unrest) reminds me so much of Restless Spirit from Drunk Injuns at times it’s uncanny as he powerfully drives the songs with his distinct voice. I hope to the almighty concrete skate gods that Dysnea Boys will make the trip over to North America sometime soon. This band has become essential to my life. –Ty Stranglehold (Take It Back)

FACTION, THE: Dark Room: 12”
While most folks know them as the mid-’80s skate punk band that Bones Brigade legend Steve Caballero played in, San Jose’s The Faction weren’t just a side project or a band of skaters playing in a punk band just for fun. Mixing up the tempos and incorporating a darker edge, they also weren’t a typical skate punk band. In fact, they resembled the 1983 iteration of their contemporaries D.I. in vibe and vocal delivery, much more than any skate punk band of the era. And while D.I. largely opted to lose their slower, darker songs in favor of faster and more melodic tunes in 1985, The Faction doubled down. Pushing the boundaries of solid, mid-tempo punk into the metal realm with scorching riffs, solos, and an even more sinister vibe (notwithstanding the all-time thrash-punk rager “Tongue Like a Battering Ram”), this EP ranks as one of 1985’s best punk releases, now thankfully available on vinyl again, courtesy of Milwaukee’s best! –Chad Williams (Beer City, beercity.com)

GENOCIDE PACT: Forged through Domination: LP
I had a theory that grind got big for a while because, similar to psychobilly, the nuts and bolts seem easy to break down. Get a fast drummer and have your friend growl and you’ve got a grind band. I’m grind suspicious, but I love early Earache records, Napalm Death, Carcass, et cetera... Genocide Pact’s Forged through Domination is one of the best grind albums I’ve heard in a long time and shows when it’s well done, it has power. I’ve had a fan-like obsession with this record. I can’t get enough of it. If you think grind is just something you do with blast beats, this album is an education. It has heavy production, Bolt Thrower fury, and great art. If you’re into Earache ‘88 or Assück, this is a winner. Really essential. –Billups Allen (A389, a389recordings.bandcamp)

HEAVY TIMES: Self-titled: 7”
Picture a long shot. A cloud of dust breaks on the horizon. A speeding vehicle comes closer and closer, its image distorted by a mirage. It’s hot. It’s really fucking hot. Cut to a close-up on the driver. He’s wearing a bandana around his mouth to protect from the desert elements. His windshield is gone. There are bullet holes in the seat cushions and a torn and taped picture of someone very important on the dashboard. Whoever wrote this Heavy Times EP should be doing film music somewhere. Think of car chases and dystopian nightmares. Killers with mechanical body parts and antiheroes with a soft side. Heavy times is part synthy throwback, part gothic club music, part post-punk daydreams. The standout track for me is “Coptic Rot.” –John Mule (Randy, randyrecords.bandcamp.com)

HORROR VACUI: Return of the Empire: LP
This is not my genre of expertise. Echo-soaked goth rock, with a just a hint of punk bite. I think death rock is the preferred nomenclature? Anyway, the music doesn’t inspire me, personally, but let’s just pretend for a moment that this record could be something I would consider listening to for pleasure. I can’t get past that a few of the songs sound very similar on first brush. Not that it sounded bad, but it did sort of blur together in a dreamy-via-’80s-guitar sort of fever dream. But I’ll be damned if every track or so they did a well-done song part. A good chorus, a smart breakdown, a sudden shift to a new territory. The building is functional, but the materials are interesting. If I were a teenage goth kid, I would probably rock out to this. –Bryan Static (Black Water, blackwaterpdx.com)

Tucson’s legendary Lenguas Largas back it again with their follow up to 2014’s critically acclaimed Come On In. Traversing musical influences into a complex web of sounds is what the group has become known for—while defying genre classification and definition, even in the minds of the group themselves. So although it’s easy to describe them as an “indie-psych-soul-garage” band, it’s nearly impossible to find just one song that encapsulates the band’s sound as just that. That being said, this is perhaps the first Lenguas record that I have listened to that has a much more straight-forward approach to accessible songwriting without diluting any of the layers upon layers of musical influence. And yet it’s puzzling why these guys aren’t featured on any hip web-only music blogs or magazines which claim to support the alternative. Be that as it may, I’ll continue to support the Lenguas whether they’re playing a dank bar show surrounded by friends or opening up for a better known (but usually not better) band. –Juan Espinosa (Red Lounge)

I’d seen The Max Levine Ensemble’s name around for seemingly forever, but I have no recollection of ever knowingly listening to them. I had associated the band with Plan-It-X and thought they would be folky pop punk. Well, now I feel as though I’ve maligned The MLE. Within moments of the record’s start, they hit on the Ergs side of pop punk the spectrum, and definitely call to mind the Ergs themselves. Although the band contends they’re biting Paul Simon and Pixies, I still hear Ergs. That said, you’d be hard up to find your typical (or atypical) pop punk songs about girls and love herein. Rather, the lyrics are contemplative, tending to reflect on the inner turmoil that occurs when trying to find a fair way to live in the exterior political and social climate. For sure, positive vibes throughout, despite the struggle presented. Maybe it’s just because I got something I didn’t expect here, but I found Backlash, Baby to be a refreshing take on the genre (save for the upstrokes on “Shadow of Death”). The record also features guest appearances by Jeff Rosenstock and Sheena Ozella. Mine is on pinkish-purple colored vinyl. There’s probably a color that more accurately describes the vinyl’s appearance, but I don’t work for Pantone, so I ain’t knowin’ stuff like that. –Vincent (Rumbletowne / lameorecords.limitedrun.com)

As I Am from Chicago’s The Mizzerables feels like the musical incarnation of a shitty boyfriend. It reels you in with some low-hanging social awareness, but offers only Peter Pan fantasies, self-righteous defensiveness, arrested development ennui, you’re-crying-but-let’s-talk-about-my-feelings narcissism, equivocation and condescension, femme fatale reductionism, and… I don’t even know, you guys, things got really weird around “Second Hand Lover,” and I didn’t feel safe, so I spent the night at a friend’s house. Adhering to pop punk tradition, women are omnipresent on As I Am, but exist only as dehumanized bodies crammed inside wicker men and set ablaze to appease emotionally stunted gods. Musically, while all twelve tracks show potential, when grouped together, they sound like the product of a band trying to meet their quotas: pop punk, check; folk punk, check; ska punk, check; good time rock’n’roll, check; radio-friendly monster ballad, unfortunately, check. The whole endeavor feels suspiciously self-serving, promising listeners genre-bending and big ideas and compelling human emotion, only to decide it wants to “keep its options open” and navel-gaze. To be frank, I’m reticent to be this critical of it. I almost expect the digipak to look up at me, call me a “crazy bitter bitch” who just doesn’t understand it, and storm out of the room. –Kelley O’Death (Whoa!, [email protected], store.whoarecords.net)

NATURE BOYS: Self-titled: CS
There’s something so jarringly off-kilter and feral about this, and I love it. The warbling melodies somehow sound perfectly natural, but they’re weird as hell. There’s a twangy eerieness in this, like something out of a gothic Western. It’s like X’s lonesome highway desolation at breakneck speeds. Or maybe it’s a more dangerous, unpredictable take on The Marked Men’s raw-nerve pop. I said it was weird. Under the lo-fi murk of the recording, the performances are impeccably tight, just rollicking along like barely bridled chaos. Am I out of the loop or should more people be talking about this band? Nature Boys are bringing something strange and new to the table, and I’m in. –Indiana Laub (Self-released, natureboysrocknroll.com)

PRESSING ON: No Defeat No Capitulation: 12”
Fuck! I’m trying to review this, but I keep flipping over my kitchen table and slam-dancing when a new song starts! Pressing On are gnarly looking older dudes who get right to the point with eight songs of marauding hardcore. From the lyrics to the riffs to the song lengths, everything is streamlined for maximum impact. I think those are d-beat drums, and some of it reminds me of Deathreat or Copout. Pressing On are from Portland and feature members of Talk Is Poison, From Ashes Rise, and Raw Nerve. If you like those bands, or feel like rearranging your apartment, you’d be a fool not to throw this on. This is a remastered, vinyl version of their recent cassette. –Chris Terry (Deranged, derangedrecords.com)

It’s really hard for a hardcore band to put out a solid LP, and the odds are certainly stacked against being able to do it twice. I mean, if you really sit and think about it, the number of hardcore bands that put down two solid LPs is probably just a couple dozens, and it’s not a list that’s growing very fast. So, it’s pretty crazy that the Repos are on their fourth full-length (if you count 2013’s Lost Still Losing) and still seem fresh, relevant, and full of ideas. The last couple of years have seen the band put out several cassette releases and a couple of EPs that have all somehow consistently topped each other. I don’t know how not to gush about this band, but their sound is constantly evolving and every release sees them playing with new ideas while still retaining the unique qualities that make them the Repos. Poser finds the band working within the riffs of mid-’80s USHC (think a little Poison Idea, a little early JFA, White Cross, and SSD) with some Japanese influence (Gauze), but not really sounding like anyone. It’s clear they are fans of their genre and constantly learning from it instead of aping it. They clean up ideas people had in the past and make them their own. The guitar on this record scorches through with a few frills on each song that pop in and out of the mix organically. The vocal phrasing, something I’ve always appreciated about the band, is top-notch here and accomplishes making the bleak, poetic verses that would otherwise feel pretentious or out of place sit right at home. The progression of ideas—both sonically and poetically—they’ve reached since just the last couple of 7”s is mind-blowing. Essential modern hardcore. –Ian Wise (Youth Attack, ihateyouthattack.com)

SICK WARD: Into the Future: CS
This is the kind of street punk I like. Not the “We have to get more hair dye and hair spray so our mohawks looks precise for the show tonight” kind of street punk, but the “Our hands are calloused and we’ve got holes in our jeans because we can’t afford new ones” brand. There’s a little more depth between the riffs. Yes, there are songs about “the pigs” and “the bastards,” but the finger is also pointed inward in songs like “Two Worlds”: “Your teenage years have passed. Your rebellion did not last. The protests that you make, are against your own mistakes.” I’ll raise a fist for that. –MP Johnson (Self-released, Sickward.bandcamp.com)

SPAZZ: Sweatin’ to the Oldies(All the Out of Print Stuff ‘93-’96): CD
A reissue of a long out of print CD compiling all or most of the Bay Area powerviolence band’s earliest recordings originally released by Slap A Ham Records in 1997. Spazz arose from the ashes of the first powerviolence wave and immediately reinvigorated it with a sense of humor (both about themselves and the underground music scene) not typically associated with the genre’s previous political and nihilistically charged themes. This collection includes songs from their debut 7” and a multitude of splits and compilations. Song lengths are usually anywhere from ten seconds to a minute, so naturally this disc features a whopping sixty-four tracks of their brand of “Satanic goofcore.” Speaking of which, the lyrical matter was most definitely lighthearted, with themes ranging from disdain for ravers (“Droppin’ Many Ravers”), emo bullshit (“Hug Yourself”), skateboarding (“Donger”), kung-fu and Asian action films (“Spazz Vs. Mother Nature”, “Hard Boiled”) and taking jabs at their friends (“Hot Dog Water Popsicle in the Hand of Eric Wood”). It’s song after song of powerviolence savagery with the occasional sludgy rager thrown in to perplex the purists. Subsequently, a few more albums, a barrage of even more splits, and an insane amount of compilation songs were later compiled onto even more CDs. The legend continued until 2000 when the band finally played their final show at 924 Gilman in Berkeley, CA, which also marked my first pilgrimage to the Bay Area. My bias to Spazz is well known and my allegiance to them is forever, but it’s very nice indeed to be able to have this CD back in print so that future generations may too lick the cloven hoof of the masters of unholy Hong Kong core! –Juan Espinosa (Tankcrimes, tankcrimes.com)

SPOKENEST: Gone Gone Gone: LP
Gone Gone Gone is the first full length from L.A. two-piece Spokenest. I was so fucking excited to get this in the mail that my shaky hand slipped when I saw the screen printed insert, scratching the marble LP’s surface (and causing a mini nerd meltdown) before ever touching my turntable. Despite a few extra crackles and pops on side A, the record still sounds great. Imagine if early Descendents and Grass Widow met up in some cramped basement space in North L.A. to craft a record that was tough and delicate, letting angst and shimmer grapple it out—smart, sweaty, scrappy, and urgent. Spokenest is serving those vibes. Definitely both late ‘70s L.A. punk and pop punk influences heavily peering through, with co-ed vocals that sound classic and new. Frenetic but driving guitar with that rad tone you can pretty much only get by being punk playing out of a keyboard amp for at least a year of your life, not giving any fucks about posturing. Drums are tight and exciting. I can’t believe Adrian can carry vocal melodies while hammering out fast sixteenth stroke notes flawlessly—it’s not a studio trick, I’ve seen it, scouts honor! No overproduction bananas here, just straightforward melodic punk carried by intentional songwriting and performance. –Candace Hansen (Self-released in US, spokenest.org / Available through Drunken Sailor in Europe)

SPOKENEST: Gone, Gone, Gone: LP
I have a lot of love and respect for Daryl and Adrian, the fearless masterminds behind Spokenest. I remember being gobsmacked when watching Adrian wail on the drums for Together Pangea (formerly Pangea), while simultaneously belting jubilant vocal harmonies. Daryl used to play a two string bass in God Equals Genocide; that about sums up his playing style—economical, no frills. Hell, you can write a thousand songs with only the E and A string, anyway. In Spokenest, she provides the bangs and booms and he brings the distortion. It’s is a literal and figurative marriage of their two distinct but complementary sensibilities: Daryl’s hardcore-influenced yells and jagged strumming and Adrian’s confident and dreamy vocal melodies. There’s an addictive balance of fuzz-drenched noise and heartfelt vocals on songs like “Kind,” “Whisper,” and “TellMe.” Other times, Spokenest angrily charges forward (“Listen” and “Other Way”). It’s Superchunk and hardcore. Gone, Gone, Gone is easily one of favorite records of 2016. –Sean Arenas (Self-released in US, spokenest.org / Available through Drunken Sailor in Europe)

UNFUN: Waterboarding: LP
The review I’ve been waiting for. I’ve wanted to try to tell any audience that would listen, just how important Unfun is to me. Unfun is the sound that bounces between my ears and rattles around in my brain constantly. As in, I don’t understand how some people whistle pretty notes into tunes or noise artists decide on the aural assaults they feel the need to produce, ‘cause inside my head, those two things belong together. Unfun is the “you put your peanut butter in my chocolate” Reese’s noise fuzz outer layer and sugar sweet pop center crushed into the Vitamix engine drone of my mind. “Death Majesty” indeed… sad that it’s over, but what a way to go out. –Matt Seward (Debt Offensive, debtoffensiverecs.com)

A friend of mine describes certain punk albums as having a “‘90s feel,” indicating to me I won’t like it. What are those reasons specifically? I can’t really say. Enough bad things happened to punk in the ‘90s for that statement to be relevant. But were there good bands? Good scenes? Good people? Yes. Is there still good unheard stuff out there? Destroy All Art is an emphatic yes. Your brother’s band didn’t blow if it ended up on this comp. If you enjoyed the recent We’re Loud comp pulling from ‘90s demos, Destroy All Art is a definite winner for you. The album starts off with a killer: “Self-Hate” by Epileptix. Snot vocals with guitar wrench, overdriven chords. There are a variety of retro sounds on this one as well. Several Species’ “Fight” frames tales of brawling with a melodic guitar intro and an infectious, Dictators-style chorus you should hear. Firewood fires a great cave beat with an awesomely inappropriate keyboard sound. Skuds delivers three-chord chaos with “Got Meth?” That’s the first four songs. And the album continues uphill. Pretty essential. You really can’t miss with this. There isn’t a KBD or Bloodstains moniker associated with good, obscure ‘90s punk yet, but I hope people keep working on it. ‘90s isn’t necessarily a bad word, but it doesn’t look great on an album cover yet. –Billups Allen (Rock N’ Roll Parasite)

Holy shit! In the world of shit landfill reissue records, there occasionally comes a release that actually makes sense and deserves a spot on my record shelf. This band hailed from Scotland in the late ‘70s, released a couple of singles that vaporized, but somehow they piqued the interest of Mr. John Peel. Peel had them do three sessions, all of which were magical but, alas, they disappeared back to obscurity and the nine to five. Mercifully, someone pulled the sessions out of the ether and stuck them on the a 12”. One part Wire, one part Joy Division, and the rest a mix of the darker side of Crass records like Lack Of Knowledge. What makes this disc shine is the faultless BBC recording. I can’t believe this has been wallowing in obscurity for so long. Absolutely mandatory for all the folk who like a little sour taste to their post-punk. –Tim Brooks (Telephone Explosion, telephoneexplosion.com)

WILD ANIMALS: Basements: Music to Fight Hypocrisy: LP/CD/CS
It’s not that long since I first heard Wild Animals’ excellent debut record, so to have the follow up come along so quickly is a slice of good fortune. Ideally, I’d avoid hyperbole but it’s just not possible here as Basements is a fantastic piece of work with warm, scrappy songs built around a fuzzy melodicism that is infectious from the outset. The odd hints of early Samiam work magnificently with the male/female vocals and the blown-out-sounding bass, making me feel uplifted and elated. Hats off to this Madrid-based trio for referencing the television show Six Feet Under in the outstanding “Television Blows,” which has great significance to me, as without the programme I would never have met my wife. The album is out on a multitude of labels, so it’s worth doing some legwork on the internet to find what suits you best but I got mine from s-n-c-l in the U.K. A definite contender for best album of the year. –Rich Cocksedge (s-n-c-l, [email protected], sncl.collective-zine.co.uk)

Thankful Bits

Razorcake.org is supported and made possible, in part, by grants from the following organizations.
Any findings, opinions, or conclusions contained herein are not necessarily those of our grantors.