Featured Record Reviews from Razorcake Issue 97: Bad Future, Bleeders, Career Suicide, Girl Power, Hot Tip, Maniac

Apr 24, 2017

CAREER SUICIDE: Machine Response: LP
All these years later, they’re still cranking out that ‘80s hardcore sound that may actually sound better than anything that came out in the ‘80s. For those who like their punk fast and catchy, Career Suicide is as reliable as they come and Machine Response does not disappoint. Ten years after they perfected the sound on Attempted Suicide, they’ve turned it into something of their own. With many of their Y2K contemporaries gone, they are free to rule as they wish. They’ve incorporated a few melodic flourishes to the vocals, some crunchy as fuck noise parts, and even decided to slow down (just a tad) where it seems fit. If you’ve been waiting for it, you’re gonna be stoked. If you have no idea who this band is, you’re gonna be stoked. Simply the best. –Daryl (Deranged)

CAREER SUICIDE: Machine Response: LP
Hardcore has so many subgenres that the suffix “core” has come an almost universal way of denoting a branch in genre. I’ve lost track of all the types of hardcore, and personally I am not too worried about it. I know what I like, and when it comes to describing it, I can’t do better than to reference Toronto’s Career Suicide. Long thought to have called it a day (other than the occasional show or two), these Canadian legends have come back with a vengeance with Machine Response, and the timing couldn’t be better. We need to rage. We need the adrenaline rush. We need smart, well-crafted songs that explode at precisely the right moment but never feel contrived. We need that dash of almost pop-like sensibility, but we need it coupled with screaming guitars and vocals that ride the perfect balance of snot and yell. Now more than ever, we need these eleven songs from one of the best bands ever to blow the roof off of a venue. We need Career Suicide! –Ty Stranglehold (Deranged)

¡APARATO!: Huastech 3000: CD
¡Aparato! makes post-punk Chicanx futurism for people who want to change the world. Blending indie electronic elements with classic influences like Son Jarocho and the Ramones, they craft beautiful songs of celebration and protest with co-ed vocals, synthesizers, jaranas, and electric guitars. These seven songs are mellower than their debut, but cover a lot of musical ground, ranging from sweet ‘90s pop R&B songs written from Chicanx punk perspective like “Arullame,” to “Machine,” a poetic song about the dreams of migrants set to fast-moving experimental electro rock, to “Crooked Smile,” which boasts New Order vibes. ¡Aparato! is growing into who they want to be and staying true to their DIY roots. It’s no surprise they’ve received critical acclaim despite their lack of label support. –Candace Hansen (Self-released, aparatomusic.com)

ATOWN SLUTS: I Hate the Atown Sluts: CD
A lot of times Razorcake tries to pick out things that I’ll enjoy or at least not hate when I get it for review. But the fact of the matter is that everything has to go somewhere and sometimes I get things that I’m not crazy about. I try really hard not to judge a record before I hear it, but I am instantly turned off when you put the words “slut,” ”whore,” or “bitch” in your band name. The cover art is them biting KISS’s Destroyer, with a Billboard Hot List as their tracks on the back. Some of these low brow titles include “Let It Rot,” “I Like the Blood,” and “Pass Me the Needle.” This is shock rock about drugs and sex, and they couldn’t even make it interesting. If you’re going to cover such lewd or unimaginative topics, at least play with your words a little. Throw in a mixed metaphor or an artsy allegory. Or even just play music that is so good; you forget about the trite lyrics that come with it. A spoon full of sugar is definitely needed to get their medicine to go down for me. If you like GG Allin, I’m guessing that you might find this up your alley—next to the dumpster you just set on fire. –Kayla Greet (Self-released)

BAD FUTURE: No Permission: CS
I know it may seem like I am a one-man cheer squad at Razorcake for Seattle’s Bad Future, but I can’t help how damn good they are (and for the record, Jim Ruland and I make up a two-man cheer squad for them!). Well, they’re at it again with a self-released cassette that once again shows the quick rate at which the band’s sound is evolving and how they continue to master what ever approach they take. The quirkiness that permeated their debut release, Golden Age, has drifted a long way off to the back burner, showcasing a bludgeoning yet intricate style of hardcore that falls more in line with their latest LP. Angry, yet optimistic. Intricate, yet on the verge of falling apart. Bad Future takes me in two different directions at the same time and I can’t get enough. Easily one of the best bands out there right now! –Ty Stranglehold (Self-released, badfuture.bandcamp.com)

Holy hell, this is good. Definite feminist, no wave energy—which we need more than ever right now—plus raw, noisy, structured post-punk energy, which is also needed. I’d like to direct everyone to the songs “Mansplainer” and “Forced Vaginal Ultrasound” in particular. Book this band at your show and add tape to cart. –Matt Werts (What’s For Breakfast, wfbrecords.com)

BRUISER QUEEN: Telepathic Mind: 7”
Okay, this is a two-song 7” but one song is a cover of Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark,” so I’m just going to talk about the original song, “Telepathic Mind.” It’s good! This upbeat garage pop rock track doesn’t sound old or overdone, but it makes me feel nostalgic in the right ways. I can imagine this song playing in a teen movie I’m watching on my living room floor in the ‘90s. I can imagine it playing on my headphones while attending college in Olympia in the 2000s. As an aside: I love the Robin Eisenberg-esque art which is centered on a pastel blue body decked out in femme attire with four arms and a hand for a head with an eye in the palm. Appropriate for the song. The Midwest is so lucky to have Bruiser Queen. You can find them often if you live around St. Louis. –Nicole X (bruiserqueen.bandcamp.com)

DEADAIRES: Self-titled: LP
Though their current running total of shows can probably still be counted on two hands, St. Augustine darlings Deadaires’ self-titled LP shows what a band can do with the combined power and wisdom of decades of punk experience. This record feels deeply Southern in the same slow-burn way of a thick drawl. It’s measured but deep, beginning with the heartbeat of the surprisingly ear-wormy post-punk “Constance Demario.” Deliberate with careful builds, the sparse dynamics and sardonic wit of lines like “tell me one more time how hard you work” are made especially tight through the continually impressive mixing work of J. Robbins. Seriously, I’d listen to anything that guy touches. And with Off With Their Heads’ Ryan Young attached through his label Anxious And Angry and the oft-incanted presence of Against Me!’s former bassist Andrew Seward, the lineage imprinted on this record makes it clear it’s not just a one-off fluke but careful, thoughtful work from people who know the game well enough to get it right. –Theresa W. (Anxious And Angry, [email protected], anxiousandangry.com)

D.O.A.: Fucked Up Donald: 7”
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, as Hunter Thompson once noted. But I don’t think the Tricky-Dickish weirdness that Thompson beheld comes anywhere close to the national aneurysm we’re now in the midst of, ever since the Joe-the-Plumber set shat King Alpha Douche into the oval office. We’re way fucking beyond weird at this point. We now have a charmless reality TV oaf as president, equipped with little more than a clammy reptilian brain and a teenager’s addiction to Twitter. Moreover, the cancerous fat of his ego is so metastatic that even his ear holes are blubbered up to the point that he’s deaf to the world outside his own head. And Mammon only knows what sort of darkly Id-ish urges are ricocheting around inside that shut-off, tie-choked cranium. It might be naïve to think that such a simple folk art form as punk rock can trip up anything so determinedly brutish and feeding off the backed-up energy of so many constipated brains. But if you’re being attacked in your bathroom by a rabid raccoon, even a common toilet plunger can do the trick. And I think few would argue that punk’s golden era may have been when it stood up to the ‘80s reign of Reagan’s doddering cultural atavism. Personally, just seeing some of the record covers and flyers from those days, with snide cartoon drawings of a very prune-faced Reagan looking clueless, still warms my heart. Thanks to King Alpha Douche, punk may be on the brink of a new vituperative golden age. This record might just be the beautiful beginning of that. D.O.A. has taken their snarling anti-Reagan ditty from the ‘80s and spray painted it with a coat of putrid Rich Guy orange. As potent as ever. Let the Resistance begin! –Aphid Peewit (Sudden Death, suddendeath.com)

FINAL EXIT: Seasons Are Going and Going…and Lives Goes On: LP
Grind can be a polarizing genre, even within itself. From political or artistic noise (aces) to porno or virtuoso (nope). Japan’s Final Exit set themselves squarely on the art/comedy paradigm, grinding from blinding blasts to weird rock breakdowns and noise interludes. Twelve tracks tracing the twelve months of the year (artsy!) and even Maiden’s “Aces High” riff thrown into the month of June (comedy!). This is a vinyl release of their first 3” CD from Rage For All Records. One sided. Eleven minutes. Five hundred copies. Gatefold, same as CD. Locust or Boredoms worshippers, jump on this. –Matt Seward (SPHC, sphcrecords.bandcamp.com)

GHOWL: In the Woods: CD
So you’ve listened to all your Rob Zombie CDs so much that you just don’t care anymore, but it will probably be like six whole months before he drops a new record, so what the fuck do you dooooo? Ghowl is here to fill the gap. They may not have the sexy dreadlocks, but their Rob Zombie impersonation is pitch perfect. Well, they mute some of the dancier stuff, and their horror references don’t go much deeper than Nightmare on Elm Street, but still, the world needs at least one second-rate Rob Zombie clone, right? Right? –MP Johnson (Self-released, ghowl.eu)

GIRL POWER: Self-titled: 7”
Girl Power’s nuclear 7” is as fierce as Elizabeth Warren’s stance on Wall Street bankers, shattering all your glass windows (and ceilings). No stranger to brevity, their brutal five-song EP packs a serious punch in just over seven minutes. Sharp lyrics sewn into catchy, caustic cuts will have you hooked from the first lick. Also worth mentioning are their seriously excellent stage names: Olivia Neutron Bomb, Stephen Nicks, and Brother Teresa. This EP mixed with the U.S.’s current political climate kinda makes me want to migrate to Oxford so I can beg these cats to let me be the fourth member of their band, but I guess I’ll just have to see how the rest of the year goes. Incidentally, Girl Power makes a perfect soundtrack for The Apocalypse, sponsored by Trump & Co.™! –Simone Carter (Richter Scale, [email protected], richterscalerecords.limitedrun.com)

GLOBS, THE: Do You Feel Weird?: CS
Sticky, oozing, flawless punk pop seeping out of those familiar Sacramento cracks. It’s like your favorite band made better. Mike R. Mike (of The Bananas) is in full form and has a hell of a band backing him up. While The Bananas did more with less, The Globs are all about doing more with more! Bring in some keyboards, up the female vocals; bring the whole damn Indomitable City in. It’s happy sadness riding into the sunset. Glorious, proud, and impossible to defeat. Hopefully this will be available on vinyl very soon. –Daryl (Self-released, [email protected])

HOT TIP: Hold Me, Closely: LP
I was worried this LP would never see the light of day. Hot Tip make the kind of gnarled, frantic punk that can turn sports bars and college house parties into radical American outposts. With Hold Me, Closely they’ve made a statement with the kind of depth and expressiveness you used to hear in a Fugazi record (Hold Me at times can feel like a companion piece to Steady Diet of Nothing). That they manage to fit so much texture and nuance and mood into seemingly uncomplicated two minute songs (see “Fiction” and “Neat Mess”) is remarkable. Who else is doing that? I think it’s just Hot Tip. –Matt Werts (Bitch Face, bitchfacerecords.storenvy.com / One Percent Press, onepercentpress.com / Radical Empathy)

HUMUS: Eterna Condanna: LP
Fast, crusty hardcore bordering on grindcore, out of Italy. I dig the passion and aggression and love the message (“Humus still fan the flame of rebellion and promote direct action against the oppressors.”), though there aren’t really any individual, memorable songs here. If anything, this record is the aural equivalent to how I feel immediately following those precious few peaceful moments when I wake up in the morning, before remembering that an orange, dimwitted, narcissistic liar was intentionally selected by forty-six percent of actual adult humans in this country to occupy the most important office on planet earth. (Sigh). Sometimes you just need a soundtrack to your rage, and this LP serves that purpose. –Chad Williams (To Live A Lie, tolivealie.com)

I used to be a terrible procrastinator, and I feel the old “gotta get this done” pressure as I’m writing this review just a day before deadline. I swear I haven’t been lazy. I haven’t bought anything new in forever (life has been reaching into my wallet lately, stealing my play money before I have a chance to spend it). But the angels at Super Secret Records dropped a new John Wesley Coleman LP on payday, so I hid some money before life’s sticky fingers could get it! So now I gotta synthesize a whole LP in less than twenty-four hours. What, am I professional journalist now? Mr. JWC seems to have slowed down a bit in the quantity of releases, as there is just over a year gap between 2015’s Greatest Hits and 2017’s Microwave Dreams. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t released anything else in the meantime, and if so, I missed it. Slowing down is not a bad thing. It gives fans like myself a chance to catch up. Microwave Dreams is less party slop rock than some of JWC’s early releases, and more in the somber/wistful vein of Greatest Hits. JWC sings of adult responsibilities (fatherhood, having to wake up at 7 AM) in “On the Couch Again,” but still reminisces about his younger, knuckle-headed self in “Jesus Never Went to Junior High.” He still wants everyone to dance (“Shovel”), and piano and saxophone flourishes sneak in at just the right times throughout the album to get one’s hips moving. To wit, during the release show for this album, two women stopped on the sidewalk outside the club and danced for a few songs. –Sal Lucci (Super Secret, supersecretrecords.com)

KLITZ, THE: Live at the Well: 7”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of The Klitz until this record showed up at my door, but I felt like less of a poser after reading that they never actually put out a record during their initial ‘78-‘80 run, making them a bit of an obscurity. This 7” is a release of archival recordings that are a looking glass into the late 1970s and early 1980s Memphis punk rock scene through the lens of women having fun while making noise at its ground level. Complete with an insert that serves as a short oral history of the band, the 7” features two original songs and two covers, including “AfterHours,” my personal favorite Velvet Underground jam. Their sound is simple and full of imperfect, distorted swagger in a sort of Cramps meets Suburban Lawns kind of way; rudimentary but smart, adolescent and full of charm, with no intentions of fame or invocations of nostalgia. –Candace Hansen (Spacecase)

LOW CULTURE: Places to Hide: LP
The Denton Mafia does it again. The latest from this Marked Men offshoot is pure bliss, deftly combining punk fire and powerful pop hooks filled with all sorts of subtle intricacies for the attentive that burrow deep, hold fast, and resonate long. Easily the record to pick for me this cycle. Brief review, yes, but it’s hard to wax all philosophic and shit when you’re dancing this goddamned hard. –Jimmy Alvarado (Dirtnap)

LOWEST FORM, THE: Personal Space: LP
If memory serves me correctly, I seem to recall the Lowest Form as a much heavier hardcore beast. That’s in no way a complaint however. Stripping down the wall of noise guitars I associated with their first full-length, Negative Ecstasy, reveals previously unnoticed layers of Rudimentary Peni weirdness, pogo punk, and even a little trip-hop influence on the opening track. I’m going to be perfectly honest when I say that I initially felt that a second full-length as a follow-up release was a bit presumptuous, but now I’ll just eat those fucking words. NWOBHC is cool, too, but shit, don’t underestimate the weirdo punk faction: the Lowest Form are to be considered armed and dangerous. Approach with caution. –Juan Espinosa (Iron Lung)

MANIAC: Midnight Kino: 7”
I am really naïve. Even though the album art of this power pop punk single is a photo of a shop emblazoned with the words “vidio-sex” all over it, it took me a while to get the lyrics to “Midnight Kino.” The last lyric is “pajas por el Reeperbahn,” which I Google Translated ASAP. I understand Spanish (or so I thought), and didn’t know what “pajas” meant. The first translations were cute, like the Swedish one that meant “comedian, clown, or buffoon.” I still didn’t get it. Spanish to English pulled up “straws” which didn’t make sense, then “masturbation.” Bingo. Masturbation in the Reeperbahn, a major red-light district in Germany. Ohh. Kino means “movie theater” in German. Masturbating in the midnight movie theater. Got it. There are 450 pressed total, and one hundred of the copies are pressed on red vinyl with a bonus peep window on the cover. –Cynthia Pinedo (Modern Action, modernactionrecords.com)

MOONDOGS: When Sixteen Wasn’t So Sweet: 12” EP
I’m not sure what it means for the health and vitality of Da Scene In General when we keep having to strip-mine the kicks of the past in order to best facilitate the kicks of the present, but I suppose it’s sorta like fossil fuel: You basically just hope you die before you run out of stuff. That said, these five obscure-as-the-white-buffalo power pop (ish) gems (as recorded on January 1st, 1980—I seem to recall watching Blondie on TV whilst babysitting the night before) leave me precious little to really complain about: They sound a bit like a roughed-up, basement Shoes, with lyrics that deviate unexpectedly from tropes of the genre (e.g., the title track is a sweet and catchy pop song that somehow winds up with guns on the beach). The three songs on the A side are faster and shorter, the two on the flip are longer and slower; none of it is fast and short nor long and slow enough to be noteworthy in its fastness and shortness nor longness and slowness. One must wonder how the hell songs as good as these can go essentially unheard at the time, and only be dragged, squinting, into the light of day the better part of four decades later. Ah well, if our fate is well and truly in the hands of Rock’s archaeologists, so be it. Drill, baby, drill! BEST SONG: “When Sixteen Wasn’t So Sweet.” BEST SONG TITLE: “Moon Wave Surfers.” FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The Moondogs were WWF tag team champions in the early ‘80s, and Moondog Spot died in the ring in 2003. ­–Rev. Nørb (Almost Ready)

ROMAN CANDLES: Blacklist the White Kid in Blackface: CS
When I listen to Christopher Gordon (aka Roman Candles), I’m transported to a specific time and place: I’m seventeen years old, strumming a shitty pawnshop guitar in a punk house half-filled with crusties and college dropouts. Gordon has performed only moments before me. He was brave enough to sing, in his plaintive vocal trill, achingly sincere songs about growing up in Yorba Linda, while I couldn’t at the time muster the courage to write lyrics that actually meant something. All of these years later, Gordon still percussively strums his guitar and belts straight from the heart. And I’m still envious. “The Suburbs” is the song I’ve always wanted to write about growing up in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. “Thanksgiving Break” is painfully honest, tackling sex, drinking, small talk, and the emptiness of longing; while “Mike Love” is a cover of a Merry Christmas song—you know, the greatest indie rock band you may never get to hear. A world without Roman Candles cassettes is a world I don’t want to live in; I only hope I can continue to find a working player. –Sean Arenas (Self-released, fuckthestowaways.blogspot.com)

Still sticking with the lurching, atmospheric post-punk they’re known for, this four-song EP doesn’t necessarily tread any shocking new ground for the band, but shit if they aren’t good at what they do. Sure, the lyrics are frequently corny (“I’m here for a good time / Conversation and dinner / I’m gone once it’s over / I disappoint most people.”), but the music. Dang. The music is just dense and sparse all at once, simultaneously ethereal and gritty. Somewhere between the worlds-deep drone of Lungfish and the sonic and emotional acrobatics of an (admittedly lesser) Fugazi. Fire hasn’t been discovered here, but it’s being healthily maintained. Nice work. I’m convinced. –Keith Rosson (Iron Pier)

I’ll save you a stupid joke about how this is the only diet I’ve ever stuck with and get to it; this band is important. Loud, full, staticky-yet-borderline-melodic, ass kicking London punk by three women of color who are all younger than I. (And I’m still on my parent’s health insurance.) Political, radical, and strong, Skinny Girl Diet fight white patriarchy, systems of oppression, show bros, fuck boys, creepers, and stereotypes of WOC in the music world, with crashing drums, raw screams, and droning guitars. This album captures the rage women and femmes are conditioned not to display. The anger that boils in you when men stand a little too close, stare a little too long, or shout to you from their cars. The fury fueled by being groped at a show, followed to your car, or being physically boxed out of a space. This album is for every time a man has cut you off with an, “Uh, well,” or talks over you with an “Actually…” After a few listens, you begin to hear the sheer craft and mastership working hard behind the initial noise wash. Heavy Flow is an ungentle reminder that femme-shaming isn’t punk. Starting an intersectional feminist rock band with your sister and cousin at age twelve is. –Griffin Wynne (HHBTM)

T-TOPS: Face of Depression: 7”
Pittsburgh aggro-masters, T-Tops, go to great lengths to project the image of beer-swilling, bellbottom-sporting, porn-mustachioed men’s men, caked in grease and glistening under the sweltering summer sun while getting their Trans Am back in working order. Don’t believe their lies. Patrick Waters, Jason Jouver, and Jason Orr are black-t-shirt-and-jeans-clad music nerds just like the rest of us. No, there’s no arena rock to be found here: T-Tops play crushingly loud, sludgy noise that could make even the most jaded among us search for a sledgehammer to smash everything we own. The sonic assault of their four-song Face of Depression EP—which features two bonus songs if you download the digital version—rarely lets up. They could have called the record Songs to Punch Your Dad to, and no one would have questioned them. “Dead Magician” stands out as the most alluring track on the record proper—slamming into you in the pit and harking back to Nirvana at their most “fuck off”—but T-Tops are perhaps at their most punk on the digital track, “Girl Who,” which seems far too fun, rowdy, and delightful to be relegated to the bonus bin. We all seem to have more than our fair share of rage to exorcise these days, so big ups to T-Tops for this thoroughly cathartic collection of ragers. –Kelley O’Death (Self-released, t-tops.bandcamp.com)

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