Featured Record Reviews Razorcake #101

Featured Record Reviews Razorcake #101: Liquids, Caves, City Mouse, Limp Wrist, Pine Hill Haints, Propagandhi

Jan 11, 2018

Featured Record Reviews Razorcake #101: Liquids, Caves, City Mouse, Limp Wrist, Pine Hill Haints, Propagandhi

By dint of the minimaloidish cover and the song titles – “Dumb as Fuck,” “Piss on Me” and “Sick Shit” occur in a row—I assumed that these Indianans were the type who traded on pure snot and violence to the nervous system. And, whilst the aforementioned ingredients are by no means in short supply here, to dismiss these cads as pure snot-and-violence is to damn them with faint praise: Hot Liqs sounds like somebody put the Pagans, the Drakulas, Los Ass-Kissers, mid-period Rip Off Records, and the third Urinals single in a blender. AND THEN LEFT THE FUCKING BLENDER ON, ALL NIGHT LONG. This twelve-inch, fourteen-song, 45 rpm rager is a goddamned adrenalin-blasted vortex of trouble for the squares, may I be done in by a flying chamber pot if this is not the case. Lots of records can take the paint off a wall, but Hot Liqs can clean used turpentine! Can other records do this? Fuck no! The secret behind this whirlwind din is likely that they know a little more about playing and songwriting than they let on, but, then again, that’s completely speculative on my part, so why jinx them with an unnecessary effusion of florid praise? Look to thy laurels, Solids! Take cover, Gases! Head for the hills, Aerosols! You poser states of matter have officially met your match!! BEST SONG: Believe it or don’t, it’s the album-opening instrumental, “Howdy.” BEST SONG TITLE: “I Killed Donald Trump.” I mean, duh. FANTASTIC AMAZING TRIVIA FACT: The back side of the lyric sheet is a drawing of about a million cats. –Rev. Nørb (Hip Kid, hipkidrecords.storenvy.com / Not Normal, notnormal.bigcartel.com)

Anti-Social: Full disclosure, here: Montebello’s Anti-Social are familia. Not only do I consider them friends, they were part of the same small cluster of mid-’80s ELA backyard bands that spawned this scribe, they’re one of the very select few of us to release anything on vinyl and, three-and-a-half decades down the road, they are still slugging it out in the trenches. Those reasons alone are enough to earn my utmost respect, but add the fact that they’re still one helluva band and you have yourselves a party, kids. Here ye get three new recordings of two older tunes and one of more recent vintage that gallop along at a good clip, keep themselves well entrenched within hardcore’s parameters, yet maintain a melodicism at their base. The songs come and go way too soon, which is more reason to supplement this with their most recent LP, Life Long Addictions, and to see them live. Has Beens: the large-brushstroke description of their work here would read the same as their record mates—firmly rooted in hardcore while keeping a melodic sense to the proceedings. Closer examination, however, shows a bit more in the details: they move largely at a much zippier clip, a sense of humor is more in evidence, and they’ve got a drummer who contributes heftily to their personality. Tight and precise, they handily hold their own on this split, making for a good listen throughout. –Jimmy Alvarado (Jerk Off, jerkoffrecords.com)

CAVES: Always Why: LP
Full-length corker from these indie punk shredders. Like a 360° fireworks display from the back of moving pickup truck. Sit back and let the summer night air blow your hair around while you enjoy the show that’s happening way above your head. The guitar shoots up into the sky and explodes, the dual harmony vocals blast out in every direction descending in perfect unison. Crystalline and triumphant. Maybe the pickup truck/fireworks scenario sounds horrible to you. But whatever your happy place may be, this record is it. Put it on and go there. –Daryl (Dead Broke / Specialist Subject / Yo-Yo)

Has your heart ever latched onto a band so hard, so fast, and at just the right moment in your life, that you knew you would carry the music with you until the day your heart stopped beating? City Mouse first came to me at one of the biggest turning points in my life. I didn’t think I was even open to their brand of punk— poppier, more melodic than the tough guy hardcore I had buried myself in. But as soon as the needle hit the groove of that self-titled 7”, I was left desperately grabbing for the lyric sheet because this band was singing what I was feeling. I was hooked, but it was just that one 7”. Some splits and stuff followed, but no full-length. Until now. Coincidentally, I’m at another turning point, and I find myself simultaneously loved more than ever, yet more alone than ever. I don’t even know how to say how much this record means to me right now. I’ve been listening to it over and over, just letting myself feel these words, these emotions. The lyrics perfectly personalize universals like heartbreak and self-doubt and hope for the future. It’s honest. It’s warm. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. –MP Johnson (It’s Alive)

New Driveway Soundtrack: LP
Disco and synth pop have a bad rep. I often recommend the book Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture. It’s a very fluid and revealing book about the disco era and how racism, sexism, and homophobia informed people’s view of disco. It’s helped me find value in some of the records I see regularly in dollar bins. There was an almost punk-style struggle dance and funk artists endured just to get their records made and heard before disco exploded. The aftermath of Saturday Night Fever (1977) reminded me a little of when Green Day got big. But there are way more bad disco records than good ones. I don’t think I’m a good judge of what’s good except when I hear something I like. This album is derivative of disco and synth pop that shows some merit. It’s a fun listen. I can’t tell how serious it is, so I’m just going to describe what some of theses songs evoked. “Magic Hour” teeters between Bee Gees and the better half of The Pet Shop Boys. “Fistfight at the Stoplight” sounds like a low-quality Blaxploitation soundtrack. “Weekend Special” could be played during the credits of a lost, low-grade ‘80s movie about a teenage road trip. “New Driveway” is an inexplicable rumination on getting a new driveway. It’s more listenable than jokier bands like this and the hooks are often good. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s high quality. –Billups Allen (Goner)

DARK/LIGHT: Kill Some Time: LP
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens inside people’s heads when their hometown where they developed as a human changes to something else. Specifically about gang members in the streets of Los Angeles. What happens when the streets that were once rough as hell, now house dog salons and “mixologists.” What happens when the town that you identify with no longer becomes identifiable? Like most major U.S. cities, Portland, Ore. has seen a similar transformation towards bougie, pretentious bullshit, but what has happened inside the heads of the punks who have been there for decades? How does one explain the cognitive dissonance experienced when you step outside to an unregulated, yuppie paradise, but “Doom Town” is still what’s playing in your head? Evidently you record an album like Kill Some Time. It’s dark and looming, pissed-the-fuck-off, howling at the moon like a maniac. Carrying on the spirit of nonconforming, anti-social pillars of PDX punk like Sado-Nation and The Rats. It’s visceral and cathartic. Back home in L.A., the intersection that inspired “Holly-west Crisis” may be a Petsmart now, but we didn’t go anywhere. Dark/Light understands, “I need to stop this bus / I need to get off this train / I wanna break up with today.” –Daryl (Dirt Cult)

DEAD BARS: Dream Gig: CD
It’s almost not even fair for me to write this review. I’ve seen Dead Bars countless times, interviewed them for another magazine, and consider them my buddies. But what makes it okay for me is that anyone who knows of this band could easily say the same. I just happen to live in the same city as them and get spoiled by the amount of shows they play. Here’s the thing; no one in current punk sings like John Maiello. No one. His ability to be snotty, melodic, gritty, sweet, and sometimes off key all in the same song is captivating. At a glance, it’s a lot like what the Ramones did—make something impossible to duplicate look so simple and attainable. Behind Maiello are these wonderful piercing guitar leads mixed with strong riffs and dancey drums and bass. This is the group’s first full length and I can tell you from seeing a lot of these songs live before Dream Gig came out that they captured the live feeling of them perfectly. The twinkly piano solo that kicks the record off and the horns at the end were a nice surprise though. I love Dead Bars. Buy their records. –Kayla Greet (No Idea / Eager Beaver)

If you distilled the late-’70s explosion of punk rock into a single mixtape that incorporated the pop side, the garage side, and the experimental noise side, Freak Genes would be that mixtape made flesh. It’s a highlight reel of the genres’ finest tricks, crafted into over a dozen tunes ranging the power pop to noise rock spectrum. If you know me at all, you know I like the pop tunes more than the out-there space jams, but neither is a bad look for Freak Genes. Even when they get wild in the songwriting department, they still make sure to pump out actual songs. I think my favorite part of this record is the half-assed guitar tone. Not that it sounds like it wasn’t purposeful, but because of how weak the guitar sounds in contrast with the pounding music. These sentences typed out seem like insults, but it serves to create a unique texture to the album that I’m fucking jazzed about. Must be heard to be believed. A good addition to the punk fan’s vinyl collection. –Bryan Static (Alien Snatch!)

“Touching” is an atypical adjective for a hardcore record, but it’s the one that keeps coming to mind while listening to queer punk legends Limp Wrist’s new LP. The whole thing—from the eight songs of blazing old school hardcore on side A, to the trio of delightfully grotty electro punk tunes on the flip, to the entire lyric zine about queer outsiders—is dedicated to “rural queens, dykes, trans kids, and punk kids… who crave to be part of some dream community but can’t.” In English and Spanish, the lyrics rail against the assimilationist “gaystream,” with the hope of building community for queer people who feel ostracized, not just by straight society, but by normie queers as well. The sentiment behind Facades reminds me of the pain and alienation I saw so many of my punky queer friends experience when we were younger, and I wish I could hop back twenty years and slip this record into their crates. Also, hey, this is excellent music. Limp Wrist are all punk veterans, featuring former members of Hail Mary, Devoid Of Faith, By The Throat and Kill the Man Who Questions, and fronted by Martin Sorrondeguy from Los Crudos. For the first eight songs, they pull from decades of hardcore music, writing righteously pissed-off, energizing songs. For the last three, they try something new (and succeed!): building songs around a dirty electro thump, resulting in an early industrial sound that cuts like a rusty blade. Limp Wrist are vital as ever. Get this record and, as they say, stay fucked and never go in. –Chris Terry (limpwrist.bandcamp.com)

Like I’m sure for many others, summer is my favorite time of year—Los Angeles heat notwithstanding, all the best, fun stuff happens. Each year the season starts off with the promise of good things in full bloom, promise that inevitably withers like leaves with the coming of fall. On their second album, Jeff Burke and Yusuke Okada turn down the furious freneticism that related bands like Marked Men have made into a cottage industry, focus more on the “pop” that has always been there at the core, and effectively pen the quintessential late summer album. Like that time of season, it’s rife with feelings of missed opportunities, loss, melancholy, and yet a wistful sense of hope. Emotion is packed into one gem after the next, seamlessly blending power pop with punk, dream pop with garage, keyboards with dabs of occasional country twang. If any of that description makes you uneasy, don’t let it. This disc is gorgeous, and easily one of the best albums you’re gonna come across this year. –Jimmy Alvarado (Dirtnap)

This is a gorgeous repress of an inimitable record, the first full length from some of the highest true believers in punk. Document #5 is their first full length and it’s something special so see it treated with such care in this re-issue, with different color patterns being dispatched to different labels and the band on their benefit tour with Majority Rule. I don’t know what can be said about this record that hasn’t been said before. I know Document #8 is a more time-tested favorite, but this one is just a little more rustic. It gives a window into where real, actual emotional post-hardcore came from before people got confused over what that title meant. It’s risky and challenging and chaotic and gut-wrenching and beautiful. There’s still nothing like it, and may never be again. Amen. –Theresa W. (Reptilian, reptilianrecords.com)

Hell yeah! Just in time for Halloween, a new Haints record, and an album at that. Thirteen tracks in total, and not one dud. For those unfamiliar, the Haints are not afraid of their regional influences in that they have cultivated a sound that seamlessly blends the blues, country, and early rock’n’roll all wrapped up in a Southern gothic, DIY shell. Recorded in one evening, you can literally feel the humidity dripping from the ceiling on all of these tracks. Comparing these cats to anyone else would be an insult, but I imagine if you dig Hasil Adkins or stuff like Jimmie Rodgers along with your punk rock, you will find plenty to love here. –Garrett Barnwell (Arkham, arkhamrecords.net)

The Plurals write good rock songs. Very good, in fact. This is the second album I have enjoyed reviewing by the Lansing, Mich.-based band after 2015’s An Onion Tied to My Belt. My favorite songs on Swish happen to be sung by Hattie, the drummer, but I always get the sense when I listen to this band that all three members are pulling their weight. The Plurals are a group effort, worth more, I presume, than the sum of their parts. The guitar tones are fantastic, the bass lines are complex, and every song is well-crafted. This month many of us have mourned the death of Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü. While so much of punk history and present tends to focus on the edges of the country, the Plurals, like Hart and Hüsker, remind us that the Midwest United States cannot be ignored. –Jon Mule (GTG, gtgrecords.net)

It took me about five listens to get into Propagandhi’s latest album. Then I read a news article that got me pissed off and I cranked this album of twelve songs up loud. I realized that despite the lack of pissed-off vocals from bassist Todd Kowalski (whose guttural yells on past albums gave a sense of urgency to the music), vocalist/guitarist Chris Hannah still retains a subtle anger in his voice. The difference is that it’s not beating anyone over the head here. The riffs are as intense as past albums on songs such as “Comply/Resist” and “In Flagrante Delicto.” There’s still righteous frustration over these thirty-seven minutes but it’s also tinged with a sense of resignation that maybe shit won’t ever change and what’s the point? It’s something I’ve been thinking about more and realized that the importance of life is found in our individual relationships and helping people. Systems may not fall and maybe we may not all be famous. However, it’s lives lived in dignity and that contribute to those around one’s self that can mean more than anything. Propagandhi can be assured that their lyrics and stance on important political and social issues of our times have shown their dignity, contributed happiness to many lives, and caused some of us to change how we view issues. And the songs also rock, so there’s that. –Kurt Morris (Epitaph, epitaph.com)

RADIOACTIVITY: Infected” b/w “Sleep”: 7”
Having solidified their legendary status as half of the Marked Men, both Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan along with recruits Daniel Fried and Gregory Rutherford (both of Bad Sports fame and an excellent band in their own right) join forces to form Radioactivity in Marked Men’s downtime in order to shake the cobwebs out of their ever-so-fruitful music writing heads. Two albums and three EPs later the musical output is as effervescent as their first full length. “Infected” is a hook-laden gem with a marvelously crafted guitar tone and a beat, however steady, that invites the hips of even the hardcorest of dudes in a GISM shirt to sway along. “Sleep” has a poppier sound but relies on its brevity and straight forwardness to lay its egg in your brain which hatches right around the time you start your morning routine after a late night listening session. It has certainly been a while since a band has come along that nearly everyone at Razorcake HQ can get behind. That says a lot, considering we come from all walks of life and, especially, musical tastes. Here’s to many more shared smiles, head bobs, and fist pumps brought on by one of the very best bands going on today. –Juan Espinosa (Wild Honey, wildhoneyrecords.bandcamp.com)

RIPCORDZ: The Vinyl Countdown: 2 x LP
There are many, many amazing punk rock bands from Canada, but are there any bands that are as intrinsically Canadian as Montreal’s Ripcordz? I don’t think so. For almost forty years Paul Gott and his sometimes revolving lineup of musicians have criss-crossed the country playing halls, bars, basements, and garages influencing generations of Canadian punks to get out there and do their own thing. This beautiful double album both serves as a “greatest hits” package (with fifteen albums to date, there is a lot to choose from) and a showcase for a handful of new or previously unreleased tracks. There is also a great retrospective booklet with about a million photos from their many tours and a CD copy of a Christmas album they put together a few years ago. You can’t go wrong! Those of you who don’t reside north of the forty-ninth parallel may not be aware of the Ripcordz (they have only played outside of Canada a handful of times, including once at the legendary CBGB’s), but I can’t recommend them enough. Huge singalong songs, sometimes political, sometimes funny, but always guaranteed to get you dancing around the pit with a smile on your face. This package is the perfect way to get acquainted, eh? –Ty Stranglehold (En Guard)

I absolutely love The Wedding Present. For those unfamiliar, I would describe them as a British indie rock band that started in the mid-’80s that, early on, took cues from the U.K. post-punk movement (think The Fall) but mixed that sound with super catchy, fast pop songs and an endless supply of lyrics about relationships, failed relationships, love, and unrequited love. The songs are always full of wit and often really spoke to me at the time when I first discovered them in the early ‘90s, shortly after the release of their acclaimed Bizarro LP. As time went on, their sound changed a little bit, but there was a time in the mid-’90s when The Wedding Present could do no wrong, and everything they did was one hundred percent perfect. They’ve had many lineup changes since, but their earliest records still remain as some of my favorites. When I heard about this release, a recent “live in the studio” re-recording of their first LP with Steve Albini at the helm released for the thirtieth anniversary of the original, I was pretty skeptical since almost all instances of bands re-recording earlier material results in something subpar. This re-recording doesn’t exactly disappoint—it’s just as advertised—but I do have to say that the gritty, bass-heavy Albini production eliminates all of the ultra-brightness in the guitars the original LP has an overabundance of, making it a completely different listen, almost like a different group of songs entirely. If you are a fan of the original, these re-recorded songs probably wont turn you off, as they’re close enough to the originals to retain their spark, although not really different enough to make this a standout release either. –Mark Twistworthy (Happy Happy Birthday To Me, [email protected])


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