THE 90s CALLED…

Despite what some people seem to recall, the Nineties were a great era to be into indie/underground music. Or at least I’m forced to remember it that way, as those were my twenty-something years of age, the time when I think most find their direction as far as music/culture go. It’s remarkable to still be reviewing records from guys like Ron House, Timmy Vulgar, Eric Davidson, Fink and others who made a big impression on me back then (and I’ll admit to shoehorning some of these artists into the timeframe via their beginnings in the very late years of the 20th century). It’s also fantastic to see a guy like Andrew Lersten still making vital music and still carving out his own niche, perhaps not achieving the acclaim of a band like The Oblivians, but maybe even doing more in his own way to keep the underground vibrant, alive and weird. I love new music and hearing kids out there bringing the now sounds, but I’m also a slave to nostalgia, for better or worse, and here’s a brief update with a heavy whiff of it. It’s strange to realize I’ve been listening to records on In the Red for over 20 years, more than half of my life. I would never have thought that in 2013 that I’d see an Action Swingers 7″ released on Total Punk. It’s amazing to think that one of the Shadowy Men made a record with members of Fucked Up, Elevator and The Curse. It’s heartwarming that guys from the early Rip Off roster are still active. Twenty year old me would’ve been mindblown to know I’d be getting a record in the mail from members of Truman’s Water nearly 20 years later. As always, thanks to everyone for sending in review material, and we’ll have a bunch more up real soon…

Action Swingers “Miserable Life” 7″miserablelife
Honestly, I think this is the most totally punk record on Total Punk because Rich Evans proved he is one of the most daring record execs of all time by going into business with Ned Hayden and coming out of it alive and with a record that is actually available for sale. I’m somewhat shocked that Ned agreed to his end of it as well, as I never would have thought he’d want to work with a current label. I guess finding someone that was excited about releasing songs that are almost 20 years old got his attention. And all joking about Ned Hayden aside, Action Swingers did some absolutely killer stuff, with these two songs being some prime examples. “Miserable Life” is an absolute classic of misanthropy and belongs in the canon of hate with Fang, Drunks with Guns, Big Black and whatever other bile-spewers you have on your list. Just a repeated riff that swirls around the bowl that is your mind just waiting to be flushed. Such a beautiful tune. “Losing My Cool” is a bit rawkier and NYC-sounding but still has Ned and his all-star band wallowing in their own mess. I always wished someone would put ‘Quit While Your Ahead’ on wax, but I guess if you just pick up this single and the “Bum My Trip”/”Kicked in the Head” 7″ up you’re going to be all set. I again have to extend kudos and a certain degree of astonishment out to Rich at Total Punk for pulling this off. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY. Scum stats: 500 copies, one and only pressing, DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS ONE KIDDIES AND/OR JOHAN KUGELBURG COMPLETISTS. (RK)
(Total Punk // www.floridasdying.com)

Autodramatics “Emotional Static” LPautodramaticslp
Debut full length from Autodramatics, the post-Horrors (whose first record came out in ’98!) vehicle of Andy Caffrey, backed up here by members of Diplomats of Solid Sound and Rib Cage (and a few other bands I’d guess), with the rub being two female back-up singers belting out the call-n-response/harmonies. It’s an interesting dynamic, with Andy on lead vox and lead axe, a rhythm guitar player and a guy playing a stripped-down drum kit – taking the trad 3-piece garage-blues line-up and adding the sexy/tough girl vocalizing. It works enough to keep my attaention, the tunes don’t get too bloozy (“There’s no blues in this explosion!”), and Caffrey’s songwriting here reminds me a bit of Bassholes or even the Slicks at times, with a healthy dose of Oblivians and Fireworks as well. The gals’ singing is tastefully used – just some harmonizing coos and woos at times, delivering the chorus or echoing the verses and sometimes just belting it out. Soulful, but not annoyingly so, like if the Bellrays were a really trashy band instead of a slicked up rawk-n-soul revue. Someone said this could be where The Dirtbombs ended up if they took a different turn after ‘Ultraglide…’ and I like that idea too. The record sounds great (having Mike McHugh and John Golden on board helps a lot), fittingly grimy and loud. “Treble Addict” is a cool experiment (and is the most Junkpile Jimmy-esque), “Find the Gun” sounds like a full blown Doo Rag (with harmonica!) and “Children’s Song” is the big soul-rock number with a strong vocal from the gals (although I think it borrows from The Hunches catalog a bit too much, as do some other moments on the record). The bad thing about this is that there isn’t a huge home run of a song on this that has me hooked – it just sounds decent as a whole. I hear they have a second album finished which will be ready in time for their Gonerfest appearance, so maybe that one will have a couple dingers on it. (RK)
(Damn Easy // try In the Red or Goner)

Bunny Skulls “Your Life EP” 7”bunnyskulls
Andrew Lersten has been releasing music since the mid-Nineties under the Vilently Ill moniker, a “band” (Andrew and a drum machine) you need to catch up with now if you’re unaware (start with the “Where is The Next Wave?” EP and work backwards). One of the true heroes of the underground, both via his music and his Knot Music label (home to the Speed Freaks comps and other fine releases), a guy who seems to play music because he has to, audience be damned. I’ve heard that when Mr. California and The Grabbies toured the US they insisted that Vilenty Ill play their MI show – that’s a pretty good recommendation if you have similar (shitty) tastes as me. Andrew has zero web presence (that old Knot Music site seems to have disappeared from the internet) and still runs things via letters and a PO Box. You have to respect that kind of determination. Bunny Skulls are basically Vilently Ill as a full band – 30 second punk songs hammered out one after another, but they’re GREAT 30 second tunes with killer riffs and verses and choruses somehow. This isn’t garbage noise bleats, we’re taking genuine punk rock here, done humorously (but with serious guitar playing) and with a message too (basically fuck “the scene”, fuck trends and eat shit). Nine songs (including an Exploited cover) packed on one side, this might even be better than Vilently Ill just because real drums are better than programmed beats any day. I strongly urge you to drop $5 (and that’s ppd) in an envelope and mail it Knot Music HQ now – and ask what else he has available as well. Scum stats: 300 on black, 50 on yellow. (RK)
(Knot Music // PO Box 501, South Haven, MI 49090-0501)

Connections “Private Airplane” LPconnectionslp
84 Nash were the first non-GBV release on Bob Pollard’s Rockathon Records, and that fact certainly colors not just that band’s work but also this LP from Connections, which features Kevin Elliott and Andy Hampel from 84 Nash along with members of El Jesus de Magico and Times New Viking (Kevin’s brother Adam). Unless you lived in Ohio or were a GBV fanatic, I don’t think you were listening to much 84 Nash in the Nineties. They’re a fine example of an unheralded under-the-radar band that coulda been contenders (depending on who you ask and where they’re from). I’ll be honest, I barely have an opinion on the band – their records were middle-of-the-road college radio fare at the time, and I think I might’ve heard some of their tunes on WBNY. While Connections aren’t the same band, ‘Private Airplane’ is certainly the evolution of the noise-pop the band was crafting then – and it sounds a lot better to me today than it did to a far younger and more punk me over a dozen years ago. Whether that’s my fault or theirs, I do not know, but if you want to hear a pretty damn good GBV-inspired record today here you go. There are hooks all over this thing, it sounds just scrappy enough production-wise and I wouldn’t mind having a single of “1980 Called” (the one song I think is truly great on this LP) b/w “Totally Carpool” (which I will call the best of the half-dozen or so really good songs on this), both of which have that wonderful Ohio stink all over them. With 15 songs in about 35 minutes it goes by so fast you can’t really say anything bad about it. I can’t help but think (or hope) that this would be a huge hit on college radio today, if college radio today wasn’t a fucking joke. (RK)
(Anyway Records // www.anyway-records.com)

Counter Intuits s/t LPcounterintuits
I’ve never met a Ron House record I didn’t like. And talk about a guy who has a great Nineties discography: the TJSA catalog, the Ego Summit LP, the “New Wave as the Next Guy” CD, and we can even drag Great Plains’ Eighties output into the convo, but that would be overkill. Counter Intuits are House and Jared Phillips from Times New Viking (another in the long line of bands I finally got into after they pretty much called it quits) playing loose with the already loose DIY principle – Phillips provides the music, House the vox (natch), and anything goes. This LP (which I believe is self-titled, although some are referring to it as ‘Sheet(s) of Hits’) is what I had hoped just about every record labeled as DIY/post-punk released over the past few years would have sounded like. No formulaic “sound” where every tune is the same except for a different guitar pedal, there’s just no formula at all. Unlearned/sloppy guitar playing (the pretty damn funny “No Computer Blues”), faux-folk Americana (“Oxycontin Blues”), loping bass-n-synth (“Stickin Pins”), fake punk turned real (“Anarchy on Yr Face”), no-fi pop (“Time Was Update”), what sound like lost (Sebadoh-style) Nineties tape-rock classics (“Study Hall Art” or “Non-Essential Personnel”), out of tune free-form wackiness (“Lather and the Din”)…every song is a revelation. I loved the Psandwich record, but this one trumps it with some of Ron’s finest lyrical turns since the TJSA days. It’s the type of record where a different tune will run on a loop in your head after each listen. And just so you don’t think it’s all weirded out, there are raw rockers like “Stolen Souls” to settle your brain. If you haven’t already bought this you are out of your mind, because they are practically giving this away for free ($10 from most distros?!) and it’s one of the best records of the year. The screened/pasted sleeves are as DIY as it gets, and this has one of the best inserts of recent memory if you need even more reasons to not be a dick and pick this up. (RK)
(Pyramid Scheme Recdords // try Fusetron or Indoorsman)

Fatal Figures “Caterwaul” LPfatalfigslp
Late Nineties Buffalo was actually a pretty happening spot in the garage scene, believe it or not. We were home to one of the best labels (Big Neck Records), the preeminent music fest of the day (Rust Belt Revolt), great record stores (Home of Hits and New World Records), great venues (and bookers) that made it easy for touring bands to stop (Sanctuary, Mohawk and others) and some of the finest bands of the era, the Blowtops being one of them. A dozen or so years later, all of those venues and stores are closed, Bart and Big Neck (along with the fest) were run out of town and relocated to Virginia and all the bands from that era have either left the city or broken up. (I should note we had another great run a couple of years ago, but that’s another story…). The Blowtops persevered through it all, closing up shop some five years ago after European and US tours, four or five full lengths and at least a dozen singles. Fatal Figures were borne from that last Blowtops line-up (Adduci/Tracy/Scott/Creepy Dave), with Aaron taking over vocals from the departed Creepy and streamlining into a trio. Sadly, this debut LP might also prove to be their last, as serious health issues have made Scott unable to play drums any longer. ‘Caterwaul’ is a vast improvement from their debut 7” (in regards to both sound and cover art) and surely continues the Blowtops sound somewhat but bringing the NYC noise rock tendencies to the forefront (Chrome Cranks) and putting the garage vibes in the backseat. It’s really not that far off from some of the burl emanating from Australia these days, a strong bass backbone, Scott’s drumming sounds a bit more reined in but still powerful and this is honestly some of Aaron’s best guitar playing and he turns in a surprisingly great vocal turn as well. The LP is a concise nine songs recorded by Diamond Jim Diamond, “Go Down” brings to mind labelmates The Mistreaters, “Televison” seriously swings, and the 1-2 closing of “New God” and “Get Out” is the band’s finest moment. A good and loud record for noise mongers everywhere. (RK)
(Big Neck Records // www.bigneckrecords.com)

The Filthy Gaze of Europe “Domestic Accidents” 7″filthygaze
In another example of “How did these guys get to this sound?”, we have Toronto’s TFGOE. One part Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet and one part Sadies combine with some guest vocalists (including Pink Eye, Amanda Schenk, Mickey Skin from The Curse and the guy from Left for Dead) to make what the label aptly describes as “electronic thrash” – think Suicide if they had formed thirty years later in Canada. Industrial strength drum programming, harsh synths, heavy basslines and guitar scree. The Sadies were never a favorite of mine, but they were a fine band who I always felt rose above their “genre” and were honestly great live – plus, Dallas Good did a tour of duty with Elevator, who might just be my favorite Canadian band of all time (and one of the most under-appreciated acts ever). Don Pyle was in Crash Kills Five (whose excellent 1980 single was reissued by Ugly Pop) before going on to SMOASP, who most will simply recall as the band who did the Kids in the Hall theme and write off as a goofy surf band, but who were actually an excellent instrumental group who (along with Man or Astroman?) transcended the surf tag and made three great LPs that were as funny and witty as they were rocking and were just great music regardless of genre. Their debut LP ‘Savvy Show Stoppers’ was recently reissued on Mammoth Cave and comes highly recommended. So yeah, how did those guys get here? “Domestic Accidents” is the better side, almost reminds me of the paranoiac future-punk of The Pink Noise, but far more aggro. Includes a Casio bongo(?!) solo and has the better guest vox (Skin and Colohan). “On Fire” is the B-Side and has an even harsher instrumentation and overblown vocals from Damian and Schenk, who sound like they’re really hamming it up here. This one might be more for fans of digital hardcore or breakcore (am I just making these genres up?) than traditional punk, and was definitely not what I was expecting. Scum stats: 200 copies each on green, white and red wax. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

FOOD “Four Pieces From Candyland” 12″ EPFOOD
FOOD is an acronym for Far Out Old Dudes. I’m not kidding. And the old dudes in question are a veritable Nineties uh…what’s the opposite of supergroup? Led by Ed fROMOHIO of fIREHOSE backed by the bass player from Gumball and the drummer from The Cynics, this is four songs of what is of course described as “stripped-down, straightforward, no bullshit” rock’n'roll. Punk rock is mentioned in the press release more than a few times as well. It’s standard alt-rock made by dudes in their fifties, with the only truly cringeworthy moment being the hokey country-rock of “Jesus and Johnny Cash”. There’s one slow song, one rocker that sounds like a Goo Goo Dolls tune and one other that reminds me of that “Closing Time” song. Adult contemporary bar rock, but I suppose we should give these guys credit for writing new music, as opposed to some old-timers out there still trying to play punk songs they wrote when they were 18 years old. Thankfully these guys kept the fedora wearing to only one in the band photo. (RK)
(Phratry Records // www.phratryrecords.com)

The Hot LZ’s “Bringdown Comedown Putdown” 7” EPhotlzs
I first thought this band’s name had something to do with hot lesbian action, but it’s actually a reference to Vietnam-era military slang for a hot landing zone. Huh. Hot LZ’s are the latest Mark Death band, a guy who has been playing shitty garage rock (both the good and bad kind) since the mid-Nineties in The Halfways, who had some really good tracks on their singles (especially the ones Matt Odietus played on). Then there was the Moneychangers, who did some fine shit-fi work of their own (the ‘Missed Chords..’ EP in particular – “Burnside Trash” was a personal fave). There was also a band with Scott Drake I think, but maybe that was just a guest shot on the Wittdrawls record (which wasn’t so hot). Anyway, it’s all B-team stuff, but sometimes the B-team is more fun, especially when it’s borderline incompetent. Hot LZ’s carry over some of the Moneychangers line-up for this four song debut EP. “Margins of My Mind” is mid-tempo garage plod with awkward vocal phrasings galore, “I’m A Bring Down” busts out the wah pedal for some really dumb garage-punk with lyrics so bad you’ll love them (“I’ll bring you down/make you look like a clown/I hope you drown…” etc..). It’s the hit, if this record has such a thing. “Wrong Side (of Right)” is like a really slow Loli & The Chones song, more dumb lyrics and songwriting so plain/basic it hurts. Listening to Death shoehorn the lyrics into these songs starts becoming really interesting on this one, which also includes the most blistering solo (meaning it’s rudimentary at best). “Dumb it Down” closes up shop, and this is song is pretty terrible, some kind of weird Humpers/Dolls jungle rhythm with shakers and an organ. I’m not sure what to say here – this is certainly not a good record and hardly even a so-bad-it’s-good record. It’s just a bad record, but I might be so far down the rabbit hole at this point I’m starting to enjoy listening to legit bad records just because they’re usually more interesting than average/good. It’s sort of fascinating to hear a bad band try and dumb it down even further (or are they even dumbing it down at all?). I listened to this like seven times in a row and I’m just confused about life at this point. Good job guys? Scum stats: 200 copies with some bizarre covers. At first I was wondering why the fuck anyone would coat the sleeves of their records in wax, but then I realized this thing glows in the dark – and it works great! Talk about DIY packaging. The screened art looks like a fourth generation photo copy in classic budget rock style and it comes on garbage colored vinyl with one of those built in center spindles that looks cool. I also really enjoyed the Mark Death business card (MARK DEATH – SHOW BUSINESS). (RK)
(Hate Street Records // mark_death_giveup-at-yahoo.com)

Human Eye “4:Into Unknown” LPhumaneye4
Human Eye are certainly of of the top five bands operating in the solar system today and you could easily make a case to put them on the top of that list. They’re absolutely incredible both live and on record, and this fourth LP shows them taking their sound to even further reaches. If ‘They Came From The Sky’ was Vulgar and his crew battling slime creatures from outer space for dominance over the planet Earth, ‘Into Unknown’ has them comandeering those alien spaceships and blasting off into space for further adventures. This isn’t as full of all-out psych-rock blasters, although it still has a few (tracks like “Buzzin’ Flies” still have them in heavy monster sound mode), but shows the band going off on some more Sixties/Seventies indebted space rock and even prog excursions. There’s still plenty of Motor City rock action, and “Juciy Jaw” and “Alligator Dance” are the type of Detroit-style rockers that the Clone Defects perfected. “Gettin’ Mean” opens the record with some intergalactic strut that is the bridge between the band’s past efforts and this LP. “Immortal Soldier” is an epic outer space ballad, and songs like “Surface of Pluto” and “Outlaw Lone Wolf” really show off the prog moves including some flute playing, Vulgar crooning out the vox and some extended passages of instrumental work doing some non-verbal storytelling of a sort. “Faces in the Shadows” has a classic Seventies stoned-rock feel to it (Sir Lord Vulgar perhaps) and the title track closes the record with their most Hawkwind-esque song to date, shooting them into the wormhole, bound for the outlying reaches, leaving us to wonder if we’ll ever see them again. Vulgar could have easily blown our heads off with another devasting splatter-psych record but instead chose to show off some different (and more technical) approaches to melting our minds. There is still plenty of blasting guitar work from Timmy, Johnny LZR’s synth squeal adds sci-fi scope (as usual) to the more “out” passages and Colin Simon (from Fontana) is such a great drummer that you forget that Billy Hafer is no longer manning kit (although he and Thommy Hawk do appear on “Immortal Soldier”). Even though there are some mellower vibes at work here, this is by no means a sedate album – it’s always moving and changing forms, coming out of the speakers as viscous sound. A fantastic voyage of an LP that gives us more than we could have asked for. The first Clone Defects 7″ came out in 1999, and here we are in 2013, with Tim Vulgar rocking no less hard, but somehow even weirder, and the the closest thing we have to a modern rock god. He’s real fucking deal all the way, as are Human Eye. Scum stats: 100(?) copies came on white vinyl with red streaks that looks just like an eyeball (which I need a copy of) and the Vulgar/LZR artwork is top notch – and it’s about time someone gave them a gatefold to work with.(RK)
(Goner Records // www.goner-records.com)

Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds “Conjure Man” 7”kidcongo7
Kid Congo will forever get a pass from anyone with good taste for his service with The Cramps, Gun Club and Bad Seeds. A true legend. The Nineties weren’t his best years, however, as Congo Norvell weren’t much to write home about and I always thought The Knoxville Girls were a letdown. But for as goofy a band name as Pink Monkey Birds is, that ‘Dracula Boots’ LP was pretty cool (and was actually recorded in a high school gymnasium) as is this 7″ teaser for the upcoming ‘Haunted Head’ LP on ITR (I should note there were two records in between ‘Dracula Boots’ and this that I have not heard). “Conjure Man” is Southern swamp Americana, could have been on the ‘Wild at Heart’ soundtrack and fit in perfectly. The flip is a cover of The Seeds’ “Lose Your Mind” which sounds like Diddley-gone-psych with some weird theremin/synth/guitar sounds and deadpan Kid vox with some female back-ups. Maybe a bit of a toss off B-Sider, but “Conjure Man” I dig a lot, and I’d maybe wait to see if it shows up on the LP if you’re on a budget. Scum stats: 500 copies with 100 on red, and I did not expect to get a great looking sleeve silkscreened on the back of a Hamm’s 12 pack from this label or artist. Nice.(RK)
(In the Red // www.intheredrecords.com)

Livids “Your House or the Courthouse” 7″lividsslov
This counts as either the second or third Livids 7″ depending on the order you bought this and the Goodbye Boozy one I guess. Title cut is action rock with a prominent bass sound and a pretty subdued vocal coming from a guy as energetic as Eric Davidson. The hook is there and I enjoy the crisp guitar sound and Jami Wolf’s backup vox. “Zilch” sounds way louder, sharper and faster, and even if it’s about a minute long, it’s a great 90s throwbacker. New Bomb Turks always excelled at cover songs, to the point where I was excited to hear who they were covering as much as their originals. Eric seems to be trying to do the same with Livids, but this drab run through “New Values” isn’t at all exciting. This one has a decent A-Side, but the worst artwork of the Livids records so far. (RK)
(Slovenly Records // www.slovenly.com)

MOTO “Bolt!” LPmotobolt
MOTO “E Pluribus MOTO” LP
If you haven’t been keeping up, aside from their great KBD and STL reissues of late, Rerun Records has also taken up the task of reissuing much of MOTO’s back catalog on vinyl (and even starting up a fan club soon…), and these two LPs are just the beginning. In regards to MOTO, I think everyone has a soft spot for them somewhere in their heart. A truly cult band, Paul Caporino (and whoever he has playing with him) has been at it for over 30 years now, with a MASSIVE catalog of hits (and shits) behind him that I’m sure it’s daunting to the uninitiated. If you’re new, you might as well start with “Bolt!” (which I never knew stood for Best Of Lent Tapes – as this cassette album was recorded during Lent 1986), which itself starts with one of the most classic MOTO tunes, “Dick About it”. You couldn’t pick a better song as your first MOTO experience – killer pop-rock dick jokes as social commentary. The rest of ‘Bolt!’ is 45 minutes of top notch lo-fi punk, garage and rock’n’roll with a surprising amount of melodic hooks and songcraft for so early in the game. The guy’s just got a knack for these tunes, and I have to say I always appreciated that MOTO always keeps the rock at the forefront and rarely if ever could be classified as pop-punk. There’s something goofily Richman-esque about Caporino’s tunes at times, sort of waxing nostalgic about babes and b-movies in the same ways. Personal faves: “Big Black Boots” is damn punk, “Catholic World” hits home, I love the sentiment of “California in the Summertime” and it was fun to see a Barry Goubler songwriting credit here (for those of us who remember Goubler’s Goner Board persona). emoto“E Pluribus MOTO” was first released in 1993 and is Caporino playing along with a drum machine (like most early MOTO records are) and this one has a big hit (like most MOTO records) in “It Tastes Just Like A Milkshake”. I always thought this one sounded a little too drum-“machiney” (if that makes sense, and ‘Bolt!’ is a good example of non-drum machiney for reference), but “Cancer In My Dick” is one of Paul’s funniest and “Transformoto” is wacky spoken word/comedy skit stuff that I wish there was more of. Just in case you didn’t know, both of these were released on vinyl in Euroland back in the Nineties and were getting some insane bids on eBay, so good on Rerun for hitting back at the machine. If I had to pick, I’d choose ‘Bolt!’ everyday, but fanatics will need both. Scum stats: limited to 500 copies, and watch for more MOTO from Rerun soon.(RK)
(Rerun Records // www.rerunrecordsstl.com)

Negro Spirituals “Black Garden” 7″negrospirit
The Nineties rub on this one is that A Wicked Company is a new label from the guy who used to do Vertical Records. Look ‘em up on discogs, and you’ll see that Vertical released early Sebadoh, Royal Trux and Cop Shoot Cop records along with stuff from weirdos like Merzbow, Caroliner and Lisa Suckdog. That’s a pretty decent label. Negro Spirituals is the first record under the AWC banner, and I have to question restarting a label in 2013 to release this one, as it comes off like a sloppy version of the neo-goth sound so popular with the kids today. I love excessive amounts of reverb more than most, but these guys didn’t even get that right. It just seems muddy and confused, amps sound blown in a way that is not good. It’s as if the idea here was write a post-punky bassline, then plop some echoed out vocals and synth on top and voila, here’s our new goth band. Pretty lame. The fact that this is a Tenement side project is not surprising, because that band kinda sucks. This sounds like a poorly dubbed tape of a bad Rayon Beach (or some other Woven Bones side project) single that isn’t even on Hozac. Not a great debut release for the label (or the band), but their next single is from G. Green so I’ll stick around. Not being into Merzbow didn’t stop me from buying the “Spike Cyclone” 2×7″, if you know what I’m saying…(RK)
(A Wicked Company // awickedcompanyrecords.bandcamp.com)

Oblivians “Desperation” LPoblivsdesp
The big deal with the first Oblivians studio record since ’99 (if my math is right – and obviously not counting live records, ‘On the Go’ or their side of that Scion split) seems to be people saying something along the lines of “It’s no ‘Soul Food’” or something similarly dismissive. And of course it’s not ‘Soul Food’ redux, nor should you expect it to be. It’s a new record from a band whose first single came out twenty years ago – and it’s hard to realize “Call the Shots” (and myself in relation) has been kicking around for that long. This is a damn good record regardless of whatever baggage you want to bring into it. I think it was Eric who summed it up perfectly in the excellent Goner/Oblivians feature in a recent issue of Thrasher, saying something to the extent of instead of them recording at 2:00 am fueled by booze they recorded this one at 8:00 am hopped up on coffee. People and bands age, and some do it tastefully as Greg, Jack and Eric have. 14 songs, six of them being Greg tracks, two Erics, three Jacks and three covers (“Lovin’ Cup”, “Call the Police” and “Mama Guitar”, all impeccably chosen and played). I’ll admit that the Greg songs that open both sides sound like Reigning Sound played through the Oblivs filter (“I’ll Be Gone” and “Come A Little Closer”), but he backs that up with a real fun rocker (“Pinball King”), one his classic garagers-’bout-a-girl (“Em”) and two great punkers (the title cut and “Oblivion” – which was their song from the Scion split). Jack really comes through on this one with what might be the two best songs – the slow and dirty “Back Street Hangout” (killer solo, and maybe the most desperate sounding cut on a record called ‘Desperation’) and the freight-train garage-punk of “Run for Cover”. Eric handles the two most punk cuts (“Fire Detector” and “Woke Up In A Police Car” – which makes a great 1-2 bunch with “Call the Police”, which in turn might be one of their best covers ever, with help from Quintron once again). It’s very hard to look at this record in regards to their back catalog – songs that are ingrained in our consciousness after over a decade of marinating. It’s not them blazing through “Kick Your Ass” or “And Then I Fucked Her” haphazardly in their twenties, and I hope that’s not what you want out of this record. This is the record I hoped they would make in 2013 as three guys who have done a hell of a lot in between this and 1999. There’s not a bad song in the bunch, as expected, and I’ll say my only minor complaints are maybe wishing there were a couple more Jack or Eric tunes, and I wish they would’ve got D’lana for a cover model just for old time’s sake. If you want some dickheaded record review spew, I’ll say I like this record better than any Reigning Sound record since ‘Too Much Guitar’ and I might end up listening to it more than ‘Play 9 Songs…’ in the long run. A fitting return from one of the greatest garage-punk bands ever. Scum stats: there’s a limited blue vinyl mailorder version that people seem to be fond of…(RK)
(In the Red // www.intheredrecords.com)

Octa#grape “As Long As I Forget” 7″octagrape
The terribly named Octa#grape are a group of major players from the Nineties San Diego scene – two guys from Truman’s Water (including the guy who was also in Soul-Junk! Oof!) and the guitar player from Olivelawn (and fluf), plus a guy from a band called Vytear that I’m not familiar with, but who apparently play “chillwave”. Truman’s Water were a tough band for me to get into (although recalling some of their album/song titles, the name of this band makes a little more sense), for awhile I felt they were Pavement apers and then they became a band that was too arty/free for me to dig fully, but I really tried. A telling moment in my relationship with the band is that I’ve owned at least five or six of their records, and right now none of them are still in my possession. Olivelawn and fluf, I’ll confess to thinking of them as SD’s version of grunge (Jack Endino production included), and they had a song or two I’m sure I was into back then – and it should be noted that O(tis) is a real renaissance man, also moonlighting as a skate photograpaher, a “famous” roadie, producer (of Blink 182′s first record most notably) and record label CEO among many other things. Thinking about all this history, I’m very surprised at what this sounds like – and what it sounds like is Flight (the band – remember them?) right down to the vocal effect and recording, with some Woven Bones and SF-style “garage” touches. Maybe they’ve been hanging with the Volar Records guy or the kids from The Beaters or Ale Mania. I have no idea how these dudes got to this sound from where they were twenty years ago – I almost thought whoever wrote this note was fucking with me about the band members until I internetted this shit. Neither song is bad if you’re into this sound, there are certainly a coupla hooks here and the playing is tight, but fuck, that kid from Flight should get his lawyers on this. It should also be noted that these dudes are playing songs in a genre “created” over the past few years by a bunch of kids and doing it better than most of those kids, for whatever that’s worth. (RK)
(Thing Thing Thing // thingthingthing.bandcamp.com)

The Raydios “Do You Wanna Walk With Me?” 7”raydioswalk
The latest from the revived Raydios, who’ve been pretty busy the past couple of years since the demise of Firestarter (four 7”es and an LP by my count). I’ll admit to not being aware enough to get the last couple of singles they did on Mangrove, but this one is pretty hot and shockingly tough. “Do You Wanna Walk With Me?” reminds me of The Dictators first and foremost, perhaps with a slight glam-stomp to it, but it’s a banger with a gang chorus and catchy riff. Fink’s vox sound great here, and it even has a bit of a Ramones-y hard-pop breakdown as well. “Lies” is again tough stuff, but cooks with some more Teengenerate fire (“GO!”), upping the tempo with a thumping bassline, scratchy guitar and another killer break-up – and again, it gets all ‘tators-NYC-ish at the end, which I’m liking a lot. The best Raydios record I’ve heard since the Nineties. I’m serious. (RK)
(Target Earth // www.ne.jp/asahi/target/earth)

The Shirks s/t 12″ EPshirks12
After a few singles, DC’s The Shirks step up to 12 inches in size for this eight song EP. If you’ve been following the story so far, this is Al from The Problematics new outfit for all you Rip Off Records aficionados, but it’s certainly not rehashing the old sounds so much as it is punking it up more. Some of these tunes sound like Devil Dogs blasting through hardcore tunes, others sound like a modern buzzsaw-guitar version of New Bomb Turks. Faves include “9:30 Dicks”, which takes a jab at the DC venue, and “I Don’t Want to Work It” which is somehow a great modern take on junkie-punk. “Bad Area” ends up sounding a little Fat Wreckords-y, but I guess it’s a fine line to walk when you try to play anthemic punk rock these days. Decent enough throwback stuff here, and I hate to say it but I think the best tunes on this are what I was hoping The Livids were going to sound like. Scum stats: first 100 copies on red vinyl. (RK)
(Grave Mistake // www.greavemistakerecords.com)

V/A “Big Neck Record Store Day Compilation” 7”bigneckrsd
Bart Hart jumps into the RSD game for the first time with this four band compilation with some new acts and some Nineties players as well. The Livids song on this might be my favorite of theirs so far, as “Stop Bleeding” is just straightforward punk blaze with no frills and it goes down with some good burn. Then the X-Rays show up on this thing for a total Nineties flashback (yes the UK band who did the ‘Double Godzilla With Cheese’ LP), and “Six Pack Style” sounds so much like a vintage New Bomb Turks tune it’s remarkable – I don’t ever remember them sounding this good? I guess they have a new LP coming out soon as well. The Nineties really are back. The B-Side has Ireland’s Cheap Freaks, who have members of The Things, a band I never really thought were very good but I’m guessing they sold a decent enough amount of records in Europe. Their tune is passable Euro-garage with gruff vocals. The awkwardly named Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb from DC close it out with a treble-charger of Rip Off-style punk that pays tribute to White Castle, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. I think most people will be interested in this to satisfy their Livids jones, but the X-Rays track is surprisingly good and SWALTB are better than their name has you thinking. Scum stats: 600 on mixed-color vinyl. (RK)
(Big Neck Records // www.bigneckrecords.com)

UP NEXT: The 80s call, Australia and Canada drop by, and Termbo Giant Size Annual #36….

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