PLUS BRILLANTS EXPLOITS

One of the biggest advantages of WNY living is our proximity to the True North, making quick strikes across the border for shows in Toronto (or Hamilton, London or even the rare hardcore matinee in St. Catharines) fast and convenient. There were times when the Buffalo scene was so dead that I’d be in Toronto 3 or 4 times a month to see touring bands that skipped us. I’ll always be grateful for having such fine neighbors and will always have a soft spot for Canadian rock bands, as spending a good part of my youth in places like Crystal Beach, Thunder Bay, Port Colborne and along the Welland Canal began a lifelong love affair with the country and its people. This blog update was heavily soundtracked by the Kremlin LP (which is one of the best of the year) and the reissues of Ugly Pop Records (the Canadian singles discussed below and more non-Canadian ones we’ll review shortly, and thanks for reminding me “All Out Attack” is one of the best punk EPs ever…), which I endorse heavily. And much as there is more to New York state than just New York City, there’s much more to Canada than just Toronto – great bands, zines and labels from Ottawa, Montreal, Hamilton, Vancouver, Halifax, Edmonton, Calgary, Sackville and more that I’ve touched on in past issues/updates, and aside from just what I’ve crammed into this short selection (and I’ve taken the liberty of including reviews of non-Canadian bands on Vancouver’s wonderful Sweet Rot label). As always, I’ve managed to shoehorn a reference to a certain Moncton artist into another Canadian record review, so watch out for that. Up next we have Australia, 1980s Rock’n’Roll and other big things.

Babysitter “Eye” LPbabysitterlp
Babysitter hit the full length vinyl stage after releasing a shit tonne of cassettes (I think at least six numbered volumes) and a seven-inch or two, so they’ve had plenty of time to tinker with their tunes and this LP is made up of re-recorded versions of the “hits” culled from their previous efforts. At a glance they seem to be an indie-rock band influenced by Nineties hitters like Pavement and Archers of Loaf and adding some modern garage-punk moves. ‘Eye’ starts off strong with a couple of punky anthems loaded with sarcasm (“Talkin’ ‘bout the New Generation” and “Real Wild Child’s Gone Totally Mild”) and then a couple trebly indie-rockers (“1969ties”and “Angel of Death”) that recall ‘Green Mind’-era Dino Jr. or Sonic Youth at their most conventional. The rest of the side is filled with some grungier rock’n’roll efforts that go down smoothly enough. The B-Side goes deeper into the tunnel for some loud pop-rock that wouldn’t have been out of place in mid-Nineties Seattle, with some Neil Young references and noise guitar passages as touchstones. None of this is all that bad, but after a full side this guy’s sneering “punk” vocal approach starts to grate and its incompatibility with some of the tunes becomes more apparent and less interesting. I can appreciate the rock’n’roller vibes they put into some of the music, but after a few trips to the well it starts to seem a bit schticky in a Mean Jeans-like way. The more sincere indie-rock tunes are the best parts of this, but I feel like they could’ve cut this thing in half and I would have liked it a lot more. Scum stats: 500 copies. (RK)
(Psychic Handshake // psychichandshake.bigcartel.com)

Bad Skin “We’re Dogs” 7” EPbadskin7
Archival release from the now defunct (or maybe not?) Bad Skin, young punkers who ran amok in Southern Ontario back in the olden days of 2009-13 or so, and somehow recorded these songs before dissolving. Originally from Gananoque (I had to look that one up! It’s about midway between TO and MTL), they relocated to the Big Smoke and inhabited a shitty punk house that the author of the (very enjoyable) liner notes recounts some stories of. It’s pretty raw and simple punk rock, perhaps Poison Idea with some Oi influences (anthemic choruses, beefy vocals). Demo-quality recordings that are cleaned up nicely enough, maintaining a stripped-down and aggressive feel. Both A-Side cuts burn by pretty fast (“We’re Dogs” was probably a real crowd pleaser) but I think the B-Side is what’s of interest here. “Commute” is a real hardcore ball-buster, but “Scab” is the fucking HIT – big punk guitar hook, vocals are ripe for a singlalong, and the tempo changes burst with energy. A really strong track (and again, very much PI-sounding in the rock’n’roll punkitude dept.) that demands repeat spins and would sound even better with a louder recording. Actually, this song is so good it makes the others seem pretty ordinary. Scum stats: no idea, but the liner notes are a riot (he makes fun of Hard Skin, Lost Sounds and Hunx & His Punx all in the same paragraph somehow) and I dig the sketched artwork. I wish these guys and Kremlin would come play Buffalo. (RK)
(Bad Vibrations // badvibrationsrecords.blogspot.com)

Bent Wind “Sacred Cows” 7” bentwind
Another uber-rare reissue of Sixties Canadian garage rocking, this time from Toronto’s Bent Wind (whose ‘Sussex’ LP is thought to be one the rarest Canadian records ever, supposedly fetching $3000 for a copy). Recorded in 1969 and released before the LP (and I should mention Ugly Pop is working on a reissue of that as well), “Sacred Cows” is the lead-off track from the full length, and this version is a bit shorter and less heavy yet still pretty crude, a Grade A choogler with a great guitar duel no matter which way you slice it. I always though “Castles Made of Man” was a hilarious song title, and also always thought it actually appeared on the LP, but just realized it was only a bonus track on some of the reissues of ‘Sussex’ and was originally exclusive to this single. It’s your standard drugged-out slow jam with the wah-pedal working so hard you can practically feel it crying. Psychedelic nonsense lyrics are a big plus. This 7” is a good teaser for the full length, but once you’ve heard the LP you’ll realize that tease is the word, but that’s no reason not to grab this. Scum stats: going into third press already, if you haven’t heard any Bent Wind yet you should start warming up with this now. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Blue Cross “Mass Hysteria” LP bluecrosslp
This one’s been out for a while but the Shogun Records gent was nice enough to send us a promo pack, so I’ll travel back in time. I’ve actually had this one since it came out, purchased after digging their demo quite a bit. Hailing from Ottawa, they’re a new-goth two-piece, utilizing programmed drums, synths, guitar and plenty of reverb (of course), making the most out of the minimal line-up. The female vocals certainly put a Siouxsie slant on things, and having a background in the Canadian metal/crust scene pushes the vibes into very dark territories instead of going for simply shadowy Cure-like wave/postpunk, where a lot bands of this ilk end up. Only eight songs make this more of an EP, and they’ve since recorded another LP which I would like to hear, as even these early tunes show them well along their way to something good. “End Up Alone” is one of the creepiest modern efforts in this arena you’ll hear, the title cut is a great tribal thumper, both of which could have been A-Sides to singles. There’s some Christian Death swiping (“Headstone”) and “Bring Out Your Dead” and “Disconnect” could easily have been the B-Sides to those non-existent seven inchers. At their very best they remind me of what Pleasure Leftists or Australia’s Rule of Thirds do (and do well), but in a more traditonally gothic/Anarcho-punk (and Canadian) style. It seems like there’s not much chatter about this band, but if you’re into this genre they’re well worth investigating further, as they do it convincingly straight and without any irony or fashion-punk wanking. (RK)
(Shogun Records // www.burnoutzine.net/shogun/recordings)

The Bureaucrats “Feel the Pain” 7” bcrats
Recorded in 1979 and released in 1980, The Bureaucrats single is a deadly two-sider of Toronto mod-pop-punk that’s one of those rare punk singles that’s as good as it scarce. I know and love both of these songs from their inclusion on Smash the State Volume 3, a personal favorite of mine as far as Canadian-KBD-punkola goes (what a great line-up on that comp, with the ‘crats, Gentlemen of Horror, Da Slyme, Siggy Magic, Red Squares, etc…). “Feel the Pain” is the super-catchy modd-ish track which is like a punker Jam or simpler Buzzcocks, a great 80’s non-wimpy but still very poppy cut. Understated guitar work and authentic British vox enhance the UK-vibes. B-Side is “Grown Up Age” that reminds me of a poppier cut off of a Professionals record, tough but hooky with an anthemic chorus, and “Sid Wells” has a thick Steve Jones-y cockney sneer on this one which makes it sound extra snotty. An under-rated K(anadian)BD punk 7” – these guys supposedly recorded an LP later on that I’ve never heard, and probably never will, as not to taint my love of this perfect punk single. Scum stats: 100 copies on yellow with a color sleeve variant, plus a regular edition which is of the usual high standards Ugly Pop has maintained on all releases – pocket sleeve, insert, repro labels, etc. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Crosss “Obsidian Spectre” LP crossslp
Somewhat intriguing stuff here from Crosss, a trio from Halifax that are blending/blurring microgenres and creating some mystic Canadian rock with varying results. In their best moments they take the nature-infused psychedelica of a Rick White band, the evil folk rock of Witchcraft, the heavy riffage and the desolate drone of doom bands and shape it into their version of stoned rock’n’roll. “Lucky Loki” is the sort of playful lysergic rock you might have heard on an Elevator demo cassette, a seemingly pleasant tune with darkness ‘round the edges and mythological lyrics. Heavy woodland fantasy rock. “Smoke” sounds like forest grunge with predominant hippie vibes. “Bones Brigade” is glacial doom with the riff and drums falling into step with each other, sounding on the brink of an avalanche that never explodes down the mountain. “Witching Hour” and “Sacred Cow” veer too far into modern Bay Area garagedelica, and the Segall vibes are a bummer after they had built up a good head of steam. “Mountain King” meets us half way – it has a bit of a heavy riff at least, but the vox are still too West Coast if you follow my drift. They do finish the side well with “Old Sound”, which sounds like a slower SST-era Soundgarden tune without Cornell’s vox and with more psyched-out guitar. After running through this side a few times, I realize the guy’s voice makes or breaks them. He doesn’t sound tough enough to really get over the Scandanavian-seeming weed, furs and campfires heavy doom/rock thing they achieve musically on some of the tunes, but it’s peculiar enough to give it a weird Canadian backwoods-vibed version of that style when it works (see the first three tracks) – when the tunes become a bit too conventional, it just leaves him sounding like a Segall/Cronin/Melton clone (the three middle tracks). All of that action happens on the A-Side. The B-Side is one long piece (“Will-o-the-Wisp”) played live in 2009 at a place called Drones Club, with a different line-up than the studio tracks, aside from one Andy March, who is revealed as the brains behind Crosss. Seems like a loose improvisational jam-out with lots of guitar drone and atmosphere – sounds like Sonic Youth stretching out a Neil Young-inspired experiment. Certainly nothing wrong with it, but it’s not exactly on fire either. I enjoyed some of this LP, where they sounded heavy and not like the dozens of bands on the West Coast (or anywhere else now that the trend is ripe for hopping) playing in this style – that’s the pitfall of trying to play “psych” these days, a lot of bands have ruined it for everyone else, so the minute you start sounding similar to them you’re fucked. This one’s half good enough that I’ll try and hear what they do next. And the mysterious “art” at least makes it look like a Factums record and not the latest LP on Castleface. (RK)
(Telephone Explosion // www.telephoneexplosion.com)

Greenback High “Bombs Away” 7” greenbackh
Greenback High (no relation to Jeff) have members of Von Zippers (who had a couple of good moments), DOA (the drummer from a recent “reunion”) and Vicious Cycle(s?) in their line-up and use that experience to play some really generic powerpop. Recorded slick, hooks you’ve heard dozens of times re-heated and played real tight – it’s just assembly line produced “punk”. “Bombs Away” is boring powerpop with corny bomb-drop sound effects, but “All of us Or None” is certainly the more offensive tune with its cloying “We’re all in this together!” sentiment. I liked the look of this record with its stamped and stickered DIY-looking sleeve, and was hoping for some inept teenage garage punk or apsehit frat rock or just anything interesting to match it. I was certainly disappointed. Scum stats: 330 copies. (RK)
(Greenback High // greenbackhigh.bigcartel.com)

Hassler “Amorality” 7” EP hassler7
Heavy duty hardcore from Hassler, who feature members of Career Suicide, Bad Skin, Brutal Knights, Toxic Holocaust(!) and more vets of the Toronto scene. I think this is where the singer from Bad Skin ended up. Fairly well polished HC with gruff vox, simple yet effective riffs, and plenty of moshable breakdowns. Reminds me a bit of Urban Blight and one of those bands with Violent in their name (there are so many I lose track). Honestly, it sounds generic to me, but for fans whose main focus is HC there are probably some intricacies I’m missing. I far prefer what the kids in Kremlin/School Jerks are doing, I’ll say that. Scum stats: 100 on green vinyl for mailorder out of the first pressing of 500 – which are now all gone. Second pressing with red/yellow labels still available. (RK)
(Beach Impediment // beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)

Kremlin “Drunk in the Gulag” 12”kremlinlp
Kremlin is the finest Canadian punk band going right now and really one of my favorite punk from anywhere over the past year. Their debut EP was one of the better short players of 2012 (just reissued domestically by Grave Mistake for all you sleepers), setting expectations high for this 12”, a split release between Beach Impediment and the band’s own Bad Vibrations imprint. Their music is simple punk at its essence – sharp and trebly guitars, head-down rhythm section, vocals heavily echoed – with a hard-charging drive given added personality from their low budget recordings. I thought the sound on their demos was wonderfully bad, and even though this LP was recorded as a record proper, it still sounds raw as can be. That lo-fi dimension adds extra frenzy to the aggression, making it seem more desperate, as if they’re wringing every little bit of life out of the instruments to the point where the equipment is straining to stay alive. An even ten tracks of exceptional guitar shred and manic pacing, and I was thrilled to hear reworked versions of “Duped” and “Kremlin” in particular, two standout tracks from their self-titled cassette. I was stuck on the killer riff from “Duped” for a bit until I realized it was borrowed (unintentionally I’m guessing) from a Homostupids song, and there’s no finer band to nip some tricks from, although Kremlin turn it into something far different anyway. Once when trying to describe this band to someone I said they play some sort of degenerated version of d-beat, and much of it is built on that bulldoze drum approach, but there’s more influences from all over the map – touches of UK82 style sloganeering in the vocals/choruses (vaguely politcal at times and certainly arnarchic/anti-society), some savage Scandanavian-style buzzsawing and song construction, and added USHC muscle for good measure. “Steel Case” is a Motorheaded bomber (and a good model band they reference often as a punk trio), “Buried” and “Doomed Youth” open up the songwriting to tunes over two minutes long with time for shredding solos and breakdown twists-n-turns. There are wonderful little bits of lo-fi nuance all over this, like when this guy’s amp starts to cut out, giving off that screaming bottle rocket sound that makes you want to duck, not knowing where that thing’s going to take off to (at the kick-in part on “Kremlin” for example), or when the crackle makes it seems like part of the riff was missed, or the super echoed “Ugggh”s from the singer, all lovely little warts left in the mix that keep me going back. Every track here is a great punk tune, but it’s the primitive recording and unabashed use of distortion and reverb that really adds to the excitement and ferocity. It’s not really sloppily played (these three are locked in quite well), and not necessarily shit-fi either, but crude and vital sounding – the squealing solos become extra piercing, the slip-n-slide fret noise sounds like it’s melting strings and speakers, the cymbal crashes sound like the mic was placed too close making for a great effect, the bass sounds almost trebly and undistorted, giving the propulsion an edge that some of the burlier hardcore bands lose when wading too far into the low end. I’m all for covering everything in layers of reverb, and the coating here is thick yet doesn’t seem excessive. The vocals echo but don’t turn into mush and the continual sparks of static keep you engaged and on edge. Hardcore punk with heavy Euro influence, deceptively simple but creative songwriting and the sound quality of ‘The Intern’ – I can’t recommend this record enough. Now I just need to see them live. Scum stats: 520 pressed = 410 on black, 110 on red and there’s also a European press on Hardware Records. (RK)
(Beach Impediment // beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)

Magic Shadows “Sunburned Mind” 7″ magicshadows
Modern garage-psych from Hamilton, Ontario that I’m guessing are named after the TV show. “Sunburned Mind” has an evil drone and dark vibes accented greatly by a good-n-muddy recording job – the guitar sounds cracklingly great and this guy does some nice amp-smoking work. Well done. “Under the Stairs” continues the heavy repetition, the tempo is weighed down with reverb, and there’s a certain ominous quality to the riff which they really hit you over the head with just to make sure you get it. Pretty good material here, I think “Under the Stairs” is the better tune. I feel like this is what Demon’s Claws might have sounded like with all the folk/country hippie shit replaced with dark psycho-garage. A Canadian version of A Feast of Snakes perhaps. (RK)
(self-released // magicshadows.bandcamp.com)

The Northwest Company “Hard to Cry” 7”northwestco
Ugly Pop Records expands their reissue scope back into the Sixties for one of the rarest Canadian garage singles, The Northwest Company’s 1967 debut. “Hard to Cry” is a killer Kinks-influenced punker with a ripper solo, big time hook and a really monstrous rhythm section for the time. Great wild vocals and rave-up outro are included, and help make this a standout cut. “Get Away From It All” on the flip is slower and heavier, more Seeds or even Animals a bit, with a deeper vocal and darker guitar vibes with some vocal testifying closing the door. I was familiar with this one by name only before hearing it and it lived up to its rep. I know it was compiled on some regional Canadian/Vancouver-centric titles, but either side would certainly fit in just fine on any of the more popular non-regional reissue series. Scum stats: already going into its third press. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

A Passing Fancy “I’m Losing Tonight” 7” passingfancy
Freakbeat out of 1967 Toronto that supposedly charted at the time of release. I’d say that’s due to the completely wicked screaming guitar sound on this one. High energy stuff with a pretty sticky hook. B-Side is an eponymously titled jangler with some organ and nice-guy harmonizing. Classic sounding stuff, but not as wild as Northwest Company or crude as Bent Wind – so if you’re on a budget I’d go there first. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Pointed Sticks “What Do You Want Me To Do?” 7” pointedwhat
I’m not a big Pointed Sticks fan, but I still can’t deny that their debut 7” should be in the conversation when discussing great early Canadian punk/wave singles, even if I might steer that conversation to other bands eventually. “What Do You Want Me To Do?” is classic powerpop and just the type of hook-filled and sugary treat that makes the Japanese go crazy for them. I far prefer “Somebody’s Mom”, the kind of hyperactive and quirky punk song that made sense of them signing to Stiff Records. Powerpoppers rejoice. Scum stats: 550 copies with a new insert that has a really great band pic. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Purity Control “Adjusting” 7” EP
Purity Control “Coping” 7” EPpccoping
Purity Control is Toronto powerviolence/grind who also seem to be the city’s representative mysterious guy/Youth Attack outfit. The “Adjusting” EP is self-released and jams six tracks of heavy styles onto two sides. You have straight PV stuff, a few grinders and some metallic hardcore. Tightly played, loudly recorded, it’s textbook stuff done all the right ways – heavy, brutal and dark to a meatheaded degree. The music becomes a machine over which lyrics about alienation, isolation, paranoia and basically feeling like life sucks are belted out. And this guy belts shit out alright, with a bellow somewhere in-between Sam Kinison and Phil Anselmo. The “Coping” EP is a split release between No Idea and Chris Colohan’s (Left for Dead) High Anxiety label, which certainly ups their profile. Musically, it tells the same story, but with perhaps a bit more songwriting savvy. Even when I was a misguided teen I didn’t feel this bad about life, but I know there are some out there that might find catharsis in this sort of bottled rage. I can’t take the singer seriously and this is all pretty plain black-and-white stuff musically, but that might be the point in this genre nowadays. And when I made the Youth Attack mention earlier, these guys have the B&W visual design and edgy aesthetic down pretty well (and you could make a case that this is just business as usual for powerviolence aesthetics, which YA/MGHC borrows from, but let’s argue about that some other time), including some vaguely sexual and sinister photos and songs, and lyrically they sink to the lowest common denominator, with songs like “Bedroom Eyes”, “Bite Marks”, “Swallowing”, etc… There’s something to be said for being edgy and even creepy/mysterious in a creative way, but it’s cookie cutter stuff like this that really brings the price of rent in the neighborhood down. (RK)
(High Anxiety/No Idea // puritycontrol.bigcartel.com)

Sida s/t 7”sidasweet
The French Glue Wave scene and La Grande Triple Alliance faction of bands is such a deep well of music that even though it seems that dozens and dozens of bands and records have been documented already, there’s a steady stream of untapped material still flowing. This EP by Sida was recorded back in 2011 by Seb Normal (who else), and although I’ve been of the thinking that we’re getting down to the bottom reaches of the Glue Wave barrel, “Apollo 13” is a song that makes me think otherwise. Female vocals that sound like they’re intoning some sort of ritual, an anaconda of a live drums-n-synth snake that creeps with muscle over which the guitar player adds squealing and oscillating noise. It goes on for a long time, achieving maximum drone-out hypnotics. The B-Side offers three shorter efforts – “Budokai” is a condensed summary of the A-Side style, “Mighty Max” is the best of the trio and sounds extra damp and cavernous and “4” is weird-garage with a martial beat. Not sure what other bands these players have been involved with, but I think they’re Strasbourg-based, and I can appreciate this more than some of their drum-machine riding contemporaries from that scene (Anals, Teledente 666, etc…). Recommended for Francophiles and weird-punks. Scum stats: 300 copies. (RK)
(Sweet Rot // www.sweetrotrecords.com)

Solid Attitude “Dash-Ex” 7” solidsweet
Iowa punkers whose LP and 7” on Rotted Tooth I was on the fence about – I liked about half of what they did, but the other half just wasn’t clicking with me. The 7” in particular was pretty good trash, but just not good enough to keep in steady rotation. I don’t remember there being saxophone on that single (or the LP for that matter), but there’s plenty of it here and it helps the band out a good bit. “Dash-Ex” is rabid post-punk, with extra raw vocals and the band finding a jagged groove and spreading the rhythm sax over it. Sounds like a rogue Tyvek tune or maybe even a really dirty Protomartyr – and I hate to make such a reference, but there’s something Stoogey about the ending. I always thought SA had a bit of the weird-Detroit sound in them and they fulfill that idea on both cuts. “Creeping Quilt” sounds like a more restrained Druid Perfume (meaning no bizzaro carnival moves), a slow build of strum-n-bleat that erupts into a howling and feral noise. These are the two best songs I’ve heard from this band, without a doubt, and I’m left pleasantly surprised and hopeful for future releases. More sax, please! Scum stats: 300 copies, in the mandatory and beautiful Sweet Rot textured pocket sleeve as usual. (RK)
(Sweet Rot // www.sweetrotrecords.com)

V/A Red Mass/Cindy Lee split 7” redmassmongrel
Debut vinyl release from the Mongrel Zine Records label out of Vancouver who have been cranking out a pretty great fanzine for the past five years. A very Canadian-centric zine with an emphasis on garage always done with great enthusiasm. Each issue I’ve read contains some great interviews and features with not just musicians but visual artists, writers, film-makers and more. It feels like I haven’t reviewed a Red Mass record in a long time, which is a bit shocking considering their voluminous output. Perhaps Roy is slowing down (which I doubt). Their side only has one tune, but it’s quite good, especially so when you take into consideration their massive back catalog. The Red Mass line-up for “Candy” will surely get fans excited – Roy is joined by Mark Sultan and King Khan, with help from Saba Lou, Hannah and a French lass on violin. It’s a good and long acoustic freak-out, with bongos, shakers, theremin, keyboards, strings, children’s toys and more instrumentation making for a real jam session feel. Something about its flowers-n-dope Sixties vibe reminds me of Love. Gang vocals, with a lot of harmonizing from the gals, which enhances the party feel (and I have to mention the exceptional harmonica playing) and there’s even a bit of a Doors-esque instrumental break towards the end. So good I wish they were on both sides of this record. Cindy Lee is a band, not a person, a two piece with ex-members of Women and Yung Mums. It’s a very quiet and wispy piece of acoustic melancholia, guitars plucked so gently and vocals laden with such soft echo that it barely exists. Sounds olde-tymey and twee, I suppose they’re going for a haunting feel, but there’s nothing here that grabbed me. The Red Mass side is killer though, and makes this record another in the long line of split singles with one good side. That would make a great theme for a comp LP – all the great songs no one has heard or remembers because they were buried on splits. Ah well. Kudos to Mongrel for getting this released though, as this is a half of a great record, and I wish them luck with their next release. Grab this if you’re jonesing for a new Red Mass cut and pad your order with some Mongrel zines. Scum stats: 650 copies with fantastic art by Bob Scott. (RK)
(Mongrel Zine Records // www.mongrelzine.ca)

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….

hotlzsglow

 

CANADIANA

This time around: Canadian reissues from two recently reinvigorated Canadian labels. Some classic pre-punk sounds from Supreme Echo (who did the Jerk Ward retrospective and Polski Punk comps a few years ago), who also have a Neos discography LP, Dishrags comp LP and more Twich on tap, as well as the now-available reissue of Arctic Inuit-rockers Northern Haze. More details here, ordering info for the below singles is located here and you can e-mail the label direct at kwiateczku-at-hotmail.com or check their not really updated website.

Simon Harvey’s Ugly Pop has been delivering the goods for many years, whether it be crucial Japcore (Paintbox, Warhead), Raw Power/Fratricide/Dream Dates reissues, early 2000’s Canadian hardcore and punk from his time in both Toronto and Vancouver, but he’s recently started work on a incredible Canadian garage and punk reissue spree, the first two batches of which are reviewed below. First wave was Dream Dates/Arson/CK5, second wave is RNR Bitches/Hot Nasties/Spys and the third wave will be comprised of Sixties garage rock 7″ classics from A Passing Fancy, Bent Wind and Northwest Company and will even later lapse into modern day punk with a Hygiene single, a Hackamore Brick reissue(!) and even more in the works. Watch this page for more news.

The Twitch “Things” EP
Four tracks from obscuro 1973 Vancouver rockers who graduated from the Sixties teen garage scene, compiling their first two 45s over two sides. “Things” is the centerpiece, a brooding bad-trip sounding proto-punker that bridges the gap between Sixties garage and psych (even if the band held the burgeoning “psych” movement in disdain) which was backed with the biker-rock “Pickup Is Illegal on 401 (Hitchhiker’s Blues)” that certainly brought their dreams of being a true hard rock power trio to fruition, with what you have to call a stone-groove of a drumbeat interrupted by tough vox and power moves on the chorus. Their second 45 fills the less-essential B-Side, with “Sweet Thursday” being an uptempo and sunny rocker that reminds me a bit of the brighter moments of CCR with a poppier bent and the joke of “Country Tune”, which could be the early equivalent of the 70’s anti-disco punk tune which they fry out at the end with some fuzz pedals and a squealing solo. I imagine Stompin’ Tom Connors was none too pleased if he ever heard this. The accompanying booklet provides a great history, repros of early newspaper clippings and vintage pics. The striking group you see on the sleeve is what the band evolved into later on in ’73, cribbing from Alice Cooper or Roy Wood, and seeking to push their already “ear-splitting” reputation further they adopted the make-up and costumes, two of them looking like Norwegian Death Metallers twenty years ahead of their time while the drummer opted for impersonating the In-Betweener. According to the liners, they went into a “Dark Years” phase which had them turning into some sort of proto-doom band, with heavier tunes and imagery, which I would love to hear based on the Stooges/Pentagram description dropped by the label for the forthcoming LP compiling this era. Well packaged and researched, this is a pretty choice package for the A-Side alone. There’s supposedly a limited version that comes with full color trading cards as well.(RK)
(Supreme Echo // www.supremeecho.com)

Sphex “Time” 7″
Absolutely killer reissue from small-town Ontario Seventies rockers Sphex, whose story is told in great detail in the booklet, but to paraphrase they obviously never got much recognition outside their hometown due to your typical bad timing/tough luck story. They recorded these songs as part of the soundtrack to a film, which were released as a small run single a little too late to save them, and then an ill-fated tour nailed the coffin closed. The proto-punk tag doesn’t seem so fitting for this one. What you can hear are some prog leanings, but they thankfully cater to the more space-rock side of the genre than sprawling Yes-like bores. They’re rockers for sure though, prog-style or not. Guitar player is a total cape-wearing nut and his playing carries the tunes all the way. “Time” certainly summons up some phased-out spacetime bliss, with teenaged hot licks splayed all over while the band steers the vessel with some surprisingly talented drumming and steady rhythms. “Leaving This Crazy City” might actually warrant the proto-punk tag, sounding like a more well-mannered Soggy. It’s a killer riff-driven hard rocker that chugs with a certain punk-like menace, and the soloing on this side sounds more Stoogey than the noodly work on “Time”. As I’m sure I’ve said 100 times before, it’s so rare these days to find unheard-of gems like this, and the quality of both tracks is pretty impressive. Singer might be a Seventies hard rock stereotype, but the thud on Side B is certainly worth a look. Impeccable packaging again, well done on all fronts.(RK)
(Supreme Echo // www.supremeecho.com)

Crash Kills Five “What Do You Do At Night?” 7″
Pre-Young Lions (! – who I’ve always been told were Toronto’s first hardcore band – and best along with YYY) and pre-Shadowy Men on Shadowy Planet (!! – and I should mention the Shadowy Men discography is being reissued on vinyl by Mammoth Cave this summer in conjunction with a couple of reunion shows – and Ugly Pop is releasing a 7″ from Filthy Gaze of Europe which features Don [Shadowy Men/CK5] and Dallas from Sadies/Elevator playing with guest vocalists…)!  These Toronto punk rocker’s only single from 1980 gets the reissue treatment here on the reactivated Ugly Pop label. Pop hooks and catchy choruses abound, title cut has a particularly Buzzcockian build, “It’s Always There” has a Ramonesy dum dum vocal and adept rock-n-pop mix, “Special School” continues with some more punk edge offset by backing harmonies. A fine compliment to The Diodes, Teenage Head and other hyperactive hook-driven Ontario punks of the era. Informative liners in a nice tri-fold insert presentation (an idea that probably could have saved insane Tim Warren from having to print a gatefold sleeve to cover all the Psycho Surgeons liners…) including the anecdote that after their remaining singles sat around the bass player’s apartment for years after band called it quits, he decided to give them away to trick-or-treaters one Halloween. Tasty treats indeed. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Arson “White Folks” 7″
Faithful repro of this obscure ’79 punk jammer from Arson, a super group with members from Viletones, The Ugly and others, with “Coho! Coho!” being a favorite of mine from back on the first volume of ‘Smash the State’, a total guitars-blazin’ punk rocker with frantic and rough pacing and a great singalongable chorus. Sort of a friendlier (or just Canadian) Dead Boys approach that carries over to the B-Side as well, which is a slow burner called “(Livin’ With The) White Folks” where the singer shows off his well-honed sneering and leering Stiv-like delivery. Definitely my fave of this first batcch, and probably the most overtly punk. Both sides are more than worthwhile and this is the one to get if you only have enough lunch money for one of this inital round of pups. Nothing as far as liners, but does come with a lyric insert.(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Dream Dates “Surfer Joe” 7″
Not technically a reissue, but the release of the Dream Dates final single recorded in 1979, from the same sessions that gave us “The Mess You’re In” and “Moans on the Phone” 7″es which Ugly Pop unearthed some years ago (and were comped on a 12″ by Re-Force as well), so you know this is a special band as far as the label CEO is concerned, and rightfully so, as they’re probably one of the more well-rounded of the classic Toronto punk outfits – and one of most American sounding, if that makes any sense. Two covers this time around, which is a slight bummer, but they do a killer buzzsaw-guitar take on the Surfaris’ tune, which sounds like a way uptempo Dolls and even a bit like The Saints. They do “Tallahassee Lassie” on the flip (and keep in mind these covers made a lot of sense 30+ years ago) which has super crunchy guitars and sounds like a Heartbreakers/Dictators jam session/drinking marathon. If you have the others, there’s no reason to not complete the set. Insert features a promo shot of Beef Stu and Co., but no sign of the leather-catsuit wearing minx from “The Mess..” 7″ sleeve…(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Hot Nasties “Invasion of The Tribbles” EP
Fantastic 1980 punkola from Calgary’s Hot Nasties that isn’t so much young, loud and snotty as it is young, dorky and fun a la a more serious (and proficient) Gizmos or other nerdy rockers on the sci-fi referential “Invasion of the Tribbles” with some art school nods in the back seat. Reminded me a little of the best 63 Monroe cuts even. “I Am A Confused Teenager” is inspiringly angsty with lyrical content that belies the seemingly fun-loving tune, great cracked-voice “singing”, lots of UK-style bonehead plodding all over a good hook and pub-style singalong chorus. B-Side is the slowed up “The Secret of Immortality” that sounds quite British in a more serious DIY fashion for a change of pace. I should note that band “leader” Waren Kinsella is now a lawyer/politician of some stature in Toronto, but still acknowledges his punk roots. Only in Canada! Contains fold-out  insert with lyrics and humorous liners. My favorite of the very strong second wave/trio of the label’s reissues. (RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

Rock’n’Roll Bitches “Wild West” EP
Edmonton punker’s super-rare and only record from 1980 reissued. Teenage Head vs. The New York Dolls is the recurring theme, with some Thunders-esque guitar melded to a punker template throughout. “Someone Could Lose An Eye” is the sing-a-long anthem, “Broad Daylight” is frantic and buzzing with strong riff and vocals. “Welder’s Song” reminds me of Canadian City Rock, with a hearty Midwest feel to it even if the vox are a bit off (I think there’s a different – and not as confident- singer on this one), but it adds some charm. “Wild West” closes with some Maximum R&B infused Saints-esque raving. A real solid mix, all four tracks are worth a spin for a definite got-your-moneys-worth satisfaction. Comes with two inserts showing off vintage pics.(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)

The Spys “Underground” 7″
Two song banger from Windsor, ON, which is the Canadian burg directly across the water from Detroit for those of you bad at geography. There’s a definite Motor City buzz to “Going Underground” (Windsor also boasts a GM Transmission plant, by the way), but it’s also real deal KBD tough rocking with a bit of attitudical snot.  There are certainly plenty things punk about going underground, one way or another, and it’s a sneakily catchy number. Flipside is “Machine Shop”, complete with fake jazzbo intro which breaks into post-Groovies rock’n’punk, simple yet effective, very Ramones-esque as well. Repeat the same five or six words or so along with the title – “All work, no play, hey!”  – and you’ve got a winning formula. A strong single from 1980 that sounds like it could even be a couple years older than that. Comes with repros of both sleeves plus some unseen photos. The sleeper pick of the second batch, I don’t remember the A-Side being this great!(RK)
(Ugly Pop // www.uglypop.bigcartel.com)