Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Various Artists: "We Just Call it Roulette" volume 2

The We Just Call It Roulette Vol. 2 compilation by Russian Recording represents some of the acts comprising Bloomington, Indiana’s thriving independent music scene and some from out of town, all of whom have recorded at the Russian Recording cabin in Browne County, Indiana.

Though extremely diverse in style and sound, We Just Call It Roulette Vol. 2 features a healthy blend of music, the variety of which actually ties the album together nicely. Whether it’s the frisky folk-punk of Defiance, Ohio or xylophonic traditional Zimbabwe music of Sheasby Matiure and the Mbira Queens, the sequencing is fitting and moves from genre to genre with grace.

Within the punk framework is the aforementioned Defiance, Ohio, with their contribution “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” which is among the band’s most aggressive numbers. Prizzy Prizzy Please barrels through their sparkling addition “Thundergust of Woodpeckers,” while the somewhat creepily named Child Bite hurls forth an almost instrumental horn-punk number on “Good Arm Getter.” The sludgy “Wicked Father” by Medusa rolls along like a thicker version of the Bronx, and Kentucky Nightmare borders indie rock on their catchy tune “Ways of the Gods.”

Sure, there are some less enjoyable tracks on the compilation--like the slow grind of Lafcadio’s “Free Willy Nelson Mandela” and insipid instrumental jam “Noel’s Got a Chord” by Valina--but most of the songs are pretty solid. Trio in Stereo’s fuzzy indie pop “She’s Not a Robot” is rather agreeable, and even the folky “When What Was Wrong Was Wrong” by Beyond Things sounds well-suited for the set.

In addition to the nice collection of songs, We Just Call It Roulette Vol. 2 is housed in one of the most artistic, well-designed packages imaginable, a utilitarian design of thick, colorful cardstock, magnetic enclosures and a solitary plastic bubble to punch through the middle of the disc and keep it in place. While the compilation itself is probably geared towards audiophiles and recording aficionados, the variety of songs means there’s just about something for everyone in this release.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9150#ixzz0jiJDtfNP

Review: Janus - Right Red Return

A word of wisdom to the dudes in Janus: More layers does not mean better songs. Just like adding extra double-bass doesn't make better metalcore and piling on eyeliner won’t equal better screamo, Pro Tooling nine layers of sound may give songs a deeper texture, but won’t make up for trite songwriting.

That seems to be the inherent flaw in Janus’s newest, Right Red Return. While ghostly background vocals and atmospheric ambience blanket each song like a stratus, the corresponding dullness of form leaves much to be desired. Clumped somewhere between hard rock, heavy emo or some variety of bland post-hardcore, Janus moves tepidly between 10 songs of overdramatic monotony. Almost comically, their press material refers to Janus as “metal,” going so far as to assert they bring “a fresh new sound to the genre" thereof. Perhaps some watered down form of nü-metal might be more accurate, but it’s been awhile since nü-metal was actually considered new (or metal).

The histrionic singing of vocalist David Scotney is probably the most annoying part of this record. Set against such a lifeless musical backdrop makes it all the more intolerable, especially on tracks like “Eyesore,” with its emotional shrieks and howls above layers of monastic drones and flat guitars. Likewise, “The Nerve” crawls in, building and building, but never snapping into anything substantial. The same could actually be said of most of the tracks on Red Right Return.

Lyrically, Janus is fairly stale as well, confessing on “Say It”: “I can’t believe / I can’t believe / I let myself believe this lie / Say goodbye / Say goodnight / We wish you well / Make sure to write.”

Janus’ Right Red Return isn't really compelling to enough to describe in any more detail, so it’s sufficient to say that 95% of readers will have no interest in this album, though some select hard rock stations across the country might find a home for it in their spin list.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9151#ixzz0jiIk0taw

Review: December Peals - "People Have Demons"

My initial encounter with December Peals was marked by generally poor first impressions and unfortunately not much changes with their full-length People Have Demons.

With what might optimistically be labeled as energetic rock ’n’ roll, but more realistically some ebullient take on cock rock, December Peals jerk through thirteen songs in 45 minutes. While the musicianship is competent and the songs fairly lively for the most part, the band has a hard time crafting any hooks, instead relying on standard rock guitar leads like on the opener “Bad Company” and its follower “The Devil You Know.” The band goes unplugged for “Capitol Cowboys,” which pursues a slightly different styles, but doesn’t really hit a stride until about three-quarters of the way through.

However, it’s clear December Peals has improved markedly over their 2008 split with Boozed. There are occasional traces of the Bronx, and the band grinds out some thick, more punk-styled jams like “Saints and Sinners” and “Hypoxia.” They even get catchy on the punchy “Best of Luck,” which grieves “Here’s to you/Stop talking please/My blood runs cold/It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Still, sticking to conventions is what drags down December Peals on People Have Demons, but unfortunately that kind of seems to be their schtick. They’re able to snag a few moments of mild success here, but stay stuck in the ruts of the rock appeal they’re trying to achieve.

Review: Toxic Narcotic - "Live in Boston!" DVD

You really gotta hand it to the folks at Rodent Popsicle. At a time when many long-running DIY crust punk/raw hardcore labels are closing up shop (Profane Existence) or lying dormant (Punk Core), Rodent Popsicle Records pushes forward releasing music for and by punks in full knowledge that it’s not the kind of music that’s going to get anyone rich. Granted, this DVD came out a while ago, but the care and attention to detail that went into this DIY release is a testament to the spirit of punk rock itself.

Filmed in their hometown of Boston on December 18th, 2004 on their 15-year anniversary show, this DVD celebrates the storied history of one of hardcores’s most vituperative, pessimistic bands. Captured on five cameras and mixed in 5.1 surround sound, the band blasts through 22 Toxic Narcotic favorites like “People Suck,” “We’re Not Happy,” “We’re All Doomed” and “Shoot People, Not Dope.” With strobe lights flashing at an epileptic pace and people going apeshit left and right, the environment couldn't have been more ideal for a DVD shoot. Amidst the dozens of stage divers and circle pits (and even some hardcore dancing in the beginning of “Believin’”) lead vocalist Bill Damon shares the mic with the punks, while many of them join him on stage for the final song “Drink.” Strangely though, there’s no in-between song banter, and the dub-style “21st Century Catastrophe” was left on the cutting room floor and included as a bonus feature. There’s also no indication of the song titles except on the DVD case, which is moderately inconvenient unless you’re a longtime Toxic Narcotic fan. However, the bonus footage is fun and interesting, most notably the short interviews of fans waiting in line for the show and discussing their favorite songs, memories and love for the band.

Toxic Narcotic is an act that clearly does things their own way and doesn't care about fitting into any prescribed mold. With 15 years under their belt (now 20), this DVD shows the following they've built and how they've done it: with a lot of passion, a helping of hate and an attitude that’s as yet proven indestructible.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9137#ixzz0jiFTdPUD

Review: The Rebel Dead - "The Rebel Dead"

For the amount of classic rock the Rebel Dead claims as influence on their MySpace page, there’s little semblance of any such traces in their rough-hewn street punk style. But with catchy sing-alongs, danceable rhythms and tight songwriting, there’s nothing lacking in what the Rebel Dead does on their self-titled LP.

Granted, there are two songs whose tepid advancement could run parallel to some sheepish, tightly-pants’d arena rocker of yesteryear (“The Hard Times,” and to a lesser extent “Long Island’s Sinking”). But the majority of tunes here are far too lively and rowdy to be considered anything less than punk rock. Though rife with clichés, songs like “Three Sheets to the Wind,” “Thicker Than Blood” and “Bottomed Out” are energetic and full, with walking basslines and "whoa"-ing backing vocals.

“Cheers, Fuck-Face!” spends the first two minutes sauntering in like Bob Dylan on his harmonica, before exploding into something more akin to the Pogues, while “Dancing with the Devil” jives in 12-bar-blues structure like Chuck Berry on a speed binge. The band is at their best despite the formulaic arrangement on the speedy and melodic “Carry On,” which hears the band craft one of their most memorable choruses and a nice half-time bridge of sorts.

Regardless of where the Rebel Dead draws their inspiration, they've created a catchy, fun and enjoyable collection of tunes on their self-titled full-length.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Mouth Sewn Shut - "Doomed Future Today"

The grinding cacophony of crust punk and playful upstrokes of ska have rarely joined hands, and even more rarely done so with any semblance of style or skill. Despite their squatting lifestyle and poor hygiene, the crack rock steady of Choking Victim and Leftover Crack generally gets shut out of the elitist crust punk scene while the Subhumans and Citizen Fish are really more anarcho bands with some ska tendencies. So for all intents and purposes, Mouth Sewn Shut marched into a new territory of checkered dumpster divers and nihilistic rude boys with their debut Pandemic = Solution.

If the title of the delightfully fatalistic Doomed Future Today isn't any indication of what to expect on this record, song titles like “When Is it Going to End,” “World War 3” and “I Hate It” should leave no doubt. Featuring half of Toxic Narcotic (including vocalist Bill Damon), Mouth Sewn Shut play a combination of about one-third faithful crust punk, another third grimy, distorted reggae, and the last some blend of said styles. Do the math: It’s a lively assortment and it works surprisingly well.

The skank-inducing ska-punk of tracks like “Methademic” and “Working to Drink” are the album’s most bubbly tracks (pardon the pun) while the similarly spry “Flavor of the Weak” bears witness to the mistake of selling out: “Enjoy your fame because the time is brief / Fans of cheese always want fresh cheese / You went from on your ass to on your knees.”

Among the slower, more rocksteady/reggae numbers, the title track is certainly a highlight, while “Bombs (Version)” intermittently explodes like a musical onomatopoeia. “Watch Out” is an anti-Big Brother head bobber that attests “It won’t be long until it’s gone: your rights and privacy / So watch out what you say / Because they might take you away / And it won’t be long until it’s gone: your freedom in the digital age.”

While the more standard crust numbers like “We’re All Immigrants” and “Back in the Day” are good, they don’t quite stand out as much as those blended with traditionally Jamaican rhythms. Mouth Sewn Shut took a bit of a gamble, gearing most of their album around an embryonic style, but it paid off on Doomed Future Today, a crusty reggae creation that paints only the bleakest of images with its fluid musical fusion.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9128#ixzz0j3XH1VWi

Review: Shelter - "When 20 Summers Pass"

In between pioneering the youth crew movement of the late '80s with Youth of Today and helping ignite the youth crew revival of the late 1990s with Better Than a Thousand, Ray Cappo formed Shelter in 1991 as an outlet for his Hare Krishna ideals and a path to a more melodic form of hardcore punk.

Releasing a small library of 7-inches, cassettes, EPs and full-lengths, Shelter has concurrently embraced sugary pop-punk and melodic hardcore anthems that faithfully espouse their Hare Krishna and straight-edge principles of mind and body purity. In 2000 the band released When 20 Summers Pass, which follows the same general pattern but does so in stunning fashion, blending positivity with introspection, spirituality with Earthly struggles, and above all, lays down some of the catchiest melodies hardcore has heard.

“In the Van Again” packs some pop-punk punch early, describing the touring routine and sacrifices of the lifestyle: “I traded in university / For this backseat and poverty / But this whole time I've felt more free / And learned more in the end.” “Don’t Walk Away” carries along the catchy tunes while “Public Eye” expresses the frustration of having private matters run through the gossip mill, perhaps in reference to Cappo’s so-called “breaking edge” by having a glass of wine on tour in Italy and the subsequent furor that followed within the straight-edge hardcore scene. Over the razor-sharp guitar work of frequent collaborator John Porcelly, “Song of Brahma” confronts violence in the hardcore scene, and the endlessly catchy “If There’s Only Today” promotes the universal principle modern spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle have risen to prominence advocating.

The only song that doesn't fall in line with the catchy hardcore of the rest of the album is the grungy confessional “Crushing Someone You Love,” which sounds more like Nirvana than H2O. It’s still a decent song, but it sticks out like a sore thumb among the fluid popcore of tracks like “Look Away” and “Loss Disguised as Gain.”

While some will undoubtedly scoff at the unconcealed spirituality of Shelter, there is a depth of rhetoric and clarity that transcends lifestyle lines. You don’t have to be Hare Krishna to enjoy When 20 Summers Pass. Heck, you don’t even need to be straight-edge to appreciate whatever the driving force was behind this outstanding album. An open mind and an ear for catchy melodies are all it should take.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9127#ixzz0j3Wdv5Gf

Review: Tournament - "Years Old"

Despite the mundane name and ho-hum artwork that accompanies Tournament’s Years Old, a fairly enjoyable slathering of loose hardcore, stoner rock and classic metal is strung together, and is done so seemingly effortlessly.

Toying with equal parts My War-era Black Flag and the occasionally sludgy stomp of Black Sabbath, Tournament arrives at a modern-day parallel somewhere between Neurosis and Akimbo. And given that High Times reviews their music, it’s fairly easy to understand Tournament’s place in the music realm.

With a lively 1-2 (err, rather 2-3) punch of “Intake Controller” and “Washcloth,” Tournament gets things going early on Years Old. They eventually slow considerably with the sludgy “Smokelore” and the instrumental “From the Mouths of Non-Believers,” but at least it gets the LP off on the right foot. The lyrics are indecipherable and not printed with the digipak, but some of the song titles like “Snuff News” and “Good, thanks. You?” are pretty amusing.

“Big Box Opportunity” is a primal bone-crusher with big riffs, rolling toms and ear-piercing wails. The closer “All this light is getting in my ears” is creepy and sinister, and builds an overall ethereal atmosphere, though lingers a bit long at five-and-a-half minutes.

Even for those who aren't interested in getting stoned or the music it inspires, Tournament’s Years Old is certainly a decent effort. It drones, roars and hurls back and forth providing some interesting compositions held together by slurred rhythms and thundering riffs that only let up when the time is right.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: Mad Sin - "20 Years of Sin Sin"

For over 20 years, Germany’s Mad Sin has been one of the premier psychobilly bands in the world, releasing some nine studio offerings and touring the globe multiple times over. This two-disc combo seeks to chronicle both their studio output and live abilities as demonstrated by the recording of a 2006 show at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood, California.

Disc 1 is a collection of studio tracks from an assortment of different sources. Five are brand new recordings, two are unreleased tracks from Survival of the Sickest, and the rest are covers and rarities. Despite the obvious handicap of a German band singing in English (aside from a cover of Ideal’s “Ich Kann Nicht Schlafen”), they pull it off fairly well. The highlights of the disc occur when singer Koefte Deville pushes the potential of his melodies and pulls out some great hooks, like on the frantic psychopop of “Rusty Nails.” The excellent rock ‘n' punk of “Dirty City” neglects too many psychobilly clichés while Deville sings, “I've lost my heart and soul to the place where I belong.” Mad Sin’s cover of Torment’s “Psyclops Carnival” is entertaining, with its timid upstrokes and tickling xylophone, while the other covers (Adam Ant’s “Viva La Rock,” the Tall Boys’ “Ride this Torpedo” and the Rockats’ “50 Miles to Nowhere”) are good, just not really anything to write home about.

Hollywood was probably the best possible location outside the band’s native Germany to record a live show, since the Greater Los Angeles area has arguably the most thriving psychobilly scene in the world. The band powers through 15 songs with minimal interruptions, which are certainly solid musically but none really stand out that much. The sound occasionally gets a little muddy (which is probably to be expected on live psychobilly recordings) but overall it seems to capture the essence of a Mad Sin live show. The high point comes when the band breaks into the chorus of the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” amid the frantically thumping double-bass and triple-time rhythm of drummer Andy Laaf on “Sell Your Soul.” Fan favorites like “Communication Breakdown” are present alongside the catchy “All This and More” and a frenzied psychobilly cover of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff.” Who knew psychos liked Rasta reggae?

20 Years in Sin Sin is a nice anniversary release to give fans a taste of some Mad Sin that was previously unavailable. Casual observers of psychobilly may not find too much to get excited about on this release, but followers of the band throughout any of their 20 years should be happy with this two-disc package.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9119#ixzz0igYA6q0F

Review: Built By Snow - "Mega"

Fans of nerdy fuzz rock, take note: The next several paragraphs are written just for you. For while the peppy but placid brand of indie Built by Snow manufactures is something just about anyone should be able to tolerate, the keyboard-driven, major-scaled, Pacman-referencing Mega will find a special place among the college radio fiends of the music consuming population.

Mega is catchy and concise, dropping just nine tracks (two of them instrumental or virtually instrumental) in the 20 minutes of disc space it inhabits. The nerdery is taken to all new levels on songs like the buzzing, whirling “Algometric Touch” and commercially appealing “Invaders” as vocalist JP encourages: “Let’s take on gravity / Put rockets on our feet / And explode somewhere over the sea.” The energetic cutesiness runs parallel to a somehow less punk version of Hellogoodbye with the geek rock appeal of They Might Be Giants. Leaning heavily on the Moog and Korg, BBS crafts clean, comforting melodies like the 8-bit-Start-Screen-sounding “Implode Alright” and smile-inducing “Science of Love.”

Sure, some of the song subjects and lyrics can be a little cringe-worthy once you figure out how BBS is playing into their own stereotype, but most won’t view it as cynically. The two instrumental songs that bookend the album (EP?) also seem like kind of a waste, though the opener “Giant Robot Attack” isn’t quite as insipid as the 90% instrumental “Attachment.”

Built by Snow go the proverbial extra mile to appeal to the nerdy masses on Mega. If you can stomach that sort of an effort, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the whimsical numbers that make up this CD.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9118#ixzz0igXauysh

Review: The Jam - "In the City"

Throughout their existence, the Jam always maintained a precarious position within the punk rock spectrum. A fitting illustration is the cover of their acclaimed 1977 debut In the City, where the band’s clean-cut mod portrayal belies their youthful rebellion while the hasty rendering of their name in graffiti contradicts the development and precision of their tight musicianship. On top of that, Bob Marley invited the Jam to his “Punky Reggae Party” alongside the Damned and the Clash, but vexingly also included the decidedly un-punk Dr. Feelgood in the festivities. Regardless of where the Jam fell in the cliquey continuum of British rock scenes in the 1970s, their full-length introduction impressively paved the way for an extremely successful, albeit ephemeral run in popular music.

The terse chords that commence the album on the lead-in “Art School” do so in much the same fashion as the Clash hammering out “Clash City Rockers” to start the U.S. version of their debut full-length at around the same time. But while bands like the Clash and the Sex Pistols pushed their music in distinctly new directions, the Jam held tightly to the conventions of rock ‘n' roll, playing a sped-up and freaked-out adaptation that blurred the lines between revivalism and pioneering.

Another inconvenient anomaly of the Jam and In the City is the dichotomy of their political slant. The band takes a firm slide to the left on the discordant anti-development anthem “Bricks and Mortar,” which attests, “This is progress, nothing stands in its path / Yellow bulldozers, the donkey jackets and J.C.B.'s / While hundreds are homeless, they're constructing a parking space.” The title track is a tribute to the young commoner which also serves to castigate authority and condemn police brutality: “You still think I am crap / But you'd better listen man / Because the kids know where it's at / In the city there's a thousand men in uniforms / And I've heard they now have the right to kill a man.” Opposite these sentiments is the brash “Time for Truth,” which laments the decline of the British Empire and belittles Labor Party PM James Callaghan. The Jam would go on to endorse the Conservative Party in the 1979 general election at the behest of their PR manager who imagined (correctly) it would help them stand out among their decidedly left-leaning punk peers.

Atop the confusion over their politics and place in the punk scene is still an undeniably great album. Songs like the smooth rocker “Sounds from the Street” and jerky dance tune “Takin’ My Love” affix a glowing enthusiasm to counterbalance some of the weightier subjects of the record. Perhaps the only real gaffe (aside from their experiment with conservatism) might be the inclusion of the 1960s Batman theme. Apparently it was a fairly popular tune to cover at the time with its easily recognizable blues scale lead and Adam West bearing the bat insignia on TV, but in retrospect it just throws off the flow of an otherwise outstanding sequence of songs.

Despite the myriad debates attached to this album like asterisks, the Jam crafted an immortal effort with In the City. Recharging the rock ‘n' roll routines of the past and paving the way for the punks of the future, the Jam secured their spot in history on this, one of the definitive albums of the 1970s.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9117#ixzz0igWffN1w

Review: Beantown Boozehounds - "Pour Another Round"

Superficially, the Beantown Boozehounds’ Pour Another Round is an extremely catchy, fun blend of Boston street punk and Americanized Celtic rock. The track list is diverse, the musicianship is solid, and the songs pack a nice punch. But there’s one glaring problem that quickly unfolds and severely hampers any possible potential for greatness.

It begins with the "Beantown Boozehounds." It follows with Pour Another Round. And between “Going Down the Bar,” “We’ll Be Drinking” and “D.U.I.” it becomes painfully clear that this band is nearly incapable of making music that doesn't revolve around the consumption of alcohol. Of the 12 songs that populate Pour Another Round, every single one is either exclusively devoted to drinking, or mentions some form of drunken debauchery in passing. It’s an obsession that essentially runs parallel to that of Afroman and the chronic bubonic, while the object of fascination here is the fermented fluid flowing from any variety of bottles and cans. It’s really a shame, because most of the tunes here are actually very good musically, but the absurdity of their infatuation is downright distracting. Furthermore, it’s not even an original subject. So many Boston bands sing about alcohol, it’s practically become clichéd. The band goes from barely mentioning “passing out every night” and “drinking ‘til we’re blind” in the poppy opener “On the Road” to devoting an entire track to recounting nearly a calendar day of drinking, “The 19th Hour.” The most egregious blunder is the peppy sing-along “D.U.I.” whose unsettling levity lies in stark contrast to the realities of millions (including the author of this review) who have been negatively affected by the consequences of drunk driving.

If you think about alcohol so much that it permeates nearly every thought and situation at hand, this is the album for you. If you rank alcohol anywhere lower on your list of priorities, you may still enjoy the catchy melodies of Pour Another Round. And if you’re straight-edge, the only reasonable use for this CD would be as a coaster for your cup of water.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9108#ixzz0igUHBlhJ

Review: Suicidal Tendencies - "Live at the Olympic Auditorium" [DVD]

In 2005, the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles was purchased by the Korean-American Church, the Glory Church of Jesus Christ. Since the site was a crucial breeding ground for California punk and hardcore in the early 1980s thanks to Gary Tovar and Goldenvoice Productions, the venue as it was known had a fitting farewell for its final show: Venice’s legendary Suicidal Tendencies.

Before the live footage even begins, frontman Mike Muir recalls the Suicidal Tendencies' formation and history. From recounting being voted “biggest assholes” in Flipside magazine to their dedication to not following any specific punk rock dogma or style, Muir primes the viewer for the ensuing spectacle.

With Muir in his trademark bandana and baggy clothes, the band representing all races and playing their unique blend of punk, thrash, funk and hardcore, the Suicidal Tendencies are certainly true to their ideals of “no rules.” Muir’s stage presence is striking, as he espouses anecdotes and life lessons like a motivational speaker, and just as importantly performs as well as ever despite that many of the songs were written over 20 prior.

The song selection is interesting in that while almost all the hardcore punk fan favorites are present, there is little representing the band’s metal years of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today, Lights...Camera...Revolution!, and The Art of Rebellion despite being their highest-selling albums. In their place, though, are the more timeless cuts like “Two-Sided Politics,” “Institutionalized” and “I Shot Reagan.” Bassist Steve Bruner slaps out the head-bobbing intro to the immortal thrash anthem “Possessed to Skate,” while Muir sounds ageless on “War Inside My Head” and “I Saw Your Mommy.” In between songs, Muir gives a shout-out to Rodney on the ROQ for being the first DJ to play ST over the airwaves, and stresses the importance of doing things your own and doing them for yourself. The camera work isn't terribly well done (it’s sufficient but lacks the close-ups one might desire in a live performance video), but the audio sounds terrific and the band is as tight as ever.

Even though it took five long years to come out, Live at the Olympic Auditorium is worth the wait. For those who have never had the chance to “get Cyco” at a Suicidal Tendencies show, or even for those looking to see punk rock immortality give a proper send-off to a beloved venue on their first ever DVD, this release is an enjoyable documentation of both.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9105#ixzz0igSYXeWu

Review: Trusty - "Demo" [reissue]

Dischord devotees may remember Trusty for the pair of albums the D.C.-based label released in the 1990s and the band’s subsequent extensive touring until their breakup in 1997. But while those Dischord records demonstrated a more pop-oriented and intellectually sound band, no such release captured the raw energy and fervor of their demo, re-released for the first time in 20 years by DC-Jam Records.

Despite their roots in Little Rock, Arkansas, Trusty had a groovy hardcore punk sound that fits nicely among the “D.C. sound” even before they moved there in 1992. Combined with their already developed style and their new capitol locale, it made sense that they would go on to sign with Dischord following the release of this demo as the first band on the label not originating in D.C.

The band is at the top of their game on the opening track “Mister Know-It All.” “You’re a million miles deeper than the deepest sea / You write a real mean line of poetry / You’re the greatest modern thinker in the world bar-none / You've probably thought of everything under the sun” shouts frontman Bobby Matthews shortly before breaking into a rapid-fire rap with a spot-on vocal delivery. The band takes a more straight-ahead approach on wealth-mocking “We Know,” with chit-chatty vocals that coincidentally sound a lot like Ian MacKaye on “Cashing In.” Trusty gets psychedelic on the goofy “Where’s Bircho” (in reference to the band’s drummer known simply as “Bircho” in the liner notes), whose 50 seconds of tranquility would be filler if it wasn't so amusing. The quartet snaps along ferociously on the band track “Trusty,” claiming “Violence and hardcore don’t go hand in hand” while “Barney” recalls life in Mayberry, NC circa the 1960s. The disc closes out with “Totally Blind,” which builds for a minute and spends the next three in a full-out, unruly assault that neatly wraps up the manner and aesthetic of Trusty on their demo recordings.

In spite of releasing quality records on one of the most respected labels in the punk community, Trusty has remained fairly below the radar and this re-release will not likely change that. However, anyone with even a fleeting interest in 20th century hardcore would be remiss if they didn't check out Trusty, and there’s no better place to start than their Demo.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9098#ixzz0igRywPHc

Review: Radon - "We Bare All"

Radon is one of the best pop-punk bands out there.

They’re also probably one of the most underrated, unheard and unknown.

But there’s something magical in a Radon song that’s blatantly apparent though difficult to describe. Part of it is Dave Rohm’s confident but prying vocals that exert warm, comforting melodies through fuzzy guitars and drums that--unlike most punk bands--are in no particular hurry. Another part is the bizarro lyrics thrown to paper that puzzle, bewilder, and eventually begin to make some strange form of sense within the framework of the song.

Take “Kibbles and Bits,” for example, which is, with no exaggeration, one of the catchiest songs ever: “I want out of this neurotic master / It has me by the leash / This dog wants to run free and shit in the woods / Don’t feed me that Kibbles and Bits shit / This dog wants the food that’s good / And let the photons shine on in / This light-starved seed wants to grow / I want it always.” Or if that’s not odd enough, try the bouncy pop-punk of “Facial Disobedience”: “Hello boys and girls, this is Alistair Cookie / Welcome to the Monsterpiece Theatre / Want to hear a little story about the war and glory of one big ugly family? / Living in a bell tower that’s full to capacity / See there’s this batman and he’s got no skeleton and he’s got five shadows and they’re pinning him to the ground.” Other catchy songs that aren't necessarily as weird or abstract lyrically include the deliciously fuzzy “Wash Away,” band track “Radon,” and “Wasting Time” with its ingenious guitar lead and stop/go structure.

Before Less than Jake, Hot Water Music and Against Me!, Radon was one of the first bands to get the Gainesville punk scene going back in 1991, catching the attention of No Idea shortly thereafter and releasing various 7-inch, full-lengths and compilation tracks for the next several years before disbanding and reuniting in 2005. This disc not only compiles the Radon 7-inch and parts of the In Your Home 7-inch, but includes some 14 live tracks including a Misfits medley of “Astro Zombies,” “I Turned into a Martian,” “Night of the Living Dead” and “Skulls.” The live tracks range from really good (“Bryan’s World,” “Better Than I Am”) to kind of weird (“The Weiner Song,” “Grandma’s Cootie,” “Alien Goat Bitch”) to not that great (“Chinese Rednecks,” Sanford and Son theme). There’s also a handful of covers by bands like Hüsker Dü (“Divide and Conquer”), the Smiths (“What Difference Does It Make?”) and the Pixies (“Debaser”).

The recordings are rough and real, the songs are tasty, and We Bare All is a great deal by any measure. While Radon have gone on to find some of the recognition they deserve with their reunion LP, Metric Buttloads of Rock!, this release is an essential opportunity to hear where it all began.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9097#ixzz0igR7f2tv

Review: Millions of Dead Cops / The Restarts - "Mobocracy"

In continuing with their recent flurry of activity in the last five to six years, Millions of Dead Cops have paired up with London street punks the Restarts for this rousing 15-song split LP.

With the questionable quality of some of MDC’s more recent output (especially their acoustic split with John the Baker), Mobocracy is undoubtedly some of their finest work since fully reemerging with Magnus Domingus Corpus, an effort that flowed awkwardly at times and was uneven at best. Here, the songs are biting and terse, with more engaging music and a better vocal delivery by loquacious frontman Dave Dictor, who often tries to stuff too many words into a verse. The vituperative opener “Patriot Asshole” sets the tone for MDC’s half of the split, an animated composition replete with auxiliary vocals and menacing guitar work and the vindictive MDC spirit fans expect. Dictor follows up “Patriot Asshole” with the unexpectedly cautionary “Quentin” in reference to San Quentin State Prison. He explains in the liner notes it was written and dedicated “to those young people who somehow see doing a prison term as some sort of ‘rite of passage’” and its lyrics beg, “Is Quentin where you really want to go?” Some of the best tracks on the LP are the anti-industrial “Pollution” and “Absconding from the Gate,” a delightful song about skipping parole to go on tour with MDC. The band sends some pretty mixed messages between the reflective “Addict” and ridiculous “Maryjane for President,” the former of which ashamedly concedes "I roll another joint and forget the things I said / Erase this reality, fucked-up mentality / ... / Think about quitting another day” while the latter proclaims “I’d rather smoke a joint tonight...Marijuana!”

The Restarts have been brewing below the surface in the States for awhile, more popular with the anarcho/crust crowd despite their raw street style and members from bands like Armed and Hammered, UK Subs and the Varukers. The rough production suits their style well, though it also facilitates a level of homogeny throughout the track list, aside from two songs that do stand out from the bunch. “The Pied Piper” is a poppy sing-along dedicated to Warren “Spider” Hastings, who put on punk fests in Mormara, Ontario; it packs a pub-chant chorus that recalls, “He’s a one man punk rock party / He was louder than any band.” “Square One” is a scratchy ska tune with a flowing bassline that’s pretty good but pretty much sounds just like Citizen Fish, which is somewhat amusing since Citizen Fish had a song called “Back to Square One” on their split with Leftover Crack. The other tracks are pretty decent albeit not as memorable.

Fans of either band should know what they’re getting into with Mobocracy. MDC has compiled some of their best songs in recent years on their half, while the Restarts' aggressive street punk rarely lets up through their eight-song contribution. Complete with a foldout lyrics poster and great artwork by Kieran Plunkett of the Restarts, Mobocracy is a nice addition to both bands’ catalogues.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9091#ixzz0igQ90kEc

Review: The White Mice - "Ganjahovahdose"

There’s “weird for the sake of being weird,” and then there’s bands like the White Mice who base their entire existence around it.

There have been plenty of bands who’ve ridden a wave of success at least in part on their aesthetic gimmicks. Gwar, certainly; the Aquabats to a degree; and even more so, the Locust, who undoubtedly dealt a great deal of influence to the grindingly noisy, fully-costumed, God-hating White Mice. But whereas the other bands of the bundle subsidize their outlandish attire with substantial musical talent, the White Mice are content to merely molest the listener with repetitive, almost industrial noise. Unquestionably, one of the beauties of music is that there are no rules dictating some ratio of style and substance, but the White Mice clearly lean on the former like a crutch.

Despite the walls of droning inert noise that make up the compositions on Ganjahovahdose, there are some kind of cool things going on. The cryptic audio clips of movie and TV broadcasts spliced in strategically throughout the chaotic sonic landscapes of the album help create a creepy atmosphere that’s palpable. Beyond that, though, there’s little to laud. The band seems to pride themselves on what their promotional material describes as “pun-obsessed” and “toilet-humored” but the problem is that the puns aren't clever and nothing is funny in the slightest. “The Hard on of Edam”? “The Ape-Caca-Lips”? “The Crapture”? Gimme a break! The likewise unclever “The Shroud of Urine” is nothing but “White” noise with no attempt at any lyrics at all. You might as well listen to Wolf Eyes.

It’s not to say that this band and album won’t appeal to some sector of the music-consuming populace. If it does, though, it will most likely be the same type of self-described “wackos” who comprise the White Mice.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9088#ixzz0igPC1fT0

Review: Walken - "Walken"

While graced with a bold alias universally recognized, the challenge of competing with iniquitous thespian and perennial SNL host Christopher Walken for the corresponding section of the encyclopedia is futile and bound to lead only to disappointment. Even so, this Walken puts on a memorable and impressive show through more than half the 11 songs that compose their self-titled full-length.

A sound of equal parts bludgeoning hardcore punk à la a tighter, more crisp Akimbo and the Bay Area thrash sound of yesteryear, Walken fruitfully ignites a musically articulate intensity all too rare. The paradigm of this punk/metal dualism is the album opener “Watch It Burn,” which highlights both the triumphs and pitfalls of such an amalgamation. While the straightforward punk tenacity propels the songs forward at their most forceful, the dynamic metal riff interplay at times counterbalances and at times seems to nearly negate whatever energy had been amassed. The melodic metal parts often sound awkward and phoned-in, especially following the galloping thrash intro to “Nadir.”

Where the two styles do blend well is on the brooding bruiser “Running Out of Time,” which despite its substandard lyrics (“I see that time is flying / Gotta live before we die”) is concurrently aggressive and measured. Walken spends four of their 11 tracks either completely instrumental or mostly so (“Beast Toker” advises confidently, “So low, get high”). In what’s frankly an otherwise rocking album, the tedium of wordless meandering in cuts like “Dylan’s Song” and “The Bridge” severely hinder what could have been an epic release. And while “epic” might be an appropriate adjective to describe the seven-and-a-half-minute “1/27/07,” it could have easily been cut in two instead of relegating the second half to only aficionados of stoner metal.

Walken are on the cusp of developing into a full-throttle force of aggressive music on their self-titled LP. With some healthy refinement, minor tweaks and more willingness to leave the filler on the cutting room floor, this is a sound that could find broad appeal among the hardcore and metal fans of the world.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9083#ixzz0igOZYXvu

Review: Killing Time - "Three Steps Back"

If you thought it was an oxymoron or if you thought it was a myth, think again. If you thought it was something that could never happen, forget everything you know. It’s right here: Literate NYHC. And it’s nothing new. Killing Time have been at it for 20 years now.

Killing Time, formed in 1988 as Raw Deal, have at one time or another throughout their history featured members of Judge, Token Entry, Sick of It All, Breakdown, Inside Out, Uppercut, Electric Frankenstein and Maximum Penalty, among others, and been on hiatus at least four times in two decades. Going steady again since 2005, Three Steps Back is the band’s first release since 1997’s The Method. While generally what one would expect from New York hardcore musically, Killing Time is perhaps a shade more melodic and with lyrical development that far exceeds the majority of their brethren. While some songs were penned by vocalist Anthony Comunale, some are credited to bassist Chris Skowronski, while the bulk of the lyrics were written by drummer Anthony Drago.

The catchy hardcore of “24” stands far out in the track list with its not-so-subtle hooks and a warmth that few NYHC bands ever capture, with the exception of maybe Sick of It All and H2O. According to an interview with Drago, the lyrics detail “a time in my life when I was forced to make certain decisions that would affect the rest of my life and the anxiety and depression that came along with that.” That decision would seem to be Drago’s choice to put Killing Time on hold and become a police officer based on the lyrics: “Not much left of me on the inspection line / They breached my heart and ransacked my mind […] Arms at your side and get that chin up high / Boy, hold that piss ‘til you’re dismissed.” There are a few other somewhat melodic tracks on Three Steps Back (“Mingus,” “Crouch,” “AKB”) but for the most part, Killing Time uses their time to beat and batter their way through the album with crunching guitars and punishing rhythms. Occasionally, a spiraling metallic lead will find its way into the fold, as in the opener “Flight Plan” or “Half Empty,” which self-professes, “I am the lone gunman / I am the bombardier / I am the silent warning all you fuck-ups need to hear / Serving both sides like St. Sebastian stuck on high / Abusing my body to free my mind.”

The decade of dormancy hasn't stolen anything from Killing Time. Their dynamic riffs, compelling rhythms and urbane lyricism combine to produce a stellar effort in Three Steps Back.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9072#ixzz0igNXl6ZU

Review: Liturgy - "Renihilation"

You know what’s bullshit? When bands are so lazy and unoriginal with their name that they take--for their own--the name of an already established band both within their own country and, even worse, within their own genre of music. The example here is that it necessitates any reference to this Liturgy as “the Brooklyn black metal band,” not Liturgy “the Chicago death metal band.” No one would be dumb enough to name their Long Island skatepunk band Pennywise, so why can’t metalheads think of something new? Yeah, I know, there are two groups of Subhumans and a pair of Youth Brigades, but this was well before the internet in a time where such excuses could be legitimated. That’s the first thing about this that pisses me off. The second is more inherent in the style but no less distracting.

I’ll admit without shame I’m no scholar of black metal, but it’s a little tedious being assaulted by an inexhaustible chain of blast beats song after song for 45 minutes. These compositions, almost by definition, start slow and boring (sometimes with the help of a precursor track of droning filler) and eventually build to cacophonous monotony, but they never really go anywhere. Liturgy (the Brooklyn black metal band, not the Chicago death metal band) is certainly no exception. The unnamed, opening droning track stretches to uncomfortably numbing lengths before “Pagan Dawn” (yes, that’s really what it’s called) hammers in. Jarring at first, after a minute of steady blast beat pummeling, it loses whatever menacing effect it first claimed and begins to mold into an immutable mass of noise. Vocalist Hunter Hunt-Hendrix shouts nothing coherent, which might not be a problem if there was a lyrics sheet to reference when lauding or lambasting whatever assuredly dark, evil poetics he puts to paper. The same formula of unnamed droning intro/intermissions is repeated throughout the album, from “Ecstatic Rite” to “Beyond the Magic Forest.” The only real deviation is on “Arctica,” which breaks down into a more measured meter and some semblance of multiplicity deep into the composition.

Reviews of Renihilation have ranged from hailing it as little short of a black metal masterpiece to dismissing it as ironic hipster garbage. Whatever the distinction, Liturgy (the Brooklyn black metal band, not the Chicago death metal band) has failed to produce anything moving on Renihilation.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9071#ixzz0igDh7V7R

Review: The Desert Vest - "You Can't Push a Ghost"

Minneapolis’ the Desert Vest first contacted me about doing a review of their album You Can’t Push a Ghost after my review of their friends Death to Our Enemies and their self-titled LP and supposing I would similarly enjoy their offering.

Indeed, the two bands present a remarkably similar style of grungy garage rock, though the two-piece Desert Vest make far fewer attempts at pop appeal, apparently more concerned with crafting eerily textured sonic voyages than stringing together a chain of hooks. Singer Lucas Price’s dreary vocal deportment is the chief distinguishing characteristic of You Can’t Push a Ghost, as his mildly avant-garde lyrics are brought to life, or more appropriately, some zombie-like state. “For Jesus you cry / You cry your tears / His agency / The callous glue / Love ghost of youth / The nun she bought it / Broke of prophet” sings Price on opener “The Endless Agent.” The compositions are at their best when the unexcited vocals are juxtaposed with jarring dissonance and lively rhythms pounded out by drummer Nick Hauboldt, such as the Sonic Youth-influenced “Silverfish.” Most of the songs are a bit on the long side (between 3:30 and 5 minutes), and the duo indulges in quite a bit of tinkering towards the end of the album, but it closes out well with “At the Bottom.”

Fuzzy, experimental garage rock may not be at its peak right now, but don’t tell that to the Desert Vest. Their gloomy approach might sound more at home in Seattle than Minneapolis, but when it’s -4 degrees out in the middle of the day, Price’s despondent delivery makes perfect sense.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9068#ixzz0ig6AznDB

Review: Smoking Popes - "It's Been a Long Day"

The extensive and turbulent existence of the Smoking Popes has, from its beginning, witnessed dramatic nascent growth, eventual deterioration, dissolution, reunion and subsequent rebirth. The 1990s left the band with four outstanding full-lengths, tours with the likes of Jawbreaker, Green Day and Morrissey, and by the turn of the decade, no more Smoking Popes for five years. What It’s Been a Long Day collects are some of the gems from that first period of activity that didn't find their way onto a full-length but have now received the remaster treatment and found a nice new home on Asian Man Records.

Even though this compilation brings together material from various non-full length releases, most of the tracks have been previously available through one or more outlets. Nineteen of the 20 tracks were previously released via a series of splits, compilations and seven-inches, while many were re-released on the (now out-of-print) compilation 1991-1998 from drummer Mike Felumlee’s Double Zero Records. The Popes’ debut LP Get Fired, which was included on 1991-1998, is not included in the mix (Asian Man’s giving it a proper re-release later this year), but in its place are several additions that make up for its absence. The trio of “No Time for Your Lies,” “Missing Out” and “Theme From 'Cheerleader'” have at times been available through online fan sites in the form of lo-fidelity MP3s, but get a much-needed touch-up on It’s Been a Long Day. Even with the improved audio quality, however, the raw punk of the Popes’ early years shines through, especially on the Descendents-like “Missing Out”: “Some people really make me sick / And here’s another reason why I don’t lift weights / I don’t talk about it in the locker room / But I don’t like football so I just keep my mouth shut!” Also included here but not on 1991-1998 is the Smoking Popes’ half of their split with Groovy Love Vibes, which contributes the rough-hewn “Hang” and the delightful duet cover of Stevie Nicks and Don Henley’s “Leather and Lace” with Popes frontman Josh Caterer crooning along and Erik Pertl’s raspy take on Henley’s section of the song.

The title of the disc is derived from the recently unearthed relic “Long Day,” which was recorded in 1992, never released, presumed lost forever, and then found “hiding in a corner of the basement.” Quite appropriately, it’s one of the standouts in an already sterling collection of songs, and hears Caterer concede rather enthusiastically, “You can take my records / And my leather jacket / I’ll keep all your promises that you'll come back.” The portion of the disc that was already released on 1991-1998 is utterly fantastic, from possibly the catchiest song ever (“Writing a Letter”) to one of the cutest (“Stars”) to the strengthening break-up anthem “Never Coming Back.” There are a few tracks lacking that make this collection incomplete (correct me if I’m wrong) like “Ft. Stockton, TX,” “Angel Flying Too Close to Ground,” “Devil in Disguise,” “Language of Love” and “Hope You’re Still Around” among others, but this release doesn't claim to be a complete anthology so it’s somewhat of a moot point. Plus, like any good collection, It’s Been a Long Day makes good use of its insert to gain insider insight as Caterer discusses the stories behind his “top five” songs of the CD.

For any Smoking Popes fan who never got their hands on 1991-1998 before it went out of print, or even those who did, there are plenty of reasons to buy It’s Been a Long Day. While most rarities compilations are reserved for the die-hard fan, the quality music the Smoking Popes consistently put forth makes this a release that anyone should be able to enjoy.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9066#ixzz0ifmhSobn

Review: Various Artists: "Saw VI" soundtrack

It’s not clear how Trustkill was charged with the task of releasing the soundtrack to Saw VI (all the previous soundtracks had been released on Warner Bros.), but it seems plausible that certain steps were taken to ensure that despite the label’s general inclination towards hardcore and metalcore, the collection be able to capture the interest of the Saw/Hot Topic community with an inclusive array of dark music.

Whether or not the task of song/artist selection was bestowed upon Trustkill is not known. While there are indications that it may have been so (Memphis May Fire, Outbreak, It Dies Today), there are plenty of artists here who have nothing to do with the type of music Trustkill usually puts out (Kittie, Mushroomhead, Nitzer Ebb). In the end, it doesn’t really matter who assembled this hodgepodge collection because it’s what we have to work with.

To make one thing clear at the outset, this soundtrack actually does an okay job of balancing the hardcore inclusions one might expect from a Trustkill release with the generic dark hard rock Saw fans enjoy, regardless of how intentional it was. Nevertheless, over 50 percent of the music here “from and inspired by Saw VI" is bad, unlistenable, or would otherwise be classified as garbage to the majority of the independent music community. Mushroomhead’s track “Your Soul Is Mine” sounds like Godsmack on an emo binge, while the James Brothers’ insipid saunter “More Than a Sin” is a snooze and a half. Nitzer Ebb goes for some sort of sinister industrial style, but ends up just sounding silly, while Kittie’s “Cutthrout” isn't quite as convincing as it would have been 10 years ago.

Among the standouts are Outbreak’s “The Countdown Begins” off their latest LP, and Converge with the rip-roaring “Dark Horse” from Axe to Fall. Hatebreed has a surprisingly enjoyable contribution of “In Ashes They Shall Reap”--enduring its cringer of an intro--and Type O Negative sounds decent with “Dead Again” despite the cheesy lyrics.

While the Saw VI soundtrack comes up short for fans of hardcore and punk rock, there’s more than enough crappy metal and hard rock to satisfy fanatics of the series of gory mainstream thrillers it represents.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9065#ixzz0ifljZ5Gy

Review: Face Value - "Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Clevo Hardcore '89-'93"

While a bulk of what Smog Veil puts out seems like unearthed relics from a time capsule, no less enjoyable but still noticeably dated (Rocket from the Tombs, Pistol Whip, Rubber City Rebels, etc.), Face Value’s cache, dusted off and compiled on Rode Hard, Put Away Wet sounds nearly as fresh and relevant in 2010 as it did 20 years ago. Now, that may be due in part to the relatively superior audio quality of the ‘90s, or it may just as likely be thanks to both the youth crew and thrash revival movements of recent, but for whatever reason Face Value’s style of hardcore doesn’t seem so far removed from what’s happening in punk circles today.

Furthermore, Face Value demonstrates an adroit mastery of songwriting and musicianship all too rare in hardcore music. Psycho straight-edge vocalist Tony Erba (who would go on to play bass in Havoc Records mainstay 9 Shocks Terror) shouts above the mix in a throaty, youth-crew style that often breaks down to nearly rapping, while ax-man Anthony Brown shreds unreal from hammering out complex hardcore progressions to carving out razor-sharp thrash jams.

The epic package that is Rode Hard, Put Away Wet is separated into two discs: a 31-track audio CD that spans four releases from 1989-1993 and a DVD that includes live footage from seven different shows across the country. The CD isn’t ordered in chronological fashion, but rather organized so that their LP comes first, the 1990 and 1993 EPs follow, and the band’s 1989 demo is last, which makes it a bit difficult to follow the band’s development when casually listening to the disc.

That’s not entirely necessary though, as Face Value’s consistency maintains throughout. Erba’s isolationist attitude takes the reign on the misfit anthem “Outside Looking In”: “I don’t fit in...I never did!” Another standout from The Price of Maturity LP is the minute-and-a-half band track “Face Value,” which spends the first 20 seconds winding in like “Paint it, Black” before launching full-throttle into the dicing hardcore to which the band lays claim. Within the six tracks of the Coming of Age EP, the crossover thrashing “Holding the Grudge” and slam-along “What it Meant” highlight the portion of 1990 tunes that pave the way for the more eclectic Kick It Over EP that follows. Deviating the furthest from the “base sound” of most of their catalog, this EP basks in some of the funk-thrash sound Suicidal Tendencies was taking to fame around the same time, with hip-hop breakdowns on “Myrtle Beach” and “Born a Bastard.” The band even gets a little progressive on the seven-minute “My Brother’s Keeper.” The recording quality regresses into the final portion of the CD, the band’s 1989 demo. The songs are still great (especially the raw and discordant “Coming Back to Haunt You” and reggae-infused “Give My Life”) but it seems like it would have made more sense to put these songs towards the beginning.

While the audio CD is reason enough to warrant a purchase, the DVD is a great addition to the package, and virtually overflows with content from live footage, to information about cities, scenes and venues to flyers, photos and more. Though the shows were filmed from inside the crowds and without professional audio pickup, they’re still crucial to the catalog, adding songs like “Total Loser,” “Son of a Bitch” and the excellent “Sea of Isolation” which didn't appear on the CD. Furthermore, they’re documented proof of the type of live show Face Value could put on from their intense stage presence to the energetic fan interaction expected at hardcore shows.

As if that wasn't enough, the included insert folds out to a Face Value poster on one side, and on the back includes FV-related anecdotes from contributors like Duncan Barlow of By the Grace of God, Human Furnace of Ringworm, Frank Novinec of Hatebreed and Jim Konya of 9 Shocks Terror.

Even though Face Value’s presence in the hardcore scene is now some 15 years in the past, any fan of hardcore music would be doing themselves a disservice by not checking out this release. Whether for the 31 tracks of studio brilliance or the vintage live footage found on the DVD, this is a release well worth a trip to your local record store for.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9062#ixzz0ifhw67kp

Review: Bulldog Courage - "From Heartache to Hatred"

While there aren't any photos of the dapper young gents of Bulldog Courage in the liner notes of this album, it’s probably safe to say they’re not the kind of folks you’d want to encounter in a poorly lit alleyway. Of course, that’s only based on the testosterone-filled anthems that comprise From Heartache to Hatred, but it’s hard to imagine a more telling testament than what’s heard here.

For the most part, Bulldog Courage seem to come from the Blood for Blood school of hardcore that is by nature heavy, machismo, and certainly not straight-edge. Strangely though, there are some rather endearing tracks on this record, and rather than gloss over exactly what makes this album good and what makes it bad, I’m resorting to the ol’ Amazon.com individual song breakdown system, beloved by amateur critics everywhere.

“Where I've Been”: A fairly trite but not horrible beginning to the album; the chorus of this paint-by-numbers hardcore is “I don’t know where I’m going / I sure know where I've been / I've been knocked down and broken / Every place that I've been in.”

“Our Neighborhood”: “This is our neighborhood / So get to steppin’ if you know what’s good.” Yep, typical tough-guy hardcore.

“Punk Rock Princess”: One of the worst hardcore songs ever! If I didn't know better, I would have thought this song was a joke. “She was fucking crazy / Yeah this bitch was mean / A punk rock princess / Queen of the fucking scene.”

“American Stormtrooper”: The first good song of the record. It may not be wholly original in theme (standard anti-cop anthem) but it’s effective and the final sprint towards the end is packed with truculent energy.

“Old Friends Die Hard”: One of the catchiest hardcore songs ever! It certainly sounds more H2O than Death Before Dishonor, but any way you compare it, it’s a great song and what really makes this album worth its weight in plastic.

“All My Friends”: Bulldog Courage keeps up the catchy melodies from the previous track here, and by now it’s clear they’ve turned a corner with the bulk of the worst songs in the rearview mirror.

“Live Before I Die”: Nothing spectacular, though the chorus is exceptional and the multi-tiered breakdown sounds nice.

“Blood and Whiskey”: I’m not saying all hardcore has to be straight-edge or have some deeper meaning, but this song just seems like wasted space. Get it? Get it?!

“This City”: With a little bit more substance than the majority of the other tracks, “This City” directly addresses the reality of urban blight in no uncertain terms and with a pretty amusing a-melodic rap part.

“The Pledge”: Whoa, beatdown hardcore! For the sake of not sounding redundant, I won’t repeat any of the lyrics here, but you can hear them on any Madball, Agnostic Front or Blood for Blood record.

“...Money on the Bar”: I’m pretty indifferent to this song. It straddles the line between glamorizing and denouncing binge drinking and doesn't have much musically to like or dislike.

“Sucker”: It’s a little bit repetitive, with two sections that repeat multiple times, but other than that it’s a pissed-off punk song and for that reason it’s not bad.

“Always Down Never Out”: This song gets a lift from non-lead vocals to help it stand out and has several breakdowns (including one standard chug-chugger) but is overall decent.

“Revenge”: It’s a Black Flag cover. Obviously it can’t be as good as the original, but it puts a nice cap on the disc and shows that they’re drawing from some of the right places.

Albany, New York’s Bulldog Courage rides a rather rickety rollercoaster on From Heartache to Hatred. With a couple terrible songs, a few phenomenal numbers, and quite a bit falling somewhere between, the strength of tracks like “Old Friends Die Hard,” “American Stormtrooper” and “All My Friends” push the enjoyment factor ever-so-slightly into positive territory for this release.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9051#ixzz0ifg51feI

Review: Various Artists: Sverigemangel Punk and Hardcore Compilation

Niche compilations are always a little bit hit-or-miss, and even more so when they’re in a foreign language and comprised of never-before-heard bands. And while it’s not an entirely dubious identity in and of itself, the subtitle of Sweden’s Sverigemangel Punk & Hardcore Compilation effectively captures the gist here: “Brutal Musik För En Brutal Värld.”

A joint venture between Anarkopunx Records and Container Rock Produktion, Sverigemangel piles together 39 tracks from almost 20 acts, none of whom are named Millencolin or Refused. And while Sweden’s world-renowned crust scene has spawned the likes of Wolfbrigade and Disfear, no such luminaries are present on this disc. Instead, there are acts like Ett Sista Andetag, 365 Dagar Av Synd, and Radioskugga. Some devout native or otherwise informed enthusiasts might recognize names like Kurt Olvars Rebeller and Rövsvett, but most probably won’t. The deceptively familiar Fromtheashes unconsciously stands out from the rest, but it’s more due to the misassociation with From Ashes Rise (R.I.P.) than the grindy variety they lay down here.

The main challenge for Anarkopunx and company is that for whatever reason, anarcho-punk has been virtually absorbed by crust and D-beat in the last decade and a half. Thus, the tracks on Sverigemangel are rendered practically indistinguishable to the Stateside listener unfamiliar with the various minor idiosyncrasies that separate what would otherwise be one unremitting noisy glob of crust.

About half the bands make their contributions in Swedish and half in English, while acts like Krissituation play both “Lät det aldrig hända igen” and “This Is the Way.” Not Enough Hate opens a can of blastbeats on “Murder, Death, Kill,” and serves it on a platter of crusty vocals, while Hotbild’s “Forintad” feels almost industrial in its timbre. Von Bööm supplies five of the most consistent tracks on the record, from “Hej Hej Hej” to the unadorned blaster “Your Salvation.”

The only thing really lacking in Sverigemangel is variety, and it probably wasn’t what they were going for anyway. So it’s a bit of a catch-22 that while you do have an esoteric assemblage of Swedish anarcho-crust to satisfy any devotee to the tradition, it’s unfortunately what makes this compilation of marginal interest to the rest of the populace.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9027#ixzz0iffKCffT

Review: Guignol & Mischief Brew - "Fight Dirty"

The collaboration Fight Dirty, a pairing of Erik Petersen’s Mischief Brew, and Guignol (French for “puppet”) is an interesting venture to say the least. Unlike a traditional split, each song on the album is a joint effort. Half the tunes are Erik Petersen backed by Guignol, and the other half are Guignol featuring Erik Petersen on guitar. If you’re guessing that this disc is one hell of a ride, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.

Within the first 30 seconds of “The Tardy Barker,” it’s audibly apparent that no less than half the members of the instrumental Guignol are also in World/Inferno Friendship Society (Franz Nicolay on accordion and mandola and Peter Hess on clarinet, to be specific). Hess’ flittering clarinet twirls bounce playfully off the low end of George Rush’s tuba before John Bollinger (not that John Bollinger) kicks in a hurried punk rock rhythm and Petersen unwraps a nearly metal-sounding sounding guitar lead. Speaking of metal, the quartet (plus one) also tackles a mini-cover of Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” cutting the seven-minute anthem in half but keeping all the twists and turns along the way with the help of Slavic Soul Party’s Ben Holmes on trumpet. Also covered is a highly enjoyable rendition of jazz great Django Reinhardt’s whimsical number “Appel Direct,” which hears Hess matching Reinhardt’s incredible guitar melody on clarinet and adding plenty of his own flavor. Guignol’s originals are awash with traditional jazz, klezmer, Balkan, and circus-y sounds which only rarely lose steam (“Sugar Park Tavern Death Song”) and just as frequently remind the listener of the group’s punk undertones (the phenomenal “Dirty Benny’s Pogo”). The only drawback is after getting a taste of Nicolay’s singing ability on Major General, Guignol remains instrumental, a critique that is more out of curiosity of what could be than anything lacking.

Erik Petersen sings on five of the 16 songs, with the delightfully anti-digital/anti-tax/anti-papertrail “Off The Books” serving as the first taste of the batch. Though Petersen’s songwriting doesn't deviate greatly from what Mischief Brew fans are used to, his songs are aided exponentially by the addition of Guignol as a backing band. Though “When It Rains” passes by and large in a lull, and “Mr. Crumb”’s mostly acoustic structure brings to mind the previously released anti-cop anthem “Thanks, Bastards!”, the collaboration overall yields unique and memorable results. “Create Destroy” is a jazzy howler that ranks among the disc’s best tracks, and the tuba-heavy title track serves as an appropriate manifesto of the boundary-busting collaboration.

For a band made up of accordion, clarinet, drums, tuba and a guy singing essentially raucous folk anthems with a seafaring twist, Guignol and Mischief Brew are no doubt taking punk to places it's never before ventured. However, they’re also taking it to where punk has always been, as Guignol promises on their Fistolo Records homepage: “We’re playing a squat, punk rock flea market, or dingy basement near you.”

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9025#ixzz0ifeZMH31

Review: Stitch Hopeless and the Sea Legs - "Gone Bats"

From the first time I popped the black disc out of its plastic tray through the six or seven spins I gave it over the course of the weekend, and up until I ventured online to do a little research, I thought "Gone Bats" was the name of this band and planned on commenting how great a name it is for a psychobilly band. But alas, Gone Bats is the name of the album, and Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs is the unfortunate name this band bears.

However, generally speaking, a band’s music is markedly more important than their name, and that’s where Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs (pardon the pun) have a leg up. Launching off the starting blocks, the first two cuts give the impression that Stitch Hopeless' forte is interpolating classic rock ‘n' roll tunes into raucous psychobilly wreckers. “Gonna Run” nips the Bill Haley and His Comets hit “Rock Around the Clock” while “Trash Like Me” seems to draw from CCR’s “Travelin’ Band,” though it could just as easily be aping Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” or any other veritable 12-bar blues romp. As it turns out, though, Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs are just as capable of writing contemporary psychobilly tunes in their own meter and melodies. The morbidly titled “Corpse Fucker” isn't lyrically as grotesque as its name would suggest, as a rather playful male/female duet alternates in a similar manner to Dropkick Murphys’ “The Dirty Glass.” “Dead Alive” is a mostly a stock psychobilly song, but it’s worth mentioning as an example of the way Stitch hiccups the last syllable of some words in the way of the late, great Lux Interior.

The title track shows up in two forms: the standard version (track 10) and the “frantic version” (track 5). The only difference seems to be a host of singers on the frantic version, one of whom appears to be Tim Armstrong. It’s only for a line, and it passes by in a flash, but it seems odd there’s no mention in the liner notes and there’s nothing to be found online. It could make sense, though, as track 8, “Grey Laces,” has a definite post-Life Won’t Wait Rancid feel to it and is one of the album’s best songs. Another is the rather tender “Work & Drink,” which thumps in with a round of thick double bass slaps and professes apologetically, “I work and I drink and I fall asleep / And I wake just to work and get off work and drink […] This is how we live our lives, honey / This is how we do / But I’d like to spend more time with you.” The final track on Gone Bats is a tribute to oft-embattled Pogues’ frontman Shane MacGowan, as Stitch Hopeless echoes on “Been Around, “I've been around / On first-name basis with the police in this town / I've been up, I've been down / Lord knows I've been around."

As long as the “white power” tag added to Stitch Hopeless & the Sea Legs on Last.fm is fallacious (and one should assume it is if that’s really Tim Armstrong’s voice on the title track), this is one of the best psychobilly albums out there. Blending the personal struggles of the human race with the zombie, vampire and Frankenstein fare of psychobilly storytelling, Gone Bats can stand alongside the best of Tiger Army, the Meteors and the Quakes as a pinnacle of the genre so far.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9022#ixzz0ifdYW5xS

Review: Ambush! - American Monster

Based on the following clues, please use inductive reasoning to determine the style of play found on this release:

”Out for Blood”
Ear gauges
Judge t-shirts

If you guessed some variety of modern hardcore, you are correct, and capable of coming to obvious conclusions. If you ignored the clues and instead based your answer on the cover artwork and some previous awareness of Michale Graves’ stint in the Misfits, you are incorrect, but kudos for demonstrating useless esoteric knowledge.

So yes, that is exactly what we have here. Neither fully committed to youth crew revival (not enough gang vocals), heavy hardcore (too many different chords) or nü-hardcore (not enough melody), Ambush! is a variance of fairly straightforward guitars, a moderate amount of double-bass drumming, and shouty, a-melodic vocals. The lyrics are generally fairly positive as modern hardcore goes, and generally pretty good. “Testing the Immortals Name” muses loudly, “What have you become in these dark days? A slave to vice. A shell to strife / Too far for us to save your life, and now you’re lying to yourself.”

With an opening bassline bouncing back and forth like a pinball, the title track takes target practice with American culture in the crosshairs, as vocalist Kyle Dischinger shouts, “This world we love was built on blood / But it’s not enough to quench the thirst” before the double-bass kicks in for a round of breakdown chugs. The band borrows “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” from Talladega Nights as a title, which seems a little bit odd for a rather serious song, but that small detractor is one of the few noticeable foibles of the album.

So while yes, this is a hardcore record through and through, it’s not a complete carbon copy of what’s already out there. Delicately picking from their forerunners, Ambush! have forged their own path with American Monster.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/8967#ixzz0ifcHOoTf

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Cameran - A Caesarean

While it’s important to know who Cameran are, it’s also important to know who they aren't. For instance, they are not the Academy Award-winning director of Titanic and Avatar. They also aren’t the Grammy-nominated rapper responsible for hits like “Hey Ma” and “Oh Boy.” What they are is an incredibly talented, forward-thinking Austrian post-hardcore ensemble with the potential to properly blow away any listener expecting otherwise.

Although the comparisons are actually less simplistic than conveyed here, it’s hard to imagine a band like Cameran had Refused not blazed a path for more abstract portrayals of hardcore years earlier in The Shape of Punk to Come. A Caesarean was even recorded in Umeå, Sweden and with Magnus Lindberg, who also worked with Refused.

Cameran, though, is a level or two milder than Dennis Lyxzén and company even at their artsiest. While the opening track “Zombie Walk” pulsates with a rise-and-fall intensity and energetic shouts, its lyrics command gently, “Delve deep into the ocean / And leave all the killing fields / But witness the devastation / Over Paris I’ll fly again.” It then breaks into a less shouty verse more reminiscent of a Zach de la Rocha stanza with a little less fluent English. Its successor “Spin Variations” clocks in at an ambitious 5:32, but glows with the same warm, cyclic guitar lead and docile verses in between booming choruses. “The Forging of Battle Plan B” opens with a muddy vocal track set back in the mix, which slowly comes to the forefront, takes a weird underwater Auto-Tune twist for a line or two, and then goes back to normal.

Where A Caesarean begins to lose steam is with “Headphone Music Op 001,” which would run parallel to “The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax” if the latter was devoid of lyrical content. The CD gets back on track with the shifty “Hideko” and “Osaka, She Knows!”, but lulls into tedium again with “Tu Es Monono?” The closer “A Million Years Now” virtually encapsulates the album as a whole, an interesting number awash with intensity and spoken word that stretches far too long at 11:15 and ends up negatively affecting the overall enjoyment.

Even with the questionable inclusion of the soft, long instrumental tracks, A Caesarean packs a certain type of punch you can’t get anywhere else. Trim the fat here, and you have an excellent album. As it is, it’s still pretty darn good.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/9008#ixzz0iUzmvsAS

Review: Various Artists: MNSka Mixtape Volume 1

Minnesota isn't generally considered a hotbed of ska music by any means. Sure, we have one of the world’s foremost pop-punk scenes alongside Gainesville and Chicago, an illustrious history of hardcore, and one of the best crust communities this side of the West Coast, but there have been few acts to emerge from what is actually a fairly vibrant ska scene in the nation’s icebox. This compilation seeks to change that, or at the very least shed some light on what’s going on ska-wise in the Gopher state.

The compilation covers a spectrum of styles and takes on the traditional ska sound, ska-punk varieties, and those that fall elsewhere but still managed to find their way into the mix. Only about half the acts utilize a horn section on their contributions, though those without don’t necessarily sound lacking in any way. Hardcore Crayons and Moving to Pluto both eschew brass but work in incredibly catchy melodies in emo-targeted songs (“Not Another Emo Song” and “Emoshay,” respectively). Rocksteady Breakfast (whose members also play in the hilarious manic street punk act Ponx Attax) and the recently officially disbanded GYLBOTS (whose members also play in the Prizefighters heard here) fill their contributions with enough upstrokes to make up for any lack of horns, while Mikey Talented’s song “Classic Mix-Up” is an infectious, almost '90s sounding tune in the vein of Smashmouth, Sugar Ray or Barenaked Ladies with only a hint of ska rhythms.

Of the tracks that do feature brass, there are plenty of excellent compositions rife with fun hornlines and energetic rhythms. Small Kitchen Appliances get things going in fine fashion with “Pockets Full of Gold” while Sajak’s “Damn Me Damn You” is simple but effective. Secondhand Ska Kings’ “Carrie” jumps out of the speakers with Matt Bertrand’s hyper upstroke chords and a blast of classic soul horns while Aaron Porter and company lay down a relaxing reggae groove on the Prizefighters’ “There’ll Be a Day.”

In retrospect, what really is a hotbed of ska these days? The biggest names in the genre are from all different parts of the country. Don’t believe me? Look: Reel Big Fish (Orange County), Less Than Jake (Gainesville), Mustard Plug (Grand Rapids), Streetlight Manifesto (New Jersey), the Slackers (New York), Bosstones (duh). If any city can field a release of 20 talented ska bands, it should be celebrated, and that’s exactly what this compilation does.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/8979#ixzz0iUxvICtp

Review: Pistol Whip - "Terminal"

Like many of the artists on Smog Veil’s roster, Pistol Whip emerged in the burgeoning American underground of the 1970s with a style that bridged the gap between protopunk and punk rock. Claiming the title of Erie, Pennsylvania’s first punk band, Pistol Whip’s tumultuous existence is chronicled on this CD+DVD combo, from their initial run of releases in 1977 and 1978 to their subsequent reunions in 1988 and 2009.

Though probably fairly jarring to Middle America by early 1970s standards, Pistol Whip’s brand of speed-inspired rock 'n’ roll seems like fairly standard fare in 2009. Like a less catchy, though more technically-versed version of the Ramones, Pistol Whip blasts through 12 songs in 33 minutes on the CD portion of the release. The first two songs comprise the band’s sole 7-inch (whose original two-track master tapes were miraculously unearthed in August of 2009), and serve as a proper sampling of what Pistol Whip was capable of, from the swirling electric organ of “Heart Throb” to the soaring guitar solo on the mildly offensive “Untouchables” which begs, “Is every woman really a whore?”

In Spring of 1978, Pistol Whip headed to Chicago to record the demos for a full-length album. All that remains of that 4-track session is described as “a very degraded, normal-bias cassette in mono,” which thanks to the development of digital technology has now been preserved and virtually immortalized. Some of Pistol Whip’s best material is on these 10 tracks, including the boogie punk of “Iron Curtain” (“keeping you from me!") and the infectious toe-tapper “All that Jazz.” The drug-induced inanity of the recording sessions is apparent on tracks like “Jooky MaGoo” and the stadium rocker “Six More Inches” as the group flaunted the sex-crazed glam side of their sound.

The DVD is an interesting assortment of archivist media comprising photos, posters, press clippings and interviews in a narrated biography, and live shows from 1978, 1988, and 2009. Although the audio and video quality of the reunion shows is far superior, the imperfect energy and attire of the 1978 art festival performance stands out as the DVD’s biggest contribution to the bundle.

Though they roused significant interest in their heyday from their potty-mouths to their wild antics, Pistol Whip may have slipped through the cracks for many if it weren't for the hard work of Smog Veil Records. Tightly packaged with content bursting at the seams, Pistol Whip will live to see a new generation with the release of Terminal.

Read more: http://www.punknews.org/review/8970#ixzz0iUwQRA74