Originally written by Ian Chainey
Hey, we’re not above a list. Never think we’re above a list. We’ll steer clear of trends and dubious PR “friends,” but a list? Why toy with something so wonderfully simplistic? Like Rutherford said, It’s good if it can fit on a napkin. Our 5x5s can. It would make sense for our mid-year rodeo to as well.
I’m not going to doubt Ernest. He’s been to a lot of places. Camp. Space. Although, this is the same guy who wrote, “All science is either physics or stamp collecting,” so he’d probably scowl like he was smelling something foul whilst taking a whiff of our book of butterflies. Wait, did I just insinuate we’re the Darwin/Wallace punks? Or have I just been licking a lot of glue? Did I pick the wrong week to lick glue?
Anyway, moving on. Now, I can’t speak for Mike’s ample listicles. Me though? Making some tweaks. For one, I’m going to jettison the barely punk for the pure of heart. That means California X, Boot Blacks, and former frontrunners The Men have been sent their walking papers. Dudes in spikes and studs are currently escorting them out of the building. No need to worry. What remains are the *gang shouts* CHOSEN ONES. I have descended from the mount with an inventory of the worthy and a second-hand copy of Maximum Rock and Roll with the strong pong of vegan curry. Aside: Yo, Gee-oh-dee, you might wanna check underneath JC’s pillows for bebop cigs. Not accusing, but there’s a reason he reenters the cloud smelling like a dunk tank of Aqua Di Gio following whenever He steps out to the balcony.
So, what’s left? A lot. Piles. Many digital cabinets filled with files. I spent a good couple hours arguing with myself over something that has little consequence. Such is the way of those who obsess over the minute details. OCD punks, unite. And unite again. We have to do this eight more times. Just…don’t touch me. Thanks.
After deliberating more than the Donners during their first three course dinner party, I’ve settled on these:
1. RAD – Loud & Fast: Short & Fun.
2. Iron Lung – White Glove Test: Powerviolence becomes art.
3. Seven Sisters of Sleep – Opium Morals: When in doubt, drop the sledge-hammer.
4. Parasit – Välj Din Egen Bodel: Crust is finally shaken awake.
5. Trigger Men – Demo: Please don’t break up, please don’t break up, please don’t break up…
Yo, Mike, make it double digits:
There haven’t been an overwhelming number of releases this year so far that I feel will be on my shelf or in constant rotation in five years, but there are some serious standouts that I would be remiss in not highlighting. Kremlin – Drunk In the Gulag is absolutely essential and I cannot shut the hell up about them, as any one of my punk-listening friends will inform you. Given time, though, they might be knocked from their spot on the list by Iron Lung, whose White Glove Test is a career high point. Speaking of powerviolence (which I’m doing a lot of this go-round), Vile Intent‘s Skin In the Game is, much like their other 7″s, head and shoulders above their PV peers, and Hatred Surge – Human Overdose is an exceptional example of the stellar grinding filth coming out of Austin by the truckload. It’d also be a shame to ignore The Rival Mob‘s latest knuckle dragger, Mob Justice – no other record this year has felt this overwhelmingly, apoplectically enraged, which counts for a lot.
Cool, thanks dude. Let’s do this again in six months when the level of significance will rise to nearly nil.
Annoying critic obligations complete.
Now, what’s new you ask? This week, Mike and I are back to bringing the bruisers. Nothing on the fringe this go around. We’re not traveling far. We just want to get you in the
IRON LUNG – WHITE GLOVE TEST
It’s been a hell of a couple of years for powerviolence – Infest and Despise You are stomping about once more, scenes are being revitalized (Boston’s been putting out some incredible records lately), and Iron Lung has been busy making this. Building on the directional shift established with the release of 2007’s Sexless // No Sex, White Glove Test is a standout example of how much complexity artists who have a mastery of dynamics can wring from a lone guitar and a drum kit. The components here are no surprise, but what happens is so much greater than the sum of the parts used, the ferocity of the shorter moments intensified when juxtaposed with sparse, ragged grooves. The band also recorded a twenty-one minute noise track that can be played concurrently with the record, resulting in an oppressive power electronics-esque atmosphere that accentuates Iron Lung‘s ear for seamless blending of genres. If any band ever earned continual hype, it’d be this one – it’s rare to hear a band that’s not even close to running out of ideas after over a decade of strong releases. I’m hard-pressed to imagine finding a better powerviolence-related record this year.
TILE – YOU HAD A FRIEND IN PENNSYLVANIA
Had A Friend in Pennsylvania by tile</a>
At this point, I’ve lost count of the number of sad-sack Unsane knockoffs I’ve heard when the description offered is “sludgy noise rock.” It’s a genre stuffed to bursting with lazy, yelping bullshit packing all the conviction of a Fun. record. Nice, then, to hear a record that’s full of uneasy nastiness but wrapped up and presented in a banal fashion that suggests no genre in particular. ‘Half Tooth,’ the album opener, is a lumbering, simmering beast of a track, featuring a vocalist doing his best desperate David Yow over massively thick riffs that are tonally reminiscent of Goatsnake or Floor. The rest of the LP, the band’s first after a series of solid EPs and splits, follows suit, roiling like a coherent Drunkdriver that suddenly learned how to record outside of a dumpster. ‘Snakewoman’ plods like a Rebreather track that might have been, and the seven-minute closer ‘Night Crawler’ drags to a stop like a car running out of gas in a bombed-out neighborhood. The seasick atmosphere here is impeccably crafted, as are the fantastically awkward riffs, making this well worth a listen or three out of a crowded field of contenders.
RITUAL CONTROL – DEMO
The Bay Area’s Ritual Control, formed earlier this year, has already released a demo better than some bands’ final efforts, a testament to the talent (members of Condition, No Statik, and past heavyweights Artimus Pyle) assembled here. Initially, the tape lurches and teeters until one of the tightest d-beats I’ve heard in ages snaps into place and the raw, Hoax-like female vocals grind down your eardrums. This is no Dis-clone, despite the rhythm structure loosely applied and the members’ pedigree. There’s some Framtid to the proceedings here, but there’s far more Look Back and Laugh-esque furious speed – this is snarling West Coast hardcore all the way. ‘Debilitating,’ the last and longest track on the demo, is a memorable run through later Poison Idea territory with spot-on drums that could have come from War All The Time. Despite this being a demo tape, the production is more than adequate, mostly avoiding the blown-out sound a lot of bands disingenuously use to mask a talent paucity. This cassette is $3 and you will regret passing it up if you don’t get it.
BRAIN SLUG – CREEP/ANNIHILATE ME
After years and years of religiously devouring hardcore of all flavors, it’s always NYHC that I catch myself unconsciously gritting my teeth and scowling to. No other regional flavor of hardcore sounds this…well, hard to me. Brain Slug‘s latest 7″, two surly originals and a stellar out-of-left-field reinvention of a Christian Death song, faithfully plugs into the current NY scene of releases that discard a lot of the melodic and accessible trends of the past couple of decades, instead opting for knuckledraggers like those of roughly likeminded acts Creem or Hounds of Hate. There’s a slight Gauze feel to this release – the clenched-jaw vocals are slightly blown out and dissolve into static at the edges, and the piercing guitars stick to the high end, leaving plenty of room for the solid, rattling basslines played lockstep with the Cro-Mags drumlines. NYHC bands of late tend to skew toward either eighties worship or the HG Fact end of the spectrum, so it only seems natural to hear Japanese production tendencies applied to American hardcore. It’s an interesting trend – hope it’s a harbinger of things to come.
CURMUDGEON – AMYGDALA
As far as east coast powerviolence goes, Boston’s scene is historically hard to beat. Scapegoat, No Faith, Mind Eraser, and other recent heavyweights all hearken back to the days when Siege and Deep Wound used to play shows in the city in the 80s. Curmudgeon play a particular female-fronted flavor of this genre that shifts tempo more smoothly and less abruptly than most bother to, providing plenty of crusty, head-nodding grooves, but I don’t mean to imply that Amygdala is a trendy record (or a Punch or Rape Revenge knockoff, which they certainly aren’t) – just one that eschews needless Crossed Out worship. I love them as much as the next guy, but the spate of thinly disguised cover bands is tiring. Instead of constant blastbeats or grunted Spazz vocals, we get ugly, redlining riffs that occasionally get time to build on each other and massive, driving bass tone that wouldn’t feel out of place on a particularly nasty sludge record. Curmudgeon‘s aforementioned female vocalist is a stellar match for the tilting hardcore on display here, regrettably not a common enough occurrence in 2013. Can’t recommend this highly enough.
MEAT MIST – SMUT
First off, “Meat Mist.” Grody. Secondly, it’s time for an Old Man Ian Story! KC’s humidifier packed with flank steak reminds me of a literal gut reaction loved by my old line chef coworker. In my formative years, when I was younger, dumber, and with gullibility ripe for plunder, he said his main qualifier for death metal was how seasick he’d get from an album’s atmosphere. Can’t say I got it. Then, he brought a foldout of the first Brujeria cover. Got it. Similarly, Meat Mist‘s lurch of the Lizard will make you lose your lunch, like flyover country’s answer to the puckering degeneracy of SQRM. Each minute long burst is the audio equivalency of a subway seat caked with unrequested spunk. “Jezzzzzzzzzzus,” I’d often emit during its thirteen track, twenty one minute noise rock bukkake. “Why the hell am I listening to this?” Easy answer: So I can revel in the giddy secrecy of no one knowing the gent in the collared golf shirt waiting in line with bundles of kale under each arm fills his ears with such filth. Fuck your Young Widows. Earn a thousand yard stare with Smut.
STONE TITAN – SCRATCH N’ SNIFF
Seth Putnam would’ve adored Stone Titan‘s antics. Though, having palled around with plenty of A.C.‘s in my day, maybe not. It would probably depend on the drinks, drugs, or the grub during a 2AM Denny’s run. Even when designated as sober-forever (xNoxFunx at bars for nearly four years! Happy boreday to me!) and being in my right mind most of the time, you never know how you’ll react to something purposely created to cause irritation. On the one hand, a band screaming “fuck you” for you is cathartic. Saves your throat. On the other, shit, annoying things are ANNOYING. Here’s my choice for a barometer: How do you feel about the title track trying to tickle your funny bone with a parody of the very ’90s act of “hiding” secret songs behind long stretches of silence? Did I mention you don’t get a ditty but an AUDIO BOMB?! AVAST! PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A RAID, AUDIO SECTION OF WAL-MART! That type of prankster deception is the line of demarcation separating those already scrolling down from those blind buying everything with the band’s name (and genitalia) in the future. If you stuck with me, you won some punked up sludge in the vein of Eyehategod passing around a needle full of air bubbles or Floor with absolutely zero fucks to give. Even if this isn’t for you, take a gander at that album cover. Can I get that in an adult small? FOAD? Okay! Fair enough!
PASSIV DÖDSHJÄLP – KOLLEKTIVA MÖNSTER
I’ve been giving d-beat and crust a lot of grief recently since the majority of it is so goddamn boring now. If the bajillion year old Wolfbrigade is still the alpha of the pack after dropping just a decent album, we got some issues. Throw in the fact it doesn’t help that southern lords and ladies have been trend hopping aboard the Discharge train for a decade. Worse: They’ve been linking up so many crappy cabooses, the old engine has nearly exploded. Sigh. I dig me some Why?, but, before this month, if you told me the scene dried up and I’d hear nothing see nothing say nothing forever more, I don’t think I’d hurt too badly. Pure and simple d-beat lost its mojo. But, even the most dormant of styles can be stirred by a new spring. How? Well, all punk needs a good, swift kick in the rump every asphyxiated Keith Moon. Something to be seriously peeved about. Or, it needs a catalyst: A band leaping out front as the rabbit and raining rage with instruments in hand acting as the gutters. So, bless the Swedes for getting so angry at having to stare at snow drifts for eleven months out of the year. (And, you know, a craven, core-less society. That too.) Like Skitsystem? Solid. You’re going to think Kollektiva Mönster is all killer. The best part? This is free of silly, tragic leads. It only stocks up on hate for humanity’s rules in an abattoir utilizing Nasum‘s guitar tone as its tools.
HIVE BENT – U NEUTRAL
Ah, Hive Bent brings noveau noise rock back to the time when it was swimming around the same primordial puddle as grunge. U NEUTRAL will get your head bobbing with their, perhaps, unintentionally off-center grooves. It’s a slice of Phleg Camp or Mule sutured onto Mudhoney at its most aggressive. Riffs fly out in all directions only to be yanked back to the amp with the recoil of a bungee chord. Appropriate as they’re self-tagged as bunge rock like fellow Baltimore sludge popsters Roomrunner. U MAD? Huff Hive Bent from a paper bag and feel allllllllllllright. And slightly brain damaged. Where am I? Wordsdjsdjasdnajd.
PARASIT – VÄLJ DIN EGEN BODEL
What? TWO d-beaters in the same list? Yo, Chainey, you crazy? Maybe! Look, I’m going to give you one name and you tell me if this is relevant in any way: Uncurbed. Familiar with their stomp? No? Get the hell out of here and don’t come back until you’ve flown Keeps the Banner High. For the rest of you, Parasit is Uncurbed plus grinders from Gadget and Regurgitate. I KNOW. HEY, HEY, HANDS ABOVE THE DESK. Restrain yourself from going crosseyed due to overzealous crust punk fappery. Ah, heck, finish yourself off: Parasit is tough and gruff, a jackhammer obliterating smelly protestors and throne pretenders just like their daddies. If this comes up on shuffle during your walk, you’ll morph into Roger Bannister. Thick, quick, the SHIT. If there’s one on this list worth smashing your ceramic piggy over so you may hold its jewel case, this is the one. Get Parasit or die tryin’.
Alright, that’s it for us. If you know some punks deserving some shine, drop us a line at @flahfbl or @themichaelscott.
Catch you next month.