Originally written by Ian Chainey
¡VIVA LA COMP!
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Alt-Ian stepping in. So, surprise, surprise, the comp-dork is dropping another Various Artists stew in our laps. Wonder how it’s going to play out this time: Will we pretend we were anything but a gamete grounded in our papa’s hairy penitentiary and pen poems for Flex Your Head? This is Boston, Not LA? Let Them Eat Jellybeans?
What, do you have something new? This guy! Like there’s been a punk comp worth a poop in the last deca-
Huh, no kidding, he has something new. The floor is yours:
Thanks Sybil Ian! You dick! Yep, Toxic State‘s recently released Ground Zero is the census we’ve been looking for, surveying what’s currently kicking around in punk’s place of birth, NYC.
NYC? Really? What the heck is even left? Mad balls and fronters for agnosticism. I bet this is pressed on the smashed porcelain of CBGB’s toilets. Or: “No sir, your cover wasn’t damaged in the mail. Harley Flanagan personally stabbed the first twenty copies.” Did you put your Portland or Denton comp in the spokes of your fixie bike?
Look, I get it. If you stepped out of the scene or took a metalcore detour, NYC isn’t an attractive prize package. Williamsburg, weekends with vampires, the boom time for ukulele makers. Blergh. But, you gotta trust me on this one: Ground Zero will let you know street rock is alive and well and maybe has just been hibernating with the mole people for a decade or two.
The haul: Fourteen bands deliver fourteen bangers, running the gamut from art punk to d-beat to blvnk n’ roll to whatever we’re calling Dawn of Humans‘s audio equivalency of a brain injury. Highlights include the china-smashing, bilingual batterers La Miasma, Nomad‘s open-window-on-the-freeway, wince-inducing noisecore, and Sad Boys barreling boneless down a hill after getting their classic punk training wheels off.
However, picking and choosing winners is selling Ground Zero short. Like the best comps, every piece fits tightly together. This is an album. Out of context, songs sound naked. On shuffle, it sounds plain wrong. The sequencing is so good, you won’t realize you’re five spins deep on repeat. And, hit repeat you will since all of these bands must think they’re in the punk Hunger Games. These tracks aren’t castaways and boring b-sides, it’s everyone’s filet mignon. The groups realize they need this comp to survive which is exactly why you need this comp.
Downside? You missed your chance to hold a physical copy. Bummer. But, look, you can download it for freeeeeeeee:
Want more? Well, as always, my mate Michael Scott and I have got you covered. We’ve pulled together a killer collection of June picks, so good times will be a-rollin’. Just don’t say it’s a bore or we’ll introduce you to…
DEATH CAMP – TEENAGE NIGHTMARE
It’s getting pretty hard to write about good, genuinely independent punk and hardcore in 2013 without mentioning Will Killingsworth, either because he wrote the music being discussed or he recorded it. This is a shining example of the latter. Recorded live in its entirety, these four thrash-y NYHC tracks capture the immediacy and intensity that often gets lost when someone twiddles one too many knobs or adds in another unnecessary guitar overdub. The results here are as good as any the band could have hoped for. The instrumentation is picked up with impressive clarity, and the razor-sharp guitar tone is ideal for the 1987 thrash polish applied to Teenage Nightmare. I wouldn’t argue with someone if they called this ‘metallic hardcore,’ although I’d have to stress the ‘metallic’ qualifier pretty fucking hard. I mean, there’s a Coroner solo on this 7″. These songs must incite some seriously violent circle pits when performed live, because everything noble and fondly remembered about the New York sound of yesteryear is here – knuckle-dragging Cro-Mags stomp, bursts of Leeway speed, even an occasional Raybeez-esque vocal delivery. This sounds like the best Warzone side project you have yet to hear.
SIN MOTIVO – DEMO MMXIII
The punk exports of Denton, TX are myriad and impressive, melding the crust-inclined raw punk pouring out of Austin with an ambitiously erudite sensibility. This isn’t to say that Dentonites don’t like meathead jams from time to time – there’s no shortage of basement four-chord burners to rage to while clutching a can of Schlitz in the dirty basement of a pizza place. It does mean, however, there are some seriously interesting bands generating innovative hardcore well worth spending time on. Sin Motivo, a four-piece with a roster of members of Man Is Mostly Water, Completely Fucked, Visual Aids, and other Denton house show regulars, deftly bridge the divide between blink-and-it’s-over blasting speed runs and thoughtful songwriting that’s memorable once the demo is done. The set kicks off with a two-minute midtempo introduction fitting neatly (inevitably, maybe) alongside material by neighbors Wiccans, whose vocal delivery and guitar tone aren’t entirely dissimilar from Sin Motivo‘s. The tempo accelerates into a gallop for “Ansiedad” and doesn’t let up for “Vigilantes,” a burly d-beat collection of Needles riffs perfectly suited to the enraged Spanish-language lyrics, and “Reyes de Indiferencia” veers into garage-y territory with jangle mined from Carbonas and Timebombs sources. The impressive wrap-up, a five-plus minute odyssey complete with Siege saxophone laid over a pounding, disintegrating refrain, ends with a bang. I can only hope there’s going to be more.
VILE INTENT – SKIN IN THE GAME
Skin In the Game, the latest from Montreal’s lauded Vile Intent, has shaped up to be the year’s best powerviolence record. I feel comfortable in saying this in June, even having heard the new Water Torture split (also incredible), because it’s damn close to perfect. The record doesn’t waste a single second of its precious seven and a half minutes, grinding away within seconds of the needle dropping. It’s impossible to not think of Infest as you’re pummeled with blastbeats, but the outright nastiness of the tone is closer in spirit to legends No Comment, or, more recently, Scapegoat or Consent. “God King” trudges and snarls like a Man Is the Bastard cover filtered through broken pedals and amps turned to eleven, feedback leaking around every chord, and short burst of speed until the track collapses into oscillator squall, a brief respite yanked away by the lurching Iron Lung burst that follows. Side two starts with ominous noise and a distorted Videodrome sample (“I think we live in overstimulated times. We crave stimulation for its own sake…”) before careening back and forth between lumbering bass-heavy chords and frantic fast parts. From there, it’s a race to the finish, ending as abruptly as it started with the sounds of feedback. Absolutely essential listening and a great starting point for those unfamiliar with Canada’s finest PV export.
CULO – MY LIFE SUCKS AND I COULD CARE LESS
Deranged Records rarely puts forth a miss, issuing slab after slab of top-quality punk on wax like clockwork. This is the first LP from Culo, a Chicago band as prolific as they are speedy (think Charles Bronson as far as brevity goes). All the 7″ teeth-cutting they’ve done has paid off in this diverse and wildly entertaining record. After an amusing out-of-place synth intro seemingly pulled from a schlocky 80s late-night movie, a fast-paced instrumental quickly gives way to a blazing run through 19 pissed-off tracks fronted by a singer who sounds like an equal mix of Lou Koller and John Brannon halfway through a serious bender (the sounds of a line cut out and railed that kick off “On the Nod” may provide insight). The drummer is one of the most impressive manning a kit for a punk band right now, never missing an opportunity for a fill. Piercing guitarwork keeps pace, indulging in some Annihilation Time cockrock solos when the tempo allows. My Life Sucks often delves into crashing, gruff UK82 territory, but always seem to double its tempo on the next track, as if it’s impatient to get on with it. No punk stone is left unturned here – nods to Negative Approach, Misfits, Sick Of It All, PDX crust, and more abound. Someone once described them as the “ugly Ramones,” and that seems pretty accurate to me. Buy this, put it on at a house party, and watch the chaos ensue.
DEVIL’S HAND – DEMO
I can’t play any of the instruments involved here – I fumble the simplest of drum patterns, and anything stringed might as well be a braille Bible in my unlearned hands. Listening to this, though, it’s really hard not to run out the door and grab a battered four-string off of the local pawn shop wall. Devil’s Hand lay down four Motorhead-inspired tracks on this demo that precedes their imminent 7″, a deceptive sloppiness unable to hide some serious songwriting talent. “Motorhead-inspired” shouldn’t lead you to believe they’re yet another thin cover band pretending to have original material. Current and former members of Dry Spell, Government Warning, Wasted Time, and Southside Stranglers have taken the rumbling, steady Lemmy framework and mixed it with something that sounds like Inepsy played at 45 RPM, but with much more bite. A healthy dose of Discharge is present on “Fool’s Wit,” the speed and fury approaching that of kindred spirits The Impalers, and it’s followed by “The Storm,” a lyrically apocalyptic run through Criminal Damage territory. I can’t imagine fans of any of the aforementioned bands not loving this immediately.
Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts. Let’s diversify and explore the fringe where “punk” is more of a means than an end. Smells like punk spirit? Sure! First, though, here’s something familiar:
PUSRAD – 31 PREMATURE EJACULATIONS TAPE DECEMBER 2012
Pusrad is fast. In certain metal corners, we’ve grown to equate speed with heaviness since bands pushing for extremity are normally willing to pull double duty. If heft is your expectation, then Pusrad‘s aptly titled cassette might leave you with blue balls instead. 31 bursts at the seams with odes to Circle Jerks‘ “Red Tape” / “Deny Everything.” The twist? It’s filtered through a Fat Wreck-y power pop punk sound. Just, you know, if someone was holding down the skip button on Short Music for Short People. Maybe a better point of reference would be Hüsker Dü‘s heavily caffeinated Land Speed Record. (For those trying to figure me out, this is one of my favorite albums). Songs shoot past in the length of time given to pauses for station identification. Still, Pusrad never stops casting their catchy lures. The hook may wiggle only once in a display of Wire-esque restraint, but it’ll pull you ashore if it catches a piece of you. And, like Airplane!‘s jokes, if you don’t like a song, worry not since another one is right around the bend. Fact: Instead of reading this capsule, you could’ve listened to half of the tape. DING! YOU’VE MAXED YOUR PRODUCTIVITY.
U SCO – NEST
Now, U SCO is our first landing spot on the punk Twister wheel. Bass heavy and with big-ass biting guitars, NEST announces itself as pure noise rock. Better don a helmet or suffer the Staniers of a lockstep, rhythmic groove and tons of feedback, right? Not quite. U SCO is more abrasive and angular than the shrapnel from a bomb placed between a sandpaper and protractor factory, but its blood isn’t pumped by a cold, seasick Lizard heart. Swish it around your gob and you’ll find hints of Ruins‘ hyper-zeuhl and Gift Horse‘s full moon mastery of the tides of distortion. Equations check out–rhythm one plus rhythm two does indeed equal rhythm three–giving the timbre of fight-or-flight chaos a place to anchor itself. Still, logical framework or not, one is always on edge, not knowing whether to prep for brutalization by a Mainliner squall or to unclench one’s jaw and sniff a beautiful little rose of a solo, albeit one protected by a bajillion thorns. Normally, I’d note this is the kind of act to be experienced live so you can have your hi-top fade flattened by a bass amp gale. However, NEST‘s production is so Spot-less–somehow creating separation between the instruments and letting it all crash together in the middle–I’m sure you could easily replicate the rush with even the crappiest of speakers. Like the three to follow, U SCO isn’t punk per say. Be that as it may, the GET FUCKED attitude is woven into its DNA.
THE JEZEBEL SPIRIT – I HATE IT HERE
These guys’ final record is U SCO after a trip to the groomers. Before post-rock referred to the cinematic sweep of high school football games, this was it. Now, don’t you go typing up a smart-ass lash about a punk feature giving props to twinkly nonsense. Let me remind you this sound used to be a prickly pear. Remember the fresh-outta Bastro early Tortoise stuff? Okay, granted, this is a reach if I’m basing my argument on pure sonics, but, man, I don’t think proper classification matters much when I Hate it Here is spinning. It defends itself. It’s The Mercury Program trading chess pieces with The Cancer Conspiracy, alternating between cool, jazzy runs and guitar rawk. Yep, The Jezebel Spirit doesn’t forsake the suffix of its maligned tag, burning the fuel for a million “This again?” crescendos like a sun ready to go super nova. To dangle a different carrot, imagine someone cutting together a mix of the Kidcrash‘s finest dueling arpeggio stretches. Scale the Summit gets a lot of play ’round this way, so if you groove with them when you’ve got your crampons on, this will make any Adderall-assisted all-nighter a breeze.
OBLIVIANS – DESPERATION
A sneaky-smart title for a sneaky-smart band. Desperation marks the return of Memphis garage-punk heroes Oblivians after a fourteen year layoff. One couldn’t think of a better time to reintroduce a gritty vet, either. Garage-punk is currently clogged with ring-the-tinnitus-slowly hipster shitheads who aren’t skilled enough to jam on freak-folk or psych-rock in their pricey studio pads. That dreck and a whole slew of iffy imitators inducing crappy cramps have soured many to what was once a fine little subgenre. Good news: Desperation doesn’t suffer a lost step. This is still messy, bluesy rock rolled in a King Khan & the BBQ Show wrap or caked in the same gutter grime as The Heartbreakers chasing “Chinese Rocks.” Modern work hymns like “Woke Up in a Police Car” and the if-Guy-Picciotto-fronted-The-Dolls stomp of “Fire Detector” wear their influences on their sleeves, stitching on the slap-back echo of Sun Records and the sexual tension of early R&B. These tunes require muggy dive bars packed with collar-less patrons placing unfiltered cigarettes behind their ears. If you’ve got a trust fund covering your thrift store sprees, go fall in the bathroom and catch the herp. Bonus round with variations on a theme: Are Oblivians not pissed enough? Try The Shirks. Not fast enough? Reach back for Los Ass-Draggers. Either way, pull in for an oil change this month.
Available here: http://www.midheaven.com/item/desperation-by-oblivians-cd
SUNKEN SEAS – NULL HOUR
Closing out the feature is our wildest digression and I say that knowing full well I’ve committed the cardinal sin of posting in support of post-rock. If there’s a running theme for my picks, it’s a quiet–some will say TOO quiet–defense for genres recently going through the wringer. Post-punk, like the rest, has certainly taken its lumps. No matter how you want to cut it (bad cutter pun in full effect if you want it), traveling from Swell Maps and The Pop Group to whatever honky-funk is bouncing off the walls during GOTH NITE requires a lot of bad turns. Lucky us, Sunken Seas is a strong GPS signal. Null Hour is the bizarro version of Wreck and Reference, taking a less scorched-earth route, but ending up at the same bleak destination. Razorblades are on the house. Heck, maybe both bands will play an all-ages show in purgatory.
Huh, there’s a thought. I feel a tangent coming on:
Now, I don’t know how they split weekend dividends in these outfits. If I had to take a stab (Pun 2: Electric Boogaloo), there’s a complex algorithm making sure the bassist’s wad is a rubber-band breaker. His/her shit ALWAYS sounds supreme in the mix, like a warm bath for cold hearts. Null Hour is no different, throbbing away right in the middle, aching for your Wobble-y hum as accompaniment. What is different is the rest of the players don’t sound shitty. No one is rocking the demo button on their Casio. Someone is playing big-boy drums and not leaving the beats up to a robot. It’s a big deal. It’s been a bit since I heard post-punk with balls. I mean, when has Cold Cave ever sounded close to the timbre suggested by its name? Hey, doubt me all you want, just promise me you’ll check out “Paid Your Price” when its Slint-y spelunking guitars snap the line and start to scream. It’s harrowing like heroin; it’s just plain dangerous. And then, “Photographs of the Dead” is an one-eighty, like Trail of Dead jamming on Joy Division in a reverb-y practice space. Null Hour belies its title by being so busy. There’s hints of everything; goth, industrial, post-punk, noise rock, math rock, post-rock, ambient, and on and on. It’s dynamic as heck and the rise and fall feels as real and earned as your own breaths. It’s everything modern music typically isn’t. It’s why it’s here.
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.