More new punk records.This past weekend's quick roadtrip to see Warhead and Forward in Portland wasn't quite quick enough to prevent Scotty and I from going a little nuts in the vinyl consumption department, believe it or not, since Portland is an absurdly rich city in terms of record shopping. Reissues and the specifically Discharge-inspired stuff have been covered already; these are just newer/recent records that fall into the broader punk/hardcore/garage genres. Thanks to Jesse at Know Crap (who is a king among men and actually sold me most of the following titles on the way to Portland anyways, freeing me up to spend $40 on Hellhammer 12"s), Mississipi Records, Green Noise, Brickwall and Discourage.
Asbest "Klaust Robofi" EP
Denmark's been making punks around the world sit up and take notice for a few years now, with bands like Gorilla Angreb, No Hope For The Kids, Amde Petersen's Arme and Young Wasteners releasing some of the more compelling hardcore/punk records to appear in awhile, and although Copenhagen's Asbest haven't attracted quite the attention of some of their better-known compatriots, their first EP won respectable reviews and being on leading Danish label Kick n'Punch guarantees a certain level of interest (if not quality, unfortunately, as anyone who took the plunge on the label's more juvenile anarcho/vegan nonsense can attest). This second EP continues in the style established on their first, a hefty early '80's-rooted hardcore that avoids thrashing in favour of a consistently burly and aggressive mid-fast attack with raw vocals and a frantic, off-kilter guitar clearly inspired by Greg Ginn. It's solid, serviceable stuff, but somehow misses that spark that separates the good from the really great. (Kick n'Punch, www.kicknpunch.com)
Busy Signals "Can't Feel a Thing" b/w "All the Time" 45
Chicago punks defy the sophomore slump with a truly great single that's even better than the first, and that's no easy feat. The formula is simple enough-- classically raw punk rock'n'roll guitars, alternately ringing and slamming, and melodic vocals over a piledriving rhythm section that rams the songs home so much faster and harder than is standard for the style-- but it's totally convincing and never forgets to keep the songs catchy and memorable, nor to throw in a tasty lead exactly where it belongs. I'm loathe to raise expectations too high for a band so early in their career, but I don't think it's too much to say that this could be America's long-delayed answer to Teengenerate. Absolutely essential punk rock and sure to make my 2006 Top 10. (Shit Sandwich, www.shitsandwichrecords.com)
Criminal Damage s/t 12"
Yet another winner from the best hardcore label in the US today. I saw Criminal Damage play a house show in Portland last year and greatly enjoyed their set of tough but tuneful hardcore punk at its purest, but this is a style that's too often sterilized and neutered in the studio. No worries with that here, however-- this debut 12" is an exceptional eight-song set of overwhelmingly power and depth, with an ideal production job that perfectly captures the massive guitar sound and gruff vocals while leaving everything suitably rough and unrefined. There's certainly melody on this record, in the vocal and leads, but no nuance to speak of-- from the relentlessly tight and driving 4/4 drumming to the gang choruses to the brickwall powerchords, everything is completely solid and about as subtle as a riflebutt to the face. I guess the chief stated influence here is the "Chaos en France" oi scene of the early '80's (think Trotskids, Camera Silens, Warrior Kids etc)-- and the chorus of "Last chance", along with "Anesthesia" my favourite song here, so strongly recalls Kidnap's classic cut "No SS" off MRR's "Welcome to 1984" comp LP, that I probably would've thought so even if no one had told me so beforehand-- but most will see the closest resemblance to Blitz, tougher Italian bands like Nabat, and the early American hardcore bands that most unabashedly reflected UK oi in their own sound, ie Effigies, Negative Approach and Iron Cross if the latter didn't suck. This will probably appeal to a pretty wide range of punks right across the board, so check it out without hesitation (unless you're only into grindcore or emo or whatever, in which case you're probably beyond help anyway). (Feral Ward, www.feralward.com)
Frantic "Attaque of the Grizzlie" 12"
This Atlanta band's 7" EP was a fun set of manic punk rock that reconciled the garage and hardcore influences as well as anyone, but this follow-up doesn't quite hit the mark. It's by no means a bad record, it just doesn't stick to the ribs the way this stuff needs to. The choice to cover a song by Government Issue-- most boring of the classic DC hardcore bands-- speaks volumes; try SOA or Void next time. The playing is fine and the guitar tone is great, but there simply needs to be more punch in the overall delivery, whether that means slowing down and focusing on melody or speeding up and relying on sheer impact, but for now the songs aren't ultimately strong enough to warrant repeat listenings for a full-length. On the other hand, the inspired cover sold me on this record, so props to whoever designed it. (Die Slaughterhaus, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Knaughty Knights "Tommy of the River" EP
This is the fourth single from Memphis supergroup the Knaughty Knights, and given the pedigree-- members of the Oblivians, Reatards, Lost Sounds and Compulsive Gamblers-- it's pretty lame to admit that this is the first I've heard. It's pretty much what one would expect from the people involved, albeit a little cleaner and/or more straight-ahead in its basic, no-frills garage punk approach. This isn't entirely unwelcome; as much as I love the members' prior efforts, there's certainly no harm in laying off the distortion and chaos when the songs are well-written and memorable in their own right, as they are here. The fuzzed out guitars, quick tempos and sneered vocals are still in place anyway, just not half so exaggerated as before. The title track is the real winner here, a great '77 punker with a catchy chorus and a tasty lead breaks, while the following track is an appealingly amped-up Outsiders cover and the flip, Jack Yarber's sole contribution, is a pleasant enough but altogether less remarkable mid-tempo garage stomp'n'mope with a cool sneered vocal...I'm sure it'll grow on me further with the inevitable repeat listens. (Shattered, www.shatteredrecords.com)
Love It Or Leave It "Four Song" EP
Released by Vancouver's Clarence Thomas label, this far-flung but Bellingham-based outfit's debut EP is the sleeper hit of the pile-- a really strong, heartfelt punk record with memorable songs made up of excellent vocals, powerful riffs and a rock-solid rhythm section, delivered at a consistent, driving pace that never lags nor degenerates into simple thrash. The production is just about perfect, with the vocals neither buried nor too far upfront and the guitars ragged and thick. While the Avengers and Subhumans (Canadian, of course) might make for basic reference points, this pulls off the ideal balance between being at once a timeless pure punk record whilst remaining fresh and distinct enough to avoid being filed away as simple rehash or homage to any particular sound, and I've listened to it numerous times in the past couple of days alone. Don't know how many of these were pressed, but I doubt it was too many, so I highly recommend any fan of quality punk rock act now before the rest of the world catches on. (Clarence Thomas, email@example.com)
Nix "Speed Freaks" EP
Much anticipated second 45 from this Portland band continues pretty much exactly where the first left off, a one-sided job with three quick ones this time around, and considering that the previous single was among my very favourites of 2005, I'm not complaining. Assuming you weren't among the luck 300 to score a copy of that debut, the style is fast, catchy and raw punk in the vein of early Queers or Keith Morris-era Black Flag and if that doesn't sound good to you, you don't deserve to be buying reords anyway. Proof positive that inspiration and energy are more important than originality any day, and the lyrics dissing cokeheads and speed freaks are the icing on the cake-- something I've felt much more strongly since moving to the Pacific NW myself. Overall, it's a strong 45 that hasn't hit me quite so hard as the first one after a few listens, but it's still superior to 95% of product out there right now and more than worth tracking down. As with the first record, self-released with hand-written labels and no contact info provided, so I guess you'd better get yourself out to Portland fast.
V/A "No Bullshit Vol 1" EP
Richmond, Virginia's Direct Control have been receiving a lot of attention lately as one of the leading lights of the back-to-basic '80's hardcore scene, so it's only fitting that DC singer/guitarist Brandon should be compiling this sampler slab for his new No Way label. Side one kicks off with a generic but enjoyable blast of speed from Toronto's own Career Suicide before sliding into an even more furious burst of aggression from Osaka's Bad Dirty Hate, who take their name from the Nihilistics but actually dish out a much speedier and more direct attack than he older band; with its shrieking vocals and manic snare, this might be a little more at home on a 625 "fastcore" record than the sort of purist '82 hardcore comp I was expecting here. Their song is over as quickly as it arrived and the side is wrapped up with another predictably short, fast and loud rager from Brandon's other band, Government Warning.
Side two starts off with San Francisco's Strung Up, and they jump off the vinyl with a pair of rough, angry thrashers that recall Negative Gain or "Dealing With It"-era DRI-- totally pissed and violent with a thick rush of speed and choked out but legible lyrics. Good stuff, but the Direct Control song that rounds out the record is perhaps my favourite, with a steady, controlled speed and gnarly guitars that sound straight out of some obscure '83 midwest hardcore band. Speaking of which, this EP isn't quite a "Master Tape" for the new millenium, but it's a solid enough set of purist hardcore. At least two more planned volumes in the series have already been filled with like-minded bands; just remember what "compilation of current hardcore" meant in 1996 and be glad this stuff's happening now. (No Way, firstname.lastname@example.org)