The Alrightees s/t EP (Boom Chick)
A six song, raw-as-fuck, garage punk EP which jumps strong with the meaty “Gonna Be Free” but then quickly descends into practice tape quality who cares. I am guessing the band is young and the excitement of putting out a record trumped everything else. Okay, you got your first record out. Now make sure your next one is your first good record. –SS

Bipolar Bear / Watusi Zombie split EP (Kill Shaman)
An EP of two technically good but unremarkable bands with good but unremarkable songs. Watusi Zombie ride Blues Explosion cum Dirtbombs style riff into rawk overdrive for a song that would have been too long in the 90s when such a song was fresh (but still sucked). Bipolar Bear gets a little more wiggle room but not much. It seems like a couple times a month I get some kind of loud prog record in the mail and god help me if I can tell the difference between them. BPB is just one of many riff riff change beat riff change beat riff riff riff ad nauseam. This might be fun to play but it listens boring (except on the wrong speed: At 45 this sounds like a hyperactive punk Sparks!). –SS

Carbonas s/t LP (Goner)
One of the wonderful things about the internet is how fast hype travels. Every week brings a brand new “amazing” record and “the best band ever”, at least, that is the case if you believe what you read on the message boards. One of the most recent “amazing” albums is the new one by the Carbonas. So “amazing” is this record that pre-release tour vinyl of it is fetching $150+ on ebay. Snarf. While the Carbonas third album is indeed very good, it is certainly not amazing. For it to be amazing or even the “best record ever” it would have to turn rock & roll or at least its own subgenre in a different direction or at a minimum give the sound a twist. It does none of that. Rather, it adheres quite conservatively to the Buzzcocks + Boys + Kids formula of high energy, pop infused punk rock, a formula that has served dozens of bands well and been watered down by hundreds more. Perhaps it is surprising that the Carbonas are not one of the water-downers, but to avoid making a shitty or boring record does not constitute amazing. And even though the record is solid, at song 7 of 9, it starts to drag, something that might say more about me hearing a hundred or two variations of this album than the record itself. Still, getting weary before a 20+ minute record ends is not a good sign. That said, the Carbonas have made a very good record, most likely the best of this year’s crop of pop-infused punk and perhaps the best of its ilk since the FM Knives trekked the same path seven years ago. –SS

Digital Leather Hard at Work LP (Tic Tac Totally)
I think the last time I reviewed a Digital Leather record I suggested not playing but to use instead as a tool to scrap dog crap off the bottom of your shoe. With that in mind, I dreaded dropping the needle on Hard at Work. But I did and was pleasantly surprised. Digital Leather made a good album. Yeah, sure the lyrics blow – submoronic musings on cocaine, insanity, and heartbreak – but you gotta expect that from this guy. And the music is derivative – early Human League + Gary Numan + an assortment of obscure 80s synth wavers – but Foree does it well. As far as comtemp synth pop records go, Hard at Work is okay. That said, Comrade Wells once stated that DL is a singles band and, given that this album plays long, I tend to agree. While I am still waiting for Foree to come close to the unhinged 45 he did for Plastic Idol a couple years back…yeah, I am still waiting…. –SS

Disco Lepers The Girls of Cholera CD (Matula)
The Disco Lepers “don’t want no more American shit” and that is probably because they copped so many moves from American KBD, GG Allin, and the Dickies that there is no more room in their life for further Americanisms. Twenty-two songs of a minute or less of bratty demento punk which plays like one joke told over and over and over again. Great for sugar-addled ADD teens, not so good for someone who tires after hearing the same song done twenty-two times. Like Mr
California, the Disco Lepers would have been served well by a couple of 7” eps…and then finding a new schtick. -SS

Finally Punk Primary Colors EP (Alb)
Rock & roll has these cycles of return to form and regurgitation. When things get too complex, the basics are reasserted. And part of the music’s march is gobbling up past sounds and throwing them back up. Those cycles work best when the basics are not just reasserted but reframed and when the regurgitation is a mutant meat, not just a standard food group. It’s the difference between some forward sounding band (icons such as Wire, The Fall; contemps like Cheveu, Human Eye, etc.) and revivalists/traditionalist (too many to mention).
Austin’s Finally Punk are definitely a back to form band and they’ve been rooting around in the past (riot grrl, Rough Trade, American DIY), but like Tyvek, there is a freshness to their music. This eight song EP doesn’t stray from verse-chorus-verse or familiar tunesmithery, but the mix of sounds (think Chalk Circle, Bikini Kill, Kleenex, 100 Flowers, Bloody Manniquin Orch., Bratmobile) is not common. And since all the aforementioned bands truck in no frills, the styles are an easy fusion. Whether this is a conscious blend or just came to be really doesn’t matter since what is in the grooves succeeds regardless of influence. A great, smart record with some great vocals. Recommended. –SS

Human Eye Rare Little Creatures 45 (Disordered)
Two good HE romps that have them sounding like Tales of Terror + Beneath the Shadows phase TSOL + Human Eye, with some gonzoid space rock thrown in. Any other band, I’d give this an A, but in the classroom of Human Eye, this is a solid B. One gripe is that it doesn’t jump out of the grooves, perhaps the fault of making this a one-sided 7” with two song at 33 rpm rather than a proper two-sider. I crank it up and it still is too quiet. Limited to 250. –SS

Ross Johnson Make It Stop! The Most Of Ross Johnson (Goner Records)
Ross Johnson is gentleman of refinement most considerable, a fine writer with a wit both gentle and self-effacing, a raconteur without peer, and all around credit to the human race. Johnson also gets really drunk and yammers, howls, barks, lectures, screams and even sings his way through a barrage of incredible spontaneous verbal carpet bombings that have thankfully been recorded for posterity, ‘cause otherwise you’d never believe them. Fuck a duck, the guy debuts on the leadoff track on Like Flies On Sherbet, one of the best records ever recorded, segue into keeping the beat with Panther Burns, then goes on to collaborate with the Gibson Brothers and forms his own deeply disturbed outfits such as Our Favorite Band (featuring Peter Buck), and American Musical Fantasy, when he isn’t putting out solo records, doing guest appearances, or doing some excellent rock writing. Lest you think he is a one trick pony, a footnote-level bizarre obnoxious detritus to other, far more important careers, writer Robert Gordon (who included “Wet Bar” – no wave Kafka for the drinking set - on the companion CD to his book, It Came From Memphis) hit the nail on the head when he compares Johnson to Dewey Phillips. Any numbnut can spew whatever floats to the top of his head, but Johnson and Phillips were cut from the same maniacal cloth. Some of the subjects Johnson touches on, in his own unique demented way, include, but are by no means limited to; his hatred of Chihuahuas (multiple times), his own frustration at his inability to not invite people drinking malt liquor in the middle of the day to go for a ride in his car, his feeling of shame at getting drunk at his daughter’s birthday party, his place of refuge/self medication (the “Get High Shack”), being constantly “weak and afraid”, his dislike of the “living hell” of Christmas, being a “southern sissy” with “man boobs”, and his reaction to seeing a naked girl in his youth (fleeing in terror). All this and an oddly subdued cover of The Gentry’s “Keep On Dancing”. And oh yeah, Ross drums pretty good, too. –MB

Kites Hallucination Guillotine/Final Worship CD (Load)
Any two-bit artschool shitcanoe snake oil peddler can stamp some beeps & blurps on some limited edition vinyl with pasted up halfassed art and the melonheads who haven’t been keeping up on their Barnum will pay top dollar for it. If you want me two cents, the experimental/noise whatnot scene is chockfull of hot air, and there is just as much conformity & lack of creativity going on as the dipsticks I see lacing up their spitshined Beatle boots and slapping on their showroom mod duds to go play costume party - or the interchangeable cloud of mid 40’s males in creepers and leather jackets that ruined the Avengers reunion gig I suffered through a couple years ago - just with an added dose of pretension. Just ‘cause it’s inaccessible, doesn’t make it anymore valid, the herd is the herd, regardless of genre. Enter Chris Forgues, the one man show ('cept for female comrade in arms L. Davis Fisher, who enunciates nicely on a track) called Kites, outta the Providence clique, um, I mean scene. Their/his new record Final Worship/Hallucination Guillotine, eschews “samplers, looping pedals, drum machines or [any] computers whatsoever” for a bunch of homemade doohickeys. Huzzah for Forgues, who at least has the common decency not to rely solely on a fucking delay pedal. The best tracks: “Glitter Raider in the Hall Of Triumph” is The Normal at a gutter crawl, with reverbed cryptic lyrics punctuated by dollops of outta-nowhere super loud/super ugly. “Poison Blur” is Tangerine Dream at their most apocalyptic, and “Final Worship” is evocative atmospheric sci-fi weirdness. Upper tier stuff, lemme tell you. Then, um, is the rest of the record... The leadoff track is a snoozer - a bunch of overamplifed bees in a jar before going off the rails into belching up electronic explosions and dissolving into winding oscillations. There is truly harrowing amplified scream that opens “Pink Shadows” but remainder can’t sustain the menace, and “Trespass” mines new territory in eliciting total indifference. Get it for the good ones and remind oneself the inconsistent greatness is better then consistent shit. –MB

Knights of the New Crusade Fugitive From God EP (Gabriel’s Trumpet)
I liked this band’s previous records A-okay, even though they were playing more to the giddy goodtime fun side of the revival tent crowd, rather than to the clinic-stalking sonic terrorists for the Lord that were perched in the back with their arms crossed over their brand new monk’s robes (the better to hide last night’s purgative lashings). So I was expecting another high caloric dose of Hot Sody from the KOTNC. Wrong, this thing is another Beast entirely. I think someone mainlined a purer extract of Holy Ghost ergot this time around, because the sound on this is positively feral, no Lambs allowed. That a-side Click Kids cover is especially a winner, with an unpardonably dirty guitar drone that recalls the best moments of pre-wank late 60s USA psych-tinged rock. A definite win for the Good Guys! –RW

Knugen Faller Lugna Favoriter LP (Wasted Sounds)
I curled up with the several Knugen Faller 7”s of several years ago the way folks my age are spooning with their home baked organic spawn. I fawned over them, laughed at the easy way they evoked the best melodic punk 7” of the European scene circa 1980 or so, tolerated their adorable babble (they sing in some made-up Scandinavian lingo): it was unconditional love. I also pined for them to grow up to full length, and here we are, finally. Now, the very idea of a melodic political punk LP is enough to send most folks scurrying for their 16 Bitch Pile Up or Reatards or NNCK records, but that’s due to a solid decade or two of overproduced, ham-fisted dreck that has scorched the imaginations of most of the well-educated potential audience to charred cinders. Strictly kids stuff, well, Knugen Faller were my personal Miracle Baby, and this LP shows that some of that potential has carried thru onto a very listenable record. But, gasping deeply, it ain’t as kick out the jams as I dreamed it would be or could’ve been. There are some individual tracks that best play up the band’s strengths: a serious belter on femme vox, a box full of workmanlike punk riffs played in an engagingly clean style, a total lack of progressive mathematics, all good things. But this LP is just not as timeless as the singles overall, EPs which I rate right up there with X Ray Spex. This LP is operating more on an Edith Nylon level, i.e., a solid record that will age well but that choked slightly after the initial promise. Still, if you buy one catchy political punk (pop) record this decade… -RW

Krysmopompas Mehr Kilometer Pro Leben CD (Krysmopompas)
Berlin’s Krysmopompas say that they are very influenced by Krautrock and I don’t doubt it, but the sound that threads thick through their songs is that of Wire’s. From “Ex Lion Tamer” to 154, Wire looms large here. However, as obvious as that influence is, it doesn’t overwhelm the band. There is a similarity in guitar sound and a more with less philosophy and that’s that. After all, Krysmopompas are influenced by Wire, they don’t steal from them, which is what “influenced by…” seems to mean nowadays. Twist in some Krautrock, drop in half spoken German vocals, and slot these guys into the rich tradition of European post-punk and you have a great 8 track disc, one that balances restraint with creativity. While not as immediate as last year’s “Mitmachen beim Abbauen” (a good place to start with these guys), multiple listens has lead to multiple listens and this now sits in constant rotation. Krysmopompas are one of my favorite finds of the year. Looking forward to what comes next. –SS

Live Fast Die / Golden Error split EP (Mindnomind)
If you are possibly going through some kind of phase where you can only listen to “source” materials, just the primo distilled-for-you KBD comps and Soul Jazz post-whatsis comps or some ace boogaloo comp from Crypt, and you are thinking after spinning these things for a few weeks straight that you are just going to give up on modern music, man, these jerks today just can’t compete with the Olde Krews, well, may I make a slight recommendation to you? Buy this split EP and at the very least you will be able to keep your eyebrows pinned in admiration for contemporary punk at the least, as both of these bands deliver the goods as well as any sub-Chain Gang unit from 1978-81 could hope to do; stupid solos that reference metal-cum-biker rock, blabbermouth frantic vocals about fear of aggggro cooz, and even a Spits cover, a classy move (I’m highly in favor of bands covering contemporary songs they think they can twist into a new shapes rather than just taking another stab at a Radio Boredman nug). If I don’t hear the Golden Error track DJ’d at the next show I’m pacing around at, I’m gonna swing the ultimate scene faux pas and pull this single out of my bag and hand it over with a fiver under my thumb. “Play this next.”. -RW

Mantles s/t EP (Dulc-i-tone)
Debut disc from a band that definitely personifies the loosey-goosey aesthetic (great drum flubs!) that can salvage primitive modern psych moves. These guys are working the psych-pop side of the tracks, a harsher realm than that inhabited by their more jammy-afflicted sound mates in that they are forced to adhere to some sort of a rhythmic/song-based structure and can’t pull the increasingly obvious and butt-shifting-in-annoyance psych-drone copout that so many bands introduce when they don’t know how to either finish the song off properly or resolve the riff structure at the heart of the matter. The Mantles have four songs on this and they nail it once on each side within these terms, the second ditty in both cases. I’d suss out the titles for you, but the cover is confounding (pre-absinthe) so, eh. I won’t compare them to anyone, but expect some echo on the vox, quick spiraling guitar work, a rhythm section with its arms buried in amber, a good mix of late 60s and early 80s influences in the songsmithery; in short a good beginning. -RW

Mouthus Saw a Halo CD (Load)
I'm on the train watching a young mother ignore her three brats. Mom’s attention turned toward a handful of mini bar bottles of wine and a large package of M&Ms and damn if Mouthus isn’t a suitable soundtrack for this depression. “Saw a Halo” starts with a strum und gloom worthy of Pink Reason, but shifts sound into steel-grinding squall of industrial Souza. The quiet groan has grown and is trying to break out of its emotional cage – and I am talking about Miss Vino and M&Ms here. The lady’s cold stare has devolved to flapping gums and gesticulation. Pout hits the lips of the children as Mouthus segs from squall to dirge. Everyone is bummed out…except for me. The mom ‘n kids act is one I see on many a train ride and I am very happy that the scenetrack fits Mouthus’s sound. As mom stuffs lunchmeat in her yapper and the kids snack on boogers, Mouthus “calms down” a bit. Sticks and swirling base a vocal repeat and makes the train claustrophobia express. I’ve got fifteen miles to go, fifteen more minutes of the idiot kid in front of me pounding his back on the seat. Sometimes music sooths this shit over. Other times it makes it worse. Mouthus comments on this scene. “Saw a Halo” is great nightmarish psychedelia in the purest sense of the word. After the most recent Sightings album, Load’s best release to date. –SS

Nothing People In The City 7”(S-S Records)
Talk about a high wire act: The Nothing People attempt a Roxy Music cover on this 7”, now that takes balls of californium. What is the defining aspect of the Roxy Music sound? Well, in a word it’s Brian Ferry. The decadence, the silky nuance, the heavy-lidded coke-addled parfume that his vocals throw over Roxy’s prog-synth-glam amalgam like an exotic Turkish rug, it’s Roxy Music man! If you’re gonna cover ‘em you either have to punk it up (pick a fast one like “Do The Strand” and just drop your heads and hammer away) or you’ve got to play in their ballpark with their rules, i.e., you’ve gotta try to evoke their feel without just acting as a copyist. Well, the Nothing People chose the latter route and they cover “Really Good Time” with such icy panache that I didn’t feel the immediate need to toss on the original to clear my brain, I dropped the needle on their version one more time, and again. It’s the best Roxy cover I ever done heard. Their original is “In The City”, a turbocharged creep fest dominated by a heavily-reverbed guitar that ends up sounding like one of those regional artrock outfits that was too isolated to hear punk and thus reinvented it on their own with only a copy of Be Bop Deluxe’s Modern Music as a reference point. It’s loud and dramatic as all fuck, this whole 7” is steeped in some kind of waxen-faced sonic sternness, jeez, no wonder they made a cover a grayed-out wash that makes me think of 1930s sci-fi films. -RW

The Reaction / Neverending Party split EP (Thrillhouse)
A bit wary about this one. The insert had a nostalgic longing for the Mission Records scene and a so-typical-it’s-a-Frisco-stereotype Fuck the Pigs vibe to it and the music that usually results from that ilk is too often well intentioned, drunken boredom with a beat. However, seems like the punkers have strayed from clichĂ©, at least musically, at least a little bit. Both The Reaction and Neverending Party play basic punk rock with a melodic edge (though not “melodic punk”). At their best (“Stitches”), The Reaction sound like a meatier VKTMS, while Neverending Party are a good fusion of power pop and 60s garage, a sound that brings to mind Boston (the city) 1979. Red vinyl, if that matters to you. –SS

The Secret Society of the Sonic Six Isolated Incidents 1.1 12” (Touch of Evil)
Stripped down synth from
Los Angeles which takes “Hot on the Heels of Love” flambĂ© and filters it through Minimal Man empty parking lot at 3 AM noir - sounds that boarder on menacing, but are a little too stylized to threaten. SSSS cut their darkness with art, creating the same kind of atmosphere heard in the late 70s San Francisco art/synth scene. One instrumental, one near-instrumental, and an excellent vocal track in “Locust Daze” on a miserly pressing of 150. –SS

Shearing Pinx Ultra Snake LP (Isolated Now Waves)
Though I immediately took to Shearing Pinx’s newest, it took several listens to realize that the Pinx are one of the few bands (along with the Lamps, Der Teenage Panzarkorp...) to really understand, in a radiation in the bone marrow, subatomic level. And like the Lamps and Der TPK, the Pinx use that understanding the simplicity of a riff artfully placed and primitively played and to make music that is only theirs. Sounds easy, but it ain’t. Believe me: Sitting in the rocket seat of a record label that trucks in like sounds means I am privy to lots of clueless sounds-like-but-doesn’t-get-it crap. So when the few that have hotwired themselves to the battery of contemporary post-punk that doesn’t suck come a calling, I pee myself with pleasure. So here we sit with Ultra Snake. While not as brutal as last years Poison Hands, this one is better. The songs are a bit more than pound pound crash arrrrrgghhhh squeal, which makes for a multidimensional experience (ha! multidimensional!) – right now would be the time that I list a bunch of classic bands from underground rock & roll’s past or I’d come up with something like “innerstellar boom bah with a skronk full of goob” and make you try to figure out what the fuck that means. Instead, I’ll leave you with a gentle nudge toward you buying this record (before the 300 pressing is gone) and the advise of giving it multiple listens. It is good and it grows! –SS

Something Fierce / The Hangouts split EP (Manic Attack)
Both bands play spirited, high energy punk rock that sounds indistinguishable from a thousand other spirited, high energy punk rock bands. Sure the vocalists are different and they play different songs but this is cut & paste punk rock, something which could have been generated via computer program. Am I wrong to expect more from
America’s youth than the musical equivalent of velvet & miracle whip on wonder bread? I think not! –SS

Sonic Chicken 4 s/t LP (In the Red)
France’s Sonic Chicken 4’s debut starts off with a song called “Sexist” and it is one of the best VU by way of Modern Lovers style jams that I’ve heard, comparable to premium Tyvek. From “Sexist”, there is no letdown. Nor is there any repeat. Like the Black Lips or the late great Cuts, SC4 has a great grasp of rock & roll sounds. From garage pop jangle to Fug punk stompers to Childish Beat bomp, they crawl into the style out comes a Sonic Chicken song, which in this world of sound-a-likes is quite a rarity. I’ve been corresponding with a rabid Italian about rock & roll and how it needs to be propelled forward. At all costs, he says. I say, sure but let us also give praise to those who excel at their craft so well that what they do makes you forget of past or future and make the present a good time. That Sonic Chicken 4 does this on their first full length is pretty remarkable. Very much recommended. –SS

The Spread Eagles Don’t Talk to the Narc 45 (Boom Chick)
Timeless punk rock with a Don’t give a shit/driving toward apocalypse vibe to it – whether that be on the turbocharged-Sick Pleasure sound of the A side or the violent swagger of “Up Too High”. Good stuff. –SS

Time Flys The In Crowd 7” (Douchemaster)
One of my gold standards in contemporary 45s is this band’s Wet Ones 45 on the Birdman label. You can’t really ask for more from a garage-type rock ‘n roll record these days so I won’t, but it does set a hell of a bar for subsequent records by these lads ‘n lass. They have figured out the perfect solution to that quandary, one that most bands don’t care enough to pull off: Don’t try to Xerox your triumph, create another blueprint. This EP doesn’t really abandon the early-to-mid 70s glam/early punk attack that makes this band tick so much as follow the style down the same rough road that the Hollywood Brats did towards their sound as the Boys. They just adjusted the tempos and breaks, broadened the sonic palate without sacrificing forward momentum and kept things tight and together while simultaneously injecting some welcome new looseness into the sound, especially on the flipside track. If you listen to the Kinks records in the rough order they came out, I would say this was the band’s “I’m Not Like Everyone Else” moment, when they started opening up without getting winded by the change. More. -RW

Tyvek Still Sleep 7” (What’s Your Rupture)
Another engaging, unpredictable, catchy, propulsive 45 from one of the best rock bands currently treading boards anyplace near you. And this is their slowest, most introspective slow-churn effort to date, so go figure. Tyvek is one of those bands that can flip thru any number of well-tilled eras and pluck out great riffs from thither and non, and slap them together in different combinations that makes them sound new and fresh and that, friends, has been the formula for successful rock ‘n roll since roughly 1946. And, when you consider just where they are scouring (consciously or non-) for these sounds (the early Rough Trade catalog, late 70s prog-punk, mid 90s Columbus bands, etc.) and they haven’t been hit with an “art punk” tag in the process, well, that just tells me that things are really looking bright for rock bands with a bit of sonic/conceptual challenge in them these days. Perhaps the ghetto doors are gonna stay chained open for awhile this time. -RW

...Z Gun, Issue 2 currently in the works...