Saturday, 30 November 2013

Hunx and his Punx - Street Punk

If you are anything like me, you have had more discussions about what punk means than it is really wise to admit in adult company, you may have also written a 130000 word blog dedicated to ferreting out what is and isn't punk rock. You probably haven't done exactly that. Because that is fucking stupid and you are probably not that stupid.

Punk is a genre of music, it is also an attitude, and a vague political bent, but before it had the meaning of a genre of music, and before it exploded out into a thousand terrible incredibly earnest momentarily consuming message board arguments, it had a meaning somewhere between hoodlum and catamite. So street punk in 2013 might make you think of A Global Threat or Clit 45 or all those mohawked wonders with more studs than sense, but forty years ago, you were looking at someone probably a bit like Dee Dee Ramone or Jim Carroll. So here's Street Punk, reappropriating the term, restoring its original connotations of mean tough queer kids with switchblades.

This is Hunx and his Punx third album, after Gay Singles and Too Young to Be In Love, which were cool albums of 60s girl group sound roughed up and clumsy sweet, which I kinda dug but I didn't listen to too much because while I like that sort of amateurishness, I don't spend that much time listening to things that are quiet. Street Punk, like the name says, is mainly a straight-up punk rock album, taking that sound that shivered and stumbled its way through the Gay Singles and Too Young to Be in Love and running it through with stronger punk threads, which means that I like it more because I am a really predictable noise-hungry arsehole.

A similar trick to that reappropriation of 'street punk' happens with Bad Skin. It's a punk cut about acne, not big-ass bald-dudes with The Business tattoos, packed with anguished teenage destruction.

When Shannon Shaw takes over the vocalst's it's got echoes of that Midnite Snaxxx mess, on songs like the love/hate pop/punk You Think You're Tuff and its slip from denial to self-interrogation and Buzzcockian regret. Mud in Your Eyes is probably my favourite song on the album, a dreamy love shuffle of lust and grime. "You got mud in your eyes and I don't care/You got blood in you teeth and I don't care/You got grass on your skin and I don't care/You got dirt on your hands and I don't care" It's a song that's all physicality, and all dismissal of physicality, punching through the slime.

Similar repetition gives power to the real curt thrashers Don't Call Me Fabulous and Everyone's a Pussy (FUCK YOU DUDE!), they tear out in 30 seconds, hinging on a simple phrase repeated, just as the closing bummer number It's Not Easy does drawling "It's not easy being me" over and over. From the criminal gang anthem of I'm Coming Back to the Beastie Boys cover Egg Raid on Mojo, this is a sloppy stabby punk rock album rumbling with Personal and the Pizzas dumbcrew mythology and mellifluous girl-group bits lifting out gently from behind the fuzz.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Hunger - Dying is Ordinary

Exposed nerve noisepunk on Muscle Horse records, shrill and piercing, bloody and pummeling. Stuck in your head like an icepick, wincing with the feedback blares. One of those times when the idea of distortion seems half-ridiculous, this can't be some recognisable sound twisted into this painful form, but more a barbedwire clang of its own particular shrill birth, bursting from some new argute origin. It's less blown out than collapsed-in, slaps of drums and duelling vocal screams underneath the rubble of noise.

Calling up D-Clone/Confuse/Dust Noise/Frenzy, all markers of blistering noise, it's a world consumed in dentist drill feedback, tearing on Press, stomping and thrashing on Human Hand, wilding out on Well Rounded, running up and down in that brutal squeal. Raging distressed and poisonous against self ("WHAT IS THIS WORLD I'VE CARVED FOR MYSELF?" on Forced Hand) and world ("JUST BECAUSE IT'S WRITTEN DOESN'T MAKE IT RIGHT") on Press. Serrated hardcore, acidbath torments. Really profoundly uncomfortable stuff.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Perfume River - No Wind flexi

Wrestling the title of most ill-fitting bandname away from previous champions God Equals Genocide, who play pop-punk not epic crustcore like what you would think, Perfume River play unrelenting d-beat, not acoustic pop songs about feeling and other things that suck. Unrelenting apart from the fact that every song lasts 45 seconds or less. Released on CS in 2012, I think, getting the vinyl treatment from Symphony Of Destruction this year on a gorgeous clear flexi with silver detailing. Harsh world screams. "REPULSION!" roars Ammoniated & Lifeless. "THOSE WHO LIVE/LIVE OFF THE DEAD" A Continuation bellows through the brutish noise, repetitions, repetitions.  A repellent two minutes of human hate that turns over like a bomber engine. The wardeath noisefuck with the energy of airraid panic.

Amnesea - 1st EP

Blown all the way out past all orbitary waystations, a storming Japanese hardcore release on Tadpole Records. That sort of total splatternoise distortion that Zyanose trade in, ferocity totality. The vocals squeeze out of the signalscatter cacophony in a ghostly half-buried echo. Glitchy guitar solos breaking apart on re-entry on ソケイヘルニア. The final song gets kinda mellow and but still noisy as hell, kind of like the song Vanette topping off Slight Slappers's A Selfish World Called Freedom LP, there's tension and building threat there which isn't present on the rest of the EPs crashercrust tumbles. Slowly leading into another purewrath explosion, a raw rippedapart beast, dropping out into mid-tempo variation on that sinister runaround, erupting again. Furious and unfuckwithable brokenpunx.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Long Knife - Wilderness

Long Knife play that kind of no-quarters-given hardcore punk infused with roughhouse rock and roll tone that Poison Idea tore it up with. Long Knife/Poison Idea comparisons could be to 2013 what Night Birds/Dead Kennedys comparisons were to 2011. Both bands make hardcore punk lifting heavily from some of the best punk bands to ever do it, both sounding a bunch like bands that while beloved by many are actually kinda hard to sound like because they were just so fucking good. A lot of bands might have tinges and hints of Kings of Punk and Ian Mackaye but not many nail that sound down the way Long Knife manage, which is clear from the fact that there are not a huge amount of bands in the plain Poison Idea worship pool, the way there are with Discharge or the Ramones, because really, if your band could sound just like War All the Time, why would you want your band to sound like anything else?

A sarcastic sour perspective pervades Wilderness, it's an album born from a nasty mental space, coloured by an ugly physical space, a combination of interior and exterior filth. Back to Blackout screaming "There's a war going on in the hall/Last night's blood is dried to the wall." It's like Culo in its evocations of and obsession with these dark spaces but less gleeful in its nihilism, cos while Culo revel in their mutant imprecations, Long Knife are just trapped there. After the meanmugging instrumental Intro, the first line on Artificial Heart Recall is "Tried to paint a pretty picture with a crooked pen", which is pretty much it, it's caught in this ugly situation, incapable of escape, a world of remorseless predators and shambling forlorn prey, a Robocop slice-of-life, they really Feel the Darkness.

Narco, a Power of the Dog-style drug war assault from top to bottom, shades maybe of the outrage of Rats Blood's Heroin, which goes at the society that and the ones who judge more than it hits the addicts, but still it's got a shout of "A nation of junkies get what it deserves" just to complete its encompassing blast. Tearaway punk that explodes perfectly into squealing tracerfire solo. It also rhymes KKK with CIA which is one of the most punk rhymes you can do. That widescatter scream of anger might suggest an outside looking in exceptionalist take on all this murk, that everyone falls beneath a standard set by the narrator/singer, but it never has that superiority to it cos it attacks its own inadequacies, its own broken pens, as much as it rolls against everything else.

Drugs pop up a couple of time on the album. It's just a fact of life in Wilderness, narcotising against pain and boredom is just a thing that happens in these places. In Back to Blackout, rotting in City Baby urban decay, obliterating yourself with flophouse blue pills is the only way to chase away the flophouse blues, before it goes all quasi-metal evil as it intones the chorus. Turn Blue's "Daddy was a rolling stone/Snorting cocaine all alone".

Turn Blue and Ghost in the Hall scratch further at the inevitability of death and the pointlessness of life. "One fine day when you are gone/Will your memory flicker on" on Turn Blue, "And in the end we will all fall, tormented and alone" on Ghost in the Hall. Those Jerry A-style vocals drawling and sneering, cracking into bitter half-retches as the philippics peak.

Move It Creep that moves from uncompromising dismissal "Nevermind what you said/Integrity's a word that you've killed dead" to something starker, as the bass skates and dances under the riffs, Proxy wild. The first line's "MOVE IT CREEP! FIGURE IT OUT!" but the second verse leads off  with "I'LL MISS YOU CREEP/YOU WERE MY DAWG!" it's one of the few times that regret sneaks into the album, one of the few times that an emotion beyond spitting outrage and fatalistic snarling is pulled out. A brief acknowledgment of real feeling, but that got snatched away with all the rest of the shit, as everything will with the apocalyptic Last Wave. Tight snapping hardcore, punk rock to burn bridges to. Pig Champion rides again. On Feral Ward records.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Maquina Muerta - s/t EP

Scalding flat rawpunx from Mexico. Clattering, primitive and physical. Gimme that ineptitude. The drums slap and crash chaotically, the vocals burn mightily with the weight of passion and affliction, a worked and turned over field in the throat, blood in spit and sound. You can hear the creases and strain as it screams "MAQUINA DE MUERTE" like an invocation on the title track, "NO! NO! NO! NO!" on Sangre Inocente, leading into Todo El Odio with an unaccompanied blisterburst bellow of "RABIA! RABIA! RABIA!". These repetitions like the simplistic direct bludgeonpunk repetitions of the music, each riff simple and uncatchy, but relentless, driven into with conviction, reiterated without quarter given, message and bluntness undimmed, unaltered each time, a monotony of brutality. This noise comes round again, this noise doesn't leave, this noise doesn't know how. It all turns over in a such a way as to almost abnegate momentum with brickwall ugliness, sticking its guitars in such inelastic scritching grooves, rarely using them for anything but the abrading. There's a slippery wild movement at the end of Sangre Inocente, with noise wobbles flickering over rerun bass riffs, a small solo that picks and bites like mosquitoes in the murk on Vacio, another one that squeals panicked and off-kilter on Progreso Camicace, like the escape from those grooves will combust and kill it all. The vocals pull it back, hold it all barely together. They're so coarse, scarier even than the music, just in the emotion they eek out, rage laced with and deepened by grief, screaming over the dronepunk that bloodies on stubbornly, rumbling, repetitive as the throb from a wound, searing. Savage and painful and goddamn inept as all. On Metadona Records.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Direct Hit! - Brainless God

tense fucking shit when a band whose logo you have decided to etch indelibly into your skin decides to release new music. I don't have to worry about the Hickey H on my leg as that band are dear departed, but having already dodged the Screeching Weasel bullet, no-one wants to join the group of people who got Gaslight Anthem tats after Sink or Swim, or got Anti-Nowhere League jobs before The Perfect Crime came out (though to be honest, an Anti-Nowhere League tattoo was always gonna be somewhere in the top ranks of bad decisions from moment needle hit skin). So I was kinda on edge for one of my favourite bands' new album.

Selfie of the Artist as a Young Dog
And it got worse when I heard a couple of the preview tracks and they sounded pretty slick. Slick, as in well-produced. I generally try not to harp on about production, because focusing on production in punk reviews it always just the most boring shit ever and generally seems like a transparent attempt on behalf of the writer to go "Oh look how mature I'm being knowing that music is something made by people in rooms." Fuck that, music is numinous adolescent shit for dancing to and crying over, I will treat it as sillily and ridiculously and pretentiously as I possibly can.

But yeah it sounded kinda slick, and slick is a word I only like to use when I am giving a nickname to a greaser that I have beef with in the musical that is my everyday life, and combined with the fact that I was not too into Domesplitter (I love all those songs, I'm just generally not down with rerecordings if they don't alter the song significantly in someway like Proxy's Police Car's development from demo to 7", OG KEASBEY 4 LYFE) I was definitely worried. Maybe it was just use of the words 'first date' in the song Buried Alive, the song I heard first, that brought up memories of First Date, one of Blink-182's most Blink-182 songs, and I'm just not really into that anymore.

What I did not see coming was that the song Buried Alive was not just a throwaway goofy love song, but a serial killer section of a greater narrative, a concept album about the end of the world, and not in like the way that d-beat albums are about the end of the world ("YEAH WE'RE DISPEPSIA AND WE SING ABOUT ALL THE TOPICS: NUCLEAR WAR, NUCLEAR WINTER, WAR NUKES, NUCLEAR BOMBS, NUCLEAR ARSENALS, NUCLEAR SUMMERS, FISSION-POWERED NUCLEAR ROBOT DOGS") but a collection of songs telling, from a bunch of criss-crossing perspectives, the tale of the eschaton immanentized. In this sense the full wider sound of it all apt, a big sound for a big story, works, an angelic sheen for songs of angels descending, like the way Shitlickers layered guitars like a motherfucker to get that end-of-the-world blast on their raw punk d-beat classics, but put to shinier, brighter purpose in big lifting pop-punk swells.

One thing it doesn't focus on too much though is the mechanics of that destruction, there are a bunch of references to bombs falling, but the album's focus is on consequences not causes, humans (not just humanity) faced with the nothingness rushing towards them, not the blundering brinkmanship or nationalist posturing that brought the curtain down. It's a story that works on a few levels. There seems to be something of a throughline, that you can kind of work out but it's shady and hinted at and uncertain. The main thing is a bunch of people confronting an end, maybe the end, a personal as well as a wider one. On & On and The World Is Ending (No-One Cares) open with a couple of overviews of the situation, one screamingly defiantly against the black ("LET'S GET PLASTERED ONE MORE TIME!"), the other a snotty righteous putdown of sinners. That's the first hint of this albums multi-pronged approach to armageddon, coming in from different angles, stuff like Buried Alive and Getting What He Asked For are third person. Bank of Elevators, White Robes, Back to the Tower and more are first-person, but from different characters.

A lot of the songs fit together in pairs like that. Buried Alive are both macabre stories of violent lives facing armageddon, one a serial killer, one an avenging victim of domestic violence. Buried Alive is a weird one, somewhere close to parodic and blackly comic, but with enough specificity and real emotion to give it consequence, and of course set up against that rushing doom that shoots up the tension in all. It's that uncertainty and switching up of viewpoints and tones, ghostly forgiveness, dark irony, drawn-out relief, that prevents it falling into that sort of cloying cutesy serial-killer stuff of bad 'adult' dramas and Hannibal Lecter twitter accounts.

Getting What He Asked For might be sharper in its cut off, more sudden, the righteousness gets shit on but the selfish evil of Buried Alive doesn't. What really gets closure here? The song's asking something brutal. Can even the cunt in Buried Alive taste redemption? Can even the victory of GWHAF's protagonist get stolen out of from under them. The last line screams "It's not so fucking depressing" but I'm not sure if that's true. It certainly thrills fore it snaps apart whereas Buried Alive just makes you feel weird, but it's a testament to the sequencing of this album that the pairing of these songs makes each other stronger, more complex, playing off each other in the different applications of murder, the different feel of the end hitting, with some uncomfortable stuff to say about the possible pointlessness of it all.

The idea of a brainless or absent deity has echoes of Garth Ennis's Preacher or Chronicles Wormwood, of maybe the heavenly detour of Angels in America. It's a rage at absences, at irresponsibility from those entrusted with it the most. It works on an anti-god trip, but even on the level of someone who's never bought into that line when they weren't high as hell and depressed watching What Dreams May Come at 4am it seems like a great rage to be a part of, that scream against the idea that things are ultimately fucked, meaningless, out-of-control, that we were lied to, cos we were, by someone. It's something somewhat like a soaring chorus for those days when you get so fucked off with the world that you end up daydreaming that that shit was real just so shitty people would go to hell when they die.

It is also wordy as hell. This might be the first album I've reviewed where the word count of the lyrics has a shot at outreaching the word count of this review (we'll see about that, ya cunts). Cos it jumps around with the perspectives you end up with a lot of different character songs sung in the voices of angels or suicides or desperate lovers. The characters are well drawn through dialogue, lines packed with nice natural bleed and softness to the language, words imbued with caginess and euphemism, the edges fraying with litotes and couching language. "It's kind of awkward to admit that I've been less than forthright when I implied that I was ready to die" on I Told You a Lie scuffs with shamefaced admittal. The sort of non-commital bureaucratic coaxing on Bank of Elevators, about a a dead soul facing damnation, or purgatory or pressganging into heaven's service. "When you’re done, see me here and we’ll discuss compensation – If there’s something I can say, it’s we’re especially patient." It leads to a lot of cleverly structured Sloppy Seconds double rhymes, cluttered torrential slaps of words, enjambement running over.

It's cool but it's weird for a band that tends so clearly to the anthemic to construct songs of such lyrical density, it means that when I saw them I spent like 3 days listening to the songs intently trying to learn the words and then just got too drunk/excited to remember all but the choruses, and even a bunch of the choruses do that thing where they change up with each one.

There's an Auld Lang Syne style refrain that comes up a couple of times through the album, drawing that choral flourish of ending and loss and rebirth into this punkpopalypse dance. Cos there's a lot of denial in this album, as much as there is acceptance, a lot of bargaining and and ugly discomfort and threads-left-hanging as much as there is conclusion. The messiness and contradictory nature of this album is what makes it. Sometimes joyous, sometimes hateful, sometimes despairing, sometimes all these things and more smashing into each other. Sometimes the end seems meaningless and arbitrary, sometimes it throws everything that matters into stark relief and then on I Told You A Lie it even acknowledges the idea of setting lives against the situation in that fashion and the way that that's probably not a very smart way or helpful to frame things "In fact the truth is I've only used this to understand why we're all here." It escapes and dodges away from easy answers. It's a conflicted album, sonically, thematically, silky whoa-ohs fly into angry barks. Heaven is a Black Hole, a song that reverberates with sweet harmonies and heavenly echoes still has a stumbling moment of indecision where it all shudders to a stop in the middle. It can switch between silly-sweet classic Steinwaysesque buzzpop lines like "Cause in a minute we'll be isotopes all jumbled up/Doesn't that give you some hope that we can end up together?" on White Robes to searing pain on We're Fucked.

We're Fucked, a straight up hardcore rippper, like their split with Hold Tight!, burning with the fury of betrayed suicides. If more pop-punk bands are gonna start throwing hardcore bangers into their stuff (like how RVIVR did earlier this year of The Hunger Suite Part II: Dark Territory) then I'm down with it, more pop-punk bands should forget they're not Die Kreuzen for a minute and a half and punch holes in the glistening wings of the anthems with a bunch of screaming anger in the middle of the album, bursting with pain and voidborn rage, "We'll pluck out your eyes so they won't see the end/We'll box out your ears so they can't hear the end". This fury is brought-up again at the end of I Told You A Lie which shifts gears from a mid-tempo crooner into a panicked rush that leads into the confident punch of Home To You which slams straight into a dramatic bomb blast.

And then the end. The end of all these endings. How can you do that? Such an intricate chaotic thing, swirling with brawling boxed-out emotions, what seem like possibly dozens of stories, all hinting at dozens, hundreds, thousands more. Packed as much with bleakness and anger as it is with romance. Like I said, there's a narrative here, buried and cut up like its characters, obscured and tricky to unpick but that's unimportant ultimately, being secondary to the flux of human feeling that pours from every song in every different way. How can you sum all that up with one big closer? Well, it ends with a song about fucking up angels. Yeah, maybe it's kinda easy to bring everything all into one fantastic upwards tear, a shining coming together of all the twisted broken souls streaming, smiling and violence in their hearts, towards the gates of heaven, but the wide warm singalong of lines "WE WANT OUT WHISKEY BOTTLES BACK NOW/OUR GUITARS AND AMPLIFIERS/COS THIS NIGHT AIN'T OVER TIL WE SAY IT'S DONE!" grab everytime as it rolls back seamlessly into a reprise of the similarly joyous and unrepentant On and On. It an album built of endings, painful ones, triumphant ones, sudden ones, that goes up against the finality and futility of it all but can't help but loop back in on itself in an endless humane and life-filled continuation of the fuck-yous and the get-pumpeds that runs like a river on, communal and victorious, vicious and companionless, making you lose the idea that it's some tense, really

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Frau - Demo

All-woman hardcore punk band featuring members of Good Throb and Woolf, less prone to flensed-Pixies rise-and-fall of Good Throb, or the art-garage weirdthreat of Woolf, Frau are just as uncompromising in their hardcore punch, but more streamlined for the attack. Like those bands though, it's got that clattering energy where the different instruments are clearly distinguishable and seem to rip around chaotically knocking chips out of each other as they bounce forward.

Hostile lays it out, a song that contains one of those perfect FUCK YOU! GET PUMPED! punk summations in the line "WHAT I LACK IN SUBSTANCE AND STYLE/I MAKE UP FOR BEING HOSTILE" . The songs built of a catchy bassline and some stabbing guitar, all backed up by an undercurrent of keening feedback getting right in your brain and making you feel real weird. I really like the feedback on this tape, it's not enough to be oppressive and ugly in a Merciless Game kinda way, but it's present enough to be unsettling, a thin sharp edge on this noise.

Safety Instructions is a terrific song, over another great repetitive bass/guitar interplay it lays out a nervy anxious love story written like a twitching uncomfortable fuck-off to the doomed twattish romanticism of something like There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. In The Smiths's number "to die by your side well the pain and the privilege is mine" and yeah, it's a sweet line but it's easy, too easy. Life and love is a more complicated dangerous proposition. Fuck a deathwish. The choice to live, the desire to make someone safe in an always unsafe world is a scarier thing than fatalism and suicide pacts. Safety Instructions gets that Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy, not a template, and is full of the jagged present fear of caring about someone more than you care about yourself, its vows of protection are more daring for how unsteady and unconvincing they are. Those sorts of promises are always an effort to convince yourself as much to anyone else.

It's that sort of rawness that pervades Frau's stuff from the sarcastic punk crack of High Heels ("HAIRCUT! HAIRCUT! AM I ON TREND!?") to the stop-start pained/directed rage of Accused and more declarations of renegade spirit on Trouble, it's a punk tape sparking furiously against itself. Rickety in its construction, curt, barely holding together the basic materials of its scathing tone, snappy drums, guitars set to aggravate, clean earworm basslines and the vocals that can pierce and rage on Paris, run along with the bluster of Sherman's Gone and smear themselves into noise on Trouble before the whole thing terrifically blares itself to pieces in cut-crash blastpunk on Nada.

Available here.