Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Barcelona - Extremo Nihilismo en Barcelona MLP

10 minutes of rage, Extremo Nihilismo En Barcelona and all that conjures. The whole record reverberates with the heavy sinister throb of a bomb siren, not just in the flickering razortongue keening that opens Bomba in chaos and riot, but a deeper migraine ache, a sicker bonedeep pounding, panicked warning-pulse riffs, a broken half-groove, held slightly too long for a sway, dug in slightly too deep for a swagger, too rapid and swinging for a trudge, returned to again and again, dying off, stabbing forwards, set aside temporarily for chugging rumble on Pasión, laid over with a manic bawling on Bomba, swerving into hard burn on Ansiedad, more conventional hardcore stampede on Seguidores del Orden, but slipped back into again and again, like a returning pain, a familiar monotonous dread curling back up to you, rising up your throat and spine and flooding your skull. That crunch underpins the record, holds it together for its short scabrous life, that and the scorching vocals, laced deep with poison and anguish, enunciating ferociously and biting hard, screaming beyond words on Mi Ciudad. A sirencall of hardcore fury, an ominous wailing or an aftermath scramble, encircling the violence and torment in doubtbells, nagging squalls, painting it maybe as the wild flowers blooming from the rotten mulch of your torture and distress.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Fuck SS - demo CS

Skinner: Only one question remains, gentlemen...what do we call ourselves?
Nigel: How about, "Handsome Homer Simpson Plus Three?"
Barney: I like it!
Apu: Wait, I do not.
Skinner: Er, um, we need a name that's witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it.
Apu: How about, "The Be Sharps?" "Fuck SS?"
(Everyone laughs loud at first, then less, then the laughter tapers off)
Skinner: Perfect!
- Homer's Barbershop Quartet

From edge-pushing flirtation with fascist iconography a la Sid's notorious swastika shirt, to worn in and worn out nastypunk signifier, the SS appellation has proved almost as an enduring part of punk monikers as the Dis-prefix. From Japanese hardcore originators the SS and nearmythic neverwas potentiapunx London SS through Italian teenage lo-fi KBD idiots Hitler SS and Swedish rawpunk legends Crude SS (who maybe did more to popularise it than anyone else) all the way up to the present day and the likes of this band right here. Deployed for ironic juxtaposition (Black SS, Reagan SS, Sunshine SS, Lysol SS, Honnor SS, Stress SS, Stakanov SS, Blank SS, Harper SS, Stepdad SS) or just some shockrock collision of repulsive grotesqueries (White SS, Reagan SS, Attack SS, Heroin SS, Genocide SS) or even painting anything into a fearsome regiment of death (Tampere SS, Kajun SS, Ctakahoø SS, Netjajev SS, Veuve SS, Tempe SS). Commonly cited as Society System, but with those everpresent acrid Schutzstaffel overtones, it's a reminder of punk's eternal inability to sweep clean its vulgar obnoxious corners, guaranteed to get you some off looks, some sly chuckles, some knowing nods, guaranteed to lock you out of any fucking chance of being anything other than a way shitty basement punk band, just the way you'd probably want it.

So here's a list of free topical SS-based bandnames for anyone on the lookout, some of which may or may not get you sued:
Aspiration SS
Austerity SS
Neoliberal SS
Mortgages SS
Osborne SS
Corbyn SS
Obama SS
Skip Bayle SS
Newscorp SS
Trump SS
Walmart SS
Wholefoods SS
Fuckboy SS
Upworthy SS
Tumblr SS
Smartphone SS
Di SS (or maybe Dis SS)
Drake SS
Beyhive SS
Meme SS
Actually SS
T-shirt SS
Prince SS

It's also an interesting insight into the subtle details of associations. Flip that SS to the front of the word (SS Decontrol, SS Kaliert) and it brings to mind a big fucking boat more than a bunch of murderous scum. Or go the other way and drop a stray space somewhere onto carefree innocent band names and the meaning immediately slides into the dark, Crass become Cra SS, Piss become Pi SS, The New Dress become The New Dre SS. La Urss, Rock Goddess, Gess, Juntess, Gay Kiss, Kiss, The Mighty Mighty Bo SS Tones all end up grubbier and shittier and in the same realm as bands like the The Mau Maus, Joy Division, Adolf Hitler Klan, Sieg Heil, Nazi Dust, Marilyn Manson, Boston Strangler, Viet Cong, Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge, Jack & the Rippers, Doctor & the Crippens, Slaves, Massacre 68 and others who have or have not caught varying degrees of shit over their decision to emblazon something as ultimately trite and trivial as a rock and roll band with the moniker associated with the very worst moments and decisions and trends in human history.

SS's staying power probably springs from a particular balance of comic dulling and resonant notoriety, fed and sculpted by the constant pop culture presence of the Nazis, Hitler long more meme than man, running for election in a sleepy Somerset town in Monty Python, smashing through windows in Danger 5, his soldiers the go-to evil monsters for any guilt-free blast-em-all war movie along the lines of Where Eagles Dare, even profound attempts to get to grips with the horrible humanity present somewhere within like Downfall get flattened into safe silliness by endless youtube variations, all these things (and thousands more) putting us at some psychological remove from the disgusting truth of them and their acts. And the notoriety/familiarity coming into play cos there's no point tagging your band LRM and then spending loads of time explaining what the Lord's Resistance Movement is, you want that immediate jolt of shockvalue recognition.

"How many years was it between Charlie Manson being the terror of California and Charlie Manson being an image on joke t-shirts? I have a shirt somewhere with a pic of his face and, underneath it, the words CHARLIE DON'T SURF. Hitler's a cartoon figure now. Eminem dressed up as bin Laden within a couple of years of 9/11. It's interesting to me how we defang our nightmares -- by mocking them, but also by wearing their skins." - Warren Ellis

So here we have a contender for possibly the most spitefully moronic name yet (still waiting on a Cunt SS but I'm sure punk will make that leap some day). This demo comes emblazoned with a crossed out totenkopf, raising yet another interesting linguistic wrinkle, the difference in visions conjured by the name Fuck SS (sex party swinger death squad) and Fuck The SS (righteous antifa headkickers). It's all wretched out screams echoed into incomprehensibility and submerged deep in the filth and squawl of furious poundings and crushing raw guitar rage, from Trend On, bass thrum into crash and chaotic clinking, to the weirdo 1-2 stomp/warble of Social Real Estate, shadows of a sneer somehow present in the bonefeel of the blasted-out screams, descending into utter shitstorm panic. Slow Club's roll feeding into a superspeed thrash that rattles with grindcore relentlessness. Father's Day born out that noise, getting into jump-up punk beat, running itself over with weird scribbleshatters, exploding, fading. It's a compelling mix of modern punk's smoothest touchstones, d-beat fills, käng reminiscences, pogo guts, vocals like the excavated field-recordings of a rebellious tortured ghost, carrying a certain playful snot through hellish howls, like a tape-decayed longlost Comes demo filtered and churned up with Fader War noise.

Bloody dumb name though.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Cianuro - demo CS

Showcasing more of London's current vibrant and heaving punk scene, a tape of stabbing midtempo Spanish-invasion punx featuring members of Frau/No/Retrofuture, a venomous razorwire shimmying, shaking with rage, stomping with life, deepened and coarsened by the brokenglass vocals. The spasmodic scratchings of the guitar, the rumbling sway of the bass, the pop and kick of the drums. Cancion De Amor particularly is a vicious mover, at once a dancefloor filler, a fierce bomb. Scraped together and vindictive, cutthroat and catchy.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Steel Chains - Demo 2015 CS

Choppy poppy punk, running along like a pumped-up version of Screaming Sneakers's Violent Days, half-wistful guitar lines cutting across the songs, with a similar melodic bellow to The Gateway District teasing the most out of the lyrics about difficult routes through life strewn with broken ties and solid mistakes, and the stubborn persistence and ultimate reaffirmation that eventually flowers in the wake of these lessons learnt hard. "Things have been tough and/Things have been strange/There have been horrors, and we know by/And we know" as Instincts says.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Soma Coma - Dust 12"

Sickened animalistic hardcore from Australia, frenzied and spewing bestial vitriol among thunderous beats, an unleashed creature of demonic hiccups and burps, inhuman acidspray growls, the guitar holding remnants of melody and stretched out like a pickled skin.

Ayak, Akai taking its name from the secret KKK codes, (Are You a Klansman? A Klansman Am I, bigots can't complicate things too much) a gnashing vision of vile cultic bullshit, hate hidden, secret decadences and rituals lurking behind respectability. "DISGUSTING PAST AND PRESENT OF HIGHLY EVOLVED MANKIND." This record is outraged by the world, its cruelty and coldness, its malicious acts. Area Boys is about the Igbo genocide of the 1960s, evil curling guitar lines, a stumbling into a thrashing panic as it digs into the monstrous specifics of violence as well as drawing broad strokes of frustration and beaten-in pain in songs like Gimme Soma and Never Again, thought and freewill excised slowly by the day.

Working in blunt declarations of anguish ("GOTTA RAM MY HEAD THROUGH THE WALL") and brutal bitter ironies, Imperial Dick's "TEACH ME CIVILISATION! TEACH ME MOTIVATION!", the title track's "SHIELD YOUR EYES/AS PEACE FALLS FROM THE SKY" before that constant fury rips itself apart, slowing and faltering, the ripping precision and consuming screams melting into themselves, warped and unsustainable. "IT TURNS TO DUST..."

Tropical Nightmare - demo CS

Throbbing psychedelic hardcore from Brazil by way of London at their best on tracks like O Prazer De ser Asceta when they strike a dirty vein of punk grooverush, the bass upfront and packed with crustgrit, the vocals dry barks of rage, the guitar cut free dancing flickersharp and wild over the top like a spirit of trickster noise. The whole compelling drive dragged out of the empty ambient wastes that open Prego Na Areia, busy and loaded with fleeting images of pain, moral rebellion, apocalyptic cities, uncomfortable headspaces. Tropical Nightmare move like the snared ghost of the pulsing rhythms of anger rippling out of you.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Blazing Eye - s/t 7"

Killer LA hardcore punk, mutilated and GISM-throated snarlings, darkpunk undertones, noise an insistent presence but held at bay, dragged behind by the reckless pounding, the violent chopping riffs, the rash fraying solos. Reaping that brutish Japanese hardcore rush of the likes of Zouo's The Final Agony, LSD's Jast Last and The Execute, who might've caught hardcore more perfectly in two words than anyone else before or since with their Blunt Sleazy EP. Blunt. Sleazy. "I WILL KILL YOU" blasts Kill You and you believe.

Dawn of Humans - Slurping at the Cosmos Spine LP

Another NY-beat monster squirming its way out of the Nuke York depths, long possessed of a transcendent liveshow, Dawn of Humans, transfer that energy to their first full length. Scuzzy guitar dragged over pogothump rhythms runs Slurping at the Cosmos Spine, strapped up equally ready for an imbecilic slamdance or fresh aperture gouged into your third-eye. The vocals are the most divergent instrument here, snapping lizardbrain warbling and strained whinnies, inane whirling ditties with the cadence of playground taunts, deep dogbitten threats, panicked jolts and spasms. There's the tapewhine and flickering spitshake of Possibility Box, the rattling of Secretion, the fleshy vellication of Painful Mountain, the restless clamor of Dug Hole, the pumpfake slobbering dronedrawl of Horseblind, slipping down into dark. All the way through to the pressing freakstamp of Foundation, Dawn of Humans snatch songs from fragments and shards.

Gnomic visions of a world in flux, half-glimpsed through a mucal veil. Oblique gerunds trailing off, "As we stand on firm ground, we sink in, callousing" on Horseblind, Fixation's repetitive sneer of "Always bending", Dug Hole "Creeping, seeping, crawling", Possibility Box "Knowing, not knowing". Dawn of Humans trick out the scribbly essence of thought, coalescing and tearing, tumbling off into the ether. It's a world of traps and terrors, fears lurking beyond or within, their clammy tendrils brushing against up against you as you surge bodily and stumblemosh in the gloom. Jump-up music for aborted seances, busted headcult punks in primordial movement, dancemoves and directions sucked greedily straight from the collective unconsciousness of the puerile choir immaterial.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Rixe - Coups Et Blessures 7"

A release that's seemingly been greeted with as much surprise as it has acclaim, Oi! having painted itself into a particularly narrow corner of punk rock's sprawling family tree, the prospect of a modern Oi! record that appeals to those beyond the sort of people who would willingly listen to the Gonads (the worst band of all time? probably, yes, the worst band of all time) doesn't come along that often. More recently New York's Vanity and London's Crown Court have been some of the few bands that eschew the parochial oldbloke mutterings and mouthings, to escape the especially harsh Sturgeoning tendencies of bands formed by people hanging on a bit too tight to Shock Troops or Voice of a Generation.

Add to them this crunching French stomper that similarly avoids the smoothed-and-sanded banality that characterises a lot of modern tilts at that subgenre. Inevitably invoking comparisons to the classics of French Oi!, the more straight-down-the-line Camera Silens songs, the whirring bite of L'Infanterie Sauvage demos, it's also got more than a touch of Nabat's roughed-up Skins E Punks attitude in its commanding drive, but its tone is all its own, a thick, muddied and fuzzed depth that powers its stocky collection of shoutalongs. Four grubrock fightstarters with choruses to get stuck into even if your schooldays French is a wispy disjointed memory of random nouns and half-declensed verbs floating grammarless in the more motheaten corners of your head, no matter how much (or how little) hair it may sport.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Big Zit - Electric Zit Vol. 1

Batty Midwestern mania, yipping and yowling its way through five tracks of mispelt and misshapen kidpunk, darting guitar lines squiggle their way scribble-sharp across your brainpain, riffs flip and kick against each other, the vocals another childish tantrum, strained and rubbed raw, the whole thing giving the odd feeling sometimes of an old shitty scratched-up heartlandrock 45" played at 78. In and out in five tracks under five minutes, from Suhbuhb'n Varmun's manic bass runs to Skoolyahd's runaway train drums, a real frantic squawky frenzy.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Lowest Form - Negative Ecstasy LP

Knockdown dragout noiserock/hardcore, built of thump and growl. Crashing out of skinitch blackmetal warbles, rolling into thick gritty thuds. There's the off-face downward spirals of Droppin' Bad Boys and Comin' Down Ruff, two sides of a seething desire for complete escapism, "ALL I WANNA DO IS GET OUT OF MY HEAD" vs "I'VE DONE A BAD BOMB/I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS." There's the hovering heated panics of Some Horrible Bug "I START TO ITCH/I'M BURNING UP" and Wrong Decision, the bloodily-excised suicidal ideation of Telepathy or Exhaustion "NO TIME TO BREATHE/KILL ME NOW/NO CHOICE IN LIFE/KILL ME NOW". The Lowest Form operate in interior badlands, a mind to break and the devil to pay. Negative Ecstasy rolls it all up with a long terror, churning and wriggling, excoriating vocals, coiling guitar scritches, chugging bass, unrelenting pogo-punch drums, one more crimped nervous breakdown, one more bad bomb, one more horrible bug.  The Lowest Form can stick a rumbling groove, a swinging moshy rip-and-roll, or smash apart with a sudden shattering blow. Negative Ecstasy is a chainsaw surgery, replete with harsh buzz and flailing screams, a private world on the edge and exposed, real and deadly.

No Form - s/t 12"

Capturing a liveshow as barbed and intense as No Form's regular stage-destructions is an almost futile task. I missed their first London show as they were playing on a Monday night and I was knackered from a real heavy weekend, only to wake up to a barrage of tweets and statuses from all my mates proclaiming them the best live band in the UK. Luckily I didn't have to wait long to catch them and see that the hype was real. I've seen them several times since then and they have always utterly owned the space, filling any room with tortured noise, confrontational theatrics, performance art precision and hardcore fire.

Their first vinyl release, a 12" on Muscle Horse Records, inevitably falls short of those ferocious and captivating sets, but that's no criticism. A band always should be better live than recorded, should always thrive more readily in the whirr and spirit of stagework and affray. For anyone who has not had the luck to see No Form in the flesh, this is a more than adequate primer. Five tracks of acute bitterness, flayed hardcore noise, a grisly clatter pitched somewhere in the barren abrasion/power hinterlands between Harry Pussy and Mecht Mensch, but wholly its own, screeching and keening, pulsing and slamming, writhing and roaring. Freakout upon freakout, scarifying glares and feedback flues. Goddess of Fire, Barrier and Meander are all wild ones, utterly unhinged, paroxysms of buzz and blood, screaming with pain, pounding with ravaged zeal. "Plasmatic ooze penetrates the brain/The liquid becomes the acrid rain" tears Barrier. "Abyss of skin and muscle covered shit. I may be inhibited by a cretinous cancer but at least it means there is something inside" rages Meander.

The Untitled track on side A and the long jam that eats up the whole of side B are dangerous throbs, building out of bassline in the manner of less-spiritual, more-fucked-off Les Rallizes Denudes, hanging the flaying chaos around a simple axial point. Whereas I've always found the rhythm-rooted noiseswirls of Les Rallizes Denudes enormously calming, something that brings me down from heights of anxiety, letting you focus on something central and uncomplicated as the sheaves of guitardiscord slip off and you emerge more focused, less frazzled. No Form allow no such dive into the noise-serene, living more like a wartrudge, beset by demons and lithe scuttling terrors, a monotonous process of bloodied bruised determination, a caustic drag through a mephitic bog. No release, no escape, no compromise, No Form. See them live.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Detergents - No Salvation 7"

UK15 punk with dark angry hearts and quickshuffle dancing feet, three tunes of Crisis-sharp bouncing basslines, chunky cutting riffs, singalong Court Martial streetpunk choruses. Gouging back through all the years of punk's constant mutations, noise-tributaries, pop-offshoots, the stylistic accretions and sub-subgenre codifications that have splintered out in the last 25-odd years, to some pure '77 simplicity, stripped-down rough-hewn pissed-off bangers. No Salvation's apocalypse ditty "It's nuclear at attack!/Your eyes will burn/Your skin will crack!", Turn Off Your TV's media-maddened call-to-arms, Dark Days rocking with the frustration of watching this shithole country been pushed gleefully further into the morass of profit and fear. As depressingly apt in 2015 as it was in 1980.

On Quality Control HQ.

Gas Rag - On the Beach 7"

The final and posthumous Gas Rag 7 inch rushes them out the door with the same screwed-tight hardcore fury that blazed them through their previous releases. The same speedpunk Fix fix, stamping runners of unbreakable cycles, vicious circles, snarling with cynical karma on On The Beach "Don't we all deserve to crawl?", confronting the inevitability of fucked destinies on Human Bomb "His path was clear he had no choice/Now he's a human bomb", the social prisons of Short Leash, the real prisons of Neglect, a series of jails spun out of complacencies and worn paths followed, built and maintained from structures unchallenged and flourishing, conventions obeyed. Burning and bright, Gas Rag made hardcore confined and screaming.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Hank Wood & the Hammerheads - Stay Home LP

"It looked like a city. Ghostly, wavering buildings appeared through a drizzle of midnight rain. Of course, no two minds were alike..." - Terry Pratchett, Thud

Stay Home, Hank Wood and the Hammerheads second album of Mummies-beat New York squalorsquawk, Quintron-by-way-of-Queens, following on from 2012's Go Home, possibly my favourite release from that year. It's more panicky though, Go Home having its fair share of tuff cunt strut in songs like It's Hard On The Street and Don't Walk Away From Me, Stay Home rippling with more uncomfortable grooves, restless itchings, claustrophobic mutterings, skittering percussion like the ricochets of paranoia and angst of the inside of your skull. Go Home had a more conflicted attitude towards its city environs, stumbling between pissed-off rantings and face-up fuck-offs, Stay Home has burnt itself out, wrapped itself too deep in the toxic understandings and fetid cracklings of the city and it wants out.

It's an album living in a maze of traps, internal (Neurosis's agonised "THE DOCTOR SAID TO GO FUCK MYSELF/BUT I'M IN MAD PAIN/I KNOW IT'S ALL IN MY HEAD/BUT I CAN'T CHANGE", The Ghost's frantic "IT'S A PATTERN/IT'S A PATTERN/IT'S A PATTERN/THE MIND/THE MIND IS THE PROBLEM") and external (In Bookings' jailhouse lugging "THROWN INTO A CAGE UNDERGROUND/TRAPPED BEHIND BARS WITH A MILK DRINKING CLOWN/TAKE MY WILL/TAKE MY PRINTS/TAKE MY LACE", Shook & Hungry's propulsive roll of "I'M LIVING IN A DEEP DARK PIT/CONCRETE WALLS TALL AND THICK") and then times where these two merge in a psychogeographic wounding, ripping up city and head, pavement and frontal lobe shocked and splitting simultaneously as on Nervous City's repetitive rankle "BROKEN BRICKS/ANXIOUS CITY", These Chains's blunt instrument jabbing "THESE CHAINS THEY GAVE ME/THESE CHAINS THEY GAVE ME/I CAN'T LIVE ANYMORE IN A CITY THAT DEPRAVES ME/CYCLE CYCLE PRISON CYCLE".

But whenever there are traps and prisons, dreams of escape snarl up, like This World Is Beat and In Space imagine a way out from these insomniac wanderings beset by chaotic urban chatter. Searching for silence and isolation, an escape from this noir of perpetual rain, this pulpy shitsmear of an Ed McBain potboiler, interminable degradation in familiar patterns, they imagine the free-floating void, "DRIFTING OUT INTO NOTHINGNESS/PEACE AND QUIET/WHAT IS THIS" but these remain a fantastical vision, a utopian oblivion tickling inside the dank confines of a old city mentality, built-up tight and built-down deep, cramped, no sprawl.

Rollicking along, Stay Home bounces with gunk and gusto, keys jabbering, guitars gurgling and squeaking like cyclical thought patterns spinning off the axle, infectious skeleton-rattle rhythms like snatches of blackened calypsos, breathy oohs and aahs and huhs like James Brown interjections or stress-induced ticks, like little snorts of pressure released ("THE PRESSURE/THE PRESSURE IS BUILDING/AND I'M SUFFOCATING" on Shook & Hungry). Shaking with a cokesick shiver throughout, ratty gnawings at the worn burlap of your brainfilm, the fraying diaphanous membrane of your psychological wellbeing the relapses of What's So Bad About a Bad Idea, the ugly realisations of I Thought I was a Good Man, tuning into the repetitive rhythms of anxiety and anguish, depressive diggings. A city's bricked-up sickness let loose, the scratching inside the walls amplified and shaken out.

"He turned down a winding lane where pain had peeled from the walls of crumbling houses, where rubbish, dirt, and fruit peelings littered the ground and cats wound between people's feet, slipping into foul-smelling gateways. A light drizzle started again: blank-faced firewalls rose damp and grey into the empty air." - Ferenc Karinthy, Metropole

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Sheer Mag - II 7"

The second 7" of this Philadelphia punk band. Sheer Mag lay a patina of dirt over classic rock riffs, like Thin Lizzy as a region rock band. Free bent outta shape, Bent Outta Shape dragged through with hooks. Echoes of bits of powerpop like The Frenchmen's No Surprise and its melancholic pomp, something like Hanson Brothers's Right Back Where We Started From cover but jumping back to Maxine Nightingale's original vocals.

It opens with Fan the Flames's shimmy swagger, rueful bad neighbourhood blues, singing of old houses and decrepit fixings, reverberating with that Double Duce charm, the chaos of a home that is shabby and barely held-together both inside ("Getting hard to stay in tune/The boys are getting me down/I'll be staying in my room") and out ("In the dark and the bitter cold/They're freezing us out/It's as good as gold"), but still shakes and lives with the feeling of a home in spite of the spectre of gentrification lurking in the background.

Travelin' On's jangle and sway cataloging the whispering lure of the roads, the rough shackles of wanderlust, living drifter mythic, burnt bridges and patched soles and leaving town as you watch yourself leave town, moving like a snowball down a hill, silently gathering yourself for an impact. "When all the smoke was clearing out/Oh yeah I was on my own/I ain't coming home to you/I was born to roam the streets yeah."

Button Up a fuck-you self-affirmation, that precarious place where telling others you're not to be fucked with and at the same time convincing yourself of that fact, of telling yourself you can deal with some shit, of screaming at the world that you're through with their shit. "I'm taking time whatever I do/I'm working hard whatever I do/With You"

Whose Side Are You On?, echoing the old union tune, but grounding it less in accusatory polemic than in the bonds of friendship and understanding stretched in the face of too much real shit, as slipperily unsteady as it it forceful and joyous. "The factory wheels'll keep spinnin along/It ain't cut and dried/And it never will/But the fightin' baby that's half of the thrill"

The diminutives and asides that pepper the lyrics adding to the sharp familiarity they carry, 2nd and 1st person, conversationally poetic, a distillation of times when you somehow managed to say the right thing. They assume you're conversant with certain knowledges, certain struggles. And these are often worn topics, the road, home, friendship, the fight, your fight, but they're worn like scarred fists, discoloured deformed couches, rusty cars with silly nicknames. They're worn with real living process and the battering winds of experience.

That's part of what gets this songs stuck so deep into you, like the way the Hold Steady could root around in a riffed up charger and pull out of it a smaller closer story, but with greater personal kick here, a more tender gutpunch, a brighter spark. Mixing those punk-fractured intimacies and dilemmas with a wayward scrappy version the kind of music that reminds you of your dad getting really drunk and ranting about how he wants this song, this song playing right now, blasted at his funeral good and loud.

I've had this EP on my phone for a couple months now and back in May after a show it had me half-cut and footloosin' it up around an empty coach station at 2am, work seven hours and 220 miles of megabus away, but I was skipping around free in myself in a way I rarely feel until I got too hype and attempted to leap gracefully onto a bench coming very close to a dramatic faceplant. These songs swallow you up in their world, they tell you to fuck off and hold you tight with the roughness of a true friend, they get you movin, whether it's out into the world or just onto to the dancefloor. There are always steps that you need to take, there are some steps that you need to be reminded to take. By a friend or by a song.

Inmates - s/t LP

Inmates first LP in 12 years is everything you could expect from the band that typified a time and a place that's come to be spoken of in shitpunk circles with the kind of semi-apprehensive reverence reserved for the edge-riding scenes of crazed hardcore violence, responsible for some of the best fucking records and the most dangerous shows of the 90s and early 2000s. The oh-shit heady riot-madness and hardnut aura that's super cool when viewed through the intoxicating lens of old teenage wildness and the distancing prism of grainy youtube videos, but the more adult person inside you kind of knows would probably leave you real real fucked up in actual fact.

This is a consummately put together violent ugly record. It knows when to drive, when to snap, to stop, to stomp, to grab you with the rough thickness of the sound like you're hearing the reverberations of rusted steel cables rather than guitar strings, when to squeal clean in the solos, the vocals a perfect blend of menace and method, wrapped up in mutant snarl and growl. Got its Japanese/American hardcore roots balanced and locked in. It's music well-versed in that cathartic power of capturing that semi-inchoate anger that inevitably swirls out of you as a potent amalgam of sublimated depression, unshakeable frustration and gut-stuck futility. The only problem is that its also everything you could expect from a band that hasn't released an LP in 12 years.

Sushi; 39.6 lyrically brings to mind nothing so much as Separation of Church and Skate, NOFX song from 2003 that got immediately put-on blast by Propagandhi for its tired-ass olds-gonna-old premise way back then, Joe Dolce is literally a Joe Dolce cover, whose 70s cod-Italian novelty hit is repurposed as a hardcore anthem, and there's a a storming cover of a Cleveland hardcore banger from 1984, The Guns' Rotting Away. Crust Dust is a song about how crusties are stupid, a punk song about how crusties are stupid is possibly the only thing more played out than a crust song about how nuclear war sucks. It's all a bit like Eminem's Rap God, formally sick genre-savvy constructions, but essentially reruns of stuff that played well 15 years ago, Em dropping six minute tracks of dense hyperspeed multi-syllabic rhymes and still making tired gay jokes and Monica Lewinsky references. Inmates writing a slammin song about annoying oogles.

The panic and pain of Into Crypts of Smith is a tough hit though, touching a deeper darker emotion than most of the other songs, the generalised threats about running someone out of town, envisioning beating the shit out of some fucking prick, that classic subtweet hardcore, on Little Bitch or Form a Mob, still kill, still get into that primal righteous stomping part of you, cos it's a perfectly hardcore record, but too perfect to be a perfect hardcore record. Or to phrase it in a even glibber fashion, it's hard but there's not much at its core.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Disguise - Signs of the Future

Dublin, like New York or London, is a city whose punk in 2015 matches its vibrancy with its refusal to be defined by one sound. Multiple bands, all with wildly divergent takes on 2015 punk, all unified in their DIY ethic and refusal to compromise. The first 12" from searing rawpunx Disguise continues where their System Shock 7" left off, slamming together the lithe turmoil of Gloom, the monstrous purpose of Bastard, the ugly burn of Crude SS into a violent driving gunk, like Florida's Mauser or Australia's Kromosom, taking that Scandi-Japanese rawpunk axis and stretching it out to their own corner of the globe.

Built on a relentless sinister thrum, a taut propulsive clatter, Disguise explode with scalding fury in the screaming guitars and tortured barks and roars echoing out of the radioactive slurry. From Constant Victim pure vitriol rolling into Signs of the Future's noisestomp groove, to Depleted Uranium heady crash and Breed Bastards broken fade, this is ferocious hardcore punk, worked til its end.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

VCR - Greatest Hits 7"

Buggy-eyed, bloody-lipped eejit squabbling from Toronto, springing from an overcaffeinated and understimulated mind, all e-numbers and teengang spit: "WE'RE VCR! FREAK PUNKS AND TOTAL FUCKING HUNKS!". Fluorescent synth squawks goofily jabbing through the dirtied up gitpunk like bubblegum blisters, careening through the splintered remnants of Swankys burble with jellylegs rhythms and sneering, screams, whoops and barks that snap out like involuntary tics. Playground taunts like the drawl of "I THINK YOUR LIFE IS PISS COS YOU CAN'T DANCE AND YOU'RE A PRICK" on Fake Freaks Fuck Off, Danzig/Shakira style non sequitur couplets like One Trick Dog's "AIN'T A PHONY/MACARONI/RIGATONI". Truly dumb and way too great.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Vanity - Vain in Life LP

Oi! influences have been sliding their way into hardcore for a hot minute now and Vanity just drop all the pretenses. A straight-up Oi! album from a bunch of people from hardcore bands like Creem and The Rival Mob that draws from a bunch of early streetpunk/late pubrock, though probably most prominently and noticably, All Skrewed Up-era Skrewdriver.

The Skrewdriver question is, like stagediving, one of punk's spiralling athanastic debates, the sort of thing where you could drop out of punk for 15 years and walk right back in to find people reiterating the same points. All Skrewed Up is an album of catchy nihilistic punk rock that, probably more than any other album of the time, hews closer to the more distant R'n'B origins of the genre, exhibiting a greater truth in the cliche of punk as supercharged rock and roll, which obviously lends a dreadful irony the swerve they took into vile haterock. It also inevitably probably owes a chunk of its popularity for its place as a straight down-the-line punk album made by one of the most notorious  bands of all time, a safe way of flirting with the titillation of the taboo, the same proximity to the macabre that gives the hint of the forbidden to Death in June or NSBM, a similar impulse to ghoulish adolescent fascinations with serial killers, Faces of Death videos and the yawning horrors of history. So with that Rocket 88 shake and and 14/88 morbidity, All Skrewed Up occupies its own special acrid little spot in the punk pantheon. Personally, having heard all the hype, I opted to forego listening to it for years, only to find myself at a party where someone put on a super-catchy punk song and I had a conversation that went something like "This is pretty sick. Who is it?" "Skrewdriver." "Ah."

Though since Rock Against Communism and its fellows bloomed out of the insecure turbulence of troglodytic white rage of the late 70s/early 80s, plenty of bands have tilted at ripping Oi! back from its nationalistic posturing, to wipe it clean of its heinous racist taint, the circular inanities of politicised apolitics like Discharger, a phalanx of SHARPies and commie skinheads (bizarrely but somewhat predictably claiming the name 'redskins') like Malaysia's A.C.A.B., Catalonia's Inadaptats, the UK's Blaggers ITA and countless others armed with similar shoutalong anthems and about 8 million songs called R.A.S.H. or Good Night White Pride, just as dozens of bands like Iskra, Iprit, Torture Garden, PunaTerrori etc have sought to lace blackmetal with hardleft and anarcho perspectives.

Those proceeding paragraphs right there are the kind of de rigeur exegesis that springs forth anytime every time the name Skrewdriver pops up. Vanity drive with that swaggering streetrock chomp, that rollicking rhythm and vocals that switch between a bloody rasp and more soulful half-croon, not R.A.S.H. types, but moving with a counterfactual vigour from a world where Ian Stuart's fatal car crash happened 12 years earlier than it really did.

On the louche bluster and shunt of Can't Be Bothered, the rattling gusto of Ya Don't Know? and The King Drinks, the bludgeon brassy fuck-right-off of Fuck Right Off, the slick midtempo fightmusic of Might Trumps Thought they succeed, crafting anthems as catchy as anything, cock-of-the-walk pubrock, pugilistic and powerful, packed with lines that read like a litany of unwise bar confrontations, adrenaline rising and eyes whiskey-wild, "You ain't got no fuckin bite, no" on No Bite, "Glass in hand and cowardice don't mix" on The King Drinks, less convincing are moments like the glammed up twang of Bal Des Ardents, the slow run into closer New York City, I do find myself flagging in the back half of the album, but there are a couple of tracks when it does live that dream of forging carefree cutthroat singalong rippers, guiltfree gutpunches and silly stompers, the "This is pretty sick" without the "Ah.", punk songs that may be kinda dumb-as-fuck, but certainly don't require two rambling explanatory paragraphs when you put them on, just two movin feet and a voice to burn.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society's Shit) - Demo

I've been slumping lately. I've been not feeling too good. Spent more time in the last month watching TV shows about superheros with really great abs than writing. There's plenty of 2014 music I loved or liked that I didn't get round to exegesising but every time I come to sit down to write I feel wasted, worn out. Whenever I get into ruts like that writing feels something unknowable, impossible. I look at pieces of written without the slightest idea of how I wrote them.

Yesterday was the third Monday in January, the most-depressing day of the year according to the sort of meaningless pseudo-scientific studies that newspapers and/or advertisers like to latch on in their unending conveyor belt of half-arsed content and it didn't feel great, but then it didn't feel too different to a lot of other days the last four or five months. Shit's just been stale.

But this G.L.O.S.S. demo dropped a couple days ago and it burst like a bomb, immediately it was burning a bushfire across every internet platform, frantic reblogs and retweets, the name on everyone's lips, the message reverberating: "This is the one. This is the one. This. Is. The. One." This G.L.O.S.S. demo dropped a couple days ago and from the first screams of G.L.O.S.S. (We're from the Future) through the mosh of Outcast Stomp to the tear of Targets of Men, it ripped me apart, swept out some of that staleness.

Fierce as storms and tough as bike leathers, G.L.O.S.S. play hardcore punk that makes you feel it like the first time, it's got that struggle-born uncomfortable realness, like Anomaly's demo last year, that deep agony, that fearless kick and scathing punk swagger that transmutes pain into power, rage into revolution. Cos this shit is about way more than my dumb little problems and my shitty little blog, I can only imagine the fear and stress of living while trans, while queer, while female, but Girls Living Outside Society Shit do that every day, and they take all that and mold it into the hardest fucking shit, a carapace of  constantly-reinforced bitterness, a repeated retch of frustration, a punk packed with true heretic sputum, flicking acid into eyes. Full of the sort of lines that are gonna be scratched into desks and daubed on jackets, spraypainted on punkhouse walls, written in blood and sweat and stamped deep as wards onto souls so scarily renegade that the world just wants to crush them to dust: "THIS MAKEUP IS FOR MY EYES/THESE FISHNETS ARE FOR MY THIGHS/THIS WALK IS HOW I GOT THROUGH LIFE/YOU WANT THE PEPPER SPRAY FIRST OR THE POCKET KNIFE?!" goes Targets of Men. The singer Sadie was (is?) also in the amazing Peeple Watchin', a band just as lyrically tight but there working an aching yearning softer vibe, here just taking that keenness of feeling and blowing doors down with it. "THIS IS FOR THE OUTCASTS/REJECTS/GIRLS AND THE QUEERS/FOR THE DOWNTRODDEN WOMEN WHO HAVE SHED THEIR LAST TEARS/FOR THE FIGHTERS/PSCYHOS/FREAKS AND THE FEMMES/FOR ALL THE TRANSGENDER LADIES IN CONSTANT TRANSITION" cries Outcast Stomp.

As thrilling as it was personally for something this damn good to drop, to see the excitement it immediately stoked in friends and others, imagining a phalanx of tired-ass punx across the world breaking into grins at the fury and promise of G.L.O.S.S. (We're from the Future), kicking out chairs and bedroom slamming to Outcast Stomp, that's really nothing compared to its realest purpose, its highest potential. As cool as that is, it's secondary to the true power that I know music like this contains, dragging the world into the future, into 2015 and beyond, burning down the bullshit of the past, living adamantine hard, switchblade sharp shining and slicing in the process and progress. Killer punk at its world-warping best. For people still struggling under the weighty pressures of the shite that G.L.O.S.S. take deadly aim at, this message from the future, from the ones who've made a bright burning life outside society's shit in these five songs, might just not be another way-cool demo among the cool demos, the rambling stream of punk releases, the hype and the backlash, the peaks and troughs in the tapes and the records trickling out of punk minds globally. For the ones who haven't found a place yet where they can feel tough and hard and unbeatable, or who have maybe just forgotten that that place exists, this could be so much more. This feels like the sort of thing that could save a fucking life.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Rotten UK - Bat Shit Crazy 7"

Stuff that comes from far away is better than stuff that comes from near you. Everyone knows that. Celebrities looking for the latest eastern religion to latch onto, foodies searching out the latest imported food fad, bibliophiles admiring the intensity of feeling in a magic realist novel from across a couple of oceans, and punks excitedly chattering about some old hardcore record that got a pressing of like a hundred 30 years ago and 10000 miles away.

If you know a lot of christians, it might be harder to see the divine in the book that they follow when you're keenly aware that they're just as full of shit as anyone else, but if that wisdom comes from a far-off place, then it might just be sweeter, less messy. With distance it's easy to romanticise, to see things as purer, unencumbered by all the tawdry human trappings that make bands from round the corner seem so pedestrian, to imagine that these punks on this wax from that country in that year are the realest motherfuckers possible, no day jobs, no scene squabbles, no bad shows, just pure 100% uncut sewersnake attitude. Even if you know that's gonna be bollocks, it's just easier to pretend. Nicer sometimes.

Unfortunately in that desire for that illusion clarity of thought, of action, what is actually happening over there gets flattened, warped into something other than human, when it's often the human drive behind it all that's the most interesting part, the art, the religion, the food, the literature. These things, and all their attendant mess, get stereotyped into things they're not, bite-sized nuggets of digestible misconceived culture to lend a faded sense of exoticism to your interests. Imagine if you were a follower of a religion whose most well-known proponent for most of the world was Richard Gere. It'd be a bit shit.

Rotten UK are not from the UK. They are from Rochester, New York, not Rochester, Kent. They offer a brand of punk ripped from UK82's moronic beat, using the UK as just a lazy cultural signifier, a snotty punk trope akin to d-beat 'dis's or garage-punk 'thee's. They take this whole pulsing nation of 60 million people and reduce it to naught but a mangled Exploited song.

And that's shit. Really really shit. And that's great.

Fuck this country. Fuck this shit rain-drenched feudal outcrop, this shithead isle, choking on its own thankfully dying relevance. Take it all and bash it into a cackling Disorder rip-off. Fuck Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, the Snapping Bogseats are as close as the UK ever got to a voice of the nation, aggressively ignorant, simplistic snaps of shite.

A seven inch in which at least two of the songs are bloodily rearranged nursery rhymes, a thick-as-shit Macc Lads nursery rhyme like Mary Had a Little Goat and the violent fantasy of Burnt Church. That's all we've got, the inane mouthings of babes thrashed into a scrapheap bang of Chaos UK like aggro football chants constructed out of vulgarised pop songs, thousands of voices calling you a cunt in unison. The chugging cut of Slipping Into Darkness. The sneer of Broken Coffins. Death and decline. The end can't come soon enough, and when it does it's gonna sound like Rotten UK. Burn everything down. Smash it up. Weigh the country down with the concrete boots of tradition and sink it in the north sea. Support your local punk scene, vote Tory.

"God save the Queen and a fascist regime … a flabby toothless fascism, to be sure. Never go too far in any direction, is the basic law on which Limey-Land is built. The Queen stabilizes the whole sinking shithouse and keeps a small elite of wealth and privilege on top. The English have gone soft in the outhouse. England is like some stricken beast too stupid to know it is dead. Ingloriously foundering in its own waste products, the backlash and bad karma of empire" - William S. Burroughs, Place of the Dead Roads