Beta Boys are a four-piece punk rock brigade whose current shop is set up in Olympia, WA. Since releasing a cassette demo in 2014, the band has been busy, releasing several singles and EPs on a variety of labels, each showcasing a fantastic blur of early 80s hardcore and death rock.
Their latest 7” single, released in February on Total Punk, just may be their most explosive yet. “Brick Walls” rides in on a Suicidal wave, dashes you on the rocks and continues to churn. There’s more than a hint of the Poison Idea-levels of the musical nihilism you’ve come to expect from the band, the track winding itself ever tighter but without indulging in a full throttle release – it’s more endless circle pit than full-on slam riot. Fear not, though, as catharsis soon come in the form of b-side, “Littered Streets”, with its straight ahead hardcore chug, washed out guitar and peel the paint vocals, yips and yowls that remind me of Blaine from The Accused.
It’s more fully-focused than anything else I’ve heard from Beta Boys, but doesn’t sacrifice their rawness. Anyway, sometimes you just need a punk record whose cover appears to feature Snoopy giving the double bird, right? You know you do. Go pick up a copy via the Beta Boys’ bandcamp.
I’ve had notes going on this for so long (all 4:48 of it…I guess I’m easily distracted), the band in the meantime released a new track, “Laugh/Cry” – billed as the “shortest” on their forthcoming LP, Late Night Acts – and it’s another ripper. Look for that one in August, courtesy of Richmond-based Feel It! Records.
Bikini Cops, Three (Drunken Sailor; Televised Suicide)
Bikini Cops are a quartet hailing from Perth. The band have been putting out music since 2015 or so and Third, their third (the title should’ve tipped you off), is the strongest yet. Building on the momentum of the band’s first two releases, these tracks feel more focused and fully-formed, but without losing any of the raw energy. Musically, the album teeters frantically between barely hinged blasts of MC5-esque rock and fantastically blunt, ‘old school’ (™) hardcore. The band is both tight and constantly on the verge of collapse, in the grand tradition of bands like First Four Years-era Black Flag. Singer Chris Balch’s cracking yelp carries the feeling of desperate antipathy of that band’s Keith Morris or Ian MacKaye in his Minor Threat years.
The one-two crotch kick of opener, “(Not) My World”, and “Stupid System” is, alone, worth the price of admission – but don’t go just yet, or you’ll miss out on personal fave “Total Control” and epic (over two minutes!) closer, “Lost in a Dimension”. Three makes its point quickly and succinctly, six tracks careening by in under 10 minutes (by my math), providing little time for assessment or breath, but eff me if it didn’t get more exciting with each repeat. Do circle pits go counterclockwise in AUS?
Snob are a London quartet. A bit difficult to find much info on them, as they’ve chosen the deep underground route (no fbook, &etc.), but it seems Snob features members of other bands we heart, like Good Throb. To date, the band have put out two long-form 7” (i.e., not just a-side/b-side singles), as well as a track for an issue of the Another Subculture cassette magazine – all available via their bandcamp page – and recently released an excellent self-titled debut long-player.
Snob (the LP) is a fine dose of old school (UK ’82, anarcho) hardcore; that familiar wall of noise as potent a message-bearer as ever. Here, the ferocity of the playing is further enhanced by the vocal tone, which veers from sneering disaffection (“Lycra Daddy”), to (barely) restrained contempt (“Punisher”), to outright desperation (“Stuck”). The lyrical sardonicism – the etymology of which may trace as “curling one’s lips back at evil” (at least according to wikipedia, and I’m going with it, since it seems apt) – is no more potent than on album highlight, “Sex Contract”, where the lead singer’s almost earnest tone while delivering lines like “my guy’s so smart/he suggested I give/consent via an app/so I don’t change my mind/and make accusations…/he’s so sensitive/I’m so respectful” makes them cut deeper, as much tear- as rage-inducing. It’s this kind of album that draws me back to this kind of music – not because it makes me feel younger (I wish), but because the issues covered are ever-present, many in arguably more insidious forms, and this kind of inspired raging is still needed.
The Snob LP is available now, on the ever fab La Vida Es Un Mus – buy it here. Snob also appear to have a show coming up in London on March 31 – deets here.
Slimy Member, Ugly Songs for Ugly People (Drunken Sailor; Occult Whispers)
“depression/is so real/consuming my brain”
Slimy Member is a four-piece based out of Dallas, Texas. Named for a Rudimentary Peni song, the band has been active since 2013, having previously released a demo and an EP. New LP, Ugly Songs for Ugly People, serves as their debut, full-length release.
On Ugly, Slimy Member comes across to these (aging, constantly ringing) ears very much of a part with 80s punk/hardcore – hell, there’s even a two-fer song (“Bomb Blast/Age Old Time”), how 80s hc is that? Their sound incorporates not only the urgent anger of bands like RP and The Exploited, but also those who, like TSOL (check the galloping bassline on “Age Old Time” and the morbid imagery of “A Sight to Behold”), Christian Death and current fellow travelers like Institute and Anasazi, cloak their abrasions in goth atmospherics. Heavily reverbed vocals and flanged guitars amplify an almost suffocating tone of angst, stress and tension, a tension and energy that the band carry all the way through the fantastic closer, “Always the Victim”. It’s a thrilling reminder of just how exuberantly visceral these sounds were, are, and can be.
Ugly Songs for Ugly People is out now, via Drunken Sailor (in the UK) and soon via Occult Whispers (in the US). You can also snap up a digital copy through the Slimy Member bandcamp page while you check out their earlier releases. The band is on tour soon for you lucky chucks on the west coast of the USofA – dates here.
Highlights include: “Oceanic Feeling”, “Bomb Blast/Age Old Time”, “Always the Victim”.
“Complete Disregard” – the opening song on the self-titled, six-track debut (I never know if that’s an ep, album, or ‘mini-lp’ anymore) from Brisbane’s Pious Faults – begins and ends with a short, sharp feedback stab in the earhole. It’s a fitting way to start off a set of intense hardcore with an ear to the past and an eye on the present.
Many new bands are using the visceral aspects of early to mid-80s hardcore (American or otherwise), twisting and turning them to serve their own purposes. The applies, as well, to Pious Faults – several tracks here would’ve fit nicely on seminal 80s hardcore comps like Not So Quiet On the Western Front, Flex Your Head (as Vice also points out), or This Is Boston, Not L.A. But there’s more at play here, with a rhythmic variety beyond blinding, four on the floor speed or d-beat rehash (see, “Rentrer à Quatre”) and a welcome lack of a predictable breakdown/‘mosh’ (does anyone still use that word?) bit or a shout-along chorus (really, choruses in general), all adding a welcome twist and the promise of future evolution.
As with any self-respecting h/c joint, it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome (only one (one!) track is over a minute long – someone tell D.R.I.!), and it’s all the better for it; points made, ears rung, move along.
Tropical Skin Byrds, S/T EP (Wharf Cat Records, 1/13/2017)
‘your pain is my pleasure”
Tropical Skin Byrds is a musical trio comprised of artist Nina Hartmann on vocals and bass, ZZ Ramirez (of tgh fav, Ukiah Drag) on guitar and Sean Halpin on drums.
Teaser cuts, “Cut it Off” and “Venus In Fury” set the tone nicely, with Ramirez’s chugging, Ginnesque lines pushed way up front in the mix, backed by Halpin’s sledgehammer drumming. The overall effect is blissfully disorienting, the music buffeting as Hartmann’s insistent cries strobe from somewhere at the center of the maelstrom (something in her vocal delivery recalls Lydia Lunch, crossed with Kyle Toucher – ok, maybe just me). Stylistically, there are touches of Sonic Youth’s SST years (think Confusion Is Sex and songs like “Death to Our Friends”) and more experimental hardcore like Flipper and Saccharine Trust. It’s a great, arresting listen.
The EP is out now, courtesy of the oh so fine Wharf Cat label (seriously, check the catalog). Not much to find on the band, for now, so continue to scour the interwebs for any info relating to tours, further releases, fan club meet and greets, séances, etc.
Ok, so there’ve been a few punk/hardcore/whatever releases over the past few months that I’ve been trying to get around to and haven’t – so now I am. I intended to write up something individual and special to say about each of these but, fuck it, I’m gonna just put ‘em all into one, shortcut “combo” review. Since I said “fuck it”, that makes it kinda punk, no? No? Oh well, here goes…
The Lowest Form, Personal Space (La Vida Es Un Mus; Iron Lung)
Personal Space is the latest from UK hardcore punk band, The Lowest Form, and it slays. It’s part old school hc (I keep hearing alot of Wattie in the vocals, and Black Flag in the crumbling guitar sound (provided by Michael Kasparis, also part of Anxiety’s brilliant debut)) mixed with just good ol’ noise, all to great effect. Highlights are many, and include the repeated face punch of opener, “Interplanetary Bad Boy”, which slowly drowns in its own, rich stew of hiss and feedback, and the utter chaos of “Evol”. This record is cathartic in the ways of many a great, viscerally angry records. In years such as this one (have there really been any?), sometimes it’s more than worth it to swallow the bile in your throat, let it burn, then scream it out.
Fitting for a band that sound like they spend a lot of time ‘off the grid’, the band don’t seem to have much internet presence. Be sure to go and grab a copy of Personal Space (digital or “Bad Boy” vinyl) via the band,La Vida Es Un Mus or Iron Lung (in the US).
Highlights include: “Interplanetary Bad Boy”, “Gak Attack”, “Personal Space”.
Exotica, Musique Exotique #01 Demo (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Exotica wield bludgeoning, 80s (to these, admittedly, old and tinnitus-riddled ears) reanimating hardcore (I hear some of the old NYHC bands like (pre-crossover) Agnostic Front or Kraut, as well as the churning guitars of Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing-era Discharge on tracks like “Depresion”. Lead singer Lauren Gerig’s bilingual sing/scream/shriek is a revelation. The members of Exotica are based in New York, but hail from Mexico, Argentina – play this loud enough to be heard through your own wall.
Like The Lowest Form, no real interwebs presence to allow fawning – grab a copy of Musique Exotique #01 (digital or cassette) from the band or La Vida Es Un Mus. They also have a show coming up 12/29 in Guadalajara, MX – deets.
From earlier this year, the latest release from London quartet, Good Throb – and, regrettably, the last for a while, as members are now apparently geographically displaced. Good Throb (the record) adds layers of noise and feedback to the rhythmic, punk-funk hc of 2014’s also great (and succinctly titled) Fuck Off, with tracks like highlight “SCUM” and “The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock” recalling Crass, early Butthole Surfers and Flipper. Tasty.
“I’ve got a queer theory…” so beginneth “My Dickies” is the new one from western MA, USofA band, Urochromes. This 1 minute and change track bounces around like a kid hopped up on pixie sticks in a rubber room. Light speed hardcore. Cracked garage fuzz. Avant-noise skreech. Squirrel! Do yourself the favor of being tugged along in its wake. Here endeth the review.
Taken from forthcoming Night Bully EP, due January 27 from Wharf Cat Records (pre-order a copy and/or digital download here) – one more reason to be anxious for this year to end(eth).
We love Ex-Cult, so word of new music from them is always welcome. In this case, that news comes in the form of a fantastic new album, “Negative Growth”. Working again with producer Ty Segall (he worked on their self-titled debut, and Ex-Cult singer Chris Shaw fronts one of Segall’s many (many) side projects, Gøggs), the album powers and moves just like you want an Ex-Cult record to, but also showcases some newer tricks.
Previously shared tracks, “Attention Ritual” and “Let You In”, set the tone pre-release. Both are furious reminders of the band’s punk/hardcore side, each swooping like a Crimson Ghost for the throat. Shaw continues to possess some of the best punk pipes out there, his hoarse (read, not “hoarsely”) cries imbuing these new tracks with the same shadings of rage, confusion and angst as on earlier releases.
Where things get even more interesting is where the band stray a bit, rhythmically and vocally, from the punk foundation. Lead track, “Mr. Investigator” begins with an almost Devo-like spazzy new wave beat – and if the title sounds, to you, like something from The Fall (and it does to us), listen to Shaw channeling Mark E. Smith in his intonation, particularly during the chorus. “Dogs Roll In” (which also featured on the “Stick the Knife In” single) and “Panic In Pig Park” both feature a bit of cow-punk guitar twang, and the noise breakdown during the middle and end of the latter adds to the frantic tension. “Hollywood Heatseeker” positively swings, while closer, “New Face On”, is a riotous conflagration of punk, no wave, death rock and just good ol’ noise in the tradition of bands like The Birthday Party, and includes a positively Stoogesian saxophone squawk, courtesy of Ty Segall Band member Mikal Cronin. With Segall at the decks, the heavy superfuzz cream is turned to 11 – the only exception seemingly the snare, which snaps and spits insistently from underneath, like the shiny flecks in a piece of coal.
As with other Ex-Cult output, it’s as much about the energy as anything else – you can almost feel the band collapse on the studio floor at the end of each track. It’s infectious, and it continues to make Ex-Cult one of the best bands out there today doing what they do. Thrilling.
Negative Growth is out now, on In the Red. Ex-Cult is on tour in the west/west coast of the US of A. Check the dates here.
Highlights include: “Let You In”, “Hollywood Heatseeker”, “New Face On”, “Panic In Pig Park”.
Amidst the soul-crushing mix of braying (sorry, “commenting”) jackasses and unwanted personal hygiene pop-ups, it’s nice when the internet coughs up something new and interesting.
Such was the feeling a few weeks back when stumbling across Anxiety, a new “let’s just call it punk even though it’s more complicated than that” four piece out of Glasgow. As far as I can tell – after some admittedly flimsy research – the band formed last summer, the members hailing from other Glaswegian bands. Youtube also provides evidence for a particularly robust live set.
The record itself is a richly dark slab of 80s-leaning hardcore, which also packs elements of early, rawer post-punk (particularly on opener, “Dark and Wet”), crust and industrial into a tightly rolled and ready to explode package. The rollicking, acid hoedown ring-a-ding guitar of “Human Hell” and “Sewer In My Mind” recalls Dead Kennedys; elsewhere, the band tap the experimental aspects of bands like Flipper and the visceral thrust of crust titans like Crass and Rudimentary Peni. The vocals slap like the hoarsest, most out of fucks to give version of Rollins circa Damaged, at times using effects that recall early Butthole Surfers and even Ministry. Musically, the songs teeter just on the edge of spiraling out of control – the brilliant “Sewer” being a prime example – held together by some very good guitar playing and a tight rhythm section.
Deeply moving in its stark unsettling vibe, tales of outsiders giving up and general disillusionment – pieces not fitting (a feeling mirrored by the cover art, above). With titles including “Dark and Wet”, “Addicted to Punishment” and “Sewer In My Mind”, it’s fair to say this isn’t an “up” album, but as a wise man once said “anger is an energy” and there can be light (or, at least, catharsis) mined from bleak sources.
Churning, relentless, fantastic new hardcore/punk from Austin, TX three piece, Empty Markets.
Stainless Steel marks the group’s debut, lead singer/guitarist Drew Schmitz having previously been involved in bands like Cruddy and Hex Dispensers. While there’s definitely a whiff of the old school – “Pink and Barren World” sounds like an interpolation of “Teenagers from Mars”, and the sonic energy recalls past masters like Black Flag, The Offenders and Die Kreuzen – Empty Markets, like other newer bands like Ex-Cult and fellow Texans, Institute, incorporate noise, post-punk and post-hardcore (think Drive Like Jehu) ambience into the punk template, elevating it past d-beat rehash or mid-tempo, street punk boredom.
Front to back, this is one of the best new punk records I’ve heard in years (coming from a somewhat jaded, ‘old school’ – like, early 80s – h/c guy). The arrangements, as well as the playing, are both muscular and extremely tight throughout. Schmitz’s guitar playing is inspired. The rhythm section of drummer Jordan Rivell and now former bassist Wendy Wright create crisp, sharp rhythmic blasts. Wright (replaced, since the album’s recording, by Stephen Svacina) has a driving, out front bass style that recalls folks like Mikey Offender, and her vocal interplay with Schmitz is a consistent highlight. Loud. Sweaty. Cathartic. Recommended.
Stainless Steel is out now, on 12XU, and can be purchased via Empty Market’s bandcamp page or the label’s site. Find out more about the band on their fbook page.