Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Top Whatever

This is not a top 10 because (a) there's not 10 of them and (b) I make no presumption of knowing what the best releases of 2013 were. Hell, I'll be finding out a lot of that in 2014. I'm no fukkn music critic but I know what I like, and this stuff is what I can best recall listening to from this year. Look elsewhere if you want to read some nerd gush about the world-shattering innovations in Yeezus.


Not as good as last year's Light Up Gold,  but good enough to tide you over til the next LP. Overall the mood set is light, you could bop your heard mindlessly to these tunes, but the words are too clever and thoughtful to ignore so use yer brain. The more you use it, the more it works.

Excellent compilation tape released by Accidental Guest featuring Hysterics, Technicolor Teeth, Perfect Pussy (see below), and 20 more of today's greatest punk hitmakers. The initial run quickly sold out, but they're doing a second pressing so don't fret young ponx. My favorite ones on here are probably the tunes by Split Feet, Roomrunner, and Potty Mouth but really a solid comp all around. Oh and it's for a serious good cause, with proceeds benefiting Rachael's 
                              Women's Center in Washington, D.C.

Reel life American rock and roll, this. Echoes of Neil Young and Les Rallizes Dénudés give Cruise Your Illusion a compelling sonic palate. There's a slacker vibe, a thorough knowledge of parents' record collections, and a flawful punkness underlying these confessions and lamentations. Some parts might get a little noodley for some of you, but for the most part it's driving rhythms and leads that are simple but scorching nonetheless. I like how the vocalist can't really sing that well, but goes for it anyway, riding on nothing but pure nerve. Welcome to the real fukkn world, brother.

Wrote this one up eight months back, still one of the best documents of punk this year (even though it was all recorded before 2013). Currently in its second pressing at Not Normal.

Thirty-five minutes of pop mastery. Songs about boys and girls and heavy shit. Vocals to die for. Simple, romantic tunes you can't help but join in on. I can't formulate complete sentences to describe this album, but I like it a lot.

The singer of this band sent me their debut album when they released it in April, and listening on-and-off I struggled to box it into enough words to convey what's going on here. They call it 'free punk;' I still can't quite articulate it beyond saying it's sounds like the fallout of an existential disaster, and channels the noise and goth sounds of Pop Group//Jesus Lizard//Birthday Party etc. plus the general weirdness that has permeated the last 30 years of south-central European punk (e.g. Disciplina Kičme). Recorded live in an empty post-socialist community house in the Hungarian village of Ersekvadkert, these songs cast their bleak gaze upon a Future which will surely embody the "interesting times" of the apocryphal Chinese curse. These songs contain the palpitating heartbeat of a million lost minds, waiting for the other boot to drop and finish things off once and for all. Over your cities grass will grow. 

If my words don't convince you, the wiz's review over at Drug Punk surely will.

I gotta admit listening to Kremlin never made me think much of 'em. It sounded like punk that sounded like punk, it was competent, catchy, all of that -- but never gave me goosebumps or a dopamine rush or anything. Maybe I shoulda seen 'em live ... anyway this final release of theirs really does it for me, way better than Drunk in the Gulag. They play around with the guitar more, with cool leads and melodies you don't hear as much on their other stuff. Best song is the title track at the end, with its genuine rock hooks (and acoustic guitar?!). Sad to see 'em go after hearing this.

Band of the year.

Sample-based electronic pop that really nails it on this release. If you ever wanted to know what a chopped 'n' screwed Johnny Thunders or GG Allin sounded like, look no further. Fantastic Planet continues in the vein of the last few Puke Skywalker releases with progress-ively stronger composition. See how many samples you can spot.

I can't keep up with Robert Pollard. For all I know dude has released a dozen records this year, either solo or with Guided By Voices. In any case this is the one I've been hooked by. If you are at all familiar with his work, you know what to expect; Pollard produces crucial pop songs like most of us shed dead skin. 

Gloomy postpunk outta southern Illinois with all the reverb you want with none of the artschool sheen you don't. This is the second annual report of Trauma Harness's contribution to the Spotted Race Halloween series, and it's at least as good as last year's cassingle. Covers of hallowed tunes by John Carpenter and Alice Cooper plus a couple of their most menacing originals. Buy the tape: come for the tunes, stay for the awesome insert.

This band has been around for some years now, and though I'm not real familiar with their past work, everything about this record is tight. From the playing to the song parts to the production -- those guitars! those backing vox! -- Expired Language strays far enough from the tropes of hardcore that its accessibility might convert a few normies. 

This could be one of the best of 2013 for sure. Dead-on perfect pop songlets somewhere between They Might Be Giants and Weezer, each track bookended with an arena rock guitar lead ... this is not very different from Tony's band Ovens at all, but man, it all comes across really well here. In case the creative connection to Guided By Voices isn't obvious enough in the songs, he goes ahead and covers "Wondering Boy Poet" but it fits so well it sounds like it could be one 
                              of his own.


Demos of 2013:

This demo retains the noise blasts and world-falling-apart melodies of Shoppers, but they manage to sound more melodic AND more pissed off. This is a powerful fucking band, and I'm excited to see what they do in 2014. Read the lyrics too, goddamn.

Six nuggets of tough '80s hc worship from the Belleville/STL area. Can't find any digital audio for this one, so just take it from me that the guitars sound like powerdrills and it's fukkn great. Get it from Spotted Race/Lumpy Rex.

Best Chicagoland band of 2013?? Come find out at the stacked all-day show event with Tenement, Lumpy, and more going on in Northwest Indiana the day after new year's.

Dance, mutant.

Keep dancin'.

Looks like this got the vinyl treatment, courtesy of Hardware Records.


2014 watch out:
This was supposed to come out this year but got delayed. Probably will be on my 2014 list. Order up at M'lady's Records.

photo cred: Daniel Fernandez
They've been making brilliant -- actually brilliant -- power pop for some years now, but I think the rest of the world is about to find out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mystic Inane - Demo [2013]

At certain hardcore shows, the kids don't bother with shoving elbows or macho mosh ritual violence, preferring instead to fling and flop and squirm across the floor like a zombie being dragged by fishing line. I don't know what the shows are like in Louisiana (other than drunkenness and playing under bridges), but Mystic Inane seem like a band well-suited for this kind of unskilled herk-jerk "dancing."

Their demo has been sitting in my tape deck awhile since it came in the mail. Four songs, each hovering around two minutes, emitting sputtered beats and atonal guitar deviations in the vein of A-Frames (+ the various bands affiliated with them). To make an arbitrary Chicago connection, it reminds me of the Daily Void, but less apocalyptic and more juvie. What this stuff boils down to, though, is discomfortable, mid-to-fast besnotted punk -- tight but with just the right amount of looseness to get the listener unhinged. Highly recommended. It looks like they just played with Glue and Gas Rag in New Orleans, a lineup I imagine was pretty explosive. 

Stream it at their bandcamp, download here. Get yourself a copy: contact mysticinane (a) gmail, or send $5.00 ppd to 3111 Palmyra St, New Orleans, LA 70119.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Been drifting in and out of consciousness to a bunch of live Can today. Here's a cool bit of footage from 1973. The version of "Sing Swan Song" they do at about 15:43 is essential...

Friday, December 13, 2013


Smithereens from 1982. Trailer here in hi-quality. Pretty good movie, the Feelies are most of the soundtrack and Richard Hell co-stars.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lumpy & the Dumpers - Sex Pit

I posted this band's 7" and demo CS a while back, and well they just released a video. Check it out you stooge.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Time Will Be Kind: Lorna Donley and DA

[EDIT]: Awful news yesterday that Lorna passed on. The text of this old post hardly articulates how much this band meant to me, how they introduced me to the first wave of Chicago punk, how many nights I've spent blaring these tunes when I feel most isolated and confused, how fellow DA fan Kathryn and I plotted to visit her at the library tell her these things, how crushed I feel that we can no longer do that -- Lorna is a artist whose death that has affected me unlike any I can recall. This is the second-most-viewed post I've done, so I'm glad to have been able to bring the band's attention to some of you over the past couple of years. Anyway I'm bumping the post in her honor.


Surely my favorite of the original Chicago punk groups right here. Formed in 1978 by a teenage  Lorna Donley, Da (alternately known as DA or Da!) was a mainstay of the Chicago scene by 1980, gigging with out-of-town bands like the Fall, Hüsker Dü (in their 'ultracore' period), and DNA. For most of their run they were a majority woman band, their cool post-punk typically (and rather lazily) compared to Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The first record here is their single, Dark Rooms b/w White Castles. A-side has this pernicious spareness to it, where each part of the song drifts in like another intrusive thought. The guitar chimes with echoes of '60s groups like the Byrds, but whatever hope or optimism that generation had is in short supply here. Instead, Lorna's chanting vocals summon dim specters (in a city with many demons) to convene with those living lifeless in the days of Reagan's empire. "White Castles" is a groovy rant on race and class stratification, presumably in Chicago -- but since Dick J. Daley's de facto enforcement of segregation vitally influenced the racist organization of post-war American cities (see the equally subtle and violent, ultimately successful campaign against fair housing, despite the efforts of MLK), the song reaches wider. Seeing how things have gone since 1981, the urban situation is easily desperate enough for this song to hold up today.

You can read a great Coolest Retard article reviewing this record, (plus a review of Strike Under's Immediate Action 12" EP and a Strike Under interview) in the Dementlieu Punk Archive.

Second is Time Will Be Kind, released shortly after the band's end in 1982. It continues in the more driving, gothic postpunk of "White Castles" but with less angularity and more developed songwriting. I won't go over each song -- just play the video of the opening track -- but suffice it to say that the Byrds' dissociative alienation (e.g. "Eight Miles High") is twisted past dazed confusion to tired rage. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "This Doubt," right at the end of the EP where the band rips into what I find to be one of the most cathartic loner jams in punk. And without any sort of HC gimmicks of speed or blunt heaviness. Grasping for evidence of how-it-could-be, finding mostly nothing, but refusing to stand down and accept how-it-is. It pains me that this band left behind so little, but what they did make has a lot of replay value.

These used to be the band's only official recordings, aside from two live songs on the Busted at Oz comp, which you can check out here. But in 2010, Factory 25 Records released a compilation of unreleased recordings, entitled Exclamation Point. I got a copy back then and definitely recommend it.

Buy DA - Exclamation Point
Download Dark Rooms + Time Will Be Kind


So I do a show Monday nights 10 til midnight on air at WRFU 104.5 FM in Urbana Illinois. Shortly thereafter I'm putting up streams of the show. Playlists and stream links will be available at:

First stream available here:

Night Collectors WRFU - 12/02/2013 by Inthezenarcade on Mixcloud

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Nancy - S/T CS [2013]

Punk n roll channeling the sort of AM radio sounds that probably inspired the Heartbreakers or the Dictators, or the more rockin' moments of Big Star. None of those name-drops are very accurate in describing Nancy, though. For a style that's been done to death for the past 60+ years, it amazes me that a band could come up with tunes that sink in as deep as these ones do. Really though I don't spend much time thinking about influences or the merits of 'originality' when I'm listening to this, because the songs quickly make that shit irrelevant.  And there are some serious earworms on here -- just try to remove "Midnight" or "Malt Licker" from your head once you've heard 'em. Hands down, this is one of the best releases of 2013.

Listen here, then get yerself a copy from Eat the Life (second pressing is now available!). And keep an eye out for the Nancy 7", comin' at you some time soon.

Michael Wohl - Home Recordings v. I [2013]

This tape was in my mailbox last week so here I am telling you about it. Michael Wohl plays folk/blues in a style that's not usually touched by anyone under the age of 70. That's not a slight; what I mean is when you hear the term 'folk' these days your mind's more likely to conjure Joni Mitchell or Dylan (or, if you're a tool, Fleet Foxes or some such lifeless swill), and 'blues' is understood to be even more sonically restricting. My point here is that a long time ago, folk and blues were understood to be one and the same, and it was in fact redundant to call it by both names. Anyway, the sounds on here are of that school, solo guitar music channeling the likes of Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and John Fahey. In fact the fourth tune, the traditional 'Poor Boy Long Ways from Home,' borrows from an arrangement by Fahey.
Growing up, I heard quite a bit of folk and blues from the latter half of the 20th century, but once in a while my dad would put on something closer to this, and I always found it mesmerizing. The pure moods distilled into self-accompanied chord melodies have a transportive quality. There's a fear in me that despite the all-encompassing archival nature of the internet, music like this is at risk of being lost. So I'm glad Wohl is out there, still making it heard. Maybe it'll move some of you to pick up a guitar and learn to play like John Hurt.

Stream/order here.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Now that they've let this loose on the net I might as well pass it along. Big Zit have been tearing up midwest basements over the past year and it's about time you heard em. Other people have already said this but I'll repeat it in agreement: these are some of the most freaked-out vocals I've heard in quite a long time. Really excellent tunes, especially the first one; it's no surprise that this band shares members with Ooze because they're both so fukkin groovy. To add to my general disorientation upon first popping this in my tape deck, the last song on my copy is a magnetically-degraded version of "Voice of Q" ... this band is a total cultural assault.

Tommy Jay - Tall Tales of Trauma [1986]

Here's a bit of weirdo psych-folk for the proud losers to jam on this Friday night. Tommy Jay is one of the pioneers of the Central Ohio underground. He and a few other outsiders like Mike Rep formed some of that state's first punk bands in the early-mid '70s, carrying the torch of Lou Reed and the 13th Floor Elevators on through the '80s to light the way for everyone from Guided By Voices to Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments to Pink Reason. But don't take it from me, take it from the anonymous crowdsourced writeup I found on lastfm:
Tommy Jay is legendary — whether writing songs and playing drums for Mike Rep & the Quotas (or The True Believers farther back), or collaborating on a number of Nudge Squidfish self-releases — but even as an equal in the now legendary Ego Summit, his contemporaries' main projects (V-3, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Bassholes) outshined Jay’s dark horse status. Only now does one realize that his "Novocaine" was the fulcrum of the entire project. He was the poignant, coherent, folkie among a barn full of well-medicated genius.
The balance between these crisp psych-folk nuggets and direct contact with the lunatic fringe (be it “little black jelly beans,” blotter, or blue oyster cults) make cult record Tall Tales Of Trauma a rewarding time warp through twelve years of Central Ohio lore. In the record’s earliest documents (circa ‘74, Timberlake) The Velvet Underground’s influence is obvious, not just on the cover of Ocean but also in "I Was There," a jangly, kaleidoscope of bittersweet pop that never edits his repeated guitar freak-outs. Into the 80’s the specter of Lou Reed (or perhaps more referentially precise, the echoes of Mayo Thompson) loomed large in Jay’s voice, phrasing, and tragic moods evoked, still the mysticism of Harrisburg is the overwhelming resonate. May I be crucified for such statement, but Tall Tales is infinitely more colorful and strange than any Reed solo venture (save Berlin), because it’s the quirky folk record Reed never made. It tip-toes around Indian burial grounds, abuses cheap-drug in dingy basements, chronicles the lives of gypsies, tramps, thieves, murderers, the village idiot and the quintessential anti-hero in all of us (who may or may not still live on Weber Rd.). 
Back to that lunatic fringe — the cast of characters Jay surrounded himself with give the songs their creepy (and often beautiful) skin. Squid’s pedal-steel synth on "Memories" transforms it into dim-lit neon honky-tonk or the flute and harmony provided by Jennifer Eling and Mike Rep respectively on the Joni Mitchell cover "Dreamland" is the closest thing to Laurel Canyon sunshine these ears have heard in the Columbus Discount Records pantheon.
Fans of the more acoustic-y side of J.T. IV would be well-advised to get ahold of this one. For more on the Central Ohio underground, see this post on WFMU's Beware of the Blog.

Total Trash - You Don't Try CS [2013]

Total Trash came thru town a coupla weeks ago on the tail end of their recent tour. They slayed the room with crunchy riffs and winning stage/floor presence. Their 7" is out right about now, and while it's good, this tape from earlier in the year wins out coz it's a little more raw and angry (to my ear). Plus they do a Germs song on this one. Besides Wild Child, Total Trash are probably the best thing Minneapolis has going right now as far as this ignorant monk can tell. Shambling punk with dynamic (a)-melodic vocals and a guitar that sounds inspired by Bitch Magnet. And they know how to draw you in with a slow tune without it getting stale, as evident on the last track "Know." All-around solid release. 

You can get through their bandcamp, pay-what-you-want for digital or cough up a few bones for the actual tape. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Slut River - Off White 7" [2012]

When these punks rolled through Champaign last month people went wild for it. Definitely one of the best shows I've seen in town in quite a while. Snotty tunes by people who know how to beat you on the head with groovy punk rhythms and treat yer mind to excellent pop melodies. Somebody on their bandcamp likened the sound to Mika Miko, which isn't real accurate but not totally off either. Hardly an unfavorable comparison in any case. Slut River are further proof -- if you needed any -- that Iowa City has an excellent scene despite (or because of) its prairie isolation. Get this one.

The actual 7" has five songs on it, while the digital version has seven with a slightly different song order. I'm going off the physical release but I bet the other songs are just as good. Just make sure to spin it at 33 1/3 unless you wanna hear chipmunk vocals. 

one sick pup

Lumpy & the Dumpers - 7" [2013]

Gonna make this a quick one, coz I'm driving down to St. Louis to see these freaks play with Dawn of Humans tonight. If you've been paying any attention at all, you already know Lumpy & the Dumpers are one of the active best bands in the midwest, if not the country. Hell, at this point they've got bands in cool-guy towns like New York ripping off their sound. This 7" continues in the vein of their previous cassette releases, twisting hardcore punk out of its stale formulae and injecting an unhealthy dose of slime muck. All three songs on here are rippers, but if I had to pick, I'd go with the last one. 

Anyway, this is up on bandcamp for pay what you want, but as with all of Martin's visual art this is one you should really get a physical copy of. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Ex - Aural Guerrilla [1988]

Been meaning to put this up for a while. The late '80s were a peak for the Ex. By then they'd honed a nimble, unconventional post-punk groove and on this record they throw some noisy weight behind it. These songs sound like machines the band built: lurching forward at a seemingly haphazard pace, but masterfully steered by drummer Katherina Bornefeld. At sharp turns the guitars spill feedback out over the sides, creaking and sputtering and screaming. Combined with Sok's defiant agitprop shoutspeak, which goes well beyond base sloganeering, the result sounds almost weaponlike, corny as it feels to say. Comes together real well on "Carcass," maybe my favorite tune on here. I don't feel like going on about it since in my mind the Ex need no introduction, but if you're not familiar with them, this is a pretty ideal place to start since it's relatively straightforward. If you dig this, see if you're up for their musique concrète double-album Joggers and Smoggers, released a year later.
everything is falling into place

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Whatever kind of alienation I might experience in the bland drunken cornfield that is a Big Ten college town, I have to imagine it's orders of magnitude worse in North Dakota. That backwater state seems to be coming up more and more in the news, as cannibalistic oil conglomerates sniff around for new sources of global warmth for the rest of us to bake in. They're already burning off enough crude for the flames to be visible from space. Meanwhile, regressive politicians play off their constituents' latent rural misogyny to close the state's one abortion clinic, tugging the nation backwards with the most stringent ban in the country.

Enter Nora & the Janitors, slamming their head against a brick wall of willful ignorance in the most listenable way possible. These two tunes bounce along somewhat like Orange Juice, but instead of said band's carefree joviality, this reeks of  the bitter resignation I associate with '80s Siberian punks like GrOb or Yanka. It can't be easy to work such desperate howling -- with lines like "fell asleep, it was July // woke up, it was November // did I kill that cop? I can't remember" -- into synthed-out, guitar-driven pop songs  and have it come off as well as it does. I dunno, people will probably compare this to the Smiths, but I get the feeling that's not where Nora et al are coming from. Whatever it is, I've had "Banister" on repeat for weeks now, and have yet to tire of it. Maybe my favorite song of 2013 so far. I shouldn't even be devoting this much text to a two-song single. But this stuff really affected me, and it deserves a wider audience.

These two songs are coming out on a tape split with a Minneapolis band I can't find any information on. For now, get this single at N&tJ's bandcamp.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

re-up'd: Toothpaste - EP [1983]

Yes, that's a Colgate-Hindenburg doing a Led Zeppelin -- enter Toothpaste, Chicago's Masters of Provocative Funk. This is their first of two releases, an EP recorded in late 1982 and released on Schwa Records, which also put out a 7" by a later incarnation of Silver Abuse around the same time. This 12" EP, recorded at the old Chess Records building on South Michigan Avenue, is a worthy example of the satirical/weird side of Chicago punk. The EP came out toward the tail end of the city's first wave of punk bands, and sounds nothing like the ossified, macho hardcore ritual that predominated by mid-decade (thanks a lot, Effigies/Raygun copycats). Instead, you get swirling guitars -- evoking new-wave on the one hand, early-'80s Bob Mould on the other. "Amerikan Beauties" mockingly apes the opening riff from "Pretty Woman." One minute they're singing blithely about the occupation of Palestine, next thing you know they're groaning about hardware as some kind of metaphor for fucking, or for American prudishness, or something. Toothpaste holds a mirror up to the banal tropes of Midwestern culture, its silly excuses for counterculture, and a Cold War too absurd to care about anymore. But nobody's looking anyway; probably Toothpaste was too absurd to care about. But they're precious currency for a certain type of weirdo, you know who you are. The video below gives you some idea, though the tune sounds more like Special Affect or End Result than what's on the EP:

The blog I Have a Brain in My Ass has video up of Toothpaste's set at the 2010 Riot Fest Busted at Oz reunion ... honestly they sound pretty stiff and uninspired, but if you're already a fan and need to hear some songs that never made it to record, check it out.
Every one was a terrorist, can't say that about our boys

re-up'd: Robert Pete Williams - Louisiana Blues [1966]

I don't know how I have gone so many months without posting this record. It differs from what people are stuck calling 'the blues' in that the songs mostly ride along and hop over a single chord in bopping, fingerpicked strides. Robert Pete Williams played some top-shelf southern/delta shit and his story is as fascinating as any bluesman's:

Discovered in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Robert Pete Williams became one of the great blues discoveries during the folk boom of the early '60s. His disregard for conventional patterns, tunings, and structures kept him from a wider audience, but his music remains one of the great, intense treats of the blues.
Williams was born in Zachary, Louisiana, the son of sharecropping parents. As a child, he worked the fields with his family and never attended school. Williams didn't begin playing blues until his late teens, when he made himself a guitar out of a cigar box. Playing his homemade guitar, Williams began performing at local parties, dances, and fish fries at night while he worked during the day. Even though he was constantly working, he never made quite enough money to support his family, which caused considerable tension between him and his wife; according to legend, she burned his guitar one night in a fit of anger. Despite all of the domestic tension, Williams continued to play throughout the Baton Rouge area, performing at dances and juke joints. 
In 1956, he shot and killed a man in a local club. Williams claimed he acted in self-defense, but he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was sent to Angola, where he served two years before being discovered by ethnomusicologists Dr. Harry Oster and Richard Allen. The pair recorded Williams performing several of his own songs, which were all about life in prison. Impressed with the guitarist's talents, Oster and Allen pleaded for a pardon for Williams. The pardon was granted in 1959, after he had served a total of three and a half years. 
For the first five years after he left prison, Williams could only perform in Louisiana, but his recordings -- which appeared on Folk-Lyric, Arhoolie, and Prestige, among other labels -- were popular and he received positive word of mouth reviews. In 1964, Williams played his first concert outside of Louisiana, at the legendary Newport Folk Festival. Williams' performance was enthusiastically received and he began touring the United States, often playing shows with Mississippi Fred McDowell. For the remainder of the '60s and most of the '70s, Robert Pete Williams constantly played concerts and festivals across America, as well a handful of dates in Europe. Along the way, he recorded for a handful of small independent labels, including Fontana and Storyville. 
Williams slowed down his work schedule in the late '70s, largely due to declining health. The guitarist died on December 31, 1980, at the age of 66. 
(from allmusic)

Fans of Charley Patton or Robert Johnson would dig Williams, and probably know him already. If you've ever heard the Captain Beefheart song 'Grown So Ugly' (or, I guess, the Black Keys' cover of it), you'll recognize the original version here. Listen, I really shouldn't have to try to convince you; this is essential, and punk as it gets.

Baby this ain't me

Thursday, April 4, 2013


It's fun to watch a band develop their sound in the live realm. When I first started seeing Laughboy play, their songs were masked by opaque, blunt-force hardcore noise overload common to many young bands. Over the course of a couple years' worth of shows, a unique sound started to take shape. They've been billed as 'cosmic' or 'psychedelic' hardcore, and those descriptions seem apt enough on this cassingle released by Spotted Race. The three short songs contain frantic vocal howls cast amongst psychedelic guitar reverb, buttressed by a murky low end that hits like an asteroid collision. Whether on tape or on your computer, the songs have the raw, shitty hardcore fidelity you all know and love. Have a listen to the a-side, which personally I can't get enough of:

On April 13 Laughboy will be playing the Midwest Zine Fest aftershow with fellow C-U locals Chain's Gang and Unnerve. Like the Fest itself, the show will be at the Urbana Independent Media Center. Show starts at 8:00, fb details here for those who seek them.

nothing like being with bitter fools

Monday, April 1, 2013

VA - Not Normal Presents: Welcome to 2013

Fuck. Where do I start with this comp? Ralph really outdid himself on this one. It's got nearly everybody on it: twenty-eight songs in forty minutes by seventeen bands from Chicago, the Midwest, the USA, THE WORLD. The record wastes no time, with an exciting start by Basque punks Hondartzako Hondakinak. I'd never heard of them before but I'm glad that's no longer the case. Further on in the comp the sounds run the whole spectrum, from the psycho-saturated ramonescore of Cülo to the power-pop punk of Tenement to the cosmic hardcore of NASA Space Universe to the angular UK palpitations of Good Throb to the raging Spanish-language thrash of Porkeria to the Minutemen-invoking funkiness of Big Crux ... if I don't stop here I'll just end up listing all the bands. But really, every cut is crucial. I should mention that this is Ooze's vinyl debut -- but don't worry, they haven't cleaned their sound up one bit.

Sample the tunes here, then buy a copy at Not Normal. For your own damn sake don't sleep on this one; the wax sounds great and it comes with a full-size 20-page booklet with band infos, lyrics, and some sick artwork. For what you're getting the price is a STEAL. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gas Rag - Gas Rag CS [2013]

Saw these dudes open for Crazy Spirit back in January, and their set was early enough in the lineup that it didn't suffer from the ridiculous overcrowding that came after. Besides that they were one of the highlights of the night. Rapid, nihilistic drug-punk songs about the drone war and other things that tug at your angry damaged heartstrings. The six songs thrash by in less than five minutes that I know you can spare, punk. Give it a spin; if you dig it, email for a copy of the tape.

War pervert

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Debut cassette from Urbana Illinois featuring members of Kowabunga! Kid, Witch in Her Tomb, and Horrible Things, to name a few. Chain's Gang is of the new crop of hardcore bands that have formed here in the past year. Not a lot of bands can sound this heavy and snotty at the same time. Stomping pharmaceutical nightmare rhythms caked with guitar muck and psych-punk fuzz. Keep an eye out for these reprobates; you'll want to see them before they see you.

Write to Crippled Sound, for a copy of the tape. Website hasn't been updated in a while but I've seen that there's been a second pressing so they're still available.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

re-up'd: LIVE OOZE

So this is my penance for missing these dudes opening for Skrapyard and Iceage this weekend (Iceage played a pretty sweet set, though). Ooze is a band in Chicago/NWI. I know the guitar player was in the Outs and Night Fever but that's just off the top of my head. Oh, the singer played in Raw Nerve. Anyway, this is a somewhat hi-fi recording of what was something like their third show. Seven songs in just under nine minutes. What can I say? It's hardcore punk played by people who evidently breathe the stuff. Comparisons to Brown Sugar wouldn't be unwarranted; Ooze has a similarly swinging rhythm, and the instruments are played in a way that harkens back to older styles of rock and roll (they open the set with 'California Sun,' à la the Dictators/Ramones) while maintaining a manic hardcore pace. If you've seen these dudes play, you know to be excited about them. The audio comes from the video below.

For the sake of convenience I ripped the audio from the vid and broke up the tracks. Though I don't know what any of them are called. The cover art is from the gig flyer.

Ooze roolze

re-up'd: Sonic Youth - Hold That Tiger [1987]

Quick, here's a Sonic Youth boot some of you maybe don't have. Recorded at the Metro in Chicago on October 14, 1987. Thanks to quality mic-placement, this is some real clanging, articulately shredded-up EVOL and Sister material from what is maybe my favorite period of this band. People forget Sonic Youth was a punk band, and this gig demonstrates it. The version of 'Death Valley '69' rages so hard that you forget it's missing Lydia Lunch's vocal part. Following a soaring version of 'Pacific Coast Highway' is a Ramones coverset encore.

The Japanese text on the cover inexplicably reads 'my mother went shopping.' Perhaps the band was studying up for their semi-upcoming 1988 tour of Japan.

SY concert archive entry for this gig
"I have no desire to fuck Jessica Hahn but I would like to kill Jim Bakker"

re-up'd: Hüsker Dü - Metal Circus [1983]

As you probably know, I get the name of this site from the most famous album by St. Paul, Minnesota's Hüsker Dü, as they are one of my favorite bands of ever. Zen Arcade was part of a paradigm shift in punk and hardcore, as the Hüskers, alongside Black Flag, the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, other SST bands, and countless others the world over were permanently expanding the creative capacity of counter-culture music.

Ten months before Zen Arcade was released, they put out the Metal Circus EP. It is the pivot around which the band changed its direction, from the 'ultracore' of their earlier singles and albums toward the stuff that got them remembered (and ultimately destroyed by a major label). You can read a 1982 interview with the band in the second issue of the D.C. zine Thrillseeker -- their answers are very foretelling.

As for the songs, this is when Hüsker Dü really hit their stride. The 'Minnesota guitar snowstorm' sound is fully operational, and the record is filled with soaring harmonics that let melody sneak into unexpected places. 'Real World' is a folk tune for the disillusioned rebel ("you're not a cop or politician, you're a person too -- you can sing any song you want, but you're still the same"), but it somehow sounds hopeful rather than cynical. The next two are some great Reagan-punk sort of songs about coping with impending nuclear apocalypse. The first side finishes with the boozer's lament "First of the Last Calls," borne from guitarist Bob Mould's own troubles with drink.

The the second side could be read as the thematic conclusion of the problems brought about in the first. After the brief whirlwind of "Lifeline," in which Bob screams about falling into the abyss, the abyss is reached. "Diane" starts. Greg Norton's bass churns out ominous chords, and Grant Hart drums along as he sings the true story of a woman raped and killed in Minnesota, from the p.o.v. of the perpetrator. It's a haunting electric murder ballad, a apt climax to the five songs that preceded it. The record ends with "Out on a Limb," a Sabbath-y dance of precarity. Listening to the words or reading along to this EP, there's a sense of narrative progression. Once they were able to show themselves capable of doing a concept record, they went all the way with it and ended up with the 'concept double album' that followed it in '84.

In my upload I included four outtakes from the Metal Circus sessions, which are of variable fidelity. However, they are some fierce punk tunes. Hüsker Dü are one of the few bands whose rejects are practically as good as the stuff they commit to wax. One of these, "Standing By the Sea," would be attempted again on Zen Arcade.

Finally, if you're still reading along with this, you're probably a big fan of the Hüskers yourself. So you might appreciate this graphic about the cover art, if you haven't seen it already.
graphic belongs to Patrick Smith
The inscription on the A-side reads, "That old stainless charity. If you could see me now, Shirley." On the B-side it's "Falling from grace with the goose; Howard Hughs, a wing, a prayer, (see below)."

Buy Metal Circus on insound
Discogs vinyl link
I like to protest but I'm not sure what it's for