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