Monday, February 26, 2018


Oh, is it 2018 already?  Oh, it's already nearly March you say?  No kidding.  How about that.  For all three of you who are avid readers of this stuff you will notice I have not added anything since late December.  It's not like I've been one bit lazy (however, I did consider the thought of just not doing reviews anymore).  I have been getting settled in my new home in Portland, OR, getting acquainted with a new job that takes a good deal of time, eating waaaay too much awesome vegan food, seeing an endless stream of awesome bands as they pass through town, and learning how to do letterpressing (if you check the Hex webstore you'll currently see three separate poster projects that I am selling HERE ).  And, as always, working to get the records from the label out to anyone who wants them.  So your boy keeps active, OK?
However, the year is already ripe with great music and it's not even Spring yet.
ALSO, now that I'm, like, a full-on resident out here, I thought it would be apt to feature a couple local bands who just released great new records and get out-of-towners interested in them.
Finally, I'm trying a new feature with these reviews by adding a song from each record reviewed so you can listen and read at the same time!  I know, super futuristic.  Give it a try.

BUGG, s/t
I’m completely aware that it’s a big trend for musicians and bands to recall 90’s music in various forms these days. And since my formative teenage years were spent within that decade, absorbing incredible sounds in my highly impressionable mind that formed a large part of the foundation that makes up my personal musical landscape, I have no problem with current bands doing their best to rehash that era.  Incredibly, many new bands have done a pretty good job of it, and Bugg is one of them.  Seemingly the project of primarily one songwriter Bugg kind of has a sort of Breeders feel (maybe it’s because their logo looks just like theirs), mixed with a sort of simplified and bouncy Dinosaur Jr vibe (minus the soaring guitar solos).  At times it ventures off into some Alternative Nation territory (yes, my age is showing) that was even somewhat embarrassing to listen to when it was new.  However, when Bugg are on the more aggressive side of their game it’s pretty excellent.  (PopWig)

I feel like the collective umbrella of Pygmy Lush extends into about a thousand other bands and projects and making any attempt to try and figure them all out is an exercise in futility.  One such offshoot of that group is Governess, which has a sort of middle-of-the-road upbeat indie feel for the most part.  It’s nothing that blows my hair back, but does at times have parts that remind me of the more mid-tempo bits of Pygmy Lush, as well as a little of Creepoid too.  There’s a touch of ethereal soothing haze to their sound, which is often broken up by the more straightforward parts.  I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to describe this further because it lacks distinction to set it apart.  It neither offends or inspires, it just kind of is what it is.  The ultra-plain simplistic cover art doesn’t help.  It’s music you could listen to if you want, ya know?  (Radical Empathy/ One Percent Press)

In their relatively short time as a band Iron Reagan has had quite a prolific output, and to be completely honest, this is the first time I’ve really given them a thorough listen.  And to be 110% honest, I’m hard pressed to really see a big difference between this and Municipal Waste.  OK, so the Waste has more ripping guitar solos and IR tends to be a little more on the ‘keep it fast and simple, stupid’ end of hardcore.  But where an unbridled love for thrash runs through each members DNA it’s difficult to get away from that which ultimately defines them as people.  Not like that’s a bad thing.  IR do what they do well and you’re already circle-pitting like a maniac and not even reading. Five songs on their side and…  quit shoving asshole, I just came to watch, OK?  Gatecreeper are (gets punched in the face), ow…  fuck…  a more traditional death metal band that (gets foot stomped on, beer poured on my back), also seems to be getting the masses riled up lately…  SHIT! With a sound that is nothing new, but done with the idea of paying homage to the greats and (smelly unwashed hair gets whipped in my face)…  gross… and implores the crowd to mosh, and…  fuck, does anyone in this place own a t-shirt that isn’t black?!  OK, I’m moving to the back. Three rippers on their end to complete this split. (Relapse)

They have kind of an odd name, but the goods delivered by this Portland-area band on their first full length are nothing short of gold.  Imagine the raspy vocals of Nirvana at their most somber set against some fever dream mash up of The Jesus Lizard, Unwound, and Drive Like Jehu in some strange kind of bummer mode.  I’m definitely hooked.  Getting an exact read on this band is difficult though as their songwriting process flows in a pretty strange sort of way.  There’s an occasional hook (the bass shot that opens this whole record is pretty memorable), but songs feel like they’re built more around peculiar guitar stabs, the hoarse nature of the vocals, and ebb and flow between aggressive and strange.  It’s a record that is immediately satisfying upon first listen, but you don’t know why really.  It’s going to take a few more listens at least to really unwrap how good this record is.  It’s also the band’s debut and one of the more interesting listens I’m sure I’ll be revisiting a lot this year.  (Self-Sabotage Records)

SHAME, “Songs Of Praise”
Man, people in England are just miserable, aren’t they?  Years ago, when I visited there everyone was so damn polite.  I imagine they’re just hiding all their gloominess under a cordial veneer.  London’s Shame are one such band of cheery-looking young lads who are just full of spite.  They blend the brightest and catchiest aspects of excellent post-punk and doses of Brit-pop and add snarky, shouted vocals on top of it to make for a hell of an excellent debut record.  At times repetitive and catchy like Gang Of 4, at times bluesy, sleazy, and sinister like The Fall, and at other times just wildly catchy and anthemic in the way that The Clash were able to conjure.  It’s kind of a nice mix of all those elements, which makes for music that doesn’t take a college degree to get into, but is also simply a product of great songwriting and a healthy dose of angst.  Also, if you happen to get the opportunity to see them live you must do it, as it’s one of the wildest times you will experience.  (Dead Oceans)

TURNSTILE, “Time and Space”
There’s a real conundrum at work here because Turnstile are a band associated with being really huge amongst a much younger crowd.  And there is that saying about ‘never trust anyone over 30’.  Well, I’m 40 years old and I fully endorse the shit out of this band.  So either this band has jumped the shark because old farts like me are all over this, or I’m just apparently hip to what’s cool these days.  Where is the truth?!  All that aside, there is no denying the massive amount of energy this band has, and how wild they can get live.  Everyone can agree on that.  Not everyone is pleased with the stylistic shift they have undergone from Madball clones to something else.  That couldn’t be more obvious on “Time and Space”, where they are making every attempt to keep that catchy and raw, live energy, but try out all sorts of other things.  The album starts off with “Real Thing”, an excellent opener if I’ve ever heard one that works around a grooving post-hardcore rhythm and ends up as a solid anthem.  Most of the other songs go fast, yet still somehow retain that groove.  I’ve started comparing this group to a modern day Bad Brains and I fully stand by it (even the re-recording of “Come Back For More” adds the sort of cowbell thing in the same fashion as “Pay To Cum”).  But you will hear them adding elements like a piano part in “High Pressure” that Andrew W.K. would be proud of, some mid-90’s breakdown and vocals on “Can’t Get Away” that sound like they were culled straight from some lost Snapcase record, and some more melodic vocals taking center stage in “Moon” (also featuring back ups by Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay).  Don’t get too flustered though, those seeking the slow heavy parts will find them scattered at various points on the record without feeling like they were shoehorned in just to appease long time admirers.  To me, this is one of the most exciting bands flying the hardcore banner.  It’s fun, there is boundless energy, and they keep it fresh.  I say good on them, I wish them the best.  Now, leave me be so I can go back to yelling at kids to stay off my lawn.  (Roadrunner)

UNWELCOME GUESTS, “Anything You Want”
Buffalo stalwarts who have been a local fixture for a number of years now release their latest LP, again full of made-for-Gainesville Fest rockers, heavy on the grown-up rock, with some slight nods to punk and The Replacements.  I wasn’t aware that they were still a band, but then again I’m not too in the loop of local Buffalo indie bands.  There’s nothing totally mind-blowing going on here, but these are rock lifers playing earnest music and there’s no shame in that.  This comes with a very nice insert/poster, as in, some quality control went into making this.  (Dirt CultRecords)

While I am a fan of Windhand I feel like they’re writing the same song over and over.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way because it’s a good song, but sometimes a little variety goes a long way.  This opening track on their side of this split is strongly reminiscent of the opening on their debut full length, which was amazing.  Their next LP sort of missed the mark though in my opinion, so it’s nice to see them getting their groove back on this split, even if it does sound a little too close to their debut.  Nonetheless, expect quality doomy sludge with more than a hint of Sabbath and Electric Wizard and excellent, soaring vocals.  Satan’s Satyrs (who share members with Electric Wizard) are more upbeat on their side of this split with straight up 70’s biker rock, though I’ll say the recording doesn’t quite lend itself to that sleazy analog feel that goes well with the sort of evil rock n’ roll their aiming for.  A little work to nail it down is in order.  I’ll take this split for the Windhand side.  (Relapse)

Local Portland trio Year Of the Coyote unveils their first full length and it is rife with an uncompromising onslaught of non-stop grinding heaviness.  My first thought was that it has qualities similar to Coalesce’s “Give Them Rope” in that it never gives you a chance to catch your breath, it’s just relentless and suffocating in it’s audio density.  However, a couple more listens and it definitely recalls my hometown brethren in Engineer, in particular their early material.  The vocals have that consistent guttural scream and the avalanche of riffs that the defunct Syracuse wrecking crew were known for are front and center here, whether this band is aware of that or not.  Nevertheless, in a town that sort of typifies that laid-back Northwest attitude there is a band fully attempting to significantly harsh your mellow and I’m alright with that.  (self-released)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


What a year it's been.  Blink and it's gone.  Some part tragedy, some part fun, some very big changes, some milestones hit, and a bunch of great records and shows.  I got nothing else to impart other than hoping for an excellent 2018 and hopefully releasing some new records into the void.
Here's what did it for me in 2017:

Favorite records, in no particular order, except for #1

10.) QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Lots of hot takes on this one from frumpy old hardcore dudes.  Let’s just take a few universal laws into account though:  Walter is one of the greatest songwriters in American music, Alan Cage is an incredible drummer, Sergio Vega has an amazing bass tone and sense of rhythm, and all these factors put together create the unique chemistry that is Quicksand.  It’s what 22 years of living after your last record results in when you’ve grown as human beings.  It’s not “Slip” because that’s my favorite record ever and I’m not 16 anymore.  It’s “Interiors” and it’s a highly enjoyable record for a fan who is now 40.

9.) UNSANE, “Sterilize”

Old reliable.  They never made a bad record.  Consistent to a fault.  You know exactly what you’re getting and it’s ALWAYS sonic devastation crafted well, made by guys living rough lives and somehow still alive to tell you about it in the loudest way possible.

8.) METZ, “Strange Peace”
Their weird, jittery, and erratic punk pushes the boundaries of what one can do with two notes in the space of a song on their third album.  The Canadian riff dojo where Nirvana, The Wipers, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and the Ramones all meet.

7.) CLOAKROOM, “Time Well”

It’s a bit of a grower.  But then, if you played your riffs this slow you would probably need some time to digest it all as well.  Taking some chances here with trying some psychedelic passages to go with their mountainous riff avalanche Cloakroom succeeds with a recording that is not only more pleasing to the ears in terms of production, but a nice step forward in their self-described ‘slow-core’ sound that is parts stoner rock, shoegaze, and enormous distortion.

6.) OPEN CITY, s/t
Philly punks keep it low key with adult lives, small and sporadic shows, and downplay the ‘supergroup’ tag as much as they can.  But the sum of their parts create radical, uplifting songs in the tradition of the bands they each were culled from (Lifetime, Paint It Black, Bridge and Tunnel, etc).  Short, sweet, to the point rockers with an incredible message

5.) OUT OF BODY, “Voiceless”

It’s like the feel-good post-hardcore record of the year, ya know?  Cobble together all that Failure, Quicksand, Shift, and Hum love and toss out a record’s worth of bouncy, melodic, and big-sounding rock jams.  There’s no re-invention of the wheel here, nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a certain style of hardcore done right.  It’s an easy, fun, and engaging listen.

4.) PISSED JEANS, “Why Love Now?”
I was ready to call it a day with these noise rock titans after the last LP was a bit lackluster.  But they spring back to form with some interesting choices for production and guests, and unleash another great record full of sloppy, pulverizing riffs, feedback, guttural shouting, snarky humor, and one of the wildest tracks of the year- “I’m a Man”.  Oh, and how awesome is the mid-life-crisis drudgery of “Waiting On My Horrible Warning”?

3.) BUMMER/ PINKO split 12”

Two very promising newer bands team up under a ‘noise rock’ umbrella to each give their take on it and I like where it’s heading.  Bummer relies on quick and burly headbanging riffs with plenty of feedback, and it’s real catchy.  Pinko smash their Refused riffs with spazzy, frenetic hardcore (I suppose people would term it ‘skramz’…  fuck, I hate even typing that), deft attention to intricate changes, and vocals that sound like Guy Piccioto (Fugazi) at his most frantic.

2.) TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Ted Leo album.  The man has been through a lot.  It shows on this record.  It’s a wealth of emotions spread across his patented mod punk/power pop landscape with all the brilliant lyrics, heartwrenching subject matter, and ‘fuck yeah’ sing-a-longs you would expect.  Well, there’s also a good dose of saxophone and piano on here too.  Don’t be afraid, it’s an incredible record.  

1.)  PILE, “Hairshirt Of Purpose”
I didn’t think I’d like this very much.  It’s slower, more reserved than previous material, and more contemplative.  But after awhile the songs wormed their way into my skull and haven’t left all year.  Rick McGuire is one of the most creative songwriters I’ve come across in a long time and with the weird chemistry that the rest of Pile add to these brilliant songs it makes for one hell of an amazing listen.  It’s two of the most attention-demanding slow songs- “Leaning On a Wheel” and “Dogs”- that come off as the best ones on the record.  Five albums in and they’re dropping their best record yet.


BEAUTY PILL w/ ARTO LINDSAY, NYC Bell House, 4.28.17
I’ve been waiting to see a band Chad Clark fronts for at least 15 years, if not longer.  Beauty Pill are an astounding, very unique band in a category all their own.  However, having zero familiarity with headliner Arto Lindsay I guess I see where Beauty Pill got some of their inspiration.  As a surprise, the guy had fuckin’ Melvin Gibbs (ex- Rollins Band) in his group!

CHERUBS @ St Vitus, NYC 4.29.17
Who would have thought this obscure, long-dormant Texas noise rock trio would ever record again, let alone play shows?  I wouldn’t have expected it.  But fuck it, they invaded NYC and played a sold out show that was super fun, incredibly loud, and a near-perfect execution of their swirling, massive sound.

PILE w/ GNARWHAL @ Bug Jar, Rochester 5.15.17 (?)
I spent Mothers Day chilling with my mom.  I spent the night in Rochester witnessing Pile play most of the stuff from their incredible new LP and tearing the place down.  Gnarwhal opened, another band I had wanted to see for some time, do their thing, completely shredding bizarre tuneage and impossible fretboard gymnastics.

TED LEO @ Crocodile, Seattle 11.7.17
The man killed it onstage for two hours, nary a week after I landed in my new place in the Pacific Northwest.  The range of emotions that night went from sheer joy dancing wildly to “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” and “Run To the City”, to contemplative attention during “Nazarene”, to actually crying a little when he played “Let’s Stay On the Moon”, and back to transcendent joy shouting along to every word in “Biomusicology”.  The world needs Ted Leo.

A bittersweet show for me, as it was essentially the last show I booked in my hometown before moving.  Thankfully it was with long time friends, some of which hadn’t played together in many years.  I was really happy to play a raging set with my own band, and close a door on a 20 year long chapter of my life.

QUICKSAND @ Warsaw, NYC 10.1.17
I was a bit skeptical of my favorite band ever playing with only ¾ of their lineup, but they proved to pull it off with aplomb and double the energy.  It definitely helped with it being a hometown show for them, and being surrounded by a bunch of dear friends to sing a long to the songs with.  Nothing will quite compare to seeing Quicksand play a tiny after-show in a 150-cap room a couple years back, but this was pretty damn good too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I was considering just writing up my end of the year list, but a few things came my way that I really wanted to write something up about before that, and then a few more things, and well...  here we are, with a pile of records that have some real black and white theme going on for the most part.  Anyway, in the mad dash of everyone's holiday bullshit please consider not purchasing gifts for other people, be greedy, and get some of these items listed here for yourself.

BUG, “Calamitas”
There is such a thing as Austrian noise rock and apparently Bug has been doing it for 20 years.  And this is apparently their 8th record.  So how about that, huh?  I have approximately zippo to go on if this holds up to any of their previous stuff, so I’ll just get to it and dissect this as best I can.  Alright, so this group apparently wrote this record as a concept based around an Italian prime minister and all sorts of other tangentially related stuff.  I can’t make out what they’re saying, but the vocals are slurred and growling, like they’re at one speed and the music is another, kind of Harvey Milk-ish.  Musically it’s all over the map.  There’s wide swaths of Unsane-style meaty rock, more experimental and weird pedal-heavy parts reminiscent of USA Nails, some epic math-y sections recalling Breather Resist at their best, and even some areas that dabble in black metal-s speedy onslaught.  Like I said, it’s a mixed bag, sometimes within the same song.  It’s a bit of a detriment because it causes the band to lose a sense of consistency.  However, the overall result is generally enjoyable because it’s a lot of neat things coming together that don’t always meet up.  (InterstellarRecords)

EFFECTS, THE, “Eyes To the Light”
Devin Ocampo is one of the most recognizable musicians to emerge from the ever-vibrant DC scene in the last 20 years.  From his start with art-rock masterminds Smart Went Crazy (where he played more second fiddle) to branching out more on his own with Faraquet and then Medications his distinctive wide-ranging vocals and peculiar style of math-y, complex yet insanely melodic and catchy guitar work is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever paid any sort of attention to any of his bands.  Now, with The Effects he sets off on another project on their first official full length (they have released a series of EPs so far) and it follows suit with much of the other work Ocampo is known for.  If there is any noticeable difference I’d say that with the Effects the drumming tends to be a bit more reigned in and straightforward, giving the guitars a lot of space to take center stage.  In previous outfits his leads were often competing with the other instruments, which were just as intricate, complex, bewildering and jaw-dropping.  Additionally, The Effects feels slightly more like a traditional rock band in places, where an occasional big rock part meets bits and pieces of XTC or early 80’s Genesis worship, butted up against the signature style of the main fellow I’ve spent most of this review verbally jocking.  So yeah, if you’re still a fan of what Dischord continues to release (and why wouldn’t you be?) this is definitely one of the better records released by them in the last few years.  (Dischord)

Eastern Massachusetts Kindling has been pretty damn consistent throughout their discography, which is pretty sizeable when compared with how long they have been a band.  Anyway, their formula is a good one:  giant distortion and ethereal vocals with a punk beat.  My Bloody Valentine, as filtered through countless basement shows, and always on 11.  They even have a consistent design aesthetic flowing through all their record artwork.  I really liked it all.  So on “Hush”, their newest LP, things are a bit different and it’s been a bit hard for me to digest.  I mean, yeah, they’re still using huge distortion and the vocals are as atmospheric and dreamy as ever.  But it’s a different (more boring) looking record.  They have expanded their songwriting palette, which definitely shows some growth on their part by including bits of synth, mellotron, and even sitar.  The recording is more polished and professional sounding and again, I’m a bit on the fence there because I really enjoyed the massive fuzz on their previous output.  But after a number of listens this is finally growing on me and I can sit back and enjoy it as a whole for what the band has accomplished in terms of growth.  (6131)

“LIARTOWN The First Four Years”, by Sean Tejaratchi
Anyone who knows me knows I dabble in design and have been making flyers for punk shows for over 20 years.  And people often ask, ‘where do you come up with this stuff?’ and my answer has more often than not been ‘Craphound’.  It’s an 8-volume zine dumping ground of every odd assortment of weird and obscure clip art one could hope to find to fill all those graphic design holes you never knew existed.  It’s essentially my design bible.  Well, the man behind it all is one Sean Tejaratchi, and for the last four years he has been the man behind a site called Liartown USA, which is his digital dumping ground for all the bizarre ideas floating around in his head that he makes reality…  sorta.  He focuses his design on creating fake advertisement for billboards, 70’s chapbooks, TV shows that never happened, magazine covers, business cards, products, catalogs, you name it, and he makes it look believable.  And all that stuff has been collected into one gigantic book filled with literally thousands of hare-brained ideas and fake stuff.  Need a calendar of Shitty Lighthouses?  He made it.  Billboards for “Pillows:  Houston’s First Pansexual Fuckspace”.  Done.  Book covers for Hardy Boys mysteries that never actually happened, including (but not limited to), “The Hardy Boys Lose Their Shit”.  Theres several.  Multiple pages of fake dialogue Ice-T ‘said’ on “Law and Order”?  It’s there and I currently can’t breathe because I’m laughing too hard.  I can’t comprehend why this guy spends a massive amount of time designing things long since forgotten, thrown away, or never useful in real life to make his fake stuff look incredibly believable, but I’m incredibly happy that he did.  (Feral House)

OPEN CITY, “City Of Ash” 7”
I believe the two songs that make up this 7” are culled from the same recording session as this Philly group’s stellar debut full length from earlier this year.  However, I can see why they were left off the LP.  They don’t quite fit with the overall character and feel of that record.  These two tracks are a bit longer (I use that in a loose sense of the word) and slower (again, ‘loose’) than the rest of their material.  The title track fits more with the LP with its catchy melodies and overall upbeat feel.  “A Condition Worth a Mention” is the second track and it is way slower, way harsher, and definitely out of character with everything else this band has done.  There is a 7” version of these tracks, but it’s pretty pricey.  However, it’s Open City and they rule, so my suggestion is go to the bandcamp and plop down a few bucks to keep up with what is going on with this group.  (Open City)

SECT, “No Cure For Death”
I’m not even sure if I can classify this as a hardcore record.  On the vegan straight edge old man’s supergroup round two (and, I might add, a pretty quick follow-up to their debut last year) they go even deeper into grind, powerviolence, and death metal displays of HM-2 worship, a la Entombed, Trap Them, Dismember, All Pigs Must Die, and groups of that ilk.  I’m totally OK with that.  Additionally, I’m not sure if you can classify this as a ‘full length’ either because the entire record is over in all of about 17 minutes.  There is some part groove and a lot of parts blast beats, where most songs struggle to hit the minute-and-a-half mark.  But within those short blasts the band manages to cram in a whole lot to think about including missives on voting with your dollar (so to speak), our current political state of affairs, and the dreary state of ‘what the fuck sort of dystopian future am I living in’ paranoia happening like every waking moment.  If you know the deal with this band you know what you’re going to get.  If you don’t I suggest holding off judgment of hardcore dudes over 35 as being old and tired because these fuckers will blow your hair back.  (Southern Lord)

Sunday, November 26, 2017



BRAIDEDVEINS, “What Did You Do To Survive?” 7”
Here comes a new offering from this Detroit crew, off the heels of an LP from last year.  Their style of rhythmic and angular post-hardcore puts them in league with bands like local notables Bear Vs Shark, as well as groups such as Q and Not U and At the Drive-In to a lesser extent.  However, there is a rough, burly edge to their sound as well that brings to mind lesser known outfits like Cutman or Pigs.  It’s a good mix of noodly technical spazz out stuff without going overboard and heavy-handed post-hardcore, rife with creativity and introspection.  I enjoy it.  The seven inch has three songs, as well as a digital-only cover of the Nine Inch Nails/David Bowie song “I’m Afraid Of Americans”.  (Dropping Bombs)

If I’m not mistaken I’m guessing this is the first Child Bite material with their new lineup because the playing on these two new songs sounds quite a bit different than their last two records.  It’s like the weird Jesus Lizard tendencies have been upped (especially on the “Nub”-influenced slide guitar of “The Will To Disappear”), and the more thrashy metal aspects have been dialed back.  I hardly mind.  Basically anything this band does is gold to me.  They have such a unique style that borrows heavily from several disparate sources to combine into quite their own thing, no matter who is in the band.  I could say the same for STNNG, who I have never heard, but who have been around for quite awhile now.  They are also an odd band, but have a catchier indie rock appeal to them.  I’m not sure why they inserted Joy Division lyrics in the middle of one of their songs here, but hey, it was a pretty good song so why not right?  They offer up three songs that lean on the slightly aggressive, but an overall more pleasant listen, for the tame listener.  I should make note of the obvious ridiculous packaging for this thing where they did a several layer screen print on the B-side and pressed the record on colored vinyl and it looks awesome.  This is not the first time Child Bite has done this and I’m glad they keep doing it.  (Forge Again Records)

I’ll admit to never having bothered to listen to Iron Monkey in the past.  Maybe it was because their previous records album artwork was so awful looking.  Without hearing them I got the gist that their brand of aggressive music fell somewhere in the sludgy and chaotic realms of Eyehategod, Buzzov*en, and Cavity.  So this arrives in my inbox and I figure it’s about time to give them a listen.  It definitely sounds a lot like the aforementioned bands and that’s just fine by me.  I’ve heard a lot of criticism of this new album and I’m not sure why.  I understand the whole ‘shitting on the legacy of the deceased frontman by continuing the band’ thing and people get kind of emotional about it.  But I compared this record to “Our Problem” and, aside from a somewhat slicker production and a little quicker tempos on some of the songs, I’d say this fits in pretty well with the Iron Monkey canon.  But what do I know?  I’m a novice with this band.  All I know is I hit play on this thing and got beat up by some monster riffs, tortured screeching vocals, and lots of bad vibes.  So what’s not to like? (Relapse)

TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
Ted Leo is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation.  He’s the Billy Bragg for people between the ages of 25-40.  And he hasn’t made a record on his own (not counting The Both, his collaboration with Aimee Mann) in quite awhile.  But here we are, and here it is, and it’s some of his most varied and compelling music of his whole career.  Abandoning the ‘and The Pharmacists’ tag in favor of just releasing this as a solo record it’s far from that.  It’s just that Leo wrote all the songs and played most of the instruments.  However, a number of guests (including current and former Pharmacists) contribute to the record too.  Ted Leo’s knack of drawing from his mod punk influences is on display, as always, but there’s a greater reach into less ‘punk’ sources (maybe ones just on the outer fringes of) like XTC and Joe Jackson to counter his adoration of the Buzzcocks and Cocksparrer.  It’s power pop at its finest and most creative.  Ted Leo always has an incredible lyricism to his songs and manages to make complicated words and phrases into the catchiest of tunes.  It took a little for this to grow on me because it is a departure, in some ways, from his older work.  “Run To the City” works in the well-honed Pharmacists framework until a ripping saxophone lead torn straight from some Clarence Clemons/Bruce Springsteen high-fiving 80’s session takes over.  It’s one of the most fun songs on the record and one of my favorites.  However, “Nazarene” is the complete opposite.  It’s a slow burner where the first half of the song is just Ted Leo singing over a simple piano coda before a sludgy bass section dominates the rest of the piece.  There’s variety like this all over the record and it all works together very well, when in some instances, it shouldn’t.  And like most of Ted Leo’s output there is a strong political commentary, often wrapped up in tales of personal interactions, and the socialist ‘were-in-this-together’ sort of vibe I enjoy immensely.  But in reading interviews with him there was a great deal of sorrow in writing some of these songs, some extreme hardships he dealt with, and it is reflected in songs like “Lonsdale Avenue” and “Let’s Stay On the Moon” (try to hold back tears listening to it, it’s tough).  Repeated listens (and seeing this stuff live) has really made a huge impression upon me and because of that I’m finding this to be one of my favorite releases this year.  Ted Leo truly is a master of his craft.  I encourage everyone reading this to give it a shot whether you’re a long-time fan, or have never heard of the guy.  (self-released)

PLAQUE MARKS, “Anxiety Driven Nervous Worship”
This collaboration of Philly miscreants draws from some guys who are well-versed in playing this kind of music, and a couple others you might think wouldn’t be game for it based on the kinds of bands they’re known for.  But either way, some people from Fight Amp, Creepoid, A Life Once Lost, Ecstatic Vision, and the Powder Room got together and wrote a handful of straight-up noise rock jams and threw them onto an LP/EP.  They are drawing straight from the noise rock playbook so it’s nothing earth shattering, or groundbreaking.  It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.  But it is satisfying.  “Oregon Chem-Trail” sounds like Cows, “Chow” with more glass-gargling vocals while “Urban Blighters” takes a passing semblance to bands like Glazed Baby.  The title track takes up the entire B-side of this EP and is essentially a spiraling mess of ultra-fuzzy slide guitar over acid-drenched sludgy wooziness that sounds like going to town in the woodshop with a table saw while drunk as a skunk and high on fumes at 3AM for 8 minutes.  Take that as you will.  Aside from a somewhat lackluster recording and a desire for more songs this is a pretty good start for a bunch of guys who just wanted to make some racket and go on tour.  Mission accomplished.  (Learning Curve Records)

QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Yeah, how do I review the new record from my favorite band ever- their first in 22 years- and not hold it to incredibly unrealistic expectations?  C’mon.  It’s a fool’s errand.  I have entered into this new Quicksand material with a few notes to self:  I am not the same person I was when I was 15 and having my mind blown as an impressionable, identity-seeking teenager hearing this band for the first time.  The members of this band are certainly not the same people there were 22 years ago (I would certainly hope that they have grown as songwriters and as people with different things going on in their life).  Take this record for whatever it’s throwing at the listener and not as some cash-in nostalgia trip. 
            So, with those ‘notes to self’ in mind I have to say this is an overall good listen.  There is a chemistry that happens when the members of this band collaborate together that cannot be replicated.  I certainly wonder what would have happened had Tom Capone been involved in the writing process, as he certainly brings his own style to the table.  Or how would this sound if they had recorded with Wharton Tiers or Don Fury like they had in the past instead of Will Yip? There is a noticeable bit of gloom missing from this album, compared to previous records, and it sounds brighter and more crisp.  My feelings about some of Quicksand’s older music was that it was for the bad times in life, rising above it all despite surrounding negativity and that always came across in the way the music was recorded and the vibe they put out.  On this new album Walter and company still pine the depths of interpersonal conflict, working out rough spots in life, but seeming to have an overall more introspective vision regarding it all.  I suppose that happens more as one gets older.  Certain songs have a consistent Quicksand feel that long time fans will enjoy (like most of the A-side), some songs dabble more in shoegaze-y parts that the band probably wanted to do more of in their initial run but never got around to, and some songs feel like stuff that Walter would be using for more current projects or Rival Schools stuff (like a lot of the B-side).
            As a Quicksand super fan who has been along for the ride since around 1993 I’m happy to see that these guys can get together, write enjoyable music, play it live and genuinely look as if they are having the time of their lives while doing it and not just going through the motions of a reunion cash grab.  It’s real.  The title track, “Under the Screw”, and “Illuminant” are probably the strongest tracks here that resemble the Quicksand everyone knows and loves.  And there’s some stuff that you know is them, is pretty great, but takes things in a direction more consistent with what each of the members have been up to musically in the last 10 plus years.  And that’s perfectly OK.  Don’t be some grumpy old fart complaining that this isn’t “Slip” part two because that’s just stupid.  With any luck, some younger people will take notice, get into it, and go backwards from here, and take away something positive from this.  (Epitaph)

I’ve been all about USA Nails lately, but on this split I think Tongue Party is taking the cake.  Not only do they have a pretty disgusting name, but their music is pretty gross (in a good way) too.  For those heavy into this kind of stuff (like me!) think fellow labelmates Powertakeoff in terms of that heavily-distorted bass and give-no-fucks attitude, but with faster tempos and insane breakdowns.  That bass dominates almost everything while the guitar takes a backseat with some tense, nervous racket.  Two songs, smash everything.  USA Nails comes back with their jittery post-punk and Jesus Lizard-like songwriting.  These Brits have a pretty big catalog and while I don’t feel like this is their strongest stuff I would highly suggest checking out their full lengths for some truly jaw-dropping post-punk noise rock, especially “No Pleasure”.  Learning Curve once again unleashes a quality record.  They got themselves a pretty good track record.  (Learning Curve Records)

V/A, “Shattered, Flattered, and Covered” comp.
In this day and age compilations are a dicey proposition.  People don’t really buy them as physical products.  Like, maybe you can convince some people to plop down a few bucks on bandcamp if it’s a benefit of some sort.  What’s even more difficult to not only organize, but get people to spend hard-earned dough on is a tribute compilation.  But lo and behold this guy got like 30 bands to record Unsane covers and put it out as a double LP/ 2xCD.  That takes some boulder-sized stones and what I can only imagine is a Scanners-blowing up-your-head-level headache.
            The groups on here are split about half from the US and the other half from Europe (or elsewhere).  Well known noise rock bands of North America that you would expect to be on an Unsane tribute comp are present and accounted for, and turn in exceptionally good takes on some of the best songs (Grizzlor doing an awesome version of “Sick”, Multicult putting their spin on “Trench”, Child Bite doing an almost boogie rock version of a more recent track “Don’t”, and KEN Mode transforming “Broke” into…  well, a KEN Mode song).  Also of note are the Beige Eagle Boys doing an awesome, and somewhat humorously sampled take on the mighty “Streetsweeper”, while France’s Sofy Major gets the award for best sample in the middle of their cover of “Backslide”.  The CD has a number of bonus tracks on each disc that you won’t find on the LPs, some of them for good reason, some I wish got on the LP.  Hawks turn in an ultra slow and subdued cover of “Body Bomb”, which is sort of funny because it’s such an incendiary (get it) track otherwise, while Joe 4 attempt a medley of “Ruin”/”Swim” that just doesn’t work at all.  Some groups I’d never heard of make their mark, such as Flying Disk, Suma, and especially Seawhores doing a hell of a take on “Lead”.
            It’s a hell of an undertaking, and while there’s no surprise with the addition of some of these bands, it’s welcome to hear them pay homage to an obvious influence.  Unsane are one of my favorite bands (if that wasn’t totally obvious to anyone who knows me) who know how to write really good mean-spirited and agitated music.  Their influence is probably a reason why so many of the bands covering them I tend to like quite a bit as well.  (Antena Krzyku)

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Beating that holiday rush! Between now and Thanksgiving go to either the Hex webstore, or the bandcamp, and save 20% on your whole order using the code 'PORTLAND'. Now that I'm settled into my new place I've gotta get rid of some of this stuff and what better way than to sell it to you. So think ahead and get a gift for someone you love, which will likely be gifts for yourself. I won't judge. Go here: or here:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

CLOSING SHOP FROM 10/24/17-11/6/17 PSA

Just as a head's up I won't be doing any label business between Tuesday Oct. 24th- Monday, Nov. 6th because I'm moving across the dang country, and getting settled in my new home. So if you want to order anything the next couple of days would be the best time. Otherwise you'll have to wait a couple weeks for me to send orders out. Cool? Thanks.

Friday, October 6, 2017


It has been a wild last few months.  I've traveled everywhere, seen tons of shows, done lots of stuff and now that summer is over and fall is kicking in I am moving across the country, so truly, there is no rest for the wicked.  And now that that crazy moving sale I had is over I can leave readers with this- a batch of reviews covering probably the best couple of months this year so far for new music before I bail out.  I tend to be someone who favors spotlighting new bands that I find interesting, rather than pining for the past.  But I have to say, several reunion bands made some pretty excellent music worth talking about.  And, of course, Unsane never broke up, they just went on pause for a few years and have come back to remind you why they own heavy, mean-spirited music.

BIG HUSH, “Spirit/ Wholes”
People from Pygmy Lush go for broke with a variety of songs that collects two separate EPs onto one record.  The first half evokes heavy-duty shoegaze vibes with wispy male/female vocals, like Swervedriver meets the Breeders.  “Cold Shoulder” sounds like the whole song is going in reverse, and sounds more like an experiment in writing a cool song and trying out bizarre effects pedals.  “Cough”, strangely enough rips the first riff from “Iron Man” and then turns it into a lackadaisical jam that could have been a B-side on “Last Splash”.  Opener “Soft Eyes” is the standout song on the whole record with it’s more upbeat tempo and catchy lead, and it goes right into another very upbeat song (“Pay To Play”) that keeps things moving along.  However, once you move into the second half of the album (or, second EP), “Wholes”, it’s a far more restrained affair, considerably mellower, but almost as enjoyable.  There’s a bit more of a twangy element to it and focused a bit more on the vocal interplay…  almost, dare I say, alt-country (yuck, what a weird-sounding term).  Still, I really like it.  So I definitely think people who like Pygmy Lush will really love this as well, even though it is a bit different than that.  (Robotic Empire)

BURN, “Do Or Die”
I heard that first single from this record and was pretty turned off.  It was not very good.  Luckily, that’s the one clunker on this record.  It’s not that it’s even a terrible song; it just has a few too many parts that don’t work all that well together.  But for those looking for “Shall Be Judged” over and over again look elsewhere.  It’s been over 25 years, if these guys didn’t change somewhat in that time than I’d say they haven’t grown much as humans, which is kind of sad.  Yet what remains the same is the fact that Chaka has the energy of a teenager, Gavin Van Vleck continues to write some of the most forward-thinking hardcore/noise/inventive riffs around, and that new rhythm section is still as tight as anyone the group have had in their ranks in the past.  For those who truly pine for times past I’d say a good half of the record retains some of that faster, strangely melodic, and weirdly aggressive hardcore that the band is known for…  just recorded much better and bigger.  Two old songs have been re-recorded, but they feel really unnecessary since they both sound fine in their original forms.  And then you get a few songs that work in a new and different way, and a couple that don’t work all that well.  All in all, for a band that has, in a way, re-invented themselves two decades later (despite the handful of reunions over the years) they’re pulling it off pretty good I’d say.  Heck, the packaging on this sucker is worth the price alone.  If you end up not enjoying this you can just stare at it for hours with how ridiculously awesome it looks.  (Deathwish)

CLOAKROOM, “Time Well”
I’ve really been looking forward to this one and I have to say I’m pretty pleased.  It’s kind of a grower because it’s lacking some of that instant gratification (which is a relative term considering the rather glacial pace this band’s songs tend to flow) that was present on songs like “Moon Funeral” and “Starchild Skull” from their last LP, “Further Out”.  Still, those tones remain ridiculously awesome and sludgy as all get out while the shoegaze-y melodies throw an atmospheric haze over the whole thing.  Additionally, this record plays around a little more with some otherworldly psychedelic songs that have an almost Pink Floyd-ish aura to them (“Hymnal” and “Sickle Moon Blues”).  The entire first half of the record stays a little closer to what people sort of expect, at this point, from Cloakroom and they do so quite fantastically.  “Big World” and “Concrete Gallery” tend to be the best examples of this and contain some of the slowest, heaviest, riff-iest moments on the entire record.  Plus, unlike “Further Out” where it didn’t quite feel like a full length exactly due to some interludes passing for full songs, “Time Well” is almost a whole hour of music with not a single dud on the whole record.  So, hat’s off to them.  I think I personally may be a little more partial to a couple of my favorite songs from the last LP, but this is certainly a worthwhile follow-up. (Relapse)

METZ, “Strange Peace”
Heck yeah, Metz.  I’d like to think they have matured in a sense, or tried some new things on this record.  Aside from it not being named “III”, that’s not really the case.  It’s just another pile of amazing, total hearing-devastating, non-stop crazy noise rock gems.  They rolled with Albini to record this one and most would say he’s a master at capturing a band’s live sound.  Well, this record sounds fucking amazing, huge, and dirgy, like there’s some studio magic going on.  But I’m guessing that this is just what all these songs sound exactly like live.  There’s still plenty of weird guitar effects (the opening riff on “Drained Lake” being a good example), catchy garage rock on speed (lead single “Cellophane”), some strange interlude-like creepy melodic songs (like “Sink” and “Caterpillar”), and absolute rippers (“Dig a Hole”, “Mr. Plague”).  I think my favorite song here, though, is the mid-way point “Lost In the Blank City”- it’s relatively slow, massive heave and gigantic riffs just lure you right in for 4 and a half minutes of bliss.  Metz have just really nailed it.  Not only are they one of the most electrifying live bands in the world right now but they manage to pull the grungy aesthetic of Nirvana, the strange inventiveness of Drive Like Jehu, a metric ton of nervous tension/anxiety, and a wild catchiness that goes unmatched.  (Sub Pop)

MODERN PSYCHICS, "Paid Vacation Time" demo
After the split of Albany’s weirdo crunchy post-hardcore band Throat Culture a couple of the members have re-emerged as Modern Psychics, who have a decidedly far less hardcore sound to them.  However, there are tidbits of their writing style present, such as vocalist Seth Eggleston’s raspy shout.  But the music takes a turn for faster beats and catchier riffs.  The band certainly pines for some Wipers-style garage punk, yet I think they lean a little dirtier, slightly heavier.  Regardless, it’s a fun debut and I feel like they’re onto something cool with this so hopefully they keep it up. (Modern Psychics)

Reunions abound everywhere.  I tend to be interested when bands that were absolutely crushing, but severely underrated in their time come back years later when no one outside of their immediate hometown remember them because they really have nothing to prove by making a return.  There’s really no pressure.  Thoughts Of Ionesco are one of those bands.  Hailing from Detroit they released a handful of records between the late 90’s and early ought’s before totally imploding from their own insanity.  I saw them once and it was one of the most visceral and threatening things ever, how these three individuals could so outright hate the world and themselves while still ripping some weird, ugly melding of hardcore, noise rock, prog and jazz improvisations…  like if “Hard Volume”-era Rollins Band did cheap drugs and worshipped both Miles Davis and Dazzling Killmen.  It hurts to listen to, like in a good way.  And then you wonder how the fuck they pulled off that drum fill and Voivod-esque fret run while screaming like someone’s shoving forks in their eyes.  So yeah, a dozen years or so pass and they just up and decide to record a few more songs and play a single show.  That’s the way to do it.  And I gotta say, the three tracks on the A-side of this slab do a pretty good job of reminding you all why Ionesco was nothing to fuck with.  This material fits in perfectly with anything from “And Then There Was Motion” to “For Detroit, From Addiction”.  The B-side, on the other hand, is the band getting weirder than ever.  It’s a single 13 minute track that is kind of broken into 4 parts that range from an improv jam, to a sort of spaghetti Western sort of dusty, bluesy thing, to shoehorning a re-recording of “… And None Were Human” (arguably their most well-known song) randomly in there, and back to some strange noise experiment.  I don’t really get why that was done in that way, or why they re-recorded that one song, but it’s not my place to attempt to understand.  All I know is this is a seriously weird and violent, yet astoundingly talented band that deserves your attention.  (Corpse Flower)

UNSANE, “Sterilize”
It’s an Unsane record, what do you think I’m going to say?  My love for this band is about as predictable as the guarantee that this will be louder and meaner than just about anything else you hear this year.  Unsane have never relented in their mission to be violent, grimy, and unpleasant to your eardrums.  They may take several years between albums and tours, but they always eventually come back to do more damage and their consistency in delivering quality records never ceases to amaze me.  Now what I say next may sound disparaging, but I mean it in the most sincere way- you could take any of the last four Unsane albums and make a mix and you would swear it was all the same album.  That’s really not a bad thing because every one of the songs on this, and those previous albums, are great.  Unsane kind of write the same song over and over but it’s a really good song, so I have no complaints.  Their earlier material, especially from “Total Destruction” to the landmark “Scattered, Smothered, and Covered”, and onto “Occupational Hazard” showed true evolution of the band where you could hear how they slowly honed in on recording and production techniques to truly capture their sound adequately.  They also played with different tempos more on those records with some glacially slow pummeling songs (“Get Off My Back”), as well as upbeat, faster songs (“Committed”).  But once they got to albums like “Blood Run” they tended to settle into a tempo that has worked for them and a recording style that captured them perfectly and they have rode that wave ever since.  And it’s damn good.  “Sterilize” continues this tradition, particularly on lead single “Aberration”, the slow and violent swing of “Lung”, and the crawling swell-and-crush of closer “Avail”.  Drummer Vinny Signorelli never overcomplicates things, making sure the beat is steady and the bludgeoning is precise.  Dave Curran has a better bass tone than just about anyone and uses it to drag his sludgy riffs through muck and through your dang face.  Chris Spencer is the serrated knife, chopping through the guts with bluesy riffs, stabbing jolts, and gigantic gouges across the songs; his voice a static howl blasting spit and sweat at anyone in the front three rows.  They know what the fuck they’re doing and have been doing it better than anyone for close to 30 years at this point. Unsane never fail to disappoint and that’s why they are the forever undisputed kings of noise rock.  Bow down, so your head doesn’t get blown clean off.  (Southern Lord)