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(EEK)


TWO ZERO AND DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS

The future is now, now is the future, it’s 2011 it’s 1968 it’s 1929 it’s 1991 it’s 1847 and it’s December 21 2012 forever and never. Welcome to the future, it looks a hell of a lot like the past. As the great punk-poet Steve Miller once intoned, “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…….” and we have all slid past home plate straight into the gaping maw of an uncertain future; even the great foundations of power being shaken, if ever so slightly, but all earthquakes must begin with the tiniest of cracks, an infinitesimal hairline preceding the thunderous BOOM! of sudden, violent change.

And then there’s the United States. Crying in our beer like someone just ran over the dog, but we know it’s our damn fault, so what are we gonna do to reverse it? I don’t know about you, chief, but I’m gonna kick off my boots, pop a squat on this ol’ rockin’ chair, maybe slowly swirl some whiskey around a fine-cut glass, feigning civility; and most certainly spark up a jazz cigarette, whilst whiling away the hours/days/months/years; no company but an armful of (mostly) rock n’ roll records. Now that sounds just fine, you say. Don’t worry, all of these records sound great with your head beneath the sand...

Unlike years past, it seems the full-length came correct these past twelve months. Besides the punk-as-fuck all-killer-no-filler Women In Prison EP (some kinda Consumers/Saints buzzbomb on Hozac), not a whole lot of contemporary singles blew my head off (def. really dug the Circle Pit 45 on Sweet Rot; like a lost Royal Trux Sub Pop Singles Club entry from ’92, and no I don’t feel “bad” for mentioning the Trux re: Circle Pit again; if the shoe fucking fits, but I digress…..), but there were a slew of good-to-great LPs, and that suits me just fine, cuz I’m lazy.



It wouldn’t be an erickelric/EEK/fuckface bit o’ “writing” if my favorite band of the last, what, eight(?), years wasn’t mentioned. But once again, they’ve earned themselves all the accolades I could drench them with and more. Maintaining a fierce and freaky live show (w/ either B. “Buddy Rich” Hafer or T(immy’s) O(rganism) banger, Colin Simon on traps), Human Eye dropped what most consider their finest LP yet (I still pull for the debut; o nostalgia), 'They Came From the Sky', on Sacred Bones no less, rubbing shoulders with Pitchforkian champions. Really hope some teenage Ty Segall fans bought this album on their short tour together and went home and their mothers had to clean the brains off their bedroom wall the next day, tsk-tsk-ing away, son now a full-fledged mutant rock n’ roll wastoid. Sorry Ma, forgot to clean up the brain-trash…

Holy crap, raise your hand if you got sick of hearing about goddamn Iceage every waking hour of every fucking day! Whoa, I think we just blotted out the sun. But hell if there ain’t something intriguing about the Danish foursome, too young to drink in this country, but somehow sounding old and resigned on their pretty f-in’ (why the fuck do people say that) great debut, 'New Brigade' (Escho/Dais/What’s Your Rupture?). Yeah, three different labels released this sucker, that’s how much people like it. The live show was a tad underwhelming, but the record rips, like Sort Sol tearing through a catalog of only the best of ‘90s artcore. Even an aging codger like me can feel the youthful energy glowing off this album. The songs stick, and that’s important.

Speaking of youth, punk, and good songs, if you haven’t been paying attention to a small crew of Texan punk rockers, you’re missing out on some of the best PR going these days. I coined this corny phrase (who me?) in my head: “Get your dent on,” for all the sick shit coming out of that town lately. My two favorites are the reformed Wax Museums, whose second LP, 'Eye Times' (Trouble in Mind) snuck up on me like a creeper in an alley that turns out to be a fine young lady with a sinister smile. Accordingly, my favorite songs on here, “Breakfast for Dinner, “Bruiser,” “Chase Your Shadow,” have lust on the brain, leveled out with a hint of violence. The straight-up Devo rip in “Nothing to Do (With the 60s)” gives me a warm fuzzy every time, and what more do you want from a short n’ sweet punk rock record? If that doesn’t do it for you, I’m sure you could find something to like on Video’s 'Leather, Leather' LP (Play Pinball!). Featuring most of the dudes in Wax Museums/Wrists/Bad Sports/Wiccans etc, Video delivers a knockout punch with their debut. Possibly the first band I would unequivocally state are “Final Solutions-influenced,” Video bring that gnarly, catchy, vaguely sci-fi, totally KBD-damaged punk rock that has been one of the defining sounds of the last 10 years of underground rock (at least to those with a modicum of taste, I can’t speak for the Sufjan Stevens fans out there). They do it as well as anyone else, and certainly better than anyone going these days (minus HE o’ course). I really love the huge fuzzy bass that slices thru this record like a jeep-mounted machine gun, mowing down anything in its path. This band rules; come up North and rock some faces off, lads.



Who do you think would win in a sonic fight: Iceage or TV Ghost (In The Red)? My money would be on the Ghost, cuz even though they are still young guns, they’re actually vets of our murky underground punk planet by this point. Seems like whatever “hype” they had died down and now they are just doin’ their thang, not givin’ a fuck ‘bout nothin’ else. And it shows. Their In The Red debut (and second alb proper) 'Mass Dream' brings in a new rhythm section (keyboardist Brahne jumps to drums) and further refines their shadowy sound. Bits of Pere Ubu, Cramps, Birthday Party, Echo & The Bunnymen, Circle X and Bauhaus can be heard in their dark take on post-punk. There are some really fantastic melodies lurking under the weirdness, and the excellent recording by Greg Ashley frames everything perfectly. Strange to say, but I think these fellas are underrated now.

Speaking of underrated, my perennial favorites The Ex still don’t get the massive amounts of love they deserve, but that’s alright, the true believers know what’s up. I squeezed in with about a hundred of like-minded folks last spring in a sports bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn to witness yet another mind-fuckingly great show by these people, old enough to be your Mom n’ Dad, hell some of you your grandparents, and they display no fatigue, no jadedness, and without a doubt, no volume or intensity drop. They lost long-time mouthpiece G.W. Sok, but gained another ace guitarist in singer Arnold de Boer. His singing style isn’t so different from Sok’s, and neither are his insightful and sarcastic lyrics. The way the trio of guitarists played off of the polyrhythms so effortlessly brought by drummer Kat was truly awe-inspiring. Still one of the greatest live bands I have ever seen, and their self-released LP, 'Catch My Shoe' (Ex), is another fantastic album filled with their unique and cutting art-punk. Hey Sonic Youth, break-up or step up your game.

Statement. Liquor Store made some kind of statement with their double-LP opus, 'Yeah Buddy' (Almost Ready). Yeah, it’s their debut. After only one 7”. The balls on these kids, like two boulders careening down a mountain. That doesn’t make much sense, and this record doesn’t either………til you chug-a-lug a case of Bud Light, smoke a QP thru an apple, and maybe punch yourself in the face half-a-dozen times. It’s seriously like a 'Use Your Illusion' for all the fucked-up little greaser punk shit-bags with trash ‘staches and speech impediments roaming your shitty little town. It’s gonna take longer than 12 months to get your noodle around this puppy. Hope you have a good weed connect.

Pygmy Shrews. This band teetered on the brink last year, victim to drummer turmoil. But they persevered, recruited a new skinsman, and, as anyone who has seen live them recently can attest, are rocking harder than ever. Before he moved on, Jeremy Villalobos lent his heavy-hitting to the Shrews’ second LP, the charmingly-titled 'You People Can All Go Straight to Hell' (Jack Shack). Why mince words when you can level a crowd with vicious hardcore grunge like only the Shrews can? Serious power moves on this platter, everything recorded loud and clear by guitarist Ben Greenberg. Thick as a milkshake and just as smooth. Side A bludgeons you with short bangers that feature actual (gasp!) melodies amidst the riffs, and the dual vocals by Greenberg and bassist Tia Vincent-Clark provide an almost X-ish harmony, a rarity in music this heavy. These are people who grew up with the Nirvana in their DNA, so they don’t forsake the art of songwriting, or the value in a catchy chord progression. Greenberg is a virtuoso on guitar, but he doesn’t flaunt it; well, that is until you flip the record over and get face-pummeled by the title cut, twelve straight minutes of bad-ass shredding (by everyone, natch) that is what Black Flag was probably trying to accomplish with 'The Process of Weeding Out'. Yeah, I “went there.” Kill yr idols, etc. (Postscript: Pygmy Shrews broke up a few days ago)



And now time to address the elephant in the room: Reissues. If you’re anything like me (i.e. have superb taste and fairly respectable hygienic habits/drug problems), lately you have been spending the majority of your hard-earned (or ill-gained, I ain’t judgin’) dollar on this new cottage industry of legit, “exact repro” reissues. Now, buying bunches of reissues ain’t new per se; it’s always been a significant contributer to making us geeks broke, and the anticipation and will-they-or-won’t-they? expectations take up quite a bit of our external and internal record convos. It’s a talking sickness. But we enjoy it. Often you wait years and years before some damn thing, usually ruined via remastering/mixing, track order fucking-around-with, new atrocious cover art, expensive as all hell etc, materializes. Sure, the internet kinda made all that dry-mouth worrying go away; hey you can HEAR ANYTHING ANYTIME YOU WANT, MR. BROADBAND, but the true freaks n’ geeks still want that physical product, if only to accrue like a pharaoh ready for the tomb. They’re just fucking around, right? We can take it with us, right?

So the “new” thing is to make them shits highly desirable via exact repro(ductions). Almost Ready Records honcho (and gin-soaked terror) Harry Howes took it to the next level last year with his KBD-klassik-reissuing label par excellance, Last Laugh. Can’t afford The Eat’s “Communist Radio?” No prob. Eight or so bucks will get you a perfect version of the original packaging, labels, and the music ain’t no slouch either. It’s a broke-ass normal human being’s dream come true. It’s a punk rock DJ’s wet dream cumming all over his own face. No need to lug all those dodgy-sounding Killed By Death comps with you (although they’re still good for smoke/piss/bump breaks); you can rock the 45s like a true gentlemen. Howes stepped up his game even more this year, reissuing gems by the likes of Hammer Damage (“Laugh” at my Akron pride at your own peril!), Shitdogs, The Embarrassment, Puncture, Skunks, Ed Nasty and more. He also started another label called Mighty Mouth with intent to reissue obscure weirdness by artists like ‘70s glam-tran disco rock n’ roll queen Laurice (i.e. Grudge) and he also dropped a little-known garage slow-burner called “Til the Stroke of Dawn” by The Psychopaths. On top of all that, he issued the never-happened debut LP by LL flagship band, The Normals. Which brings me to my next subject, but first I want to give a meaningful nod to a few other lovingly-executed (and legit) exact repros; namely Family Vineyard’s Dow Jones & The Industrials debut 7” (a complete discography is to follow in 2012) and Rerun RecordsBob “That Thing You Do”/”Thomas Edison” 45. Both are classics of early US jerk-wave post-punkitude and the reissues are beauties of what should be textbook “reissuing.” A pleasure to hold and hear in the here and now. “Now on sale at” Permanent Records’ faithful reissue of the long out-of-print classic Chicago punk compilation, 'Busted at Oz', deserves a special mention, as it is a real piece of work, as in a piece of art. Tip-on jackets from OG art, printed inner sleeve, crisp sound, not too mention completely awesome and varied punk and hardcore by scene stalwarts Naked Raygun, Effigies, DA, Strike Under, and more. Bravo and thank you, the love is palpable...

...as is the hate on Superior Viaduct’s reish of early ‘80s whatthefuckcore, Black Humor’s audio blister of an album, 'Love God, Love One Another'. Gotta admit that I don’t own this. Why? Oh, cuz I got an original. (I don’t get to say that much, deal with it). You should get this at any cost; may be the best thing that came out this year. The future looks bright for Superior Viaduct. Don’t be fooled by its Clevo-centric title cuz this upstart imprint is intent on reissuing lost classics of early SF wave like Noh Mercy (!), Factrix, Tuxedomoon and more. Can’t hardly wait.



Whew. Also wanna mention 540 Records continuing an entirely commendable and well-done re-unearthing of late ‘70s Oz punk label Savage; two more classic singles by Just Urbain and Young Identities to throw on the pile. And we’ll also give a quick mention of the Really Red “Crowd Control”/”Corporate Settings” 45. Some kind soul booted it, and, as someone who considers them one of the United States’ greatest hardcore punk bands ever……well, gosh, shucks, thanks.

But then there’s this whole other off-shoot of the repro business that, in a way, is the most exciting of all. The NEVER-ISSUED. Old stuff made new again. Howes also weighed in with a collector-scum holy grail of sorts, early Cheater Slicks sessions with Alpo from the Real Kids on bass. Murder! ['Our Food is Chaos'; Almost Ready] Acute always does such a fantastic job with reissues, and now they’ve broken their vinyl cherry (finally! give us yr older shitz on wax too pleez!) with the Disco Zombies LP which features their three singles along with a bevy of unreleased tracks (and even more stuff via download that comes w/ the record). Maybe you know the infectious title cut "Drums Over London", but are you familiar with the later, sublime track “Mary Millington?” If not, get crackin’. S-S Records is no stranger to digging up the finest in unheard spizz, and they really hit one outta the park with their Sperm Wails single. While 80s UK snarl-experts, Sperm Wails, had a few (great) records during their existence, S-S managed to procure YouTube sensation “Lady Chatterley” for its first appearance on a real playable vinyl record. Happy happy joy joy kill kill die.

Jack Ruby. The name conjures one of the defining images of 20th century America; a stocky fellow in a fedora shoving a revolver into the gut of ultimate patsy Lee Harvey Oswald. But if you’ve ever been even slightly obsessed with New York City’s No Wave scene then you know of them as an early mythical iteration of the anti-everything post-Stooge/VU proto-punk underground, particularly as relates to one George Scott, intense bassist of both the Contortions and 8-Eyed Spy and tragic heroin OD. Some recordings surfaced this year via his old roommate and they are a revelation. We’re talkin’ prime-time proto-punk (’74-’77) rock noise up there with all-time greats like Debris’, MX-80, and all those bands from the crucible of post-industrial rock, Cleveland Ohio. An enterprising French label, Saturday Records, took it upon themselves to make sure some of these amazing tracks, only existing as a download on a blog at that point, made it to vinyl. And thus we have Jack Ruby’s debut single “Hit & Run”/”Bad Teeth.” Prefiguring all kinds of weirdos like Crime, Chrome, and MARS, this stuff is potent. A CD featuring more material was issued by no wave historian Weasel Walter’s ugEXPLODE label came out simultaneously. Word is that Feeding Tube Records will be committing that document to wax. More stuff like this and I might never buy a new record again.



Many of the following releases I enjoyed just as much, if not more, than some of the stuff I wrote about above: Rank/Xerox – s/t LP (Make a Mess); Cheveu '1000' LP (Born Bad); Obnox 'I’m Bleeding Now' (Smog Veil); K-Holes s/t (Hozac), Feeling of Love 'Dissolve Me' LP (Kill Shaman); Degreaser 'Bottom Feeder' (Negative Guest List); Sightings 'Future Accidents' LP (Our Mouth); GG King 'Esoteric Lore' LP (Scavenger of Death/Rob’s House); UV Race 'Homo' LP (In The Red); Cakekitchen 'Kangaroos in My Top Paddock' LP (Violet Times); Frustrations 'Negative Reflections' LP (X!); Kitchen’s Floor 'Looking Forward to Nothing' LP (Negative Guest List); Puffy Areolas “Gentlemen’s Grip” EP (Hozac); Pop. 1280 “Thirteen Steps”/”Dead Hand” 7" (Blind Prophet); Crazy Spirit “I’m Dead” EP (Mata La Musica Discos); Timmy’s Organism “Scum Revolution”/”When The Bottles Break” 7" (Hozac); Pink Reason "Desperate Living' EP (Almost Ready); Pampers “Eruptions” 7” (Jack Shack); Thee Ohsees/Total Control split 12” (Castle Face); Hatefuck “Rock n’ Roll Letdown” EP (Negative Guest List).

Live shows? Sightings brings it every time; Harvey Milk basically blew my mind apart and put it back together, heavy as fuck and everything perfectly placed in the mix, really impressive; Guinea Worms are always a good time; Foster Care is probably my favorite punk band to watch/fall down with these days (look for their LP on Jack Shack sometime this year); Les Sexareenos reunion was a party and reminded me of what rock n’ roll is supposed to be; there used to be tons of bands like that (although not as good usually), where the hell are they these days? Step out of your fuckin’ bedrooms and slay the goddamn dragon!

Shit, I forgot the Coitus Int. 7" (Bunkerpop) reissue and the Bloodloss LP (Dirty Knobby) both of which are in the mail to me as we speak. And Pink Reason's 'Shit in the Garden' LP (Siltbreeze)...


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