After the death of Ron Miles in 2022, Colorado has little to offer. Local networks are deficient, show spaces generally relegated to Denver, with the state as a whole treated as an after-thought on bloated touring schedules needing to check-off the western market.
Trying to get to the heart of any local scene since I first arrived in Colorado has been fruitless. My long time go-to’s for finding local acts is through mom’n’pop record stores. Whether I’m on tour or visiting family, if you’re looking for ‘the good stuff’ in a local music scene there is no better place to turn than the town’s record shops. Yet, here ‘local’ sections in record stores are usually limited to 5 lackluster CD-rs and/or include bands from a fair share of any non-coastal, non-southern states (Illinois in one instance).
There is nearly no-point in talking about music outside the sprawl that is Denver because the state itself seemingly refuses to acknowledge it- exceptions for legacy acts playing at Red Rocks and the occasional rumblings of a house-show once had in Fort Collins, of course.
Talk is guarded in Boulder county, fair. The Boulder PD have raided shows before. Yet there is a heightened culture of individualism which is conducive to scene-killing. Is it pretension? Is it cool detachment?
Atop this is the transient nature of Colorado residency (eg. college students, tech industry diaspora). A vicious cycle to cultural growth efforts, few people ever seem to live in the state longer than 5 years. How can local scenes and sounds grow organically in such a high turnaround environment?
Detached from significant touring networks, Colorado isn’t a feasible touring option for smaller acts from outside the immediate region. Those who can make it are more significantly backed, big enough to draw festival spots and bigger guarantees.
So it’s been everywhere in all facets of music that instagramable moment-making approaches to showmanship triumphs over solid musical performances or artistic ingenuity. Cost of living in Colorado has been and continues to be incredibly high, making the travel to shows even more costly. All of this discourages new and old residents alike from going to smaller shows in neighboring towns with bands they haven’t heard of before.
Given Colorado’s general inaccessibility and the internet age’s low bar for content, jam music- whose devotees are seemingly always willing to have an excuse to drop out for a few hours- and legacy acts have conquered the public sphere of music in Colorado. This proliferation of established acts only contributes to the nagging feeling that Colorado is culturally 10 years behind the rest of the country in many, many ways.
Colorado is a destination for musicians no more. The 1970s are over, yet it still clings to the past. Unless the guards of local scenes adopt a militant ‘high tide raises all ships’ approach to growing Colorado’s internal and regional music networks, The Centennial State’s music scenes will remain under a doomspell.
Sounds from Osaka is our first article in a series highlighting local scenes in multiple ‘postcard length’ album reviews. We’re looking to do more of these scene focused articles in the future! Go to our contact page and let us know about your local scene and we may just cover it. Till then, consider this article ‘postmarked’ March 27th, 2022!
That said, is this list looking a little incomplete? Because we’re sure it is. There may be more pivotal bands in the Osaka scene, but we’ve decided to go with what stuck out to us via Bandcamp, recommendations, and liner note skimming, so Skate Punk bands like The Skippers or Manchester School (M.A. School) won’t be on this list. Consider this a small round up of Punk, Indie and Alternative bands from Osaka, Japan.
Diskover – The End Has No End (2018)
Noisy and nasally Pop Punk, The End Has No End is a lilting and lo-fi record worth a listen. The 3-track EP by Diskover has all the melancholic emotional weight one could hope for from Pop Punk and Power Pop. There isn’t much readily known about them, but they’ve had one release since: a self-titled 7” EP available through nearly a dozen smaller record outlets. You can also find it through the Punk & Destroy record shop and distro, located in Osaka.
Argue Damnation – The Situation In Society Is Worse Than Before, It Is Getting Worse. Direct Action Now Demo (2021)
The medium is the message- and so too, in this case, is the album title. Not ones’ to waste space, Argue Damnation’s ‘The Situation…’ is a collection of demos for what was their third and final album Direct Action Now, recorded and released in 2000. Tracks like Direct Action Now, Number People, and 反新安保 (‘Anti-New Security’) break out of the tight mold of D-Beat and Crust for something more expressive than many of their contemporaries, while Up The Punx gets as close to ‘punk anthem’ material as possible without getting too corny.
Argue Damnation were active from 1994 to 2003, but their music still resonates.
Shonen Knife – Pop Tune (2012)
While I never promised a comprehensive list, I would feel remiss for not including Shonen Knife. Take it from their Bandcamp artist-bio:
“Shonen Knife was formed in 1981 by Naoko Yamano, her friend Michie and sister Atsuko. 35 Years, 19 albums and well over 1000 gigs later the band is as strong, fun and original as ever…”
For this list I’m pulling their 2012 album Pop Tune, whose titular track is so satisfyingly bubbly and fun. People more in tune with the D-Beat and Crust bands on this list may roll their eyes, but Shonen Knife’s Phil Spector and Ramones inspired Alternative Rock’n’Roll sound is a delightful and uplifting force in the cross-cultural milieu of our ever increasingly interconnected lives.
Junky58% – おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー (2020)
おい、ミルクじゃなくて酒よこせバブー, or Don’t Milk, I Want to Alcohol (Google translated to ‘Hey, Give Me Sake, Not Milk.’) is a pumped up Pop Punk EP by Osaka’s Junky58%. Their early Green Day influence might be most noticeable on midway track Junky Band, but flows through the album’s joyous celebration of alcoholic shenanigans (and chocolate cookies?); a high-spirited step away from some of their more melancholy-tinted peers. As someone generally uninterested with alcohol-centric Punk and Rock music, I still found ‘Don’t Milk,…’ a worthwhile and fun record, going near the top of my wishlist.
OXZ – Along Ago: 1981-1989 (2020)
OXZ (pronounced ‘awk-zed’) are in a Post-Punk vein of their own creation, but could be roughly triangulated with bands like Suburban Lawns, Ausgang, and The Passions. OXZ weren’t afraid to include big spacial synthesizers on otherwise dry recordings. This makes for a rare listening experience, especially in the midst of the slog of ‘Post-Punk’ and ‘Goth’ worship bands coming out of the Anglosphere currently.
The compilation, released by the NYC independent label Captured Tracks, shows OXZ’s artistic progression across the band’s 3 EPs and single released during their band’s original run. It’s incredibly satisfying hearing where they took things as their song writing grew stronger and stronger. Personal favorite tracks from Along Ago: 1981-1989 include Vivian, Boy Boy, and Is Life.
Framtid – Under The Ashes (2002)
Crust is universal, so it seems. So I’m not surprised to find heavy hitters Framtid among the crowd. The band’s 2002 release Under The Ashes features members Makino (vocals), Takayama (drums), Ryota “Jacky” Watanabe (guitar), Ina (bass) and Chuma on bass for tracks 12-21. Under The Ashes is unrelenting. With each track fading into the next one, the chaos never stops. I definitely recommend Framtid to fans of Crucifix and Napalm Death.
Kung-Fu Girl – Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 (2021)
Cassette Tapes Series Vol.1 is a single release by the lo-fi Pop Punk band Kung-Fu Girl. A-side Rabuka might be my favorite, as it stood out to me immediately with its melancholic bubbliness. It’s absolutely something for fans of Full of Fancy or Bluffing. But b-side Ghost Girlfriend incorporates Power Pop sensibilities with raw Punk energy. It’s incredible, and a fun break from more D-Beat oriented bands.
Potato Headz – Potato Headz (2018)
Seeing “POTATO HEADZ” in a varsity font on a black and white concert pic, I wouldn’t have expected something so sonically interesting. Through and through, it’s your ‘classic hXc’ style beatdown Hardcore, but with just enough off-kilter weirdness and goofball energy to make it an incredibly fun album.
The riffs: chunky. The drums: hunky.
I’m all into it.
The Harriets – The Harriets 1st Demo (2019)
The laid back Indie jams of The Harriets’ 2019 self-titled first demo are easy on the ears, but don’t take that to mean ‘light listening’. The Harriets are made up of members Milk (guitar), Nana (drums), and Fumi (bass) with all 3 members contributing vocals. This relax-adaisical demo single features the a-side track Last Night backed with the fuzzed out I Don’t Care.
There’s an element to The Harriets that might make them an easy shoe-in for fans of bands like Slant 6 or Apocalypse Meow. The songs are minimal and well written, invoking an easy going feeling while keeping sonic vitality.
I would like to note The Harriets and the American band Frankie Cosmos as an ‘ideal’ double-billing for a tour. Seriously, can we make that happen?
Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a compilation released by Centralscum in 2004 celebrating the marriage of WonWons bassist Mami and Haruo Ishihara (owner of Lost Frog Productions, “the oldest Japanese netlabel in existence”).
Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo is a short but stylistically mixed bag. The lo-fi indie jam and titular track Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo by Morino Jun (Moaco) is a fun and sloppy melancholic song in the style of Magnetic Fields. The album is balanced out with off-kilter Indie Electronic in a style similar to the UK group The Sons of Silence.
But by far, Loggins Alive by Izumi Headache of UltraFuckers is an immediate favorite. Thumping drum machines pound away under the clatter of metallic guitar noise and pitched and processed vocals that sound like the Max Headroom Incident. It’s a hair too wacky to be considered a Big Black tribute, but likely ‘just right’ for Men’s Recovery Project fans.
Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming +Brief Thoughts article with a follow up to Beverly Hills Ketsukon Hactyo as well as Shock Rock in Japan and the USA.
It’s sloppy, muddy, and all there. The potency of the Good Grief’s songwriting and dedicated performance is a cut above the rest. Git Gooder is the sole album by Asheville, NC Punk band Good Grief. Released in 2018, the songs featured on the album are short, sweet, and to the point. Git Gooder’s sweeter moments, such as Prom Song’s saccharine sincerity, are balanced so well and so seamlessly by the anger and discontent shown on tracks like Valentines 2018 and Brewery.
That said, second to closing track Brewery is the best evocation of the sullen rage one feels growing up in a beer tourism town such as Asheville, NC.
It’s hard to describe what makes Good Grief a cut above the rest, but I like to think it can be triangulated between the spirit of Crucifix, Husker Du, and early Weezer. Yeah, that’s right, I brought Weezer into this.
Pleasure Venom is the 2018 self-titled release by Austin, TX based “experimental garage punk outfit” Pleasure Venom.
Right off the bat, Pleasure Venom unabashedly provokes an image of the very ‘in’ gothic aesthetics, though doesn’t utilize them in any particularly meaningful way. From the Birthday Party-esque guitar cacophony on Gunt to a general rundown of Robert Smith’s pedalboard effects (tremolo, flange, reverb, you can guess the rest) across the entire album, none of these aesthetics serve the particular songs all that well.
The 6 track album is a mixture of stomp and romp punk pub rock and goth dance rhythms. Everyone is on beat for the most part, and front person Audrey Campbell’s vocal delivery can be quite thrilling (especially on tracks Deth and Untitled). But if you feel underwhelmed while reading this, well, that’s how I felt listening to it.
Closing track Eddy is capped off with a great orchestrated outro, a much needed splash of rich color and depth delivered as a final gesticulation of the death rock aesthetics purported to define the album. I would have loved to see more of this throughout the album, letting the interludes and outros work the album’s aesthetic angle while pushing the songs the band had written a little harder, with less distractions.
Pleasure Venom is a punk record through and through. Perhaps there is a harder Grunge rock sound underlying it all, but experimental and No Wave (as one Bandcamp user called it) it is not.
What can I say? The record is fun, loud, and fast in all the normal places. There isn’t much to take in. Maybe that’s what their audience wants.
For fans of: Secret Shame, Amyl and The Sniffers, Mudhoney
Another rainy Tuesday; some band from Japan was coming and playing a show at the record shop/bar I worked at. I knew nothing about them except their name: XL Fits.
The band showed up, loaded in and played to a room of 7 people including the staff. It was a half-hour of madness and confusion. What the hell was I watching? What the hell was I hearing? Loud, crashing chaos; The few attendees stood still, beer in hand, watching these 3 guys grind, wail, rock and thrash about.
As quickly as it started, the band finished and the attendees left. One of the members and I gestured a conversation the best we could to negotiate his beer order (a singular PBR) and I tried to express how great their set had been.
I quickly bought up all their merch, then XL Fits packed up and left with barely a word spoken between us. The shop owner left and I closed up. I walked to my car, avoiding the broken glass and drunk tourists, thinking about all the people who had missed out on such a life changing show.
Cut to now; sitting down to write. XL Fits are a band so specifically weird that it was daunting to even take notes while listening to Hands + Knees. It truly is a 7″ single. There is no b-side, not even a runout groove.
A 3-piece avant garde punk rock group, XL Fits could be best described as 1 part Sex Pistols, 1 part Oxbow, and about 3 parts DNA. Rarely does it seem any two notes play at the same time. The drumming on Hands + Knees plays out like a hyper-specified algorithm, while Morricone-esque bass thumps out the same refrain. Vocals wail, groan and moan their way over a guitar that is ever shifting between wailing digital noise and clean, drawn out strums.
Each and every part is played with the confidence that things will line-up at the right moments, something that most of us listeners take for granted. And really, that’s all it needs. Far too tight and far too good to be reminiscent of The Shaggs, Hands + Knees plays as if by a three-headed being, able to regroup with precision timing.
XL Fits’ work remains mostly unknown and underappreciated by western audiences. Hands + Knees, as amazing and strange as it is, can’t convey the reassurance that there could be something new out there on the musical landscape in our age of retromania and artistic stagnation. A spiritual experience lost in translation, if I’ve ever seen one.
Evil is the final 7” single by the original American psychobilly band HellBillys. Fronted by vocalist Barrie Evans, the band consists of Greg Langston (drums), Rick Tanner (bass), and Dan Watson (guitar, formerly of progressive thrash metal band Hexx).
A-side titular track Evil is an exhibition of rock’n’roll aggression packed full of chugging palm-muted guitar. Always on the verge of rupturing forth, Evil growls along before Dan Waton’s expressive guitar work cries out in an explosive solo.
Vocalist ‘Hell’ Barrie Evans snarls, drools and seethes his way through a violent (yet reserved) performance. The “squeakin’, squakin’, [and] squealin’” Barrie’s vocal delivery, while at times indecipherable, is delivered with a nuance rarely seen in psychobilly.
The Evil 7” is mixed in a manner atypical to rockabilly revivalist tent genres. Unlike the compressed records of their contemporaries, Evil’s heavy low-end brings so much warmth as to justify calling it a weed mix.
In an interview conducted by Jessica Thiringer for Razorcake issue #31 (2006), Barrie Evans (going under his childhood nickname Scary) speaks about his time living in Japan and how it inspired the creation of The Hellbillys;
“When I was living in Tokyo, I had just left Christ on Parade and I was kind of sick of rockabilly. A friend invited me to a rockabilly show and I was blown away by how everybody looked. It was the same sort of vibe you get now (2006), but much earlier. Everyone’s dressed in vintage everything. I met the guy from the Falcons and went to see his band a week later. It was fast and heavy and had a cool look. I knew what I wanted to do.”
B-side opener Captain Scarlet is a reworking of Barry Gray’s theme for Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons; a 1960s UK children’s show exploring themes of morality dualism, social-integration, and nuclear devastation through the lens of interplanetary war. Did I mention that it was made for children? And used puppets?
HellBillys’ punched up take on Captain Scarlet features Barrie Evans’s vocals taking over the predecessor’s horn and vibraphone melody. Paired alongside themes of blatant evil, Captain Scarlet invokes the disturbing nature of a truly indestructible being.
Evil closes fittingly with Murder; a somewhat typical psychobilly romp of bass/snare syncopation and whammy’d western guitar chords topped with lyrical themes of internalized voices and, well, murder. It’s a great track, while not particularly inventive, predates the rigidity of today’s psychobilly scene.
In the same interview with Jessica Thiringer, Barrie unknowingly utters a forewarning of psychobilly’s inevitable stagnation.
“There wasn’t a template to follow. I think the regimentation of rockabilly has a lot to do with Continental Restyling (French magazine)— not that it’s bad, but it sucked the originality out of it. It’s however you interpret rockabilly. Psycho has a lot of room to grow. Let’s hope psycho doesn’t get regimented. I’ve always had a huge pomp. People put so much emphasis into looking correct, but back in the punk days you’d put together some kind of non sequitur outfit. Rockabilly used to be the same way. During the ‘80s, Macy’s (department store) even had a line of clothes called ‘‘80s Rocker,’ inspired by the Stray Cats.”
‘Stealing’ from one’s predecessors is completely natural, dare I say should be encouraged. Nothing is completely new under the sun. But it’s about that time of year when we need revisit an oft-repeated T. S. Eliot’s quote;
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it came.”
Or, to quote the back of the record jacket:
“THE HELLBILLYS ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE. YOU ARE NOT. DO NOT TRY TO EMULATE THEM.”
For fans of: The Misfits, Nekromantix, Koffin Kats
Released on Estrus Records in 1995, the Heads Up EP by The Monarchs is a rudimentary garage rock romp. The Ann Arbor, Michigan 4-piece consisted of Sarah McCabe, Tommy Oliver, Greg Hughes, and Andrew Claydon.
Hit That B*&¢# takes up the entirety of Heads Up EP‘s a-side. It’s not entirely certain why a band like this would lightly obscure a word both obvious and repetitively used within the song. Perhaps it’s part of a band’s kitsch, conflicting morals, or someone’s mom. Tinged with only a slight degree of internalized misogyny, Hit That B*&¢# is the #girlboss take on a long lineage of toxic-relationship jealousy songs.
Were they being serious? Probably not. Revivalist genres naturally repeat the tropes of their predecessors, even when those tropes only existed due to societal ills. Perhaps there was a degree of subversion to the song, lost to the record’s somewhat blownout recording. Regardless, Was it maybe a little stupid? Yes. Then again, everything in the 90s was a little stupid. We move on and move forward.
Instrumental titular track Heads Up takes pole position on the album’s b-side, despite the sleeve’s listing. The most ‘true’ to the original wave of garage rock, Heads Up ditches Sarah McCabe’s shouted-out vocals for organ. The general inoffensiveness of Heads Up still manages to keep up with the punk-influenced tracks on either side of it. With secret agent surf riffs and classic garage rock structuring, Heads Up (both song and album) thrashes in a way that only garage punk can.
While not as rewarding as Alien Blood Transfusion, this garage rock exploit still manages to capture the feeling of John Waters and b-movie film nights with friends. Even when embracing a ‘low-risk/low reward’ artistic approach, The Monarchs put together 3-tracks of punch-y garage rock fun.
The Monarchs may hit too hard for garage rock purists, but the kids don’t care.
The side project of Massachusetts hardcore outfit Out Cold, Alien Blood Transfusion was the slightly scaled back, “Ramones-meets-GBH” garage punk outlet for members Mark Sheehan (guitar, vocals) and John Evicci (drums). Joined by Kevin Stevenson (bass) of The Shods, this 3-piece released The Many Faces of Ilsa 5” prior to this 1998 self-titled masterpiece of sci-fi garage punk obscurity.
Alien Blood Transfusion 7″ kicks off with a sample that can only be described as B-movie; a sort of mental picture painted before hitting the road with The Misadventures of Candy Mint. The instrumental punk rock romp is perhaps the slowest of the 4 songs on the album, but gets the ball rolling with Evicci’s stand-out drumming. Sheehan’s tightened vocals join up on following track Hot Red Negative and remain present throughout the rest of the album’s 6 minute 30 second run time.
The album’s B-side starts off at flying speeds with song Abducted before transitioning into Insect, its descending riffs reminiscent of Coffin Break’s grunge-styled punk records. Evicci and Stevenson’s simultaneously bouncing and pummeling rhythm section create the perfect backdrop for the garage rock guitar work of Sheehan.
Distanced from the worn-out ‘classics’ of yesteryear’s fringe culture, Alien Blood Transfusion’s sci-fi lyrical and visual aesthetics made for a refreshing take on b-horror in punk. In its obscurity, the album fit right alongside nights of pinball, skateboarding, and upstaging friends with the worst of trash and horror cinema (thank you, John Waters).
Learning the art of culturally curating one’s life may now be tinged by the ghosts of hipsters past, but finding Alien Blood Transfusion was the penultimate reward for wading through endless amounts of cheap 7” records every day after school. So the next time you’re looking through cheap records, ask yourself, ‘does this look cool?’ You may strike it rich (figuratively speaking).
“ABT play Mosrite-resembling guitars exclusively”
For fans of: Misfits, New Bomb Turks, Man or Astro-Man?
Long Ball to No One is an EP of outtakes from the 1996 album Demmamussabebonk by UK melodic punk legends Snuff. This EP consists of 3 songs; the anthemic opening Caught in Session, the passionate and rowdy Walk, and down’n’out closer Dow Dow Boof Boof.
The whole EP clocks under 7 minutes, but there’s not a dull moment on it. Snuff’s use of horns and organ beat out the ’So-Cal’ hokeyness of their Fat Wreck Chords label mates by amplifying the Burt Bacharach elements of their compositions. Drummer/singer Duncan Redmonds’ practically signature use of swing notes give Snuff a unique soul that is critical to what makes a Snuff record a Snuff record.
I could go on about Snuff forever, but much like this EP I’ll keep it brief. Give Long Ball to No One a listen, and then give all their records a listen. Even at their worst, it’s worth your time.
Let me break it to you. They’re better than Fugazi, they’re better than Black Flag, and they’re absolutely better than anything coming out of the NYC hardcore scene at the time. They’re Marginal Man, the 5 piece hardcore punk band from DC.
Rising from the ashes of Artificial Peace’s breakup, former members Steve Polcari (vocalist), Mike Manos (drummer), and Pete Murray (guitar) teamed with bassist Andrew Lee and guitarist Kenny Inouye culminating in one of the best punk records of all time: Identity.
Identity is perhaps one of the most under appreciated records in American punk history. With the raw energy of Minor Threat and varying artistic influences of Dead Kennedys, Identity’s unwillingness to stagnate would be refreshing even if it was released in the past 30 years.
Identity precedes the slow grinding emotional struggle of Black Flag’s My War while simultaneously birthing the start of what eventually lead to emo. Songs Fallen Pieces and Torn Apart’s slow grueling rhythm is complemented by Pandora’s Box’s wiry agility, the fast flying punk you might expect from Dead Kennedys or Crucifix. The whole album a patchwork of distinct guitar licks and tricks, drummer Mike Manos and bassist Andre Lee are tuned in and driving, created the perfect rhythmic bed for Marginal Man’s fierce guitar and vocal work.