REVIEW: Lyon Estates – Tutto o Niente (2008)

Lyon Estates, not to be confused by the pop punk group in England, were a hardcore band originating in 2007 in Bologna, Italy. Tutto O Niente (‘All or Nothing’) was released in 2008 on Here And Now! Records, a DIY label based in Padova. They would put out 2 EPs and 1 split EP before disbanding in 2014.

What’s great about non-anglophonic hardcore bands is getting to experience the language’s natural musicality. Frontman Claudio Quinzi’s vocals cheep like a bird yet hit like a sucker-punch in a street fight. Everything is full-throttle. Guitar and bass fly by. At their slowest, the drums sound like an engine about to take off. Most importantly, it didn’t meet the sonic conformity of anglophonic ‘punk’ and hardcore bands who hypocritically pride themselves on their self-perceived musical rebelliousness.

Tutto O Niente is a great album, and if you want to get into contemporary hardcore, start here.

For fans of: Rites of Spring, Reagan Youth, Youth Brigade

Like Lyon Estates? Give these a listen: Beefeater, No No No, DiMarcos

If you enjoyed this and can also read Italian, check out this interview with frontman Claudio Quinzi on the band’s decision to split: Intervista ai Lyon Estates: l’ eccellenza del Punk/Hardcore

REVIEW: Black Magnum – Sick of Living/Unwilling to Die (1995)

Sick of Living/Unwilling to Die is a not so subtle ode to the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer whose larger than life self-PR department helped fuel terror and intrigue throughout the 1960s/70s. A one-trick pony of face-value misogyny, Black Magnum’s inability to offer any type of substantial narrative, played ad nauseam, crosses into territory of uncreative fixation. Given its emotional weight, one would hope violence as artistic subject matter would be utilized better than a ‘dead baby nailed to 10 trees’-type joke.

It isn’t that violence can’t be used in this manner and work well. Bands like Ted Bundy’s Volkswagon and Theatre of Ice have used depictions and speculation of real life violence as a backdrop for topics such as the human condition, isolation, life and loss.

So what does Black Magnum have to offer us? Unfortunately not much. While opening track Oh Well offers heavy grunge riffs, sloppy fun drumming, and intriguing sample usage, Sick of Living/Unwilling to Die fails to deliver anything other than mundane songwriting and moronic lyrics.

Like Black Magnum? Maybe try one of these instead: Ted Bundy’s Volkswagon, Lubricated Goat, God Bullies

REVIEW: Art Brut – Art Brut vs. Satan (2009)

As an American, liking Art Brut in 2009 was about as simultaneously nerdy and hipster as being into British shows like Spaced or Louis Theroux documentaries. Remind you, this is pre-Sherlock phenom. Actors like Matt Berry weren’t being given full weekly articles just because we can.

Looking back twelve years, Art Brut vs. Satan holds up incredibly well. Unfortunately for Art Brut being timeless in an age of nostalgia and hyper-pastiche doesn’t work to their advantage. The songwriting is straight forward and stripped down. Vocal metres are occasionally emphasized by syncopated stabs, unifying the band’s effort throughout the album. The band’s unification lends itself perfectly to building emotional potency, especially over the course of Art Brut’s long build ups. The Replacements (a song about The Replacements) ends with a stacking of Gregorian-esque backing vocals under singer Eddie Argos hysterics over choosing between cheaper secondhand CDs or reissue CDs (extra tracks, mind you).

Vs. Satan is closed off with the lengthy Mysterious Bruises, a relatively funky and lonely song about a lost night out. Its on-and-off soft choruses and punchier verses is reminiscent of The Pixies, which is appropriate as the album was produced by Pixies frontman Black Francis.

“Our songs are true stories and I wanted to do them once or twice and record them because you’ll lose that sincerity if you do that again and again and again. After we realized we wanted to do that we asked ‘who is the expert at doing that?’ and came up with Frank Black because that’s how he did all of the (Frank Black and the) Catholics’ albums. And also, he’s cool and we wanted to hang out with him. ‘What excuse could we use to hire Frank Black?’ And then he said that he liked us, so we signed him up.” – Eddie Argos in an interview with Three Imaginary Girls blog. You can read an archived version of the interview here.

Argo’s spoken delivery is often compared to the late Mark E Smith, but is distinguished by a greater sense of emotional urgency. On vs. Satan, Argos delivers lines of daily mediocrity, yet sells the listener on existential joys and cultural ponderings. Nothing embodies the antithesis of rock behemoths Led Zeppelin and Kiss more than Art Brut, and what’s more punk than that?

In many ways, the music culture gripes expressed throughout Art Brut vs. Satan got me thinking about music in the way I do now. This album was released right before I entered highschool. I was at my peak interest in Primus, Gwar, and dime-a-dozen rockabilly bands. So on midway track Demons Out! when Argos begs “how can you sleep at night when nobody likes the music we like?” Well, it felt like he was speaking directly to my angry middle-schooler self.

They’re not on Bandcamp yet, but maybe one day they will be. Till then, you can buy the album on iTunes or search for it on Spotify.

Read Eddie Argos’s blog or visit Art Brut’s website.

For fans of: Kaiser Chiefs, Psychedelic Furs, Richard Hell & The Voidoids

Like Art Brut? Give these a listen: Hazy Sour Cherry, Shorty Can’t Eat Books, Geisha Girls

REVIEW: ENTS – Demo (2012)

Screeching tension starts before you even know it. High-ended guitar comes across loud and, well, loud while drums and bass stab and punctuate underneath. Suddenly all stops as a lone note drones from the guitar. Then it happens, and before you know it opening track Chester Lampwick is over.

Over the course of the next 6 minutes, ENTS rarely repeats a chorus. They’re self defined as “flower violence,” a mix of emo and power violence, with traces of hardcore and screamo acts like Orchid, but like their power violence roots suggest, are incredibly raw and unpolished. Their entire discography, last added to with Live at The A-FRAME – 2/17/12, doesn’t fill 30 minutes, and it doesn’t need to. Much like their songs, nothing is ever around for long. Appreciate it while it’s there, and go grab the free download of Demo from their Bandcamp page.

For fans of: Orchid, Pageninetynine, Human Remains

Like ENTS? give these a listen: Busted Chops, Cheap Art, Nermal

REVIEW: False Figure – A Promised End (2019)

While listening to False Figure, ‘a promised end’ to this mundane EP was quite reassuring.

I’m fairly certain I’ve heard this record before. Actually many times before. There is nothing distinguishing this album from the many others that are nearly identical to it, many also released under the flags of two-word alliterated band names. All parts of this album are interchangeable with the parts of other songs on the album.

False Figure’s look and sound scream a Gene Belcher “this is ME now” level of vapid personality. Actually, the band name does seem quite fitting now that I think of it. Death rock is the new gentrified neighborhood. Disneyfied ad nauseam, bands bring to their work the ingenuity and artistic truth of an NBC sitcom. Detached from its subcultural roots while continuing to profit off of it, the faux-goth wave of recent years wears the sardonic mask necessary to keep selling children black leather tchotchkes.

The prophecy foretold, pop hath eaten itself.

For fans of: Secret Shame

Like False Figure? maybe try one of these instead: Geisha Girls, Rule of Thirds, Killed By Deathrock Vol.1

REVIEW: Geisha Girls – Disappearing Act (2006)

Geisha Girls puts their contemporaries to shame with accessible high intensity alternative rock tinged with death rock sensibilities. Pounding tom percussion, use of 16th note hi-hats, and angular power-chord-shy guitar work may feel familiar to any Rikk Agnew/Rozz Williams era Christian Death fans. But with dry production and Hot Hot Heat styled vocals, Disappearing Act is as distinctively 2000s alternative rock as it is anything else.

The bass bounces, nearly plodding along with angsty disregard. That is until Retaining Water. With walking bass lines and a stripped down section where the bassist shines, Geisha Girls skirt the repetitive nature that current death rock bands accept as the boundaries of the genre.

In other ways, Disappearing Act is what Arctic Monkeys fans thought they were into. Tonal similarities wouldn’t be lost on a listener of both bands, but Geisha Girls don’t let the listener off as easy. Songs like This is Novelty, Finding Peers, and Skinny Wrists use dizzying compositional structures with puncturing frenetic drumming.

If you enjoy alternative rock, and are looking to get into something a little bit harder, you need to hear this album.

For fans of: Phantom Planet, Art Brut, Christian Death

Like Geisha Girls? Give these a listen: Infinite Void, Dame, The Atom Age

REVIEW: KAPUTT – Demo 2017 (2017)

Demo 2017 is a uptempo danceable punk splurge of weirdo rock’n’roll archived in stripped-dry production. Its wirey and agile songwriting keeps things moving and interesting for the whole 14 minute ride. What more could you want from a demo?

KAPUTT’s guitar work is, in some way, in lineage of Devo’s Bob 1 and Jerry Casale, while drummer Rikki Will and saxophonist Chrissy Barnacle take a laid back but nevertheless meticulous playing style reminiscent of The Cardiac’s Dominic Luckman and Sarah Smith, respectively.

The band has since released the full-length album Carnage Hall (a demo of the title track appears here on Demo 2017) as well as 2 singles. You can go check out Carnage Hall now, or keep a look out on Resident Sound, as I’m sure I’ll be revisiting KAPUTT more in the coming weeks.

For fans of: The Cardiacs, James Chance & The Contortions, Devo

Like KAPUTT? Give these a listen: Crack Cloud, Clinic, Polyrock

REVIEW: Self Deconstruction – Virtue (2014)

This post originally appeared on the 10th Dentist blog on Friday, February 5th, 2021.

Japan has been the new frontier for Western metal audiences looking for something fresh.

Self Deconstruction’s chaotic punk microclipses and occasional 3/4 timing may bring a hint of familiarity for Rudimentary Peni fans, but its ultimate grindcore sensibilities make this a strong contender for any metal fan’s music collection.

Virtue presents a fully formed idea without succumbing to overindulgence. Each motif is given an equal sliver of time to present itself and exit stage left. This not even 5-minute album of near pure-aggression presents itself like a frenzied attack from a monster coming out of the bushes, rather than the hellscaped demonic journey common among American and European bands.

A distinction should be made to separate the term ‘raw’ from the often synonymously used (but quite different) ‘shitty’ sound worshiped among metal heads, edge lords, and the uninformed alike. No, this album is raw, and it serves its frenzied nature well. Well mixed, well recorded, Virtue’s fanciest production trick is its use of occasionally panned vocals. This album brings back memories of seeing south-eastern weirdo power-violence and grindcore bands in North Carolina, or of hearing Minor Threat 7”s, early Pig Destroyer, or Bad Brain’s Black Dot album for the first time.

For fans of: Pig Destroyer, Rudimentary Peni, Sete Star Sept

Like Self Deconstruction? Give these a listen: Ents, Flagitious Idiosyncrasy in the Dilapidation,Cheap Art

Want more Self Deconstruction? Check out this interview at Lixiviat Records!

REVIEW: M.A.Z.E. – Tour Tape 2020 (2020)

This post originally appeared on the 10th Dentist blog on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

   2020 was not the best year for tours, though it seems Japanese punk rockers M.A.Z.E. were able to make it under the wire, finishing the final American leg of their tour in early March. This 6 track EP is a muddied lo-fi romp of wobbly processed guitars that only features 1 d-beat (on ‘Typical Credit’). Raw and seemingly untouched in post, Tour Tape 2020 may appeal to certain garage-rock circles but never bows to Thee Oh Sees-level dry-as-dust monotony.

    What leads to some internal conflict for this listener is the band’s ‘punk’ self-identity. They are far too interesting to be lumped in with current western ‘punk,’ a vapid term for commercialized, dummy-jock rock. Though in Japan it seems as if ‘punk’ is being explored and experienced, not worn and modeled. Which is the real ‘punk’? Is the true ‘punk’ the easily digestible, take-no-risks rock? Or the off-beat, entry-level-0 art form? Simply, it doesn’t matter. The grey swath of ‘punk rock’ sycophants and fetishists will continue to worship and make legend of a scene many people (including my parents) just lived.

    Who should be rewarded are the simon-pure with vision built through craft. While the willing mousinauts may find new favorites in Japanese and other non-anglophonic punk scenes, Cro-Mags fans may have difficulty sitting through closing track ‘Pink Wall.’

For fans of: DEVO, Crack Cloud, The Fall

Like M.A.Z.E.? Give these a listen: XL-Fits, Men’s Recovery Project, Gossip,

REVIEW: Shorty Can’t Eat Books – Shorty Can’t Eat Books (2014)

This post originally appeared on the 10th Dentist blog on Friday, March 5th, 2021.

    Back in pre-covid days, as I faintly recall, Shorty Can’t Eat Books was introduced to me through a local barista (and I believe former member of the band) one morning before work. There is not much to be found on Shorty Can’t Eat Books. An Asheville, NC band whose only release was this 2014 self-titled album recorded at Hi Z / Lo Z Studio (now defunct) located in the back of Static Age Records. A music video for instrumental ruckus-romp surf punk song Breakdown was made and posted on Youtube to little fanfare a week before the album’s release. A sense of camaraderie may or may not have been shared over the laborious process of stop-motion animating. Such interactions are seen through rose-colored glasses now.

    Tracks like I Was That Guy and Baby Baby are perfect examples of a specific vein of punk music that thrives within southern DIY circuits. Too honest for for indie hipsters and too weird for punks nationwide (with exception to the Midwestern scene, godbless’em). Essentially, the musical equivalent to The Captain & Casey Show.

    After three tracks of fake-jazz verses and patio lounging surf diddies, it could be best described as the meeting of The Minutemen and Southern Culture on The Skids. That is of course until the aggression and secret agent-pastiche of Breakdown and Dumb Town break up the albums seemingly established route. Breakdown may be the longest (2 mins, 20 secds) the album goes with out sleazy ska horns, clunky no wave piano smashing, or (quite honestly) goofy (but fitting) bongo percussion parts.

    Shorty Can’t Eat Books may be the quintessential Asheville band. They released one self titled album that fell on deaf ears, remembered only by long-time locals and dedicated scene goers. Their influences range incredibly and pastiche may be one of the three main ingredients. But through this is a great sense of honesty. This album is almost unforgivably North Carolinian. Lazy days on the patio, weird folk influences, and a lack of direct aggression that shows itself instead through scorned (but never embittered) melancholy.

    As Asheville city officials and the tourism industry continues to kill and run out its locals through neglect (“sacrifice zone”), lobbyist interference, and lack of accountability, it’s important that outsiders remember what actually makes Asheville special; the locals. The locals who have created a sense of community, who have created the art, albums, and cool spaces you inevitably run them out of.

    This angst over the city was certainly felt by many around this time, and maybe now more than ever after the empty promises of reparations to Asheville’s black community and the lack of support for local businesses. All of this makes closing track Nuclear Doowop’s melancholic desperation feel more like an omen and less a feeling of its time.

For fans of: The Minutemen, Polvo, The Big Boys

Like Shorty Can’t Eat Books? Give these a listen: Nature Boys,Pleasures of The Ultraviolent,The Krektones

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