As I work on Issue #4, which is in progress and yet not in progress, I have decided that the reviews will be cut from the print addition. So here it is, the record and zine reviews from issue #4. Get into it.
Aquarium – Performer b/w Battle of the Bands, Dischord Records
Before Slingshot Dakota covered “Waiting Room” and before Matt and Kim got naked in Time Square, Aquarium was rocking the key/drum duo set up to great accolades in DC. It’s seems this band didn’t get their due with their self titled LP a few years ago, but they are making a showing with a new single. I have to say up front, the production on this record is lacking in my opinion. The songs sound more like demos than the real deal. And considering the subject matter of the A side, maybe that was the point. After all it’s a song about the artist versus the performer. Also the B side just sounds a bit under developed. But “Performer” is as strong a song as Aquarium has ever done. Jason Hutto shreds the keyboards. This slab of vinyl is worth a few spins while the down city duo hopefully preps a new album.
Deathrats – s/t 7”, To Live a Lie Records
Deathrats bring it kids. DC lads and lady making a ruckus that is sorely needed. Pretty dirty thrash punk seeps over six songs, which is awesome. The lyrics are chock full of personal reflections and anxiety that anyone can relate to. DC was built on hardcore, and Deathrats certainly uphold that tradition. A solid debut release.
Future Virgins – Easiest Years 7”, Plan-it-X South
This is a pretty cool record. It’s got jangly guitars and rumbling drums. The songs are pretty upbeat. One of the singers sounds like a drunk. The other dude just sounds normal. I imagine the kids pogo when this band plays. Future Virgins do it right, keep it interesting and don’t dilly dally on the song lengths. Solid rocking, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Government Warning – Executed 7”, Grave Mistake/No Way Records
Government Warning are a revivalist act if I’ve ever heard one in punk rock. Totally reminds me of old skool Dischord releases and the like. Fast, crunchy guitars and thunderous, rolling beats are accented by a snotty sounding vocalist. He’s got a Darby Crash thing going on. “Shirked Obligations” reminds me of The Faith. They also do a song by a band called Battalion of Saints which is a pretty awesome song. So to recap. Fast, DC influenced band with the spirit of the Germs. Can you really say no to that?
The Arrivals – Sister Series 7”, Razorcake Records
Razorcake is doing a series of releases where they pair two bands together and release two records that you can get individually or together. I opted to buy both records. I’d never really heard the Arrivals or Grabass Charlestons (see below) before. The Arrivals are mid tempo pop punk band with some Billy Bragg in them. But they aren’t so limited just to that. They pull from a lot of sources. The second song “I Wouldn’t Dare” has an almost Black Flag intro that quickly rolls into a Smiths sounding verse. They kind of remind me of the Smoking Popes too. They remind me of a lot of bands which is pretty cool because they still sound like the same band the whole way through. There’s something for every one practically.
Grabass Charlestons – Sister Series 7”, Razorcake Records
The second half of the Sister Series is filled by the Grabass Charlestons. Straight up, the bass part in the opening track “Gone Fishin’” is a fucking awesome. And even though this record breaks my “no drummers on vocals rule” I still like it. It would irritate me to no end to watch this band though. The dude on the mic is pretty fucking good too. They capture the spirit of the Minutemen in their presentation. I mean it’s three dudes working their songs. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Shang-A-Lang – Sad Magic, Fast Crowd Records
Shang-A-Lang is pretty much the reason I have renewed faith in the compilation. No Idea had a free comp download featuring a lot of bands that they sell that aren’t even on their label. Shang-A-Lang was one of those bands. Man, I love this record. It reminds me a lot of The Carrie Nations, a great, short lived Plan-It-X band. Lots of poppy guitars and adolescent vocals. Dude sounds like the kids in Delay (another Plan-it-X band). Plus this album was recorded to 8 tracks in a garage in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It sounds amazing. I am totally in love with this record. You should get it, like right now.
Shang-A –Lang/Brick Fight – split 7”, Face Palm Records
Straight out of the gate you need to know that the cover art work was done by Mitch Clem from My Stupid Life and Razorcake fame. This is his new label and the artwork all around is really fantastic. For a labels debut release this looks really great. The Shang-A-Lang side is a lot more aggressive then what was on the Sad Magic album. It’s still got that awesome homemade feeling though. I reminds me of the spirit of the Pee Tanks , especially the acoustic “Wishing Wells”. Brick Fight have the best title of a song ever in “Please Texas Don’t Hold ‘Em.” They sound like a bunch of kids that grew up on The Dead Milkmen and NOFX. It grows on me every time I listen to it. The mastering leaves a bit to be desired on the overall release, but it’s got enough weight to make it worth while.
Shang-A-Lang/God Equals Genocide – split 7”, Razorcake Records
This release is janky as hell. The Shang-A-Lang side sounds like it was recorded live in their garage, which it probably was. It’s a bit uneven from song to song. Two of the songs are covers. One is a God Equals Genocide cover (they do the same on side B) called “Have You Ever”. It’s the best of their three. Actually God Equals Death’s cover of the Shang-A-Lang song is their best song too. Otherwise they are bit too old skool, jangly indie rock, too reminiscent of bad records from the early 90’s. For completists I think.
Young Livers/Attack! Vipers – split 7”, Yo-Yo Records
Young Livers split with Bridge and Tunnel on No Idea pretty much sealed it for me. The band features some of the dudes from Glass and Ashes now and this song definitely shows that. Some of the melodic joy from their past is gone in the vocal area, but each time I listen to “Volatile” I get a bit of a man crush. Gainesville bands always seem to do it right, Young Livers are a prime example. Crucial song. Attack! Vipers are more on the hardcore side, with some melodic break downs. They kind of remind me of Trapdoor Exit a little bit. I don’t go for this style of music too much myself, but these are pretty solid songs and it sounds really great. Nice crunchy bass sound. This should definitely win over some new converts for them.
Psyched to Die – Scatter Brained 7”, Dirtnap Records
So in the last issue I reviewed their Sterile Walls 7” and thought there was a bit of the Ergs in their. Well it turns out there is an Erg in Psyched to Die. Another four songs of bratty punk rock with a bit of a razor’s edge to it. This release reminds me of some early Lookout Bands, but a little less annoying. I prefer Sterile Walls personally. I feel like they haven’t really found their identity yet. It’s not a bad release, I was just expecting something else.
The Gateway District – Some Days You Get the Thunder CD, It’s Alive Records
This band has the drummer from Dear Landlord in it and one of the ladies from The Soviettes. When I read that it was pretty much a given I was going to check that out. Dear Landlord have put out one of the most consistent, straight forward power pop punk albums I’ve ever heard. And the Soviettes were just a really fun band. Straight out of the gate the packaging and lay out is really awesome. It reminded me of when I first saw Hello Bastards. Unfortunately The Gateway District is not going to enter that stratosphere in my musical quilt. The record has some really awesome songs, but it’s about two tracks too long and the drumming just feels sterile. Over all the music has a jerky quality to it. This might be a part time thing and it kind of shows. To be fair though it does have some of that really great buzz saw guitar that The Soviettes had to them and some of that playful energy is there too. It’s just not quite as endearing. I’ll probably skip around on this album and songs might make it on to some mixes, but I’m not bouncing off the walls either.
Government Warning – Paranoid Mess LP, Grave Mistake/No Way Records
If you didn’t think this band could get more classic sounding, then you were wrong. There are some serious phasers or something on the vocals here. Total throw back sound and I am loving. This album lives on the edge of control and chaos, skipping along with one foot on each side of the line. It’s hard to imagine that most of the songs on this record clock in at the two minute mark because they are so brutal. I am exhausted after three songs. Everything about this band is great. Explosive the whole way through. I see a future of me stomping in circles around my living room to this one.
Delay – Plain Language – CD, Plan-It-X
Since I got this CD a few weeks ago I’ve told everyone I can that this band should be bigger than Green Day. If there was any justice in the world, there would be, and since they aren’t I know now that this is a cruel and unjust world that I live in. Basically Plain Language is a totally rocking album. The recording of this album is probably more crisp and solid then any other Plan-It-X release to date. And never mind that the guitar playing has grown exponentially since the last offering. The vocals are still love-lorn and wonderful though. All the things you love about Delay only better.
The Max Levine Ensemble/Ben Weasel – Split 7”, Fuck You is a Seven Letter Word Records
It should be noted, that under no uncertain terms do I deny being in love with The Max Levine Ensemble. As far as I am concerned they are the only good band left in Washington DC. Music has failed this city, but this trio reigns supreme. So this slit 7” is pretty fucking awesome. Side A features 4 songs by the band, poking fun at punk rock and responding to punk rock dinosaur Ben Weasel. I personally love “You’re Art Monk and I’m Telling Everyone” where they bastardize the classic Jawbreaker song with a vocal intro before slamming into a raging piece of power-pop. The b-side remixes and reappropriates some disparaging remarks made by Weasel on his radio show? Podcast? Does anyone even listen to him? Had it not been for the Ensemble putting this out, I would have blissfully remained in the dark. They end the project with a grand rendition of Kiss’s “God Gave Rock and Roll to You III”. You should get this. Only 220 made.
Religious as Fuck/American Cheeseburger – Split 12”, No Idea
Alright, when I found out Religious as Fuck was putting out another release I was stoked. Something about this band made me fee like they weren’t long for this world. But they put out a rad split with Mehkago N.T. a year ago. Now they are back with more Florida thrash. This album seems a little more tame then the last one. Granted that’s after one listen, but it doesn’t pack the same overall grit. But I’m still stoked it got here. American Cheeseburger offers a similar sound and is appropriate to fill side two. The cover art rules. It may not be a perfect release but it does the job. No Idea never fails.
No Friends – S/T CD, No Idea
I think this is a side project of the singer from Municipal Waste. I am not too familiar with that band and I know I should be. They look like dudes that know how to party. No Friends sounds like dudes that know how to party too. Awesome eighties influenced punk rock with some melodic punk sensibilities. Some parts Minor Threat, some parts Bad Religion, some parts Descendents. This may be a side project but it’s no throw away album. They melt these influences together to make a nice creamy dip. It may not make any waves, but it’s a fun record.
Cometbus #52 – The Spirit of St Louis, Aaron Cometbus
#1. If you have never read an issue of Cometbus then you never officially got your punk rock card. It took me 20 years, but I finally got mine. Thought I had it, but no. This is the longest running punk zine as stated by Cometbus himself. Started two months before Maximum Rock and Roll. #2. I don’t know if this should be considered a zine or a novella but all I know is it’s a great story. I think it’s part fiction, part recollection, and part true. It’s hard to say, but it’s a great story about people living together and the problems and parades shared by unconventional households. If you have ever had roommates this book will ring true. No matter how punk you may or may not be. This story will resonate with you. #3 This zine straight up made me want to do a better zine. It pretty much fed the fuel to make me get here to issue #4. You can thank or blame Aaron Cometbus depending on how you feel about this whole zine thing.
Cometbus#53, Aaron Cometbus and Maddalena Polletta
The fact that I am reviewing two issues of Cometbus is a testament both to the amount of time I have been working on this thing, and how great I think Cometbus is. This time Aaron teams up with a long time contributor for a collaborative effort. Aaron tells some random stories, gives us some poems and does an article on John Holmstron, founder of Punk magazine and the guy that did a bunch of art for the Ramones. Maddalena tells different stories about her mother dying of cancer, coping with that grief and other related tales. It’s a bit weird of a paring, Aaron’s work mostly light hearted and Maddalena’s fairly somber. But the writing is amazing and important. This is the master of zine making here.
Snakepit 2008, Microcosm Publishing
Snakepit is a comic zine written by this dude Ben Snakepit. He draws a comic every day of his life. It’s three panels and it’s pretty repetitive. It’s that same repetition though that makes it so awesome. Despite playing in bands and drawing for Razorcake, Ben mostly just watches movies with his girlfriend, goes to work, hands to mouth it and gets high. Sometimes he gets drunk. It’s a really great book/zine. I highly recommend it.
Razorcake #53, Gorsky Press Inc.
I don’t really want to get too in the habit of reviewing zines like Razorcake, but I feel that at least for this issue it’s a good idea to write about some of the stuff that keeps me going. Razorcake is the last station of punk rock publishing so far as I know. Yes there is Maximum Rock and Roll, the long standing battleship, but I could never get into that zine. Razorcake pretty much fills the hole since left by Punk Planet. It’s not quite the journalistic masterpiece, but it covers awesome bands, has pretty even reviews and great columns. Plus some of the columns are cartoons. This issue has an interview with the awesome Bloomington band Good Luck and a look at punk rock record distribution via the Mordam/Lumberjack debacle.
To Hell With Good Intentions #7, Edited by Trish Georgino
I found this zine at a record shop that I don’t normally frequent. I liked it a lot. Even though I didn’t really know any of the bands or records that were talked about, I liked reading about the record shopping in Baltimore. A mix of music, personal stuff, and random bits of interviews and art. Finding this at random made me feel less lonely in this world.
Give Me Back#5, Edited by Fil
While Give Me Back is still trying to find it’s feet a bit, I feel like this is a step up from what I am doing. I love it to death. I am glad this is being done in Washington DC. I think it’s the most important thing going on in this town. The Pygmy Lush interview is crucial. That band frankly is crucial and I hope that people read this zine and find out about them. In every issue I think they have tried to interview a non-American band and an artist or activist of some sort. I think that stuff is important to hold on to. The record reviews are a bit bighting for me, but I understand the need for that criticism. I think it’s vital to underground art. Also there are a lot of photos everywhere and I think that’s a part of zine culture that is crucial too. I wait impatiently for issue #6 to one day appear. You should too.