An Excerpt From 2013: A Year In Review
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank
Keeping on with our year-end best-of coverage, Nathan continues to give the people what they want. (You do want this, right?) Here's his list of the best 30 punk and hardcore pieces of wax from the past 12 months. Again, this is all alphabetical by artist's name, so don't get all bent! As always, we'd love to hear any feedback, so please get in touch. Enjoy!
These Portland suburbanites play a clean, insistent style of pop punk that’s been injected with a bit of garage rock,‘80s hardcore, and a healthy dose of classic power pop ala The Buzzcocks. With its driving melodies, gang vocals and upbeat tempo, it’s the kind of punk rock party music that makes partially-jaded old-school dudes like me drag our butts of the couch and start dancing around.
Broken Prayer - Self-Titled (Sorry State)
Here’s some condescending, pissed-off, experimental hardcore from Chicago. Like some crusty D-beat guys let one their younger brother’s play his synths with them but only if he got fucked-up on cold medicine and cocaine first. The vocals, which are on the Pissed Jeans / Raw Nerve / mysterious guy tip are awesome, and the driving force behind the record.
After a lengthy discography of splits and EPs, this Washington DC DIY straight-edge crew returns with just their second full-length LP. Angry, fast, poignant hardcore is the name of the game here. Tough vocals, the occasional breakdown, and mean guitars that squeal from one song to the next.
Cokskar - Repetitive Stress 7" (Self-Released)
Female-fronted grindcore out of Minneapolis, MN. More on the punk side of things than the metal. Speaking in fragmented sentences trying to describe this is apropos, so I’ll continue to do so. Spastic, unfettered aggression, driven foremost by the hyper-fast, chipmunks-on-speed vocals. Clever and biting lyrics when decipherable. 10 songs that are over before they even started. The first one is called “Powerviolence.” So there’s your frame of reference. Awesome.
This St. Paul three-piece started out playing fairly straight-forward ‘80s-influenced hardcore punk, with Greg Ginn-style guitars and all the trimmings, but over the course of six pieces of wax, they have evolved into a uniquely original entity. Their latest EP finds them furthering the noise and arty experimentation that left a mark on 2011’s Warm Home LP, but also digging their claws even deeper into the feverish anger from which they were born. Each component of their sound is functioning at a high level of intensity. The vocals sound meaner than ever before, the bass playing is downright nasty, the guitars are urgent and assaulting to the senses, while the drums fill every available nook and cranny with skillful pummeling. This is a powerful piece of art, and a strong indicator that these guys are capable of taking hardcore to places rarely explored.
Cülo - My Life Sucks and I Could Care Less (Deranged)
Crazy fast hardcore from Chicago, in the same vein of some of the greats. Think Tear It Up, DS-13, Los Crudos, or 9 Shocks Terror but with fingerless black gloves and a red beret. This is their first LP aside from Life is Vile and So Are We, which was a collection of all their previous highly-touted 7”s. Lyrics that are both scathing and humorous paired with some lightning-quick rock ‘n’ roll-infused thrash. Pretty much timeless, and certainly not to be slept on. One of the better bands on the scene in the last few years.
This Chicago trio play upbeat punk, with dual male/female vocals, and pulse-pounding, rhythmic trappings that draw heavily from some of punk rock’s most historically revered artists. Wire, X, Blondie; lazy comparisons, but not at all inaccurate. This EP has three moody, captivating tunes that embrace various musical shadings from within’ the genre. There are bits of post-punk, garage rock and melodic trad-punk at play here that makes for a really enjoyable listening experience.
Deadly Reign - Slave 7" (Profane Existence)
This three-piece unit out of Austin, TX plays a Portland-by-way-of-Scandinavia strain of D-beat. The three songs here are tonally deep, entrenched in modern-day crust, and very well-produced. This isn’t on the chaotic noise end of the D-beat spectrum; rather it’s very clean and polished, in the epic style typical of acts like Wolfbrigade or Passiv Dödshjälp
Despise’s songs are deliberate, forceful blasts of punk obliteration, just as much as they are a subtle cultivation of gloomy, blackened nervousness. By incorporating aspects from the crustier side of black metal, they successfully convey dark tones without compromising any thrashing vehemence. Throat-ripping female vocals are consistently growled, rather than given the “blown-out” effect vindictive the recent raw noise trend. The instrumentation remains equally unswerving; the mix never allows for one player to outshine another. Whereas side A leans more in the metal direction, the flipside shows a band that is no-doubt indebted to the artless D-beaten torrent of classic Minneapolis crust punk.
Destruction Unit – Void (Jolly Dream)
Out of the deserts of Arizona come this art-damaged, freakout post-punk. It’s rhythmic, brooding, and partially psychedelic. Sort of like sludgecore that’s been given the darkwave treatment –swirling, atmospheric yet lumbering soundscapes matched with detached vocals. Think Ian Curtis singing for Kylesa or something.
A rock ‘n’ roll brand of D-beat from Chicago that’s taken the punkers by storm. This EP follows up the much-adored demo tape from earlier in the year. In fact it was recorded during the same session. Sex-starved, pizza roll pimple-core that makes you feel a just little bit creepy. Get into it.
Gateway District - Old Wild Hearts (It’s Alive)
This Twin Cities-base band has a working-for-the-weekend vibe to them, celebrating the good times and letting your Saturday nights roll. On their third LP, the transition continues from earlier works. For a band that started as a one-off 7”, they’ve now hit stride and found their voice. The sound is a strong pop influence that clashes with mid-tempo, guitar-heavy punk. The pop seeps into memorable choruses, and also in the backing vocals. It has a bounce to its step, well accentuated by the vocal trade-offs that keep the energy flowing. -Words by Loren Green.
This is just brutal and nasty fucking hardcore. These degenerates are getting a lot of attention as of late and not for lack of good reason. Dark, gut-wrenching, self-absorbed vocals meet head-on with an unprocessed, strident, airy style of punk that falls somewhere between D-beat and black crust. If these guys don’t break up first, they will undoubtedly get huge(er) and no one will be surprised but everyone will complain about it; which will be kind of a shame because this shit is exceptional.
Iceage - You're Nothing (Matador)
Rather than reiterating what others (read: the Internet) have said about how this record is more aggressive than their critically acclaimed debut (which it is,) how Elias Rønnenfelt’s vocals are more present and urgent than before (which they are,) how the apathetic, gothic tendencies are gone in favor of enthusiastic, thrashing punk (which is fairly accurate but not entirely true,) and how it is not only one of the best punk albums of the year (which it undoubtedly is) but one the best albums in all of music (which is probably true but still debatable)—even though in saying so, I just did exactly that—I would instead like to say this: Regardless of how you feel about a bands intentions, or your affinity for DIY-produced punk, or disdain for mainstream coverage, sometimes you just have to admit that band made a really fucking good record. This is one of those times.
Joint D≠ - Satan is Real Again, Again, or: Feeling Good About Feeling Good About Bad Thoughts (Sorry State)
Hailing from North Carolina this quartet delivered their second full-length in as many years. Catchy, tension-filled fringe punk, shot with a load of ‘80s west coast hardcore. It’s oddly unique and rocks with a driving intensity that demands attention. While the title is clever, and certainly a mouthful, it should be noted that it’s also a play on a similarly-titled 1996 album from Scottish art punkers Country Teasers.
Kontrasekt- End of Destruction (Vex / MCR)
Massive, subterranean-sounding crust punk from the bullet belted landscape of Minneapolis. The bass guitar is so fucking nasty on this that when you spin it, dust falls from the ceiling. The drums will give you a Dis-beaten panic attack, while the guitars grind into your temples, leaving you with permanent sense of displacement. Deep, reverb’d-the-fuck-out all black everything.
With their latest EP, these Chicagoans treat us to some fine face-melting stench. The guitar work is first-rate. Weighty thrash riffs are peppered with erratic fills and soaring leads for a searing assault on the senses. The vocals are a bleach-gargled exasperation of anger and misery, and redolent of the crustier side of black metal. Everything is amplified just enough to give it a really crunchy, unrestrained air of noise that perfectly encapsulates the hellish intersection of thrash metal and crust punk.
Krömosom - Live Forever (Southern Lord)
Noisy and downright nasty crust punk out of Australia. This is a discography of all of their previous vinyl-only material on CD for the first time. It’s total blown-out madness from former members of Pisschrist and Schifosi and current members of Nuclear Death Terror, Leprosy and Bloody Hammer. Totally raw. Go nuts to it.
Following up a couple of excellent 7”s, this is the first full-length LP for this Minneapolis crew. Spun from the same Mecca-like breeding ground as Brain Tumors, Wild Child, Total Trash, Condominium, and countless others, this band plays a brand of ‘80s-style hardcore that sounds like Boston and Japan going to war in a cage match. It’s agro, it’s bloody, and nobody that enters is will come out unscathed.
Nö Pöwer - No Peace (Sorry State)
The debut LP from this North Carolina unit. There are subtle elements of garage and psych at play but it’s primarily raging hardcore punk, with a noticeable emphasis on the noise. It's a primitive and blown-out style of D-beat that’s been injected with a distinctive dose of artiness and then drenched in feedback. Although he’s not stretching the margins of hardcore vocals too far, the singer is still able to effectively convey a variety of emotion. The rhythm section steps outside the Dis zone for brief periods of erratic improvisation, trying as best as they can to keep up with the lightning fast guitars, which squeal and swirl all over the place; driving the band’s sonic direction into eardrum-bursting realms.
Over the course of the past decade this quartet out of Black Flag/Flipper-worshiping Pennsylvanians has held somewhat of a polarizing position in the punk lexicon. With little regard for hallowed punk ethos and politics, they singed with Sub Pop and wrote songs about ice cream and scrapbooking. And they did it all while kicking mucho ass in the rock ‘n’ roll department and shooting a knowing wink at their detractors. Their latest record finds them exploring further “un-punk” subject matter, with songs concerning the dullness of working an office job, checking emails, cafeteria food, choosing health plans, and trying to spice up stagnant relationships. This is what happens when teenage punk angst gets drawn into the doldrums of adulthood.
Raw Meat - Demo on a 7" (Vinyl Rites)
This now-defunct group of New Yorkers, which featured members of Rival Mob and Nomos, played crazy-aggressive hardcore that’s not easily dismissive. Pissed-off, throat-burning vocals grind against a massive wall of fuzzed-out, loud, fast and crunchy riffage. These are songs from their demo cassette that have been remixed and re-mastered, and then pressed to vinyl, with the addition of the Combat 84 cover, “Rapist.” It’s nearly impossible for the listener to walk away from Raw Meat unscathed, as it’s a bruising incident on the uglier side of hardcore.
Up until 2011 these Minneapolitans were known as Thrash Compactor. Along with the name change is a noticeable shift in sound – the band moved into a darker direction; ditching much of their fastcore roots in favor of a heavier, neo-crust approach. The two songs here are molasses-thick coagulations of galloping sludge, plodding D-beat, and punishing hardcore, sprinkled with heavy metal guitar posturing and female vocals that are both snotty and throaty at the same time.
Rough Kids - The State I'm In (Sorry State)
This is super catchy ‘70s style punk rock out of Los Angeles. There are some regulus rock ‘n’ roll parts, and a bit of new wave, but the emphasis on traditional guitar-driven Brit punk is the most apparent. A nice reminder that before punk got all muddled up in subgenres it thrived in simplicity. Sloppy in all the right places, concise, totally rockin’, and absolutely not to be missed.
This Tulsa trio plays straightforward, catchy punk ‘n’ roll in the vein of early ‘80s UK Oi!, and they do it exceptionally well. The Oppressed and Blitz influences are easily detectable. Lead singer Chad Malone’s lyricism, which focuses primarily on anti-fascism, beer, buddies, and futbol anthems, is dispatched appropriately via his gruff-voiced delivery. The production is thick and stuffy, with a peculiar familiarity to it that’s hard to pinpoint exactly. It's like an old Sham 69 record playing on your parent’s turntable – it exudes a general feeling of something historical.
Shaved Christ - Bad Mind 7" (Bakery Outlet)
Aggressive, despondent hardcore from Athens, GA. A throwback to the ‘80s era of hardcore that sprouted up across America, giving life to bands like Middle Class, Articles of Faith, Scream, and countless others. The soundtrack to your teenage years has come back to kick you in your middle-management, cubicle-dwelling ass. Go out the parking lot, spray paint “Fuck This Life” on the hood of your boss's car, and then dance on the roof of it while drinking a forty.
Charging out of Southern California, these hostile fuckers unleash a pissy, self-loathing USHC brand of vitriol of onto the boot-strapped, Canadian-tuxedoed masses. Beating on your undeserving eardrums with grating guitars and squealing, snotified vocals, this LP clocks in at fewer than 10 minutes. And that’s about how much time it will take to recover from the headache they just gave you. You're welcome.
Useless Eaters - Hypertension (Jeffery Drag)
Weirdo garage punk with some surf and new wave-y parts from Nashville, TN. In a mixing bowl, combine a small amount of The Stranglers and Gang of Four. Then blend in generous helpings of Jay Reatard, Ty Segall, and Digital Leather. Bake at 420 and serve cold with a side of Adderall.
Awesome band comprised of women from NYC and Minneapolis. Super fast, bass-driven hardcore punk with a stitch of D-beat tossed in. The raw lyricism shows a bleak societal outlook; topics range from perceived gender role frustration to insomnia to the pain of seeing punks lose their life to addiction. The recording is under-produced; giving it a demo-like quality that is really fucking rad. It has certain air of distortion and feedback that’s not completely blown-out but bordering just near it. Don’t miss this one.
Wild Child - Self-Titled 7" (Deranged)
Out of Minneapolis comes seven inches of manic hard punk, played with sloppy aggression. The guitars are hollow-ish, clanky and fast while the drums and bass race along, seemingly on their own accord with little regard for things like holding the beat. The snotty, Darby Crash-like vocal styling of the singer lends a bit of early-LA punk to the overall feeling. The recording perfectly encapsulates the raw intensity and reckless abandon with which these guys attack their art.
You can check out Scene Point Blank's entire 2013: A Year In Review feature here.
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