By Nathan G. O'Brien
"Sooner or later, everything old is new again."
- Steven King, The Colorado Kid
This will eventually run on Scene Point Blank as part of their year in review feature, but since they are really slow at posting stuff Nathan gave me the go-ahead to put it up here first. (UPDATE: It's been posted here.) If you haven't done so already, please check out our previous installments of 2014 year-end best-of coverage here and here. Stay tuned for punk/HC and rap/hip-hop lists as well. As always we'd love it if you'd leave us some feedback. You can do so by leaving a comment below or emailing me or tweeting Nathan. Thanks!
The Bellicose Minds – The Buzz Or Howl Sessions (A389)
Dark, early-‘80s-style goth/post-punk act from Portland, OR. This was originally self-released in a run of 500 dubbed cassettes. A389 picked it up for it’s first-ever 10” vinyl release. The initial masters were completely remastered, which gives a warm deepness to the overall sound. The artwork and layout and artwork was given a full overhaul as well. Sinister, depressing, angular, and catchy as heck.
Bikini Kill – Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (Bikini Kill)
In 2013 in honor of their 25th anniversary, this influential band released their debut EP on vinyl through their own recently-formed label. This year they continued the trend by putting out this expanded version of their 1993 split with Huggy Bear on vinyl. This includes seven previously unreleased live tracks, as well as updated liner notes and new photos.
“Rebel Girl” still surges forth with all the piss and vinegar that it did back in ’93 and is a reminder of why Kathleen Hannah was the face of riot grrrl. And newly unearthed tracks like “I Busted In Your Chevy Window” and “Girl Soldier” show us why she always will be.
Blank Pages – Self-Titled (Dirt Cult)
This Berlin-based band's 10-song self-titled LP was originally released in Germany in 2013 on Hardware Records. Las Cruces, New Mexico label Dirt Cult, god bless their soul, picked it up for a US release that coincided with the band’s August tour of the West Coast. It’s not as snotty, dumbed-down, or as fast as the Ramones, but their unpretentious approach and melody is similar. They also delve into the dark punk spectrum that’s been picking up traction lately.
Bl’ast! – Expression of Power (Southern Lord)
These Santa Cruz, CA hardcore legends recorded their debut several times before finally emerging from the studio with their cult tour de force The Power of Expression. Two versions have floated around for quite some time but now a third is available for the first time. Titled The Expression of Power, this 3xLP collection brings together the three—all recorded between ’84-’85—as well as a 28 page booklet with photos from the era. It’s a cool snapshot from a burgeoning period of hardcore history. Personally, I like the rawness of demo version, which will come as no surprise to anyone that’s ever read anything I’ve ever written about punk and hardcore.
Death – Leprosy (Relapse)
This is the seminal death metal band’s pioneering second album—originally released in 1988—given the deluxe treatment for a whole new generation. A remastered version of the original album is packaged with a cornucopia of bonus material, including nearly an hour of previously unheard demos and rehearsal material and a 24 page book with updated liner notes and newly-released photos.
Songs such as “Choke On It”, with its complex riffs and shredding solos serves as a reminder that death metal was born out of thrash metal. And actually the same can be said for the album as a whole. It’s a nice snapshot of death metal in its developing stages, expanding from the musical structure of thrash and incorporating more brutal extremities both in lyricism and imagery.
Electric Funeral – Total Funeral (Southern Lord)
This is the entire anthology-to-date of Electric Funeral, the one-man Swedish raw punk project manned by Jocke D-Takt. 53 songs that, to the untrained ear, are nearly indistinguishable from one another. The whole thing clocks in at over an hour and half of music. Although it does come as a double LP (on "blood red" and "beer piss yellow" vinyl) which makes it easy to split into four separate listening sessions if need be.
Frantix – My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic (Alternative Tentacles)
These guys tore up the early-‘80s punk scene in Colorado for only a few years before calling it quits. (Eventually they reformed as The Fluid, and were the first non-Seattle band to sign to Sub Pop.) They played skuzzy, fuzzed-out punk rock that was slathered in total creeper vibes. Like Generic-era Flipper meets Rollins-era Black Flag blasting from a tape deck in the parking lot outside the dirt track, while dudes are fighting over who drank the last tall boy Coors banquet beer.
This vinyl rerelease includes everything they ever did—My Dad’s A Fuckin’ Alcoholic 7”, Insane Tunnel demo tape, and Face Reality 7”—in addition to a handful of live recordings. The song “Dancin’ to Punk” sounds like James Murphy fronting Mudhoney awash in KBD slime. So crucial.
Fugazi – First Demo (Dischord)
It’s been over a decade since The Argument, the last full-length proper from this prolific post-hardcore band. Fans longing for new material will have to accept these demo recordings in lieu of that happening anytime soon, or perhaps, ever.
It’s confusing, as this is called First Demo and is said to be recorded in January of 1988. Meanwhile there’s a demo tape that’s been floating around for years called Inner Ear Demo 1987. These may be the same tracks but with Fugazi, nothing is certain. And there’s no extensive liner notes like there normally are with vinyl reissues of this sort.
With the finished versions of these songs already appearing on 13 Songs and Repeater + 3, the existence of “Turn Off Your Guns”, the lone unreleased track isn't likely to appeal to casual fans. But for the hardcores it’s a unique opportunity to hear a band that’s known for their richly-produced studio sound work-shopping these songs out in an unrefined, edgy manner.
Institute – Demo (Deranged)
Anarcho-style post-punk weirdness from Austin, TX. This is their acclaimed 2013 demo cassette pressed to vinyl for the first time. It's now available as 12" EP that plays at 45 RPM, which is an increasingly popular format for punk and hardcore these days.
They've since released two more EPs, which show them experimenting with longer, stranger compositions. With this release it's cool to see where that evolved from.
No Fraud – Revolt! 1984 Demos (Six Weeks)
Another unearthed gem of 80s American hardcore punk pressed to vinyl for the first time. These are the first demos from “The longest running punk/hardcore/thrash band in Florida.” There are 17 tracks here of cheap beer-soaked, suntanned skate-punk out of Venice, FL.
In addition to a brief memoir by the band’s lead singer Dan Destructo, there are awesome photos, fliers, and other ephemera from the time period. This includes newspaper clippings, including one about the anti-slam dancing rules put in place at the community center after a No Fraud show and another about a high school graduation party they were advertised to play where 11 kegs of beer were seized in a police raid. (Cops must have shown up early because the invite for the party promised 12 kegs.) There’s also a flier for their “Ramp Jam” show which you can watch all of here and here.