Record Review: Dark Ages - Vapor

Dark Ages - Vapor
By Nathan G. O'Brien on Scene Point Blank

“You have been wasted. You have been taken for a ride.” That line from the title track of the new Dark Ages LP accurately sums up the feeling you get listening to it. Which is to say it’s difficult to compartmentalize exactly what’s going on here. (Not surprisingly there’s a number of bands named Dark Ages. We’re talking about the one from Kansas City, MO that features drummer Jason Shrout—formerly of 18 Visions, Trial, and Renouncer—and is often referred to as “hardcore punk.”) Yes, in the simplest of terms Vapor is a hardcore punk record. But there’s a lot of manic directional changes taking place within’ these songs that will catch you off-guard and leave you slightly bewildered. These musical gradations lend a math rock, prog-y vibe; not in an eye-rolling, groan-inducing way though; rather an incoherent way fitting for hardcore. You're rarely allowed the comfort of settling into a groove. And the analog recording adds an element of richness to the overall tone. As the cliché goes, this is hardcore being pushed into yet another new direction. For real this time though. In summation there are three things I can say about this record with absolute certainty: It’s confusing, it’s good, and it’s confusingly good. Layout and art-wise, Vapor is another impressive package from the Sorry State camp. For the collectors there’s 100 copies on black & blue swirl vinyl out there. And for the rest of us there's regular old black. Go get 'em.

Originally posted here.


Record Review: Gay Kiss - Preservation Measures

Gay Kiss - Preservation Measures (Sorry State)
By Nathan G. O'Brien for Scene Point Blank

In this current age of ‘80s hardcore worship overload, it’s refreshing when something this original
comes along, even if said originality is the result of a convergence of styles. Phoenix, AZ four-piece Gay Kiss grind and groove forth with teeth-clenching, throat-ripping, temple-piercing rage on their new LP, Preservation Measures. The production is slick but not glaringly clean; perfect for the transmittal of varied nuance. There’s metal-core guitar parts creeping through the squealing uproar, noise-punk gradations filling any would-be voids, elusive bro-free mosh-downs, and vocal outbursts that bring to mind any number of Martin Sorrondeguy or Mark McCoy-fronted acts.

13 songs that average around two minutes a pop, for a total run time of 25 minutes. This thing is a violent ripper from front to back. At roughly three and a half minutes, “Relent” is the longest song on the album and shows the musicians traversing through heavy, art-damaged yet subtle sludge grooves while the vocalist lays down drawn-out, pleading Swarrrm-esque screams on top of it. The final track on the album is a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs.” This is surprising not only for its mere inclusion but because it’s really fucking good.

As is always the case with Sorry State releases, the layout, packaging, and art is impeccable and eschews any trappings of stereotypical punk imagery. The mail-order version is limited to 100 copies on white vinyl, which will likely be gone by the time you read this. But you can still get your hands on the regular copies, and I strongly suggest that you do.

Originally posted here.


Scene Report: Record Stores I Went To Recently

Nathan wrote about some record stores he's been to for Scene Point Blank's Record Store Day feature. You can read the whole thing here, or you can just read his parts below.

Record Stores I Went To Recently 
By Nathan G. O'Brien

Green Noise Records - Portland, OR
Green Noise is the physical storefront for the online webstore and distro of the same name and is run by the people that do the excellent label Dirtnap Records. It’s pretty specific to punk and all things that fall underneath that umbrella but they do have some other genres in their used section. I’m still kicking myself for not picking up the copy of Cinderella’s Night Songs that was in really good shape because the one I currently have is warped as shit. Most of the store is dedicated to new and used 12” vinyl but there’s a sizable 7”s area and smallish selection of cassettes. The walls are covered in tee shirts and notable collectors’ items. The owner’s don’t mind cranking the volume on the stereo either. The last time I was in there the dude was blasting Total Control’s Henge Beat so loud that I was hearing parts of it that I never knew existed. The prices are very reasonable, with new LPs starting around $14 and used at $7. There may be CDs but I don’t recall seeing them. One of my favorite things that I walked out of Green Noise with is a used copy of PiL’s live in Paris album Image Publique S.A.: Paris au Printemps for eight bucks. The store has recently moved to a new location than when I last visited it but I can’t imagine it’s changed much.

2nd Avenue Records – Portland, OR
2nd Avenue Records is a real record store person’s record store. It’s not the kind of place a novice (or anyone with dust allergies) would want to wait around for two hours impatiently looking at their phone while you dig through the racks. It’s the kind of place where you go alone or with likeminded record store people, and with no time constraints. Just walking in the place can be overwhelming. It’s crammed with vinyl, CDs, and cassettes. A large tee shirt selection drapes above you, begging your attention as you flip through the tightly-filed vinyl. Pretty much all genres are represented on wax, but the most thoroughly stocked sections are probably the punk, metal, reggae, and surprisingly, hip-hop. Like many record stores in the Northwest, there’s plenty of Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars, and K Records to get your hands on as well. Prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly. I asked one of the shop guys about the recent Mudhoney reissues and half an hour later we were comparing fishing stories…and I don’t even fish. On a recent successful 2nd Ave trip I walked out with the Pink Turds In Space discography LP I’d been looking for a while and one used LP deeper down the Sacred Denial rabbit hole.

Record Surplus - Los Angeles, CA
Record Surplus bills itself as “The Last Record Store.” And while that isn’t exactly true, in these days of iTunes, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and disposable zip files, the sentiment is on point. What the store lacks in character it more than makes up for in product; hence the name. I can’t speak on the CDs, but the vinyl is a little on the pricier side. But there’s just so much in the store that you’re guaranteed to find something to tax your bank account. While they have punk, metal, indie, and all the normal stuff, what impressed me most was their selection of exotica. I’m not even going to pretend to be a tikiphile, but I was weirdly overjoyed to find an adequately-priced copy of Martin Denny’s Quite Village in excellent condition. In addition to that, before I left I would add Fugazi's First Demo, Y&T's In Rock We Trust, and something from the reggae section to my swelling recently-purchased vinyl pile. Because I can’t leave a place like Record Surplus without emptying my wallet.

Spin Cycle - Seattle, WA
Spin Cycle is a small shop in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood that deals primarily in used music, movies, and video games. I have no interest whatsoever in video games, and very rarely shop for movies, so I can’t speak on those selections. However, their vinyl assortment is pretty reliable. It’s on the smaller side but perfect for the store’s size. In addition it’s well-curated and browsable; the shelves are roomy enough to easily flip through the LPs in a way that won’t leave you with irritated cuticles. Pretty decent punk and metal sections but keep your eyes on the recently arrived area. That's where you’ll find the unexpected gems some Cap Hill resident had to dump to pay the rent, shoot heroin, or you know, to get coin for pinball. On a recent rainy Sunday morning I walked out with Motley Crue’s first three LPs in great condition and for dirt cheap.

Singles Going Steady – Seattle, WA
This is a long running shop in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. Named after the Buzzcocks song, Singles Going Steady specializes in punk and all the tentacle-like excursions the genre encompasses. I’ve made a few visits here and always find something unexpected and worthy of my dollar bills, the most recent trip was Jawbreaker's first LP, and the one before that was the Dödsdömd - De Sju Dödssynderna 7". It takes some commitment, as the subgenre labels for the vinyl selections aren’t completely accurate. You’ll need to browse the entire store if you’re looking for something specific because it might be in the wrong section. Especially when it comes to hardcore and crust. And even metal for that matter. Great if you’ve got adequate time set aside, but probably frustrating for a kid who only has 15 minutes while dad sits in the car listening to the Mariners game, wishing his children were into sports or like, something normal. It’s not uncommon to find the same record in multiple areas. I actually like when stores do this, as, especially with punk, stuff is not always easily defined by one genre tag. The walls are covered in rad punk shit; you'll think you've been transported back in time to your teenage bedroom. Nice selection of patches, tees, pins, zines, and all the punk necessities. Small area of reggae and ska to boot. Guy who runs the place is always friendly, which is a huge plus. If you’re into punk, Singles Going Steady is no brainer.

Zion’s Gate – Seattle, WA
Nestled in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Zion’s Gate is literally jam-packed with vinyl. The layout is slightly confusing, with new genre sections popping up mid-alphabet where another one drops out. When browsing the punk section you’ll notice that it all of sudden it stops at like, L and turns into metal. You’ll have to spin around in the aisle to find the rest of the punk because it picks back up directly behind you...where the reggae is. The overly attentive shopkeeper is aware of the confusion and will ask you several times if you need help finding a section or a particular item, which is both helpful and annoying. The knock on this place is that it’s overpriced and there’s no arguing that it is. I picked up a used copy of the Meat PuppetsMonsters LP for $18 and got home only to realize that it had already been sold used somewhere else for $8. Despite the drawbacks, visiting the shop is a must even if it’s just to check out their impressive stock. They have an incredible selection of reggae, dub, and other Jamaican music, as well as a healthy chunk of metal, electronic, and old stuff from labels like Cruz, Cargo Music, and SST. If you’re looking for hard to find dancehall LPs or that one black metal album you haven’t been able to track down yet, and you have some extra cash in hand, Zion’s Gate is the spot.