Boston newcomers Aneurysm don’t seem inclined to waste time with foreplay on the three songs comprising their debut Veronica 7”. They mix anthemic punk rock with semi-thrashy hardcore, which winds up messy (in exactly the right way). The songs appear in short, post-pop-punk bursts, presented through choppy, ham-handed rhythms and vocals that are equal parts garbled and catchy. There’s no reinvention anywhere to be found here, and none was needed. They’ve nailed the recipe on their first try, at the intersection of catchy and noisy. Complex tones and loose arrangements obscure sneaky-simple and catchy songwriting. Try to imagine if the first Dillinger Four 7”s had come out during SST’s glory years and you’re getting warmer. Aneurysm’s first release covers less than ten minutes total, and could have caught my attention in half that time.
A decade on from their most recent recordings, Milemarker have reappeared with two new songs. Core members Dave Laney and Al Burian decamped for Hamburg and Berlin respectively, and have since recruited two new members to reassemble Milemarker all these years later. With their still-influential classic Frigid Forms Sell headed for a reissue soon, it would be hard to begrudge them a victory lap reunion tour. But both new songs here make it clear that Milemarker are, in fact, back, with an LP rumored to be completed. “Conditional Love” has them still finding fresh, new corners in their post-Devo exploration which first cracked off fifteen years ago with Frigid Forms Sell. On the B-side “Recognition” mixes icy, layered melodies with a cold, decidedly Talking Heads-esque squirm. With every other band under the sun reuniting, Milemarker seem to have actually reformed and barely seem to have skipped a beat.
Despite almost two decades separating their formation, there are substantive parallels musically between Milemarker and Kississippi. Both are coldly assertive and ruthlessly catchy at the same time. Kississippi began as a solo project for frontwoman Zöe Reynolds in 2014, but became a duo after current bandmate Colin James moved to Philly for art school and the two met on Tinder. Which, aside from any novelty, paints as strong a picture of generational gaps in band-formation as you’ll find. We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed was recorded back in January of 2015, and was presumably crawling through a record pressing queue until it’s recent release.
Each of the five songs have a slow, meandering quality, deftly crafted into succinct packages. “Indigo” is the standout track, unfurling itself patiently and effectively, but also doing it all in well under three minutes.
While the Kississippi EP was produced by Modern Baseball member Jake Ewald, fellow MOBO-er Sean Huber was busy assembling Vicky Speedboat with side project cohort William Lindsay. Their debut EP, Two Years No Basement harkens to the best elements of a simpler time, when your favorite band jumping from Doghouse Records to Vagrant passed as controversial. At their most raucous, they hit a similar sweet spot as The Thermals or Alkaline Trio did during their own first couple releases. It isn’t rocket science, but it’s still much more often attempted than successful. Catchy, heavy-head-nod pop-punk done just right may not be becoming at my age. But I’ll still be cranking it up in the car as long as kids keep churning it out, at least in these rare cases when it’s put together this well.
I’ve realized lately, with sub-genres I really loved–noble or embarrassing–that shouty anthem ‘whoa-oh-oh’ punk rock aged particularly poorly. I’m sure it was just as repetitive around the millennium, while I was sweating through a Hot Water Music t-shirt in smoky clubs most weekends. It may be that I still can’t grow a beard well into my 30s, or over-exposure after a FEST or three. But more than the silliest Ramones-drenched pop-punk or schlocky-est hardcore, it’s the ham-handed anthem which I’ve truly lost an appetite for.
Even as the depths of my old iPod Classic were ruining most of my memories of this whole style, Dead Weight arrived in my mailbox. Despite deep mid-Atlantic post-hardcore roots and urgent, half-shouted delivery, even my most cynical self couldn’t write-off Sea Of Storms’ debut. Their sound is rooted in two places; grimy 90s emo-with-teeth, weaving easily between Garden Variety and Engine Down with the other foot deep into neurotic punk anthems, closer to early Small Brown Bike or Samiam. Despite that trail of decade-old reference points (and my own spoiled boredom with most of the ingredients) Dead Weight rarely comes off stale or even nostalgic.
Streaming services have made it easier than ever to check in on fleeting musical exes from way back. It can be a nostalgic window into intense songs from even-more-intense summers. But it can also be an unneeded, cynical reminder that Rhythm Collision or Link 80 may have had ideal timing in my life, even if neither lands north of terrible in hindsight. At the same time I keep getting worst-case reminders, Dead Weight comes along, updating a whole epoch of my melodic punk rock past and dodging genre-specific pitfalls which nostalgia made me forget.
The gradual Wilco-ization of slow, non-metal guitar music has continued unabated for at least a decade. A dull, warm and nostalgic hum creeps into every pore, a depth of tone but little else. It works for a handful of bands, usually in the rare cases where hyperbole from “epic” to “cinematic” aren’t self-applied.
Madison may be relatively near Chicago, though one would never be mistake for the other and the same is true with Tyranny Is Tyranny and Wilco. In fact, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism takes an approach that’s exactly the opposite of Wilco or any of their festival-in-the-park cohorts. Here, a cold and calculating (but uncalculated) mix of tones meet along the thin border between ‘loose’ and ‘chaotic.’ Not exactly heavy, but assuredly jagged—jagged vocals, jagged production and jagged riffs—finding its own haphazard momentum all along the way.
Simple, churning rhythms and slow-developing riffs line up with the far edge of doom metal. But the songwriting and rhythms are much more nimble, with a corresponding lack of density to the tone and repetition. Judicious use of gang vocals and a solitary horn or two are always for effect, never eyeing easy anthems or cheap novelty. The lyrics are dark, with political content that’s much more literal than poetic. And depth-wise, it’s a masters thesis compared with anything this side of Propagandhi.
At its harshest, Tyranny Is Tyranny find a surprisingly natural combination of bookish post-punk plodding and 90s crust punk snarl. It turns out there is a way to draw a straight line through Lungfish, early Neurosis and AmRep’s well-defined aesthetic. The result are five long songs, more bleak, enveloping dust storm than dramatic thunder and lightning-style soundtrack fodder. With nothing flashy about what they’re doing, you won’t catch this in line for a Subaru commercial, but their persistence and depth make an imposing and memorable ride.
“Pillar of Cloud Pillar of Fire”
from: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism // Phratry Records
At this point, Providence’s Weak Teeth are three records, but several more years in. They may be more tortoise than hare, but musically there’s no mistaking their pace for a lack of tenacity. Bands from the more abrasive end of punk rock tend to hit their adapt or perish point within the first couple years of basement flailing and camping mattress tours. Weak Teeth have played the slow game, but don’t seem headed out to pasture as weekend warriors any time soon.
Fewer bands all the time straddle that now-quaint line between punk and hardcore, but Weak Teeth are doing it as well as anyone recently. Heavy on Northeastern post-hardcore, still wanders toward more adventurous punk-leaning songwriting. It shares more specific traits with both Orchid and Ampere, thanks only in small part to the spot-on production by Will Killingsworth. The result is a thinking man’s frantic bludgeoning, but with air-tight playing and flourishes which come off avant garde by the standards of any defined hardcore sub-genre.
Weak Teeth never did the record-per-year or four-month tour grind, and seem blessed with both staying power and tenacity as a result. Having saved up in a sense, So You’ve Ruined Your Life is hard hitting, but also surprisingly nimble. They’ve found a loophole somewhere, never sacrificing momentum for variety; weaving together novel moments without an ounce of novelty.
It’s a sad commentary that ‘get some consistent writing done’ has become an ongoing–and largely failed–resolution, stretching back half a decade at this point. Life, lack of ambition and a couple scenery changes are all contributing factors, though general burnout is chief among them. After years and years, covering untold hundreds of record reviews, it became impossible to imagine writing anything worth reading about band X, who sound like bands Y and Z.
Along the way, I finally squashed an old project/site and even worked a bit here and there on Just The Tip. Like the site itself, ‘All 7”s’ was a concept born out of a childish double entendre. But the more I turned it over in my head, the more I actually wanted to dust off my reviewing headphones. I guess if you want a new cart badly enough, you don’t care if you put the horse before it.
Future editions will stick mostly to the theme of 7”s, though any format of EP/single may be included. I’m planning on sticking with mostly new music, but not exclusively. As with the other reviews, I will be accepting submitted material if you’re so inclined.
Who Would Ever Want Something So Broken and Cheap Thrills On A Dead End Street
Early last year, word came out of a new band from James Alex, who fronted Weston; the Clinton-era, Pennsylvania sad-punk under-underground heroes. I didn’t check, but I’m assuming the news went pretty much the opposite of viral. But once each of these two 7”s surfaced a few months apart, people seemed to slowly and steadily take notice. The songs are a mix of aww-shucks power pop, way-post-Springsteen anthem anchored on sneaky hooks that share as much with Soul Asylum as Jawbreaker.
Taken together, the two releases skip right past the easy throwback routine. Really, it’s more a case of something sturdy enough to last, or the same as it ever was. So many years later, most songwriters would feel like they’ve got _something_ to prove. But there’s a focused feel to everything about Beach Slang, with a total lack of self-consciousness in the songs.
It’s bright, with the easy melodicism of a long line of mid-90s malcontents that’s never overly-sunny. Snyder’s vocals are nasally, but still powerful; able to demand attention without repetitive, obvious hooks or any sappy, writhing emoting at _her_. And, as it turns out, even a handful of months later: these eight songs are verifiably un-fuck-with-able.
Hailing from Peterborough, New Hampshire, Death Of Tyrants have always seemed enigmatic (and being from New Hampshire is low on the list of reasons). To start with, these three new songs represent their first recorded output in the better part of a decade. The songs came out of practice sessions before the band’s reunion for Ampere’s 10-year anniversary shows. Despite deep roots in the Northeast post-hardcore scene (the one with a word for shouting right in the outdated genre name), they’re almost fully instrumental. But considering the strong Wake Up and Be LP on Clean Plate a handful of years ago, I doubt they were simply the quiet band at the loud show, either.
Their music has always been sticky and noodly, but not in some “challenging for the sake of it” way. It mixes twisting guitar and bass lines with a forceful, deliberately-messy feel not unlike contemporaries like Sinaloa or an unpretentious basement show version of Don Caballero. Skipping the oft-effective but just as oft-tiresome loud/soft/loud dynamic shifts, they rely on swirling riffs and choppy, unpredictable rhythm section work. It’s tough to tell too much from just over ten minutes of new music. But if Death To Tyrants picked up significant rust from so much time on the shelf, it doesn’t show.
The recently-deceased Calculator hailed from Los Angeles, releasing these two final songs in the form of CALC. Their LP, This Will Come To Pass, was an ambitious, zero-bullshit version of something that’s usually both: the young take on an old sound. Not too unlike their purist-baiting LA peers Touché Amore, but tougher and more varied, recalling Shotmaker or Milemarker just as often.
Side A, “North By Northwest” hangs its hat on a warm, familiar mix of flailing melody akin to El Gran Orgo-era At The Drive-In and Swing Kids’ sturdy, dramatic bounce. On the B-Side “Graduation Day” mixes in a slower, starker feel and new wave maneuvers which never seem forced. A year or two on, Calculator’s final two songs come off like a sharpened version of the LP. It makes the end of the band seemingly premature, and thus probably perfectly-timed.
REKA formed in Moscow almost a decade ago, with most of their output in the form of splits and collaborative projects. _Dvala_ is a one-song, 18-minute single, featuring a lineup including two members from Sweden’s Amalthea–who are doing a youthful and surprisingly engaging take on heavy prog-metal themselves.
All of this international intrigue adds up to a sturdy, faithful (retelling) of Cult Of Luna or pre-_Oceanic_ Isis, mixed with Envy during their quieter moments. Saw-toothed riff metal as a whole began taking on water years ago. But Reka’s single 18-minute track breathes some transcontinental life into it all the same… The production is balanced and lacking the needlessly bass-heavy, overdone qualities of most heavy recordings. The result shows off depth and vulnerability, which sets this apart from most recent stateside attempts in the best way. It lets the songwriting convey something meaningfully cold and dark, without having to hit you in the head with shameless volume or needless “duh-duh-duh-duuuuuhhhh”-ing.
In amongst several 7” releases the last few years (including at least two more recent than this one), these two songs represent the third in their “Island Series.” As tongue-in-cheek as it is dead serious–first with Iceland and Jamaica–they record two songs each in island nations, now checking Scotland off the list.
“Indoor Wind Chimes” is full-on pastoral, especially by SDF standards. A bright, but never sunny guitar riff, resolves slowly, arriving at a confidently melodic refrain of “No reason to feel any way about it…” The vocal delivery is no less terse or abrupt than expected, though paired with a surprisingly light and user-friendly pallet of guitar riffs, it’s familiar and novel all at once. “Cottaging” follows a similar trajectory to side A, starting off slow, fragile and gruff. As I realized the expected mid-song cacophony wouldn’t ever arrive, it ends up something almost akin to “indie rock.” Or, what indie rock would sound like, were it ever played by actual, independent rock bands.
Both songs find a band as resolute and frank as ever, despite using a set of tones which are downright pastel compared to most of what they’ve been packing over the years. If you sucked at geography, you’d comment how this is likely the product of all the sunny island living in Scotland.