Germany has witnessed a renaissance in garage rock over the last few years, the proto-punk sounds of Nervous Eaters and The Dictators well and truly alive amid the roster of bands under the wings of labels like Alien Snatch! and La Pochette Surprise.
Shoving Hamburg and Berlin out the way for the title of most thriving punk scene is Kassel, home to lo-fi psych-rockers Sick Teeth. With members of scuzzy contemporaries Catch as Catch Can and Counts on Crack teaming up with comic zine artist Isabell Rutz, ‘Casselfornia’ has a new and fuzzy mutant lurking in it’s Fulda waters…
SUCK’s debut EP Frog is 6 jabs of superb, synth-laden garage-punk, and hits ‘ya instantaneously like an intracardiac injection with opener ‘Gimme Your Number, an insanely catchy blast of beat-up keyboards and call and response shrieks which rubs shoulders with the best of the class of ’77. Filthy psych works its way into ‘Bulletproof’, frantic guitar chops corroded with nasty analogue keys clogging the thrash with Moogy murk. Double denim hard-rock changes pace on the Sabbath inspired ‘Mama’s Got a Backpatch’, riffs veering between nice and doomy and urgent punk crackle, all held together with Rutz’s commanding vocals, before final track ‘SUK’ ends the EP on a note of pure hot-rod acceleration.
SUCK may well be the most exciting thing in Germany right now, and with Frog, have delivered 16 minutes of exemplary punk rock, full of hooks, spit, and swagger.
Misophonia literally means ‘hatred of sound’, the phenomena whereby specific sounds can trigger negative physical and emotional reactions. The cover of last years single Limbo features what looks like a tormented call centre worker driven to the edge, just one more crushing and useless phone call away from a profound spiritual chaos. Misophonic Songs, like Fear of Music, is an apt signal of the unease contained within…
SANS are a post-punk trio steadily making a name for themselves with their energised and cacophonous live shows in Bristol. Stirring a noxious brew of ‘Naomi Punk’ like time signatures, gargantuan metal wrath and throat shredding screams, the intensity of their sets has been exorcised all too well for their debut album.
Shellac riffing opens the record on ‘Meaningless’, a noise-rock pendulum veering with awesome force between seething punk venom and nimble indie introspection. The cosmic savagery of Swans dominates the eerie ‘Wipe Dread’, crashing, rolling drums pummel your soul amid a cold, static wind, before deteriorating into a febrile ruin of whispers.
(What sound like) double drum pedals are most welcome on the furious ‘OK’, a touch of Sepultura’s ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ explode into a twisted and disorientating whirl of volatility. The thickest, nastiest, bass you’ve ever heard churn and scrape on the sinister chug of ‘It’s Your Party Priscilla…I’m Just Dancing on the Tables’, their more psychedelic inclinations fighting against the ravaged guitar scratching wail that closes the track.
At just 28 mins, SANS impressively take the weighty cohesion of a Swans record and distill it into a taut and punchy mini-album, both epic yet burning with white hot urgency.
In the 1913 avant-garde opera Victoryover the Sun, ‘The Aviator’ crashes into the Tenth Country and is greeted warmly by the ‘New Men’, beings of geometrical abstractions courtesy of Russian stage designer and founder of Suprematism Kazimir Malevich. A futurist allegory on the natural and material shackles man eternally tries to shake, its rejection of aesthetic decadence set the precedence with which Soviet constructivism was to follow, an evolution of futurism deemed so dangerous by the later Stalinist state many of its key figures were persecuted and arrested.
From the ashes of the Franco regime in Spain was another generation of kids hungry for the ‘new’. Concurrent to the emerging German Neue Deutsche Welle and New York No Wave came La Movida Madrileña, a hedonistic and transgressive counter-cultural movement intoxicated with punk rock and hungry to form a new Spanish identity.
With a shared love of Dadaism, sci-fi, cinema, and technology, Servando Carballar and Arturo Lanz (later of Esplendor Geométrico fame) formed Aviador Dro, or to give their full name: El Aviador Dro y sus Obreros Especializados (The Aviator Dro and his specialised workers). Armed with a constructivist ethos and the subversive synthpunk of Devo, the new musical explosion witnessed in the Madrid scene provided a nascent appetite for their anti-system, man machine ‘tecno-pop’.
Forming the legendary independent label DRO records to issue their first single Nuclear Sí as well as theatrical side-project Los Iniciados, pamphlets were issued in various EP’s and live performances announcing the ‘Dynamic Revolution’, a pledge to fight authoritarianism, fascism, and Catholic dogma, all crystallized in the mantra ‘Action against tradition! Death to the past!’.
The cult surrounding Aviador Dro had already gained traction by the time of their 1982 debut LP Alassobreel Mundo, meaning ‘Wings over the World’ (or should it be into the sun?). While the comparisons with Devo were present, the shining anthem to the Utopian harmony between man and machine becoming one and dismantling the corrupt old order is more indebted to the German ‘music workers’ of Düsseldorf than the arch-cynics of Akron, Ohio, as radiantly beamed on album opener ‘Brigada de Demolición’. A hopeful and celebratory Kraftwerkian vision of the future distinct from their post-punk contemporaries and capturing the excitement of the national transition to democracy, the spirit of Lissitzky glows amid strong synth melody’s and crisp enthused drum machines.
European mythology is referenced throughout, adding an air of, dare we say, romance to the futurist vision. Ethereal undines grace the gorgeous second track ‘Ondina’, enchanting synth pop with expert subaqueous vocoders gliding in and out of Carballar’s stirring vocals. ‘Kraken’ is all electro-funk, wah guitar against thick analogue bends and ripples, the creatures of the lake resurfacing once again, before the Minotaur ‘finds a new maze’ in the garbled jittery establishment critique of synthpunk bolt ‘El Laberinto del Nuevo Minotauro’.
The soak of Pere Ubu and Devo provide shades of biting satire amid the technocratic vigour. Sardonic fizz bubbles acidicly on the biting ‘La TV Es Nutritiva’, anticipating U2’s Zoo TV with it’s examination of junk television addiction, and the weary aforementioned aviator laments past glories on the urgent and soaring ‘Selector de Frecuencies’.
Italian futurist composer Francesco Balilla Pratella’s manifesto, revered by the band, featured the point: ‘To promote new work in preference to old’. Celebrating their 40th anniversary and still drawing fascination with a new generation of Spanish music aficionados, AlasSobre el Mundo is a brilliant document of the exciting possibilities of Spanish popular culture that arose from the death of Franco, and still points to the future as optimistically and thrillingly as it did in 1982.
So why should anyone be ‘straight acting’? Scroll through Grindr and every third profile will be seeking ‘Masc4Masc’, as if repressed anger and cargo shorts are appealing to anybody.
The simultaneous message of embracing ones queerness yet fetishising heteronormativity is a contradiction mused by Bristol’s Elliot Brett, producer and ‘father’ of electro-punk/drag/grenade Lynks Afrikka. Armed with a healthy dose of disregard for genre or even format (their first release being a ‘fragrance for the mind’), The Church of Lynks Afrikka has been converting with their outrageous and provocative live shows, a subversive force even within the queer community.
Moving away from the downbeat industrial pop of last years ‘Don’t Take It Personal’ second single ‘Str8 Acting’ is an off-kilter, Patrick Cowley NRG, club donk banger, nightmarish yet fun all at once. Big fat synths bounce and boing like an MDMA come-up, the potent stench of sweat and Joop! hangs in the air while the chatter of drunk students outside the Lizard Lounge thrusts you into the dankest and perhaps most boring corners of perfunctory Bristol night-life.
Drawing from the influences of the LGBTQ+ scene while being mischievous and daring enough to poke fun at it’s foibles, Str8 Acting is another gleeful tearing down of the stagnant homogeneity that dominates club culture. All hail Lynks Afrikka!!!
Neu! Snap! Wah! Monosyllabic onomatopoeia with exclamation punches are telling statements of intent. POW!, named after an L.A. festival called Party Out West where band members Byron Blum and Melissa Blue met, is confidently adorned across the cover of their fourth album Shift, making quite clear that this is a record about impact and hittin’ ya. Hard.
Fleeing the death rattle of gentrified San-Fran, but taking its art punk heritage of The Screamers, The Units, and Chrome with them, POW! decamped to the fringes of L.A. to soak up the grit and broken glass that was arguably missing from 2017’s Crack an Egg. With their fangs sharper and beat-up synths ever more fizzier, POW! bring a heady brew of punk rock, avant-garde spit and the occasional LSD soaked freak out.
When POW! wanna swagger, they swagger with the best of ’em. Second track ‘Disobey’ is a static ridden garage rock banger, Blue’s oscillations tangle with Blum’s corrosive guitar, yet still tightly held together with a god given hook. The snarl of Helios Creed bears a grin on the discordant ‘Machine Animal’, Blum’s growling vocals penetrated with alien vocoders and Cameron Allen’s motorik percussion. Thick slabs of atonal analogues and electronic trash exhale and gurgle on mood pieces ‘Peter’ and ‘No World’, downbeat wanders through the wrong end of POW! town.
Shift isn’t a mere dystopic exercise however. Chant along glam-disco rises from the septic murk on ‘Free the Floor’, an irresistibly catchy number with a big, fat groove and perfectly placed hand-claps. Echoes of ‘London Calling’ haunt the fervid ‘Metal & Glue’, a straight up rock and roll tune and thrilling demonstration of Blum’s solo skills.
Fizzing, throbbing, buoyant, and electric. Shift is a glam-infused garage rock gem, left to corrode and mutate in nuclear radiation, a glorious punk assault slicked with electronic toxicity.
Rock & Roll’s in crisis apparently, not that you’d know it when surviving any one of The Pinheads’s legendary sets. Wollongong garage-rock wildfire is sprayed onto the audience like a flamethrower with front man Jez Player bouncing off every wall in a sweaty mania, all that’s missing is the peanut butter à la Iggy, but there’s still time.
Having stormed Europe and set SXSW alight since their 2017 eponymous debut, The Pinnies have teamed up with Bristol’s Stolen Body Records for their second effort Is This Real, a further dose of acid fried surf punk with Rat Fink hot-rod acceleration intercut with sunny splashes of desert psychedelia.
The expanded palletes of sound is evident on opener ‘Pure Hate’, an 8 minute living, breathing monster which builds from Roky Erickson riffing to anthemic power rock, a confident and bold distinction from previous LP’s opening thrasher ‘Second Coming’. The druggy and dreamy ‘Innocent Crime’ belies it’s bitter core, a plea of solidarity among the fringe and socially excluded, whereas the title track is an unabashedly wistful sing-a-long, deftly demonstrating Player’s vocal strength. The daze of album closer ‘Outro’ (curiously called ‘Spread Your Love’ on their Spotify) is a twisted and strung-out trip, under the influence of Dinosaur Jr.’s ‘Poledo’, with muffled whining guitars that drift off like the waning effects of a hallucinogenic.
Don’t think for a moment that the band have lost their nitro Raw Power however. Face melting punk rock explodes in your face on ‘Satisfied’, a wild mania leaps out of your speakers like an animal, chews your face off for 3 minutes before you hit repeat for another savage. ‘No Time’ is a Nuggets stomper with tight grooving bass and screeching solos, with simmering anxiety regarding the ever polarising world tapped into on the biting ‘Not Like You’.
The Pinheads wildfire burns with the same intensity as their debut, but has the aplomb to dare punctuate the rock and roll flame with moments of introspective respite. Is This Real is a bold and electrifying confirmation of their reputation as one of down under’s greatest new acts.
Europe’s most fortified border lies in North Africa. Separating the contested autonomous city Melilla from Morocco, the Spanish imposed border fence, with it’s motion sensors and watchtowers, has, along with the Calais Jungle, come to symbolise the human catastrophe and moral failure that is the migration crisis. When the fair comes to town every September, unaccompanied minors try to stow away in the disassembled attractions, hoping to escape in the cover of night. They call it ‘making risky’.
Harrga (meaning ‘a burn’ in the Darija tongue) comprises of Bristol sound artists Miguel Prado and Dali De Saint Paul from Nzʉmbe and EP/64 respectively. Initially conceived as a project free of any particular political agenda, the drama unfolding across the Mediterranean grew too great to ignore, and the need to pay tribute to ‘those who burn the borders’ and face hostility from the west which build walls and turn backs.
Héroïques Animaux de la Misère, the third release from cryptic sonic provocateurs Avon Terror Corps, takes a meditative yet visceral approach to the refugee plight with uncompromising soundscapes and collages, hearkening to the experimental roots of British industrial like Nurse With Wound or Throbbing Gristle. The cacophonous wail of human desperation that opens the album on ‘Melilla’ seizes your jugular, declaring it’s moral and political position with the forced witness of the claustrophobic horror of border repression. The volatility bleeds into second track ‘Artaud’, drums of war and metallic shards of dissonance scrape and grate against De Saint Paul’s vocal bile, reaching Anneliese Michel levels of inhuman seethe.
Sonic violence is interrupted with moments of eerie harmony. ‘Phone Recording’ is an impressive showcase of De Saint Paul’s commanding and powerful vocals, with Prado’s hypnotic keys giving an air of incantation, whereas ‘War’ briefly detours into the more cavernous and murky end of Autechre, merciless beats drill with pounding ferocity.
In a world growing coarser and pitiless, Harrga tell us with furious compassion that human life, liberty, and opportunity does indeed have value, and must be fought for. Héroïques Animaux de la Misère is a searing and defiant statement of solidarity and utmost humanity.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the sleeve for [DETENTION] was some poster for a new St. Trinian’s movie, but perhaps that’s the point? Chewing gum, all in school uniform, with guitarist Arvid Sjöö sporting a Rick Nielsen cap, this is a cover which wears it’s love for pop-punk, emo, and flipping off your teacher on it’s sleeve.
ShitKid, being the alias of Swedish musician Åsa Söderqvist, has shifted from her lo-fi eccentrism as heard on 2017 debut Fish, and with the help of partner in crime Lina Ericsson, has delivered a scuzzy sophomore rock record of teen angst, endless summers, school crushes and alienation. Revisiting the bands of her youth like Sum 41 and Green Day, Söderqvist has set out to make an album strictly for ‘the kids’, and what do parents know anyway?!
Opener and title track oozes bratty, snotty irreverence, lighting trash cans and slipping laxatives into your teachers drink without a trace of ‘fucks given’, thick bass thuds with the classroom clock drudgery, before a ‘no regrets’ garage rock blast that seizes your inner delinquent. The grunge punch of ‘SuMmEr BrEaK’ vibrates with effortless cool, a paean to teen infatuation which burns for two and a half glorious minutes, with a chorus so insanely hooky your arm reaches for the repeat button like a sudden bout of alien hand syndrome.
Söderqvist’s affection for Weezer style power pop shines on ‘summer ’18’, 90s alt-rock riffs hit hard joyously, while an expert interplay between slacker indie and hardcore grapple together on ‘Grown-ups are KIDS’. Album finale ‘Lost in a Dreamworld’ is the cumulative and definitive statement on wasted youth, a rousing anthem for every future artist, thinker and musician who was too busy dreaming to care for the football they just missed, or the test paper vying for your attention with all its utter insignificance. Stirring production allows the song to grow and build, before drifting off with an electrifying solo and Siamese Dream majesty.
ShitKid’s immersion in their own nostalgia has yielded songs which celebrate and commiserate the universal experience of adolescence. [DETENTION] is an enthused and fiery kick of a record, which reignites the youthful rebel which society tries to extinguish.
‘Pure uncensored female rage’ is the mission objective of five-piece Brighton punk glitter grenade PUSSYLIQUOR, joining fellow wreckers of patriarchy Pink Kink, Glitoris, and Slut Magic, in the quest to give a collective, sparkly Doc Marten boot square in the balls of the male, pale, and stale.
Armed with a ‘don’t give give a fuck’ L7 attitude and a potent dose of Frankenchrist satire, PUSSYLIQUOR’s new EP PUSSYLIQUOR. what of it., out via their own label Revulva Records, continues their estrogen assault as first heard on 2017s 7″ Wonder, with even greater savagery. Their message is potent and unambiguous on the joyous opener ‘Lady Wank’, an unapologetic ruin of pleasure disparity and the miserable fumbling of boys who want sexy, but not sexual. Rolling drums, orgasmic wails, and snarling guitar surrounds singer Ari Black’s declarations of ‘I can do it better than you‘, before dipping midway with a refractory period and thrashing again to an even bigger punk rock climax. ‘My Body. My Choice.’ is a garage rock anthem of autonomy against the agents of oppression for the MAGA red cap age, before the final affirmation of irreverence and gleeful transgression with the sing-a-long thrash of ‘C.U.N.T’.
PUSSYLIQUOR have delivered an EP which reminds you of the powerful and empowering tool punk rock can, and should, be. PUSSYLIQUOR. what of it. is a glorious and dangerous detonation to the musical and political reactionaries, where dismantling the old order can be colourful, fun, wild, and exciting.
Grace Ives sat cross-legged, hunched over her Roland MC-505 with mic in hand, as featured in many of her promotional pics, is exactly the recording process one imagines when listening to 2nd. Bedroom beats, diary confessionals, everyday musings, Ives’s second release is a breezy, lo-fi hang-out where songs could just as easily stem from the toys and trinkets which adorn her apartment, as detailed on the cover.
A 12 track album clocking in at 22 minutes, 2nd is an exercise in pared down pop, each vignette effortlessly entertained before darting off feverishly, a collection of sketches much like The Residents’s Commercial Album. Despite it’s fleeting length, there’s a rich spectrum of flavours and guises which showcase Ives’s many dimensions, but never at the compromise of her laconic punch.
Crisp, sparkling pop fizzes on ‘Wow’, a buoyant contrary to the themes of neglecting oneself for the love of another, while Ive’s mission to make you dance is realised on ‘Icing on the Cake’, the satisfying snap of the hi-hat grooves along with programmed bass, culminating in a glorious arrangement of R&B vocals. Wistful energy propels ‘Anything’, cavernous voices wail around skitterish beats, before seguing in to the disconcerting ‘Something in the Water’, cartoon drums and brittle keys soundtrack the frantic splashing of ‘something red and yellow getting in your mouth’. Things take a slightly dreamier turn on ‘Butterfly’, a song of transcendence coloured with lazer synths and exquisite demonstrations of Ives’s singing ability, electronic flickers and flutters taking the lyric ”I’m just a sucker for love” off into the ether.
”Everything about me is very laid back, my music is just supposed to be fun, danceable.” Avoiding the apathy which can sometimes plague her contemporaries, Grace Ives has contributed a bright and effervescent take on the lo-fi scene, grappling universal themes of love, regret, and anxiety with an infectious, vivacious, enthusiasm.