Punk

Sex 2 ‘Sex 2’

Remember XX Teens, an art-punk, alt-disco band of sorts from the tail-end of the 2000s whose Google results would yield a world of accidental hardcore? Searching for San Clemente’s Sex 2 are wrought with similar pitfalls but spiked with a queasy dose of contemporary, political rot: ‘ANTIHERO949‘ advertising his alleged ‘lingual prowess’ in local hook-ups site confounds against alt-right slime clogging some forum with their transphobia dressed-up as ‘defending the pillars of society’. Unwittingly no doubt, but Sex 2 in their own irreverent way lifted the lid on American society and exposed the fester of desperation and insecurity that lurks underneath.

Sex 2’s scuzzy splurge of lo-fi, punk thrash feels inexorably linked to the polluted waters of Doheny Beach, one can imagine their self-titled EP landing on the table of White Glove Records soaked and clammy with seaweed and used condoms. A garbled phone call from an irate customer opens the first track ‘Doheny State Beach Visitor Center’ before plunging into a satisfying dirge of Bleach style grunge and shout-along vocals. Sluggish stoner sludge clobbers on the oozing ‘Sex 2 On The Beach’, the vocalist spitting “I do whatever the fuck I want, this is my beach” as he takes a piss all over the surf culture of sunny OC.

The band make further public nuisances of themselves on ‘Biking Under The Influence’, crashing headfirst over the handlebars into the strung-out psych-blast of ‘Take So Long’ containing an electric, LSD soaked solo while you nurse a broken nose and scour the pavement for your bag of MDMA. A brief moment of echoing contemplation veils the obscured monologue of penultimate track ‘Fuck Sex 2’ before launching into the pummeler ‘Ashley Wants a New Porsche’, a furious charge of DC hardcore that ends with the opening drum beat from what sounds like Devo’s ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and a pastiche of Dr. Dre G-funk reminding us that tongues (perhaps ANTIHERO949’s) are firmly in cheek.

Authentically conjuring the proud punk heritage of California and injecting a sardonic bite that feels vigorously current, Sex 2 is an adrenaline shot of derisive snot which gets you through another day in the upside-down sump of the Trumpian landscape.

Special Interest ‘The Passion Of’

“I don’t believe in safe spaces” singer and artist Alli Logout scoffs in an interview with OMG.Blog. The danger that hung in the air of post-punk acts like Throbbing Gristle or Suicide was only reflective of a sick world consumed with violence and the thin, veneer of civilisation society deludes itself with. Throw in nationalist fervour and virulent entitlement from an enraged white demographic who would sooner see concentration camps than equal social standing for all citizens, then ‘safety’ increasingly becomes the preserve of the privileged few. When toxic prejudice sneers confidently in paramilitary garb and an AR-15, navigating the dystopian Trumpscape as a minority of any kind is inherently wrought with threat. If Logout doesn’t feel safe in the hostile cesspool of 2020, why should you?

All eyes are on New Orleans right now, the historic cultural melting-pot witnessing a unique and new wave of murky synth acts such as Static Static, Pscience, and Tuffy. Rising from the Mississippi backwaters and spearheading the city’s electro-underground is Special Interest, a synthpunk glam quartet spiked with no-wave nihilism and industrial venom. Named after the s̶e̶e̶d̶y̶ fun corners of old VHS stores where one would find cult movies, horror and porno, their namesake spirit of transgression and provocation fuel frontwoman Logout’s volatile performance style and the bands abrasive anarcho assault. Dropping second album The Passion Of, Special Interest invites us to make sense of the confusing miasma of rapacious capital and a world in flames.

The corrosive potency first unleashed on prior LP Spiraling still burns with acidic ferocity. The thematic centrepiece of the record ‘Homogenized Milk’ brutally attacks the necrotic agents of gentrification with a pummeling beat-down of discordant squall and fuzzy drum machines succinctly illustrating the gaping, slavering maw of market greed. Maria Elena’s guitar cuts thrillingly through the cavernous cynicism of ‘With Love’, instilling an urgency that propels the end sentiment of one’s pursuit of happiness at all costs. Cheap hedonism to stave off the grinding, gnawing boredom is both celebrated and commiserated on the adrenaline jolt of ‘Disco III’, a sordid and defiant embrace of debauchery and unapologetic pleasure yet touches the void which “sodomy and LSD” perhaps tries to fill.

There’s a beguiling groove beneath their caustic onslaught. The club swagger of ‘All Tomorrow’s Carry’ belies the acerbic observations of malignant urban planning, Ruth Mascelli conjuring the spirit of Iggy Pop’s ‘Nightclubbing’ with her steady, processed beat and eerie keys, while Logout shows just how raw and soulful her vocals can be on the electrifying ‘A Depravity Such As This…’. The albums secret weapon is its penultimate track ‘Street Pulse Beat’, a radiant moment of euphoric respite which hypnotically soars above the post-punk smog with stirring synth choirs and delicate, chiming timbres scoring the dark heartbeat of a city filled with lost souls seeking sexual or chemical escape.

Special Interest has synthesised the acidic bite of abrasive noise-rock with the bombast of glam to produce a synthpunk beast entirely their own. The Passion Of is a thrilling sophomore effort which forges new sonic territory for the band and explores the claustrophobic terror of the modern age with savage precision.

Bob Vylan ‘We Live Here’

“If I wanna fucking rush you, you’ll get rushed” confesses rapper and frontman Bob Vylan on the acidic ‘England’s Ending’. To navigate life with a spotless moral record is a privilege rarely afforded to the disenfranchised and oppressed, moral scruples no currency to those surviving a world of austerity assault and community erosion. For the working class who has no stake in society and marginalised communities cast further aside by the rabid demands of white-centric capital, what reason is there to adhere to the principles dictated by your enemy?

This burning seethe boiling across both sides of the Atlantic has fueled the London duo Bob Vylan. A punk/rap/grime hydra whose politically-charged assault has seen them winning support slots in America and being included in NME’s ‘100 New Essential Artists for 2020‘, have dropped second album We Live Here entirely independently and amid a backdrop of turmoil, protest, and a world teetering on the brink. Switching targets from Dread‘s savagery of gentrification to the death throes of English exceptionalism, the roses, lions and blackletter font which adorns the cover point to an ugly nation mired with imperial hangover, diminishing status and eating itself in its nativist confusion.

We Live Here blasts through its near 18 minutes with ephemeral potency, every riff, beat, and lyric urgent and essential. The title track is an explosive punk blast of rage against the racist rot festering under the St. George’s flag. Opening with the resentful quip of a neighbour nostalgic of the time before “you lot got here”, Bobb13 Vylan’s steady drums pace along with Bobby’s savage revelations of the racial abuse experienced in childhood and dissecting prejudice masquerading as ‘patriotism’. Fever 333‘s Jason Aalon Butler lends his vocal skills to the groove metal fierce of ‘Pulled Pork’, an indignant scream against every greasy, cop intoxicated with their power and excited by their licensed violence. Slyly referencing Body Count’s Cop Killer, Vylan’s correction of Ice-T’s original lyric to “n****r killer killer” is a powerful condemnation of every minority murdered by law enforcement, be it Tottenham or Minnesota. Vylan’s love of MDC rears its head on pummeler ‘Save Yourself’, ferocious percussion and DC style hardcore defiantly imploring you to believe in yourself in a world that perhaps doesn’t believe in you.

A courageous vulnerability characterises this record on a greater level than prior records. The intro track is a naked stream-of-consciousness, an exorcism of trauma, transgressions, and demons that gnaw and haunt. It’s starkly intimate, almost voyeuristic, Vylan dropping names of those that racially abused him and friends tragically lost, you can hear pain bristling underneath his flow. If the title track is arguably the thematic centerpiece of the album, the intro is its tortured soul. ‘Northern Line’ reaches for a more universal study of anguish, the terrible introspective battle one can have with commercial parasites, tabloid hate-mongering and commuter paranoia in a despondent capital city, like ‘Going Underground’ for the Brexit generation. Perhaps the album’s most significant moment is also its simplest, a final track of pure silence which forces you to both reflect on the beating you’ve just taken but also how you may have complacently been part of the problem.

As the world grows coarser and more pitiless, the fight against the stagnant and corrupt system combats with greater resolve and determination. We Live Here articulates with furious insight the daily war against white supremacy many have no choice but to fight and dares to lift the lid on the misguided, blue-collar army who swears allegiance to a flag that has done nothing for them.

We Live Here

Armitage Shanks ‘Casual Employment’

Does any other brand have greater ubiquity in the British cultural landscape than Armitage Shanks? Usually lost under a film of days old piss, green lime build-up and a sprinkling of old pubes for good measure, its flourish logo has an unrivalled corporate authority and near-monopoly on our most base needs. It’s fitting too. The capitalist pretence that market reward is there for the taking should you have sufficient tenacity and drive is a cruel joke to every overworked and underpaid worker expected to give maximum labour for minimal wage. We all feel it, that the world is broken and geared to serve billionaire wealth hoarders, and that society is slowly swirling down a toilet of creeping fascism, environmental catastrophe and grotesque wealth disparity. If Tory, austerity Britain has a sponsor, it’d be the U.K.’s leading bog manufacturer.

“I’d have a hard time caring on minimum wage so I certainly won’t do it for free!” yelps Maisie Gilchrist on the rallying ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk (I’m Here For A Latte)’. Armed with Marxist resolve, Gen Z defiance and a cheap synthesizer, Aussie ‘Trotpop’ duo Armitage Shanks scores their yearning for class war with spoken-word style poetry and minimalist electronics attacking the miasma of neoliberal stagnation we’re all forced to participate in. The title of their debut tape Casual Employment states firmly where their solidarity lies and whose in the firing line of their cutting satire.

The bite that lurks within the observational jest across the 7 tracks (final track ‘School Boycott’ a bonus for fee-paying supporters) stings with familiarity. The choking busyness of the modern age, liberal hypocrisy, exploitative bosses, customer meltdowns, and the yearning for some basic fucking infrastructure all deeply felt and experienced symptoms of the failing social experiment which Gilchrist and fellow keyboardist Angus Clarke explore succinctly and savagely. Their lyrical attack is at their most hilarious and pugnacious on the piquant ‘I Hate Every Vegan Except Myself’, tearing apart the feeble futility of ‘green capitalism’ aided by Sleaford Mods style languid bass and hazy keys, Gilchrist’s sneering opine “if only you cared about refugees as much as vegan cheese” dripping with acidic accuracy. The aforementioned ‘I’m Not Here For Small Talk…’ is a paean to every stressed hospitality employee navigating a quagmire of low-pay, ‘low-skill’ attitudes and nearing explosion, the rising blood pressure spurred by punchy, tight drum machines.

Occasional detours into surreal eccentricity provide different avenues to explore their progressive musings. The politics of space and the questionable judgments of what is ‘problematic’ within it are explored on the contemplative ‘The Pigeon Song’, muffled, buoyant synths jump and dart against an account of a pigeon’s extermination due to the fickle criteria of ‘public nuisance’. Their catchiest track, ‘Bug Beat 02’, is also their most puzzling: a curious declaration of affection for ones pet stick insects atop cool drum breaks and a simple yet infectious synth melody. These beguiling diversions create moments of evocations that stimulate the cerebral side while still retaining their sharp humour.

Novara Media‘s Ash Sarkar lamented the ‘dour cultishness and pomposity’ that plagued the public perception of the left for years, and that the road to communism needn’t be dominated by Soviet-style authoritarianism and grey edifices of bureaucracy, but that liberating people from the material and psychological shackles of rabid capitalism can and should be ‘joyful and exuberant’. Armitage Shanks’s Casual Employment tape demonstrates this perfectly: that Marxist rigour and class struggle can be colourful, freeing, and most importantly, fun.

Dummy ‘Comedy Rock!’

If you don’t laugh you’ll cry. Us 20/30 something’s are a stretched, inside-out bunch, pulled apart by unending labour extraction, fascist ascendancy and certain environmental catastrophe, we’ve developed an uncanny ability to have a good time in the face of such nihilism. Throw an unprecedented, global viral pandemic in the mix and our last recourse is to usher in the new wave of weird, warped and slimy egg punk for the topsy-turvy end times.

Comedy Rock! is the second release from Dummy, being one of the many projects of Minnesotan Sean Albert including Belly Jelly, QQQL and Skull Cult. Taking lo-fi DIY to its nth degree, primitive drum machines, atonal keyboards and fuzzy guitars are all handled by Albert himself, all buzzing together in a fizzy bottle rocket of corrupted energy.

Fervent punk vigour is firmly established on first track ‘Personal Panopticon’, riff attacks hack and slice then switch to jerky picking all saturated with a goop of unintelligible vocal gunge. This fungal fusion of punk urgency and psych effects course throughout the tape but Albert’s musical dexterity allows for other flavours to keep things from being one note. ‘Nights’ is a gloriously upbeat number, tinny rock infected with poppy synth melodies sound like a Cars or Cheap Trick song were it desecrated beyond recognition. Alien slacker warbles and squeals on the distorted ‘Insulated’, D.C. hardcore pummels in the fog of loops and trickery straight out of the more aggressive end of Locust Abortion Technician.

Bent, broken, and crooked, Comedy Rock! is the perfect soundtrack to our collective navigation of a world growing more farcical every day, channeling the pervading confusion in its pulverised compositions and offering a streak of cathartic verve deep within the sputtering pulp.

Moron’s Morons ‘Looking For Danger’

How does garage rock get away with it? The stripped-down fuzzy fury from The Stooges through to the current ‘Kasselfornia‘ scene via 90s revivalists The Mummies never fails to hit ‘ya no matter how little its formula is messed with. If it ain’t broke an’ all that…

The undying appeal of scuzzy R ‘n’ R has found its way to Poland, four Warsaw misfits called Moron’s Morons adding heavy early 80s hardcore with a nasty hock of punk phlegm to their garage rock swag and unleashing Looking For Danger, a debut album as raw ‘n’ rattling as it gets.

Barely touching half an hour, Looking For Danger is the product of a band that wanna tear your face off. Lawless Dick Stingher’s opening bass attack on first track ‘Rise With Me’ makes things real fucking clear as to the character of this record: loud, fast an’ snotty. Like a cross between The Damned’s ‘Love Song’ and ‘Ace of Spades, frontman Philo Phuckface spits vocal blows mired within John Pauly Shores II’s chainsaw guitars and Turd Awesome’s percussive pummeling. You can’t quite make out what Phuckface is saying, but who cares when the lo-fi production is so urgent and electric.

Their love for punk’s many hybrids and iterations jostle and shove for your attention. 60s psych keys hammer away on the blistering ‘Wonderlust’ adding a touch of Farsifa style head feeding, while Pauley Shore’s shredding chops are gloriously demonstrated on the nitro-fuelled ‘Sidewalk Service’. Pure DC hardcore torches like a flamethrower on the raucous ‘Noise Addiction’, Phuckface’s screams at times kinda sounding like Bad Brains’ H.R. A little of that Little Richard ivory tinkle wears an affection for 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll on its sweaty sleeve on the giddy ‘Poor man’s Riffs and Ten Years Too Late’, a standout cut which suggests gallows self-deprecation at their worship at the altar of ‘learn three chords’ rock.

Living For Danger is garage punk par excellence. Every riff hacks, every beat kills, and their projectile gob never misses its target (your face). It’s filthy, it’s juvenile, and it’s fucking great!

Lightning Bolt ‘Sonic Citadel’

It shouldn’t work. White hot, Raw Power punk urgency shouldn’t be able to be sustained across 25 years and seven albums, yet Providence noise duo Lightning Bolt’s latest album Sonic Citadel is another explosion of a record which delivers their signature thrash beat down but also shows new dimensions for the band behind the chaos.

Their reputation for guerrilla style spontaneity is channelled with visceral clarity throughout Brian Gibson’s heavy chug and the wild drumming of Brian Chippendale, the opening blast of ‘Blow to the Head’ transports you to the kind of gigs Hawkwind played during their Space Ritual era, frenzied, sweaty, and pupils very much dilated. ‘Hüsker Dön’t’s sharknado of Chrome warped vocals and furious riffing is an electric six minutes that swings you around the room, then just when you’re trying to figure out what hit ‘ya ‘Big Banger’ pummels with greater acid friend intensity.

Despite the aggression and the racket, there is a joyous affirmation of the power of wild abandon that bristles at the core. ‘Don Henley In The Park’ let’s sun soaked splashes of tripped out guitar picking allow for a moment of psychedelic respite, and the fuzzy strut of ‘All Insane’ shows the bands penchant for a good tune, latent in previous LP’s but now open with giddy enthusiasm.

The seventh strike of Lightning hits harder than ever, with greater primitive barbarity, but with new strung-out spaces of intrigue. Sonic Citadel is a glorious confirmation that the power of Lightning Bolt shows no sign of waning anytime soon.

Part Time ‘Modern History’

David Loca is a busy man. With six albums and a plethora of EPs and collaborations behind him across ten years, it’s an astonishing feat that his seventh studio album under the Part Time moniker is as rich and brimming with sunny psych vigour as much as it does.

Modern History is a 19 track toy box of a record, a collage of lo-fi experiments all held together by silky enchanted production in the vein of Aerial Pink or Puro Instinct. Sharing similarities with Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, a True Star, there’s a wealth of material which deftly balances scope with a breezy buoyancy.

Expert, catchy-as-hell pop belies the troubled reflections on the glistening ‘Everyone’s Got a Gun’, a distillation of contemporary unease and anxiety that haunts American society with a hazy hue of radiant keys and jerky bass. An affection for childlike simplicity is present on the wistful ‘The Adventures of Sally the Sea Turtle, a gentle sing-a-long replete with whistles and the ocean shore which could easily have been one of Lennon’s more playful cuts off The White Album.

The various skits and instrumentals sprinkled throughout are equally as beguiling. The chunky pound of ‘Famously Lame’ swaggers confidently with electro-pomp, whereas the sprightly ‘Mints’ glows with dreamy synths and taut drum machines. Each jam is a little vignette, sketches both lush yet effortlessly captured.

With Part Time arguably being one of the progenitors of the new wave of West Coast psyche artists, Modern History is another ethereal and fantastic record from David Loca which enthrals with its expert bedroom psychedelia.

Elizium ‘ELIZIUM’

Subtly operating off the L.A. radar is lo-fi post-punk outfit Elizium, consisting of rather obliquely named duo WL and SM. With little social media presence and scant information of the band, Elizium quietly slipped their self-titled demo EP to little fanfare, although one could mistake its demo production with characteristic tape hiss. The quiet release of ELIZIUM and the semi-anonymous nature of the band belie just how fantastic the EP is.

The urgent snap of steady snares and grooving bass swirl against WL’s muffled vocals and synth lines on opener ‘Monotonie’, the motorik drive given greater acceleration with tight punk riffing. ‘Reflection’ is a wistful and slightly sombre wander through foggy keyboards and damp drum machines held together by rich synth-strings before the cavernous crunch of ‘Promises’ takes the EP into more menacing electro territory. EP closer ‘EZ’ ends on a note of dreamy shoegaze punctuated with the industrial chug of abrasive percussion, the whispers that percolate within vying for attention.

WL and SM have hinted at an intriguing and infectious future of psychedelic punk with ‘ELIZIUM’, a promise of an exciting path ahead of tripped-out grooves which bites as well as soars.

SUCK ‘Frog’

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.