Thursday, March 01, 2012


REVIEWERS: Max Milgram (MM) Tom DeAngelo (TD) Tony Rettman (TR)

CONDOMINIUM - Warm Home (Self Released, LP)
Here's a record many - myself certainly included - seemed to be getting pretty clammy over;  the debut 12" by Minneapolis/St. Paul kings of punk Condominium. And who wouldn't be? Considering that since 2008 Condominium have been consistently growing by leaps and bounds, every subsequent release building a little more unease to their tightly wound brand of singular Hardcore pummel. After a stellar run of four 7"s, highlighted by last year's fantastic Gag E.P., I had unreasonably high expectations for this one. I really wanted these three Midwestern men to blow my head clean off with some obtuse, NWW take on burly modern 'core, and though I certainly am not disappointed by what they ended up delivering, they didn't necessarily skew it as far as I would’ve liked them to. In talking with some other fine folk (a couple of 'em in person even!) this seems to be somewhat of a consensus, though by no means am I trying to indicate that this record is anything other than essential, especially by today's bankrupt Hardcore standards. What we seem to have here is an adept pastiche of all Condominium's previous work. Opener Life is Amazing hits the AmRep tag that seems to get dropped on ‘em often (drummer sounds especially massive on this ‘un), Teeth is decidedly Midwestern, like Hammerhead copulating with the Crucifucks and a set of Tar Babies being the result, and Why be Something that You’re Not has gotta rank as the most ‘out’ Negative Approach cover I’ve ever heard. And we’re still on the first side! B-side’s got some more convincingly non-self-conscious attempts to step outside of a traditional Hardcore template, and recalls any band on Xpressway Pile-Up as much as it does the Fix or the Repos or what have you. In keeping with previous releases, artwork remains top notch as well. It's pretty telling that, even when constructing a record that was perhaps not on par with what I feel are their nearly peerless abilities, Condo still managed to make perhaps the best Hardcore release of the year. - TD

CRITICAL MASS - Silver Screen b/w No One Left to Blame (Last Laugh, 7”)
Nicely crafted exact-repro of the mythical, semi-legendary, and at one time completely overlooked 45 by Florida’s Critical Mass. The story behind Critical Mass is one that’s all too common among the late 70’s regional retroactive Punk pantheon; according to the nice write up I’d recommend checking out over at Break My Face, a couple teenagers in the sweltering Florida sun had been practicing their own material for a while when they heard Never Mind the Bollocks and finally got the kick in the arse they needed, only to record two songs and immediately break up due to local indifference. The two tracks they did manage to engrain in wax forever are straight up first wave scorchers of the highest order though, particularly for a locale like 70’s Florida, which isn’t exactly the most celebrated site for early Punk Rock. A-side is definitely the keeper, as vocalist Mick Fazz lays on the Rotten-styled scuzz so thick you’ll be running back to your copy of Spunk to make sure it’s not missing a cut. You’d expect some kind of perverted angle to the story-telling lyrics too, but nah, pretty sure it’s just about a sour TV producer who’s pissed at an actress who used him to gain stardom so now he’s gonna slag her in the press in hopes of ruining her career. Well then! Flip’s pretty cool too; indebted as much to 70’s Hard Rock acts like Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, even early Motorhead, as it is the Pistols or Dolls. The band could play, but it was ’76; Prog was for queers, and they were there to get the job done with the least amount of flash as possible. As usual, the mastering job presented by Mr. Laff has the sides sounding mean and loud as fuck. I originally tried writing this review at midnight but had to wait ‘til morning because one can’t properly take in this record at anything but full volume. No pic-sleeve, just like the 1976 release. Doesn’t look like any of the original 200 copies’ll be cropping up anytime soon, so chances are this is the way to go for most of us. - TD

BILL DIRREN/BILDERS - Six Impossible Things (Unwhuct, 12”EP)
Inaugural entry to Unwhuct’s all-things-Direen-related reissue campaign, this one being the “Six Impossible Things” E.P., initially a 7” released in 1980 in a scant addition of 100, making OG’s tougher to find than a frowning face at your local wishy-washy. I’d never heard these tunes before personally, but recent critical reevaluations of Direen’s late 70’s/early 80’s work made this an easy trigger to pull, and I’ve been flipping it over endlessly since it touched down on my doorstep. Opens up with Moderation, which has an almost British music hall/Something Else-era Kinks feel, though stripped of a good deal of ambition and placed inside an early DIY Kiwi framework. Curious way to start off this particular record, but I’ve warmed up to it significantly on repeat listens. Next up is Alien, which sounds conspicuously similar to all those Wipers songs were Sage yaps about aliens as well, though that’s probably pure coincidence, and an agreeable one at that. Flip begins with the succinct jangle of Summer on the Nullarbor,  a perfect post-Velvets/Fugs/Nuggets hybrid that coulda stayed around for double its playing time and still wouldn’t have come close to wearing out its welcome. And it ends with Dirty and Disgusting which is probably my pick of the whole goddamn litter, sounding akin to the most revered material any better known Kiwi/Flying Nun act would be kicking up a year or so down the line. This shit sounds flawless on a deep groove 12” at 45 RPM, the artwork’s stellar (even though the label was apparently unhappy with the printing quality on initial batches of the cover and will be offering early subscribers a corrected jacket with the shipment of the next record in the series) and the additional inserts is a classy touch for sure. Bill seems to finally be getting his proper due stateside due to the work of the fine Krauts over at Unwucht, and if this one’s any indication than the next installment can’t come soon enough. -TD

FNU RONNIES - Saddle Up (Load)
After what feels like endless nights tossing and turning with my mattress soaked in bodily fluids and peanut oil, the release of the Ronnies debut album (or, at 45 RPM, a “mini-LP” as the Europeans would say), is finally here to remind everyone how unnecessary other music bands who release records on a regular basis really are. The departure of the ‘Ronnies from the Philadelphia musical landscape is still a tough one to accept, but to be honest they weren’t the type meant to stick around for long anyway. Live shows were a kind of sick-Kabuki theatre piece, perceived “success” of each set mainly reliant on the delicate balance between too much/not enough drugs flowing through drummer Street Kyle’s veins at the time of night they played. If you were lucky enough to ever see ‘em, you might recognize a lot of these songs from that ensuing train wreck. Starts off with live staple You Don’t Look So Good, a Feederz styled romp that, along with B-side opener No Difference, is the closest they ever got to a recognizably Hardcore/Punk tempo and sound. But both still stand out as works completely their own in terms of sheer idiotic intensity. Compared to the unfortunately scant back catalog they’ve amassed thus far, this record lies pretty squarely between the sleek and ugly punk of the Meat E.P. and the sprawling dirge of the one sided 12” from a few years back. Its song based and pithy, but the excursions into low-brow Chrome locales remain; they’re just trimmed of excess dressings this time around. A couple tracks, particularly the bass heavy plod of Ant People recall the jagged art rock take on Prog popularized by This Heat. It’s kind of amazing how ambitious the record sounds, and how much they accomplish among its all too brief playing time. Fans of Factoryman, liquid pain killers and not-queer-music in general take note; I’d predict this is one of the few mandatory purchases you’ll need to make all year. – TD

 LOOSE GRIP - Cereal (Bedroom Suck, 7”)
This very fine seven incher finds members of Aussie hot shot units such as Per Purpose and Kitchen’s Floor plowing through what sounds like an audition to get signed to either Buy Our or Gravelvoice (pre- Sun City Girls association, obviously) and it makes me beam like sunlight through a nicotine stained window. Where many go through the motions, these fellas seem purely locked into that precious speck in time where Hardcore was purely a suburban goon ball entity; somewhere between where IQ32 came out and Harley got his dragon chest piece. For those who file Whacky Hi – Jinks right next to their copy of Psychedelic Underground. –TR

MAD NANNA – I Hit a Wall (Quemeda, 7”)
That last Mad Nanna 7” on Wormwood Grasshopper really blew me a new one; so I was all too ‘cited to see this surprise in my mailbox a few weeks back.  Laying an ear to this recent 45 has made me realize these young gents are a rare breed. They seem like the types who can wear many hats and still have you admiring just the shape of their head. Case in pernt: The above mentioned 7” seemed to be a single minded reach for the sun in an almost hippy fashion. Now on this un, both sides seem propelled by tiny, potent riffs that both tingle and chug. Sorta like a Lost Cause informed take on 3rd LP Velvets or Fowley produced Modern Lovers. And although it sounds absolutely nothing like the single before it or the single before that one (on Little Big Chief here in the U.S) they still got me on the line. I’m guessing an LP by these would be a smorgasbord of different stabs at greatness…so let’s fuckin’ hear it. – TR

Somewhere in a dream I guess I heard this U.K. band had some sorta connection to that land’s dearly departed Shitty Limits, so I threw it in on a Sorry State order. And I’m very glad I did, even though Mister Sandman was completely off the mark in this having any members from the Limits in it*. That fucking guy…I’ll punch him in the dick next time I see him. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but the four songs on here remind me most of seeing The V.S.S. down in Jon Hiltz’s basement back in the summer of ’95 or so. I thought they sounded great; like some twisted raised-on-Hardcore version of Bauhaus or something. But then I heard their 7” and it didn’t transfer at all. And don’t get me started on seeing them a year later and thinking they were this horribly cornball pastiche of 80’s synth garbage.  But if they sounded like this on that initial 7” I heard back then, maybe I wouldn’t have retired my tight stripped shirt and pegged high waters for a gigantic beard and beat-to-shit Traffic records. Oh, to dream… - TR
(* = At virtual press time, we learned some dudes from S.O.L do in fact jam with guys from the Shitty Limits. They gotta a band named No that’s gotta 12” coming out soon on the Static Shock label. Huzah!)

TERRIBLE TRUTHS – (Small Town City Living, 7”)
Since Terrible Truths shared a member with the absolutely exquisite Bitch Prefect, I was awfully intrigued about this one, but after giving this more than a few listens, I’m…uh…um… not so sure about it.  Thirty years ago, demo tapes of post-punk regurgitation such as this probably spilled outta the mailboxes of limey labels and never warranted a listen. But if a band sounds like this these days, it’s praised to the hilt. And I can only imagine what kinda squirting session would be going on if this shit was some recently uncovered all girl unit from nowheresville circa ‘82. Much like Shoppers, reality TV and dying of testicular cancer, I don’t understand the allure. At best, this sounds like one of the more forgettable musical guests that appeared on ‘The Young Ones’. – TR

Yeah, I don't know.  This is a cool little 7" for sure, don't get me wrong.  It hits near the orbits of both Canterbury cleverness and God Bless the Red Krayola quirk. Sparse, unaggressive deconstructed pop that’s heavy on the piano and light on guitar.  And it's not that I don't like it, but it just seems kinda marginal or something.  Maybe it would be more impressive if it was from Bombay or Omaha or really any place other than the incredibly fertile Homosexuals axis, with countless side-projects of varying degrees of quality.  Because within that context I like it more than, say, Narki Brillans, but not as much as Sir Alick.  There's just something a little too smug and laid back for it to grab me, thus befitting such a nondescript and unexciting review. – MM

VIRGIL CAINE  - (Time Lag, LP)
A few years ago I was chatting tunes with a freak folk luminary. It was an amiable sort of dick comparison and everything was on equal footing until he dropped the name of Virgil Caine. What? Who're they? He didn't have much to say about it other than it was "killer". How do I hear such a thing? He told me a guy named Nemo might burn me a copy. Why the fuck would a stranger (especially one with so colorful a name) burn and mail me a CD-R? I gave up on hearing it and became outwardly sullen and inwardly filled with rage (fairly common occurrence). Now what do you know? The very same Nemo has pressed it up handsomely and accessibly.  What a guy! And look at the fellas on the cover. Have they ever met before? There’s a long tall youngster dressed like a member of forgotten early 90's Hardcore unit Lincoln, a rumpled bespectacled old man who could be either an academic or a serial killer, and a good ol' ball cap wearin' salt of the earth type. And the music? It's great! Use Virgin Insanity playing The Basement Tapes as a jumping off point. In the liner notes the main guy boasts of his early musical abilities giving him a leg up on his peers but I feel that they're not evident in the way he would have liked. Weird warbly voice, ultra-low key percussion, and occasional awesome clumsy fluttering leads laying down this incredible atmospheric folk-rock. Sometimes it seems so distant and other times everything is comically loud and in-your-face. One jaunty litle number called Swamp Witch has a good timey southern Hackamore Brick vibe but with lyrics about actual monsters. There's an X in the Middle of Nixon has constant nervous leads (Martin Stone need not be fear unemployment) while an odd, odd voice sings about neighbors enjoying the new bedroom and the hospitable narrator willing to sleep in the den. Honey Don't Believe is an eerie and haunting ballad. These are but three examples of a record filled with greatness. – MM


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