Quarterly Roundup Addendum: Moar Punk Pls
We ain’t quite done yet.
Originally inspired by a YouTube rabbit hole that started thanks to the channel No Deal, where I found a lot of what’s featured below, the idea of this post was to point out that punk is still alive and well in 2018. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Man, what happened to [genre]”, and complain about how it’s just not the same anymore as it was in some purported golden age. A careless blanket statement, wrongly deduced from a superficial look at the genre in question, a fact which becomes all the more bewildering if the complainer claims to be into the genre. Surely you can make the effort to look a bit deeper than what is being peddled at the top level, especially with the internet at your disposal.
Anyway, since our favourite Russian-Canadian president Vladimir Poutine already made an excellent start highlighting some of this year’s punk and grind releases, I thought I’d add my two cents to further the point that punk is, indeed, not dead.
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – s/t
Toxic State Records | March 9th
You can’t help but be reminded of the Dead Kennedys here. The clanging guitars reek of police trucks and holidays in Cambodia, and the vocal style sits somewhere between Jello Biafra and Iggy Pop, delivered in a janky, jolting way, interspersed with more ‘ugh’s and ‘huh’s than James Brown at his most coked-out performances. Add to that the drums that spread a bit of a surf rock vibe and an organ, and you might think you’ve got yourself a fun summer soundtrack. Not so; even a look on the tracklist – featuring titles like “You Wanna Die” and “Love is a Cold White Tile” – is enough to tell you there’s something dark going on. Indeed, the buoyant energy of the music is constantly offset by a murky atmosphere, where the reverb is sometimes enough to obscure the chords and the aforementioned organ will frequently stick to mournful melodies. Instead of rides to the beach in an open convertible, this is more like struggling uphill in brutal heat. Instead of asking you to take the fight to the streets, this music has resigned to an internal fight, and the only goal it hopes to achieve is to maybe wring the occasional minute of enjoyment out of the surrounding misery.
Cadaver Dog – Dying Breed
Youth Attack | January 25th
Out of all the bands here, Cadaver Dog might take the prize for least fucks given. Like that breed of caterpillar that eats poisonous leaves in order to become venomous itself, these guys absorb the toxicity of their surroundings that they necessarily feed on and spew it right back out in the form of negativity and vitriol. I guess that’s pretty much punk in a nutshell, and accordingly, they don’t change up the formula too much. Basic hardcore punk song strucutures and rhythms are taken and cranked to eleven in terms of aural intensity to form energetic bursts which usually remain underneath the minute mark. Everything here sounds like it’s conastantly clipping, and the resulting absrasiveness is akin to scrubbing your face with steel wool. This is not about organised resistance; this is about all-out destruction of everything that comes into contact with you. No time to ask “friend or foe”; just assume it’s the latter and never look back.
S.H.I.T. – What Do You Stand For?
Independent | June 1st
Punk is notorious for its simple, three-chord approach, so describing a band’s take on the genre as “minimal” is perhaps moot. Nonetheless, it strikes me as if S.H.I.T. frequently manage to repeat so few chords so often that the result is a sort of manic trance. If you find a song like Discharge‘s “Free Speech for the Dumb” to have a certain hypnotic appeal, I think you’ll see what I mean. The comparison to Discharge is apt in other ways, too, as this is probably the most back-to-the-roots release featured today. No time here for the variety or even melody that later examples of the “Dis-” prefix would incorporate; this is pure, straightforward hardcore punk that maybe allows itself to occasionally micro-dose on LSD enough to see some sort of appeal in krautrock and take the idea ad absurdum, resulting in a soundtrack for some sort of bizarre lightning round of meditation.
Headsplitters – Tomorrow
Brain Solvent Propaganda | June 10th
If you thought Cadaver Dog overdid it a little bit, this might be more up your alley. Think what the result would be if a band like Devil Master threw about 80% more punk into the mix and you’re almost there. While still founded on a simple basis, Headsplitters go the extra ten or twenty feet to incorporate some slightly more elaborate structures as well as some honest to god rocking guitar leads into their songs. While I won’t go so far as to say it makes the material memorable, it adds more than enough character to the compositions to have them pleasantly stand out against the competition, all while maintaining the frenzy and aggression that is appropriate for this type of music. It certainly helps that I’m a sucker for vocals with reverb on them, which add quite a bit to the appeal here. Think of the most scuffed and ratty leather jacket you’ve ever seen; smelly as hell and falling apart at the seams, it was nonetheless some pretty fine leather at some point.
Nandas – EP II
Toxic State Records | March 23rd
We’re back to the super simple stuff here; three chords, basic drumming, off you go. But to mix things up, there’s a female singer this time, who sits atop the music and sort of refuses to be dragged down into the muck. Not screaming or barking, she instead rides the waves with a pretty free-form singing style. Imagine a punk band adopting Siouxsie Sioux‘s sense for fashion but not changing at all beyond that. With post punk having been so quick to leave behind the punk scene it originated from, this makes for an interesting, anachronistic handshake between the two, a glimpse into an alternate reality where neither genre preceded the other and where both can mutually agree that there is not much left to do or say in the face of a hopeless situation, so you might as well dance.
Header image VIA