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Noel's Straight Hedge

Noel’s Straight Hedge: Your Punk & Hardcore Roundup
Noel Gardner , February 27th, 2018 09:05

From Leeds to Arizona to Melbourne, Noel Gardner traverses the globe (virtually) to bring you (actually) the best in new punk and hardcore. Starring: Nasho, Turnstile, Dauđyflin and more.

Nasho

In my December 2017 end-of-year column, I took time out to preview a load of imminent releases by British bands, mostly ones making their debuts, and said that some of them would get appraised properly at a later date. This can now be revealed as a vast, Jeffrey Archer-sized lie. However, it was for a noble reason: a huge, Mike Hookem-sized whack of new releases has emerged in the interim, some by bands whose existence I was unaware of two months ago. So I’ve decided to write about (a few of) them instead.

We begin in Australia, with Amyl And The Sniffers. The Homeless label, who kept their powder dry during 2017, return to compile two cassette EPs by this Melbourne foursome into a still-sub-20-minute album, Big Attraction / Giddy Up. This band’s sound, likewise their ribald name, could have been focus-group tooled to win my instant love, and so it proved: this oily-denimed garage chunter is the best evocation of the uniquely Australian pub rock-into-punk continuum since the Bits Of Shit LP Homeless released in 2012.

In fact, AATS are even better thanks especially to frontwoman Amy Taylor, who looks like an Iggy Pop-style alien rockstar on the album cover but sings of earth(l)y concerns with great, gabbling brashness. “People look at me like I’m a hooker / But I just wanna be a venue booker,” she insists on ‘I’m Not A Loser’. “She’s not a loser!” her three musician boys chorus, in case you pigs didn’t believe her when she said it (in fairness, anyone who says they want to be a venue booker has at least a little ’splaining to do). “My roommates think that I’m a cunt / But I pay the rent on time every month.” Yeah! Leave her alone!

Every song here has at least one great element: if not Taylor’s lyrical tack or unpolished hoolie vocal, then Dec Martens’ speed-wired guitar (‘Balaclava Lover Boogie’ finds him getting his Wilko Johnson chops on to storming effect) or an effective one-off tempo drop (‘Caltex Cowgirl’, from 2016 debut Giddy Up, is somewhere between Zombies-like psychedelia and 80s janglepop). ‘Stole My Pushbike’ concerns having your pushbike stolen; ‘Blowjobs’ might not actually be about blowjobs; ‘70s Street Munchies’ is, simultaneously, not really about anything and a gloriously street-level empowerment anthem. “I’m heading down the south feeling peckish, peckish / I’m going on the train feeling fresh as, fresh as.” There’s an actual Amyl And The Sniffers album due later this year and I may say things like “so here for it”.

We remain in Australia for a cassette each by Sydney groups BB & The Blips, Fatalitas and Nasho, the common factor with these being Bryony Beynon, who’s a member of all three. She’s a possible contender for the probably uncoveted prize of ‘most featured person in this column’, as I’ve reviewed at least four Beynon-containing bands prior to her moving from London to Australia in 2016, and find her endless creativity inspirational, in that it inspires me to leave making music to people with something of value to contribute.

BB & The Blips’ six-song demo is released on the Blow Blood label; the four Blips include members of (AUS not UK) Housewives and Ben Fordree, BB’s other half. With a lo-fi, early Cali punk-via-UKDIY vibe, it kinda circles back to The Sceptres, the late-00s band she fronted, although from the menacing clubfooted lurch of ‘Omnia’ onwards, The Blips sound more bare-wires basic. They’re also more on-table political, lyrics touching on Black Lives Matter (“When is a child no longer a child? When is a riot really a riot?”, on ‘Whinge And Whine’), a broken penal system (“No more prisons!”, ‘Corrections’) and, I think, the frying pan/fire experience of escaping British racism and being confronted by its Australian counterpart “Got no hope / Postal vote / Those stand-up blokes will sink the boats”, ‘Lucky Country’). Exemplary whooping clatter.

Fatalitas again feature Fordree alongside Beynon, plus two members of Death Church, a Sydney band named after a Rudimentary Peni LP. They didn’t sound completely unlike Rudimentary Peni, as it happens, and neither does this five-track tape, released by Disinfect. Gesticulating at the junction of goth and anarcho punk – the opening song is titled ‘Let The Tribe Decease’, an unsubtle wink to fans of The Mob – Fatalitas swiftly descend into a pool of swirling noise, militaristic rhythm and belligerent, ’erbertish vocals. Immense production job on this, notably.

Nasho are a multiracial quartet from western Sydney, and they, like BB & The Blips, make a point of stating that their EP was recorded on unceded Gadigal land – belonging, in a traditional if not legal sense, to an Aboriginal group of that name with roots in this area of the country. At the risk of speaking out of turn, as someone with merely a casual gawker’s view of Australian culture, this seems like something that non-Aboriginal artists are more willing to acknowledge now than a few years prior, which can only be a good thing. Muggy weirdo stomping given extra psychedelic injection by Serwah Attafuah, who runs her vocals through a mess of FX, the more I listen to Nasho the more I’m convinced that ‘Terminal Cheesecake, if they played hardcore… and had a Ghanaian gal singer’ isn’t just a fever dream I had. Beynon has never sounded so Out There as a guitarist; this band, like her other two Oz excursions, are essential 2018ness.

Mark McCoy’s label Youth Attack, prized and cursed by record collectors in equal measure, seems to have settled on a bluntly deal-with-it release schedule: only a few things emerging for several months at a time, generally in groups of two or three. The trio that YA just dropped are all solid, but for reasons of word count, and perhaps not needing to flog the thesaurus to death over three slightly different flavours of brutal US hardcore, I’m going to single out the self-titled debut LP by New York’s Suburbanite, who feature McCoy on guitar and bass amid a lineup containing various other Youth Attack alumni.

Nowhere near as naff or silly as the sleeve art of Suburbanite – which begs the question “why do this band look like they about to drop the worst reviewed disaster movie of 2018?” – implies, this album (despite or perhaps because of being theoretically able to fit on a 7-inch) is just offensively efficient. As in, the songs are just thundering past, snare rolls done to a turn and Chris O’Coin’s vocal bark as eviscerating as it’s invigorating, you clock a heap of inferred nihilism but beyond that don’t really know what the lyrics are about… should I be enjoying this quite so much? Burly fellows, capable performers, playing loud, fast and hard, power translating into entertainment value. Thinking back to various dopey blogposts I’ve read in years past about how the sound of power electronics or warehouse techno is in itself fascist: were these prompted by a similar guilty self-examination? Anyway, I definitely don’t consider Suburbanite to be ‘problematic’ in that way, but equally can accept that the better a band are at making testosterone-scented, leather-skinned HC (and these guys are fucking immense), the more offputting it might become for others.

Granted it’s not the most unsinkable scruple anyone ever wrestled with, but I’m legit conflicted about how much I’m enjoying Time & Space, the second album by breakout American hardcore quintet Turnstile. It’s released by Roadrunner, so representative of a wish to snare a bigger and more ‘mnstrm’ audience than the DIY-centred one which fuels most of Straight Hedge’s content; the nucleus of the Maryland group’s sound, bright-eyed’n’musclebound nu-skool youth crew, has been swelled like a prize pumpkin by super-glossy alt-metal production. It still largely sounds like Turnstile, but the sheen is akin to Bad Brains post-I Against I, or Helmet circa Meantime.

A sheen which they lean into exuberantly, slapping down drop-D riffs which are sometimes more provincial 90s rock club than 2018 basement moshpit, but are pretty dang undeniable for that (‘Generator’, ‘Piece Of My World’). Christina Halladay of Sheer Mag guests on ‘Moon’, albeit with nowhere near the proximity she warrants and set to music that sounds like it was cut from the first Foo Fighters album for being too punky (I mean this as a compliment, pretty much, but still). ‘High Pressure’ and ‘Come Back For More’ are best placed to sate Turnstile’s existing fanbase, in which I didn’t count myself previously, yet have been won over by Time & Space’s arrangement of mean muggin’, posi vibes and pop-metal enormity. Also, they’ve been around since 2010 but look barely out of their teens in their current publicity shots, so playing this shit must be good for you.

What might Turnstile, on a quest for mass appeal underwritten by a large record label and a publicity director who sends bespoke streaming links to plebs like me, have in common with The Shits, a band from Leeds whose debut cassette is called Drink Your Blood and offers no further info about the band beyond the song titles and label (Concrete Block, whose debut release by Soft Issues was reviewed glowingly in Straight Hedge’s sibling column)? Well, I sense an affinity with the golden age of grunge in both cases – albeit The Shits’ golden age, based on the exhaustively mined and callous-handed riff of ‘Whatever’, ends with the 1980s and the catalogues, to date, of the Melvins, Tad and Nirvana. Except even this is understating quite how belly-crawlingly sludgy a sound they generate here – feedback as a constant, all repetition no deviation, Drunk In Hell and Foot Hair alongside them in the gene pool, Kilslug and Drunks With Guns dialled up on the ouija board. Someone from No Form is in this, apparently, and there’s no evidence of The Shits playing live yet. In conclusion, Drink Your Blood doesn’t sound like Stone Temple Pilots and it isn’t going to get them signed to a Warner Music subdivision.

Akne are also from Leeds, also have one tape to their name (a self-titled demo on Nervous Energy), have done a few gigs and were recorded by the same person who captured or ‘got’ The Shits, one Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. Otherwise, I know nothing about them. At all! I can enthuse over the music, though, ten scrambled minutes of good goo that starts with an echoing tantrum and morphs into convulsive, runtish hardcore that flails and gibbers and inserts solos and drum fills into what music doctors will insist are the wrong holes. Might Akne have listened to Lumpy & The Dumpers or NASA Space Universe or Dawn Of Humans or pre-debut album Meat Puppets? Sure! (I got a hunch that, in a parallel world where they were deprived of exposure to those kind of bands, Akne ended up trying to sound like Mr Bungle instead... but this didn’t happen so pshaw.) Do they nevertheless assert their own personality on these songs, and give the impression they might be authentic weirdos in a world of the spiritually normcore? Surer!

Greasetrap Frisbee (Ever/Never), the second seven-inch by Preening, marks them out as key players among the recent spate of jitter-itchy sax-honking oddbods out of Oakland, CA – see also The World, No Babies and Violence Creeps, for whom Preening’s Max Nordile also plays. Here, his saxophone features instead of a guitar, rather than as well as one, and leans towards lyrical, abrasive hard bop where in VC it seemed more like a blunt instrument of noise. On ‘PO Box’, track two of five on the EP, he seems to go to battle against his bandmates, bassist Alejandra Alcala and drummer/sometime music journo Sam Lefebvre, as they maintain a stout postpunk rhythm’n’chant until overwhelmed by Nordile’s slobber’n’blow. For ‘Poison’ he uses his lead vocal role to burble free-associative assonance (“A spigot distills the filthy broth”); ‘Face On’’s tempo ascends and drops, rollercoaster-like, as Alcaca takes back the mic, sounding demanding and snappy. If the idea of Ted Milton’s Gloucestershire jazzpunx Blurt playing with the scorch of Lydia Lunch’s Teenage Jesus tickles you, stop dreaming and start Preening.

Arizona label Emotional Response is run by two emigrated members of UK tweepoppers Boyracer, and many of its releases reflect this, soundwise. They have a taste for the harder stuff, however, and much of it ends up on their Typical Girls compilations, which launched in 2016 and have just reached their third and fourth volumes simultaneously. The idea is to highlight active bands made up of, or at least prominently featuring, women which also have some tangible link to the global punk/DIY culture. In what Emotional Response will surely see as an affirmation of taste, several have been reviewed in this column before – the actual songs on here, in fact, as nearly everything featured on Typical Girls has been previously released.

As such, you might feel a twinge of disappointment over getting no fresh jams from C.H.E.W. or Dauđyflin (TG Volume Three), ditto Chroma or Neon (Volume Four – I’m using my personal taste as examples, in case it wasn’t clear). Conversely, it’s highly likely you’ll discover something amazing and burrow down from there. If you peep Volume Three, it might be ‘Grrl Gang’ by Fatty Cakes And The Puff Pastries (Le Tigre if they were teenagers and/or had forgotten all their booklearnin’), Fitness Womxn’s ‘Living Hell’ (mean girl chastises listener about their ‘personal brand’ and such over lo-fi bedroom punk) or the late-90s garage punk slob-slop of Sick Bags’ ‘Microwave Brains’. Volume Four? Couteau Latex’s ‘Colere Vide’ (Swiss-American alliance creates powerplant electropunk excellence), The Primitives – yes, the British indie outfit turned one-hit wonders turned indie outfit again (still not totally sure they belong on here but their ‘Rattle My Cage’ is choice) or the venomous uber-hardcore of Oakland’s Replica.

A wealth of material to like, then, and little to begrudge. Only one caveat: is the Typical Girls series necessary in 2018? That is to say: its raison d’etre is signal-boosting female radness, and while there are certainly still people for whom scales would fall from their eyes if informed that women could make good music, I’m unsure how many of them will find their way here. Indeed, these compilations will more likely share a cultural sphere with an incalculable number – hundreds without even breaking a sweat – of other bands who could fit onto future volumes. In short, I hope I’m wrong about Typical Girls’ reach, and that those future volumes are in the works, and that some of those germane bands get reviewed in upcoming editions of this column.

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