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Noel’s Straight Hedge: Your Punk & Hardcore Big Hitters Of 2018
Noel Gardner , December 17th, 2018 10:04

Do you like to soften your nihilism with hard-boogie geetar? Is queer tech-grind your go-to antidote for global socio-political meltdown? Do you rail against the mindless barbarism of austerity with help from mind-walloping noisepunk? Then this, dear friend, is the end-of-year list for you

detail from the cover of Geld’s Perfect Texture

Another year closer to global apocalypse and, much like the last two times this column sat down to mull the year in topical punk and hardcore, it’s not really a thing that’s top o’ the agenda. Possibly because nobody has figured out a way to make singing about deforestation and microbeads sound cool in the same way they did nuclear sunrises and napalm-scorched children.

That’s a roundabout way of saying that there’s not much new to report on political/ideological/social developments in the body of this enduring and unkillable subculture. Ample cis white men, but also those who make a point of countering that hegemonic dominance of the scene. Intersectionally minded sorts and single-issue barkers; the earnest, the nihilist and the pisstakers. Not sure it was ever not thus, really.

Above all, there’s been loads of really good music released in 2018. I reviewed about 50 things in my Straight Hedge columns this year, have selected both a top ten from that and another ten which I either latched onto too late or which came out after the last column. I also enjoyed releases by Asid, Battering Ram, Bloody Head, Bodyhacker, Candy, Centuries, City Hunter, Cocaine Piss, Cold Meat, The Cops, Cosmic Psychos, Cremalleras, Dauðyflin, Desgrasia Jubenil, Disjoy, D7Y, Electric Chair, Exotica, Ex-Void, Fatty Cakes & The Puff Pastries, Fex Urbis, Game, The Guests, Hard Skin, Hex, Hologram, Horsewhip, Idiotata Civilizzatto, Implement, Integrity, Italia 90, Knelt Rote, Lithics, Maailmanloppu, Mentira, Mere Mortal, Milk, Negative Space, The Number Ones, Paranoid, Parsnip, Peril, Perra Vida, Petlya, Rainbow Grave, Rancour, Raw Peace, Rik & The Pigs, Runt, Salt Bath, Scrap Brain, Sect Mark, Sial, S.H.I.T., Shopping, Snob, Split Cranium, Strong Arm, Subdued, Suck Lords, Thieving Bastards, Tropical Nightmare, Ultra, Unholy Two, Uniform, Vile Gash, Violence Creeps, Wound Man and Zeke.

If anything isn’t in the above list, it’s either been covered in Straight Hedge this year, wasn’t considered relevant to the column, I didn’t like it, I didn’t hear it or I forgot to include it. And on that note of non-indulgent professionalism, gorge your gorgeous guts on the streams below and see you in 2019 for more of this.

10. Nasho – demo (self-released)

“Muggy weirdo stomping given extra psychedelic injection”

9. No Heart – Can’t Get Out (Rebellion)

“Gorgeous reverbed sections, invigorating Buzzcocks-y punk-pop tones and generally very little for those who want their Oi! to sound like either glam rock on 45 or hamfisted metal.”

8. Pious Faults – Old Thread (Feel It)

“Zonged-out, colour-outside-the-lines, cut-off-oxygen-to-the-brain hardcore.”

7. Arse – Primitive Species (Erste Theke Tontraeger)

“Seven echo-streaked goth/’core mindmelds which, while not without analogues in modern DIY punk, leave some of the darkest scorch marks.”

6. Warm Bodies – Warm Bodies (Erste Theke Tontrager)

“Fully wigged out thrashin’ jazz twit genius with yuck-factor lyrical leanings and an evident taste for a land beyond punk.”

5. Hank Wood & The Hammerheads – Hank Wood & The Hammerheads (Toxic State)

“A hairy marvel with big streaks of soul and groove in its reckless stomp.”

4. Amyl & The Sniffers – Big Attraction / Giddy Up (Homeless)

“Every song here has at least one great element.”

3. Various – Karate Klub Compilation (Karate Klub)

“An LP documenting/celebrating the present-day Dublin punk scene and the work of the city’s Karate Klub space.”

2. The HIRS Collective – Friends. Lovers. Favourites (SRA)

“Molten-hot tech-grind queer trans anarchism, surely one of the hardest sounding records you’ll hear in 2018.”

1. Geld – Perfect Texture (Iron Lung)

“Geld spike their noisepunk with huge shards of psychedelia, creating a sound that doesn’t so much swirl as splatter.”

TEN THAT GOT AWAY

Baby’s Blood – Baby’s Blood (Neck Chop)

Nola shit-fi champ DD Owen, now a twentysomething but preserved in the punk consciousness as a ne’er-do-well garage rockin’ teen, moved to Helsinki this year and carried on as normal with the aid of some Finn sympathisers. The two resultant releases might be his best to date. Baby’s Blood, online for a few months before the bafflingly prolific Neck Chop label eventually found it a release window, is joyously spiteful punk’n’roll nihilism in the grand tradition of a hundred Killed By Death-compiled obscurities, with an added Zero Boys streak and a 47-second song called ‘Sex Punk’. A self-titled LP under his most frequently used alias, Sick Thoughts, also emerged this autumn on Goner Records and is almost as good, especially if you like things to fly by at a Ramones pace and have wailing hard boogie guitar.

Battle Ruins – Glorious Dead (Rock ‘N’ Roll Disgrace)

Hardcore cats getting a bonk-on for Oi! is hardly uncommon, even to the extent of them forming bands to play that kind of music. Hardcore cats and big galumphing true/trad/power/viking metal? Same thing applies. Battle Ruins are some Boston felines from a storied rundown of HC bands (Boston Strangler, Mind Eraser, Rival Mob, Waste Management, tons more) and their niche is super niche: streetpunk bluntness mixed with classic metal’s feather-haired pomp and rollicking, manly triumphalism. The path between Oi! and swords’n’sorcery metal is an historically dicey one, in that it’s most often been trod by Nazi bands, but Battle Ruins are not one of those – just a meeting of fellows who appreciate the transcendent, albeit quite different, powers of The Templars and Bathory and want to show this through the medium of songs called things like ‘We Are The Tenth Legion’. Their already-cemented cult status meant this sold out months ago mind, sorry.

Boss – ‘Steel Box’ (Goner)

As with the Baby’s Blood record, this two-track 45 sat online for ages, the best part of the year in fact, with little info available about it other than the involvement of Maxime Smadja from French Oi! geezers Rixe. Although it’s now a physical item, Boss’ lineup remains slightly confusing – listed as a five-piece on the back sleeve but also indicating that Smadja wrote and played everything on here apart from the lyrics and a bit of guitar, both credited to Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco. Any road, this seems to be the Frenchman’s homage to mid-70s bovver rock and protopunk, done to a turn from the sleeve typography onwards. ‘Steel Box’ is post-T Rex glam for razor gangs while B-side ‘I’m The Dog (You’re The Ball)’ is hench powerpop like Cock Sparrer or The Boys’ early recordings.

The C.I.A. – The C.I.A. (In The Red)

This is the latest band to be formed by busy and popular garage rocker Ty Segall, whose broad range of musical hats has been matched at every turn by my not giving a shit about them. Until now! The C.I.A. is some impressively janky synthpunk blat: Ty and Emmett Kelly, a sometime Will Oldham sideman, stack up no-count guitar and a drum machine that shakes, rattles and ticks like something from The Anarchist’s Cookbook while vocalist Denée Segall, wife of the former, testifies with great and revelatory Cali-punk gusto. Her neck-wringing squawk is right in the Alice Bag/Penelope Houston lineage; the jams are less like The Bags or Avengers than their kinda-contemporaries The Screamers (who The C.I.A. covered on their debut tape a few months back), p’raps with a bit of Men’s Recovery Project’s noise absurdism. Had no real expectations from The C.I.A., so I can’t say it exceeded them, but it turned out to be a wee belter and has squirmed out just before Christmas.

Jarada – Jarada (Doomtown / No Spirit / Crapoulet)

Brickwall hardcore full-length (yes, at 14 minutes long, deal with it) of the year right here, from some understandably hacked off leftists in Tel Aviv. Jarada (which is Hebrew, in which tongue these ten songs are hollered, for ‘anxiety’) put this on Bandcamp back in January and it’s recently been given vinyl treatment by three Euro labels, the better to uphold its ceaseless rolling thunder. There’s scraps of HC greats from every past decade in Jarada’s DNA, from the Oi!-on-45 reductionism of Negative Approach to Out Cold and Urban Blight; David Miretzki loves himself an occasional metal guitar solo, as is his inalienable right, while Itai Alzaradel is a hoarse-voiced powerhouse with a finely sardonic lyrical tack. These are translated into English on the Bandcamp page, which probably removes a degree of cadence and nuance yet accentuates their off-the-dome rant factor. “If you're right wing then they fooled you / A nation which sanctifies the virtue of not being a sucker / And it turns out that you're all suckers!”

Neurotic Fiction – Pulp Music (Specialist Subject)

In the 2016 version of this roundup I shouted out Utopia, the debut LP by Welsh punx Twisted, so inevitably they broke up shortly afterwards. By then, though, Twisted singer Livi Sinclair already had another band on the go: Neurotic Fiction, zippy power-jangle with neat lyrics about the venality of the boss class towards their workforce and the primal joy of creating art. Split loosely between south Wales and south-west England, Pulp Music – Neurotic Fiction’s debut album – unveils Sinclair’s excellence as a guitarist in much the same way Utopia showcased her vocal ability. The songs are usually fast, sometimes almost aggressive (the Oi!-ish backing vox on ‘Collateral’) but invariably varnished with reverb-laden leads, tearjerking and earworming in equal proportion. You might hear in these ten songs myriad surf and rockabilly, the B-52s’ interpolations of the same, the Buzzcocks on ‘Mediator’, Sacred Paws, maybe Ted Leo… but do please hear them.

Porvenir Oscuro – Porvenir Oscuro (Always Restrictions)

Four songs of Spanish-language primo retro Euro pogo from New York which seems to have evaded a lot of radars but is as good an example of its niche pursuit as I’ve heard this year. Better than the most recent La Misma single, for example, and I’d march over a cliff for that band. Porvenir Oscuro look like awfentik studs’n’leather ur-punx and play utterly unvarnished mohawkbait a la Riot City Records’ speediest signings, with some top notch vocal echo (check the fadeout of ‘Salvacion’) and, heck, the vocals themselves courtesy of Sara Kaaos. An assumed name from which we can assume a Finnish hardcore fandom, too, but Porvenir Oscuro has more in its locker than rote post-Discharge thirst-quenching.

SBSM – Leave Your Body (Thrilling Living)

Get the impression SBSM don’t consider themselves a punk or hardcore band, precisely, but would at least hope that my lionising of their debut 7-inch in such a genre-centric column would be taken as a belief that it needn’t be bound by instrumental orthodoxy, rather than an attempt to paste restrictive labels on reluctant parties. An Oakland three-piece with a few tapes to their name before the four-song Leave Your Body – itself a 2017 cassette, vinylised by Grace Ambrose’s consistently class Thrilling Living – here they are intense and suitably disassociative, live drums mangled with chaotic electronics and a triple-vocal seeing-to. A bulbous bassline throbs at the peak of ‘Work’, which one so inclined could probably dance to; ‘Your World’ is a reading of no wave that boils it down to a 64-second continuous negative response. Tasty blood in the watertank of Cuntroaches, Guttersnipe or Tunnel Canary fans, with upfront/necessary centring of their queer/trans/POC identities to boot.

Urin – demo (Voice From Inside)

“Urin, featuring members of Piss,” I begin before being drowned out by our genteel readership simultaneously dropping their teacups and emitting low moans of horror. This Berlin band don’t just talk rude, though: the freak-fucked noisepunk on their six-song debut demo is as forceful and draining as a spiked leather catheter. Wild’n’walloping D-beats meet downward-spiral psychedelic thrash for Geld and Lebenden Toten advocates, with infinite-echo vox and lyrics in Polish from Karolina Bartczak. This tape is nonstop gravy, but if I had to pick a cut for the next Voyager spacecraft it’d be ‘Rozczarowania’ – the moment where the Urin show I caught in September turned from a decent din into a wall-melting whirlwind and 2018 live highlight. Also just realised I saw Bartczak performing mere feet away from me again this year, as part of Colin Self’s ‘Xhoir’ at Unsound in Krakow. Cool!

The Wound – The Wound (Maple Death)

Even without this album-length tape release, members of Leeds quartet The Wound would have had a pretty useful 2018 via their travails in Beta Blockers, Infernal Body and The Shits. The Wound is the pick of the litter, perma-redlined grenade-clamped-between-teeth hardcore sludge whose zest for late-Black Flag zigzagging and sudden jolts into high tempo carries on the great work of two more recent but defunct Leeds bands, Mob Rules and Perspex Flesh. The late-00s era of USHC that coughed up terribly intense young men like Total Abuse and Sex Vid feels back on the agenda during this 21-minute hayride, too, and in all fairness it’s one of those styles I kid myself I’ve heard quite enough of by now until a band like The Wound come along and slap it back on the table.

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