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Straight Hedge! Noel Gardner Reviews Punk & HC For July
Noel Gardner , July 12th, 2021 09:04

Noel Gardner is back with another month's worth of punk, hardcore, oi &c. from around the globe. Home page image: Porvenir Oscuro

Record labels. Noticed anything different about them recently? No? That’s because despite everything, the concept of a ‘record label’ carries on with remarkably little alteration. At the level of sufficiency germane to most of the music in this squalid little column, it seems especially curious that things continue in this way, as opposed to all those fiercely independent bands using advances in technology and communication to become properly self-facilitating. Hmm?

Whatever the reasons a DIY group might cosy up to a DIY label – organisational skills on one side, lack thereof on the other; quick cred conferred by a trusted brand; genuine mutual admiration, even – I’m glad they still do. I feature certain labels an awful lot in Straight Hedge, others less frequently but enough to be going on with; obviously, the music would sound as good if it was self-released (although I’m sure labels often end up finding people to do mastering and that, so… not necessarily), but it helps maintain a sprawling worldwide community that feels warm and fuzzy when all else is cold and ugly.

As you might now expect, then, July’s column opens with some Old Favourites, yet is also full of hot new hellions. Have you heard this EP by Taqbir La Vida Es Un Mus have just put out? Evocatively titled Victory Belongs To Those Who Fight For A Right Cause, it appears the London label picked up some slack with this one: Taqbir, a Moroccan hardcore band, self-released these four songs on Bandcamp in February, and Canadian tape label A World Divided announced a physical release for the spring… but have gone very quiet, which is a pisser as they were about my favourite ‘new punk thing’ in 2020.

If Victory represents a continuation of AWD’s ethos – angry, polemical music from the Mediterranean region, and especially countries with little to no recognised punk scene – it’s a glorious one. Taqbir play exhilarating, fuzzy pogopunk, their Arabic lyrics about Islamic patriarchy belted out with stirring desperation: ‘Al-Zuki Akbar’ has a classic uberpunk bassline that bubbles like hot glue, a sassy spoken word bit and what sounds suspiciously like a few “OI!”s, ‘Tfou 3lik’ has the same goforthethroat apoplexy that makes Nekra so great.

Ostensibly from Tangier, this interview suggests none of the five members actually live there, and are cagey about further details for reasons of personal safety. They also say there’s more music on the way; I hope it sounds exactly like this EP.

The self-titled tape by Luz De Gas was recently released by Iron Lung but, again, plucked from obscurity – which in this case means “a late 2020 release on a Chilean label which passed me, the protagonist of reality, by”. Luz De Gas are also Chilean, from somewhere south of Santiago, and over ten minutes or so are rarely less than conduits of joy and life affirmation. I don’t know if there’s something about the country, but I’ve reviewed two other bands from Chile before, Garrapata and Ignorantes, and a thread of obstreperous shit-fi abandon runs through each, otherwise unrelated, group. LDG vocalist Muriel Plenilunio has a high note-hitting howl for the ages as she addresses (again!) patriarchy, in punk and the wider culture; the drums are way too forward in the mix, except it’s actually just right. I love this tape so much it’s got me seeking penance for the times I acted like I wanted ‘more’ (whatever that is) from punk music.

Static Shock Records, from London and occasional Iron Lung pardners, have lit up early summer with this glorious cassette from Mundo Primitivo. They’re based in Sydney, but the impetus of their formation was vocalist Melissa López moving there from Colombia: all lyrics on Paisaje Interior are sung in Spanish, and any proceeds from its sale go to Colombian anti-fascist aid groups. Subject matter tends towards the gloomy and dramatic, more figurative than explicitly political, but Mundo Primitivo’s hardcore style – broadly mid-paced, scrappier than an abandoned car dealership and not shy of the odd mosher’s-delight breakdown – is buoyant and irrepressible. EP closer ‘Medium’, a four-minute swirler with long instrumental parts and tasty spacepunk guitar tone, is a deviation from its briefer predecessors, but still sounding on brand.

Back to La Vida Es Un Mus for more Spanish-lingo’d chunter: Asquerosa Humanidad, the debut album by Porvenir Oscuro. This band released a really swish EP in 2018 which I repped at the end of that year, but those four sentences won’t stop me from warbling the praises of these NYC-dwelling spikies once more. Porvenir Oscuro throw plentiful hooks into these 13 songs, and Stevie Ocampo’s basslines are catchy as you like, but the combination of tempo, arrangement and vocal mannerisms of Sara Kaaos (another Colombian exile) amount to something relentless. Production is dead on, some songs afforded a sinister fade-in or booming drum intro without distracting from the essential grot; the band’s adoration of UK82 squawk and early South American hardcore still rings through, but there are minor deviations on Asquerosa Humanidad, whose title track has the melodic snap of mid-80s skatepunk – while guitarist Gage Allison has a whale of a time with his wah pedal on ‘Nada Para Tí’, notably.

The self-titled debut LP by Chicago’s Canal Irreal contains roughly equal proportions of Spanish and English lyrics, befitting the figure behind them: Martin Sorrendoguy first came to prominence fronting Latino hardcore legends Los Crudos before forming Limp Wrist, the 21st century’s definitive queercore band. Part of a quartet including faces from Sin Orden (also esteemed Spanish-speaking Chicago punx), together Canal Irreal have hit on a sound that sometimes resembles Joy Division playing at twice their normal speed. Album opener ‘Manarchist’ suggests a thematic continuum from Limp Wrist (“Dominate me, wanna hatefuck me/ You wish you could top me”), with a musical backdrop that’s more goth-adjacent than anything the vocalist, at least, has previously been attached to; ‘Emergencia’ I’d classify as hardcore by virtue of Lupe Garza’s drumming (which, yes, is to reiterate that genre distinctions tend to involve narcissism of small differences) and ‘Glaze’ actually reminds me of the Pixies as much as anything. Richmond label Beach Impediment invoke Greg Sage of the Wipers in their sales blurb, and it’s so apparent in Scott Plant’s guitar one can’t really avoid parroting it. Canal Irreal’s breakneck gleam is perhaps like the Wipers if Sage had exorcised most of his pre-punk influences, and ramped up the intensity to compensate.

Two labels, London’s P.M.T. and RoachLeg from Brooklyn, combine to release the debut demo by Indre Krig – like Static Shock and Iron Lung, they have a wee history of doing so, and are both on it in 21 generally. Indre Krig are two Danes, a Norwegian and a Boston transplant; they live in Copenhagen and played their first gig mere days ago as I write. Are you brave enough to look at this photo of people moshing at it?

Stone me, this demo simply goes: reinventing the wheel even less than the other contemporary bands covered this month (‘originality’ is a soiled concept for dweebs, there I said it) but pitch-perfect, greyhound-lean hardcore purism. No metal or garage or noise detected in these four songs, just a trio of no-brakes thrashers in the vein of, say, Direct Control and then a closing number, ‘Hollow Eyes’, that starts out slow and then turns into a no-brakes thrasher too cos why not. Chloë is singing in her first band, if I’m reading the scary link above correctly, but comes correct with her exquisitely irate yap and, on ‘S.M.D.’, an invitation to suck her dick, repeated eight more times.

Social media: love it or hate it, most of the bands I write about in Straight Hedge don’t use it. And god bless them for it! This does however mean that any occurrence placing them into hibernation for an extended period, for example a global pandemic, leaves you unsure if they still actually exist. ‘You’ in this case actually meaning ‘me, the protagonist of reality, who’s not mates with them’. This is all a preamble to saying that I don’t know what ice-cold metalpunkers Implement, whose 2019 tape was one of that year’s ultimate ragers, have been up to since then, but their singer Leah is fronting another band, Pest Control. They released a Bandcamp demo last year, chucked two more songs up in April and have combined that onto a self-released tape of sizzling crossover thrash mania. Despite exhibiting a sense of humour (1950s fantasy comic cover art; songs titled ‘Infestation’ and ‘The Fumigator’), this is avowedly not your prattish beer bong upturned cap peak type of crossover, rather a grimy cavalcade of double kicks, speed picks and firebreathing vox that, in toto, has as much in common with Celtic Frost or Inepsy. The two newer songs display no apparent musical evolution from those released in 2020, which is of course the correct state of affairs.

There’s a boatload of good reissues fresh off the… boat, so here are three of them. Actually, more like two and a half. I’ll explain later. Sacramento punk band Tales Of Terror’s sole release, an eponymous 1984 LP, has been needing a reissue for probably 30 years, and I can’t imagine Fire Records were expected by many to do so – but that’s what just happened! On their punk archive sublabel Call Of The Void, if you want to be a pedant.

By all accounts, Tales Of Terror’s city of residence was pretty much a punk wasteland, which may have contributed to the freewheeling unorthodoxy of their sound. Skipping past the cruddy cover of ‘Hound Dog’ that inexplicably opens the album, we find all manner of modes: sozzled proto-grunge on ‘Romance’ (outside of punk collectordom, the band are mainly known for Kurt Cobain and Mudhoney citing them as an influence), Kilslug-style schlock-sludge (‘Chambers Of Horror’, which also sports a plausibly proto-‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ “hello, hello” refrain), bad-Bowie glam blam, stop-start wrong-funk thrashings and arch angularity unwittingly comparable to what Rites Of Spring were doing in DC around then. What Tales Of Terror lacks in coherence it makes up with innate inspiration: a mess, sorta, but that’s what fate seemingly intended for them. They disbanded in 1986 following the death of guitarist Lyon Wong, who hit his head in a street brawl, and if the guest posts underneath this article are to be trusted there’s some pretty rough associated lore.

Some years later, and a relatively short distance downstate, San Francisco’s Spitboy came together amidst that region’s vastly more populous punk community and released a small trove of great, forward-thinking feminist post-hardcore records (one a split album with the previously mentioned Los Crudos). These have just been compiled into a double LP, Body Of Work (1990-1995), by the Don Giovanni label, and considering you don’t hear many new bands who sound like this nowadays, it’s remarkable how fresh and resonant Spitboy appear in the moment. Their songs were rhythmically clever and densely mixed, juddering tuned-down basslines slicing through Karin Gembus’ waves of guitar noise; the first two Fugazi EPs and emo blueprint bands like Moss Icon could be considered touchstones of the era, but Spitboy were significantly different in respect of their sound, identity and ideology alike.

The words on their releases, lyrics and sleevenotes presented as equally significant, were contributed by all members, and from their earliest songs (demo tape cut ‘Interdependency’) the sandpaper voice of Adrienne Droogas were complemented by one or more members offering solidarity via backing vocal. Though Spitboy’s concerns – misogyny from their own subculture to the upper echelons of society; interpersonal conflict; sociolinguistics, even, on ‘Word Problem’ – were very much grounded in reality, there’s a spiritual dimension apparent which stops short of hippydom but made their perspective a rare, maybe even unique one in 90s hardcore punk.

An interesting if obscure detail in the origin story of pop-punk progenitors Descendents is that they had a woman, Cecilia Loera, singing before Milo Aukerman took up the position. Hard to know what an alternate history with her staying on might comprise, but presumably not the gynecological juvenilia and gurls-are-weird rhetoric that has, more recently and only a little unfairly, caused the band to be described as “incelcore”. Anyhoo, forty years after Descendents’ first release with Aukerman comes 9th And Walnut (Epitaph): 18 songs written between 1977 and 1980, recorded in 2002 and released just ahead of a US tour.

Excepting the two songs from their pre-Milo debut single and ‘Like The Way I Know’, recorded but not used for the first Descendents LP Milo Goes To College, it’s not clear if original takes of these tracks exist. The versions here, professional and slick even while you sense an effort to preserve youthful crudity, are thus less interesting to Descendents spods (in which I include myself) but a worthwhile listen in themselves. Bill Stevenson’s drumming is both turbocharged and personalised, but 9th And Walnut documents a moment just prior to the explosion of the Cali hardcore scene, which found Descendents writing superquick bursts of absurdity even while their pop leanings were atypical. A cover of ‘Glad All Over’, by the Dave Clark Five, underlines what self-penned numbers ‘I’m Shaky’ and ‘To Remember’ infer – that Descendents were a beat group at heart, playing punk rock by circumstance. Arguably, they still are.