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Noel's Straight Hedge

Straight Hedge! Noel Gardner Reviews Punk & HC For November
Noel Gardner , November 16th, 2021 11:42

Back once again like a renegade Manfred Mann, Noel Gardner spends his time "squelching in the batshit shitpit" just so he can back epistles from the punk rock front line. Home page photo: Shooting Daggers

Straight Hedge November 2021 Mix

Quarantine – Will To Kill
Hologram – Phantom Limb
Unidad Ideológica – Inhabilitado Para Reaccionar
Aihotz – Vita Vanita
Tramadol – Death’s Pawn
Shooting Daggers – Missandra
Soursob – Shoegaze
Onetwothree – Sudden
Sonny Vincent – Get Out
Orrin DeForest – O.D.F. Will Kick Your Lame Ass Motherfucker!

For someone who isn’t altogether keen on punk and hardcore being weighted with ‘rules’, maybe because he reckons they’d get him excommunicated if applied strictly, the guy who writes this column has some he repeatedly invokes. Actually, they’re more like reverse rules really. Firstly, there’s no obligation to try and update the form using advances in music or technology – in fact it’d probably be best if you didn’t – and secondly, there isn’t any overarching value in writing songs that offer social comment on Our Times. Not if it’s it some weaksauce shaming of whichever shame-averse political leader, at any rate. Or some observation about how living through COVID is pretty mad, when you think about it.

So how sweet it is to know that Quarantine, from Philadelphia, formed about two years ago and are not a ‘lockdown concept band’ or somesuch cheese. They could’ve changed their name but why should they? Agony (La Vida Es Un Mus/Damage United) is their debut album, following an early 2020 demo tape, and it’s truly highgrade weird-thuggin’ hardcore: the four members have pedigree of sorts, the result outstrips it. No question Quarantine dig the early 80s canon, from Black Flag to Necros – at their most G-force fast, probably ‘For What’, they’re more akin to marginal heroes like Deep Wound – but they feel filtered through a whole whack of later contextualising scenes, from Cleveland berserkers like H100s to late-00s flailers such as Double Negative. Vocalist Jack Barrett is gruff like United Mutation’s Mike Brown, there are what feels like three dozen joy-inducing guitar solos in these 14 songs, Chris Ulsh – the only member not to record his parts of this superb-sounding LP in a practise space – underlines why he is one of modern HC’s greatest drummers, and there are two lo-fi synthpop interludes, one an almost unrecognisable cover of Boston band Jerry’s Kids recorded “under the influence of a lot of MDMA”.

I reiterate and maintain that we are living in a golden age for hardcore that sounds like this – trad, at root, but gone wrong – and the debut 12-inch by Hologram from Washington DC has my back. There was a Hologram single a few years ago, not their debut release but the first chance most had to check ‘em, at which point it was a band or at least functioned as one; No Longer Human (Iron Lung) has Brendan Reichhardt playing everything, and he’s better at drums than whoever was doing it then. Otherwise, things are as before, squelching in the batshit shitpit.

Reichhardt co-mixed this quarter-hour head-caver with Carson Cox (Merchandise, Church Whip et al), and it’s clear neither ever met an embellishment they didn’t like. No Longer Human is caked in mouldering industrial delay, rhythms barely discernible on the opening title track, guitars unfeasibly phased on ‘Gifthorse’, droning stolidly even as ‘Phantom Limb’ stomps around your basement tearing all the cables from the wall. ‘I See A Pale Light’ is three times the length of a quote-unquote regular Hologram song, ergo is sequenced last, and is convincingly grotesque repetitious psych-sludge akin to Brainbombs offshoot No Balls.

The self-titled debut release (there’s a song on a comp tape from earlier this year if you want to be a real stickler) by Unidad Ideológica from Bogotá, Colombia calls itself an LP too but runs about as long as the above release… and proper wallops you the entire time. Anyone emerging from the other side of its desperate, distortion-devastated barrage wanting more bang for their buck presumably also thinks marathons should be 50 miles long.

Unidad Ideológica are from the Bogotá punk venue/collective Rat Trap, feature at least two members from Muro, its best known band, and make Muro sound like big cuddly hamsters via their salvo of blown-out Dis-nodding apocalypticore. It’s sorta noisepunk, but not in the least sloppy; quasi-crust, but not much arsed with metal leads or owt. (‘Inhabilitado Para Reaccionar’ features something approximate to that, again only for those who seek to undermine via pedantry.) La Vida Es Un Mus have dropped this one on us too, giving me no choice but to genuflect, but ultimately the label’s just the conduit for this glorious monster sound.

Much as I get self-conscious about how much La Vida and Iron Lung tackle gets covered in here, this month at least I’ve had to leave out some really hot bits. Similarly, and even though I’ve only reviewed something on Barcelona’s Discos Enfermos once before (the Farmaco 7-inch from earlier this year), I fell for both their latest two releases, Panama band Hez’s burly Guerra Interior and Matar Al Superhombre, the vinyl debut of Aihotz from Bilbao. Compelled to pick one and run with it, I’ve chosen Aihotz on account of their interesting gestation (two members previously played in a sort of minimal synth band, Serpiente) and whacked-out but rock-anchored take on punk and proto-hardcore.

A lot more whacked than their 2020 debut cassette, in fact, especially in the vocals of Beatriz Perales: strident as y’like but heftily echo-laden, to a properly psychedelic point on EP closer ‘Vita Vanita’. As for the guitar FX on ‘Quemamos El Aire’, which begins proceedings, is this a free festival in 1975 with more LSD than toilet paper or what? No, because even the proto-est of punx weren’t banging ‘em out at the sort of tempos heard on ‘Lunula’. I’m completely taken with these six songs, which by accident or design seem to have arrived at a legitimately unique sound – or, at least, I have very little idea who Aihotz might be trying to hail on this release. Essential!

After an epoch of fuck all, swish new UK hardcore bands are beginning to trickle into the outside world, like this debut tape from Tramadol on the Donor label. They’re a Leeds supergroup, using ‘supergroup’ in its accepted meaning of ‘people who have also played in other bands’, and goes harder than just about any of those other bands, which is saying something. Drummer Paddy Carley’s last venture before this, Apedreado, were doing something similarish – heads-down post-Discharge assaultive screech – as it goes, but there’s more sludgy bottom end to Tramadol, what with their twin-guitar lineup, and I’m not sure Apedreado are still active anyway. Although moments of scowling midpaced chug like ‘Armageddon’ point this quintet in the direction of someone like Hoax, and there are (more!) wicked solos, notably on ‘Death’s Pawn’, in the main they’re going for the throat in much the same way as the Unidad Ideológica LP. So hear both these releases!

The debut single proper by Shooting Daggers from London arrives on flexidisc, aka “The Format That Is Bad” (©Noel’s Straight Hedge, 2021), and via the New Heavy Sounds label. They stand out in their discography by virtue of not being a stoner rock band, but as we’ve established record labels are vehicles of delivery first and foremost, and my life for one has been marginally improved by Shooting Daggers’ big-riffing feminist chunterpunk entering it. There are two songs on this flexi: ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ critiques the trope named in the title, more specifically the tendency of boyfriends to use such women as their “free therapist”, as vocalist Sal Pellegrin puts it. ‘Missandra’ is the longer of the pair but cleaves closer to hardcore, stylistically, woodchoppin’ grunge riffs collapsing before being moshily reborn – the Twisted Thing EP I reviewed at the start of the year pulled similar moves – and Pellegrin gets a cave network’s worth of echo added to her voice. Not really sure who Shooting Daggers’ immediate peers in ‘the scene’ are, but happy not to let that colour my positive opinions of them.

The debut 12-inch by Soursob looks like it’ll be their swansong too, guitarist and main vocalist Lisa Rashleigh having been deported from Glasgow to Melbourne early last year, and hard copies were months late arriving with its label, garage turkey supremos HoZac Records (gonna guess some apparently-now-standard pressing plant bullshit). If nothing else, having all summer and a bunch of autumn to stream these seven songs has left me extra charmed by Soursob’s spiky, jangling snark.

“This night can’t last forever / Because we’re running out of blow!” Rashleigh states on ‘Blow’, and I could be wrong but suspect that this is a character study rather than a confession. “My TV brainwashed me!” goes the chorus of ‘TV’, notable for framing its topic in a way that could have been penned 50 years ago despite recent sea changes in people’s media consumption. Have you moved to Berlin to hang out with other ‘expats’ without learning any German? Soursob have a song for you (titled ‘Berlin’)! Despite never rising above midpace, the trio – completed by bassist Chloe Dueñas and drummer Goda – transmit a sense of urgency via an early-JAMC fuzzblanket mix job and a way of making riffs crash proceedings like a pensioner’s car through your living room wall. Equally formed of contemporary Aussie thudpunk and Scottish indiepop blare, in other words, as per its geographical heritage.

Somewhere in the non-literal ancestry of a band like Soursob, you will also find (some of) the members of Onetwothree, a Swiss three-piece whose debut LP has just been released on Kill Rock Stars. Most prominently, Klaudia Schifferle coined a distinctive type of minimalist post punk as a member of Kleenex, who later traded as Liliput and whose output has been compiled by KRS a couple of times. Sara Schär’s band from the same late-70s/early-80s period, TNT, are less renowned albeit powerfully collectible in Europunk circles, and it says here that Madlaina Peer was in a band called the Knownos but they don’t appear to exist online (excluding references to this release, which I will hereby add to).

All three members are bassists by trade, and Onetwothree is all about its rhythm bed. Closing number ‘Things’ leans hard into a digital reggae shuffle, with Lee Perry-type FX popping off across six minutes. Before that, the trio – employing a drum machine – are snappier, sprightly, melodically sunny but with the cynicism of age coming through (‘Bubble’). In one of those pleasingly circular eventualities you get when old punks keep their ears open, songs like ‘Buy Buy’ and ‘Give Paw’ comport themselves in the style of, say, Shopping or Lithics, which is to say post-Liliput bands.

Doubtless Klaudia Schifferle will be the oldest punk in nine out of ten late-‘21 review columns, but not this one – because I feel like saluting the veteran that is Sonny Vincent, whose new album Snake Pit Therapy arrives on Finland’s Svart label. With recordings dating back to 1969, Vincent was years ahead of the punk curve, and from the mid-70s onwards at the eye of the storm with his New York band the Testors, although most of their product emerged long after disbanding. Most recently, he’s formed The Limit with Pentagram’s Bobby Liebling, whose album from spring is a fine set of punked-up biker metal, and published a book, also titled Snake Pit Therapy.

With 15 songs on here, the risk of subpar moments is palpable but largely avoided, plus matters frequently conclude within two minutes or so. Vincent has established a style over half a century, yet there’s variety to be had. ‘Messed Up In Blue’ has a jet-engine jangle like mid-80s Hüsker Dü; ‘Can’t Absorb’, with its "semi-sentient blob-man acquires emotions" lyrical tack, surfs the Stones-to-Dead Moon-via-Dead Boys pipeline with fine vigour. The players collected here (which seem to be various assortments of about six musicians rather than a band per se) have mostly done time with the main man before, and sound like it, but Vincent’s guitar wrangling and wildman hollering is the focal point, and justly so. I’ll admit to not having heard any of his albums between Testors and The Limit, but if Snake Pit Therapy was only half this good I reckon people would still indulge it.

To finish retroactively, as is custom, Orrin DeForest’s Harshcore 98-00 – 23 minutes of grisly bile-juice splatter that sounds very much of its time while also having existed without peer. In the UK, at any rate. Orrin DeForest were a band from Newcastle whose snotty lo-fi rantings stirred grindcore into late-90s emo violence – there were other bands already on this tip, South Carolina’s In/Humanity for example, but not in the UK. The only ODF release to date, 2001’s split LP with prolific noisers Jazzfinger, can be procured for buttons on Discogs; they remain a cult name in certain rarified circles, though. This tape, released via ODF bassist Steve Strode’s Cruel Nature label (of the other members, vocalist Rob Woodcock is currently in Lovely Wife; he and drummer Pete Burn were both in Marzuraan, also compiled recently by Cruel Nature), combines those tracks with several unreleased ones for 14 songs of rotten fun.

If chaotic, the four-piece weren’t fully amateurish, with ample moments of math-rock delicacy vanquished by absurdist screamo blasting. There are straight-up noise interludes (‘Invisible Demon Monolith’) and presumably uncleared samples of Brass Eye, Scrooge The Musical and Mr. T. Remastered from original tapes, it still sounds grody as you like but still kicks out a savage, high-BPM brand of gibberish.

Many of history’s unsung bands could have changed music for the better if others had had the gumption or knowhow to rip them off. Orrin DeForest are not one of those bands, which I mean in a good way: it was surely for the best that they stuck out like a chemically-induced deformity.