The mid-90s were a turning point in punk rock. The genre, having finally hit the mainstream again, had a couple paths to go down. One path was super slick and radio friendly. Another was to get your hair and jacket spiked up. The last path was to try and get the music back to the garage roots. I think that last path was the most compelling. You can slap as much pop sheen on it as you want, but the most interesting rock ‘n roll is based on deconstruction. It’s heart and soul. Black Adidas plays a bit outside the yard in some places, but still feels like one of those bands.
Black Adidas is the current project of Courtney Ranshaw, formerly of The Lower Echelon. He’s got a specific aesthetic on his full length. He gets to the fucking point without a bunch of needless preening and posing. The record starts with a song called “Free Shit,” and it just fucking goes from there. “Old Fashioned Rock ‘N Roll” is what Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music” would sound like if it had a healthy layer of garage fuzz laid on top of it. “Cocaine Eyes” has some A+ crooning that feels like a throwback to the Velvet Underground. I think “Play What We Know” is the most interesting song on the record though. Remember how I said Black Adidas plays outside the yard? This is the song I’m talking about. The verses are New Orleans jazz that fucking runs headfirst into a punk rock chorus. It’s a great combination.
End of the day, punk rock has been marketed and codified to death. People think of a specific thing when you say it. I feel like this record plays like a love letter to the genre, but the pre-code version. When the vocals were haphazard, when the distortion was strong, and when lo-fi and garage influence wasn’t just a lazy marketing gimmick to make major label bands seem dangerous. Whatever that means.
I’ve talked a lot of shit about hardcore over the years. The version of hardcore that was around when I was younger had a lot of metal and Christianity in it. Not really my thing. That old school (or whatever) kind of stuff was still right up my alley though. That said, let’s talk about Krimewatch.
Krimewatch hasn’t been releasing stuff for very long. An EP, a demo, and a full length. Their sound is reminiscent of what hardcore sounded like before the metal dudes in jerseys took over the scene. It’s the kind of hardcore that is still punk. The songs are brief and aggressive. It’s that classic piss and vinegar type stuff.
The run time for these 9 songs is about 12 minutes. The band fucking goes. Emma Hendry, Sean Joyce, and Shayne Benz play tight, aggressive punk rock in a style that has not been the style in a minute. They don’t lean to heavily on standard genre tropes. There’s no mosh part, there’s no unnecessary solos and fills. There is just bass, guitar, and drums working together as a unit. They sound so tightly wound that you feel like it could explode at any time. The speed and simplicity are a strength. Put Rhylli Ogiura’s vocals on top of everything and you’ve got a winner. In English or Japanese, she’s taking control of the sound and your attention.
There’s a lot to like about this record at the end of the day. The only complaint I can see anyone having is that, like a lot of other stuff in this genre, there can be some running together of songs. But, y’know, I’m not sure that is going to be a dealbreaker to the people who get down to this kind of thing.
Lockin’ Out Records
Sarah Tudzin, as Illuminati Hotties, has made deceptively complex pop record. The sound is all over the place. There are some places where Kiss Yr Frenemies sounds like a more twee record in the Cub or Tullycraft style. It’s got a deep, ambient vibe that reminds of trip hop in a weird way in other places. The record has really sparse and tender moments that smash almost without warning into noisy punk parts. It doesn’t sound too jarring unless you’re really thinking about it. Like how the delicate, piano driven “Declutter” comes immediately after a indie/punk jam like “Pressed 2 Death.” Or how the vibey “Cuff,” which honestly made me look up Portishead to prove I wasn’t crazy with that earlier trip hop reference, comes right after “Shape Of My Hand.”
The overwhelming vibe of the record is mid-20’s ennui. Songs about love, relationships going sideways, needing more money, and just general dissatisfaction are all over this thing. If I’m being honest, the line “I’m Spending all my money at 7-11 and sleeping through the weekend” made me laugh in a very knowing way. Same with “I could probably use a fourth job.” The record kind of has a bitterness to it that offsets the more sweet sounding music in a really cool way. Like, happy sounding songs about how everything is just being kind of dumb sometimes. I feel like that is something anyone can relate to.
The elevator pitch for this record would be “wry observations of a young adult told over energetic indie pop.” It’s a great record for the summer, and I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to connect to. Also, the horn flourish on “For Cheez (My Friend, Not The Food)” is fantastic.
Two Knights, the duo of Parker Lawson and Miles DeBruin, are the epitome of a duo that knows how to fucking go. Find me a stronger two piece that plays this kind of music. Effing is the kind of record that will get pigeonholed as an emo record, but that only accounts for a small portion of what it is. It is an energetic, mathy, punk rock record that knows how to get the point.
The songs on Effing are all pretty short. Save the closer, “Lex Loser,” all these song barely break the two minute mark. Even that song is just shy of 03:21. It’s remarkable because these aren’t simple, punk rock riffs. “Stoned Legends Of The Hidden Temple” and “Lex Loser” are pretty aggressive in the guitar department. A bunch of nerds would be yelling about “twinkling” if they were slower. “I Ate an Entire Pizza During One Episode of The West Wing” is on the other end. It’s way more straight forward, A to B type song.
Two Knights have basically nailed the gimmick. They are a great blend of indie, emo, math rock, and punk. Two Knights are the kind of band that knows exactly what they want to do, and they know exactly how to do it.
Perennial released their first EP back in 2015. Early Sounds For Night Owls was a quick four song record that I still don’t think got the attention it deserved. It had all the heart and intensity that you would want from a record, especially in a genre as driven as post-hardcore. It’s essential listening. Especially if you want to understand the artistic side of underground music. But that’s 2015, and it’s now two years later. Where do we stand?
The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves is the new record, and it’s probably my favorite record of 2017 so far. I mean that with no hyperbole. Perennial have raised the bar. The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves fucking goes. It’s one of those records where you can tell what songs are going to absolutely wreck the place live. “La Fugue Pour Béton brut” is definitely one of them. I feel like “Evergreen, un deux trois,” “Resolver,” and “Hippolyta” are definitely contenders too. Those songs are quick bursts of aggressive energy. Shit, the whole record is.
The evolution of Perennial’s sound is key to what makes everything work. First, the increased vocal presence of Chelsey Hahn adds a lot of depth. The way her vocals work with Chad Jewett’s is one of the many standouts on the records. Those two were the heart of Lion Cub, so it’s no surprise that they work so well together. To that point, the increased presence of the keyboards and sampling also change the dynamic a lot. That texture existed on Early Sounds For Night Owls, but that record still felt more guitar driven. The song that best shows that shift is “La Fugue Pour Béton brut.” That song appeared on the EP in 2015, and a reworked version shows up here. It’s the best.
The Symmetry Of Autumn Leaves is an amazing record from start to finish. It’s a perfect mix of art school punk and post-hardcore. The energy, the passion, everything.
Howling Frequency Records
Moral Straightjacket are a two piece band from Irvine, California. They’ve been steadily releasing records for a few years now, and their new EP is a great addition to that discography. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a stellar three song primer of what this band can do.
Moral Straightjacket are primarily a “post-” band. The mix of post-hardcore and post-punk gives the band a bigger sound than duos usually have. The songs are primarily built around guitar and drum, but they don’t sound limited in scope or nature. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is a great example of a band doing a lot with a little.
The vocal duties on this record are split. One track for each member, and one featuring guest vocals from M. Blue Wizards (vocals by John) and Blood Orange (vocals by Lucas) provide bookends. The vocals are what really make this band stand out to me. John has a very standard voice in genre terms, and Lucas sings in a baritone voice that still isn’t very common in genre music (or rock music in general).
The three songs cover a lot of ground musically. “Blue Wizards” opens the EP, and it fucking goes. It has a very Repeater-era Fugazi vibe to it. “Evergreen” has a much more mellow vibe. M’s vocals hold court on this one, and goddamn does she sound good. The acoustic driven “Blood Orange” calms things down even more as a closer.
Moral Straightjacket has been around for a minute now, and they’ve got a really strong discography. There is no reason not to check this out. I’ll Be Your Rainbow is probably one of my favorite post- records so far this year. And, seriously, “Blue Wizards” fucking goes.
Ruined Smile Records
It’s kind of hard to write about Football, etc. at this point. I been writing about them for about as long as I’ve been running this blog. I first talked about them when I wrote up their First Down EP. I also covered their previous two full lengths (The Draft and Audible), their Disappear EP, and their split with Plaids. There isn’t much to say about them that I haven’t already said sometime in the last six years.
Football, etc is one of my favorite bands to have come out of that late 2000s emo scene. They were right there at the start of the emo revival (or whatever), and they’ve outlived many of their peers. In fact, Football, etc. are one of the bands I most associate with the current genre. They’ve put out consistently great records. They do that second wave emo sound better than most current bands going. They are a torchbearer. Corner is another example of all that.
Their third full length, and first on Community Records, is a distillation of the growth the band has experienced. While the songwriting and vocal performance from Lindsay Minton is still the goddamn show, it has become more and more about how the trio works together. Allowing certain pop influences to shine through have made the rhythm section of Mercy Harper and Daniel Hawkins an unstoppable force. “Foul” and “Nutmeg” are perfect examples of how the band can absolutely fucking go. Minton’s guitar is still out there twinkling, but things really pop when she gets some distortion going. Her vocal delivery sounds as strong as ever. There is a much more dynamic range than on records past. A song like “Space” wouldn’t be horribly out of place on a record like The Draft or Audible, but it certainly would be the outlier.
Corner is the sound of a band that has matured beyond being a “genre band.” You can still call them emo, and you’d be right. Football, etc. are much more than that though, and it’s great to see that they’re still growing.
Community Records (USA)
Barely Regal (UK)
Stiff Slack (JPN)