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
I primarily focus on full records, but there are great singles and videos floating around. Here is a thing you should listen to.
Western Divide – “The Reprise”
Western Divide is a great sounding punk rock band from California. They’ve got a sound that intersects with various flavors of the genre. There’s some Americana type stuff (think Gaslight Anthem et al.). There’s some indie rock moves in there too. It’s tied together with some vocals that come straight out of hardcore. It’s an interesting sound that the band does well.
“The Reprise” is a gruff, driving punk rock song with a great melodic heart. The song is about the moment when good parts of a new relationship finally overtake the bad feelings left over from an old one. Anyway, this video was released about a month ago. I move at the speed of “fuck, you’re just covering this now?”, so here it I guess.
Western Divide’s debut EP, Fall in Love to This, is out next week. The record is solid as fuck. Make sure to check it out.
The Lillingtons always feel like two different bands to me. There is the standard pop punk band doing standard pop punk love songs, but then there is the sci fi/horror/b-movie influenced band who put one of the best genre records ever (and two additional classics). The problem with the former style is that Kody Templeman does that style with way more gusto in Teenage Bottlerocket. The Lillingtons, despite being the older band, suffer as a result of this.
All that being said, after a roughly 10 year hiatus, what does a new Lillingtons EP sound like? Well, it kind of sounds like a Teenage Bottlerocket record. Ok, that’s a little shitty to say. It’s definitely a Lillingtons record, but it feels more Shit Outta Luck than Death By Television to me. The first two songs, “Until The Sun Shines” and “Rubber Room,” come off as retreads of things the band has already done. Like, “Rubber Room” feels like an ehhh version of “I Need Some Brain Damage” mixed with Teenage Bottlerocket’s “Welcome To The Nuthouse.” The other two songs are more in the b-movie side of things. “Project 313” is about being stuck on a rocket in space. “It’s On” is about a succubus, but is also a pop punk pastiche of 80’s cock rock.
Project 313 sounds exactly how you think it would. Simple pop punk in the tradition of Lookout Records and the Ramones. Genre fans will love it, genre haters will hate it, and no one will learn a goddamn thing. And isn’t that good enough?
Red Scare Industries
(Usually I embed Bandcamp or Soundcloud stream. Only one song was playable on Bandcamp at time of writing. Had to use a Spotify link instead, I guess. Sorry.)