By: Michael McFarlane
Erik Nervous – Assorted Anxieties LP (Neck Chop/ Drunken Sailor)
Erik Nervous is from Shipshewana, but relocated to Kalamazoo to attend college. While most bands tend to take time to find their sound, Erik knew exactly what he wanted to sound like when he began recording. New-wave influenced punk songs for people with a short attention span. A genre stupidly called “Devo-core,” for people still mourning the loss of bands like CCTV and THE CONEHEADS. He has released material on many different labels, including TOTAL PUNK, NECK CHOP, DRUNKEN SAILOR, and DISCONTINUOUS INNOVATION. Keep in mind, he plays every instrument on each of his releases.
Finally, we have Assorted Anxieties, a collection of all of his material to date and an unreleased track. I’m pleased to have the long player, because I was honestly getting tired of flipping over his 7” releases repeatedly, due to the addictive nature of his short but perfect punk songs.Themes of boredom, working mundane jobs, and having no money, which most people can relate to. If you haven’t already heard of him, he must be the best kept secret in the midwest. He will be back on tour this year with DATE NIGHT from Nashville. Live setup includes a full band which features Jeff Mahannah on drums, who is known for his artwork (EAT TO SURVIVE) and perfect timing. They will be playing in Grand Rapids on August 18th along with THE RESOURCE NETWORK, DATENIGHT, and LOST SYSTEM.
Dark Thoughts – At Work LP (Drunken Sailor/ Stupid Bags)
I am not going to lie to you. I hate almost every pop-punk band I have heard. Even saying the name of the genre leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but to each their own…I guess. DARK THOUGHTS, a trio based in Philadelphia, are the one and only exception for me. “At Work” is their second album released by Stupid Bag Records, label which is ran by former Grand Rapids resident Jeff Bolt, who now lives in Philly. He has also done some Radiator Hospital releases, if that’s your thing. There is clearly a RAMONES influence to Dark Thoughts songs, but they find a way to make it their own instead of trying to recreate arguably the most well known punk band’s songs. This Philadelphia trio uses the same formula from their first LP, and produces another album that should be the soundtrack to your summer. Oh yeah, their album cover also resembles THE RAMONES second LP Leave Home, which means you could say they wear their influences on their (record) sleeve.
Sex Tourists – S/T LP (Drunken Sailor)
I am always impressed by the amount of incredibly talented post-punk bands that reside in Australia. TOTAL CONTROL, LOW LIFE, THE SHIFTERS, ORION, I could keep going, Sex Tourists are my new favorite. This album was actually released in 2017 but now has been repressed by DRUNKEN SAILOR due to popular demand. It reminds me of NEW ORDER, especially in their peak era (think Power, Corruptions, Lies). The songs are very catchy, driven by synths and drum machines, but also have a melancholy feel once the vocals come in. Songs about disconnect, that feel more relevant than ever in a society that is so connected by our smart phones that it seems like real life conversation is a dying art. Summed up best by their song “Guts”: “I’m staring at my phone, the signal tells me that I’m all alone.” This will sell out, so go buy a copy while you still can.
Aquarium – S/T LP (LUMPY)
Debut album from the Minneapolis band AQUARIUM, released on LUMPY RECORDS. It’s obvious at this point, that anything Lumpy (frontman of Lumpy & The Dumpers) puts out, should be on your radar. This is right up there with all of my other favorite releases and if you don’t know who I’m referring to, well, do your homework. Aquarium creates infectious, quick punk songs that will keep you coming back to this record. The vocalist sings in German, which may sound odd but the delivery is always on point and it makes this band stand out even more. Their drummer is also in URANIUM CLUB, which is one of my favorite bands coining the new wave punk sound since THE CONEHEADS or CCTV. For fans of the Jimmy Youtube Channel, which is now back with a new name of ANTI. One of the best places to keep up on weirdo punk. Stand out track for me has been “Hospital” which reminds me of the band PATSY -who released one of the best 12’s last year.
Gen Pop – (2) 7” (Feel It)
One of Olympia’s finest bands, GEN POP, is back with their second 7” on FEEL IT RECORDS. Their first 7” also came out on LUMPY RECORDS,. That’s a hell of a start for a new band, and two labels that I constantly keep up with. Gen Pop’s ability to switch tempos at the drop of a dime, along with the ability to cover several genres while retaining punk roots, makes this record very satisfying. Even when you think, “oh this must be their slow song,” they blast back into a frenetic riff with the rhythm section relentlessly keeping pace, leaving the listener disoriented and ready for more. I’m ready for a full length, myself.
Chain Cvlt – Demo MLP 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Chain Cult is a post-punk trio from Athens, Greece. Their demo tape sold out so quickly, that it’s already been pressed to vinyl by the best label in the business: LA VIDA ES UN MUS. Post-punk is sometimes hard to define, which is why the genre has always been fascinating to me. Chain Cult creates urgent and energetic post-punk, in the style of WARSAW. The bass lines set the tone for each song, along with sharp guitar lines, and pissed off vocals. Songs such as “State of Fear,” “Black Hole,” and “Lost Signal” take a hard look at the current state of world we now live in. “We are in a state of fear, It seems so far but it’s very near.” Blink and the demo is over before you know it.
Vile Spirit – Demo cassette (Quality Control)
After my favorite hardcore band ANXIETY broke up recently, I was hoping to find another UK band that could match their intensity. VILE SPIRIT is here to fill the void. Only a demo tape to their name, made up of four songs but as far as demos go, this is on another level. Every time I put this tape on, somebody asks “who’s this?” I’ve found this to be a very good test to see if something will stand the test of time, or just be shuffled in with the rest of the music I’ve bought lately. This is absolutely brutal hardcore, not for the faint of heart. They beat you down with every track, and never slow down. Lyrically, the four songs show the vocalist self-destructing, contemplating past relationships, unable to relate to people he knows, and taking everyone down with him.
Litchics – Mating Surfaces LP (Kill Rock Stars)
Lithics are from Portland and make the kind of post-punk that seems to be thriving in the underground punk scene. For fans of SHOPPING, GAUCHE, and THE WORLD, but for me, they are easily the best of this group. That’s not to take anything away from the bands I mentioned before them, they are all incredible. If you haven’t heard any of these bands, well it’s time to change that. Maybe a better reference to older bands would be AU PAIRS or KLEENEX. That’s for you to decide. Minimalistic perfection on guitar, combined with a tight rhythm section and detached vocals. What more do you need?
Snob – S/T LP (La Vida Es Un Mus)
It’s crazy to me that Snob has existed since 2014 and have only self-released two 7”s. Well the full length released by the Disco Punk label LVEUM was well worth the wait. This has been by far my favorite release so far this year. Tense hardcore that is made up angry, snotty vocals, frantic guitar riffs, and a rhythm section that is going to beat you up from start to finish. The lyrics stand out the most for me, short and sweet, but tackling social issues in a clever, sometimes humorous way.
Beta Blockers – Stiff Prescription (Static Shock)
Beta Blockers create the kind of fast paced hardcore music I love, mixed with industrial elements that only add to the chaos. The debut LP from this Leeds/ Sheffield band might not be an easy one to stomach for the average listener. Seven songs clocking in at a mere eighteen minutes, the kind of basement set that leaves everyone yearning for more. Beta Blockers consist of members of THE FLEX, NO FORM, WHIPPING POST and COMMUNITY. I could try to describe this band by telling you it’s a bizarre combination of two bands you might already know, but instead I am just going to say this is by far one of the best new hardcore bands I’ve heard in awhile. STATIC SHOCK records from London never disappoints, consistently putting out the best current bands. Limited pressing of 300 on white vinyl, get your hands on this one if you still can.
Spotify is convenient, but support the bands making music and GO BUY THEIR RECORDS.