I got to write about the two albums that tied for #8 on the year-end critics’ poll: Natural Child’s granola-flavored Okey Dokey and Western Medication’s debut LP, The Entertainers’ Secret. Others who made the cut include Margo Price, Sturgill Simpson, William Tyler, and (the face on the cover of the print version) Adia Victoria. Below are links to the article and a like to stream both of these ace full-lengths.
Top Local Albums 2016: The Nashville Scene Critics’ Poll
Vancouver, BC may seem like a beautiful Northwestern city full of culture, near some of the most scenic natural land in North America. But this peaceful town has a harsh, ghoulish dark side too. We are talking about a major metropolitan area that rioted over losing in the Stanley Cup Finals – TWO SEPARATE TIMES!
Laughing Boy seems to be a product of the latter part of BC – the part that lights police cars on fire when your first line cant score a goal in Boston against Tim Thomas. Though they’re called “D-beat” on their tags, I really don’t get that from them at all. There is the slight Discharge/Broken Bones guitar tone, maybe. Laughing Boy reminds me a lot of straight-forward USHC, but with a sound that’s blown to smithereens. I can see a lot of comparisons to Void, Poison Idea, and Die Kreuzen. There are even moments that reflect the Y2K thrash of Tear It Up. And the singer’s throat must be made of glasspacks, because he sounds like he’s shredded his larynx a time or two. The seven song demo ends with a ripper of a cover of Disclose’s “Conquest.”
When I first started the project of seeking out new punk bands’ demos, I expected it to be a hard one. I sort of saw myself like an anthropologist digging around the King’s Valley looking for the tomb of a mythic pharaoh. But it’s been pretty easy to find good ones. And in the case of the last two (TORPUR and Arrotzak) I found bands that blew me away. Being newly 38 years old – or 76 in punk years – I’m encouraged to see that the new generation of DIY weirdos are running with the torch.
That being said, sometimes it’s good to have a demo just fall in your lap without any research. And even better if it’s by a band of veterans of the underground. From the Future is a new band full of old timers. Fellow Nashvillians, they’ve paid their dues in other noise-rock and post hardcore bands I’ve seen around my town for as long as I have lived here. From the Future only have two songs available so far, but they come out of the gate hard. The first track (“Dictator,” for those who like titles) is a cyclone of political rage that sounds like the lost track from an AmRep comp. It lies somewhere in the circles of Hammerhead, Rapeman, or the more chaotic end of math rock spectrum. The second track – “Keg Killer” – is a short blast of blown-out funky post punk a la Big Boys, Minutemen, or The Dicks. These dudes make some ugly rock.
There are some pretty severe Wipers vibes going down on this cassette. From San Sebastián, Spain, Arrotzak have the dark, distorted jangle of Greg Sage circa Over the Edge. There are certainly similarities to Neon Piss, in the way they bring the classic Sage sound into the 21st Century. There are hints of other things going on too – melodies hinting at Leatherface, the dark sparseness of early Joy Division, and flecks of anarcho-riffs a la The Mob or Rudimentary Peni. And this is no joke to be only a demo. There are EIGHT tracks – all both brilliant and gloomy – totaling over twenty minutes of music. The hooded falcon artwork is stellar too.
Kraków, Poland’s TORPUR may only be a duo, but these punkers make enough racket to be an entire platoon of skateboard freaks. Their new eight song cassette is nine minutes of screaming, distortion, and hiss that is sure to alienate the squares. TORPUR’s self-described “goblin punk” is harsh and abrasive. And yet somehow these guys are still really catchy and fun. If you aren’t too frightened to make it all the way to the end, the last track is a fantastic stomp-beat crusher full of static and dissonance. This band has made one of the best demo’s I’ve heard in a long time. Someone get them a 7″ before they break up and it’s all lost to obscurity the of the punk oblivion.
The UK has been making us look bad at our own game. The Brits stole our US hardcore sound and I’m not sure they’re willing to give it back. They’re blowing us away with their recent interpretation of bands like SS Decontrol, The Abused, and Negative Approach. It’s kind of like when the Soviets and Yugoslavia beat Team USA out in Olympic Basketball in 1988. David Stern had to assemble the Dream Team just to bounce back from that!
Speaking of 1988, recent Firm Standing Law demo tape is just another example of how the Queen Mother’s hardcore is reshaping the stuff America was doing in the Eighties. This three song cassette has a feel of Chain of Strength and Cro-Mags with maybe a little Strife thrown in. Nothing fancy here – just finger-pointing and crew chants. The intro track even has a nod to Black Sabbath’s eponymous riff. I really hope these straightedge Englishmen sell long-sleeve t-shirts with script printed from the cuff to the shoulder.
CLICK HERE: FIRM STANDING LAW DEMO 2016
Admittedly, I know nothing about Serbian hardcore. However, Eva Ras can stand as evidence that they must have something going on other than Novak Djokovic and “Peja” Stojaković. The demo features Belgrade’s Filip Stojiljkovic playing every instrument in a collage of clanging guitar din and weirdo noises. The vibe is similar to older emo violence a la Combatwoundedveteran or Orchid. But there are nods to older art-rockers too, with guitar parts recall the harsher moments of The Velvet Underground. The final track includes a glacier-paced sample of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” as a prelude to the noisecore racket. This demo makes me miss the days of tight pants, white belts, and broken microphones.
CLICK HERE: EVA RAS DEMO 2016