Top Sounds - A

ABOLITIONIST - Live At Black Water {DIY} 12-track download only release of the last ever ABOLITIONIST gig. I could tell ya how great each song is, how fucking proficient the band sound in this live environment or that they some how fused JAWBREAKER with FUGAZI with PROPAGANDHI to become one of the best bands in America during the last ten years. All of that is true (especially the slashing, incisive guitars here - damn impressive live recording). ABOLITIONIST is a band I have long championed. You can read an interview on this website with band mainstay Dustin. You can read a stack of reviews here too. Snag is, despite being one of the best bands in the US over the last ten years, they also seemed to be one of the least appreciated. While I watched a ton of lesser (and frequently down right shit) bands become popular, tour etc, ABOLITIONIST remained a well kept secret to those of us who know the good stuff. Obviously, being down here in the South Pacific I never got to see the Portland, Oregon based band live which, given the quality of the performance here, is a real weakener. Only fault really is that some songs seem to fade out, and there are gaps between some songs, breaking down the band-audience connection. The other fault? This needs to be on vinyl. As it is, do yourself a big favour, in fact a huge fucking favour and go to the band’s Bandcamp page, download this and donate a couple of dollars when you do it.  You’ll soon be chasing their back catalogue and ruing the fact that you too missed the boat with this one. (21.08.20)
ABOLITIONIST - Ugly Feeling {1859} Fuck me, there were some good records released in 2019 and this, the final release from the most underrated band in Portland, is among them. The DC influence hinted at on the release below is explored further here with several tracks echoing the space and tension of FUGAZI - check ‘Yelling’, ‘World Inside’ and ‘Ambivalent Nerd’ (the last of which could be the album’s best). Elsewhere the title track is classic, raging ABOLITIONIST ‘core, ‘Family Affair’ is lurching, vocal and demonstrative while ‘Shelter’, with its stop-start riffage that mutates into a soaring, swelling barrage, could be the best here. As usual with ABOLITIONIST, there is a bit of a theme running through this. The album’s focus appears to be a young lad grown up in the country surrounded by materialism, but has an ugly feeling throughout - which he finally realises is that the world he knows is fucked up and he breaks through the walls (the title of the final track, which features a stunning guitar lead that MIKE NESS would probably pay good money for). As good as previous ABOLITIONIST records have been, the space, tension and depth of these tracks lifts this above anything the band has done previously. A great shame it’s the last recording by the band. Pressed on lovely pink/purple vinyl and limited, you’d better get in quick if you want to catch the swansong of a band that promised so much and always delivered it. (02.02.20)
ABOLITIONIST - A New Militance {1859} Man... These guys just keep getting better. Fact is, they’ve never released an average record and this snazzy, limited 10” is no different. You get eight songs that were written in February 2017 following the 2016 US Presidential election and, interestingly, from a women’s right perspective. It would be easy to think that this could be an all-out frenzied Punk Rock attack, but it’s actually a very considered and dramatic set of songs with the likes of ‘Red’ that saunters on a vaguely KENNEDYS guitar signature, the pounding mid-paced growl of ‘Trigger’ and closer ‘Over’ all adding tension and claustrophobia to the attack. Elsewhere you get raucous, sub-60 seconds of ‘War’ and personal favourite ‘Avalanche’ that’s powered by some taut drumming and a killer riff. In terms of lyrics, Dustin never goes all-out for the  jugular here, rather letting his words work their way into the psyche by way of provoking thought rather than ire. Bit of a DC kinda vibe going on in parts too which, along with the band’s usual sound, makes this a rather thrilling, idea-packed listen. (22.08.19)

ABOLITIONIST - The Instant {DIY} PODCAST PLAYED Album number four from Portland's most underrated band. You get 12 tracks, kicking off with the title track and it’s apparent that Dustin and crew have amped the sound. After a deceiving slow, chugging opening, the song rips into something akin to PROPAGANDHI. The JAWBREAKER comparison is still valid (see ‘A Little Animal Liberation Never Hurt Anyone’), although now in a much lesser way than ABOLITIONIST’s previous work. From there, it continues as a fusion of those two, and something that has become very much the band’s own sound. Highlights include the embittered ‘Backlash’, the sedate riffage and potent message of ‘Totally Bonkers’ and closer ‘Lonesome Death’ while ‘Failed Projections’ with its urgent riff and ominous verses takes the best track. While these are short and concise songs (only one song breaks 2 minutes 30 seconds), they are far from simplistic; you get different moods, well thought out arrangements and plenty to suggest that this is the band’s best and most individualistic work so far. Already a big player here at the House Of Scanner and I’d put money on it being one of the Top Ten albums of 2018.  (18.07.18)

ABOLITIONIST - The Pinnacle EP {DIY} First release in a couple of years from this excellent, underrated band outta Portland, OR and you get four tracks kicking off with the title track, that is surging, chunky and direct. ‘That’s No Forest, Stupid’ follows and raises some interesting points about cash-crop farming, and could be the standout track on the EP. Of the remaining two tracks, closer ‘Not Alone’ most mirrors the JAWBREAKER sound of old while ‘Surrounded By Everyone’ pivots around a dual bass/ guitar lead line that’s akin to early BUZZCOCKS but played with more power and greater dynamics. All the tracks, bar the lead song, clock in at under two minutes, and while there isn’t any fucking about, the songs remain structured and involved. I’m guessing this acts as a warm up for the imminent fourth album, ‘The Instant’ and, if these tracks are anything to judge it by, it’s gonna be worth the 2+ year wait since the previous ‘Vicious Rumour’ album. Watch this space... (25.02.18)

ABRAZOS - Angry All The Time {DIY} Second release from this South Coast (of England) trio and it kicks off with the raging ‘Tradition’ that adapts FLUX OF PINK INDIANS before launching into a 60 second anti-hunting diatribe. Spot on guys!! The general vibe is kinda early 7 SECONDS meets VIOLENT ARREST, with two vocalists that compliment each other really well (one being a gruff bellower, the other more of a Steve Drewett style singer and both having clarity about their words). No song breaks 90 seconds (with a few under a minute) and it’s political, raging and cutting. Plenty of highlights with ‘Half A Scene’ being rather latter-day CONFLICT-esque, ‘Dying In Denial’ keeps the animal rights vain of the opener to the fore while highlight would be ‘Fashion Victims’. The download/ USB stick comes with a great lyric PDF and an additional 16 tracks recorded live and raw in Portsmouth. Solid, political, sussed Punk Rock delivered with heart and conviction - and I would not expect anything else from these guys. Recommended. EMAIL (18.07.20)
ABRAZOS - Belligerent And Numerous {DIY} While the band’s name might mean ‘Embrace’ or ‘hugs’ in Spanish, this sure ain’t no Emo dirge. What it is, is an eight track demo kinda thing from this new South Coast (of England) Hardcore band. While all but the closing track clock in at under 60 seconds, there’s no ENT stylee thrash here. Instead, I heard a great deal of CONFLICT, be it the dual vocal delivery, incisive guitar riffs or lyrical direction. Bit of DISCHARGEian distorto bass in parts too (check the intro to the title track). Highlights include opener ‘We Pretend To Work Because They Pretend To Pay Us’ that had echoes of CRASS, ‘Celebrate Cruelty’, and the closing ‘Abrazos’. Given the brevity of most of these tracks, there’s a fair bit going on making for much more than simple, Punk Rock bludgeon. Get it for a free download - although I’d love to see it out on vinyl. (17.02.19)
ABUSEMENTS - Irritainment! {Permanent Lifetime} Trio outta Montgomery, Alabama with a debut 16 track album of RAMONEocore delivered with a more sneering vocal, not a million miles from early QUEERS with a splash of ‘Wild In The Streets’-era CIRCLE JERKS in fact. Opener ‘Space Nazis’ seems to be about the band’s home state while the following 15 tracks retain a snappy, direct attack with a nice touch of cynicism and sarcasm about the lyrics. Highlights include the barbed ‘Florida Man’, the slow burn growl of ‘Leaving’, ‘Abusemenaut’ that’s got a bit of BAD RELIGION about it and the overdose of obnoxiousness that is closer ‘Deluxe’ while highlight could be the analysis of Nixon’s brain in ‘Nixon’ or the boisterous title track. Solid, sneering Punk Rock which, given what lyrics I could pick out, would have benefited a lyric sheet. Production is garage land, rough around the edges and totally convincing because of it. (24.09.19)
ADOLESCENTS - Cropduster {Concrete Jungle} Latest from these American legends, and the last to feature the late, great Steve Soto. You get 19 tracks and, even from the artwork (featuring Donny Trump farting out a green toxic gas as he walks past a line of people), it’s a distinctly political record. Tracks like the title track, ‘Just Because’ and ‘Room 223’ to name but three are either direct attacks on Trump’s administration or the America that it has born, while ‘Flat Earth Stomp’ and ‘Prey For Armageddon’ both expand on that lyrical direction. Individual track highlights include both ‘Sunspot Screams’ and ‘Disease’ that feature sublime melodic guitar work and soaring arrangements, the staggered stop-start riffage of ‘Choke And Killswitch System’ which features a chorus BAD RELIGION would probably sell Brian Baker for, and the frantic ‘5150 Or Fight’, while album highlight probably falls to ‘Room 223’. Great packaging too, with a full gatefold sleeve, smart blue vinyl (limited) and a download code. Whether this will be the last album from ADOLESCENTS or not remains to be seen, but it will most definitely be the last one that features the traits of Soto’s exemplary songwriting skills. If this is his last recorded work, it’s a stunning epitaph to the man. (17.02.19)
ADRENALIN OD - Wacky Hi-Jinks Of.../ Humungusfungusamoungus/ Cruising With Elvis In Bigfoots’ UFO {Beer City} To celebrate 35 years since the release of ADRENALIN OD’s classic debut, ‘The Wacky Hi-Jinks Of...’, Beer City Records has re-released the band’s first three albums. Each one has been remastered from the original master tapes and sound raging. Plus the original artwork has been reproduced and a couple of these come with a poster. And they’re all limited to just 1,000 copies. If ya don’t know the band, they were from New Jersey and played a brand of lightning fast Hardcore but with a big helping of humour - think STUPIDS and ANGRY SAMOANS played at 78rpm!! ‘Wacky...’ was released back in 1984 and remains my favourite album of the band. You got bona fide Hardcore classics in ‘Middle-Aged Whore’, ‘White Hassle’ (which fused traditional Punk aggro with warp-speed core), ‘Clean And Jerk’ (which has a hint of MINOR THREAT about it) and personal favourite ‘Going To A Funeral’. It also starts off with a three-minute instrumental. Scorching stuff and, from memory, the band were hounded to sign to just about every emerging Thrash Metal label at the time.
Two years on saw the release of ‘Humungus...’, which took all of the traits on the album above and amped them some more. This is faster, tighter, better produced and ever more bellicose in its humour - see ‘Yuppie’, ‘Pizza-N-Beer’, ‘Fuck The Neighbours’ and ‘Velvet Elvis’. It’s easy to hear why this album in particular was such an influence on the likes of NOFX; funny, scathing and blistering in the jams. It’s also the one that features the classic, iconic ‘Pope On A Rope’ as well as personal fave ‘Bugs’. Pressed on super-limited green or blue vinyl (just 100 of each), or a more common yellow (800). What more does a Punk want??
I have to confess, I had never heard 1988’s ‘Cruising With Elvis...’ before. Not sure why; we just never crossed paths. Besides the original ten tracks, you get a bonus six tracks recorded live at Gilman Street in ‘87. While this is still resolutely Punk Rock, it is noticeably slower and more textured than the two albums above, and musically brought to mind CHANNEL THREE (check ‘Swindle’). Several tracks stand out: ‘Bulimic Food Fight’ retains all the crazy humour of old, the cover of THE AVENGERS’ ‘Second To None’ is great and ‘Flip Side Unclassified’ continues that CH3 vibe to awesome effect. The live tracks are, as you might expect, garageland quality but raging and intense (‘Pope On A Rope’ is just fucking manic!!).
So, a bit of US Hardcore history made available again. If ya curious, go for ‘Wacky Hi-Jinks...’  it remains an era favourite for me. (14.04.20)
ALLVARET - Skam Och Skuld {Dirt Cult} Ten track album from this quartet outta Sweden and quite stunning it is. It starts very moody and brooding - somewhere betwixt JOY DIVISION and KILLING JOKE before opening up with sublime melodic hooks and strong, passionate vocals from Sushila. And that’s just the opener, ‘Som Dimma’ which could be the album’s best track. The remaining nine tracks hold the attention in a vice-like grip too with other highlights including ‘Smuts Och Sorg’ that’s musically darker but is lifted to mesmerizing heights by that vocal of Sushila, both ‘Ihålig’ and ‘Rik Och Ung Och Kåt’ that have energy comparable with RED DONS and closer ‘Minns Mig’ which could be the other best track and has a certain Poly Styrene-esque belligerence about the vocal. Comparisons with MASSHYSTERI, CASTRO and ARCTIC FLOWERS are unavoidable, but there’s a surf feel to some of the guitars, a classic Pop-Punk (as in BUZZCOCKS) trait about the melodies while remaining dark and primal (see ‘0253’), and a direct power-packed rhythm section. Lyrics are all in Swedish, the songs are short, dramatic and thrilling. Highly recommended if European Punk registers on you. (29.06.19)

AMERICAN SPACE MONKEY - Crash Landing {DIY} Six track mini-album from this beguilingly named Canadian band. I instantly warmed to them when I saw that the song titles were all single-worded and combined made up, ‘Fuck You All ! We Quit’. ‘Fuck’ kicks off with a subtle intro before blowing up into something akin to SCREAMING TREES going balls-out Rock before a filthy, distorto bass worthy of DISCHARGE opens ‘You’ which morphs into something along the lines of a nasty SOUNDGARDEN. Those more-rock orientated Grunge bands continue to be the main pointer for the album but this is way more than a Seattle milking. Parts of it are as ominous as MINISTRY and as noisy as CONVERGE while others creepy-crawl with BLACK FLAG ‘My War’ era intensity. Standout ‘We’ lurches on a bruising riff and towering vocal. The band’s outta Vancouver, Canada and is probably a bit too Metal/ Grunge inspired for my more spiky preferences, but it was an enjoyable listen and I imagine that they probably kick up a sulphuric and damage-inducing experience live.  (18.05.18)

ANSWERING MACHINE - Bad Luck {Wiretap} Five piece outta Brooklyn, New York and no doubt named after the REPLACEMENTS song as from opener ‘Riverdale’ there is a ‘MATS vibe but with some very smart, highly harmonised dual male/ female vocals. It’s the band’s debut album, you get ten tracks that, besides the ‘MATS, has a vague AGAINST ME! feel, if played via the Country vibe of WHISKEY AND CO and a splash of BIG STAR ‘Radio City’ era. Rather smart indeed! Highlights include ‘Bubblegum’ which is exactly that with the surge of RAMONES, ‘Marie’ that has a driving bass and rich vocal and ‘Water Signs’ that’s a snappy, Wilco Johnson-esque guitar riff and DANCE HALL CRASHERS feel while highlight has to be ‘Hollywood Smog’ that floats along on a fantastic vocal performance, BLONDIE-esque guitar line and as evocative of Hollywood as ‘Los Angeles’ by X is of LA. Killer closing acoustic track too. I really enjoyed this; it sounds fantastic, the songs are totally addictive and while those harmonies evoke an alt-Country feel, the playing has enough attitude and drive about it to make me wanna pogo through the fucking roof!! (26.11.20)

ANTI-SYSTEM - Live: In Durham City {Boss Tuneage} Bruising 16 track live recording of this early 80s Anarcho band outta Bradford, England recorded with the band’s brand new line-up in front of an intimate 28 friends at their rehearsal space in January 2019. Kicking off with a raucous ‘1000 Rifles’ from the ‘83 ‘Defence Of The Realm’ EP, it’s clearly raging stuff. The set mixes the old and new with highlights being ‘The End Was Inevitable’, a blazing ‘At What Price Is Freedom?’, ‘Rhetorical Stagnation’ and personal fave ‘Government Lies’. CD comes with a booklet full of pics (including one of the 28 crowd members) while the LP version is strictly limited to a mere 150. It was interesting to hear the tracks from the 80s (be it from the EP or the ‘No Laughing Matter’ album from ‘84) in their revitalised form here and great to hear them still sounding so impressive, enraged and relevant. (18.11.19)
AR-KAICS, THE - In This Time {Wick} Second album from these 60s-influenced Garage Punk Power Poppers outta Richmond, Virginia. Think a fusion of early ROLLING STONES arrogance and energy, UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TO CANDYLAND sneering Garage Rock, a tiny hint of CRAMPS and a vaguely psychedelic BYRDS chime and you are close. Highlights are certainly those that take the early STONES qualities and bring them up to date, especially ‘Sick ‘n’ Tired’ that’s got a fiery, bilious nature about the vocal. Other highlights include ‘No Vacancy’ that could be from ‘Nuggets’ or certainly the NAZ NOMAD album, the rather wistful ‘It’s Her Eyes’ which is complemented by an equally sedate but much darker, much nastier sounding ‘Cut Me Down’ and the title track that’s got a real shake-it-down groove about it. Enjoyable stuff that’s on the quieter, slightly more psyche, slightly more formatted side of Garage rather than the balls-out noxious damage of THE REATARDS. (10.01.19)
AUTOGRAMM - Bad Day {Jarama} Vancouver’s synth-driven Power-Pop trio are back with this effervescent two track seven incher!!  The lead track is a cracker - bass-driven, synth-laden, impossibly catchy and slightly psychedelic when the breakdown hits. It surely should be a hit - but with the song’s subject matter being about depression, this is serious stuff. The flip is killer - a take on the RAMONES classic ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ sung in Spanish and performed like Foxx-era ULTRAVOX! Needless to say this highly melodic but clever stuff, think DEVO fused with SONIC AVENUES maybe. Production is literally pulsating and on a dance-a-bility rating, this is top notch stuff without being vacuous, bland or weedy ‘pop’ music. I like!!! (03.04.20)
AUTOGRAMM - What R U Waiting 4? {Nevado} Interesting, inventive stuff here that takes the electro-New Wave pulse of DEVO and fuses it with the early Power-Pop of CHEAP TRICK, a bit of VAPOURS Punk bite, a splash of keyboard heavy CURE darkness and the quirky cleverness of PULP - yet somehow they manage to sound quite unique. Plenty of good stuff here too, be it both ‘R U Lookin’ 4 Love?’ and ‘Cool Kids Radio’ that emphasise the CHEAP TRICK vibe, ‘Peter Pan’ that fuses dark electronica with a pulsing bassline and could be lifted from a MIND SPIDERS album, and ‘Wandering Eyes’ that’s minimalist laden with tribal beats, drama and comes over semi-Industrial. Highlight is ‘Bummer Party’ that’s propelled on a bassline and synth lead sufficient to recall early NEW ORDER. Enjoyable stuff from this trio outta Vancouver, Canada. It’s the band’s debut album and if a bit of electronic Power Pop with great songs is your thang, go check this out now. Possibly the surprise hit of the House Of Scanner Summer bar-be-ques! (22.12.18)

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