Top Sounds - A

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 - 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)
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)

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 - 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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