Top Sounds - M

MAD ANTHONY - s/t {Phratry} Don’t know much about this trio outta Cincinnati, Ohio but this is a 12-track album that fuses NIRVANA style Grunge with the eclectic, fragmentary sound of MISSION OF BURMA and delivered in a style SCREAMING TREES or AFGHAN WIGS might do. There’s even a hint of THE DOORS in some of the vocals. Highlights have to be opener ‘Forget About Us’, ‘Boob’ which has those Morrison-esque vocals, the neat, understated groove of ‘Weekend Lover’, ‘Yellow Pages’, and the raucous blast that is ‘Bottomfeeder’. Some of it didn’t really work, both ‘Man Walks Into A’ and ‘Bear Attack’ just failed, bringing to mind the hackneyed rock of PEARL JAM or some 70s rock dinosaur. It’s all well thought out stuff, challenging in parts but ultimately it’s a bit bland. Lots of bands are around that do this kinda Alt-Rock/ Grunge stuff and while this is far from bad, it doesn’t quite crank my cogs like I had hoped. (15.12.15)

MAD PARADE - The Fool {Hostage} Ohh yesss!! Punk Fucking Rock played with class, a sneer and totally rousing riffs and vocals! This is a two track 7" pressed on lovely tangerine orange vinyl with a lead track that is the perfect combination of THUNDERS’ HEARTBREAKERS Rock ‘n’ Roll swaggering cool with a more abrasive Southern California Punk Rock blast. It features an excellent climax when the band drop back and the vocals become almost tender before the momentum picks up and it’s blasting again. Flip the beastie over and you get ‘Lovers And Strangers’ which is a more heads-down Pogo Punk stormer. If you know how great the band’s ‘A Thousand Words’ album is, then you need this. What’s more, my version (admittedly one of the limited run of 120) includes a download card giving you access to another 10 tracks recorded in the early 80s, plus a cover of ‘Janie Jones’ from 2003 that’s another ripper. I shouldn’t need to push this as it’s a pristine slice of exactly how Yank Punk Rock should sound - loud, soaring, sneering and passionate - and no trace of Metal at all. Bonus points there!! (14.07.16)

MARTHA - Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart {Dirtnap} First time I’ve come across this quartet from the exotic environs of Pity Me, County Durham, UK and I have to say, it’s fucking great!! Apparently it’s the band’s second album and from the opener ‘Christine’ you get a total of 11 tracks all of which could easily claim to be the album’s best but ‘Chekhov’s Hangnail’ with it’s clever lyrics and knockout chorus, the swagger of ‘Do Whatever’, ‘The Awkward Ones’ that retains local accents and is just a joyous celebration with a soaring J. Mascis-esque guitar solo, and ‘Curly And Raquel’ could all claim to be the stand outs. If it’s sound-a-likes you’re after, there is a distinct REPLACEMENTS attitude here (kinda obvious considering the closing ‘St. Pauls (Westerberg Comprehensive)‘ which, for a ‘MATS fan, kinda sums it up) but fused with aural sculptures of CHIXDIGGIT, THE VAPORS and a big dollop of THE ‘TONE. It’s fantastic to hear a band that has genuinely great melodies and fuse them with effectual, ragged garage guitars, dynamics, urgency and attitude and come out sounding both Pop and Punk, but not Pop Punk in a slick GREEN DAY kinda way. More wonderful than drinking ice cold beers on a lazy Summer afternoon; it’s a small pleasure but one that makes life oh-so enjoyable. (28.04.17)

MEAN JEANS - Tight New Dimension {Fat Wreck} Portland’s MEAN JEANS inhabit a wonderful and weird world and it’s a world I love. This is the band’s Fat Wreck long-player debut following a run of great releases on Dirtnap. You get 12 songs in 25 minutes and best of all, every one’s a winner!! If ya never heard the band, imagine if Stan Lee of THE DICKIES was the lead guitarist in THE RAMONES, or Ben Weasel was in CHIXDIGGIT. Get it? Fun, bubblegum and distinctly rocking Punk Rock. You want highlights? Alright.. ‘Trash Can’ is a fantastically mid-paced romp that could’ve vied for being the best track on ‘Pleasant Dreams’, ‘Late Nite On Earth’ has that classic Dirtnap sound the likes of LOW CULTURE and SONIC AVENUES do so well, closer ‘Are There Beers In Heaven?’ opens like a HUMAN LEAGUE song while both opener ‘Long Dumb Road’ and ‘Allergic To Success’ flat out rock with a smile. Then you got the recent single ‘Nite Vision’ that could be the best track here, although ‘4 Coors Meal’ and ‘I Don’t Care That I Don’t Care’ could argue the point. This sounds bold, addictive and best listened to with beer. Great artwork too. If you liked the band’s Dirtnap output (as I did), this won’t disappoint. (05.12.16)

MEAN JEANS - Nite Vision {Fat Wreck} After a long association with Dirtnap Records, Portland's MEAN JEANS deliver their first product for Fat Wreck and it’s a rather impressive three-track 7". The title track has that classic high-octane, catchy Dirtnap Punk sound - think STEVE ADAMYK, BAD SPORTS etc and is hopefully an indicator of how good the new album will be. The flip features ‘Now I Wanna Be Yr Dogg’ and ‘69 Tears’ both of which display a couple of things. First, the band’s sense of humour in taking a couple of well known song titles and skewering them and secondly that both tracks sound like an homage to the RAMONES. The former in particular could be a cover from something on ‘Animal Boy’ while the latter would not be outta place on the recent CJ RAMONE album. No doubt this will bring the band to a whole new set of listeners and, while it’s not that ‘classic’ Fat sound of LAGWAGON/ NUFAN, it’s certainly catchy and spikey and fun and can hold its own with the band’s previous, rather excellent work on Dirtnap. BUT, if you’re after Crusty, Anarcho Punk - you’d best stick with Profane Existence. (24.05.16)

MENTHOL - Plastic Garden {Sorry State} Six-track cassette release from this band outta Greensboro, North Carolina. First time I’ve come across them and it’s an interesting mix of GERMS/ CRIMINALS Punk, complete with those throaty vocals of Darby’s but fused with garage vibe of early CELIBATE RIFLES and a hint of WIRE artiness. Of the six tracks, ‘Pure Image’ is closest you get to an all-out thrasher while the title track evokes the moodiness of the WIPERS, had Darby been singing! My personal highlight is ‘Dissect (Lift The Spell)’ that punches its way along on a power riff before lunching itself into a chorus that the mighty RADIO BIRDMAN could’ve been proud of - but with Darby singing! Not sure why the Aussie Punk vibe kept coming to mind; some of the guitar patterns were very much in that late 70s Aussie Punk Rock ‘n’ Roll vibe, but there’s something much more fragmented, more damaged behind the sounds here. Comes with a download code too. (23.12.16)

MIND SPIDERS - Prosthesis {Dirtnap} Fourth album from this project based around Mark Ryan (formerly of MARKED MEN) and although the last album I heard by the band (‘Meltdown’) was quite electronic, this sees Ryan dive into digital noise and electronica, but retaining that garage guitar - think a fusion of WIRE, JAY REATARD and TUBEWAY ARMY. The songs here are also longer and more developed with highlights being the pumping electronic beats of ‘No Filter’, the title track that even borders into MEAT BEAT MANIFESTO territory, ‘Split In Two’ which fuses warped electronica with guitar fragments and the closing ‘Ulcer’ that is the only track not to start with electronic sounds but builds into a pulsating epic, laden with malignant soundscapes and culminating in an electronic, hypnotic grace. It would be the stand out were if not for ‘Running’ that fuses BUZZCOCKS in drama-mode with the psychedelic, swirling majesty of THE CHURCH. Musically, this has been filled out with the likes of Daniel Fried (BAD SPORTS) and fellow MARKED MEN Mike Throneberry. Missing the groove of SCREAMERS and TUBEWAY ARMY? Know Punk can use keyboards to mind-warping effect? Then ya better get hip to MIND SPIDERS if you ain’t already. Early contender for one of 2016’s best releases. (28.04.16)

MINISTRY - Houses Of The Molé {Dissonance} Released in 2004, this was the first studio album since Paul barker left the band, the last album the band did for Sanctuary Records and was also the first in a trilogy of albums about George W Bush. It’s also the band’s best since ‘Psalm 69’ and possibly even ‘The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste’. You get nine core songs, which combine to stunning effect be it opener ‘Now’ that coulda been on ‘Psalm 69’, both ‘Waiting’ and ‘Worthless’ that have that ‘Mind...’ groove while ‘Warp City’ is flat out speed metal with stunning paradiddling drums. It’s ‘World’ that’s the highlight; it’s a great prowling mechanical track with lurching riffs, distorted and delayed vocals, and an orchestral chorus, although the epic closer ‘Worm’ has a certain malignant grace with its sedate pace and subtle orchestration. There follows another 60 tracks - most are four seconds of silence, although ‘Psalm 23’ is virtually ‘Now’ repeated and track #69, ‘Walrus’, is a celebration of Barker’s departure with the words "Paul is no longer with us" on a backwards loop! Definite return to form; MINISTRY are beyond compare when they are this fucking mind-numbingly effective and body-crunchingly brutal. Of the three re-issues here, start with this one. Killer. (31.07.17)

MINISTRY - Animositisomina {Dissonance} Many have copied, none have matched the Industrial Metal groove of Al Jourgensen with his MINISTRY hat on. This was the last album to include Paul Barker (who, if I recall correctly, walked out after being found to be stealing cash) and was originally released back in 2002. It’s a cracker too, kicking off with a mechanical rhythmic intro, tinny distorted guitars and then ka-boosh - ‘Animosity’ is up and running! It’s a powerful opening that would’ve fit on ‘Psalm 69’. ‘Unsung’ with it’s soaring vocal, ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ and the closing 9-minute epic instrumental ‘Leper’ have a ‘Mind Is A Terrible..’esque vibe, while ‘Lockbox’ has a monster electronic breakdown and relentless beats. Elsewhere ‘Broken’ pivots around a metal riff, orchestral augmentation, REV CO piss take vocal and ‘Shove’ has a cloying hypnotic beat that, oddly, recalls JOY DIVISION in parts. A few of the songs seem incomplete with abrupt stops and a fade out on ‘Impossible’. Production however is colossal - everything seems louder than everything else but the clarity is pristine. Neat digi-pack and while it’s not as good as the previous ‘Dark Side Of The Spoon’, it’s better than ‘Filth Pig’. Interesting fact too: This is the only MINISTRY album Jourgensen has done stone-cold sober since the ‘With Sympathy’ debut. What a contrast!! (31.07.17)

MINISTRY - Sphinctour {Dissonance} Eleven track live album recorded at various venues from Canada to England, America, France, Germany and more on the 1996 Sphinctour world. Pretty sure anyone who is familiar with the band will be aware of the intensity of tracks like ‘Just 1 Fix’ (which is probably the strongest sounding recording here), ‘Thieves’, ‘N.W.O’ and opener ‘Psalm 69’ and all of those are included here. Other goodies include the Industrial sonic attack of ‘Reload’, a sublimely lurching ‘Scarecrow’ and the closing, epic ‘The Fall’. Packaging is a neat little foldout digipack job with a booklet detailing all the tour’s dates and players. If there’s a fault, I guess it’s the fact that, as this was recorded all at different venues, the quality of tracks varies in places, especially noticeable on the Los Angeles recorded ‘N.W.O.’ Which follows that stunning Chicago recorded ‘Just 1 Fix’. Personally I think the ‘If You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up’ live release is stronger than this - but at the same time that’s a bit like choosing whether you’d prefer to be hit across the head by an iron crowbar or heavy lead pipe. (31.07.17)

MISCHIEF BREW - This Is Not For Children {Alternative Tentacles} This lot have been together for 15-years apparently, but this is the first time they’ve crossed my path. The band’s outta Philadelphia and that city plays a massive part in the lyrics of this album. Soundwise, think early AGAINST ME! fused with BAD RELIGION and SWINGIN’ UTTERS in their Folkier-sounding stuff and you’re close. Plenty of highlights here be it the mournful closer, ‘Slow Death Hymn’, the raucous title track or both ‘City Of Black Fridays’ and opener ‘Two Nickels’ that emphasise the AGAINST ME vibe. Best track though has to be ‘Lancaster Avenue Blues’ that features a soaring violin and barbed lyrics about the renaming of neighbourhoods in the name of gentrification. Other notables include the Swing-Jazz groove of ‘Danger; Falling Pianos’ and the most clearly localised song about Philadelphia ‘O, Pennsyltucky!’. Given the strength of ‘Lancaster Avenue Blues’, I would like to have heard much more of those fiddles, but all in all, a totally convincing album that’s gonna have me searching out the band’s previous releases. (17.06.16)

MJ HALLORAN - The General Project {Off The Hip} I’m not really the most qualified to comment on this kinda sound. It’s entrenched in the Blues, but not the boring stuff like Eric Claptout. This is Blues the way it’s played by NICK CAVE, BEASTS OF BOURBON and THE GUN CLUB. Throw in the musical grace of GREEN ON RED circa ‘Here Come The Snakes’ and you’re kinda close. It took me a few plays to get into but then the tortured, twisted balls-out Blues of ‘The Last Word’ and the relentless ‘Learn To Fly’ kicked in. Highlights though are the sedate and soaring ‘Cats On A Hot Tin Roof’ that sees HALLORAN virtually crooning like Jim Morrision if he’d experienced JOHN SPENCER, ‘I Hate People’ that's darker and more threatening than the laughable ANWL could ever hope to be and the bass-heavy, cloying ‘Yesterday Today Tomorrow’. The band (and it is a band) is Australian orientated but based in NYC and the album was recorded in Chicago by Steve Albini, which alone should indicate the dark and claustrophobic but imposing tones that the ring throughout the album. Oddly addictive. (21.09.15)

MODERN TERROR - Live From Liberated Territory {DIY} I caught this trio live in Vancouver playing with SNFU and they blew the fucking roof off. Not only that, they were giving these CDs away - 17 tracks recorded live and many of the songs are instantly recognisable from my solitary live experience of the band - always a sign of good songs. The band play a political but fun (remember that? The two can mix!) band of Punk that draws a great deal from MDC but fused with a slightly more modern, Fat Wreckish kind vibe and a smidge of YOUTH BRIGADE. There are plenty of highlights be it the scathing opener ‘Oh Canada’, ‘Let America Burn’, ‘You Just Hit A Pedestrian’ or my outright favourite ‘Messiah On Main Street’. These songs are tight, played with pace and with lyrics that both say something and are understandable. Would love to hear some decent studio recordings of this lot as I imagine it could be a genuine killer. (06.01.17)

MOTOSIERRA - Buzo Nuevo {Spaghetty Town} Never heard this lot from Uruguay before but apparently the band has released three albums and a bunch of singles prior to this. Certainly a big MOTORHEAD vibe going on here, especially the ‘Overkill’ era which is clearly heard on the lead track, if mixed with the vibe of vintage Spanish Punks, ESKORBUTO. It’s got those twisting and turning riffs that Fast Eddie played so easily but with equal damage-inducing intensity. Flip the beast over and you get a noxious, DWARVES-esque rocker in ‘La Marcos’. Given the obsessive nature of South American Punks, it should be of no surprise that this is an intense listen that blazes the Punk Rock trail but fused with dirty Rock ‘n’ Roll and a hint of no-frills Metal. Comes with a lyric sheet (which are all sung in the band’s native Spanish dialect) and some stickers and it’s a limited pressing of just 500. Bruising stuff and if your household pet is only used to hearing Blink 182 or Gaslight Anthem, then you might find this baby will rip it a new arsehole! (04.01.17)

MOVING TARGETS - The Other Side: Demos And Sessions {Boss Tuneage} The first essential release of 2017 and it’s already sold out!! This was a made-to-order run by Boss Tuneage featuring this great 80s Massachusetts band, pressed on white-label vinyl and containing 16 essential and unreleased tracks, mainly circa the classic debut ‘Burning In Water’ from 1986. You get a great 1985 demo, some early gear from 1983 including a demo of ‘Less Than Gravity’ which even at that stage showed the band’s song-writing qualities while both ‘Uncomfortable’ and ‘Waiting For The End’ up the pace to vie with any Hardcore band of the era. Great outtake from the ‘BIW’ sessions in ‘Never’ too. Flip it over and you get a radio session from 1988 (which is raging and includes a jaw-droppingly awesome ‘Always Calling’ and ripping ‘Selfish’ that wasn’t released for another two years on the ‘Away From Me’ EP if I recall), and another from 2007 being nearly all unreleased songs (bar ‘In The Way’ from 89’s ‘Brave Noise’ and are way more rocking than I remember either the ‘Fall’ or ‘Take This Ride’ albums being). Although it’s wrapped in a smart fold around sleeve and includes a stylish photo insert, it would’ve been nice to have had a little write-up from main TARGET, Ken Chambers as he authorised this release. No matter, the music here is simply fantastic. If ya snoozed, ya losed as this is already outta print. (17.04.17)

MUNCIE GIRLS - From Caplan To Belsize {Animal Style} This is a deceptively effective bounty of Indie-Pop goodness laced with a biting Punk edge. Y’see, on a casual listen it’s all bouncy melodies, winsome female vocals and big, fat warm guitar chords. But dig a little deeper into this Exeter, UK band’s debut album and you’ll discover barbed and pointed songs about the option of not working, suicide, destroying restraints, loneliness, women’s rights and a wide gamut of Political and personal ideals. Musically, think a fusion of JULIANA HATFIELD THREE Indie musings played via REDD KROSS circa ‘Show World’ and the melodic Punk bite of THE MEASURE (SA) and you’re there. Highlights include opener ‘Learn In School’, ‘Committee’ and personal highlight ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It’ that has sugar-sweet melodies coupled with a biting message and a surging, dynamic chorus. Vocalist (and bassist) Lande Hekt’s certainly got an a unique style and it’s one that compliments the band as a whole. Considering I pretty much dismissed this on first listen as cheesy Pop, I’m pleased to now be able to say this is a striking and strident album that’s got more genuine politics than many ‘fuck-the-world’ studs and spikes ‘Punk’ bands. (31.01.17)

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