There’s nothing like the news of a new Descendents album to improve a summer in advance –and, with a particularly slow start to the good weather, their short, sweet blasts of melodic punk are exactly what is needed to counteract the strangely unseasonal Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by leaving the house at least three days a week to find South London rain-drenched and storm-swept.
Hypercaffium Spazzinate, of course, would be a cause for celebration regardless of the weather; the band’s first release since 2004 sees them return to Epitaph, the label under which they recorded 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’. Does this mean we can draw in depth stylistic comparisons between the two albums recorded under Brett Gurewitz’s label whilst at the same time contrasting them with ‘Cool To Be You’, the Fat Wreck album sandwiched between? Does it bollocks. Bill Stevenson has always had a keen eye to which side his punk rock bread is buttered on and Hypercaffium sits comfortably amongst the band’s previous efforts, offering 16 sometimes deceptively sharp blasts of what can be termed ‘pop punk’, but only once you mentally eschew the taint of saccharine awfulness which the late 90s and early 00s bought to that term.
Opener ‘Feel This’ sets the general pace at 1:14 in length, with only half the songs exceeding two minutes and a grand total of three that get past three. I found myself having to stop the album when I needed to go down and get a beer out of the fridge, in case I missed anything vital. That’s what you get with me, quality professionalism. Anyway, ‘Feel This’ drives full speed into ‘Victim Of Me’, the song which pre-hyped the album to the world and while it may not quite reach ‘Milo Goes to College’ speed, it definitely offers Karl Alvarez’s fingers a workout on a breakneck bass line on a tune which will have you skipping the needle back more than once (or moving the mouse and double clicking like the horrible nowadays bastard you are). ‘On Paper’ slows things down and brings into the mix the self-deprecating humour that Milo’s soulful, very slightly snotty, very slightly roughened voice is so perfectly suited to – the sound that so many vocalists took as a template to fall far short of.
From then on in and for 16 songs the band take the sound which they’ve perfected so well and throw in a number of variables, still keeping hold of their core formula like a control variable in one of Milo’s lab tests. ‘No Fat Burger’ harks back to the band’s earliest days musically, as Bill Stevenson’s lyrics bemoan the doctor’s orders which have stopped him scoffing whatever he wants due to health issues covered in the killer 2013 documentary ‘Filmage’. Just remember as you listen to the primal but supremely controlled beat underpinning every track that the man playing it has survived health issues which would kill five other people at once.
Elsewhere, this may not be a change in style from previous releases but that doesn’t mean that the Descendents are ploughing the same furrow in any way. On the contrary. The hooks which made the likes of ‘Bikeage’, ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘When I Get Old’ such instant classics do the same for much of Hypercaffium. Whether it’s the full pelt race of ‘Human Being’ or the mellower, hook laden likes of ‘Shameless Halo’ or ‘Comeback Kid’, the band sound like they don’t even know what the term ‘twelve year album gap’ means. Closer ‘Beyond the Music’ is a potted history of the band, a microcosm of the personal lean of their lyrics which has definitely played a massive part in them becoming such a worldwide phenomenon.
Despite having almost 40 years of history, and a major place in the history of punk music and numerous musical milestones, they are still writing songs of awkward love, caffeine obsessions and flatulence which strike a chord the world over…and long may they continue doing so.
Short, sharp and sinister, Californian hardcore heads, Lies have just streamed their brutal new tracks from forthcoming long player, Plague this week. If your ears are turned on, like mine, by rip-roaring, high speed, dirty punk rock then feast yourself on these two new tunes. It’s for the D-Beat crust core fans out there for sure.
The band consists of members of The Hope Conspiracy and Skin Like Iron, head to Southern Lord for the sweets where you will find a one sided 12″ with an extra EP and more.
Austin’s legendary skate-funk-punk pioneers the Big Boys disbanded in 1984 but they are fondly remembered for one fundamental reason; there were no limits to what they could do musically. No shackles, no boundaries. Their punk rock was in their heads, not restricted to their music. Trouble Funk collided with the scratchy post-punk of Wire and Gang Of Four, smashing head on with the energy and spirit of that first wave of hardcore punk.
“I’m a punk and I like Sham, Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band. But I like Joy Division, Public Image too, even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do,” sang frontman Randy ‘Biscuit’ Turner in the song Fun Fun Fun, perfectly summing up what the band was all about. Their gigs were a chaotic celebration, their lifestyle pushed as hard against the boundaries as their music did. In short, the Big Boys ruled and they deserve their own movie.
Enter Austin director Joe Salinas, whose forthcoming doc You Can Color Outside the Lines: The Big Boys is aiming for a Sundance 2016 premiere. The trailer for the film has just hit the web and features an impressive cast of talking heads from the era. Ian and Alec MacKaye, and Jeff Nelson from Minor Threat, Dave Grohl (obviously), Glenn Danzig, J Mascis, Steve Caballero, Steve Albini, HR, Kevin Seconds, David Yow, Keith Morris, Steve Alba, Lance Mountain, Exene Cervenka, John Doe and Tony Alva are among the many individuals telling the story of this incredible band.
Here’s the trailer. Go skate, make noise, start your own band. No restrictions.
It’s not often you will hear Ian Mackaye (Fugazi/Dischord/The Evens) in conversation head to head with Steve Albini (Big Black/Shellac) but it’s happened on Kreative Kontrol.
In part 1, listen to Albini slag off Rites of Spring, and the influence of Minor Threat on hardcore, punk violence, the Butthole Surfers, one-upmanship, record distribution, explaining Pailhead and how Ian came to work with Al Jourgensen from Ministry (softy dance stuff, ha!) and most importantly, they discuss in detail that ‘In On The Kill Taker’ recording session that never worked for Fugazi that Albini engineered.
In part 2, the pair discuss politics, Sylvester Stallone, the Urban Outfitters/Minor Threat thing, Henry Rollins, communication, anonymity and much, much more.
This is a great chat if you are obsessed by hardcore, make sure you find time to sit down and listen to it properly.
March’s sophomore album release Golem saw Los Angeles-based Wand state their claim as a face-slapping psychedelic force to be reckoned with, inviting you on a juvenile joyride to bold, head-melting dimensions unknown across nine treacherous tracks.
Fast-forward six months and Wand are still skidding through the grimy back-streets of sludge rock and doom with gusto, yet this time around there’s even more on offer. To investigate the trio’s new-found Crazy Horse-indebted groove, we sent Yasmyn Charles down to Brighton to catch up frontman Cory Hanson and find out how, exactly, their new album 1000 Days became reality.
What was the formative process of Wand and how did it come into being?
Well, the three of us went to art school together and after we all graduated we all had a bunch of different projects and I just kind of asked everyone if they wanted to play music together… so we did. It’s a pretty unremarkable story! [Laughing]
Did you have any idea of the sound direction you wanted to take?
I was listening to a lot of 70’s German, kind of krauty music at the time and I’d been playing in a lot of Rock n Roll bands and then decided I wanted to start a more ‘arty’ rock-driven project I guess.
Do you feel you’ve kind of achieved that with Wand?
Yeah, I mean it was maybe a good choice because there are a lot of musical directions you can take at any given time. So it makes it easier to be inspired than maybe working within a more succinct genre of music that’s more defined by the traditions it’s partaking in.
Would you say that residing in LA has had a positive influence on your sound due its current and past musical history or has it had no effect at all?
Well I’m from LA and I’ve never lived anywhere else so I think it has had a huge effect on me in terms of growing up there and sort of seeing the way things have changed. LA’s an interesting city because it has these really intense moments of scene proliferation, it’s an explosion of bands then it will kind of eat itself and then it has to start over from scratch. Then there’ll be moments where LA seems so attractive then huge lulls where it’s a very unattractive place to be and everybody hates it. And right now for some reason there’s like a really big light shining on the place that I’ve lived forever and everyone is transplanting themselves into the city and it’s kind of bizarre to me.
Golem sounded far more acerbic and abrasive than Ganglion Reef and this was supposedly down to a shift in songwriting away from you to greater inclusion of the rest of the band. Has this been the same for 1000 Days?
I feel like our process is constantly evolving because we’re always trying new ideas and configurations of writing songs. With 1000 days, it was within the sort of framework for which we wanted to make the album in terms of it being a lot larger and more about having the space to make mistakes and experiment with things. Both Golem and 1000 days are very performance intensive. We spent a lot of time in a rehearsal space for like hours and hours and hours just reconfiguring songs, breaking them apart and trying to find every possible outcome that we could. The only rule that we had for 1000 days was that every single part of the process for writing a song, the song had to change dramatically. It had to be altered from one moment to the next; it could never be played the same way twice.
Is this something you recreate live as well?
Yeah, we try. I mean it’s interesting because we don’t really like to play the songs the way they are on our records. For us the records are these things we spent a lot of time making and in order to stay true to the writing process and the kind of spirit of the songs, they have to change within the structure of a performance. It’s a very different space than a recording space.
You’ve said that Golem was recorded at “not an upbeat time”. Has the atmosphere affected the output on 1000 Days the way it did with Golem?
We’ve gone through a lot of changes as a band. And personally through a lot of highs and lows in our short career that have totally influenced the way that the records are shaped and the kind of themes that get brought into the songwriting and the recordings and the way that we treat the recordings. We definitely have no intentions of making a happy record or a sad record but rather something that’s a little more true to the time we spend in the band and out of the band.
There’s definitely a sense of that on the albums. There’s no emotional guidance, you form your own emotive ideas about the music.
Yeah, I mean, we don’t really have a compass for those kinds of things or a trajectory… in most ways [Laughs].
It’s been said that the influences for your past material have been Final Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, what have been the influences for 1000 Days?
Hmmn. Let’s see… We were listening to a lot of Crass and a lot of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle. A lot more Industrial and Anarcho-Punk bands.
There’s maybe a slightly more electronic slant on 1000 Days, is that something bore of listening to these industrial acts?
Yeah, we all have a previous relationship to these kinds of bands but the influences seemed to take on more of a character during the recording of 1000 Days. I mean we’ve had synthesizers on every record and on every record we process all of the guitars through a lot of synths. They’re very much studio records in the sense that everything is being massaged and processed and treated in a certain way. So it’s sort of an accumulation of experiences in the studio that resulted in the records sound.
So you’ve followed a very natural process with the recording sound but also appear to have a deliberate ‘mystical’ aesthetic both visually and as part of your sound. Is this intentional?
Yeah, I mean there is a curiosity/relationship to fantasy or esoteric themes but I feel that a lot of the space that’s occupied is not that. Like, if that’s the kind of outer… ‘trappings’ of the music, then the things going on inside are pretty real. [Laughs] In the sense of us being human beings it’s kind of inescapable that we’re going to have a relationship to the music that’s really intense.
Do you think that that’s essentially the nature of psychedelic music in the sense that’s it’s something both real and a form of escapism?
Well…I wouldn’t say the music’s escapist, though it may flirt with those ideas, I think that in the most positive sense, escapism is a way of finding a moment of removal from the present or whatever surface problems that are accumulating in order to better understand what’s happening. It’s so that you can re-interpolate into reality or the present and become better equipped to deal with shit.
If you had to describe 1000 Days in one sentence, what would it be?
[There’s a long silence] I don’t know… I feel that the title is pretty indicative of what’s on the record. To me it feels massively contained. It’s a lot of information and a lot of music that’s selected and curated in way that despite it being the shortest record we’ve made, it feels like the biggest. And it is, for us, our biggest… kind of…
Not our magnum opus but up to this point the truest that we feel about music and about playing and making records. It’s just a more ambitious version of what we have been doing.
Even though that wasn’t a sentence it was still a pretty good answer! Has there been any anxiety with trying to follow up the success of Golem.
I have a lot of anxiety about those things! We basically started writing 1000 Days as soon as Golem was mixed and mastered and the artwork was at the plant. We were like, let’s make another record before this one comes out and we did it with the last one too. The real hurdle we’re going to have to overcome at some point is that, now we have these records and the stuff that’s been happening, we need a little time to process all of this in order to make the next one.
Would you say that all your past projects have taken a complete backseat along with your solo work?
With Pangea I haven’t been in that band for 3 years and Meatbodies 2. As for all of my other projects, they’re now just kind of happening in the leftover space… there’s no real point of even talking about them because they’re in the spectrum of ideas that are maybe materialising in some way or another.
So Wand’s your main output for material you’re truly happy with?
Yeah, at this point. I’d love to be happy with some other projects really soon, and hopefully that’ll be the case. But for now Wand is the main vehicle for my songwriting at least.
What’s next for Wand?
After this tour the record comes out then we have a US tour. Then after that we’ll start recording and writing again. We’ve established this sort of cycle of touring and recording.
There appears to be this idea of ‘if a shark stops swimming it dies’ – where you always have to be creating?
Yeah we don’t feel very comfortable taking time off because we’re not in a position where we’re making enough money to! [Laughs]. We’re still kind of struggling to make a living as musicians and artists and so there is a sense of urgency. It’s also important for us not to get ensnared in the kind of cycle that most bands get trapped in. Where you make a record…it takes 6-8 months to comes out… then you tour the record for half the year then it takes a year and a half to produce another record. We’re definitely not interested in that kind of structure, and we can’t do that because we have to keep making records.
Support Wand in their mission to keep playing and making music by ordering their new album on Drag City out on September 25th from here or order it from your local record shop. It’s a damn good one, you will not be disappointed.
Promo photos: Romain Peutat
Words and instant camera shots: Yasmyn Charles
As the Washington DC hardcore documentary Salad Days premiere’s this month across the UK at the dates above, some new footage of Government Issue playing live from back in day has been posted online for your enjoyment tonight.
Head to Dazed for a simple Q&A with director Scott Crawford and here for the trailer.
MDC & Subhumans live at The Dome, London
Feb 28th 2015
Playing as part of the annual ‘Winter Of Discontent’ Festival, which sees the best of the anarcho and snotty punk bands from around the world playing over four days at the legendary Dome venue in Tufnell Park, it’s been ten years since Texan hardcore heroes MDC graced our shores and anticipation is high for their return. For the unitiated, MDC (which at any given time can stand for Millions Of Dead Cops, or Millions Of Damn Christians, or Metal Devil Cokes etc) started out in Texas in the late seventies and quickly became an important part of their flourishing American Hardcore movement that was exploding across the States. Their debut 1982 album is without a doubt one of the most ferocious, explosive, angry, chaotic and fiercely political albums to emerge from that movement. It’s also one of the best. These guys were brave. Just imagine what it must have been like in Texas and touring America in the early eighties in a band called Millions Of Dead Cops! The amount of harassment and grief this band got from the authorities beggars belief. True hardcore.
Their pairing with the Subhumans is perfect. Both bands complement each other. The Subhumans never disappoint. Despite their long existence you could never accuse frontman Dick Lucus and his Buman brothers of calling it in or going through the motions on a cash-in nostalgia trip. Sure, the majority of their set is always drawn from the classic rock of their eighties albums, but songs like ‘Subvert City, ‘Labels’ and ‘No’ are played with such conviction and passion, it’s impossible not to get swept along in their boundless energy. These songs, the lyrics, and the message are timeless, and tonight they are as good as they ever have been, dedicating a stunning version of ‘Fade Away’ to recently departed Conflict drummer Paco to cheers and respect from the crowd. Another epic Subhumans gig.
There’s a real buzz of excitement in the air before MDC hit the stage and, despite suffering from a dodgy sound as frontman Dave Dictor (all bass, no guitar) and his band start rampaging through their high-speed anarchist punk anthems, the venue explodes with predictable chaos. As the set goes on the sound starts to improve and Dictor, despite being very ill in recent months, is on fine form, stalking the stage and barking out the lyrics in his distinctive Texan drawl. The set draws heavily from the band’s first album with a few choice cuts from later releases, but the surprise of the night is when they play the classic ‘Multi Death Corporations’ 7” EP, originally released on Crass Records in 1983, in its entirety. The four songs from that EP go off like Molotov Cocktails in Tufnell Park and that moment is as good as it’s possible to get in hardcore punk. MDC are back in the UK this August. Don’t miss them.
There are certain albums from the 80s that bring back so many incredible memories that you just have to re-buy them – Raphanadosis is definitely one those. From the grinding blast beats of ‘Garden Centre Murders’ to the zombie intro of ‘Braindead’, (still one of the best intro’s to a hardcore record of all time) this 22-track masterpiece full of nightmares comes packed with super-fast, quintessentially British hardcore with humorous subject matter that will be an anthem for many.
The gritty, monstrous vocals of ‘My Brother Is A Headcase’ still sounds like a vegetarian is tied up in a basement being force-fed bacon whilst listening to ‘Henenlotter’ on repeat. The eerie build up in ‘Button Moon’ still retains a creepy cesspit of misery before you are blown into outer space.’The Kid With The Removable Face’ is still being used as a frisbee (and still making me LOL) and ‘8 Years in Office’ and ‘Extreme Noise T’ are still the best shortest songs on the album. More records should also have titles for the A and B sides too. Side ‘Insecticide’ was always followed by Side ‘Fungicide’ with this release, you could never just listen to half of it. Brilliant stuff.
I feel like ‘Wurzel Gummidge on acid’ listening to this again, a feeling most would probably avoid. Maybe that’s what Raphanadosis actually means. I never knew what it was when I was 16 listening when this was on my record player, in fact I always referenced is as SNIT which seems to have disappeared from the brilliant front cover art. It’s probably gone for a good reason that I don’t understand and that is exactly why this album is so damn brilliant. I never wanted to know who Doctor and the Crippens were really. So stoked I’ve caught Raphanadosis 26 years later.
Top marks to Boss Tuneage this month who have decided to get this classic out of the punk rock vaults and re-package it for the exploding cabbage appreciation society that followed this seminal bunch of laugh-a-minute punks.
Pick up the re-issue from here. It’s a must have double vinyl and CD package that comes with 15 extra tracks from their John Peel Show in (1989), the North Atlantic Noise Attack comp LP and Avant Gardening 12” EP. All that for £8!
While Refused were intent on pushing punk rock forward, tearing and ripping up the rule book and starting again, frontman Dennis Lyxzen has both feet placed firmly in the eighties with the old school hardcore punk attack of AC4. ‘Burn The World’ is the band’s second album, released on both Lyxzen’s Ny Vag label and Converge’s Deathwish imprint, and continues their straight–up, high-speed, snotty hardcore attack.
Whilst AC4 offer nothing new or fresh to the musical world, who really gives a damn when it sounds this fun? It’s impossible not to get swept up in the band’s infectious joy as they obviously love and pay the utmost respect to the music they are aping. Energy and enthusiasm crackles from every single one of the sixteen tracks here. The production is powerful and heavy yet manages to retain an important fizzy garage feel that suits the bands energy and Lyxzen’s vocals are snotty and snarled, yet melodic.
Sweden has offered so many great punk bands over recent years. Bands such as Regulations, The Vicious, UX Vileheads and now AC4, have effortlessly taped into the life-affirming energy that legends like 7-Seconds, Minor Threat and the like laid out all those years ago. AC4 take the baton, and run with it at high speed.