The Best Punk on Bandcamp: May 2019

Best-Punk-May-1244Bandcamp has long been a home for DIY punk and hardcore from around the world, touching all of the myriad subgenre styles and helping to translate the simple effectiveness of cut-and-paste to the digital age. For May’s edition of the best punk releases on Bandcamp, Kerry Cardoza features the experimental hardcore of Urochromes, the classic punk EP from Chicago’s Primitive Teeth, the abrasive cacophony of the U.K.’s Scrap Brain, and much more.

Primitive Teeth
S/T EP

Chicago trio Primitive Teeth may play a classic style of punk (straightforward and accessible, with a dark edge and a little bit of swagger), but their subject matter feels utterly of our time. “Chemistry of Decay” seems to mock climate change deniers and the ineffectual global leaders who refuse to take adequate steps to protect our planet. “Don’t, don’t worry about it / Bury it six feet down / It’s someone else’s problem / We won’t be around,” vocalist Christine Wolf bellows. “Beyond the Right,” an emotional track, and also the longest, ruminates on how complex and emotionally draining family relationships can be. Opener “Plastic” is a clear highlight, its lyrics dealing with a problem that writers and musicians have been grappling with since day one: love gone wrong. At least at the hands of Primitive Teeth, you can pogo that toxicity away.

Urochromes
Trope House

Though this may be the debut full-length from experimental hardcore punk duo Urochromes, it clocks in at just around 20 minutes. The music is never formulaic, from the simple, raw opening track “Milieux” to “Hair So Big,” a song layered with musical styles—from Southern rock-style guitar riffs to robotic, post-punk vocals to random synth interludes and even hand claps. Urochromes, who hail from western Massachusetts, accomplish all of this with the aid of a drum machine, and it certainly helps set their sound apart. This recording deftly brings the energy one might expect from a live show, especially on tracks like “Style,” where singer Jackie Jackieboy hollers into the mic, the drum machine delivers a battering-ram of a beat, and guitarist Dick Riddick shreds maniacally. Riddick’s guitar brings to mind the raw, lightning-fast riffs of Bikini Kill’s Billy Karren, so the band’s cover of “Resist Psychic Death”—though bearing little resemblance to the original—doesn’t seem out of place. As Urochromes evince on this recording, there’s more than one way to make punk music in 2019.

Scrap Brain
A Journey Into Madness

A Journey Into Madness opens with swirling, repetitive sounds: muffled music, droning noises, a phrase you can’t quite make out. Then those trail off, as if disappearing down a drain. A guitar feeds back, and the abrasive hardcore of U.K.’s Scrap Brain thrashes in. Scrap Brain sound royally pissed off—and with good reason. The brilliant “Die TERF Scum” is the anti-TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) tirade the world needs. “No TERFs at Pride / No TERFs in libraries / No TERFs on Twitter / No TERFs in universities,” vocalist Camille Rearden shouts over a blistering cacophony of instrumentation. Elsewhere on the album, the four-piece rail against the unethical nature of business, the historical abuses of power of healthcare systems, socializing while sober, and other modern-day maladies. Scrap Brain are as brutal as ever on this LP, with an angry intensity that’s impossible to resist.

Bruised
Rotten Codex

Is Bruised the best band in Chicago? Judging by this full-length, they’re certainly at the top of the heap. With lyrics sung in English and Spanish, vocalist Cesar Robles brings big post-punk energy to every song, from the melodic, urgent “Body Double,” to the angular, dancey “Rubble Shrine.” Bruised excel at writing two-minute-ish punk songs that are musically distinct and never bore. On “Psychic Stain,” Robles shouts staccato lines over a jagged rhythm section; ice clinking in a glass adds sonic texture. The band have a distinctly bigger sound on this record, as on the dense “Exotic Backdrop,” with layers of guitar, a driving drum beat, and subtle washes of atmospheric sound. My favorite track, “Satisfying Texture,” is also the most sensitive, with understated vocals delivered over a simple bass line and waves of perfectly calculated guitar feedback. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” Robles sings, before the vocals fall away, leading the song on an extended, guitar-driven jam until it ends.

D7Y
S/T

This debut full-length from Reykjavik’s D7Y is a sonic assault, starting with the blistering opener “Martraðaveröld” and refusing to let up from there. D7Y is relatively new on the scene—it features members of Dauðyflin and Roht—and the brutality of those bands carries through, although D7Y bring that intensity several levels higher. The songs here are more or less straightforward contemporary D-beat hardcore, with some Japanese hardcore, crust punk, and metal influences mixed in. The vocals—about the ills of capitalism, technology, and in the internet—are delivered at full volume, seething with non-stop fury. “There is no future for anyone,” the band told Maximum Rocknroll last year, making the case for creating the most scorching music you can right now.

Khiis
Bezoar

Oakland rippers Khiis unleash full-on aggression on this debut long-player. The band is known for their killer guitar riffs, which easily stand out on this polished recording, with each instrument mixed clearly and loudly. The gravelly vocals, sung partly in Farsi, are mostly delivered via screams, in traditional hardcore verse/chorus bursts. Khiis’ sound envelops the listener, from the D-beat drumming to the perfectly moshable breakdowns, such as on the melodic “Tell it to the Fire.” The band really shine on closing track “Subsistence,” which starts a bit slower and with a slightly more somber tone than the rest of the album. It’s also the longest track, at a little over three minutes, which lets the energy of the song build, before slowing to a moody, unsettling end.

No Negative
The Last Offices

This LP from Montreal’s No Negative—the band’s second album—doesn’t exactly start off with a bang. “Message from the Archfiend” begins sludgy, with a repetitive instrumental measure and far-out, mixed-low vocals. But halfway through, the five-minute track picks up steam, with a indie-sounding Dinosaur Jr.-esque chorus, catchy and droney, giving an overall downcast feel. The rest of the album has a different sound, like the more upbeat “Lawfucker,” which is infused with psychedelic guitar licks but somehow recalls the weird heaviness of Big Black. The four-piece go in a lot of sonic directions—from hardcore to metal to dark wave—a move which draws frequent comparisons to Butthole Surfers. My favorite track, “Worm Feed,” is a fast-paced, discordant jam about one’s body falling apart, featuring shrieking guitar riffs, spoken-word vocals, and plenty of noise.

-Kerry Cardoza

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