Tag Archives: Hardcore

Amygdala: A Tradition of Punk Anti-Colonial Resistance

Amygdala

The results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump’s ensuing cabinet choices have brought the U.S. into line with a worrying global Western move toward the far right (see: Greece, the U.K., France). For marginalized people in the Americas both in and out of the DIY punk scene, all this means is that the curtain’s been ripped back, the chaos exposed—the colonial legacies and the long histories of resistance.

There will surely still be some cliched and irritating calls for punk to “get good again, like it was during Reagan”—as if important punk resistance suddenly stopped in 1992 with a Democratic president. (Anyone who’s been paying attention would beg to differ.) Five-piece San Antonio political punk cabal Amygdala position themselves as part of this ongoing tradition; they started making ferocious, caustic and outspoken hardcore together in 2014, and their 2016 effort, Population Control, certainly pulls no punches. “Semillas,” their latest track, was recorded live in October of 2016 on their recent tour, and features audio of a ceremonial prayer performed by indigenous Guatemalans at a benefit for Standing Rock that Amygdala also played, a powerful statement of pan-indigenous solidarity.

We spoke to Bianca (vocals) and Yole (bass) from Amygdala about the rise in visibility for queer punks and punks of color, how the punk scene at large can become more inclusive, and why punk is so useful still as a sound of resistance.

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Terminal Consumption: The Best of the Year in Punk and Hardcore

Best of Bandcamp, Punk and Hardcore

Artwork by Valentina Montagna.

In this special year-end installment of Terminal Consumption, our usually-monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre reflects on the pitch-blackness of Anxiety, the percussionist symphony of Good Throb and many more.

Anxiety, Anxiety (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Even in a style where bleakness is de rigueur, Anxiety’s pitch-black debut feels like falling into a spiritual abyss. But the album’s allure has less to do with its unsparing antipathy and more to do with its instrumental prowess—specifically, they have one of punk’s most formidable rhythm sections. It’s hard to think of another new punk band where the bass is so eager, and the snare such a hurried, nagging presence. That tautness frees the band’s guitarist to snap and shift wildly from section to section. At year’s end, no record startles quite like this one.

Behavior, 375 Images of Angels (Iron Lung)

When they performed earlier this year in Portland at The Know, the Los Angeles trio Behavior cleared the room. But the few who remained were treated to set full of calm drum builds and sudden spates of fury, busted ballads colored with skittering instrumentals. Behavior’s debut full-length, 375 Images of Angels, reinforces the idea that this is a band who’s consciously at odds with punk and hardcore, willfully ignoring the styles’ formal boundaries in favor of their own jagged path.

Gag, America’s Greatest Hits (Iron Lung)

The cover of America’s Greatest Hits, the first full-length by Olympia hardcore band Gag, depicts a masked figure straddling a dirt bike, preparing to charge across an arid landscape. A carefully-composed painting by bassist Scott Young, its classical-portrait form clashes with its subject: contemporary menace on wheels, a villainous rider in an ominous blank mask. It’s a perfect fit for America’s Greatest Hits—an album that both reveres and jeers hardcore’s humorless strictures with thrilling results.

Good Throb, Good Throb (La Vida Es Un Mus)

On Good Throb’s “Slick Dicks,” one of four great songs on the English group’s second EP, everyone is a percussionist: the bass and snare pluck and thwack along the same irregular interval, while guitar missives and staccato vocal barks bounce in between. Good Throb, in other words, is almost all attack. The lyrics, meanwhile, combine gutter humor and good critical analysis to amusing and trenchant effect.

G.L.O.S.S., Trans Day of Revenge (Sabotage Records)

In a year when many online pundits self-seriously predicted the “return” of punk’s political relevance under a new terrible new presidency, G.L.O.S.S. laid slain black trans women at the feet of the Human Rights Campaign and skewered the oversights of liberal reformism on Trans Day of Revenge. And then, after their second record, the Olympia hardcore band publicly rebuffed a record contract and broke up—which bands haven’t done since Ronald Reagan, right?

The Repos, Poser (Youth Attack)

On Poser, The Repos’ 16-track comeback album of sorts, the Chicago, Illinois hardcore band delivers on the potential suggested by the combustible 2013 concert recording, Live Munitions. This is among the sturdiest and most clever material in the band’s catalog, with guitar leads that light up and snake around like loose fuses atop brick-wall riffs and a smattering of delectable breakdowns.

Primetime, Going Places (La Vida Es Un Mus)

Forceful and inspired, rickety yet regal—Primetime’s Going Places boasts four songs as excellent as the London group’s 2014 track, “Tied Down.” It’s got graceful, sashaying riffs and jerky grooves alike, plus a resonant, plainspoken ode to desire in opener “Pervert,” which begins: “If I’m a pervert / Then you’re a stain on my dirty mind / I want to tear off your shirt—pervert!”

Lysol, On the Corner (Deranged)

Seattle, Washington punk group Lysol (which also goes by LI) is the offspring of Nudes’ sputtering hardcore and Freak Vibe’s slovenly swing. And On the Corner is the great full-length that neither of those acts got to make. It’s a feral record with a backbone of both rock ‘n roll classicism and blackened glam.

Bib, Demo + Pop (Deranged)

The Omaha, Nebraska band Bib’s straight-to-vinyl demo tape featured the sound of wailing infants, foregrounding the return to childhood inherent in the ongoing trend toward puerility in punk and hardcore (see avowed “slime punk” figureheads Lumpy & the Dumpers). We’ve written all your jokes about how all punk is, to some degree, a state of suspended early adolescence. By contrast, follow-up Pop opens with the clink of a chain—a go-to symbol of the genre’s fixation on entry-level bondage. Freudian analysis aside, these are great, fighting hardcore records—but it’s still the (likely unintentional) reflection of the genre’s contemporary themes that warrant their inclusion on this list.
—Sam Lefebvre

Terminal Consumption: The Best Punk on Bandcamp, November 2016 (II)

Terminal Consumption December

In this second November installment of Terminal Consumption, our usually-monthly reviews column focused on the margins of punk and hardcore, Sam Lefebvre examines the stirring presence of London post-punk foursome Es, the harrowing mental-health memoir of Mommy, and the feral drubbing of Lowest Form, plus Baus and Mosquito.

Es. Object Relations 12” EP [La Vida Es Un Mus]

The way Es’ Maria Tedelman sings “Everything is fine,” a common phrase that’s often a lie—scans not so much as reassurance as it does lament. She extends the last word as if vocalizing an eye-roll. Her delivery cuts like a scythe, her voice mixed daringly high above the rest of the music, putting nerves and apprehension at the forefront of Es’ songwriting.

Object Relations, the London and Glasgow-based foursome’s debut, sounds as dour and downcast as any synth-laden post-punk record released this year, but it involves none of the unfeeling aloofness that similar bands often fetishize at the expense of spirit. Anchored by the rhythm section—droning bass and spare beats with periodic eruptions of cymbal—the band omits guitar in favor of gossamer keyboard notes, eerily rendered by effects processing as a sort of quivering warble.

(A budding trend? Rakta’s III, covered earlier this year, also substitutes keys for guitar; Mommy’s Songs About Children, covered below, is guitar-less too, but that’s just because the guitarist quit, apparently.)

Members of Es also play in London groups Primetimea quartet whose two rickety-yet-regal EPs since 2014 simply slay this writer—and the hardcore act Scrap Brain, whose declarative new demo evokes an embryonic Good Throb. Object Relations, however, sounds plenty distinct from those groups, not least because of Tedelman’s attention to the nuances of vocal delivery. On “Dienstag,” like “Everything is Fine,” she inflects more simple words with potent meanings, suggesting impostor syndrome and secret police alike: “It’s over/ They’re on to me/It’s over /It’s over /I’m done.”

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Jensen Ward on Iron Lung: Band, Label, and Worldview

iron-lung-600-1

Illustration from the cover of Iron Lung Mixtape I.

Iron Lung is a band, a label—and, for better or worse—a worldview. The label was founded in 2007 by Jensen Ward and Jon Kortland, the two men who also make up the band, one of the few internationally known non-revivalist and non-reunited powerviolence bands in the world.

“We started [Iron Lung Records] with band money,” Ward recalls. “We toured. We had a couple of bucks left after a trip, and we’d decided to put out a record with it. We figured we’d either be making a huge mistake, or starting something really cool. Or both. I think it landed on both.” This statement is a good reflection of their worldview: sardonic, fatalistic, with enough brash idealism to start a vinyl-centric label well before the vinyl revival. They’d issue records by harsh, confounding bands of varying stripes, based solely on their personal taste. The label doesn’t pay Ward and Kortland’s bills, but it is self-supporting. Clearly, both in stated intent and action, making money was never a concern.

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Five Flawless Punk Sets Live on the Radio

Punk Live Radio artwork

What is the best way to experience music: live or recorded? It’s an age-old question with a multitude of different defenses, explanations, and rationalizations. A live band is more visceral and immediate. A recording is exactly how an artist meant to represent their art. Live shows are spontaneous and unpredictable, a measure of an artist’s true skill. Records are made for the ages. Live shows have a communal nature. Recordings are often listened to in solitude. This question is especially relevant to DIY punk bands, known for their wild live energy and well-known lack of resources when it comes to recordings.

In-studio radio sets are a natural blend of the two experiences, through which listeners can experience both the live energy and immediacy of a band playing together and the controlled, dialed-in sound of recorded music. They capture the band at a specific moment, have the spontaneity of a live gig, and have a technical professional at the helm making sure it sounds good during the performance and for future listening. Many DJs, such as the legendary John Peel, have built their legacies around capturing sets that would often come to be considered essential parts of bands’ catalogs.

Bandcamp is packed with radio sets that have been recorded for both physical release and/or for plain posterity’s sake. Here are a few of the great punk and hardcore selections that are well worth investigation to get you started.

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