Tag Archives: Punk

Album of the Day: Thurst, “Cut to the Chafe”

Los Angeles trio Thurst wear their outsider status with pride on Cut to the Chafe, a 14-song blast of punk anxiety that dials down the snotty playground taunts of their first release, YSFC (an acronym for “You’re So Fucking Cool”). Instead, they embrace the complexities of a full-on, grown-up existential crisis. “I’ve euthanized my youth,” guitarist and singer Kory Seal proclaims on opening track “Forever Poser,” setting the tone for what’s to come.

Throughout the record, Thurst wrestle with dualities that never get resolved, and aren’t really meant to. They debate going out vs. staying in, judging vs. being judged, being cool vs. being yourself—i.e. uncool. The band employ few effects or overdubs, instead doubling down on their unvarnished quality without sacrificing fidelity. Seal’s voice is front and center, his words spittle-flecked and emphatic, with sister and drummer Jessie occasionally adding harmonies while holding down a solid backbeat. Where YSFC had a more laid back, Feelies- type vibe, here the music recalls the post-punk pockets of ’90s indie, as well as the sad-sack parts of the Weezer discography.

Though primarily an observational record, Cut to the Chafe isn’t afraid to go for the jugular when it counts. The lyrics take issue with complacency of any kind, saving a special irritation for complacency that’s cloaked in symbols of rebellion, like long hair (“Their unoriginality is starting to rub off on me”) or belligerent anti-government attitudes (“‘Fuck the government,/Somebody told me/That still counts as an excuse”). It’s also, at times, very funny, especially when Kory slides into the POV of someone he claims to hate in order to unleash a few biting “that’s so L.A.” bon mots: “Earlier in the song/ I was trying to express/Me and most fashion bloggers, we don’t get along.”

Each song feels like a retort to the last. On “Electric Bill,” Kory bemoans his shut-in lifestyle with a crack about receiving a single phone call in a week (wrong number!) before diving into a drug-fueled bender on the very next track. He complains about living paycheck-to-paycheck, then follows it up with “Struggling Artist,” a flippant kiss-off to a bourgeois bohemian lifestyle that ends with the siblings harmonizing on the pointed rejoinder: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block/ if you’ve never come up with anything.” When his gaze turns inward on the searing, personal “Alienation”, Seal reacts with a shrug: “I try so hard to think of what I could possibly be but…I’m always just gonna be me.”

By the time the album winds down with a short, spoken-word, boozy-party sequence (Weezer, remember?), Cut to the Chafe has lived up to its title. Though it will surely rattle some cages, this record will play well with listeners who relate to the old adage, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit by me.”

Mariana Timony 

The Tuts: The Girl Gang Everyone Wants to Be In

The Tuts

Since it became an institution of sorts, punk has become synonymous with grouchy coolness. Don’t wear the wrong uniform. Don’t say the wrong thing. Don’t like the wrong bands. The pretense can make bands seem unapproachable and bland. If they don’t look like they care about their own music, why should I care?

Thankfully, there are groups like West London girl gang The Tuts, the perfect antidote to this sometimes dreary (and terribly conservative!) side of the punk scene. The Tuts break all the rules; they love pop, wear matching outfits, and have big dreams for the band’s future. Discussing how open they are about their ambition, guitarist Nadia Javed says: “Other bands pretend like, ‘Oh, I’m just gonna do little farts of success and we’ll just see where it goes,’ but deep down they fucking want it. But they think it’s not cool to want it. We can’t be fucking bothered; we ain’t got time to look cool.”

The band originally formed in the early 2000s, when Javed and drummer Beverley Ishmael were still in school together. Once bassist Harriet Dovetown joined in 2010, the band quickly found their niche: the girl gang everyone wants to be in. The band’s self-titled debut EP was well-received, followed by a 2013 tour with Kate Nash. Their DIY attitude, constant touring and social media skills earned the band a legion of fans and made it easier to self-release their debut album, Update Your Brain.

When we spoke to The Tuts they were exactly as we envisioned: bubbly and excitable, and so used to one another’s company that each sentence is a group effort. If Javed starts a sentence, Ishmael adds her commentary, and Dovetown finishes the thought—all seamless and in sync.

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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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Album of the Day, Mary Bell, “Mary Bell”

At the midpoint of Mary Bell’s self-titled debut LP, we hear a high-pitched scream from frontwoman Alice Carlier. She informs the listener that she’s done dealing with the constraints men put on her: “I can be pretty/I can be carefree/I can be anything I want to be/I don’t care what you think about me.” As Carlier breathes the final words of the song “Trash Tongue,” everything pulls back so that we can hear each instrument in relief: the grueling basslines from Tristan Bardré, the fabulously sludgy rock guitar work of Victoria Arfi, and Gaïlla Montanier’s anchored drumming. In the song’s last gasp, feedback enters and the track cuts out abruptly.

Mary Bell is a feminist punk band that’s part of a Parisian scene currently being pulled in radically different directions. On one hand, you have the old guard—metalheads and crust punks clinging to tradition; on the other, you have hardcore teens from the banlieue who play their music because they need their voices to be heard. And then you have Mary Bell, named for the convicted “child killer” of the 1960s, an 11-year-old British girl who killed two young boys “solely for the pleasure and excitement of killing.” A sense of “misandrist” rage is at the core of their music, as well as a chaotic sensibility—play with fire, destroy all men.

“I Hate You” is fast and loud, Carlier articulating the urge to kill, over and over again, her timbre not unlike a French Allison Wolfe. “Sink Sigh Drown” and “Jonas’ Swirl” are two of the most guitar-focused tracks on the album, halfway between the ’90s grunge template established by the likes of Babes in Toyland and L7 and the cool energy of contemporaries like NOTS or Death Valley Girls. Mary Bell is like a Charles Burns graphic novel: it’s pulpy, energetic, and it will make you fear for your life.

Sophie Kemp

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