Terminal Consumption: Shredding Through May's Best Punk Releases

On May 26, 2016

by Sam Lefebvre

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Terminal Consumption is a monthly reviews column focused on the shadowy margins of punk and hardcore.

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Lumpy & the Dumpers — Huff My Sack LP [Lumpy / Anti Fade / La Vida Es Un Mus]

The chemical composition of slime, as the avowed enthusiasts in Lumpy & the Dumpers described it in a recent Maximum Rocknroll interview, is variable but simple: cornstarch and xanthan gum, usually, though spaghetti sauce and food coloring suffice. It also keeps well, they noted, even steeping in a bucket in the back of a van from St. Louis to New York City.

Which of course makes slime somewhat analogous to the Missouri group itself: Under the visual and thematic direction of bandleader Martin Meyer, Lumpy & the Dumpers’ few pulp fixations have animated a potent slew of tapes and EPs since 2012. But on the group’s first proper full-length, what was once intoxicating begins to mellow.

Huff My Sack features one of Lumpy’s finest infernal androgynes to date on the cover. It also retains the boombox fidelity of earlier titles, slathering each fitful track in an aptly filthy layer of scuzz. But Collection, the 2014 singles compilation, plays like the better album. The performances feel more muscular, imbued with the dogged urgency of a group with more to prove. This is back before, in the punk scene, goo became gospel.   

A comparison of the lyrics reveals similar shortcomings. The five vivid verses Lumpy took to articulate his vision of elemental bliss on the 2013 single “Sex Pit” — where garbage is a sort of glory, debasement a source of power — remain so much more persuasive than the glib Huff My Sack track “Pee in the Pool.” That’s like a sex pit on Romper Room.     

Huff My Sack does depart from earlier records on account of its topical songs. Mixed results ensue: “Blue Lives,” which understandably attacks cops and their apologists, loses its bite with a chorus that earnestly rhymes “impunity” and “society,” bringing to mind the juvenilia of aspirant antiauthoritarian lyricists everywhere.

Much more effective is “I’m Gonna Move to New York,” a satire of bright-eyed, culture-producing pilgrims that showcases Lumpy’s cartoonish vocal inflection at its best. On the bridge, Lumpy faux-fantasizes, Oh, I’ll be in the city that never sleeps / Oh, the places I’ll see / When I’m living the dream. It’s an impersonation so facetious and mercenary that it brings to mind Jello Biafra, who was once peerless in his use of mimicry to convey scorn. You can listen here.     

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Primetime — Going Places EP [La Vida Es Un Mus]

Forceful and inspired, London post-punk foursome Primetime emerged on its eponymous 2014 EP with swagger. Primetime highlight “Tied Down,” in particular, boasted a preternatural grasp of ragged melody and rickety groove. It also bore a striking refrain, expressing desires that in the context of the song sound nothing short of golden and regal: I Want your body not your mind / Let me spit in your face and you can spit back in mine.

The group, which debuted live in 2013 at the annual First Timers celebration of musicians new to performance, have an even better EP, considered as a whole, with Going Places. There’s a delightful, sashaying riff beneath narration of a messy meltdown on “Anyway,” brittle tension on the jerky “Get a Grip,” and a bit of disjointed pop on the optimistic closer “Fallen Out.” But it’s most immediately satisfying to hear Primetime recall the plain craving of “Tied Down” on Going Places opener “Pervert,” which starts: If I’m a pervert / Then you’re a stain on my dirty mind / I want to take off your shirt—pervert. Listen here. 

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The Hunches — Watcha Gonna Do LP [Almost Ready]

Throughout the 2000s, Portland outfit The Hunches were an essential part of In The Red Records’ catalog: rock ‘n roll classicists with storied live dysfunction and a special sense for guitar tone at its most fetid and awry. On 2008’s Exit Dreams, however, the band evolved while many of its peers seemed content to tread water and fulfill expectations. The songs slowed and expanded, the riffs swelled and morphed, a teakettle mingled with indistinct scree, and the vocals assumed a new sort of croaking anguish. “Street Sweeper,” in particular, is terror.

Watcha Gonna Do, a patchy but rewarding new collection of recordings from 2001, is not Exit Dreams. It presents a band in thrall to garage rock as understood and still championed by Timmy Vulgar, interested in the emotional poles of wounded sensitivity and theatric bluster. It’s amazing, in fact, to contrast Watcha Gonna Do’s to Exit Dreams, an album that not much later captured the sound of the same band improving at the expense of its stability and life. The Hunches, underappreciated then as now, folded shortly after. Listen here.    

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Razorbumps — The Demo CS [Self]

The spry, frenetic punk of related Northwest Indiana outfits CCTV and The Coneheads has cast a wide web of influence in the last two years. Upstart Texas group Razorbumps sounds like one such descendant, with its clean, trebly guitar tone and frantic melodic runs charging a featherweight and nimble though nevertheless sharp five-song demo. Distinguishing the group is vocalist Jenn Smith, who either elongates words to sail across the choppy music like Niagara in Destroy All Monsters or else speedily chitter-chatters with herself to thrilling effect.

The significance of Coneheads and CCTV to contemporary punk goes beyond a sonic touchstone. The latter group, in particular, is in the habit of uploading rehearsal recordings online, which are often received by fans with the zeal of an EP or otherwise “proper” release. If the difference between a mixtape and an album is collapsing in hip-hop — significant mostly to how each interacts with the market — the difference between demos and EPs in punk and hardcore seems similarly moot. At least, releases as gripping as CCTV’s rehearsal recordings and this Razorbumps debut need no such minimizing caveat as “demo.” Listen here

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