Terminal Consumption is a monthly reviews column focused on the shadowy margins of punk and hardcore.
Throughout the 2000s, Chicago hardcore outfit the Repos distinguished itself largely through its self-aware sense of humor, its willingness to mock hardcore while excelling within its very particular formal confines. The sneering youth crew inversion “Kids Don’t Care” featured a halftime breakdown to rival Youth of Today on its own terms; 2004’s 28-second “Certified Cult Band” sarcastically anticipated the then-incipient league of internet-averse, shadowy hardcore bands such as Cult Ritual and Sex Vid; and “Ha Ha Hardcore,” along with the Repos’ spirit in general, has reverberated most recently in the pro-cackle camp of Olympia outfit Gag.
But when the concert recording Live Munitions appeared in 2013, it marked a new era for the Repos. The record starts with “Attack From All Sides,” opener of the Repos’ eponymous 2004 12”, and the live version is better; lean, brick-wall might by fortified guitar tone and extra vigor by a drummer wised to the thrill of surging ahead of the beat. The album, in other words, suggested the potential quality of new material, which this month arrives in the form of the 16-track full-length Poser. The vocalist’s bark has lowered into a barrel-chested growl and the song structures are lean as ever, but Poser features the most inventive and jarring playing in the Repos’ catalog. Guitar leads light up and snake around like fuses bent on igniting the kinetic riffs, while the rhythm section’s lockstep interplay strengthens a smattering of brief but potent breakdowns. The only other recently reactivated band of the Repos’ vintage that’s poised to make a new full-length so worthy of release is Career Suicide.
About an hour north of either San Francisco or Oakland rests Santa Rosa, a small city that in recent years has had an outsized impact on Bay Area punk and hardcore at large (though readers are more likely to have heard of an adjacent hamlet, Rohnert Park, the namesake of Ceremony’s modern classic). Through the proactive, resourceful booking efforts of young punks, it has become a destination for touring bands, and the seemingly sleepy town’s newfound prominence has brought attention to a number of its own homespun groups. Fussy, whose demo quietly appeared earlier this month, is one the newest. Connor Alfaro—who also plays in OVVN and the blissfully maladjusted hardcore band Acrylics—started it immediately following a nationwide Acrylics tour, paying particular attention to the wiry, spry punk of Northwest Indiana acts such as The Coneheads. (Toyota, another Bay Area group, sounds similarly inspired.) Fussy’s In Your Head, however, stands on its own, with each of its three jerky tracks ratcheted tight enough to crack. Historically, plenty of North Bay punks have up and moved to San Francisco or Oakland. Lately though, the urban centers’ affordability crises and the strength of Santa Rosa’s nascent scene almost make a case for suburban supremacy.
Glitter—Joy of a Toy 7” [Lumpy]
The Crucifucks, storied Michigan punk band formed in the early 1980s, featured an inimitable vocalist in the way of Doc Dart, a nasally agitator whose bottomless invective brought to mind a tween reared on helium and The ABC of Anarchism. Legions of punk acts have since cited the Crucifucks as influential, but the band, and Dart in particular, remain really rather difficult to mimic, resistant to assimilation by the subculture’s perpetual revival cycle. On occasion, though, there’s a record forged of enough spittle and frenzied terror to warrant a comparison, which is where Joy of a Toy, a new 7” by Glitter comes in. The Calgary, Canada unit constructs straight-ahead, mid-tempo punk songs that with razor guitar-tone and tauntingly sinister leads—especially on “Merry Xmas”—just about begin to rival the Crucifucks’ instrumentation decades hence. But where Glitter’s wily vocalist seems keen to aggravate and makes an appealing mess of doing so, Dart aimed for insurrection and settled for nothing less.
Few subgenres morph into cartoon versions of themselves as quickly as Oi! (And is there another that’s so greedy, in spite of style guides everywhere, for capitalization and an exclamation point?) But perhaps Oi! was just cartoonish at its inception, when young English lads in the late-1970s dressed and presented themselves in the imagined style of their working-class forbears and elected the knuckle-dragging punk spinoff as their soundtrack. In other words, Oi! and its skinhead proponents began in part as a campy, aestheticized memory, one that almost immediately capitulated to buffoonery.
That helps explain how Hard Skin is able to be the best contemporary Oi! band by being the goofiest, by embracing the silliness at the style’s core. But it doesn’t necessarily explain the listening pleasure of Les Nerfs a Vif, the most recent EP by Rixe (which roughly means “brawl”). No, the French Oi! group’s latest four-song statement, which memorably features an impaled globe on the cover, is a dour romp in the style of Blitz, all burly backbeats and sensible chord progressions beneath gruff vocals. Maybe it’s best to not know what Rixe is singing about, to be shielded from the potentially repellent pitfalls of self-serious Oi! That said, the resurgence of anti-immigrant nationalism in France lately could use a working-class rebuff.
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