Sunday, February 15, 2015

December '14 in February '15

Ice is raining on New Jersey and I'm thinking of the warm few weeks I just spent in Thailand. I've never really taken a cold winter vacation to someplace hot before. Skipping out on a few weeks of cold is a smart move though. Recommended. However, traveling to South East Asia with a 21 month-old is a new kind of adventure. "Yes, that's my son screaming and pooping nonstop from EWR to SFO. Yes, we have two more long-ass flights to go. Yes, I appear to be a bad parent." Whatever, at least my son has his full collection of vaccinations. Speaking of, he got his last shots just a few days prior to departure. Walking into the doc's office, he's as healthy as a goddamn horse. Walking out, he's carrying a virus that will manifest into a red hot fever and middle-of-the-night screams 48 hours before international travel. Dontcha love that? When I took him back to the doc's office with a raging temp, we hid in the bathroom while the waiting room coughed and sneezed and sprayed bodily fluid. Sunday brunch at the germ buffet. So the fever subsides but now we have an antibiotic that we have to keep refirgerator-cold during 28 total hours of travel. That's three airports, three countries, some passport control, some baggage claim, and a couple of car-ride bookends. So challenge number one given the above scenario is the logistics of it all. It's like a sick relay race. Don't let that egg fall off the spoon! Challenge number two is keeping our kid viable while the antibiotics blow out his intestines at 38,000.

The above rant notwithstanding, I have no real complaints. We dodged some winter and had a great experience with family and friends in the tropics. But it took all my effort just to prep for the journey at the close of 2014. While everyone was putting together year-end best-ofs, I was sweating over a fluctuating exchange rate. Now it's the "great gray beast of February" and the sky is raining Hoth. What the hell - I'll talk about a few bands. 2014 was like any other year where an aging punker celebrates his son's first birthday, roadies on two tours, including a European jaunt and buys a goddamn house. Yeah, your standard 365.

Because of the costs associated with these particulars, I didn't really have space in the budget for records (gasp!). So I had to be strategic. I felt that paid off for the most part. Here's a few bands that I think just nail it...

Night Birds 
Their sole release of 2014 was an instrumental 7"of jangley surf numbers. It's a great record and if you saw them live in the States or in Euro-land, you know how powerful this band is. There is not an ounce of bullshit, pretension, or self-consciousness when these guys hit the stage, just intensity. As influenced as their songs are by the past, when they play, it's kinda like nothing happened before them. Like hardcore punk, day one...and tighter than a duck's ass.

Government Flu 
The other band I toured with last year. More no frills hardcore. This time from Poland. Short songs of speed and mosh with the occasional dirge in the vein of early gems of the genre. They cranked out a new LP and EP in 2014 and toured the States. If you like HC, I sure hope you saw them. "Misplaced Anger" off the Tension LP might be hardcore perfected. But does perfection imply singularity? Because "Still No Justice" off the EP of the same name is perfect too. One song is a mosh / the other a blast. What more do you need?

Beast - their 3rd EP (if you count the excellent demo 7") is everything I ever wanted from HC. Rage, mosh, thoughtful lyrics, pure speed, killer artwork. But what truly completes this pic is their live performance. Sadly, I only saw them once on their summer string of East Coast dates. A sweaty New Brunz basement is kinda the best place to see Replica though. After their final note rang out, there was dead silence. Eventually applause, but I think me and my fellow show-goers had to process what we just saw. It was unstoppable. I don't know how to be more adamant about this. It's the cure to cancer. Buy their records.

Boston Strangler 
Hype, defined? Here's the thing about hype. Sometime's it's not bullshit. Sometimes that shit is real. I'm here to tell you this is the real deal. 2014's "Fire" LP is more than Boston's finest. It's American hardcore's finest at this point in time. Mark the date. It wasn't some well-respected old-timers; it wasn't a super-group; it wasn't from a big label expertly picking and choosing their next release. It was just some regular dudes that know how to write/perform/rage. I think the fuckin' thing is even self-released. They back it up with a killer live set - proven at a Boston invades NYC show a few months back. Believe the hype.

Gonna wrap this up with a great 7" that just crossed my desk. Released in the nick of time in December on Snappy Little Numbers. This is pretty different from the aforementioned. But I need some spice in my life from time to time. These guys do some killer garage meets garage punk meets power-pop meets KBD meets punky garage KBD power-pop. Infectious singalongs, mid-tempo groove all under a thin layer of grit. Too bad this band is all the way in Denver. Please play New Jersey (where The Author currently resides) and sound as good as your 7". Or just move to New Jersey. Yeah, do that.

Some honorable mentions that I must mention honorably: Taken By Surprise released excellent LPs by touring soon No Problem and sadly defunct Neighborhood Brats. Also Portland's Long Knife should be on your radar.  And hey Forward still flys over from Japan and kills it. Still! In addition to Gov Flu, Refuse Records put out killer fast HC from Mind Trap and Vowels. Two reasons why HC in Germany kicks ass. And then there's Violent Reaction! And Give! Well done, 2014, well done.

People - buy records, listen to music, go to shows! You'll be glad that you did. Off to shovel my driveway...

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