Dastard – Dear Empty Sky 2008-2010 CD

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Dastard – Dear Empty Sky 2008-2010 CD (2010, self-released):  DASTARD was a band from Lansing, IL that I really, really liked.  I later ended up playing bass in the band for about a year, but that’s irrelevant to this material.  This CD combines the songs that comprised the first demo and the tracks for what was going to be a split with one-man pop punk project LATER OPERATOR.

While DASTARD would end sounding a bit heavier and slower in the tradition of bands like WEEZER, these songs are a bit poppier and a bit punker.  Yeah, pop-punk, but you know on here you only get the good stuff.  Smash the CRIMPSHRINE/JAWBREAKER split together, mix in a little bit of TUESDAY, and some early 2000’s band in the vein of JOHN BROWN BATTERY or the catchiest, most concise HOT WATER MUSIC songs.  The key is to then have this concoction played by great musicians, all of which previously played in everything from emo bands to straight up grindcore bands, in a way that is totally urgent and engaging.  Throw in a BLACK FLAG quote and that’s what you get here.

DASTARD were my favorite Chicago area band when they existed and were sorely under-rated outside Chicago due, in my estimation, to a precise mixture of self-deprecation, location, and a desire to just play instead of sweating the rest of the dumb stuff that can come with being in a band.  At some point I’ll put up a live set that showcases some of the material that never got a proper recording, but for now just enjoy these ten jammers.  Members would go on to play in tons of bands like SEA OF SHIT, CARBONLEAK, BIG ZIT, RAW NERVE, and tons more, but DASTARD will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Oh yeah, the packaging for this thing is great, so there’s a lot of scanned details with this.  You’re welcome.

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Zap – Demo Version 0.69 CS

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Zap – Demo Version 0.69 CS (2014, self-released):  Sorry for the lengthy silence.  I went to Japan, then got back, then got really busy with work and this stuff sort of got pushed aside.  Unfortunate, sure, but everyone’s got priorities ya know?  Anyhow, this jammer has been officially bumped up in that regard as I’ve got loads of tapes, new and old, to get up here.

The first of said tapes is this version of the excellent ZAP demo.  ZAP hailed from Northwest Indiana and shared some members with the also great PUBLIC ASSAULT.  This is jerky, burst-fire hardcore punk that’s unreasonably catchy.  It’s well played, but just sloppy enough to retain the urgency.  If you’re familiar with the band’s first tape on NOT NORMAL TAPES, this is the same songs, but the recording pre-dates the other tape.  This is evident in the slightly more unhinged recording and the lack of lyrics in the first song.  As a bonus, you get a weirdo electronic coda on this version to cleanse the palate before you start this thing over again.  Whether you know their other material or not, this is a great five minutes of punk.

Oh yeah, this thing’s so short that I just made it one track.  You’ll thank me later.

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Aftermath – Words That Echo Fear CS

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Aftermath – Words That Echo Fear CS (self-released, 1989):  Another one for the serious thrashers.  And, again, AFTERMATH is from Chicago just like XILLIAN.  This jammer was even recorded in Hoffman Estates, IL by Phil Bonnet.

What you get here is four tracks of rampaging thrash metal with a significant amount of technical prowess.  Luckily, it’s put to good use and things don’t get too crazy or progressive for moshing around your room.  It sort of reminds me of VOIVOD, but there’s more to it than that.  It’s sometimes anthemic, sometimes punishingly fast, and sometimes subdued.  It’s tight and complex while somehow simultaneously feeling legitimately almost off the rails at points.

A cursory look at the Internet reveals that AFTERMATH had a relatively long career and eventually saw a serious genre slide into “electro-metal.”  Instead of investigating that lead any further, I’m just going to keep listening to this tape.  I recommend you give it a shot too.

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Xillian – No Way CS

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Xillian – No Way CS (self-released, 1990): This is pure, unadulterated, ripping thrash metal from Chicago.  I’ve never heard this band’s name and can’t find anything about them on the Internet, but Scott Harmless somehow magically produced this unsung slam-inducer from his tape collection.

This is pretty straight-forward, youthful, thrash not unlike earlier OVERKILL, ANTHRAX, or EXODUS kind of stuff.  Recorded in esteemed Glendale Heights, IL, No Way features legitimate ragers like Bad Attitude (ARTICLES OF FAITH rip-off or coincidence?  You decide), slightly progressive tendencies like Slip of the Mind, and straight up bonehead thrashers like I Gotta Piss.

Seriously though, these five songs are good.  The recordings are fuller and less thin sounding than a lot of thrash from the time and the songs are good enough to hold up against the heavy hitters of the genre.  Thrash metal fans rejoice – you’ve got something new, though familiar, to scope out.

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The Humdingers – See Ya Later Aviator 10″

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The Humdingers – See Ya Later Aviator 10″ (Bizzarro, 1998):  I love 10″s.  I don’t really know why, but they’re a format I’ve always been drawn to for some reason.  This is a good one.  You may remember THE HUMDINGERS from this post.  A couple years after their 7″, this 10″ saw the light of day.

This record is as close as the band would ever come to a full length and it’s as long as a lot of punk LPs out there.  Ten songs, most of which are two minutes long or more, of solid pop punk reminiscent of SCREECHING WEASEL, later VINDICTIVES, and LOOKOUT! staples.  Just sloppy and off-key enough to be charming without being distracting.  Given a little more time to play with, this record ended up more eclectic than the earlier stuff, but despite the regrettable acoustic song in the middle it’s a solid record and well worth your time if you dig the style.

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Digger – Demo CS

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Digger – Demo CS (self-released):  I never really got into DIGGER growing up.  They were just a band that I’d hear a song or two by here or there on comps and stuff and I dug it, but I never looked into it for some reason.

This tape changed my tune.  Apparently, the band sent this tape to Scott Harmless at some point and I’m glad they did.  These are songs that would mostly go on to be re-recorded, maybe all of them did at some point (see the above part about me not knowing a lot about DIGGER).  The ones I’ve heard though have paled in comparison to the versions on this tape.  These sound like I imagine the band sounded live – energetic, exciting, and driving.  The songs are instantly memorable and are packed with hooks.  The lyrics are perfect at riding the line between tongue-in-cheek juvenility and intelligence which is an area in which a lot of similar bands fail.  The guitar tones are also just great.

Unfortunately, one channel of the tape is a little wonky towards the beginning.  I tried to level it out a bit, but only so much can be done.  Either way, it doesn’t take much away from how great this tape is for super-fans and newcomers alike.

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Ooze – #4 Live At Practice CS

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Ooze – #4 Live At Practice CS (self-released, 2012):  You know OOZE.  If you don’t there are some primers here or here.

Now that you’re settled, this tape is a practice recording featuring some OOZE classics that you’ve definitely heard before.  The sound quality is pretty good and who doesn’t want more OOZE where they can get it, but the real draw to this tape for me is the two weirdo versions of old favorites at the tail end.  There’s keyboard involved and it’s pretty great.  I don’t think I need to say more than that, so dig in!

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Mary Tyler Morphine – Demo CS

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Mary Tyler Morphine – Demo CS (self-released):  MARY TYLER MORPHINE is a band I’ve been familiar with since I was a youth, but I never dug into them.  I’d hear a song here or there on compilation CDs or on a label’s website and I always thought it was alright, but when I listened to this tape it was clear I’ve been missing out.

MARY TYLER MORPHINE play pretty mid-paced, intense punk.  The four songs here are really catchy with totally radio-ready choruses, but with a really palpable sense of anger in every song.  The two vocalists play off of each other well and, despite the sort of weirdly out of place crust vocals on the chorus of the last track, are the focal point for me.  They steer the songs with melodies over the relatively simple riffs in a way that makes them distinct and memorable.  These songs mostly appeared later on other releases, but this is well worth hearing for its energy and rawness even if you’re familiar with the other versions.

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From Ashes Rise – Demo CS

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From Ashes Rise – Demo CS (self-released, 1997):  FROM ASHES RISE is one of the earlier crusty/metallic hardcore bands I heard after getting into stuff like TRAGEDY.  The tight, d-beat influenced bulldozing hardcore their known for apparently took a little while to coalesce though, because this demo is much different than the sound the band would later hone.

The demo has four tracks that are definitely heavy, but the similarities to the VICTIMS split, for instance, end there.  This tape serves up songs that have straight up blast beats at times, loud-quiet HIS HERO IS GONE style dynamics, and even some classic 90’s chugging. There are even a couple pinch harmonics.  On the whole, it’s more influenced by straight up death metal and the harsher end of the early screamo spectrum than d-beat or crust.

All that said, the songs are pretty solid!  Their harsh, intense, and have some very memorable parts.  The artwork is also really cool.  Whether you’re interested in seeing a band progress or just listening to some quality 90’s metal/hardcore, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Apocalypse Hoboken – Punish The Innocent CS

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Apocalypse Hoboken – Punish The Innocent CS (Full On, 1992):  A lot of people are familiar with APOCALYPSE HOBOKEN.  They were a totally unique, legitimately weird band.  This relatively early tape, which pre-dates Todd Pot taking over vocal duties, is a little different than how the band would come to sound.

The five tracks on Punish The Innocent cover a lot of ground stylistically, sprinkled with everything from heavy breaks to NOMEANSNO style noodling to mid-paced grungey stuff.  Most of it remains pretty mid-paced and vocalist Lyle’s voice reminds me of a mix between NO EMPATHY and really early OFFSPRING material.  It fits really well, but isn’t as wild and unpredictable as the vocals Todd would bring to the band later.  While it might not be what you think of when you hear APOCALYPSE HOBOKEN, this tape is a worthwhile listen in its own right, as well as being an interesting piece in the progression of an already interesting band.

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