Words by Jim Testa
Jim Testa founded the highly influential zine, Jersey Beat in 1982 which he continues to edit to this day. Through writing for his own publication and a number of other outlets, including as a staff writer for Hudson County’s Jersey Journal, he has championed local, regional and national up-and-coming bands. Punk has always shunned credentials, but rest assured that Jim won’t lead you astray.
When Liverpudlians Courting kick off their sophomore album with “Throw,” it’s easy to pigeonhole the sound: That British New Wave Revival stuff, heavy on the Strokes influence, with a bit of electronic manipulation on the vocals. But as the album unwinds, it keeps evolving. More synthy stuff, more electronics, a ballad that isn’t all mush. “The Hills” goes positively proggy; that’s followed by more of that Strokesy pop rock, but really well done : “Flex,” “Emily G,” “Happy Endings,” and “America” (which is about a rocky relationship, not, um, America). Keep an eye on these blokes.
The UK rock underground teems with spikey dudes who invoke the wrath and vitriol of Mark E. Smith with spoken/sung diatribes against modern society, but few pack the punch of Sprints’ Karla Chubb. Like the legions of disaffected British youth who formed a band after seeing Ramones or Sex Pistols in the 70’s, Chubb, guitarist Colm O’Reilly, drummer Jack Callan, and bassist Sam McCann found their sound after seeing Savages in 2016. The Dubliners’ debut album roils and churns with questions, emotions, and pain, all powerfully delivered. “Is anybody happy?” Chubb wails on “Cathedral.” Fuck no, but that’s the point, innit?
Bassist/vocalist Matthew Reid (Blonde Summer) and drummer Michael Perry Rudes (FEELS) formed Normans in Hermosa Beach fueled by a post-pandemic urge to stake out new musical territory. The results actually hew back to classic post-punk as well as the grunge-era tumult of Girls Against Boys, but the results command a listen. Reid’s vitriolic vocals may give Normans their edge but it’s Rudes who locks in the groove; with this kind of music, it’s got a the groove or else it’s just squalor. They experiment with Kraftwerk drone and SoCal twang, synth-punk and New Wave; it sometimes sounds dated, but much of it hits that sweet spot between weird and brilliant.
BOOB SWEAT – “Sorry We’re Open” EP (self-released)
This punk-rock trio from Grand Rapids showcases the distinctive vocals of bassist Kate Zacharias, who has a classic-rock warble to her voice despite powerful lyrics that sound like the world’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She’s backed by guitarist Adam Rossell and drummer Athen Erbter who deliver tight, riff-driven punk with melodic choruses. “Do I have a problem or am I having fun?” Zacharias asks on “Kate, Absolutely Not,” as she ponders the cracks in the sidewalk. On “Thrown Up Mistakes,” she’s contemplating her own vomit: “Thrown up mistakes aren’t always thrown out as waste / hence why they all leave a taste.” And on “Kill The Animals,” she finally gets around to the subject of boys… for whom she has nothing but contempt. “Good girl don’t want to hold no hand,” she sings. “Instead I’ll toss a bone into a crate, go fetch.” You go girl.
Youngstown, OH’s Post Ramone includes veterans of the Midwest punk scene from bands like Spastic Hearts, Jagger Holly, Hollywood Blondes, and RADD. Their buzzsaw Ramonescore sound fits snugly into the Mom’s Basement catalog and it would be easy to dismiss these tunes as generic… if only they weren’t so much fun. I hear a lot of Teenage Bottlerocket here but of course those guys were ripping off Screeching Weasel and Queers and Descendents. It all goes round and round, but make it catchy and fun and throw in a couple of whoa-oh-oh’s and it’s party time.
BLOOPS AND ONE BAGGERS
Hardcore – and specially NYHC – has changed very little in its fortysomething years. Junta’s frontman sings in English and Spanish (neither press materials nor Bandcamp page list the members’ names) and thematically, the 11-song, 20-minute album unleashes exactly what you’d expect: rage, resentment, diatribes against the American dream and American justice. It’s fast, it’s angry, it’s powerful, and it’s not their fault that it sounds like pretty much every other NYHC release you’re ever heard. At least these guys are still playing songs they wrote as teenagers back in 1981.