Welcome to the latest edition of Difficult Fun! Each month, SPIN will spotlight the best punk on the planet and discuss it here, with the ambition of challenging preconceived notions of what the four-letter word actually means and, ideally, entertaining readers in the process. Purists, piss off! Everyone else, enjoy.
Happy Halloween, ya ghouls! Every day is a costume party when you live and breathe punk, if you really get down to it, so consider this month’s curated list themed. (If you put it on at a party, your friends won’t be disappointed. That is, assuming you have cool friends, and your party is about 34 minutes long. These are short, blistering tracks. Mostly.) I tend to treat All Hallows Eve like any other day, save for the coveted cover show (almost always a good idea if you’re not sober) or a regular-shmegular punk gig where everyone dons their Michael Myers finest. It can also be a little terrifying, but all the good things in life typically are.
This week’s column isn’t about October 31, but it is a great one: full of debuts from new bands and old, international sounds (Greece, the U.K., Canada) and domestic tunes alike (New Orleans, D.C., NYC) If you’re looking for a new band to obsess over, one that might only have 15 minutes of material, boy, do I have some good news for you. So what are you waiting for? Dive in, scaredy cat.
The Best Punk of 2021
The only good thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the slew of hardcore band upstarts born out of boredom. (Take that with a grain of salt – I’d much rather have no new bands than a global health crisis, deaths of millions of innocents, and the harshest example of worldwide governmental failure we’ve seen in a minute. But that’s not reality. At least the punks are good.) That said, Toronto’s Imploders and their self-titled debut release, out now on Vancouver’s Neon Taste Records, scratches a very specific itch for me (that is, 1980s Los Angeles hXc worship without feeling particularly derivative to any of the bands associated with that description.) You’ll like it.
Beige Banquet, Beige Banquet
London-based evocative post-punk goes well beyond the critically acclaimed, art school cool of Dry Cleaning. Don’t believe me? Try Beige Banquet on for size. (Even their band name highlights the absurdity of our mundane lives under late capitalism – a middle class full of bland, colorless foods, consuming in abundance.) Their four-track self-titled EP is full of cowbell, motorik drum machine, and monotone vocalists across the gender spectrum, each singer utilizing their accents in the most deliciously English fashion. I’d love to see them in a room full of expressionless faces.
Doing my damnedest to avoid a joke here about the spicy cassette from New Orleans’ Paprika – it’s right there, and it hurts – I’ll leave you with this: across six tracks, the band has released one of the strongest hardcore debuts of the year, a straight-to-the-jugular assault on greed and all the villainous systems upheld by the amoral plutocrat class. (My favorite? “Excess / Greedy glutinous fucks / Hose can you do without mandatory convenience and dwindling supplies / Helpless uncivilized fucks / Putrefaction stems from you” on the torrid 48-second “Mandatory Convenience”)
Dramachine, Συγκινησιακή Πανούκλα
It is rare for genres tags on Bandcamp to lead to conceptual insight – rather, the space is best used by artists to categorize themselves before some unforgiving algorithm does it to them – but Dramachine’s label Erste Theke Tontraeger dubbing the band’s ΣΥΓΚΙΝΗΣΙΑΚΗ ΠΑΝΟΥΚΛΑ LP “devocore” might be the best use of the space. Like the geeky art rock progenitors from Ohio, Dramachine don’t care much for genre designations: this punk release spans coldwave, synth-y post-punk, and rap via Greek emcee Sci-Fi River on “Φεύγουμε Από Εδώ (Let’s Get Out Of Here).” They are living in the future, and we’re just listening to it.
Here’s the deal: There’s very little out there about Anti-Machine, Brooklyn’s latest and great hardcore band, but their debut self-titled EP out on Toxic State speaks for itself. And if that acidic tongue of a vocalist sounds familiar to you, you aren’t hallucinating. That is Walker Behl, former frontman/deranged genius of Crazy Spirit (R.I.P.) This seven-inch won’t bring that band back from the dead, but it’ll do you one better: melt your brain like a hand drill through one ear and out the other. If you only have time for one, “Euthanize” is the real ripper.
Hologram, No Longer Human
Not to be confused with the excellent and tragically short-lived Swedish synth-pop post-punk Holograms (signed to Captured Tracks and also well-worth your attention), DC’s HOLOGRAM are here with their debut full-length, No Longer Human. Across 16 minutes, it is nine tracks of absolutely brutal hardcore, punctuated by moments of real, borderline blackened punk (“Deprivation Fantasy,” anyone?) In fact, the deafening d-beat and foggy basement punk is so good, the LP is already sold out. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Spooky.