Welcome to 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.
Sunshine is like a centrifuge for humanity–it can really mix your shit up. Have you motherpunkers spent some time in Los Angeles lately? A blast of Vitamin D will fill you with enough energy to spend long nights indoors, watching a gaggle of 20-something experience Screaming Females for the first time at Teragram Ballroom. Or it will inspired you to check out almighty HIRS kick off multiple blast beats with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” at midnight on a school night, or to see ambient noise in a park and become a pool of human sweat in a leather jacket. There’s something to this “go outside,” “touch grass” stuff therapists and internet trolls are always going on about. Food tastes better, your vision improves, music buries inside your heart instead of underneath your skull. Happy 4/20 month.
Listen, regardless of where you live, April was a killer month in the world of sub-p punk, and I’m kinda broke because of it. Allow me to burden you with the curse of good taste. Dive into those shallow wallets held together by duct tape because baby, these picks are a real doozy.
Belgrado, Intra Apogeum
The Best Albums of 2023 (So Far)
Here’s how time works. There’s the period before you first hear Belgrado, and the period afterward. For you first timers, the Barcelona-based post-punk band have seemingly retired their hard-as-hell drums and ferocious riffs for pop-y coldwave, and it’s every bit as intoxicating as their 2011 self-titled LP. (And the drum fill on “Nie Zapomnę”? Come on.) For you veterans: it’s only acceptable to get mad at a band when they change their sound if they start to suck. This is retro-futuristic disco new wave for all. They’re even better.
FEWS, Glass City
We live in a world obsessed with post-punk revivalism (Black Mini, Shame, Dry Cleaning), where the art school educated U.K. cohort dominate cultural conversation in the indie music space. And that’s all fine and good (well, sort of? I like those bands, but y’all can have Fontaines D.C.) but there are other well-dressed Western Europeans doing the rickety-rockity, shoegaze-y, bass-y thing even better. Consider Malmo’s FEWS. Glass City would be released on Captured Tracks to praise from every best-of playlist if there was any justice in the music writing space, but of course, there isn’t. Listen for yourself.
Chime School, Coming to Your Town
Jangle pop about the “breakdown of civil society,” as the description reads, San Francisco’s Chime School have long written lovely songs about social ills, and their Coming To Your Town seven-inch is….more of that. Don’t fix what ain’t broke!
“Cutting my hair makes a difference when / I don’t want to be who I am,” sings Leggy’s Veronique Allaer, in her idiosyncratic tone, like if the Breeders go into musical theater. The song is “Drama,” the center of their new self-released LP, Dramatica—an expert collection of their lush femme diy pop, but with some glam punk thrown in for good measure.
Brutalismus3000, the Berlin-based duo of Victoria Vassiliki Daldas and Theo Zeitner, met on a Tinder date, bonded over the Neue Deutsche Welle band D.A.F. (that’s Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft to you), started making music together, and apparently landed on something on the intersection of techno, gabber, bloghouse and post-punk. Their debut LP, ULTRAKUNST, is a goddamn triumph. And the most German thing you will hear all year.
Wednesday, Rat Saw God
Look, if you follow the good ol’ music press at all, you’re likely already familiar with Ashville, North Carolina’s Wednesday, the best indie rock band on the planet right now and it ain’t even close. Personally, I dig their total embrace of the complications of Southerness. Rat Saw God is all the pride and grit and particularities of geography, but also the shame, too, in certain sociopolitical terms. On the record, there are machine guns, race car drivers, crickets, trucks, Dollywood and Narcan—the lyrics are literary; the riffs are Lynyrd Skynyrd-informed. I hope this shit births a million more bands with lap steel players. (But no phony Southerness. We’ve been through enough.)
Es, Fantasy EP
When the world comes to an end and all we have left are our fantasies of a kind and just afterlife, I’ll hit play on this rockin’ EP from the formidable, frantic-as-fuck London band Es. Take a listen, and then read the second half of this sentence: they don’t have a guitarist. How do they do it? Let that one sink in.
Body Maintenance, Beside You
One of my favorite bands of the last few decades, Sweden’s Holograms, quit making music for some unknown reason. (Fun fact: they were the band that first started uttering the name Makthaverskan in the U.S. and broke all our brains.) They’ll probably never give it another go, but at least we have Body Maintenance. Goths, this one’s for you.
Lasso, Ordem Imaginada
Is Brazil’s Lasso the best new hardcore band right now? I’m not sure. But listening to Ordem Imaginada sometimes gives me the mental image of someone throwing outmoded technology (specifically, a bunch of floppy discs) down a garbage disposal, and I say that as some of the highest praise any band can hope to receive.
If I told you the career-spanning collection of Halle, German’s Battra//, 2014-2017, began with a sample of Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, you might not believe me. Or, in the worst of all potential reactions, it might turn you off to listening to it in general. But then you’d miss out on some truly face-melting powerviolence, and I don’t want that for you.
Display Homes, What If You’re Right and They’re Wrong
What Amyl and the Sniffers would sound like if they ripped.
Baby Tyler, Imposter
Tetryon Tapes is the new-ish cassette tape subsidiary for Feral Kids Records, and I just learned that so I’m playing catch up. But thank goodness for the fuzzy punk-y pop brutality of Baby Tyler’s Imposter for getting me (and hopefully, you) into it immediately.
SEX MEX, SEX MEX ‘22
San Antonio, Tx’s SEX MEX are too punk to be pop, too pop to be punk, too late to be new wave, as they tell me. The first lines of this album are “sitting in my seat / who are these freaks?”, and that is exactly the emotion a first listen of this tape elicits. It’s additionally disturbing when you realize the tune is called “Electric Chair.” Keep it cooking, freaks. (And they will – a week after I wrote about their release on Goodbye Boozy Digital, they dropped an EP, We’re a Happy Family. It’s also great.)