Joint D≠, “Strike Gently” LP

cover-joint-dAccording to what I read online, the reason this band’s known as Joint D≠ is because “Joint Damage abruptly had to change their band name due to being served a cease and desist order from a Rhode Island rap metal band named Joint Damage.” Damn shame. Joint D≠ is just fucking weird, and the sort of name you have constantly explain.

The music hasn’t changed any, though — great, nervous garage punk. More punk than garage, really, but it’ll make you do that thing where you sit in a chair or car seat and pump your hand next to your head, like you’re trying to throw dice. It’s so fucking rocking, you know you’ll throw double sixes, right?
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Double Negative, “Hardcore Confusion Vols. I&II” 7-inches

cover-hardcore-confusion-1and2Double Negative
Hardcore Confusion Vols. I&II
(Sorry State)

These singles … man, I’ve listened to them over and over and over since they showed up in my mailbox over two weeks ago, and I’m still finding it hard to put into words what they’re like. Double Negative doesn’t adhere to any sort of formula. Why does “Writhe” go into a reptitious throb at the end, only to start looping in upon itself again, then suddenly end? Why is “Cunny Hop” simultaneously the most offensive and most fantastic song title ever?
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Whatever Brains, “Whatever Brains” LP

cover-whatever-brainsWhatever Brains
Whatever Brains
(Sorry State)

If you took Geza X & the Mommymen, sped them up, and made the whole thing as herky-jerky as Devo, you’d have Whatever Brains. That’s fucking wonderful, really. How often does a band listen to something like “Isotope Soap” or “Uncontrollable Urge” and think, “Man, the two of those songs are great, but together – now, that’d really be something!”?
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Smarts Cops, “Per Proteggere E Servire” LP

cover-smart-copsSmart Cops
Per Proteggere E Servire
(Sorry State)

Since this showed up in the mail last week, I’ve listened to it five or six times. Smart Cops play enjoyably speedy Italian garage rock, with a snotty edge to it.

Unfortunately, all I keep thinking is, “It’s the Hives singing in Italian,” and I can’t get past that. The elements of surf and more deeply thrumming guitars take away from the comparison to their Scandanavian counterparts a little bit. Unfortunately, the mile-a-minute instrumentation and vocal style that’s more declamatory statement than actual singing is so up front that it’s impossible to shake the similarities. Well – perhaps “unfortunately” is a tad strong. I love the Hives, and as long as their style is being aped well, it’s enjoyable.
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Shards, “Shards” LP

cover-shardsShards
Shards
(Sorry State)

Why don’t more bands sound like the Criminals? Shards manage to take that menacing, slightly mush-mouthed delivery for which Jesse Luscious is known and fuse it with faster, more evil instrumentation. The temptation to compare Shards to the whole crack rock steady family of Choking Victim, INDK, et al, is tempting. The North Carolina act does resemble those New Yorkers, especially in that the bass is at the forefront of most songs (especially “Suicide”), but the music really owes more the early ’80s SoCal hardcore scene than recent New York crust developments.
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Stripmines, “Sympathy Rations EP” 7-inch

cover-stripminesStripmines
Sympathy Rations EP
(Sorry State)

The first song and title track on StripminesSympathy Rations EP fuses hardcore and thrash into a powerful piece of work. Until the 7-inch’s last track, “EmptyThreat,” it’s pretty much unmatched. The middle of the EP is nice and strong, but nothing really makes them stand out. The middle three tracks are fairly basic and otherwise unremarkable hardcore. It’s the speed and intensity of “Sympathy Rations” that causes it to stand out, while “EmptyThreat” is a wallop to the back of your head. It’s all rumble and chug, until it ramps up the tempo, working your ears like a speed bag.

Still, these two tracks certainly live up to the Totalitär comparisons made by the label. While not quite as overtly violent in their delivery, Stripmines certainly take a lot of their focused anger from that bunch of Swedes.

Manipulation, “Manipulation 2” 7-inch

cover-manipulation2Manipulation
Manipulation 2
(Sorry State)

My favorite thing about this 7-inch from Manipulation is the way they work in contrasts. Manipulation ramp up heading into the breakdowns, and that’s saying something, of course, given the frenetic pace at which the band is already moving. Still, it seems the band punches up the energy level just a bit more, making the breakdowns’ slower pace seem that more intense in their sonic attack.

The tracks where bassist Annie’s back-up vocals come through more clearly are the real standouts. Simply put, the higher pitch of her razor-throated vocals counterpoint Jordan’s gravelly snarl, making tracks like “Silence” and “Under the Influence” into twisted tales of anger. However, it’s the last track on Manipulation 2, “Deathwatch,” that really demonstrates the powerful attack of which this Chicago act is capable. It flies along, only to drop tempo and chug into this molasses-speed breakdown that makes you want to punch the nearest object.