Better change your underpants, Cuz you might need an ambulance. — “Contact Tokyo”
I have a thing for Japanese punk. I can’t fully explain it, but one aspect is that Japanese musicians are definitely “all in” – it’s a lifestyle. So that being said I’m always on the lookout for this kind of thing when I’m digging, and that’s how I pulled a copy of Mika Bomb’s The Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb out of a box at a Seattle record show recently. A quick check online revealed that prior to this album Mika Bomb had been signed to the Beastie Boys’ label Grand Royal, and if they’re good enough for the Beasties they’re good enough for me.
Mika Bomb is that perfect combination of pop punk and garage, consisting of an intentional rawness and strong pop aesthetic. The vocals are all in English and Mika’s signing is almost flawless – you could easily assume that she’s a native English speaker, and that makes the record all that much more approachable. The Fake Fake Sound of Mikabomb is probably at the top of my list of favorite Japanese punk albums at the moment, definitely the one I’d reach to first if someone was looking to explore the genre.
Loli & The Chones, where have you been all my life?
Loli (Michelle Santamaria) and her Chones (Chris Santamaria and Vince Maldonado) play blistering fast rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of stuff that comes blasting out of garages on weekends from whatever amps and equipment that a group of teenage outcasts can cobble together. If you close your eyes you can imagine the scene in your mind. The water heater tank in the corner. Metal shelving with assorted tools, sports equipment and household detritus. Oil stains on the floor from that persistent leak in the 1978 Buick. And maybe an old beer sign on the wall. And the sweetest, dirtiest, fastest rock music, played with no sense of irony or self-consciousness, blaring out of the amps pegged at 11.
The vocal duties are shared, though my favorite tracks are those with Loli on the mic. “I’ve Got a Gun” is a classic, as is “Nazi Death Camp”, which compares all the rules faced by teens to being in a Nazi death camp, the classic mega-teen-exaggeration that happens when every single thing in your life seems epically important (pro tip – it’s not). That’s not to say that the Chones don’t carry their weight as well, because “I D*O*N*’T” and “Pendejo” are pure bursts of punk rock street attitude.
There are two versions of the vinyl release. The first is on black wax and consists of 14 tracks. The second is a limited edition of 500 on red vinyl with 16 tracks… amazingly all squeezed onto the A side, with the B side totally blank. I ended up with the red version, and while I was a bit concerned about so much being crammed onto one side, the overall quality of the red pressing is excellent – no problems with noise or inner groove distortion that I could hear. The tow extra tracks are “Bored Bored Bored” and “Flip Out”, neither of which appear on the track listing on the reverse. In fact the red version appears to come in the same jacket as the black, with tracks listed for Side 1 and Side 2.
France’s The No-Talents played pure, old-school garage punk. No frills here. Hit it hard, hit it fast, and on to the next track. The 2014 re-release of their 1996 debut includes 17 tracks, only one of which runs longer than two minutes, and that one is a cheetah-ilke 2:01. The recording is intentionally lo-fi, sounding very much like it was recorded in someone’s basement in one take, but it’s still good enough to be listenable and enjoyable.
About a half dozen of the songs are covers, but most are pretty obscure with the exception of Black Flag’s “Wasted”. However, The No-Talents picked wisely because the overall flow of the record is never broken. It’s super-fast rock ‘n’ roll with an attitude, no sugar added.
All Fucked Up is the 14-song debut by Portland, Oregon’s Spider Babies, two touchdowns worth of old school 1960s style garage rock with a dash of high octane thrown in for good measure. Dirty and grungy like a garage floor that has gone years without being cleaned, the sonic attack is straight forward – no frills, no flourishes. This isn’t a boxing match featuring two experienced fighters who are testing each other out with jabs, using their footwork, bobbing and weaving. No. It’s a hockey fight with a couple of guys standing at center ice and throwing right-handed haymakers at each other. Screw finesse. Step up, throw until the fight is done, and move on.
Released in 1995, as near as I can tell All Fucked Up was only released on vinyl. However, some intrepid soul burned it a copy and put it on YouTube, so give it a listen if you’re not afraid to get your teeth knocked out.
Endless Bummer’s Vol. 1 caught my eye due to its rad cover, which is both awesome and a bit ridiculous at the same time. The band in all black, the gothic text on both sides of the jacket, the blood-covered guitar on the back… how could this not be interesting?
Drummer Liz Tooley (aka Liz Bummer) and bassist Lance Barresi (aka Lance Bummer) own a pair of record stores, one in Chicago and one in Los Angeles, both named Permanent Records, as well as an indie label of the same name. They’re joined by guitarist/vocalist Greg T. (that’s right… aka Greg Bummer, all three taking the same last name a la The Ramones), and the trio play a brand of fast garage rock infused with elements of surf, psych, and even some tuned-down grunge for good measure.
Released in 2014, Vol. 1 generated some decent reviews, most notably from Pitchfork. And rightfully so – this is a cool slab of wax. Just listen to those cymbal crashes as Liz pounds away on tracks like “I Don’t Like You” and “Runaround”, creating an almost lo-fi static distortion effect as they vibrate across the treble zone. To my ears it’s these cymbals raging all over the high end that give Endless Bummer that little bit of uniqueness needed to differentiate them from the pack (or more precisely, the garage…), a sharp contrast to the muddy bass and low-end rhythm guitar. The songs are brisk-paced and relatively short – the longest only clocks in at 3:04 and four last less than two minutes. Get in, shred it, get out, repeat. Check out “I Don’t Like You” for a taste of their sound, but also give a listen to “Curse”, which is more psych than the rest of the album and is driven by a pretty wicked bass line.
Vol. 1 was not, as far as I know, released on CD – only vinyl and digital download. The vinyl comes in two versions – the first 100 copies are yellow with red splatter (which I luckily ended up with, completely by accident), the rest black. While the band doesn’t appear to still have copies for sale on their Bandcamp page HERE, you can still listen to the songs for free and buy a download if you’re interested.