Molly

Molly: for fans of Jawbreaker, Beach Slang, and Dinosaur Jr.

molly

*

The music video teasing Stay Above, the new album by Molly, is simple and irritatingly hilarious. It shows a phone reproducing their new song “All About” inside of an empty Tuborg glass, the track sounding muffled and distant, interrupted halfway by an abrupt phone call. Towards the end, though, the sound gets rid of the natural distortion and acquires its true powerful nature. At the same time, we see the band standing in front of some burning brushwood, creepily staring into the void.

A video like this already says a lot about Molly, a furious rock band from Copenhagen. It shows that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that they can have fun with their own music, but more than anything it shows how good their songwriting is, even when the music can be barely heard. The Danish trio is clearly influenced by Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du and Jawbreaker, but rework these influences in a personal way, assisted by some effective Social Distortion sounding vocals.

Reworking, though, does not mean modernizing, and Stay Above is obstinately anchored to the 90s sound. It is Molly’s third record, but it seems like it’s the one that can allow them to be noticed by many more people than before, also thanks to the hype of bands like Beach Slang, which turned punk-informed 90s rock into something more recognizable and accessible even to younger kids today. This way, Stay Above has all the potential to become one of the most loved albums of the year.

Molly: Facebook 

Wild Animals

Wild Animals: Spanish pop punk enriched by DIY ethics and politics.

wild animals

*

One of the worst things that has happened to pop punk in the past twenty years was how the genre distanced itself from the DIY ethics it was born with. Strengthened by the catchiness of their vocals harmonies, by the approachability of their riffs and by the appealing image of an arguable rebellion, a lot of bands laid emphasis solely on the pop side of the genre, forgetting where it all came from.

It’s in this context that a band like Wild Animals, a three-piece from Madrid, is truly important. First off, their songwriting is excellent. They could have easily been released by Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords in 1999. Their last record, Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy is comprised of ten melodic punk rock gems with ’90s emo nuances that hint to early Saves The Day and Jawbreaker. The play fast songs with unforgettable hooks, reaching the highest peaks when the vocals of lead singer and guitar player Jamie and of drummer Paula meet, like on their anthem “Avocado”.

The lyrics are flawless, as the band is not ashamed to sincerely share their personal stories. Like on “Heavy Metal Saved My Life”, where they recount how each of the band’s members got into punk and extreme music: Youth Of Today for Paula, heavy metal for Jamie, and Rancid and Propagandhi for bass player Fon, who also runs one of the most active DIY labels in Spain, La Agonia De Vivir.

And here’s where another fundamental aspect of the band comes into play. Rather than aiming to be released by major labels or try to tour with big American pop punk bands, Wild Animals have their roots in the hardcore and DIY scene. They sing about politics, play in squats, book their own tours, release their records with the help of self-managed labels from the whole world. By doing so, they bring the genre back to where it was born, and regenerate it with enviable freshness.

Wild Animals: Facebook Bandcamp

Bastos

Bastos: Romanian screamo band, formerly just instrumental, have now added vocals and channel late ’90s American screamo and emo.

bastos

*

“Henry Parker” is the third track off Bastos‘ debut LP, ‘Second Favourite Person,’ and it’s possibly the best Italian emo song of the year. Frantic and twinkly guitars wreath around a raw yet powerful sound driven by ever changing drums. Heartfelt lyrics about an ephemeral and nocturnal love story are screamed with passion in the background of a present and dynamic sonic pattern.

The funny thing is that Bastos are not from Italy but from Romania. While the rest of their tracks are sung in English, the fact that “Henry Parker” has (slightly ungrammatical) Italian lyrics already suggests what some of the band’s main influences are. Raein, for example. The sound of the iconic Italian screamo band occasionally echoes on Bastos’ tracks, but it’s enriched by a taste for cheerful emo à la Algernon Cadwallader and math-rock guitars, delivering a product that is willingly raw but extremely rousing.

As a matter of fact, Bastos, who come from several places in Romania but are based in Bucharest, started playing a few years ago as a math-rock instrumental band. After a split with Pandrea released in 2014, ‘Second Favourite Person’ is the first album where they add vocals, and the mix between screamo and the math guitars they’re able to master is what makes it so great. There’s a Topshelf Records sort of vibe sometimes, but the honesty and the lo-fi urgency this record transmit connects it to ’90s emo and screamo, as if they’re taking back the genre to its natural DIY environment.

Bastos: Facebook Bandcamp

Cocaine Piss

Cocaine Piss: Steve Albini teams up with one of Belgium’s best bands to beef up punk for 2017

cocaine piss

*

Kurt Cobain once said that the only producer Nirvana could have accepted to work with was Steve Albini, because he was the only one who could give the band a great sound while keeping it natural and raw. And so it makes sense that a band like Cocaine Piss would choose to head to Chicago to work with Albini himself for their latest record, The Dancer.

Cocaine Piss perfectly epitomize the original spirit of punk; they’re loud, reckless, provocative and aren’t afraid of being hated. They come from Liége, Belgium, a city that has seen the growth of a large number of crust punk bands such as Hiatus, but they don’t seem to be influenced by dark tones or d-beat drum rhythms.

Instead, they try to retrace a certain musical primordiality that perfectly pairs up with the relentless wildness they show on the stage. It’s hard to figure out what kind of people they could be in everyday life, but every time their singer, Aurélie, grabs the microphone, she turns into a raving beast. Everything she does – consciously or unconsciously – ends up shocking the audience in an authentic yet unexpected way.

Her lyrics are savage and fun at the same time. Take “Average Romance” for example, where she mercilessly screams: “You got married sent résumés swallowed some pills still no fun!”. And it’s really hard to choose which of their songs is the most crudely realistic. Everything in Cocaine Piss is meant to shock and surprise the audience, and if you add a good amount of fun to all of that you have the perfect recipe to keep playing punk in 2017.

Cocaine Piss: Facebook Bandcamp

You Can’t Listen To Hardcore Punk Rock. You Have To Watch Hardcore Punk Rock.

Decline of Western Civilization 2

You can’t listen to hardcore punk rock. Ok you can, but you’d be missing out. You need to watch hardcore punk, in the flesh, in a poorly lit LA club and be right in the middle of the sweaty mosh pit close enough to spit on the lead singer and for him or her to spit right back. You need Keith Morris to scream “I Just Want Some Skank” in one ear and Greg Hetson’s screaming electric guitar in the other and you need to pogo dance like there’s no tomorrow. It needs to be the 80s and you need to be pissed off. Reagan, your parents, new wave, they all suck. This is the only thing that’s happening, man.

But it’s not the 80s anymore, so you’re shit out of luck.

However, all is not lost: Penelope Spheeris directed a trilogy of films capturing the changing LA music scene throughout the 80s and 90s, just for you.

The first film is called “The Decline Of Western Civilization” (1981) and it covers the LA hardcore punk rock scene in 1979-80. The second film is “The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years” (1988) and it covers LA hair metal and includes one of the most cringeworthy interviews ever. “The Decline Of Western Civilization III” (1998) covers LA’s homeless gutter punks.

The first “Decline” is the best one of the three that I’ve seen. I know because it’s the only one I’ve seen (I’m working on it). I also know because the first “Decline” nearly moved me to tears. This film is at times exhilarating and often moving. It’s a film that reminds you of the transcending power of music, both for the audience and for the artists themselves, but it’s also a reminder of its limitations. If nothing else, it’s a worthy tribute to an influential once in a lifetime music scene.

If you’ve read Michael Azerrad’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life” (and if you haven’t then why not?) this movie is about the very beginnings of Azerrad’s indie underground. This is pre-Henry Rollins Black Flag when Ron Reyes was screaming and kicking through “Depression” and “Revenge”. X had just released their seminal Los Angeles album, proving to all the kids that you could actually play your instruments and get just as rowdy and vicious as hardcore could get. Or you could wait around for Circle Jerks to throw their guitars into their amps and create wonderful loud noises. Darby Crash was still alive, though at this point he could only grunt or aimlessly yell his way through “Manimal” (Crash killed himself right before this film’s release by an intentional heroin overdose, which turned the 22-year-old into a sort of martyr of the hardcore scene).

The bands featured in the film are Black Flag, Germs, Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, Alice Bag Band, X, and Fear. Of those bands, Spheeris interviews Black Flag, Germs, Catholic Discipline, and X. Everyone plays 2-4 songs at various LA hardcore clubs. No band sounds the same, yet they all share the same stage and play to the same crowd.

Much of “Decline”‘s success as a movie comes from the the way that it’s shot. During the shows there are a few cameras placed literally in the middle of the crowd and some at the side of the stage. During interviews you never see Spheeris – you only see the bands. Both the live performances an the interviews are so intimate that you feel like you’re intruding on a scene that you’re not allowed in.

150630_CBOX_DeclineWestern.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlarge

Penelope Spheeris has had quite the career: her “Decline” films are underground classics, yet you probably know her as the director of Wayne’s World. A most excellent movie indeed, but it’s strange that while she poked fun at the rock n roll world via Wayne and Garth, she actually documented the real thing for over a decade. This is not to discredit her other films (she also directed “The Beverly Hillbillies”, “The Little Rascals”, and “Black Sheep”), but “Decline” is her most essential. It was also the most controversial; according to Slate, the film only made it to two theater screenings before the LA Police Chief banned the film form being shown in the city.

decline-of-western-civilization-photo02crop--06274b46-ba08-e511-a207-d4ae527c3b65-

If “Decline” means anything new in 2015, it’s now a document of a pre-Internet music scene. With no social media to promote your album, you had to actually go to the shows and partake instead of swaying while texting on your phone. Nostalgia is a killer, but there’s something to be said about a music scene in which you actually had to be there.

But “Decline” doesn’t have to be anything more than what it already is, which is a well-edited documentation of two years of some of the most influential and polarizing music of rock & roll.

This summer the “Decline” films were rereleased in Blu-ray and DVD boxed sets. Do yourself a favor and watch these films.