Bi-Marks, The Golden Years
I kicked off this Upper Extremities biz back in August with a paean to Bi-Marks and its insanely exhilarating power as a live act. I feel like a knucklehead for waiting so long to write about The Golden Years, which came out last December and confirmed every suspicion I had about this young Portland band. Dudes are simply majestically adept at crafting classic-sounding punk rock that manages to sustain a quickening vitality while offering the comfort of familiarity. This is the best sort of pissed-off-at-your-parents, drop-out-of-high-school, Crass-rules-everything-around-me, I’m-gonna-skateboard-‘til-I-puke punk rock. It brings me back to my teenage discoveries of bands like Circle Jerks, Adolescents, Jerry’s Kids and countless other erstwhile masters of the sort of short and fast songs that mirror the whacked neurons of confused kids. I want to smash a window right fucking now.
Freedom Club, Rather Be Blind demo EP
Like the Bi-Marks, Freedom Club recalls salad days during which I craved nothing more than a steady supply of hurry-up-and-hate punk rock to soundtrack my long sessions of self- and world-loathing. While Rather Be Blind doesn’t quite capture the feral energy of Freedom Club’s live show, it’s an effective demonstration of this fairly new Portland band’s strengths, foremost of which is an odd ability to combine the catchy garage-pop-punk of the Marked Men (or any of its many off-shoots) with the slightly less refined (but no less affecting) sounds of eighties hardcore. Sing along? Punch a wall? Bang your head? Pogo? Pump your fist? Take your pick. Freedom Club has you covered.
Raw Nerves, split 7-inch with Acts of Sedition
Portland’s no-nonsense hardcore ragers Raw Nerves follow up last year’s killer Burnt Skin EP with this two-song side of a split with Oakland’s Acts of Sedition. Lead track “No Pills” might be my favorite Raw Nerves song yet. Clocking in at just over one minute, it spikes Black Flag-style aggression with subtle (yes, subtle!) crustpunk guitar wails that give me thrilled little goosebumps. Just listen. Tell me that guitar flourish at the 30 second mark didn’t make you grin and shiver like an idiot. Okay, maybe it’s just me. But I listen to a lot of hardcore, and it’s the little stuff like that that ends up mattering most.
Walls, The Future is Wide Open
I wrote a bit about this one back in January, when I attempted to come to terms with Walls singer August Alston’s heroic history as a journeyman punk screamer. But I’d only heard the first few tracks at the time, so my praise, ecstatic though it may have been, was in small part speculative. I’ve heard the whole album now. Many times. It is as good as I’d hoped it would be. My geographically/generationally biased (born in 1980, learned about punk at Gilman) ears hear a huge Dead and Gone influence in Walls’ nightmarish snarls, but folks born and raised farther east could argue that it’s really Rorschach bouncing around in Walls’ collective noggin--I wouldn’t have any problem with that assessment. I even hear a little bit of Born Against’s righteous anger in The Future is Wide Open. Doesn’t matter, really. The point is that Walls, which has roots in Portland and Seattle, is incredibly fucking good at making the kind of deranged and tangled punk rock that seems to be eating itself in order to live. It’s scary good. And just plain scary.