Apologies, things got derailed and well, I’ve got no real reason other than inertia, getting in the way of things. I applied to start my Master’s, got accepted but then withdrew. It was a relief.
I also wanted to do this in December, but it was just not in the cards. I needed to hear a couple records that came out late in the year and with Canada Post going on strike, that delayed a whole bunch of things. I did have a look around online for some of them. They didn’t exist.
While I won’t belabour the point about old men and hardcore, this is my 45th year in existence, and I think that vantage point has a particular view. I know I’m picky, and it’s probably a good thing to point out what I like and what I don’t like, which will influence this entirely arbitrary process. I don’t particularly like the trend in hardcore punk where the vocals are drenched in reverb and/or echo. I think it takes away from the message, makes you seem less angry about whatever the hell it is you’re saying. Most records don’t even seem to come with a lyric sheet, so how the fuck will I know what embarrassing words you’ve strung together with all that reverb? You will notice that S.H.I.T., and several other bands who do this, actually are listed here. You know what? They have enough going on to actually get by, even with the reverb demerit. In S.H.I.T.’s case, they toned down the reverb, and I think put out the best record of their career. Not a fucking coincidence.
I will also say, that this year was thinner on the top end of releases that I heard, but there was lots of good stuff to come out. I also missed a shit-ton of releases, so if you think there’s one that I’m maligning by missing it — comment and I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong. In no order, because that’s punk rock right?
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads 12″ EP
I’m not usually a fan of a record that starts this slow — but when it kicks in it’s a noisy, loose garage rock inspired fest. As if New Bomb Turks added an organ and kicked the shit out of The White Stripes. This band has a well earned reputation for being stellar, and while it’s not hardcore at all, it is a delightful record that is punk through and through, played at a breakneck speed that might be in the same league as a lot of the proto-hardcore bands. Factor in the attitude of something like Nation of Ulysses and some of the songwriting of The Stooges and you’ll come close to this record. Do we have to dissect everything so badly? I guess, but trust me, this is a great record. https://hankwoodandthehammerheads.bandcamp.com
S.H.I.T. — What Do You Stand For? LP
OK, OK, I know. I had a massive shit on bands who drench their vocals in reverb up there, and then this shows up as one of the best records of the year? Fuck you, and fuck yes. Not only have S.H.I.T. toned down the reverb from previous releases, and I can actually understand the lyrics, which I should say, are a massive cut above most of the crap that people are slinging nowadays. I am not particularly a homer, especially for bands from Toronto, so you know this has to resonate. And it does. It’s got lots of classic elements of hardcore — simple riffs, lots of energy but it does those things lifting elements from all over the pantheon of hardcore punk over different eras. It’s like a great zine that uses cut and paste to make a whole new thing then photocopies it to have a little extra grit.
Tragedy — Fury LP
Often overlooked, this and the previous Tragedy record “Darker Days Ahead”, have both been really solid. This one in particular takes the tropes of the “stadium crust” to a whole other level. Slightly crisper — and at the same time this is a bit of a return to His Hero Is Gone style riffing and wall of sound assault. If you’re listening to this on computer speakers, do yourself a favour and go plug in headphones to hear what’s going on. It’s really great, like a leslie-speaker spinning taking a layer of Butthole Surfers-esqe tremelo/wah and just using it to slightly disorient you. If you loved His Hero Is Gone’s “Monuments to Thieves” then you will love this record.
Forward — Future Troops LP
OK, it’s no secret that I have a great deal of admiration for Forward. Probably the band that best exemplifies my precise tastes in hardcore punk rock at this moment. Whether you call it Burning Spirits, or just hardcore with soaring guitar solos, it’s exactly what I want to hear, when I put on a record. This release came out on 540 Records, and appears to have sold out. I know I ended up hunting it down on Discogs. It’s great. I guess it’s a bit of a tease that I talk up a record you’re going to have to hunt down, but this should’ve gotten more notice, more attention and fuck me, it didn’t. Just goes to prove you have to have your ear to the ground. Hopefully you saw them on tour last year, because they were the best I’ve seen them the handful of times I’ve had the privilege.
Convenience — Stop Pretending 7″ EP
Hardcore at a fast pace, that feels slightly like it’s coming off the rails (especially the song “Adult Contemporary”) everything about this, again, strikes the right chord for me. Songs, actual songs, rather than pure wall of noise, anger, fairly straight forward approach to hardcore, building off of predecessors but not necessarily a direct copycat of existing bands. There’s something on this 7″ that reminds me of mid-80’s hardcore, where bands were firmly in the hardcore camp, but maybe doing slightly different things with the genre. When Convenience slow it down, it’s Flipper-y, but not Flipper. There’s an unsettled quality to the whole thing. Like someone who is waiting for their Xanax to be refilled because they took their last one two days ago.
I don’t know if this qualifies because it doesn’t look like it came out in 2018, but this is fucking killer. Talk Is Poison members meeting good, solid hardcore. So great, can’t wait to hear more.
Mutilated Tongue — demo
I know nothing about the people in this band, whether they were in something before or even since. All I know is that someone said this was one of the best demos of 2018 and they were right. Reminds me (again) of Talk Is Poison, Poison Idea and Tear It Up when they weren’t playing at 900 miles per hour. If that sounds good to you, go throw them some money on the bandcamp embedded above.
No Statik-Mysterious To Ourselves LP
So this is what it feels like when a favourite band break up. No Statik just called it quits, after releasing this record last year. I’ve only spun this a couple times throughout, so it all hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s a great one. A band that didn’t fit in any mold easily, I’d liken them to Look Back And Laugh, with some of the same sort of of flourishes that SSD had in song structure. Toss in some atmospheric noise or ambient electronics, and that’s the best I can do to describe them. Hell, that’s why I’ve linked to stuff so you can make up your own mind. I’ve always had plenty of time and respect for bands that try to chart their own path, implement elements across genres and just try to push things forward. While it doesn’t work all the time, I always felt that No Statik had enough of it right that it made it easy enough, but also difficult enough to listen to. I’m sad, but not devastated, because there’s always another band to listen to, another band to see. But I’m sorry I missed this one.
Fetish — s/t EP
It took a long time for me to come around to Long Knife, not because they were terrible, but because my initial impression was that they were so much like Poison Idea, that I’d rather go listen to Poison Idea. Somewhere along the line Long Knife carved out their own identity, and now I’m kicking myself for not giving them another chance earlier. Anyways, I won’t make the same mistake with Fetish — who mine the same territory as Long Knife and Poison Idea, which should come as no surprise as Fetish has members of both bands. A fitting way to end, with perhaps the best offering this year, and sadly one that few people seem to be repping.
And that’s what I think were the best releases in 2018. The podcast should be up and going again in February, I’m aiming for eight episodes in 2019. I’m also starting to put stuff up on General Admission on YouTube, mostly playlists of the podcasts; but will be doing some punk travel related stuff on video, as well as a few other things that have been in the back of my mind.