ALBUM: Scrunchies – ‘Feral Coast’

Through mutual admiration of each other’s bands, a group of Minnesotan punk rockers began jamming together in Minneapolis, forming Scrunchies just over four years ago. As a local supergroup – with Laura Larson playing for Kitten Forever and Baby Guts before that, Danielle Cusack playing for Bruise Violet and previously Tony Peachka, and their stint in Buzzcocks cover band, Buzzcunts – Scrunchies released their debut LP Stunner in 2018; a DIY stunner that captured the spirit of 90’s riot grrrl. Joined by Condominium’s Matt Castore (as bassist and engineer – having previously recorded Scrunchies debut), the trio’s sophomore effort Feral Coast, is arguably more punk-as-fuck; ripping out riffs with cathartic rage!

Opening with ‘The Houseplant’, Castore’s bass groove can barely contain the punk rock energy Scrunchies are about to release, leading to Larson and Cusack’s propulsive rhythm and screaming lyrical angst. ‘Torrini Decorating’ follows with an equally obliterating punk sound, and Scrunchies are only just getting started! ‘No Home Planet’, another whiplash-inducing ripper, tears apart the fabric of the universe with crushing riffs from Larson (“It’s not the end of the world…”) before Cusack’s punishing percussion on ‘Sway’ has this reviewer gathering his friends together for an impromptu moshpit.

Maintaining their intensity, the infectious bassline of ‘New What’ is followed by the fuzz-drenched hooks of ‘Wildlife’; the trio crescendoing into a cataclysm of feedback near the halfway mark. ‘Black Egg’ will offer listeners no respite before the thrashing ‘Absolute Maximum’ shreds sludge with lo-fi, early Seattle grunge-esque riffs, surrealistic stream of consciousness lyrics, and authentic riot grrrl brattiness. “Don’t take offence I’m trying, but I’m barely alive / You wanna stick your hand in, well it’s mine, mine, mine!”

Inspired by the noise rock of Shellac and Sonic Youth, ‘Parallel’ disturbs with jarring harmonies – and a Kim Gordon-esque deadpan vocal delivery in the bridge – layered over scuzzy post-hardcore guitar hooks. And quickly catch your breath during ‘Ditch’ because you will find yourself shouting along with the loud/soft dynamic of ‘Feral Coast’! Encouraging women and queers to embrace the same DIY ethos that empowers Scrunchies, Feral Coast is a raw, spontaneous record that is comfortable with perfect imperfection; delivering chaotically crafted punk ragers that inspire.

Follow Scrunchies on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Bodega – ‘Broken Equipment’

Sardonic New York art-punk collective BODEGA have an insatiable appetite for philosophy, and with their latest LP Broken Equipment, they have interrogated their own identities – and the external technological influences that shape the band – with self-aware pretentious wit, techno-scepticism and scathing social commentary. The result is a wordy concept album of sorts set in NYC; a collection of cynical anti-establishment post-punk.

Following the dissolution of their previous band Bodega Bay and BODEGA’s formation in 2016, Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio’s satirical musings – like those pondered on their 2018 debut Endless Scroll and 2019 extended play Shiny New Model – never shy away from self-critique. Opening their sophomore album with a dance-punk ode to identity, Hozie tries desperately to understand himself and the constant challenges NYC flings his way on ‘Thrown’. “My molecules change yet I remain / I weave and unweave my image.”

Atop an infectious twangy bassline courtesy of philosophy professor (and ‘de facto’ leader of BODEGA’s philosophy book club) Adam See, and Tai Lee’s percussive strikes, Hozie sneers at NYC’s culture of never-ending productivity in ‘Doer’, spitting out a Daft Punk-esque mantra that the city is maybe making him “bitter, harder, fatter, stressed out!” BODEGA’s sarcastic humour shines throughout their anthemic Beastie Boys/Run-DMC-style throwback (“Innovation waits for no man / Unless I lose my dongle!”), providing us with a New York slice of relatable satire.

Belfiglio takes on lead vocals for ‘Territorial Call of the Female’, dissecting female competition “because you know when the man is around / that’s when I’m putting you down.” Alternating between snarky and sweet with ease, Belfiglio’s expressionist vocalisation is complimented by Daniel Ryan’s angular new wave lead guitar lines and tone (referred to as the “insectoid” sound). This melodic sensibility continues on ‘NYC (disambiguation)’ with BODEGA taking a softer direction that is often at odds with their lyrical anger and disappointment; an honest look at NYC’s history.

Released in multiple languages prior to the LP’s release, ‘Statuette on the Console’ is another Belfiglio-sung highlight that ponders “anyone who puts their reality on your back and forces you to carry it around,” followed by the hip hop bounce of ‘C.I.R.P.’; Belfiglio and Hozie tag-teaming lyrics and wrestling media elitism whilst See, Lee, and Ryan provide ringside support with pulsating bass grooves, driving beats, and propulsive riffs.

The Cult-like love song ‘Pillar on the Bridge of You’ and The Velvet Underground inspired ‘All Past Lovers’ continue Hozie and Belfiglio’s journey of self-discovery in NYC, tackling relationships new and old, whilst ‘How Can I Help Ya?’, ‘No Blade of Grass’, and ‘Seneca The Stoic’ allow BODEGA to show off their rock and roll chops; Ryan shredding his way through the band’s ceaseless punk energy. But it is Broken Equipment’s closer, ‘After Jane’, that will leave a lasting impression.

Picking up the acoustic guitar, Hozie reflects honestly on his relationship with his mother for the album’s heartfelt final track; an emotionally raw realisation that after her death, her grace and pain now reside within him – “I’m channeling your hurt when I sing my songs” – It’s a sombre ending to an otherwise biting social satire, told through the ethos of punk rock.

BODEGA is a philosophical project and Broken Equipment is their latest thesis; an analysis of the changes occurring around us at an accelerated pace that directly inform our life experiences. Perhaps we’re the broken equipment.

Follow Bodega on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Photo Credit: Pooneh Ghana

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Perennial – ‘In The Midnight Hour’

Connecticut art punks Perennial capture the spirit of post-hardcore with their ambitious sophomore LP In The Midnight Hour; an infectious, relentlessly noisy record, oozing ever-perennial punk energy and inspired by the eclectic sounds of their cultural New England surroundings. From watching post-hardcore arts-college/rec-centre gigs, like Q And Not U and The Blood Brothers, to indie record store discoveries like Nick Cave, Perennial absorbed and integrated an assortment of ideas, exploring and expanding their sound to deliver an unpredictable, complex punk album.

Following their debut EP Early Sounds for Night Owls (2015), their debut LP The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves (2017) and EP Food for Hornets (2019), multi-instrumentalists Chad Jewett, Chelsey Hahn and drummer Wil Mulhern – with encouragement from The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die’s Chris Teti – began deconstructing hardcore punk; maintaining their intensity, but emphasising a greater degree of creative expression. Opening with ‘The Skeleton Dance’, Perennial are loud enough to wake the dead, conjuring a whiplash-inducing combination of electronic instrumentation before diving headfirst into hardcore dance-punk anthem ‘In The Midnight Hour’, a worthy title track where the kinetic guitar riffs bite as hard as Hahn and Jewett’s haunting lyrics.

The angular art-punk attack continues with rambunctious groove on ‘Soliloquy For Neil Perry’, leading into the propulsive slam-punk-poetry of ‘Lauren Bacall In Blue’, an infectious, unapologetic track as alluring as its namesake. ‘Food For Hornets’ allows for further experimentation, with Hahn and Jewett trading screaming vocals over scuzzy post-hardcore guitar-hooks and aberrant effects. As Hahn chants “cut up the pattern, yeah,” the band do just that, descending into rumbling idiosyncratic melody.

Catch your breath during ‘Hey Eurydice’ because you won’t get another chance for the remainder of In The Midnight Hour. Conjuring the spirit of poet T. S. Eliot with abrasive, crushing rhythm and punishing percussion, ‘Tooth Plus Claw’ ends with a bang but not a whimper, whilst ‘Melody For A New Cornet’ follows with an equally aggressive performance from the atypical noise-rock trio, pounding basslines leading to the propulsive rhythm of ‘Hour Of The Wolf’. Narratively, ‘Perennial In A Haunted House’ is the ghostly quiet, long after the midnight hour has concluded, the haunted house of our own making. But musically, Perennial’s scrappy lead single couldn’t be louder! ‘I Am The Whooping Crane’ follows with an experimental blend of jazz-infused punk groove, poetic storytelling, and Motown flirtation (during its final seconds) before ‘Absolver’ closes the album with sonic ferocity.

12 songs, 22 minutes of erratic art punk for the nocturnal! Perennial’s unpredictable sophomore LP – “a punk album that doesn’t operate like a punk album” – rewards repeated spins, each track layered with enough weirdo punk energy and reckless abandon to keep the needle dropped.

 

Follow Perennial on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Photo Credit: Omari Spears

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

ALBUM: Shoun Shoun – ‘Monsters & Heroes’

Truly exemplifying the do-it-yourself band ethos, Bristol-based four-piece Shoun Shoun (‘shoon-shoon’) have released their debut LP of genre-defying noise, Monsters & Heroes – a fuzz-drenched, lo-fi excursion into don’t-give-a-fuck art-punk experiments.

Following the release of their 2019 EP A Hundred Trips – five tracks of dreamy garage rock – lead vocalist and guitarist Annette Berlin began working with an uncontrollable urge to connect with music. Finding intimacy with sound during a time when the UK was in lockdown, a result of the continuing global pandemic, Berlin fought isolation with creativity. The result is Monsters & Heroes, a record that rewards repeat spins on the turntable.

Opening with Giuseppe La Rezza’s crashing drum assault and Berlin’s distorted guitar grunge, ‘Did I Play Games’ disorients the listener with its loud-soft-loud dynamic, a juxtaposition of propulsive rhythm and delicate psychedelia recounting that one occasion a friend drunkenly slept on Berlin’s kitchen floor: “Just let me lie here with nothing to do / As long as I lie here everything will wait.” Next, the highly danceable punk groove of ‘Much Sweeter’ enters the chaotic spirit of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, before Shoun Shoun lowers the tempo for the monotone ‘Sway with Me’, Berlin’s evocative lyrics swaying in ethereal feedback – “Feel your way through time and space.”

Recorded in a garage and mixed in a loft, the frustration of lockdown is captured perfectly by Berlin on ‘Stuck’, a pandemic prompted coping mechanism. Her loneliness is confronted by infectious basslines courtesy of Berlin’s neighbour and literal garage rock guitar, whilst ‘Follow Me’ rumbles with a slow burn of unpredictable melody. Boris Ming’s abrasive violin strings stand out amongst a cacophony of idiosyncratic instrumentation, whilst Berlin delivers a vocal performance eerily similar to Björk, pre-The Sugarcubes.

Psych-monstrosity ‘Toxic’ allows for eccentric synth experimentation from Ming, who instinctively lets loose across a scuzzy bassline from Ole Rudd, before the mood shifts into the uplifting poppy alt-rocker, ‘My Daughter’. The lysergic wail of the violin pierces through the hauntingly atmospheric Nick Cave-like soundscape of ‘Refresh & Replay’ before Berlin shifts language for album closer, ‘Schwing Mit Mir’ (or Swing With Me), a droning melody building towards a crescendo of Deutschpunk.

Monsters & Heroes is a fractured collection of songs, reflecting a fractured period of time; two years of emptiness defied by experimental ingenuity. Ignoring genre conventions, Shoun Shoun have crafted complex noise that is uniquely their own, delivering an infectious lockdown long play without compromise.

Follow Shoun Shoun on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne