Shake Appeal is Pitchfork news editor Evan Minsker’s ongoing survey of punk and garage rock records. As 2019 comes to a close, he shares his favorite 10 LPs and EPs in that vein, listed in alphabetical order.
Cereal Killer: The Beginning & End of Cereal Killer
Here lies Cereal Killer, the Geelong, Australia group that was too beautiful for this world. The Beginning & End, as advertised, is both the debut and final album from this searing speed punk band led by brothers Zane and Billy Gardner; the record release party was their last gig. Zane’s screams may be unintelligible beneath layers of fuzz and feedback, but the band’s galloping riffs and massive guitar solos give away the truth—that they’re better hook writers than their sloppy, chaotic music suggests. One of the songs is called “Your Punk Scene Can Suck It,” which is an aggressive sentiment for sure, but it’s a final fuck you befitting Cereal Killer’s glorious self-immolation.
The Hussy: Looming
A decade in, Madison, Wisconsin punk duo the Hussy have beefed up their sound with the help of a new permanent member, known as “Baby Tyler.” Tyler Fassnacht—who, unlike an actual baby, has a very good mustache—plays in the bands Fire Heads and Proud Parents with Bobby and Heather Hussy, respectively; with his help, they’ve written some of their best Hussy songs yet. Their fifth album, Looming, sloshes together garage-pop hooks that get in and get out before they get tired, wholesome harmonies, darkwave synthesizers, flute solos, and much more. The album’s momentum is so strong, not even Baby Tyler’s 28-second jazz-guitar instrumental can derail things.
Judy and the Jerks: Music for Donuts EP
Hattiesburg, Mississippi punks Judy and the Jerks’ Music for Donuts is equal parts tough and joyful—songs where people are told to get out of the way if they’ve got a problem. There’s a noisy buzzsaw of a track called “Lard” where singer Julie Gore shouts about how parents don’t like her, she doesn’t go to school, and she doesn’t give a fuck about you; it’s 44 seconds long. “Don’t talk to me ’cause I’ll bite you,” she sings in “Goosey Girls.” The goal is to have fun by any means necessary, regardless of what anybody thinks, resulting in a sound that’s fast, angry, and a little queasy.
[La Vida Es Un Mus Discos]
The debut album from Oakland’s Khiis is an airtight, unrelenting hardcore gem. Not relying solely on percussive speed, the band places an emphasis on the torrent of feedback, noise, and muscle coming from guitarist Austin Montanari and bassist Amanda Moore. And then there’s vocalist Kimia Haghighi, who shouts in both English and Farsi. The English lyrics are the typical fare of hardcore brutality; there’s a bunch of stuff about execution on the album’s last stretch. Haghighi told Maximum Rocknroll that her Farsi lyrics are partially about being affected by racist politics, while others focus on “the more fun aspects of being Middle Eastern”—the art, stories, and mythology. Similar to the album’s mythic artwork, there’s nuanced storytelling beyond the overwhelming fury.
The debut LP from Barcelona’s MINIMA features one of the best vocal performances on a punk album this year. Over her band’s breakneck street punk riffs, singer Angela Firmeza busts out a demonic growl while threatening anyone standing in her way. There’s a song called “Jódete” (essentially, “Fuck You”) where she demands that you stop looking at her. Toxic asshole types are threatened and put on notice. It’s an album of bloodshed, riots, and emotional trauma played out against the backdrop of an unromantic, filthy cityscape. MINIMA is a tough, ferocious, absolutely crucial work.
Natural Man Band: Living in a Chemical World
Natural Man Band are six Kansas City punk weirdos making maximal jams. On their debut album Living in a Chemical World, synth and sax flank the traditional punk clatter of a buzzing guitar, bass, and drums, resulting in one of the year’s most ambitiously constructed punk records. Stephanie Eckermann and Ian Teeple’s voices intertwine chaotically and fall into harmonies on occasion. They follow alternating strains of sweetness and urgency throughout the album, singing about both beating hearts and beating hammers. At their most absurd, they tell the story of a knife sharpener’s unlikely friendship with a little city mouse.
Pinocchio: Pinocchio EP
Even for a punk, Mary Jane Dunphe isn’t bound by genre: Her discography includes the synth-pop club anthems of CC Dust, the dream-pop sway of CCFX, and the harrowing rock anthems of Vexx. It’s only natural that her new band Pinocchio, featuring members of Cheena, is similarly hard to pin down. Their inaugural release is filled with muscular power-pop riffs and bookended by “We Will Rock You”-style stomp-and-claps, with flashes of hardcore in between. Sometimes Dunphe shrieks with abandon; other times she howls with almost operatic levels of control. While the variety keeps things exciting, the secret to this project is a throughline in all of Dunphe’s best work: the vocals and hooks are consistently stellar.
Powerplant: People in the Sun
[Erste Theke Tontraeger/Dreamland Syndicate]
With People in the Sun, Powerplant—aka London’s Theo Zhykharyev—succeeds in marrying the streamlined synth-punk punch of Ausmuteants with the DIY dance-party mania of Quintron. You can shake it to the primitive drum-machine beat of “Hey Mr. Dogman!” but there’s also a woozy psychedelia running through song’s unsteady synthesizer. Elsewhere, Zhykharyev languishes in dreamy new wave (“Take My Money!”) and adopts Suicide’s gothy aesthetic (“In the Garden”). Still, it’s the bangers here that are undeniable.
Trampoline Team: Trampoline Team
Early on, New Orleans’ Trampoline Team wrote good punk songs buoyed by a melodic bubblegum strain. Now they’ve spit out the gum, likely in a dramatic fashion. Their self-titled second album is all chain-punk decimation—songs that are largely two minutes or less, where every second is defined by speed and force and urgency. Sick Thoughts’ Drew Owen joins the band on drums, providing an intense backbone for Sam DeLucia’s harrowing bark and Michael He-Man’s all-power shredding. On “Too Late,” DeLucia warns that “you’re running out of time” while the band barrels forward at a perilous clip, ratcheting up the anxiety and tension.
Uranium Club: The Cosmo Cleaners
“Man is a lonely animal,” whines Uranium Club on The Cosmo Cleaners. This observation seems tongue-in-cheek (like many of the band’s songs), but the Minneapolis perspective feels important to consider. It gets very cold in Minneapolis, where Uranium Club are from, and thus somewhat isolated. Maybe that’s how these guys got so good at their instruments. Clad in matching jumpsuits, the members lock into ever-shifting and ultra-precise time signatures with choppy, nimble guitar work. They pair this perfectionist musical approach with wide-eyed, bizarre poetry about power structures (there’s an eight-minute soliloquy about ladder-climbing and corporate entitlement). Together, these two elements create an immaculately psychedelic hellscape of capitalist bullshit.
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