Brooklyn’s Toxic State label has been releasing some excellent material recently – here’s two of the best:
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – Go Home (album, Toxic State)
Having laid down their antic template across last year’s eponymous EP, Hank and the ‘heads set about ploughing their singularly unhinged furrow across a dozen deceptively brief tracks.
Deceptive? You betcha. Beneath the Ramonic levels of direct simplicity there’s a lot going on. Beneath Hank’s nutter-at-the-back-of-the-bus vocals, lies a miasma of guitar squall, frazzled funhouse organ and complex rhythms. There’s are subtleties, the kind you’ll notice after a few listens, once you become accustomed to the sound of Hasel Adkins’ red-headed stepchildren freaking out in a charnel house.
The quintet churn, grind and pound throughout the initial quintet of tracks, battering their sound into a series of jagged, rusting shapes, while the vocals are screamed, hollered, or delivered with the persuasive intensity of an individual who one might expect to flay your face off, then wear it round for a visit.
After the corpse grinder gamelan of Go Home’s untitled track rounds up side one, the flip kicks into the Hudson River hoedown of ‘I Don’t Play Games’, before pitching headlong into ‘Bad Things’ – an organ infused ride on the whirligig of dementia. Standout track ‘My House’ consists of nothing more than the phrase ‘Hey you, get outta my house’, repeated over a rhythm that effectively evokes the sound of a savage beating with a welcome mat.
This is grindhouse rock’n’roll, infused with the blood and sperm that coats the cheap seats. ‘Snide … Petty … Fools’ delineates Hanks lyrical outsider opprobrium before the brief hi-octane shitfit of ‘I’m No Baby’ sounds as if ALL the toys are being hurled from the pram. ‘Go Home’ lurches to its defenestrated terminus via the nihilistic junkyard fuck-you-a-billy of ‘I Don’t See Nothin’’. This is the internal monologue spread akimbo, and it ain’t Virginia Woolf. Men who no longer care zombie dance around a tyre pyre as sex and death hangs upon the breeze.
Crazy Spirit – s/t (album, Toxic State)
Crazy Spirit share a hunk of common ground with fellow New Yorkers Hank and the Hammerheads. Aside from turf, they’re also inhabitants of the sonic Laughing Academy – albeit occupying a Nick Blinko nursery nuthouse of twisted innocence. However, whereas Hank and his chums evince a definite garage vibe, Crazy Spirit offer up their crackpot quail garnished with hardcore that sounds like the Bad Brains had cobbled their instruments together from whatever solid objects could be ripped from behind the rubber room’s padding.
This, their debut album, sounds like an aural adventure into Mr Rogers’ final psychotic breakdown. The nursery crimes begin immediately as a 45 kiddie party favourite ‘Looby Loo’ is given a crackly airing at 33rpm, before the Spirit malevolently juxtapose their twisted punk rock over the record. There’s a sparse urgency to tracks such as ‘Bed Bugs’ and ‘Space’, both bass-driven juggernauts that detonate with ramalama hardcore trashcan venom.
Frontman Walker evokes the tortured lyrical processes of Nick Blinko while sounding like a mendacious STP sprite conjured up by saying “Martian Church” while looking in a mirror. Set against the dislocated childlike dialogue of ‘Bricks’ it represents an exercise in sonic trepanation that plunges deep into sweet spinal column goo. The disc hits its stride with the excellent ‘Little Boots’ and ‘Train’, which extends the naïf lyrical motif before sending it on a ride to psychoblivion. After the pell mell panic of ‘They Sleep Easy’, spastic rhythms break against the HR Puffnstuff lyrics of ‘Troll’ and the coruscating reductivism of ‘Baseball Bat’ sees brats being beaten with greater savagery than ever before. You could make a case of a lineage back to the Ramones here, but if it exists it would have been drawn from the darkest recesses of Dee Dee’s junk paranoia.
As the needle moves toward its fulcrum, the intensity increases. ‘You’ blisters by in less than a minute, while ‘Fistful Of Hate’ continues the acceleration toward some kind of vanishing point. ‘Nosebleed’ arrives with a jolt of cruelty – a traumatising playground twist built around the lyric “Look at you/Look at you/You look like shit/You look like shit’. The final two tracks seem a little bolted on: ‘What Have I Become’ sounds like filler, and can be described as a slaughterhouse jam that takes Egyptian reggae to the Cretin Hop. ‘I Become A Man’ initially gives the impression of being a straightforward workout that may have been recorded at an entirely different session, but redeems itself via a transcendent (de)evolutionary climax.
These two albums are the sound of 2012. It’s the sound of minds coming apart under Babylon pressure. Armageddon time soon come. Won’t that be a larf?