Hard Fun: The Best Punk of February 2022
Welcome to the latest edition of Difficult Fun! Each month, SPIN will spotlight and discuss the best punk on the planet here, with the ambition to challenge preconceived notions of what the four-letter word actually means and, ideally, entertain readers in the process. . Purists, think again! Everyone else, enjoy.
In the months following November 2016, when the election results reverberated across the country and through our heads like a chainsaw through the brain, critical opinions – particularly on music, but certainly on a wide range of topics – have become stupid. Of the idiocy, the most immediately disappointing was that punk would be “good” under a Trump presidency because nothing lights a flame under the ass of anarchic dissidents than the utter fucking fear of the eradication of human rights. You know, anti-fascism and all of its many riffs. Punk is still good, that fear still lingers, and I’ve never found a more intellectually lazy upbeat argument then or since.
Now on the eve of war in europe, I wonder if these opinions persist. (I’m not sure if a Sex Pistols song about Germany’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels will rally a generation, but by all means prove me wrong. Whatever helps you do face.) Music is good for this shit, anyway.
FATAMORGANE, Ahora Aquí, Todavia No
Barcelona duo FATAMORGANA are eclectic through and through – Ahora Aqui, Todavia is generous with the 80s drum lineup – cold new wave synth sounds that play like vintage images of the future. Except, of course, these recordings are vast and minimalistic, which begs the question: maybe space travel will be democratized and totally retro in 50 years? But then again, maybe we’re all dead. At least we’re here, now, again (get it?). It’s good enough for dancing.
Hard as nails street punk from Chile/Argentina, INYECCIÓN (released on Discos Enfermos and Educación Cínica) is a collection of new tracks and demos – brain-smacking bi-genre vocals and what I call a sense of humor. At least the title track is funny. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But I’m right on this point: the LP tears.
toe ring, Pictures
Toe Ring is a super band from Philadelphia with a disgusting name. Their last tape, Pictures, was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 (you know, the one we’re still in?) and despite that, it’s a really refreshing take on garage-y, kraut-y post-punk. I believe in lo-fi again.
X-Acto / Paranoid, X-Acto / Paranoid
If there’s a theme for this month’s tough fun, I hope it’s, well, fun. This X-Acto/Paranoise split courtesy of Teramo, Italy’s Goodbye Boozy Digital is absolutely insane – opening with my favorite lyrical stanza of the year so far: “What’s that smell?” / I think it’s me / What’s that smell? / I smell like beef. This one is for all listeners of all punk offshoots who just want egg punks, synth punks, chain punks, crust punks and the like to get along. They can, and it’s madness.
liquid face, II
My original review of this seven-inch Liquid Face was “so good I want to vomit”, but I thought that might understate the delight of their tough and loud punk onslaught. It’s all angular synth sounds, garage guitars and buried guttural roars. Intense. Why aren’t all bands Liquid Face?
Power plant, stump soup
Two years ago London-via-Ukrainian band POWERPLANT set the world ablaze with their bizarre, math-mad post-punk hardcore (try not to fall in love with their A Spine/Proof seven inches, I dare you.) Now, in 2022, they’re a completely different musical outfit. Don’t you just love it when bands say “get the hell out of here” and venture into new, uncharted territory? stump soup is weird – it’s literally a dungeon synth album, like something that would absolutely make a video game soundtrack, and I think I’m including it here mainly because it’s weird. Really shocking. It’s called art, honey.
LAFF BOX, LAFF BOX
Powerpunk smiley from Germany, LAFF BOX features members of Lassie, Ex-white, Liiek and Poky. It also has free guitar solos that miraculously don’t make me want to shove a screwdriver deep into my ear canal, which is to say, it shows some restraint. But, like, the good kind. They never lose the hook. Never lose the hook!
Labeling it noise-pop rock seems too myopic. Empath’s second album, Visitor, is as enjoyable as the first – pulling presets from Jamiroquai and sampling Minecraft will cause such delight. If I had one note, it’s that I wish they would amp up the bird sounds from the first recording. And maybe the mist.
Side note: For those too scared to see some of the other bands in this column live, you’ll never have a better time watching a drummer than watching Empath’s Garrett Koloski. Trust me on that one.