Chicago's HoZac Records is the city's essential source for punk rock and indie pop acts of the past and future. Bands like Smith Westerns and Dum Dum Girls (as well as personal favorites Bare Mutants) cut their teeth before cashing in at bigger labels. HoZac doesn't miss a beat as they continue to mine for the next thing. Their latest pack of releases is no exception.
The Man is a new band with an old sound. Their “Carousel of Sound” EP is grimy and fast. They remind of a more aggressive, yelly Radio Birdman. Three tracks in under six minutes attest to that. “TV On” changes speeds and styles up plenty in a such limited time. In direct contrast is the start-stopping punch of “Pay”. The finale, “I Don't Care” is a relentless, welcome pummeling.
From a band with a retro thing going on to an actual retro release. HoZac Archival re-introduces the world to Mary Monday & the Bitches. Originally released in 1977, Monday got lost in the shuffle of the year punk broke, despite being the likely only female-fronted punk band. The A-side to this 7”, “I Gave My Punk Jacket to Rickie” is a fun sorta love ditty where Mary realizes she loves her jacket more than the boy. The B-side, “Popgun”, is a more violent track. This might sound quaint today except that there wasn't anything like this when it was recorded 37 years ago. An unearthed treasure, for sure.
Changing things up entirely comes the effort from Southern Comfort. A little loud and a lotta pretty on “Suzanne”. A dual female vocal performance from Angie Bermuda and Harriet Hudson, along with melodic soloing transcends the possible Best Coast likeness. “Suzanne”, along with “Me and My Baby” aren't complex tracks but they certainly tickle the ears. An extremely pleasing mix of psychedelia and pop, SoCo are more like a female-fronted Outrageous Cherry, definitely a band to watch out for.
Going from female-fronted to female-backed, Nones are a band that has been discussed here due to their stellar 7” from 2012. They are back not with their introductory LP. Nones are a little bit of some of bands I love (The Stooges and Scratch Acid, for instance) and yet that doesn't really begin to describe them. Horns and woodwinds are normally verboten for this reviewer's listening pleasure but Nones use the saxophone effectively throughout Midwestern Family Values, especially on tracks like “Dunce Cap”. There's also an occasional use of synths to go along with the rolling drums, punishing guitars, and pained yelps. If Flipper played songs in tune, they could have come up with something similar to the excellent title track. The album is a jaunt of blissful insanity, a surefire hit among mental patients and punk rock enthusiasts. It fills a void no one realized was there.
Cretin Stompers' Looking Forward to Being Attacked was saved for last because, genre-wise, it is the release most all over the map. There's glam (the incredible “Cowboy from Mars”), punk (“Adult Child”), space and psychedelic rock (“In Between Stations”). Song-to-song, there is a creeping sense that someone changed the album. A lot of that is the fact that the two vocalists are so vastly different. One voice being impish, whereas the other is within normal vocal registers. The good-old punk songs are great but the album's two most enjoyable tracks are the amazing cover of the Styrenes' “Drain in Your Veins” and “Cowboy from Mars”. Cretin Stompers' debut LP is as diverse a record as you are likely to come across and they don't just dabble, they are equally comfortable on Earth as in space.
Opening the vault and finding an important and awesome 7” would normally be enough but two more intriguing debut singles as well as two of the very best LPs of the year makes this HoZac's most essential haul to-date. Act fast and you may still be able to your hands on the 150 gold edition first pressings.