Review Roundup: School Jerks, Gag, Shoxx, and World War 4

School Jerks – LP

To say that 2012 has been a good year for Toronto hardcore would be a massive understatement, as it’s almost surreal how much has happened in so little time. You’ve got new records from Column Of Heaven, Direct Approach, Kremlin, Purity Control, and Total Trash, debuts from Violent Future and S.H.I.T., the upcoming Not Dead Yet fest by Stuck In The City, and now this great record, so pretty much any way I put it won’t come close to expressing how huge this is.

I never really saw School Jerks as an LP band, and I thought that if they ever went there, it wouldn’t be close to as good as all their other material. However, after listening to this record and being blown away by their best material yet, I will admit that perhaps I was a little too quick to judge and too confident in my knowledge of punk. It’s not at all a far stretch from all their other stuff, and people who have seen them live over the past while have probably heard most of these songs, but they still come out as the best-sounding recordings they’ve ever had. The LP’s a touch more blown-out than their other recorded material, which gives it a kick that I personally felt their music lacked at times – simply comparing the recording of “Ugly Minds, Ugly Faces” on the Control 7” to the LP is probably the greatest indicator, as it sounds incomparably better. Then there’s stuff like “Endless Mirrors”, “No Parole”, and “Problems”, which features some of their best riffing yet, and really memorable numbers like “Slums Of The Future” with its awesomely obnoxious bends, and “Wicked World” which has a groove to it that almost echoes “No Class” by Reagan Youth.

This is easily one of the best records I’ve heard this year, and if you’re into punk at all, you’d be silly to miss out on it. Considering all the great stuff the band’s members have been involved in, I think it’s safe to say School Jerks should be held up in acclaim with other “modern classics “ of Toronto hardcore, such as Urban Blight and Career Suicide. I mean, they’ve probably been considered as such, in a way, but I feel they’ve always been the most underrated, and that this record may change that.

Gag – Demo Cassette

I’ve been on the lookout for this demo ever since I saw a Youtube video of Olympia’s Gag playing a show somewhere. It was raw, noisy, and the singer had insane amounts of delay on his vocals, so I pretty much knew at that point that this would be good. I’m a huge fan of Olympia’s music scene, so I guess that’s part of why I expressed special interest in this band; I also found it awesome that they didn’t heavily publicize their material with “ex-this band, ex-that band” stuff, and just did their thing and sold tapes at shows. Not that I’m incredibly anal about bands sticking to a certain “punk” aesthetic, but I feel that the music should be able to speak for itself, rather than what bands one was in before serving as some kind of indication.

Perhaps, because of all my anticipation for it, this demo ended up being almost exactly what I expected, but I mean that in the best way possible. It’s really heavy and groovy, similar to what bands like Hoax are doing right now, but also really reminiscent of a lot of European and Japanese old school crust and d-beat, with the riffing, rawness, and delay-driven vocals. The one thing I didn’t expect is for it to be as disgustingly raw as it is, but it’s a demo and that’s what demos should sound like. This release is generally slow to mid-paced, but “I’m A Punk” is the odd fast track, that breaks from this mold and ends up being one of the best songs; my other favourite song is “Don’t Like”, which is the slowest song on the record, so it seems that production style isn’t the only way this band works in extremes. It’s also possible that my taste is flawed, but I’ll let you be the judge of that, dear readers.

I don’t have much else to say, except to keep your eyes peeled for these demo tapes and two more 7”s. I believe the demo is also being re-recorded for a 7”, so that might be interesting to hear in comparison to the tape.

Shoxx – Demo

I’m going to come right out and say it: Shoxx from Brooklyn is the best NY band right now, aside from Anasazi. I first heard them through the Distort Jersey City WFMU radio, where they did a live thing and played the demo, and was pretty much blown away. I know I said mentioning “ex-band” to describe a band is silly, literally a review ago, but the fact that the guitarist and drummer from Pollution are in this band makes total sense, because they basically sound like a better Pollution. I think they also have a member or two of Nomos, but all I have to say about that, is good for them for starting a new band that is way better Nomos in every way imaginable.

Anyway…alongside being one of the best things to come out of NY this year, this is probably the best demo I’ve heard this year, as well. It’s noisy and bass-heavy, with really wonked-out, groovy riffing; I try to venture into as little hyperbole as possible, but the guitars on this demo literally sound like toxic waste is oozing all around you, and it’s wonderful. The drumming is really unhinged and chaotic, which is really the only thing that allows it to stand out from how bass/noisy-heavy this demo is. At the same time, it doesn’t stand out too much, as that would be unsuitable for what they’re doing with this band – rather, it kind of follows the guitars, while making things even noisier on its own end. There’s a weird crusty post-punk vibe to Shoxx, because while they are essentially a hardcore band, I’d definitely say this is the least-hardcore hardcore demo I’ve heard, in awhile.

“Unique” is a weird adjective to use while describing any punk record, but I feel like this is the closest anyone’s come to it, in terms of 2012 punk records. I have no idea if they have tapes, or what the deal is, but I’d certainly recommend getting on that.

World War 4 – Demo

This has to be one of the dumbest band names I’ve heard in a while, and the band itself is pretty dumb, but in the best way. World War 4 features an all-star Boston hardcore lineup, and this demo is further proof of why Boston has the best scene in hardcore right now – for hard-hitting moshy hardcore, there’s simply nowhere better.

Understandably, there was a lot of hype following this demo’s release, which kind of fits with the fact that it came out at This Is Hardcore fest in Philadelphia (the most hyped hardcore fest). It delivers in the sense that it’s still one of the best hardcore demos I’ve heard all year, but it’s kind of disappointing with how it doesn’t stray far from affiliated bands like The Rival Mob and No Tolerance, and isn’t even close to as memorable as either of those bands. To be fair, however, it is their demo and both of the latter bands released much better material later on, so I think it’s safest to say that this demo is mainly an indicator of great potential. What I like about WW4 more than either of those bands, is that they have a tad more crossover influence, while the songs still make you want to mosh like crazy – “Bystander” is the perfect example of this, and I honestly wish the rest of the demo was as good as that song, but perhaps WW4 have more in store.

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