Hozac Summer 7-inches
by Ron Wadlinger

Hozac is the label that won’t quit. Short of its fifth birthday, the Chicago-based label has released more than 80 records with no signs of slowing down. As with any label that puts out such a large quantity of vinyl, there’s bound to be a few records here and there that underwhelm certain listeners, but Hozac’s consistent level of quality makes it one of the few labels that has developed a solid base of collectors who will buy everything the label puts out, which is something given the label’s penchant for the obscure. It should go without saying that it’s always a good day when a new batch of Hozac vinyl shows up on the Primitive Futures doorstep.

Wax Idols, “All Too Human”
The Wax Idols arrive via Oakland, another in the seemingly endless stream of bands flowing forth from the Bay Area. The band’s gone through a number of line-up changes, with the one constant being leader Heather Fedewa (formerly of Bare Wires and Hunx & His Punx), who played everything on this 7-inch, with production help from Bay Area producer-kingpin Eric Bauer.

This is the rare girl-group record that sounds legitimately tough without having to try. “All Too Human” is a driving rock song that cruises effortlessly on a smooth bass line and noisy guitars. There’s a bit of beauty in that noise, though, and the almost majestic cacophony works as a nice foundation for Fedewa’s raw and melodic vocals. The flip, “William Says,” is a little less poppy and a little darker, but just as strong. It’s a sort of noisy, droning elbow to the ribs that’s not too aggressive, but gives enough to make you think twice. Put another notch in Hozac’s win column.

The Shrapnelles, Asscalibur EP
The Shrapnelles could also be categorized under the girl-group moniker (could you tell by their name?). Decidedly not from the Bay Area, the band instead hails from Canada, specifically Calgary, Alberta. This three-song 7-inch is another example of Hozac tracking down a relative unknown and giving them the opportunity to release a worthy debut. “My Mom Is Hot” is a fairly straightforward garage rocker, but a good one. The guitar riffs are raw, and the interplay between the lead and back-up vocals works well. The band goes for more of a pop sound on “HIV,” but keeps things dirty with overdriven vocals and lo-fi production. For a second, as the refrain hits at the end of the song, the sound is reminiscent of a straighter Times New Viking. “Dessert Furs” occupies the B-side and starts off as a kind of punk ballad before gaining speed and turning into a fast-paced, dirty lament. It’s the best, most dynamic song on the record (and the most original), giving hope that good things might be coming from these women in the near future.

Red Mass, “Drink My Blood”
The somewhat mysterious Red Mass seems like the quintessential band from Quebec: dark, obscured and interesting. Named “Band of the Week” on Rolling Stone’s website last fall, the band is constantly evolving, appearing in markedly different incarnations on stage and releasing wide-ranging records on a number of different underground labels at a steady clip. The latest addition to their vinyl discography comes as part of round two of the Hozac Hookup Klub, Hozac’s singles club, which has featured the likes of Woven Bones, Dum Dum Girls, Idle Times, Box Elders and the Fresh & Onlys.

While this 7-inch, which features musical contributions from nine Red Mass members, is somewhat tame by Red Mass standards, it’s still worth the listen. “Drink My Blood” starts off with a haunting, racing guitar before settling into a dark verse punctuated by staccato percussion. The chorus moves into more anthemic hard rock territory, but the band pulls it off without losing the overall sin-soaked feel of the song. B-side “Freak Show” is more like a dance anthem from a ’60s horror film. The song relies upon a traditional song structure, but includes an atonal guitar solo midway through to break things up a bit. Some of Red Mass’ other records are more essential, but this one meets its singles club expectations.