September Singles Round-Up
by Kevin J. Elliott

September, or the whole of autumn for that matter, is a banner time of year for decrepit, pit-digging singles. And this time round in the singles round-up is no exception. Yes, Australia continues to lead the charge, but for this installment there’s at least one new hopeful from the States who have tapped the same well of despair and channeled it into their murmuring punk.

Cheap Time, “Other Stories” b/w “In This World” (Sweet Rot)
I’m happy to report I recently spent an enchanted evening with sneering Jeffrey Novak and his Cheap Time outfit at Columbus’ oasis of hip, Double Happiness. Their white-hot, riff-heavy punk fit the scenery well. Though they were on fire for most of the set, over time the songs became a bit tedious. It’s hard to stay focused on their most recent album, Wallpaper Music, without really believing that their form of nostalgia is still vital and rewarding and not redundant and lacking the hooks once dispatched. Cheap Time is a much more adept singles band and “Other Stories” proves that theory. When they arrived at the song in their set, it was an invigorating punch to the gut. Like the best of Novak’s work, it is a perfect slice of the snot-nosed, glammed-up pop that once made Cheap Time a hot commodity. I’m not saying Novak has lost his touch, but opposed to a longplayer of his Slade-meets-Ramones formula pounded out ad nausea, all one truly needs is three minutes in a bar ingesting “Other Stories” to see his talent at full tilt. Think the Stooges at the velvet tin mine. “In This World” doesn’t do much to help the cause, but it is a nice little accompaniment for the flip and posits the notion that Cheap Time should ditch the old guard and spend more time listening to the Only Ones.

Satanic Rockers, “Eviction” b/w “Rat Versus Boredom” (Quemada)
Last week I spent some significant time discussing The Unholy Two’s use of shock to make one put on their record. Chris Lutzko is a genius when it comes to this tactic. It’s something he shouldn’t need to use, because the content is there—and that’s a fault I find in a lot of the Australian bands we’ve covered in these pages. No need to publicize the squalor and despair, when the music is hitting the right buttons already. The Satanic Rockers are simply doing it wrong—the name, their own descriptors, the horrid artwork—and if you told me this would be my single of the month, I would scoff simply judging from the exterior. Hailing from Melbourne, The Satanic Rockers are self-proclaimed sociopaths in league with Mad Nanna and the like in that Down Under wasteland. That connection makes sense, as “Eviction” comes across with Mad Nanna’s lethargic wheeze and whimsy, only filtered through some metal-headed teen’s four-track shreds. What’s most strikingly addictive about “Eviction” is the band’s use of the Royal Truxian hallucinogenic guitar mash. Certainly Twin Infinitives has soundtracked a drug binge or two in their wheelhouse. “Rat Versus Boredom” is no less shady, it’s just a bit more open, allowing the stench (that you actually kind of enjoy) to escape. It’s in the vein of the Shadow Ring’s bone-dry buffoonery, The Tronics’ terse sediment punk and some of Dan Melchior’s surlier moments. The point being, there’s no need to sell this as the usual jenkem-huffing crud we’re used to. It’s better than that, it’s mind-bending. Sure, you feel the filth once it’s over, but you’d probably crash at this house just to soak up the inspiring vapors within.

Surgeons, “Whip Them Lord” b/w “In My Scope” (Total Punk)
A four-single lot just came in from Total Punk and I couldn’t be happier. The Florida’s Dying offshoot specializes in punk sides pressed at their most economical, housed in cheap paper sleeves with little to no information about what’s inside. Collecting this bunch is much like trying to complete a team set of 1990 Reds cards. Among this cycle’s excellent line-up—including the White Wires, LiveFastDie, and the Golden Pelicans—LA’s Surgeons stands above all, if only because they are the most brutal and unforgiving. “Whip Them Lord,” is darker than most, akin to Middle Class hardcore were they gauzed in a goth veneer. They sound less Joy Division and Bauhaus and onto something increasingly vacant and nihilist, the kind of negatively charged energy I’ve attached to Ice Age. That’s what the Surgeons remind me of most. Perhaps they’ve even taken the haunted house spook of early TV Ghost and turned it into real horror. “In My Scope” is equally chugging, if a bit more transparent. All young punks will still agree that Black Flag and The Misfits are the bedrock, but few know how to get out of that cage. “In My Scope” is “Rise Above,” and thankfully not as cartoonish or by-the-numbers as you’d think. Mull over it a couple of times and you hear a particular desperation that sets Surgeons apart. Interested to see them splayed out on a full canvas.