Self-described as a mix of riot grrrl and 1960s girl groups such as The Ronettes, Big Joanie’s music is both inherently political and personal. Back Home, their latest release on Kill Rock Stars, finds them expanding the lo-fi punk sound of their earlier releases beyond its typical confines. The incorporation of synths and strings adds an additional layer to the album’s exploration of the concept of home, not only in its physical manifestations but also in its emotional ones. “Happier Still,” the album’s lead single, is an energetic, Nirvana-influenced jam about fighting through an episode of depression. This self-reflection is threaded throughout the album on songs such as the wry “Taut” (“l always make the same mistakes / Don’t tell me I should learn from it”) and the bittersweet “Today” (“Sometimes I’m here / All alone / I can’t find you / On my own”). The emotional centerpiece of Back Home is the dreamy and anthemic “In My Arms,” which works both as a musing on the beauty and terror of finding an emotional home in another person and the complications of living within capitalism (“I’ve compromised too many times / In my life / One day, I’ll make the great escape / And send another you away”). Back Home is thought-provoking and emotional, maintaining the band’s punk rock spirit even as it finds them evolving their message and sound into new and exciting territory. —Mary Beth Campbell
The packaging on this cassette explicitly states “Warning: For sick rocker freaks only”—and for good reason. Local punks Dracula execute the songs on this self-titled tape with hellraising d-beat aggression. The band lays siege with a never-ending assault of jagged chords on songs like “Floating Coffins” and “Stabbed In The Brain.” On “Born Again In Hell,” Jesse Jammy’s vocals conjure a post-mortem Lemmy Kilmister possessed by the devil himself. Nothing about this debut effort feels weak, largely owing to members’ extensive histories with other local underground groups. Currently, the members of Dracula split their time with the likes of garage punk favorites Sick Thoughts, hardcore heartthrobs Paprika, and putrid grindcore group Congealed Putrescence. This tape’s only shortcoming is that the eight-and-a-half minute run time goes by far too quickly. These are excellent one-and-a-half minute rippers, but there are only five of them. Get these guys back in the studio! —William Archambeault
Stumpwork, the latest from UK post-punk band Dry Cleaning, was written immediately after the 2021 release of their acclaimed debut, New Long Leg. It is tempting to draw comparisons between the two albums. On Stumpwork, Dry Cleaning maintains their sardonic wit, with lead vocalist Florence Shaw continuing to intonate the song’s lyrics in her deadpan spoken word style, delivering a stream of consciousness that flits from the surreal (“Is it still okay to call you my disco pickle?”) to musings on human existence (“For a happy and exciting life… stay interested in the world around you”). However, here Shaw delves deeper into singing territory, allowing her vocals more variety. The band’s overall sound has expanded as well into something slightly more optimistic than their previous effort. Lewis Maynard’s bass lines are funkier than on New Long Leg (see “Hot Penny Day”), melding effortlessly with Nick Buxton’s drums and Tom Dowse’s guitar work and exploring elements of funk, slow rock, hardcore, dream pop, psychedelia, and more across the album. Standout tracks include “Gary Ashby,” an ode to a missing pet tortoise, as well as “Anna Calls From The Arctic” and “Conservative Hell.” Though perhaps not as accessible as other bands in the current post-punk wave, do not overlook Stumpwork; this is an album—and band—worth taking the time to delve into. —Mary Beth Campbell
Foreseen rips into some violent crossover thrash on Untamed Force—this record has riffs for days! The Finnish group’s fusion of ‘80s metal leads and hardcore mosh fury forms something that feels like a baby brother to Exodus’ equally untamed 1985 debut Bonded By Blood. Foreseen utilizes melodic dual guitar leads to a great extent but never surrenders the tough guy hardcore feel that anchors this album. Picture an alternate reality where Agnostic Front took a stab at Iron Maiden and you’ll probably come up with something similar to “Birthright.” One of Untamed Force‘s biggest strengths is that the band embraces a production style akin to the mid-‘80s albums that inspired their sound. The members of Foreseen weren’t obsessing over click tracks or the hyper-production that renders most modern metal records limp and soulless. Instead, Untamed Force is exactly what it claims to be: pure power. —William Archambeault
Two years after rapper/comedian Open Mike Eagle dropped his humorously raw seventh studio album, Anime, Trauma and Divorce, he’s back and flipping the tape over on Component System with the Auto Reverse. Unlike OME’s previous album, which focused on a very specific time in his life, this new album highlights his broader musical experience through multiple eras and headspaces—much like a mixtape. The album takes listeners on a journey through “79th and Stony Island,” a track that pays homage to OME’s hometown of Chicago. He raps, “I still got the same worldview / A brain full of old-school rules / And memories like flesh wounds” over a throwback and locationally-appropriate beat. Similarly, the track “Crenshaw and Homeland” talks about the rapper’s time in the South Los Angeles neighborhood. He spits with a smooth cadence, “Part of me wants a space / Haunting me with the view / The city is fucking loud / It’s telling me what to do.” The instrumentals are equally as West Coast as the title of the track—laid back, funky, and jazz-heavy. The album showcases Open Mike Eagle’s versatility, and the many spaces, places, and times that have inspired his craft. —Shirani Jayasuriya
Boris has teamed up with Rocky & The Sweden for one of the most deranged exports of Japanese music to reach the U.S. in a while. Boris’ loud and abrasive sound has earned them a dedicated global fanbase, while true rockers Rocky & The Sweden are still woefully unrecognized outside of their native Japan. I was rendered speechless by Rocky & The Sweden’s red hot fusion of ‘70s guitar leads and hardcore punk intensity when I saw them open up for Final Conflict’s first ever tour of Japan back in October. The band sounds like bandits living it up in a despondent wasteland. While they may present as a bunch of rowdy punks, The Swedes are laidback potheads at heart. During the chaos of their aptly titled “UP IN SMOKE,” the band slips into a version of Cheech & Chong’s “Earache My Eye” marinated in Sabbath stoner grooves. The Swedes clearly came to party while Boris came to scare the shit out of listeners. Boris’ side opens with ominously distorted music box sounds before the band plunges into the abyss with one of the sludgiest takes on hardcore this side of Eyehategod. On closing track “Nosferatou,” the band fuses squonking sax, walls of feedback, and ethereal harmonies for a unique sound that shows that their oblique emotions know no stylistic limitations. From the highs of Rocky & The Sweden’s pothead punk to the lows of Boris’ sludgy dismay, this split has plenty to offer longtime fans and first time listeners alike. —William Archambeault
On September 7, Emily McWilliams lost her older sister Jenni to a two-and-a-half year battle with cancer. In the midst of mourning, McWilliams turned to documenting the process. She would routinely hit the record button on her phone and sit at a family piano in the days leading up to her sister’s Pennsylvania funeral. She did the same at her own home upon returning to New Orleans. With no set plans, her hands would move along the keys in search of a vocabulary that felt right to reflect the moment. McWilliams embraces the occasional odd sounds that arise from her makeshift recording environment and manipulates these noises into drifting textures that further enhance these explorations. Her meditations on loss take listeners along for an emotive journey that serves as a stunning tribute to the album’s namesake. In addition to the sporadic piano pieces, she also includes four songs that she has written about her sister since 2014. A new version of “This Is Old” trades the polished edge of Silver Godling’s 2019 version for a lengthier and more powerful tribute to her loved one. While McWilliams has long been active as Silver Godling and is well-known for her collaborations with Thou, Jenni stands out as her most personal piece of work yet. —William Archambeault
Special Interest’s music is a beautiful, chaotic alchemy, channeling pertinent, righteous fury into songs that are both a call to revolution and a celebration of community. Endure, their third album and Rough Trade debut, matches the punk rock spirit and intensity of 2018’s Spiraling and 2020’s The Passion Of while expanding upon their sound. Though the production on Endure is smoother than previous efforts, this does not in any way indicate a shift in tone or focus. They remain as sharp and politically-minded as ever. Punk and hardcore are melded with pop, disco, and house elements to create an explosive sound that captures and uplifts emotions from collective joy to apocalyptic grief—sometimes within the same song, such as lead single “(Herman’s) House” (“So when I say build I mean dream because that’s all we got promised!”). The angular, dizzying “Foul,” a delicious spiral of distortion, decries the hardships of everyday existence in our capitalistic nightmare, while opener “Cherry Blue Intention” is a dancefloor ode to freedom. This is music to dance away our troubles and plot to overturn the current world order. —Mary Beth Campbell
Of all the New Orleans bands to eat of the low-hanging fruit of third wave ska only to virulently reject it, the Supaflies had to be the most shocking. In the late ‘90s, it felt like they were wildly popular—they were regularly playing the best of the Devil Dolls promoted shows, they had t-shirts, they had an actual CD released on an actual label, Fueled By Ramen, and they even had a second full-length in the works. The quality of their music and performance clearly towered above the garbage heap of their local contemporaries; they sounded like a “real” band. To my teenage eyes, they seemed like unassailable superstars of the local punk scene. But instead of loitering in the juvenile stagnancy of teenage fandom, they decided to abscond from the ska scene and hit the reset button.
The second record was all but scrapped, excepting four songs—those most divorced from ska—which they released on an EP called Community. While these new songs were still rooted in the sort of pop punk-adjacent sound that permeated the music of their peers, it felt less informed by Skankin’ Pickle and Less Than Jake and leaned more towards early Hot Water Music or Franklin—thick baselines, overlapping vocals, more melody, everything bent towards emotional earnestness and further away from the sensibilities of obnoxious teens. Additionally, the songwriting seemed more elegant and developed than the cruder, frantic songs of Rambarded. But this EP barely hinted at their final transition.
Overnight, it seemed like everything made a much more dramatic shift. The Supaflies were done, and in its place was a consolidated lineup called Community, complete with a four song CD-R demo that sounded nothing like their previous incarnations. While they retained the imagination, inventiveness, and the catchy song-writing, they had renounced their earlier rambunctious nature in exchange for a more mature, wistful, introspective sound. Those four songs would be expanded to a longer, seven song CD-R and comprise their legendary unreleased LP.
Like so many bands of the time, especially locally, Community seemed to detest the catchall “emo” moniker. Despite their protestations, it’s hard not to make comparisons to some of the late ‘90s and early 2000s giants: the twinkling, sometimes frenetic jamminess of Braid, the melancholic guitar hooks of Sunny Day Real Estate, the lyrical catchiness of early Get Up Kids or Tuesday. Additionally, they seemed to share a bit of DNA with the post-emo indie bands of the day: the rock sensibilities of Burning Airlines or Jets to Brazil and even some vocal harmonies hinting at a touch of Pinback. And yet the end result seemed totally fresh. The band had a clear understanding of how to play their instruments and really dial in their live sound, a deep and skillful musicianship that made them stick out locally and stand head and shoulders with any professional touring act.
The Supaflies was the group of my teenage years, swaggering and crude, locally beloved to the point of seeming unapproachable. Community was active as I was entering early adulthood with a sound that seemed to mirror my own shifting taste. And as I began my early 20s and started to take show promotion more seriously, I was forced out of my introspective shell, tasked with finding local bands to play with the obscure touring acts I felt compelled to support. It was shocking when I made my first overtures at getting Community on some shows. Not only were they excessively approachable, they were kind, humble, and even gracious. They seemed down to play anything. In retrospect, they were doing me a huge favor on ten out of the eleven shows they played for me, opening—or usually closing—the night for some no-name, subpar band that would fade away in the dustbin of mediocrity. But through it all, Community remained extremely positive and personable. They taught me a lot of important lessons in keeping a courteous and amiable attitude as a musician. They were probably the first local band I worked with who always seemed adamant about giving all the door money to the touring band—a generous practice that struck me deeply and feels so far removed from self-invested, modern day conventions.
The Community LP never existed outside of those few stripped down CD-Rs that would be copied and passed around via ripped mp3s and mixtapes. Yet this DIY “tape-trading” had a huge impact on successive generations that weren’t even old enough to go to shows when the band existed. I can’t help but feel a bit of personal shame at how I took for granted bands like Community, Hatchback, The Faeries, Gathered Here, Tragic Girls, and so many others—incredible, life-changing bands that lingered a bit too long in this thankless, uncaring town—their creative motivation crushed by the apathy of an unsupportive scene. It’s sad to think of all the imaginative releases and amazing performances we’ve all missed out on. I have enormous respect and admiration for Strange Daisy and Community Records (so named, in part, for the influence this band had on its co-creators) for finally helping the Community LP see the light of day. This is without a doubt the most important album either label has released, an essential record, both in the quality of the music and its place in the history of punk in New Orleans.
(FFO: post ska-punk second wave emo, pre-hipster Gen X, Chris George, the old Living Room Studio in Gretna, the Westbank in general, BMX and skateboards, cardigan sweaters, photographs on film, early photoshop collage work, weed, liberating double bass from heavy metal, Kevin B Presents, The Self-Help Tapes, Black Belt Band) —Bryan Funck
It’s difficult to overstate the power of Shotgun Seamstress, which proudly self-identitifies as “a zine by & for Black PUNKS, QUEERS, MISFITS, FEMINISTS, ARTISTS, & MUSICIANS, WEIRDOS and the people who support us.” Between 2006 and 2015, Osa Atoe managed to crank out eight-and-a-half mighty issues of this zine, which have finally all been collected in one place with this new anthology. Shotgun Seamstress encapsulates the subversive and gritty DIY aesthetics that make a great zine truly something to cherish. Atoe and her fellow contributors dive deep into the intersection of Black, feminist, and punk identity, having little patience for the straight white male apolitical punk that dominates the airwaves. The zine’s well-thought-out interviews and deeply personal reflections are essential reading for anyone curious about expanding their mindset. Atoe made a good chunk of these issues while residing in New Orleans and contributing to ANTIGRAVITY. As such, locals will surely recognize some familiar faces. Her lengthy interview with DJ Soul Sister is a music nerd-out of wonderful proportions, exposing the grooving DJ’s surprising early days tuning into WTUL for Black Flag and Minor Threat. Observant readers will even notice images of a pre-Special Interest Alli Logout pop up occasionally throughout the zine’s run. Atoe also interviews Aart Accent founder Jacci Gresham for a fascinating look into the New Orleans woman who might be the first Black female tattoo artist in the United States. Frankly, I could gush about this zine for another 10 pages, but ANTIGRAVITY just doesn’t have the space for that kind of tomfoolery. A decade-and-a-half after its first issue, Shotgun Seamstress still resonates as a powerful tool. —William Archambeault
Despite its deceptive title—An Illustrated History of Domestic Arthropods: By Sir Evald Fitch Townsend—as well as a title page notation that claims this book was originally dated 1892, this is a work of fiction. In this world, humans are the only vestigial subclass of mammals, while arthropods are vast, making up the “creatures that haunt our nightmares as well as the gentle beasts that share our burdens and enrich our home lives.” This book’s actual author and illustrator is prolific ANTIGRAVITY contributor Harriet Burbeck, and it is as delightful textually as it is visually. False histories involving arthropodic involvement in the lives of real historical figures such as Marie Antoinette and Saint Catherine are intertwined with instructions on how to train a pet centipede, advertisements for bumble-bee furs, and illustrations of soldiers atop grasshoppers in battle. In the creation of this world, the appreciation for these magnificent arthropods is obvious—we see them with the same respect as we do our real world mammalian companions. We then come back to our reality, perhaps ready to confront our invertebrate companions with a newfound wonder. —Marisa Clogher
This new-reader-friendly Black Panther comic dropped the same week as the hero’s sequel film in theaters. The one-shot story challenges T’Challa’s faith in the Wakanda deity named Bast, one of many gods involved in the kingdom. Black Panther faces a Germanic cult, and its leader that seek to channel a deity’s power for their own means. The cast in this story is small but vulnerable about how people in life go about protecting or overthrowing systems of power attached to human belief. The diverse societal positions of characters in this short story also help paint a better picture of how vast humans’ needs are for deities, due to the different kinds of lives people live. The spiritual interests for a hero king, praying villagers, and a royally trusted priestess hone in on how differently faith is expressed towards a higher power through the characters’ dialogue. While King T’Challa struggles with his own faith, one thing remains clear: Life and death are realities for mankind that heroes like Black Panther won’t run away from when lethal danger confronts them. The comic shows various forms of combat, from fists and projectiles to explosions. The rise in scale of physical threat blends well with the mental and spiritual battle characters engage in about the gods themselves. While the fighting creates a sustained sense of urgency for Black Panther to save others, the threat posed by the unknown is where he finds himself needing help. Writer Bryan Edward Hill reminds readers that even for kings like Black Panther, many lessons about faith must be learned on the battlefield, through pure experience. The spiritual doubt within the protective Black Panther clashes with the enemy cult leader’s own desire to mercilessly seek out mystery. With violence as a catalyst, Hill’s easy-to-enter story uses opposing mens’ passion to explore how fearful and risky to others just a test of faith can be. The one-and-done story plays with these ideas of just who and what is truly eternal in human perception, when the power of deities is sought out both by good and evil. The events in the issue ask readers to meditate on suffering being inevitable. But what about protection? —Jamal Melancon
As a glam-obsessed Mexican American queer teen living in suburban La Puente, California, Brian Tristan was making his own glitter clothing and platform shoes while writing music reviews for his high school newspaper. His worldview changed forever when the Ramones and punk rock hit, a moment that tragically intersected with the violent murder of his cousin and close confidant Theresa. Channeling his pain into finding like-minded “others,” he started the West Coast Ramones Fan Club, a journey that connected him with musicians he would later collaborate with while transforming from fan to artist. Tristan formed seminal post-punk band The Gun Club with Jeffrey Lee Pierce while just learning “open tuning” on guitar, conjuring atmosphere from Dr. John’s Gris-Gris and chords of American blues heroes. He was ceremoniously renamed Kid Congo Powers by The Cramps during his induction into that band, then also joining Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with whom he toured and recorded. At the core of the book is a relatable outsider origin story that continually unfolds as Powers self-realizes, both personally and creatively. The book’s title takes cues from the song “New Kind of Kick”; its refrain “I want some new kind of kick” spirals as the adventures and bonding of recreational drug use give way to drudgery and isolation. Powers reveals how getting clean was integral to finding his voice as co-leader and vocalist in Congo Norvell in 1990. Drawing parallels to present day America, Powers recounts his urgent need to leave the country during the heightened nationalistic Reagan years. This took him to London, despite its class system and racism, and “the desolate and wasted” Berlin, where his heroes Iggy Pop and David Bowie had collaborated, which he found more conducive to living as an artist. You don’t have to know Powers’ whole music catalog or all the names of his idols, friends, peers, collaborators, and lovers to enjoy his book. While it is a dizzying cast of name-checks from punk, alt, rock, and art realms, it’s still the story of a kid finding his way. —Veronica Cross
In just over 80 pages, Alex Povey delivers full color photographs of life on the rails, traveling with a medley of characters on boxcars cross-country and offering glimpses into a freedom most Americans desire and fear. Povey captures subtle moments of being human: tending fire at a squat or stealing naps in an empty boxcar. There’s a joy to the abandon that Povey does not try to romanticize but frames in simple shots that still seduce. Movement is caught on film that parallels the trains’ path; Povey does not shy away from letting the lens fall out of focus. The foreground of empty swings or a weedy field accentuates the ubiquitous presence of the train, rolling through pages as one slides from one place—or face—to another. There is a patina and language to hopping culture, from monikers to graff bandos to a perspective on what ownership and privilege means spread out across a nation. Povey lets us join the ride, not as spectators, but as a member of the family, learning how survival is shaped by beauty and struggle. The layout of the photographs creates a seamless perusal; these shots flow by like a rolling museum offering a slice of humanity most of us never see. —Megan Burns