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RATING: 7.8/10

Psychic Blood are a band from western Massachusetts who specialize in a ripping, jagged brand of post-punk. From the first second of the tape, the guitars kick you in the face, and they sound really good – they’re vicious, but not without their sweet side. They’re used for equal parts frantic, sharp-edged riffing and chiming, shimmering chord strikes. The violence and bluster of the music is balanced by the band’s reliance on vintage 90’s hooks – SONIC YOUTH and DINOSAUR JR. are both big reference points – “Annihilator” wouldn’t be out of place next to a track like “Mary Christ” on a mixtape. The band plays really well, and the production is great, save for the vocals – which are buried in the mix, and soaked in reverb and a harsh buzzing effect. It does enough to make the vocals completely unintelligible, which may be what PB were going for, but given how awesome the playing is here, it kind of cuts in on what are otherwise some pretty good jams – simply listening to the music here is enjoyable.

From the churn of “Annihilator,” we’re abruptly dropped into a fairly pretty drone interlude on “Roving Mind.” I do like the fact that things chill out a bit here and on through to “Tuff Luck” – there’s a trajectory to follow, making the tape more of a complete experience rather than a collection of songs. Some of these tracks are less melodic, and have harsher leanings, but for the most part, they’re always still enjoyable to listen to, even if some run on a tiny bit too long. Psychic Blood are at their best when firing off short, tightly-wound bursts of nervous energy, like “War Paint” or “Shallow.” And given how much I liked “Roving Mind,” I do wish they’d done a bit more of that – it’s great, but as the only track of its kind, it feels like a token or a toss-off. There’s flaws with this tape, naturally, but I’ll be keeping it around – Psychic Blood are a band that can make some major moves in the future.

LISTEN: Mediafire (courtesy of the band) 

BUY: Feeble Minds Records

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RATING: 8.3/10

If you’re looking for pop hooks, go somewhere else – Cellos has none of that nancy bullshit. If you want tight playing and muscular noise-rock fury, this Ontario band’s got it in spades. This all-too-short LP packs a mighty punch, beginning with opener “Sea Legs,” featuring appropriately seasick guitars. The woozily swinging, yet driving pace of the song, combined with the maniac yowling vocals make JESUS LIZARD comparisons really, really fucking appropriate. What makes both that band and Cellos great are that they realize sometimes there’s more power in ebbs and flows, rather than simply throwing up a wall of noise and letting the whole album flatline on track 2. They understand that pedal-to-the-metal intensity becomes boring, or worse, comical after a while. There’s poison and venom leaking from every second of this release, but this band knows how to manage themselves, holding back momentarily or leading the listener down a false path, but can knock his teeth out with a searing dissonant interval only a second later.

There’s some really heavy riffage on this album, but where another band might use it to lay down a groove or ease listeners in, Cellos use it to keep us on edge – angular, nervous, and typically borderline-atonal – it’s well done. I’m especially impressed by the HOMOSTUPIDS-esque “Mass Production Scheme” and the cheekily-named “Hit Song,” which might be the most ferocious cut on here. It’s also remarkable how well this album is produced – the guitars all sound amazing, and the vocals sit just high enough in the mix. This is no shit-stained basement tape – again, this band is really great at avoiding the cliche pitfalls of their genre. By the time this record ends, it’s a little tough to recall what you’ve just heard – what leaps out is the intensity, and certain moments, like the massive guitar build on “The Greys” – but that’s not a judgement on the quality of the record here. Every track is worth its play time, and this LP will undoubtedly see many repeat plays – to my ears, a rare feat for noise-rock.

LISTEN: Cellos Bandcamp

BUY: Dead Beat Records (cool gold wax!)

RATING: 7.9/10

Infinity Cat says that this record “reminds you that the two-and-a-half-minute rock’n’roll blast is alive and well.’ Bollocks on that; hey hey, my my, rock and roll can never die, so shame on you if you thought it was anything but alive and well. The future of underground music may be “microkorgs and looped nonsense,” but it’s not like I ever doubted whether bands were still cranking out 150 second amp-killers. Ya see, somethings – Twinkies, cockroaches, miserable relatives, the Republican party – just never die. Heavy Cream aren’t necromancers resurrecting some lost art form, they’re just one division of new generation of young turks taking up the torch of RAWKINROAL.

To give it to you straight: this album’s got intensity and swagger for days. Intense, but not macho or lunkheaded; fuzzy-buzzy, but it doesn’t blow itself out and flatline. The band does a really good job of pushing the envelope without sending the whole thing up in flames. The album is fairly consistent in color and timbre – rock-solid, amazing sounding drums, great female vocals, and titanic wall-of-fuzz guitars. There’s very little ornament or frill here. The music is stripped-down and muscular. Shufflers like “John Johnny” would fit in pretty well with the DETROIT COBRAS, while “Bad Genes” could be a BRAIN F/ b-side. Tracks like the opener flirt with an OBLIVIANS sound – all the musical touchstones here are winners. The album feels like a complete statement in pieces – it’s a solid album for communal, beer-swilling sessions in a dank basement, but does just as well on headphones, and maximum volume will indeed yield maximum results.

By the time the “Be My Baby”-jacking closer rolls around, you’re eager for another spin. It’s a very solid album; I can’t really fault it for any specific shortcoming, but I can’t give it ecstatic glowing praise (though some reviewers certainly will). Heavy Cream aren’t innovators or musical trailblazers – but they’re certainly master craftsman. The sound here isn’t innovative, but they get a great deal of mileage out of it and manage a rare feat indeed – a garage-rock LP that’s worth every minute of its runtime.

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BUY: Infinity Cat Recordings

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