By Sam Lefebvre
Lettering by Rob Fletcher
Terminal Consumption is a monthly reviews column focused on the shadowy margins of punk and hardcore.
Uranium Club—Human Exploration [Static Shock]
Thrashing, gnashing guitar music conveys maladjustment quite nicely, but it often neglects the component of unfeeling at the core of something sinister. OnHuman Exploration,a year-old full-length recently and rightly reissued by English label Static Shock, Minneapolis punk outfit Uranium Club works with riffs rigid enough to spasm in spite, and lyrics that look at depravity in both gory detail and from an unnervingly calloused distance.
Uranium Club is also known as The Minneapolis Uranium Club and The Uranium Club and Sunbelt Chemical Corporation. Like many recent Midwest punk acts of note, it’s a cagey band with little interest in the news cycle except for the purposes of spreading misinformation. Evasive maneuvers involve phony center labels and relatively spare internet presence. (Truth is vocalist Brendan Wells is now a coordinator at long-running San Francisco punk fanzineMaximum Rocknroll,which doesn’t appear to have stymied the band’s gigging regimen.) There’s a convoluted backstory involving an exclusive cabal, corporate patronage, and possibly defense contracting. In that spirit, the few interviews around feel bound by non-disclosure agreements and transcript redaction. Public records requests remain unfulfilled.
All of which is apt for the alternately inscrutable and vividHuman Exploration,a scurrilous album written from the perspective of cracked reprobates or else about their unsavory behavior. Repression is a big theme: “The Misadventures of Prissy Krissy” outlines a heist and the vindictive urges of a cashier hobbled by company policy, while “The Collector” grapples with wicked compulsions in first-person. The album title suggests a sociological bent; as an investigation, it mostly concludes that there’s little sense or science to the human species’ dregs.
And the music is great: inventive guitar playing urges like air-raid sirens and cuts like jigsaws. The skittish, descending riff that opens “Rafter Man” resembles that of The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks,” a reference that the song’s refrain,This nostalgia is killing me, might seem to cast in a sarcastic light, if only other lyrics (You’re never gonna find that boy / not where I put him) didn’t bring things back around to the topic of unthinkable cruelty.
“Sun Belt” is an ode to the idiocy of a Vegas excursion, capped with an ominous detail about a “new kind of cancer.” It feels inspired by old regional diss tracks such as The Adolescents’ “LA Girl” or the Circle Jerks’ “Beverly Hills.” Only, as with Uranium Club overall, it has more veiled intelligence and, I dare say, more literacy than its punk forebears.
Occasionally there’s a hardcore lyric that, with perfect economy and clarity, connects like nothing else. Rüz’s eponymous EP has a few of them. Consider “Hopeless,” which, in its entirety, goes: "Get this / Get that / Hopeless / Sell this / Sell that / Hopeless." Such monosyllabic constructions seduce with their concision and refresh with their unambiguity, especially when delivered, as on this Rüz record, in the context of simplistic-yet-throttling hardcore. The EP—originally self-released last year under the titleTape Culture,now available withnew artwork through Lumpy Records—includes a few other persuasive phrases, but none quite as effective as this one about the virtues of pointless theft: "Steal shit / Bury it."
LI—On the Corner [Deranged]
Seattle punk group LI, until recently known as Lysol, is the synergistic wedding ofNudes’ wily hardcore andFreak Vibe’s slovenly swing. Neither earlier group released a full-length, making LI’sOn the Corneran overdue culmination of a couple crucial Pacific Northwest punk proclivities. Rollicking syncopation lends “Ill” the sense of ascendant motion perfected by regional peersVexx. Villainous boasts top the knuckle-dragging “Counterfeit.” And “Junk” typifies the way Chad Bucklew (who recently joined Tacoma post-punk outfitCriminal Code) conjures a feral wail from his guitar; onOn the Corner, the riffs speak as much as the vocals. It’s a churlish and punchy album, with ragged growls upfront, but there’s a rock ‘n roll classicism at the core ofOn the Cornerthat actually brings to mind glam, its glitter bleached and blackened but brazen nonetheless.
Foster Body—Moving Display[Diabolical Records]
Salt Lake City post-punk outfit Foster Body sounds like a rickety contraption. The guitar could be a copper utensil plinking a thumb piano. The bass sounds akin to air expelled through a twisted exhaust pipe. And in this analogy, consider the drums an array of pulleys and cogs, forcing herky-jerky order upon so many rusty parts. (And yes, we should wonder if Foster Body songs are like steampunk sex swings.) Meanwhile, the mood of this frenetic, compellingly oblique album is a camp sort of goth, with theatrically strained vocals unpacking extended metaphors about social anxiety.
NASA Space Universe—70 AD [Feel It]
Released by Richmond, Virginia punk distro and label Feel It at the same time as a highly recommended archival album by Charlottesville hardcore outfitThe Landlords,70 ADis the final title by NASA Space Universe. The group formed about a decade ago behind the orange curtain in Santa Ana, California, but70 ADis one of the murkiest recordings in the band’s catalog (and most deserving of the group’s frequent Die Kreuzen comparisons). Rather than the leaden weight and steely sheen of earlier records,this nine-song 12-inch favors a fetid, squeamish presence that reflects the foursome’s scrappy volatility as a live act. Zigzag riffs abrade jerky drumbeats and vocal tantrums evoke thespangingpitch of a career urchin. The song title “Quantum Leper” resonates. So does “Meth Western.” The title track might be a Judas Priest tribute. In other words, amid the prickliness is a cackle, a last laugh about a final record sounding the least developed—and the better for it. This swan song is a death rattle.