In February 2020, Al Pacinos Sister (no punctuation) released ‘Trained In Karate’, a no-frills, no holds barred hardcore punk EP that valued speed and noise over almost everything else. The result was like experiencing a raw garage band tapping into the earliest wares from the Dischord label. Obviously, what the songs lacked in finesse they made up for with sheer balls, leaving behind the kind of lightning fast punky blast that seemed almost timeless.
‘DOGZ’, released just five months later and in time to soundtrack the hottest part of a UK summer, feaures APS once again hammering through some speed driven material on a release that lasts just over five minutes. Closer inspection shows that this isn’t just another round of straight hardcore, though. All great bands go through periods of growth, and these guys are no exception, since a couple of the songs actually feature the band stretching out and taking their DIY hardcore into a couple of bigger places. It never dilutes their anger or intent, but it’s good to hear APS working their riffs even harder, and in the case of this EP’s closing number, even weaving them into something more melodic, relatively speaking.
First off, though, it’s business as usual with ‘Bedtime Story’, a thrash speed slab of punk that casts out a repetitious chopping riff over forty five seconds. The riff quickly sets itself in place as a dominant force, but not to be outdone, the vocals spew a relentless amount of syllables in an almost inaudible way. The tightness of the riff is brilliant, and despite none of the lyrics actually standing out, the way the vocals manage to be just as angry is equally impressive. Fans of the style might hear traces of early Gorilla Biscuits colliding with the early hardcore Beasties, but far from being stuck in the past, APS also draw from UK underground acts like Pizzatramp when creating their brutal sound. The title cut latches onto a similar punky speed and approach, but dresses the hardcore with a brilliantly sharp guitar sound that compliments a whole world of shouting. For those paying close attention, this isn’t just a world of speed and noise: beneath the main riff going into the chorus, there’s some fine, angular guitar adding an extra layer, suggesting someone in the APS camp had been listening to Fugazi and Rites of Spring, and this further lifts the main hook to ensure the repeated shout of the title never feels too flat. Between the speed, the sharpness and the simple vocal refrain, this is almost a perfect snapshot of this band’s world of hardcore noise.
Moving into the second half of the release, fans will experience a little more sophistication, when ‘Downfall’ taps into some classic US hardcore delivered with a British accent. The bulk of the track centres around a timeless riff of the Agnostic Front and early Black Flag variety, but APS add their own flourish with more of those angular sounds as heard on the previous track, leading to an incredibly solid piece of punk. The marriage of riffs and vocals is much more assured too, and even if this doesn’t capture the band at their most uncompromising, a case can be made for it featuring a couple of their best riffs, before the lengthier ‘My Friends’ mixes hardcore riffs with cartoonish noises and a pogo-worthy rhythm in a fast and lean tribute to the hardcore pioneers. Despite not reaching two minutes, there’s plenty of time to experiment, and the way this drops, unexpectedly, into a high octane indie/punk hybrid not too removed from label mates Das Kapitans is superb. Armed with a repetitive hook and a surprisingly warm bass sound that punches through with ease, this is certainly the most professional sounding – and tightest – APS recording to date.
If you already have the ‘Trained In Karate’ EP, you already know that this will be an essential download. It’s great to hear everything that made that release great put to even better use, and to experience APS growing in confidence without losing any of their brutal heart. Recommended.