ZERO BOYS – Don’t Shoot Can’t Breathe / Long Way To Go

Active since 1980, Zero Boys emerged from the US hardcore punk scene, but the sounds on this twin tracker owe almost nothing to the influences and styles most readily associated with that vein of musical history. They have a retro and punky spirit that can’t be ignored, but the Zero Boys of 2023 present have a brilliantly melodic core that draws as much from garage rock and punk ‘n’ roll, and does so in a way that appears to create a sound that pre-dates most actual punk.

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THE BELLRAYS – Ball Of Confusion / I Fall Down

The eighth release in i-94 Records’ Detroit covers series is an absolute belter. On this 2023 7”, rock ‘n’ soul duo The BellRays take The Temptations’ classic ‘Ball of Confusion’ and shake it up rather dramatically. Coupled with their self-penned (and previously unreleased) ‘I Fall Down’, it results in a fiery double whammy that’s a great showcase for a massively underrated act.

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THE SHANG HI LOS – Aces, Eights And Heartbreaks

The debut EP from The Shang Hi Los was a little rough around the edges, but at its heart, it had some great songs. The musical marriage between guitarist Danny Kopko (Watts) and Jen D’Angora (Downbeat 5) seemed to be a perfect one, and their mix of garage rock and retro pop suggested great things ahead. A couple of years on, this full length album is bigger sounding, more slickly arranged and better produced, creating the kind of record that’s almost everything fans could’ve hoped for. By tackling various different styles throughout, it sometimes has a restless spirit, but some strong vocals – aplied brilliantly throughout – ensure the material hangs together well as a showcase for the Boston band’s talents.

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DAS KAPITANS – Lungs EP

The thirteenth release from Das Kapitans (2022’s ‘Debut’) marked a turning point for the band. Not only was it the first release where all of the band members played on all tracks, but the album appeared to have a much more confident and bigger sound. Bigger didn’t necessarily mean more commercial, of course, and on numbers like ‘That’ll Do Pig’ and ‘Big Muff’, their combination of post punk anger and Mudhoney-esque energy sounded absolutely furious. It was the kind of album that captured the band’s raw essence perfectly. If that didn’t help to build their fan base via enthusiastic word of mouth via the internet, nothing would. Not that Das Kapitans are in it for the fame and fortune; as founders of the Socks On record label, their commitment to the ideals of a musical collective and keeping things DIY is solid, and the music comes above everything else.

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BITCH QUEENS – Party Hard(ly) EP

From the Basel underground, Switzerland’s Bitch Queens mix sleazy hard rock and a classic punk attitude in a way that’s impossible to ignore. This four track release is the perfect distillation of their sound, as well as a shameless celebration of glam rock’s trashier excesses. One listen to the title cut is enough for their massive sound to win over the unsuspecting genre fan with its relentless barrage of gang vocals, shout along hook and generally crashy mood. It’s the kind of tune that Gluecifer would’ve driven into people’s ears back in the 90s, yet at the same time, it has a certain freshness that suggests these Queens could give the sleazier end of the rock scene a welcome kick up the arse.

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