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The 10 Best Garage Punk Songs of the Last Three Months

Shake Appeal is Pitchfork deputy news editor Evan Minsker’s ongoing survey of garage rock and punk records. Here, in the second installment of periodic playlists this year, he runs down the best of quarter two (April to June) with ten garage and punk rock records that rule. For even more, check out his highlights from winter (or the unabridged rolling Twitter thread).

La Misma: “O Terceiro Genero” [Toxic State]

New York City punks La Misma had one of the best punk albums of 2015 with Kanizadi, a singular sound centered around vocalist Nay Vieira-Rosario’s breakneck-speed Portuguese lyrics and the band’s melodic hardcore hooks. Thankfully, their new EP, Negociações de Paz Continuam Como as Fabulas (or Peace Talks Continue as Do the Fables), continues the hot streak. On the EP’s fast-paced highlight, “O Terceiro Genero”(“The Third Gender”), Lucia Mihalek’s power chords and Angie Anderson’s percussion build tension, while Vieira-Rosario shouts abstract Portuguese poems about power dynamics, fear, and vulnerability (as translated in the booklet accompanying the record). This is a song about marginalization and uncertainty, but in the face of it all, La Misma exudes total fearlessness.

Gee Tee: “Exhaust Sniffa” [Goodbye Boozy]

The Ramones’ debut album had a song about huffing glue, so why wouldn’t Gee Tee put a song about huffing exhaust fumes on theirs? The band is the project of Kel Mason, a dude from of Australia’s Gold Coast who’s also in the band Draggs. After a pair of singles last year, Mason has collected enough scuzzy, low-fidelity garage rock hits for his first Gee Tee full-length. The foundation of “Exhaust Sniffa,” one highlight from the self-titled album, is a budget synthesizer and choppy electric guitars—a combination that recalls the records of Mason’s fellow countrymen Ausmuteants. With a strong hook, a guitar solo, and slapdash keyboard meltdown, he’s a proven natural at constructing trashy, minimal rock‘n’roll.

S.H.I.T.: “Destiny” [Iron Lung/La Vida Es En Mus]

What Do You Stand For? is the title of S.H.I.T.’s debut album. It’s partially a joke about their name (for the record: “S.H.I.T.” doesn’t stand for anything), but it’s also a serious question posed by the Toronto act throughout a searingly political record where the very concept of “freedom” is called into question. Guitarist Greg Benedetto sets the careening pace with the livewire opening riff of “Destiny,” and from there it’s not long ’til vocalist Ryan Tong is screaming about mankind’s eventual extinction. The album’s physical copy features a hidden piece of artwork in which an enormous demon watches dozens of bodies being electrocuted; this is the destiny S.H.I.T. had in mind.

Gumming: “Tension Headache” [Not Normal Tapes]

Richmond, Virginia’s Gumming have called the genre tag “gremlin punk” accurate, and moments into “Tension Headache,” it’s easy to see why. Emilie von Unwerth sounds quasi-demonic as she recites an unsettling poem over feedback: “Gritting my teeth, clenching my jaw, biting down hard, eating the rat that fills the space between my teeth, bone on bone on bone.” The song continues like that for a while before she declares, “I’m healthy.” She’s not the only healthy-sounding gremlin in the group—Landon Walker’s buzzsaw guitars add urgency to the fray while bassist Marisa Cagnoli and drummer Lee Halpin add ominous heft. All that muscle behind von Unwerth’s voice makes for an awesomely unnerving introduction to Gumming.

Krimewatch: “New York Nightmare” [Lockin Out]

Following a 2016 demo that introduced them as one of New York City’s best new punk bands, Krimewatch capitalizes on all that buzz with their self-titled debut. It’s not exactly a sprawling statement—the whole thing is about 12 minutes long—but every 50- or 90-second track feels intense and crucial. At a minute and 43 seconds, “New York Nightmare” is one of the longest of the bunch, using the extra length to take precise aim at scummy dudes on the street. “What I do is not for you, what you see is not for you,” vocalist Rhylli Ogiura shouts before eventually just saying “fuck you” to the catcaller in question. Later on the album, Ogiura screams, “I am stronger than you.” She definitely, definitely is.

Counter Intuits: “Edge” [Total Punk]

Ron House is a Columbus, Ohio, legend who made his name with records by Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and Great Plains. His Counter Intuits bandmate Jared Phillips was in Times New Viking. Together they’ve released two albums, which they’ve now followed up with a Total Punk single called “Vietnamese Lighter.” The B-side “Edge” is the highlight—a minimal song where a drum machine and some scuzzy, disorienting guitars are the undercurrent for lyrics about reaching for a clean slate. When House sings about giving all his records away, it sounds surprisingly peaceful. But he also sings about how you won’t be content until you’re dead, suggesting more than anything a nihilistic outlook.

Gen Pop: “Plastic Comb” [Feel It]

The opening of “Plastic Comb” is languid and chill. Guitars and drums drift by so gradually, it’s not immediately obvious that Gen Pop is actually a coterie of Washington state punk-rock greats (including members of Vexx, Rik and the Pigs, Table Sugar, and American Nudism). But when the song gets a sudden burst of frantic momentum, the band’s bona fides reveal themselves. Drummer and vocalist David Strother picks up speed while yammering the song’s title with percussive force (“plastic plastic plastic plastic plastic plastic plastic COMB”). Gen Pop navigates the push and pull between calm and feverish effortlessly, tying the two modes together for a two-minute gem.

Louder Than Death: “New Stains” [In the Red]

Garage rock mastermind King Khan always seems to be working. His Bandcamp runs the gamut from solo records to film scores, from collabs with his teenage daughter Saba Lou to surprise Black Lips team-ups. Some projects are more exciting than others, but the most thrilling of all (at least right now) seems to be his punk collective Louder Than Death, an all-star team of King Khan, Lou, Sick Thoughts’ Drew Owen, and the Spits’ Sean and Erin Wood. With all these cooks in the kitchen, it seems inevitable that things would get messy, but “New Stains”— from the group’s self-titled EP—is tightly constructed. It’s got the muscle, harmonies, and girl-group reverence found in the Ramones’ best work. Listen a few times and it’ll get you dancing, singing along, and wondering how something this upbeat could appear on a record whose cover features a castrated cop.

The Cavemen: “Thug” [Slovenly]

If you’re looking for a full-on caricature of late ’70s punk, the Cavemen have you covered. The members of this Auckland band wear leather jackets and flip the bird on the cover of their new album, Nuke Earth. Lead singer Paul Caveman puts on a deep affected tough-guy voice for “Thug” to croon about all the things that make him one. But he’s not your thug, a point he and the boys assert with a bratty call-and-response refrain. While we ponder how we’ll ever go on without this prize of a man, Jack Caveman punctuates the point with a sick guitar solo.

Soakie: “Power Tool” [Blow Blood]

An unlikely convergence of musicians from New York, Philadelphia, and New Zealand got together and formed Soakie earlier this year in Melbourne. Days later, they recorded their Dangerous Doge demo, and the messy result is riveting. One of their self-described “anti-capitalist anthems” is “Power Tool,” an all-adrenaline, ultra-beefy track where Summer repeatedly screams the words “FOOTBALL, RED MEAT, POWER TOOLS.” The knee-jerk reaction here might be laughter, but is it funny? With every bold-faced mention of ubiquitously advertised products, Soakie distills macho consumerism into a hardcore, anti-patriarchy version of They Live.

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