My Listening Week: 8/18/23

Thoughts on Twitching Tongues, The Hives, Bully and Mouthpiece.

My Listening Week: 8/18/23

Another week of stuff I listened to. A lot of hardcore. Some stuff for my podcasts (Beck). Some shoegaze. An album I listen to while focusing on work (Aphex Twin). Some music I love playing loud in the car (Everclear, Bully). I had substantial thoughts on four of these, so read on if you wish.

Twitching Tongues - In Love There Is No Law

You ever just completely forget how well you know an album? Twitching Tongues have been a topic of discussion again this year after they reissued their first album, announced their first slate of shows since pre-pandemic, and have now reissued their second LP, 2013's In Love There Is No Law. When I was first really getting into hardcore, this band were one of the trendiest (and also most musically controversial) acts of the time, and I have specific memories of listening to "World War V" and "Eyes Adjust" in my dorm room, stink-facing gleefully at how mercilessly heavy their mosh parts were, and crooning along to Colin Young's Peter Steele-y wails under my breath.

I remember being unbelievably stoked for their 2015 album, Disharmony, after I heard the title-track, but then being kind of disappointed by the record overall. I don't think I've ever actually listened to their 2018 LP, Gaining Purpose Through Passionate Hatred, which wasn't received very well by the hardcore scene, and then I kind of forgot about Twitching Tongues as the 2020s crept in. They weren't active, their sound had kind of soured on the scene, and they felt like a relic of the mid-2010s, which is about to be 10 years in the rearview.

But this week, when the band threw up a remixed and remastered version of In Love There Is No Law, I figured I'd give it a spin for the first time in at least five years (probably more), and I was shocked by two things. 1) I fucking had a hoot with this record. And 2) I know all of these fucking songs! I truly didn't realize how much time I had spent with this full record back in the day, but the dusted-over hooks kept marching out of the back of my mind as the tracklist bore on.

The first three songs are legitimate generational staples, but "Good Luck" also fucking hits. "Preacher Man" is a spine-tingler that never sounds any less haunting. "Deliver Us to Evil" is one of those songs I can hear just by reading the title. "Departure," the acoustic doom-folk duet with "Sara Lov," wouldn't work in the hands of any of Twitching Tongues' hardcore peers. But they pull it off, and it's fuckin' gorgeous! "Feed Your Disease" pounds, and "Frigid" is a badass closer. This record fucking rules.

I feel like I've written a lot about Life of Agony in this blog since I started it up earlier this year, but I'm gonna mention them again. I had never listened to that band when I first heard Twitching Tongues, and I hadn't yet developed the taste for Type O Negative, so Twitching Tongues — who worship those two acts and their various goth-hardcore-metal peers — were my entry-point into that sound. I think the same could be said for many people my age, like all my fellow ex-metalcore kids in Albany who were moshing to Fit for a King the year before they started rocking Twitching Tongues gear in 2014 or so.

This band was a bit of a hardcore gateway act for a little bit, right alongside Nails, Code Orange, Harms Way and Full of Hell. The trend-setting heavy-hitters of the early 2010s. I have a lot of fondness for that era of hardcore, but I don't find myself retreating into it for nostalgia very often. Right now, I'm more interested in digesting current bands or bands from 25+ years ago. But damn. I'm so happy I rediscovered In Love There Is No Law. It's always a great feeling to realize you actually adore something you thought you wouldn't be into anymore.

The Hives - The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons

Speaking of bands I forgot how much I loved. Well, kind of. I've never forgotten that The Hives were my first favorite band. I loved individual albums before them, but in sixth or 7th grade, I got really into The Hives' 2007 LP, The Black and White Album, and ended up getting all of their other records and obsessing over the lot of them throughout middle school. That LP's album cover was plastered on one of my first-ever band shirts, which I managed to squeeze into through the end of high-school before I finally grew out of Youth XL.

Last year, I started buying CD's and picked up a couple Hives albums for like $5 each at a record store. I played them loud on my home stereo and had a fucking ball singing along to punk songs that I hadn't heard in years, but still remembered all the words to. They still do it for me, and after hearing one single from their first album in over a decade, The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons, I realized their new stuff was gonna do it for me, too. It does.

This record is fucking awesome. It basically sounds exactly like how the band have sounded since 2004's Tyrannosaurus Hives. A little more polished than their scraggly early stuff, but just as urgent and sticky and dancey and unabashedly fun. Oodles of riffs. Every chorus is a chanter. The titles are silly mouthfuls of words like "Bogus Operandi" and "Rigor Mortis Radio."

The song "Crash Into the Weekend" features the line, "I'll hit the weekend like a cake shot out of a gun." I don't even know what that means! Are there cake guns out there? Are people really going around blasting delicious baked goods out of rifles? Are those forms of artillery only acceptable to use on weekends? It does sound a bit much for a Tuesday afternoon...But that doesn't matter because Howlin' Pelle Almqvist sings about the cake gun with such fanatic vigor that I just have to take him for his word and keep banging my head.

Sometimes, you want your favorite bands to evolve. You don't want to hear the same record again and again. You want them to grow with you. And sometimes, you just want them to never grow up. You need them to keep perfecting the same formula again and again. You'd be disappointed if they made some ambitious swing in the opposite direction because what they were doing before is so remarkably fun that they could do it forever, and should do it forever, for the sake of humanity. That band is The Hives.

Bully - Lucky for You

I've seen this album at the record store several times now but I keep passing it up. At first, I thought it was because I underestimated how much I actually love it. I liked the previous Bully records, but never really went out of my way to listen to them. When this album was coming out, I didn't expect it to be something I'd return to after we reviewed it for Endless Scroll. And even when I had a blast listening to it for the pod, I still wasn't sure if I'd actually go back to it all that often. In truth, there're so many records I enjoy but then quickly move on from to listen to something new, but Lucky for You isn't one of those records. It's been on rotation for me all summer.

I think the real reason I keep not buying it on vinyl is because I want it on CD. I really only find myself listening to this album in the car. It sounds great at high volume with the windows rolled down. The crunchy, early 2000s production on the riffs and the soaring vocal harmonies aren't the kind of thing I want to hear while I'm seated in my living room. It's an active sounding record, with tons of color and personality and gusto. I need to be banging the steering wheel while listening to "Days Move Slow" or it doesn't feel right.

Ironically, I'm about to buy a new car the day after this blog post goes live, and it doesn't have a CD player in it. So maybe this is just an album that'll always be coming out of my phone. Or maybe I'll have to thrift a portable CD player and hook it up to the aux in my car just to hear this thing the way it should be played. Either way, I don't see myself souring on this record at all throughout the year. It really hits the indie-pop sweet-spot in my ears that seems to be getting smaller and more precise as the years go on. I'm not as easily enamored by this type of indie-rock as I once was, so take that as my strong endorsement that this is a cut above the rest. If you have a CD player in your car, put it to good use and buy this fucker.

Mouthpiece - Can't Kill What's Inside

For the last couple weeks I've been trudging my way through Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit and Sound. It's a 500-page book, mostly in oral history form, about a decade of hardcore that really hasn't been documented in very many books, which is criminal. For years, it was out of press and hard to find, and even though I'd read mixed reviews of it, I still wanted to read it because it features interviews with roughly 30 hardcore bands from the Nineties, making it a crucial document of an era that's hard to find good information about online.

The book has been kind of a slog at points. I ended up skipping about 150 pages at the beginning — something I never do — because it was just an unreadable behemoth of talking heads waxing about what hardcore meant to them, the power of straight-edge, veganism and other elementary hardcore topics that are covered much more neatly and cohesively in other oral histories I've read. The chapters on the individual bands have mostly been really interesting, even if they read more like fanzine entries and would've benefited greatly from a more rigorous editor.

The hardest part about the  book has been trying to appreciate the actual music. I might speak on this in more depth at a later time, but I really do not like a lot of the hardcore that emerged in the Nineties. Or specifically, the kind of noisy, skronky, off-kilter, we're-too-good-for-down-the-middle-hardcore-so-we're-gonna-make-pretentious-noise-metal hardcore that the author has an obvious bias toward. I find it ridiculous that someone wrote a book about Nineties hardcore but didn't include anything about Madball, Hatebreed or even Quicksand. I appreciate the lack of East Coast bias that I personally hold, but still, I think the book misses some major bands to instead zero in on, like, seven types of Rorschach worshippers who all have the same story of being "hardcore misfits" and trying to push against the grain with their sound and ethos. I would've liked a little more information on the actual grain. But alas, I've learned a lot from the book and will definitely be returning to individual chapters over the years to refresh my memory on specific bands.

Anyways, there're a bunch of bands in the second half of the book that I do really enjoy — Integrity, Strife, Los Crudos, and then Mouthpiece, the latter of whom I'd never really spent that much time with before this. After suffering through Coalesce, Disembodied, Groundwork, Deadguy, etc. (listen, I tried, I just don't like that type of shit), this youth crew revival shit was an enormous breath of fresh air. I ran back their discography comp, Can't Kill What's Inside, a couple times this week and I'm so fucking into this type of thing right now. Mouthpiece were a New Jersey band who were really into Chain of Strength and Insted and some other California straight-edge shit, so you get a little bit of the snotty melody from the Cali sound, but mixed with the more standard NY-style Revelation Records shit. It sounds like this band had an obvious influence on Bane, whose vocalist Aaron Bedard sounds like he's mimicking the rising-falling vocal patterns on some of these songs.

For a long time, I wasn't really interested in this style of hardcore. I came in the genre through heavier stuff, and brushed over the Nineties youth-crew shit because it didn't really speak to me lyrically or sound the way I wanted a hardcore band to sound (either heavy, or fast, nasty and jagged). But I've started to come around to a lot of this sub-genre in the last year or so, and the amount of enjoyment I'm getting out of the Mouthpiece material has caught me off-guard. Maybe getting into teenage-focused straight-edge hardcore as a near-30-year-old is the arc I'm on. Whatever, I'm havin' fun with it.