The Best New NYC Hardcore and Punk: Ajax, Problems, and a Record to Warm Your Cockles
Point Blank: Vocalist Ken Wagner in mid-flight
There's nothing better than sitting in the privacy of your own sitting room in a toasty pair of slippers with a beverage of your choice whilst taking in the newest, sickest jams from the beautiful confines of your abode. In celebration of such anti-social behavior, here are the sickest recorded jams in the hardcore-punk realm, be they in either digital or analog format, coming from this beautiful area we call home: New York.
First on deck is a cassette offering from fellow old codger John Woods and his new band, The Problems. John is the former vocalist for Hell No, a unit that made itself known on the New York streets in the early Nineties. But where Hell No made a conscious effort to merge the burly sonics coming from the AmRep camp at that time with a classic Hardcore style, the Problems are no-frills, straight-ahead gooncore with song titles such as "Drunk Again" and "Hate Artists" and a sound reminiscent of early-Eighties Boston Hardcore. It's the perfect soundtrack for pounding brews and moshing around in the basement while the cat looks on bemused. And dig on that Cheap Trick cover thrown on the end of the tape! Copies can be procured through Wardance Records.
Another area band made up of NYHC veterans is Point Blank, featuring Danny Derella, a founding member of Underdog, and Ken Wagner, a longtime supporter of the local scene. But take heed: This band ain't no nostalgia act. Although their sound is definitely rooted in the classic NYHC style that came out of Queens — think Major Conflict and Token Entry — their sheer intent is relevant in the here and now. It's Hardcore played the way it's supposed to be done: straight from the heart with no intention to join a clique or cause — a welcome relief in these times, I think you'll agree. Cop the disc from the band directly at their Bandcamp page.
All right, we'll leave the old folk behind at the home to talk about some of the young bucks making their presence known on the scene. NYC Headhunters are a brand-spanking-new unit from Brooklyn composed of members who have played or play in the Rival Mob, Brain Slug, Creem, Have Heart, and Vanity. Much like the aforementioned bands, NYC Headhunters play in a style that merges both the early Eighties NYHC that raged long into the night at A7 with the kind of stuff that many a sweatshirt-donning youth would have pointed his finger and sung along to at a CBGB matinee. Lyrically, they tackle issues such as commuting and soggy socks with a red-blooded fervor that only a true-blue hardworking piece of shit could deliver. Their real-deal demo tape can be gotten from the Straight & Alert distro out of France.
Finally, housed in a cover that should adorn some rare Swedish progressive-rock record, comes the debut seven-inch from the band voted the best punk act of 2014 by the Village Voice, Ajax. As expected, the disc is unrelenting, with all the grace and forward drive of Victoria Jackson at a Sizzler. The guitar tone would make the ghost of Pig Champion tear up, and the vocalist gives Sheer Terror's Paul Bearer a run for his whiskey-tainted vocal cords. Goddamn, does this record warm my cockles. Hell, who knows? Maybe I'll leave the comfort of my Warzone snuggie one night and see what kind of mayhem these gents get into in a live setting. Yeah, right! Who am I kidding...
If you're a New York–area punk or hardcore band who wants to be covered in "Sitting Around at Home," feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Rettman is a Voice contributor and author of NYHC: New York Hardcore, 1980–1990.
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