Why write a book about Atlanta record stores? The truth is that you get a singularly unique perspective on a city’s history, its culture, and its personality when viewed through the lens of a record store’s front window. I have often said that if you want to understand a society or a culture, just take a look at its pop culture, and music has always remained right there on the frontlines.
Atlanta is world-renowned as a hip-hop mecca, but a rich underground rock scene has been thriving here for decades. The hub of that world is the city’s record stores. Featuring decades-old institutions to shops that existed just long enough to leave an impact, Atlanta Record Stores is a rock-centric take on a hip-hop town, unfurling the secret history of music underdogs—outliers living among outliers—telling their stories in their native tongue. From Jarboe of SWANS to William DuVall of Alice in Chains and Neon Christ to Kelly Hogan, Gentleman Jesse Smith, Atlanta Braves organist Matthew Kaminski, and those surly characters behind the counter at Wuxtry, Wax ‘n’ Facts, Criminal, Ella Guru, Fantasyland, and more, all were drawn by the irresistible lure of vinyl records—all found their communities and their own identities, leaving an indelible mark on the culture of Atlanta.
Click below to pre-order your copy of Atlanta Record Stores: An Oral History. $23.99 (postage paid).
In the meantime, a video for the EP’s title track teases out the group’s feral garage-punk charge, as co-founders vocalist Valeria Sanchez and guitar player José Rivera are joined by bass player Paul Hernandez, and drummer Sam Adams.
Check out the scene for a backyard blowout at local punk, hardcore, and headbanger hangout, The Catacombs.
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Hammered Hulls play The Earl on Fri., Jan. 20. Alec MacKaye (Faith, Ignition, the Untouchables) fronts a lineup of veteran players that includes guitarist Mark Cisneros (the Make-Up, Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds), bass player Brendan Canty (of Fugazi, the Messthetics, et. al. standing in for Mary Timony), and drummer Chris Wilson (Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Titus Andronicus).
The group is touring behind the October arrival of its debut full-length, Careening (Dischord Records). The album was produced by Minor Threat, Fugazi, and Dischord Records’ co-founder (and Alec’s brother) Ian MacKaye, and was recorded at Don Zientara’s Inner Ear Studio. With Careening, Hammered Hulls carries Washington D.C.’s post-hardcore and post-punk legacies into powerful and direct new musical terrain with the winding rhythms of songs such as “Bog People” and “Rights and Reproduction,” and the slower tempos of “Not Gone” and “Mission Statement.”
Gentleman Jesse Smith also performs, backed by a lineup featuring bass player Chris McNeal, drummer Sean Zearfoss, and Milton Chapman on keys.
In December of 2022, the passing of baritone saxophonist Bill Nittler left a hole in the heart of Atlanta’s extended musical family.
As a tribute, his former Edgewood Saxophone Trio bandmates Jeff Crompton (alto) and Ben Davis (tenor) have launched a Gofundme campaign to release the group’s second full-length album, Heard.
Over the years, Nittler served as the Education Director for the Atlanta Young Singers youth choir. He also played a vital role performing with various jazz-based ensembles including Kingsized, Greasepaint, Nuzion Big Band, Lie And Swell, the 4th Ward Afro Klezmer Orchestra, Shaking Ray Levis, and more. He performed with Southern Culture on the Skids, and was known for crafting a bustling ska arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s “’Round Midnight” and an avant-garde take on the Butthole Surfers’ already twisted number “Cherub.”
Heard is the follow up to the Edgewood Sax Trio’s 2014 debut, Snake Nation, and marks the group’s final offering, which is expected to arrive this summer.
“I spent hours editing the existing studio material for side one of the LP,” says alto saxophonist and EST co-founder Jeff Crompton. “Some high-quality recordings from a live broadcast on Atlanta radio station WREK provided three of the tracks on side two. The final track is a special one—a live recording from our favorite gig ever: a 2015 concert at Atlanta’s Trinity House. The recordings have been expertly mastered by Chris Griffin of Griffin Mastering.”
Press play on “Victimless Crime,” the opening number from the Pinx’s Electric! EP, and guitarists Adam McIntyre and Chance McColl invoke the light, sweet atmosphere of Big Star’s #1 Record—a jangling alternative to the Southern rock clichés that typically lord over riffs of such magnitude.
“Hammer of the Dogs” is the standout cut here. The song’s boogie melodies, backed by bass player Charles Wiles and drummer Cayce Buttrey’s sturdy rhythms, push McIntyre’s voice to psychedelic heights. Amid such strutting blasts of heavy rock ‘n’ roll, “Hammer of the Dogs” brings anthemic hooks to the mix, propelling the energy of the rest of the EP’s songs: “Bad Behavior,” “It’s Electric,” and “See You Later.”
The ghosts of early Van Halen riffs haunt Electric!’s latter half, laying the foundation for the pure elation in lyrics such as “I trace the power line from your spine down to your heel. Lightning to ground is what I feel! All my life I’ve always wondered what’s in store. It is your touch that makes me heal” in “It’s Electric.” It’s a fitting thesis for a hard rock EP in 2020, and a soundtrack for going walkabout in the wilds of rural Georgia, where having a fist-raising good time and attaining spiritual enlightenment are one in the same.
The five songs on Electric! power forward with anthemic pop hooks like thoughtful kin to ‘80s hair metal, but without the raunch, existing out of time and completely in their own context. This translates into earnest depth, as each song could be a stand-alone single. There isn’t a whole lot of variety going on from song to song, but that’s kind of the point. These songs find the Pinx reveling in the blue-eyed instincts of accomplished musicians embracing rock ’n’ roll bravado without a hint of pretension or self-consciousness. The songs are primal, reeling with distortion and spiraling energy, giving each player room to run wild. And run wild they do.
Mastodon‘s latest single, “Fallen Torches,” is a longtime staple of the group’s repertoire, but has remained unreleased until now. The song—one of the first recordings made in the Mastodon-run Ember City Rehearsal Studios in Atlanta’s Capitol View neighborhood—is the opening number on Medium Rarities, a 16-song compilation gathering odds and ends from the past 20 years of the group’s history—7-inch singles, “White Walker” from the Game of Thrones soundtrack, instrumental outtakes, and various live recordings including a scorching rendition of Metallica’s “Orion.”
“Fallen Torches” also features a guest vocal growl courtesy of Scott Kelly of Neurosis. True to Mastodon form, the song could embody the perfect metaphor for American politics, the global climate crisis, human interaction eroding in the face of the internet … Or not. When taken at face value “Fallen Torches” is a white-hot neckbreaker driven by mammoth riffs and rhythms that rival the almighty white whale behind Mastodon’s classic 2004 LP Leviathan. Meaning lies in the ears of the beholder, albeit quite ferocious.
Colonel Records comes out of the gate strong with Protest & Survive, a friggin’ 42-track compilation of covers, rare, live, and unreleased songs that benefits ActBlue, and other legal aid organizations providing bail funds for protesters and activists who are rallying to fight police brutality.
GG King, WYMYNS PRYSYN, More, Hyena, All Night Drug Prowling Wolves, Mongo, and many more Atlanta-based punk, post-punk, hardcore, and garage rock acts dominate a tracklist that also includes songs by Fletcher C. Johnson, U.S. Prisms, and the likes. Check out the full tracklist below.
The Protest & Survive comp is available via Bandcamp. It’s also pressed in a limited edition of 50 cassette tapes. Grab one before they’re gone, and support those on the frontlines, pushing for positive and lasting social change.
Douglas Graham: “Angela Davis”
Tropical Trash” “Messenger (Wipers cover)
GG King: “Melt On You”
Paralyzer: “Paranoid Youth”
Long Knife: “No Rule” (Leather Nun cover)
KPF: “Stress City”
Blackout: “Eating Gas”
Ryan Dino: “North Star”
WYMYNS PRYSYN: “Lifeform”
Neuflesh: “Coward World (Fuck 12)”
Tropical Trash: “Korgüll The Exterminator” (Voivod cover)
The Wilful Boys: “Muttley”
Bob Mann: “Can You Come Home”
Fletcher C Johnson: “Eventually”
Shaken Nature: “Pony Don’t Cry”
Rude Dude and the Creek Freaks: “World On Fire”
Groovy Movies: “If You Wanna Go”
Baby Shakes: “Down”
All Night Drug Prowling Wolves: “Not Messing Around”
Metalleg: “Ride Along”
Paint Fumes: “Guess Who”
The Schamones (feat. Members of Paralyzer and All Night Drug Prowling Wolves): “I Wanna” (live Ramones cover)
Snoopy and The Who?!: “My Regeneration”
Cuss: “The Cause”
More: “Hourglass” (Wurve cover)
Subcults: “Quarantine Dreams”
Jordan Jones: “New Year’s Eve”
Rikky IV: “Capable Of”
Bad Moods: “New Song About An Old Ghost”
Fuck Knights: “We’re All Essential”
U.S.PRISMS: “State Control” (Discharge cover)
Pagan Girls: “Chezron (Time Prescribes the Medicine)”
Space Program: “Smoke & Flames Engulfed The Secret Hideout”
A Drug Called Tradition: “Killing Game” (unreleased)
Warm Deltas: “Face of the Mountain”
Vow: “Endless Roads”
Brother Hawk: “No Room For Rust” (Live)
Thousandaire: “Thumb” (Dinosaur Jr. cover live)
Ian O’Neil: “Brown Eyed Handsome Man” (Chuck Berry cover)
Ladrones are back with a new lineup and a new single, titled “Saico.”
Since the group last checked in circa June 2019 with their self-titled debut LP (Slovenly), San Juan Puerto Rico transplants singer Valeria Sánchez and guitar player Jose Rivera have filled out the group’s lineup with bass player Paul Hernandez (Mongo) and drummer Ray Hernandez — no relation.
“Saico” builds upon the latin-inflected garage-punk riffs of Ladrones’ self-titled LP while veering toward a hair-raising punk-pop and rock ‘n’ roll circa ’77 strut. The song was recorded with four more new numbers at Rockcliff Sound with Lewis Lovely, in the hopes of seeing an EP release sooner than later. “We were gonna shop them around to different labels, but then the COVID situation happened. That put a stop to that,” Rivera says. “Now, our main thing is to keep writing as much music as possible, and prepare to go back on tour.”
On the heels of releasing 2018’sInability to CopeEP, bass player and lead vocalist Jake Benedict, drummer Tyler Peacock, and singer and guitarist Chris Hammer are back with three-songs that plunge the group’s blend of hardcore, thrash, black metal, death metal, and crust punk into much greater depths. Benedict’s low rumble and Hammer’s demonic shriek create an urgent tension over Peacock’s staccato rhythms. After live-streaming a 7-inch release party on April 20, Benedict took a few minutes to talk about the new songs and finding Misanthropic Aggression’s sound.
The Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks In Hell 7-inch is Misanthropic Aggression’s first new release since 2018, correct?
Yes! The first thing we did after releasing Inability To Cope was to write the song “Blacklisted.” I had already written the guitar riff, so we started arranging it. We worked for about a year and wrote “Black Listed,” then “Retirement From Life (Last Day of Work),” then “Alcoholic Polyneuropathic Freaks In Hell.” Chris came up with the title for that one.
That song feels timely, as many Georgians are struggling with Governor Kemp easing up on the shelter-in-place order.
Yeah, because you’ve been at home for like a month, drinking too much, and you feel like you’re in hell!
We played with Sanguisugabogg at 529 on March 11, 48 hours before the shit hit the fan. The morning after, I got an email saying my son’s school is canceled effective Monday. He hasn’t been back since.
When we played on March 11, COVID-19 was already here. People were wigging out, about half the normal crowd was there, and people were already wearing masks. They were high-elbowing instead of high-fiving. It was a trippy night.
You know there’s a problem when even the crust punks are washing their hands!
Big time! There was a line out the bathroom door all night, just to use the sink!
“Retired From Life (Last Day Of Work)” is the second entry in a catalog of anti-active shooter songs. “Active Shooter Syndrome (A.S.S.)” from Inability To Cope was about the Mandalay Bay shooting in Las Vegas. I heard the news about it and wrote that song. “Retired From Life …” is about the poor guy who worked in the security shack at the FedEx facility in Kennesaw, maybe six-seven years ago. Basically, he was shot in the gut with a shotgun and lived, but he’s had 80-90 surgeries since then.
I thought about how lyricists like Chris Barnes from Cannibal Corpse write. As a kid, it was terrifying to read first-person perspective songs about being murdered. To twist it in with the urban style that we’ve always had I did a first-person narrative about being killed on the job. I was almost afraid to do it because it’s pretty controversial. But the lyrics are so clearly anti-shooter that it won’t come across like we were glorifying it. But it is supposed to be horrific.
Have you published the lyrics?
The lyrics aren’t posted anywhere yet. I’m such an amateur when it comes to actual music industry stuff. After the records are produced, your PR campaign starts. So as soon as you send off the masters the records get pressed. Then Perfect World Productions, who’s doing our PR, sends out press kits. Once the records come in they get sent out for distribution. Boris Records has distribution through MVD. That takes an additional four weeks. I didn’t know all that, and when we picked the April 20 release date I was working off of my DIY experiences: ‘The records will be here and we’ll get in the van and go!’ The 4/20 release date isn’t official. The distributor’s release date, and the reason it’s not on Spotify or anywhere else yet, is June 8. That’s when I think we’ll post the lyrics.
As soon as we finished this one we turned around and finished a new song for the next record. I want to write about COVID-19, but I need to approach it carefully. It’s a slippery slope talking about this virus; you could easily upset people’s political sensibilities, and I don’t want to be seen as a political band. So I’m figuring out how to approach it lyrically.
That’s tough. The anti-active shooter songs — talking about real-world incidents of gun violence — can easily be construed as being about gun control. It doesn’t get more political than that!
Yeah, it could be taken that way. Personally, I see a pattern of antisocial narcissism at work in these shooters — lonely, loser-types, incels who are incels because they have no personality. I noticed that a lot of them have these traits in common. That’s kind of what made me want to chronicle these incidents, and have more than one song about the subject. The title, “Active Shooter Syndrome,” is a play on “active shooter situation.” In my opinion, there seems to be a syndrome here.
What has changed for the group between these two releases?
It’s a cliché, but we’re figuring out our sound. We had this idea to mix five musical genres: punk, thrash, death metal, black metal, and crust. The first release leaned heavily toward punk and hardcore — we had the cover of SSD’s “Boiling Point.” There were hints of death metal, especially in the long musical section in “Herd Rejector/Unbound Descent,” which Chris composed. There are some sludgy parts, some death metal parts. With the new release we went for more of a first wave black metal sound. If you listen to the long section right after the first chorus in “Alcoholic … ,” it has a second wave, almost Gorgoroth or golden era Dark Thrown back-and-forth going on. Real grim black metal. There’s a lot going on in that song, and I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I’m really proud of it.
Tell me about the sample at the beginning of “Alcoholic …”
Chris did that. It’s the voice of James Dickey, who was a poet laureate in ‘66. He wrote Deliverance.
The lyrics for that song are two-pronged. I have developed alcoholic polyneuropathy, I guess from drinking liquor for 13 years. I’ve started getting real bad tingling in my hands and feet, my skin and scalp crawl, I break out in hives. So the lyrics are about my personal experiences with it, but it’s also a warning to learn better coping mechanisms than substances. It’s definitely in keeping with my amateur psychology that I like to incorporate.
At the end of “Alcoholic …” we take a hard left turn into a weird death metal theme, which is a riff that I wrote. Sometimes I’ll write parts for Chris, but in this song, the whole end, I said, “You do whatever the hell you want, man. These are the parts I wrote. This is the subject matter. Run with it.
Impetigo is a gore-grind band from Illinois, from the late ’80/early ‘90s. They rule, and their vocals have a real strong influence with all the echo and trippy, kind of rubber banding in and out that you hear.
Who did the artwork?
The artwork was done by a Ukranian artist who goes by Warhead Art. He’s done three pieces for us — he did the centerpiece. Chris did the layout. The art is in the middle, and there’s a frame with little stars in the corners. Chris did those, and hand-drew the “Alcoholic Neuropathic Freaks In Hell” logo around it. The stars represent the synapses misfiring in your body due to alcoholic polyneuropathy. It’s what causes the pain, which I thought was a cool idea. The photo on the back with the bricks was taken at the ruins of an old civil war-era mill — Nickajack Creek — up near Smyrna.
The idea was to keep it real simple. No lyrics sheet, no insert, no thank you list. It’s just three songs. The whole thing is influenced by the old Amoebix, Anti Cimex 7-inches; real simple, old-school hardcore shit.