South Carolina-based independent punk label Rivermonster Records (ran by Larry Parker and Toni Dellaposta) has put out a hell of a first release, the 7″ split between Charleston’s Hale Bopp Astronauts and Columbia’s Soda City Riot, due out on August 15th. I was lucky enough to obtain a copy from Parker, and in addition to talking about the killer punk music residing on this wax platter, I wanted to share some pics of the art and design of the record, which are outstanding. The record was released on random colors, which is always a dream/ nightmare for obsessive record collectors (my copy is a very pleasing to the eye, semi-marbled purple). Each band gets their own cover art; just flip the sleeve around to show off your favorite band. Responsible for this beautiful work were artists Kevin Schmoll and Charlie McLinden; the Soda City Riot side will obviously be the most controversial, with its depictions of some very final solutions to the problems America currently has with terrible politicians . A nifty little 2-sided lyric insert showcases the songs in an old school punk manner. It’s a damn fine job and it looks like Rivermonster took a lot of pains to make it an awesome release.
For the uninitiated, Hale Bopp Astronauts are a punk power trio specializing in X-Files style subject matter, almost like a Southern version of the Lillingtons at times, while Soda City Riot are known for their hardcore sing-a-long punk style. Hale Bopp starts things off with “Big Bucks”, a rocker that reminds me of the band ALL in spots with guitarist/ vocalist Scott Burns pulling off a rapidfire vocal delivery that made me feel like I was listening to the old school Deviltones (back when they were still in North Carolina). Even with all the comparisons, the band has their own fast paced thing going, with all the lyrics about paranoia and societal damage being washed down with sweet, hooky pop punk. Their other track “Asgardia” tackles whether or not escaping the planet Earth and all its problems is going to be a part of our future in this lifetime and if it’s actually worth the trouble. So seriousness is buried behind the comedic veneer and I dig it. These two songs were taken from their latest album, 2018’s Far From Home. Soda City Riot grace us with two brand new songs, but ones which have made the rounds at live shows (and one comp), “Everything’s Going to Shit” and “Hate Your Gov’t”. Both are based around insanely catchy choruses, the first of which even throws in a (serious/ semi-serious?) ska/Oi! breakdown just for kicks. Both songs show the vocal power of singer Roger Hawkins, who is just caterwauling out these diatribes against government interference and the downward spiral of our social system today. If Roger can’t make you sing along, you must just hate punk rock; his style is the perfect meeting point between old school Ramones zaniness and good old ’90s Fat Wreck/ Epitaph stuff. If you like the Adolescents or the Swingin Utters, look no further than here for your next favorite band. Musically, they are on a tear, Billy Ray’s guitar and Chris Paget’s bass lining up together in unison to tear shit apart, but in a way that you can actually sing along with and probably keep your beer in your hand at the same time.
The release should go live on all your favorite streaming/ download platforms (Spotify, Amazon, Apple, Bandcamp) next week. Or you can just order one of these crazy good physical copies from Bandcamp when it finally drops (there are also some for sale at Music Gator in Sumter, I hear). I can’t wait to see where else Rivermonster is going to take their fledgling project because they have really outdone themselves with this one. 4 great songs, all recorded beautifully at the Jam Room in Columbia, along with some stellar artwork and production on an indie budget all add up to them being one of the labels to watch in South Carolina now.
Recommended if you like: The Lillingtons, Adolescents, Swingin Utters
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.