Hardcore listeners tend to laud bands for updating the genre's traditional formula or adding a distinct touch. But lately, that sort of praise seems undeserved. Recent hardcore records haven't expanded the tradition, but many of them operate within the narrow form exceptionally. Suggesting that they're subtly progressive is just a default compliment that arises from the difficulty of assessing a stylistically constrained genre. Hardcore's conservatism leads discussion of it toward contradictions: Sub-par hardcore is slandered as unoriginal, but anything too adventurous is severed from the pack, and annexed to another sub-genre, which leaves a rather homogeneous group of bands to separate into good and bad.
All of this is to say that Iron Lung is an exception. The long-running duo, split between Seattle and San Francisco, released White Glove Test last year, a double album of hardcore and harsh industrial noise. Iron Lung's earlier material is strictly power-violence, built with blast-beats and concision, and much of White Glove Test qualifies as such, but its most original moments find noise encroaching upon the riffs, or overtaking them. The noise feels molten, not clamorous, like the arduous melt of hardy alloys recast into sound. Iron Lung is also a record label known for releasing hardcore along with dour post-punk from Total Control and Diat. The project might signal a new era for hardcore open-mindedness. Iron Lung plays with Nails, Bone Sickness, and Skinfather at Bottom of the Hill on Saturday, May 3.
One punk cliché says that everyone who heard the Ramones in 1976 started a band. For Toronto punk musician Don Pyle, member of Crash Kills Five and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, that may be true — but first he bought a camera. His new photo book, Trouble in the Camera Club, depicts Toronto punk shows from as early as 1976, the year that a 14-year-old Pyle stood below Patti Smith at Seneca College and took a picture of her in the midst of a fiery incantation. She appears towering and defiant, twice the height of the Marshall stacks behind her and much more powerful. That's just one image. The book contains more than 300, including photos of under-documented Toronto bands like The Diodes, Teenage Head, and The Viletones. Pyle is set to exhibit his photos at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland, starting Friday, May 2.
White Fang is a comedic affront to the straight world. The Portland rock act's hapless operation entails loops around the country in a van with intermittent stops to record, while spats of cassette releases appear on the band's own Gnar Tapes imprint. Onstage, the group looks like a thrift store robbery in progress — yesteryear's sartorial castaways dangling from the limbs of quixotic, petty criminals. When White Fang addresses the crowd, it's like a transcript of clichéd juvenile fixations: drugs, bodily fluids, and genuine bewilderment at the thought of employment. "Juvenile" here is a compliment, because White Fang's joy is infectious. The band's levity speaks through simple pop songs and radiates through the members' charming dishevelment. White Fang performs with the Croissants and Kaz Mirblouk on Friday, May 2 at Thee Parkside.