Various Artists: False Object Sensor

Various Artists
False Object Sensor


CALL IT AN intellectual disavowal of the suburbs or call it an ordinary snubbing: The defiantly suburban sound of hardcore punk has long stood as the bastard child of more "legit" U.S. rock 'n' roll history. Perennially ignored by critics like Greil Marcus, who gush over British postpunk or "real" Noo Yawk rock, hardcore nevertheless spread like a viral strain through 20 years of suburban youth culture, its million mutations erupting into a lattice of localized outbreaks encompassing Long Island's chugga-chugga machismo, San Diego's effete art-core, and Baltimore's noise-rock alike.

Despite the inglorious critical imbalance, False Object Sensor--an overview compilation of the legendary Virginia-based Vermiform label--serves compelling notice of hardcore's insurgent vitality. Since 1990, Vermiform has probed the stained fabric of hardcore, evolving from fairly conventional punk beginnings into much weirder forms. Each release was connected through founder Sam McPheeters's unswerving commitment to intelligent protest and his wonderful sleeve sensibility (he carved letters and block printing into some truly radical cover art).

Officially a celebration of Vermiform's 11-1/2-year anniversary (money problems postponed the intended decade milepost), False Object Sensor is messy, grating, uneven, and totally brilliant. Discarding the deadweight of Vermiform's straight hardcore origins with an awful outtake from the label's best-selling political punkers Born Against, ("No Grammys will be issued for this one" wink the liner notes), Sensor gets straight to the good stuff. Electronic weirdoes Men's Recovery Project team up with punk faves Le Tigre for a brutal anti-Giuliani skronk session amusingly entitled "The Mayor Is a Robot." An early Moss Icon demo offers convincing proof that emo was once a thing of beauty. And a slew of bands (Amps for Christ, Controlling Hand, Sinking Body--love the names!) distill everything from hardcore except the exhilarating rush of god-awful noise. If that weren't confusing enough, it also has Tibetan-inspired balladry (Tara Tavi) and a dulcimer-led hoedown courtesy of Auto Da Fé.

False Object Sensor proves that intelligent musical life exists even in our uncultured suburbs, on a label that, as McPheeters dryly notes, sells "tens, perhaps even dozens of records." Rectify this injustice at your local record store today.

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