Okay, Planet Damn isn’t exactly a new band—they had an earlier incarnation called Hex Vision, and released three songs recorded live at Mississippi Studios early last year. But they’ve since found a new bassist, changed their name, and refined the raw power present on those early Hex Vision tracks. This week, they’re finally debuting a tape of demos via Cosmonaut Music, and spoiler alert: It’s pretty damn good.
According to a press release, Janie Black (guitar/vocals), Amelia Ley (drums), and Fay Funk (bass) have been friends for a decade, and all grew up “on the outskirts of Portland.” They cite bands like Devo, the Ramones, Hüsker Dü, and Hot Snakes as major influences, but Planet Damn’s sound most resembles that of Portland lo-fi punk forbears Wipers and Dead Moon.
I saw Planet Damn play a house show a few months ago, and was immediately struck by how amazing Black’s voice sounded, even in a basement with shitty acoustics. She’s got one of my favorite voices in Portland—it’s deep, raspy, and completely unique. It’s also best experienced live, but tracks like the bass-driven standout “No Fun” capture her range, from guttural howls to the sing-songy delivery of the line “We don’t have fun anymore.” My only complaint is that I wish her vocals were louder; sometimes they get lost behind the rest of the band’s well-executed chaos, so I have no idea what she’s singing about beyond clues left in the titles.
Other highlights include “Changeling” and a cover of Dead Moon’s “Walking on My Grave” that speeds up the original’s tempo, with Black snarling over her heavy, frenetic guitar riffs. It was recorded before the death of Fred Cole last November, so the morbid irony definitely wasn’t intentional. But the three inhabitants of Planet Damn are the new kids on the block, when it comes to Portland’s long history with punk rock. It’s way too early to tell whether they’ll come close to filling the massive void left by Cole, but their first tape is an excellent start.