Northern Liberties “Parallel Hell” (Roxborough Rants and Eels, July 2020)

Just before the beginning of the Great At Home of 2020, Justin offered a copy of Northern Liberties’ new LP to anyone who was willing to write a review. I put my hand up and into my mailbox came a copy of this most amazing record.

I listened and listened again, rapt. This record demands your full attention.

My promise of a write up slipped to the back of the queue as spring slipped into summer but it’s been nagging my conscience on and off and in line with a resolution to do more things (Karl, Judy Kankakee is next…), I’ll tell all of you who like music that’s fierce, swift, passionate, and relentless, this record has your name on it.

The sounds are maddeningly dense and delicate. The music is simultaneously punishing and sweet. Raging heavy grooves, distant shouted vocals, mathematical virtuosity which does not sacrifice passion for technique.

Philadelphia has always been a home for uncompromising musicians, souls going their own way for their own reasons . This record is so clearly born from desire and compulsion to follow a path of one’s own that even if it’s not your usual musical diet, it’s something which will make your life better by giving it a through listen.

The glorious artwork is a hint at what the record sounds like. Intricate, detailed, ornate.

My fingers are crossed that when live music returns to Philadelphia, we can meet up to see these guys play live. It will be amazing.

Thank you Mark and Justin and Kevin.”

– Eliot Duhan, Roxborough Rants and Eels

New Northern Liberties Album Available for Streaming & Purchase (The Deli, 9/16/19)

“A menacing psych/hard-rock heaviness engulfs on Parallel Hell, the latest LP from Northern Liberties. Spirited vocals and a relentless rhythm section create a consuming, contagious sound. It’s been over a decade and a half that Renaissance man Justin Duerr has been releasing material via this creative outlet. Duerr continues to demonstrate how he’s an unflinching, uncompromising musical force of nature in the Philly underground.”

Full article at

“A musical keg of West Philly weirdo dynamite”: Reflections on two decades of the genre-defying Northern Liberties (The Key, 4/10/19)

by Yoni Kroll for WXPN/The Key.

“West Philly post-punk three piece Northern Liberties has been a band for so long that when they played their first show in February of 2000 the neighborhood they borrowed their name from was still a mostly forgotten blip on the radar. Fast forward almost two decades and the band — Justin Duerr on vocals and percussion, his brother Marc on drums, and their lifelong friend Kevin Riley on bass — are set to release their seventh album Parallel Hell later this year.”

Full article at

Northern Liberties/Errant Ray (Yellow Green Red, 2015)

Northern Liberties have slowly become an under-appreciated Philadelphia institution, this being their sixth full length album since the turn of the millennium. They seem to have an endless supply of songs and art pencils with which to draw the artwork that surrounds them, and this new album is as good a selection as any.

Like most bands with half a dozen albums under their belt, they really sound a lot like themselves, to the point where Northern Liberties can (consciously or unconsciously) appropriate Fugazi rhythms, pop-punk riffs, Hum’s deft balance of the heavy and melodic, Load Records’ neon scree and a dozen other musical signifiers I’m missing without ever feeling like a direct rip-off or homage to anyone besides Northern Liberties.

For a band that is just a bassist, vocalist and drummer, they cover the sonic spectrum pretty well, rather than homing in on a very specific and singular vibe ala Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. The lyrics tend to quickly drift off into prog-fantasy territory, not unlike fellow underground scribblers Human Host (you better believe there’s the line “paramecium – gaze upon the flame”). I can’t imagine anyone would try to stop Northern Liberties from continuing, so maybe they’ll go on forever?

– Yellow Green Red (LINK), September 1st., 2015

NORTHERN LIBERTIES – Glowing Brain Garden (, 2012)

NORTHERN LIBERTIES – Glowing Brain Garden

First thing I noticed about Glowing Brain Garden was the elaborate artwork that is featured pretty much everywhere on the record. It also includes a couple inserts that also display the same type of sprawling images. Have to appreciate the type of effort that went into putting this together, a completely self-funded venture it would appear and one that is obviously a labor of love. As for Northern Liberties and their music, they actually kind of mimic what you see covering every inch of this release. At least in terms of imagery, as lyricist Justin Duerr takes a rather psychedelic/fantasy turn with the themes for this. The music itself ends up falling into a much noisier/abrasive area, but one that likely lands smack dab in between say…Karp and Lightning Bolt, kind of drawing elements from both styles I’d imagine but never really committing to either completely. Multiple listens has found me enjoying it more, and while the old bass and drums setup is a plentiful one they do well here in a adding a bit to it instead of merely taking up space. Despite this being their 5th record, from what I understand, this is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of hearing them. Busy individuals it would appear; probably will have two more releases out by the time I get this one on the site. Kidding, give it a listen.

Northern Liberties – Glowing Brain Garden (Yellow Green Red, 2012)

You know the type of person that has to constantly be creating something? Someone who goes to jury duty for a day and comes back with an intricate sixteen-page comic book sketched on loose-leaf? That’s the impression I get from the Northern Liberties boys, two brothers and another who dispense all sorts of art like a fountain, both as the group Northern Liberties and individually. Glowing Brain Garden features sprawling, colorful art both inside and out, with enough pencil-strokes to make Nick Blinko’s hand cramp, as well as a couple of inserts. Visually alone, it’s a labor of love. Musically, I know I’ve seen these guys in at least one basement, but Glowing Brain Garden is more realized and structured than what I remember – kind of like a low-budget version of At The Drive-in trying out some of Lightning Bolt’s signature moves. Lots of musical technicality and tempo changes, fantasy-styled lyrics and a home-spun grandeur (with an apparently endless supply of colored-markers to fuel their ship). I’ve always figured Northern Liberties were a little too Burning Man for my tastes, but at the very least, the effort they put forth to document their existence has certainly expanded and improved my perception.


NORTHERN LIBERTIES – Glowing Brain Garden (Still Single, 2012)

Even those with active new music intake can only hope to hear about five to ten records of this power and transcendence in one lifetime. So, I’m torn between two or twenty-eight different attitudes when faced with the task of actually reviewing something like this. One of them goes like this: “There might be art I will never be qualified to comment on. Yep, face it, Mr. Summer School AFTER 12th Grade In Order To Genuinely Graduate in….the…..hou…” And another goes like this: “Is this some sort of a joke or a ‘90’ reissue that is doing exactly what the reissue game is supposed to do (unearth brilliance that was overlooked the first time around)?” That I might be suspicious of something this consummately uplifting and powerful is 100% commentary on the sad state of affairs elsewhere on the tunes-ville landscape…or is it? The weird and terrifying degradation of underground rock – it is finally happening in an Illuminati sense despite the crying-wolf nature of saying so in public and despite the fact that no one will really believe me or you if this happens to be an adopted party-line in the near future – has not brainwashed me into some peanut-butter cognitive mush that hugs and embraces and spews superlative soup all over anything that simply DOESN’T SUCK. No, this album is one of the best ten long-players I’ve ever heard within the context of contemporary….aka “post-1985” underground rock/hardcore/punk/indie/noise-rock, etc. And that’s it. What awaits those lucky enough to get their hands on one of the remaining (??) 300 copies? Imagine if Cop Shoot Cop had GBV hooks along with the best moments of Scott Walker singing into the heavens. It’s a drummer (oh, what a drummer…), a vocalist/percussionist (playing what is probably a
stand-up kit rather than this being a double-drummer set-up) and a bassist playing the fucking instrument like Lou Barlow taught everyone who was listening and properly processing Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me (an album also in that aforementioned top ten). Get this. Hear this. This is the sound of hope and inspiration and it made me feel something I wasn’t ever planning to feel again. (
(Andrew Earles)


Northern Liberties/Glowing Brain Garden (Live at the Difference, 2012)

Use this album as a manageable entry point into the world of the Duerr brothers and their longtime best friend Kevin Riley; who, together for over a decade, have been crafting what they call “ghost punk” – and I’m inclined to take their word for it. In the least because they have always created within the confines of vocals, percussion, and bass; bending to Occam’s Razor – the law of parsimony, which states that until a greater demonstration reveals itself as necessary, the most succinct one shall rule.
— “Best of 2012” from –  (

From a post by CJ Marsicano (‘Your Opinion Doesn’t Count’ blog, 2009)

Diggin’ In The Crates “Giving Some Love To My Homies” Edition
This week, just like the title of this post says, I’m showing some love to some homeboys of mine who just put a new record out…

On October 30, 2004, I made my second pilgrimage in as many years to one of Philadelphia’s finest alternative/indie rock venues, The Khyber, to witness a performance by my good friend, punk legend Mike Watt (The Minutemen, fIREHOSE, Banyan, Iggy Pop & The Stooges), who was then touring behind his third solo album The Secondman’s Middle Stand.

Most likely by coincidence, all three of the acts on the bill were three-piece units. Only the first band of the night, the Perfection!sts, was a conventional guitar/bass/drums unit. Watt’s band on this outing, as on his then-new album, was an organ/bass/drums band. And then there was the band in the middle of the bill. I’ll let my paragraph on them from when I reviewed the show for tell it:

Second opening act Northern Liberties (who also run their own Worldeater label and distribution company) — a trio consisting of bass, drums and percussion — played a high energy set of music from their debut full-length album Erode + Disappear. With K’s effect-laden, pick-driven bass covering all sonic frequencies and most of the melody, singer/percussionist Justin came off like a tattooed, ultra-hyper, depression-and-epilepsy-free Ian Curtis as he sang and played, unpreturbed by minor mishaps with both the mic cord coming out of his delay pedal and with accidentally knocking over a pitcher of water on the stage floor (where Mazich had to set up his organ right afterward – fortunately, no Stone The Crows like electrocution mishaps occurred) – definitely one of the best unsigned bands I’ve ever witnessed.

After the evening ended, I met lead singer/percussionist Justin Duerr, bought copies of his band’s first CD Erode + Disappear and their 7″ Easter Island off of him (the CD itself was $6 for a full-length album!). I played the CD in my car on the drive home and was hooked for life. Since then, I’ve been following the band’s releases (three more CDs, a limited edition DVD, a split 7″ and three side project releases by Justin) as well as keeping a good correspondence (and trading mix CD’s) with Justin (not surprisingly, my CDs had some J-pop goodness, which he dug immensely.) All are highly recommended by me.

Their newest release is rather interesting as it’s their first non-7″ vinyl effort. The record consists of one 29-minute, 51-second song entitled (what else?) Suffocation. Despite the length of the song, it seems to go by pretty quick. The band only intends to play this piece live twice, once on March 20 in Philadelphia and once in Bethlehem a week later. The vinyl itself (which Justin tells me is the band’s preferred way to experience the recorded version of the song) has a locked groove on side two, but they’re not putting CD and iPod owners out either, as every copy of the album has a bonus CD with some extra tracks (a few drones excerpted from the multi-track recording of the song, plus some live tracks from a California radio appearance). The album’s cover itself is silkscreened by NL’s bassist Kevin Riley.

Vinyl collectors may want to jump on this soon – there’s only 200 copies pressed, and mine was numbered 59. Check the band’s website at

— CJ Marsicano, re-posted from blog.