Cock Sparrer - Bloody Minded: The Best Of (CD review) (Dr. Strange): Wow, I heard of Cock Sparrer but knew nothing about them till now. This is great oi. Maybe even the best. At first I didn't believe Sean, the local expert on such things, when he said Cock Sparrer was the first oi band. I figured it had to be Sham 69, but, the history of it sides with him in both timing, content and context. Most of this 1997 hits collection is from the mid to late ‘90s, with a sound similar to America's Sloppy Seconds. It’s heavy on Chuck Berry riffs and Jerry Lee Lewis propulsion. Not knowing Cock Sparrer you might think they were just as comedic as Sloppy Seconds. The use of wedding bells and the wedding march in "Bird Trouble" could make Weird Al blush.
Members of Cock Sparrer grew up together and formed a garage band in 1972, learning to play via Small Faces covers. Cock Sparrer itself came together early in 1976, favoring pub rock and The Rolling Stones. They were courted by Malcolm McLaren but rejected the haberdasher for the asshole he was. Cock Sparrer made a point of noting they were a skinhead band, not a punk band. They were working class all the way, but also responsible adults. They refused to play England for years because they didn’t want violence at their shows. Through a family connection they signed with Decca and released their first single in May, 1977. Another single followed, but as a bunch who could not be tamed by anything but catatonic amounts of booze, they were soon on their own and broke up in 1978. They reformed in 1982 to release the iconic "England Belongs To Me" (a great live version is on this disc). They broke up again only to reform in 1992. They've put out a few albums and toured the US in 2000. They're just about to tour the UK for the first time since 1992.
The songs on Bloody Minded cover a twenty year period from ‘77-‘97. The new tracks are as good as the old. Showing a surprising amount of introspection, they recorded "Because You're Young" in 1994. I usually pass on lyrics, but these I've come to memorize. You can detect the slightest amount of melancholy in the buzz of the guitar:
"Because you're young / sharp as a knife / you need that buzz / to come alive // out on the edge / out on the town / you ain't got time / to settle down // you're always sure / you're always right / you've seen it all in black and white // you never listen / to anyone / because you're young // Because you're young / you're torn between / a world of hate / and a world of dreams / so much to lose / so much to gain / so much to fight for / so much to change // you don't look back / you don't look down / you're gonna turn everything round / you live your life / like a loaded gun / because you're young // stop talking back / get off the phone / you're late again / you missed the last bus home / this ain't the way / you ought to live / I know something's got to give // you're always sure...."
Sonically I can compare this album to Sloppy Seconds' 1993 release Knock Yer Block Off. As a matter of fact, Cock Sparrer's "Where Are They Now" has the exact same guitar riff as Sloppy Second's "The Kids Are All Drunk" from the year before. 1982's "Argy Bargy" sounds a lot like Bob Segar's "Old Time Rock & Roll". "A.U." is obviously a steal of The Rezillos "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight", but Cock Sparrer are the real deal from before the Rezillos, and they appropriate with humor, respect, and resoundingly great results.
Each track on this hits collection is great. I flipped out the first time I heard it and it's been on heavy rotation ever since. If you want to hear real oi from real skins who are real old, buy this. Oi doesn't and can't get any better than this.
- Live: Runnin' Riot Across The USA (CD review):
one of at least five from the band, was recorded on their 2000 tour of the
states. I'm not reviewing it except to note the sound quality is better than
as Hitchcock used to say. My only point in writing is to say Cock Sparrer is the
first and best damn oi band of all time, and if you think otherwise all I'll do
is smile like I'm holding back a stinky.
Info on the band is here and here.
If oi is working class punk for the lads in the pub and the football stands, Cock Sparrer is THE band. If you think it's mindless violence and Road Warrior meets Taxi Driver fetishes, stick with cartoon bands with cartoon logos. On The Simpsons the animal chain of command goes mouse, cat, then dog. In oi the order of excellence is Cock Sparrer, Sham 69, then The Business.
Friends since the age of eleven, they formed their first band in1972. Their fast, hard and melodic pub rock came into fashion when the Sex Pistols broke. The single "Runnin' Riot" was released in 1977. Read the band's history. They opted out of the record industry money-go-round (Kink's reference!) and mostly sat it out until 1982. They were going to headline the Wasted Festival this October in San Bernardino but the show was cancelled just today.
Their recent catalog is unmatched for consistently delivering the goods. They are the most melodic, flexible and creative oi band. Their studio work is more pub oriented while their live shows are straight ahead rockers. They stand proud when it's right and warn against extremism and destructive nonsense when they see it. Sham 69 flirted with the National Front but couldn't control the monsters they stirred up. Cock Sparrer also has asense of humor. On Back Home vocalist Colin McFaull opens a tune with "This is a song we've never played before live. In three minutes you'll know why". "A.U." is funny even if the printed lyrics say otherwise.
Here's Cock Sparrer lyrics. Start your collection with Bloody Minded and work from there. My favorite track at the moment is "Bats Out", which is what you'd get if Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry were in the same band. Berry taped himself urinating on a hooker and Lewis married his thirteen year old cousin. Cock Sparrer's just fat and old as far as I know.
What's a cock sparrer? It's a long story....
Cock Sparrer - Here We Stand (CD review): Holy Crapoli, Bat-Skank! A new Cock Sparrer CD is here after ten long years, and not only does it sound great, it tips well and can be applied directly to warts. I hesitate calling them the first Oi band as it's not my fight, and I mostly agree with this assessment that Sparrer and others were proto-Oi bands. I never think of them as a skinhead band. Oi is a form of music while skinheads are gang members who run the gamut from somehow benign to genocidally insane. Sham 69 stupidly thought they could have it eight ways to Sunday, while Sparrer didn't play their home island for years because they wouldn't tolerate violence. They're been going at it for thirty odd years, tower over their peers as musicians, and in Here We Stand have recorded the best album of their career.
The only complaint I have with Here We Stand (it's inside baseball stuff) is how the tracks were ordered. Sparrer deliver three types of songs: thoughtful laments on what once was and is either no more or has gone wrong, funny tales of corner pub numbnuttery, and positive anthems of pride. They write catchy tunes in their sleep, as do The Buzzcocks. You somehow expect more than that from Cock Sparrer. I graded eight of the fourteen tracks eight. Here We Stand is front-loaded with eights that hit similar themes. The best tracks, and many of their best don't take themselves seriously, don't kick in until the middle. For an American release I'd rethink the track order. The best are "Spirit Of '76", "Last Orders", "Suicide Girls", "Sussed", "Don't Stop", "Despite All This" and "Too Late".
With Cock Sparrer you can always rely on simple melodies improved upon to the point of excellence, rollicking bass guitar, soaring guitar chords and clever single note progressions, well-written humor, great sing-alongs, and they do some of their best work during what's esoterically known at The Truck Driver's Gear Change.
Cock Sparrer lyrics are the best. I honestly marvel at them. From "Last Orders": "Four pints of lager later things went from bad to worse/ She came back from the toilet, caught me going through her purse/ She said forget the taxi, you're gonna need a hearse/ There's time for one last round// One tequila, two tequila, three tequila four/ I knew I wasn't drunk I had a good grip on the floor/ I puckered up to kiss her but she punched me in the jaw/ Time for one last round". From "Suicide Girls": "For a lifetime or a single night/ You might get into her world/ That'd be strictly by invite/ She's with the Suicide Girls// Just don't try to take her away/ You'll be dead before you fail// Get in the back seat and know your place/ She's with the Suicide Girls."
Try to catch all the lyrical and musical references to other punks bands in "Spirit Of '76". The first is Joe Strummer. I include 1982's "England Belongs to Me" because it rates this: , and that ain't no eight sideways!
The Connie Dungs - I Hate This Town (7" review) (Mutant Pop): Hailing from downtown Ashland, Kentucky, the Connie Dungs are a cross between Screeching Weasel, The Vindictives and the Beatnick Termites. I mention the Termites because both vocalists sing in a voice I can only relate to Alvin (of Chipmunks fame). When I put on the first song at 33 1/3 I thought it should really be 45 rpm, but the guitar was too fast and the vocals too Alvin. At 33 1/3 the vocals sounded like Alvin on ludes. I wonder how this guy talks. The lyrics are introspective and snotty in a hapless kind of way. It’s low self-esteem presented as-is. Like in "Wimp Boy" - "No, I won't fight you 'cause I'll just get beat up...I'll fall to the ground in a puddle of blood...Does that make me a fag 'cause I'm not so tough? Does that make you a man 'cause you fight so goddam rough???" The lyrics of these five songs remind me of Sloppy Seconds in that you have to look under the surface to see the meanings are double-edged. Musically the Connie Dungs are no better than a lot of the bands on Mutant Pop and pop punk in general, but their lyrics are excellent and I'll be buying their other releases as soon as I can. You have to wonder how five punk guys grew up in the same town in Kentucky. Sounds like an X-File to me. I'm sure the locals are freaked out about it.
The Connie Dungs - Missy and Johnny (7" review) (Harmless): More of the same from the punks from Ashland, Kentucky. I once compared the singer to Alvin (of the Chipmunks), but now I'm thinking more of Squiggy (Laverne and Shirley). He seems to also have Squig's low self-esteem. With the Connie Dungs, not only does Brandon claim to be "a geek with zits on my forehead and cheeks", he sings about getting punched all the time and all he does is bleed! Like he can't even make a fist if he tried. So the angle is: rejected, beaten, abused, but won't you be mine and be nice to me? I like the change of lyrical pace, but after two EPs of low self-esteem anthems you have to wonder if he really does have a problem. The Dungs play sloppy pop-punk in line with Screeching Weasel, but the guitar is more fuzzy and the drums are mixed louder. A very curious band here. I like them a lot.
Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society - The Deadliest Man Alive (CD review): Teddy Roosevelt's Borscht Belt cousin Shecky lived by this edict: "Speak softly and carry a big shtick." Count Dante does bellow a lot but his shtick is huge. No, not like that. This Count Dante wrestles in the California-based punk rocker side project known as "Incredibly Strange Wrestling". He's also a student of the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu school, the toughest fighters in the world. Something about the guy leads me to believe he's a 6'5", 300 pound softie with a great sense of humor who can also kick your ass in the time it takes to sneeze.
The real Count Dante ran ads for his martial arts training programs in comic books and cheap magazines back in the '60s . Total cheese. Here's some quotes from a biography I found at the site of the real Black Dragon Fighting Society, who are probably teaching "Ninja" to every loon psycho with eight bucks in this pocket: "He was able to study these arts while serving as the Director of a wig and hair-piece firm based in India... Count Dante was a strikingly handsome man who looked more like a movie star than a Karate Master... Aside from his fascination and exceptional skill in the Fighting Arts, Count Dante was a devotee of Classical Singing and a Famous Hair Stylist, who created the natural seductive hair style of many top Chicago models and Playboy Bunnies." Wow.
The real Count Dante sounds worthy of his own series of B-movie parodies, and the new Count Dante is riding this esoteric gravy train all the way to Schlock Heaven. He adds to it the cherry of ego-centric, money-lusting, new age spirituality of motivational speaking. I haven't seen him live but the reviews on his web site (www.count-dante.com) make it sound like a great piece of performance art.
If you think you've seen this all before, it's because you may have heard of Kill Allen Wrench, led by Riverside, CA's favorite Drew Carey look-alike and Ultimate Fighter. Allen's the guy some say took the hit money for Kurt Cobain's death. While Allen's band plays pseudo-satanic heavy metal punk, Count Dante performs speedy "Hot Rockin' Tonight" top-40 cock-rock and Pulp Fiction meets Dead Kennedys Surf/Secret Agent Man. Dante's singing is from the Elvis Presley school.
I'm not into corny cock rock like most punks secretly are, so I bow out of final judgment on The Deadliest Man Alive. I e-mailed Count Dante and he wrote back "Some people are left in a lurch by our way of somehow blending '70s cock rock with the Dead Kennedys." After reading through their web site, I understand it's part of a bigger whole of performance and fun, and I give Dante credit for conceiving and executing a well planned attack on all media fronts. You and I just sit on our asses while Dante's out there making it happen with his own money. This CD is self-published, just like Kill Allen Wrench. You don't need a record label to put out your own anything, so what I find lacking in Dante's musical output is more than compensated for by my awe for his commitment. If he ever plays the Los Angeles area, I'll see Count Dante's show just for the "Secret and forbidden ballistic street attacks and defenses that you can utilize to gain success in the Ring, the Rocktagon, Romance, Real Estate, the Stock Market, and the Job Market!"
The Crabs- Brainwashed (CD review) (K): Here's my thoughts on K Records: I've liked everything I've heard from this Olympia, Washington label, but I can't relate to the bands. To me the typical K band is like Beat Happening - quirky, melodic, lo-fi coffee-house fodder for skinny college kids who sit for hours sipping expensive caffeine blasts while reading endless dissertations on Pablo Picasso or 17th century Pre-Existentialist epic poetry. You know, the kind of people who look at you but in no way acknowledge you exist. People for whom irony is tattooed onto their brains. If I went to a K band concert I would be the only guy who could bench his weight and not have funny facial hairs.
That said, I love Beat Happening and I like The Crabs. A two-piece with Lisa on drums and Jonn on guitar, The Crabs crank out great lo-fi folk-punk inspired by other K bands and The Velvet Underground (the VU had two sounds: endless droning art-rock and playful rock n roll). The opening track's guitar track is an inversion of Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane". Both Lisa and Jonn sing and the CD is fleshed out with saxophone, organ and bells. Every song is minimal yet inventive and engrossing. If there are any bands like this playing coffee houses in the Washington, DC area, please let me know. I'll grow some Dobie Gillis facial hair and blend in as best I can.
Crass - Christ: The Bootleg (CD review) (Allied) A recent re-issue of a booted show from 1984, and only $4.98 for sixteen songs. I was never a Crass fan, and this didn't change my mind. The music is hypnotic and intense, but the lyrics are blunt assaults of protest, dogma and screaming. It’s political lectures yelled with Cockney accents. I'm a little too old and set in my ways to be screamed at about what to believe and think. The songs taken separately are decent, but together they vary little, and the relentlessness of the preaching and screaming is numbing. It’s not dull but more like overkill. Anarchy, in the classical sense, is a nice yet insane utopian theory, but it never works in practice. People are greedy, violent and lazy. Too many punks see anarchy as an excuse to riot and destroy property. Anarchy will never escape the violence and stupidity punks have attached to it. It’s a vicious cycle of stupidity.
The Cretins – We’re Gonna Get So Laid (CD review) (Melted): How’s this for goofy. The three band members listed on the CD are no longer in the band, at least according to their web site. On the CD, the current main members are listed as “additional musicians” on various tracks. I’ve never heard of a wholesale coup like this. The new head cheese is Metal Murf, who, along with half the California phone book, at one time toured with The Queers. B-Face plays bass on two tracks. I’ll give The Cretins, whoever they are, the benefit of the doubt that they’ve tightened up their act, because the CD is very inconsistent. They’re copying the styles of too many other bands and a lot of it sounds barely rehearsed. Focus and practice, that’s the ticket.
The Cretins play power-pop punk that owes a great debt to the snotty allure of The Queers. They call their music “’Tardcore”, as in retard. The use of “retard” is a universal sign of ingrained stupidity, not the good kind either, and the immaturity of the lyrics don’t offer any reason to believe it’s smart-playing-dumb. I’m a fan of The Angry Samoans and The Meatmen, so nobody can accuse me of not getting it. The album title We’re Gonna Get So Laid is hysterical because I can picture the brand of losers who talk like that, but something tells me it’s here without the irony. The 5th grade level cartoon cover art doesn’t help either.
At times they sound like The Queers, The Parasites or any of a number of Blink 182 clone bands whose juvenile silliness recently forced Green Day to announce their next record will be more adult-oriented. It neither works nor makes sense to have songs about boners and chicks flashing their boobs on the highway mixed with emo-sincere thrash ballads. The Queers do it seamlessly, but The Cretins consciously mimic The Parasites, who like The Fiendz and The Vacant Lot would never write a lyric like “they can all just suck my d—k”.
It doesn’t help when the musicianship is sloppy and the vocals don’t work. I’m a sucker for power pop punk and it takes a lot for me to not get into something like this. Certain songs are ok but 23 tracks in one sitting is too much of a not so good thing. Until they get their act together, they’re better off contributing to compilations. And who do you think your fan base might be if you record a song called “Got Caught Cheating On My S.A.T.’s”?
Crimson Sweet - self-titled and published EP (review): I sent the band an e-mail because I had questions about this NYC three-piece. Such as, is the lead singer a woman, man, or one of Donald Duck's nephews grown into a psychopath. And, is the person on the record sleeve a beautiful woman or a deathly skinny guy in drag? (Just found out she's a she). Either way this four-song frisbee is one of the coolest things I've heard in a long time. It's trashy, thrashy and art damaged like No Trend. The tunings and rhythms are so fuggin' interesting that what came off on first listen as amateur hour is now one of the best-executed noise concepts. The b-side is great, so listen to that first. I suggest the band donate "Z Rainbow" to a punk compilation so as many people can hear this great tune as possible. A+ from the city so nice they made a movie about escaping from it. Write to Crimson Sweet at PO Box 20506, Tompkins Square Station, NY, NY 10009. Well-concealed cash only -- $3 US/$4 Int.
Crimson Sweet - Robot Bus Driver (EP review) (self-released): Another amazingly weird yet wonderful release from these crazed New Yorkers, who took their name from a variety of watermelon. The only thing I can equate this to is No Trend meets the Dog Faced Hermans. Rooster Booster is a sensual, disaffected female singer who switches between her normal voice to a death rock/death metal/voodoo doll from Trilogy Of Terror-thing that confuses the hell out of me. It's annoying but it does add an extra touch of personality to the proceedings. It doesn't work for me but Crimson Sweet probably defends it as the best thing they have going.
The songcraft of this unknown band is amazing - full of originality and shifts of mood and tempo that can only come from either the truly gifted or the poop-hurling insane. "Robot Bus Driver" is a great new wave song with a keyboard-fast guitar lead from Booster that will make Devo fans smile. I like this song very, very much.
I highly recommend this to anyone with intelligence, a full range of punk knowledge and traces of a personality disorder. I wish Booster would drop the devil doll thing. The band's music is distinctive enough to separate it from the pile of indie releases they may fear being thrown into. Some people like this kind of singing - which I associate with the male castratos who shriek for death metal bands. Not me, because I don't know how to rock. I wish I knew how to rock, because my big regret in life is never having learned air guitar.
Crimson Sweet - Foil Beach (CD review) (Slow Gold Zebra): If I've said this once, I've said it at least one time -- you can always judge a band by the links they provide to other band sites on their web site. Case in point: at www.crimsonsweet.com they link to X, The Pagans, Dead Moon, Husker Du, Michael Monroe, The Church, The Elevator Drops and Rudimentary Peni. Yeah, that's all well and good, but like Ralph Kramden said on The Honeymooners, "Can it core a apple?" Ralph lived in Brooklyn. Archie Bunker lived in Queens, hence he and his lodge brothers called themselves "The Kings Of Queens". Crimson Sweet are from NYC, which means they must live in a slum of lower Manhattan. The five boroughs of New York are so nice they made a movie about escaping from it.
The point is: Crimson Sweet have been nice enough to send me their releases as they come out, and this new one is another treasure from a band I think is trying to widen their sound and options in the musical marketplace. Not a sell-out in any way, Foil Beach is a rough draft of what they're doing and should continue to do. I hear a definite move to the lo-fi garage of Holly Golightly. There's a mountain of talent at work here, and I love how they throw in an edge of informed weirdness (not so much here but it lingers in my mind). Guitarist and vocalist Rooster Booster, based on what little I have to go on, seems like a PR agent's dream. Besides her singing and guitar talents, she's easy to look at in a Winona Ryder meets Kate Moss kind of way.
The five song CD EP opens fast and strong with "Queen City, V.A.", which except for a quiet refrain or two, rips like Texas Teri and The Stiff Ones as they channel Iggy and the Heartbreakers. "Foil Beach" is slow, atmospheric and fuzzy, better to deliver obscurities such as "Under the hot blue sky / split and dripping lye / looks hot shocks so cold / the glistening foil beach...". Here's where I get to name-drop the Dog Faced Hermans without explaining why. My favorite track and best played l.o.u.d., "The Law" is another thrasher that pounds and rips. Rooster uses her devil doll voice at one point and the glue under my wallpaper melts with the same slurping noise in Barton Fink. "You'll Sleep When I'm Dead" reminds me directly of Holly Golightly. I loves that woman. "Lost Planet" is a Stooges wig-out with Rooster inhaling the microphone. The monotone guitar solo is reason enough to buy this. ($6 in well hidden cash to Slow Gold Zebra Records, PO Box 20506, NY NY 10009. Hey, Robbie on bass looks like a cross between Nick Cave and Mick Jagger… heh heh Huh?
The world is filled with talented bands like Crimson Sweet, struggling for gigs and a few bucks. I wish them luck. Gawd knows they have the talent, drive and songs to make it. My advice -- build on the strengths of the atmospherics and passion of track two and the great dance music you create in the middle of track five. I lost myself completely in both. Crimson Sweet is well informed and endearingly quirky. Follow the example of Billy Childish, but record in stereo. You're on the right track. Create art that's weird and wonderful. Make the fast songs interesting enough to be played at low volume, and the slow songs so intense in their wails and walls of noise they demand to be played loud. Angels sing along when Rooster holds a note for any length of time. The devil doll screech is an abrasive gimmick that appeals to a demographic that normally has little interest in the music you make, especially the newer material. In every review I harp about that scream, and I may be the only one. Still, it doesn't fit the material. That is all.
Crucial Youth - Straight and Loud (7" review) (Faith): I can't tell you how needed this record was when it came out in 1987. Straight-Edge bands like Minor Threat and 7 Seconds were preaching the good gospel to the kids, but MAN were they didactic and humorless. Then hard stance bands like Boston's Slapshot came along and advocated violent responses to non straight-edge behavior . Their obsession with hockey sticks was both funny and stupid on a grand scale. It was enough to drive you to drink, but then along came New Jersey's Crucial Youth to put it all in perspective by taking the rhetoric to its extremes with good-natured humor and excellent musicianship. When Joe Crucial called The Crew to arms by screaming the "Four Rules" - "Be straight/Don't be late/Bench your weight/Don't masturbate!", you knew from that point on you'd shave clean, put litter in its place, have a positive dental outlook, rewind your rental videos and be just like me and Mr. T. (drug free!). And, if you cursed, you were the worst.
I have no idea if these five guys drank, smoked or had sex, but they sure nailed the silliness that was and is part of straight-edge. Their follow-up album, The Posi-Machine, on milk-white vinyl, came with a twenty page cartoon booklet filled with advice on slam pit safety, scene violence, rules of common courtesy, and a helpful glossary of H/C terminology: ("Mosh" - A counterclockwise circle dance, done when the band slows down). Most Punk-related humor is lame. This is funny stuff. And the songs! "Keep Off The Grass", "Cross At The Green", "Scarlet M" (about masturbation), "4 Food Groups" ("MEAT - Gives you protein, makes you big and strong/GRAIN - instant energy, keeps you going all day long/VEGETABLES - full of vitamins, clean them off your plate/DAIRY - builds strong teeth and bones, drink it and you'll feel great!"), "Big Mouth" ("Can't shut my mouth/No matter how hard I try/Can't shut my mouth/With a trap two feet wide/Stand in my way/And I'll blow you aside/When I talk/You'll want to hide"), and my favorite, "Caffeine" ("Stay away from me when you are drinking your coffee/Stay away from me when you are drinking your tea/Stay away from me, now don't you harm me/When you are under the influence of caffeine/Caffeine - you don't need it/ - it's an excuse to get high/ - it keeps you up/ - it doesn't get you by/ - you say your dad uses it/ - you say it can't hurt me/ - but it has killed many/ - it's not gonna kill me")
They followed this up with the "Crucial Yule" 7", which contains a decent cover of Jonathan Richman's "I'm Straight" and a great oi rendition of Iron Cross' "X-Mastime For The Skins". The straight-edge humor was toned down and I can't say what became of Crucial Youth (at one point they did a punk radio show out of Jersey). From what I can tell they had the support of Minor Threat and was accepted by the SXE scene. Ten years ago Crucial Youth preached "Cross On The Green - For A Positive Scene". I've lived that philosophy, I shave clean, and I'm in The Crew for life. With the help of Crucial Youth I can honestly say that I'm (as I slam my forearms into the shape of an "X" in front of my face with fists tightly clenched) Hard... To The Core!!"
Crucial Youth - Singles Going Straight 1986-1991 (CD review) (New Red): The review above says most of the things I wanted to say here. New Red Archives, who quite often are just that, have re-issued their full-length LP The Posi Machine on both CD and vinyl, and have collected their singles (Straight and Loud, the best EP of '87), demos and live tracks onto this killer thirty-song mini-frisbee. There's no law that says you must own this, but to do so would be a personal favor to Mr. T and Woodsy Owl.
Crucial Youth were a loving yet laser sharp parody of the parody that called itself the 1980s straight edge scene. With their "Total Edge" philosophy that took stands against caffeine, littering, bad dental hygiene, cursing, facial hair, porn, not rewinding video tapes and not benching your weight, Joe Crucial, Gentlemen Jim and The Crew took their battle to the streets, or at least clubs within a reasonable distance from their homes in Holmdel, NJ. Their songs are funny and insightful on a few levels, and each time I put this on I laugh in different places because they mock the central cartoonish truths of the genre so well.
My epiphany about Crucial Youth is that a number of their songs are variations on a piece of old MTV theme music. The Crucial Yule EP was "learned, practiced and recorded" in one day, and it not only has a re-written Iron Cross ("Crucified For Your Sins") song you can play for your friends every year, Jonathan Richman's "I'm Straight" is also covered to surreal effect. The live tracks are great and the demos an answer to my personal dream of hearing my favorite CY tracks with even more hyperventilated vocals.
Hey, they've recently reformed to play shows in the northeast. I wonder how they've updated their show for the 21st century. Here's a link to some of the Crucial Youth comics that made every release a treasure trove of fun. http://www.newredarchives.com/bands/crucialyouth/
"These are 4 rules I find most important, you can find them important too, they are: Be Straight, Don't Be Late, Bench Your Weight, and please, for god's sake, don't masturbate!"
Crumbox- Resident Double U (CD review) (Timebomb): On the heels of tripping over their great single in the 49 cents bin at Lou's, I found this for 99 cents someplace else. It’s the buy of the year as far as I’m concerned. It’s excellent alterna-punk from these North Carolina/California musicians. The single reminded me of the Volcano Suns but the full-length recalls the first Soul Asylum album, Say What You Will…, produced by Bob Mould. It makes sense this is on Social Distortion's label since they swim in the same pond. A lot of this genre owes a debt to Neil Young, who took from folk, country and rock to create a personal signature that influenced a lot of bands right up to the great grunge debacle of a few years back. What I like most about Crumbox is their ability to take four chords and make them emotional and powerful. It's not often you find sincere melancholy in loud fast music. If you bath, own a few brain cells and aren't afraid to be a real person, you should like this. The rest of you can beg for cig & beer money on the street. A new album is coming out at the end of October. The promo says it'll be slower than the last one. That's a shame. The last thing the world needs is another emo band afraid of breaking a string.
Crumbox - "Resuscitation/Novacaine"(7" review) (Time Bomb): See, not all alternative music sucks! Lots of it does, but not this. The promo material makes a big deal about them being originally from North Carolina. What movement came out of there? Last time I looked, Athens GA was the next big thing. That tells you how old I am. That this came out on Time Bomb, essentially a punk label, may or may not mean something. Does Crumbox have a larger potential audience in the few open-mined punks out there than they would in your standard alterna-market? Maybe this isn't commercial in a top-40 sense, but these are two amazing songs with some of the best intricate guitar playing I've heard in years. I'm sure there's a number of bands who play in this genre, but the only band I can think of is the Volcano Suns. Crumbox has a subtle wall-of-noise guitar fuzz that lays a solid foundation for strong mid-paced drumming, and like I said before some of the best and emotive guitar work you'll find.
The roots of this isn't related to today's punk but the pre-punk guitar semantics of Television (improved upon here. Punks should buy this and listen to it alone, away from the idiocy of their punk priends. This 7" is great and it reflects qualities of punk that have been pushed aside by sarcasm, stupidity, aggression, childishness,and posing - the typical lowest common denominators that define most modern punk. Punk till death! Well, are you dead yet?
Crumbox - Map Of The Sky (CD review) (Time Bomb): The second release from these transplanted North Carolina alterna-rockers, while not as consistently forceful as Resident Double U, it’s still miles ahead of anything coming out in college-rock alternative. The roots of alternative were nurtured in the soil of new wave and planted with seeds from Neil Young, The Feelies and REM. You had your post-punk, which leaned toward pre-goth and alterna-funk, and alternative, which is based a lot more on southern rock than anyone might care to acknowledge.
Recent generations of alternative bands have either descended from the Husker Du-flavored grunge of emo (Jawbreaker taking the lead) or more jangly guitar psychedelic bands like Fountains of Wayne. I only mention this group because I saw them on TV the other night and they're as creative as the 1000 other bands signed before and after them.
Crumbox and the latest incarnation of Samiam have chosen a lonely yet intriguing path, combining alternative, emo and punk in ways that can only appeal to a small yet informed demographic. People are sheep and they like their entertainment in extremes - examples being the hyper-stupidity of crusty punk or the 120 beats per second crush of sex and death found in techo and industrial. It's probably best to call Crumbox an emo band because at least that audience has a measurable attention span and intellectual curiosity.
Map Of The Sky is a pretty good record. They have no chance of selling a lot of records because they're too good at what they do. Like I said, people like cartoon presentations of whatever trend Corporate America puts in front of their unblinking eyes.
The Crumbs - Alien Girl (7" review) (Recess): From (surprise) Fort Lauderdale, Florida comes The Crumbs, the best thing to happen to power pop since The Queers. Four songs here of great poppy pogo gogo music. It’s silly, Chuck Berry power chord that’s punk as hell, snotty yet sincere vocals and enough sing-alongs to give you major league laryngitis if you catch them live. An easy top 10 pick. Their full length just came out on Lookout Records. Muy bien!
The Crumbs - (CD review) (Lookout): The Crumbs have evolved into a hard rocking power punk band. Gone is the humor of the "Alien Girl" 7", replaced by a Stiff Little Fingers - Dead Boys sound that should kick the ass of those band’s fans. I like the funny Crumbs better. The lyrics on the cd are generic punk, and musically each tune blends into the next for most of the discs' 37:10 minutes. "Shakespeare" is or should be the single. The sustained level of power in each song is impressive, but seeing The Crumbs taking themselves so seriously is, to me, not a good sign.
Cub - Mauler (CD review) (Augogo): Cub is no more, and now me sad. They were together for five years and called it quits at the top of their game. Not that I get out much, but to know Cub is to love Cub. When I lived in Las Vegas I saw Cub play at a record store, and man did they own that town. And why not? They threw out prizes, laughed, sang, talked, and played excellent cuddle core. Sure, they made up that one themselves, but it fits. Lisa G. on drums, Lisa M. on bass and Robynn on guitar. Seemingly just enough talent to play their instruments, but there's real power and control too. Cub recorded sweet-natured bubblegum pop often delivered with bite and wit. Lisa Marr's vocals are sweet and inviting… most of the time, yet even her bitter songs are delivered without the posings of grrrl groups who try too hard to mirror the straight-edge bands in intensity.
This collection of single, compilation and unreleased tracks comes from Australia's Augogo label, and it's a gift. It's impossible not to dance like a teenybopper when "My Chinchilla" hits the jukebox. No song can go wrong with lyrics like "Satan sucks/but you're the best/Holy smokes/You passed the test/When I'm with you/I feel blessed/My Chinchilla". As their two contributions to the More Bounce To The Ounce compilation and the hidden tracks on the last two CDs prove, Cub were more than capable of hardcore.
Cub never ran Mint Records. Lisa M. answered letters for them and worked as their goodwill ambassador, but that's about it. She married a Muff, too. All in all, Cub are already legends. I super highly recommend this.
Cub - Box Of Hair (CD review) (Lookout/Mint Records): A seemingly non-punk band with a large punk following, on their third CD the Canadian cuddle-core wimmins stop playing Ms. Nice Guy and kick some punk rock booty. At times sounding like the Muffs vs. the Go-Go’s (when pushed they can even be the Anti-Scrunti Faction), here Cub explores the dark side of sweetness and melody hinted at on earlier releases. Cub is an amazing band. Everyone from Beat Happening to grrrl group fans have reason to love Cub. See them live if you can and bop till you drop, and if you're nice they'll toss out bubble gum and stickers.
Dag Nasty - Can I Say (LP review) (Dischord): Forming in 1985, Washington DC's Dag Nasty was Dischord's first foray into slickly produced post-hardcore punk. Can I Say combined the didactic preachiness of the local straight edge scene with the pop and studio mastery of their counterparts in Southern California. Dag Nasty was Minor Threat meets D.I. and the Adolescents. It’s aged well, but it’s obvious the album's technical and lyrical precision hit all known punk clichés, making it the work of a billion dollar supercomputer or space alien intervention. Or, that it was the result of the most comprehensive survey in DC punk history. This is almost too good if you know what I'm saying. Face To Face pulled the same trick years later but I caught on quick they were well researched and into it for the money.
Can I Say is a rare Dischord release from that time where you can understand every word singer Dave Smalley yelps. This is a spoken word album in comparison. Each song is a sermon on friendship and moral assuredness that hits a happy medium between violent SXE hysteria and obtuse emo self-pity. From "Under Your Influence" -"I get so mixed up/by the things you say/and the way you act/Too many times this has happened before/I always thought the wrong thing/I never gave you a second chance/Now it's happening all over again." There’s more tears than a twelve year old girl watching Titanic.
This album is totally original and totally contrived at the same time. How this can be is a tribute to my own schizophrenia and the nature of Can I Say.
The Damned - Grave Disorder (CD review) (Nitro): The latest Damned CD is very good. It's damned good! Heh heh heh... huh? I didn't expect it to be, or more like I had no idea what to expect from a band with so many career highs and lows. "New Rose" was the first punk single and the best UK punk song of all time, and while "Neat Neat Neat" and "Duchess" will always be personal favorites, I was turned off by Brian James' guitar wanking, especially live. The double layering of vocals also proved to be a distraction. I've seen a few early concert videos and man are they sloppy, and man does everyone endlessly wank while Dave Vanian looks around desperately for a mirror to check himself out. Captain Sensible gets naked, acid reflux burns my throat, and nobody wins. Then the Captain recorded "Wot" and a freaking song from South Pacific while Vanian had a puffy pirate shirt surgically attached to his body, all the while fuming over not getting royalties from the goth and new romance communities. Believe it or not, all this added up to an open mind as I put this on the player. Anything was possible.
Grave Disorder is eclectic, catchy, fun, and subtly funny. I don't think Dave Vanian is taking himself seriously here, and it works in his favor because if he did the joke would be on him. There's an inherent campiness to crooning that he's playing up, and only high school kids could take seriously lyrics like: "Come taste this lunacy / Be blinded by the green faerie / Creeping out of your glass / Into your mind / Then you can really see / I can take all of your fears / Transform the way you feel / Welcome to the spirit world / Where all your dreams are real". Listen to "Absinthe" as a campy off-Broadway stage number and you'll see how comfortable puffy shirt boy has become with the silliness of a genre he helped create.
Captain Sensible wrote most of Grave Disorder, and his "Democracy" opens the CD. It's a mature addition to the Nitro Records catalog. In other words, it's what fans of your average Nitro bands should and will most likely age into. Nitro caters to kids but also tries to slip them clues on what should come next once you've mastered being fifteen. The sing alongs are especially strong. "Song.com" is lyrically not what you'd expect from The Damned, being a simple commentary on internet geekdom, but the surf motif is brilliant. The Beach Boys vocal nods are channeled through XTC via the backup singing, and the guitar tunings are on the mark. "Thrill Kill" is slightly funky, slightly psychedelic, and brutally driving enough to still be great even though it's slightly funky and psychedelic. The drumming is nicely tinny and the lead guitar abrasively sharp. Dave's crooning in the Iggy Pop style. There's a bunch of uncredited movie audio samples mixed into the songs, and the one here is very effective.
"She" is slightly rockabilly and features some of Vanian's best crooning, especially at the close, where he manages to channel the ghost of Jim Morrison. "Lookin For Action" is revved up neo-New York Dolls thrash, and the most straight ahead song on what is a complex album. I don't know who the Captain is writing about in "Would You Be So Hot (If You Weren't Dead)", so make what you will of "Famously, you spoke of love philosophy / You're a hypocrite, your cruel lack of empathy is long forgot / Would you be so hot if you weren't dead?" Monty Oxy Moron providess a great Jools Holland riff on the piano. The ringing tower bells on "Amen" are an extra kick in what is an amazing display all around. The ghoulish choir is great and the audio samples work well. This is Vanian singing at his best.
"Neverland" starts off a little like the Ramones and then becomes a Byrds thing. What's the deal with the $20 Casio keyboard drum rhythm on "Till The End Of Time"? It’s a song for charming snakes. On "Obscene" The Damned open like the Moody Blues. Then on "W" all I can do is think of The Animal's "We've Got To Get Of This Place" as performed by The Dukes Of Stratosphere. "Beauty And The Beast" closes the CD and it's an encore piece where Oxy Moron plays a grand piano in the dark while a single spotlight shines on Vanian, melodramatic and David Bowie's worst Anthony Newly nightmare.
If The Phantom Of The Paradise ever gets remade, The Damned should record the soundtrack. Grave Disorder is an all around great record. There's nothing about it that's overdone or underdeveloped. Dumping Rat Scabies to get back The Captain (long story short) was the best career move Vanian ever made. Damned if you do, damned if you don't! . I kill me.... no, seriously, I'm suicidal. Help....!!!!!!
Dan Vapid And The Cheats - Self-Titled CD (review): Dan Vapid, he of Sludgeworth, Screeching Weasel, The Methadones, The Riverdales, The Queers (as guitarist), and Noise By Numbers finally decided to take direct credit for his talents and contributions by forming a band with his name in it. This is long overdue. Not as Daniel Schafer, his real one, but the one his parents still wish he didn't use. Danny Vapid flows better but who am I to argue with science?
Formed in the aftermath of the Weasel SXSW societal holocaust, Dan borrowed Weasel-y Riverdale bassist Simon Lamb and two members of his socio-political band The Methadones to create fifteen tracks that split almost evenly between Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales. What it lacks in the engaging discordant quality of Ben Weasel's singing it makes up for in solid hooks and a level of consistency that either indicates master writing skills or I may just be too deep in the tank for this brand of punk pop wall-of-noise numbnuttery.
"Girl Group" stands out not as my favorite track ("It Lives By Night") but as the most interesting and indicative of Vapid's capacity. It's straight-up pop-punk Doo Wop with intricate arrangement and flawless execution. I'll bet it knocked the socks off Dan's parents, who still do prefer he didn't call himself Vapid, a horrible word and they didn't raise him that way. As a Little Shop Of Horrors fanatic ("I never been to college and I ain't been around much, but I'd be willing to bet there ain't no such thing as a talking plant... but I'll take your word for it.") I think Vapid could write the music for a swell musical in his sleep. Who thought Danny Elfman from Oingo Boingo had it in him to rule Hollywood soundtracks the way Naked Raygun did the wasteland?
Self-Titled, by Dan Vapid And The Cheats. Type for it by name on the "internet".
Dancing French Liberals of '48 - "Spags"/"Scream Clown Scream" (7" review) (Broken Rekids/Revenge): Two songs I picked up for 49 cents and I can safely file this under "Bad Religion". A good set of tunes done with more maturity than most BR devotees. What an odd band name. Was "Steampipe Fitters Union Local 47" already taken? It’ pretty good all the same. I'm told these are the remaining members of a band called The Gits. I'm told a lot of things though.
Daredevils - Hate You/Rules, Hearts (7" review) (Sympathy): This is a very good yet very odd release. The sticker says, "With Brett Gurewitz Formerly Of Bad Religion". Mr. Brett is of course the man with punk's heaviest thesaurus, and he’s not afraid to hit you over the head with it. The cover art is a weird combo of trashy pulp fiction cartooning and standard tattoo parlor voodoo imagery. This pretentiousness is big now and also the bad seed cousin of Cocktail Nation, lounge muzak, cigar smoking trendiness. I was expecting another slab of pseudo- rockabilly like Joykiller, but instead these two songs are inspired by '70s pop bands like Cheap Trick, The Shoes and The Plimsouls. A few years back Rhino put out compilations of bands like these in their D.I.Y. series. "Hate You" sounds a lot like Bad Religion's "Atomic Garden" with a Cheap Trick feel. The lyrics are also lighter and less wordy than Bad Religion. They also leave out the political pedophilia. The B-side is pure pop - not power pop punk but straight-up pop music. I liked it a lot and wished I knew how to dance The Pony. The songs are great, but points off for a cover that has nothing to do with the music.
Darlington - Girltroversy (CD review) (Last Breath): If this sounded any more like Screeching Weasel Ben Foster would be forced to sue to protect his intellectual property. "Jodie Foster" is a ripoff of "Cindy's On Methadone". "Love" is a rip of "I'm Not In Love", and "Judy Jetson" rehashes "Compact Disc". I could go on. Check out these lines from "Bitch", "there's a girl named alison who sometimes goes to shows/ i know about 3 other guys in local bands she's blown/ she thinks I'm a creep and i think she's a creep/ and she thinks you're a creep/ and she'll never ever creepy crawl with me/ cause alison hates my guts..." You can't throw this into the Queers category because the lyrics and vocals are undiluted Screeching Weasel.
That being said, if you weep for the days of My Brain Hurts you should pick this up. Girltroversy might as well be recordings from an imaginary lost Screeching Weasel album from 1991. If you're not a loon for that sound you'll spit on Darlington for a lack of originality. There's no killer single material but these thirteen tracks are nice examples of Weasel album tracks. I only paid $1 for it used, so for the money it was well worth it. Still, if I wasn't such a fan of My Brain Hurts I'd be laughing at Darlington, not with them.
I sampled their next CD and it didn't sound as derivative as this. The CD cover has the three members dressed in black designer clothing and black hair greased in that disheveled look only a stylist can get right. The Hollywood alterna-rock star persona doesn't fit their sound, but maybe that's the hook, baby!
Dashboard Confessional - The Swiss Army Romance (CD review) (MCA): Based on the first listen, in the wrong place under the wrong circumstances, I sat down just now to rip this disc a third asshole. The only problem is, on my home stereo with good headphones, the strength and charm of the songs come through loud and clear. Chris Carraba is one talented kid.
Carraba sang with two emo bands I've never heard of, so good for him. He's now opening for major draws like Face To Face and Snapcase as a solo acoustic act, which is either intuitive counter-programming or a sad admission that deep inside all emo fans are sad-puppy folk rockers.
Unless he's spinning plates or something to keep my interest, I can't imagine the material coming across well live. Carraba plays two guitars on the CD, and the stereo separation is stunning. The backup singing is also pristine. Some of the tracks beg for a full band to fill out the sound, and there is some cheating to that end. Still, the songwriting and sound quality are both excellent. The energy lags towards the end, but so does my interest in the one man band format.
Dead Boys - Young Loud and Snotty (CD review) (Sire/Warner): I have mixed feelings about the Dead Boys. On one hand they were the best of the CBGB's Keith Richard's-worshipping rockers, and they recorded "Sonic Reducer", somewhere below The Damned's "New Rose" as best old punk song of all time. On the other hand they were junkie cretins who loved nazi regalia and brought blockhead violence to CB's, changing if not destroying the original scene.
A cult of personality exists around Stiv Bators, who later fronted the Lords Of The New Church and died in 1990 in an auto accident. It's probably the same crowd who worship GG Allin, Darby Crash and Sid Vicious for their self-destructive nihilism. It's a mindset that goes "He's a loser, I'm a loser, the world is full of losers, let's destroy because it's all a joke". It's what passes for deeper understanding in the idiot crowd.
Hailing from Cleveland, the Dead Boys relocated to New York and took over the scene with their strong songs and personal assholeishness. Young Loud and Snotty came out in 1977, followed by We Have Come From Your Children in 1978 and Night Of The Living Dead Boys in 1981 (live from a ‘79 show). There's also bootlegs. The Dead Boys were a punk band, not a hardcore band, so don't expect much locomotion beyond "Sonic Reducer". "Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth" is notorious for its blatant sexual content, and by the story of the night when a CBGB's waitress gave Stiv lip service on stage. I bet that was attractive!
Dead Kennedys (review)- Here's all you need to know about The Dead Kennedys: 1) They were punk hippies, 2) Jello Biafra is the Jerry Garcia of America's punk hippies, 3) Now he's the Lenny Bruce of spoken-word comic self-indulgence, 4) The DKs are America's answer to England's Crass, 5) Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables is the single best hardcore album, 6) With each subsequent release their music became more generic and boring until the DKs just stopped being ........ oh, like I need to explain all this? Did you miss the entire ‘80s?
1) Punk Hippies. What's a punk hippie? A pissed off anarchist who doesn’t bathe (which goes without saying). The Dead Kennedys were the first big American punk band to care, to fight The System, to expose advertising/ politics/religion as evil empires bent on complete control, blah blah blah, man. Just like hippies in the ‘60s. The DKs and hippies both come from San Francisco. Not that hippies are any more annoying than punks, skins, straight edgers, mods, or anybody else. The DK's exploitation of natural youthful rebellion and use of mixed media to attack the establishment came from hippie culture. For punk this was a good thing. 70’s American punk bands were mainly drunk and drugged rock bands. They didn't ask you to question authority or yourself (the way UK punk did), until hardcore came along. Minor Threat and 7 Seconds gave the kids straight edge as an alternative to high school peer pressures while the Dead Kennedys made the kids think about politics and corporate America. England's political and class systems were easy targets. When the Sex Pistols sang "God Save The Queen" every blockhead got the message loud and clear. America is a harder concept to grasp. There's more insidious conspiracy theory involved (refer to the Kennedy assassination), and nobody was more obsessed with conspiracy than Jello Biafra.
2&3) Jello=Jerry & Lenny. Jello Biafra is like Jerry Garcia. Both led their own hippie movements and were put on pedestals by their followers. Now that Jello releases spoken-word CDs he's a lot like Lenny Bruce, who at the end of his career ranted endlessly about his obscenity trial instead of telling jokes. Jello rants on stage about his obscenity trial instead of singing.
4) U.S. DKs=U.K. Crass. Both Crass and Jello's Alternative Tentacles label promoted other punk hippie bands and printed forests of political propaganda. Both were obsessed with right wing politics and their figurehead leaders - Ron Reagan and Margie Thatcher. Both also faded away along with their respective enemies.
5) Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables=Best Hardcore Punk LP. When this came out in 1980 it was the tightest, funniest and most political album ever to hit punk. In one package you had the speed and power of the Bad Brains, the either you get it or you don't sense of humor of The Meatmen, and the distorted four-chord lead guitar that defined early hardcore. East Bay Ray seamlessly alternated between walls of distorted surf chords and leads that often mimicked Jello's vocals. This ghost vocal is most evident on "Ill In The Head" and "Forward To Death". Songs like "Kill The Poor" and "Stealing People's Mail" are satirical and fully intended to piss off anyone who doesn't take the time to read past the lyrics. "I Kill Children" is simply cold and heartless, and while it may be no more than a character study, I bet it came back to haunt them years later during their costly obscenity trial. Jello's post-nasal drip lisp-singing was America's answer to Johnny Rotten's bitter and snide braying. The American anarchy/ hippie/ peace/ political punk thing started with the DKs and this record. Without bands and movements inspired by Fresh Fruit..., Maximum RocknRoll would be a quarterly pamphlet.
6) Quick Slide To Boredom and Oblivion. In a sense the Dead Kennedys shot their load on their first LP and ran mainly on fumes until their last in 1986. Their follow-up 12" was the eight-song In God We Trust, Inc. "Nazi Punks F--k Off" addressed, for the first time, violent blockheads within American punk who worked to physically destroy both the scene and any respectability it might achieve in the larger culture. "Religious Vomit" and "Moral Majority" have the requisite shock value, but musically the DKs became fast, generic and convoluted. Long gone is the originality of the first album, which still might have worked if the lyrics were simple and clear. Long gone too are clever lyrics, now replaced with political slogans and the esoteric crimes of capitalism (sample lyric: "It's the Kepone poisoning-Minamata"). Here's the lyrics to "Dog Bite" - "Dog bite/On my leg/Not right/Supposed to beg/Daily to the filling station/Underwater navigation/ Oh/Oh/Oh.." Huh?!? All you need to know about most DKs songs can be found in titles - "MTV Get Off The Air", "Stars and Stripes of Corruption", "Winnebago Warrior". Face it, "Too Drunk To F--k" was popular because of the song title. If you think it’s the best thing the DKs ever recorded, you're a dumb jock and should leave the room immediately.
Plastic Surgery Disasters is dull. Frankenchrist is more of the same and led to their costly obscenity trial regarding the H.R. Giger poster packed with each album. They eventually won that battle (I believe this opened the door for parental warning labeling), but what did they really win? The right to put pornographic art into music albums? I'm a man, and I have more than nothing against porn, but really, show some class. This was a battle they should have seen coming. The poster is called "Penis Landscape" for good reason. If you see censorship as a holy war between total repression and total freedom, only a zealot would side with repression, but there was no need to put this poster in the album except to start the trouble they got in spades. If someone showed this poster to my three year old niece I'd not only destroy the poster, I’d beat the living crap out of him. You see, freedom of expression is one thing. The right to "enlighten" my niece is another. With freedom comes responsibility, and when you stick your head in a lion’s mouth you might expect to have it ripped off.
Anyway, Bedtime For Democracy was the last Dead Kennedy's LP and it was a decent album in that they tried writing actual songs again. "Chickens--t Conformist" is a sequel to "Nazi Punks.." and nicely sums up the apathy and trendiness of the punk scene. This is Jello's admission that punk is a form of music and not a popular revolution. For the sake of closure Alternative Tentacles released Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death, a seventeen song collection of 7"s, lost tracks, and live material. "Pull My Strings" is a great live mockery of the Knack's "My Sharona" played in front of record industry executives. This one act of guerrilla theater probably accomplished more in 5:53 minutes than anything else they ever did. The enclosed lyric book is a history lesson on how early punk bands utilized collages of news photos, ads and media scraps as so-called terrorist attacks on culture and politics.
In the mid ‘80s a semi-official bootleg LP came out of a live 1982 show in Germany. The quality is great and the song selection comes mostly from the first two records. I've seen three videos of DK shows and I'm always struck by how, more than any other punk band live, most DKs songs sound alike. And how Jello babbles endlessly about who knows what while most of the crowd ignores him until the next song starts.
Jello Biafra was beaten up pretty badly a short while back by a Gilman Street numbnut who thought Jello was a rich rock star. Jello’s functionally insane but otherwise generally harmless. His injuries may be permanent, and I hope he's recovered as best he can. Punk has always been used as an excuse for idiot violence, and assaholics manage time and time again to ruin punk scenes wherever they may be.
The Dead Milkmen - Big Lizard In My Backyard, Eat Your Paisley!, Bucky Fellini, Beezelbubba (cd reviews): Yeah, 1985 was long enough ago to take a chance on actually listening to a few Dead Milkmen records. Whatever brand of tard silliness they were pushing on the MTV had no appeal to me. Having now listened to their once a year releases equaling four and sitting down to watch their videos I give them credit for being more clever than I remembered. I also take away credit for them throwing every stupid thing against the wall to see what sticks, producing a random mix MP3 experience that falls flat if the algorithm stars are not aligned correctly. Their greatest hits will more than suffice. I'll subject myself to this one more time at the gym and get back to you. In the meantime, try to do something only semi-pud related.
...and I'm back. The Dead Milkmen were in no way an original band and they settled for stupid waaay too often for their long-term reputation, but more than 50% of the time they got it right, and maybe just by default they're the standard bearers of junior edition funny punk. The seniors were owned by The Meatmen (don't throw The Mentors at me, but I might accept The Angry Samoans), whom the Milkmen pay tribute to on a live track called "Milkmen Stomp". Bands they emulated were Mojo Nixon, The Beastie Boys, Camper Van Beethoven, and oddly and repeatedly enough, the aforementioned Samoans, a plus with me at least. The Beastie Boys white funk thing I can always do without.
Let's go to the audiotape: 1985's debut Big Lizard In My Backyard (I make nothing from links but if I see you you owe me a drink) is crammed with 21 tracks, a third I'd jettison for da funk or just being too much of what they do with little payoff. Highlights are "Tiny Town", "V.F.W.", "Big Lizard" and "Nutrition".
1986's Eat Your Paisley! suffers from a repetitive drum scheme and lyrics that might be funny but they don't come across as such on vinyl. "Moron" is decent enough. The next year's Bucky Fellini finds the band remembering to write better material like "Going To Graceland", "Big Time Operator", and "Nitro Burning Funny Cars". It could stand to lose some so-unfunny-it's-still-not-funny tracks such as "The Badger Song" and "Jellyfish Heaven".
Musically Beelzebubba is their most ambitious effort, and not only does it sound great the album is strategically augmented by mandolin, horns and keyboards. "Punk Rock Girl" was huge for them and as a record to listen to front front to end this one is the most satisfying, following closely by Big Lizard In My Backyard.
With a little more quality control The Dead Milkmen might have been a classic band, and to you they might be, but I'm thinking most would agree they're stuck in their time and place, which isn't a bad thing per say, but maybe it wasn't such a great idea to make a video for "Smokin' Banana Peels", and maybe being a funny punk band on MTV isn't the kind of cheese that ages well for all people.
Dear Landlord - Dream Homes (cd review): Members of The Copyrights, Rivethead and Off With Their Heads got together in 2009 to record fourteen tracks of hard-hitting yellcore pop punk with "Whoa oh" sing-alongs galore. It's like The Copyrights but played at one level of intensity in a style that almost gets me where I want to go but not quite. Each song is ok but I can only skim through it. If you enjoy the occasional chugga-chugga guitar riff and a presentation that's tough and maybe sorta working class heroic you might enjoy this more than I did. Their adequataqaticism will serve them well during their current tour of Europe.
D Generation - self-titled (LP review) (self-released?): I find guitar-wanking glam rock n' roll that calls itself punk to be ten times more annoying than hair metal. Heavy Metal has nothing to do with what I listen to, and it exists on the level of a bad joke with no punchline. I've heard of this band in passing for years, and if I had a dime for every time I've been told Jesse Malin sang with Heart Attack, I'd have 60 cents to burn. Maybe they were all in punk bands and all their friends are punk. To call this punk would be stretching the definition way past my liking, but nobody cares what I think. I realize many of you have a KISS fetish and at gunpoint will admit to owning Van Halen albums. D Generation is so close to what most punks claim they laugh at that I'll use it as a poser test. Right up there with The Knack, Save Ferris and Joykiller.
At every turn there's integrated guitar wanking, as opposed to metal's penchant for earth-shattering solos that cry for a spotlight and enough time for all other band members to take a dump and read the funnies. I also haven't read lyrics so inane since Loverboy. "Stay out of sight/ I don't wanna fight/ Threw out the years/ Shut out the light/ Pawned all my dreams/ Heroes and schemes/ Sweet as it seems/ I'm gonna sit in this Hollywood hotel/ I watch TV and I'm still alive and well/ I don't care". It takes skill to write lyrics that say something and absolutely nothing at the same time.
D Generation covers Reagan Youth's "Degenerated" because they probably took their name from what may be the best NYC hardcore song. It's hard to ruin a classic but the wanking is once again annoying. I prefer the version from the movie Airheads. Ouch! If you like Hollywood glam rock you might think this is a great album. It may be. All I know is that I'm not nearly as impressed by their greatness as they are. Is this punk? If it is, then so is the sound of one hand clapping. Their last release was the labels' worst seller of all time. Ouch again!
Descendents – Cool To Be You (CD
Cool To Be You
came out 8-ish years after Everything Sucks, which arrived 9-esque years after
the one before it. Fronted by
The Descendents defined nerdy punk desperation from ‘81-‘86, setting the stage
for modern pop-punk long before Green Day.
was a nice all around surprise as music and nostalgia. Cool To Be You is
product. It’s nice to hear the classic sound, but as it’s not a strong record,
and it makes them a bit like the house guest who didn’t know when to leave.
Milo is in his 40s, and has he graduated from college yet, for Christ’s sake? In “Mass Nerder” he channels Timbuk 3’s 1986 embarrassment “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” with the lyrics “Gonna kick their asses in class/Gonna get good grades!" Cool To Be You starts off strong on the first two tracks but veers into maudlin middle age introspection and failed gimmicks old and new. “Blast Off” is a poopie joke with the punchline “Blast off at Cape Canaveral/All systems go!/Blast off at Cape Canaveral/4, 3, 2, 1, Blast off!” Another good coffee anthem would have fit the bill.
Then there’s “'Merican”, the Descendents’ stab at political commentary. It’s a Bad Religion song that sounds nothing like the Descendents but a whole lot like Bad Religion. Here’s the lyrics. Yeah, everything sucks so ape a far left political pedophile band. My take on Bad Religion is that a hardcore heroin addict should not tell anyone how they should lead their lives beyond cautionary tales of junk shooting. Milo’s life seems to be one dismal personal failure after another, so his world geopolitical views might also suck today.
I love the Descendents when they're the Descendents, but it's a limited menu. It's also nice to not wanna grow up, but the old days are loooooooooooong gone.
Descendents - Everything Sucks (CD review) (Epitaph): I meant to pick up the latest Descendents record, and damn it’s been five years already. At the time reviews obsessed over why Milo decided to sing again. Who cares? If some guys from All blackmailed Milo into coming back, and they're using the Descendents name to wring some extra bucks out of nostalgic wallets, whose business is that? How dare anyone tell a band they can't make money. Your typical fan lives off parental welfare and has no talent to exploit in the first place. Milo left in 1987 to pursue a professional career and the rest formed All. Reforming The Descendents isn't hypocrisy. Milo's singing and All + Milo = Descendents. There's nothing else to see here, move along now.
The only question in a case like this is if the songs any good. The answer here is yes, oh god yes. It recalls and updates everything that made The Descendents special. It's not a Descendents album without a homage to coffee consumption, and as I listen to "Coffee Mug" I look over to my shelf with the antique Descendents "Official Bonus Cup". Now I'm smiling smugly in your general direction. "Caught" has a slight Bad Religion feel to it. "I'm The One", "Rotting Out" and "I Won't Let Me" are stand-out tracks, filled with melody and heartfelt feeling.
There's no weak track to be had, an accomplishment indeed. Milo grew up, whether he wanted to or not, and Everything Sucks is exactly the record he and the band should have and did record.
D.I. - State Of Shock (cd review): I'll be the 1st, 3rd and 8th person to admit I don't know as much as I should about the trailing off period of many bands. The mid to late 1980's was one big trailing off period for punk and hardcore in general, with many running out of ideas or becoming possibly glorious punk-glam-metal hybrids with accompanying fashion adjustments along the lines of the later day Clash. I didn't like the trend and moved on. D.I. were an excellent punk band both hardcore and post-punk, giving their songs depth and range not usually associated with the genre. From a buying standpoint it didn't help they repackaged old material either to get it right or as filler, and the last album I bothered with was 1988's What Good Is Grief To A God, which sorely missed the extra 30% of inspiration and creativity it needed to make it worthwhile. Allmusic gave 1994's State Of Shock a glowing review so I picked up the re-issue with four bonus tracks, and while it strays from a pure D.I. sound it is very good and a testament to Casey Royer's enduring talent.
State Of Shock lacks a cohesive theme or sound and is overtly influenced by bands like Bad Religion and other SoCal bands I recognize. The originals lack the overt distinctiveness of Ancient Artifacts and Horse Bites Dog Cries but they cross the finish line of likeability through, if nothing else, determination and force of will. In other words, Casey was determined and his band obliged, unlike on the two prior studio albums. It has that extra 30%. D.I. is a great cover band (possibly punk's best) and their take on The Germ's "Lexicon Devil" is spirited and I also like how Casey enunciates each word clearly. He prefaces the song with the words "Chase The Dragon", which is something literary as he was arrested in March of 2011 for overdosing on heroin while watching television with his 12 year old son. That reminds me, tomorrow's Father's Day!
The bonus tracks are raw, excellent, and probably from a more hardcore past. State Of Shock lacks a classic original single but it fits in nicely with the album tracks of their best albums and as a package is worth picking up.
The Dickies - Still Got Live, Even If You Don't Want It (CD review) (ROIR): I've never called a band "seminal", probably because my dictionary's only definition is as follows, "adj. Of, relating to, or containing semen." In the case of the Dickies I'll make an exception. Lead singer Leonard Graves Phillips and his faithful penis Stewart would have you believe The Dickies are a one-note band, that note being in the key of jizz. The real meat of The Dickies is the junk culture of TV cartoons and giddy cover versions of songs from Simon & Garfunkel to Black Sabbath. Punk's first cover band, The Dickies took the three-chord attack of the Ramones and turned it into a Vaudeville review, complete with prosthetics, costumes and props. They also wrote a fair share of originals, my favorites being "Manny, Moe & Jack", a tribute to an auto parts stores, "Fan Mail" and "Attack Of The Mole Men". You could say they were a one-joke band, but The Dickies built on it long and well enough to accumulate a greatest hits album worthy of any punk time capsule. As a live act they never fail to entertain. Who could resist Leonard attaching a three-foot prosthetic penis to his arm and yelling, in response to the lyric "If Stewart could talk, what would he say?", "AAAAhhhhh, I only have one eye!!!!!!"
ROIR, the twenty year old label that until recently only released cassettes, is now pressing its top sellers on CD for a new generation that sees cassettes as the next 8-Track tape. This is as good a time as any since old-is-new-again is still the latest fad. This collection of Dickies rarities, both live and in demo form, first appeared in 1986 as We Aren't The World. It's archival in that the sound quality is what you'd expect from cassettes, a medium that earned its reputation for muddy sound quality. In the ‘80s, and it may still be true now, you could take any pre-recorded cassette, re-record over it, and the sound quality would be twice as good. Label founder Neil Cooper signed sperminal bands of the day for material that generally lacked the sound quality expected from vinyl. ROIR's catalog includes the first Bad Brains release, MC5 rarities, no wave bands, The Dictators, Christian Death, G.G. Allin, and the Skatalites. ROIR is a great indie label with a great story to tell. Visit their web site at www.roir-usa.com
The liner notes for Still Got Live... were written in a funny mock-antagonistic style by Lisa Fancher. She writes, "I have it on good authority that The Dickies were a Jazz-Blues Rock Fusion band known as 'Jerry's Kids' playing a residency at the Baked Potato in Encino. They only shaved to cash in on punk in '77 after seeing the wad The Damned took home after playing the Starwood. 'The Dickies' got signed six months later and were cranking out silly colored 45's in no time." So The Dickies played something besides punk before punk broke. Who didn't? Joey Ramone was in a glam band before the Ramones. The Stranglers were pub rockers before they hopped the punk bandwagon to fame and fortune. The Dickies were a part of L.A.'s original scene, playing the Masque and other tiny dives. Every modern snotty punk band with a purported sense of humor owes their lunch money to The Dickies. Yeah.
On the CD you get their initial four-song demo from Nov. '77, six tracks from Nov. '78, three from '80, eight live ones from '82, three '85 tracks recorded at CBGB's, and a lone '82 live recording of the "Banana Splits" theme. This is a great collection for Dickies fans. If you've never heard The Dickies, first pick up Great Dictations, then run around from there. The definitive live set is Locked 'n' Loaded on Taang! Still Got Live, Even If You Don't Want It, closes the books on the greatest band to ever sing a love song about Los Angeles TV reporter Tricia Toyota.
The Dickies - All This And Puppet Stew (CD review) (Fat): What a great record this is, their first collection of originals since 1995's Idjit Savant. In the meantime it seems Leonard Graves Phillips, Stan Lee and Co. have been taking notes from the power pop punk community, because this new one is focused like a laser on creating and maintaining energy, and it's everything you know, love and expect from The Dickies of legend. Missing are the campy side trips into non-punk covers (The theme from Hair played slow and cute? No thank you).
Formed in 1977, The Dickies are the California funhouse mirror image of The Ramones. While always a great originals band, they made their mark with a series of picture sleeve single cover songs, the Moody Blues to Black Sabbath all given a run through the Banana Splits ringer-o-fun. The quintessential punk novelty act, they were always reliable for great live shows and a catalog of winners to choose from. The ‘80s and ‘90s were average years for the Dicksters, with albums containing a few good songs surrounded by album tracks.
2001 found The Dickies on Fat Wreck Chords, fantastic because they heavily market their bands to the kids with allowance money and nothing better to do with it. "See My Way" opens with and relapses into a mono guitar bit sung in a voice like John Lennon. In between it blasts into something akin to hard-edged emo channeling the ghost of 1978 Dickies. What an amazing tune- melodic yet also pummeling. On "Keep Watchin' The Sky" it hits me the guitars are playing into each other like Leatherface, or a band like Four Letter Words produced by Frankie Stubbs. There's a renewed energy and purpose at work here with the Dickies, and it's great for them, you and me. No matter what, The Dickies' signatures stand tall, from Leonard's patented voice to the high backup singing and funhouse tinges. "Free Willy" was released as a single earlier in the year. "Donut Man" has a Sloppy Seconds feel, but the melody and harmonies are heavenly. "Mary Ann" just rules. It's one of their best ever. "My Pop The Cop" was on a Fat compilation. A Dickies fan stuck in the ‘70s might consider this the best song on the album, but while it fits in nicely with their old catalog, it's not the best on All This And Puppet Stew.
All This And Puppet Stew is a great step forward without compromising anything The Dickies are known and loved for. I really, really like this one, and on a number of levels it’s an amazing accomplishment. This is a much better record than anyone could have expected.
The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy (LP review) (Epic): The mighty Dictators were in the right place at the wrong time – New York City after the MC5 and The Stooges, but a little bit before the CBGBs scene that defined the mid-to-late 70’s NY punk scene. They were around during the CBs scene but an incident where Wayne/Jayne Country smashed Handsome Dick Manitoba over the head with a mike stand didn’t do anything for their reputation with the established Bowery aristocracy. Formed in 1974 by Richard Meltzer, Andy (Adny) Shernoff (who wrote most of their material) and uncoordinated roadie-turned singer Handsome Dick Manitoba, the Dictators had idiot fun with garage and psychedelic hard rock. Their love of junk culture inspired Legs McNeil to start one of the earliest punk zines (oddly enough called Punk), directly inspired the Ramones, and was the Angry Samoans reason for being. They never made it big because it wasn’t their time. Within the last few years the Dictators reformed for new studio work and a tour.
Between ‘75 and ’78, when they broke up, The Dictators released three studio albums, Go Girl Crazy acknowledged as their best. Although Shernoff claims The Who was their major influence, it’s easy to pick out MC5 and Kinks influences. Humor and intelligence is there in spades if you’re in on the joke. They cover both "California Sun" and Sonny and Cher’s "I Got You Babe". "Teengenerate" was adopted as a band name by, uh, Teengenerate. Go Girl Crazy is better than anything the MC5 recorded, I’ll tell you that much, and you have to love any band that sings "I think Lou Reed is a creep", which he was.
Keep in mind, this is proto-punk. It’s the fun and funny garage hard rock that came before punk. What do you get when you combine Richard Nixon with a potato? A Dick-tater!!! Hey, is this internet on?
Dillinger Four - This S--t Is Genius: A Collection Of Assorted Songs From 1994-1997 (CD review) (THD Records): While waiting outside a local record store's annual 50% off sale, I met someone wearing a Dillinger Four t-shirt. His eyes rolled in his head like a slot machine as he gushed about the greatness of D4. He told me of the sub-genre Screamo, a word that to this day still tickles my tummy. D4 aren't screamo (giggle), but they are an interesting mixture of things I like and don't like.
D4 formed in 1984 and released the excellent Higher Aspirations: Tempered and Dismantled EP. Until ‘98 they appeared on various compilations before hooking up with Hopeless Records, a professional label if there ever was one and the best choice all around for D4's chances of success and happiness. This S--t Is Genius is a compilation of their non-album work. The songs are varied, intricate, well played, mature and insightful (when not deliberately childish). Dillinger Four remind me a lot of The Bollweevils, even if just by approach. Their debut contains songs with titles like "Supermodels Don't Drink Colt .45" and "Mosh For Jesus". Did D4 grow younger and more stupid over time? I don't own that record.
Within any given D4 song I find things I like and don't like. I'm not a fan of the NOFX chugga-chugga guitar style, and it’s here on and off. That's the modern sound you hear in many bands, and the world's passed me by in that regard. Besides that, I hear a healthy amount of inspired emo phase-shifting. If these songs are in chronological order, it shows their early work as mature, moving towards immaturity. It's not every day I come across a band that combines elements of The Parasites, The Dropkick Murphys, screamo (woopie snort!) and 4,000 similar sounding kiddie punk bands. There's a cute acoustic guitar recording at the end of track 10 of a band member singing to a small child, who chatters away and then seemingly sings in perfect non-sequitur harmony "let's go outside, let's go outside". I ran straight for my old lo-fi Meatjoy album, filled with such treasures.
If not for the chugga chugga guitar work, which hits me as negatively as a disco whistle, I'd have to say Dillinger Four would be one of my favorite bands. I do heartily recommend it as a next step up the evolutionary ladder for every mall-hanging numbnut with a Fat Wreck Chords sticker on their skateboard and blue crap burned into their hair. It’s definitely better than what most kids are freaking out over these days. Here's a blurb from the band's bio. There's a fine line between stupid and genius:
"We formed in 1994 as the Ted Kennedys, the only reason we changed the name is because we eat s--t. Chris Farley was a genius, and we miss him more than we miss Elvis Presley because Fat Elvis didn't make us laugh. At least not on purpose. Dellinger Four usually goes on tour a couple of times a year so we can lose tons of money in the name of D.I.Y. ethics while earning "street cred" we can eventually cash in on with the inevitable major label release, done in the name of artistic freedom, and the accompanying video aired on 120 MINUTES while we casually chat with Matt Pinfield about who played the skinflute on Journey's second album or some s--t".
The Dils - Class War (CD review) (Bacchus): The legendary Dils only recorded eight studio tracks from '77-'80, but they tore up the California scene and earned a great reputation as a live band. Three singles and a few live tapes remain. Class War contains the first single from 1977, "I Hate The Rich"/"You're Not Blank", and ten live tracks from 1980. The live songs sound like crapola, but they do diagram how the Dils evolved from neo-socialist thrashers to Everly Brothers/Carl Perkins fetishists. Brothers Chip and Tony Kinman employed a series of drummers, most notably ex-Nun Alejandro Escovedo. Their last stickman went by the name of Zippy Pinhead.
Lost Records compiled all the studio tracks on one disc in 1990. I wish I had that one. The live "Mr. Big" here doesn't cut it. "I Hate The Rich" was a rare political track from the famously uninvolved early LA scene. The Dils are called a socialist band, but who can say. The Kinmans could have been taking stands to make a punky musical point. Maybe the words sounded cool. They ditched the propaganda like a leaky diaper to become country and western new wavers Rank and File.
The New York Rocker magazine noted upon their demise in 1980 that "The Dils were the best rock n' roll band ever to emerge from the West Coast new wave, and probably one of the best rock n' roll bands America produced in the 1970s. In their flat, twangy vocals, I heard echoes of Hank Williams, Carl Perkins, and George Jones; in their slashing, slightly ragged instrumental sound, traces of every great American garage band since Elvis, Scotty and Bill."
"I Hate The Rich" came out in ‘77, at the very beginning of a SoCal scene celebrated for their dedication and derided for their sloppiness. The Dils were tight, fast and furious in a fashion that made them more mature and respected than their peers. I'd give the recently released Class War a pass in favor of seeking out the studio compilation. Great band though.
Dimestore Haloes - Hate My Generation (7" review) (Junk): From Cambridge, MA, the Haloes play bass driven old UK Subs & CBGBs brand punk. The guitars alternate between fuzz and short, interesting note progressions. The guitars are definitely down in the mix, though. The seemingly uncredited drummer ("Still seek a permanent drummer!") and bass player pull most of the load. They look '77 but sound too rockin' for Boot Boys. "Hate My Generation" is fast, sloppy and makes me want to run and dance at the same time. "Slow Suicide" is a fast, heartfelt crooner for all you sentimental rooster heads. The cover art doesn't match the music. It says Crass while the music fun. A special note to Lou Carus of Junk Records: why did this EP make me reach for my old Jetsons 7" ?
Ding - it is "97% genuine," your feeling of being watched (LP review) (Chumpire): At first I thought this record was recorded at normal speed and then sped up artificially to make it seem like my turntable was off-kilter. Then I thought it was a shame some really nice melodies were intentionally being lost in random exercises in abrasive noise. Now it's grown on me and I can see a lot of inspired weirdness in what Ding was doing. At various times they evoke Beefeater, The Hated, The Minutemen and other bands who possessed a deep understanding of music structure, which they then stretched and mutilated with caustically pleasing results. The thirteen songs fly by, especially at 45 rpms, and this could have been either a 10" (a cumbersome oddity) or a densely populated 7". It’s creative stuff and not for the weak of ear. Some of the songs qualify as thrash emo, a genre I like as long as it doesn't devolve into metal. I wish the singer sang a little more instead of just screaming. I also want the people in the next apartment to stop being so loud when they do their naked pushups. I know what they look like and this soundtrack makes for disturbing mental images. A pog fell out of this record when I opened it. I done killed it good.
The Dips--ts - Holiday Drunk Fest (7" review) (Junk): I think it's now safe to say there's an entire sub-genre you can call Degenerate Drunk Punk, Drunk Punk, or CBGBs Junkie Revival. And Junk's signed most of 'em! The antecedents are The NY Dolls, The Heartbreakers, The Dictators, The Dead Boys and Iggy & The Stooges. The Dips--ts 7" was a one-off weekend project involving members of Cincinnati's The Slobs and Larry May of The Candy Snatchers. Recorded in a basement (the quality is quite good), these songs were recorded under the influence of al-kee-haul. The two originals were written and recorded in two hours. "Wimp" is a Zeros cover and "Kill Yourself" from The Lewd, a legendary band only seven people have ever actually listened to. Engineered by "Pissen Drunk" and produced by "I.M. Neebriated” That said and done, this is muy bien and you get four songs for your bucks. I hate 7"s with just two songs. It's not worth the effort of getting up every three minutes. I'm not running a teenage dance party here!
The Disasters - self-titled CD (review) (SMC Recordings): This collection is great and a nice change of pace from all the self-important records that come out under the banner of retro-NYC bar punk. There's an almost unrehearsed quality I later found out is due to it being recorded live in the studio on the first take. This should have been noted on the CD somewhere - it puts the CD's raw quality into context and it just takes guts to commit to doing it once and going with it no matter what. Another thing I like about these fourteen songs is that they're tough and fun. None of this "punker than your mother" crap. All the band members add background vocals and the effect is like being at a drunken party where the guests join in and laugh their asses off. Very cool.
The Disasters list amongst their influences The Vibrators, 999, The Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Godfathers and The Pogues. The more I listen to this the more I can see the influences are correct. I also detected a chunky Who riff ("Are There Any Real Punks Left?"), early Wipers (in "Rock And Roll Life"), The Speedies and a slight British inflection that's somehow not pretentious. The best quality of the CD though is still that they have fun with the material without being pompous and silly.
Not a major motion picture by any means but a great addition to the collection of anyone who knows their punk rock history.
Discount - All Too Often (7" review) (Mighty Idy): It’s another in a series of rocking pop punk bands fronted by a strong female singer that I've encountered recently. The world needs more bands like this to add class to what's for the most part a boy's club of pissed off rich kids. Out of Vero Beach, Florida, this four-song 7" contains good yet standard material fronted by strong singing that I fear might suffer from over-repetition of vocal phrasing. What the hell does that mean? It means she has a distinctive voice that repeats itself too often. It's a higher standard I set for better singers. Yeah?, well same to you buddy!
The Ditch Bank Okies - Honk If You're Elvis (CD review) (Road Apple): What I don't know about this band could fill an entire book (if not two), but just by the band name, CD title, and songs like "Daisy Duke", "Cowboy Dan", and "Idaho", I'd guess they're from California and and play funny punk. Hey, I was right! Think of The Supersuckers if they were on Fat Wreck Chords and that's what The Ditch Bank Okies sound like. I'm sure they're great live and a nice change of pace from your average lame-o HC- forever bands that infest every four-band slam-fest. Not bad, but for the real deal pick up Nine Pound Hammer's incredible Hayseed Timebomb.
D.O.A. - War On 45 (12" EP review) (Alternative Tentacles): "March Into The 80's" with Vancouver's punk veterans, still puttering around after twenty years. Joey S--thead must be like a 102 years old by now. He's busier than ever with his own label that's signing up bands faster than Leonardo DiCaprio puts on weight.
D.O.A. recorded more bad metal-punk than I'd like to admit, but their early material is classic. Early D.O.A. is like Blitz and the Anti-Nowhere League, with a hightened sense of humor and irony. What makes this eight-song EP stand out is the diversity of covering the funk classic "War" as a punk song without losing the feel of the original, and the dub "War In The East" recorded with ‘70s Reggae artist Ranking Trevor that's as good as anything Joe Strummer wrote for The Clash. Along with the fun is the usual dose of politics as seen in "America The Beautiful" and a cover of the Dil's "Class War". There’s nice diversity in a genre not known for it. On the back cover appears the slogan "Talk minus Action = 0". Upon first seeing this I remember leaving my house and smashing the state, baby!! I might have littered or something. That’ll teach ‘em!
The cartoon concept cover of War On 45 makes this a highly sought collectible. The art by Shawn Kerri is a cross between Bill Griffith's "Zippy" and Will Eisner's "The Spirit". Too bad they don't make cheap frames any more for record covers. Like, dude, I'd put this up in my foyer!
D.O.A. - Northern Avenger (CD review: I've heard it on good authority that Joe "Poopiedhead" Keithley, CEO and bottle-washer of Canadian punk legends D.O.A., is a great guy to deal with. Keithly also runs the Sudden Death record label, and portrayed "Guy in Group #2 in a 1990 episode of "Wiseguy". I have a lot of ground to cover, so I'll write a lot and probably not back it up with points of evidence.
2008's Northern Avenger was a thirty-year benchmark in a career that's seen only one original member, Mr. Poopiehead. On some levels it's decent and well produced by former Payolas frontman Bob Rock, but a few times it sounds like a parody of D.O.A. specifically and all political punk in general. Like everyone else from my generation I own their early comp., Bloodied But Unbowed, and the neat-o cartoon-covered War On 45. By 1984, second wave UK punk bands shot their wad and more than a few descended into heavy metal hell. My attention span pivoted as hardcore rose up to rule the day. D.O.A., even though they're from Vancouver, were a UK punk band. Joey even sang with a British accent, which I'll say little about because in college I more than once pretended to have a British accent. I also got out a moving violation ticket in DC by faking a generic European accent. I talked so fast and was so apologetic the cop rolled his eyes and told me to just go away, thinking I was the son of an embassy worker, a pile of poop no cop wants to step in. In 2008, Joey's growling like Tesco Vee, which immediately makes me think of comedy, because that's our Tesco!
Northern Avenger opens with "Human Bomb", and as an opener it makes a statement, which is "Hot Rockin' Tonight!" and the threat of being a human bomb that's gonna explode! So you know what you gotta do when faced by a human bomb. Get out da way! It's Tesco Vee's Hate Police without the degenerate charm. Thirty years ago they also wrote some Hot Rockin' Tonight! tunes, but that was when we were all young, dumb, and full of fun, and nobody noticed. "Golden State" is a winning travelogue of Joey's most familiar place in the lower forty-eight. "Devil's Speedway" seems to be about NASCAR and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., which I thought would be against everything Mr. Talk Minus Action = Zero stands for. It's been thirty years and all he can do is keep the faith. No, Keep The Faith was an album by The Business, the 1979+ Oi band that's sold out to its lowest common denominator since the turn of the century. On the other end of the spectrum is Cock Sparrer, whose thirty-four year statement, Here We Stand, is punk's most accomplished that was then - this is now collection. Northern Avenger shows D.O.A. to be not in the middle of Sparrer and The Business, but a third closer to the latter. Why? Let's continue.
"Poor Poor Boy" is a nice ska song, a genre they explored with great success on 2004's Live Free Or Die. It has horns, keyboards and stuff. "Donnybrook" is Tesco singing a light song about hockey violence, thematically taken from his friends The Hanson Brothers and made his own. I like it. Ok, here's some red meat. "Police Brutality" is beyond parody. Like an e-buddy once wrote, "who's for police brutality?" Why does every political punk band and their cousin sing about it? I get it, authority is wrong and the state keeps the people down. Punk is a middle-class affectation, so when they sing about the downtrodden I can only ask for their reading lists on the subject. The DC kids were smart enough to not go down that road, considering their prep-school roots. Barring true acts of police malfeasance, punks go out of their way to look for trouble, so when they find it from the police or anyone else I have no pity for them. This partly derives from my years working concert security. Assholes beg to be taken down a notch or twelve. Does punk make people assholes or do assholes gravitate to punk as an excuse? I've seen waaaaay too much of the latter. I did a spit-take of an imaginary beverage when Joey sings "We can only take so much, before we call, we call their bluff." Who's "we" Joey, you and the real lower classes who know you're a former law student slumming in a musical ghetto? The punk kids from the burbs? I know where my money's going on that one. Joey's a follower of sheltered intellectual coward Noam Chomsky, whose defense of Pol Pot and all Stalinist fascism is well documented. No MLKs, Ghandis or Dalai Lamas come from Crapsky's utopias because they're turned into hamburger at their first chirps for freedoms, rights and escape from police brutality as open state policy. Another thing. It's Joey's job to sing about how America sucks. Fine, we suck. This from a man whose country's peace and prosperity comes exclusively from being America's frozen suburb. Canada is a fine country but it's also one big hippie. Have fun and be cute, but don't complain too much about those who make your delusions of a perfect world possible. If Canada was 3,000 miles to the east it would be called The Former Republic Of Canadistan.
"Mountains That We Climbed" is another Hot Rockin' Tonight! anthem. It's the cd's stab at introspection, but while thirty years may have been lived all that's been learned is that nothing's changed, I guess. "This Machine Kills Fascists" is a subdued roots-rock thing with Joey singing in a slurred voice, probably sideways into the microphone. It's a nice ditty that clocks in at 1:05. "How Long Till The Day" is them being Street Punk. It's not bad but rote, like most of this cd, either by design or default. "Set Them Free" is bluesy as played by a ska band not playing ska. It's professional and easy on the ears. CCR's "Who'll Stop The Rain" must have some hippie significance in the post-modern age. It must be fun to play live. "Still A Punk" is second only to "Police Brutality" in the categories of pandering and lowest-common denominator. Physics has already proven that only Iggy Pop can sing he's a punk rocker (yes you am). Only punks sing about being what the name of their genre is the way religious people do God. The rule is that if you have to say you're something, you're not really that thing. D.O.A. has been around over thirty years and still have to claim they're punk? It's a shame because the music itself is nice on this one.
"Last Chance" is a great rocker, with nice guitar interplay. "California Hardcore Last Chance" is a variation on the one before it, probably something Joey came up with on tour in California. "Crossfire" closes the disc as it opened it, with Hot Rockin' Tonight! and by being simultaneously descriptive and non-committal. It's a statement of something but there's no conviction to the lyrics. Northern Avenger has high and low points, with great production values. It would have been nice if Joey actually learned something new over those thirty years, or at least expressed something new.
Doggy Style - Work As One (7" review) (Mystic): Yo yo, Brad Daddy X from the Kottonmouth Kings wuz in tha' house with his Humble Gods homie cheese Lou Gaez in an OC punk band called Doggy Style. That was back in 1985, when (c)rap-metal never existed and there was still hope for the future.
Doggy Style were silly and fun, at least on this six-song EP and their Flipside album Side By Side. Their later records aren't that interesting. Mystic Records put out a lot of great product from Southern California, a weird situation because Doug Moody was infamous for ripping off bands and running a sloppy operation. Doggy Style only did this one 7" with Mystic because they hated the sound quality and were pissed that half the records were packaged without a lyrics sheet. Mine doesn't have one - that bastard Moody!
Doggy Style was mostly a party band for the guys in the band and their friends at live shows. They dressed in costumes and a few times ended their shows nude. "Donut Shop Rock" involved the "donut hop" dance and a food fight with hundreds of stale Winchel's donuts. The donut hop was secondary to the mandatory conga-line "Do The Doggy Style" dry-hump marathon. They did write some serious OC hardcore like "Be Strong" and "Support & Belief", but the local numbnuts held it against Doggy Style that boys just want to have fun ("Nymphomaniac"). The style is similar to D.I. and The Adolescents, with only "Emotions" giving a hint towards the funkier sound they would later adopt.
Work As One is a good record and a nice nugget from the mid ‘80s California scene. It’s worth it along just for "Donut Shop Rock". If you look at the band member pictures on the back you can pretty much see where Crucial Youth derived their own humorous look.
The Donnas (CD review) (Lookout!): These gals are a record store geeks' #1 wet dream. Four geeky jailbait juvenile delinquent chicks in a garage band who pay homage to both The Runaways and The Ramones. I'm sure the fact that they sing like twelve year olds only adds that much force to their self-serve beef jerky daydreams. On the heels of the success of their last CD, American Teenage Rock N Roll Machine, comes this repackaging of their earlier recordings on the Super Teem label. These 23 tunes (clocking in at 41:15) are loyal to the Ramones aesthetic of three chords and a demented approach to dance pop. The tough-chick lyrics may remind you of The Runaways, but their explicitness points to an affectation of cheapie JD flicks from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Most of the song titles are tributes to the Brudders from Queens. "Do You Wanna", "Let's Go", and especially "I Don't Want To" are copyrighted. They substitute Taco Bell for Burger King, have a thing for Cheeba cigarettes, and do their own chant of "Gimme Gimme".
The music itself is raw but not as sloppy as it first seems. There's some of the old Ramones magic here of hiding originality within simple song structures. The Donnas were a young teenage rock band whose Svengali-like manager imposed on them the formula of their subsequent success. They've done a great job assimilating the Ramones' sound while keeping to their garage band roots. The Donnas is a nice change from the endless stream of professional pPunk bands who mine the same territory. It reminds me a lot of The Queers' A Day Late And A Dollar Short CD in that it shows that bands can move from the garage to the big time by evolving while not selling out. Gimme Gimme.
The Donnas - American Teenage Rock 'N' Roll Machine (CD review) (Lookout): Yeesh do these four young women have The Runaways look down to a science. They formed while in high school and if they've graduated by now they sure don't look it on the cover. If they're legal I must be 105 years old. The sound is Ramones meets The Runaways, a change from a cleaner Ramones sound of the past. The Ramones are still a big influence, but a 70's bad-girl pop rock feel makes this an obvious favorite for record store geeks and retro trendies alike. Donna A. can't sing but her D.I.Y. yells fit their image well. This took some getting used to but I think it's funny as hell and catchy too. I'm not into 70's dirtball rock so to me the lyrics are just dumb, but I do like the Ramones riffs and the occasional nod to Redd Kross. And in case "Checkin' It Out" sounds familiar, they're borrowing big-time from Elton John's "Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting".
The Dragons - Fade (7" review) (Outer Universe Research): This band comes highly recommended and whispers on the street say The Dragons are going to be the next big thing. This 7" is interesting, very good, and a breath of fresh air for punk, a genre that gets more stagnant with each sound-alike band. The Dragons sound a little like the Rolling Stones, a little like a mid ‘70s supergroup, a little southern rock, and a little Replacements. They're more like a rock group that plays punk power chords. The A-side, "Fade", starts with the great line "I'd rather trip than slow down" and the power-chord guitar work can only be described as melancholy. It’s beautiful. The B side is a Stone's song, "Star Star", which combines R&B with a slightly southern rock guitar feel that improves on the original. There's something very mid 70's about The Dragons, yet they have a quality that will appeal to the punk/hardcore crowd. To do this you must be great. I think The Dragons are the band to watch in 1997. I've only heard these two songs, but something says they have the formula down pat. Hey, where can I find their CD?
The Dragons - Cheers To Me (CD review) (Junk): The Dragons are a complex band, drawing from influences that include The Rolling Stones, The Heartbreakers, The NY Dolls and Hanoi Rocks. San Diego's best local band, The Dragons' sound doesn't go for easy identification but works well on a few levels. Like Steve writes in the liner notes, "and a big middle finger to everyone who tried to put us down 'cause they just didn't get it." It's easy to cater to The Kids or exist only to be the loudest or fastest. The Dragons have a sound they work on with a passion, and a lot of drinking, and if you get it they're among the best working today. If you don't get it it's just not your thing. My only complaint is a tendency to throw in stadium-sized rock riffs when a power chord or two will do. I bring this up because The Dragons greatest strengths are Mario Escovedo's emotive singing and Ken Horne's equally expressive guitar-chord work. I'm not a fan of lead guitar heroics of any type, so take my slant with a grain of salt. Mario can sing ballads at punk speed. A gift from gosh.
The cover pic is a great shot of an old corner bar boozer. His thanks in the liner notes read: "To Perry Trout, whose drinking and dedication made this cover possible by showing up at the Ken Club for his morning cocktail". Word has it Mr. Trout was compensated with enough drinks to transport him into booze heaven until noon. Mario Escovedo's brother Pete played with Santana, Alejandro was in the Nuns, True Believers and Rank and File, while Javier was in the Zeros, Sacred Hearts and True Believers. They’re a punk Jackson family.
The Dragons - R.L.F. (CD review) (Junk): San Diego's finest finally hit the big time. R.L.F., code for "Rock Like F--k", is going to wind up on a lot of "Best Of" lists. With R.L.F. The Dragons have pushed aside slogan based lyrics in favor of a sonic attack that captures the emotion and power of past classics "Fade" and "Saturday Nights Ups 'N' Downs". Like the Lazy Cowgirls and Leatherface, The Dragons have refined their songs to the point where waves of power, emotion, anticipation, build-up and release continually blast out of the speakers. These songs don't just roar, they soar.
The title is a nod to Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreaker's first LP, L.A.M.F. If you want to know what that stands for, ask a grown-up. Like most bands on Junk Records, The Dragons evoke the 70's NYC sounds of the Dolls and Heartbreakers. Past Dragons releases also mixed in doses of Hanoi Rocks, a band too close to KISS in my book. The last tune on R.L.F., "Gimme Some Luv", is pure Hanoi Rocks and is out of place with the rest of the CD. The second to last song, "Killing Time", is guitarist/vocalist Mario Escovedo's tribute to his older brother's stint in country rock outfits like Rank and File. It doesn't demand you to get drunk and tear up the bar like songs 1-8, but it's still a damn great song. The Escovedo family also includes Carlos Santana and Sheila E. of Prince fame. Mario's in nobody's shadow, not any more.
R.L.F. will appeal to punks, drunks, R&B roots rockers, emo twigs and even all-ages kids with half an ounce of maturity "Roll The Dice" and "My Confession" are great. I didn't even expect to like this at first. That they moved the lyrics to the back and upped the instrumental wattage is the advice I've always wanted to give them. When they get all the attention, lyrics too often dilute the power of the song. R.L.F. is about the music, and when The Dragons focus on that they live up to their full potential. This is an amazing record. Don't buy it at your own risk.
The Dragons - Live At The Casbah (CD review) (Junk): San Diego's best unkept secret, The Dragons, put out a live CD because of their well-earned reputation as a killer live draw. I saw them one night at The Casbah (or, as I prefer, The Cash Bar) when they performed all Ramones covers. That was a lot of fun. I regretfully missed their night of all Rolling Stones. The Dragons take the Heartbreakers/Stones/Dolls/Stooges to the next level by injecting a Lazy Cowgirls-level of energy that never flags and constantly revs itself to new heights.
All my favorites are here from their more than excellent CD RLF, along with the single "Fade", whose greatness defies language. They cover the Ramones "Sniff Some Glue" and Redd Kross' "Puss N Boots". The hidden tracks take a while and they're the Stones' "Star Star" and that song whose name might as well be "Happy" (if it isn't already). There's only two tracks of the "hot rockin' tonight!" variety, which I could do without never having gone through a KISS stage. The rest is some of the most powerful punk you can buy without a prescription.
I don't think there's a better informed band than The Dragons. They’re the best band on Junk and one to seek out at your local store. Most live records are crap, but this one isn’t.
Ducky Boys - Live: From The Banks Of The River Charles (CD review) (Outsider): This is a strong release from a band you might think at first glance are trying to stomp in the same boots as the Dropkick Murphys. What you have are chugging Chuck Berry power chords and gruff vocals over well written songs guaranteed to make you move your feet. If The Ducky Boys are supposed to be street punks they don't show much of it here - they cover Dion's "The Wanderer" for Christ's sake.
This was recorded live in the studio at MIT's radio station, and the quality is amazing. They could have spent a million dollars and not done any better than this. Most live shows (be honest) stink so it's a real pleasure to hear a band that can play live with enthusiasm and authority without losing an ounce of sonic precision.
"Nothing At All" owes a tip of the warm beer to Rancid, but all-in-all there's enough to satisfy both Warped Tour lunakids and smelly drunks who don't bother polishing their Docs. On their web site the band says of their sound, "We grew up on AC/DC and Guns N' Roses and things seem to be coming full circle with us doing the rock n' roll thing twelve2 years later. Mix those styles with bands like Rancid, Social Distortion, Anti-Heros and the Swingin Utters and you get the Ducky Boys". I don't hear any cock rock in this recording except for the power chords that intro the uncredited Blitz cover at the end. I'd say they're more a straight cross between Rancid and the Utters.
Good stuff from Long Beach's great Outsider label, who seem to have all their Ducky Boys in a row on this one.
Eater - All Of Eater (CD review) (Cargo): In the late '80s there was an American punk band called Old Skull. Band members were about nine years old and railed against issues facing pre-teens. The novelty was to go one better than 1976-78 UK legends Eater, whose second drummer was thirteen and unable to play a number of pub gigs. The first drummer had to quit because the band got in the way of school. Not that the rest of Eater was much better off, since the oldest member was 17. Reports of their ages always varied because of troubles they had performing in bars.
In 1993, singer Andy Blade summed up the genesis of his band and that of hundreds of others then and now: "Like most kids of our age (15), Brian Chevette and I wanted to be in a rock band. The fact that we couldn't play and didn’t have any instruments never really bothered us. We decided to call ourselves Eater after a Marc Bolan line: 'Tyrannosaurus Rex, the eater of cars', and told all the girls in our school that we had this band. Girlfriends were suddenly easier to find. After about two months of writing our imaginary set lists and lyrics to songs that didn’t exist, while informing all and sundry of a forthcoming imaginary gig, we decided we'd better get our act together. A lot of people wanted to see us play! We managed to ‘obtain’ the necessary guitars, learned a few chords and promptly set about writing tunes to our ever growing bundles of lyrics. All of them basically speeded up variations of Velvet Underground songs. We were introduced to Dee Generate through Rat Scabies of The Damned, then auditioned Ian Woodcock on bass. Our first gig was on November 26, 1976 at The Holdsworth Hall, Manchester with The Buzzcocks supporting. We were quickly signed up and released our first single Outside View in March 1977. The next eighteen months were a complete blur of teenage over-indulgence, juvenile decadence and completely arrogant ego tripping. Brilliant!!"
Having played live in 1976, Eater is a first wave UK punk band. They made an impression in Don Lett's Punk Movie by childishly hacking up a dead pig's head on stage. Some critics write off Eater as generic and ultimately unimportant, but the opposite is true. While less talented with a hook than their peers The Jam and The Buzzcocks, Eater did a spectacular job of building on their original inspiration of the Velvet Underground. What I find generic (and a bit annoying) is how Andy's vocals are treated (or overlayed) to sound like there's two singers singing each word. I feel the same way with The Damned and what was done to Bob Mould's singing on Sugar releases. If the DIY, anybody-can-do-this Sex Pistols inspired many bands to form in their wake, so must have Eater, whose youth and childish enthusiasm must have inspired a number of their peers to strum cheap guitars and bang on coffee cans.
This collection contains all 28 tracks of Eater's short career. The CD is more enjoyable a few songs at a time. While I admire each track individually, heard all at once I lose interest after any five songss. Eater appears on a lot of "77" comps. I'm sure from that you'll quickly recognize "Thinking Of The U.S.A." and "Lock It Up". Not to be missed are their caffeinated versions of "Sweet Jane", "Waiting For The Man" and "Queen Bitch". An overlooked band, an influential band, and a very good band as long as you don't try to listen to it all at once.
The Electric Eels - Their Organic Majesty's Request (CD review) (Overground): "The Eels perhaps came closest to embodying it [the perceived rage of the Cleveland art-dropouts]; but it was there in everyone else. It was a desperate stubborn refusal of the world, a total rejection: the kind of thing that once drove men into the desert... We had been promised the end of the world as children, and we weren't getting it" - writer/singer Charlotte Pressler.
The Electric Eels were one of the first real punk bands of the '70s. Sure, they borrowed from The Velvets, Captain Beefheart, and The Stooges, but their snottiness, dumb violence and high artistic nihilism were the antecedents for the DIY, corner bar archetype epitomized by CBGBs in New York. Another example of a brutally important band being in the wrong place in the wrong time, The Electric Eels are a band you either know about and place in the rightt context of their importance to punk history, or a band you've never heard of, ensuring your ignorance on the subject. Sadly, very few people will ever hear this band.
The Electric Eels formed in 1972 and fell into ruin for the last time in 1975, after only six shows, each ending in either violence or arrest. For a band so bent on destruction I'm amazed the 22 tracks on Their Organic Majesty's Request even exist. Original members John Morton, Brian McMahon and Dave McManus (also known as Dave E.) were inspired (or pissed off) by a supposedly great opening act at a Captain Beefheart concert. Figuring they could do better or stink just as bad, they formed a band.
Dave E. sang with a snottiness that pre-dates The Dead Boys and The Sex Pistols by not only years but a generation. John Morton on guitar was the center of the band as chief writer and instigator of violence. By all accounts a hulking individual, Morton beat up people both in the name of art terrorism and for sport. He beat up his bandmates as needed, and for yucks ventured with McMahon into tough working-class bars, instigating fights by slow dancing as a gay couple. Arrested after their first show, John was wearing a coat covered with safety pins (take THAT, Richard Hell!) and Dave was covered in rat traps. The police named them "Ratman and Bobbin". Ba dump bump!
Famous names joined the band, including Anton Fier, The Cramp's Nick Knox, and various members of The Styrenes, The Pagans and Pere Ubu. They rarely used a bass, which only helped in their case because the focus then fell directly on the stark violence of the guitar and the anger of the vocals. Their posthumous 1975 single "Cyclotron"/"Agitated" is perfect because it’s stripped bare to the bone. At various times they could drone like The Velvet Underground, inflict serious sax and art damage like The Captain, or steal a Stooges riff. The Electric Eels deserve a lot of credit, or blame, for what The Dead Boys became infamous for years later. Plus they were also quite the arty farties.
Later on in his career, hulking John Morton played guitar for Sheena Easton. Fact is stranger than fiction indeed.
Electrelane - Rock It To The Moon, The Power Out, Axes, No Shouts No Calls (cd reviews): I don't claim to be an expert on anything, and that's backed by what everyone yells at me on an annoyingly constant basis. I thought I could write something fairly straightforward about the UK's Electrelane but my initial research is throwing crap at me I both don't know and generally don't care about. This description of Post-Rock kept my attention for eight seconds (cowboy up!) but I did benefit from learning what Motorik is.
I put Electrelane in the indie post-punk category with a broad appeal to fans of The Arcade Fire and the harder dream pop you'll hear in bands like For Against. Their only fault for me is periodic delving into the overindulgence of self-indulgence, which means they're wasting my time by noodling around for some kind of art's sake that translates into the meaningless, the slow, or the too long. As you all know (just kidding myself) I only listen to music when lifting or running. I know a band's over-self-indulgent when they go off on a tangent for so long I drift off and forget there's music coming out of my headphones. Dare I call this pretentiousness on the part of Electrelane? I don't find it precious or cute, which would lead to a yes, and post-rock and I generally live equal yet separate lives, so I'll just vote no on the Electrelane songs that get lost in their own reflections. Thinning the herd I'm left with a nice collection of well-arranged and orchestrated music.
The band formed in 1998 but didn't release their debut until 2001. Rock It To The Moon is almost completely instrumental except for some mumbled words in "Spartakiade", occasional harmonizing, and an easter egg of a vocal ditty hidden at the end of the last track. Is this self-indulgent? A little if not a lot. The template is generally a combination of ambient and loud/fast sections, arranged differently in each song. Some keep my interest long enough to not want to edit them down sans noodling while others don't. "Film Music", "Le Song", and "Spartakiade" are the best tracks, the last one inspired by Sleater-Kinney. "Long Dark" borrows the "Peter Gunn Theme" and the Velvet Underground can also be heard as a direct inspiration.
2004's The Power Out found the band signed to a larger label, Beggar's Banquet. Only four of the eleven tracks are instrumental, and three are relegated to the end. The record has a live-in-the-studio feel, making it more poppy and immediate. Post-punk is the main theme and it's a generally fine listen all the way through with the exception of "The Valleys" with its retro cheesy 60's lounge act feel, which sounds like from another session rejected for good reason. "Gone Under Sea", "On Parade" and the instrumental "Only One Thing Is Needed" stand out.
The next year's release Axes takes a step back to Rock It To The Moon with a predominance of instrumentals and the occasional dip into self-indulgence that kills whatever it is it's planted in. "Eight Steps", "Business Or Otherwise" and "I Keep Losing Heart" suffer thusly. "The Partisan" wins from the get-go with no ambient intro and hard-driving punk energy. The instrumental "Gone Darker" is an impressive piece of art rock based in the approaching sounds of a train. Half this record is a keeper.
2007's No Shouts No Calls is heavily influenced by a success template laid out by The Arcade Fire, and it follows it brilliantly. Electrelane don't necessarily jump the bandwagon - they most likely saw how they can do what they did before The Arcade Fire were even formed in a way that proves they can write impressive, melodic music while not selling out. There's no weak track and they sound larger than a four-piece while also retaining the immediacy of a standard rock band. "The Greater Times" for the win and "To The East" reminds me that if you like this record you'll also go for Pony Up!, whose "The Truth About Cats And Dogs (Is That They Die)" should have won a Nobel Prize.
Yup, there's a band called Electrelane and they have some records out. Whatever it is they do they do well, even if I'm not into it. I'm going to create a personal greatest hits mix from them and consider them the greatest band to come out of Brighton since Dr. Smutglove.
Electric Frankenstein - I'm Not Your Nothing (CD EP review) (Victory): Nobody punks the rock like EF. Nobody. They have the Dead Boys/Heartbreakers/Stooges thing down to a nuclear science. They've also put out more records on more labels than any punk group ever, or so it seems, and they've only been around since 1993. The EF discography in the first issue of Hit List lists over forty releases, with much repackaging taking place.
This time they allowed Chicago's Victory Records to release three blasts of EF intensity. It’s more proof they're ten times more punk than your punk band will ever be. Besides "I'm Not Your (Nothing)" there's a cover of the Tube's "I Was A Punk Before You Were A Punk" and a live "Right On Target". See them live and drink a lot of beer. You'll need it to compensate for how much you'll be sweating jumping around like an agitated weasel.
Electric Frankenstein - "Clock-Wise"/"Frustration" (7" review) (Junk): With more singles than I have nose hairs, it's difficult and expensive to keep up with this NY group of retro-degenerate punks. The band changes lineups frequently and there's a overlap of songs on various releases, so I'm surprised they're still as popular as they are. The market is good for their brand of hard-hitting Dead Boys-inspired lunacy and they're the best at what they do. "Clock-Wise" is great like all their a-sides, and the back is a revved-up cover of an old Crime tune. On clear vinyl for all you nerds who think this makes it worth more in the barely existent and way over-priced resale market.
Electric Frankenstein - The Time Is Now (CD review) (Nitro): Over 21 bar punk that carries on the fine tradition of the Dead Boys and early ‘70s Detroit bands. It’s hard rocking without being hard rock, and very, very powerful. Electric Frankenstein released a bunch of singles and a few CD collections, all of varying quality. This is no different, but the songs here that connect are the best you'll hear in a long, long time. If every song they did was on par with "Teenage Shutdown", "Superstar", and "Demolition Joyride/Demolition Derby", E.F. would be bigger than Jesus. At least in punk circles, anyway. I want to hear their version of Naked Raygun's "Home Of The Brave", but not for the $4.99 I saw it selling for. Dollars to donuts my ears will bleed with joy.
Electric Frankenstein - "Get Off My Back"/"Face At The Edge Of The Crowd" (7" review) (Junk): Another day, another dollar, and another Electric Frankenstein record comes out somewhere in the world. They have what, twenty songs and forty releases of these songs? I'm exaggerating, of course, and I'm also big on stereotyping and generalizing. EF are the kings of the NY retro-CBGBs scene. For all the crap they get they’re still the best. The single has two great songs. This came out on piss gold vinyl. It takes a lot of multi-vitamins to produce this stuff, so please, won't you buy one?
Elliott - False Cathedrals (CD review) (Revelation): This is one of those alt.emo records you have to crank up extra loud because it's more beautiful than it is powerful. Forgetting the amp-that-goes-up-to-11 nonsense that has defined rock'n'roll stupidity since day one, not all music has to be funneled through a jet engine to be appreciated. On their second CD Elliott doesn't offer much variety, but the mood they create is interesting enough and not overtly commercial. Revelation has a knack of finding bands too cool for the radio and not cool enough for punks whose emotional range runs the ant farm from dumb to violent.
Is the word emo passé now? Elliott is emo with a capital Moist Hanky Of Tears. Check out these lyrics, "You stand where you fall, you climb when you cave, your looks spent the life your body would pay. You're a minute thin when the time is always right. You've already Americanized your thoughts." What does this mean? Is it a conundrum wrapped up in a riddle? Maybe that's not the point. Maybe it's all about achieving a nirvana of existentialism. Endless thought and consideration leading to a black hole that takes you back to where you started, smarter but no closer to figuring it all out. Which leads to sadness. The sadness that is emo.
Any song from this CD, alone, is good. The quality and craftsmanship of the recordings are excellent. The problem is, every song is the same. A bit of grunge, some psychedelic twirls, a touch of Peter Gabriel and U2 -- the same tone is hit on every damn song. Maybe emo fanatics can see all twelve shades of gray I'm hearing, but like with At The Drive In, what first impressed me left me at the end with a serious case of deja vu. I come across.
The Excrements - Uranus (CD review) (Immune): This was sent to me by the nice folks at San Diego's Immune Records, so I owe them at least a thorough review. Parts of this I liked, parts I didn't, but mostly I feel this CD is a product of their generation and location, specifically white slackers from Southern California into punk, metal, rap, Chicano and black gang affectations, thrift store work clothing, X-treme sports, beer, pot and potty humor. All the things that pass for shocking in middle-class culture.
Track 8 is a rap ditty called "Back in Da Day'z". I know nothing about rap. Maybe it's the black equivalent of punk, but rap is not punk. Punk politics may have come from Reggae's influence on The Clash, but reggae isn't punk either. If you hate rap you may think, "Hey, who took the 'C' out of 'Crap'?", but I don't have many opinions on it - it's just so alien to my white culture. There are enough posers in punk to start with without trying to figure out suburban white kids pimping it down the sidewalk like their body was a low-rider. No offense to the real deal.
I also didn't get into the fake phony phone call piece about the band trashing a rehearsal hall. I thought The Jerky Boys were just assholes, and that fad by now must be too 1994 or something anyway. There's also the sound of a bong hit and a fake hooker's voice. The last track ends with a white guy ranting like a black street person, something about drugs, glue, beer and getting sick. I'm honestly clueless as to what that was about.
On the plus side, most of these tracks are tight and powerful. If you're into Suicidal Tendencies' first album, Blink 182, and your average Fat Wreck Chords band, The Excrements mixed them together well. They thankfully balance the basic stop/start hard rock nonsense with a strong, driving sense of flowing power that keeps on going even when they abruptly shift gears. Even the quiet parts retain the energy of the rest of the track. That's hard to do and the key to The Excrements future success. One day they'll have to step up into the big leagues and stop catering to their local teenage fan base. Extra points for mostly avoiding the urge to toss in idiotic mosh parts that do nothing more than allow losers to demonstrate how goofy they can look in public.
The Eyeliners - Here Comes Trouble (CD review) (Panic Button): Me disappointed. I really liked 1997's Confidential, but this comes off too much like Donna's Lazy Muff Cow-Screeching Idol Queers. Quite a combo but the songs mosey from one to the other without much excitement or danger. Maybe it's better than most of the crap calling itself music these days, but I'm only comparing it to their last album. I prefer The Eyeliners as a garage band. Here Comes Trouble is polished power pop.
Three real live sisters from Albuquerque NM, The Eyeliners are now firmly entrenched on the same tour circuit as the Groovie Ghoulies, The Queers, MTX, The Teen Idols and the few other good power pop bands that give me respite in a world filled with endless Iggy Doll imitators. Though I like the old stuff better, The Eyeliners put on a great live show and are nice people ta boot.
The CD has grown on me after repeated listens, and I've traced the source of my problem with this in Mass Giorgini's production. Pop punk's best knobster, Mass turned a garage band into a power pop band. Bands like The Lillingtons benefit from Giorgini's single-minded focus on slick production and genre specific touches. The Eyeliners need to record their next one back in the garage, if not the basement. They also need to record some single-worthy material. Fourteen good album tracks in a row isn't enough. People remember the home runs, not the RBIs.
F-Word - Shut Down (7" review) (Posh Boy): I know this is a second pressing of their first single because it says so on the back. This was the first release of Posh Boy and it was originally pressed by the band's manager without their permission. Wait, it was either this single or their LP Like It Or Not that was pressed without permission. Either way, F-Word is an important band in LA hardcore history and its members went on to do bigger and better things. Listening to this single today, it comes across as decent yet kind of generic Stooges-Stones fast rock. Then again, so does most LA punk from that time. I think The Dils were the most talented of the bunch. "Shut Down" was written by Darby Crash.
Vocalist Richard Elerick (aka Rick L. Rick aka Rik L. Rik) sang with Negative Trend and anyone else who would let him. He was known to walk around barefoot. Sadly, he passed away in July 2000 after a six month battle with brain cancer, leaving behind a child and fiancé. Will Shatter and Steve DePace joined F-Word after this single and they went on to form Flipper. Will Shatter died in 1987 from a heroin overdose. Good for him.
Not much else to say. Worth owning if you like The Crowd or The Zeros, but most Masque bands leave me cold.
The Fairlanes - Bite Your Tongue (CD review) (Suburban Home): The Fairlanes sound is skewed a little too young for me, if ya know what I mean, but they're a talented pop punk band of the Descendents/Screeching Weasel School. They follow a formula (who doesn't, really), but the songs have pep, hooks, and they easily get the toes a-tappin'. I know I'd have to put myself through all-ages show hell to see them play live, but it may be worth it as long as they don't dumb down to get snickers from the new-pube crowd. Then again, on their nicely done web page (www.thefairlanes.com) somebody's slinging around the word "rad" like feces at the psycho ward.
Hailing from Boulder, CO and anchored by core members Scott Weigel, Jason zumBrunnen and Jeff Merkel, The Fairlanes since 1994 have appeared on a few compilations and two full lengths. Bite Your Tongue has only eight songs, but it's just the right amount of tunes. Notice how some CDs just never seem to end? If this had fourteen tracks on it I might never put it on again. At eight tracks I'll keep this around a while on the jukebox.
I've listened to this four times in a row and it's grown on me like a cold sore on the lip. It’s definitely recommended for younger pop punk fans. I'm pushing forty. The kids are alright when they're not acting out or up. There's two cover tunes on the disc, one from hair metal band White Lion and a funny/clever/straight "Material Girl" by the female David Bowie. I hope they succeed.
The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (cd review): I love reviewing releases by The Fall. They're fun to listen to and then let slide into a vaguely understood yet cherished memory. I don't have the mental ability or disability to differentiate this one from the last eleventeen things from The Fall, a group that defines cultish devotion like no other. Each new album is Mark E. Smith's next step towards completing his personal Ulysses, a story about who the hell knows, but it doesn't matter. It's all about the clues, and the stops and starts along the way. Fall albums are filled with callbacks old and new, and ongoing editorial commentary on all things Fall. The band's on the cd cover, which must mean Smith likes this group. He still might fire them in the middle of a tour if the voices talk him into it. He shouldn't because Your Future Our Clutter is more eclectic and louder than the last few while also providing the signature Fall backbeat that's infectiously danceable. I see the appeal of the cult but don't picture myself banging a tambourine in the airport for them.
My idea of how a Fall album happens is that the band comes up with variations on what they think a Fall song sounds like, then Smith shuffles in from the bar, shapes it up and adds spoken and sung lyrics. Kind of like how Marty McFly invented Rock N Roll in Back To The Future, except Mark E. Smith really did create The Fall. Your Future Our Clutter is strongest up front, the ending falling victim to a bit of eceltic overkill. This disc has stronger tracks than Fall Heads Roll and The Real New Fall LP, but those are maybe more satisfying as they shored up and propelled the Fall ship consistently and most satisfactorily. They're all very good, but while I'll listen to those albums in complete form I may not with this one. Your Future Our Clutter has a few great tracks in isolation.
And so another chapter ends in the tale of The Fall. Join us again next year, won't you?
- Fall Heads Roll (CD review): 12/15/05
update: I have a burned copy of this and it seems my disc is the UK version in a
different order. I've changed everything accordingly and I hope this time it's
The Fall have been at it for three decades but I don't know them well enough to review this in a full career context. Here's a longish band history. The allmusic.com review of The Real New Fall opens with "Two years and 32 compilations, box sets, books, DVDs, and so on, since their last studio album..." Yikes! From ye olde days I remember "Bingo-Master's Break-Out!", "Totally Wired" and "Rebellious Jukebox" well but the first LP, Live At The Witch Trials, didn't inspire me to check out the endless parade that followed. Their latest and just released Fall Heads Roll fell into my lap, so here we are.
From various reviews I get the impression much of The Fall's catalog is a string of similarities with high and low points. I see a definite kinship with The Mekons. The Fall's Mark E. Smith has a singing voice like no other, and I imagine his mouth must be very elastic to twist around words as it does.
What jumps out is how much Fall Heads Roll reminds me of Iggy Pop. Smith copies Ig's stylings to an extent, and this hypnotic, abrasive dance music is what Iggy should have been recording all these years instead of faux metal. 9 of the 14 tracks truly rule. The tracks pulse with the same electrified danger you get from Big Black's "Kerosene" and "Cables". It’s deceptively intense and dense material.
The songs have no choruses and it seems the lyrics are stream of consciousness ramblings laid over often unrelated instrumentation, not unlike Patty Smith. "Pacifying Joint" is pretty much the same song as "What About Us?. "Midnight In Aspen" is also strangely the same as "Aspen Reprise". At least they have similar titles.
My favorite tracks are "Pacifying Joint" (Devo-esque riff), "What About Us", "Blindness" (pulled bass like Big Black), "I Can Hear The Grass Grow", "Bo Demmick" (echoes of "I Want Candy"), "Youwanner", "Clasp Hands" ("Lust For Life" energy), "The Early Days Of Channel Fuhrer", "Breaking The Rules" ( a very happy guitar riff) and "Trust In Me" (my favorite).
I have to award Fall Heads Roll four out of five X-Mas cookies. It's deep and out there too.
The Fartz - World Full Of Hate (LP review) (Faulty/Alternative Tentacles): If you call yourself crusty and don't own this record, the only crust you know is on the fresh apple pie your mommy serves after a four course meal. This is thrash political punk at its best from 1982, with roots in the sonics of the Bad Brains and the politics of Crass and the Dead Kennedys. Bands like Heart Attack, Reagan Youth and C.O.C. picked up the same flag during the mid ‘80s. The Fartz put out two EPs in '81 and this LP, compiled on one CD you can find at any record store that caters to the homeless fantasies of middle and upper class children.
The trivial pursuit aspect of the Fartz is that it was future Guns N Roses member Duff McKagan's first band. Lead Fart Blaine Cook went on to form The Accused in 1984. The collage art poster inside the LP is a textbook example of the Dada propaganda that defined hardcore's early '80s anti-Reagan, anti-capitalism, pro-anarchy stance. Images of war, guns, political leaders, nazis, riots, newspaper headlines, propaganda posters, Klansmen and the like combine to create sensory overload. Like Impressionist art, the larger message consists of many smaller pieces that must be seen from a slight distance to be fully understood. Anyone with scissors, glue and fourteen brain cells can do this too.
The Fartz came from Seattle, a city that couldn’t care less about what the Fartz had to offer. Lack of willing local venues led them to scrounge for any chance to play. Maybe they could have thrived in NYC, a place more sympathetic to bands like the Fartz. As is the case with bands like this, to understand what they stood for all you have to know are song titles: "People United", "Hero's (Cum Home In Boxes)", "Viet-Vet", "Battle Hymn Of Ronnie Reagan", "World Full Of Hate", "Happy Apathy", "Take A Stand (Against The Klan)". It’s about as subtle as a kick in the teeth, but the best political slogans usually have the fewest syllables.
I think Reagan Youth was a better band, but the Fartz came first and their songs still sound pretty good. I'm too old for political punk but I do remember the impact these records had almost twenty years ago. Political punk wasn't as separate from other kinds of punk as it is today. Back then straight edge and street punk were simply other perspectives. Today you have groups of fanatics with strict dress codes and exclusionary rules of behavior. Major chunks of the punk scene are slowly becoming nihilistic warring factions. Maybe twenty years ago punks were better-rounded musically and could see things in context. Now the game is to find something quickly, become a fanatic and prove how "hardcore" you are by shutting off your mind to everything else. The goal was once to be a leader - now it's about being a crazed follower. Good luck. I wipe my hands and back away slowly.....
Fear (review) - When you think of old great hardcore bands, names like Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys and Black Flag quickly pop into mind, but L.A.'s Fear stands out as the band you just knew was the most dangerous. And I'm not just talking about Lee Ving, the toughest man in punk. GG Allin was nuts but had no fighting skills, and I imagine Henry Rollins' toughness is only as thick as his neck. Ving was also the best actor to come out of punk, with ten films under his belt, playing sleazy types and vicious henchmen.
Fear gave the finger to political correctness and scene socialism. Beer, fighting, sex, Budweiser, war, crowd baiting, beer, living the low life, and more beer - these were Fear's agendas and inspirations. Formed in 1978 and fronted by Ving's amazing bellowing baritone (there's a rumor (which he denies) that he studied opera), Fear spewed hate, humo, and spit faster and harder than anyone. Philo Cramer (guitar), Derf Scratch (bass), and Spit Stix(drums) fisted equal doses of blues, jazz and hardcore energy down the kid's throats, and they loved it. While Jello Biafra incited his audience to fight the system, Fear played to play and laughed while the crowd maimed each other in front of their eyes. Unlike most bands of the era, Fear were excellent musicians with roots in jazz and R&B.
THE RECORD (1982) - a near perfect document of the band and the times. Every song a classic. An equal mix of hardcore power, sexism, homophobia, goon patriotism and satire.
MORE BEER (1985) - cleaner production, longer/slower songs. A three year lapse saw the scene evolve away from old bands in general, and Fear's brand of mean-spirited satire especially. I don't think the change of logo away from stencil art to nazi-like insignia and swastika helped either. The beginning of an obsession with songs about beer. Ignored by critics and punks alike.
FEAR...LIVE...FOR THE RECORD (1986) - A live radio concert sponsored by Budweiser. All the great old songs. all the power, and loads of funny shtick from the stage. Lee has to keep the cursing to a minimum, and his struggle is half the fun.
HAVE ANOTHER BEER WITH FEAR (1995) - 16 songs in less than 31 minutes. A new multi-cultural band. The same fascination with beer and militant hatred, while wit is nowhere to be found. Good sounding music whose time has past, for better or worse.
Fear - American Beer (CD review) (Hall Of): It's sad that the last three Fear albums, going back to 1985, have the word "beer" in the title. It's even sadder how they’re obsessed with beer as a person, place and thing. It's a joke that's a gimmick that's a tag line. It's mostly lazy, and Lee Ving shouldn’t be the laziest man in punk rock. "Hard Cotto Salami" is a sequel to "Beef Baloney", the one-line joke from 1982's The Record. "I Don't Care Without You" is an answer to their own "I Don't Care About You". "The Bud Club" is something they've done live since the dawn of time. "What If God's Not One Of Us?" is Ving's response to Joan Osborne's "One Of Us". While it's the best song on the CD, nobody asked Lee what he thought of the original, so he's guilty of trend-humping. American Beer is better than 1995's Have Another Beer With Fear because it has a few stand-out tracks. The rest is beer-soaked filler, and if life is a contest of devotion to Budweiser as a god, Fear's jihad against Gang Green is still going strong. It's a great victory and Ving must be proud.
"Surgery" opens the CD and it's a great throwback to their first album (ok, more like the second). Nothing's changed after eighteen years and why should it. Fear is Fear is Fear, but songs about beer are the worst of Fear. The Fear of legend is "Gimme Some Action", "Let's Have A War", "I Love Livin' In The City" and "We Destroy The Family". It's an anti-social hate that might be a joke, or a joke on you for thinking it's a joke. It might be satire or it might be polemics - it's an unknown that's best left an enigma. "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" is Fear as a blues band, and it highlights the precise stop and start songwriting of some of Ving's best work. If you listen for it, standard Fear drumming follows the "Cha Cha" dance pattern.
The best track is "What If God's Not On Of Us", one of their all time best. Actual thought and effort went into this one, a nice change. Ving's use of lyrics recall the attitude of "I Love Livin' In The City", but Ving's genuinely reflective on the issue, questioning the very nature of belief in the existential face of abuse and neglect. The backup singing lacks the usual snide anger while the lead guitar expresses real emotion. On every level this is a great song. If you skip over the four songs about beer, you’re left with a decent record with a few strong tracks. Lee Ving is capable of another album as great as The Record. Why he doesn't is probably a combination of laziness and professional spite. Maybe the boy needs Ritalin.
All Fear singles are great. Buy 'em if you can find 'em.
FUN FACTS ABOUT FEAR:
The only act to shut down Saturday Night Live when their fans (many from the DC SXE crew) started tearing up the studio.
John Belushi was a big fan and wanted Fear to provide the soundtrack for his movie Neighbors. (Belushi got Fear on SNL in the first place)
Lee Ving lives in a small Texas town and in 1987 fronted a country band called Range War.
Fiendz - Wact (CD review) (Black Pumpkin): Legendary New Jersey power pop trio The Fiendz put this out last year. Black Pumpkin also released a great collection of '87-'95 songs from them - filled with great unadulterated power pop love songs. Sweet Baby started the whole movement, and bands like Vacant Lot and The Parasites carry on the tradition of danceable Ramones pop and corny odes to finding that special girl. Wact is an inappropriate title. The mob whacks people in New York and then dumps the body in Jersey. This should have been called Dumt. This one has more of an alternative feel, the drumming is slower and heavier, and the guitar work is cock pop, as opposed to cock rock. Maybe they're going for a more Descendents thing. It's not bad, but this new cock pop phenomenon I just discovered makes me nervous. The graphics on this CD are sooo cute I think even Cub would reject it.
Finger (7" review) (third Sister): 49 cents and distributed by K Records. Its’s southern rock meets Rolling Stones retro-psychedelic, and fodder fer tha slightly smelly college rock masses. It’s not bad if you have a low threashold for pleasure. This single will add always welcome girth to my 7" shelf, therefore cementing my geekdom fame. The two songs are decent but standard issue in a genre that does nothing for me. Maybe I just don't know how to loosen up and rock out. Oh, what I'd do for the rock gene.
Flipper - "Sexbomb"/"Brainwash" (7" review) (Subterranean): Flipper was a band many loved and the rest avoided like a virus. It was as if they were playing a joke on their audience, or wanted to hurt them. On record they presented their demented brand of slow-core pretty effectively, but seeing Flipper live was a game to see how long you could stand the endless, sloppy drones that may have been performance art pieces of annoyance and pointlessness. Not that Flipper wasn't capable of greatness, it's just they often went out of their way to suck.
Slow, loud, grinding, repetitive, screaming - Flipper was in their day (1979 to 1983) the kings of art noise damage. They get compared to the Butthole Surfers, a superior band if only because they didn't express their contempt for their audience by being unlistenable. Maryland's No Trend took direct inspiration from Flipper, along with part of their name. Or at least what they were called before Flipper. Will Shatter and Steve DePace were in Negative Trend, who suffered the lose of their lead singer Rozz, who physically Iggy Popped himself onto the permanent disabled list. Bruce Loose and Ted Falconi filled out the rest of the Flipper lineup.
Flipper's first single was "Love Canal"/"Ha Ha Ha", and their second, "Sexbomb"/"Brainwash". "Ha Ha Ha" appears on the Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans. "Love Canal" and "Sexbomb" are very good, and 1982's Album - Generic Flipper is worth owing too. My negativity about Flipper comes from how much they stunk live, and how they didn't care if they did. "Brainwash" is the same piece of music twelve times over. There's grooves dug into the 7" so you can find track four if that rows your boat. I guess that's interesting, but if you want to hear the same short song twelve times in a row, seek help before the voices demand you kill others.
Will Shatter died of a heroin overdose in 1987. The three remaining members reformed in 1990 and recorded American Grafishy. The Melvins, Mudhoney and Nirvana were said to be huge fans of Flipper, so maybe they were a proyo-metal band. The band called their sound "Pet Rock", after the fad of owning a rock that came in a box labeled "Pet Rock". Best to leave that one alone.
Flipper - Blow'n Chunks (CD review) (ROIR): Rising out of the ashes of F-Word and Negative Trend (circa 1979), San Francisco's Flipper were the darlings of the overground-underground music press in the early ‘80s. Then Nirvana gave the world grunge and all the attention scurried north. Founders of what became known as Sludge Core, not to be confused with Slow Core, Flipper made you feel like your turntable was warbling at 23 rpm. Live shows were famous for spur of the moment acts of violence against the band, strangers and even themselves. I've seen a few live tapes and they rival GG Allin concerts in creepiness. Flipper belted out endlessly repetitive blasts of anti-music, seemingly to torment the crowd into numbness and hate, which reminds me then of Suicide. They packed clubs with cretins who came to yell abuse and commit acts. This remixed and expanded version of a tape put out by ROIR in 1984 of a late 1983 CBGBs show is essential listening, and it captures the band at their best. The four bonus tracks from the band's second set are fantastic. Flipper is so drunk and tired they slow down even more, like a cassette player with dying batteries.
The Flipper sound is rooted in the industrial nihilistic psychedelia of The Stooges, mixed with some of PIL's post-punk dance sensibility, and even traces of Bowie's glam theatricality circa 1970's The Man Who Sold The World. Being a sucker for the bass guitar, I love how Will Shatter plays the instrument as lead with all the subtlety and grace of The Shaggs.
Whenever I listen to Flipper (or Big Black) I ponder the two ends of the evil spectrum - short bursts of anger and violence, and the slow, insidious evil of the truly deranged. When a mafia hitman whacks a goombah in the movies we cheer and think it's cool, but when he then spends the next hour eating a sandwich while he cuts the body into sections it's enough to make us puke. There's something insidious about the slowness of Flipper that's to me the second kind of evil, and the sometimes endless repetition of bass lines creates a surrealness that helps to disconnect the conscious from the unconscious. In other words, it creates a numbness, an emptiness, similar to kids who become amoral after spending 1000s of hours playing violent video games. When I see or read about the violence that took place at most Flipper shows, I think a part of it is a Pavlovian response to the music itself. If I was a psychology student I'd write a paper on it, but I'm not, so I won't.
Blow'n Chunks is one of only a few great live punk records. Their noise damage was meant to be played live, and this is Flipper at their best and most coherent.
Foetus - Ache (CD review): Australian Jim Thirwell, aka any band name with the word "foetus" in it, literally crashed onto the noise scene in 1981, taking no wave to new heights and depths. 1982's Ache is the only Foetus album I can listen to all the way through. Imagine an album influenced equally by James Brown, The Residents and Oingo Boingo. Then make it sound insane.
When he focused the man could be a genius. I saw him perform around ‘82 at NY's Danceteria, where he sang along with a cassette tape. He had a case of small Perrier bottles at his feet, and he'd open one, wave his arms around while singing, the water flying everywhere, then he'd open another one and repeat the process until it was gone. Did he manage to drink any? Barely.
I would have bought more Foetus
records back then except he tended to not list songs on album covers, and I
never knew if what I had in my hand was a 12" or album.
With Foetus you have to ask if he's a nut because he's a genius or a genius because he's a nut.
The Fondled - Hey Hey We're...(CD review) (Theological): It's the oldest cliché in the Punk Rock Handbook that bands don't know how to play their instruments and can't sing. The assumption is if you really could play you'd naturally choose classical or jazz. Some bands are deliberately bad, while others have no choice. The Fondled are hard to peg down. Are they talented musicians who play sloppy because it's fun, or are they just sloppy? Either way this is great sloppy punk. There are boys and girls in this band, but it's hard to figure out because their names are Duncan, Spider, Snake and Harley. Fans of grrrl groups, Snap - Her and the late great Anti-Scrunti Faction will enjoy this a lot. The co-op effort of the band members reminds me of Meatjoy, another late great. This CD combines previous 7" work with new material and alternative versions. The women sing really snotty, which is sexy if you're a masochist. The drumming reminds me of Reagan Youth. Some of the instruments sound cheap, if not broken. Did I say how much I like this? It's not a revelation, but it is more fun than 95% of the crap out now. Punk and fun. Who'da thunk it?
Forced Reality - 13 Years Of... (CD review) (Outsider): These CT street punks have been around for maybe thirteen years, I guess. I like their name, a take on "forced perception", involving manipulating visual perspective to create scale. The songs are decent but what I like most is their looseness, and how they don't pretend to be British working class thugs. Sure, there's enough sing-along simplicity to make happy the elbow swinging idiots who turn pits into battle zones, but there's no Irish drinking songs or pub chants of "oi oi oi!" from guys who've never been east, north, south or west of their own American hometown.
Forced Reality, while acknowledging the influence of Blitz and other UK bands, trace the roots of their working class rebellion to Merle Haggard and drumrolls dating back to the American Revolution. Their token drinking song, "15 Pints (And I'm Still Standing)", has the guts to evoke both C&W and "One Tin Soldier", otherwise known as the theme song from Billy Jack. 13 Years of... Forced Reality contains two new songs and eight tracks recorded live in the studio at Boston's WMBR. That's where the Ducky Boys recorded their great live EP, so maybe they have a cool "Peel Sessions" thing going up near Beantown.
The first thing that struck me about the CD was how much Pete Morcey sounds like Meatloaf, and how the two new tracks have a Meatloaf quality to them. Forced Reality would be a great roadhouse band in a world where The Business were as big as ZZ Top. "The Flag Is Mine" is my favorite track on the CD, in case you're keeping score.
This is another hit out of the park by one of America's finest labels, Outsider. They're breaking their eggs to make their label work, and the quality of their bands and packaging are superb. Buy something today so Dave and Dave can pay off their bar tabs. There's not too many bars left in Long Beach they can go to at this point.
Four Letter Word - Zero Visibility [Experiments With Truth] (CD review) (BYO): Hailing from Cardiff, the capital of Wales, Four Letter Word formed in 1991 but only recently made a name for themselves in both the UK and the US. Their sound is a catchy combination of Face To Face's studio professionalism and Leatherface's own brand of soaring sonic walls of noise. I can't call this street punk since the pop sensibility is strong. Four Letter Word might also be the most blatantly old-tyme leftist political band of the modern era, which isn't that annoying to me at this point since the quasi-decipherable sloganeering on Zero Visibility is no more than melodic accompaniment to the great music. At my ripe old age the very idea of a band influencing my politics is laughable. Isn't that cute, they want to educate as well as entertain.
It's nearly impossible to make out the text on the CD foldout sleeve. Tiny white and black text is laid over b&w fotos, the result mind-numbing eye strain. Each song is preceded by a political quote, and there's a long diatribe/manifesto, written by the band I assume, best summed up by this line I was somehow able to decipher, "And there my friends lies the answer, you are all junkies, popular culture junkies. Sucked in, sucked dry and spat out." Stridency is cute, don't you think? It must be quite a burden having all the answers and endlessly running around screaming at the rest of the world until they see things the way you do and act accordingly. I want to pat these guys on the head while they pontificate (like Benny Hill did to the old bald guy) and smile while I repeat over and over, "isn't that nice?"
That being said, the music is great. It’s original, riffy and beautifully put together by producer Frankie Norman Warsaw Stubbs, known to you and I as the leader of Leatherface. Four Letter Word doesn't sound like Leatherface enough to warrant a direct comparison, but at least on this release (they have another CD on BYO) Stubbs has taught the lads to layer sounds and build dramatic tension. "Broken Pane" does remind me of Leatherface's "Box Jellyfish".
You should seek this out. If you like politics shoved up your ass with a Howitzer, this will be the right colon cleanser, but if you couldn’t care less it's easy enough to zone all that out and enjoy the songs for how they sound.
The 4 Skins - The Return (cd review): The sperminal UK oi band The 4-Skins are back in 2010 with The Return, on the German label Randale Records. It's a mix of the old and the new, which I've seen before but don't understand. Maybe that's how an old band hedges their bets on a new release. It could have something to do with copyright, like how Gang Of Four released Return The Gift for murky financial reasons. "Yesterday's Heroes" sounds cleaner but not different than the original 80s version. "Evil" sounds exactly the same. "One Law For Them" is also an oldie and "Come On Feel The Noize" is an oi oi oi redo of the 1973 cock-rock anthem from Slade. The Return's an odd duck for sure.
"The Return" is a nice anthem and "Soldiers Graves" is rocking, loud and proud. Gary Hodges, who at one recent point changed the name of the band to Gary Hodges' 4-Skins, has aged into a nice growly bear of a singer, bordering on over-the-top but not jumping over. As oi is about stating the present state of affairs, comeback albums demand explanations of what's been learned, what's changed, and what's now needed. Cock Sparrer are the kings of the original oi movement, and their 2007 Here We Stand set the gold standard in this regard. The 4-Skins decided to recycle their themes to stay true but not learn anything new.
The new tracks on The Return hold their own nicely even if after thirty years they're avoiding that the immediacy of their cause hasn't budged the power balance an inch in their favor. "Take No More" made me smile because Hodges sings the recurring chorus of "We're not gonna take this s--t, we're not gonna stand for it, we're not gonna take this s--t no more." Just like you weren't gonna take it in 1979, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1997, 2003, 2006 and most of 2009. Buddy, that boat set sail and sank a looong time ago.
Frontier Trust - Speed Nebraska (LP review) (Caulfield): Existing from 1992 to 1997, Omaha's great Frontier Trust is a band few will ever know, which is too bad because they were almost as good at what they did as the bands that probably influenced them - Killdozer, The Feelies and Soul Asylum (first album only, thank you very much). The term cow-punk is applied too loosely to bands like Frontier Trust, who mix indigenous hillbilly music into their punk with the same respect as Doo Rag did the Delta Blues. The genre owes more to Neil Young than it ever will to Nashville. This album languished in the discount bin of a local store for many years. There's gold in them thar hills of crap. I bought a single by them a long time go because it came with a wooden nickel imprinted with their logo.
The album is a mixture of straight punk music, hybrids of city and country folk music, and one uber-mono retro-78rpm goober ballad. Someone named Heidi sings a duet with Gary Dean Davis that would make Minnie Pearl proud. There's eleven songs that clock in at about 22 minutes. It seems longer because each song is full and complete.
You can buy this on CD from Caulfield. It's buried in the back of their catalog. Or you can sit on the floor at the used record store and sort through the cheap records like I do. There's no glamour in it, but sometimes there's glory.
Fugazi - 13 Songs (CD review) (Dischord): I respect Fugazi more than I enjoy their music. For what it is, I can see it's great, but minimalist, swirly post-punk neo-rap rock doesn't do anything for me. Anything. There's a bit more repetition in these thirteen tracks than I expected. Their insistence on $5 shows and $10 CDs is worthy of legend in my book, and they flourished quite nicely outside the standard avenues of commerce, proving it can be done. Except for his political pedophilia I admire Ian MacKaye, and he gets a bum rap for some of the things he's said about straight edge. It must stink having every word you ever said, even in passing, disseminated to the world and analyzed with microscopes and tweezers.
I can recommend this to with complete confidence to most people. In the bigger picture I accept Fugazi as one of the most important bands of the generation that came right after mine. It's just not what I would listen to for pleasure. I don't listen to music that's trying to hypnotize me into having my hands chase each other into the air while I reach toward a higher state of being. Since it has Popeye's seal of approval (I call Ian "Popeye"), it's impressive Fugazi was able to bring so many people to a better place in their mind without the help or hinderance of drugs. You go, X-Boy!
Fugazi - Argument (CD review) (Dischord): Finally, a Fugazi album I can get into a little bit and not just write off as something I respect, because it's the right thing to do. For the most part I like Ian MacKaye, and my one conversation with him at Yesterday & Today Records (or as it's known in SXE circles, Mecca) was pleasant. Another time I worked stage security for a show where Minor Threat opened for PIL and Wall Of Voodoo, and I held Ian's mike when he felt the need to jump headfirst into the pit. He was nice then too. I remember seeing Guy Picciotto a few times at the store and he looked slightly agitated. I know work's an unnecessary evil but to stand around with a look that says "I don't want to help you" doesn't make anyone happy.
What's my beef with all past Fugazi records? They were minimalist rap-rock songs that repeated themselves too often and created grooves that might also appeal to Phish fans, but not me. $5 shows, great. Sing along as a community, super. Always keep it real for the kids, priceless. I ain't gots da funk in me and I don't bang my head.
The template for Argument is the band Wire, whose "12XU" Minor Threat covered way back when. I'm not going to explain Wire except to say they might be the most influential band of the entire post-punk era. Another welcome addition to this new disc is melody and harmony, which I can only attribute to the proliferation of great emo bands like The Anniversary and Sense Field. These are songs, not just head bangin' trance inducers.
The interplay of discordant guitar and inverted bass lines throughout the album is ingenious. Cello and female backup singing also add touches of class (Rodney Dangerfield says class is when you fart when you're alone and you still say "excuse me"). Here and there are elements of what makes Fugazi special to their many fans, but Argument is more mature and enjoyable than past releases. Some, if not many, prefer the older aesthetic. Maybe somehow it's more "pure". That's just super. What I like most about Argument, and what's also its greatest accomplishment, is that each musician, each element, stands on its own as points of distinct interest. Everything works both independently and in unison, which is hard to pull off. Argument is quite an accomplishment. It's not only good for you, it's actually good too!
G.B.H. - Clay Years 1981-1984 (CD review) (Combat): GBH were a cool band in their day, especially if you were a kid impressed by the City Baby Attacked By Rats album cover. The added bonus was learning and passing on the knowledge that G.B.H. meant "Grievous Bodily Harm", and that British guys went to jail for committing it. They were originally called "Charged G.B.H." to differentiate themselves from a metal band of the same name, but that fell by the wayside around 1986. This album is a compilation of early singles, hits and whatever else the label tossed in. All in all though, it's average compared to other bands of the time.
GBH are a second wave UK punk, which was more street cred-worthy than what the art students of the first wave put out in the name of Jackson Pollock and The Situationists. Second wave bands were more your standard issue corner bar idiot types. GBH weren't an oi band, whose music was more consistently melodic and fun. GBH were either a less rabid Exploited or a much less talented UK Subs. In comparison, The Anti-Nowhere League seems more like Gwar.
The fourteen tracks on the disc go by with only a few tracks worthy of note. It's ok, but there's much better stuff out there, like Cocksparrer and The Business. They’re oi bands who didn't do the leather jacket, skulls and crossbones, rooster head spike thing, so maybe they're just two different genres. GBH-influenced bands moved towards metal anyway. Feh.
The GC5 - Kisses From Hanoi (CD review) (Outsider): If the punk market is still looking for the next Rancid it doesn't need to look beyond Cleveland's GC5. These persons go The Clash route through The Dropkick Murphys and The Swingin' Utters, and the results are impressive in an instantly recognizable, commercial yet street-credible way. Every good quality hit me fully and immediately, which isn't how I normally process anything.
If you're going to play street anthems with sing-alongs, don't dumb it down to cartoon proportions. The GC5 sing-alongs are real lyrics and melodies, not grunts & growls. For that assumption of intelligence on everyone's part I thank The GC5. First wave street punk and oi bands struck me as being intelligent, or at least not so dumb. Yes, even The Anti-Nowhere League. Many bands that followed went straight for the dumbest, most thuggish common denominator. Tto sum up a few other opinions I have on the subject, American bands who yell "oi oi oi" are posers.
The music on Kisses From Hanoi is tight, riffy and speedy. Less pomp, more GO!, which is a good thing. The slower the street punk, the higher the chance of tough guy posturing. Each of these fourteen tracks is filled with creativity, authority and power. The last two tracks sound like Rancid, which is probably why they're way at the back there. For the most part The GC5 nicely establish their own sound.
The goofy socialist & anarchist politics of the band gets some play in the punk media, but the lyrics on the CD are thankfully expressions of educated opinion, not bludgeons of dogma. In a recent interview, Bass dude and vocalist Doug McKean demonstrates some deep thought on the greatest failure-in-practice political theory of all time, "Socialism has many different forms, from the most militant strain of anarchism to the more leftish types of advisers to the New Deal who never got their reforms into law, for obvious reasons. The common threads are the things I mentioned - planning for production and consumption and collective ownership of the means of production. Socialists allow for much more government involvement in achieving and maintaining this. I should note that the fall of the USSR was a victory for socialism at least as much as it was for the Western capitalist nations. It was a sham, and no dictatorship should be held up as an example of socialism, whose main goal should be to make people more free. I would consider myself a socialist who is aware of the role of the state in preserving private tyranny, but can see a role for the government in bringing about a more just society, given the proper pressures. There's plenty to be taken from several different perspectives. Infighting amongst the left is stupid - there's too much to bond together and fight against to form factions based on theory. Those arguments have their place, but if every little group splinters off and does its own thing, then we'll never get anywhere."
I'm too old to be influenced politically by music, but The GC5 earn my respect for being devoted yet not willing to think anyone will or should become outcast rebels at their command. I highly recommend this release to Da Kidz, god love their spikey, pointy empty little heads. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the band borrows The Clash's stencil slogan idea.
G-Whiz -- ...Hook (CD review) (Medical): G-Whiz's singles and compilation appearances have been classics of the love song pop-punk genre. Surprisingly this ten song CD blows. There's a version of "Thrust" that pales in comparison to the 7" version. Other songs from singles were re-recorded to disastrous effect. It's as if G-Whiz decided to record a college-friendly record at the last minute and had no idea how to proceed. While never great musicians, G-Whiz had lots of energy and loads of great hooks. These songs could be great if they were sped up and belted out. Why are they being so tentative? It’s sad. Guitarist Kevin toured with Sloppy Seconds when Roadkill first left the band. He couldn't play notes for squat but he was a nice feller all the same. I'm a big fan of the G-Whiz singles. It's a shame about the CD. It ends with some decent tunes but it's too little too late. That they weren't sequenced at the beginning tells you something about how G-Whiz viewed their own material. Again, sad.
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