The Gain - SingReadySteadySmash (CD review) (Mighty): This CD has a lot of good but I'll start with some bitching. The Gain are on the cover of the latest Flipside. The article inside sucked, blew, stunk and crapped. I'm sick of supposedly funny interviews that don't even try to be informative. The article was a roundtable discussion of irrelevance, as if talking about nothing and being snide about it is alternative journalism. It's bad writing from talent-free interviewers who know nothing about the band except that they rock. This brand of gonzo-punk journalism goes back to the earliest days of punk, especially the 70's fanzine Punk, which should have been printed on toilet paper.
The Gain promote themselves as a neo-mod band, which I can see if I squint my eyes and konk myself on the head with a brick. I'll grant them that on "Hold On To You", but most of the rest falls into Blink 182 territory, along with some Green Day and an unintentional nod to Boston legends Moving Targets. "Told You So" sounds like Moving Targets as much as Sid Vicious sneered like Elvis and Billy Idol sneered like Sid.
That said, I can recommend SingReadySteadySmash pretty heartily. If they were around early enough they could have been Green Day, hopefully less childish. Maybe enough time has passed since Green Day's indie rise and corporate fall for neo- bands like The Gain to be judged on their own merits.
The Germs - Germicide (LP review) (Mohawk): This live recording of the Germs’ first gig at the Whisky in 1977 is painful to listen to. It's anti-music you don't want to experience more than once, and even once might be one listen too many. Punk unjustly gets accused of being the last resort for musicians and singers with no talent. Sadly Germicide exists as evidence that, yes, punk is the last resort for musicians and singers with no talent.
"Forming" is a decent single from the album, titled (GI). The rest, aside from "Lexicon Devil", is just bad bad, as opposed to good bad. If the studio album is a valiant effort of novices to DIY their own music, the live album is a water torture of incompetence. A kitten could paw better bass lines than Lorna Doom. Drummer Donna Rhia probably couldn't even get her hands to connect if she tried to clap. The famous Pat Smear, even if he did have talent in 1977, isn't showing too much of it here.. Then there's Darby Crash, listed on the album as Bobby Pyn. I'll deal with him later. The group had no timing, can't play together, and very little of what they recorded was interesting beyond the car crash factor. I doubt any of that mattered. It was all about watching Darby, drug addict and alcoholic, fail and die. Los Angeles wanted their own Iggy Pop to beat up and spit at, and useless man-child Darby Crash fit that bill. Darby was the guy you bombarded with food and laughed at because he was too fugged up to even remember to sing into the microphone.
I know and respect someone who knew Darby back in the day, and he swears Darby was a brilliant artist. Another told me Darby had a genius IQ but was too screwed up to utilize it. I'll take their words for it, but my opinions haven’t changed. Is Darby a tragic figure? Hardly. Was he a bad person? I don't know. He just was, and he OD'd at 22. I file his life and death under "Eh, s--t happens every day... so, what's for lunch?” When’s that movie about him coming out?
The Getup Kids
- Eudora (CD review) (Vagrant): To quote
the band's site:
“Eudora, the CD/2XLP collection of all the band's old 7"s, covers, compilation tracks and various other rare and out of print recordings will be released on 11/27/01 on Vagrant / Heroes & Villains Records. This seventeen song collection spans the first six years of the band...all the way back to our first 7" that came out in 1996. The album also features a cover of the David Bowie classic "Suffragette City" that has previously never been released. This isn't the ‘new album’...please don't be confused."
The comparisons to The Promise Ring (use of piano) and Braid (power) are accurate, but at least according to this collection, the Getup Kids are more pop-oriented like Weezer when the latter wants to be a new wave band. The originals lean toward Braid while the covers are impressively respectful of the originals.
"Suffragette City" captures the original in the same way Manic Hispanic does with all their covers. They do a swell job with The Cure's "Close To Me". The Getup Kids are versatile in their use of electronics and acoustic instruments. They also cover New Order's "Regret", The Replacements "Beer For Breakfast", the Pixie's "Alec Eiffel", a motley Crue song, Coalesce's "Burned Bridges" and a song called "Impossible Outcomes" – not a cover but it sounds too much like New Order.
I think I like The Getup Kids more than a lot of their competition because they're not as head bang-licious. I can see why they’re popular with the kids.
Gizmos1975-1977 Demos & Rehearsals (2 CD review) (Gulcher): Ladies and germs, put yo hands tagetha for Bloomington, Indiana's legendary The Gizmos! After reading about them on the internet my mind is swimming with the existential queries about what is legendary. What is it and who gets the right to call something legendary? Is the criteria based on influence and/or popularity, or is it simply a marketing slogan for old forgotten music? In the long run, do enough people really care either way?
Here's the deal with The Gizmos, as far as I can tell: they were one of hundreds of garage bands in the ‘70s who modeled themselves after The Stooges, The Dictators, The MC5, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and whoever else tickled their fancy that week. Lead Gizmo Ken Highland wrote a fanzine and became a member of a small circle of writers who operated in enhanced isolation. Andy Shernoff of The Dictators and Richard Meltzer of the pre-Angry Samoans band VOM were zine writers too. Meltzer wrote the liner notes for The Gizmos first EP, probably out of professional courtesy. Ken went on to form other bands and is a fixture in the Boston music scene. This two CD set of demos and rehearsals, and another of their studio work, are from Gizmo member Eddie Flower's Gulcher Records. The Gizmos themselves remember their old garage band and care enough to press and market CDs, even sending me a copy.
So, are The Gizmos legendary? Sure, why not, we're all legends in our own minds. There’s 51 tracks, some repeated, of surprisingly good quality considering the era and basement recording locales. Their style is a muttly mix of The Stooges, The MC5 and later The Velvet Underground, and it’s decently representative of their influences. I can't point to any particular song and say it's a classic, but I did like "Be Bop Barb" and "Dance To The Beat". The songs that made it to their studio EPs might have been chosen for their song titles alone, like "Muff Divin'" and "Pumpin To Playboy".
The Go-Nuts - World's Greatest Super Hero Snak Rock And Gorilla Entertainment Revue (CD review) (Planet Pimp): One of the best concept-comedy bands in punk history, these members of The Phantom Surfers, Untamed Youth and the Dave and Deke Combo cast themselves as the '90s version of the Banana Splits. Their songs are either variations on the "Go Nuts Theme" ("Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Nuts, Go Nuts, The Go Nuts are your favorite band!") or surf/garage/power pop punk/British Invasion odes to junk foods and themselves. There's also a gorilla subtext best summed up by the lyrics "Gorilla my dreams". It's as if they're overtly brainwashing you into buying Go-Nuts lunch boxes, pencils, t-shirts, socks and backpacks.
You could write off the Go-Nuts as a one joke band, except their records are damn funny and great for the music alone. On the Lookout Records site you can listen to "Snik Snak Skaduliak", a tune so catchy I still can't get over it years later. I continually say the song title out loud for no apparent reason. The band members are The Donut Prince, Kaptain Korn Nut, Donut Hole and Korn Dog. They warn the children to avoid the following criminals guilty of "Snak Crimes": the Bad Apple, Eggs Benedict Arnold, The Celery Stalker, The Greedy Grocer, Warren Peas, The Rap Scallion, Orange Judas, Dirty Skippie and Filthy Hippie, Jane Fondue, and last of all Baron von Rooster - the Go-Nuts' second rate arch nemesis, whose costume you can buy for $795.95. The 100 foot tall Nut-Bot 9000 is 37.22 million dollars.
To get the Go-Nuts' shtick you might need to be a Banana Splits fan. Their constant replaying of the "Go Nuts Theme" is an esoteric ode to kid’s programming, where not only do you have to beat senseless the name of the product, you can't have a moment of dead air or else you'll lose the attention span of your sugar-infected audience. The Go-Nuts play in different styles and tempos, from surf to '70s cowbell rock to live Elvis showmanship. They’re definitely a band for the Lookout label, and they never repeat themselves, even when they repeat themselves.
I don't expect everyone to appreciate the Go-Nuts or even understand what they're doing. Take my word for it - the concept may look simple but they show a depth of understanding of the musical styles they play and what made '70s TV so surreal. There are a few decent funny-punk bands. The G- Nuts are the band every other funny-punk band would go to see on their days off.
Goon Squad - being little... (CD review) (self-released): This Glen Burnie, MD foursome go out of their way to inform you that "The Goon Squad is not affiliated with any record label...real or imagined." This should be on a real label as I liked it a lot. The Washington-Baltimore area is normally the last place you'll find a good power pop band. The Goon Squad combine the sound of The Nils, old R.E.M.and old Lemonheads, with a little ska and D.I. guitar added. The roots are more folk and country but the execution is fast and the musicianship is excellent. This should have some appeal to punks and non-punks alike. I can't get "Independent Shouting Match" out of my head. It's up there with the best of the Nils. Write them at Mispent Youth Productions, PO Box 35, Glen Burnie, MD 21060-0035. Don't tell them I sent you. They have no idea who I am.
The Goops - Lucky (CD review) (Kinetic/Reprise) 1996: The Goop's singer, Eleanor Whitledge, sounds like Deborah Harry auditioning for The Muffs. Lucky is well produced rock punk that leaves this geezer feeling bland and old. Bands like this get signed all the time for one of two reasons, either to cash in on the latest punk/alternative craze or to promote an attractive lead singer. The music isn't bad but it sounds more like product than songwriting. There’s merit to the belief most so-called punk bands on major labels lack many of the small elements that make a band punk. Sometimes it's attitude, sometimes it's the music, but often it's little things you can't quite put your finger on but know it just the same. Let's call this corporate punk, and say Lucky is a definitive example.
Go Sailor - Go Sailor (CD review) (Lookout): This 1994-1996 twee pop collection of three EPs and two compilation appearances fits perfectly with other Lookout bands like The Smugglers and Brent's TV. Singer Rose Melberg works her acoustic six-string like a ukulele, the small & easy to play four-string that became all the rage after WWII, selling literally by the millions. Strumming the ass off simple chord progressions is the way you play a ukulele, and I find this style beautifully quaint because it reminds me of old films where college fellows woo their girlfriends with a quick Hawaiian love song on the Uke. The inherent limitations of the ukulele are also the limitations of Go Sailor's music: unless you pay close attention most songs sound alike. Any one Go Sailor song is fascinating and great, but after a few you can't help but wonder what else they play, mostly because Melberg's guitar playing is a gimmick. Go Sailor songs work better as singles and comp. appearances. This collection is mostly a convenience.
Their best and best known song is "Ray Of Sunshine", which made it the film But I'm A Cheerleader. It's a gem of simple pop confection. The guitar chimes and the drumming is simple yet ultra proficient beach music. Paul Curran from Crimpshrine plays an amazing bass that enriches each song by veering off into seemingly counter-intuitive lines. His bass elevates each song from lo-fi into something more. Rose's voice is sweetness and beauty, maybe the most beautiful voice out there right now. Like her guitar work, her voice never changes, and that's another problem with too many Go Sailor songs in a row.
GoToHells- Burning Bridges (CD review) (Vagrant): Once again I venture into the world of men in thrift store bowling shirts and arms full of flame, dice and piston tattoos; their women pale-skinned visions of Betty Page. Of wallets on chains, leopard pattern pants and greasers who hate doo-wop. Guys who'd be lounge if they weren't so damn punk. You know the bands - The New Bomb Turks, The Devil Dogs - drunk punkers in love with Chuck Berry riffs and 1970s CBGB self-destructo bands. This is the kind of music you listen to with a beer in hand while yelling "f--k yeah!" to your equally drunk friends. Nobody dances but everyone's paying attention.
On first listen I noticed the GoToHells aren't trying to play each song as if it was their last, which impresses me as a willful act of restraint in a genre that prides itself on being balls-to-the-wall 24-7. I bet in concert they speed it up to eleven and the tunes lose their distinctiveness. This is a cool collection of twelve poppy fuzz-chord punkers. With song titles like "Drink, Drank, Drunk", "Hot Rod High" and "F--kin' A Right" it's plain these fellows love old teenage juvenile delinquent films made from 1954-1969 with trash titles like "Live Fast, Die Young" and "High School Hellcats".
The music is mostly mid-tempo, and poppier than their competition. This allowed me to appreciate the hooks and musicianship more than I would have if each song was constantly trying to knock me on my ass. It’s a great intro to the genre for punks newly over 21 ready to hit the bars to see bands sing about booze, women and fast cars. I'm still not getting a tattoo, but at the mall they sell some neat looking temporary ones I might rub on for the next Hot Wheels show.
GoToHells - Demolition (CD review) (Stiff Pole): I don't work at a college radio station or record store, and I don't get much in the mail. How the hell am I supposed to know about every band that puts out a record? Sometimes all I can go by are band names, record labels, cover graphics and song titles. From these indicators I thought the GoToHells was another New Bomb Turks clone. While they do add a punky redneck rock feel to their music, the real GoToHells sound can be found in the bands they thank in the notes in their first CD: The Pink Lincolns, The Queers, The Nobodys, The Waldos, Cletus, The Crumbs and Rancid.
This is poppier than I'd imagined while not losing much on the power and feel of other punky r&b bands. I recommend this to kids who want more than they're presently getting from Fat and Epitaph without venturing into completely alien territory. They even do an Op-Ivy-type ska song called "This Is Not A Ska Song". The GoToHells reach a happy medium between the all-ages show and the 21 and over crowd. Highly recommended.
The Great St. Louis - In Your Own Time (cd review): What I just wrote about Off With Their Heads please apply to The Great St. Louis except add Social Distortion to the mix. Somebody recommended this because I'm a Leatherface fan and if I squish my eyes close and make a wish I do hear it in the later tracks as melodic walls of guitar interplay and simple drum pounding. Stronger songwriting beyond hitting the same levels of power and harmony would do this band good.
- American Idiot (CD review): Our story
begins in the present, with a Green Day concert memory from Dr. John down in
"They had tons of pyrotechnics and shooting flames like an 80's metal show. The whole thing started with someone dressed up in a bunny suit dancing and drinking a beer while the P.A. played Y.M.C.A. and the whole audience danced to it. First time I ever saw guys with Mohawks dance to Y.M.C.A.. They shone the lights on the audience a lot. The really cheezy part, they had this hanging curtain of lights, it didn't come on till after the show, it flashed Green - Day - Green - Day to get the audience to chant Green Day for an encore. As you may remember I chanted 'Day - Green' cause I thought it was so dumb."
Green Day were once another great pop-punk band on Lookout! In that style I liked Sweet Baby a little more and Sludgeworth about the same. Dookie broke in 1994 and their instant fame didn't bother me as much as the fact the record itself wasn't as good as the last two, a real lesson in what defined good to the masses. I stopped paying attention until they released their epic political rock opera American Idiot in 2004, and every article and interview I came across touted their new seriousness and sense of purpose. It won the best rock album at the Grammys. Ten years went by and they put out another Dookie. This time only the lesson changed. Critics will support anything that supports their politics.
Green Day become less adult as they age. They're all about 33 years old but seem stuck at the social and intellectual level of their fan base, which stays the same in real years. This is being compared to Husker Du's masterpiece Zen Arcade, which is true only in that there's no complete story being told, but Zen is for big kids. When Green Day drop the F-Bomb or any of the endless cliches they spit out you expect them to giggle like the Teletubbies and peek around to see if adults heard them be naughty. The lyrics on this album are hysterically bad, as in "Welcome to a new kind of tension. All across the alien nation. Everything isn't meant to be okay. Television dreams of tomorrow..." "New kind of tension" is a Buzzcock album reference, Television City Dreams is the name of a Screeching Weasel album, and alienation an ancient piece of marxist psychobabble. If this album speaks to anyone, that person is not of driving age.
This might be clever if done well but Green Day is not a clever band. They write catchy tunes but are stunted adolescents and write lyrics from that POV. On a production level American Idiot is flawless. Every record should sound this good. Green Day are being credited with creating a complex masterpiece but it's so not true I'm embarrassed for humanity. Songs may shift gear and pace but that's not complexity, it's just shifting gear and pace. Compare it to this and this for some perspective on complexity. Green Day throw in surf, doo-wop, a little Bad Religion pompousness, Jim Steinman, Johnny Cash ("Ring Of Fire" is ripped off), Peter Gabriel's "Biko", the Beatles, African drumming, Hawaiian guitar and the sound of marching feet. Does this make American Idiot an epic masterpiece? Yes, if you don't know any better or lower the scale to fit a non-musical agenda.
Would I like this any more if I didn't think they were immature political 'tards with too much money and free time? Probably not. I like "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" but even if they wrote lyrics I agreed with the rest would still be just another Green Day album, of which there will be a new one each year for many to come.
Green Day - 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours (CD review) (Lookout): What gets lost in the Green Day love/hate debate is the strength of their Lookout-era recordings. They became the next big thing with Dookie, an average record compared to their earlier work, but overnight Green Day was the opiate of the mall-teen masses, and inevitable battle lines were drawn between those who liked the band and those who hated them mostly for their fame and new-found fortune. It's cooler to be against something then to have no opinion.
The success of Green Day is a lesson on the influence of a good looking video and MTV in general on the music buying public - a demographic flush with cash and easily led to spend it. If Dookie came out on Lookout and not Reprise, do you think their video would have made it heavy rotation? Yes, and a sweet personality is more important than a nice ass. This worked out well for Lookout anyway, who printed money selling their back-catalog to the eight million kids who bought Dookie. This might have also opened store shelves to other Lookout releases. Oh yeah, Larry More Liver cried all the way to the bank when he lost Green Day.
In case you were wondering where Green Day stood in the punk world before 1994, they were a more than decent power pop punk band with an occasional love for country-western phrasing. Their peers were the Parasites, Vacant Lot and especially Sweet Baby Jesus. Green Day's original name was Sweet Children. They started as a band at age fourteen and both played and toured for years. If hard work leads to success then Green Day earned theirs. Dookie wasn’t anything special and the media attention drove my love for the band into hiding. Where a year before I was looking for a Green Day sticker for my car, there was no way now I was going to slap one on and advertise myself as a pedophile. Insomniac sold over two million records, and as is the nature of top-40 alternative, the Green Day backlash began in full force. The internet is littered with anti-Green Day sites, most probably run by former fans who think it's a sign of maturity to aggressively reject what you liked when you were young and foolish, even if that was only a fewmonths ago. Current teen favorites Blink-182 owe their livelihoods and sex lives to Green Day.
1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours is a collection of an earlier record, two 7"s and a compilation appearance. Along with Kerplunk you have is a great collection of songs. The singles are their best work of the period. I couldn’t care less if Green Day is popular or not. I refuse to get involved in shopping mall politics. All I'm saying is that Green Day's Lookout output was great. My only regret is that Sweet Baby Jesus' LP wasn't re-issued at the time and had no chance to be discovered by this new generation of power popping consumers. Not that they would have noticed it on the shelf.
The Grinners - Psychoville (review) - Eleven slices of serious bar-punk ear bludgeoning from Sweden. I see The Grinners even blowing away Electric Frankenstein on stage. I hate using the word "rocking" because glam and metal pop into most people's heads, but these guys rock with a vengeance. It's thrashing r&b punk all the way, for neither the nor the sober. Four-chord fuzz guitar, hammering non-wanking lead guitar, drums played with speed and personality, and yelled vocals slightly distorted from being recorded entirely in the red zone. Each song reaches the same frenzied plateau, but my god is this great. It's impossible to play this at low volume, and I suspect the correct volume might cause one's head to shatter. In concert these guys must be something. Somebody should release this in the US. The LP cover has a small box that states "presented in Alcoholic hi-fi". That's not a joke and that's not a lie.
The Groovie Ghoulies - Born In The Basement (CD review) (Lookout!): Hooray for the Groovie Ghoulies, who put on great live shows. They combine garage, power pop punk and a kitsch monster-space-alien-Addams Family-Ratfink motif into one package that makes for good dancing and good times. This collection is from 1994 and includes covers by Dylan, The Partridge Family, The 13th Floor Elevators, and Love. Rougher than later releases, it's still The Ghoulies and it's all great. It’s garage enough for the cool kids and poppy enough for the punky new wavers. Catch them live and if you're lucky they'll throw a little rubber monster at you.
The Groovie Ghoulies - World Contact Day (CD review) (Lookout) Combine elements of all that is fun in life and you have The Groovie Ghoulies. Surf, lovable cartoon monsters, go-go, hot rods, funny lookin' spacemen, and Bigfoot too! It's easy to pick up the Ramones influence, but also listen for a heavy X influence. You'd swear Billy Zoom is playing guitar. Live, the Ghoulies kicked my ass all over the place. Punks were dancing the Twist, some as a joke, but the joke was on them. This music forced them to go-go pogo and they couldn't handle it. Posers! "Ghoulies Are Go!" is a friggin' masterpiece. A cover of Billy Bragg's "A New England" is out of place here, but their take on Neil Diamond's "Hello Again" is perfect. The opening guitar riff comes right from Legal Weapon's "Daddy's Gone Mad". Yikes I'm old. Out of 10 I'd give this a 7, but live they're a 10+. The single has a powerful cover of Devo's "Gates of Steel". At least buy that. I read a review where one guy wrote World Contact Day was a rock opera. Anything you say, mister, just put down that knife.
The Groovie Ghoulies
- Travels With My Amp (CD review): The
title led me to believe this was a live CD, but it's not. If there's anything
not to love about
The Groovie Ghoulies,
please let me know so I can tell you to eat flaming poop. I demand that every
album sound the same and be the soundtrack to my next
Mad Monster Party
The Ghoulies don't smash the state but they do run with Bigfoot and take their hats off to Godzilla. Groovie Ghoulies songs: learn 'em, love 'em and forget what album they come from.
On this one "The Highwayman", "Hair Of Gold (And Skin Of Blue)" and "Criswell Predicts" stand out.
No real reason to review a CD from 2000 except to remind you that if you like your Ramonesy pop punk fun and danceable you can't go wrong with the Ghoulies. Compared to Blink 182 you'll also get more street-cred!
Groovie Ghoulies - Fun In The Dark (CD review) (Lookout): Clever lyrics and catchy two and three-chord pop-punk riffs win you over after a few listens, but a palpable lack of excitement runs right through the latest Groovie Ghoulies CD. You might think you're hearing them run through a sound check, or on day 400 of a tour, that's how much they hold back on the all-out sonic attack. All traces of their beginnings as a garage band have been exorcised. The Groovie Ghoulies have a formula, and it’s a good formula - corny cartoon monsters and little green men from outer space. It’s Rat Fink meets Mad Monster Party. The more I listen to this the more I like it, but you might not give this a second listen if you're not a Ghoulies fiend.
The lyrics here are lightweight love songs and hinge on a clever phrase that gets repeated so you realize there's a clever phrase in every song. I opened the lyrics sheet to list some of those clever phrases, and bam! they're highlighted for me as if it knew what I was thinking. Scary. Well, not that scary because what's highlighted are the song titles, most of lifted from each song's catch phrase. The opening song, "Carly Simon", beats to death the line "Just like Carly Simon says, things are coming round again". Roach's pleasant two-chord power-fuzz guitar makes me wonder what it would be like to have a gaggle of acoustic guitars flailing away on the same chords instead. At a certain point you'd achieve the appropriate wall of noise that fits the song just as well, along with being a fitting tribute to the folk singer.
The last time I saw the Groovie Ghoulies live they played songs from Fun In The Dark, and I remember feeling underwhelmed. The first few times I listened to this CD I was unimpressed. Its pleasures are subtle and the band's adherence to a pure power pop aesthetic is unwavering. If you don't go for power pop punk you won’t get into this. Otherwise, reserve final judgment until you've heard it a few times. It grows on you, like a cold sore on the lip.
Grounded - self-titled CD (review)(Grounded Records): The disc I received contained a professionally made case and a home burned CD. The slightly tinny sound is probably the same experience I've had transferring songs from CDs onto my hard drive and then burning them back onto a blank CD. The attached note directed me to their web site, www.groundedband.com, which is at the moment a blank page. You can buy this at Manifest Discs & Tapes in Columbia, SC, and they have a monthly gig at the New Brookland Tavern. The CD sounds like a work in progress, and I like most of this very much. I'll review it as if by sending it to me at this stage of their career they're asking me for my two cents. Probably not, but who cares.
Overall, Grounded remind me of Samiam and 22 Jacks, mixed with a bit of New Sweet Breath's slightly jarring instrumentation. "Give Me All I Need" and "Faked" (especially) feature interesting guitar electrification. The band describes their own sound as "melodic punk influenced indie-rock", which is accurate even if it is a set of contradictions in most people's minds. Then again, most minds are simple. Here's what I'd recommend for Grounded:
1) Make sure each song has an interesting sound, tuning or choice of instrumentation. I hear it on a number of songs and it's not just a gimmick if done creatively. The archetype band for that, in their genre, would be New Sweet Breath. 2) I'd have more separation and interplay between the two guitars. To hear how that's done right, listen to Horsebox by Leatherface. There is no better. Grounded has three guitarists. One should play chords while the other two mix and match. 3) For some reason I think the bass guitar should be deeper and more pounding. Refer to Big Black's Dave Riley, whose work on "Kerosene" still gives me the runs (I'm listening to it while I type this sentence). Grounded are in a sense a pop band, I know, but the bass is an often neglected instrument in the mix, and by making each instrument equal you create a greater whole. There's a fullness to Grounded's sound that's not being reflected enough in the bass. Which leads me to 4) Songs should be mixed so that you can focus on any one instrument in a song and never lose it. Guitars should fuzz but never bleed all over the place.
That being said, and like I said before, I like this CD. "Give Me All I Need" reminds me a little bit of "It's A Dog's Life" by Twister. "Faked", "Machine" and "Fix Everything" are also keepers, but as a rule I lean towards faster songs. My CD came with a hidden track called "Sex" which I hope I never hear again, and I hope for the band's sake it doesn't make it to their next release. It's childish in a way you'd associate with Blink 182. It's also the kind of pandering to idiots that keeps me from taking Kid With Man Head seriously until they grow up.
- Fire Of Love (CD review): Punk blues
came out of Los Angeles and were a death ride to hell compared to X's desperate
party to perdition and The Blasters plain old party.
Fire Of Love
was their debut in 1981 and it's the first true
hardcore blues country roots record. It starts fast and ends slow, a wave of
energy that explodes and then settles into a drunken coma. It would be lost in
the crowd if you stumbled on it today but it was the real deal then and
I never went for Gun Club in any big way because I don't enjoy humorless nihilism and I like most songs uptempo. I also larfed a bit at Los Angeles bands who pretended they lived in the old west as conceived by Charles Manson.
"Sex Beat" opens the album and it's their best, evoking both X and The Angry Samoans. "Preaching The Blues" follows and it also kills, reminding me that Soul Asylum's underrated Say What You Will is like this but not as hard. "Promise Me" combines Delta blues and The Velvet Underground, which is quite a trick if you ask me.
On the album Gun Club also evokes The Cramps, roadhouse blues and straight country (old skool!). The last third runs slow - too slow for me since it's not 2AM and I'm not drunk and angry when I listen to it.
I highly recommend this to Social Distortion fans (latter day).
Gunmoll - Board Of Rejection (cd review): 2003's Board Of Rejection came recommended as followers of Leatherface, which I can make out if I squint my ears, and as the Interpunk page says I can also hear the added influences of Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music and Alkaline Trio. Here in 1020 it sounds almost dated to an emotional era for hardcore that couldn't sustain itself for long because, honestly, eventually you have to stop crying and move on. For fans of the genre I can recommend this highly, but their adequatulence to me today makes this one I won't come back to.
Guttermouth - Teri Yakimoto (CD review) (Nitro): My favorite band on Nitro, which is like saying my favorite flavor of castor oil is minty salmon. Like most bands on Nitro, Guttermouth explore the usual SoCal youth-oriented punk genres - from hardcore to power pop to ska to post-Bad Religion/NOFX, with a sense of humor and added energy. Guttermouth isn't as juvenile as most of their compadres, and their version of Barney The Purple Dinosaur's "Under The Sea" is fun without being obnoxious.
Guttermouth - Musical Monkey (CD review) (Nitro): Punk’s long been infamous for the snottiness of its youth, but now that I'm a geezer I find the obnoxiousness of new bands juvenile and embarrassing. Not that the stupid bands of my youth were insightful intellectuals, but I don't remember my bands thinking they were as so damn clever. We had Fear and The Meatmen, who were often cruel and often funny, yet they didn't suffer from the Irony you find today under every rock. Older bands were pissed off and bitter - not cool musical commentators on the scene. Minor Threat and other SXE bands were didactic at best and fascist at worst. There'sthis little smirk I imagine on these new kids’ faces that drives me nuts. But hey, that's the nature of the game. Kids think oldsters are hopelessly out of touch whilst us geezers look at the kids, shake our heads, stroke our long white beards and mumble "dag-nabbit" before breaking into the Old Prospector's Jig.
Guttermouth shows more talent than your average SoCal, all-ages show, Fat Wreck Chords/Bad Religion worshipping bands, but when they play down to the lowest common denominators they create a product that ages poorly. "What If?" is a clever parody of Fred Schneider (they spell his name incorrectly) singing a Door's songs, but then you have "Lucky The Donkey" which is about the singer's mother having sex with a donkey. I've listened to this three times and sometimes I heard something fresh amongst the slappy drumming and hardcore-rodeo-counter-clockwise-slam-dance anthems. I wish they wouldn’t confuse clever with snide, because one takes intelligence while the other needs a thin sheen of obnoxiousness.
The last song on the CD is "Musical Monkey" and it starts "I've got a fanzine/So I should know/Everything bout every band/I turned punk two years ago..." Oh, I get it, so if you've only been into punk for two years you can't have an opinion on a band? I've been into this genre since 1974. Does this make my opinions the words of god? Everyone's entitled to an opinion as long as they're not assholes about it. Just because you're in a band doesn't mean you know how to write and play music either. Like I said, The Kids, you can't live with 'em and you can't shoot 'em in the head and dump their bodies in the river.
Hairy Phlegmball- (self-titled CD review) (Black Hole): Someone's been listening to a lot of Meatmen records. Lead Phlegmball Dave doesn't go near Tesco Vee's uber-sick and twisted humor, instead favoring songs about force feeding TV's cereal hating Mikey and flushing the Tidy Bowl man. I wager Hairy Phlegmball is a fun local Philly band with no aspirations beyond drinking cheap beer and playing funny songs. Dave's got Tesco's growled singing down to a science. A cute 7-song CD, but for friends of the band only.
Hammer Cocks - self-titled CD (review) (Wolverine): I'm always intrigued when an American band gets their record put out on a foreign label, in this case Germany, but there's no US release. There's a market for certain styles in places you'd least expect, and the cultural implications can be fascinating. Hammer Cocks are from Tex-ass and I'm glad they tightened up their image, packaging and sound for their official debut. They mailed me something a while back that I ripped apart pretty good (see below). It's almost as if they took every criticism I had to heart and vowed to win me over. They have. I rarely come across a band this determined to package and promote themselves so professionally, and while they may or may not become the next Zeke, they can take great pride in knowing they've done everything on their end to make it happen.
The original band member names were Cockoptalus - God Of Low Sack, Armadildo - Dildoan Priest Of High Cocktanius, and Mickey Mauzer - Bastard Child Of Buck Rogers. The Gwar elements of this early permutation were ill-conceived. Now they go by General Lee Drunk, Jack S--t, Billy Ray Virus and Otto Partz, which fits them better. Now their shtick is part Mentors, part hillbilly redneck and part Mexican wrestler. The lingering Gwar influence is in the masterful artwork by Shane Campos and William Traxtle, whose use of color and shading is masterful.
By admission of their hyperventilated promotional materials (it runs around and screams when it should be talking to you like you're a real person), their sound is a mix of The Lazy Cowgirls, GG Allin, Zeke and Antiseen. I'd also add The Meatmen, The Mentors, Speedealer and Ten Pound Hammer. You can add your own here: __________________________________. There's sixteen tracks of four-chord southern punk rock that's often heavy and sometimes fast and thrashy, most of it decent with a few standout tracks ("God Hates Rock N' Roll", "Goat Farm", "Boner's Gone Down" and “F--k All Y'All"). The Hammer Cocks produced the CD in their own studio, and while the results are decent there were times I wished someone with a more experience was behind the dials. Some poor mixing choices were made and the CD could and should have given off the same drive and energy as a Lazy Cowgirls release. The tracks should have sounded louder, which has little to do with actual volume.
This is an enhanced CD, so if you stick it in your computer's CD drive and search for its contents in Explorer you can listen to the CD tracks, watch a live song, look at some pictures and this and that and something else for a while. The artwork is great but it's a bitch to navigate. At least it didn't shut down my computer.
Once again I find myself overanalyzing the Hammer Cocks, but in general this is a very good release with great artwork and a hell of a lot of thought, time and money put into it. Let's see what the hell they can do with this over in Dusseldorf. Germany.
Hammercocks (CD review) (self-released): Who tha'? Where tha'? What tha' HELL is this? It would appear a glue-huffing twelve year old is behind everything this Texas three-piece is doing. The music isn't bad, and in small doses it's actually pretty good, but somebody needs to sit these boys down and break the news to them they have no clue. They're attempting some variation on Gwar as far as names and mythology go. The Hammercocks band members are Cockoptalus - God Of Low Sack, Armadildo - Dildoan Priest Of High Cocktanius, and Mickey Mauzer - Bastard Child Of Buck Rogers. Excuse me but my plagiarism reflex is making me gag.
If you find the Hammercocks' shtick funny, I'll assume you prefer "South Park" to "The Simpsons" because the latter asks more of you than a third grade edgification. Here's Cockoptalus' bio from their web site,"Hot molten lava flows through the veins of his engourged testicular growth. Though a most spectacular site, his sac is not always under control, when it takes over the crowd bows down and the songs get harder and faster, faster and harder until finally the walls are covered with smelly, yellow, sticky goo and screams can be heard begging for more as cum drips slowly from the mouths of the pitiful earthling fans." And here's how the band classifies their own sound: "Perverted Punk Rock 'n' Rollin', tit slappin', beer guzzlin', s--t kickin', ass- beatin', head crushin', finger fuggin', nitro burnin', tractor pullin', drippy - oink, nut-rippin' fart-burnin', c--t- scrapin', eye-gougin', porno- fire- s--t- burp with a little bloody- knuckle- rompin' slut mixed in on the left side."
Maybe I'm just a snob with low expectations, but The Hammercocks should at least organize their songs and gimmick into some kind of coherent package. Their website should have more information and fewer random samples of silliness. If you're going to create a mythology you need to flesh it out into its own universe. Also, Gwar is blessed with talented idea people, and if you've ever seen one of their non-concert films there's a lot of intelligence and insight behind what they do. From the evidence, The Hammercocks have two bucks to spare and the collective attention span of a slice of buttered toast.
Maybe The Hammercocks think they're The Mentors. They're not as heavy as El Duce's band but you can easily make the comparison. I'm more of a Meatmen fan myself. I'm sitting here, listening to songs that are OK but not connected in any way I find interesting. 23 tracks is too many to cram on one disc. The band logo is a crude drawing of a crossed hammer and a penis made to look like it was torn off. In the CD booklet is a sorry sketch of Betty Boop with a dildo up her tush. The back of the booklet has randumb crayon drawings of things like two beer cans doing it doggy style and a man with a hammer for a penis. Something tells me The Hammercocks are oblivious to their own shortcomings and will both put out their own CDs and play for friends until it's time to retire. I see potential in the music but not in the people making it.
- My Game (CD review): 2003's
was the third and hopefully not last
CD. The title and cover are a rip on Black Flag's
The sound is Ramones-based pop-punk and the themes are hockey, women and beer,
in that order. The Hanson Brothers is a side project of NoMeansNo, and I have no
idea if they exist anymore either.
That out of the way, the Hanson Brothers have to be on any thinking person's list of best pop-punk bands. 1992's Gross Misconduct is the sentimental favorite that nobody can deny. 1999's Sudden Death saw a slight move towards the eclecticity of NoMeansNo, and while it's a little less 1,2,3 Go! than their debut it's also a great record. "Can't Hide The Heino" and its cousin "I'll Ask The 8-Ball" are classics. Sudden Death and My Game are equally good, the latter being maybe a bit more solid.
The song "My Game" has a breakdown that sounds like The Descendents/All. "They Made her Mine" steals the riff from Alternative TV's "Action, Time and Vision". There's a phenomenal cover of Maxine Nightingale's hit "Right Back Where We Started From", here titled "Get It Right Back". I read the original was used in Slapshot so that's why it's here. The funniest tunes are "100 + 10%" and "Honey I'm Home".
You won't find a better polycarbonate plastic coated with a much thinner layer of super purity aluminum than this.
Hanson Brothers - Sudden Death (CD review) (Virgin Canada): Smart punks know the Hanson Brothers 1) are not the kids on Teen Beat covers, 2) are really the Canadian band NoMeansNo, and 3) kick ass like their heroes from "Slapshot". Sudden Death is Ramones worship and I breathe that like oxygen after a 10K run. The history of punk sports runs baseball, wrestling, and then hockey. Take a guess where the Hanson Brothers fit in.
The three-chord revival is mixed with ‘70s power pop licks from the likes of Cheap Trick and The Shoes, which makes this a bit more interesting than your average Screeching Weasel and friends. The best song on the CD, "You Can't Hide The Heino", takes the riff from Devo's "Space Junk" and adds it to some of the best power pop I've heard in years.
The Hanson Brothers have a great catalog and I suggest you get it all. There’s a live DVD that’s worth your time and money too.
Hanson Brothers - Sudden Death (CD review) (Virgin Canada): Everyone I've ever met who knows the Hanson Brothers have the same response when I mention their name: "They're f--king great!" Praising them is as easy as shooting turds in a barrel, but it's something I do with immense pleasure. Shooting turds in barrels I mean.
The first Hanson Brothers release, Gross Misconduct, came out in 1992. Sudden Death is from '96. Both records are equally good, I mean f--king great. The Hanson Brothers are Tommy, Robby, Johnny and Kenny. Rob and John Wright are the core of NoMeansNo. The Hanson Brothers started as a fun side-project to write about hockey and pay tribute to The Ramones, especially Dee Dee, whose nasal shriek they imitate at every turn. The Hanson Brother characters are from the movie Slap Shot, the Animal House of hockey films, shown in Canadian schools as a documentary.
One of the Wright's said of the Hanson Brothers, "It's a lot of fun. There is no pressure, we don't have to worry about playing complicated music correctly." That's true since your average NoMeansNo CD is something between a Wagner rock opera and a Ween mushroom-fest. Hockey, beer, hockey, women, hockey, and maybe hockey again, that's the hockey shtick of The Hanson Brothers. The best part is that they do it so well.
"The Hockey Song" is a re-write of a real song by Stompin' Tom Collins. "Stick Boy" simply cooks and you can do The Pony to it, the greatest dance of all time. "You Can't Hide The Heino" is one of the greatest pop-punk songs of all time. I recognize the riff from Devo's "Space Junk", but I suspect a few more power pop lines are mixed in to create a mini-masterpiece of a collage. "I Never Will Forget Her" sounds like The Cars with muscle. "My Problem" is a NoMeansNo song at 78 rpm. "I'll Ask The 8-Ball" is a redo of "Heino", but it’s great and I don't care.
The whole thing is so f--king great. It's funny as hell and catchy as a barrel of fishhooks. Ask your local punk record store guy if he's heard of the Hanson Brothers, and if he has he will tell you that yes, he has heard of the Hanson Brothers. Go on from there.
Happy Go Licky - 12", 6 song EP (review) (Peterbilt): As was the Washington, DC tradition (or as the natives pronounce it, "Worshington"), Happy Go Licky played a few gigs and recorded once, or twice, or something like that. Happy Go Licky was a transitional band (another DC tradition) from Rites Of Spring to Fugazi, consisting of Guy Picciotto - vocals & guitar, Eddie Janney - guitar, Michael Fellows - bass & vocals, and Brendan Canty - drums. This live 12" came out in 1988 on Guy's record label. Their run was from Spring '87 to New Year's Day 1988, involving seven lives shows. I bought this at the time as a collector's reflex action. It's unfocused, arty, and more art damaged than Rites Of Spring. Sometimes they freak out like the post-Big Black Steve Albini stuff, which I'm sure gave the first generation emo kids seizures. All 21 tracks from Happy Go Licky were later released on the CD Will Play. The CD might be a good buy, but the 12" boasts bootleg quality sound and songs that either repeat or just don't know how to end correctly. It's confusing to listen to.
The record came packaged in a dark manila envelope cut to size. The record labels are black and blank except for "Happy Go Licky" in silver letters, along with a "1" for side 1 and a "2" for the other. A business card is the only other written information.
As it sounds familiar,"Boca Raton" was most probably recycled as a Fugazi song. The EP is wiggy and noisy. Maybe this is Fugazi on a bad acid trip. I'm only reviewing this to agitate a collector nerd who will annoy me to sell it. I won't because I'm too lazy and my lesson to collector geeks is to calm down. It's only a record. Tough love, straight outta Long Beach. Word!
The Hated - Anything By This Band (review): No, there's no record titled Anything By This Band. I'm saying to find anything by The Hated. I've reviewed them before but I done gone lost it. Fugg! The Hated are phenomenal. They started around the same time as Rites Of Spring (1985) and recorded music more relevant to today's emo scene. Their problem was location. The Hated were from Annapolis, MD, which isn't far from DC but it might as well have been on another planet. The Hated's sound was BIG, hypnotic, spiritual, emotional and powerful in the post-Husker sense that ruled at the time.
You'll have to excuse me while I listen to "Knocking On Your Door" from the album Every Song. Two guys are singing different lines at different speeds, AT THE SAME TIME, and the genius of it makes me stare ahead and blink uncontrollably like a moron. The Hated had their own label called Vermin Scum, which still exists but without a web site. I have two records and two singles. Word has it there's more sitting around and I'd love to find the Simple Machine's cassette called "Tool 3" that's 90 minutes more of The Hated.
Dan Littleton went on to play with Ida (a boring band), Liquorice, Babe The Blue Ox, and Lisa Loeb. Bassist Colin Meeder posts messages on internet bulletin boards about bass guitar and might be living in Germany. Erik Fischer may be in California. One day they'll get their due. One day... then you'll be sorry. You'll ALL be sorry.....
- If Only You Were Lonely (CD review):
Every so often I check in on what the kids are listening to. Today found me with
the latest from Dayton, OH's
an emo-screamo band. There's two album covers the label, Victory, claims you
have to own to get "the whole story". My favorite amazon.com review notes, "They
have so much less screaming than their last album, which would normally have
upset me..." Their homepage is teen-centric and angst-tastic. As long as emo
kids bathe I'm all for it.
Each generation has its own emo. Mine included 7 Seconds and The Hated. In the ‘90s I loved Building by Sense Field, and others like Seven Storey Mountain, The Promise Ring and Jimmy Eat World. That lasted a while and now I focus on silent noise bands like Screaming Silence and Chorus Of Zilch. These are not real band names.
Like Molly Hatchet, Hawthorne Heights has three guitarists. It probably makes a difference live. If Only You Were Lonely is clever until a few songs in when you realize each song is just a rearranged version of other songs. The only change of pace is "December", which has prom night slow dance written all over it. The CD is designed to appeal to everyone at the same time, from headbangers to crybabies. It's a delicate balance and they seem to do it well.
The best is the screaming guy who makes himself heard here and there. The regular singing is delicate, hurt and melodic, and then all of a sudden the screaming guy belts out a line like he's both puking and gargling. It's not an evil scream like death metal, it's just funny. I'd love to know more about the screaming man and why he do what he do.
Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Blank Generation (CD review) (Sire/Warner): There's something about Richard Hell that strikes me as phony, or at least incredibly contrived. Not that he's a poseur, I mean the guy's torn shirts and spiked hair inspired a lot of people, and his drug and alcohol abuses were legendary. Maybe he’s too deliberate in his presentation, like he's Richard Hell "THE POET" and what he did in Television, the Heartbreakers, and The Voidoids were just performance art pieces in the tradition of his hero Rimbaud. Maybe it's how he's gone out of his way to say "Blank Generation" was a song about hopefulness, that "blank" means you can be whoever you want to be. Ripped shirts may have been cool, but Hell approached each deliberate rip as a statement in itself. Patti Smith was a self-absorbed poet too, but she got away with it while Richard Hell didn’t as much.
To this day he's bitter at his lack of success. A few years back he released a book of fiction and made all the media stops, both embracing his legend and rejecting whichever elements of punk might detract from his desired stature as a serious writer. He has never been successful as a writer. I hate to rag on the guy, but I suspect his fame comes not from having much talent, but from being one of the first to do whatever it was punks did in his day. He jumped up and down playing guitar and tried to bring energy to the otherwise dull venture known as Television. All the books on old punk lead you to believe Hell was the real deal. Maybe he was. Maybe you had to be around then to know the state of music and what Hell did to affect the punk scene. It's just that this collection of Voidoid tunes offer as little to modern day punks as the equally overrated Television.
"Love Comes In Spurts" and "Blank Generation" are classics. The other ten songs dither between off-key lounge crooning, cabaret swaggering not unlike Wayne/Jayne County, and Talking Heads white funk. "All The Way" is a slow crooner as groaningly bad as Bowie's cover of "Across The Universe".
Look, I'm in no position to damn this man to insignificance because I think this collection is lame. Hell's reputation in punk circles is legendary, and good for him. I just don't hear qualities in this work that warrant recommendation for those interested in old punk as a direct influence on modern punk. The first Ramones album came out at the same time. That sounds like it could have come out last week. Blank Generation might as well be one of those old, thick mono albums you might find in the back of your uncle's ancient stereo entertainment center.
Heroines - Big Pink (7" review) (Gimpy's Deluxe): This isn't new and I'm not going to get into the music except to say Kelly screamed while the band played raw, sloppy punk you could throw into the Grrl Group category if a gun was at your head. This is a review of one city's punk scene. It could be any small city's scene, but in this case it's Las Vegas, Nevada. Big cities have big punk scenes that by sheer mass and attitude tend to alienate a good number of those within that scene. You have the elite - bands and their friends, but a large chunk of the audience has little connection to these people outside of shows, records and zines. I lived in Washington, DC for fourteen years, and even in the glory days of Dischord and Minor Threat there was much high school snobbery afoot. It's cool to say you're in a big scene like L.A. or NY, but besides being a fan, how close-knit are any of these scenes? In my opinion small punk scenes are the best. Often feeling small and unnoticed, small scenes band together faster and are more accepting of those wanting to be a part of them. Richmond, VA at one time had a great small scene. Reno, NV is legendary for the scene it had in the early ‘80s with 7 Seconds leading the way. Reno still gets all the great shows.
Las Vegas, where I lived for eighteen months, didn't get many big shows and suffered its own bouts of insecurity, but it was a great punk town because the fans were great and Benway Bop Records existed. Benway Bop, now in Venice Beach, CA after Vegas slowed down to a crawl, was the local punk General Store and a great example of the mom & pop independent long on the endangered species list. Run by Ronn and Kelly Benway (Kelly sang for The Heroines), Benway Bop had a comfy couch in the back and all the product they could afford to stock. Decorated with posters, spontaneous artwork and cool thrift store items, Benway promoted music through Ronn's weekly college radio 7" show, in-store concerts (Cub played there) and an infectious love of music that brought hope to the locals that something was going on in this crummy gambling town. Vegas had another punk record store but Benway Bop was truly a destination. Heck, you could spend a few hours there and watch cartoons too! In this case it took only two people to keep a scene going, and with them gone I imagine the Las Vegas scene lost its heart and soul.
The Heroines "Big Pink" 7" is pressed on pink vinyl, the cover is hand-colored with crayons, and, AND, there's a neatl Heroines refrigerator magnet too. Why a refrigerator magnet? Because, that’s why!
Hey Mercedes - Hey Mercedes (CD EP review) (Polyvinyl): One thing I notice about fans of the band Braid is that they can reference and cross reference every note of every song, and they write about Braid on theological terms. Me, I they’re ok but a bit on the hard rock side. A few months after Braid broke up in 1999, three original members and a pick-up guitarist formed the more melodic Hey Mercedes. This, their debut four song EP, was released in September of 2000, followed eleven months later by the full-length Everynight Fire Works. The EP is superior only in that there was no obligation to fill up an entire disc, which on the long player lead to some tracks that drifted from Hey Mercedes' signature sound back into a harder Braid feel. I like Hey Mercedes more than I do Braid, but that may be due to my inability to rock.
Hey Mercedes cumulatively create something very interesting on the EP by working extensively with bass and guitar tones and pulses. There's a hypnotic feel that's trippy without being psychedelic or funky like the dreaded rap rock. All four tracks, while not repeating themselves in any significant way, create an impressive set of melodic moods and soaring energies that once again remind you that the best emo demands to be listened to with expensive headphones. This can be quite symphonic.
The four tracks are equally good. It's not two for one day at the orgasm store or anything, but the EP is interesting and nicely melodic. The full-length follow up continues on this track but is heavier at times, and closer to the stop-start feel of Braid. It also loses creative steam towards the end, but there are worse crimes.
Hot Water Music- Exister (CD review): I respect Hot Water Music more than I like their music. The quality of their studio recordings is fantastic and part of the reason why I'm so annoyed at Leatherface for the sonic mud they commit to disc. Leatherface is a direct influence on Hot Water Music by their own admission - a two guitar approach and lyrical exhortations of the soul. Another big nod goes to Dag Nasty, from which came post-hardcore. Like their early contemporaries Dillinger Four and Braid they also deal in first wave emo hard, crunchy grunge grooves. I like Leatherface and Dag Nasty but not so much post-hardcore and grunge, so my 50/50 feelings about Hot Water Music make perfect sense to me - according to math!
I listen to Hot Water Music and admire what they're doing well without actually getting into it. I keep fourteen tracks on my hard drive because they're good enough and maybe one day I'll adapt or adjust, whichever comes first. My body tells me what I think of something when I run da mean streetz of Long Beach. Hot Water Music gives me no added energy boost. I do appreciate the separation on my headphones. It makes me wish they'd do an album of Leatherface covers so I can hear them in the sound quality they should have.
Singer Chuck Ragan's voice has become more coarse since the last HWM release in 2004 and the band's closer to Leatherface than stop/start post-hardcore, but the mixture of the two still don't make this what I'd listen to for yucks. I recommend it highly to anyone with even a slight interest in this stuff. There's a nice mix of sounds and tempos, and for fans who've grown up too since 2004 this might be the greatest thing since all-you-can-orgasm night at the Mustang Ranch. I include "The Traps" as a sample from the cd because the harmonic singing is soaring, along with an oldie also with great co-mingled verbalizations .
House Boat - The Delaware Octopus / Processing Complaints / The Thorns Of Life (cd reviews):
This is what happens when you combine new century pop punk (juvenile edition) with melodic and powerful roots punk (semi-commercial edition). More specifically band members of The Dopamines, The Ergs, The Steinways, Off With Their Heads and Dear Landlord came together, like anchovies and string cheese, to form House Boat. Influences appear separately and combine to create a new sub-genre I just named "Roots Punk Pop". I own that and if you even think it you must send me twelve internet monies.
The results are pretty good and they grew on me over time. Only two tracks stood out as "singles" ("Real Life Is A Metaphor For Real Life", "Barkmarket F--kery") but every song on these three releases run from pretty good to very good. The energy level and harmonies stand out for extra notice. The downside of consistency, sometimes regardless of quality, is a sense of sameness, and sometimes I sensed certain tracks were doing the same things only in a different order (which I know everybody does, but still). This cd from Roxy Epoxy is a perfect example. Oddly if not hypocritically enough I demand this in some bands but I hear enough talent in the members of House Boat to think they could have hit a few more out of the park originality-wise.
Their sound has developed since their debut in 2009 and I'd start with their best, this year's The Thorns Of Life, which for some reason steals the cover art of Screeching Weasel's Television City Dream. Some tracks are pop punk, others roots punk and a handful straightforwardly imitate Chixdiggit! An all-ages show mindset is evident for whatever that's worth.
The Humpers - Mutate With Me (7" review) (Junk): If you live in L.A. or read Flipside you know the Humpers are hometown favorites. They play over-21 bar punk firmly rooted in hard drinkin' and rockin' r&b. The Lazy Cowgirls, the Devil Dogs, and The New Bomb Turks also fit into this category. I know people who are gnawing at the bit for the Humpers to hit it really big, but so far no go. The New Bomb Turks broke away from the pack instead, while I was rooting for The Lazy Cowgirls. Here’s two songs that prove their skills but don't make them the kings of the hill they helped build by hand. "Mutate With Me" is a clean theft of The Undertones’ "Teenage Kicks". "Dummy Got A Hunch" is a decent punker that makes me wonder how the hell they come up with the line "Dummy comes to town/dressed like a clown/sniffin' around/thinks he'll finger the platinum goose/but all he'll get's egg on his suit". It’s either pure genius or just weird. I'll have to get back to you on that.
Huntingtons - High School Rock (CD review) (Tooth & Nail): Oh, do I love this CD. I listen to it all the time. After a few records of random pop punk they settled on Ramones mania like The Riverdales. The Huntingtons can at times sound like the Queers do and Screeching Weasel once did. A number of bands are said to have a Ramones sound but these guys have it down to a science. Theirs is party music for the the most fun party in the world. The guitar leads are Screeching Weasel but everything else is straight out of Forest Hills, Queens.
If you like the Ramones, The Lillingtons, The Hanson Brothers, The Queers, Screeching Weasel, and The Riverdales you must buy this. Kids, loosen up, have some fun - not every song has to be educational or about your own life. Lose yourself in the three chord wonder of the Huntingtons and hop around like the fun-loving cretin pinhead you know you are when you're not acting like an asshole with your school friends.
High School Rock is a ten out of ten, and it’s my CD of the month.
Huntingtons - Rocket To Ramonia (CD review)) (Lying Fart): Read my review of High School Rock to get a sense of how great I think these Baltimorons are when it comes to slavish Ramones worship. I know some won't buy any of their recordings because they're on Tooth&Nail - a front for Christian bands to take over the punk world in the name of Christ. There's not one mention of God in their songs so I couldn’t care less what they do on Sundays.
I hit my limit a few weeks ago on Ramones cover albums. The Huntingtons do a better job than most but I've pretty much had it up to here (no, not there, HERE!) with the tribute gimmick. The CD contains fifteen songs from the Brudder's first few records, each a classic and recast with power and respect. If you must hear some Ramones covers this shiny frisbee will be your wafer thin mint, but make it a point to find High School Rock and be prepared to cretin hop. [2007 update: I listened to this again and it’s aged quite well.].
Huntingtons - Get Lost (CD review) (Tooth & Nail): This was The Huntongton’s third CD, from 1999, their second set of originals after 1998's High School Rock. After an album of Ramones covers and a live CD that sounded ike The Queers, the Huntingtons on Get Lost explore Ramones mania through Ben Weasel's The Riverdales. On the slower tracks Mikey Huntington imitates Joey Ramone fairly well. The front cover is a nod to the Ramone's Too Tough To Die, while the back is a take on Animal Boy.
That being said, this is a great record. Being a "Christian" band everyone looks for references to JC and subliminal messages to tithe. All I could find was the funny and all-around excellent song "What Would Joey Do?”, a top-selling t-shirt at their shows. The lyrics are probably not smiled upon by the elders; "What would Joey do?... about the state of rock 'n' roll / It's almost the end of the century / but I'm sure this ain't the way he thought it'd be / if we put his name on a bracelet / if we put his name in lights / Joey would he come and save us tonight?" Joey Hyman, a Jew, replacing Jesus as God? Hhhhmmmmmm.
Get Lost is as good if not better than High School Rock, a record I couldn't stop listening to for two months straight. I really love "Annie's Anorexic". The Huntingtons have written and recorded an A+ album.
Huntingtons - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (CD review) (Tooth & Nail): The Huntingtons are a Ramones fetish band. A million people say there's a million Ramones bands, but that's an oversimplification of an overstatement. When an "=" sign is attached between Green Day and the Ramones, saints cry. They also cry when you touch yourself. I wish more Ramones-esque groups played around here. I'd leave the house more often.
The concept for the CD was to replicate the Ramones 1979 live album "It's Alive". Mikey Huntington is doing his best Joey imitation. The audience reaction track, I think for both albums, was added after the fact. The recording quality is above par and the set list a decent overview of their career so far. They could have mixed up the tempos a bit more. I saw them live last year and really liked the show. They obsess over belting out tunes like few groups I've come across. There’s also a heavy Queers influence on this performance.
Huntingtons - Plastic Surgery (CD review) (Tooth & Nail): There's not much I can add about these guys, so I'm writing from both my heart and my ass here. I'm a complete loon for their studio albums. By their own admission Plastic Surgery is a companion piece to Get Lost, which came out a year earlier in 1999. It was a different session and a band member left and replaced in the interim, so the reference eludes me. Both albums hit the same balance between The Ramones and The Queers, who totally dominated the feel of the live album. Their latest, which I don't own yet, contains 25 new versions of existing Huntingtons tracks. Jesus, and I do mean Jesus, they'd better be reinventing the wheel or else they're wasting everyone's time.
The CD opens with the call "1-2-3-4" in a song called "I Wanna Be A Ramone". It's really everything you need to know about The Huntingtons. They don't hide their worship and it's nothing to be ashamed of. The album is peppered with signature Ramones guitar hooks and verbal phrases. They have Johnny Ramones' guitar stylings nailed, which is not something most bands accused of following the Ramones can claim. I draw power from perfectly executed Ramones chords like Superman does from the rays of a yellow sun.
The only reference to Jesus on this one is in "The Girl's Gone Crazy", in the line "There's someone that she's gotta meet". Those Christian punk bands, they're sometimes subtle with the brain-washings. It's like voodoo I tells ya. My favorite track is "Now I'm Alright", a rehash of the amazing "Annie's Anorexic" from Get Lost combined with a bit of The Ramones' "Pet Semetary".
Love it or hate it, it's here if you want it.
Huntingtons - Songs In The Key Of You (CD review) (Tooth & Nail): You have to go back maybe five years to find a Huntingtons record that doesn't sound like the Ramones as interpreted through Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales and The Queers. Songs In The Key Of You sounds like it could have been recorded five years ago, or at least it did the first few times I listened. Maybe Mickey Huntington felt it would be in bad taste to sing like Joey so soon after the tall lizard man's death, and maybe it felt like the right time to not write exclusively in the tribute style that dominated their last few records. This is still a sweet record.
What can I write about a Huntingtons CD that I haven't written before? There's a few tracks that sound like The Queers and the rest are good to great post-Ramones fuzzfests. I may be hearing some synth and piano, which I think is a recent addition. If you like past Huntingtons CDs you'll enjoy this too. If you're Hard-To-The-Core and don't like bands that aren't angry civilization still exists, stay away.
For those who keep score, I couldn't find a single reference to Jesus on this Tooth & Nail release. Maybe if you take every fifth letter from first chorus of every second song it spells out something Godtastic. God, uh, I mean, Test Tube forbid!
Husker Du - (review) (e-mail I received from Nick Knutsen: "This is about what you wrote about the meaning of "Husker Du". I have never heard of a Swedish board game called Husker Du, but i doubt it because "do you remember?" in Swedish is "kommer du ihåg?" [that last word should be "ihag" with a ring over the "a"], not "husker du?". "Husker du?" is _Norwegian_ for "do you remember", and it's the title of a TV show from the 80s and maybe earlier with old people singing old folk songs. I'm Norwegian, btw. Haven't heard of a Norwegian board game called Husker du either.")
Do You Remember? Do You Remember!!!???? Husker Du is the name of a Swedish board game which translates as Do you Remember? Husker Du were a great three-piece hardcore band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bob Mould, a husky man with the thinnest calves I’ve ever seen, sustained a hyper-speed guitar wall of noise to such effect that he created his own genre of punk, copied by bands like The Lemonheads, The Hated, Green Day and Man Sized Action. It’s my theory that grunge is Husker Du played at half speed. Grant Hart slapped the drums (as opposed to playing hard) and tended to write punk songs with a touch of psychedelia. Bass player Greg Norton, while owning a cool handlebar mustache, was (happily for him) along for the ride. Husker Du didn’t rely on the bass too much after Metal Circus - the sound was 50% drums and 200% Bob Mould’s Flying V. In concert they set up a microphone for Norton but he rarely used it. Singing duties were evenly split between Mould and Hart. Between 1981 and 1987 Husker Du released eight albums of original material, two being double sets. They started as a generic thrash band:, developed over four years into the tightest, most reflective and definitely the most sonically hyperactive three-piece punk band in history; and then devolved over two years into a slower, more sensitive band that wasn’t afraid to sing about feelings. I can only play Candy Apple Grey at 45rpm. Otherwise I scream at the stereo, “Why don’t you just play acoustic guitar, Mr. Emotional?!?!?! (which he later did, so there.) Grant Hart left the band (didn’t he have a really bad heroin problem?) and has put out various product to little notice, while Greg Norton went to work as a chef. Bob Mould later fronted Sugar, which sounded like mid-to-later period Husker Du with great drumming and crisp production.. Bob has also released a number of solo albums that paint him as the most sweet, sincere, lost little boy in the world. Imagine Baby Huey with one finger on his lower lip trying to look sincere. [2007: Bob’s last CD, Body Of Sound, was a nice mix of his electronic and retro-Sugar interests].
Selected Husker Du recordings:
Early Singles: “Amusement” (1980) / “Statues” (1981) / “In A Free Land EP” (1982): These early singles establish Husker Du as a slow to mid tempo punk trio relying heavily on the bass and drums. Bob Mould’s guitar does little more than screech and peep out a few notes. Here Husker Du sound like a more animated Flipper. The “In A Free Land” EP beautifully complements the Everything Falls Apart 12” and is the only overt punk politica” statement the band ever made (besides the cover of Land Speed Record). “M.I.C.” stands for Military Industrial Complex. Husker lore has it they wrote a song called "Drug Party" that was so potent they couldn't release it. Yeah. Which reminds me of the Monty Python sketch about a joke that was so funny it was used during the war as a weapon.
Land Speed Record (1981): Total crap. Super crappy recording, crappy musicianship, crappy songs. I’ve met people who like this and it’s a real conversation stopper. Critics make believe this album doesn’t completely suck by saying it’s short bursts of raw punk energy. Bulls—t! This was a horrible first album. They’re trying to be MDC, The Minutemen, and The Dead Kennedys all at once – but without underlying melodies. Thankfully they abandoned this nonsense.
Everything Falls Apart (1982): A 45 rpm 12” with twelve songs, this was re-issued on CD with the early singles and a live demo of “Do You Remember”. For arguments sake we’ll call this Husker Du’s first release. This is a fast, furious, yet crystal clear hardcore album with distinct elements of The Minutemen and Naked Raygun. Mould’s guitar doesn’t completely dominate as it soon will. “Punch Drunk” contains the words “What are you, a f—king queer?” and “The girl’s a faggot”, which lead to cries of homophobia, but since both Mould & Grant came out of the closet the intent is murkier. The lyrics in general are obscure personal politics that defy description.
(Paul Caporino of M.O.T.O. corrected me on "Punch Drunk". Paul points out, "The ad-lib is 'Merrill's a faggot', meaning Merrill Ward of the SST band Nig-Heist. Merrill was one of the Husker Du Boys Choir that yelled "Blah Blah Blah", and apparently one of the other choirboys called him a faggot at the end of that song. I often wondered what Bob and Grant thought when they heard that on the song, given their own sexual orientation.") Thanks Paul!)
(this update was sent to me by the man in question, Merrill Ward, on 3-1-99) "Greetings from the bastions of ancient Punk rockdo and "Where-are-they-nows-ville".
I just happened to be searching for what's out there on me on ye olde internet and I can across your page in reference to Husker Du's "Everything Falls Apart". I refer to the following:
(PaulCaporino of M.O.T.O. has
corrected me on "Punch Drunk". As Paul points out, "Thead-lib is 'Merrill's a
faggot', meaning Merrill Ward of the SST band Nig-Heist. Merrill wasone of the
Husker Du Boys Choir that yelled "Blah Blah Blah", and apparently one of the
other choirboys called him a faggot at the end of that son. I often wondered
what Bob and Grant thought when they heard that on the song, given their own
sexual orientation.") Thanks Paul!
The above is quite correct "the other choirboy" in question was none other than my dear frined and long-time Black Flag roadie and van-man Mugger. I did back-up vocals on a number of Husker tracks on that particular album. The fact of the matter remains, that both my and Mugger's sexual preferences were stickly hetero, and even though I don't think either of us were aware of Grant or Bob's sexual preferences (whatever they might have been at the time) we wouldn't have much cared. Mugger and I (both members of the infamous Nig-Heist) were frequently in the habit of affectionately calling each other "faggot", which was more a punk rock "term of endearment" than any kind of hateful slur. Frankly, one of the main tenets of the Nig-Heist mentality was to taunt the homphobic nature that was inherent in the "hardcore” ethic; to wag our proverbial weenies in the face of the Orange Curtain hardcore skinhead movement. So there you have it. The blatant facts in all their naked detail. All the best,
Metal Circus (1983): A seven-song 12” EP, Metal Circus contains great punk anthems not as preachy as straight edge but just as powerful. The ideas are for the most part crystal clear and right on target. From “Real World”: “I can’t think of anything/That makes me more upset/People talk all this rhetoric/Forgive but not forget/I don’t rape, and I don’t pillage/Other people’s lives/I don’t practice what you preach/And I won’t see through your eyes.” The song most remembered is Hart’s “Diane” with its clever word play on Diane/Dying.
Zen Arcade (1984): The world’s first Punk Rock Opera and an homage to The Who’s Quadrophenia. There’s some filler in this two record set, but cut down to one album you might have the best punk album of the ‘80s. Ostensibly the story of a boy who runs away from home, Zen Arcade is a great selection of styles - folk, psychedelic, tape loops and the full-blown wall of feedback that defines the Husker Du sound. Mould’s wall of guitar noise is employed to full advantage. It’s by consensus their best album.
Du Huskers: The Twin Cities Replay ZEN ARCADE (1993): 24 Minneapolis/St. Paul bands pay homage to some local heroes by covering Zen Arcade in its entirety. The songs are mostly interpreted artfully as opposed to trying to out-punk the masters. Some of the bands are Arcwelder, Zuzu’s Petals, Vertigo, Hammerhead, Balloon Guy, and Janitor Joe. For the most part it’s an interesting and appropriate tribute, with the glaring exception of The Hang-Ups covering the cover of “Eight Miles High”. Theirs is too wimpy and coy.
New Day Rising (1985): A continuation of Zen Arcade without the pretext of a story. Side A is great while Side B starts off well but sputters midway through. “New Day Rising” is a thundering one-line primal scream and opens the album on a note of relentless energy. New Day Rising contains a great observation in “Folk Lore”: “Young man was the hero of the day, long long hours, short short pay // Now the kids play vids instead, their heroes are living on wonder bread.”
Flip Your Wig (1985): Not a bad album, but the downward trend towards college radio alternative begins. Mould’s guitar stops attacking and starts jangling – it’s the beginnings of Husker Du as an alternative band. Maybe it’s how the vocals are over-produced or how some songs are slowed down to increase the sincerity quotient. Maybe it’s just the normal result of signing to a major label.
Candy Apple Grey (1986) : More of the same and even less. Forced harmonies and the trick of opening the album with a fast thrasher had by this point grown old and lost its effect. Slower songs and…I’m.. falling… a.. sleep…zzz zzzz
Warehouse: Songs And Stories (1987): To Husker Du what Oranges and Lemons was to XTC - a boring two album set that only impressed critics who didn’t like the bands in their best days. Super wimpy and college friendly. I traded this one in right away.
The Living End (1994): Warner Bros. released this 24 song CD, and it’s decent, considering it was recorded just before the band broke up after releasing a few boring albums. They even cover “In A Free Land”, making this a sweetcareer retrospective. The tempo isn’t as loud and fast as I’d like it, but they never consulted me. Even “New Day Rising” sounds mid-tempo. They end the CD with a rousing cover of the Ramone’s “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”, starting (of course) with Dee Dee's old “1,2,3,4” countdown. They used to close with a cover of the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Now that was punk, boyo!
Hypnotics - Indoor Fiends (LP review) (Enigma): All 22 songs on the album sound the same, but I love each and every one. It's snotty, snide and Southern California. They had a low-level hit in the early ‘80s, "Weird People", due to its inclusion on the American Youth Report comp LP. The press release, reprinted in the liner notes, says the Hypnotics sound like "a hybrid of The Ruts and Jello Biafra". To me it's more a thrash hybrid of "Stepping Stone" and "Secret Agent Man". Any way you look at it, it's a garage classic. They had a keyboard player too!
The Hypnotics (not to be confused with Thee Hypnotics) recorded Indoor Fiends in 1982, fell apart a bit internally, and contractually recorded a follow-up in 1983 that never saw the light of day. One song from that session, "Jerry's on Drugs", a cut at Jerry Lewis, received airplay on Dr. Demento's radio show. Lead singer Marky De Sade supposedly did a great Jerry Lewis imitation. Marky had a lot of charisma, switching between talking and singing with the timing of a borscht belt veteran.
It took me a while to find any info on these guys, but someone involved in the production went of his way to make an entire site to celebrate this creme of obscurity. It’s dead as of 2007 but it was at www.wenet.net/~bucko/hypnotics/index.htm.
The Idols With Sid Vicious (CD review) (New Rose Blues): After The Sex Pistols broke up, but before Sid killed himself with an overdose provided by his own dirty hippie mom, Nancy Spungen, the human pin cushion, managed to get her stick-figurative of a man a few club gigs. I could walk five feet to my bookcase and look up dates and clubs, but hey, I pretend to work and you pretend to pay me. As documented succinctly in the film Sid & Nancy, Sid was worthless on stage and the "fans" let it be known. I've found a number of CDs listed, all with the same group of cover songs: "I Wanna Be Your Dog", "Take A Chance", "Stepping Stone", "My Way", "Belsen Was A Gas", "Something Else", "Chatterbox", "Search and Destroy", "Chinese Rocks" and "No Lip".
Go wit whut ya know and whut blokes know ya by, roit Sid? Something tells me the same gigs are being recycled by grave digging fly-by-night labels, profiting from the gullibility of kids who only know Sid was so fugging cool because he was, like, fugging cool or something.
The Idols were ex-NY Doll and Heartbreaker Jerry Nolan's band. They released a single in '79. For this Sid gig, Jerry plays drums, ex-NY Doll Arthur Kane is on bass, Steve Dior plucks the guitar, and Sid sings. Sid's not a bad singer, really, except he often mimics Johnny Rotten and was too drugged up to be coherent. Another band Sid played with consisted of Glen Matlock, Steve New and Rat Scabies. What some people will do for rent and beer money.
The CD isn't that bad if you have a love for live NY Dolls and Heartbreakers. Nolan and Kane are responsible. The Matlock/Scabies combo probably sounded more like the Pistols. This CD and all like it are for collectors only. I bought it used for a friend who has a Sid Vicious fixation. She’s great but Sid was a loser. His story is a lesson on what not to do, and it should be told only once. I like to s--t on his grave every time I write about him because I have no other take on him.
(Impatient) Youth - Don't Listen (LP review) (Lost & Found): Gah-damn, I didn't realize this late ‘70s San Francisco trio was so obscure. The material's so strong I figured the whole world knew about Impatient Youth (I refuse to play their evil punctuation game). Formed in 1977 with Billy Ray Martin at the helm, they released one single in 1979 and appeared on a 1982 MRR comp. In 1983, Martin moved to Austin TX and eventually wound up in Los Angeles. In the late ‘80s the German punk label Lost & Found came across a tape of I.Y. material, tracked down Martin, then released Don't Listen and a few singles. On the strength of these, Impatient Youth reformed in 1992 and they minted two EPs in 1993. Shredder also released a live split 7" with I.Y. and The Mutants.
The problem for and with Impatient Youth is that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they were in Minneapolis in the early ‘80s they could have been on Twin Tone Records and shared the spotlight with The Replacements and Soul Asylum. Impatient Youth’s soul-bros are The Nils. At various times you can also hear some Clash-esque elements. Reviews have called them a pop-punk band, but the sound is nothing like today's pop-punk. I.Y. sped up rock, folk and country influences into a punk package that never struck a pose or exuded attitude. The lyrics are often political but never simplistic and beaten over the head.
Don't Listen is a compilation of fourteen tracks, some unreleased, and three live tracks from 1978. Every song is strong in its own way. Nothing touches The Nil's "Scratches and Needles" and "Daylight" in sheer screaming greatness, but this is very enjoyable and creative work. If you can find this album, don't let it slip by. I'm amazed Impatient Youth aren't more popular.
Th' Inbred - Reproduction (7" review) (Art Reco): Formed in 1984 and hailing from the improbable punk inbreeding ground of Morgantown, West Virginia ( "Wes Virginny" to the locals), Th' Inbred recorded albums for Toxic Shock in 1986 and 1988, both with strong appeal to fans of complex funky punky art noise damage. It’s in line with other Toxic Shock bands and second wave Alternative Tentacles. Reproduction was their six-song, DIY debut in 1984-5, and what made it stand out at the time was the song "Scene Death", an attack on the political punk scene of DC's Dischord Records - "We shout and spit the lyrics out/ We know what punk's all about/ We play fast and loud 'cause/ We wanna be the in-crowd". The kicker is that "in-crowd" is drawled out as "Ian crowd", as in Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat. Ya git it? Guh-hur?!
The EP hints at the more distinctive sound of the albums, but here the bands' inspiration is The Dead Kennedys. Art (the "A" is an anarchy symbol) sings like Jello Biafra with less post-nasal drip, and he mimics Jello's signature phrasings. Robert on guitar can at times play in East Bay Ray's surf/garage style, but he thankfully avoids blatant rip-offs. The EP comes with a xerox lyrics sheet and concert flyer, both in the cut & paste style of the DKs. And hey, whattaya know, they opened for the DKs, COC and DRI on Nov. 8, 1984. The liner notes thank Raw Power, 7 Seconds, COC and AOD (you can learn a lot about a band from the bands they thank).
Taking these six songs as a package the overall effect is the DKs meets No Trend. Another band who sounded like this was Active Ingredients, from Lexington, KY, who like Th' Inbred wrote a great anti-MTV song. Drummer Billy Atwell later played with the Rhythm Pigs and recorded a solo album.
Isocracy - Bedtime For Isocracy (EP review) (Lookout): Since you're wondering, an Isocracy is a form of government where every person has equal power. It’s another fantasy world that looks cute on paper but has as much chance of happening as "President Gnome Crapsky". Three cheers for esoteric idealism!
The band Isocracy put out an eleven song EP in 1988 and appeared on both The Thing That Ate Floyd 2LP comp and MRR's Turn It Around 2 EP comp. They were an integral part of Berkeley's Gilman Street scene along with Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Sweet Baby Jesus, Sewer Trout, Mr. T Experience, Corrupted Morals and just about every other group on the Lookout label at the time. In 1988 Gilman Street and Lookout had a sound Isocracy fit like a hot dog into a donut. Isocracy sounded like other Gilman bands, and at various times Minor Threat, Embrace, Reagan Youth (especially in the tunings) and SNFU, but they owed a big-ass debt to Doggy Style, Orange County's resident mid-‘80s party band. I've read interviews with Doggy Style and Isocracy that mirror each other. Both were fun yet also wrote some serious lyrics, and both put on live shows that were as silly and audience interactive as possible.
Lead singer Jason Beebout and bass player Martin went on to form Samiam, but Martin left once the prospect of touring reared its ugly pink head. Drummer Al Sobrante (real name John Kiffmeyer) was Green Day's original drummer, and there's an article about him on the internet that says he fixes bicycles for free. Someone named Lenny played guitar and I have no clue what happened there. Maybe he became a damn hippie.
Bedtime For Isocracy is a good record and a lot of fun. To use the correct phraseology, they were a great Gilman band. The lyrics sheet says a band t-shirt cost $3 postpaid, and if you sent them a blank tape they'd "send it back with our voices on it!" There was also "The Isocracy Hotline", which they implore you to call in an etching on side two of the EP. I'm sure if you call that number now you'll get some pissed off person who every few months gets a stupid call about a stupid band they've never heard of.
J Church - One Mississippi (CD review) (Honest Dons): Damn this is good. Damn! J Church has been around since ‘91 but I never gave them a second thought. For some reason I thought they were a generic hardcore band like Black Train Jack. If I knew J Church was Lance Hahn and Gardner Fusuhara from Cringer I might have followed them over the years. Better late than never, and this, their latest release, is a great CD in what critics consider an uneven career.
The tunes are quirky alt.punk with a definite appeal to those with eclectic tastes. Two bands that come to mind when I listen to this are The Volcano Suns and They Might Be Giants. Tracks 9-13 are pure TMBG. A woman by the suspiciously fake name of Kelly Green sings incredible backup on "The Track", my favorite track. "Your Mother" is a riff stolen directly from Lou Reed's "Lisa Says". The xylophone bit at the end is sublime. "I Reach For Her Hand" is a great dance new waver with a guitar lead taken right from The Cure's songbook. "Leni Riefenstahl's Tinder Box" earned points with me because they basically say this Nazi-era propagandist can't hide behind the excuse of Art. I cheer the lyrics "There is no time to sympathize / With Leni Riefenstahl / Art is not created in a void / Any act of outrage / Cannot see through the tears / Wept for the fallen Fuhrer // Art for art's sake is a lie". The 26th track, "Stars Are Exploding", is a dirge utilizing a looped tape of what sounds like a beautifully ancient recording of a ghost-like woman speaking in German over a ham radio. It reminds me of OMD’s Dazzle Ships.
Like I said, a damn fine CD and probably too eclectic and intelligent for most. Yes, I'm calling you stupid, stupid.
Jacks--t - Hicktown (7" review) (Squirtdown): Old funny-punk from Reno, NV, with 7 Second's Steve Youth on bass and Kevin Seconds providing backing vocals. Released in 1984, the same year as Tesco Vee's Dutch Hercules 12", which was equally funny and also relied on fellow townie musicians. Where Tesco continued his Meatmen shtick, Jacks--t played in the ever-shifting styles of the Dead Kennedys. Lyrically they were snotty, obnoxious, not too bright and only sometimes clever. It's an obvious call to sing about redneck Reno, a city that combines the worst of Las Vegas and Akron: "I live in a hicktown/ I wear a baseball hat/ My 4x4 Ford pickup truck is really where it's at/ I like to cruise down Main Street/ To try & pick up chicks/ Drive back and forth to no avail/ Cuz' all I see are hicks!", but why pick on the handicapped in "Gimp": "Hey there gimp/ what's the matter with your hand?/ you sure do look funny/ I just don't understand/ gimpy, gimpy/ you better stay in there/ or we'll ride by on our bikes and spit loogies in your hair". It's a cruel song with no irony or otherwise redeeming quality.
What makes this a collector's item is the involvement of members of 7 Seconds. It's aged a bit poorly, especially in the lyrics dept. Back in ‘84 it was a laff riot. Maybe I've grown up since then.
Jakkpot - "3.2.1 Go!/Burnin' In '77" (7" review) (Junk): Baltimore punk rock bands are usually way more rock than punk. Jakkpot doesn't escape their hometown sound by much, but they do a fine job here. As everyone knows, jazz songs that end with the drummer yelling "yeah!" are always great. The same goes for punk songs with fast number countdowns followed by the scream "GO!!". "3.2.1 Go!" provides a full day's supply of this essential nutrient. It’s bar punk with excellent drumming and a two guitar attack. The B-side doesn't sound anything like '77, but it's OK all the same.
Jets To Brazil - Orange Rhyming Dictionary (CD review) (Jade Tree): The biggest thing to happen to emo since extra-absorbent tissues and reading glasses that don't slip down your nose, Jets To Brazil is what became of Jawbreaker and Texas Is The Reason, legendary bands in these circles. Most emo stinks but there's a rich, complicated quality that fascinates me, so I seek out the best of the genre. While The Promise Ring and Sense Field put out a record each that to me is best of show, this debut is still very good. It starts with "Crown Of The Valley", whose slightly psychedelic/funky groove doesn't bode well for the rest of the CD. Hearing it the first time I was reminded somehow of Fugazi, whose post-hardcore minimalist funk never quite did it for me.
Thankfully the rest of Orange Rhyming Dictionary is a logical progression from Jawbreaker to the center of the modern emo universe. The lyrics are obtuse as is required of the genre, and I swear they're using William Burrough's cut and paste writing method. How else to explain "Morning New Disease": "Morning new disease/charcoal in bed/bonesoaked anaemic listen in horror to the scrapping of flatware and china/and saran wrap to stifle libido....". Then again, emo is big on impressionism over concrete reality. At various times in the CD I was reminded of the Psychedelic Furs' new wave psychdelia, The Band's folk rock and in the lyrics and delivery a lot of Gang of Four's robotic socialism.
All in all a very good release I can recommend to many people on many levels.
Jets To Brazil- Four Cornered Night (CD review) (Jade Tree): Orange Rhyming Dictionary managed to combined the best elements of The Band and The Psychedelic Furs. This new one is heavily geared toward The Beatles with some of The Band thrown in. A bit of "In The Summer's When You Really Know" reminds me of The Fur's "The Ghost In You". Sugar is another band that swipes little snippets from other songs to the point of distraction.
The problem with Four Cornered Night is the same problem I had with Jawbreaker. After a while they got dull. This record isn't exciting, and it may rehash the last album to the point of distraction. "You're Having The Time Of My Life", "Your X-Rays..." and "Milk And Apples" are decent enough, but the desire to sit on the floor at their concerts must be very strong. I was hoping they'd record a few more songs with the speed and creative obtuseness of "Morning New Disease". Too much of this is the kind of tuneage you wait patiently to end hoping the next one will be livelier. Even in emo, loud fast rules. Jets To Brazil went the other way this time and it's a wasted opportunity. Blake Schwarzenbach needs to find outside advice, or at least someone who knows how boring he allowed Jawbreaker to become. He needs someone who can help him with his little inertia problem. Four Cornered Night isn't bad, but it's just sits there.
Jetty Boys - Sheboygan (cd review): Sheboygan, WI's hard power pop kings the Jetty Boys are better than adequate but today I might not be in a generous mood. I like 70s power pop more in theory than in practice, as while I love a good melody there's something corny and lite about songs that look back to the surreal syrupy sweetness of The Beatle's "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" period for inspiration. Sweet Baby did it perfectly via excellent songwriting and crazy energy, and maybe while I like all the tracks on Sheboygan there's nothing I have to say about any of them in particular. I'm keeping this one for the future where I know I'll be up for it more, because, as Ed Wood once wrote, the future is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
JFA (LP review) (Placebo): Remember skate punk? An early ‘80s phenomenon, it existed alongside hardcore and straight-edge. A little too focused on skateboarding itself, the genre was open to surf, garage, HXC, even funk and thrash metal. The metal and funk parts I could have done without (and did!). Thrasher magazine put out a few decent skate punk compilations. Boarding is bigger now than it ever was, but I wonder if skate punk is just a memory. There was a small network of skate punk bands around the country who put on shows in open spaces so kids could half-loopy-pike or whatever the hell it is they do. I have no balance and had a back operation. I cringe in terror every time I see some twelve year old fly off stairs into traffic. Then again, I am as old as the pyramids.
Phoenix, Arizona's JFA, short for Jodi Foster's Army, were (along with Austin, TX's Big Boys) the kings of skate punk. Their first EP was the six-song "Blatant Localism" from 1981. In typical fashion the vocalist sings like he's vomit-yelling "Bleh" and variations of "Bbleh" instead of lyrics. They’re short blasts of energy that prove a point - what point I don't know. I'd say the EP hasn't aged well but it did help define a sound parlayed by endless others.
JFA, their third release, finds JFA at their best, with just the right mix of surf instrumentals and snotty four-chord thrashers. Song titles like "Little Big Man", "Preppy", "Kick You" and "We Know You Suck" let you know where they stood. By 1984 JFA turned into a speedrock band and 1988's NoWhere Blossom added acoustic guitar, keyboards and pacifist lyrics. By that time though they fell off my radar anyway.
Jimmy Eat World
- Futures (CD review): I know I'm not punk,
at least according to the e-mails I get, so I know I have nothing to lose if I
say Jimmy Eat World is one of the most powerfully melodic bands I've come across
in a while. I heard once that Dead Kennedy records are really Mel Torme sped up
3.27 times. That said, Jimmy Eat World come up with nice melodies seemingly in
their sleep. I'm a bigger fan of
makes up for a few commercial concessions with enough melody and flair to
satisfy all my faux-punk desires.
I'm too lazy to do a side-by-side comparison but I think Bleed American is generally faster and harder. Futures has more slow teen angst anthems so teenage girls can wave lighters over their heads at shows. I've never seen The O.C. but I know having a song featured on it can generate buzz and move units. I'm just guessing but I'll bet Jimmy Eat World rule the wasteland of the O.C.
I like fast songs (as long as they're not too fast or loud!) so "Just Tonight..." and "Pain" are my favorites. The stardard pace is mid but Jimmy never gets boring. There's soaring guitars, vocal harmonies and nice melodies all around. Not melodies, I mean riffs, man.
The lyrics are very emotional and poetic. Jimmy Eat World are like, Emoetic!
"Drugs" reminds me of Pink Floyd. "Nothingwrong" is Jimmy as a hair band, as far as that goes. By track 10 of 11 the mid-paced anthems seemed like one too many, so I lost interest and practiced the sullen/slouch combo I like to use at the mall. I liked Futures maybe more than I should. I'd like to punk up maybe 10-15% by new years. Any and all recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American (CD review) (Dreamworks): For what this is and wants to be, Bleed American is a perfect record. I don't know if Jimmy (we're tight so I call them that) tried to make a more commercial record, but if they did they managed to succeed without resorting to the head banging hi-jinx of pathetics like Blink-182. There's a thin line between grunge-lite and emo post-punk, and Jimmy stayed on the right side, the smart side, the classier side. I imagine the sell-out chorus is catatonic with laryngitis since this is out on Dreamworks, to which I say you're not allowed to have an opinion on such things until you're living on your own and earning your own money. Folks who pay rent and make car payments don't usually call bands sell-outs unless the product sucks by calculated design. Bleed American is simply great, and if it's too commercial for you, I'm sorry to inform you that what you do like is still emo so it ain't gonna last three seconds in a street fight with Fear or The Boredoms.
If I see any concessions, it's adding some of Weezer’s new wave elements. What I hear is an even split between the best qualities of The Promise Ring with Weezer added for flavor. The fast songs are great - most fast emo songs are - and the slow songs are graced by incredibly clever riffs, instrumentation and studio augmentations. By default of being weird my favorite track is "Get It Faster", which opens with electronic scratches that sound like crickets and an unidentifiable bass sound straight out of The Resident's "Walter Westinghouse" period. "Hear You Me" reminds me to plug one of the great unsung heroes of emo: Ben Deily. Formerly of The Lemonheads, he self-released a single and CD (Where I'm Calling Fro") that deserves wider attention.
"The Cautioners" opens like a Cars song. Hell, there's a boatload of good new wave going on underneath all of this. Jimmy Eat World does everything from hard to soft, and they do it with power, flair and excellent songwriting. They add nice little touches which make repeat listens a pleasure. I lift to this CD, and every song motivates me for a different reason. It's a crazy criteria to judge the value of a full-length recording, but it's instinctive, primal and just what the doctor ordered when I'm pushing a 1000 lb. hack-squat stack. I do iron-fist training to Leatherface, and "Wingding" makes me bleed. Hey, maybe this isn't the best time to advertise my babysitting service.....
Joan of Arc - Is A Portable Model Of (CD review) (Jade Tree): Oh does is suck. God is this boring. Can they play any fewer notes any slower than they do here? I can see the concert in my mind’s eye - fifty sensitive boys vainly holding back their emotions, gently reaching out to touch some intangible nothing that floats just out of their reach, while Joan Of Arc burns off two calories an hour on stage. The sensitive lads are clutching the lyrics sheet handed out beforehand, whispering the lyrics to "Example One; When" - "Now I got that stare/and I'm ready to die./I got that stare./I'm ready to die./(I just said it./It must be true)", and they're thinking as one, "I have no idea what this means. It is the core of existence". Or I can see a show where fifty conversations are taking place while the band plays, their music not loud enough to impose. I'd be the only one there totally pissed off. I'd get up on stage, rip the instruments out of each of their hands, and flail at each screaming "See, it's supposed to make noise, you 90 lb. sack of sincerity. Don't just pick at it like an anorexic at a buffet. Jesus!!!!"
Emo is frustrating. Sense Field's Building and The Promise Ring's Nothing Feels Good are two of the greatest records I’ve ever owned - there's emotion, power, and structure combined beautifully and forcefully. Is this the only emo that doesn't suck? My god, what's the point of the genre - to be as sensitive, contrite, wimpy, ineffectual and unassuming as humanly possible? Is this new age music with words? All I know is that $10 went swirling down the toilet the second this CD hit my stereo. I love buying records but sometimes afterwards I hate myself for it. I say to myself I should only buy what I can hear beforehand so I don't wind up with garbage. But do I listen to myself? No, because I'm Joe Adventure. Well screw me, that's what I say. I'm gonna find some human toothpick who writes poetry and sell him a Joan of Arc CD. And he better fricking thank me for it too!
Jon Cougar Concentration Camp - Victoria's Secret Sauce (7" review) (Mutant Pop): It took me a few listens but I figured it out. The lead singer of JCCC sounds like Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker. JCCC is loud fast Jawbreaker with tinges of early Screeching Weasel thrash-pop. The four songs on Victoria’s Secret Sauce are decent and there's enough sing-along choruses to make a live show a voice-losing event. I think they get thrown into the power pop punk genre a little too quickly. This is serious punk with power and hooks to spare. They’re definitely a band to watch. I'll be buying a lot more in the near future from JCCC, believe you me. Come on! You just have to believe me... please?
Jon Cougar Concentration Camp - Too Tough To Die (CD review) (Liberation): The modern punk world is conspiring to have bands re-record entire Ramones albums, which is ok by me. Most came out on Selfless and Clearview. The Huntingtons recorded an album's worth of Ramones covers. Too Tough To Die came out in 1984 and was better than most Ramones product from that decade. Dee Dee contributed more than his usual share of singing, which along with his songs makes the project a "too late" effort to appeal to hardcore kids.
San Diego's Jon Cougar Concentration Camp do a competent and fairly straight-forward cover of all the originals, which raises the question "why?" Is Too Tough To Die even worth covering? The first few albums - definitely. It's nice to hear "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)" given its due, but the Ramones' entire 1980s output can be pruned down to an excellent full-length CD tribute, and I can list nineteen better things to do with my time than listen to covers of generic original albums. I'll know the world's gone mad when Brain Drain gets covered by the U.S. Bombs.
If you're a fan of the Ramones you'll probably get a kick out of this release. If you don't know the Ramones that well, don't even think of buying one of the Ramones tribute albums by Screeching Weasel, The Vindictives, The Queers, etc. until you've listened to the originals over and over somewhere approaching infinity. Ah, the Zen of internalizing the first three records until you are one with the flow of the Ramones Chi. Here is your mantra, grass smoker - "Gabba… Gabba… Hey…"
Joykiller - self-titled CD (review) (Epitaph): Zines like Flipside went nuts over this in 1995 when it came out. Flipside loves all Hollywood glam punk. Joykiller is led my Jack Grisham, who as Jack Greggors led the early L.A. punk outfit T.S.O.L., a band too into horror-glam-cabaret for my liking. The Misfits mostly got it right. Recently, after watching Jack do a Bowie/Ferry imitation wearing a pirate-puffy shirt in the movie Suburbia, I ran to the stereo and slammed on The Meatmen's "TSOL Are Sissies". Joykiller is what I’ll call "Cabaret Cock-Rock". Sorry, but you can't croon hardcore. "She" is what Bowie's Tin Machine should have sounded like. Sample lyrics: "White trash/Kids are just white trash/Their toys on the floor/Crayons on the door/I can't find my keys." I've always been amazed at the ability of groups like Loverboy to write lyrics that mean and say nothing. Joykiller is the Loverboy of punk.
Jughead's Revenge - Just Joined (CD review) (Nitro): Can you say "Bad Religion"? I knew you could. Jughead's Revenge has it tattooed on their pee-pees and they stroke themselves constantly to better see the words. Most new-school bands take from NOFX because Bad Religion requires a larger vocabulary. Just Joined isn’t that bad. I was a fan of Bad Religion until the sameness of their albums made me lose interest. At some point I was also sickened by the political pedophilia. Jugheads’ Revenge do a nice cover of Reagan Youth's "(Are You) Happy". Too bad they don't give them any credit for it on the CD.
Juno - A Future Lived In Past Tense (CD review) (DeSoto): An interesting release from these Seattle emo-core persons. It works more like a performance piece than a collection of songs, and while the results are not exactly earth-shattering, the overall effect is impressive on its own terms, and some of the songs are worth repeat listens.
The CD opens with tracks that feature strong drumming and three guitars that intersect beautifully with chimes, rings, walls of noise and note progressions. It's the most engaging type of emo, and it requires good stereo headphones to hear as intended. At song #6 (the 10:12 long "The French Letter"), a deliberate slow pace builds up to a crashing release at exactly 7:00 in. The song and the singing sound like Pink Floyd. "Up Through The Night" follows, and it's an incidental instrumental soundtrack with a guitar tuned in the key of Ry Cooder (which sticks around for the next few songs). It's very effective and you start wondering if Juno ever considered movie soundtrack work. The 8:12 long "Things Gone And Things Still Here" follows, and it's spoken word over a brooding guitar soundscape and a loungey/funky sound effect that might be a drum loop. At this point I’m thinking performance art, usually pretentious but not so much here. I read into Juno more seriousness than pretension. The 9:17 "We Slept In Rented Rooms" is next and it's superfluous to the CD. It's too much of the same, and at its length even more so. The remaining tracks revert to the charms of the opening, and then I guess the lights come up and it's time to go home or hit Denny's for a Grand Slam breakfast. The whole thing is seventy freaking minutes long.
The recording is excellent and I would love to see it performed live. I don't see it as something you put on at a party, even emo parties where there's Kleenex all around in case someone opens up their heart and lets out their emotions. A Future Lived In Past Tense is something you need to think about while you listen, probably best alone. Maybe Juno is the Pink Floyd of emo, which is neither good nor bad. I'd call this an epic release, but that's overstating the case. It’s mighty impressive though, even if it's not for everyday use.
Kid With Man Head - Flapjack Hairpiece (CD review) (OneFoot): There's a midway point between the archetypal silly pop-punk of The Descendents and the full-spectrum instrumentation of emo bands like Sense Field and Texas Is The Reason. Kid With Man Head fits into this group, along with Samiam, 22 Jacks, and other bands I've tripped over on various comps. I'm not a kid anymore, so their episodes of forced lyrical immaturity lack the appeal they might have had back in the day of Milo, but on this 1997 CD are enough reasons to pick this up and to seek out their other recordings.
New Jersey bands are wacky. It must be a combination of the state's low self-esteem and the toxic waste that streams out of the anus of New York into The Meadowlands. "Change The World", "Wuss", "Red Eyed", "Tidal Wave", "Disaster My Way", "Blue Groove" and "Found" are excellent songs. They’re beautifully crafted and executed. The cover of The Eagles' "Hotel California" is proficient but a head-scratcher in its inclusion. Other tracks are decent enough. It's "Cheese Grate Your Face" that annoys me. It starts like this and continues ad nauseam: "Rip your spine from behind your back / to hold up my pants / Your intestines wrapped around my neck / like jewelry from France" This from the same guy who spends the rest of the CD pining away for love and understanding like an emo boy after watching Bambi. Is this funny? No. Is it appropriate? No. Does it add variety somehow to the CD? No. The context is all wrong, and I'm saying this as a man who owns every Meatmen album. I'm embarrassed for these guys. There's a fine yet distinct line between funny and stupid. This song is stupid, and whatever inside joke the cover shot is, with an old man wearing flapjacks on his bald head, must really crack up seven year olds.
Still, Flapjack Hairpiece is a good CD, and I hope they've grown into men since they recorded "Cheese Grate Your Face".
Kids For Cash - No More Walls (7" reciew) (Town Of Hardcore): This is valuable but I can't remember why. I think one band member went on to something big and important to a circle of 25 people. They were from Burke, VA, a quasi-rural suburb of Washington DC. Kids For Cash played punk lyrically inspired by the first generation Dischord SXE bands along with punk fuzz common amongst other DC bands on the small yet crucial Fountain Of Youth label. Dischord started the DC scene and picked amongst their friends and fellow travelers. FOY had a more open policy with bands like 9353 and Braille Party (along with some Dischord bands like Government Issue, Void and Scream).
In the mid 1980s, Burke, VA was the sticks. By now it’s probably a huge slab of concrete suburbia. Every once in a while living in DC I'd pick up a 7" from the boondocks. Another good band like that was The Inbred, who made fun of the DC SXE scene. From there I discovered the Ugly Americans and Lookout bands like Sewer Trout. All these bands were sloppy in a silimlar fashion and I associate the mid ‘80s with this style. Kids For Cash weren't pushy like Minor Threat or aggressive like Hard Stance SXE militants Youth Of Today. They had limited talent and cranked out four chord fuzz rock with standard SXE lyrics like "We're all building walls/ that are keeping us apart/ friends that only think like me/ aren't friends in my heart".
Like I say, No More Walls money and I have no idea why. It's a good slab of vinyl from the era but nobody's ever going to put this out again. Well, maybe if one of them kills somebody really, really famous...
Kill Allen Wrench – My Bitch Is A Junkie (CD review) (Devil Vision): Allen sent me this CD along with a nice letter on custom stationery for his Devil Vision Company Records. The cover is vintage Tesco Vee with Allen decked out in devils’ horns and fangs. Allen looks like Tesco in this shot but in person he looks like Drew Carey. I spoke to him at the CD release party and enjoyed our conversation – Allen’s a seemingly nice guy who’s honest and comfortable with himself..
Kill Allen Wrench is a good time from a nice guy who’s not politically correct – much like Drew and Tesco. I was shocked to hear Allen’s not familiar with The Meatmen except for a vague memory of a song off Dutch Hercules. Instead he takes inspiration from a European band called Rockbitch. My advice for Allen is to tone down the Satan stuff and work on being the archetype intelligent, working class American degenerate he is. Heavy Metal Satan worship may be funny but it's also a one line joke. My Bitch Is A Junkie works Tesco’s punk/metal anti-PC aesthetic pretty much to order. It’s a good joke if you have a sense of humor and an appreciation for high concept numbnuttery. If you get pissed off at the drop of a baby seal you’ll hate songs like "I Want To Date A Porno Star", "Dyke Chicks", "Butt F—k Princess" and "Can’t Stop Getting High". Here’s a few lines from "My Bitch Is A Junky" – "My bitch is a junkie and that’s a fact/My bitch is a junky and she kind of likes crack/She drools and she pukes it’s kind of a drag/She likes to do it when she’s on the rag". Does this offend you? Do you have a sense of humor at all or do you just love the sound of your own whining?
The music itself is mostly punk with cartoon metal added for the effect it lends to the sexist and anti-straight-edge material. The devil thing is a loving mock on metal but I think it works a bit against material that has more to do with punk degeneracy than metal stupidity. I hate all things metal and thankfully My Bitch Is A Junkie is fast and hard rocking punk. A fan and friend of the late El Duce (he gave Duce a ride the night he died), Kill Allen Wrench is a full-length tribute to The Mentors’ lead reprobate. From "El Duce Will Kick Your Ass" – "El Duce is down and dirty/He looks like fifty but he’s in his 30s/Gonna proceed with his plan/Getting money for turning in cans//Fully wasted and making the scene/He’s doing chicks that are ugly and mean/Pan handling because that’s his trick/He’s screwing chicks that’ll make you sick". While he understood and in a way appreciated how El Duce lived his life the self-destructive fullest, Allen has no delusions on El Duce’s place in the world. Duce was good for laughs but useless to himself. The songs on "My Bitch Is A Junky" were recorded in Allen’s home studio and the results are impressive. The songs are great and they keep growing on me. There’s good rolling power and continuity, and this is a fine release indeed.
The name Kill Allen Wrench let’s you know you’re not supposed to take them too seriously. Allen likes his drinking and women as much as the next guy, but from what I saw he really has his s—t-ducks in a row. A motion picture is in the works, but we’ll see. Allen’s bringing back a chapter of punk that hasn’t shown its hairy ass since The Mentors and Meatmen. MRR staff would be happy if bands like this never existed, so here’s three cheers for Kill Allen Wrench. Bands like Kill Allen Wrench must exist to teach punk lessons about pushing limits and maintaining an intelligent sense of humor in a scene sorely lacking both.
There's all kind of interviews and live things hidden at the end of the CD. It could use editing but it's good insight into the Kill Allen Wrench experience. Allen calls his music Hate Edge but you can imagine he cracks himself up every time he says it.
If you don’t like it you can take it up with Allen, a friendly, soft-spoken man who also competes in IFC-style mathces. One of his guitarists was the 1996 world champion bare knuckled fighter. I know what’s good for me so I only have nice things to say. Kill Allen Wrench really can kick your ass. Visit Allen’s homepage at http:www.killallenwrench.com
Kill Sybil - self-titled (CD review) (Empty): I'm on a mission to find good non-commercial alternative music. My desire for new, Loud Fast Rules, harder-than-thou hardcore has diminished over the years. My personal energy level isn't what it used to be. I'm more into thinking about the music these days and less into just clenching my teeth and stomping around. Melody seems more important than it used to. There's a lot of crappy alternative, but also a lot of turdy punk. In between are bands that straddle both worlds with much success: Cub, The Promise Ring , Sense Field and The Dog Faced Hermans come to mind. They have melody with an edge and power - that's my quest right now. I picked up Kill Sybil for a buck and for the most part it pays the bills. The few male/female harmonies remind me of the great Annapolis, Maryland band The Hated. Tammy Watson's singing is a drone that adds texture to the slightly loopy psychedelic guitar fuzz. A second guitar contributes clever note progressions over the consistent wall of noise that keeps it from being wimpy and coy. Being from Seattle there's a slight nod to that regions' pop style but thankfully heavy metal bullpoop never rears its ugly ass. There's a few speedy tunes but mid-paced wins the race here. I’d say it’s highly recommended, especially for emo kids who need to give the introspection a rest and rock out some more.
Killer Kowalski - First Date (7" review) (Blackout!): Lindsey Anderson of Killer Kowalski had her own web page on this site, many years ago. I forgot about it until I read this line editing this page in April, 2007. My memory stinks. I was nervous when this 7" came in the mail. If it was crap I wouldn't have reviewed it at all. I wasn't going to trash it and I wasn't going to lie either. The happy ending is that I like this two-song disc a lot. It’s really good hard-edged garage pop. Lindsey, ever the MBA (in marketing), calls it "BubbleGumPowerPopPunk". Cover all your bases, I always say. A NYC four-piece, KK boasts not one but two former members of New Joisey's Adrenalin O.D. The obvious comparison is The Muffs. Lindsey's singing reminds me of Debbie Harry with a bit of a sore throat. "First Date" is written in the classic 45-rpm singles style: bouncy, infectious garage-rock dance music with an easy to sing-along chorus. There’s great bass guitar on this track. "Goodbye Daddy" is close to the old Blondie sound. If sheer dedication to making it big in the music biz was a rock, Lindsey would be Mount freaking Everest. A full-length CD is due out soon on Blackout
Killing Joke (CD review) (EG): London's Killing Joke were practicing nihilists and cultists who produced intense, post-punk dance music. Deriving their sound from the likes of Wire, PIL, Gary Numan and Gang of Four, 1980's Killing Joke, which followed their debut EP from ‘79, paved the way for industrial bands like Skinny Puppy. I'll leave it up to you if that was a good or bad thing. "The Wait" is a great, fast punk song but the rest of the album is fairly slow and oft times way too funky for my punky ears. I do give them credit for knowing how to make the room tremble, even at slow speeds. The heavy, tribal drumming and shredded guitar sound create an intense feeling of discomfort. I'm sure their graphics and politics made Crass proud.
"Requiem" opens the record with a strong Gary Numan flavor. "Bloodsport" is a simple shake-yer-booty funk song and out of place on the album because it's safe sounding. "Complication" is exactly what would happen if The Cure was The Jam. "Change" is straight Gang of Four marxist funk. "$,0,36" contains samples of a man talking in German, which always represents Nietzsche reading a news report on the ongoing apocalypse.
"The Wait" is a great punk song. The rest of the album probably appeals to goth and industrial fans who don't insist on every song being the fastest disco beat allowed by dance floor law. This is music to twirl to while staring at your own reflection and thinking how cool the smoke machine and light show must make you look to everyone else in the club, who themselves are staring at themselves in the mirrors and thinking the same thing.
Joke - Killing Joke (CD review):
with the same name as their debut once again proves that pounding drums bring
out the savage human beast. I like drum circles in theory because the
caveman in me grunts merrily. Sadly only hippies do drum circles and I can only
tolerate them in theory. If rave never happened I imagine the hu-persons
in The Matrix Revolutions would be dancing to Killing Joke instead of DJ
PuffNStuff. The slow tunes on Killing Joke are heavy metal, and stadium rockers
too where you can wave your lighter-holding arms over your head while singing
along with the "uh oooooo uhs". The fast numbers are pretty exciting and full of
Killing Joke are probably against a lot of stuff like government but without a lyrics sheet I can't tell if they're pre-apocalyptic, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic. There's gotta be C.H.U.D. in there somewhere. "The Death & Resurrection Show" opens with a robotic vocal intro that goes right into the pounding. Technology is destroyed by the primitive or something? Jaz Coleman sings the slow ones like he has throat cancer. He can also make a gargling sound on demand. On "Asteroid" I could swear Lee Ving is singling for a while. "Seeing Red" is my favorite track. This is a great record even if I don't get in to the slow stuff. They created a great and original sound.
Kryptonite Nixon- Live at Jawbone Canyon (enhanced CD review) (Flipside): Five live tracts and some multi-media malarky. The live songs are nicely recorded but the alternative music coming out of my speakers is passing through me like an ex-lax milkshake. It's not bad and I get the feeling their fans must love this, but I expected more punk and less diddlin' around. It's too arty but fans of more recent Alternative Tentacles bands and the Butthole Surfers might enjoy this.
The CD ROM part came with no start-up instructions. Am I stupid or are the people who packaged this stupid? I figured out to look at the contents of the disc with Windows Explorer. That's only because I’m a genius. There are four sections: show flyers, band photos, info and concert footage. The flyers have negative aesthetic value, the band photos are nice but who the hell worships bands like this anymore, the info is sparse and the three concert songs are pretty cool. Live at Jawbone Canyon is for fans only and I hope it doesn't cost them much. To me this is priceless. Which means I'll give it to you for free.
The LaDonnas - Pick Up Your Soul (CD review) (Junk): No, this isn't the Spanish version of The Donnas, it's four guys from Colorado who take Iggy and the Stooges insanity and play it as fast as they can without degrading into meaningless thrash. Three songs for people who drink too much and aren't very pleasant when they're hung over. It’s good stuff, and on purple vinyl because urine yellow was too expensive. Music nobody skates too because you might spill your beer.
The Landlords - Hey Kids! It's A Teenage House Party! (LP review) (Catch Trout): What a forgotten treasure this is, and it’s one of the best all-around punk records of the ‘80s. Good luck finding it or someone who even remembers Charlottesville, VA's The Landlords. They were a side project of the more well known Happy Flowers, led by Mr. Anus (Charlie Kramer) and Mr. Horribly-Charred-Infant (John Beers). Where Happy Flowers was primarily the most demented improv imaginable, The Landlords wrote songs, be they two seconds of yelling or 2 1/2 minutes of aural lunacy.
Contemporaries of The Landlords wereThe Butthole Surfers, No Trend, Pussy Galore, Raw Power, and The Dead Kennedys - at least how they sometimes copy East Bay Ray's guitar. The tempos and styles change, but what doesn't is an intensity and intelligence not usually found in HC punk. It's easy to conclude Kramer and Beers know more about music and dysfunction than you and I combined. This is music above the heads of many, like No Means No and Big Black. Knowing their work like I do I don't smirk at song titles like "Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God", "Amputee" and "The Pain Isn't Over". It's the same feeling I get when I consider Big Black's "Jordan, Minnesota". "Let's Be Negative" is my favorite track, and they cover the Chesterfield Kings' garage classic "99th Floor". There's twenty songs on the albumbut they fly by.
Don't let the childish black crayon cover art fool you this is lo-fi. Hey! It's A Teenage House Party! is as heavy, hard, and intense as it gets without resorting to metal - the easy way out. Nihilism never sounded so darn cool.
A Way Of Life (Skinhead Anthems) & The Best Of (CD review):
and Spinal Tap lingers Last Resort, a first wave UK oi band who managed to do
most things wrong and still be popular. They grew musically as time passed (so
did The Shaggs) but I'd say they have to be the worst oi band to have a greatest
hits collection. They're probably still around, releasing their last album in
In a 2003 interview, Singer Roi Pearce says "We have all learnt a lot musically over the past 20 years or so. So expect improved timing, phasing and pitching." The timing and phrasing are horrendous on their 1982 debut A Way Of Life, with lyrics so D.U.M.B. there should be laws against rhyming "free & society", "proud & crowd" and "fight & right". Their most famous song is "The Warriors", based on the film, and the lyrics compare Skinheads to a pride of lions. The Last Resort wrote songs for the dumbest and most violent of the non-racist skins. They're anthems of idiot pride with all the cleverness and insight of a Tom Green movie.
The Best Of is a bit better because the band either learned to play a bit better or they switched a member or four. "Soul Boys", "Rose Of England" and "Red, White and Blue" are the only tracks I can recommend to people who already like oi. All others should avoid this like a Tom Green movie.
Oi kingpin Gary Bushell wrote: The Last Resort were a skinhead band from South London via Herne Bay, Kent, based around the Last Resort shop in Petticoat Lane, East London and financed by the shop’s owner Michael French. They too saw Oi as being bigger that skins. “Oi is uniting punks, skins and everyone,” growler Millwall Roi told Sounds in their first interview. “Now we’ve just gotta get away from football.”
The LawnDarts - Volume II (CD review) (LawnDarts/Black Pumpkin): Remember when Deborah Harry was on Saturday Night Live and said "I'm from Joisey, are you from Joisey?" The LawnDarts are from Wyckoff, New Joisey, and they're pretty funny. Their style is a rocking power-pop and the vocals would be sugar-sweet too if they weren't slightly off key. Not everything they do is for laughs but it's obvious these five guys are having a lot of fun.
Ever hear of funny punk? There's a few branches on that tree. If you define it broadly you can include groups from Spizz Energy to the B52s. The Dickies were America's first funny punk band – maybe second if you insist on The Dictators. The Mentors would be funny if you think GG Allin was a big silly. The Meatmen were definitely a monkey barrel filled with, but Tesco hit some of the same speed bumps as his pal El Duce. Tesco is a sort of parody, so a little familiarity and everything's hunky dory. Philadelphia's The Dead Milkmen were the first band I remember labeled funny punk in flashing neon letters. That was in 1985, and their contemporaries were Camper Von Beethoven, Mojo Nixon and The Surf Punks (add your list here). For some reason many funny punk bands played some hillbilly country songs as part of their act, even Green Day. The best of that bunch is Nine Pound Hammer, but I wouldn’t call them funny to their faces.
Where do The LawnDarts fit in? Ever heard of a band called Lawnmower Deth? They were a London heavy metal band who, in 1994 and for no apparent reason, recorded the amazing pop-punk record Billy. Besides some great originals they cover Squeeze's "Up The Junction", Kim Wilde's "Kids In America" and "Purple Haze" by that dead guy. There's not a trace of hard rock on Billy and none on Volume II either, but there's just something about these guys that says they wouldn't be averse to an evening of comical Twisted Sister tunes. Maybe it's just Jeff on guitar and his long, shiny metal dude hair. Dude!! Another other band that comes to mind is Sloppy Second without the Chuck Berry riffs.
Volume II is a fun record that runs long at fourteen songs but is still worthy of ownership. They cover The Go-Gos' "Vacation, "Road Rage" sounds a bit like the Zero Boy's "Civilization's Dying", and sing these lyrics to "I Wanna Be A Spaceman": "It's time to put on makeup, it's time to dress up right, it's time to raise the curtain on The Muppet Show tonight!" It took me a while to figure this out, but my ongoing staring contest with the TV sometimes bears fruit.
The Lawrence Arms
- Oh! Calcutta! (CD review):
The Lawrence Arm's sixth CD since 1999,
should not be confused with the long-running Broadway musical kept alive
single-handedly (literally) by Asian businessmen who went for the nudity and
stayed for the nudity. Japanese men will crawl to Saturn to see naked ladies.
Chicago is America's leading punk city. I won't go down that road again, but Chicago bands usually don't suck, so if presented with a choice between Podunk and Chicago, go wit da Bears.
The Lawrence Arms feature two singers who thankfully avoid the screamo-metal-hip-hop trap. The music is as hard, fast and noisy as you can get while still being pop-punk. Not always, but often, I'm reminded of Jawbreaker playing loud and fast. That's a good thing. The next to last track, "Old Dogs Never Die", is the only song I can point to as a single. After that there's the kinda-country, kinda-Social Distortion ditty "Like A Record Player". The first ten tracks are of a similar style.
I'm not saying I'm too old for this, but I remember it took me years to get used to The Bollweevils, another Chicago band I felt too old for in 1994 since I was a Naked Raygun fan. Oh! Calcutta! will grow on me I'm sure.
The Lazy Cowgirls - A Little Sex And Death (CD review) (Crypt): All must prostrate their prostates in the presence of the mighty Lazy Cowgirls, a force of nature who don’t get their due outside of Europe, NY, LA, rock critics and the kool kidz. Pat Todd is punk’s Van Morrison. Imagine Van backed by the Ramones with Chuck Berry on second lead guitar -- and maybe that's what The Lazy Cowgirls sound like. All I know is that they rule. Their sound is hardcore and roots r&b forged together for the betterment of society. As a point of history, Radio Cowgirl was the first release on Sympathy For The Record Industry. If you know nothing about this band pick up Ragged Soul and then this one. The latest CD is just as good but I flipped out over Ragged Soul when I first heard it.
The Lazy Cowgirls - Broken Hearted On Valentine's Day (CD EP review) (Sympathy): A four-song novelty release for V-Day this year, dealing with da blues of love gone wrong. Everything the Cowgirls records is great but these sound like four album tracks. I can't point to any song and say that's a single. But, like I said, it's the Cowgirls so eat poop if you don't like it.
Leap Frog Society - Don't Get Caught (7" review) (Meat Slap): Leap Frog Society used to play around when I lived in Las Vegas. The recording quality of this made me think my record player needle was broken. This is like C.O.C. without the metal. The singing sounds like the "blah blah blah" of speedcore without the metal. You can still bang your head to this but there's no guitar heroics (thank god). This should be metal but it's not. The heavy sleeve is made from the cardboard back of an Olympia beer case. Inside there's what looks like a baseball card but is really an ad for a local Vegas hooker service. Under-employed creeps walk all around town leaving these in bunches for the tourists to trip over. Like Don King would say, "Hone-ly in Uh-mare-ik-uh!"
Leatherface/Hot Water Music- BYO Split Series Vol. I (CD review) (BYO): Leatherface doesn’t sound like another band. Leatherface created the sound you hear coming out of your speakers. They formulated, mastered and perfected it. Leatherface accomplished with 1993’s Mush what few bands even dare to aspire to - a perfect record opening music to new heights.
1996’s Cherry Knowle was average, as in an average UK Subs album. It was a shame you can find that everywhere for years but not Mush. Something about you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. This BYO split CD shows Leatherface are back and in fine form after a long break. "Wax Lyrical" is the best track so far but my mind will change as it always does with Leatherface. How to describe Leatherface... melodic hardcore with gruff vocals... thrash emo... I don’t know. A few seconds into the opening track "Andy" they establish the Leatherface sound - twin walls of guitar and Frankie Stubb's gruff, sincere delivery of loss, hope and pain. Not that you'd know by the way he's yelling most of the vocals. This is emo for punks who have never backed away from a brawl. Leatherface is the only punk band to ever express reflective sadness without sounding wimpy.
I listen to this record almost every freaking day, and it just gets better. This is as good as anything on Mush. Thousands of children a day die of starvation; nuclear terrorism hangs over our heads; domestic abuse is a rampant disease; and Frankie Stubb's face isn't on the new one dollar coin. Why, god, why?
Hot Water Music are modern day American students of the Leatherface experience, and they're pretty good too. All in all, a great split and something I'll be lifting weights to for a long time to come. I can finally give that Lillingtons CD a rest.
Leatherface - MUSH (CD review) (Seed): A 1993 release that may be the best hardcore to ever come out of the UK. Great Britain cranks out bands every day, but not many hardcore bands in the American sense. Leatherface’s two guitars alternate between rhythm and lead in seemingly chaotic fashion. The attack reminds me of Molly Hatchet less one lead guitar. The production is excellent but the mix is a bit muddy. All fifteen tracks combine the flexibility of rock music with the intensity of hardcore, never once abandoning melody and style. The lyrics are punk poetry, wallowing in politics and personal disappointment. There's even a hardcore version of the Police's "Message In A Bottle" that retains the melody while upping the intensity many times over. Mush is the most consistently excellent record I've heard in years. I bow my head in shame for even trying to quantify the excellence of this record. I shudder when considering the importance of this record. I shake when it plays on my stereo.
Leatherface: Discography Part One - Live (CD review) (Rejected): The latest Trouser Press Guide rightly calls Leatherface "By far England's finest, most exciting band of the 90s." I put them up there with Snuff as two astonishing UK bands so unlike most everything else coming off that tiny island nation. Not everything they've done has been worth repeat listens (the recently re-released Cherry Knowle comes to mind), but the songs from Mush transcend power and emotion to create a genre almost all its own. "Springtime" is a melancholy ode to an injured inner-child packaged in a shiny, tightly-laced boot to the teeth.
They broke up around 1994 but are back with a split LP with Hot Water Music and a US Tour in one of those touring 47-band post-Woodstock sunburn-fests. This 22 track live CD is from two sets, one in Dublin in ‘93 and the other Oslo, '92. I think the latter set was released as Live In Oslo back in 1995. The Oslo set has a cleaner sound but neither was recorded with much skill or attention. You can barely hear the audience so it's safe to say these recordings came right off the mixing boards. I'm happy the crowd is nullified because nothing ruins a live album more than drunken yobs yelling stupid abuse at the band like it's their job to be obnoxious and hysterical.
Most of Mush is included along with tunes from Minx and a healthy portion of covers, from their signature "Message In A Bottle", Elvis the Pelvis' "In The Ghetto", to the old standards "Can't Help Falling In Love" and "You Are My Sunshine". All in all this is a nice document of the band at their best. The first thing you need to do is buy Mush and internalize it. Then you can tell your friends you're more punk than they'll ever be, and mean it too.
Leatherface - The Stormy Petrel (cd review): It's a not yet established fact that the US hierarchy of Leatherface fanship runs Jack Rabid, Memyself N'Eye, and then down below, in the haze, the faceless masses. Right now I'm listening to Rabid's interview with Frankie Stubbs, which opens with their best track, "Springtime", from 1992's Mush, whose influence on all bands that even remotely sound like them can only be compared to what The Ramones were for their followers. Mind you, before Mush they were a middling UK Subs-tinged punk unit, and Frankie's side projects are more straightforward than what he creates for Leatherface. That they still toil in relative obscurity is proof god's looking the other way or is distracted by something that sparkles. There's also that Stubb's a fame-disinterested old guy whose voice can best be described as raspy and gravelly. The songs themselves are golden.
That being said, 2010's brand new The Stormy Petrel is the least accomplished cd of their modern incarnation, comprised of decent enough material but generally lacking the great lyrics and build and release intensity of Mush, the split with Hot Water Music, Horsebox, and their last from 2004, Dog Disco. I can't conjecture how much better or worse this is compared to all the lesser punk bands putting out lesser punk albums these days, but I don't see The Stormy Petrel as the winning argument for converting new fans. That would still be the split cd or Horsebox, until Mush is remastered, which it cries out for like a baby in the night.
Generally I find Leatherface albums to be produced with a muted sound, like the infamous Dolby button we all pressed on our cassette recorders because we were told it was advanced technology. Dog Disco suffered terribly from this. Their songs need crystal clarity to be fully rendered and appreciated, yet they settle for mud. I was listening to this along with the new Alkaline Trio cd, and Leatherface needs to be recorded like that one - as sharp as a razor. I don't think Stubbs really cares, as he makes clear in the Rabid interview and on the enjoyable dvd Boat In The Smoke he's a belligerent, contrarian screw whose ambition life is to drink himself into the grave. It's great that they've finally created a useful web site and even a promotional video, but to take advantage of this new interest in success I wish the material on The Story Petrol was a step forward.
"God Is Dead" opens and it's the best track. The long running Police influence is in full force. "My World's End" is also a front-loaded decent track. The lyrics are mostly incomprehensible but Frankie's singing is like a secret code for the inner circle. "Never Say Goodbye" is what in the old days was called the single. Now it's the "emphasis track", my favorite new phrase that sounds dangerously close to a euphemism. "Broken" has an instrumental break at 2:10 that I swear sounds like a series of placeholder notes they forgot to improve for the final cut. The song's also very much like their cover of "True Colours" found on Horsebox. "Another Dance" has grown on me, while "Diego Garcia" has nice guitar lines. At first I thought it was about a person but it's a small island with a history that's a blemish on the UK's arse. "Monkfish" has a plop-plop drum beat and the best lyrics it came up with is "When all's said and done, it's good to be home." The lyrics are generally lacking on The Stormy Petrel, at least in comparison to past albums, or maybe I just can't make out the good ones through all the gravel. Insightful personal politics have been replaced by boilerplate Labour drinking class talking points. "Disgrace" has a strong melody, and so does "Belly Dancing Stoat", which offers another weak main lyric: "When I first saw you in that attic, you looked anything but ecstatic". The cd closes with "Hope", similar to Dog Disco's "Heart Is Home". Frankie comes across as fatalistic but he's also a sentimental fool who's never afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, as long as he's drunk at the time.
I know The Stormy Petrel deserves the praise others are giving it but I wonder if it's because of this cd or because the cause of Leatherface is a noble one. It's surely grown on me but I'm not sensing the sonic layers and swirling power dynamics that make other releases worthy of endless listening and deep study. Leatherface needs to knock it out of the park and not jog it around the track if they're going to headline the stadium shows I envision in my head.
Leatherface - Discography Part Two (CD review) (Rejected): Leatherface is a minor obsession with me. I never listen to Cherry Knowle, and neither should you. Mush was my introduction to the band and I've been hooked ever since. Their split and full-length Horsebox on the BYO label are in some ways even better. I go either way on that in an internal History Vs. Growth argument that leads to self-inflicted blindside knockdowns.
Rejected Records put out two discographies, the first all live. This one is a mix of live, rare and unreleased tracks. From beginning to end you can see a progression from a UK Subs sound to Frankie Stubb's signature power, melody and sentimentality. Leatherface's impact on the tougher strains of emo is unquestioned, and there's nothing soft about Frankie or his band. His tales of melancholy are the tears of the hard drinking, hard fighting working class. There’s probably a very good reason why he covers "You Are My Sunshine". Maybe it's a joke on anyone who would hold it against him for doing so. Maybe in a better life music like that would be all he'd want to sing. No matter, Leatherface is god.
If you only know their BYO output this will most likely be too retro for you. I like the old UK second wave so it's all good on this end. There's a killer live version of "Springtime" that makes me sad they weren't sober enough to be coherent the one time I caught them in concert. You should seek out the piano and vocals mix of "Shipyards" found on this CD. It's stunningly beautiful and powerful. Frankie's spilling his guts about the UK working class while pounding a slow, powerful song on the keys. Nick Cave fans take note.
Leatherface - Horsebox (CD review) (BYO): The more I think about it, it's true Frankie N.W. Stubbs is the UK’s answer to Bob Mould. Not that they sound alike, Frankie being closer to Tom Waits in voice and weariness, but both create wailing walls of guitar and sing from the gut like a wounded child (a big refutation on that last part coming up). While I’m a huge Husker Du fan and grew to love Sugar after the fact, I like Leatherface more. Their multi-guitar attack is more nuanced, and only Frankie could belt out "True Colors", covered by Cyndi Lauper and Phil Collins, and give it the tough sentimentality of a gristled, alcoholic, cancer throated, beaten down but never beaten bruiser alone in the back of a beer and whiskey dive at 2 AM, serenading ghosts. The song may suck but that’s besides the point.
Leatherface weren't the first band to pen what are considered emo lyrics, but what Frankie writes and how he sings it became a direct inspiration on bands that followed, such as Hot Water Music. This is hard, fast, melodic punk with emo lyrics. Not trippy folk music. punk fugging rock. Below are the lyrics to my favorite Leatherface track, “Springtime”. Sure, it's a sentimental piece of fluff written to an inner child. Sure, the words seem far removed from punk. Sure.
"There's a little bit of springtime in the back of my mind, that remembers when there was a time when we danced and we laughed and spent some time drinking wine. And somewhere in there, there's a little child without a thought, without a doubt that every cloud is silverlined. He is warm and everything is new, and everything is clean and everything is free and there was still so many things to see. So many things left to be. You're a very small drop in the middle of a big sea of high and mighty things. Your fascination for larger than life, your brand new appetite, as though we'd invented it. We danced. There's a little bit of springtime in the back of my mind, that remembers things, perhaps as they should have been, rather than lies, rather than the cruelty, that sometimes we were guilty of and as everybody knows, we were only young and really couldn't have known. We were very young and it's nice to know there's a place to go and still so many things left to see. You're a drop in the middle of a big sea of high and mighty things. Your fascination for larger than life. Your brand new appetite. There's springtime in my mind and I'd rather be alive. As though we'd invented it. We danced. It could be the longest time and I'd remember it. You don't know what's in store, when we laugh."
"Wing Ding" from Horsebox pushed me near the edge of sanity. I did some iron fist training at the gym today while listening to the CD, and for some reason (well, I know the reason) this song drove me to train harder than I ever have before. As I smashed my forearms and fists into metal bars and plates I could not remove a look of granite determination on my face I knew had to be freaking out anyone within fifty feet. Even after the point of blinding pain I kept on going, even after blood flowed from my left hand. I ripped the headphones from my head and walked away before I crippled myself or was asked to leave.
I've long been obsessed with Walls Of Sound. Phil Spector invented it, and in the punk era there have been only three original Wall Of Sound bands. The Ramones, Husker Du, and Leatherface. Johnny Ramone strummed out fast bursts of three-chord fuzz one early fan could only describe as the sounds of a locomotive. Bob Mould, a superior guitar player, combined layers of alternating guitar leads and sheets of power-chord white noise. Leatherface's innovation is having two equal guitar players of the Bob Mould school work at the same time, playing different, seemingly improvised (yet collaborative) pieces. Horsebox works best with good headphones on a good system, played LOUD. To do otherwise is as big of a waste as switching on the mono button.
Leatherface songs soar. They chime and ring. Guitars at times evoke the emotional range of bagpipes. The drums are clean, playfully original and never showy. The bass is pretty hard to pick out, which doesn't bother me because nothing should get in the way of the twin guitars anyway. Lyrics are poems of lament, loss and found strength, stretched and condensed to fit the needs of the music.
Horsebox is a reflective, melancholy piece of work. More than anything else they've recorded you need to listen with headphones and pay attention to small details. The songs on the Leatherface/Hot Water Music split CD hit between the eyes a bit faster, but that was the band's reintroduction to the punk world after some years away, and the song selection was limited to six tracks, each a marvel of melody and power. If you don't know anything about Leatherface, start with the split, then either seek out Mush or go directly to Horsebox. That feeling of emptiness in your soul is not ennui, it's probably just a lack of owning a Leatherface CD.
Leatherface - Minx (LP review) (Roughneck): For some reason this 1992 album is sometimes referred to as "Linx". It's finally been reissued along with Mush, tied up for legal reasons. My favorite new band had the worst luck in America when it comes to having their best material available to the public. For the longest time only Cherry Knowle was available, which is like only finding Husker Du's Land Speed Record when Zen Arcade existed. Then the split with Hot Water Music came out, followed by Horsebox. Then, THEN, the disorganized and unfocused The Last was reissued. What's your average poor shmuck record buyer to think? The order of availability should have been Mush, the split CD, Horsebox and then Minx. Cherry Knowle and The Last should have stayed collector’s items.
Recorded a year after Mush, before the original lineup fell apart, the only problem with Minx is that the songs lack the pop structure of a beginning, middle and end, which created the drama, tension and emotional release of their best work. I suspect the songs on Minx began and ended as jam sessions. Spread throughout these twelve tracks are a bunch of great guitar hysterics alternating between guitar leads and walls of sound. I don't find the album to suffer from sameness per say, but more of a similar lack of structure. Most tracks get to the point immediately, and that doesn't work well when your music's strength lies in sharp edges and shifts of power and emotion. Still, there's a lot to get into on each track if you wait for things to hit you.
That being said, Minx is a pretty good album. It's considered underrated by fans, and its limitations require you to pay attention and internalize it more than you have to normally. I don't think there's another band that sounds like Leatherface, and the guitar mayhem in "Heaven Sent" is something beyond words. That's my heaven right there with Frankie Stubbs' guitar coming out of one speaker and Dickie Hammond's from the other. Other favorite tracks are "A Cartoon (With The Pain)", followed by "Pale Moonlight", which would also sound good with just Frankie on piano as when he removed the other instruments on alternative version of "Shipyards".
Leatherface is god. You are a piece of gum on god's shoe.
Leatherface- The Last (CD review) (BYO): I'm a big Leatherface fan but I'm the first to admit 20% of what they've recorded has been c-c-c-c-crap. Where did that crap come from crap. Most of the original eight songs from 1993's The Last is, as they say in Frankie Norman Warsaw Stubb's hometown of Sunderland, "shite". That BYO re-released it now is unfortunate for fans and the band. The Last only detracts from the band's new momentum. Sad.
This re-issue from BYO includes songs from a Stubb's side project called Pope. The Pope tracks are much better than the 1993 Leatherface tracks, which should have been placed last on this CD. Pope sounds like Leatherface so nobody would have been the wiser. The Last opens well enough with "Little White God", easily one of their best ever. It's about the final heroin-filled days of The Rut's Malcolm Owen. The track owes a nod to The Clash's "Janie Jones" and the sonic attack of The Police at their most aggressive. "In My Life" follows, and it's sloppy. The band was at this time about to fold, with Frankie and Andrew Laing remaining to throw together this last collection. A more direct and cleaner version can be found on the Discography comp. "Patrick Kills Me" would be better if more than five minutes were given to its execution. This version of "Shipyards" is the worst. It's the Frankie & piano version I love so much from Discography. The drumming sounds like a tentative first practice that doesn't keep up and doesn’t know what's next. "Daylight Comes" is good. "Desert Island" and is average. "Win Some, Lose Some" was written by the bass player and a few of his pals, and it's close to being cock rock. Yuck. The mess ends with "Ba Ba Ba Ba Boo", a monosyllabic mumbled mockery/tribute to Louie Armstrong. Don't ask.
The Pope Tracks are very good, if not well produced. Like I say, these eight tracks should have come first on the CD.
Leatherface – Dog Disco – (CD review) (BYO): I go nowhere and talk to no one, so in my own little world I’m the most crazed Leatherface fan there is. Well, for everything since Mush that is. I was worried about Dog Disco for many reasons. I saw Leatherface on their last US tour and they were horrible, lacking a second lead guitar and playing sloppy fast while drunk enough to be in legally dead. Having also seen The Business play too fast for their own good I wonder if punk bands cater to all-age show crowds by performing everything as thrash hardcore. Down to three members I also feared the album would lack the interplay of two lead guitars, their lead trademark. What the hell is a Dog Disco, and why allow the word disco on a punk record? And the cover! The cute doggie wearing sunglasses in front of a disco ball! BYO had an in-house design contest, and techno-mix CD cover was the best?! The sample BYO posted on their site also didn’t appeal to me. And, AND, the mix is muddy, which is the biggest crime since each note, breath and silence should be crystal clear. When this is remixed (ha!) I’ll buy it again.
It took me a listen or two, as it usually does, and the muddy sound will always remain an issue, but Dog Disco is another great album by the best British punk band of these last fourteen years. The maturity, complexity, intensity and creativity of Leatherface make them a band you best appreciate at the end of your punk rock learning process.
Leatherface is one of the most important bands in modern punk history, yet most punks are young and prefer bands close to their age who sing about things they can relate to. Every time I listen to these CDs, what makes them great unfolds itself in endlessly new ways. You never know what direction a song will take, but no matter what the progressions are always smooth and the energy never wavers, often soaring into hardcore heaven creating a joyful noise no other band can even touch. Why would they even try.
I’m not a lyrics person, at least compared to most. To me singing is another instrument in the mix. I can lip-synch many records but mostly I’m being phonetically accurate. Listening to Leatherface’s best song, “Springtime”, the following lyrics stuck out years ago: “There's a little bit of springtime in the back of my mind/Remembers things perhaps as they should have been/Rather than the lies rather that the cruelty/That sometimes we were guilty of as everybody knows/We were only young and really couldn't have known/We were very young”. In the middle of this blistering hardcore punk was a melancholy ode to an inner child, a bizarre combination that works only because it works as written, sung and performed by the band. This is emo for the hard working and drinking classes, the kind whose knuckles are mangled from too much hard work and fighting yet they cry whenever “Danny Boy” is sung. On the new album Stubbs grows as a man and as a father, and “Diddly Squat” serves as a perfect sequel to “Springtime”, with its beautiful declaration of purpose expressed in the words “And for years I've tried to see the world as a child/And now I see a child as the world.”
The only track I’m not a fan of is the one they chose to be the single. “Plastic Surgery” wasn’t the single since the album has none, but it does appear on a compilation and was posted on the BYO site as a sample. It would have been better with Frankie singing with a piano accompaniment. Otherwise, every track is a classic, ending with the usual magnum opus that leaves you drained and pissed it’s over.
Leatherface is great. I could write a book on why I think they’re amazing. Maybe one day I will, then I’ll get it vanity published and stand on a street corner screaming at strangers to buy it. Oh yeah, sweet, sweet wealth will be mine.
Leatherface - Live In Melbourne: Viva La Arthouse (cd reviews): The two great love-hate relationships of my musical life are The Residents and Leatherface. With Leatherface it's the disappointment I have with how their records sound and with Frankie Stubb's drunken lack of ambition. Maybe more on that later. With The Residents it's the roller-coaster quality of their project choices, their short attention span, and the artistic scam of their post-Molly Harvey period. That and the Santa Is Real idiocy of pretending they're an "unknown" band.
Historically few can claim to be a bigger Leatherface fan than I but my exceedingly high expectations has led to a disappointment in their ongoing output. Their discs are recorded as if on a cassette recorder with the Dolby button pressed - hard. Anyone of my generation knows what that means - musical mud. Is this by choice somehow? Are their instruments or recording studios too cheap? Can I blame it on the sound engineer? Leatherface cds should be recorded with the same care as classical Spanish guitar to catch the magic of their left-right guitarists - Frankie and whoever is the other guy of the moment. It's freaking epic I'm telling you.
When I first listened to Live In Melbourne: Viva La Arthouse I thought it sounded muddy by default of the sound board. I then realized it doesn't sound any worse than their two previous studio recordings, Dog Disco and The Stormy Petrol. The latter is ok to me now but at the time I was beside myself in some lyrical and musical laziness I found in it. "Broken" is basically Cindy Pauper's "True Colors", which Stubbs covered on the most excellent 2000 release Horsebox (for those keeping score, the must-have Leatherface cds are Mush, the split with Hot Water Music, and Horsebox). Starting at 2:13 on "Broken" there's an instrumental bridge so unformed it seems Frankie never got around to writing it to completion. On "Monkfish" they really could have done better than repeatedly singing "When all's said and done, it's good to be home". But I digress. It's a decent album with a few glaring flaws.
Live In Melbourne is a decent show from a great band. It's surely not the place to start if you don't know Leatherface, the most important punk band (non-grunge category) to hit their mark in the 1990s. Thankfully there's two guitarists as when it's only one it's like owning a stereo with only the right speaker working. The set list is their usual mix of old (think UK Subs) to new. Here's where I once again remind the world Leatherface doesn't sound like any other band. By definition it's the other way around. Learn it, live it, love it. Act like ya know.
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