Lemonheads (review) - The Lemonheads were once a good band, at times a great band. In the mid ‘80s, when Husker Du's wall of guitar distortion ruled the wasteland, the Lemonheads released Hate Your Friends, which found its way to a number of yearly "best of" lists. More poppy and without the Husker's psychedelic tinges, Hate Your Friends found Evan Dando and Ben Deily taking turns as songwriter/vocalist. Each produced their own share of pop thrashers and slower, heartfelt crooners. Ben was always sappier in this are). Their second LP, Creator, is a great album but it takes longer to appreciate, with its lack of hits and forays into layered melodies. Ben Deily contributes most of the songs on the album. 1989's Lick contains their best and worst work. The inclusion of two old songs to fill out the record was a clue the band was destined to break up. Half the songs are excellent (especially "Glad I Don't Know" and "Ever"), two are horrible ("Cazzo di Ferro" and "I Am A Rabbit"), and the rest are above average. The hit was an average cover of "Luka". Evan's next scored with average cover of "Mrs. Robinson”. Hoo----ray.
I saw the Lemonheads after the release of Lick and was shocked, SHOCKED, that Ben Deily was gone! I assume forced out so Evan could be America's next pretty pop star. The show both sucked and blowed. I can picture the fat, hairy-chested A&R men pumping up Evan: "Hey, Ev, you're a good lookin' guy. Why you wasting your time playing this punk rock crap? And that Deily guy. He doesn't have 'The Look', you know what I'm sayin'? This is your band, Evan. It'll be all you, babe. Your songs, the cover of Sassy! Here, have some cash. It's you babe, all you!!" I'm sure Evan's pal Juliana Hatfield (greatest hits collection out soon!) egged him on: “The Lemonheads is your band. Here, have some heroin."
Evan started wearing dresses and growing his hair down to his ass. He's shirtless at the drop of a needle and playing flower-power strength alternative folk. He even had the nerve to disown the first three Lemonheads LPs. Prick.
Evan Dando is now a has-been and (thanks to disowning his punk roots) a never was. He's been replaced by the next pop star. Like the Macarena, Evan had his day. The line about the Lemonheads always being his band is a lie and a joke. Everything Evan had going for him came from his association with punk music and Ben Deily. Dando's last CD came and went like the bald guys who visit video porn booths during lunch hour.
Ben Deily disappeared for a while, resurfacing in 1992 with The Pods. They released the "It's a Bummer About Bourbie" 7" and a privately issued CD, Where I'm Calling From. In the liner notes Ben acknowledges his influences, including The Buzzcocks, Husker Du, Cat Stevens, Simon and Garfunkel, Cheap Trick, Raymon Carver and William Butler Yates. "Name In Vain" shows how hurt he was by being booted out of the band. I suspect he left The Lemonheads quietly and still hasen't gotten over it. "Blackout" and "Bleeding" are orchestral masterpieces. Ben combines classical instruments, full choruses, and standard rock instruments into masterpieces.
[2007 update] Ben moved to San Francisco with his wife and went into advertising. He won a bunch of awards and is in a new band, Varsity Drag. Visit his site here. I’m glad he’s doing well.
The Lewd - Kill Yourself...Again (CD review) (Chuckie Boy): Many old punk bands are considered historic by their fans, and it's hard to tell if that's based on the quality of their work or simply nostalgic memories of scenesters who haven't had a scene to call their own for a very long time. The Lewd made a name for themselves in CA and WA, but being from NY we had our own local bands to ignore. The Lewd tore up the Northwest for a few years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and, as this 29 song collection of studio tracks and demos demonstrate, they did pretty well for themselves for that era and locale.
Their hit was 1979's "Kill Yourself", which managed to combine the fast and loose glam punk of the NY Dolls with bands of the newer L.A. scene. 1982's American Wino saw The Lewd move toward the hardcore sounds coming out of Jello's Alternative Tentacles and Doug Moody's Mystic Records. Fast, choppy, snotty, arty yet dangerous, American Wino is a fine collection of tunes that will bring happy recognition from old timers but may make the kids scratch their heads. Old hardcore to them is the thrash of Minor Threat and the DKs, not the Stones/Ramones/glam/art punk of bands like The Lewd.
My favorite by far is "Magnetic Front", written and sung by bassist and part-time model Ogla de Volga. The Lewd went through band members like I go through bags of tortilla chips. "Roman Polanski" is slow, gloomy death rock that reminds me of TSOL. Their cover of "Secret Agent Man" lets you know that the band who wrote songs like "Cold & Numb" and "Climate Of Fear" also had a sense of humor. All in all this CD is a nice documentation of a band I've always heard about but rarely heard. Is this a classic? Not especially, but a few of the songs are keepers, and listening to this all the way through you can relive an era when loud and fast rock bands like The Lewd found a home in the early punk scene and then rode with it all the way to it's inevitable conclusion.
Libertine - Slowdown (CD review) (Twenty Stone Blatt): Yeah, baby, this is the poop if you love the Professionals/Sex Pistols sound. Punk rock with stadium size Johnny B. Goode riffs and a scratchy throated singer who covers a range of emotions from hard to reflective. The tempos are generally mid-paced but the songs are great, and given a chance they’ll be huge. They remind me of what Rancid would have been if they channeled more Cook and Jones than Strummer and Jones (not the same Jones, you eediot!). The more I listen, the more commercial the CD sounds, but the material has more cred to me than most other HellCat releases.
Libertine are from NY but this was released on a Scottish label. Somebody must know somebody because I'm sure Slowdown could have been released on any of a number of American labels both big and small. I really like their cover of The Violent Femmes' "Blister In The Sun". They also cover a Bryan Adams song, "Summer of '89". A lot of work went into the writing and execution of these tunes in the studio. There's many small creative flourishes that keep this consistently interesting. I'm sure their next release will be on Epitaph and the video will wind up on a promotional reel between Pennywise and Agnostic Front. By that time I'll lose interest, but for now this is pretty cool. (I caught them live the other day and their new direction is more like a harder Psychedelic Furs. The singer gives off some serious Richard Butler vibes)
- Up The Bracket and The Libertines (CD review):
I nice fellow from the UK e-mailed to recommend The Libertines since I'm a
follower of sorts of some new retro-new wave bands. Check out this
It seems Pete Dogerty is a putz and a fugg-up of major proportions.
I listened to both Up The Bracket and The Libertines, and they left me cold. I tried working out to them and they didn’t keep my attention. It was as interesting to me as background noise. Allmusic says they're influenced by The Clash, The Kinks, The Jam, The Smiths and The Cure. I NEVER would have picked any of these bands, especially The Clash.
The faster (and better) songs were either like The Strokes, a band credited with NYC influences that barely exist, or Iggy's "Lust For Life". The slower tunes I think are trying to be blues rock. Their ventures into quietness fail and the vocal harmonies are horrible. There's a scene in This Is Spinal Tap where the band visits the grave of Elvis Presley and they can't harmonize "Heartbreak Hotel". The Libertines suffer a similar fate.
I'm not going to say this sucks, because they have a following and are reviewed well elsewhere. Take that to mean it just has no appeal to me. I can say with conviction that The Libertines are not a great retro-anything band. In this style I highly recommend Stiffs, Inc.
Lickity Split - Cook Off (7" review) (self-released): Lickity Split was probably the only poppy band in Las Vegas when I was living there. I never saw them play because most all-ages shows took place at teenagers’ private parties. I went to one because I knew people, but I felt like a perv at a summer camp, or whatever I felt like being twice as old as most of the people there. Cook Off pops but also rocks with melody and style. It reminds me of Tucson's G-Whiz and other bands that for some reason don't get released on Lookout! Records. I like this a lot. If they lived in the East Bay instead of the land of loose slots I bet they'd be somewhere in your record collection right now. Location, location, location.
Life Sentence - Life Sentence (LP review) (Walkthrufyre): "Life Sentence is a group of three schmucks who aren't trying to look like GBH and sound like DRI! We're into it to have fun, but we're also into it to express ourselves on many subjects and maybe provoke people into thinking! You're more of a threat if you think and become involved than if you have a 'way rad' haircut and get drunk all the time. Take a stand! Protest and survive! Don't be too punk to smile! Eat at Naugles! Blah blah blah!"
This is a band quote from an old issue of MRR. I love it because it's typical of how many bands see themselves - atheistic holy warriors against consumerism, lethargy and not using your head, man! It’s good intentions masking huge egos that feign humble servitude to selflessness. I don't doubt some of the good intentions, I just think it's funny how people think their "art" can reshape society. Every once in a while it actually happens, but most of the time it's funny and sad to experience a Christ Complex at your local rock club.
Life Sentence, from the Chicago area, put out two records in the late ‘80s, and at one point they broke up and split into two bands calling themselves Life Sentence. Joe Losurdo, bass player and vocalist, wrote letters to every zine east of Mars saying his band was the original and only Life Sentence. You boys go outside and fight it out. Mommy and daddy are trying to watch television.
That aside, I like this record. It's the closest I come to tolerating speed metal. I don't mind thundering thrash, it's the dirtball-bang-yer-long-greasy-hair-air-guitar-heroics I can do without. Eric Brockman's lead guitar is at times metalish, but at various times Life Sentence sound like 7 Seconds, COC, DRI, MDC, Heart Attack, and Doggy Style. The best songs on this ten song 12" EP are "Punks For Profit", "In The Streets" and "Problems".
Life Sentence came and went fairly quickly, leaving only a faint trail on the internet. You might be able to find this cheap. Party on, Garth! Party on, Wayne!
Without Buildings - Live At The Annandale Hotel
It's only a good thing that Glasgow, Scotland's
Buildings recorded one
cd and a few singles in that their battering average hovered around .950. I
would have taken a chance on another full-length, but on a cult level at least their
legacy is assured. They've been compared to a
set of diverse groups,
take on them has always been if Altered Images lead singer Clare Grogan grew up
a bit and put together a band of former Coyote Records (NJ label) artists to
play Velvet Underground music behind her Blackboard and Pointer lyrics, which is
math rock with a visual component. I'll 'splain. Here's the long-form lyrics for
i let you, i let you
when we were young, when you were mine
what's the matter?
i don't mind
i let you, i let you
when we were young, when you were mine
close the summer, i don't want lessons
close the summer, i don't want lessons from you
i don't mind
i let you, i let you
when we were young, when you were mine
i don't mind
what's the matter?
staring, listen daylighting
i don't mind
i let you, i let you
when we were young, when you were mine
to the left, what can i offer you?
conversation in the rain
close the summer, i don't want lessons
close the summer, i don't want lessons from you
kino, kino, kino, das kino
kino, take me to the kino again
das kino, kino, take me to the kino again
das kino, kino, take me to the kino again
das kino, kino, take me to the kino again
it's easy, ask me, take me to the kino again
i don't mind any more
i let you, i let you
when we were young, when you were mine
As you might have noticed, this can be reduced to many fewer lines. Sue Tompkins repeats phrases with an infallible internal logic, like a record skipping forward and back. I picture someone on stage with a blackboard and pointer, keeping up by going up, down and across rows of lines that don't repeat on the board. I do this in my mind when I listen to Life Without Buildings, as I have nothing better to do with my endless free time.
Live At The Annandale Hotel was from a set of 2002 concerts in Australia, and both the band and recordings are studio quality. Tompkins has an endearing, eccentric personality, introducing songs and commenting on everything she's doing. At the end of "Love Trinity" she says "Thank you... we're here tomorrow so we're just gonna do the same songs in a different order... that's what we're gonna do... it's cheeky." She has the kind of voice and personality that's endearing and entertaining until it most likely becomes flighty and infuriating.
In their highly satisfying set the standouts are "PS Exclusive" , "Juno", "Young Offenders" and "14 Days", the latter a speedier "I'm Waiting For The Man". The last song, "Sorrow", evokes another Lou Reed tune, "Coney Island Baby". It's all good if not great, and while I can recommend this and any other Life Without Buildings material more highly, I won't because then I might appear desperate, and I hear you should never show weakness on the internet.
Lifetime - Hello Bastards (CD review) (Jade Tree): An impressive piece of hardcore from Jade Tree - the punk label for sensitive lads. It starts off in typical hard stance SXE fashion, but creative flair and sincere emotion make themselves heard in each song. They're not only screaming - they're sharing! Think of a harder, faster Jawbreaker. They cover Husker Du's "It's Not Funny Anymore", a nice nod to that band's influence on hardcore, grunge, and the capacity for punk to convey pure emotion.
I'm past the stage where fast, slappy drums impress me. Maybe the immaturity of Fat Wreck Chords bands Turns me off. Maybe fifteen olds lecturing me from the pulpit of straight edge makes me giggle. Lifetime takes the mature approach and I tip my old beige safari hat to them. This is all-ages show music, but it’s good for a number of reasons.
The Lillingtons - I Lost My Marbles (7" review) (Clearview/Skull Duggery): Four songs produced by The Queer's Joe King, two of which appeared on the More Bounce To The Ounce comp Joe put out recently. The Lillingtons are like The Queers when they pay homage to Screeching Weasel, and while The Lillingtons don't thrive on variety they record some of the catchiest four chord power pop available today. It’s music to dance the Pony to, and just like their heroes The Ramones, they can switch from a sappy love song ("She says she loves me and she'll be true/I'll do the same") to a violent ditty ("Jonnys gonna have to run/When he blows away his wife and kid away/Cindy had been screw'n way too long") without missing a step. How you do this without coming off as solid-gold assholes would take time to explain, so get a life and some irony and figure it out on your own.
The Lillingtons - S--t Out Of Luck (CD review) (Clearview/Skull Duggery): There's no reason why I should love these guys as much as I do, but ever since I heard "Lillington High" on a comp. I've been nuts about them. I mail-ordered a CD, LP and 7" from Skull Duggery and ran home every night from work like Calvin for his propeller beanie-cap. It came almost a month later. What year is this, 1997? - it shouldn't take that long. It's not like they get a truckload of orders every day and the records are eighty miles away in a warehouse! The Lillingtons are a three-piece from Wyoming. When was the last time anyone mentioned Wyoming for any reason? They’re a perfect mix of My Brain Hurts-era Screeching Weasel and any Queers when they're copying the Weasel. The Queers have a thing for The Beach Boys, and this CD is closer to the Queers in style and theme. Joe King produced their "I Lost My Marbles" EP and supplied its artwork. Kody's voice is layered so it sounds like two people are singing, but the effect isn't as annoying as The Damned or what Bob Mould does with Sugar. I recommend this for any die-hard Ramones/Queers/Screeching Weasel fan. If that's you, nobody does it better in a goofier way than the Lillingtons.
The Lillingtons - Death By Television (CD review) (Panic Button/Lookout!): Fans of Screeching Weasel and The Queers take note: The latest Lillingtons is out and should be available everywhere, so now you can hear what you've been missing. The Lillingtons are the best thing to happen to power pop punk since The Riverdales. Produced by Mass Giorgini, Death By Television is a thematic departure from their earlier recordings. The first few times I listened I was only mildly impressed, but since then I can't stop playing this. Its charms snuck up on me and I'm a total cretin for The Lillingtons. The songs are more subtle than prior recordings but they're all clever and very easy to love. My favorite song changes on a daily basis.
This time out they've thrown in a few songs that sound like Bad Religion ("Invasion Of The Saucerman" sounds enough like "Suffer" to warrant legal action). There's an endless parade of post-Ramones bands out there too, but if you don't love the Ramones you shouldn't be reading this zine anyway. The Crumbs used to be a lot sillier too - now they're a Dead Boys clone. I hope The Lillingtons never mature to old man status. I live it every day and it ain't pretty.
The only thing missing in Death By Television is the intricate backup singing that gave "Lillington High" and "Hooked On You" an exclusive, pep-rally feel. It's there if you listen close enough, but I wonder if it was the band or producer who decided to bury it in the mix. What's new for this release is a science fiction/campy horror theme, from the Ray Milland CD cover to song titles like "Don't Trust The Humanoids" and "Robots In My Dreams". The lyrics are still silly, and thank gosh for that. Only The Lillingtons can sing "I saw the apeman/He's having a bad day/Because Neil Armstrong/Took his banana away" without being cute.
Death By Television is my pick for pop-punk album of the year. It’s a strong release that grows on you like a cold sore from the lip. It's been three weeks and I still can't stop listening to this at least twice a day. I call that bang for the buck.
The Lillingtons - The Backchannel Broadcast (CD review) (Panic Button): Death By Television was a collection of 14 songs that clocked in at a shade over 32 minutes. This new one is 16 songs at 24:21. If their music didn't put me into drool-inducing trances Id feel short-sheeted on the deal, but I'm a slave-puppet to their sound. In addition, a Lillingtons bumper sticker is the only thing keeping my car together. In the age of Napster I'm surprised the CD isn't 74 minutes long and packed with enough songs to make even the thought of going on-line to put it all together an act of self-loathing.
Patterns are emerging with Lillingtons releases. They're getting less silly and more focused on a central theme and mood. The last was inspired by cheesy horror and science fiction. The Backchannel Broadcast, inspired by pulp fiction CIA intrigue made famous by author Graham Greene, is a fairly serious affair. Sure, the lyrics don't get much more serious than "Rushin' to the scene like Steve McQueen eatin' burgers on a Friday night", but song titles don't inspire giggles like they used to, and the lyrics follow suit.
The Lillington's sound is inspired by two main sources: the neo-Ramones wall-of-noise chord progressions of Screeching Weasel & The Queers, and the sharper, more structured sound of Bad Religion. Two bands working close to the Lillingtons model are The Groovie Goulies and Teen Idols. As with the last CD, the first, middle, and last songs sound like Bad Religion. They're more dramatic and less fun than the Ramonesy stuff. I think every song is also played at the same beats per minute. I noticed this while riding the bike at the gym.
Still, I love The Lillingtons and I love The Backchannel Broadcast. The Lillingtons sound, slightly different than their peers, sends my eyeballs spinning and I lose all sense of time and place. If you don't like power pop punk you may find this too repetitive. I love how they create slight variations in a strict formula. It's not as great as Death By Television but I'm exceedingly happy.
Limp - Pop & Disorderly (CD review) (Honest Don's): Limp is to Green Day what the Riverdales are to the Ramones, the cosmic twist being the difference between the Ramones and Green Day. I could compare the two all day, and even though Green Day's chart and financial success upsets Joey’s ulcer even in the afterlife, in 100 years the Ramones will have their faces carved into the side of a mountain while Green Day is a footnote in a college thesis on 20th century musical trends. That out of the way, this is a great CD I highly recommend to anyone who likes Green Day. There's a lot of power here and enough hooks to hurt somebody. There’s little filler and well worth the time and money. While I'm here, what's up with Honest Don's? The logo on this CD says "Fat Free Recordings". Is that a cut on Fat Wreck Chords? It’s the same label!
The London Punkharmonic Orchestra - Symphony Of Destruction: Punk Goes Classical (CD review) (Music Club): This was recorded in 1995 and probably not released until now. There's a long intro from Jack Rabid of The Big Takeover, but all he says is that a guy named Monty produced and arranged old punk hits which were beautifully rendered as classical music with strings. How many strings, what instruments exactly (I think cello, viola and violin), who, what, where and why - that's still a mystery. I'd like to know if the musicians even knew the originals when they sat down to record this. Monty and Co. did a great job with these eighteen moldy oldies. If mom hears this coming from your room she might think you've dropped your heroin habit and will even start looking for a job. Ha!
This is a novelty record but I need music to play at work, and this is cool. I can hum along to The Jam and The Damned and not draw unwanted attention. Devo's E-Z Listening Disc is another seemingly obvious choice but that's still too weird. Here's the songs (you do the math on the original bands): "No More Heroes", "Babylon's Burning", "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Down In The Tube Station At Midnight", "Holiday In Cambodia", "White Riot", "Gary Gilmore's Eyes", "Ever Fallen In Love", "Love Song", "Another Girl, Another Planet", "Where's Captain Kirk?", "Alternative Ulster", "Germ Free Adolescents", "Teenage Kicks", "Stranglehold", "Hersham Boys", "Sound Of The Suburbs" and "Pretty Vacant". The selection is mostly late 70's UK punk. It's not hard to turn a good punk song into classical music. All it takes is a good hook or chord riff that can be slowed down and adapted to string and wind instruments.
An issue with muzak versions of popular songs is how vocals are translated into music. It annoys the crap out of me when every nuance of pronunciation is replicated by a piano or violin. It's unnatural when a piano tries to follow a human voice's shift from low to high by tapping three intermediary keys. It sounds like a robot stuttering. "White Riot" has a nice pace because the words can be replicated as long flowing sounds. "Babylon's Burning" suffers a bit from choppy, irregular vocal mimicry. Thankfully most of Symphony Of Destruction does an excellent job of not letting this detract from the base requirements of classical music. This could have been elevator music, but it's not. A classical music snob could rip this apart as garbage, but for all intents and purposes this is as classy as punk's ever going to get. All 437 of us old punks who might appreciate this should own a copy. The kids will, once again, scratch their heads, mumble it ain't punk, and declare with equal parts irony and disgust, "Yeah, man, like whatever". Ah, like whatever, indeed.
Lost Direction - Demo (CD review): Three guys from Dearborn, MI chipped in some folding money and put out a three-song demo. It reminds me of mid-‘80s southern punks The Ugly Americans and some lesser sounds coming out of Lookout Records, before Operation Ivy took off. This doesn't stink but it's not worth buying either. Recordings like this remind me of looking at stranger’s wedding albums. I know what's going on but feel distanced from it, because while I know to them it was the greatest dayof their lives, all I notice is how people look and if they seem to be having a good time. This demo has no greater implication than the fun and toil it represented to the people who made it. It's proof they have a band and wrote songs. This demo is ok. Thankfully it doesn't try to overcompensate by constantly going over the top. That's worth an extra point just in itself.
Love Of Diagrams – Mosaic (cd review): Australia’s Love Of Diagrams are firmly within the range of Allmusic’s takes on their Influences and Similar Artists categories (their site won't allow me to link directly), and while they aren’t the best of their division these two Sheilas and one Bruce do a hell of a job cranking out punk post-punk music that’s never quiet even when it’s not loud. The drums, guitar and bass are given equal weight and they intertwine and shoot off on their own with an interesting internal logic, Unpredictability is one of Mosaic’s finer qualities, along with the music not being as much about melody but of fluid and random energy with smooth torque. There are melodies fer shure, but that’s only a starting point. The singing alternates between a touch of Siouxsie Sioux and the duet singing of the B-52’s, while the sound is grounded in a faster and louder Gang Of Four feel, sans funk.
As a piece, 2007’s Mosaic probably repeats itself aesthetically more than it should, hitting the same high points with a regularity that should be more metered out. Besides that, I ain’t gots no complaints.
Lovegutter - Sucking In The 90's (CD review) (Black Hole): This is an interesting example of an under-rehearsed band exploring a number of influences. It's easy to pass this one over because of the D.I.Y packaging and lack of professionalism, but I like the influences they pull from and remember a lot of the bands I grew up with weren't any better. From what I know about Philly, street punk and oi are the foundation to a sound that can pull from either NY's heavier metal sound or DC's older Dischord groups. Lovegutter mix in a heapin' helpin' of The Meatmen to their street punk, and when they do it works like a charm. They also borrow from the Ramones (they cover "We Want The Airwaves") and cover Devo's "Mongoloid" (5 extra points). Points off for chanting "oi, oi, oi" during "Bad Love". "Oi" is a British term and a British movement. What if you heard an American punk band chant "G'day!" like they were from Australia? Wouldn't you think that's silly? Since "oi" is the UK version of the American "Hey" I don't see why American street punk bands can't yell that instead. Is it because of The Monkees and "Hey Hey we're The Monkees"?
There's lots of good music here. With more practice and a re-write of the lyrics to their more silly songs they could have been bigger than Jesus. You know Jesus, the fat Mexican guy at Alberto’s Tacos? They broke up a while ago. Oh well...
The Lowdowns - Diggin A Hole In The Middle Of The World (LP review) (Junk): Ten songs on a 45 RPM 12". At times they remind me of The Cramps, The Lazy Cowgirls, and The Dead Boys. In each song they throw in interesting elements like '50s greaser music and detective soundtrack noir. The backing vocalist sings along with the lead vocalist whenever the mood hits him, giving the recording a big, live intensity. The two guitarists pound out non-fuzzy power chords that play off each other nicely. All in all a great release. Listen to side two first. The A-side opener is a rip-off of the Reagan Youth classic "Degenerated" later watered down for the movie "Airheads". Here it’s a bad first impression of unoriginality. Scratched into the vinyl are the words "It's Hard To Take Life Easy When You're Speeding It Up With Drugs." That's so beautiful, man... they're doing it for the kids. But wait, they have a song called "Last Fix", claim on the back they're too drunk all the time to remember anything, and the cover has them smoking in front of a porno theater. Oh, no, what to think?!!! Remember the kids!!!
L.E.S. Stitches - STAJA98L.E.S (CD review) (Ng): Here's the evolution of an idiot's thought process. That idiot being me. Not that I get out much, but I thought the Lower East Side Stitches were sloppy, retro-NYC CBGBs self-destructo degenerates. All this just by their look and what I thought was their reputation. The first thing that hit me when I threw this CD on the Victrola was how much they sound like Rancid, and that made me wince. Here are the legendary L.E.S. Stitches selling out to appeal to the masses (or so I’m thinking without really knowing if it’s true). I'm a fan of Rancid's ...And Out Come The Wolves, and while I think the L.E.S. Stitches are doing a decent job of honoring their own "roots rock" of the NY Dolls, I still take some points off for cashing in on someone else's gravy-train.
I hit the internerd to see just how much the band’s changed over the years. Seems I had all wrong. These guys have been compared to Rancid for a good while now. Everyone from Joey Ramone to Agnostic Front seem to be fans. They're traveling this summer with Rancid and the Specials on the Warped Tour, and I guess that's where they've positioned themselves from the start. So, now I'm listening to this in the correct context and it's great. You can take points off for whatever Rancid comparison you care to make but the songs on STAJA98L.E.S (ask for it by name!) stand up well on their own in both creativity and execution.
This isn't hardcore, it's punk, and while it does have commercial qualities it remains hard and fast. I've heard they're a great live band, and if they present this crowd-pleasing material to the Warped kids as expected they should blow many other bands off the stage.
Male - Zensur & Zensur (LP review) (Teenage Rebel): When people near me speak in a foreign language, I know they're talking about me. I know it. My other clue is the laughter as they cover their mouths with one hand while pointing at me with the other. Records sung in foreign languages are probably about me too. Male sing in German, so who the hell knows? I've liked most German punk I've heard, and most German punks go out of their way to be sensitive about their country's past. Zensur & Zensur (the word translates as "Censorship") is a good record that takes a few listens to fully appreciate because they have a diverse sound and don't try to pummel you with every song. "Male" in German means "mark", whatever that means.
Every word on the album and in the extensive liner notes is in German, except for the name of the record company, which reads "Teenage Rebel Records". According to the dates, it was recorded in 1979, which makes Male an important band because this material, for that time, is phenomenal. I was listening to this thinking a new band recorded some nice Clash, Buzzcocks, Chelsea, and oi-flavored tunes, but since this is twenty years old they were doing something special. Sure, Male was following the then current musical trends from the UK, but they did a great job. It’s easy to do in 1999 but not so in 1979. I thought one song was a rip-off of Maniac Youth's oi ripper "Make Mine Molotov", but I guess it's the other way around. Huh. Zensur & Zensur went from pretty good to excellent once I realized when it was recorded. From retro to history just like that.
Man Sized Action - Five Story Garage (LP review) (Reflex): The Midwest US scene of the mid- ‘80s is shamefully overlooked. Chicago and Minneapolis gave us some of the best bands to ever fly the punk flag. The two big forces out of Chicago were Naked Raygun and Steve Albini's Big Black. To this day, Chicago bands more often than not meet high local standards of style and authority. And damn, the scene in Minneapolis was once the best in the country. Husker Du, The Replacements, Soul Asylum (before they sold out), Breaking Circus and Man Sized Action made it almost worth living in that snowcone of a city. Man Sized Action weren't the best band around, but when they hit it just right, time stood still.
Bob Mould produced their 1983 debut, Claustrophobia, which I owned and later sold. I taped the three best songs from that one ("Bubble Burst", "Private Eye" and "Yea") but didn't feel the record was worth keeping. 1984's Five Story Garage continues where the last ended, but two tracks ("Replica" and "Different Than Now") elevate themselves to the level of euphoria with their sweeping drones and mesmerizing bass, guitar and drum progressions. Most Man Sized Action tracks remind me of a combo of The Feelies, Gang of Four, The Replacements and Mission of Burma, with a bit of Big Black and Husker Du thrown in as a noise factor. On "Replica", and especially "Different Than Now", Man Sized Action pound home the first Psychedelic Furs album as channeled through the Feelies take on The Velvet Underground. It’s punk and trippy at the same time without being pretentious. Wire was also a big influence on the band, and you can hear that in all their music.
Info from a MN record label source: “Man Sized Action's last show was in 1986 but they've done several reunion shows since then. Most recently in November of 1996. Singer Pat Woods currently fronts a group called Vavoom. Guitarist Tippy has been involved in a couple of projects since MSA but nothing in the last couple of years. Of course Brian Paulson is an esteemed record producer having worked with Uncle Tupelo and Wilco among countless others.”
Man Without Plan - Shop Talk (CD review) (Creep): One site calls this lower-upstate NY trio "The angry pop band with the big heart". An e-mail from Creep Records says "This CD ranges from poppy/indie songs to spastic hardcore parts." The Creep site summation includes "I wanna say Van Halen everytime I hear this record, maybe it's the guitars". Another review says "Their music might best be described as "violent pop", in that it involves elements of punk, pop-punk, and heavier stuff, or something."
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages - let me 'splain you 'bout Man Without Plan. Jawbreaker. A more hardcore Jawbreaker. The hardest emo you can buy without a prescription. Some of the ten songs have a slight hard rock influence in their periodic use of a chugga-chugga, buzzsaw guitar sound, but there's no wanking and nothing a Van Halen fan would recognize. The trippy breaks, that exist where cock-rock guitar solos normally go, are what I consider punk's answer to twenty minute Deadhead jams. In effect more psychedelic than metal, it's a misread to call this slow head-banging music. The lyrics are emo ("We make our mark/ we break our heart/ I ask what for) but Man Without Plan aren't afraid to flip out hardcore style if the emotion calls for it. Too punk for post-grunge and pop and too tough for emo, Shop Talk is what would have happened to Jawbreaker if they asked the Bad Brains for career advice.
This is a very good release. Most impressive is the recording quality, which separates the drums, guitar and bass as much as it combines them together in a clear and powerful package. As with all good emo, there's creativity and craftsmanship way beyond what you'd expect from a punk outfit. Shifts of tempo and tone weave in and out of each song with an unpredictable yet natural flow. Musicians of lesser talent would trip over themselves in the process.
There's a new record in the works for Spring, 2000. My personal hope is that they drop any and all speedmetal guitar flourishes, no matter how infrequent. It grates on me as much as disco. If you weren't around to fight the great disco and metal vs. punk wars of the late ‘70s, you probably couldn't care less. Recognizing my own stress disorders, I give Shop Talk a rating of "A-". Jawbreaker's Unfun LP is still the Rosetta Stone for all things emo and good. If they want to hit a homer in all ways, they should do a cover of Jawbreaker's "Kiss The Bottle", for no reason beyond I like that song a bushel.
Manic Hispanic - The Menudo Incident (CD review) (Doctor Dream): It’s all cover songs, which explains the parody of the Guns N Roses album of a slightly different name. At first glance Manic Hispanic is a funny gimmick like The Dickies, but truth be told they're serious as hell. Well, maybe not totally serious but I understand they attract remnants of the old Suicidal Tendencies crew, so you better not be laughing out of disrespect, ese! They sing in Spanish at times and change lyrics to reflect the Cholo perspective, but their treatments of the covers are right on target ,and their choice of tunes are genius. On The Menudo Incident they cover "12XU", "Garageland" ("Barrio Land"), "New Rose" ("New Rosa"), "Jet boy Jet Girl" ("Jet Muchacho"), "God Save The Queen", "I Got A Right", "Los Angeles" ("East LA"), "Orgasm Addict", and a few others.
You can tell Manic Hispanic are having fun with poetic license but this is hard fast rules that does total justice to the originals. If you love the originals you'll flip for these covers, guaranteed. Whoever is selecting and arranging these songs is the unchallenged expert on punk. Each cover takes the essential great quality of the original and builds from there to create updated classics. These homeys play all the time in LA. I wonder if a slice of white bread like myself would survive a Manic Hispanic show. What if I'm wearing the wrong colors or make a threatening hand signal by mistake?! Mom!!!!!!! Band member name of the month - Mo Grease.
- Mijo Goes To Jr. College (CD review):
from 2003 is a little better than the last one,
The Recline Of Mexican Civilization,
but it's all good from where I stand. Not only are they great musicians who
"get" the originals, the enhanced Spanglish lyrics and comical vignettes make
their records more than gimmicks. I've never heard the other big covers band, Me
First And The Gimme Gimmes, but when I read "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
continue with a flood of covers done the in the usual Fat Wreck Chords fashion"
I'm glad I missed out. Manic Hispanic rule the covers wasteland.
Here's the track list: 1. Trippin on Mi Ruca (Drinking About My Baby) 2. Brand New Imapla (Brand New Cadillac) 3. Tio's Got a Secret (The Germs) 4. Cruise (The Brews) 5. Barrio Love (Barbed Wire Love) 6. Creeper Is a Lowrider (Sheena Is A Runk Rocker) 7. My Homeboy Is a Joto 8. Big Heinas (GBH) 9. Menudo Morning Nightmare (Sunday Morning Nightmare 10. I.N.S. Took My Novia Away (The KKK Tok My Baby Away) 11. Crusher (The Crusher) 12. Get Up Your Late (You Drive Me Ape) 13. She Turned into Llorana 14. Lupe, I'm Free (The Damned) 15. Code Brown (TSOL) 16. I Want to Be a Cholo
I wish I knew more Spanish. I'd like to learn but I'm a tired and lazy older(ish) man.
Manic Hispanic - "Mommy's Little Cholo"/"I Don't Care About You" (7" review) (Junk Records): Manic Hispanic may look like low-riding L.A. gang members, and you may think changing the lyrics of two punk standards to reflect Hispanic points of reference smacks of cartoon goofiness, but these guys are amazing! Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster" and Fear's "I Don't Care About You" are covered with the same seriousness and intensity as the originals. Any band that can match Fear's power is a force to be reckoned with. Buy this right now and be a lot cooler than you were yesterday.
Manic Hispanic - The Recline Of Mexican Civilization (CD review) (BYO): Something old, something new, something borrowed, something azul. I don't know Spanglish, so I can't tell you what "vato" or "esse" means, but I laugh every time I hear them take the Clash song and change it to "I'm so bored with you, esse." I did find out that "Mexican Tar" is a form of heroin, which makes sense of the Manic's version of "Chinese Rocks". This is the second CD from the best punk cover band around. Manic Hispanic takes punk classics, large and small, and faithfully reproduce the essence of what each song is about. It starts with accurate tuning and ends with skilled musicianship. Only then is humor added in varied degrees. It's not exactly Weird Al either, because the members of Manic Hispanic are all at least half Mexican, and they exploit Mexican stereotypes only for the enjoyment of their fans and themselves. Laugh at Manic Hispanic and you might wind up with a bunch of ouchies. I hear some of their fans are from the old Suicidal Tendencies crew.
Billy Zoom lends his iconic guitar work to "Brown Girl", a faithful rendering of X's "White Girl". It's the CD's best example of how Manic Hispanic understand the originals. The level of humor and extent of Spanglish varies appropriately with each song. "Get Them Immigrated" is sung to full Cheech and Chong effect, as much of a gimmick as the original it's based on. In a world with a good sense of humor it would be a hit on the radio. My favorite track all around is "Uncle Chato's Garden", which corrects the ultra pretentious seriousness of Bad Religion's "Atomic Garden" (maybe I just hate the Gnome Crapsky lecture that b-sided that single).
The bands they cover are: Descendants, Heartbreakers, Offspring, Bad Religion, The Clash, Sham 69, Social Distortion, Rancid, Dead Kennedys, X and Catholic Discipline. The Manics cover all styles perfectly, and the frequent comedy bits are all killer, especially "What I think of those god damn Mexicans are all whacked out listening to Guns N Ammo, and they're all hocked up on that PCH" (PCH is the Pacific Coast Highway).
The core of the band comes from SoCal bands The Cadillac Tramps, The Grabbers, and 22 Jacks. Manic Hispanic began as a sound check in-joke and grew into a crowd favorite. The Recline Of Mexican Civilization is as good as their 1995 The Menudo Incident. It sounds like it could have come from the same sessions. Quality control at its finest and another equally great release.
The Mansfields - Sappy Songs For Summer Nights (CD review) (Blast Off): These three Colorado Springs followers of The Queers are moving away from their original inspiration to more of a power-pop rockabilly thing. They now use a stand-up bass and look like the Ramones with Stray Cat hairdoos (or don'ts!). In more ways than one The Mansfields have an identity crisis. The image and fonts on the CD are straight from the Groovie Ghoulies, and right there in the liner notes it says they toured with the Ghoulies. It says they also played with the likes of the Eyeliners, Chubbies, MTX, Teen Idols - and they thank Joe Queer too.
Are there too many Ramones/Screeching Weasel/Queers bands out there? Damn straight there are. There's also too many Crass/Circle Jerks/Dead Kennedys/Promise Ring/Nirvana/Dead Boys bands out there. The Mansfields are adequate at what they do but I wouldn't recommend this unless you have a Queers fetish (as I type this I'm listening to "Stick With Me", which is a weak adaptation of "Surf Goddess"). Their harmonies are off-key and there's nothing original or overly exciting about the tunes in general. I do support what they're doing because there's not enough good power pop bands around. Word has it power pop punk isn't really punk. I want the cool kids to like me so maybe it isn’t.
Because the band's called The Mansfields they do a song called "Jayne Mansfield Was A Punk". It's a misconception that Jayne was decapitated. She was most of the way there but no roller. The CD cover is modeled after a cover of an old NY punk fanzine, oddly enough called Punk.
Mansfields - Kill Your Radio (CD review): When I listened to this I had forgotten I had reviewed their last release on Mutant Pop. In my hand is an unmastered test pressing which was supposed to come out on Mutant Pop. This is more polished than their last one, but it might vary a bit too much, for your regular record buyer, between various styles, in this case oi, Mike Ness’ c&w punk, The Automatics and Sloppy Seconds. There's a strain of Rockabilly that runs throughout, a change from their old Ramones/Queers sound. It all works for the Mansfields, and anyone who likes any of the bands I've mentioned above should get into this.
Once this gets mastered I have no idea what it’ll sound like, but the guitar, as is, is great. It alternates between power chords and leads in a solid wall of sound that's easy to get lost in. That's the signature of Sloppy Seconds. "Born To Lose" reminds me of an old oi song that has the lines "Never heard of a washing machine, so his clothes are never clean." The vocals on a number of tracks copies Mike Ness with 95% accuracy. All ten tracks are consistently above average without being classics.
A vast improvement, and at this rate they'll be The Next Big Thing in 2001…. At which time I'll lose interest.
Marginal Man - Identity & Double Image (LPs review) (Dischord & Enigma): Listening to these two records now, Marginal Man were more amateurish than I remembered. And not in the enthusiastic primitive fashion I usually find endearing. The musicians' timing is off, and so is Ken Inouye's singing. Three songs on Double Image are more polished and feature guitarist Peter Murray on vocals. Could this have been on the insistence of Enigma? These songs are actually pretty good. Add "Missing Rungs" and "Friend" (the latter found on both albums!), but otherwise you can pretty much pass up the rest. I didn't expect to write this last line. I intended to write a glowing history of what was at the time a fairly popular DC band.
Steve Polcari, Mike Manos and Peter Murray were in Artificial Peace, whose contribution to humanity was the great song "Artificial Peace". Marginal Man saw the addition of Inouye and Andre Lee, whom I remember worked in a large used bookstore in Bethesda, MD. The first album came out on Dischord but didn't sound like a Dischord record, more like F.O.Y. (Fountain Of Youth), the other, more diverse label in DC. The second was on Enigma, the label where good bands went to die. Listening to these records again it struck me how Marginal Man shot blanks by doing a little of this and a little of that. "Friend" uses the patented 7 Seconds "Whoa" sing-along. "Pandora's Box" features some East Bay Ray DK guitar work. "Fallen Pieces" has some chugga-chugga post-punk goth going on. "Chocolate Pudding" is an instrumental based on "Cool Jerk". With better execution I probably wouldn't be writing these as complaints. The lyrics on both albums are close to 7 Seconds, but it's more about emo feelings of being hurt and helpless. A "fugg you and you're little dog too" would have been more effective.
Ken Inouye booked shows for three years at the 9:30 Club and was the Black Cat's publicist for a time. Now he runs something called "In Your Eyes" which guides DIY bands through the performance, promotion, contract, and money aspects of the biz.
Master Mechanic- Kick Sneeze 7" & I Wanna Kiss You (7" review) (ROC): This was sent to me all the way from bootiful Pittsburgh, PA, where four years ago I went into a used vinyl store in Squirrel Hill that was the size of a football field. In-freakin'-credible. Both singles have one song on each side and they last for maybe a minute and a half each. Listening to them for review I felt like I was playing musical chairs. Which leads me to say, once again, that singles are a pain in the ass. People have a fetish about them I know, but my quads are burning from bouncing out of my chair this often to flip sides and singles. These two singles should have been combined on one. Less work, better value.
Master Mechanic, in a flyer that came along with the singles, are "The Kings And Queen Booze Hounds Of PGH Sleaze Rock". On their nicely done web site, www.geocities.com/messymechanic, which has more information on the band members than even their own parents would want to know, the band gets described in a few places as "heavy rock", which is not the same as heavy metal. Pittsburgh is infamously a working class town, the members of Master Mechanic look like working class people, the kind who get dirty at work and don't need to change to play that night, and their music is working class rock with some nods to the Stooges heaviness and NY Dolls glam. Maybe it's the studio recording, but it comes across as a bit noncommittal. Some of the reviews they post mention roaring live shows. This may be. It's only hinted at in the singles.
I'm not a big "rock" guy and Big Black is the closest I get to slow and heavy. Three of the four tracks are faster paced. "OO-Tay" is s.l.o.w. and heavy-lite. Alice Cooper fans might love this. The musicianship is excellent and the guitar leads creative when not rockin' out like when two guitarists stand next to each other and mimic each other's rockin' movements. Still, something's being held back here. The singing needs to be louder and more dangerous. I'm glad they thought enough of my little lemonade stand to send me some music.
(review): I Listened To The MC5 So You
Won't Have To. I own all three
but could never listen to one all the way through until this weekend, when I
forced myself through Kick Out The Jams, Back In The USA, and High Time,
released between 1969 and 1971. The job got easier as it went along but there's
gobs of serious parody to be had both in the music and the band themselves.
Is 60’s to mid 70’s punk relevant today? Yes and No. Yes if you think being punk requires a full knowledge of the history and roots of the music, and No if you feel it requires nothing more than a general interest in the music and culture. Your average punk of fifteen thinks Operation Ivy is old skool, and that’s OK with me. I fell into hardcore around 1980 only because new wave was dying. To me, old skool is Fear, The DKs, X, Minor Threat, Ramones and Husker Du. The MC5? The NY Dolls? That’s urban hippie music from the Neolithic era. I appreciate old bands because I’m a two-bit punk historian (with a memory like a steel spaghetti strainer), but I don’t kid myself that these bands are of any interest to some kid into NOFX or Bad Religion. None. And it doesn’t have to be. As long as The Kids don’t act like punk started in 1993 I say they’re not missing out if they never hear one note from before their time.
Wayne Kramer paid his dues, and his recent recordings are good, but whenever he’s trotted out to defend the activist wing of punk I consider the comic idiocy of The White Panther Party, in which the MC5 were the armed, revolutionary version of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers (Exhibits A and B). They treated women like rags and the revolutionary rantings on Kick Out The Jams are hysterical nonsense. Drugs, guns and stupidity don't mix.
My take on the albums is the opposite of their cheerleaders. The live album, Kick Out The Jams, is horrible. The guitars wank, songs veer of into bizarre tangents and the politics are slogans. It’s a heavy metal, hippie wig-out mess. The only good part is hearing the MC5’s tagline “Kick Out The Jams. Motherf—ker!”, which may be their lasting legacy anyway. If this is great, than great sucks.
Back In The USA is a studio album and shows they can actually play. It opens and closes with pop covers (“Tutti Fruity” and “Back In The USA”) and contains some odd teen glam anthems like “Tonight” (this must be the inspiration for Spinal Tap’s “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”) and “High School” (“’Cause they’re going to High School Rah rah rah// High School Sis Boom Bah// High School Hey Hey Hey”) “Shakedown Street” is a pop Grateful Dead. No Jams being kicked here, folks, and you are allowed to wonder if this is the same band.
High Time is pretty good. It shows them to be in fine company with Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. “Sister Anne” combines “Johnny B. Goode” and “Bad To The Bone” (of course written many years later). The horn wig-out on “Skunk (Sonically Speaking)” is phenomenal, and a brilliant break from the guitar wankfest that made their live shows the top reason to take LSD.
The MC5 lends itself to parody played straight, and it seems the MC5 documentary agrees (here and here).
Bil McRackin - I Am The Eggman (cd review): This was Bil McRackin's one and so far only solo cd, released on Shredder in 1997. You can hear some of it on last.fm, and you should even if you don't feel like it. He should do another as this is as good as The McRackins only consistently great release, 2010's It Ain't Over Easy. The McRackin's dog + two egg sci-fi gimmick is a stale old joke which I bet has contributed to their long battle with Canadian obscurity which erupted in 1994. That said...
The consistency of the thirteen tracks makes it harder to write about the thing in its entirety, and sampling most of the tracks might give you the impression it repeats itself in tone and style, which if you're not a fan of the punk-pop genre it will no matter what anyway. It's a great cd to listen to all the way through, and the more attention you give its charms the better it'll sound. I can compare it to The Queers at their most melodic, but McRackin adds more supplemental instrumentation when needed and also arranges backup singing at a studio professional level that exceeds the genres' normal capacities. I Am The Eggman succeeds effortlessly so I'm a bit bewildered as to why Bil didn't become more of a household name in typically dysfunctional punk rock homes.
The samples are the meta-heavy last track "The End" and the acoustic-driven "Pawn Shop Love Story", which sounds like a cousin of John Cougar's "Jack And Diane" (but not in a bad way!) Good luck finding this but you'll be a happy humanoid if you do.
The McRackins - It Ain't Over Easy (cd review): I never took The McRackins seriously because they never gave me any reason to. Read the Wikipedia summation and marvel at the inanity of their concept. Two of the three band members dress like eggs and the other like a dog? They have a back-story (?!) that they were transformed by a nuclear accident? Yikes. Insane Clown Posse has their own death cult, so what do I know... They've usually failed to impress me until 2010's It Ain't Over Easy, on the German label Wolverine records and as easy to find as Waldo from the Hubble Space Telescope. All of a sudden they got really good. I bet they hired a great producer and listened to him (for once maybe).
My expertise on pop-punk (as opposed to punk-pop) has diminished as it long ago became mainstream and I'm forced to listen to it at my gym. I know Bowling For Soup's "Come Back To Texas" and "Addicted To You" by Simple Plan by heart while I rather wouldn't, and I've put a down payment on a mob hit on Fountains Of Wayne because of "Stacy's Mom". Many of us have our own line in the sand as to what's too commercial, and It Ain't Over Easy is safely in my comfort zone while also being good enough (to me at least) to be widely popular. Maybe if they were popular I'd feel differently, but that's always been the hipster's prerogative.
Listening to the fourteen tracks on the disc I'm struck by the consistent quality of each one, each different yet achieving the same high standard. Eggheads and dog-boy are studio-pro level musicians and the production work is excellent. I've posted two songs almost randomly, and if you like these ones the other ones are just as good. "Candy, oh Candy, you know you're my sweet-tart" (Ha!).
McRackins - Best Friend (CD review) (Shredder): Funny-punk power pop from a Canadian band that records on a seemingly weekly basis. I've never liked them too much. Maybe it’s the stupid concept of dogs, eggshell costumes and makeup. Maybe it's how hard they work at being goofy. On this eight song CD they imitate Screeching Weasel fairly to the letter and note. "Get Crackin'" is an inversion of Weasel's "Radio Blast", while "What Comes Around" borrows the acoustic guitar riff from Husker Du's "Never Talking To You Again". The McRackins are the Dead Milkmen of power pop punk. Anyone want to buy this from me? Maybe if I throw it hard enough it'll stick to the wall so I can use it as a shelf for my chapstick.
Meatmen - Evil In A League With Satan (CD ROM/EP review) (Go Kart): A historical treasure trove for Tesco Vee fans, this has enough cool songs and interactive media to keep even the grumpiest punker happy as a fly on a pile of steaming hot poop. The price is right too.
The Meatmen have been around in one shape or another for about twenty years. Tesco helped found Touch & Go, and his funny, crude, offensive songs have been polluting the planet (in a good way) ever since. His music has alternated between sloppy punk and campy cock-rock metal punk, my preference the primitive "One Down Three To Go" and Tooling For Anus". Tesco also has an unnatural love of ABBA, so what can I say. At one time The Meatmen were hugely popular in hardcore circles, and I think Tesco more than any of us old timers learned the truth that punk generations last only a few years, and that his fans didn't leave him, they just grew too old for this punk nonsense. Tesco keeps on plugging along, and may Satan unbless his putrid soul for it.
Tesco's not a Satanist, and he doesn't think "Crippled Children Suck". It's all a joke from a devoted family man with a house in the suburbs, a toy collection to kill for and a sense of humor that's sick and twisted - a little too sick and twisted probably for his own good. Many find The Meatmen offensive and that's just how it goes.
The music portion of the CD is taken from recent releases and leans toward Tesco's hard cock-rocking side. The CD-ROM is entertaining and informative. The only problem is starting it because there's no instructions printed on the sleeve. I had to search through the ROM files using Windows Explorer. To start it, click "Meat95nt". The ROM begins with two cartoon demons opening the doors to Hell, where Tesco, wearing sunglasses and cheap devil's horns, welcomes you and calls himself the "pencil-necked anti-Christ Tesco fugging Vee". From there a main menu lets you choose from sections on Tesco himself, his band, Meatmen lyrics, a discography, live concert footage and a merchandise area.
There's lots to do and see. The Tesco Vee section has funny clips from his MTV show, pictures of his massive toy and pinball machine collection, and the infamous "Tesco Vee vs. Jesus" video game, where Jesus slaps and farts while Tesco punches and kicks. There's two endings to the game so play it twice. The lyrics section has words to seven songs that play in the background as you read. The discography is a collector's dream, with all artwork, from pullouts to record labels, clearly reproduced. Seven songs populate the live concert footage area, the highlights being "One Down 3 To Go", "Lesbian Death Dirge" and "Real Men Hang To The Right". Be sure to hit everything you see because there's a few surprises you won't want to miss.
Evil In A League With Satan is a nice package from Tesco Vee to his fans. When I went to visit the Official Meatmen website listed in the credits, it gave me a site for gay porn. Did Tesco sell the rights to meatmen.com or what? There's a cruel irony to this somehow.
The Meatmen - Cover The earth (cd review): Tesco Vee's last release on his own label Meat King, Cover The Earth, was issued in 2009. The cover is stupid in a way that lack's Tesco's usual hidden intelligence, a shame, but the disc itself is mostly very good even if I won't be listening to half of it ever again. Calling this a Meatmen cd was a business decision but it better fits the later period band Tesco Vee's Hate Police. Even then it might have been better to release it under his name alone as it has little in common with anything that came before it. Here's a nice interview that gives you (basically) all you need to know about the man and the band.
Here Tesco pulls out all the stops with comedy, piano, horns, female co-singing and stabs at everything from electro-punk (Black Randy), post-punk (Crawling Chaos), slap bass funk (The Temptations), to honky-tonk country (Dallas Wayne). It either surprisingly or not surprisingly adheres to a consistent whole bound together by a Hate Police-era template. I'm not a hard rock guy so I gravitated towards the punk covers and the pounding rendition of Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John". The Tesco original on this 24 -track disc is a hysterical radio ad for Sex Mart 2000 by alter-ego Shecky Schpilkus.
While a mixed bag of sounds and singing styles, Cover The Earth is expertly arranged and executed. Does Tesco even know how to play an instrument? I can see how this doesn't add much to the Meatmen legacy but it is a great accomplishment just by being so well done. Am I damning with faint praise? I'm trying not to. Here's the track list:
1 Meatman (Jerry Lee Lewis) 2 Bad Reputation (Thin Lizzy) 3 Loner With A Boner (Black Randy & The Metrosquad) 4 I Slept In An Arcade (Black Randy & The Metrosquad) 5 Motorbikin' (Chris Spedding) 6 Me 262 (Blue Oyster Cult) 7 Epitaph For A Head (JD Blackfoot) 8 Highest Power (GG Allin) 9 Big Bad John (Jimmy Dean) 10 Freeway Mad (Saxon) 11 Sex Machine (Crawling Chaos) 12 Don't Shake Me Lucifer (Roky Erickson) 13 Vibrator (Motorhead) 14 Sex Mart 2010 - Shecky Schpilkus 15 Psychedelic Shack (The Temptations) 16 I Love Livin' In The City (Fear) 17 Worst Band In The World (10cc) 18 Downward Christian Soldiers (Black Market Baby) 19 Slum Goddess (The Fugs) 20 I'm A Bug (The Urinals) 21 The Snake (The Pink Fairies) 22 One Track Mind (Johnny Thunders) 23 So Long (ABBA) 24 We Didn't Kill Each Other (But Didn't We Try) (Dallas Wayne)
The Meices - Greatest Bible Stories Ever Told (CD review) (Empty): By happy choice I know nothing about post-grunge indie rock, so when I put this 1992 release on the 'ol 700 rpm Victrola all I could come up with were lite versions of Clawhammer, The Butthole Surfers and Killdozer (a stretch on that last one). You can rock out to some of this but not approximate anything close to dancing. Maybe Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls fans will go for this. I don't have much of an opinion on if it’s good or not. I just don't have a need to put this on again. My loss.This should have been faster, heavier and meaner.
The Mekons - The Mekons Story (CD review) (Feel Good All Over): Here's some legendary bands who: 1) have put out loads of albums of varying quality over the years, 2) are eclectic to the point of schizophrenia, 3) are hard to find, and 4) have a devoted yet small cult following who make you feel either they’re nuts or you're missing out on something great -- 1/2 Japanese, The Residents, Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, and The Mekons. Ween might be a modern band who fits this category. Rock critics and obsessive collector nerds love these kind of bands.
After years of hearing whipsers of The Mekon's greatness, I purchased this CD comp of twenty songs from '77 to '82. From Leeds in the UK, The Mekons, like Gang Of Four, early on used synth-funk as a backdrop for socialist lyrics. A critic says of The Mekons, "Despite an appearance of frenetic intellectual activity, the new generation of rock has come up with only one brilliant insight. It came from the Mekons, and like all important ideas, it is very simple: rock is the only form of music which can actually be done better by people who can't play their instruments than by people who can. This idea underlay punk, but the Mekons were the first to base a group on that principle alone". The inability to play proficiently has always been the pride and shame of rock&roll. The argument is also bulls--t. Not everyone can play classical guitar, nor should they be expected to. Rock has always been looked down upon by jazz and classical snobs as a haven for untalented musicians. Some punks are excellent musicians, others suck horribly, but most seem to play well enough to perform what they want with power and authority. It's obvious from these early, raw recordings that the Mekons were talented musicians. The Sex Pistols wore the same talentless badge of punk honor. Live with Sid they did stink, but in the studio the Pistols were more than good enough.
This collection contains early punk blasts not unlike Wire and Gang of Four, and synth-based noodlings that bring to mind Throbbing Gristle as a punk band. I hear a lot of interesting elements here that may or have not been a direct influence on others that followed. The influences game is a minefield of ego and speculation. While not always the case, I believe the most popular bands of any genre are the most influential. Are The Mekons more influential than Gang Of Four or Wire? I doubt it. Is this collection worth getting? Only if you're a fan of obscure early UK punk. I hear twenty good album tracks but no hits.
Mekons - New York, On The Road 86-87 (CD review) (ROIR): Jon Langford is maybe a little too smart, a little too anarchistic and a little too drunk for his own good. I say that only in terms of record sales, something Langford cares nothing about. Many of his recordings are pure genius. Coming out of the same Leeds UK scene as the Gang Of Four and the Delta 5, they established a creative community ten times more fun than the arses at Crass, Inc. A shift to American D.I.Y. country, bluegrass, folk and rock in the mid’80s threw off casual fans but endeared them even more to critics and diehards. ROIR put out a cassette-only version of this CD back in 1987. This pressing is re-mastered and includes "noisy, shamblin', drunk" 1987 versions of their 1978 punk classics "Where Were You?" and "Never Been In A Riot", direct attacks on what they saw as the poser thuggery of the Clash and Sex Pistols. New York, On The Road is a perfect live record. You get to know the band personally, and you wish you could be there to be having as much fun as they are. It also helps that the songs are great.
In jazz history it's well known that the fastest, loudest, sweatiest, loosest performances took place after the clubs closed, in homes and back rooms. There's "Show Time" and "Our Time", which was almost always better (and always more fun). Now imagine the band The Band in the same situation with Shane McGowan of The Pogues singing in his usual drunken stupor. That's what this CD sounds like, and unlike most live recordings, you feel like you're there drinking with them in small clubs, playing for small, devoted crowds. Jon is backed by seven musicians on guitars, bass, drums, Casio keyboards, violin and accordion. Packed on tiny stages, they create streams of joyful noise that almost sound archival in how they capture the essence of various indigenous American music styles. The simple beauty of "Shanty", a country waltz, must be heard. It evokes images of tradition, simplicity and community a city slicker like me can only dream about. Odd yet effective, "Trouble Down South" and "Flitcraft At The Iron Horse" combine goth and bluegrass. "Trouble Down South" is built on a truncated riff from Bauhaus' "Bela Lugosi's Dead".
With 29 tracks and various pieces of taped business thrown in, New York, On The Road is also a great value. It's a nice departure from the norm and very well done. Highly recommended.
Metal Mike - Plays the Hits Of The 90s, Ted Nugent Is Not My Dad!, My Girlfriend Is A Rock (CD EPs review) (XXX): These three discs came out in '91, '92 and '93 respectively, and were then combined on one CD in 1994. Metal Mike Saunders is a founder of the legendary Angry Samoans. A few years after that band broke up and scattered to the winds, Mike released a series of low-key EPs under his own name, switched to drums and took the name "Mr. Loser". Lisa Lombardo played lead guitar and Julia Altstatt bass guitar (the first EP also has Jonathan Hall on guitar). Metal Mike sounds nothing like the Angry Samoans, and there's a weird karma/irony in this because the man who ruthlessly skewered Rodney Bingenheimer for being a retro-pop wuss in "Get Off The Air" proves he's more than capable of recording the fa-la-la garage pop he mocked Rodney for promoting.
The songs are pleasant enough and not the biggest waste time, but they lack the energy and bite you'd expect from the former Samoan who recently revived the Angry Samoan name for his latest CD (which also sounds nothing like the band who recorded "Steak Knife" and "Homo-Sexual"). Mike's singing on the EPs lacks range and is overly sweet and sincere, while the band goes through the motions like they're doing an early AM soundcheck. Over three years Metal Mike and Co. recorded an exact continuation of the EP that came before it. After the first I'd figure Mike would speed it up and slap it around a bit. Guess not.
Plays The Hits Of The 90's starts off fast enough on "I Don't Like This World Anymore", but Mike's singing is too coy to be believed, like he's one of those sad little boys with big round eyes from cheesy paintings. He then does a Bob Dylan imitation on "Let's Burn The Flag", turns Merle Haggard's "I'm A Lonesome Fugitive" into wimp-folk, does a good job on the Dictator's "Next Big Thing", and has Lisa do a Dylan imitation on "I Saw Your Face". Ted Nugent Is Not My Dad! is a misleading title because there's no metal guitar, just more garage pop played with underwhelming intensity. He covers Lobo's "Ain't Gonna Be Your Friend", Sweet's "Wig Wham Bam" and Dave Davies' "This Man He Weeps Tonight" (he does captures Dave's vocal intonations fairly well). The last track, co-written with Lisa, comes closest to the energy level you'd expect. My Girlfriend Is A Rock is more of the same with another Lobo cover tune. There's seventeen songs on the three discs.
Pleasant, sweet, and restrained aren't words you'd associate with a former Angry Samoan, but the evidence keeps on piling up.
The Methadones- Ill At Ease (CD review) (A-F Records): The genealogy of Chicago pop punk bands is as confusing as the Dischord family tree, factoring in aliases people go by. The Methadones has been Dan Schafer's (aka Danny Vapid) project since around 1993, I know that, but it’s hard to figure out the other members in this revolving door operation. There's members and former members of Screeching Weasel, Squirtgun, The Queers, and The Mopes. As of last month they were looking for a full-time drummer, and the Methadones web site (methadones.com) says that Matt from the Teen Idols has been sitting in -- which must be fate because Ill At Ease is very much like the Teen Idols, Screeching Weasel from the days of Anthems For A New Tomorrow, and Bad Religion when they were good.
The Lillingtons mastered (just before the Idols did) what I call the "Sweet Spot" of Johnny Ramones' strum-within-a-chord guitar style. Instead of playing 3 chords as 1-2-3, it's more like 111111111-222222222-333333333. They added some personality within these fast strumming lines, and it’s easy to get lost in this shifting wall of noise (thanks Phil Spector!).
Ill At Ease starts with "Solitude", derived from Bad Religion, with shorter, sharper chord arcs and a continual singing style that just screams "thesaurus" even if no big words are involved. Then there's "Hygiene Aisle", which reminds me of Weasel's "A New Tomorrow", with drumming that allows you to do the greatest, most joyous dance of all time - The Pony! More Bad Religion stuff on "Wake Up", which sounds exactly like a mid-period Bad Religion song I can barely recall no matter how many times I start vaguely remembering the words. "Past Mistakes" is Teen Idols material and it makes me wish Heather was singing backup on the CD, because Dan sure as heck sings like Keith. "Bottom Out" is a glam rocker to pump your fist to, but it still manages to swipe a muted bass line from the Idol's "King Just For A Day". "Take A Look" is somewhere between the Weasel and the Idols. "Slow Down" is Bad Religion with shorter sentences, followed by "Whole Lot Of Nothing" and more of the same. "Who Am I?" and "Ill At Ease" are like The Teen Idols meets Bad Religion.
I'm not grading each song but I prefer whatever sounds like Screeching Weasel, The Lillingtons and the Teen Idols.
The Migraines (tape of CD review) (Sick Duck Records): This cassette copy was mailed to me, and if I didn't know better I'd say it's the new Sloppy Seconds record. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, The Migraines should get on their knees and thank (gulp!) the Kings of Junk Rock. Both bands hail from Indiana. The singer sounds like he could be B. A.'s younger (and lighter) brother, while the band is a balance between Sloppy Seconds and The Vindictives (with 5% Mr. T. Experience thrown in). The lyrics are pure SS. "I'm A Wuss" is a variation on "I Don't Wanna Be A Homosexual", "I'll Be Glad When You're Gone" opens with a B-movie sample, and "Daddy Wears Mommy's Things " steals from "Ice Cream Man". "Pha-Q" is a straight copy of the Monkee’s "Stepping Stone". Is it good? I have to take away originality points but I'm a big fan of this genre and this is a lot of fun. The address for Sick Duck Records is P.O. Box 5051, Ft. Wayne, IN 46895.
The Migraines- Juvenilia (CD review) (OneFoot): Whatta bunch of goofs. The Rosetta Stone for these Fort Wayne, IN numbnuts may be the Ramones, but they're the best thing to hit town since Sloppy Seconds. The Migraines sample bad movies and television as much as Sloppy Seconds, and they share a love for junk culture. Eddie Migraine sings like Joey Vindictive of The Vindictives, another Sloppy Seconds type band. I love Sloppy Seconds and The Vindictives, so there's no way I'm going to dislike The Migraines.
The Migraines may be derivative, but they're also a bit more diverse in their sound than these other bands. In addition to the Ramones and Sloppy Seconds, they toy with surf, garage, hillbilly and modern pop-punk sounds of bands like The Bollweevils , Screeching Weasel and Bad Religion. The musicianship of this three piece is excellent, and once again Mass Giorgini has more than earned his beer money as producer.
"Start Procrastinating" is a classic of the pop-punk genre, and worth every penny just for this one song. Is it just me or does "Banana Chandelier" sound like "When The Saints Come Marching In”? Juvenilia is better than their debut LP, Shut Up!, reissued by OneFoot. That one was pretty silly. Juvenilia is a misleading title. This is actually pretty mature, all things considered. Then again, I've yet to hear a bad joke about diarrhea.
Minor Threat (LP review) (Dischord): He's strong to the finish, ‘cause he eats his spinach, he's Ian "Popeye" the non-smoking, drinking or sex-having Mackaye man, toot toot! Kuh guh guh guh. Ian didn't single-handedly start or run the DC Straight-Edge scene, but damned if it didn't seem that way. And he did a damn fine job too as musician, producer, record label mogul and reluctant spokesman for a segment of his generation. The lyrics he wrote and spat out were direct statements of opinion, not the militaristic calls for scene fascism and violence that followed from the Boston area. Washington DC is a city of educated kids with a strong sense of civic responsibility and activism, and the music scene always reflected that. Boston, a city I love, is more about working class prejudices and power-violence.
Minor Threat popularized straight edge, and in interviews Ian talked about it, but the numbing repetition of the questions and the general perception of SXE as a cult of conformity grew old quickly, and he rightly lost interest in defending himself and it. The idea wasn't to become a monk, it was to not fall prey to the dumbest forms of peer pressure. It was about showing some class and using common sense. It was never about being a virgin or never drinking a beer.
Minor Threat existed from the Fall of 1980 to the Fall of 1983, from the ashes of Ian and Jeff Nelson's stint in The Teen Idles. Jeff Nelson, a talented visual artist, also ran the Dischord label on a day-to-day basis. They brought on Lyle Preslar on bass and Brian Baker on guitar. Contrary to a rumor I just started, Brian was not the kid from A Christmas Story. The DC scene was open to forming bands, quitting bands and playing in more than one band at the same time. The nexus of that scene was a record store out in Rockville, MD called Yesterday & Today Records (Y&T), owned by Skip Groff. He's the Skip in "Skip, we love you" at the end of "Stepping Stone". They had a store of just 45s that was packed floor to ceiling with boxes of 7" records. Everybody worked there, and Ian once recommended I buy a record from a local band called The Confederate, which was ok but didn't age well. Y&T clerks tended to be not very helpful, but Ian was always a man of the people. Skip paid for the first two Minor Threat EPs and mixed the first one. Skip was a Beatles kind of guy so he probably did this as a lark.
UPDATE: AN E-MAIL FROM SKIP HIMSELF! Holy Mcfugg!
"Nobody's ever called me (or Yesterday & Today) a "Nexus" before,thanks!(RE:Minor Threat review). Your comments make it seem like the store is long gone; we're in our 24th year in Rockville. Regarding the production credits, I produced and MIXED The Teen Idles EP, the First Minor Threat EP, the SOA EP, as well as some Youth Brigade tracks that ended up on Flex Your Head. These recordings were all done by me and Don Zientara at Inner Ear. For Teen Idles, as well as the first Minor Threat EP, we produced an intial demo session, then the final recordings some weeks later. Ask Jeff Nelson or Don,they'll confirm that for you."
There were four initial pressings of the first EP, Minor Threat, which packed in eight songs at 45 rpm. The first had a red cover, the second was blue, then green and yellow. My copy is red so that makes me god. I don't know how many were pressed but 1000 is always a good round number. The second EP, In My Eyes, with four songs, was first pressed on red vinyl, and my copy with the yellow label is the second pressing, which knocks me down to demigod. Both were released in 1981. There's a CD with most everything Minor Threat recorded, but at one time Dischord put out an LP of just the first two EPs.
Information on Minor Threat on the internet is surprisingly sparse and sometimes just wrong. The biggest direct influence on the sound of Minor Threat was The Bad Brains, whose speed was as shocking in its day as the Ramones were a generation before. The "straight" from SXE comes from a Jonathan Richman song "I'm Straight" and has no connotation of sexual preference.
The songs are great and the lyrics as direct as can be written. Minor Threat were above and beyond every other DC band in talent and focus. The only song out of place is "Guilty Of Being White", which is not very PC and had to have come from a bad experience in DC's notoriously infamous socio-political subculture. I lived there for fourteen years so I know what that was like.
The famous "Dischord House" you always hear about is in Arlington, VA. I lived in that neighborhood but never knew what house that was. It might have been a Sears Home, which was sold in pieces by catalog from Sears. The rents were cheap and many homes were shared. You might have seen footage of them practicing in the basement which was low, cramped and dirty, as in real piles of dirt. Basements were an afterthought.
I'm sure you own these recordings. They're a cornerstone of punk history.
Misfits (CD review) (Plan 9): This 1988 hits package is the only Misfits I will ever own. There are exactly 47,302 Misfits records out there and I have no idea what period they cover or who’s in the band. The Misfits started as a Ramones/Damned four-chord punk band, but somewhere along the way they turned metal horror-ific, then Danzig did Samhain and Danzig, and I stopped caring. I wager 90% of people wearing Misfits t-shirts know nothing about the band, and 8% of those who do are metalheads. The first EP was "Bullet" in 1978 on their own Plan 9 Records, and they put out a lot of good material before they became more legendary than interesting. Listen to "She", "Hollywood Babylon", "Teenagers From Mars" and the rest of this collection and what you'll hear is a band that did as well with the early DC scene as they did in NY's lower east side. If you like great early hardcore (yet all the idiots who claim to love the Misfits have turned you off to the band), find this collection. It’s the perfect synthesis of the Ramones and The Damned (I think they even improved on the Damned, who recorded too many songs if you know what I'm saying). Don't buy a Misfits shirt. Only losers wear them. After years of legal wrangling some original members reformed a short while back. Wonder if they're still together and if they play old or new style?
Mission Of Burma - The Sound The Speed The Light (cd review): When I read the less than floored allmusic.com review of the last cd by Mission Of Burma side project Mission Of Burma I thought their well of rock critic genuflecting might be running dry. Probably not as it's taken as faith they're a really like important band. I don't know if I should be surprised or not that this ass-smooching has lasted for the last six years and three mundane albums. I have noticed that no band is more stiff on their legend than Mission Of Burma (a line from Bowie's "Cracked Actor" which applies to MOB quite well actually: "I've come on a few years from my Hollywood highs / The best of the last, the cleanest star they ever had / I'm stiff on my legend, the films that I made / Forget that I'm fifty cause you just got paid."). The Sound The Speed The Light is another slab of psychedelic off-Broadway noisemaking, which only offends me in that it's not Mission Of Burma but something else marketing itself under that name for filthy lucre and knee-jerk critical attention. It's generally bad but sometimes it can be nice to listen to. This is angry old man hippie music from people still railing against the Huntley-Brinkley Act.
It starts off well enough with the intentionally misspelled "1,2,3, Partyy!", which tries to recapture the spontaneous exhilarated outbursts of "This Is Not A Photograph" and "Dumbells", but ultimately mirrors Bill Murray's efforts to recreate the romantically engaging snowball fight in Groundhog Day. The new singing is softer and there's a quiet break in the middle that neither sustains nor builds on the energy of the first part, but I did like the line "Drink only when drunken to". "So F--k It" follows a similar path but lingers on the F-Word like it has power beyond being often inappropriate. "Comes Undone" is a nice throwback but the hippie chorus singing by definition dilutes whatever aggro the music creates. "Good Cheer" builds up good energies only to deconstruct them with clumsy digressions. "Possession" is a confused jumble of paces and styles, sung in the cabaret chorus style that's dominated MOB's recent recordings. It rambles with no clear destination, like a lot of this cd that adds up to less than its parts. "Blunder" features untuned singing and has no idea where it's going or even why it's there. Equally tedious are "Forget Yourself", "One Day We Will Live There" and "Slow Faucet. "After The Rain" is their attempt to produce an album track by The Byrds. "Feed" is a decent slow tune. "SSL 83" is from the off-Broadway play they've been building up to, and I think that's what all this leads to - a modern day Hair for post-modern hippie punk intellectuals who think dissent is patriotic only when those they hate are in power.
If Mission Of Burma wants to put out a real Mission Of Burma cd they should start with drums that lead the way with either military precision or Gang Of Four asexual dance rhythms, a single singer forcefully emoting urgency, and a clean recording that doesn't fall back on noise as a ruse to appear busy.
Mission Of Burma
- OnoffOn (CD review):
Nobody wanted to love the latest
Mission Of Burma
CD more than I did. A year ago I was just reaching the
climax of my born-again MOB fanaticism after listening to “Dumbells” for the
first time in years. Fans of Big Black’s “Kerosene” would love this track. This
made me throw on the 2-LP Rykodisc collection, and between “This Is Not A
Photograph” and “That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate” I wondered if they had a
death cult I could join. My eyes still roll into the back of my head when the
latter track opens with someone simply speaking the name of the song.
Sadly, OnoffOn isn’t very good, regardless of the praise of fawning critics. It’s fa-la-las instead of unplanned yells, and slow when it should be fast. Even worse, the harmonies are off. It opens strongly with “The Setup” but quickly devolves into some weird thrash-hippie revival of Godspell or Let My People Come. Or something.
When Lionel Hutz finishes suing the makers of The Neverending Story for false advertising, I'll have him milk Mission of Burma for the same practice. OnoffOn is a MOB side-project, one of many. I gladly head back twenty years for some real Mission Of Burma.
I listen to this every so often to see if there's some hidden genius at work. I downplayed Sugar whilst still a Husker Du purist but changed my mind down the road. OnoffOn will have "The Setup" burned off it and then I'll trade it in. For the love of Pete, Track 9 is a silent track used to separate the CD into two sets. How, uh, artful that is.
That said, if you don't own Signals, Calls and Marches and Vs. the hole in your music collection is gaping.
Mock Orange - nines & sixes (CD review) (Boiled Music): Emo is punk's most belittled sub-genre, probably because the lyrics can be as precious as the arrangements. It's the opposite of dangerous; self-destructive machismo long being punk's preferred image. Loudness and speed in emo is seemingly there to mostly accentuate the silences and the swirling, hypnotic effects of the words. Emo is jazz grunge, new age thrash - it surely is an amalgamation of styles, and when done well it's among the best and most challenging music out there today. When it fails it's just pencil-necked geeks emoting wimp poetry over fey rock music.
Mock Orange, like the sticker on the CD reads, plays "Emo Indie Rock from Evansville, IN". While not in the same league as Sense Field, the Promise Ring and Jets To Brazil, Mock Orange creates big walls of sound that puts them ahead of other emo bands who seemingly fear their own instruments. This is probably their first CD, and there's a well-intentioned naiveté to nines &sixes that makes this worthwhile, yet also keeps it from being a classic. The talent is there and in time they'll hopefully get the math right.
Don't get me wrong. This is a good release and emo kids should add this to their collections. Emo standards are higher than anything else in punk, and while Mock Orange cover all the emo bases with enthusiasm they need to develop their own distinctive sound and voice. Maybe I just like to think emo asks more from its bands than cookie-cutter production work.
I'm probably over-analyzing this, but that's the spirit of my ennui as I reach out to touch the nothingness of my heart's soul...~~~ shoot me before I emo again!
The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers (CD review) (Beserkley/Rhino): This is one of the few pre-punk albums that actually lives up to its hype. Hailing from Boston, Jonathan Richman attached a "golly-gee-whiz" child-like optimism to the bands he loved most - The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. Richman is in his own way the Tiny Tim of punk, obsessed with the same themes as Shonen Knife but without the wink of irony. When Richman later wrote "Double Chocolate Malted", all he wanted to say was that liquid malt isn’t as tasty as powdered malt. This first album consists of demos produced by The Velvet's John Cale in 1971, and as demos may have added to The Modern Lovers' reputation as minimalists. John Cale gave The Velvets their distinctive monotone drone, but here the production is crisp, and Jerry Harrison's keyboard is another instrument and not an unrelenting wall of sound.
Like it says in the CD's liner notes, "Jonathan Richman looked like Dustin Hoffman and moved like Mick Jagger". His singing style was shaped by Lou Reed's delivery, but Richman sounds like there's tissues stuck up each nostril (taken to the extreme years later by Flash and the Pan). The CD comes with two extra tracks, "I'm Straight" and "Government Center". "I'm Straight" is a straight-edge answer to Lou Reed's retail heroin tale "I'm Waiting For The Man". Evoking Reed's talk-sing delivery, Richman repeatedly tells the world he's straight, unlike Hippie Johnny. "Government Center" is about playing happy music at a government building so secretaries will feel better while putting stamps on letters. I think the Ramones stole a riff from this for "Indian Giver". The album opens with "Roadrunner", later covered by The Sex Pistols. Johnny Rotten, famous for his contempt of everything, loved this song. "Roadrunner" is punk's "Louie Louie. It supposedly steals a riff from The Velvet's "Sister Ray". "Pablo Picasso" is a driving blues number famous for the lyrics "Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole." All of the songs are great, evoking influences from Dylan, The Doors (as channeled through The Stooges), The Band, and of course, The Velvet Underground. Remember this is pre-punk, not '77 boots and braces and surely not hardcore. This is stuff even your non-punk frat friends might like. Jerry Harrison later joined the Talking Heads, and David Robinson played with The Cars.
Moss Icon - Lyburnum (CD review) (Vermiform): It might be a conspiracy of one, but with the internet that's all you need. One Andy Radin has a site called "What The Heck Is Emo Anyway?" (fourfa.com), as lo-tech and made up is it goes along as this site. Moss Icon is listed as one of the first and most influential emo bands. May I just say that's a load of crap? Thank you.
I lived in Washington DC for fourteen years, from 1980 on with a year away here and there. There's little of that scene I’ve not either owned or passed over numerous times in record stores. Moss Icon was a band name that barely registered, and I found no references to them in my rotting stack of DC zines. I think I remember Vermiform being a metal or goth label anyway. Moss Icon formed after Rites Of Spring and all the other post-Minor Threat bands, many of whom Moss Icon imitate. Their songs, most of them found on this fourteen track reissue, go from embarrassingly bad to that's not so bad. Radin does mention The Hated as being another DC area band with little fame but much to recommend. The Hated are great and deserve more credit than they get. See what happens when you're from Annapolis and don't work part-time at Yesterday & Today Records? Moss Icon are at best a footnote in emo and DC music history. I suspect Mr. Radin knows someone in the band, and as a harmless favor is rewriting a history he himself didn't live through.
The early tracks are horrible. There's a listless quality to the playing, and nobody plays together. The timing's off at every turn. The vocals are the only attraction, fitting the standard DC mold of being emotive and all over the place like an instrument in free form jazz. Screams turn into sighs into cries into pleading. It's nice but nothing new or special, especially compared to the popular - excuse me, known bands of the time. It picks up with track 6, "Kick The Can", but even if you remove the filler what you have left is standard issue material of no relevance to then or now.
What I don't know can fill an entire book (!), but as surely as my old work boots are older than Andy Radin, I know Moss Icon were and never will be a legendary band of importance. Ben Deily's solo work and The Hated's material are where you should look for buried emo treasure. Not here.
- Concert and Singles File (CD review):
short for Masters Of The Obvious, Paul Caporino's band since 1981. I own
thirteen MOTO cassettes and fourteen singles. The cassettes are handmade with
pen and bad penmanship, and Paul scribbles liner notes and doodles on some
singles. He's the king of lo-tech lo-fi. I was lucky to catch MOTO live, just
down the street from my apartment. God knows how lazy I am and he/she came
Paul in person is a great guy, and he was pleasant to everyone. His voice box was shot so he carried a bottle of honey in place of booze. I liked the set but the sound was horrible, with bad separation, and it was so loud my teeth hurt. I bought a CD so I did my bit for the MOTO cause.
Single File is a 28 track collection of old singles, some with Beck Dudley, the MOTO fanatic's sentimental favorite. Paul's recorded alone, with Beck on drums, and with any number of other musicians in the full band format. MOTO is at its core a lo-fi band with punk, pop and cheese leanings. While Beat Happening favored spy-surf beats and Cramps goo-goo muck, MOTO delivers a go-go dance beat, specifically The Pony and what the B-52s called "All 16 Dances". Paul's voice is nicely odd, and while he does abandon his range at times he does have good control of it. The lyrics are often bad puns, and juvenile penis references do rear their ugly heads. "Crystallize My Penis" and "It's So Big It's Fluorescent" open the CD, begging the question of where's "It Takes Just Like A Milkshake". I'm a big MOTO fan but it's an acquired taste, so go to the MOTO site and listen to some samples.
I don't know if anyone but me considers MOTO lo-fi, but even as a four-piece that's what it is. Or maybe by definition it becomes garage rock. I would have preferred if they brought their own amps and bypassed the club's board entirely. I don't see why loudness is all that matters. Loud is cool. Yeah, I get it. I'll stick with my records, which don't sound like unintelligible explosions.
M.O.T.O - Terramoto (cassette review) (MOTO): Another tape that screams 49 cent production values and who has time for a second take. I guess Paul Caporino and his fans (no two live in the same county) wouldn't have it any other way. I'd invoke the name Daniel Johnston but Paul hasn't been put away yet for his own good. For comparison, let's try Beat Happening but with more influences and fewer studio skills. This latest cassette contains 25 songs and continues his string of creative masterpieces that will never see a wider recognition until the frigging production values improve. I imagine Paul lacks the money for studio time but I suspect he keeps the sound cheap in pursuit of some pure, record-geek aesthetic. There's a few MOTO CDs and a ton of singles, but just like Rainman has to watch Judge Wapner every day, I envision Paul rushing home every night from his Joe Job with a song in his head that won't go away until he records it in the bathroom with his guitar and drum machine. He's probably taking a dump at the same time. Did I mention this is great as usual and you should buy one? Send a SASE to MOTO at Box 578912, Chicago, IL 60657 and Paul will send you a hand-scribbled list of product for sale. Paul roamed the earth before the dinosaurs and will survive the coming nuclear holocaust along with the roaches. Bless his pointy little head.
M.O.T.O. - Ampeg Stud (cassette review): There's an interview with Paul from Chicago's M.O.T.O elsewhere in this zine, and I've reviewed a few other tapes. This recent one is my favorite so far, and a hopeful sign that his upcoming CD will do well. I've never met him, but I view Paul as a little brother I want to yell at when I think he's screwing up and praise when I think he's doing it right. I constantly want to slap him on the back of the head. When he was younger he would make tapes in his room recorded on the cheapest equipment possible. Now that he's older and married, I think Paul's looking to cash in on his talent instead of just noodling away in low-low-low fi purgatory. Over the years various fans who happen to run small labels would finance studio time and issue an always excellent M.O.T.O. single. Mostly he pumps out tapes like a highly-caffeinated pulp fiction writer. It's easy to find twenty or more songs on each tape, of which I usually get into about half, which means I'll listen to it for a while and then put it away because the filler isn't my cup of something liquid. His tapes have been getting better, and this one I've played over and over again in the car for the last four months.
So, anyway, Paul and M.O.T.O. have a website somewhere and a new CD in the works. Your local punk store should have a few singles lying around. Take a listen. His address is Box 578912, Chicago, IL 60657. He'll send you a poorly scribbled list of what's available and thank you for your interest. Ask for "Ampeg Stud". It's only $3. Tell 'em Emerson sent ya. I make $3.50 on every tape purchased.
M.O.T.O./Ham Steak split (7" review) (Elephi Pelephi): Two songs each from these bands. The MOTO songs are straight from a recent tape from Paul Caporino's bedroom close-n-play studios. One faster, one slower tune from one of the unsung kings of lo-fi. The tape sounds better than the single. I’ve never heard of Ham Steak before. They sound like a fun acoustic band you'd hear in a college town coffee house. I wish K Records would give Paul the money to record a full CD and then promote the hell out of it. The guy's not getting any younger, you know. I am . It’s the darndest thing. Send Paul a stamp and he'll send you a catalog he chicken-scrawled himself - MOTO, Box 578912, Chicago, IL 60657. This 7" is on gold-colored vinyl, and if this impresses you I have a whole bunch of crappy records I can let go at collector's prices.
M.O.T.O. - Bandit 65 (cassette review): The Masters Of The Obvious are lo-fi legends going back over a dozen years. Consisting of Paul Caporino alone and at times with others, M.O.T.O. has released a load of singles on various labels, a few scattered LPs and CDs, and many homemade cassettes most likely recorded and copied on a Close-N-Play in Paul's bedroom with the sound levels firmly in the red zone. Childish, dirty, goofy, geeky, lonely - Paul probably still has a Loni Anderson poster over his bed for target pratice. This is his latest and best tape so far. M.O.T.O singles and comp. appearances are all great, and many of them have been recently compiled onto one CD. Highly recommended just for "Crystallize" alone. CD $10, cassette $3 through Paul Caporino, MOTO, Box 578912, Chicago, IL 60657.
M.O.T.O. - 4 pac (7" review) (MOC): Is your needle really dusty? Have you placed it down in a weird space between the grooves? Are your speakers broken? No, it's just the latest M.O.T.O. single! Standing for Masters of the Obvious, Paul Caporino has been cranking out tapes, singles, and the occasional long player for a few punk generations. Specializing in his own brand of low-fi, his records sound like what happens when you turn up a cheap car stereo too high and the high end crackles and distorts. This is somewhere between punk and Bobby Goldsboro. Like all of his releases, this was probably recorded in whatever bedroom he was living in at the time. Great, amazing, and you should buy this.
M.O.T.O. - Eternal Standby (7" review) (MOC): Hey, somebody else has decided to let Paul release a record on their label! Paul has a drum machine, sometimes a band, a cheap sounding guitar, and the recording skills of a deaf man with a bad head cold. It’s lo-fi garage at its best. It’s cheap but so good it hurts me that Paul insists on two cent production values and cover art drawn by his own unskilled hands. Hey Paul, was this recorded in your bedroom or the bathroom?
– Body of Song (CD review):
Body of Song
is a minor masterpiece. In the ever-evolving world of former Husker Du/Sugar
singer/guitarist Bob Mould, sometimes you have to look back to find a reason to
move forward, and Body of Song should make everyone happy except the eight CHUD
who can differentiate between songs on
Land Speed Record,
a live version of The Emergency Broadcast Signal.
Bob has a Boblog where he details all things Bob. If you want to visit the homepage of the place Bob went last night for a Taco, check out Boblog.
Husker Du isn’t referenced directly on Body Of Song. It’s mostly Sugar and his solo albums. Sugar was a tighter late period Husker Du (Grant Hart is a loose, slappy drummer) where Bob treated his voice so it separated left and right, giving the effect of singing the track twice. On some Copper Blue tracks I swear he laid down two vocal tracks. File Under Easy Listening better centers the vocals. BTW, “JC Auto” on Beaster is a perfect song, Bob’s answer to the challenge of Big Black’s “Kerosene” and the fully realized bedlam hinted at here in there in the post-Husker era.
I have the first two solo albums, and they sound like Gordon Lightfoot turned up his amp to 11 for “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”, a heretofore unexplored nautical aspect to Bob’s work . Was Mike Watt an influence? (Well, was it? I’m asking.) In 2002 he released the tentative, synth-laden Modulate. Body of Sound carries few club elements but it’s not a dance record. Synths are now a common feature in what calls itself punk.
Here’s a track by track breakdown, but first, Body Of Song is great.
Circles – Bob’s untreated voice. He affirms his status as guitar god and king of the one-man wall of noise. A nice hint of sonic danger. (Shine Your) Light Love Hope – Opens with a dance counterstrike high hat beat and at first I panicked. The guitar kicks in and then it’s all good and I realize PIL did it a quarter century ago and I survived. Bob treats his voice so it sounds like he’s yodeling. My favorite track. Paralyzed – Untreated voice. Nice warm theramin sound. Bob’s best vocals. I am Vision, I Am Sound – Psychedelic like Bob playing with The Dukes Of Stratosphere. first album Sugar vocals. Underneath Days – Bob’s great when he belts out a note and holds it. Slight yodel in the vocals too. Nice hint of danger. Could have come from Beaster. Always Tomorrow – Untreated voice. Slight club groove feel but still nicely abrasive. A Sugar tune. Days Of Rain – Nice delay of the killer chorus. Worth the wait. Nice anvil-lite percussion and violin. Best Thing – 2nd Sugar album sound and vocals. High Fidelity – lost Sugar B-side. Bob lives in DC and I swear he got the idea for the cascading pipes from Kay Jeweler Christmas ads. The cheesy pipe organ is great. Missing You – An average Sugar track that should have been made more interesting. Gauze Of Friendship – Highly confessional lyrics with a seafaring quality to the later part. Beating Heart The Prize – Ends with a dramatic bang like Leatherface, the band that replaced Husker Du as my favorite band. Bob could have gone even more over the top on this one and I bet he will live. Great stuff.
Bob Mould – Life And Times (cd review): Released in April of 2009, I've waited over three months to review it because I didn’t have an open mind about the cd. When I first heard Life And Times I screamed internally “This again?” and knew I couldn’t be objective until all recent memory of Mould’s music exited my brain, along with most of my other memories. When District Line came out in 2008 I didn’t review it because I didn’t want to write it was inspired laziness with sad lyrics that rang untrue. By inspired laziness I mean Bob knows how to write decent music in his sleep and should go the extra mile to record more than killer filler material. Bob’s been negligent with his blog as he's writing his autobiography, but I once read it daily and was gobsmacked by how much fun Bob had on an hourly basis. He was the king of whatever city he was in, so I wasn’t falling for his Yearn Holocaust. If Bob’s Emo he’s doing it as a character known as Bob Mould.
The cd starts strong with Life And Times, but the slow-groove restraint that runs through District Line is here. No matter how well produced or how many cool sounds are layered and cycled in each song, there’s little sense of urgency or danger for someone who knows what he's capable of, and that’s the Bob I want and miss. The faster songs, all mid-paced and loud, are descended from Sugar. The slower ones are electrified, highly orchestrated white groove numbers from his for-all-intents-and-purposes acoustic solo career. The standard formula is a slower intro anticipating a blowout along the way, which by this point is cliché no matter how much I like it when it kicks up to another level. To his credit Mould jiggers with standard verse-chorus expectations by adding noisy walls of sound. I noted in each song how long it took for that to happen. Here ‘tis: “Life And Times” 1:37, “The Breach” 1:49, “City Lights (Days Go By) 1;55, “MM17” 1:25, “Argos” none, “Bad Blood Better” 2:20, “Wasted World” :50 and 1:54, “Spiraling Down” 1:41, “I’m Sorry Baby…” none, “Lifetime” none. “Lifetime” let me down because as an album-ender it needed a super-blowout in the middle. The disc ends without a bang but a really loud whimper.
Listening to each song in isolation there’s a lot to recommend but as a whole it’s not as good as its parts. Does that make sense? Maybe it’s just the part of me that loved Husker Du, learned to appreciate Sugar, and never fully accepted Bob’s career as a singer-songwriter. I think I demand more punk and less balladeering. I don’t care enough about Bob’s contrived melancholy to even consider that valid. Tell me how you freaking feel in concrete terms or clever word cjoices. Don’t show me the gaping maw of your yearn. You’re Bob Effing Mould, king of the world. Cheer up! Oh, what I’d give for him to be as lyrically outward as he was in “Folklore” and “Newest Industry”.
Bob Mould - Silver Age: Highly recommended for fans of Sugar, and not just Copper Blue. Most if not all of the electro-flourishes of earlier releases are gone. When I saw him a few years ago the keyboard was barely discernible. Maybe it was jettisoned for that reason. Every song is decent and pretty soon you won't know if these tracks are new or from the back of your MP3 player. No song is a 10 but each is a solid 7-9. The video for "The Descent" is meaningless beyond the in-joke of the Silver Bear going back to the woods. And yes, I did catch the "Silver Rage" wordplay:
Moving Targets - Burning In Water (LP review) (Taang!): When this came out in 1986 I thought a whole slew of post-Husker Du, Mission of Burma and Naked Raygun bands would rule the wasteland for the long, foreseeable future. It lasted only one generation of punkdom roughly four years. The original Lemonheads had a similar quality. A three piece from Boston, Moving Targets featured Ken Chambers, also of Bullet LaVolta and a solo career that may still sell records in. For three people they made a lot of melodic noise. Think about what a band influenced by Naked Raygun, Mission of Burma and Husker Du would sound like -- creative, mature, and intense. More intelligent than the punk scene either asks for or deserves. Moving Targets recorded four full-lengths, the last in 1993. They're all good, my favorite being Burning In Water, their debut. I consider Moving Targets to be musicians first and a band second. That's a compliment I rarely
Mr. T. Experience – Everybody’s Entitled To Their Own Opinion (CD review) (Lookout!): The Mr. T Experience is a perennial touring band people feel they must see, often based solely on their reputation. They were early players in the Gilman Street scene and one of Lookout’s best and most prolific bands. Always a clever-funny pop punk band, I think they were better before Jon Von left to form the garage band The Rip Offs, who I heard released a bunch of one-sided singles. He might have kept Dr. Frank’s sappier impulses at bay and fought for a harder edge to the music. Or, maybe not. I stopped paying much attention after Milk, Milk Lemonade. I’ve liked some of the newer songs but I’ve walked out of both Mr. T Shows I’ve seen because Dr. Frank prefers the more generic end of his catalog. The experience both times was me standing there screaming in my head “Play a good song every once in a while, you f—k!!” Mr. T’s touring peers, The Groovie Ghoulies and The Queers, deliver more hits, but the last Ghoulies show I saw wasn’t the nostalgia trip I was hoping it to be either.
Everybody's Entitled To Their Own Opinion was MTX's first release, in 1986. It was one of the best albums of the year, with more variety and spunk than you might think or remember. The best songs are mostly crammed together on the A side, but that's fine and the album tracks are worth a listen too. You don't get a second chance to make a good first impression, so I say stack the deck up front. The style is equally surf, garage and punk-influenced, and the loose playing makes it that much more charming. Keep in mind the Dead Kennedys were a surf punk band at heart. "Marine Recruiter" is as good as any D.I. or Adolescents track, and "Danny Partridge" is a gimmick song that works because MTX were smart/dumb enough to tackle the subject with the right balance of snideness and nostalgia.
The CD release of Making Things With Light contains bonus live tracks of some songs from this album. Listening to this also makes me want to find a record from the long lost band The Mighty Micronauts.
Mr. T Experience - Making Things With Light (CD review) (Lookout): The Mr. T Experience has been around since at least '86 with their first album Everybody's Entitled To Their Own Opinion. A good chunk of the Lookout catalog must be Mr. T. stuff. Mr. T. play funny rock music that’s happily part of the punk family, but you can't slam to it. Then again, I've seen numbnuts slam at an English Beat concert. Its ever-quirky-changing rhythms make it so you can't dance to it without tripping over yourself. They've been compared to the Ramones, but I just don't see it. The Mr. T Experience is more like a garage rock Louie-Louie band in love with The Dickies. The lyrics are pure Dickies for sure. Making Things With Light was their fourth album, and on this CD Lookout's added eight live tracks plus yet another studio track. Now that's value. There’s live versions of my favorites "Danny Partridge Got Busted" and "Marine Recruiter". The album opens with the great "What Went Wrong", kills with "She's No Rocket Scientist", and chugs along nicely to the end. "Parasite" and "Psycho Girl" stand out. Six of the thirteen studio tracks are from a live sounding demo recorded in '89. They lost guitarist Jon Von to The Rip-Offs and released a lot of material since, little being as distinctive as this.
Mr. T. Experience - Milk Milk Lemonade (CD review) (Lookout!): MTX's fifth release and the last with Jon Von on guitar. It’s not as solid as Making Things With Light but this rocks in a great non-hard rock way that sets it apart from most of the generic sounds that calls itself power pop punk. "Book Of Revelation", "Master Of The Situation", "Love American Style" and "Christine Bactine" are the best of show here. Their cover of Morissey's "What Difference Does It Make?" is better than the original because it lacks Mr. Gloomy's obsessive self-fascination.
I recently drove to an all-ages club to see MTX and it hit me that I was probably the oldest person there. The doorman thought the oldest person there besides me was probably 20. I'm 37. If I want to hang out in a day care center it’ll be with cute kids who'll laugh at every funny face I make. All-ages shows are where grade and high school idiot goes to be themselves. I'd rather be at home engaging in a to-the-death staring contest with my big toe. Nothing against the kidz but in groups they're mostly a bunch of rude and loud pricks. I'm a polite and quiet prick. There's a difference. No, really.
The Muffs (CD review) (Warner Bros): I'm not the biggest expert on The Muffs, but it seems their big public relations failure is the feeling they're a Hollywood band, which means glam rock hysterics and a fast burnout and crash from high initial expectations. I'm sure Warners wanted The Muffs to be more rocking like L7 and Babes in Toyland, or more alternative like the Breeders. This first CD from 1993, after a few great singles, is nice because it's a real punk record and not just another punky record from a major record label. The Muffs mix bubblegum with a solid Ramones sound. They recorded a straight 31 second cover of the Angry Samoans "Stupid Jerk" and the hidden end track is thrash sure to annoy any kid hankering for pose and fashion. Charismatic lead singer/guitarist Kim Shattuck could sell out and make a lot of money quickly, but she's sticking with The Muffs. Original members Criss Crass and Melanie Vammen are long gone, hopefully along with Kim's annoying and surreal vocal tick of yelling "wow!" Bass player Ronnie Barnett is nice in person and also scores bonus points for being the husband of Cub’s Lisa Marr. I give this debut CD a score of 5 Wow’s out of 5. Wow!!
Murder City Devils - Empty Bottles Broken Hearts (CD review) (Sub Pop): When a friend handed this to me he said others were comparing them to The Doors. A few songs in an electric organ makes itself very known and I can see the comparison, but in general I find it to be a nod to The Stooges and the NY Dolls from a young bunch of guys who don't look as world-weary as they want you to believe. The CD is also a bit glam in its dramatic presentation. This is on Sub Pop where they’re from. The Murder City Devils wouldn't get signed to Sympathy or Junk but they'd make an excellent addition to Epitaph and a fine introduction to the kidz to the wide world of drunk punk.
The CD opens with the drum intro to Iggy's "Lust For Life", and "Murder City" is a variation on "Motor City" so it's obvious these tattooed love boys are paying homage to Iggy and the Stooges. Empty Bottles Broken Hearts isn't bad but it's not great either. I think they'd kick tushy at an all-ages show but leave the 21+ crowd looking for the door for a smoke and a piss. The singer sounds like a cross between Pegboy and Big Black. Six guys in a band is at least one too many. "Johnny Thunders" sounds like a Cramps song. Me confused. Now brain hurt starting. Ouch.
Naked Raygun - Basement Screams (CD review) (1/4stick): There are exactly 4,376 kinds of people in the world, and one of these kinds of people think Naked Raygun is one of the greatest bands in punk history. If there's a group who thinks otherwise, they'd better keep their stupid mouths shut. Naked Raygun rules the wasteland. More popular bands came out of the punk ‘80s but few could challenge Naked Raygun when it came to challenging, original songwriting.
Naked Raygun were part of a flourishing midwest scene that included Big Black, Man Sized Action, Husker Du, Breaking Circus, and The Effigies. Some writers claim Wire and The Buzzcocks as Raygun's inspirations, which may be true since they covered both bands, but Mission of Burma also comes to mind in a big way. Basement Screams, their debut six-song EP from 1983, also shows a Big Boys and Minutemen influence.
Naked Raygun formed in 1981 and released consistently decent albums until they broke up almost ten years later. Guitarist John Haggerty exited in 1989 to form Pegboy, who started with a bang but eventually fizzled. Big Blacks' Santiago Durango was Raygun's first guitarist. Haggerty started as a sax player and backup singer.
¼ Stick Records re-released all the Naked Raygun records on CD with bonus tracks, separately and as a set. Basement Screams contains eight extra songs, seven being live. Any chance to hear "12XU" is welcome. This six-song EP shows a band that may have been raw at the edges, but their skill and craft were unmatched. Naked Raygun became the biggest thing in Chicago for good reason - they blew everyone else away. Great melodies, sing-along choruses as simple as "Whoa Oh Oh", power shifts in mid-stream, confident vocals and the occasional sax to throw it over the edge. "Swingo" is the best X-Ray Spex song that band never wrote. Haggerty's layered sax wailings in the middle of the song are beyond inspired. It's insane. "Potential Rapist" was a hint at the greatness that was to come with their first LP, Throb Throb. Like freeform jazz, every instrument in It’s complicated music made to look simple. I'm amazed anew every time I put on Naked Raygun.
Sorry, kidz, but your favorite punky band will never be as great as Naked Raygun. I know this because I am the Peacemaker. I am right, and you are wrong. I am the Peacemaker. You are scum, and that is all.
Naked Raygun - All Rise (LP review) (Homestead): If you cut the career of the Chicago’s best band in half, I'm not a huge follower of the second part of their catalog, mostly because the songs seem to run into each other more than they should (at one time they never did). Still, all Naked Raygun makes my heart percolate. If you call yourself a punk and don't like Naked Raygun, the stupid patches on your jacket should be ripped off and your spikey haircut cut down into a nice, pretty doo. If you've never heard Naked Raygun, your knowledge of punk is too limited to be taken seriously. You puny puny man, everyone knows that Naked Raygun rules the wasteland.
As I type this I'm listening to side 1 of All Rise, and from note #1 of "Home Of The Brave" I'm starting to spazz out. Whatever happened to Spazz Attack anyway? As "Dog At Large" plays I'm kicking the world in the wazoo for not worshipping Mission Of Burma as a cult. The bluesy "Mr. Gridlock" has me snapping my fingers like a dirty hipster. "The Strip" is what frat boys would gator to in a perfect world. The droned guitar that bleed over the refrains are nirvana. "Good service, mud wrestling, free beer night, this place is called The Strip, been there forever."
Side 2 goes through its paces fairly well until "Peacemaker", second only to, and cousin of, Big Black's "Kerosene" when it comes to making me want to commit some horrible act slowly and with calm precision. "I am The Peacemaker, I'll pound sand right up your ass. Our moral codes differ, you're a scum.. that is all // A trail of s--t follows you around, on the edge it's a hell of a drop. Your number's up, we've got your name and your middle name. // I am The Peacemaker, I'm right and you are wrong. I am The Peacemaker, you are wrong, that is all. // A trail of filth follows you around, on the edge. It's a hell of a drop. // Peacemaker, Peacemaker." Oh, that’s the good stuff right there.
1986's All Rise wasn't as good as the prior year's Throb Throb, which I'll review when I feel it's time again to remind everyone that Naked Raygun is one of the best and most important bands in modern punk history. Most bands wish they had Naked Raygun's simple yet effective power and melody.
Naked Raygun – The Last Of The Demohicans (CD review) (Dyslexic): You puny, puny man, Naked Raygun were one of the greatest American punk bands, their power and originality matched only by Mission Of Burma. Contemporaries of Husker Du, Big Black and Breaking Circus, Naked Raygun kicked tushy not with thrash but with complex song structures and the best drumming of the ‘80s. 1985's Throb Throb and 1986's All Rise are mandatory. Sadly, subsequent albums jettisoned originality for consistent levels of power, and songs tended to run into each other. From the ruins of Naked Raygun, Pegboy formed in 1990 and for a while they managed to keep the power while injecting some olde tyme experimentation. The last few Pegboy releases contain germs of great ideas that never take over entire songs, and once again, songs blend into the next.
The Last Of The Demohicans contains four demos from 1992, one from 1987, five live songs, five tracks with Santiago Durango of Big Black, and two funny audio promos. The '92 demos are as good as anything you'll find on Throb Throb, and for old fans it’s reason enough to pick this up. Their last few albums were over-produced and might have been better represented in demo form. The '87 track, "Trio", is more progressive than punk but it's Naked Raygun, dammit, so it has more power than a freight train. It also features the excellent Elizabeth Elmore sharing vocal duties. The live tracks are not mixed well but the band is heard at their peak doing some of their best material - "Metastasis", "Treason", "Entrapment", "Those Who Move" and "Where You Live". If "The Strip" was on this I'd have to change faiths to Naked Raygun. The last tracks remind me of what Devo was putting out in the mid to late ‘70s. The experiments with electronics are worthwhile
If you find this and have any interest in punk beyond the color of your mohawk, buy it immediately.
Neo Boys Commentary:
I luckily (and sadly only recently) tripped over the all-wymmynz and short-lived Neo Boys while watching a film about the early Portland DIY scene. Above is a link to their short but sweet discography - two EPs and comp tracks. It's nothing you've haven't heard before if you're already familiar with the back-to-basics folk punk stylings of Liliput, The Raincoats and The Slits, but each track is a greatest hit and they fell under the tutelage of Greg Sage of The Wipers and you can hear it in powerful tracks like "Poor Man's Jungle" and "Running In The Shadows". They even cop a little Minutemen in their 1982 track "Cheap Labor". Great stuff, great stuff. As Petros Papadakis ("My Wife!!") always says, act like ya know.
Here's random net-snippets on the Neo Boys:
"The Neo Boys were Portland’s first all-female rock band. Though they were still basically novices on their instruments, their enlightened political stances and sophisticated demeanors are still in time with today’s standards. Vocalist Kim Kincaid, guitarists Jennifer Lobianco and Meg Hentges, bassist KT Kincaid and drummer Pat Baum, became outspoken feminist fixtures in the local underground scene. Hentges eventually migrated to Austin, where today she is still a very popular performer."
"Touted as one of Portland, Oregon’s first all-female punk bands (check out the history of Portland rock here), the Neo Boys have a very small, but quality output and have had more of a regional influence on some of today’s musicians (see below). Their band name comes from the Patti Smith poem of the same name and one of their earliest gigs (which was apparently pretty shaky, according to the band) was opening for Television.
The Neo Boys’ first release, a self-titled 7”, was produced by Greg Sage (of the Wipers) along with the Neo Boys and was released on Sage’s own label Trap Records in 1980. In ‘82, their only other recording, the EP Crumbling Myths, was released on Joe Records. They played in a smooth, minimalistic punk style, with a cool pop sensibility and rolling, strong basslines. To boot, their independent-spirited, feminist outlook is extremely commendable. Having already made mention of their excellent basslines (check out “In Disguise”), one of my favorite songs from them is the mellow, surf-like “Time Keeps Time.” It particularly makes them sound like the West Coast American equivalent of, say, London’s Raincoats."
"The Neo-Boys, who came from the ashes of Portland’s first all-girl punk band (Formica and the Bitches) had two proper records in their day: A self-titled 7” on Greg Sage’s Trap Records in 1981, and the Crumbling Myths LP on Joe Records in 1982. They also had a couple of songs on the classic early PDX punk comp 10/29/79, a live LP that also included the Wipers, and Sado-Nation."
Nerf Herder - IV (cd review): The only reason nerd rockers Nerf Herder never owned the kiddie pop punk market is that they look like the kind of dweebs geeks beat up to convince themselves they're cool. At the present age of 42 lead Nerf Parry Gripp was never going to convince Duh Kidz he was of their generation, as Blink I Ate A Poo and (Green) Money Payday did. All the better for me because I love these guys, and if they were hep with zit farmers I might have to swerve to avoid them. Juvenile yet clever, I laughed out loud repeatedly while listening to their last cd, 2008's IV, this being their fourth cd and they like golf. Parry's now a full-time composer of jingles and ditties, content to crank 'em out at will. IV continues where the last one left off from the two before them, and that's a good thing since the recipe works. Parry & Co. know every catchy power pop and faux-hard rock stadium riff (I'm lookin' at you, Chixdiggit!) in the book and they give them back to you with fresh energy, sweet shifts and comedy both large and small. I've included the lyrics to the downloadable songs below as they're notable and quotable. Gripp likes to sprinkle in tributes to other punk songs, so when he says in "The Backpack Song" the immortal words "I'm not crazy, you're the one that's crazy!", Suicidal Tendencies comes to mind and my internal laughter is that much more nerdly self-satisfying and therefore non-sharable to the rest of the world..
High School Reunion
Who got fat
Who got rich
Who was a loser
Who was a bitch
Who was a washout
Who turned gay
Who's that wearin' the cheap-ass toupe
Who's in the fancy designer pants
Who got the big fake booby implants
Who looks good in their rental tuxedo
Who lives in their van on microwave burritos
We're having fun (we're having fun)
At the high school reunion
Each and everyone (each and everyone)
At the high school reunion
Why don't you come
To the high school reunion (high school reunion)
Who got the kids
Who got the divorce
Who's got a date with a face like a horse
Who's in the papers
Who's in the show
Who's in the jail for dealing the blow
Who graduated from the ivy league school
Who tokes on his bong and then cleans your pool
You sure look pretty, its been so long
Come on back to my basement where I live with my mom
We're having fun (we're having fun)
At the high school reunion
Each and everyone (each and everyone)
At the high school reunion
Why don't you come
To the high school reunion (high school reunion)
High school reunion
Who passed out drunk (who passed out drunk)
At the high school reunion (high school reunion)
Who's bf's gone (who's bf's gone)
At the high school reunion (high school reunion)
Who's gonna throw up (who's gonna throw up)
At the high school reunion (high school reunion)
High school reunion
High school reunion
High school reunion
(Stand By Your) Manitee
I am a manatee
I live in the sea
I sneak up at night
Pretty baby, just to love you right
Your friends gonna put me down
Cuz I'm fat and slimy and brown
They'll never know how you sigh
When you feel my flipper moving up your thigh
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
Stand by your manatee!
Don't you act like a stranger
Even though I am endangered
Your lid is gonna flip
With a kiss from my prehensile lip
Some call me a fat sea cow
But I got real know-how
You'll hunger for the taste
Of my briney sea water on your pretty face, yeah!
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
Stand by your manatee!
Tell the lobster, tell the bass
The alligator can kiss my ass
Tell the barnacle, tell the crab
Tell the whale and Captain Ahab
How you scream and shout all day
When you feel my whiskers on your clam, yeah!
Pretty baby you look so nice
I wanna lick you once or twice
Rub my fat rubbery body
All over you again real nutty!
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
I am a manatee (M-A-N-A-T-E-E)
Stand by your manatee!
The Backpack Song
Nerf Riot - Conversation Piece/Bermuda Triangle of Jazz (7" review) (Poptones): There’s no reason to review this inconsequential local single I bought for 49 cents, except to remind you that you don't have to pass a test or win a prize to put out your own record. These are two lo-fi garage-pop instrumentals recorded in a basement (I guess) during a rehearsal (I also guess). It’s not bad but it begs the question, "do I enjoy the feeling of being in a damp basement while strangers try to figure out new songs?” Listening to the single I feel like tip-toeing out of the room as not to disturb them. Nerf Riot sounds like they can play their instruments well enough as long as they stare at their instruments the whole time. If they tried to sing at the same time they'd combust spontaneously. Nerf Riot have released a gaggle of singles. That's a lot of allowance money down the crapper, kids.
The New Rochelles - It's New (cd review): Lawn Guylind's The New Rochelles (interview here) are the next big thing in legitimate punk pop, and while they're poaching the sound of others their pedigree is flawless and they easily create the melodic and powerful wall of noise needed to be a top-tier band of the genre. You can buy their new collection for as little as $3 at their label site. I did and am now a member in good standing of this modern "digital" age. Hazzah for our paperless future overlords!
Here's two videos they shot for pocket change on Coney Island. Fun stuff and they devote as much time and seriousness as music videos deserve:
I'm torn between considering this a great album on its own or a very good try at honoring their influences as a freshman effort. "Watch Out For The Skunkape" and "Quit Giving me The Stinkeye" are the best tracks, and the other ten are also fun and frenetic, but I'm flashing back to how Teenage Bottlerocket skirted greatness until coming into their own on 2008's Warning Device with the full integration of punk pop god Kody Templeman and, for me at least, the song "Pacemaker", which took a turn into Rancid territory for the better. Probably the biggest influence on these tracks are Chixdiggit!, both in subject matter and harmonics. You have some Bottlerocket and Lillingtons tribute too ("Who Will (I Will)" and "Truth Serum") and Dee Dee Ramone love when "S.L.O.T.H." bows to "Wart Hog". The Queers get their due on the opener, "Go Go New Ro!"
It's New is more than decent and but in this age of ADD it's up to them to hit the next one out of the park with some tracks that mark their own turf and also bloody the ears with musical hooks.
New Sweet Breath - Supersound Speedway (CD review) (Ringing Ear): Their brilliant debut full-length from 1995, this is emo closer to fast grunge than what’s out there in a genre favored by skinny guys who appreciate the quiet parts of songs that allow them to hear themselves sigh and whimper. New Sweet Breath moved from Nebraska to Seattle, WA, so they get tossed into the grunge bin with lazy ease. The All-Music Guide has them down as a heavy metal band, which is as far from reality as peaceful anarchy. Grunge as a genre can be traced back to 3 things - Husker Du, Neil Young and heavy metal. Emo is a kind of lite grunge that owes its lunch to what Jawbreaker did with their own Husker Du fixation.
Supersound Speedway gets a Superchunk comparison, which may apply but everything I've heard from that band is fuzzy heavy metal. The bands that really come to mind are Minneapolis bands Husker Du, The Replacements, Man Sized Action, and the first Soul Asylum album.
Supersound Speedway is thirteen slices of genius. There's a perfect balance between power, subtlety, thrash and eclecticism. It’s as good as The Promise Rings' Nothing Feels Good and Sense Field's Building.
New Sweet Breath - A Shotgun Down An Avalanche (CD review) (Big Top): I only own their first full length from 1995 and this, their last, from 1997. If nothing changed during those years, what a great catalog. Part grunge, part emo, part lo-fi and part Butthole Surfers, New Sweet Breath is challenging in many engaging ways.
I don't know how to play a musical instrument. I can't even figure out which of the few pre-select equalizer buttons on my mini stereo sounds best. Still, I know what I like and why. I don't like music on the radio. So much so I don't listen to the radio at all. New Sweet Breath is considered and Alt. band, which means college radio might play it. To explain how I separate good from bad alt. music I'll bastardize that famous quote from a judge's definition of pornography, "I know it when I hear it." New Sweet Breath is the good stuff.
A Shotgun Down An Avalanche is considered their most radio-friendly CD, which I don't see besides "Under My Skin", which starts off like No Trend and then turns quickly into psychedelic radio fodder. It's presented almost as a joke, shoved in as song #9 out of 10. The last song is a weird, trippy experiment sung by "dj dopey". I can throw that track in the dumpster too. Songs 1-8 though are good and noteworthy for their complexity disguised as simplicity.
The drumming on "Avalanche" beautifully follows the vocals. I can't tell if there's electronics or a real horn section at work. Either way it's great. The psychedelic bee buzz on "Waiting For A Punchline" mixes perfectly with Graig Markel's preferred mic effect of singing though a bullhorn. "Silver Screen Theme" is as intense as a NoMeansNo opus. "Intro Vigilante" sounds like Manfred Mann's "Blinded By The Light" (Wrapped up like a deuce another runner in the night). Some of the tracks are slow, but there's enough emo thunder and short songs to keep it moving along.
Even with no musical talent I'm convinced that with five lessons I can make better music than some bands I hear. New Sweet Breath are great. I don't go nuts over every song but I respect their accomplishments.
A quick note on the cover -- I see boobies!
New York Dolls - New York Dolls (CD review) (Mercury) (1973): The history of NY punk starts with The Velvet Underground, but it was the New York Dolls who kick-started the scene in the early ‘70s with their cabaret-decadent take on Rolling Stones boogie. Fronted by David Johansen and featuring Johnny Thunders on guitar, the Dolls owned the then tiny American scene. Live shows were the place to be seen and obscene, and although everyone thought they were the future of rock and roll, record labels were afraid to sign a bunch of drugged transvestites. The Dolls weren't really into wearing whorish women's clothing, and they weren’t gay as far as I know of. Thunders' drug history is the stuff of legend, original drummer Billy Murcia died from drugs while on tour in England, and replacement drummer Jerry Nolan tried hard to spontaneously combust via the needle. Mercury records had Todd Rundgren produce the debut album, and he contributes keyboard and Moog to a band who made surprisingly good use of piano and saxaphone.
What does the record sound like? Imagine the Stones of 1970 writing the soundtrack for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Dollars to donuts Tim Curry copied Johansen when he created Dr. Frank. "Personality Crisis" is the classic track and opens the album. "Frankenstein" is the token rock opera, and while sweeping in scope it comes off a little stilted. "Trash" is a great punk song, alternating between quick stompings and slower, Kink's influenced refrains. The album didn't sell well, but it was influential to many bands who looked up to the Dolls as creators of their own image, scene and excitement. The Dolls inspired others in that they saw you didn't need to be a great musician to play rock & roll - anyone with enough guts could get up on stage and be a star (even if only to themselves). If you're curious about the proto-punk bands, this album is the place to start.
Malcolm McLaren managed the band for a time before they imploded. The Dolls were too screwed up and Johansen had lost interest in dealing with unprofessional junkies. McLaren provided the band red leather clothes and pushed on them the political and fashion gimmick of Russian communism. The band liked leather but rightly thought the rest was bulls--t. McLaren didn't destroy the band; they were mostly dead anyway. When McLaren went back to England and helped form the Sex Pistols, he wanted them to be a mix of Richard Hell and The New York Dolls. Johnnny Thunders died from an overdose in 1991 and Jerry Nolan later died of meningitis. David Johansen went on to sing oldies as Buster Poindexter (you can hear a distinct Cabaret influence in the Dolls) and confuse people with his resemblance to both Tom Waits and a lead character in The Planet Of The Apes.
The Nils - Green Fields In Daylight (CD review) (Mag Wheel): The Nils are a prime example of a band that critics loved, other bands claim as an influence, yet few know of them. Started as a Canadian trio by twelve year old Alex Soria, the Nils played around and recorded the NOW demo tape in 1982. L.A.'s B.Y.O. Records sent them the cash to record "Scratches and Needles" for the 1983 Something To Believe In compilation. Green Fields In Daylight is a 29 track greatest hits CD of sorts, with songs from all their releases plus live performances. Listen to the Nils and you'll hear elements of (Impatient) Youth, Husker Du, the Replacements, Wire Train, The Volcano Suns and Translator. The Nils influenced other bands but were also their contemporaries, so who knows if they were a serious influence or if these bands all borrowed from the same sources. My favorite tracks are from the Sell Out Young 12" EP, especially "Daylight". The live tracks from 1988 has Alex Soria singing exactly like Bob Mould (on other tracks he sings like Paul Weller. This is a great collection from a north of the border band that never made it big in the US. It's also a labor of love from Nils fan Woody R. Whelen, who spent a lot of time (and I'm sure money) putting this together. The packaging is great too. The earliest photo has the band looking like the Bay City Rollers, another looking like The Kinks, and the radio interview track has Carlos Soria talking like one of the MacKenzie brothers.
The Nimrods – If The Devil Don’t Like It He Can Sit On A Tack (CD review) (Runt Records): I picked up this 1995 CD (still in the wrapper) for two smackers because a sticker said it was distributed by K Records, a label I associate mostly with good lo-fi bands. It also has a song on it called “Kill Ben Weasel”. This is silly punk made by a bunch of Nimrods for their equally nimrodic friends in Cleveland, Ohio. I imagine the same fifty friends and family show up at the regular local Nimrods gig at the corner dive with cheap, warm beer.
They put out another record in 1997 on Doctor Dream and still play around, according to their web site that’s about as informative as the NY Post. On these twelve CD tracks they cover all kinds of sloppy melodic poppy punk with exaggerated snotty singing. A few mid ‘80s bands did this and I thought it was a bit funny back then. To hear a newer band do it just makes me scratch my head. The Nimrods are talented in their own way but they’re either making fun of punk to amuse their friends, or playing it for laughs to amuse their friends. Right now they’re doing a slow number called “Booger Booger Booger” that doesn’t get more clever than the title.
I can’t say this is really bad, but it’s like looking at pictures of a birthday party and you don’t recognize anyone.
Nine Pound Hammer
- Kentucky Breakdown (CD review):
Nine Pound Hammer
remind me of both The Lazy Cowgirls and Doo Rag. Like the Cowgirls they create a
whopping wall of Chuck Berry/Ramones guitar and the energy never wavers. Like
they're a punk band playing warp-speed indigenous music with authenticity and,
yes, respect. Given the chance both could win over genre purists. For Doo Rag
that would be delta blues while Nine Pound Hammer play poop-kicking, chicken
wire roadhouse country rock. Doo Rag were from Tucson so they had to be
respectful at all times, but Blaine Cartwright (he also led Nashville Pussy) and
Scott Luallen of NPH came from a small Kentucky town, so while they do write
hysterically funny songs they're celebrating their way of life, and no
sissy city-fugg can think they're better.
Kentucky Breakdown from 2004 is almost as good as their 1995 opus Hayseed Timebomb. Sometimes I think they're ZZ Top played at 78 rpm. I love this stuff. Not only do you want to scream "Yee-Haw!" throughout, it boasts memorable lyrics:
"So roll me a joint, fix me a turkey pot pie
It's just another damn day on the long wait to die
I'll pretend to care about all the things you tell me
If you just come on over, Rub Your Daddy's Lucky Belly"
Nine Pound Hammer - Hayseed Timebomb (CD review) (Crypt): Their first album came out in '89, but this '94 release is my first taste of this highly energetic redneck country-punk band from Lexington, Kentucky. It’s funny and powerful, but it’s hard to tell how serious to take it all. Fans of the Devil Dogs, The New Bomb Turks, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion,and The Supersuckers should go for this. Maybe it’s square dance music for punks - with Chuck Berry Riffs. Typical song titles are "Hayseed Timebomb", "Shotgun In A Chevy", and "Run Fat Boy Run". It has one of the greatest covers you'll ever see. Dali vs. Hee Haw, and it’s to tell who won.
Nine Pound Hammer - Live At The Vera (CD review) (Schooch Pooch): When they printed "Quality MONO Sound" on the top of the cover, they shur tweren't kiddin'! 24 tracks of hillbilly madness from Lexington, KY's redneck royalty. Part Ramones, part Mojo Nixon and part Jerry Lee Lewis, Nine Pound Hammer were The Lazy Cowgirls of southern junk culture. After 1997's Smokin' Taters, Blaine Cartwright went on to form Nashville Pussy.
This show is great but the sound quality blows. Songs tend to lose their distinctive flavor and run into each other when that's the case. They cover The Dictators, Golden Earing, Sam The Sham, Little Richard and a few others on what would have been sides three and four of the LP, an endless, and I do mean endless, version of "Train Kept A Rollin" taking up all of side four.
It’s music to square dance to in your combat boots. Not a very good live record from a very great band.
Nirvana - Nevermind (CD review) (Sub-Pop/DGC): This is the 10th anniversary of alt.rock's highest selling album, the coming together of Neil Young, Black Sabbath and Husker Du in a package nobody suspected would be this successful and influential. This is the first time I've ever listened to it. I don't listen to the radio or watch MTV, so the coming and going of Nevermind came and went with as much impact on my life as The Macarena and Jennifer Lopez. In other words, it was just another cultural phenomenon to smile through (like I was holding in a fart) until the next equally dumb trend came along. Through the osmosis of walking around I have heard a number of these tracks, lending a familiarity that surprised me. Taken together, the album is a pleasant experience, catchy and glossy enough for mass consumption yet strong enough in execution to appeal to the mass idiocy of hard rockers. I'm sure The Melvins and Soundgarden scratched their collective heads for years wondering why they only became more successful in the wake of Kurt Cobain's slobbering hero worship of them. The answer may be as simple as they aren't as talented, but one of the secrets of the success of Nevermind is that, for all the electric guitars and headbanging pacing, the album lends itself very nicely to acoustic performance, throwing the thing more heavily into the Neil Young sphere than probably any other. Nirvana is just more versatile than their competition.
Nirvana brought about a ‘90s alt.rock revolution and sent the worlds of music, fashion and pop psychology into spasms of orgasms from having something new to exploit until it died. The cyclical nature of popular taste swung their way just as this album came out. The masses, who define popular success on the mega-scale that made critics say this was the first "successful" alternative record, move toward what they think is substance only after being duly embarrassed by too much triviality. Since at heart most people are young, dumb and full of fun, the implied responsibility of thought sends them bouncing off substance back to triviality. Nevermind is a good enough record, but the timing was perfect and few suspected at the time how popular it would become.
Equally important to the success of Nirvana was Kurt Cobain, a brooding, skinny girly-man who became his unwashed generation’s Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jim Morrison, James Dean, Sid Vicious and (add your own ten names here). He couldn't handle success, became an addict, and his choice of a wife was dismal. Then he killed himself, which has been great for the back catalog. Tragic hero or dead loser? I'll leave that to you. The man and his band are just something else for me to write about and then forget. Nevermind is a good record. Maybe a great record, I wouldn't know since I don't bang my head, ever. I like some of the emo bands who have been inspired by Nirvana - the ones that don't ask me to bang my head. If I knew how to rock I know I would feel differently.
NOFX- S&M Airlines; White Trash, Two Heebs And A Bean; Punk In Drublic, Heavy Petting Zoo, Coaster (CD reviews): I was never a fan of NOFX and until recently never had an urge to listen to them. Now that I have I can say I did and never do so again except for a handful of tunes. It's not that I didn't like some of it or didn't appreciate the variety of styles and stabs at humor that occasionally work. It's that I assumed in 1989 and beyond that NOFX was a band for stupid children that didn't ask them to think about anything beyond their immediate stupid needs. Part of it is, I admit, they came together long past the point of my own Young'N'Dumb phase, which wasn't dumb as much as naive. I'm also not a fan of slappy-drum hardcore rodeo slam pit punk.
Based on these five albums I'd call NOFX a Smart Dumb Band - the intelligence coming mostly from cleverness and the dumbness oozing from other places. Especially on Coaster they glorify alcohol and drug addiction to an audience of children. The average punk age was and maybe still is around fourteen, or so I've read. I don't know -- "degenerate" punk in my time seemed more for adults who were either in on the Punk Rock Joke of it or were the few, the proud, the junkie loser few. The NY scene of the 70s was mostly adult (kids got in easily in NYC as I'm told and remember). Straight Edge and Hardcore of the earliest 80s were mostly known for their violence. There was GG Allin and The Mentors but it was small scale and of age. I digress...
1989's S&M Airlines was their debut and damn that's one stupid cover and title. Can I blame this for Blink 182's equally d.u.m.b. Enema Of The State? The music is a mess, with bad transitions, weird timing, random metal wanking, band members improvising independently, and off-key singing. "Professional Procrastination" has a funky groove break in the middle that reminds that I've always thought NOFX fans were also into Sublime. "Screaming For Change" is funny and the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" would have been decent if not for the flaws stated above.
Three albums later, in 1992, came the highly rated White Trash, Two Heebs And A Bean. It's a definite improvement, front loaded with the better songs and trailing off with slappy-drum hardcore punk pop influenced by Bad Religion. "Bob" features a funky groove break and live horns, diminished by a chant of "Oi Oi Oi" I can't figure out if it's serious or a joke. "Buggley Eyes" goes goes full-frontal retro to Leon Redbone and succeeds as comedy. "Straight Edge" is equally good as a Minor Threat cover with a false lead that becomes a lounge track with Satchmo singing. "Johnny Appeseed" is Cholo Ska. "Please Play This On The Radio" was popular and self-aware like The Dead Milkmen meets Nerf Herder. Nerf Herder hit two years later and owe some debt to NOFX as far as their own brand of comedy goes, as does NOFX to the Milkmen. I like Nerf Herder ten times more than I do NOFX so, hey, thanks NOFX.
Punk In Drublic followed in 1994 and is mostly generic slappy-punk lite-hardcore. "Don't Call Me White" is one the cd's best sounding tracks but the lyrics confuse. Is it a song like Minor Threat's "Guilty Of Being White" or a PC, cultural diversity apology? "My Heart Is Yearning" is a fun ditty with dub reggae and faux-opera singing. "The Brews" sounds like an Oi cover but I can't place it. It's about Jewish punks so the Ois and Oys inter-marry. "Reeko" is crunchy reggae. There's a few decent songs but at seventeen tracks the disc overflows with more generic than not fast and slappy punk.
1996's Heavy Petting Zoo has a disturbing cover as the guy's fingering a farm animal. To a fourteen year old this must have been awesome! As a whole it's better than Punk In Drublic thanks to fewer songs that repeat and the more developed harmonics of "Hobophobic", "Bleeding Heart Disease" and "Drop The World". "Hot Dog In A Hallway" is like Nerf Herder again and "Love Story" is good as it experiments with mixing the quiet with the loud.
Six recordings later (2009) saw their latest/last release, Coaster. It's exceedingly tight, well-recorded. and debt-laden to Bad Religion. Alcoholism and drug use are now, I guess, their lifestyle. "First Call" and "Creeping Out Sara" are more visits to the Dead Milkmen-Nerf Herder ranch. Fans and reviewers seem to agree they're going through the motions but after listening to these four others before it I don't see it as being a lesser product. Maybe 2009 was after their expiration date.
So, NOFX. They're a popular punk rock band.
Noise By Numbers - Over Leavitt (cd review): Considered a super group of sorts in Chicago, Noise By Numbers is one of Dan Schafer's bands. He also goes by Dan Vapid and has played in Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales, The Methadones, and specifically in regards to Noise By Numbers the great Sludgeworth, who around 1990 were the kings of melodic punk pop emo, taking many of their cues from Naked Raygun. Also in the band are Jeff Dean, Rick Uncapher and Jimmy Lucido.
On their site the band's stated influences are Husker Du, Naked Raygun, Sugar, and The Replacements. Normally I find such lists slightly bullcrappy but here it actually applies - not within the same song per say but as a general approach to individual tracks. The eleven tunes nicely toe the line between underground and commercial sensibilities, satisfying whatever's floating your boat. You'll recognize their emotionally soaring and big sound/big choruses as something you've heard often, but keep in mind Sludgeworth helped create this from the post-hardcore end waaaay back in the day, taking 7 Seconds' "Whoas" and making them both elongated and angelic.
Listening to the cd I find all the songs of nearly equal value and don't have anything to note except Over Leavitt is pretty masterful all the way around. It takes a few listens to fully appreciate its accomplishments if only because it's a bit more about nuance than a full frontal attack. I award it 36 chef hats.
Maybe (review): I wrote yesterday of The
Big Boys. A third(ish or less) of their catalog, the funky part, I never listen
to. This brought to mind another band I love when they're not doing stuff I
don't get into - Canada's
If they still exist, please let me know, and if their Ramones alter-egos
The Hanson Brothers
record again I'll buy each of you a pony.
I'm giving a shout out to my peeps and also giving them their props because when in need I can put my NoMeansNo mix-CD into ye 'ol walkperson and hoist weights like a fiend. Some tunes hit me like a cattle prod up the wazoo, which I usually pay extra for, so it's like money in the bank.
Most often a three-piece centered around husky brothers Rob (lead vocals, bass, guitar) and John Wright (drums and vocals), NoMeansNo have the tightest rhythm section in punk. That cannot be contested and why would you even try? That would just be silly. They're fairly eclectic but their basic sound is steeped in punk, free-form jazz and hard rock. Maybe they're like The Minutemen meet Wagner. To me their weakest songs are their slow, heavy, overlong material, which comprises the bulk of their catalog. But the songs I do like... oh buddy!
Here's most of what's on my mix-CD. The first six tracks are the wazoo prodders I love so much:
The River/I've Got A Gun/Angel Or Devil/Dark Ages/Going Nowhere/I'm An Asshole/Body Bag/Canada Is Pissed/I Get Up In The Morning/Land Of The Living/Oh No Bruno/Joyful Reunion/ Dad. "Dad" is their take on Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized" and I can only listen to it every other blue moon.
Like my main man Stan The Man Lee says, Alka-Seltzer!
NoMeansNo - Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? (cassette review) (Alternative Tentacles): This is punk for Ween fans. NoMeansNo helped define the second-wave Alternative Tentacles bands - jazzy, arty, abrasive and esoteric to the point of being five pegs below non-commercial.
The band revolves around the brother's instruments, bass guitar and drum, the rhythm section and backbeat. NoMeansNo bass is heavy and deep, the drums eclectic and big. It's hard to figure out what will happen next in each song. Jazz, punk, funk and hard rock fight for dominance and the singing often comes across like a rock opera being sung on stage by multiple characters, each backed by their own music. A few tracks made me picture an off-Broadway show scored by a collaboration between Led Zepplin and The Minutemen. Hard rock's not my thing though, so while NoMeansNo is more talented as musicians and songwriters than 99% of the bands I know and love, Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy? isn't something I'll listen to again all the way through. I love "The Land Of The Living" and "The River", which goes Killing Joke one better in the drumming department. NoMeansNo has been around since 1981 and are from Victoria, British Columbia. They love hockey.....uh.....what, are you still here?
Nothing Cool/Lillingtons (split LP review) (Clearview/Skull Duggery): Six songs each from these two bands on the groovy Clearview/Skull Duggery labels. Nothing Cool are from Chicago and are influenced by Pegboy, Jawbreaker, and to a much lesser extent The Vindictives, whose Joey V. produced this session. Fans of these bands should like Nothing Cool even though I didn't hear anything as original as their influences. The bass player pulls hard on his strings, giving the songs a deep, twangy sound that earns them extra brownie points. Then there's the Lillington's, my guilty pleasure. At a concert I saw some people wearing Lillington t-shirts so I asked them about the band. One woman said that the singer sings in a monotone, which made no sense at the time but is now a universal truth. He delivers each tune in the same sing-songy-high-nasal-pep-rally-cheer delivery. If you're not a fan of the Queers, Screeching Weasel, and the Ramones, then The Lillingtons will sound like nails on a chalkboard, but these guys can't do wrong by me. I estimate they've only written six songs total. The rest are just alternate versions of these six songs. The Lillingtons are from Wyoming, which is out west somewhere.
The Nothings - A Lot To Learn (CD review) (Augustus): The selling point for this seven song CD is that it was produced by Steve Jones of Sex Pistols fame. According to lead singer Philip Holmes, The Nothings recorded these songs in the ‘80s but broke up soon after. The unfinished tapes were put away most likely to never again see the light of day. In the interim years, tapes of the recordings were circulated in Europe (I bet from Steve Jones himself, maybe as a demo of his producing skills) and word got back to Phil that a market for The Nothings now existed and he should finish the recordings, release it officially, and hey, why not work on some new songs and tour Europe in Spring 2000.
The guitar is definitely inspired by Steve Jones' style, and dollars to donuts that's what will attract Pistols fans to this like anorexics to their index fingers, but The Nothings are not a tribute band. Phil's singing is exactly like Casey Rorer of D.I. and the simple drums, guitar and bass guitar setup doesn't attempt the Pistols' stadium size riffs. The more you concentrate on the guitar, the more you will see the Sex Pistols influence. The singing and song structures are more straight ahead pop and may remind you of D.I. and The Adolescents. Maybe The Nothings are the Sex Pistols as a garage pop band.
Now's the time to talk about Steve Jones' guitar style and how Phil Holmes updated it for the ‘80s and ‘90s. In the early days of the Pistols, Steve stole his instruments and learned to play as he went along. The sound of the band was directed in part by what manager Malcolm McLaren thought would fit their image. Steve and drummer Paul Cook went along with Malcolm's program till the very end. All they cared about were gigs, money and chicks. Remember, it was Johnny Rotten who fought every battle. The influences on Steve's playing were the Ramones' wall of noise, the Heartbreakers' recklessness and Chuck Berry's signature riffs (punk cannibalizes "Johnny B. Goode" on a daily basis). In the studio, Steve Jones and the producers created cavernous four-chord progressions and quick blasts of Chuck Berry lead guitar. The effect he wanted to achieve was Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound. The results are history.
What I like most about A Lot To Learn is how under-produced it sounds. I know that what I hear on the CD is exactly how it will sound in a club because it's simple and direct. Here's my advice to the band for their next recordings: Don't write bigger, heavier songs. Your songs are basic and catchy, not monumental. Impress the hell out of the people standing ten feet away at the bars you'll be playing on tour. You want to be able to replicate in crappy bars what you record in the studio. As a trio, make sure everyone's adding something interesting at all times. With a bare-bones guitar, drums and bass setup, I'm always checking to see if someone's not holding up their leg of the tripod. There's no place to hide when it's only the three of you up there. The focus for The Nothings will always be the guitar, but you'll win respect and admiration if the bass and drums do more than offer support. Great examples of three-piece bands that didn't lack in any area are The Lillingtons and Boston's Moving Targets. As far as songwriting goes, I'd listen to a lot of old D.I. and Adolescents records for inspiration. A Lot To Learn has SoCal charm to it (the band is from there anyway), and I wish more bands today were as creative as the OC bands of yesteryear.
I like A Lot To Learn. I can see where it earned its cult following without any promotion or distribution. Sex Pistols fans and US punks who like the West Coast sounds of the ‘80s take note. The CD contains remastered versions of the five songs that have been floating around the UK, plus two more songs from that session. The band's address is 22287 Mulholland Hwy. #304, Calabasas, CA. 91302 and their website is at www.the-nothings.com.
The Nothings - Lovely (CD review) (Galaxy): The Nothings are a three-piece from the Los Angeles area, led by Phil Holmes, who've created for themselves a home in the small cult following of The Sex Pistols' guitarist Steve Jones. Jones - yob, petty thief and unrepentant two-bit kitty-hound, did have going for him an obsession in the studio to record endless layers of guitar tracks. This created the wall of sound that makes Never Mind The Bollocks: Here's The Sex Pistols sound sonically huge. Continuing with The Professionals, Jones cemented his signature sound of ringing chords and Chuck Berry leads. He has worked with a few bands over the years, and a 1980s session with The Nothings created enough of a buzz amongst Steve Jones followers to prod the guys to get the band back together and record eleven new tracks, this time with Phil producing and Steve Jones lending his guitar work to six songs. Lovely is an uneven work not without its virtues, but as a monument to Steve Jones it could have also used Jones' guidance as producer.
The strength of the first Nothings release, A Lot To Learn, was its ability to apply the aesthetics of Jones' guitar style to the limitations of a three-piece bar band destined to never fill a room no matter how small. The intimacy of the early tracks is warm, and also a nice compromise between a live and studio sound. You listen to it and marvel that what you hear on CD is what you'd hear live, and Phil's working magic with one small amp. Lovely is a true studio album, and with Steve Jones' name attached it should have sounded bigger, something Jones could have delivered behind the dials. "Addicted Too" is the CD's best track, yet the mix is too low all around. Phil also has a tendency to write for himself some "good rockin' tonight!" guitar leads, which for me doesn't flow well with four fuzzy chords. I can't stop singing "Rock Around The Clock" when I listen to the opening track, "What Went Wrong".
Phil's voice registers high, and when he sings about loving women and being rejected by them, the image that comes across is, how shall I say this, that he's less than deserving of winning a woman's affections. A punk singer with Phil's voice usually goes for a sarcastic or bitter edge, and I can't tell if Phil's having a laugh at himself or just setting himself up to be laughed at.
The Nothings are a personal project of Phil Holmes, whom I've never met. We've exchanged some e-mails and he seems like a nice person. My criticism and advice to him is strictly what I'd say to anyone sending me a CD that falls under the category of personal project. He's writing, playing, and most probably paying this out of his own pocket. For that I salute him, but since I know the history of his band and the factors that make The Nothings special to a certain slice of the public, I'm throwing in my two cents. Phil and Co. can and should do well using the Steve Jones model, but it seems Steve Jones himself should take the lead in making that happen. Jones' guitar work on this release is excellent as usual, and followers wouldn’t be disappointed.
No Trend - A Dozen Dead Roses (LP review) (No Trend): From the suburbs of Washington DC (1983-1986) came No Trend, from the mind of one Jefferson Scott, who wrote songs that stomped the line between either Flipper and Frank Zappa or Flipper and PIL. In the process Scott made some of the most challenging music ever to come out of punk.
You might think 1985's A Dozen Red Roses is a little too abstract for its own good, but rarely have ugliness and beauty been combined in such an interesting package. No Wave kook Lydia Lunch joins Scott of vocals on half the album and together they're the John Doe and Exene Cervenka of jazz punk noise damage. They scream together and apart in streams of grating hate I think they both take seriously. Back then I tried talking to Jefferson Scott when I made one of my monthly visits to the record store where he worked (Joe's Record Paradise), but he was always very low key and seemingly not too impressed with himself for being in an important band. I suspected his knowledge of all types of music was at the demented genius level, making the songs he wrote an exorcism of all he knew about music. He pissed on convention and the idea of pissing on convention.
In a way I feel No Trend made music most people are not qualified to judge. A Dozen Dead Roses is No Trend's most accessible record and well worth it if you expect more from your music than a good beat and lyrics you can relate to. You might hear that No Trend was a humorous band. I doubt Scott was capable of comedy that wasn't a thinly veiled mockery of something. No Trend was about contempt and commentary, not comedy. I wouldn't call it hate and I wouldn't call it condescension. I think it was more a general loathing of how people can treat each other.
Here's the spoken lyrics from 1983's "Teen Love", their most famous song. Within are a whole bunch of themes No Trend would hit on again and again:
"They met during social interaction in Algebra class / She was expressionless at first but then 'smiled' to indicate submission / He rearranged his facial features to appear "friendly" / After determining that their popularity status was comparable, they decided that a "relationship" would be mutually beneficial / They were careful to be seen together at the local fast-food franchise / He had a stylized speech pattern / She used all the newest slang / When they talked on the telephone they had trouble generating conversation stimulus / They programmed "arguments" into their "relationship'' to make their lives seem "meaningful" / They could act "really mad" or "happy" or "sad" according to the current pre-fabricated social circumstances / He had programmed his "personality" to conform to adolescent trends / She had synthesized her "emotions" based on accepted teen sex-role characteristics / They had copied all aspects of their behavior from what they had observed in society / At the school dance they were careful to exhibit only behavior which had been aproved by their peer group // (CHORUS) Ego complex, insecurity syndrome, OO yeah, they were really "goin' gud" // They were killed in an auto wreck as they were driving to and fro / After drinking two beers, he was pretending to be "drunk" / While the local popular radio station played the newest pre-designated, youth-oriented "top-forty hit" / He was decapitated in an explosion of flames and glass fragments / Her body was found crushed into the dashboard / A mini-cam report described them as "fine youngsters" / They never got a chance to fullfill their "career dreams".
Off With Their Heads - All Things Move Toward Their End, From The Bottom, Hospitals (cd reviews): Forming in Miniature-apolis, MN in 2002, Off With Their Heads (interview here) is a nth generation hard-hitting roots punk/hardcore outfit with a rotating roster and a sound you might remember from bands like Dillinger Four and Against Me, bands I never got and didn't feel the lesser for it. Listening to these discs I quickly went from "This is pretty good" to "Yup, I got the point" to "Ok, bye now". At this point I'm sure I should stay away from any newish band that claims to be working class punk rock. If history is a guide.
Old Nick - Tacos Are Good (EP review) (Middle Man Wrekurdz): I own literally a four foot stack of singles. I imagine at least 25% of them I put on once and then filed away for good. I have no idea who a lot of these bands are and couldn't tell you when and where I picked them up. I suspect most were bought for 25 cents to a dollar, because a trip to the record store is a waste if the bag isn't heavy with music. Thankfully I'm over the idea of buying bands I've never heard before. I shudder reliving the times I've bought records only to hear the sound of my wallet flushing down the toilet once I put the needle down on vinyl. 7"s are a pain in the ass to play anyway, and EPs aren’t cheap anymore. My singles collection serves one purpose only - to impress people impressed by a few shelves of singles.
I pulled Old Nick off the shelf to make these points. I could just as easily have picked a 7" by Office Friendly or Specula. This record is hand-numbered as #253. Wow, somebody in the band spent an hour in front of the TV with a magic marker and a few hundred record sleeves. Is the music any good? It's not bad but it'll never see the light of day again unless one of these guys goes on a killing rampage across five states. Maybe if I hold onto them for another forty years they'll automatically become valuable antiques like pulp novels and cartoon lunch boxes. The moral of the story is that only 10% of what you buy ear-unheard will be any good, so work on your willpower and save your money for important things like bubble gum and colonics.
One Man Army
- Dead End Stories and Last Spoken Word (CD
review): San Francisco's
One Man Army
were the first band signed to Billy Joe Armstrong's vanity label Adeline.
Dead End Stories
came out in 1998 and
Last Spoken Word
was from 2000. They have a third album on BYO from 2002.
This is well done punk-revival of a melodic, lads-will-be-lads style that combines some Clash, Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69. I like it but only a few songs at a time. I appreciate good nth-wave bands like this but don't take much interest beyond that.
Jack Dalyrymple's singing reminds me of pop-punk sillies The Beatnik Termites, and maybe they have more in common than one would think. They both play pleasant, catchy yet semi-generic songs. I love the old UK stuff but when American bands pretend they're victims of a class system an ocean away I can only stare and periodically blink.
The second album moves into Dropkick Murphys territory, a natural progression. I imagine by now they've recorded some oi oi oi choruses. I could be wrong but I never listen when told I am.
The Onyas - ...three more hits from the Onyas (7" review) (Junk): Junk bands want to hurt you with their music. No song ever starts, middles or ends slowly. Within their established genre of Heartbreakers/Stooges mayhem, Junk bands drink harder and play harder than anyone else. A Junk band's personal goals seem to be early death by misadventure. I imagine choking on your own vomit is kind of romantic to a Junk Records band, as long as alcohol is the cause. Or flying through the front window of a vintage Chevy, as long as alcohol is involved.
The three songs on this 7” are "No Concessions", "I'll Be The Judge" and "Son of Knockout". The Onyas recently toured their native Australia with The New Bomb Turks, and if you like the Turks you'll also appreciate The Onyas. The Onyas are a lot more crash & burn though. Another good one from Junk. The single is pressed on milk white vinyl with tiny streaks of brown, which would make this the white men's bikini underwear of 7" records. Yes, the cover is a landscape of lesbians. I counted 19. It took me a while to find them all but I didn't mind.
Oxymoron- fugg The Nineties...Here's Our Noize (CD review) (GMM): I thought an Oxymoron was a teenage zit monster using the wrong acne medication, but I guess it's also the name of a band. Stuck somewhere between D.O.A. and every good old oi band, these German street punks do it right. A billion bonus points for resisting the urge to chant "oi, oi, oi!". If you have a band and want to do this you should be required to pass a test. Are you a British barfly who yells "oi" across the pub to get your mate's attention? If so, then you can chant "oi!" all day. Otherwise, it's a pose and you look stupid. If oi is about being real, why are you chanting another culture's slang? Australian street punks should chant "G'Day!" and Americans should always yell "Hey, Hey, Hey!" Canadians would say "Ay", the French "Oui" (or something), and the Germans are not allowed to chant anything since they lost the world wars.
Because I'm smug, whenever I hear a new album I play the "Name That Steal" game, where you see what riffs were stolen from other songs. I can't place the first line in the chorus of "Dirty Punk", but otherwise I caught a lot of little phrasings from oi's greatest hits, which I have no problem with at all as long as the new material is powerful and decent sounding. Oxymoron are great. Recently I've lost my interest in street punk and oi. I don't want to be preached to - I want to be left alone during nap time.
Ramones Songbook as played by the Nutley Brass, volume 2 (7" review) (Vital): Part of an ongoing series, the Nutley brass take Ramones classics and give 'em the coo-coo-crazy lounge treatment, somewhere between Herb Albert and generic 60's modern ballroom dance records. You'd have to be closer to my age to have parents who owned these original thick slabs of plastic, so the thrill of leafing through moldy albums in the family room is now a secondhand nostalgia Also, back then stereos were built into big entertainment centers that functioned as blocky furniture when not in use.
Is lounge still cool? I'll ask again next year. Black Velvet Flag did it first with their Come Recline With.. CD of old L.A. hardcore standards. Actually, before that was Devo, who in the early ‘80s recorded muzak versions of their hits. The Nutley Brass play pretty straight brass renditions of "Blitzkrieg Bop", "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Something To Believe In", the last two covers only faintly recognizable. A little humor might have made this more interesting. For collectors only and sadly underwhelming. Maybe they're funny live, or something.
1.6 Band - Tongue Family Style (7" review) (Sunspot): The 49 cent bin brings us a band trying to be a little artier than Dag Nasty. The guitarist sometimes thinks he's East Bay Ray from the DKs. You can almost bang your head to this but there's no metal to be found, just a bunch of zigging left and then right. From 1991 and Lake Grove, New York. Not much else to report. Over and out.
The Other - The Other (CD review) (Honest Don's): What can I say about a CD that opens with the chords from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"? I'm not a big fan of "rock" punk bands in general. I like consistent energy that doesn't veer off into new directions for no reason. The Other often come off sounding like Queen trying to get on Fat Wreck Chords. "Cafes and Bombs" is a straight rip-off of one of Green Day's radio hits. There's too many cock-rock guitar heroics going on for me. If your record collection includes both Van Halen and Schleprock this might be for you. Otherwise, spend the money on emergency back-up toilet paper. (me using Bullwinkle voice) "Maybe I just don't know how TO ROCK! Please teach me how to rock, Rocky. Pleeeeeze?"
Pajama Slave Dancers - It Came From The Barn (CD review) (J-Bird): What makes this stand out from most things I hear is that while you can kinda compare PSD to the Rezillos, The Meatmen and a number of humorous surf/rockabilly punk bands of the mid-‘80s, they come to the material from more of a mainstream rock and roll approach, and in a great twist they utilize the kinetic energy of Southern Rock guitar instead of typical hair-metal wanking. The end product is eclectic, fun, funny, and exceedingly well done.
According to the band literature, the Pajama Slave Dancers formed in 1983 and put out a number of recordings on various labels around the world. PSD appears to be a goof side project for the band members. This CD is from 1997 and contains nine studio and twelve live tracks. The live set is hysterically funny and show them to be excellent musicians. At one point a band member tells the audience "Welcome to the workshop on Drunken Guy Rock", which is in a way either deeply ironic or unintentionally sarcastic because PSD know a lot about a lot of kinds of music, and gag song titles like "Porcelain Bus" and "Problems With Sects" can't hide the fact that the songs themselves are inventive and exact. They play with the skill of studio musicians and the looseness of long time associates, which is the best of both worlds.
"Hide The Salami" opens with the singer warning "This is kind of metal, so be cool". It's slightly heavy in a white funky kind of way, but the guitar player does a good Hendrix imitation, making the strings dance without rocking the cock -- uh, I mean cock rocking. There's everything here, from surf instrumentals to faux-funk to nuts to the walls punk mayhem. What a great band. Seeing them live must be a hoot, up there in Massachusetts. If you have good taste in a few genres and like to see them mixed well, you should seek this out.
The Panics: 1980 - 1981: I Wanna Kill My Mom (CD review) (Gulcher): This came courtesy of Gulcher Records, historians of the Bloomington, Indiana punk scene, which until 1982 or so may have consisted only of The Gizmos and The Panics, so the mission's doable. The Panics were a garage band who played a handful of outdoor shows and a bar or two, reforming for a one-off live reunion in 2000. There's a quality to the recordings that make you think it's retro circa early ‘70s, except they're giving Sex Pistols covers the Angry Samoans treatment. Was 1980 that long ago? Is Bloomington a time-warped kind of town? Ya gots me.
They put out a 45 thusly reviewed by Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau: "I'm pleased to report the best L.A. punk single I've ever heard comes from Indiana--the Panics genuinely funny yet genuinely abrasive (and annoying) "I Wanna Kill My Mom"/"Best Band"/"Tie Me Up, Baby!" It's a snotty group of songs from a snotty group of skinny high school psychos, and if they did live in L.A. they would've been well received, or at least brought upon their own heads the same love/hate treatment as the Samoans.
This 24 track CD is a mix of studio and live tracks, and the sound quality is surprisingly good. Their signature song, "I Wanna Kill My Mom", is based on a guitar lick from Bowie's "Hang Onto Yourself". The song title itself is an iconic example of what the world thinks a snotty punk song is all about. It covers all the bases and should make appearances on garage punk comps for centuries to come.
The live tracks are mostly covers, heavily leaning towards the The Sex Pistols' album The Great Rock N Roll Swindle. Nothing revolutionary is going on, but it sounds like they're having great, drunken, stupid fun. The band history, written by lead Panic John Barge, is beautifully written and funny as hell.
Maybe thousands of bands have 24 tracks worth of material to release as a CD, but few get off their fat asses to make it happen. There's no money in it and it's a lot of work besides. Even if only 100 copies of this are sold, and they're bought by family and friends, it's great to see efforts made to keep creative work in the public's eye and to do it professionally. This isn't a great CD, but it's pretty good. What it is is an excellent snapshot of a young band from a small town following their rock and roll muse all the way to the other side of town. That's the stuff of memories, and at the end of the that's all we really have.
The Parasites - It's Alive (LP review) (Clearview): Selfless Records started the project, and now it looks like Clearview is finishing it - to have modern day punk bands re-record all the Ramones’ albums, in order and in their entirety. That's a great idea up until End Of The Century. After that I say declare victory and run home. Screeching Weasel did Ramones, The Vindictives Leave Home, The Queers Rocket To Russia, I think the Beatnik Termites are doing Road To Ruin, and now there's The Parasites with It's Alive, the 1979 live album from their legendary UK tour. Each release in this series is limited to 1700 copies, so collector geeks take note. My copy of It's Alive is on white vinyl, so I'm that much cooler than anyone with plain 'ol black vinyl.
It’s a bizarre novelty item to be sure. It's a rendition of the Japan-only single album release (it came out as a double-album here) sung with the lyrics from the original transcribed lyrics sheet. This may not be true any more, but it used to be that every release in Japan had to contain a lyrics sheet. If one didn't exist, a Japanese translator listened to the songs and wrote down whatever they thought were the lyrics. The transcriptions may be hysterical ("Daddy likes men" becomes "Saturday night spin", and "Take it to the hoop" is now "Take it Tulu"), but hey, this is the Ramones, not Mel Torme. Give the assignment to anyone in this country and I bet the results would be just as weird.
This recording, like all other Parasite's product, is great. They capture the live sound of the old record, and even though it says this was recorded live at Gilman Street, they're using the same canned applause I've always suspected was added to the Ramones' ‘79 live album, also borrowed for a recent live Queers album.
I'm happy The Parasites got the job this time. The liner notes are from the ubiquitous Rev. Norb, who at great length claims credit for the original idea of the re-issue. OK, Norb.
The Parasites - Rat Ass Pie (CD review) (Go-Kart): Hooray! The new Parasites is here! Oh god do I love them. This is their fourth full-length (I think) to add to their endless singles and compilation appearances. The Parasites are pure power pop punk of the gushy love-song variety. In this sub-genre you'll also find Sweet Baby Jesus and The Vacant Lot. Love, lost love, lost love they'll get back someday somehow - that's the name of the game. This probably has kept The Parasites from being as big as they should be. If the lyrics were about skating, sniffing glue or having zits on the day of the prom they’d be as big as Fat Albert.
My theory is that whatever Parasites collection you buy first will be your favorite, because to be honest the records have a same-ness to them. The more you listen the more each song takes on its own distinct character, but they can run into each other. The Parasite's basic sound is just so great though - driving, melodic, fast, powerful, emotive, sweet, and sad. The last listed song here breaks the pattern as an acoustic ballad. The hidden track, following five minutes worth of snoring sounds after "Carve Your Initials", is a killer thrasher . Cub did the same thing at the end of Box Of Hair.
The Parasites are great. You are not. Well, maybe you are, but I’m making a point here.
Parasites - Nyquil-Fueled Rock Armada: Live At WFMU (CD review) (Wingnut): This may be the worst live album from a great studio band. Ever. Even worse than the Nine Pound Hammer monstrosity I almost paid the store to take back used. The sound quality stinks and the band's playing too fast and sloppy. It's one big blur of sameness, which is a shame because The Parasites may be pop-punks' greatest singles band. Jeez, they don't even have the excuse of finishing a contract with a hated record label. I can imagine the Wingnut label being psyched to put out a live Parasites CD, and then this turd arrives in the mail. I blame Dave Parasite, who should know better and care more. Like I say, a great band put out a crappy live CD.
Parasites - Compost (CD review) (Go Kart): Trying to quantify all of the Parasite's various EP and compilation contributions is as easy as tracking down Wilt Chamberlain's bastard children. Compost is an eighteen track collection of mostly covers. Shredder, who put out a good amount of Parasite material, refers to this as a collection of their non-Shredder songs, but it's more obscure than that. Dave Parasite, also credited schizophrenically as Nikki, maintains a screamingly colorful web site and my "find in page" searches for some of these tracks came up dry (thankfully the liner notes clear it all up). It's the Parasites so you can't lose.
The Parasites are modern punk's best singles band, following in the footsteps of the Buzzcocks, Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Misfits. This is a throwback to an earlier, AM radio aesthetic of that perfect record to wedge between commercials and an insipid DJ's carnival barking. While each song is a gem, running too many together actually ruins the effect. A greatest hits collection of a singles band is somehow always overkill. The glory (and fun) of bands like The Parasites is the hunt itself for each single and compilation appearance, just to savor the small dose of heaven ye shall receiveth.
One review of Compost credits The Descendents as a direct influence, which may be true but I never saw it on my own. The chain for me runs more like Ramones -- Buzzcocks -- Misfits -- Vacant Lot -- Sweet Baby Jesus. Dave's always wookin' puh nub and never finding it, and that's what Parasites songs are about. A zine reviewer once wrote he hoped Dave Parasite never found happiness just so he'd keep on writing great songs. It’s a cruel thing to wish on someone you like, but fans seem happy Dave continues to suffer for their benefit
The liner notes are a concise history of the band, with a lifetime of bad timing, false starts, line-up changes, small successes and grand disappointments, all crammed into a few short years. Some of the covers on this CD are from The Avengers, The Dictators, The Descendents, Leonard Cohen, Sweet Baby Jesus, The Queers, the movie Grease, carnival music from a merry-go-round and what I think is a swiped recording of a child's educational counting song. I also count six Parasite originals, including their greatest of hits "Something To Hold Onto".
The Parasites are a great pop punk band, and they deliver on both ends of that spectrum.
Parasites - Solitary (CD Review):
[4-17-2009] Dave Parasite sent me a dissertation-length critique of both myself and my review of his latest CD. I skimmed it, as it was long and unfriendly. At one point he offered to buy back all my Parasites stuff so I wouldn't be burdened by having to listen to him - something like that. Dave's gotta be middle aged by now, so I assume he's never matured beyond the angst-ridden teen emo themes of his songs (and the cover art above), most of which I enjoy very much. I'm betting his songs are his reality, which for him must kinda suck. Dave's the poor man's Bob Mould, with a dollop of childishness on top.
This review will be filled with back-handed compliments, petty complaints and a true sense of annoyance on my part. At the same time I also love The Parasites and think this is generally (and specifically) a good record. Here goes.
I alternate calling Dave Parasite's band The Parasites and Parasites, as I do with The Ramones. Dave's lyrical inspirations are The Beatles and The Descendents, not Beatles and Descendents, which is neither here nor there, but I use whatever flows. (The) Parasites have been around since 1985 and recorded two great albums, Punchlines and Pair, both in 1994, compilations plus of their endless stream of 7" releases. Since then their output has been spotty and they never toured in a meaningful way. Dave's romantic shortcomings have led to a great body of work, but I get the sense it extends to generally not having his s--t together, therefore the endless one night stands of band members, long gaps in generating songs and little touring to speak of. The cover of Solitary is probably how Dave sees himself, and I bet his lyrics are true to his own life.
The Parasites play one one kind of song really - the yearner, quaint in the Beatles "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" context and sadly emo in the modern age. The thing is The Parasites aren't emo but part of a small power-pop punk sub-genre populated by fellow yearners Sweet Baby Jesus and NJ's (The) Fiendz, who all do their version of what the Beatles sounded like when you couldn't hear any music at a Beatles concert over the sounds of teenyboppers crying, screaming and throwing themselves in front of trains.
Almost all original Parasites songs are played at the same pace, all share the general theme of yearning, and many are seemingly the same songs with sections reordered. On the plus side the melodies are strong and the pep peppy. The Parasites are a true singles band more effective on singles and compilation, whereas on CDs you might as well be wondering why this guy is singing song after song about custard. Lyrically a Parasites CD is surreal.
Solitary is Dave's first full-length in ten years, following the generally weak Rat Ass Pie. The years gave him plenty of time to write enough good material to make Solitary a solid Parasites comeback. The stand-out tracks are "So Wanna Kiss You" (soaring guitar, nice chorus and neat chords), "Say It Again", "Gonna Get You Back", where they change it up by adding a little Bad Religion influence, and the Buzzcocks-ish "Really Really".
The first time I listened to Solitary I thought how nice it was that The Parasites decided to record the same old songs again. I don't mean that in a bad way, but there it is.
Parry Gripp - For Those Of You About To Shop, We Salute You (cd review) and Do You Like Waffles (cd review): As far as I can tell Parry Gripp's real name is Parry Gripp. One can only imagine how many times he's had to repeat and spell it for people, and be thought a liar the whole time. How Gripp became the nation's #1 fake generic jingle writer is explained thusly:
When his band Nerf Herder decided to take a break, member Parry Gripp sought a "proper job" and ended up creating a /YouTube phenomenon thanks to his love of waffles. A 2003 tour with the band -- "in an RV that smelled like baloney" -- got Gripp to thinking maybe he could write jingles for an ad agency and start living a more adult lifestyle. The end result was much more juvenile than expected. Gripp lost the gig but began writing in a new style that combined punk-pop music with joyful lyrics singing the praises of beer, dipping sauces, and blades that give really close shaves. He gathered no less than 51 of these giddy jingles for his 2005 debut... it was the call-and-response number "Do You Like Waffles?" and its animated video that earned ten million views and 2,100 response videos on the video-sharing site /YouTube. Now the corporate gigs came calling as Hallmark Cards hired Gripp to supply music for their Hoops & YoYo franchise, while the Wawa chain of stores commissioned a theme song for their famous hoagies.
Stealing more than a page or chapter from They Might Be Giants, Parry created a Song Of The Week site and YouTube channel, along with these two albums from 2005 and 2008. His Yellow Submarine-inspired songs for Hoagiefest are priceless (in that they're free). Nerf Herder competed with Weezer and other purveyors of allegedly "clever" pop-punk, and held their own in more ways that one. Parry Gripp's new gig is TMBG circa Lincoln but with an average song length of forty seconds. Part talent reel, comedy album and random ideas dumpster, the 51 + 24 tracks on these cds work better as transitions on your iPod shuffle, but if you can handle it all at once you'll laugh a lot and fight the urge to dance stupidly for no reason apparent to others.
Not all the songs are ads and none are for a specific product. It's generic, and as advertising an agency would have to beat them into conformity if they're usable at all in that context. They're parodies of advertising, so how usable they are in promoting anything in their present state is a nagging question. "Say Hello To Your Brand New Favorite Pizza" can stand alone as long as the visuals are right. The talent's there, so as a talent reel these ditties rock the cashbar.
"Pita City Falafel" is a takeoff on "Clash City Rockers" while "More Blades = Better Shave" invokes "Blitzkrieg Bop". The opening yell of "Pizza's Burning!" in "Pizza Bagel" is Clash-esque, and the genius of "Midnight" is the backup singing by zombie-faced sleepy guys. Styles are all over the map, from country to munchkin-voiced techno to Leon Redbone Blues. It's music best appreciated as incidental listening, but damn is it good.
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