old punks web zine
Punk Music Reviews, Part I
A - C
The Accident- No Romance For You (CD review) (Chuckie-Boy): Chuckie-Boy is doing a nice job of repackaging old pop and punk bands from the Pacific Northwest. The promo for this hypes The Accident as a band of hysterical, I mean historic proportions, which they are not, but the 10 tracks are a great cross between The Rezillos (especially the singing) and The Avengers. For some odd reason they hit me as Sexual Human Response as a punk band. Maybe that's just the Kennedy song. Snotty and fun with great fuzz-guitar and drum fills. A nice balance of punk aggression and pop fun. The "Kill The Bee Gees" single is a collector's item but when Chuckie recounts that SPIN magazine listed it as among the "Top Love Songs Of All Time", I (and you because I'm your surrogate) laugh. Dollars to donuts it was put in there by a NW writer who has the limited edition single in his collection. It then made the list because the title is funny.
The liner notes, written by drummer Mike Stein, beautifully sum up the mindset that motivated the formation of The Accident (and many other early punk bands) over 20 years ago. Stein writes, "Olympia, WA., in the late 70s was a pretty sleepy place to grow up.. There's a lot more cookin' there now, but in 77-78 our lifeline to the outside world was music. Certain records were like grenades going off on Mom and Dad's Hi-Fi - Cheap Trick's first few albums, KISS, and some wild stuff we'd read about in "Creem" magazine... The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Devo. I was really lucky 'cuz I got all these records FREE from KGY, the radio station where I was main Grunt. They just didn't fit in with the stations' blend of soft pap, and were a useful bribe to keep motivated.... Vancouver, B.C., This is where we saw our first "Punk" show - DOA at a former strip club, the Windmill. It was UNBELIEVABLE... I'd never seen such ferocious energy channeled into Rock 'n Roll. DOA roared into their songs, pounding the hell out of themselves AND us... Well, that did it - we had to try to get that kinda Power going for us. I had the drums (played in school band), Trent had played trombone, so naturally we got him a Bass. $69 dollars at Bellingham Pawn. It was around this time we ran into the only other "punk" on campus at the time, Bruce. He had the first Clash album, and dressed like us. He also had a guitar...by God, we had a band! Our first 'rehearsal' was notable for its volume, and for getting us kicked out of the Dorm. Oops."
No Romance For You is worth getting because the songs sound as fresh today as they probably did then. Forget the archival implications of releases like this - The Accident are a fuggin' national treasure. The promo shot makes these kids look like The Bay City Rollers. That's either ironic or too funny for words. There's no reason not to love this. Unless you're so damn punk you hate everything - because you're so damn punk.
Action League - "I'm A Member"/"What Do You Want From Me?" ("7 review) (Junk): Good news for fans of Taking Liberties and Get Happy! - era Elvis Costello. Action League is here! (Ta Da!!) They claim The Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Wedding Present and Elvis C. as influences but their sound on this 7" is pure Elvis and The Attractions, the toughest backup band in New Wave (other greats: The Rumour and Joe Jackson's band). This is great punk with style and flair. Extra retro points for beating the hell out of a cheap electric organ.
Action League claims their sound can only be described as "Action Music". Boys, boys, boys - stop the insanity. Nobody's going to review your music and say it's a whole new, previously unknown genre. Late 70's British Mod unit Secret Affair pulled the same gimmick by calling their thing "Glory Boys". Too much ego went into that and now “Glory Boys” sounds like something frequenters of "Glory Holes" might call themselves. If you don't know what a Glory Hole is, type it into a search engine, but not at work. Back to the Action League: they're great and I'm sure they'd never think of bringing a hammer and spike into a public restroom.
The Adicts - Ultimate Addiction (CD review): I've always been on the fence about The Adicts. Are they a gimmick band or a band with a gimmick? I've leaned towards the former but admit I've been totally charmed by the band's bio (click the link on main page of the Adict's site) that shows the band to be hard working and self-deprecating. That damn cartoon logo and Clockwork Orange motif doesn't do anything for me but I see their point about being different and having fun. If they were serious about it I'd have to hate them on general principle.
Ultimate Addiction is a twenty track collection from 1997 that covers a recording career started in 1979 and continuing today with a tour schedule that resembles a death march. If they don't now live in SoCal they sure act like it. They're here again this week!
Everybody my age knows "Viva La Revolution" and "Joker In The Pack" through punk osmosis. "Chinese Takeaway" is a keeper, along with "Numbers" and "Distortion" (my favorite). The Adicts are sorta '77, kinda pub and a wee bit oi, tossing in violin and even the xylophone for effect. "Younger Generation" fails at being anthemic but not by much. You can also pick up some Adam and the Ants camaraderie.
I like a few of their songs and they seem like nice old guys. I hope they sell a million t-shirts to the kids with that damn cartoon logo on it. Playing the punk rock sure beats working!
Adolescents - The Fastest Kid Alive (cd review): It might just be that I don't agree with their politics but I at least can't accuse The Adolescents of false advertising. Middle age men Steve Soto and Tony Cadena are still teenagers in both mind and spirit. Back In The Day (© 2011 oldpunksglobalcorp Inc.), 1981 to be exact, their self-titled debut LP was as classic and vital as anything from the California scene, with a trifecta of hits ("Kids Of The Black Hole", "Amoeba" and "Richard Hung Himself") that defined SoCal punk's take on youthful alienation. Then the band splintered both in sound and membership while taking a turn to the political, your standard 1980's MRR leftist stew of revolutionary marxism applied to the teeth-gritting hardcore kid generation. It's one thing when the youth sing anthems of youthful political understanding and aspirations but another when 48 year olds go full frontal George Orwell and call their hatreds "love" while pretending to be all peace and love baby but oh yeah everything will have to be destroyed in the process and F-yeah won't that be fun. The Fastest Kid Alive is what happens when the hippie and suburban nihilist generations merge.
In the works for years, The Fastest Kid Alive sounds best when it reminds you of other bands and earlier hits. The surf sounds come courtesy of associations with Agent Orange while other tracks like "Inspiration" and "Can't Change The World With A Song" recall "Kids Of The Black Hole" and "Amoeba", which were kinda the same song anyway. I'll toss in D.I. for historical inclusiveness. The tracks sound consistently yet generically decent - a backhanded compliment but it does teeter between being better sounding than many other new releases yet also missing a layer or two of grit and originality you might be warranted in expecting.
The politics of the cd are found in various song titles, "Wars Aren't Won Wars Are Fought", "Babylon By Bomb", "Can't Change The World With A Song", "No Child Left Behind", and my favorite, "Peace Don't Cost A Thing", which reminds me of a fantastic rich white kid anarchist newspaper article that deduced "If there were no laws there would be no criminals!" See, the problem of crime is solved with language, and if the evil USA had no military the world would revert back to its utopian, peaceful, mostly Amish ways. Exactly.
Adorkables - She Loves Me Not (cd review): Sadly these guys from Salinas, CA broke
up, but who I'm assuming are the core formed a new band called The Offbeats.
Adorkables were the next Lillingtons in a field crowded with "meh" usurpers
to the throne of Kody Templeman, who was (seriously) to punk pop what
Bob Mould was to hardcore
punk and Frankie
Stubbs to whatever is his corner of the musical universe. Live on The
YouTube they play more like Teenage Bottlerocket but on
polycarbonate plastic they're definitely Lillington-esque. Not to toot my horn,
and I would if I could, but I give myself partial credit for the universal
acclaim now granted to
Death By Television. Me and my dumb little web zine have been fanatically
promoting that disc to the four corners of the internet since it came out in
1999. She Loves Me Not
should and hopefully will one day receive the same consideration.
I don't feel a need to dissect any of the twelve tracks on She Loves Me Not (they wrote a song about Christina Ricci!) but I've listened to it many times over (plus other tracks from their cat-log) and sampling through it now in order I'm struck by the overt and covert excellence of each track and the brilliance of their ordering. Going off on another tangent, the UK release of Sparrer's Here We Stand was so badly sequenced the band themselves made it a point to have it changed for the US release.
If you like the punk pop, as opposed to the oft-evil pop-punk, you seek this out and then listen to it. As the great detective Adrian Monk says, "You'll thank me later".
AFI - Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes / Very Proud Of Ya / Answer That And Stay Fashionable (CD review) (Nitro): I'm reviewing these 3 CDs at the same time because I found them to be of equal quality (well produced) and interest to me (none). Answer That... is the best of the lot but I’d still only recommend it if you're into standard SoCal all-ages show pun-crock. There's a huge big fan base for this but my generation is way past this. Chugga-chugga guitars, slappy drums, "We're In The Crew!" sing-alongs, slam-pit-rodeo rhythms and the repeated abuse of Bad Religion mannerisms when trying to seem intelligent. With some slight adjustments I could get into it, but as it is I ain't. Points off for ripping off Reservoir Dogs on Answer That... It’s as cool as dressing up like the Blues Brothers.
Alkaline Trio - This Addiction (cd review): Chicago's Alkaline Trio released This Addiction in Feb. of 2010, and the hyperbolic cries of hoorah for a return to form rose up from label press releases and retail internet sites all over this great internation. It might be punkier than their 2008 major label crossover, Agony & Irony, but lacks whatever sloppiness was found on their their 1998 debut Goddamnit! It's a return to the middle of their discography, which is like so totally serviceable. I like it to a point but I've never seen them as more than dark, commercial kiddie punk, and their unrelenting focus on alcohol, drugs, arson and suicide is now a sales-driven cliché. It's delivered via highly produced pop-punk too, which is either subversive or yuckily inappropriate. Common guys, it's been thirteen years and over a million units sold. Time to think outside the pill and bullet boxes. The cover is a heart made out of narcotics - the emo version of a typical Ronnie James Dio album cover.
Musically it's not bad. They get miles of mileage from a clean separation of drums, guitar and bass. I also like how each word Matt Skiba sings is pronounced with military precision. You never ask "What did he just say?" with Alkaline Trio. The standout tracks are "This Addiction", "Lead Poisoning" (cool horn section), "The American Scream", "Off The Map", and "Eating Me Alive", which I'm betting is the emphasis track. The synth additions on that one are nice. Quality control is tight and the end product reliably catchy, gloomy and destined to be played at my gym via a national service that provides a wide variety of genres that mix together flawlessly to enforce the fact that most music is sadly, at the end of the day, of equal value.
I have eighteen Alkaline Trio tracks on my hard drive, and when I hear any of them my reaction quickly goes from "That's a good song" to the feeling that I didn't choose it on purpose but it's playing on the radio and there must be something more important I can be doing while it plays in the background.
Alkaline Trio - Crimson (CD review): Chicago's Alkaline Trio seem to have stolen the visual imagery of Stiffs, Inc, best described as undertaker chic from the beginning of the last century. What started as a drinking and cursing band became a depression and hell-vision trio. As long as it sells the units, I always say.
Formed in 1997, Alkaline Trio were a punk-pop band for adults, if not then older kids. Where the stunted adolescents of Green Day and Blink-182 wrote to their maturity level and fan base of 15, bands like Samiam, 22 Jacks and Alkaline Trio put childish things aside and provided hard and fast chord changes over powerful drumming and big-kid subject matters.
Crimson is more heavily produced and orchestrated than their earlier work, which at first is bad because there's a simple directness to the old stuff, but at this stage it's a smart move to widen their sound and fan base. Electronically treating the singer's voice to give a hint of harmony is to me the biggest change.
They can write catchy melodies in their sleep and for their genre they're probably way, way up there. I enjoyed this branch of punk pop for a while and then left it for its components of full blown emo (Sense Field, Promise Ring) and 3-chord Ramones mania (Lillingtons, Riverdales).
The opening track, "Time To Waste", betrays a whiff of Duran Duran's "Girls On Film". The closing track sounds like the Psychedelic Fur's "Sleep Comes Down". My favorite song on the CD is "Back To Hell". Will I ever put this on again? Probably not, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it.
Alkaline Trio - From Here To Infirmary (CD review) (Vagrant): Folks are pissed to high heaven because of this record. Alkaline Trio sold out, they've watered down their music and zit medicine now costs as much as cocaine (or something tragic like that). I don't know - I don't have their earlier records for comparison, but as is this is a very serviceable collection of pop-punk tunes that deserve to be popular. Every other song revolves around drinking yourself into a coma after gorging on angst pie. This is as good as the best recent 22 Jacks and Samiam. The title's pretty fairly lame, and a confirmed sell-out to the idiocy of the mass market.
I don't know if band members alternate singing lead, but the first track sounds like the guy from Five Iron Frenzy, while much of the rest is a fairly accurate Elvis Costello imitation, especially in the pronunciations. "Private Eye" is an impressive opener, full of energy, soaring riffs and sing along choruses. I like this style for about 3 listens. The songs are all pretty decent with a few standouts. If this is crap compared to what they released on Asian Man Records, then them must be some magical bags of beans there.
G.G. Allin - No Rules (7" review) (Orange Records): This 1983 EP doesn't have a title printed on it but it goes by No Rules because that's the first song. There's 4 tracks (No Rules, A F--k Up, Up Against The Wall, and NYC Tonight). The more you know about G.G. Allin the less of a legend or threat he actually becomes. At the beginning of his career, circa 1980, he was putting out standard 4-chord punk that dealt with the old standbys of drugs, sex and violence. The kicker was that his singing was seemingly sincere, if not sweet, so it was easy to assume G.G. was putting on an act. He soon became a depraved homeless psychopath of the first order, famous for coprophilia and his yearly vow to kill himself on Halloween. G.G. died from an overdose after another stint in jail for physically abusing a woman. Now he's a cult figure amongst those who alternate between defending serial killing and denying serial killers ever actually kill. Darby Crash was America's Sid Vicious. G.G. was his own loser all the way to his brother Merle’s bank account.
Merle was probably the brains of the operation and manipulated his brother like a puppet. Merle's still wringing out G.G.'s corpse for fun and profit. As a young man G.G. was a skinny Unibomber. By the time he left the building he was bloated and bruised. “Shows” lasted for as long as it took G.G. to crap on the floor, rub it on his face and throw the rest at the audience, many of whom were three blocks away by then and still running. Not that he could find many places that would let him perform. G.G.'s "fans" went to his shows to taunt the drunken, drugged-out zero into fistfights. G.G. was too numb to feel pain but he couldn't fight for s--t so the whole effect was sad. Some say he was a performance artist. Yes, and spin-art requires a degree from Harvard.
That said, early G.G. Allin records are pretty decent in their own amateurish fashion. For a time I think G.G. was in on the joke as opposed to being the joke itself. This early EP is fairly representative of non-metal NYC punk of that period and worth finding on musical merit alone. G.G. might have been the Andy Kaufman of punk, except Andy worked on more than one level.
GG Allin - Res-Erected (CD review) (ROIR): My contempt for GG Allin as a person, place and thing is fairly complete, and the more I'm forced to think about him the more a sad zero he becomes. His star will eventually dim to near extinction, kept alive by a tiny core of fanatics who derive strange satisfaction from a man who rubbed his own excrement on his face and lived the pointless life of a homeless, catatonically drunk and drugged up sociopath.
As the movie Hated made clear (ROIR released the soundtrack to the film), his core followers were creeps who enjoyed punching the drunk & drugged GG as much as they enjoyed visiting serial killers in prison. Upon reflection, GG was so damn ineffectual. His legacy is the frozen image of a feces and blood covered madman throwing his own poo at his audience as they run for cover. His words were rehearsed, cliché, and probably fed to him by his brother Merle, whom I consider the uncaring puppet-master behind the man with the thumb-sized penis. GG's shtick was funny when he was alive because there was the yearly prospect of him killing himself on Halloween, in a scene hopefully reminiscent of Divine's stage show in Female Trouble.
ROIR, once famous as a cassettes-only label, released this CD collection of GG live tracks, what might be live or a demo session with Dee Dee Ramone on guitar, interspersed with segments of an interview with GG and Merle. The sound quality is good considering the places GG played were lucky to have flush toilets, forget about decent soundboards or new, hi-bias tapes. There's a dumpster full of GG Allin bootlegs, many available from Merle, who'll carve a living off his brother's corpse until he's left to digging up GG's body and selling dried nuggets of bone on the streets of The Bowery. No matter how bad you might think this CD sounds, it's still going to blow away what you'll find elsewhere.
I credit GG with a few good studio albums. Live, it's mush like Flipper at 78 rpm. Since it's all mud, I doubt the appeal of owning live GG Allin recordings is in the music. It has to be song titles that are just too punk, like "Drink, Fight & F--k" and "I'm A Rapist", or hearing GG spew about sex, hate, violence and the notable quotable "my body is a gun, my words are the bullets, and my audience is the target". There's always the thrill of visualizing GG smashing his own teeth with the mike, shoving it up his ass, then crapping the stage, rubbing it on himself and then tossing the rest at the audience like an ape.
If you've new to GG Allin I'd start off with a hits collection of old studio recordings. Then, if you must own something live so you can daydream about GG bleeding, crapping and getting beaten up for his art, Res - Erected is your best value in both price and sound quality. The liner notes by Mykel Board (the child molester columnist from old issues of MRR) are meaningless and not worth a glance. The photos of GG covered in his own red and brown are pretty funny, I mean intense, man! Gaze at GG Allin, covered in his own filth. Nice.
There’s five interview segments on the CD that back up everything negative I've written about GG. GG opens with a monotone rehashing of what Merle probably told him was his mission, "We're out for revenge, and we're out for.. to put danger back on the road and use our rock and roll as a weapon against society, the government, the industry, and anything that stands in our way." GG says, "I live on the road anyway, so life is one big tour." GG was in reality a wondering homeless man with lint in his pockets. Merle recalls a six stop tour where GG was arrested twice for indecent exposure and assault & battery. He was then shipped back to Michigan for violating parole. GG says "I just pretty much said f--k you to my parole agent. He had too many restrictions on me, and I just couldn't live by any sort of restrictions, so I gave him the big kiss off and went out on the road anyway. I don't care if I don't finish a show, cause as long as I f--k somebody up, if we f--the club up, basically if I can get my revenge and get the release out of me that I feel I'm getting out, then for me it's a successful show, because I'm not out to please anyone but myself." Yes GG, you lived a proud life of freedom and creative expression -- covered in your own poop.
The last interview segment is great because GG and Merle complain how they can't get a gig in NYC. As if GG Allin is too real and too punk for the Big Apple. Face it, who with half a brain cell is going to let GG destroy their investment because of violence, vandalism and the inevitable police involvement. Given a choice between your liquor license and a ten minute poop-filled GG Allin show, what would you do?
GG fancied himself pubic enema #1, but what did he accomplish besides a few good songs and a reputation as hell’s Iggy Pop? Nothing. He's a freak you can tell your friends about. The music industry he hated never knew he existed, and he was a number to the criminal justice system. To the police he was another in a never-ending parade of faceless degenerates. He represented nothing and was only a threat to himself and the women he assaulted.
And ...Trail Of Dead - Worlds Apart (CD review): Trail Of Dead is the last part of ...AYWKUBTTOT. Who has the time? Who am I kidding, I do, but I refuse.
In a way Trail of Dead's career has paralleled Sense Field, but the latter is the better band. Both released two average post-Nirvana emo records before recording their classics: Source Codes and Tags and Building. Both were urgent, hungry, focused and a statement that might be repeated to less effect but couldn't be built on.
Sense Field went the route of catchy melodies and can crank them out with ease. Trail Of Dead's Worlds Apart starts off where the last ended but settles immediately into a pattern of simple and ineffectual songs framed by expertly produced progressive rock.
It's all flourish and little substance, and the melodies are weaker and less thought through than you'd think after the last disc. Both bands love The Beatles with Sense Field doing a better job at making it interesting.
Trail Of Dead has the talent to right the ship on their next CD and I hope they do.
Angry Samoans (review)- Ira A. Robbins, editor of the Trouser Press Record Guide, really hates The Angry Samoans. I mean loathes them . In the latest edition, under METAL MIKE, he writes, "...spent the entire 80's playing in LA's rude, stupid and rarely funny punk joke Angry Samoans." It’s odd that he approves of The Descendents, though, because they were almost just as rude, stupid, and homophobic. Maybe even more so, because The Angry Samoans was the nihilistic satirical endeavor of two intelligent rock critics, Gregg Turner (now a math teacher in Santa Fe, N.M.) and Metal Mike Saunders (who didn’t coined the phrase "Heavy Metal"). According to Turner the band was about making fun of people who acted like total jerks in their pursuit of fame and fortune in LA's rock scene. Their big target was DJ Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ. "Get Off The Air" contains "You're a f--king piece of s--t now Rodney/I don't think you're so hot/You make me laugh with those clothes you wear/And those stupid teeth you've got". The band thought Rodney would take it in good humor but instead they brought upon themselves the full hatred of the LA scene that relied on Rodney for air play and energetic support. Supposedly Lee Ving denied producing the record.
Started as a tribute band to 70s legends The Dictators, The Angry Samoans formed in 1978 and are still around today as Metal Mike’s band. The idea was to play a few gigs then break up. They didn't play live often, barely practiced and they often didn’t get along. Gregg Turner wrote “it's been three years since I've spoken with Metal Mike -I figure I'm in my 11th step of my 12-step Saunders recovery." They did manage to perform at the Camarillo State Memorial Hospital, which makes as much sense as letting John Waters teach a film course to convicts in Maryland (which he did). Los Angeles had a punk scene before The Samoans came along that was packed with obnoxiousness and bile, but the Angry Samoans distanced themselves from the Glam and Retro-Rock leanings of that scene and helped create the snotty hardcore genre with their fast chord changes and direct attacks. Where earlier bands created their own scenes of alienation, The Angry Samoans beat them at their own game by alienating everyone, even themselves. They never made money and didn’t make many friends, but Inside My Brain and Back From Samoa stand as two of the best albums to come out of the early 80s hardcore scene.
Their earlier recordings were mostly the mid-paced chord heavy garage thrashers that made up their best work. Classics include "My Old Man's A Fatso", "Gas Chamber", "Lights Out" and everyone's sentimental fave, "They Saved Hitler's Cock". After Back From Samoa the band got tired of their own sound and switched to a slower, more sincere, more garage & psychedelic sound which produced two albums of diminishing returns. The mid 80s saw their career in limbo because two record labels in a row went belly up, one involving organized crime. Recent live sets feature the same set of old songs mixed with comedy bits that sometimes fail.
Recordings of Note:
Queer Pills EP: 4-song 7" with a 60s cheap horror movie cover. The band name was added with a rubber stamp. "D For The Dead", "Stupid Jerk", "They Saved Hitler's Cock", and "I'm In Love With Your Mom". This early version of "They Saved Hitler's Cock" has slightly different lyrics, with "kill Jews today" instead of "to kill today'.
Inside My Brain EP (1980) Album (1987): The EP contains "Right Side Of My Mind", "Gimme Sopor", "Hot Cars", "Inside My Brain", "You Stupid Asshole", "Get Off The Air". The LP adds demo and live versions of "My Old Man's A Fatso, "Carson Girls", "I'm A Pig", "Too Animalistic", and "Right Side Of My Mind". A great record. Buy two copies now.
Back From Samoa (1982): I list each song only because they're classics and you can figure out the songs just by the titles. If you don't own this your life has no meaning and you should grab a fork and make the first attack: "Gas Chamber", "The Todd Killings", "Lights Out", "My Old Man's A Fatso", "Time Has Come Today", "They Saved Hitler's Cock", "Homo-Sexual", "Steak Knife", "Haizman's Brain Is Calling", "Tuna Taco", "Coffin Case", "You Stupid Jerk", "Ballad Of Jerry Curlan", and "Not Of This Earth".
Yesterday Started Tomorrow EP (1987): To show the band's psychedelic move backwards they cover Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody To Love". A whole different sound. Well done but a tad dull.
STP Not LSD (1988): Twelve more of the same. Whatever speed and energy they put back in is offset by kinder, gentler lyrics and the occasional fall into folk.
Live At Rhino Records (1979/1990): This poorly recorded piece of band history is for die-hard fans only. They cover the Ramones' "Commando".
Return To Samoa (1990): Eight leftover studio tracks from Back From Samoa with Jeff Dahl on vocals after Saunders quit. Saunders came back and re-recorded the vocals. Also contains eight live tracks from 1981.
Angry Samoans - The 90's Suck And So Do You (CD) (Triple X): For Metal Mike Saunders to release this under the Angry Samoans name is a little misleading if not dishonest. He released a number of CD EPs under the name Metal Mike (also on Triple X) and this eight song disc isn't any different - underwhelming yet pleasant Nuggets-inspired, Ramones power chord pop sung by Mike with enough sweet sincerity to anger fans of old Samoan standards. Reviews for this are asking what's become of the legendary Angry Samoans. Nothing's changed for Mike - what was a Metal Mike side-project has been given a more popular name to boost recognition and hopefully sales. If you see the Samoans live they play the golden hits and still bait the crowd with only slightly less disdain than Lee Ving. I wonder if Triple X made Mike revert the name back to the Samoans.
These aren’t bad songs but it’s not anything you’d slam into the stereo on the way to a gang war. A better name for the band might be the Samoa Ultra-Lites. Mike and Co. aren’t doing any damage to their instruments and he sings like all he wants is to be hugged and understood. There’s so little danger in this that he might as well be singing “fa la la”. Way back when (in the day, as we say) a song like “Carson Girls” was a nice change of pace from a band as reviled for their insensitivity as much as they were admired for their knowledge of punk’s roots. Now sincere sentiment is all Mike seemingly wants to record. A quaint little record that’s using another band’s name to sell units. I guess there’s worse crimes but I’m a petty man with too much time on my hands.
The Anniversary - Designing A Nervous Breakdown (CD review) (Vagrant): Not that I'm a genius or anything, but I've been around, and as I flip through some of the reviews for the debut CD from the best thing to come out of Lawrence, Kansas since... uh... I'm struck by how people have no idea how to review the thing. Comparisons to The Rentals come up when they've heard of The Rentals, but when most reviewers say something is "New Wave" they have no idea what new wave was to begin with. Granted, there are rhythms here and there you can dance you like in the New Wave sweat-until-you- fall-over-and-die days, but Anniversary keyboardist-singer Adrianne Verhoeven creates a sound very much like a warm theramin, and that's NOT something you heard in New Wave. Cheap farfisa organs or barroom piano were the rage. Designing A Nervous Breakdown is a stunningly accomplished, mature and richly complicated work, by far some of the best indie emo to come down the pike.
The first twenty seconds of the opening track, "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter", is a table of contents for what you'll hear throughout the album. A short crash of instrumentation fades to a sharp melodic guitar line from the left speaker, stopped by two quick bass strings and a sparkling science fiction meltaway. This repeats and is followed by an acoustic guitar line -- then someone yells something in the background and the band charges in with all guns firing. Loud, quiet, acoustic, electric, melody, noise, the folk rock past and the science fiction future. There's something for all the alt.putzes from Fugazi head bangers to Getup Kids kids to Joan Of Arc and Weakerthans wimps. The interplay of tranquility and abrasiveness is beautiful, and even though the music shifts like progressive rock the internal timing is always right. I know because I listen to this on my gym's Procor machine and the pace never changes, even if the songs do. I can site influences all day, from The Band to CSNY to The Promise Ring and yes, The Rentals.
Josh Berwanger, Justin Roelofs and Adrienne Verhoeven all share vocal duties, and their interplay is sweet, especially Adrienne, whose keyboard playing is always clever and complementary. I've listened to this a dozen times and each song works. No need to get into each track. If you have any interest in emo you should own this. The variety is great, while the variety within each song is even better. What a complex piece of work. A masterpiece of the genre.
Anti-Flag - Terror State (CD review): The revolution will be all-ages. How else could Anti-Flag fans participate?
Before this morning I'd never heard Anti-Flag. I had neither interest nor opportunity. How many cycles of middle class anarchy numbnuttery can one person take in a lifetime? But!, in service to the blog I listened to the latest musical manifesto from the band that compelled someone to create an anti- Anti-Flag site. I didn't buy the CD because property is theft and money has the word God on it.
In 2005 Anti-Flag signed a distribution deal with RCA, a major label, making them as immensely hypocritical as fellow whizz-diddlers Bad Religion. That's almost all you need to know.
I expected the music to be sloppy and the words unintelligible, which wasn't the case. I knew that if the music was good I'd have to give credit to a band whose pro-Stalinist genocidal politics I despise. After a few seconds of listening to Terror State I started laughing because what I was hearing was absolutely inconsequential. It's just another children's pop-punk album from Fat Wreck Chords, America's #1 source for children's punk rock from political pedophiles.
On Terror State Anti-Flag is a combination of NOFX and The Clash. There's bits to mosh to, sing and shout alongs, slappy rodeo pit and military style drumming and lyrics that speak truth to power:
there's repression and intolerance/on any deviation from the norm/in all factions of your life/at this time of entry/into war say HEY-HEY/if you know what they sing say HEY-HEY/if you know what they sing say HEY-HEY/if you know what they sing say HEY-HEY-HEY/POWER TO THE PEACEFUL-WHOA-OH
The music just isn't new or exciting. I guess you have to be into them for their message and what they stand for. Maybe they're cute. Four Letter Word is a much better political band and since they're from South Wales their political posturing doesn't reek of rich kid belligerence.
The last track, "One People, One Struggle", is littered with the following line, "The people, united, will never be defeated!". It doesn't even rhyme! Sham 69 fans are spinning in their collective graves. It would work better as "If the kids, eat their donuts, they will never, ever go nuts." It's as funny as the Family Guy where Peter and Lois are at a KISS concert. They're front row and after Gene Simmons sings "I want to rock and roll all night..." he shoves the mike in Lois' face and, since she doesn't know the words, she mumbles ""Um, and have a wonderful time." In Lois' case, sweet, in Anti-Flag's case,........
Ah, what do I know? Maybe the Amazon.com reviewer was right when he wrote "YOur stpid if you hate this band!!!"
Anti-Flag - The People Or The Gun (CD review): Kiddie punk, trend-mangling anti-capitalists Anti-Flag channel The Clash through Rancid to record eleven catchy blender-smoothies of sounds and styles, with lyrics that demand their target audience of suburban white kids reject everything they think they know for a sludge of revolutionary leftist politics conceived and practiced by middle class white people who've never known anything but the freedoms of capitalist societies. It translates into paranoia, false ego and reflexive belligerence, but at least they have Noam Chomsky to think for them instead of parents and schools, so all's well. The world always needs underachievers to unload trucks for long, long hours at short, short pay.
I don't believe for a second that any song on this record wasn't the result of a committee's work of experts on what sells in the modern children's punk marketplace. Modern technology makes it easy, but this is as orchestrated as a Moody Blues record. I'm impressed by how good it all sounds, and the transitions and mixing of its checklist of building blocks is impressive, but it's ultimately a contrived product by a band whose existence is a contradiction if not a massive fraud of cowardly hypocrisy. My inner punk sheds a tear every time I read some kid's review of this as "real" punk rock, as if they would know what real punk punk is anyway, and as if there was such a thing to begin with. I'd like to see Justin and his fellow fashion accessories pull this off in North Korea or Cuba, unless of course they make the 2% adjustment to sing how it's a deserved death sentence to question the will of the masses as embodied by The State.
Signing with RCA was as subversive as traveling on the Warped Tour and being now distributed by a Warners subsidiary. I wager Justin puts his earning into tax shelters with investments in the war machine, just like Michael "Dinty" Moore. You know, as always to destroy the system from within while making a healthy return on investments. Smash The Steak, you bow-legged vegetarian putz.
As you may have guessed I have nothing but contempt for anyone who proselytizes nihilism to children. If Anti-Flag really wanted kids to think for themselves they wouldn't only link to revolutionary small and big "C" communist websites. Oh, that's right, they're socialists, which is what communists call themselves in mixed company.
Anti-Scrunti Faction - Damsels In Distress (LP review) (Unclean/Flipside): You could look back to the Slits as the first riot grrl group, but in the modern era you have to point to the Anti-Scrunti Faction as pioneers of the genre now associated with Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, and Team Dresch. Two women and a guy on drums (a not uncommon arrangement in what's thought of as girl-only bands), the ASF came out with a 7" and LP in 1985 and that proved women didn't have to know how to play their instruments or be pretty to kick ass on any punk stage.
Crusty and mohawked in the UK tradition, Tracie Thomas on guitar/vocals and Leslie Mah on bass/vocals (along with tiny Eric Vavleuven on drums) hit the scene from Colorado with the "A Sure F--k" 7". With songs like "Slave To My Estrogen", "Daddy's Little Girl", "Protect And Serve" and "Frat Boy", you were pretty sure ASF weren't here to please. Their sound was like the Meatmen without the humor. On the lyrics sheet of the LP is written "I'm so worried what my boyfriend thinks. Does he like my c--t, does he think it smells?" Yikes!
For all their aggro, ASF's lyrics on Damsels In Distress are well conceived. Here's the words to "Another Love Song":
"Oh s--t / Not another love song / Seems so ridiculous to me / Does it make sense to you? / Perhaps because it's from a man's point of view / I have too much self respect to let anyone do that to me again / Are you so stupid you can't detect that it's just a stupid game / Why, why do you let them continue allowing them to degrade you / Humiliation, is it really worth the pain? / Can't live with them, can't live without them... I can / All this talk of who sleeps with who / I can't stand to see them laugh at you / The boys that f--k you call you easy / Can't they see they're twice as sleazy? / Maybe when they're alone, laying awake at night they too wonder why / That is where my only hope lies"
Bikini Kill and Bratmobile sound a bit like a glam take on grunge. They have nothing on the Anti-Scrunti Factio. ASF are ten times more punk and grrl power then these groups. The politics of 90s Riot Grrl makes me laugh because their justification is "Two wrongs don't make a right, but it sure makes it even". Any guy who put on a dress so he could attend a grrl concert and hit on the grrls has to be the most desperate loser on the planet. Geez, does riot girl even exist anymore? My subscription to Punk Daily recently lapsed.
The Apers – You Are Only As Strong As The Table You Dance On (CD review: Rotterdam’s The Apers have been around since 1996 and have aged-up to where they’re no longer snot-punks with a decent enough four-chord power-pop-punk sound. Sonically they put out mid-to-fast paced songs in line with The Queers meets The Riverdales. What stands out are their lyrics – funny, heartfelt and unencumbered by PC politics. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed lyrics as much as I do on The Aper’s latest release. Power-pop-punk as a genre has a bad track record when it comes to writing above minimal expectations of snottiness, junk culture and whatever one imagines Dee Dee Ramone could come up with. The kings of junk rock, Sloppy Seconds, also write great lyrics, hiding sadness and loss under layers of drunken belligerence. .
Here’s some tangential Seinfeld: George: What is Holland? Jerry: What do you mean, 'what is it?' It's a country right next to Belgium. George: No, that's the Netherlands. Jerry: Holland *is* the Netherlands. George: Then who are the Dutch?
I can’t find full lyrics so here’s some segments, such as the first part of “Put Down The Hamburger”: “Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with the world today / So many people living f—cked up lives in many different ways / Instead of opening a beer I open my eyes for a change / This one goes out to all the fat kids / Put down that hamburger, it’s not worth it, and one day you will regret it, and it’s not gonna make it any better in the end / Put down the hamburger, you don’t need it, you don’t wanna be the fat kid, all it takes is some discipline my little chubby friends.” The chubby hamburger part is fairlyt random to what the song itself is about, but the anti-PC take is bold to say the least.
Then there’s most of what I could figure out of “Whatever It Takes”, which goes down the same road as The Buzzcock’s “I Believe” and is as fine a piece of songwriting as you’ll find all year:
“Wondering what I would do, I’d swim straight from here to Peru, I’d take the sun out of the sky, hurt animals, make children cry / I’d sell cocaine to teenage moms, switch on the chair, I’d drop the bombs on New York City and Japan, Jerusalem, Afghanistan / Dress up as Hitler, smoke some crack, confuse (?) that monkey on my back, I’d move to Texas, grow a beard, stop checking up (?) to Britney Spears / I’d sell my body to the night, I’d drink some urine, start the fight, between the Germans and the Jews, take bets on who will win or lose / Go! / Wondering how far I’d go, sell Chinese kids to Mexico, I’d eat my veggies, get a job, play air guitar to Blitzkrieg Bop / Join Greenpeace, start an emo band, steal money from my closest friends, tell prostitutes go f—k yourselves, start caring more about my health / Star in a pornographic movie, take a crap in the Jacuzzi, do my homework, pay the rent, hide rusty nails under the sand / I’d nuke the world, I’d sweep the floor, I’d steal the booze from Gary Moore, f—k all of you, my parents too, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do, oh yeah… // I’d do it every day, to get over you, I’d ???? to come up with something better wouldn’t do…/ Because the way things are right now I’m sorry no can do…”
Catchy as a box of fishing lures, You Are Only As Strong As The Table You Dance On is a lyrical breath of fresh air, making it a strong release and well worth owning.
Arcwelder - Pull (LP review) (Touch and Go): This nice record came out in 1993, but back then you couldn't pay me to listen to an indie record. Grunge was in and my interest flew out the door. It took me a long time to get into Bob Mould's post-Husker band Sugar, and Arcwelder is very much in that mould - I mean mold. To their credit they also throw in some tension a la Big Black. As a whole album it tends to be mid-paced and a tad trippy, but when they hit the right notes of abrasion it's worth a listen.
The band's web page says they toured with Flour, Jawbox, and the Jesus Lizard, so they must have been doing something right. I appreciate the site’s novelty of presenting a down to earth and honest band history. They note, "So, life goes on. Non-band commitments continue to take up most of our time. We haven't hit the road since November of 1996, but have been playing regionally. Thanks to everyone who still remembers us and wants us to play in their town. It is very satisfying/gratifying to have people enjoy what we do." This is so much better than having Attitude thrown in your face like ape dung. Too many bands think they can impress you by coming across as cocky rock star half-wits. Just from this I will always think of Arcwelder as a bunch of really nice guys and give them the benefit of doubt. I still believe a good personality stands for something. I'm also impervious to advertising, so don't think I care how much you spend on clothes and your stupid sub-compact car with the reverse spinning rims.
The Arrivals- Goodbye New World (CD review) (Thick): This came out last year but I'm reviewing it as new because it's a work worthy of admiration, celebration and mystification - as in why The Arrivals aren't prayed to in punk circles as saviors of a genre grown stale and juvenile. They should be way more popular than they are, no matter what level that might be. I've yet to read a review of this that isn't reverential, though some of the comparisons made are off the mark. Not that I hear every band out there, but the closest thing I can relate this to in recent times is Stiffs, Inc., a great east coast outfit under the spell of The Buzzcocks. You can trace a thinner line from The Arrivals to The Buzzcocks, but mostly it's Naked Raygun, Pegboy and every other great 80's Chicago band that convincingly made the argument the city was America's most consistently excellent source for great punk.
Naked Raygun are gods. Taking off where Mission Of Burma left off, they produced a body of work rarely unequaled in its originality, creativity, power and emotion. Neither emo nor angry, Naked Raygun were melodic and powerful in equal measure, complimenting each other all the way. Naked Raygun at low volume generates more heat than any band that resorts to screaming as a distraction from a lack of confidence. "You puny puny man, everyone knows that Naked Raygun rules the wasteland". That's an old promo, and it's so absolutely freaking true.
The Arrivals take a page from Naked Raygun but are not fetishists - their sound is modern with wide appeal. A whiff of the Pogues here and there, some Electric Frankenstein there, even something for pissed off Vindictives fans, and of course the concise, powerful drumming and smooth drive train of energy that makes Chicago's punk bar higher than most.
Every track on Goodbye New World is excellent - a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. "Tonight" should be studied by every band on earth as an example of how lead and backup vocals should interplay. Divided into three sections, it starts with the singer out front, backed by short syncopated backup harmonies. The middle has the lead singer still louder and in front, but the backup singing has lengthened and is equal to the lead singing in importance. By the end, the singer is belting out "Tonight!" over and over again while the backup has assumed lead vocal importance. Absolutely genius. "Surf Riot" makes you want to pogo, slam, and dance The Pony at the same time. I could go off like this with most every song, but let's just say the energy never lags, no two songs sound alike, and you won't hear a better CD than this one. Maybe just as good, but not better.
The Arrivals – Marvels Of Industry (cd review): I gave Chicago’s The Arrivals’ first CD, 2000’s Goodbye New World, an effusively positive review and soon after stopped listening to them. Nothing against The Arrivals but I tend to be a catchy hook fanatic and that’s what I go back to time after time. The Arrivals have a lot going for them but they’re more about forceful, inspiring energy that shifts reliably but not recklessly. For review purposes I’ll hear bands that impress the crap out of my lower intestines, and I'll write about them like a quivering school girl, but after transferring the best tunes on my hard drive I let them rot there. I do that for a lot of bands I say I like, and I do, but more as a collector of what I consider quality music.
Their third release, Marvels Of Industry came out in 2007 and it’s as good as Goodbye New World. It’s driving, melodic rock punk that doesn’t oversell its hooks, so it took a few listens to fully appreciate it. There’s a lot of interesting touches and I’d love to see these guys live as long as they don't render it as a tuneless wall of noise (as is the fashion). Patrick Costello from Dillinger Four sings and plays guitar and there’s hints of his former band’s post-hardcore emo sound, along with comparisons I can make to Rancid, the Dropkick Murphys (more hinted at than real), and a mash-up of Chicago punk bands descended from the mighty Naked Raygun (insert comment about ruling wasteland here). There’s someone singing at times like Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzenbach. At others I'm reminded of Bob Rock from The Payolas. Here's an over-the-top press release for their 2nd cd. PT Barnum rules the huckster wasteland.
"I'm Sorry For Saying Sorry" opens the disc and it's the most positively driving track on the disc. It's a barrage of pounding energy and the best track. The other thirteen songs alternate the sounds and influences listed above, and while none are that much better than the others it does accumulate into a solid release. If they can replicate the separation of their instruments live they would be great because they've mastered the basics. The only downside is a succession of doubles sprinkled with a triple or two when the fans (in this case me) were looking for a few more long balls as an excuse to jump around and high-five strangers.
At The Drive In - In/Casino/Out (CD review) (Fearless): This was really great - until I played it!! (sung to the tune of "for me to poop on!”). Jazzy, funky, grungy and almost rappy. I could handle it sometimes with Trenchmouth but At The Drive-In's screaming is a too arty. I appreciate the complexity of the arrangements but I'm about as funky as Mr. Rogers. It’s not as bad as I make it sound but I'd like to leave the drugged out twirling to Phish fans reaching higher on mushrooms. White people should never rap or even phrase like rap. White people know what's it's like to be black like they know what's it's like to be victims of prejudice. Lord, I can't wait for the e-mails. For the genre I'm sure this is great beyond words, and if you lean in that direction you should own this. I'll keep it for future consideration. Maybe one day I'll be in the house, in my crib, playing with my yo-yo, wearing a hood and my diaper's smelling funky fresh. Peace Out!
The Authority! - On Glory's Side (CD review) (Outsider): While not the most blatant example of what I'm talking about, the recurring themes of this Anaheim, CA oi/street punk band's latest release is Fighting - fighting against the Enemy, fighting 'cause "they" make you fight, but most of all fighting for the sheer fun of hurting the other guy. They don't come out and say that last part, but hey, who's kidding who. Skins fight enemies of their own creation for entertainment and sport. There's a right and wrong way to adapt the very British oi to America's street punk. It's not by dressing in Doc Martens and Fred Perrys, it's not by chanting the foreign term oi, and it sure isn’t thinking American socio-political culture is anything close to Europe’s. No matter how much you want to argue the point because it fits your agenda and closet, America does not operate under the UK's class system. America isn't riddled with sports hooligans who attack at the first sign of another team's colors (don't give me a Crips/Bloods parallel). American oi is an affectation of another culture and history.
The liner notes for On Glory's Side include a thanks to "All the So. Cal Punk and Skinhead crews (stop beating each other up and fight the real enemy, United We Stand)". The Real Enemy is a recurring theme in oi music because the fans often beat the hell out of each other. The distractive Us vs. Them rhetoric ends up being farce. The real enemy for The Authority are corporations, government, rich people - you know, the old as dirt enemies of the poor yet proud working class. The riff of Sham 69's "Borstal Breakout" occurs periodically on this CD, and the lessons of that band will be learned by The Authority as it has been for every Oi band who'd like to have it both ways. Skins eat their own, and every Unite and Fight message loses the former as the blood lust of the latter kicks in. Or should I say stomps in.
I'm a huge fan of British oi. I've listened to it for 17 years now. I damn well know the difference between the word from the street and blatant calls for war. On Glory's Side samples George C. Scott's blood and guts speeches from Patton. The title itself is an invocation of war. The sing along choruses and screamed backup singing are put there for live shows so the fans can pump their fists and yell into the microphone. The lyrics are war cries. These guys are from Orange County for Christ's sake! Orange County is fairly affluent and there's no poor downtown to come from. It's the beach and endless suburban sprawl. You have to drive to do anything. The only enemy is yourself and anyone who gets in the way of your ever-swinging fists. The early L.A. punk scene was helped on its way to oblivion by hoards of the OC Reich who attended shows to pummel the weak. Today OC has a bad reputation for show violence. Anyone who likes their teeth knows not to go to an Oi show in Orange County. I'm sure The Authority didn't create these conditions but there's nothing on this CD that points to anything constructive.
The Authority has been around since 1993 and the only remaining original member seems to be their singer Billy. On Glory's Side, like most everything from Outsider Records, is a bit more involved than your average cartoon oi/street punk record. There's influences from Stiff Little Fingers, D.O.A., Blitz, The Dropkick Murphys, 999 and Rancid. A slight commercial quality runs through the recording, but everything else about these guys is as "real" (I put that in quotes for a reason) as you can expect. If you like American fightin' music and don't think it's goofy when American's chant "Oi Oi Oi!”, this is definitely for you. I like skins but not when they're at skinhead shows. OC skin concerts are where guys would rather kick some stranger's head in than get laid.
The Automatics - 10 Golden Greats (7" review) (Mutant Pop) Ten songs averaging 60.1 seconds each. Three wacky guys from Oregon who love the Queers (the group). "Hate Your Generation" sounds exactly like Brent's TV, but the rest are pure Queers-brand power snot pop. No Beach Boys elements, though, just loud fast rules. Lyrically it's all Queers, except for the Ramones poetic stylings of "Mommy Is A Commie". No hits here but ten great album tracks, which is good enough for me.
The Automatics - self-titled (CD review) (Mutant Pop): 17 short blasts of snotty funny-punk from our three heroes from Portland. The average song length is about 1:25. If you like early period Queers this will be for you. The source material may be the Ramones but the feeling is closer to the Angry Samoans. If you can't stand snot this will drive you up the wall, and while the songs tend to run into each other, "Do The Fish" is a cool garage-surf tune. They mine Brent's TV acoustic guitar thrash to good effect on "Let's Steal", and they cover "Chewy Chewy", said to be the inspiration for the Ramones' "Hey Ho Let's Go!" Sample lyrics from "Hate The Human Race": "I'm gonna punch you in the face/I'm gonna hit you with a mace/You made me a basket case/Now I hate the human race" If you can't figure out they're not serious, MRR is always looking for more losers to wash Timmy Yo's car.
The Avengers - Died For Your Sins (CD review) (Lookout): The Avengers are a legendary San Francisco punk band from the 70s. Lead person Penelope Houston is an archetype of the strong leadership role females grabbed for themselves in the earliest days of the movement. Punk was sexist, but for a short time, while artiness was still held in high esteem, the playing field was fairly open. Should this mean anything to you, average Joe/Jane punk rocker who wasn't born when the Avengers broke up around 1983? It would be nice, but there's no law to that effect. Is there a reason musically to buy this record? It's nice to have, but not really. A few tracks are keepers and the rest are adequate. The live tracks flat out stink. Saying that goes against the odd punk ideal that live + thrash + indecipherable = great. While The Avengers were better than most SF bands out of San Francisco, the sad truth is that most bands sucked, just like most bands suck now. Nostalgia plays a huge part in how any band, city, scene or movement is perceived. If you were in your prime when The Avengers played and you got so fugging drunk that one night you woke up in a stranger’s bed and now I'm late for work and where did my hair go and who has the time to even think straight, then hell yeah they’re legendary. One of the greatest shows for me was Rubber Rodeo in 1981. I can wax nostalgic about that for seven whole minutes! And wouldn't you be oh so patient to listen. When all's said and done, ya gotta go to the source and ask the horse, so let's go, Wilbur!
Died For Your Sins is a collection of a little of this and a bit of that, featuring unreleased studio tracks, demo recordings, live stuff and new recordings of old songs never committed to studio tape. As is the case with most bands from that time, major influences are The NY Dolls, The Heartbreakers and The Stooges (sped up, of course). Some of the guitar work emulates The Sex Pistols, which might be why Steve Jones produced tracks from their 1983 self titled LP. Houston's singing reminds me of Joan Jett. The Avengers are thankfully not as consistently sloppy as their peers, and if you listen hard enough a very talented band comes through the speakers.
There's not much early punk I recommend to people not from that era. Here's part of my list of best old punk bands that are a must for anyone calling themselves punk: The Ramones (NY), The Dead Kennedys (SF), Fear (LA), Husker Du (Minneapolis), Big Boys (Austin), Devo (Akron), Stooges (Detroit), Minor Threat (CD), Naked Raygun (Chicago). From 1 to 10 I'd give Died For Your Sins a 7. Many "legendary" albums only rate a 5, so take this faint praise and run with it if you have a few extra bucks.
This just in from Rich Z : "The Avengers- Steve Jones and Paul Cook (as the Professionals) ripped off the Avengers' "second to none" and released it as 1-2-3"
Backseat Virgins - Born Again and Carl (cd reviews): They were a band from Birmingham (Alabama!), they just had an... sorry, that's all I got. Started in 2002 and probably now defunct Backseat Virgins blazed no new trails but they did manage to record two swell cds for Insubordination Records - 2008's Born Again and 2009's Carl. The first is a bit raw and the second a bit polished but both feature killer melodies and sweet male-female harmonics. It's both a plus and minus they're a sampler of their faves and influences but what they lack in consistent originality they more than compensate for with cleverness, enthusiasm and almost never directly ripping off anyone.
Created by local all-around music dude Randy Rapid and his harmonic muse Ezerine Speight, Backseat Virgins didn't record one dud of a song. They sound like the sum total of Randy's listed musical interests, an A to Z of the best punk pop bands and their forefathers. Bands that come to my mind are Teen Idols, Even In Blackouts, The Mr. T. Experience, The Queers, Squirtgun, The Groovie Ghoulies, etc. etc. etc. The only blatant homage is "The Brain That Came Back Alive", a lost Lillingtons track. As a fool for the farfisa organ I also love its occasional appearance in these songs.
Listen to the samples, buy their records, enjoy their songs, eat a tuna hoagie. In that order. "Food" is easily one of the best pop-punk songs of recent times.
Backwood Creatures - Living Legends (cd review): Germany's Backwood Creatures released this winner of a twelve track back in 2003. They're most likely defunct in 2010. The comparisons I'm tripping over on the web are all wrong - from Elvis to The Queers. Backwood Creatures would have been firmly planted in the middle of the Lookout Records catalog back around 1987, playing rock and rollin' punk pop with strong melodies, melodic backup singing and unobtrusive, clean production values. They'd also have found a home on bar punk labels like Junk records. There's not an obvious single but each track is very decent and highlights another positive facet of the band. The singer has no German accent at all, so he must be a spy!
Bad Religion - The Process Of Belief (CD review) - This is Bad Religion's big "comeback" album, with Brett Gurewitz on board again after six years. It's almost as good as Suffer (1988) and No Control (1989), but it is on par with Against The Grain (1990). This is a good if not a great thing if you're into those albums or a Bad Religion fan in general, but The Process Of Belief is a step backwards to a better time, not a step forward. Since we're talking about Bad Religion here, that's not a good thing according to their own standards, which have proven to be a huge joke in recent years.
For a number of bands, power pop punk groups especially, repeating past success is a good thing since many bands are narrowly genre specific and it makes little difference if only you can tell the difference between one song and another. I'm like that with The Lillingtons. Bad Religion though, is first and foremost a finger pointing political band who pride themselves on their DIY ethic and having all their ducks in rows. They’re also political pedophiles, but hey! This is the band that signed to Atlantic Records even when they created their own successful label, Epitaph, which caters to the all-age crowd's allowances in ways that also smell of sell-out. Gurewitz was arrested for possession of heroin, his longtime back monkey. Heroin is a gutter drug you get hooked on at the end of a long hole of drug use. That's what Mr. Thesaurus was on while telling others how to think independently?
No Other band has said one thing and did the other more than Bad Religion. Is it the end of the world as we know it? Yes. Does this mean they can't go back to a time when they didn't suck and declare victory? Yes. Does this make The Process Of Belief a bad album? No, but they ask for the abuse by being so full of hypocritical bullpoopie.
Bad Religion of 1988-1990 are one of the most influential bands in modern music. The Process Of Belief could have been recorded back then. I was a huge fan once, back when I took them for their word for being something to believe in. The music holds up but everything else doesn't. I normally don't care about selling out as long as the records are good, but Bad Religion just begged you to hate them when they did. Minor Threat's SXE debacle was mostly a blown out of proportion expression of personal belief. Bad Religion signing to a major label, man, that was the real hypocritical deal. It also didn't help that the music they put out then sucked. Did I also mention they’re political pedophiles?
Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First – Review (Epitaph): Punk Political Pedophiles Produce Pedantic Proselytizing Pabulum. I like the Bad Religion sound and give them their due as a band that launched a thousand sturdy punk ships, but now I loathe them for what they've become and am disgusted by how Bad Religion is in the forefront of an effort to force hypocritical, genocidal marxism down the throats of children. Based on the reviews, Bad Religion is now not a band that makes music but a delivery system for vital political truths. The music doesn't matter, it's the message. Quality is Job #1,045, way behind expressing and beating home an agenda.
I’m glad to report The Empire Strikes First is exceedingly average and too obtuse to be effective as political indoctrination. I would review the tracks but why bother since it's not about the music anyway. You can probably find a used copy of their last CD for half the price. It's cheaper, and better.
I laugh at how Bad Religion try and fail to have it both ways. The Epitaph site links to all the usual stalinist front groups while the official Bad Religion site doesn’t. You can't run the party and be a fellow traveler at the same time.
1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse boasted the great punk comp hit “We’re Only Gonna Die”. The rest of the album was no better or worse than its competition. The failure of 1983’s Into The Unknown led to a five year hiatus, broken in 1988 with Suffer, a brilliant and greatly influential album with a complex sound soon to be endlessly copied. The equally impressive No Control came out in 1989, followed the next year by Against The Grain, whose “Anesthesia” is my pick for the best song they ever recorded. The Ramones’ first three albums are bunched together as equal classics, and the same can be said of these three Bad Religion albums. On their own levels they might be almost as influential, but just like the Ramones, what followed next varied in quality, and both bands ran on the fumes of their past glories.
1992’s Generator began a downward slide of too many slow songs and not enough creativity. The same ol’ same ol’ only works when an often-intangible creative magic exists (maybe people's attention spans can only last three albums, or maybe there’s a magical Law Of Three). Signing to Atlantic in 1994 was a HUGE act of hypocrisy for a band with their own record label and a vocal contempt for major labels. In the small world of punk rock at the time it was total heresy. Five albums later, in 2002, they dumped Atlantic and released The Process Of Belief, a welcome return to a decade long gone.
Now there’s The Empire Strikes First, whose inflammatory title and song titles are muted by the band’s inability to write lyrics that just come out and make their point.
from Atheist Peace
Political forces rent
bitter cold winds of discontent
and the modern age emerged triumphantly.
But now it seems we've stalled
And it’s time to de-evolve
and relive the dark chapters of history
From Let Them Eat War
we've got to kill 'em and eat 'em
before they reach for their checks
squeeze some blue collars
let them bleed from their necks
seize a few dollars from the people who sweat
cause it's freedom or death and they won't question it
at a job site the boss is god like
conditioned workhorses park at a stoplight
seasoned vets with their feet in nets
a stones throw away from a rock fight
but not tonight, feed ‘em death
Ok, so Bad Religion write deep, artful, meaningful lyrics, but what are they really saying and what is the agenda of what they call their most directly political album yet? As the name implies, Bad Religion, led by Greg Graffin and Brett Gurewitz, are against organized religion. I was an atheist and worked my way up to agnostic, so I know about that. I’m not hostile to generic atheism as long as the targets are worthy, yet militant atheism is more hateful and harmful than any Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell since the latter don't aid and abet ongoing genocides. Atheists and religious people are equally capable of committing the condescending sin of proselytizing, but I prefer religious people over atheists because they're less likely to see screwing you up and over as their own rewards.
Religion is a science based on faith, and atheism is a faith based on science. They both can turn into nasty ideologies. Bad Religion’s ideology is brutal, and they rape the word “peace” by applying it to their propaganda. If you destroy religion, will people then form peaceful anarchist communes and work to bring love, harmony and balance to the world? Of course not. The agenda of Bad Religion is to destroy, not build. Utopia as it was conceived is a mental illness anyway. That they package and serve it up to a target market of fifteen year olds is a politically pedophilic crime. Getting kids to hate everything is easy. The act of getting them there is creepy, and this is what Bad Religion does for a living.
The great genocides of the last century were carried out by atheists in the name of godlessness. In Taliban America, Bad Religion will be given a choice – convert or die - preferably die for being infidels in the first place. Then there’s the war thing, Bad Religion’s bete noire and raison d'etre. As a title, The Empire Strikes First is a huge rhetorical lie. If America were an empire like the old Soviet Union we’d now control Germany, Japan and Western Europe. If you reply we control them through the cpitalism of MCDonalds and Citicorp, remember that paranoia has a huge ego component and people only notice you because there's something very wrong with you.
In 1970 yippie Abbie Hoffman wrote Steal This Book, which created a quandary for the publisher and booksellers. I say steal or download this CD, since other people’s property is theft, scialism begins at home, and if the kids are united maybe their parents can form a carpool. Bad Religion are probably all millionaires, and other people’s success must be punished. Dischord CDs sell for $10, which adjusted for inflation must be close to their heyday $5 price. The Empire Strikes First lists for $13.99. Don’t you see – the lie of a single penny! Attica! Attica! Free Mumia!, come on up and get ya free Mumia! Smash the state, before you graduate, then you gotta get a job, and it’s too late!!
Beastie Boys - Polly Wog Stew (7" review) (Ratcage): I review this to make a point: The Beastie Boys were not a punk band who later evolved into a rap band. In 1982, three men and one woman released an EP of eight short thrashers, sloppier than DC straight edge - more a less talented JFA. Guitarist John Berry and drummer Kate Schellenbach left (she later formed Luscious Jackson), Adam Horowitz came on board and two years later the first Beastie Boys rap record hit the streets. They were totally different bands with nothing in common besides two band members. If they had changed their name to something besides the Beastie Boys, maybe people wouldn't declare they were once a punk band, like there's some connection, like it's some kind of revelation. There's nothing to ponder. Rap is rap. Punk is punk. If you want to call rap black culture's version of punk, go ahead. Just don't call it punk. Is punk white culture's version of rap? Maybe, but I’d rather not ponder the possibility.
Beatnik Termites - Bubblecore (CD review) (Recess): The Termites take an aesthetic from the Ramones and run with it come fame or total obscurity. Outside the power pop punk community, level 2b, they're quite obscure, but the Beatnik Termites are great. It makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with the universe where a band like the Termites are relegated to footnote status in their own time.
The Beatnik Termite sound is a single guitar plugged into a cheap fuzz box, a drummer playing every variation of the classic dance "The Pony", a simple, unobtrusive bass, and a lead vocalist who sings in nasal falsetto. I'm sure this turns off a lot of punks as not punk enough. I think it's very distinctive, like The Connie Dungs.
A number of tunes are introed by a quick "1234", and the main Ramones inspiration as far as pacing and tone is "I Wanna Be Sedated". "I Don't Wanna Be Bad" is like a Dee Dee Ramone hardcore contribution. Not many bands can write about zits & skateboarding and not come across as twelve year olds, but the Termites act their age while being funny and snotty. Extra geezer points for referencing skate punk founders JFA.
Beefeater - Plays For Lovers (LP review) (Dischord): Dischord #17, $5 postpaid in 1984. Contemporaries of Rites of Spring, Embrace, Fugazi and Dag Nasty in the post- Minor Threat era, Beefeater's funky free-form jazz approach is interesting but not one for the ages. Maybe it is if you like At The Drive In. They tried too hard to defy categorization and the result is a discography surely eclectic but not that engaging. Plays For Lovers is complex and thought-provoking, but also overloaded with ten album's worth of eccentric non-conformity. Then again this isn't what I normally go for.
Beefeater took the Minutemen's minimalist funkcore and fleshed it out with jazz riffs and Jimi Hendrix meltdowns. That they cover "Manic Depression" is no co-inky-dink. The first tune is called "Trashfunk" and I guess that's how the band might describe themselves. Being a DC band, a heapin' helpin' of politics is mixed into the obtuse emotions of the lyrics. The best track on the album is "Reaganomix". It's short, the lyrics are to the point and it's a great example of how each band member can perform a completely different song and somehow finish at the same moment.
Beefeater ran from 84 to 86. Thomas and Dug next formed Fidelity Jones, which lasted from 88-90. As is the way, I'm sure they're all presently putting in hours at Yesterday & Today Records in Rockville, acting superior to the customers and plotting their next attack.
The Bellrays - Let It Blast (CD review) (Vital Gesture): Tina Turner, Janice Joplin and Jimi Hendrix are in a bar, and they get an idea for a rocking soul band who will play only when the hardest, fastest, loosest music becomes the law of the land. Top 40 still reigns but they figure this punk crap's been around long enough – so, it's time to get Big Brother and the Holding Company out of the home and make a record. Jimi, ashamed of all the cock rock that followed in his wake, promises to keep it in his pants and run the band. The end result is a new group out of Riverside, CA calling themselves the BellRays. They're going to be the next big thing (after chicken & rice on a stick).
The CD title Let It Blast suggests the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed" but these 17 tracks are too damn fast and soulful. Just as I've called their sound a cross between Tina, Janice and Jimi, others have described The BellRays as a mix of Aretha Franklin & The Who or Etta James & The MC5. Either way the sound is raw and powerful, the arrangements as full of piss as they are soul. This isn't punk but Maximum Rock & Soul! like it says in the liner notes. To quote, "Recorded and mixed in our 15x15 foot practice room on a Sansui 6-track cassette recorder they don't make anymore and an 8-channel Tascam mixer, then slapped on a DAT." The result is an archival sound quality that perfectly captures the mood of hardcore soul played to a room of sweaty drunks. Singer Lisa Kekaula gets it right on every note while her band alternates between slow, sweet soul and Motor City thrash.
Billy Childish owns the retro-garage scene and now the BellRays can claim the retro-soul crown. I think there's more of a market for this outside the punk community, but they didn't ask me to be their marketing director for probably very good reasons.
Berserk - self-titled CD (review) (Go-Kart): I've enjoyed this for years on a cheap home-made cassette but never bothered to buy it on CD. I finally found it for 99 cents so here's the review: Berserk were from Baltimore, and on the same CD you have one guy singing about Japanese junk culture to quirky pop-punk while the other sings his own post-Husker Du power chord tunes. My money is on "Skizz" being the kooky one. It sounds like two bands on one CD. The standout tracks are "Blue Hearts" and "Lucifer Chin", and I can recommend this equally to both Groovie Ghoulies and Moving Targets fans.
Big Black (review) - Humanity’s capacity for evil is a bottomless pit - war, starvation, Gnome Crapsky. Some evils are the work of warped religions and governments. Other evils are the work of greedy corporations who (rightly so) think we’re idiots. There’s another evil that’s all around us. Evil as a lifestyle, a hobby, a normal part of the day. It’s in the hearts and minds psychopaths and scoiopaths. The quiet little man who strangles stray animals. The bigot who stockpiles weapons. Or, 26 families in Jordan, Minnesota, indicted for sex swapping their own children. This may not have actually happened, but Chicago’s Big Black wrote a great song about it.
Missoula, Montana’s Steve Albini, more famous for his work behind the knobs for the likes of The Pixies to PJ Harvey, started Big Black as a near one-man band backed by a Roland drum machine named Roland. His influences included Kraftwerk, PIL, Gang of Four, and what Devo called a S.I.B. (Swelling Itching Brain). At first, band members came and went. Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati was Big Black’s first bass player, soon to be replaced by Dave Riley. Raygun’s Santiago Durango later came on to play guitar.
Pillars of the noise scene along with Sonic Youth and The Swans, Big Black put out a few rare EPs and only two full studio albums, Atomizer (1986) and Songs About F--king (1987). The Hammer Party is a re-issue of the first two EPs, Lungs (1982) and Bulldozer (1984), while the Rich Man’s Eight-Track Tape contains Atomizer, the Headache EP, and the Heartbeat 7”. 200 copies of Bulldozer came in acid-etched galvanized steel jackets. The limited edition jacket for Headache is a real photograph of a man’s head split open by an axe. There’s a few other collections, live sets, EPs and compilation appearances. The Big Black sound was hardcore punk industrial, what one critic christened “Pigf—k”, due to the music’s hellish take on mid-western life. Industrial didn’t always mean disco for really pissed off white guys. It used to be actual sounds of industry like steam pipes, sheet metal welding and grinding engines. A number of early industrial albums didn’t offer conventional songs. It was more like muzak composed by Nietzsche and Kafka. Surreal, grating, pounding, abrasive, loud - industrial served as a reminder that the industrial “revolution” didn’t make life easier, it was in fact another form of hell. The dangers and long hours of farms and mines were replaced by the dangers and long hours of factory work. The soundtrack from Eraserhead is a good example of early industrial.
“Steve Albini is an asshole”: This was a slogan people used years ago if they wanted you to know they knew punk rock gossip. Never one to shy away from saying something sucked, in interviews Albini relentlessly let loose on people and bands who were supposed to be his friends. The liner notes on the back of The Hammer Party read “..Mark Hayes yelled a little on one song, but he turned into a total dick and doesn’t really warrant the mention”. I’ve always thought Steve Albini to be completely amoral, and this comes out on every BB release. Amoral is not the same as immoral. Amoral people don’t see too much difference between acts of kindness and acts of cruelty. Albini writes about racism, hatred, violence, boredom and assorted other niceties, but you never get the impression he really disapproves. In a 1987 interview he described “Cables” as being about some guys he knew in Montana who for entertainment went to the slaughterhouse to watch cows get slaughtered. He follows by saying “It’s bizarre, but it’s real. I think that’s the main thing we’re all interested in, for the subject matter for our songs goes. It’s sorta like a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. If you have an interest in things sort of out of the ordinary, and you stumble across something like this, you think, ‘This can’t be.’” The bottom feeders of punk are GG Allin-worshipping sociopaths, twisting defective souls into heroes who give back to Society what Society does to them (in hyper-violent spades). Steve Albini may not be a bottom feeder, but he sure likes to write about it!
Big Black lyrics can be obtuse. Instead of a lyrics sheet you get asides from Albini as to what the song may be about, or a cryptic reference to an inspiring event. “Colombian Necktie” is noted as “..a particularly humiliating way to die, involves having your throat slit from ear to ear, so your tongue can flop out on your neck”. “Cables” is described as “our interests in death, force, and domination can change the way we think, make us seek out new forms of ‘entertainment.’ Ever been to a slaugtherhouse?”. “Kerosene” is the most evil song I know. The pounding sense of monotony and hopelessness still gives me a chill. Today’s industrial is too fast, too loud, too evil and too obvious. We’re all capable of committing crimes of passion, but that’s not what Big Black wrote about. Where most other bands yell complaints and death wishes, Big Black wanted you to casually sit and watch while an Average Joe-type slowly and methodically cuts up his girlfriend into neat little pieces. Maybe he’s doing it while watching his favorite TV show. If Big Black was a movie, it would be Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer .
These are Albini’s liner notes to “Jordan, Minnesota”, which almost demand to be read aloud:
“you can’t think about it, really, because if you do then you go crazy, stark gibbering spitting and pissing in your pants crazy. so you don’t think about it. But once in a while you do think about it, and there’s all this weird s—t going on and you can’t believe it can all really be like this. You think of all the bad, bad things you do to yourself out of some weird need, you go places, bad places, to fulfill some gnawing need, and you do ugly things to yourself and other people not because of the ugliness - well, sometimes because of the ugliness - but usually because there’s something else there and you’d do it no matter what. There are people who do. No matter what. They f—k their children, for s—t’s sake. A whole town. bus drivers, school teachers, cops, storekeepers, housewives. Little boys, little girls. Very little. They play games with it, like very special spin the bottle and very special poker. And every day the little boys have to get up and walk to the bus stop with the daddy who mouth raped them the night before, and they have to get on the bus with the bus driver who rubbed his s--t in their hair, and say “yes maam” to the lady who made them lick her the night before, and then they have to go home, you know, where daddy and mommy have been making martinis for the little get together later on, and go hide under the covers where they know they’ll be found anyway and day in and day out for the rest of their motherf—king lives and then they grow up and they have babies and like I said, you don’t think about it because you go crazy.”
Shopper's Tip: If you don't own any Big Black, buy the Rich Man's Eight-Track Tape. Their catalog suffers from a bit more filler than most. The Pig Pile live video is a must-see. All the hits are there, and the intensity is staggering.
Big Boys - Skinny Elvis & Fat Elvis (CD reviews) (Touch and Go): Austin TX's legendary Big Boys get a fair share of recognition for their music and personal contribution to the fledgling American hardcore scene, but most of what you read mentions one or another aspect of the band and then beats it into a soft paste of cliché. The biggest disservice you can do the band is label them a white funk party band. At the end of their run this may have been a major part of their stage show, but from 1979 to 1984, as evidenced by these two great comp CDs, the Big Boys were the most eclectic punk band around, on the same record shifting from HC skate punk to white funk to post-punk influenced by PIL, The Minutemen and Wire. Funk accounts for only a handful of their songs. "Hollywood Swinging" is an acquired, not a required taste, and to promote that almost exclusively may paint a picture of a band not afraid to shake their collective groove tushies, but it's a turnoff to 98% of the Big Boy's potential audience.
The Big Boys owned the Austin, TX scene, which may not be a big deal since it's in the middle of Hell, but they made it a major stop in the tour schedule of the fledgling HC punk circuit. The CD booklets are filled with testimonials from the likes of Ian MacKaye and Neck Rollins, who marvel at the band's amazing stage shows and personal generosity. Minor Threat had straight edge, 7 Seconds hated jocks, the DKs had Jello's dementia and the Big Boys hated college fraternities and the fancy cars in which they cruised. Legend says at the end of their shows they'd say "Now go start your own band", and like the living dead, that's what happened. Not to take credit any from anyone, but that circle of punk life had been rolling since The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, The NY Dolls, the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Minor Threat... add thirty bands here... NOFX, Bad Religion, Green Day, Blink 182... choke on your own phlegm here...
"Skate Punk" is another term associated with the Big Boys. Thrasher magazine issued a series of comps in the early ‘80s under the title Blazing Wheels And Barking Trucks, and along with JFA, the kings of skate punk, the Big Boys were mandatory for skate punk street cred. There was skate punk and skate metal, and all you needed to be a skate-anything band was to consider a skateboard your primary means of transportation. Skate punk was the standard SoCal hardcore of the time. It wasn't a particular sound but how you chose to waste your leisure time.
The third spoke on the Big Boys' wheel are post-punk songs as brilliant as they are diverse. The Big Boys thrashed as well as the Dead Kennedys and Fear, but they also crafted slow and mid-paced masterpieces that touched on jazz, blues,and PIL-influenced frenetic tribal minimalism ("Manipulation" being a favorite). The Minutemen are as close to a cousin band as you can find for the Big Boys, but Wire comes a close second.
I could do without the funk, but on these two CDs that still leaves around 48 slabs of brilliance. Of the HC tunes, the best are "Frat Cars", "Brickwall", "Assault", "Fun Fun Fun" and "We're Not In It To Lose". The best post-punkers are "T.V.", "Manipulation", "Sound On Sound", and the all-time keeper, "Baby Let's Play God". Skinny Elvis contains the Frat Cars 7", Live at Raul's, and Where's My Towel/Industry Standard. Fat Elvis has Fun, Fun, Fun..., Lullabies Help The Brain Grow, and No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There's Always A Seat! If you're lucky enough to own a copy of the odds and ends collection Wreck, pressed in 1989, I hate and envy you in equal measure.
There's a lot of genius to be found on these Big Boys CDs. No punk band sang about being a punk band more than the Big Boys, but that's another story for another day. Now Go Start Your Own Web Zine! Whooo-ah!!
Big In Japan - Destroy The New Rock (CD review) (Honest Don's): Not to be confused with the 70's synth band and the cliché bested only by "Doin' it for the kids!", Big In Japan are a creative, clever and powerful band defeated only by the fact a few of the bands they sound like are infamous for being famous sellouts. The nearest comparison is Green Day, both in sound and vocalist. Zac Damon sounds more like Billie Joe than maybe he should, with the occasional Elvis Costello inflection.
While Zac does a decent Elvis imitation, and some musical flourishes are taken directly from Elvis (the opening of the opening track, "Dig That Stupid Sound" is "Radio Radio" as far as I'm concerned), the real deal is how Big In Japan, with former members of The Gain and Zoinks!, sounds like The Attractions..
If this didn't come out in March, 2001 - let's say it saw the light of day before 1994, Destroy The New Rock would have been heralded as a major achievement. Now it's a bit after the fact and derivative of a sub-genre mocked and mocked good. It's a shame since there’s not a clunker in the bunch For what it is, it's great.
Bikini Kill - Pussywhipped (CD review) (Kill Rock Stars): What hit me first about this great release is how much it reminds me, in spirit, of The Stooges. There's raw power to these tracks, and each is a primal force of aggression and reckless abandon. There's a lot of screaming going on, but in an exception to the norm, none is gratuitous. No matter how goofy the riot grrrl movement became, these Olympia, WA founders of the genre were the real thing, and this 1993 release stands up nicely.
Singer Kathleen Hanna holds notes like X-Ray Spex's Poly Styrene, and if I have to find a direct influence, it's a harDCore take on Portland's Wipers. The band was a by-product of a feminist zine of the same name published in the late 80s. After a raw tape and series of EPs, Pussywhipped saw Bikini Kill add structure without losing power. Twelve great tracks here and each one a keeper.
I thankfully had very little contact with the riot grrrl movement, mostly because in the 90s I was already an old fart. Once you hit a certain age you miss out on and are excluded from a lot of stuff. Being hated because I'm a man turned me off, and no, not every man is a potential rapist, no matter how much that idea validates righteous indignation. I'm all for empowerment, but not at the expense of an entire gender. Revenge should be specific, not generalized. The last time I paid attention to a riot grrrl reference was an article that said there were shows men were not allowed to attend unless they wore a dress. That was either a high or a low point in the history of absurdity.
Did the riot grrrl movement ever adopt Valerie Solanas as a patron saint? Remember her? She shot Andy Warhol and had her own movement of one called SCUM - The Society For Cutting Up Men. Lili Taylor portrayed her in a film. She's great in everything. Now where was I.... oh yeah, if you're going out to buy a newspaper. Thanks.
Black Train Jack - You're Not Alone (CD review) (Roadrunner): This was in the free pile at a local used CD store. Not a good sign if punky folks work there. They do, but this was free, free! Black Train Jack had a decent CD out in ‘93. They had a hard, heavy, poppy, clean sound not unlike Pegboy. This 1994 CD starts like that with "Handouts", whose guitar solos and singing reminded me also of Sludgeworth. From then on, though, Black Train Jack dish out straight ahead rock like Steve Miller's 70's AOR hit, "The Joker", which they lovingly cover on track #3. "The Reason" is no less a sports arena cock-rock anthem. I wish they wouldn't, but the thing's on Roadrunner, famous for their hard rock catalog. While they rarely pander directly with overblown guitar solos, pacing on most of these songs is slowed down to grunge head banging velocity. Make up your minds, guys. Do you want to be the Bad Company of the 90s or a punk band? Pretty good for what they do but I'm not eclectic enough for a major flirtation with dinosaur rock.
Black Velvet Flag - Come Recline With.. (CD review) (GoKart): Recorded live at CBGBs in ‘94, this is a great parody of old hardcore hits like The Circle Jerk's "Group Sex" and Fear's "I Don't Care About You". It's old hat to sing crazy rock lyrics in a stereotype Frank Sinatra delivery, and every third Borscht Belt comedian has done it. Here Fred Stesney, Jeff Musser and Jason Zasky bring 60s shtick into the 90s by riding the wave of lounge muzak revival. Come Recline is also a full-blown parody of the 1981 Penelope Spheeris documentary Decline Of Western Civilization, itself a good-natured mocking of the numbnuts in the hardcore scene. Some of the interviews from the film are recreated here in the context of lounge muzak. I had a ballroom dancing instructor friend break down each of the ten songs to its roots in ballroom: fox trot/ rumba/ swing/ rumba/ cha cha/ doo-wop/ disco /unplugged rock/ swing/ slow cha cha.
The quality of this live recording is excellent. The best song is the cha cha take on Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized", - partly spoken, sung and acted out. You'll be crooning it all week - guaranteed. "I Don't Care About You" opens with this invitation from Fred, "For this next one, we invite you to have a beer with Fear, though we do understand the bartenders here at CBGBs make a great martini." Half the joke is hearing anti-social punk lyrics sung as tender ballads and popular dance music. The only bad song choice was The Adolescent's "Amoeba", whose lyrics are little more than a pondering of the life of one celled organisms. Recommended only if you know the originals andenjoy subtle humor.
Blanks 77 - Killer Blanks (CD review) (Radical Records): This is a fine example of the ‘77 revival sweeping the nation. It's partly a false nostalgia but I'm happy speed metal never made a comeback. The Blanks are a gender-mixed group who play decent UK punk of the early 80s a la The Exploited. If you don't know much about oi you might call this skinhead music. I'm not a big follower, but I can see how Blanks 77 are as popular as they are. Many leather-punks paint "Blanks 77" on their jackets, so you know they've at least conquered the fashion world. If you were around in 1977 you'd know the band should really be named Blanks ‘81, but kids looking for the real thing will happily find modern convenience and proud nostalgia all in one shrink-wrapped CD package.
Blanks 77 - Tanked and Pogoed (CD review) (Radical): I bought this as a promo, but I won't say where because it says on the CD, "For Promotion Only! Sell This & We'll Kick Your Ass!!" I imagine them enjoying a nice dinner in the Blanks Cave when all of a sudden the Blanks Phone rings and they slide down the Blanks Pole to the Blanks Van to go kick some guy's ass in Virginia for selling a promo. Another slab of retro street punk from these New Yorkers. The singer can't make up his mind if he's trying to be Johnny Rotten or Wattie from The Exploited. He also throws in random oi phrasings. A great release from a leader in the genre, but still I prefer the old bands that inspired these Retro ‘77 bands. I hate when bands program random "oi, oi, oi" chants into their songs for effect. This stuff is designed to be played live more than any other punk style, with background yells galore so the crowd can periodically scream along. Street punk is a participatory concert event, not intended or best appreciated as a studio product.
Blink182- Cheshire Cat (CD review) (Cargo): Them kids. Them and their punky pop music and baggy pants. Blink 182 are three clean cut horny kids from San Diego doing the really fast punk thing. Fast - not hard. Teen angst lyrics that tell it like it is to the homework crowd. The obvious comparisons are Face to Face, Green Day and your better Fat/Epitath groups. In small doses this is lots of fun. Too much and I feel like I'm going to break out in acne. No, seriously, this is good stuff.
Blink 182 - Dude Ranch (CD review) (Cargo/MCA): More of the same from this San Diego power-pop trio. Their last, Cheshire Cat, had a lot more original twists and turns than this one. Pleasant, but the songs are very similar. The Green Day backlash is in full swing, judging from the inventory at used CD stores. This doesn't bode well Blinky. The promo CD says they've toured with NOFX, Pennywise, and No Doubt (!). I can see it. Blink 182 is the kind of band guaranteed to keep the fans happy without blowing away the headliners.
Blitz - Voice Of A Generation (LP review) (No Future): I know this is a classic oi/street punk album, but can the cover be any more grade school? The cartoon skull with cracked head and bloodshot eyes looks more at home on a cheese metal record financed by dad than a collection of drinking class anthems.
Whether early 80s oi bands were any less educated than Joe Strummer and Mr. Rotten is open for debate, but they did have deaper appeal to the masses of young English lads who were pissed and got pissed nightly in pubs where drunken violence was as common as rotten teeth and long-faded facades of empire and civility.
In true oi form that Blitz helped create, Voice of a Generation has enough sing-along anthems to keep the yobs hoarse for days. A number of today's less original oi bands copy the Blitz style, so if you pick this up unawares you might quickly dismiss it as standard oi. Nobody chanted "oi oi oi!" in ‘77 so please get your clichés in order.
In addition to classic oi tunes, the album offers enough post-punk flourishes to keep it from being a cartoon of working class struggle. "Nation On Fire" opens with reggae dub, "Your Revolution" sports a guitar you might hear from The Fall, and "T.O.?" could have been covered by The Church. Covering Lou Reed's cow-bell driven "Vicious" denotes either a good sense of humor or a super weird personal preference.
The Boils - When The Sun Goes Down (CD EP review) (Creep): For a while I bought every album of Ramones covers I could. Then, with no warning, the last one did absolutely nothing for me. It wasn't that particular collection - I had simply hit the wall. It’s the same story with this Boils CD and American oi/street punk. I feel no need to unite, I don't want to fight, I don't pretend I live in the UK, and to riff on song titles from this CD, I doubt this is the Time To Strike or it's my Last Stand or that I live in a Queen Society. I'm too old and too old for this. How many times can you hear the same political lessons screamed at you without a break? At what stage do you come to most of your big conclusions and move on to bigger and better things, like what's for dinner. And at what point do you just want to be left alone?
The Boils are a Philly three-piece. Greg Boil guitars and sings, Johnny! (that's what it says) drums and Mickey McKee basses. The opening track, "Time To Strike", opens with a distinct Irish Dropkick Murphys feel. That may make sense in Boston, but Philly's Italian. Rocky Balboa I-talian. It’s a cliché, and according to the Street Punk Code, cute is a crime. The backup singing is designed for live shows where drunken, sweaty masses crowd the stage and yell along. It's American oi's answer to cock rock heavy metal guitar solos. Seven of the eight songs are competent but nothing to wake up mom about. "Victims" is kinda funky. That's one step away from oi rap metal.
The Bollweevils - History of The Bollweevils Part I (CD review) (Dr. Strange): The Weevils have more releases than Ben & Jerrys do stupidly named flavors of ice cream. This singles comp covers the years ‘91-‘94. Being from Chicago they have excellent drumming and a powerful wall of guitar fuzz. They’re all-ages show material but they've consistently shown more maturity and variety than their peers. The Bollweevils are the Naked Raygun of the Fat Wreck Chords bands. The Weevils are a straight forward punk band until and starting with song #9, "999 Stoney", where they show great creativity and style within the usual genre limitations. "Repeat" is a personal favorite. Like the kids misspeak, "Right Arm, Man. Right Arm!"
The Bollweevils - Stick Your Neck Out (CD review) (Dr. Strange): Another rock-solid release from Chicago's best all-ages band, recorded in 1993. Combine the best of the Fat Wreck Chords label and the influence of Chicago legends Naked Raygun, and that's the Bollweevils. The lyrics are some of the best of the genre too. Their cover of Tommy Tutone's "867-5309/Jenny" is great and took a lot more guts then you'll ever have, my blue-haired little friend. There's a hidden track way way after the last track (which isn't worth a second listen).
The Bollweevils - Heavyweight (LP review) (Dr. Strange) - Picture discs impressed in my youth, but MAN are they a pain. I have no idea where to drop the needle, and staring at the swirling spinning picture leads to hallucinations and seizures.
The Bollweevils’ good qualities come across quickly, and Heavyweight proves to be their most consistent and mature release. The drumming is exceptional and the background vocals very effective. The twelve songs on the LP pass quickly, which probably explains the twelve minutes of tour diary memories at the end of the CD. The LP ends with a perfect rendering of the Bad Brain's "Pay To Cum", which proves The Bollweevils were probably the most qualified band to cover other people's songs.
The Bollweevils were a band who gave their young fans more than they asked for or could appreciate. They did what they could in a genre that prefers speed over style. I could put together a comp tape of their songs that would impress the most jaded mid-80s punk scenester. I can also make one that sounds as generic as a hundred other bands. It's one of those things.
The Bomb - The Speed Is Everything (cd review):
You Puny, Puny Man, Everyone Knows Post-Naked Raygun Bands Rule The Wasteland
That's mostly a true statement, but typing it out makes me feel all shizzly inside, which I hope means something good. Naked Raygun stuck around one record too many (possibly two), and so did the John Haggerty-fronted Pegboy. Jeff Pezzatti, he of the slothy gestures and the Whoa-oh-oh's, formed The Bomb as a three-piece in the late 90s and has expanded to four (+ in the studio), backed by members of The Methadones and The Story So Far. Their third cd, The Speed Is Everything, finds them at the top of their game with their fullest and biggest sound yet. It's Naked Raygun for whatever generation the kids are now, and the scene survivors the kids like to call Grandpa, or Sir if they're large and mean looking.
Ably assisted by J Robbins, it's Naked Raygun without being self-consciously so, as on their 2005 release Indecision. More focused on consistency than risk, its validity comes through with repeat listens. The Speed Is Everything will age quite well, thank you very much. Why they cover A Flock Of Seagulls is anyone's guess, but "Space Age Love Song" sounds good with feed-backed guitars. "A Song For The Helenas" was written by everyone but Pezzatti, and he doesn't sing on it either. It's melodic yet powerful emo-post-hardcore brought into the suburban HC scene by Hot Water Music but birthed by Leatherface. As long as it's not too slow and head-bangey I think it's the best thing to happen to punk since Richard Hell didn't know how to sew so MacGyvered some safety pins instead.
I hope they didn't call themselves "The Bomb" because they hope the kidz will think they're groovy and flip their lids. That would be bad, and not good bad either but bad bad. That would suck, and not good suck either. Oh, you know what I mean.
Bomb Bassets: Take A Trip With... (CD review) (Lookout): This is what became of Dallas Denery, who fronted mid-80s power pop pioneers Sweet Baby Jesus. Sweet Baby's rare LP and other recordings came out on the excellent It's A Girl CD. The original Sweet Baby was the 1964 Beatles trying to be the Ramones. This release has that too, in addition to acoustic ballads and a more rocking sound fans of the Mr. T Experience, The Smugglers and The Parasites will love. They do a straight cover of "Girl Of My Dreams" - must have been a personal obsession. Very happy music and a great CD.
Bombshell Rocks - Street Art Gallery (CD review) (Epitaph): If Rancid were from Sweden they'd be Bombshell Rocks, who sing like they’re from Boston. The style is called punk revival, sonically a nod to The Clash and thematically adherent to modern American street punk, which deludes itself in thinking America is based on class as much as the UK scene that bred oi music and culture.
This is strong material for what it is. It's almost too easy for them to write catchy music. Street Art Gallery is something I can recommend strongly to any Rancid fan.
Bombshell Rocks - Cityrats and Alleycats (CD review) (Epitaph): This was lent to me by the same person who was so into their previous release, Street Art Gallery, he stumbled over his own words and his eyes rolled a bit into the back of his head. He warned me this one wasn't as good. He told me this three times. Maybe this isn't as forcefully hooky as their American debut, but it's almost as good and definitely nothing for my friend to be bare-assed about. This was recorded in the midst of a thirty week world tour, a death march that can just as easily drain the life out of a band and turn studio albums into pleas for intervention. This is a great punk revival record for you suburban street punks who live at home while living street.
Bombshell Rocks formed in 1995 and were initially inspired by Operation Ivy and Screeching Weasel. Operation Ivy evolved into Rancid but I can't detect any Weasel in their current sound. They follow the Rancid mold step for step, but there's plenty of room for diversity and experimentation in the shadow of The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers. "Unstoppable" is an American c&w song played fast, what Green Day did for a lark. "Seen It All" features farfisa piano. The last third of the CD suffers from mild sameness, but for fans of this genre you can't go wrong. Bombshell Rocks instinctively know how to inject enough something into each tune to make it worth a listen or two.
Bonecrusher - Singles Collection (CD review) (Outsider): Having your bones crushed is pretty gruesome and way past proving your point. Every once in a while a CD gets shoved under my door by either Dave or Dave from Outsider Records, and bless their pointy little heads because they run a great label, specializing in oi and street punk..
Bonecrusher, a local Orange County band, released five EPs, collected on this one CD. Usually a band evolves from raw energy to controlled power. After the Animal and Angry Youth EPs, Bonecrusher traded some of their original flair for a more simple and pronounced deep-throated anger, with accentuated thuggish backup vocals. The No Escape, Problems In The Nation and Sights On Today EPs have their high points, and they blow away every Blanks 77 clone, but the unrelenting, reflexive violence of the lyrics makes me wonder what world these guys have cornered themselves into, either in reality or in their own minds. I live in O.C., and it's neither Belfast nor Beirut.
Maybe skinhead shows at Club Mesa are battle zones (I know for a fact they are), but that's only because of some of the people who show up. They go to beat up or get beaten up. It's that simple. The enemy is anyone you or your friends can beat into a bloody mess. Nobody forces you to destroy everything in sight. You choose to do it. I'm stopping myself before my head pops.
Boris The Sprinkler - Suck (CD review) (Go Kart): I notice a preponderance of Boris The Sprinkler CDs in the discount bins of used CD stores. There's something juvenile about Boris that makes what he records seem less relevant, and it gets written off as a bad joke. That quality is what's also considered Rev. Norb's great strength - his fast talking, faux-Alan Freed DJ voice. At first his ability to spit out words quickly is fun and impressive, but after a while it grates like Bowser from Sha Na Na. Suck opens with Norb yakking at full steam, and then when one of the Pauls in his band cuts him off, the Rev. says "It's my shtick. It's my thing. The kids love my thing." Well, maybe your Thing doesn't age that well. The CD cover art is also too silly. Why is that guy wearing a Wolverine costume? Not even talking about the music itself, it's no surprise I picked this up for $1.99.
The tunes themselves are (as usual) pretty decent poppy silly punk. Song titles run in the same vein as the band costumes: "Your Stupid Pants", "Baby, I Got Gas", "Got2Fuc2Day", "Jonestown Judy", "Statutory Rock". Norb intros each song with its title. I do give him credit for singing in the old "Ba ba ba , mow mow" style. Maybe Norb likes the sound of his own voice a bit too much. A consistently good release but no killer singles like on prior releases. Norb’s a funny guy but he needs to stop chewing the scenery.
Boris The Sprinkler - "Kill The Ramones"/"Kill The Sex Pistols" (7" review) (Junk): Singer Rev. Norb is the wackiest guy in punk, for better or worse. Boris The Sprinkler cranks out singles like a teenager does zits. One either loves or hates silly punk. I happen to like this one. The brainstorm seems to be the song titles. Norb doesn't hate the Ramones – he’d drink their toilet water for inspiration. "Kill The Sex Pistols" recycles Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" and is completely indecipherable except for the chorus. Printed on red vinyl and limited to as many as they can sell.
Boris The Sprinkler - Mega Anal (CD review) (Bulge): This CD is (I think) a collection of 7"s and overall it's really decent. Within the power pop format they add enough rocking elements to keep this from being just Hey Ho Let's Go. As a bonus, all fourteen songs repeat at the end -- in alphabetical order. MTX fans should buy this as if their skinny tattooed lives depended on it.
Boris The Sprinkler - Saucer To Saturn (CD review) (Bulge): Songs on a Boris The Sprinkler CD sound like they were recorded at different times in different studios by different lineups. It's good in that whole albums don't run into each other, and bad in that the comfort of cohesiveness is missing. I bought this for one song only, "(Do You Wanna) Grilled Cheese", great glam rock played as power pop. Life isn't complete until you've heard this one. "I Wanna Get To Third Base With You" is great too.
Fans of the Mr. T Experience will want this. Sometimes they rock out a little too much for my liking, and it’s where Rev Norb's singing reminds me of Tesco Vee.
Boris The Sprinkler - End Of The Century (CD review) (Clearview): Various bands have been taking turns re-recording entire Ramones albums. So far there's been Screeching Weasel, The Queers, The Vindictives, The Parasites and now Boris The Sprinkler. The Mr. T. Experience and the Beatnik Termites will follow. In general they’ve been ok, and Boris doesn't do much either with the original material. The question is whether to stay true to the originals or take it in another direction completely. The Vindictives took it the other way and theirs is probably the best of the series.
Rev. Norb opens the CD with the long-winded admission he thinks End Of The Century sucks. Well, that's encouraging. It doesn't sound like much effort was put into this either. Hey, if he thought it sucked he shouldn't have recorded it. Life's that simple sometimes.
Bottles And Skulls - Never Kiss The Wasp (CD review) (Cheetah's): Pounding, driving bar punk recorded by drunks, for drunks. Gah bless 'em. Bottles and Skulls display a lot of fluid, rolling energy, putting them near the top in a genre that can rest too easily on Johnny Thunders posing, Iggy Pop junkie worship and prissy glam rock. This is music to sing along to as you thrust a beer bottle up and around your drunken head for punctuation. I hear a little Killdozer and Clawhammer around the edges. The drink-drunk-f--k-fight thing is the Bottle and Skulls motif, but the lyrics come and go without leaving an impression, which is fine with me because I thought Leaving Las Vegas was a warning, not an aspiration.. Johnny Thunders' life wasn't that much more glamorous than GG Allins'. No glory there either. But hey, I prefer drunks over stoners because they tend to work and not think their drug of choice should be given to them for free as a social service.
The nine tracks burn and the mix with headphones is amazing. Congrats to Eric Lau for masterful engineering. There's a tenth track of an answering machine message they received from an abusive friend. If you're a fan of this genre, you should find this. It's what the Murder City Devils should be but are not -- adults.
Boxer - Hurt Process (CD review) (VP): This Beantown four-piece play suck-core, because not only do they suck, you'll be a sucker if you buy this. I see the comparison to Lagwagon, who also suck, and Face To Face, who only half suck because they're the Dag Nasty of their generation. Do you like chugga-chugga pop punk with guitar leads that have no idea where they're going, and drumming that speeds up to paces that fit nowhere? This seems to be an entire sub-genre, so maybe the slight emo leanings of Boxer will appeal to you as something new and exciting. Entire songs sound out of tune and time. Attempts at emotion fall flat in both singing and instrumentation. I hope Boxer wins the lottery and all that, but whatever day job these guys have, they should work double shifts.
BoX8 - Cool Time (CD review) (Missing Milk): Hey kids, welcome back to camp. Gather ‘round the campfire and Uncle Punk will tell you a story, a scary story about two spirits that fight for the hearts and souls of all you little punk kids. One ghost was a happy little fellow, like Casper, and his name was Pop. All Pop wanted was to make kids dance and have a good time. Pop didn't care if you took him seriously, he was just happy if you bounced up and down like he did. And for a while everybody followed Pop wherever he went, and they were happy. Then, one rainy day, on a dark, thundering cloud, the second ghost, Metal, came to town. Metal wasn't happy at all, and didn't want anyone else to be happy either, so he banged his head and slammed around The Pit, knocking down the smaller kids and making them feel sad. Metal screamed at the kids and told them what to do and how to feel - or else! Pop didn't like Metal, but what could he do? Metal was so big, mean and scary. The bullies all liked Metal, so Pop was sad. But then Pop got mad! He said, "I may not be as big and mean as Metal, but I'm lots of fun and kids like to have fun! I'll just go have fun and the kids will dance with me again!" And he did, and the kids did too, but Metal is still a big, big bully. Boys and girls, do you want to grow up and be a big bully like Metal, or a fun kid like Pop?
BoX8 is a thrash band from Arlington, VA, and their early 80s influences extend from New York City, down I-95 to Washington, DC's emerging Straight-Edge scene. DC, always envious of New York, now has a scene that mirrors that city's thrash-metal-punk sound. Cool Time is packed with creative flourishes and at times I hear echoes of Reagan Youth, Agnostic Front, The Meatmen and Dag Nasty. While not a fan of any record that asks me to mosh and bang my head, I like the creativity they brought to the CD.
Thankfully they rarely fall face first into the metal trap, and on "Badges" they manage to do that funky-rap-hard rock thing without making me puke. One band member looks like Carrot Top and another like Pete Sampras. If the guy in the middle is trying to look evil it's not working. If you're into hardcore and can make the Devil's Trident sign with your hands you should go for this like Kurt Cobain for a mouthful of shotgun.
The Boys - Alternative Chartbusters (CD review) (Captain Oi): London's The Boys were a ‘70s hard power pop band who flirted with punk just enough to warrant the black leather jackets some of them wore. They were put together in 1976 by keyboard player Casino Steel, who was able to get gigs from his stint with The Hollywood Brats. Guitarist Matt Dangerfield was in London SS, Mick Jones' last credit before The Clash. Alternative Chartbusters was their second and best album, released in 1978.
The Boys are a band with a cult following who wonder why their boys have yet to find the recognition the music warrants. Too punk for the power pop fans and too poppy & fun for the punks, The Boys found their success everywhere in Europe but their own country. This CD contains the original fourteen tracks plus six bonus tunes, highlighted by The Yobs' "Silent Night".
The Yobs were a funny/extreme oi side project. Here's the deal on The Yobs from The Boys' web site: "The Boys’ alter-ego band, The Yobs, began as a means of booking rehearsal studios where their record company, NEMS, had failed to pay bills booked in the name of The Boys. Later, when they were in dispute with NEMS, the name was also used as a thinly disguised means to ‘bootleg’ themselves outside of the control of NEMS (for the "Silent Night"/"Stille Nacht" single). The Yobs, who only ever released irreverent punky Christmas songs, gained an appreciative following in their own right." Their troubles with NEMS kept them from releasing anything for 18 months and killed some of the momentum they had built up.
If you listen to Alternative Chartbusters in its entirety, you'll notice periodic boogie piano, Sex Pistols power chords and even a Kinks influence. My favorite track is "Do The Contract Hustle". Great stuff. They reformed a few years ago and may still be around. Various collections periodically hit the market in small batches. I can't vouch for everything else they've recorded, but Alternative Chartbusters is a real find.
Boys Life (self-titled 12" EP review) (Seco): There have been other bands calling themselves Boys Life, but this was a three-piece from Malden, MA who formed in 1979 and probably lasted until 1983, when this 12" EP came out after two 7"s. When I bought this fifteen years ago it was warped and barely playable. Now it's as flat as Texas. I can't say enough good things about this record. John Surette sings like a cross between Tears For Fears and The Teardrop Explodes. The band sounds like early Psychedelic Furs channeled through 415 Records bands Romeo Void, Wire Train and Translator. I love the saxophone, and Neal Sugarman perfectly captures the smoky, sensual sax feel of the Fur's first album. "Happy People" reminds me of "Imitation of Christ". The record was produced by the Car's drummer, David Robinson.
Bracket – 4-Wheel Drive (CD review) (Caroline): I blew this off a few years back as a blatant Green Day rip-off, but I picked it up recently for a buck and the songwriting is surprisingly strong. The singer sounds like Billy Joe but sometimes he adds Bad Religion inflection. I’d say 4-Wheel Drive is 70% Green Day / 30% Bad Religion, but not in a bad way. Fifteen power pop punk songs and two interesting others. "Lazy" uses piano, violin and cello for a Beatles effect. While not my favorite style this is a very good song and brings up the question of what it takes for a song to make it on the radio. If this song was released by an asshole collective like The Verve or Oasis it would be #1 with an enema, but it’s only ‘ol Bracket on Caroline Records and they’re not drop dead cute, so the song dies on the vine. What can I tell you. There’s a hidden track at the end just as worthy of popular attention. Maybe the world isn’t in need of another Green Day. Maybe Caroline didn’t promote the CD well. This is power pop for kids but give them credit for not being juvenile like most bands in that demographic. 4-Wheel Drive is a nice step up the punk ladder for your kid brother who’s beginning to suspect punk can be more than songs about school, underage drinking, pranks and love/hate relationships with girlies.
Braid - Movie Music Vol. 1 (CD review) (Polyvinyl): Fugazi without the funk, Nirvana crossed with Joan Of Arc, Braid is what a nice young man described to me as Screamo. Emo + Screaming = Screamo. There are reasons why I like this band, or to be more exact, why I should like Braid, but they cross the fine line between what I like and don't like too often. With any given song there will be three things I love and three things I loathe. As this collection of 7" material unfolds, Braid moves toward a more structured, poppy sound, which I prefer over the earlier material. Sadly, the band broke up in August of last year. The coulda been contenders.
Here's what I like about Braid based on Movie Music Vol. 1 (there's also a Vol 2., a comp of their comp contributions). Braid are talented musicians who wrote nicely intricate pieces of music that changed speed, tone and intensity as often as a sweaty psycho on meth. Their occasional use of acoustic piano and trumpet are inspired. When they stick to the program (what I call my expectations of the world), they’re as good as The Promise Ring or Sense Field. On the down side, Braid at times too trippy in a Nirvana, post-grunge sense. On top of that, the preciousness level gets annoying. One second you're twirling, the next you're banging your head, and all of a sudden you're standing perfectly still, pushing up your oversized black rimmed glasses and reaching to touch the great invisible nothingness of your lost innocence. Screamo is about the contrast between quiet and loud, love and hate, helplessness and hopefulness, but the way Braid bounces between the two isn't my cup of guano. I prefer Plow United in that regard.
Except for a few nitpicks that reflect my own sad story, this is excellent. For every dumb crusty band I wish there were ten Braids.
Brain Dead Soccer Momz - self titled CD (review): This demo CD fell out of a time warp. It has no insert but the disc imprint is priceless. It's dated this year, and I imagine these five songs are newly recorded, but damn it sounds like something from the great early ‘80s comps Hell Comes To Your House or Let Them Eat Jellybeans! The music sounds like The Subhumans while the female singer is a mix of every singer on the Hell comp. The closest thing today would be Texas Teri, but only the singing. The lyrics are also dated out the wazoo. I'm assuming Reagan is still president when I hear "Kill your TV, kill your TV, Kill your TV, 'cause it's a brainkiller, "The UN is coming to take all the guns, you better hide & you better run" and "Riding in their SUV's, watching on their big TVs, buying all the latest things, video games and DVDs, thinking that it's all a bore, they will never know the score." It’s all good, but this retro bus ran out gas a while back. Maybe Brain Dead Soccer Momz can play a nostalgia show in SF. In Austin, TX, where they're from, what they really need is a good Big Boys cover band.
Breaking Circus - Smoker's Paradise (LP review) (Dutch East): Mid ‘80s Minneapolis band Breaking Circus never broke out of the shadow of more successful acts Big Black, The Effigies, Naked Raygun and Soul Asylum, but they were successful at recording a diverse set of songs that rarely covered the same ground twice - an accomplishment in a genre that prides itself on narrow focus. Smoker's Paradise is a great example of rock music too weird for anything but the punk market, and too creative for punk's dominant fan demographic. Breaking Circus were great and I'll continue buying anything I can find by this greatly under-rated band. For a while there, Dutch East released winner after winner.
The Bubble Boys - Bitter Is Better (CD review) (Unsound): A three-piece from Lawrence, Kansas that play power pop punk like Blink 182 meets Green Day and The Suicide Machines. Not bad but I'm not into it enough these days. Poppy, clever, sarcastic, juvenile - it's all here. There's two hidden tracks at the end of the disc, the first the word "Killroy" repeated endlessly and the second an untitled tune that's the best song on the CD. The lead to this song is great: every few seconds you hear the sound of drumsticks hitting each other like a thrasher is about to be unleashed - but nothing happens. Five or six times and you wonder if it's all red herrings, but eventually the song kicks in. I also liked "Casio" with its great keyboard embellishment. For its genre, a very good release. For me, too commercial and geared toward the kids. But isn't why we're here, for the kids?!
Buck - "Hex Me" (7" review) (What Else?) and "American Express" (7" review) (Sympathy): Two singles from Lisa Marr's follow-up to Cub. The "Hex Me" single sounds like it was recorded as a demo in a moldy basement. The title song is so much better on the CD. The single comes with two other tunes, the first a slow bluesy number and the other some decent post cuddle-core. "American Express" comes from the CD and the b-side is some fun bopping faux-soul with a horn section and everything! Watch me now! Be sure to buy the full-length. The etchings on the vinyl say "Buck You" and "Buck The System". Oh that Buck, always fighting the power.
Buck - self-titled (CD review) (Sympathy): Lisa Marr and Lisa G. were in Cub - Canada's queens of "cuddle core". After six years, three records and many singles, the band stopped being Cub. Lisa and Lisa moved to Los Angeles and formed Buck with Pepper Berry on guitar. Berry does the noiZe zine (noize.com). What's the difference between Cub and Buck? Besides the reversal of the letters C, U and B and the addition of a K, not much. They dropped any leftover cuteness associated with Cub, but there’s a sincere sweeteness that switches to aggression and back without any contradiction. They’re never contrived or mean-spirited. I detect a move to roots country punk, making them a neat choice to open for Nashville Pussy. Though there are imilarities between Cub and Buck, the latter is definitely a Sympathy band now. Lisa Marr can't do any wrong in my book and she's come up with another winner. "Suicide Pact " is an ironically happy song that borrows a main riff from "Feelin' Groovy". Joe Queer co-wrote "(She's In) Another World". This is better than 99% of what passes for music these days. Best lyrics of the month, "She looks like a witch, but she tastes like chicken".
Buck - All Is Forgiven, Jerry Hall (EP review) (Sympathy): I bought this single for two reasons: 1) To support Buck's fast food habits, and B) To finally release this thought that's been on my mind for a while... ready?....Lisa Marr is by far the best female singer in punk music today.
So I put on the a-side, "Jerry Hall", and Lisa isn't even singing. It’s guitarist Pepper Berry instead. The b-side is a cover of the Pointed Stick's "Out Of Luck", a song The Real McKenzies changed around for their "Outta Scotch". All these bands are from Vancouver, so I guess inbreeding goes on up there too. Buck is like Cub, The Queers and The Lazy Cowgirls all rolled up into one. The results are sweet, as usual. Buy the CD on Sympathy. Buy this 7" that comes on antique clear vinyl. Jump up and down. Eat a bowl of peas. I don't care what you do. Honest.
The Bulemics - Can't Keep It Down (7" review) (Junk): The Bulemics might be the world’s most self-destructive band. If lead singer Gerry Atric isn't poop-faced and bloody by the end of a set he'd probably chug lighter fluid and cut himself with a broken bottle on the way home. Die young and leave a mutilated corpse. Hailing from Tex-Ass, this five-piece manages on "If I Only Had A Heart" to combine Iggy Pop's "I Wanna Be Your Dog", the Big Boys "Let's Play God" and the collected works of Dick Dale. The B-side is fairly generic. Sloppy and hard punk for you degenerates who think sleeping in a puddle of your own puke is as punk rock as it gets.
The Bulemics - Your Man's Gonna Die Tonight (7" review) (Junk): Music to kill yourself by. The terrors of Austin, Texas (where hell is had) are back with another single on Junk Records, the label for degenerates by degenerates. The music is every loud, fast punk band that ever made it to NY's Bowery to play a gig. Solid all around, and the kind of music that makes a man drink, curse and beat up friends. Not for impressionable youth. On clear vinyl because Junk Records knows how stupid you are when it comes to cheap gimmicks.
The Bulemics - Old Enough To Know Better... (CD review) (Junk): People ask me what my relationship is with Junk Records. There is no relationship - we just have sex (silence, then 1..2...3..wild applause and laughter).
If they're not the hardest drinking band in the US they're at least trying. This fourteen song CD comes on the heels of their two hard-hitting 7"s, and as a long player it's easier to get a sense of what they're doing beyond sloppy NY Dolls/Heartbreakers worship. A slightly primitive Cramps feel comes through, which makes this more interesting than a lot of the drunk punk genre. The vocals are recorded in the red zone. The repeated themes of "death by misadventure" grew old on me but that may actually be these guy's view of life. They put on one hell of a live show and Gerry does what it takes to be covered with his own blood by set's end.
The hidden tracks (why do these things have to be eight minutes after the end of the last song?) are good and the first one uses stereo technology to its best advantage while a cheap circus organ is playing in the background. Pretty inventive for a bunch of drunken losers.
Bullets To Broadway - Drink Positive (cd review):
Nashville's Bullets To Broadway (interview here) were Kevin, Heather, and Matt from the most excellent Teen Idols joined by two people named Geis and Gui. From their label comes this: "BULLETS TO BROADWAY's sound is a pleasantly aggressive style of punk rock that blends Descendents with Screeching Weasel with NOFX, but you can still hear the catchy melodies a la Teen Idols and you still have Heather's great harmonies and back-ups." Sure, why not.
I like each song well enough but nothing kicked my arse into the next town like I hoping for. Every song has the same high level of high quality that never scores "single" status in a way to make you look up from your task at hand. Heather's harmonies are always a treat. I miss the tight punk greaser concept of the Teen Idols.
Burning Airlines - Identikit (CD review) (DeSoto): I listened to this while driving alone in the middle of the night, when all there is to do is concentrate on music or fall asleep and wake up dead. I heard a similarity to Jets To Brazil, both in the music and how J. Robbins sings like Blake Schwarzenbach. I also detected a glaring Andy Partridge (XTC) influence, both in Robbins' vocal and guitar gymnastics. It lasts the entire CD, parts reminding me of specific XTC tracks and the rest a nice homage. Partridge never gets his due for what he could do with his voice and guitar, and it's nice to see Robbins is up to the challenge.
Identikit is less distinctive then 1999's Mission: Control!, which is more hit driven. Identikit is an excellent collection of album tracks. It doesn't hit the same highs but there's no filler, and everything about the writing and production is top notch. There's an overall effect that's impressive, even if the songs fit together a little too nicely. It displays a depth of power and melody that's there without being up front. It's like the songs are experiences, not statements. This is not a wimpy record - not by any means. It's just that it's presented with a restraint you rarely find in a loud and fast style that goes out of its way to be loud and fast.
The Business- Keep The Faith (CD review) (Century/Red): I never feel so old (and so sure punk's future is in doubt) as when I open a DIY zine and read a review of a recent Business release that goes something like, "Another typical oi band. It's been done a million times before. Oh, yeah, I've heard they've been around for years." The collective memory of punk is the life cycle of a tse-tse fly. Here's the deal: The Business is one of the greatest oi band of all time.
Oi is a genre within Britain's skinhead movement which grew out of the Mod movement of the ‘60s. Oi as we know it today started in the late ‘70s and came out of the UK's second wave following the success and implosion of bands like the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Oi was street punk for working class football hooligans who spent their off hours at the local pub with the lads, drinking piss-warm pints and fighting wars of their own creation. What separates oi from classic street punk like The Exploited and the UK Subs is a aesthetic of football chants, working class pretensions and sports or neighborhood rivalries. "Oi" is what you scream across the bar to get someone's attention, as "hey!" is in America. The Business is a great oi band because they're working class and sing about working class issues. Their greatest hits CD is packed with oi goodness – “Out In The Cold", "Harry May", "Shout It Out", "Drinking And Driving", "Guttersnipe", "Smash The Discos".
The Business broke up in 1989 and reformed a few years ago to cash in on the recent interest in all things oi/street punk. I was afraid this 1994 release might stink because of it. With only one glaring exception, Keep The Faith is great. It opens with a hate song for soccer legend Maradona, and everything that made The Business great for me came flooding back. Steve Wale's guitar is as emotive and creative as ever. Singer Mick Fitzsimons still has the delivery and presence of his youth. "Holiday In Seattle" is the obvious sell-out. A put-down of Kurt Cobain's heroin addiction and suicide, you have to wonder how or why anyone in the oi world would care about the grunge scene.
The Candy Snatchers - "Shut Your Mouth"/"I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (7" review) (Junk): The Candy Snatchers always headlined in Baltimore when I lived in the area, which could only mean they played hard rock punk. It was that kind of town. On this, though, they've selected a great Angry Samoans meets Heartbreakers garage tune in "Shut Your Mouth". Ah, life's antidote to the all-ages show. The Ramones cover is average, being slower than the original, and the singer's attempts to croon off-key is simply odd.
Cards In Spokes - Stix, Nix, Hix, Pix (CD review) (Allied): It's no crime to sound like another band, but when that other band is wildly popular on MTV you take artistic risks by doing so. I'm referring to Green Day, and while Cards In Spokes copies Green Day's sound only rarely on their debut CD, it's enough to make many punks run the other way before their friends catch them in the act of a second-hand sell-out.
Cards In Spokes diversified their influences for their follow-up a few years later. Here its Green Day toughened with Bad Religion attitude. If you like these bands, for heaven's sake rush out to pick up Stix, Nix, Hix, Pix. The CD skews a bit young for me but this Fla. three-piece are talented.
The title "Hix Nix Pix" is a reference to a famous Variety headline, printed in 1946 for the James Cagney musical Yankee Doodle Dandy. An aging George M. Cohan (Cagney, in his favorite role) translates to a bunch of jive-talking teenagers thusly: "'Stix': Small towns; 'Nix': Refuse; 'Hix': Rube; 'Pix': Pictures. 'Small towns refuse rube pictures'; Stix nix hix pix." While not as great as the NY tabloid headline, "Headless Body Found In Topless Bar", it's an obscure reference and congrats to Cards In Spokes for being obscure.
Cards In Spokes - React (CD review) (Allied): The band's bass player mailed this to me. That's a first. For his troubles I thought I'd at least write a thorough review. If you've never heard a band before, the first thing you do is see if it's in a genre you like, then you try to guess if they sound like other bands you know. Cards In Spokes probably gets thrown into the power pop punk camp because they sound like Green Day, but they also display a great affection for the rock/punk leanings of Bad Religion.
It's easy to say the world is flooded with both (Son Of) Green Day and Bad Religion groups, but keep in mind that punk’s always been shaped by bands that achieved fame (if not fortune). Green Day and Bad Religion found mainstream success only because the fickle music marketplace deemed it was time for punk to have its day. I like a bit of both Green Day and Bad Religion, but the work they did before they got famous was better than what made them famous.
Cards In Spokes, from Jacksonville, Florida, pack their G.D./B.R. inspired numbers into the front of the CD. This is either a good or bad move depending on personal opinion. Buried within, though, are some great pop songs that mix elements of Sugar, Squeeze, Elvis Costello and The Jam..
Cards In Spokes are excellent musicians and the CD is very enjoyable. The lyrics, sadly, are geared toward typical teen angst issues of self-definition and general ennui. Not to say they should borrow Brett Gurewitz's dog-eared dictionary of big words or anything, but Cards In Spokes shouldn't try so hard to relate to the problems of the acne crowd. I did like the line "misery loves competition", but any mention of a "pop quiz" reminds me I graduated high school many years ago.
The second half of React shows Cards In Spokes as a talented band who can effectively borrow from the past. The first half shows a talented band drawing from the success of recent popular bands. Like I said, it all depends on what you're into.
Kenny Chambers - Above You (CD review) (Taang!): A 1994, five-song EP from the former driving force behind Moving Targets, who along with The Lemonheads cornered the market on post-Husker Du power pop punk. A three-piece (like Moving Targets), Kenny Chambers here is to Moving Targets what Sugar is to Husker Du - a more alternative friendly and lighter version of the old sound. There's a cover of "Jesus Christ, Superstar". Enjoyable, but you still want to play it 1/3 faster.
Ken Chambers - No Reaction (CD review) (Taang!): Taang! was my favorite Boston record label. Then the early ‘80s non-metal punk scene dried up and the label moved to L.A. Taang! is now a tiny store on the beach in San Diego pursuing the oi and street punk markets while maintaining ties to their back-catalog bands. They're a good source for Mission of Burma CDs and the only source for The Pods, Ben Deily's post-Lemonheads project. Ken Chambers was the force behind Moving Targets, whose 1986 Burning In Water was a revelation of power and precision. A three-piece, Moving Targets were influenced by Husker Du's wall of sound and the inventiveness of Mission of Burma. Pat Brady played some of the best drums around. Ken also led Bullet LaVolta.
Ken disbanded Moving Targets to form another three-piece under his own name, which sounds a lot like Moving Targets. While a good CD, I miss Pat on drums. Only Pegboy's Joe Haggerty could match his depth and speed. In keeping with my theory that grunge is Husker Du played at 1/2 speed, Ken's more melodic bent sometimes places this CD into the lite-Grunge camp. The opening song, "Smile", has Ken singing like Joe Jackson over classic 70's power pop. On the whole this comes off as decent alternative with no chance of commercial success. Ken Chambers was popular in Germany. I wish him well because he was very nice when I met him.
Kenny Chambers - Sin Cigarros (CD review) (Taang!): An instrumental soundtrack for a movie never made. I guess. I kept waiting for some lyrics to kick in. On Moving Target's albums there were always a few instrumentals, but they made up for a lack of words with powerful, powerful songs. Much of Sin Cigarros just boring. I’ll take a few songs from here and put it on a tape I'll label New Age Punk, but after that this never sees the light of day again. Kenny, why the Ry Cooder routine?
Charged GBH - The Clay Years 1981 - 1984 (CD review): The Clay Years: 1981 - 1984 compiles fourteen tracks from one of the better second wave UK street punk bands who started off a bit tribal (good) and ended up metal (bad), as was the way back in the day. Along with The Exploited and (bloody rectal) Discharge they gave the world the apocalyptic rooster look kept alive by crusties, trendies and unemployed kids who want to stay that way.
Clay was their first record label and the CD is a collection from singles and such. "Time Bomb" and "City Baby Attacked By Rats" are perennial toe-tappers, and at their best GBH could rev up and change direction with sureness. They were good musicians who could create a big sound.
On the down side GBH wrote a number of songs incomprehensible besides a few words and phrases, making it a tough call if a song like "Christianized Cannibals" is anything more than a bizarre word grouping. Normally I wouldn't point this out but their socio-political songs sometimes boiled down to the titles, which were screamed. Does the song then boil down to a screamed phrase?
The Chemo Kids - Drink 'Till It Sounds Good (cassette review): I bought my share of homegrown punk cassettes in the 80s. Oh, if I had a nickel for every dime I wasted on them. At least with tapes you could re-use them, so it wasn't a total waste. Six well-done sloppy drunk punk thrashers from guys named Carl Percocet, Buddy Hollycaust, Eddie Cockring and Richie Valium. Names like this get old fast. Points off for juvenile stupidity but the songs are strong and worthy of vinyl or CD release. Kids, watch cartoons, don't be cartoons.
Chixdiggit! – Born On The First Of July (CD review) (Honest Don’s): Chixdiggit! will forever break down and reassemble two or three songs from their first album, but I like them anyway. Their live shows are a hoot, with singer KJ holding a standing split the whole show, requiring the mike stand to be two feet lower than usual, and every song features the guitars held up and out as is the style of the worst heavy metal. Musically Chixdiggit is a combination of the Riverdales and The Mr. T Experience.
Legend has it they formed and learned to play their instruments after bragging to schoolmates they were in a band.. My favorite song on the CD is "20 Times", with its reference to Caller ID as "She’s got one of those phones". It’s nice to see they’ve gotten over their fascination with "your mom".
Chixdiggit! - Pink Razors (CD review): Canada's Chixdiggit! took a five year vacation before coming out with Pink Razors , a fine record probably made even better by the time off. Chixdiggit! sound like Chixdiggit! the same way The Groovie Ghoulies sound like themselves (they're touring together), and annual records from either might be too much of the same too soon. I love the Ghoulies too, but let's be honest on the point.
The thirteen tracks weigh in at less than 22 minutes, which isn't a big woop because they make their points and get the hell out. You can always hit repeat. As an added bonus the band sits down to record a full-length commentary on each track, and not only are Chixdiggit! literate, they're not flaming assholes. Hoo-ray!
The signature Chixdiggit! sound is pretty sweet. They sound something like The Descendents meets The Groovie Ghoulies but truly do have their own sound. I saw them years ago and the whole show they stood in rock god poses and hammed it up. I loved it. The guitar licks are consistently clever without being cock-rocky and the sing alongs are easy to sing along with.
Every song has its charms and I'm surprised "J Crew" hasn't made it yet to heavy rotation on whatever stations play Fountains Of Wayne, who violated the Chixdiggit! patent on singing about moms.
Chixdiggit! - From Scene To Shining Scene (CD review) (Honest Don's): Canada's Chixdiggit! do one thing and they do it very well ---- they're Chixdiggit!. Once you've heard any three Chixdiggit! songs you've heard them all. Chixdiggit! sing about my mom, your mom, my dad, your dad, and sometimes how they interact with a celebrity. To the casual ear, Chixdiggit! is a pop punk band that sounds like other pop punk bands, but no, Chixdiggi!t is more and less than that. They're their own genre now. They're Chixdiggit!, damn it!
"Melissa Louise" is Chixdiggit! at their best. If you don't pogo to this you have no soul. Not as in soul music, I mean you're dead inside. The cheese rock of "Moto Foxe" aside, From Scene To Shining Scene is a great disc of the Chixdiggit! sound. You can hear some of "Surfing USA" in "Spanish Fever", along with some twelve string guitar work I'm sure was outsourced. Yeah, they do write the same songs over and over again, but what's your point?
Chixdiggit! - Best Hung Carrot In The Fridge (CD review) (Delmonico): Four chord fuzz pop punk doesn't get any more Chixdiggit! than this, my friends. They're the spiritual cousins of The Beatnik Termites, another group I love for no apparent reason beyond they that make me smile. Chixdiggit! began as a childhood boast made flesh, and they've been hoeing the same row ever since with great humor and determination. The songs aren't funny per say - it's all in the presentation. On Best Hung Carrot In The Fridge they cover George Michael's "Faith" and throw in the signature guitar lead of Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" on "I Should Have Played Football In High School". Good times, good times.
Chixdiggit! - Safeways Here We Come (cd review): Dude, seriously, there's a new release from Chixdiggit!, not exactly a joke band but one that you always know what to expect and are given exactly that. If you want to have a good time on disc and in concert, these Canadians are your boys. Their discography includes the standards "Where's Your Mom", "Sweaty And Hairless", "My Dad Vs. P.M." (that's Paul McCartney), "Henry Rollins Is No Fun", "Dolphins Love Kids", "Toilet Seat's Coming Down" and "(I Feel Like) (Gerry) Cleevers (Stitch Marks On My Heart)". It's been six years in the making, but par for the course for a band that formed after selling shirts at their high school for a band that didn't yet exist. Their mouths wrote a check that their asses had to cash.
Pop-punk in the best sense, a Chixdiggit! song is recognizable a mile away, and the universe wouldn't have it any other way. Their lyrics are of a type, something like this for "Where's Your Mom":
I get turned on by your nylons in the hamper parents out of town,
I guess they're sleeping in the camper tonite
I bet they're getting sweaty
'cause when I met you you were a vision in paper
try to be, but you're not like her at all
you're just not like your mom try to look (like your mom)
try to act (like your mom)
try to smell (like your mom)
couldn't come, oh where's your mom?
I had a dream that she flew me to vegas
tied me to the bed and played bridge with her friends and they were naked
the next day she took me out shopping
bought me kids clothes just to dress me up, oh God!
she said I was bad boy try to look (like your mom)
try to act (like your mom)
try to smell (like your mom)
couldn't come, oh where's your mom?
What makes them so entertaining live are their posturings. The guitarists all stand like Johnny Ramone and singer KJ Jansen stands with his legs splayed so far apart the mic stand looks to be set for only a four footer. At the end of each song they hold up their guitars like heavy metal rock gods who'll never stop rocking. It never gets old, which surprises even me.
The standard protocol for record reviews is to listen to it first, ponder for a while, then write something up. That won't be needed for the seven songs on Safeways Here We Come. I'll put it on while multi-tasking and get back to you.....
Hey I'm back. These seven songs are ok. I can't work up more feeling than that. They fit nicely with the rest of their catalog but nothing stood out to say six years gave Chixdiggit! time-aplenty to percolate a few classics, which maybe it should have, as The Descendents did when Milo returned. Maybe what's missing is their wacky exuberance of youth, which left the building long after mine did, but nobody looks to me to rock the youth vote. What if the magic's gone now that they're too old and it's too creepy to write about YOUR MOM?
Here's a great interview with KJ Jansen - HERE.
The Clash - Give 'Em Enough Rope (LP review) (Epic): Every time U2's Bono opens his yap to let fly the gospel, he's channeling the ghost of The Clash's Joe Strummer, who single-handedly created punk earnestness in '76, the year Britain declared independence from US punk rock oppression. Strummer, whose real name was Joseph Mellor, left a legacy of..... wha? he's still alive?! Well, uh, good for him! (update: Joe's dead)
U2 has been running with the political banner The Clash wove out of camouflage clothing and Jackson Pollack paint splatters for so long now Joe's old band seems dated. That, and the video for "Rock The Casbah", which almost single-handedly turned The Clash into another cheesy ‘80s band. Don't get me wrong. The Clash were equal partners with the Sex Pistols in creating the UK punk scene as we know and love it, but they should have called it quits after London Calling. I also hold a grudge against whomever came up with the phrase "The only band that matters", applied to The Clash by their record label and later transferred to U2 by Rolling Stone magazine in the ‘00s. For a few years The Clash mattered a whole lot, but the band that recorded Cut The Crap in 1985 didn't matter at all.
1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope was The Clash's second UK album and the first US release. CBS resisted releasing the new Clash album domestically, insisting the band tour the US. The Clash refused to record their second album unless CBS agreed to release their debut album, released in April of 1977, domestically in the US. Clash posters were everywhere back in 1978. I swear some record stores used them as wallpaper.
At the insistence of CBS, the record was produced by Sandy Pearlman, Blue Oyster Cult's producer. Redeeming him to the Clash was his work producing the first three Dictators albums. The label wanted the album to have a big, commercial sound, hopefully recreating the stadium sized noise of the Sex Pistols' LP. The band fought the process and wrote songs as they went along. The results are often great but the album limps along at the end. Give 'Em Enough Rope tells you a lot about what the band was about at that time, which was in transition to a more confident approach in songwriting.
Give 'Em Enough Rope is an ok example of the "first, second and third album" theory of how records are conceived and recorded. The first album contains A-material the band knows back and forth and is usually the result of time, care and enthusiasm. After the first album comes out the band tours, gives interviews and parties too much. By the time the record label wants a new album, the band is often worn out and not sure what to record. Hastily written new songs jockey with old material deemed not good enough for the debut album. It's rare that a second album is as good as a first. Then, in many cases, realizing the second album wasn't what anyone wanted it to be, the band sets about to make a proper follow-up album, which in critics eyes makes or breaks a band's reputation. That's the story of The Clash, but strong song-writing ability makes Give 'Em Enough Rope better than it could have been.
The recording quality is murky and dull. I hope and assume the remastered CD is much sharper. A few tracks seem slowed in a way forced upon the band, as if slow = hard rock = better sales. Topper Headon on drums clops along with all the skill of whoever the hell drummed so leadenly for The Kinks. Here's my take on individual songs:
"Safe European Home": opens with a Sex Pistols inspired guitar riff. The recurring Clashism of replicating the sound of a British police siren runs throughout, first subtly as an added guitar track and then a full volume one note reggae guitar line. There might be hand clapping going on but it's hard to tell. The ending is a great rave-up. Score: 9
"English Civil War": here's another Clashism - the military song reference. This is a rewrite of the American Civil War era Union marching song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". Why Patrick S. Gilmore is not given a credit is a mystery. The guitar work is excellent. Score: 10
"Tommy Gun": the best drumming on the album even though I'm not a fan of the high hat. The rat-tat-tat machine gun bits on the drums are sweet, but not as good as the one note guitar solo (a nod to Johnny Ramone) that I think was inspired by morse code. The Clash loved replicating mechanical sound effects. Score: 9
"Julie's In The Drug Squad": a funny pub rock piano boogie number with lyrics that mean nothing but are worth yelling out at certain points. I remember the sing-alongs were the lines "Julie's been working for the drug squad", "She could even look you in the eye" and, if you could time it right, the falsetto "Hi there!". The bass drives the song and the piano should be louder. Score: 8
"The Last Gang In Town": should be faster. The direct inspiration for "Clampdown" and a wiff of the lament found in "Stay Free". The Clash like to end their songs with a bang, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. That's not very common and it's one of the things that made The Clash great. Score: 8
"Guns On The Roof": even your mom knows they ripped off the riff from The Who's "I Can't Explain". Still, it's very angry song well done. Holy guitar wank-out! Score: 8
"Drug Stabbing Time": what the hell does this song mean? Why is there a cow bell? There's a horn being played but it sounds like it was recorded down a hallway. Score: 9
"Stay Free": very much a Mick Jones song, with him singing. Overly sentimental and sung in a high, sensitive voice. Score: 6
"Cheapskate": crappy clop-clop drumming. Too slow. Nice guitar work. Score: 6
"All The Young Punks": clop clop clop. Score: 6
Clash On Broadway (3 CD Box Set review) (Epic/Legacy): Raise your hand if you thought this was a box set of the Clash's eighteen show residency at Bond's in NYC during the summer of 1981. My hand is raised too because what the hell else am I supposed to think when I see a box set called Clash On Broadway? It's really a 63 song greatest hits/rarities collection with three live tracks. It starts with a demo version of "Janie Jones" and ends with an unedited version of "Straight To Hell".
This would make a great gift for someone who doesn't own a Clash album, but it seems pricey for the few live tracks and three unreleased songs. To please fans, a retentive bunch really, it would be best to have a series of disks that specialize in all early demos, all unreleased tracks, etc. Another problem with a Clash hits package is also that most fans of the punk stuff can't stand the endless dub mixes and sell-outs , while the fans of dub are mostly rock critics who are really great -- for me to poop on!
The Clash were England's second big punk band, one step to the side (or behind) the Sex Pistols and treated with contempt by the Bromley Contingent. Clash manager Bernie Rhodes was in ways Malcolm McLaren's kid brother, and with a veneer of sincerity he packaged the Clash as a strong message dressed in fashion (or was that fashion dressed in a strong message). The Sex Pistols were fashion sold as chaos. The Clash had a Jackson Pollack-Rauschenburg fetish that inspired paint-splattered clothing and stenciled slogans like "Under Heavy Manners" and "Hate and War". Drummers came and went, bassist Paul Simonon was a novice who contributed his good looks and street cred as a former skin, and Mick Jones was a delicate rock and roll journeyman who brought his share of songwriting and guitar talent to the table. Joe Strummer was the center of the band.
Joe "Woody" Strummer - pub rock busker, art student, squatter, writer of anthems and giver of many rambling, earnest interviews. He was always sincere (sometimes pretentiously so), tried hard and often succeeded, yet any times he'd blow smoke out his ass when talking about politics and music. Clash songs inspired many complacent kids to become punks and fight the inertia their lives and society, but in the bigger picture Strummer was a troubadour, not a fighter.
I like their first few records and don't have any interest in the dub overindulgence of Sandinista! and what came after. A live CD just came out and it sounded pretty good from where I was standing in Tower Records, wearing big-ass headphones that carried more disease than a Bangkok prostitute. It's said that histories of the band, especially ones written by band members themselves, are notoriously inaccurate due to attacks of ego and spite. The thick booklet that comes with this box set is filled with info that may or not be true.
Cleaners - Walking On Egg Shells (CD review) (Re-Do): The Cleaners are out of Dallas/Fort Worth and have been working hard the last five years to get their name out. When I get something in the mail, a band's exhausting all their options. This full-length was followed by a 7" EP and a new CD is in the works. What’s screamingly obvious about these tracks is an obsession with The Descendents, a band called influential but you don't hear many bands sounding all that much like them. And hey, a band member is wearing a Descendents t-shirt on the back cover.
As with the Descendents, Cleaners give you sweet harmonies and drumming that's all over the place. Happy music for happy punkers. Pop music for the skate crowd. I like each track separately, but together they tend to blend too seamlessly. Bands have to know when there’s too many songs on a CD. Twenty songs is too much. Give us enough to make us happy and want more. The last song ("More Good Than Bad") is a complete change of pace, a short emo blast that ends too quickly and is beautifully conceived and executed. Not that I think the Cleaners next release should mimic The Promise Ring or anything, but a little more diversity would have been welcome. The Descendents aren't a band you want to hear another band copy for nineteen tracks.
Guitarist Jarrod King says the next release will have a more "Cleaners" sound to it. These guys have the talent and the drive. I'll save this CD for when my Descendents pants are at the cleaners, as it were. I expect great things from these guys. Since I'm the only one they have to make happy, they better march to the beat of my drum, baby!
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