Saturday, December 09, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #29


I finally got out to a show again. There were a few gigs here and there that I could have attended but didn’t make it for one reason or another. In any case, Reagan Youth played the Cambridge Elks on December 2. As with any reunion, there’s always skepticism, a question about motivation. Plus, in Reagan Youth’s case, they’re doing it without their original vocalist, the late Dave Insurgent. Some people say—the Dead Kennedys without Jello? The Germs without Darby? etc etc... so the new mouth for the reconstituted Reagan Youth is 27 year old Pat Distraction and he did a decent job—he did sound a bit like Dave, at times. No new stuff, just songs from the first two albums. Sloppy from time to time but it was still a good time. The audience was 90% youngsters, too—not a lot of us “old-timers.” They were preceded by a completely raging set from Mouth Sewn Shut, who threw in two Toxic Narcotic songs. Bile-filled rawness and the reggae-oriented songs pack just as much anger. As with Bill and Will’s other band (that’s TN, in case you weren’t paying attention), it’s the release of pure anger that makes it enjoyable.

If you read this before December 17, there’s a show to tell you about, also at the Elks (located at 55 Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge) featuring Italian band La Piovra, plus the Epidemic, Fruit Salad, Skulls With Wings, Weapons Grade (my man Crusty Craig’s new band) and Raw Radar War. $10, 3 PM...


BEAT BEAT BEAT-Living In The Future (Dirtnap, CD)
There are only so many ways to describe bands who write catchy songs and hit the pop/punk/rock ‘n roll sweet spot. In any case, that’s what Beat Beat Beat are all about. The openings to just about every song here make an immediate impression—the pop joy of “Don’t Tell Me Now,” the ringing notes of “Sinking Slow” that echo the Exploding Hearts’ “Making Teenage Faces,” the tough drive of “Leave Me Out.” The earlier 7” I have by them is rougher and better conveys their brashness—it’s better, in all honesty, but I’m not complaining too much about the cleaned-up production here, since the songs carry it. (2615 SE Clinton, Portland, OR 97202,

BORROWED TIME-No Escape From This Life (Reaper, CD)
The stern faces stare at you from the jewel box tray. The songs are chuggy, the vocals stentorian, the tempos mainly lumbering. 100% tough-guy hardcore perfect for a beatdown. Something I’m hoping to avoid when I say this heavy metallic style bores the living hell out of me. (PO Box 2935, Liverpool, NY 13089,

CHEATS-Life’s Short (Da’ Core, CD)
As an old friend used to say, this CD is “wicked average.” Wicked is a MassHole modifier. Straightforward boisterous street punk, throwing all the classic rock ‘n roll licks along with the hearty punk attitude. Todd’s vocals are a combination of Mark Lind from the Ducky Boys and B.A. from Sloppy Seconds. There are a few cover versions and it makes me wonder--does the world need yet another cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender”? I mean, the Tricksters have a wider catalog to choose from. There’s a Pabst can on the back and I imagine that’s what their audience is swilling while watching the Cheats rock out live. Maybe if I drank more, I’d like it better. (4407 Bowes Ave., West Mifflin, PA 15122,

COBRA NOIR-Barricades (Chainsaw Safety, CD)
The second missive from Cobra Noir. Dark, howling and heavy, but there’s also an affecting warmth here, an enveloping quality on the slower songs. The lyrics are fragmentary, expressing feelings of helplessness in a decaying world. OK, that sounds kind of pretentious—I suppose it’s a different way of saying, holy shit, the world is fucked up and the doominess of the music captures that mood. A reliance on speed on several tracks, although the mid-tempo pound of “Monuments” stands out here. I’m not always into this heavier sound but these guys make it memorable. (PO Box 260318, Bellrose, NY 11426,

EXPLODING HEARTS-Shattered (Dirtnap, CD)
Kind of a chilling title for the album (even though it’s the title of one of the songs here), since three-quarters of this band were killed in a van accident in 2003, all of them in their early 20s. “Shattered” is a collection of unreleased, single and comp tracks. There’s no way to describe the Exploding Hearts’ music other than power-pop and there are echoes of early 70s glam/rock ‘n roll, as well. Sometimes, it’s a little too sugary than I like. But, man, when a song like “Making Teenage Faces” comes on, it’s hard to resist that guitar line or sing along to the chorus, although there’s no way I can sing in that high a voice. Also, the less-produced demo songs and alternate takes have a tougher musical ambiance. That means it rocks a bit harder. The Hearts seemed on the verge of a huge breakthrough.. There’s a video on the disc with five songs recorded live three days before Adam Cox, Matt Fitzgerald and Jeremy Gage were killed and they come across much harder-edged live. The whole “fuck, I wish I’d seen them” situation, even though the one time they made it to my area, it was a college gig that I never even heard about. It’s pointless to speculate how far they would have gone. Very sad—what else can be said? (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202,

MACHINE GUN ROMANTICS-Everything So Far (625, CD)
Slightly more reasonably-paced grindcore though still hitting the blast zone and shrieking vocals. They’ll toss in a few unexpected twists and turns, such as the Rorschach-like “Death... and Other Problems.” There’s some self-referential humor with “Where’s The Breakdowns” and there are a few in there, including a catchy one where there’s actually some singing. Tight playing and not taking themselves too seriously, although recommended only for the blast-heads. Oh yeah---includes their EP, tour CD, demo and a live set. (

MODERAT LIKVIDATION-Nitad/Marionett I Kedjor/Köttahuva (Havoc, 7” EPs)
So what we have are three 7” EPs from this early 80s Swedish hardcore band—the “Nitad” EP was pressed on vinyl in ’83, “Marionett” was originally a tape demo and “Köttahuva” was also a tape-only release recorded by Swedish Public Service radio. Somehow, I can’t image NPR recording this kind of band and, if they did, all the Republipukes plus Joe Lieberman would be calling it filth and want to zero-fund it yet again. Anyway, all three of these EPs are also combined onto a CD. So what’s it sound like, you ask? Raw hardcore inspired by Discharge and the other UK suspects and they mix the tempos a bit. “Enola Gay,” for instance, is slow and brooding and “Anti Fag” (an anti-smoking song) has a similar tempo to Discharge’s “Protest and Survive,” albeit without the guitar pyrotechnics. The Finnish bands also drew inspiration from similar influences but the vocals here have a rougher cadence. “Marionnet” is my favorite of the three—the rougher sound works to its advantage. Taken together, it’ll provide the minimum daily rippin’ requirement. (PO Box 8585, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

The opening line for “Year Of The Spy” is a dead ringer for the Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” and there’s no question that’s a huge influence. Actually, it’s more like the Professionals than the Pistols, since the punk is fused to a poppier approach, along with a little glam (the song “Shock Nagasaki”) and some street punk, mainly in the boisterous vocals. Some appealing songs here. (8941 Atlanta Ave., Suite 505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646,

THE SPARK-Nobody’s Laughing (Mike Fitzgerald, LP)
There are clowns lowering a casket into the ground in the cover illustration and this is the Spark’s burial party. On this 12” release, it’s more of the band’s fast, energetic hardcore punk. They admit up front, on “Same Old Story,” “we’re not out to break new ground, don’t wanna be the next big thing/we just play our hearts out every night, and we’re still fucking pissed.” Some may chuckle at those lines, a smarmy grin on their faces. That is an accurate description for this band, it’s a sentiment simply stated but the enthusiasm in the playing and direct lyrics make for an enjoyable combination. “To The Lions” takes on so-called “conservative punk,” lamenting the replacement of content with image. I do have to say that this style of hardcore is something of a conservative approach, fitting a pattern and for some people, it’s been about image, looking a certain way. Still, it’s an approach that continues to appeal to this grizzled, jaded music fan. (653 Evelyn Ave., East Meadow, NY 11554-5427)

SWELL MAPS-Wastrels and Whippersnappers (Overground, CD)
Swell Maps were always a haphazard proposition and this disc of home recordings, created from ’74 to ’77, is no different. There was a penchant for both conventionality (relatively speaking) and unconventiality. In the liner notes, Nikki Sudden (who passed away in ’06) writes about the different influences, from the glam rock of Bowie, T.Rex, Mott et al and the more experimental sounds of Can, for instance. There are a few songs here that rock out in more or less a “conventional” fashion—“Dresden Style” is rough and so is “Full Moon-Blam-Full Moon.” Both of these songs were released later on in studio-recorded versions but the grittiness here, particularly for the latter song, has a winning primitivism. I suppose I should use the “for fans only” caveat. The casual listener is likely to have a “what the fuck?” reaction to a good amount of the material here. (distr. by Get Hip, PO Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15317,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #28

A long time ago, my next-door neighbor in my junior year dorm at Boston University said that every band had one good song, no matter how crappy they might be otherwise. I don’t know if that’s completely true—I mean, if Panic! At The Disco or Taking Back Sunday or Fall Out Boy have one worthwhile song, I haven’t heard it yet and I seriously doubt it exists. But the bands I’m going to list here have one essential, knockout song that I keep going back to and there ain’t much more, if anything, I desire to hear by them. Oh, there may be some other listenable music from the artist in question, but this is the ONE song that stands head and shoulders above anything else they do/did.

I got the idea to write about this when listening to “King Of Cha-Cha” by the Slammin’ Watusis on my MP3 player today. Who, you ask? They were a Chicago punk/blues/jazz skronk band from the late 80s and they somehow ended up on Epic Records and released not one, but two albums. This song comes from their 1988 debut. A bit of google-ing reveals they actually recorded demos for a third album with Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick producing but it wasn’t released. I was curious about how they got signed, since I’d never heard of them before, and a friend of mine at the time said something to the effect of they knew the right people or got a break. I forget exactly what it was. I first heard of them by seeing a video for that song on MTV’s “120 Minutes.” Vocalist Frank Raven doubled on sax but he switched to harmonica for that particular song and it has a hard-edged raunchier sound. It checks in at under two minutes and it’s the only song you probably ever need to hear from that band. I have it on BOTH CD and LP, motherfucker! There’s the classic band that has one great song. Here are a few others I thought up off the top of my head.

SECRET AFFAIR, “Let Your Heart Dance.” This song appeared on Secret Affair’s debut album “Glory Boys.” Ian Page (aka Paine) and David Cairns were previously in the punk band New Hearts, whose single “Just Another Teenage Anthem” is a lost gem. Then they caught the mod revival bug, put on suits and scowls and dismissed their punk rock past. Page was only 19 or so when cutting this song. It’s introduced with a booming drumbeat and then the horns kick in for this soulful R&B stomp. I didn’t even really like this song when I first heard it in 1980 but it grew on me over the years and the whole song is so goddamned catchy, it gets into your head without fail. Nothing else came close to measuring up to this song.

DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS, “Dance Stance.” The single version of this song was called “Burn It Down” but I like the album version a lot better. It’s on Dexy’s debut album, “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” and it was a different sound before vocalist Kevin Rowland got rid of his bandmates, put together another lineup and turned to Celtic music for “Come On Eileen,” et al a few years later. Rowland was another guy with a punk background (Killjoys) who turned his back on that and also cultivated a chip-on-shoulder attitude. There’s something ingratiating about how he sneers “shut your fuckin’ mouth” during the middle of the song. Punchy horns and Rowland’s voice really carries the chorus hook.

SLAPSTICK, “Not Tonight.” Goddamn did third wave ska suck. It was just awful. Slapstick were part of that whole thing but, right in the middle of the album of theirs that I have is this tuneful punk scorcher. No horns, no skank beat, just one minute and six seconds of joyous energy. People were surprised when I played this on my radio show recently—“you played Slapstick??!!” but I explained the reason—this band’s one good song.

THE BUOYS, “Timothy.” This may also be one of the greatest “one hit wonder” records, as well. From 1971 and a song about cannibalism. That’s right. I’ve discussed this song before but it’s about an accident with three guys “caught in a mine that had caved in” and when they’re rescued, only two of them are left. Sweeping horns and strings melded to a killer pop hook. I have the LP. Trust me—just the single will suffice, even with the album’s cool gatefold sleeve and the picture on the back cover of the band dining with “Dinner Music” emblazoned in the lower left corner.

THAT PETROL EMOTION, “Can’t Stop.” The O’Neill brothers from the Undertones were in this band and TPE were around for quite awhile. David Hannigan, my former co-worker at Rockit Records, tipped me off to this band. While there are a few other OK songs on their debut album “Manic Pop Thrill,” “Can’t Stop” completely and unequivocally blows anything else they ever did out of the water. A nervy 2:50 of manic pop (sorry) grandness, punctuated by Buzzcocksian guitar lines. These guys had a mainly post-punk meets dance pop sound and, as I said, it wasn’t all shit, not as dramatic a case of black and white as the other bands here but “Can’t Stop” is unbelievable.

SLAMBOOK, “Hollywood Ten.” From 1995, indy/math rock following the soft/loud dynamic. Not all of it that bad, either, but this slice of tense Wire-inspired rock really hits home. A throbbing bass and fuzzed out guitar line, a sturdy beat underneath, and the chorus envelops the ears with warmth—but there’s also an assaultive mid-section to shake things up, before fading off into a gentle conclusion. A great late-night song.

SHIRTS, “Poe.” Somehow, this mainly crappy NYC band got lumped in with the punk/new wave thing even though most of The Shirts’ first album was wimpy swill. “Poe,” the album’s closer is the exception. This is the most punk-sounding song they ever did, even throwing in some hearty “hey hey heys.” The vocals hardly have any sneer in them but the mesh of guitar and keyboards work great. In this band’s case, it’s definitely the only song I’d want to hear.

That’ll do for now. I’d like to know if you folks have any songs that fit that description for you. I may revisit this topic at a future date but let’s move on to the reviews...


A GLOBAL THREAT-Where The Sun Never Sets (BYO, CD)
I sat on this one awhile—almost broke it too. Shut up. The coffee hasn’t had its desired effect yet. Getting to the album, it’s a good effort. Not life-changing but decent overall. That may not seem like a strong recommendation—the album doesn’t elicit a strong response but some of these songs catch the ear. AGT have moved away from the shadow of the Unseen (in spite of that band’s vocalist Mark’s appearance here) and found a sound that incorporates fired-up, sometimes melodic punk and also has a hardcore edge at times. That may be due to the fact that Bryan’s voice makes me think of a less-rabid version of Mark from Out Cold and the stripped-down energy of “Scalped By Pop” and “Making Energy” fit that description. That’s where AGT are at their best, here. (PO Box 67609, LA, CA 90067,

ANOTHER BREATH-Mill City (Rivalry, CD)
Recorded about 10 minutes from my house, in Salem, in Kurt Ballou’s studio, so it’s a good-sounding album. Maybe too good sounding. As I’ve said in the past, overproduction may increase the dramatic effect, but the rawness is lost in the translation. Another Breath don’t have much to do with the older hardcore sound, anyway. It’s a more modern approach—fast, heavy, melodic at times and with a howling emotionalism in the vocals. Stone-faced. Overly serious. In other words, a little of their angst goes a long way. (

A WARM GUN-Panic In The Face Of Time (Yellow Dog, CD)
Hammering hardcore/metal/grind, suffering from mono-rhythm syndrome on the faster parts. The type of band people will go “BRUTAL!” There are some hot riffs—the Slayer-ish “Running Into Walls,” for instance. It’s the standard lament—less grind and it’d work better, at least for me. (PO Box 55028, 10372 Berlin, GERMANY,

One of my favorite stories to tell the young’uns is about how I saw the Bad Brains in the spring of ’82 at a tiny club called Maverick’s. Don’t go looking for it, it’s not there (thank you Marty DiBergi—look it up, if you don’t know what I’m talking about). They show up close to last call, set up, plug in and play one of the greatest sets I’ve ever seen in my life. 15-20 minutes of all hardcore. No rose-colored glasses. Seeing the performances on the DVD, recorded at three shows around Christmas of ’82, proves my point. Even with the occasional bad camera angles, lights going out, sound issues, the chaos is captured. In fact, it’s apropos for that to happen because that’s an accurate reflection of a Bad Brains show, at that point, anyway. I’m still not a fan of their reggae songs but that’s what the skip button on the remote is for—OK, I DID watch a bit of the reggae but, sorry, it remains boring. The Brains were in peak form. Incredible musicianship—Earl flailing away with precision even at the high velocity, thundering bass-lines from the invisible Darryl Jennifer (I don’t think he’s in the shot at anytime) and Dr. Know knocking out sick power-chords and lead runs, looking as if he’s having the time of his life playing those riffs. HR, of course, moves around like a maniac, sings out the words at a rapid-fire clip and works himself into a frenzy. I’m using hyperbole here—maybe overdoing it but, damn, it’s killer and one of the coolest things is to see the faces of the people in the audience, dancing, diving, singing along—then there’s one kid playing air drums on the side of the stage. Not too many extras—just a brief interview segment with a few fans. In any case, this is an essential release. A document, not a documentary and just seeing the source material, without commentary, is a better experience. (PO Box 280, Oaks, PA 19456,

BURIAL-Hungry Wolves (HeartFirst, 7” EP)
The latest from the powerhouse known as Burial. Bruising songs with angrily spat out vocals and a tandem of hardcore, crust and some metal—kind of a modern-day Japanese hardcore sound, if I had to pinpoint it. In any case, the rampaging qualities are in full effect and the cowbell for “Insanity” is a cool touch. (Landsberger Str. 146, 80339, München GERMANY,

DT’S-Nice ‘N’ Ruff—Hard Soul Hits Vol. 1 (Get Hip, CD)
Rocked-up cover versions of not just soul songs but CCR, AC/DC and Roky Erickson. Diana Young-Blanchard is an over-the-top, gritty shouter and the band competently play through the songs with strong musicianship. One of the people in this band is Dave Crider, late of the Mono Men. Those are the facts—the reality is I’d rather hear the originals although the opposite gender take on AC/DC’s “What’s Next To The Moon” is momentarily interesting. It gives me the same feeling as the Bell-Rays, another hard rock/soulful outfit with a dominant female vocalist—well played but a dirtier, nastier sound with more musical and vocal snarl would be much better. (PO Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15317,

FPO-Giving Birth In Order To Kill (Third Party, 7” EP)
The problem with FPO, who hail from Macedonia, is they have some great slower riffs that are wasted when the blast comes in. A common malady for this kind of hardcore. “You Call It Life,” for instance, flows from moody quietude into double-speed mayhem. Once and for all, CONTROL THE SPEED... slow down a bit. It works a lot better. (21 Nancy Lane, Amherst, NY 14228,

PERMANENT TRIP-s/t (Shock To The System, 7” EP)
The vinyl debut for Albany’s Permanent Trip and the last recording with guitarist Nate Wilson. Jason Krak voices the words (warning—alliteration alert) like a bear with his paw caught in a trap. Twists and turns—“Divider” starts as a dirge and ends with some double-speed thrash. “Losing Ground” begins with hammering stop/start riffing and then settles in a mid-tempo jam with wah-wah (is it?) on the guitar—maybe it’s weed-induced because the only thank yous on the list are the guy who put out the record and marijuana. “Stasi” takes on more of a mid-to-fast attack. Not the catchiest songs but they have presence. (PO Box 300991, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130,

RABIES-Disease Core (Sorry State, 7” EP)
Skate-thrash-punk and repeat. Actually, these guys have a “Jealous Again” period Black Flag feel, as well and let’s not forget the bass calisthenics for “The Man With The Flute (Is Drilling My Head)”—huh? That’s about as poetic as they get—otherwise, you have sentiments such as “I have RABIES and I fucked you mom.” I remember how snotty some of those skate punk kids could be and carry it over into whatever band they chose to start. Rabies fit that bill and fit it well. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

RATOS DE PORAO-Homem Inimigo Do Homem (Alternative, Tentacles, CD)
Well, I tried to find the English lyrics on-line, but no luck. It doesn’t really matter. You see words like pedofilia, involuntario, apocalipse and forca in the titles, the subject matter isn’t hard to figure out. Neither is the music. RDP went back to the hardcore roots, in recent years, while hanging onto the metal/crossover thing as well. Some of the guitar riffs here conjure up Die Kreuzen and Voivod (and Away from Voivod once told me they got their guitar sound from Die Kreuzen). Gordo still growls as if he’s permanently consptipated, accompanied by the band’s murderous assault. And they look so content in a field of flowers on the back cover. I imagine the machetes are hidden away for later use. Maybe on the audience. (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94141,

RIBZY-’81-’85 Recordings (Vinehell, CD)
This San Jose band didn’t release much during its tenure but here’s a collection of 30 songs, including one recorded in 2004 and it doesn’t sound dissimilar to the 80s era material. The band were originally called Ribsy. They made an appearance on the “Not So Quiet On The Western Front,” but there’s a different version of that song, “Collapse,” featured here. Snarly skate punk that was certainly influenced by Black Flag to an extent. Interestingly, the band changed vocalists around ’82 and the two voices (Derek Csimma, followed by Dion Trottier) don’t sound radically different from each other—adolescent snot ‘n rant.. Standard west coast punk although they could branch out on occasion—“Sugar Sugar” (not the Archies song) was gloomier sounding, for instance. A punk rock footnote and that’s meant in a positive sense. (PO Box 36131, San Jose, CA 95158,

RIVER CITY TANLINES-I’m Your Negative (Dirtnap, CD)
Another band including Alicja Trout (Lost Sounds, etc) and a wide-ranging array of material—foot stomping boogie/bluesy rock on the first two tracks, taking a poppier direction for “Shoot The Eye Out” and “No Gonna Think About It Anymore,” dabbling in hardcore (not very well) for “Whenever I Rot” and adding a nervier edge for “My Reflection” and “Drowning Dreams.” A lack of predictability and, while not every song is a success—the Richard Hell-ish strut of “Cryin’ Bleedin’ Dyin’” drags a bit—there’s some solid fired-up rock here. (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202,

RUIDOSA INMUNDICIA-De Ana Vez (Thought Crime, 7” EP)
Heart-racing hardcore. Fast all the way through, with the occasional slowdown. The rabid vocals are along the same lines as Saira from Detestation, except angrier sounding and trading off with a male counterpart. The band is from Austria but the lyrics in Spanish and two of the members are from Chile, originally. Literally no space between songs, one rager after another, applied lethally. (Thomas Franke, Muskauer Strasse 19, 10997 Berlin GERMANY, distributed by HeartFirst,

SGT. SLAUGHTER-s/t (demo)
There are some good bands hiding in the outlying burbs of Boston and Sgt. Slaughter is one of them. Four songs of raw hardcore influenced by early Boston stuff and Poison Idea, though that’s not the entire story. “Home On The Strange,” the song that leads off this tape, has an ominous intro to get the blood flowing and then it kicks into high gear, where it stays. Good thrashin’ hardcore with hot riffing and string-scraping leads. (PO Box 696, Carlisle, MA 01741,

SOLID DECLINE-Adorning The Void (HeartFirst, dbl. 7” EP)
10 songs spread over two 7”s and packaged in a triple panel foldout for this German band’s latest release. Three of the guys from Solid Decline used to be in Y and I like this band a lot more. The band’s speed is better controlled and there are some killer melodic guitar lines to go along with the burn. The 80s-era German band Inferno used to do something similar—aggression but also managing to add, for want of a better term, a tuneful sting. In any case, it’s impressive. (Landsberger Str. 146, 80339, München GERMANY,

VERSE-From Anger and Rage (Rivalry, CD)
There’s an “epic” element to Verse’s music. It got me thinking that the term “epi-crust” has come into usage in the past few years, usually referring to bands that stretch out their songs through melodic passages, along with the heaviness and faster elements. There are differences, though. Bands like Verse come from more of a newer-style hardcore realm (i.e. devoid of a punk influence, at least musically) while the crustier bands take their cue from the Scandinavian hardcore punk bands. I tend to gravitate towards the latter because the punk element fuels the whole package. In any case, Verse express strong sentiments about a crumbling world from a personalized perspective, along with a recommended reading/web/viewing list that covers the standard works of Chomsky, Zinn, Leonard Peletier et al. It’s kind of unusual for bands from this side of the hardcore aisle to offer much political analysis, so that’s commendable. But this musical approach leaves me cold. (

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #27

We begin this blog with a quote lauding my reviewing prowess:

“Al, you write the fucking most boring, irrelevant, two-line "this rocks” reviews in MRR every fucking month. give me a break. you are barely an improvement on Slug and Lettuce.”

Hey, what can I say? My reviews do emphasize brevity. I sometimes run out of things to say about multiple records that have a similar musical style. Sometimes, in-depth analysis isn’t necessary. In any case, the person (who I’m not naming here) is entitled to his opinion. I do have one beef about Slug and Lettuce (Christine Boarts’ long term ‘zine out of Richmond, VA)—the print is so fucking small and hard on my aging eyes. I realize it’s done for the sake of economy—including as much information as possible in a small space. Same for CD lyric booklets. I suppose I should invest in a magnifying glass at some point.

It’s a musical dead-zone in terms of shows—well, shows I’m interested in, at least. I have missed a few here and there due to inertia—i.e. I can’t get off the recliner or there’s a good football game on. Sorry—I’m just being honest. It’d have to be show-of-the-year or once-in-a-lifetime fodder for me to miss a Pats’ game. Those of you from the 7 Seconds “I Hate Sports” school may not understand that. And, incidentally, Kevin Seconds had a change of heart, since he did thank the Sacramento Kings on one of their albums and has a basketball tattooed on his leg. I hope he’s changed his mind about Howard Cosell, too—“Humble” Howard may have had one of the biggest egos in sports and journalistic history, but he was far from a wimp.

Ah, but this is mainly a music blog. And, if you’re curious, 7 Seconds’ best song is the “We Got Party” version of “Wasted Life Ain’t No Crime.” Every time I hear that song, I go damn near into giddy convulsions. It’s the perfect adrenalin song for those daily walks. Hell, I even play air bass when they get to Steve’s mini-solo towards the end.

There was one killer show I attended a few weeks ago, at an Allston basement space. The Finnish band Hero Dishonest returned for the first time in a few years and played an explosive set. Their vocalist Vellu loves to get up in people’s faces and it became a big scrum, with bodies flying, but without any sort of macho vibe. Straight-on thrash with an American bent and their Deep Wound cover, “I Saw It,” paid tribute to local hardcore history (Okay, Western Mass—close enough)... I’m just embarrassed that when Vellu shoved the mike in my face to sing along, I drew a blank. Oh well... Acts of Sedition played some hot hardcore/crossover while Positive Reinforcement played a much better set than their return-home show at MassArt in September, emphasizing the more punk-oriented material. The revamped Sgt. Slaughter laid down some vicious thrash. Thankfully, there wasn’t the cloud of smoke this time, although some asbestos fell out of a pipe during Sgt. Slaughter’s set. See you in the cancer ward.


COLDBRINGER-Lust and Ambition (DeadIdeas, LP)
I’ve been getting a fair number of records these days with hand-screened covers and the Coldbringer LP has some striking artwork. A stingingly melodic punk sound that sounds like a cross between Born Dead Icons’ doomy sound with Leatherface’s tuneful properties. Vocalist John Wilkerson (formerly with From Ashes Rise) has Frankie Stubbs’ timbre, albeit in a lower register. I know comparisons suck but that’s the best way I can describe it. The people in this band have played in more “crusty” or thrashy bands and this marks a departure away from D-beat and epic qualities. A warmth along with the power and vigor. (PO Box 851, Austin, TX 78767,

CONQUEST FOR DEATH-s/t (Wajlemac, 7” EP)
Three of these dudes—Devon, Craigums and Robert—used to be in the What Happens Next and the drummer, Kiku, was in Assfort and now plays in Charm. His playing really shines here and tightens up the thrash attack quite a bit. It’s still speedy and there are some hot guitar licks, as well (it’s a two-guitar lineup). Lyrical cynicism—“I love life, but hate society” is a motto of sorts and one I also subscribe to. That’s from the song “The Unbridled Disgust Of Being Human, The Pure Joy Of Being Alive” and it’s the best-formed song here. Good tempo shifts and starting with a shimmering intro. They’re also unafraid to tweak self-righteous DIY trumpeters for being hypocritical for shopping at chain stores (“Double Standard Bearer”). A good debut. (PO Box 8039, Emeryville, CA 94662,

DARVOCETS-Have Landed (Gloom, CD)
This CD combines the recent “Authentic Music From Another Planet” 12” EP on Painkiller Records along with their 1996 “Do The Crop Circle 7” EP and two live songs—one from ’94 with horrible sound quality and a marginally better one from ‘04. Cleveland miscreants doing a punk rock take on tinfoil hat/black helicopter/conspiracy theory fodder. Oh, and alien abductions. Larry’s vocals are high pitched and against-the-grain, fused to nervy three chord punk and that carries over from old to new, although the ’04 recording has cleaner production. All this may be something of an acquired taste but it’s an enjoyable schtick—if it is a schtick. You never know with these Clevelanders! Having a sound sample from “The Beverly Hillbillies” doesn’t hurt, either. (PO Box 14253, Albany, NY 12212, /Painkiller:

FOR THE WORSE-Blood, Guts, Going Nuts (Bridge Nine, CD)
Mike McCarthy and his merry band of chaos-makers return and the title is a good description of their live show. It also goes for the attitude—confrontational, blunt but also with a sense of humor. For The Worse could stand for Fuck The World—or is it the world is fucked? Either way, the sentiment is there and it’s summed up by “We’re All Going To Die.” There’s also something of a poop fixation—their “Couldn’t Give Two Shits About The Kids” album visualized it on the front cover and “#2” and “When The Shit Hits The Fans” cover that topic. Slapshot is a strong musical influence on this band, except that McCarthy’s vocals sound like a yippy dog with a case of distemper, instead of Choke’s bellicose growl. Thrash and more anthemic punk share space here and it’s a careening ride. (35 Congress st. #336 Salem, MA 01970,

FREEZE-Guilty Face (Schizophrenic, 7” EP)
The Freeze’s 1983 EP, reissued again with two bonus tracks, outtakes from “This Is Boston, Not LA.” There was a 10” re-pressing in the late 80s on Ax/ction Records with different bonus tracks. “Gulty Face” followed their appearances on “BNL” and “Unsafe At Any Speed,” moving the band in a hardcore punk direction, especially on “Voices From My Window.” I get the impression that vocalist Clif Hanger wasn’t too into the loud/fast style—that point is made on the liner notes--but I think the EP holds up well and the songs are memorable. The breakdown in the middle of “Voices” has a similar feel to the same part in the FU’s’ “What You Pay For.” The two earlier songs have a snottier punk style. All of these songs appeared on the “Token Bones” CD anthology but, come on, you want the vinyl. (17 W. 4th Street, Hamilton, ON CANADA, L9C 3M2,

GO!-Reactive (self-released, CD/7” EP)
Mike BS is back for the first time in over a decade with a revamped Go! and I imagine that’s the reason for the title—yep, I’m a perceptive genius, aren’t I? Or maybe not--I imagine I'm thinking of the term reactivate and Mike informed me that it's a reaction, in his words, "to the political landscape in this country." Moving along, the music is solid melodic hardcore and I’m recommending it because of that, but Mike’s tepid vocals kind of lack presence. The subject matter would be better with an angrier approach. “With This Ring,” about gay marriage (Mike is openly gay) has the line “We are a political football/Our lives up for a vote.” This sentiment needs to be put across as vehemently as possible, given the fact that 7 out of 8 states recently passed referendum questions outlawing gay marriage. It’s not all weighty lyrical matter, though—“That Rare 7” EP” pokes fun at record collector hoarding/nerdiness. Available as two different 7” EPs (the other is titled “With This Ring”) and the CD adds live material from 1990. (540 Leland Ave., San Jose, CA 95128,

GUILT LUST-s/t (Fun With Smack, LP)
Imagine a combination of Fucked Up’s muscular punk with driving 80s-era DC emo-core as the main melodic element. That’s what you have from this Western Mass. band. The vocalist DJ Podolski was with the raging hardcore band Last In Line (he’s also with the Irritators now) and this is something slightly different. The vocals still sound angry, although DJ actually sings on occasion and, at its heart, Guilt Lust are a hardcore band. And already a pretty damned good one, at that. (29 Westgate Rd., Apt. 2, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467,

IN DEFENCE-Twin Cities Crew (Give Praise, 7” EP)

Minneapolis band In Defence features the vocal talents of one Ben Crew, former guitar player for Damage Deposit. Enthusiastic youth-crew (of course) hardcore and there’s clear improvement between their EP and the split with Guns N’ Rosa Parks. The former had the tinny-snare-up-front problem but, on the split, the mix is better and the songs have more punch. Both are worth your time, if you like the upbeat, positive sound, yet without a hint of self-righteousness. Guns N’ Rosa Parks, in addition to having one cool-as-fuck name, bring on the aggro themselves. Thrashy hardcore punk from these Coloradoans (?), working best on the last two songs, “Frontier Mentality” and “Can’t Relate,” where the songs are a little slower and have more impact. (PO Box 494, Barnstable, MA 02630-0494,

KIDS OF CARNAGE-s/t (Give Praise, 7” EP)
Plenty of cah-nage. Hey, since these young men are from Cape Cod, it calls for the appropriate MassHole pronunciation. Hardcore with both a punk attitude and heavier floorpunch elements. Brian spits and snarls along with the band’s rough attack. When the speed is emphasized, the songs fare better. Their theme-song “Kids Of Carnage” is the best one here. (PO Box 494, Barnstable, MA 02630,

KORO-Speed Kills (Sorry State, 12”)/700 Club (Sorry State, 7” EP)
Koro were an early 80s hardcore band from Knoxville, TN and what we have here is a long-overdue reissue of their 7” EP and the first release of their unissued 12”. The latter is a true hardcore archaeological find. Speedy yet incredibly tight--great playing all around. Occasional metal guitar licks pop through and this was ahead of the “crossover” thing.. None of the songs on “700 Club” exceed a minute and the impact is pure hit and run. The 12” has primitive sound quality in comparison but the rawness works to Koro’s advantage. Some of the songs are repeated from the 7” and there’s also a bit more diversity in the arrangements. “Hello, Mom and Dad!” has a slight Big Boys and Minutemen flavor with the funkier rhythm on the verses. And a few of the songs exceed the one minute mark. A few of the songs cover the anti-Reagan/anti-evangelist topics of the day but there are also lyrics about odd and obnoxious people they encounter the their theme song “Koro” is about a penis disease, which is where the band took their name. The 12” is accompanied by an insert that has an extensive interview with their guitarist Carl Snow. Classic, essential hardcore. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

NO SLOGAN-Obredos Al Poder (A Wrench In The Gears, 7” EP)
The second EP from this Chicago band. It finally dawned on me that their fast-paced, tuneful sound reminds me a bit of Articles Of Faith around the time of “What We Want Is Free,” particularly for “No Pasaran.” “Smash The Scene” states “when are you going to realize that it’s all been said. It’s all been done.” They have a good point, there. I mean, No Slogan echo what’s come before yet the lack of pretense and the band’s heartfelt aggression still feels genuine. still energizes. (

THIRD DEATH-s/t (Culturevoid, 7” EP)
When I put on this 7”, I thought 45 was the wrong speed because of the high vocals but then I remembered that their vocalist Buddy rants in that style. Debut vinyl for this Providence band and it’s hyper-paced thrashy hardcore with slower parts. Sometimes, the speed gets the best of them but it’s an enjoyable, youthful blast, one song after another in quick succession. By the way, there are hand-screened covers, 100 each done by three different individuals—mine was done by Scoots Langlais and the skate monster drawing is pretty cool. (

VARIOUS-Finding A Voice Volume Two (Repetitively Futile, LP)
Crust/grind benefit album for No Compromise and the Earth Liberation Prisoner Support Network and it comes with a booklet explaining their agenda and what the organizations are all about, along with pages for each band. In all honesty, my environmental/animal rights views are probably a lot more moderate than these folks (shhh... don’t tell them about my diet!). Yeah, I’m a wimpy, non-violent liberal person not given to direct action or sabotage although I’ll concur that the sentences for people involved in property destruction are often excessive. Getting to the musical portion, the grinding sounds of FUBAR, Hewhocorrupts, Black Market Fetus and Catheter are largely unlistenable dreck. The best band here are I Object, with their more straightforward hardcore punk sound—the songs here were also on a European 7”. The Dis-crust bands such as Security Threat, Wartorn, Thin The Herd, Words That Burn and Tower Of Rome, follow the hammering, low-tuned, usually dual vocal style—and those are better musical contributions than the other band. So, yeah, it’s the standard comp crap-shoot—some good material but not always that consistent. (PO Box 1311, Missoula, MT 59806,

VERBAL ABUSE-Rocks Your Liver (Malt Soda, CD)
The band’s second album where the lineup was reshuffled, bringing in vocalist Scott Wilkins and some extra guitar players to complement Joie Mastrokalos. Recorded in ’86, at the time where the crossin’ over between metal and hardcore had begun. Verbal Abuse embraced that sound, holding onto the scrappy punk roots a bit. The title track is a faster rewrite of Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” followed by “Metal Melissa The Pissa,” with a thrash sound sharing commonality with their first album. The flash-riffing emerges with more prominence for “Set Me Free,” “Worth A Try” and “The Chase.” The album is appended with bonus studio tracks and not-bad-sounding live material. It definitely comes across as a hardcore band trying to be more “metal” and, while a bit thin-sounding, production-wise, it’s a fun album. I’m still more likely to listen to the full-on hardcore of “Just An American Band,” though. (PO Box 617127, Orlando, FL 32861,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #26

This week is the annual CMJ (College Media Journal) “Music Marathon.” in New York City. It’s basically a music biz schmoozathon. Sure, there are panels about various topics covering digital media, radio (college, internet, etc), music retail (I imagine “Taps” will be heard at those conferences), visual media, music management and more. Of course, little gets accomplished with those panels. I’ve been one time since ’93, when I sat on the independent press panel in 2003, since I was invited by Jim Testa of the esteemed Jersey Beat. I did appreciate the fact that he got me on that panel so I got free admission to the conference. And was able to get my buddy Joan press credentials for Suburban Voice as well and we stayed at her aunt’s for free. So it was a low-cost mini-vacation. I did my panel, fielded a few silly questions and that was the extent of my obligations. I did get to see some decent bands—ATV with Mark Perry, TV Smith doing Adverts songs, Paint It Black and, uh, uh... I don’t remember much else being that memorable.

At one point, I thought I wanted a career in the so-called ‘music biz.’ I had spent some time in music retail, working for an independent store. Around ’89 or so, I actually interviewed for a label that was going to be distributed by Relativity distribution, which later became RED and major-label distributed. The label was to be called Urgent, which immediately makes the mediocre Foreigner song pop into my head. I decided not to pursue it mainly because I couldn’t see myself babysitting bands and also didn’t want to move to New York. Urgent was soon re-named In-Effect, which some of you may remember releasing albums by Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All and funk-metallers 24-7 Spyz and Scatterbrain (post-Ludichrist)—jesus, remember that trend? If you’re too young to remember the latter two bands or ignored them, be VERY grateful.

A few years after that, I interviewed for a marketing job at Mechanic Records, which was a boutique label created by MCA and put out mainly metal bands, some of ‘em OK, such as Voivod. Once again, though, I decided I couldn’t move to NYC. I think I’d be a fish out of water moving away from the Boston area. Also, by working in retail, I learned about how the machinations of the music business operated, how it was commerce above all. I dealt with promotional people aiming to get me to inflate the sales figures of their records for our reports to various trade publications. While I wasn’t above taking their swag—going to open-bar parties, getting free records, etc—something did feel dirty about it. The last one of those parties I went to (the first in a long time) was the Fat Wreck Chords party at the swanky BB King’s club in NYC and it felt odd to me. That was during the aforementioned ’03 CMJ conference.

But, man, what a whorefest. I went to the old New Music Seminar and one CMJ from ’89 to ’93. There were moments that, in retrospect, were pretty humorous, such as the encounter with a publicist named Laura, who I’d talked to at my retail job. In the early 90s when there was the funk/metal fad for a bit, Arista signed a band called the Freaky Fuckin Weirdos. They were from Germany. Anyway, at New Music Seminar, she spots me, runs up to me with the band and starts handing me their CD and a cheesy white t-shirt with "Get Fucked" or "Get Funked" in huge letters... the two band guys I met looked as though they'd rather be anywhere else and I can't blame them... Their "plug" song was called "Bitch Made Sandwich." You can probably find their CD in the 3 for $1 bin somewhere.

I don’t think all the free beer in the world could get me down to one of those things again...


ACTS OF SEDITION-s/t (Spacement, 7” EP)
Driving hardcore from the Bay Area... as with many of the current bands from the region, there’s an unvarnished, raw and aggressive sound. A three piece with a howling bassist/vocalist and incorporating thrash and occasional heaviness, such as on the lengthier “Sun or Death.” Interesting assortment of quotes on the lyric sheet, including war thug Donald Rumsfeld and Ben Franklin, with the timeless caveat about how people giving up liberty for safety deserve neither and that’s relevant to this day. (269 Wonder St., Reno, NV 89502,

BAMBOO KIDS-Feel Like Hell (Empty, CD)
Power-pop straight from the 70s, both the revival in the late 70s and back to the glam-rock routes. If things get gooey on occasion, it’s counteracted by the pure joy of “Heartattack,” with the supple bassline and hand-clappin’ rhythm grabbing the ears. The older influences come in through the Dolls-ish (albeit with less endearing sloppiness) of “Low Life” and “Palpitations.” The volume gets turned up for “USA Out Of NYC” and things end nicely with the Bowie/T. Rex-ish stomp of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldier.” To borrow a line from the Blues Brothers, you’ve got both pop AND rock here. (PO Box 12301, Portland, OR 97212,

BATTLESHIP-s/t (On/On Switch, CD)
A battle with the senses. Abrasive, provocative rock and it ain’t the iced caffeine I just orally injected into my system. This is a cyclone that has shards of Jesus Lizard, Sonic Youth and early 90s AmRep style in the mix. They get to serious hammering for “Buster Keaton” and “This Town Wants You Skinny, while “The Blind Eating The Blind” begins with some jabbing guitar. A lot of jab here, uncontrolled aggression and doing it in a way that makes it stand out from the usual. This album quickly follows the band’s mini-album and the songs are a bit better-formed. Both provide a good jolt. (PO Box 641122, SF, CA 94164,

CONTROL DE ESTADO-Acto Criminal (Burrito, 7” EP)
State control, state control, this really is state control, as the name translates from the Spanish. Raw bass-driven hardcore from Florida. That’s the fuel for this three piece although the guitar and drums share in the pillage. Not a lot of melody—just rage. While the drum mix emphasizes the snare more than I’d like and the tightness occasionally falters, the roughness of the sound works to their advantage. There’s room for improvement, though. (PO Box 3204, Brandon, FL 33509-3204,

DÖDSDOMD-Seven Deadly Sins (Havoc, 7” EP)
A concept 7”, as this Swedish bands do one song each about the seven deadly sins (in case you couldn’t tell). There’s a Swedish version and an English version and I got the latter. Howling multiple vocals and a rampaging sound, as usual. The music doesn’t require deep analysis and neither do the lyrics. In the seven songs, Dödsdomd manage to encapsulate a lot of what causes the ills in this world—I suppose it can be boiled down to those items, although one doesn’t need religious baggage to be aware of them. And it seems as though “Wrath” may be the answer to the other six. In any case, you don’t need to appreciate the concept to be bowled over by the music here. (PO Box 8585, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

FOURTH ROTOR-Plain (Southkore, LP/Underground Communique, CD)
Not what you’d expect from Southkore (they did the vinyl and the CD came out on Underground Communique) and that’s fine with me—change-ups are always welcome as long as the musical results grab ones attention. That’s certainly the case with this Chicago trio and they’ve been around the block awhile. Vocalist/guitarist Douglas Ward was in ID Under and 8Bark, both of whom I remember from the late 80s/early 90s and his bandmates, Jacob Levee and Kammy Lee were in Ambition Mission, among other bands. Here, the sound is jolting post-punkish rock, with prominent bass-lines, jabbing guitar and vocals that bring to mind a late, much-missed portly guitarist for a band called the Minutemen. It’s hard to deny that band’s influence and there’s also the gnarled aggro of the old Amphetamine Reptile bands. Fourth Rotor are forceful but doing it without sticking to a punk rock playbook. (2814 S. Spaulding, Chicago, IL 60623, W. Hood, Apt. 1, Chicago, IL 60660,

HOPE YOU CHOKE (One Percent, CD)
Another disc that got regrettably neglected for awhile. Hope You Choke’s guitarist Pete logged time in Minneapolis ragers Holding On, a band that flirted with heaviness. His bandmates come from Bodies Lay Broken and the Real Enemy. A metallic/crossover sound—keeping some of the speedier hardcore trappings while crossing over into pure metal. Hope You Choke pull this off very well. No dull chug. Hope You Choke have figured out the way to keep a metallic sound from being lumbering and boring. (PO Box 141048, Minneapolis, MN 55414-1048,

OVER THE EDGE-Tales From The Blacktop Burnout (Rotten Drunk, CD)
The history includes people from Out Cold and Blood For Blood, to name two bands, but this is in more of a street punk ‘n roll vein. A hearty dose of Rancid (without the ska), Tommy and Terrors and early Ducky Boys. Boisterous tuneful songs with a punchy guitar sound, sandpaper croonin’ lead vocals and boys-in-the-gang backups. Over The Edge aren’t reinventing the punk rock wheel but it’s an enjoyable half hour or so. (21 Wells Ave., Westwood, MA 02090,

TRAUMA (Eye Respect In The Dog End, CD)
Demo-quality double-speed thrash/semi crossover—that means it doesn’t sound all that great, sonically. Very tinny-sounding and monorhythmic. I’m not sure it’d improve with stronger production. These guys just aren’t that tight and flail away without leaving much of an impression, (

VARIOUS-Mal De Ojo (joint release, CD)
A compilation of four Latino bands—No Slogan and Intifada from Chicago and Tropiezo and Juventud Crasa from Puerto Rico. Mostly quality punk and hardcore here, although Intifada suffer a bit from tin-snare syndrome and their double-speed thrash doesn’t always hold up. All the other bands, though, mix the punk punch and add melody here and there. No Slogan fit this description, especially for their cover of Bhopal Stiffs’ “Too Many Things.” Juventud Crasa also have a somewhat more tuneful approach while Tropiezo, with whom they share members, have a thrashier take. Play it loud for your neighbors who always whine about all the people who dare to speak in Spanish. Hell, just play it loud for yourself and loved ones. (Benny Hernandez, 2814 Spaulding St., Chicago, IL 60623,

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #25

Finally, a couple of shows to write about, both in college environments. Hey, I’m glad it’s the school year so there are more options, once again. The headliners at both of these shows approach their music in an against-the-grain, aggressive/abrasive fashion but in different ways. At MassArt, it was first local appearance (pretty sure) of Pissed Jeans, who I wrote about in the Pointless Fest. They were one of two bands I saw play at the church down there before the fest got shut down due to stupidity. It’s a heavy sound. Usually slow and pounding, bringing a noisy early 90s vibe. Volleys of guitar feedback, a punishing rhythm and Matt’s up-front vocal presence, although not as confrontational as in Philly. They were the highpoint of the three band show, which also included Blank Stare, whose hardcore attack was lost in the shitty sound din and Benjamin’s vocals were inaudible. Last minute replacement Serious Geniuses, played pop/punk/indy rock. Enough volume to keep it somewhat interesting.

A few nights later, there was a free show at the Oxfam Cafe at Tufts, featuring Das Oath. A whirlwind hardcore sound—Mark McCoy’s high-pitched vocals at the center of a flailing, loud-fast attack. Within the cacophony, there’s a pretty basic hardcore influence and the covers of Agnostic Front and Bold bear that out. Poison Control only got to play three songs before the bass-drum head broke. The less said about Daniel Striped Tiger and Ampere the better, although the latter’s screamy hardcore a little more palatable than DST’s droney tedium.


ASS-Sink (Profane Existence, CD-EP)
A Minneapolis band that cross screamy hardcore with more melodic UK anarcho punk and it actually works. Subtle rhythms, guitar that goes from buzzing to tuneful, somber bass-lines supporting and sometimes driving the melody and from-the-gut vocals. “4 More Years,” the standout track, has a memorable melody along with angry words about what to expect from the radical christian right for, hopefully, just awhile longer—well, they’ll always force the agenda but, hopefully, it’ll eventually be insignificant, “ASSKICKATRON,” on the other hand, takes a different (and whimsical) route—chanted spelling out of the song’s title, semi-rap vocals and a party-type atmosphere. Well, sorta. (PO Box 8722, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

BAMBIX-Club Matuchek (Go-Kart, CD)
Imagine Feargal Sharkey from the Undertones fronting a modern-day poppy punk band. OK, Willia van Houdt’s voice doesn’t quite reach the high register of Mr. Sharkey but that’s what I thought of and it’s not all that much of a positive. If there had been a little more grit, a harder edge from this Dutch band, it may have been more appealing. The sweetening effects in both the music (though not the completely squishy west coast sound) and the lead and backing vocals detract. (PO Box 20, New York, NY 10012,

BITTER END-Mind In Chains (Malfunction, CD-EP)
Harrrrrrrdcore—tough riffage, some speed and metallic leads. Definitely a NY vibe for this Houston band and a lyrical fatalism, particularly for “World Demise.” The same story—if it was just thrash, without the floor-punchin’ fodder, it’d be more palatable. (

FUCKED UP-Hidden World (Jade Tree, CD)
I had MP3s of this album some months before its release (shh.... don’t tell anyone) and had played it a number of times, trying to get a handle on it. Mainly, do I like it or not? I suppose that’s what it comes down to and it’s oneof those albums I had to really delve into, mainly due to my fondness for their previous releases. It generated mixed feelings, for sure. In short, was it brilliant? Overblown? Pushing things to a ludicrous extreme? Fucked Up are definitely a band who like to confound the listener, to mindfuck and challenge. Not so much in a musical sense, since this isn’t that big a stylistic departure, musically. Sure, there are dollops of strings and ethereal vocals, even some whistling during the fade-out of “Hidden World.” The big change is in the length of the songs. The album runs over an hour and most of the songs are over five minutes, including a remake of the earlier single “Baiting The Public.” Damian’s vocal bark hasn’t changed and they stick with the usual medium tempo. The songs are also much more melodic and accessible, yet without losing the punchiness. It’s all spread out and takes time making the musical point—the closing song, “Vivian Girls,” runs over 9 minutes. In other words, there’s bloat and perhaps some judicious self-editing would have strengthened the impact. That said, it’s a good sounding album that crackles nicely out of the speakers and provides a warm aural blanket (ugh, sorry). And, to answer the question, this opus did eventually win me over. (2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810,

HAVE HEART-The Things We Carry (Bridge Nine, LP)
What a beautiful package—gatefold sleeve, brown and orange swirl vinyl. I wish the musical contents were as memorable. There’s a forecful nature to Have Heart’s brand of hardcore, mainly due to the loudness of the production that brings out the punch. The standard thrash/crunch/hint of melody, an urgent vocal delivery and hearty backups. As with the thrashy hardcore punk I lean towards, Have Heart’s music fits a certain mold—straight-edge, probing the meaning of life, a strength of belief. It’s always good to have strong beliefs in yourself, even with the doubts that accompany them. I just don’t find the vessel of communication that appealing, either musically or in the grim-faced delivery. (PO Box 990029, Boston, MA 02199,

HERESY-Face Up To It (Boss Tuneage, CD)/1985-’87 (Boss Tuneage, CD)
Let the bludgeoning begin—two discs of this 80s era UK hardcore band. Heresy drew quite a bit of its inspiration from my beloved MassHoles Siege—the speed and fury, at least and they also added a metallic coating (sorry to resort to bad rock critic illiteration here), at least on the earlier stuff (represented by the “1985-’87 disc). In the early days, the vocals were handled by guitarist Reevesy and they were kind of buried in the mix. Eventually, a young man named John March entered as the band’s vocalist and his chafing, gruff vocals certainly added to the fray. That disc includes their 7”, flexi, songs from the split with Concrete Sox and their first demo. “Face Up To It,” recorded in’88, was Heresy’s first album and, according to bass-player Kalv, it sounded like shite, to use their parlance but the remix they did in ’03 makes it sound not-too-bad. Relatively speaking, that is—there’s still an echo-like quality. It’s a high speed rampage throughout. Speaking of sounding like shit, the practice demos appended ontothe disc don’t add a whole lot. Truth be told, I was never that into the speed-for-speed’s-sake approach and the songs haven’t dated that well. More power than memorability. (PO Box 74, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2WB, UK,

HUNCHBACK-Ugly On The Outside (Freedom School, CD)
Garage/psych that really isn’t all that head-bending. “Feeling betterdotcom” begins the affair on a subdued note, but gets livelier on the second song “Respect For The Dead.” The gnashing/driving “Ride The Dying” takes things in a harder-edged direction while “Black Sunday” is decent bit of garage derivativeness. The cover of Killdozer’s “A Mother Has A Hard Road” also provides a decent head-rush. I’m less enamored of the softer “The Last Man On Earth.” A little more savageness and I wouldn’t have any reservations. As it stands, it’s a tad uneven. (

MIKA MIKO-C.Y.S.L.A.B.F (Kill Rock Stars, CD)
Is it fair to call this the return of riot grrrl punk? Not really—Mika Miko do have the jittery, stripped down guitar sound and attitude of some of those early 90s bands but it’s probably inspired just as much by late 70s new wavish punk and post-punk, as well. A bouncy rhythmic foundation, keyboards adding a melodic element on some songs, snaky guitar lines and boisterous (sometimes dual) vocals. “The Dress” encapsulates all of those elements the best. “End Of Time,” “Don’t Shake It Off” and “Take It Serious,” meanwhile, have a more direct punk style. There’s a fresh energy here. (PMB 418, 120 State Ave. NE, Olympia, WA 98501,

As with the band’s other records, this does hit a chord… a Lifetime/Kid Dynamite vibe here. NMDS play driving, melodic hardcore with earnest-yet-throaty vocals and it has me hooked. Lyrics expressing a good amount of dissatisfaction, whether in the protragonist’s life or society at large. The whiff of familiarity, but giving it a sense of renewal and urgency. (2310 Kennwynn Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810,

SUBHUMANS-New Dark Age Parade (Alternative Tentacles, CD)
These are the Canadian Subhumans, as opposed the UK Subhumans and it seems as though people who like one of them can’t stand the other. I actually like both of them and was curious to hear this album, their first in over 20 years, but it’s disappointing. There are three lyricists in the band—vocalist Brian “Wimpy Roy” Goble, guitarist Mike Graham and bassist Gerry “Useless” Hannah. I’m in agreement with the Subhumans’ take on world state of affairs. The songs are decently-crafted, well-played, tuneful but there’s something missing. Even on a more energetic song such as “Moving Forward,” it’s still not gripping. With bands returning to the scene after a long absence, one holds out hope it’ll be a triumphant one. Sometimes, there are pleasant surprises (Mission of Burma, The State), but this isn’t one of those instances, unfortunately. By the way, “Incorrect Thoughts,” the Subhumans’ first album, is a somewhat unheralded classic, probably best-known for the sarcastic “Slave To My Dick,” but full of heartfelt, energetic songs. Hopefully, someday, there will be a reissue of the original mix, in the correct running order and not the remixed abortion put out by CD Presents. (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94141,

SUNDAY MORNING EINSTEINS-Sanningen om Sunday Morning Einsteins (Prank, LP)
No English cheat-sheets for SME’s latest hardcore offering. You’ll have to dig out the Swedish dictionary for the translations, I suppose, although “Marching To A Different D-Beat” at least offers some insight. No insight necessary, actually. Good slam-bang hardcore punk that wrecks all in sight. Standard tuning on the guitars and I find that preferable to lower tunings you sometimes hear from the modern-day Swedish bands. And even though a D-beat is mentioned in that song, SME don’t follow the Dis-route. Also, they seldom let up on the speed, except on a few songs, so it tends to run together a bit but, still, it’s hard to go wrong with this kind of aggro. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

TRIPLE THREAT-Into The Darkness (Bridge Nine, LP)
Wow, this wasn’t what I expected at all, given that Tim McMahon and Ed McKirdy from Mouthpiece and Hands Tied are in this band. And it’s a pleasant surprise. It’s a hard-edged, darker sound inspired by Black Flag and, especially, Bl’ast, among other bands. McMahon’s vocals remain in the shouted style, along with those types of backup vocals but it’s no youth crew effort. Medium-speed riffs give way to lurching stop/starts and back again. Triple Threat find a way to be heavy without relying on mosh-style riffing. I like the fact these guys are trying something a different instead of riding on past glories. (PO Box 990029, Boston, MA 02199,

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #24


I imagine some of my loyal readers are curious about my take on this movie, since I was around "back in the day" and still believe that hardcore has plenty to offer, that it continues to regenerate itself. Well, in the parlance of Siskel and Ebert (and whoever Ebert works with these days), I'll give it a mild thumbs up. A recommendation with reservations. Some of my hardcore compatriots won't even go that far, completely dismissing the film out of hand--interestingly, I get that perspective more from younger folks who are actively involved in the underground/DIY hardcore scene whereas people in my age range love the trip down memory lane but, since they've long since moved on, they may not understand why the younger folk (and some of us old farts) may be offended.

Filmmaker Paul Rachman and American Hardcore author Steven Blush attempt to encapsulate a certain time frame, that being from 1980-1986 and the press kit tips its hand: "AMERICAN HARDCORE traces this lost subculture, from its early roots in 1980 to its extinction in 1986." Before reviewing the film, I have to say "what the fuck?!" Lost subculture? Extinction? Maybe to Blush and/or Rachman, it's extinct. Blush did say in his book of the same name, "As for the current hardcore renaissance, I don't wanna deny the legitimacy of today's teen angst, I just feel like, "Yo, make your own fucking music! Why just ape the music of my salad days?" I can relate to those old Jazz or Blues cats who played back when it was all about innovation rather than formula and who now see a bunch of complacent, umpteenth generation beneficiaries claiming the forms as their own. Face it, hardcore ain't the same anymore. It can still make for powerful music, but it's an over-with art form. It's relatively easy to be into now, but back then it was an entirely different story."

No, it's not the same anymore. And it's true that there's a certain amount of redundancy, repetition, predictability, ritualization etc. that is a part of the current hardcore universe. There was just as much of it back then--remember the term "generic thrash"? I don't think it's "over with" in any way, though. There are still innovative bands playing with the heart and intensity of someone discovering it for the first time and not merely "aping" what happened before. Since I still go to a ton of DIY shows and these bands are finding different ways to add that influence but still sound fresh, I'm taken aback with some of the "old guard"'s attitude. At the end of the film, Steve DePace from Flipper and Zander Schloss from the Circle Jerks (and Repo Man, probably his only claim to fame) had comments about punk sucking, etc.. They were probably meant half in jest but they're both out there playing the "punk oldies circuit." Leave that out and the movie is a time piece but, by adding it, it invalidates everything that's happened since.

They also have this "in my day" attitude--the whole "I walked barefoot through ten miles of snow to get to the gig." How the bands today with tour buses, Warped tours, etc have it soft. I wouldn't consider those the antecedents of that hardcore scene, though. The DIY community continues to thrive, beneath the radar, and these bands hardly have it soft, playing for gas money, sleeping on floors. I don't think the bands who sleep on the floor in our house, usually arriving in a mechanically-hampered van would agree with that assessment. But due props to those early 80s bands for being the trailblazers and doing it without the internet. Hmm... maybe it IS a little easier now.

I suppose I should discuss the film's contents--plenty of talking heads, including Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Ian MacKaye, Greg Ginn, Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith, Dave Dictor from MDC, HR, Dr. Know and Darryl from Bad Brains and such Bostonians as Springa and the other members of SSD, Dave Smalley and Jon Anastas of DYS. It's a rush of clips, most of them short, a lot of them not always the best quality. The film seems to focus in on Bad Brains, Black Flag and Minor Threat, which makes sense since each were hugely influential. Bondi seems to represent the political/social conscience end of the hardcore spectrum and talks about what fueled the anger, while doing so in an overly intellectualized fashion. Dictor goes more to the heart of the matter, talking about flying the freak flag, being out-of-step not only with society but with certain elements of the hardcore scene. Different "regional scenes" are covered and the straight-edge movement is touched upon, as well.

There are some humorous moments in the film, both intentional and unintentional. Hank Williams III and Phil Anselmo offer a few incoherent words of wisdom. The backdrop of the interview with HR from Bad Brains is a wedding reception, where you can see the bride and other guests passing by in the background. Dr. Know explains that the Brains' upbeat Positive Mental Attitude came from a book called "Think and Grow Rich"--you can probably still see commercials for that book on late night TV. Jack Grisham from TSOL is hilarious, with his tales of debauchery, although he mentions raping women and some people picked up on that more than I did.

Some nitpicking... I find it odd that, in the intro to his book, Blush mentions the importance of Dead Kennedys but they're not a part of the film. Is this by design or, perhaps, Blush couldn't get clearance for their footage or perhaps Biafra and the other DKs weren't willing to cooperate? I also wish they'd shown more than a few seconds of each song and not dubbed the recorded versions over the footage. Just a few seconds of the Big Boys? Blush should have talked to Tim Kerr or Biscuit (if it was filmed before his passing) because their interpretation of hardcore had a wider, more welcoming scope.

The communal/community aspect of hardcore seems to be understated. One of the best things about hardcore was connecting with people around the country, with old fashioned correspondence by mail. You'd look through Maximum Rock 'n Roll or Flipside for the reviews, seeing what gems to mailorder, or through the classifieds, trying to find new pen-pals to exchange flyers, records, etc. Zines, in particular, get short shrift. They were an important factor in the spread of hardcore in that pre-internet era and Blush should have spoken with a zine editor or two.

It certainly wasn't all peaches and cream--it was rough, raw and visceral a lot of the time. It wasn't one big cuddly group hug by any stretch of the imagination. Violence was certainly a part of it, particularly in Southern California. But it was more about the music, an expression of frustration at ones own life and society at large, at least to me, and that didn't necessarily have to be expressed in a violent fashion. I do think American Hardcore does capture SOME of the essence and it should be viewed as one person's take and not the last word. Ultimately, I thought it was entertaining, if somewhat disjointed and flawed.


That's right--two more Clash items, one of which is a repackaging of sorts and the other something that hasn't been available in the US. In their inexhaustible quest to continue issuing Clash material, Sony have come up a singles box set (The Singles), which does seem like a cool premise if you're a diehard collector or completist. I got a 4 CD promo that includes all the tracks and a press It’s packaged (jesus, I sound like a commercial here) in a box with either vinyl singles or CD singles that add on bonus tracks. The CD version I have is pretty awesome—19 single CD’s with a reproduction of the artwork and there’s a booklet with testimonials from such "luminaries" as Shane McGowan, Steve Jones from the Pistols, Bernard Sumner from Joy Division/New Order, Clash manager Bernie Rhodes, etc--each offers a reminiscence of one of the singles.

With the Clash, the later material, starting with "Sandinista," was widely disparate and the endless remixes aren pretty much non-essential. One definitely doesn't need 3 mixes of the "Magnificent Seven," along with a single edit. And a lot of that later material doesn't hold up too well, although the Clash could still come up with a stunning song from time to time--"Straight To Hell," for instance. The less said about the three songs from the Mick Jones-less "This Is England" EP, the better. It's the early and mid-period stuff, though, that stands up. And it's not just primo punk, including such tasty b-sides as "City Of The Dead," "The Prisoner" or "Pressure Drop." They also nailed it with some of the reggae jams--the Mikey Dread-produced "Bankrobber" and "Armagidion Time," the flip of "London Calling."

The previously-unavailable item is the first DVD release of the Rude Boy film from 1980. I remember the running line back then was you should see it for the live Clash footage and not so much for the storyline. It tells the tale of a ne'er-do-well named Ray (Ray Gange) who seems to be aimlessly floundering through life. It's obvious he lives for punk rock--it's doubtlessly more satisfying than his day job working in a porno shop (while being on the dole, as well). Ray eventually hooks up with the Clash and becomes a roadie.

Despite the band's leftist political stance, including playing a Rock Against Racism benefit, Ray seems more enamored of the Tories than Labour, more right than left. One of his friends, a skinhead, can be seen tearing down anti-National Front posters while he and Ray play pool and they seem to agree that the leftists are cowards. There's an interesting conversation between Ray and Joe Strummer in a pub where Strummer explains that the reason the leftist viewpoint is preferable is because it's not "the many slaving for the few." Ray counters that he wants to be one of "the few," he wants wealth, to become rich. Yet, he works with the Clash.

Even with it being a fictionalized account involving real life characters, Rude Boy does attempt to capture a certain time, as did American Hardcore. One difference, of course, is Rude Boy is a product of its time, as opposed to a reminiscence. Of course, that's the ascension of the Clash, along with the ascension of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. In fact, the last scene is when she arrives at 10 Downing Street to begin her term as Prime Minister. There's economic dismay, racial conflict, police abuses, the SUS law--not only are people of color affected but members of the Clash and Ray himself get "nicked," as they say in the UK. Ultimately, Ray ends up back where he started--wondering what's next. Wandering off in the darkness.

As mentioned earlier, the attraction is the live material, all of it from 1978 and the DVD is set up so you can just watch the musical performances. Which are stellar--the Clash at the top of their game. There are also a few extra live clips of "English Civil War" and "White Riot" and, as bonus material, a current-day interview with Gange, road manager Johnny Green and the filmmakers. Not a theatrical masterpiece but worth watching the movie once, then you can go back to the live performances.

CAUSTIC CHRIST-Lycanthropy (Havoc, LP)
Heavy and ugly. Caustic Christ are back with their second album. The Scandinavian influence remains a central part of the sound, without following the Dis-formula. Instead of following the predictable pattern of beginning with one of their faster songs, “The Caustic Curse” is a stop ‘n start dose of heaviness. This is followed by the ever-timely “Doesn’t Anyone Want To Impress Jodie Foster Anymore?” and if you don’t quite get the premise, a certain Mr. Hinckley not only had a vision (thank you, Feederz) but wanted to impress Ms. Foster when he shot Ronald Reagan. Much like Reagan was the target in the 80s, Bush is the target of derision now. Plenty of raging material along the way—the hit and run “Frustration,” “Medicated” and “Cold” and the slightly more moderately-paced “Public Service.” The last track, “Standing In A Circle... The Ballad Of Ukla Von Oopenstein,” is a Flag-ish instrumental. I prefer their first album slightly more but “Lycanthropy” has a high-enough bash quotient to keep ‘ya happy. (PO Box 8585, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

DESTRUCTION UNIT-Death To The Old Flesh (Empty, CD)
Reatards and Lost Sounds cross-pollination once again, on this album, recorded in 2004. This is ostensibly a solo project for Ryan from the ‘tards but he gets help from Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout. A tandem of raw, aggressive synth/guitar punk rock. To call it new wave would be inaccurate—it’s too intense to fall into that realm. Smashing and slamming hard and the cover of the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette,” given a harder, faster edge, fits in well with Ryan’s vision. (PO Box 12301, Portland, OR 97212,

KUNGFU RICK-Fragments Of The Past Time (625, dbl. CD)
Two discs of wanton grind and heaviness. A double-disc complete anthology. Kungfu Rick were a tight band and navigate the tempo shifts successfully but that’s not enough to prevent it from becoming numbing after awhile. I imagine it’s a simplistic take on things but one can only take so many blastbeats and electrode-on-testicles meet lower register tradeoffs between the two gentlemen manning the mikes. I will say it’s not one-dimensional and at the more traditional thrash speeds and metallic buildups, the songs have a better effect. As always, it depends on how much grindin’ you want. It’s above average for that approach. By the way, one of the flyers in the booklet reveals they opened for Wesley Willis. Now THAT’S an intriguing combination. (

PARASITES-Retro-Pop Remasters (Go Kart, CD)
I can’t believe it’s around 15 years since I first heard this band—that was back when Dave Parasite was using the first name Nikki. A multitude of members have come and gone but it’s always been about the pop-punk. I mean that in the purest sense of the word. A compilation from various releases over the years, all remastered, blah blah blah. Plus a guest appearance at the end from the one and only Rev. Nørb taking on Handsome Dick Manitobot (don’t ask), followed by one last coda. Sure the singing is sweet and harmonic; sure, the lyrics are heart-on-sleeve. Sure, this is less hard-edged than what I listen to these days but, within a few minutes, about the time “Ronnie Is A Psycho” began, I remembered how catchy these songs are. (PO Box 20, Prince Street Station, NY, NY 10012,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #23


It’s funny—I was out on my daily walk today and, as usual, had my trusty MP3 player and headphones with me. Suddenly, I had to urge to hear Iggy & The Stooges’ “I Got A Right.” The Stooges, of course, have a lot of classic songs, both with the original lineup and the later, James Williamson-on-guitar grouping. In fact, “Raw Power” is one of my all-time favorite albums. I’ve told the story many times about how I got this album in the summer of ’76 so I’ll skip that segment for once. If you want to read it, my June 21 blog entry on MySpace has the whole story.

So, yeah, “I Got A Right.” I can’t believe this was an outtake from “Raw Power.” This song was recorded in July of 1972. It starts with a big fanfare, then Williamson’s razor guitar kicks in, along with Iggy’s unhinged vocal, starting with a primal yell. The tempo is fast and furious—not hardcore speed but I’d describe it as mid-to-fast in current parlance. There’s a searing guitar break in the middle and then that fucking riff comes back.

As I’m chugging along Lynn Shore Drive, that song pumping through my brain, I’m thinking “this is punk rock”—the guitar sound, the tempo, the fuckin’ BURN. From Nineteen-Fucking-Seventy-Two. This was the year I was still digging “Who’s Next” (nothing wrong with that, of course) and getting such singles as “Small Beginnings” by Flash, “Go All The Way” by the Rapberries and “Long Cool Woman” by the Hollies. “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper came out just before I finished grade school and I got that 45, too. “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent was a big summer hit and also connected with me, but I didn’t get the single until sometime after.

Those songs sound like they belonged in 1972, though. Etched into that time, maybe because they’re etched into my memory banks. Still, “I Got A Right” sure doesn’t feel like it’s a part of that time. As it turns out, the single (backed with another outtake, the shakin’ “Gimme Some Skin,”) wasn’t even issued until 1977 and under the name “Iggy Pop/James Williamson” on Revenge Records. While googling (shut up pervert) on the ‘net, looking for various info on the single, I found Chris D.’s review in issue #3 of the infamous Slash magazine: “‘I got a right' has to be the most violently crazed ditty anyone's ever kicked ass to (and that goes for most previous Stooges material too). This song is so unimaginably violent, yet simultaneously poignant and tear-jerking, that it takes a few listens to believe one's ears. There really aren't adjectives to describe the beautiful abandon here . . . all stops out quite literally and nothing left to lose.”

I first heard it in the fall of ’77—probably on the Salem State station WMWM and I taped it. It may have even been Paul Greenberg’s radio show—as I’ve said before, “Greeny” was the guy who got me into punk rock. I think I heard “I Wanna Be Your Dog” a bit after that one, so this was my first exposure to anything outside of “Raw Power.” Well, for the Stooges—I probably heard some of the first two solo records but they didn’t make much of an impression.

The song has been reissued a multitude of times—it seems as though every note Iggy recorded back then has been dredged up and released by Bomp Records. There’s a CD single with “I Got A Right” that has 7 takes and a live version, plus two versions of “Gimme Some Skin.” The best of these collections is probably “The Year Of The Iguana,” since that includes the most listenable of the odds and ends. There’s also a 7” reissue with a picture sleeve.

The greatness of this song isn’t a newsflash to most people reading this entry, I’m sure. It’s stating the obvious. Iggy is obviously a pioneering figure in the history of punk. But, after 29 years, when I hear the opening chords of “I Got A Right,” it’s mandatory I turn it up good and fucking loud...


CAREER SUICIDE-Anthology Of Releases: 2004-2005 (Deranged, CD)
I would guess most readers here know how much I love this band. If not or you haven’t heard them, get with the program! This is hardcore, it’s punk fuckin’ rock, it’s rockin’ fuckin’ punk and, at the center, Martin Farkas rants away. Leading off with a pair of unreleased songs and two more later on—“The Last Stay” is a rousing entry to this collection. 20 seconds in, Martin gives out a primal yell and it’s off we go. The disc includes their split LP with Jed Whitey, the “Signals” EP and the “Invisible Eyes” 12”. Most of the time is spent thrashing, but then they’ll come up the pure ’77 KBD dumbo punk of “Bored Bored Bored” but it ain’t that dumb. They capture the same feel for “There’s Something Wrong With You.” I think the reason Career Suicide are such a good band is because they understand the history of the music they’re playing and draw what they love from those influences. I’d guess (in fact, I know) that they’re record geeks. The New Bomb Turks are also record geeks and knew how to mix everything into an ass-kicking sound that’s more than the sum of its parts. Same here. This kind of music shouldn’t be overproduced, it should be rough-sounding and, most of all, it should be catchy AND fun. That’s why it works so well. (

CHANNELS-Waiting For The Next End Of The World (Dischord, CD)
The latest project for J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) and not as jabbing or electrifying as his earlier bands. Actually, the band he did with Vic Bondi, Report Suspious Activity, had a lot more brawn to it. Here, J. is in a three-piece lineup again, with bassist Janet Morgan and drummer Darren Zentek. Rock that has a strong rhythmic base (that’s the main focus) underneath mainly melodic arrangements, with a dollop of post-punk. It increases the volume and perks up from time to time and you can hear echoes of those older bands—I mean, the vocals and guitar sound are the same, just not always as gripping. For instance, on “Mayday,” it starts with a cool Gang of Four-ish guitar jiggle and has a near-edginess yet holds back and doesn’t completely push the envelope. “Chivaree” and “$99.99” have the same set-up—fiery sounds but also tempered a bit. I imagine that’s the balance they’re looking for and Channels entice on occasion but not consistently enough. (3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007,

CHRONIC SEIZURE-s/t (Fashionable Idiots, 7” EP)
Four more hot slabs on this platter—hey, I’m hep with the boss lingo, here. OK—in English now. Another enjoyable effort from these Chicagoans who play straight-forward, catchy hardcore punk. The production brings out the band’s sound without either being too primitive or over-produced. If you haven’t heard this band yet, what are you waitin’ for? (PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458,

LIFETIME-Somewhere In The Swamps Of Jersey (Jade Tree, 2xCD)
Two full discs worth of EPs, comp tracks, their “Background,” live stuff and unreleased mixes. You get the idea. And after listening to this collection, I’ve reached the conclusion that Lifetime weren’t all that great a band. One of those classic good live/not so great on record bands. Melodic/emo-laden punk from the early to mid 90s and it has a real whiny quality to it. Yearning vocals and, although some of the songs have drive, it’s not gripping and many of the songs have a slower-tempo lethargy.. Also, the production for “Background” is miserable, with echo-y sounding drums. Same for the live songs—I saw them play a few good shows in the middle part of the decade but this performance, from ’92, isn’t all that electrifying. Guitarist Dan Yemin’s post-Lifetime bands, Kid Dynamite and Paint It Black, are a lot better—Kid Dynamite maintained the melodic aspects but had a lot more energy and Paint It Black is just full-on burn. One of those bands from the 90s I’ve left behind. (2310 Kennwyn Rd., Wilmington, DE 19810,

ORIGINAL THREE-Been Dealt A Losing Hand (Empty, CD)
Memphis low-down dirty blues/garage—by way of New Orleans (I wonder if they moved after Katrina?). With help from Jay Reatard and Alicja Trout, that should give you a pretty good idea of what the Original Three are all about. Recorded at different sessions (all of it primitive-sounding but not ridiculously low-fi) and hit and miss at times. Still, the likes of “Scene” and the shakin’ groove of “This Is The Way I’m Walking” are dead-on. (PO Box 12301, Portland, OR 97212,

SPERMBIRDS-Something To Prove/Nothing Is Easy (Rookie/Boss Tuneage, CD)
A former American serviceman fronted a band of Germans—that’s the Spermbirds and their first two albums, plus a few extra tracks, are packaged here. A late 80s band that embraced thrash, along with poppier/melodic influences and that was fairly commonplace during that time frame. Hardcore bands were either going heavier or catching a little of the mid-80s DC bug and going in the direction. Unfortunately, not a ton of this has aged particularly well. First off, “What A Bitch Is” is just dumb. The band’s best song remains “You’re Not A Punk,” with an irresistable guitar line and some killer hooks. “Another Dead Friendship” has a similar effect. The more tuneful material is strongest here—relatively speaking. When the Spermbirds attempt to thrash out, it comes across as tepid. I definitely liked this a lot more then than I do now. (PO Box 74, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2WB, UK,

TOTAL CHAOS-Freedom Kills (SOS, CD)
The latest from Total Chaos is a litany of criticism against the current state of affairs in America, starting with a dramatized announcement, “SOS America,” imagining the declaration of martial law. Observations about the conflict in Iraq and other “system” abuses. Pretty obvious targets, spelled out in black and white and the booklet includes essays about these issues. I can’t say I disagree with their take on things, either, even with the agitprop trappings.Musically, Total Chaos retain their mainly fast, aggressive punk sound along with a few street punk turns, especially for “Another Boot Party” and the umpteenth cover of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”. They also cover the Misfits’ “Attitude” to provide a respite from the heavier lyrical matter. Rob’s hoarse vocals almost veer towards overkill yet do effectively convey his outrage. A loud, spiked and studded musical state of the union address. (PO Box 3017, Corona, CA 92878-3017,

UNDER PRESSURE-Come Clean (Yellowdog, CD)
“Come Clean” is even more diverse than Under Pressure’s recent self-titled disc. Some of the songs were recorded around the same time as that one and some more recently. There’s an increase in melody in spots and a variation of tempos and styles. “I Explode” is grinding and heavy, throwing in some atonal saxophones and it doesn’t devolve into pretentiousness. “Muddy Water” takes from the Wipers’ somberness a bit. Meanwhile, there’s no missing the speed/rage of “One In One.” A dark power. (PO Box 550209, 10372 Berlin, GERMANY,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #22


I don’t want to say things are back to normal, DIY venue-wise, in Boston, but the situation appears to be improving a bit. There have been a pair of shows at MassArt in the past few weeks—Chronic Seizure, along with Positive Reinforcement, Blank Stare and the Conversions on the 11th and, on the 22nd, two shows got combined—Sunday Morning Einsteins, Straightjacket Mind, The Jury, Nuclear Winter, Friday Knight and Unholy Trinity. The sets were brief, anyway. They’ve done shows in this room in the past—it’s a classroom, basically—and the most memorable was Limp Wrist around 2001. It’s funny because Paul from Nuclear Winter also plays drums in Limp Wrist and I asked if he remembered playing here and he said when they got to the building, he thought it looked familiar. The sound isn’t the best but it’s a space and, now that school’s in session, I hope it’ll be the first of many. There’s another basement space in Allston and there will be a Kohu-63 (Finland) show there on October 7. E-mail me if you need the address.

As for the two shows, I’ve seen PosiForce, Blank Stare and the Conversions play better shows. PosiForce sounded out of tune most of their set, in fact. Chronic Seizure, on the other hand, were dead-on. Pat, the bass-player, is a complete maniac when he plays. Boisterous, no-bullshit thrash. At the other show, Sunday Morning Einsteins brought the blitzkrieg. Their drummer Anton is a fucking MACHINE—just watching him play was a lot of fun, one part of this band’s howling fury. I’ve seen better Swedish hardcore bands but there’s something about that sound that blasts away the blues. Straightjacket Mind, from New Jersey and with ex-Tear It Up/Rites guy Matt Wechter on bass, were a surprise. Dark, TSOL-inspired punk—they covered “80 Times” from “Dance With Me” and that’s when the connection dawned on me (hey, you’ve got to cheat sometimes). Presence and good songs. The Jury, from Albany, finally made a Boston appearance. Kind of lost in the din. Razorwire hardcore with a pronounced 9 Shocks influence. Good, but better when they played with 9 Shocks in Albany a few months ago. Nuclear Family, also from Albany, have a moodier melodic sound—they opened with the best song off their demo, “Hear This.” You could hardly hear the vocals, unfortunately. Neither melodic punk band Friday Knight, from Tennessee nor Unholy Trinity, local metal-mongers, made too strong an impression although the latter’s vocalist Mike had some pretty cool explanations about the songs—knowledge is power, such as how the smoking of angel dust isn’t good for you. I’ll remember that.

You know, it’s kind of funny when I read music reviews in the Boston Globe and other mainstream media outlets They’re always listed as “CD reviews.” I wonder if any vinyl ever crosses these writers’ desks or if they deal with it. How many of them have turntables? There’s this one guy I know who only wants CDs. He said, some years back, “I’m through with vinyl.” So he gave me most of his vinyl collection—nothing amazing, since his tastes are quite mainstream, but there were a worthwhile ones in there. Back to reviewing--my only rule (well, besides music that falls outside of the musical styles of what I cover) is I don’t want those shitty advance packages. I want the album or 7” or CD just as it’s going to be sold to the consumer. I suppose one useful thing about advance CDs is I can file-share them with friends—oops, did I just say that? Never mind—I’M KIDDING, I’M KIDDING!

Without further ado, are the MUSIC reviews! One thing, though. I’ve been having bouts of writer’s block at times so I hope the reviews are too lame.

BLANK STARE-s/t (Third Party, 7” EP)/s/t (Refuse, 7” EP)
Two new 7” EPs, each with three songs and smashing shit up furiously. A musical leap from their first EP, as Blank Stare have become one of the hottest hardcore bands in Boston over the past year or so. Trying some different things, such as the guitar dissonance that leads out of “Coward” on the Refuse EP. Atypical lyrical fodder for a self-identified straight edge band (those topics were covered quite vehemently on their first EP). On the Refuse EP, two of the songs are about sex and gender issues. On the Third Party EP, all the songs have “white” in the title and the lyrics are about how “the whole white race is a fucking disgrace.” I don’t identify myself as a “guilty white male” but it’s true that the mainly white males who control the government and industry in this country bear a lot of the guilt for the havoc they wreak. In other words, I understand where Benjamin’s coming from. No subtlety here in any form and these EPs make a walloping statement. (Third Party: 21 Nancy Lane, Amherst, NY 14228,; Refuse: PO Box 7, 02-792 Warszawa 78, POLAND,; Band:

FINAL CONFLICT-No Peace On Earth, No Rest In Hell (SOS, CD)
What to expect from a new Final Conflict album in 2006, especially with only one original member, guitarist Jeff Harp? In this case, the band’s first full-length in almost 10 years, it’s a loud, throttling effort. Thrashy punk with some metal thrown in and, while not “Ashes To Ashes,” holding its own. Tim Sawyer has a strong set of lungs and, in addition to the power riffing, Phobia vocalist Shane McLachan proves to be more than adept on bass. The lyrical matter hasn’t changed much since the 80s—suppose that’s sad in a way. Pleasant surprise. (PO Box 3017, Corona, CA 92878,

GIANT HAYSTACKS-A Rebirth Of Our City (Pizza Pizza, 7” EP)
One good release after another for Giant Haystacks. The latest is a three song EP featuring their sharp sound. Strong musicianship without any sense of pretentiousness and good melodies and two of the three songs makes observations about their city—the clash of cultures between the gentrifiers and those still struggling. I’ve namechecked the influences before (M**men, G**g Of F**). Yes, it’s POST PUNK, there’s familiarity, but when it’s this well played, this fresh-sounding, after a pile of soundalike records, it’s welcome. (c/o John Patrick Quinn, 805 Courtland, Ypsilanti, MI 48197,

IMPERIAL LEATHER-Antibodies EP (Profane Existence, 7” EP)
Colorful sleeve, lovely green/black splatter vinyl and some rockin’ punk in the grooves. A satisfying followup to Imperial Leather’s album, it’s four tuneful songs with male/female vocal tradeoffs and a loud, full sound. Not much more to add except I can’t imagine dealing with “only twelve hours of sunlight in a month” on their song “Seasonal Affect Disorder.” Shit—I’m dreading 9 hours of daylight a day. Something to relate to! (PO Box 8722, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

JESUS FUCKING CHRIST-s/t (Puke/Inimical, CD)
First off, how can you not love a band with this name. It’s one of the more common expressions that passes from my lips when confronted with irksome, irritating situations or blatant stupidity. Plus, I know some people who would take GREAT offense at the band’s name and that’s just fine with me. A Final Conflict influence here, in terms of the semi-metallic hardcore sound and basslines darting in and out of the hot guitar riffs, plus Larry’s vocals sound a bit like Ron Martinez (we’re talking older Final Conflict). JFC don’t rely on pure speed all the time, as many songs have a medium pace.” Plenty of burn here. (PO Box 99456, Emeryville, CA 94663,

KIELTOLAKI-s/t (Moo Cow, 7” EP)
I had this Finnish band’s demo on MP3 (ah, the digital age) and liked it a lot. Here are three songs on wax, er, vinyl and it’s a sick blast. Kieltolaki have the classic Finnish sound with modern production and gruffer vocals. Can’t understand a word of it but, man, it sounds convincing. Two fast ones and a mid-tempo one on the flip. The descending bass-line and squealing guitar feedback for “Vitun Lampaat” are a deadly tandem. (38 Larch Circle, Belmont, MA 02478,

KS are Finnish, DT are Danish and this record is loud. Two thrashin’ bands. I’ve heard better material from Kyklooppien in the past but it’s still bashing and powerful, if not always as tight as it should be. Death Token thrash straight ahead with a Scandinavian-inspired sound, feedback on the guitars, a little bit of metal and their side is somewhat better. (

LOWER CLASS BRATS-New Seditionaries (TKO, CD)
The Lower Class Droogies, uh, Brats are back yet again, and it’s been awhile. An enjoyable street punk romp with catchy songs, hearty singalongs, et al. Basic UK influences—Red Alert, Blitz, Defects and the like, and it has a rock ‘n roll heart as well. The last song, “Walking Into The Fire,” has a hook-laden guitar break in the middle that stood out. Is it life-changing or overwhelmingly great? Nah, but I had my toe tapping a bit while it was playing. I suppose that’s an endorsement of sorts. (8941 Atlanta Ave., #505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646,

MONDO TOPLESS-Take It Slow (Get Hip, CD)
Passable garage rock, production that’s neither too primitive or polished. Farfisa is the up-front instrument and there’s some nasty attitude in the vocals but it doesn’t really let loose as much as I’d like. There are exceptions—the closing grind of “Crawl.” If there was a little more rawness, it’d be better. (PO Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15317,

RIGHT ON-Reality Vacation (Malfunction, CD)
Ah, Right On. Power to the People. Wait a minute—there ain’t no peace signs, no hippies and it’s not the least bit mellow, to paraphrase Ted Nugent (who was the anti-hippie, despite early psychedelic trappings). Nope, this is hardcore, direct and to the point, both musically and lyrically. Posi and youthful but without the tough breakdowns. In fact, the break for “Smoke and Mirrors” is metal in the trad way. Conflicted feelings about scene loyalty, people changing, insincerity etc. Always questioning things and perhaps wondering if they’re being naïve about things. Shit—sounds like me when I was 23—the naïve part, I mean. In any case, another case of a band not being terribly original but still getting the job done in an assaultive manner. This CD includes demo tracks. (

SLIMY CUNT AND THE FISTFUCKS-Nothing But Enemies (Welfare, 7” EP)
Kind of an unforgettable moniker here, although SCFF are alternately known as Nothing But Enemies, with longtime Boston fixture Opie on vocals and Mike McCarthy (aka Sgt. Major Asshole, here) from For The Worse on guitar. Shock value aside, this is some braying shit. Opie begins the EP with a howling “1-2-FUCK YOU!!,” leading into the title track. Not thrash but in a medium speed, heavy vein without being metal or metal-core. “CRS” is damn near melodic. It’s an unleashing of pure hatred and malevolence directed at its various targets. “Rich Kids,” for instance, takes on various groups of people—college students, yuppies, etc who invade/infest the Allston neighborhood of Boston. There's definitely something I like about these guys. If they do a full-length, though, a little variation would be cool. (58 River St, Haverhill, MA 01832,

JEFF WALKER UND DIE FLÜFFERS-Welcome To Carcass Cuntry (Fractured Transmitter, CD)
God, this is terrible. Hell, no matter the deity (or lack of one), it’s still terrible. Sometimes, novelty records work, sometimes they don’t. Former Carcass bass player/vocalist Walker may be sincere in his tribute to country and folk music, done semi-rock style but it falls flat on its face. The only halfway-tolerable song is “Mississippi,” done with a Pistols touch. The nadir is John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” quite possibly one of the lamest songs in musical history and should never be played by ANYONE ever again. And the concluding cover of Neil Young’s “Keep On Rocking In The Free World” is pointless. Killdozer could pull off humorous covers (their “I’m Not Lisa” leaves anything on this album in the dust), Blowfly’s recent punk tribute is a credible novelty album. This just flat-out sucks. (PO Box 33518, Cleveland, OH 44133,

WE THE PEOPLE-s/t (Stop Whining, Start Winning, CD)
Chuck from Black SS is the vocalist in this band and it’s different from the straightforward hardcore punk of that band. Well, his bellowing vocals are the same but the music is more of a melodic punk approach but still forceful. In other words, it’s not pop swill. “Outside of Society,” one of the demo tracks on the CD (the CD has both new songs and the songs from the demo) expresses the outsider mentality: “I’m a traitor to my country, I’m a traitor to the state, I’m a traitor to the police, I’m a traitor to this life I hate” while “I Don’t Bleed Red White and Blue” is pretty self-explanatory. (58 Belaire Dr., Horseheads, NY 14845,

YOU ME AND THE ATOM BOMB-Shake Up (Household Name, CD)
West coast-influenced melodic hardcore at the nexus of Lifetime and the Descendents. The grit-in-throat vocals aren’t bad yet neutralized to an extent with the harmonies and the whole thing gets too close to emo for my liking. Too damn sweet-sounding. (PO Box 12286, London SW9 6FE, ENGLAND,