PART ONE-WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING? SUBURBAN VOICE—THE LOST YEARS AND WITH AGE COMES WISDOM?
Lost, as in I covered some music that I liked at the time and, when I read my reviews now, I cringe. What the fuck was I thinking? I suppose part of it was I was under the influence of managing an independent record store (Rockit Records in Saugus, MA) where I couldn’t play much abrasive punk and hardcore, at least when the owner was around.. Hell, playing Helmet led to derision from that guy, who played all this wretched folk, blues (not the classic stuff but that overproduced Alligator Records swill) and “world beat” music. He would refer to gruff vocalists as having a “Bluto voice (Popeye’s rival, not the Belushi character),” meant in a derisive fashion. I have to admit that I found one comment about a vocalist humorous. I used to buy promo CDs for the store at a warehouse in Somerville. One day, I was getting some copies of Dinosaur, Jr’s first major label album and one of the co-owners, said that J. Mascis’ vocals sounded like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals and started doing the “ohhhhh...” He had a point. As a completely unrelated side note, I seem to recall hearing that he once flipped out on a plane trip and had to be checked into the McLean mental hospital. This was in the early 90s. Sheesh—these days, they would have shot him or he would have been charged with interfering with a flight or something like that. Like the woman who recently had a panic attack on a flight.
Alt-rock got a lot of play in the store and mainstream “hits” such as U2. I distinctly remember hearing that godawful song “One” and my co-worker going “you don’t think this is a beautiful song?” I politely said to her that I didn’t. These days, I probably would have been a tad more vitriolic—“NO! That song sucks, ass.” Incidentally, this woman was one of two co-workers who ratted me out to the owner, saying how I was unfair, controlling of the stereo, etc. It was partially true but you think they’d talk to me instead of going behind my back and subjecting me to a demeaning meeting with the three of them. Backstabbers and I never trusted any co-worker in any situation after that. The other co-worker bought the store with a partner and unceremoniously laid me off after 8 years there. I did manage to get a bit of revenge but that’s all I’ll say, even if the statute of limitations has run out. Has it? I’m not sure.
So, yeah, that stuff probably had an influence on my writing and show-going. So did going to the shitty New Music Seminar and CMJ. So did getting bored with the slowed-down, heavy nature of the hardcore bands I was seeing at the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the underground DIY scene. I’d get to those types of shows once in awhile—I remember seeing Econochrist, Rorschach and Face Value and 1.6 Band during a few shows at the basement of a church near Harvard Square. I managed to see Born Against and I’m really grateful for that now. Still, there was a LOT of bad hardcore being created at that time and, if there were bands doing the old-school style, I didn’t really know about it. Well, except for Fit For Abuse, whose 7” I appreciate even more these days.
What was I going to see and listening to? Bigger shows and fests because I had access to free tickets, both through the store and my writing. Lollapalooza, for instance—Jane’s Addiction, Hole (ugh), Bad Religion, Green Day and bands of that ilk. Not awful but certainly bands I don’t listen to that much anymore—I won’t listen to much beyond BR’s first album, for instance. Helmet, who have NOT aged well for me, save a few songs here and there, especially “Bad Moon” and “Just Another Victim,” their collaboration with House Of Pain on the Judgment Night” soundtrack. Pearl Jam. Good grief... I did see them before they got signed and liked them. Maybe it was free booze I had just consumed.
Smashing Pumpkins. White Zombie. Quicksand, another band who haven’t aged well at all. Red Hot Chili Peppers. Primus. Alice In Chains. Poster Children. Tad, whose vocalist was one of the biggest jerks I ever interviewed. Pantera, who had a few good songs but you can have the rest now. Therapy. Thee Hypnotics. Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom (even though it included most of the Dictators, their album sucks). Swervedriver. Alcohol Funnycar. Afghan Whigs. Quite a few of the bands on SubPop at the time. Skin Yard. Soundgarden, who I was really into for awhile and can’t listen to at all now. I obsessively collected their records and still have them and they haven’t been pulled off the shelves in years, now. None of these bands have much to offer me anymore. Some are obviously familiar but if there are any on that list you haven’t heard of, you’re not missing a thing. The nadir was Living Colour. I even interviewed them for Suburban Voice. Speaking of condescending assholes—well, I heard Vernon Reid was a nice guy but the two members I talked to were fucking dicks.
As for the huge breakout band, Nirvana, I’m even sick of them. Sacrilege? Maybe it was a case of it being overplayed and I don’t have a desire to listen to them all that much anymore. They did deliver the goods live, though. At least it’s not as lame a reason as a friend clearing out his Nirvana collection after Kurt killed himself. He said he was through with them because “(Kurt) said he didn’t have a gun.” Um... maybe this guy should take things a little less LITERALLY? Sheesh...
I’m not completely ashamed of everything I saw or listened to back then—there are still bands from that time-frame I’ll defend. The much-underrated Didjits, for instance. Those guys were one hell of a garage/punk/rock ‘n roll type band and Rick Sims was a total showman. Way better than Urge Overkill, who PLAYED BEFORE the Didjits, although I was convinced at that time that Urge Overkill were a good band. See what I mean?
Slayer were good through 1991’s “Seasons In The Abyss.” Jesus Lizard, Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Failure (well, their song “Screen Man,” a lumbering drone rocker that really sucks you in) and Pegboy, to name a few off the top of my head. The Cynics were a fun garage band. I got into New Bomb Turks around 1993, based on that famous Tim Yo MRR review, calling it one of the best records of the last five years and I checked it out on that recommendation. Fugazi were a great band, at that point, before descending into weirdness and unevenness. Gaunt made some killer melodic punk. Guzzard and Hammerhead laid out aggressive indy rock that still nails it on occasion. The Cosmic Psychos were inconsistent but some of the buzzy punk is still enjoyable.
On the other hand, I only saw crust ragers Disrupt one time. I didn’t see Dropdead until 2000, although I like their later recordings better. I didn’t see the Pist until 1995, just before they broke up. I didn’t see Los Crudos until ’97, just before they called it a day. There were a few creative, aggressive local hardcore bands such as Hatchetface who I didn’t pay enough attention to. I got to see Poison Idea and Sheer Terror in the early 90s, at least.
From a personal standpoint, what was I thinking having long, stringy hair from late ‘89 to early ’95? When I see pictures from then, it’s embarrassing. I imagine it was a delayed adolescent rebellion, since my parents would give me a hard time if my hair got too long. Maybe it was the grunge thing. In any case, I recently saw a couple of pictures from 1995, one at my 35th birthday party, wearing a hideous green Champion sweatshirt and one around summertime, after having gotten a haircut, holding my baby nephew Josh. I still had on a somewhat hideous green jersey but I looked a LOT better. The photos from my sister’s 1993 wedding where I was in a tux with that fucking hair should be burned.
A few things put me back on the “right track.” The first was my brief foray into record store ownership with the former drummer for Boston. I’m not rehashing the story here because it was a nightmare. One good thing, though, was getting to rediscover my record collection and starting to listen to a lot of punk and hardcore again, although I was still seeing a lot of mainstream swill. The second was seeing some hot punk bands, some of whom were old warhorses but some were newer—the Adicts, Varukers, Citizen Fish, Chaos UK and the Swingin’ Utters. The new crop of local punk bands—early Dropkicks, Unseen, The Trouble, Showcase Showdown and the scene around the Rat got me back into it, along with out-of-towners Anti-Flag and Violent Society. I’ve since moved on from those bands, although Showcase still provide a treat, as do the Trouble and VS are good in small doses. The Pist still rule.
I also embraced some of the youth crew hardcore bands ca. ’97 but I’m not into those bands anymore, either, since it seemed to be an extension of the late 80s sXe snottiness that left a bad taste. The real turning point in ’97 was seeing 9 Shocks Terror for the first time. I didn’t even know who they were but thought the bass-player looked familiar. It was Mr. Tony Erba, of course, and they blew my fucking head off by the time they were one song into their set. In recent years, my passion has been back-to-basics DIY hardcore punk and, after weeding out the crap for the jewels, this decade has been pretty damned good for that kind of music. I should also say that I think the bands I like now completely blow away much of what I even liked back then. There are exceptions, of course.
It’s funny—I look back on all of my time involved in the various “scenes” (none of which I’ve ever completely aligned myself with) with a combination of pleasant nostalgia, mainly in the early 80s, and also thinking about how naïve, foolish, contradictory, etc. that I’ve been. Shit, I even think I sounded foolish in an interview I did in ’01 for Left Of The Dial zine. I’m not even sure I want to be interviewed anymore but that doesn’t mean I won’t (in case anyone is interested). I think I may finally be getting a perspective on things although who’s to say that when I look back on this column in 3 or 4 years, I won’t feel like an idiot again.
We shall see... life is an ongoing process, of course.
GG ALLIN AND ANTISEEN-Murder Junkies (TKO, CD)
A perfect match, I suppose, and a little better than expected. I haven’t listened to the original release in years. I haven’t listened to GG much in years, either. I got tired of his cult and his calculated outrageousness. Still, Antiseen’s buzzburn and GG’s anti-socialness (?) work fairly well together, particularly for the aggro of “99 Stab Wounds” and “Sister Sodomy.” The stretched-out pain of “I Hate People” and “My Prison Walls” are less-enticing.. GG’s decomposition was well-underway and he was about two years away from his not-unexpected death. As I’ve said in the past, it was like watching a train wreck—some like it, some don’t. (8941 Atlanta Ave., Suite 505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646, www.tkorecords.com)
BLOWFLY-Blowfly’s Punk Rock Party (Alternative Tentacles, CD)
There’s this guy Chris that I know and, one time, we were watching a Halloween set by a local band, the A-Team, who became the AIDS-Team and members dressed like Freddie Mercury, Magic Johnson, etc. Tasteless and Chris said to me “this is so wrong but it’s so funny.” That’s my take on Blowfly’s new album. Definitely not PC and some people are going to take it the wrong way. Still, it has the Jello seal-of-approval. Tributes/parodies of not just punk songs, but other styles done with, uh, a sexual bent (sorry). So Iggy’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” becomes “I Wanna Fuck Your Dog”; Devo’s “Whip It” is now “Suck It”; Black Flag’s “TV Party” is “VD Party.” The show-stopper is “I Wanna Be Fellated,” set to a certain Ramones song and, the first time I heard it, I had one of those moments where I couldn’t stop laughing to the point that I was doubled-over. He also takes a stab at (sorry again) at “Love Train” with “Suck and Fuck Train”). Jello himself appears on both versions of “R. Kelly In Cambodia,” one done funk style and the other punk and dealing with his alleged pedophilia. I think I’ll stop now before I really get into trouble. A novelty record that’s worthwhile, for once. What’s more amazing is the inclusion of “all-ages radio edits” that are only a bit cleaned up—I mean, “I Wanna Be Fellated” for an all-ages audience? Priceless... (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94141, www.alternativetentacles.com)
CYNESS-Our Funeral Oration For The Human Race (Sound Pollution, CD)
Thrash/metal/grind, played tightly and intensely, with an older Earache records influence. Lyrics are in their native German and take on the usual political and sociological targets but there are a few surprises. “Children Of No Revolution” states that punks shouldn’t have kids: “Whatever happened to NO FUTURE?” After having to deal with what my dear departed friend Jane would refer to as “demon spawn” at the local grocery store, I’m pumping my fist and going RIGHT ON! In any case, the grindier elements don’t do much for this element but there’s no denying the heaviness and power of some of these songs. So it’s a mixed verdict for me—I really wish there was less grind and more thrash. (PO Box 17742, Covington, KY 41017, www.sound-pollution.com)
FORCED MARCH-Take Immediate Action (self-released, CD)
Crust ‘n thrash that probably would have been helped by better production and maybe some improvement in the drumming. I could see this band being good in the live setting and they’re on the right track. They do know how to turn a phrase, such as with “The Minutemen Write Protest Songs,” about the nazi thugs “protecting” the Mexican border. Time will tell if they evolve any more. (2619 NE 6th Pl., Portland, OR 97212, www.myspace.com/forcedxmarch)
MIND OF ASIAN-Chinmoku No Kiri No Naka (Sound Pollution, CD)
A quickie from the Japanese all-woman band Mind Of Asian, mainly fast blastcore but there are a few songs here that are played at a more reasonable pace and makes me think that if they pursued that route, it’d be pretty amazing. Yasu has a sick set of pipes, as well. Wish I liked this more because there are some killer elements. (PO Box 17742, Covington, KY 41017, www.sound-pollution.com)
REPOS-Hearts and Heads Explode (Youth Attack, LP)
LP? More like a 12” EP. Only 11 minutes of scorch but who cares? This motherfucker shreds. Second 12” release, along with a split with Fourteen or Fight and this may be the last one. They were a live monster in Chicago when I saw them at the 2005 fest out there. Not even a ten minute set and they were done. Aaron’s voice is very similar to Bob to Infest—in other words, he has a head-bitin’ lower register growl, enunciating the end of the words and there is literally no space between songs. All hard and fast, except for the concluding slowed-down howl-session of “Totenstille.” Only 700 copies so good luck. (distr. by Ebullition, www.ihateyouthattack.com)
RIFU-Bombs For Food, Mines For Freedom (Go-Kart, CD)
Part Tragedy-ish/Swedish hardcore crust, and screamier/melodic influences with some Refused thrown in. The first part of the equation is always preferable to this listener. They really lose me with the harmonizing for “Laugh Ourselves To Death.” In any case, these songs are boiling over with passion and agitation at the world today, in case you couldn’t figure that out from the album’s title. OK but not much more than that. (PO Box 20, Prince Street Station, NY, NY 10012, www.gokartrecords.com)
SLAYER-Christ Illusion (American, CD)
The last Slayer album, “God Hates Us All,” was supposed to come out on 9/11/01, a cruel irony and the original bloody bible artwork was covered over, given the circumstances. Five years later, Slayer return, back to form. Well, almost—I mean, they will NEVER top “Reign In Blood” and that album had, dare I say it, catchy songs. Here, it’s the adrenalin and power one notices, as always, and it’ll probably take a little time for all the songs to sink in. Still, I’m really glad that Slayer still have the bile in ‘em. I’d argue this is the best Slayer album since “Seasons In The Abyss” and that’s due in no small amount to the return of Dave Lombardo, the best fuckin’ thrash metal drummer ever. Blazing out of the starting gate with the one-two blast of “Flesh Storm” and “Catalyst,” one of the strongest songs on the album. A few twists and turns—the ominous “Eyes Of The Insane,” which, with its tribal rhythm has a Killing Joke vibe during the verses and comments on how the military activities of recent years drive soldiers over the edge of sanity. That’s nothing new, unfortunately. As you’d probably imagine from the title, these guys aren’t exactly bible-toters and “Cult” states, loud and clear, “Religion is hate/religion is fear/religion is war/religion is rape/religion’s obscene/religion’s a whore.” Yeah, I’d say that sums it up. “Jihad” deals with the 9/11 tragedy but through the eyes of the attacker instead of the victim and, as with “Cult,” the protagonist exudes “This is god’s war... fucking holy war.” Indeed. And this is a metallic war that provides a cathartic release when it’s most needed.
STRUNG UP/DIRECT CONTROL-Split (Tankcrimes/No Way, LP)
A damn good pairing for touring partners. Strung Up, in particular, slam out some of their best songs to date. That angry Bay Area hardcore punk sound. “Legal Dope” is a musical nod to the classic SoCal style, re Adolescents. While the words touch on government and mind control, it’s given a personal twist and other songs deal with a lot of personal demons. Direct Control also give attention to both military aggression and more personal concerns (“ADD,” “Kill Me”). Meanwhile, the final song “Give It Back” is a pointed commentary on a certain “business” relationship gone sour and I think I’ll leave it at that. Revved-up, go-for-broke hardcore, as always. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609, www.tankcrimes.com or www.nowayrecords.com)
VARIOUS-The Funhouse Comp Thing (MyFatAss Productions, CD)
Well-above average comp of mainly garage-type bands, along with a few traditional punk stylists and centered around a Seattle club called the Funhouse. No wimpy shit. I’d heard of a handful of these bands before—the Pulses, Earaches, Gas Huffer (how long have they been around now?), Fall-Outs, The Sermon, Girl Trouble and I’ve heard the Blank-Its rockin’ album since getting this disc. If you like primal sounds, this is the ticket and there’s a variety here, from the rawness of the Primate 5, Ape City R&B to the(e) Headcoats-inspired Armitage Shanks to the nervier, almost new-wavish Cripples. I can’t possibly review all 32 songs but, listening through, there were only one or two songs I felt the urge to skip past. That’s the sign of a winner. Compiled from unreleased songs, alternate takes and vinyl-only releases. (206 5th Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109, www.thefunhouseseattle.com)