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, http://www.spacementreno.com/)
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, http://www.emptyrecords.com/)
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, http://www.ononswitch.com/)
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, http://www.soundideadistribution.com/)
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, http://www.havocrex.com/)
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, http://www.southkorerecords.com/1200 W. Hood, Apt. 1, Chicago, IL 60660, www.undercomm.org.)
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, http://www.onepercentrecords.com/)
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, www.myspace.com/overtheedge)
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, (www.myspace.com/warrenhardcore)
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, http://www.southkorerecords.com/)