Saturday, December 09, 2006

Suburban Voice blog #29

REAGAN YOUTH

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...

MUSIC REVIEWS:

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, http://www.dirtnaprecs.com/)

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, http://www.reaperhardcore.com/)

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, http://www.myspace.com/dacorerecords)

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, http://www.chainsawsafetyrecords.com/)

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, http://www.dirtnaprecs.com/)

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. (http://www.625thrash.com/)

MODERAT LIKVIDATION-Nitad/Marionett I Kedjor/K├Âttahuva (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 “K├Âttahuva” 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, http://www.havocrex.com/)

SHOCK NAGASAKI-Year Of The Spy (TKO, CD)
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, http://www.tkorecords.com/)

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, http://www.gethip.com/)