Friday, March 16, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #35


As a lot of you probably know, I host an internet radio show called Sonic Overload ( There’s some distressing news about internet radio—new royalty rates announced earlier this month by the Copyright Royalty Board. What it means is web stations have to pay a royalty for songs they play on their shows. The fees will be prohibitively expensive, especially for smaller scale webcasters. Here’s a news article by Clea Simon that appeared in the Boston Globe. A few other folks have mentioned this issue to me as well.

Once again, the lords of the music industry attempt to shoot themselves in the foot and negatively affect artists, as well. Independent web radio is becoming an increasingly effective way for artists who are marginalized by mainstream, corporate radio to be heard. As the Globe article mentions, it provides an outlet for specialized programming. Even though one has to have the equipment or access to create this programming, it still provides an alternative. In this era of media consolidation, these outlets are more vital than ever.


I’ve received e-mails from listeners asking if I’m going to have to suspend my webcast and my answer is NO FUCKING WAY. Even though my listenership continues to increase, I’m still pretty far under the radar and that’s fine with me. I had dreamed of doing a radio show since I was a kid and finally got my chance in the late 90s when I ended up co-hosting a show on the Masconomet High radio station WBMT. Steve Lord, who had a show called “The Next Generation” asked me to guest DJ in ’98 and it went so well that I ended up staying on until he graduated in ’99. In 2000, when Allston-Brighton Free Radio, a low-power community radio station began broadcasting, I was given airtime for my own show, initially called Inflammable Material and changed to Sonic Overload after a few months. For a time, the station would send playlists to one of the publishing companies, BMI, but I don’t think we ever paid any fees. The station operated under Part 15 of the FCC guidelines, which enabled us to broadcast at 100 milliwatts without any licensing. Once a more powerful transmitter was installed, for all intents and purposes, we were a pirate station. I’m working from memory here but our power varied between 20 and 50 watts. Not exactly a wide range but, at its peak, the station could be heard several miles away. At the original wattage, it was only a few blocks. Even so, since I wanted to expand beyond A-B Free’s limited range, I began webcasting my show in 2003 and, once the station closed, it became a ‘net only program. .

This is something I do as a hobby, as a labor-of-love. I don’t accept advertising. My show is not for sale. I play the music I want. I do take requests but, in all honesty, if it’s something I’m not into, it doesn’t get on the air. As with my writing, the intent is to get people to check out music that I’m into and it’s gratifying when a reader or listener will thank me for getting them to check out a band/record. That’s the whole point—it’s not about making money. Most of the bands reviewed below probably don’t get a whole lot of radio airplay and I’m willing to bet that a majority, if not all of these artists don’t want the stations/outlets who air their music to be forced to cease broadcasting or webcasting.


AKIMBO-Harshing Your Mellow (Alternative Tentacles, CD)
Does anyone use that phrase anymore? Hell, does anyone use the term “mellow”? Ted “Right Wing Neanderthal Racist Scumbag” Nugent told his audience that anyone who wanted to get even a little bit mellow could get the fuck out of the venue. Whatever swill the Nuge is putting out these days, I’m sure it sounds positively tame next to Akimbo. Originally released in 2001 and back to shatter skulls. Abrasive, mind-jerking, jolting, lurching aggression. I mean, this is an attack. No other way to put it. Howling vocals, powerful guitar and bass licks and the drums bashing things around pretty well. Akimbo’s music has a hardcore intensity but uses it as a base for something more expansive—and achieves that without any air of pretentiousness. Nor subtlety, either. None whatsoever. (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94146,

Anyone who reads my stuff regularly knows that I’m not a fan of grind/blast-beat driven hardcore. Asshole Parade are an exception, at least with this EP. Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention before but this 21 track effort flat-out blazes. Sure, there’s the hyper-speed element but it doesn’t go out of control. It’s not even really grindcore, I imagine. There’s a musicality to it—not just wanton flailing. Tight as hell and discernible riffage, to go along with the message-oriented lyrics that are coated in humor and irony. Hell, the protest even extends to assholes who try to sneak 30 items through the express line (happens all the time!). A seamless blend of ominous heaviness (without low tuning) and thrash along with the typhoon-like speed. Clever nods, as well—the “Children Of The Grave”-ish rumble of “Soldiers 3-The Final Chapter” and the crush of Judge’s “The Storm” for “Still Love My Moms.” A pleasantly ripping surprise. (PO Box 14636, Gainesville, FL 32604,


BEHIND ENEMY LINES-One Nation Under The Iron Fist Of God (Profane Existence, CD)
There’s really no missing the point of Behind Enemy Lines’ crusade; there’s not much subtlety. Behind Enemy Lines’ third musical state of the world address includes commentary about US military aggression, the profound neglect of the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the attacks on so-called looters, overseas aggressive and the dangers of religious fundamentalism. Cries of pain, to quote Discharge. The same sonic missive—thick, heavy Scandinavian-inspired hardcore at a quick pace and the lead and backing vocals are angry and anguished. The disc comes with a bound booklet that includes lyrics and visual imagery. Once again, no missing the point. Unbridled intensity. (PO Box 8722, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

CHELSEA-Faster, Cheaper & Better Looking (TKO, CD)
The hook for the first new album for Chelsea since the 90s is that two 70s-era members, James Stevenson and Chris Bashford, are back. They actually came back when the band toured in ’99. Chelsea were always something of a second-tier UK punk band. A handful of stellar songs but never really evolving into any sort of godhead status—“Urban Kids” remains the best song they ever did. In any case, “Faster, Cheaper & Better Looking” is listenable but inconsequential. The opening song “Living In The Urban DK” is emblematic—mid-tempo, tepid, just not all that ferocious or edgy, even with the basic guitar/bass/drums lineup. It’d be nice to have heard what they could have done with the tuneful riff on “45 RPM” if it they’d put a lot more voltage through it. Let’s face it—with most of these old-guard bands, it’ll be the original albums that will get played. Chelsea aren’t an exception to that rule. (8941 Alabama Ave., Suite 505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646,

EVERYTHING FALLS APART-Escape (self-released, 7” EP)
EFA are from Buffalo and describe the city as “Frozen, rusted and dead.” “Planning My Escape” is about how they can’t wait to get out of there. The hardcore punk on this EP acts as an expression of their feelings of frustration and anger. Dang, that sounds pretentious so let’s get down to the facts. Pat’s vocals are ranty and pissed-off and there’s a good balance between thrashed-up songs and more medium-paced punk rock compositions. (

FUNERAL DRESS-Hello From The Underground (SOS, CD)
Another punk band who have been around forever and a day. The kind of songs that one would refer to as rousing. Brash, loud, melodic and made for singing along, particularly “Here We Go.” A few of the songs catch the ear—the rousing (there’s that word again) “Detonator,” and “Suicidal Riot Girl” (there are still riot girls?) and “SPR,” the most burnin’ song here. Still, the tin-whistlin’ Irish jones has hit ‘em for “Holiday” and “Freedom and Liberty” and it comes across as bandwagon jumping. Funeral Dress have always been a middling band—there will be a few songs where you go “hey, that’s not bad” but, once the moment passes, it’s not something that really sticks. (PO Box 3017, Corona, CA 92878,

KING AUTOMATIC-I Walk My Murderous Intentions Home (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
A one man band. As in the King plays all the instruments simultaneously, except for a guest sax player on two songs. Pretty amazing if you think about it. This is bash-it out garage primitivism, sometimes with R&B-ish and bluesy touches. King Automatic, who hails from France and whose real name is Jay, is a drummer by trade. He’s played with Thundercrack and Billy Childish. Some of the songs here have a Childish vibe, in fact, with the simple, stripped-down approach. The reggae excursion for “Here Comes The Terror” is somewhat ill-advised but the songs are pretty much spot-on the rest of the time. Cool. (Jurastrasse 15, 3013 Bern, SWITZERLAND,

KRUM BUMS-As The Tide Turns (TKO, CD)
Up-da-punx music to get the boots and mohawks crew going in a big circle pit. Fast, Unseen-ish punk with attention paid to melody. With the harmony vocals, it almost comes across as west coast style punk ala No Use For A Name, etc. Some of the guitar leads also indicate one or more of these guys listened to his/their share of metal growing up. There are a few songs here worth another listen—“Last Breath,” in particular, with its galloping intro and the speed metal bridge on the title track makes me think these guys would have made one hell of a headbanger outfit. In their punk rock incarnation, the album is listenable but hardly extraordinary. (8941 Atlanta Ave., #505, Huntington Beach, CA 92646,

MIDNIGHT BOMBERS-Evil Streets (Wondertaker, CD)
The Bombers’ vocalist Jerry is a native MassHole (i.e. he’s from my neck of the woods), formerly with Bastard Squad. He relocated to the Bay Area some years back and now fronts this band, originally known as Deadfalls (not to be confused with Deadfall). They’ve released a 7” and I’ve got a demo CD-R, as well. Solid punk rock with a brashness and straight-ahead energy. But there’s some snakiness in the guitar playing and other twists—such as the PIL-like dubbiness that starts “Satan’s Children.” The more interesting songs have those little wrinkles and it’s all played at a fast pace. The lyrics expose a tortured psyche—introspective and troubled and it’s echoed by the darker shadings in the music. (PO Box 470153, SF, CA 94147-0153,

THE SHINING-The Word Is Fiction (Pick Up/multi-label, 7” EP)
The second off-the-rails ripper for The Shining. This disc is packaged in an elaborate gatefold sleeve and the music is just as striking. Hell, if it came in a plain white sleeve, I’d feel the same way. Fast, ferocious hardcore punk, a whiff of crossover and hitting all the right buttons. The tinny-to-loud transition to start “Koopziek” is followed by a high-powered rampage that doesn’t let up. I could use even more hyperbole, like saying that smoke is coming from the needle but I think you get the idea. (Rogier Heumakers, Frederiksstraat 3, Hoog 1054 LA, Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS,

VARIOUS-Planet Of Friends (Boycott The Fencewalkers Records, CD)
This is an international compilation put together by a gentleman from Russia named Vova, who plays in a few of the bands on this comp (Hoods Up 495, Frank Castle Gonna Break Your Neck and The Razor Bois). It’s to benefit his friend Alem Assefa, a dark-skinned man of Ethiopian descent who was beaten into a coma by nazi scumbags in Moscow. Alem is disabled and the funds from this comp will go towards his medical treatment. The collection is haphazard and the sound quality is equally uneven. Gleaning the highlights: Learn’s sweeping hardcore is well-executed. Common Enemy and the 4 Sivits’ straight-ahead punk fare pretty well. Dean Dirg’s brief garage punk blast is one of the best moments here. Black SS are raging, as always. Some other bands of note include ANS, Vitamin X and the Tangled Lines. Punk, hardcore, street punk, crust, even some hip hop from Hoods Up 495. Even if the lineup of bands here (27 of ‘em) doesn’t entice you, at least check out the webpage set up to help Alem— (

Sometimes, it’s not such a good idea for reunited bands to release new albums and “Defiant” falls into that category. A few fired up punk tracks here and there, such as “Voice Of The People” and “Fast Forward,” but “War Of Attrition” almost sounds like mainstream new wavish pop (why am I thinking of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face”?). Same for “Antisocial Security” and the less said about the reggae-ish “The Great Fire Of London,” the better. Beki’s voice has turned into a raspy instrument and that’s not necessarly a bad thing. The problem is the material she’s working with here. Standing strong but not something to be proud of. Sorry—couldn’t resist. (PO Box 3017, Corona, CA 92878,


WITCHES WITH DICKS-Manual (Kiss Of Death, CD)
Maybe it’s not fair to use the word pop/punk since, these days, it’s associated with twee, wimpy music. I had my fill of that stuff years ago. So I’m happy to write that WWD do the punk w/melody thing right in the tradition of the early Lookout Records bands, along with a good helping of Dillinger Four. Words sung at the top of their lungs (not always on-key, either—a slight detriment), nothing held back and walloping their way through the catchy songs. “Your Job Does Not Rock Balls,” repeated from their demo and split 7” with the Conversions (all the songs from those releases are on here, in fact), remains a song that sticks in your fucking head. “It’s Not Me It’s You” does the same thing, starting with a knock-out bassline over the rolling drums. Then there’s the striking guitar melody during the bridge of “He Was Yelling At Me.” Hell, I like this album enough to overlook the fact that they thank Green Day on the credits. (PO Box 75550, Tampa, FL 33675,