Saturday, April 14, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #37

There are times lately I’ve been suffering from horrible writers’ block, especially when it comes to the reviews. It seems as though I constantly use the same phrases and descriptions and reach for a new and unique way to describe these records, CDs and tapes. Even now, I’m trying to come up with an effective way to convey my frustration. The idea has always been to give the reader an idea of the band’s sound, influences and where it lies along the spectrum of greatness to garbage. Most releases fall in the middle but why dismiss something when it catches my ear, even momentarily? As much as these records, for the most part, aren’t really breaking new ground, many have a spirited, energetic (a word I use way too much) approach to their music and those elements make their recordings worthwhile.

On a more positive note, it looks as though there will be quite a few killer, kick-ass bands on tour throughout the spring and summer. In the coming months, there will be tours from Total Fury (with Reagan SS and The Jury), Look Back and Laugh, Pisschrist (from Australia) and, just this week, Out With A Bang from Italy, Brutal Knights from Toronto, The Vicious from Sweden and The Horror from the UK.

Speaking of overseas bands, I saw I Adapt play at the Museum of Fine Arts school in Boston on 4/10. The show happened in the lobby of the building and, even with the high ceilings, the sound wasn’t that bad. They’re the first band I’ve seen from Iceland and I resisted the urge to make Bjork jokes. Their sound is in the heavy, angst-filled/melodic style of a band like Modern Life Is War and that’s not always something I’m too enamored with but these guys have a killer live thing. The played with Coctopus, Blake and Phil from Bones Brigade’s new hard rock/wah-wah-oriented band and the hammering doom ‘n grind of Backstabbers Inc., make a rare local appearance. I didn’t stick around for The Body but, as I was walking back to my car, I could hear them from a quarter mile away. That’s how loud they were.



So the label sent one of those lousy packages without the lyric booklet… just a cardboard sleeve with the cover art and one paragraph hyping the album on the backside. I generally refuse to review these kind of packages. I’m only reviewing it this time to point out the fact that it does the band a disservice in that their work doesn’t get a complete representation. Hell, I can’t even play it in my computer or use it on my MP3 player. Actually, I CAN but I’m taking the fifth on telling you how I did it. In any case, heavy, sorta stoner-ish rock with stentorian vocals from new mouth Kyle Thomas. His gruff pipes tend to overpower things, actually—maybe if they were subsumed in the mix a bit more. Good strong riffage and boogie chops, though—it’s retro without completely having that ambiance. While the more melodic elements detract slightly from the crunch and there are times some cheesiness sets in, it still rocks. That’s all you need to know. (

ANNIHILATION TIME-Cosmic Unconsciousness EP (Tankcrimes, 7” EP)
A five minute rock ‘n roll epic on the a-side (“Reality”) and the flip has two older songs originally done with their first vocalist. The rock ‘n roll meet Flag/Bl’ast-ish tendencies remain in place, especially in the guitar riffs and the sound is as fired-up as ever. In fact, these songs are better than just about anything on the band’s second album. The very psychedelic artwork, by Marcello Crescnenzi, is an eye-catching visual complement to this decidedly non-psychedelic band. Unless you’re talking about one bad motherfuckin’ trip. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609,

BEAR PROOF SUIT-Science Is Dead (Criminal IQ, 7” EP)
Bear Proof Suit have one of my favorite song titles so far in this fairly young year—“Prosecutors Will Be Violated” and it’s not just about the title. Furious punk with a Scandi-core guitar signature on that song.. There’s a convincing aggressiveness throughout, especially for the title track. “Sans Equity” offers a tad more complexity and sneaks in a coda of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Before The Kiss (A Redcap)” at the end. And it takes brass ones to cover the legendary Wipers and the band is up to the task with their version of “Up Front.” (3501 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60657,

BRODY’S MILITIA-All Bridges Burned (Brickwoods Butcher, demo)
This cuddly band are back to bash your skull in. Six songs, which will all appear on various splits, except for the Nun Slaughter cover, “Slut Burner” (lovely) that is slotted for a tribute album to that band. Nasty, raw thrash and punk that occasionally hits grind-like levels of velocity. “Same Shit, Different Dress Code” stands out, with its street punk meets rock ‘n roll style. “Won’t Change A Thing” is also in more of a rockin’ vein and it comes as no surprise it’ll be on a split with Antiseen. Definitely not for the weak. (PO Box 377, Mount Orab, OH 45154,

St. Looie, um, St. Louis has produced some pretty good hardcore bands in the past few years and Civic Crisis are among them. Full-bore, speedy hardcore punk with old school power, pushed along by pissed-off vocals and raw guitar. Civic Progress aren’t going to win any poetry awards for their lyrics—still, there’s something enjoyable about hearing someone yell the words to “Ignorant Fucking Assholes” and “Kill The President” Extra kudos for their song “Crimethinc Is A Joke,” where they’re called out for the “privileged idiots” they are. I like the angry attitude and the music complements it. (5216 Morganford Rd., St. Louis, MO 63116,

DESTRUCKTIONS-Complete Destructions (Hardcore Holocaust, LP)
Vintage Finnish hardcore from the early 80s and this LP discography includes demo tracks, in addition to songs previously released on vinyl. Destrucktions kept to the blueprint of thumping bass and drums, distort-stun guitar and ranty vocals in a higher register. There’s sonic similarities to Disorder but they didn’t push the envelope as far into unhinged territory as a band like Kaaos. Still, this is some primo blitz and very nicely packaged with a gatefold sleeve and liner notes in both English and Finnish written by the band’s guitarist, Poko. (

DOA-Punk Rock Singles 1978-99 (Sudden Death, CD)
Another addition to the DOA catalog series or whatever you call it. In any case, it’s pretty awesome to have a collection of their rare early EPs in one place. And while the later stuff i.e. most of the recordings after 1983, aren’t quite as choice, they still come up a good track every so often, such as their cover of “Marijuana Motherfucker,” a reworking of a couple of David Peel songs. Still, the attraction are such miscreantic (?) treats as “Disco Sucks,” the first song and introduced with Joey Shithead’s bellowing of the title. If I’d heard this in 1978, I would have had my fist raised in anti-disco solidarity. Ask me about my less-than-enjoyable Senior Prom/Saturday Night Fever torture night, sometime. Some of the band’s best-known songs are here—some of which were re-recorded for “Something Better Change.” That includes “The Prisoner,” “13,” “Woke Up Screaming” and “World War 3.” DOA’s forte was always combining snotty punk energy and an inescapable catchiness. Also, DOA stuck to their punk rock guns during a time when there seemed to be a bit of a lull between the original ’77 era bands and the rise of hardcore. A devil-may-care attitude and punk rock defiance—always a good tandem and it’s good to see Joey (or Joe, these days) hang onto it as he’s hit his 50s. (Cascades PO, Box 43001, Burnaby, BC, CANADA V5G 3H0,

HAPPY BASTARDS-Box Of Hard Knocks (Profane Existence, CD)
Punk that defies expectations. The first song, “Nacimento,” is a quiet, Zoundz-like instrumental, a deceptive prelude to what follows. Rampaging punk tempered with melody and vocals that are sung, not growled or shouted. In all honesty, that was something of an acquired taste at first, but Christy Chatfield avoids excessive over-emoting. “Neither Here Nor There,” coming in the middle of the album, is a knockout. It begins with the speedy attack and alters the speed to a medium tempo, with Christy’s lead vocal complemented by a backing vocal carrying the melody. There’s definitely a subtle UK anarcho feeling here, especially the more tuneful passages but it doesn’t dissipate the impact at all. If anything, it enhances it. (PO Box 8722, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

REPERCUSSIONS-11 Songs EP (540, 12” EP)
Strong hardcore punk from Texas and the guitar player is Stan from Signal Lost/Deathreat/Balance of Terror and there are also people from Pedestrians, Army of Jesus and other bands. A combination of US style hardcore, particularly Poison Idea, along with Scandinavian influences. And, to quote the rotund Oregonians, there’s plenty of pure hate expressed here, particularly on the topic of religion. “Bomb The Pulpit,” “On Your Knees” and “Body Of Blood” make that point rather succinctly. “Breeding Contempt,” meanwhile, lament “breeders,” stating “Do we really need more of us? (Timmy Hefner, 1012 Brodie St., Austin, TX 78704,

SACRED SHOCK-s/t (tape)
Three former members of Army of Jesus, along with a new vocalist, Alex from Iron Age, among other bands. Good surging hardcore punk, a bit more melodic than AOJ but it’s still not radically different. Also, the tuneful qualities don’t overwhelm things—the aggressiveness is still at the fore. That comes out full-tilt for “Bridge Burner” and “Best Interest.” I hope to see some vinyl in the not-too-distant future. They’re ready. (

SOCIALICIDE-Sick Of The Pressure (tape)
Rippin’ fast hardcore punk. They’ve got it down, with tightness and rage and it blows by without let-up. Standard themes of alienation, confusion, etc. Goddamn, I remember those days. They’re still going on, actually. No complaints, here. (816 Nugent Dr., Chesapeake, VA 23322,

WARCRY-Deprogram (Feral Ward, LP)
There isn’t one ounce of originality on this record, Warcry’s second album. Nada. This is a formula. A set method. Basic, crusty hardcore punk with a Dis-inclination, although it’s not really straight D-beat fodder. And, you know what? I fucking love it. Whether fast or at a more moderate pace, all the right buttons are punched. The identities are hidden but Todd Burdette from Tragedy/Deathreat/et al is the vocalist and this is clearly a loving indulgence of the style. Hoarse vocals, shredding guitar riffs and cool bass runs and the latter is a highlight on “One Last Warning.” When this style is played the right way, it’s a joy to hear. (

Thursday, April 05, 2007

So I'm apparently a hippie!

... I'll occasionally indulge in some ego gratification by doing a Google search on my name and I stumbled across a blog by Henry Yu, a former MRR columnist. He was let go in '05 (which was ridiculous--he had a good column) and decided to analyze the various columns that were left, including yours truly's...

... quite humorous. I mean that--it made me chuckle. But I'll always defend liking CCR... no need to be defensive about it, actually.

Here's the column in question:

Having just wrapped up the review section for this column, I now have the radio on, tuned to the local sports station. I was all set to tear apart wackjob fundamentalist Pat Robertson for saying that Muslims shouldn’t be judges and for his sickening comments on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” where he said, in essence, liberal judges were more of a threat to America than “a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings.” Just the latest shocker in a long history of demagoguery from this fringe character who still gets a lot more mainstream media exposure than he should. His words speak volumes and it’s frightening that he still has any sort of following.

So that’s what I was planning on writing about but what more needs to be said, really? It gets exhausting and seems like screaming at a wall, to be honest. Robertson will be back on the chat shows and this episode will probably pass from the public consciousness until he says something else that’s equally crazy. Anyway, I’m half-listening to the radio and they had an ad for the upcoming John Fogerty/John Mellencamp concert at the corporate rock shed in the sticks--it used to be called Great Woods but is now named after a stereo chain. As with many of these “shed” venues, there are plenty of boomer-friendly acts playing there. The oldies or nostalgia circuit.

There’s a snippet of “Fortunate Son” that plays in the ad. It’s not the classic CCR version but a newer rendition by Fogerty. The grit and anger in his voice is long gone. It sounds tame. No intensity. It sounds as though he’s trying to summon the Fogerty of old but it’s not quite happening. But I’m sure it’ll be crowd-pleasing, anyway. I can see the middle-aged patrons (and, yes, I know I’m also middle-aged) in their hideous patterned shirts covering their paunches (have one of those too!) swaying and singing along, before getting in their SUVs with the yellow ribbons and heading back to their homes in the ‘burbs.


When that song came out in 1969, it sounded ferocious, especially to this 9 year old kid who had just started listening to the radio a lot more. It was a song I always looked forward to hearing. I didn’t get the record for a few more years—it was kind of a beat-up copy I got at a thrift store but it remains in my collection. That sturdy bass-line, steady drum-beat, the spare guitar riff and then Fogerty’s gem of a voice. Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith called it “the voice of American rock and roll,” if memory serves me correctly. Snarly, angry, cantankerous. This wasn’t hippie pie-in-the-sky. Fogerty was from more of a working class background and this was song was about how people of his background got the short end of the stick. These were the kids getting sent off to fight that terrible conflict in Vietnam. “Fortunate Son” and the Bob Seger System’s “2+2=?” are my two favorite war-themed songs from back then. No flower-power, just pure rock ‘n roll. I didn’t know that much about the horrors of war at that age. A few years later, when I was 11 or 12, I became more aware of the horrors of what was going on over there and had fears that it’d still be going on when I turned 18 and I had a pretty good idea I wanted nothing to do with it.

Getting back to “Fortunate Son,” though, it’s been stripped of its meaning, hasn’t it? It’s not just that the new version sounds so weak. The original version was used in a commercial and I’m purposely forgetting the product but I think it was for jeans. You know, the clothing of choice for the counterculture. The commercial included the line “some folks are born made to wave the flag/ooh, they're red, white and blue” as there’s an image of a flag waving. Not so surprisingly, in this commercial, the next line of the song is omitted: “and when the band plays “Hail To The Chief,” oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord.” I know Fogerty probably had nothing to do with the placement of his song in this ad since he lost the rights to his back catalog years ago and, in fact, wouldn’t perform any Creedence songs for a long time. Still, if someone’s exposure to that song is only through the jeans commercial, they probably think it’s just a song about being a good flag-waving American. They don’t have the context. Something’s wrong about that. I could go off on a tirade about how a lot of songs I loved as a kid and teenager have been bastardized in this way but I don’t have the space.

So Fogerty and Mellencamp are on the nostalgia circuit. I just saw MDC play two nights in a row, with the original lineup—Dave Dictor, Mikey “Offender” Donaldson (one of the best bass players in hardcore), Ron Posner and even Al Schvitz. It was a bit loose at times but I’m not averse to a trip down memory lane and those songs still have meaning to me. They played well and they were playing DIY venues, touring around in a van and a trailer. No rock star trips. Doing it because they still want to, I imagine. It seems genuine and still heartfelt.

The songs on “Millions of Dead Cops” forever corrupted my thinking. At the shows, Dave talked about punk being a music for the freaks—I may not look like a freak on the outside, having never really gone in for punk fashion, except for wearing band shirts and some buttons on my jacket, but I always felt like one on the inside. A misfit. An outsider. “Business on Parade,” “America’s So Straight,” “Church and State” and “Born To Die” Those hit me goddamned fucking hard as I played a tape of the album while commuting to a much-despised job in 1982.

The thing is, unlike the probable audience for Fogerty/Mellencamp show, the audiences in Cambridge and Haverhill, Mass. were mostly made up of people who were born after the first MDC album came out. I don’t know if that’s the case elsewhere, but it was true around here. It made me wistful, in a way, because I wonder what happened to all those people I used to see in the 80s. There were a few older faces at both shows but it was a vast minority. In Cambridge, Dave put his arm around my shoulder and pointed out to the youthful gathering that I was probably the only person there who saw them in ’82. I’d guess that’s also true for their 1983 Rock Against Reagan show. But we’re both still here. I’ll leave it to others to decide if that’s cool or pathetic. I’m kind of happy about it, myself.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #36


That line is taken from an Impact Unit song. A friend of mine from Nevada was telling me about how she was at a punk show and how the pit (she calls it a mosh pit and I explained to her that it’s definitely not cool to use that term) had an unfriendly feel to it. We were talking about “friendly” and “unfriendly” pits. It got me to thinking that, for most of the shows I go to, the pit has a more or less “friendly” vibe. No karate moves or spin kicking, like you see at more tough-core or ’87-inspired hardcore shows—you know, the kinds of bands whose merch usually includes hooded sweatshirts.

It’s a contrast between something being communal and something being individualistic. I do think punk is about individualism and I’m also skeptical as all hell about the “communal” aspect but it’s a nice concept, at least, and the shows where people aren’t beating the living crap out of each other in the pit are more fun. With the martial arts pit crowd, it’s more a sense being self-centered, showing off your style and if someone gets in the way and they get clocked, too bad. They’re not HARD enough. Fuck that. So—to quote the Spark, circle pits, not karate kicks!

And, while I’m sure he’s so humble that he doesn’t want to be pointed out, a round of applause for Boston’s most enthusiastic dancer, Circle Pat. If you go to any DIY punk show around here, you’ll see him dancing like a maniac back and forth to just about any band. Hell, he dances to his own band, Apeshit. And the great thing about Pat is he goes nuts without crashing into people on the side. Even when he dives on people’s heads, there’s no malice. He’s so considerate that when I’m taking photos, he ducks down so he won’t ruin my shot. Agile as hell, too—when Benjamin from Blank Stare was engaging in some serious Roger Daltrey mike swinging and Pat came into the line of fire, he ducked just in time to avoid getting nailed. That’s probably the most impressive dance move I’ve ever seen from the guy.


Just the other night, I was at a show at MassArt that included three all-female bands, Condenada, Bruise Violet and Joda. Positive Reinforcement and Legion of Hell (watch out for these crust-metallers) started things off. During those three bands’ sets, the dance floor was taken over by the ladies and when a few of them started playing leapfrog, that was an awe-inspiring moment.




Two very good demos that I had reviewed before (is there an echo in here?) are now available in the vinyl format. The first is from The Youths, whose “We’re The Youths,” has been given a lovely yellow pressing on Criminal IQ Records (3501 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60657, This Portuguese band hammer out five songs of catchy garage/punk snot and a slight amount of non-pretentious artsiness. When a song has handclaps and makes me want to clap along, as it the case with “Decontrol,” it’s a good sign. The other record is from the California hardcore band Nightstick Justice, a split release between Even Worse and Way Back When Records (WBW: Noel de Boer, Saenredamsraat 44-2, 1072 CH Amsterdam, HOLLAND, This band’s boiling-over sound grabbed me with the demo format and it sounds even better on vinyl. No let-up, no breaks, except when you have to turn the record over, and it’s pure throttle. I guess they heard me when I said the demo “begged for a demo release.”

ENCROACHED-Shoot The Icons (Shock To The System, 7” EP)
Off-the-rails hardcore by this Japanese band and they have a sound that pays tribute to their forebears. Raw distorted production and an attack that merges howling vocals and a clamorous tandem of razor-sharp guitar, earth-moving bass and powerful drumming—all of it moving at high velocity. I have no idea what they mean by “I’ll sabotage the surface relation” nor “Get chance to the rusts,” but these songs make a direct connection and then some. (PO Box 300991, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130,


FRUIT SALAD-Blood Power (Teenage Disco Bloodbath, 7” EP)
Thrash, grind and heaviness from this local (well, to Boston) band with the oddball moniker and on pretty green vinyl. A combination of serious and not-so-serious lyrics. “Natures Revenge Association” (aka “NRA”) advises arming the animals… you know, protect the right to arm bears. I’m still more a fan of seeing grind bands live than on record but these guys have gotten better lately and this recording reflects it. Tight, aggressive playing. (

They toured together, so here’s a split CD (vinyl on Alternative Tentacles). Each band covers the other—plus LOC cover the Subhumans and Citizen Fish cover Choking Victim. Got it straight? LOC’s songs here are a lot better than on their not-so-great second album. Tuneful punk along with ska and the guitar lines grab ‘n singe. Best of all, I can listen to the songs without being surrounded by their godawful fan base. I have to admit I’m a sucker for their sense of melody. As for the Fishies, they also tread the ska/punk line. I sometimes think the songs that have horns would be better without them but it doesn’t sound like third wave garbage, at least. What’s interesting is the jaunty, upbeat feeling to the compositions even with the deadly serious subject matter. The best song is the urgent, driving punk of “Getting Used To It” that almost has a Rocket From The Crypt feeling to it. No real duds here. (PO Box 193690, SF, CA 94119-3690,

POUND FOR POUND-For Our Fallen Brothers (Surprise Attack, CD)
When I turn this disc on, I get the urge to start pumping iron. No joke—I was pantomiming some heavy lifting in my den here since I don’t have any barbells. In any case, stentorian hardcore with the requisite bellowing vocals and metallic riffage. Pound for Pound have spent as much time listening to “And Justice For All” and “Vulgar Display Of Power” as they have “The Age Of Quarrel.” As you can probably tell by the title of the record, the subject matter isn’t very cheerful. Such lines as “This world is so full of hurt. The tide of pain left to rip us apart.” I have to admit some of these songs have enough groove to get by but it still ends up being tedious chug-chug. Incidentally, there’s a sad sidebar to this album. It’s dedicated to their friends, at least some of whom were killed in Iraq (I found out by Google-ing their names). Such a tragedy for no legitimate reason. Just as sad is the desire to exact revenge, as expressed on “Stand Our Ground.” That enmity should be directed more at the madmen who had the idea to invade Iraq in the first place. (PO Box 63704, Philadelphia, PA 19147,

ROTTENFUX-s/t (Six Weeks, 7” EP)
The thumpa-thumpa drumming is kind of weak but this band’s super-raw early 80s hardcore punk sound is rife with feedback-laden guitar buzz and sputtering leads. The throat rippin’ vocals come from a gentleman who goes by the name Filthy. This sounds as though it could be some lost Killed By Hardcore EP from back in the day and that’s something to be impressed with, much in the same way I’m impressed with one of the guy’s Mecht Mensch hat. (225 Lincoln Ave., Cotati, CA 94931,

TRANZMITORS-Teenage Tragedy/Invisible Girl (Deranged, 7”)
The latest in a string of singles and the A-side is driving pubby, piano-spiced punk and the flip taking a power pop/semi-glam direction, with nary a skinny tie in sight. Both songs have Thunders-without-the-sleaze guitar licks. The Tranzmitors seem to have multi-faceted pop instincts and I’m curious to hear their upcoming full-length. These two songs are good but don’t completely blow me away. 1166 Chaster Road, Gibsons, BC, V0N 1V4, CANADA,

TWENTYSEVENSHOTS-s/t (self-released, 7” EP)
Surging hardcore punk with rock ‘n roll and melodic touches. The lyrics are brooding, “heart on my sleeve,” to quote the title of one of their songs and there are two vocalists/guitarists who take turns howling out those words. Dare I say there’s emotional content in there? Umm… perhaps but before you run away with your hands over your ears, these guys sound pissed off and not the type of guys who are going to cry onto their keyboards while writing LiveJournal entries. Nope—I’d call this a good solid ear-whuppin’. (2704 Garfield Ave., Apt. 1, Minneapolis, MN 55408,

Two raging bands from the UK. Sned, one of the guys in War All The Time, sent a witty note that said “here’s some more stuff from grizzled veterans” or something like that—it was in reference to my review of Violent Arrest. Anyway, I don’t care if they’re 20 or 50, all that matters is their songs rip hard in a Scandinavian-meets-late 80s UK hardcore vein. Whole In The Head, meanwhile, come on like early Agnostic Front for “The Boy Who Told Lies.” Double-speed thrash and they also have some of the Scandi-core style, as well. Nuance, nuance, nuance. The first sentence I wrote actually sums it up the best. (Unit 3, Lodge Causeway Trading Est., Fishponds, Bristol BS16 UK,