Thursday, July 19, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #44



It’s been a little longer than I’d like between installments. Sorry about that. Well, one excuse was another punk rock road trip I took, this time to Pittsburgh, PA to see a pair of shows celebrating the marriage of Bill Chamberlain from Caustic Christ and the Pist (among a ton of other bands on his musical resume) and his longtime girlfriend Rachel. Was it a perfect trip? Not exactly. Well, the shows were a lot of fun and it was cool getting to hang out with friends and meet people I’d only corresponded with via the internet. Jerry’s Records is one of the better stores I’ve been in lately. I could have spent the entire day in there—literally thousands of LPs and 7”s. Maybe over a million. It was fun going through the boxes of old 45s and getting replacement copies of the ones I had trashed during my childhood. “Superman” by Ides Of March? Hell yeah… and I got a copy of “Vehicle,” too.

It compensated for the horrendous traffic I had to endure over the weekend (and I wasn’t the only one who dealt with that). Part of the highway was shut down, traffic was diverted through various neighborhoods and I got stuck in that crap at least three times. My dear friend Trish couldn’t make it down from Cleveland. The frame on my glasses broke and I had to tape them together for the trip home.

Enough complaining. Here’s a brief wrap-up of the shows. 14 bands over two days—not as crazy as the No Way Fest. The first show was at the DIY space, the Mister Roboto Project and Boston could certainly use a steady space like that one. The space isn’t in the city but Wilkinsburg, a borough of the city, and it’s pretty desolate, at least around the venue. Lots of boarded-up buildings and not many food options around the place. The Chinese food I got from a bit down the block was serviceable, no more or less. Five bands played—Night Terror, FLAK, Brain Handle, Caustic Christ and Thought Crime. I thought Brain Handle stole the show that night. Ed has a unique presence, staggering around, microphone held like an ice cream cone and there’s a dark-hued hardcore sound varying between medium speed and slowing it down significantly for the last song, which they had to start twice because some nimrod crashed through the drum kit the first time. Caustic also brought it—I like seeing bands on their “home turf” and they didn’t disappoint. The crushing, slower “The Caustic Curse” has been a stand-out of late.

The next night’s show was in the borough of Braddock, an even more desolate area that’s definitely fallen on hard times. There was literally no place for food within walking distance. There WAS a bar at the venue, at least. Thankfully, through the generosity of kind folks, I was taken care of. The venue was an Elks lodge, right next to the loft where the city’s mayor, John Fetterman, lives. He’s an interesting guy. He’s making an attempt to revive the area, with rent and tax free space being offered to artists, musicians and the like. An article from the Pittsburgh City Paper has a piece you can read at this link about Fetterman and Braddock.

Fetterman’s an imposing figure—tall, wide, with a shaved-head and he was hanging out at the show all night. In fact, the most memorable moment came when he introduced Municipal Waste, concluding his brief comments with the band’s salvo “Municipal Waste are gonna fuck you up!” I mean, I can’t picture the mayor of Boston, Tom “Mumbles” Menino, doing that. Hell, he’d probably try to shut the show down. And if he did say it, it might be hard to understand his diction-impaired words. He may be the only mayor who needs subtitles when he speaks.


The bands! Nine of ‘em. The biggest buzz seemed to be for Criminal Damage, with Paul Burdette from Tragedy on guitar and vocals and a sound obviously rooted in ’82-era No Future Records punk, Blitz in particular. Tribute or not, the songs are catchy and memorable and perfect for audience singalongs. Plenty of participation, throughout. Annihilation Time are a rock machine—no question about it. The Bl’ast thing is still there but the blatant 70s hard rock/metal is the overriding element these days, although Jimmy’s vocals are snotty, as opposed to bombastic. The Waste didn’t have their props—well, they did bring out the beer bong—but their crossover shreddability doesn’t need gimmicks, anyway. High On Crime were one of the loudest bands of the night, a pummeling combo of thrash, crust and heaviness. Hammering away on their instruments and creating quite a ruckus. The Pist sounded as good as they did in the 90s and “We’re The Pist” made for a strong introduction. Everyone was gathered around Al, singing the words and they’re one of the few so-called “street punk” bands for whom time has been kind. They’ll be in Boston on September 8 at the Cambridge Elks. Getting lost after the show and turning a 15 minute drive into an over-an-hour ordeal didn’t seem so bad. OK, it did, but let’s just dwell on the positive here.

To see more pictures from these shows and other recent musical events, please go to my Flickr page at


DACTYL-Teething (Reptilian, CD)
In recent years, I’ve occasionally pined for the days of aggressive indy rock that caught my fancy in the late 80s/early-to-mid 90s. Not the grunge stuff but music that had an edgy power and heaviness that didn’t get bogged down by lumbering tempos nor necessarily attempt to rekindle the spirit of Zep or late 60s RAWK. With a band name like Dactyl, one would expect a colossal sound and that’s more or less what you’ll get on this disk. It’s noisy and there are anguished sounding vocals. Sure, these Baltimoreans engage in some swirling, lumber-hammering tempos. There are also sonic squalls that bridge some of the tracks and “Pull The Pin” is a tad self-indulgent in its bombastic-ness. I really got tired of this stuff after awhile but, every so often, it’s refreshing to hear bands that still have the urge to bash it out this way. (2545 N. Howard, Baltimore, MD 21218,

DT’S-Filthy Habits (Get Hip, CD)
DT’s got soul—both from a musical standpoint, as they dish out the fired up 70s-inspired rock ‘n roll and vocally, as Diana Young-Blanchard is a dominating, yet gritty shouter. They’ve got it down pat and people who are into such bands as the Bell-Rays won’t be able to get enough. Still, to be up-front about it, this is a style that doesn’t really pull me in most of the time. The best song, “Turn Loose” does what the title implies, at least. Maybe if it had a nastier garage element, I’d be more into it but the overall polish to the sound/production has too much of a smoothing effect. (PO Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15233,

ERGS-Upstairs/Downstairs (Dirtnap, CD)
These guys are a blast live and bring out some of the more spirited devotion I’ve seen in the past few years. Who’d believe such a nerdy-looking band (all of ‘em wear glasses) would cause people to go out of their minds? Their second album is a pop/punk that takes a pumped-up Descendentsian spirit and has more aggressiveness that I’ve heard in the past. There are a few twists and turns, such as the country-flavored (and not too hot) “Girls Of The Market Square” and solo guitar/vocal “Books About Miles Davis” (also not so great). The concluding, title track is actually a 18 minute jam of sorts that goes from the aching pop into a steady instrumental workout accompanied by the song’s title repeated ad-infinitum underneath the fray. Probably something you’d only want to hear a few times but kind of cool. Not the same ‘ol melodic fodder. (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202,

GOVERNMENT WARNING-Arrested (Grave Mistake, 7” EP)
Four new songs by GW—on first listen, I had it a notch below their 12” but it definitely holds its own. The title track has a mid-tempo west coast punk sound and that distinguishes Government Warning from the pure thrash revivalists. In fact, that’s a part of their overall sound—I can hear early Circle Jerks in “Safe and Sound,” for instance. That song deals with a bit of “controversy,” as seen in the letters pages of Maximum Rock ‘n Roll, over Kenny using some perhaps ill-advised terminology when they played in Raleigh and the band covering Vile. His reply is that he never meant it, “political correctness has become a plague” and “I’m not intolerant/I just don’t give a fuck.” Hmm… I have mixed feelings. I don’t like when ANYONE acts self-righteous (and I resemble that remark) and some folks do need to be wound up, on occasion. On the other hand, using words like “faggot” from the stage is tiresome, at this point. OK, speech over. If snottiness and a bad attitude are assets, these guys have that in spades. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

HEX DISPENSERS-s/t (Alien Snatch, CD)
Dispensing (or delivering, if you’re in a Judas Priest state of mind) the goods. The goods being a dark, thick garage/punk rock sound that has a purpose and urgency to paraphrase the first song, “H.D. Local 23.” The coolness quotient is increased with the “Apocalypse Now” reference for “Are You An Assassin” and the pounding yet catchy properties of the song don’t hurt, either. They also have one of the best cover versions I’ve heard in a bit—a stripped-raw version of Gary Numan’s “Down In The Park” and it took me a second to realize what song it was. I also didn’t realize there were only two guitars and drums/tambourine making this racket since the sound has so much fullness that it sounds like several instruments, including keyboards. Definitely got the hex on me. (distr. in the US by Get Hip, PO Box 666, Canonsburg, PA 15317,

HIGH TENSION WIRES-Midnight Cashier (Dirtnap, CD)
Pretty nifty ‘n nervy punk/garage/pop. I think that covers it. It’s not bash-over-the-skull fodder but the songs have presence and inherent catchiness and taut, concise arrangements. The drive of a song such as “Wax Lips and Blood On The Telephone” is irresistible. And I could be crazy but, once in awhile, there’s a guitar/keyboards jab along the lines of Stereolab that’s more punk, less Velvets, such as “Not Enough For Me.” That song has a cool semi-freakout bridge, as well. It’s funny—I was about to say some of the songs also remind me of the Marked Men and, lo ‘n behold, some of these guys play in that band. How perceptive! In fact, I like it better than the most recent Marked Men album in that it’s rougher around the edges. (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202,

J CHURCH-The Horror Of Life (No Idea, CD)
Bill O’Reilly, in his execrable book, “Culture Warrior” (coming soon to a remainder table near you) talks about how “secular-progressives” are essentially wrecking this country. J Church’s song “We Play Secular Music” was penned before that screed was published but it makes me want to raise my fist in solidarity. J Church’s latest album is a seamless blend of melodic and, also, angry punk—some of the songs here, such as “Eric Dolphy,” New Ho Chi Minh City” and “Viva La Muerte” veer into hardcore territory, albeit without losing the tunefulness. Hell, Lance Hahn raises the rage in his voice for the last one. Thought-provoking lyrics that question the established order, taking issue, for one thing, with the co-optation of “revolutionary ideals,” as it’s put on “If I Have To Dance Then I Don’t Want Your Revolution.” There are also quite a few songs dealing with love and its difficulties and heartbreaks and it’s obvious that these words come from personal experiences. J Church’s lyrics go between straight-forward and, perhaps, more metaphorical but not to the point where one loses the point. Following me here? Ah hell—it’s punk rock and, even if some of the songs don’t always pack as much of a musical punch for me, it’s got more burn than anything I’ve heard from them in awhile. Also, the suggested “eating list” (instead of reading list) on the inlay card is a clever idea. (PO Box 14636, Gainesville, FL 32604,

REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY-Dreamland (Underground Communique, CD-EP)
RSA, the band with Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith) and J. Robbins (Jawbox) have expanded to a four piece for this four song EP. Melodic, rhythmic, driving rock that connects best on the brief “Brezhnev” and “The Long War,” less-so on the drone-like “Dreamland.” A different mode of expression than straight hardcore yet it’s effective at times. (1220 W. Hood Ave., #7, Chicago, IL 60660,

STRAIGHTJACKET NATION-6 Song EP (self-released, 7” EP)
Thanks to Beau for sending me this 7” all the way from Australia—goddamn this is a good one. Six fast, overpowering hardcore songs and one blending into another without a break (well, except when you flip the record over--duh). The ghost of Pig Champion is channeled through guitarist Dave’s fingers and Daniel’s going to get a sore throat if he keeps yelling like that. It’s worth the risk, I suppose. I’ve seen this EP lurking in some distro boxes and you’d be doing yourself a favor by checking this out. (PO Box 239, North Carlton, Victoria 3054 AUSTRALIA,

TIME TO ESCAPE-s/t (Grave Mistake, 7” EP)
The ambiance with the sleeve and even record label screams early 80s hardcore but I also hear an early Youth Of Today influence, at least musically. Parsons’ vocals are ranty and the lyrics express boiled up frustration and keep the edge thing out of it. Raw and fast and loud with the obligatory breakdowns. The medium-paced, bashing “Thick Enough” shows that a song can be tough without the tedious chug. This is a vinyl pressing of a demo recorded in the fall of ’05 and I’d like to hear more. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

TRICLOPS-Cafeteria Brutalia (Sickroom, CD)
There’s a pattern here. Triclops’ songs start out with a blast of jarring, edgy post-punk rock played with power and authority. Focused and aggressive but the songs are lengthy and expansive. That’s not necessarily such a good thing. It’s kind of the same beef I have with the Fleshies, with whom this band shares vocalist John Geek. Flashes of brilliance interspersed with some dross and some judicious editing would make this material absolutely killer. (PO Box 47830, Chicago, IL 60647,

WASTED TIME-No Shore EP (Grave Mistake, 7” EP)
Metallica were Damage Inc. Wasted Time are Agitation Inc and their vocalist Mark is the CEO. Finally, some new sounds from this band, who had one of my favorite 7”s of ’06. Complexity? Nah, just full-speed ahead battering with a raw ambiance, although the concluding “Same Story” has a slightly less frantic speed level. Having Brandon from Direct Control/Gov’t Warning behind the drum kit is never a bad thing either. And I love the slam at Christian Coalition führer Pat Robertson on “Hey, Pat,” particularly since the wife of an ex-friend of mine works for that wackjob at his Regent University. Bruisin’. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241,

I wouldn’t call it a guilty pleasure but I’ve always had a soft spot for this rousing sort of tuneful, charging punk. Charging is an apt description since most of these songs are played full-speed. What the Heroes offer are catchy songs that occasionally cross over into anthemic territory and never waver in their surging, bristling energy. When the Blitz-ish guitar lines for the likes of “Dead End Street,” “Move To Press” and “Action” kick in, it’s all over—cast out and reeled in with no fight whatsoever. (PO Box 67609, LA, CA 90067,

There’s a limited edition re-packaging of Slayer’s “Christ Illusion” album that includes a couple of new songs—well, one new one, the heavy, brooding “Final Six” and an alternate take of “Serenade” that doesn’t sound a whole lot different. They’re also throwing in a three track DVD. There’s a smokin’ live version of “South Of Heaven,” plus a five minute video collage of happenings at a Slayer show and both of those tracks provide amusement in viewing their diehard minions. I mean, I’m a huge fan, I once did an acapella duet of “Raining Blood” with another guy in a café in Berkeley, CA, much to horror of my wife and my friend. And I’ve used the exhortation that tops this review. Still, one wonders where these folks lurk when not at a Slayer show. In any case, the third track is a conceptual video of “Eyes Of The Insane” that is a close-up of an eyeball and what it views, juxtaposing peaceful home scenes with the intense war imagery and it’s not a pleasant vision but one doesn’t ever expect pleasant visions from this crew.

It kind of sucks that people who bought the album last year have to buy it all over again to get the new material. Perhaps a multimedia EP with the music and video content on one disk would have been preferable. In any case, the new stuff provokes the eyes and ears and “Christ Illusion” did mark a real return to form for these guys.


Well, kind of. While you're waiting for the next full-sized issue, I did a two page zine to give away at the Warkrime/Rabies show that's happening this weekend (7/21) that I can't attend due to family obligations. Exclusive content that won't appear in this blog. To get your copy, send a stamp to Suburban Voice, PO Box 2746, Lynn, MA 01903