Sunday, August 05, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #45

Who the hell is Kenny Chesney? And why did 50,000 people go to see him? I know he’s a country singer. I assume he’s a country singer since I always see him pictured in a cowboy hat. Man, I must REALLY be out of touch, eh? Proudly so. I’m also glad I didn’t drop $95 or $225 on the Police shows at Fenway Pahhhk. As stated before, I’m not opposed to reunions but this smacks of a cash-in. No duh, Al. I suppose these are the shows I’m supposed to go see. After all, I’m in the age range of people who went to see artists such as the Clash, Police, Elvis Costello, Blondie, et al in the late 70s/early 80s.

On that list, the only one I got to see was the Clash. In fact, I got to catch them on their first tour, in early ’79, when they played the Harvard Square Theatre. That’s still one of the greatest shows I’ve seen in my life. I wasn’t a Costello fan. In fact, I’m still not that big a fan although I’ve come to appreciate some of his earlier stuff. “No Action” is one hell of a catchy song. I managed to miss the Police’s Boston debut at the Rat in Kenmore Square, where they played four nights. Nor did I ever see them play live, as I alluded to above. I’d heard the “Fall Out” single on Greg Riebman’s show on WERS, the Emerson College station, sometime in late ’77 or early ’78 and thought it was a pretty good punk song but never did get the record. So I was a freshman at Boston University and it’s late October, 1979. I stop by the room of one of my dorm-mates, Mark, and see a 45 record on his desk. He tells me they were giving them out at Strawberries, a record store in Kenmore near the Rat. It was “Roxanne” by Police, as they were listed on the record. I told him I’d heard of the band, that they were punk and he seemed repulsed by that fact and told me I could have the record. I thought it was OK—kind of surprised to hear the reggae in the verses but the chorus had a pretty punk rock feel to it, I thought at the time.

I did like the first two Police albums. In fact, I tried to convince myself I liked stuff after that. I suppose “Zenyatta Mondatta” had a few good songs. I remember listening to “Ghost In The Machine” when it came out and even thinking some of that wasn’t bad but, these days, it’s “Outlandos D’Amour” and “Regatta De Blanc.” Hell, I think there are some incredibly underrated songs on those records--at least I think they’re underrated. “Contact,” from “Regatta.” The subtle tempo shift for the chorus and the brittle guitar line pack a subtle wallop—if a wallop can be subtle. On “Outlandos,” I have a real soft spot for “Be My Girl—Sally,” where the song starts and ends with a charging arrangement and harmonized vocals repeating the title over and over. The middle section, “Sally,” is a spoken word segment from Andy Summers that’s an ode to a blowup doll, with his words accompanied by whimsical-sounding piano. Maybe it’s the fact that it brings back some pleasant memories of the spring of ’79, when I met the woman who’s now my wife and that line, “be my girl,” still rings through my brain and there was a happy outcome there.

Maybe it’s the memory of how I got that album. It was in early April of ’79—or maybe late March—and it was a beautiful spring afternoon. I was sitting in a classroom at Boston University, waiting for the start of my class in Quantitative Methods aka Linear Programming aka a fancy way of describing what was ostensibly a math course, as taught by Melanie Lenard. I remember that Prof. Lenard had brownish hair with a white patch and, thinking back, kind of a Midwestern-ish twang. In any case, I was sitting there and Tom Hetrick, another guy from my dorm, had the idea of blowing off class and going over to Harvard Square to pick up the new Police album. So we hopped in Tom’s pretty fancy car (it might have been a convertible) and hit Discount Records to purchase said record and it took up residence on my turntable for the rest of the semester.


That's quite a photo of Tom, eh? Taken in his dorm room, guerrilla style, that spring. Nice shorts and socks. At least he had the legs to pull it off.

So those are the types of memories the Police conjure up. Maybe they would have been revived had I seen the show at Fenway. But I seriously doubt it. Playing my well-worn copy of that album works better. Still—I saw a recent photo of Andy Summers standing next to a blown up copy of an early set list and it had songs from the first two albums, plus “Fall Out.” If they had guaranteed to only play the songs on that list, I might have taken the plunge. Hell, do what Cheap Trick did, when they played their first three albums in order, over three consecutive nights at the Paradise in Boston. They did the albums and then added on some “greatest hits” after, which was hit and miss but getting to hear the likes of “He’s A Whore,” “On Top Of The World” and “Stiff Competition” made it worthwhile. Hell, Sonic Youth just played “Daydream Nation” in order at the Pitchfork festival and an acquaintance of mine was talking about how great it was and how that’s the only Sonic Youth show he’ll ever need to see. So if the Police play their first two albums in order and MAYBE include a few later songs, I’d be there. But it’s not going to happen and I just saved myself nearly $500 on two tickets.


CANCER BRIDES-Like Fairy Tales Of Modern Times (Brass Jacket, CD)
Can I get away with calling this emo? Well, emo-ish? Before you start puking, realize that I’m talking about the mid-to-late 80s style of this music. You know, when it was still rooted in hardcore and didn’t sound like whining. I mean, sure, you could say that Guy from Rites of Spring sounded like he was bawling and I’ve heard stories of their audience chucking flowers and being moved to tears. In any case, the Brides’ vocalist Abel is gruffer. Second, while it’s melodic, the arrangements have brawn. Hell, metal inclinations show on occasion—especially for “A Former Lie”—with some Maiden-esque guitar trills and a fiery lead break. And goddamn if some of the melodic guitar lines on “Pipe Bomb” and “The Wrong Kill” effectively go in for the kill. Even with the “poetic” type lyrics and occasional penchant for a sacrifice of brevity, the Cancer Brides still mainly win me over. (PO Box 1468, Tucson, AZ 85702,

CRIMSON SWEET-Wired For The Last Move/Basement Star (Slow Gold Zebra, 7”)
Haven’t heard from this NYC band in a bit. Poppy yet burning and vocals that go from angelic to something a bit more south of heaven. “Wired For The Last Move,” in particular has a real strong hook while “Basement Star” isn’t quite as stirring. A hit and miss proposition but when they hit, it strikes paydirt. Unfortunately, since this record's release, they've called it quits. (PO Box 20506, Tompkins Sq. Station, NY, NY 10019)

DIMWITS-Hey Man, Good Set (Winter St., CD)
If I was going to say anything to the band about this album, it’d be “hey guys, adequate set.” The agenda is wise-assed lyrical swipes a-la The Queers—in fact, there’s a name-check on the song “Maggie.” Overall, it’s fair-to-middling punk with oi-ish (some “hey hey heys”) and a modicum of tunefulness. The Dimwits are the type of band who aren’t terrible but I probably wouldn’t go out of my way for, either. (64 Tell St., Providence, RI 02909,

THE EAT-It’s Not The Eat, It’s The Humidity (Alternative Tentacles, 2xCD)
Oh ho-ho-ho, what a clever fuckin’ title. OK, I can appreciate a pun as much as the next person and I can appreciate the Eat, as well. Maybe not two hours and twenty minutes at once, so you’ll want to space it out. The Eat put out a few of those holy grail records that diehard collectors jizz themselves over—the “Communist Radio” 7” and “God Punishes The Eat” EP. They also include the cassette-only “Scattered Wahoo Action,” recorded in 1982 and a ’96 EP. There’s other unreleased stuff, too. I’m not sure of exact details since one of the pages in the booklet ran twice and I wonder if that’s where info was. No matter. So does the music match the collectability factor? Is it that awesome? Overall, it’s pretty sweet. These guys mixed it up. Sure, there was a punk attitude but the some of the songs also had a gloriously poppy bent, especially the famous “Communist Radio.” The Eat were definitely a band that didn’t take themselves too seriously—irreverent and funny. The second disc is all live and, while it’s probably a one time listen (maybe), these are solid, spirited performances. Their own songs are here but they also bash around some “classic rock”—“LA Woman,” “We’re An American Band,” “Wooly Bully” and “Flower Punk” is a sideways cover of “Hey Joe.” They sound as though they were a whale of a band in that setting. Maybe even a manatee of a band (my own bad pun)—and please smack your knees, not those gentle giants, as mentioned in “Manatee Smacker.” And you can easily skip over the white boy funk of “Nixon’s Binoculars,” as well. I’m sure the Eat were a welcome alternative in the land of Skynyrd—no fuckin’ “Free Bird” here, thank whatever. (PO Box 419092, SF, CA 94146,

EPISODE-s/t (self-released, 7” EP)
A mystery band with no info or song titles, just lyrics. Actually, I do know the participants but if I tell you, it could mean BIG trouble for me. OK, it’s the guys from Fall Out Boy trying to regain punk cred. Enough joking. The first song comes out of the gates like 9 Shocks Terror, at least in the vocal and musical delivery and the words are a warning call against the warmongering “leaders.” A swell of feeback leads into the next song and offering the solution. Episode orders the listener to take out a certain leader but I’d better not be any more specific since I don’t need the Secret Service breaking down my door and giving me a one-way ticket to Gitmo. Thorny punk with heart and adrenalin and not amelodic, either—the piercing guitar line on the last song has a good amount of sting and, if I was once again going to put it in a bit of context, it made me think of some of the 80s era Euro hardcore bands who would have those kinds of leads. This is some kickass stuff. (

GHOUL-Splatterthrash (Tankcrimes, LP)
This is my first time entering Ghoul’s evil demimonde or, rather, the fictional place called Creepsylvania. The Ghouls are hooded, covered with blood and I’d imagine put on quite an entertaining live show. Their third album, or chapter, and it’s a wild, spot-on amalgam of thrash metal, more Euro-metal flavored stuff, creepy theremin and robotic effects and even surf music (“Psychoplasm,” “Baron Samedi”). Some of the vocals sound slowed down a bit to add to the wickedness. We’re talking high concept here, most likely allegorical in nature—I’d be here all day offering details but it’s a battle to the death for Ghoul, along with the former bullied “twerp” turned “Mutant Mutilator” by their side, as they take on the insidious cult leader. Something about a grail called the Crystal Skull. As I said, I came into this story in the middle. But it turns out this so-called leader is bent on Creepsylvania’s conversion into a community of Christo-Fascism—hell, he even puts in a Disney Store—NOOOOOOOO! I said allegory before? We may be on to something here.The full color gatefold sleeve, with front cover art by Greg Oakes, is a perfect accompaniment to Ghoul’s tongue-in-cheek, comic book come to life. It’s horrorific! (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609,


KILL YOUR IDOLS-Salmon Swim Upstream (Vicious Circle, 7” EP)/Something Started Here (Lifeline, CD)
KYI have reached the end of the line and I don’t know if these will be their final releases but “Salmon” features five songs recorded as demos in 2006 and, as a result, the sound quality is rough. That’s absolutely fine with me—KYI were always a back-to-basics hardcore punk band and this provides the perfect ambiance, so to speak. Four rousers of their own plus a cover of “Skinhead Girl,” popularized by The Oppressed—the latter could have been excised and the EP wouldn’t lack for it. “Something Started Here” is an “odds and ends” anthology of EP and split tracks, comp appearances outtakes and the like and it spans KYI’s entire history. Kill Your Idols always maintained the aggressiveness and would let melody seep in on occasion. One thing that never changed was Andy West’s barking cadence, no matter the song. For that reason, KYI would never be too sweet-sounding or saccharine. And they also had a knack for putting life in overdone cover versions. Just when you think the world doesn’t need another cover of “Can’t Tell No One,” they pull it off and it takes brass ones to cover Sheer Terror (twice), but I’m sure Paul B. would approve—if he ever approved of anything. No slick production on most of these songs means it’s a bruiser of a disc. The detailed liner notes give a play by play behind the songs, what was going on in the ranks and it’s obvious this band meant a great deal to Andy and Gary, who wrote the text. That enthusiasm always came through in the power of their music. (Vicious Circle: PO Box 682, Midlothian, IL 60445,


LOOK BACK AND LAUGH-State Of Illusion (self-released, 12” EP)
A quick four song, one sided EP—with a skeletal figure looking over a pair of TVs on the flip and the message being how media can be used to anaesthetize the public. If you haven’t heard this band before, it’s a thorny, thrashy style with US hardcore and Scandinavian touches mixed together. Tobia’s vocals are snarling and nasty and it makes for a visceral combination. Impressive packaging, impressive music, as always, and they’re also one of the best live bands out there. (PO Box 3103, Berkeley, CA 94703,

PYRAMID SCHEME-House Arrest (Art Squad, 7” EP)
For Pyramid Scheme’s second 7”, it’s more rough hardcore plowing straight ahead, sometimes indulging in some double-speed thrash. Smart-assed lyrics, whether dealing with their Pittsburgh ‘hood of Squirrel Hill on “Under The Radar” (I did like Jerry’s Records when I visited there, though), chug-a-lug christian hardcore (“Jesus Floorpunching Christ”) or wannabe-rockstars (“We’re A Band”). Pissed and pretty damn raging. (1749 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15216,

SOUL CONTROL-s/t (Rivalry, 7” EP)
Melodic thrash/chug hardcore—a tad Bad Brains-ish but with a heavier bent. There’s a groove to the songs, solid production but it falls into a joyless, angst-ridden trap. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,

TILTWHEEL-s/t (Razorcake, 7” EP)
TOYS THAT KILL-s/t (Razorcake, 7” EP)

I’m reviewing these together because they showed up together, have similar packaging and, besides, I figured I’d pay attention to the liner notes. It ‘splains that they should be viewed as a pair, part of their “sister series” and the two sleeves form a big picture. In any case, each band does two of their own songs and one of the others. Got it? Both bands operate in a melodic realm. Tiltwheel don’t sound as overpowering as in the past, although the songs still have a winning tunefulness and ridiculously long titles (well, for the originals) that would give me carpal tunnel if I typed them out. The Toys That Kill cover (“Birds In Catsuits”) has a tad more punch. Moving on to Toys That Kill, I found their songs underwhelming. The best of the three cuts is their cover of Tiltwheel’s “All I Care About Is Me, My Rum and You.” Their own songs, “O” and “O2,” have the pop but not much snap or crackle (oof—I deserve to have my writing license revoked for that). The urgency and drive aren’t there. (PO Box 42129, LA, CA 90042,

TOE TAG-Machete Killah (Bag Of Hammers, 7”)
Blaine Cook from the Accused fronts this band, joined by two other ex-Accused dudes, and it’s a heavier rock sound. That’s obvious since the b-side is a cover of a semi-obscuro Sabbath song “Junior’s Eyes” (off “Technical Ecstasy.” “Machete Killah” picks up the pace, Seattle rock (if that’s still a valid term) with more roughness and Blaine’s always-distinct yowl. They included a live DVD with the 7” and it comes closer to the Accüsed aggro and I’d be curious to hear that material in the recorded format. (PO Box 70513, Seattle, WA 98127,

ZERO DEFEX-War Hero—1983 Demos (Get Revenge, 7” EP)
This disc is part of Get Revenge’s “Demolition Series,” where they’re exhuming hardcore demos lost to time. One listen to this raw, fast Clevo band and it’s easy to figure out where some of the more recent scummy bands from that city drew some inspiration. Incidentally, scummy is meant in a positive sense. I’m talking about the yowling vocals, rip-snortin’ guitar and anti-social attitude. Here’s an origination point—I’m sure the likes of the Inmates, H-100s, 9 Shocks, et al had this demo in their various tape decks at one time or another and those bands have the same shit-flying spirit. It’s not all a lightning fast pace—“Drugs,” for instance, has segments that sound like an aural withdrawal although there’s the sped up chorus segment. Bile unleashed. By the way, the guitarist Tommy Strange later moved to the Bay Area and took a different musical turn with the likes of Strawman and Songs For Emma. A limited pressing so don’t fuck around. (PO Box 27071, Knoxville, TN 37917,

1 comment:

Karl Bakla said...

Man I’m so with you when it comes to these ass holes bands trying to cash in! When I think of the Rolling Stones charging $300 to play a gig in Las Vegas it makes me sick. I don’t think bands have to loose money but come on they should at least keep the tickets prices affordable so their fans who made them millionaires can enjoy some live music action. I work in a casino & you get so many snooty rich customers who get comp tickets to see bands like Rolling Stones, U2, Police, & Paul McCartney, when you asked them how they enjoyed the show they’ll tell you “I’m not really the biggest fan, but they were $300 tickets & they were letting me go for free” free, fuck you rich ass hole you only went so you can say that you went to a $300 concerts, man I’m pissed off now! I fucking hate bands that play in casino & have their tickets given away to high rollers in blocks, while their fans who bought their albums & went to see them in the day would have to choose the power bill over their stupid concert. I don’t even know why I’m pissed off I like hard core & have never had to worry about this situation but it still pisses me off! When a band is charging a butt load for me to see them I instantly know they don’t care about me & now it’s time for me to not give a fuck about them! I saw Capitalist Casualties play for $6 last year & I guarantee they are better than the Rolling Stones! Shit arghhh! Now I’m pissed off, I need a cup of coffee, thanks a lot! Fuck the Police & I’m not talking about the “police” that NWA were referring to.