Thursday, August 23, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #46

“THAT’S NOT MUSIC!”

So there I was, one summer night in 1980, working at the Richdale store in Marblehead, MA. The classic summer job and I’d encounter some interesting characters. Like this one kind of sketchy looking dude who would come in every night, walk around for awhile and then usually buy a box of muffin mix or something like that. I wondered what he was doing the rest of the time. One night, I ventured out from behind the counter and found him over at the magazine rack, looking through the “personals” section of the Boston Phoenix with his hand down his pants. When I caught him, you never saw anyone bolt out a place so quickly and I don’t think I ever saw him again. We also sold beer and wine and I’d have to “card” people. At the time, the drinking age was 20. I sold some brew to a guy who looked as though he was over 20. Nope—he was 18 and the cops nailed him when he left the store. Then they came in to have a little talk with me. Fortunately, nothing happened, not even when they called my boss. He told me not to worry about it. Can you imagine what would have happened to me today? There’s no doubt I would have been fired and possibly busted for selling to the kid.

As usual, music helped keep me sane, both at work and not at work. The radio brought much joy. WERS, the Emerson College station, had a cool show called “Niteklub,” named after the Specials’ song. WMWM, the Salem State station, had some crucial programming, as well, particularly “Depraved Dave’s Cave,” hosted by Dave Dodge. That was where I first heard the Dead Kennedys’ “California Über Alles.” I also heard a local band called the Transplants and a few of their songs ended up on a mix tape along with that DK’s song, DOA, SLF and the early GG Allin single “Cheri Love Affair.” Other songs that stood out were “This World of Water” by New Musik, “African Reggae” by Nina Hagen,” the salacious “Stained Sheets” by the Contortions (basically phone sex between James Chance and Lydia Lunch, performing as Stella Rico), “Burn It Down” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, two years before “Come On Eileen” and “Academy Fight Song” by Mission of Burma (what an awesome record). Incidentally, the first time Ellen and I saw Burma, in late spring, we walked out on them because they were bad that night. Then I heard the single a few weeks later and we've both been fans ever since. Some of the other songs mentioned didn’t really stick with me back then but I’ve come to love them ever since.

One night, I was working at Richdale and either listening to a tape or the radio. All I remember is “Suicidal Tendencies” by the Transplants came on and I was digging it. A woman in her 40s or 50s came up to the counter. She definitely was NOT into the music playing at that moment. She was friendly enough and we started talking a bit and I still remember her saying, about that song and the stuff I liked in general, “that’s not music.” It’s one person’s opinion but it’s stuck with me ever since. It’s been a point of pride that I like music that falls outside the mainstream. I can’t remember what she did consider music Maybe it was Dixieland jazz or blues or something like that. I honestly can’t recall it. If it was older rock ‘n roll, then we were on the same page. I guess where we would part company is a lot of early rock ‘n roll, the non watered-down type, had a sense of spirit and rebellion that remains at the core of a lot of punk and hardcore. And if that’s noise instead of music then, to quote a well-known hip-hop group (also considered worthless non-music by many people), bring the noise!

MUSIC AND NOISE:
Catching up, as always. Some of these records came out awhile ago.

BEOWÜLF-Westminster & 5th (I Scream, CD)
Beowülf’s first, self-titled album that came out in ’87 was a killer (and I still need a copy of the original vinyl). It was the crossover era, they were on Suicidal Tendencies’ label and had a solid Tank/NWOBHM-meets hardcore-inspired sound. That album also had some rather ribald songs, such as “Drink, Fight, Fuck.” At some point, vocalist/guitarist Dale Henderson discovered Jesus and later put out the wretched “Un-Sentimental” in the early 90s, an album that I no longer own. So here’s his first album under the Beowülf name since the mid-90s and it has the metallish sound of their early material. Only the religious references remain and it’s tough for me to get past that—the title track has the refrain “God is watching over me” and there ain’t no irony. That’s not the only thing to critique, though. The music is solid but doesn’t have nearly the heaviness and crunch of those old recordings. Yeah, I know it’s been over 20 years but a comparison is inevitable. In any case, there’s a reissue of the band’s first two albums that came out a few years back and that’s a hell (sorry) of a lot better. (www.iscreamrecords.com)

BIRDS OF A FEATHER/IN DEFENCE-Split (Give Praise, 7” EP)
Yet another record that got sat on—well, not literally, but I’ve had it since May. Birds Of A Feather play sweeping hardcore and fly the X, at least on the sleeve. The usual speed/breakdown transitions but lively and none of it plods. The two In Defence songs also have the youthful spirit, although vocalist Ben Crew is in his early 30s—that’s the point of “Hardcore Is Dead,” an affirmation of sorts. Sounding angry and posi at the same—maybe a tad corny but coming across as sincere. (www.givepraiserecords.com)

FIX MY HEAD-s/t (tape)
The first missive from this Oakland band that includes former Scurvy Dogs vocalist Mike. Four songs of potent, 80s inspired hardcore punk, with some double-speed touches that don’t detract. Pretty straight-forward lyrics, albeit with sarcastic properties at times. The main emphasis is an extended middle-finger/fuck you mentality and that also comes out through the band’s aggressive musical nature. (248 Third St., #725, Oakland, CA 94607, www.myspace.com/fixmyheadhc)

I ADAPT-From Town To Town (Six Feet Under, 7” EP)
Three songs spread over two sides, including the lengthy (trying to avoid saying epic) song “Future In You.” I Adapt have the heavy, somber soul-screaming style of hardcore also explored by Modern Life Is War and the faster part of “Subject To Change” conjures Tragedy, a bit. Powerful stuff although I liked it more in the live setting. (http://www.myspace.com/iadapt)

INTELLECTUALS-Invisible Is The Best (Dead Beat, CD)
Another disc I sat on for some inexplicable reason—I think I’ve had this since the end of last year. Sorry about that. I’m reviewing it ‘cause it’s pretty good. Primitive bluesy garage punk with guitar, drums and organ. Besides their own rough tunes, the Intellectuals do a good job bashing around some cover versions—X-Ray Spex’s “Identity” and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Never Understand” in particular. It took me maybe 15-20 seconds to realize they were decimating the latter song and that kind of ravaging is more intriguing than a straight-forward cover. Kind of the same change-up as when the Hex Dispensers covered Gary Numan’s “Down In The Park” awhile back. Better late than never with this review, I suppose. (PO Box 361392, Cleveland, OH 44136, www.dead-beat-records.com)

JOHN THE BAKER/MILLIONS OF DEAD COPS-Unplugged (Tankcrimes, 7” EP)
I have respect for both John the Baker and Dave Dictor. It’s humorous to hear John singing “the cops are fucking little girls” and Dave turning “Let’s Kill All The Cops” into a jaunty campfire singalong. In other words, this is a punk rock approach with acoustic guitars. John’s liner notes about how he had to deal with a bullying pig in Woodstock, NY says a lot about the power trips in which these so-called protectors of the law engage themselves. It also shows how they don’t often live up to those “lofty” standards. Still, I’m not into acoustic music but do find the spirit inspiring. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609, www.tankcrimes.com)

KULTURKAMPF-Too Cold To Smell The Dead (Trench Rot, 7” EP)
The title track is a long, ominous instrumental with some Black Flag-ish guitar squiggle pressing into a thrashy burst. The first part is actually the most interesting thing on the record. Raw UK-style hardcore played with enthusiasm if not always the best musical skill, especially the drumming. “Macho Man (Jock Song)” quotes from Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” and Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” with the balance of the fast punk arrangement wrapped around. Standard “up the punx” fodder and just fair, at best. (www.myspace.com/upthebonerpunx)

LIFE TRAP

LIFE TRAP-Bleak Reality (No Way, 7” EP)
Jeezus… nope, I haven’t converted. It’s more a matter of renewal, of inspiration and Life Trap provide that on their first EP. Boiling over hardcore from Nashville. My guess is all these guys were born after the music that influenced them was created. Hell, even their logo appears to be inspired by Articles of Faith’s. They’ve learned their lessons well. Fast and tight as fuck. On the lyrical front, “Lost Cause” deals with racism and I imagine that comes from personal experience since two members of Life Trap are people of color. Critiques of the American dream, conformity, stale suburbia—universal, timeless laments and a timeless musical style, as well. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA 23221, www.nowayrecords.com)

LOST BOYS-Fuck You (tape)
In the middle of the front cover for this tape, there are stencil style letters that spell out “Fuck You.” This snotty hardcore/punk/garage band most assuredly convey those feelings. There’s a bug up the ass about working, clean-cut assholes and, let’s see, what else—I’d imagine a good chunk of the human race. Hell, on “Nerds,” the record collection means more than death, destruction and torture. Priorities! My priority is to wear out this tape in the car. (Louche Bertrand, 10 quai de la pêcherie, 69001 Lyon, FRANCE, stillholdingon.free.fr/lostboys.html)

MASSMORD-Unleashed (Yellow Dog, CD)
Heavy crust with male/female vocals and a thick, intense sound. This is a pure Scandinavian hardcore attack. Some Tragedy-like guitar lines and since that band takes cues from this style, it boomerangs back. Lyrically, there’s the well-worn laments about oppression, the rise of racist regimes, soul-crushing daily existence, but also a tip of the hat to the activist community. There’s a sonic thickness, a dark cloud-like ambiance created with all of these elements and played in speedy fashion from start to finish. (PO Box 550208, 10372 Berlin, GERMANY, www.yellowdog.de)

108-A New Beat From A Dead Heart (Deathwish, CD)
The heavy crush of metal core. Metal? Sure—the repetitive chug of the riff on “Angel Strike Man” is separated at birth from Slayer’s “Criminally Insane.” Rob Fish howls as though his limbs are being ripped from his torso and the lyrical matter carries as much weightiness. A heaviness, a groove, even a reggae turn for “Our Kind.” This album was recorded in Salem by Kurt Ballou from Converge and there are definitely some similarities. I’m not really into this sort of soul-screaming heaviness although there’s one blindsiding moment here—the soul stirring chord change on “Guilt.” Incidentally, Kurt’s studio is less than 10 minutes from where I live and I’m kind of surprised I couldn’t hear them laying down the tracks. (www.deathwishinc.com)

RINGERS-Detention Halls (1-2-3-4 Go!, CD)
I’m not quite as enamored of Ringers’ second album as the first. The sound is similar—tuneful punk that comes across as a combination of the Clash and the late 80s Bay Area pop/punk sound, but it doesn’t always have as much of the boisterousness. Such songs as “Duck and Cover,” “Walking Ghost” “New Sins” and “Amateur Hour” do possess the punchiness that made “Curses” such a treat and the lyrical eye (if I may use such illiteration) remains sharp. Being a parochial MassHole, I like the local references to such spots as Harvard Ave and the Back Bay. When played back to back, though, there seemed a tad more grittiness in the sound on “Curses” and, interestingly, they were both recorded at Dead Air in Western Mass. Ultimately, just a slight let-down and there are some strong moments here. (S. Stevenson,1321 Glenfield Ave,Oakland, CA 94602, www.1234gorecords.com)

SHOOT IT UP-s/t (Fashionable Idiots, 7” EP)
Guitar/drums/vocals garage punk-a-rama. The vocals are snotty, the guitar has a slashing primitivism and the drummer sounds as though he’s using garbage can lids for cymbals. It’s probably Shoot It Up’s intent to create such an ugly, occasionally disjointed clatter but I think they’d benefit from fleshing out their sound with a bass-player. Either way, the results would be nasty. (PO Box 580131, Minneapolis, MN 55458, www.fashionableidiots.com)

VARIOUS-Twin Cities Hardcore 2007 (Give Praise/TC Hardcore Journal 7” EP)
State of the scene? Well, there are 8 bands here, one side representing Minneapolis, the other representing St. Paul. Is there a winner? What a trite question. No matter the home base, most of these bands acquit themselves quite well. It’s mainly fast, thrashy hardcore from the likes of In Defence, Pandamonium, Complete Waste and Useless Wooden Toys. Twenty Seven Shots, who had a pretty good full-length not too long ago, add a more tuneful element to their song without losing the hardcore drive. My copy doesn’t have a booklet or insert (maybe misplaced but I can’t find it) but that’s a small distraction. The aforementioned state of the scene is pretty good. (www.givepraiserecords.com)

VICIOUS CYCLE-I’m Watching You (Vinyl Addict, 7” EP)
Mining the old-school hardcore sound and, as I’ve written countless times, if done right, it remains inspiring. Vicious Cycle, from Sudbury, Ontario, have it down. Fast and pissed-sounding and it has my foot pounding the floor as I listen. Some feedbacky guitar on occasion, especially in the middle part of “Bent.” “I’m Watching You” also slows it down and has an early 80s west coast punk vibe. More, please. (1835, De Bourgogne, Sherbrooke, QC, CANADA, J1J 1B1, www.myspace.com/vinyladdictrecords)

2 comments:

DEATH TO FALSE BLOGS said...

whats music ?

http://www.deathtofalseblogs.blogspot.com
http://www.deathtofalseblogs.blogspot.com
http://www.deathtofalseblogs.blogspot.com

right now!
municipal waste - live gig - hazardouz mutation (dvd-r)

bak said...

hey Al! i'm a constant reader of your column in MRR. I'm starting a zine distro here in greece and i'm also putting out the first issue of my fanzine (nofuturezine). can i order from you some issues of suburban voice for my distro? e-mail me: nofuturezine@riseup.net
also check my blog: intothepitphotos.blogspot.com
cheers!!!