Sunday, November 11, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #50


86 MENTALITY

THE ONOMATOPOEIA OF HARDCORE

“EEEEEEEEEEEEYOWWW”—Roger Miret, Agnostic Front
“CHAAAA-AAAA-ANGE”—Ray Cappo, Youth Of Today
“OOOOF”—Tom G. Warrior, Celtic Frost
“ROWWWWWWWWWWF!”—Steve Clark, 86 Mentality
The guttural emanation, the growl or yell or exaggeration of words, if you will, has long been a part of hardcore punk. Well, in Mr. Warrior’s case, I’m talking about metal but work with me here. I saw 86 Mentality play recently and, during the week leading up to the show, there was a lot of excitement. A couple of message boards were humming about it and every so often the posts would attempt to spell out those yells or exhortations that Steve vocalizes. He has quite the gruff voice and throws in his share of “rrrrowwwws,” “ooooofs,” “ohhhhs,” “ruffffs” and the like. Actually, the first sound out of his mouth on their first 7” is a sturdy “RRROWWW.” He’ll also throw in the occasional “OI!,” which makes sense since that’s a part of their sound. Incidentally, their recent set at the Ratscellar was off the fucking chain. The hard pitting started the second the first chord was sounded. Need proof? Check out this short video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gKkdHTena8
This isn’t meant as any sort of disrespect—not advisable because Steve is a lot bigger than I am and could very easily kick my ass with one hand tied behind his back. If anything, I think it’s cool. Hardcore is meant to be a music that expresses anger, acting as a cathartic way to get it out of your system. And I admire how the guy is able to do it for the whole set. I sang along a bit and if I’d done it much more, I would have wrecked my voice and probably been muted for a day or two. Which, to some people, probably isn’t such an awful thing.
I forget what year it was but, in one of my English classes, the teacher brought up the word “onomatopoeia.” According to my handy dictionary—yes, I still have one of those—onomatopoeia is “the formation of a word, as cuckoo or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.” She basically said it’s a way of spelling out “what did the kitty say or what did the doggie say?” Meeeow, rrruff, etc. And I suppose I’m applying it to sounds that come out of these vocalists’ mouths.
It can also be extended to trying to describe how a musical instrument sounds. The legendary writer Lester Bangs put that to great use in a chapter in a book called Rock Revolution, originally published in 1973 by Creem magazine. His piece was called “The Heavy Metal Kids.” That chapter actually got me to check out bands like Blue Öyster Cult and the Stooges. The way he described some of the sounds that came out of the instruments was classic. With Cream, for instance, he tried to put into the written form what the instruments sounded like. Clapton’s “whrrrEEENGGA REENGA YANG YUNG!,” and went on to say that Jack Bruce’s bass “just kinda platypussed around in a brick-footed sort of way thump thonka THOONK THOONK THOONK A THOOMP THUM BOOMP BAH BKK BK BK and Ginger Baker just kept grinding his teeth and woodshipping in there BLLLDDRGGHGH..” Fuck it, I’m not going to spell out any more of that doggerel but you get the idea
But those are descriptions of instruments. What about vocals? Roger’s “eeeeyow” comes from “Victim In Pain,” specifically the start of “Hiding Inside” and the middle of “Your Mistake.” It sounds kind of like someone being given a hotfoot in one of those old Warner Bros or Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Another Warner Bros reference, and not really a case of onomatopoeia, is on Fucked Up’s “Two Snakes.” In the chorus, Damian sings “Twoooooooooooo snakes!” and Oliver of Radio Schizo radio pointed out that he sounds like Yosemite Sam when he does that. When I hear that song (the best by far on “Hidden World”), I can’t escape the vision of Yosemite looking pissed with smoke coming out of his ears. Well, that’s the comment that Oliver posted on my MySpace page—Yosemite Sam with a “Two Snakes” caption.
Ray Cappo had some classic growls and yells during the early days of Youth Of Today. Some wiseass made reference to his Tony The Tiger vocals (THEY’RE GRRRRRRRRRRRREAT!) but the late Thurl Ravenscroft had a uniqueness that few could approach. He also sang the songs on “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” With all due respect, I think Cappo would have been out of his league there. He shouldn’t feel badly about it. That’s a pretty high bar. On YOT’s first album “Break Down The Walls,” the first line out of Ray’s mouth is the aforementioned “MAKE A CHAAAA-AAAA-ANGE” and many of the lines end with some of those growls. Ray’s in overdrive throughout—voicing all the pure rage he can muster. For “Thinking Straight,” when he shouts the title, it sounds more like STRAYAYAY-OW. And then there’s a hearty “GOOOOO” and “OWWWWWW” to introduce the mosh part. It definitely adds to the toughness, the hardness of the music.
John Joseph from the Cro-Mags maybe didn’t exaggerate it quite as much as Ray but he had his moments of vocal vitriol. How about “Malfunction,” on “The Age of Quarrel”? “I just can’t get through you to YOUUUUUUUUUUUWOW.” The “Seeeeee-OWWWWWW” for “It’s The Limit”? As a side-note, there are few opening tracks with as brutal an intro as “We Gotta Know.”
Finally (for now), we come to Tom G. Warrior, the vocalist for Swiss avant-garde thrash metal legends Celtic Frost. He had a way with an “OOF,” like someone was punching him in the gut. Those first two albums, “Morbid Tales” and “To Mega Theion,” are stone classics and Mr. Warrior is in full force. The ultimate Tom G. Oof performance is on the party mix of “Return To The Eve,” from the “Tragic Serenades” EP where he throws in a lot of oofs and even a Fat Albert-esque “Today-hey-hey-hey.” He eventually went for a whinier vocal style, especially for “Cold Lake,” which is to Celtic Frost what “Grave New World” was to Discharge. Both Tom and Cal abandoned their formerly gruff styles. Where Tom was whiny, Cal (or Kelvin, as he was credited on this recording) sang as though his balls were stuck in vise. And talk about pretentious—a 15:08 atrocity called “The Downward Spiral.”
Tom’s whininess actually started on “Into The Pandemonium,” which was widely uneven, despite a killer leadoff cover of Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio.” “Cold Lake,” which I don’t even own a copy of anymore, was the nadir. They affected a glammy look, Tom G. Warrior was now Thomas Gabriel and they were mercilessly heckled when they played Boston. Tom even tried a few half-hearted “OOOFS,” but couldn’t pull it off. Someone actually brought a protest sign that said “Cold Lake or Cold Fake? You decide.” The dude kept waving it in Tom’s face until he had a roadie confiscate it. He tried to find a middle ground with his vocal style and there was an attempt at a heavier sound once again for “Vanity/Nemesis,” but it was over. Not even reviving the Warrior surname could help. Their most recent comeback has a heavier sound and Tom (no more Warrior in the name this time, either) has a snarly vocal style but I think I’ll stick with the oldies.
Ultimately, though, this isn’t meant to be a career roundup of Discharge nor Celtic Frost, although the parallels in their career trajectory are somewhat interesting. This also isn’t meant to be any sort of long dissertation—even though it seems to be turning out that way. It’s just something that a hardcore punk obsessive with way too much time on his hands and attempting to come up with some kind of creative, tongue-in cheek angle spews out. But if any of my beloved readers have their own favorites, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!
MUSIC REVIEWS
AFTER THE BOMBS
AFTER THE BOMBS-Spoils Of War (The Total End, 7” EP)
It took quite awhile for ATB to follow up their debut 7” and there are three scorching songs here, two originals and a Bathory cover (“War”). Much, much better production/mastering than on the muffled sounding debut and it brings out the strength of ATB’s crust-metal attack. The Sacrilege comparison is inevitable, with the echo-laden harsh female vocals but a punk influence is still a main part of the equation . Matt Strong, formerly of AOS and other bands, has recently joined on guitar and they’ve got a full-length coming soon. Another cool sleeve, as well, on heavy stock with the obligatory skulls ‘n missiles sketch and lettering on the back that looks as though it came from a Voivod record. (PO Box 80—Station C, Montreal QC H2L 4J7, CANADA, thetotalendrecords@yahoo.com)
ANS-The Process Of Stoking Out (Thrashbastard/multi-label)
There have been lineup shifts with this band over the years and vocalist Chris Wall is the constant. An interesting band—Black Flag via Bl’ast is an obvious inspiration here. Chris even has a bit of Clifford from the latter band’s cadence and the results are often explosive, such as the sonic torrents they unleash for “No Connection” and “Disable Me.” In something of an odd twist, three of the songs here are instrumental—well, “Walk Down My Way” has some spoken vocals in the background but the other pair, “Pull The Trigger” and “Transition Emission,” have almost a surfy flavor, especially in the guitar playing. And while these guys are obsessed with skating, they’re not so caught up in that to ignore what’s going on in the world—“Seeing 20/20,” for instance, presents a laundry list of global evils. Some intense sounds. (Warschauer Str. 57, 10243 Berlin, GERMANY, thrashxbastard@yahoo.de)
BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST-Classic Six Packs (625, CD)
BREAKFAST/STRUGGLE FOR PRIDE-Split (625, CD)

Reissues of material from Japan’s Breakfast. Let’s get the “Classic Six Packs” out of the way, first. That refers to the fact that there are 6 songs apiece for each release—the “Eat Rice” and second EPs, plus their demo, dating back to ’99-’01. This is one crazy-sounding band. Navigating from heavily distorted grind to jazzier Minutemen-on-a-caffeine-binge style compositions they play it very well. This is the kind of grindy-sounding stuff I like because it’s so off the rails and has an inherent sense of humor (“Breakfast? Eat Rice!”). The split is also known as the “El Burrito Project,” according to the 625 site and is a re-pressing of a CD from a few years ago. The booklet has a collection of photos taken by Taro, part of the El Burrito’s skate team, which is where the name of the project comes from, reflecting a love of burritos, according the essay by one of the members. Following me here? Breakfast’s five tracks (titled “El Burrito’s #1-5”) are sandwiched between two tracks by Struggle For Pride. Breakfast burrito sandwich? Sorry, I tend to use horrible puns. Breakfast still have the crazed approach but have amped it up a level—and all the songs are about burritos. The two songs by Struggle For Pride favor a free-noise disjointedness and more than a few tracks would be torture. (www.625thrash.com)
CHOOSE YOUR POISON-Party Zone (Bacon Towne, 7” EP)
A fair to middling mixture of hammer-thrash and heaviness. It sounds as though one of the things Choose Your Poison are trying to do is an early Municipal Waste sound. I do concur with the sentiments on “Plastic Prison,” about always being deluged by credit card offers that have confiscatory interest rates and extra credit for this line on the anti-tough guy “KunckleDragger”: Save all your beef for philly cheese steak.” Ah, those Wisconsinites and their cheese-head stance! (PO Box 1063, Tallevast, FL 34270, www.upthefuckingpigs.com)
CIVIC PROGRESS-Petroleum Man (No Wire, 7” EP)
St. Louis band sharing members with Cardiac Arrest. Much like that band, this is a full-tilt hardcore barrage. Fuzzy bass and guitar merge into a formidable roar and the production is raw. I just hope the Secret Service doesn’t get on their case for “Kill The President,” which ain’t no allegorical exercise—“Let’s fucking kill him/ I really mean it/Let’s end his term like Mussolini.” The next song is “Crimethinc. Is A Joke” and quite a vicious slam: “Fight the system you depend on with stupid dance and funny clothes.” OK, that’s not very open-minded but, having seen a couple Crimethinc. Nimrods disrupt a Severed Head Of State show in Boston some years back, right on boys! Never mind a bike being a pipebomb? This record is the real fucking pipebomb. (civicprogress@hotmail.com)
CRAWLERS-s/t (Blind Spot, 12”)
I still get a charge out of getting records from bands I was unfamiliar with and it turns out to be a pleasant surprise, an unexpected gem. That’s the case with this six song effort by a band from Portland, OR. Feisty punk with a hardcore bent and pissed off lyrics. Sure, the themes are common—anti-Republican, anti-church but it’s all in the delivery and they have it down. Songs are catchy, too, and there’s a non-cheesy cover of the Cure’s “Fire In Cairo.” (PO Box 40064, Portland, OR 97240, www.myspace.com/thecrawlers)
GET RAD-Bastards United (Level Plane, 7” EP)
PROTESTANT/GET RAD-Split (Barbarian, 7” EP)

Get Rad have a sound that borders between dirty DIY hardcore punk and youth crew-ish elements. This is heartfelt, driving music and mainly delivered in a speedy vein. The title track for “Bastards United” is a change of pace, though. A mid-tempo, semi-melodic stomper with the costant of Kevin’s soul-scream. Maybe the “all in this together” theme of the lyrics is corny but I’ve always felt as though I’m something of a fuck-up and there’s an appealing “we accept you—one of us” sentiment. The songs on the split aren’t quite on that level but far from disposable either. Protestant’s songs have a soul-rending, melodic hardcore bent but aren’t as appealing. (Get Rad contact: www.thunderinyourheart.com)
LETS GROW-Disease Of The Modern Times (Ha-Ko, CD/Thrashbastard, LP)
With each release, Lets Grow do, indeed, grow as a band. Ripsaw hardcore punk with rock ‘n roll lead guitar licks. Thrash in different speeds, sometimes opting for the double-speed blast and they shift easily into circle pit-inspiring breakdowns. Smack in the middle of this album, there’s a killer mid-tempo 9 Shocks-style song called “Man Is The Measure.” The cover shows a lonely soul, shaded in darkness, staring at a computer screen that says “no new messages” and it ties in with other themes of alienation expressed on this album. Definitely the best stuff I’ve heard from this Serbian band so far. (http://hakobastards.com/letsgrow;thrashxbastard@yahoo.de

OSMANTIKOS-Keep Fighting Oppressive Conditions (Bacon Towne, 7” EP)
Decent crust/thrash/death-roar from this Malaysian band. Bass-drum pedal is an annoyance at times but, otherwise, they’ve got an effective, full-throttle sound reinforced with harsh dual vocals from both their bassist Fizam and drummer Yusth. (PO Box 1063, Tallevast, FL 34270, www.upthefuckingpigs.com)
REAGAN SS-Universal and Triumphant (Rebel Sound, LP)
Reagan SS finally have an LP out. Vocalist Mateo Diablo Blanco aka Matt Average of Engine ‘zine fame, fronts this brutal unit. Irritable vocals and a full-barreled attack. There are some double-speed forays but other songs are played at a tempered pace, such as the insistent bash of “Forced Entry,” with some sick bass runs from Andy Anderson (I was dazzled with his playing when they were here last summer) and the straightforward thrash of “Pests.” Most of these songs whip by with ruthlessly efficiency, with the exception of “Primo,” a song that drones for seven or so minutes. An anguished, torturously slow instrumental workout where the drums alternate between a blunt thud interrupted briefly by a more tribal rhythm. The guitar and bass have an effect of hanging like an ominous cloud in the air, feeding back into the ether. This is probably a track I’ll usually skip over, after having heard it a few times. I like the other method of operation these guys utilize. , PO Box 281, Dalton, MA 01227, www.myspace.com/rebelsoundrecords).
SOUL CONTROL-Involution (Rivalry, CD)
Hardcore with groove from a local band I hadn’t heard before. There’s quite a bit of Bad Brains “I Against I” (at least in the riffing and rhythm--no reggae, just rock), early 90s fodder like Quicksand and a whiff of metal. “On Survival” and “Involution” actually got this record off to a good start—frayed guitar lines, a solid Helmet-ish vibe but it’s not sustained. “Dive” and “Focus” both add a dose of speed although they put chug in the chorus. It’s better than I expected but it still comes from the heavier end of the hardcore spectrum, without the punk influence. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524, www.rivalryrecords.com)
TERROR-Rhythm Amongst The Chaos (Reaper, CD)
Iron-pumping metal-core. In fact, maybe it’s boxing core, since former fighter Vinny Pazienza, excuse me, Paz has a shout-out at the beginning of their cover of Breakdown’s “Kickback.” Heavy, crushing riffage and there’s a lot of brawn, bludgeon and bluster. And even though there are only five songs here, it quickly becomes tedious. I haven’t paid much attention to Terror since their first album “Lowest Of The Low” and, while it doesn’t really float my boat anymore, it still blows this EP away. (PO Box 2935, Liverpool, NY 13089, www.reaperhardcore.com)
THE UNSEEN-Internal Salvation (Hellcat, CD)
The Unseen are still kicking around. Actually, I know they’re a pretty popular band, Warped tour stars ‘n all that. They remain a sturdy punk rock band, Mark Civitarese barking out the words with a ranty passion and the socially/politically-conscious have become increasingly articulate over the years. Still, it doesn’t require any sort of deep analysis—this is punk rock, after all. Well produced, tuneful, hearty singalongs. If it sounds as though I’m damning with faint praise a bit, that’s not completely true. I know that heart and passion went into it but I miss the days when they had a slightly rougher, less streamlined approach. (http://www.hell-cat.com)
VARIOUS-Retro Is Poison (Punks Before Profits, LP)
Four way split—two American bands (Ciril, I Object), one from the UK (Active Minds) and one from Spain (Kärnvapen Attack). While each band has an aggressive nature, they’re also distinct from one another. Ciril have always opted for a nightmarish, chilling sound and have also moved away from their Peni-derivative roots over the years. Gloomy punk along with slashing hardcore, especially “War/Drobe Of White” and Darrin’s vocals go from a spooked quaver to something more beastly. Kärnvapen Attack follow that with raging hardcore that doesn’t exclusively bear a sonic resemblance to Mob 47, the band that spawned their name, but that band have obviously inspired them. Crazed-sounding, especially in the vocal department. I Object have never exactly been a soft rock band but they sound really fucking pissed here or, more accurately, Barb’s vocals sound that way. Hoarse and visceral and the music, as always, packs a fast-paced punch. The lyrics express a fierce loyalty to DIY punk and also criticize unrealistic/unhealthy body images that are foisted on girls and women and also takes on “elitist activism,” as they call it. Finally UK vets Active Minds wrap things up with some rabid, full-on material, particularly their lead-off track “Economic Collapse Is On Its Way (Hooray!).” Their last song, “Life Is A Political Action,” opts for a heavier dirge effect. The booklet features an essay by Ryan from PBF/I Object where he writes about how he’d be dead without hardcore punk and that too many bands try to live in the past instead of looking towards the future. Considering that his (now former) band took its name from a DC Youth Brigade song and Kärnvapen Attack from Mob 47, it’s still obvious there are nods to the past. I suppose, though, that none of these bands sound like carbon copies of other bands and maintaining a commitment to underground hardcore is something I still admire. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, www.myspace.com/punksbeforeprofits)

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