Sunday, December 30, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #55



From a musical standpoint, 2007 was somewhat unremarkable. Not a washout by any stretch and I definitely saw some killer bands live and there were some well above average records released during the year, as well. But there weren’t a lot of records I’d call “great,” that stand up next to my all-time favorite releases. Same with live shows. The punk rock road trips I took to Richmond, for the No Way Records fest and to Pittsburgh for my pals Bill and Rachel’s “wedding reception” were a lot of fun. Well, the shitty traffic I had to deal with in Pittsburgh wasn’t much fun but that, and having to wait for a connecting flight at the dreary Philadelphia airport, were the only irritants.

In all honesty, I spent a lot of time loading up my MP3 player with both old and new stuff and organizing my files on there. The music I spent the most time listening to, when not in review mode, came out roughly between the early 70s to mid 80s. That covers my pre-punk adolescence and then various punk, post-punk and hardcore that followed. Hell, as I write this, I’ve got my MP3 player plugged into my stereo and I’m listening to the Saints’ “International Robot Sessions” of unreleased demos from the “Eternally Yours” album. And the songs from the original album have stuck with me a lot longer than I expect this year’s “best of” list will. I don’t think any song I hear today or have heard over the past year can hold a candle to “Private Affair” or “Know Your Product.” That’s just the way it is. I suppose we all gravitate towards the music that inspired us when we were younger, that really got the ball rolling.

As I look through my plastic mail tub holding my favorite releases of 2007, one thing I notice is that most of them are vinyl. It seems as though there was an increase in the amount of 7”s sent for review this year, on top of the records I bought myself. Yes, I DO still buy a lot of new records and now I’m trying to figure out where the hell to put them. And, NO, you’re not invited to come over and take the ones that you think I don’t need. CD’s are useful for the radio show, if I don’t have the release on vinyl already, and they’re easily ripped and put on my MP3 player. They’re also useful if they have a bunch of bonus tracks from earlier releases, demos, etc. When I saw the Vicious, I got the CD instead of the LP and two 7”s that it comprised. That may cause some vinyl purists to scoff at me—there are definitely a lot of folks who have a completely dismissive attitude towards CDs. Sometimes, though, give me convenience or give me death. Vinyl, CDs and MP3 files can all exist in harmony in my musical universe.

I also notice that quite a few of them could loosely be classified as old-school hardcore punk. A lot of it falls into the “good but not great” category and I suppose that’s what I mean when I say the year was unremarkable. I’m always looking for different permutations of punk, hardcore, garage, metal and other elements that sound fresh, that sound vibrant, that move me in some way and that stick with me. A lot of the time, I’ll listen to something for a bit and file it away. There have only been a handful of records this year that I keep coming back to. And that’s why I’m more inclined to listen to older stuff.

Don’t take that to mean I’m completely jaded. There’s no better feeling (well, for the most part, if you know what I mean) than putting on a record and having it pin your ears back and giving you the urge to stomp your foot uncontrollably, maybe even start dancing around the room and be grateful that no one is catching that moment with a video camera! It’s the same when I see a live band. Just this weekend I saw Out Cold play at Welfare Records up in Haverhill and, from the moment the first chord was struck, I was riveted. They played 22 minutes and I wanted more. Given that my attention span gets shorter and shorter, it’s unusual for me to be able to watch a band for more than 30-45 minutes. This year, the exception was the Armitage Shanks, a fun garage/punk band from the UK, who played around an hour and it didn’t feel excessive. Incidentally, there is an excellent quality MP3 of the show (minus the encores) that you can download at this link (right click, then click on "save links as"). Thank me later!

Actually, the Dio lineup of Black Sabbath aka Heaven and Hell played nearly two hours at the Tsongas Arena up in Lowell. I realize that’s a rock concert environment and a totally different animal. Even with every cliché in the book, like the obligatory drum solo (there ought to be a law against those), it was still a blast. Ronnie James Dio is in his fucking 60s and hasn’t lost a step. I’d guess he was the oldest performer I saw this year. There were a few in their 50s, as well. One of them, Preston from the State, has more energy and intensity than many vocalists half his age and he pulls it off without looking like a fossil. On one of those stupid message boards where I post, one nimrod wrote that it was pathetic to see anyone in their 40s still playing punk. Needless to say, I read him the riot act on that one.

Of course, sometimes quantity doesn’t equal quality. As an example, I give the Neighborhoods, a local band who were one of my favorites in the early 80s. I saw them on my 20th birthday, in fact. I wrote about the band in another SV blog about a year ago, reminiscing about that show. I’ll reiterate that they were one of the best live local bands at that point. See for yourself:

Unfortunately, all they released then was the “No Place Like Home/Prettiest Girl” 7”. They did record an album around that time though, and it’s going to finally be released at some point—or so I’ve heard. All the recordings that came after were tepid, at best. In any case, they played 90 minutes at the Dodge Street Grill in Salem. Their vocalist/guitarist David Minehan still has an abundance of energy and pulls it off without embarrassing himself but the set was dull and largely uninspiring. Unfortunately, few of their early songs were played and even the ones that were didn’t have nearly the snap. It was one step above bar rock and without a semblance of the punk on which they cut their teeth. Also, it was the first time I’d been at a show where waitresses were walking through the audience trying to sell jello shots. Good thing there was no pit or the poor ladies would have had them knocked over. And it begs the question—what’s lamer? Jello shots or Pabst beer? I don’t want either of ‘em. There were two opening bands and they both played 45 minutes. 45 minutes for an opening band? Once again, there ought to be a law. For the record, the bands were the Dirty Truckers and the Vic Morrows and I’m just grateful that I was able to watch the Red Sox playoff game in the next room while those marathon sets were going on. Lame Replacements-ish bar rock and mediocre new wavish rock definitely didn’t cut it. To add insult to injury, it was 15 FUCKING DOLLARS for three local bands. I still had a good time because it was a night out with Ellen and my friend Chelle from Albany came out for the show, as well, so taking one for the team wasn’t so bad.

I guess I’m just spoiled by DIY shows where it costs between $5-10 and shirts are rarely over $10. In fact, the Shanks and ‘Hoods shows were the only over 21 shows I saw the entire year. The only other club shows I saw were in Richmond for the No Way fest, at a crappy club called Alley Katz, the “Few Hours More” fest at Valentine’s in Albany, Cobra Noir and Psycho at Dee Dee’s lounge in Quincy (I somehow missed the brawl outside during Psycho’s set) and a few matinees at the Midway in Jamaica Plain, which is more of a neighborhood bar than a club.

The balance of the shows were at various basement, warehouse and hall spaces. And some cool venues popped up this year—in particular, Welfare Records in Haverhill, the Ratscellar in Boston and the Democracy Center in Cambridge. Welfare is situated in a two story building that houses a record store, recording studio and, downstairs, a show space that holds a few hundred people. Completely DIY. It’s the same for the Ratscellar, which is in the basement of a warehouse somewhere in the city. It’s not a typical basement space. There’s a stage and PA and it comfortably holds over 100 people. Some of my favorite shows this year—Government Warning, 86 Mentality, Sex/Vid—were held there. They’ve also got a recording studio in there, as well. The Democracy Center is a student building at Harvard and it also houses the Papercut Zine Library ( They’ve actually done shows over the past few years but there’s been an increase, of late. Some basement spaces came and went this year, including the Cuntree Club in Brookline, Castle Greyskull in Allston and, supposedly, Baby Safe Haven in Somerville. Actually, I’m not so sure I’ll miss BSH since it was cramped and you couldn’t see shit unless you were right up front. The final straw for me was when the stairs going down to the basement collapsed one night. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Then there was the raw sewerage on part of the floor. There were still some killer shows there—Japanese band Breakfast, along with west coast thrash maniacs Conquest For Death and another show with Danish retro-punks Cola Freaks.


Not every live show was great. The worst performance I saw this year was Pure Hell, the 70s era punk band who have re-formed in the past few years. They played at Welfare Records on Halloween Night and their vocalist Kenny was literally falling-down drunk and slurred the lyrics he could remember. The band gamely soldiered on but it was like watching a trainwreck.

Let’s get to the list. They’re in alphabetical order but Double Negative put out the best record of the year, in my opinion, and they were also the best live band I saw this year, at the No Way fest. One of the things I like about them is they range in age from their mid-30s to early-40s and, once again, don’t look like a bunch of old men trying to recapture past glories. This is a new band with all new material. There’s definitely a lot of early COC in their sound and that makes sense since they’re from Raleigh. That’s not an overplayed style and Double Negative add their own elements to it. An aggressive orientation and also standing apart from almost everything else I heard this year.

Two more items—Brain Handle’s LP was released in a limited tour edition of 300 that is long gone but it’s going to be re-released in the new year by No Way. I only have MP3s but still include it in the best-of. I also just received the new Skitkids CD, Besöket Vid Krubban at the last minute. I’ve had files of it for a couple of weeks and it also deserves to be on the best-of list. Look for a review in an upcoming blog.

If you have any questions or need info about these releases, don’t hesitate to drop me a line. Scroll through the blog archives for the reviews. Also, to see live photos from many of this year’s shows, go to my Flickr page at

Happy New Year!


Double Negative-The Wonderful and Frightening World Of…
Brain Handle-s/t
Broken Needle-s/t
B.U.S.H.-New American Century
Clusterfuck-How The West Was Won
Conversions-Prisoners' Inventions
The Daily Void-s/t (ex-Functional Blackouts, review coming soon)
Eddy Current Suppression Ring-s/t (released late Oct. '06. Close enough)
Hex Dispensers-s/t
Knife Fight-Crisis
Kvoteringen-Bister Prognos
Look Back and Laugh-State Of Illusion
Punch In The Face-At War With Everybody
Repercussions-11 Song EP
Skitkids-Besöket Vid Krubban
Street Trash-Into The Wasteland
Totalitar-Vi Ar ElitenViolent Minds-Eyes Of Death (this was actually supposed to come out a few years ago but finally got released this year. It would have been in my top records the past two years, as well)

Acid Reflux-s/t
Catburglars-Holy Shit EP
86 Mentality-Final Exit
Kylmä Sota-s/t
Nightstick Justice-s/t (originally released as a demo)
Straightjacket Nation-6 song EP
Terminal State-Sick
Total Abuse-Sex Pig EP
Wasted Time-No Shore

DEMOS (kind of neglected these this year—sorry)
Bad Advice-s/t
Guilty Faces-s/t


American Cheeseburger, Valentine’s, Albany
Annihilation Time, Braddock Elks and Cambridge Elks
Armitage Shanks, Abbey Lounge, Somerville
Brain Handle, basement in Allston and Mr. Roboto Project, Pittsburgh
Breakfast, Baby Safe Haven
Career Suicide, Alley Katz
Criminal Damage, Braddock Elks
Double Negative, Alley Katz (No Way Fest), Richmond
86 Mentality, Ratscellar, Boston
Government Warning, Ratscellar
Inmates, Incubate Warehouse, Richmond
Look Back and Laugh, Cambridge Elks
The Pist, Braddock Elks, Braddock, PA and Cambridge Elks
Sex/Vid, Ratscellar
The State, Midway Café, Jamaica Plain
The Vicious, Cambridge Elks

BEST LIVE LOCAL BANDS: Conversions, Out Cold, Waste Management, Civil Crisis, Social Circkle, Fruit Salad


Oliver / Cultpunk said...

Good list.

I love Daily Void and wrote about them here (they even added that review to their myspace page):

Great paranoiac, schizo-punk, folks have mentioned Rudi Peni but I also hear some Flipper, Davocets, and Stickmen with Ray Guns or No Trend in them. Great stuff.

I also put the Severed Head of State Power Hazard 12" ([ersonally surprised not to see it here!) and the Busy Signals s/t 12" in my Top 20. But I agree about the Conversions, punch in the face and OF COURSE double o negative!

Pedro Carvalho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suburban Voice On-Line said...

Oliver: SHOS will be on my best of 2007 radio show. There are a lot of records that were solid but didn't quite make the top list. Pedro, when doing some editing, I accidentally removed the B.U.S.H. album--it's back on there and certainly deserves to be there. Sorry about the screw-up!

Pedro Carvalho said...

Haha, no problem! I was just too stoked to be on your list, so I thought maybe I was halucinating when I saw it there.

Qwikisoft said...
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