Friday, June 29, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #43

It was time for one of my occasional punk rock roadtrips. In the past few years, it’s mainly been the Pointless Fest in Philly but, last year, that got shut down after two days and the organizers had to scramble to put together a bar show at the last minute. In any case, a change of scenery wasn't a bad idea--check out a different city and all that.

I missed out on the huge Chaos in Tejas fest last month so there was no way (HA!) I was passing up this fine collection of bands in Richmond. The fest was put together by Brandon and Lauren from No Way Records (obviously) and took place over two days at the Alley Katz club, plus there was an “after-party” at the Incubate Warehouse space. I think the total of bands I saw was 22 and that was in a space of around 30 hours or so. Even with all that activity, I didn’t hit the proverbial wall until late in the second day. All that walking and exercise must have paid off.

I don’t want to attempt a band-by-band review. I mean, for the most part, these bands play old-school hardcore punk rock. That’s kind of a catch-all description and there are definitely some stylistic differences. Caustic Christ, for instance, have more of a raw, crust-inflected sound that still remains rooted in US-style hardcore. Career Suicide mix in snotty ’77 era punk and garage inspiration. The Inmates also have the snotty, antisocial punk thing going on. Deep Sleep operate in a slightly garagier domain. Double Negative have a COC-ish vibe and a crazed/damaged guitar sound. And Fucked Up are an entity unto themselves, I suppose—fusing fired-up rock ‘n roll to bellicose punk. Also, while not every band was a mind-blower, no one was downright awful, either.

I didn’t much care for the club—that’s due to my general dislike for rock clubs in the past few years. While it didn’t stop people from diving, the stage barricade is lame. At the beginning of the first day, the door-guy announced that “no bags of any kind” would be allowed into the venue. I didn’t stand by the door and see how strictly that was enforced. There was a large open window further down the building and I handed my backpack to a very helpful young woman, thus avoiding any sort of hassle. After having to plop down $3 for a half-liter bottle of water the first day, I added a large jug of water to my ‘pack the next day and thus avoided giving any more money to the club. While the club was lax about allowing people on the side of the stage to take pictures on the first day, they cracked down on that the second and eventually started hassling people to leave the “band area” towards the end of the show—although folks with cameras (myself included) were allowed to stay. It may seem like grousing or nit-picking but I really hate that kind of crap. I’m also glad I’m not under 21 since there were no “ins and outs” for those under that age.

I liked the warehouse space more, even if things got somewhat out of hand and there were some extremely wasted people at that point. At least I didn’t see anyone snorting coke, like I did on the third level of the club earlier in the day. I know it probably wasn’t feasible to do the whole fest there, especially since it’s basically in the middle of nowhere and probably somewhat difficult to get to without a car…

So, to keep this from turning into a novel, here’s a wrap-up of what happened over the two days…


BAND OF THE FEST: Double Negative, from North Carolina. As I said above, there’s definitely early COC in their sound. I imagine that could be a product of their environment but it’s not the whole story. I was on the side where Justin was playing and his bass sound was thick and distorted and that certainly adds to the fullness of their sound. Also, these guys are not kids. The baby of the band, their bass-player Justin, is 35 and the other guys are 39-42. I know I sometimes get hung up on age but it’s more a matter of feeling good about sticking around so long and realizing that I’m not the only person growing older in the punk scene. Also, I’m not privy to every conversation but, given the response those guys got (there seemed to be more buzz on them than any other band), I’d argue that their age isn’t an issue with the largely-younger audience. And, by my count, there were a total of four performers over the age of 40 and quite a few over 30. One cool thing about Double Negative is they seem genuinely surprised/humble about the response they’ve been getting.


CRAZIEST SET: Inmates, at the warehouse. When a band from Cleveland plays, you expect shenanigans and, while I’m sure it pales in comparison to a show in their hometown, it still had an element of danger. Firecrackers throughout the set, flying milk crates (one of ‘em fucked up my right index finger a bit), hula hoops being tossed, a broken hula hoop used as a bullwhip (someone I know intimately was responsible for that) and a light fixture knocked down. In the midst of this tumult, the Inmates still bashed out one hell of a punk ruckus.

MAKING ROOM FOR YOUTH: Life Trap. Youthful energy doesn’t begin to describe their set. I mean, these gentlemen were born in the late 80s/early 90s, several years after the music that inspires them was created. That’s true with a lot of the bands here. Steve Blush from “American Hardcore” can moan all he likes about younger hardcore bands aping the past—when the music is played with this much passion and enthusiasm, I don’t give a shit.

OTHER STELLAR PERFORMANCES: Set To Explode. I don’t understand why these guys only have an EP out but they nail the Minor Threat-meets-tougher hardcore style. Dave Byrd paces the stage with agitation in his eyes; Wasted Time. Finally get to see this band and their boiling-over hardcore punk. Played with ravenous brilliance. Chronic Seizure. These guys just bring it with their thrash attack. Pat Kelly attacks his bass like a madman.; Deep Sleep. Differentiating themselves a bit with a west coast-influenced punk sound; Cloak/Dagger. Also differentiating themselves with a slight garage impulse; Career Suicide. Pure mayhem when they played and the band clearly fed off it. Direct Control. Always reliable with their searing, energetic hardcore.

BEST COVER VERSIONS: “Bad Attitude” by Articles of Faith (Life Trap)—AOF are a band who haven’t been covered to death and this is one of their best songs; “It’s OK” by Koro (Life Trap)—once again, not covered to death and Life Trap can stake a claim to it since they're Tennesseans; “Cult Band” by Poison Idea (Life Crisis)—if you’re going to cover Poison Idea, you’d better do it fucking right and they did, “New Age” by Blitz (Fucked Up)—it takes cojones to open your set with a cover and this singalong classic was stirring. Hell, I’m humming it to myself right now.

WORST COVER VERSIONS: “Just To Get Away” by Poison Idea (Fucked Up)—Fucked Up truly mangled this song; “Sonic Reducer” by Dead Boys (Sick Pleasure)—overdone, at this point.


THE SHOW MUST GO ON AWARD: Kenny from Government Warning. Kenny fucked himself up pretty well the day before when he took a stage dive and landed on his tuchus. Or so I heard. I didn’t see it happen and have no idea if anyone quipped “Oh my god, they killed Kenny.” Sorry. In any case, that didn’t stop him from taking the stage with Government Warning, even though he asked people to be gentle since he was hurting so badly. What a trouper! And their set was frenetic.

BEST FASHION STATEMENT: The Budweiser Sweater, provided by Pat Kelly from Chronic Seizure. It was a big hit, as people took their turn posing while wearing said garment. There’s even a MySpace page for it ( If someone was enterprising, they could make a killing by selling photos to people wearing the sweater but, in the name of punk rock benevolence, the service was provided gratis.

DRUG REPORT: Well, besides the copious amounts of alcohol consumed, there was weed, the aforementioned coke sniffing and Percoset being sold at the merch table by one of the bands at the warehouse show. I’ll protect the guilty party here, lest they become inmates. Oops… Also, once again, I don’t care how cheap it is—I’d rather drink cat piss than another can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ugh…

NUMBER OF WOMEN IN THE BANDS: Only one… Sandy from Fucked Up. I think that’s kind of sad, to be honest. And there were only a handful of African-American and Latino performers, as well.

BEST REUNION: (pictured above) Yours truly with Brian Walsby (drummer for Double Negative/illustrator and cartoonist) after 22 years. I almost wonder if he feels out of place in the hardcore punk realm or finds it odd that’s he’s involved again but harnesses that perceived sense of alienation into some kickass drumming. And, it goes without saying, in his drawings. Hell, he even sketched a personalized cartoon for me:

COOLEST THING ABOUT THE WEEKEND: This is strictly personal and it was getting to hang out with my friend Donna, who is one of the best people I know. She drove me everywhere, including to and from the airport, and showed me around the city. Spending time with her was just as enjoyable as seeing the fest itself…


That wraps up the No Way Fest report. If you’d like to see a complete set of photos from the fest, check out my Flickr page at I just have a smattering of reviews this time as I haven’t had a chance to scribble too many this week. There will be plenty more in the not-to-distant future. You have my promise…

DIGITAL LEATHER-She Had A Cameltoe/Abrasion (Goner, 7”)
After hearing this cool 7”, it’s inspired me to go back and give his (it’s one guy—Sean Foree) “Monologue” album another chance. Getting to the record at hand, “She Had A Cameltoe” would be memorable for the title alone but the song itself is an enjoyable bit of synth-driven new wave whimsy with distorted vocals. Flip it for “Abrasion” and you get a muddier, darker ambiance with a repetitive keyboard signature and it sounds as though it could have come of the artsier Clevo or SF scenes of the 70s. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104,

FINAL SOLUTIONS-Songs By Solutions (Goner, CD)
Hyper punk minimalism done with a variety of styles—for instance, there’s the stomping garage punk of “In A Coma” and they follow that up with the mechanical drum drill-press of “Lightning Bug.” The whompalama of “Rubber Stamp Test” begins with a hearty 1-2-3-4 as the drums bash (provided by the always-busy Jay Reatard) through the floor. The single note piano plink for the final song, “I Am the Now,” momentarily conjures the Buzzcocks’ “Something’s Gone Wrong Again” in a different jarring and thumping setting. Nervy, driving and buzzing a hole through your brain. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104,

RAKKAUS-Kuolevan Maailman Kirious (Tuska & Ahdistus, 7” EP)
Raw, crusty hardcore that goes from thrash into double speed and, as I’ve opined a million times before, works better at the slower tempo. Also, Katri sometimes has difficulty fitting the words into the musical framework. The power and impassioned delivery are immediately apparent but they come up a bit short, unfortunately. (Papinkatu 7 B 57, 33200 Tampere, FINLAND,

JAY REATARD-I Know A Place/Don’t Let Him Come Back (Goner, 7”)
A somewhat quieter effort than Jay’s recent “Blood Visions” album. There’s a semi-twisted pure pop impetus here and the melodies are engaging but I prefer the more savage side of his repertoire. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104,

RED HANDED-s/t (Rivarly, 7” EP)
Bruising hardcore that hits the right buttons. Red Handed mix up thrash and heavier (but mosh-core free) parts, along with chanted vocals. There’s an appealing roughness and anger in the sound that gives it presence. Those sentiments are expressed immediately, with the opening salvo of “You look at me, you fuckin dick…” and warns to “never fuck with Red Handed.” OK, not exactly subtle nor all that posi but hardcore wasn’t always meant to be a love-fest, I suppose. (

SIGNAL LOST-Prosthetic Screams (Prank, CD)
The second (and final) album for Signal Lost continues in the somber, melodic vein but is a bit more polished, for want of a better term. And that’s not to say this is quiet music, by any stretch—a punk burn remains part of their sound, especially on the quicker-paced “Stop Motion Reality,” “Casualty Routine” and “Therapy,” with a cool guitar line from Stan. Ashley’s voice retains a hint of roughness and her singing is a good accompaniment to the band’s textured sound. I said it wasn’t quiet but there’s an understated power here. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

VIOLENT MINDS-Eyes Of Death (Parts Unknown, LP)
If this album had come out in either 2005 or 2006, it would have been a contendah for record of the year. When this year wraps up, it’ll receive similar consideration or at least be on my best-of list. A long delay—“Eyes Of Death” was supposed to come out on another label and I’ve had MP3s of it for two years. Finally, Parts Unknown have unleashed this hardcore punk rager. Most of the songs have a jogging rhythm—what I mean by that is they fit in perfectly when I pick up the pace for one of my walks, as I try to keep up with the driving drums/bass tandem. The guitar riffs possess a brilliant simplicity, throwing in the occasional lead line. There’s a perfect balance between the instruments and Zach’s hoarse vocals. The last track, “Wolfblood,” flexes some New Wave of British Heavy Metal muscle. The only complaint is the smidgen of surface noise on the colored vinyl in my possession but, dang, this was worth the fucking wait. (PO Box 4835, Toms River, NJ 08754,

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #42

So I was sitting on the toilet one recent morning, which is where I get in some of my best reading. Hell, I’m not the only one. When I met James from Spazm 151 around 5-6 years ago, he paid me the ultimate compliment that any zine writer could ever get—“Dude, I’ve been reading your zine on the crapper for years.”

I have a box of old Trouser Press magazines. TP published from 1974 to 1984. In the early 90s, I was sitting near the magazine’s publisher Ira Robbins at a music biz conference and I asked him why he’d stop publishing. He said that he got burnt out and that the same would happen to me, eventually. Well, I’m still here after 25 years. True, it’s been awhile since I did a print zine but I try to maintain my enthusiasm and avoid the burnout, although it does happen from time to time. I think there was a grain of truth in what Robbins said but that’s it.

I just realized that I said TP above but, no, I’ve never had the urge to use the pages of the magazine for you-know-what. They started off as a black and white zine exclusively covering English rock, mainly of the progressive or folky variety—King Crimson, Fairport Convention, although harder-edged stuff like Thin Lizzy would get in there. I first started reading it in early ’79 when I picked up a copy at a small news shop in Lynn’s Central Square, while I waiting for the bus to take me home. Lou Reed was on the cover, there were pieces on the Clash and Police although they still emphasized mainly non-punk progenitors such as Brand X, Pat Travers (who had an anti-punk song called “Life In London”) and Captain Beefheart, who I suppose could be considered a kindred spirit to some of what happened in the late 70s/early 80s post-punk realm. Here’s a scan of the cover, in all its tattered glory, the cover held on with staples and I’m going to have to reattach the back cover at some point. I had a hell of a time getting it out of the plastic sleeve.

They had a tendency to use the term “new wave” instead of punk and it seemed as though certain writers were having difficulty dealing with some of this music. In the second issue I picked up, the fifth anniversary issue that featured The Who, Doors, 10cc and Frank Zappa on the cover, there was a review of the first PIL album and Robbins called it an “unremitting piece of shit.” Granted, it was a deeply flawed album but I don’t think that was a completely accurate assessment. A few years ago, on the Trouser Press message board, I asked Ira if he still felt that way about the album and he said, honestly, I don't think I was ready for it. I would not say that about the album now.” I’ll accept that—after all, I used to think Tad was a killer band and now think of them being more along the lines of unremitting… well, you get the idea. Incidentally, interviewing Tad was a rather unpleasant experience. It went so badly I did another interview with their bass-player Kurt and that was a vast improvement.

In any case, Trouser Press became my music bible at the time, eventually supplanted by Flipside and Maximum RocknRoll, as I dove head-first into hardcore. As I said, sometimes the coverage veered towards the more of the alternative and even rock mainstream but it still seemed hipper than Rolling Stone. As hardcore evolved, TP was going in the opposite direction. They’d pay some lip service to hardcore, with various scene reports and Tim Sommers’ “America Underground” column. But sometime around ’82-83, I started seeing such artists as Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls on the cover and I knew it was no longer the magazine that had hooked me in 1979.

It wasn’t all bad, though—the best thing was Mick Farren’s “Surface Noise” column. Farren, one-time vocalist for the Deviants, was an astute observer on music, culture and politics—he was repulsed by the ascension of Reagan and Thatcher, for one thing. In early 1981, he tried brainstorming about the future of rock ‘n roll and, in the February ’81 issue, had this to say: “A high-speed mutation of heavy metal could easily provide youth anthems in Reagan America. If the economic moves Reagan sold to the US voters come to pass (as indeed they already have in the UK since Margaret Thatcher created the prototype for right-wing landslide), the hard-core market for basic rock will be huge crowds of alienated, desperate and often unemployed white kids.”

To an extent, Farren predicted speed metal and I suppose, with some of those bands, it was an expression of alienation, although that really came more from hardcore punk. It’s still quite an astute prediction. His crystal ball did correctly anticipate what would follow in the coming decade with Reagan and Thatcher’s regressive policies. Later in the 80s, of course, Metallica, for one, became hugely popular and one could say they tapped into some of that alienation.

What brought about this column, though, is the issue the issue that I was perusing in the “reading room.” It was from July 1982 and had Nick Lowe on the cover (OK—not that heinous a choice). TP, at that point, had a feature where they’d send out a copy of a new album to readers and have them write reviews. One of the albums that had recently been sent out was “Damaged” by Black Flag. This issue’s letter section has missives that decried the mainly negative reviews of the album. Here’s a sampling: “These people would not know punk if it kicked them in the head” (Mike Magrini, Meadville, PA)… “To all you ignorant assholes who wrote to bad-mouth Black Flag. Go piss up a rope!” (Colleen Infantino, Dedham, MA).

What brought out such a visceral response? For that, let’s refer to the reviews themselves, published in the April 1982 issue, this one with Talking Heads on the cover, long after they were an interesting band, and an issue that included a made-up greatest hits album for Led Zeppelin. Hmm… Anyway, as I look through the reviews, I’m taken by the ignorance not only about the music but also a lack of context or knowledge about the west coast punk underground that had been going full-tilt since the original ’77 era, skinny tie bands be damned. The segment had the headline “Wave The Flag, Stop The Music.” Chuck Schroeder of Waukegan, IL starts off his review with the declaration “although it took four years for punk rock to reach California, Black Flag’s “Damaged” is proof that the music is definitely alive and well in the US.” OK, so Chuck has a positive reaction but four years for punk to reach California? Huh? From ’77 on, there were vibrant punk rock bands coming out of San Francisco and LA. Flag themselves had been around since 1976 (originally called Panic) and their first EP, “Nervous Breakdown,” came out in ‘78. He also says it sounds like “it could have recorded in London in 1977 but this is pure punk made in America.” Once again, huh? I mean, one could argue that the “Nervous Breakdown” owed something to UK punk but “Damaged” wasn’t cut from that cloth. Name one punk record from the ’77 UK era that sounds like “Damaged.”

That’s the one thumbs-up review. Here are some pearls of wisdom from the other reviews. Kirk Carpenter from Dallas says that “Black Flag wastes the majority of their album trying to convince us what sick, vile and demented people they are. The real Black Flag mentality, though, leaks out on two cuts, “Six Pack” and “TV Party.” Sorry, but the imbecilic imagery of “We’ve got nothing better to do than watch TV and have a couple of brews” just doesn’t do anything for me.” I guess Carpenter is irony-challenged—how could he miss the sarcastic/satirical intentions of those songs. He also complains about the ineptitude of the playing—chiding, for one thing, a phenomenal performance from Greg Ginn.

Moving along, Jim Held from Philly calls listening to the album an ordeal and adds that Damaged is “bereft of commitment, wit, talent.” If anyone had a commitment to their art, it was Flag and, as for wit, I also direct Held to “TV Party” and “Six Pack.” Gary Upshaw of Manitou Springs, CO, makes reference to the “retarded LA post-punk scene.” I can’t think of one worthwhile punk or post-punk band that emerged from Colorado during that time—if I’m mistaken, I’m ready to be corrected.

Quite a fascinating look into the minds of those who didn’t “get” Black Flag. It reminds me of when an old college DJ friend of mine, who wasn’t into hardcore and little punk, period, at the time, said “Damaged” was one of the worst LPs he’d ever heard. To each their own, of course, but it’s amusing to read those comments. I doubt very much they’d like many of the releases I’m about to review here—well, maybe the Clash. I think that’s safe enough…


CLASH-The Singles (Epic/Legacy, CD)
Just the A-sides on this latest compilation, although they also include “Train In Vain,” from “London Calling,” and “Groovy Times” from the “Cost Of Living” EP. It’s basically a single-disc sampler for the box set that came out a few months ago, with the same essays in the booklet. It’s not even in chronological order—instead, the best-known songs—“London Calling,” “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” are frontloaded 1-2-3.. Since there’s nothing else special about the packaging, it’s not an essential item unless you just want the singles in one place or are an absolute completist. And something like “This Is England,” from the “Clash-lite” lineup, is never going to be worthwhile, no matter the context.

DESTROY L.A.-Vandalize EP (No Way, 7” EP)
Snotty skate trash. Ranty vocals that sound like they could be coming from the kid brother of Martin from Career Suicide. The thumpa-thumpa bass and drums are actually the prominent instruments here, along with the stripped-down guitar sound. Actually, there’s only one song about skating—the rest deal with personal and interpersonal pressures and disappointments. Good stuff. (3211 Idlewood Ave.,Richmond, VA, 23221,

EVEN KEEL-Pain Cave Sessions (demo)
A new Boston hardcore band with Andrew Jackmauh (ex-Cut The Shit) on vocals. A slightly different approach, here. A few of the songs remind me of Career Suicide, in that it’s a combination of thrash and some rock ‘n roll (“Circle The Drain,” especially). No lack of aggression and I’m looking forward to hearing a better-quality recording from them ‘cause these songs hit hard. (

KYKLOOPPIEN SUKUPUUTTO-s/t (Tuska & Ahdistus/Hate/Spild Af Vinyl, LP)
After a few 7”s, Kykloopp… um, I’ll shorten it to KS (yeah, I’m lazy) have unleashed a hell-ride of an album. Frantic and frenetic hardcore presented in hammering and crazed permutations. Comparisons are lame, I suppose, but I thought of Kaaos’ craziness, Void, without the feedback and NoMeansNo, due to the complex rhythms and heavy bass-lines. It’s more in spirit, just a part of the muse instead of the whole description. This isn’t accessible, it doesn’t follow a simple pattern, it’s just chaotic. Great packaging with a colorful sleeve that has raised letters and a fold-out insert. The lyrics are in Finnish and have English translations. A summary could be “My Head Is A Bomb,” which states “my mind is loaded fully, it’s rims are squealing just to keep everything in.” OK, it doesn’t translate perfectly but you get the idea and there are also critiques of consumer culture, environmental destruction and dehumanization in the face of oppressive forces. I cheated and found out that a couple of these guys were in the 80s Finnish hardcore band Tampere SS. This is quite a bit different and shows that making in-your-face music isn’t bound by age. (Karhuntie 5 B 24 65350 Vaasa, FINLAND,


MECHANNIBAL-s/t (demo)
Thrash, grind and heaviness from Boston band Mechannibal, who have quickly emerged as a powerhouse. Pat howls as though he’s having his insides ripped out, accompanied by the tight musical crush. The sound is a bit muffled but that may be the dubbing or cassette quality since the songs sound a little better on their MySpace page. Good start. (

SOCIALCIDE-Sick Of The Pressure (Even Worse, 7” EP)
A vinyl pressing of Socialcide’s demo, which I reviewed awhile back. Nice to have a more permanent record (pun intended) of the band’s fast, old-school hardcore sound. East coast style, a mix of early New York and Boston sounds. “World Of Hate,” for instance, bears some resemblance to DYS’ “More Than Fashion.” Wrapped up with a cover of fellow Virginians White Cross’s “Jump Up.” (Noel de Boer, Saenredamstraat 44-2, 1072 CH Amsterdam, HOLLAND,

TRAGICS-Mommi I’m A Misfit (Loud Blaring Punk Rock, 7” EP)
This band were actually known as the Misfits and but there was apparently some band from New Jersey that had the same name—or so I heard. In any case, this was recorded in 1981 and the four songs here are trashy, tuneful punk rock with plenty of lovely guitar distortion. Liz Davies’ vocals sound like a cross between Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex and Pauline Murray from Penetration. After a poppier start with “Pretty Boys,” the songs get harder edged, particularly for the title track and the Liz’s exhortation of the song’s title and the “just kiss your ass goodbye “ refrain for “Laughing Lover” both stick with ‘ya. Packaged in a cool hand-screened sleeve. Killer. (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12208,


THE VICIOUS-Igen (Feral Ward, 7” EP)
No change in style for the Vicious. These three songs follow the same melodic Adverts-meets-Wipers sound—sort of. The Adverts part, as I’ve said before, comes from Robert Pettersson’s vocal style. Jabbing guitar lines accompanied by melodic bass lines and dexterous drumming that quietly throws in some fills but it doesn’t overwhelm the rhythm. For want of a better term, there’s a melancholy feel to the songs but the effect is stinging. (

WE THE PEOPLE-Time To Operate (Stop Whining, Start Winning, 7” EP)
These four tracks also appreared on a CD that I reviewed awhile back and now the vinyl pressing has been released. Chuck Hickey from Black SS is the vocalist and this band’s sound embraces some hardcore elements, particularly for “Time To Operate,” but they also have a straight-ahead rock ‘n roll pulse and Chuck’s vocals make me think of a gruffer Fugazi-era Ian MacKaye. They covered Naked Raygun’s “I Don’t Know” live and that’s part of the equation, as well. Extra kudos for the anti-patriotic “I Don’t Bleed Red White And Blue.” (58 Bellaire Drive, Horseheads, NY 14845,

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #41


A note to my readers: This will likely be the first of two blogs this week. Plenty more reviews to come as I continue my attempt to catch up a bit…


So here I sit at my desk the night after a sick basement show. I’m on a serious caffeine jag at the moment, having downed a tall glass of homemade iced coffee—I drink it without the ice but it’s cold and caffeinated and that’s enough. I’ve had less than six hours of sleep and I imagine when I crash a little later on, it ain’t gonna be too pleasant but, right now, I’m riding the moment. A mix tape I made in 1981 is playing in the background and pumping out great songs by the likes of DOA, The Germs, The Adolescents, The Lewd, DKs, Red Cross and The Dogs. That was taped from a radio show called Media Blitz where I got my first extended exposure to west coast punk and hardcore. In my summer of ’81 blog last summer, I discussed that program.

I’m still basking in the afterglow of that show which featured the Pittsburgh wrecking machine Brain Handle. You ever have that moment at a show where everything just clicked? It may be the caffeine talking but that’s the feeling I get at the moment. Last night, it may have been the 24 oz. bottle of Beck I consumed shortly before Brain Handle took the stage, uh, concrete floor. Hell, I wasn’t even sure it was going to be that great a time earlier in the evening when I kept wandering around outside from one circle/clique of discussion to another and felt like an interloper. So superficial—not friends, just acquaintances. It’s the time I wish that my FRIENDS lived in the area, not just show-hanger acquaintances. I felt alone until some people I do want to associate with showed up later on.

Still, it’s the music that’s the draw, of course and there was enough to be drawn to, starting with the Libyans’ energetic hardcore punk. Liz Panella, who played in such Midwestern bands as Get It Away, Plan of Attack and filled in with Formaldehyde Junkies, is the vocalist and she has an in-your-face presence, much like Terry from the Conversions who, by the way, have taken it to another level. A tight-as-fuck band and the songs continue to evolve in a direction that separates it from standard hardcore but isn’t diffused whatsoever. I regrettably missed noise rockers Heathen Shame since that was when I made the jaunt to the liquor store with one of those people whose company I DO enjoy and, somewhere between the house and the store, I figured it’d probably be worth enjoying some liquid refreshment and, perhaps, that’s what spurred more pit activity than usual. It was impossible to resist. Such a small, contained space and people goin’ off. Hell, even the two punk caricature women from Maine, one of ‘em wearing pilot headgear with rubber spikes, couldn’t wreck the evening. Someone called ‘em the tank girls. Cute. Come to think of it, they were pretty cool.

When we got back to the house, Scapegoat had set up to play. Some moron set off some firecrackers during their set and it made me glad I’d staked out a space next to the guitar amp and resisted the urge to go to that spot. Another solid grindin’/thrashin’ performance. As for Brain Handle, their records are pretty good (haven’t heard the new album yet) but seeing them live really brings out the inherent power of the songs and the two dirges that they concluded with (one of them was “Cold Pavement”) enhanced the intensity a bit.

FUCK, the caffeine is starting to wear off a bit. Too quickly…


ALARME-Walk Together, Thrash Together (Give Praise, 7” EP)
There’s definitely a predilection towards an older hardcore sound here, and it’s not given away only by the title and Deep Wound cover, although the latter is part of the equation. Plenty of thrash, some double-speed and slower parts, as well and tightly played. The production is in-your-face without being too slick. Lyrics in Portuguese, with English explanations. Could have been part of the thrash “revival” in the earlier part of the decade but the songs have more presence than a lot of those bands. (PO Box 494, Barnstable, MA 02630-0494,

CHRIST ON PARADE-Sounds Of Nature (Prank, LP)
“Sounds Of Nature” was originally released as an 11 song 12” on Pusmort in the mid-80s and has been out of print for a long-ass time. This reissue has that recording on one side and, on the other, there are two songs from a Thrasher compilation, the “Isn’t Life A Dream” EP that came after “Sounds Of Nature” and an unreleased cover of the Avengers’ “The American In Me.” Also, as reported in an MRR review, the tracks on “Dream” are an earlier mix with original mouth Barrie on vocals. Looking at the photos on the insert, the guys don’t look as though they were out of their teens and played these songs with skull-rattling aggressiveness. An ugly clatter with flailing guitar and bass-lines, trash-can drum bash and Barrie’s semi-hoarse vocals. Listening to this album made me realize that some of the more recent Bay Area rippers drew some inspiration from this band. More than 20 years later, I’m also drawing inspiration from their no-bullshit sound. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,


BILL BONDSMEN/OUT COLD-Split (Schizophrenic, 7” EP)
For a band that have been around for awhile, the Bill Bondsmen’s output has been a bit scant. They have a slightly different twist on hardcore. I’ve always had a tough time trying to describe this band’s sound. There’s a complexity here, with jolting stops and starts and an abundance of burn. “Owaranai Wa,” the second of the pair of songs here, has a melodic intro and bridge, sandwiched between the speedier segments and Gabby’s braying vocal. Meanwhile, the always-reliable Out Cold slam out three more songs. “Instinct” is a standard Out Cold speed bomb. The short “You Have My Word,” meanwhile, is a hard-rockin’ medium speed tune and “Make It Disturbing” follows more of a galloping tempo, a cool combination of clipped guitar lines underpinned with hornets’ nest buzz and it comes out sounding different from their typical stuff. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA,

CHRISTIAN CLUB-Final Confession (Sorry State, 7” EP)
This San Diego band were around for three years—they had a previous 7” on Get Revenge Records--and here are the last rites for Christian Club. Clever? Nah. Every song has a bug up its ass about religion, taking aim at Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics and people who put Jesus fish on their cars. Revved-up thrash with brute force and rage and pissed-off vocal tradeoffs. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

CROSS LAWS-Behind The Curve EP (Cross Laws, 7” EP)
No muss, no fuss hardcore punk in a stripped-down format from this trio. Looking around at all the books, magazines, records and CD’s in this room, it’s easy to relate to Dennis’ plaint about being “Buried Alive” by “murderous mountains of pulp and black ink.” The playing is sometimes rudimentary but it’s the cliché of the sum being better than its parts—the band’s roughness is enjoyable. Only 300 copies and they’re apparently sold out of it. I guess I was a little “behind the curve” in reviewing this. Sorry. According to the Sorry State website, some distros may have it and they have a CD-R with this EP and ten more songs. (1102 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510,

FORCED MARCH-Wasted Existence (self-released, 7” EP)
RAISER/FORCED MARCH-Split (multi-label, 7” EP)

Portland ragers Forced March have two new records, one of ‘em a split. High powered hardcore that would fit in well with the angry-sounding Bay Area bands. The four song “Wasted Existence” was released first (in fact, I’ve been a bit slow to get to it—sorry) and then the split with Spanish band Raiser—all the tracks were recorded at the same time. Taking on the “racist fucks” and “right wing nuts,” as they put it on “No Fucking Way,” and the force comes out both musically and lyrically. Raiser also operate in a fast, powerful vein with heavier touches, a good complement to Forced March. A stylistic tandem of Poison Idea and Discharge and, no, they’re not those bands by a long stretch but that’s not a bad place to be coming from. (2619 NE 6th Place, Portland, OR 97212,

POLICE & THIEVES-s/t (Higher Conscience, 7” EP)
These guys are from DC and take a page from some of the late 80s “emo-core” bands but it’s fused with a punchy, energetic hardcore sound. Police & Thieves’ songs veer more towards the latter and that adds to the songs’ impact. I suppose I dropped the “e” word because of former Worn Thin vocalist Carlos’ emotion-packed vocals that surge over the music like a clarion call. (2821 13th St, NW, Washington, DC 20009,

REAGAN SS-Bon Apetit (Rabid Dog, 7” EP)
Fast and ripping—sometimes to the point where things are so sped up that Matt Average is struggling to get in all the words. The music is played with a lethal precision. The opening song, “Don’t Harsh My Mellow” begins with a classic floor-pounding intro and middle part. The two songs on the b-side are so short, I barely had time to sit down. Come to think of it, this isn’t music to listen to in a passive manner. It does command attention. (PO Box 14821, Haltom City, TX 76117,

RELIGIOUS AS FUCK-s/t (Vinyl Rites, 7” EP)
Hammering thrash with dramatic riffing and near off-the-rails speed, but not hitting the grind realm. “Save Your Breath” adds a little bit of locomotive speed metal before hitting the breakdown. I mention grind because two of the guys from this band are (were?) in Asshole Parade. In any case, it’s raw and chaotic. Consider this another missive from the church of hardcore and I’m still a strong believer. (PO Box 924, Gainesville, FL 32602-0924,

TOTALITÄR-Vi Är Eliten (Prank, CD)
The deal here is Totalitär played their last shows in 2003—including two raging performances at the Pointless Fest in Philly—then decided to record one last studio album, which they did in 2006. One more ride on the D-Beat-Go-Round. An up the middle charge of prime Swedish hardcore with speed, as well as punkier elements, such as on “Fienden” (“The Enemy” in English—they have English translations and synopses). I know at least a few people who may try to write multi-paragraph dissertations on the assorted nuances found on this album but, seriously, Totalitär aren’t re-writing the book here—nothing will surprise you. Still, turn it up, do the D-Beat fist pumping and have a blazing good time. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS-The Master’s Voice (Smog Veil, CD)
An SST Records reunion, I suppose—Mike Watt and George Hurley from the Minutemen, Joe Baiza from Saccharine Trust and vocal accomplices Dan McGuire, Pere Ubu’s David Thomas and even illustrator Raymond Pettibon on one song. The releases on SST in the 80s were always a crap shoot. For every Black Flag or Minutemen or Husker Du or Bl’ast release, there would be many more less-than-worthwhile or head-scratching efforts. I mean, does anyone pine for Always August or Tom Troccoli’s Dog or Slovenly? That doesn’t even include all the terrible Greg Ginn projects in the 90s. In any case, this kind of falls into the latter category. Impressive musicianship, with Watt’s nimble, but understated bass-lines and Hurley’s always solid drumming being the standout elements. Baiza’s spare guitar playing comes from more of a jazzy muse although there are also psychedelic touches, such as with “At The Center.” The lyrics are mainly spoken “spiels,” to use a Watt-ism. The more driving “Tar Baby & The Rising Sun,” with a distorted Thomas vocal, does leave a stronger impression. Still, I don’t think it’d be of much interest beyond unconditional fans of these artists. I’d have to admit I’d probably play it more than fIrehose, at this point. (1658 N. Milwaukee Ave. #284
Chicago, IL 60647

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #40


1982 was a transitional year. It was the year I graduated from college and the year I really started to get into hardcore punk as a live experience. Later this year it’ll be the 25th anniversary of Suburban Voice, originally called Suburban Punk. Two events happened in June of that year and both provided inspiration for starting my zine.

On June 7, I began my post-collegiate “career” as a retail management trainee for the Zayre department store chain. Zayre no longer exists. It eventually merged with Ames and then that company went out of business in 2002. I trained in the Woburn, MA store until the end of August and then was transferred to Saugus to begin the next stage in my training. That went so well that I quit two months later. Not coincidentally, my continuing immersion in hardcore and its philosophy probably gave me a nudge towards getting out while my sanity was still intact. I mean, listening to MDC’s “I Hate Work” while driving to a job I despised may eventually spur me into some action.

But let’s get back to June. At the end of my first week at Zayre, on Saturday the 12th, there was a hardcore show at the Gallery East, near South Station in Boston. The featured band was from DC and they were called Minor Threat. OK, I’ll stop being coy. Minor FUCKING Threat. It was a four band show and my first time seeing three of them. Minor Threat went on second, since the organizers wanted to make sure that they’d get to play in case it got shut down. No such worries. The show started with the Proletariat who, despite stylistic differences from the other bands, went over very well.

Minor Threat were next and, if anything sealed the deal on hardcore punk for me, it was seeing this band. I had just purchased their first 7” when I was in the DC area for a job interview and had time to spend at the record stores in Georgetown. It was my second Dischord purchase, after getting the SOA EP the previous winter. I also got the Youth Brigade “Possible” EP, as well, on that Georgetown excursion. What a fucking set. Ian darting around the stage and I kept my eyes on drummer Jeff Nelson and marveled at how lightning-fast he played.

After them, it was my first time seeing SS Decontrol and they were followed by the FUs. I don’t even remember all that many specifics except John Sox was congratulated on graduating from Boston College. Also, they had improved markedly since I’d seen them as a trio the previous fall.

I kept my distance from the craziness in the pit but it was pretty spectacular to watch. This was the first time I’d seen this type of show in a DIY venue. I mean, think about it—these four bands in an art gallery and there were probably less than 200 people there.

I tell this story not to rub it in. Honest—and, along with those memories, it boggles my mind that it’s been 25 years! I’m not going to have grandchildren so I guess it’s you folks who get to read these anecdotes...



ACID REFLUX-s/t (No Way, 7” EP)
Well, I’d probably give the penmanship on the lyric sheet, cover and label around a B+ since there are corrections. The music on this 8 song EP (taken from their demo) gets a higher grade. Early 80s style hardcore punk somewhere between the Circle Jerks and some of the “Boston Not LA” bands—done with plenty of post-adolescent rage. Hating school, hating the military, hating work, hating chain restaurants (“Oh Good, There’s An Applebees”)—I agree about the latter in particular. With a song like “Customers Fuck Off,” you get the idea pretty quickly. In case you don’t, the first line is “Customers are douche bags/they treat you like your (sic) shit.” This reaches my inner 23-year-old and that’s never completely gone away—proudly, I might add. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA 23221,

BESTHOVEN/VIOLATION-Split (Final Attempt, 7” EP)
On Besthoven’s side of the sleeve, it says “A D-Beat Holocaust!!!” and that’s accurate. Actually, there’s a stripped down, slightly distorted guitar sound and that makes it sound different from acts operating in this vein. Violation are from Philly and include folks from Another Oppressive System. They have the heavier, thicker approach and the songs are packed with power and volume. (PO Box 972, Bellmawr, NJ 08099,


CONDENADA-s/t (Lengua Armada, 7” EP)
This Chicago band have really progressed over the past few years, especially when I compare the songs on this EP to the older demo versions. Mariam has an overpowering voice and such songs as “Not Yr Victim” and “This Fight Is Ours” convey true anger. Mainly mid-tempo punk and the guitar riffs are reinforced with some powerful drumming. (Condenada: PO Box 5027, Chicago, IL 60680,

DIE YOUNG-Graven Images (Teenage Disco Bloodbath, LP)
As usual with the TDB releases, kudos must be given to the packaging—blue/white splattered vinyl and a glossy insert. This Texas band have a heavy, metal-meets-hardcore sound with lower-tuned guitars but it has a hard, driving edge that doesn’t get bogged down in chugalama too much. There’s an intellectual presentation in the lyrics and ideas, using quotations as diverse as Freud, Shakespeare, Kerouac and Greg Graffin (Bad Religion guy, in case you don’t know). Perhaps a tad pretentious but they’re also quite direct at times, such as “Fuck The Imperialists.” Ultimately, this isn’t my favorite style of hardcore but Die Young have some hard-hitting moments here. (

DOUBLE NEGATIVE-The Wonderful and Frightening World Of Double Negative (No Way, LP)
Let’s see—where have I heard that title before? They “borrowed” it from a Fall album of the same name. That’s where the similarities end. The members of Double Negative range in age from 35 to 42 and this ripper of a 12” will school the young’uns. An early COC influence here, only without the metal and the songs here are fast and aggressive, powered by Brian Walsby’s drumming and slashing, jagged, feedback-enhanced riffs. Kevin (aka KC) stretches his raspy vocals over the songs, chafing against the grain, and it all culminates in the charged fadeout for “Pond and Prairie,” a moment to catch ones breath after the full-tilt ride over the course of the two sides. To use a hackneyed phrase, this once again proves that age don’t mean shit and, even if one’s youth can’t be recaptured, that doesn’t mean you can’t still kick and scream in the process. (3211 Idlewood Ave., Richmond, VA 23221,

HAUNTED GEORGE-Bone Hauler (Dead Beat, CD)
This is very primitive. Haunted George, a one-man project masterminded by S. George Pallow, begins with an old soundclip warning about the forthcoming unpleasant noise. Then the ultra-minimalism kicks in. A dirty, primitive low-fidelity kinda bluesy/folky music that conjures visions of death and desolation. This sounds as though it was recorded in a shack, likely without running water or that’s at least the ambiance he’s trying to create. “Shotgun In My Mouth” stands out with its eruption into a fusillade of guitar craziness. Acquired-taste territory and I haven’t quite acquired it yet but this is a lot more fun than a lot of stuff trying to pass itself off as “roots” music or whatever the hell it’s called. PO Box 361392, Cleveland, OH 44136,

While watching this live DVD, shot in Boston in 1994 (I was there, by the way), it got me to thinking that there aren’t enough bands playing this sort of aggro-style indy rock anymore. Or maybe I’m missing it but I can’t imagine too many bands having the sort of explosiveness these guys had. A sound that stood apart from punk and hardcore but had the same level of energy. 1994 was when Green Day and the Offspring were becoming the “acceptable” face of punk and it’s about 180 degrees from the non-sanitized-for-public-consumption sound of this band. In fact, in the interview done with Shred from WBCN/WERS/etc, vocalist David Yow said Green Day were like the Knack, like the Dickies with English accents. The Jesus Lizard always knew how to put on one hell of a live show and Yow knew how to provoke, fuck with and bond with an audience. Half the time, he’s crawling over them and remains in full bray. You can’t understand what he’s ranting but it’s more the feel than the words. Yow is the focal point and but the three musicians who accompanied him shouldn’t be shortchanged and the multi-camera shots here capture their combination of finesse and pure wallop. Hypnotic, thumping bass-lines from David Wm. Sims, snaky and slashing guitar lines from Duane Dennison and incessantly crashing drumming from Mac McNeilly. A forceful tumult, a rollercoaster ride that culminates in their Chrome medley. The riffs that these songs are built on—the crunch of “Mouthbreather,” the sonic jolt of “Puss,” the nightmarish “Bloody Mary”—each have their own personality. There are also five songs recorded at CBGB in the summer of ’92 and the level of frenetic chaos is just as high. I’m often embarrassed about some of the music I dug on from the late-80s to mid-90s. Not these guys. They could probably still blow away most bands I’ve seen in the past few years. (PO Box 280, Oaks, PA 19456,

THE JURY-s/t (Electric Mayhem/Loud Blaring Punk Rock, 7”EP)
TOTAL FURY/THE JURY-Split (Gloom, 7” EP)

A new five song EP by Albany’s Jury, plus a split with Japanese band Total Fury, with whom they toured the east coast in the spring. Mike still sounds as though he’s having his tonsils tortured by Steve Peffer from 9 Shocks Terror and it’d be lying to say that they’re not influenced by that band. Whatever the case, The Jury’s raw thrash attack hits hard and fast and the lyrics are a bitter, pissed-off complement. The production for the split sounds a tad punchier and also includes a solid cover of Gauze’s “Crash The Pose.” As for Total Fury, the three songs here aren’t nearly as good as on their “13 Songs” album, even though “You’re Too Old” is re-done. The sole new song, “Little Story,” sounds like a lesser “Think Again” (Minor Threat), although the cover of Scream’s “New Song” is OK. Flat production and I’d have to say their side is a bit disappointing. (Jury: PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12208,; Gloom:

KIELTOLAKI-Totaalisen Tuhon Huominen EP (Moo Cow, 7” EP)
The sleeve is a throwback—bright orange, cut ‘n paste layout and it’s obviously paying homage to the classic days of Finnish hardcore. Kieltolaki keep the burn going throughout their new EP. Six songs of piledriving hardcore with a familiar sound—razor-slash guitar that also lets off squeals of feedback, incessant bass/drums and harsh vocals. Full-tilt all the way, even when hitting middle gear for “Pedofiilielukka.” Kieltolaki are definitely one of the better Finnish bands these days. (38 Larch Circle, Belmont, MA 02478,

MAN THE CONVEYORS-Upheld By Fear (Final Attempt, LP)
Dual-vocal crust-core mayhem. In fact, the voices are so growly and nasty, it’s tough to tell the male and female vocalist apart—well, Christina’s is a little bit higher. In addition to the bleak picture of war, rampant capitalism and racism that they voice, there are few songs dealing with sexism and forced gender roles. They also exclaim that there can be a “radical future.” I’m pretty pessimistic about that, myself, sad to say. Pretty rudimentary instrumentation and drawing from the same well as Another Oppressive System, Disrupt and the like but it gets the job done. (PO Box 972, Bellmawr, NJ 08099,

OUT WITH A BANG-Few Beers Left But Out Of Drugs (Criminal IQ, 7” EP)
Not quite on the level of their previous EP but these scurrilous Italianos are still fucking nasty. Rough, twisted punk that has garage elements but not easily fitting that mold. For one thing, there’s some atonal guitar noodling throughout and that providing a nice (?) sonic muck-up. An ugly, dissonant clatter, hand off the chin in true vafancullo fashion—look it up, then hit ‘em over the head with the dictionary if they invade your town. (3501 N. Southport, Chicago, IL 60657,

PLEASE INFORM THE CAPTAIN THIS IS A HIJACK-Defeat Or Humiliate The United States Of America (Clean Plate, LP)
Recorded in ’03, mixed in ’05 and just now available for your consideration, listening, reading or some combination of the above. PICTIH take a stab at the grand statement—only they eschew slogans and opt for a highly intellectualized approach that requires one to work through the lyrics and accompanying mini-essays about each. Any explanation I attempt will be simplistic, in comparison, but there’s an anti-capitalist/consumerist bent. There’s also a booklet of sorts with a key on the lower right corner of the cover. Perhaps that’s meant to be the key to explaining everything but, instead, there’s unrelated, uncredited prose. On the vinyl, itself, there are sound collages of hip-hop and other musical fragments along with various soundbites—I even hear Maxwell Smart on one of them. The “regular” songs have a late 80s DC hardcore influence, which makes sense since vocalist Mike Kirsch’s older bands, Fuel and Bread and Circuits, certainly came from that muse, although there’s more complexity here. Nation of Ulysses had an album called “13-Point Program To Destroy America” released in 1991 and they also created an elaborate world to convey their message so such a comparison is inevitable. It’s a unique approach, perhaps too obtuse for some to absorb (like myself at times!) but it definitely breaks up the string of predictable releases. (PO Box 9461, N. Amherst, MA 01059,

TALK IS POISON-Condensed Humanity: The Prank EP’s (Prank, LP)
I never got a chance to see Talk Is Poison. I was in SF in 2000 but we left two days before they played a show at Mission Records and they broke up soon after that. This LP includes their split with Deathreat and their “Straight To Hell” and “Control” EPs. Talk Is Poison came and went like a lightning bolt in the late 90s/early 00s. Overpowering hardcore that occupies a similar territory as Deathreat and earlier From Ashes Rise. There’s a Scandinavian influence but there are also big build ups and tempo shifts. Bulldozing bass, a formidable guitar blast and vocals brayed over the intense clamor they create. I don’t even want to use the influence shorthand here. All that really needs to be stated is this was some of the most raging music of that time period and Talk Is Poison were a band that perhaps got overlooked a bit. Drawn from two 7”s of their own, plus their split with Deathreat, recorded in ’98 and ’99. Goddamn I wish I’d been able to stay there a few more days. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,