Sunday, January 20, 2008

Suburban Voice blog #56


The Ruts’ “Staring At The Rude Boys” is one of my favorite singles of all time—hell, even with the not-nearly-as-great reggae flip of “Love In Vain.” The band’s shining moment, from the staccato riff that starts the song to the amazing chorus which will have you chanting along “we’ll never surrender” before you even have a chance to think about it—and I wonder if Blitz got the idea for their song from that chorus. I could put all the elements of this song under a microscope and point out the brilliance of each but that’s for the punk rock academics. I just think it’s an indisputable classic.

This record was out around the time of vocalist Malcolm Owen’s untimely (is it ever timely?) heroin overdose on July 14, 1980. He was only 26 years old. Sadly, another original member of the Ruts, guitarist Paul Fox, died from cancer this past October. While the band had UK chart success and received more acclaim in recent years, I’ve always felt this band was underrated, to an extent.

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile but two recent Ruts-related events had me asking some questions, offering some criticism and getting into a few arguments over it. The first was a recent cover of the song by the much-hyped UK band Gallows. First of all, I’m no purist about covering songs. I can’t recall hearing a good Ruts cover but, for instance, I praise the Functional Idiots’ cover of Cabaret Voltaire’s “Nag Nag Nag.”

But Gallows are being touted as the next big hardcore band. Big Warped Tour stars. Hyped in Rolling Stone. Brett Gurewitz from Epitaph Records says Gallows' album is "the best punk rock record since Refused's "Shape Of Punk To Come." Which begs the question as to when was the last time Brett actually listened to a punk or hardcore record? A writer named Dave Jaffer from Hour Weekly Montreal says Gallows "are the best and most important English punk band since the Sex Pistols." Good grief. That means he dismisses the Ruts themselves. Check out this video:

A rapper named Lethal Bizzle shows up in the middle. I have no idea who this guy is but he’s apparently behind some genre called “Grime.” Don’t care, don’t wanna know and no rapper belongs in a Ruts cover. It’s bad enough they change the lyrics, it’s bad enough the vocalist doesn’t have 1/100th of Malcolm Owen’s talent, but then this guy shows up, wearing a shirt with his own fucking name on it. He’s being “that guy,” as I wrote in Blog #52.

Lethal Bizzle?

The other event or situation was a Ruts reunion, where the three original members—Fox, Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy—got together for the first time since the early 80s to do a benefit show for Paul’s family and cancer research. On a message board, I mentioned that it was a shame that Rollins did the vocals because I felt he was the wrong man for the job. I don’t know—you tell me… what do you think of this video?

A woman named Sarah, who said she was the Ruts’ press contact, scolded me when she saw my comments. She said the following: “the benefit gig is a fitting tribute to Paul now so please do not taint what is a fabulous and fitting tribute with ill informed comments” and she also mentioned that Rollins “stepped in at his own expense.” I did feel somewhat badly because the intent wasn’t to dismiss the reunion/tribute but merely comment about Rollins’ suitability. In the scheme of things, I suppose she’s right about it being a fitting tribute and it would have been exciting to see the three members play again, especially since it ended up being Paul’s last musical appearance. It’s certainly nowhere near as egregious as Gallows’ bastardization.

In the meantime, here's the REAL THING. I couldn't find a live version and it's lip-synced but it'll give you an idea of their greatness:


CITIZENS PATROL-Sick Routine EP (No Way, 7” EP)
A Dutch band with an old-school American hardcore. Pure thrash in short blasts and with the requisite out-of-step with the world (where have I heard that before) sentiments plus fatalistic observations, concluding with the declaration “it’s the end of the world; we’re all gonna die.” Maybe that’s bombastic but y’ever get that feeling, anyway? On Brandon from Direct Control’s label and Citizens Patrol definitely share a musical kinship with those guys. (3211 Idelwood Ave., Richmond, VA 23221,

COCOCOMA-s/t (Goner, CD)
This Chicago three-piece knock out a traditional garage style and the Farfisa-iazation effect is fully present. Actually, Mike Fitzpatrick doubles on organ and bass and Bill Roe handles both drums and lead vocals—no easy feat. Vibrant, lively and catchy and they’re not above a clever nick or two—such as the “ah-ah-ah”s for “Go Ahead” that sound quite a bit like the same harmonies from Cheap Trick’s “Lookout.” Drawing from the 60s but still managing to sound contemporary. I totally regret missing this band when they came through town last year. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104,

DAILY VOID-s/t (Dead Beat, CD)
Formed from the ashes of the Functional Blackouts (reviews of two CDs worth of material are reviewed below) there’s some serious head-fucking going on here. (Dead-Beat,. Their brand of obnoxiousness comes from a nervy, artsy, minimalist ’77 inspiration. This is a tad more accessible than the Blackouts. Of course, everything’s relative when it comes to accessibility and it’ll still be noise to the squares—would you have it any other way? All you need to know is the songs here will worm their way into your skull with their gnashing, bashing assault and the frayed string bending generates sparks. (PO Box 361392, Cleveland, OH 44136,

THE FREEZE-Rabid Reaction /Live From Cape Cod 1980 (Schizophrenic, LPs)
One reissue, another an unearthed live performance. “Rabid Reaction,” from 1986, was their second full-length. While I think “Land Of The Lost” is a little stronger song-wise and the echo on the production here is a regrettable sign of those times, this is a still a memorable album. Clif Hanger’s words have always had a certain darkness to them, especially when it comes to topics of mental illness, but it’s also laced with black humor, as well. “Warped Confessional,” the song that leads things off, was ahead of the curve before the news stories about sexual abuse from Catholic priests finally surfaced. Elements of hardcore along with the tuneful punk that’s always been the main part of the Freeze’s repertoire. The live LP comes from a “lost” tape found by Clif. The soundboard recording actually sounds pretty good, but the band’s performance is rough at times. Still, it’s a fun listen. Some songs would show up later, sometimes in re-worked fashion—“There’ll Be Trouble If You Hide” and “My Megawaki Land” eventually resurfaced close to the original titles, if more pepped up arrangements, while “I’m Too Good For You” became “Princess Die” on “Rabid.” There are also many songs that were never released elsewhere. Some of the wisecracks from bassist Rick Andrews are hilarious—I remember him rivaling Clif for stage presence “back in the day.” And the classic “I Hate Tourists” is included. It’s probably more of a “diehard fans” type item and not something I’ll play too much but there’s historical value here. (17 West 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA,

FUCK THIS/STATE-Split (Gnarly Slaughter/Punks Before Profits, 7” EP)
Two Michigan bands, one new, one old. Fuck This include Claire and Ryan from PBF—he was also in I Object until recently. Fast hardcore punk with twin vocals and not too developed yet plus the vocals are kind of a liability at this point, as well. One of the songs, “Stay Depressed,” deals with medications for mental illness and Ryan writes that he has issues with that since it can be used as a form of behavior control. Not the typical hardcore theme. The State, meanwhile, are back with three more agitated songs, keeping up the momentum started on the “All Wrong” album. The lyrics exude the same sort of skepticism/cynicism about politicians and just how free people remain in this country. The record was held up for awhile due to issues with the original cover art but the foldout poster is also quite provocative--a sieg-heiling Jesus overlooking a morass of carnage and nazi imagery and Dubya is riding in the staff car. (PO Box 1148, Grand Rapids, MI 49501,

FUNCTIONAL BLACKOUTS-The Severed Tongue Speaks For Everyone (Dead Beat)/Best Of The Monkees (Dead Beat)
Two discs of heady swill by this now-defunct Chicago band. The self-titled album is a CD pressing of their 2006 LP on Criminal IQ and “Best Of The Monkees” is an odds and ends collection of EPs, comp tracks and some unreleased material.
Tossing punk, garage and post-punk into a mixer and churning it out with nails sticking out. Assaultive sounds with nervous, jolting properties. “Best Of The Monkees,” despite spanning three years and a number of releases, is all killer, no filler, to use a hackneyed bit of review parlance. Their cover of Cabaret Voltaire’s “Nag Nag Nag” is a childish rant and had me doing a comparison with the original—these guys crank it up a notch from CabVolt’s composition, a case of a cover version being more than a perfunctory run-through. “Destroy Hollywood” is a low-fi punk attack and that’s the same for “Take It All In,” while “Chemical Bath” wraps things up with some free-form skronk and piercing levels of feedback and it’s a four minute hellride. These two volumes could cause ear damage and it’s more than worth the risk. (PO Box 361392, Cleveland, OH 44136,

LEGION DCLXVI-Black Goat Armageddon (Schizophrenic, LP)
Another vicious blast from this Toronto band. The vocals come straight from the depths of the gut—I’ll bet you thought I was going to say something cheesy like that warm place where Beelzebub lives. Well, there’s one guy in the band called Beelezebubby and who knows where he’s from. Enough evading the review. In addition to 80s-era dark-themed thrash, the band’s full-tilt aggression draws inspiration from some of the heavier Swedish raw d-beat bands where metal is a part of the mix but the lines are blurred. Distinctions get cumbersome after awhile—the sound is thick and heavy, but rips along at a healthy pace and those vocals have a throat-ripping nastiness. The whole thing seems a little tongue-in-cheek but when it comes to the wrecking ball properties here, Legion have a single-minded relentlessness.
(17 West 4th St., Hamilton, ON L9C 3M2, CANADA,

SKITKIDS-Beskövet Vid Krubban (Not Enough, CD)
Hot on the heels of Skitkids’ recent split with Nightmare comes this 7 song ripper. Motörhead-ized amphetamine savagery coupled with Dis-inspired hardcore. Locomotive tempos that seldom waver, except for the more-pounding “Visste Jag Lycklig.” In other words, these guys bring it. I’ve seen music of this style (in fact, many styles) dissected and analyzed until the differences are petty and enter the realm of geekdom. I don’t need to write a two page dissertation. Just crank it loud, get mesmerized by the brawn and power and marvel at how well the shit-hot metal licks enhance the experience, without devolving into wankery. (Sofiagatan 13, 214 45 Malmö, SWEDEN,

VARIOUS-No Bullshit Vol. 3 (No Way, 7” EP)
A solid lineup for the third installment of these 7” comps—the bands being Life Trap, Socialcide, Double Negative, Out Cold, Acid Reflux and Chronic Seizure. The no bullshit description fits the approach to these bands’ music and there’s definitely a commonality in that regard. Some of these bands have better material elsewhere (particularly Out Cold and Life Trap) but any record that has this collection of bands is still worth a spin or three.
(3211 Idelwood Ave., Richmond, VA 23221,


WARTORN-In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy War (Crimes Against Humanity, LP)
The vinyl is a light bluish/white and that doesn’t really fit the less-than-lighthearted musical and lyrical content here. An ominous intro punctuated by a guitar making a warning signal and acoustic strummings. And you know what comes next—fast, angry crusty hardcore. Harsh dual vocals wedded to songs delivered with a raw, streamlined aggression. The cover of the Cro-Mags’ “Survival Of The Streets” came as a surprise since I didn’t glance at the LP cover beforehand and it fits well with the rest of the pillaging songs. Laments about the state of the world that follow standard themes—fuck Bush, fuck the cops, fuck religion, fuck Wal-Mart, plus a rumination on anti-depressants. Wartorn don’t push the boundaries of this style in new, dynamic directions but rip through their songs with a convincing amount of brute aggression. (PO Box 1421, Eau Claire, WI 54702,

YOUNG OFFENDERS-s/t (Parts Unknown, 7” EP)
This is an impressive debut. A jumpy post punk-inspired sound with solid hooks underpinning everything. Not easily pinpointed but early Gang of Four and Cure figure into the equation, along with the driving tuneful music spawned by the Carbonas, Beat Beat Beat and the like. High, caffeinated-sounding vocals with backing vocals darting in and out. The non-distorted guitars jab, given perfect accompaniment by supple bass-lines and solid drumming. I need to go back and find their first 7”. This one belonged on my best of ’07 list. (PO Box 4835, Toms River, NJ 08754,