Leasa from Instant Asshole... one of the last bands to play at Welfare Records
Indeed, thanks from the bottom of my heart. And if you detect a note of sarcasm in my voice, it’s not just a note but an entire fucking symphony. Yep, thanks to the thoughtful “punx” who caused the demise of yet another local venue, one looked as though it might last awhile. I’m talking about Welfare Records in Haverhill, MA. It’s a bit out of the way--about 45 minutes north of Boston, but Mike, the owner, made a strong effort to create a DIY, all-ages space. The building houses a record store, a recording studio, has two apartments on the second floor and, around the back in the downstairs area was a show space that could hold somewhere in the vicinity of 200-300 people (I’m guesstimating). Considering how tough it’s been to find completely DIY venues with halfway decent amenities, this is an unfortunate development. And while I wasn’t into quite a few of the bands who played there and some of the shows occasionally attracted some real knuckleheads, the bookings had a pretty diverse array of punk and hardcore styles. Mike’s actually been talking about selling the business for awhile but, in the meantime, it was a reliable space.
I should mention that the “punx” shouldn’t get 100% of the blame. The cops have been giving Welfare a tough time and it got worse over the past month or so. At the last show, several cops showed up and were trying to bait people and threatened to arrest a woman who worked there when she asked them why they were yelling at kids. But when you have people--some of whom are more than old enough to know better--drinking outside and bringing booze inside, when there are kids hanging out in the parking lot across the street and one of ‘em mentions getting caught pissing in the bushes and when one drunk kid pukes in the parking lot of the convenience store a few doors down, then what the hell do you think is going to happen? And then these same kids will wonder why there aren’t places to have shows anymore. Common sense, people.
One always hears the term “respect the space.” Well, why not pay attention to it? Perhaps there would have been the same police harassment even if some of the “punx” hadn’t engaged in such stupid behavior but it’s inevitable when they do. At a recent show at the Democracy Center at Harvard University (another great space--the building also houses the Papercut zine library), there were some people drinking along the side of the building and gave some attitude to one of the staff people when she asked them to stop. In the interest of full disclosure, I was there for a few minutes talking to those folks and didn’t ask them to stop drinking. And I also got busted while drinking a beer on the roof of the building the summer before by this same staff person. I’d gone up there with guys from one of the bands. So, yeah, I’ve been stupid on occasion, myself and I really felt like an asshole that time.
On a message board I frequent, someone posted a link to a punk band whose name I’d rather not mention since I don’t want to give them any publicity. On their MySpace page, they say “… is a 4 piece punk band. We like to fuck shit up and have a good time. If you have any shows and want us to play, send us a message. If you book us, you will not be sorry, but the club owner may be.” Now THAT’S fucking punk. I’m sure it’s meant partially in jest but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
Maybe I sound like an old fogey, an anti-punk snob but I’ve seen this nonsense going on for years. I’ve seen too many venues ruined by idiotic people who think punk’s about destruction and chaos, mindlessly fucking shit up before trading in their punk clothes for something else. Everyone has their own definition of punk, I suppose. I’m not even sure if I can define it for myself anymore. I guess it’s just an outlet to get all the shit that brings me down out of my system. Of course, it gets exacerbated when certain elements of the punk scene itself bring me down, increase my sense of alienation and make me question why the fuck I bother anymore. And the reason is it’s a catharsis through loud music, comfort food for my ears, if I’m allowed to be pretentious for a moment. I don’t care how people dress--to each their own. There’s nothing wrong with having an anti-authoritarian attitude, questioning social mores, trying to go against the grain. There are plenty of sources of that anger but there are more positive, constructive ways to express those thoughts and channel those emotions. And still have one hell of a great time, flaws and all.
PUNK ROCK ‘N STUFF...
BAD SAMARITANS-Re-gur-git-tate (Nickel and Dime, CD)
Fast, thrashy hardcore—a simple yet fitting description for quite a few of the songs on this band’s third album although there are also some mid-tempo rockers, as well. At times, it makes me think of Out Cold and Poison Idea, in terms of guitar tone and vocally. “It Hurts” changes the pace to something a bit more lurching ‘n creeping and the same applies to “Sundance.” “Ted Offensive,” a graphic tale of abduction and abuse, would appear to be a paean to serial killer Ted Bundy and the lyrical imagery ain’t pretty. Their cover of the Partridge Family’s “I Woke Up In Love This Morning” isn’t the definitive cover of that group—that honor will always go to Ism’s “I Think I Love You,” but it brings a momentary lightheartedness. Verdict? Good, if not great, and worth a listen or two. (PO Box 555712, LA, CA 90055, www.nickelanddimerecords.com)
BLACK SS-Terror Of The North East (2004-2007) (Reaper, CD)
The complete, unabridged Black SS story, with both of their demos, first 7”, splits, comp tracks and a live set recorded at WERS in Boston. Whew—a lot to digest. Things haven’t changed much—they’ve always stuck to a no-nonsense, aggressive style of hardcore, complete with Chuck Hickey’s inner Choke forcefully expressed. But you can hear an evolution in playing ability and the production values improve as the disc progresses. Speaking of no-nonsense, that’s the gist of the lyrics. First off, this is a straight-edge band but they stay away from the mosh/tough-core elements that have come to represent modern sXe music (thankfully) although there’s no compromise when discussing drugs or alcohol. The sentiments are pointed, whether dealing with abuse of those substances, “the state of the nation,” to quote “I Want Out” and, to use an ancient song by some DC band, being out of step with the world. Inspiring title: “Droppin’ Many Cider Punx.” Aggro unleashed and also catchy in spots. And I hope this is only anthologizing this band’s first chapter. (PO Box 2935, Liverpool, NY 13089, www.reaperhardcore.com)
CLOAK/DAGGER-Kamikazes/She Cracked (Grave Mistake, 7”)
An honest-to-goodness 45 RPM record like I grew up with, with an album track and the unreleased b-side. “Kamikazes” has the Wipers/Hot Snakes guitar tandem and a good amount of rhythmic bash. The flip is a Modern Lovers cover—a harder-edged take than the original with jittery guitar filling in for the keyboards on the original. Not bad but not essential. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com)
DEEP SLEEP-Manic Euphoria (Grave Mistake, 7” EP)
There’s a nerviness, an edginess to Deep Sleep’s music and it hardly fits into a standard punk definition, although that’s the motor that drives things. Busy guitar and bass interplay, particularly for “Textbook Timebomb” but the nimble musicianship doesn’t detract from the overall punch. Four of the songs here clock in at under a minute and “Nothing Left” and “Not Coming Back” throw some thrash into the mix—something of a throwback to their first EP, which had a slightly rougher approach. It’s been a few years since that debut and it was worth the wait. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com)
86 MENTALITY-Final Exit (Deranged, CD)
To quote 86 Mentality’s vocalist Steve Clark, RRRRROWF. This is the CD version of 86 Mentality’s final EP tacking on a cover of Blitz’s “4Q,” one other uncredited bonus song (not sure if it’s an original or a cover) and a live set from 2005 in Belgium. Tough ‘n bruising hardcore with a decidedly oi-ish inflection—adjectives I’ve used in previous reviews but just in case you missed it the first time, it’s worth reiterating. Paying tribute to the roots and capturing the bare-knuckled vibe although they have a much more pronounced street punk edge than other retro-leaning hardcore bands. The live songs are taken from their first two EP’s plus a version of the Varukers’ “Soldier Boy.” Not a bad addition although I’m thinking a few live video tracks might have been a good way to convey this band’s no-bullshit presence. One more time, with feeling... RRRRROWF! (2700 Lower Road Roberts Creek, BC V0N 2W4, CANADA, www.derangedrecords.com)
INMATES-Now We Talkin Hardcore! (Kangaroo/Even Worse, 7” EP)
Paul E. Wog is back with his phony English accent and the Inmates are back with their completely shredding version of hardcore. Now we definitely talkin hardcore and that comes from the intro to the whole shebang that pokes fun at the two label proprietors who co-released this slab. Raw, fast swill with buzzbomb guitar, wrecking ball drumming (courtesy of the one and only Wedge) and a whole lot of bad attitude. This time out, there’s slightly cleaner production than in the past but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone high-tech or anything. Nor gotten any nicer—the first lyrical line heard is “do the world a favor, kill yourself today.” This is the real hardcore punk rock shit, accept no fucking substitute. (www.geocities.com/tysonkangaroo or www.geocities.com/evenworserecords).
KNUCKLEHEAD-Lost (HG Fact, CD)
Yammering and hammering—the former coming from the ranting, regurgitated vocals, the latter from the aggressive riffing and tumultuous drumming. Hardcore with a metallic bent and making the best impact on track #9 (translating to “To The Crowd”)—that’s a hard-driving speed roar which culminates in blasting rhythms and it fades out ominously. A savage presence for sure, even when the execution threatens to fall apart. This will apparently be their final release and includes some re-recordings of earlier material. (http://www.interq.or.jp/japan/hgfact)
NIGHTSTICK JUSTICE-Claustrophobic EP (Grave Mistake, 7” EP)
These guys are very quickly becoming one of my favorite bands. NSJ are fucking relentless, each song bridged by a whine of feedback. There’s a tinge of the over-the-top Cleveland hardcore burn in their sound. Guitars on stun, bass on bulldoze and goddamn does Jeff Corso sound pissed off. Hardly taking a break with the speed until the stomping conclusion of “Hypocrite,” an epic at over 3 minutes. They’ve also got a new 12” EP, that’s a split release between Even Worse and Way Back When (and there will be a US pressing on Tankcrimes) but my copy showed up warped and another one is on the way. I did listen to the part that was playable and it’s just as blazing—and I’ll have a more thorough review when I have a non-warped copy in my mitts. (PO Box 12482, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com)
PANDAMONIUM-s/t (One Percent, 7” EP)
TOTAL FURY/PANDAMONIUM-Tour 2007 (One Percent, 7” EP)
Despite some occasionally leaden-sounding drumming and out-of-sync vocals, the four ladies/one guy in Pandamonium play with a winning old-school hardcore spirit. Jimena’s yelping cadence reminds me of Mish from Sado Nation and the songs on both their own EP and the split with Total Fury rip without any let-up in the speed department. Total Fury begin their side with a cover of Second Wind’s “Bitch,” kind of ironic since that song is a rather nasty put-down of a relationship gone awry and they’re sharing the record with a mostly-female band. But I’m reading into it too much. It’d be tough to top Total Fury’s first 12” but this is better than their last couple of releases. Hard/fast early 80s inspired hardcore given a good throttling. (PO Box 141048, Minneapolis, MN 55414, www.onepercentrecords.com)
Cissie from Pedestrians, 2006
PEDESTRIANS-Killing Season EP (Residue, 7” EP)
Following the same blueprint as in the past—mid-tempo, tuneful but darkly-hued punk, although “Salvation” picks up the pace a bit. As straightforward as the rhythms are, the guitar lines have good blend of sting and warm melody. Vocals that convey outrage without being obvious in a lyrical sense—if there’s any sort of theme, it’s about the senseless loss of life, be it in the inner city or overseas and that indication also comes from the title. The obligatory caveat—if you liked ‘em before, you’ll like this and, if not, get on the bandwagon. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SOLID DECLINE/RUIDOSA INMUNDICIA-Split (Thought Crime, LP)
These two European bands (SD are from Germany, RI from Austria) both tear through their brief songs with unfettered aggression. Solid Decline’s members all used to be in the band Y and, after a few EPs (including a double), this is their first 12” release (same for RI). Whereas Y operated mainly in grind realm, this band have staked out slightly different territory. Kickass hardcore punk but with other twists and wrinkles. A wild ride executed with super-tightness and including everything from thrash to west coast punk and there’s one song that starts with almost a country-ish shitkick intro before turning on the speedjets. Ruidosa Inmundicia don’t allow any breaks between the songs either. Caro howls at the top of her lungs, accompanied by the musical flail. After a demo and 7” (also on Thought Crime), they’ve perfected their fast hardcore approach. The packaging is top-notch, as well--a screen printed/heavy stock cover presenting an image of tranquil tropical beach scene underneath a black and white image of fighter planes and a bombed out building. (Thomas Franke, Muskauer Str. 19, 10997 Berlin, GERMANY, www.thoughtcrimerecords.de)
Dave from Splitting Headache, 2007
SPLITTING HEADACHE-The World’s My Aim (Chainsaw Safety, 7” EP)
Splitting Headache’s latest missive shows the band in typically ass-kickin’ mode. Fired-up hardcore punk with some sputteringly inspired lead riffs. If offering a comparison with Tear It Up (some of these folks’ previous band) is allowed, this is a more refined approach, not going for the double-speed thing that TIU sometimes relied on. It’s a more reasonably-paced speed attack infused with strong, but not leaden breakdowns. The life of pain and disillusionment continues for Mr. Dave Ackerman, at least from a lyrical standpoint. He says “ten years later and nothing’s changed.” The intent, though, is a critique of someone else pissing their life away. Hell, switch that to 25 years and you’re on to something—OK, that’s not completely true from these quarters. Whatever demons are being fought off, I suppose this kind of outlet keeps ‘ya at least PARTIALLY sane. (PO Box 260318, Bellerose, NY 11426, www.chainsawsafetyrecords.com)
URBAN UNREST-s/t (Evil Corporation/United Shoebrothers, 7” EP)
If you’re going to have a name that not only could be perceived as generic and also have a band logo that’s not far from a certain early 80s NY hardcore band who also had the name Urban in their name (Waste, for the uninitiated), you’d better be pretty damned good because it takes balls to do something like that. Urban Unrest, from Finland, have balls—well, all the band members are guys so that’s a given. Sorry—that’s lame. Something this record isn’t. The sound definitely conjures up that period. Undistorted guitar dishing out the flail and sticking to the loud/fast blueprint. No-bullshit wallop. (www.myspace.com/evilcorporationrecords)