Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Suburban Voice blog #74


Just what is an adult crash? Well, it's taken from the song "Minor Threat" by some DC band whose name escapes me at the moment. The whole "it's not how old I am/it's the way I feel" sentiment. That's the question Dave Brown posited to various individuals for his book titled, oddly enough, Adult Crash. It's a collection of his photos, taken over approximately two decades of show-attendance, along with reminiscences by folks with long-involvement in the "scene." Yes, it's another book to add to the hardcore retrospective shelf but, as Dave explains in the opening salvo, "this is not a 'hardcore history book' by any means--you are simply seeing what I saw when I happened to have a camera with me at shows over the years."

One thing you immediately notice is how time stands still--there's no dating of the photos but it doesn't really matter if it's a Killing Time or Gorilla Biscuits show from 20 or so years ago (I can tell the vintage since Anthony and Civ both have more hair!) or Wasted Time from recently. Hell, many of the t-shirts being sported are for older bands. Never mind that quite a few of the people in those audiences weren't even a gleam in their parents' eyes when Killing Time or the Biscuits played those shows. Of course, the youngsters do still have a chance to see those bands, albeit with more follically-challenged vocalists.

The other thing that one notices is how there's a commonality in theme from the various contributors--trying to maintain some kind of creative, youthful spark while, at the same time, many of them have had to be pragmatic, as well--having conventional elements to their lives such as "regular" jobs, marriages, mortgages and the like but hanging on to something distinctly different from the "norms" (my word and it's a loaded one, I agree). Hardcore is something that remains an affirmation, an element that can be inspirational as well as comforting. Taylor from Four Walls Falling writes about how he's just listened to "Dehumanization" by Crucifix for the millionth time in his life and how it never gets old. I feel the same way about that record (hell, I can recite Sothira's poetry that starts "Annihilation" verbatim) or Discharge's "Hear Nothing" or a lot of other records. It still stirs something. I can't imagine life without it.

I have to admit a book like Adult Crash does bring some mixed feelings to the surface--hardcore is still something important in my and the other contributors' lives. There are also times when it feels stale, alienating and infuriating. Love/hate. You do the sense of deja-vu perusing the photos and reading the text. And no mere photograph is going to capture what it feels like to be in those environs. I have my reservations, I have my doubts and--in the interest of full disclosure--I wrote something along those lines for this book. But as long as there are new bands, new records, certain shows and still meeting great people, it remains personally worthwhile. Something to pull me away from life's cold realities at least for awhile and perhaps remind me (and hopefully the reader) that there's still something to this noise even after a quarter century. I'd say this book serves that purpose pretty well.

The book is accompanied by a four song comp 7" with each band contributing covers--Down To Nothing doing Four Walls Falling, Cloak/Dagger doing Warzone, Kill Your Idols doing Token Entry and Slumlords playing a Gut Instinct song. Some of this stuff is fairly "moshy" but the production values are very raw and distorted and that makes these performances quite appealing, especially Cloak/Dagger's take on "Escape From Your Society." And while Token Entry's material hasn't aged well, KYI's "The Edge" is plenty furious. (Six Feet Under/Vicious Circle, www.sixfeetunderrecords.com or www.myspace.com/vcrecs)

...AND NOW ON TO THE CURRENT CROP OF RELEASES (with more to come soon--I promise!)


ATAKKE-March To The Gallows EP (Mountains of Madness, 7" EP)
Crust/metal with molten, thick guitar riffs and nasty hellion-like vocals from Chloe. There's definitely a kinship with the likes of After The Bombs, Sacrilege, Hellshock, etc... The drums are a little on the tinny side, sonically, but the crush quotient doesn't hurt for it. Two burners and one heavier track that doesn't stack up quite as well. You'll still bang your head or shake your fist at least some of the time.
(302 Bedford Ave., Box 367, Brooklyn, NY 11211)

CHEAP TRAGEDIES-Volume 1: Souvenirs & Evidence (Mad At The World, LP)

Tony Erba's had quite the punk/hardcore/rock 'n roll career, as both a bass-player and vocalist--from the bruising hardcore of Face Value to the Jap-buzz of H100s and 9 Shocks Terror to the raw blowout of Gordon Solie Motherfuckers to a stint with rawkers Step Sister. Cheap Tragedies doesn't really sound like any of those bands, either. It's a tandem of punk, hardcore and some rock 'n roll that has a strong melodic base. Don't expect any out-of-control craziness but the songs do have plenty of presence. The lyrics explore the dark side of the human existence, whether it's about the Zodiac killer ("I Am The Zodiac") or Manson murders ("Sadie's Eyes"), Opus Dei conspiracy theories, mental illness and a the death of "Americana," as described on "Going Going Gone." The record is tucked inside a great gatefold cover with a mugshot of a defiant Jane Fonda, taken after a 1970 bust, staring out at you. I could say something cheesy that this music exudes a similar sense of defiance but... oh, I just did. "Ain't Dead Yet" does resemble that remark, expounding on still trying to have fun, still trying to keep sane when there's a 4 in your age and it's not the second number. By the way, Tony contributes to the Adult Crash book reviewed above and pretty much states the same thing as in the song. At the end of the day, this album hardly sounds like anyone's death song, punk or otherwise. (PO Box 230367, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10023, www.matwreckords.com)

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY-Red Tape EP (Residue, 7")

Three new songs from this Chicago three-pice. "Red Tape" is their second 7". "Vamp" and "Reach Out" are both sprightly and tuneful with some tight instrumental interplay and male/female tradeoffs that do have a hint of X but the music has more of a post-punk flavor. "Circles" is on the too-mellow side although there's a nice build-up in the middle--still comes up a bit short and that's pretty much my overall take at this point.
(1446 W. Elmdale, Apt. 3W, Chicago, IL 60660, residuerecords@gmail.com)


It's been six years since the last D4 album, "Situationist Comedy" and, from the opening chords of "A Jingle For The Product," preceded by a snippet from a disco dancing instructional record, there's an instant familiarity. As for whether it's been worth the wait, the answer is pretty much yes. I'll be right up front and say that "Midwestern Songs Of The Americas" remains the best album of the past 20 years, in my opinion. This time out, the surging and punchy punk rock melodies remain, as always, but polished to a smooth finish--OK, we're not talking about some inanimate object but I think you know what I mean. One thing that's largely absent are vocal contributions from bassist Paddy Costello and, on his turns at the mike, he sounds a tad too sweet--his melodious bellow (?) provided a counterpoint to Erik's raspily earnest tone and one wishes that was more in evidence here. But when he sings the tale of economic desolation for "Minimum Wage Is A Gateway Drug" with an ironic, instead of dogmatic approach, it still shows D4's clever lyrical twist. Ultimately, the songs here have presence but, in all honesty, they're not sticking in the head nearly as much as they used to. Consider that a reserved recommendation--D4 haven't ever made a complete clunker but it'd be a stretch to say that "C I V I L W A R" is anywhere near their best work. (www.fatwreck.com)


DRY HUMP-Sex Cult (demo)
Dry Hump want you to know they're NOT from Boston--or, rather, their vocalist Erik wishes to convey that info. Why anyone would want to brag they're from the Lowell area is beyond me but that's just some inside MassHole joking. Four songs, with three of them being solid fast/raw hardcore and vocals that sound like they're coming through a cheap mike. On the other hand, the title track, in the #3 slot, is a different matter. A dirge laying down a repetitive pattern and some guitar sputter on top but it's accompanied by a call into one of those national talk shows by one of the band member's relatives where he talks about paranormal experiences. Thing is you can't always hear what's going on as most of it is submerged under the racket but that's the gist of it. I imagine there's a subliminal aspect here and I'm going to wake up under the control of the Dry Hump Cult or something. That sounds downright scary but it won't stop me from recommending this demo. (cspraker@gmail.com)



Not to be confused with the old Boston garage band the Foreign Objects, who had a wrasslin' rock theme and did a classic song about Captain Lou Albano. Three ladies and one gentleman, with Terry Cuozzo, late of the Conversions, on vocals. Terry's vocals aren't as caustic this time around but her singing still goes against the grain. Bright, energetic punk/post-punk with a solid rhythmic foundation--the bass-playing and drumming are killer. This was good enough for a 7" release. (foreignobjectsboston@gmail.com)

HUL-Den Danske Ungdom (Hjernespind, LP)
A reissue of a 2001 album by a Danish band who were, instead of "ex-members of" were "pre-members of" or something like that. What I'm trying to say is people in these bands were also in Amdi Petersens Arme, Young Wasteners and No Hope For The Kids. A straight-forward hardcore attack--some early Boston and Swedish HC and UK-82 style come to mind--and Kasper's vocals are raspier (screechy at times, too) than when he sang for No Hope For The Kids. The pace is mainly fast and frenetic with a guitar sound that sounds like a disturbed hornets nest (I'm projecting) but they do slow it to a crawl for the concluding dirge. That falls flat, to be honest, but that's definitely not the case for the balance of this ripper. If you missed the boat on this one the first time--like I did--here's another opportunity you should take complete advantage of. (PO Box 505, 2200 Copenhagen N, DENMARK, www.hjernespind.com)

LEATHERVEIN-s/t (Hjernespind, LP)

The illustration on the cover of this record is ridiculous--a demonic looking headbanger shooting off rather phallic looking radioactive guitar device and it screams 80 thrash-metal schlock. And you have you respect their aspirations--Dr. Hook wanted to be on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Leathervein want to be on the "Cover of MMRR" i.e. Maximum Rock 'n Roll. If this was the 80s, the hardcore bible's illustrious founder Mr. Yohannan probably wouldn't have even allowed a review of this record since he would have deemed it "too metal." Some might feel that way now but, writing as a child of 70s hard rock and metal AND hardcore AND thrash metal, Leathervein's eponymous debut hits all the right buttons and it'd be a mistake to strictly consider this metal. There's the rawkarama of bands like Turbonegro and, if the intent is tongue-in-cheek, Leathervein's edge is sharper with speed bombs like "You Are The Problem,"Crossed The Line" and "Endless Night," although the last ends with a heavy coda." "Welcome To The Ministry," meanwhile, will make you bang your head Priest style--maybe that's the ministry they're talking about. I have to speculate 'cause there ain't no lyric sheet and The Eagle's emanations are sometimes a bit tricky to decipher. The mighty noise doesn't require any sort of deep analysis, though. It just needs to be turned up loud.
(PO Box 505, 2200 Copenhagen N, DENMARK, www.hjernespind.com)

MARKED MEN-Ghosts (Dirtnap, CD)

Definitely a return to form after the semi-disappointing "Fix My Brain." There was something missing with that album--maybe the production was a tad too clean, the songs not as gripping but this collection is much more solid and they've come back to a rougher, if not raw, recording ambiance. Jumpy, catchy songs drawing on the reliably poppy '77-inspired influences. The tempos are mainly heart-racing with a jabbing, throbbing guitar punch. Closing song "Fix My Head" has the drive but there's also a hint of heady expansiveness and some stinging guitar tradeoffs--my favorite song on the album, in fact. Good to see them regain their footing although it might be their last, if not final sonic missive. (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202, www.dirtnaprecs.com)

NO SLOGAN-Aversion Therapy (Residue, LP)
As promised last time, here's a review of No Slogan's debut full-length and the 7" only hinted at how strong this release was going to turn out. The "m" term i.e. melodic has been bandied about quite a bit in this space now and forever but it can't be avoided in regard to No Slogan and neither can the references to Chicago punk history in the way they harness brawn with tunefulness from the Raygun-ish rock of "KGB," re-done from the "Killed By Gentrification 7") to the Articles of Faith-driven style of "Trepidation." I'm not quite sure why they named a song "Howard Jones" and give thanks (another gratuitious AOF reference) that it ain't 80s synth-pop (although I am partial to some of that stuff) but another urgent-sounding hardcore song. And whereas HoJo had those uplifting type of lyrics, that ain't the case here. "Death Of Cool" observes the situation from Barack Obama's Chicago backyard and the question is "where is our prosperity?" Indeed. (1446 W. Elmdale, Apt. 3W, Chicago, IL 60660, residuerecords@gmail.com)

PERDITION-s/t (Mountains of Madness, 7" EP)

I got to see this NY band play one song in Cambridge before some scuzzy "travelers" threw a brick through the window behind the drummer and got things shut down. After hearing this record, I feel even more cheated by that circumstance. Over the past few years, I've glanced at a few analyses of various nuances of D-beat/crust/whathaveyou and I know that there are elements to create different sub-groupings. But, when you get right down to it, the tools are rumbling bass, bashing drums, loud guitars often sputtering with feedback and braying vocals. Perdition do that very well, especially in the bass department and the feedback enhances but doesn't turn it into ear torture. I know some people love that shroud of hellaciousness but I prefer being able to actually hear the riffs right up front. Definitely not next-level but the combination of power and rawness makes it a keeper. (302 Bedford Ave., Box 367, Brooklyn, NY 11211)

POLICE & THIEVES-Amor Y Guerra (Youngblood, CD)
New and old from this DC band. The (relatively) new is the "Amor Y Guerra" EP--recorded in late '07-- and on this CD those four songs are appended by another 10 songs from their earlier 7" and demo. This is beefy, melodic hardcore certainly influenced by their surroundings--well, past history of their surroundngs with an abundance of sting and burn. I should also mention that influence isn't slavishly excecuted but something they've thrown into their volume-enhanced tilt. And, yes, there's certainly an emotional element here, mainly in Carlos' impassioned (yes, I use the word too much as well as many other words in this review) vocals and guitar surge. The Dutch band Oil did something along these lines some years back and P&T are also proficient at this sort of heartfelt soundburst. (PO Box 236, Ephrata, PA 17522, www.youngblood-records.com)