Saturday, October 22, 2011

Suburban Voice blog #96

I'm sure you're all tired of my apologies for the tardiness of this blog, as well the standard-issue mea-culpas for not getting all the record reviews done that I wanted and stating that it was high time I published a blog, anyway. So I won't do that...


British writer Brett Callwood's book The Stooges: Head On, A Journey Through The Michigan Underground, is a revamping of a 2008 book originally published in the UK. As Callwood points out in the introduction, the original book had as much of a personal approach to discovering the Stooges as telling the story of the band itself. The new version sticks with the latter although it's obvious that this is still written from a fan's perspective.

All the main movers and shakers in the band's history are involved--all members of the band (including the late Ron Asheton) plus various individuals who were caught up, one way or another, inside the Stooges universe. These include members of the MC5, Niagara from Destroy All Monsters, activist John Sinclair and various writers and friends who weigh in on how they were affected by the Stooges, both as a band and as people. One thing that makes this book different than the typical tome about this band is Iggy isn't really the main focus. The basic biographical info is there and he's interviewed but you get to know the other players just as well if not more. Bands that the members were involved in both before and after the Stooges are covered at length. Instead of this being merely Iggy's viewpoint, you get to experience what happened through the eyes of the Asheton brothers, "Raw Power guitarist James Williamson as well as saxophonist Steve Mackay, who played on Fun House and late-period Stooges keyboard player Scott Thurston.

The story is told in chronological order and there's an in-depth examination at the songwriting and recording processes and how the different lineups gelled--significant as the story flows from the self-titled album and Fun House into Raw Power although there isn't all that much mention of the sessions they did in '72 that yielded one of their greatest songs, "I Got A Right." It's not done in typical "oral history" style but by weaving extensive quotations into the narrative.

As you'd expect, there are the obligatory tales of debauchery, shenanigans and rock 'n roll excesses that go with the territory but it's not overdone. This isn't a tell-all treatment but, instead, an effort to explore the totality of the Stooges legend and what came after, leading up to the reunion and recording of a new album (not a great idea, in my opinion). There are a few repetitive passages here and there but, as a lifelong Stooges fan, I think it gives a pretty good overview of the band's legacy. And that's the point--they were a band and the musicians' contributions were just as crucial as Iggy's antics. You realize that the second you hear the opening guitar riffs to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" or "Search and Destroy." (



AGAINST EMPIRE-Thieves and Leeches (Profane Existence, LP)
A crust/thrash/hardcore assault  in a similar vein as World Burns To Death, Deathreat and the like, along with metal guitar flourishes. Rabid vocals from two of the three gentlemen involved, often in tandem. A scream from the gut, in other words. "Wordsmiths" starts with an extended instrumental intro over which anti-capitalist commentary is sampled from Noam Chomsky and others. I'm loving the Crucifix cover ("Another Mouth To Feed"), too. Well-executed in this band's hands and the rage on their original songs is successfully executed. (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418,

ARCTIC FLOWERS-Reveries (Inimical, LP)
I've been waiting for this one, since seeing them last year and giving their previous 7" plenty of play. When I reviewed that EP (and there was also a split 7" with Spectres), I said I think they have a great album in them, and "Reveries" lives up to those expectations. Encompassing early 80s post-punk and goth and hardcore and it's a seamless fusion. Those are just elements and they've got their own sound. Glowing, haunting guitar reinforced with in-the-pocket bass and drums and powerful vocals--not yelling but sung with soaring authority. A track like "Crusaders + Banshees" really brings out the band's strengths--a guitar line and chorus that sticks and packing a primal wallop. Even when they delve into moodier regions, there's no softening in the approach. Nor does the melody disappear when they pick up the pace although I prefer it when they play at a measured tempo. The lyrics tend towards the oblique although that's not always the case--"Vexed" cogently describes dealing with life's day to day struggles. The definition of reveries means to be lost in ones thoughts or daydreaming but the songs sure as hell won't allow you to drift off into blissfulness. On the contrary--they command your full attention. (PO Box 2803, Seattle, WA 98111,


ART YARD-The Law/Something In Your Eyes (Ride The Snake, 7")
Back in 1981, there was a loose collective of bands called Propeller that released a couple of 7" compilations and one cassette compilation. If there was a musical commonality, it was a wiry post-punk sound of different shades and permutations and, although they weren't part of this group of bands, Mission of Burma were certainly kindred spirits. While the tape comp was more than a bit uneven, the lead off track by Art Yard, "The Law," was by far the standout song. A driving song but also filled with strong hooks, jabbing guitar and the bass-line carrying the melody and it was all poppy in a unique way. I liked this song so much that I got permission to release it on one of the Suburban Voice CD compilations around a decade ago. Now Ride the Snake have done a single with both of the songs on the cassette comp. The flip is slower and gorgeously haunting, a ballad if you will but one with a strong and warm presence. This band, featuring 3/4 of the membership of the Maps, came and went very quickly but left behind songs that have remained in my consciousness for three decades. Now it's your turn. (

BAD DADDIES-s/t (Central District/Finch, 7" EP)
Wonderful lo-fi buzz-punk-pop. Distorted guitars and killer hooks and Camylle's singing is so damned charming. 7 songs, 6 of which appear on side one and none of which are more than a minute. The flip has one song, the infectiously catchy "Not That Kind of Girlfriend," ending with a squall of feedback. Turns out that's a cover by 90s era band the Smoking Popes but this version is quite a bit better. Only 83 copies so you might want to act quickly. (337 W. Vine Street, Stockton, CA 95203,

CEREMONY-6 Cover Songs (Bridge Nine, 12")
All-cover records often represent a holding pattern for bands, indicating they're unable to come up with any new ideas on their own. That's not completely true here--and that statement comes from someone who tends to be suspicious of bands following that path. On this one-sided clear picture disc, there are a variety of bands covered and they're not obvious choices. Let's get the not-so-great out of the way--a dull cover of Eddie & The Subtitles' "American Society." It might have worked better if they'd played the faster version of the song instead of the slow-paced one. Their take on Crisis's "Holocaust" sputters a bit, as well. More successful are the versions of Urban Waste's "Public Opinion," helped by appropriately-raspy vocals. Vile's "5 to 10" retains its scurrilous aura, bringing out the punk nastiness and enhanced with sputtering guitar, the Pixies' "Nimrod's Son" and a fairly engrossing version of Wire's "Pink Flag." All in all, though, I'm more interested in what will follow up their last album, Ronhert Park, because that was such a left turn into a garage/post-punk realm from their previous blur-core inclinations. Who knows what's on the horizon? (

CRIPPLED OLD FARTS-s/t (Shogun, 7" EP)
Needless to say, I'm drawn to this Paris band's moniker since some have accused me of being an old fart, at times, and I imagine the crippled part might occur if I ever come out of semi-retirement from the pit (not likely). Standard hardcore punk on this 7 song EP, with one side spinning at 45 and the other at 33. "Like A Disease You Chose To Ignore" is the best of the bunch here, with a catchy mid-tempo pulse and "For The Worst Or The Best" connects in similar fashion. Fairly typical, overall--good, not great. (3 Rue Du Lavoir, 51140 Bouvancourt, FRANCE,

DARK AGES-Can America Survive? (Sorry State, LP)
I have a friend who currently lives in Kansas City, the home turf for Dark Ages, and he can't wait to move back. Being that he's a hardcore leftist, he's felt more than out of place living there. I'm not sure how Dark Ages relate to their middle-America surroundings but given their anti-authoritarian message, it might not always be so pleasant. Whatever the case, this is a hard-hitting, dynamic hardcore band with an impressive debut 12". The title track is divided into two halves, an ominous instrumental building up to a thrash eruption. High-powered throughout although there are a few changes of pace--the catchy, nearly anthemic mid-tempo pace of "Power" and "Why," as well as a cover of "Easier to Die" by Choke (I'm not familiar with the band or song) that dirges it out for over 5 minutes, ending with a numbing mantra of the phrase "easier to die." 80s hardcore influences but from the mid-80s, as opposed to the early stuff. Mid-period Black Flag, Die Kreuzen's first album and Christ on Parade come to mind. A lyrical muse of someone pushed to the edge, wondering where life will take them and also wondering if there's any sort of future to look forward to--will they and/or America survive? (


DOUBLE NEGATIVE-Hardcore Confusion Vols. 1 and 2 (Sorry State, 7" EP)
Two separate 7"s here, two songs on each disc and I'd imagine there will eventually be parts 3 and 4 because if you put the covers together, it shows half of the Double Negative logo. Ever since their first album, DN have continued to evolve or maybe it's devolve, as their sound gets increasingly intense and continuing to eschew the COC inspiration. Considering that their home state of North Carolina just got hammered by a hurricane, maybe I should avoid such hyperbolic descriptions as tidal wave of hardcore fury or a sonic typhoon but, in all honesty, that's the effect here. "Writhe," the a-side of Vol. 1, batters its way to a numbing, repetitive conclusion while "Cunny Hop" is a brief straight-ahead blast. For the second volume, "Fat City Address" shifts the cacophonous intro pure rock fury and "Face Jam" also operates in a raucous rock mode. This isn't hooky music, it's bombast with an inescapable grip. (

Except for four songs that came out on a 7" last year, this is an entirely-unreleased compilation of music by this San Jose band, recorded in '82 and '83, along with a couple of songs recorded in 2008 that I wouldn't have realized unless the liner notes told me. Culled from demo sessions, plus a few live tracks and not presented in strictly chronological order. Sound quality varies, with the 1983 recordings sounding sonically superior and they'd also shown musical advancement since '82. In fact, the other recordings sound rather rough, especially the 6 songs that were released on the "Growing Pains" cassette compilation. Tuneful 'n snotty west coast hardcore, metallic guitar touches and razorwire vocals conjuring up Blaine Cook from the Accused/Fartz. It's a pity this didn't see the light of day until after a quarter century although I probably would have done a vinyl pressing with the '83 session and the two 2008 recordings, in a proper sequence. Still, there's some scrappy punk to be found here. Packaged in a 7" sleeve with a fold-out poster that has a collage by Winston Smith. (

GLOM DA!/MAKABERT FYND-Split (Sorry State, LP)
Straight-up Swedish mayhem from both of these bands, with a familiar sound. Loud guitars, harsh vocals and a fast pace. Glom Da! have a clear old-school influence, inspired to an extent by the unfettered blaze of Anti-Cimex, albeit with cleaner production. Makabert Fynd have a dual-vocalist tandem and one of 'em is Poffen from the late, great Totalitar. Don't expect anything on that level and I'd probably give the edge to Glom Da but they hold their own in the burn department, adding some rockin' guitar licks. You pretty much know what you're getting here. (

GOD EQUALS GENOCIDE/LIBYANS-Split (Shock To The System/Dirt Cult, 7")
Split between two bands on opposite coasts and each band's songs are presented with rough-hewn production. God Equals Genocide have been around awhile but I'm pretty sure this is the first material I've heard by them. Jabbing, almost garagey punk with a certain amount of charm. Adrian's over the top vocal on "Anyone Can Do It" is ear rattling but it really wins me over. The three new songs by Libyans aren't quite as memorable as the tracks on their previous records. They do bring a feisty energy to the songs and "Misquote Me" is the catchiest of the three tracks. It's not really a competition but I've been playing the God Equals Genocide songs more. (PO Box 400296, Cambridge, MA 02140,

IN DEFENCE-Party Lines and Politics (Profane Existence, LP)
In Defence continue to perfect their 80s-era thrash metal-meets-hardcore sound and do so with an occasional touch of tongue-in-cheek humor. The opening song, "The Police Are Fuckin' Rad!" isn't what you might think it's about. It's not a pro-cop song, it's a pro-Police song, as in Sting and the boys. On the other hand, it's not all fun and games, such as the the timely sentiments expressed on the likes of "Corporate Bailout." "Curbside Dentistry" is a combination of the two--lamenting a lack of dental insurance and coming up with a creative solution i.e. getting a curbside treatment courtesy of a skinhead's Docs. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sometimes do both at the same time and be relatively impressed with the metallic bombardment. Nothing earthshaking but enjoyable. (PO Box 18051, Minneapolis, MN 55418,

MAJOR DAMAGE-s/t (Even Worse/Way Back When, 7")
Solo project for Brandon Ferrell, who you might know from such fine combos as Direct Control and Government Warning. He played all the instruments and did the vocals for the seven songs here, although he has a live band. Short blasts of old school hardcore with varying tempos, rougher and meaner-sounding than his other bands and he sings in a lower, tougher cadence. It sound like a collision of NYC and Boston hardcore bands, at times. For instance, "Demise" is part Antidote, part DYS. Straight outta '83. (

NASA SPACE UNIVERSE-Across The Wounded Galaxies (Shogun, LP)
Abraso-core! NSU's sound hitches high-flying hardcore to gnarled 'n gnashing post-punk. Jarring and kinetic, with Kevin's vocals sounding like he's just imbibed an acid cocktail and coming on with a nastier Minutemen inflection at times. I forget the name of the Jeopardy category where phrases are combined in a clever fashion but there are a few here--"Tiny Tim Allen Wrench" and "Denzel Washington DC" and neither song apparently has anything to do with the actor mentioned in the title. The lyrics just seem like a collection of random thoughts and prose, done in ranting fashion and meshing well with the band's barbed attack. (3 Rue Du Lavoir, 51140 Bouvancourt, FRANCE,

ORGANIZED SPORTS-I'm So Proud Of Him (Bulkhead/HIV Town, 12")
Boiling-over, raging hardcore. I've been saying I'm burnt out on this sound lately. The exception is when a band has a certain head-grabbing relentlessness and that's the case here. Drawing from a Systematic Death muse and it also had me thinking of Caustic Christ, with the rough, howling vocals and straight-on fury. They do stretch things out and slow the pace during the mid-section of "Sweet Chin Motion," but it doesn't dilute the furiousness all that much. Every instrument has a pulverizing effect and, to paraphrase one of the lyrical lines, they DO sound cheesed-off.  First-person expressions of life's frustrations. Nothing new, of course, but life's been sucking lately so it's easy to feed off this sort of anger. It has me banging my head, stomping my foot and shaking my fist. Consider that an endorsement. ( 
RANK/XEROX-s/t (Make A Mess, LP)
Brilliant debut album from this SF trio. You could call it post-punk or art-punk and it wouldn't be off the mark. Jarring guitar gnash underpinned by menacing bass and drums that provide a solid foundation. Some obvious touchpoints are the Fall and early Wire but, to my ears, they remind me of the early 80s Boston band Native Tongue, another trio who had angular guitar lines counterpointed by nimble rhythms. The final song, "Turn To Stone," has a synth melody that you won't be able to get out of your head. Same for "Helpless," only the bass provides the hook on that song. "Padek Man" begins with the lumbering clank of the A Frames before concluding with a frayed climax. "You Might Follow" is darker, with distorted drums and a brooding arrangement. Themes of alienation and isolation permeate the lyrics and that shouldn't really come as any sort of surprise. There's an anti-social sentiment on the aforementioned "Turn To Stone," with the music's cold ambiance complemented perfectly with the opening statement "I got a massive problem, I'm falling apart and people want me to be a part of some kind of race/But I don't feel like you and I don't look like you..." In this era of disillusionment, this album makes for an appropriate and inviting soundtrack. (


RAW NERVES-Burnt Skin (Inimical, 7")
Three new songs from Raw Nerves, following their Poison Idea-meets-crust blueprint, at least on the two fast-paced songs on the a-side. The b-side, "S = K LOG W," is a slow, brooding pounder on the Born Against-ish tip with an anti-religion theme. I get the feeling this song works better live, but it's a little tedious here. The other songs are good, though. (PO Box 2803, Seattle, WA 98111,

RIPPER-Into Oblivion (Blackwater, LP)
Motorhead-ish hard rock 'n metal, taking a tour through NWOBHM land, as well (New Wave of British Heavy Metal, for you non-headbangers). "Born To Lose" might even be a blatant tip of the cap or pumping of the spiked wristband to Sir Lemmy (has he been knighted yet?). Raspy vocals, lead guitar and lead bass tradeoffs, versatile drumming with an abundance of cymbal riding and it rumbles along at a steady clip. It's a thick sound but sprightly enough and, dare I say it, catchy in spots ("Soldier of Fortune" and "Razor's Edge" for instance). To quote "Soldier of Fortune," let the battlehorns blow. Or let the guitars roar. They do a pretty good job of that, here. (PO Box 5223, Portland, OR 97208-5223,

SHEGLANK'D SHOULDERS-Skate Assassin (Handsome Dan, flexi)
Two songs on a one-sided flexi so, needless to say, there's a bit of snap-crackle-pop when you drop the needle. I'm grateful for the higher-fidelity MP3 download they provide but it's fine either way. Two rockin' songs concerned with skating (in case you didn't know) and a west coast flavor particularly on "Skate Pit." Recorded in 2009. (

SMART COPS-Per Proteggere E Servire (Sorry State, LP)
There's always been an air of schtick with the Smart Cops, with the matching outfits but they also delivered the goods with their snotty old-school punk/garage/hardcore sound. For the Cops' debut album (their first release in a few years), the punk jab remains although this is a slicker, more polished effort and they largely eschew the speed these days, while playing up their rock 'n roll side a little more. Sharp and catchy songs and I guess I never realized there's a little bit of the Celibate Rifles in their sound. There's even a bit of a "freakout" jam section of "Nella Giungla" and UFO-type sound effects on "La Soffiata." I miss the roughness but it's still enjoyable. (

SSS-Problems To The Answer (Earache, CD)
Thrash revivalists from the UK with a serious Slayer jones, from the meat-cleaver riffs to the vocals with a few differences, the main thing being the brevity of the songs, with 25 of them packed onto this disc. That means the songs aren't particularly memorable, except for the relatively lengthy lead-off "The Kill Floor" and the pounding/raucous "Dismantle The Dream." Mixing up heaviness with thrash and not veering off into powerviolence or grindcore--definitely working to their benefit. If you're a dyed-in-the-wool thrasher, you'll like this. (

Slam-bang hardcore punk by both bands. Nothing groundbreaking but loud 'n fast 'n energetic and I raise my glass of iced coffee to the Panthers' "I Can't Make The Scene (Without Caffeine)." Some solid bass-playing in both bands and the right amount of attitude. (

WHATEVER BRAINS-s/t (Sorry State, LP)
Ain't heard anything like this in awhile. I ran into Justin from Double Negative not too long ago and he said Whatever Brains's album is different from any other Sorry State release. He's got that right. For want of a batter term, this is inspired weirdness. There's definitely some Fall-ish tendencies (especially on "Withnail" with the keyboards and jabbing guitar) although the vocals have a snarly, adenoidal cadence as opposed to Mark E. Smith-uh's style. "Math" has a synthy vibe coming across like early what you'd hear on the first Tubeway Army album. "The Future Of Porn" is direct in its  repetitive punk riffing but still unconventional. Edgy rockers, music that sounds like it could come from a keyboard store in the mall and other aural delights. (