Saturday, March 25, 2017

Suburban Voice blog #122

*Early last year, something I wrote for another publication was rejected, for reasons I'd rather not get into. Anyway, I'm finally getting around to sharing it in this space, with a few revisions to reflect recent events. I should note it's almost entirely non-music related. Enjoy...

Too early for Thanksgiving?


We’ve lived in our neighborhood for almost 20 years. While I’ve mentioned many times that Peabody isn’t a city with that high a collective IQ, our neighborhood’s nice, a quiet, dead end street with little traffic. I've looked out the window at the neighbors’ houses, and realize I’ve never even been in some of them. I don’t really consider any of our neighbors close friends, although most of them are friendly enough. I at least wave or say hi to the ones at our end of street. At the entrance of the street, at the top of the hill, I only really know one of the families. I’m friendly with the mother, Traci (we’re even Facebook friends), and her teenage son Chris mows my lawn sometimes and has done some yard work for me. He's polite and ambitious. 

I wish I could say the same for the kid at the other end of the street, who shall remain nameless. I admit I haven’t made it easy by having a total “get off my lawn” moment with him awhile back which really was a get off my lawn moment. He and a friend decided to set up a ramp on the sidewalk in front of my house to do some skating tricks. I was trying to sleep and came downstairs, opened the door and asked if they could do that someplace else. Yes, total grumpy old man reaction. How pathetic. This was a few years ago and let’s just say we haven’t been on friendly terms since then. Not that we ever were. It wasn’t helped when he and a friend decided to lob a snowball at my car when I was driving up the street a few years ago. I’m acquainted with his parents and they’re OK, although my opinion of them suffered a little when I walked through their house once and Fox News was on.

I used to be really friendly with the elderly couple who live between their house and ours. When I had my shoulder surgery in 2009, they raked the leaves in our yard and the woman used to bring us cookies around the holidays. My lawnmower has been busted for a number of years now and a few summers ago, I decided to mow it myself again and asked the man if I could borrow his lawnmower while mine got fixed (I never did do it, though). I did it a total of three times and by the third, he got pissed about it. “Why don’t you go to the store and get your own fuckin’ lawnmower?” He muttered something about having just had a heart attack. Whatever it was, he was in a foul mood. He still let me take it but didn’t seem all that happy. I might have fucked the mower up a bit when I hit a rock, unfortunately, but I didn’t mention it. I know that wasn’t the right thing to do but he’s used it since so maybe there wasn’t a problem. Anyway, ever since then, he’s been unfriendly. 

Things really went south a few months ago when I was cleaning out my garage after we'd had a drainage system put in and I leaned a few things against the fence that divides our yards. He came into my yard (twice) and knocked them over and then came up to the door and proceeded to scream and yell at me in a completely irrational manner. He'd really fucking lost it. He's really territorial about that fence. I imagine he might not have been pleased I've hit it a few times when backing out of the driveway. I guess I am a shitty neighbor. I thought maybe it was due to his age (I think he's over 90) but the neighbors on the other side said there didn't seem to be any cognitive issues. I guess he's just had enough of me. Oh well...

There were some neighbors—a brother and sister, Ron and Myra--that we were good friends with but they moved away over ten years ago after running into some financial problems. We've stayed in touch with Myra on Facebook but haven't seen them in years and I feel badly about that. Ron was kind of a Mayor of the Neighborhood type, always keeping a close eye with what was going on and always quick to lend a hand. He once helped me break into our house after I’d locked myself out. I’ll admit it was kind of entertaining watching Ron, who isn't all that thin, go through the second floor window but he did it. He also helped me when our house got flooded and when my snow blower wouldn’t start.

Whenever I showed appreciation for his help, he brushed it off and said he was just being a neighbor. I tried to find out his musical tastes and asked him if he’d like me to hook him up with some tunes but he didn’t hit me up on the offer, although I did burn him a disc of a Buffalo Springfield album (Ellen’s copy, not mine—she’s the hippie in the family). Speaking of music, I forget how it came up but he mentioned how he’d been on the stage when Jethro Tull played the Boston Garden in the early 70s and he’d partied with the guys from Ten Years After after the show. Maybe he was pulling my leg but it’s kind a cool story, bro.

Neighbors like Ron and Myra are hard to come by. Ron and I didn’t have a ton in common, except for both being passionate Boston sports fans and I suppose that’s a typical thing guys bond over. I miss having him around—and not just because he’s helped me out with stuff. It’s because there’s something comforting about coming home to a neighborhood where people look out for each other. That’s still true to an extent and some nice people have moved here in recent years. But to this day, when I look out of my window after I wake up in the morning, there’s still no red van, no hockey net in the driveway, no Ron walking around outside. And something doesn’t feel right about it…

PS—while I was working on this column, the kid from the end of the street and his equally obnoxious friend were outside making a racket trying to do tricks with his Razor scooter and tossing the pieces of a broken skateboard at the powerline in front of my house. Would it be mean to want it to come down and... ZZZZZAPP?  I guess it would. 



ALPHA HOPPER-Last Chance Power Drive (One Percent Press/Radical Empathy, LP)    
From Buffalo, Alpha Hopper's sound is a potent mesh of post-punk grind and heavier impulses. Loud and intense, with guitar lines that weave an often-nightmarish tapestry and that's reinforced with a rhythmic power-boost (given the space exploration theme, I'm not being very clever, am I?). Irene Rekhviashvili's vocals have the same sarcastic timbre as Natalie from Nots. Such songs as "Launch Pad Blues" and "Chief Of The Edge" have a NoMeansNo-sounding fury. Music to shake up your senses.(PO Box 279, Buffalo, NY 14213-0279,

BAD NOIDS-Doggie Bag World (Feel It, 7")
Always thought this band had a few screws loose, especially when seeing them live and their singer set his hair on fire, made an awful joke about the Marathon bombings and jumped on my head. Anyway, they continue to ply loopy-sounding punk slop. "Into The Future" is some Crime-inspired rawk while, on the flip, they rant 'n rave their way through two quickies. They'd probably be at home on Lumpy. (

BEASTEATER-s/t (Big Neck, LP)

Tom Potter has been kicking around the Michigan music scene for years, having played in Bantam Rooster, Dirtbombs and others. His new band, Beasteater, includes people from Blowtops and Fatal Figures, two loud Buffalo bands of note. Got all that? Their self-titled album provides plenty of loud, heavy, fuzzy riff-o-rama. Noisy, buzzy and boisterous and, yes, it’s got a garage rock pulse but it’s under a heavy cloud of distortion. More psycho than psychedelic and, to quote the lyrics on the lengthy “I Eat Scum,” they really do sound like they’re about to lose their minds. Cool cover choice in Swell Maps’ “International Rescue,” which is given a good battering. This disc will give your ears a good battering. (


CONCEALED BLADE-s/t (Beach Impediment, LP)
A barrage of throat-grabbing hardcore. This crew was one of the best bands I saw last year. A speedy attack interspersed with some floor-pounding breakdowns. Not chuggy tough-guy hardcore, just a mean sound, guttural vocals and lyrics filled with plenty of rage and negativity. Sounds like fun, huh? Bruising, no-nonsense hardcore and few bands are doing it as well as they are these days. (

DAUÐYFLIN-Drepa Drepa (Erste Theke Tonträger, 7”/demo tape)
This mostly-female Icelandic band includes three members of Börn, but instead of that band’s goth emanations, this is a thornier, abrasive punk take. I might give the edge to the 7” but the demo is also worth your time. Screaming vocals that could wake the dead and an unholy, feedback-laden musical attack. “Elthrellir” is punctuated by a sinister laugh and the atonal sax squall for “Við erum Daudyflin” is also quite jarring, in the best possible way. (;

DAVIDIANS-City Trends (Sorry State, LP) 
Davidians debut album (following a demo and 7") is a potent dose of nervy, tension and release hardcore with an abundance of rhythmic complexity. There’s also a haunting guitar sound, eschewing power chords for something sinewy and sinister. Once again, a band that could fit into what I’ve been tagging “outsider hardcore”—a frayed ambiance, a sense of foreboding that doesn’t follow standard verse/chorus/verse structures. There’s also the willingness to experiment a bit, as with the minute or so of feedback damage bridging “Lousy With Hagar” and “Track Suit Glasses." Potent music not fitting in with any specific hardcore niche. (

EXTERMINATORS-Product Of America (Slope, LP)
When one hears about a band getting back together for the first time in 40 years, it usually sets of alarm bells. They’re louder when the band had never recorded before. Well, you can silence those alarms because the Exterminators' long-delayed debut album is pretty damned good. To make the story short, the band formed in Phoenix in 1977, contemporaries of the great (and also underrated) Consumers but fell apart fairly quickly and the members scattered into such units as the Germs, Bags and Feederz—drummer Don Bolles, who wrote the liner notes, was one of the members. Three of them return, with the late Rob Ritter replaced by Cris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets on bass. So what do you get from four guys in their late 50s? Some damned fine loud, rowdy punk. It may not have the rawness of ’77 and some of the leads are on the metallic side, but the attitude remains intact. That comes out for songs like “I Hate You,” “I Don’t Give A Fuck” and “Bionic Girl” (a song later done by the Feederz). “Sometimes I Don’t Know” delves into thrash a bit. The closing songs for each side provide a change of pace—the brooding “Destruction Unit” and “Serena II,” a poem set to a mass of feedback that really doesn’t work. Otherwise, this is roaring good time. (


IN SCHOOL-Cement Fucker (Thrilling Living, 7")
On In School's latest, there are no punches pulled, just a fuzzbomb attack of vicious guitar and bass lines, spot-on drumming and harsh lyrical sentiments—“making my plans for your destruction… “bloodlust is right”… “I have no pity for you anymore…” Those are just a few snippets and this is In School's most powerful recording to date. (

JJ DOLL-s/t (Katorga Works, 7"), 
JJ Doll was formed out of the ashes of Ivy, shifting Sara from guitar to vocals. It’s not a major musical change, with the noisy stew of punk, hardcore and garage remaining intact. Sara’s vocals are something of an acquired taste, as she coos, squeals and yells around the songs but there’s a certain charm to their uniqueness. It just takes awhile. But the songs are vibrant and energetic and the personnel change hasn’t hindered anything. (

MONGOLOID-Plays Rock And Roll (Deranged, LP)
Rock and roll is kid of a misnomer, although MONGOLOID’s brand of hardcore punk does have a slight rock ‘n roll undertow, if you count the “Louie Louie”-ish intro and rockin’ fervor of “Slam Pig.” If anything, there’s a POISON IDEA tilt to this Portland band’s sound and Sam’s vocals echo Jerry A’s. It’s all done with gleeful, chip-on-the-shoulder malevolence.

OMEGAS-Power To Exist (Beach Impediment, LP)
The rampaging drums for "Boom Boom" introduces the first Omegas album in over five years and, as always, they uncork thorny, high-energy hardcore in brief flashes of fury. Save the nearly three-minute creepy crawl of "Duster's Blues," only one other song breaks the 90 second mark. An off-kilter ride that shifts easily from one tempo to another--kinetic thrash, floor-pounding savagery and good 'ol rock 'n roll fodder, delivered with lurking around the corner, knife-behind-the-back menace. (

POOR LILY-Dirt On Everyone (TV-Mayor, LP)
How did that Nirvana song go? Just because you're paranoid don't mean they're not after you? I know they got that from somewhere else but I digress. Poor Lily's latest (their third full-length overall) is a concept album about NSA surveillance and it plays as one long piece. The digital download is one long track.  It's not the type of record where you can drop the needle anywhere. The only way is to hear it from the beginning. As usual, they navigate through a dynamic and complex musical post-punk/rock/hardcore domain, as one composition flows into another. No hooks, so to speak, but an attention-grabbing sound and, in this era of Wikileaks, Ed Snowden and possible manipulation of the election, it's hard not to feel as though everyone is under constant surveillance, where whatever nefarious entity you can think of has "dirt on everyone." The album comes with a collage-style booklet that's a visual assault, a bombardment of disjointed words and imagery, although there's no missing the point of the Uncle Sam parody that says "You Got Nothing To Hide Until You Do." A riveting dystopian musical nightmare. (

REACHAROUNDS-Hunter Gatherer (Push and Pull, LP)
There have been a few bands named the Reacharounds over the years--this one's from Springfield, MO and their album brims with a kinetic energy and a lot of rhythmic muscle. An instrumentally dexterous unit providing the soundscape for brash vocal emanations and pointed lyrics that ruminate on life's day-to-day struggles, getting more direct with the anti-police tirade of "I Can't Breathe." (the title comes from when Eric Garner was murdered by police in NYC). Stirring energetic post-punk/hardcore drawing from the well of the Big Boys and some late 80s DC hardcore and even a touch of Mission of Burma in spots. The blunt production, emphasizing the bottom end, really enhances the music's power. (511 E. Edgewood, Springfield, MO 65807,

S.L.I.P.-Slippy When Wet (Sorry State, LP)
This band includes members of Concealed Blade and Blood Pressure, but they offer something different from those bands. It's a rockin-n-rollin’ concoction but not cock rock. This is something darker, along the lines of earlier Annihilation Time, punks scratching their rock itch although they don't completely leave the hardcore behind, as on "Not Your Prey." Twin-guitar riffing offering an arsenal of edgy, Ginn-inspired squalls. “There’s No Hope For The USA,” is a bit of protest music for the New Dawn, a comment on “the perfect storm of human trash.” “Trend Setter” packs a whole lot of sarcastic snark for its tongue-in-cheek putdown of every stereotypical punk subgroup you can think of. (

UBIK-s/t (demo) 
This Melbourne band's demo has been logging a lot of time on my various musical playback devices. A tuneful post-punk meets anarcho-punk sound. Ash’s vocals have an engaging quality, with a passionate cadence. One song is about a right-wing Australian crank named Andrew Bolt, who seems to be a racist, down-under counterpart to the Breitbart acolytes that pollute the political stream in this country. A stirring message and stirring, sharply-played music (

VIVISEKTIO-Ydintalvi (multi-label, 7") 
This Finnish band was around the in 80s and got back together in 2008. Their latest 7”, the title of which translates to “Nuclear Winter," is a power-packed outing. Four old-school Scandi-core rippers plus the more melodic, gothy title track, which is actually the highlight. An urgent, spirited male/female vocal tandem, along with the full-on musical attack. (band contact:


WARTHOG-s/t (Beach Impediment, 7")  
Four new tracks of brutal hardcore from this NYC wrecking machine. It's a fusillade of big guitar chords, pulverizing bass and drums and Chris Hansell’s rage-filled vocal howls. Three fast ones and then the brooding ‘n powerful dirge “Coward,” which was a set standout at the last Boiler Room show in Boston, and that song has a fast and blazing conclusion. Big and nasty-sounding. (

WETBRAIN-s/t (Residue, 7")
Five new songs (including a cover of a song by one of guitarist Shaun Filley's old bands Possessor) and it's another dose of Clevo HC. Not as blown-out or raw-sounding as the old-time purveyors but these are still throttling songs with hot guitar licks. If there's any sort of theme, it's how people get anesthetized by their social media while staying in the dark about drone strikes and other political malfeasance. Cynical punk for cynical times. (

X=-5 Walls (self-released, LP)
This Pennsylvania band have a number of releases under their belt, dating back to 2012, but “5 Walls” 12” is the first I’ve heard. Impassioned hardcore with lyrics that look at the state of the world, sometimes in straightforward fashion, sometimes a bit more obliquely. A mish-mash of fast hardcore, more melodic compositions (such as the ear-grabbing “Body of Evidence”) and some songs that stretch into a rock-meets-Fugazi vein, as with the title track. Makes me think of some of the late 80s/early 90s hardcore bands where they were moving into more tuneful realms. It’s not 100% successful but there are stirring moments. Beautifully-packaged in a screened sleeve with a screened lyric book and on clear vinyl. Only 100 of ‘em, too. (


 compiled by Scott Crawford, Akashic Books
Subtitled Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington DC Punk Scene, this book is essentially a coffee table tome that provides a primer to that city's legendary punk legacy. Crawford has been immersed in the scene since he was a pre-adolescent in the early 80s, going to shows and publishing Metrozine. He also produced the documentary film Salad Days, which got some mixed reviews--I liked it but some found it a bit stylized, some were disappointed that it didn't have more of a hardcore emphasis--but DC's punk universe was always evolving and expanding. That's captured here. It's an oral history format, with quotes taken from the film, accompanied by striking black and white photography and a clean layout. The narrative is a little choppy but you do get different perspectives--I especially liked the candor from the various members of Dag Nasty. Done chronologically, starting with Bad Brains and the HarDCore bands, through the "Revolution Summer" period--Embrace, Rites of Spring, Beefeater and Gray Matter--and ending where things got much more diverse--Fugazi, of course, bands like Ignition and Swiz taking a page from the earlier era, the more rock-oriented, melodic sounds of Jawbox, Soulside and Shudder To Think to the provocative, unclassifiable Nation of Ulysses. Band members, photographers, label people and fans get their say, including an outsider perspective from the ubiquitous Thurston Moore. It's not a comprehensive history--that's been covered in other books--but Spoke works very well as a visual artifact. (