Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #132


Here's another in the occasional series of my Maximum Rocknroll columns. This originally appeared in the October 2015 issue (#389)


PROTO-THIS ‘N THAT

My email inbox is clogged nearly every day by an abundance of music biz press releases, most of them from a small group of publicity companies. The releases usually provide a link to a digital “promo” for me to review. I wrote about this a few years ago, as part of an April Fools column in MRR, where I said I’d only be reviewing digital promos from that point forward and the email address to send them to would be whoneedsrecords@sonicoverload.net. It’s still an active address but, except for the occasional spam message, it’s pretty quiet. Some wiseass subscribed me to a “cougar” website. I’m much too old for any “cougar” to be interested in me. And I know many people are offended by the term so let’s just move on.

A couple of recent ones stick out. There was one pushing a cover of the Troggs’ “With A Girl Like You” by an artiste named William Alexander. There was a link to check out the song on a site called Culture Collide. As you can imagine, it wasn’t very good. Alexander does his damnedest to sound like the Troggs’ Reg Presley and comes up a bit short. The whole thing comes up short because there’s little chance any cover is going to capture the primitive gleefulness of that song. But the accompanying blurb caught my attention. It called “With A Girl Like You,” “perhaps the best Troggs song (and likely the only memorable one aside from "Wild Thing.”)” My immediate thought was, are you fucking kidding me? Only memorable songs? I left a comment on the page asking if the writer had actually listened to the Troggs. I emailed the publicist and told her the same thing and she replied and said, “off the record, I think you’re right.” I guess it’s not really off the record anymore but I doubt William Alexander or his handlers read this column.

Incidentally, if you do ever want to check out a rather, uh, unique cover of “Wild Thing,” look up Fancy’s 1974 version of it—it’s on YouTube. Fancy was basically a studio group who got together to do this song and they hired a Penthouse Pet named Helen Caunt (I am NOT making that up) to do the vocal—which was basically her whispering and grunting and groaning her way through it. They rearranged it into a minimalist, Gary Glitter-ish hand clapper with some choice synth and wah-wah guitar lines in the middle. After it proved to be a hit and an album was released. (I got it for my 15th birthday, along with ELP’s three record live opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends aka the album that never ends), Ms. Caunt—whose vocal performance wasn’t credited—had been replaced by Annie Kavanaugh (who appears on the album cover), an adequate belter but the songs, save the “Wild Thing” retread “Touch Me,” were forgettable. It’s still on my record shelf. The ELP record is long-gone.



The other press release was for a band who play "Proto-punk influenced post-punk." That makes absolutely no sense. I mean, using those genre terms is a reviewer crutch of which I am 100% guilty. The band, Dark Palms, actually sound more like the Stooges-meet-shoegazer rock, if I had to pin it down. It wasn’t that bad, honestly.

So it got me to pondering whether or not there was music you could call “proto-hardcore”—music that had speed and velocity and inspired hardcore but predated it. It’s arbitrary but I guess you could call something proto-hardcore if it came out before 1980, maybe even 1979. I know Black Flag started earlier than that but I don’t think “Nervous Breakdown” is really hardcore. A strong argument could be made for The Germs' 1979 (GI) album being one of the first pure hardcore albums.

The RutsThe Crack album came out in ’79 and features a few songs that have the speed of hardcore—“Society” and “Criminal Mind” pick up the pace a great deal. “Society” was also the b-side of their “Babylon’s Burning” single.



Punishment Of Luxury weren’t really a dyed-in-the-wool punk band, having come from more of a Roxy/Bowie/early Ultravox muse. But the b-side of their 1979 Secrets 7” is a different matter altogether—a fired-up ripper called “Brainbomb.” Pure explosiveness with an engaging “B-B-B-B-B-B-B-B, Brainbomb!” tagline and a wacked-out noisy mid-section before the pillaging resumes. Chaos UK covered it on their Chipping Sodbury Bonfire Tapes album.



There were other UK bands who inspired hardcore bands. “Disease,” from the UK Subs’ 1979 debut album A Different Kind Of Blues, had the requisite speed and SOA sped it up considerably for their cover on “Flex Your Head.’ Minor Threat covered Wire's “1 2 X U” on the same compilation. That came from Pink Flag and that song wasn’t really proto-hardcore but “Mr. Suit” sure as hell was. Another DC band, Second Wind, did that one on their Security album. 999’s “No Pity,” from 1977, has a near thrash beat, going along perfectly with Nick Cash’s cat-thrown-into-the-fire snarl.



One could make a convincing argument that the UK band who had the biggest influence on hardcore was The Damned. There are some pretty formidable bashers on their debut album Damned Damned Damned and their cover of The Stooges'’ “1970” (re-titled “I Feel Alright”) is non-stop bedlam. But it’s the title track of their third album, Machine Gun Etiquette (1979) that dishes out the speed and fury and “Love Song” isn’t far behind. Swiz covered “MGE” on one of their records. It makes sense that you see Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins and Keith Morris all singing the praises of the Damned in the Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead documentary (granted, they’re in EVERY music documentary but still...). By the way, the title comes from the lyrics of “Machine Gun Etiquette.”



The Middle Class' Out of Vogue EP came out in ’78 and the title track and “Insurgence” are relentless. They did gradually move into a post-punk relam (I know...) but those early recordings are certainly what one could call proto-hardcore.



Going back even further—and maybe stretching things a bit—Blue Öyster Cult's “The Red and The Black,” from their Tyranny and Mutation LP, has a pretty rapid tempo for 1973.The Minutemen liked it enough to cover it later on. Hell, I might give a nod to the rave-up (i.e. unhinged) part of the Count Five’s 1966 hit “Psychotic Reaction”—which sounded like a more up-tempo Yardbirds knock-off.



What about “I Got A Right” by Iggy & The Stooges? I once wrote a column about that, stating it was ahead-of-its-time punk rock and, given the upbeat arrangement, it does come close—and, of course, has been covered by a number of hardcore and punk bands over the years, but I don’t think I’d really call it proto-hardcore. It’s the same for the Belgian band Blast’s two song single “Damned Flame/Hope.” At the very least, it’s some pretty raw punk-sounding fodder for 1972 and has a similar feel as “I Got A Right,” in its Detroit punk predilection. It just got a legit reissue on the Death Vault label but it’s already sold out (and, of course, I snoozed and missed out). Yes, lines can get blurry but the bottom line is both of those records were pretty off-the-rails for that time period.



Maybe next time, I can do a column about proto-straight edge. Like “I’m Straight” by the Modern Lovers or the anti-drug “Kicks” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, from 1966, with these inspiring lyrics: “Kicks just keep gettin' harder to find/And all your kicks ain't bringin' you peace of mind/Before you find out it's too late, girl/You better get straight.”



Maybe not... I should probably quit while I’m still ahead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #131



NECK CHOP ROUND SIX

The poster accompanying the press release touts this as Washington vs. Indiana,with the former represented by Kid Chrome, Lysol and Stiff Love 7" slabs and the latter by odds 'n sods compilation LPs from Liquids and Erik Nervous. Neck Chop keeps cranking out a quality assortment of spirited punk sounds.


Out of the Pacific Northwest comes the latest from Lysol, two songs of slam-bang punk. "Teenage Trance" is a collision of hardcore and garage, throwing in a nod to Bad Brains' "Right Brigade." Meanwhile, "Chemical Reaction" has a purer garage feel, with a keyboard-less Hank Wood and the Hammerheads type arrangement. All you need to know is it fuckin' rocks.


The two other 7"s from that part of the country include people from Lysol. Kid Chrome is the nom-de-punk for Chad Bucklew's solo project. His latest musical ommunique features three re-recorded songs from earlier demos and the recordings are sharper and clearer but far from pretty or polished. The rhythm remains mechanized but the guitar riffs slash and burn and the vocals are full of soulful howls. Stiff Love has Lysol's Christine Lundberg (under the name Lazy Susan) handling guitar and vocals and their four song  Trouble 7" is a fun 'n brash garage punk excursion, with sneaky hooks and a whomping backbeat. What's not to love?


Northwest Indiana, as many of you probably know, has been a hotbed of quirky, weirdo punk for the past several years, an incestuous scene where it seems like everyone involved plays in multiple bands or have their own solo type projects. Liquids' Hot Liqs Revenge offers 20 rip roarin' tracks in about 30 minutes (19 are listed and the one that isn't is a rough 'n ready cover of Nick Lowe's "Heart In The City.") I can't keep up with the band's prolific discography but, as far as I can tell, this is the first time these songs have been on vinyl, although they've been available digitally. Liquids mastermind Mat Williams has a pure punk rock 'n roll heart and he takes the traditional trappings and lowers the fidelity, more on some tracks than others. "Don't Give A Fuck About You" is the attitude and that's there in spades. Almost all of 'em are loud, fast and snotty.


Erik Nervous (real last name Hart), who is actually from Kalamazoo, MI and not Indiana, has a similarly minimalist bent. He also orders listeners to "stop calling it DEVO-core." Well, Erik has a point, because these songs won't make you think of the Spuds from O-H-I-O. The closest he comes to that is synth-driven track "(Do The) Simulate." If anything, he draws from the Urinals (who he covers) and early Wire, along with jabbing post-punk ("Misfit Right In" sounds like Delta 5). "&&&" is near pop. There are some offbeat cover versions--the somewhat obscure "Bridgeport Lathe," by the Boston band the 2x4's, which is a longtime favorite song of mine. It sounds a bit off but I'm impressed he (un)covered it (pun intended). His dismemberment of blues chestnut "I'm A Man" is also quite entertaining. For bedroom recordings, the fidelity isn't that low, either. Taken from a number of demos and 7"s on Total Punk and Neck Chop plus a few unreleased songs and only a small sampling of what he's released over the years. Check out eriknervous.bandcamp.com for a lot more. (neckchoprecords.com)


SOME DERANGED MUSIC


TARANTÜLA

Deranged Records has been going strong for over a decade and a half at this point and label founder Gord continues to put out quality releases. The latest batch includes some gems, although not all of them fall into that category. Chicagoans Tarantüla maintain their full-bore power on their third 7" The Very Best of Sex and Violence. They could have added "drugs" to the title, as well, as three of the songs here deal with substance use and abuse. The musical attack remains muscular, mid-tempo punk rock 'n roll with gutteral vocals and, as I've written before, it sounds more complete and focused than Tarantüla's predecessor Cülo. 

Damagersself-titled 7" is a vinyl pressing of their demo from last year and provides a bruising hardcore punk assault with a bootboy undertow. Nothing new or different, just loud and energetic fodder with floor-thumping drumming and plenty of anger.
No Problem's third full length, Let God Sort 'Em Out, is their first in four years and they still offer urgent and earnest melodic punk. The title track is a collage of musical and audio samples, with the main rhythm coming from DYS' "Wolfpack" (cool) and that fades into their west coast-inspired sounds, albeit with a darker undertow at times. "Warpaint" comes on strong with a vintage Adolescents-tinged approach. "Eyes Of A Killer" and "Let It Bleed Pt. II" both have a sinister edginess. The heart-on-sleeve sentiment sometimes gets more than a bit obvious--"No Justice No Peace" comes to mind--but it's in the right place.

Spiritual Cramp probably take their name from the Christian Death song but don't sound like that band and the lead off track on their Police State EP is called "Spiritual Cramp" but its not a cover version. It's also the best song by far, a feisty, energetic garage punk stomper. Unfortunately, the other three songs don't live up that--the lilting reggae of "850 Bryant," the reggae/rock of "I Feel Bad Bein' Me" and melodic "Blood Clot" are a complete letdown after that promising start. Strong lyrical messages, describing the grittiness of their San Francisco home, but the music doesn't match up.

Criminal Code are another band who haven't been heard from in a bit--2534 is their first album since 2013 and second overall. They continue to ply melody-driven punk mixed with goth but, while they had a shimmery rawness in the past, that's been cleaned up on this new collection. There are strong hooks on such songs as "Exiled" and "Cancer," but it seems as though some of the band's previous edginess has been lost. The expanded lengths on the closing tracks for each side tend to drag things out. Still, they exhibit solid tunecraft and, at times, you can hear echoes of a band like the Chameleons. It just doesn't leave all that strong an impression. (www.derangedrecords.com)




FUCK THE WORLD... AND YOU TOO!

... or FTWNU2 for short. That's the moniker for a relatively new label out of Minnesota. They specialize in brutal hardcore. Not a pop song to be found on the pair of 7"s or two CDs that showed up here. The Hive/No Skin split 7" is a rager. Hive have a crusty heaviness on their two songs, punctuated by soul-screaming vocals. But I prefer the flip. No Skin, in case you missed my review of their 12", includes Ben Crew from In Defence and Damage Deposit. Rabid, raw hardcore punk done the right way, boiling over with venomous intent.


Bonefire also pack a of rage into their Murderapolis CD. Energetic Motörcharged hardcore punk, pulling a few early Final Conflict tricks out of their collective amps. Nothing to change the world but the production is raw and the there's some nasty bass rumble underneath everything. Includes two somewhat unnecessary live tracks but the five studio tracks are worthwhile.

I'm not as enamored with Dissident Clone. Their Civilized CD is pretty much by-the-numbers grind/thrashcore/death metal created by two guys handling all the instruments and vocals. Blasting away in pretty much tuneless fashion. Creating The Consumed is a vinyl pressing of a 2014 recording, just guitar and drums, no bass, maybe a little more on the death metal side of things. (PO Box 822, Hopkins, MN 55343, www.ftwnu2.com)


OPTION

YOU WANT SOME MORE?  

AQUARIUM-Hex (Lumpy, 12")

Jittery, wiry, garagey, post-punk from Minneapolis, but all the lyrics are in German. One of the band members played in the similarly-minded band Uranium ClubNo matter the language, the vocals are spirited and so is the music. It had me thinking of early west coast punk purveyors like the Urinals, Modern Warfare and the Plugz, in that the band favors a kinetic, trebly sound. An angular attack. (www.lumpyrecords.com)

BASEBALL FURIES-All-American Psycho (Big Neck, LP)

A reissue of the Furies' 1999 10" EP, adding on the four songs from their 1998 "Sounds Of Mayhem" 7" to add up to twelve inches of prime, raw 'n nasty garage punk. Distorted, nasally vocals and a gnarled and barbed mess of low-fidelity slop. I mean that in the best possible way. Sure, "Rapid Fire Attack" borrows a little from "I Got A Right," but they condense it to a minute and a quarter of fury. "Last Man," which was the last track on the original 10", is a cacophonous rave-up. And the four songs from the 7" are even rougher-sounding. To use a hoary reference from the movie where they took their name, time to come out and play. But watch out for the bats. (38977 Thomas Mill Rd., Leesburg, VA 20175, bigneckrecords.com)

BLANKZ-White Baby/Sissy Glue (Slope, 7")/(I Just Want To) Slam/Baby's Turning Blue (Slope, 7")

The gimmick for this Phoenix band is to release a bunch of 7"s and then press them on a 12". Here are the first two installments. Driving, catchy new wavish-punk with an early LA feel and also along the lines of the Briefs. Things do feel a bit forced and obvious at times but "Sissy Glue," in particular, has a winning charm, driven along by cheesy keyboards. I just wish it was a bit grittier-sounding. (sloperecords.com)

BROWN SUGAR

BROWN SUGAR-Long Strange Drip (Feral Kid/The Loki Label, LP)/Adumdum (Feral Kid/The Loki Label, tape)
Two compilations and over an hour and a half of music (35 songs stretching over almost an hour on the 12"! Talk about bang for your buck...). "Long Strange Drip" collects the band's various 7"s and flexis, plus a few unreleased songs, starting with a rockin' cover of "Hey Joe." The tape features live material and various demo songs, including a cover of Antidote's rather racist "Foreign Job Lot." What makes it funny is the fact that their vocalist, Eddie, is an undocumented immigrant. Brown Sugar were always a wonderful mess, a cascade of punk, hardcore, garage and rock 'n roll with a devil-may-care wittiness. Not that there wasn't a message with the madness--"Deportation" certainly deals with a serious topic. The sharp wit also comes out in the detailed liner notes written by their guitarist Brandon. There was an evolution over time as a good chunk of the earlier material had a thrashy emphasis but still exhibited a good amount of musical skill. They eventually broadened their horizons a bit, while always having a manic and frenetic edge. The live set on "Adumdum," recorded in Cleveland, has them going full-tilt but never falling into disarray. Considering that Eddie was usually charging around like a madman during their sets and I'm sure that it was a wild scene, that's quite an accomplishment. Never predictable and always potent. (feralkidrecords.bigcartel.com/thelokilabel.storeenvy.com)

FIRE HEADS-s/t (Big Neck, LP)

Another band with the involvement of the ever-busy/ubiquitous Bobby Hussy, who also recorded and mixed it. Fire Heads incorporate strains of punk, garage and even country/roots music. No acoustic guitars, though, except for the last track "Night Comes Again," an almost Jandek-type solo guitar/vocal piece that eventually gets subsumed by feedback. Most of the songs are at a high-energy clip, providing a headlong rush, while also maintaining a melodic sensibility. Pretty good. (38977 Thomas Mill Rd., Leesburg, VA 20175, bigneckrecords.com)

GALLERY NIGHT-s/t (Big Neck, 7")

Big rock-riffarola by this Milwaukee three piece, including a former member of the Baseball Furies. A whoop 'n holler, AmReppy Stooges-meets-Jesus Lizard inspiration fused to a propulsive grind and they pound their way through your senses. Ugly and heavy, but with plenty of rhythmic drive. (38977 Thomas Mill Rd., Leesburg, VA 20175, bigneckrecords.com)

GELD

GELD-Perfect Texture (Iron Lung, 12")/Demo EP (Nopatience, 7")
A wild hardcore ride. On Australian band Geld's 12" debut, there's an ominous lead-in for about half of opening track "Cleaver" and then the sonic eruption begins. Razor-gargling vocals mixed into a relentless attack but they mix odd guitar effects and phasing in there, along with some formidable shredding. Pronounced echoes of 80s-era Italian hardcore turned into something fresh. It's a twisted concoction, leading to the sputtering, cataclysmic conclusion of "Parasitic Fucker," where everything fades out except for Al's vocals, howling right 'til the end. Meanwhile, Nopatience Records has pressed their 2016 demo onto vinyl. There's not as much of the swarm effect but they still leave behind a wanton trail of destruction. Fast 'n raw. (www.ironlungrecords.com; www.nopatience.org)

GEN POP-II (Feel It, 7")

Olympia band with Maryjane and Ian from Vexx. The first two songs, "Oh No" and "No Change," are loud 'n fast hardcore chargers and just when you think this is going to be pure rage, they go do a near 180 into the moody 'n brooding "Plastic Comb" and follow that with the art-punk attack of "Waxing State." Then it's back to the hardcore races for "No Identify" (part of it, at least) and then another dose of jarring art-punk. Quite a ride and it keeps you guessing as to what will come next. (PO Box 25045, Richmond, VA 23260, feelitrecordshop.com)

GIANT HAYSTACKS

GIANT HAYSTACKS-This Is All There Is (Mistake, CD)
This Is All There Is is an anthology of this Bay Area band's singles and EPs, plus one song recorded live on WFMU. A post-punk pulse but there were always melodic underpinnings, accompanying the dynamic, jabbing interplay. There's a familiarity in what you're hearing (Minutemen, especially, but it wasn't a reenactment of their influences. Giant Haystacks mixed those with observational lyrics done in a non-sloganeering style. Singing instead of shouting out any sort of obvious buzz phrases. It's hard to believe it's been over a decade since this band existed but the material still sounds fresh and brash. (gianthaystacks.bandcamp.com)

INSINUATIONS-Prompt Critical/US Muscle (Feel It, 7")

Obscure, quirky punk from Richmond ca. 1980. Punk is kind of a misnomer, so would be art-punk or post-punk but Insinuations don't follow your standard KBD blueprint. Two offbeat, engaging compositions with male/female vocals and barbed, minimalist instrumentation. Satirical lyrics about a nuclear meltdown on the a-side and a poke at the so-called American dream on the flip. (www.feelitrecordshop.com)

LANDLORDS-Hey! It's A Teenage House Party (Feel It, LP)

Awhile back, Feel It put out an unreleased Landlords album, Fitzgerald's Paris and now there's a reissue of this Charlottesville, VA band's album from 1984. Two of the people, John Beers and Charlie Kramer, went on to do Happy Flowers. It's a joyous hardcore punk smorgasbord that incorporates the standard thrash of the day, along with some tuneful and heavy metal elements. Collegiate wiseasses making a fun racket. There's also a cover of Moving Sidewalks' (Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top's early band) garage/psych chestunt "99th Floor." Some of that wit showed up later on in the Flowers was certainly incubated in the Landlords, although there could be darker lyrical material, as well. Includes a booklet with lyrics, flyers, photos and reminiscences and the download tacks on another 18 demo songs. (www.feelitrecordshop.com)

LITHICS-Mating Surfaces (Kill Rock Stars, CD)

Sharp, jabbing art-punk or post-punk or whatever hackneyed expression you want to use. Rock critic crutches for sure, but that's where Portland, OR band Lithics are coming from on their second album, following 2016's Borrowed Floors. Tightly-executed compositions with busy instrumental interplay and Aubrey Hornor's detached-sounding vocals. At times, there's a UK flavor to them. "Still Forms" is reminiscent of the Fire Engines, for instance. "Boyce," meanwhile, has a No Wave flavor. Sometimes, they go for more of a straight-ahead punk sound, as with "Flat Rock" or "Dancing Guy," the latter of which also has some stop/start no wavish-flourishes. Nervy and edgy, throughout. (killrockstars.com)

MALE PATTERNS-Headaches (Peterwalkee, LP)

Male Patterns had a song on their first 7" called "Pissed and Old" and you could say they're just as pissed. Maybe more so. Definitely older, as the 7" came out in 2015. Well-played anger-driven hardcore that's semi-catchy, like a cross between 86 Mentality and Poison Idea. The title track is a cogent expression of frustration and anger borne of life's monotony. Yup, life's a pain in the ass. So play loud and tell the neighborhood kids to get the fuck off your lawn. (www.peterwalkeerecords.com)

NEUTRALS-Promotional Compact Disk (self-released, CD)

Neutrals is Giant Haystacks guitarist/vocalist Allan McNaughton's latest band, following his stint with Airfix Kits. Two demos--one from 2016, one from 2016--on one CD, in case you weren't paying attention. This is a simpler, straight-forward and tuneful approach as opposed to the post-punk angularity of Giant Haystacks (although that's a subtle element). Instead, it's a mainly different strain, taking more from late 70s UK, Rough Trade bands. Lyrical wittiness, as well--"Swiss" points out that while the band are "Neutrals," they are not Swiss, while tweaking some of that country's traditions (neutrality, Swiss Army knives, Kleenex--the band, not the product). Once again, using the past as an inspiration but it's not a sepia-toned image. (neutrals.bandcamp.com)

NO LOVE-Choke On It (Sorry State, LP)

Feverish and frenetic punk by this NC band (including Sorry State honcho Daniel Lupton). There's melody but there's also a high bash quotient that keep the songs surging along. I hear a little bit of White Lung (without the gothic trappings) and Brain F≠, the latter due to the sonic dustcloud effect, and these are thrown into a hardcore swirl. Re-recordings of the two songs from their 2015 7" plus a cover of ISS's "Back Taxes & Anaphylaxis," given a rocked-up reading and riding an engaging guitar line. Three years since the 7", worth the wait. (www.sorrystaterecords.com

OPTION-The Hour Of Action (demo)
This Boston three piece includes Dan from No Sir I Won't and Brain Killer and Sam from Innocent and Mundo Muerto. Continuting in a somewhat similar vein as NSIW, only sharper. Punchy UK-style anarcho punk with an urgent delivery and top-not playing--buzzing guitar and a pumping rhythmic undertow, along with outspoken lyrics given a forceful delivery. And it's all quite catchy, especially "The Front Page." (anotheroption.bandcamp.com)

PEZZ-More Than You Can Give Us (Truant, LP)
The songs on Pezz's latest were recorded in 2012 but are just now seeing a vinyl and digital release.This Memphis unit has always plied a melodic take on punk, along with impassioned lyrics that takes on societal concerns with a first person approach, such as with "Welcome To Palestine."    The title track is the best of the lot, providing an energetic surge of older Bad Religion-inspired power and closing song "Guilty" provides a speed-driven conclusion. About the only misstep is the nearly four minute ballad "Miss You So Bad" and, sorry, I'm in favor of keeping cellos out of punk. Not bad, otherwise. They've beefed things up with a three guitar lineup and everything meshes well, a combination of burn and tunefulness. (facebook.com/pezz.memphis; marvinstockwell@gmail.com)


THE PROLETARIAT

THE PROLETARIAT-The Murder Of Alton Sterling (Bridge Nine, 7")
Yes, new stuff by the Proletariat, their first new recordings in over 30 years. 3/4 of the original lineup--Rick Brown, Peter Bevilaqua and Tom McKnight are joined by new guitarist Don Sanders. Not exactly picking up where they left off, after their somber-sounding "Indifference" album (which was culled from different sessions). The two songs here are aggressive, in-your-face punk, with the title track a sub-two minute rage session ripped from the headlines, as they say, about an unarmed black man being gunned down by the police. "Push Back" infuses a post-punk pulse into a rocking arrangement. A good return and they've got more new material already in the pipeline. (www.bridge9.com)

RULETA RUSA-Viviendo Una Maldicion (Sorry State, LP)

First full-length album since 2013's Aqui No Es and featuring re-recordings of the 7 songs on their Euro 12" from 2015, plus three new originals and bashing covers of two songs by early 80s Spanish band Paralisis Permanente. A rough 'n tumble array of fast-paced hardcore mixed with tuneful punk ("Vivre Sin Ti" is damn near poppy), along with raspy vocals sung in Spanish. No translations but a title like "Todos Es Mierda" gives a pretty good indication where they're coming from--"World Of Shit." There's an anger in the way the words are projected but the music has an energetic, upbeat appeal. Scrappy and boisterous. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)

STUN EVENT-s/t (Antitodo, LP)

Despite the fact that this band includes three former members of Out Cold--vocalist Keven Mertens, drummer John Evicci and guitarist Freddy Defecto adding some lead work (Kevin also plays guitar)-- Stun Event don't really sound like that band. The songs here are herky-jerky hardcore compositions with odd time signatures. There's a post-punk or even jazzy sensibility, but it's something they incorporate instead of it being an obvious element. There aren't always standard song structures or the brevity has them moving on to the next one just about when you've gripped what's playing. In other words it's fairly hookless but the playing is sharp and intense. (antixtodo@gmail.com, stunevent.bandcamp.com


TOZCOS

TOZCOS-Sueños Deceptivos (Verdugo, LP)
Rough hardcore punk en Espanol from this Santa Ana, CA band, although there are European punk influences, as well. Monse's vocals exude raspy rage and passion and the band sound muscular, with a warm, buzzing guitar tone. There's nuance, though, and darker, semi-goth shadings emerge on "Ritmo De La Muerte" and there's also a near-four minute, intense dirge in "Un Hogar." Most of the time, though, they play at a mid-to-fast clip and avoid having the "all the songs sound the same" syndrome. Solid live band too. (verdugodiscos.storenvy.com)

TV SLIME-Slime Demon (Byaaaaaah!, 7")

The first release in three years from this Chicago crew and their second 7" overall and it's a riff monster, much heavier than their debut. Crushing, punk-driven AmRep style rock, in the same ballpark as a band like Metz, only meaner-sounding. Three sturdy mid-tempo blasts plus one speed bomb ("Timber"). Ugly and crushing. (tvslime.bandcamp.com)

PRINTED MATTER:




LIFE IS POSERS--Inflammable Metropolis
The latest installment of Mike "Rufio" Kadoyima's Life Is Posers comic series is about the return of Poserton punk legends The Opposers, about to play their first show in over 20 years. Needless to say, this creates much excitement for Bazz and Skuzz and their punk compatriots. In fact, Bazz is so excited that he can't wait the month until the show and enlists his friend Spit to create a time travel elixir, which is a "carefully crafted mixture PCP, crushed pills, lemon blast moonshine and formaldehyde." As you'd imagine, the results don't come out as expected. And having Frisbee and the Ratpunks opening the show creates other problems, big ones...

For this issue, Rufio has enlisted other artists to draw panels and there are multiple contributions at the end that capture a pivotal Posterton punk event and many of these drawings take a very dark turn. Another thing to look out for are the selections of Posteron's various food establishments. You can get Rudimentary Panini at UK Subs or Springa Rolls at the Chinese Takeaway food truck.


Entertaining as always and Rufio's created his own little on-line punk kingdom where not only can you check out his books but also sample the music of Posterton's various bands, including the Opposers. (lifeisposers.bigcartel.com)


Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #130


(This installment was originally published in Maximum Rocknroll last year...)



HOW MUCH ART CAN YOU TAKE?

When people think of Boston’s original punk era, their attention is usually focused on bands like the Real Kids, Unnatural Axe, LaPeste, Neighborhoods, DMZ and Nervous Eaters. They think of legendary clubs like The Rat (or Rathskeller, as it was formally known). Thing is, while those bands were doing something loud and energetic, it was still rock ‘n roll based. Nothing complicated, nothing too arsty-fartsy.

Still, there were bands who had artier inclinations, who came from a different muse than the more rock ‘n roll oriented bands. Not that they didn’t rock but there was a wider variety of influences and approaches. Ground Zero, The Girls and The Molls are a few examples.

Ground Zero released a pair of 7” EPs, in 1979 and 1980, each with four songs, all of them compiled onto a self-titled album on the Rave-Up label as part of their “American Lost Punk Rock Nuggets” series. In addition, there’s a nearly half-hour video called Televoid. It’s a video and aural bombardment that’s mostly a collage of miscellaneous clips and a few glimpses of the band in the live setting.  The song “Ground Zero” is accompanied by video of nuclear tests, while “Cybernetic War” shows a primitive video game (Asteroids, maybe?). No narration or words of wisdom from the band. They let the art speak for itself.




To give a bit of background, Ground Zero formed at the Star Systems Loft in Boston’s South End. I never had the privilege of going there but it was an early DIY space and was home to a number of performances by the likes of LaPeste, The Girls and Mission of Burma and visiting acts like The Contortions (my god, can you imagine what it must have been like to see those guys at a loft show?) According to the liner notes on the Rave-Up abum, Star Systems was “a group of musicians, film makers, photographers, xerographers, artists, and videographers who decided to join skills to produce an anarchic, movable musical and visual feast combining post-war angst, deconstructed 60s pop with Dada and existential influences.” Pretty heady stuff—certainly an ambitious scope. And if that seems too arty for you, at their core, Ground Zero dished out some pretty hard-edged fodder. One can hear similarities to Chrome, with the drill-press guitar sound and synth washes. But Ground Zero were capable of straight-ahead punk blasts, too, as with “Nothing” on the first 7”. That song ended up on the Killed By Death #12 compilation, and the liner notes were kind of dismissive of them (dross and pseudopunks were two terms used), but they’re wrong. The sleeve for that first 7” comes in an oversized full-color xerox jobbie with small images from live shows. Not quite abstract but certainly leaning that way.


THE GIRLS

The Girls were also part of that loft scene and they’d also play places like the Punkt/Data Gallery and their practice space was at the Modern Theatre, a building that bordered on Boston’s “adult entertainment” district the Combat Zone (the Modern also screened adult films in the 70s). During their existence, ca. 1976 to 1980, they only released one 7”, “Jeffrey I Hear You,” on Pere Ubu linchpin David Thomas’ Hearthan label. Mr. Thomas produced it, in fact. It’s one of the great lost gems from that era of Boston punk, a nearly six minute excursion that builds to a psychotic conclusion. Daved Hild’s vocals become increasingly desperate and unhinged and the song’s driving rock is punctuated by Robin Amos’ synth mania, which was a key part of their sound. The b-side is a nice bit of Ubu-esque melody-meets-atonality. 

 


Besides the 7”, there was a 1986 album Reunion that wasn’t a reunion but a collection of unreleased songs, along with “Jeffrey” (but not “Elephant Man”). The quality of material varies but they hit the mark a good chunk of the time. “Vietcong Women,” with its synth drone and eastern guitar lick would, once again, fit in nicely on an early Ubu album. They were capable of wanton punk bash, as well, on the relentless “Keep It Simple” and “Methodist Church,” which cribs a bit from the Sex Pistols’ “Sub-Mission.” Elements of Krautrock certainly inspired their music, Can in particular. If you listen to that band’s “Father Can’t Yell,” it’s not too hard to discern where they were coming from on “Jeffrey.” In fact, Amos later worked with former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki in his band Cul-De-Sac.

Unfortunately, the single and album are long out-of-print and definitely worthy of reissue. There are a couple of easier-to-find releases. Live At The Rathskeller 5.17.79, with somewhat lo-fidelity sound quality, but they effectively bash their way through their material. Some real punk scorchers here, “Just Got Back” and “Stiff Bird” in particular. The 2015 Feeding Tube Records release Punk-Dada Pulchritude (a pretty good description) is a collection of rough-sounding early demos. Opening track “Never Did Believe In” is a numbing, repetitive mindblower and the best song by far. There are two versions of “Little Suburban Territory” and the second one dabbles in No Wave mania. They were more experimental at this point, not yet veering into more traditional punk territory. 




The Molls' single White Stains is a stomping avant-punk classic. It had the requisite pogo punch but was accompanied by driving keyboards and even electric bassoon. Future Mission of Burma drummer Peter Prescott played on the record. They played the first punk show I ever saw, with The Plasmatics at the Rat. They didn’t upstage Wendy and her chain saw but I remember that particular song. The b-side, “Is Chesty Dead,” is atonal skronk and not as memorable. 
Most of these guys went on to play in Someone and the Somebodies in the 80s, with a fair amount of success. Their best song, “People Are Dumb,” was only released as a demo. That’s something I’ve been singing a LOT lately. Their bass player Tris Lozaw became a music journalist, one of the few credible local rock scribes.



If any of this intrigues you, my old friend Jordan Kratz (from early Boston punk band The Transplants) has a website with a shitload of free downloads including music from all three bands. Hit it up at www.bigmeathammer.com/koehler.htm. Make sure you check out The Transplants, too. They were more of a straight-forward punk band and had LaPeste drummer Roger Tripp in their ranks for a time.


Saturday, April 07, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #129

 
TIM (right) and MARTIN SPROUSE, 1987
(from MRR site)

IN TRIBUTE TO TIM...

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Tim Yohannan, one of the founders of Maximum Rocknroll. Tim passed away on April 3, 1998, from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was only 52 years old. I’ve written about my interactions with Tim in different print outlets in the past but I'll re-tell them in case you missed it the first time around. 

I stayed at MRR headquarters a few times, in March 1985 when he was living in Berkeley and again in October 1986, when they were on Clipper St. in San Francisco. That has to have been one of the steepest hills I ever walked up. My shins still ache just thinking about it. I even got to be a shitworker when I was there, helping to pack up and ship out a new issue, which was #43. I just took the issue out and there I am, forever immortalized. Maybe “got to be” wasn’t the right term. I think drafted might have been more appropriate. I suppose it was a fair trade for the free lodging and being able to tape a bunch of the records in the MRR collection. I mean record them—not actually put the legendary green tape on the record covers. That was one task I didn’t get to take part in. 

Tim had me on the radio show a couple of times. In case you don't know the story of MRR, it actually started as a radio show in 1977 and the zine began in 1982. I have a tape of my first appearance and listened to it awhile back. No wonder he made fun of my Mass. accent. It was pretty bad back then. I’ve managed to rein it in a bit over the years but it still slips out. The second time Tim had me on the radio show, he came up with the brilliant (devious?) idea of having me interview the Virginia band Unseen Force, even though I’d never heard their music and only knew at least one of ‘em had been in White Cross. Incredibly, I managed to get through it without making a complete idiot of myself—at least I don’t think I did. I remember Tim also took me over to the as-yet-unopened Gilman Street Project and had me get up on a ladder and hammer in a few boards—“now you can say you helped build this place.” 

Even though we didn't agree about everything and he could be intransigent in some of his beliefs, he always treated me very well and made me feel at home. He was supportive of my work over the years, something I’ve always appreciated. Before my first trip to the Bay Area, I was already contributing to the zine, doing scene reports and the occasional interview, so I was already acquainted with him. People would always mention his hilarious seal-like laugh and that was one of the first things I also noticed when I met him. I wasn’t really following baseball at that point, but he seemed excited that the Red Sox were in the ’86 World Series against the Mets (let’s not mention Bill Buckner, OK?) and, now that I’m more of a diehard Sox fan than ever, I’ll note that any native of New Jersey who roots for the Sox is OK in my book.

Tim did give me crap about being a fan of Agnostic Front and the FUs—I think he believed I was some kind of right-winger or at least tolerant of those elements because of the reputation of certain segments of Boston and NYC’s hardcore scene. That was far from the case, though. Even back then, I knew how dumb AF’s anti-welfare song “Public Assistance” was. And when my politics took a sharper turn to the left after the ’94 Republican takeover of Congress and their Contract ON America, he made a positive note of it in a letter to me just before he passed away. 

I always appreciated MRR, period. People like to rip on it, question its relevance, question its dogmatism. One of my dear friends originally contacted me on-line because she was a fan of my column in AMP, which I wrote for for a number of years. When I told her that I felt more privileged to write for MRR, she sniffed that the ‘zine is elitist. I told her that she was entitled to her opinion but getting the opportunity to take up 2000 or so words of valuable space in each issue was something that I truly appreciated.


MRR really meant a lot to me during those first few years after college, where I had a lot of confusion/anxiety over what direction my life would be taking. Was it going to be a so-called straight career path? Within six months after graduating, that was clearly not the case—or so I thought. I still ended up taking a job at a bank as a teller and simultaneously got a one-room studio apartment in Lynn. 

By then, hardcore and punk had become a much bigger part of my life. I remember bringing my copies to work with me at the bank where I was employed and I’d peruse it in the lunch room—wondering if I’d be in trouble if one of the bank’s officers came in and saw the cover of whatever issue I was reading. How would they react to the cover of issue #6, the infamous “The Dicks: A Commie Faggot Band???!”? Nah, one of ‘em, Tom, was probably too busy harassing female employees. I found out later on that he got into some hot water over that. Anyway, all of those issues are in plastic bags but quite yellowed since I didn’t take care of ‘em for a long time. That musty newspaper smell isn’t all that pleasant on the occasions when I’ll pull them out of the plastics but it’s more than compensated for by having an opportunity to once again read a first-hand history of hardcore as it was unfolding.

TIM IN HIS VOLVO (from Lavella-Blog!)

While Tim could be dogmatic and had a narrow definition of what was or wasn’t punk, his knowledge and passion always came out in his writing. Who could forget his review for Die Kreuzen’s first album—“This is fucking great! This is fucking great! This is fucking great…” repeated nearly ad infinitum. Sure, it didn’t exactly convey the musical contents but you had to figure if it had such an enthusiastic stamp of approval, it was probably at least decent. Same for New Bomb Turks' !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!” album. Tim’s 1993 review said it was the best record of the past five years. Once again, I figured it’d at least be halfway decent and that was an understatement. From the opening buzzsaw chords of “Born Toulouse-Lautrec,” it was like all the shitty music I’d been listening to in recent years got blown away with one sonic blast. It’d take a few years before I stopped listening to godawful grunge music and warmed-over cock rock and get rid of the long hair but it was definitely a step in the right direction. So thanks Tim. Thanks for giving me a shot as a writer and thanks for the musical recommendations. It’s time to pay the best tribute I can—put on that Turks album nice and loud…

... AND NOW, AS WE SAY IN MASSACHUSETTS, REKKID REVIEWS...

FLOWER

BIG CHEESE-Aggravated Mopery (Quality Control HC, 7")
There's a less-than-subtle late-80s NYHC sound in this band's oeuvre but damn if they don't have it down, drawing from Sick Of It All and Leeway in particular. I’m reminded of the former due to the vocal delivery and the latter from the metallic riffery that pops up here and there. The production even has the cavernousness of that era of hardcore but it’s not a detriment. Bringing back the floor-pounding Sunday matinee sound. Nicely packaged with a foldout lyric poster. (qualitycontrolhc.bigcartel.com

CLUSTERFUCK-Losing The War Of Ideas (self-released, 12")
This was released in mid-2016 (just got it recently, though), right before that dark day in November and maybe the war of ideas has been lost since then. Clusterfuck reconvene from different parts of the country every few years--they've been doing the band since 2003--and this was actually their first 12" since 2009. More spirited and tuneful hardcore with a good amount of sarcasm and absurdism in the lyrics. Not overtly political, reading more as prose than any sort of standard verse/chorus/verse structure. At times, it comes across like a less-frenetic Flag Of Democracy i.e. there doesn't seem to be as much caffeine involved. Donny's vocal range goes from hyper to soothing and the brief compositions showcase solid chops that navigate through the high energy songs--fifteen of 'em in a bit over 14 minutes. Ideas are a potent weapon in Clusterfuck's hands, although you have to read between the lines a bit. The music is equally potent. (clusterfuck.computer)

COMBATANT-Sick Plot (Not Like You, 7")
Haven't heard a ton of quality hardcore out of the state of Maine over the years but here come Combatant to raise holy hell. Mean, full-speed ahead old-school bile with a meat-cleaver riffs and in-the-pocket arranging, along with bellicose vocals and sentiments. The production brings out the power without being too slick. Yeah, by the books, but with a savage edge. (www.notlikeyourecords.com)

CYBERPLASM-What Is Flesh? (Fuckers Will Pay, demo)
Heady noise-mongering creating a buzz-stun effect. Chrome and Metal Urbain figure into the equation, with drill-press guitar and mechanized rhythms infused with punk speed, but there's also the nightmarish industrial excursion of "Perfect Body." The entire second side of the tape is taken up with a twelve-and-a-half atmospheric/ambient piece, "The Psychic Hologram," that's pretty unnecessary. The rest is prime, ear-wrecking scorch. (cyberplasm.bandcamp.com)

DEVILS-Iron Butt (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
For a two-piece, The Devils make one hell (pun intended) of a racket and that continues for their second album Iron Butt. This ain’t no White Stripes garbage, this is raw, nasty garage/blues/punk slop done at a healthy clip—or maybe unhealthy. Sure, there are traditional blues influences--that really comes for the slow cookin’ “White Collar Wolf”—but they harness it to a wanton, high-octane fuzzed-out attack and take you for one nasty hellride. A few different wrinkles here and there, such as the numbing cacophony of “Red Grave,” with an unholy rant from drummer/vocalist Erica Toraldo. To quote a quite different band, the sound of an enormous door slamming into the depths of hell. (www.voodoorhythm.com)

DIATRIBE-The Black Parade (Rancid Cat, LP)
San Diego band Diatribe’s history goes back to the 1980s. Their 1985 Aftermath demo came out on vinyl in 2007 on the Get Revenge label and they’ve been an active band again in recent years, with vocalist Vince Udo the sole original member. Their new 12”, The Black Parade, was recorded between 2012 and 2014 and is finally out, with a limited pressing of 200 copies, on splattered vinyl and with a screened cover. A blunt, rough hardcore punk sound embracing crust, thrash and d-beat and harnessing it to still-angry sentiments. This is all spat out in angry bursts, particularly on songs like “Fraternal Order Of Hate” and “Emblem.” Three decades later, there’s still a bone to pick with the world and raw musical emanations remain a suitable weapon of choice. (diatribe.freehostia.com)

EXILES-No Comply (Shredding Material, CD)
Sturdy mid-tempo punk with melody and incisive lyrics about personal travails and corrupt "democracy." The guitar has a whole lotta buzz and the vocals are earnest-sounding. Listenable, although not really providing any sort of full-on rush. Catchy, though. (theexilesband@gmail.com)

FLOWER-Violent Crusades (demo)
Nothing flowery about this music. It's a raw expression of rage, a maelstrom of fast hardcore and melodic, anarcho-punk shadings, complemented by impassioned vocals. The words aren't flowery either--they express dismay at the ravages of religion, nationalism and a system set up to grind you down. They're all part of an oppressive whole. Potent and powerful, both on this recording and live. (flowernewyorkcity.bandcamp.com)


FUTURA

FUTURA-Spit On The Flag (En Tu Kara, 7")
The words that Erika sings on some of the songs on this EP could very well have been written in the 1980s--at least the title track and "Boom," about nuclear obliteration. The other three songs deal with personal turmoil, especially "Eyes Wide Open," about the death of a relationship. Fast and peppy hardcore punk played with skill and ragtag spirit. (entukara.bigcartel.com)

GAME-Who Will Play (Quality Control HC, flexi) 
I really wish this had been done on vinyl—too much damned surface noise—but Game are a ferocious unit. Opening track “Game” comes charging full-speed out of the gates, coupled with Ola’s angry, raged-filled vocals. “Crush” threatens to stomp itself right through the floor, before kicking into faster gear with a Sacrilege inspiration and you can hear echoes of that elsewhere. Still, Game come down on the hardcore side of things and it’s a murderous attack. Five songs, two of them with Polish lyrics and one of them, the fast and ripping “Rząd i Osioł,” provides an obliterative conclusion. (qualitycontrolhc.bigcartel.com

HAIRCUT-Shutting Down (Feel It, 7")  
No-BS, speedy hardcore punk with some early Poison Idea in the engines. Not exuding originality—what does these days—but they keep the energy level high. It does exude a pointed lyrical outlook, both in English and Spanish. “Fucked Up” is a song about sobriety that’s done without flying a “nailed to the X” straight edge flag, while “Boys Club” is about not needing acceptance from any group of people. Kicking up a storm. (www.feelitrecordshop.com)

ISS-s/t (Sorry State, 7") 
A new four song 7" by the dynamic duo of Eddie Schneider (Brain F≠) and Rich Ivey (Whatever Brains). Hammering mechanized punk, but it sounds human, not robotic. "I Wanna Be Dated" has some serious guitar shredding. "Armchair Aryan (Richard Spencer's Gifts)," in addition to having one of the coolest titles of the year, is a spot-on perfect excoriation of the alt-right dickheads, calling them out for the cowards they are. "C.H.U.D.F.R.E.A.K. Swamp Meet" takes a moodier turn and the kill effect returns for "My Miata." And, yes, once again, there's clever sampling from old punk records, including Dead Kennedys' "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" and Flipper's "Nothing." Fucking brilliant. Eddie told me they've only done a couple of live shows, since he and Rich live in different cities. I hope that changes, at some point. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)

LAUGHING STOCK

LAUGHING STOCK-Rough Crowd (Not Like You, 7")
The vinyl debut for these Massholes, who've been around four years at this point. Manic hardcore with cavernous production and it makes me think back in time to the Mystic Records compilations or the old Toronto band Youth Youth Youth (look 'em up if you've never heard them). There are a few double-speed rhythms, as well as melodic touches, singeing leads and even a split-second skank on "Just My Luck." Not bad at all. (www.notlikeyourecords.com)

M.A.Z.E.-s/t (Abonormal Broadcasting, tape)
Jittery post-punk/garage minimalism from Japan, in glorious trebly low-fidelity. The brittle guitar lines sometimes have a nearly-traditional Japanese feel, but you get the feeling they listen to more Kleenex than shamisen records. For "Spread The Girmicide," it's a funkier arrangement, while "Pain In The Gum" is a sprightly frolic. Their previous demo had more of a poppy approach and, while their are some hooks, these songs sound edgier and rougher. (abnormalbroadcasting.bandcamp.com)

NEGATIVE SPACE-Gestalt (Drunken Sailor/Always Restrictions, LP)
Classic post-punk from the UK that probably should have been in my top ten last year. They're not really sons of Gang of Four, although it's probably not a stretch to say they've listened to that band and Wire. Piercing guitar lines that also flame like embers at times, along with rhythmic perfection, interlocked and intertwined to create a gyrating whole. The bass-lines on this album are massive. The vocals are emotional but it's borne from anger, not lamentation, although the lyrics exude a dark-soul desperation and it culminates with the deliberate, brooding tension of "Payday Loan," that builds to a noisy conclusion, before going into the driving punk of "Without Jealousy." I like these guys for the same reasons I like Mod Vigil or Rank/Xerox. Nods to the past but given a powerful updating. (Drunken Sailor, drunkensailorrecords.co.uk; Always Restrictions, alwaysrestrictions.com)

NO BLUES-s/t (demo)
Members of Ontario ragers Born Wrong do a 180 into tuneful, ragtag punk territory with hooks galore. Bright, snappy compositions but there’s a snarl underneath and the semi-low fidelity gives it all an edge. Pop without the pap. (blowbloodrecords.bandcamp.com)

NUMBER ONES-Another Side Of The Number Ones (Sorry State, 7")
Power-pop that's unafraid to lay on the glop a bit and, alas, it gets a little cutesy. When I say power-pop, I don’t mean the skinny tie variety but the kind of bands you’d hear from the UK and Ireland in the late 70s. Still, the production is rough around the edges and there’s sting in “Lie To Me” and “Long Way To Go,” but a little preciousness goes a long way. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)

OPTION

OPTION-The Hour Of Action (demo)
New Boston band with members of No Sir I Won't, Brain Killer, Innocent, Purgatory and others and it's one hell of a debut. Buzzing, burning Crass-inspired anarcho punk delivered with incredible precision and passion. Max sounds like he's playing two drum kits and locks in perfectly with Dan's nimble bass and Sam's razor-sharp guitar lines. The vocals, mostly from Dan, occasionally from Sam, have an outspoken fervor, particularly for "Four More Years." Even with the somewhat dour sentiments, there's still a musical uplift. This should be on vinyl. (anotheroption.bandcamp.com)

RAD-Sacramento Is Rad +1 (tape)
RAD's latest pays tribute to their Sacramento punk forebears, as well as Poison Idea (“Cult Band,” from Pick Your King is the “+1” selection). They tear through a pair of Rebel Truth songs, “Child Hosts the Parasite” and “All I Know” and one from Lizards, “Coke Up My Butt,” with reckless, yet precise aplomb. Rebel Truth tend to be a bit overlooked so it’s good to see them get the recognition. Maybe RAD could cover Square Cools or Tales of Terror on their next Sacramento tribute. (sacramentorecords.com)

RATS IN THE WALL

RATS IN THE WALL-Warbound (Programme Sounds/Indecision)
RITW, with former F-Minus axeman Brad Logan, have been kicking around for about five or six years, with a number of releases under their belts. The latest is Warbound, a five song 7” that comes with a download that has a bonus track. Stomping and pounding hardcore punk that’s angry and damaged-sounding. It ups the level of intensity heard on their previous recordings. I’ve been using the term “heartfelt punk” as an epithet, lately, to describe beefy punk with an often-corny, heart-on-sleeve style. This really is heartfelt punk, coming from the gut and reveling in not fitting into life’s plastic molds… chafing against authority. Eva’s vocals are pissed-off and raspy and I’m with her when she yells, “and maybe our parents were right—maybe punk rock ruined my life/it’s the only place I’ve ever belonged, my chosen family—as dysfunctional as they come.” Preach! (Programme Sounds, programmesounds.com; Indecision, indecisionrecords.com)

RIK & THE PIGS-Blue Jean Queen (Feel It, 7")
Three new songs from the prolific Pigs, branching into a rawk ‘n roll sound, without as much of the low fidelity. They’ve also added a saxophonist to the lineup and it doesn’t really add much to the songs. They redo “TV Bloopers” and I prefer the roughness of the original. The title track is a fired-up 70s-inspired rocker with vintage references—the Stones, Sonny & Cher, etc and is the best of the trio.“Off/On” is a dragged-out blooze rocker. Kind of disappointing. (www.feelitrecordshop.com)

SECT MARK-Worship (Iron Lung, 12")
Relentless noisy hardcore, driven by killplow bass and burning guitar mangling, along with echo-laden vocal howlings. They're from Italy and it comes across like a mix of their native thrash forebears and Japanese-style hardcore. "Scouts" provides a slightly slower, thumping change of pace, although it mows down everything in its path. Flat out nasty, a fusillade of musical hell being unleashed. And it leaves you wanting more. (ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)

SKINNED ALIVE

SKINNED ALIVE-s/t (demo)
Even with the paucity of DIY venues around here, Boston’s hardcore punk scene keeps regenerating itself in different permutations. Skinned Alive fit that bill. People from Chain Rank, Combat Zone, Contingent, 2x4, Bloodkrow Butcher and many others plying, as you’d imagine, no-nonsense scorch. Their four song demo tape provides kick-to-the head hardcore buzz mainly in a loud/fast vein, with “Forced To Die” adding a bit of bootboy punch. (J. Damage, 12 Morton St., Somerville, MA 02145, twerpjerks@gmail.com)

SO BE IT-s/t (Deep Six, LP)
So Be It is a punk/noise/sludge metal/hardcore anti-war opera (whew!) created by Siege drummer Robert Williams, who wrote all the music and lyrics, with a few exceptions He enlisted the help of his Siege compatriots Chris Leamy and Ernie Kim, as well as a collection of vocalists from bands both local and around the world to sing the different parts. These include Ami Lawless (Voetsek, Cliterati), Dan Harrington (Fistula), Jeff Heyward (Grief), Stoffel (Yacopsae), Larry Lifeless (Kilslug) and Giulio (Cripple Bastards). The theme, as you probably already guessed, looks at the ravages of war from the perspectives of the dead and the living, all of them victims. You have grieving mothers, both American and Arabic. Ron Kovic from "Born On The Fourth Of July" (voiced by Giulio) makes an appearance. as do the ghosts of a soldier and the corpse of Uncle Sam. You also have a giddy president who can't wait to send more young men off to war.

Inserted into the musical battleground of volume-driven fodder are snippets of "Taps," "The Star-Spangled Banner," the World War I song "Over There" and early 60s R&B song "Soldier Boy." There's also a kick-ass cover of Alice Cooper's "Elected," sung by Jeff Heyward. The cacophonous conclusion, "Mission Accomplished," begins with Larry Lifeless, playing Uncle Sam who has just risen from his casket, intoning those words. According to the written narration, Uncle Sam is joined by the ghost of the soldier and one of the grieving mothers for a kick line. This is done over a dirge that degenerates into a mass of free-form skronk, with Ernie Kim letting loose on his saxophone over the guitar histrionics and hammer-to-anvil-like pound. I'll resist the urge to call it "A Corpse Line" and just say mission accomplished. War sucks and So Be It are here to remind you of that. (deepsixrecords.com)

STAGES IN FAITH-Forgiving Man (Quality Control HC, 7")
Stages In Faith draw inspiration from the melodic punk created by bands in the late 80s/early 90s on both sides of ocean whose members were rooted in hardcore or more aggressive punk but were opting for something more tuneful. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the songs have grit and drive. That’s not really the case here. Decently-crafted but a little too poppy for my liking, especially with the vocal harmonies. (qualitycontrolhc.bigcartel.com)

STALEPHISH-Pole Jams (Not Like You, LP)
Peppy, uptempo skate-themed punk. Musically, this reminds me of the 90s-era melodically-inclined bands. Not Green Day-type swill but music of the snottier variety, something that might have been on the Johann's Face or VML labels. Energetic, with hearty backups, although nothing all that distinctive. And what's up with the hip-hop pisstake at the end? (www.notlikeyourecords.com)

THERAPY-Demo 2018 (demo)
Not to be confused with the 90s-era Irish band Therapy?, this band is from San Diego and the six songs on this tape pack a wicked punch. Fast, bruising hardcore punk with a crusty undertow and hint of Swedish hardcore. Loud production, bringing the band's meat-cleaver riffage and pulverizing rhythms into bold relief, along with Chris' scalding, nasty vocals. A fine debut. (therapysd.bandcamp.com)

TRASH KNIFE-TK (Crapoulet/P.Trash/FDH, 7")
The newest Trash Knife 7" combines four of the songs from their 2016 demo tape with a couple more recorded last year. Slam-bang punk/rock 'n roll filled with both melody and anger, along the lines the Bags or, for a more recent reference point, Neighborhood Brats. Lauren's vocals have a sarcastic, pissed off edge, whether taking aim at self-absorbed selfie takers ("Kill Your Selfie") or abusive restaurant customers ("Tips"). Tuneful but with a razor's edge. (band contact: trashknife.bandcamp.com)

UGLIES-Keeping Up With The Uglies (Nopatience, LP)
A couple of ex-Vaginors play in this loud, fast 'n nasty Australian band. Instead of the loopy punknoxiousness of that band, the Uglies stick to meat 'n potatoes ass-kicking hardcore punk. No wank, no bullshit, although there's a sick bass run on "(I Got No) Self-Control." No suffering of fools, either--that comes out most-blatantly in "Make Punk Great Again" i.e. it's not so much an anti-Trump protest as telling privileged so-called punks to fuck off. And that's just for starters. Ugly and proud? Where have I heard that before? Pure malevolence, gleefully delivered. (nopatiencerecords.bandcamp.com)

VICIOUS CIRCLE-Born To Destroy (Not Like You, LP)
Back to destroy, although Aussie hardcore veterans Vicious Circle have never really gone away. In the 16 page, full-size lyric book that accompanies this record, vocalist/guitarist Paul Lindsay states that, "hardcore, punk, to me, is a way of life. Of being that I carry with me." And, after more than thirty years as a band, the sound is as vital as ever, as is the message. The lyrics speak out against injustices and life's obstacles and tribulations, while also trying to maintain an upbeat, self-empowering attitude. Rough and tumble hardcore, punctuated by Paul's super-gruff vocals, a few metallic licks here and there and executed in bare-knuckled fashion. Long may they rage. (www.notlikeyourecords.com)


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #128


GETTING SAVAGE WITH HÜSKER DÜ

At Chet's Last Call, June 1984

HÜSKER DÜ-Savage Young Dü (Numero Group, box set)
An exhaustive overview of Hüsker Dü's early years, spanning from 1979 to 1982 i.e. material up until their SST debut Metal Circus. There are different configurations--mine is the four LP version. There's also a vinyl version that came with a bonus 7" of Metal Circus outtakes called Extra Circus, but the vinyl version is currently out of print and you can only get it on CD or a digital download, so that kind of sucks. Pity because the songs are raw, visceral rage, save for the early version of "Standing By The Sea," which would show up on Zen Arcade and the somewhat more melodic "Won't Change" (which came out on a couple of compilations in the 80s). I hope they do a repress but I'm not holding my breath. There's also a 3 CD version and all come with a hardcover book filled with photos, flyers, detailed information on the recording sessions, as well as a lengthy essay telling the story of their savage young years. It's quite an impressive package.

Getting to the four records, the first features early demos and live tracks and shows a band working on finding an identity. "Do You Remember?," "Sore Eyes," "Sexual Economics" and an early version of "Do The Bee" (which is very rough sounding) are good snotty punk rousers. But it's wildly hit and miss. The demo of "Data Control," is inferior to the live version on Land Speed Record (more on that later). Definitely some skip-over tracks--their mid-tempo poppy songs hadn't really gelled yet. "Outside" is an exception, a stinging mesh that has stinging guitar work and endearing ragged harmonizing. 

The second is also on the haphazard side, although it gets off to a great start with the sturdy post-punk of their debut single "Statues." "Writer's Cramp" and "Let's Go Die" are both sharply catchy. But other songs suffer from substandard sound quality and, once again, things hadn't completely gelled and there's a good reason why many of those songs didn't last long in the set list. The early, deconstructed version of Metal Circus' "Wheels," is done as tense, moody dirge with repetitive keyboards, far-removed from the chugging arrangement on Everything Falls Apart. 

Things took a 180 degree turn for their first 12" release, Land Speed Record. A live recording that shows the band hammering out blistering high-velocity thrash, seldom taking a break between songs. However, it's not the original version of the album that came out on New Alliance and later SST (no doubt due to licensing issues). This comes from a show taped two weeks after the one that was on the original release and holds its own quite well. It's a bit cleaner and the set list is the same with the exception of three songs--"Do The Bee," "Tired of Doing Things" and "Data Control," all of which appear elsewhere on the box. As I said, it's a shame about "Data Control," because that was a show-stopper, a slower, bashing conclusion to the speedy mania that precedes it. However, there are five songs from the second set they played the night of the original recording and it includes an early version of Metal Circus' "Diane." The songs are much more tuneful, a harbinger of what's to follow. That really started with the In A Free Land EP. It's a slightly different mix than the original 7" but the title song remains one of their all-time greats. A politically-charged, speedy anthem with a knockout chorus and guitar line. The two other songs were in a LSR vein and there are two outtakes of songs that'd end up on their Everything Falls Apart album, blazing renditions of "Target" and "Signals From Above." 

Finally, the last disc is a remastered version of the aforementioned Everything Falls Apart, along with half a dozen unreleased live tracks, including three live versions of Metal Circus songs. "Travel In Opposite Car" is a tuneful track that should have been done in the studio. EFA solidified the transition or yin and yang, if you will, of their balancing hardcore savagery with blatantly poppier compositions like the title track and "Gravity." Even the harder hitting tracks (well, all the songs here are hard-hitting) offered glimpses of melody--the guitar line between verses of "From The Gut," for instance. It set the stage for what would follow, at least up through Zen Arcade--a smorgasbord of high energy punk, pop and hardcore. 

Obviously, this box is only one chapter of the Hüsker story and I'd recommend Zen Arcade for novices, but it's a vital history lesson, a treasure trove for lifelong fans and shows them going from a hodgepodge of styles into something focused and highly influential. (www.numerogroup.com)


ROCKING AND WALKING ON THE STRAIGHT EDGE



The title for this review comes from a sticker on the cover of 7 Seconds 1988 album Ourselves that was put there by their record company. When I sent a photo to Kevin Seconds, he said, “even at my corniest, I couldn't have come up with anything that ridiculous. The first time i saw it, I just about threw up.” As bad as that sticker is, the album’s contents aren’t much better—tepid melodic punk with abysmal, echoey production that was fairly common on late 80s albums. Let’s just say it won’t make you forget Skins, Brains & Guts, The Crew or Walk Together, Rock Together. In fact, some opted out with New Wind and Praise, the latter of which had a decided REM vibe.

I thought of that sticker while reading Tony Rettman’s latest book Straight Edge—A Clear-Headed Hardcore Punk History, an oral history presentation that traces straight edge back to its roots in the embryonic DC hardcore scene with Teen Idles and Minor Threat. From there, it delves into three decades of the edge story and just about all of the major players are heard from—members of Youth of Today, Uniform Choice, Insted, Earth Crisis, Judge, Chain of Strength, Mouthpiece, Ten Yard Fight and Floorpunch. as well as fanzine publishers and record label people who continue to keep the straight edge banner flying. The subjects talk about how they embraced straight edge and, in some cases, left it behind and what it’s meant to them in their lives. Various feuds and beefs are discussed and some mention how they were ostracized after “breaking” their edge—that became particularly true in the early 2000s.

It’s interesting to read the comments by the old-timers. You get the feeling some of them felt like they might have created something of a monster, something that strayed from the original intent. For instance, John Stabb (R.I.P.) of Government Issue said, “straight edge is not a movement to me” and that ““Straight Edge” is a great song but it’s a song about anti-obsession… it’s not a fucking religion. It’s a song.” Brian Baker from Minor Threat said, “the band didn’t brand ourselves a straight edge entity. The idea of having straight edge bands came after us, with the Boston people.” Baker’s bandmate and Dischord co-founder Jeff Nelson says, “Straight edge became a religion, and it’s a very strange feeling to be one of the unwitting founders of this religion.”

Indeed, over the years, straight edge increased in militancy and codification in some quarters. As Baker mentions, the Boston bands added a vehemence to their take on straight ege. The philosophy was expanded by some to embrace vegetariasnism/veganism and spirituality (Krishna consciousness, in particular). It was taken to ridiculous extremes with the Hardline movement (Vegan Reich, Raid and Statement), which also embraced regressive viewpoints, such as being anti-choice. All eras are covered—the mid-to-late 80s “youth crew” scene, its revival in the late 90s to the subsequent generations of bands and individuals keeping the flame burning.

There’s a discussion of straight edge fashion—an effort to separate from the punk style. It became, in the words of Sammy Siegler (Youth of Today, Judge, Side By Side), “a powerful culture and look, like in hip-hop, in that there was an identifiable look.” A certain amount of conformity set in. Ray Cappo from Youth of Today described it as, “a bubble, a scene within a scene that wasn’t really interested in anything that wasn’t straight edge.” The fashion element has certainly never gone away. Ray’s bandmate John Porcelly owns a company called True Till Death Merch that sells clothing with a straight edge theme. The demand is certainly there.

Straight edge as a worldwide movement is also covered—straight edge bands and scenes in the UK, Europe and Scandinavia (Umeå, Sweden, home of Refused)—and how a lot of those people faced resistance and hostility from other punks. People from LÄRM talk about how left-wing politics had more of an influence than in the straight edge scene in the States.

I have to mention one noticeable element—just about every person interviewed is a white male. Only a few non-males are mentioned in the story and Vique Martin, from Simba fanzine and Revelation Records, is the only one who speaks at length. And there isn’t any mention of LGBT people in straight edge. You have to look elsewhere for that. The 2012 book Sober Living For The Revolution (edited by Gabriel Kuhn, PM Press, pmpress.org) covers more diverse territory. It provides a wider variety of perspectives on straight edge. An assortment of voices are heard from--activists, non-male and LGBT straight-edgers and it visits different countries. It gives more voice to individuals who look at straight edge being part of an activist mentality. Taken together, those two books provide a more complete survey of a subculture that continues to bring a wide variety of reactions and opinions to this day. (Bazillion Points, bazillionpoints.com)

NECK CHOPPIN’



Neck Chop Records, out of Fullerton, CA, started in 2016 and, in that brief time, already have 25 releases in print. Lest you think it’s just throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks, most of these have been quality releases, including the likes of Erik Nervous, Acrylics, Macho Boys, Woodboot, Mark Cone and plenty more. The tagline for my radio show is “punk, hardcore, garage and other loud music” and that’s what Brandon puts out, in different forms and permutations.

Label honcho Brandon sent me a huge package of 13 records, seven of which were released at the same time and that’s what we’ll focus on here. Knowso’s one sided 12”, Look At The Chart, sounds like a slightly-less mechanized A-Frames but there’s a robotic element. The title track is a paranoid tale of science possibly gone too far. The speed up and slow down of the riff signature at the end sounds like an adjustment is being made to the narrator’s wiring until the plug is pulled. Straddling the line between post-punk and nervous new wave, with an edgy intensity.

Jackson Politick is another solo project for Andy Jordan aka Andy Human. His Paste V.1 album is a wide-ranging effort of punk and pop minimalism and the results are scattershot. The lo-fi punk of “Habit” and “Learning To Live With It” are nervy delights and “I Am A Raver” has an engaging catchiness. The early OMD-meets-bedroom pop of “The Hours” has an offbeat charm. Other songs are on the too-cutesy/twee side. If you’re into the C86 bands or Tenement, you might like those songs more than I do.

Living Eyes are from Australia and I’d imagine there’s a good chance they’re named after Radio Birdman’s second album but you can only hear faint echoes of that band and it’s not really a major component of their muse. Their third album Modern Living is a hit and miss collection of tuneful punk with garage and psych shadings. “Better Think Again,” “Party Theme,” “Stuck In A Hole” and “Horseplay” are all good charging rockers but other songs don’t have nearly as much presence. All in all, kind of an average effort—some good moments but not always that gripping.

Moving on to the 7”s, Winnipeg band Whip's self-titled EP is a raucous joy. Snotty, insolent-sounding punk with a trebly guitar attack and a whole lot of fuck-you attitude in Ferro’s vocals. Pretty straight-forward, although they add some against-the-grain elements at times, as with the post-punk jab for “Double Life” and “Melle.” In addition to this 7” (their vinyl debut), Whip also just released a new demo, Can Con Icon, which includes a cool cover of Dow Jones & The Industrials’ “Can’t Stand The Midwest.”

Gee Tee is another solo project, this one masterminded by an Australian named Kel Gee, who plays in garage mavens The Draggs. Hissy, lo-fi, quirky new wave/punk/pop that has an appealingly skewed nature. A cruder-sounding version of Ausmuteants-meets-Spits-meets-UV Race-meets-Total Control. Something like that. There are hooks to go along with the weird, mad-scientist ambiance. Death Race is his second 7”, following the Thugs In Cars EP released on Goodbye Boozy early last year and that one is just as enjoyable as this scorcher.

Philly bashers Penetrode and Chicago hellions C.H.E.W’s split tape Strange New Universe has been given a vinyl pressing and both bands generate some skull-crushing sounds with different wrinkles. Penetrode’s songs have a mean/stomping old-school hardcore cadence ala 86 Mentality at times, although “Egocentric” takes an anarcho punk turn. C.H.E.W. impressed on their split with Rash last year and their four songs on this split. Nightmarish hardcore with a relentless quality, accompanied by anguished and howling screams from the soul.

Color TV’s second 7” Paroxeteens is a pair of jabbing, tuneful punk gems along the same lines as Marked Men. The chorus for the title track has an absolutely knockout hook and “Night After Night” is just as punchy. These two songs feature denser, less-clean production than on their debut and that makes it sound harder-edged. Fine with me.

I have to mention a few of the other releases—Science Project’s Basement Blues is entertaining one-man-band synthy weirdness. The culprit is Cody, who hails from Nova Scotia, and also plays in a bunch of other projects including Booji Boys. His cover of Negative FX’s “Might Makes Right” is hilarious, as he explains “we ain’t gonna stop… fuck you!,” just like Choke did at NFX’s final Boston show.

Raymond Schmidt is another one-man science project, Race Car and B.Y.O.G.K. (or Build Your Own Go-Kart) was originally released on tape on Abnormal Broadcasting. While synths and programmed drums are part of the equation, it’s a noisier, clattering, head-messing approach laced with searing guitar licks. Channeling Metal Urbain and Chrome and stripping them to their barest elements? That works. If you can’t get enough of that sort of thing, Raymond has another project called S.B.F. who released a really good demo on Abnormal Broadcasting a few years ago. Along the same lines with programmed drums and drill-press guitar, although it’s more of a straight-forward punk attack.

Another Abnormal Broadcasting release that’s been pressed onto vinyl by Neck Chop comes from Process of Elimination, once again featuring one performer, Grant Berry. Three songs of electrifying mechanized primitivism with distorted vocals and spacy synth and guitar effects.  Grant also plays guitar in The Snails, whose two Abnormal Broadcasting demos have been given the vinyl treatment (hmmm… something doesn’t sound right about that). More traditional-sounding punk and hardcore bordering on nerdy new wave, but with live drums and no synths. Just buzz.

Round Six, with five more releases, is already in the works and should be out very soon. It includes a new Liquids LP, an Erik Nervous singles compilation LP and new 7”s from Kid Chrome, Lysol and Stiff Love. (PO Box 5635, Fullerton, CA 92838,neck-chop-records.myshopify.com/)

BUILDING BRIDGES



Chris Wrenn started Bridge Nine Records in 1995 while he was a college student in Vermont and, over the past 23 or so years, it’s grown from a tiny DIY label run on a shoestring budget to one run out of a large warehouse in Peabody, MA, about five minutes from my house. Chris is up to over 250 releases at this point, a long way from running the fledgling label out of his dorm room.

The First Nine Years is a box set with five 7” EPs, each with a heavy stock picture sleeve, with songs drawn from the label’s first 50 releases—29 songs in all—accompanied by a 128 page soft-cover booklet. It tells the Bridge Nine story—all the trials and tribulations and the creative ways he financed and promoted the label, like painting the company’s name in the middle of the night on a bridge over the Charles River that was usually painted by rowing teams. He talks candidly about his struggle to keep things afloat when he runs into a serious snag with his distributor. There are reminiscences about the bands who had records released on B9 during that time. It’s been an interesting journey, one borne of an abiding passion for the music and that continues to this day. There’s never been anything half-assed about a Bridge Nine release.

Bridge Nine’s roster has become more diverse in recent years—my favorite release is Ceremony’s Rohnert Park album from 2010, which branched out into post-punk, garage and shoegazer rock along with more traditionally hardcore sounding material. During the early era, though, the emphasis was on straight-edge hardcore that generally used early Revelation Records as a starting point. Opening band Tenfold sound more than a little like Chain of Strength. In fact, the last song is taken from B9’s reissue of Project X’s Straight Edge Revenge EP. There are darker shadings from the likes of Panic and Give Up The Ghost (aka American Nightmare). Cops and Robbers hearken back to classic early 80s hardcore, as their song “On The Decline” borrows from Negative FX’s “VFW.” But it’s mainly aggressive, pummeling material from some well-known parties—Terror, Carry On, No Warning and Hope Conspiracy, along with the slightly-underrated Striking Distance and Holding On.

It has to be noted that this end of the hardcore spectrum was (and still is) a very male-oriented scene, at least in terms of the bands included—that’s my perception, anyway. You don’t see that many women in the photos and few are mentioned in the story. Still, this is a well put-together package, coming out some thirteen years after its projected release. Better late than never! (www.bridgenine.com)