Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #130

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


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 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 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)


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…



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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (


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. (

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. (

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. (

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. (


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. (

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. (

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,; Always Restrictions,

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. (

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. (


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. (

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. (


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,; Indecision,

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. (

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. (


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,

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. (

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. (

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? (

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. (

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:

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. (

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. (

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #128


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. (


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, 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,


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,


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! (

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Suburban Voice blog #127


Back in 2015, I said I was going to occasionally start post some recent (but not brand new) Maximum Rocknroll columns (minus the record reviews) for those of you who don’t get the magazine on a regular basis or at all. Of course, that fell by the wayside as many things regarding this blog often do. But I’m going to try to make this a bit more frequent. I’ll mainly stick to music-oriented ruminations, what I call punk rock history lessons. Here are a few from 2017. Enjoy…


I recently engaged in an on-line discussion of lesser-known, perhaps semi-obscure (or completely obscure) 7”s from the UK in the late 70s/early 80s. I know the Killed By Death thing has been done to death (pun intended), I’m sure some of these songs might not be as far under the radar as I think but it’s always a fun topic and maybe you’ll want to seek these out. It’s certainly easy enough these days, as I was able to find all of these on YouTube. All of these songs are what I often refer to as mix-tape favorites, songs that have been embedded into my brain since taping them off the radio over 35 years ago at this point (yikes!). And I was able to score quite a few of them in the 99 cent bin (or at least fairly cheaply) at late, lamented stores like New England Music City in Kenmore Square in Boston and Discount Records in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Ah, those were the days. You kids have it so easy now. I suppose I should punctuate that with a “get off my lawn!” coda.

The Rings were a band with Twink, who played drums for 60s garage legends The Troggs and then the Pink Fairies in the early-to-mid 70s (you might know their song “Do It,” which was covered by Henry Rollins). Twink was out front for this unit and their single “I Wanna Be Free/Automobile” was good stripped-down punk with a pub rock flavor. The lyrics for “Automobile” are a mere two lines—“I wanna get you in my automobile” and “do you remember when we were crazy.” Two of the Rings, Alan Shaw and Rod Latter, started The Maniacs after that band’s implosion, and came up with a great, if instantly-dated dose of punk energy for “Chelsea ’77.” The boisterous guitar line that introduces the song, along with Shaw’s enthusiastic vocals, punctuated by an assortment of “EEYAY-EE-EYAY”s ‘EE-YOW”s and “CH-CH-CH-CHELSEA!”s really make the song. Shaw is a punk lifer, having played with the likes of The Damned and their original guitarist Brian James over the years.

I mentioned the pub-rock influence for the Rings song. A number of early punk musicians spent time slogging it out in the pubs, playing revved-up, R&B-inspired, back-to-basics rock ‘n roll before donning their pogo shoes. Veteran guitarist Chris Spedding teamed up with former pub rockers The Vibrators in 1977 for the irresistible “Pogo Dancing.” That generation’s version of “The Twist”? Well, the single didn’t exactly climb the charts and perhaps it’s a bit of a novelty song but also a damned catchy one.

You can feel the sneer coming through the speakers when listening to The Users’ “Sick Of You” and its b-side “I’m In Love With Today.” Released on Raw Records, which unleashed a handful of memorable singles, this was the cream of the crop. The whipsnap guitars and attitudinal vocals have more of a Raw Power-era Stooges flavor. Pure nastiness. “Sick Of You” did appear on the first Killed By Death comp. Future UK Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs played in a later lineup of this band.

The Subs weren’t the UK Subs, but a group of Scottish punks who did a one-off single for Stiff Records, “Gimme Your Heart.” Starting with an incessant drumbeat and gang vocals chanting the chorus, the track is full of both venom and tunefulness. It’s hard not to love any song that starts with a line like “livin’ around here makes me wanna throw up.”

APB were also a Scottish band and played mainly post-punk/funk/dance music that wasn’t all that scintillating, save the tense “Talk To Me,” from their second 7” Their first single was a lot different, though—a total poppy/punky earworm from 1981 called “Chain Reaction.” Bouncy and buzzing, with an inescapable chorus hook… even a partially-spoken part where bassist/vocalist Iain Slater sounds a bit like Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons—maybe I shouldn’t bring that up because my MRR compatriot and native Scotsman Allan McNaughton reacted rather negatively when I mentioned it before. His words were, “watch it, bub!” You’ll be singing this one all day.

I’d imagine quite a few of you have heard of The Lurkers but their bass player Arturo Bassick left the band early on and started his own project Pinpoint, who released a few singles and an album in ’79-80. “Richmond” was the first and the best, another song that sounded inspired by pub rock as well as Spiral Scratch-era Buzzcocks. B-side “Love Substitute” has a similar sharpness, throwing in a nice little guitar freakout. Arturo eventually returned the Lurkers as a vocalist and “Richmond” became part of that band’s repertoire. 

Before Ian Page (neé Paine) and Dave Cairns donned their sharp suits for mod-revivalist band Secret Affair, they played in the New Hearts and released a nice piece of power-pop-punk called “Just Another Teenage Anthem.” Plaintive, yearning vocals, punctuated by some “oooo-oooohs” and a little jangle in the guitars. There was an anthology that included their two 7”s and a lot of unreleased tracks that came out in 2009.

Ian North played  in mid-70s NYC glam-pop band Milk ‘n Cookies, before moving to the UK and starting a punk band called Neo. There was only one single, 1978’s “Tran-Sister.” An intense track with striking guitar lines and a dark undertow and I suppose it could be considered more new wave than punk, but no matter—it’s a good one. The chorus has the line “television on the radio” and I’ve always wondered if the band TV On The Radio got their name from that song. Probably not but that was the first thing I thought of when hearing the latter’s name. And what I’ve heard from that band can’t touch this single.

The late Ian Lowery played in a few bands that didn’t really fit a specific category and they tend to be overlooked a bit. The Wall came first. Lowery wasn’t in the band all that long but he hung around long enough to sing on their first two singles. “Exchange/Kiss The Mirror” was the second one and both songs are good bashers in a Ruts vein, albeit without the rhythmic subtleties of the latter. After Lowery left The Wall, he found himself in Ski Patrol, a post-punk unit who recorded for Malicious Damage, the label that released early records by Killing Joke. The debut, “Everything Is Temporary/Silent Scream” has a post-punk ominousness and the jarring jitter continues for “Driving,” the b-side of their second single “Agent Orange.” That track marks a departure—a slow, steady buildup starting with a pulsating bass-line, adding guitar and synth shadings (played by Jaz from Killing Joke) as the volume steadily increases and the tone becomes increasingly desperate until there’s a blood-curdling scream that gets abruptly cut off. Quite a striking song. (January 6, 2017)



As some of you might know, I was in a band called Shattered Silence. We were around from about 1986 to 1989, re-formed briefly in 1991 and got back together to play a few shows in 2015 and it’s been an on again/off again ever since (as of now, it’s pretty much an off thing). In the process of setting up a social media page for the band, I discovered that there were other bands with the same name. It’s not all that original, I suppose—I stole the name from the title of a 1984 album by the Winnipeg band Unwanted. Anyway, one of ‘em is a self-described southern rock band from Tennessee and their influences are listed as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Guns ‘n Roses and Bon Jovi (sounds REALLY promising). Their Facebook page has a profile picture with an eagle with an American flag behind it and the cover photo is a Confederate flag. I think this band might be a bit confused. They do have pretty cool t-shirts, though (no American or Confederate flags on it).

The other one is what could best be described as a Christian alternative rock band from Texas. Their vocalist/guitarist Justin Gambino said their name comes from “400 years of silence between the Old Testament and New Testament in the Bible… We believe that in this life, in this world, some people feel that God has gone silent in their lives and we want to be the light to the world and to shatter that silence.” I have to admit that’s a lot more thought out than just poaching the name from an album title. Still, even with the obvious differences, I’ve felt a bit of a kinship with them and have even interacted with their Facebook page. They seem like decent-enough guys, even if their music is pretty awful and I’m being generous there. I was still saddened to learn that they’re splitting up because Justin has “felt led by the Lord to pursue a solo career.” I didn’t know the Lord was in the music management business. I posted that I was disappointed they were splitting up because now we wouldn’t be able to do a split record with them. One of the guys in the band took it with good humor.

So it’s up to us to carry the Shattered Silence banner. We’ve been floundering in that task for the past few years but never say never, right? Anyway, it got me to thinking about bands with the same name. The endless discussions over who’s better—Subhumans from the UK or The Subhumans from Canada? The Los Angeles X or the Australian one? It always makes for enjoyable, often spirited debates—they sometimes become more intense than discussing political issues. I put together a list of bands with the same names. In some cases, the spelling might be different but it’s the same pronunciation. And I pretty much stuck to bands that fall under the punk, post-punk or hardcore banner. Even if I don’t declare winners or losers, it’s also a good way to expose you, my loyal readers, to bands you might not have heard of before—so it’s as much a public service as a competition. Finally, I realize this is far from a complete list.


I already mentioned the dueling Subhumans. There seems to be more polarization with these bands than the others—if people like one, they tend not to like the other. I think they’re both great. While each had socially and politically-conscious lyrics, they had differing musical approaches. The UK band (no “the,” just Subhumans) operates in an anarcho-punk vein—maybe that’s a rather vague term. It’s a mix of punk, reggae, post-punk and rock, along with sharp, observational lyrics. They still play out (having returned from a hiatus in 1999) and still play almost all tracks from The Day The Country Died album, which isn’t a bad thing since it’s one for the ages. If anything, they’re a better live band now than they were in the 80s. The earlier EPs still kick ass and Worlds Apart pushes things in a more melodic direction without losing focus. They have an extensive catalogue and most of it is worthwhile.

The Canadian band’s debut full-length Incorrect Thoughts is chock full of memorable, anthemic tunes like “The Big Picture” and “Dead At Birth,” along with slam-bang rippers like “Death To The Sickoids” and “We’re Alive.” Their best-known song is probably the sarcastic “Slave To My Dick,” which showed up on the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation. The original album is a LOT better than the unauthorized CD Presents reissue, which had remixed versions of the songs, a different running order and an absolutely hideous orange cover that manipulated the original artwork. There are also two decent odds and ends compilations, Death Was Too Kind and Pissed Off… With Good Reason. You can avoid their tepid-sounding No Wishes No Prayers album on SST. I never heard the re-recorded version of Incorrect Thoughts or mid-2000s album New Dark Age Parade, but I can’t imagine them being anywhere near the level of the earlier discs. Sadly, their vocalist Brian “Wimpy Roy” Goble and original drummer Dimwit (both of whom also played in DOA) are no longer with us. As I said, both have a place in my collection and it’s a shame there’s so much divisiveness.

Just about everyone has probably heard of Boston legends Jerry’s Kids, who unleashed one of the greatest hardcore albums of all time, Is This My World, which boils over with a ferociousness and intensity few other bands ever achieved. But there are two other bands with the same name, albeit spelled differently. Jerry’s Kidz were from New Mexico and their sole EP, 1984’s Marionetts (also titled Well Fed Society on a Lost & Found Records bootleg), is a dose of ripping hardcore punk, featuring sputtering guitar leads and, while they’re not the most-original sounding band, this 7” is worthy of a reissue. The final one, from Austin, spelled its name Jerrys Kids and featured two future members of Scratch Acid, Rey Washam and Brett Bradford. Unfortunately, even with the talent involved, their album What Can You Say? How Will They Take It? is not-all-that-electrifying garagey punk/post punk. It’s hard not to love a song titled “Love Theme From Sharon Tate’s” and there are moments but this is hardly crucial.


I mentioned X before. The one from LA put out some solid records—the Los Angeles and Wild Gift albums are packed with great songs like “Johny Hit and Run Paulene,” “Los Angeles,” “We’re Desperate” and “Beyond and Back.” The brooding “White Girl” is my favorite. Exene and John Doe’s crooning was distinctive and the musical skill, particularly Billy Zoom’s rockabilly-inflected guitar licks and Don Bonebrake’s fluid drumming, was high. Unfortunately, there were a couple of awful albums and there’s the matter of Exene and Billy’s right-wing politics, so that detracts a bit (even if it’s unfair). The Australian X put out a groundbreaking, ahead-of-its-time album, 1979’s Aspirations. Driving churning punk/post-punk with slashing, sputtering guitar lines and relentless bass/drums. A sinister, acerbic classic. Ugly Pop put out a collection of 1977 demos a few years back, X-Purts, that’s more straight-ahead punk but you can hear hints of what would follow. I’ve been listening to the Aussie band a LOT more in recent years.

There were three Stains that I’ve heard—the one from LA had a 1983 self-titled 12” on SST. That has some scorching metal-tinged hardcore and is one of the records on that label most deserving of a reissue. “Sick and Crazy” is a good summary of their sound. The Stains from Austin eventually morphed into MDC and their sole release under that name was a 7” with the original versions of “John Wayne Was Nazi” and “Born To Die.” Slower but also scrappy--two great songs. There was also a Stains in the early 80s who were originally from Maine but eventually moved to Boston. They had a somewhat unclassifiable sound that fused ’77 era punk (their 7” had Damned and Sex Pistols covers) with a slight arty twist. The recordings are very hit and miss (there’s a compilation on Rave Up). They eventually changed their name to Ice Age.

Before the LA hard rock band L7 (whose music hasn’t aged well at all), there was L-Seven, a band from Detroit who had the sole release on the Touch & Go’s Special Forces spinoff, a self-titled 7” from 1983. Their vocalist was the late Larissa Stolarchuk (aka Strickland), who later wielded a mighty guitar for Laughing Hyenas. L-Seven had a pulsating, yet melodic post-punk sound. The three songs are full of shimmering guitar lines and a potent rhythmic undertow, along with Larissa’s sweet-sounding vocals. Long out of print and I’d imagine likely to stay that way, which is a shame, as this is an underrated disc.

Then there’s Youth Brigade, a name shared by bands from LA and DC. The former have a three decade career, the latter came and went very quickly in the early 80s but I listen to them a lot more these days. Their Possible EP, demo EP that was issued on Dischord in recent years and tracks on Flex Your Head are pissed-off and raging as fuck. Some of the recordings by the LA band (with the Stern brothers, founders of BYO) haven’t held up too well, to be honest, although there are still-enjoyable rousers like “Fight To Unite,” “Violence,” “Blown Away” and “Sink With California,” which make up for not-so-great songs like “What Will The Revolution Change?” and “Alienated.” There were two versions of Sound and Fury, from different recording sessions. The original one, later reissued as Out Of Print, is rougher-sounding, with an enjoyable west coast meets UK/Oi! sound. The redone version subtracts and adds some songs and spruces up the production.

UK thrashers Heresy are probably better-known than their slightly more obscure Michigan brethren. The latter didn’t release a whole lot back then—the Driven demo, a few songs on a cassette compilation and one posthumous 7”. Whereas the UK version wore the Siege and DRI inspirations on their collective sleeves, the Michigan unit had a buzzsaw thrash attack with occasional metallic leads and hoarse vocals. Some raging stuff.

There wasn’t one but two kickass bands with the name Agent Orange. I’d imagine the west coast punk-meets-surf band is better-known and their Bloodstains single and subsequent album Living In Darkness still sound great 35 years later. That more than makes up for the mediocre releases that followed (although the Breakdown EP is pretty good). But if you haven’t heard the Dutch Agent Orange, you really need to. Raw, fast, blistering hardcore with a complete don’t-give-two-fucks attitude. How can you not love a song with the title “Your Mother Sucks Cocks In Hall,” especially when delivered at a full-throttle thrashing-bashing tempo? It’s impossible.

CONFLICT (US)--ca. 1982 (photo: Ed Amaud)

There was an American counterpart to the UK anarcho punk band Conflict—an early 80s band from Arizona fronted by a psychiatric nurse named Karen. They released a demo, America’s Right (still have the copy I mailordered from Karen) and a 12” called Last Hour. Basic thrashy hardcore with occasional hints of melody that isn’t exceedingly original but still worth a listen or two and there was growth between the demo and 12.” Puke N Vomit did a reissue of the 12” a few years ago. Another UK anarcho band with a US counterpart was The Mob (the UK band spelled it Møb). The US aggregation, from NYC, put out a couple of 7”s that had decent 1-2-1-2 rat-a-tat-tat-tat thrash and a terrible, more metal-sounding album later on.

The Misfits from Lodi, NJ weren’t the only US band with that name—there was also a Misfits from Albany, NY, who later changed their name to The Tragics. Their 7” was reissued on Loud Punk in 2007. Trashy, fuzzed-out tuneful punk with Liz Davies’ Styrene-esque vocals. “Mommi I’m A Misfit” is an ear-grabbing gem. 

Long before the Santa Cruz band Bl’ast—who, if you’ve never heard them, offer some crushing, Black Flag-inspired mayhem—there was the Belgian band Blast, who have been described as “proto-thrash.” Their song “Damned Flame” is certainly quite speedy for 1972, when it was recorded. It was reissued a few years ago but even that’s a bit expensive. Gloriously lo-fi, with buzzy and fuzzy guitar, drumming that can’t quite keep up (especially for the b-side “Hope”) but, yep, it’s thrash. Maybe a bit more of historical curiosity than anything else.

One of the easiest “showdowns” involves two bands who started off as The Beat—the 2 Tone-era ska band English Beat and power poppers Paul Collins Beat. I know there are people who stand by the latter but I always found them wimpy. Truth be told, the UK one only have about half a dozen songs I still listen to, but I’ll still take them for the win. I had only one friend who thought the Paul Collins one was better but his opinion is disqualified because he once told me that Black Flag’s Damaged was one of the worst records he ever heard. No wonder I’m not friends with the guy anymore... (March 5, 2017)