Articles - Obsessive/Compulsive Rock N Roll - Stitches/Le Shok - 12.20.00

The Split Personality Edition...

Stitches/Le Shok – split 7"

With hot, strong coffee melting the mucus build up in the back of my throat and the thick haze hanging over my head, now it's easier to soak up the music facing me this morning. It's funny how winter, even in warm, sunny California can fuck me up like a train wreck. Music usually does the trick when I need something to sock me outta a sickly world of snot, headaches, coughing and congestion.

My turntable, while not the greatest turntable in the world, has this really cool feature on it. Technics call it a "memo-gram." All it really is, is a repeat feature. You set on control, telling the turntable what size the record is and then you set the "memo-gram." You can keep listening to the same side of the same record over and over under the power goes or your needle gives up. Or, you can set it to just listen to the side of the record over once. It's perfect on mornings like this, when my head feels like it weighs 50 pounds and I need a constant stream of loud music to cut through the cloudiness.

I always say the mark of a really great single is not being able to keep yourself from playing it over and over. It's almost like it's so fucking great, you can't soak it all up in one, two or even three listens, you have to pound yourself over the head with, like a masochist beating himself over the head with a rock just cause it feels nice. This, again, is where the "Memo-gram" comes in handy.

Even though it's not quite that caliber, both sides of the new STITCHES/LE SHOK split on GSL Records have been getting zapped by my "Memo-gram" a lot lately.

Split releases are often hard to get into. Though well intentioned–either coupling two good, well-known bands or pairing an unknown with a known band–splits usually fail to deliver the goods. Seriously, how many splits do you only listen to one side of? Too many.

What usually happens is, whether they mean to or not, the record pits one band against the other. They're back-to-back, facing off. Reviewers (and listeners) hear one, then the other. We compare them to each other, rather than letting each band rest on their own (de)merits. We stick to the band we know and love, letting the other go forever unplayed, save for an initial, skeptical listen. Such is life.

When I first heard the STITCHES and LE SHOK were heading out on a tour together, I thought it was kinda weird. The Stitches come from the more traditional Long Beach punk scene, whereas Le Shok came out of the LOCUST, Gravity/GSL hardcore scene. What the fuck are these two bands thinking? Hardcore and punk gettin' mashed together? Woah. Inconceivable.

That's sarcasm by the way.

But is it? I mean, for whatever petty reasons, there's a pretty big riff between hardcore and punk. Has been, probably always will be.

Anyway, after thinking about it for about 30 seconds, the tour made perfect sense. One listen to this single, and it makes even more sense.

This record stands as a great example of how to do a split 7" the right way. Two fairly popular bands, but in slightly different, overlapping genres. They don't sound exactly like each other, but they're similar enough that someone with even a bit of an open mind will get it pried open and blown away by the band they're not familiar with. The songs are short, to the fucking point and great. It looks cool as fuck. Bright pink and with black, artwork that looks slightly arty, but still fucked up. Orange and red clear vinyl. Hell, even the labels on this record look cool. And there's an insert! With lyrics! And guess what? It looks cool! An all around perfect package. If you ever intend on putting out a record, take notes. A little time and energy spent on a record goes a long way.

Even if you're one of those people who are like, "ugh, every Stitches song sounds the same," I dare you to say that about this one, "Cars of Today." First thing you'll notice is that it's slower. Rather than racing through a sneering, punchy song (which I happen to like), they stick to only a few strong notes and bounce through the song as if they were pile-driving it into your skull. This song is catchy. That's a warning. After the first listen, I was walking around my apartment in a daze, reciting the lyrics..."Cars of today are like kids in a way/If it falls apart you can give it away...we wear clothes and we drive cars/we're so disposable." It's a great fucking song, from the lyrics all the way down to the rhythm.

Lately I've been sold on the idea that what some many bands today are lacking is a good, strong rhythm. The drummers and bass players of too many bands today aren't adventurous enough...or they're too adventurous. Think of bands like IVY GREEN or X (the Australian band). They both clobber you senseless with their rhythm section. Simple at times, yet also strikingly different than the typical 4/4, follow the guitar pattern that too many fucking bands can't seem to shake. Marvel at how the Stitches benefit from a simple rhythm that isn't your standard lunkhead crash and bang. It makes all the difference.

I have a love-hate relationship with Le Shok. I saw them once at Gilman and was thoroughly unimpressed with their asshole shtick, not being able to get through a whole song, berating the rapt audience. Yawn.

Their records I liked okay. I bought them all, drawn in more by the good design than anything. Their songs kinda threw me. There wasn't a lot to grab on to. The songs were short and bombastic, over before you knew what hit you. Fast and loud, but not in the usual sense of fast and loud.

Well, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on. I've found the hook I was looking for, that I knew existed in their songs. Now, I love listening to Le Shok. They make an excellent pairing with the Stitches. Different, yet alike.

In an interview with Le Shok, they're asked why their songs are so incredibly short. They reply, "because we have short attention spans." It makes sense. Their songs rarely top 1.5 minutes. The song on this single, "Telephone Disaster" barely stumbles over 80 seconds, not counting the 90 seconds at the end of that annoying sound a phone makes when it's off the hook.

I guess it'd be easy to try and get sociology or psychological about the short, loud, fast songs. But I won't. That shit gets dragged into punk rock too much as it is.

The song smokes, plain and simple. It's got a wonderfully damaged quality, similar to SKULL KONTROL or the PIRANHAS, but special in its very own way. The blaring synthesizers tie the jagged guitars and drums together, then get shot full of exclamation points by the sharp, punctuating vocals.

Bam! Bam! BAM!!!
Like shooting yourself in the head.
At least you're doing it with a great fucking record.
(GSL Records 1203 1/2 Regentview Ave/Downey, CA 90241/USA/

Other 7"s of note:
Briefs/Spits – split 7"; Scared of Chaka/Fatal Flyin' Guilloteens – split 7"

I'm lumping these two records together, 'cause they both come from Dirtnap Records and they're both split 7"s, so it's like reviewing four different bands, four different records all at once. I'll make this as quick and painless as possible.

The Briefs have won a space in my heart and countless spins on my turntable with their song, "Silver Bullet." The song is long overdue. I don't know if you ever had to endure hours and hours and hours of torture by way of Bob Seeger records. Chances are, if you grew up in the Midwest, the answer is yes. If so, this song will strike a deep chord within you. Besides being absolutely fun, rousing and just catchy, it's about fucking time punk bands started writing more songs tearing down rock superstars (even though many punks have themselves become superstars)...this is especially true now when so many "punk" bands are embracing metal and classic rock as if it were a long lost friend. No. Hello? Do you not remember the '80s at all? Metal sucked then and it sucks now. Classic rock sucks then and it sucks now. All you dipshits wearing your Iron Maiden shirts and flashing the devil's horns at shows woulda gotten your asses kicked by lanky, long-hair, greasy metal kids. I know I did. Assholes. What is so wrong with punk that you have drag metal and classic rock bullshit into it? Seriously...listen to this Briefs song over and over until it's imbedded deep in your brain, "KILL BOB SEEGER NOW!!!"

The other Briefs' song, "(I Think) My Baby Is a Communist" takes off on a Japanese (think REGISTRATORS) note with high-pitched jagged, grasping for air vocals and guitars that sound as if they're doing something similar. A good song, but blown outta the water by "Silver Bullet." The Briefs also have a new album on Dirtnap that is worth the $8-$10 you'll pay for it.

Continuing our trend of well-matched split 7"s, the SPITS make for a great flips-side for the Briefs, or vice versa. The Spits have more of a arty, wave influence, especially on their second song "FIRE!!!" They make heavy use of noisy, droning keyboards, instantly making me think of DOW JONES & THE INDUSTRIALS. Actually, now that I think about it, their first song, "Pissed-Off Baby" also sounds like a Dow Jones song, albeit one of their more straightforward punk songs, but not without the wave-edge. That shit is seeping heavy into punk these days, which is great as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, both the Spits songs have spunk and, if you didn't know better, you'd probably mistake them for a band from Ohio circa 1978.

The other split 7" on Dirtnap featuring a pairing of two bands with whom you're most likely familiar: SCARED OF CHAKA and FATAL FLYIN' GUILLOTEENS. As I mentioned in my column, it's been a while since I've listened to Scared of Chaka. I think they're a great band, but after any band is around a while, it's ease to kind of see them as just part of the landscape. Well, these two songs dump the poppier sound they've been doing in the past, for stripped down, thin, fast and trashy, just perfect. As with the above two bands, Scared of Chaka's second song, "Shake It (Oh Yeah)" blows their first song, "Girls Like You," out of the fucking water. "Shake It" is absolutely great!!! Totally fucking manic, out of breath, howling madness. It's one of those songs that you can't help but play really fucking loud and makes you run around your room, jumping on your bed, screaming, pull your hair out going, "YEEEEEEE-AAAAH OOOOWWWW! ALLRIGHT! YEAH! OW!"

Finally, the Fatal Flyin' Guilloteens. I'll admit, this is my introduction to FFGs. For whatever reason, I've just missed out on their other releases. These two songs are more aurally confrontational, like they've been listening to a lot of CAPTAIN BEEFHEART or CAN and the STATICS all at once. Or maybe I'm way off. I dunno. Again, they're taking off on more of a non-traditional, no wave, damaged punk approach. Breaking melodies and rigid rhythms into sharply contorted, pieces. The instruments are almost like pistons pumping in an engine, up and down, pulling in air and gas for a small explosion that makes the songs move. And they do move. This is sort of what Le Shok is doing, but at 100 m.p.h. I think if it were a little more manic, I'd get into it more. As it is, my attention span has been wrecked by hyperactive Ritialin-starved punk rock 'n' roll and I'm just not able to sink my teeth into it.
(Dirt Nap Records PO Box 21249 Seattle, WA 98111)

Ritchie Whites – Stop Me Before I Kill Again 7"
(Rapid Pulse Records PO Box 5075 Milford, CT 06460)
Strap-Ons – The Pimps, R.I.P. 7"
(Rapid Pulse Records PO Box 5075 Milford, CT 06460)
Dream Dates – Moans on the Phone 7"
(Ugly Pop Records 2 Bloor St. West Suite 100, Box 477 Toronto, ON M4W 3E2, Canada)
Larry Dirty – Drug Abused
(Flying Bomb PO Box 971038 Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Mark Murrmann
PO Box 11906 Berkeley, CA 94712 USA

© 2003