Columns - "Beat Your Heart Out" 01.01.03

Beat Your Heart Out #1 by Jeff Greenback

So, welcome to the new "lo-fi", we-don't-need-nothin'-fancy-cuz-it's-2003, version of Blank Generation. What does the future hold for this place? Good question, fellow reader - your guess is as good as mine. But if the rest of those other bozos are going to be writing about the best new bands and records to be foisted upon us record obsessed degenerates then so will I. We'll see how this "column" thing works out. Next time I think I might be lazy and just pump out the plain 'ole reviews, 2002 style.

I'm totally into lists so here's my preamble to a list of the best stuff to hit my ears this past year. I'll skip the punk rock editorializing and refer you instead to Sir Filthy Rich's excellent, spot on rant concerning "the way things are" just posted on the Rip Off Records site. My synopsis: the "true believers" will always be around, new people show up (more than usual lately), most leave, some stay around. Let's go on with our lives.

In the ten or so years I've been listening to records I'd have to say that 2002 was by far the best. That could be due to my broadening tastes (do The Apples in Stereo and A-Frames even come from the same universe?), or the fact that I probably heard more new records this past year than any other year but I still stand by that statement. And, geez, is it ever nice for me for the first time to live in a city that actually has good shows and has a solid music scene (and being two hours away from Seattle doesn't hurt either).

Anyway, here are my top ten favourite full lengths of 2002. It's amazing how many killer records didn't make my list (Cripples, Kill-a-Watts, Stitches, Distraction, Jewws, Leg Hounds, Epoxies, Mystery Girls, Selby Tigers, Crimson Sweet, Numbers, Fevers, and Hunches (which I have upgraded to "pretty good", which is better than what I initially thought which was "totally average")). Some of the records haven't been reviewed yet on Blank Generation as they are fairly new, so I'll try and say a bit more about those.

10. The Piranhas - Erotic Grit Movies CD/LP (In the Red Records)
Did this record get reviewed last month? I can't remember

.9. The Real Pills - Nine Long Years CD (Mortville Records)
One of the more downright fun records put out this year. 60's garage blended with some modern punk attitude and a keen sense of pop. Dynomite!

8. Baseball Furies - Greater Than Ever CD/LP (Big Neck Records)
Just like the Real Pills album, this debut full length from Baseball Furies sat on the shelf for a while before it got released. No complaints here. All it means is album number two better be put out soon!

7. The Lost Sounds - Rat's Brains and Microchips CD/LP (Empty Records)
From Controlling Robots with the Mind by Miguel A.L. Nicolelis and John K. Chap in the October 2002 issue of Scientific American, (note: "Belle" refers to a tiny owl monkey)

"… we were about to test the idea that we could reliably translate the raw electrical activity in a living being's brain - Belle's mere thoughts - intro signals that could direct the actions of a robot. Unknown to Belle...we had assembled a multijointed robot arm in a room away from her view, that she would control for the first time. As soon as Belle's brain sensed a lit spot on the panel, electronics in the box running two real time mathematical models would rapidly analyze the tiny action potentials produced by her brain cells. Our lab computer would convert the electrical patterns into instructions that would direct the robot arm."
Holy shit! It worked!

6. The Spits - s/t #2 CD/LP (Slovenly Records)
" Brilliant ineptness." "Spectacularly retarded."

5. Hot Snakes - Suicide Invoice CD/LP (Swami Records)
Not everyone's cup of tea, that's for sure, but I still say that the Hot Snakes are the most underrated band out there. Also, they put on the best live show I saw in 2002, hands down.

4. The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic LP (Screaming Apple Records)
Holy fucking shit this is a great record! Practically out of nowhere comes this astounding debut from Portland, OR's The Exploding Hearts. The back says "100% pop" which is true, I guess, but not in a totally saccharine pop way, like The Yum Yums, nor in a retro 60s pop way, like The Fevers, but instead pop filtered through layers upon layers of snotty, late 70s UK punk action. The first song "Modern Kicks" is the best song to hit wax this year, no doubt about it. There are at least five other huge hits here and there's not a stinker on the whole thing. Screaming Apple delivers the goods once again, and for those of you who are analogue impaired, the digital version will be coming soon on Dirtnap, which I shouldn't have to tell you is the best label currently going. Their first single is now at the top of my to get list (if the A-side I have on mp3 is as good as the b-side it would be single of the year!) as is their out any day single on the solid Pelado label. My only question is what happened to King Louie?

3. The Apples in Stereo - Velocity of Sound CD/LP (spinArt Records)
I grew up on the poppy side of the punk rock spectrum, in case you haven't noticed. And this, my fellow pop-lovers, is the best straightforward pop punk album to be released in many, many years. If you wrote off The Apples in Stereo as "too wimpy" or "too psychedelic" in the past, I totally agree with you. But they've taken the best parts of their old sound (their last record was about half brilliant) and gotten rid of everything but the basics to create a true buzzsaw, poppy punk classic.

2. A-Frames - s/t LP (SS Records/Dragnet Records)
Absolutely primal, hypnotic, art punk brilliance. Album number two is already in the can and if it's anything like the huge batch of unreleased demo stuff that the band has, it will be just as punishingas the first.

1. FM Knives - Useless and Modern CD (Moo-La-La Records)
Records like this don't come around that often. The late 70s, UK, pop-tinged punk thing going on would be good enough for most bands but the slight bit of angular, post-punk influence added to the mix makes this a record a modern day classic. So essential it's not even funny.
And here are my top ten favourite 7"ers of 2002. Once again there are so many great records not on the list (Fuses, Jewws, Flakes, Crimson Sweet, Epoxies, Stitches, Mighty John Waynes, etc.)

10. The Spinoffs - Break Out! 7" (self released)
Modern day pop-punk is pretty much dead. Thankfully, that’s not what the Spinoffs play as they are smart enough to speed things up about twenty times and jam in 9 punk gems on one sizzling piece of wax.

9. New Town Animals - Fashion Fallout 7" (Dirtnap Records)
Two songs, two winners. Not much else to say.

8. The Tyrades - I Got A Lot 7" (Broken Rekids)
I like this one better than the Rip Off single, so there. Is the production just shitty, or is it supposed to sound that way? It works!

7. Teenage Rejects - Teenage Trash Vol. 2 7" (Alien Snatch! Records)
I'd imagine that you're either down with these kids by now or you're not. Posthumous!

6. The Intelligence / Popular Shapes split 7" (Dirtnap Records)
Have a mentioned that the Seattle area is pumping out a lot of great bands recently? Apparently the Popular Shapes album is already recorded, so somebody put it out, please.

5. The Distraction / The Briefs split 7" (Radio Blast Recordings)
So wait, the singer for the Distraction is really the singer from Le Shok and not just a guy who sounds exactly like him? Really? Don't quote me on that, it's just what the kids are telling me. Anyway, he's not in the band anymore anyway (although he is on this fab single). And the Briefs, well, what is there not to say about the Briefs. This was recorded in Sept. 2002 and if this is what the new stuff sounds like (album number two and two and a half coming shortly) I'm excited.

4. Rael Rean - Adjust-A-Girl/Weakdays 7" (Flying Bomb Records)
Three songs of destructo-synth-rock that sound unlike anything else I've heard this year. It's not all manic and crazy like The Piranhas but a bit more standard giving a nod towards some of the early Fast Product bands. Another oddball winner from Flying Bomb!

3. Kill-a-Watts - Let's Get High Voltage! 7" (Flying Bomb Records)
The Kill-a-Watts are a singles band for me. Their hyper fast, garage punk snot blasts work best two or three at a time. It's not like their album was bad or anything, I just prefer their songs in smaller doses. This is the best single they put out this year, although both the Microwave My Heart single and the split with the Catholic Boys are keepers as well.

2. Neon King Kong - Mix Up the Mix 7" (GSL)
So wait, does that mean that this is the same singer as Le Shok and The Distraction too? Somebody help me here! Anyway, these creeping jerks lasted one record and then called 'er a day. It's kind of like Le Shok, I guess, but a little bit more, uh, "coherent". That last Le Shok S&M 7" was really good too, by the way.

1. The Briefs - Love and Ulcers 7" (Dirtnap Records)
Laugh all you want tough guy, The Briefs write some of the catchiest songs out there today. Sure, they like to dress up and play the image game a bit. But it's fucking rock'n'roll - relax already. This is my favourite of their recorded output this year but the sister single to this one and the Screaming Apple single are great as well and for all I know the This Age single (which I've yet to hear) is probably amazing too. The big question is: will their next two releases (the major label album and the Dirtnap EP) kick total ass or will they suck shit? I vote for the former, but I guess we'll see.

2002 also gave us some great records that were neither singles nor full lengths. By the way label dudes, 10 inch records are way cooler than 12"EPs or CDEPs. I'd say more about the great ones like The Riff Randells Lethal Lipgloss 10" (!!!), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (re-released 12"EP and new 10"), The Red Light Sting CDEP, and The Sick Lipstick CDEP but I'm lazy, so go hump yourself instead and just buy 'em if you see 'em. Alright, that's it, I'm done.

© 2003