Columns - "If You Die, and Go to Hell, Who Cares?" 04.11.01

For the first time in four years, I have a proper CD player. It's opened a whole new world of music to me. I've had a CD player before -- a little boom box Mimi keeps in the bedroom with her, where her desk is. She listens to a lot of AMY MANN (she prefers the TILL TUESDAY version of "Voices Carry" to the GANG GREEN version), SLEATER KINNEY and girl group comps while working furiously on her position papers for her oral exams. While I have a lot of CDs, I never really got the chance to listen to them. Now I can.

Don't think just 'cause I've gotten a CD player that my opinion on vinyl has changed. It hasn't. I still prefer records to CDs anyfuckingday. It's just that now I can better justify buying box sets that will never in a zillion years make it to vinyl. It also means I've finally plunged into the slush pile of CDs people have sent me to write about. While there were a number of big stinky turds -- as expected – a few of the discs I've had sitting on the floor next to my desk since December were actually really good.

We'll get to the CDs in a minute. Right now, I've got bigger fish to fry.

If ANDY G. & THE ROLLER KINGS were fish, they'd be a fucking Northern pike as big as your leg. Jesus Christ, their debut 10" [Sympathy] fills that hole in my soul that's seems to have only been gettin' bigger and bigger lately. You know the feeling. Lots of new stuff coming out. Some of it's even good, but nothing really fills you up, compels you to listen to it overandover, just keep chewing on it 'til your jaw hurts. When the needle falls into the void between the end of the last track and the middle of the record, the quiet makes you uncomfortable. It's a record that fills your lungs with air and, when it's over, you're left gasping, so you hurry, flip it over or play the same side over again.

This 10" had some mighty expectations to live up to. With Fabulous Andy G. (DEVIL DOGS) taking lead and Candy Del Mar (CRAMPS) playin' bass...everybody expects people in once great bands to come back for a repeat performance. Can you help but to expect greatness? The 10" kicks off with a swaggering song, "Dance Last Night" that's followed up the rollicking "Summertime Girls." Both songs—all the songs actually—recall the DEVIL DOGS enough to satisfy those of us who are still clinging on to those memories. But they've definitely got a sound distinctly their own. It's hot and sweaty like being at the roller rink with your girl on a steamy August night. There's a party in the grooves of this record...and few people know how to pull that kind of magic off like Andy G.

Switching gears almost completely, another stand out record recently released—and I hope you've already got it—is the LOST SOUNDS LP, Memphis Is Dead [BigNeck/PO Box 8144/Reston, VA 20195]. What the fuck is going on with that mess of vinyl? It's brilliant, truly amazing. Just when you thought things were getting stale, that there wasn't really room for anything new, here comes Jay and that gang to fuck shit up, Memphis style. Hallehluah. The creepy castle on the cover gives you a small warning of the damage that lies inside. We're talkin' serious eerie keyboard action woven through blurry guitars and a crashing set of drums.

It's hard to wrap your head around this record. Though the songs carry a similar sound from one to the other, they're each different enough to give you more than a headful to digest. Not that they sound anything alike, but the LOST SOUNDS take a similar approach as the WHITE STRIPES. They do an amazing job of borrowing bits from a number of divergent genres of music, and mix them a little for a totally unique sound. One song will sound a lot like WIRE. The next will sound like an OBLIVIANS outtake, while the one right after that will sound like a trainwreck between the BAUHAUS and the BASEBALL FURIES. Sounds horrible, doesn't it? Take my word for it—they make it work. It works so well that I'm gonna go out on a limb and say this record will stand up to not just be one of the best of 2001, but it will be a true classic. A fucking classic!!!

The third standout album this month is none other than the new ZODIAC KILLERS LP, Have A Blast [Rip Off]. No shit. I complained about their last album not really having anything to hold onto. Well, this time around Lowery and the gang don't give you a chance to grab on to anything—they come after you with a fury of pure punk rock. This record has everything the last one lacked—lots of well-placed hooks, cool riffs, but no excessive wanking. The songs aren't as thin; there's plenty to sink your rotting teeth into. The dual guitars give it a blistering snarl that's direct, goes straight for your throat and rips you to shreds. You'll lie there, loving every fucking minute of it. The songs blast by pretty quick (this plays at 45 rpms, like their first album), leaping off the vinyl with venom that is pure Lowery...but it's not all Greg. What really makes this album works is you can tell this band really clicks. All the pieces fall into place. The backing vocals fill in all the necessary places without dominating the lead. The drums do a great job of keeping the songs moving, making a presence but not being stupidly overbearing. Ahhh...really, it's just a great punk record. Fast, vicious, snarling, unrelenting, all that.

Three very different, but very great records, all worth your time (and money).

That said, here's some more. Some are great, some are good, some suck.

JED WHITEY come blasting outta Australia with five meaty songs spread out over a big 12" record. They're sorta heavy and really fucking loud, obviously having taken note from past masters of Australian rock 'n' roll. Jed Whitey are one of those rare bands who really know how to play loudasfuck rock 'n' roll without littering their songs with stupid LA glam rock licks. The cover of this record is a picture of a big muff pedal sitting on top of a pile of records. You can always tell a lot about a band who included pictures of other records on their own cover. MUDHONEY, the FIX, ANGRY SAMOANS, DICTATORS, POISON IDEA and CURTIS MAYFIELD...and a half-eaten hamburger on the back. That sums up this record better than I ever could. It's limited to 300 copies—trade your collection of sparkly HELLACOPTERS records to get one if you have to.

Mickey Hampshire is back! For you greenhorns out there, Mr. Hampshire is part of the songwriting dynamo that made the MILKSHAKES. His new band, MICKEY AND THE SALTY SEA DOGS sounds more or less like what you'd expect—stark and simple gritty garage with a commanding backbeat. A few songs from their debut album, Salt Water and Whiskey [Sympathy] such as "Dig Myself a Grave" and "Love's A Lie" really stand out, and overall it's a good record, but I will warn you, it's depressing as fuck. If the above two song titles don't convince you, how 'bout these: "No More Love," "On This Cold Grey Day," and "Get Used to Loving Me." The title song is a slow, dirge like number that invokes the felling of someone writing a suicide note. Not so cheery, but then, from what I hear, England can be a grey miserable place. "El Naufragio," an OS MUTANTES-like Latin instrumental with a guitar drowning in fuzz perks things up a bit.

After losing the cash cow of their label, some people have been wondering what kind of direction Alternative Tentacles would take in the future. So far, things are lookin' better than ever...which really isn't so hard. I mean really, with a few notable exceptions, the AT back catalogue has some pretty ugly warts. But things have started to change. Really. Their MIA reissue, Lost Boys is top notch. The first album in this two LP set stands as truly great hardcore...that is, hardcore that's as much punk as it is hardcore. The second album, which brings up the read of MIA's career raises the ghosts of hardcore's past—that scary period when lots of really great hardcore bands starting going for a melodic rock sound and just not hitting it.

Also on the AT front, I read that two of the better local bands, the PHANTOM LIMBS and the FLESHIES have recently signed to AT. Smart move! Let me recommend going to see the Fleshies if you ever get the chance to do so. They're one of the best live bands in the Bay Area right now.

Look for a collection of BABEEZ and NEWS material coming from Au Go-Go Records in the near future! Plus, Au Go-Go has promised a compilation of Brisbane punk from 1978 – 1983! As if that weren't enough to soil yourself, they're also putting out 7"s by the DIRTBOMBS and WALTER DANIELS!

Munster Records out does themselves again by issuing the never properly issued first FLESHTONES LP. Recorded for Red Star records in 1978 (though not issued until the '80s, on cassette no less!)

Get Back steps up to the plate by reissueing the 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS' classics Psychedelic Sounds Of... and Easter Everywhere.

I've really been on a torrid KINKS/TROGGS jag lately, listening to both constantly. Thus, I'm flipped to see the cool Kinks BBC recordings released. Similar to the stellar WHO sessions released a while ago, this monster collection contains interviews and songs recorded for the BBC and spans the meat of their career. I'm holding out for the vinyl, but if you're impatient, be sure to pick up the CD. To hold myself over, I grabbed the two-CD singles collection, Fab Forty [Charly Records]. It compiles the Kinks' singles from 1964 – 1970.

Have you heard the word? Sub Pop is going to be reissueing loads of RADIO BIRDMAN stuff in July. From what I hear, they're doing a "Best Of" type CD. Sundazed Records is negotiating to get permission to put out the vinyl. Maybe we'll finally see a legit reissue of one of the best albums ever (that's Radios Appear...)?

In the don't ask, don't tell deptartment, we see the first MC5 LP reissued in it's original form, complete with all the dirty words. MUSIC MACHINES' legendary Turn On LP has surfaced in reissue form, complete with all original artwork and liner notes.

Let's buzz through the singles really quick, shall we?

DO NOT pass up the PLEASURE SEEKERS 45 on Norton. This was SUZI QUATRO's first band. Big deal you say. Fair enough, but the title track here, "What A Way to Die," is one of the all time greatest garage songs EVER! No shit. It's just amazing and must be heard.

A new one by HENRY FIAT'S OPEN SORE! It's called Hits Mot Folkgruppe [Ken Rock] and is their first record all in their native tongue. Are they hardcore? Are they punk? Are they really fast garage rock? Who are these masked minstrels of mayhem? Who knows? Who cares?!? They're amazing!!!

Another Swedish band, HIGHSCHOOL ROCKERS swing way more to the poppy side of punk, but still have a good bite to their guitars. Like nearly every Swedish band, their second 7" Double A-Side shows they're tight & loud and the production is great. It's got a good mess of distortion smearing the vocals, giving it a garagy texture. Not only that, this record is so fucking thick, at first I thought it was a double 7". No shit. Anyway, it's catchy and fun and worth your $5 [URU/Svedeliusväg 16/S-611 38 Nyköping/Sweden/]

Jim from Rapid Pulse/Underground Medicine [PO Box 5075/Milford, CT 06460/] just put out two new singles. The PITS show their UK pride by serving up a pair of well-done streetwise songs. This is one of those singles that, when you listen to it, you think, "If this had come out it in 1978, it'd be a fucking classic." Seriously, they've got a brilliant melodic sound reminiscent of '78 UK punk—stuff that still had a good mean bite in the guitars, but is still definitely rooted around punchy, melodic chords. These two songs, "National Anthem" and "Introducing My New High" were taken from an album on Rhythm Vicar called Introducing...the Pits. Do yourself a favor and pick up this single and keep an eye out for the LP.

The other 7", by the SHRINKS, has a thinner sound, but nonetheless comes at you with four killer, fast-paced songs. This is one you really have to turn up loud to fully can tell the Shrinks know how to belt out great punk rock and they're probably good live, but this record suffers on the production side. Not that a record has to have a million dollar recording to be good, but the double guitars just kinda sound squished on top of each other, rather than bolstering one another. And the vocals sound flat. Snotty, but flat. There's a really great record buried in here. And still, it's better than 98% of the other turds floating in the record bin at your local record store.

Some records you put on your turntable and there's only one thought going through your head: "I need to see this band live." That's what's going through my head right now as the first ONE MAN SHOW LIVE 7" It Don't Matter [Call & Response/1526 Westerly Terr. #4/LA, CA 90026/] spins on my turntable. Frantic guitars, sweaty keyboard action, manic vocals! They've got it. Plus, on the insert, there's a diatribe about how a "live performance MUST BE entertainment." Amen! We'll see if they live up to their own words...supposedly they're coming up here soon. I'll give you a full report.

For a city of its size, very few bands seem to come outta Denver. GINA GO FASTER and the THIRTEENS are busting out of Mile High City on a split 7" on King Bee Records [PO Box 1164/Denver, CO 80201]. Both bands make ample use of heavily distorted guitars, but Gina Go Faster needs to do just that—play faster. And the Thirteens play faster but have a snare drum that sticks out like a Jets To Brazil emo kid at ABC No Rio, which sounds like a petty complaint, but it makes it hard to listen to the song as a whole. Both bands suffer from not having a sound that's their own, which is rooted in their over-reliance on a really simple, played-out three chord structure. Believe me, I'm all for simplicity in songs, but mix it up...or something. Neither of these bands is bad, just all that unique.

On the other hand, the NEW TOWN ANIMALS and the D´ELATEURS share a 7" [Zaxxon Virile Action 1731-6 Poupart/Montréal, Qué/H2K 3G9/Canada/], each shaking out two high quality punchy songs. On their first song, "Baby You're the Reason," they come off sounding somewhat like a sped-up version of the STITCHES. They follow that up with a commendable cover of "Little Rich Boy." On the flipside, the Délateurs taking a harder hitting style to heart. While the New Town Animals' songs have a solid melodic core, the Délateurs put the extra bite on their guitars, unleashing a stable of choppy, driving chords. If I had a criticism, it'd be that each band has one song that's about 30-45 seconds too long. My mind starts to wander after two minutes...

Probably fewer punk bands have come from Montana as a whole than from the city of Denver. Yet, Montana blesses us with a winning split 7". It comes my way from the FORTY-FIVES and EVERYDAY SINNERS [Corn Daddy/624 S. Higgings/Missoula, MT 59801]. The Forty-Fives have a bouncy but strong sound that brings to mind the HIVES a bit—they've got the organ pumpin' hard, backing up hyper-guitars and MITCH RYDER-like wild party action vocals. As their name suggests, the Everyday Sinners sound like they've spent their fair share of time searching the back alleys of Missoula for any kind of trouble they can stir up. In a one-two punch, they knock out a wild, heavy version of "You Can't Tame Me," sounding like they mean it. Exceptional!

I was really excited about the first Backseat Love compilation. And while the second installment has some really great bands/songs (ACCELERATORS, RUBBER CITY REBELS, RERUNS among others), I've been having a hard time getting worked up over this one. There are more songs (16 total), but one of those songs is the CHRONICS' "Test Tube Baby." How many fucking comps is this song on now? It's a good song, but not that good. Come on...instead of this, I recommend you check out Killed By Hardcore. But then, the two comps are at totally different ends of the punk spectrum. I know I've been listening to more hardcore lately, especially drawn to stuff in the vein of early '80s punk/hardcore, so that probably has something to do with my inclination to play KBHardcore more than Backseat Love. KBHardcore collects, as you might guess, obscure hardcore from 1980 – 85. Remember how great it was when you first heard Killed By Death? That such great, vicious music could have been made, forgotten and then found again? Well, this record gives you that same feeling. It's especially nice to hear after years of half-assed, padded-out KBD comps.

A new one by the GIZMOS called "The Midwest Can Be Alright." [Gulcher] These six songs are by the latter-day Gizmos, the Dale Lawerence-led Gizmos. The Gizmos from the Hoosier Hysteria LP. You know? Slower, poppier, but really great. Aside from the title song, "My Baby Loves Crime" is a winner.

Two not-so new CDs from Pelado [521 W. Wilson #C103/Costa Mesa, CA 92627] by bands you know and (possibly) love: the CHEMO KIDS and TEEN COOL. The Chemo Kids disc, Radiation Generation hits the gas and never really slows down. Lots of NEW YORK DOLLS/JOHNNY THUNDERS influence coming through in their noisy, semi-sloppy (in a good way!) songs, plenty of snotty attitude. Thankfully, they play considerably faster than 98% of the other bands out there with a Dolls fixation. Don't let the dorky cover scare you away, this is actually a good CD.

TEEN COOL's 7" on Mortville stands as a forgotten classic, so I had high expectations for their new CDEP, Adolessons. Listening to these six songs now, I'm bobbing my head, thinking, "This is good..." but to be honest, in the two months I've had this CD, I've only listened to it maybe three times. Why is that? These songs are a bit slower than before, still brimming with snarling guitars and sneering vocals, but it seems almost like Teen Cool have been tamed since their 7" on Mortville. Those songs sounded like a caged animal trying to get free. Here, they're still vicious, but seem more content in their cage. Listen and you'll understand.

After getting and listening to the new CRIMSON SWEET CDED, Foil Beach [Crimson Sweet/PO Box 20506/Tompkins Sq. Sta/NYC, NY 10009/], I'm left with the question, "When's the album coming out?" These five songs show New York's answer to DEAD MOON have fine-tuned their sound, tightening up all the loose ends. Booster's vocals have multiple personalities, going from distant, almost shy to sounding somewhat like Poly Styrene to just being rightinyourfuckingface, screaming. This gives Crimson Sweet personality like you don't often hear in a band. As a three piece, they keep the music relatively simple, strongly rooted in rhythm, but changing tempo fairly often, not following any kind of staid pattern of music.

Three new CDs from Smog Veil [774 Mays #10/PMB 454/Incline Village, NV 89451/]. LES BLACKS AMAZING PINK HOLES were band with burning guitars from the shores of Lake Erie, circa 1984. The CD starts slow, sludgy even. But by the fifth track, they pick up on a great punked-up EDDIE COCHRAN-like sound. The live songs included (17 in all) sound great. Not essential, but a cool document for those obsessed with the Cleveland scene. My biggest beef is that there's absolutely no history of any kind included.

The comp Pie & Ears has a horrible cover and a dumb title, but a good idea behind it. This comp collects tracks from Cleveland area bands from "then & now." Then, of course refers to the "heyday" of punk, 1977 – 1984. Of course, besides making educated guesses, you can't tell which bands are from "then" and which are from "now." Many of the songs have no dates associated with them. Aside from all that, there's some really great stuff on here, proving the Cleveland punk scene went way beyond the PAGANS (who are having tons of stuff reissued on Crypt in May!!!). Mind you, there are some really shitty tracks too (the WOMBATS track comes to mind), but overall, the wide array of styles is refreshing. It's nice to hear a comp that's not all shitty bar bands belching heavy metal riffs and calling it punk.

Finally, Smog Veil released two STEP SISTER recordings, Sugar Sweat 8-Track and Second Hand Smoke on one CD. I have no idea if these had been previously released or not...but they sound like what I imagine drinking a gallon of water from the Love Canal would feel like. Burns going down and keeps on burning all the way through your digestive system. The vocals sound like a rusted circular saw cutting through sheet metal and the guitars do a great job of sounding every bit as menacing. Lots of hits and misses spreadout on the disc—the slower songs are just painful, but when Step Sister hit the gas peddle, they really hit it.

The DEFENESTRORS from France [Pilon c/o Bruno Barthes; 335/341 rue Lecourbe; 75015 Paris; France/] caught me off guard when I first put their (debut?) CD, Confessions of a Psychocat into my player. From the first song until the last, they rip through great TV KILLERS-like songs. Garagy but hurried and hard hitting. They waste no time getting to the fucking point. Their songs start fast and end abruptly—BOOM—then they kick into the next one. Almost leaves you breathless. It's CDs like this that make me glad I finally got a CD player.

North Carolina and ANTISEEN. These three words together should give you a good idea of what to expect from the DEAD KINGS' CD Murder City or Bust [Dead Kings/PO Box 9680/Charlotte, NC 28299-9680]. These boys from North Carolina are absolutely bruising, in the kind of way that fans of Antiseen will a matter of fact, Jeff Clayton (of Antiseen) makes a guest appearance. This CD, while being really well done, has way too much metal (a-la MOTORHEAD and SABBATH) going on for me. Just as I say that though, the song "Run You Down" totally sends chills up my spine. They work in JERRY LEE LEWIS-style piano banging into the song with stunning results. Astounding, tight and loudasfuck, but overall not my cuppa joe.

If you're aching for some more traditional garage rock 'n' roll let me turn your attention to the IRVING CLAWS new CD, Pajama Party [Get Hip]. As their name might suggest, they have a cartoonish pin-up image rumbling through songs like, "The Sniffer," "Teenage Curse," and "Wigglin' & Jigglin'." They're poppy and feisty, super catchy in a way that brings the HI FIVES and/or the SMUGGLERS to mind.

As the blues punk scene gets more and more crowded it's hard to ignore the IMMORTAL LEE COUNTY KILLERS. On their first full-length, The Essential Fucked Up Blues!, this mighty duo from Alabama make room for themselves by playing louder and harder than most. Their name invokes a dark image that's completely confirmed by their blurry, humid sound. The stark drum set rolls like a locomotive leaving a trail deadly, thick black smoke. And the guitar is a beast unto itself. Chet Weise proves himself a true maniac by attempting tame the wild motherfucker wriggling 'round in his sweaty hands. This album sounds like two hundred bees swarming inside your head, stinging you. It's like bingeing and purging, gettin' saved at a rock 'n' roll revival, speaking in tongues and shitting yourself in front of a whole congregation. Pure fucking mayhem.

After listening to that CD twice in a row, I need to go take a shower...until next time, keep your music loud!

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