Columns - "If You Die, and Go to Hell, Who Cares?" 05.23.01

A day doesn't pass that I don't nearly blow a fuckin' gasket. I pick up the newspaper or turn on the radio and something else, something new everyday sends me into a frenzy. It's not so much that George W. Bush is inept; it's that the people behind him are so smart and more, so unashamedly greedy.

I listen to the news stories, I read the newspaper, I check online news sites and I think, "Who buys Dick Cheney's line of crap about energy policy? Do people not understand that prior to being Vice President he was in charge of a large oil company, that he (and Bush and probably most of the cabinet) has stock in the energy industry and thus stands to profit handsomely from his policy decisions?"

I think thoughts like that as I ride the train to work, grabbing discarded newspapers, knowing full well that I'm going to be sent into a bubbling fit of frustration. As I walk down 16th, I wonder why more people are yelling louder (or at all). There seems to be a general bubbling of discontentment, disquiet and distrust. But nobody's really doing anything. Maybe I'm indicative of the reason Republicans can so easily steamroll over decades of environmental, defense and social programs. Not that any of those programs were perfect, but they sure look pretty great considering where we're heading. I don't really do anything. I'm not yelling. I grumble about the latest antics of Bush and Cheney with Mimi or with people at work. I write about being upset and frustrated in my column. But I'm not really doing anything. Are you? Do you even care?

You should.

This column was going to be an indictment against Dick Cheney, detailing the policies he's proposed and what he stands to gain personally from those policies. It didn't happen. Really, I don't have much practice in writing about politics. That doesn't mean I don't care. It doesn't mean I don't get pissed off and that I don't think the people running this country are, at their very core, self-centered, greedy motherfuckers who aren't even good at pretending they have the people's interest in mind. I'm just not good at detailing why I'm so pissed and why you should be pissed too.

As if all that weren't enough, I've been trying to wrap my brain around the increase in shitty porn and rape themes running through parts of the rock 'n' roll scene. Are the NERDS trying to be shocking by calling their new album Because She Didn't Want to Fuck and then featuring a naked woman drenched in blood on the cover? Or do they really advocate people to beat up or kill women who won't fuck them. Seriously, who thinks that's cool or good or even okay? Write and let me know. Because just like I can't comprehend who would think the energy policies (for example) of the Bush administration are in the people's interest, I'm having a hard time grasping why a band (a number of bands) would resort to writing songs about beating up and killing women.

The best I can come up with is they can't get laid and can't write good rock 'n' roll songs. They're frustrated 'cause no one wants to fuck 'em (maybe it's your attitude toward girls...or maybe you're upset because you're actually gay and you're afraid to let your friends know because then they won't think you're cool anymore...which opens a whole other set of issues) and they're frustrated because they can't write a worthwhile song, so they resort to sex and violence rolled into one. In the end, it shows they're fucking morons who could probably stand a good assfucking.

Then there's the disappointment that is Horizontal Action. Here's a zine that covers all the music I like, but has fucking overdosed on porn. What, are you guys 14? Seriously, who wants to look at pictures of girls with giant plastic tits showing off their manicured pussy, right next to an interview of the DIRTBOMBS? Or who the fuck wants to open a magazine, looking for an interview with LES SEXAREENOS and see a girl who looks like she's 15, drowning in cum?

More than just choking you with Internet porn pictures, Horizontal Action does a marvelous job of bringing out the worst in bands, focusing more on their sexual fantasies and experiences than their music. It's really too bad, because without all the third-rate cut out porn, it would be a really great rock 'n' roll magazine.

You put all this together: the miserable records that people say, "if you can get passed the fucked up lyrics, this rocks..." and all the spread-legged, bubble-boobed blondes in Horizontal Action and then the fucking Bush administration. It makes me want to retreat, drown myself in loudloud music.

And that's exactly why this bullshit will continue. Too many people (like me) are retreating rather than doing anything about it.

With that said, let's call the second part of this column, "Music To Retreat To."

Most of the good new stuff I've been picking up has been in 7" form. I finally got a copy of the awesome A-FRAMES 7" on SS Records (1114 21st St/Sacramento, CA 95814). If you love trashcan drums, chomping guitars and distorted raygun-like keyboards, you'll flip your beret over this. It's blown-out, full of feedback and just generally obnoxious in a great way.

The ZOMBIE IV have an obvious MUMMIES fixation, from playing in horror-themed costumes, to their organ, down to the look and sound of their debut 7" e.p. (Boom-Boom Records/20720 S.E. 192nd St./Renton, WA 98058). They've got it all down pat...except with unbridled energy and recklessness, which is a big part of what really made the Mummies so great. The songs on this single are stiff, not bad, but it sounds like these zombies just crawled outta the ground. I can imagine they'd be a good live band, and that their later records will probably be looser (and thus better). Not a shabby first effort, but if you're gonna ramble on about teenage girls flinging themselves around, about being a crazed rock 'n' roll band, you gotta put up the goods—live and on record.

Pat Smick sent me a copy of the CONMEN's one and only single. He fucking raved and raved about it on the phone. So when it came, I wasted no time in putting on. First listen, I thought Pat must've been drunk when he listened to it. It sounded pretty standard with snarling vocals, some songs fast, others at a slower tempo, with a solid, crunchy guitar. Then I listened to it again. And over the past few weeks, I've found myself reaching for this record more and more. Like a lot of records, it's best when played really loud, so you can hear the pick hit the strings. And I've come to really like it. The vocals are breathless, screaming in that great VALENTINE KILLERS/STATICS way with a few great riffs thrown in to break up the standard three chord chomp. And hell, they do a great cover of the REAL KIDS' "All Night Boppin'." I guess this came out last year...and I don't have an address, but it's worth tracking down.

Two of the Bay Area's better live bands share a new split 7" on S.P.A.M. Records (PO Box 21588/El Sobrante, CA 94820). Yup, the FLESHIES and the PHANTOM LIMBS (both of whom have LPs coming out on Alternative Tentacles) offer an original and then cover one of each other's songs. On record, the Fleshies come off a lot heavier than they do live. John's vocals sounds as much like a buzzsaw as do the giant guitars. They have a lot going on in their songs—multiple vocals, dense guitars, drums all over the place...listening to their records is a lot like being at one of their shows, with John flying through the audience in his tighty-whiteys. The Phantom Limps also pack a lot into their songs. There's a lot vying for your attention, with the guitars and keyboards running circles around each other while the drums do more than just offer a simple rhythm.

From Japan, FIRST ALERT have a new four-song 12" e.p. on Time Bomb. It's a lot better than their last 12", with a more traditional, cohesive Mod-influence coming through. I'm not saying they sound like the JAM; the four super-polished songs sound more like melodic UK punk, along the lines of the DRONES at their poppiest.

Have you checked out Billy Childish's new band, the BUFF MEDWAYS? They've got a new single out on Damaged Goods (PO Box 671/London E17 9GH/UK/www.damagedgoods.co.uk) that's really fucking great. If you're one of the jaded who got tired of trying to keep up with Mr. Childish's output, let me recommend this single as a storming introduction to his new band. The two songs, "Don't Hold Me Back," and "Demolition Girl" are breathless and stark, but full of distortion and that special Childish garage grit.

By the time you read this, both the DIRTBOMBS and the SCREWS will have new albums out on In the Red. I'll provide a full report next time around.

This month, we're treated to not one, but TWO new singles from the sexiest band from Montreal, LES SEXAREENOS!!! Goddamn, I love this band. If these are any indication of what's to come from their soon-to-be-released new album, you and I are in for a magnificent treat.

The first 7", a four song e.p. on Sympathy steps more into a wild '60s sound. This is quality stuff. High-class fun. They've pegged a sound that's kind of like a cross between the sweatier moments of MITCH RYDER & THE DETROIT WHEELS with the most feverish moments of the PRETTY THINGS with a solid injection of raw Specialty Records-style workout. Recorded at Ghetto Studios by Mr. Jim Diamond for that special touch of rock 'n' roll magic.

The second 7", Can You Do the Nose Mustache (Telstar/PO Box 1123/Hoboken, NJ 07030), gives you another four songs packed with stompin', clappin', steal the air outta your lungs fun. This one's more in line with their earlier songs, with a rabid JERRY LEE LEWIS frustration being pounded out in a way you'd expect from the finest bands from the U.S. Northwest, circa 1965. Les Sexareenos are easily one of the best bands of 2000 (the decade, not the year, you idiot). Hail! Hail Canada!

Now, for something a little different, here's a run-through of new and upcoming reissues and bootlegs.

More reissue LPs and live records, as well as classic Hardcore reissues have been hitting the distro lists. With many of the reissues, the originals can still be found with little effort or money. For example DMZ's classic debut LP on Sire, the 101'ers' Elgin Ave. Breakdown (pre-CLASH Joe Strummer band) and TOXIC REASONS' Dedication LP are all due to be reissued within a month or so. While all three are above average records, the originals can all still be found for around (or less than) $20.

Speaking of Toxic Reasons, why doesn't someone reissue Bullets For You and Independence? Or how about the early EFFIGIES records? Until somebody picks up the ball on those, you can tide yourself over with the second album by the (Canadian) SUBHUMANS, No Wishes No Prayers, which is also being reissued. If that doesn't do it for you, how about the SCIENTISTS first LP? Yes, it too is being, uh, "reissued."

On the "better live than dead" front, this month you can feast on live LPs by the CLASH, GENERATION X, the RUTS, the MISFITS and CHANNEL 3.

The Clash LP, Take It Or Leave It was recorded in '77 at the Electric Circus in Manchester. It's supposedly very limited, but I haven't heard it, so I can't attest to the sound quality. The GenX LP, Shakin' All Over Osaka promises to be at least decent sound quality, given that it's taken from a live radio broadcast performed in Osaka, Japan in 1979. Then we have the Ruts' It Was Cold In Hamburg, twelve songs from a show recorded in 1980 in Hamburg.

I have never in my life bought a live Misfits bootleg. So what the fuck prompted me to buy not just one of them, but three? As you'd expect, all three sound like a big pile of turds. The Über dem Juenseits LP and Perfect Crime 7" are especially crappy. The third, I Turned Into a Martian LP (recorded at the Ritz in New York circa '81) has better sound quality, but is hardly essential. Lastly, Channel 3's CD-only release of their only European show has been released on vinyl.

From Australia, we're treated to a new GERMS bootleg called, appropriately, What We Do Is Bootleg. It features 8 studio tracks and 6 live songs, 2 of which come from Decline of Western Civilization.

A few months ago, I mentioned a double LP by the NEW YORK DOLLS titled Endless Party, on Munster. Get Hip recently released a Dolls album of the same name, but as only a single album. The Munster release has finally hit the US shores! The material is from the Dolls' first studio demos (same as the Get Hip stuff [but more], same as the Norton CD), and is on monster-thick 220gram vinyl, gatefold sleeve, the works!

Rave Up Records (via Montecuccoli 13/00176 Roma/Italy/raveup@tiscalinet.it) is back with a vengeance. Not that they went anywhere...

By the time you're reading this, LPs by GENERAL FOODZ (from KBD #12), the TOKYOS and from Texas, the SKUNKS and the NERVEBREAKERS will be out, as well as 7"s by the SKINNIES and MALONEY'S TOUCH.

The General Foodz LP includes their 7" from 1979, plus five studio tracks an some live cuts thrown in to fill out the album. Have you ever heard of the Tokyos? They were around San Diego in the late-70s. Their Rave Up LP collects the songs from their 10" as well as three more studio songs, never before released. The Skunks, you should remember from their stormin' song "Earthquake Shake," which was on Bloodstains Across Texas. On their LP, you get alternate studio takes and, you guessed it, some unreleased songs and live cuts. Also from Texas, the Nervebreakers' Hijack the Radio LP also includes all their recorded material and live songs from '79. Liner notes by George Gimarc, author of Punk Diary.

The Skinnies were a New Orleans band with a pop-edge to their sound. Rave Up crammed their original 7", one unreleased studio song and then three live songs all on a 7" platter. Then Maloney's Touch featured members from the New York bands PEROXIDE and ARTHUR'S DILEMMA. The songs on this 7" (which I don't think have been released, but I could be mistaken) are studio tracks recorded in 1979.

By all means, no matter how much you may be tempted to do so, do not by the MISFITS "Live! 79 The Perfect Crime" 7". The sound quality is total shit. What possessed me to buy this?

However, the spate of CRAMPS bootlegs (Venue 1980 Live, Sub Pop e.p. and Human Fly) that cropped up this month (all bootlegs of bootlegs) are all worthwhile if A) you're a Cramps fan and B) you don't already have them. The Human Fly 7", with its great two-color poster sleeve is especially great.

Not like you can't find the first two US X's released (Los Angeles, Wild Gift) relatively easily, but they've been "reissued" anyway.

The BIG BOYS' classic "Frat Cars" 7" is the latest victim of the boot-a-like bandito.

The recently released PEER PRESSURE 7" however, is fully legit and hot as fuck. You can thank Mr. Ryan Richardson, ace record detective for this great record. As usual, the quality of both sound and packaging sets what should be the standard. You get three never before released songs from this Connecticut band whose original single still gives grown men and women the sweats and shakes. You and I heard them first on Killed By Death #12. Mr. Richardson claims these songs are better than the original single–a big statement that proves true Check it out for yourself—but act fast. As you'd expect, these are limited (to 350) and are gonna go quick. The liner notes alone are worth the price of admission.

The PAGANS aren't the only Ohio band making a comeback. In the not-so-distant future, the RUBBER CITY REBELS will be releasing a CD collection of their original single and songs from their side of the split with the BIZARROS. I'll pass along more information next time 'round. Aaaannnnddd...ROCKET FROM THE TOMBS (pre-Dead Boys, pre-Pere Ubu) have a CD coming out on Hearpen Records (www.projex.demon.co.uk/hearpen.html). Unless you're one of the lucky few who have a copy of bootleg (?) LP that came out in the early '90s, this is a CD you won't wanna pass up.

In the News:
The major media has been sniffing a little too close to home lately and I'm not talking about all the attention Joey Ramone got upon his death. First Mojo with its ripped blue jeans cover and shallow, rehashed coverage of the New York punk scene, then Spin with its better than average (but still hurtin') punk special report and now Entertainment Weekly.

Writer Tom Sinclair blows the major league whistle on the Detroit scene in a four-page article on garage music. As you'd expect from Entertainment Weekly, the article is paper-thin and doesn't even scratch the surface. I don't blame Sinclair for this. Having dealt with "real world" editors, I can imagine Sinclair turned in a mouthful on the garage scene, then and now, only to have it reduced to a liner note length piece (but then, that's not fair, Norton's releases have more thorough liner notes than that article).

Here are some of my favorite parts of the article, in case you missed it:

•Elektra A&R exec Leigh Lust (whatta name!) quoted as saying, "There's definitely the potential for this to be big...I could see [a garage band] popping out and selling a million records, pulling the scene up by its bootstraps."

--Um, our scene is doing just fine without a band coming up and selling a million records. No, our scene is better off without that happening (as Miriam Linna of Norton Records points out).

•The article features a sidebar on "garage saint" Steven Van Zandt. Seems the former E. Street Band guitarist and Sopranos stars hates all the drum loops and electronica stuff as much as you and I. Mr. Zandt wants to spend his five months off from the Sopranos promoting garage music. He (and Entertainment Weekly in general) makes it sound like there hasn't been an active garage scene for over twenty years...so, my question, who's gonna be the first band to step up and grab the money? When asked (by Dreamworks, Interscope and Elektra), the WHITE STRIPES have said, "No thanks." Good for them! Seems like at least a few people learned something from the Seattle/Bay Area debacle of the late-80s/early-90s.

•Other bands mentioned in the article: the GO, the GREENHORNES, DETROIT COBRAS, WHITE STRIPES (of course), ATOMIC NUMBERS, the PIRANHAS, the DIRTBOMBS, OUTRAGEOUS CHERRY (who?) and the VON BONDIES.

On a music newsgroup I'm on, there's been a lively discussion about who will be the first band to sign on the dotted line and who will be the band to actually make it. What's your bet?

As far as the Joey Ramone coverage goes, it's all sweet and all that all these news agencies, reporters, magazines remembered Joey, but I couldn't help but think, where the fuck where all those people back when the Ramones needed/wanted them?

Of everything written about Joey, the piece worth most merit was written by none other than Lenny Kaye. It appeared in the Village Voice and, unlike nearly every other article, it encapsulates both Joey's life and the Ramones' career as only a true friend and fan could.

Old bands with new web sites:
SADO-NATION: www.sadonation.bigstep.com
The STIPHNOYDS: www.stiphnoyds.com
The PANICS: www.angelfire.com/myband2/panics

Last Gasps...
-->There's a new club in Indianapolis co-run by Tufty of the ZERO BOYS and TOXIC REASONS (and now BIGGER THAN ELVIS). It's called Radio Radio and from what I hear, it's a pretty nice place. They're looking for bands to play. Tufty says it's got a loungey, relaxed feel and can hold up to 250 people. Give 'em a call if you're bands going through the Midwest: 317-955-0995.

-->Looking for places that carry these records? Try Underground Medicine (www.undergroundmedicine.com/PO Box 5075/Milford, CT 06460) or Dave Hill Distribution (www.dave-hill.org) or Subterranean (www.subterranean.org).

As of this month, my column in MRR will only appear every other month. I'm doing this to make way for other columns here in Maximum. However, during the off months (as well as the "on"), I will be writing regular columns for Blank Generation. You can keep current on all the latest worthwhile records that pass my way there.

PO Box 11906/Berkeley, CA 94712/USA icki@mindspring.com

 
 
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