- "If You Die, and Go to Hell, Who Cares?" 07.11.01
Sitting in the pew-like seats at the Red Vic Movie Theater on Haight St., Mimi, Floyd and I grabbed handfuls of popcorn out of the large bowl on my lap. The three of us kept turning our heads toward the door at the back of the small theater, looking for Tobia. Just seconds before the lights dimmed, she ran in, sitting next to Mike and Arwen.
We were all anxious and had at least semi-positive expectations for Rage: 20 Years of West Coast Punk. The shaky camera and jagged lettering opening credits kicked on. Thus began one of the most disappointing punk movies in recent memory.
You know you're in trouble, as Tobia pointed out, when Spin manages to put together a better documentary about punk than punks themselves. Not only is the title thoroughly misleading, at the end, we all left with a feeling of, "So, exactly what was the point of that?"
Throughout the whole movie, only six people are interviewed: Don Bolles (GERMS, VOX POP, 45 GRAVE), Jack Grisham (TSOL), Duane Peters, (US BOMBS), Keith Morris (CIRCLE JERKS), Jello Biafra (DEAD KENNEDYS) and Gitane Demone (CHRISTIAN DEATH). For a movie claiming to be a 20-year retrospective of West Coast punk, they did a shitty job of interviewing any bands out side of California. Hell, with the exception of Jello, the filmmakers barely left their own backyard. And of all the hundreds (if not thousands) of punk bands from the West Coast...California...even just in L.A., you can't help but question their decision to interview Demone. Maybe in a weird, warped Los Angeles way Christian Death were punk, but I bet you, reading this now, could think of 10 better, more representative people/bands off the top of your head.
Rage comes off like a fan interviewing all his favorite punk stars (and doing a poor job of it), offering his own narrow interpretation of punk (told by his heroes) as the rule of the land. Nothing could be further from the truth.
It was interesting to hear Grisham, Morris and Demone talk about what was, is, and isn't punk, and about selling out. While they scoff at bands like GREEN DAY, NO DOUBT and BLINK 182, they obviously miss the fact that the L.A. bands of the '80s (their own bands included) are the ones who paved the way for the later bands who broke into the mainstream. As the Circle Jerks, TSOL, Christian Death, the US Bombsall the bands climbed their way out of "shit hole clubs" into bigger venues, as they've reformed in the past 10 years, they toned their own music and attitudes down, helping make punk accessible enough to the point of being included in major studio movies (anyone remember Repo Man? Or how 'bout Suburbia?). Not only that, both TSOL and the US Bombs have headlined the Warped Tour. Their criticisms of today's mainstream punk come off sounding like petty jealousy. TSOL, the Circle Jerks and the other bands certainly weren't huge for the lack of trying.
It's too bad people will watch this movie and take these people's word as the gospel of what punk's about. When Jack Grisham laughs about getting a gun pulled on him for spouting racial slurs and scoffing when Jello once asked him what his political motivations were, when Gitane Demone talks about first getting fist fucked backstage at an X show, when Keith Morris does his entire interview wearing Chinaman glasses, people pick up on that shit and run with it. Only Jello and Don Bolles come out sounding like they're not SoCal surf frat boys (because they're notthose two are the only non-native California's interviewed).
What's more, the press material for the movie talks about how the punk movement parallels the birth of blues and jazz, as well as avant-garde. They obviously don't know their music history very well.
I'm being harsh not only because the movie had serious flaws, but because I had such high expectations. While advertising "20 Years of West Coast Punk," the movie instead delivered a very narrow, LA-centric view of a portion of early-80s punk.
In all, the movie turned out to be a striking indictment of some of the worse aspects of Los Angeles punk. Too bad so many people will walk away with Grisham's words in their head, "Hey, I was fucking five girls a day, getting drunk and getting paid for it! That's punk!" If that's not a bullshit rockstar attitude, what is?
But hey, there was at least some cool footage of the SCREAMERS, FLIPPER, the DEAD KENNEDYS and the GERMS.
Punks Are Morons (or maybe just naive and as star-hungry as most everybody else), Part II
One of the main themes at the Mordam convention this year is, "Major Labels: Does anyone really care anymore?"
Quick answer: "HELL YES!"
With the BRIEFS' recent signing to Interscope Records and the constant fawning over the WHITE STRIPES by every media outlet, from NPR to Entertainment Weekly, it'd be a good idea to dig out your copy of MRR's "Major Labels" issue for a refresher course.
It's not like all of the sudden major labels have changed their practices, that now they're great people out to look for truly talented musicians whom they can nurture. They're still out to make as much money as possible, regardless of the consequences. They still don't give a fuck about who they screw or how bad they screw them. It's frustrating and upsetting to see bands you've supported jump on board with the majors the first chance they get. After a while you can't help be feel used, like a stepping stone. All I can say to those bands who choose that route is good luck, for your sake I hope you're the exception.
I'll write more about this after the upcoming Mordam conference because, again, YES, we do still care, and so should you. As Mr. Hopkins put it, it's not like the past twenty years have been a joke. In case you've forgotten, there is a reason we've all built a system that works independent of major labels and distributors (and it DOES work).
On to the music...
The number one record on my turntable for the past month has been the new DETROIT COBRAS LP (Sympathy). HOLY FUCK, what a great record! Add me to the pool of people gushing over Rachel Nagy's voice. This is a record with character that just opens its jaws and swallows you whole. Sure, the album is all cover songs, but they're great covers of amazing R&B and Soul songs, most of which you've probably never heard anyway. Every listen, this album sends chills down my spine. It's that good.
The GREENHORNES have been getting a fair amount of press lately (as have most Detroit/Ohio area bands). Their first album (on Telstar) proves they've got their hands wrapped firmly around laid-back bluesy garage, geared towards a sit down crowd. The songs have a tempered, almost somber feel, rather than going from the standing on the table, shaking your ass quality that drives little boys like me wild.
You all know the WHITE STRIPES have a new album out on Sympathy. Though so far it seems people don't like it as much as De Stijl, I actually picked up on this one quicker than the previous two. I'm sure you'll read everything about it in every single zine and magazine, from MRR to Rolling Stone, so I'll move on...
I had no idea the YUM YUMS have released so many records! Their new CD on Screaming Apple (Dütemichstr. 14/50939 Köln/Germany/www.screaming-apple-records.de) collects 26 previously released songs, culled from their many 7"s, comp tracks and CDEPs. These Scandinavians easily win the crown for best current power pop band around. They're melodic, not too sugary, catchy and just amazing. The CD even features a cover of "Let's Go" with Paul Collins (of the BEAT) singing. Also, if you check MP3.com for Paul Collins you'll find a brand new song he's written, with the Yum Yums backing him.
Praise is due to In the Red (118 W. Magnolia Blvd./PO Box 208/Burbank, CA 91506/www.intheredrecords.com) for putting out some truly great records lately. The new DIRTBOMBS LP (Ultraglide In Black) and the new SCREWS LP (Shake Your Monkey) both come to you care of In the Red. Both bands feature Mick Collins and both albums are near essential listening.
The DIRTBOMBS album took a while longer to stick than usual. Whereas their first full length jumped all over the place (thick, fuzzed out numbers backed against thinner, faster songs), this album finds a middle ground and sticks to it for better or worse. I dig it. The songs have a less frantic feel, but man, they still lay on the rhythm section hard. Though it's more controlled, with songs like "Ode to a Black Man," this album proves Mick and the boys are still on top of the game.
When the first SCREWS album came out a few years ago, it was the first album I bought upon moving back to the Bay Area. The rest of my records were in boxes still, but I played the shit outta that one album. It was enough to keep me satisfied until I could get to the rest of my records. The Screws lay on the blues thick, like a swampy July afternoon in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The guitars create a churning, humid sound that's so dense, so haunting, the drums just kinda melt into the mix, pushing everything like a tugboat with a load of black coal working its way down the Mighty Mississippi. Impressive as hell Like the first Screws album, this one's gonna get lotsa airtime.
As if those two albums weren't enough, the brand new KING BROTHERS album is finally out, care of, you guessed it, In the Red. Fuck, this record is HOT!!! I've always managed to miss the King Brothers when they come through. From the stories I hear, my life isn't complete until I catch these Japanese boys in the flesh. Until that day, this album will have to suffice. If you're worried about the album not catching the fever of the Brothers' live show, your fears are unfounded. It's loud, fucked up, noisy, blaring and thoroughly untamed.
Then, real quick, DAN MELCHOIR'S BROKE REVUE new single Bad For My Soul is out, also on In the Red. Rumor has it ITR is gonna be bringing us the first full length from the PIRHANAS. At this rate, Larry from ITR is building himself a truly astounding rock 'n' roll empire.
Norton Records, continuing their quest for excellence, combed the Sun Records archives and have released a series of solidly smokin' jukebox split 45s, 14 in total. While you get your filling of the greats, such as CARL PERKINS, BILLY LEE RILEY and ROY ORBISON, these thankfully are just more of the same old Sun stars you've come to know and love. You're treated to lots of forgotten country gents who knew how to bang the devil out of their guitars. Also be sure to get the truly great JERRY LEE LEWIS 45 on Norton, Wild One.
The SCAT RAG BOOSTERS offer a new sweaty, stompin' single this month, plus they make an appearance on one-half a split 7". The I'm Coming On single (Yakisakana/57, rue Renaudel/76 700 Rouen/Francefirstname.lastname@example.org) sounds like it's straight off the assembly line up in Detroit, or maybe from the sweaty BBQ pits of Memphis. This is the real dealbeautifully scratchy guitars laying out roughshod broken blues licks. Think along the lines of the OBLIVIANS, the SOLEDAD BROTHERS, and the IMMORTAL LEE COUNTY KILLERS. But from France! A really great record.
The Scat Rag Boosters' two songs on the split with the DIXIE BUZZARDS (Goodbye Boozy/via Villa Pmpoetti/147-64020 S. Nicolo/ [TE] ITALYemail@example.com) swagger more than stomp and have the help of a mean, howlin' harmonica. The Dixie Brothers come off sounding more like they've been listening to the GORIES a lot. That's never a bad thing. My only complaint is they don't sound like they're really teetering on the edge of falling apart, which is a big part of what really makes this kind of music cook. It's a natural intensity, like getting swallowed up into the music; that just can't be faked.
Since their very first 7" of truly furious rock 'n' roll, I've been a big fan of the BASEBALL FURIES. Their new 7" on Estrus, I Hate Your Secret Club gives you a taste of what to expect when they release their first album in a few months. While they're still loud as a shotgun blast to the head, the Furies have added a more melodic element to their songs. Rather than storming your ears with a tidal wave of guitars/bass/drums, these new songs have more texture; they're catchier. And goddamn, they're great. I can't fucking wait for the album!
Jim from the Baseball Furies recently sent me a 7" of a new band he's also playing with, the TYRADES (Big Neck/PO Box 8144/Reston, VA 20195). Don't go into this expecting anything like the Furies. It's like comparing apples and oranges. The Tyrades have a thin, tinny sound that perfectly fits the hollow/echoey female vocals and guitars that alternate between starkness and blaring, bordering on (and sometimes spilling over into) fucked up noise. Four songs (one is a cover of the DICKS "Lifetime Problems") that would be classics if they came out in 1979.
The BUDGET GIRLS finally released a new single (Voodoo Rhythmfirstname.lastname@example.org). The first song is a country-western style song, in response to the classic "Please Don't Go Topless, Mama" (as heard on Godless America). It's well worth the price, especially if you're familiar with the original.
And hot damn! The FLAKES already have a new record out. These two songs, "Bad Girl/Hang Up" appear on the Wanna' Meet the Flakes? 7" (Lipstick Records). Recorded at the same time as the songs from their first single, except they have a bit more kick. "Bad Girl" starts of sounding a lot like the DOLLS song of the same name but quickly jumps into a ferociously rockin' song of the Flakes own doing. Their live shows are still generally better than these records would lead you to believe (as is often the case). Let's hope it doesn't take 'em another two years to put out the next few records.
On what I believe is DECALS' first 7", You (That's All We Ever Talk About) (Fan Attic/PO Box 391494/Cambridge, MA 02139) they get things moving at a good speed with two catchy, almost poppy songs lead by a woman who sounds like she's had enough with deadbeat boys. Don't let the word poppy scare you off. This is really good punk, that's poppy but still has a lotta meat on its bones, thanks to a great rhythm section and well-place action by the lead guitar.
Hideo at Nice & Neat (PO Box 14177/Mnpls., NM 55414) has another good release under his belt with the awesome SWEET J.A.P./REDS split. This happens to be one of the last records by the Reds, so you better get it just for that! Sweet J.A.P. aren't just filler though. As they proved on their previous split with DAS BOOT, they do a more than adequate job holding their own with guitars that buzz like a swarm of bees inside your brain and a choppy rhythm that's hard to shake. They sound like no other band...maybe a little like the REGISTRATORS, but not quite. That alone makes them worth your while.
Scott from the WRISTROCKETS sent me a copy of their new CD Her Dad Hates Me! (Brucemonkey/c/o Jenn Sexton Attn: Eric/PO Box 2743/Salem, OR 97308). Though he warned me that it might not fall into the scope of what I'm into, the Wristrockets are actually right up my alley. They play ripping fast pop punk, but in a way similar to MORAL CRUX, the MUSHUGANAS, or even the BANANAS a little. While it seems so many poppy punk bands have fallen into a dead-on-arrival, play-by-numbers rut, the Wristrockets manage to keep the blood pumping through their fun, energetic songs.
On their latest CD, Caught By Suprise, THIS SIDE UP, from Italy (Goodwill Records/c/o Dario Adamic/CP 15319/00143 Roma/Laurentino/Italy) play top-notch blazing melodic punk in the vein of DOWN BY LAW, complete with on-fire guitars and layered, harmonized vocals that sound full of piss, vinegar and passion. While the music is enough for me to keep this in my player for a while, the backcover artwork is really worth checking out as well. The song titles are all listed as titles of fanzines. So, on the opening song, "Stay Away," the song title is at the top of an issue of No Idea, only instead of saying "No Idea," it says "Stay Away." Does that make sense? Anyway, it's genius.
The artwork on the DION BLADE side of the Dion Blade/ROCKET 69 split 7" is fucking horrible. A giant woman lifting her dress over a city with bombs falling out of her vagina, onto the city. This split represents the some of the best in heavy metal-influenced punk. Unfortunately, I've never liked metal and have grown tired of blistering hotlicks over a chugging rhythm and Lemmy-like vocals. Motorhead = Metal. That said, both of these bands do that stuff incredibly well. They're tight as fuck, loud and hell and, if you're into it, will probably blow you away.
Me, I was more impressed by the two singles by SUPERHELICOPTERS Ltd. Twisted Baby and Rejected #6 were both released on High School Reject (Berlageweg 12/9731 LN Groningen/Netherlandsemail@example.com) a few months ago. Rejected #6 is a hunk of twist plastic, with guitars running headlong into the drums, mangling the distorted vocals in the wreck. It's loud and fucked up in a way that, when you see the guy on the cover wearing the REATARDS shirt, it makes total sense. And while the Twisted Baby single has the same overall feel, the recording isn't nearly as dense. Going from one record to the other offers a vivid example of how much a difference a recording can make. Twisted Baby is thin and blistering, whereas Rejected #6 totally drowns you in burnyourass guitar noise.
Thank you to the SPITZZ for keeping the short, blasting punk song alive on their I'm Not Alive 45 (Tario/PO Box 501/Cambridge, MA 02238). They use DEAD KENNEDYS-like surf riffs in the title song and as I listen through the record, I can't help but think how amazing this band is...and how, if they'd been around in the late-70s, this record would be in thousands of punk kids' collections (or booted on KBD). I mean that in the best way possible. For all you jaded fucks whining about "no more good bands...no bands like there used to be..." check out this record. Everything really clicks in a way you just don't hear enough anymore. Great, catchy, punchy songs that don't fuck around and are recorded really well. Such a rarity these days
I was surprised to find the new DEAD MOON CD, Trash & Burn (Empty) in my mailbox. Unlike almost everybody else in the world, I own exactly ZERO Dead Moon records. Some bands, when I listen to them for the first two, three, four, five times, it just doesn't click. Yet I hold onto the record. I know someday, somewhere along the line, it'll finally sink in. Dead Moon are such a band. After having listening to this CD repeatedly, trying to soak in the stark, weathered songs, I realize it's not gonna happen today. One day I'm sure to have an epiphany. Someone will put on a Dead Moon record and it'll sideswipe me. Then I'll be playing catch up, like always.
There's absolutely no information about THEE BOSSMEN. I picked up their new 7" on She's Gone Records, Tune Up Girl, and the guy on the cover looks like he might be Japanese, he sounds like he could be Japanese, but I dunno...anyway, the four songs here are okay, not great. They're played stiffly and aren't recorded well enough to give you a real taste of what they capable of. They sound like they'd be killer live. They've got great riffs buried in the mix that would probably be hot as shit live, but it's hard to tell on this record.
The same thing plagues the almighty GYOGUN RENDS. Though they're one of the most amazing bands I've seen, their records still fail to match their live fire. Red Socks!! Let's Rock!! (Sounds of Subterrania/PO Box 103662/34062 Kassel/Germany) comes close--if you turn the fucker WAY up, so loud that you have to squint, 'cause it almost hurts your ears. It helps that these guys got Tim Kerr to record them. These three Japanese boys turn their songs into a tornado of fire, sweeping up, charring everything in their path. Though all 7 songs on this 10" stand way above your average garage/punk song, their version of "Green Onions" is truly impressive.
If you remember, I went ga-ga over the NEW TOWN ANIMALS split released a few months ago. Mint Records (PO Box 3613/Vancouver, BC/Canada V6B 3Y6) gives these Canadas their own 7" from them to fully flex their sing-along punk a-la the TOY DOLLS. They have catchy '77/'78 sound rolled into their full, blustery songs. I don't mean spikey-hair, generic neo-77 shit punk. These guys have a stunning melodic crunch that's pure London, lunkhead-free.
In the "let's hear it for idealism" department, I got a split 7" from Burn Brandon Records (no address, but you can find out more about them from Sound Idea [PO Box 3204/Brandon, FL 33509] or from firstname.lastname@example.org). Here's the deal: Burn Brandon is a community-run label. They have shows to raise money to put out the records. The records are FREE (if you need a record mailed to you, be sure to send postage, you cheapskate). On this one, HANK EARL CARR AND THE EXPLODING STATE TROOPERS rip through four savage songs. Among other things, HECATEST call for the destruction of raves and techno clubs (yea!) and champion skating for fun, not for bullshit competition. Actually, the song "Skate or Fucking Die" is a killer skatepunk song in the tradition of old thrashing skatecore. Pure early '80s hardcore
On the other side, the STIFFS start off sounding like they've spent the better part of the past two or three years devouring the MISFITS, which is only reinforced by the skull and spooky lettering on the label. By the second, they start falling into a generic three-chord pounding that gets repetitive and predictable by the third song. Still, the price is right, and it's a good label to support.
On the reissue/bootleg front, we get the chance to own a copy of the highly sought after first MISFITS single, Cough Cool/She. Sound quality is good; the cover is an exact repo of the original, the labels are plain black. Then the GERMS, one of the other most collectible punk bands, have seen more of their songs bootlegged. This one is a single called What God Means To Me. It's got two smokin' songs, "No God" and "Lion's Share." Chances are you know these songs, probably have them on a few other bootlegs. But you'll get this anyway...if you can find it.
I don't know enough about the CRAMPS to tell if the Off the Bone LP recently released is a bootleg of a previously released album or just a collection of songs from singles. It's got 15 songs, all classics, packaged in a great 3-D cover.
Detour Records, leaders in the UK power pop/mod call to arms, just released the CHORDS' BBC recordings. Eight songs recorded between July 1979 and March 1980, by one of the more underrated Mod bands of the late '70s.
Back in the heyday of KBD and Bloodstains, I always wondered why no one put out a Bloodstains Across Japan. It woulda made sense. It woulda been a great record. Well, the bootleggers out there are making up for lost time by cranking out a number of compilations featuring material from early Japanese punk bands. The latest is called Great Punk Hits. It's a killer collection from: GISM, LAUGHIN NOSE, the EXECUTE, G-ZET, the CLAY and ABURADAKO. Word on the street is two new editions of Killed By Hardcore are being cooked up as you read this.
Metrojets, Volume 1 (Red Rubber Ballemail@example.com) is a great collection of power pop from the U.S. and U.K. Many of the songs haven't been "comped" and though not all of them are the ultra-rare, they're all good, if not great. 14 songs from bands such as: the FANS, BO & the GENERALS, the BOYS (Nebraska), DA BIZ (featuring Ronnie Mayor of the TOURS) and ADVERTISING. Includes liner notes and color reproductions of the original covers (though they're teeny).
Pretty Ugly, Volume 1 & 2 (Get Lost!) compiles "100% Wild Australian Beat & Punk from 1964 1967" and does a knockout job of it. While you're picking up these albums, be sure to grab the double LP reissue of the EASYBEATS, Gonna Have A Good Time (Retroactive/14 West 23rd St./NYC, NY 10010). This 22 track collection compiles all the US and UK singles by this Australian beat group, one of Australia's most popular exports of the '60s.
This Months Picks:
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