Columns - "If You Die, and Go to Hell, Who Cares?" 11.28.01

I feel like an old scratchy record. Each month I find myself saying, "It's been a crazy, busy month." The past few years have been nothing but crazy, busy months. It's par for the course and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Then again, my idea of a crazy month would likely drive most of you to gouge out your eyeballs in boredom, so I'll spare the gritty details.

For a dose of a real wild and crazy bunch, I direct your attention, again, to Montreal. This time Oily Chi, Dorito Dan and Choyce head up the DEL-GATORS. As you'd expect from these ex-SPACESHITS, current SEXAREENOS, the Del-Gators come through with some of the absolute best in '50s R&B-inspired garage rock. Though it may be a bold statement to make, I might even like the Del-Gators stuff more than the Les Sexareenos workout. Their jumpin' juke joint rock, fronted by a girl who isn't bashful about really belting it out, does justice to their influences, LARRY WILLIAMS among them. Sympathy brings you the goods—a 7" (Mudpit b/w Louisiana Hannah) and an album, Pound Down, full of amazing originals such as "Get Down (And Get Stupid)," "Dynamite" and "Crabwalkin'." Can these guys do no wrong??? For what very little its worth, the Del-Gators have become one of my new favorites. I can't stop listening to 'em.

Also on the top of their game (but at the end of their rope), the REDS new album (on Rip Off) is totally fucking spanking! Whatta way to go out. The 12 songs rip past you like a tornado tearing through Texarkana, or a train blasting through the desert. You get the picture. This is one album that should be on your "must buy" list.

Over the summer, I saw the SPITS at a live show at People's Park in Berkeley along with the STITCHES, the BRIEFS and the EDDIE HASKELLS. At first I didn't know what to make of them. Their songs were moronically simple, but undeniably catchy, totally addictive. By the end of the set I was a Spits convert. Dirt Nap Records recently graced the world with another outing by the Spits titled 19 Million (you may remember they did a split with the Briefs on Dirt Nap a while ago). Like the music contained within, the packaging is beyond simple—a photocopied sleeve, made with little more than white-out and a black marker, with a photo of the band on the back. The four songs are every bit as great as the Ramones, but more, uh, blunt.

To get a better taste, I picked up the Spits CD (Nickel & Dime/PO Box 12171/Seattle, WA 98122) that came out a while ago. This came to my attention by the madman raving of MRR shitworker Tim Brooks. "Just look at the pictures!" he said, showing me the insert photo. The three Spits are standing near a fire hydrant. All are holding skateboards. They all have short mohawks and bad mustaches. Two of them are wear cop sunglasses. One of them is pulling a boneless off the fire hydrant. I knew then I'd love the CD. The Spits have a beautifully moronic quality to them that really has to be heard to fully comprehend.

The Spits also appear on a recent compilation single, I Was A Teenage Plasmatic (Johnny Cat) that is, as the name suggests, a tribute to Wendy O. Williams. Never being a big PLASMATICS fan and generally finding tribute records to be 90% crap, I didn't pay much attention to this single first time around. I still don't dig tributes; this is no exception, but it does have some good songs on it. Features LOUDMOUTHS, NEARLY DEADS, DAYGLO ABORTIONS, TRIGGERS, BLACK REBELS and the BB SLAGS.

Also from Dirtnap Records, the label who introduced us to the BRIEFS, is the debut 7" from Portland's EPOXIES. They sound and looks like it should've come from Los Angeles, circa 1982. Total New Wave blow-out. Vocalist Roxy Epoxy is backed by members of the AUTOMATICS and SILVERKINGS, though you'd be mistaken if you expect anything resembling either of those bands. This prominently features DEVO-like keyboard action and lots of stripes & polka dots.

Striking out on her own and adopting a more decidedly power pop pose, Tina Luchessi (TRASHWOMEN, BOBBYTEENS, et al) teams up with Minneapolis songwriting/guitar genius Travis Ramin (the man behind CANDYGIRL and member of the SHORT FUSES) to form the project band TINA AND THE TOTAL BABES (Sympathy). This record holds up under close scrutiny, and is actually probably the best record Tina has done yet (which is saying something). The recording is absolutely perfect—punchy, powerful, loud, full. They nail an awesome PHIL SPECTOR/BRIAN WILSON style sound on "Tragedy," an updated version of the tragic girl group song that, if everything were right in the world, would be played on every rock radio station in the world. It's brilliant. The songwriting is everything you'd expect from such a super group of sorts. The HOLLY & THE ITALIANS influence is evident throughout, aside from the cover of "Tell That Girl to Shut Up." You can also hear plenty of NIKKI & THE CORVETTES coming through. But rather than just mimicking the classic girl power pop groups, they take it a step beyond what the early '80s groups did, raising the bar. Yet another band that deserves heaps of attention, but will unfortunately probably be grossly overlooked.

The PINKZ finally released their follow up (on Gearhead) to their great debut 7" that was released over a year ago. While this single has got plenty of hooks, lots of snap, crackle and pop, the recording doesn't do these girls justice. Instead of being bright and snappy, the guitars buzz with a blinding roar, kind of melting the pop charm of the songs. Still, this puppy rocks and the title song, "Something About You" is a total gem.

About a year or so ago, I totally dropped the ball on the SELL OUTS. Marcelo sent me the singles, I promised I'd write about them...but didn't. My loss more than theirs. Those singles garnered some well-deserved and intense praise in certain circles. Well, this new 10" on the amazing Ken Rock Records blows those singles outta the water! This Brazilian two-man band whip out eight feverish, garagy songs that strut with all the might of Mick Jagger at the height of The Stones' career. They have a little MUMMIES feel working through the songs, but put a lot more swagger, more solid rock into their songs. Don't repeat my mistake. Grab a copy of this 10", tell your friends, write to Marcelo (Rua Iraci 340/Sao Paulo-SP/01457-000/Brasil) and tell him how much you love the Sellouts.

Solid Sex Lovie Doll, the Italian label known for their criminally limited releases of incredible records (DIRTBOMBS, LOST SOUNDS, among others) is gearing up to bring us another killer by a previously unknown group. The KNAUGHTY KNIGHTS come from Memphis, whose ranks include Jack Oblivian, Rick Crook (REATARDS, Lost Sounds) and Shaggy (PERSUADERS). Got you salivating yet? Well, this demon is limited to 400 copies, 144 of which come with the "peeping knight drawing" cover. If you can find 'em (try Underground Medicine, maybe), get 'em!

My memory has turned to total shit. I can't remember if I've already written about the COLUMBIAN NECKTIES. Anyway, they have a shitkickin' album on Sounds of Subterrania (www.soundsofsubterrania.com) called Abrance! The little press release that came with the CD aptly dropped names such as the NEW BOMB TURKS, DEVIL DOGS, Fus and the SAINTS. They swing hard with a solid Dannish swagger. Featuring former members of SHAKE APPEAL (who had a great 10" on Saddle Tramp Records in 1999), the Neckties slow things down a bit, leaving plenty of room for get-you-in-the-gut guitar riffs.

Important! The BRIDES have a new single out on Sack O'Shit. I can't tell you anything about it. I haven't heard it. I haven't seen it. But it's out, and given their history, it's bound to be a winner.

Have you seen or heard about that single floating around by a band calling themselves the GREG LOWERY EXPERIENCE? Well, some people decided to try to take the piss out of Sir Lowery and did not succeed. Six songs squeezed onto one side of a 7" leaves for a bad recording of mediocre garage punk songs sounding like garbage. Sorta funny, but unless you're a collector type, don't bother. Limited to 300.

In addition to the Spits and Epoxies (as mentioned above), there's been some quality rock coming out of the Portland area. Not quite rivaling the Detroit/Chicago/Memphis rock 'n' roll assembly line, but definitely a contender. I mentioned the CON-MEN single a few months ago. Well, some of those guys are in a raucous new band called the HUNCHES. From the way the guitars swing, and how fucking hot & sweaty these songs are, you might mistake them for a Texas band. They shake in a healthy dose of tambourine as the singer breathlessly squeezes out the vocals in a way that feels like he's putting everything he's got into it. This is raw rock bliss. Again the Stones come to mind somewhat, along with a strong whiff of the NEW YORK DOLLS and a lighter scent of the SAINTS. Don't get me wrong though, this isn't bullshit SoCal heroin-worship cookie-cutter bullshit bar rock. This is the real deal. As far as I know, they only have a CD-R available (6121 NE 13th Ave/Portland, OR 97211), but it's worth tracking down.

Also from Portland, the TRIGGERS have a single (their debut?) on Johnny Cat (PO Box 61/Portland, OR 97023) that just falls short of being really good. The five songs come across as being a bit too long, a little too stiff. At the same time, if any of these female-fronted songs were tucked on a KBD, you'd never think they weren't from the early days of punk.

Then there's KING LOUIE, probably the only one man band in punk. A while ago Louie packed up and moved to Portland. PDX stalwarts Multiball (PO Box 40005/Portland, OR 97210) had the sense to see the genius in Louie's dirtstomp, howlin' harmonica "cowbell rock" and released a full album, fourteen songs. Listening to this album kinda makes me wonder if in thirty or forty years some youngsters will discover this album, fall in love with its primal pork chop sizzle, dig up Louie and revive his musical career, kinda like what happened to HASIL ADKINS. Anyway, this is an awesome record.

The Mighty Billy Childish just doesn't let up. His newest outfit, BILLY CHILDISH & THE FRIENDS OF THE BUFF MEDWAY FANCIER'S ASSOCIATION (or, simply the Buff Medways) recently romped through the Bay Area. If you've ever gotten the pleasure of seeing any of Childish's bands, you know what you missed. He puts on a great show. And to show this band isn't just a bunch of no-good slouches, the Buff Medways have recently released two singles and a full album. The singles, Sally Sensation (Gibbet) and 'Til It's Over (Smart Guy) give a good sampling of what to expect from the Medways. They have a deeper sound than what you might expect, and this is largely due to the exceptional bass playing by Johnny Barker and the awesome drumming by Wolf Howard. These guys know how to shake a meaty tailfeather!

Also on SmartGuy, MICKY & THE SALTY SEA DOGS have a new single, Fresh Fish. That is, of course, Mick Hampshire. Though I've yet to hear this record, I suspect it'll sound a lot like their album on Sympathy...which is a good thing.

And last, but definitely not least, the DICTATORS have finally released their first new studio album in twenty years! The single from the album, Avenue A (Norton) shows that these New York legends haven't lost a beat. It's a tasty appetizer for the album. On the flipside is a decent live version of "New York New York." The album, D.F.F.D. kicks off with one of the greatest rock 'n' roll songs ever, "Who Will Save Rock 'n' Roll." From there it just doesn't let up. These guys are amazing. Their live show consistently proves they're true entertainers. Their new album shows they've still got it (and then some) everywhere else it matters.

Latest casualties in the next round of reissues and bootlegs...

A new standard has been set. I'm sure by now you've heard the buzz about three Dangerhouse bootlegs that have hit the streets. These three 7"s nearly exactly reproduce the look and sound of the original singles: AVENGERS, DILS and RANDOMS. The sleeves are nearly identical to the originals (rumor has it that a handful of the DILS boots come in original sleeves). All are on colored vinyl. And here's the real kicker—all three of these were pressed using the original plates! That's right. So the sound is as good as the originals, literally. If that's not enough, each comes with an insert with the original review from Slash. Each is limited to 1,000 copies. When I got mine, I was overcome with euphoria. This is one case where owning the bootleg really is just as good as having an original.

Last time, did I mention the REALLY RED CD (Angry Neighbor/PO Box 66462/Houston, TX/77266)? It's the end-all discography you've been looking for from one of the best of Texas. Starting with "Modern Needs" and moving through their Teaching You the Fear album, the New Strings For Old Puppets e.p. and all but two songs from the Rest In Pain album, you get it all.

A knock-off of the BOBBY SOXX Learn To Hate in the '80s 7" has just been released. Limited to 500 copies, this boot comes with a full obituary of Mr. Soxx, reprinted from the Dallas Observer and is packaged in a plain photocopied sleeve. Not bad at all...but I'm still drooling over the Dangerhouse boots.

On par with the Bobby Soxx 7", I recently stumbled across a MIDDLE CLASS bootleg. This 7" of the band some people consider to be the among the first hardcore bands compiles the four songs from their Out of Vogue 7" and their two cuts from the Tooth and Nail compilation.

Speaking of hardcore, Killed By Hardcore #2 ups the already high ante placed by volume one. Clever and complete liner notes round out this crucial collection of killer hardcore cuts. Twenty-seven fucking songs from around the world, and unless you're well-versed in your worldwide hardcore, most of these will be virtually unknown blasts of fast & furious punk from when their wasn't such a distinct line between punk and hardcore. Will someone please release a novelty single with the NOTSENSIBLES' "I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher" backed with TMA's "I'm In Love With Nancy Reagan?" Please?

Keep your peepers peeled for a vinyl bootleg of the NECROS Conquest For Death album that includes their song from the Process of Elimination e.p., the Early Days, Sex Drive, IQ32 and Conquest For Death 7"s. The whole fucking enchilada in one tidy package.

You know, I can't help but be wary when an old KBD band gets back together and records new songs. The DEFNICS and the LEWD have recently done it and now the DOGS are at it. Their new single, Class of 1970 (Dionysus) thankfully lives up to their stellar, tough as nails reputation. The a-side, "Class of 1970," an ode to classic Detroit rock/punk, kicks out the jams in a way that bands today just can't pull off. The guitars and bass work with the drums to create a meaty, full-fisted sound that's almost intimidating. On the flip, we get a never-before released live song from 1971 called "Rebel Rock." Sure the sound is muddy, but those of us who can't get enough of the Dogs totally appreciate it.

The untamable Norton Records delivers yet another quality compilation, Friday At the Hideout: Boss Detroit Garage 1964-67. The Hideout was a dance club outside Detroit. As the club became more and more popular, the owners started recording the popular local bands and releasing the records on a label named after the club. In hindsight, the label offers an amazing snapshot of the pre-heavy rock scene (RATIONALS, MC5, et al) of Detroit. What's more, Hideout provided the beginning for a number of soon-to-be major rock stars. Bob Seeger, Glenn Fry and Suzi Quatro all cut their first records for Hideout. Maybe suprisingly, those artists' first records are largely better than the crap they later produced. Norton gives you eighteen of Hideout's best, including both classic PLEASURE SEEKERS tunes (which you should already have on the earlier-released Norton 45), the UNDERDOGS, FOUR OF US and the HENCHMEN, along with standard book-length Norton liner notes.

New in the Norton jukebox series, we're treated to five 45s by JERRY McCAIN AND HIS UPSTARTS. You may not have heard of this mid-50s R&B marvel, but ask yourself, when has Norton let you down on their jukebox series? Never. These are, as the stock covers claim, the "best bets!"

I'm sure you're all over the new ELECTRIC EELS Eyeball of Hate (Scat) reissue double LP, packaged in a beautiful gatefold jacket that includes a number of songs that never made it on the CD that came out a while ago. If you're not all over it, I recommend you get on it, 'cause this is a classic.

Did you break down and get the great RADIO BIRDMAN CD on Sub Pop? If so, are you nerd enough to pick up the recently released, gorgeous 2xLP + 7" vinyl edition? Sub Pop did Australia's greatest right with this reissue. The vinyl, packaged in a sharp gatefold, is worth getting...even if you've got all the Birdman goods on vinyl, even if you've already picked up the CD. The bonus 7" includes two songs not on the CD (Aussie version of "New Race" and "TV Eye). Though these two songs aren't hard to find, they make for a killer little single on their own. And again, the all silver gatefold is just awesome.

In the Detroit Gossip section this month, we bring you the low-down on the White Stripes signing to V2 Records (a Virgin Records subsidiary, home to Moby and the Black Crowes). Ace reporter Dale Merrill brought this to our attention:

....The Detroit guitar-and-drums duo built a strong following and intense buzz among critics and record company scouts with three albums of exhilarating neo-garage rock on the small Sympathy for the Record Industry label. Now they have struck a North American deal with V2 Records, the label started several years ago by Virgin founder Richard Branson that's home to Moby and the Black Crowes.

Among the key points in the deal:

* It's actually a licensing arrangement via Jack White's cottage label, Third Man Records.

* It spans just the next two White Stripes albums. Standard major-label deals tie up acts for anywhere from three to seven albums.

* The band retains ownership of its master recordings--an arrangement almost impossible with major companies, and a major bone of contention between many artists and labels with an eye on growing digital distribution opportunities.

* The royalties formulas allow for the band to start seeing profits at a lower sales figure than standard contracts do.

* The arrangement with Third Man gives Jack, in essence, an A&R and production role with V2, with opportunities for other Detroit acts he has been producing.

The signing comes on the heels of a U.K. and Europe deal with England's small XL Records and after the duo rejected overtures from several U.S. majors. It's the first major move made at V2, an independent label with BMG distribution, by its new president, Andy Gershon, who formerly managed the Smashing Pumpkins and Bryan Ferry. Gershon was also co-president of Outpost Records, whose roster included Whiskeytown, Crystal Method and Days of the New.

"Initially, Jack and Meg didn't want to do any deal," says Ian Montone, the Stripes' Los Angeles lawyer, who has also been handling their managerial duties. "But presented with this, they were interested. And they really liked Andy. He understands where the band wants to go and wants to let them develop that."

And then there's the money, which executives at several major labels report to be as high as $1.5 million--a huge amount considering the concessions given to the artists.

Neither Gershon nor Montone would discuss the financial aspects, although Montone says the band had been offered deals with more money than V2 is giving. Still, if the contract is even close to that dollar level, it's a lot for a band that is thus far essentially a cult act. But Gershon says that attraction goes beyond sales projections.

"The [commercial potential] is a complete unknown, but you don't think about that with an act like this," Gershon says. "You sign them because of their knowledge of music, the fact that the three records they've done are amazing. They're proven. You want to put yourself in a position to succeed, and that overrode the money considerations. You don't want to put a band like this in a position where it needs to sell a million copies to recoup."

Sounds like Jack & Meg scored a hole-in-one. Good luck to them!

One of the best new Bay Area bands goes by the name HAROLD RAY LIVE IN CONCERT. They've got a quality, smokin' blue-eyed soul stomp going on, romping on the grave of bands like the SPENCER DAVIS GROUP or MITCH RYDER & the DETROIT WHEELS. They even work in a completely unstoppable cover of the JOLLY GREEN GIANTS' shoulda-been-a-classic "Busy Body!" This band has a way of electrifying people, making the whole room dance like their shoes are on fire. Keep your eyes out for them and go see them if you get the chance!

That's it this month. Until next time, keep waving those flags; your president is depending on you to not give a fuck.

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

 
 
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