Columns - "Mindless Contentment" 01.01.03

Firstly, let me apologize personally for our nearly two-month hiatus. I know a lot of you look forward to our obvious post-Meltzer frankness and transparent Bangs-isms that masquerade as cutting-edge underground rock journalism. Perhaps you read SPIN to keep abreast of what was happening in the garage-punk scene while we were away. Or maybe you latched on to some uber-hip British rag, because those chaps really know where it’s at. I dunno. But rest assured, we are back, albeit in a different form, and should be here as long as Joey doesn’t decide to try and pull the plug again.
So, obviously we need to make up for some lost time here. Firstly, I’ll be getting the obligatory “look-how-great-my-taste-in-music-is” top ten lists for 2002 out of the way. Then some reviews of some stuff that’s been piling up on my desk for the past couple of months. Bands and labels that sent promos: thanks for being patient, and keep ‘em coming. Blank Generation is not dead, it was just bound and gagged and locked in Joe Domino’s closet for awhile. I assure you, it is quite alive and well for the time being.

Future columns will be reserved for pseudo-intellectual music ramblings, maybe an interview or two, live show reviews, mostly record reviews, and any thing else I feel you should deem noteworthy.

2002 in Review:
The most annoying thing by far about 2002 was listening to garage scenesters whining about the popularity of the White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines, The Blah Blah Blahs, and whatever the hell else was popular with the kids this year. People whining about how these new garage fans know nothing about the merits of good garage-punk, how people are just jumping on the bandwagon, etc. etc. I mean, no shit. That’s why all these people are on the outside looking in. I remember saying the same things when Green Day were the Rolling Stone-rage, and now look what’s happened: I have you here telling me how shit is, when you were one of those Green Day newcomers who first heard of the Damned because the fucking Offspring covered, excuse me, butchered “Smash It Up” for some fucking soundtrack CD. So sit down, shut up, and try and act cool. The population can have the White Stripes as long as that means band like the Clone Defects or A-Frames are kept from being pawed by outsiders wearing Ramones t-shirts they bought at the mall. Ever hear of a sacrificial lamb? If you want this theory expounded on, please check out my column on the Rip Off Records website (www.ripoffrecords.org).

The defining moment of 2002 for me: I’m Christmas shopping at the mall, and stop in some crap-peddling collectibles store filled to the brim with Dukes of Hazzard lunch-boxes that came off the assembly line last week, life-sized Rocky cut-outs, copious amounts of wrestling fan-boy merchandise, retro-bobbleheads, mass-produced Dead Kennedys t-shirts, and mountainous volumes of assorted other kitschy items soon to grace a landfill near you. Then I saw it there on the wall: a GG Allin “Freaks, Faggots, Drunks, and Junkies” t-shirt for all to see. I was stunned. The vilest shit-slinging dope-addict “performance” artist of our time(and perhaps the punkest man ever)there on the wall attempting to be co-opted by popular culture. I wondered if anyone who was EVER in the store in its entire history knew who GG was or was about. Yet, there he was, GG-fucking-Allin, sandwiched between a Stone Cold Steve Austin shirt and some Matilyn Monroe memorabilia. It must have been some kind of mistake. Is GG that big of a pop culture icon these days? I don’t think so, but I got a kick out of it. I could just imagine some impressionable youngster spying that shirt and thinking, “Hey there’s something really offensive that my parents will hate…I’m gonna have to check this Allin guy out.” And the next thing you know, he’s got ‘scumfuc’ tattooed on his chest, is in a band, and writing songs about deviant sex acts. I guess that’s better than him getting into Rancid or something. Now, my top tens…

LP’s/CD’s:
10) Buff Medways- “Steady the Buffs”- As long as Childish keeps making records, they’ll be in my top ten. His best since “Conundrum”. (Transcopic Records)
9) First Alert- “Circle Line”- The best pop album of the year. See review section this month if you care. (CH Records)
8) Dirty Sweets- “Bubblegum Damaged”- I don’t care, I like this one a lot. Fuck off. (Rip Off Records)
7) Sweet JAP- “Virgin Vibe”- You’ll agree with me on this when Big Neck releases it domestically and you’re hopping on it like it was the last chopper out of ‘Nam. (1+2/Big Neck Records)
6) Hunches- “Yes.No.Shut it.”- This one grew on me like that not-so-cute stripper down at the Colony Lounge. She ain’t the prettiest, but she really puts her heart into it. (In the Red Records)
5) Bad Times- s/t- Seems like so long ago when this came out, but it still gives me nightmares. (Goner/Therapeutic Records)
4) Baseball Furies- “Greater Than Ever”- Would’ve ranked higher if I didn’t know these songs by heart a year before this came out. (Big Neck Records)
3) Kill-A-Watts- “Electrorock”- The teenage vanguards of punk-rock that restored my faith in the youth of America. (Rip Off Records)
2) A- Frames- s/t- Absurdly great robotic sci-fi-punk. (Dragnet/SS Records)
1) Lost Sounds- “Rat’s Brains and Microchips”- So good that there are times when I can’t even listen to it. It’s frightening, really. The fucking future of music, and don’t you forget it. (Empty Records)

SINGLES/EP’s:
10) Knaughty Knights of Memphis EP- The antithesis of the Bad Times? (SSLD Records)
9) Seger Liberation Army- “Heavy Music”- Tom Potter is pure gold. (Big Neck Records)
8) Hunches- “Got Some Hate”- The swiftest kick in the ass of 2002. (In the Red Records)
7) Sagger- “Mind Wrath”- Is Tony Sagger is the last true gentleman of rock-n-roll? (Goodbye Boozy Records)
6) Mistreaters- “No More”– Makes me drool for the next LP even more. (Goodbye Boozy Records)
5) Tyrades- “I Got A Lot”- Was 2002 the year of Jimmy Hollywood? (Broken Rekkids)
4) Sagger- “Skull Rider”- Skull Rider has the most stage presence of any frontman I have ever seen in my life. This single also wins the coveted “Worst Cover Art of the Year” award. (Big Neck Records)
3) Kill-A-Watts- “Let’s Get High Voltage”- “Girl’s Livin’ Dead”!!! (Flying Bomb Records)
2) Tyrades- “Stain on Me”- Wonderfully moronic chorus kills me every time. (Rip Off Records)
1) Lili Z. -10” EP- First Monet and The Impressionists, then Truffaut and The New Wave, and then Lili and The Happy Family: the French just continue to amaze me. The best one-girl-band ever. (Polly Magoo Records)Things to look forward to in 2003: Mistreaters full-length on Estrus, new Firestarter LP (summer 2003?), VOLT!, Tom Potter solo-party platter, new A-Frames LP, Turbonegro: the comeback, an official release of the Guilty Pleasures LP (?), new Zodiac Killers LP, Clone Defects “Shapes of Venus” LP, another Lost Sounds record I’m sure, more Sagger, delays to the release of the next Baseball Furies LP, the return of Crypt Records, new Kill-A-Watts LP, 920 Blues 2, and watch out: the Catholic Boys will take over the world, mark my words.

REVIEWS NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2002 AND JANUARY 2003:

Daycare Swindlers “Heathen Radio” CD
Here’s what you do should this CD end up in your possession: place it in a paper bag and light it on fire. Then throw it on the porch of the grumpy old man that lives down the street, run and hide in the bushes and watch as he comes out and stomps on it while you laugh it up. This trick works with any other pieces of dogshit you may come across as well.
(Go-Kart Records)

Exploding Hearts “Guitar Romantic” LP
Class A power-pop from yet another outfit hailing from the Pacific Northwest. King Louie played one finger-keyboards on this release, and co-wrote most of the songs, but has since left the group and Portland. The LP includes a nice insert with lots of pics of the band that made me realize that Louie now looks like what a Jon Cusack might have looked like if he put on a few pounds and played one of the characters in River’s Edge. Anyway, the music is upbeat in a Nerves/Plimsouls kind of way, with hooks that inspire me to write all kinds of hackneyed fishing analogies to describe them. I was listening to some MP3’s from the band’s website for months before the record came out, infectious tunes like “I’m A Pretender” and “Rumors in Town”, and the LP delivers more of the same. Great stuff that will make your Mom feel young again and tell you that story about how she and her friends got real drunk at a Romantics concert back in the Eighties and tried sneaking backstage.
(Screaming Apple Records)
(www.screamingapple.de)

First Alert “Circle Line” CD
I really can’t say enough good things about this Japanese band with an unnatural talent for writing extremely complex and catchy songs. I think these guys picked up the
ball when The Registrators dropped it a couple of years ago. This is their third album, I believe, and it picks right where the last EP “On Secret Mission” left off. How to describe them? I don’t know, but I’ll make up something: mod-wave pop, although the band swears it is “99% Punk Rock” on the label. The songs are relentlessly poppy and almost embarrassingly upbeat at times, but are so wonderfully crafted and dynamic that any misgivings you might have are quickly put aside. The production is top-notch, and there are lots of effects and between-song interludes that are both weird and funny. The album art itself is bizarre: I’ve been looking at it for weeks and I still don’t get it. And the imagery in the CD booklet is an interesting amalgam of tidbits from British and American pop culture filtered through the Japanese mind. The lyrics show a strange infatuation with foods of all kinds. Sample song titles: “My Instant Breakfast” and “Vanishing Kitchen”, both of which kill. This CD will hold you over very nicely until the next Firestarter disc comes out, and First Alert have proven themselves to be one of the most interesting and strange bands in operation right now. CD also includes this warning: “Caution to owners and salesclerks of all record shops: Put this CD to PUNKROCK corner of your shop.” Right on.
(CH Records)

Manda and the Marbles
Full length CD from the band that turned in one of the few palatable songs on the Kill Rock Stars’ “Field & Streams” compilation from 2002. You can’t describe this band without saying Go-Go’s at least once. Belinda, I mean Manda, has a pleasant enough voice, and the poppy songs contain more sugar that your average kids breakfast cereal. Not as good as most of the girl-fronted pop bands Sympathy has released over the years, and a bit too polished and lacking in catchy songs to merit repeat spins. If you’re into stuff like this (perhaps if you’re an 18 year-old girl), you’re gonna love it. If not, it’s just unthreatening and kind of bland, and makes me happy that Nikki Corvette is coming back.
(Go-Kart Records)

Registrators “Terminal Boredom Version 2” CD
Alright, I have no idea what these guys are doing here. For some reason they felt it necessary to remix “Terminal Boredom” and release it. At least that’s what I think they did. Some of the songs sound like they were re-recorded entirely. Either way, I like it. “Terminal Boredom” had such a huge impact on me that its way up there on my list of most listened to albums of all time. I’ve listened to it so many times that I really can’t listen to it anymore. So, hearing these songs in a new context was very interesting. What does it sound like, you want to know? Well, if you’ve heard the “No Fantasy” EP, it takes that sound and morphs it with the original mix. It’s kind of like they filed all the jagged edges down from the Rip Off version, and made it sound more new-wavey in their own peculiar way. The drums are more up front in the mix and have that sound they’ve had on the past couple of Registrators releases. (By the way, “No Fantasy” has grown on me a bit now. It’s not as bad as I originally thought, but these guys are capable of much better.) The bass is smoothed out and sunk more in the background, and the vocals are definitely more audible. They serve up extra remix tracks too, like “I Wanna Kill Everything”, a piss-take of “Pogo Pogo” and one or two more. Seems to be a worthwhile experiment, and the most listenable new music the Registrators have put out since “Sixteen Wires…”
(Wave Form Records)

River City Rebels “No Good, No Time , No Pride” CD
There are so many things wrong with this CD. First: in a post-Rubber City Rebels world, I’m a firm believer that no band should even attempt to use the ‘nickname for city + plural noun’ formula for their name. It guarantees failure. Witness: Murder City Devils, Motor City Mutants, River City Rapists, Murder City Wrecks, etc. Second: horns have no place in punk rock on a consistent basis. I’ve been letting RFTC get away with this for years, and I’m not handing out any more free passes. Third: this album includes a ‘rant’ by Duane Peters, idol of the fifteen year-old skater kid that lives down the street and legions of chain-walleted ‘beach-punks’. Fourth: this album is dedicated ‘to all the people and bands that keep the real punk rock alive’. What the fuck? I could go on making fun of this CD forever, but it will still never get across how worthless I think this is.
(Victory Records)

Treeberrys “Mono for Brian” CD-EP
Two song EP from reverential Sixties-pop playing Japanese band, who sound like either “Village Green”-era Kinks, or later Beach Boys, or The Raspberries, depending on which way you slice it. Both songs sound extremely authentic, with the second veering into Mersey-beat territory. Cool little release that would probably make me buy their full-length on Sounds of Subterranean if I saw it. Very true to their influences, but it’s 100 times cooler that it’s Japanese guys doing it, not Brits or Americans. Very nice, especially that first track, although it is really wimpy. Both this and the “Ride the Rockin’ Rocket” CD are available from Hideo at Nice-n-Neat Records.
(Tinstar Records)
(www.nice-neat.com)

VOLT 12” Maxi-EP
New band from Lili, Jack, and FX of the Splash Four that sounds absolutely nothing like the Splash Four if that’s what you’re hoping for. This is even better. Lili’s solo 10” from last year is a probable launching point for this project, but they’ve upped the ante quite a few Francs. Or Euros. Or whatever they’re calling the money over there now. I’m gonna tell you right now, this is some REAL electro-punk. Just synths, programmed drums, guitar, and vox, and it’s more than enough to send most of these Neoteric synth-punk outfits running back to the suburbs from whence they came. It’s dark It’s mean. It’s French. This disc seethes sex and violence through its pores. There are obviously some Metal Urbain influences at play here, and perhaps this is French punk coming full circle. I don’t know, but I do know that this is exciting music that is certainly 100 times better than the Nazis from Mars. Four new-wave dance floor hits with a daring industrial edge: the scathing indictment of “Couples”, the naughty innuendo of Lili’s “I Like It”, the relentless tale of “86 Friends”, and the searing theme that is “Volt!”. This disc should hit American shores any day now, so pay attention. I’ve already reserved a spot in this year’s Top Ten.
(Polly Magoo Records)
(voltklub.free.fr)

V/A “Diggy Diggy Die” LP
Now this is value: over twenty songs from nothing but past and present Texas bands. Everyone’s here for the most part, with the most notable exceptions being The Jewws and maybe The Reds/Marked Men. Otherwise, every outfit from Sugar Shack to the dearly departed Fells, to the Ritchie Whites to the Mullens themselves makes an appearance here. And surprisingly, only one of the bands here has Toby Marsh in it. There’s even a track from Bobby Sox’s last band, Puncture, redoing his own Stick Men with Ray Guns classic “Christian Rat Attack”, and two bands featuring Buxf from The Dicks. I always wondered how you pronounced Buxf… Most of the tracks are worthwhile; I liked the Gospel Swingers and Vultures the most, although The Mullens song is a bit of a throwaway. The track listing gets a little confusing at times, and there’s a cover of the Drags’ “Conspiracy” by a band I believe to be called The Titz that sounds so much like the original that I’m not quite sure it isn’t the original. Or maybe it was Sugar Shack doing it? A worthwhile comp overall, and it even comes on exquisite Elmer’s Glue-colored vinyl.
(Rubble Records)

V/A “Ride the Rockin’ Rocket” CD
Besides being light-years ahead of the rest of the world in the fields of electronics/technology and the production of cool toys, the Japanese have leapt to the forefront of another field the Western world seems incapable of mastering: properly packaging a CD. In the states we get plastic wrappers that you need a hunting knife to get open, and then there’s that plastic strip on the top of the CD held on with some kind of space-age polymer that takes a takes both a reciprocating saw and a power sander to get through. And then you’re still left with that annoying sticky residue on your CD case that picks up bits of dog hair and lint, making it look really bad. The Japanese have this thing figured out: the plastic wrapper has one of those little tear away strips in it, like on a pack of cigarettes, so it can be easily opened. Or, they have these neat little resealable cellophane wrappers, like this CD has, that you can put your disc back into should you desire. And they’ve got no stupid sticker welded on to seal the disc; they have the very classy and non-annoying obi strip. It’s really a pleasure to open Japanese CD’s; why can’t America figure this out?

Anyway, this CD is a sampler from 1999 featuring the then latest wave of chainsaw-guitar punk/pop from Japan. You might be familiar already with The Gimmies and Coastersride, who both turn in two dizzying tracks, and the Lookalikes, who are the poppiest of the six bands on exhibit here. The real treats are the exquisitely named Keen Monkey Work and Thunderball, who throw down the albums best track, “Can You Make Anything of It?” Ogress churn out some non-annoying chipmunk-vocal punk as well. A great sampler CD, with the emphasis more on the punk than the pop, that certainly delivers the value you deserve from a compilation. Much like a Mangrove sampler CD, except a lot louder. Did I mention it’s packaged to look like a pizza box, and the track listing appears in menu-form? Fantastic.
(Tinstar Records)
(www.nice-neat.com)

 
 
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