Columns - "Under the Radar" 09.13.00

Howdy. For some god-forsaken reason, I’ve decided to do a semi-regular column of sorts. And no, it ain’t gonna’ be a reviews thang – Sir Icki does a far better job of keeping up with the comings and goings of the current rock ‘n roll world than I could hope to, and ‘asides – my reviews will continue to amass in the reviews section. Makes sense.

I’m also not gonna’ do the "slice ‘o life" shit – I work a lot, go to a lotta’ shows, read and sleep. Not too exciting. What I think I can offer y’all, and what I think is lacking elsewhere, is coverage of obtainable, cheap, obscure and unjustly-ignored platters. Who can afford to pick up the Tapeworm 45? Shit, even the early 80’s hardcore explosion has been hit with so much collector nerd-ism that those disks are reaching three-digit numbers. Nuh uh – I’m gonna’ mainly concentrate on the rightly-vilified rock ‘n roll dead pool of the late 80s and the more-fertile rock ‘n roll explosion of the early-to-mid 90s, where hundreds of fine platters were released and summarily ignored due to the flood of other shit coming out at the same time. Here we go:

Eastern Dark "Long Live the New Flesh" (Waterfront/What Goes On Records), 1986

I ain’t no fan of the Ramones-based pop punk deal. Not an iota. But there are a few acts that demand attention. One of them’s Eastern Dark. Legend has it that James Darroch, fresh from his bass stint in the Celibate Rifles, formed a trio in order to pay homage to his heroes, the Ramones. Their first single bears this out, at least in terms of song titles: "Julie is a Junkie" and "Johnny and Dee Dee." They then made an appearance on a Waterfront comp and recorded the "Long Live the New Flesh" 5 song mini-LP. Before its release, Darroch took a wrong turn on Australia’s infamous "Deadly Hume" and left this mortal coil.

"Long Live the New Flesh" was released to much Aussie acclaim, but few ever heard it on this side of the lake. The first side is mid-tempo melodicism of the highest order, and nicely displays Darroch’s fine guitar work. The other side contains three of the greatest semi-speedy pop punk (sounds like an insult) tunes ever laid down – earnest, yearning, well-crafted catchiness with bite. Obviously, this was gonna’ be it for the band, but a live double-LP (also available on CD) was also released posthumously. It’s pretty great, but "Long Live the New Flesh" is definitely the one to get. It appears occasionally on Ebay, and usually goes for under $10. I found two additional copies (unopened) recently at the local head shop -- $1 apiece. Well worth the time it takes to track down. Teengenerate even covered "Johnny and Dee Dee," and I consider that to be their finest cover. Eastern Dark records usually goes for under $10. Happy huntin’.

Sister Ray "No Way To Express" LP (Resonance Records), 1988

From the land Down Under to the land of…desperately bored blue-collar misery? Staight outta’ Youngstown, OH: Sister Ray. Other than a few crits (like the near-perfect Byron Coley), no one paid much attention to these shlubs, even though they were burning down the house with their Detroit guitar noise during a time when American rock/punk was officially dee ee dee. I have in my possession two albums and a handfulla’ singles (one for the Sub Pop singles club, fer heck sakes). The singles are all borderline boring, and the other album’s merely good – I’m gonna’ concentrate on the "No Way To Express" LP here.

This album is probably fairly easy to find – their singles and the other album go for peanuts in used record stores and online auctions. I did a search today, and it didn’t turn up, but it shouldn’t be TOO hard to dig up. From twisted and biting satire ("Beef Pud," "Sick of Skulls") to classique punk nihilism ("No Escape") to near-hardcore ("Still Born") to first album Saints-like electric balladry ("Mommy’s Gone"), these guys were unafraid to experiment and turn up the guitar noise. Very Midwestern… too bad the rhythm section wasn’t beefier. Either way, this is a definite winner that foot-fucks the majority of what’s been released over the last couple years. The Sister Ray record had 1 day left on eBay with no bids on $2 price tag.

Radiopuhelimet "Hygiene" 7" (Alternative Tentacles)

I have to admit that I know very little about Radiopuhelimet – they were from Finland, they released a few albums on the Bad Vugum label, and they created a monstrously-ferocious hardcore din. Alternative Tentacles released a 7" ep of some of the (presumably) finer moments from their albums in 1994. This means that you should be able to find this for less than ten chickens. Do it. The first two songs are in a league of their own – heavy, powerful, rockin’ (yes, rockin’ – they swang, you dig?) and nearly overwhelming. I can’t say enough about these two songs and the also-great three remaining ‘uns. This has to be the best thing the label ever released. And yeah – fuck the Dead Kennedys.

That’s all for now. Yer welcome.
- Todd

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