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CAN'T STAND THE MIDWEST

with Matt Coppens

They’re everywhere, in every state, in every town, in every country. Bands, bands, and more bands. Just think of all the bands you hear about on a daily basis. So many bands are recording and releasing records at such an alarming rate it’s absolutely impossible to keep up, and these are just the bands we hear about who are actually recording and releasing records. What about the bands we don’t hear about? The bands that self-destruct, self-implode, and just disintegrate before anybody ever has a chance to hear about them. These are the bands that really get me all moist in the man-panties, and no other “musicians” seem to be quite as doomed from the start as punk-rock “musicians”. There are several reasons for this. Most people who decide to start a punk-rock band are either cocky, lippy, stupid, drunk, homosexual, homophobic, annoying, violent, or may have all of these listed personality traits and several more that are just as hard to ignore. Usually when mixing two, three, or four people with these traits and getting them all together to do something all their own and do something creative the combined mixes can produce some very volatile situations. Such is the case for many punk-rock bands, which is why it’s a rarity to see a band playing punk-rock music last more than two or three years together without a single lineup change or without totally self-destructing and seeing members of the band go on to make more music with different people only to have the same outcome over and over again.

In the mid-90’s there were a group of kids who decided to put out a cassette-only compilation featuring all their favorite punk-rock bands from West Michigan. They titled the compilation “ Music From/For the Brain Dead” and distributed it mostly locally. Most of the bands on said compilation were easily forgettable and even more were hardly listenable. There were, however, three or four bands on the compilation that were more than worth listening to and have even been described by the small amount of people who were lucky enough to hear them as great, myself included. The two most notable bands on the compilation, and the two I plan on talking about in this crappy column if Rich actually prints it are PR Stunt and Simon Simone. PR Stunt were about as real a punk band as you could ever come across. The collective brainchild of Alex Lewd and Jason Mask, PR Stunt formed in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the early to mid-90’s and broke up in early 2000 after countless lineup changes. PR Stunt were certainly around long enough to record, release, and distribute their recordings though this would never happen outside of the 50 or so cassettes they distributed locally at their shows. They sounded like a mix of the most snide, bratty, and arrogant 70’s Brit-punk and the fastest, angriest 80’s Midwest hardcore. Their shows were a stare-you-in-the-eye blatant “Fuck You” to anybody and everybody within seeing and/or hearing distance. They could and would alienate every person in attendance before even striking their first chords by verbally and occasionally physically abusing the audience to the point where you knew these guys were not for you but that they were very much against you, and though many and most people came to despise PR Stunt for these reasons these were and still are, apart from the fact that they wrote great songs and killed live, the very reasons I loved them. The two songs on the “Music From/For the Brain Dead” compilation that made me first take notice of PR Stunt were “Unity’s a Sham” and “Sarajevo Hotel”. The first being a short vicious punk stomper taking a stab at punk-rock guidelines and rules, which hit very close to home for many local show-goers and music followers. The latter being a venomous anthem against their peers in the predominately upper class community they called home in East Grand Rapids.

Upon my further listening to the comp I noticed another band that I had failed to take notice of the first time around. The band was Simon Simone with Jason Mask, drummer of PR Stunt, playing all the instruments and handling all the vocals. The two bands Mask played in couldn’t have been farther apart in sound. PR Stunt being more vicious and rough edged while Simon Simone though still packed with fury were a smoother and more precise monster altogether. The two songs on the compilation by Simon Simone were completely different. One being a slower more droning 70’s glam style number not unlike the best work of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and the second being a crazed Brit-punk type song featuring Jason screaming out the lyrics in a similar way to that of Doc Dart of the Crucifucks, titled “Burton Capri” after the infamous local porno theatre of the same name in Grand Rapids. Jason had short-lived plans of getting a band together and playing out as Simon Simone but gave that idea up as quickly as he had originally thought it up, leaving Simon Simone’s recorded output at a mere two songs on a cassette only compilation that was owned by maybe sixty-five kids in the West Michigan area.

Some time last year while listening to these songs again my cassette was destroyed by my faulty cassette player leaving me without these songs temporarily until I was smart enough to contact Jason Mask and ask him if he had any more copies of these recordings. He did. He had a lot more recordings. We spoke briefly for a bit about me obtaining these recordings and a week later I went and picked them up. In the package he made for me Jason included a 40 song PR Stunt CD-R and a seventeen track Simon Simone CD-R both chronicling everything the two bands respectively recorded from their beginning to their collective demise. It’s a rare occasion that a month goes by that I don’t pop these discs into the CD player and play them for people. Their reaction is usually the same and they are amazed by the quality of the music and disappointed they never got the chance to hear these bands while they were still alive and well.

Roughly four years ago I was hired into an aerospace factory where a bunch of assholes worked. One day one particular asshole in his late thirties/early forties named Brian Jennings came up and started trying to talk music with me. I was about to tell him to take a hike until he mentioned seeing Black Flag play in 1982 in Los Angles. This piqued my curiosity and soon after we got on the subject of X. This asshole Jennings gave me some spiel about being friends with Exene of Los Angeles’ X and then quickly moved onto the subject of a band he once played bass in, in 1981 called the Social Idiots who recorded six or seven songs in a garage or basement and actually had a song, titled “Armageddon Today” where his good old pal Exene handled vocal duties. I immediately begged for the CD and it was promised for three years before it finally ended up in my hands. This asshole Jennings being an asshole though, only included the track where Exene sang. It’s a sloppy mess of an attempt at a Back From the Grave style garage punker with Exene Cervenka howling/moaning the vocals. It’s not so much good as it is interesting and I’d recommend it to any fan of X just as a little keepsake of sorts.(Ed.: I can neither confirm nor deny that it is actually Exene on this song. Your guess is as good as mine.)

None of the music talked about in this column are available to the public. Yet, that is. Maybe with enough talking and bitching though we can change that. Until then, if at all interested in hearing music from both PR Stunt and Simon Simone contact Jason Mask at: Srrecords-at-aol.com I’m not sure if he’s charging anything for these, but if he is I doubt he’ll be charging much. Likewise if at all interested in hearing anything by the Social Idiots contact this asshole Jennings at: Brianejennings-at-eaton.com and convince him to send you a CD as this stuff is really worth hearing. The point of this column was not to preach and tell everybody to support local music but to support GOOD music. Period.

Until then, I’ll see you all at the Blackout. The Glorified Trash (my band)/Throbbin’ Urges split 7” should be back from the pressing plant relatively soon. Get in touch if at all interested. Until then check out www.glorifiedtrash.com and www.throbbinurges.cjb.net for info on either band. Later.

Contact: freakodepresso-at-hotmail-dot-com



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