Garbage Can...a new feature in which one lucky staffer get to sift through the dregs of the TB head office and see what comes up. Will it be their lunch? Or a hot new band that has slipped through the cracks? Every update, one random TBer will be assigned the task of reviewing as much crap as I can stuff into a box. This month's victim...Icki. And he even volunteered! Stay tuned to see who gets ten pounds of crap in a five pound LP mailer next...
One person's treasure is another's trash. Rich was looking for someone to do something with the pile of "shitty CDs and promo material" that comes into Terminal Boredom. As someone who has been on board Terminal Boredom since the beginning, but has yet to do shit for work, I accepted the thankless task of "reviewing" the cream of the crap.
The thing is, I used to get paid over $35K a year to do this exact job, but worse, reviewing EVERY shithole band on that wasteland known as MP3.com. This would be a piece of cake. And if I learned one thing in reviewing thousands of bad, bad bands it's that some suck a lot worse than others...and every once in a while you get something good, even if it's just one stand out song or catchy riff on an otherwise ridiculous waste of resources.
It's 9 a.m. I'm working on my second pot of coffee, tired of NPR and BBC, so I throw on the GORCH FOCK CD (Perverted Son) that's at the top of the pile of shitty CDs and promo material Rich is punishing me with. Right away, bam! Drive Like Jehu intensity jumps out of the tinny speakers on my laptop, grabs my throat and shakes me even more awake. I get hit with heavily layered guitars and a tsunami-size tidal wave of crushing drums (two full drum sets!) with vocals that at times sound like a ghost ship full of pirates, a comparison brought to might thanks to the horrible, yet incredible cover art (in a nicely packaged CD) featuring what look like zombie Indians at the helm of a pirate ship. Fucking awesome. I can fully get behind this album and would probably be even more blown outta my mind if I did lots and lots of drugs, or even just a few drugs. On the inside cover—all the artwork is silkscreened on a heavy cardboard stock—there's a drawing of a skeleton sailor with a trombone. On the facing page is a hawk attacking a rat. Fuck your neon new wave pink polka dot artwork, Gorch Fock go for the throat. When they're not sounding like an ethereal version of DLJ or Rocket From the Crypt, they drag you into what sounds like a room full of Chris Thompson bands, like Fury, Circus Lupus, Monorchid, Skull Control and Red Eye Legends all playing at the same time, crushing your puny, too-cool-for-school skull with their nerdcore horns. That said, this isn't something I'd necessarily race out and buy and I doubt I'd ever go see them live. I'm a piece of shit snob too. I admit it. But so far the garbage can ain't such a bad place.
Everything I said about the Gorch Fock CD, take the opposite of it and apply it to the next CD in the pile. The name of the band is a huge red flag: PEN15. They named their band after a 14 year old's password for a porn site. This album, "Lettuce, Turnip and Pea," comes complete with an 8x10 promo photo, and "one sheet" extolling all the great things about this band that starts off "Some of the Finer Points of Rock and Roll." And it gets worse from there. According to this, PEN15 has been around since 1996 and this is their first album. It sounds like they started as a Jeff Ott/Ben Weasel pop-punk band and have since drug their band through a number of genres along the way, gathering little pieces of various alternative styles and bands—Fifteen, Dinosaur Jr, New Bomb Turks, to name a few--but never developing a solid sound of their own. The one-sheet claims "desperate vocals, distorted guitars, toned up bass lines and fast drumming." That describes every other punk, hardcore and alternative band out there...and is aptly appropriate given how generic, how much like a high school band these guys sound. But when you hit the ballads on this CD ("Lament" and "Panacea") you'll either be scrambling for the fastforward button or tossing this CD in the fucking trash. Desperate doesn't even begin to describe the vocals. And it doesn't even come close to how I felt trying to get this out of my computer.
Mix genuinely catchy power-popesque riffs with goatees, gruff vocals and long hair and you get the DOITS. In each song on "This is Rocket Science," the guitar unreels a riff or two that actually sounds shockingly reminiscent of Deniz Tek's work in Radio Birdman (a great sound), but the vocals are pure Tom Petty with a head cold and don't really fit the music. Everything else about this just lacks. The vocals over-dominate, dragging it all down and there's no strong rhythm holding it together. Utterly forgettable.
Okay, here's a quick lesson in sending out promos. If you send a CD without a case or jacket or anything, just wrapped in a half-sheet of paper, there's a 99% chance your shit is going straight to the trash. If you're in that 1% that gets spared that fate, it'll be a fucking miracle if the CD ever gets played. That said, I actually put on Sound 4 Sounds"" shitty looking CD "Making the Right Ear Jealous" that came "packaged" in a torn piece of paper. They deliver on their promise of "real '80s hardcore with some '77 punk fuckin' rock and bash around like we're on amphetamines."
A name says so much about a band. Though PEN15 take the cake for worst band name this time around, the CUT-OFFS come in a close second. They named themselves after a bad style of clothes. To make it worse, the cover of their album "Fat, Drunk and Angry" (BaHaHaa) features a drawing of a guy in cut-off pants. They have kind of an Electric Frankestein sound that got old after the first EF album. As if those guys didn't flog that sound to death enough already, the Cut-Offs are here to beat that horse a little more dead.
Okay, sure the cover art on A GLOBAL THREAT's CDEP "Earache/Pass the Time" (Rodent Popsicle) ain't great and their band logo is generic. But if this were released on a 7", by a reputable hardcore label, and if they were from Sweden, chances are kids like you and I would be scrambling for a copy. A Global Threat play melody-infused hardcore. Not totally original or mind blowing by any means, but not worthy of the Garbage Can either. Maybe there are too many youth-crew style shout-out parts, but in all this is a solid, catchy hardcore record, not the blistering, screamy stuff that hurts all the garage kids' ears, but the kind of thing that would get Mitch Cardwell in the pit doing the windmill. Yet another lesson in how often music (and books) are judged by the cover.
THE BONNIE PARKERS are just boring. No energy, a classic example of a band going through the motions. Their album "Sweaty Shirts and Bloody Fingers" (Be Nice to Mommy) has ten songs that all pretty much sound the same. You know it's not a good sign when they include a review from MRR that says, "the songs are well-written and well-played." That's someone searching for something nice to say about an otherwise unremarkable record. A very apt description.
I kind of like the train-wreck quality of "Immaculate Deception: A Tribute to the Music of Madonna" (Delirium). But listening to the CD is something else entirely. The back of the CD promises "you will not find exact cover versions of these songs. What you will get are the songs re-done in the style of the artists. Everything from Reggae to Rockabilly, Rock to Electronica." If you really want to know how bad it is to listen to a bad Reggae band covering a Madonna song, or how about a bad Vans Warped Tour wannabe band wrecking "Bad Girl," you should not miss this CD. Or, if you work at a record store and are looking for a new closing-time, clear the place out record, this is for you.
As bad as the Madonna tribute CD is (what tribute CD isn't a hunkajunk?) the DIVINE BROWN's "Dirty Gospel According To..." is possibly worse. Who would have thought the Mooney Suzuki and the Pattern would ever spawn copycats? It's not a pretty sight...or sound. I mean, the lyrics and music are completely generic, but all the trappings make this really nauseating. The "sailor stars" along the edge of the cover, the posturing, the "dirty gospel" tag, and how they named themselves: Brother Lloyd Loud, Brother Lee Love, Brother G. Force and Thee Mighty Atom. Then the back of the CD, under the cliche song titles, it says: "Riot, Religion, Revolution, Rock 'n' Roll, Come Join the Electric Congregation..." Where the fuck are these guys coming from? It's like they just took the lamest parts of the Soledad Brothers, the Flamin' Sideburns, D4, Mooney Suzuki, the Makers and turned it into an all around shitty band.
BRETT SWITZER was in a band called DESTROYED from 1977-1979. In the past few years he's been showering zines with copies of his recent CD "Brett Switzer 1977-2002." This is the "long awaited" follow up which reunites Switzer with Destroyed singer/guitar player JD Jackson. Half the songs were recorded recently and half are from the late '70s. The older stuff is, naturally, better. It has a really raw, lunkhead Icky Boyfriends type sound, but just misses the mark of being really good in a wonderful Mike Rep, Gizmos sort of way and instead is just kinda rudimentary. The newer songs follow the same formula, but the cleaner sound takes away from what little the earlier songs had. And there's a whole song on here that's a drum solo. A whole song. Yo! Drum solos suck when they're in a song, but they suck even more when they ARE the song.
While bands like PEN15, Cut-Offs, Doits and Bonnie Parker may not be the best or most interesting bands around, and though Divine Brown have a serious turd factor, none of these bands come close to the sheer shittiness of the NEW YORK VAULTS. They sent us two CD singles, "Dominatrix" and "Tommy Kill Kill," which is a strike against them right off the bat. CD singles blow. But the after listening to them, I was thankful they were only singles. Think of the crummiest New York bar band, just horribly generic in everyway possible. Every city has bands like this. Exactly like this. Guys who can play their instruments well enough but just make the most jerkoffish, craptacular, bland music. Not hard rock. Not soft ballads. Not punk or garage. Just generic so it hurts. Not even bad enough to be funny, not bad enough to kind of be interesting. Just bad. For you folks in the Bay Area, this is the East Coast version of the Gun & Doll Show. You dig?
After that horror show, it was a fucking treat to put in the CLUSTERFUX "Thrash Mongrel" CD (Rodent Popsicle). I am not a fan of thrash and am incredibly selective about the hardcore I like. But they seem to bring together scumdog '90s/'00s thrash with a touch of '80s skate metal crossover, like when DRI and COC and Napalm Death were briefly popular among those of us who though Zorlac and Bill Danforth and all things dirty and burly in skating were the shit. For true aficionados of the genre, these dudes may pose hard, I can't tell. They're fast, have singalong parts, ripping guitars and a guy pulling a cool frontside air on the back cover, complete with spider-web patterned griptape. Cool enough in my book.
Last...and definitely least are Mitch Cardwell's homies, KALMEX & THE RIFFMERCHANTS' with their "Electric Bukkake" CD (Intolerate Messiah). I mean, I'm not sure that Cardwell knows these guys, but I see "West Bay psycho posse" and "brain damaged audio meth" and naturally assume that he not only knows these guys, but was once probably once a member of this crazy "prog-grind overload." I guess I should be glad that I'm not "one of those 'hack' writers/reviewers/music-programmers that would rather listen to farts being sucked out of Britney Spears' ass and am instead, as the Gizmos so eloquently put it, just a regular dude. I can't even begin to understand this "journey deep into their collective psyche to reveal the effects of constant bombardment by perverted sex, gruesome violence and filthy drugs." If this is the kind of music that is caused by today's sex and drugs, sign me up for the Moral Majority, because the mix of Yes-like keyboards (Yes, the band, that is), the pots and pans drum sound, standard "angry guy" hoarse vocals, guitars that range from blistering speed metal to spaced out wanking and samples from b-movies just all adds up to a big pile of shit, complete with stink lines and flies.
Get me outta here.
- Ickibod Styzinetti
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