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VKTMS: Inheritance from Earlier Ensembles

The ‘70s Bay Area punk scene has been kinda drowned out in the constant fervor that props up both the New York and Los Angeles scenes. Not to discredit either of the latter named cohort of bands, but as much experimentation was going on within the punk genre (that means with out inserting funk or some other such influence) in and around Nor Cal as anywhere else. Flipper still trips people out – having Krist Novoselic on board probably doesn’t hurt – and Chrome has maintained a weirdo following since the release of those first two albums. But even when contrasted with Rhys Chatham or some other tangential east coast scene-person, the Bay Area bands still maintain enough individuality to distinguish them from peers in other cities.

The Avengers will probably always be one of the best known chick fronted punk groups from the Bay, but VKTMS were able to create a sizable and relatively diverse catalog despite not receiving the acclaim that some other acts were getting tagged with. The band began to coalesce around drummer Louis Gwerder prior to locating Nyna Crawford through an add on a bulletin board. Crawford, the newly mined singer, was ostensibly just a Long Beach native seeking asylum in the north. But after switching up the rest of the band a few times, the resulting line-up included players with a wide enough breadth of musical interest as to inject VKTMS’ punk with an eerie ‘80s rock sound that must have seemed prescient at the time.

Releasing a few singles and only a single full length long player, VKTMS had its work collected by Broken Rekkids  in the form of a self titled anthology back in ’97, either coming as a result of or prompting the brief reformation of the group. The reconstituted band toured around for a bit before again calling it a day. But precluding this occurrence from again happening was the passing of Crawford a few years ago. Rightfully so, the remaining band members have sworn off further performances in order to maintain a proper legacy for the ensemble.

While seeing the band live probably can’t be supplanted by listening to a compilation, that’s the lot that fans are left with. But spread over twenty four tracks of that Broken Rekkids disc is enough of an exploration of the band’s sound to sate any veteran fan or new coming listener.

VKTMS are and should be considered a punk group – obviously. But the incorporation of Crawford’s harmonica on a few tracks – “Goin’ Downtown” specifically – kinda breaks open what punk was to this combo. Even beyond that, the instrumental that is “Mo” ends up coming off as a lost track from the Wipers with it’s surly bar chords and dated guitar sound. The inventiveness of VKTMS can’t be overstated – and while that doesn’t mean that they were ‘experimental’ in any real sense of the term, the group was pretty adept at playing with the already codified form of punk that it inherited from earlier ensembles.