Comment permalink

The Korps: A D.C. x Boston Mess

People sometimes forget that there was a great deal of punk stuff cropping up in Washington D.C. at about the same time that New York and Los Angeles were both erupting. Of course, folks recall Minor Threat and the Bad Brains. There was more than that, though. And in part the scene benefited from a label that was ahead of the curve for releasing independent music.

Skip Groff ran Limp Records out of his Yesterday and Today Records storefront, in Maryland. The imprint’s first pressings were from D.C. locals including the Slickee Boys and its cohort. A bit further along, though, Groff saw fit to issue a disc from a band that comprised members of the Afrika Corps. After relocating to Boston, though, Kenne Highland and Ken Kaiser shortened their band’s name to simply the Korps and set about recording an album.

While Highland and Kaiser always trucked in simple punk stuffs, the Korps included a pop sense not disconnected from the Ramones’ obsession with ‘60s girl groups. There’s nothing overt about the conncection between the NYC based group and these jokers, but reading into the compositions becomes relatively worth while considering the fact that almost everything represented on Hello World!, the band’s only full length, comes off like a well devised cover song.

The album is immediately related to its listeners as a singular work with Highland and Kaiser screaming “We are the only real people” into their collective mics. The song that follows is some where between Detroit’s hard rock stuff and LA’s nascent hardcore scene from about the same time. That being said, the sentiment is rather unique. Lyrically, the song connects Linda, Highland’s lady friend subsequent to moving to Boston, to the societal concept that most folks are fake. In 1978 the idea may have seemed novel even if the song as a whole arrives a bit dated.

And while that aforementioned song could be construed as something of a joke (maybe not), “Beat the Beets” is all laughs. Apart from the title itself, the song is kind of a diatribe against eating a balanced diet. Since the song winds up making mention of mashing potatoes, though, that Ramonesey tie to '60s dance tracks is present again.

With all of the tongue in cheek action, it’d be relatively easy to dismiss the musicality that each of these players possesses. That’s not to say that either is a master at any one instrument. Apart from the fact that the bass lines that were set down on each of the 16 tracks on the Gulcher reissue of Hello World!, there are actually some ripping guitar solos.

Yeah, that’s not what punk’s actually supposed to be about, but the adroit addition of a harmonica on “Have a Lark” points to the expansive interests that Highland and Kaiser possessed.

Regardless of all that, Hello World! didn’t really wind up becoming too much more than a footnote in east coast punk history. That doesn’t mean the slab isn’t a rewarding listen, but there’s a lotta other stuff to wade through.