August 2009

Acid Eater: It Is What It Says

There’s some weird, intangible line that garage toes on occasion that might make some simply refer to it as punk. There’s, obviously, also punk that works backwards in the same way. But does the inclusion of an organ make you a garage band? Shhh. Don’t answer, it doesn’t matter as long as your band doesn’t suck. As for Acid Eater, many things can be said and figured about the Japanese quartet comprised of Yamazaki Maso, Toda Fusao, Miyaji Kensaku and Akiba, but probably no one’ll go and say they suck. Well, your mom might think so, but what does she know about any of this…

The Exploding Hearts: Live on KBOO, 2001

I would imagine that at this late date a great deal has already been written about the Exploding Hearts. There’s probably not too much new territory to cover – nor a reason to revisit the legacy that the band was able to amass over a pretty brief career. And really, the only reason that this has all come rushing back to me is as a result of tooling around Chicago on a bike while listening to Guitar Romantic and singing along – well, that and the fact that I just found a live set from the band recorded and broadcast on Portland radio, KBOO, 90.7.

The Nips: Nervous Wrecks

I was recently tooling around in my friend’s Buick and as he kicked out the jams, “That Woman's Got Me Drinking” came on, except it wasn’t the Stitches. Now, I fancy myself something of a well informed music dude, but as my friend slowly turned towards me and asked if I knew who was singing, I had to say no. It was Shane MacGowan and the Popes (nope, not the Pogues). Regardless of the fact that the Stitches apparently have broader musical tastes then I’d anticipated, MacGowan being covered by that SoCal group isn’t the only contribution to the genre that he’s made.

Pink Fairies: Don't Need Their Coffee Bars

There’re as many ways to figure out where punk came from as there are groups that folks proclaim the immediate antecedent to the genre. There’s obviously no answer to where it came from, but guessing is always fun. And since there were literally hundreds of tangential rock bands in the States and the UK that weren’t punk, but kinda had that thing going on, the game’s all the more fun. Hawkwind gets kicked around every once in a while, which isn’t surprising. But what’s more interesting is the fact that their drummer, a gentleman named Twink, performed not just with the Pretty Things, but also helped found Pink Fairies along with Mick Farren and Steve Peregrine Took (Tyrannosaurus Rex).

Wimpy and the Queers

I saw the Queers play live once. It was at some tiny, dingy venue called Peabody’s that’s actually now a big, dingy venue. Things, I suppose don’t change. Anyway, standing outside, smoking a cigarette, my fourteen year old person was privy to mockery that would become a part of my experience in and around ‘the punk scene.’ The locale of this particular venue allowed the sidewalks to be choked with various grown up frat dudes and their skanky companions. Luckily for me, I was able to take a listen as some (pseudo) gentleman and his companion for the evening saw the marquee, assumed that band was comprised of some homosexual miscreants and then figured I was gay as a result of standing in front of the club. It wasn’t the first time I’d get called a fag, but it’s the only time I’d remember.

Skrewdriver is Better than Your Favorite Punk Band

Yeah, no one with more than a daub of space-dust between their ears is too into Nazis. I mean, you hafta dress up, be relatively ignorant of science and give your time over to hating a buncha stuff. I’d rather listen to reggae records. But Skrewdriver is still easily one of the best punk bands to release a full length during the first wave of UK punk. It could be argued that when the band put out All Skrewed Up in 1977 via Chiswick Records, it wasn’t the same group that would rear its head in ’83. But it’s kind of a moot point considering the first batch of songs from the re-formed (not reformed) Skrewdriver were almost on par with that original long player.

Slaughter and the Dogs: A Disc of Manchester Punkers

To me, Slaughter and the Dogs were just another punk band that cropped up on various compilations over time. The few songs that would get included over and over weren’t bad – and I kinda liked “Cranked Up Really High.” There just wasn’t anything that was so gripping being issued by Slaughter and the Dogs that it made me think I needed to own an album. I mighta been wrong, but it kinda doesn’t matter at this point. And even if it did, the band still had enough mid-range offerings as to make any (of their two) full lengths an exercise in selective listening.

The Pist are Sick of the Way That You Dance

I’ve had this back patch for, I dunno, ten years at this point – give or take. I think I bought it at an Anti-Flag show prior to realizing that those dudes pretty much read from a script in lieu of actual stage banter. Anyway, there’s a shredded up flag with the statement “Destroy Society” plastered atop of it all. The Pist were sweet, but I think the sentiment related on that patch is a bit obtuse. Anyway, I wasn’t ever privy to seeing the Connecticut band live. Instead, I was relegated to playing Ideas Are Bulletproof roughly twenty times a week for a few years. Oddly enough, it didn’t leave me damaged in the least – I do have tinnitus, though.

The Donkeys: Late Viewing

There was some show in Manchester, in ’76 I believe, that the Sex Pistols performed at. And without question at that point in the history of music, witnessing something like that should have changed a few people’s lives. I guess it did. I mean, I know that that show occurred and that folks that would go on to make up the Buzzcocks, Magazine and Warsaw – we’ll go with Warsaw since Joy Division/New Order is pretty horrible – were all in attendance. There were most likely people apart from that in the crowd. And while this is strictly conjecture, it’d be a good guess that the guys who would eventually comprise the Donkeys showed up at some point. What else would they have been up to?

One Life Crew: Labcabincleveland

Hardcore – the variety that arose after Black Flag, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and the Necros – has really been in the throngs of weirdo infighting since the mid ‘80s. If you went to Boston  during that time and wound up in the wrong show drunk or with a leather jacket on, you mighta caught a beat down. That aside, the music also seemed to deteriorate at a pretty rapid pace. And with the infusion of anti-racists sentiment (which alone isn’t bad) and militant vegetarianism/veganism expanding its influence, the ‘movement’ that resulted seemed to become as much about politics as anything else. Most likely alotta folks associated with that went on to some enlightened way of life, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Hubble Bubble Further Complicates Plastic Bertrand's Discography

Ok, so European punk is an endless, confusing and poorly annotated thing. It’s not anyone’s fault. And probably if the lineage of everyone and everybody has remained rather obscure, it’s because no one really cares too much to straighten it out. But one of the continental countries with the coolest backlog of old punkers – Belgium – has further confounded me. The name Hubble Bubble, whilst still the name of a band I’m about to get into, is also a way in which to refer to a hookah. But considering that fact that we’re talking about Europeans, there might just be tobacco product in there. Who knows?

The Normals are Sometimes the Truth

More than any other genre, I’m glad that I won’t ever be able to fully grasp how many punk bands came and went without releasing a proper disc or even making enough noise for me to have ever heard of ‘em. That’s boss. And while punk, as a whole, can be perceived as a varied music, some of the best stuff is just simple, bash your head against the wall simplicity – no more, no less, just pure impact. More specifically, though, I would imagine that the south still has more dusty, untold gems than any northern destination. Punk is a pretty urban thing. And while weird wherever it was, punk was probably a bit more palatable in a few erudite, metropolitan areas.

Death of Samantha: Definitely Cleveland

There’s a pretty strong chance that if you’re not from NEO (that’s North Eastern Ohio for you foreigners) that you’ve not been privy to the career of John Petkovic. It might seem unfair to begin a write up relating to Death of Samantha by reducing that combo down to one man’s dream, but that’s how it is. Anyway, Petkovic first came to my attention as a piddly teen while reading Clevo’s local rag, the Plain Dealer. He’s been writing on rock and general drunkenness for a time (I recall an essay length screed on drunkenness at dive bars while commenting on the juke boxes each sported). But while still in my formative years, Cobra Verde cropped up and was comprised of a variety of Death of Samantha refugees. But this all actually begins during the ‘80s.

The Dickies Can't Get Serious

The Los Angeles punk scene is generally though of as where the underground element of the genre got it’s real start. While the New York bands may have been around earlier, a great many of them ended up signing to major labels relatively early on. That’s not to say that the Ramones shouldn’t have signed to Sire Records, but what if they hadn’t? Punk might be a whole bunch different. Regardless of that, the crop of SoCal punkers weren’t necessarily snatched up in the same way their east coast brethren were. In part, that was simply because the scene, for whatever reason began and remained more of an underground phenomenon, being focused at the Masque and an assortment of other shabby venues.

Chrome and the Industrial Dilemma

It’s not surprising that Chrome has had been cited as an influential act in a variety of disparate genres. Recording for a few decades will have that affect if you’re not a buncha hacks. And these guys were not. Forming in the Bay Area during the mid ‘70s, Chrome initially didn’t include a gentleman named Helios Creed, who would ostensibly become the face of the group in addition to directing the sound that the band would cop over time. And on its ’77 debut, sans Creed, Chrome was still able to rouse a metallic punk racket, even if latter efforts would be hailed as benchmarks for years to come.