January 2010

A (too) Short Spits Disc...

Michigan by way of Seattle weirdos the Spits have become the key to low rent punk stuffs during the first decade of this new millennium. Surely, that sounds like hyperbole, but regardless of what the uninitiated believe, the brothers Wood (Erin [sic], Sean) and Lance Phelps bashing drums issued a disc, Vol. IV, in the middle of ’09. And while not everyone in the world is pleased with the disc, it was kinda impossible for the Spits to continue on such a run of acclaimed albums.

That, though, doesn’t mean that the slab is less than previous efforts, just that folks are getting too picky.

The Feederz and the Downfall of Western Civilization

For whatever reason, there was an odd moment in American punk during the mid ‘80s when the scene fractured by dint of the increasingly disparate and insular scenes within the genre. Of course, at the core of it all was the same stuff – upset kids and people discontent with what each saw going on around them as well as an independent spirit that didn’t really want anything to do with whatever the ‘mainstream’ was.

Looking at rock writing from the early ‘90s journalists would have you believe that after 1980 or so, punk disappeared only to resurface with Nirvana and its cohort. And while there’s some argument to be made regarding the Seattle group’s importance in underground music’s culture, Cobain and company wouldn’t have existed if there wasn’t a constant slew of low run records and weirdo bands traversing the States.

Geza X: Skewed '80s Punk and Pop

Getting behind the boards for some of the most famous punk singles to come out of California during the initial run of punk bands somehow didn’t make Geza X a household name. Despite the fact that his given name looked odd and all – he was a first generation American born to Hungarian parents – the singer, guitarist and producer was able to wrangle an all star band to back him up on his lone full length.

Classic Compilations: Bobbing for Pavement

Rathouse released only two slabs. But seeing as Rathouse was really just a bunch of dudes (and ladies) living in some house in the Central District of Seattle, the small run of pressings shouldn’t be all that surprising.

The ‘label,’ if it can actually be called that, was based around members of the Gits who were in residence at punk house. Of course, the most immediate story surrounding all of this is that of Mia Zapata, her music and her ultimate demise. But before she was taken from her friends, family and band mates, Zapata was able to contribute a few tracks to the Bobbing for Pavement compilation.

The Tyrades Let You Down...

It’s pretty much impossible to keep up with the landslide of punk related groups that released a few singles and maybe a full length before calling it a day.

The Tyrades are one of these acts.

Initially based out of Buffalo, New Yawk, the band eventually moved to the big city of Chicago subsequent to becoming the adored weirdoes of mags like Maximum Rock ‘n Roll. But regardless of the move and what made it all occur, the quartet - Jenna Tyrade (vocals), Jimmy Ordinary (guitar), Robert Miscellaneous (bass) and Frankie Jensen (drums) – were able to distill some angsty, jittery and coffee inspired, slurred punk.

Classic Compilations: Let Them Eat Jellybeans!

There wasn’t a west coast equivalent to Dischord. But Alternative Tentacles functioned in a similar fashion considering the fact that Jello Biafra, the label’s founder and lead singer of the Dead Kennedys’, wanted to document the music that was occurring up and down the coast during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Biafra’s earliest attempt to distill what was going on over there in Cali and even up into Canada was represented in the pressing of Let Them Eat Jellybeans! The cartoon face of then president Ronald Reagan greeting listeners each time the slab was tossed on was a successful joke even if the image probably won’t play to today’s current crop of young punkers.

Telephone: Crache Ton Venin (Whatever that Means)

Really, there has to be a plethora of punk bands from various non-English speaking countries that are as good as anything that the States produced. There are a few obstacles in enjoying all of ‘em though.

Belgium might be the most consistent in cranking out groups – the Kids remaining one of the greatest punk bands of all time. But that band was partial to the King’s English. Anyway, holding a listener’s interest arrives two fold. Firstly, a band needs some sort of melodic hook – in punk at least. It might be all too simple and dumbed down for the general public, but it’s gotta be there. Secondly, though, it’s always a bonus when one can sing along. And for the most part, bands stick to its native land’s tongue while performing. The Ex are a notable exception. But that band’s made up of weirdo anarchists and as likely to play funk as sound like a Subhumans’ styled group.

The Bay's Garage: A Primer

Characterized by ridiculous paisleys and Bill Ham’s light show, the clutch of ‘60s rock groups from the Bay Area influenced the following decade’s bloated rock stars. In addition to helping define extravagant live entertainment and excess, the early recordings from groups like the Grateful Dead informed legions of basement dwelling, barely capable musicians in addition to all of those long-hairs that’ve made millions in the ensuing years.

Classic Compilations: NY Thrash

Reach Out International Records (aka ROIR) released some of the more important discs of the New York punk scene and its affiliates – the label continues to do so. Everyone from James Chance and the Contortions to the Bush Tetras were given life via ROIR cassette tape technology. Today, however, these releases function as authentic documents of a time where music was music and not a specific genre. And while most of that original run of tapes is most likely lost to time or just lost, ROIR has endeavored to reissue a good portion of its discography.

Slickee Boys Get Poppy

Most often associated with the nascent American hardcore scene and the subsequent cry baby rock thing, both spread around by Dischord Records, Washington D.C. has contributed more than just those two things to music’s history. In addition to Go-Go and its bastard child, emcee Wale, D.C. birthed a few notable straight punk acts.

Most notorious would have to be Iron Cross, which gave the world “Crucified.” And while that might be the most well known effort from the nation’s capitol, U.S. Chaos and a bit later on, the Suspects churned out a few above board punk releases.

Before any of that, though, the Slickee Boys were working in what must have been a musical wasteland – just like the rest of the country. But because of the group’s determination and persistent release schedule, it was able to help establish a basic framework for ensembles, in its wake, to have a go at independent music.

Corrosion of Conformity: Punk x Metal X Hardcore

After taking a listen to the Why Are We Here? compilation and imbibing a Corrosion of Conformity that I’d not previously been familiar with, it behooved me to hunt down the group’s first long player.

Eye for an Eye doesn’t come off as an extension of the tracks represented on that aforementioned No Core released compilation, although there is some overlap – “Indifferent” is included on both. The Black Flag similarities are still there, but in the vocals throughout the disc, listeners should be able to hear some of the metal influence creeping in. Of course, those breakdowns coming left and right should also point to what was to come, but it might all be obscured by Woody Weatherman’s Greg Ginn inspired guitar soloing.

Classic Compilations: Why are We Here?

There are a good many compilations that have the ability to change one’s view point on a particular genre. Others simply serve as label samplers: an attempt at marketing bands in a cohort to more easily hock their collective goods.

Why Are We Here? isn’t really either (alright, it was released via North Carolina’s No Core imprint and included bands from its roster). It’s an artifact from a time when genres still hadn’t been completely codified, even as that was unquestionably on the horizon. Dug up over at the Maximum Rock ‘n Roll headquarters and posted HERE, the 1983 compilation splices together aggressive groups that each work in varying degrees of hardcore and punk.

Box Elders: Another Wave of Garage...

Goner Records has a pretty decent track record of releasing above boards garage styled punk and some straight rock bangers. That being said, every label has its lesser moments. Luckily for those with a renewed interest in garage stuff, the Memphis based label has gone and released the first long player from Omaha, Nebraska trio the Box Elders.

Comprised of Clayton and Jeremiah McIntyre, as well as drummer Dave Goldberg, the Box Elders unloosed a four song single not too long ago that met with only the most positive reviews. Included on that slab was a Red Kross cover sitting – so unassumingly – alongside its three originals. So while that sloppy effort was as rewarding as it was ramshackle, the Box Elders’ Alice and Friends is just as pleasing even if two of the tracks included here were represented on that single.

The Bananas: Punk A-Peel

The ‘90s turned a lot of genre names to crap. Ska, of course, but pop punk as well. That being said, the fact that ‘pop’ is short for popular escapes most folks. And whatever pop punk became was still decent when contrasted with the travesty that was most of America’s brief flirtation with ska music.

Regardless, at this point pretty much no one proclaims themselves a pop punk band, which is really a damnable shame. The best punk should have some pop bent to it seeing as that the more thrashy variety isn’t really palatable to most folks. Even with that, though, having fans isn’t the point – making good music is. And Sacramento’s the Bananas do just that, for the most part.

The Penetrators - Don't You Tell Me...

The image depicted on the cover of the Penetrators’ Basement Anthology (1976-1984) is a confusing one at best. A few dudes leaning up against a brick wall – assumedly in the group’s hometown of Syracuse, New York – find themselves amidst some foot traffic. So, one’s left to wonder, who’s in the band?

The guy to the left of frame seems to just be passing through, but what about the jovial looking chap with the hat on, smiling and looking off to the left? The uncertainty that the cover image purports is really indicative of the entire album. In this day of unearthed classics and the like, discs like the Penetrators’ are gonna be snatched up pretty immediately. Of course, if that were to happen to you here, you’d be one sorry record collector.