April 2010

The Gravedigger V : A Morbid Garage

If you’ve vacationed in California, it’d be a good guess that you were in either Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Obviously, the state has a great many other destinations to offer up to any itinerant vagabond, but those two spots hold a great deal of allure. There’s a history tied to both cities that encompasses a huge portion of America’s most important moments. And while Oakland might still have a bad name, yuppies are flocking there. So, make a quick trip to take it all in before condos overwhelm normalcy.

D.C. Snipers: Punk in the Capitol

After getting done being disappointed in the lowly release from the Baseball Furies, it’s a sincere pleasure to hear music as messed up and from such a bizarrely dark place as what the DC Snipers have concocted.

If folks are familiar with the Spider Bags, who share singer and songwriter Dan McGee with this here New Jersey punk act, it’d be a good idea to disregard any aural expectations from that country inflected group. There’s pretty much no connection to be made musically. And even if one were to take the time to try and figure out any lyrical similarities it seems that the Snipers are the kinds of people to make fun of you for it. That should be duly noted.

The Baseball Furies and the Downward Slide...

It’s utterly impossible to follow each band’s every move. And for that reason, fans have holes in their understanding of a band – a single EP or tour could wind up drastically affecting how a band functions. But if not grasped by some fan, that group’s trajectory instantly becomes confusing.

That aptly describes my relationship, or lack there of, with Buffalo cum Chicago punkers the Baseball Furies.

Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands: A Familial Garage

The various off shots of garage rock have really rendered the genre an all expansive thing. There are currently groups combining that sixties thing with a pretty much any other music one might be able to come up with. And on its recent press release accompanying the Slackers’ newest album, there’s even mention that the New York based ska act incorporates a modicum of garage into its sound. Vic Ruggerio – between his organ and bleated growl – amply proves the point.

Suicide: An Electric Punk

Timelines wind up obscuring whatever actually happened. And figuring out when punk started isn’t gonna ever be a forgone conclusion. There’s been endless discussion about who used the word psychedelic to describe a music first with no definitive conclusion reached. Who was the first to use punk to describe music has also been debated. Whatever the answer is, it was probably in the ‘60s and has nothing to do with the bevy of New York bands that cropped up in the early ‘70s.

Gang of Four: Two-Thirds of It All...

When I was about fifteen years old, an art teacher came up to me and started talking about punk bands. It was given that I’d be engaged – there weren’t more than few kids in my school that didn’t laud extended guitar solos over sloppy, oddly concise punk tracks. As the conversation turned in and out of itself, I was offered a video entitled Punk Rock Movie and was told that there was used copy of Solid Gold by the Gang of Four at a local record store.

The Middle Class: Who Cares...We Do...

Figuring out what hardcore is, how to differentiate it from punk and deciding when it all came about is a never ending mess. American Hardcore – the book and the movie didn’t do too much to help either. Between the fact that Social Distortion is referred to as hardcore and that the Necros become a Michigan band over the course of the narrative is enough to make readers wanna rip up the whole thing and start over again. And while the Middle Class are aptly referenced in Steven Blush’s book, it doesn’t seem to have impacted the larger punk culture (weird to think in those terms, huh?).

Classic Compilations: Tooth and Nail (1979)

Issued in 1979 via Upsetter Records, the Tooth and Nail compilation, which has nothing to do with the label of the same name, that I’m aware of, was able to expose an odd confluence of then current first wave punkers from the LA and SF scenes with a bit of hardcore tossed in for good measure. Yeah, it’s a bit spotty, but given the time that the album seeks to document that can be excused.

Vertical Slit: A Columbus Downer...

Every city has a rivalry. On occasion there’s more than one. And if you grew up in Cleveland, you’ve been predisposed to hate the Steelers. That’s just how it goes. But another part of that upbringing would be some odd sense of jovial competitiveness with Columbus. And while everyone in Ohio is required to love the Buckeye’s basketball and football programs, there’s a never ending debate about which town is better. Yeah, it’s an odd dispute, but that happens. And just to point it out, Cincinnati doesn’t ever factor into those discussions. Just saying.

TWOFER: the Riverboat Gambles x the Knotwells

The Knotwells

Blood River Melodies

(Self Released, 2005)

When I went to Record Revolution in Cleveland Heights to trade this cd in and in turn get Cannonball Adderly’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, I described The Knotwells to the gentleman behind the counter as musically superior to The Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly axis of punk, but not as good at writing songs. And that’s pretty fair. Even as the Knotwells champions its country roots over the Irish ones, the later is more readily apparent musically. Now, I’ve been accused of being a snob and I can’t say that that claim is unwarranted, but I do like my fair share of dumb punk. This however, is just not all that imaginative. Each track begins with a more than promising hillbilly style musical intro. Unfortunately, the singer eventually takes over and its kinda downhill after that. There’re no instrumentals on this album, but the band would benefit from a few, if that’s any indication of their front man’s ability to croon. The song writing, much like the singing, seems like a little something is lacking. A chorus gives us the proof in the couplet, “I wrote you a little song/and this is how it goes.”  Really, there aren’t any total losers, but each track sounds pretty much like the last and the singer managers to slip in a “hep” or a “hey” during every song. If these guys stuck to country music, muzzled the singer and toured wearing matching cowboy hats, you might hear from ‘em again.  Otherwise, don’t count on it. Really.

The Functional Blackouts – The Very Best of the Monkees/The Severed Tongue Speaks for Everyone (Dead Beat, 2007)

Over about a five year period of recorded activity, The Functional Blackouts were able to create a trebly mixture of punk and noise that knowingly could only have culminated in a break up. There could be no other summation to this racket. And well, that’s what happened, but if some other avenue would have been explored, listeners may not have been privy to The Very Best of the Monkees. Not necessarily a “Best of…” compilation, but pretty close, this collection aims at bringing unreleased versions of album and singles tracks to a full length format. It’s an interesting way to end a career – although players from the Blackouts continue to haunt Chicago dives, scaring casual show goers to no end.

The Godfather of Punk Dies

Malcolm McLaren died  Thursday, April 8, 2010. He is being remembered for his contributions to punk. He was called the godfather of punk. He is also being remembered  for his contribution to world hip hop. Malcolm McLaren was the former manager of the Sex Pistols and a musical impresario of whom critics say had, "virtually no musical talent whatsoever." He was considered  "a marketing genius,"   who " influenced and exploited the worldwide expansion of two inner-city explosions of creativity: punk rock and hip hop." (Chicago Tribune)

The Tell Tale Hearts Reach Back...

Maintaining an ability to work with music over the duration of one’s life is a rare thing at best. Some folks figure out how to do, but it usually proves relatively difficult. That being said, the man behind Ugly Things has had his hands in garage stuffs for over twenty years. Who knows if Ugly Things even makes a dollar now, but the fact that Mike Stax has kept a dedication to the genre is admirable if nothing else. And in fact, there’s a lot more…

Stains: SST Stuperstars

After the initial wave of punk washed over major cities in the states, supplemental and more cloistered scenes began cropping up. Occasionally it was all divided up by place and what part of town you lived in. But sometimes scenes cropped up around cultural groups. And in Los Angeles, despite there being a scene in the city and then in the out laying suburbs, East LA developed its own groups.

U.S. Bombs: Old as Young

Through the infinite wisdom of bootleggers, in dingy punk record stores throughout the nation, a DVD entitled U.S. Bombs/Stitches Live at the Mesa Club ’94 has been making the rounds. And even though there is no footage of the U.S. Bombs actually performing, there is an elucidating, self-taped interview by Duane Peters, the Bombs’ singer. As his segment ensues it becomes amusingly apparent that Peters is unquestionably wasted. The viewer is privy to watching a dog lead Peters down the street as he rides his skateboard. It’s a clear video snapshot of the man, his priorities in full view.

The Cravats: In Toytown

Weirdoes seem more pervasive in secluded areas. Yeah, bums you’ll encounter in major cities, roving in crews and drinking in your favorite park are gonna be way more nutty than bucolic people. But the seclusion that out of the way places offer up works as a sort of crock pot, simmering the craziness until it reaches a perfect balance of outsidery goodness and insular intellect. There’re probably hundreds of bands that never got to put down tracks for a record – and there might be a ‘punk’ band  of the snotty, not the garagey variety, that predates anything that ‘scholars’ have been able to hunt down.