May 2010

Twofer: Screeching Weasel x I Farm

Pop punk has gone through a wealth of changes since the Descendents and whoever else could be said to have informed the genre stalked the earth. Moving from something of an in-scene, underground phenomenon on the West Coast to an international movement of sorts is a pretty huge progression over the span of just thirty years.

With its commercial appeal, which is obviously relative, the genre’s gifted State’s side music fans a horde of groups to follow – including a few that seem to be aging surprisingly well. Regardless of that, a few of the progenitors are kicking around, or at least issuing retrospectives in order to spread the legacy. But in the mid nineties’ as popular music seemed poised to accommodate just about any variation on rock music, folks were blessed with the financial prowess to market and produce music in the same way major label bands were. That may or may not have been punk’s death rattle. But even if it was, there’re still folks working to keep the genre entertaining. If the music isn’t any longer appealing, at least that attitude is.

Screeching Weasel


(Fat Wreck Chords, 2005)

If you listen to punk and you don’t listen to Screeching Weasel, you may want to re-evaluate your life. Thanks to Fat Wreck Chords, though, instead of wallowing in the mire of your sorry punk record collection, missing all those classics from the late eighties and early nineties, you can pick up this compilation of 34 tracks. There’s a bit from each of Screeching Weasel’s albums represented here. All the dumb-fk-punk you could possibly ever want is here including the ridiculous and harrowing “I Wanna Be a Homosexual.” Other Lookout! era hits crop up on Weaselmania as well. And if nothing else Mike Dirnt, of Green Day fame, fills in on bass for a few tracks. Shock the middle class.  Take it up your punk rock ass. Don’t sleep, consumerize.

The Nuns: Out of Time

Part of working up a legacy is having firsts (of one kind or another) as a part of a career. After a certain point in any genre, though, that becomes relatively difficult. And punk by the time it had solidified during the mid to late seventies doing something first was pretty difficult. Of course, turning into a hardcore focused ensemble might have worked, but that’s almost a different animal than punk.

Cro-Mags x That Tough Guy Stance

Harley Flanagan thinks you’re a moron. That’s all well and good, but he thinks you’re an idiot for caring about the music that he worked up between his teenage years and about his mid twenties or so. Again, that’s fine. And while the perspective on his fans might be skewed, it’s for good reason seeing as not too long after the dissolution of his earliest ensemble, the Stimulators.

Flanagan is obviously an important part of punk history at this late date. And even if he figures the mid ‘80s work he did to be a joke there are those that disagree. Some, though, hold roughly the same beliefs as him.

Boomtown Rats' - Self Titled Albim (1977)

There existed a weird difference between punk groups from the UK and acts stationed in the States. Of course, the musical landscape must have been drastically different in the western portion of the Atlantic to have allowed for the Sex Pistols to hit the top of the charts. And even if the Ramones should have had that success, there was something that limited the band – which is pretty curious considering the group was endlessly more marketable than it’s dirty Brit counter parts. What eventually happened in the States, though, was that a few folks figured out that if one were to repackage, rename and slightly alter punk, it’d be a pretty successful endeavor – thus new wave.

The Endtables - Self Titled (Drag City, 2010)

As unlikely as all the skewed punks stuff springing from CLE’s scene dating from the ‘70s, Louisville, Kentucky seems like a town that could have gotten through that decade without too many punk acts finding an avenue to record. There’s a sparse, but unquestionably strong lineage from that seat in the blue grass state. Circle X may not be the best known no wave related act, but the band was able to hit up Europe for a jaunty time on the strength of its New York appearances. A group that didn’t find itself that lucky was the Endtables, which was hitting the scene at about the same time as that aforementioned, globe trotting ensemble.

The Barracudas: A UK Confusion

There are endless accounts of labels not knowing or being able to figure out what to do with punk related groups who on occasion sussed out some really good  (almost) pop fair. Looking back at the Sire Records’ roster at the dawn of the ‘80s points towards the confusion. That imprint is generally thought of as the first major label in the States to embrace the genre. But with such an unruly sprawl of sound – the Talking Heads didn’t obviously sound like the Ramones – Sire couldn’t do too much in the way of real marketing. It did it’s best, but there’re still more folks who don’t know those aforementioned groups than own their records.

Genetic Control: A Montreal Mess

Punk bands, for the most part, don’t really age too well. That’s a damnable shame seeing as a lot of ‘em have been able to reform (I dunno how all of those guys are still alive, frankly) and tour a bit to mixed reviews.

Seeing one of those reconstituted groups play is really a crap shoot. It’s either gonna be an incredible show or a total bummer – there’s usually no middle ground. Catching the Zero Boys might lead one to believe that getting the old band back together is a good idea seeing as that Indiana group turned in a few of the best tours in the last five years or so. At about the same time, the New York Dolls started recording and touring again. And that was not a good idea at all. That’s how it goes, though. The Dolls’ outcome is still way more frequent than the Zero Boys.

Barrence Whitfield: A Loose, Garage Freak Out from the '80s

Garage appropriations haven’t usually caused too many fans of the genre to take issue with old tyme hits being repurposed for new use – and usually related in drastically different musical tones than the originals. After considering the West Coast garage explosion that could be figured to have peeked by the mid ‘80s, it’s then pretty easy to undersatnd the Gories as the bridge from that decade to all of the Budget Rock stuff that cropped up during the ‘90s. In noting all of those disparate garage flouting moments, it should become rather obvious that while a great many of those bands simply wouldn’t exist without the likes of the Sonics or all the Nuggets’ bands, no one really played the same kind of music.

There's Something Wrong with Dan Melchior

I think I’m a clever guy. Most of the time. Either way, while I was trying to figure out an angle to use for this Dan Melchior write-up, I settled upon an analogy of a three wheeled, wheel barrel. Relating this to the Medway scene and the folks who’ve gone on to spread that gospel, I figure that Bill Childish would be the wheel in the front. No arguments are really possible on that one. Of the two back wheels, Holly Golightly would be the solid, dependable one, leaving Melchior to be the shaky, confusing one that disallows the wheel barrel from being pushed easily.

Zounds' Message Drowned Out by Sound

The only anarchy inspired musical screeds that are worth a damn at this point – or ever – was the stuff spilling out of England during the late seventies and early eighties. There were blue eyed and blond haired retreads a bit later on in the decade, but for the most part were average or inconsistent. Of course, Crass is probably the group most often associated with this kind of thing – as well it should be. While the band didn’t work to be heard by a wide audience, which could actually be thought as antithetical to the whole point of politicized music, Crass did form a record label and disseminated music it like which sported a message. Preaching to the choir, then as now, though, seems like nothing too distant from being a cheerleader.

Nice Face Hates Your Face

The Sacred Bones Recording Concern has endeavored to release anything grimy, seemingly recorded in a dungeon and sounding like it. Despite that approach becoming the rough modus operandi for a slew of imprints today, the folks behind Sacred Bones apparently have a bit more of a tempered palette than most.

Granted, acts like Zola Jesus and…well mostly just Zola Jesus, work to redefine how obnoxious and boring a music can be simultaneously, the rest of Bones’ roster is shockingly strong in the most underground sense possible. Part of what makes the assemblage of talent so enthralling is that it’s not city specific. And really while most of the acts working with Sacred Bones would describe its music as somehow tied to garage, punk or psych, there’s not too much of an aural through line.

Circle X: A Post Punk Pre-History

For whatever reason, it seems as if some of the more difficult, yet interesting and original musics that sprung up towards the end of the seventies and at the dawn of the eighties was as a result of relative isolation. I’ve discussed Cleveland to no end in these terms, but it would appear that Louisville, Kentucky sported a similar musical trajectory. There’s no way that the latter scene is going to match Cleveland’s in depth or importance, but the fact that there’s an increased interest in whatever was going on down there in the blue grass state points to its diversity and quality.

Classic Compilations: Hell Comes to Your House

The early moments of any scene deserve to be properly captured and maintained as historical artifact. If nothing else, it’s possible that at ant moment, the bands involved could just all fold and call it a day. It’d be a stretch to say ‘Thank God’ for Hell Comes to Your House, Vol. 01, but there’s unquestionably a spate of tunes here that might not have made it through to the twenty first century if it was issued as a series of singles. This here write up doesn’t include everyone represented on the disc, just some names that might be familiar and some surprising works…

Social Distortion

Tomata Du Plenty x CNN

There probably aren't too many folks who are wondering what happened to Tomata Du Plenty. If you were, here it is. I can say, though, that his paintings are kinda worthless when contrasted with what the Screamers worked out during the latter portion of the '70s.