December 2010

Teacher's Pet: More Resurrected Punk from NEOhio

Partially comprised of Kal and Ron Mullens, Akron’s Teacher’s Pet don’t necessarily adhere to the town’s accepted sound.

Granted, as a part of the Rubber City Rebels, Ron Mullens trucked in relatively straight forward rock tropes, just sped up and occasionally copping a Lou Reed feel. The band didn’t really have peers in Devo or Tin Huey – which both made use of off kilter rhythms and willfully difficult melodic progressions. RCR were more of a straight ahead punk band with a bit of hard rock tossed in.

Teacher’s Pet is something of a combination of those better known Akron bands and a nod to classic rock stuff. There’s even a cover of Mose Allison’s “Summertime Blues,” which as versioned by the Who, ranks as one of rock’s better known rave ups.

Fungus Brains: More Noise and Rock from Down Under - With Horns

Following Mick Turner’s career – the Aussie, not the Hawkwind affiliated Britisher – is something of a confusing endeavor. Spanning something like forty years and pretty much every guitar based form of music has resulted in an unwieldy discography as confusing as it is intriguing. There’s no real way to figure a specific strain of music to associate the guy with – he’s even performed with Cat Power at this late date. And while the Dirty Three is probably the best known project Turner had a significant influence over, it’s some of his earlier work that should be considered a bit more important. That’s relative, of course.

Classic Compilations: Raw Records

The trajectory of independently recorded and released music in the UK varies greatly from that of the States. Sure, there were Stateside imprints working pretty early during the seventies, but it seems that the UK was more interested in working out a DIY business model – one that was sustainable and useful. Nothing really beats SST, but that imprint went belly up. So while we mourn the rest of the media in its death rattle, here’s a look back at a compilation working to round up some of the stronger efforts from the UK’s Raw Records. And as a side, if none of the following groups are familiar, it makes sense. Raw didn’t sport too many chart toppers.

Classic Compilations: Public Service

Public Service, released in 1981, certainly isn’t the earliest example of SoCal punk kids putting out their own records. It’s funny to think, though, that thirty years ago there wasn’t an imprint willing to put out work by the likes of Bad Religion. There’s not generally any sense to the inner workings of the record industry. And I guess that’s what Public Service works to show.

Cardiac Kidz: San Diego only Stinks Sometimes

Maybe it’s important. Maybe it’s not, but look at the guy’s mustache. Immediately, there should be a few folks who are gonna be so completely turned off by that, that listening to the Cardiac Kidz album is removed from the realm of possibility. If that mustache all on its own isn’t enough, the ‘z’ at the end of this San Diego band’s name is probably enough to put you off. Hopefully not, though.

The rash of auld tyme punk acts finding their fortunes anew after a reissue really hasn’t turned up too many bands that are utterly indispensible and anthemic. That might be a bit hyperbolic for the Cardiac Kidz, but despite that mustache and the ‘z,’ these Californians were able to suss out a proper intersection where punk, pop and snot meet in a weird harmony not found in too many places. It’s here on Get Out, though.

Being included on a few tossed off Killed By Death compilations, the Cardiac Kidz earned this cd reissue casting the band as lost pop stars. Again, that mustache helps. But what’s a bit odd – and we’ll get to the almalgam of sounds here in a minute – is the fact that the Cleveland Browns’ used the nickname Cardiac Kids during the eighties. Obviously, no real connection exists. But it’s a funny coincidence seeing as Bob Golic probably wasn’t into punk too much.

Whatever. He shoulda been.

The Delinquents: Maybe More Than a Footnote

Then as now, Austin, Texas functions as a cultural outpost just west of Houston and south of the Dallas – Ft. Worth area. In decade’s past, the town served as the location of some twisted psych experiments, mainly predicated on the consumption of fistfuls of acid. Those moments were documented on record relatively well even as we should all be on the lookout for some journalistic summation of those journeys.

The Mo-dettes: A Girl-Punk Lineage

The secret history of Girl Punk hasn’t as of yet been brought to light. There’ve been relatively recent compilations seeking to round up various bands’ output. But for the most part it all seems like second tier work. With the recent passing of the Slits’ Ari Up, it wouldn’t be too difficult someone right now working on a way to honor not just her, but the lineage she’s a part of.

It’d be a stretch to say that the Mo-Dettes are in some way directly related to Ari Up. They’re not really. But Kate Korris did time in the Slits as well as the Raincoats. Here inclusion on guitar makes the Mo-Dettes a bit more interesting then the group would have been otherwise even as the group seems more adept at its instruments than the aforementioned band or the LiLiPuT/Kleenex axis, which contributed the Mo-Dettes singer Ramona Carlier to the mix.

Rich Kids: Here Comes Some Pop?

Does a band count as a super group if at the time of its formation none of the players were really famous, only to attain a broad notoriety a bit later on? Good question, right? Thing is when said band is really just worthless nonsense, it doesn’t matter at all.

The curio counting as the Rich Kids doesn’t have more than a few minutes worth of music that anyone needs to hear – and really, maybe none of it matters at all. But for all the names associated with the short lived band (Glen Matlock, Mick Jones, Midge Ure and Mick Ronson) that’s a surprise.

Of course, relative to all the stunning first wave punk stuff, which for some reason has been relegated to being regarded as effortless schlock, the 1978 Ghosts of Princes in Towers shouldn’t sound too tremendous. In a vacuum, some of its passable. But where do things exist in vacuums?

Either way, the band sprung into existence after Matlock quit the Pistols being replaced by that pillar of musical skill, Sid Vicious. No hard feelings resulted and Matlock simply threw his new ensemble together and found himself and his group featured in D.O.A., a performance video detailing some early Brit punk bands. The weird thing – in that video at least, since the song didn’t wind up on the album – is to hear Matlock do a Pistols’ song he wrote.

Hank IV: A Siltbreeze (Punker) Failure

Amassing some pretty heavy credentials over the last few decades has made Siltbreeze the premiere imprint for degenerate rock, punk and affiliated fuzz. Issuing everything from the Dead C to Eat Skull, Siltbreeze has dedicated itself to ushering in acts heretofore unknown and banking on acts making good of their own volition.

As with anything, though, there’s good and bad. Simply by dint of the imprint’s expansiveness there’re bound to be a few efforts that folks either don’t like or don’t get. But for the most part, while the music isn’t always interrelated, acts adhere to a vision that eschews traditions granting acts entrance to other labels.

So, Hank IV’s III winds up being a bit confusing.

Firstly, no this act has nothing to do with Hank Williams and his expansive clan. Secondly, yes, it’s caused a few flair ups, but probably more from confused would-be fans than from lawyers and the like, ‘cause really, there’s no problem to be had. Either way, Hank IV doesn’t really compare to anything else that Siltbreeze has dealt with in the past.

There is a pervasive punk cum hard rock thing at work over III’s eight tracks and twenty five minutes. And while most folks would assume that the hardrock just referenced would have something to do with seventies weirdoes, it doesn’t.

Really Red: Whatd'ya Want from Texas Hardcore?

Texas is a ridiculously large state. There’s a reason some (trashy) folks believe it should be its own nation. Apart from taxes and revenue from the sale of cheap beer – or maybe Austin to, but I can’t be sure – I don’t know that it would be a tremendous loss. Regardless of my relative ignorance regarding all things Texan, the hardcore affiliated groups that cropped up in the wild state during the early eighties were some of the most innovative on the scene.

Hüsker Dü surely ranks up there with other groups attempting to push the genre forward. But those Minnesotans really wound up taking the pop-music detour. In Texas – and the Minutemen by extension over there in Pedro – hardcore acts possessed a sort of rhythmic diversity that no one else engaged with punk communities were able to muster, no wave groups being exempt from this discussion even as that’s probably unfair in light of Really Red’s “No Art.”

Beyond groups’ ability to change up songs beyond the fast/breakdown dichotomy, there was a surprising persistence of sound at work. The Dicks, the Big Boys and RR all were able to approximate a sound while not necessarily being a part of one, cohesive scene – RR being based in Houston with those other ensembles living three hours east in Austin.

Detroit's Tyvek Moves on Up - Relatively

“Frustration Rock” remains one of the best songs recorded during the first decade of the twenty first century. It’s really an amazing piece of simple rock, garage and punk stuff with its lyrics detailing most of what dour dudes feel on a daily basis. Distillation, sometimes, is an art all unto itself.

Since the release of that first Tyvek long player, a self released CDr at that, the band’s been affiliated with two of the better thought of underground rock imprints currently running schlock into your ears. The self titled followed up came out on Siltbreeze a year back or so and oddly sported some re-imaged versions of songs first issued on the aforementioned CDr. The older version of “Frustration Rock” remains the better of the two.

Either way, that disc wound up making the Detroit band sound a bit fuller than it had on earlier releases. It have simply been the recording. It could have been any number of things. What it wasn’t, though, was better or worse. The self titled disc was just a bit different even as it retained its sloppy, glass eyed sheen.

Countless singles, tapes and low rent rehearsal tapes have since made Tyvek a relatively easy commodity to stumble upon whether one’s perusing the interwebs or a local record store. But the step up from independently released work to Siltbreeze and now onto In the Red Records comes accompanied by more sublte shifts in Tyvek’s aural sensibilities.

Cheetah Chrome and the Fine Lit Game

The prospect of a lifetime musician writing a book should inspire a certain amount of dread in our hearts. Bob Dylan’s Tarantula was one of the biggest hoaxes put over on hippies. Really, it’s trash. Granted, he thought to string along a bunch of nonsense that attempts to mimic some of Burroughs’ lesser moments and we didn’t. But that’s about where the accolades should end.

Writing an autobiography, obviously, is a completely different deal. Taking the thoughts and remembrances swirling around in one’s head that constitute a history of some sort should come off a far sight better than anything that passes for high brow literature. On occasion, though, a book can surprise a reader.

Cheetah Chrome’s A Dead Boy's Tale: From the Front Lines of Punk Rock, published through Voyager Press, doesn’t rank as the finest music autobiography ever issued. But it’s up there if you, kind reader, have an affinity for Cleveland and New York punk stuffs run through the eyes of a rambling guitarist now settled in Nashville. But before getting into what we might all learn from such a read, it should be noted that Chrome isn’t a professional writer. He probably wouldn’t hedge to tell you that. But the book is relatively well soldered together from disparate memories and strung along in chronological time. Whoever line edited the thing, though, should be concerned for their job, though.

Typos aside, Chrome focuses pretty heavily on the time he spent growing up on the near west side of Cleveland, just north of route 2. Driving over the bridge after reading A Dead Boy's Tale takes on a whole new glimmer. His stories about smoking, drinking and growing the odd pot plant over there lends life to a part of town that probably isn’t to different today than it was during the fifties – apart from who lives there, at least.

Surf Punks: It's Not a Joke, But It Could Have Been

The California variant on punk’s tradition become inextricably linked to beach culture. It’s nor really surprising simply by dint of proximity. But also the same sort of lay-about scumbags endeavoring to get high and ride a board all day long aren’t drastically removed from either skaters or punkers. It was inevitable. And while hardcore, for the most part, is tied to thise sort of tanned beach goers, there were some poppier efforts to emerge from the combination of getting high, surfing and listen to big name, first wave punk groups.

The Thought Criminals: More Reasons Why OZ Rules

Out of all the Brit punk groups springing forth from the years ’76 and ’77 the Desperate Bicyles don’t generally receive their due. It’s a frustrating mess, that whole early discography of the scene. But the political ideology – that sounds significantly more academic than it actually is – backing the Bicycles’ first single is something that should have sparked an international movement. That didn’t happen, but it’s interesting that a band from Australia credit the London based band with lending them a political perspective from which its early songs were based.

The Thought Criminals occupy just about the same international cultural space that the Bicycles do. And while that latter band might be more consistent musically, what the Criminals were able to work up during the first stage of its career is on par with just about any DIY punker act from the era.

Collected on Chrono-Logical are the early would-be hits and the later relative failures of the Thought Criminals. There’s not a huge focus on the Orwellian future – at least in blatant terms. But it serves as bedrock for the majority of the songs here.

Most impressive is the fact that the Criminals were of such a staunch political position that “I Won't Pay” takes Malcolm McLaren to task for being a business man. Yeah, that’s completely apt. At the same time, though, without that man ruining the New York Dolls and organizing the Pistols, punk would look dramatically different than it does today. The song’s still pretty funny, though.

Von LMO and the Future-Past of Punk

There’s no way to properly figure Von LMO. The band’s a weird duck – Von LMO seems to be the band’s name as well as the dude singing. But in just about every piece of writing one’s able to track down on the band, there’re endless references to Devo. That probably gets a lot of folks’ hope up. And for good reason. Devo rules. It’s curious, though, considering no one usually connects Dow Jones and the Industrials to that Akron band. All involved are tied to electronics. But whatever. Von Lmo doesn’t sound like Devo really.

Yeah, there’s some where funky stuff peeking through the tough guy punk. But Von LMO’s voice comes off as something that Jello may have used as a basis for developing his own delivery in direction opposition to the odd nasally Devo vocals.

Separating Von LMO from most groups that had a technological bent about them around this time is the inclusion of a sax – which way later factored into a few stolen moments with James Chance.

Either way, the band’s first album, Future Language, sports a cheeseball cover that one would expect. It’s funny to think about all these odd ball almost punkers sitting around and pondering the implications of space and men from another planet - then writing songs like this. Wearing space suites was probably a step in the right direction while playing these tunes, but still weird to see on the cover of an album.

Hated Youth: Florida's Hardcore Scene Clocks In

After punk showed up and spit everyone out into a drug induced haze, the hardcore crews took over. There were obviously that top tier clutch of bands functioning during the first days of the eighties, but pretty soon a huge number of teenaged kids took up the cause. And while, for the most part, those better known bands hailed from densely populated, urban areas a number of smaller scenes began springing up in locations that hadn’t previously been associated with punkers.

Florida, even today, really isn’t the greatest place unless you’re a retired doctor, white trash or a vacationing, fake tanned business trollop. That being said, the relative isolation that such places in the panhandle afforded during the hardcore days offered up a setting for bands to make a run at developing unique styles. That’s not what wound up happening, but it could have. You know.

Either way, Hated Youth haven’t become the most revered performers from early eighties hardcore stuff. But the scant recordings associated with the band do add a bit of tossed off flair to a movement which quickly got over-run with tough guys – even the HY guys, figured that much.