February 2011

The Lyres: A Boston Time Warp

Jeff "Monoman" Conolly is DMZ. He is Lyres. He’s an adequate keyboard player and an adept songwriter. So, the fact that he’s not a house hold name in the way Little Steven is – and yeah, house hold is relative – remains tremendously troublesome. Instead of just lauding garage acts, Conolly plays in one and did for something like three decades. That’s way more impressive than being on the Sopranos after playing with Bruce Springsteen.

White Pages: A Difficult to Google Punk Band

Half of me is glad that whatever White Pages are, there’s not a genre name for it. But mining the same weird hinterland between eighties’ hardcore and seventies punk, Tyvek comes to mind, has made for a pretty enticing demo floating around the internets. Judging from how principle members in the group think about and enact professionalism is just as engaging as the music, though.

Future Dads: Understanding Dynamics

Understanding the dynamics of any scene so far removed from time and place that we’re all accustomed to is difficult. It’d be hard to even name more than a few bands from Boston’s halcyon punk days before the hardcore kids took that place over. Richie Parsons, though, is a name that’s bound to come up over and over again. Founding Unnatural Axe, which we’ll get to in a few days, the guy apparently was thought of in pretty high regards, garnering approval from the Burma guys. Even if that wasn’t the case, one of Parsons’ latter day groups, Future Dads rank pretty high in their appropriation of punk and pop.

Blank Stare: Don't Dominate the Rap, Jack

There doesn’t seem to be too great any desire on anyone’s part to start a hardcore band and stick it out for any length of time. We – and the culture at large – have basically made it clear that if your group doesn’t show up, hit it big on the first or second try (whether that means on recordings or on tour), that it’s time to pack it in. In a great many ways, underground music’s become a smaller scale tv or film market. There’s capital set up, and if there’s not the sort of return expected, call it a day.

Vomit Pigs: TX Punk that Has Nothing to Do with the Big Boys

There’re more than a few Killed By Death styled bands that come off as something between indispensible and cool relics from an interesting place and time. It’s pretty rare when one of those ensembles merits as much attention as it gets. But it’d be hard to dispute the place a few different songs the Vomit Pigs, a Texas group dealing in trashy rock stuffs, worked up in the pantheon of American punk classics.

The Dogs: A French (Punker) Confusion

There’re about fifty bands named something like the Dogs – an LA band, the British Slaughter and the Dogs. The list goes on. It’s an obvious name, but there’s a French group using the animal as its name that hasn’t even achieved Killed By Death status. And there’s not really any good reason for that.

As early as 1973, the Dogs were aping a revved up rock and roll stance easily matching any of the Stateside proto punk caterwauling we’ve all grown to love. Admittedly, the Dogs don’t include too much of an adventurous attitude in its music. Toronto’s Teenage Head might be a good aural equivalent. But that’s a bit unfair even if the Frenchies’ “My Life” sounds like those Canucks while they were covering the Boys.

The Glaxo Babies Killed Bruce Lee

Coming along at about the same time the first wave of punk hit England, Bristol’s Glaxo Babies were already working on their amalgam of funk and mutant disco while the Sex Pistols were encouraging spitting by their fans. It might be a statement on band member’s intelligence – even if John Lydon still ranks as one of the most important musical figures in the last half of the twentieth century. But the fact that Glaxo Babies ostenensibly figured out Public Image Limited’s formal three years early points to some weird stirrings out there in the UK.

Dead Ghosts: A Different Garage in a Separate Kitchen

Pinning a sound on a specific place is difficult to do. It works on occasion, but trying to associate the more garagey side of the independent rock world with Canada, even if it’s Vancouver, gets kinda difficult to do. Down south, here in the States, our perception of those northerners is one of tremendous calm. It’s clean up there. Pots a bit more tolerable and there’s free stuff from the government, easily accessible and not at the center of a decades old political debate. Maybe all of that actually goes into Dead Ghosts’ echoey and sometimes slowly paced, but in a good way, debut album.

After a handful of singles and cassettes the band turned in its first long player, self titled that is, through Florida’s Dying. Despite the large distance between the band’s home and its label’s, the pairing’s an apt fit. For whatever reason, most of the garage groups springing from Florida don’t traffic in the most revved up derivations of the genre. There’s a lilting quality to the whole thing, Dead Ghosts included, making works seem older and perhaps more dusty.

Yeah, Dead Ghosts have an album named Dead Ghosts and a song on that album called “Dead Ghosts.” Again, though, it’s fitting. The song’s aural qualities go a long way towards summoning spirits. It’s all lopped blues shuffle, plunking toy piano and almost passable slide guitar. If you heard this stuff coming out of your neighbor’s house, you’d think it was haunted. And that’s, obviously, the point. But it works almost effortlessly. Of course, fading the song out and bursting into the country cum Nuggets “Getting Older” is nothing short of a jolt. And while the combination of various country stylings with Dead Ghosts’ sixities’ rock stance isn’t necessarily original, Francis Harold and the Holograms are pretty adept at that pose, it’s turned in with impeccable skill. Or, at least, as much skill as necessary for an effort like this.

Subhumans: It's All Gone Dead

There was a brief moment in time – in England, at least – between the first wave bands falling away and a newer crop of even less musically adroit individuals taking over that a few ensembles had a genuine political point of view to dispense. And they dispensed it with a vigor since unmatched even by the likes of American hardcore groups, which more frequently than not just said Reagan and the political system sucked. That was it.

The Subhumans, not the Canadian band, though, were only around for a few years and their legacy is predicated, really, on only a single long playing album. There were a few other release. And we’ll get to them. Just wait.