April 2011

Urinating on Flowers. 100 of Them.

Pretty much half of the first and second wave punk acts seem to have been started by folks who maintain their initial impetus was more closely related to comedy than authentic musician ship. 100 Flowers is another group which maintains that. Started as the Urinals during the late seventies, the band issued a few singles, recorded a ridiculous amount of material and subsequently changed its name to the more palatable 100 Flowers. Blame it on the Paisley Underground or myriad other underground influences. The name change, though, also coincided with a significant shift in aural aptitude.

Tyvek in Memphis...

“Frustration Rock” remains one of the best songs recorded during the aughties. And it’s included on the Third Man Live disc Tyvek issued through Jack White’s imprint. The Detroit connection didn’t do anyone harm. The recording of these songs, which spans newer junk and older works comes off as being kinda dumbed down. Granted, Tyvek’s music might be considered dumb in totality by some. But there’s a ham fisted approach to the band’s catalog. And even the aforementioned “Frustration” winds up being sludgey and approaching hardcore’s hard rock contingent.

The Boneless Ones: Skate Punk Gets All Metal and Junk

When someone tosses out the phrase ‘skate-punk,’ it’s usually followed by a discussion of East Bay punk bands from the eighties or maybe NOFX. But for the most part, the more metallic side of things is left out. The Boneless Ones, who were around the Bay back then, were not really metal, but capable of incorporating some hard rock leanings of that other genre while writing songs about shredding and that old red dude with horns.

Suicidal Tendencies might be pretty funny to listen to at this late date. The Boneless Ones don’t go and get that ridiculous, but there are few moments on Skate for the Devil that listeners will find worth going back to over and over again. If this soundtracked your teenage years, though, you get a pass.

Shannon and the Clams: East Bay Beaches...

Um. The Bay Area might sport some enticing shoreline views, but one thing it doesn’t have are a spate of hospitable beaches. The poorly named Ocean Beach, right down there near Golden Gate Park and its open air drug mart, is kinda gross, rife with nasty lookin’ hobos, but above all, the water’s not warm. The water isn’t really any better in the East Bay – although the Emeryville Marina’s hospitable, unless it’s a holiday or you run into a buncha fisherman. So, naming a band, based in Oakland, Shannon and the Clams, then going on to proclaim beach bands as sturdy influences while wearing vacation gear rings a bit hollow.

Double Negative: Double Rad

In the same way there’s not much left to do with hip hop, punk and hardcore have ostensibly run their individual courses. It’s not the fault of bands still performing this sorta music, but hearing the same thing over and over again should have become pretty apparent at this point. So, it’s strange when new hardcore groups are held up as the pinnacle of the music. Remember Sex Vid? Yeah, they were pretty cool. But the band didn’t do anything at all unique. Their performances were mostly just Boston retreads. As a side, though, it’s interesting to note that at this late date, there’s not a buncha stuff that approximates Bad Brains or Minor Threat, Boston bands serving as an easier template to work with.

Whatever one’s opinion on the state of current musics, Durham’s Double Negative began issuing music back during 2007 or so, The Wonderful And Frightening World Of Double Negative being the band’s earliest long player. Given the band’s fan base, assumed to be an assortment of Southerners and hardcore hardcores, it’s not a tremendous surprise to find no one’s made mention of the fact that Double Negative’s album references the Fall pretty openly. In name only. The music here’s SSD/FUs pretty much all the way. What’s funny – and there’re a few things – is the band opening this disc with forty four seconds of feedback as if the gesture’s either artful or unique. It’s not.

Red Squares: Arizona does KBD

Killed By Death stuff usually gets a pass on recording quality considering the archival nature of these tracks. Efforts from the Red Squares, Arizona’s main proponent of dumb punk back in the day, sound so awful that there’s warning necessary here. What’s more the songs aren’t that great. Of course, the fact that everything’s mixed in horribly doesn’t help. From the sound of things, though, each of the Squares was decent at their instrument, the band’s bassist being notable. Best known for “Modern Roll,” the Squares’ vocalist does away with a bit of his faux Brit accent here – or maybe I just can’t hear it well enough. The track’s not all that revelatory, just about modern times and being a punker.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring: Down Under with Instrumentals

Whether or not Eddy Current Suppression Ring is the best rock band in Australia seems difficult to figure out. Even if they were, the dubious crown doesn’t amount to much. Weren’t the Strokes (and yeah, I pick on ‘em a lot, because it’s easy) the best band in America for a while? Look what happened to them. Either way, ECSR has issued a steady stream of singles and a few albums on a wealth of well respected labels, even becoming affiliated with Goner Records, an American garagey stalwart. The music these dudes make, though, doesn’t sit in exactly the same camp as the label’s better known acts – Jay Reatard, at one time, being just that.

Friction: The Straighter Side of Rock's Avant Gard

While most folks understand No Wave as a momentary and fleeting off shoot from New York’s punk scene – and it pretty much was – the cohort of players included a number of international figures. Reck, whose wife performed in DNA, was a bassist who began performing during the early seventies with a group called Friction. Presaging not just No Wave, but punk as well, the group dealt in a wide variety of aggressive musics.

Dancing Cigarettes: Bloomington's Required Listening

There’s still no reason why chicks in bands play bass more frequently than other instruments. If someone can explain that – and surely, someone can in a weird sociological manner – go right ahead. It’d be interesting. While you’re doing that, though, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to listen to Bloomington, Indiana’s Dancing Cigarettes, which was a part of the Gulcher stable and made an appearance on the inimitable Red Snerts compilation back in 1981.

X-Ray Spex: Pissed at Something

No, there still aren’t a wealth of female fronted rock groups. X remains atop that pile. But another group with the twenty third letter in the alphabet in its name, a Brit ensemble, no less, ranked up there for a brief while. And even while there were splinter groups subsequent to X-Ray Spex break up, some bloody good ones, nothing every really again matched the majesty of the bands first single, “Bondage.” At this late date, hearing such sentiments is likely a good deal less outrageous. Thirty some odd years back, though, hearing about whips and chains wasn’t en vogue. Of course, it wasn’t when the Velvets were working in equally sinister, if not more literary terms.