Thursday, December 29, 2011


Inspiration glowing hot in a windowless room.

Spontaneous combustion exploding in a vacuum.

A springtime lullaby that wishes you ill.

Ladies and gentleman, for your pleasure -

"Escape Artist"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Literally years in the making, LIQUOR STORE’s debut, the two LP set Yeah Buddy, serves as the epic statement that a certain resident of New Jersey (hint: it’s not Snooki) has been desperately trying to make for years. But he has been lacking in one key arena – Youth. Liquor Store are true sub-urban punks raised on mountains of pizza, bottomless kegs of Budweiser, and enough ennui to kill a normal human. Luckily, these doods are anything but normal, and their sprawling, yet focused, twin platter rolls up the heavies (Ramones, Dictators, Creedence, Motley Crue, Adrenalin O.D.), and smokes a giant doobie of Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

Take a hit. Hold it in.

The first puff is “Pumpin’ With Red Rock,” opening with a rumble reminiscent of “Hit the Lights,” from Metallica’s immortal Kill ‘Em All. And, much like that classic track, “Pumpin’” will be the soundtrack to many a basement gravity-bong-and-weights session for years to come. “Banned From the Block” follows with the sweet sounds of CCR segueing into an unbeatable combo of the Ramones and New York Dolls, pure fun rock n’ roll, well-earned and well-played. Band mastermind Sarim al-Rawi lays down a pretty solo, completely unrushed, at the perfect tempo for boogieing and taking a slug of beer. If the title “Manchild in Paradise” conjures unwelcome memories of Jimmy Buffet and his pack of marauding idiots, the Parrotheads, then you are not alone. Thankfully this supremely catchy tune stomps all over their cheeseburgers and beer-cozies and brings some tough rock ‘n roll that would make Handsome “Dick” Manitoba proud.
“Gas Station” sounds like a summer spent huffing gas fumes 40+ hours a week so you can pay rent, eat some frozen burritos, and hopefully have enough money to go to the bar and try to get laid. The possibly homoerotic “Oilin’ Up My Boy” keeps the proceedings rolling, until we reach the triumphant pop of “Commando;” like Fogerty penning an ode to our finest combat export, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Detroit Weirdness” delivers on its title, ending with several minutes of tripped-out sonics meant to enhance your PCP buzz. Good thing the New Jersey/New York City-based Liquor Store counts Detroit shredder Craig Brown (of Terrible Twos & Mahonies) as one of its own. Brown, along with Steve “Bones” Dessimone, lay down sweet riffs all over Yeah Buddy. The fact that three guitarists manage to not step all over each other is a testament to the songcraft on this record. And we can’t forget the pounding of the rhythm section provided by Block and Will, two no nonsense dudes who like to drink beer and smoke ‘em if they got ‘em. A solid unit. A gang of miscreants. The Bad News Bears of the rock n’ roll underground.

Since Liquor Store was not satisfied with a single debut LP, they figured if you’re gonna go, go BIG. Hey, they’re from Jersey.

Side “L” opens up with the hesher battle of “Showdown at Wookie Lake” (“They got sweaty palms and sweaty manes/gonna make you feel their Wookie pain”), then segues via chanting into the rapidly-shifting hardcore/power pop hybrid of “Jerkin It.” On the final side of their opus, Liquor Store goes for the throat. The side starts off with the maniacal hardcore of “Bud Lite Killers,” a rant about some vague enemy, some good-time destroyer in our midst. But it ends on a high note – the epic, these-colors-don’t-run “Proud to Be an American Man.” Standing tall next to Grand Funk’s “We’re an American Band,” this song is an anthem to be sung at county fairs and rib cook-offs for decades to come. Liquor Store leader Sarim al-Rawi (who has done time in VCR, LiveFastDie, and Titus Andronicus) may be a first-generation Iraqi-American, but he knows where his bread is buttered. In the U S of A.

With Yeah Buddy, Liquor Store has crafted a true rock n’ roll journey; perfectly dumb, like The Spits or Black Lips, but speaking to something larger; the fleeting moments of youth before the inevitable adult crash. Much like another New Jersey resident: Bruce fuckin’ Springsteen.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


TOTAL CONTROL   Henge Beat  [Iron Lung]

During the last few years, the World, and esp. thee United States, has seen a honest-to-G-d real living breathing Australian underground Invasion. Scores of Oz acts are washing up on our shores, bright-eyed, eager to take this country, or wherever they may be, by storm. And this Invasion has yielded some real quality acts, such as: Circle Pit, Eddie Current Suppression Ring, Fabulous Diamonds, Naked on the Vague, Deaf Wish, UV Race, etc etc. That last one has a connection to this Long-playing record. And that connection has many tendrils, creeping like vines into all manner of Aus underground rock.
Musically, Total Control is the brain-child of Mikey Young, a musical polymath responsible for much of the sounds in groups like the aforementioned Eddy Current; weirdo garage-punks Ooga Boogas; and an electronic project called, uh, Brain Children. The range of this man’s sonic palate is quite impressive, as is his restraint and knack for the subtle hook. Lyrically and vocally, Total Control is essentially the vision of one man; DX, a fellow who seems to accomplish quite a bit on a daily basis, maintaining an intensity and integrity which would exhaust most normal folks. I’m guessing Daniel doesn’t feel like a normal folk very much, thus his lung-scorching in Clevo HC-worshippers Straightjacket Nation; his primitive drum-bashing in weirdo punk ensemble the UV Race; his “All Foreign Junk” column in MRR, and his long-running top-of-the-heap punk zine, Distort. All of a sudden 24 hours doesn’t seem like such a long time. And I’m guessing he saves Total Control for nighttime. After 3 excellent singles, all of which revealed a different facet of this glittering jewel, Total Control unleashes its first full-length on the general populace, and I’ll be shit-pickled if it isn’t one of the finest LPs I’ve heard this year. A real head-turner, crowd-pleaser, and melon-squeezer. Buckle up.
One of the more interesting things about Henge Beat (hanging on a hinge; Stone-) is how it simultaneously evokes images of neon-lit cyberpunk cityscapes, and wide-open vistas with vast horizons, streaking through the night in your automobile, headlight trails in the rearview mirror. Opener “See More Glass” (OK, a Salinger ref? Maybe. A little corny but…) pulses down some existential highway like it’s being ghost-ridden by Rev/Vega with a suitcase full of Kraftwerk LPs in the back, and is that an Another Green World sample floating to the top? Hell if I know, but it sounds great. Is this one of the finest Suicide rips out there? Just might be. Yet it also evokes a similar journey to the heart of the city as Pop. 1280’s “Neon Lights” from their split single with Hot Guts last year. “Retiree” follows, and it hits harder and better than the original 7” version (also on Iron Lung). “One More Tonight” appropriates the haughty sound of 1980 UK wave, almost Magazine-esque. The coda/chorus is irresistible, a rush of sound collapsing into a snippet of Cabaret Voltaire-ish abstraction which fades perfectly into the most accessible cut on the album, “The Hammer,” a pitch-perfect sliver of early Human League/OMD synth-pop with soothing vocals and cascading keyboard lines. Sandwich this between any number of New Wave hits on an 80s night and no-one would bat an eyelash. Even in the Batcave. “Stonehenge” closes out the first side with another guitar-driven post-punker.
Side Two is dominated by its opener, “Carpet Rash,” seven full minutes of angular and danceable electro-rock that shoe-sniffers like Bloc Party or Arctic Monkeys would kill to lay down so effortlessly. The music takes a turn into queasy territory culminating in “Meds II,” which features the refrain “taking pills to remember to take pills to forget.” “Sunday Baker” is a lovely Cluster confection before Total Control bring back the neonlicht ambience of “Love Performance.” The Man Machine sings to himself in the big sky night: “These are not the last days….”

Kitchen’s Floor  Look Forward to Nothing  [Negative Guest List]

Here we have a perfect, succinct (10 songs/20 minutes) example of depression-in-action. Not inaction as in paralyzed (although a few of these songs will stop you dead in yr tracks), but as in harnessing-of; reign-taking, a shouting-down of all the crummy black feelings collected at the bottom of yr coffee cup, the existential nullification of one’s own distress. In pop song format.
Look Forward to Nothing opens wide with the blasted doom-pop of “No Love,” bits of Bill Direen poking thru its suffocated screen, then jumps right into “Graves,” which sounds like the killer, quasi-triumphant second half of the previous song. A slight pause, then a genuinely great song sticks itself in yr craw. “116” has shades of the appealing domesticity of Guided By Voices (is that a house number?); simple but effective guitar hook, a bummer of a chorus (“I am the last one you’d love”), and then it’s over. A minute and a half. Anything more would be frivolous.
And despite its raw Ahia squall, Look Forward to Nothing is not necessarily a lo-fi record. The vocals are blown-out, providing that extra desperate edge, but the band plays tight and economically. The longest song, “Everyday,” is an instrumental, as if the singer is just too numb to be bothered. In fact, the entire proceedings are deep-fried; not in a boiling oil sense, but in an acid-exhausted sense. There is a weariness to these sounds, as if Kitchen’s Floor are ringing the last remaining life out of this style. What style? Well, 90s “indie-punk.” Tons of Columbus, some fellow Southern Hemisphereans (Doublehappys? S. Fits?); pull-quote: “Skip Spence raised on Archers of Loaf.” The smeared acoustic drawl of “Kidney Infection” would almost sound at home on Beck’s One Foot in The Grave
This album reminds me of cursed times past. Go nowhere, do nothing. There was something comforting in the aimlessness of a “Don’t give a shit about shit” lifestyle. I suppose there still is. Kitchen’s Floor are down on their knees, searching out the final crumbs from this particular table. Crawl on, say I.

Degreaser  Bottom Feeder  [Negative Guest List]

Sometimes a record is nail-on-the-head titled. The package complete. Song titles clue you into what the record will do for, and to, you.
Bottom Feeder is a heart-of-darkness kind of safari; a trench that your ego fell into, and it’s down there in the muck, swimming around, sucking off the other scavengers for sustenance, and hoarding any remnants of pleasure remaining. “Swampy” doesn’t even begin to describe this album.
Singer/guitarist Tim Evans, a very tall man borne of Tasmania, and member of several significant Oz bands, channels the darker ends of human emotions. I can’t make out most of what he’s saying but I’m not sure it matters; it sounds as if he’s recounting all the nasty things he’s done, but to himself, trying to figure out if he should feel “bad” for these things, or if that is just the nature of ourselves, Man, men.
“Teeth in Mouth” “Like a Ball” “On the Throne” “Snake Dick Blues” “Caveman’s Lament” “Human Postcard” “Treat You Right”
That last one is probably a cruel joke. These are the blues; NYC transplant no wave blues for sure, but the unmistakable bleakness is older than time. The music on here is heavy in the way Godflesh or SWANS are heavy. It is smothering. Endless trails of delayed-out noise-guitar flail over the rumbling and crashing of the rhythm section as they plow forward, as if of one mind.
This album is most certainly a maelstrom, a vortex; Evans is down in his hole, with the Devil perhaps, but even worse, with himself. Does he even want to climb out? Listen to this album and hazard a guess. Unless you get sucked down there with him, another victim of the black Hole.

[Last two reviews originally published in The Negative Guest List #30.]

Monday, October 17, 2011


x X x



10/12 - Le Violon Dingue / NANTES, FRANCE (with The Holy Soul from Sydney)
10/13 - Le Galion / LORIENT, FRANCE
10/14 - Mondo Bizarro / RENNES, FRANCE
10/15 - Le Novo Local / BORDEAUX, FRANCE
10/18 - Les Instants Chavires / PARIS, FRANCE
10/19 - The Pits / KORTRIJK, BELGIUM
10/21 - White Trash Fast Food / BERLIN, GERMANY
10/22 - Powiekszenie / WARSAW, POLAND
10/24 - Bunkr Parukarka / PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
10/26 - Bitte / MILAN, ITALY
10/27 - Lollipop Records / MARSEILLE, FRANCE
Le Mojomatic / MONTPELLIER, FRANCE (with The Holy Soul)
10/28 - Moog Rocknroll Club / BARCELONA, SPAIN
10/29 - Nasti Club / MADRID, SPAIN
10/31 - Castanyasso Rock Festival / MONTBLANC, SPAIN (with The Holy Soul)*

*venue being changed

x X x

WOMAN on Facebook

European tour info will be updated here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A HANDFUL OF DUST (ie. some musical reviews)

WOMEN IN PRISON "Strange Waves" 7" EP

Hey all of you heavy-hitting punk collectors out there, I got some news for that ass: Great punk records are still being made! I know, crazy, right? Here (along with that Lognhal… platter) is one of the best of recent memory. Straight-up raging scuzz-punk from Austin TX. This here 45 contains three of the world-beaters from their six-song demo that came out last year. I thought “Suicidal Exit” was the hit, but it’s not to be found here. Doesn’t matter cuz these guys got songs for days. Yeah, they actually remembered to write some! I, for one, appreciate that kind of forethought. This is what this record sounds like: Your cool friends just spontaneously formed a band, they’re bursting with a couple ideas, they get a case of beer, they go down to the basement (I know it’s Austin but bear with me), they turn on the old dust-covered PA, the one from the Seventies, the one with the sick reverb that’s got presence and depth unlike these goddamn tinny pedals of today; they crank the guitars up to a nice Saints-like roar, and as the drummer deals with the fact that the drum kit is a piece of shit, a reverse pride starts forming as a matter of fact. “I’m gonna make this pile of junk sound good,” he thinks. They start playing. You are three floors up, reading a book about autoerotic asphyxiation, slowly squeezing a lemon, when you realize that the distant thunder you feel shaking the house is actually the dudes downstairs and they are fucking killing it. “Strange Waves” makes you wanna freak out, fuck anything that moves, then snort it up your nose, hell shove it up your fucking ass. A lightning bolt hits you: “My dumb-ass friends are the best punk band in the city, the state, maybe even the whole country….?!”(EEK) (HozAc Records //

SPERM WAILS “Lady Chatterley” b/w “Mr Wonderful” 7”

Anyone who is hip to the Sperm Wails knows that it’s a goddamn tragedy that they didn’t release more material. I don’t care if they toured with My Bloody Valentine, I don’t care if they personally rolled Kevin Shields’ spliffs every night, I don’t care if they wore their mums’ knickers when she went to church on Sunday mornings, I don’t care if they diddled dogs’ assholes with their tongues, I JUST WISH THEY HAD PUT OUR MORE SHIT. A 12”, a 7”, a flexi (hey it was the ‘80s), that’s it! Argh!! They had a modest legacy of being a relatively forgotten great band that time forgot, until five years ago, when a video from the Shelter Video Compilation (whatever the hell that is) was posted on YouTube. The video was for a song called “Lady Chatterley,” that didn’t appear on any of their records, and was perhaps their most vicious song (and this is a vicious band). The video seemed to hint at dark and terrible things, while the music sounded like Pussy Galore stripped of everything but the hate and yeah fuck the blues, we got plenty of depression and spite to draw from. A small-scale web sensation for fucked-up losers clued into such things. Enter S-S Records, beloved label of those same FUL, and now this song finally feels the kiss of wax. “Mr Wonderful” is a throwaway, a dalliance, but who cares when you’ve got that song on a little 45 rpm single. What is “Lady Chatterley” like? As scissorkicks comments on the youtube: “This song makes me want to smash everything ever.”  [S-S]

LOGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN  Fina Nyanser I Nya Finanser 7” EP

Holy fuck, this record. I’m tempted to do one of those ultra-obnoxious “This is what punk should sound like” spiels, but I’ll spare us both and just say that This is what punk should fucking sound like. I have no clue what they’re saying and I have no idea how to pronounce their name, but I do know that the drums are recorded so perfectly it makes me want to cry. The snare just thwacks you in the face with every hit, the bass has a great gnarly, dirty, but not too distorted, tone, and the guitar coats it all in a glorious sheen of treble. The singer rants just right and I dunno, it’s just really goddamn good. The only thing I can make out on the insert is that they lift a “melody” from the Young Identities’ “Positive Thinking.” Hey, great artists steal. But it’s “Nya Lognhalsar” on the B-side that makes me want to jump off a building in pure ecstasy. I swear it’s one of the best punk songs of the last few years. The weird thing is one of these dudes was in Boyracer or something? There’s a Slumberland connect. I love this record. Buy it.  [Local Cross]


Scarcity of Tanks is the ongoing concern of Matthew Ming Shank Wascovich, a reclusive poet perched on the shores of Lake Erie.  Despite his playfully anti-social tendencies, “Wasco” has managed to rope many a talented Cleave musician (and sometimes beyond) into his free-rock band, flirting with noise, jazz, and the more avant-garde offshoots of hardcore punk. 2008’s No Endowments brought all of these disparate factors together in a satisfying long-player. Bleed Now finds the group as close to a “normal” rock band as they have been yet, maintaining a relatively solid line-up and playing shows on a consistent basis. The album storms out with “August,” establishing the template, as Wasco declares his lyrics over Ted Flynn’s guitar, which peels off new directions in Classic rock shred, like Joe Baiza raised on The James Gang. The rhythm section is all muscular throb, bassist Sebastian Wagner occasionally finding the hidden melodies beneath the avant-thrum (like on “Cardboard”); the drums are in the capable hands of journeyman Clevo skinsman (and painter), Scott Pickering, Puff Tube himself, member of bands ranging from Spike in Vain to Speaker/Cranker. At the mid-century mark, he still pounds harder than kids a third his age. The man is a rock.
Not content with just monotoning his abstract lyrics, Wasco sings more on this release than ever before. “Requisite Fire” has a meditative Lungfish serenity, which is blown apart by the hardcore gallop of “Melt Dove Miles.” SoT has gone through some interesting transformations over the years, but this newest version may be the best yet. On Bleed Now, they come across like some sort of mutant post-punk avant-garage Jim Carroll Band, sans the Catholic guilt, instead a heaping pile of Rust Belt blues on their plates.  [Total Life Society/Textile]


Recorded back in 2003, and quickly vanishing into a haze of on-again/off-again possible release (mostly through that notorious scene-hopping label par excellance, Troubleman Unlimited), this legendary (to a certain scene of people at least) album finally sees a proper burial via Gossip guitarist Nathan Howdeshell’s new-ish label, Fast Weapons. The Portland group was a No Wave nightmare, a post-hardcore/math rock MARS, chops to burn, especially the drummer, who executes some truly sick rolls, and alternately pleading and pestering vocals. “INTERFERENCE….B&B Girls” is nearly 6 minutes of relentless No Wave pounding, stripped of all the gimmickry of the majority of Skin Graft bands, leaving the song itself lying in the street, a naked, mutilated corpse. “Scaring the Birds…Don’t Speak My Name” sounds like what you always thought acid rain felt like. This is dark stuff, confronting the more uncomfortable aspects of flesh and its desires, similar to the body horror expressed by contemporaries like early Chromatics and Shoplifting. The slash-and-burn attack of The Scissor Girls (and even Bride of NoNo) comes to mind, but Sleetmute Nightmute shows no sense of humor, instead clamoring forth with an intensity and focus rarely seen in today’s underground. The musical dexterity is off-set by the palpable anxiety and despair. It’s certainly not a fun listen, but I find myself continuously returning to the album, surrendering to the corrosive sheets of guitar and agonized vocals, but most especially those drums, which sound genuinely pained. Despite all the emotional turmoil in these songs, it makes me happy to see this lost slice of early Ought noise is finally out there for the general public.  [Fast Weapons//]

CIRCLE X  Untitled 12” EP

Praise be to the holy god of Nihilism that this monumental slab of No Wave/proto-noise rock is finally once again available in the preferred format, 12” vinyl. Originally released in France back in 1979, reissued on CD in 1996 via Dave Grubbs’ short-lived Dexter’s Cigar imprint, and now, once again, courtesy of Insolito, this 4 song masterpiece is out there roaming the dirty streets looking for kicks, and maybe to get kicked. It’s truly remarkable how contemporary this sounds, yet it is so utterly of-its-time. An additional paradox is how absolutely filthy ‘70s New York it comes across, yet it was written and recorded in France. Opening with the closest they get to a traditional rock song, “Tender” has a guitar line that predicts The Pixies ten years early, punctuated by perfectly-placed feedback breaks. Tony Pinotti’s anguished vocals complement the gradually-disintegrating track with maniacal shrieks to “Bow to me!” “Albeit Living” begins with layered voices reciting a brief poem then dives head-first into an abyss of near-hardcore velocities and eviscerated guitar entrails. “Onward Christian Soldier” is a dirge that plows endlessly forward, an awful invitation to a pointless slaughter; almost like a Black Sabbath song cut adrift from blues and groove, a post-“War Pigs” trudge towards annihilation. “Underworld” starts off prefiguring the violent hardcore poetry of Antioch Arrow and interrupts with mournful breaks before savagely ending just as you are getting a handle on the cacophony presented to you. It is a breathless listen, and it is highly recommended.  [Insolito]

PUFFY AREOLAS  Funk Your Head Up cassette

Like, say, Monoshock before them, Puffy Areolas are the premier psych-punk heavy-skronk noise-blasted rock n’ roll ensemble of their time. There’s (parking) lots of pretenders out there, but I’d like to see any of these new-jacks match the Puffys in either drug use or wah-overload. This 5 song off-the-cuff tour tape seems like a bit of a check-in, songs in progress, and just an excuse to make some more noise and weirdness. “1982” is a scorcher; is Damon referencing one of the prime years of hardcore (the cut is short and fast), or is that the year he was born? I dunno, it rules tho. “Gentlemen’s Grip” killed live, but here it’s a little too blown-out, it really is hard to discern what’s really going on under the mess of in-the-red cymbal hammering and slobbery vocals. Let’s hope this one shows up on a proper release with a better recording.  Side 2 leads off with an untitled jam that shows potential, a sludgy riff  straight from the ‘70s is down there somewhere, waiting to lumber out of its pen.
“Funk Your Head Up” is prime Areola, a basement Hawkwind smoke-out that could last for days.  [self-released]

VAZ  Chartreuse Bull cassette

Vaz has been around for well over a decade now. In that time, they have released many records, become somewhat of a low-key Brooklyn institution, and had many auxiliary members, but the duo of Paul Erickson (guitar/vox) and Jeff Mooridian (drums) still keeps plugging away. On this long-gestating full-length they are joined by second guitarist Tyler, and even though I wish Erickson would return to the bass (which he handled so well in Hammerhead), between the two they make up for most of the bottom end not filled by Mooridian’s still-powerful and inventive drumming. Vaz is all about relentless, mutated hardcore riffs twisted into oddly-melodic shapes, capped by Erickson’s haunted wail. He kinda sounds like someone who went insane in an encounter with a Great Old One, and he’s returned to warn you of the cosmic horrors that await. Lovecraftian hardcore? How did the Mysterious guys miss that one? Anyway, it’s impressive that Vaz can still sculpt new shapes out of their formula, and they have a sound that’s not easy to mimic, which seems in rare supply these days. There’s nothing here that they haven’t done just as well, as on, say, 2003’s Dying to Meet You, but it’s a strong document, and deserves to graduate from the tape format.  [Damage Rituals]

 VOMIT SQUAD  “Amon Ra Bless America” LP

Puke punk by Mon’ Ree-all all-scars Choyce V., K. A. Khan, D. Fuckin’ Marx, and some guy named Dick Ritalin. Stoopid Red Cross vibes ooze all over this sumbitch; it’s catchy and sloppy and might lower your IQ a few dozen points, but do you listen to punk rock music to get smarter? (I do, sometimes, but I’m an idiot) My favorite thing about this is how some of the songs (“Rapture Gun” “Howard Ruark”) almost sound like The Fugs. The chorus of “ABCDEFG” goes “ABCDEFG FUCK YOU,” which pretty much says it all. [Psychic Handshake]

THE SLUGFUCKERS  “Three Feet Behind Glass + Instant Classic” LP

The Fuckers of Slugs practically wrote this review for me. Contained within the thick-ass record jacket, in true Dada fashion, is a manifesto. It trumps any references to Down’s Syndrome PiL, Psychedelic Horseshit in a particularly foul mood, or even merely typing the names People With Chairs Up Their Noses or Makers of the Dead Travel Fast.

CONCEPTUAL OPACITY – AN ABBERRANT MUSIC: The Slugfuckers’ Test of Musical (Dis)Taste [a selection]: “This band is one big joke, one endless experiment, one eternal orgasmic wank, one in TERMINabLe BORE.” “…our only recourse is to be anti-music, therefore pro-noise.” “The audience as beggar.” “The music is just an excuse.” “…better than eating or sex sometimes.” “The sound of stoppage and breakdown.” “We spray it all back at you.” “You dose yourself with mucus, booze, and downers…”
They almost break the spew/spell with a list of “friends and heroes” that includes SPK, N-Lets (who?), TG, Pere Ubu, Lee Harvey Oswald, ATV, The Pop Group, Yippies, Tristan Tzara, Luigi Russolo, etc. But the “CRAZYMIX, SCAPDASH” rant continues, and concludes with a threat of an invitation: “We advise you to keep away. We want to pulverize you with our maniacal love squeeze, hot tears up your cunt, shove spiders up your prick, force hedgehogs up your nose: We want you to feel like us and die. Throw away your strings.” [Insolito]

LOS LLAMARADA “The Restless Light” 7”

This band perplexes me. I thought they were fantastic live a few years ago, but their records never quite get there, that place they found in a dark moist basement of a bar.
This single is a perfect example. The A-side is a formless rant that never quite coalesces into anything very interesting, because of, or despite of, its murkiness. You decide, who cares. The flip sounds like a really drunk bar band barely jamming on a blues riff going nowhere. I feel like this is a good band, but you wouldn’t know it judging by most of their records. I’m waiting for that next moment… [S-S]


There’s plenty of talk on “the Scion issue” spread amongst various forms of readily available media, so let’s skip that and address the music itself. Human Eye’s side was recorded by Ivan Julian (Voidoids) and he’s got a nice touch, softening the Eye up a bit for their take on Timmy’s “Martian Queen.” It works. You can hear early Alice Cooper band in the rolling drums and melodic psych guitar action. Somehow these guys can take that in-bred Detroit influence and twist it into something fresh.
Sex Beet, on the other hand, seem completely out of place on the flipside. Their tune, “Alone,” (and it really is a “tune”) is a pleasant enough slice of catchy, vaguely psych, pop, but, really, what’s the point? You’ve got to try a lot harder if you’re gonna be on a split with HE. Saves the trouble of turning the record over, I guess. [Scion]

BLACK CONGRESS  “Slums of Heaven”/”Defeated” & “London’s Burning”/”Davidians” 7”

Black Congress are a Houston TX rock unit made up of some former Fatal Flyin’ Guilloteens and who knows what else. What I do know is they bring some heavy punk, unafraid to grind out hypnotic riffs with all manner of keyboard/sample noise adding to the din. “Slums of Heaven” almost gets into Loop territory, a rainy day bass-heavy dirge.
You’d probably be happy to know that “London’s Burning” is not a Clash cover, but maybe less pleased with it’s rather pedestrian ‘90s post-hardcore vibe. I think it’s the unnecessarily distorted vocals, but the song itself never communicates the rage it’s attempting to channel. “Davidians” is better, circular bass groove and random noises adding some depth to the proceedings. I just realized how much this sounds like Slug (esp. the vocals), but without the latter’s, shall we say, charm. With a little more focus, Black Congress could be a deadly force. I really dig the black-and-white photo aesthetic they’ve got going on with the sleeves of these two self-released singles. Rumor has it that AmRep is gearing up again, and maybe we’ll be hearing more from these guys via those guys. [self-released; no info!]

ZULUS 4 song 7” EP

Zulus are a Brooklyn combo with a core of Oakland transplants, ex-Battleshipmen Aleks and Daniel. Aleks steps behind the drum kit but still provides his special brand of hectoring vocals; Daniel hasn’t lost a step on playing oddly catchy sharp riffs that both pummel and bite, like on “Blackout” where a snippet of a “trad” blues lick pokes its head out at just the right moments. Some of the pounding on here recalls the best of the Hospitals oeuvre’, like if the Gories got real pissed off and real stoned. This bad boy is self-released and hand-packaged and it’s rock-solid. Scoop it. [Wizard Mountain]

[most of these reviews originally published on Terminal Boredom]

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

YOU WEREN'T THERE: A History of Chicago Punk 1977 - 1984

This is my desire, but it is also a question. I scream it to the heavens in barren fields, I mutter it to strangers on the train, I fever-speak it during sweat-soaked nights tossing and turning in my bed, I whisper it to ghosts in abandoned factories.


Think about it. Keeping it to just the good ol’ US of A, we have several major punk scenes. You’ve got yer LA, yer DC, yer NYC, yer SF, hell, even Boston and…..Reno?! Detroit, Austin, etc. And they all deserve a well-researched, meticulously-sourced, engaging, informative, and, above all, FUN documentary. A cinematic Please Kill Me or We Got the Neutron Bomb made by punks for punks, covering shit punks care about. You Weren’t There is that documentary, and it is about one of my personal fave US punk scenes: Chicago. The City of Big Shoulders, where bands were forged from bitterly cold winters; bands who approached punk like factory workers, head down, total concentration, no flash, just power, speed, and pride in a job well done.
But they weren’t humorless, quite the opposite, as we find out in this professional feature-length documentary. This isn’t some hack job by a former scenester with an axe to grind. This is an exhaustively researched film that puts you right in the thick of late 70s/early 80s Chi-town, with all the punks, freaks, fags, jocks, cops, drug dealers, bottom-feeders, and corrupt civil officials that populated the cityscape.

It’s a blast.

The movie opens with your typical scene-setting “Punk was for weirdos and everybody hated us and wanted to kill us” spiel. “Devo” and “faggot” being the preferred insults that close-minded Midwestern good ol’ boys threw at the bold new punks. But they found their safe spots quick. First at La Mere Vipere, then O’Banion’s, Oz, EXIT, etc…..

One of the astonishing things about this doc is the sheer amount of still photos dug up. You’ve seen all the DC and LA photos ad nauseum, but most of these Chicago pics are new to these eyes, and they are full of wild-looking punks and weirdos. Lots of fabulous art-damaged outfits are on display, thrusting you right into the dark dank drug-fueled nightclubs that were the havens for these freaks. La Mere even had a punk fashion show in ’77. Talk of MDMA, coke, hallucinogens, and poppers pepper stories of naked dancing, fucking in the shadows, and trannie bathroom hijinks. Sounds like a blast, you say? I agree, but apparently the Chicago police did not, and one day, La Mere burned to the ground, a victim of arson; most people agree that the cops themselves were the culprits. They hated the place. As well they should. It wasn’t for them.

Yes, this is what we want out of a punk doc. The stage is set, you have some idea of what’s coming next, but then it comes barreling into you – the Chicago punk scene, no longer in the shadows, full speed ahead.

Tutu & The Pirates! Proto-punk weirdness; hard rock dudes hooked on speed, Coop, and Zappa. They had a burning urge to take the piss out of everything (an excruciating STD piss).  Incredibly, a bunch of live footage survived and you can thrill to Tutu rocking thru “I Wanna Be a Janitor,” gazing in awe at the toilet seat bass they built. Ridiculous costumes and lunk-headed rock n’ roll, like The Dictators if they dropped the Noo Yawk attitude and were down with queers.

Then there was the completely art-fucked half-assed Silver Abuse, brainchild of Santiago Durango, future lawyer and Naked Raygun/Big Black guitarist. If Tutu & the Pirates were designed to make you laugh/feel slightly icky, Silver Abuse’s main intent seemed to be to purely piss people off, as evidenced by early cut “All Jews Must Die” (which they recycled into the considerably more light-hearted “Dogs Have Fun” after getting threatened a few too many times).  We get the feeling that the early Chicago scene was a bit wacky, trying its hand at being offensive, as any growing child should.

And then along came the Mentally Ill. According to Steve Albini, their “Gacy’s Place” 45 is “like the greatest record ever;” he says that about a lot of records, but in this case he may just be right. You can’t argue with the sheer outrageousness of both the Mentally Ill’s subject matter and their one-of-a-kind sound; dying vacuum cleaner as guitar, sleazy rubber-band bass, clattering drums, and those anguished, strangled vocals. When you listen to their records, you imagine the most cretinous, pin-headed mongoloids Illinois has to offer, but in their talking head segment, two of the members appear surprisingly well-adjusted, almost yuppie-ish even. But they still get delight out of offending anyone in spitting distance. They even claim they sent the “Gacy’s Place” 7” to the White House, and Mr. Gacy himself, who said the record was “sick.” Now that’s victory.

As we get deeper into the doc, we are presented with the building blocks of a real scene. Radio shows with punk celeb station IDs (“I’m Lux Interior and I’m here with your mother”), and, perhaps most importantly, the opening of Wax Trax, the ultimate Chicago record store (before it’s descent into full-on industrial EBM muzak).

And then, for a Chicago punk fan(atic), the real meat gets served. The Way-Outs, post-Silver Abuse, a goofy hybrid of surf (on Lake Superior??) and art-punk at hardcore song length (“Our set was 26 songs in just over 30 minutes.”), perhaps inspired by Wire, a major influence on the Chicago scene. The Way-Outs most significant contribution was Camilo Gonzales’ “Surf Combat,” which became something of a Chicago standard. Later performed, of course, by Naked Raygun (originally Negro Commando), one of the heavy-hitters of the emerging scene.

Just seeing the photo of a pre-Raygun Jeff Pezzati, 10-inch white fro and leopard-print spandex in full effect, is worth watching this entire flick. Pezzati quits his “suburban metal” band, Condor, and joins up with this pack of jokers who are in several open-door bands at once, forming their own mini-scene (NR, SA, Way-Outs, Toothpaste [who?]). All the bands did their own version of Raygun staple, “Bombshelter,” much like every band in the DC scene did their own version of “Stepping Stone.”

If you’re only familiar with the more well-known Throb Throb and onward Naked Raygun, then some of this early footage and audio may surprise (and delight) you. They were a bizarre amalgam of tribal rhythms, rockabilly heps and hair-dos, gang choruses, twisted art spasms, and post-apocalyptic humor with a curious pulp fiction/comic book angle. Durango explicitly states that Raygun were trying to create a unique sound, “a Chicago sound.” And to this day, there is nothing quite like early Naked Raygun, “Italian surf art-punk,” as a guy from Rights of Accused says.

After the torching of La Mere, Chicago punks found a new home base at O’Banion’s, a gay leather bar in a seedy part of town. As Pezzati says, “It made for a lively atmosphere.” These are the roots of any great scene.  But all the scenesters remember are endless fights (“375 fights in 2 and a half years,” claims one guy who worked there) as hardcore began to ascend (a Minor Threat/Youth Brigade/Necros flyer is spotted).

The scene moved to OZ, another gay bar. The uneasy alliance between Chicago’s underground gay community and the emerging hardcore punk crowd is one of the more fascinating aspects of the Chicago scene. OZ owner Dem Hopkins, not a beloved figure of the gay community already, became even more hated when he decided to turn it into a punk bar. The cops got in on the hate-wave and jailed Hopkins 20 times in 18 months. Did Hopkins give up? Hell no, he found another location and the scene started exploding.

Enter Strike Under. A key component in the early 80s Chicago scene, everyone agrees that Strike Under were an intense band, “steely” even. Hard/fast/tight. Assembly workers bearing down on their machines, stream-lined, economical, but not cold, not without emotion, it’s like they were preparing for battle. There’s some really wonderful, rather excellent-sounding (fortunately people were also busy documenting the scene, which pays dividends for the purpose of this documentary) footage of Strike Under and Naked Raygun playing in a loft in 1981. Punks are pogo-ing like mad to “Elephant’s Graveyard” (on the first ever Wax Trax record, a 4-song 12” EP called Immediate Action that could really use a reissue ). Singer Steve Bjorklund sounds like a mercenary who has been in desperate situations and lived to tell the tale. One member of Rights of the Accused says that they were the first “dangerous-sounding” band he had seen. Hard as nails. Gritty. Like Chicago.

Then came The Effigies. All muscle and menace, the other punks were genuinely scared of the tough-looking crew. Chicago pride, (as evidenced by their logo, which is the emblem of the CPD) mixed with contempt for the people who used the city for their own ends, made for a potent mix of serious music about serious issues. But they weren’t the usual cliché’d anti-war or world starvation sentiments, they were much closer to home, addressing situations that affected the audience directly. “Mob Clash” “Quota” “Haunted Town.” A refreshing take on the flawed “Save the world” mentality of a lot of hardcore, and something that echoes the local-concern angle of much of the British punk that was such an influence on The Effigies. Bands like The Ruts and Sham 69 provided a core sound that was expanded by the apocalyptic power of Killing Joke and the experimentation of The Pop Group. In a live clip from OZ, Effigies are playing their most well-known song, from their first single, “Body Bag,” and they sound like a jet engine. “Scary good,” says Pezzati. “Below the Drop” and “Boxed In” sound monumental, a new kind of rock beyond hardcore, post-punk, or heavy metal.

There was now a very solid Chicago scene, but the cops weren’t having it. They resented punks wearing the Chicago flag, and they harassed them endlessly. Luckily there was OZ, the freak-show bar that every punk scene dreams about. Hopkins tells a great story about a brawl that ended with his staff throwing a pack of neo-Nazis through the front plate-glass window, which allowed him to board it up and finally turn OZ into a true bombshelter.

The day Hopkins gets his liquor license, the cops raid the place and arrest him. Around the same time, out in Orange County, there are huge punk vs. police riots at Black Flag shows. Punk is seen as a growing social menace, a generation of pissed-off jacked-up kids, eager to smash some baby-boomer smugness. Everything is not alright. OZ had one last crazy hurrah, a 3 day bender of a show, that was recorded and resulted in the classic (and finally reissued) Busted at Oz comp, featuring the major players on the scene (Effigies/Naked Raygun/Strike Under/DA/Silver Abuse/Subverts).

The Subverts were kids from the suburbs who had a powerful, melodic, classic UK-influenced style, that still managed to sound almost hardcore. Their live footage is infectious.

DA was a ponderous mixed-gender art rock band that leaned towards the dark, spare post-punk of early Cure. They couldn’t find a home anywhere, so the punks adopted them, and they became one of the bigger bands on the scene, partly because their music was more accessible and had a pan-subcultural feel. They appealed to new wavers and goths as well punks.

OZ was done, but Wax Trax put out the Strike Under 12” EP, helping to legitimize the Chicago scene. Then Strike Under went down in a blaze of glory, the Bjorklund brothers fighting on-stage and off. 

Let’s take a breather from all of this history, and draw your attention to the expertly-synced music/photo/flyer(best show? maybe Dead Kennedys/Effigies/Strike Under/Husker Du/Naked Raygun)/talking head montage unfolding before your eyes. It’s a pleasure to watch this movie. There is a subtle, forward-moving narrative at play. For instance, Donahue Show footage of hysterical moms and zit-ridden punk kids arguing about the merits or non-merits of this music/lifestyle they have adopted. This music and these people were strange. They didn’t want to be your friend.

But Articles of Faith wanted to be your friend, maybe even your Dad, or principal. “A punk rock Bruce Springsteen,” says one guy. Vic Bondi is a divisive figure in the history of Chicago hardcore. Heavily influenced by the DC scene, AoF were faster than any band on the scene yet. They imported the blazing speed and proto-youth-crew pile-ups of a Minor Threat show, but they also incorporated dexterous musicianship into their sound, presenting off-beat rhythms and jazzy touches.
(Basically, they invented Ebullition Records.)

There’s some really great shit-talking in this doc. The Effigies and Articles of Faith had a vague rivalry that still resonates, with the Effigies accusing Bondi of fanning a nonexistent flame, yet here they are, 25 years later, still bitching about it. I love it. Punks are petty too.

Bondi and Albini are still squabbling like little brats. One of the chapters is even titled ‘Bondi vs. Albini.’ Bondi still seems hurt by some statements Albini made a quarter of century ago. But, in the present, Albini breaks down exactly why he thinks Articles of Faith sucks, and its fairly brutal. Bondi expresses regret at not kicking Albini’s ass at the Central American Social Club, where AoF booked many a great hardcore show. He even goes so far as to challenge him to “many rounds” in the here and now. I would pay to see that! Rollins always wanted to kick Albini’s ass too. I suspect the rail-thin Albini possesses some sort of Dim Mak-ian death-touch.

It would be disingenuous to pretend you don’t want to hear some gossip. C’mon, who you foolin’? We all know that’s the best part of American Hardcore.

Speaking of hardcore, 1983 rolls around and you’ve got the little-known Savage Beliefs playing a way-ahead-of-their-time (more than 5 years, at least) hybrid of hardcore and garage punk. Featuring a former Government Issue guitarist and a future Big Black-er, Savage Beliefs only managed to release one 7”, but there is allegedly a documentary they made, with their own soundtrack, and most likely that’s the snippet you see here. An intriguing band.

It’s ’83 and Chicago is swept up in the nationwide hardcore punk craze, but notable names from this time are a little harder to come by. There was the goofy youthcore of Rights of the Accused, teenage punk fans who formed a band and possibly predicted the bumper-sticker fad of the 90s with their “hit, “Mean People Suck.” In the modern-day segments, they still seem like fun guys. Negative Element were also one of the more well-known teen hardcore bands.

In the midst of all these over-flowing hormones, you had the deconstructed noise rock of End Result, drumless punk seething with hatred and warped sonics.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, you had the pre-Old Skull shenanigans of Verboten, a kiddie punk band that managed to find themselves on stage with the big boys. The footage from their TV appearance is, uhh, interesting. Sort of.

That old saw about the death of hardcore and punk in the mid-80s, via jock mentalities and rote genre trappings, gets aired here, but with a wink; the old guard knew they had gotten old.

Besides, Naked Raygun was peaking, Big Black was capturing some sort of subcultural zeitgeist with their abrasive drum machine-led sound that perhaps captures the post-industrial dread of the Midwest better than anybody has before or since. And Steve Bjorklund was just getting his criminally underrated Breaking Circus together, synthesizing various strains of post-punk into a new kind of Midwestern rock. The Effigies were on a similar path, but weren’t able to capture the power and excitement of their earlier recordings.

Documentaries of this nature can seem a bit redundant in this age of YouTube, where even the rarest of videos and live footage eventually finds itself on the ‘net. But it takes real care, attention, and artistry to present it in such a thorough, engaging, entertaining manner. This movie will educate you on the ins and outs of the early Chicago punk scene, while keeping you enthralled on the way. At over 2 hours, the directors didn’t skimp on anything. It’s an all-out blitz of should-be-textbook punk documentary film-making. Most of all, it makes you wanna listen to the records, and what better reaction can you hope for, when it’s all said and done.

Friday, July 22, 2011

some old poesy

  • I greet your ghost
    each day

    To think of you
    as a ghost
    is to disregard the reality
    that you are alive

    You will outlive me
    I shiver
    in anticipation
    of your death

    I smile at your ghost
    a hand in the air
    to dissipate
    YO U
    Destroy the moment
    Say "moment"
    Say "immobile"
    Say "In movement I am torment"
    a fucking word that guarantees
    A leaving

    Each day
    a leaving
    a greeting
    a wave

    Cities far away
    Grind at the thought of you
  • Kids Stay Free!
    in the projects
    this girl
    head stuck out the window
    on the first
    nice new day of spring
    looks around like --
    "this shit ain't my fault
    but maybe I can fix it"
    she redeems this ugliness
    with pure presence

    three days ago
    she had a wicked cold
    nose dripping like the leaky faucet
    in the bathroom
    drop drop drop
    but you can't take a wrench to your neck
    and twist --------

    so she was resigned to it
    the sniffling and gurgling and aching chain
    that was this winter
    the endless stream of barely edible Chinese food
    her mother brought home from work nearly
    every goddamn day
    but her mother was a lousy cook
    and they both knew it
    so she didn't complain much

    she had forgotten what people
    looked like underneath the layers
    of clothes they wore
    she remembered thinking that people were lying
    that they didn't really have bodies
    that they didn't even exist
    she would think this about herself, but then
    concluded that she must be real
    because who has ever had thoughts like these before?

    she remembers her mother
    drunk in the living room
    rifling through boxes of memories
    telling her through a curtain of tears
    and snot ---
    "Don't ever trust a man, baby. They'll fuck you
    over sooner than later. I'm sick of being fucked over.
    Do you hear me, baby? I'm sick of being fucked over!"

    she just stood there and watched her mother cry

    even then she knew
    her mother asked for it
    secretly yearned for it
    sought it out like a divining rod