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Although we seldom listened to the Misfits, they are probably responsible for the aesthetic we latched onto (well, that Suzanne latched onto; I merely latched onto her) horror-movie/punk-rock/Saturday-morning-cartoon chic. It's a lot of fun, actually, to pretend you're undead, especially when you don't take yourselves too seriously, which we did not.
After a few months of living together in our haunted house, Suzanne and I decided that maybe it would be best if we separated ourselves by several thousand miles, so I moved to New York alone. I still think of her, though, when I see girls who look like Bettie Page and when I listen to some of my favorite bands, like the Groovie Ghoulies and, now, the X-Possibles.
This is some snotty, sneering Halloween punk rock, and I like it. They've got song titles like "Zombieotic" and "March of the Body Snatchers," the energy and attitude of a sustained temper tantrum, cleverly crafted songs, and very attractive band members. They shall go very far indeed.
I'm listening to Exposed, the Fred Hess Quartet CD I picked up from work. It was the one good disc in the stack of swag I grabbed from the top of the mini-fridge, where staffers leave their unwanted promoshit. It's pleasant, warm, no-bullshit jazz, recorded live to 2-track like the Exploited did on their first album. The cat bopped lazily, his paws draped over the keyboard of my laptop, and I bopped with him. Exposed will remain in rotation; the rest went immediately on sale at half.com.
Then I swapped the Fred Bass Quartet for the NY Rel-X. The difference in volume was so extreme that the cat and I jumped out of our skin, did a few handsprings down the hall, and collapsed into his well-documented bag of kittyshit. I felt like a prank had been pulledno CD could be this LOUD.
I'm approaching middle age and had to claw my way back to my room to turn the volume down, but once I did I was pleased at what managed to filter its way through my tenitus-ravaged eardrums. It's a cop out to compare female fronted bands to other female fronted bands, and sure, I hear a little Fastbacks and a little Eyeliners, but I also hear, particularly in singer Erica's vox, the Dickies. No songs on here match the brilliance of "Killer Klowns from Outer Space," but then, what does.
This is straightforward punk rock, with amps exploding, fingers bleeding, and choruses driven deep into your skull, penetrating your brain, and dredging up false memories of that smiley pirate guy, who might've been your Uncle Leroy, asking you to sit on his shoulders, "just for old time's sake."
Sorry, got a little lost there.
With song titles like "Proles" and "Third World," lyrics are staunchly political, much more Dead Kennedys than Dickies, and there ain't a slow song on the disc, which, being a sucker for sappy punk ballads (e.g. the Crumbs' "Long Distance Love"), I might've enjoyed. "She's Got a Gun" is the catchiest song here, and it's easy to see why they chose it for a single. "Fuad's Delight" is the best serial killer song since the Human Oddities' "Man's Gotta Do What a Man's Gotta Do." All in all, a solid 11-song release, comprising two previously released EPs, from a band I'd like to hear more of.
Few bands scream "fuck you!" as convincingly as ANTiSEEN do on "Hippie Punk," a ditty as poignant today as it was when it was released in 1989. Singer Jeff Clayton and his North Carolinian cadre of unkempt rednecks have a way of making you believe the South will rise againand that the fabric of your speakers has a rip in it somewhere.
Blood of Freaks is a remastered rerelease of the 4-song EP that put ANTiSEEN on the map back in the day. I was alive, barely, "back in the day," and, while I never saw ANTiSEEN livethough they did seem to tour Florida every other weekendthey certainly had a reputation among my pressuring peers.
"He has a permanent wound on his forehead!" my school chum John ejaculated. "And when he goes onstage, he bashes it with the microphone so it reopens and blood pours down his face for the whole show!"
What a band!
There were a scant 1000 copies Blood of Freaks pressed, available only on gorgeous red 7-inch platters of grooved petroleum product, unfit for modern-day digital appliances (though you are welcome to try). On a side noteand typically these reviews are all side notes, but this one shall be briefANTiSEEN once released a song that was written by my friend and Rash contributor Shayne Hansen's old band, Broken Talent. It was called "My God Can Beat Up Your God," and was quite good, actually.
WTO Combo (featuring Jello Biafra, Kim Thayil and Krist Novoselic)
When I was in high school in Miami, circa 1989, I listened to a lot of Dead Kennedys. They were in fact my favorite band for a while. In creative writing class, when we were asked to bring in song lyrics for analysis, my choice was "Holiday in Cambodia" and I bravely recited "Braggin' that you know how the niggers feel cold/And the sun's got so much soul" in front of the class, at least half of which was black. But shit. I was punk rock.
I once showed my mom (a proud liberal) some Dead Kennedys lyrics and she liked them. She asked why such smart lyrics were buried underneath squealing guitars and shouting. I said I didn't know. Then I got hold of the first Jello Biafra spoken-word album, No More Cocoons. I liked it and my mom did too. But I was 16 and my mom was just trying to be nice and open-minded. Now, listening to Live from the Battle in Seattle, I realize I have grown up some, and Jello has not. Some might consider that a good thing (growing up is, after all, giving in) but I generally don't. It makes his whole schtick seem dishonest, like he's grasping at the youth demographic he once held in the palm of his hand, without really believing his own blather. The PMRC has been replaced by the WTO; other than that there is not much difference between the Jello of my youth and Jello version 2.0.
But I still like the Dead Kennedys all right, and there are some musical numbers on this EP. But these present problems as well. Most rock musicians exceed their usefulness at around age 30 (I intend to retire from rocking on September 27, 2002), and Jello is considerably older than that. On Live he covers his own early material ("Let's Lynch the Landlord," "Full Metal Jackoff") and throws in an anti-Microsoft ditty called "Electronic Plantation." It sounds no different than his collaborations with the members of DOA like 15 years ago. Personally, I want my heroes to evolve. (At least until they're 30, anywaythen I want them to quit.) I know some people feel the opposite, but this review is really more about me than anything else.
Which reminds me, speaking of me, of another funny story involving that creative writing class and Dead Kennedys lyrics. We were asked to come up with an example of a metaphor or simile in music lyrics, and I chose a line from "Too Drunk To Fuck": "You ball like the baby in Eraserhead." But here's the thing: I didn't know "ball" was slang for fucking, so I figured a mistake had been made on the lyric sheet and I changed it to "bawl." The teacher first marked it wrong, claiming it was not a good example, then reconsidered and crossed out her own marks. In retrospect, it really wasn't a very good example.
According to the CD's liner notes Sistemados was the first South American hardcore album. It was released in Brazil in 1983. Almost 20 years later, Ratos de Porão, with one original member, re-recorded Sistemados in its entirety to employ modern technology and to capture the way the songs had evolved over 17 years. Imagine if other bands did this. If the surviving Beatles got together to rehash "Love Me Do"; if the Ramones-minus-Joey (RIP) trotted out covers of "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue" and "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World"; if the Dead Kennedys you get the idea. How would it sound? I will tell you. It would sound like shit.
But such is not the case with Ratos de Porão's Sistemados Pelo Crucifa. This album is very fierce. Good South American hardcore indeed.
When I was 18 and living in a University of Miami dormitory with my roommate Miles, we had two suitemates with whom we shared a bathroom: Chuck and Andy. The way I remember it they were nice guys, but for some reason, toward the end of the schoolyear, we decided we didn't like Chuck. Miles and I got to talking about it one night. It's been more than 10 years since this conversation took place, and I can't recall what our beef with Chuck was, so I'm going to make something up:
"Chuck's a dick," I said.
"Yeah, he befouls the bathroom when he takes a shit. It's fucking gross," said Miles.
"What the hell does he eat to make his shits smell so bad?" I said.
"He guzzles semen by the pint," said Miles, who had a colorful way of phrasing things.
"Maybe he eats his own feces. So it runs through his digestive tract a second time and smells twice as bad."
"Like a twice-baked potato!"
Next we talked a little bit about Andy, whom we liked.
"Andy's cool, though," I said.
"Yeah, he's a stand-up guy," said Miles.
"I hear he volunteers his time to charity," I said.
"He is a saint among men," said Miles.
"A real champand his girlfriend's cute too," I said.
"She's nice; not stuck up like a lot of girls here," said Miles.
"Great personality," I said.
"Smart, too," said Miles.
"I want to fuck her," I said.
At this point a voice cried out from the bathroom: "HEY, WATCH IT!" It was Andy's girlfriend. I immediately regretted the remark. Anyone who knows me can tell you it's not something I would typically say. "Sorry!" I called out feebly.
Then we panicked. It was 3 a.m. and I'd just insulted my suitemate's girlfriend, whom I saw almost daily. Miles and I dressed and ran to Denny's restaurant to formulate our strategy for damage control. We came up with an ingenious solution: Avoid her and Andy (and Chuck!) forever. Our plan worked.
If I could do it all over again, like Ratos de Porão were able to do so competently, I would not have said "I want to fuck her." Instead I would have said this:
"I want to buy her a soda. Then I want to tell her she's swell. Then I want to compliment her on her fashion sense. Then I want to fuck her."
Fanclub & Jad Fair
Lots of bands are impeded by bad singing. Half Japanese was one of them. As much as some people loved Jad Fair's childlike insanity-rants, his inability to land anywhere in the ballpark of the right note ensured Half Japanese's relegation to minor cult status, nothing more. With this release, a collaboration with Scottish pop group Teenage Fanclub, Fair tones down his nails-on-chalkboard singing and delivers most of the songs as spoken-word lullabies with poppy background music. This was a wise decision.
Have you ever seen The Cruise, the documentary about former New York City tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch? Since its release, Levitch has parlayed his 15 minutes into a career as a performance artist. I once saw him perform at Pete's Candy Store, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He had a live band backing him up but I don't think they'd rehearsed together more than a couple times. The band jammed out poppy, slightly psychedelic loops, while Levitch read his poetry, more or less in time with the music. It was interesting for a little while (Levitch is fun to watch no matter what he's doing), and then it grew tiresome.
Words is appealing for a bit longer than Levitch was that night, but not by much. It's the same principle: band plays something repetitive and inoffensive, "singer" delivers poetry, and they call it a rock 'n' roll band. Words' tediousness might also have something to do with the subject matter of Fair's songs on this album, of which the title is a pretty good indicator. Every song is a valentine, a pile of sugar and syrup and lovey-doveyness. Again, funny at first, and then not.
I once performed at Pete's Candy Store, incidentally. I used my alter ego, Danny Kenworth, the famous country singer. It was at an open mic, and I had to wait an hour and a half before going onstage. I stood around, pretending to be someone I wasn't for all that time. I was crude and boisterous, calling the bartender "little lady" and speaking in what I hoped was a thick Texarkana accent. By the time my turn had come, I was exhausted from remaining "in character" for all that time; my performance suffered. Now I play the same songs, sans accent, using my real name. Fuck it, you know? I'm no actor.
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