Back in the mid-nineties I hosted a radio show on my college's in-house station and, of all the record labels I contacted, Fearless Records was the most enthusiastic about sending me their releases (I also remember getting some stuff from Fat Wreck Chords and the station manager taking all the NOFX CDs for himself...). While none of the CDs I got from Fearless were mind-blowingly original, I did enjoy adding some Blount, Glue Gun, 30 Foot Fall, Grabbers, and White Caps tunes to the program. At any rate, the one record I recall playing most frequently both on- and off-air was Drunk in Public's Tapped Out! so it is with some pleasure and quite a bit of nostalgia that I return to the disk this early New Year's morning.
December 2008 Archives
The Abs, as I have written elsewhere, are easily one of the most entertaining bands I've got in my collection. With lyrics ranging from astoundingly zany to downright facile to strikingly intelligent and undeniably melodic, hook-heavy guitar work, the Abs rarely miss the mark with their brand of quirky pop-punk. On the band's 1988 EP, TurboSphinct, the Abs pretty much follow their formula to a T. Take "Same Mistake Twice," the disk's opening track, for instance: with Fatty Ashtray's bouncing bassline as the song's groundwork, Baz sings of feeling like he's been "sent here on a mission / to eradicate complacency among the young men in this town" (peculiar word selection for a pop song, no?) in such a way as to make the listener feel like he or she is a bad person for not singing along. The second track, the awkwardly-titled "Hand Me Down (My Silver Boulder Knives)," for better or worse, reminds me of William Carlos Williams's "The Dance," a poem whose rhythm mimetically captures the festive (well, drunken, actually) whirling, twirling, rollicking pirouettes of the dancers in Pieter Brueghel, the Elder's painting, "The Kermess":
I mean, I realize this sounds ridiculous but, in all seriousness, that's the image that comes to mind every time I play the song. Opening with playfully militaristic drumroll and a bassline that could have been lifted out of some sort of folk festival dance number, "Hand Me Down (My Silver Boulder Knives)" is one of the most immediately danceable tracks I've heard in a long time. And, I should note, that by "danceable," I mean wild hopping from foot-to-foot with the punch-counterpunch swing of the song's beat.
With 1981's All Out Attack EP, Derbyshire's now-legendary Blitz unapologetically stomped their way into the burgeoning oi! scene, pounding out four unrelenting blasts of pure sonic energy and lit up the creative circuits of countless street punk and oi! bands following in their wake. Although all four tracks on the disk are keepers, the opening "Someone's Gonna Die Tonight" is about as perfect an oi! anthem as humanly possible. A tale of street fighting gone very, very wrong, "Someone's Gonna Die Tonight" features Nidge Miller's sandpapery voice rhetorically querying "Do you feel alright?" giving his bandmates (and, presumably, every audience member ever to attend a Blitz show) the opportunity to chant oi! oi! oi! in response. Add to this buzzing guitars and a pounding drumbeat so loud that the vinyl practically shakes the turntable and you've got one hell of a song. The second track on the disk, "Attack" actually reminds me a bit of Japan's Teengenerate with its lo-fi production and garage-y sound. With the guitars distorted to the point of making one wonder whether his or her stereo isn't blown out and insanely catchy uh-uh-uhhhs weaving in and out of the bombination, "Attack" is a massive announcement of the band's power and energy. The remaining two songs, "Fight to Live" and "45 Revolutions," follow the same buzzing formula as the A-siders and, while not as immediately catchy as the first two tracks, are both solid sing-alongs that will undoubtedly continue to serve as nonpareil blueprints for those seeking the classic oi! sound.
While Sink or Swim, the Gaslight Anthem's 2007 debut, is undeniably, one of the better records to emerge out of the punk scene over the past few years, it may be the band's weakest release. Of course, this is saying a whole lot. After all, both their follow-up EP, Señor and the Queen, and their sophomore album, The '59 Sound, are phenomenal (and, especially in the case of the latter, genre-expanding) releases. So, really, listening to Sink or Swim after having heard the band's most recent output may not be the best approach to reviewing the disk. I mean, you can't help but be a bit biased.
Boris the Sprinkler were one of the most deliberately zany punk bands of the 1990s and early 2000s. Fronted by the notoriously bizarre Rev. Nørb (who, when I asked him, assured me that his name was pronounced "Norb" but that he had stylized the font, intending the "ø" to be read as as a "null" rather than the Norwegian letter it actually represents), Boris the Sprinkler churned out a series of pop-punk albums that were, by turns, riotously funny, gratingly cacophonous, delightfully melodic, obnoxiously moronic, and thoroughly enjoyable. Hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Boris the Sprinkler proudly flaunted their Cheeseheadedness, often referring to local hangouts in their lyrics and even penning a song about pining for a grilled cheese sandwich on Saucer to Saturn, their 1995 sophomore LP.
Although Chron Gen's debut LP hit #2 on the U.K. Indie Chart in 1982 (and nearly cracked the country's Top 50), neither the band nor the album has received the sort of reverent treatment lavished upon their more famous, "classic" (first- and second-wave) oi! contemporaries. So, while records by bands like the Business, the Cockney Rejects, the 4-Skins, Cock Sparrer, the Exploited, and the Angelic Upstarts were relatively easy to find, Chronic Generation was out of print for the better part of two decades. Thus, with the exception of a few tracks (more often than not "Puppets of War," "Jet Boy Jet Girl," and "Misadventure") found on the occasional oi! or street punk compilation, Chron Gen fans had to make due with whatever used or dubbed copies of the band's music they could locate. Thus, when Razor Records re-issued Chronic Generation with a dozen or so bonus tracks in 2006, punk fans had a reason to be excited.
Something strange happened to me this evening. You see, I was walking through town when I noticed a peculiar, though hardly unpleasant, thing: people kept smiling at me as I walked by. At first, I thought perhaps the holiday season had suddenly transformed everyone I passed into remarkably cheerful bearers of the Christmas spirit. Then I noticed that, actually, I had only passed women and it was the succession of female grins cast in my direction that had surprised me so. Before I chalked my sudden appeal up to a superhuman level of attractiveness, however, I decided to consider, as rationally as I could, what might be the root of this unprecedented development. Either my fly was unzipped, I reasoned, or something in my diet must have caused my body to produce particularly potent pheromones. Just as I was getting ready to strut up the street pounding my chest and pumping my fist with testosterone-fueled bravado, however, I realized the explanation was far more simple: the people I passed smiled at me because, unbeknownst to me, I'd been grinning like a fool for some time.
Since the last review I did left me with a bad taste in my mouth, I thought I would dig up something fun that I could spend a few minutes writing up before calling it a night. And, really, what could be more appropriate for the week before Christmas than Impact's wonderful bit of holiday-inspired punk rock confectionary?
Hailing from Cwmbran, Impact (not to be confused with the Italian hardcore band of the same name) was one of the better street punk outfits playing in South Wales during the early-to-middle 1980s and their lone 7" remains one of the more entertaining releases to emerge out of the pub-centered second-wave U.K. punk scene.
From what I can tell, quite a few people really like History of Guns. They've been getting some pretty favorable reviews for their albums and their infrequent live shows appear to have earned the group an enthusiastic following. But they just don't do it for me.
Lousy. Perhaps listen-able, but not really enjoyable. Have you ever been in the car with someone who has horrible taste in music but insists that something they like is right up your alley? Chances are it's a D record.
You know those independent record stores that still have crates and crates of used vinyl for sale? Those poorly-lit, musty repositories of all things that would end up on college radio during the 1980s? Almost every city has at least one such store and practically each one employs at least a pair of astonishingly knowledgeable clerks whose encyclopedic familiarity with under-appreciated music and whose passion for righting the injustices of popular taste result in remarkably cool records spinning on the aging turntables behind the counter. I'm talking about the stores where the clerks play the background music less to sell records than to make a statement of this is what's good, this is the art worth seeking out. From the second I started listening to Human Resources, the Tin Pot Operation's most recent release, I could not help but think that this is precisely the sort of record that should go into heavy rotation in every cool independent record store on the planet.
Although Marc Ruvelo and crew abandoned heavy metal by the time they released their second album, Freedom of Flesh, in 1989, No Empathy never really lost the harder edge of their earlier sound. Indeed, while the Ben Weasel Don't Like It EP has all the hallmarks of a good straightforward punk record -- speed, relatively uncomplicated chord progressions, et cetera -- there are more than a handful of metal-tinged moments on the disk. Some of Ruvelo's vocals could easily be transferred to a thrashcore record without much alteration and the guitars on "Another Word for Unhappiness" do occasionally evoke images of feather-haired, spandex-clad cock rockers windmilling their way through some arena ballad, but the metalish aspects of the band are kept in check and never really approach the ostentatious posturing of some (unnamed) bands with similar tendencies.
There's that stereotype of parents unable to appreciate the music of their children's generation. It's fairly standard sitcom fare, really. You know, the tendency TV parents have to declare some hip band's music to be "racket" while angrily demanding that the stereo volume be lowered to more reasonable decibel levels. Invariably, the tableau shifts from the thoroughly un-chic parents to the eyerolling teen, grudgingly turning the knob towards low volume while lamenting his or her tragic situation: living under the style-cramping rule of draconian and uncool parents.
Yes, I've figured out what
Living is all about
It's life! Life!
Life is the only thing worth living for.
Yes, life! Life!
Piaphabakrist is another one of those decent mid-nineties Harmless Records releases that add a sense of depth to one's record collection. For some punks, of course, the more obscure a record the greater the amount of credibility he or she could boast in the scene and owning a copy of My Foolish Halo's lone release, I suspect, could help someone hoping to achieve Punker-Than-Thou status impress a friend or two.