THE LAST POGO
It was the spring of 1978 and I was listening to one of my favorite radio shows, The Demimonde, on one of the local college stations. I had the tape deck ready to go and the host with the odd moniker Oedipus (whose real name is Eddie Hyson) announced a song by a Toronto band called Teenage Head. Over the intro to the song, Oedi went “you’re tearin’ me apart honey.” It was one rockin’ tune, still a favorite. And, it turns out, a different version from the one that appeared on their debut single of the same name, possibly a demo version. In any case, I’ve never heard/seen it anywhere else so I imagine I have something of a rarity, there. Actually, some months before that, Circus Magazine, which generally covered more mainstream rock and pop and with little of the irreverance of Creem, has a “Punk Rock Special” issue in November of 1977. Henry Winkler was staring out from the cover, there were pieces on Foghat, Black Oak—they’d dropped the Arkansas by then and Jim Dandy Mangrum was calling himself JD--and the woman who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. There was also a Star Wars poster of C3PO. So it was as much for the nerds as the rockers.
The “punk special” had kind of a world-wide roundup with the usual suspects, although some of the descriptions were rather humorous—Generation X were “ghoul rock”? Maybe due to Billy’s shock-white hair but I can’t think of another reason anyone would use that description. There were small segments on LA, Boston and then Chicago, Ohio and Toronto. A few bands were mentioned including Teenage Head and the Viletones (“with their lead singer Nazi Dog”) With the latter, I was simultaneously repulsed and intrigued and, once I heard the two (or was it three?) chord buzzsaw riff, the repulsion went out the window.
I was thinking about those introductions to Toronto punk while watching “The Last Pogo,” a documentary about the city’s punk scene ca. 1978. Actually, this 26 minute piece, shot in 16mm, is a document of the last show at a venue called the Horseshoe Tavern, which had hosted punk gigs for the previous 9 months. Each band is represented by one song plus there’s commentary from band and audience members between each song and the best one comes from the vocalist of a band that wasn’t invited to play—that’s Mickey DeSadist, mastermind behind the Forgotten Rebels (of “Surfin’ On Heroin” fame, who were actually from Hamilton). He calls the event “one big farce” and complains that they can’t take a real punk band. He then starts mocking the voice of the Mods’ frontman and the film goes right into this skinny tie band’s performance. Actually, Mickey has a point about the annoying nature of that guy’s melodramatic timbre. In a more positive vein, the two guys named Gary behind the bookings talk about their motivation, which basically boiled down to booking music they loved and said the “new generation deserves recognition.”
Punk is a fairly broad definition here. The Scenics had a Who-ish/60s beat influence. There’s a little of that with the Cardboard Brains, Secrets and Mods, as well. The Ugly, on the other hand had the pure punk snottiness and attitude. Ditto for the Viletones and things started getting rowdier during their set. The cops eventually showed up to shut things down, due to overcrowding but Teenage Head still got to do one song, “Picture My Face.” That’s a fairly laid-back song in their repertoire--who knows what would have happened if they’d played one of their faster-paced songs. Actually, things did get smashed up anyway when it was announced the show was over. A chaotic conclusion.
This was the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to see live footage of these bands and it definitely whets the appetite for more. Because, while not all the bands here are mesmerizing, I’m a punk history buff and enjoyed seeing it documented at the time it unfolded, as opposed to a more “modern” take like “American Hardcore.” Just a few extras—commentary by Chris Haight from the Viletones that you can play with the film and there’s also a full recorded-in-the-studio set from the Scenics that showcases their taut approach.
And here’s some good news. Brunton is doing a more comprehensive film, “The Last Pogo Jumps Again, about the punk scene there from ’76 to ’78. He’s also set up a website, www.thelastpogo.net, with a blog that includes updates, stories, etc. plus ordering info for the DVD.
AVSKUM (Boston, 2005)
WORKING ON THE REVIEW PILE
Once again, the caveat that some of these records have been out for awhile but just came into my possession. Hey, better late than never. I suppose, anyway.
ADRENALIN OD-The Wacky Hijinks of... (Chunksaah, 2xCD)
Thrashin’ was AOD’s business and they were quite proficient at it, especially on these recordings. This double disc includes their debut album plus there’s a second disc that features their “Let’s Barbecue” EP, live stuff (including a complete set from Pat Duncan’s show on WFMU in ’82) and a few other obscurities. Raw throughout but introducing some sneaky rock ‘n roll touches by the time the album was recorded in ’84, with a thickened up two guitar attack. Most (all?) of this material was released on Grand Theft Audio’s “Sittin’ Pretty” AOD anthology in the mid-90s but I’d say this usurps it.You want speed? You want volume? You got it here, along with a wise-assed worldview that was always one of AOD’s winning characteristics. And what a wicked wit they had, right down to barbs at sports cars, cock rockers and other thorns in their collective side. It’s obvious they had an anti-norm (for want of a better term) attitude. Lyrics like “How are you? Who cares? Why even talk if you get nowhere/Idle talk for idle minds/I got better things to do than waste my time” on “Small Talk” could be on any modern-day hardcore record written by this generation of misfits. It’s a timeless sentiment, in other words. Is it possible to sound pissed off while having a great time? These speed mavens proved those qualities don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I mean, how serious can you be when writing songs like “Hijack the Senior Citizen’s Bus.” The antithesis of tough-guy hardcore but holding their own in the aggro sweepstakes. (PO Box 977, Asbury Park, NJ 07712, www.chunksaah.com)
AVSKUM-Uppror Underifrån (Prank, CD)
A molotov mix of perfected Swede-core and lyrical anger—Avskum are back, once again, to blast through the dreck. They’ve honed it down to the essence—blazing riffs driven by rumbling bass and crashing drums. Three of the songs are in English, the rest in Swedish and it’s not too tough to ascertain that these guys are quite pissed about the state of the world—I don’t even need to look up “Masskonsumtions Helevetet” to know where they’re coming from. One little wrinkle that stood out was the undistorted riff that begins “The Massacre In Fallujah,” before the burn kicks in. Incidentally, that’s about an American obliteration of an Iraqi village. My advice? Plant yourself between the speakers and prepare for the bombardment. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)
Gx3-En Nuevo Enemigo (Lengua Armada, LP)
The name (alternately spelled G3 or G-3) comes from the fact all three members of this band have first names that start with “G.” Simple, eh? Gx3 were from Peru and formed from the ashes of Autopsia (Cochebomba Records released a 7” of that band awhile back). This has been a widely-circulated demo over the years and is now available in a more permanent format. A rough-sounding recording that doesn’t hinder this band’s energetic approach. A mix of hardcore and early 80s UK punk, all of it fairly tuneful. There are also times where they draw from a US influence, especially 7 Seconds. That’s particularly true for “Presion” and “En Tus Ojos (Nunca Mas), right down to the “woooahs” on the former. A fine punk rock excavation and with a creative hand-made sleeve. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GAUZE-Binbou Yusuri No Rizumu Ni Notte (Prank, 12”)
I had to copy the title of the album from the Prank website, since the translations for the song titles are clumsy—the title loosely translates to “Riding In The Rhythm of the Poverty Shaking.” But is it really necessary to be concerned with these types of details when it comes to the unholy sound that Gauze unleashes? I don’t think so. The band’s first record in over ten years rages like a motherfucker. A raw, uncompromising 13 minute onslaught, favoring a razor-sharp guitar attack , rabidly delivered vocals and drumming that flails away without letup. Would you expect anything different? Once again, I don’t think so. And the cover art looks like the Gauze logo as interpreted by Van Gogh (or someone inspired by him), as tumultuous looking as the music in the grooves. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)
LOST BOYS-s/t (Shogun/multi-label)/Fuck You (Still Holding On, 7” EP)
A new EP and a vinyl pressing of their demo (that’s the record with “Fuck You” on the cover). This French band know how to kick out the rough ‘n ready punk rock. One of those bands who bring a hardcore attitude to a garage-tinged sound. Or maybe it’s a garage attitude to hardcore. I don’t know but bands like Dean Dirg are very good at that kind of mix ‘n match to create a sound that grabs ‘ya and the Lost Boys are no exception. A fatalism in the lyrics and also a desire to stay out of the workaday environment and climb trees or lie on the grass—hard to argue with that. And, on “Nerds,” a willingness to let the world burn as long as the record collection stays intact and the cover of the new EP reflects that sentiment. It reminds me of when my house got flooded and the first question people asked me was if my records were OK (they were). These two records (and the demo one is limited to 300) are worth protecting and, more importantly, playing nice ‘n loud. (Band contact: http://stillholdingon.free.fr/lostboys)
NOISE A GO GO-Rock ‘n’ Noise Grind ‘n’ Roll (HG Fact, CD)
Like it says in the album title and it is a weird kitchen-sink combo, a stylistic collision, often in the same song. An amped-up trad rock/blues/garage framework throwing in blast beats and low-register growls accompanied by some shrieks. It’s a mess—and that’s the intent. It’s also giving me a mixed response—it’s a lot of fun on first listen but there’s also something of a novelty element and it’s questionable as to whether it would stand up to repeated listening. There’s definitely a fun atmosphere, though, and I can’t say I’ve heard anything quite like this in recent memory. (www.interq.or.jp/japan/hgfact)
PISSCHRIST-Victims Of Faith (Yellow Dog, CD)
The Australian terror known as Pisschrist return with another burning dose of crust-core. No surprises, no change in formula—just loud ‘n fast Scandinavian-inspired wreckage. Vocals that are hoarse beyond belief and pounding riffage and drumming. I mean, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done a million times before but lest that come across as damning with faint praise, this is a solid effort. Hopefully they’ll get back to the states so I can stop whining about missing them in ’07. (www.yellowdog.de/)
SACRED SHOCK-s/t (Schizophrenic, 7” EP)
In case you forgot or didn’t see my review of their demo, Sacred Shock are from Texas and include three of the four members from Army Of Jesus, with a new vocalist. Speedy hardcore punk punctuated by Alex’s hoarse vocals and and plenty of guitar pyrotechnics, from the string scrape on “Overshadowed//Underestimated” to the speed metal trill on “Double Standards,” which also has feisty circle pit break. Some of those guitar lines also add a dash of melody to the proceedings but make no mistake—this is obliteration. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)
SLANG-The Immortal Sin (Schizophrenic, CD)
Savage sounds on the latest from this veteran Japanese band and age ain’t slowing them down one iota. An overdriven Discharge influence imbued with searing guitar and punishing drums, accompanied by the obligatory harsh vocalizing. It’s not cookie cutter tribute, either, but just one element of their attack. One ripper after another and achieving the desired (by this listener) gut punch. I’m writing euphemistically, of course. There are four cover versions appended onto the disk, including yet another take of Negative Approach’s “Ready to Fight”—and it’s the second time they’ve done it, with the previous version on a comp called “Back On The Streets.” More interesting are their versions of songs by Kuro, Ratos De Porao and Ripcord which adapt well to their full-bore pillage. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)
SLOPPY SECONDS-Endless Bummer (Kid Tested, CD)
Wow, I didn’t know these guys were still around. But it’s now two decades of naughtiness from Sloppy Seconds. Their calling card has always been catchy punk in a similar vein as the Queers, Weasel, etc and these guys started in the same decade. No Johnny-come-latelys, in other words. The source for all of those bands was the Ramones—and tribute is paid with “You Can’t Kill Joey Ramone.” BA sounds as snotty as ever and there’s more of a pronounced rasp this time around. Tweaking the PC sensibilities with a song like “Thanks For The Mammaries.” Still, the boys are getting more responsible in their old age—“Let Me See Your Driver’s License” urges care in checking the age of a potential partner lest one be busted for statutory rape. Ummm... moving right along... “Everybody Hates The United States” has a souped-up Beach Boys inspiration and straddles the line between satire and flag-waving. And they cover Sweet’s “Action” (my favorite song by the band), turning it into more of a pop/punk song than the more hard rockin’ pulse of the original but it’s tough enough for me. Proving that tuneful doesn’t have to mean wimpy. (www.kidtestedrecords.com)
VARIOUS-I Thrash, Therefore I Am (Schizophrenic, LP)
This compilation of vintage international hardcore sounds originally came out on BCT as a cassette in 1985 and also had a CD release some years back with 55 songs (as opposed to the 30 here). No complaints, here. That’s impossible when you drop the needle down and get assaulted by Mob 47’s classic raw thrash and that’s just for starters. I’m sure the connoisseur is familiar with the likes of Anti-Cimex, Enola Gay and Moderat Likvidation but Product Assar, Existenz and Akutt Innleggelse (including a future member of Turbonegro!) might not be as well known. The blueprint is loud, fast ‘n buzzing and done in wanton fashion. For people who are unaware of BCT’s history, it was a tape-only label that featured a wide array of bands from all over the world and, along with comps like “Welcome To 1984” and “Cleanse The Bacteria,” introduced many of us ‘mericans to formidable noise outside the country. After hearing Raw Power’s “Fuck Authority” on “WT84,” for instance, I sent away for BCT’s Raw Power release. I look at a comp like this an introduction to spur further exploration. It provides an impetus to track down more music by these bands. In those pre-internet days (aka the Dark Ages!), you relied on trading with pen-pals overseas to dig even further. Hopefully, that’ll be the case with this album. Nicely packaged with the insert/foldout featuring an interview with Chris BCT where he tells the story behind the label. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)