RAW POWER REDUX
IGGY & THE STOOGES-Raw Power: The Legacy Edition (Legacy, 2xCD)
Right up front, "Raw Power" is my all-time top five albums and continues to blow my mind some 34 years after first buying a used copy for $3 at a head shop in Lynn, a story that you can read here. In fact, that could basically be the review but I won't be that lazy. Bottom line, though, is the tattered album still resides on my record shelf. This will be third version of "Raw Power" I own on CD (I also have it on cassette). The most important thing the listener should be grateful for the restoration of Bowie's original mix--tinny thin sound and all, where the bass is pretty much inaudible, largely drowned out by Iggy's sneering vocals and James Williamson's guitar slash. And it SHOULD be heard that way. The remixed, 1997 reissue of "Raw Power," was an ill-advised abortion, an unforgivable defilement that has thankfully been rectified. This mix brightens things up a little but maintains the integrity of the original.
I mean, where to begin when talking about an album I've listened to hundreds of times? "Search and Destroy" is a clarion call of snarly, sizzling guitar leading into Iggy's opening boast/declaration of being "a street-walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm." Oft-quoted but it's brilliant, isn't it? The title track, "You're Pretty Face Is Going To Hell" and the apocalyptic closer "Death Trip" are equally hell-driven. Even the two "acoustic" songs, the bitter ballad "Gimme Danger" and stutter-stepped, pleading "I Need Somebody," are pure ballsiness.
Speaking of ballsiness, that's what you get for the previously unreleased live disc "Georgia Peaches." A recording from the fall of '73 with fairly good sound quality. Four songs from "Raw Power" and four non-LP songs, which will be familiar to Iggy aficianados, those being the Who-ish "Head On," barrelhouse "Heavy Liquid," ribald "Cock In My Pocket" and downer blues of "Open Up And Bleed." They'd added pianist Scott Thurston by this point and it added an early rock 'n roll flavor. Truth be told, the performances are stretched out, except for the explosive brevity of "Cock," with a mind-bending solo from Williamson. There's plenty of crowd baiting, threatening physical violence to a "little cracker boy" and urging him to "suck my ass." At one point, Iggy asks if anyone can hear him and that doesn't mean with their ears. Screaming at a wall? Itching for a fight? Conquering their senses? Maybe all of the above.
Disc #2 also has an outtake from the "Raw Power" sessions, "Doojiman," with Iggy making jungle noises and yelps over a rhythmic, repetitive musical accompaniment and a rehearsal version of "Head On." Neither of them are all that revelatory or essential. There's also a deluxe version that includes a third CD of various outtakes/alt mixes/etc, a "making of 'Raw Power'" DVD, 7" of "Search and Destroy," prints and a book. Probably a condom and Swiss army knife, too, but I'm not sure about that. In any case, it's something that I'm definitely going to need. Even if you don't want to shell out for something that elaborate, make sure you have at least one copy of "Raw Power" in your collection. No offense, but if you don't like "Raw Power," you really don't get punk or rock music in general. Reckless, fearless, ear-shredding, obscene and sensual. I'm being hyperbolic but "Raw Power" captures the essence of great, timeless rock 'n roll.
ANTISEEN/HOLLEY 750-Split (Zodiac Killer, CD)
To channel the late, great Bruce Roehrs for a line or two (and I'm really not worthy to do this), the Boys from Brutalsville are back to terrorize you fucks. The Antiseen material includes new songs, a few covers and a pair of live songs and they haven't lost a step. Clayton still growls with psychotic soul and the burn continues unabated. Their cover of the Sonics' "The Witch" features wacky theremin effects as part of this crushing rendition. "Curses" and "One Shot, One Kill," the pair of new songs, maintain the band's tradition of unfettered agitation and aggressiveness. As for Holley 750, they play passable "high octane" punk rock 'n roll along the lines of Zeke, Supersuckers, etc. Not an incompatible pairing and they're good at what they do but I'll admit it--I'm here for Antiseen. I don't know if Bruce got hear this but, if he did, I have little doubt he'd give it a resounding Fuck Yes! (www.zodiackillerrecords.com)
ASSPISS-Fuck Off And Die (Suburban White Trash, 7" EP)
Let's see--band name, record title, record beginning with the sound of someone taking a leak, vocalist named Germ Warfair. Yep, this is punk rock. Kind of clumsy-sounding, UK-82 inspired, antisocial up-da-punx fodder although the guitarist seems to have heard his share of metal. And it comes with not one but two stencils for your own punk rock tagging excursion. Almost on the level of unintentional parody but I'd be lying if I said I didn't somewhat enjoy it. (PO Box 270594, Ft. Collins, CO 80527-0594, www.suburbanwhitetrashrecords.com)
BILL BONDSMEN-Disaster Prone/36th (Local Cross, 7")
The Bondsmen have never been a predictable band but they push things in a new direction here. That sometimes sets off alarm bells but it shouldn't be the case in this instance. Two lengthier songs this time out. "Disaster Prone" matches Tony's ranting vocal with a jabbing guitar line and bashing off-beat drumming that also adds more complex rhythms. "The 36th" mainly operates in an early 80s post-punk realm, atmospherics and a percolating undertow setting the table for a powerful burst of rage towards the end. There's a darkness, an ominousness with these songs. Another quality release for the burgeoning Local Cross label and for this often-overlooked band. (www.localcross.com)
CLAW TOE-Ingrown Ego/Girl From the Gas Station (Criminal IQ, 7")
A mysterious project masterminded by Criminal IQ honcho Darius Hurley, whose vocals convey pure deviancy. How to describe the musical contents? "Ingrown Ego" has a sinister ambiance and the production is muffled and claustrophobic. Using "Metal Box"-era PIL and Chrome as starting points (sorta), the guitar lines have an alien vibe, accompanied by deeply buried bass and and even more deeply buried synthetic beat. "Girl," meanwhile, has brighter production, electronic rhythms and a Helios Creed-type acid bath guitar tone. In other words, this side really does sound quite a bit like Chrome. Offbeat and highly engaging. (3057 N Rockwell 2nd Floor Chicago, IL 60618, www.criminaliq.com)
CONVERSIONS-Spineless Wonders (Ride The Snake, LP)
This posthumous release was recorded in 2007 and finally sees the light of day. The Conversions were one of the more interesting and talented bands to come out of Boston in recent years. The speed and thorniness of hardcore but, with all the odd time shifts in the drumming (not much 4/4 here) and tension between the instruments, there was as much of a post-punkish flair. Terry Cuozzo's angrily acidic vocals meshed perfectly with the innovative music and they were always evolving without moving into any sort of pretentious realm. The lengthy "Cause and Effect" really pushes things, a mesh of martial drumming, deconstructive guitar and bass damage. If that sounds too artsy for some of you, it's really not the case. Goddamn, I miss this band. Terry is now the vocalist with Foreign Objects and the three musicians have reconvened as Vile Bodies with Jeff Walker (ex-Sleeper Cell/Balance of Terror) on vocals, with both bands continuing to defy convention while maintaining plenty of edginess. (6 Wadleigh Place, Boston, MA 02127, www.ridethesnakerecords.com)
DEAD WIFE-s/t (Psychic Handshake/No Vacation, 7" EP)
Lest you think that, with the band's name and a song titled "Gentleman Rapist," this is a group of tawdry male sexist scumbags, 3/4 of the membership of this Montreal band are women. Kick-ass hardcore-tinged garage with distorted and/or echo-y vocals chafing against the blunt buzzsaw guitar/bass/drums tumult. I'm not sure what "D.W.S.Y.H.F." stands for but "TXT Me" is a 21st century statement and anyone who does that during one of their sets (seems to be a common occurrence at shows here in Boston) should pay attention or get bashed over the skull with a guitar or something. You'll feel bashed by this recording, that's for sure--and that's a compliment. (www.myspace.com/psychichandshake)
EMPTY VESSEL-s/t (Blind Spot, 7" EP)
There are 12 songs here and you figure it'd be a standard hardcore release. Wrong! Sure, there an abundance of hardcore rage but there's also more complexity at work here. "Poison" draws from the Minutemen well, for instance. "Portland" pounds away at a mid-tempo pace before the dramatic finale of "Beneath The Surface." The band's name gives a good insight into their lyrical pulse--shards of angst and frustration. Life is either half empty or half full (to quote two of the song titles) but it doesn't sound particularly upbeat either way. I mentioned the Bill Bondsmen being an unpredictable band. So are Empty Vessel. Only 200 copies pressed so get crackin' (PO Box 40064, Portland, OR 97240)
EXECUTIONER-1983 (Patac, 7" EP)
Unreleased material by a San Jose band recorded, in case you couldn't guess, in 1983. An inspired tandem of gnarled punk, thrash and some metallic-meets-Cheetah Chrome guitar flourishes and topped off with some raspy, psychotic vocals. A good alternating of mid-speed moodiness and quicker-paced bursts. There's also an unreleased album that's expected to finally see the light of day. Hard to believe this sat in the "vaults" (or someone's closet) for such a long time. (www.patacrecords.com)
FACE VALUE-Rode Hard, Put Away Wet: Clevo HC '89-'93 (Smog Veil, CD+DVD)
Another anthology of a Cleveland band from Smog Veil. Face Value, who featured the one and only Tony Erba on vocals, were very much of their time. They were in line with the heavier/groove-style hardcore many bands plied at that point although there was an embrace of wanton speed, as well. In fact, you can hear a diversity of influences--the boogie emerging about halfway through "Open Wound," for instance and there are quite a few metallic riffs throughout these recordings. The earlier recordings are thrashier, some songs better executed than others. The catchy, youth crew-tinged "Coming Of Age" is one particular standout. The DVD has various live performances spanning '90 and '93, with varying quality both visually (you can even see the band once in awhile!) and musically. Erba hadn't quite perfected the witty banter yet but it gave the band more personality, compared with other HC bands of the time. The collection includes their first LP "The Price of Maturity," part of the second LP "Kick It Over," their debut 7" "Coming Of Age" and '89 demo. In all honesty, while there's an urgency and sincerity to these songs and the occasional gem here and there, a lot of it doesn't hold up too well. It might not be fair to say it, but Erba's later bands--H-100s, Nine Shocks Terror and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers in particular--left a much greater legacy. (1658 N. Milwaukee Ave., #284, Chicago, IL 60647, www.smogveil.com)
FUNEROT-And Then You Fucking Die Man (Inimical, LP)
With the band's name, the cemetery gates on the front cover and many songs dealing with life's end or at least waiting for it, you figure this is going to be a doom metal style band--especially with the backwards masking that starts the album. Not exactly. This band actually play various strains of punk, hardcore, metal and there's even an acoustic hoedown of sorts ("The Way Out") that I suppose you could say is unexpected. Max Gorbman's stentorian, gravelly vocals are the focal point and the guitar playing deceptively skillful. There are decent moments here and there, such as the disarmingly tuneful "Washed" and the rockin' punch of "Remote Control." The album's on the lengthy side, though, and it's not always that gripping. (PO Box 2803, Seattle, WA 98111, www.inimical.com)
GERM ATTAK-Cruxshadow (Loud Punk, LP)
When reviewing an album by a band with a few releases under its proverbial belt, it's a cliche to say "it's their best album yet." A lot of the time, that's complete bullshit but it's really true here. Germ Attak started off as a so-so assimilation of Chaos UK/Discharge/et al but they've tightened up and refined the sound a bit over the course of their second and now on "Cruxshadow," their third long-player. Yes, it remains pure early 80s UK worship and you can easily pick out where they're borrowing from. The first song, "Life In Exile," is more than a bit like GBH's "No Survivors" and there are also echoes of the Partisans, Exploited and Abrasive Wheels. The latter band's "Vicious Circle" certainly inspired "Public Enemy Number One" and there's even some Iron Maiden-esque guitar trills to close that song out. OK, I'm saying Germ Attak are derivative as all hell but it's not so much about originality as it is about whether they make it sound fresh and vibrant. "Cruxshadow" fits that description and, yes, it is their best album yet. (PO Box 3067, Albany, NY 12203, www.loudpunk.com)
GET RAD-I Can Always Live (Gilead Media/Hyperrealist, LP)/What The Fuck Happened To Common Sense (Underground Communique, 12")
Two new records--chronologically, "What The Fuck" etc is the most recent recording although they came out around the same time. Got it? Anyway, not much of a change in approach. A melding of youth-crew hardcore with boisterous back-up vocals and rougher, more pissed-off elements. That's due, in no small part, to Kevin Herwig's vocals. It finally dawns on me that he sounds like Lou Koller from Sick Of It All, only without the New York accent. While it's just about all loud 'n fast, you can hear different influences here and there. With the surging guitar and supple bass-line for "I Can Always Live" track "I Want To Kill A Priest" (timely, given yet another Catholic sex scandal in which the Pope could be complicit) has Get Rad sounding like a harder-driving version of No Use For A Name (I'm thinking "Exit"). Don't let that scare you off. This isn't Warped Tour shite. There's an equal surge on the ascending melody line of the chorus of "It's Not A Fire."
"What The Fuck" is a one-sided 12" and the merging of aggression and semi-tunefulness continues, starting off with the Gorilla Biscuits-inspired "I Found A Reason." For both records, the lyrics express some wit along with the highly-charged, personalized lyrics that often express outrages of one sort or another. "Octo-Butt," for instance, is about people indulging in internet voyeurism, watching someone put an octopus up their butt for one thing. In fact, the front and back cover artwork features an octopus with its tentacles hugging the globe and the backside showing, uh, a certain point of entry for some of those tentacles. "Entitlement Is For A-Holes" is actually an anti-welfare abuse song, lamenting that scammers take the money away from the people who really need it, talking about people who "embrace your laziness/let's live off the government checks." Without turning this into a sociological/political discussion, I think the issue a little more complex but I don't think this is Get Rad's version of Agnostic Front's "Public Assistance." Both records provide quality hardcore although I'd give a slight nod to "I Can Always Live" for having a tad more ripping-ness. (Underground Communique,(www.myspace.com/undergroundcommuniquerecords and Gilead Media, PO Box 292, Oshkosh, WI 54901, www.gileadmedia.net)
GG KING-Babbling Voices (Local Cross, 7")
I know a few people who have cringed at this artiste's moniker but, hey, what's wrong with paying tribute to Dee Dee King, you know, Dee Dee Ramone's embarrassingly bad solo project? Thankfully, that's the only connection. There are a couple of Carbonas involved in this project the two songs here provide some decent garage rock, especially the bashing b-side "Insomnia." His (their?) demo wasn't bad either, particularly the cover of the Box Tops' "The Letter." (www.localcross.com)
HOMICIDES-Black Leather Redneck (Vertex, 12")
The first thing you hear on this 12" EP from the Australian band the Homicides is a squeal of atonal guitar and then comes the nastiness. The first lyrical nugget is (on "666 Pack") is "Everytime I see your fucking face/I beat my meat to the human race." At least I think that's what's being said. If I'm off a bit, blame it on the lack of a lyric sheet but you pretty much don't need one. Stormin' garage/punk/rock 'n roll with a real loutish, obnoxious attitude--what else to say about a song called "I Fuck Girls Too Young For Me." They also give a damned good ass-whuppin' to the Fuck-Ups' "I Think You're Shit." Wrap it up with an unlisted song titled "I Hate You" and what more could you want? Formidable ax-slinging, a vocalist that seems to have an id running amok and these guys don't seem to be too concerned with who they offend. And isn't that what punk rock is about? (email@example.com)
MUCH WORSE-Proper Execute (Pass Judgement, 7" EP)
With the pile of retro/old-school hardcore records that clog the distro boxes and other methods of distribution, it's tough to stand out from the proverbial crowd. Much Worse grab my ear, though. This is merciless, pillaging hardcore punk without let-up. It's something in the production that pushes it over. It's loud, it's got plenty of rawness and "oomph," for want of a better term. It has the same effect as when I heard Nightstick Justice or Straightjacket Nation for the first time. Here are bands that don't hold back, don't sound tentative--it's just pure burn. (www.passjudgementrecords.com)
SCHOOL JERKS-s/t (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
The second EP from these Toronto punk miscreants. Possessing an early Black Flag/west coast punk fervor and the vocals are venomously spat out in an abrasive ranting cadence colliding against the taut, no bullshit musical delivery. There are a couple of ex-Terminal State guys in this band and they're rougher and less catchy but it maintains a back-to-basics appeal. (www.cowabungarecords.com)
UDI-Unidentified Drunken Injury (Spider Cuddler, 12")
Boys just wanna thrash? Yes... yes, they do and that's exactly what these boys from Michigan do. Fast fast fast hardcore punk going full tilt over the course of these 14 songs on a one-sided 12", including a splendid cover of Raw Power's "Fuck Authority," although I have to admit I miss the cowbell from the original. Vocalist Mike Ratt lets the words fly--it's amazing how he's able to sing without taking much of a breath on these songs. I imagine not a lot of you ever heard of the underrated San Diego band the Neighbors, but these guys bring 'em to mind, both in terms of the speed and Mr. Ratt's phlegmy vocal delivery. This has a mid-80s vibe, when hardcore had been around for a bit but there were bands sticking with the tried and true formula. That's the case on this 2010 release and it's still highly enjoyable to these ears. (PO Box 887, Warren, MI 48090, www.spidercuddler.com)
UNDERDOG-s/t (Bridge Nine, 7" EP)
Another vintage NYHC reissue from Bridge Nine, the 1986 debut 7" from Underdog. There's also going to be a double LP/CD release coming soon that will include "The Vanishing Point" and songs from the '85 and '88 demos. This 7" has a faithful reproduction of the Sean Taggart artwork, insert and the sound is a bit brighter than on the sonically-muddy original pressing. Burning hardcore that encompassed speed and as well as a mid-to-fast paced groove and some catchy songwriting. The standout--and best Underdog song, in my opinion--remains "Say It To My Face." A timeless, confrontational anthem for the shit-talkers, wrapped up in a floor-pounding chorus and the bonus beats at the end add a distinct twist. A few years ago, a certain individual who shall remain nameless did some "talkin' bullshit behind my back" and I dedicated that song to him on the radio show next week. A personal take but, really, haven't we all had situations like that one? Step back! (119 Foster St., Building 4, Floor 3, Peabody MA 01960, www.bridge9.com)
YOUNG LIONS-1982-84--From The Vaults (Schizophrenic, LP+7")
Toronto punk excavation time--this three-piece's previous vinyl output was an appearance on BYO's "Something To Believe In" comp and their "Welcome To The Freak Show" album. Before that, it was a series of demos and tape compilations and that's where the material for this collection comes from. Sound quality is quite rough at times but the hooks of these songs burn through, from the incredibly catchy "Things Are Gonna Change" and "United" to the almost post-punkish "Pray For Julie" on the bonus 7". The Young Lions dabbled in hardcore from time to time but mainly played anthemic, fist-pumping '77-tinged punk with "political" lyrics touching on the issues of the day--"Young Amerikkka," "National Security," "Defy The State," etc. On the back cover, they state "We had ideas. We wanted to change the world." Naive, perhaps, but quite a few of us felt that way back then, that the power of punk could topple governments and social institutions. Kind of pathetic, I suppose, but we MEANT it! And as one gets older and more cynical/jaded, these songs do bring back memories of a simpler punk rock era, a simpler time in one's life. Youthful idealism set to a stirring soundtrack. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON CANADA, L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrex.com)
AND IN CONCLUSION...
I'm sure at least some of you (hopefully more than some of you) remember Flipside, the long-running zine that, along with Maximum Rocknroll, was one of the most influential publications covering underground punk and other styles of music. It's been 10 years since Flipside abruptly ended, after 122 issues. Some Flipside-ers (but not Al) have revived the zine as an on-line entity and the first issue is available for free download as a PDF file. A full-color, 38 page effort featuring live reviews, lots of photos both current and from the "archives," an Alex Chilton tribute, even a Brian Walsby cartoon. As Flipside have returned, many of the bands who are covered have made returns of sorts--Legal Weapon, Mau-Maus (who are on the cover), The Crowd (who have been back for a while), Saccharine Trust and the Gears. The emphasis is clearly on the visual as much as, if not more, than the printed word. I look forward to future installments and almost wonder if I should print it out for easier reading. To get the zine, go to this link. And check out the Flipside Fanzine Memorial page on Facebook.