REISSUES AND SUCH
A plethora of reissues, anthologies and like have been crossing my desk lately. That sounds so pretentious--does something really cross a desk? Does it really come through my mailbox? Sure, some music gets piled up on my desk but it's not in motion. Am I being too literal? Should I move on to the reviews? Not a bad idea...
I'm going to begin with a DVD. There haven't been a ton of archival releases from the early Boston punk/post-punk/etc bands. Mission of Burma and Unnatural Axe have been documented, there's the upcoming early 80s Boston hardcore documentary "xxx All Ages xxx" scheduled for next year but not much else. La Peste were one of the earliest Boston punk units, a three-piece who slammed out such memorable ditties as "Kill Me Now," "Don't Wanna Die In My Sleep Tonight" "Spy Master" (later covered by Jerry's Kids) and the infamous "Better Off Dead," with the classic line "that girl's only 13/she ain't never given head." Nasty, for sure, with a buzzing, jabbing no-nonsense sound, although they could take poppier turns with a song like "Color Scheme" or lighter fare like "Let Me Sleep." Not your standard-issue KBD fodder--there was something of a UK bent here.
This DVD, shot in black and white at the Paradise in Boston in 1979, is fairly no-frills in terms of packaging but the multi-camera shots and creative effects successfully capture LaPeste's burning, driving sound. Actually, there was some "cheating" involved according to Jan Crocker, one of the filmmakers. In a recent interview with Boston Groupie News, he said that the audio came from a show at the Rat and the footage of the pogoing audience came from other venues. All things considered, he did a good job making it look seamless.
Extras? Some conceptual videos mixing live and studio performances with photos and other imagery and a picture gallery with songs that aren't included in the live set. It gives you a feel for what Boston punk was like ca. '79. (www.kinodv.net)
Dischord Records have dug into the vaults. (Actually, is there really a vault? Or were they tapes on a shelf or in a box? GET ON IT WITH IT, AL!). The CD Dag With Shawn is the original 1985 Dag Nasty demo with Shawn Brown on vocals. Most of this material has circulated over the years, most notably as part of a 7" box set on Selfless Records. On this disc, there are 9 tracks and all but one ended up on Can I Say, with Dave Smalley on vocals. Shawn's agitated emanations aren't always well suited for the material--he struggles on "Circles," for instance. But the angry, impassioned delivery gives a grittier edge to these well-known compositions. Shawn really came into his own for Swiz (who don't always get the acclaim they deserve) but these remastered recordings are well-worth hearing.
Meanwhile, Government Issue's Boycott Stabb has been appended to include an entire side of outtakes. This was the band's 12" debut, following the Legless Bull EP and their appearance on Flex Your Head. (The Make An Effort EP was actually recorded before the album) and marked Tom Lyle's shift from bass to guitar. Blistering hardcore with a fuller sound and improving musicianship. The version of "Sheer Terror" here adds some twisted effects and vocal manipulations, stretching out over three minutes and featuring some blowtorch string bending. I've heard this record so many times over the years, I assume everyone else has and those are the hardest reviews to write since they're so embedded in my consciousness. Boycott Stabb doesn't offer any indication of the melodic elements that would eventually emerge, starting with Joy Ride, but it's unquestionably a leap from the early recordings. As for the outtakes, most of them are re-recordings of songs off the two EPs and compilation, complete with studio banter that gives insight into the creative process ("I can't do it fast because I just wrote the words") and Stabb's more mannered vocals that don't always work as well with those tracks. The only previously-unheard songs are "Snubbing," which would have fit in on the album and the piss-take "Georgetown Blues," which we should be grateful wasn't on the original. Look at the original record as a classic and the bonus songs as something to listen to once in awhile.
Government Issue's tenure extended into the late 80s. Artificial Peace's existence, on the other hand, only lasted a year from '81 to '82 before 3/4 of the members moved on to form Marginal Man. Only three songs were "officially" released, on Flex Your Head, although the other 14 songs appeared on a 1992 Lost and Found disc that also had Marginal Man's Double Image album. But here it is with a fresh remaster and these guys bang out some credible "of-its-time" hardcore. The three songs that were picked for Flex were their most accomplished, especially the guitar intro for their theme song "Artificial Peace." I can live without the cover of "Wild Thing" and they weren't really on the level of Minor Threat or Void but they certainly held their own. Glad to see this get a "proper" vinyl release. (Dischord, 3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007, www.dischord.com)
Fraticide, from Vancouver, were supposed to have had a split 12" release with Dutch band Neuroot in the mid-80s on Pusmort but it only reached the test pressing stage. Some 24 years later, their tracks from the split have come out on a release from Schizophrenic and Ugly Pop Records. This fits in well with the crossover sounds of that era, albeit coming from the hardcore side of the aisle. Thrashin' aggro with red hot metallic riffs and leads and scampering drums. Jonzo (who, in recent years, has been with Hong Kong Blonde) has a raspy, phlegm-projecting style along the lines of Blaine from the Accused. The faster songs have the same flailing tumult as that band or Heresy. Never losing control--about the time you think it's gong to fly apart and create a hail of iron shards, they shift into pounding mid-tempo mode. Exactly the kind of music Pushead lauded back then and you wonder why it never came out. It's a moot point, now. (Schizophrenic, 17 West 4th St., Hamilton, ON, CANADA L9C 3M2, www.schizophrenicrecs.com)
The debut release from Chris Prorock's More Than A Witness Product label is Connecticut band CIA's God, Guts, Guns, with the original 1983 7" expanded to a full LP with outtakes, earlier demos, rehearsal and live stuff. Shredding hardcore for the most part, although catchy punk roots are exposed on a song like "I Hate The Radio." That song was later recorded by 76% Uncertain, a band that included most of the members of CIA (a few more outtakes also resurfaced with 76%). CIA actually started out as more or less a traditional punk band but caught the hardcore bug and started playing loud and fast. An all-time classic? No, but this is still above-average hardcore from that bygone era. (3 Webster Place, Newtown, CT 06470, morethanawitnessarchive.blogspot.com)
Our Gang were a late 80s NYC hardcore band who recorded three sessions at Don Fury's studio in '88-89 but didn't have a "proper" release except for the Uprising demo tape. More than two decades later, those sessions have been compiled on a 12" disc entitled, oddly enough, Uprising. Truth be told, this is pretty much second tier NYHC. Scampering thrash with vocals that try to squeeze in as many words as possible into the musical contents. Eschewing the youth crew trappings of the era for something more along the lines of the punk-driven hardcore bands of the early 80s. They've got the right idea at times but it doesn't always gel. (Jack Roy Records, jackroyrecords.blogspot.com)
Finally, Philly band Pagan Babies were one of the bands on Hawker Records, the short-lived hardcore imprint distributed by Roadrunner that also released records by Wrecking Crew, Rest In Pieces, No For An Answer and Token Entry. Their Last: An Anthology gathers all of their studio recordings including songs from their Next album on Hawker, an early 7" on Positive Force, live tracks, unreleased songs, etc. It's packaged with a DVD documentary where the band members revisit their old haunts and it's interspersed with live material from 'back in the day' and from a 2007 reunion show. Semi-tuneful hardcore with tasteful metallic leads and skate punk roots along the same lines as Token Entry. Enjoyable, even if it's showing its age a bit. (DRP Records, PO Box 6257, Wyomissing, PA 19610, www.drprecords.com)
... AND THE REST...
BAD AMERICAN-s/t (Bad Recordings/Discontent, 7" EP)
Pissed-off hardcore from Bethlehem, PA. I imagine if I lived in Bethlehem, PA, I might be pissed-off too. Well, more pissed-off than I already am. This is raging hardcore that thrashes about half the time and pounds away at a slightly slower pace the rest of the time. "Rodent" has a pretty sinister, noise-drenched intro before picking up the pace and it comes across like early stuff from Total Abuse. Did I mention they sounded pissed-off? No sarcasm, here--I like this band's pissed-off sound. Oops, there I go again. (852 N. Clewell St., Bethlehem, PA 18015, www.myspace.com/badamericanpunk)
BLOODTYPE-s/t (Cowabunga, 7" EP)
Anti-social. Not here to make friends. As Bloodtype start blasting away on "Dropout," it's clear that they've found it difficult not only dealing with the outside world but even the hardcore subculture drives 'em nuts. Blazing hardcore that occasionally loses its way with the speed but when they pull it together, especially for "Welcome To Hell," the hair-trigger aggro is quite successful, building on the chord progression of "In My Eyes." Pure hate delivered with buzzsaw rage. (www.cowabungarecords.com)
CONFINES-Withdrawn (Labor Of Love/Side Two, 7" EP)
Newish Boston band including people from Cut The Shit, Blank Stare and other bands--Ryan Abbott, who has played drums in a number of bands, handles guitar duties here and the vocalist is Andrew Jackmauh. An intense package, both from a musical standpoint, as well as the visual/written elements. For the aural component, this is a ravenous, brutalizing hardcore sound with some Ginn-ish guitar lines and powerful arrangements that incorporate thrash and cascading bash. As for the latter, there's a foldout poster sleeve that includes the lyrics but also a two panel hand-written treatise of sorts with a somewhat over-intellectualized verbosity (there I go!) that might provide difficult reading for some. A detailed analysis would have us here all day but the gist of it (as well as in the lyrics) displays tremendous outrage and disappointment not only with the continuing ascent/re-emergence of regressive political policy but there's also a scathing critique of people involved in punk and hardcore--pointing out that there seems to be more concern over social acceptance and a ready willingness to conform to what's accepted. In the meantime, the world is collapsing, the political situation is fucked up and the author wonders where the outrage went. The critique turns inward, as well. That's just a simplified take on things and I'm sure I left something out. But, ultimately, even if you have trouble following the text, there's no missing the agitated vocals and unsettling music. I imagine the national election results will only increase the intensity next time around. I look forward to it... (56 Pearson Rd., #2, Somerville, MA 02144, firstname.lastname@example.org or 6 Wadleigh Place, Boston, MA 02127, email@example.com)
THE ESTRANGED-The Subliminal Man (Dirtnap, LP)
Things are perhaps a bit more polished for the Estranged on their second album but that shouldn't be construed as a softening in sound. There's always talk of how much this Portland band is influenced by the Wipers--and it shows up in some of the guitar lines, no doubt. There's no missing the Sage-isms for "Statue In A Room," previously released as a single (this is a new version, though) and it's the strongest track here. Haunting, hooky, propulsive and emblematic of the musical synthesis they've created during their existence. The other aspect of said synthesis is what was good on the other side of the Atlantic during the emergence of post-punk during the late 70s/early 80s. There's the melodic yet intense emotionalism of the Sound and, as I've mentioned before, strains of early Cure and Banshees. I hate to be repetitive but that's still accurate. As if to prove my point, they cover the UK band the Flys song "Love And A Molotov Cocktail"--and the 1977 original was post-punk that was ahead of the curve. And while I've spent half this review mentioning other bands' influences, I'm not being trite (honest!) in saying these guys have found their own identifiable sound and the songwriting/musicianship to back it up. (2615 SE Clinton St., Portland, OR 97202, www,dirtnaprecs.com)
INSUBORDINATES-s/t (Cowabunga, LP)
Not sure how the surfing is in Rochester, NY but the Insubordinates' music displays an affection for that style of music, with a punk twist. Two of the songs are instrumental and sax is sporadically added to mix, although it doesn't dominate the arrangements. Other times, they go for a thrashy hardcore approach or a darker, heavier sound on "Cuckoo Cass E." The best song here is "River City R'N'R," a solid west coast punk tune and "Hipster County" works well in a similar vein. Not a bad effort although there are only a few songs I keep going back to. (www.cowabungarecords.com)
LADIES-Six More Reasons To Hate... (Grave Mistake, 7" EP)
Third 7" already by this Richmond band fronted by the infamous Tony Bitch. This is semi-tuneful punk/garage/thrash. I imagine a few of you might be offended by the front and back cover and some of the lyrics but it's not completely over the edge. OK, maybe a bit. Think Dwarves around the time of "Sugar Fix" and you'll be on the right track. That's the "sensibility" here and they've got it down pretty much perfectly. (PO Box 12484, Richmond, VA 23241, www.gravemistakerecords.com)
LAPINPOLTHAJAT-s/t (Hohnie/Roku/multi-label, LP)
Every time I play this Finnish band on Sonic Overload, it's always a challenge to pronounce it. That's an ongoing thing because I like this record and it's been getting a good amount of airplay. These guys definitely mine their country's hardcore heritage, a sound that's both muscular and melodic. There's plenty of presence without being overly heavy-handed. No metallic blowtorch effects here--guitar burn but a more tasteful selection of lead licks, along bass playing and drumming that relies as much on finesse as force. Lapinpolthajat let us know that classic Finnish-style hardcore is alive and well. (www.hohnie-records.de or www.rokurecords.com)
LOSE THE TUDE-s/t (Sacred Plague, 7" EP)
I'm not sure I'd exactly call these guys posi-core but the band's name and a song like "Give A Shit" make me think of RKL's "Keep Laughing"--THINK POSITIVE! Enjoyable, energetic hardcore with instrumental dexterity and keeping things upbeat although I'm tempted to lift the needle before the concluding minute-plus free form sonic collapse of "Fleas." Speaking as the jaded type of person they're trying to avoid becoming, I still like the 'tude here. (www.losethetude.tumblr.com)
NO PROBLEM-Your Eyes (Handsome Dan, 7" EP)
Graeme from the Wednesday Night Heroes fronts this new band, adding guitar to his vocal duties. Four solid tracks of gut-punching, catchy punk. The two guitars give the band a beefy presence, to accompany Graham's passionate emanations. It's not far removed from what the Heroes did, maybe a little less blatantly poppy save the chorus of "Your Eyes." (3244 31A Ave. SE, Calgary AB, CANADA T28 0HB, handsomedanrecords.com)
SPASTIC PANTHERS/THE THROWAWAYS-Split (Handsome Dan, 7" EP)
For their second release (I think), the Panthers continue to ply spirited hardcore punk with a decidedly non-serious bent, exemplified by "(I'm Gonna) Punch You In Dink." Well, maybe they're dead serious about it. Not bad, if fairly routine. The Throwaways have a garagier approach, two of 'em with a hardcore sound, two of 'em on the poppy side--"Mikey Erg!" even sounds Ergs-ish, albeit rougher. Once again, not bad, maybe a little less routine than the Panthers. (3244 31A Ave. SE, Calgary AB, CANADA T28 0HB, handsomedanrecords.com)
VILE BODIES-s/t (Razors and Medicine, tape)
Vile Bodies is essentially a continuation of the Conversions, with the musical core of that band joined by vocalist Jeff Walker (Sleeper Cell/Balance of Terror/Bloody Gears). The modus-operandi remains the same. Challenging, dynamic music that works in straight hardcore with noisier/atonal elements, often within the same song--"The Healer" is one such example. The playing exhibits a tremendous amount of skill as they effortlessly maneuver through the different musical aspects. As with Terry Cuozzo, the Conversions vocalist, Jeff offers a howling approach that syncs up perfectly. Complex but not so much that it dilutes things--Vile Bodies are very much a hardcore band but without the standard trappings. (vilebodieshc.blogspot.com)
WORMEATERS-Wardeath (Sorry State, 7" EP)
Well, there's nothing as graphic as the forced prison sex lyrical theme for "Dutch Roulette" that was on the Wormeaters' previous 7" but they haven't gone pop or anything nor have the lyrics gotten any sunnier. Nope, not a chance. Blazing, angry, fast-paced hardcore, although there's the slower, equally crazed "Scabs" to wrap things up. There's a new vocalist, PJ, whose pipes are as nasty as his predecessor, albeit higher on the timbre scale and, to be honest, he's an improvement. Best stuff to date. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)
ZERO PROGRESS-Derailed (Piledriver, 7" EP)
As I read through this band's lyrics, it's apparent that things don't change too much with hardcore bands--well, the ones who use this musical style to express their venom at what causes life's turmoil, what pisses them off. Zero Progress are no different. Positively negative (not original, I know) and pounding out the fast hardcore the same way countless bands have done it for three decades. Passable, but that's about it. (firstname.lastname@example.org)