Some Important Proto Punk Records

I wrote this a year ago after a shit ton of people criticized our list of the greatest punk records. I don’t really think it’s finished – I have a whole list of bands ranging from Them and the Velvets to ? and the Mysterians and the Stooges – but here’s what I have right now. No need for this to sit on my computer, right?

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T Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)

This is arguably one of the sexiest records of all time, so it’s probably strange I associate most of the record with my childhood. I remember being a kid, hearing this record in my parents’ car, bouncing along to the pumping bass lines and grooving guitar. I guess that says more about my parents than me, though, right? Dripping with glam and only made better with Marc Bolan’s crooning, this record is the shining star of the UK glam rock scene. This album, to this day, does not sound dated and is always just as fresh as the first time you hear it. Beginning with the sultry “Mambo Sun,” Bolan’s voice immediately seduces you with an enrapturing conglomeration of rock n roll and blues. “Cosmic Dancer” is another gem of a song, replacing electric guitar in favor of a steady acoustic and string arrangement, sugarcoated with Bolan’s vox. Other favorites include “Jeepster” (a poppy, sex driven love song), “Life’s A Gas” (a cynical ballad), and of course, the hit, “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” This one of the best glam songs ever written, a dirty, sexy number. Overall, the album is extremely seminal to the glam movement, along with its follow up, The Slider.

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New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

This record is essential to any collection – a driving force of rock n roll and glam, it’s no wonder so many bands tried to copy them. The New York Dolls were far ahead of their time, compiled of now-legends David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Arthur “Killer” Kane, and Jerry Nolan. The album is only aided by the producer, Todd Rundgren, a hero in his own rite. The band, though, were pioneers of androgyny, along with Bowie and Marc Bolan – a bunch of straight dudes not afraid to wear makeup and platform heels in a time where this was extremely taboo. Kicking off with “Personality Crisis,” the album grabs you right by the balls and refuses to let go. Johansen’s wail overdubs Johnny Thunder’s signature guitar, and the two both contribute to the catchy chorus. Next up is “Looking For a Kiss,” which begins with a line ripped from the Shangri-Las (“when I say I’m in love, you best believe I’m in love, L-U-V”). This is a dark sounding rock n’ roll number that almost breaches on swamp rock. The album careens to a halt with “Jet Boy,” a danceable track about having a dude steal your girl. Other highlights include “Trash” – featuring repetitive verses and a rhythm riff that catches you. This is another song referencing another band (Mikey & Sylvia – “Love Is Strange” – “how do you call your lover boy?”) and Johnny’s wailing of “traaaaash” is the icing on the cake for this song. There’s also “Pills,” a Bo Diddley cover they do insane justice to. It’s dripping in the blues, with harmonica, gang vocal choruses, and swampy guitar riffs. Overall, the album is incredible – full of some of the greatest guitar solos and the trashiest lyrics of the early 70s.

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Television – Marquee Moon (1977)

Television were, almost without a doubt, one of the most talented bands of their time. The same period that the Ramones were struggling to learn how to play their instruments, Tom Verlaine and co. created a masterpiece. With the collective force of Verlaine’s and Richard Lloyd’s elaborate guitar knowledge,  this record shows an advancement few bands of their time had. The dueling guitars create a unique sound that’s influenced by garage rock while showing an obvious progression from the 60s standard. Rounding off with Fred Smith and Billy Ficca’s steady, jazz infused rhythm section, this album becomes one of the most important records of its time. “See No Evil” starts off the album with a blaring power chord followed by a constant, steady riff by Lloyd, who follows up later with an insane solo. The chorus of the song is iconic with back and forth vocals, before ultimately ending with Verlaine wailing “I see/I see no/evil.” Then comes “Venus,” a slower, melodic track heavy with Verlaine’s guitar. The title track is a masterpiece on its own, clocking in at a whopping ten and a half minutes. It contains an almost dark element to it, but is overall a beautiful creation, albeit longwinded. This song definitely showcases the talent of the two guitarists’ the most. The remainder of the album is incredible, “Guiding Light” stands out the most to me. While not as in-your-face as the rest of the album, this is definitely the “prettiest” song on the record. To reiterate, this album is completely different from the other records that were released in New York in ’77, but that does not decrease its value or talent at all. Television were likely the most talented band in that time period, and this album showcases that.

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The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)

[Sorry, mom and dad – you may want to skip over this] You know how in the previous article I mentioned Young, Loud, and Snotty as one of the best albums to fuck to? Well, The Stooges almost rivals that. I remember the first time I fucked to this album, we were making out to “1969,” foreplay began with “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and we fucked during the droning hurricane that was “We Will Fall.” While that may seem beside the point, this album is nearly as sexy as Electric Warrior while not being blatantly so. Regardless, this album is clearly influenced by the Stones and garage acts of the time, but there’s a certain something that gave it a new sound compared to the Stooges’ contemporaries. Maybe it’s the dirtiness, maybe it’s the fact that Iggy Pop was this novelty character, perhaps the first “punk” kid of his time – but this album definitely showed an evolution of music of the time. “1969,” the first track, is funky without being cheesy. It’s almost reminiscent of The Doors’ “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” with the bluesy rhythm section and fuzzy guitar. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is probably one of the Stooges’ more famous songs, and deservingly so. It’s about wanting to be with someone so bad you’d be their slave. It’s slow and steady while maintaining the listener’s interest. Then there’s “No Fun,” heavy on the blues influence, with Iggy’s simplistic lyrics overdubbing a dirty guitar riff from Ron Asheton and steady drums from his brother Ron (who later went on to play in Sonic’s Rendezvous Band). While maybe not as progressive as 1970’s Funhouse, the Stooges’ self-titled record put them on the map as one of the earliest proto-punk bands.

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The Equals – Selected Tracks

Y’know, a lot of bands around this time are difficult to write about. With our list of punk records, we got a lot of shit for including compilations but it’s almost impossible to avoid those with the bands of the 60s that were constantly releasing singles. With that in mind, I tried to figure out the most definitive comp by the Equals, one of my favorite bands. Even the two I own (Equals’ Greatest Hits, 1970, and Viva The Equals, 1969) don’t have all of my favorite songs. That being said, I figured I’d cheat the system, piss off a lot of people, and just write about my favorite songs. First up, and most important to me, is “Viva Bobby Joe,” insanely upbeat and catchy, with a repetitive chorus. It’s got a poppy hook with R&B bass lines that make you wanna dance. “Baby Come Back” and “Softly, Softly” are both relatively similar in composition, beginning with Eddy Grant’s guitar intros (“Softly, Softly” almost is reminiscent of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”) going into thumping bass riffs. Another one of my favorites, “Help Me Simone,” is a poppy, driving song with infectuous backup vocals and choruses. And of course, since this is a proto-punk roundup, I gotta mention “Police On My Back,” later covered by The Clash on Sandinista! Obviously, it’s considerably more toned down into a more roots influenced sound versus the Clash’s piercing punk version. It’s just as catchy, though – with Derv Gordon crooning “what have I done?” after the chorus. Other notable songs include “Rub A Dub Dub,” “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys,” and “I Get So Excited.” I mean, the list goes on, but with such a prolific band as the Equals, it’s really something the listener should pursue on their own. It’s also fair to note that this was Eddy Grant’s first band, but they deserve way more credit than just that.

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Talking Heads – 77 (1977)

Though born in CBGBs the same time as bands like The Ramones and The Dead Boys, the Talking Heads have a distinctly different sound. 77 is poppy and draws a definite influence from 60s motown and soul, but paved the way for the New York art rock scene that would follow. The record kicks right in with “Uh Oh Love Comes To Town,” a wild combination of the funky rhythm section (thanks to Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth) and the high pitched wails of ultimate weirdo David Byrne. It’s also very heavy on synths, thanks to Jerry Harrison. This theme continues on throughout the rest of the album. “Tentative Decisions” is heavily dependent on a military drumbeat and Byrne’s vocals, which are all over the place in this song – low, high, squealing, almost moaning. “Happy Day” sounds exactly as it should – a sweet, lulling track, with Byrne crooning and almost yelping at times. Of course, there’s the hit, “Psycho Killer.” Kicking off with Weymouth’s bass, the track pulses with vibrancy. The chorus is catchy and the addition of French lyrics really are what make the track. Other standouts include “The Book I Read” and the wild closer, “Pulled Up,” an exhilarating adventure exemplifying Byrne’s vocal range perfectly. While some of their later releases may show their maturity, the simplistic rawness of 77 makes it one of the most important early punk records.

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The Who – My Generation (1965)

The Who? On a list of albums that influenced the shape of punk to come (I got Bad Jokes™)? The Who are some of the most iconic mod rockers, going on to influence bands like The Jam, Eddie and the Hot Rods, and others. They had the punk attitude that would be retained throughout the 70s as pissed off kids declaring “I hope I die before I get old.” With wild child Keith Moon on drums, John Entwistle on bass, legendary Pete Townshend on guitar, and Roger Daltry crooning over them, this record is a mod classic. They were truly a progressive band – “My Generation” has been credited as one of the earliest punk songs and “The Kids are Alright” was what helped define the genre of power pop. “Out In The Street” opens the record, an explosive blues rocker. The title track truly encapsulates teen angst, and may be one of the first rock n’ roll songs to do that. It’s a pummeling track, extremely advanced for the 60s. Following that is “The Kids Are Alright,” a slight juxtaposition from the previous song without being any less important. As mentioned, it helped defined power pop, with poppy hooks and harmonizing vocals. The closing track, “The Ox,” is full of blistering drum solos overlain with surf soaked guitar riffs and synthy keys. The album also includes two James Brown covers (“Please, Please, Please” and “I Don’t Mind”) along with a Bo Diddley track (“I’m A Man”) that do incredible justice to the original versions.

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Eddie and the Hot Rods – Teenage Depression (1976)

A driving record with some rockabilly undertones, Teenage Depression is one of the earliest records to breach into punk. They were definitely a pub rock band, but the Hot Rods were progressive. Breaching into both 60s influenced R&B and testing the waters with their punk swagger, the record still holds up 40 years later. Kicking off with an almost surfy track, “Get Across To You,” the album immediately sets itself apart from other records released the same era. The next song, “Why Can’t It Be?” is a poppier track laden with heavy bass lines behind the chords and vocals. The title tack is also the standout track, chugging along with angsty lyrics. “Teenage Depression” is right up there with songs like “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” (Ramones), “Janie Jones” (The Clash), and “Seventeen” (Sex Pistols). The album also features a sneering cover of The Who’s “The Kids Are Alright,” a wild, coked up version of “Shake” by Sam Cooke, and sped up version of Joe Tex’s “Show Me.” These covers all make sense as the album fuses R&B with rock n roll and all have attitude.

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Modern Lovers – Modern Lovers (1976)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6! Here’s another album from my childhood, when I’d make my mom sit in the car with me after we got home so we could finish “Roadrunner” before we went inside. Produced by John Cale, this album does show some Velvet Underground influence while maintaining originality. There’s also some similarities with the Doors’ debut in the keys that are reminiscent of Ray Manzarek’s at times. There’s also a hint of the Stooges in the mix, but more toned down. The first song, “Roadrunner,” is one of the best proto-punk songs of all time, immediately capturing you in catchy hooks and synthed up rhythm. Most of the rest of the album is a little more simplistic, with “Old World” featuring Jonathan Richman crooning about being jaded but missing being a kid. “Pablo Picasso” is a sarcastic take on the painter’s life, discussing his womanizing ways instead of focusing on his art. “Girlfriend” might be the most Velvet-infused song, with Richman pleading for a girl over pretty chord progressions that would fit right in with songs on the Velvets’ self titled or White Light/White Heat.

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Slade – Sladest (1973)

Honestly, Slayed? is my favorite record by glam rockers Slade, but it would be unfair to leave out one of their most important songs, “Cum On Feel The Noize,” so here’s another compilation. A little harder than T. Rex, Slade’s brand of glam went onto influence the genre heavily. The Runaways went on to cover them, and Quiet Riot’s success can be thanked to their Slade covers. With their elaborate costumes and sneering tracks, they were the genre’s original weirdos. Sladest is a definitive compilation, featuring all of the band’s most influential songs. The comp begins with “Cum On Feel The Noize” – definitely their biggest hit, with Noddy Holder’s screech over hard rock riffs. This song is iconic, but Slade often don’t get credit for writing it as it was made famous later by Quiet Riot. Second up is “Look Wot You Dun,” is slower and angrier, heavy on the keys with a stompin’ drumbeat and harmonizing vocals on the chorus. “Gudbye T’Jane” is another favorite, with Noddy Holder’s wailing vocals and a repetitive, driving guitar riff. “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” another classic, rounds off the album. The whole collection is incredible, and showcases the band’s talent perfectly.

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Crime – Hot Wire My Heart/Baby You’re So Repulsive (1976)

While this is only a single, the band is clearly straddling the barrier of proto-punk of bands like The Stooges and the future of punk. The band formed in 1969, playing garage rock covers for the most part. This San Francisco punk band released this 7″ right on the cusp of the release of The Ramones, but it strays distinctively from the three powerchord rock that Joey’d sing over. Crime come from the same scene that would eventually spawn bands like Dead Kennedys, The Avengers, The Nuns, and others. The 7″ is gritty and oozes the influence of bands like MC5 and The Stooges but shows a definite advancement. “Hot Wire My Heart” is sludgier and more Detroit influenced than “Baby You’re So Repulsive,” a track that sounds like the Dead Boys slowed down. Johnny Strike spits out the vocals with disdain, over minimalistic solos and slamming drums. Crime were also notable for dressing up as police officers onstage when they played.

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The Kinks – Something Else by The Kinks (1967)

Where would a list of proto-punk records be without The Kinks? Where would punk be without the Kinks? “Lola” was one of the first songs to discuss gender identity, even if it wasn’t necessarily politically correct, and has been covered numerous times by various artists. Bands such as The Plimsouls (“Come On Now”), The Jam (“David Watts”), and The Stranglers (“All The Day and All The Night”) have covered their songs. Even the Adolescents took on “All The Day…” while adding their snotty Cali hardcore twist. “You Really Got Me” is definitely an early demonstration of punk, with its choppy powerchords and blaring drums. Their influence is still present today in current bands. This is their fifth release, but showed the most advancement from their previous stereotypical British Invasion sound. It’s dripping in sarcasm and irony, taking a step away from the serious rock n roll heroes of the time. The opening track is “David Watts,” a pounding song with the catchiest of choruses. It’s an iconic mod track. “Death of a Clown” is soaked with the influence of Bob Dylan, sung by Dave Davies.

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Dictators – Go Girl Crazy (1975)

Another band born out of the budding New York punk scene, the Dictators’ rock n’ roll was harder than other bands at the time without being metal. There’s hints of a Black Sabbath influence, but they have a distinct sound that helped lay the groundwork for punk. It’s sarcastic, it’s snotty, it’s loud – fronted by “Handsome” Dick Manitoba, they were like nothing that had been heard before. Go Girl Crazy kicks off with one of Dick’s seemingly pretentious diatribes before going into “The Next Big Thing,” a hard rock opener. It almost touches on arena rock, but it’s sneeringly tongue in cheek. “Back To Africa” is all over the place, with verses that are soaked in roots influence before kicking into a fast paced chorus. Another great song is “Teengenerate,” a typical teen anthem that’s considerably more toned down than the rest of the album. It’s almost Dolls-esque, with harmonies and a trebly guitar riff. The album also has covers of “I Got You” and “California Sun,” which is a far surfier tornado than the Ramones version. Overall, the album is an audio attack of sarcasm and insane guitar solos.

 

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2016 Scrutinized

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AVALON’S TOP WHATEVERS

ALBUMS

The Cowboys – Self Titled (January 2016, Bloomington,
Lumpy Records)
Dark Thoughts – Self Titled (April 2016, Philly, Stupid
Bag Records)
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension (April 2016, Portland,
Fat Wreck)
Lumpy And The Dumpers – Huff My Sack (May 2016, St.
Louis, Lumpy Records)
Cinderblock – Self Titled (July 2016, Boston, Brain
Solvent Propaganda)
Crown Court – Capital Offence (August 2016, UK, Katorga
Works)
Pure Disgust – Self Titled (August 2016, DC, Katorga
Works)
Cheena – Spend The Night With… (August 2016, NYC,
Sacred Bones)
Vanity – Don’t Be Shy (August 2016, NYC, Katorga Works)
Totally Slow – Bleed Out (September 2016, Greensboro, Self Aware)
Omegas – Power To Exist (November 2016, Montreal, Beach
Impediment Records)

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EPS

Strutter – Self Titled (February 2016, Austin, Beach
Impediment Records)
Holders Scar – World Fever (April 2016, Greensboro,
self released)
Blackball  – Self Titled (April 2016, Raleigh, Sorry State Records)
Rixe – Les Nerfs A Vif (April 2016, France, La Vida Es
Un Mus)
JJ Doll – Self Titled (June 2016, NYC, Katorga Works)
Beta Boys – Real Rockers (March 2016, Kansas City,
Lumpy Records)
Warthog – Self Titled (August 2016, NYC, Beach
Impediment Records)
Drugcharge – Self Titled (August 2016, Raleigh, Sorry State Records)
Haram – What Do You See (September 2016, NYC, Toxic
State)
Color TV – Self Titled (September 2016, St Paul,
Deranged Records)

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Green Beret – Standing at the Mouth of Hell (March
2016, Boston, Side Two)
Blood Pressure – Need To Control (April 2016, PGH,
Beach Impediment Records)
Liquids – Hot Liqs (May 2016, NWI, Drunken Sailor)
Bad Eric – 6 Songs (May 2016, Greensboro, self
released)
Fried Egg – Delirium (July 2016, Richmond, Negative
Jazz)
Mommy – Songs About Children (September 2016, NYC,
Toxic State)
Nancy – With Child (September 2016, NYC, Eat The Life)
Sonic Avenues – Disconnector (October 2016, Montreal,
Dirtnap)
SLIP – Slippery When Wet (November 2016, PGH, Sorry
State)

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Photo of me screaming at the Zero Boys set by Angela Owens

SHOWS

Damaged City Fest (April 2016)
Highlight: Having Kenny Scumstack tell me he’s going to “get the band back together” RE: Unholy Thoughts. Best bands would be Zero Boys, Torso, SHIT, and Dame.

The Ergs @ The Chris Gethard Show (May 2016)
Highlight: It’s the fucking Ergs.

Punk Rock Bowling @ Stone Pony (June 2016)
Highlight: facetiming my dad during Flag, dislocating my rib during Cock Sparrer.

Cro Mags/Breakdown/Token Entry/Antidote/Maximum Penalty
@ Tompkins Square Park (July 2016)
Highlight: Literally dying of heat stroke during Cro Mags.

Municipal Waste/Career Suicide/Double Negative/Caustic
Christ/Blood Pressure @ some brewery in Richmond
(August 2016)
Highlight: Seeing Double fucking Negative!

Go Go’s @ Stone Pony (August 2016)
Highlight: Jane Wiedlin being a perfect angel.

Evan Dando @ City Winery (August 2016)
Highlight: Nothing about the show. It was a trainwreck. But afterwards, he chased my friends and I down the street yelling “you’re not getting away from me with that Eater backpatch!”

Bruce Springsteen @ The Meadowlands (August 2016)
Highlight: Convincing the ladies beside Anna and I that I was going to propose to them, crying to “4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy)”

Diat/Warthog/JJ Doll/Vacant Life @ 538 (September 2016)
Highlight: Swimming in my own sweat during Diat, puking off the roof.

Buzzcocks @ Irving Plaza (October 2016)
Highlight: telling my mom I’m going to get up front, look behind me halfway through “Harmony in my Head” and seeing her yowling.

Green Day @ Webster Hall (October 2016)
Highlight: the setlist which included “Armatage Shanks” and “409 in your Coffeemaker.”

Vanilla Poppers/Kaleidescope/Yam Bag/Porvenir Obscuro @ Matchless (December 2016)
Highlight: Vanilla Poppers’ frontwoman writhing on the floor.

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ANNA’S TOP WHATEVERS

ALBUMS

  1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Skeleton Tree – the saddest album of 2016, this album is dripping with mourning and is the only album on my list I haven’t been spinning regularly because it’s just so heavy. It feels like one long song, but in this case that isn’t a complaint.
  2. Pure Disgust, s/t- the best hardcore record of 2016 and even NPR and Rolling Stone agree, these dudes deserve all of the praise they receive.
  3. Sonic  Avenues, Disconnecter – I love when a band does a new or different thing (going down a different SONIC AVENUE here, eh, eh) and it works so well in this case. Put a little post punk in your garage rock with these kids from Montreal
  4. Dyke Drama, Up Against the Bricks – Sadie from GLOSS has a Replacements-core band?? Sign me the fuck up. In all seriousness, these songs are heart wrenching and important and fun as hell to sing along to as well.
  5. Mean Jeans, Tight New Dimension – more jams from one of the best live bands out there right now. Keeping up with their repertoire of fun drinking songs, this band is rock n roll personified right now and always makes music that gets you stoked.
  6. Somnia, How the Moon Shines on the Shit – heartfelt songs from members of RVIVR, Latterman, and the Max Levine Ensemble. Doing pop punk right, writing songs about sleep and dreams that instantly worked themselves into regular rotation for me.
  7. Super Unison, Auto – anyone who went into listening to this expecting Punch part two was sorely mistaken; Auto draws from post punk and its anger is as present as it is mature and incisive. Do not sleep on this band.
  8. Tenement, Bruised Music Volume 2 – it’s dad rock without being boring, fun without being silly, and unique without trying too hard. Not a huge leap from their other releases but nuanced enough to stand on its own.
  9. Big Eyes, Stake My Claim – the guitar work on this album makes my heart sing. Bands like mean jeans are super fun in their brand of garage rock, and that definitely has its place but so does Big Eyes’ take, which leans more dark and serious without losing it’s catchiness.
  10. Mommy, Songs About Children – make hardcore weird again

HONORABLE MENTION : Diat, Positive Energy – this was released in 2015 but i didn’t hear it until 2016 (because timezones or exchange rates or…something) and it’s honestly my album of the year without a doubt

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7”s

  1. GLOSS, Trans Day of Revenge – like any good hardcore band, they release a small amount of music and disappear forever. We’ll miss you, GLOSS.
  2. Sheer Mag, III – DIY Thin Lizzy; Sheer Mag is as fun as they are important. Aggressive and riff heavy, songs to make you want to dance and organize.
  3. Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion B-Sides – emotion was a fantastic album, and the B-sides manage to still blow it out of the water. It’s 80’s inspired synth pop at it’s finest, danceable and sincere without being reductive.
  4. Night Witch, Tour Tape 2016 – it can be so devastating and emotionally exhausting to exist as a femme or a woman or a survivor in this world, and any bit of respite we would hope to obtain from joining a subculture like punk or hardcore can be spit back in our faces as more and more people are outed as abusers. Night Witch lets it be knows that they are here for the outcasts of the outcasts, and the songs are tight as fuck on top of that.
  5. HIRS, You Can’t Kill Us/Trans Day of Revenge – this band can do no wrong to me. Aggressive and aggressively gay, the powerviolence (I don’t even like ascribing the band a genre at all, though) collective is out there making some of the most authentic and important music (and a ton of it too) out right now. Pay attention.

SHOWS

  1. The Ergs @ Hi Dive, Gainesville (Fest 15)
  2. Iron Chic @ Loosey’s, Gainesville (Fest 15)
  3. Night Witch @ ABC No Rio in Exile, Brooklyn
  4. Bruce Springsteen @ Meadowlands , New Jersey
  5. The Sonics @ Warsaw, Brooklyn

Hell Comes To Your Blog, Pt 3: DC

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Minor Threat

When Black Flag first started shredding on the West Coast, DC was forming its own scene. Emerging from the small punk scene that had been established by bands like the Slickee Boys, DC hardcore maintained a largely DIY ethos. Because many of the venues were basements or churches, it lent itself to be more welcoming to younger punks than places like New York or Los Angeles, where most shows were in clubs and all ages venues were scarce.

In the dawn of DC hardcore, the Bad Brains formed in 1976. Initially they weren’t even a punk band – beginning as a jazz fusion band called Mind Power, they transitioned into a tougher sound after discovering bands like the Dead Boys and the Sex Pistols. Few bands at the time reached the momentous tempo their songs possessed, with H.R.’s snarling voice topping searing guitar licks from Dr. Know. Not only was their sound incredibly innovative, they were some of the first pioneers of all-African American punk groups (along with lesser-known Death from Detroit). They relocated to New York after they were “Banned In DC” for having notoriously wild shows with rough pits, but their impact on DC’s punk scene was ineradicable.

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Bad Brains

 

Georgetown University became a central location for the growing scene, with its student-run radio station WGTB being the primary means of access for teenagers in the community to discover new music. After WGTB was shut down, the students hosted a benefit that featured The Cramps. This was  the first punk show that Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson ever attended, and its impact was obvious. Influenced by bands like the Bad Brains, the two formed the Teen Idles, an aggressive punk band with barking vocals and splitting guitar riffs. Their seminal EP, Minor Distrubance, laid the groundwork for the future of DCHC. MacKaye ultimately decided he wanted to be a frontman, and Minor Threat was spawned from the ashes of Teen Idles. Unarguably the most important band to come from that scene, Minor Threat had a huge influence on their peers and community. Bands like S.O.A. (featuring Henry Garfield, later Rollins), Void, The Faith (featuring Alec MacKaye), Iron Cross, Youth Brigade, and Government Issue formed in their wake. Straightedge, as a movement, also was started in part due to the efforts of Minor Threat, whose song “Out Of Step” declared “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t fuck.” Nelson and MacKaye also founded the pivotal record label, Dischord Records, which is still actively putting out albums today. Ian MacKaye also fronted several other influential bands, including Embrace and Fugazi.

Revolution Summer occurred in 1985, challenging the state of punk at the time. It had transitioned into a tough guys’ scene, largely in part due to slamdancing and skinhead violence. Shows had become violent and aggressive, with women and other marginalized groups pushed out. Ian MacKaye became disenchanted with the new norm of punk and, along with people like Amy Pickering of the band Fire Party, began restructuring the scene. There was metamorphosis of sound from abrasive machismo bands to more melodic and emotive hardcore. Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, and Embrace came to the forefront of the scene, confronting the aggressive mindset that had consumed DC. Rites of Spring, though short lived, transformed the idea that hardcore had to be pigeonholed into blast beats and splintering guitar. Their complex song structure bent the rules of hardcore, with lyrical content that focused on personal issues, not typically seen in punk bands at the time. After the demise of Rites of Spring, Fugazi was formed and continued to play until 2003.

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Pure Disgust

DC continues to be run with the same do-it-yourself thought process as it was based on. Shows are mostly hosted at pizza joints, churches, or whoever opens their doors to them. It has grown even more diverse in recent years, with women, POC, and LGBTQ+ members of the community dominating many of the bands. The scene continues to encourage younger kids to join bands and take part, something that’s incredibly rare in a society where most shows are held at 18+ or 21+ venues. Just a handful of contemporary bands include Pure Disgust (featured in NPR’s top 50 albums of 2016), Stuck Pigs, Stand Off, and Protester, with dozens more springing up around them. You can read more about that here.

You can also find paragraphs about the Bad Brains and Minor Threat here.

Thanks to Farrah for the photo of Pure Disgust.

RECORDS I THINK ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHERS BECAUSE I HAVE AN OPINION

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SOA – NO POLICY (1981)

Before Henry Rollins was writhing around onstage fronting Black Flag, he was Henry Garfield, working at Haagen Dazs with Ian MacKaye. He also fronted State Of Alert, along with Michael Hampton and Ivor Hanson, who’d go on to play in The Faith. Hampton would also later join Embrace. Though not as often acknowledged as Black Flag, SOA was pivotal to the DC hardcore scene. No Policy features a whopping ten songs that pack a punch on an eight-and-a-half minute seven inch, writing off cops and girls and addicts ruining the scene. Rollins’ signature hoarse howls are backed by urgent powerchords and sped up drums. The record is raw and underproduced but that only adds to the snarling attitude the band forces on you. It kicks off with a song renouncing drug addicts, a common theme in DC at the time. “Lost In Space” is about being better than someone who’s constantly walking around in a daze and missing out on their surroundings. While a first listen to “Girl Problems” might seem a little sexist, reverse the pronouns and it’s honestly a little empowering. It’s less about girls being fucked up and more about how you shouldn’t rely on a romantic partner to make you feel validated. The song is peppered with fight anthems and shit talking. “Gate Crashers,” a song talking shit about a washed up musician, has the line “your hair’s too long/and so’s your set” which describes the antithesis of the DC hardcore scene. At the time, Rollins had a shaved head and I mean, this record is eight minutes.

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GOVERNMENT ISSUE – LEGLESS BULL (1981)

Government Issue wrote fast, angry songs renouncing the “cool guy” aesthetic many punks had adopted. “Rock n Roll Bullshit” probably sums this up best; John Stabb growls about how he’s sick of the Clash and the Ramones and Supertramp and so on. So what’d Government Issue in response to being bored of what was being handed to them? They released Legless Bull, a pivotal album that helped shaped DC’s punk scene. The EP clocks in at barely nine minutes, but delivers ten songs in that span of time. They’re quick and barely give you time to realize what they’re about, but you can gather the sentiment from the splintering guitar and what few tongue-in-cheek lyrics you can understand. Even when Stabb’s spitting vocals are incomprehensible, the guitar riffs are catchy as they screech over blasting drums. The EP features the original version of “Asshole,” about a dude showing up at a show just to be a dick and starting fights instead of listening to the music. “Asshole” was later re-recorded with Ian MacKaye. The songs on the record flow seamlessly into each other while being distinct enough to play on their own, ending on another song talking shit about stupid trendy idiots, “Cowboy Fashion.”

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FAITH/VOID SPLIT (1982)

“Faith vs Void” is an argument I constantly have with myself. I mean, there’s no correct answer. Both sides are absolutely incredible. Void definitely seem to have a little more of a cult status (I mean, I have the two crosses stabbed into my leg), but The Faith, fronted by Alec MacKaye, are just as crucial to the scene. They’re almost incomparable in their influence, but their combined efforts make this one of the most vital records of the time. The Faith side kicks off with “It’s Time,” which almost sounds like the Stooges played at 45rpm thanks to the thick bass sound. The Faith side may be a little tamer, with generic lyrics about being straightedge and denouncing “cool guy” acts, but their musical quality surpasses their peers with similar subject matter. Alec MacKaye definitely does not hide in his brother’s shadow; his voice is commanding and full of rage. The Faith utilize insanely quick paced blasts coupled with calculated breakdowns, creating a sound not incredibly unique, but definitely well articulated. But where do you start with Void? Where as the Faith lacked originality, Void transcended the bands of their time. Though they had just as much indignation as bands like SOA and Teen Idles, they had a particularly idiosyncratic sound. There’s pounding drums, warped guitar, and what could’ve been too much feedback had they been any other band. There’s a distinctive Sabbath influence in the rumbling bass and singer John Weiffenbach obviously was a fan of Darby Crash, but Void were not like any other band. Void cut themselves loose from the confines of the genre, with taunting lyrics spat out over shredding solos. But I mean, for a band who isn’t going to listen to “those fools, I’m gonna live by my rules,” would you expect them to compartmentalize themselves?

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RITES OF SPRING – SELF TITLED (1985)

Rites of Spring were one of the first bands to shift the hardcore sound away from aggro-tough guy hardcore and steer it towards a more conceptual, melodic genre. Their self-titled clocks in at nearly forty minutes, a real feat for DC punk.  Both this and the Faith/Void split are mentioned in Kurt Cobain’s iconic list of his favorite records. Rites of Spring often reject being labeled “emo,” but definitely have more intimate lyrics than their predecessors of punk. The step away from traditional hardcore is also obvious in the composition of the songs. Instead of searing powerchords and blistering drums over verse-chorus-verse-chorus-end, there’s intricate guitar patterns and structured sections. Guy Picciotto’s yowling voice is almost constantly pleading over the course of the record, emoting more than just the quintessential gruff barks found in earlier bands. Both Picciotto and drummer Brandon Canty would go on to play in Fugazi, another highly influential post-hardcore band from DC that featured Ian MacKaye. The whole album is consistently strong, but a few songs stand out more than others. The third track, “For Want Of,” is lyrically desperate. While before, bands had just focused on fighting and police and what drugs they do or don’t do, this song is devastatingly real in that it describes the feeling of being ready to give up. “All There Is” is almost a love song, twisting with bass that compliments the lead guitar under Picciotto’s hoarse screams. While Rites of Spring as a band reject the “emo” label, they were incredibly instrumental on the conception of the genre.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

IRON CROSS – SKINHEAD GLORY (1982)

SCREAM – STILL SCREAMING (1983)

MARGINAL MAN – IDENTITY (1984)

EMBRACE – SELF TITLED (1987)

FUGAZI – 13 SONGS (1989)

The Replassments, Volume Three

Here’s the third and potentially last part of our Replacements word vomit. Not sure if we’ll do the last two records, but stay tuned to find out.

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TIM – AVALON KENNY

Tim is a sign of the Replacements after finally getting a grasp on that quintessential “’Mats sound.” Coming quick on the heels of Let It Be, the record hangs onto the college rock sound they’d grown into post-Hootenanny. The first half is a little more restrained, leaning heavily on power pop hooks and classic rock n’ roll chords. The second half is the ‘Mats unleashed, with crushingly sincere songs about the realities of love, disappointment, and alcoholism. Paul Westerberg’s stereotypically adolescent anguish somewhat grows up and focuses more on the realization of mortality and working class blues through the lyrics on Tim. The songs take on a new voice, but the themes are still there. Produced by Thomas Erdelyi (better known as Tommy Ramone), the record serves as a segue between Tim and the poppy Pleased To Meet Me.

The opening track, “Hold My Life,” is remarkably more toned down than their other openers like “I Will Dare” or “Takin’ A Ride,” but is still equally enamoring. It shows their transition towards college rock, somewhat amusing as they never attended college and spent a whole lot of time talkin’ shit about REM. It’s another classically heartbreaking ‘Mats song, showing how desperately dependent Westerberg could be. While a little more “mellow” than some previous tracks, the song is still catchy and pure rock ‘n’ roll. Then there’s another rocker, “I’ll Buy,” which sounds like it could’ve been a Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry b-side. There’s twangy guitar, a rockabilly drumbeat, and repetitive, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

“Kiss Me On The Bus” is another one of Westerberg’s songs with lyrics that pull on your heartstrings. It’s hard to romanticize public transit – where it’s not uncommon to see a hobo’s penis or have to sidestep shit as Anna did last week – but somehow he manages to do it in a desperately longing way. The singer desperately wants to have a public display of affection but his love interest clearly is trying not to cause a scene. But I mean…who wants to make out in a seat that has a 90% chance of being pissed on in the past 24 hours? The song leans more powerpop than rock or punk, and is probably one of the more youthful songs on the record.

Up next is “Dose of Thunder,” whose chugging verses are somewhat recreated in their later song “Shootin’ Dirty Pool.” It’s got a killer Bob Stinson solo, and is probably one of the punker songs on the record. “Waitress In The Sky” kind of sounds like “If Only You Were Lonely,” part two, but there’s a stark contrast with the lyrics. It’s a little misogynist, but I guess we can let it slide because it’s very obviously sarcastic (Westerberg’s sister was a flight attendant). It’s from the perspective of a demanding customer who is disrespectful and an asshole, over a bluesy guitar riff. The loungy “Swingin’ Party” is a kind of depressing reality about not wanting to grow up and continuing to party your life away. Certain verses are almost Springsteen-esque as they discuss being a working class kid trying to make your way through life but being brought down by the routine of drinking and perpetual adolescence.

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But what is there to say about “Bastards of Young” that hasn’t already been said by fans or critics? Easily one of their most recognized songs, it’s also the song that got them kicked off of SNL. It’s lyrically advanced, a depressing anthem of the working class. From the moment that Stinson’s fingers hit the frets and you hear Westerberg’s piercing wail – the song grabs you straight in the gut. The lyrics are agonizingly blunt about the harsh reality of growing up poor in a poor town. The line “income tax deduction/one hell of a function” is a reference to Westerberg’s mom inducing labor so he would be born in 1959 and claimed in that tax year. One of the most heartbreaking lines has gotta be “the ones who love us best/are the ones we’ll lay to rest/visit their graves on holidays at best” juxtaposed with “the ones who love us least/are the ones we’ll die to please/if it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them.”

“Lay It Down Clown” serves as the album’s comic relief amongst the heartbreaking working class anthems and songs about desperation. It’s another rockabilly song, with the background vocals hinting at later Stones records. But it’s nothing compared to “Left Of The Dial” – which is about Lynn Blakey, the college rock sweetheart who played in bands ranging from The Broken Crayons to Let’s Active. Westerberg was so enamored with her that he’d search for her on the college radio stations, and this song relies heavily on imagery and sadly optimistic lyrics. He kind of glorifies her (as he should) through a secret love song. The song could easily have fit on Let It Be stylistically but deserves its spot on Tim, some glimmer of hope between hopeless lyrics.

Speaking of hopeless, the last two tracks are the embodiment of the word. “Little Mascara” is a love story gone wrong. Focusing on an abusive relationship, the guitar heavy song wrenches at your gut. It plays on the weak, codependent aspect of a relationship. Lines like “for the moon you keep on shooting,” showing the endless hope the woman has that maybe he’ll get better, are matched with “for the kids you stay together.” Ultimately, “all you’re ever losing is a little mascara” is one of the most brilliant metaphors for crying. Along with incredible lyrics, the guitar solo is one of the greatest on the record. Finally, there’s the Replacements’ classic “Here Comes A Regular.” Painfully relatable, anyone who ever has been a regular would understand. It focuses on bar culture, and the feeling that you fit in at a bar where people know your name while trying to forget the bleakness of your actual life. Some lyrics are almost sanguine, because you can find someone else who is also a “regular” who will drown their sorrows beside you. You’re stuck in a routine of working and drinking, wanting to feel special, but the only time you feel special is when the bartender remembers your name because you’ve gone to that bar so many times. You’re stuck.

The album is anthemic in and of itself, with such songs like “Bastards of Young” and “Here Comes A Regular” easily being defined as ones’ theme song. It’s dripping with working class laments and the quintessential Westerberg aching depression. Coasting off the high left from Let It Be, it’s the perfect passage between that record and Pleased To Meet Me.

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PLEASED TO MEET ME – ANNA THEODORA 

Not strictly a punk album, not really indie, sort of college rock, mostly rock n roll: Pleased to Meet Me finds itself occupying many spaces at once. To define an album by a lyric may be reductive but “one foot in the door/ the other one in the gutter,” howled over a raucous din on “I Don’t Know” may begin to capture the spirit on the ‘Mats’ fifth studio album. Their only effort recorded as a trio, right after Bob Stinson’s departure, portrays a band pulling itself in all directions at once. Some songs pull towards mainstream radio play, some pull back to the dirty punk origins of the band, and some break new ground entirely.

Before I break this down any further, I’m going to just come out and say that I really like Pleased to Meet Me. Like, a lot. I see where it dulls in comparison to perennial favorites Tim and Let it Be, and I acknowledge where it shines in a way all its own in the band’s discography and as an alternative rock album. I don’t see a band ‘selling out,’ if by that one means they compromise their integrity or creative output. Pleased to Meet Me sounds like a lot of anguish, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of desperation. The loss of a member and the ongoing substance use and abuse by the band have this album feeling very raw, even as it explores more radio-friendly territory and genre bending. Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic described it as, in many was, “the last true Replacements record,” and I’m inclined to agree on this front. Self-destruction and self-effacement can lend themselves to making great art, but it’s not necessarily sustainable, and in later efforts the band’s shine would be dulled as they for all intents, imploded.

Something seen consistently through the bands first albums and their live persona was an abject refusal to take things all too seriously. The album opener, “IOU,” has Paul Westerberg making sure all the industry reps hoping to cash in on them were aware of that by sneering “I owe you nothing,” while buzzsaw guitars screech in the background. Westerberg seems nonplussed with the idea of material success at best, and having the ‘mainstream album’ start off with a song about how bored he is with dealing with the industry is classic Replacements; flirting with and ultimately denying success. The track that follows is an absolute masterpiece, (“I’m in love with that song”). Paying homage to power pop legend and Big Star frontman in both name and style, “Alex Chilton,” shows off the ‘Mats’ ability to write a killer pop song but to then play it with a aggressive rock n roll edge to make it truly memorable. A band not bound by their influences, this isn’t some rip off of a Big Star song, but something that nods and winks at them while still being completely unique. Chilton himself would end up playing guitar for the Replacements, notably on this album’s closer “Can’t Hardly Wait.”“I Don’t Know” follows “IOU” in it’s nonchalant, unimpressed attitude, an autobiographical song where the band couldn’t really care less about what happens next, expressing that they’re pretty much just fucked regardless.

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I mentioned earlier that this album has a feeling of rawness to it, of desperation and angst and where this comes through most is the back-to-back couplet of “The Ledge” and “Never Mind.” These songs are both really, really dark, and have an inherent feeling of being trapped or stifled. “The Ledge” sounds like someone coming to their breaking point, years of repressed frustrations coming to a dramatic boil. And “Never Mind,” sounds like the regret that follows, as someone tries hastily to put back all of the things they said when they were angry; a task that’s futile at best.

The rest of the album veers back and forth between chaos and  quiet. “Valentine” mixes metaphors between substance use and being in love, not an unexplored way of talking about either of those subjects in rock n roll. Westerberg seems ready to be destroyed by his ‘Valentine,’ knowing that with every good high comes the comedown, intoxicated by the moments that culminate before the inevitable crushing disappointment. “Skyway” is the polar opposite. Westerberg talks about the Skyway in Minneapolis, where it’s so cold in the winter that folks have to travel from place to place via a set of elevated hallways, how the city itself remains so empty and stark, and how the homeless population would seek shelter in the Skyway. The background information on the track paints a stark image of an abandoned metropolis in the dead of winter, everyone’s faces buried in their winter coats as they rush between their homes and jobs. The song uses this stark emptiness to its advantage and places it apart from both the verse-chorus-verse pop dynamics and the raucous chaos found other places on the album. It’s a beauty, but a sad beauty. The seasonal depression of Replacements songs, when not even a blanket of twinkling snow can cover up the feeling of hopelessness.

The album culminates with “Can’t Hardly Wait,” a visceral sucker punch of a song. The chorus builds impressively, with a tasteful saxophone, and sounds incredibly hopeful and excited at first glance. The whole song, down to the unforgettable guitar refrain, seems burgeoning with hope. Later on, a film about the last big party of high school would take it’s name from the track, amplifying the phrase as something nearly giddy. It has that kind of feeling running all of the way through it. Twinkle in your eye kind of stuff. However, a closer glance at the lyrics, or especially at the Tim version shows the darker current running just underneath the glimmer of hope that “Can’t Hardly Wait” provides. It’s a song about suicide; it’s about how you can’t hardly wait for things to get any worse, or even scarier, for them to stay the same. Earlier in the album on tracks like “IOU” and “I Don’t Know,” it seems almost as if the ‘Mats are goofing on an audience who thought they were on the inside of the joke. It’s a retention of the “fuck you” attitude, even shrouded within a pop song. You could look back to the Sex Pistols last concert for the same feeling, with Johnny Rotten sneering “ever got a feeling you’ve been cheated?” into the mic. It’s even better, in that way, to be an exclamation of hopelessness shrouded in hopefulness, where sometimes all you can do is laugh at the “ashtray floors, dirty clothes, and filthy jokes” that have come to comprise your life.

While it may not be an album “about depression” in the sense that it was intended to be, Pleased to Meet Me nearly works as a case study. You can see mania and its comedown, you can see someone throwing themselves headlong into harmful behavior just to break the cycle of numbness, and you can see the cracks that come from being put under pressure in all directions. It doesn’t hit you over the head as a concept album and was by all means not intended to be one, but it speaks to a desolate experience from all angles and definitely helps find comfort in those experiences; ones near universal but deceptive in their way to make you feel isolated. It’s the final installation in our series for a reason — the rawness encapsulated in Pleased to Meet Me could not be recaptured by the Replacements again in their career, and the things that made it so raw and poignant were reflections of the factors that would be the downfall of the band.

The Replassments, Volume Two

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Here’s the second installment of the three-or-four-piece-series-I-haven’t-decided-yet focused on our favorite band, The Replacements. Today we’ll be talking about the two albums that showed the Replacements’ true progression of genres from punk to garage-meets-powerpop-meets-punk-meets-Johnny Thunders.

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HOOTENANNY – AVALON KENNY

Hootenanny is not a huge departure from the loud and angsty punk of Sorry Ma and Stink, but it definitely shows a step towards the poppy sounds the ‘Mats would adopt with future albums. Hootenanny is noise driven, peppered with punk anthems with scattered songs foreshadowing the transition away from the aggressiveness of ‘81.

Kicking off with the bass laden, almost falling apart title track, “Hootenanny,” there’s already an obvious shift in the band’s sound. It’s not an incredibly serious song, but there’s an almost blues undertone to it. The song stumbles along, sounding just as drunk as the band recording it. Up next is a more stereotypical ‘Mats song, and the song my dad decided was a good idea to play on repeat when I learned how to drive. “Run It” shoots you straight back to Sorry Ma, crashing and loud with growling vocals. Bob Stinson’s guitar chugs along, mirroring “Takin’ A Ride,” another song about reckless driving.

“Color Me Impressed” is probably the earliest example of the path the band would follow. It would fit just as well on Let It Be or Tim. You almost wanna think it’s out of place on Hootenanny, especially following the pounding “Run It.” But even though it seems like a misfit, it shines as one of the greatest tracks on the record. Paul Westerberg’s voice is notably less reminiscent of a snarl and more melodic than he’d previously allowed himself to be. It starts to touch on his distinct vocals that you’d find on later records. The song maintains the angsty aesthetic commonly found in other songs, but serves it up in a different sound. “Willpower” is weird. I don’t really wanna talk about it. It definitely has cool vocal effects, at the least?

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After the comedown of the previous songs, “Take Me Down To The Hospital” picks you right back up and punches you in the face. It’s definitely faster, with Stinson’s ragged, screeching guitar over chugging power chords and plodding drums. Westerberg wails over a noisy guitar interlude, and the song goes up and down repeatedly until falling apart. “Mr Whirly” is faster and more rock ‘n’ roll than punk. You can hear the Johnny Thunders’ influence in the guitar, and there’s a less-than-sober Beatles callback (Stinson was a huge fan of the Beatles). It immediately picks back up for the ending, with Paul’s almost expected howls screeching as it ends.

And then there’s another hint to the future of the ‘Mats, with “Within Your Reach.” Backed by a drum machine, because Chris Mars could never quite get it the way Westerberg wanted it, it’s another bummer. Paul’s desperation takes the form of an almost-ballad instead of buzzsaw guitar and screeching. A heartbreaking, slow wail, the song is one of the first allowances of Westerberg’s vulnerability. To give you a breather between the punch in the gut received by Paul’s heavy-hearted wails, they give you two minutes to get your shit back together with “Buck Hill.” An instrumental, surfy number, it’s not quite as complex as Dick Dale or anything, but maybe hints at their affection for the Ventures.

After the surf segue, Paul’s vocals return on “Loveliness” to sarcastically read off the classifieds section of a newspaper over a swinging rhythm section. “You Lose” and “Hayday” are definitely the dregs of Mats of 1981 draining out. Both are upbeat, snarly punk numbers, both backed by pounding drums and the last bits of Westerberg’s screeches. The album closes out with “Treatment Bound,” a tongue in cheek, folk-punk anthem with sarcastic lyrics.

Hootenanny definitely shows the transformation to the Mats of the mid 80s. It clings to bits of the more hardcore influenced teenagers they used to be, but shows an expansion of talent. It’s the perfect passage to…

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LET IT BE – ANNA THEODORA

Whereas Hootennany may have been the first Replacements record to notably veer away from their earlier, true-to-genre punk, Let it Be was a step forward into solidifying a unique sound for the band outside of the usual conventions. Though not a massive success when it came out (possibly also due to the band’s self-sabotaging and self destructive tendencies), the album finds itself solidly placed amongst “best of” lists over and over again. It serves as a middle ground in the band’s career, a bridge between the more immature sounds on their earlier efforts and the more mature, unique songwriting they would experiment with later on. By and large, choosing to produce the record themselves is what makes this truly authentic Replacements. It’s what allowed the band to explore and to play their hearts out with the ragged sincerity that makes them such a mainstay among music fans and misfit kids.

“I Will Dare,” the album opener, serves as a distinct microcosm of what’s to be expected throughout the next hour or so. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll song, it’s a garage song, it’s a love song and it’s more than all of those at the same time. At this point, the band is working in harmonious chaos, serving up a bassline and a chorus that will get stuck in your head all day, while still retaining the manic energy of the dueling guitars and complimented by Westerberg’s sometimes desperate sounding yells. The rest of side A continues in a similar fashion, with simple and sweet “Favorite Thing” and the charmingly aggressive “We’re Comin’ Out” and culminates with  a KISS cover, of all things, that the ‘Mats manage to spin into a dirty-sounding garage jam.

To me, “Androgynous” is in a category all it’s own. Not a love song like “Favorite Thing” is a love song, and wildly different from the subject matter of something like “Gary’s Got a Boner,” “Androgynous” is tender and moving and stark, particularly in comparison to the rest of side A. The first song on the album (and in the band’s career) to not be helmed by guitars, the piano refrain becomes instantly recognizable while Paul does his best to croon. And the story that unfolds is a moving one, about two folks in love with each other in spite of being at odds with the world. “Androgynous” in three minutes explores a more nuanced and heartfelt perspective on gender identity and expression in 1984 than most bands in 2016 will even consider to do in their entire careers. There is much to learn from the Replacements’, whether speaking towards their influence on music or as warning in the way they handled their ups and downs, but there is so much more to learn still from “Androgynous.” 32 years later, future outcasts are still tryin’ to dress the way that they please, and the song stays as brutally relevant as when it was released.

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Side B starts and ends with two of the most gut wrenching songs the Replacements would ever put out. What can be said about “Unsatisfied” that hasn’t already been said to death? It speaks towards a universal yearning in all senses of the song. Westerberg, again, sounds desperate on this song, but delivering the lyrics in less of a hoarse yelp and more of a plea, while the guitar tone creates a sonic dissonance that adds to the track a feeling of desperation that lyrics alone could not convey. “Answering Machine” rounds out the album in a devastating fashion. At this point in time, many of us simply don’t know what it’s like to say you’re okay or goodnight to an answering machine, or at least not in our recent memory. Sending out a text for a loved one too far away reach out and reassure you only to be met with the read receipt or complete silence conveys the same heart wrenching ache that pushes itself to the forefront of this song.

While giving nods to their roots in punk, Let it Be looks towards an uncertain future for the band. In the end, though, it serves to summarize each facet of what a unique band was really about. The Replacements always straddled the gap; professional and amateur, punk and college rock, put together and falling apart. Let it Be is all of those things, it’s a calling card and a moment in time and a reason why many later artists plugged in guitars or shouted their heart out into a microphone. The juxtaposition of the raucous guitars and indomitable spirit with soul-baring lyrics have made this band unrelentingly unforgettable, and has caused albums like Let it Be to stand the test of time, and be something I’m sure will only grow with relevance as more time passes and more kids get turned on to those trouble boys out of Minneapolis.

Hell Comes To Your Blog, Pt2: Texas

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[Part of a series focusing on seminal hardcore records]

Hardcore first started to creep into Texas in the late 70s. Punk had been present in the state for a couple of years before after the emergence of the Ramones and the CBGBs scene. Bands like The Skunks and The Violators (featuring Kathy Valentine who would later join the Go-Go’s) created the groundwork for what would later become one of the most prominent punk scenes in the country. Both bands went on to have influence on the city around them, forming a core base around the nightclub Raul’s. The venue kind of became a Mecca for Texas punk. Touring bands ranging from Devo to Elvis Costello would show up – and Patti Smith even dropped in specifically to play with The Skunks. It also became a kind of DIY-haven for the punks of Austin, giving a place for bands to play and even inspiring the zine Sluggo! to begin printing. As hardcore gained popularity and infect the state, tons of bands began to pop up around Austin and Houstin. The main three bands at the head of the Austin scene were The Stains (later MDC), Big Boys, and The Dicks – cultivating a new kind of hardcore with a distinct “Texas” sound, and inspiring tons of bands around them. In Houston there was Really Red, who had an ever-changing sound while maintaining the tough aggression of their peers, and DRI, who would later become one of the first crossover thrash-punk bands of the time. At some point there was a mass-exodus from Texas to San Francisco, but the bands would remain true to their Texan sound and continue to frequent Raul’s on tours and pilgrimages. Nowadays, bands like Glue and Impalers hold the torch for Texas hardcore. While there’s a definite progression towards a new sound, without the foundation laid by punk pioneers like MDC and the Dicks, it’s likely the scene wouldn’t be nearly what it is now.

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MDC (as Stains) – John Wayne Was A Nazi/Born To Die 7” (1981, Austin)

Though the band would later relocate to San Francisco, MDC’s roots were in Austin. At the time, they were billed as Stains, but they maintained the high energy, socio-political mindset as they progressed. The Stains EP is raw, with less production quality than heard in MDC’s later records. Their abrasive sound adds power to the anti-fascist message present in both songs on the single. “John Wayne Was A Nazi” was written in the aftermath of the actor’s death, based on his white supremacy and homophobic beliefs. Dave Dictor, as a young kid, had read the racist, pro-white remarks Wayne had stood behind, and after witnessing his classmates distraught over his death, he and his friend began chanting “John Wayne was a Nazi.” The song’s lyrics are blunt, backed by pounding drums and cutting guitar. The anti-Nazi message continues with “Born To Die,” as Dictor chants “No war, no KKK, no fascist USA” – currently trending thanks to Green Day, who chanted “No Trump, No KKK, no fascist USA” at the AMAs this past week. Stains/MDC were up there with Dead Kennedys as far as politically charged bands go, and later played several Rock Against Reagan shows with  them and other outspoken bands. MDC later re-recorded both songs for their Millions of Dead Cops LP, but the aggressive grittiness of Stains’ 7” qualifies as worthy competition.

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Big Boys – Frat Cars 7” (1980, Austin)

Another pivotal band to the Texas hardcore scene, Big Boys fused aggressive punk with funk undertones. Their first few releases, including 1980’s Frat Cars, were definitely more guitar heavy than the horn-backed later tracks. The snotty title track on the EP is easily the fastest track. It has the stereotypical “us vs. the mainstream” vibe found in most punk of the time, and is in the same vein of the later Descendents song “I’m Not A Loser.” The scratchy vocals overdub buzzsaw guitar and speeding drums, with a melodic chorus sandwiched between aggressive verses. The other tracks on the record hint at Big Boys’ future sound, with jazz chords. “Heartbeat” is almost Minutemen-esque, while “Movies” relies more on staccato vocals and yowls. The final track, “Mutant Rock,” is a swampy, sped up anthem. The chorus is corrosive and loud, splitting in between steady verses with loud guitar and howling vocals. Big Boys were highly influential, not only for pioneering the funk-punk mashup, but because Randy “Biscuit” Turner was open about his sexuality in the face of the prevalent homophobia in the 80s. Rey Washam went on to play in bands like Scratch Acid and even Jerry’s Kids. While not stereotypically “hardcore,” Big Boys were crucial in the Texas hardcore scene.

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The Dicks – Hate The Police 7″ (1980, Austin)

One of the most seminal bands in the Austin scene, The Dicks released one of the most important hardcore EPs of the early 80s. Another openly gay-fronted band, punk’s anti-cop, anti-system mentality was more pertinent than ever. Hate The Police clocks in at less than six minutes, but spits out three bangers in that time. The whole record is consistently energetic and antagonistic, with Gary Floyd’s vocals reverberating over splitting guitar and crashing rhythm. “Hate The Police” is an anthem for minorities, drawing attention to trigger-happy, hostile cops. It acknowledges the corrupt, racist system that is the police force, which faces little consequence to this day. With the past few years of police shootings finally garnering attention from the mainstream, the song is still incredibly apropos. The other tracks, “Lifetime Problems” and “All Night Fever” are just as dynamic, filled with catchy choruses and fast-paced powerchords. Kill From The Heart, the Dicks first LP, is just as credible, and maintains their tongue-in-cheek, anti-fascist gritty punk sound. The Dicks’ influence has held strong throughout the years, and tons of bands still acknowledge their impact on contemporary hardcore.

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Really Red – Crowd Control 7” (1979, Houston)

Really Red, while less frequently cited than the aforementioned bands, were just as vital to the Texas punk scene. They were one of the first punk bands in Houston, with a sound that heavily drew from ‘77 punk, but had the same tough output as their peers. Their debut EP isn’t as aggro as, maybe, Hate The Police, but the attitude was there. They definitely ended up progressing into more of a traditional hardcore band, but this record is almost art-punk. It’s catchy, it’s raw, it’s political without sounding too much like Jello Biafra. Side A’s “Crowd Control” immediately grabs you and sucks you in with splitting vocals and heavily distorted powerchords. The chorus is infectious, with slamming drums. The bass-laden “Corporate Settings” delves more into the arty-aspect, almost sounding like UK’s Eater at times. It’s just as catchy as the title track, but has more drum build up during the chorus. The EP laid the cornerstone for the sound they’d end up building up as they assimilated more with the hardcore scene around them, though they never sounded generic or quite like anyone else.

The ReplASSments, volume one

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Your least favorite opinionated femmes are back, with more rants about everyone’s favorite band, the Replacements. We’re actually going to continue with this one, so stay tuned for more delirious rantings about the ‘Mats.

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SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH — AVALON KENNY

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash  is the ultimate debut record. It is the most untamed and raw Replacements record, for more than just the fact that it was their first. These were fresh faced teenagers with no idea what was ahead of them. They stuck out like sore thumbs in the rising hardcore scene, and no one knew what to make of them. They maintained punk’s snotty and sarcastic attitude, but had poppy hooks and catchy choruses. Were they punk? Were they hardcore? Were they just amphetamine laced, boozed up rock n’ roll? This is pent up, angry adolescent energy, shredded through guitars and beaten through drums. They were bursting at the seams, full of unbridled talent, experimenting with buzzsaw guitar and blast beats.

From the get-go, “Takin’ A Ride,” kicks you in the gut. It’s a drinkin’ and drivin’ anthem. 13-year-old Tommy Stinson’s grating bass is prominent, thumping against Chris Mars’ pounding drums. Tommy’s older brother, Bob, holds the song together with chugging guitar, as Paul sneers witty rhymes about speeding down the street with a bottle in your hand. Up next is the abrasive “Careless,” a disjointed, faced paced song that breaches on hardcore. “Careless” shows that the ‘Mats have no intention of slowing down, so you’d best hold onto your seats. I’ve always kind of thought Paul screaming “I’m in love with the girl who works at the store where I’m nothing but a—“  at the beginning of “Customer” was somewhat of an homage to The Freshies’ “I’m in Love With The Girl Who Works at the Manchester Virgin Megastore Checkout Desk,” but I’m not sure that the timelines work out. “Customer” is a squealing dedication of love to a girl Paul Westerberg only interacts with when he buys cigarettes.

Then there’s “Hangin’ Downtown” – a poppy number that Green Day rips off in their first couple of records – and “Kick Your Door Down,” which has some Boy-era U2 influence in the reverberated guitar. Yeah – maybe you don’t want your precious ‘Mats compared to U2, but their later song, “Kids Don’t Follow” is a direct response to “I Will Follow” (which U2 played twice in their set when the teens saw them on their first US tour). The rest of Side A maintains the same speed with “I Bought a Headache,” about the time Paul bought pot laced with PCP, and “Rattlesnake,” which spits in from the end of “Headache” as one of the fastest, toughest songs on the album. Culminating with “I Hate Music,” a tongue in cheek diatribe about hating your father, but one day you won’t, because “Tommy said so,” – a line which was one of the first of many self-referential Replacements lyrics to come.

Side B kind of takes you by surprise with the haunting “Johnny’s Gonne Die” – which almost sounds like it could be a Fleetwood Mac b-side at first. The Mats’ sarcastic, dirty lyrics are disguised by slower, loungy guitar. It taps into 70s’ rock ‘n’ roll more than the rest of the album while maintaining the same dirty attitude as the rest of the record. But – just as soon as you start to think they’re going to slow down – they’re back with “Shiftless When Idle.” Beginning with splitting drums, the Mats bring you right back up to speed. There’s the chugging “Don’t Ask Why,” with snarling vocals accentuated by crashing drums and buzzing power chords. The song relies heavily on the instrumental aspect, with Paul’s vocals growing incoherent at parts as he wails and repeats himself over intricate lead licks. Up next is the wildly sarcastic “Something To Du,” calling out fellow Minneapolis punks Husker Du. The song itself is almost imitative of early Du, with fast paced drums and screechy guitars dubbed by almost Lemmy-esque, scratchy wails. With the Husker Dudes and the ‘Mats, there was always a sense of rivalry – the former had been looked over by Twin/Tone in favor of the Mats, who were local favorites.

The rest of Side B maintains the speed, with the bass heavy “I’m In Trouble.” You can almost hear Tommy hitting each fret individually, with the occasional Johnny Thunders’ riff squealing over him. “Love You Til Friday” is a little looser than the rest of the album, but just as jacked up. Mars’ heavy, desperate pounds are interlaced with Paul’s screeching about how he goes through women quickly. And then the punk driver, “Shutup” – this is one of the stars of the record, with searing guitar, rolling drums, and Paul’s snarl. There’s also a very obvious callback to The Ramones’ “Gimmie Gimmie Shock Treatment,” and Paul’s final wails almost hint at John Lydon. The album careens to a halt with “Raised in the City,” beginning with surfy drums reminiscent of Radio Birdman’s “Aloha Steve and Danno” and progressing on with chanting vocals, then bass, then guitar.

Though maybe not as praised as Let It Be or Pleased To Meet Me, Sorry Ma… clearly set an unprecedented standard for punk music of their time. This record put them on the map and laid the groundwork for their future records. It wasn’t hardcore, it wasn’t punk, it wasn’t rock, it was the Replacements, and the tape was rolling.

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STINK — ANNA THEODORA

Clocking in at just shy of eighteen minutes, the Replacements’ EP Stink is both the shortest effort the band would put out, and following Sorry, Ma… it’s the last time we would see the band really making a straightforward “punk” record. Even as compared to the records being being made by their peers (Descendents, Black Flag, et. al), there was always something different about the ‘Mats. It’s certainly loud and fast, and it even has a song called “Fuck School” on it, but the Replacements always seemed to be playing with rock n roll closer to their hearts than some of their contemporaries, and with lyrical prowess that could never really be shuttered in with a specific genre label.

Starting off with the gunshot blast that is “Kids Don’t Follow,” the next quarter of an hour provides the listener with raw energy and snotty, snide lyrics that would captivate any angsty teen’s attention (or, truly, the attention and heart of the angsty teen that remains inside all of us). “Stuck in the Middle” feels as simultaneously desolate and brimming with restlessness as any rust belt town, eulogizing and damning the Midwestern region that gave the Replacements their roots and shaped their sound.

Throughout their career, but especially when first starting out, the band was known and notorious for their live shows coming apart at the seams, leaking with beer and energy. Sometimes, like their appearance on SNL, it went down in history. However, there were countless performances lost to the chaos that ensues when you’re dealing with the force of four big personalities all up on a tiny dive bar stage together, attempting to act in unison but ultimately butting heads. Stink bottles up a lot of the best of those performances. The power comes through a car speaker as much as it would a  PA system in a back room or in a basement. For kids who lived miles away, or even now looking back in time at this era of music and the ‘Mats specifically, it portrays an idealistic picture of the raucousness and racket that they brought across the country and onto college radio stations.  Later efforts would branch out, but Stink exists immortalized in 1982 for better, worse, and everything in between.

 

Hell Comes To Your Blog, pt1

Because I love challenges and pissing off dudes on the internet, I decided to write another list of influential bands and albums. This article does not overlap with the one originally posted, and if you think I left something out, that’s fine, because I don’t care about you – fuck you. Write your own goddamn list. This article focuses more on scenes and bands that influenced contemporary hardcore, versus just a bunch of albums. This is just the first of an installment that will go on to include other scenes like Boston, New York, and DC (along with some contemporary bands that I think have influenced today’s hardcore).

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CALIFORNIA
People tend to argue about where punk really started – maybe it was CBGBs, or a dirty basement in Cleveland – but when it comes to hardcore, most people can agree that California started it all. Black Flag played their first show in 1977, years before releasing their first LP, and bands influenced by their sound seemed to spring up all around them. California’s influence on hardcore became more widespread with labels like SST and Alternative Tentacles, and LA, Orange County, and San Francisco became hot spots for bands. Even with New York’s punk scene in mind, California could easily be considered the first grassroots based DIY punk scene. The genre spawned all sorts of sounds – from the surf influenced Agent Orange to the politically charged Dead Kennedys and the snot dripping Germs. California’s early hardcore bands’ influence still is audible in contemporary bands all over the country. It’s nearly impossible to find a kid who doesn’t love Black Flag, or relates to the Adolescents’ teen angst ridden lyrics.

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Bad Religion – Bad Religion (1981, Los Angeles)
Bad Religion have held a steady influence over the hardcore scene for over 30 years. Their first, eponymous EP is raw as fuck. You can hear the influence of LA’s punk scene in their music – this record is almost like a more stripped down X. The record is politcal without ripping off bands like the Dead Kennedys. This record has the kind of energy that makes me wish I had been around in LA to see them in a sweaty, damp basement.

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Redd Kross – Born Innocent (1981, Hawthorne)
One of the younger bands in the California hardcore scene, Redd Kross’ snotty attitude combined with their affection for horror films created one of the definitive sounds out of the area. It’s rebellious and unrefined, with Jeff MacDonald’s snotty vocals overdubbing fast paced drums and squealing guitars. You can hear their need to rebel and be different in songs like “White Trash” and “Kill Someone You Hate.” While you can tell they are punks, there’s definitely a lot of homages to proto punk bands like The Stooges and The New York Dolls. They are not subtle in their intent to shock the listener.

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TSOL – Dance With Me (1981, Long Beach)
When most bands were playing more surf driven hardcore, TSOL borrowed goth from the Damned and speed from Black Flag. They created a cocktail of bass driven, infectuous punk. Drawing influence from horror films and death idolatry, this record knows no bounds, even touching on necrophilia with “Code Blue.” Their spooky sound veers off from the Misfits, who were writing about similar themes, as California’s influence is especially prominent. In “The Triangle,” another death dripped song, you can almost hear the Dead Kennedys as they just barely hint at surfy guitar tones.

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Angry Samoans – Back From Samoa (1982, Los Angeles)
With the longest song clocking in at 2:07 (but most being under a minute), Angry Samoans manage to pack 14 bangers into seventeen and a half minutes. The first track, “Gas Chamber,” grabs you by the balls immediately, and the energy never wavers. Their songs are simplistic without being basic, and rely heavily on blasting drums and catchy vocals. The record has the same rebellious and youthful groundwork as bands like the Adolescents but lean more towards humor than reality.

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Battalion of Saints – Second Coming (1983, San Diego)
Battalion of Saints’ sound branched out from the clean vocals and surf licks of other California bands. Second Coming relies heavily on pounding blast beats and screeching vocals. The songs are relentlessly brutal, slamming your ears with ripping chord after chord. The first track, “My Mind’s Diseased,” is an anthem for mental illness, and the title track is raw. “No Time” proves they could easily be one of the fastest bands from that time period, and they were unafraid in their power. This album delivers a cacophony of heavy sounds, and remains one of the best hardcore albums to date.

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DI – Horse Bites Dog Cries (1986, OC)
Formed on the heels of the Adolescents’ first breakup, DI combined the snotty sounds of the Germs with an external new wave sound. Horse Bites Dog Cries is backed by pounding drums laced with fast powerchords and screeching solos. The Agnew brothers continued their reign over OC hardcore, utilising similar hooks from their earlier bands. Though the band’s second record was officially released in 1986, it maintained the same sounds and song structures as earlier bands like the Circle Jerks and TSOL. The album is a banger all the way through, but highlights include “Johnny’s Got A Problem,” “Hang Ten In East Berlin,” and the blisteringly fast “Youth In Asia.”

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MIDWEST
When you think midwestern punk, most people go straight to the Twin Cities, and rightfully so. Minneapolis has obviously been a key fixture in punk, with bands like the Replacements and Hüsker Dü perhaps the most influential. However, expanding beyond that, you realize just how prolific the midwest was in the eighties, and even today. Bands like Articles of Faith and Naked Raygun popped up in Chicago (which later was home to Latino hardcore pioneers Los Crudos), inspired by the DC and California hardcore scenes. As those bands gained influence, so did bands from Michigan like the Crucifucks and the Meatmen. The midwest soon gained notoriety just as DC and California had, and continues its hold today. Nowadays, we have Tenement – a band driven by complex riffs and poppy hooks, encompassing several genres – and bands like the Coneheads (Devo played at 45RPM), Big Zit (Bad Brains on steroids), and CCTV (think sped up Minutemen) who all draw influence from 80s hardcore and hold the torch for the bands that came before them. Everything Is Not Okay (OKC) showcases bands from all over the country, with a heavy focus on the bands that keep the scene alive in the midwest.

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The Fix – Vengeance/In This Town (1981, Michigan)
One of the earliest hardcore bands in the Midwest, the Fix were absolutely savage. Without the Fix, hardcore might not have reached the tempo it did. The Fix, with their scathingly sped up punk were pioneers in not only the midwest, but hardcore in general. They were one of the earliest releases by Tesco Vee’s Touch and Go Records, which is important in and of itself, but their power was untouchable. The Vengeance 7″ is no exception – at under 3 minutes, the record is furious. Somehow they manage to fit in amphetamine laced guitar riffs, blast beats, and rage backed lyrics in two short songs.

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Zero Boys – Vicious Circle (1982, Indiana)
By the time Vicious Circle was released, the Zero Boys had already shown their worth with their EP Livin’ in the 80s. The LP shows a definite progression of their talent, musically and lyrically. It’s more refined, soundwise, as it was professionally recorded – but maintains the snarling rebellious attitude that was the requirement in punk. The band had pop hooks on speed, and all the riled up rage of their peers. While distinct in their own sound, it’s easy to draw comparisons in subject matter (teen angst, political corruption) to bands like The Adolescents and Dead Kennedys. Vicious Circle punches you in the face almost immediately with the hectic title track. Following that is “Amphetamine Addiction” – a blistering song about drug culture that grabs you with a squealing pick slide before going into a standard chord progression. Other highlights include the politically driven “Civilization’s Dying” and the gang vocal backed “Drug Free Youth,” but the whole album is filled with stellar tracks laced with pounding drums and fast paced solos. This album should be the prize of Indianapolis.

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Koro – 700 Club (1983, Tennessee – yes, TN is a stretch)
In just over six minutes, Koro slams you with 8 chaotic, raw hardcore numbers. The songs are stripped down, yet refined – a blast of urgent, youthful anger. They were far ahead of their time. When their peers were playing songs with more pop hooks, Koro took their teen angst and projected it into a heavy rhythm section with ear splitting, chainsaw-esque guitar riffs. The album, as short as it is, seamlessly flows without the songs sounding indistinct. Unfortunately, Koro were short lived, but they were recently repressed by Sorry State Records (NC).

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Negative Approach – Tied Down (1983, Michigan)
Tied Down is the only full length record released by Negative Approach, but they remain one of the most influential bands of the midwest – if not the country. The record is full of rage, with Jon Brannon’s hoarse grunts combined with cutting drums and shredding guitar. Like other hardcore bands of the time, the lyrics encompass the frustrations of growing up and chaos of being a teenager. Like Koro, their music was extreme, and more brash than bands found at the same time in California. Negative Approach’s influence is obviously present in contemporary bands, and they’re still touring.

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OHIO
While Ohio is technically part of the midwest, Ohio stood very separate from bands like Negative Approach and Articles of Faith. Ohio was home to the snarling, spitting Dead Boys and the proto punk influencers Devo, but also hardcore bands like Toxic Reasons and Necros. Today, bands like the New Bomb Turks, with their wild garage licks, and Nervosas, a goth tinged post punk band, are the shining stars in Ohio. However, arguably the most influential band could be considered as The Pagans.

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Pagans – Street Where Nobody Lives/What’s This Shit Called Love (1978, Cleveland)
The Pagans took back the streets that the Dead Boys abandoned. They paved the way for the future of punk in not only Cleveland, but Ohio as a whole. Mike Hudson’s snotty, slightly off key vocals over Stooges-esque riffs and steady drums laid the groundwork for a sound that would find its way into bands like the New Bomb Turks. “What’s This Shit Called Love” has an interlude with thumping bass, before Hudson begins wailing the title over screeching guitars. The Pagans were underappreciated to say the least, but prove their worth in just two short tracks.

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NORTHWEST
Poison Idea – Pick Your King (1983, Portland)
The northwest is typically associated as the birthplace of grunge. Bands like Nirvana obviously come to mind, but it was also home to bands like The Wipers, Final Warning, and of course, Poison Idea. Pick Your King is potentially one of the most influential hardcore releases of all time, and manages to do this without being viewed as overrated. Poison Idea truly set the standards for hardcore, with blisteringly fast songs clocking in at an average of one minute. The record is peppered with bangers, from the first track, “Pure Hate” culminating with the thunderous “Think Fast.” Jerry A’s rage coupled with Pig Champion’s ridiculously fast guitar help them rival even Mick/Keith.

Bands in DC: an overview of Damaged City Fest and the DC Hardcore Scene

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Coke Bust at DCF 2016 (photo by Farrah Skeiky)

[Part of a recurring series Anna and I are doing, focusing on certain scenes in various parts of the country – let us know if you want to take part and share your scene’s stories]

All photos courtesy Farrah Skeiky.

DC has always kind of been a mecca for hardcore – I mean, Minor Threat, Void, Bad Brains, Government Issue, and tons more sprung from this scene in the 80s. The label started by Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye, Dischord Records, became an extremely prolific and pivotal aspect of DC hardcore and is still maintained today.  Now, DC is still producing copious amounts of punk bands, including but not limited to bands like Stand Off, Protester, Red Death, and Genocide Pact (3 of which include Connor Donegan, who somehow manages to be everywhere at once, and his resume includes Last Words, Double Negative, Line Of Sight, Soft Grip, Abuse., and probably a million others I’m forgetting. Like damn dude where do you get all this time?). The scene is definitely worth looking into, and one of the gems of DC is Damaged City Fest.

DCF has been an ongoing festival, based in Washington, DC, since 2013, run by Chris Moore and NickTape from Coke Bust. Some of the headliners include Negative Approach, Infest, Los Crudos, Culo, and other seminal bands. There’s also always an incredible lineup of smaller DIY bands that cover nearly every subgenre of punk and hardcore from all corners of the US [and even Europe and Japan] making it an extremely inclusive event. Bands like SHIT (Canada), Pure Disgust (DC), Chain Rank (Boston), Holder’s Scar (NC) and Youth Avoiders (France) have been some of my favorite I’ve seen in my two years of attendance. The lineup is also incredibly inclusive and is one of very few festivals that have such a strong female fronted (or female members) and queer band presence.When I first went to DCF in 2015, the headliners were Government Warning (a band I thought I’d never see, and I needed an inhaler after being front row for their set), The Mob, and Career Suicide. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced – it was one of the first times I’d ever felt welcomed at a punk show. Kenny from Government Warning even flung me on his shoulders when they played “Arrested” and he saw the crowd drop me after a fleeting attempt at crowd surfing. This year was no different, and it was incredible to scream along to songs by legends like Zero Boys and The Avengers, as well as see all my friends from all over the country. Chris and Nick are incredible dudes, and Chris allowed me to ask some questions about the festival for our website.

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Government Warning at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

What made you want to do a festival like Damaged City Fest?
Playing and going to a bunch of different punk festivals and realizing DC didn’t have anything like that. It was an excuse to bring bands to DC that don’t normally come to DC. Honestly, 5 years ago, no one wanted to fucking go there. I had to beg bands to come there. They’d be like, “we’re playing Baltimore and Richmond, we don’t have time to go there.” The punk scene in DC sucked for a really long time. I was like, maybe if we do this big thing, we can show people that DC has a lot of cool punk bands and it’s a cool place  to play.

Is there a lot of community support?
For sure. A ton. There’s 15-20 punk kids from DC who help with various aspects of the fest. It’s a huge community effort. Aside from the punk kids, the people who let us use the churches and the bars. People at copy shops. People seem stoked on it. It’s cool. It seems to me that it’s a pretty positive thing.

Is there a core group of people behind the fest?
It’s mainly me and Nick who sings for Coke Bust, but there’s probably maybe 4 or 5 other people that do a lot of important things that make sure it runs smoothly.

What are your favorite DC bands?
Right now? Kombat is fucking great. Stuck Pigs. Those are newer bands. I really dig this band a lot people don’t talk about, they’re not necessarily hardcore. they’re called
Puff Pieces. When I first heard them I was like, this sounds like Big Boys meets early Talking Heads. They’re awesome and just put out an LP that’s totally sick. There are so many good DC punk bands. Sem Hastro, Iron Cages, Unknown Threat, Priests I fucking love. Gauche. Flasher. There’s so many good bands in DC and there’s an influx of younger kids.

That’s a great thing about DC – the support from younger kids. I don’t think New York has a ton of younger kids coming to shows.
It’s hard when you don’t have a lot of all ages venues. That’s a weird concept, but when I think of New York, I don’t think a lot of young kids come to punk shows up here so it
doesn’t feel needed. I think there would be more if it was more accessible.

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Stand Off at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

What bands are you in?
Tonight, I’m playing in the Rememberables. I play drums in Coke Bust, Sick Fix, DOC and Repulsion.

What bands would you like to have in the future?
Every year I ask the Marked Men and Limp Wrist so I’ll probably try and ask them again next year regardless of what they say. I really really wanted The Kids to play this year. We were pretty close but they got into some immigration trouble on their last tour, which wasn’t their fault. If we could figure that out I  would love to get them. Repulsion
played Ieperfest and there were some bands that canceled and The Kids got added. but it couldn’t be [The Kids], because there were a lot of hardcore bands playing, but I guess didn’t really make sense for Repulsion either. But then these old dudes get onstage, don’t say a word. Just play. It was song, song, song. No stopping, Ramones style. Quick break, song, song, break. And then it was 20-25 minuets and they were done. And it was so sick.

What band would you have play that isn’t necessarily around? Like, for a dream lineup.
Gauze, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen.

I think Van Halen still play.
They do. They did a tour last year. When they first got back together with David Lee Roth I went to see them with my mom.

What’s your favorite set you’ve seen at DCF?
I don’t know what my favorite was, but the most intense feeling I got watching a band was the first year and watching Negative Approach play. They were the last band of the
fest. I was so stressed out the whole time, I was like, “I hope people come, I hope the church doesn’t get destroyed, I hope Negative Approach aren’t bummed.” And so they start to play, and I got chills down my back. I was like, cool, there’s a lot of people here, they’re fucking sick, it’s going well.

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Dame at DCF 2016 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

So would you say the stress is the biggest challenge?
Yeah, I think that’s something I struggle with every year. I always think I’m one step ahead of the game, that things aren’t gonna slip through the cracks. But then the shit
this year, with the dude who came on the stage, when you’re playing a DIY show in a borrowed space you’re at the mercy of that space and the legalities of what you’re doing. At any moment, the fire marshall could come, and be like, “hey you don’t have a permit for this or that.”

That situation was diffused, right?
Yeah, but he called the cops every hour for the rest of the day so I was outside a bunch of times talking to the cops. It was even more frustrating because he was so hysterical
and inconsolable but when the cops came, the neighbor was being really nice and I was like, “fuck you man.” He was so fucking two faced. He had that “I’m not doing anything wrong” face.

What do you think helps DC retain its cohesion?
I think DC has a good energy to it. I think when it’s bad, its really bad, but that makes you want to do something cool, makes you wanna be productive. And then when it’s
good, it’s really fucking good, and even more driving. You’re like, “oh fuck, all my friends are doing cool productive things, I wanna do that too.” And it’s like, even though
it’s like a major city, the punk scene is very bare bones. We don’t have any consistencies. We’re constantly losing spaces and trying to find a new restaurant to convince that they’ll get more business if they do shows there, however true it may be. In a way it’s frustrating but it keeps things exciting. People being relatively approachable and supportive of each other makes you wanna continue to do things.

What’s the most rewarding part of the fest for you?
Just hearing people say that they had a good time. Even it’s just one person. But alternately, the most gut wrenching thing is someone saying they didn’t have a good time, even if it’s just one person. It’s stupid because even if you do a regular show there’s no way everyone is gonna be pumped. but it’s something I’m struggling with, trying to
realize I can’t make everyone happy.

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Pure Disgust at DCF 2015 (Photo by Farrah Skeiky)

Word Attack: Interview with Steve & Tony from The Adolescents

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I ran into Steve Soto from The Adolescents by chance when my band opened up for Channel  3 in Brooklyn last week. The Adolescents had posted the article Anna and I wrote, and not only had he read it, he praised it incredibly highly. He also agreed to let me interview him, and was one of the most genuine, down to earth people I’ve ever spoken with. The Adolescents fucking blew me away when I saw them that night at Black and Blue Bowl as well – playing all of the greatest songs off their self titled record along with some newer ones. Highly recommend seeing them if you ever get the chance, because they still fucking have it. Anyway…

How often do you get the joke “when are you going to grow up?”
All the time. We always say, people make comments about that all the time, but does anyone ever ask the Circle Jerks when they’re gonna stop jerking off?

What did you take from the other bands you’ve been in for The Adolescents?
I didn’t really take anything from Agent Orange into the Adolescents. I’d say, when I was in Agent Orange, the Adolescents was what I wanted, not what I was doing in Agent Orange. I did it with people on the same page as me. I love Mike [Palm] and Mike’s a great writer. Mike didn’t want any other input but his own as far as writing. It works and it’s great, I love their band, and I still think they’re amazing. But at some point I wanted to be in a band with two guitar players, I was listening to Give Em Enough Rope by the Clash, I was like, “I have to have two guitar players.” That was another record you mentioned, to me that’s the best Clash record. So there were things like that went into [The Adolescents], I definitely wanted two guitar players, that was the main thing I wanted when the Adolescents started. I wanted to be in a band with Tony. We had met when we were kids, we met at a show. I had tried to get Rikk [Agnew] to start a band with him when I was still in Agent Orange. Someone needed to start a band with him. Then I was like, “fuck it, I’m gonna do it.” That’s how we started.

What other bands were you in?
I play in Manic Hispanic and CJ Ramone’s band. I play in Punk Rock Karaoke with the illustrious Stan Lee [of the Dickies], Greg Hetson of Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks. Me and Jonny [Wickersham] from Social Distortion have a band called The Black Diamond Riders that’s all 60s soul covers, the other guys from his old band The Cadillac Tramps are in that band. I do solo stuff, I just released a solo record that’s more American stuff. I just did a European tour with Kevin Seconds. Kevin and I are about to do a record together, acoustic stuff, we had a blast going on that tour. We played together, not like solo. That’s what I got going on right now. I think that’s it.

You were in Legal Weapon, too, right?
Yeah a long time ago. Just for a year or so.

How did your contemporaries influence you?
My contemporaries? They were more like, we were watching each other. I don’t think there was a lot of influence. That’s the great thing about Southern California punk rock back then, we didn’t sound like the Circle Jerks, TSOL didn’t sound like us, Agent Orange didn’t sound like anything. There wasn’t a distinct sound. There was a running thread, but none of those bands sound alike.

So it was more of a support system?
Exactly. We were all friends, we all saw each others’ bands, we all loved each others’ bands, but I don’t think we all sounded like each other.

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me and the two coolest dudes.

 

What’s the best show you’ve ever seen?
I saw The Cramps, and it was supposed to be Redd Kross. I went mostly to see Redd Kross, because I love those guys and we were all friends, we were all really young. There were all these great LA bands but the ones in our age group…Agent Orange met Red Kross early on, we were all teenagers and there were other bands in their 20s. But I saw The Cramps at the Whisky and they were so good. I’d heard the records and I liked them, but it was such an amazing show I just walked out floored. It was 1978, or maybe the beginning of 79. Tony tried to get onstage and Lux grabbed him by the head, and he’s shoving Tony’s head [into his crotch] and Tony’s fighting to get away. And he rolls away, flops to another part of the side of the stage, and Bryan Gregory didn’t see him, and turned around and stepped right on Tony’s hand. Tony had to get stitches from getting smashed with a stiletto heel. It was crazy but they were so good. I’ve seen so many great shows, but that one always stands out in my head as the best. I’ve seen the Circle Jerks a million times and I’ve loved every show I’ve ever seen. When they filmed them for the Decline of Western Civilization, with Roger in the band, every show was fucking amazing. I saw the Black Flag show where Ron quit, I’ve seen some iconic shows. I saw the Clash which is the one good thing about being old.

Piggybacking on that…my boyfriend told me about Tony acting out at the premiere of The Decline
That wasn’t The Decline premiere. That was the Youth Brigade movie…Another State of Mind.

Remind me to call him out on that. But what happened?
The Stern brothers [of Youth Brigade] rented out a theater in Hollywood. I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard this from a million friends that were…Tony knocked the projector over. Might’ve been on purpose, probably wasn’t, actually it was. He knocked the projector over, a bunch of people swarmed him of course, they were beating him, they were having him arrested and Shawn Stern stopped them from arresting him. And the guys that made the movie were trying to get him in more trouble, but Shawn made it go away because he was looking out for Tony.

What are your favorite records ever?
Ever? Give Em Enough Rope. Quadrophenia, by The Who.

I saw them play that in its entirety.
I haven’t seen them since ’81. Also, Group Sex by the Circle Jerks. First Generation X album. Any of the Replacements albums, I think all the early ones are great, Sorry Ma is Great, I’m a huge Let It Be guy. I mean, Pet Sounds. I could go back and forth between that and punk rock. There’s a record by a band called Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams’ first band. The Strangers Almanac record, I listen to that all the time.

What about newer bands?
Oh, what, you mean like Night Birds? Mean Jeans, I like, Night Birds record I like. There’s a band called The Croissants from Sacramento that’s fucking amazing. Off the top of my head there’s those. The Croissants are my favorite band I’ve seen in the past year, live they’re so much fun.

What sets you apart from other bands from your time? Why do you think kids are still picking up that record?
Because our record didn’t get dated. We weren’t singing about Reagan, we weren’t singing about the 80s. We were singing about being disenfranchised teenagers. That’s still a thing today, all the shit we were singing about, kids are still dealing with today.

Yeah I first heard that record when I was 13.
Yeah. That’s why I think we still like doing it. Because kids come to see us.

Are you working on any new stuff with Adolescents or otherwise?
Adolescents new record is coming out July 8. We put out like 5 records in the past 6 years.

What makes you keep making records?
Besides writing a lot of songs? I just write a lot, Tony writes a lot. We started in mid February, finished the Adolescents record in mid march, I did my solo record end of March, went on tour with Kevin, the day after I got back we did a CJ Ramone record, we just finished that, like…we got on the plane [to NYC] the day after we finished. Three records in eight weeks.

How have the lineup changes over the years impacted your sound?
We’ve had mostly the same lineup for the past three records except for Ian, the new guitar player. He came in almost two years ago. Dan’s been with us for five or six years. He plays a big part. He used to play in a band with Jack from TSOL and that’s when we met when we were younger. Then he got married and had a family and that’s when he stopped playing. We used to play in this joke band, called Flock of Goo Goo with the singer of Cadillac Tramps. We only played in Long Beach on New Year’s Eve. But I was always like, fuck that’s crazy, that’s all he does. So when his kids got older, his business built up and was running on its own, we started being like…come on man. First he was just supposed to go to Brazil with us, our guitar player couldn’t go, and he did three shows and then that was the carrot…we started being like, “how about going on an east coast tour for ten days?” Okay. Then it turned into a 6 week European tour. Here he is now. The Agnew brothers guitar team was amazing, I have nothing but crazy respect to their contributions to the band, especially Rikk’s songwriting which was far beyond anything else at the time.

Do you think you’ve retained the same sound?
I think Dan’s one of those guys who came up listening to Frank and Rikk. He plays as good as Frank. So I think we totally have the same sound. Drumming wise, it’s better, no offense to Casey. He was a great singer for DI, but every time we’d do reunion shows he’d come in and it was like he hadn’t played drums for three years. His drumming on the blue album is classic, he just didn’t keep it up. Mike, our drummer, is sick. We’ve had some others but he’s the best. He plays in Death By Stereo. I think we sound better than ever, mostly because everyone knows what they’re doing.

I was watching a video from 1982 earlier. Excited to see the difference between then and now.
There’s a definite difference. We’ve done a few live records and they’re usually sloppy. It’s not sloppy anymore.

[I was also able to ask Tony a question later, as follows]

Is it fair to say some of the motivation behind songs like “Wrecking Crew” and “Kids of the Black Hole” carried into your work with kids?
Definitely. I’m, for a lot of people, a liaison to getting help. I talk to my kids, my students, we work a lot on friendship, communication, and social skills. Problem solving. I get kids who come to me and I can spot a person with Asperger’s the way people can spot rain clouds. I can tell very quickly anywhere on the spectrum. I can help get them help and support with scripts and routines.

[For reference, this is the video I mentioned]