some punk CD reviews

Just as a test of how to post stuff, here are some reviews of some punk CDs I wrote a while back. They're raw and sloppy as hell, but, in the spirit of the music I'm not gonna clean 'em up. Might add gratuitous video links to make it up to ya, though, 'cuz I'm a stupid behind-the-times git who just discovered YouTube. Yay, candy!

Gobsmakt - You Wot! - Step-1, 1998
It took me a while to listen to most of this kiwi-punk CD, because for about the first half hour as soon as the first song, “Here We Go Now,” would finish, I’d have to play it over again. And again. And again. What an obnoxiously great song. It’s like an old extra-methed Motorhead in a gleefully bad mood. It’s stupid as hell but ultra-catchy, rambunctious, and may make you want to go kick in your neighbor’s door and trash some of their belongings. If you're an idiot. Anyway, it’s kind of a cross between old Motorhead, The Exploited, and any really good (non-Nazi o’ course) skinhead band. These hoolies have their three chords down and ain’t afraid to use ‘em, and the sound is tightly sloppy (yes, that does make sense - just get it already) and belligerent, with every song barked in your face, daring you not to love it. The lyrics are about drinking lager, being a skinhead, threats (“You’re gonna get yer fuckin’ ‘ead kicked in!”), and a certain non-fondness for the police and politicians. I don’t think this band invented the style they’re using, but they may have just perfected it. It stays at a dirty, speedy roar throughout, even during the two ska songs, and it’s full of little gotta-hear-that-again-bits (like the opening drum-pounding then guitar pucka-pucka-pucka of “Crime ‘N’ Other Things). If you’d like to hear The Exploited get in an alley fight with The Oppressed, you’ll worship this. A lyric sheet would’ve been nice since the New Zealand accents get kind of thick. I’d fit this band in the Hard Skin category, where you might think they’re joking but you’re not sure they know that they are.

The Bloody Sods - Up And Runnin’ -Step 1, 1997
This band is so fast and violent that when my fucked-up CD deck started skipping, I almost didn’t notice. They’re from Georgia but have something of a UK82 thing going, with relentless drums and deep-tuned guitars and rapid screaming about socially-relevant topics, like consumerism, manipulative media, genocidal government practices, racism (both on the part of whites and of blacks like Farrakhan), as well as personal stuff like drinking too much and having untrustworthy friends. All punk as fuck and delivered straightforwardly with great force. It’s noisy and chaotic without losing a groove, and even though I already liked it at first listen I can tell it’s only gonna grow on me even more. I’m proud to hear stuff like this coming out of the South. The shouted vocals (split between two guys) get a little one-dimensional (even though there’s two of ‘em) but it’s not a major problem, and the lyric sheet definitely helps, even though you can make out a good bit of it anyway if you listen close. There’s a reverent (though ‘bout twice as fast) cover of Blitz’s “4Q.” Good vicious stuff.

Boot Party - Head Stomp - Step 1, 1996
Amateurish, limited-talent somewhat silly sloppy NYC punk with goofy lyrics about not much of anything (whores, watching TV, venereal disease, getting signed to indy labels, police, etc.) It’s not boring or anything, I don’t hate it, but it sounds like somebody recorded it in their garage as a demo or something. The vocals are bad, and the guitar and drums are loose. The bassist seems to have all the skills here, and those aren’t going to blow you away, either. If they’d just come up with some better hooks and some lyrics that weren’t so dumb, the sloppiness could possibly work for it, since lack of talent can be the charm in some bands. Okay if you like that kinda stuff, just don’t get your hopes up expecting some kind of great oi band or anything (like the band of the same name from Fresno's supposed to be). Not to be taken too seriously (how could you with a cover of the Archies “Sugar Sugar”?) There’s also an unrecognizable cover of “A.C.A.B.” by the 4 Skins. As is, this is a severe test of Bisquit's Theory* I found a sample.

Husker Du - Land Speed Record (SST, 1981)
Wow. Even after exposure to insane black metal bands like Immortal, the speed at which Husker Du blaze along on their first album is still impressive. It’s a live album and the sound quality isn’t great, so even if they took the time for nuance in this sonic assault you wouldn’t be able to pick up on it. It’s a whirlwind jangle of guitars and yelled vocals, with an occasional comprehensible line like “It’s all lies anyway!” or “All tensed up!” coming through. I can’t imagine being in a room with these guys playing this stuff; it must have been overwhelming, more like a crowd control weapon than music. And they don’t even have any dead space between songs, just ripping into the next one before the feedback from the previous is done. If you’ve heard Husker’s later albums you might be expecting great songwriting skill, but what you have here is noisy hardcore that’s closer to Negative Approach than it is to Zen Arcade. It’s a blur, really, like proto-powerviolence. So this isn’t the best representative of the band to start with (forget chronology) but it’s still historically important and has some great stuff if you’re into hardcore. A lyric sheet would’ve been really, really nice, though, because they’re pretty cool when you look them up on the web. Here's a vid.

The Undead - The Riot City Years (Step-1, 1982)
Not to be confused with ex-Misfit Bobby Steele's band, this is a British group. Even though this is a UK82 band they’d don’t sound much like the Exploited, Varkukers, or UK Subs. It’s more of a mid-paced, sometimes-plodding, severe-sounding punk, distinguished mostly by a really weird drum sound that shows up in a lot of the songs - it sounds exactly like a basketball being dribbled! This guy’s drumheads must’ve been made by Wilson, ‘cuz it’s pure inflated-rubber boing-boink-boink. The sounds tend to like finding a groove and then dragging the river with it, kind of a marching/trance thing (which they may have been into, since there’s an electronica dub version of one of their songs on the CD; they probably would have been a house band if they’d started up 10 years later). There’s nothing really outstanding here, but it’s not terrible. The bonus tracks (old singles the band released) are the best part, a bit more lively than the sluggish album tracks. I couldn't find video of any of their stuff, so here's Squirrelbait doing "Sun God," which is a lot better than anything on this album anyway.

Last Year’s Youth - Yah Boo Fuck You Step-1, 1997
Sincere mid-paced UK punk stuck somewhere between the ‘77 and ‘82 schools, and also flirting with pop-punk, yet not sounding like a sell-out. It’s lo-fi and scruffy, with snotty vocals dealing with being punk and getting drunk, mostly, with momentary nods to politics (the Berlin wall, political phoniness, etc.). Mostly, though, it’s just anthems about the joys of punk-rock defiance. It’s also pretty happy and bouncy, even when the lyrics get angry. Standard, nothing bad on the whole CD but nothing that’ll blow you away, either. But the bassist’s name - Owen Money - deserves entry into the list of all-time great punk rock pseudonyms.

Badlands - The Killing Kind GMMM Records, 2004
What a weird CD. It’s perhaps most famous for pissing off fans of lame-ass poser Jake E. Lee, because he has a band of the same name and his fans buy this by mistake and then pitch big ol' hairband hissies about it on Amazon. Far more disorienting, however, is the way this Holland band alternates between tough-guy skinhead rock and gentle folk music. They’ll be singing about fighting violence with violence and advocating kicking in skulls of gun-toting bad guys and battling against prejudice. Then they'll shift gears hard enough to drop the transmission and do songs about wishing they could go back to being 10 years old, or “we’ve gotta work together for a better land” songs that would make perfect background music for some old 70’s public service announcement about picking up trash or something. The vocalist is great, although his style is an odd contrast with the harder songs; it’s like honeyed sandpaper or something, actual soulful singing even when the guitars start blazing away. It’s really indescribable; check out some of the sound files on Amazon, because you have to hear it to believe it. When I first got this I didn’t care for it much, but it grew on me enough where I eventually bought their other album. Definitely an acquired taste. This isn't from this CD, but at least you can sample the singing style.

Discipline/Argy Bargy - 100% Thug Rock Captain Oi, 2004
Brilliant skinhead split that delivers on the title’s promise. I’d already been a fan of Holland’s Discipline (because of stuff like this) and was scooping up their back catalogue, which is how I got this. The Discipline tracks, while a little “happier” sounding than some of their other material, don’t disappoint; total blue-collar rock and roll that doesn’t sound preoccupied with fitting into any punk or oi standard but does so beautifully anyway, with more-than-competent musicianship (this ain’t just three-chord stuff, yet doesn’t sound like metal at all), and Joost De Graaf’s perfect gruff singing (yes, he actually sings - it’s not the usual oi shouting). Every song is a sing-along anthem (and few bands can really write those), mostly about fighting at football matches on this one. Infectiously catchy and essential stuff. Argy Bargy was a new one to me, and my expectations weren’t high since I’m kinda “eh” on the Cock Sparrer song they’re named after (love Cock Sparrer, just not that song)… but when I heard this I started working on their back catalogue, too. Raucous, belligerent, rockin’ oi with more great not-afraid-to-get-complicated (without verging on metal, either) musicianship, and rough, heavily-British-accented shouting-yet-tuneful vocals that give it instant credibility and identity. The lyrics are all-the-way-fuck-you, which is great. “You’ll never understand the kids on the street/ You’ll never have a drink at the places we meet/ You’ll never have a talk with me man to man/ You’ll never realize I am what I am/ You can’t control us, you won’t deny us/ What gives you the right?” - how can ya not love that? Here's a live version. Watford Jon can also sing when he wants to - “We Ain’t Listening” is almost pretty, for a blunt object. Watch 'em do it live. There’s a lot of old-school rock ‘n’ roll (played a bit faster and more forcefully) in this, and it’s a good variety -- they give you six songs and they definitely sound like six songs, not just variations on a theme. The last song, “One More Drink,” is an acoustic drinking song/crime story that I bet the Dropkick Murphys would love to cover. Overall, a highly recommended split.

Defiance - Rise Or Fall Punkcore, 2004
This band doesn’t disappoint. It doesn’t surprise, either, but if you already like them you won’t mind. They’re like The Casualties, but ten times tighter and much better in the songwriting department. Violent, high-speed streetpunk with all kinds of axes to grind about society, the usual stuff against war and outbursts of frustration about boredom and futurelessness. There ain’t a happy song in the bunch yet it’ll probably put smiles on your face anyway, even if they’re the kind of smiles you get while flinging a Molotov. Mike Arrogant has a good shout and proves he can use it to carry a tune in sonds like “Doing What You’re Told.” You can check out a pretty stupid video of that here. There’s a nice cover of Menace’s “All Screwed Up” (which is great, although still no patch on the original - Menace’s version is one of my favorite songs, so, good choice anyway). The only thing bad about this CD is that I’m going to have a hard time making mix tapes for the car from it ‘cuz I’d want to include all the songs. Great slash ‘n’ burn raging punk.

The Worthless - Slow City - Taang, 2000
Total Angry Samoans worship. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think the Samoans had reformed. Very catchy, bouncy, old-style punk, like a blend of Samoans and the U.S. Bombs, all scruffy and not-to-be-taken-too-seriously punk about hating cities, being goofily alienated, and stuff about girls and beach parties. It’s infectious and there’s not a bad song on it.

The Eat - It’s Not The Eat, It’s the Humidity Alternative Tentacles, 2007
Discography of a unique, poppy Florida punk outfit that operated in the first half of the 80’s. It’s mostly fast and tongue-and-cheek lo-fi garage rock, and is catchy as hell more often than not. Some of it is hilarious (“She’s Pissed Off” is a classic party story: “There was one little girl in a corner all alone, you know she looked so sad/ Had to ask Sherri what the trouble was and I couldn’t believe what she said/ ‘She’s pissed off ‘cuz my brother wouldn’t fuck her! She’s pissed off ‘cuz my brother wouldn’t fuck her!’”) and a few songs are so stupid-yet-catchy that you may actually get mad at the band for making something so embarrassingly goofy stick in your head like that (god damn you, “I’m a young guy” song!). And “Communist Radio” should probably be included in any serious mix tape you ever wanna make for anybody to try to explain what punk sounds like. Proof! And you gotta love any band who comes up with song titles like “Manatee Smacker,” “Psychotic McHale’s Navy,” “M80 Ant Death,” “Nixon’s Binoculars,” or “Ballbusters On Parade.” Since this is on Alternative Tentacles, you know there’s some considerable intelligence lurking behind the goofiness, too. The first disc is all studio stuff, and there’s a second disc full of live material. You can’t go wrong with this.

* Bisquit's Theory is an idea put forth by the late great Randy "Bisquit" Turner of The Big Boys, who said that even the worst bands have at least one good song in 'em.

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