Thursday, August 6, 2009

Record Pickups

I've been pretty broke this summer, so I've missed just about every single show other than the ones my own band has played. We've played with some great bands, but I know I've been missing out on a lot. I recently came up with a few bucks, and decided to sink nearly every penny back into punk/hardcore records. I decided to concentrate on finding records by bands that I'd recently missed on their way through San Francisco.

Cult Ritual - Guiltless 7"
Packaged with a fantastic silk-screened cover, and a 6 page lyric zine. The music is insane right out of the gate. A couple of lyrical samples from the first track -

"Mass death by human hands" and the closing verse, "We're all animals!"

The lyrics are as dark and violent as the music itself. I can't recommend this record enough.

Brain Killer - Demo 7" & S/T 7"
This shit is pretty chaotic. Lots of really harsh feedback squealing at all times and heavy rhythms pounding your eardrums in. A very successful combination of d-beat and noisepunk.

Dear Landlord - split w/ Off With Their Heads
Great pop-punk. DL was recommended to me by a friend of mine, and they're just one in a long line of great bands that he's gotten me hip to. I recently met this guy in April when our bands went on tour, and I think I asked him about a dozen times "who's this?" whenever he was in control of the van's stereo. Dear Landlord is definitely one of my favorites that I took away from my incessant questioning.

Heavy on the melodies, and very reminiscent of earlier Dillinger 4 songs. The b-side features OWTH, which is good, but I'm not hooked yet. Better than most stuff, and all my friends are into it, but I'm still yet to be convinced.


Last weekend I played Sound & Fury festival in Oxnard, CA. This gave me an opportunity to see a lot of newer bands and pick up a few records. This year's roster was pretty diverse, and I think my purchases reflect the variety of bands at the fest. I missed out on a few key records that I was looking for, but hopefully I'll track them down soon enough!


Trapped Under Ice - Secrets of the World & Stay Cold
TUI is a band from Baltimore that really nails the whole East Coast street style sound. Their music channels the best elements of Madball and Biohazard, and features some pretty good lyrics - certainly more introspective than most tough-guy bands.

"There's a kid, just like me, he's gonna get a gun, because the truth is harsh"

It's a simple statement – not about glorifying a "my hood is tougher than your hood" kinda deal, but more so an acknowledgement of social circumstances that incubate criminality and violence. Poverty and a raw deal just lands in the laps of a lot of people. What's the difference between them and somebody that grew up with comfort and advantages? Less options for survival and harder choices.

Knife Fight - Crisis
I hadn't seen Knife Fight in years, but their performance at S&F reminded me of why so many people love this band. If you're not familiar with them, they play pretty straight forward hardcore that sounds like a collision of Agnostic Front and Discharge. Lyrics about being disgusted with shallowness and apathy. Great stuff, plus, you can't beat a $5 LP!

Iron Lung / Hatred Surge - Collaborative 7"
Some of the best material from either band, and a cool concept. Personally, I'm not aware of many bands that have sat down and presented a unified concept between two bands as opposed to simply splitting each band's output into separate sides on a split. I guess it's easier when your two bands are comprised of three people total, but whatever. This shit is cool. Fast and grinding songs give way to sludgy, industrial rhythms. A very brutal combination!

Hatred Surge's set was one of the best at Sound & Fury, and it was cool to see them get a decent reaction, considering that they're not the sort of band typically associated with a fest like Sound & Fury. In a live setting, Hatred Surge's braintrust, Alex Hughes, plays bass and sings, and has a really intense stage presence for somebody who's largely trapped behind a microphone for most of their songs.

I haven't seen Iron Lung yet, but I've heard that they're great. If you're into crusty, grindy, power-violence, or if you're familiar with one band, but not the other, then these are two bands to check out.

Trash Talk - East of Eden
This band has come a long way since they first started out as a scrappy little outfit from Sacramento! A lot of people hate them, and talk shit on them or whatever, but I'll stick by them. I remember a time when literally nobody gave a fuck about them. No one would show up to their shows, and frankly, their music was garbage! Fast forward a few years, and they're unbelievably popular.

Dedication to doing their thing is commendable, and thankfully their music has improved a lot. I'd categorize it as power-violence with a little bit more polish on it. Really great lyrics, and a sick guest vocal appearance by none other than KEITH MORRIS.

I missed the first press, so I made sure to pick up a copy from the second press. It was just released and is probably sold out already.

Naysayer - No Remorse
A lot of bands have attempted to retread the whole Madball sound, and completely miss the mark. Naysayer's No Remorse has an undeniable Set It Off/Demonstrating My Style vibe to it. The vocals take a little to get used to, they're kinda sneered and hissed. It didn't hit me right away, but I'm feeling it now.

Live, these guys go hard. I saw them at the Balazo Gallery in SF earlier this year, and they brought it. Another big plus to this band is that they know how to keep it short and sweet. This genre often suffers from overly-long songs that go nowhere at the hands of incompetent song-writers. Not the case here - I was surprised to find 6 songs on one 7"!


I'm not a huge pop-punk fan, but it will always hold a soft spot in my heart thanks to a mixtape that was given to me by a friend's older brother. The year was 1996, I was a confused high-school freshman, sporting both Operation Ivy and Korn patches on my backpack. I saw an older kid around school wearing an Elvis Costello shirt. I knew of Elvis Costello – he was that guy that my parents both listened to. I knew that EC was considered punk, but it didn't quite add up to me. I mean, where was the desperate, throat shredding vocals and heavily distorted guitars that marked all the punk that I knew about? Even still, I could tell that this anonymous dude in the Elvis shirt knew something that I didn't.

At some point before the end of that year, I became friends with a girl in my P.E. class, and eventually met her brother. It turns out that he was the guy I'd seen around campus in the Elvis Costello shirt. He must have seen me as a kid teetering on the edge of being just another suburban dork who'd either dig a few inches into the underground, or possibly a kid with the smarts to get into some really good music. He made a great mix for me, and I listened to it constantly for years. I didn't really have much money as a teenager, and without a car, or a good record store in town, this tape was my only link to the stuff that I could find at The Wherehouse (the now defunct, major music retailer).

To this day, I still listen to a lot of the bands that appeared on this tape, and they set the standard for my interest in pop-punk. The bands on my tape were genuine, and reflected the true spirit of punk. Perhaps not all of the bands had "serious" lyrics. Most certainly didn't spit their rage at sociopolitical ills, but what they did do was capture the sound and feeling of being an outsider. These were the bands that wondered if maybe it wasn't the world that was fucked up, but perhaps it was them personally. The songs weren't just about not being able to get girls, the songs were about disconnection.

When I listen to a band like Weston, Jawbreaker, Knapsack, or Dillinger 4, I can relate. When I hear a band like Fight Fair, it comes off as frat boys posing as sensitive losers. The bands of yore sung songs about having nobody to talk to, nobody to love. Today's bands seem to be aimed at connecting with the Prom King and Queen. Go to Fight Fair's MySpace page, scroll down to the section that has their music lawyer's contact info, and I think you'll get the gist. It's about selling an image, and finding the most effective vehicle to do so. 15 years ago it was edgier bands like Rancid, and today it's bands with vaguely pop-punk stylings. The cycle goes on and on.


OK, that last part was a joke. Hopefully you enjoyed reading this entry, and hopefully you agree with me. Now enjoy this Weston video from 1995.