Sunday, January 9, 2011

Saturday playlist.

"Wormtown '78" compilation (Beast, 1979)

I picked this up as a curiosity; sleeveless stock copies of this notoriously rare compilation have been available over the last year and I suppose I figured I might as well give it a shot.  I had no real expectations—Worcester, Massachusetts was not the type of place, one would think, to incubate a great rock'n'roll scene.  Of course, one would be wrong; it turns out that Worcester is among the population of small and mid-sized American cities with early punk scenes that outshone their metropolis brethren.  The four bands—Crazy Jack & the Heart Attaxs, Blue Moon Band, The Towel, Hooker—on Wormtown '78 share a thuggish bar rock sound with loud, scuzzy guitars that plant this firmly in punk territory.  Sex Pistols and Ramones influence is clear, but this still comes across as meaner, more blue collar.  The Towel, who otherwise have no releases, steal the show for me.  A duo with guitar and vocals only have a sound reminiscent of Mike Rep & the Quotas or Teenage PHD's without the weirdness in the songwriting; these tracks read as earnest if underdeveloped stabs at rock and roll.  In totality, it is a brilliant comp, showcasing a scene with an original sound that was mostly lost in American punk.  Just fantastic stuff.

Protex "Strange Obsessions" LP (Sing Sing, 1980/2010)

When we were out in Los Angeles, we spent a good amount of time at Cinefamily, which was hosting a weekend of screenings in honor of the amazing Destroy All Movies book.  One of the films we caught was Shellshock Rock, a snapshot of Belfast punk circa 1979.  What was so compelling was that it was a portrait of a scene looking to avoid chaos, using punk as a vehicle for light-hearted fun in contrast to the dire politically charged reality of their surroundings.  Perhaps this helps explain the Belfast aesthetic—energetic but extremely melodic, music for a spikey haired sock hop.  This collection of 1979-1980 recordings from Protex, previously only rumored to exist, is exemplary of that sound.  It's not the type of thing that gets many listens by me, but when the mood is right this one'll be tough to beat.  Next dance, anyone?

The Tix s/t 10" (Lunar Lab, 1980)

A friend and I recently found ourselves chatting over a coffee and stuffed french toast breakfast at City Island Diner on a miserable, rainy morning.  He mentioned that he'd recently revisited this Houston record and had been spending a lot of time with it...then was kind enough to point out a copy for sale and recommended that I try it out for myself.  You can see why this release was overlooked among the sea of monster punk gems in Texas.  The band clearly viewed themselves as new wave, but their organ driven sound is much more at home with, say, Desperate Bicycles than Gary Numan.  Pukekos blog has a track up, here, so check it out.

Tyvek "Nothing Fits" LP (In the Red, 2010)

Proof that their endless demo-ing and reworking of songs pays off.  "Nothing Fits" showcases a totally aggressive take on the band.  This one's as raw and angry and as powerful an album as I've heard in a while.  The entire thing builds up to "Blocked" which about halfway through starts kicks into a guitar riff that, although different, kind of reminds me of the second half of Disclose's "Nightmare or Reality".

Estrogen Highs "Friends and Family" LP (Gramery, 2010)

A sleeper candidate for year end top ten lists.  This is a stellar album, leaps and bounds better than the first album both in terms of ambition and execution.  These kids are really hitting on something. See them on tour now.

Public Image Ltd "Public Image" b/w "Cowboy Song" (Virgin, 1978)

I was dismantling a broken photocopier while this was playing.  Classic stuff that makes for great background music for such an activity.   I think I got the damned thing working again (it did take the next album as well...I'm not that fast).

Destruction Unit "Eclipse" LP (Eclipse, 2010)

At first I was sort of put off with the direction that Destruction Unit had taken over the last couple of releases.  His first EP is an all-time favorite and completely aggressive.  It's what I think of when I think of Destruction Unit, so when he started to release music that was more introverted and thoughtful it took me a but to regroup.  I'm there now and can appreciate this new, moody take on Destruction Unit.  Still the same band, just growing up a bit.

Monday, January 3, 2011

movie night.

We had a bit of a lazy weekend, in a sense, for the most part staying indoors working on various projects,  catching up on reading, making the season's last batch of Xmas snacks, and spending plenty of time curled up on the couch watching TV.  The bulk of this was spent watching the brilliant Jeffrey Tambor, first during our own New Years Eve screening of Arrested Development 1, and again during IFC's marathon of the Larry Sanders Show 2.  Somewhere in there, Sarah mentioned having never seen Over The Edge.

Image borrowed from the very cool Subtlety In Excess blog
Unlike Rock and Roll High School, Ladies & Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains, Repo Man, Dudes, and others from the era's canon of teen rebellion films, none of the kids in 1979's Over The Edge identify themselves as punk rockers.  This is not only curious considering it was an exploitation film conceptualized during the earliest wave of punxploitation but also because the film was directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who had a previous credit as a director of Who Killed Bambi? having replaced Russ Meyer for a spell before the film fell apart completely.  But despite that technicality, this is most definitely a punk film 3 —and a well worn VHS copy should be a staple among my peer group 4 .

The characters are largely stereotypes (the stoner, the bad guy cop 5, absentee parents, the mute 6) with very little personality but the people are very real to me.  I knew kids who made pseudo-bombs with firecrackers and matchheads while babysitting themselves  after school, who practiced petty vandalism for fun, who wanted to lock their parents in a PTA meeting and trash the parking lot and I knew the lazy cop whose job was to give these kids a hard time and make them feel subhuman.  That the kids were played by kids (not so much actors) whose lives were probably not far off those of their characters makes this all the more real.  The movie would have been a wreck with any more skill or depth; like the best punk, it works as a punch to the gut, a raw emotional outburst.

Why this is such a classic is that, despite all else, it conveys the feeling of what it's like to be an afterthought, stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do except sit around with others in the same situation.  It nails what it is like being young, unable to articulate your feelings any way other than to just hate your surroundings; not knowing what you want or what a better situation looks like, just knowing that things aren't right, that you want out, and that the only semblance of escape is to lay back on your bed, headphones on, blasting "Surrender".  Only here, the kids do not surrender, they band together and fight back.

Apparently, the "based on a true story" line at the beginning of the film is, sort of, true.  Its authors were inspired by an article in the SF Examiner in the early 70s about packs of rowdy teens, reeking havoc on their town.  With that as the nugget of truth at the center, they beefed up the story with death and explosions.  Though the article itself seems to be MIA on the world wide web, Vice Magazine was apparently able to dig it up as it is quoted in their amazing oral history of the film.

We also caught White Stripes: Under the Great White Northern Lights, which was showing on TV.  The  film documents their extended tour of Canada and their attempts to make it a memorable and unusual journey.  With impromptu free gigs, including a session of "Wheels on the Bus" on a public bus, visitations to schools and Inuit nursing homes, it seems as though they succeeded.  In the middle of the film is an interview session in which Jack is discussing his self imposed limitations—limiting aesthetics to red and white, using old and temperamental gear, performing as  a duo, so on—and how those limitations exist to force creativity, they exist to force him to find a way to work around them to come up with something interesting.  Limitation as a conduit to creativity is something that I think about often and wholeheartedly endorse, and hearing Jack's rant made me appreciate the band  even more than I had before.


I was really hoping to link to here, but the site included a robots.txt preventing from hosting.  Curiously, they did not include this on, a site that I didn't know existed until five minutes ago.

I'm still not sure why they chose to start their airing with season six.  Perhaps it'll make sense to me after I watch the first five seasons.

I'm thinking that there's a case to be made for this non-punk PUNK film genre with Over the Edge, The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, Dogtown & Z-Boys, and some others.  Proto non-punk PUNK would include Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Pink Flamingos, George & Mike Kuchar, etc.  Am I getting carried away?

A peer group who has borrowed heavily from the film when conjuring up imagery or themes for their bands: New Granada and The Ritchie Whites borrowing their names, Area 51(among others) sampling dialogue, and the Chinese Millionaires ode "(You're Alright) Richie White".  Remind me what I'm forgetting (I know there's a lot).

Named "Doberman"! No subtlety at all; I love it.

I haven't figured this one out yet, but he sure is a cool kid.