Friday, May 7, 2010

Real Men in the Hour of Chaos

It’s been exactly one year since The Evil Eye first opened to these weekly music posts. Here’s a two-for-one deal to celebrate our first anniversary.

The Young & the Useless has roots in NYHC’s first generation, claiming future Beastie Boy Adam “Adrock” Horovitz as a guitarist sometime during their 18-month existence. I’ve read online articles claiming that the Young & the Useless had potential to be even bigger than the Beasties, which is difficult to believe when listening to their lone seven-inch titled Real Men Don’t Floss. Frankly, I’m more inclined to believe Stephen Blush’s anecdote about them in American Hardcore. But I wasn’t there, so what do I know? Maybe the proof was in their live sets. Or that unreleased recording that’s been lost to the sands of time. We’re just unable to comprehend the genius behind lyrics like “I’m the leader of the Manly Crew/I hate fags and sissies too/My man Perez is the best/He gives a cut to all the rest.” We just had to be there, in the moment. Right?

Although this record doesn’t exactly evoke the idea that these knuckleheads could have been the biggest band in New York, it does have a certain charm to it. It’s shitty teenage hardcore, scrappy and stupid. The lyrics are of that weird, drugged-out early-NYHC stream of consciousness that some bands had. You know what I mean—when the lyrical topic seems to completely change in mid-verse. The correlation between, let’s say, the need for unity and an unnamed skinhead girl sucking big dicks made total sense when I was huffing glue and smoking angel dust at practice last week.

This record may not resonate with you the same way those seven-inches from Urban Waste and Antidote do. But it’s a product of the same era, another piece of the puzzle. I think records like that are always worth hearing, regardless of teenage ineptitude levels.

The second Young & the Useless is actually the band I sang for when I was a teenager. We stole the name from Adrock’s old band because…uh…I don’t know why. Not a bad name for a teenage suburban punk band really, but there was also some lame story I made up about “paying homage” to the old New York bands or something like that. Similar to the joke about NYHC lyrics, it made complete sense when I was drunk, stoned, and taking legal speed pills. I’m pretty sure most people rolled their eyes and said “Yeah, whatever” upon hearing that one. Four suburban smartasses with Mohawks and Docs playing noisy chaos punk garbage with dumb lyrics. Like the song about surviving on Taco Bell. Or the song about incest. Remember when punks had a hard time admitting that they liked metal bands too? We had a song that sort of touched on that subject as well.

This is the posthumous Young & the Useless CD, released by Six Weeks in 2001. It gathers live recordings from Gilman Street with the four-track session that produced the song “Cider Sluts” for Six Weeks’ America in Decline compilation LP. That was all we had to offer—the band imploded before we could get into Bart Thurber’s Guerilla Euphonics studio and record the songs the way we’d envisioned them sounding. That’s how it was for a lot of bands back then. Most of them didn’t really know what they were doing. Recordings often failed to capture what the bands really sounded like. They were lucky to have their collective shit together to be able to go to a real studio and do stupid things like pay close attention to how the recording was mixed. The Misanthropists were the only younger local hardcore band that had jobs and the money to do split seven-inches with Godstomper that sounded good. Bands like the Young & the Useless and the Masked Men? Not really.

Between January 1995 and September 1996, we somehow managed to average one show a month. Sometimes we’d crash shows and jump on a band’s equipment for a song or two. I’m sure that was a big part of why the Gilman staff hated us and eventually passed a “no jump-on bands” rule. But we were enthusiastic teenagers who had also seen similar bands like the Unhappy do the same thing. We managed to play with most of the good local bands that we liked at the time. Cyco Mike from Oppressed Logic and John Mendiola from Subincision threw a few shows our way. One seminal show was a party at the Vomitorium, Subincision’s old house on Rose Street in North Berkeley. It was the summer of 1995, and the PC/anti-PC war was starting to heat up. But the warring factions came together for a few hours and got drunk to Oppressed Logic, Subincision, and Blackfork. Eldopa and Skaven played one of their first shows that afternoon, and we opened.

There was also a ridiculous show at Epicenter where the place essentially got trashed. Although nobody pulled a sprinkler pipe out of the ceiling, there was a grocery bag full of Taco Bell sauce packets emptied into the crowd. Bands were attacked by drunken audience members and the PA was nearly destroyed. Self-inflicted bloodshed and nudity. A couple even began having sex onstage during Subincision’s set later on. The freight elevator got broken at the end of the night. Needless to say, the Epicenter volunteers were NOT pleased. I thought that was how all shows were. Then again, most shows were sort of like that at the time. People would get drunk and lip off to each other. A huge fight would break out, sometimes resembling an atmosphere akin to that of a riot. The venue would get destroyed. Bands would manage to play somewhere in the middle of this mess. Most of the time.

It was both fun and frustrating, and the events that transpired during that year and a half (give or take) had a lot to do with me getting more involved and taking a more proactive role in making shows happen. For better or worse. A lot of other people were fueled by the lack of support and organization taking place some fifteen years ago and started doing what they could to improve things too. Despite our (deserved) status as a forgotten band from that time, the Young & the Useless is a part of that story.

Do something useful for a change.


JEN said...

Aaahh! I was at both of those shows! I had forgotten about the Rose street one. The Epicenter show was a class, of course. I don't think the place was even around much longer after that one. De-fuckin'-stroyed! Good times.

The Evil Eye said...

I forgot to mention that when we accidentally fucked up the freight elevator, that prompted a volley of "fuck you, East Bay" comments from the Epicenter staff. The East Bay Invasion of Epicenter, never forget.

Epicenter forged on for another year before the fateful Gauze/Assfort/His Hero is Gone gig where some guy (supposedly tattoo artist Chronic Joe) pulled a sprinkler pipe out of the ceiling. The store wasn't the same after that and folded shortly thereafter. Our show destroyed the place in a way that was funny and could be cleaned up quickly (well, the freight elevator is another story...), although I'm sure the place reeked of hot sauce for the next couple of weeks.

Nicholas Bergin said...

Jake! Another great post! I'm really enjoying what you've been writing and the music you've been posting. Keep it up!

The Evil Eye said...

Thanks, Nick!

Jesse Luscious said...

I remember that show- the crusties fucking next to Marshall's drumset while he played has scarred me for life!