Friday, December 2, 2011

I Think You're Shit

Like Urban Assault, the Fuck Ups were another San Francisco punk band whose expressions of rage were born of the streets. They were most notorious for a song called “White Boy,” a ranting number about life in San Francisco’s Mission District from a drunken white trash punk’s perspective. Tim Yohannon and MRR used the song and specific incidents as fuel to brand the Fuck Ups as a racist band, a label that they were never quite able to shake over the years. To be honest, Fuck Ups vocalist Bob Noxious was not exactly known for doing much to change anybody’s opinion regarding his racial animosity, or lack thereof. Even if they had never written “White Boy,” their detractors only have to point to a particular T-shirt Bob was known for wearing back in the day—with a swastika on the front followed by the slogan “NIGGERS BEWARE” on the rear. Obviously, ambiguity is not the first word one thinks of in this regard. However, just as many people would say Bob Noxious was not legitimately racist as there are who would disagree.

It is true that back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, punk rock was considerably different before MRR’s politicized vision began to unfold. In particular, some early San Francisco bands explored lyrical themes having to do with being disaffected Caucasians of sorts. Sometimes the results were blackly satirical, such as Noh Mercy’s “Caucasian Guilt.” Other times, they were unfocused expressions of ignorance. To some extent, “White Boy” falls on the latter side of the fence. Although I wasn’t there in the early ‘80s, I personally never felt that the song itself was as racist as people claimed it was. It might be safe to say that critics like Tim Yohannon had not been to some of the places that might inspire a song like this one. I’ve never been the only
white boy in the Mission, but I have been the only one in line at the welfare office before. Of course, that was the perspective I had when listening to the song. The problem was that Bob Noxious couldn’t really articulate those sentiments very well—and that Tim Yohannon had already made up his mind before the conversation was recorded for an early issue of MRR.

To be honest, “White Boy” isn’t worthy of all the hype it gets. Believe it or not, there are five other songs on here that are much better. The rest of the record may not be as controversial, but it is as good an example of raw, antisocial punk rock as any you will find circa 1982. “I Think You’re Shit” is a snarling expression of hatred that rates as one of my favorite punk songs, although others might cite the sentiments of “Once I Had a Brother.”

The Fuck Ups were ugly, violent, and obnoxious—everything that punk rock was before the more deeply political elements were introduced. For all the attempts to kill off that side of punk over time, it still manages to fester like a cancerous cell that just won’t go away. That’s not such a bad thing, in my opinion. Sometimes we (as in “…the punks”) need to be reminded of where we truly come from.



neat record. i have to agree with the writer that the song white boy is...mediocre. still, pretty interesting stuff about the whole tim yohannon thing...but not surprised. its not the first time MRR pulled that kind of shit - they did the same thing to RF7 on their Fall In 12". cool blog, good music and interesting. let the day begin...

ftwdclxvi said...

Thanks for using my picture of the album alt-cover