Friday, September 30, 2011

Swankers

Swankers PMS first came to my attention in the mid ‘90s when I saw them listed in ads for Distortion Records’ Varning! För Punk comp CD. I knew absolutely nothing about Swedish hardcore at the time, but their name jumped out at me due to the Sex Pistols reference. Sending money to Sweden sounded sketchy to me (let alone Distortion’s horrible reputation), so I never bought the comp. However, Swankers PMS were filed away in my memory bank for later use.

Educated followers of Swedish hardcore can tell you that it isn’t always about bands like Anti-Cimex or Skitsystem. Sometimes it is about bands that have considerably less doomsday riffage in their repertoire. They may have hated skinheads enough to write a song called “Anti-Oi,” but Swankers PMS definitely resembled a cranked-up street punk band more than anything else. That discovery was a pleasant surprise to these ears. I was expecting a raw Discharge-style massacre like most Scandi-core bands I am familiar with. However, I think my current taste in music appreciates Swankers’ catchy Oi-on-amphetamines approach more.

Amongst the collector scum set, Swankers PMS are apparently known for releasing what is supposedly one of Sweden’s hardest-to-find punk records. Of course, that means next to nothing here at The Evil Eye. All that matters to us is whether the record is good. Fortunately, Swankers PMS were fucking great. You’re gonna dig this shit too, so quit being a wanker and get with the Swankers here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Demo Alert: Bird


More ‘90s-style hardcore from the Bay Area, this time courtesy of a band hailing from the often-ignored city of San José. Regular attendees of local hardcore and grind shows will probably recognize these folks from the amount of weed they burn each time they show up, which is fairly often. Bird didn’t really do much for me when I saw them play last year’s UGZ Speed Trials at Gilman Street, sorry to say. However, an entire calendar’s worth of practice (and maybe a lineup change, I am not sure) has resulted in their rapid improvement. If nothing else, this demo is a fine example of how properly sequencing the tracks can be quite effective. Songs one and two were all fine and good, but then “Rainbow Colors in Wrong Order” blasted out of my speakers and got me hooked. Although the clean guitar part in the middle threw me off, the rest of the song embodies everything I enjoy about ‘90s hardcore to a T. From there, the rest of the songs seem get faster and more intense. Bird is probably seen as a grindcore band by most—which is accurate—but they deserve better than to be lumped in with what typically passes for today’s interpretation of grind. From what I can tell, they are interested in spreading their wings a bit further than that. No plans to fly south with their music seem to be afoot, so do yourself a favor by keeping a close observation of this flock and what flight patterns they will take in the future. Hell, you don’t even need binoculars to do so.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Society & Other Bad Habits

By this point, 2.5 Children Inc. reside on the side of ‘90s punk that a lot of today’s remaining participants would prefer to forget. If you read Slug & Lettuce regularly, you probably remember photos and glowing reviews of these guys in practically every issue. Although 2.5 Children fit the dreadlocked crusty punk description, their music was influenced by anything but the likes of Antisect or Deviated Instinct. You could compare them to Avail in that they espoused anarcho politics while playing a similarly melodic, friendlier style of punk rock. It has also been said that this comparison can be extended to their great live shows versus lackluster recordings, but I don’t know anything about that. What I do know is that I have always enjoyed 2.5 Children’s first seven-inch, titled Society & Other Bad Habits much more than any later material I have heard from them.

Back when I was a wide-eyed teenage punker, this was one of the first records I got in an effort to catch up with bands that actually existed within my own generation. I was under the (incorrect) impression that 2.5 Children Inc. hailed from Pittsburgh—where I’m originally from—so that had something to do with it too. During this time, I was working on starting my own crappy punk band, so this record was something of an inspiration to me. The whole vibe gave me the impression that they didn’t give a damn if their recording sucked and people didn’t know who they were. They were just gonna go for it, press this damn record, and maybe somebody out there would like it. If not…fuck it, at least their shitty punk band had something to show for all that time wasted, right? I love that attitude.

Throughout the 1990s, tons of bands existed with that same attitude and their records flood record store clearance bins everywhere. These are the bands that remind me of how spoiled many musicians are here in the Bay Area. Perhaps the next time you want to complain about not profiting from touring the underground punk circuit, you will stop and realize how lucky you are to even have that opportunity in the first place. 2.5 Children Inc. didn’t hail from a hip and happening scene like the Bay Area. Instead, they were from the bullshit borough of West Chester, PA and weren’t trying to “get noticed” like your stupid band. One can imagine that this one seven-inch would have allowed them to die happy punks while you expect people to pay for your band’s recording and cater to your every need en route to the pressing plant. Wanna know which one I think is more worthy of being called a “punk band”? Click here and find out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Demo Alert: Connoisseur


Years ago, I was smoking a huge bowl and talking to a friend online when I came to the realization that hardcore was the best music to listen to during a good smoking session. For the record, the Urban Waste seven-inch was the soundtrack at that moment, with the volume turned up as high as I had gotten upon making that observation. Connoisseur is a band that is of a similar opinion, taking much of their musical influence from the kind of ‘90s hardcore that is definitely the antithesis to their pro-pot philosophy. Instead of beating down the drunks, Connoisseur seeks to fuck up those who hand you a cashed bowl. Their version of the firestorm is intended to produce a mushroom cloud of marijuana smoke over the city of Oakland, which is certainly more positive than what Earth Crisis had in mind. However, you will have to ask them about their stance on burrito consumption and the effect it will have on the future of humankind.

Despite what some people would have you believe, much of the Bay Area hardcore scene revolves around a “get stoned, play fast” mentality. This is nothing new by any means, but I am hard-pressed to name very many good newer bands that espouse marijuana’s virtues in their lyrics. Connoisseur is a band that has stepped up to the stage with blunt in hand. Go to their shows and get baked with them. If you are local, there is a good chance you already have. Roll a joint and practice your floorpunching here, which also features The Evil Eye’s exclusive bonus track “Midgets.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Blog's Your Poison

Everyone who likes Japanese hardcore has their favorite compilation, right? Great Punk Hits, anyone? How about Thrash ‘Til Death? Farewell to Arms, perhaps? My Meat’s Your Poison happens to be the choice favorite here at The Evil Eye. Released in 1986, this record compiles the style of Japanese hardcore we always liked the most—out of control, frantically fast thrash that still manages to remember the value of a good tune. Not only does My Meat’s Your Poison feature some of the best material from both Outo and S.O.B., but it also served as our introduction to Chicken Bowels and the amazing Gudon. Systematic Death and Lip Cream have had better outings elsewhere, but that isn’t to say that their contributions are inferior by any means. On a different day and a different compilation, either of those bands are certainly capable of delivering boss tuneage worthy of the main course. Today it’s My Meat’s Your Poison and there’s other bands stepping up to the plate of Kobe steak.

Enough ranting, it’s time to dig in! What’s that? You don’t eat meat? Do not fret. The Evil Eye’s personal chef was thoughtful enough to set aside some room for our vegan friends, so let us all step up to this platter of tasty tunes and feast to our collective heart’s content here. Happy eating!

Friday, September 9, 2011

T.V. Casualties

You might not remember when every stupid shitpunk poser kid wore a Social Outcast patch on their hoodie without actually hearing the band, but I sure do. A couple years before all those patches materialized, this record was part of a pile that I had acquired at some Gilman show. I cannot remember why I had such high expectations for this particular seven-inch, but it was such a huge letdown that I filed it away for eons and never listened to it again. My music collection was actually in storage by the time all the dumb kids started wearing those patches, so I couldn’t even sell it to one of them. Yet, I could have sworn that I managed to get rid of it somehow.

Fifteen years after I bought that damn record—and a good ten since I saw or heard a mention of them—somebody on the scenester board mentions a new band out of Detroit called Final Assault. Damned if they don’t have at least one ex-member of Social Outcast in the lineup. Everything I just wrote previously came to mind, so I checked my seven-inches…and there it was. Social Outcast managed to survive multiple collection purges by virtue of the fact that I had legitimately forgotten that I still owned their record. I couldn’t help but laugh. Out of all the records I have unloaded, THIS one stuck around?

Perspective is a funny thing. I hated this record like the cancer in 1996. Even to my ears at the time, this was just boring and generic in comparison to the other records I bought that evening. I am even more of a music Nazi in 2011, complete with a lesser enthusiasm for anarcho crusty stylings. That said, this record isn’t nearly as bad as I remember it being. Had I been the punk in Detroit that I was in the East Bay back then, it is safe to say that Social Outcast probably would have been “my” band that I followed and tried to hang out with. I would have known whom the song “R.S.A.” was about and sang along to the lyrics about Dee-troyt skinhead thuggery. Perhaps I would have bugged them for a ride to NYC to take part in the Squat or Rot scene too. Of course, this record would have seen constant turntable action throughout it all.

Maybe that’s why TV Casualties has been so elusive of the dreaded to-sell pile all this time. Perhaps the record gods sprinkled some magic fairy dust on it for protection, knowing that I would come to appreciate this record for what it is. We at The Evil Eye are not sure if you’ll see it the same way, but you’re welcome to give it your best shot here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ballad of a Broken Home

What was it like to be a punk rocker in the bullshit burgh of Fresno, CA in the early ‘80s? Probably not that much fun, but at least you had a hometown hero band to get behind in the great Capitol Punishment. It’s safe to say that they are one of the most underrated bands in the Northern California hardcore lexicon. Capitol Punishment may come off as a typical 1-2-fuck-you thrash band at first glance, but there is a superior intelligence at work here. By the time they released When Putsch Comes to Shove in 1985, these Central Valley punks were well-versed in their craft to where you could conceivably put this album up against other classic hardcore records released that same year, like Raw Power’s Screams from the Gutter. The songwriting has a good amount going on as different elements are introduced for effect. I hear a little bit of LA creepy crawl here, some Euro thunder there, and even a sprinkling of Discharge doomsday riffage in the mix. Vocalist Ralph Lotspeich typically has a throat full of gravel in the best way possible, but it’s great when he cleans it up on “Elephant Man.” That’s just one of a number of memorable songs on this album. Lyrically and musically, “Racism is Ignorance” is quite possibly the best condemnation of racism that I have ever heard. The song breaks down. “Stand upon your pedestal…your pedestal of fear…” Muted guitar chords. “All’s not well…I can tell…you’re so fucked up…” The pace begins to build. “You declare supremacy, but you’re NOT THE MASTER RACE!” The song kicks back in and if you’re not ready to single-handedly take on the entire Ku Klux Klan, you have no fucking soul. When Putsch Comes to Shove is, without a doubt, one of The Evil Eye’s all-time favorite Northern California punk records. If you’re a fan of the Fix, Poison Idea, Discharge, or Battalion of Saints, you may want to click here and get ready to stagedive.