Monday, February 27, 2012

Demo Alert: Replica

I am afraid that these new demo posts are in danger of becoming repetitive what with my attempts to figure out different ways of saying “another new band that is helping restore my enthusiasm for the local punk scene.” The fact of the matter is that virtually every demo we have posted over nearly a year evokes that reaction in me, redundancy be damned. My interest in the up-and-comers of the Bay Area was waning for a few years, so I am pleased that this has changed. Replica certainly falls under that category. No Statik’s drummer B teams up with three of the tiniest women in the Bay Area hardcore scene to make a noise that is anything but small in stature. One of those women is ex-Duck and Cover vocalist Dharma Mooney, who adds a snotty persona to these songs that is appreciated. Her sarcastic laugh in “Sandy Bottoms” is one of those little things that goes a long way towards making a song more interesting to listen to. Replica appears to have an array of musical influences to where I would probably laugh my ass off at some twentysomething know-it-all trying to describe them to me. Do not bother, for this is simply good hardcore at the end of the day. The uptight crybater brigade will probably fall in love with them for all the wrong reasons, but one can hope that will not deter the rest of us from following Replica’s progress. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Here Comes the Judge

Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham deserves a place in your record collection alongside the likes of Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly, although it should be noted that his sense of humor was far less risqué. He began appearing in minstrel shows as a teenager in 1918 and had the dubious distinction of being the final holdout from the blackface era, applying the burnt cork to his skin until 1943. His refusal to shed the blackface did NOT sit well with various black advancement groups, who saw him as an Uncle Tom who dredged up unpleasant memories. Pigmeat brought his “here come da judge” routine to television via Ed Sullivan, who had witnessed his act at the Apollo Theater several times. Viewers may still remember His Honor whacking defendants over the head with beef bladders on Sullivan’s show, or maybe they recall his appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. During his time on Laugh-In, Pigmeat introduced the “sock it to me!” and “you can put that in your Funk and Wagnall’s” catch phrases to American pop culture. There is definitely much more to the Pigmeat Markham saga, but that information is easy to come by these days. 

By the time his Here Comes the Judge album was released on renowned R&B label Chess Records in 1968, Pigmeat Markham was in his mid-sixties and definitely in the twilight of his career. Some would probably say that his career should have been over long before the late ‘60s, but Pigmeat’s run on Laugh-In afforded him a brief opportunity to reintroduce himself to a new generation before finally passing the torch. This 45-RPM single features the title track backed with a skit called “The Trial.” “Here Comes the Judge” is a funky musical number that essentially introduces you to Pigmeat’s character. One by one, the judge plans to restore justice everywhere in the world, even speaking to Ho Chi Minh about clearing up that whole Vietnam War situation. Now that everybody knows that he is the judge, it is time to enter the courtroom for “The Trial.” I do not want to spoil the outcome because I hope you are open-minded enough to give this a listen, but hilarity ensues when Judge Markham presides over a nudist case. 

I imagine that there are plenty of people out there whose self-ingrained sense of ‘political correctness’ prevents them from enjoying someone like Pigmeat Markham. Although it is true that his sense of humor is well worn and lowbrow at best, Pigmeat Markham does not reinforce black stereotypes any more than Richard Pryor, the Wayans brothers, Chris Rock, or Dave Chappelle did. If anything, it might say something about your willingness to accept stereotypes as face value. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself and others. Perhaps then you will begin to take steps to overcome the internal prejudice handed down to you from previous generations. 

Get high as a Georgia pine here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Demo Alert: Proto Regime

Proto Regime may be brand new to the Bay Area, but their present already indicates a future so bright that sunglasses are required. Keep in mind that I may be biased since I was a big fan of their vocalist Johnny’s previous band Suburban Death Camp. Suffice to say, I am excited to see him back in action. Proto Regime is similar to Suburban Death Camp in that Johnny is fronting another band with musicians that are substantially younger than he is. Not that the age difference matters in the slightest, but perhaps you dig the idea of the generations interacting. They take up where that band left off by delivering quick-paced thrashy hardcore, but Proto Regime plays with considerably more power to their craft. Crossover fans will dig the metallic overtones. Hardcore punks will level Burnt Ramen going mental to the speed. You will get evicted from your domicile for playing Proto Regime’s demo loud enough for Occupy protesters worldwide to adopt “Apathy and Destruction” as their new anthem. Storm the barricades here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

NWA & the Posse

NWA & the Posse is not so much the first NWA album than it is a compilation that they happen to be part of. The Niggaz only contribute three of their own songs, while most of the other tracks are taken up by Eazy E’s solo raps and another group called the Fila Fresh Crew. You are probably familiar with the NWA tracks, as they were later used on Straight Outta Compton, but perhaps you might enjoy checking out the other groups too. If nothing else, it is interesting to get a taste of what was up and coming in Los Angeles before gangsta rap took over and seemingly pushed fun-loving rappers like the Fila Fresh Crew and Rappinstine to the wayside. This rip was sourced from the original album at perfect MP3 quality, featuring Rappinstine’s “Scream.” Subsequent pressings replaced “Scream” with NWA’s “A Bitch iz a Bitch,” so click here and pretend you’ve been down with the posse from the very beginning.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Proud to be Black

Run-DMC was not the first rap group I ever heard, but they were the first that I actively listened to. To a little kid in a Pennsylvania redneck town like me, Run-DMC busted out the sickest jams around. Everyone else in my family had their own taste in pop music that was well represented in our household. My dad was in charge of supplying the records, but he would not bend to my requests to bring Metallica records into the fold. He did, however, come home with a handful of Run-DMC singles for me to listen to. Perhaps they would be the start of my establishing my own niche in the family music collection instead. At eight years old, I obviously knew nothing about rap music or its history. I just knew that I loved this new sound coming out of the radio speakers.
Hip-hop culture hit the mainstream like the atomic bomb in the mid ‘80s. Suddenly, redneck kids were attempting the Human Beat Box and walked around town with ghetto blasters like they were Radio Raheem in
Do the Right Thing. Run-DMC and LL Cool J battled it out to be the kings of this transition, at least until a trio of smartass white kids called the Beastie Boys hit it huge with a single called “Fight for Your Right (to Party).”
When I first moved to California in the late ‘80s, I found out the hard way that Run-DMC were already passé amongst my fellow little kid rap fans. Little did they know that none of their favorites would be relevant past 1990, rendered obsolete by hardcore gangsta rap. Run-DMC has managed to stand the test of time. I still overhear people listening to them occasionally.

Raising Hell
isn’t Run-DMC’s best album, but it is my favorite. The first four songs are classics, including the smash hit cover of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” Sure, the middle section drags, but “You Be Illin’” picks it back up. Unfortunately, “Dumb Girl” slows it right back down. Songs about dumb girls can be funny, but this one is, well, dumb. Maybe that was the point. “Proud to Be Black” closes the album on a high note. The normally lighthearted Run-DMC get serious with this rap, lyrically rejecting the slave mentality in favor of standing up for oneself and looking past things like skin color. Hopefully the human race will be able to cure the cancer of racism someday.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Make the Leaders Fight

Bands are often less remembered for their music than they are for everything else—be it onstage antics, violence, or simply the musicians themselves. From what I can tell, Special Forces are no exception. Most people would probably just write them off as another generic ‘80s hardcore band, but there is certainly more to them than just that. Special Forces issued their first demo in 1983 and continued as something of a Bay Area punk farm team for nearly ten years. The various local punk luminaries who have done tours of duty with Special Forces are too many to name, but the main cog was always a character by the name of Orlando Xavier. Affectionately known to most as Ox, Orlando was one of the first punks hanging out on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue back in the early ‘80s. Ever since then, he has been quite the visible fixture in the Bay Area punk scene, loudly holding court at the bar, working security at Gilman in the early ‘90s, or scaring shoplifters at Amoeba Records. Forget about Gimme Something Better; you could probably fill a book with bizarre Orlando stories alone. Not a man you would want to meet in a dark alley. Bet on that.

Local bands rule, right? Special Forces would have been a band that provided a soundtrack to many moments of your punk rock youth. “In South Africa” would have been stuck in your head while on a half-sheet of acid at the anti-apartheid protest. You would have gotten drunk in the alley and slam-danced your little heart out in some dingy warehouse as they played. Their patches would adorn your jacket. You ain’t gotta lie to kick it. We all know this, so don’t front. Try to keep all of this in mind when you listen to songs like “Death on Holiday, “Cockrocker,” “Make the Leaders Fight” (always my favorite), “Mulemeat Blues,” or “Berkeley Hardcore.” Perhaps then you will see why Special Forces is a name that brings a smile to the faces of older East Bay punks when brought up. They also had a song called “Generic Thrash,” so at least they knew what you thought of them the whole time.