Friday, May 25, 2012

Punx Picnic

Spring is in the air, the strawberries are succulent, and Oi Polloi provides a fine soundtrack for the season even if your allergies have rendered you into a near-deathlike state. Total Anarchoi is a half-studio/half-live record released to benefit a number of causes, including a center for Gaelic language assistance and legal assistance for fellow punks after a face-off with the cops at a local punk fest. The studio side lives up to expectations, especially since you have already checked out their earlier material like the Resist the Atomic Menace EP we posted a while back. However, the live set is more than worth the price of admission. Recorded in Edinburgh the night before a punk’s picnic, Oi Polloi are in high spirits—possibly in more ways than one. If you were present, I would imagine that you had a great time. The audience is encouraged to mosh against multinationals, which is not such a bad idea. Singalongs are established ahead of time so everyone knows what to say when the time is right. Nazis are killed and Stonehenge is set free. Much to everyone’s delight, Discharge and Sham 69 are covered. If a fun time like this cannot get the punks primed for tomorrow’s picnic, I suppose nothing else will. Not even strawberries gathered by my own hand. That would be a damned shame. Eat some strawberries and get over yourself already.

Can you feel it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sin vs. Spinewrench

Today’s post sees two post-crust bands duke it out for the dubious title of King of the Clearance Bin, mostly because that was the hand dealt to them by the reviled Dutch East distro who released this split in the early ‘90s. Had you come across this CD in a record store, chances are you would have passed it up without a second glance. There is no snobbery in that statement—unless you already knew who the bands were, you had no reason to bother picking it up. The packaging is as bland and generic as it gets, with no info whatsoever about either band. Nothing about this CD would have stood out compared to any one of a number of punk or metal releases of the time. For all anyone knew, Sin and Spinewrench were those two lame garage metal bands who rehearsed next door while your dad tried to watch the evening news. They were doomed for the clearance bin, perhaps to be found five years later by some bored and broke music fan. 

However, you almost certainly would have snapped this split up if you were aware of the fact that both bands boasted members of some of your favorite late ‘80s crustcore bands. Sin saw ex-Misery and Nausea vocalist Al Long team up with Javier Villegas of Born Against. Rob Middleton tapped drummer Charlie from the last Deviated Instinct lineup to form Spinewrench. Perhaps we should refer to these bands as “incrustrial,” since that is essentially what they sound like. They both pick up where their previous bands left off, but filter their respective sounds through a perspective that is obviously also influenced by the likes of early Godflesh and Pitchshifter. 

Sin is a bit more sludgy and drone-y in their approach. I don’t know if this was an intended effect or not, but there is something about their songs that made me feel ill at ease. Although they are usually engaging, I still found myself fidgeting my way through their four songs. Shortly after recording this split, most of Sin’s members went on to form the hatesludge outfits Cattlepress and Iabhorher. That is a story for another time, though. Spinewrench picks up the pace considerably. Their take is more straightforward in comparison, often sounding virtually identical to Deviated Instinct’s Guttural Breath LP. I imagine most listeners will probably prefer Spinewrench because they have more blood pumping through their musical veins. Then again, people seem to be really into that whole meandering drone thing, so who am I to say. Both bands are interesting to listen to regardless. 

In a way, this is what I wish crust progressed to in the long term. Personally, I have had my fill of Bolt Thrower worship and could easily live the rest of my life without hearing another Deathside-meets-At the Gates “stadium crust” outfit. With a fair amount of ex-crustys getting more into the death rock/goth side of things, I think it is only a matter of time before industrial stops being a bad word and starts becoming an interesting new influence. Take a baby step in that direction here. Thanks to Evil Eye reader Matt Parillo for sending this split our way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Demo Alert: Total Fucker

This demo is a bit overdue considering that I got it at Total Fucker’s first show nearly a month ago, but life can be that way sometimes. An appropriately titled demo too, for these dudes stab their cabinet speakers with screwdrivers (not really) and blast through four songs of fucked up Japanese-style noisecore. Disclose and Gloom would be the obvious influences here—not that there is anything wrong with that. Since this tape is barely over four minutes long, perhaps I should just let you go ahead and download it here. Then go see Negative Standards on tour and bug drummer Max Lavine for a physical copy, seeing as he is a Total Fucker too.

Friday, May 11, 2012

God is Everywhere

With all of the enthusiasm for ‘80s hardcore and crossover that has taken place over the past ten-plus years, it is somewhat surprising that Ludichrist is one name that I have heard little to no mention of. Personally, I always found them the most interesting out of the handful of late ‘80s metal/hardcore bands I started listening to in my early twenties. Ludichrist may not have been as intense as DRI or the Crumbsuckers, but they were willing to take chances with their music—as in more chances than they already had—that the other two bands were not. It isn’t on this tape, but I cannot think of another band of this sort who could have set “Green Eggs and Ham” (yes, as in Dr. Seuss) to music and make it sound good. 

Apparently, whoever ran the CBGB record label felt the same way, deeming them the one hardcore band worthy of a soundboard cassette release. For the sake of trivia that matters only to us, one of the shows that provided the source material took place the day before part of WrestleMania II was to take place at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum. I only bring that up because vocalist Tommy Christ mentions it while talking about different events taking place in the New York area that week. In case you were wondering, the other crucial event is a Ted Nugent/Aerosmith double bill. If you are already a Ludichrist fan, you will recognize virtually every song from their great Immaculate Deception LP that was released later in the year. They save their goofier moments for the recording studio and play their more straightforward material to get the blood pumping. With that in mind, Off the Board is a fine introduction to Ludichrist. If I am wrong, let your nonexistent god strike me down.

“Mommy? Where’s God?”
Right here, you little shit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Too Trashed to Live, Too Dumb to Die

Oi, fucker! Boasting (heh) future members of Worm Ouroboros and Strung Up, Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie are the kind of band that is less remembered for playing music than they are for the amount of shit they stirred up during their brief existence. It is probable that most people from the mid ‘90s East Bay punk scene would prefer to see this relic remain buried under a large rock, but too bad for them. Come to think of it, it is also likely that these same people questioned whether the Gravediggers ever existed at all outside of graffiti tags and rowdy drunken behavior at shows. Despite what they may or may not believe, the Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie were an actual band that managed to play a few shows and even recorded some stuff, although none of it was ever released. For what it is worth, this is the first time any of their recordings have been made widely available outside of the band’s circle of friends.

If you weren’t hanging out on Telegraph Avenue during 1994-1996, chances are you will have a hard time understanding or appreciating where the Gravediggers were coming from. Despite only having one actual skinhead in their ranks, Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie proclaimed themselves “the only Oi band in Berkeley.” Not all of their members lived in Berkeley either, but I digress. In order to at least sound like a real Oi band, it is usually necessary to have a gang of backing vocalists providing a loud, raucous chorus to inspire the united punks and skins to drunkenly sing along. The Gravediggers clearly thought this was a most important element, as they had something like four vocalists who did exactly that. I can’t be the only one who remembers the dubious pleasure of hearing Anthony, Smiley, and Aaron’s constant renditions of “Someone’s Gonna Die” by Blitz done repeatedly throughout the day. If Rancid’s cover was not enough to make me hate that song for the rest of my life, those three jackasses certainly managed to accomplish that. As annoying as that got, it was definitely harmless compared to an incident that went down around that same time. 

As we have said in the past, the East Bay punk scene could be something of a hostile environment during this time. Divisions were being thrown down over a lot of small-fry bullshit—the dumbest of which was the tribal war pitting “PC” versus “anti-PC.” I couldn’t even type that sentence without rolling my eyes. You get three guesses as to which side of the fence the Gravediggers resided on…and members of the band certainly appeared eager to establish their role in this silly dispute. The peak of their participation took place in May of 1995 when Smiley, one of the Gravediggers’ multiple vocalists, showed up to a Spitboy show at Gilman Street wearing a Mentors shirt with the slogan “NO MEANS YES—LEGALIZE RAPE” written on the back. The shit instantly hit the fan. Some time later, you could find Smiley lurking around Telegraph Avenue wearing a new T-shirt and a new slogan: a Spitboy shirt with “WOMEN SHOULD BE RESPECTED” emblazoned across the back. Most people didn’t really get Smiley’s tasteless attempt at humor, nor did they ever realize that his day job consisted of answering phones at a rape crisis center. The joke was on them, as was often the case when dealing with these malcontents.

Gravediggers of the Bourgeoisie recorded four demos during the year or so they were together. You get to hear the final recording, which shows the band at their trashy best. If you were there, this will take you back to hanging out on the Sproul Plaza steps when the local punks used to do that sort of thing. Table-scoring at Fat Slice Pizza and drinking 40s on the porch of UC Berkeley’s Le Chateau co-op. The Insurgents and their cronies needing three cents to break a nickel. Frank Depression and his books of demented poetry. Skinhead riots at Berkeley Square. The Insubordinator zine. If you weren’t there, this will probably all be lost on you unless you have an insatiable need to hear every obscure Bay Area punk band that ever existed. Get drunk, kick some ass, and do some sketchy shit here.