gordonzola: (terroir)
I see that there is going to be a 33 1/3 for Young Marble Giants “Colossal Youth” album. I love this album but don't know if I want to read this book. The minimalist mystery of this album is what always intrigued me. When I first heard it, I just couldn't understand where it came from or how it existed. I hear it now and even though its filled with anachronisms in detail and a societal outlook that is hard to explain to anyone born after 1980, I still love it.

Sometimes art needs an explanation, to put it in context, to understand how it came about or how it was a stepping stone to something else. But I prefer this album how I found it, obscure and open-ended. I’m not trying to sound like an old man but the fact that I think most of us teen Americans who heard Young Marble Giants in the ‘80s, first heard them as a song in a mix tape or from than one haunting song on the classic Rough Trade comp “Wanna Buy a Bridge?” Additionally most of us heard them after they broke up, when early punk was become hardcore in the USA, when our music was becoming faster, louder, shorter and more dude-centric.

Kind of the opposite of this:

Young Marble Giants influenced many of the bands I loved in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s but when I first heard them – in the early mid ‘80s -- they sounded like they were from another world. Even more than the non-generic bands that I listened to at the time (Flipper, Arkansaw Man, The Residents… later Tragic Mulatto etc.) I didn’t get them, but I always wanted more. I didn’t really get the subtle differences in English punk/post-punk/new wave etc, but I’ve always liked a good art band. One of any art band’s greatest assets though, is not giving up their influences… to sound like they just came into your head from somewhere where you not only had never been, but a place you couldn’t find on your own.

“Colossal Youth” is haunting, sparse, hinting, political but non-dogmatic, emotional, oddly affecting, and catchy. Somehow it manages to be somehow familiar yet inexplicable at the same time. I love quoting the Big Boys song “Fun, Fun, Fun” at this point of music entries to show how limited the expectation of range punks had in the ‘80s: “I’m a punk and I like Sham./Cockney Rejects are the world’s greatest band./ But I like Joy Division, Public Image too/even though that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Young Marble Giants were even more outside that realm. Still their songs made it on to mix tapes and were listened to in quieter moments.

I think “Colossal Youth” is a great subject for a 33 1/3 book, I just don’t know what I could possibly learn about the album or the folks who made it that could make “Colossal Youth” any better. On the other hand, I could think of a lot of things that could make it worse.

“Colossal Youth” is simply one of my favorite records of the whole post-punk era:

(You know, I never was a Hole fan so I didn’t realize until right now that they did a cover of “Credit in the Straight World,” -- my anthem of the last month -- that, imho, really missed the whole point. )

Young Marble Giants:

gordonzola: (making cheese)
Some of you may remember that I was systematically going through my 7" records, listening to them, and reviewing them. This is -- to me -- one of the most fun LJ practices: an ongoing project done for fun that --theoretically -- some other folks may enjoy reading about. Maybe it's a throwback to zines, but those are always my favorite type of entries.

Life circumstances made me abandon it. It's not worth mourning, it wasn't really that important, but I thought I would acknowledge it for the one or two of you who cared.

What I was trying to get at with those entries, besides cleaning out my record collection of junk I hadn't listened to for a decade, was the meaning of an ephemeral and outdated technology. The 7" in the punk world was very different from the 7" of the early '70s. It was the mark of being DIY and low budget instead of generating a secondary revenue stream. There was/is something so immediate and communal about the punk 7''. Often bought at a show, they bring back memories of time and place with more pinpoint precision than longer albums. Even the artwork is often more, well, arty.

For years I have wanted to have a "semi-soft 7 inch" party where I served semi-soft cheeses and played 7" records. But honestly, it's not super workable. I find the user un-friendliness of the 7" format -- getting up to change the record every 2-5 minutes -- endearing and even lovable, but still annoying.

I thought about proposing a 33 1/3 book at one point called something like "My 7" collection" but I don't think it would ever be accepted and, honestly, the more I read those 33 1/3 books the less I like them. And also, in this new world of immediate accessibility and obsession fulfillment, it feels good to speak softly about certain things I love.

As I was writing this I grabbed an old record at random. It's amazing how certain things are undisputed classics among a certain subset, and unknown outside that circle. Time and place, time and place. This is Led Zeppelin to me. (even if at the time I thought the beginning was a Jim Carroll "People Who Died" rip-off.)
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I had a productive day today. I approved the edits on a short piece for “Canteen Magazine.” I drafted blurbs for two new cheese books coming out this year. I handled a difficult wedding special order even though it was my day off. I have some time to kill before Stagey gets home so I thought I’d write an LJ post.

Rather than write another half-informed internet opinion about health care reform or discuss how cute my dog is, I figured I would write another entry in my ongoing “Gordon Reviews his 7”s series.” The small vinyl I picked out for today:

Flamingo 50 -- “Go Betsy Go!” (2002)

I saw this band in London in 2003 at some queer punk show I saw advertised in Time Out or something. I loved them. There was a novelty to be seeing a show where I knew no one but my ex-wife, yet everyone looked like people I should know. But mostly it was a great show because they totally rocked!

I bought their CD (a split with Lack of Reason) and still listen to it today. Melodic female vocals with lots of stop-and-start punk rock. Flamingo 50 is a totally underrated band from this era.

Here is my favorite song of theirs. It’s not on this 7”, but I don’t own (and didn’t even know about) this J Church split so what the heck?

I was super excited to listen to this record because I love the band’s other songs. I couldn’t remember this 7” at all and that was really the whole point of this exercise anyway, right?

Unfortunately, this record is really bad. The songs may be good – one catches glimpses of excitement in “Dump Yr Dumper” and “Told Ya So” -- but the mix is so fuzzy and vocals so murky that I can’t really recommend this one. I am sure that as a teen I listened and still love some records mixed worse than this but at age 46 it just makes me feel like I need a hearing aid. I put on a Nation of Ulysses record right after this just to check my needle. That still sounded like awesome.

Rating: Buy this awesome CD instead!
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Canadian new wave! I will admit I forgot all about this record. I had to clean the needle three times there was so much dust on it. And there are only 4 songs!

I was going to just dismiss this as generic, overly enunciated new wave. But after the second listen it really started growing on me. It is New Wave with capital NW. Everything takes Eff-ort! and clever E-NUN-c-ation!

OMG there’s a vid for “Flat Tire”!

Smash that radio! Shoot out that tire! Burn that gas station!

Heck, this 7” is even kinda catchy. You could have danced to it with stripes and a skinny tie back in the day. “I’m a SPONGE! I SOAK up every-THING!” C’mon it was 1979. Things were out-of-sorts back then and the future looked bleak. Slightly detached, almost ironic dance music was what folks needed to feel better.

Rating: An ear fungus that grows a little with every listen

(It's been awhile so I will remind you all, dear readers, that this is part of a series. You can click the tag below to read them all)
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I was living in upstate NY when this song got re-released. Suddenly this song that annoyed me when it came out a couple of years earlier was playing all the time on the local college rock station. “Why?” I asked, “Why did I have to live through this song twice?”

If you haven’t heard it, here it is:

I love/hate this song. I actually find the video kind of endearing. They were all older than me then, but they just look like kids having fun now. This song sticks in my head for weeks when I hear it, probably as the result of exposure at an early age.

I hate that whole “funk metal” era of bands though. I hate Primus. I hate Mr. Bungle. I’m ok with Victim’s Family I guess… but was that really the best that Northern California could do? Sadly, it seems that – post-Dead Kennedys and pre-Gilman St -- it was. When the option was seeing a Verbal Abuse/Fang bill again, well, I would have gone to the Verbal Abuse show, but I could see why others wouldn’t. But if I want some “funk” mixed in with my rock, I’ll go listen to a Big Boys record any day.

Supposedly this was some kind of statement/parody of “Live Aid” but it’s pretty incomprehensible at this day and time in 2011. Wanna hear the best “Live Aid”/”We are the World” parody?

You’re welcome. (The Steve Perry part is my favorite visual. But long-time readers probably assumed that.)

“We Care a Lot” did give of the theme for on of my favorite shows, “Dirty Jobs” so for that we should be grateful I guess.

The B Side is unlistenable. I don’t even know where this came from. It has no sleeve so I think it was in a free pile somewhere.

Rating: Don’t make me listen to this again. Even Amoeba won’t take it.
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First, I have to say that this era of UK leftist, feminist post-punk is one of my all-time favorite punk sub-genres. Bands like Au Pairs, Gang of Four, Delta 5, etc. were involved in – or paid lip service to*-- the anti-Thatcher political movements of the day, at least in my view 8000 miles away in California. The music was more jagged, still treble-y like punk is supposed to be, but not as scared of the bass as most punk, before or since. The lyrics of the songs of this era were some of the most astute ever written for pop music, and many would still resonate today if they were set to an electronic beat and auto-tuned.**

This 7” is Au Pairs first release but I didn’t pick it up, or hear it until the mid-‘90s sometime. I won’t say it’s my favorite record of theirs, but I do love it. What it lacks in their later lyrical and musical development, it makes up for in shear enthusiasm.

Unlike their other records, the mix makes the lyrics harder to understand so I always listen to this record for the overall sound. That said, I never knew what “Kerb Crawler” meant until I went to England. I had always assumed it meant (ala Tragic Mulatto) a “creep in the streets” instead of a guy cruising around in his car trying to solicit sex from women. Oh English slang, you confuse us American punk wanna-bees. For years we though the Sex Pistols wanted us to get angry, not drunk, with the lyric “Get pissed… destroy!”

Here’s “You”. I love that so many youtube vids show the actual 7” sleeves!

Rating: I love it, but it was just a warm-up for the great records that were to come.

*which, really is all you can expect in a pop band. Thank you Miley Cyrus.
**I like electronic beats and a lot of auto-tune so don't read that as snarky.
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This is a Spanish language political hardcore split, Los Crudos from Chicago and Huasipungo from NYC. I hadn’t listened to this in years but I remember this being pretty amazing when it came out. Listening to it for the first time in a decade, I can say that the Los Crudos side is awesome, Martin at his hardcore screaming best. There’s always one side of a split that you gravitate to –even if it’s purely subjective (for me: Blatz over Filth, Code of Honor over Sick Pleasure, Dicks over Big Boys etc.)– and the Crudos side is the one I always played first. And yes, I’ll sing along phonetically.

I herniated a disc in my neck and missed the Los Crudos show at Epicenter that I was supposed to help put on. It was a show for our anniversary week and – I heard – one of the most amazing shows I ever missed. That and the Minutemen/Husker Du/Meat Puppets show that I missed due to emergency wisdom tooth surgery are two of my biggest punk show regrets. I’ve seen martin in other bands, but this – by all accounts – was something special.

And the record was something special too. Much like riot grrrl and queer punk, Latino punk in the early-mid ‘90s de-centered the white male hetero hardcore world. * To me, that was exciting. To others, less so. MRR often had scene reports from Spanish-speaking countries to be sure – and L.A. had the Suicidals – but Latino punks in big urban areas singing Spanish-language punk ostensibly to a Spanish-speaking audience: this was new.
Records like this and Latino punk shows also underlined how relatively privileged the punk scene in the mid-‘90s could be. Immigrant (or children of immigrant) punks who may or may not be legally in the country, have different and more pressing issues than the average backpack-wearing scenester of the time. Could the two scenes exist as one? One Epicenter Collective member asked if it was ok to print out fliers for that Los Crudos gig in Spanish and distribute them in non-English-speaking punk areas of the Mission. People were super enthusiastic, but it underlined the distance –even though he was a collective member putting on the show, he didn’t feel comfortable enough to do that without seeking the permission of the whole group.

Either way, if one listened to this brand of HC at that time, there is no denying that Crudos was among the best band of the time

Huasipungo is pretty good too, don’t get me wrong. Though when I read the lyrics for my favorite song “Tacones Altos”I was disappointed to see that it was one of those criticizing women for wearing makeup/certain clothes etc. that just never works when a man sings it. I actually don’t know much about Huasipungo, never saw them back in the day or anything. I see that they actually still have a website and keep it updated.

Rating: Important record that I pretty much never listen to.

* and there is overlap among all three of these genres, of course.
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One x-mas, soon after high school, a friend was trying to figure out what to bring to a party as presents for everyone. This was our punk rock/metal crowd. Contrary to our genre, we had a holiday part every year that included someone in a santa costume, gifts, eggnog, and loud music (mostly X, Mojo Nixon, and Johnny Cash, if memory serves).

These weren’t expensive presents, mind you. One year a certain member of our group got about 10 frames for a dollar at the thrift store and cut out pictures from album liner notes and framed them (I got a nice pic from Kiss “It’s Alive II”) The next year he outdid himself when he managed to find about 15 copies of this single and give one out to everyone.

We listened to it a lot that night, but I’m not sure I’ve pulled it out in the last couple of decades.

“Hair of the Dog” is as much of a classic as Scottish metal can be. Tough guy rock that doesn’t sound tough at all 35 years later. It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel like a teen-age badass when you sing along, even if you are singing along ironically and not a bad-ass at all.* “Now you're messing with a son of a bitch” indeed.

One of the things about punk rock that made me fall in love was that the lyrics tended to make real life sense. Whether I was actually going to “sniff some glue” or “lynch the landlord” those things were more accessible in one’s daily travels than the lyrics for “Holiday”, the b-side of this record.

Not to be confused with the Sex Pistols song with holiday in the title – the most prescient critique of capitalism and imperialism ever sneered in the history of punk – (“Cheap holiday in other people’s misery… I don’t want a holiday in the sun, I wanna go to the new Belsen”) “Holiday” by Nazareth has more of a written-in-the-back-of-a-tour-bus-because-that’s-what-rock-stars-are-supposed-to-do feel about it.

”Mama, mama, please no more jaguars
I don't want to be a pop star
Mama, mama, please no more deckhands
I don't wanna be a sailor man
Mama, mama, please no more facelifts
I just don't know which one you is
Mama, mama, please no more husbands
I don't know who my daddy is.”

Rating: One person’s classic is another’s 5 minutes of catchy irony

*it should be noted that some of my friends were bad-asses. You know, just for the record
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Ok, I love this band. I actually think they may be San Francisco’s most underrated band from this era. That said, this isn’t my favorite record of theirs. They hadn’t really fully gotten their sound together yet in this first 7”.

“The Suspect” is a litany of excuses, one after another until the singer finally can’t take it and yells, “I’m telling you it isn’t my fault”. It has an amusing line or two – the singer had to watch his little brother because he, “you know, didn’t want him turning into a little creep on the street” – but it sounds like a less funny version of The Inflatable Boy Clams great song “I’m Sorry” which was released in SF two years earlier.

“No Juice” is a better, more original song, heavier on their saxophone accents and with too many lyrics crammed into frustrated stanzas. Again, frustration builds until a whole chorus chants “I don’t, I don’t like, I don’t like your little club!” At least that’s what I think they are saying. Internet paranoia led me to try to confirm and I couldn’t. An argument could be made that he doesn’t like “You, little bug!” or even “Your little pug.”

Their full length (well, it’s a 12” but if I remember, it only lasts about 20-25 minutes) “Judo for the Blind” released the next year is a classic which would remind any San Franciscan of condemmed beer vats, cheap rent, and the 1984 Democratic Convention. This 7” only hints at the greatness to come.

Rating: I still love it, but would have a hard time explaining why to others.
gordonzola: (Default)
This is from some small Swedish label called “Really fast Records” and I remember that even though I had been a big Avengers fan I had never heard these songs before I bought this 7”. Amusingly, I was looking this up on the internet to see if this was actually a legit release and Penelope Houston, the singer, admitted that she couldn’t remember writing or singing the b-side so I didn’t feel too bad.

I as too young to have seen the Avengers in their first go-round, but I did catch on of their first mid-90s reunion shows. I will defend a lot of their songs – and the “American in Me” 12” is a great record – but I can see why this 7” hadn’t surfaced until almost two decades later. At that reunion show I was thinking how awesome it would have been if they had just changed the lyrics slightly to “I was a Teenage Rebel”. Because, I’m sorry, once you hit 21* it’s a little sad to be singing songs as a teen-ager. I’d include other bands in this too (“Bored Teenagers” by the Adverts, “Teenage Underground” by the Red Rockers etc.).

Here are some of the lyrics:
“Cause I'm a rebel
rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel,
rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel, rebel,
a teenage rebel “

Music by the Avengers but this is someone’s art school video project so no one in the vid is connected to the band

No shame in singing that as a teenager. Hell, it’s a fun teenage rebellion and if I was still trapped at my parents’ house I would totally be singing along right now. But, as an adult…

“Friends” sounds like pretty good mid-tempo Avengers but I swear I listened to this about five times in a row and have nothing intelligent to say about it. Sorry.

Rating: Great for when you are alone in the house and want to pretend that you are 15

Bonus: this is a band called “Strike” doing a totally different song called “Teenage Rebel” which is much more fun that the versions of the Avengers song I managed to find on youtube.

*I’ll allow that year 20 because you can’t legally drink.
gordonzola: (Default)
Group of Individuals “World Civil War/Police Beat”

OMG, it has been so long since I listened to this! This was a 7” put out for the 1986 Anarchist Gathering in Chicago honoring the 100 year anniversary of the Haymarket Riots.* I wasn’t there (in 1986 or 1886), so I’m trying to remember where I got this record. I think I got it when an old comrade gave me a huge pile of old anarchist newspapers and this was tucked in accidently. Not sure though….

Like the Layabouts in Detroit, this was an anarchist band that was trying to have less of a generic punk sound. They didn’t get quite as world-beaty as the Layabouts or the Looters, but they definitely weren’t the ‘80s-anti-Reagan-cookie-cutter-MRR-punk cliché either. This 7” comes with an insert giving a history of Haymarket 1886 that ends with the martyr August Spies’ words, “There will be a time when our silence from the grave will be more powerful than those voices you strangle today!” Sigh.

Anyways, the World Civil War side is a happy and little ditty hopefully proclaiming the start of a World Civil War. Since those voices from the grave are pretty absent in current day discussion, it’s rather hard to share the singer’s optimism that a World Civil War would be a good thing. It is catchy though. You may find yourself walking down the street singing “World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil war, World civil waaaaaaaaaaar!”

“Police Beat” is less musically interesting but has more creative lyrics, complaining that the police are “clubbing us like baby seals”. Additionally, “There’s blood on your hands from all of our faces / We get charged with assault in your kangaroo court cases / You’re the aggressor, not the protector/ The court jester’s peace-seeking people molesters”. Clever, if a little wordy.

Amusingly the band name is misspelled on this record as “Group of Inividual’s”.

Rating: Good for an ‘80s nostalgia party

*Thanks again for the 8-hour day, Anarchists!
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(OK, one more review before I lose internet access)

Snakefinger never got his due as a pioneering electro-punk. Connected with Ralph Records and the Residents (who do percussion on the b-side) his songs were crazy and poppy at the same time. They often had a little bit of horror thrown in for good measure though not enough to become a limiting schtick (Like , say, The Misfits after their first records)

If Wikipedia is to be believed, Ralph Records pressed 35,000 of these. That was optimistic! It does explain why I picked up this (blue vinyl no less!) for 25 cents in the ‘90s.

I love “The Spot” as a pop song.

See how catchy it is in a minimalist, late ‘70s art-punk kinda way?

I actually met his daughter while working at Rainbow. She came in wanting a good bottle of champagne for her 21st birthday. I don’t know how it came up, but I was happy that I, one of a handful of people at the store who would know who Snakefinger was, happened to be the one helping her. Never saw her again. I must not have picked out a very good bottle.

“Smelly Tongues” was actually always my favorite side of this record, however. When I lived in upstate NY, I used to hang out with a lot of people who were from the town I went to college in.* It was a nice townie bar for most of the week, but would be inundated by frat boys on the weekends. One of the waitresses hid this 7” on the jukebox under Anne Murray “Dream Lover” and we would play it on the packed nights, driving people crazy. This actually included the bar’s owner who would try to rush out from behind the bar and make it to the back of the room to figure out what was playing so that he could root it out of the jukebox. We would only play it when the bar was packed and he never made it in the 2:29 time frame. Another reason to love punk rock.

Rating: Underrated and worth a listen every once in awhile. Especially around drunk frat boys.

*yes, my college should have taught me not to end a sentence in a preposition. I will honor this by repeating the punch line to one of my favorite jokes. “Ok, where’s the library at, Asshole?”
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UB40 “One in Ten/Present Arms in Dub” 1981
At last we come to 7” that I don’t really know why I kept. It is better listening to it than watching this video for some reason though:

I thought this was profound when I originally bought it. Plus someone I went to high school with claimed to be related to someone in the band so we kinda had to like ‘em. I hadn’t heard a lot of real reggae back then (except on my Bad Brains tape and KALX) so I just kind of accepted this band as is.

Let’s look at the lyrics. Important enough to be printed as the only text on the back of the 7” cover:
I am the one in ten
A number on a list
I am the one in ten
Even though I don’t exist
No-body knows me
But I’m always there
A statistic, a reminder
of a world that doesn’t care

As a teen I thought this was political, cryptic, and smart. As an adult I’m all, “Whaaaaat?”

It would be one thing if the “One in Ten” was in reference to a specific societal malady that they were singing about but other lyrics include a “murderer” and a “middle aged business man with chronic heart disease” so it’s not clear what UB40 were trying to get at in this song. I suppose the credit they got for naming their band after an unemployment form and being an interracial band in Thatcher’s England overrided the actual content on this ‘political” record.

Also, in today’s world, the idea of it being 1 in 10 who are having a hard time would be laughably naïve. Well, actually, it probably was then as well. Sigh.

Side two is a dub version of a song. What can one really say about that?

And I’m sorry, I need to deduct points for the starving child on the cover.

Rating: Will go with me on my next trip to Amoeba. Sorry guys.
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Heavens to Betsy “My Secret” / Bratmobile “Cool Schmool” 1992

Except for Bikini Kill “Rebel Girl” and the There’s a Dyke in the Pit”* comp this might be the best 7” of the Riot Grrrl era. Two bands with different lo-fi, bass-hating styles that helped form** the ideological outlook of the feminist punk movement of the early ‘90s.

The Heavens to Betsy side is intense, especially when it came out. Different eras/locations of punk had different styles of lyrics. ‘80s MRR punk was anti-Reagan, Texas punk was echoed real violence will a defiance difficult for a Bay Arean to understand, Dischord-era D.C. emo was about personal relations to society and other people. Riot Grrrl was personal and political, often combining point-of-view confessional stories of abuse and resistance with a pseudo-innocent voice. .

There were childhood sexual abuse songs before Riot Grrrl, but RG put them in a political context and, through the sheer number of stories and songs in the scene, helped create a context in which sexism (in the punk scene and beyond) could be addressed. One of the best things about Riot Grrrl were that it made punk unsafe again.

My secret is really true
This song, these words, are a threat to you
A knife in you, I'd stick it in
Listen, listen… I'm about revenge

That message goes beyond the story in the song. It’s a warning to anyone, in the punk scene or not. Girls/women are not yours to abuse. And there will be consequences to your actions. Being “punk” is not enough. It will not protect you either.

The Bratmobile side declares an end to old-school Pacific Northwest punk in the very first lyrics, “I don’ want to sit around and talk about the Wipers. Weren’t those the good old days?”

In the geographical context, it’s hard to imagine laying down a bigger gauntlet. The famous band that is this region’s claim to fame? Irrelevant to 1992. Women are not just there to listen to the old glorious punk stories. The lyrics “I don’t want anyone to tell me how thin I am. I don’t want to die for your fucking petty dreams.” Draw further battle lines.

There’s some good old punk voice switching as well. This always confuses non-punks because they have a hard time (understandably) knowing what is sarcasm and what is serious. “I just wanna be one of the boys. I just want to be your pretty fashion toy. Let’s hang out and be cool, alright. Let’s go watch the girl fight tonight!”

Once when I saw Bratmobile back in the day, I made a mistake. They came out on stage and were tuning and noodling around on their instruments for what seemed like forever. It was a hot, tightly packed (probably oversold) club*** and I yelled out, “Come on, play!” or something like that.

Allison stopped whatever she was doing and asked, “Who said that?”

My friends all yelled out, “It was Gordon.”

I said, “Sorry, I was just trying to be punk,” but Allison wrote “Fuck You” on her arm and they started playing “Cool Schmool.”

Here’s a picture:

And here’s the song.

Rating: Awesome. One of my favorites.Added bonus for historic value

*one could call Dyke in the Pit more Queer-core but there is a lot of overlap in those two categories
**as well as bands it should not be forgotten that zines also helped from the rot grrrl style
***It was at the Chameleon, which later became Amnesia, the place I did my first San Francisco reading for Cheesemonger.
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Residents – “This is a Man’s Man’s Man’s World/Safety is a Cootie Wootie” (1984)

This James Brown cover is one of my favorite Residents songs. Stripped down and desperate, the Residents turn this classic into a sad, pleading period piece of male insecurity in the face of changing gender roles in the ‘70s/’80s.

At least that’s how I read it.

The singer starts out strong and assertive, telling you all the things that men have accomplished (The car, the electric light, the rocket ship, etc.) but there’s something wrong; something wavering in his voice. The singer is trying too hard to convince us. Or to convince himself.

Sure “it wouldn’t mean nothing without a woman or a girl” but that seems like an add-on, perfunctory, like something the singer just knows that he has to say to keep the peace. The singer sings more troubled the longer the song goes on. He seems less than convinced that when he has done everything else, that making “money to buy another man” is really as good a thing as he’s trying to proclaim.

This version of the song becomes more and more sparse as the singer loses his conviction. It seems like he’s run out of accomplishments to list. In the end, “Man is lost in the wilderness. Lost in bitterness. Lost… Lost… “

Sure, it’s a man’s world, but is that really such a good thing?

I never managed to get into the B-side though the lyric “Safety has an open mouth. Safety has an open mouth” often sticks with me for days after I listen to this.

I should probably also note that I listened to this 7” at the wrong speed for years. Perhaps my reading of this song is affected by that hyper-masculine deep voice I heard while listening to it at 33 instead of 45. The Residents, especially in this time period, were all about being anonymous and mysterious so this song – when I heard it as a teen – was a message from some scary but intriguing place I’d never been before.

Rating: Awesome. One of my favorites.
gordonzola: (Default)
The 8 track inspired a whole zine. The image of cassette boom boxes is retro chic. But what of the 7” record? Once the way for indie bands to put out their message and music quickly and cheaply, the internet has made this format for fetishists only. The 7” record will always have a place in my heart but I have to admit I hardly ever listen to them. In this day and age, they just don’t seem super user-friendly.

It’s always been my plan to have a semi-soft 7” party where I’ll provide semi-soft cheese and people can bring over their 7” records to listen to. I still might do this, but for now I think I will start a series by pulling out a 7” at random and reviewing it.

Synthesia Murder Program – “Dust to Dust/Foreign Policy” 1993
I don’t know anything about this band. I don’t know where this 7” came from. Since I worked at Epicenter when it came out I can only guess I got it there. Was the “band” traveling through town giving out vinyl? Was it in the discount bin? Did I ever actually listen to it? I can’t answer these questions.

Since the band also goes by SMP and are from Everett WA, they are probably an early incarnation of this SMP even though the “Bio” on their web page says they didn’t start until 1995 and this 7” is from 1993.(Aha! In the barely legible liner notes I can see a songwriting credit has the same name as the main person in the new SMP). Are they embarrassed by this record? Why are they purging it from their history? It’s on “Doubleplusgood” records so the disappearance is foreshadowed, I suppose.

It’s low-fi industrial punk. The “Dust to Dust” track sounds like ‘80s anti-war hardcore backed with syntheszers instead of just guitars and I kind of like it. It’s got those generic hardcore lyrics that I have a soft spot for and the singing is more punk than industrial. Sure, in 1993 you couldn’t mention Reagan, but everything else is there: warnings against the war machine, the coming 4th Reich, images of dead bodies etc. Mock if you want but I’ll always prefer not-super-original anti-war songs to the vast majority of other available music.

“I can’t believe what you just said
Woman and children civilians dead
An example must be made
We won’t back down. Crash upon your head

It’s got that switching of voice that so many punk songs have. Most people weren’t as daring as the Dead Kennedys. The DKs could do a whole song in the voice of the the ruling class (e.g. “Kill the Poor”) but most other bands always had to hedge their bets a little (“I can’t believe what you just said”) to make sure we knew which side they were on. Kids, we were all just kids really. Still, a pretty ok song.

The flip side “Foreign Policy” is an unlistenable instrumental. So it goes.

Rating: Will go with me on my next trip to Amoeba. But they probably won't buy it so I'll leave it on Haight St.


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