Ding! Ding! Round 2 of Bad Breath To Your Ears is about to commence, wherein we’ll listen to a stack of Grand Theft Audio CD releases and gab all about early 80′s SoCal hardcore, so you don’t have to. Read the first post here, place your bets, and take a seat . . .
Now don’t ever believe otherwise: half the time, it wasn’t the music but the violence (both real and imagined) surrounding this scene that really drew in the fans. I once met this soft-spoken, unassuming guy in Hermosa Beach who’d apparently just got out of jail for killing a guy with a skateboard. It was subsequently explained to me that this quiet gentleman had also once knocked out Mike Muir of SUICIDAL TENDENCIES on stage, with a single, well-placed punch. Now I don’t wanna sound flippant, but tell me: how much more hardcore can one man be? If this fella had been in a band, I’d have tried my hardest to sneak out and see ’em play. And I don’t think I’d've been the only one there.
But enough, off we go:
1. NO CRISIS – Everything + (GTA 018) – Fuckups from Huntington Beach who scored a minor Rodney B. hit with their piano-driven ”She’s Into the Scene”. Nothing else here sounds that radio-friendly, since usually these boys rammed their tunes home with a galloping CHARGED GBH approach (”1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4!”). Which ain’t so unbelievable, since GBH who were absolutely huge in SoCal then. They eventually matured a bit and developed a slightly countrified but still rollickin’ punk sound that probably went over well at Linda’s Doll Hut in the mid 80’s playing with guys like THE PONTIAC BROS. Nothing mindblowing here but this is strong and distinctive suburban punker stuff any way you wanna cut it.
Gossip: ok so a couple of em apparently spent some time with Darby Crash at Hollywood’s Skinhead Manor, and there’s one song here where the singer confesses to rummaging through the pockets of a recently-dead Darby for spare cash, before the coroner arrived on the scene. ”Where he’s going, you can’t buy a thing!” Now, who cares if this is true or not? Makes for great HC lore.
2. CIRCLE ONE – Are You Afraid? (GTA 029) – I certainly was at the time – afraid, that is – what with guys like this on the loose. Singer John Macias was one legendary and feared motherfucker, known far and wide for his outta control aggression, gang following (”The Family”), and inconguent born-again Xtain beliefs. He even threw a security guard off the Santa Monica Pier – after which, he was shot & killed by SM police. It’s these sorts of extremes you’d only find in the HC scene at the time. But on to his band . . .
Well, I’m gonna be the first to say CIRCLE ONE weren’t all that together, musically speaking. They’re trying to do some kinda TSOL by way of MINOR THREAT thing, but their songs don’t stick, they aren’t compelling rhythmically, and John sings like a wannabe Jello Biafra (who would want to be Jello?). I always did dig the defiant, middle finger sentiment to “Highway Patrolman”, and the live stuff indicates their shows were probably all near-riots . . .but as rock, well, it just don’t stand up. Still: the backstory is just too compelling for me to sell this CD.
3. HUMAN HANDS Bouncing to Disc (GTA #027) – Just to confuse the issue Brian GTA went and reissued the HANDS, whose lineage dates back to the earliest SoCal (and Phoenix) punk rock stirrings. These guys ain’t hardcore, but they did help jumpstart LA art-punk playing downtown clubs like The Brave Dog to budding performance artists around the turn of the decade. The horn-rimmed glasses and stiff, collared shirts they’d sport matched their starched, pointed rhythms inch for inch. Plus, like MONITOR, they somehow managed to incorporate a goofy tiki aesthetic into their terse thing. This is totally ranking in an anxiety-provoking kinda way. Like THE URINALS, this makes my butt itch in the best possible sense.
4. RF7 – All You Can Eat (GTA 001-R #050) & All You Can Eat, Volume II (GTA 050) – Just great underclass HC rockin’ from Simi Valley, CA that even heavy punker types seem to overlook. RF7 stand at the self-loathing of HC: you know, guys who’d do drugs and beat off and cut their arms alone in dark rooms, and then rock the hell out to forget about how much they hate themselves (Henry Rollins did this more famously, only without the drugs). So it makes sense these guys would find god, and a Christian one at that.
But hey: here god’s totally tolerable, as the stakes are as dark and grim as found on any BLACK SABBATH or BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON record you wanna spin. These guys rock hard and will pummel yr ass 12 ways back to Sunday school. Never really meant to be heard except by their ugly NA brethren, if you’re looking for the real thing, you’re gonna find it here. The second vol. (including their Traditional Values rec in its entirety, which Byron Coley once praised as “the best US hardcore in a decade”) actually beats the first, but it’s all good. There’s some great old video clips of them and their buddies to be found here.
5. HYPNOTICS – Everyone Gets Their Nanosecond of Fame (GTA 043) – antisocial creeps from Long Beach who kept mining a late-70′s punk-influenced borehole riff attack long after hardcore became de rigueur around them parts. Somewhat unusually, their ranks included a keyboardist – maybe this was the SUBURBAN LAWNS influence in/around LB? It didn’t leaven their sound as much as you might believe, since they chose to scream bad-taste songs about nazis, misogyny, phone sex, psychopathic murderers etc. Realistically, you’re gonna haveta listen to this one out of earshot of your wife/girlfriend. But since they don’t have the comedy timing of an ANGRY SAMOANS or FEAR, my no-longer young ears tire of this one pretty quick. Does this mean I’m a pussy? Betcha Joe Stumble loves em.