SoCal Runaways

10 Mar

Have had these stray reviews lying around my harddrive for SOME TIME NOW. Like wayward orphans, they somehow haven’t found suitable homes despite 175+ posts here at Pig State Recon. And I’m getting sick and tired at staring at their grimy little faces, lemma tell ya. So today, I give you this odds and sods collection of thoughts about records from that part of the world that created The Mess I Am Today, if only to get them outta my hair. These brats gotta fend for themselves from here on in.

RASZEBRAECheap Happiness of Lofty Suffering LP (Unseen Hand, 1985) In the proto-riot grrl sweepstakes, if SF had FRIGHTWIG, then SoCal had RASZEBRAE. KXLU radio spun “To Be Excessive” off this rec a lot back then, sometimes back to back with FRIGHTWIG’s “My Crotch Does Not Say Go”. Not unlike FRIGHTWIG, RASZEBRAE pooled together some severe components: Ingrid Baumgart’s minor key riffage, Janet Housden’s SIOUXSIE-like tribal beats, Katie Childe’s plodding bass runs, and Debbie Patino’s warbally, caterwauled vocals. They sound indebted to Eva O.’s SUPER HEROINES, though thankfully without the cornball Death Rock fixations. Plus, Ingrid sounds like she was probably digging some of the better SST gtrists of the period, which gets me listening closer than I really should.

That said, for what ever reason, this one lays sorta flat. Maybe it’s the lack of memorable material? The shaky rhythmic hold? Perhaps Spot’s no nonsense production just wasn’t right for a band that didn’t have any standout players, ala BLACK FLAG or THE MINUTEMEN. Either way, like with those early SWA records, I get lost somewhere during the second side of this. But these women were on to something here, really they were. This mid-tempo, post-punk psych trudge rock obviously influenced L7 in their formative days, who’d pen more radio-friendly songs and actually build a career of it for the next decade.

THE PIVOT FOOTSWingless Birds Of Flight (Snork Entertainment, 1989) Recenty scored the first, self-produced LP by a band that gave us the great Using Nature To Destroy Itself CD in the 90’s. If you’ve never heard these Long Beach-area fellas led by Brent & Blair Walker, you need to pull your finger out and listen RIGHT NOW. I am not ashamed to declare love for every project, obscure or otherwise, that the bros. Walker have lent their names to. This includes not only the FOOTS, but DEL NOAH & THE MT. ARARAT FINKS, LOVINGKINDESS, and Brent’s latest and tikiest, THE DING DONG DEVILS.

No disrespect to Brent’s contributions here, but I reckon THE PIVOT FOOTS were really Blair’s moment out in the smoggy sunlight, his delicate songcraft the perfect showcase for his beach croon and wonderfully wry lyrics. The promo 1-sheet included with my copy maintains that punk was the common thread tying this band together, and they do thank various punker types (FALLING IDOLS and VANDALS) in the liners. But it’s THE PIVOT FOOTS ability to draw from a much longer, checkered history of oddball musics – I hear spy jazz, hillybilly C&W, tin pan alley novelty songs, not to mention punk all referenced here – and then, reconfigure it into a charmingly low-rent but very coherent, harbour area affair. How great to find out that their suave style, hilarious wit, and keen musicality were already completely in place, way back in the 80’s.

ELECTRIC PEACERest In Peace LP (Big K/Enigma Records, 1985) If I have my facts right, ELECTRIC PEACE were a band from Pacific Palisades with some vague connections to the LEAVING TRAINS – indeed both multi-instrumentalist Eric Westfall & gtr-shredder Sylvia Juncosa pop up on various waxings. Not unlike the early TRAINS, the PEACE got lumped in with the paisley draped neo-psych crowd in LA at the time – and for good reason, too, as they knowingly aped dozens of ’66 Sunset Strip garage rock tropes on their recs.

But also like Falling James’ crew, they sorta stood apart from it too; the PEACE employed chunkier gtrs and more biker imagery than found on yr average VOXX release at the time, pointing less toward mid-60’s-influenced RAIN PARADE sounds than to the heavier psych rock sounds that THE FREAKS, L7, and SCREAMING TREES came up with later that decade. Their riffs were memorable and their satirical lyrical content a real big hoot – singer Brian Kild used a camp, Jello Biafia-like warble to undercut nasty sentiments (“Case Of Dynamite“) reminiscent of Jim Thirwell on his FOETUS projects. Local street blues ‘legend’ Honey Davis eventually joined up, but I thought later PEACE records got lost under the weight of muddy production, effectively silencing the mouthy angst so out front and on display here. So while I can’t condone everything they did, this rec (and the follow-up recording, eventually released as Road To Peace) are great slabs of cynical psych pastiche that still reverberate through smarter third eyes to this day.

SAVAGE REPUBLICProcession: An Aural History (LTM Recordings, 2010) A band whose reputation always proceeded itself, SAVAGE REPUBLIC were one of the few LA bands to flirt with industrial baggage in the 80’s, which meant a great deal to hundreds of independent rock types with university degrees back then. Their hand-created sleeves were as wonderful to behold as anything NURSE WITH WOUND came up with, their appropriation of Arabic/Persian/Greek trappings within the post-punk lexicon was certainly arresting, and their willingness to play & record in underground tunnel networks, desert washes, and all points in between spelled guerilla art happening in a particularly arcane font.

Judging from this collection, their early sides were but a blunt and primitivist take on JOY DIVISION w/ a bit of metal-on-metal as added colour. Nothing mind blowing, but decent enough if Anglophile Californians don’t rub you the wrong way. Their mid-period Ceremonial LP is more confident and hence alluring, seeing the band refocusing on a vaguely orientalised, surf-inspired instrumental rock. This might’ve prestaged any number of desert rock acts of the 90’s, except SR’s drummer was sorta crap and the echoey post-punk production they employed defangs any deeper rhythmic kicks. By the later 80’s they’d traded up on the drum stool – Brad Laner’s Jaki Liebezeit-inspired grooves were the saving grace of the 1988 SR gig I attended – thus allowing the band to sometimes attain circular, CAN-like levitation. Only by that point, others had carved out distinctive variations on SR’s up-turned oil drum clang, effectively sapping some of their enigmatic mystery. Thus as a purely musical proposition SAVAGE REPUBLIC neither scaled the experimental heights some of their contemporaries were shooting for, nor did they ever hit stride as a great instrumental rock band. Too bad.

But enough with the overanalysing: really this is quite listenable, from beginning to end. And if my reaction has less to to with the actual music than the fact that I sometimes get nostalgic for the days when make-shift gigs in underground tunnels were a real possibility, so be it. You can’t knock their awesome graphic design sense, no how.

THE FACTORYSmile/World Gone Mad 45 (Kick In The Eye, 1982) Just the best damn single to come out of the early 80’s beach punk boom down in OC, and hardly anyone makes a big deal about it. Here THE FACTORY gave us a couple of tight, well-arranged BUZZCOCKS-ian tunes here, and then proceed to rage the flying fuck out of them in rippin’, single fin fashion. These guys were based around Newport Beach/Costa Mesa and yes they did play out at The Cuckoo’s Nest on occasion. The singer was really distinctive and the rhythm section is totally hot – no wonder their bassist, Mark Hodson, got snapped up by SACCHARINE TRUST to play on the aggro Surviving You, Always LP. If you’re one of these guys that thought THE CROWD lost it after Beach Blvd. and that TSOL spent far too much time posing for their own good, you’d not only be right – but you’re the audience for this baby too. It’ll renew your faith in what an OC punker 45 really could mean all them years ago.

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2 Responses to “SoCal Runaways”

  1. Disaster Amnesiac aka Shovedhead March 10, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    OH, man! The full on Die Cast Garden treatment returns! Yay! AWESOME! I MUST find that Electric Peace LP! THANKS!!!!!!!

    • mrowster March 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Haha thanks Mark – Electric Peace were actually pretty unique and weird, when compared to some of the other LA Cavern Club denizens of that time. A great LP.

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