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NeareSST Relatives, Part IV

27 Oct


I can’t go on like this forever. It’s just not sustainable, this 1-degree-of-SST idea. I mean, there’s only so many SST/New Alliance Records-related fixations a man can reasonably have. And I’ve talked about most all of them over the course of these here NeareSST Relatives posts (the 1st, or 2nd, or 3rd installments in this series will clarify things for newcomers). So: barring the appearance of, say, a TOM TROCCOLI commemorative water bong or a MERRILL WARD annotated tarot deck – this’ll be the last of this series. Now, don’t start stamping your feet: there’ll be other SST rants/raves here is the future, oh yes indeed. But this’ll stand as your last NeareSST affront. Turn it up to 12 and count it off . . .

1. THE PERFECT RAT“Clouds” (from their Endangered Species, Alone Records, 2007) I once stumbled into The Idea Room – a short-lived coffee house & performance space adjacent to the SST Records HQ in Long Beach in the 90’s – and watched slack-jawed as bassist Greg Ginn, saxophonist Tony Atherton, and an unknown-to-me drummer (Bill Stinson?) coiled loosely together into a freestyle jam. Then, up stepped one Rev. Jack Brewer, who proceeded to intone a stack of obtuse poems like they were particularly nasty death threats/suicide notes. Now I’d seen Brewer perform before, but as I’d missed out on seeing BLACK FLAG and GONE, this was my one and only time I ever saw Ginn play live (though I did bump into G. once manning a cat rescue table outside an LB pet store!). It was urgent, plaintive, intuitive and out there, man.

Now: this CD hits the “market”, and dammit if it ain’t oddly similar. It’s the same core of dudes and the execution’s not unlike that one-off performance, except the twin gtr smudge attack (c/o Mario Lalli and Gary Arce) pushes the sound away from BOHO JAZZ and right on into the smoldering firepit of HEAVY DUTY. A third of this is instrumental, but the rest has Jack right up front, preaching the word – older, but no less ornery or driven. If he’d been a bit more prolific over the years, Jack would stand as a Cali equivalent to THE FALL’s Marc E. Smith in terms of nutrient-rich verbal content. And Ginn’s basslines, alternatingly contemplative and playfully blippity – so unlike his chunkstyle riffing and careening soloing in FLAG! – compel me in totally unexpected ways.

These are a lot more than just TEN EAST demos, pal.

2. BRIAN WALSBYManchild 3 (Bifocal Media, 2007) – New softcover by this cartoonist to the HC stars. Brian Walsby has been around for a coon’s age drawing flyers/recordcovers/comics based on our communal slam pit heritage that are boneheaded and bellyaching, in pretty equal amounts. This issue is especially heavy on the SST references, with a couple of great, full-page caricatures based on famous depictions of BLACK FLAG and THE MINUTEMEN, not to mention a hilarious Brady Bunch send-up of Greg, Chuck, and the rest of the gang. Other pieces include “Life After BLACK FLAG” (check that one out here), “Possible Careers for the BLACK FLAG My War Puppet Mascot” etc. . . you get the picture. The fact that Brian returns to this subject matter over and over (not unlike yours truly) belies a real reverence for the entire SST nexus. Bonus: this comes with a CD by Brian’s other favorite subject – THE MELVINS. A lo-fi, unreleased demo tape from 1987, pre-Ozma with Lori Black on bass! Would make a great stocking stuffer fr sure.

3. TWISTED ROOTS“Every Party Song” (from their Twisted Roots LP, CD Presents, 1986) – Not to be confused with the self-titled TWISTED ROOTS LP/CD on Bacchus Archives (which I recommend heartily), this was a one-off LP by Paul Roessler + a totally different band, including gtrist Dez Cadena and bassist Bruce Duff of the mighty JESTERS OF DESTINY. It was recorded while Paul was in DC3, but acted as a vehicle for his more theatrical, singer-songwritery impulses. It’s kinda sorta similar to the wacko approach Pat Smear took on his Ruthensmear rec on SST that same year (i.e. glitter/croon/pomp), but with a focus on piano-driven pop songcraft. And, for reasons that escape me now, much less successful.

While Ruthensmear delivered what I always considered to be a bitchen, post-wave update of MICK RONSON’s Slaughter on 10th Avenue, here Paul ends up sounding like, I dunno . . . an underground 80’s JOBRIATH? It won’t be the sort of brew most can stand, but hey: I’m kinda fascinated by JOBRIATH, so I can at least follow Paul’s logic. This particular cut is no less sappy/over-the-top than anything else on this rec, but it does have one of them nice melodies both Pat and Paul were once able to toss off during a quick Oki Dog midnight run. Plus, it kinda makes me miss the days when going to see Pat’s DEATH FOLK was a viable Friday night gig out in LA.

Stretches your patience, perhaps – but for whatever reason, I’m still sitting here listening to it.

4. SLUTS FOR HIRE“Problem” (from The Happiest Band on Earth CD, Flipside Records, 1996) In many ways, the LEAVING TRAINS were odd-men-out within the SST constellation: they were glamfag and willfully Hollywood, unlike all the rest of those dress-down, hairy/nerdy SST rocker types living out in Harbor City or wherever back then. The TRAINS never bothered with boring things like musical chops, and though they wrote great tunes they were often so amped up they’d race through em hastily like they were devouring a tube of Pringles. But like their labelmates, the TRAINS were originally from ‘burbs (well Pacific Palisades, anyway) and they always stuck their tongues out at any urbane coolness/smugness around LA.

As did their screaming kid-sisters, the SLUTS FOR HIRE. The SLUTS were initially the TRAINS + friends in disguise, and they released a stupid/silly single to prove it. Then, Falling James was kicked out for being too old. Soon after, the SLUTS released a full-length CD and became 90’s Flipside mag idiot savant glitterati.

Now I’m not gonna kid you and say they were any shade of genius. But oh man they were soooo much fun live, kicking/yelling/screaming and flinging all their colored hair and bright, thriftstore duds round the clubs, long after most hipsters had lost any kinda fashion sense whatsoever. Seeing them had this unrepentant SPARKS/CELEBRITY SKIN fan thinking he’d died and gone to Tinseltown. Hell, I can honestly say they remain my favorite gig-on-cannabis ever. That’s EVER. Best SLUTS lyric (from “Neil Young”): ”Bruce Berry was a working man/ he used to load that Econoline van/ but that’s not all Bruce was loading . . .” Wish there were still half a dozen bands this fun out in LA anymore . . .

5. BLACK KALI MA“Evil Clowns” (from their You Ride the Pony CD on Alternative Tentacles Records, 2000) Gary Floyd’s is the third voice I most-closely associate with my home state of Texas. His falls right after ROKY ERICKSON and BILLY GIBBONS, but most definitely ahead of both BUDDY HOLLY and GIBBY HAYNES. And Gary’s is a great one. He screamed out one of the most memorable/iconic songs of the early hardcore punk rock era (THE DICKS’ “Hate the Police”) and howled all over two good SST LPs (THE DICKS’ Kill From the Heart and SISTER DOUBLE HAPPINESS’ self-titled LP) . Gary’s also known for his large stature but by the time he put together BLACK KALI MA he’d lost a heck of a lot of that weight, surely for health reasons. But that didn’t affect his voice one iota. I especially like Gary when he gets all sentimental, since it’s so obvious he’s a big – really, really big – softy underneath it all. Though here, the band is crunching down in that burning, hard ‘n’ heavy Texas blues rock tradition, bringing to mind THE MELVINS circa Stag. Tasty.

6. DEBRIS INC.“I Love Livin’ in the City” (From their Debris Inc. CD, Rise Above Records, 2005) If SACCHARINE TRUST were soul music, Wilmington-style, then Dave Chandler’s SAINT VITUS were most definitely soul music, Lomita-style. Longhair boys who just wanted to rock it slow, low, and heavy. Nothing more. How many people this side of Terry Riley have been so goddamn single-minded about their mission?

But that GERMS (GI) t-shirt Dave always wore (prominently displayed on the cover of the SAINT VITUS Thirsty & Miserable EP) was the source of many moments of really, really deep thought for me a kid. Like: were all these HC punkers just metalheads reborn with crewcuts? Was THE GERMS’ “Shutdown” a not-so-veiled BLACK SABBATH tribute? Did the Fabulous Furry Freak Bros. listen to THE RAMONES while they got high? It was positively confounding.

As was Dave’s recent DEBRIS INC. project. I suppose this was just a lark – nuthin’ but a diversion cooked up by bassist Rob Holzer (ex-TROUBLE) to get Dave away from the internet porn for an album’s length. They do this FEAR cover, an X cover (“Nausea”), and a bunch of short, blunt riff rants that sound as if they were written in the studio. And while the sum total ain’t exactly substantial (unlike every damn VITUS release), Dave is one unheralded gtrist/musician who actually deserves our unqualified support, even when he decides to goof off. My old boss once described his solos as sounding “like insects scrambling up a wall.” And there’s some of his patented insect-scrambling on this release too – ah, the sound of pure ecstasy! More than a few of us continue to slither in the shadows, patiently awaiting Dave’s next project . . .

7. ANDY & THE RATTLESNAKES“Patience” (From their Last Summer to Dance comp. CD, Fellaheen Records, 2006) As the 70’s became the 80’s, Andy and the boys held down a couple-year residency at the Taurus Tavern in Culver City near Venice. A pre-SST Records TOM TROCCOLI swooned to ‘em many a night therein, vowing then and there: should I ever get the chance to make a record, I’m gonna record something by this man. He got the chance on his Dog album on SST from ’85 with a wiggy version of this tune, albeit with liberties taken in the lyrical and arrangement department. And last year, Andy finally pulled together all his band’s loose cuts/demos from ’80-’81 on to this CD.

Time hasn’t exactly smiled on the sound of guys like Andy – the GARLAND JEFFREYS of the West Coast, anyone? But see, people forget that bands like THE MOTELS defined Hollywood street rock way more coherently than, say, THE GERMS did back in ’77 (Darby & Pat’s thing wouldn’t cohere for at least a year more). And Andy was the spiritual heir to that solid, early MOTELS sound. Aww, now you punkers just relax why doncha, it’s all just music anyway. Some of this band went on to be in BURNING SENSATIONS, but if that bothers you imagine you’re listening to the genesis of all things NIG HEIST and this tune’ll sit just fine.

8. JACK BREWERNo Lunch (Sinistry Press, 1991) A fitting end to this fitting (as in epileptic) series of posts. I bought this slim printed volume of Jack’s poetry at the tiny SST SUPERSTORE that existed on Sunset Blvd. for a year or two in the early 90’s. Pat Smear wasn’t working that day – maybe Kurt had already drafted him into NIRVANA? At any rate, it was left to a miserable-looking Falling James of THE LEAVING TRAINS, clad head-to-toe in drag, to accept my cash payment for this. And in all my travels, I’ve never ever seen another copy. It’s mostly lyrics taken from his various musical projects (SACCHARINE TRUST, JACK BREWER BAND, BAZOOKA, etc.) but there’s some stray bits in here that I don’t believe have ever found their way to record.

Jack’s always had a disquieting knack of melding mythical allegory & religious iconography with the mundane harshness of that $4.25-an-hour suburban CA life he’s been exiled to. His words are timeless, crystaline sweat; they ring out loud and righteous, no matter if he’s reading from high on a pedestal or from the prone position on a beer-splattered rock ‘n’ roll stage. And his art exemplifies that utterly compelling mix of high & low brow aesthetic senses – filtered through the grim reality of service-worker chumpdom – that underpinned all the best SST bands/artists. Dig the pull quote.

– – – – –

With that, I’m done. My hope for all you reading these NeareSST Relatives posts? That you will be reminded to plug into the work of these fine, fine ex-SST folks in the near future. Amen.


Vintage SST tuner photos courtesy of Jonathan Charles


NeareSST Relatives, Part III

24 Aug
    sst crew detail

    The above pic comes from an LA Times article I clipped as a young teen and saved, knowing even then that THERE WOULD BE CALL FOR THIS, SOMEDAY. Today’s the day. Now this pic does appear in the new Joe Carducci book, Enter Naomi, too. But only here at Pig State Recon can read the entire article! Yep it’s all tantilizing foreplay to yet another edition of NeareSST Relatives, wherein I’ll continue to dredge the used bins in search of records that belong in the SST Records catalog of MY OBSESSIVE DREAMS/YOUR WORST NIGHTMARES.

    Do catch up with the first and second parts of NR if you feel the need to get some perspective. Then grab your stereo fork and tune in . . .

    1. THE RUB – “Death of Pop” (from the Bikini Gospel LP, Happy Squid, 1987) How many garage bands can claim to be signers of “The Dukowski Petition,” Chuck’s statement of solidarity against the emerging pay-to-play paradigm sweeping across LA clubland in the late 80’s? THE RUB most definitely can, as they announce proudly on the CD reissue of this. Nuts!

    Dunno how I forgot about these San Pedro boys during my first post. They put out two good LPs in the second half of the 80’s, both which John Talley-Jones (URINALS, 100 FLOWERS, TROTSKY ICEPICK) helped mix/produce, and the second which features Dirk Vandenberg (early MINUTEMEN collaborator/photographer) on drums. THE RUB were wilder/looser than any TROTSKY ICEPICK, but still in a vein that wouldn’t exactly offend your average CAMPER VAN BEETHOVEN fan. But hey: I kinda dug CVB once too, actually saw em play in ’86 at Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach (my very first club show!), so I’m not complaining, just lettin’ you know is all. I actually prefer the second LP, Day Off From Karma (Dirk was a wise addition) – but this song, with it’s FlyingNun-esque vibe, is sort of a classic – so it’s what you get.

    2. BACULUM – “Three Deaths: A Narrative” (from the My Friends Became Junkies CD, 3 Beads of Sweat, 2002) Only got around to buying this recently, and whatayaknow but it’s breezy in a lazy Sunday afternoon kinda way – albeit one where global climate changes have brought 100 degree heat and a freak hail shower to boot. Sure most of this is drumless, but hey even I need to take a break from the BOOM-SHA-BOOM occasionally. The main guys here (Sam Goldman, Steve Anderson, Scott Ziegler) are all ex-DINGLE, who you don’t remember from their barely-heard Red Dog CD on New Alliance Records from ’94. Course, they were also all present during the dying days of SLOVENLY too (ca. their great Drive It Home, Abbernathy EP from ’91), while Steve & Scott participated in all things SLOVENLY back to their late 70’s beach cities pre-history. And this CD sounds it! This soars above DINGLE both in sweet melodic content and startling word juxapostion c/o Mr. Anderson. For all you who dug the quieter side of SLOVENLY, ala Riposte. Get it before the label goes belly-up!

    3. SÜR DRONE – “Sagitariass ‘Uh” (from the Sür Drone CD EP, 1998, Love Unlimited, Inc., 1998) I’m smiling and shaking my head right now, cause you really can’t resist doing that when you’re confronted with Raymond Pettibon’s notions of sonic righteousness. This was the second musical project he led that actually saw the light of day, the first being his incredibly beautiful and beyond-gone SUPER SESSION project that issued the Torches & Standards package on Blast First in 1990. This is in the glowing spirit of that set (go listen to some of that here), only without the bitchen art booklet. And with a bit straighter, more identifiably “rock” underpinning – though a pretty shambolic one, I’ll admit. But how disorienting are the vocalizations on this thing? And what the fuck does is all, you know, mean – cosmically speaking? I’m at a loss – a major loss like when the floor accidentally slides away, leaving you hovering Wile E Coyote-like in thin air 1000 feet above the canyon floor. Yes pseudonyms abound in the credits but I do know a bunch of dudes playing on this used to be in PAY THE MAN, who’s flyers and t-shirts used to feature Pettibon drawings in the early 90’s.

    4. GARY KAIL – “Life Is Ugly So Why Not Kill Yourself” (from the GARY KAIL/ZURICH 1916 2-LP, Creative Nihilism, Iridescence Records, 1983) Gary’s a real mystery man. For a long time I thought his only gig was lead gtrist & songwriter for Lawndale’s ANTI, who kinda bored me with their relentlessly trad HC-isms. But he also played on the goth (oh sorry – “death rock”) MOOD OF DEFIANCE LP backing Hatha, the daughter of the hippies who rented out the legendary CHURCH practice/party pad on Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach. Plus, he ran the label New Underground Records, who released alot of SST run-off on an interesting series of comps in the early 80’s. And: he recorded this insane, double record set – half solo, half collabs under the moniker ZURICH 1916 with folks like ex-REACTIONARIES Martin Tamburovich and Carla Noelle (nee Bozulich) a good decade before she formed THE GERALDINE FIBBERS. It’s a confused record filled with odd electronic squiggles, overblown amp hums, ambient field recordings (some apparently captured on a corner of 153rd St. in Lawndale!) as well as some disturbing tape-splice bits that sound not unlike what Stephen Stapleton of NURSE WITH WOUND mighta come up with, had he been a suburban SoCal loser with no knowledge of dilitante things like Krautrock and Paris student riots. How this HC numbskull came up with something this OUT is way beyond me.

    5. A NOISE AGENCY – “Hang That Monkey” (from the Mom’s in the Kitchen LP, Gnatbreath Records, 1985) OK so this one’s a stretch. Since, to my knowledge there’s no actual connections with SST anywhere on this record. Except it’s out of Lomita, CA, a South Bay suburb just down the street from SST. It’s a town I am intimately familiar with, and I have clear memories of passing over this record for something like 104 straight weeks in the mid 80’s at Peanut Records on PCH in Lomita, until they finally dropped it in the 50 cent bin. I finally picked it up a year or so ago, and damn it if it ain’t totally hard-hitting, vaguely bluesy 80’s independent rock, but with a distinctly FIREHOSEy feel to it all.

    SO: now I’m guessing here, but these guys MUST have sent their tapes to Greg and Chuck at SST first, before deciding to self-release it. Right? Certainly worse bands did, and this ain’t at all horrible. In fact I actually LOVE this one. Just goes to show what kinda South Bay bands didn’t make the cut. A few were actually pretty damn worthy.

    6. SOLO CAREER – “The Painted Desert” (from their Season Finale CD, Box-O-Plenty Records, 2005) Floating, overtone-rich instrumental exploration that roams the freeform terrain my imaginary late-night cousins of UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF might’ve in their formative days. The SST connection here is through San Pedro-based bassist Richard Derrick, who played in a number of D. BOON-led configurations throughout the mid-80’s (see the D. Boon & Friends CD on this same label for the goods). But drummer BOB LEE (CLAW HAMMER, CRAWLSPACE, BACKBITER, FEARLESS LEADER, etc.) is present too, and he always impressed me as being a BILL STEVENSON who was comfortable playing outside (or at least waaaaaay the hall down the hall towards the emergency exit) when the need presented itself. NELS CLINE is too BUT he’s laying back, merely 1 part of a unified whole rather than leader of the proceedings – so all you NELS-ophobes are safe. These are high-calibre sonic swathes that’ll help you safely navigate any decent-size psychotic meltdown your destiny has planned for the immediate future.

    7. RICK LAWNDALE BAND – “Tijuana ‘O’” (from Surfabilly Rock, SunSpot Records, 2002). I’m a gremmie when it comes to original (’60 – ’64) surf music, but I can vouch for the mucho great BELAIRS and they grew out of the very same SoCal ‘burbs as LAWNDALE. Lazy folks will remember LAWNDALE as some SST punk/surf hybrid – phooey, I say. On record, I count only ONCE ever did they incorporate that knucklehead HC drum beat into their thing. Everywhere else, they sound like a huge witches brew of every instrumental rock/pop classic up until the mid-80’s. So I hear THE VENTURES playing DUANE EDDY’s “Rebel Rouser” quoting QUICKSILVER’s “Gold and Silver” seguing into PINK FAIRIES’ “Raceway” using the MEAT PUPPETS’ shitty gear they used to record “Magic Toy Missing” . . . or something like that. And not many bands can claim Greg Ginn played guest lead gtr on one their records (“March of the Melted Army Men” off of Sasquatch Rock; it’s the ginchiest). No not many, my friend.

    After a decade or so in deep winter hibernation, Rick finally got round to forming a new band with Ricky Sepulveda (ex of RAYMOND PETTIBON’s SUPER SESSION) on lead gtr. A few years later this CD appeared. Alot of the new stuff has Rick’s cornball singing over the top of it – those tracks are a bit too novelty-esque for my humourless ears. But the instrumental stuff sounds mighty, and still seeks to incorporate everything your mother tried to throw out (comics, posable action figures, girlie mags) the last time you ran away from home and camped out overnight on the beach. Man I dig this track and hope they follow this approach more fully on their next rec.

    Almost forgot: here’s the conclusion of that LA Times article begun above. (The whole of THE MINUTEMEN’s Double Nickels recorded for $1500! Unbelievable.)

NeareSST Relatives, Part II

7 Jul


I did promise to eventually finish what I started with my very first post, didn’t I. Yes, I admit it is not hard to get me blabbering about the great and wonderful SST RECORDS. So I’ve done it again – written about what all my favorite SST heroes have been up to since jumping Greg Ginn’s ship, that is. But as this whole conceit is actually pretty damn arbitrary, I thought I’d get myself focused for this one. This time – to keep it simple: I’m only discussing post-SST tangents that have come out in the last decade. Off we go!

1. THE UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS“At The Center” (from The Master’s Voice, Smog Veil Records, 2006) A conscious attempt by poet Dan McGuire to recreate that SST spoken word/jamnation trip of yore, using the very cats (Mike Watt, George Hurley, Joe Baiza etc.) that created said SST jams in the first place. Such a proposition could be dicy, but forget that – since the 2 CDs they’ve put out so far are compelling, meaty examples of just how improvised rock + the right words can combust in totally sublime, meaningful ways. The new one, The Master’s Voice, feels stronger, tougher, even more confident than the first, and hence has my pick between the two. The beautiful Pettibon cover artwork (plus his disassociative lead patter on one particularly mindbending track) had me captivated from spin one. The rest – Baiza’s slithering/scrambling leads, Watt’s powerful, widemouth basslines, Hurley’s rockgroover drumming, and McGuire’s ominous incantations – settled in nicely after a few days. What took longer to get accustomed to was the presence of Mr. David Thomas of PERE UBU – on birdcalls, yodels, and non sequiturs, what else! Clearly, this man still posesses the innate power to wedge himself uncomfortably high up into yr asscrack with remarkable ease. But hey, I didn’t bitch. I just took a couple of deep breaths, and relaxed into it all. Now, the whole thing fits real fine. REAL fine.

2. THE CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET“Night of the Hunter” (from Eat My Life, Nice & Friendly Records, 2006) Just be happy Chuck’s back. I, for one, can overlook a singer who makes me feel a bit queasy. Shit, every one of Chuck’s bands (WURM, SWA, even FLAG) had difficult singers; it’s what I’ve come to expect from the man. Here, the tunes are good, and playing inspired, and the mix warm and bassy. So what if I don’t dig the vocals? And this probably sounds way better live, but I ain’t anywhere near Venice, CA no more (where Chuck’s living these days). This CD’ll haveta make do til they TURN UP THOSE GTRS and release another.

3. TEN EAST“Expanding Darkness” (from their Extraterrestrial Highway CD, Alone Records, 2006) Just amazing recent instumental work by gtrists Gary Arce & Mario Lalli plus bassist Brant Bjork and drummer Bill Stinson – all of whom (Brant excluded) played on various SST releases during the 90’s. Clearly, the best rock album EVER to listen to while hauling an 18-wheeler up and over the Grapevine at 3:00 am on an early Tuesday morning. And I ain’t gonna go into how important ALL these men have been in the continual development of hard ‘n’ heavy rock over the past decade. Just go now and grab the first record you see with ANY of these guys names on it, and find out for yourself. Or better still, go order a meal and a beer at Mario’s Sierra Madre restaurant, Cafe 322, and ask him to throw on the last FATSO JETSON CD. There’s no way you won’t be leaving a really, really big tip.

4. PUTTANESCA“Shiny Red Box” (from their Puttanesca CD, Catasonic Records, 2006) It’s Joe Baiza’s MECOLODIACS + singer Weba Garretson (ex-PEARLS, Eastside Sinfonietta, etc.), and to these ears it’s a total mismatch. I mean, here’s Joe and co. tearing at strings & skins in really inspired, JAMES BLOOD ULMER goes south-of-the-border fashion, and then: Weba swoops in from the winebar with her NPR jazz croonerisms and basically kills any possibility of attaining nirvana. She seems so caught up with getting the changes right and sounding sultry that what’s lost is the fact that the boys are groovin’ on a whole looser, more intuitive plane altogether. Maybe Joe will consider issuing a vocal-less remix of this? I’d recommend that version, fr sure.

5. JOE & MIKE“Everywhere” (From Joe & Mike, private press, 2003, available from THE LAST website) Largely-acoustic CD-R by the Nolte brothers revisiting lost tunes never waxed by THE LAST proper. And it’s as great as any legit LAST record you might wanna point to. I realize these guys’ strident vocal harmonies have always been a bit of an acquired sound, especially to shaggy 60’s folkrock heads who want their vocalists to sound all soft, mellow n furry ala RAIN PARADE’s David Roback. But I can name 3 dozen great sixties pop/rock acts who had singers who didn’t sound particularly soft – think Arthur Lee in early LOVE, or Sal Valentino in THE BEAU BRUMMELS, or even Rob Grill of THE GRASS ROOTS – and THE LAST have always swam a similiar course. Don’t ignore the significance of these men! They practically began the entire South Bay independent music scene in mid/late 70’s, they were a huge influence on a PANIC-era Greg Ginn when he was first scheming to putting out his own records, and they jumpstarted THE DESCENDENTS (in whose early songs I can identify dozens of little LASTisms). These guys still ring true, 30 fucking years on.

6. THE NEW ROB ROBBIES“Pot au Feu” (from Pure Whore, Owned & Operated Records, 1999) Aggro, fullfrontal rock from Chicago, IL by-way-of Bowling Green, OH, and produced by Joe Carducci and ALL/DESCENDENTS drummer Bill Stevenson. At times it reminds me of an amped up version of a “Neil Armstrong”-era ANGST – but that’s probably because singer/songwriter Paul Johnson’s lyrics stick in similarly warm places within my head, glued as the are to really inspired playing and post-punk folkrockin’ songstuff. There’s this rambling webpage with tons of obscure tunage by Paul, charting his progression from the REPLACEMENTSish (but totally listenable) college rock of his earlier SHEEPISH GRIN project, to the more firebreathing attack of THE NEW ROBS. Though this is a bit older now, it still gets loaded onto my I-Pod fairly frequently, and sounded totally fresh and pipin’ hot on my earbuds earlier today in fact. Go find a cheap cutout of this and you, too, will find yourself wondering how many other great bands like this one you missed out on the first time around.

7. TOM WATSON“Future History” (from Country & Watson, Leiterwagen/ Theologian Records, 2000) One could go on and on about guys with post-SST solo careers (Rollins, Watt, Mould, Mascis etc.), and one day I promise to provide you with an EZ listener’s guide to safely navigating the hairy world of Greg Ginn’s post-FLAG projects! But today, all I’m gonna talk about is Tom. Tom’s from the Manhattan/Hermosa Beach area, and came up playing first with TOXIC SHOCK (who donated the standout track to the Keats Rides a Harley comp. from ’81), then SLOVENLY PETER/SLOVENLY (who had a gaggle of monumental recs on SST/New Alliance), and eventually OVERPASS (2 records, the second being a classic). You can read a bit about his early days here; currently he’s playing with Mike Watt in THE MISSINGMEN, opening for dorks like THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS all across Europe. This record was initially only available in Europe until Mark Theodore at Theologian (a long-time fan of all that jammy/jazzy late 80’s SST stuff) sought fit to put it out stateside. Great call, Mark. It’s a quiet, homemade record full of sweet melodies, nice gtr playing and a whole lotta oddball, creaking and croaking sound-debris that places it squarely in Tom’s sonic lineage.

Bonus: an ex-roommate, once highschool gal-pal of mine plays my old bass gtr on one live cut on this CD! 7 years later, and I’m still jealous that wasn’t me.

NeareSST Relatives

14 Apr


    (Or, Those Who Were Spared The Great SST Backlash By Mere Inches)

I make no apologies: SST Records captivate me like no other music label has, or ever likely will. They unveiled all that early, gnarly, genre-breaking/defining stuff – BLACK FLAG, MINUTEMEN, SACCHARINE TRUST – which blew budding eardrums (like mine!) at the dawn of the 80’s throughout the South Bay and beyond. Reemerging after a couple years mired in legal hell, they then proceeded to release record after record that trashed every preconceived notion held by the then-100,000 strong bonehead HxCx army (BLACK FLAG’s My War side II is the pivotal moment in all this, but do check out most any mid/late 80’s SST record by SAINT VITUS/SACCHARINE TRUST/SWA/SLOVENLY et. al. to have that fuck-you-punker-I’ll-play-what-I-damn-well-please! point rammed into your brain). Hands down, the collective SST roster represent the pinnacle of 80’s independent music. And I’m gonna be the first to say: don’t be quick to write off their 90’s/2000s stuff! There’s more than a bundleful of great (though often unfashionable) music tucked away in there – see SORT OF QUARTET, FATSO JETSON, the 90’s LEAVING TRAINS recs and FASTGATO for proof.

That said . . . this post isn’t exactly about SST. It’s about stuff that didn’t actually end up on SST/New Alliance in the 80’s and 90’s, but sonically speaking, damn well should have.

1. REIGN OF TERROR “Don’t Blame Me” (7 “ 45 on R.O.T. Records, 1983) This band’s molten metal/punk onslaught sound reminds me of nothing so much the great OVERKILL Triumph of the Will LP on SST proper, recorded around the same time, probably in the very same neck of SoCal. But all the info I’ve got on this one comes from the liners of Bloodstains Across California comp. LP, so I’ll quote ‘em here:

Ed Danky was the guitar player in WURM before Chuck Dukowski hooked up with Gregg (sic) Ginn and launched BLACK FLAG. The original WURM never had any recordings, but Ed put this band together not long before Chuck reformed WURM. It’s on ROT Records, but the address is the same one that SST used, so maybe Chuck lied.

Given the ugly legal battles pinning SST to the wall in ’83, I’m betting Chuck did.

2. ACROSS THE RIVER“N.O.” (unreleased demo, 1986) Truly, the beginning of everything bearing the Desert Rock toetag. ACROSS THE RIVER were from the low desert, and were Mario Lalli (YAWNING MAN, FATSO JETSON, SORT OF QUARTET, TEN EAST etc.), Scott Reeder (THE OBSESSED, KYUSS, NEBULA etc.) and Alfredo Hernandez (KYUSS, YAWNING MAN, VIC DU MONTE’S PERSONA NON GRATA, etc.). They were young and totally hot n nasty in a bitchen BLACK OAK ARKANSAS meets midperiod BLACK FLAG kinda way. Sadly, they were too early for all them just-post-hardcore kids to fully grok. Plans for a release on SST (working title: Live At County Line) never came to pass; but the RIVER still impressed the hell out of guys like Joe Carducci when holding down the opening slot for (I’m guessing here) BLACK FLAG INSTRUMENTAL sets. These guys are a big part of the lifeblood of pretty much all heavy rock n roll over the past 15 years. And one day, the RIVER demos will flood into cyber space, and every stoner rock jaw on this dying planet will drop a good 3 inches.

3. MAGNOLIA THUNDERPUSSY“Circle” (from the Starin’ Down the Sun CD on Mar Vista Records, 2004) This 1985 demo finally saw the light of day in 2004, after years of banishment in the land of 3rd gen. cassette-tape dupes played only on boomboxes of guys like SPAIN’s Josh Haden and the CHILI PEPPERS’ Flea. While it also caught the ear of Greg Ginn in the mid 80’s, the band broke up before anything was released. A real shame, too – since it rocks in real heartfelt, idiosyncratic fashion (though with more than one cut sounding as if written Under the Influence of the Meat Puppets). I can totally imagine these guys opening for, say, TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG and blowing them deadheads off the muthafuckin’ stage (no offense, Tom).

Now: when is somebody gonna let us finally hear the demos made by THUNDERPUSSY’s west LA pals EQUIDEMIUS, which (according to Joe Carducci) are just as righteous?

4. VELVET MONKEYS“Rock Party” (from the Houseparty CD on God Bless Records, 1998) Here’s a leftfield one: I stumbled across this thing is a CD bargain bin in Soho a while back, buying it cause it was recorded in ’85 and I half-dug the band they eventually morphed into (GUMBALL; saw em play a big WFMU benefit show at the Ritz in NYC once). And whaddaya know but there seems to be SST connections here as well. I can’t vouch for the veracity of any claims made here (the VM guy is a professional comedian), but I’ll shut-up and jumpcut to the important bit in the liners:

Michael Wittaker, aka “Spaceman” from SST Records had become a huge fan and put together a deluxe US tour to be capped off with a studio session for a new release on SST. The tour started off great, the VM’s double billed with Half Japanese, but as the weeks went by one calamity followed another. In the middle of a cornfield in Kansas at a place called the Outhouse the VM’s were billed with SST head honcho Greg Ginn’s power trio GONE. It was a particularly dry season and the only weed to be found was horrible headache inducing rag weed growing in the corn field. The VM’s discovered that GONE were in possession of some fine hashish and quickly put together a plan of action. A huge bag full of the offending hemp was tarted up to look like the real deal deal and a trade was completed. The VM’s van pulled away to the hacking coughs of a disgruntled GONE. Soon after, all label support ceased and the VM’s ‘Houseparty’ LP was shelved.

Donno how you feel about such things, but I’d say Greg’s decision here was based on some MIGHTY SOUND logic.

5. SPOT REMOVAL“Jigs: Durham/Smartly/Banish” (from SPOT’s Nae Plumb Nor Square CD on No Auditions, 2005) In the late 70’s, Spot was known primarily for his radical roller skating maneuvers in & around Hermosa Beach, CA. In the 80’s he led a nutso music project called ARTLESS ENTANGLEMENTS who had a couple indecipherably cryptic tracks on two seminal New Alliance/SST comps (Cracks in the Sidewalk and Chunks). And oh yeah: he was also the house producer in the early SST days, producing damn near EVERYTHING worth hearing on the label, up through like ’85 or so. This track is by an early 90’s band of his that specialized in a particularly twisted form of Celtic music. Here, Spot’s playing in a relatively-straightforward Dave Swarbrick style – though usually he sounds more like Martin Carthy wearing, like, pink tights and a Groucho Marx disguise. Bonus: Dave Cameron (ex-SWA and OCTOBER FACTION) is drumming here, so you know it’s charter-member SST.

Hot tip: anything you can scrape up by this Spot fella will make you sit up, bark 3 times, and crack a really, really wide smile. Start your search engines, gentlemen!

6. FISHCAMP“The Pac-Man Song” (downloaded from Phil Van Duyne’s FISHCAMP website) Anybody ever see these guys play? This is apparently what some of the SWA guys (ok, Dukowski and Van Duyne) did with ex-LAWNDALE drummer Dave Childs to pass time in Torrance after Merrill split to make commercials in Hollywood. They only released one song proper (on the TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA CD comp.) but threw up a few more tunes on their website for the 3 or so of us who care. And they sound AOK to my ears. Call me a new waver but ain’t this one kinda aping DEVO’s “Come Back Jonee”?!? Either way, with Dukowski on board, the whole thing is bumped up a big notch in the bitchen rockiness dept. Listening to this, I can totally imagine sitting on a folding chair in somebody’s driveway in Lawndale on a hot, smoggy August afternoon, sippin’ a cool bottle of Michelob, watching these aging geezers heave/ho their overweight asses through a fuck-me-if-this-ain’t-great set of ornery, jammin’ rockaction. Yeah!

7. VIDA“Cosmic Slop” (from The Dewey Bushmole Sessions, downloaded from the VIDA live internet archive) The UNKNOWN INSTRUCTORS not withstanding, this is the most direct descendent of any of these post-SST supergroups (they featured Tom Troccoli, George Hurley, Dez Cadena and for a time Rob Holzman fr christsakes!), but boy did they pay for that connection. Sure, people came – but they came wanting . . . I dunno . . . “Thirsty and Miserable” or some such nonsense. What they got was just great, hard-hitting twin gtr bluesrock, with maybe a bit of mid-70’s ZAPPA thrown in somewheres (thankfully, minus the stand-up routines). But with Fireman Hurley aboard, their stuff had a whirlwind, hoppin’ modern edge to it as well. They put out a good self-titled CD, but I prefer their later, looser stuff – like this one, thankfully preserved in cyberspace by Mr. Tom Troccoli. Me, I can totally connect the dots: from hard bluesrock guys like JOHNNY WINTER, to FLAG, to this sound, and then on to wildass bluesy stoner stuff like Mario Lalli’s FATSO JETSON. I’m confident that, with time, you can too. And fuck you all but I’ve always reckoned Dez to have a wonderful, soulful voice – in all it’s occasionally cracking, out-of-tune glory. You can feel the notes/words he sings, and that’s all I ever ask of my singers. I really hope he returns from sidemanning to playing his kind of music again, and soon.

8. CARNAGE ASADA“Drive-By Sunday Afternoon” (from the Permanent Trails CD on Travisty Records, 1999) These animals gigged alot in the 90’s with the likes of SORT OF QUARTET and the reformed SACCHARINE TRUST. They whipped asses wherever they blew with a seriously heavy, charred noise that grooved through tortuous inner landscapes and burned through the void of outerspace, simultaneously. Layer on the deadeyed, underclass tales of violence and sickness, courtesy of Mr. George Murillo . . . and the end result is kinda like Hall of the Mountain Grill-era HAWKWIND backing a black Henry Rollins, circa Family Man at a modern-day Circus Maximus. SST? Well, Dave Markey (SIN 34, PAINTED WILLIE, We Got Power Films) drums, Dez Cadena plays some interstellar licks here and there, and Dave Travis (a guy who put together a bunch of wild SST happenings in unlikely locations in/around LA in the mid 80’s) churns the downtuned bass vibeology. The whole CD is great if grim & grimey, in an I-just-got-outta-countyjail-and-wanna-OD kinda way. More folks (outside these guy’s NA biddies) ought to’ve heard it, but by this date, good rock shit was routinely flying waaaay beneath the radar of contempo “indie” consciousness. Ah well. But a decade earlier . . . this woulda stood tall as prime SST agitprop, hairtriggered to explode in the face of every Springsteen/REM-worshipping critic littering the land. This is classic stuff. Now who’s gonna sell me their non-LP 7” 45?

BTW: do check out David Markey & Heavy Friends Vol. 1 internet comp. for a great collection of obscure stuff (inc. CHOP, RAYMOND PETTIBON’S SUPER SESSION, and THE POST TOASTIES) that I could’ve easily chosen to blabber about in this here post.

9. MECOLODIACS“Musicmind” (from their Glamjazz CD, Hazlewood Records, 1998) Post-UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF, which was of course post-SACCHARINE TRUST, which meant nothing short of total Baiza 6-string bliss. The MECOS were basically a striped-down, looser & grittier version of UCO. This broadened their appeal beyond typical jazzbo audiences to ensnare both unrepentant rocker dudes (me) as well as alot of them funky whiteboy DJ types you’d see roaming LA record stores in the 90’s. I saw em rip it up in a downtown LA artloft in ’96 – it was sooo cool. Seeing Baiza – wearing a big wide grin – combining those angular/oddball gtr runs of his with these totally earthy/primeval groovechords, all atop a hard hitting rhythm section (Rafa Gorodetsky & Wayne Griffin) . . . man, the whole place was bumpin’. Never will forget that.