Fixin' To Die: a punk and trash column
Not that I'm jealous of your youthful vigour or anything, but these grey cells ain't what they used to be.
It's hard to stay in touch. I've signed up for Spacebook, spent hours trawling the corners of MyFace and still there are too many bands, too much stuff to properly take in. Here's a quick shufty through some recent(ish) albums that I missed - and maybe you did too.
Call me an increasingly grizzled fool, but a decent wedge of old-fashioned, tough punk pop can still get the pulse racing and Dear Landlord's 'Dream Homes' (No Idea Records) more than fits the bill. Obviously less polished than what you see on MTV2 (and all the better for it), DL have a hint of a heavier Screeching Weasel about them, without ever neglecting the hooks and chest beating anthems along the way. Lyrically, a little downbeat they still pull out the odd moment of positivity, as on 'Last Time I Checked': "We're not that hopeless / In short lived moments we can do anything / The fucking joke is we're winning when you blink." This has been out since last summer, but I've been drunk and in the gutter so excuse me for not being 100% on trend.
Jeff Pezzati has done his time. Fronting Naked Raygun, playing bass with Big Black - that would be enough for most. But still he carries on and The Bomb is his latest project. 'Speed Is Everything' (No Idea) ticks most of the boxes you would care to mark - spray can in hand - with an 'x' on the old gutsy punk rock questionnaire. From the outset ("The kids will figure it out / 'Cause we can't figure it out" - 'The Kids') the album is tempered by age and experience, but not without a sense of fun (they throw in a cover of Flock of Seagulls' 'Space Age Love Song' mid-set). With guest appearances from J Robbins (Jawbox) and Dan Yemin (Kid Dynamite, Paint It Black) it's hard to bring to mind a stronger, or more honest, punk rock album of recent months.
If we take a sideways look at the garage rock/punk scene for a moment, there definitely seems to be something of a revival - at least in terms of mainstream acceptability, with acts like Turbo Fruits, The Strange Boys and The Soft Pack garnering more column inches for the genre than seen since the heady days of Hives-mania. Of course the trash aesthetic never went away, there just seems to be an ongoing demand for some back-to-basics party music. Best of this particular bunch is The Spits' self-titled (Recess Records) ten-track album that does its business in just over 15 minutes. It's hard to argue with such brevity, or their commitment to the cause. Highlights include 'School's Out' ("We're gonna burn our teacher's car tonight!") and the teenage lobotomy of 'Flags', their 2 minute 31 second epic. If you've heard The Lillingtons, this shares a spitoon, but is a tad crustier. Phlegm-tastic!
The elusive Nobunny walks a similar path on Love Visions (1234 Go! Records) which melds the pop sensibilities of The Ramones (inevitably) with the off-the-rails lunacy of Hasil Askins - all from behind the anonymity of a rabbit mask. Opener 'Nobunny Loves You' (essentially a re-write of The Human Beinz' 60s garage classic 'Nobody But Me') sets out the stall and from then on it's a quick whizz through the annals of punk, power pop and low rent trash. He's been known to pull Andy Kaufmann-style stunts like getting imposters to play live shows, so it's all a tad knowing but, overall, good fun.
The Eddy Current Supression Ring (Goner Records) is an odd one, with an air of late 70s UK shambling punk about it, doing for The Lurkers or TVPs what the late Jay Reatard did for The Adverts. Turns out they're from Australia, a country with a fine tradition of snot-nosed backyard outfits of their own. Just the right side of sloppy - "I deserve my dessert!" ('Cool Ice Cream') and, like every tough guy, there's a big heart underneath, as on the oddly sweet 'Precious Rose' or 'Winter's Warm' ("When you come round / Winter's warm"). This appears to be a re-issue in advance of a new album Rush To Relax that's due sometime in March. Count me convinced.
The garage furrow continues to be ploughed courtesy of CocoComa's 'Things Are Not Alright' (Goner Records) that brings a slightly more adult, bar room vibe to the party - there are even hints of The Boomtown Rats to what they do and the arrangements strive for something more sophisticated than the few chord trash of some of their contemporaries. It's perhaps less exciting as a result, but listeners who enjoy their rock and roll defiantly blue collar and honest could do worse than investigate a little further.
I know some of you kids like your rock both fractured and clever, flecked with jazz and - Jebus - prog. What the fuck is wrong with you? Ain't two chords enough? Snack Truck's all-instrumental 'Special Findings 1-7' (Rorschach Records) will find an audience among fans of Mars Volta's sonic experimentations and the rhythmic chop suey of Battles but it's a bit too clever for me. I can only count up to 1-2-3-4 and some of this is almost certainly in 7/8 time or some other cosmos-defying complexity. Scratch that, this is more accessible than first plays suggest. Give the Snack Truck's wares a try. You might just like the taste.
Finally, and punk only by virtue of the company they keep, The Failures' Union deliver some impassioned early 90s US indie rock by way of their Buffalo Tom / Gin Blossoms-style swagger. In What Way (Paper & Plastic Records) is a fine collection, held together by Tony Flaminio's rich vocals, consistently imaginative arrangements and more than enough lyrical intrigue ("I was attached at the wrist to your well-read little sister" - 'Glasses'). Once Angie Hart adds her backing vocals to 'The Fall Man' it's like being back in 1993, furiously devouring the review pages in Melody Maker. They'll be in the UK in March for some dates so get the album, learn the words and get down the front so you can yell along.
If you'd like to see your stuff featured in future editions of Fixin' To Die, just drop me a line via the Contributors link at the bottom of the page