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The Suck '90s and So You Do 

Wednesday, Nov 3 1999
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AFTER MAKING A TRIUMPHANT COMEBACK, DISCO has finally bitten the dust again. New wave still won't go away, but a lot of people have begun to realize that the majority of those songs were, well, preposterous. Punk rock, however, marches on into the horizon, a bit trite and excessively cynical sometimes, but still a relatively vibrant movement. Here's the latest chaos from a wide variety of punk's finest and most unappreciated.

 

Scared of Chaka, Tired of You (Sub City)

This album is a goddamn terror, a roller coaster flung off the tracks at a scary small-town carnival. Blasting unruly, rip-the-bar-out-of-the-club-style punk rock, wiggly '60s garage-type numbers with searing keyboard riffs, and pop tunes that degenerate into police riots, Albuquerque's Scared of Chaka play their instruments as if they were being ordered to by an army of angry baboons. Singer-guitarist
Cisco Baretta's lyrics are dour, cynical, can't-figure-'em-out ravings, while his incendiary leads spark brushfires and scare off coyotes. He's also an exceptional songwriter -- passionate, smart and livid in the course of a two-minute song.

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Sex Offenders (Recess)

Here's the real deal: damaged, street-wise, authentic, Robitussin-chugging white-trash punk rock from Kansas City. On "Road Trip," singer Heather snarls, "Ate orange peels for breakfast today/got jumped by 10 krusties on the way/sleeping on broken glass again tonight/still baby it's just like heaven/since you ditched me at the 7-Eleven." Other Sex Offenders tales of the down-and-out include "That's Why I Steal," a song about making ends meet; "Three Day Blackout," about hookers and killing; and many more -- like "Self Hatred" and "So Far Gone" -- that cry out for counseling and Prozac. There ain't any other gal in punk rock with a more bitchen voice than Heather, who sounds like a feral cat jumping off a trash can onto a poodle's back.

 

Turmoil, The Process Of (Century Media)

Practically any group of numskulls can throw together a hardcore band. It may be the easiest form of music to play for those with no talent. But few excel beyond the pack of sound-alike East Coast and Orange County bands. Flinging brutal metal guitar riffs into their relentlessly
violent racket, Turmoil, from rural Pennsylvania, is a
behemoth that will not be put down. "Let It Die," a song about some group attempting to rehash its glory days, is musically complex for a hardcore band, with numerous fancy tempo changes and a menacing vibe worthy of Slayer. Turmoil's lyrics are almost all accusatory, straight-edge-style rants, while the musical barrage operates like a swarm of insects attempting to burrow into your skull.

 

Angry Samoans, The 90's Suck and So Do You (Triple X)

Is this really the Angry Samoans? The guy at their label says he doesn't think so: This latest incarnation of our local nerdcore heroes includes singer-guitarist Metal Mike Saunders and drummer Bill Vockeroth, but not singer-guitarist Gregg Turner, who co-wrote a bunch of their classic tunes, like "They Saved Hitler's Cock" and "The Ballad of Jerry Curlan." Although these songs -- slightly smarter than the usual moronic Samoans fare -- don't sound like their early-'80s masterworks, they are just as infectious. The 13-minute record has eight simple, cute songs, including "Suzy's a Loser," "I'd Rather Do the Dog" and "In and Out of Luv," Metal Mike's hilarious Casanova-like fantasy, where he repeatedly sings, "All the girls are after me/oh yeah."

 

Naked Raygun, Jettison (Quarterstick)

Naked Raygun's mammoth punk anthems were all over college radio in the '80s. The band broke up in '92, and Quarterstick Records is just now releasing their six albums on CD. With Jettison, the band had begun to perfect their songwriting talents, and Pierre Kezdy's thumping bass was defining how the instrument should sound on a punk record. "Ghetto Mechanic" is a weird, groovy classic of sorts despite its absurd lyrics, while songs like "Walk in Cold," "The Mule" and "Soldiers Requiem" are as slick and forceful as can be and don't really sound like anyone but Naked Raygun. Young punks should add this one to their record collections immediately.

 

Cleveland Bound Death Sentence (Lookout!)

The latest project of Aaron Cometbus (of Cometbus zine) and Crimpshrine includes members of Dillinger Four, Fighting Cops and the Salteens playing some typical East Bay punk rock. Cometbus wrote the majority of these songs, and they're extremely sentimental, descriptive and short-story-like. Many of them are about being idle, kicking back on discarded mattresses outside punk shows, bumping into old friends and walking around with nothing to do, but more from the perspective of a novelist than a songwriter. The guy-girl vocals are neat, and St. Patrick's bass playing stands out, but the songs bleed into one another, and are recorded so raw that after the first few rollicking numbers they start to sound the same. Cleveland Bound Death Sentence has more potential than
Cometbus' other current project, Pinhead Gunpowder, which Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day sings for, but Cometbus still needs to come up with songs where the music is as memorable and clever as the lyrics.

 

Huntingtons, Get Lost (Tooth & Nail)

A crew of serious Ramones fanatics from Maryland, the Huntingtons have released a couple of all-Ramones cover discs, as well as this album of originals in which every song sounds almost exactly like the Ramones. The singer has his own spin on Joey R.'s distinctive '50s-pop-inspired vocals, while the band expertly pulls off the ballads, some of which -- e.g., "Hooray for You," "Samantha Doesn't Want Me" -- are knockouts. The songs particularly click whenever the Moog kicks in with a groovy lead. Aside from being into leather jackets and pool parties, Huntingtons are also into Jesus and are part of the whole Christian rock scene.

 

Various Artists, Punkin'! (Hell Yeah/Munster)

Unlike other European countries that have long-
established punk scenes -- such as England, Germany, Italy and Poland -- Spain isn't known for exporting much in the way of slam-pit-oriented music. But the enjoyably goofy liner notes to this compilation of Spanish punk bands promise "the dark side of all that is bad to the bone and 100% overboard . . . drugs, speed, distortion,
volume & . . . attitude." Fuck yeah, dude! Bongolocos from the Basque country play rockabilly-inspired, string-bending Crypt Records­style cowpunk at breakneck speed, while Bilbao's La Secta play charming garage rock with a silly-sounding accent and an Angus Young guitar solo. Most impressive are Los Piolines, whose "El Hombre Loco" is a Mummies-like stomp with keyboards and a sax. D.O.A. appears to be a big influence on Spanish punk rock, with three of the bands borrowing the Vancouver outfit's sound, including a girl band, Vigo's the Pussycats, who cover D.O.A.'s "Fuck You." To quote the liner notes again, this compilation "delivers a mad avalanche of hardcore speed."

 

The Locust (Gold Standard Laboratories)

Five scruffy-looking hooligans from San Diego, the Locust jam 20 songs, all about a minute long or less, of their savage, brain-mushing grindcore onto this attractively designed 3-inch CD. Song titles include "Moth-
Eaten Deer Head," "Stucco Obelisks Labeled as Trees," "Nice Tranquil Thumb in Mouth" and "Twenty-Three Full-Time Cowboys." If you're not familiar with this genre, it consists of incomprehensible screaming, superfast songs and, in the case of the Locust, really neat, ominous-sounding keyboard effects. This stuff won't float everyone's boat, but the reason the Locust have sold 17,000 copies combined of their 7- and 12-inch before releasing their first full-length is that this gang is topnotch in the relentlessly-vile-noise department.

 

Skull Kontrol, Deviate Beyond All Means of
Capture
(Touch and Go)

Better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish, Skull Kontrol -- a new band featuring Chris Thomson of Monorchid spazzing out on vocals, and Kim Thompson, formerly of Delta 72, on bass -- plays revolutionary, relatively sophisticated punk rock that smokes like a Turkish coffeehouse. In no way typical, Skull Kontrol's 17-minute EP involves dazzling guitar that's recorded raw and mean; chaotic, yelped vocals; and lyrics that would be interesting if you could understand them. The first line of the first song comes through, though: "What this town needs is a new rock critic and not the hack we've got."

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