By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
There is a famous novel about Los Angeles. It was written in 1939, and even in these post-literate times, you may have read it. It’s about this city’s low-rent decadence, its entertainment culture, and the pestilence that infects it. The author was an angry young man by the name of Nathanael West, and I think he saw himself as an antidote to all that. I’m not sure if he lived fast, but he died young and left an ugly corpse, expiring in a car crash on return from holiday in Mexico. The book is called The Day of the Locust. It begins with horrible noise, and a man’s interest being piqued:
Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his office. The groan of leather mingled with the jangle of iron and over all beat the tattoo of a thousand hooves. He hurried to the window.
For a long time it’s seemed like quitting time in the world of punk rock, and, to put it simply, the Locust are the first band in a long time that makes you want to hurry to the window. Where does the story end? Well, the book culminates in a scene of well-deserved ruination . . .
The once rebellious music called punk rock has bought for Brett Gurewitz an extremely nice house. It is a little Shangri-la, poised just up the hill from some of the nicer hotels on Sunset Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the hubbub of the Strip.
Sunset is the party capital for a certain brand of cheesy L.A. individual. On weekends, the bars and clubs are mobbed with the comings and goings of girls in thongs and platform shoes and men with bad haircuts and shiny shirts. It’s no easy feat to park north of the Strip on a Friday night, and as I drove up and down Gurewitz’s block three or four times, looking for his place, I wondered if I’d have to splurge $20 on a valet, until I realized just which house he lived in. Namely, the one with the large gate, the 30-car driveway, the large heated pool, and the terraced landscaping that leads forever and onward into the Hollywood Hills.
A nice house. Plenty of parking.
Gurewitz was hosting a pizza party for the Locust, a band of San Diego punks he’d just signed to an offshoot of Epitaph Records, the label that has earned him his fortune. Gurewitz is one of punk’s great popularizers. He started Epitaph in the early ’80s to release albums by his own band, Bad Religion. It’s fair to say his label has expanded in ways no one ever expected. In the mid-’90s, in the aftermath of the alt-rock explosion, he released an album by the Offspring ironically titled Smash. By some fluke it became one, selling more than 8 million copies. The label’s income octupled that year, serving as a wake-up call to the record industry that nouveau California-style punk — impertinent, catchy, fun — was huge business.
The band developed at an important juncture in punk rock’s life. After the Offspring, the genre’s core values — egalitarianism, thrift, rebellion — would be in question. Proud poverty was no longer a virtue punk rockers embraced by necessity. Groups like Blink-182, Good Charlotte and Something Corporate formulated a musical blend that was at once incongruous and tailor-made for success, combining the sweet melodicism of the Buzzcocks, the snarly attitude of the Sex Pistols and the good cheer of the Backstreet Boys. For a long time, no punk band really rose to the challenge of creating a new, more dangerous paradigm for punk — one that was simultaneously appealing yet gnomic, obscure yet inevitable.
Prog or plague?
The Locust descend.
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