Wednesday, 16 November 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #10: New Bomb Turks - Born Toulouse Lautrec

"...if there is a god, he's only concerned with artists. Specifically those of us who possess both skill and energy. And he only troubles himself long enough to swat us down like horseflies just before we become his rivals." - Sam Edwine in Tom Bradley's Killing Bryce

When I was 17 I thought I was an artist. I thought I was pretty fucking great. And I found this album that was called Destroy, Oh Boy! and the first track was called Born Toulouse Lautrec (still a fantastic pun 20 years after it was released) and over a breakneck snotpunk swell it kicked to pieces my puny artistic exceptionalism. NO HEROES, NO LEADERS, NO ARTISTS, NO GODS. It screamed. I'm a worker, you're a worker, would you like to be a worker too? Eviscerating the high minded rhetoric of the ultracrepidarian artist with a sarcastic superspeed sneer and years after I've heard it, when I must've heard it dozens of times, when I've sang along to it on a warm Texas November night with Eric Davidson strutting, twitching and mincing across a low stage, it still makes me smile, still holds me true, because I know a lot of writers and artists, I am a writer, and let's face it, we're wankers. But that's okay, I'm a wanker, you're a wanker, wouldn't you like to be a wanker too? Because if there were just artists and no plumbers we'd have endless beautiful villanelles and murals about what it was like to be covered in shit all the time, a thousand loves in a time of cholera, rather than what we have which is endless beautiful novels and plays about what it's like to be drowning in metaphorical shit all the time, but go the other way and we'd all have immaculate crappers but no way of properly articulating our appreciation for it (there's a big chunk of Don Delillo's Underworld all about bowel movements as a metaphor for traveling into communist countries).

It's all a job and as such it fills your days and changes the way you perceive the world, whether your mindless furniture shop job leaves you absent-mindedly assessing the kitchen units in every new house, you visit, line names and serial numbers and styles reeling unbidden in your head, or the restless desire to make art about the world turns you into a constant vulture for your own emotional damage. Kicking about in the dirt, we scrabble about for commission, a speck of cash for the way you've said something, in paint or words or notes, about the way the world works, the way people spin. And then you take that measley cheque and spend it on a beer, or to fix the washing machine, or something mundane while the steady trudging monthly pay from a day job is getting thrown away on art supplies, or too many books, or saved up for that guitar hanging like a teardrop in the music shop window with which you plan to pour everything you've got into a furious garage thrum, panicky riffs to staple to jackhammer drumbeats and switchblade lyrics to pummel, gut and pull apart the stupid fucking certainties of another 17 year old and rearrange their head so they gasp and mouth to themselves in shit and wonder, "Destroy... oh boy..."

"ART: A Friend of mine in Tulsa, Okla., when I was about eleven years old. I'd be interested to hear from him. There are so many pseudos around taking his name in vain." - The Hipcrime Vocab, Chad Mulligan (from John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

So Scratched into Our Souls #9: Discount - Portrait of a Cigarette

Before the supergroup swagger of The Dead Weather, the stripped down hit of the Kills, there was a cheap little teenage punk band from Florida called Discount. A short song: Portrait of a Cigarette. Where as the guitar seems to fall away in the background like discarded ash, Alison Mosshart draws a simple pictogram about the basic shape of things, a cigarette as a line and a circle, ashstray as a square in a circle. And from these geometric beginnings, she sketches out the shape of a relationship, any relationship, breathing in the burning, between the people who are square pegs in round holes, the temporary community of a promethean cadging, an offering of flame. The kaleidoscope of life paired down to each individual shape, through a fantasm moment, maybe just a single sung minute, of clarity and calmness offered by a friend smoked down to the filter, and it reminds me of when I was about eleven I remember coming across a riddle that went

Make three-fourths of a cross,
And a circle complete;
And let two semicircles
On a perpendicular meet;
Next add a triangle
That stands on two feet;
Next two semicircles,
And a circle complete.

And I was baffled until I scratched out the shapes and found that it spelt TOBACCO, and when the scratchy song finishes I flick back and press the triangle in the circle on the square and marvel at its shape again and when you screw down the cigarette sometimes you find the spell broken.

take a circle. and a straight line. put a match against the open end. feel it burning. see the burning. breathe the burning. until it's extinguished again. all those distinctions. clearly ashes in a circle on a square. i stare across it all at you. you stare through it at me. are you still there? are you bent up? being burned out. are you foggy. am i trying now? am i straightening? am i dumping out the circle but hanging on to you? are you lonely in this square? i'm lonely in this cube.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

A Weaselmania Of My Own: Part One

"Ben Weasel, he's an asshole/Ben Weasel, he's a jerk/Ben Weasel, you just hate him cos he don't have to work" - Ben Weasel, The Queers

So on March 18th of this year, as everyone who would possibly be interested in the topic knows, Ben Weasel punched two women in the face at a show at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The event and the resulting fallout were just depressing. Larry Livermore's reaction was probably the most balanced that I encountered, and he's someone who has known Ben Weasel for a long time, but for the most part people quickly divided themselves into two opposing sides. In one corner, long rants about the prevalence of domestic abuse and the social and moral implications of male violence towards women that basically came to the conclusion that Ben Weasel is a misogynist scumbag and patriarchy personified, and then on the other side, a series of outraged shouting about personal responsibility and how anyone acting in the way the first woman who got punched did should probably not be surprised when they find a fist in their jaw, you know those arguments which are generally summed up by a slogan made up of a brief rhyming couplet: EQUAL RIGHTS! EQUAL FIGHTS! or TALK SHIT! GET HIT! (this is something that seems to be especially prevalent in the discourse of the hardcore community, it's like Scott Vogel possessed by Etrigan, I'm wondering if you could start a twitter feed that consists solely of analysing the genre in this manner: NO FINER BET! THAN MINOR THREAT! BETTER NOT RISK IT! GORILLA BISCUITS! FRIENDS AND STRANGERS! WE ALL LOVE DANGERS!  I HATE THIS FAKE TOWN! I'LL EXPLAIN IN THE BREAKDOWN! EVERY EARTH CRISIS LYRIC OF NOTE! SOUNDS LIKE A PUNISHER QUOTE! I think it could be a success, although you'd probably quickly run out things that rhyme with 'x'.)

First things first, I don't think the women who got punched should've been punched. One of the them was clearly just instinctually intervening on behalf of a friend, and the other one, well, as obnoxious as she was acting, I think anyone in their 40s, man or woman, should probably have progressed to the stage that they don't respond with a haymaker to the almighty attack of a thrown ice cube, especially if the person who's suffered the infintesimally small indignity of being aggressively cubed spent 40-odd minutes beforehand deliberately provoking the group of people from which the fateful chip of frozen water was flung. But while I don't think those women should've been hit under pretty much any circumstance, I also don't believe that Ben Weasel is a misogynist.

I don't think Ben Weasel is a misogynist. I do think he's a massive fucking twat. The only thing that shocked me about the whole incident was that anyone could actually be surprised when Ben went all Rocky Marciano in Austin, everyone I know responded with something amounting to a resigned sigh and maybe a rueful "Jesus Christ, Ben." Because we don't hate Ben Weasel because he doesn't have to work. We do hate him because he is an arsehole, whatever Joe Queer might think. He's spent 25 years acting like a contrarian dickhead, and so it's not that much of a leap when that apparently pathological snotty desire to piss people off mutates in an angry uncontrolled moment of physical expression. Come And See The Violence Inherent In The System. Every single one of his MRR columns that I've read basically consists of him picking something people like and explaining why anyone who likes it is a fucking moron for liking it and should probably die. Okay, I'll admit that does sound like a fairly amusing act, but when it's all you ever do, then it stops feeling like an act. It's like that the Kurt Vonnegut novel Mother Night where he illustrates the way the lead character is tainted by their time working as an American spy for the Nazis and although he did his moral duty in a fine important way and helped the war effort, the pain he caused and the hate he inspired in his cover identity take their toll. Vonnegut sums up his theme in typically Vonnegutian insightful brevity with the phrase "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." He's not saying there that if you're an Elvis impersonator you're going to end up dying on the toilet, what he's saying is that pretending to be an arsehole is in itself inescapably kind of an arsehole thing to do (just as pretending to be nice to people can actually result in you being nice to people.) If you want it in hardcore terms: fake it til you accidentally make it.

So he's an arsehole, but what are we going to do about that? Screeching Weasel's music means a fuck of a lot to me. It has pulled me through some really tough times. A lot of people who make really great art are shitty people, Bukowski was a complete dick, but his novels and poetry are beautiful evocations of the drunken washed-out struggle of so many people. Bukowski's hero was Celine, who was an even better writer than Bukowski, even more acute in his laceration of hypocracy and his wry amazement at the special little human moments, he was also an even bigger fucking cunt, a raving anti-semite and a complete misogynist, a misanthropic fascist who ended up despising pretty much everyone.  In punk rock, Bad Brains have a reputation for homophobia, but their best music still sounds vital 30 years after it was made, far more so than MDC's stringently left-wing responses to it. It really becomes trickier if a great work is in itself ideologically shitty, like DW Griffiths' Birth of a Nation which is massively important in the development of American cinema, but is also virulently racist in an incredibly vile way (though it should be mentioned Griffiths was so mortified by this accusation he immediately bankrupted himself with a massive budget film about the evils of intolerance and later directed the first attempt at an cinematic interracial romance), but that doesn't really apply here, there is nothing genuinely hateful in the music of Screeching Weasel, pissy, yes, but that's key to their appeal.

So he's an arsehole, but so what? My friend Tommy's response to the Weasel debacle was "Good thing we're punks so we don't have to have heroes." which made me smile as Tommy usually does, but it doesn't take it all the way, because while I don't want to get into a whole real Death of the Author debate here and while I think art can live beyond its creator, Ben Weasel wrote those songs, Ben Weasel sings those songs. And he's a gaping arsehole. And I think an important part of punk is recognising the fact that we identify with art made by arseholes, and that's probably because we're sort of arseholes too.

The fact that Ben Weasel is an arsehole is part of what makes him a good songwriter in his way, just as the misanthropy of Celine is what allowed his satire to be razor sharp let's stop pretending that we're into this music because we're all lovely unique glorious people, to a certain extent the noise of the music is mirroring those ragged shitty parts of ourselves that we can never really expunge, even if we wanted to, which we don't because we've built those shitty parts into castle walls and radio towers, fending off the besieging armies of conformity to an imaginary mainstream ideal, broadcasting our loathing and limp-wrist-in-the-air defiance to similar fuck-ups. If we were nice people then maybe we'd all just be listening to ethereal waft of flowery pop-folk, not twisted angry facsimiles of pop songs and unruly streams of noise and bloody-throated screams. If we were really nice people, we'd never actually know there was a distinct genre called crust, or powerviolence, or goregrind. And what greater example of that internal division of than a man who punched two women in the face on stage also being the man who sang (although didn't write) Going Home, the finest punk song about how the destructive power of gender stereotypes is harmful to everyone, male or female, about how it's not about a war of the sexes, the shittiness of these patterns of violence and mistrust is such that it's an indelible psychic stain on everyone obscuring our abilities to connect to each other as just fellow human beings.

Let's also stop pretending that people fit in to simple categories of good and bad, let's stop imagining that every artist, friend, hero, politician, relative, cop, person isn't a complex human being built from an assortment of contradictory beliefs and experiences that may not sit logically with each other according to some grand scheme. Solidarity is fucking great, but it's slippery. It's a constantly shifting bind of allegiances and shared aims, vicious disagreements and mutual antagonism. It's fucking the human condition is what the fuck it is. We're not all beautiful delicate flowers, we're not all pricks either. We're roses. (OH GOD! That was such. A. Fucking. CHEESEBALL. Line. Though it fitted so well that once it popped into my head that I knew immediately that I was both going to use it because deep down [or on the surface maybe] I'm a high school poetry sort of motherfucker, even if I kind of hated myself for thinking of it and knew I'd probably have to parenthetically acknowledge its shitty corniness to prevent large swathes [4 people] of the readership bailing immediately as soon as they comprehended the full scale of its cheeseball nature. I apologise)

We're not perfect beautiful models of perfection, no one is, but especially not us, because in the embrace of punk rock to me there is an implicit rejection of that search for a smooth unblemished notion of beauty. You can still dress up nice, make yourself up, do your hair, reject every crust-punk convention, but the love for something so raw and angry betrays an essential coarseness to you or to me. We don't just accept those broken bits, we mold them into a shield, into a fluttering proud standard. We're the sort of ugly people that find ugliness beautiful. That live and love in the dry cracks in skin, the flabby folds in flesh, in the dirty smears on grinning faces, singing loud songs, telling each other sick jokes and desperate stories and all of our scars are norse fucking sagas.

(This sort of point cropped up in a discussion I was having with my friend Drew about cultural redemption narratives and their relationship to punk rock. "I get almost resentful, like it takes trauma to be broken enough to walk down that road. Most of my real trauma happened because of, not as an impetus for, punk rock." which led me to liken punk rock to a Simpsons joke, and because he is in the same age demographic as me and the joke was from seasons 1-8, even though I did not specify the joke, he immediately knew which one I was talking about, as you probably do reading this. THIS IS A TEST.

From this I can only extrapolate that punk rock's IF IT AIN'T BROKE, LET'S BREAK IT! spirit is equally applied to people as it is to nation-states, police cars and guitar strings and my friend's friends were all secretly dancing with glee behind his back chanting "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" as they led him into a series of a confusing and messy social situations and relationships. It's a serious drug, you just want the high, but you don't realise that there's no way of getting there without embracing all the strung-out inhuman mess that comes with it.)

It's a scene made up of the kind of guys that put Code Blue on a mixtape for a girl they really like, the kind of girls that give their boyfriend about whom they're just starting to believe there's more there than a fun fling a copy of the SCUM Manifesto on their one-month anniversary, lovingly inscribed (i's with hearts for dots and all) with the dedication "This is why you are beneath me", as well as a whole fuckload of people who don't really care for the whole boy/girl deal but instead of trying to fit in or not make a big deal about it walk round with a mouth full of "Fuck you. This is who I am. Take your prehistoric binary notions of gender and sexuality and choke on them, you fucking relic."

So shocked that we find ourselves in a place where people often seem really interesting and smart or at least dumb and fucking cool, we test it. We push it to see how far it will accept us. We compete to show off our disaffection and distraction from the notions of conformity, and in doing so of course just create a different type of conformity that then must be reacted against as well in this endless fucking stupid pisshearted chain of chimerical explosions, regrettable tattoos and basement shows.

It's a scene made up of those kinds of people, who do those kinds of things, and then still get the uncomfortable inner tug that maybe they stepped too far outside the lines this time. Because we don't live our lives as Johnny Rotten or Poly Styrene or Guitar Wolf or Jello Biafra or Pig Champion, though we ache and shoot for that, though we use them as crutches and patches, bright crusty stitching on Gein-chic skin suit chainsmoke mailroom disguises. We spent most of our time stumbling on through as John, Marianne and Seiji, Eric and Tom, and that duality, that snotty-mouthed swagger/snotty-nosed terror, run-your-mouth/heart-in-your-mouth dichotomy that we bounce and swing between is exactly the teenage freakshow that Screeching Weasel at their best have always been able to perfectly articulate.

And you kind of feel sorry for Ben Weasel a bit, because I think as you get older you generally kind of get a bit better for the most part at reconciling the furious certainty that makes up some of your teenage years, and the chaotic insecurity and self-loathing that makes up the rest of it, the circles merge until it's no longer a dichotomy but more like a happy chubby Venn diagram we've found a warm spot in the middle of, but Ben Weasel does not seem to have done that. Just as Celine's hatefulness was what provided him with the perfect outsider perspective to lance societal hypocrisy, it was also what warped him into a fascist prick, Ben Weasel's continual oscillation between stark self-awareness and self-justificatory blather has led to so many perfect anthems of alienation, fun TV party ditties and ra-ra-ra-Ramones riot story songs, it's also led to him being a fucking dickhead burning bridges like they're dandelion seedheads. He's been an adolescent for three decades. And I am so fucking grateful to have struggled out of my teenage angst somewhat (mid-20s angst is a fucking piece-of-piss in comparison), I couldn't imagine dragging that amount of weight for another 20 fucking years.

But he's finally left that dance behind it seems for the most part, and just decided to stick with the self-righteous angry part. The final song on Screeching Weasel's 2011 offering, First World Manifesto (which is catchy as anything) is about the stupid notion of punk celebrity with apparent specific aim at Brendan Kelly of the Lawrence Arms, but every single line feels like it could be about the person singing it. Maybe he knows this, maybe it's all a bigger subtler joke than I'm giving him credit for but it doesn't seem to be. He's finally broken out of the pattern of catch-an-epiphany and release-hell, but rolled out, not into the quietitude that many aging artists find, the confidence of self-knowledge, but into the almost sole fury of the Unimpeachable Weasel. Maybe he's losing it, or maybe it's just that he can't seem to modulate himself with other people as well as he used, but stuck in this anger rut, it's been a turbulent snipey few years for Mr Weasel, even by his standards, and the few moments where he does seem to get that he's not all that (I mean, he's ALL THAT sometimes, but he's all that because he didn't always think he was all that, or always say he was) then he's switching back quicker and more sharply between something recognisably identifiable as the work of a person who knows they're a person (the initial humility of his apology after SXSW) and the self-righteousness with which he crafts his public missives (the long, rambling [I'm kettlepotting tremendously with those two words used in a pejorative fashion] half-smart half-stupid all-pretty-fucking pathetic comeback blog post where he explained exactly how perfectly right he was about everything after all). He increasingly seems like he believes his own bullshit, or to put it another way, he's stuck as Ben Weasel and can't remember who Ben Foster was, whereas his creative spark was always the introspection and humanity of Foster delivered with the salty smirk of Weasel. And man, that's gotta be shitty, there's not gotta be a lot of peace in that.

You kind of just want to give Ben Weasel a hug and say "Look, you don't have to push against us so much. We like you. Some of the time. If you could tone down that whole "I'm Ben Weasel. Fuck you!" just a little bit, it'd be really great. This is a cool place. And while we're not going to agree with everything, you're going to say, we really are as good as you're gonna get."

Of course though, that sort of genuine honesty is probably not going to get past this hard outer shell of disaffection and anger, so he'll continue doing the dumb shit we hate, but his music, at its best (and it is currently really really not at its best) can save a fucking life. And I know that, because when I repeat those magic words of "punk rock saved my life" that many have uttered sheepishly, declaimed loudly, carved into desks and brick knowing them to be true as a sunrise, Screeching Weasel are one of the bands at the forefront of my mind.

"I am here not by choice but by my birth. For so many years I doubted my own worth it's no coincidence I ended up where I'm at now I'm here to tell you that you can't kick me out 'cause I'm a permanent part of this society the blackest sheep amongst a crowd of them I'm not the glue that holds this scene together but I have arrived here by way of dirty looks and rejection and head scratching shrink and frustrated parents and teachers just like so many did before me and will after me go ahead and laugh at me you can afford to laugh I can't 'cause this is all I have I'm not proud I'm not ashamed but this is all I have and it's good enough for me and I am through following your truth I'm making my own rules. My own world, my own rules."

- Screeching Weasel, The Scene

Yeah, we've all felt like that sometimes, right? But Ben can no longer claim that position, because every new piece of news on the band still meets dozen of detractors ripping the piss out of the whole Weasel canon or praising the gloriously funny Max Levine Ensemble diss EP it will also have at least a few obsequious fanboys repeating by rote the screeching wheeze that PUNK IS ABOUT PISSING PEOPLE OFF AND HE DOES THAT! Or that PUNK IS ABOUT REJECTING TRADITION AND HE DOES THAT! which is exactly the same colossal pile of magic bullshit that Michael Graves trotted out for the ridiculous  ConservativePunk website that sprung up in response to PunkVoter around 2004. (For the record, and I cannot reiterate this enough, punk rock is not really about breaking from tradition, it is about the right to choose which tradition you fit into, building and inhabiting a system of your own not necessarily smash all systems, because the world is so old and so big that everything has a tradition and everything is systematic, and rejecting all tradition is in the Futurist traditon, and smashing all systems is done systematically.) The very existence of those Weaselites disproves their entire point, because Ben Weasel is not a lone voice in the darkness speaking up against the oppressiveness monolith that he imagines to be whatever he considers 'the punk scene' today, if he really was then he wouldn't have that captive audience ready to lap up all of his tortured logic bullshit and spring up at any time in defence of him. On a broad conceptual level his criticisms have a place as a significant aspect of punk rock is recognising the failings of your own scene and puncturing dogma and preciousness with giggling bile (and there are plenty of great songs about it like Electro Hippies' Am I Punk Yet? or Propagandhi's Back to the Motor League, Turkish Techno's Meth Not Meat, Screeching Weasel's very own Slogans etc.), but Ben Weasel has stopped doing it in that sort of scattershot 'I don't know who's right but you're fucking wrong' entertainingly sarcastic way, he does it in a patronising 'I am right! WHY CAN'T EVERYONE BE MORE LIKE ME?' way. He may be an outsider in certain circles but it smacks of someone who's on top (boasting about his five figure show guarantees) applying downwards pressure rather than lone misfit doing it with upwards pressure which aways soils that sort of thing.

Would I go and see Ben Weasel live? Yes, but I'd put on a full-face helmet first! Boom. But, yeah, I would, but, despite the fact that I just wrote a billion fucking words about him, or who he appears to me to be, it's not about him. Yes, the fact of who he is, what he's like, has led him to not only this unenjoyable impasse with reality but to document feelings and sensations that I fucking hated having but were entirely grateful for having elucidated by someone to prove I wasn't insane and alone, but the songs birthed from his creative loins still do exist without him, and will continue to exist without him, outside of him, whatever Republican politician he brags of voting for, and I love love love a lot of those songs, as much as I love any work of art in the world, and, as I think I have gone on about before, the communal experience of a song is what finally completes it. Yeah, I identify with art made by arseholes, but so do others, and they're gonna be arseholes of the same sort as me, and I want to scream those words with them, whoever the fuck's on stage. If I could go see a Screeching Weasel cover band which I knew would have as many people in the crowd as the real Screeching Weasel and that the crowd would be as completely into it were ol' Weasel there himself, then I would be just as happy with that. It's what I want to sing along to, not who I want to sing along to, just as I'm massively excited to see Ted Leo's Misfits cover band close out Friday night at Fest, almost as much as I would be if it were a Danzig fronted 'Fits (but less so than I would be were it The Misfats).

So basically, this article has been knocking around in draft form for about 4 or 5 months and soon Screeching Weasel are releasing a new EP, The Carnival of Schadenfreude, with a regular band, this would be a celebratory post of their power to inspire and my love for them, their dogged determination to exist in some form, rather than what this is, which is a sort of a complicated mealy-mouthed shrug. Now, maybe he'll snap back again, maybe he'll drag himself down from his perch and make great music again someday, but not today (or it doesn't sound like it from what I've heard of the new EP) but shit, I'm not gonna renounce my love for Screeching Weasel. Yeah, there have been times throughout this year where I've felt like I was moving past them, leaving them behind, few weeks ago I put on my personal Weaselmaniacal Greatest Hits playlist for the first time in a while and every single song hit me just like it used to, from the goofiness of Joanie Loves Johnny to the profundity of What We Hate. So I come not to bury Screeching Weasel, but to praise them. As the spiderhead psychopomp Tim Timebomb might say, "Dis isn a stowaree bout how Ben went doowaarn, is abowt how he wen uuerp." I just first wanted to indulge in some bullshit armchair psychoanalysis on the hard-to-love cunt behind the music to help maybe illuminate all the stuff I'm gonna say in what I'm about to do, which is a series of posts detailing my 50 favourite Screeching Weasel songs. Yep, 50. There are not many bands where I even have that many songs (there are plenty of my favourite bands that don't even have that many songs.) I probably won't get it all finished for a while, they'll be posts on other subjects in between and I'm off to Fest on Wednesday for a couple weeks of American dreams but 50 songs, 50 scratches on my souls, is what I'm gonna do, because in all the shit about Ben Weasel's personal conduct, there have been people laughing and sneering about how they were always a terrible band and they don't know how anyone could ever really care about who Ben Weasel is anyway.

And fuck that with an asteroid, because they were fantastic. Stay tuned for exactly why.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Mix Jones #3: Too Much Monkey Business

I actually made this mix a while ago and couldn’t think of some decent cover art for it. Fortunately, the other day I saw the surprisingly good Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which fairly closely mirrors the plot of Groovie Ghoulies’ Outbreak. I also probably could’ve filled this with far more songs about how businessmen wear monkey suits but I cut NOFX’s Pimps and Hookers and The King Blues’ Chimp in a 3-Piece Suit and just stuck to the one. So this is one for all our simian friends.


01. The Dickies - You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)
02. Didjits - Monkey Suit
03. Screeching Weasel - Joanie Loves Johnny [Live]
04. Dead Milkmen - Gorilla Girl
05. Groovie Ghoulies - Outbreak!
06. White Shit - Shitted Out
07. Spizzenergi - Jungle Fever
08. Osaka Popstar and the American Legends of Punk - Shaolin Monkeys
09. Tijuana Bibles - Gorilla Stomp
10. Arson Anthem - Primate Envy
11. Disgusteens - Monkey’s Uncle
12. The Mummies - (You Must Fight to Live) on the Planet of the Apes
13. Zombina and the Skeletones - Ape Man
14. Raooul - Rotten Dead Monkey
15. Rocket from the Crypt - Raped by Ape
16. Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments - Baboon’s Liver
17. Riverdales - Time of the Apes
18. The Mopes - You Look Like a Gorilla
19. Melt Banana - Monkey Man

Time: 49:34

For maximum enjoyment, turn the sound down on this video and let it sync itself to the music as you listen:

So Scratched into Our Souls #8: Oblivians - Bad Man

I've been on a massive garage punk trip for the past month or so. The Rip Offs, The Gaza Strippers, The Didjits, The Mummies, New Bomb Turks and Guitar Wolf have dominated my computer speakers, but I think the song that I have listened to the most, certainly the one that has been scratched deepest into my soul is this Oblivians song.

It's a break-up song, and all break-up songs are country songs, ol' time country, when it was just the blues with a spark more twang. Whether you dress it up in the frenetic whine of pop-punk as so many do (The Ergs' Stinking of Whiskey Blues and The Zatopeks' Mary Lou are two songs by pop-punk bands that explicitly make this thematic debt clear) or shave the bedraggled edge off it in a plaintive folk-pop abomination. All break-up songs are country songs and all country songs, the ones I love anyway, are rough things, where the emotion is stunted and the pain comes through even more from the fact that it's being expressed by someone who doesn't know how to express their pain that much, is uncomfortable with coping mechanisms beyond bottles and barfights, that's what this song is. There's clearly a lot of emotion in it, but it's not always clear which emotion is being expressed and how the singer even feels about it or whether they've even made up their mind yet. You can't really say it wears its heart on it sleeve because its heart is a tricky misshapen muscle beating arrythmically and growling unintelligibly, ventricles at war with one another. This song fuzzes and spits with its own internal conflict, just like any human cunt does.

This song is, for want of a better word, a ballsy song. It's not some heartbroken cry designed to get girls to see how sensitive you are and offer you comfort, but it's not really a righteous fuck you of bitter indignation either with all the transparent pathetic bravado that those sort of songs contain (though there is a bit of that, it kicks it to pieces itself before you can snort at it). I think thematically the song it bares most resemblance to is the refreshing anti-sentimentality of Against Me!'s Cavalier Eternal, a fantastic break-up song that transcends many of the artistic clich├ęs around this particular form.

Girl, I'm sorry but I'm leaving.
We're both at fault, we're both to blame.
And it wasn't the other men 'cause there were other women.
This just isn't love, it's just the remorse of a loss of a feeling.
Even if I stayed, it just wouldn't be the same.

But Cavalier Eternal is a wry smile for the most part, its emotion is couched in a self-awareness, it sets itself up and knocks itself down and takes the next step down the highway with its inner cheeks caught between its teeth, a cocked head, a wink at the road ahead and maybe a wistful blown kiss at the road behind that falls away into laughter. There's no such detachment in Bad Man, it does acknowledge the singer's own culpability in the situation being described just as Cavalier Eternal does but it has none of the acceptance of the situation that Gabel sings of, maybe it's a proto-Cavalier Eternal, cavalier foetal, the roiling mass of emotion that comes before the acceptance.

Over the scratchy stomp he howls in an overly-enunciated backyard Elvis style. I mentioned earlier that there is some bitter indignation, but for the most part it's a mixture of self-loathing and self-justification. I'm leaving. It's not you, it's me. I'm a prick. But by the way, it's you. "And it's on, and I'm gone. That's that." as Biggie would have it, but this guy has too much guilt to let himself out with a carefree farewell like that.

I love the way the song reveals itself like that, changing the direct of the emotion with each line but always emoting fucking hard, yelping and shouting. Just when you think you've got a handle on what's going on with the strained chorus of "I'm a baaaaaad man. I'm a baaaaaad man." it switches up on you again with "But I'm/too good for you."

Like Cavalier Eternal it's a song that ends on the road, but where Cavalier Eternal scuffs its heels knowingly Bad Man is an arsehole Orpheus, pulling out of the driveway in a beat-up car, punching the rearview mirror off lest it be tempted by the trap of a girl who's only fault was to love him and letting out a howl as it roars out of town. FUCK I HATE MYSELF. I'M A FUCKING SHIT. BUT. BUT. BUT. BUT I'M FUCKING FREE. WOOHOO!

It's basically Bruce Springsteen's The River if he never knocked the girl up and managed to force himself into Born to Run but without the girl by his side because she just represented too much of that town full of losers he was busting out of.

Time was in a vacuum, when I wanted to be free.
But now my adolescence has all but left me.
I could have stayed another day, but it would be wrong.
And you would just grow tired of me, before too long.

I say no. I must go.
I'm not the one you want, though I know you think so.
I'm a bad man.
I'm a bad man.
I'm a bad man.
But I'm
Too good for you
My Suzie, true.

Time was an obsession, but that was just for me.
You can tell by the sound of my shoes that I am gonna leave.
Even if you plead with me, and say you were so true.
It's too late for long goodbyes, honey, we are through.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Holy (Jeans) Trinity

So after a triumphant manifesto for how I would never give up the fight of excavating and sharing new music, I promptly found myself kinda burnt out on writing long pieces on how punk music is the best shit ever, and now with my triumphant return, I choose not to focus on some new brave one-chord wonders, but write some brief bollocks about possibly the three most famous punk bands in the history of ever. Great work, Joe!

I remember some years back, on a forum I was on, someone asked for advice on how to write a presentation for school on 'the history of punk rock' and this was followed by a flurry of music nerds (myself included) all scrambling to show off how much they knew about lineage of this bastard little musical form. New York Doll mentions were trumped by MC5s which were trumped by Stooges which were trumped by Velvet Undergrounds. People mentioned the stripped down rock and roll of Who tracks like My Generation. Early heavy metal was namedropped. Some people obviously swinging for the fences drew a think between the philosophy of punk rock and that of free jazz. It was chaos, until one clear thinker, one wise prophet whose name remains lost in the mists of time and my less than perfect memory, came into the thread and posted the words that I will never forget. "Fuck this noise," they said, "All you need are The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash."

And they were completely right.

So yes, yet again I am going to dance around that eternal question of "What is punk rock?" as if you weren't already bored of a thousand discussions of it, alright sick of me myself repeatedly saying "Yeah, it's kind of a stupid question and there's no real answer to it because what punk rock means to you is as personal as the pimples on your arse but I'm gonna try and answer it anyway."

Punk rock, in all its forms, can always trace something back to these three bands. That punk band you like, yes that one, think about it. Does it have right-on left wing lyrics? Does it play fast and loud? Does every member of the band seem constantly pissed-off at the world? If so, then it owes something to these three groups. Simply speaking: The Ramones defined the style of the music. They codified the fast, short, simple, aggressive rock songs. The Sex Pistols' essential attitude is the template for the fuck-you swagger of a lot of punk rockers, swearing on TV, generally looking like a tabloid writer's wet-dream of moral decay. The Clash politicised punk, gave it a purpose beyond the cheap shock tactics of swastikas and spit, channeled that energy into a progressive mold. Look at any punk band and you'll find at least one of the three, sound, soul and speeches. You're gonna get at least one, probably two, possibly three. (This is basically my FUCK YOU! GET PUMPED! idea traced all the way back)

Now this isn't all they did. The Clash also were one of the first bands (along with the Damned and The Jam) to move away from that rigid musical template and bring in other influences while retaining that essential punk energy, The Ramones also expanded their sound although to a lesser degree but are mainly unfairly recalled as stylistically monotonous and uncompromising. The Sex Pistols enshrined self-destruction in the punk toolset for good or ill, but right at the generally recognised year zero, the pissiness, politics and pure adrenaline noise are the most important foundation for all that follows.

So when people say "Where did punk come from?" and that scramble starts again, to equate it with the amphetamine thrill of the beats, the anti-authoritarian simplicity of Woody Guthrie, it's cool if you just wanna say "Fuck this noise. All you need to know is The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and The Clash." and from there you can go wherever you want.

Like I said, the the sound, soul and speeches, three different types of posturing, three different types of progress, all twisting round each other, interacting with kisses, bites, gunshots and frottage, linking in perfect and smooth and tearing apart with great fleshy rips. Kids angry, packed with snot, music fast, noisy grot and fuck you if you think if this is our lot.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mix Jones #2: Wageslave to the Rhythm

A mix for anyone struggling paycheque to paycheque.


1. NOFX - Go to Work Wasted
2. The Ramones - The Job That Ate My Brain
3. Cock Sparrer - Working
4. Against Me! - What We Worked For
5. Off With Their Heads - Die Today
6. Teenage Bottlerocket - Bloodbath at Burger King
7. Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors - Hamlet Chicken Plant Disaster
8. The Vindictives - Assembly Line
9. The World/Inferno Friendship Society - Canonize Philip K. Dick, OK?
10. Dear Landlord - Begging for Tips
11. The Clash - Career Opportunities
12. The Blank Fight - John Henry
13. Patti Smith - Piss Factory
14. The Queers - Born to Do Dishes
15. MDC - I Hate Work
16. Mischief Brew - The Lowly Carpenter
17. The Showcase Showdown - Rip ‘Em Off
18. Hard Skin - Stop Working
19. Billy Bragg - Between the Wars
20. Oblivion - Day Job
21. Dead Kennedys - Take This Job and Shove It
22. Chixdiggit! - Quit Your Job

Saturday, 16 July 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #7: Los Olvidados - Something New

"I just want to hear something I haven't heard before" - John Peel

I recognise the irony of using a song which is 30-odd years old to make a plea for inventiveness and freshness, so there's that.

This Los Olvidados track is an early 80s skatepunk number mainly about the restlessness of youth. That essential drive for something better, at one level it's an already thwarted cry for the greener grass on the other side, the smoother pavements, the pools you never get kicked out of, but more than that it's about getting the feeling that's you've been sold a false bill of goods but twisting that frustration and betrayal into a driving force for change, more than "Do they owe us a living?" or even "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" it's (until the very end) a positive take on those lamentations. It's a push for a place to find yourself, escape, a break with tradition, away from "I just got a job/Not feeling too alive/It's like working in a funeral home/Everyone has died". The central cry of "I'm just looking for something new!" builds and build until it's screamed so loud it warps and snaps into "I got nothing new!"

Such is the permanent nature of teenage rebellion, the athanastic renewal of the longing for escape, for freedom, for relevance and meaning that cannot be comprehended by those who have defined relevance and meaning for the short blissfully ignorant life that is falling apart as self-awareness dawns like a fresh painful day; such is the drive for more than they have been handed, than they have been told they deserve or should aspire to; such is the fuck you; such is the belief, strong and pure and still childlike in its strength and purity, that life can be different, better somehow; such is the sense that something is being lost and slipping through their fingers every day that they do not scream at the night, every day that they waste following the paths laid down for them by progenitors who will never ever understand, never ever. Such is life, in all its intricacies and burning passion, with souls fired at the heavens like AK47 oblations from street corners and bedrooms, from clubs and park benches with bottles of liquor, cheap shitty weed, patchwork ideals and hate, love so tight it constricts the arteries and needs stents of beer and bullshit and punching walls to keep them open. Such is life, as it remains, beautiful and collapsing in on itself like waves throwing themselves at the beach determined to soak one grain of sand that has not yet been wetted. The youth revolt, the revolutions spin, the heads and hearts and fingers of a billion strong pour aimlessly and beautifully at the sky and earth. The sky splits. The earth cracks. Then it heals and the scars fade, but there’s still a story to them.

That's the long of it, the short of it is that I latch on to that desire for newness, the climb before the fall, and always kind of relate it more to my approach to music than any wider sweep of revolving life.

In a fuckload of places I have seen this image surrounded by righteous cries of 'Yeah!'.

And fuck that.

Fuck that not because I like dubstep, I only have a vague idea of what it is, or dislike punk (chief creative and moral force to my existence, yo). Fuck that because no genre is inherently better than any other (FUCK ROCKISM!), and as soon as you dismiss something new as shit and immature and noisy, you’re stepping into the exact role that punk is on many levels a reaction against. Whatever you think of the music in itself, any art that speaks to people because it’s being made by people like them is vital and exciting, the same way punk rock was in its initial blast of popularity and the same way it persists today in its own underground sphere. When British students and kids occupied Parliament Square in December in protest against the prohibitive raise in tuition fees, they weren’t playing punk rock but there was a portable soundsystem blasting out dubstep and grime, they were dancing wildly to a pounding beat produced by their own peers and heroes that nobody else really gives a shit about as they're trapped in the cold a couple hundred yards away from the seat of the country’s power while hordes of riot police stand all around you. And tell me that's not fucking punk rock.

John Peel was a fucking amazing man. One of the few people I'd regard as a hero. I will never approach anything like the beautiful anarchic spirit he had with music because I am fairly locked into one scene, one genre and culture, but he brooked no such bonds. Most cultural figures have a moment of relevance and then fade away looking lustfully back at their glory days, think Chubby Checker producing inumerable twists on The Twist (Let's Twist Again!, Twistin USA, Slow Twistin, Yo Twist!). John Peel remained relevant and brilliant for decades by constantly searching for that something special, the feeling of g, he pioneered, punk, ska, reggae, post-punk, rap, grunge and dozens of smaller and weirder subgenres. He was a man who would play grindcore on the biggest radio station in the country. (An oft-repeated story is of him getting forced to cover for a mid-afternoon DJ and on receiving complaints about the dismissive tone he adopted for the pop pap he had to play responded by playing a Bolt Thrower record during drivetime.) He also was the first person to play dubstep on the radio, and if he was around today I'm sure he'd be playing a bunch of stuff that wouldn't be picked up on by most people until a few years from now.

So while I'm stuck fast into punk rock, attached limpet-like to its crusty stinking heart, I'll always try and bring his restlessness to the way I listen to music, because cultural calcification is the fucking enemy to me. I'm on the look out for new bands and new albums, old bands and old albums that I missed on my last sweep around, and I know that if I look hard enough then I'll find it. I know that somewhere in the world there is a bedroom with a kid thrashing about badly on their guitar who in 6 months or 6 years can produce something amazing and beautiful and silly that'll make me feel the good parts of sixteen again, but I've got to keep looking for it, I can't let it just come to me because it fucking won't. Every year brings new pleasures. Every year brings new sounds, new punks, and I always want to be on board for that something new, clawing forward in bursts like a breaking wave. Maybe I'll slip out at some point, just get tired or bored or just too old to get the slashing new thing, but I'm gonna try my hardest not to dismiss it out of hand, because fuck being that guy.

There are countless great punk bands. There always have been countless great punk bands. There always will be. Punk rock is in a constant state of renewal and reinvention. A hydra built on frustration and ineptitude and loathing and hope and love, both immutable and transitory, obsessed with sincerity and silliness, aping the Ramones, ripping apart The Germs, building up the Circle Jerks, shredding the Minutemen or Husker Du or The Dicks, leaping from Crimpshrine with a line wound tight in its heart and spit in its eye, screeching vindictive oblivion over riffs stolen from F.Y.P., throwing the best parts of The Clash into a huge giant clustering fuck of melody and power, poetry and bile and dumb fucking attitude. Punk rock is dying, dead, birthing, alive in every single 4-beat count-off and song sung like it was the last one. And the most interesting stuff to me will always be what’s going on right now because it’s fresh, fresh as a wound, and falling over itself because it doesn’t know where it’s going. It’s a van full of kids in the dark and there’s a show somewhere out there full of people who also know the words to Propagandhi songs. Despite all its forebears and all the tradition and shite it's aping and building from, it's the fresh unsteady rush of Something New.

"What emerged from reading Rose's book was the affirmation that every generation feels this way about its music, whether it's Grieg or Simon and Garfunkel or Girls Aloud. It's a feeling written down in the rings of our grain. And in the generations to come we'll still be singing along in the kitchen, and buying records while drunk, and leaping down the aisle, feet round our ears. It's a human condition, I think, to be always stumbling out of concert halls feeling as if we have been drugged, to be forever finding ourselves back on our front step, surprised we have not been run over." - Laura Barton

Guitar Wolf

"The trend toward narcissistic flair has been responsible in large part for smiting rock with the superstar virus, which revolves around the substituting of attitudes and flamboyant trappings, into which the audience can project their fantasies, for the simple desire to make music, get loose, knock the folks out or get ‘em up dancin.’ It’s not enough just to do those things anymore; what you must do instead if you want success on any large scale is figure a way of getting yourself associated in the audience’s mind with their pieties and their sense of “community,” i.e., ram it home that you’re one of THEM; or, alternately, deck and bake yourself into an image configuration so blatant or outrageous that you become a culture myth." - Lester Bangs in the essay James Taylor Marked for Death from the absolutely essential collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung

So I try not to quote Lester Bangs too much, and I fail all the time, because he's the sort of person that when I started reading them seriously I was already leaning towards something approaching their style and approach in my own writing (I feel the same way about Le Clezio and his cascading torrent of words echoing the noise of society) and so reading them was a mixture of "Holy fuck! This is amazing! I'm not alone or insane! Someone is doing exactly what I want to do and doing it brilliantly!" and "Ah shit. This is amazing but it means I'm completely unoriginal. Someone is doing exactly what I want to do and doing it brilliantly." It's even worse with Bangs than Le Clezio because Bangs is not only offering far better writing than me, he's also often writing about the same shit. He hangs heavy over everything I pen. He is, after all, the man credited with the term 'punk rock'. So I try not to quote him too much because he frequently renders any insight I have utterly pointless (like Bill Hicks I can only thank my lucky stars he died horrendously young and thus did not have time to supercede everything and anything I want to say about shit) but it's unavoidable here, because if anyone has taken the culture myth approach to rock music, it's fucking Guitar Wolf.

You know how I should really conduct this review? I should just put the words GUITAR WOLF in screen-filling size and animate it so it flashes black and yellow and everyone who gets it will be like "FUCK YEAH!" and everyone who doesn't can go die in an office.


That right there is a pretty accurate summary of the state of my brain as I walked out of the Islington Academy last Friday having seen the most awesome (in its original meaning before dumb fucks like me and the rest of the internet dulled it through inane overuse) display of pure rock and roll that I have ever had the ungodly fortune to experience.

Okay, so sonically, Guitar Wolf are the bastard children of Joan Jett, Motorhead, The Ramones and Link Wray, although they're probably stylistically more monomaniacal than even Lemmy's 35 years of making songs that go dananananaNAH! and they certainly have none of the attempts at pop hits that the Ramones indulged in from time to time. They are ascetics to the religion of rock and roll. Aesthetically, they are the bastard children of Joan Jett, Motorhead, The Ramones and Link Wray. They are garage punk, with the volume and attitude cranked so far off the dial that they trample carelessly around the shadowly borderlands of noisecore. And they look fucking cool doing it.

Every single Guitar Wolf album sounds pretty much the same (okay, so I haven't picked up the new one yet and didn't have enough cash to the other night but I don't think it breaks any new ground), but that's what's so wonderful about them. "Every time you do it, you dig deeper" as Ross MacDonald said when critics accused him of writing and rewriting the same novel over and over again with his Lew Archer series. Guitar Wolf are digging deeper into this almost primal rock and roll. Their song titles are built from a compendium of rock cliches, Midnight Violence Rock'n Roll, Machine Gun Guitar, Kung Fu Ramone Culmination Tactic and Sex Napoleon but they do it with enough unwinking verve that you just want to believe in it all again, all the 'yeah baby's and '1-2-1-2-3-4's and guitar solos and drum flourishes. All that silly stuff. The best starting place is probably the album Jet Generation, generally considered to be the apotheosis of their sound, possibly because it is claimed to be the loudest album ever recorded. Matador records claim "When we sent the new GUITAR WOLF record to the mastering lab for inclusion in our recent in-store play sampler, the mastering engineer called back, mystified by the volume level on the CD-R. The levels exceeded the theoretical maximum possible on compact disk audio. In other words, JET GENERATION is the loudest CD in history." How fucking cool is that? If you don't think that is cool, then maybe we cannot be friends.

The other possible starting point for Guitar Wolf is not an album, but their b-movie Wild Zero. In which they fight zombies and UFOs and look so fucking slick. Senji, Billy and Toru AKA Guitar Wolf, Bass Wolf and Drum Wolf. Shooting shit, shouting "ROCK AND ROLL!", riding motorcycles with flames coming out the back, blowing shit up, delivering a stringent anti-transphobia message, rocking the fuck out, saving the world, somewhere between spirit animals and rock and roll superheroes.

So the band took the stage. First Bass Wolf (U.G. since the death of Billy a few years ago), then Drum Wolf, then Guitar Wolf himself. Here are some of the things that happened during the next hour and a half or so:

  • I've listened to almost everything they've done and they only played three songs I recognised, the opener UFO Romantics, Jet Generation and Link Wray's Rumble.

  • They did play something that resembled the Dead Kennedys' Police Truck though.

  • The guitar cable was fucked so the sound went out a couple of times but nobody appeared to notice (I didn't even notice this, I was informed by someone I was with after the gig).

  • They did every single rock and roll posture, pose and move that should've gone out of style 40 years ago but made every single one look unbearably fucking cool, especially the whole "hold your guitar like a rifle and spray bullets of rock into the crowd" one.

  • They were so completely into it from the very first moment that a couple of the guys we were with had popped out for a cigarette and when they came back in to see the band writhing about and playing guitar behind their heads they were like "Oh shit. This looks like the last song." when in fact it was the first song and the entire gig proceeded like that.

  • They barely ever stopped making noise, each glorious rock and roll cacophony would be drawn out into a stumbling wind-down but before they did the synchronised blunt rock and roll ending they'd pump it back up into another song without stopping.

  • Guitar Wolf dragged a guy out the crowd and gave him his guitar, which the guy clearly could not play but his thrashing around made no real difference to the sound being produced and it took a long time for Guitar Wolf to communicate to him in his limited English exactly which rock and roll moves he wanted him to do (it was basically like that scene from School of Rock where Jack Black teaches rock stance to the kids, but enveloped in huge colliding continents of noise), but it was still all deliriously entertaining.

  • Drum Wolf did the ol' James Dean 'look cool while combing your hair' thing while just playing the bass drum.

  • Bass Wolf had no G string, not even a tuning peg for one, lest he be tempted by the evils of something that clearly wimpy.

  • Guitar Wolf broke a string and the guitar techs tried to give him a new guitar but he was like "Fuck it. I can still thrash this one".

  • They did two encores, the first one really short, the second one after the PA had started playing music to signal the show was over but people were booing and chanting for more and I could see Bass Wolf arguing with the stage manager for one more. FIGHT THE POWER!

  • This one more went on for fucking ages as Guitar Wolf pulled a load of the crowd on stage to form a four tier human pyramid on stage which he climbed to the top of and bestrode like a powerchord pharaoh briefly before it collapsed.

  • After the show had finished, the house lights had come up and half the crowd had left, Guitar Wolf came back on stage just to pick up his shit but the people lingering about who'd just been rocked out of their mind cheered him and inspired by this he grabbed his unplugged guitar and with no mic or amp thrashed out a song in exactly the same sweat-shedding dramatic pose, grimacing as though being exorcised by the music, that he had adopted for much of the show when he was not thrashing about on the floor or leaning into the crowd, in almost COMPLETE FUCKING SILENCE while the audience stood and cheered "WOLF! WOLF! WOLF!" as though they could still hear the majestic racket that had just flayed them of their senses.

I know I'm forgetting some of the other delirious acts of rock and roll madness that took place, they may have been erased by the dark swirling mass of clamor and chaos that filled the room and got itself worked into the rustling fabric of my being. ROCK NOT LEST YE YOURSELF BE ROCKED!

Seeing them live changes the way you view the band, it makes you think even more than you ever did that they are actually rock and roll superheroes, but it also makes you stop thinking about individual songs as separate artifacts of that rock and roll. It makes you really understand why they're classed as noise-rock as much as they are garage-punk, because that constant onslaught of sound eats into you until silence feels utterly unnatural.

"The static’s like the sound of thinking. Not of any single person thinking, nor even a group thinking, collectively. It’s bigger than that, wider—and more direct. It’s like the sound of thought itself, its hum and rush. Each night, when Serge drops in on it, it recoils with a wail, then rolls back in crackling waves that carry him away, all rudderless, until his finger, nudging at the dial, can get some traction on it all, some sort of leeway. The first stretches are angry, plaintive, sad—and always mute. It’s not until, hunched over the potentiometer among fraying cords and soldered wires, his controlled breathing an extension of the frequency of air he’s riding on, he gets the first quiet clicks that words stat forming: first he jots down the signals as straight graphite lines, long ones and short ones, then, below these, he begins to transcribe curling letters, dim and grainy in the arc light of his desktop…" - Tom McCarthy, C

In contrast to Killer Dreamer and a lot of that sloppy garage-y pop-punk, where it does feel like a single perfect burst of mellifluous pop taken apart from the inside and also in contrast to something like Husker Du's New Day Rising where it often feels likes a song built hardy, smooth and true and then thrown screaming like a bag of cats into that sea of fuzz so it has to struggle and splutter to keep itself heard. It feels as if we're coming from the other side, delving into the dingy discord of the world, the latent thrum of the cosmos, pulling a brief harmonious moment out of the primordial clang. We're not talking taking a Chuck Berry song and filling it with the crackle of basement souls, not wrapping a sweet teenage love song in acidic folds of hiss, it's the molding the background noise of the planet and beyond into something you can scream along to, exposing the true rock and roll heart that lives inside the deafening rumble of rocketship lifting off, the faded roar of distant traffic and the static buzz of a thousand electro-magnetic signals degraded and spattering invisible against bodies and buildings, going further and further into the dancing soul of things, unearthing rock and roll as the sound of the tick of the universe until they're grasping the echo heard by Penzias and Wilson and shoving it into a Bo Diddley beat.

Near-pure noise music like Hanatarash is possibly the closest to this idea of bringing into the light the sound behind it all, amplifying that low-level echo of existence as one drawn out, stretched and mutilated rock and roll song, like that version of Justin Bieber's inane platitudinous sexless Baby slowed down 800% until attains an odd scraping beauty, we're looking at everything from the big bang on up until the heat death as a version of Overkill lasting aeons with a billion false endings, but Guitar Wolf are a step away from that, often live it seems as there is no structure to what's going on, like these adventurers and cosmonauts of the sonic void are aimlessly rolling around in the distortion and thrash, but then they'll grab onto a groove, snatch a drumbeat from infinity and shackle it, they're plucking guitar solos from the murk. "Because what they call passion actually is not some emotional energy, but just the friction between their souls and the outside world." as Stalker had it, or at a less wholly mythic level (it's a hierarchy of noise and Guitar Wolf are drawing both from the base big bang echo and the assorted descendant static that has followed and intermingled with it) it's something akin to GX Jupitter Larsen's noise novel Sometimes Never which starts with "Most thought the radio static was empty. They were quite wrong..." it says before 20 odd pages of phonetically rendered static, pages and pages of letters smashed together briefly asserting themselves into half-recognisable patterns that scamper away from your comprehension designed to be read out loud and make you like hissing/fizzing madman if you do it in public. Entering into this churning noise, they're bringing back melody and rhythm from the brink and passing it on to us as only true heroes can.

Because here's where the culture myth gets interesting, Guitar Wolf are not us. Jeff Rosenstock is. Lauren Measure is. Mikey Erg is. Biscuit Turner was. Even an exulted a figure as Mackaye or Rollins is still us. Still that ordinary person who does ordinary things, goes to the shop, stubs their toe, they just go out at night and play stunning angry beautiful music rather than relaxing with a boxset of Mork and Mindy, a cool Coors 16 ouncer or a Yukio Mishima novel.

But Guitar Wolf drag audience members on stage and hand them a guitar and then they're part of it, they've got the crowd cheering them on. One move and you're a rock god, Auxiliary Wolf, let me hear you howl. What Guitar Wolf do, and this is explicit in Wild Zero in which the main character is not the band but a fervent fan named Ace, is they make you a fucking sidekick to the madness. They draw you in. Like a Dr Who companion, or Willy DuWitt in Bucky O'Hare, or whatever lucky kid gets to visit the Justice League HQ this week and help save the day, you're just the odd little human drawn into this mission, this romantic excavation of sound with the tools of poses and postures and three-string basses, part of the crew even if your job is just to keep the radio on the right station, you're part of the myth, the Guitar Wolf gang. Get your jacket and sunglasses and point the axe at the nearest star, with the ache and groan of space-time behind us, there are rock and roll songs out there swirling between nebulae and black holes and it's our job to go and get them. We've all got a little overdrive and garage noise in our heads so let's use it, shape it, exploit it. Count us in Drum Wolf, we're along for the ride.

"Some religions say that the universe was started with a word, a song, a dance, a piece of music. The Listening Monks of the Ramtops have trained their hearing until they can tell the value of a playing card by listening to it, and have made it their task to listen intently to the subtle sounds of the universe to piece together, from the fossil echoes, the very first sounds.

There was certainly, they say, a very strange noise at the beginning of everything.

But the keenest ears (the ones who win most at poker), who listen to the frozen echoes in ammonites and amber, swear they can detect some tiny sounds before that.

It sounded, they say, like someone counting: One, Two, Three, Four.

The very best one, who listened to basalt, said he thought he could make out, very faintly, some numbers that came even earlier.

When they asked him what it was, he said: 'It sounds like One, Two.'
" - Soul Music, Terry Pratchett

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #6: Killer Dreamer - Black Metal Band

"They have names like Igor, Meldorf, and Tor/Black metal is not like, is not exactly like Living Color/I kinda hope they move here, so I don't have to pay import prices/But I'm kinda fear them being near me, because, they're not nice!/I befriended them/Bye bye mom, it's now me and my black metal friends/I befriended them/Bye bye Franklin, it's now me and my black metal friends" - Atom and his Package, Me and My Black Metal Friends

A lot of my favourite music sounds a lot like this song. It's that sort of lo-fi scratchy pop-punk that draws a lot from FYP, Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever) and The Mummies. The first FYP releases are really rough stuff, but they undergo a process of refinement throughout their career until they're playing fairly straight pop-punk, but it doesn't feel like a band choosing to change their sound, but one learning to play their instruments as they continue, that they always wanted the slicker stuff but just couldn't manage it at first. Hickey (Hickey are the best band ever) were a sloppily experimental band who often sound as if they wanted to write a simple pop-punk song but got bored and wandered off. The Mummies sound like a Sounds of the Sixties station with the dial carelessly thrown halfway off into the mid-band static. All three bands share the fact that they sound like they've reached their own distinctive mix of structure and fuzziness through a seemingly accidental careless process. They always wanted to play something the kids could bop to, but they were the wrong sort of kids, so they could only play something the wrong sort of kids would bop to, the freaks and weirdos and corner lurkers learning life lessons from this cartel of fuck-ups, learning brevity doesn't mean simplicity and that simplicity doesn't mean smoothness, learning beauty comes in burning packages, learning that distortion is a cure-all and that the top forty and its mass-market pretty faces cannot croon a broken, confused heart in the way that these pissy fucks can when they pack all the anxiety into the songs so that they bubble over, they black-lung cackle and sting.

Garage bands, who don't wanna hear about what the rich are doing, don't wanna go to where the rich are going, soothsaying guttersnipes. There is that criticism of punk that it's people who can't play their instruments, but it leads to this lovely oddness and degraded glorious sound, the first wave of that is what David's Town was aping. On Westway to the World Paul Simonon talks about how the reggae feel of Guns of Brixton came from the fact that he'd grown up listening to reggae so when he tried to write a song, whatever he did naturally leant that way. In the cases I'm talking about here though, it's music leaning into the louder angrier stuff that gives its edge rather than punk being unable to escape another sound but leaving some of its threat and menace in the song that we see in Simonon's pissed-off reggae masterpiece. I'm talking happy accidents for unhappy people.

So all those bands playing rough approximations of a more refined sound (and those three were by no means some classic example of this, just three bands that I like a lot that I associate in my head with this phenomena), led to a lot of the bands I love today which all dance around that style, Stymie, Dude Jams, Fancy Pants and the Cellphones, The Bananas, The Credentials, Killer Dreamer, Shang-a-Lang, Sass Dragons, The Exploding Hearts, Future Virgins, The Measure (SA). It's the classical notion of a three minute pop song torn apart by feral children and put back together roughly by enthusiastic incompetents. A slick thing pushed loud enough for the cracks to appear and the churn and shit inside to shine through. All of these bands have different sounds and genealogies but they can all be described in this fashion, pop songs for malcontents and howlheads, a crumbling silly little ditty that stomps and thrashes in a sweet dumb fury, unstable material, brief half-lives that decay and rot and break things because they'll never be prom queen.

Killer Dreamer are the perfect example of this sort of thing and I chose Black Metal Band because it's my favourite song of theirs. A short punk stomp that fizzes and spits and dies nasty. It reminds me of my friend Graham's admission that he only formed a pop-punk band because he was not a good enough guitarist to be in a thrash metal band, and he ended up playing amazing low-fi scratchy pop-punk with Fancy Pants and the Cellphones that contains all the brevity and vim of The Undertones but is nowhere near fit for mass public consumption. Black Metal Band is a somewhat noisy song about being very noisy. It's a pop-punk song about a black metal band that sounds as if it's been infected with the pull of the violent evil sound it's describing and is transforming into it. The smooth skin of something easy and clear picked at relentlessly until it begins to itch and break apart. Musical dermatillomania. Still catchy and hummable but nothing near pop. Noisebursts you can shimmy to.

Plus, I just love the bit where the snotty garage yelp slips into a satanic growl to intone the song title. Form and content, mothers and fuckers!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Night Birds - Fresh Kills Vol. 1

"I met a wave head-on as it broke and took the cold shock running. My feet kicked out behind me and I swam straight out for a quarter mile. There the kelp-beds stopped me, a tangled barrier of brown and yellow tubes and bulbs floating low in the water. I hated the touch of underwater life. I turned on my back and floated, looking up at the sky, nothing around me but cool clear Pacific, nothing in my eyes but long blue space. It was as close as I ever got to cleanliness and freedom, as far as I got from all the people. They had jerrybuilt the beaches from San Diego to the Golden Gate, bulldozed super-highways through mountains, cut down a thousand year of redwood growth, and built an urban wilderness in the desert. They couldn’t touch the ocean. They poured their sewage into it, but it couldn’t be tainted. There was nothing wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean couldn’t cure. Except there were too many Ararats, and I was no Noah. The sky was flat and empty and the water was chilling me. I swam to the kelp-bed and plunged down through it. It was cold and clammy like the bowels of fear. I came up gasping and sprinted to the shore with barracuda terror nipping at my heels." - Ross MacDonald, The Drowning Pool

I once read an article about Monty Python which posited as its main point the idea that while everyone cites Monty Python as an inspiration, it wasn't actually that directly influential for the things that are cited as revolutionary about it. Its formal innovations and deconstruction of the sketch show genre were so complete that no-one else could risk doing things like letting sketches bleed into one another without being accused of simply aping the Pythons and so if it did have influence on the many who cited it, then it was more in its general tone, its anarchy of spirit.

The same, for me, can be said of the Dead Kennedys. I think Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is quite possibly the greatest punk album of all time, and everyone I know loves it, but you won't find much that sounds like it. You'll find dozens of bands trying to be The Clash or The Sex Pistols, hundreds trying to be The Ramones, thousands trying to be Hot Water Music or NOFX, but not many people seem to be reaching for a sound resembling DK. That's partly because they did not have one definitive sound, they were constantly shifting and experimenting with genres and sounds, but FFFRV is what you might call the 'classic' sound and there's just not that much that resembles it.

(Of course, they're not unique in bringing in surf influences to punk. The Ramones covered Surfin' Bird and later spawned their own gimmicky but fun hanging ten tribute band The Ramonetures and The Livingbrooks later took this early Beach Boys feel of some Ramones stuff a lot further. There are the eponymous Surf Punks who are actually kind of a precursor to the goofy careless genre-hopping sarcasm of The Dead Milkmen. A bunch of early skatepunk has the odd surfy song or cover (like JFA, despite their Yodaesque cry of 'Surf punks we're not!'), then you have the other side of surf bands drawing in punk influences, like rock and roll fighters The Tijuana Bibles, garage-surf trash women The Trashwomen or intergalactic travellers Man or Astroman? but none of these bands sound much like Fresh Fruit (though The Ramones are obviously a formative influence on it.) )

And then here come Night Birds with Fresh Kills Vol. 1 which is a collection of their previously released seven inches, and everyone who hears them goes "Wow, it's just like DK!" They're not solely drawing from DK though, they clearly have a bit of Adolescents in the way they underpin their choruses with lots of aaaaaaahs on the backing vocals. The mid-tempo darkness of Living in the Middle calls to mind something like the Drunk Injuns' Mental Holocaust and its naked desire to aurally paint the trudging threat of a mind slipping into itself. They seem to be dedicated to recreating the beachviolence noises of this particular branch of the early 80s punk sound I initially assumed that must've been a California band, but they're actually from New Jersey.

The combination of surf sounds into punk subverts it. In general, in surf-rock the sun, sand and sea all roll together into a friendly fun day out with wholesome smiling faces, white teeth, tanned skin. The whole odd little subgenre of beach party movies like Beach Party, Gidget, Bikini Beach and Muscle Beach Party. "Help save the youth of America/Help save them from themselves/Help save the sun-tanned surfer boys/And the California girls" as Billy Bragg sang. The addition of punk rock is a horror movie take on the genre, like The Horror of Party Beach, but extending that horror past just a guy in a dodgy suit preying on women in bikinis into a pervading sense of danger and loathing and psychosis that threatens to consume the world. This surf/punk melding paints the sun as a burning ball of oppressive heat burning your face, not a happy smiling greeting to the day, the sand as dirt, grit thrown in your eyes, the sea as malevolent energy personified, a place of drownings and shark attacks, breakers crashing down on your head. It drags the surfers out of the sea and into the city and then gets them fucked-up on pills, mugs them and leaves them wandering about the supermodernist nightmare of Los Angeles descending into madness, the joy of a Ventures or Volcanos song rippling round the edges of their mind until they're subsumed into the underclass of the city, spanging for changes and humming the Hawaii 5-0 tune into the cracks on the sidewalk like they're worm-charming for that wave to come wash it all away.

Night Birds are doing nothing new. They have songs about being in thrall to b-movies that echo the grindhouse cinephilia of the Misfits and The Lillingtons. They're writing first person serial killer songs. Surf-punk instrumentals. Paranoia and social detachment. Apocalyptic fantasies of mega-tsunamis. It's all been done before, but they're so tight and well-constructed that you really want to listen to it, and like I said, the fact that the sound they're mostly going for isn't actually one that was done that much, as familiar as it sounds.

Punk rock has this odd mixture of being associated with this mad lunge towards a dystopian brutalist future in a lot of its early iconography and the way it was drawn into the whole cyberpunk literary movement and its high-tech/low-life obsessions, but also in its classic sound and simple song structures it's defiantly retrograde a lot of the time. It's stripping down the virtuosity of classic rock, laughing at the archness of metal, kicking the shit out of the self-involved pomposity of prog screaming "THE ONLY THING THAT SHOULD BE PROGRESSIVE IN ROCK MUSIC IS POLITICS!" Night Birds are this sort of snotty manic musical necromancy, a perfect example of the desire for safety and security within a sound that is built of unsafeness and insecurity in its thrash and violence. The aping of a past sound which engages with it perfect sincerity and never lapses into gimmicky parody. This is just pure concise 80s hardcore style punk rock, and at a time where we're building Reagan statues in London, watching Thatcher in the cinema, rioting in the streets against the Tory cunts, what could be more perfect? I can't wait for the full-length.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

So Scratched Into Our Souls #5: Turkish Techno - Meth Not Meat

"Here is the great, explosive novel I promised you. Like our souls it is polyphonic; it is, at the same time, a lyric poem, an epic, an adventure novel, and a drama. I am the only man who has dared write such a masterpiece, and it will be my own hand that will destroy it, when the growing splendor of the world has equaled it with its own and rendered it superfluous. In spite of what the inhabitants of Goutville and Paralysis may say about it, this work of mine unfurls an immortal banner in the winds of glory, on the topmost peak of human thought; and my creator’s pride is well pleased. Don’t think of justifying it; watch it, rather, bounding and exploding like a well primed grenade over the shattered heads of our contemporaries, then dance, whirling in a warlike reel, splashing about in the quagmire of their imbecility, taking no heed of their monotonous driveling." - F.T. Marinetti in the preface to Mafarka the Futurist, swinging like an eleven foot penis not just for the fences but the nebulous bonds of human creation itself. An utter fascist shit, it should be mentioned, but you've got to kind of admire that level of bravado.

For the most part with this blog, I want to focus on shit that I love. There are many punk bands that I am mostly or wholly indifferent to, a few that I genuinely dislike and want either scorched from the earth or just given a really good talking to that tells them to buck their ideas up, sunshine, but I don't really see the point of focusing on them too much, because unless you're actually getting paid to review something, or someone requests it, or they are part of a larger review (Bad Ideas) then purposely seeking out something you're not into rather than attempting to highlight a few small parts of the endless reams of beautiful brilliant stuff just seems kind of fucking stupid.

All I really want to do with my life is write about punk rock in as eloquent and inspiring a fashion as someone like John Berger writes about art and resistance, in as chaotic and beautiful fashion as Dambudzo Marechera writes about love and rebellion. I want to be as angry and funny as Bill Hicks, to be as fearless as Kathy Acker as she tears down and reconstitutes culture and literature for her own playful angry ends, as noisy as JMG Le Clezio, as fun as William Burroughs, as conscious as Ursula Le Guin, as moving as Bao Ninh, as readable as Ross Macdonald, as thrilling as William Gibson, as human as Flannery O'Connor, as punk as Aaron Cometbus, as conscious as Juan Goytisolo, as self-aware as Stewart Lee, and really to just rip off Lester Bangs for the most part, and I expect to spend my life in a constant struggle to get even a quarter of the way towards those ideals, or the strengths of dozens of other writers that I idolise, but that's what I'm aching and reaching for. (Also, I want to egregiously mention lots of writers so people know how smart I am, and then acknowledge what I'm doing as if that in anyway alleviates the shuddering arrogance of it all, like a cunt.) I want to do all this shit not just in general, not in the abstract, but with specific regards to punk bloody rock, and these writers represent many many different approaches and styles and genres, but if there's a way I lean with my writing, a direction in which I make an active effort to synthesise them, it's as an attempt to scrabble away from my own natural cynicism.

While it is important to question and attack the negative aspects of punk rock and one of the many aspects I love about punk rock is the way it accepts and encourages self-criticism (I do not think all these recent articles about sexism would be as prevalent in metal) and I do want to fight to make the scene as accepting as it can be without compromising what I see as the essential parts of it, now what I see as an essential part may seem peripheral and alienating to others, but such is the nature of the music and culture. While I want to sing along to Back to the Motor League or Chickenshit Conformist and enact their angry slashing denunciations of the scene, but generally more than that I want to sing along to Ghost Mice singing Up the Punx or Against Me! remaking the world in a better image with Reinventing Axl Rose. I want to talk about the redemptive power of the music and culture more than I want to talk about the shittiness of the scene. I want to write narratives akin to Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony and A.R. Flowers' De Mojo Blues and their common themes of dealing with traumatic events and experiences with a return to the values and traditions of a marginalised native culture. I don't have a native culture, for the most part, or maybe I just don't have one which I feel in any way connected to, as Nick Hornby wrote, there are few people as rootless as a middle-class white Englishman, all I have is what I have chosen to believe in, what I have not been able to help but love since it first got scratched into my soul, and so I will continue to emphasise all that I see as punk rock's contradictory strengths, its beautiful human powers a little bit more than I focus on its contradictory weaknesses, its painful human ugliness and if I do turn my gaze towards the flaws and nastiness of it, I want to fold them into its strengths as a sympathetic mirror of the stunning fascinating complexity of all that human effluvium and steam generally more than I want to engage in scathing condemnation. That may be a fucking cop out, but it's just how I see the world and seek to leave a skidmark on it.

But still, you know, I get fucking pissed off.

I think the whole idea of punk cred is kind of bullshit. The wonderful thing about punk rock is that it has no definitive texts, yes, there are many punk albums which I personally would consider essential, I recently attempted to compile a list of 'important' punk albums, not my favourites, or even ones I really like, but just a list of albums I consider influential in the sonic and social development of punk and its subgenres, I gave up on this when I realised that my brief primer had reached 125 albums and I had another 30 on the tip of my tongue. But even if I'd completed and posted the list I know people would've had a go at me for missing out some albums, including others, probably they would've mentioned some albums which they feel are undisputable punk rock classics that I would have never even heard of. There may be some sort of loose canon running from Fun House to Scrambles but still, there is not one album you can point at and say "This is all that punk rock can be.", you can only say "This is something, or some of the things that punk rock can be." because even an album that battles and struggles with itself, that contradicts itself in sound and message in an attempt to mirror the wider schisms within the genre and culture would miss out on the fact that many of the best punk albums are cohesive unified works.

There are no definitive texts, it may be a faith in some ways but it is not in any way a religion, this means that in many ways that all definitions of punk rock are equally valid, the idea of what punk rock is offered by a 15 year old just getting into it is as valid as mine, when I've spent about a decade now thinking about it and loving it, and yeah that gets frustrating for me sometimes, I do get annoyed. When my friend posts a picture online of him in a Dead Kennedys NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF! shirt where you can only see the top half of the logo and has someone tell him off for being hateful or says "I hope you're being ironic with that shirt" I cannot help but howl to myself "IF YOU CANNOT IMMEDIATELY RECOGNISE SOMETHING AS OBVIOUSLY FUCKING ICONIC AS THE FUCKING NAZI FUCKING PUNKS FUCKING FUCK OFF LOGO THEN WHAT IN THE NAME OF JESUS CUNT FUCKING FUCKARSE ARE YOU EVEN DOING CLAIMING TO BE PUNK FUCKING ROCK IN ANY FUCKING WAY AT ALL YOU FUCKING FUCKING FUCK!?"

But still, those poor pathetic fools who have never let the cheshire-cat surfy menace of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables or the brief goofy thrash of In God We Trust Inc or the apocalyptic driving thunderscapes of Frankenchrist run through them and work its witty wailing way into their heads still have a place in this culture, this scene. I wouldn't have it any other way because there's always the underlying suspicion possibly the definition of a snotty 15 year old is more valid than mine being as it is a culture born in the teenage maelstrom of frustration and isolation and what I seek to do is to preserve the rawness of passion and feeling that all art inspires at that age while trying to work towards a more measured clearer evocation of punk rock's varying appeals, but in the ever-shifting bounds of such an amorphous self-contradictory culture I find myself constantly revising and arguing with myself, struggling and dancing with conflicting ideas that seem to each represent some vaguely tangible notions of punkness (not Punk Ness, which is either an extensively-pierced Family Ness member with a Black Flag tattoo, or anything up to and including White Light, White Heat, White Trash, zing!). I believe things are far too complicated to say that because something is contradictory it is weak or invalid, to paraphrase Walt Whitman fairly tritely: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, punk rock is large, it contains multitudes."

But still, like I said, I get fucking pissed off.

And when I get pissed off, I listen to Turkish Techno's Meth Not Meat from their split with the always great Brokedowns on Traffic Street Records, a brilliant label of the sort where if I were rich I would just send them a big wad of cash and the note "SEND ME EVERYTHING YOU DO. I WANT IT ALL!" (this video cuts off the song by a couple seconds).

Meth Not Meat a brief scratchy pop-punk tune for all those times where you couldn't take the expansive view of things. It is a zero-compromise-fuck-all-yall-had-it-up-to-shittin-here shout. Even the aforementioned anti-scene rants offer some hope. Nazi Punks Fuck Off comes from a position of siding with one particular group of punks, the good ones, though a song called Non-Nazi Punks Have Some Delicious Biscuits would probably not have attained the same level of ubiquitous reproduction in its logo and lyrics on armbands and shirts and skin (BUT APPARENTLY NOT UBIQUITOUS ENOUGH FOR SOME FUCKERS). The protagonist of Back to the Motor League begins by listing what he does like before he descends into a laundry list of his punk pet peeves, he offers some awareness and direction towards the hard-rocking reconciliatory movement betwixt his "mouthed feet, eaten hats, teated bulls, amish phone-books, drunken brawls" and the wispy unattainability of perfection that too many fools passive-aggressively posture at lamely, broadly speaking, he has somewhere to go back to. Chickenshit Conformist has little nudges towards the light like "Change and caring are what's real" buried in amongst its laundry list declaiming all the dogshit hardcore formulas and other related ills of the punk scene.

Meth Not Meat has none of those nudges, none of those good points and people to take sides with. Fuck that positive noise. Redemption is a myth. Salvation is a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. I am pissed-off with being pissed-on by shitty little fucking pretentious fuck motherfuckers who seek to turn radical politics or noisy music into a fucking compe-fucking-tition, who like to exist in a inbred echo-chamber of punk rock rules and regulations and humourless policing of others through self-important self-satisfied grandstanding. WHO THINK THEY'RE FUCKING BETTER THAN ME. I am alone and everyone else is a ridiculous slimy shitehawk with an acoustic (FUCKING ACOUSTIC! IT'S LIKE BOB DYLAN NEVER FUCKING DIED!) guitar. Alienation as a point of order. Being a solitary prick in the face of massed pricks. There is not a single line in this song which is not filled with all the spit and itching fury of the moments when you feel yourself falling into the silly sucking black wound of the idea that, as Frank Turner sang on Love, Ire and Song, 'punk rock didn't live up to what I hoped it would be'. This song captures that moment so perfectly, a quick mid-tempo guitar intro, an odd little pop and then it tears into action and you're sneering and shouting along "TAKE ME FUCKING HOME! I REALLY WANNA GO! THIS BAND IS REALLY WEAK ANOTHER SHITHEAD FASHION SHOW!" You're in the restless fitful rhythm, the screaming pace of this all-encompassing feeling of loathing and bile, it quietens down in places, repeating the central refrain of "I don't want it. I don't need it" like a churning mumbling to yourself as you smolder in the corner of the terrible show. It also slows down a little for the solo, restrains itself slightly, draws back into itself briefly before projecting that bubbling rant out at the world again. "I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR WHITE BOY BLUES, YOUR SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT OR BAD TATTOOS! AND I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOUR VEGAN SHOES!"

Now obviously this mentality is a temporary one, an unsustainable one, a pretty fucking stupid one (chances are a good proportion of those singing along have some fairly bad fucking tattoos), but it is a bright flash of an undeniable instinct, a cutting spark that cannot be overlooked in the way it flips through you and marks you with its pyrographic reminders of times when you just snapped (a couple songs which perfectly illustrates the unsustainabilty of it and the complex process of simmering down to a greater calmness and then taking your ability to create that energy and channeling it into love and dancing rather than spite would be Operation Ivy's Jaded and Dillinger Four's Doublewhiskeycokenoice, two bands whose albums were definitely on my list of essential ones). It's a renegade Marinettian blast of personal affirmation that is kind of fucking pointless in the long term and exists in some ways as a warning for people to maybe steer clear of being quite that utterly batshit and uncompromising in their self-assurance next time, whether its in the act of proclaiming yourself a genius or just the only sane person left standing.

Turkish Techno are at that exact same point that Dear Landlord were at a few years ago, a few seven inches out and a long-gestated album in the works (coming soon for the last fuck knows how long, but apparently genuinely coming soon from Dirtcult) which all those arseholes sad and deluded enough to believe that they know their shit (I totally know my shit) about punk rock are predicting will be perched atop many end-of-year lists. This confidence in a band with so little actual material out there similarly springs from one momentous song which makes pretty much everyone who hears it get totally and forever caught up in its 2 minute rush, the marriage of bouncy shouty noise into a breathless breakneck rant that squats resplendent within the anserine beating heart of punk rock. With Dear Landlord it was Three to the Beach, with Turkish Techno it's Meth Not Meat.

A funny thing though, about a song like this, is that it, like the songs that approach punk rock with the most happy-clappy inspiring loveliness, like the ones that travel from one to the other, is that it is contingent on the listener already being a punk. It will convert no-one. It's by the punx, for the punx, with the punx. The references will not make sense to those not already invested in the scene. Who else knows enough people who brag about their vegan shoes to get pissed off by it? Who else appreciates the determination of deciding not to burn your bridges despite fifteen fights and your six bucks up some promoter's nose? Who else can honestly say "Punk rock saved my life" and know that it's not a pose in any way, shape or form. The glorifying and the denigrating are twin sides of the same battered pick. One of the things out of the many many things in seemingly endless ever-expanding list of things that I love about punk rock, one of the contradictory things, is that it is a place which both shamelessly self-mythologises and ruthlessly self-excoriates and I think it needs both parts to survive, it needs to struggle between them, the clatter when they come together and snap apart, to move from one to the other and back again, to sit temporarily in either one until boredom sets in. For the most part with this blog, I want to focus on shit that I love, but sometimes I love being a shit.

So go fuck yourself, world. Go fuck yourself, Joe. And above all other things, before you get out of bed in the afternoon or pass out in the early ours, fuck the fucking punx.
"I don't want it, I sure as fuck don't need it..."