Monday, 29 April 2013

Four Livids singles.

It's been 20 years since the New Bomb Turks dropped !!Destroy-Oh-Boy!!, exploding with needle-sharp wit and furious buzzpunk blap into the early 90s punk scene and Eric Davidson is still fucking killing it. That's the long game, people. Livids has Davidson joined by a bunch of people from other punk bands, the only one of which I know is the guitarist from The Zodiac Killers, and Livids continue to churn out the kind of scuzzfuzz rock-and-roll that bore the New Bomb Turks to high enough heights to be act as shorthand for "Famous enough to be a band you've heard of, small enough for the idea of them being famous to be funny." in the classic Onion article 90s Punk Decries Punks of Today  They've recorded enough stuff for a full-length, but in true J Church fashion, have put it out as four separate singles on four different labels. Your House or the Courthouse on Slovenly, She Likes Zits on Twistworthy, (Some Of Us Have) Adrenalized Hearts on Oops Baby and Midnight Stains on Goodbye Boozy.

On (Some of Us Have) Adrenalized Hearts, Eric Davidson clucks out a defiant answer for anyone wondering how people can still twist and thrash this way after two decades of punk nonsense, squealing "I got a way, I got a sway/I got a feeling I ain’t goin’ away" in a moment of terse self-knowledge, once this sound gets stuck in you, you're stuck in that mud, flapping about noisily in a cloudy mix of driving outside passion and shitflinging ape compulsion. "I gotta slay/I gotta wail/I don’t know what else to do." it continues, a rock and roll song that revels in the idea perhaps best expressed by the Alan Moore line in Another Suburban Romance: "Once you step outside, you're outside for the rest of your life"

Theme from Livids on the same single gives more of this idiot trash power. A sixty second propellerpunk howler that bounces between obnoxiousness "You being happy makes us sad!" and self-deprecating goofpunk grin "Our moms think we’re fuckin cool."

The band also generally stays away from some of the more Rolling Stones influence of New Bomb Turks stuff, sticking straight with that garage-punk speed slip, from the grossout geek love on She Likes Zits to the Ramones roller of Spoof Attack, to the bass runs and guitar squeaks of Stop Bleeding, Livids are cracking out furious catchy stuff, a perfect plague-carrier for Davidson's classic yelp, which is supplemented and cross-cut by the backing vocals from the rest of the band, which punch out the middle on stuff like the half-minute Koro kick of Zich on Your House or the Courthouse. Maybe there's nothing here quite as sharp as NBT lines that I've scrawled onto my jacket but this is terrific searing punk rock.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Low Culture - Screens

Screens is pop-punk that shrugs off the taint of cleanliness that infects some of that genre, ex-Marked Men/Shang-A-Lang Dirtnap goodness, songs that snap into each other so quickly and sharply that sometimes you think it's just a rhythm shift in one song. Clackety power-pop that often seems to turn on that modern life alienation axis, all medication ("But I can't seem to replace the space that was left behind" on Pills) and distance, the thrum of technology and the croon of separation, like Royal Headache by way of Subhumans songs, or Lost in the Supermarket torn through by the Carbonas.

"I can't keep these demons from crawling in" shouts Nightmare in a full punk tumble, "You say you wanna take me out well take me out" drawls Waste the Day Away. But this focus on emptiness, so perfectly captured in the little trills that burst out of the garage-punk shiver, finding respite on the mellower California with bubbling sunny pop melodies and refrain of "But tonight I'm getting fucked up in California/Drinking whiskey on the beach/And all those kids who were better than me/Well they're probably sitting home watching their TV" This always feels to me like a small album, it's not some all encompassing statement, it's not a blast of noise to rearrange and reconfigure, it's a tight punk picture of some bad stuff and some good stuff, wrapped up in sweet vocal lines and hooky doxologies to our troubles and tenseness and what breaks through.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wild Child

"I hate and renounce as a coward every being who agrees in advance to merge, a day or an instant beforehand, in the mass-mind" - Antonin Artaud, from I Hate and Renounce as a Coward...

"He was a poor example of a man, but he was a man and these were the voices of the children, the very young children, who had not yet learned to stop trying to be heard. Only crying, only noises." - Theodore Sturegon, from More Than Human

I dunno how many bands there are called Wild Child. says four current ones, from Texan folk bands to Brazilian hard rock, that's gotta be a conservative estimate. It's a nice name for a band, catchy, capable of succinctly summing up a mixture of innocence and freedom, with a delicious hint of rebellion, but fuck all those fucking bands and whatever their mix of of these childish flavours happen to because there's only one Wild Child that matters and that this bunch of storming fucking hardcore motherfuckers from Minneapolis where this formula is all tweaked up on the feral end, cracking apart with menace and anomic bite.

Wild Child have two releases so far (and apparently an upcoming split with Nerv on SMRT records): A 2011 demo that was pressed onto vinyl by Fashionable Idiots and Rock Bottom Records last year and a self-titled seven inch that came out a month or two ago on Deranged Records and they are one of my favourite punk bands in the world right now. Since I first heard the demo I've lost count of the amount of times I've blown through it.

'Wild child', as a phrase it can be a rueful smile at a safely decades-distanced past or it can be an unsocialised dogkid, scratching and barking. On Genie from their demo Wild Child scream empathy for these children, focusing on one the more famous cases, "GENIE IS A WILD CHILD! GENIE IS A WILD CHILD!" raging against the safety asylum walls and the hateful shitty world that led her there, an indictment of order at all costs, of help framed paternalistically, and of just a world that could let this kind of shit fly for one second. It's got insanity as both a representation of rebellion ("SHE'S GONNA YELL UNTIL SHE'S OUTTA HER ROOM!" like a hellcurdled take on AM!s "If she wants to dance and drink all night well there's no one that can stop her") and the fucked facts of pure unlearnable pain ("STRAPPED AND BEAT/UNTIL SHE KNEW RIGHT") though not without its own obliviondark unsmiling humour of its own as it roars "GENIE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT RESTRAINT!" reverberating up and down all your clean hospital halls with outcastnoise as the guitars tickle and explode.

The shit on both these releases is dangerously good. Unmendable punchy hardcore punk with buggy-thin guitars scritching and snatching at you as the drums clatter. Vocals that are just fucking everything, that screech and tear uncomfortably, perfectly, jumping from ugly animal fury into snotty spite, from minatory spoken sections into wild woken la-la-hate with painful precision, just as likely to laugh hollowly at the violence of the world as they are to scream their internal anguish as the guitar knock lumps off you like the friendly slap of passing car doors. Lyrics intoned like a threat, squealed in rabid firecracker bursts, devolving into wordless bestial hurt and thwarted wrath vocalised through snorts, growls and yelps.

The demo 7" is a bit wilder and dirtier than the new one, feels a bit warmer and more radioactive in its acrimony, and I prefer it, but both are essential punk statements, filled with all those essential punk concerns of madness, abuse, adrenaline, alienation, and anger all mined deep and swung freely in your face in a twitchy chemically-fractured phonic mugging. If I had to pin it to an other band to make a comparison then it's got some Germs to it, some F, but its a lot more unclipped and loose, it's raw but it doesn't have that thick burn of Mauser or Kromosom's rawpunk. It could be Amdi Petersens Armé at their most lawless, maybe but the place it really sits to me somewhere around White Lung with the gleam rubbed off, shine and hotsteam replaced with exposed nerve sensibilities, cockroach movements.

On some songs Wild Child contain this violence and pain to their own actions, their own heads, Viral Load framing this unaimed dissatisfaction in terms of masturbation routines ("NEVER OLD NEWS TO THE EASILY AMUSED!") grunting itself dead, sex noises stripped down to function, entirely unerotic, a grim counterpoint to something like the breathy orgasms of The Dwarves' Better Be Women where the self-abuse is just self-deprecation amidst the snark, not the lonely spillover into self-hatred. Songs like Nice Out ("THIS IS JUST A PRODUCT OF THE FILTH!") and Stay Bent acknowledge outside forces that gnaw away and stoke these feelings ("NUMBFED NUMBFED KEEP ME SICK") and Stay Bent might find itself sometimes in a hardcore chug for a second ("DOWN IN THE GUT NOTHING SEEMS TO FIT!") but its never more than a few seconds away from its crack speeding up and away into the scream of edgy panic, a bleakness that could reach its peak on This is Nothing which dismisses itself as much as it dismisses the world, declaiming nihilistic observations on human nature, slightly off-kilter chanting "Non-instinct fills the void" over another one of those mid-tempo hardcore stumbles that lives only to be kicked apart as this song literally chuckles at its own nihilism and then explodes, instruments and vocals snapping over each other, colliding as the existence of evil is affirmed, straightfaced and earnest.

Then this evil, outside, and this pain, inside, roll all into things like the suicidal ideation on Just a Thought focused blankly on the mechanics and method "What I need takes room". There's an audio clip between Just a Thought and Bogged Down on the demo. "And I'm all for animal liberation, yeah. And the right to be a pig. Because that's what it's all about." It's from Lydia Lunch (of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and Harry Crews) spoken word bit called The Human Animal. A piece which begins "The human animal struggles vainly to control his natural animal instincts. So be able to better fit into the "norm" of society, a contradiction in terms. Sometimes, however, due to either chemical or hormonal imbalance, a fist of facts, or a flagrant disregard for the outdated and inhabitable so called "code of ethics", the fine line that separates the animal from the vegetable is obliterated." This is the life this band is about. Uncut energy in all its skinning misdirection, untethered from structure by realities of emptiness ("ART SCHOOL ART SCHOOL BEER BONG BLOW ME!" sears the burnout despair of You Know Rough), it cuts a disordered swathe, pulsates with desultory agony, bubbles with crudeness, even something in the closest it gets to human contact, The Date, has as its central romantic call "BEAT MY BRAINS BLUE!" and invests itself in mutual annihilation rather than salvation through connection, in the manner of Off With Their Heads' Sleeping in Carrie's Car: "HOLD HANDS LAUGHING THROUGH THE SMOG/RUNNING ROUND LIKE RABID DOGS!"

Wild Child have somehow built this particular type hardcore punk where it lives as an always active tearing that never seems to get ground out into particular rhythms no matter how many times I hit play again. The cover of their demo 7" (the original tape cover was a picture of Genie) calls up the Truffaut movie L'enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child in English) about a boy found in the woods around 1800 and a physician attempt's to teach him and integrate him into society. Wild Child have been integrated and they don't fucking like it, they've been sold a world of shit and can't decide if they hate themselves or the world more so are going to chop everything down wailing on Piss Down the Drain "SO SICK OF IT/YOUR AMBIGUOUS SHIT/ALL OF IT IS PISS DOWN A DRAIN/SILLY FIT DRIVES ME INSANE/WHAT WE WANT IS MORE AGGRESSION" surrounded by hollow mocking laughter in its bedlam, alienation drives it and defines it. That's how punk slices out a bunch of the time, my favourite bands are never bands that I would want to say "Everyone should be into this!" and not just out of my own snivelling elitism, but because this is a band dependent on how not everyone can really relate to what's expressed here, or at least aren't down with the bristling confrontational whip with which it's expressed, and if everyone felt like this all the time the world would be a trudge of unremitting tedium and horror, rather than reality's trudge of unremitting tedium and horror punctuated with uncertain frequency by moments where you can kinda get with the good stuff and feel worthwhile for a couple hours hanging with the ones you love, appreciating the beauty that there is.

The questions that rage at the heart of this band are the same that drives Truffaut's film: do we succumb, conform for our own comfort? Is that even possible sometimes? (It wasn't possible for Genie, who ended up with a life in group homes though obviously her case is extreme and distanced from almost everyone's experiences in a mammoth way.) Is society an erasure of self? When that self is so painful and broken and boneshard busted is that softening and sanitising desirable? Maybe everyone simmers down from these heights of angst at some point, comes together in calmer more controlled way (and like forms rockabilly bands or some shit) but that raw core will always be needed by those who can't control it, those coming through and up in a world they can't get much of a handle on right now beyond that it is fucked and we are fucked and that's there in Wild Child when their vocals frequently break into those barks and grunts, displaying a wrath and turmoil past language, a base dogbite comprehension encoded right down in the mammalian root notes of our acid and the words as they are clamber into one another seeking shelter in a lumpmouth mastication. Wild Child, an invitation to the fucked of head that is nasty in its aims and methods, aimless in its nastiness, trapped and skint and spitting, a maggot writhe, a gremlinpunk cackle. Our worst moments deserve good soundtracks. May those who control have our shit smeared on their shoe forever.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine - White People and the Damage Done

Jello Biafra is responsible for some of the greatest punk songs ever. He's also responsible for a seven and a half minute song that closes this album entitled Shock-U-Py!

SHOCK-U-PY! So that's a mixture of the Occupy movement and Shock. But the way it's written is also in the way of cheesily named companies like U-Haul or Spud-u-like, so then it's SHOCK/OCCUPY but also SHOCK YOU, PIE? What the fuck are you even doing here Jello!? At least it's not as bad as Barackstar O'Bummer from the EP they put out last year. Yes! That's an actual song! No! I have no fucking clue what it means! Was it ripped from a topvoted comment on a Foxnews website story? I can only hope. Or as Jello would put it: Icon Own Le Hype! SATIRE!

Dude fucking loves puns. Which is cool. I love puns! Spider Robinson is a fucking beautiful man, but there is a law of diminishing returns. There is a certain point where paronomasia goes past its initial sly smile jolt of recognition and then past the idea of using the concomitance of words as metaphor for the interconnected nature of ideas and humanity and then just becomes like an opaque blurry mess (the Finnegans Wake coefficient) Like those kinda editorial cartoons The Onion's Kelly satirises where everything is labelled as something else until the analogies collapse in a inane blancmange of pundit buzzwords.

First line of this album: WE ARE THE ILLUMINAZIS! (Followed up with a pissjoke) Yeah, I get the kinda shot it's taking but I'm fucking if I know exactly what it's attacking? Nazis/ The illuminati? People who think the illuminati is real? Jay-Z? Sometimes it seems like Jello has perfected writing punk lines that are like the anti-capitalist Crass/MDC/Bad Religion version of "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously". Sub-NOFX wordplay is a harsh fucking sequence of words to type but it does lean in that direction at times. I'm not even talking about groaners, these aren't Andy Zaltzman pun runs where they stretch and ineptitude is part of the comedy of failure, these are supposed be fiery burns on (or at least witty placards shoved in the face of) the man and the machine, and they are not that at all. This ends up like the scene in The Tin Men by Michael Frayn where a character creates a computer program called UHL (Unit Headline Language) that automatically generates headlines where people superficially recognise the intent, but cannot explain the exact meaning of when pressed, like STRIKE THREAT PLEA, HATE BAN BID PROBE, TEST ROW LEAK or LEAK ROW LOOMS.

These colours clearly run. I'm contacting my washing powder supplier.

There are some things I really like though:
WEIRD VOICES! I was just talking about the current dearth of punk bands using dumb fucking voices in their songs like Splodgenessabounds or The Nipple Erectors sometimes did but Jello always delivers on that front (sometimes he over delivers, as anyone's who's listened to his half-arsed George W. Bush impression on The Yuppie Pricks Geto Boys parody Damn It Feels Good to Be a Yuppie (god even typing that sentence makes me feel like I have a life ill-lived) will tell you). Jello's voice is kind of an odd warbly thing in the first place and when he twists it into goofy redneck snipes and throws it up and down, slides a kiss of terror in it and lets it pip and scream then I'm always having fun. Yeah cunt! Weird voices! Minajcore!

PUNK SONGS! Yeah! Fucking punk songs! As mentioned at the top of this review, Jello Biafra has cranked out some of the best goddamn punk songs ever sneered, so the fact that one of his primarily modes of expression for the past twenty fucking years has been nine minute rants loosely bolted to music rather than the whipquick brainmelt blasters that threw him onto the stage in the first place has been rather fucking galling for those of us who've always found ourself in thrall to worlds set right and lives done wrong in doubletime (Remember when you loved short songs, Jello, oh what have we become as the seasons pass and our bodies age and crumble, ramble ramble ramble). John Dillinger is real screamer and a classic punk metaphor as well, bank robbers and banks and all that capitalist jazz (NO JAZZ).

Road Rage is a snot-packed simple hardcore punk blast, with breaks for an unsettling carnival punk lick and a chug-section in the middle that builds back up into a mini-Chemical Warfare kinda freakout and then back into that punk run. Ugly throughout with nasal violence and some of the aforementioned weird voice shit where he just sort of barks and yips like an annoying fucking dog fighting a mop.

Mid-East Peace Process is another punk song that follows Road Rage's THRASHFUCK-M I N A T O R Y S L O W B I T- OHSHITHEREITCOMES-THRASHFUCK structure, dropping into a first-person narrative of paranoia and terror with real bite.

Hollywood Goof Disease is pretty cool too, and it's got a real sense of theatre to it with the title line echoed by female vocals like how Bob Dylan did it once his voice was shot to shit on Street Legal, a section of drone-voiced repetition of the word 'CONSUME. CONSUME. CONSUME.' like a cheap garish sci-fi parable. This is one song though that suffers from the fact that the Jelloed One is a fifty year old man. I mean, I got a few problems with what he's attacking here, probably a bunch of the same problems that a lot people have with that whole celebrity carousel, but when you've got a middle-aged dude sarcastically going "What the hell is a Kardashian?" you're not an agitpunk provocateur, you're a fuddy-duddy cruiseship hack, throwing out one-sane-man platitudes to similarly self-satisfied sticks of grey. It's some olds gonna old crap. The sort of sitcom dad motherfucker that would describe themselves as a straighttalker when the word they're looking for is 'cunt'. Don't do that shit. MTV Get Off The Air is a great song cos its someone fucked off and thrown out by people they could, if they were built a different way, possibly consider their peers, if it had been a rambling missive thrown down on high by an old it would not have been good, if it had been sung by, say, Eric Clapton it would've been shit. And not just because Eric Clapton is shit.

But punk songs! PUNK SONGS! Like five in a row! Goddamn solid fucking punk songs. That's nice to have back properly. Do more of that Jello. Don't do something like rerecord Burgers of Wrath from your album with Mojo Nixon and manage to add an extra two minutes onto it somehow.

Oh wait you did that too. Twice on the extended edition. Oh well. It's still a solid cowpunk stomp and the skitter and click of the Slight Rural Extension version is probably more fun than the one on the actual album but it's throwaway and not in the cool way like a pogo-punx song's squirting nothingness.


The album has more than a touch of that cowpunk crack to it, which seems to be used implicitly to link, or just uncover the existing connection of, the country-cowboy-go-get-em idealism to the bastardly genocide that it sits with in the old west and onwards all around the world which is very well done. WHITE PEOPLE AND THE DAMAGE DONE! Now that's a fucking song title, Jello. None of this Crapture crap. Seen at least one dicksplit arseclunk get angry about 'reverse racism' over it. That's how you do it.

Comparing this shit to Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is fucking pointless: so let's do that. Look, that's got a good shout at the greatest punk album ever made and DK were possibly the great punk band ever and anything anyone involved in it has done since or will ever do in the future is not going to match it. On it's own terms this is a good album, which uses some of the most effective tricks in Jello's political arsenal, and also succumbs to some of his most obnoxious (and not obnoxious in a cool way like a pogo-punx song's nothing squirt) excesses. Sometimes it gets too blues rock, a little too plodding and he there's no individual part of the song Shock-U-Py which stands out as shit, there is just no world in which it needs to be seven and a half minutes long. Songs like that are political verbosity as Dream Theater riffs, boring and long and they just need to be pruned with extreme prejudice (though clearly Dream Theater are beyond redemption, they need to be cut off at the stump) and the failure to do curb that self-indulgence is exactly the attitude that has been festering and dragging Jello's artistic output tediumwards since Frankenchrist's Stars and Stripes of Corruption. Shoot it dead. Punk it up.