Monday, January 30, 2006
The Tiki Men - Sneak a Drink with...
The Tiki Men Sneak a Drink with... (Secret Center, 1994)
Before the early 1990s "surf" revival very, very few people thought of instrumental music as punk rock. Sure, bands like Agent Orange and those in the Paisley Underground did some surf instrumentals, but their renditions seemed to be more in honor of their surf heroes than something that came out of punk rock.
And then there is Link Wray. One of the many grandfathers of punk rock, through 21st Century ears Link sounds more punk than anything the mall is turning out today. Hell, back in the late 80s, after the metalization & wankeredness of punk rock, songs like The Black Widow sound punk as fuck. It is no wonder why punkers, sick of metalisms and prog flexing turned to surf instrumentals for some ear cleaning. That a band like the Mummies padded their set with raw instrumentals is no surprise. It is also no wonder why bands such as the Phantom Surfers, Untamed Youth, and the Tiki Men were embraced by punk rockers.
While the Phantom Surfers championed absurdity and Untamed Youth focused on dexterity, the Tiki Men were the dark heart of the 90s garage instrumental scene. Born of boredom, the Tiki Men started when a couple friends - Scott Miller (of Nar & the Bananas) * Micha Kennedy - put together a surf band to open a Tiger Trap show at Micah's living space, a converted bean sprout factory (if I remember the story right, the band sprung from a conversation that started with, "Wanna do a surf band?" "Sure, why not?"). With Tim White and Pete Huesing filling out the band, the Tiki Men did their show. But rather than break up, like many a Sacramento side project, they became a working part of the Sacramento punk scene.
In 1994, Miller released the Sneak a Drink... 7" on his own Secret Center label. That record was followed by a 7" and LP on Hillsdale, a 7" on Estrus, a split 7" with fellow Sacramentans The Troublemakers, and some comp tracks. The band also played a Garage Shock up in Washington and regularly in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. A few years after their start, they broke up, Micah sick of dealing with other people's expectations and pressure to be the "next big thing."
What set the Tiki Men apart from most other 90s garage instrumental bands is the sound and the approach. Despite the tiki in their name, they do not truck in kitsch. The Tiki Men are not about dressing up or decorating the house in thrift scores. They are about music - raw, loud rock and roll. While Micah is a great guitarist, he doesn't use the band as a vehicle to show off. Listen to Cattle Prod on the Hillsdale single and this should be obvious. Instead a song being slave to a wild, blazing lead guitar, it is a slow tension builder, anchored by one unending snare tap. The Tiki Men's sound is raw darkness, very much in the spirit of Link Wray. One of the things that accounts for this sound is the bean sprout factory.
As I mentioned earlier, when the band formed, Micah lived in an old bean sprout factory. A short ways down Franklin Blvd., south of Broadway, the bean sprout factory consisted of a few offices on a second floor (turned into bedrooms) and a large space downstairs. The room downstairs was 100% cement and, because of that, sound ricocheted off the walls, ceiling and floors. Micah spent hours with a 4 track cassette recorder mastering that room. What he got, you hear on the Tiki Men's first single, probably the best garage instrumental record of the 1990s.*
Secret Center released 500 Sneak a Drink with the Tiki Men, all on very cool silk screened sleeves. Here are two of the four songs on the 7". --Scott S.
*Micah lent his recording talent to at least three more projects that saw vinyl. In the bean sprout factory, he also recorded the Boulevard Park Trio, an excellent garage instrumental band who released a 7" on Secret Center. Micah took his 4 track to The Loft and recorded the first Lil Bunnies 7's, giving it a monster thud of a sound. He also recorded his post-Tiki Men band, the Lazy J's, who have a track on Moo-La-La Records' Sacramento: City of a Beer 7" comp.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Engine Boo - s/t
Engine Boo s/t 7" (Wallabies, 1996)
Like many Japanese bands, you've got to get past the name first. Engine Boo...o-kaaay...This four song Ep saw the light of day at probably the absolute peak of the 90's 7" saturation overkill (though you could make a case for '95), and I think this little treasure kind of got lost in the scrum. Four tracks of "Janglish" vox over fast stutter-stop punk straight out of the early 80's, and this 'Miyadera' at the mic has also further added to the translational difficulties on the last track by cramming an entire BBQ'd unagi into his maw. None of that stops this bullet train from slicing that schoolbus clean in half, trapper keepers and condoms flying all over the tracks. Vroom! Produced by Mr. Fink of Teengenerate.
This here Wallabies label was a pretty consistant trademark of quality for years, hell, their first record was the debut Teengenerate 7". Registrators? Guitar Wolf? Tonight? TV Killers? Collect 'em all (you, uh, can skip that McCrackins one...) And, since they were pressed up in the USA, they weren't that tough to track down at the time. More to come. -Ryan W
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The Geeky Dorks - My Pussy Hurts
The Geeky Dorks My Pussy Hurts 7" (Slutfish, 1999)
While no one really comments on it, the shadow of Flipper hovers over punk rock like the brilliant black cloud that is. When thrash was taking over punk rock in the early 80s, Flipper came around to slow the damn thing down. You go fast and the amount of interesting things you can do with punk rock kind of comes down to a bag of tricks. The result is hodge podge, the sound equivalent of one of those houses where the owner just keeps adding shit on with no thought of what the addition is connected to, or, in other words prog-punk (and its brother math rock). No need to dissect prog-punk because, by my ears at least, punk ain't prog rock, therefore what we think of as prog-punk ain't really punk.
You want smart guys doing punk? Slow the fucker down and hear what people do with the sound, not to it. Sometimes the slow shit sounds dumb, but it isn't really. In fact, it is what I call smart-dumb. Some examples of smart-dumb besides Flipper? Drunk with Guns, the Brainbombs, Monoshock, and, as far as contemporary bands, A Frames.
Add to that list the Geeky Dorks, who for one record had all the smart-dumb, slow punk groove that any Flipper fan craves. This two song 7" came out at the tail end of the 1990s on the Slutfish label, home and creation of New York City's king of DIY punk, Billy Syndrome. Like most Slutfish recordings, Billy and his main cohort Evil Jim Friendly play and produce this. This is not a regular band but a one-off with a couple of cartoonists (Mary Knott & Beppi) from Baltimore, Maryland.
While both songs are good sounds, in the spirit of trying to get you lazy asses to track down this stuff, you get just one. -Scott S.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
The Pinkz - USA
The Pinkz USA 7" (Radio Beat, 2000)
Ah, the Pinkz. Here we find one of the finest exemplars of a re-emerging powerpop consensus, a process that consciously started in the USA with bands like the Bobbyteens in the mid-90's. Powerpop and punk were mutually exclusionary forms dating from the days of early hardcore in 1981, since the skinny tie fags were all just looking to sell out while the muscle boys were all about channeling a far more 'real' teenage (male) rage. Plus, they weren't political. So, a bunch of phony poseur powerpop dorks got 86'd ultimately in favor of a bunch of phony poseur sweaty jocks. Neato. That's a rather condensed take, but there you go.
Of course, really great powerpop dating from the late 70's was as much a violent (if sugar-coated) reaction to mid-70's bloated rock excess as early punk was (paging Mr. Shaw) but the themes that ran through great powerpop (idealized love of the anthemic kind, for one) had become the province of Top 40 synthpop hacks by the mid-80's. What's happening on this 45 is the recasting of powerpop as a club-level, real BAND experience, taking it back as a garage-level genre. There were alot of bands doing this style by the time this 45 came out, but gosh if this isn't a real charmer, so we'll start here. This band featured ex-Loli & the Chones members (we'll get to them later this year!), and both tracks on this 45 are covers in keeping with the unapologetically retro character of this scene. It was just another style that had been prematurely abandoned in the rush for fast-faster-fastest, and 45s like this were a refreshing paen to idealistically naive pop smarts in a truely "pop-punk" setting, recalling bands running from the Real Kids to The Beat to The Beans. A return to deliberate songwriting in a punk sense, if you will, absent the forced overdramatic howling clangor of the post-Husker Du, emo-style of 90's songwriting.
The Pinkz managed another 7" on the Gearhead label a little after this, then faded away. Perhaps they weren't meant for an LP, but this 7" will do as a headstone. -Ryan W.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The Fabulous Organ Donors - Nerd Punk
The Fabulous Organ Donors Nerd Punk 7" (Organ Donors, 1990)
By 1984, American punk rock had gotten bored with itself. The ol' 1-2-3-4 wasn't working for people and no matter how fast you played the numbers they still came out to 1-2-3-4. While some folks spun into post-punk (see Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, etc.), what seemed to dominate was punk/metal crossover. Besides littering punk rock with a bunch of long haired dirtballs, crossover also introduced to punk rock the concept of more is good.
I am not one of those folks that believes that punk rock is musically stupid. I think that the music is both stupid and smart. However I do believe that punk rock is, on the surface, musically simple. There is a difference between simple and stupid. Wire's Pink Flag is both a simple record and one of the smartest rock and roll records ever made. The smarts in it are in knowing what to play and what not to play. Until about 1984, the idea that less was more and less was best pretty much ruled punk rock. With crossover, that notion got mugged.
With cross over came "more" and with "more" came jerk-off musicianship in the form of metal guitar solos, longer songs with more parts and even a drum solo or two (albeit short ones). Set free, the chops-minded created prog-punk or math rock, perhaps two of punk's most miserable spawns. The simple hook was replaced by ten hooks, well, not exactly hooks - hooks are memorable - make that, the simple hooks were replaced by a series of parts, each played with speed and dexterity, a contest of sorts and as interesting as punk rock decoupage can be, which by my ears is pretty boring. Suddenly, punk rock went from "anyone can do it" to "anyone can do it with a masters degree in music theory or grade through high school spent in jazz band." And did I mention that some folks even used slap bass? And during this circle jerk, the thing the music industry called grunge. Ugh.
If punk rock was to survive something had to come along and smash the music school crowd. Luckily, it wasn't just me fretting over the state of punk rock circa 1988 (though to give credit where credit is due there were some great non-metal. non-music school late 80s punk rock bands. Three who come immediately to mind are the Lazy Cowgirls, Kildozer, and Death of Samantha), I think the universal unconscious of punk rock pretty much felt ill at ease with this plunkety plunkety jive ass bullshit fest. Notables like the Mummies, Supercharger, and the Gories pushed punk back to the 1-2-3-4 with a big fuck off to the hair farmers. Crashing away with our heroes were lesser known bands such as Stockton's Captain 9's, Ypsilanti's Henchmen, and some mooks from Storrs, Connecticut called the Organ Donors.
Proof that the Organ Donors existed is found on one self released, 3 song, 7" ep. The music is pretty damn basic, pretty damn snotty, and pretty damn dumb...but it is still smart and it is definitely metal-free (ahh maybe some smart ass tongue in cheek riffage pops up, but that is mockery not metal). I can't tell you anything about this band other than its members were named Dave, Marc, Vic, and Dick (the last two who I am guessing went by Vic Ferrari and Dick Les). Both the sleeve and the label have these guys as "The Fabulous Organ Donors," though they could have just gone by the Organ Donors. And that is what I know about them.
So please welcome punk rock back to the 1-2-3-4 fuck it all with two songs from the 1990 7" by The Fabulous Organ Donors. -Scott S.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Crash Normal - Nothing I Can Tell
Crash Normal Nothing I Can Tell 7" (Royal, 1998)
Was an influential record ever less influential than this one? The first Ep by this French ensemble came out on Sabotage Records a year or so before this one under discussion here, and confounded me into writing a vacillating, weak-kneed review at MRR. Then I got ahold of this spazz-art punk followup and realized what a durn fool I'd been. It was the sound of 2005 (or so), just almost a decade too soon. See, the French (well, actually, the 'French' were about thirteen-and-a-half people in and around Paris) had forcibly established a sort of beachhead of garage-level punk in the early/mid 90's, when bands such as the Splash Four and the TV Killers started making the first truly interesting (or physically accessible, same thing) punk rock records to come out of France since early Les Thugs. I assumed I had the French take down, and that take was gut-busting rock 'n roll with feet planted firmly in late 70's and early 80's punk sounds. "Skydog was back", metaphorically speaking, and no complaints here.
Then Royal Records put this out, a completely unexpected trip into art-punk territory that revealed a whole new side of an entire scene's possible influences. On this you get a palette of early 80's post-no-wave along with bursts of pure fuzz that recall some of the contemporaneous Japanese Psyche Moderne bands (minus guitar solos, natch), all simmering in a tension and bile that immediately mutters 'punque roq' in a teeth-clenched whisper. Many bands were attempting this type of thing in 1998, but they usually spoiled it with tedious prog affectations or an obvious lack of dedication to the form; that being punk action, which is our focus here. Many dozens of bands were not formed in the wake of this ep.
So Royal pressed up 200 of these, sold 'em, pressed up another 200 with a screened cover (same songs), then moved on. In the meantime, we are left with this amazing art-punk disc that sounds like it could have come out last year, which is no knock on our current adherants, it just took that long for this thing to dissolve into the Rockquifer. Drink up. -Ryan W
And a wee bit down the road one of two laid out some green and put out a full length by these guys. It is really good. Trust me. --SS
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Electric Manchakou - Animal Man
Electric Manchakou Animal Man 7" (Helter Skelter, 1990)
You won't believe me, but there is fucking hair growing in the grooves of this record. Listen to the damn thing and tell me I am wrong. These guys are beasts: short, hairy, Italian beasts with one major Detroit fixation. From the initial guitar squall to the last "Huh," Electric Manchakou play Stooge. Nothing new, nothing original - in fact, this sounds much like Smack, the Finnish hair farmers from some years prior - but it is a good cheap pick up. What do I know about these guys? Nothing other than they did a couple more 7", one which is just as Stooged and another in which their hair goes electric. A cool three song ep which is pretty easy to find. -Scott S
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink - I am a Gorilla
Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink I am a Gorilla 7" (Blackjack, 1994)
It's a delicate balance, this laughing 'at' or 'with' dilemma. This platter, released at the height of the mainstream punk breakthrough in 1994, with Green Day merrily outselling Abba, the Beatles and Jesus all put together, inspiring a whole new generation of jocks to laboriously master how to fasten their wallet chains to their shorts, surely would've scored a 10 on their squint-meter if it had ever made the rotation at KROC. In this culturally charged atmosphere, the 'Skinks ask "All right, how many of you out there think anarchy is better!? You're stupid! Yeaauh, yer stupid!" Cue Flipper/Nig Heist-ian freakout. This is the true 90's cultural equivalent to an ESP Disk release; it's electric folk music, you can accuse it of elitism, it's got zero commercial appeal, the players and most of the intended audience are probably fucked up in one way or another, and it is unmistakably punk, as surely as the Godz were unequivocal freaks.
There are several different Prehensile Monkey Tailed Skink eps floating around in the netherworld of bargain bins in several countries, and you owe it to someone to rescue them. What, are you stupid? -Ryan W
Monday, January 09, 2006
Chickenhead - Everything Must Go!
Chickenhead Everything Must Go! (4 1/2 Fingers, 1993)
I've always been surprised that Florida never turned out the wealth of great punk rock that states like California and Ohio has. Florida has a huge population. There are plenty of bored young people there with much to get pissed about. Hell, the tourists and the old people are thick enough to fill up a hundred 7"s of spite. But, no, aside from some classic late 70s / early 80s stuff (The Eat, Sheer Smegma, Roach Motel, etc.), the state really doesn't have a lot to show for quality punk rock wise. Less than Jake? Give me a fucking break! The endless stream of mediocre thrash bands. Yeah, right. Quality punk rock is what I wrote and that never means ska punk and rarely means tuneless thrash, especially tuneless thrash with metal licks throughout. I'll give you the Crumbs. The Crumbs were a good band. But there was no other Florida band in the 1990s as great as Chickenhead.
Fronted by Chuck Loose (later a Crumb) and driven by Iggy Scam (Scam zine, Miami, Onion Flavored Rings, etc.), and anchored by Buddha and Scott Crack Rock, Miami's Chickenhead put out one great ep of Black Flag meets Sick Pleasure punk rock. This is the kind of stuff we called street rock back in the 1980s, before young baldies and spikey head clone punx appropriated the term. Raw, fucked up, and anti-social makes for great fun with brilliant inane lyrics ("Do you like my car? / It was free because I stole it"). There is also a pop sense here that you do not hear in so-called pop punk. These songs are meant to be sung along to.
This is not a hard record to find and I encourage you to track it down. In order to push you toward acquiring it, you get only 4 of the six songs (all of them good)contained on this ep.
- Scott S.
Friday, January 06, 2006
Young Losers - All Gone
Young Losers All Gone b/w Private Affair 7" (Young Losers, 1998)
The Young Losers were yet another short-lived Texas band that sprang up from the ruins of a great preceeding band: the two-piece Distractors, whose first EP will get a public airing later this year, promise. This self-released 7" came out in some ridiculously small quantity in 1998, all the more so for how good it is. The panic-driven mania that typified the Distractors 'sound' is here sharpened up into two solid dagger-thrusts of a more conventional punk attack, but dripping with a sincere 'who cares' attitude that is so purely American (take it or leave it, brother). The Saints cover on the flip captures the post-teen bleak desperation that fueled the original version, a serious achievement considering that the Saints are my favorite first-wave punk band.
It's strange thinking back on bands, like our friends the Young Losers here, that played this fast and this loud still being categorized as strictly 'garage' by the general punk public because their sound lacked 'progressive' elements ie; prog-metal riffs lifted from Metallica or Slayer records, absolutely trend-of-the-moment-driven 'hysterical shrieking,' boilerplate political lyrics that repeated the same arguments found on Conflict records more than a decade earlier, amongst other extraneous devices. Plus, wearing the wroooong band shirts ... alas, the unfortunate by-product of the genre police born of the mid-80's. The human element is all that matters. I think by 2006 we've accepted the fact that much of what was widely called 'garage' in the 1990's had ALOT more in common sonically with the class of 1981 than 1966. Or, hopefully this digi can swing greater acceptance of this stance.
These guys managed another 7" on Rip Off Records before melting away into the brutal Austin afternoon. Guitarist Trey now counts 'em off for the Hard Feelings, who put out a damn fine LP on Sympathy back in 2000. -RW
For more info, check out Terminal Boredom.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Nar - Four 7"s
Nar s/t 7" (Secret Center, 1991)
Nar Holiday Routine 7" (Moo-La-La, 1993)
Nar Belgian Gambit 7" (Generic, 1993)
Nar Four Song EP 7" (Yakamashi, 1997)
There are crimes and there are CRIMES. Crimes are things like jaywalking and murder. CRIMES are ignoring great bands because...hell, I don't know because why. A CRIME is a CRIME because it is irrational. Thus, the fact that many a punker still don't know the band Nar is irrational and thus a CRIME. Now before you accuse me of circular reasoning let me tell you about Nar.
Nar started in 1989 in Sacramento, California. The first line up was Scott Miller, Ed Carroll, and Jason D. These guys made one half of a split LP (with fellow Sacramentans Pounded Clown), 3 7"s, and appeared on many comps (much too many to list here). In 1993, Jason D. moved to Portland and was replaced by Scott Mauer. Scott toured a few times with Scott and Ed and played on the Four Song EP. During their existence Nar had about 50 loyal fans in their hometown Sacramento, fifty more hardcore fans in Knoxville, Tennessee, and little pockets of Narheads in other shitty towns.
I saw Nar almost a hundred times or maybe two hundred times. My old band toured with them. I put out one of their records. I do not apologize for raving about them. Forget my bias, Nar is a great band. Unfortunately they appeared at a time before power pop had influenced the garage punk scene. So their garage pop got ignored by the garage scene, often written off as pop punk, which is fucking insulting. The pop punk kids didn't dig them because Nar wasn't shitty enough for them to like. Add to the list of problems is one that plagued a lot of Sacramento punk bands: Maximum RocknRoll's stupid habbit of calling every band from Sacto "drunk punk" or "silly punk" or "drunk silly punk." Blah blah blah. Listen to this stuff and know that Nar were great.
When Nar broke up in 2000, Miller started the Bright Ideas (with the three original Nar members!). He also continued drumming for The Bananas. While Nar was around, Miller also played in the Tiki Men, as well as ran the Secret Center label. Ed Carroll went on to play drums for the Pretty Girls, FM Knives, and Lyme Regis. He also had a short stint in Los Huevos. Jason D. plays in the Bright Ideas from time to time and is a chef. Scott Mauer teaches kids for a living. (If you want more info, go here.) One note: Scott Miller is not the same Scott Miller as the one behind Game Theory and the Loud Family.
Blue Sky and Red Ronigun appeared on Nar's s/t 7". It was released by Secret Center. Three hundred were pressed. Holiday Routine comes from the 7" of the same name and was released in a pressing of 500 on Moo-La-La in hand made sleeves. Drunk & Benevolent appeared on the Belgian Gambit 7". The Generic Label released 500 of those. Christopher Street (originally by Felt) and Renaissance are from the Four Song EP, of which Yakamashi put out 500.
Monday, January 02, 2006
By way of introduction....
Hello. Welcome to another MP3 blog. As stated above this one is dedicated to dredging up some great records from the 1990s punk explosion. Some of the stuff profiled here will be very hard to find. Some of them you probably haven't heard of but you will be able to google and find a copy for $3. And some you might have heard/heard of and forgotten. We do this because there were a hell of a lot of great 7"s made in the 1990s, many of which got really poorly distribution or were buried in the vinyl glut created by the zillions of shitty indie bands using 7"s as their calling cards (thank god for the CDR!). We aren't too concerned with being loyal to punk's many subgenres but rather focusing on underground sounds. As Martha DeFoe & B. George wrote in Volume, "...the edges have been more actively sought out than the center. Exclusions are both passive and active. Haste and ignorance account for the inclusion of opportunists, fakes, innocents, and hanger-ons....the preference is of this catalogue is for self produced music." The first MP3 post should appear in the next couple of days, so check back real soon.
--Scott Soriano & Ryan Wells