Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Singles Going Crazy

(Image courtesy of Eyby20 at Photobucket)

Punk bands jam-packed ideas and words into short spaces; hence the necessity of the 7” e.p. A zillion punk band issued seven inches, not for their traditional purpose of ending up on radio, jukeboxes or in the hands of pre-adolescent music buyers (hey, I could afford to buy my friend the Boomtown Rats “I Don’t like Mondays” single for his tenth birthday!) but as the sole way their music could escape their local stages.

The extend play, or e.p., let the band show off more then a couple of songs, often allowing cover tunes or odd tangents to escape. And they played at 33 r.p.m., so if was “too slow” you could speeditthefuckup. The 7” e.p. was that transition between the lowly demo tape and the more rarefied album. Sadly, it could also be a wall. Some bands, when faced with the daunting task of following up crystalline e.p.’s with full albums, just fell apart (even the vaunted Misfits album, Walk Among Us, was considered a let-down after all those blistering e.p.’s like Bullet and Three Hits from Hell).

So many of the obscure bands from the fag-end of the vinyl era (are we still there yet?) re-affirm a heartbreaking truth: most bands have only a few good songs and that later attempts to diversify or recapture the original sound are only the grasping of straws. Bands have a Moment: one time where history and their particular talents align and if they grab it – Bam! - we end up with, at the least, a single. After a few more star-crossed attempts they end up careerists, crack addicts or computer programmers. Writers are the same, Nick Hornby had a rock n’ roll career trajectory; that album of early demos (Fever Pitch), his Moment (High Fidelity) the similar-sounding sophomore album (About a Boy), the Mature album (How to Be Good) and the album that tries to reach old and new fans (Long Way Down).

Glibness aside, this Theory of Brief Moments applies doubly to pop-punk bands. So let MRML (re) present a series; "Singles Going Crazy", wherein we dig-up neglected musical wonders from bands who burned brilliantly, then faded fast.

Kamala and the Karnivores (the Lookout catalog says, "East Bay pop band that featured Ivy, later of Sweet Baby, Kamala, later in Cringer, the Gr'ups, and Naked Aggression, and Todd, of Spitboy. Sweet songs about being in love, killing boys, and black thumbs") sounded a little indie-rock in their tempos and melodies but they pulled it off with a punkish swagger.
Kamala, who got name-checked by both Screeching Weasel and Sewer Trout, wrote sharp and thoughtful little tunes, like this anti-anorexia ripper, "Bone Bouquet".

Their sole e.p., 1989's Girl Band, got tacked onto a gargantuan CD of Lookout also-rans, so if you like it - buy it.

Download Girl Band

Meet Kamala and the Karnivores on my Detrola


  1. Aha, I knew you were secretly a total indie pop fan! Now you shall feel my wrath!

  2. James



    Now as a casual fan of the Mommyheads ("Down at the Mall") I must state that Kamala et al are a different matter altogether.


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