Monday, March 30, 2009

From “I'm A Mess” To “We're a Mess”

(Note that button on his guitar strap!)

Wreckless Eric did it. By it, I mean have a hit, twenty years after the fact, with one of those neglected classics of the late seventies I prattle on so much about. “Whole Wide World” is a magisterial song, one that demolishes the distinctions between the bottom of the gutter and the top of the pop charts. And now, everyone from Will Ferrell to the Proclaimers to Napoleon Dynamite has contributed to the song’s 21st century ubiquity.

I could go on but this is not the place to dote on that which already suffers from lavish praise (but do go here to hear the 2006 World Cup version and others by the Monkees(!) and Die Toten Hosen). Let us rather consider the messier parts of Eric the Wreckless’ saga. After making an almost commercial album that he loathed like a self-inflicted wound, Eric was dropped by Stiff Records. This conflict was detailed in “A Pop Song” which was, ironically, a damn fine piece of song-writing.

Next, like Neil Young before him, Eric went from the middle of the road straight to the ditch. Like Neil, Eric’s raw voice and penchant for noise can make for difficult listening but there’s a rough beauty in much of it. Case in point, in 1985 Eric released A Roomful of Monkeys by his band the Captains of Industry, offering not some Randist fantasy of capitalist might but rather a bleak indictment of the mess that was Thatcher's England. It’s somber melodicism was a deliberate break with his old jolly, “I’m a Mess” personae - it’s a bit like a record Joe Strummer could’ve have made in 1985. In fact, Eric at this time was managed by former Clash road manager Johnny Green who’d brought former Clash deputies Norman Watt-Roy and Mickey Gallagher in to record the album. (Side note, Eric later recorded “The Crooked Beat", Clash bassist Paul Simonon’s contribution to Sandinista for the odd tribute album, The Sandanista Project.

Wreckless Eric - Crooked Beat

The album, his last before an alcohol-fueled nervous breakdown, is a bit subdued but grows in power with repeated and careful, listening, of particular note is the more traditionally Wreckless song, "Reputation (A Serious Case of)".

Download A Roomfull of Monkeys

For the full low-down on the man’s messy career read this excellent interview, from which we pinched the image below.

Next: A Bright Idea

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Killed By Volume: Six-Point-Three

As the seventies turned into the eighties and the initial excitement over punk's cultural year zero vanished many of the angry young men of that time dug their old skeletons - Dylan, The Stones or Brucie Springsteen (as punk-polemicist Tom Robinson used to call him) - from the musical closet.

White Heat (see here), ended their career in 1981 with these six aiming-for-the-big-league Rock songs. This 12" contains re-recorded versions of two songs from their singles and four new tracks. The punk obscurists devalue it for it's classic rock (*cough* Brucie) production and playing but most of it, the title track aside, is still punchy new wave with the occasional histrionics.

White Heat - Living in the UK

Download - In the Zero Hour

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Killed By Volume: Six-Point-Two

For their next single, 1981'sThe City Beat, White Heat (see here) took aim at the mainstream.

"The City Beat" is a Springteen-esque paean to the redemptive powers of dirty streets and rock n' roll - it's the Gaslight Anthem 18 years too early.

The flip side's "It's No Use", while still attacking the disco era, is even more indebted to The Boss - it's Jungleland Night at the corner of Tenth Avenue and Thunder Road! Ye-ah!

The following video is for Bob Smeaton's wonderfully-named band, Loud Guitars, who do a good Big Country-ish song before becoming radiant when they break into a viscerally rockin' version of "City Beat".

Download The City Beat

Friday, March 27, 2009

Killed By Volume: Six-Point-One

Sometimes the real action is on the B-side. White Heat's (see here) second single from 1980, features "Finished With the Fashions" another broadside against late seventies excess (this time slamming the Eagles!) which has some fine drama and a good pop-reggae feel. Now flip the record (use your imagination, dammit!) and let "Ordinary Joe" infect your nervous system. The song's subject is not Joe Strummer, as a very cursory listen might suggest, but Jesus Christ himself. The song's narrative details a casual meeting with Jesus of the the type pioneered by John Prine and hacked out by a million alt-country wannabe's ever since. It is an odd story-line for late seventies London, as opposed to say, Austin, Texas but it's the fiery playing, full of inventive vocal and guitar inter-play that drives the song to sound like some big show tune stripped-down and then souped-up.

White Heat - Ordinary Joe

Download Finished With the Fashions b/w Ordinary Joe

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Killed By Volume: Six

There in an invisible British top forty chart for the late 1970's. It features a deluge of kids with guitars, suits and a definite article who banged out brilliant pop singles that, owing to a glut of the same, never topped the real, paper charts of the time. Near the top of this invisible chart of great unknown hits is "Nervous Breakdown" by White Heat.

Formed in Newcastle 1976, White Heat, Alan Fish (Guitars), Colin Roberts (Bass), Bob Smeaton (Vocals), Bryan Younger (Guitars), and John Miller/George Waters (Drums) blew out out of the starting gate with their debut single in 1980. The A-side, "Nervous Breakdown", is a monster track that incorporates mod beats, rock n' roll guitars, a gargantuan hook, Springsteen-ish emoting and anti-pop lyrics that take dead aim at Barry Manilow. Everyone disses the Clash-lite B-side, "Sammy Sez", but it's still a pretty fair reggae-pop-punk number.

Do not miss the, more intense live version of "Nervous Breakdown" but avoid gawking at Bob's suspenders, his buffness or his propensity for dropping and giving twenty push-ups in mid-song!

Download Nervous Breakdown

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Let's Just Put This One Down For Kicks"

Here we have the young Bobby Dylan, that lone balladeer with a guitar who could blow an entire army off the stage.

This bootleg features forty-five publishing demos, recorded in a small room on music publisher Lou Levy's tape-recorder for Leeds Music and Witmark and Sons between 1962 and 1964. A dozen of these tracks have never been issued in any form and, while a few of the remaining tracks made it onto various editions of the Bootleg Series (after re-mastering), the bulk of this set has never seen the official light of day.

Performed, essentially, for an audience of one the results can be almost claustrophobically intimate. Dylan's talking right atcha, abruptly cutting off "Let Me Die in My Footsteps" for being "kinda of a drag" and stopping "I Shall Be Free" because he can't remember the rest of the verses. Adding to the immediacy are the vérité sounds, like the door slamming on "Masters of War", the foot-tapping on "Standin' on a Highway" and, of course, the inevitable coughing at the start of "Watcha Gonna Do".

"All Over You"

This release now forms the basis an official release, The Bootleg Series Volume Nine.

MRML's previous Dylan posts have included one with twenty covers of, "When the Ship Comes in" and a free digi-e.p. of Dylan covers by The Multitude ofSins.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vinyl Parasites

The Parasites (see here), spent much of the nineties being recklessly prolific, sporadically brilliant and sadly marginal. Their 1996 single, Hang-Up did get released by big-time pop label Lookout Records but that never brought the band the audience it deserved. That single was another criminally neglected three-song e.p. where Dave Parasite channeled the ghosts of Joey, Dee and Johnny to create a pop music with guts.

Perhaps it's harder to build an audience when you release two tribute records in one year, one for the Beatles and one for the Misfits. But you, the audience of MRML, are too discerning a music obsessive to be anything but intrigued by such a curious juxtaposition.

Samples are here, download links are below the cover images and comments (y'know free speech) may be added at the bottom of the post.

Download Hang Up

Download Last Caress

Friday, March 20, 2009

Parasite Time

Dave Parasite is man out of time. While Dave has lead an ever-mutating line up of the Parasites, (a California via New Jersey pop-punk band and not the thieving little organisms) for twenty years, little about the band ever changes. When Dave straps on his guitar and takes on the mike, it's Parasite Time - a little 1989, a lot of 1979 and, hell, even some 1969. Dave's contemporaries are late eighties bands bands like Sloppy Seconds and Screeching Weasel, all of whom worship the Ramones' 1979 LP Rocket to Russia but beyond that he's a classical pop song-writer who, when reaching back in time for covers, leans on such sixties tune smiths as the Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchel.

This 1992 single may still be the purest distillation of his work. Each song is a perfect shard of pop and...fuck it...just listen - it's all right here in glorious 192 kbps sound.

Download Paramania

Thanks to skutchy for the images

For further context here's an early comp they appeared on, their first album, another walloping single and and a witty and wistful band memoir that everyone who loves the spirit of D.I.Y. needs to read.

The new album is a devastating return to form and certainly the best full-length of the band's career. As an inducement to go and buy some new Parasites material, here's the sledgehammer pop of "Gonna Get You Back" from the brand-spanking-new Solitary.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

French Electro-Punk Weekend

By 1988, Bérurier Noir along with Ludwig Von 88 and Haine Brigade constituted a sort of anarcho-electro punk French scene. This nifty poster sleeve benefit 7" depicts a pretty blunt anti-fascist, pro-united front message and the songs all rock out in a tinny, yet catchy way

Download Bérurier Noir/Haine Brigaide split

I bough this record years ago and, while I still have the vinyl, the poster has gone missing. So, therefore, thanks for this rip and scan is due to this site (if my translating skills are still workable).

Cirque du Punk

I'm not French, despite growing up in a French town named St. Norbert, teaching in a French Immersion school and currently residing in St. Boniface (the largest French-Canadian community outside of Quebec) with a truly Francophone wife.

So while I love and admire much about French culture, their reputation as musical schlockmesiters is well founded. An old friend from St.Norbert recoiled in horror when I asked him if the song he was singing was a French song. "Just because I'm French doesn't mean I listen to French music!" (Funnily enough the song in question turned out to be "Autobahn" by German electro-rockers, Kraftwerk.)

So with all the French musical mediocrity, what to make of Bérurier Noir - masked anarchists surrounded by fire-eating back-up singers and dancing clowns driven by the clinkiest drum machine in music history?

Well, despite all these discordant elements, Bérurier Noir's songs are all dead-simple sing-alongs led by staccato punk riffs. It's as if the Sex Pistols' with Fellini and Malcolm McLaren as their Svengalis, created their own little Cirque du Punk.

This single, L'Empereur de Tomato-Ketchup, from 1986, lays the blueprint for the band from which they steadily built upon without ever abandoning the basic design.

Download "L' Empereur de Tomato-Ketchup

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A People’s History of Propagandhi: A Speculative Non-Fiction


Once or twice a year a student, one of those scruffy-looking, shit-disturbers, will ask me, their modestly scruffy educator, "Hey, is it true you know the guys in that punk band, Propagandhi?"
Like So-crates, I answer with a question, "You want to hear the truth or the good story?"
"What's the difference?" sneers our S.L.S.D.
"Either way it comes down to this; Propagandhi made it from the basement to the stage because of me."
So, once again I'm forced to teach the truth, the honest-to-Kronos truth about...

Propagandhi, Thrash Sundae and Me

So, amidst all the fooferah over the forthcoming fifth Propagandhi album, Supporting Caste, will the truth ever be released? Sure, the band’s web-site (the version that has since been yanked down) has the Winner's Propaganda about how these two boys from PLAP (Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada), Jord Samolesy and Chris Hannah, became globe-trotting punk-metal anarchists (y'know pro-feminist, anti-fascist etc.) and the voice of a splinter faction of their generation. However, mainstream Propagandhi historians, with their breezy but Soviet-styled revisionism, have covered-up the band's true beginnings. "So then we got a call from a young lad named "Stinky" Mike Braumeister who wanted to play bass," says the band's web-site, a version parroted by the lackeys over at Wikepdia. And how did this epoch-making phone call come to pass?

Before I Can Tell You That Story, I Have To Tell You This Story...

It's Talent Show night in a suburban Winnipeg high school auditorium in 1988. After a parade featuring a Van Halen cover band, Christian-pop karaoke (first and second place winners respectively) and even a synthesizer duo, the lights came up upon scraggly-haired speed-metal upstarts, Thrash Suandae.

Thrash Sundae's lead singer/guitarist, Mike Bryant had a locker, covered in Suicidal Tendencies and Venom pictures, right beside my own (which featured only a toy spider armed with a fork, named Boris). Back then, Mike was like a young Dee Dee Ramone, terse, awkward and musically-obsessed. Needless to say, all of our conversations were about music.

Standing in front of an audience for the first time, Mike seethed with a twitchy energy. However he and his band's absence of technical expertise, not a plus in their chosen genre, deflated them halfway through their ten-minute opening dirge. When the song fell apart, they stopped playing.
"Uh," Mike stared at his guitar as if a piece of it had gone missing. Then he looked up and glowered at something in the distance. "We're gonna start again."
The audience, en masse, let out a pained grunt.
That's when the power went out.
Mike hit his guitar, which let out only a tinny little brr-aaang. He swiveled his gaze over to the tech crew and screamed, "You can't cut me off!"
Then the curtain came down on Thrash Sundae, never to rise again.

Back to the Motor League

Now in 1990 Propagandhi was a rinky-dink two-man basement operation. At that time they were stuck putting out demos, slapping up funny but desperate posters at Records on Wheels and never playing live due to their lack of a dependable bass player. On their web-site, they mention their "progressive thrash band needs bass player" poster but they neglect to mention their later ad that copied the cover of Bad Religion's No Control, claiming that that band was going to play local dirty-watering hole The Royal Albert, before saying, "Just kidding, actually we need a bass player and if we don't find one we're gonna play a set of acoustic Crawl (a local thrash-metal act) covers".

Concurrently, I'm researching a feature article for my university paper, The Manitoban, on Winnipeg's underground music. While picking bands to profile, local zine-tyke Zedgrav played me Propagandhi's first demo and then later an for "Ska Sucks". (Available for your "listening pleasure" below.) So I interviewed them for my article. Jord said, approximately, "We're like a cross between Doughboys and Metallica". (That sorta changed). The article's failure to appear peeved off some of my interviewees. Jord and Chris, however, never fond of media exposure, could care less, especially since I made my former locker partner Mike (soon given the nom de punk of "Stinky" Mike Braumeister) call them to offer his new-and-improved bass services. Mike had, since the days of Thrash Sundae, formed and then broken-up a tight, punchy hardcore unit named, Orange Juice. ("Why Orange Juice?” I asked. "Because it's a powerful substance, man," Mike replied.) Within weeks, Propagandhi Mark 1 was primed and ready

I witnessed both of their first two shows opening up for Guilt Parade, whose precise, bitter and yet melodic brand of hardcore formed a lasting influence on the boys. Their sets rocked but only offered a glimpse of the beast they were to become.

By the time Mike left the band for the greener, wetter climes of Vancouver, I was already living there. After moving back to Winnipeg, I caught Propagandhi Mark 2 at a smoky, sweaty Draft Night at the Royal Albert and they owned that rickety little stage. John K. wore a dress, Chris wrote FAG across his bare chest in Magic Marker and Jord may or may not have mooned the crowd. Most importantly though, they'd written a brace of inciting and intricate songs. The seething (if occasionally confusing) "Hallie Sellasie Up Your Ass", in particular, demonstrated how much they'd honed their attack. And they had a new bass player, a familiar one. You see my unpublished Manitoban article had also thwarted the rise to college-rock fame of a band named Toothpick Hercules, who were John K. Sampson's first band, thus compelling him to become the newest member of the soon-to-be-famous version of Propagandhi.

Then Fat Wreck-Chords came calling and a peculiar brand of fame followed but yours fuckin' truly, like Leon Trotsky, got airbrushed out of the picture.


His question answered, our scruffy-lookin' shit-disturbin’, question-asker will now look up and say somehting like, "Hey, all that B.S. almost killed an entire class."

And though a little class-killing would surely excite the Propagandhi crew, I just say:

"Get back to work."

(The latest version of the band, but that black Government Issue that The Todd is wearing is pure old school, especially in Winnipeg.)


Well first off, here's something you've never heard before. It is, as Chris says in the preamble, "acoustic Propagandhi solo project album demo thing", provisionally entitled "The I Love Skinheads Song" but that's not the title it grew to fame under. (Rumour had it that a Winnipeg ska band once wrote an answer song called "Punk Sucks" which claimed "the bands are only in it to say fuck." We're cleverer than most cities, we really are.)

Download this tiny, tiny piece of history here.

Here's a bootleg of old demos from the early Sampson era (I gave away those old tapes long ago) called, rather suck-ishly, "Reclaim the Streets"

Download Reclaim the Streets

Moving along to the Fat era, here's the F.Y.P split, which includes three F.Y.P tracks and a Propagandhi song that is really a solo acoustic Weakerthans demo (never let these boys give you a track for your split e.p., children's music comp or seven inch box-set - you never know what you're gonna get).

Download Propagandhi/F.Y.P. split 7"

If you're looking for the top drawer stuff you need to go to their web-site, ignore my little historical slight, and just support the damn band.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Singles Going Crazy IV

Like Radon (And Tom Petty and Death) Dogs on Ice (bassist Brian McCabe, drummer Paul Arcos and singer-guitarist Joe Popp) hailed from sunny, tacky Florida. D.O.I. may have been an almost-ran in the Jawbreaker-Fugazi 200-meter dash but damnit they ran as if they had a hellhound on their tail. Their higest profile moment was issuing a fine L.P. on Allied Records (founded by artist John Yates,who worked with the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra at his label, Alternative Tentacles) called Salt Wound. However, nothing on Salt Wound (or their previous album, Pushin' Rope) ever surpassed the lunatic "On a String" from their 1993 e.p, Housefly. Right from the get-go, the drums go wild, then the guitars leap about before Popp starts bellowing like his lungs are on fire - as a song it's a perfect aural encapsulation of the indie-punk aesthetic in-between the Nirvana explosion and the Green Day aftershock.

Dogs on Ice - On a String

Joe Popp put the the entire Dogs on Ice catalog on line - so go hear more.

P.S. When first posted last year (before all my MassMirror links died) this turned out to be MRML's least popular download ever. Now that you've been stirred by the magnificent "On a String" maybe we can move it's ranking up to...maybe...fifth least popular.

Download Housefly

Singles Going Crazy III

The Invalids (Tony on bass guitar, Sean on drums and Scott on guitar and vocals) wanted to be Green Day and we can enjoy their failure. While failing imitators can achieve serendipitous innovation, East Bay band, the Invalids derivitiveness came out like a cross between the cow-punk of fellow East Bay-ers, Sewer Trout and the gruff pop-punk of Chicago's Screeching Weasel. This 1995 Lookout Records single, "Punker Than Me", is jam-packed with sing-along choruses, off-kilter lyrics, stripped-down chord progressions and the whole damn record clocks in at 6:42!

The Invalids - Punker Than Me

Insubordination Records has put out an Invalids comp, though it does not contain any of the songs from this single.

Download Punker Than Me

Update: the Invalids are back in action (see here) with a new album in the works.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Singles Going Crazy II

Radon (Bill Clower - drums, Dave Rohm - guitar, vocals, Brent Wilson - bass, vocals) released this exceptional set of emo-pop-punk-hardcore on No Idea Records back in 1992. This four track e.p., the band's first release, was "...recorded in Tommy Hamilton's living room & bedroom on Georgia Street in Tallahassee, Florida." To these ears it sound like Rohm and Wilson split the song-writing, with one taking a more Dischord Records sound and one taking a Jawbreaker meets early Green Day angle. Regardless of authorship, the roaring anthem "Radon" (ah the eponymous song!) and the gritty, yet triumphant,"Facial Disobedience" shine right though the muddy production.

Radon - Facial Disobedience

All of these tracks are available on a retrospective CD, titled We Bare All, available from No Idea.

Download Radon 7"

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

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Inside, Outside Anarchy

From 1982 onward, D.I. continued the loud, fast and out-of-control Orange county pop-punk of Social Distortion and The Adolescents (both of whom lead singer Casey Royer played with). While they never equaled those bands greatest moments, Casey and his ever-changing band of surfers, did hit a helluva peak with this complete bastardization of Chuck Berry's "Surfin' U.S.A.", featuring new lyrics and and a hopped-up-on-goofballs arrangement.

The cover of Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge" is good but how do you improve on the original?

Download Surfin' Anarchy 7"

Here's their infamous appearance in Suburbia.

Here's a hella catchy song from their best album, Horse Bites Dog Cries.

And proof that that you can't keep a beach-punk down.