Each month, American hardcore punk historian Tony Rettman will tell you about some new old shit to you need to buy. Like talking to your friend at the bar, but your friend has much better and more interesting taste than you. Check out last month's column here!
As much as it is a delight to finally have Mad Punx & English Dogs, the first twelve-inch EP by the English Dogs, back on vinyl, I gotta say this thing looks like shit. Couldn’t they have found a copy of the jacket without ringwear to scan for the cover? And don’t they have the ability to make the cover photo look like it wasn’t fished out from the bottom of a peep show garbage can? Seriously, if making this thing was a labor of love, it should have been aborted on the drawing board. But if you take the cover and heave it out the window, you’re left with one of the most under-celebrated and brutal records to come out of the UK82 phenomenon. It is just as potent as anything by GBH or the Exploited; the English Dogs EP is a classic blur of spiky-haired aggro that, all these years later, manages to get the blood boiling. If only a label would reissue the bands’ catalog with a little bit of care, I might gain some hope for the human race. But then again, probably not…
Seriously, if making this thing was a labor of love, it should have been aborted on the drawing board
Revelation Records has tasked itself with reissuing the entire catalog of New Jersey’s Turning Point, and the effort continues with the bands’ 1989 self-titled debut 7” EP. When I was 16 and growing up in the garbage state, Turning Point was the band my friends and I threw all of our support behind—largely due to their beefy, mosh-heavy vibe and unabashed lyrics extolling the virtues of straight edge. And yet, this brawny five-song slab (as well as the lyrics to edge anthems “The Few And The Found,” and “Turning Point”) still makes me want to stomp on bongs despite all the pot I’ve smoked as an adult. If that doesn’t stand as a testament to the music, I’ll eat my Champion hoodie and retire.
One of the few advantages of being as old and scabby as I am is the amount of monumental gigs I have witnessed. A show that sticks out in particular: Floridian noise unit Harry Pussy absolutely annihilating the upstairs space of a Philly bar in the summer of 1995, opening for New Zealand art-rockers The Dead C.
Bill Orcutt, then playing guitar in Harry Pussy, delivered barbed insults to the bookish crowd. He, alongside drummer Adris Hoyos, blared out short bursts of improvised fury similar to the gnarled brilliance of Washington D.C Hardcore titans Void, reimagined for the improv-loving, post-indie rock generation. (And baby, we’re post-it.) As a fresh-outta-hardcore nudnik, I wholeheartedly dug what they were putting down. Originally released as a CD by Load Records in 2008 but now available as a double LP from Orcutt’s Palialia label, You’ll Never Play This Town Again collects some of Harry Pussy’s finest and most fervent live moments as well as their final recordings before breaking up somewhere in the late ’90s. Even at this late date, Harry Pussy still has the ability to fry brains and befuddle even the most open-minded “rock” fan—which only proves the timelessness of their attack. Put on a bib and dig in.
The albums made by Tuscaloosa, Ala. born singer-songwriter Fred Lane in the 1980s have been a constant presence in the world of record collecting—and yet, I’ve never taken the time to find out what they sound like. By the look of the covers, I always figured his LPs to be on the goofier, kitschy side; like a bargain-basement version Weird Al. After checking out Goner Records’ Lane reissues, I now know I wasn’t too far off on my assumptions. Beginning with the skewed cocktail jazz of “Fun In The Fundus,” Lane’s 1983 LP From The One That Cuts You is heavy on the schmaltzy goonery that could get airplay on the Dr. Demento Show back in the day. (Lane’s Car Radio Jerome, from 1986, is more of the same.) I suppose this would please the tits off of someone who collects vintage mustache waxes and rides a unicycle, but it just makes me wince uncontrollably.
Due to lifelong poverty, I’ve sold many beloved records to make rent or to dine off the dollar menu for a week. One such album is Tsunami .2, the mysterious 1992 LP by Square 9. Recently, it’s been re-released on the Unrock imprint. To learn, at this late stage, that Square 9 was a one-off, hush-hush collaboration between legendary avant-rockers Sun City Girls and southwestern post-industrial soundscapers Maybe Mental actually shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. They were hidden in plain view: there’s the fact Tsunami .2 was originally released on Majora, the label that put out the bulk of the Sun City Girls’ material in the ’90s, and the fact that few other culprits from the era could conjure up such a bewildering and meandering collage of sound as what’s contained on the album. The reissue splices up the record into six parts, rather than the two side-long pieces of the original, allowing Tsunami .2 to build slowly with random plunks at piano keys, the subtle wheezing of sawed strings, amplifiers, and random voices reciting cathartic who-knows-what. (Even now, it is impossible to identify what instruments are being used.) It’s sort of like a paired-down version of Illhan Mimaroglu’s To Kill A Sunrise, if you can catch my drift.
San Francisco in the ’60s was demented: the birthplace for psychedlic rock like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, to be sure, but it lacked heaviness. Well, save for the power trio Blue Cheer. They were an anomaly, as were Boogie, whose unearthed recordings have been released by the Out-Sider label with the appropriate title, In Freak Town. It’s a mix of studio and live tracks, pleasurable moments of bright sunshine-y psych rock and Boogie’s baked, blues-based jamming. It’s the latter that makes In Freak Town worth the price of admission. If I had to select one track to be “burn-worthy,” it’s Boogie’s scorching take on the spiritual “Wade In The Water,” a meditative, lysergic ramble. One thing’s for sure, “Sugar Magnolia,” it ain’t!