One jerk's journey through 25 Years of In The Red Records
"I've come to the conclusion that in order to get signed to In the Red Records, all you need is one drum, one guitar and no talent."
"They're pretty much all bad. They all sound like sheet metal. They all sound like a joke."
- Donkey Dick, Satisfied Amazon Customer
Some of the earliest memories that clutter my internal clickhole are of bouncing around the family rec-room, listening to my parent's 45s on one of those oversized console stereos. Whether staging my own Hot Wheels demo derbies on the musty basement carpet or just violently knocking balls around the worn pool table green, enjoyment levels would frenzy if paired with a beat to hell Danny & The Juniors or Monkees single. Looking back, I'm sure the turntable's needle was worn to a nub and its belt was running slow, because everything sounded off. Thick, hairy fuzz-muddled beasts born of accident and a repeating crackle that was more akin to a garbage disposal than a proper song. My fading recollections lead me to believe The Big Bopper sounded as gnarly as Blue Cheer. This is what music was supposed to sound like, or so I assumed. Surf was also really popular with me around the age of 8. During holiday parties, I'd whip up interpretive dance routines to my cousin's inept "Wipe Out" drum-along performances. More an interpretative seizure - to be honest - as I'd repeatedly careen into end-tables, bounce my head off walls and flop to the floor until I'd get up and do it again. John Waters played car crash as a child and I pantomimed surfing accidents, shark attacks and other terrible seaside atrocities - all set to a blasted back beat.
The pivotal moment that bent me - completely deranged my views on pop music ever since - can be charted back to a lone battered novelty track: "Schlock Rod" by Jan & Dean. This flip to the "Drag City" 45 was literally written while drunk on a plane. A mess of a song, slurring in and out of tune, spewing goofy lingo and adding a junkyard's worth of ill-timed car part percussion to clank about in the background. The sound of sheet metal scraps getting chucked down a concrete embankment, set to abusive whammy play as the vocal chorus does its best Beach Boys ape, hoping to shroud this trainwreck in some sorta tunefulness. If there is only one single that both Blixa Bargeld and Tim Warren hold in common, my bet would be on this.
And there it stands - The blueprint to my questionable musical taste. As a frothing fanboy of the fidelity challenged, slightly eschewed R&R with plenty of noise dolloped on top - all routes lead back to this, the undisputed godfather of garbage rock. It doesn't take a psych major to connect the dots from "Schlock Rod" to say, Pussy Galore or The Horrors or even the messiest moments of Andre Williams' Silky LP.
After all those years I spent rebelling against my youthful trash rock obsessions, trying to be cool and meddle in technical thrash and the harsher hardcore trenches - something snapped off and crumbled away in my noggin. Things started to loosen up as my art school-era reared its head and by late 1990 it was getting pretty wiggy around my apartment's stereo. Megadeth and Minor Threat were getting rapidly replaced. Big Black and Mudhoney cassettes were starting to stack up. The Flaming Lips and Butthole Surfers were doing LOUD loudly and my youthful fondness for slop like The Cramps and 60's R&R started to creep back in. Industrial muck like Pigface and swampy AmRep weirdos overshadowed things like Ramones style punkers and The Pixies.
Sub Pop was the first label that peaked my interest as a brand. From release to release, I knew what I was gonna get to some degree and would stand behind their bottom heavy crunch for almost five years without falter. But 1993 brought on a season of change. I witnessed treble-trash like the knife wielding Makers first hand and snatched up The Mummies records from new arrival bins. After taking in a neuron melting Blues Explosion show in 1994, Sub Pop got bumped to the curb ('cept for the gas station jacket. I still wear that goddamn jacket). In The Red releases started to sprout up like weeds throughout my record collection and I couldn't keep them under control. No other label hit me with such an impact from day one other than the early Sub Pop roster. It was a brand I could trust. Cheater Slicks. Dirtbombs. Hell, the Sawdust Caesars. Tastes change and finances may challenge - but I know for certain there was twelve year run where I never missed a chance of picking up an In The Red release. The only pieces of the puzzle I lost out on were the Consumers LP (thankfully reissued) and Bassholes Blue Roots LP (I still only have the CD - feel free to send me the record).
TWENTY FIVE YEARS.
That's an insane amount of time to be pushing this sorta' sub-dwelling, abrasive product. Hell, most of fans Thee Oh Sees fans aren't even as old as the label (I kid, I kid). If you believe the gnar-levels of In The Red have softened 'round the edges some - compare and contrast their newish releases with any of the other major indie scene players out there. It's still night and day. CCR Headcleaner, Sleeping Beauties and that Action Swingers reissue ain't coming out on Captured Tracks, that's for damn sure. This little raucous ruckus that once nestled in-between the Regal Select drunkards and Bag of Hammers tape hiss has broken free and even surpassed Sympathy in label birthdays. Good on ya.
The following is one jerks breakdown to his personal twenty-five favorite moments on the ITR roster. This is by no means definitive - or even in a pecking order. It's just what my brain barfed up one Saturday night after far too many mimosas while struggling to remove myself from an internet k-hole. Overthought and overwrought, I warn you in advance. This billion word monstrosity I've created could be it's own zine. Fuck my life. But I've seen it through and have completed my task. Enjoy if you will/can. If you're a ITR newbie (and around here that seems odd - I should've sent this to Vinyl Me, Please for a lark), hopefully it'll get you digging through the back catalog, scanning used bins and understanding the heinous beginnings in which Termbo was built upon. I'd like to thank Larry Hardy for prying the paychecks from my clenched fists. I hope I built you a brass castle. If any of you dear readers go to the anniversary shows this July, I'll be the hesher looking jackass up front in the world's oldest Sub Pop jacket. Hug me. I could use it. And we're Off!
Cheater Slicks - "Savage Affection" (Whiskey LP - 1993)
Like Mudhoney to Sub Pop or The Cows to AmRep - The Slicks jut forth like a gnarled, decaying masthead on the rotted In The Red schooner. Nearly two decades have passed since working together, yet these forces are entangled forever. The Cheater Slicks were too cranky, ugly and noisy for the limp retro-purists way back in the 80's and not much changed once the 90's flared up. Few labels were willing to take a chance on their beastly sounds for more than a single or a comp track ('cept for the Australians of course) until Larry Hardy stepped in, giving these sputtering miscreants a safe space to shine and grow. More accurately, fester and mold. Choosing a lone Cheater Slicks track is like settling for one slice of pie on a Golden Corral buffet binge - it just ain't gonna happen. Gorge now and burst at the seams is the only proper way to show respect. I could have easily picked any or all of the 'Don't Like You' album - from the relentless tom thwack and crushing f/x pedal stomp of "Feel Free”, the hyperventilating harp play of Jerry Teel during "Motherlode" or even gone soft with their bruised and sensitive sides like "Mystery Ship". I did not. I opted for "Savage Affection" off of 'Whiskey'. Riding the scuffed heels of “Possession” - another of their choice cuts - comes this maligned piece of fuzzwar originally shat into existence by the aptly named 60's combo, Holocaust. The Slicks drop a wailing wall of dying hog squelch and dive bombs on top of this already gnarly tune and make it their bitch. Few bands outside of The Cramps or feedtime have the power to truly make a cover tune so much their own. It's a format they continue to follow to this day. Disintegrate the boundaries of good taste - and sometimes proper tuning - and leave the kitschy garage turkeys cowering in the corner. Here's to hoping they got another 30 years of bark and bombast left in their bellies. Some day they will be held in as high regard as Dead Moon, I can feel it.
Blacktop - "Blazing Streets" (I Got A Baaad Feelin' About This LP - 1994)
This one was far too easy. 1994 - for me at least - was the year of Blacktop. I already had some Fireworks records in my stacks and I was aware of other related noise-to-roots rockers like '68 comeback and Jackknife and Darin Lin Wood was a name I was familiar with. The Gories were a fresh fave to me as well, so 'I Got A Baaad Feelin' About This' was a no-brainer purchase when found on the cheap sitting pretty in a second hand bin. It was no more than six months old at the time and I'm still surprised someone would've given up on it so quickly. Blacktop had it all. A violent blues based fucked-upedry and a rusted swinging soulful rhythm that I would cling to for years to come. So many good tunes brought on by so much internal hate. Micks' throat may be shot, but it just makes him sound even more pissed. His liner notes in the CD retrospective is one of the finest reads this side of a caustic Jeff Evans ramble. But ugly situations breed better art and the proof’s in this here pudding. Case in point: "Blazing Streets". Goddamn right, motor city's burning. This track is so shit hot, you can see the blaze from Texas. The guitar solo overdubbed at the end is my favorite twenty seconds of any In The Red release, period. David Katznelson deserves a spot in the production wing of the R&R Hall Of Fame for this achievement alone. Feel the heat.
(The whole LP is on here! Track starts at the 15:17 mark)
Dirtbombs - "Vixens In Space" (Horndog Fest LP - 1998)
Why choose the beyond noisy, instrumental ass-piss that leads off their debut LP? If you have to ask, you really don't know me. While walking through the door of Seattle's Fallout Records one afternoon, I was greeted by this abrasive and surly, biker rock fuck-all as it kicked into high gear. Painful wailing feedback and a cavern drum sound that is the polar opposite of what most people would want backing their retail experience. Guitar terrorism, as if Davie Allan had been seizure-flung from the seat of his chopped hog into oncoming traffic. I stepped a foot or so into the store, stalled out and stared glass eyed towards shop keep, Russ Battaglia. He was grinning proudly from behind the register - this was his first needle drop on 'Horndog Fest'. Russ nodded in approval and pointed me towards the goofy furry fandom sleeve, displayed proudly at the counter. Something was mumbled about Mick Collins’ involvement, but it was rendered unintelligible - lost within the scree. Before this opening tracks brisk two minutes had wrapped, I'd already left for home with the LP and their first single in hand. The soul covers record that followed got all the acclaim and the band went on to rule the garage underground for a nanosecond - deservedly so - but the bi-polar blasts of that debut rings truer to my ears. Zero pretension. Have fun. Make a mess. I hate music. I like noise.
Night Kings - "Bum" 7" (1992)
As with the Cheater Slicks, the universe will one day catch up and take notice of Rob Vasquez's genius. Arguably Seattle's first punk, old man Vasquez may be a tough cookie to crack if you're not talking vegetable juicing or antique knick-knacks - but if you can drill into his core he's a bubbling wealth of Northwest Punk history. His decades of rock are well documented and range from jittery mod numbers to a half-baked, sorta K Records clatter - yet all of this scrappy, red-eyed spunk is worthy of purchase. The Nights And Days, The Gorls, Chintz Devils, Man Tee Mans, Nice Smile, Right On and this here outfit - The Night Kings - continue to lord over my turntable, years after purchase. Rob's an unsung hit machine powered by a clean string sting and enough frantic riffs to make him this countries answer to Billy Childish. “Bum" is a ode to being stoned, broke and lazy, shouted on top of a repetitive stomper fueled by jangle-fucked gee-tar. Nothin' more to say. It rules. They all rule. Buy any Vasquez recording on sight.
Doo Rag - "Trudge" 7" (1994) Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Son Of Sam/Bent" 7" (1992)
Pussy Galore had yet obliterate my mindset and the single record crate I had in my apartment contained mostly Rocket From The Crypt and that early Sub Pop scunge I harped on about. But in 1994 a very intense show in Phoenix AZ featuring these two acts drew me towards In The Red's direction more than any other song or event. Hearing Doo Rag is like ingesting the entire Arhoolie catalog, played out in double-time. In a scrapyard. By swarming mosquitoes (or Shockabilly). An explosive live act, they had the junkyard busker aesthetic in spades and all the fidelity of a Greyhound bus terminal payphone. Few things sound better to my ears than blues rooted punk and if that blues is being rapidly fired off on trashcan lids and cardboard beer boxes, even better. Their "Trudge" 45 is possibly the earliest ITR releases I purchased and on that merit alone, it deserves a place on this list. That and the fact there are few drummers on this blue marble who could touch the greatness of Thermos Malling behind his dilapidated shit-kit. And his name is Thermos Malling. C'mon! BLOAT.
After taking in this epic Doo Rag set, the yet unheard/unseen Blues Explosion tore through their early Matador material. Made up of equal parts meth driven Elvis revue and psychotic geek sideshow, Spencer & Co. proved greaser rock and the blues weren't only for the car show thick-necks in flaming western shirts. Jon Spencer walked a fine line between full blown punker rage and soul shtick and at the top of their game no one could hold a candle to Blues Explosion's live intensity. Except for some violent hardcore matinees - but that shit was for squares. Their hip-hop leanings and fratboy fan base had yet taken hold. This was a primal, panty soaking swing that bordered on a full-bore, feedback laden gospel revival. The true sweat of the Blues Explosion. A sweat they're still spilling, splitting crowds like agitated lumberjacks armed with out of tune ZigMars rather than Stihl saws. This night in Phoenix was a game changer. It opened the floodgate, allowing acts like the Oblivians and the entire Crypt Records catalog to seep in to my conscious. But since we're talking all things ITR over here, I'm gonna go with what I consider the best Blues Explosion offering in its entirety - The Son Of Sam/Bent jukebox single. Primo. Scree. Sax like you want it. "Bent" is sputtering crunch perfection, even when the tuning is wonk. And as for their Chain Gang cover, it might be worth arguing which version is better. But fuck me - I'm not gonna' choose.
Clone Defects - "Low Fashion Lovers" (Shapes Of Venus LP - 2003) The Piranhas - "Adequate Ventilation" (Piscis Clangor 12" - 2004)
Enter the new breed. One thing we can all somewhat agree on is - much like Eric Davidson pointed out in We Never Learn - the messy blues-rawk cacophony had pretty much collapsed on itself around the time of that first Las Vegas Shakedown. Sympathy's release calendar had slowed to a crawl, the 80's & 90's scene players started to disappear (whether rehab, death or deafness) and the major labels started to pluck and primp what they saw as the undergut's juiciest berries. The White Stripes - for better or worse - burst the bubble in the same way Nirvana had a decade earlier. The Euros still kept their blues punk trad-style, but over here in the states the kids started regurgitating a Cle-punk heat and lasterdays Killed By Death splatter. A bumper crop of gold star newbies sprouted up throughout the Midwest, bred from either a fucked chaotic hardcore scene or a fucked chaotic home life. Art loft attitude prevailed and less emphasis on the straighter Stones-style swagger. Armed with an arsenal of f/x pedals and busted keys, these bands had twice the energy of the old guard, an insatiable appetite for sonic mayhem and a unhuman ability to gobble ALL the drugs.
The best things always come in pairs. You gotta sign The Stooges with the The MC5. So here we go again. Detroit barfed up a set of toxic twins; The Clone Defects and The Piranhas. The yin and yang of future punk now/then, these two outfits were proof enough that aliens live among us. The Defects were the Rama-Lama-Fa-Fa-Fa and degenerate alley Dead Boys to The Piranhas Stooge-cum-Screamers intensity, soured by a Beefheartian synth-patched stew. For the garage purists who thought Jay Reatard went too far with the Lost Sounds, I can't imagine what happened when they plopped the lysergic dosed hair-footed prog of Jamie Easter & Co. on their turntable. The Defects fared better with the fogeys, but it wouldn't be long before Timmy Vulgar started projectile vomiting squid ink, playing guitar licks with dead carp heads and letting tuba players jam along. Alienating. Each of these acts have gifted me with expansive, space-out LP openers that have been my go-to for mixtapes and DJ set intros for the past ten years. Both of these tracks should be utilized for NASA transmissions or scoring the rebooted Cosmos television series. If that doesn't pan out, there's always a midnight laser show at the WSU Planetarium looking for hipper soundtrack.
Lord High Fixers - "You Got It" (The Beginning Of The End... CD - 2002)
The Fixers had a way with throwing everything in the mix. Bells, whistles and that dreaded kitchen sink - along with whatever else they could lift, push, pull or drag into the recording studio. True noise fueled this all-star soul/jazz/punk combo. There's a lot of moldy roots-music & jazz-jizz to be found growing under all the Fixers rock cacophony. Cover songs have been part of Tim Kerr and Mike Carroll's foundation since their Poison 13 days and they love to educate, dear listeners. Still, I have a hard time believing any In the Red connoisseur needs to be schooled on a Mudhoney cut - yet they do just that. Their grodie, slop-dog take on "You Got It" is everything one could hope for, coming from a guitar guru known to focus on isolated feedback tracks for hours on end at the mixing board. Here they're found firing on all twelve cylinders, laying down the freaky and free inches thick. Either brown note is achieved or we're all headed for some terrible nosebleeds. I'm also pretty sure this cover includes a tacked on introduction riff, straight up thieved for the original recording. That makes me chuckle every time I hear it. Sadly, 'The Beginning Of The End...' was just that, released on the bands last legs and salvaged as a CD only release. Time has been kind, vinyl is back (so I hear) and the rumor is this is getting double LP treatment as I write. A worthy addition to any bulging Expedit.
The Horrors - "Every Inch Of My Love" (self-titled LP - 2000)
Battling neck and neck with The Hospitals for the rawest recordings on the roster, this Cedar Rapids terror unit was the beast to be reckoned with before the Black Lips flower plowered their way through the 00's. Within seconds of spinning this albums feral, unglued opening cut - "Every Inch Of My Love" - I knew I had to start a band. It's a safe bet that this self-titled LP is probably responsible for getting John Dwyer out of his pink pajama/art-school noise bands and off emulating the BFTG series, more than anything. But that's someone else's story. Mine goes like so: The Horrors - hands down - were the highlight of the original Las Vegas Shakedown festivities. Luckily, I got to catch them twice on that West coast tour. As incredible and well received as their Vegas show had been, it was the following weekend gig in Seattle that made them a legend in my eyes. From what I gathered, these young Iowans were raised in the basement house show circuit and had neither the time nor patience to deal with uptight and too cool, older crowds. Bar going folk across the land were becoming a constant letdown, arms folded and refusing to shake their shit. The band seemed so broken, tired and pissed by the time they got to Northwest, I feared that they'd phone it in or pack it up. Not the case. A small semi-circle of fans - most of whom had witnessed that Vegas set - clung close to the stage as the largest sect of lame patrons hung towards the far back wall. Front mouth Paul Carey was yelping away over a creaky blues chord, barely facing the mic. Guitarist Andy Caffrey and the drummer (Edgar?) held back, awaiting Paul's command to explode. A full thirty seconds or so into that first song, it blew up - real good. Paul sprung into the air, crashing into the cymbals and drums behind. Gear scattered. Andy flung himself towards his amp, toppling over it and snapping his guitar strap on landing. The small crowd towards the front backed up a tad, for fear of losing teeth. Then came the "Horrors Scramble" - the combo's patented move where they frantically scurry about trying to patch up the mess in hopes of making it 'round to the chorus again. The 52 Pick-Up of garage punk. This is how the evening rang out. Every song was a verse/chorus/collision, then pray enough gear was left working in the rubble to make it to the bottom of the set-list. This is not an exaggeration. Listen to their side of the self-released split 45 with The Pee Pees. Those live tracks are a true testament of the chaos they could dispense. A friend screamed out "Play all night!" to which Paul responded, "Why play another fucking song if yer just gonna stand there!" Truth hurts, buddy. Still they violently powered on. Attack, burst and repeat. One of the greatest and most terrifying show-going experiences I've ever had. Here's some of the finest moments of AM transistor stomp committed to wax. If this doesn't satiate the need for noise, I suggest "Next Train I Ride" for its seasick slide guitar wooze and sheet metal rhythms as well. BRING THEM BACK. Make America's garage scene hate again.
The Ponys - "Prosthetic Head" 7" (2003)
No one's more surprised than I to find this on my best of In The Red list. A band that left me somewhat cold overall, The Ponys did peddle this piece of off-kilter, crunch pop perfection. That metronome beat, shearing chorus full of shattering guitar, a Damned-esque gothic organ tone and the Richard Hell vocal hiccup within wormed its way to the center of my calloused heart. As the years pass if find a lot of their tracks sound better to me now than on the initial release. I suppose back then I just wasn't prepared to not have blown out R&B punk and ramshackle damage shoved into my ear canals. Had this A-side been paired with their "Chemical Imbalance" track offa 'Laced With Romance', it might've stood a chance towards edging out The Mentally Ill or Chicago Dogs as my favorite Illinois export. Good game, folks. And for what it's worth - I still dig those Hot Machines singles featuring Alex White a helluva lot.
Feast of Snakes - "Know Your Name" (self-titled 12" - 2002)
James Arthur is just as important a figure as Mick Collins in the ITR roster. Whether with The Necessary Evils or this fine, fine somewhat under the radar gem - his agitated strings are upper echelon and a defining sound to the label's catalog. In. The. Red. It's all spelled out, right in the fucking name. A double entendre. A.) Dangerous, paint peeling levels of guitar shriek that'd cause the average audio engineer - who believes that the Black Keys set a standard - to quiver and faint. B.) A label banking on the hopes and dreams that the few listeners with stomachs strong enough to handle such maligned racket will help move the appropriate amount of units to one day break even. Nowadays ITR could probably change it up to In The Black, but back when James Arthur was toppling the roost, there were only a scant few willing to help fill the label's dirty socks full o' change to be dropped in a Coinstar machine. Feast Of Snakes were a short lived monster. A double whammy guit-fit featuring slide attack and heated shout doled out by Blacktop's Alex Cuervo alongside James Arthur's hateful and aggressive southern kill. The grisly riff meat this dynamic duo slung about has rarely been heard, felt or chewed upon since. It could take down giants. In some ways, Feast Of Snakes seemed like an extra fucking punk appendage cut from the King Sound Quartet's soulful hand, wrapped in butcher paper and left to rot outside whatever NA the Necessary Evils met up at. Listen to this. Go to church.
Watery Love - "Face The Door" (Decorative Feeding LP - 2014)
My most listened to track of 2014. Dunder-headed chunder built upon a Brainbombs spine and a Stooge-esque riff, ad infinitum. The straight forward vocal bark reminding you not to be a putz. You got beef? Tell it to my face. "Unlike you fucking dickheads - I welcome death". I hope I can afford to have this engraved on to my tombstone. But until that final moment arrives, we should all ban together and plaster this sentiment upon billboards across the highwayed plains of America. Whether a shit week or shit day or a shit hour - Just drop this sucker on the turntable and instantly cleanse the slate like Calgon. Go on to live another day without punching a single motherfucking thing. All I hope for from modern noiserock is filtered into this one song. A perfect Aussie scuzz anthem that isn't Aussie at all. Did I mention folk songstress Meg Baird used to play the skins in this irritable mess? Amazing. My knuckles have almost healed. Thanks, Watery Love.
Necessary Evils - "Alcohol" (The Sicko Inside Me LP - 1999)
Have I mentioned James Arthur?
Out of the sad, tragic demise of The Beguiled came this one shimmering light. Cathartic perhaps, but call The Evils a positive anything would just be wrong. They were an unholy terror onstage and a deviant disaster off. The Evils had a way of utilizing power-tool instrumentation with grotesque hellscapes and glopping it on top the meanest of the old Midnight Records sounds. Thick with sheets of feedback and fuzz that even an early Jesus & Mary Chain fan couldn't wrap their head around, the Evils' prime cuts would complement 8mm snuff flicks with ease. The stories you've heard are true. People have been harmed in their presence. They were a legend to fear, just like the Boggy Creek Monster. If I had to distill their discography down to one tune - I can't. But I will say tracks like "Play With Fire" and "Alcohol" frazzle nerves like three 'Rockin 'n' Reelin'-era Cramps LPs spinning simultaneously yet outta sync. Gravel throat-ed rump shakers for those roadkill addicted stripteasers who are off bumping, grinding and goo-ing away in backwoods toolsheds. When I feel like ruining my relationship with all mankind, I throw their "Buzzsaw" 45 on the deck - a staple of my DJ sets. I don't get many DJ sets. You're all damn lucky that ain't on YouTube. So here's "Alcohol". As good a place as anywhere to start.
The Oblivians - "Static Party" 7" (1994)
I was working at a Tower Records in 1994 and burrowed deep in the trenches of Jon Spencer, Boss Hog and a slew of other AmRep clobber like Unsane. A co-worker caught me on an afternoon 'Extra Width' binge and declared that I needed to hear The Oblivians straight away. "They'll mess you up" he chuckled. I purchased their first Sympathy 10" sound unheard (because - boobs). They were bottom heavy as hell, with no bass in sight. Hairy 60's style bangers rooted in a Diddley stomp and stripped to a simple Ramones punk desperation to rock. An appalling pummel to most - much like The Cheater Slicks - you either get it or you get fucked. The Oblivians hit on so many base, neanderthal levels in me that I was a lifer from that first spin. Being as I was a 22 year old going on infant, the knuckle dumb sentiment of "I'm Not A Sicko, There's A Plate In My Head" or tracks as blunt as "She's A Hole" spoke to me in spades. The Oblivians often scored low on the subtlety meter. But this isn't about the Crypt or Sympathy releases, is it? This is about the Static Party single. The title track is a perfectly plastered, belched up "Tequila" frat rocker. "And Then I Fucked Her" returns as well, willing to wrestle GG for the offenso-rock title belt. "Never Change" may be simple and repetitive, but it's still an A-class specimen of wreak & roll. A great 45 all around, with the individual members coming together in top form like the biggest, baddest Voltron robot of garage punk-dom. Bonus points are achieved for whoever's Mercury Comet is featured on the sleeve. Here's also an amazing live video of "Static Party" featuring a pickled introduction by ITR label alumn Ben Wallers. It rules.
Andre Williams - "Everybody Knew" (Silky LP - 1998)
"Pussy Stank" is the undisputed champ of the Silky LP - I'm not going to argue that. A greasy and gutted Booker T gone south rump-shaker that would've earned a coveted slot in Lux Interior's 45 fire box had it arrived forty years prior. Having Mick Collins and Danny Kroha dust ol' Andre off and shove him into this madness was a stroke of genius. 'Silky' plays out like a X-rated party nightmare, fueled on Boone's Wine and spinning near the brim of hell. But the two tunes that build me to a froth are deeper in these here grooves. The mind-melting, piss fueled Screamin' Jay Hawkins-like rant of "Everybody Knew" and the scrap yard clangor of "Bring Me My Car Back Unstripped". Neither are for the faint of heart or ultra-sensitives out there, so consider this your trigger warning. "Everybody Knew" blares a bare-boned backstory about cheating spouses, burning beds and foul cunnilingus set to Mick and Danny's feedback soundscape. If Rudy Ray Moore had recorded this, it'd been done for laughs - but Andre sounds so frazzled and furious by the end, you'd expect all wrongdoing relations in his lifetime to have rushed out and filed restraining orders. Sheer terror. As for "Bring Me My Car Back Unstripped" - it just got edged out on this list, but worthy of note because it's obviously influenced by the "Schlock Rod" tune I spoke of in the intro, a million plus paragraphs back. Andre again howling over what most would barely consider a song comprised of bass, amp hiss and the botched time clank of car parts. From a guy who considers Pussy Galore's first EP and the Hospitals high water marks of punk rock, it's really not so difficult to connect the dots.
Bassholes - "Interzone" (When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again LP - 1998)
Don Howland has a way with under-fidelity recordings that few can achieve, let alone comprehend. The man made a Germs cover sound moldy - like a trunk rotted and warped 78rpm - and the world's a better place for it. I'm glad I got to witness the Bassholes creaky porch stomp and holler first hand, even if it was by total mistake. They opened some awkward Seattle bill in the early 00's and the local press listed them wrongly as the Bass Heads. Being as though it was their only West coast jaunt in The Bassholes one hundred year existence, there were so many rightfully bummed garage-niks the following day. The Bim years focused the band away from moonshine swillin' hillbilly shamble to a more rock solid backbone and their monstrous double 'When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again' pulled their production quality out of the wet paper sack. Frantic harmonica fronted blasters like "Microscope Feeling" and the Blue Ridge tumble of "Virginia Valley Blues" shoulda/coulda gotten the Bassholes a big break - or at least helped them plow over the lily-white Clapton-plays-Coachella snoozefests that pepper the big stages. Since we don't live in bizzaro world, we shall cling dearly to our dirty little secret and let the edgy alternatives continue to siphon shit through a coffee stirrer. Here is one of my faves - a rollicking, great harp-punked take on Joy Division, reinventing a Warsaw track that was already a tribute to the Stooges in the first place. Sure, that seems stupid, but here we are in 2016 and it's the only Ian Curtis related song I still own.
Black Lips - "Sea Of Blasphemy" (Let It Bloom LP - 2005)
You know that scene in Lars Von Triers' "Antichrist" where a bedraggled fox is found in the shrubs, noshing on its own disemboweled guts? The tattered beast stops eating long enough to give Defoe a dead stare and whispers "Chaos Reigns". Add a gif of that here. That sums up the early years for The Black Lips, succinctly. I fell under their spell as much as most of you turkeys. Early on these obnoxious tots lost their older and perhaps wiser muse (Ben Eberbaugh) when he was struck down in a car accident. Most teen groups would've probably packed it in. The Lips opted to throw up a toast and carry the torch forth. Youthful, reckless abandon hardly even begins to describe the bloodshed, badmouthing and buckets of vomit that transpired during those early national tours. Barely legal and barely upright, these remaining whirling dervishes plowed onward to create a surprisingly extensive catalog of Back From The Grave inspired savagery. All the more shocking, since their first live set in Seattle consisted of a 20 minute drunken tuning session that devolved into a cover of "Shut Down". But that was part of the charm, wasn't it? Watching them combust, scissor kick naked and play guitar solos with their mid-urinating pricks never let me down. A friend once said these early Lips shows were like hearing the 'Horror Stories'-era Dwarves getting played during their 'Blood, Guts & Pussy'-era reign of terror. That works for me. When all the violence settled and the piss mist dissipated, this teen angst trainwreck came out on top, peaking with 'Let It Bloom'. Moving towards flowery and more psych leaning pastures - though the pasture was still littered with broken bottles - 'Let It Bloom' features some of the finest moments of this ilk since The Troggs or The Seeds were selling out the VFW halls. King Khan's production work on "Sea Of Blasphemy" is a spot on six-six-sixties sound that few outside Greg Ashley's Mirrors could hold a candelabra to. A minute and a half of perfect acid punk, featuring middle eastern influence, shattered glass and a couple of well-placed screams. It's best to take in all the beautiful flourishes before the brown tabs soak in. I could go on and rant about all the awful, new-school garage blands and watered down pop mulch that has followed in their wake - but I'm not really here to slander. Every music scene eventually eats itself and regurgitates lackluster results. These fresh faced brats can continue to sit on my lawn, wear their sideways trucker hats and tropical patterns in tribute. I'll just sit in my damp basement, huffing fond memories.
The Gories - "Here Be The Gories" 7" (1991)
Have I ever mentioned The Gories were on my wedding cake? I was instantly hooked on this band from the moment I spotted the 'I Know You Fine...' sleeve in the Seattle LP bins. Mick Collins towering over a long since shuttered Goldblatts building, dead front and center. The Gories were unparalleled then and still are. Bouncing between bucket-scrape R&B belters fueled by a sharp suited black mod motherfucker and that yowling 60's grind coming out of a tiny Van Morrison clone - they shit blew my damn brains. Mick and Dan had just enough loosey-goosey guitar chops and attitude to make you forget that Peg was almost playing that one beat for their entire discography. This is not a dis. Her simple beat was a steady jackhammer to the senses. A sparse, industrial thump, reminiscent of the factory grime Detroit was built on. Bo Diddley made a career around one beat. Chuck Berry never strayed far from his chosen path, neither. And that, my friends is some good company. The "Here Be The Gories" single was one of only two 45's of theirs that eluded me through most of 90's. A friend was nice enough to score me a copy while out on tour (Thanks Derek!) sometime around the new millennium. "Telepathic" takes primal simplicity to a whole new level and Danny's vocal performance is top notch. The flip is a fevered cover of "Hate" by The Stoics and that was one of the best finds from the Pebbles-era of punk. As with all The Gories records, essential.
The Hospitals - "Friends" (self-titled LP - 2003)
This record is pure gorilla bash, bordering on non-music - but what would one expect from an LP sleeve looking like the bastard offspring of the Dead C and Hairy Pussy? The blues as played by self-affirmed blues haters. Larry Hardy was a brave soul to unleash this heap upon the masses. The debut Hospitals album is the infected welt, rubbed raw on the ass of the-two piece rocker motif. Tales of them sharing stages with Modey Lemon - or getting stuck on bills with knock off White Stripes clones - seem unfathomable, but are terrifyingly real. I had a life affirming moment at an early Seattle Hospitals show. Rob Vasquez's Right On was performing at Zak's Fifth Avenue along with The Hunches - who I had yet to see - and the green gilled original Hospitals line-up of Adam Stonehouse and Rod Meyer was first to bat. Vasquez seemed shocked that I hadn't heard of them, even though I was pretty sure they'd only played here once before. He just shook his head and gave me that crooked grin. "Aw, man. - yer gonna love this. They are BARBARIC" Now that's a word that rarely gets used outside of thrash metal and UFC bouts. Really? It's just two lanky dudes - how ugly could it get? I stood with two of my bandmates along the front of the drum kit as Stonehouse creaked into action. Rod's feedback rang out on top of the somewhat scattered and lazy opening beat of "I'm Invisible". Confused by the barely there, Royal Trux dopehaze happening before me, I felt as if I was getting played. Then - without warning - Rod stomped a trigger that fired up two additional amps sitting on the side of the stage. I'd assumed it was just The Hunches gear haphazardly placed in a rush to get the show started. Nope. The chorus of that tune hit like teeth on concrete. Adam swallowed the mic so he could free up his hands to violently bludgeon the floor tom and snare into dust. A wall of white-noise guitar sliced through the crowd in these tsunami size waves. My brain was as soupy as watered down grits in a boiling over saucepan - or something else rife with hyperbole. A sound that cleared bowels and weaken knees. This was the fabled Human Being Lawnmower. Beleaguered gear, constant frustration and one armed drumming assaults. Multiple line-up changes and conflicting attitudes ground the act to a halt as the 00's rolled to a close, yet somehow I managed to harness them at a peak to play my wedding party. Yes. Re-read that last sentence. My mother was there. She country line danced to their cover of "Rock & Roll Is Killing My Life". That's better than forty years of Unchained Melody sucking up the isles.
Here's my fave track from their first LP - a fine temper tantrum that goes by "Friends".
Reigning Sound - "Drowning" (Too Much Guitar LP - 2004)
Jumbled among my love for brutal bombast, hammer damage and aural horror comes this organ fueled slice of southern Americana. After a couple of Reigning Sound LPs that seemed to lie near the Byrds side of the track, 'Too Much Guitar' fidgeted about like it had a bee caught in its bonnet. Released not long after Greg Cartwright spent time touring and recording with the Deadly Snakes, this LP shows some of that edge. Easley Studio strips back the sheen and Jay and Alicja capture the frantic side of their soulful, near do-wop, rip and snort magic. As close as we get to a perfect modern rock n' roll album, right here. Fuck punk. I'd go as far as to say this LP is as strong as 'Sticky Fingers'. At least Greg knows better than to subject us to that Santana-infused "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" drivel. Everybody wins. It hurts me to not have room on this list for his The Deadly Snakes collaboration, but I'm gonna have to take a stand for "Drowning" - since I can't think of a better toe tapping song about suicide that still leaves me with a smile on my face. Crack a beer. Aces.
Human Eye - "Episode People" (elf-titled LP - 2005)
What if Stiv Bators joined up with the Magic Band after Van Vliet went off to paint crows in the desert? What if the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu never broke free from the Tombs and opted to go the Chrome route? What if - What if? This self titled LP was the proof in the puddle that something wicked was just around the bend. Released moments after The Piranhas' wackadoo 'Piscis Clangor', it didn't seem like anything could be more freak-flag than that. That was a terrible assumption to make. Human Eye was the frying, free-form space junk to the Piranhas troglodyte prog affairs. A near Residents stage show featuring all of Helios Creed's f/x units and some Hawkwind to spare. Punk was always a safe haven for the art outsiders, so why not make room for the occasional tuba solos? How much seafood was pilfered for destruction on those US tours? Some may argue, but I feel that Human Eye had yet to stretch their webbed digits to full potential. Still, the gestating embryo on display below shows off some of their finest moments of that time. "Episode People" is a great example of splattery cyberpunk perfection, complete with aforementioned Beefheart damage and xylophone. When the warbly guitar kicks into overdrive towards the end, it's like getting vacuum sucked through a wormhole. Time. Does. Not. Exist.
Black Time - "Days Are Too Long And The Nights Are Too Short" (Double Negative LP - 2008)
Black Time literally came from nowhere. Their debut was reviewed heavily by all the right hype-heads, giving it raves that I fell for - hook, line and sinker. Sadly, I didn't get it. I mean, I got it - their references of Crime, The Monks, etc. were basically stapled to their foreheads - but I just wasn't ready to latch on. I purchased and purged that record twice in a year, but it wasn't until their endless barrage of 45's came rushing down the sewer pipe that Black Time finally pricked my ears. They were the perfect singles band, with each short-player riding on a theme usually based around some scattered beatnik poetry and the French New Wave. The third time's the charmer in their long players though, as 'Double Negative' secured a cush and comfy spot next to The Hunches 'Exit Dreams' as the full lengths to fight for in 2008. Dark, messy and agitated punk that artfully threads together refuse bin Link Wray, the Dave E. sneer, dub elements and even some Kill Rock Stars twee seamlessly. Tracks like "Repulsion" are a 4-tracked nightmare, breathing and dissipating within an atmosphere creep so thick it builds up like London fog. For all the grotesqueries on display, there's yet a calmness of space between Black Time's abrasiveness. Room to gasp and then peek around the bend, unsure of what'll happen next. What isn't played within a song can be just as important as any chords or drum fills. The rollicking country tinged swagger of "The Days Are Too Long..." smacking up against the bratty sustain of its chorus is one of the many great moments on 'Double Negative'. I dunno' how to explain it any better - just listen for yourself. Later I can tell you about the time I re-scored Goddard's Weekend to my Black Time collection.
The Hunches - "Street Sweeper" (Exit Dreams LP - 2008)
My love affair with the Hunches is deep and well documented. It's roots were planted on a 2002 trek to Portland for the first anniversary party of (The shock! The horror!) The Suicide Girls website. I had a carload full of friends, girlfriends and fellow perverts that came along from Seattle with plans to stay the weekend. A local buddy of mine arrived at the venue pre-show to have a few rounds, but he had to cut out before the event started. Evidently his old roommate - a member of the Flip Tops - was playing with his new outfit. We didn't budge (again - boobs), said our goodbyes and waited for the eve's entertainment to begin. Burlesque or not, the fact that we collectively endured the warm up act for three whole songs was a quite a chore and I still feel like I deserve a purple heart for the incident. (No need to name names in fear of a shit storm of hate mail from their rabid fan base.)We shuddered off to the back bar to drink some of the pain away. The next band was mildly more palatable, but the liquor was clouding rational thought by this point. I barely remember witnessing any striptease, let alone bands - but I do remember my friend returning agape, shaking me to clarity and calling me a buffoon for not heading next door to witness The Hunches. His tale told of neck-breaking guitar antics, frontal crowd assaults and random oil drum bashing. Tack on the Crypt records meets Pussy Galore meets The Saints sound comparison and I was left deflated. If what he saw was anything close to resembling an industrial band running through The Pagans or The Dirtys songbook, I was now ashamed of my hormones for keeping me planted in this godforsaken room. I sure as hell wasn't gonna let any stripey-shirted, power pop puke or even a tasseled pasty stop me from catching The Hunches next time.
I popped my Hunches cherry at a The Funhouse a few months later. It was the same bill featuring Right On and The Hospitals I spoke of above. Perhaps it had something to do with me cracking my skull open on an overhead monitor halfway through their set, but it really felt like this band had shifted the Earth's crust. Hart's deep throated, marbled mouthed mic antics combined with Chris' overzealous guitar swings and off stage flailing felt dangerous, as if the bar patrons had to fend off an oncoming hobo assault. Chris would use his back as a battering ram against the crowd, keeping eyes on his amp at all cost while milking the guitar for every unholy squelch it was willing to bleat. Only Ben and Sarah's rhythm section seemed able to hold semblance. They would stay grounded as the other two tore off in their own realms. Every lackluster show I had endured was now forgotten - slate scrubbed clean by this one band. I woozily slurred on the way home, sopping dirt and blood from my head and proclaiming to my friends that the Seattle scene was dead to me. All I needed was The Hunches.
And so it began.
I'd make the three hour trek to Portland to see national touring acts, since The Hunches were a guarantee on every worthwhile bill. Not every Hunches show was on point. When they had a notorious off night, things could go so far south that even The Germs seemed to have their shit together, comparatively. I've watched Hart sit cross-legged and pick his toenails through torn converse when he should've been singing. I've watched as he scrounged through poorly placed purses and wandered into traffic to shout at passing vehicles. I've stood by and listened as he incoherently crooned nursery rhymes to ceiling lamps. I've once witnessed Chris smash so much gear during a set, all he had left to play for the last song was a stompbox jack and a shorting cable. None of this was lost on me. Bring it on. Do Damage. They were therapeutic. And when they were on - they were the best band of the decade. Their final tour proved the power they could bring to the table. One Sacramento house show I survived had near Altamont levels of surging tension. Watching them push back against an overstuffed crowd full of sweaty youths hopped up on cleaning products, I was unsure if I was gonna crack a rib on the teetering amps or wind up pushed through a picture window. The dining room had grown so rabid, these folks were willing to die by ceiling fan, just to witness The Hunches last stand.
And so it ends.
"Street Sweeper" takes the top award as far as I'm concerned. From their 2009 swansong - 'Exit Dreams' - this tune is the perfect melding of shoe-gaze melancholia and aching indie despair colliding abruptly against corrosive amp hum and probably the most obnoxious, childlike nursery-crime of a chorus since the Jazz Destroyers or Doc Dart were last active. I haven't even mentioned the Modern Lovers bridge or that guttural guitar anti-solo that's burped up and wheezing forth during the glockenspiel break. Yeah, that happens as well. Glockenspiel. All of this comes together perfectly, making very little sense how or why. In the end we're (I'm) left with the best song - not just from their catalog - but from the entire decade.
Pussy Galore - "Nothing Can Bring Me Down" (Live: In The Red LP - 1998)
Pussy Galore was a goddamn mythical unicorn.
Zine blurbs and reviews were a plentiful and they dripped off the tongues of every tastemaker band from Sonic Youth to Doo Rag, yet I never came across any PG platter in the wilds. It seemed that once you purchased Pussy Galore, you didn't dare hock it, even when the drugsweats kicked in. My love for metal scraping industrial battering along the lines of Savage Republic, Neubauten and Foetus was deep and the thought of that sorta' spark and grind pairing up with a teen angst proto-punk sneer had me drooling down the front of my gas station jacket. The day I finally fingered a used copy of the 'Corpse Love' CD, I was literally vibrating. That night during closing duties at Tower Records, I got the chance to blare it over the store's stereo - much to the cleaning staff's chagrin. I held my own, counting the register down to the feedback and growl of "Constant Pain" and re-filing stock to the pleasantries of "Kill Yourself", but when the random shuffle landed on "Spit N Shit" and that de-tuned guitar and piercing squeal lunged forth, I became physically ill. Like actually close to vomiting. That clump of dirt masquerading as music is still a rough ride. One of the most heinously disgusting sounds I've ever sat through. On Purpose. Twice again, that same night. I bought the disc - because management wanted it as far from the shop as possible - and I didn't even own a CD player. I borrowed a thrift-stored Discman just so I could play it. For the next couple of years, 'Corpse Love' was my exclusive soundtrack to enduring the stench of public transportation. What was once an unlistenable curio had become the only sounds that mattered. Now, if only I could find vinyl copies of the rest of their output. Had this budding new internets and fresh start-ups like eBay taken hold, perhaps things would've played out differently. Instead I scoured local shops to no avail, finding only the locally grown Sub Pop Tad split single and a couple inferior bootlegs. Flash forward three years and the clouds finally parted - 'Right Now!' and 'Pussy Gold 5000' shone down from the Retrospect Records rarity wall. Every piece to this scumrock/pigfuck puzzle fell into place at a slugs pace and the final chunk - Dial M For Motherfucker - landed in my lap in 1998. This joyous occasion was cut short due to finding out Matador was gonna' reissue the bulk of their recordings the following week. Well shit on me.
Off track? As always.
In the Red had nothing to do with any of this. But had the label cranked up in the 80's, Pussy Galore would have been the flagship attack against the Fuzztones, farfisa and the paisley Reich. ITR did jump at the chance to bless the world with an outstanding live document of PG's final show - 'Live: In The Red'. I actually forced my vacationing mother to run my sorry, car-less 25 year old ass out on release day to grab a copy. An odd time was had over a Boston Market lunch date explaining the immediate importance and purchase of such an abhorrent piece of trash. She's always been very understanding. With the exception of this line-up lacking Julie Cafritz, the sound quality was ace compared to the dodgy bootlegs I've had and it does feature one of my faves - an exclusive cover of The Twilighters "Nothing Can Bring Me Down". This might be the perfect exemplification of Pussy Galore's M.O. - actual 60's garage swill, wrapped up in sheet metal ping and frenzied industrial bedlam. They were a rock band struggling like hell to escape from underneath a mechanical grind.
Article by Rob Vertigo, 2016.GO BUY SOME OF THESE RECORDS here.
To read other TB stuff, go here. Interviews with Larry Hardy, The Hunches, Lamps, Intelligence, James Arthur, Black Time and more ITR related content. The foundation Termbo was built upon.