Illustration by Ben Lyon

Garbage Can...in which one lucky reviewer get to sift through the dregs of the TB head office and see what comes up. Will it be their lunch? Or a hot new band that has slipped through the cracks? One lucky volunteer will be assigned the task of reviewing as much crap as I can stuff into a box. This installment's victim...Theresa "Hillside Wrangler" Smith from American rock'n'roll groups Homeblitz and Ballroom! Stay tuned to see who gets ten pounds of crap in a five pound LP mailer next...

Sore Subjects "Missing Link" EP

If Bacchus knew what kinda garbidge his name'd be put to I doubt he'd even have lent it to The Doors let alone the New York Times and furthermore he'd probably have offed himself in a cloud of fuckincense before anyone remembered him and certainly before meeting Greil Marcus. The Sore Subjects are a band you'd probably like if you still liked "fun" and if you haven't figured out already that most "fun" is just about as fun as fingerbanging a grapefruit with an infected paper cut or force-feeding ants to a hen then I'd heartily recommend this record as long as you've got a) tinnitus or b) penicillin. As for me, I'm still decades away from the day "fuck" becomes its own past participle but I'm already beginning to tap into the resentment that Heineken-clawed Peter Pan garage rockers staying up well past their bedtimes on trace amounts of Bolivian marching powder and imagined sexual tension feel for pint-sized leather-hatted garage splunkers bopping through the crowd like little Energizer bunnies fueled by mountains of shitty coke and IHOP nursing baby hangovers while they navigate a smoky wonderland of perfectly smooth Ikea-tight pussy liberated by Sonics records and daddy issues.

Now think about what would happen if those spurned and embittered striped-shirt grampses, instead of going home and washing their junk in the sink and falling asleep to Dragnet reruns, got together and shoehorned their suppressed rage into something worthwhile? It could very well be their Prague Spring. What if the striped-shirt king (who looks a lot like Lyndon B. Johnson with a bowl cut) acme-blasted his way through the Capitol rotunda using only a copy of The Brain That Wouldn't Die and a lollipop shaped like a vampire bat? It wouldn't be long before the Supreme Court was replaced by an ongoing grudge match between the Gravedigger V and the Morlocks and the White House got turned into a Frisch's Big Boy and instead of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial there'd be a 60-foot tall Bakelite statue of Gina Lollobrigida with records for nipples and Yellowstone National Park would become a drive-in movie theater and cell phones would be banned and Billy Childish would be pitching for the Washington Senators who'd all have to wear flasks and Beatle boots on the field and all public bathrooms would have a dedicated masturbation stall papered with vintage copies of Crawdaddy! and Pandoras press photos and it's all punishment for not having the erotic life-urge beaten out of you by drugs, disease, sex, work, poverty, insanity and loneliness before your septum disintegrates to the point you have to rip rails through a tampon applicator.


Distractions "We Were Better Off In The Rain" 7"

I'm allergic to minor 7ths, so I had to take this one bit by bit. First thought: Don't name yourself after a superior band, like everyone you know isn't wearing out their copies of 'Nobody's Perfect' nightly. That's just bad manners, especially if no one in your band has a name as excellent as Alec Sidebottom's.

Second thought: Considering that White Castle-scented candles sell like flatus-gorged life preservers on a sinking megaliner and people line up in margarita-parched droves whenever a new Applebee's opens in the heart of some suburban shithole, I really shouldn't be surprised that there exists a group of people predisposed to like anything that's the polar opposite of alpha-male Blackhawk Down neck towel rape rock even if (and especially if) it's upcycled n-th generation faux-naive sub-Allen Clapp infantilizing mope pop fumigated for sex like a Molly Hatchet tour bus is fumigated for pubic lice.

This record: the musical equivalent of adding lavender oil to organic baking soda for the purpose of aromatherapeutically scrubbing legions of sad unfruited sperm out of your tile grout without deforesting the Amazon. Actually, I have it on specious authority that twee dolts have a lot of sex, though, which is fairly surprising for a cottage industry where the men are fake gay and the women dress like the front of a 1950s Lego box meets a Shop Assistants press photo but I guess it's the same principle as ye olde Jacobeans smothering vaginas under layers of frothy crinoline and upholstery like bits of lox delicately sweltering under a triple plowing of Saran Wrap: keeps things interesting, or something. So interesting that each record should come with a bamboo-handled toothbrush and ball gag.

If you're still wondering how it sounds (why?), it's the kind of music usually characterized as "gauzy" or "gossamer" or even "diaphanous" (if yer nasty!), or any other of the approximately 1,022 adverbs pre-approved for describing what happens when urban wastrels tire of fucking and start etching monosyllabic genital epitaphs into vintage frosted glass nightlights in some kinda Disney-fried Trembling Blue Stars morality play where puppets knit toilet seat covers for UNICEF and drink each other's bathwater for kink and write love songs so catshit sissy they make Isn't Anything sound like Reign In Blood. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of these people aren't really living in frosty tree forts or playing flashlight tag or kissing each other in the rain or pressing daffodils between the leaves of their favorite large non-Biblical tome while they chew the cud of love affairs past-tense; they live in Ditmas Park and watch The Bachelor and throw parties where everyone dances to Pharrell. You didn't hear it here.


Poker "Boots and Booze" 7"
Trainsex "The Heart Of The State" 7"

Ever notice how some people can suck the fun* out of anything? European punk rock orthodoxy should have its own agony aunt just like the mid-century American hostess had her Judy Martin: a vetted, objective voice to adjudicate as to whether Johnny Thunders or Nikki Sudden was the more righteous junkie, or whether you should file a Heartbreakers LP under J, T or H (because no one on earth, not even the Pope or Lenny Kaye, is more important than Johnny Thunders.)

So, yeah, someone's gotta to address those sticky situations where aesthetic considerations become serious moral quandaries in the vacuum of anything else worthwhile to do or think about (aside from socialism and football) and besides, it might possibly even confine these questions and debates to a small corner of the universe (located somewhere between Milan and Bologna) because god knows neither you or I or anyone else needs to hear two adults argue about whether the Ramones were bubblegum for 4 hours. That argument's gonna get metaphysical, too, and you know it. Basic questions about identity, foreordinance, universality: the works. Rock took the place of religion pretty neatly in my life, but even I can't imagine pushing 40 and still caring what Richard Hell is up to, let alone buying every Mojo with a Bad Seeds article in it.

To help you (and myself) better understand the basic positions taken by the prototypical European punk rock nerd, I have prepared a small guide to understanding European Punk Rock Metaphysics:

click to enlarge
(click on picture to enlarge in another window for easy reference)

* "        "


Forced Fem "The Safe Word" 7"

This is what Type O Negative might've sounded like if instead of sending their demos to Dr. Demento they sent 'em to Doogie Howser. Peter Steele reads a 13-year old broad's poetry through a sperm-stiffened sweatsock while a serious dwarf painstakingly builds a ziggurat out of roach clips and childhood rape fantasies inside a pumpkin with walls for eyes. Meanwhile, prissy yet beefy guitar lines suggest excessive familiarity with Weird Sex which in grampa's day meant a trip to the boneyard via the back gate but nowadays probably means whuffing gash through a bespoke sheepskin dental dam to a soundtrack of '70s self-help tapes followed by pillow talk about peak oil and misandry. Or something.

For future reference, music like this should be committed to a handheld tape recorder placed in the middle of the room and the resulting mess treble-rodded through a cosmic veil of anarcho-hesherism until Peter Steele sounds like Jiminy Cricket and your kettle corn DOD leads are draped in dick-ouch like a Newsies rendition of "Sluten Psykiatrisk Vard" filtered through a limited-edition Randy Uchida electric scumbag. If it's not, a swat team of U.N. dominatrices repossesses your half stacks and redistributes them to Nigerian power electronics baseball thugs.


Black Mondays s/t EP

What is it with you Italians? First you crucify Jesus and then you invent fucking and irony and now you're making boring cod-deathrock that makes devil worship seem about as fun as copyediting a Charlie Stringer ad circa 1995.

Of the four Italians I know
One might be Australian.

It takes a Catholic
To make sex & drugs
About as fun
As reading
Thomas Aquinas
At the DMV.

If you met this band
They'd want to talk
About Johnny Thunders
And politics
But also might tell you
A very funny
About getting pulled over
While driving
In a van
Pig Champion.
You never know.

I wish the singer
Sounded more like
Peter Murphy
With a punctured lung
Shouting an order
Two inches
Of bulletproof glass
Crown Fried Chicken.

Who likes
This shit?
Catholic atheists
I guess.


The Beaten Hearts "Badlands" 7"

There's nothing really to dislike about this one (well, at least not much) and frankly I'm kind of charmed by the singer's Alice Cooper impression and the Saints cover doesn't suck so it gets a pass. But I feel bad about letting it go without the requisite amount of cryptogrouch you've come to expect from ol' gramma Hillside so here's a little poem to tide you over 'til next time:

The Critic.
(with apologies to Jon Lovitz)

Consider the unhappy lie of the critic!
Bound with ellipsis to tortured enclitic.
His station in life does but rankle and fester
Firmly affixed 'twixt the judge and the jester.
He racks his poor brain for a purposeful word
To unlock the sentence in which it's interred,
So he, with his chisel, hapless and blind
Can worry the cracks and crevasses of mind
'Til a pitiful slurry of alluvial prose
Cascades from his sinuses down through his nose
Drenching the pages on which it doth run
And he leaps from his sofa as he proclaims, "Done!"

So what if his station's unlovely and lowly?
Others leap forward, but he creeps forth slowly.
The darlings of science, mathematics and wit
Burn their wicks quickly while his remains lit,
While they stumble in umbra of mind's setting sun
By his stump of a candle -- he's only begun
To apply to the plenum of popular views
His stochastic palette of archival hues.
Encasing in stone the dynamic debate
between lovers of Chance and subscribers to Fate.
Be it aleatory or deterministic,
All music's the same in his narrow heuristic.
Unending cycles of claim and retraction
Conceal'd with veils of lofty abstraction.

Where multi-tiered metaphors tower and sway,
Bloviated by rank blasts of rancid cliche
Which bring on their wings strange migrating flocks
That settle on branches, their dissonant squawks
Breaking the still of that natural season
Sprung by his quill from the loins of unreason.

This invasive species is called "Punctuation"
Scourge of the scribe, bizarre infestation!
Perverse interdiction, the devil's campaign
His thoughts' wedded bliss, lies broken in twain.
Huddled together, they simper and cower
As tragedy strikes their connubial hour.

II. In The Editor's Lair.

Sage of destruction! Unearthly affliction
The quick and the dead of the fact and the fiction!
Line up in grim ranks, their transgressions weighed
As the editor inspects this macabre parade
And with his red pen scratches death on the brow
Of every proud adverb refusing to bow.
The most pliant of prose becomes stiff in his hand
(And ejaculates languidly at his command.)
He builds with his red pen a dungeon for clauses
With parentheses shackled, and riddled by pauses,
Wracked with slant spasms of italicized pain
As the torturer wreaks his mad legerdemain
By ellipsis parted, by brackets confined
Riddled with bullet points, then realigned.
Until every town, every hamlet and village
Flees under threat of adverbial pillage.

III. The Critic Answers.

So if you find my kind repulsive -- convict us!
For our contribution to cultural rictus.
Hyperbole, copia, false gravitas,
Delusions of grandeur, production of dross,
Short-sighted folly and far-sighted rambling,
Post-structural haze and adverbial gambling.
Putrid cliche and circumlocution,
Petty aggression and verbal dilution.
But never accuse us, the muses' meek minions --
Of the terrible conceit of having OPINIONS!


The Atom Age "Free EP" 7"

If it's called 'Free EP' and Paul Rodgers ain't on it, you don't want it. This one might as well be called "Cellular Suicide In A Warm Room With Various Amusements" because that's basically what's going on here.* I'm not sure I understand what irony is, or whether the word's anything other than a two-to-three-syllable self-referential social grail (lookit all those hyphens!), but if I wanted to bankroll a case study, I might've put out 'Free EP' -- gratis, of course. What's the double-diagonal between self-aware roofie punk, heart/sleeve bandanna-belt rock and male shower cap vocal slapback stooge-ism? And, assuming deux-diagonality, is it as valid in 2014 as it ever was-or-could-be (and that's to say, not especially?) I don't know. Too many levels of abstraction there.

After reading the lyrics sheet (a treat!) I decided that these guys were probably Euros based on the intriguing plumbing of lines such as "No more stuck behind the line" and "Scan deep for the hidden hit" but it appears they're actually from Oakland, CA, so kudos, guys, for managing to write lyrics of such "depth" and "complexity" they make the Dirtys sound like Robert Frost. It's not easy. I should know.


*Tangent: If I could rename bands/records according to my whims, Fleetwood Mac as Filthy Lamb sounds pretty good to me. Ditto for Foreigner as Balloon Belt Players, The Smiths as the Dago Funerals and Adam and the Ants as Th' Expensive Cock-Lizards, to name but a few.

Street Eaters/White Night split 7"

There are bands whose existence seems to be little more than a natural byproduct of rude health and excess physical activity, like ingrown toenails, or very clear urine. Street Eaters are one of those bands, and they don't want you to know it so they've manufactured some spleen and cynicism regarding the operation of the gov't of the U.S. of A. but it ain't enough to overwrite all the raw enthusiasm and weenoid life-urge so I'm not fooled for a minute.

I have a theory of enthusiasm, by the way. I think enthusiasm is an allergic reaction to the presence of a benign molecule called Life Sucks which affects approximately 9/10 of the world's population. Here is my rendering of what this molecule looks like:

Enthusiasm is produced when the host system perceives basic living conditions as a moral threat and responds with a discharge of histamines, which activates an immune response:

Symptoms of enthusiasm include (but are not limited to) political canvassing, power yoga, impromptu subway performances, mountain climbing, institutional zeal, zine publishing, sincere Devo covers and online self-promotion.

White Night: I don't remember what they sound like. But the above probably holds for them, too.


Magic Trash "The Way I'm Living" EP

I. Activity.

Choose a word from each column below:

Childhood touchstone
Item(s) found in Times Square circa 1975

II. Comment.

Speaking of pizza: While browsing various internet wank closets one afternoon, I discovered an academic branch of dad-friendly comestible-based /humor/ called Pizza Cognition Theory. The theory: the first slice of pizza ingested by a child becomes their lifelong pizza standard. Of course, it's completely inaccurate because wouldn't have shit like Greek cucumber-anchovy pizza with sweet fennel-ouzo glaze or gluten-free Morbier-and-pimiento slices topped with seared grass-fed buffalo cheek and served with blood orange truffle dipping sauce unless an entire fucking generation failed to imprint on mouthfuls of rancid roller rink pie shriveled to the size of a large Dorito under a heat lamp while 13-year-olds roller-humped to "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" behind Ms. Pac Man. Nevertheless, Pizza Cognition Theory got me thinking...

I call it: "Douchebag Impression Theory". The basic premise is the same: The first douchebag that makes a real impression on you becomes the prototype for all the douchebags you'll ever encounter. Figure out who that first douchebag was, and you'll gain a wealth of insight into your own bias and intolerance. "But Granny Hillside, this theory seems to violate exactly the same important empirical criterion that you pointed out in your response to the Pizza Cognition Theory just a moment ago!" OK, alright, wiseass. So it does. But consider this: We're rewarded with novel and thrilling pizza experiences for broadening our pizza horizons, while a similar sojourn into the wide world of asswipes, fuckfaces, jackoffs, shitheads and dickweeds leaves us ulcerated, pissed off and ready to elbow-drop anyone who doesn't understand the difference between hyper- and hypo- (and that includes you.) So there's your argument for dickwipe ontogeny epistemically recapitulating fuckface phylogeny, or something like that. Continuing --

Maybe you already know who your first douchebag was. Maybe you don't, in which case you gotta do a little excavation. Think back to the first time you ever thought, "Well -- fuck that guy!" Me: I was in the first grade. His name was David. He was an ingratiating little nerd with a speech quirk that made him sound like the world's worst Julia Child impersonator. He walked daintily, as if he were transporting a quail egg in his rectum. He was given to dramatic gestures and would often insert himself into the games or scenarios devised by other children, assuming a central role without having grasped the rules or specifications of said activity, causing confusion and ultimately resentment. David was, in other words, the ultimate bummer.

Now put David in the character equivalent of that Law & Order machine that computer-ages kidnapped kiddies and this is what comes out: David went to college, kissed some dudes, had a horrible shroom experience, bought a scooter, moved to L.A., is a feminist, texts his grocery lists to himself and does PR for Magic Trash. He's fallen in with his spiritual brethren: social stragglers whose ham-fisted attempts at likability adapt to the changing preferences of their peer group. Just to clarify, I am also one of these people. That's why I don't sleep at night.

GOD SAYS: D+. Sorry*, David. Sorry*, Magic Trash.

* Fuck you

That's it for this time. If anyone really wants any of this stuff, contact the editor, we're running out of room. And if anyone out there is foolhardy enough to want to become a full or part time garbage can reviewer, send your resume in.

To read past installments of Garbage Can go here.