Monday, April 15, 2013

The Remains Of The Toxic Narcotic, Pt. 4: Complaints

The final part of the inventory clearout for what was to be my online punkzine, The Toxic Narcotic: A review of Bay Area New Punk behemoths, Complaints.

I've got no complaints about the complaints*
wherein tim demonstrates he really knows how to milk a bad joke....

 To use a cheesy, obvious opening: I've got no complaints about the Complaints*. (Aside from, "Why the asterisk in the name? And isn't there a capitalized definitive article in the name?" The mark of quality in any rock 'n' roll band name is a plural name with a capitalized definitive article: The Yardbirds, The Clash, etc. Unless you're Buzzcocks or the Sex Pistols. But I digress....)
*ahem!* As I was saying, "I'VE GOT NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE COMPLAINTS*!" These San Franciscans, featuring refugees from the Swingin' Utters and several other punk rock all-stars I can't remember off the top of my noggin and am too lazy to open up a web browser to look up, just issued (from what I can see) is a digital-only collection of four vinyl EPs' worth of smashchord punk goodness from across their history. It's as instantly classic and cohesive as Singles Going Steady or High Energy Plan or any other long-playing summary of previous shorter-playing highlights.
But yes, I've got no complaints about The Complaints! (Whom I've just decided to strip of their asterisk and grant them an honorary definitive article, as their name's the only complaint I have with them, as cool as it is, as it is!) I mean, they play punk rock the way I like it: Taut, lean, stripped-down, as energetic as jumping beans on a Jolt Cola-and-PixieStix bender, brimming with post-Thunders lead work and imaginitive two-guitar arrangements. And like the best vintage punk bands, they write high-wired, tough pop songs that are perfect otherworld hit records without any mush or wimp-factor. (A clue to their influences: The record closes with an aggressive take on Slaughter And The Dogs' “Cranked Up Really High,” minus the la-la-la's over the coda.) This could be 1977 or 2013 in The Complaints' world - it doesn't matter! This is young and fresh and wired and electric, and sends you into bedroom pogo hysterics that'll have the plaster fearing for its life! Isn't this what all great punk rock's about, aside from sweaty live energy?
Nah, I've got no complaints about Complaints*. (Alright! It's their name, I'll use it! Jeeze....) Bad Decisions And Cheap Rewards: The First Four E.P.s is as perfect a punk rock record as you'll find out now. Even the sleeve art, reproducing the EPs' fronts in a grid, looks perfect! If this were the old days and this on vinyl and I still owned a turntable, I'd be spinning this smooth, same as I did Never Mind The Bollocks and Singles Going Steady and Generation X. Dig the new breed, dad....

The Remains Of The Toxic Narcotic, Pt. 3: School Jerks

As noted earlier today, I've decided to go ahead and post the inventory I'd compiled for what was to be my online punkzine, The Toxic Narcotic. The cover and the opening editorial were posted earlier. Now I give you a review of the band whose record inspired me to start the mag to begin with, and who also inspired me to seek out The New Punk Rock Generation and revive "RADIO NAPALM." Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Toronto's School Jerks:

It turns out the sound of pissed-off modern youth is the sound of pissed-off 1981 youth!

Tim Discovers school jerks....

And what of the heroes of The Toxic Narcotic's debut issue? School Jerks are the very reason I'm doing this 'zine and relaunching “RADIO NAPALM.” They are energy and excitement incarnate. I know next-to-nothing about these guys, aside from their being a Toronto export and that they couldn't be older than we-just-hit-drinking-age. But a more potent burst of raw power hasn't been felt in these parts in many a year. It hit hard enough to make me quest to find a swingin' new punk rock generation. I found 'em. School Jerks are the tip of a hulking goddamned iceberg of punk rock goodness.
13 songs in 13 minutes, 12 inches revolving at 45 RPM. I don't have physical vinyl - I managed to score a digital copy. I have literally no information, even their names! I know they released three 7-inch EPs prior to this. Judging by the one I heard, Decline, those were stepping stones to this explosion.
Just sloppy enough to be fun, just produced enough for the guitar tones to be sharp and all instruments to be distinct, School Jerks is an ASSAULT. I couldn't begin to tell you whatever the hell the singer is singing, so unintelligible is his bratty bark. But he's ENRAGED about something! Nothing's overly distorted here - if anything, it borders on modern garage punk, except delivered at the speed of “Pay To Cum.” If nothing else, this may be what a Billy Childish record would sound like if he'd been raised on a steady diet of The Germs!
(GI) certainly sounds like a touchstone for these guys; you could easily file School Jerks alongside that, Damaged, Back From Samoa, Group Sex, and Hollywest Crisis. Yet this ain't Sha Na Na with a mohawk and combat boots! It turns out the sound of pissed-off modern youth is the sound of pissed-off 1981 youth! Brutal shit, and an instant classic! I really want to see these guys live, now....

The Remains Of "The Toxic Narcotic," Pt. 2: The Editorial

As noted yesterday, I've realized my plans to do an online punkzine may be too ambitious, given my current life activity. All that I would have done, in terms of the prose, now just becomes blog postings here. After all, the blog is the modern fanzine. The cover was posted earlier. Here is what would have been the first editorial:

I sit here, not wondering if a matchbox would hold my clothes ala Carl Perkins, but writing. Blasting from my hi-fi is a disc issued last year: The self-titled debut LP by a Toronto band, School Jerks. 13 songs in 13 minutes, on a 12-inch 45 RPM record, it sounds just like the sort of old school hardcore records that Really Red singer Ronnie Bonds (AKA U-Ron Bondage) used to play on his Sunday night punk rock show over KPFT in Houston, "Funhouse." We're talking a furious screech that wouldn't sound out of place stacked up on a turntable with The Germs' (GI), Black Flag's Jealous Again, or The Cheifs or Angry Samoans. More impressive yet, it was made by a bunch of guys who look like they're far from leaving their teens, never mind shaving.
I'm a professional freelance rock journalist, have been for years. I want to write about School Jerks. I won't be able to. None of the publications I write for will let me. My editors, if I dared approach them, would tell me none of their readers would be interested. That pisses me off.
I am, besides being a professional freelance rock journalist, also a lifelong musician and punk rocker. I've always done these things. I began in punk rock fanzine culture, doing one of my own in the '80s (Noise Noise Noise) for two issues, before moving on to contribute to fLiPSiDe and Your Flesh, among many others, then going professional in the '90s as punk invaded the mainstream in the form of alternative rock, becoming well-known as a writer for Alternative Press and The Austin Chronicle, plus other publications. The underlying whatsis driving me, though, was my love of raw punk rock and my punk roots, and my desire to expose bands I discovered and loved to a broader audience.
I quit journalism in 1997 to concentrate on making music with my band The Hormones. I was burned out, after a protracted period of strained relations with the Chronicle and AP and honestly thought I was retired. I also was tired of the lack of respect my musical side garnered because I was also a well-known rock journalist. These people obviously did not understand that, as fellow scribbler-and-rocker Lenny Kaye and I once discussed, my musical activities and my journalism were two sides of the very same coin: A desire to give back to a culture and way-of-life that had given me so much. I can now see that these people will never get it, and it's best for me to get on with it.
BUT...I have returned to the game just recently, after spending fifteen years only writing the occasional piece, usually if someone wanted an Iggy Pop interview, or if Guitar World wanted an oral history of the New York Dolls. And now I'm back with The Austin Chronicle, as well as doing interviews for the Rock 'n' Roll Dating website, making my living as a journalist. Which is fine and well: For the most part, I get to pick and choose my subject matter...
...for the most part.
Like I said, there's great new young punk bands I'm discovering, seemingly all at once. I want to write about them, but I wouldn't be allowed. And I want to write about them with raw enthusiasm, the thrill of the moment, in unrestrained language. I wouldn't be able to do that in my outlets, either.
So, it's time to truly return to my roots.
I'd love to cut-n-paste-n-Xerox a proper old school punkzine. However, I neither have the cash to do it nor the cash to lose on such a proposition. Still, I've been saying for years that blogs are the new fanzines: Technology allows instant publication and exposure to a potential audience of literally the span of the world wide web, something said proper old school punkzine distribution could not offer. This really is the original DIY/seize-the-moment/instant-access punk rock ideal finding its most full realization.
"When your culture abandons you, create your own." Trouser Press publisher Ira Robbins wrote that at the dawn of punk in 1977, and those have been the words I've lived by. Hence, Toxic Narcotic, an online punkzine, written and published by me, using and abusing the new technology. Toxic Narcotic: Written and published out of love, in raw language coming directly from the heart and the gut. This is how its done. This is punk rock.
Austin, TX
Feb. 4, 2013
5:59 PM

The Remains Of "The Toxic Narcotic," Pt. 1: The Cover Of The First Issue

Sunday, April 14, 2013

How It Looks, How It Is

Look her over:

Isn't she a beaut?

That, my friends, is a Vox ToneLab ST, purchased for fifty bucks off Craig's List, literally 1/4th what they retail for new. It's a digital amp simulator and multi-effects pedal with an actual 12AX7 tube preamp. Which means nothing to non-guitarists, I know. But this compact beauty accurately reproduces the sound of my old Marshall JCM800 50-watt amp I played through The Hormones. Hence, I'll be using this as a pre-amp and my new Fender SuperChamp X2 head as a tube power amp, and I have my old classic tone back! Which I have missed! Which means I'll be roaring, as The Hormones ATX (which the 2013 Hormones will now have to be called, just to avoid being the asshole who sics lawyers on punk bands) come back to life in the coming weeks. I'll be announcing a new lineup soon. Stay tuned.

Meantime, after my big fucking announcement a few weeks back I was starting a new online fanzine through Your Favorite Blog, I now can see I was overly ambitious, as always. I really have no time to add to my current project load, as cool as this idea is. I simply can't even do a quick-and-dirty layout, as shitty as I am with art programs. (I use GIMP2, because it's free, unlike Photoshop. Maybe that's the problem?) It's easiest just to treat my blog as my fanzine, on occasion, and post my non-publication reviews here. So, tomorrow, I will post the guts of what was to be The Toxic Narcotic right here. After all, a man has to know and respect his limits.

BTW, did you see my Willie Nelson piece in this week's Austin Chronicle? It was the cover story (as you can see below), and I think she turned out well. Read it by clicking on all this different-colored shit.

Finally, I got interviewed by a pretty cool Greek website called Think Baby Music. You can find the interview at all THIS different-colored shit.

Alright, I have to tune out and work on a Moving Sidewalks piece for The Austin Chronicle. (By the way, this would be a good cue for you to check out the smokin' Moving Sidewalks box set, out now.) I'll leave you with a photo chief Sidewalk Billy Gibbons hisself emailed me, of the current Moving Sidewalks backline! Drool, gearheads, at all that Magnatone goodness, not to mention the digital lava lamp Telecaster bass and guitar! Dig!

(pic: Sandrine Lee)

"RADIO NAPALM" Podcast # 3 is on the air NOW! At Mixcloud Radio!

Irregulars, we've been on-the-air with the 3rd episode of the "RADIO NAPALM" Podcast for 24 hours now. Yeah, I suck - I shoulda been more on top of informing you. My apologies. CAN still click that handy link below, IF YOUR HEART CAN STAND IT!!! We've got new music and classics both from Iggy And The Stooges, UK Subs, and The Replacements; new hits from The Lovesores (featuring Scott "Deluxe" Drake and Jeff Fieldhouse of The Humpers), School Jerks, Pink Smoke, and Kid Congo And The Pink Monkey Birds; classics from The Nuns, The Sex Pistols, Television Personalities, and The Undertones. Plus all the screaming, echo, and vintage commercials and jingles you can eat! And Ed The Engineer, Scooter my dimwit assistant, and I get into all manner of wacky hi-jinks, despite my inability to devise a plot line this week! 

So, click that link, open your speakers, and WAIL, baby! What are you waiting for? C.L. of Austin, TX., says "Awesome podcast, goes great with coffee." Hell, "RADIO NAPALM" boosts your coffee's caffeine efficiency by 500%!! CAN YOUR HEART STAND IT?!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Do You Have The Time To Listen To Me Whine? Green Day at ACL Moody Theater, 3/15/13

Nope. I've got nothing.
I reviewed Green Day's SXSW gig for the following day's Austin Chronicle. It looked good after editing, but I preferred what I originally wrote. Here's the raw, uncut review:

Green Day
ACL Moody Theater, Friday

It's 11:21 PM, Friday, 3/15/13. Mrs. Armstrong, do you know where your son, Billie Joe, is? If you're reading this Saturday morning, he's probably still onstage, exhorting, "C'MOOONNN, TEXAAAAAS! GET YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!!!"

Green Day 2013 is a very different band from Green Day 1993. That band pulled up to Emo's in a used bookmobile, loaded minimal equipment onto the stage themselves, and unleashed several short sharp shocks that suggested the Buzzcocks or Generation X with a bratty sense of humor. Then they encored with "My Generation" segued into "Jessie's Girl," chasing off the punkier-than-thou Chronicle reviewer. Dookie, American Idiot, rock stardom and punk rock finally going Top 40 in America were in the future.

Fast-forward to 2013. Green Day is now established as mega almost 20 years, and are still decidedly punk rock. But since the audience would now fill several Emos, the scale of everything gets bigger and more grandiose. Which does not mean they suck. Quite the contrary. It just means there's more space to fill, and farther seats to reach.

Green Day 2013 still acts like 19-year-olds who just discovered The Clash. They still stand as a united frontline, Billie Joe still whips himself into a Strummer-like frenzy, their songs still get arranged as a series of dynamic explosions. But now, in a theater as opposed to a grotty punk rock pit, things take a more Springsteenian scale. The quartet (longtime supplemental touring guitarist Jason White now being as official as Billie Joe, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tre Cool) now employs supplemental keyboards and yet another auxiliary singer/guitarist. Most songs get extended to epics of audience handclapping, drops in volume to induce singalongs, Billie Joe exhortations to "GET YOUR HANDS IN THE FUCKING AAAIIIRRRR!!!"

Yet the impish spirit of 1993 is not lost. Three times, Billie Joe drags audience members up: A young teen on "Know Your Enemy" rewarded with a sloppy Billie Joe mouth-kiss, then urged to stage-dive; a woman translating lyrics into sign language; another kid handed the mic for an off-key 3rd verse on "Longview," the first big hit (and again urged to stagedive). Somewhere in the middle, songs devolve into brief, Replacements-style snotty covers of "Sweet Child O' Mine," "Highway To Hell," the Isley Brothers' "Shout," even "Hey, Jude!" (I fully expected the return of "Jessie's Girl.") Then, somewhere in the middle, a familiar blue Japanese Stratocaster copy materializes around Billie Joe's neck: "I wrote this song in 1993. It's called 'Burn Out!'" Thus unleashing the hits which made them: "Basket Case," "Welcome To Paradise," all played (save "Longview") in the stripped-down/revved-up arrangements the world fell in love with.

Bite my lip and close my eyes. Take me away to paradise. Now on a tour bus, not a bookmobile. Green Day proves punk can be epic and fill stadiums, and still make you sneer and pogo. Just make sure to GET YOUR HANDS IN THE AIRRRRR!!!