The Haskels

Reviews

The Haskels Taking the City By Storm LP

Just to be clear, the first four songs on this record are an essential and mandatory dose of Midwestern US punk history. “Taking The City By Storm” is 134 seconds of hyper-speed power punk perfection that every punk should know inside out, and the rest of the single is…well, it’s perfect, too. So do you need an entire LP rounded out by six previously unreleased demo recordings from 1980 and three cuts from a 1981 live set? Simple answer: definitely. The demo cuts show a band settling into their own just a few short months after forming—just one would-be single after another, from the JAM-tinged mellow number “In Between Girls,” to the pub rock stomp “You Got to Be Kidding.” And the three live tracks show a band that was so undeniably huge…more nuanced than the simple burners that dominated their only vinyl release, more advanced than the KBD comps that cemented their status as an important fixture in the world of trailblazing North American punk rock. Maybe they would have become something else had the band survived—tracks from the demo session hint at a band geared to stand alongside the JAM, COSTELLO, etc.—and maybe they would have reformed and rehashed an adult version of their genius had the members survived. But the band didn’t, the members didn’t, and instead we have these songs. And, as stated earlier: they are perfect.

The Haskels The Haskels LP

A lost album from first-wave Milwaukee punks the HASKELS, originally recorded in 1979 and just now seeing the light of day! The fact that these recordings even survived is something of a minor miracle, as the master tapes apparently had to be baked in a convection oven twice in order to restore their quality to a level sufficient enough for this LP to happen, so some thanks to the powers that be are truly due here. The basic HASKELS sound was a decidedly Midwestern translation of proto-punk grit, glam-tinged snarl, and power-pop hooks, marked by the sort of sardonic sense of humor that was shared by all sorts of Rust Belt weirdos from the era, from the ELECTRIC EELS to DOW JONES AND THE INDUSTRIALS. Guitarist Presley Haskel and bassist Richard LaValliere traded off on songwriting and vocal duties, and the differences between their styles gave the band a really unique dual persona—Presley’s songs are generally the more straightforward ’70s New York/Detroit-influenced rockers with subject matter to match (“Baby Let’s French” is a better NEW YORK DOLLS song than any actual NEW YORK DOLLS song), while Richard’s tend to be more weird and surreal, definitely foreshadowing his post-HASKELS turn (with HASKELS drummer Guy Hoffman) in the skronky art-punk trio the OIL TASTERS in the early ’80s. Yet another classic in the long lineage of warped Midwestern punk; real freaks will recognize.