We Got Ways #5: LÖGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN


June 10th, 2014 by

LÖGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN – Öron Näsa EP (555 Records, Slumberland Records)

Mimicking earlier eras is not merely a current trend in punk. The first band to transform DISCHARGE from an influence into a template was post-MOB 47 Swedish thrashers DISCARD, whose lone EP Death From Above was released in 1990, when I was just eight years old and you members of today’s DIS-bands were still swimming in your mums’ placentas. Mob 47 was, of course, an early popularizer of the Discharge sound — though they had not yet thought to fully plagiarize Discharge’s art and lyrics too — and is, along with ANTI-CIMEX and the SHITLICKERS, the holy trinity of what we have long-called “Swedish-style HC.” In other words, for hardcore to sound “Swedish,” it must ultimately sound like Discharge.

Except, like any other truism, this handy platitude helps us forget as much about Swedish hardcore as it helps us to understand. In the same year that Anti-Cimex was in the market for all the uranium you’ve got, a Swedish band called MISSBRUKARNA put out a tape called Krigets Gentlemän, while another Swedish band called ABSURD put out a now incredibly rare EP — so rare I would cheerfully hand over any of my internal organs in exchange for an original copy — called Blodig Stad. Neither Absurd nor Missbrukarna appears overtly obsessed with the Discharge template. Instead, both bands’ output is perfectly nestled in that heavenly space where “punk” and “hardcore” blur; their raw-yet-tuneful music helped create a cult-within-a-cult Swedish hardcore template of their own.1

Lognhals_EP_1

Fast-forward to 2008, when two friends-in-twee — Stewart from the noise pop institution BOYRACER and Martin from THE FAINTEST IDEAS — came up with the seemingly unlikely idea of forming a Swedish-style hardcore punk band. Just as enigmatic was the band’s mouthful of a name: LÖGNHALSMOTTAGNINGEN. When I first heard about the EP, I was full of questions. What did it mean that some pop heads wanted to make a Swedish HC record? Was it going to be D-beat? Was it going to be awesome? Embarrassing? Actually just a twee record? Another dull crust record? The idea started to make more sense after some internet sleuthing revealed that Martin is in fact a Swede long obsessed with classic Swedish punk and hardcore. And of course, I already knew that Stewart loves distortion. Intrigued by the incongruity of it all, and a P-NISSARNA reference in an online review, I sent off for their first EP Öron Näsa.

Fast-forward again to 2014, and Öron Näsa is still on regular rotation in the We Got Ways bunker. The record’s sleeve — a grainy jobber on various colors of paper — pulls off the classic DIY fucked-up-and-photocopied look almost too well, veering into slapdash territory. Meanwhile, the vinyl features the sound I crave most in this stupid world: raw, in-the-red guitar squealing, spastic drum bashing, and some crazy person shouting at me in a language that I don’t understand.

Lognhals_EP_3

For whatever reason, zillions more bands have been content to mimic the sound perfected by the Swedish HC holy trinity (to review: Cimex, Shitlickers, Mob 47) rather than to notice their bouncier, snottier cousins. Öron Näsa, on the contrary, is a rare contemporary record that captures the most delightful qualities of the Absurd school of Swedish hardcore. It is fast without being full-bore thrash, it is lo-fi and raw without being tuneless, and, like most of my favorite music, it is as much a punk record as it is a hardcore record. (And, unlike much post-Criminal Trap Swedish HC, it is never, ever, ever a metal record.) This is Swedish hardcore that — happily! — doesn’t even know that crust happened. There are songs for mixtapes on this EP, my friends.

There is absolutely no new musical ground broken on Öron Näsa. Still, the EP succeeds on the je ne sais quoi of two punks who seemingly couldn’t wait to get into a garage and bash out some primitive Absurd worship, and then press it in a too-small quantity with poorly photocopied sleeves. Maybe the sound isn’t new, but the feeling of the record is one of exploration, experimentation, and the having of kicks — and what is punk if not these things? — rather than the stultifying pretention of so many “cool” bands aiming to mimic popular sounds.

Listen to “Jävlar Igen” by Lögnhalsmottagningen:

By definition, treating an earlier band/sound as a template or overwhelming influence strongly lends itself to the creating of generic sounds2 but this doesn’t by definition have to lead to dreary and uninspiring music. We should applaud and not belittle any band that is capable of creating something great in a relatively limited framework. Because despite what the haters say, I am as convinced as ever that punk as a form is neither exhausted nor easily exhaustable. This is why we’re the punks! We don’t want to listen to experimental jazz prog!3 Still, so many bands that go the retro route are incredibly boring. Why why why but why?! As a fanatic of punk music, a 35-year old genre that largely comprises bands that sound like other bands, I have long been trying to put into words the razor-thin difference between good, life-affirming bands-that-sound-like-other-bands and boring, brain-numbing bands-that-sound-like-other-bands. Is it a matter of songwriting? A matter of perfecting the template? Pushing the boundaries of that template (without ever becoming a free-form band)? Honestly, after nearly two decades of listening to punk and hardcore, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. But perhaps another fifty or a hundred listens to Öron Näsa will help us figure it out together.

Lognhals_EP_2

Scum stats: 
One-time pressing of 300 hand-numbered copies with two different sleeve variations (the “man strapped to bed” sleeve and the “fighting roller derby girls” sleeve). 75 copies on white paper with hand-colored sleeves. 225 on colored paper (I’ve seen red, green, purple, and blue) with no hand coloring. Unsolicited opinion: the “man strapped to bed” sleeve is cooler looking.

Postscript:
Lögnhalsmottagningen has a few other EPs, and while all of them are worth a listen none of them reach the blissful perfection of Öron Näsa. Accept no substitute.

Post Postscript:
I briefly mention Totalitär in this essay. This is no accident. It is my belief that Totalitär’s unparalleled genius comes precisely from their ability to take the Swedish D-Beat school and blend it with the bouncier, punkier Swedish stuff. That is to say, Totalitär is a glorious amalgamation of both of the impulses in early Swedish hardcore that I discuss above. And, along with the Ramones, Totalitär is one of the bands to which I point to show that it is possible to be endlessly creative within a limited genre framework. That is to say, it is not in spite of their formal restrictions that Totalitär wrote awesome songs, it is because of those restrictions. I’ll just come right out and say it: it is my opinion that Totalitär is the perfect hardcore punk band. Stay tuned for an upcoming We Got Ways in which I review every single Totalitär record. Spoiler alert: they’re all ragers.

Listen to “Bodybuilder” by Lögnhalsmottagningen:

1This is not to say Missbrukarna and Absurd didn’t know or care about Discharge. One look at Absurd’s mushroom cloud art should dispel the notion that these particular Swedes were any less susceptible to the powers of Fight Back than the rest of us. Missbrukarna in particular got thrashier with every recording; their first songs (from a 1980 split EP with a band no one cares about called Panik) are pure punk, while some of their final songs are clearly more in line with those of other early international HC bands that worshiped at Discharge’s studded altar. To be sure, Missbrukarna’s recorded output doffs its cap at Discharge more than once, a fact that TOTALITÄR noticed — and mimicked — better than any band. Perhaps my point would be clearer if I merely stated that Missbrukarna and Absurd cannot accurately be described as D-beat bands, their songs are often bouncy (rather than “pummeling”), and their vocals never hint at the gruffness that bands like SVART PARAD and BOMBENFALL would later make synonymous with the Swedish sound.

2That is to say, sounds of a certain genre.

3Except for when we do, but I’m not here to talk about that.

[Thanks to KBD Records for the MP3’s!



We Got Ways #4: SIN ORDEN


February 21st, 2012 by

SIN ORDEN – Brutalidad Junvenil EP (Lengua Armada Records)
Released: 2000

It occurred to me recently that for the young teenage mutant just getting into DIY punk, LOS CRUDOS’ existence as a band is as far in the past as BLACK FLAG’s was for me when I first got into hardcore. The ’90s, while still much maligned by punks1—for reasons both good and bad—are now two decades into history. As hard as it is to believe for those of us who remember them live and in the flesh, the marching on of time has transformed Crudos from a furious new sound annihilating the (then) stale HC scene, into a band from way-back-when whose records you have to search for on eBay or steal from your older sister in order to have. Of course, whether ones relationship to Crudos was formed when the band was still around or through a hand-me-down tape, used record, or fileshare, time has definitively spoken: Los Crudos is one of the absolute greatest punk/HC bands ever.

It would be difficult to exaggerate Crudos’ impact on my punk coming-of-age. I had read about hardcore breaking down the walls between audience and band; Crudos showed me how cathartic that could be with their red-hot live show. I had heard about the do-it-yourself ethic; Crudos showed me how cool it could be to hold a record in my hands that had literally been constructed by my favorite band. I craved punk music that could speak to my emerging political and intellectual ethos; Crudos showed me that a band could be fiercely political but not sloganeering. Indeed, despite all of the shit talk from some subsequent punks on how the ’90s were “too political,” the predominant politics of the day were often little more than a smug blend of holier-than-thou moralizing and irritating liberal angst. Worst of all, it seemed like everyone else had decided that they should give a shit cuz they read it somewhere in a book (or record insert). I felt extremely alienated by just about everything, and I related to none of that navel-gazing bullshit. As far as I could tell, neither did Crudos.

It would be similarly difficult to exaggerate Los Crudos’ influence on the DIY punk scene in general. When they first emerged, the number of people interested in raw international hardcore was microscopic, as the vinyl detritus produced by the tiresome decade-long beard-core trend can attest. Even the other cool USHC bands of the era couldn’t quite boast Crudos’ thrashing ferocity; HIS HERO IS GONE was basically a crust band with melodic (dare I say emo?!) proclivities, BORN AGAINST was more-or-less an Articles of Faith rip-off band with a Crucifucks sense of humor, and what the fuck was up with all those skits on the ANTISCHISM LP? In any case, none of these bands could honestly boast WRETCHED, IMPACT, or ATOXXXICO as their major sonic influences.

I have heard a myth repeated that Crudos created a Latino punk scene out of thin air by singing in Spanish, but the truth is that there have probably been more Spanish-speaking punks than English-speaking punks the world over since approximately punk year zero. Crudos didn’t create Latino punk in the US (they would have been the first to tell you that), but they did help publicize a network that—in large part because of their efforts—no longer toiled in relative isolation.

Despite their prodigious impact across the DIY punk world, Los Crudos was perhaps most influential in their own city. I don’t think that it would be too much of an exaggeration to say that, along with Naked Raygun, Crudos is the definitive Chicago punk band, the Effigies, AoF, etc. be damned. I know a good number of kids from Chicago – brown, white, black, whatever – who proudly claim that they wouldn’t have gotten into punk rock the way that they did without the influence of the crude ones. To this day DIY punk shows in Chicago—north and south side alike—boast more Crudos shirts than I see anywhere else in the US; Chicago just wouldn’t have been the same without Crudos, and Crudos wouldn’t have been the same without Chicago.

***

All of this circumlocution brings us to SIN ORDEN, who in 2000 released their first EP (Brutalidad Junvenil) on Lengua Armada Records, a label run by Martin Sorrondeguy of Los Crudos fame. Based in Chicago’s south side (also home to Crudos, of course) Sin Orden was at the time a bunch of teenaged Latino boys playing in their first ever band. Now, I have no way of knowing how many kids worldwide Crudos has inspired to pick up instruments and thrash ‘til death, but Sin Orden undeniably began as a Crudos worship band in a scene that had equally undeniably come to view Crudos—who broke up in 1998 after seven years as a band—as big brothers.

At the same time that Sin Orden was honing their chops, a revival of the straightforward hardcore approach of the early ’80s was being championed in a DIY HC scene finally over the excesses of emo. The millennium hit, and these bands (What Happens Next?, DS-13, etc.) started wearing bandanas, playing fast HC again, adopting some ’80s aesthetics, and being called Y2K thrash. Because they played fast hardcore in the year 2000, Sin Orden’s first EP was often — erroneously, I think — lumped in with this trend. Why was this classification an error? First of all, Sin Orden was not a self-consciously retro band. Secondly, they didn’t fit in with either the aesthetics or goofball sensibilities of the major West Coast (US) Y2K thrashers, or with the more brooding East Coast bands, many of which were self-consciously rocking a Black Flag vibe. Sin Orden was a serious thrash band, but not one whose major self-expression resulted in the dour manfeelings vibes of bands like Tear it Up.

Now, this first Sin Orden EP did not go unappreciated in its day. It sold out quickly, and I remember it got great reviews at the time. It was often either compared to Crudos or some Y2K band, and most of those comparisons were certainly favorable if not downright excited. And, over the years, Sin Orden has gained a cult following—and one MRR cover story—that could have some arguing that they’re not underrated at all, especially compared to some of the other bands I’ve written about in this forum. Still, looking back I think that the constant comparisons to other bands and the deluge of fast hardcore bands that emerged when the millennium hit meant that, for some, Sin Orden’s first EP got lost in the shuffle.

I can’t believe how infrequently I hear people reference Brutalidad Juvenil. So I will talk about it here. You want to know what I think? I think that Brutalidad raised the bar for how good some random Midwestern teenage hardcore record not from the ’80s could be. This record is not just a period piece; it stands along side the classics. We’re not talking a pretty good band that gets overlooked. We’re talking about an all-time band that needs to take its place on the HC pedestal. Reader, it you are not slamdancing when the needle hits the first groove on this 7”, you are probably not into this kind of music.

Here’s the thing: from day one Sin Orden was—and they probably remain—the best band directly influenced by Los Crudos. But they have never been “just” a Crudos ripoff band. Maybe some old timer who saw their first shows can remember when they were just a “little brother” band, but by the time Brutalidad was recorded, these students had become hardcore masters. And two EPs, two split EPs, and an LP later, they remain masterful punk elder statesmen that some (smart!) young kids are probably trying to emulate as I type. I hope by now that it’s clear that my long intro about Crudos is not meant to further place Sin Orden in Crudos’ shadow, but rather to remind us all about how rock ’n’ roll history is made and then transformed. One band influences another by shaking up an old formula—I mean, no one thought ’80s style hardcore would be made relevant again in the ’90s, and then again in the 2000s—and both bands add enough spark and originality to the formula to make us listen afresh. The cycle continues unabated.

If you’re not yet convinced, just listen to the cyclone-like ferocity of the guitar riff on “Perro Mundo” and tell me that it doesn’t rip. Sin Orden has got everything working on Brutalidad; the caustic vocals are completely unhinged and furious, the guitar sounds timelessly catchy but raw, the lyrics are charming and insightful, and the songs are memorable stompers through and through. (For those of you familiar with the records Sin Orden released after this first one — I don’t think the second EP came out until ’06 or so — I should note that the songs on Brutalidad are not as lightning fast as what that band came to play, but that only helps the riffs stand out all the more.)

And you know what? Sin Orden has been playing vicious, intoxicating thrash for a decade now. Their records are all stalwarts in my collection. I’ve seen them play in both New York and Chicago and they’ve torn it up in both cities to sweaty and appreciative audiences. As far as I know, they are never not good live. But there are a lot of you out there not yet worshipping at the altar of this band. What the fuck are you waiting for?

(Scum facts: 1000 pressed: 900 with regular red and white sleeve, 100 with black and red hand-screened wood cut art and “SOA” hand-stamped on A-side center label & “SOB” hand-stamped on B-side center label.)

1That is, for those punks not in riot grrrl revival bands, AmRep-style mysterious guy acts, or uh, Milk Music.



We Got Ways #3: DEATHCHARGE


August 30th, 2011 by

DEATHCHARGE — “The Hangman / New Dark Age” 7” (Whispers in Darkness Records)

Generally speaking, this column—with its focus on punk records from 2000-2009—has two separate but related aspirations. The first is the more ambitious, if not occasionally pretentious: rethinking the conventional interpretations of and opinions on punk rock’s most recent past. I do this because I believe that the big picture of DIY punk music is often more complicated than a game of follow-that-trend would tell you. The second aim is more simple: providing quintessential drooling fanzine appreciations of songs/records/bands that are too eye-poppingly good to ignore, but have perhaps not been given their proper due. This particular installation of We Got Ways is meant to be more of the latter than the former, but in the end it may come back around again.

First, some background…

In the late 1990s into the early 2000s, Discharge-worship was simply not popular in the U.S. hardcore scene. Most bands were still in the throes of the emo (or the bring-your-dog-to-the-show crust) era, and the few interesting bands going were not overtly worshiping at the altar of that one beat popularized by those four blokes from Stoke-on-Trent. There were, however, a few relatively obscure exceptions, most notably some primitive sounding bands manned by a few obsessive, paranoiac, black-clad HC enthusiasts based in (pre-Portlandia) Portland, OR. One such band from that scene was the goofily named DEATHCHARGE, whose first EP (the even more goofily named A Look at Their Sorrow) came out in 1997 to absolutely no fanfare. Of course, given our current moment—in which a band that proudly calls itself “D-CLONE” is popular among DIY punx—it is difficult to comprehend how truly not of the zeitgeist Deathcharge’s Dis-obsessed music (which was simple, raw, minimal, and bordering on pastiche) was in 1997. If they had gained any casual fans with A Look at Their Sorrow, they promptly lost them both by not touring and by waiting four years to release their second EP, 2001’s Plastic Smiles. Despite apathetic responses among the punk masses, both EPs (which were pressed in microscopic quantities) have over the years come to be well regarded by a handful of the most obsessive fanatics of Discharge-influenced raw punk, who champion Deathcharge as a band that carried the torch when others didn’t seem to care. (In this way, the two Deathcharge EPs can be favorably compared to the 1991 Warcry 12” by English D-beaters DISASTER, who played “Discharge-worship HC” at a time when that sub-genre was not yet codified as such. Without a doubt, both bands were true disciples of you-know-who, and as a result subsequent cultish devotees have made these bands part of their pantheon. Readers of this column should take this comparison as both a compliment and a warning: at this point in time—at least for this author—both that Disaster 12” and the first two Deathcharge 7”s are more interesting as historical anomalies than as stone classics of the genre, especially given the transcendent output of recent bands such as, say, FIRMEZA 10.)

***

The few hundred words you just read notwithstanding, this column is not really about those first two good-but-not-great Deathcharge EPs. Rather, it is about one of the best—and most surprising—punk records from the 2000s: Deathcharge’s 2006 two-song single “The Hangman/New Dark Age.” Truth be told, I just spilled so much cyber-ink on those first two DC EPs in large part to accentuate how unexpected “The Hangman” was the first time I tossed it on the turntable. Let me set the scene: it was almost two AM at the MRR HQ in mid-2006, and I was in the midst of assigning that month’s vinyl to reviewers. (That’s how it works at Maximum: someone, usually a coordinator, listens to every record that comes in and decides 1. whether or not it is reviewable, and 2. who will review it.) When I first grabbed the record out of the bin, I raised a skeptical eyebrow at its art, which bore little resemblance to the thin-papered cut ‘n’ paste sleeves of the first two DC records. I grew worried that the record was going to flat out suck: there was a Very Serious Rock Band photo of the boys on the front cover (complete with messy hair, leather jackets, and uh…English Dogs pins…), and their name was written across the front in what seemed to be (horror of horrors!) a font dangerously close to that used on Discharge’s Grave New World. I figured that Deathcharge had tired of crude Discharge worship, or maybe that they had noticed the popularity of bands like INEPSY (not to mention countless less worthy pretenders), who married the D-beat to a Motörhead and/or hard rock vibe. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the first (or regrettably, the last) HC band to “go rock.”

Before I continue, let me say that assigning records at MRR is a fairly thankless task, as it is quite difficult to listen to 75 or so records in a very compressed period of time. It is like eating 30 cupcakes in one sitting—i.e. way, way too much of a good (and sometimes not-so-good) thing. It is a time-consuming process that has little to do with what we usually mean by “listening to records.” The tedium of this task meant that while assigning records, I would listen to each record for only a handful of seconds at a time, get a quick sense of it, and then assign it for review. Occasionally, with bands I liked, I’d listen to a song or two. But once in a great while, I would be rendered unable to lift the needle off the grooves due to some arresting melody or unexpected riffage.

Anyway, back to the story at hand… As I was saying, I put the needle down on “The Hangman” and sat back to listen. That first go ‘round, I listened to the song all the way through. And then I listened to it all the way through again. And then again. I was struck dumb: this song was an unrelenting monster. I had been expecting more-or-less pedestrian Discharge worship but got something else entirely; this version of Deathcharge sounded like a totally different band. Suddenly, the cover photo didn’t seem so cheesy anymore—in fact, it started to seem kinda cool. “The Hangman” was slow (by punk standards), and it rocked, but it was not the dreaded punk ‘n’ roll throwaway. Instead, it was a creeping, lurching, and dark death punk anthem, the likes of which were—unsurprisingly, given Deathcharge’s apparent disinterest in punk trends—utterly unpopular in DIY punk at the time (unlike, ironically, the straightforward D-beat they had played to deaf ears the decade before).

Today it’s 2011 and dark, gloomy punk/HC with anarcho leanings is enjoying a revival in popularity despite the utter mediocrity and soullessness of most bands currently attempting the style. Deathcharge’s “The Hangman,” however, remains a fucking monster. I still put it on mix tapes all the time. The disgusted vocals on this song carry the day; the singer basically just spits and moans the words “ughhh…the hang…maaan” over and over on top of disturbed, claustrophobic, almost goth rock (but still extremely catchy) guitar riffs. Honestly, this single is tough for me to describe, because it doesn’t call to mind any one obvious band a la Deathcharge’s early material (I’ve heard bands like Killing Joke, Amebix, Southern Death Cult, Antisect, etc. bandied about in regard to this record; I’m not sure if any of those are exactly apt). I can tell you, however, that this song is all about suffocating repetition: the guitar parts, vocals, and drums all repeat over a riff just slow enough to sound demented and menacing but just fast enough to still induce headbanging. I don’t know anything about the dudes in Deathcharge, but I am glad that they decided to ditch the D-beat and write this song. Oh, and the B-side “New Dark Age” is pretty cool too…

***

Too often, we buy records based on “sounds like” – if we like Gloom, we buy umpteenth generation Japanese crasher crust records. If we like Leatherface we buy Florida melodic punk records. If we like early Agnostic Front we buy whatever Counterfeit Garbage tells us to (that is, if we’re smart Agnostic Front fans…otherwise, who the fuck knows). But “sounds like” doesn’t always (or even often) tell us if a band is good or bad, or if their records are worth listening to. As punk record reviewers, we have to throw “sounds like” out of our review vocabulary. As punk record buyers, we have to give up on the urge to form our taste through “sounds like” (or even worse, “looks like”). The moral of this story is that we have to keep our ears perked for interesting or remarkable sounds, rather than just carbon copies of our already standardized tastes. Otherwise, where’s the fun?



We Got Ways #2: NO FUCKER


May 5th, 2011 by

NO FUCKER – To Whom Tomorrow Belongs EP
NO FUCKER – Conquer the Innocent EP

In the previous installment of “We Got Ways”—your favorite online column revisiting the great DIY punk/HC records (both heralded and unheralded) from the decade known as the aughts—we discussed the YOUNG WASTENERS 12” that gives its name to this column. Today’s featured band represents a departure from the cute, immediately likeable, hyped-to-death Wasteners—Utica, NY’s NO FUCKER.

No Fucker’s career (now over?) has been strange. Their story begins with the two main cretins behind the band cutting their teeth in a more-or-less terrible crusty HC band called DEATHBAG, which existed just before NF’s emergence. Living in NYC in the early 2000s, I saw these upstate NY freaks on a number of occasions and didn’t think much of them either way. They were a typical opening band at some typical crusty HC shows. That is to say, both live and on record, Deathbag was nothing to lose sleep over. One day, I heard that the two Deathbag dudes had dissolved their band—rumor had it that they too had realized that they were nothing special—and started what was billed to me as a DISCHARGE worship band that would never release vinyl records. They dubbed their new band No Fucker — a brilliant and hilarious (albeit obscure) Dis- inspired band name if I ever heard one — and promptly released a pair of righteously raw demo cassette tapes. My interest was naturally piqued. After that, the no vinyl records rule apparently fell by the wayside, as two split EPs with Japanese idols DISCLOSE materialized in 2004, to go along with a few dates on that band’s brief West Coast U.S. tour. Growing ever fonder of their vicious output and live explosiveness, I assumed at the time that this association with Disclose was destined to get folks outside of New York State to start paying attention to what seemed at the time like a well-kept East Coast secret. After all, this era was one of the many heights of the Japanese noizecore craze in the U.S. punk scene, with bands like FRAMTID, FEROCIOUS X, and DEFECTOR (along with countless less worthy others) releasing records of varying quality that instantly sold out or were apparently distro’d only by eBay. Despite seemingly being in the right place at the right time, and being better than many of the more hyped bands, No Fucker didn’t gain the plaudits of their Japanese (to say nothing of PDX, Austin, or SF) brethren. After a few hurrahs on the Disclose tour, they slinked back to Utica, and slowly but surely released two EPs that didn’t seem to get too much credit or attention among any but the most obsessive. Their first EP (To Whom Tomorrow Belongs) got eviscerated in a snarkily dismissive MRR review—one of my great regrets is not double-reviewing this gem at the time—and their second EP (Conquer the Innocent) seemed to get passed by altogether by most tastemakers. By that point—five or six years after No Fucker had made their debut—time seemed to have passed them by. Of course, doomsday d-beaters knew their name, but too many seemed not to flip over their splits with Disclose often enough (too bad for them—the song “Anti-War” on the Overthrow split is a real mix-tape worthy stomper), and NF never seemed to get enough attention from the fashion-crazed myspace crust world or scenester festival circuit to even gain much T-shirt love. In fact, outside of a few diehards in Japan and New York, I can’t say I ever heard anyone give this band the attention it really deserves.

No Fucker (photo by Al Quint)

What’s up with that? I mean, it’s not as though this band was going against the trends. If anything, they began No Fucker just in time to start playing what quickly became the HC sound of their era—DISCHARGE influenced hardcore with layers of fucked up noize lifted straight from CONFUSE’s handbook. They were friends with popular Japanese bands. They even got some random (if unexpected, at least to me) accolades from noise-hipster types. They put out cool looking records with great songs. When I saw them in 2003 at ABC No Rio with DSB, they played one of the most exciting sets imaginable, getting so crazily into it that they managed to play their then best song (the aforementioned “Anti-War”) twice. When I saw them at a show with Sex Vid in NYC in 2007, they blew the Vid—who were no slouches themselves that night—off the stage with their outrageous barrage of feedback. Most importantly, from the early Deathbag days to the last No Fucker days this band just kept getting better and better. I could imagine them pulling a Black Flag and practicing for 10 hours a day in their small town in an attempt to perfect their noise-laden art. Even when I was listening to their first demo in 2002 thinking, “Hey, this is pretty cool!” I never imagined that I would walk out of that 2007 show thinking, “Holy shit, I just saw the best fucking band in America…”

Ultimately though, it seems that No Fucker was not a band that would easily get popular with the cool kids. After all, the backbone of the band was two strange and ugly dudes—one old, lizard-skinned ex-con (who eventually lost a finger and had to stop playing guitar and settle for just being NF’s vocalist) and one young, nerdy freak with his oversized T-shirts tucked in—two friends obsessed with obnoxious, crazy music in what might be the shittiest, poorest city in all of New York State. The other members of the band seemed not to matter much either; hilariously, No Fucker featured a series of indistinguishable bass players referred to both individually and collectively as “Fangboner.” And though they befriended similar noise heads like Kawakami from Disclose and Stuart from Game of the Arseholes, they did not seem interested in being schmoozy; on the contrary, they were kind of abrasive and even antisocial. Though I met and chatted with them a number of times throughout the years, I could never tell if they liked me, hated me, or even remembered who I was. They didn’t fuckin’ care about that shit—they made noize not music, and that was that. They released their records themselves (on a label they called No Real Music) to middling distribution, they didn’t seem to tour much if ever, and though they not-entirely-successfully attempted to get a DIY space up and running in Utica, they ultimately chose to live in that fucked up old industrial wasteland full of meth heads, junkies, and people whom time had passed by rather than moving to any available (and more fashionable) punk mecca.

Now about their two self-released EPs, which were meant to be the subject of this essay, and without which none of my bloviating would matter…

2006’s To Whom Tomorrow Belongs is the earlier of the two, and it betrays the simple musical key to their formula, which they would really perfect on 2008’s Conquer the Innocent. What is that key, you ask? Well, this band steals a lot of guitar parts and swagger from ANTI-CIMEX. Really, this writer’s ears hear a lot more Cimex in NF’s sound/songs than either Discharge or Disclose. And while this distinction is admittedly minute if not downright farcical—it’s not one that my mom would pick out, that’s for sure—the patented Cimex guitars-as-if-recorded-in-a-wind-tunnel sound gives No Fucker a sort of out-of-an-‘80s-Swedish-time-machine quality that their Japanese peers (with their 48 tracks of guitar distortion) lack. Like Disclose, however, No Fucker uses their vocals as more of a rhythmic instrument than a melodic one, sometimes punctuating their guitar riffs with even greater effect than Kawakami, the Japanese master himself. No Fucker’s lyrics are minimal, but they are perfectly timed and placed. The guitar leads are at once idiotic and sublime. Happily, No Fucker lacks any “heavy”/“crust” pretentions, maybe even more so than Disclose (because they avoid the palm-muted metallic-tinge of that Japanese band’s “Dis-Bones” era), but nonetheless No Fucker is not really a party/fun band. Instead, they represent the most punk ideal: a band outside of the spotlight that spends every minute of free time trying to make and perfect their hardcore art. In this sense, No Fucker was an art band in the strict meaning of that term, at least in the sense that they created substance out of their very specific style. And for a few brief songs on two all too brief EPs, No Fucker put themselves on par with the best of the 30-year pantheon of cult bands that have been totally and utterly devoted to excruciating guitar screeching, d-beat flailing, and lots of shoutin’ and screamin’.



New MRR web feature: We Got Ways!


March 24th, 2011 by

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the first installment of “We Got Ways,” a new web-column that I hope to trot out with some regularity here at MRR’s digital incarnation. What is it exactly that I hope to do with this occasional online missive? Talk about my favorite thing and yours, of course — punk records! In particular, after much prodding from industrious web coordinator Paul to write something, anything, I settled on a theme: great records of the decade between 2000 and 2009. Why these years? Well, I have a theory that most punk zine (and blog) writing succumbs to the tyranny of the very old/tyranny of the very new. Meaning, most historically minded writers tirelessly excavate great and/or forgotten records from the classic early eras (’76-’84) without paying much mind to anything that has come after that supposed golden age—in many cases, anytime during the years in which these amateur historians have actually graced the planet earth with their presences! As for their part, the exuberant zinesters who focus on the current DIY punk scene have plenty to cover without spilling too much ink on shit that came out years ago. That is why I’m here—to remind readers of the now-classic records from the relatively recent past, and to hopefully point out some would-be classics that may have slipped through the cracks. What’s more, it seems that now is a good time to start deciding what has (so far) stood the test of time from the most recent decade in punk’s rear view mirror, before nostalgia and/or senility set in. Having spent a large chunk of the ‘00s as the coordinator of the greatest punk zine ever to inkstain your hands, while also scouring the earth (to say nothing of the internet) for punk records, I’ll hopefully have enough to write about to keep Paul off of my back for a while.

If all goes according to plan, each of these columns will focus on one great record. Some will be relatively well known, while others will be hella obscure. This first post is likely of the former variety for those of you who’ve been at it for a while— though it might be new to a few young ‘uns—and as such it’s the perfect record with which to begin. Let me get to it—this installment is about this column’s namesake, the near-perfect 2002 12” by Denmark’s YOUNG WASTENERS, We Got Ways (Kick N’ Punch Records). Why? Because even nine (!!) years later, WGW is a stone classic of pure punk music. And what better way to get this column started than to revisit the favorite scene—Copenhagen, Denmark—of much of the 2000s? About that…well, I’ll let you in on a little-known secret: not all of the Copenhagen bands are as good as we said they were at the time. Two of them are – GORILLA ANGREB and the YOUNG WASTENERS. OK, OK, and HUL too, for the most part. But this column is not about those other bands. As for the relative overrated-ness of AMDI PETERSON’S ARME and NO HOPE FOR THE KIDS (there, I said it)… well, that is a conversation best left for another day (or alternately, for the comments section – have at it, kids!).

What is it about the Wasteners? For one thing, despite the many reasonable comparisons to the DEAD KENNEDYS they garnered at the time, their sound doesn’t evoke any one old band too closely. And despite being on the cusp between punk and hardcore, and sounding fairly U.S.-influenced, the Wasteners are not at all snotty in a DESCENDENTS/ANGRY SAMOANS way. Much more than any of those bands’ classic records, the Wasteners 12” rocks – just listen again to the title track and you’ll see what I mean. Also, unlike the DKs—who obviously wrote some classically great songs in their heyday—We Got Ways is never, ever annoying or too-much-of-a-good-thing. What I mean by that is, despite the obvious influence of the DKs, the Wasteners’ singer is (thankfully) never going for a straight-up rip off of Jello’s warble.

Young Wasteners (2002 — photo by Flexmyhead)

Despite all of the above disclaimers, We Got Ways is undeniably retro, in a way that became quite popular in the early/middle part of the aughts. Unlike some bands—i.e. REGULATIONS, TRISTESS, THE VICIOUS—who mined the same era of history but whose expiration dates were approximately one day after their records were released, the Wasteners have actually come to sound more timeless rather than more dated with the passage of the years. This is because they wrote significantly more interesting songs than many of their peers. To my mind, their greatness lies in their little guitar hooks (and on one song, a classic saxophone part!) and countermelodies, which wrap their way around virtually every song on this 12”. I think these guitar lines are probably part of the reason that the Wasteners get compared to the DKs in virtually every review, but this is misleading because these little guitar lines are rarely surfy or even noodly. In any case, they give the listener more than one melody on which to focus during every song, while the singer (melodically) screams his head off about such classic punk topics as cops, the boredom of the suburbs, and uh, Ecuador.

This record went in and out of print quite quickly in its day, but it received reissue treatment a couple of years back. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the reissue around for too long either. Search around the internet a bit, and I’m sure you’ll find it in digital form at the very least, if not on wax. Best tracks: “We Got Ways,” “Suburban Noize,” “Stained Circle.”