New MRR web feature: We Got Ways!
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.
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.”