Monday, June 18, 2012

Los Angeles Post-Punk, Vol. 6

Featured acts:

3D Picnic, A Produce, Battery Farley, Bay Of Pigs, Bulimia Banquet, Chris Manecke, Christian Lunch, Cigarettes, Descendents, Doubting Thomas, Erratic, Extruders, Eyes, Fishbone, Flyboys, Gary Valentine, Jimmy Smack, John J. Lafia, John Trubee, Ken, Man From Missouri, Minutemen, Motor Totemist Guild, Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Nip Drivers, Pat Smear, Peer Group, Poetic, Redd Kross, Rhythm Plague, Rich and Famous , Rich La Bonté, Saccharine Trust, Schematix, Tao Mao, The Brainiacs, The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada, The Middle Class, TSOL, Tupelo Chain Sex, Twisted Roots, Vicious Fish, Vivabeat, White Glove Test

Christian Lunch, Unreliable Sources (Alternative Tentacles, 1990)
Disk 1
1 Pat Smear — Golden Boys (1987) 3:20
2 Redd Kross — Love Is You (1987) 2:29
3 Descendents — Impressions (1987) 3:08
4 Twisted Roots — The Yellow One (1981) 3:03
5 Bay Of Pigs — Manchild (1984) 3:05
6 Gary Valentine — The Ballad Of Nathaniel West (1979) 4:01
7 Poetic — Snowflake (1980) 0:26
8 Nip Drivers — Cindy (1984) 1:34
9 Man From Missouri — Epitaph (1990) 4:35
10 Battery Farley — Dress For Obscurity (1985) 3:39
11 Jimmy Smack — Untitled (1982) 1:27
12 Fishbone — Party at Ground Zero (1985) 6:28
13 Vivabeat — Man From China (1979) 5:23
14 Flyboys — I Couldn't Tell (1980) 2:46
15 Rich and Famous  — Neutron Star (1978) 4:05
16 Peer Group — I Saw That Movie (1981) 1:07
17 The Brainiacs — Drunk with Funk (1981) 4:03
18 A Produce — Pulse (1988) 4:00
19 The Middle Class — Home Is Where (1980) 2:09
20 TSOL — Soft Focus (1982) 3:33
21 Christian Lunch — Strangling Of a Small Dog (1981) 1:43
22 Tupelo Chain Sex — The Dream (1983) 4:55
23 Doubting Thomas — Helen Keller (1987) 2:50
24 The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada — Neighbor's Scream (1986) 3:55
25 Tao Mao — Mokusatsu (1985) 3:42

Middle Class, Homeland (Pulse Records, 1982)
Disk 2
26 Minutemen — Ack Ack Ack (1985) 0:27
27 Bulimia Banquet — Satan's Doorstep (1986) 2:24
28 Descendents — Weinerschnitzel (1985) 0:14
29 The Middle Class — The Call (2008) 4:18
30 Battery Farley — Memories Of You (1985) 4:38
31 Ken — Purposeless Attitudes (1981) 1:28
32 Nip Drivers — Have You Ever Benn Mellow (1985) 3:05
33 White Glove Test — Leap (1990) 2:38
34 Motor Totemist Guild — In Sackcloth and Ashes (1996) 1:47
35 Twisted Roots — Mommy's Always Busy In The Kitchen (1981) 1:36
36 Erratic — I Wrecked Myself (1980) 3:52
37 Saccharine Trust — Effort to Waste (1986) 3:30
38 Schematix — Jagged Edge (1980) 3:49
39 Extruders — She Pushed Plastic (1981) 2:54
40 Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo — Ballad of the Caveman (1978) 1:34
41 Christian Lunch — Monika Po (1981) 2:30
42 Rich La Bonté — Mayan Canals (1981) 5:32
43 Chris Manecke — Mulholland Daydream (c. 1985) 3:07
44 Rhythm Plague — Radio Free Dude (1985) 6:31
45 John J. Lafia — Queen of the Nile (1984) 3:49
46 Cigarettes — Gimme Cigarette (1978) 2:28
47 Eyes — Taqn (1979) 1:59
48 Vicious Fish — Not Fade Away (1989) 1:49
49 The Middle Class — Out Of Vogue (1978) 1:07
50 3D Picnic — In Their Eyes (1989) 5:14
51 John Trubee — Crawling Down The Corridor (1984) 3:49
51 Tupelo Chain Sex — Everyday's A Holiday (1984) 4:28

All the bands, with the exception of The Minutemen, haven't appeared in any of the previous volumes, so these notes are going to be sketchy because I don't have the time to ruminate in any serious way on the tracks. They are also in (roughly) alphabetical order. For what that's worth.

I don’t know much about 3D Picnic, who produced two LPs. Their first, Dirt, contains a mix of styles from Paisley Underground folk rolk to more post-punk fare, though none of it too dangerous. This track is from a compilation called Ultraviolet and doesn’t appear on either disk. 

A Produce was the person behind the band Afterimage which appears in early volumes of this series. His own music tends toward the ambient, though this track and a few others have something like a kinky energy. He was the creator of the label Trans Port which specialized in what came to be known as “trance music” though in fact most of what I’ve heard of his work doesn’t sound like later trance music (which is more beat heavy). A Clearing is available in its entirety at CDBaby, though most of his other material appears to be out of print. He passed away in 2011.



Battery Farley is still pretty much a mystery to me, though it appears an “underground” producer named Jeff Farley is behind it all. There is a YouTube video the band performing an unreleased track, “Bagman on Sunset,” which if anything has an unforgettable snarkey resonance. The LP Dress for Obscurity is pretty interesting, and they seem to be symptomatic of one aspect of “New Wave” here in LA, which is that for all the synthesizers and dance beats, much of it is completely uncommercial. There's a cheap copy of Dress for Obscurity sitting in the stacks at Amoeba Records that I want to snag when I have some cash.

I don’t know anything about Bay Of Pigs except that they recorded an EP called Wife Swapping in Granada Hills and appeared on the first Viva Los Angeles compiltion. I don’t think they are the same band that recorded the LP Plastic Pig.

Bulimia Banquet’s LP Eats Fat, Dies Young is really quite amazing, lots of great musical ideas, truly strange singing, offensive lyrics, and pretty amazing concrete music elements. They belong to that small set of “hardcore” bands (including Nip Drivers) that really were either too smart, too vulgar – not in the racist or homophobic way that seems commonplace among the boy bands – and too artsy to fit it. The two lead members were women, Ingrid Baumgart (who played in the all-female punk band Raszebrae, who I hope to hear soon) and Julia Bell, so that must have made a difference. The vocal performance on this track is amazing. I’m looking forward to hearing the other LP (it’s in the mail).

Chris Manecke was the songwriter, keyboardist, guitarist and singer behind the Abecedarians. This track is taken from an unreleased project that he is apparently going to release commercially. There's a lot of unreleased Abecedarians related music that should hit the racks shortly.

Christian Lunch is one of the few bands from LA with the word “Christian” or “Catholic” in its title which does not in fact refer to religion. He appears to be a German named Christian Gregory Ingle and produced a number of EPs and an LP, all of which (from what I’ve heard) are great. Total avant-garde synth, synth-pop, avant-collage-whackiness, whatever… really amazing stuff that should be better known. He did a one-off project with the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra called The Witch Trials that I’m looking forward to hearing.

I don't’ know anything about Cigarettes, Extruders, Erratic, Eyes, Flyboys, Man From Missouri (though they did release an LP with the great title BWanger TaTalingus Debase), White Glove Test (though they were tangentially associated with the Paisley Underground, or at least recorded at the same studio), Schematix, Rich and Famous (though Rich La Bonte was a member of that band and gives away a lot of his music here), John J. Lafia (who was associated with LAFMS), Ken, Doubting Thomas, The Brainiacs (described as a Los Angeles “No Wave” band in the style of James Chance on one blog), The Holy Sisters Of The Gaga Dada, Tao Mao (though this track was taken from the Beginner’s Guide to COMA LP and they have a cassette out there somewhere), Peer Group, or Vicious Fish. I mean, I know a little, but it’s hardly worth repeating here as many of these acts just produced a single at the most, or were a one-off project for some compilation (like the Chunks compilation from D. Boon’s New Alliance Records). Suffice it to say, some of this is trashy post-punk, some avant-garde noodling, some catchy power pop with pretty harmonizing, some drunken wailing and some serious attempts at creating a band. White Glove test did releast two LPs, but I haven’t heard the other one, Look, yet.

I think anyone reading this blog knows who the Minutemen are – I included one of their tracks in an earlier volume. The Descendents are, like the Minutemen, often associated with hardcore though in fact they tried a lot of different textures – probably more well-known for their puerile humor (they actually are hilarious) but they kept it real. Their very short tracks "All" and "No All" are well worth Googling.

Saccharine Trust is another band who started as somewhat hardcore, but eventually added a lot of free jazz elements into their repertoire – some of their albums, actually, are based on long jam sessions, kind of a no-no with hardcore. Their first album, Pagan Icons, was one of Kurt Cobain’s favorites. Their guitarist, Joe Baiza, who went on to make a lot of great music, is probably as well known for having the shit kicked out of him in Germay several times as he is for his guitar playing (fully on display in this great YouTube video).

Fishbone is the relatively famous ska-punk band called Fishbone, and this might be their most famous track – or at least, I remember it from back in the day, which is saying something. They also put on a great live show – I refer you once again to YouTube.

Gary Valentine was an original member of Blondie. He moved to Los Angeles to start a solo career but only ever released a few tracks before becoming a major figure in occult literature, writing many books under his real name, Gary Lachman. This track is taken from a compilatio of his music called Tomorrow Belongs To You.

Jimmy Smack is described thusly in a short online essay called “The Legend of Jimmy Smack” (which contains a not-to-be-missed photograph of the man): Basically the man, made up in elaborate corpse-paint (certainly the first I ever saw), in fall tartan gear playing amazing electric bagpipes accompanied only by a then de-rigeur Dr. Rhythm drum box and reciting in a demonic Beefheart-esque growl some occasionally great, occasionally goofy (in a “going insane inside my brain” kind of way) doom and gloom poetry." It’s all good!

John Trubee first gained notoriety for his song-poem “Blind Man’s Penis,” which you can find pretty easily on the internet. Basically, he wrote the worst, most offensive song lyric he could think of and sent it off to one of those “song poem” outfits that set it to country music, sung by a buy named Ramsey Kearney. His LPs (from what I’ve heard) are mostly made up of really incredible prank phone calls intercut with either avant-jazz or deep synthesizer music tracks. He was a collaborator with Zoogz Rift in the early days.

Motor Totemist Guild was formed in 1980 by composer James Grigsby and poet/singer Christine Clements. Basically, they take a lot of the compositional techniques and instrumentation associated with classical music and apply them to songs, which sounds like a horrible idea but in fact the music I’ve heard of theirs is incredible. I have yet to work through their catalogue but I’m sure you’ll see them again in these collections.

Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were the earlier incarnation of Oingo Boingo, and were not so much a recording act as a musical theater troupe. They were led by the elder Elfman, Richard Elfman, and made a pretty unique appearance on The Gong Show (kind of on a par with Frank Zappa’s appearance on the Steven Allen show).

Nip Drivers were led by the inimitable Mike Webber, who died in 2006 at the age of 43. He seems to have been both very troubled (or at least a “hedonist” which seems to me to mean deeply troubled) and completely brilliant – certainly his singing wavers between vulgar and innocent, or ironic and vulnerable, in a way that’s hard to describe. There’s a really nice remembrance of him by Julia Bell (of the aforementioned Bulimia Banquet) at the LA Weekly blog. They released a handful of LPs and EPs over a short but intense career.

Pat Smear, hello, is the guitarist from the Germs, and later Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. This is the only track I know from his solo career, and is apparently the last song Darby Crash wrote before dying. I think it’s amazing – his singing style seems to have set the template for the much cuter, snarkier post-punk bands of today, and there's something about the chord progression that's satisfying every time you hear it – and am greatly looking forward to hearing the rest of Ruthensmear.

Poetic was a sound-perfomance group made up of artists Mike Kelley (known also for his music act Destroy All Monsters), Tony Oursler, and occasional others. I made the mistake of buying this box set of CDs used – it didn’t include the booklet! – because the entire contents are available on ubu com. I can’t say I love it all, but this track is pretty fun.

Redd Kross was a band that started when their their guitarist, Jeff McDonald, was 15 and the drummer, his brother Steve, was 11. Something about them reminds me of Ween – lovingly aping, mockingly yet reverently, the styles of their musical heroes in a way that’s a bit undefinable. As the Tater Totz, they recorded albums full of covers of the Beatles, Yoko Ono, Queen, etc. occasionally in a totally mashed up way, occasionally entirely straight. They also put out LPs as a fake hardcore band, Anarchy 6, which to this day appears on the web as the production of a hardcore band and not a satire. Go figure. I still don’t quite get them but this tune is catchy.

Rhythm Plague was made up of the well-known avant-garde guitarist Nels Cline (whose music I don’t really know but am eager to discover – he played with Wilco at one point), Wayne Peet and Steubig for an LP and this track, from the Beginner’s Guide to COMA (California Outside Music Association, kind of like LAFMS in that they attempted to bridge composed or avant-garde music with something closer to rock). I apologize for the skips on this track, but I tried to delete as much of the badness as I could in Audacity. I don’t own this LP, but I thought I the track cool enough to include anyway, especially for the beats which seem a bit ahead of their time.

The Middle Class are kind of legendary for having recorded the first music that could be described as “hardcore,” even if its questionable whether or not anyone really heard the recordings. Apparently, Keith Morris, the original singer for Black Flag, saw them perform and really was inspired to have his band play really fast, and certainly their track “Out of Vogue” sounds like hardcore to me. But in fact I think they were actually quite avant-garde musical minimalists who thought it would be interesting early in their career to see if they could outpace the ability of your average music consumer to follow the music – which is to say, there is none of the adolescent angst, simple political sloganeering or general macho aggression in this track so much as the spirit of experiment and social critique. Well, that’s what I think. With their second EP, released the same year, they took on more Gang of Four elements, and by their final LP they were very much in a kind of Joy Division spirit – which is to say, they went from being quite at the forefront to somewhat trailing in the end, though I think they were quite true to their own musical direction. I think they were a great band, with really intelligent and provocative lyrics (no simple anthems), and a case study of what having no proper label (I think all of their stuff was self-released) or native audience does to a band that really tries something less immediately enjoyable.

TSOL, which is short for “True Sounds of Liberty,” is a very well known post-punk band on this side of the desert, led by the inimitable Jack Grisham, a fearless howling giant from what I understand, also behind such later acts as Cathedral of Tears (who appears in an earlier volume here) and Tender Fury. I’m pretty new to TSOL so I don’t have much to say here, but Grisham himself is really interesting who published a book about his life of drug addiciton, An American Demon: A Memoir,which I’m looking forward to reading.

I don’t know much about Tupelo Chain Sex except that they had an incredible show, and featured Don "Sugarcane" Harris, an electric violinist who played with Frank Zappa. I remember hearing about them back in the day, but something about their name scared the shit out of me.

Twisted Roots was made up of Paul Roessler of Screamers fame (he also played with Nervous Gender, Geza X, The Deadbeats, 45 Grave, etc.), his sister Kira Roessler (who, by the way, was kind of gorgeous) before she became the bass player for Black Flag, Pat Smear of the Germs and others. I have a hard time figuring out their discography as some LPs are released under the title “Paul Roessler and Twisted Roots,” and some LPs don’t feature any of the other players. Anyway, the band made a pretty good go of it after the breakup of the Screamers and were big on the scene, though their recorded output was, as I said, a little disorganized. Paul, as I’ve learned slogging through the archives at Beyond Baroque, was also a poet.

Lastly, I learned about Vivabeat while trying to find out more about the band The Vidiots, whose “Laurie’s Lament” appears earlier in these collections. At one point members of both bands were in an act called Audio Vidiot that never managed to gain much traction (or perhaps rehearse enough) so they split and took up their respective new bands. This track is notable because Peter Gabriel – yes, that Peter Gabriel – really took a liking to their whistled melody and decided to replicate it somewhat on “Games Without Frontiers” -- he also, I think, helped them get a contract. I think this track, which can seem slow at moments, stands up on its own, mostly due to the variations in the vocals by their singer, Terrance Robay, but the utter pointlessness of the lyrics kind of show how playfully, even Dadaistically, idiotic a lot of the 80s MTV fare was. They are considered one of the “lost great bands of the 80s” but in fact this track was released in 1979, which might seem quibbling but that makes this a very, very early new wave track, which must mean something!

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for such a great series! Will there be links to this volume?

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  2. You should see them now... no?

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  3. Hooray! More good music!

    Also, if you're getting an error message saying the file's deleted, don't just click the link, copy and paste it into a new tab. That's a better idea in general, because it doesn't link back.

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  4. ...any chance of a fix for Disc One?

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    1. Do you mean disc one for this volume, 6? I'm not having any problems downloading it.

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    2. Oh no, wait, I see the problem. I guess I've had no problems downloading since I'm the owner. Ok, I'll see what I can do. I knew eventually some parts of this site would get shut down.

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  5. Sorry for being cryptic, it's disc one for part 6 that's missing.

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  6. Disc one still seems to be a no go bro. mediafire copywright issues maybe, any chance of removing the offending track and re-upping the rest. If not don't worry about it. I'm discovering some great sounds here as all the other files are still working.

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  7. yey! disk 1
    thank you! its my favorite playlist ever :)

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