Kirsch is a crucial, and alcoholic, ingredient in the making of the Black Forest Gateau dessert. It’s also the surname of one of the most prolific, wide-ranging and creative artists in American hardcore from the 1990s onwards. Mike Kirsch’s bands – later, ‘projects’ – span such household names as the Fugazi-ish yet authentically heartfelt Fuel, the chaotic, subversive aggression of Bread and Circuits, or the media-soaked, sample-heavy and cumbersomely named Please Inform The Captain This Is a Hijack. At the moment, Burning Down the Dreams of Forever are undertaking to posting from all of his (14 and counting) different bands. You can see the specific list here; there’s also been similar posts on ROAWR!. I’ve taken it upon myself to post this particular release; the self-titled John Henry West from 1993.
There are several reasons for liking this record. For a start, it’s a Gravity Records release. If you don’t know what that means, it is the label of Angel Hair, Clikatat Ikatowi, Heroin etc. Intense, noisy, emotional and abrasive hardcore punk mostly from the earlier part of the 90’s, based around San Diego. John Henry West is one of the more abrasive works of this genre that I know – Clikatat’s River of Souls would be an example of the sound stretched out a bit. This, however, is raw and direct.
It’s raw especially because of the inclusion on guitar of a certain Cory Linstrum. This is second reason for liking this record. Cory went on, one year after this record, to release the Han Shan 7” which kicked off this blog. On both he contributes a particularly dense guitar sound, part typical of the Gravity of discordancy but also of the Black Flag/Pissed Jeans sort of sludgy texture; the perfect kind of sonic anarchism to blend with Kirsch’s tortured vocals.
Finally, John Henry West is another one of those encapsulatory records which concisely sums up a moment in musical history; more generous than just a 7”, it still packs the brevity and potency of a typical Gravity release. Short, but not that sweet.
John Henry West - s/t
YouTube video of the song 'Avoiding' (thanks to sweetbabyjaysus)