Sunday, August 31, 2008

Best of 2008: Now It's August - Pt. 3 (Irish)

Now It's August - Pt. 3

1. So Cow - 'Commuting' from I'm Siding With My Captors.

2. Fight Like Apes - 'Something Global' from the Something Global EP.

3. Halves - 'Medals' from the Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy EP.

4. Heathers - 'Reading in the Dark' from Here, Not There.

5. Bats - 'Atom and Eve' from the Cruel Sea Scientist EP.

6. Fight Like Apes, 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' from the Something Global EP.

So Cow, I'm Siding With My Captors.

I found out about this guy from The Indie Hour and also from this song playing on the radio. So Cow is a guy from Galway, Ireland who started releasing music while working in South Korea teaching English (the name is a sort of bilingual Korean-English pun). And boy, is it good music. Mostly I've seen it described as lo-fi indie pop stuff, sort of like Pavement, but what hit me from hearing this song is the sort of early 90s ska-punk/pop from San Francisco; like a mix of Green Day's first two albums (this song is about girls on buses, or rather, a girl on a bus) and Operation Ivy/Common Rider (Jesse Michael's post-Op Ivy project, which sounds the closest to this than anything else I can think of). The rest of the album is just as good, if not better.

Fight Like Apes, Something Global.

Fight Like Apes, Dublin's '07 indie sensation, have been suffering from some blogger backlash in the drip-feed run-up to their first full-length album, Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion, due September 26th. 'Something Global' is the headline single for the album, and comes on a CD with their first recorded version of 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues', the Mclusky song, and a new original, 'Knucklehead'. It took a bit of adjustment, but I really do like the new sound and I enjoy every minute of this EP (not that there are many, and I would have thought this is just a single with two b-sides, but apparently not.) 'Something Global' is a self-referential introduction to a newly professionalised sound (produced in Seattle by Blood Brothers producer John Goodmanson) and it's all the better for making that statement. Any band that releases a song in 2008 that has the lines "hooks are for wimps, and choruses are for gays" are obviously doing something post-modern.

I couldn't not include 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' here, especially since I used the original for my last best-of-the-decade punk rock tape. This is a transcendent cover, and not just a replication of the excellent live version. I've seen it said that this marks a noticeably rawer diversion from their new originals, but it's also a powerful adaptation of their new sound. There's an edge to this song that, dare I say it, isn't actually in the Mclusky original.

Halves, Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy.

Ireland already has world-class post-rock band in the form of God Is An Astronaut, but I'm liking Halves a lot at the moment. Haunt Me When I'm Drowsy is there second EP, and also their second to be contained in impressively delicate and refined packaging. This one is closed by a strip of fabric elastic, clearly visible in the picture. Mine actually broke after a week or two, but I glued it back on and it's been working fine ever since (DIY all the way!). The previous EP had a flap secured by a silk ribbon.

It's not all style over content, however, as this second EP is a clear progression of their sound. To my ears they sort of bridge a gap between Explosions in the Sky-type guitar post-rock and the more ambient Sigur Ros sound. 'Medals' is more on the latter side, while I've been keeping another opposite track for use in a joint God Is An Astronaut/Halves post. It took me a while to get into 'Medals', so it may not be the best choice for this mix, but it is the track they shot a video for. Even better is this performance of the song live at a Tower instore.

Heathers, Here, Not There

Heathers are young twins graduated this year from a certain south Dublin secondary school, immediately to embark upon a US tour to support their debut album jointly released by Florida's Plan-It-X Records and Deansgrange's Hideaway. Here, Not There is a set of anti-folk/pop songs of impressively high quality and directness. Voices (two), guitar and in this particular case, a cello. Simple.

Bats, Cruel Sea Scientist

I first saw Bats last October, playing support for the Locust. I'm pretty sure this was one of the songs that caught my attention then, a sort of Q and Not U math-rock pushed into metal overdrive. This EP was released earlier this year via the Richter Collective group which collects together a lot of the best Irish underground bands of the moment. Cruel Sea Scientist I had sort of feared would be too heavy for my (metal-phobic) tastes, and there are parts of it I prefer more to others in that respect, but it's a solid, progressive, dynamic record (reminds me of Transistor Transistor in certain parts.) Especially good for my 'hardcore for nerds' sensibility is their anti-Creationist agenda... the CD has 'A T G C', the initials of the four chemical bases of DNA, written prominently on it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Videos: Punk/Not Punk

Haven't done one of these for a while, so I thought I'd start it up again. This is a game we all like to play, of course:


Dennis Kucinich's 'Wake Up America' speech at the Democratic National Convention

I feel slightly uncomfortable butting in on US politics, but speaking as a global citizen, the prospect of John McCain taking on the role of policing the world for four years fills me with dread; and for all of you under a Republican administration who don't want to be under one, you have my sincerest sympathies.

What's impressive about this video is not just the truths being said in it; but the fact that they are, and the way that they are, being said. This probably doesn't fully match up with Obama's 'leading from the center', but it still needs to be there. Most of you probably don't really know who Dennis Kucinich is, and neither do I all that much, but suffice to say he's a bit of a maverick in the Democratic Party (and erstwhile candidate for the nomination).

(Credit to the bloggers over at Organizing Grievances, and also to *#..(brad who posted another link in the comments for the Refused post)

Not Punk:

Crimescene's 'Outcasts', one of the very worst music videos I've ever seen

I'm not much in the business of being negative about bands, not even in my own head (I'm, like, way too Zen for that.) However, this is just some hilariously bad shit. It's not quite as magical as when I first saw it, which only proves that if this was in any way intended as a joke, the novelty will start to wear off. Otherwise, this is just a sad, sad example of how wrong a good genre of music can go (admittedly after a rather lengthy, ahem, creative journey). I first saw this somewhere after my weaning off of Pennywise (an actually rather good surf-rock/political hardcore band a lot of the time) and onto bands like Hot Water Music and Fugazi, and before discovering truly obscure genres of hardcore. Hence I thought of this when compiling my Shape of Punk list below, as a sort of unbidden antithesis in almost every way, shape or form.

My apologies.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Shape of Punk To Come: 2001-2007 (A Mixtape)

As introduced in the previous post, this is my idea of what the best punk and hardcore records of the new millenium have been; what has measured up to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come (1998); or, indeed, to the many other seminal records of the 1990s. I said there that I would try to justify my criteria, because there are some. These aren't just my favourite albums of recent time - though these are of course some of those - but instead something slightly more specific. These are albums which have, in my estimation, provided something new to the sound of punk and hardcore, and kept it from becoming a stale and shallow genre. These are albums which in my own experience I can claim to have changed how I viewed music, the expression of ideas through music, and the creation of art via music.

As to what's punk and what's not, it goes to the very heart of this list. The shape of punk to come, almost by definition, has to incorporate change and diversity in styles. It's difficult to judge whether people will regard this selection as too broad or too narrow for their understanding of the central term. For the most part, I've kept to a simple ear test for the definition of punk/not punk - you'll know it if you hear it. Roughly speaking, I think the first three choices fit into a definition of 'post-hardcore', and the last three 'screamo'. The fact that the division falls chronologically - the order in which the bands appear - is not entirely coincidental, as I'll explain further on.

(The picture above is a composite of two elements - my own photograph of the A Flight and A Crash LP, and an inset from the cover of Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come.)

Side One:

1. Hot Water Music - 'A Flight and A Crash' (A Flight and A Crash, Epitaph, 2001)

2. American Steel - 'Shrapnel' (Jagged Thoughts, Lookout!, 2001)

3. Mclusky - 'To Hell With Good Intentions' (Mclusky Do Dallas, Too Pure, 2002)

4. Envy - 'Unrepairable Gentleness' (A Dead Sinking Story, Level Plane, 2003)

5. La Quiete - 'Raid Aereo Sul Paese Delle Farfalle' (La Fine non é la Fine, React With Protest/Heroine, 2004)

6. Ampere - 'In Antiquity' (Split Recording, Ebullition, 2006)

Side Two:

7. American Steel - 'Rainy Day' (Jagged Thoughts, Lookout!, 2001)

8. Hot Water Music - 'A Clear Line' (A Flight and A Crash, Epitaph, 2001)

9. Mclusky - 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' (Mclusky Do Dallas, Too Pure, 2002)

10. Envy - 'Go Mad and Mark' (A Dead Sinking Story, Level Plane, 2003)

11. La Quiete - 'La Fine non é la Fine' (La Fine non é la Fine, React With Protest/Heroine, 2004)

12. Sinaloa - 'The Earth is On Fire' (Split Recording, Ebullition, 2006)

The Shape of Punk To Come: 2001-2007

Hot Water Music, A Flight and a Crash

This is my favourite record of all time. It's also the first album on the list because (as well as having a great opening track) it's one of the earliest. Hot Water Music have been releasing great albums from the mid-90s, with their generally agreed masterpiece Fuel For The Hate Game coming out in 1997. A Flight and A Crash, however, marked their first release for punk behemoth Epitaph Records and a major creative juncture in their career.

A Flight and a Crash takes the anthemicism of 1999's No Division, the meditative depth of 1997's Forever and Counting, and just enough of the original hardcore edge of Fuel For The Hate Game to combine it all into a truly remarkable record. Some very subtle electronic ambience and always superb songwriting make this Hot Water Music's crowning achievement, for me, as the most important and most creative punk band in my life. Even if took me a long while to get into this album at first, beyond the attraction of its post-Fugazi guitar sound and deep melody, when it hit it hit hard.

'A Flight and a Crash' is on the mixtape for its immediate sucker punch of melodic post-hardcore; "heart pounding/from the screaming/heart racing now"; and for it's introduction to HWM's gravelly vocals and searing emotional content. Even though it is several strands removed in many ways, this was my original introduction (pre-Swing Kids/Moss Icon) to the world of emo. 'A Clear Line', on the second side of the mixtape although still within the first side of the album, is there because it has a deeper effect. Just as mesmerising musically, if a little more sedate by comparison, it has just the most amazing lyrics and message: philosophical, personal, political... every line of it is meaningful to me, and it's difficult to sum it up except as a very human, very progressive attitude to living life in any sort of reasonable, sustainable way (read the lyrics here.)

(I haven't covered this band on the blog in any extent proportional to how important they are to me, but the video for the song immediately following the opener 'A Flight and a Crash', 'Paper Thin', was posted here.)

American Steel - Jagged Thoughts

This particular band has been mentioned even less on the blog, which is probably why they didn't initially come to mind when I answered urbanology's comment. However, when I think of bands that have done something different and very special with punk in the last decade of music, this band, and this album, definitely crop up. American Steel are/were a band from the San Francisco East Bay area, like Green Day, and hence their signing to Lookout! Records. They always had a big punk sound, fast and sort of punk-pop (and ska) influenced, but just as much on the hardcore punk rock side of things. Two initial albums, a breakneck speed self-titled effort and the viscerally mournful yet positive, far more developed, Rogue's March led to this 2001 record.

Jagged Thoughts is a creative masterpiece, blending artistic expression with punk fury in a way that goes back to the early Clash records. Around the time of the recording of Rogue's March, the guitarist Ryan battled with leukemia, an experience which informed a lot of the spirit of that album and further transferred on to Jagged Thoughts. In essence, it is a beautiful piece of music, but also an utterly powerful, explosive punk record.

Since the album came out in the same year as A Flight and A Crash, as well as both bands combining a strong emotional sense and post-hardcore styles, I thought I would switch the order of the songs from those albums around between the two sides of the mix. Hence the first side features the slow, building 'Rainy Day', which turns instantaneously between gentle near-silence and thunderously loud guitar chords, while the second side opens right off the start with 'Shrapnel', the bewitching, hook-laden album opener of "jagged words are all I've heard, spitting shards of vitriol/jagged thoughts are all that I've got, shredding my soul".

Mclusky, Mclusky Do Dallas

A step away, but not too far, from the US is this band from Cardiff, Wales. Mclusky Do Dallas - named after the porn film of the similar name - was the middle of Mclusky's three albums and the seminal one in terms of their Pixie-ish, lyrically demented noise attack on rock music. I posted the album a long time ago, and have spoken about them many times since - partly because of the rise of the slightly influenced Fight Like Apes in the Irish music scene, partly because of the output of the post-break up bands Future of the Left and Shooting at Unarmed Men (more on which later) and partly because they are a hugely important UK punk/post-punk band that deserves to be heard.

Mclusky Do Dallas, released in 2002, was recorded by Steve Albini and bears the imprint of a viscerally noisy, hard-edged production. Nevertheless the album is amazingly tuneful, catchy and almost inspiringly enjoyable to listen to. 'To Hell With Good Intentions' was the key single release from the album, and as a heavy, ironic piece of 21st-century post-hardcore ferocity, it caught the imagination - I still hear it on the radio now and then. This was not least because of the clever, repetitive lyrics ("we take more drugs than a touring funk band"), the infectious rhythm and the incessant tension yearning to flip out into sheer sonic destruction.

Punk, especially in the UK context, was probably too narrow a genre to confine Mclusky to. Sex Pistols this ain't. Or rather, it is, but reborn in a truly frenetic, revolutionary fashion. 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' affected me thus: "That white-hot sonic anarchy, the complete abandon of scatological lyrics and eye-popping vocals, it took me out of any disillusionment I may have been having about the ability of punk rock to physically and musically move me" (from this post).

Envy, A Dead Sinking Story

Another band I've mentioned frequently, and presumably most of you have already heard. However, this album was revelatory, pure and simple, for me on first listen. If Hot Water Music was my introduction to post-hardcore with an emo dimension, this was my introduction to the no less complex world of 'screamo'. People scream for all sorts of reasons in all sorts of genres, and often to no greater effect than explosions in an ordinary Hollywood film. But here, like this, screaming is the most beautiful, intense expression of punk rock music you will possibly ever hear. Undeniably the songs are epic, and much of the beauty in fact comes from the slowed down, very quiet interludes of guitar and drums with a bit of spoken word, but the full crescendo provides an immediate, inescapably loud statement of hardcore only half-mixed with the stirring sounds of post-rock.

'Unrepairable Gentleness' I chose in a part as a double-take on the ferocious ending of the Mclusky track, launching straight into the loudness of the Envy album, but it shortly develops into a much more complex, layered song, full of twists and turns and an ever-ascending journey towards the heights of emotional expression. 'Go Mad and Mark' is broadly similar, but opens right on the melody line of the song and introduces that key balance of delicate mournfulness and harsh fury that characterises the Envy songs of this period. In short, these songs are throughout their epic lengths fascinating exhibitions of how hardcore/'screamo' can be such an emotionally affecting genre.

In terms of influence on the genre as a whole, this album may be the most important of the lot (bearing in mind the stream of developing Envy releases before this.) Epic screamo became a new artistic achievement of punk, and a new facet of the general post-hardcore spread that resulted from the need to do something new with the sounds of the 90s generation. Whereas Hot Water Music, American Steel and Mclusky all took punk and hardcore outwards into a redefining of punk-pop and post-punk music, Envy and the other modern screamo bands took the sound deeper within the genre, and came up with something even stranger and more beautiful.

La Quiete, La Fine non é la Fine

Very soon into this screamo renaissance, La Quiete came up with probably the most beautiful creation of the genre yet. This gorgeous album actually falls a little short of the melodic exactitude and perfection of the Italian band's 2006 self-titled 7", but as an overall statement of their style it still stands proud. Perhaps stemming from the combination of their Italian lyricism and their technical astuteness, it is marvellous, chaotic, indescribable assault of punk rock.

'Raid Aereo Sul Paese Delle Farfalle' - meaning 'Air Raid on the Butterfly Country' is the relatively brief opening gambit of the album: initially a dense, seemingly inpenetrable mess of drums and shouting; but also a rapidly developing creation of melody, rhythm, hooks and joyful excess - what could, again in the 21st century, be more punk rock? 'La Fine non é la Fine', the final, title track is a more epic expansion of the method that all the album's songs are based on. While similar, it is still far more compact than Envy's style of screamo, and tries at almost every moment to squeeze more melody and more emotion out of its sound. It has a central riff which is viewed from various vantage points, clear and open or closed, dense and furious. It is the openness which wins out in the end, rolling out the album in quite classic emo style (think Indian Summer) but in a subtly new, joyous sense.

Ampere/Sinaloa, Split Recording

Finally, I covered this very record only a few short months ago, so I'm not sure what to add on this occasion. On so many levels, this is a great record. It brings together two groups. whose styles are very noticeably different - Ampere, harsh and abrasive; Sinaloa, slower and more melodic - yet fit together brilliantly. It is packaged superbly, and the artistic, lyrical and political content does credit to the bands and the label, Ebullition.

The importance of the record as a punk album, however, lies partly in the context of the success of the two bands mentioned above. Outside of the US, the screamo genre seemed to have reached greater creative heights in terms of emotion, while the genre within turned more towards a more technical kind of creativity (I'm thinking of Off Minor, Kidcrash here). A subjective assessment, admittedly, but I often found American screamo lacked soul when compared with the best of what countries outside the US had to offer. Sinaloa in particular changed that for me. Ampere too, although their creativity is especially on the technical, quasi-grind side - the connected Bucket Full of Teeth project being the ultimate fulfilment of that trend, and would be on this list if it wasn't too far outside the self-imposed (ad hoc) bounds of punk/hardcore of this list.

So there it is, my top six records that changed punk rock since Refused. Feel free to disagree. In fact, please do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Refused - 'New Noise' (video)/ The Shape of Punk To Come

Can I scream? Yeah!

"Can I scream ?

It's here for us to admire if we can afford the beauty of it

If we can afford the luxury of turning our heads

If we can adjust that $1000 smile

and behold the creation of man

Great words won't cover ugly actions

and good frames won't save bad paintings

We lack the motion to move to the new beat

When the day is over the doors are locked on us

Cause money buys the access and we can't pay the cost

And how can we expect anyone to listen

if we are using the same old voice ?

We need noise, new art for the real people

We lack the motion to move to the new beat

We dance to all the wrong songs

and we enjoy all the wrong moves

We are not leading


The new beat (10000x ...)"

"This Manifesto is Very Much For Real"

Must I paint you a picture about the way that I feel? This situation of Art vs. Life and the present elitism within the bourgeoisie and upper-class. The critics hold their heads high cause they know about the real suffering and the real work while we get the easy accessible forms of communication and entertainment, pinned down simple for us to comprehend. The lack of stimulants within art, politics and life lowers our standards which is why we settle for talkshows and MTV. We are not stupid, but if we are treated like ingrates we will start to act like children. The lack of challenging forms of expression and thoughts of fire and self-confidence gives us a passive and hollow nature. So reclaim art, take back the fine culture for the people, the working people, the living people and burn down their art galleries and destroy their fancy constructions and buildings. Cause we, unlike the bourgeoisie, have nothing to lose and therefore our expression will be the only honest one, our words will be the only challenging ones and our art will be the one revolutionary expression. We need new noise and new voices and new canvases to become something more than the last poets of a useless generation."

You should read this week's Popless column which goes from REM and the Replacements to the Ramones, Richard Hell, Rancid and even manages to fit in Refused at the end - "I'm not well-versed enough in hardcore to distinguish what sets this album apart from so many other punk contenders, but I enjoy the turn-on-a-dime tempo shifts and arty textures which in combination holds the constant promise of something breathtaking". That more than makes up for deleting Q and not U last week, if indeed that hadn't already been rectified by Kyle Ryan's Vinyl Retentive post on Fuel's Monuments to Excess.

Refused also came to my attention when urbanology left a comment on my Swing Kids post asking where the similarly important punk/hardcore records are today; in his opinion the "last important records I would say [were] Refused´s "shape of punk to come" and At the Drive-In´s "In/Casino/out" record, both from 1998!!". You dig? Personally, I very much dislike ATDI - not that I argue with their quality, I just don't like my punk prog - and Refused is heavily indebted to the decade-plus-earlier sounds of Nation of Ulysses, but it's a good stance to take on the last groundbreaking punk/hardcore albums of the 90s and the twentieth century.

The last great punk record of the 20th century?

The second part of urbanology's statement is that there haven't been equivalently or lastingly important albums released in the twenty-first century. I came up with a list of five or so off the top of my head, and I later added a sixth (which had slipped my mind before because it's not as hardcore as the stuff, even recent releases, that I usually deal with on the site). That list will be revealed in an upcoming post - and mixtape - The Shape of Punk to Come: 2001-2007. It's also, minus the sixth, still in the comment section of course.

I'm quite excited about this mixtape, in that it puts together six of my favourite records from the last eight years... of course it's a personal choice, and the criteria of 'importance' (which I will try to lay out) are mostly subjective to me. In addition, importance is often a condition of retrospection, so it may take another decade before people realise what were the really important records in this one. For example, I didn't actually think of any from 2007... I can think of ten good releases from that year, but none of them are particularly punk. And even looking around at a few other people's lists, nothing jumps out. Brainworms perhaps?

For the moment, peruse Refused's 'New Noise' in the various forms it's layed out here. Its admonition that "We dance to all the wrong songs/and we enjoy all the wrong moves" as well as its discussion of 'bourgeois' art can seem a little didactic depending on how you take it, but it is a large part of the core message of the album, reflecting the original 'new sound' of Coleman's The Sound of Jazz To Come from 1959.

From that, comes the image of punk as change (will Obama put out a split on Ebullition later this year?) and artistic revolution. You can't have revolution all the time, but you can want to, and that's the fire that makes punk and hardcore such a rejuvenating art form as well as one that speaks so loud in emotional and political terms.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sorts, Sea Tiger - 'How Did You Get There' and 'Theme Song' 7"s

Now is probably as good a time as any to say that, unfortunately, I won't be going to the Hoover/Bluetip reunion show this Wednesday, 27th of August in London. In case you haven't noticed, I don't live in the UK, but neither is London that far away from Dublin... just a few hundred miles, with a short sea crossing in between. Still, it works out a bit too expensive, so no re-living the mid-90s* for me.

This weekend my part of southside Dublin has been hosting the annual Dún Laoghaire Festival of World Cultures. Usually based around a few shows by big acts - this year included jazz/afro-beat group Ethiopiques and Chinese singer Sa Dingding - with entertainment and shows in every pub, hotel and open space in the town. Last night we spent some time at the Mr. Whippy Soundsystem parked down by the Carlisle pier, an old railway terminus for the mailboat between Dublin and Holyhead in Wales. It's an ice cream van with a DJ booth inside and, um, 'speaker cones', in which selectahs Mr. Whippy and DJ Bass-Berger, among others, provide "softly-lit, world-wide-water-side downtempo, dub and ambient selections".

* when I was less than 10 years of age.

In honour of those two things, I thought I'd present these two 7" singles that I got recently from Interpunk. An additional reason is Blend's recent post on Zen and the Art of Face Punching: Sevens - 777 which gave the Hoover Genealogy Project a nod. That Sevens 7" ('Hammer'/'Booty', well worth hearing) actually features Joe Lally of Fugazi on drums rather than Chris Farrall of Hoover, but the later releases of Sevens do involve Farral along with Josh La Rue and the Sullivan brothers Bobby and Mark.

As Blend mentions, the web of Hoover and other connections is complicated, but it's particularly complicated with these two bands. Sorts (going by's listing for the 1999 album Contemporary Music) was made up of Carlo Cennamo (The Boom, HIM), Christopher Farrall (Hoover, etc.), Joshua La Rue (Rain Like the Sound of Trains, Sevens, The Boom, Sea Tiger...), Stuart Fletcher (Sea Tiger) and Vin Novara (1.6 Band, Crownhate Ruin). I suspect not all of those people are on this release, but some of them surely are. Sea Tiger (again, going by the listings for their 1999 album Teenage Bandit) included Chris Farrall, Dave Batista (John Henry West), Joseph McRedmond (Admiral, Hoover, the Crownhate Ruin), Joshua La Rue and Stuart Fletcher.

The Sorts have been featured here once before, on the Hoover mixtape, and I discovered them through the two albums, Common Time posted previously on Zen and the Art of Face Punching. 'How Did You Get There' sounds similar to the style on those two albums, with the same key characteristics (laid-back guitars, Chris Farrall's drum fills and, yes, Josh La Rue's warbling vocals) but kicks off in a heavy dub atmosphere. A little descending riff holds the song together for a while, before it locks into a tenser groove at the end of the first side where after emerging into clarity it returns towards the dub sound.

The second side, or 'How Did You Get There Pt. 2' buzzs in as a continuation of the song, but slightly louder and more assertive in both the guitar and the additional sonic surroundings (in fact, if you listen closely it sounds a little bit like the ominous, vibrating hum of 'Electrolux'). The lyrics, which on the first side mostly consist of "how did you get here/way ahead of me?" expand to "use a magnet/not a real magnet/you know what I mean" and "use a ladder/not a real ladder/you know what I mean" (the label for Side b is subtitled or parenthesised as 'use a magnet').

Sea Tiger are a new one to the genealogy here, but given that they are supposed to contain both Christopher Farrall and Joseph McRedmond, it's about time. 'Theme Song' is a much shorter record, with the grooves on the A side extending to barely half the width of the record. It's more like incidental music than the name perhaps does or doesn't suggest, but based around a catchy guitar line and Farrall's rolling drums it's enjoyable enough to listen to. The jazzy feel of the track (including a sort of bass solo in the latter half) gives way to a brief dub treatment at the end, an indication of how close these two bands are in style.

The flip-side, simply entitled 'M.V.', is another relatively brief instrumental piece, but this time with a heavier, deeper guitar riff and with a heavier beat to it. For stretches it alternates high and low phrases on the guitar while the rhythm section keeps up the dubby jazz feel.

The excellent Epitonic site, which introduced me to a lot of the D.C./Chicago/Mid-West bands including Abilene and Radio Flyer, have this overview on Sea Tiger:

"Like so many underground DC bands, Sea Tiger likes to get real funky. They create complex instrumental arrangements which feature an array of instruments centered around a basic three piece band. The songs are sometimes languid and jazzy, sometimes choppy and funky, but always engaging.

Featuring members of The Sorts, Hoover, Regulator, and Crownhateruin, Sea Tiger lets it all hang out and lets the good times roll, weaving math equations that drop science on your rhythmless buttocks. So kick back and enjoy this collection of lovingly crafted works straight from the minds of some of DC's finest musicians."

As a side note, if you're familiar with vinyl records you might have noticed from the scans above that these two seven inches have wide centres, originally designed for use in jukeboxes. Since these were both released in 1997, I'm assuming this was done somewhat ironically (in addition to the generic label sleeves). It's slightly troublesome as well as being ironic, though, as to play them an adapter needs to be placed around the spindle of the turntable. Mine came equipped with one, that neatly fits into a recess on the base, and which I had all but forgotten about since getting the turntable.

Sorts - Sea Tiger 7"s (vinyl rip)

Sorts and Sea Tiger 7"s on Interpunk.

These singles are apparently some sort of joint release between Southern Records and 'Copper Spurs Productions', although I can't find anything about the latter on the internet, and who were presumably just an ad hoc group or even just a name (the symbol is on the front of the Teenage Bandit and other covers, though.) Below are the stickers on the back (a continuation of the title stuck on the front) which show the rest of the information about the releases. Finally, Juan Carrera, who helped to mix both records, was co-founder of Slowdime Records which released records by Regulator Watts, Hoover, Abilene, The Boom, and The Sorts as well as Kerosene 454 and Bluetip.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Q and not U: No Kill Beep Beep, Different Damage

This week in the generally excellent Popless column for the Onion A.V. Club, where staff writer Noel Murray has been spending all year going alphabetically through his music collection, Q and not U ended up in the "Also listened to" paragraph with a line through it, signifying deletion of the associated track from his computer hard drive. This post is therefore an attempt to rectify the cosmic balance of the universe, by highlighting the two essential records of that band.

In fact I'm guessing that Noel Murray only had songs from the band's (inessential) third album, Power. He's no particular punk/post-hardcore afficianado (look to articles by Jason Heller and Kyle Ryan for that) but he had written good pieces on Fugazi and Operation Ivy earlier in the series, so the deletion of Q and not U came as a surprise. Q and not U's first two albums, No Kill Beep Beep and Different Damage are definitely important records; their third and final, Power, is more ambiguous.

Q and not U were likely, with Lungfish, the finest band on Dischord Records post-2000, and probably the best of the entire period after the mid-90s. No Kill Beep Beep, released in 2000, combined the energy of late-period post-hardcore and nascent dance-punk; the follow-up, Different Damage, made a substantial leap towards experimentalism and electronic sounds. The style of Q and not U was on average perhaps more towards indie rock than punk, or closer post-punk than hardcore, but in any form it remained smart, political and intellectual music. No Kill Beep Beep, my introduction to the band, is a fascinatingly fresh record. It sounds almost emo, in its use of dynamics and in its overall expressiveness and energy; but it also blends this with another layer of complexity in the rhythms and movement of what for want of a better word (and with the consequence of deeply unflattering comparisons) has to be called 'dance-punk'.

The best thing to read about Q and not U is this post by Mr. Mammoth, which is an almost perfect article on two almost perfect albums. I don't think I could really add much to it, other than rephrasing what he has said already. Hence, all quotes below are from his work (the photographs are my own.)

I: No Kill Beep Beep, DIS 123

" kill no beep beep is furious and detached, a mix of biting social commentary ("fever sleeves," a bald, disdainful attack on fashion and the upper class)... these traits, of course, continued to set q and not u apart throughout its lifetime, but no kill no beep beep set the foundation and benchmark for the band. every song is worth listening to; every song is worth enjoying. the air crackles with energy in eardrums, their music tenacious, raw, and exhilarating."

'A Line In The Sand'

"instantly recalling the more well-known art-hardcore of fellow d.c.ers the dismemberment plan, 'line in the sand' is taut and furious"

'Sleeping the Terror Code'

"trembles with prescient anxiety, fearful of a creeping evil"

'Hooray for Humans'

(Picture: Hooray for Humans, Irish band, recent 7" - post here)

"the joy of sweaty moshpit dancing (the anthemic "hooray for humans," where klahr wails "D-O-W-N; and that's the way we get down!")"

II: Different Damage, DIS 133

'Soft Pyramids'

"the first two songs.... set the album's tone, the divide between ferocity and reflection - 'soft pyramids' is almost tender, a sweet singalong that is starkly contrasted with its neighbor, the vitriolic 'so many calls,' a jittery and sneering attack on our broken healthcare system"

'No Damage Nocturne'

"'no damage nocturne,' towards the end of the album, is a return to clap-happy form, but falls more in line with 'soft pyramids' than 'line in the sand.' the preponderance of quiet songs on different damage does not foreshadow power in the least, and that album shocked as many longtime q and not u fans as it attracted new ones."

III - and beyond: Power, DIS 143

"in a way, i'm almost glad q and not u broke up after this album. their evolution from an arty post-hardcore dance-punk band to a not-so-arty, not even hardcore, dance (light on the punk) band is disappointing, to say the least. with power, they were able to curry the favor of the prevailing dance craze, embodied by bands like bloc party and the rapture, but this success came at the expense of their older punk ethic. power finds q and not u relying on synthesizers in an unprecedented way; whereas klahr and richards took turns playing bass on different damage, klahr stuck almost exclusively to his keyboards and synths on this album, propelling q and not u out of tiny clubs and into dance halls...."

Q and not U on Dischord

Coming up next week - The Shape of Punk to Come: 2001-2007 ; a mixtape

Monday, August 18, 2008

Best of 2008: Now It's August - Pt. 2

This is the second part of the selection, from the whole of 2008 up until the month of August. Part One was posted recently here, and a previous selection started in April. The third part of Now It's August will be six songs from Irish artists.

August - Part 2 (it's looong)

4. Patti Smith & Kevin Shields - Performance I, Part 1, of The Coral Sea.

5. Grails - 'Take Refuge' from Take Refuge In Clean Living.

6. Matmos - 'Supreme Balloon' from Supreme Balloon.

Patti Smith & Kevin Shields

The Coral Sea is Patti Smith's elegy to her close friend Robert Mapplethorpe - the photographer who took the iconic cover image for Horses - who died of AIDS, aged 42, seven years before the publication of the tribute in book form in 1996. The double-CD set is a live recording of her reading of The Coral Sea accompanied by Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine on guitar. There are two performances, both recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London in 2005 and 2006.

It's a long disc - this is the first of six tracks that make up the first performace, and as of writing I haven't even got around to the second disc and performance, which is supposedly broader and more energetic. On this track, Shields's guitar rises very slowly from being barely audible to having a physical, moving presence in the recording, while the whole disc captures the full climactic arc. Even if this part is less exciting or attention-grabbing, it wouldn't make sense to start anywhere else.

Patti Smith and Kevin Shields are important artists for me - and for most other people, to a greater or less extent, I would imagine - for two respective records: 1976's Horses and 1991's Loveless. Essentially, that goes without saying. Patti Smith - whose other output is far more prolific than Shields - although as I only have Easter and Radio Ethiopia, I can't speak too much about the overall quality of her work; though those two are very good, even excellent in places. Kevin Shields has achieved a lot of recognition for doing very little after Loveless, recent MBV reunion notwithstanding. He did do the Lost In Translation soundtrack, play with Primal Scream, and did a lot of work on Gemma Hayes's latest album, The Hollow of the Morning. However, it is little enough to make an appearance like this interesting, and considering the calibre of the artist he is playing alongside, very interesting indeed.

I won't pretend to be arty enough to be able to enjoy this album effortlessly, but I do enjoy it, and I think you should too. Free associative poetry, shaped into a mostly prose tribute, about a deep and philosophical human relationship; balanced with ethereal, cacophonic guitarwork; it is art. Sometimes the metaphors seem overworked, especially when isolated by Patti Smith's either soft or declamatory delivery - an ocean takes on the appearance of a "Rothko"; or was that Roethke? But elsewhere, it's a truly emotional, literary as well as sonic experience.


Grails can be marked down, for me, as yet another great find from Zen and the Art of Face Punching. Last year's epic, but highly focused album Burning Off Impurities made it to the top five of his 2007 list and introduced me to their Eastern-influenced, post-rock charms. I still like his explanation: "Grails are not new-age. They are incredible-age."

(I was looking at some earlier Grails stuff, specifically the album The Burden of Hope, and found via that local Portland musician Timothy Horner played violin with Grails as well as on the post-Moss Icon project Breathing Walker. Only connect...)

Take Refuge In Clean Living is no Burning Off Impurities, for a variety of reasons. But it is Grails, and that basically means it's awesome. Really, to my mind, Grails are quite possibly the best post-rock band around today, and that's in quite a wide genre. Part of their own appeal is the breadth of musical styles. Grails is somewhere between metal without the guitar distortion (thanks, josephlovesit), 'spaghetti-western'/'eastern' rock, stoner rock and Godspeed-like classical post-rock. The more recent origins of Take Refuge In Clean Living are described below:

"The 2006-07 touring incarnation of Grails included good friend and drummer Ben Nugent, allowing Emil Amos to switch to third guitar for the band's live instrumentation. The DNA of this "guitar-dense" lineup allowed for new types of songs and bigger melodies. In early 2007, the then-five-piece entered Steven Lobdell's (Faust) Audible Alchemy to document the new songs written with this augmented sound, and the resultant sessions make up Take Refuge In Clean Living. (The group has since returned to the original four members). Opening with a nod to Syd Barret's Pink Floyd, the album begins with Morse Code before dropping into one of the heaviest slow-burn grooves in the Grails canon. Sounding something like Hawkwind and Ravi Shankar scoring Bladerunner, it's lysergic and earthy in a new way. The rest of the album moves from blissful Eno-inspired ambience and epic Morricone rock hymns to an unexpected take on a Ventures tune that returns the listener back to the very beginnings of instrumental rock music."

( review)

With the Dionysian cover art, the album feels like a slight indulgence in the territority of jam bands. The first half of 'Stoned At The Taj Again', 'PTSD' and '11th Hour' (the Ventures cover) doesn't particularly jump out at me, although there's plenty of interest there to explore over time (I'll have to wait until I get the LP.) It's the second half, the pairing of the two songs 'Take Refuge' and 'In Clean Living', which attracts. 'Take Refuge', which in the words of one review "pushes the band far East past the gypsies and into Mahavishnuvian grandeur", opens with Eastern drums and drone (the later blending almost perfectly with the close of the preceding Coral Sea track) more reminiscent of Burning Off Impurities than anything else on the disc so far. However, it's not a simple retread of that album's sound, but something different and of equal if not better quality. A few introductory guitar chords, a winding Indian lead-in, and then the bass-heavy, mind-melting distortion begins to kick in. Briefly and softly at first, then louder and more sustained, until the riff becomes more and more obviously stated and reaches to dominate the song, although it always keeps a sense of separatedness, bleeding into non-duality.

After just about three-and-a-half minutes - the optimum length for a pop song, or so it's said - 'Take Refuge' drops back into a quiet, moody organ interval for a moment before starting all over again, but with the pieces all arranged in place so as to reach the heights again with pleasurable speed. The centre of the song, that heavy guitar riff, is unusually rock-ish in the context of the clean, almost Velvet Underground-like jangly sound of Burning Off Impurities. Its appearance reminds me of the last song on Envy's side of their forthcoming Jesu split EP, 'Life Caught In The Rain', which featured a similarly prominent and oddly out-of-place hardcore riff. In both cases, of course, what results is a fascinating, melodic hook. Deeply infectious, fluid and worthy of Junior Kimbrough's psychedelic blues, 'Take Refuge' shimmers with a clarity that only I suppose true stoner rock could. And as if to further the effect, the closing track 'In Clean Living' echoes the grandiose riffage with its own, ascetic, piano rendition.


Matmos - the San Franciscan/Baltimore duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel - are named after an extraterrestrial lake in the 1968 film Barbarella, which is also the name of the original groovy lava-lamp manufacturers. So it's not necessarily normal Hardcore for Nerds fare. In fact, the only reason I encountered their music was the fact that they were headlining the bill for the first day of the Future Days festival this year, with Si Schroeder and on the day of my 21st birthday (live review here.) As it turned out, it was a very impressive show on both counts, Si Schroeder and Matmos, with the latter having the added benefit of discovering a new artist. Perhaps an acquired taste, this album is either the duo's "latest offering of found sound scavenger hunt stylized schizophrenic video game soundtrack perfection" (Burning Down The Dreams of Forever) or a record with "an ambient title track that goes nowhere beyond wiggly test-tones for 24 minutes - a long time to go nowhere, no matter the concept." (The A.V. Club). Naturally, that 24-minute long track is the one I've chosen for this selection; partly to go with the general theme of largesse and expansiveness, but mostly because it is a really interesting, if aggressively ambient (is there such a thing?) piece of - firmly electronic - music.

Supreme Balloon appears to be Matmos's sixth release for the Matador label, and a move to "a purely electronic direction" and "crafted entirely out of vintage synthesisers" (allmusic review). I don't know enough about electronic music to make any connections, but I think if I were to describe this as Dan Deacon for advanced learners I wouldn't be too far off. Road describe it as:

"...another suitably bonkers collection of weird psychedelic electronica from matmos but also one of their most coherent and beat friendly collections to date. imagine what the bbc radiophonic workshop people would sound like jamming with mouse on mars and you are at least getting a bit closer to the sound of matmos. its full of throbbing moog like sounds with plenty of pulsating aphex twin like drum patterns. you wont be dancing to this too much but as ever matmos never fail to stretch the boundaries of modern electronic music. may 2008"

Admittedly, I found this song to be largely torture live - at full volume, after having been on one's feet for about an hour previous, and having imbibed a modest amount of alcohol - but that's not to say it wasn't interesting to listen to, and some people (mostly hippies, from what I could see) even managed to get dancing to it. Pitchfork - who give the album a decent 7.5 - describe 'Supreme Balloon' as "a chasm-wide, slow burning bit of analog psychedelia that conjures up very obvious comparisons to Vangelis and Tangerine Dream in their mid-70s heyday". They also manage to include the phrase "eponymously-titled". But of course.

In fact, the album aside from this title track might be a bit too odd and diverse for me to spend much time listening to it this year. The double LP is tempting, however...

Friday, August 15, 2008

it's already been said, by every god damn one

...but I've added my bit too. Sort-of-review of the Swing Kids discography, a digression on the merits of emo sub-genres, and an explanation of why '43 Seconds' is such an awesome song, have all been added to the post below...

I had intended doing all that yesterday, but it was sunny outside (also, kind of, today) and I'm just an emo kid, not a goth. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course.

[Update 17/08 - added a fourth section on the Swing Kids family tree]

The above image is a graphical representation of the current text of this blog. I found out about this today from Organizing Grievances which carried a similar treatment of Obama and McCain's blogs (hint: they both talk about Obama a lot). As you see here, I've talked a lot about the Swing Kids.

You can make your own over at Just paste in text, a url or a feed and the applet creates a 'word cloud' within seconds. I've left the screengrab at the full size, so you can expand it and see all the words.

"Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."

Cool stuff.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Swing Kids - Discography (Reasons to be Emo #140 & #366)

(extra sections now written in)


"this intimate biography of shit"

See Reasons to be Emo #50 and #100. This is the 140th post on Hardcore for Nerds, and also marks one year to the day of blogging on here (I started a few days previous on Steady Diet of Books, but it’s been on hiatus for a while) When I started, I had a small list of records I wanted to post, starting of course with the Han Shan 7". But Swing Kids wasn’t on that list, because it has to be the starting point, the origin, to this sort of music. It’s been covered multiple times in other blogs (see below) and the discography was the very first thing of original emo music that I heard.

Specifically, hardcore emo music. This is where I get up and wave my little Fourfa flag. Researching – to use the term fairly loosely – this and a few other posts recently, I saw some message boards with the fairly predictable kind of comments “yeah, Fourfa is okay but it’s wrong on a lot of [unmentioned] things” or “Fourfa, sure, but real emo is…”. They’re not actual quotes, and it is sort of a straw man argument – on both sides – but I’m inclined to give a lot more tolerance to what is one man’s concisely, humorously and sympathetically expressed view of the emo movement.

The Fourfa site was set up some years ago by a guy named Andy Radin, who played bass for a while with Funeral Diner, and its age in fact explains why it says little about what has been the modern emo (screamo) movement throughout most of the 00s, after bands such like Saetia or Orchid split up and were replaced by (obviously) Hot Cross, Ampere, Funeral Diner, Sinaloa, La Quiete, Raein, Daitro and the monumental creative arc of Japan’s Envy. But before that, between say 1985-2000, Fourfa does a pretty good overview and in some cases detailed analysis of the original genre and (gasp!) sub-genres. One of the latter is ‘hardcore emo’, which is quite obviously different from Rites of Spring, Embrace-type early emo (‘emocore’) and reasonably distinct from the quiet-to-loud, linearly dynamic ‘emo’ sound of Moss Icon, Native Nod or Indian Summer (the last somewhat less so). More chaotic, faster, often jazzier, mainly (though not exclusively) from the San Diego area, and dating from the early- to mid-90s, is ‘hardcore emo’, best exemplified by Swing Kids or Heroin.

Of course, that’s just my own attempt to put across a reasonably nuanced, not too rigid account of the genres as propagated across the web by Radin; there aren’t strict demarcations between them, and they are equally retrospective designations for influential bands as they were contemporary attempts to categorise an emerging sound. At bottom, they are just concepts. Concepts can be reassigned; they can be reimagined; they can be subverted; they can distort. Concepts are maya: the sooner one realises that, the sooner one can realise what a dog’s Buddha nature is.

Anyway, this is what Fourfa says about the Swing Kids, under the ‘Best Emo Records of all time…’ section which kept me occupied for several years:

“Hard to sum up in a few sentences. The first track on the 7" is still probably the best single example from this style, heavy and gut-wrenching yet brilliantly musical. In my opinion this was Justin Pearson (Struggle, Locust, etc) at his very finest”

That first track, ‘El Camino Car Crash’, is embedded above and, at 1:36 long, is probably the simplest and best introduction to the band and this style. It’s mostly impossible to hear the lyrics, though trust me that that’s the first line, “this intimate biography of shit, consisting of severed limbs, missing organs…” (you can check them all here). The only really audible part is the middle, “But. When. It. Settles. You. Will. Learn (that bullshit talks, that bullshit walks)”. It’s heavy, visceral stuff, but pulled off with such flair and musical honesty that it’s impossible not to like, assuming I suppose that you have a pre-existing tolerance for punk rock. ‘El Camino Car Crash’ drags and spins, turns in on itself and explodes in a fury that is still foot-tappingly (or body-slamming) rhythmic.

From there on in, Swing Kids – Discography is a beyond exhilarating, frenetic ride through punk rock at both its rawest and its most creatively proficient. Between the vicious, chaotic attack of guitars is a deep underlying rhythm and melody, momentary interludes of jazzy percussion and spin-on-the-head-of-a-coin balance. And between that, is a dark and wounded lyrical world, where the musical expression of sorrow and fury collide into generational narcissism and nihilism; “we’ve all been fucked up… sooner or later, we all die” (‘Line #1’). At the same time, it’s progressive; grim, but not without glimpses of clarity - “maybe it’s because we’re so incomplete” (‘Blue Note’).

Midway through the discography is one of the most interesting, musically and artistically, tracks on the record: a cover version of Joy Division’s ‘Warsaw’. Essentially a sped-up, aggressive but emotionally poignant version of the post-punk classic, it’s chorus “3-1-G” gave the name to the Swing Kids’ San Diego-based label, Three One G, which along with Gravity Records hosted the majority of the San Diego-core hardcore emo and post-punk bands. ‘Warsaw’ also leads into the only section of actual jazz on the disc, in the one-minute long intro to ‘Disease’. The original Swing Kids name came from the Swingjuden or ‘Swing Youth’, a counter-cultural movement of Nazi Germany, where most jazz was repressed as degenerate music. As a social and cultural expression of political opposition,

"The members of the Swing youth oppose today's Germany and its police, the Party and its policy, the Hitlerjugend, work and military service, and are opposed, or at least indifferent, to the ongoing war. They see the mechanisms of National Socialism as a "mass obligation". The greatest adventure of all times leaves them indifferent; much to the contrary, they long for everything that is not German, but English."



Swing Kids on eMusic

Swing Kids - Discography on Interpunk (links also in blog posts below)

A rather good Justin Pearson interview.

"An important time of progression for hardcore music were the 1990s, when several bands created new sounds and hardcore music changed fast and finally split up (once again…) in diverse scenes, from tough-guy-metal-bullshit to a innovative, political scene all around the world, which transformed the music into new spheres and kept the original punk spirit alive. One of the epicentre of this movement was San Diego, with the Swing Kids as one of their important bands. But not only outstanding for San Diego, Swing Kids created a whole new sound and brought the progressions of the last years to the point, Screamo (built up from the words scream and emotion) was born. Chaotic song structures, screamed vocals, melodic guitars - no one did it in this intensity before.

Swing Kids only released a debut 7inch and a split 10inch with Spanakorzo, 8 tracks (one a Joy Division cover version!) that took the world by storm (plus one previously unreleased song on the discography) and made an impressive mark in the little time that they existed. They broke up 1997, but the impact they left and the sound they pioneered & inspired can be heard in many bands until today.

Eric Allen, who committed suicide in 1998, played also with hardcore band Unbroken, other members later went on to acts such as The Locust, Some Girls, Sweep the Leg Johnny, Bread and Circuits and Yaphet Koto. If you are into hardcore you know how good all this bands were/are."


"The sound of San Diego Hardcore in the nineties was all over the place. Chaos reigned supreme, spastic drummers and schizophrenic guitars, usually mixed with impassioned vocals leading the charge. Typically before you knew it, the moment was gone and you were left standing trying to figure out exactly what happened.

This was a golden time in Hardcore, Swing Kids were a golden band. Sitting at the edge of the American Dream, they were fed up, they had something to say and by god they were going to say it.

As previously mentioned, during this period bands would be lucky to last more than a few years before they had burned out their initial rage and fell to the wayside. Swing Kids were no exception, only recording a 7" and a split 10" with Spanakorzo and donating one song to compilation before their fire burned out, but it's these nine songs, much like with bands such as Heroin and Indian Summer, that would help ignite a sound that would permeate all that would come after.

Sadly, Swing Kids split up and shortly thereafter, their guitarist Eric committed suicide, putting the official nail in the coffin of the Swing Kids legacy. Singer Justin Pearson went on to form Struggle and the widely well more known The Locust who still continue on to this day."

Burning Down The Dreams Of Forever

"Swing Kidswere an early 90's hardcore band from San Diego, CA. Being a hardcore band from San Diego at that time meant everything played was fast, jazzy and on the verge of total chaos, but with just the perfect measure of restraint and control. Just take a listen to bands such as Heroin, Drive Like Jehu, The Locust and you recognize it in an instant. Swing Kids had all of these ingredients and put them together just right to create a blazing fury of dynamic jazzed out punk. Screaming lunatic mad right off the rails. They are fast and unrelenting and smart about their approach. Skittering hi-hats and shredding vocal delivery and its over before you know it. Nothing wasted and everything put to good use. Every last buzzsaw guitar and even a great cover of Joy Division's "Warsaw" make this record one for punk history. Members went on to play in The Locust, Bread and Circuits and Sweep The Leg Johnny."

Zen and The Art of Face Punching [Archive for October '06]


"just another kid on the beat, yeah"

"One of the great things about “hardcore emo” is that it is possible for an outstanding band of the genre to have a complete discography a little over twenty minutes long. Another great thing is that these furious, short songs combine chaos, melody and emotion together into the most exhilarating punk rock I’ve ever heard."

Emo á la Fourfa eMusic user list by gabbagabbahey

When I have more than a minute-and-a-half to spare, '43 Seconds’ (which is anything but) is my favourite Swing Kids song. At 4:25 long, it’s practically epic by Swing Kids standards – but not, it may be noted, by the standards of modern screamo bands – and most of this length stems from the ultra-quiet breakdown in the middle-to-end of the song. I’ve never seen anyone else write this, but I’m assuming the meaning of the song is a statistic of youth deaths or something along those lines:

“It's already been said by every god damn one.

They say it's only a statistic or something like that.

Just another kid on the beat, yeah.

But this doesn't even make sense.

Well that's just the point.”

The secret to this song – well, it’s a fairly obvious one – is the rolling bass line which it opens on, before the simple but frantic guitar is overlaid on top of it: a stuttering, tension-filled rhythm as “just another kid on the beat, yeah” reaches it’s emotion-filled crescendo, to drop down into first bass and drums, then rise back up again, then drop abruptly into a bass guitar solo; the silence broken only by increasingly slow bass notes and barely audible, swinging guitar counterpoint. When the song erupts for its final moments, it becomes all the more potent for the preceding quietness.

IV - the Swing Kids family tree

So it's not as lengthy or as diverse as the Hoover family tree, but the four members of Swing Kids also played and recorded in some other rather good bands.

Justin Pearson, of course, went on to the perhaps better or at least more widely known noise terrorism outfit The Locust. I saw them live here in Ireland last October in a memorably loud show at Whelans, with the notable Dublin metal/math-rock band Bats playing support. Pearson also played in several other Three One G bands such as The Crimson Curse, Some Girls, Holy Molar and Head Wound City, and the earlier political hardcore band Struggle. Naturally Swing Kids could themselves be described as political to some extent, but Struggle was more overtly so and also more traditionally a 'hardcore' band.

Eric Allen, as it has been mentioned here already, sadly died only a year after the break up of Swing Kids, but also played in Struggle as well as in the sxe group Unbroken. Jose Palafox also played in Struggle, Manumission, Mike Kirsch's group Bread and Circuits, and briefly for Yaphet Kotto.

Finally, John Brady was a member of Swing Kids contemporaries and sound-alikes Spanakorzo (they shared a split split EP, the Swing Kids side of which makes up a good deal of this discography.) Apparently Spanakorzo were much nicer people than Swing Kids. Brady then later went on to replace Matt Alicea as bassist for Sweep the Leg Johnny, the Karate Kid-inspired Chicago jazz/math-rock band that will quite possibly blow your mind. He joined them for their later two albums, the more aggressive and discordant Sto Cazzo! and the final Going Down Swingin' which added Mitch Cheney of like-minded math rock band Rumah Skagit as second guitarist/vocalist and also reprised songs from earlier albums. In addition, the original guitarist of Sweep the Leg, Chris Daly, played with Frederick Erskine (of Hoover/Abilene, if I even need to say that) in Just A Fire, whose sole album, 2003's Light Up, sounds like the missing link between Crownhate Ruin and the Boom. With some added dub/reggae.