what makes PUNK PARADOX: A MEMOIR (HACHETTE, 2022) such a COMPELLING is how it voices the INHERENT CONTRADICTIONS, OPPORTUNITIES, LIMITATIONS, FREEDOMS, IN-GROUP/OUT-GROUP DYNAMICS and SOCIETAL EVOLUTIONS presented by the surprisingly ENDURING and AGILE CULTURAL INSTITUTION known as PUNK ROCK. as both a key member of 1980s HARDCORE icons BAD RELIGION as well as a TRAINED evolutionary biologist (with a CORNELL PHD to boot), GREG GRAFFIN is uniquely positioned to elucidate on such matters from a seemingly ELEVATED, macro-level perspective. i see this memoir as less focused on his personal narrative, albeit such details are included, and more as an EXTENDED meditation on the RISKS and BENEFITS of pursuing an INTELLECTUAL LIFE in a career [entertainment] whose format, supporting industry and audience expectations find such SUPERFLUOUS.
when i got into HARDCORE from LOS ANGELES through a childhood friend in ORANGE COUNTY, i was made privy to a whole host of bands from the neighboring area. places like the SOUTH BAY (BLACK FLAG, DESCENDENTS), VENTURA COUNTY (DR. KNOW, RICH KIDS ON LSD, ILL REPUTE), SAN DIEGO COUNTY (BATTALION OF SAINTS), LOS ANGELES COUNTY (THE BAGS, THE GERMS, X, THE WEIRDOS, WASTED YOUTH, FEAR) and even the SAN FERNANDO VALLEY (THE DICKIES, BAD RELIGION). all of this in addition to several bands from nearby ORANGE COUNTY cities (AGENT ORANGE, THE VANDALS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, ADOLESCENTS, D.I., THE MIDDLE CLASS) near where i spent my first twelve years before moving to NIGERIA with my family.
BAD RELIGION stuck out from their cohorts immediately due to the LYRICAL BENT and INTELLECTUAL ACUITY of GRAFFIN whose hyper-focus was on utilizing music as a vehicle for elevating the level of DISCOURSE with his audience. it felt like a contradiction in terms, as PUNK ROCK during this period generally was POLEMIC in nature, espousing CAUSTIC, ACCUSATORY VERBAL BOMBS at targets with machine-gun flurries of REPETITIOUS barbed statements that relayed a sense of urgency as well as a PSYCHIC LOSS of personal self-control and greater DISILLUSIONMENT with one's place in the world. HARDCORE in this sense was a FEELING, an ATTITUDE, an IDENTITY. GRAFFIN was the RARE wordsmith and intellectually ADEPT and CURIOUS songwriter that was able to take on heady CULTURAL and SOCIETAL ISSUES related to runaway MATERIALISM, ATHEISM, TRIBALISM, MISINFORMATION / DISINFORMATION, INSTITUTIONAL RACISM , JUDICIAL MALFEASANCE and POLITICAL CORRUPTION and construct COGENT points in SHORT, TIGHT, MELODICALLY SATISFYING outbursts. listening to BAD RELIGION felt like experiencing an oxymoron, a complete contradiction in terms, like the what-if test case of what THE RAMONES sounded like if they had genuinely INTELLIGENT lyrics.
my big take from PUNK PARADOX: A MEMOIR is that all INSTITUTIONS are useful in and of how they interact with the population and if needs change over time, they likewise change course and evolve. PUNK ROCK as a PUBLIC INSTITUTION shares this dynamic and is not what it was back in the early 80s when BAD RELIGION started out in a SAN FERNANDO garage, much less than what it started out as back in the mid 80s on NEW YORK CITY's lower east side. it is a form that will continue evolve and maintain relevance. or it wont and die like RAGTIME or NU METAL before it.
i wish this book would have been around when i was in high school and felt obligated to the tired arguments with SELF-APPOINTED "punk rock police" advocates who shunned some bands and lionized others for seemingly juvenile reasons. GRAFFIN does a great job of eviscerating the whole UNREALISTIC NOTION of the DIY ETHIC, as nothing related to being in a band is done on your own. in fact, it is the opposite as a band is the central organism that relies on a wider COOPERATIVE and INTERDEPENDENT NETWORK of ROADIES, MANAGERS, PROMOTERS and other INDUSTRY SPECIALISTS that make the whole mutually beneficial ECOSYSTEM SUSTAINABLE. if anything i found this book to be one of the most HONEST, NO BULLSHIT reflections on what it actually means to be in a band since HENRY ROLLINS' CELEBRATED tour diary GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG (review linked HERE).
does PUNK PARADOX: A MEMOIR become a little LOQUACIOUS at times, a bit overly SESQUIPEDALION? sure. but it never comes off is PEDANTIC in the least, more so that you are dealing with someone that put the time and thought into their memoir and likewise expect the same of the reader. much like what BAD RELIGION regularly expect from their audience.
i thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone interested in THOUGHTFUL deliberations about the meaning of art and the artist's responsibility to him/herself and their audience. it also touchingly showcases the GENERATIONAL DAMAGE caused by DIVORCE even under the best of circumstances and intensions on both sides. if you are looking for a more CONVENTIONAL history of BAD RELIGION, then definitely check out author JIM RULAND's recent book DO WHAT YOU WANT: THE STORY OF BAD RELIGION (review linked HERE) or maybe even history professor DEWAR MACLEOD's KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA (review linked HERE), MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (review linked HERE) by KEITH MORRIS of BLACK FLAG ,CIRCLE JERKS and OFF!, VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY (review linked HERE) by ALICE BAG of THE BAGS or UNDER THE BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (review linked HERE) by JOHN DOE of X.
whats always struck me about BAD RELIGION's debut album HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? (EPITAPH, 1982) is how MATURE it sounds for a band so YOUNG. during the recording of such in 1980 the band was still in their teens, some still in high school. yet even at that age, all the hallmarks of their storied career are on full display on tracks like "WE'RE ONLY GOING TO DIE," "VOICE OF GOD IS GOVERMENT," "AMERICAN DREAM," "OLIGARCHY," "LATCHKEY KIDS" and "FUCK ARMAGGEDON... THIS IS HELL".
take a song like the opening track "WE'RE ONLY GOING TO DIE" which neatly sums up mankind's FOLLY throughout history in conquering the world through VIOLENCE and SUBMISSION, only to redirect such VICIOUS intent on themselves. as the ending ANTHEMIC refrain repeats as a SOLEMN mantra, "we're only going to die from our own arrogance." it is pretty INCREDIBLE that a teenage GREG GRAFFIN had the PERSPECTIVE and CLARITY to construct such a POIGNANT statement that takes into account one's own COMPLICITY in the matter.
its my belief that this ability to maintain a LYRICAL POSTURE that included THOUGHTFUL SELF-REFLECTION and SELF-ANALYSIS is what made their brand of MELODIC HARDCORE so different from what was being by their cohort of LOS ANGELES second-wave PUNK ROCK bands in the 1980s. likewise the track "FUCK ARMAGGEDON... THIS IS HELL" embeds this notion of one's own unknowing COLLUSION in supporting political and capitalist systems that lead to our collective DEBASEMENT and DESTRUCTION. makes perfect sense that a young ZACK DE LA ROCHA clamored onto and was influenced by the PRO-INDIVIDUAL and PRO-INDEPENDENT THOUGHT agenda of HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? in particular.
though the follow-up record took a detour into PROG ROCK of all things, this debut served as a template of sort for subsequent releases up until the WATERSHED cultural moment that was SUFFER (EPITAPH, 1988) a few years later. is HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? the best BAD RELIGION album? no. but it is a PROMISING debut well-worth checking out and thinking about as the band evolved to further develop their identity around these STRIDENT POLITICAL THEMES amidst tightly constructed HARDCORE songs of the first order.
SMASH (review linked HERE), as i wrote about before, was a CONSEQUENTIAL record during the elementary school years my FAMILY spent in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. when in sixth grade my family moved to NIGERIA, that record was something i held onto as a cultural artifact of what i viewed as my home in essence. that EMOTIONAL sense of IDENTITY would later shift over time as i lived and worked in different hemispheres and never returned to SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
what is interesting for me about IGNITION (EPITAPH, 1992), which was the preceding album to SMASH, is its INTENSITY and palpable sense of AGGRESSION. SMASH had some straight-up PUNK songs, but they also had some lighter more pop-friendly fare that was recorded with tongue firmly in cheek. unfortunately with subsequent releases they went down that road too far and in essence became a BONEHEADED, THIRD-RATE WEIRD AL YANKOVIC band. which was a pity. but on IGNITION, especially tracks like "NO HERO," "SESSION," "TAKE IT LIKE A MAN," "WE ARE ONE," "KICK HIM WHEN HE'S DOWN" and "L.A.P.D." there is sense of PSYCHIC and PHYSICAL VIOLENCE that DEHUMANIZES and DIMINISHES one's sense of IDENTITY and their relationship to SOCIETY. its a BRUTAL record and for my brother and i this is the DEFINITIVE OFFSPRING record.
in retrospect i find it funny that i discovered this record through a LEBANESE classmate in NIGERIA. even the intro passage to "DIRTY MAGIC" was the first thing most of my classmates learned on guitar at the time. it just goes to show how big THE OFFSPRING were as an international force back in the mid-1990s, even in NIGERIA, and long before the internet. that still blows my mind. learning about this PUNK ROCK record by a local ORANGE COUNTY band from a few cities away (specifically GARDEN GROVE) halfway around the world was an experience that totally re-contextualized how i viewed my own relationship to AMERICAN CULTURE and that game of telephone would continue for years down the line. even this act of writing a blog is my way of exploring such a phenomena to a certain extent.
if you are unfamiliar with IGNITION, definitely check it out. it has more to do with the HARDCORE PUNK of DEAD KENNEDYS and BLACK FLAG then the POP POP PUNK of GREEN DAY, NOFX or PENNYWISE. its pretty UNRELENTING affair with no comic relief whatsoever like much of their staggeringly disappointing later output.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK icons NOFX!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
the summer before my senior year of high school in 2001 i visited a childhood friend in ORANGE COUNTY who i learned upon arrival had very much taken the deep dive down into 1980s HARDCORE PUNK ROCK and never came out. specifically he turned me onto SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA bands from the surrounding area like THE ADOLESCENTS, TRUE SOUNDS OF LIBERTY, THE BAGS, YOUTH BRIGADE, CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG, CHANNEL 3, DESCENDENTS, BAD RELIGION, FEAR, THE VANDALS, RICH KIDS ON LSD, X, AGENT ORANGE, D.I., WASTED YOUTH and so on. it was during this period that i was introduced to SOCIAL DISTORTION who were literally from the next town over in FULLERTON. that whole summer was very much an education in HARDCORE and the recent musical and cultural history of the area i grew up in, which was beyond compelling for me at the time. nearly twenty years later, i did a radio show specifically on this PUNK ROCK scene on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK episode of DEER GOD RADIO.
i mention all this because SOCIAL DISTORTION has a unique trajectory relative to their cohort of bands and the scene they came from. as time moved forward some local bands, most famously SUICIDAL TENDENCIES, adopted aspects of the concurrent THRASH METAL movement and effectively creating a crossover hybrid. most others in true steadfast RAMONES style never evolved and stuck to their sound. as main songwriter MIKE NESS grew older and got clean from a devastating heroin addiction, his music showcased a wider palette of influences that included ROCKABILLY, FOLK and COUNTRY elements that came from his newfound appreciation for art and enjoying life.
SOCIAL DISTORTION's debut MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER (13TH FLOOR, 1983) is quite the opposite of that later MULTI-FACETED creative output. these FASCINATING songs find a GIFTED songwriter early in the process of finding his initial bearings and seeking out his voice. on PROPULSIVE, now ICONIC tracks like "TELLING THEM," "ANTI-FASHION," "THE CREEPS," "ANOTHER STATE OF MIND" and "MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER" there is a palpable sense of INTENSE passion and FURIOUS intention with little in the way of FINESSE. that would come much later as NESS would mature and develop his voice as a songwriter along with his FEROCIOUS stage persona. the career trajectory and evolution of SOCIAL DISTORTION is what i find most INTERESTING. MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER doesnt sound dissimilar or any less accomplished from other recorded efforts of the period like THE ADOLESCENTS' ADOLESCENTS (FRONTIER, 1981), BAD RELIGION's HOW COULD HELL BE ANY WORSE? (EPITAPH, 1982) or THE VANDALS' PEACE THRU VANDALISM (EPITAPH, 1982). an INTRIGUING cultural artifact from this period is the ANOTHER STATE OF MIND (TIME BOMB, 1984) documentary that finds SOCIAL DISTORTION on an early tour with YOUTH BRIGADE as they make their way through house parties and VFW halls along the west coast. its a document that finds NESS establishing himself as an artist and taking chances both on and off stage during a time when HARDCORE and PUNK ROCK was DANGEROUS and could get you in a bruising scuffle with dumbshit local rednecks on sight. it would be years before NESS took to his guitar and develop his songwriting chops in earnest but the PASSION and INTENT is most obviously there from the start. its pretty cool to witness that spark.
and for me MOMMY'S LITTLE MONSTER is a documentation of that initial creative spark that would later blossom into one of the most ACCOMPLISHED and SOULFUL ROCK N ROLL songwriters of his era, PUNK or otherwise.
in the summer of 2001 i visited a childhood friend in ORANGE COUNTY in what turned out to be an education in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK. it was the summer before my senior year of high school and in retrospect it was the calm before the storm that was 9/11 a few short months later. it was also my first trip back to my childhood home as i had permanently left CALIFORNIA when my family moved to NIGERIA in the fall of 1996. i went into the experience expecting things to have shifted only to be completely gobsmacked to the extent to which life had inevitably moved on without me. new buildings, new facilities and new communities had sprung up during that half decade apart. like i said, it was an education of sorts.
my childhood friend was deep into PUNK ROCK and specifically 80s HARDCORE from the area. im talking about local ORANGE / LOS ANGELES / VENTURA / SAN DIEGO COUNTY bands like D.I., FEAR, CHANNEL 3, THE GERMS, AGENT ORANGE, RICH KIDS ON LSD, DR. KNOW, CIRCLE JERKS, T.S.O.L., BLACK FLAG, BATTALION OF SAINTS, THE VANDALS, MINUTEMEN, BAD RELIGION, DESCENDENTS, THE MIDDLE CLASS, WASTED YOUTH and especially THE ADOLESCENTS. now some of these bands i was familiar with but most i was not. at this point in time i had been abroad in AFRICA and then more recently sequestered in a NEW ENGLAND boarding school. i was a fast learner though. whats crazy is that my childhood friend and i went to two consequential shows that summer, WARPED TOUR in VENTURA and THE ADOLESCENTS in SANTA ANA. at WARPED i was introduced to the standup comedy that was the anti-everything LEE VING fronting FEAR. i mean even FLEA showed up for that gig.
but the more CONSEQUENTIAL event was the reunion of THE ADOLESCENTS for a show celebrating their self-titled ADOLESCENTS (FRONTIER, 1981) album. what struck me about that album was how WELL-CONSTRUCTED the songs were and how MELODIC and EXPANSIVE the musicianship was. tracks like "KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE" and "AMOEBA" were arguably ANTHEMIC pop songs in the best SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA tradition of non-PUNK bands. likewise "L.A. GIRL," "I HATE CHILDREN," "RIP IT UP" and "WHO IS WHO" were as spit-in-your-eye VENOMOUS and SNARLING as anything dreamed up by THE GERMS or their numerous later-day acolytes. hearing the album and then seeing it live was a unique experience, especially given how RAUCOUS and VIOLENT the crowd was at that reunion show. i had never seen concert-goes outright attacking security before. sure there were mosh pits id seen at OZZFEST back in NEW JERSEY, but this was another level of proximity and intent. i pretty much immediately got the sense of why people get caught up in this flavor of PUNK ROCK as it was almost freeing to see society's unspoken mandate of civility and mutual respect lifted for a few hours.
ADOLESCENTS is a record that more than lives up to its reputation as a seminal HARDCORE album that inspired countless skate-punk and MELODIC HARDCORE bands that followed. learning about them made me rethink my association with ORANGE COUNTY, as previously i thought of that region as nothing more than a cultural abyss of which nothing seemed to emanate out of except for NO DOUBT and RICHARD NIXON. now there was a whole slew of local HARDCORE bands to enjoy like THE ADOLESCENTS (FULLERTON), THE VANDALS (HUNTINGTON BEACH), THE MIDDLE CLASS (SANTA ANA), AGENT ORANGE (PLACENTIA), CHANNEL 3 (CERRITOS), D.I. (FULLERTON), THE CROWD (HUNTINGTON BEACH), and SOCIAL DISTORTION (FULLERTON) to investigate.
like i said, that summer was an education.
its funny, i literally just did a DEER GOD RADIO episode on SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POP PUNK icons BLINK-182 and the group reforms with its original lineup shortly thereafter.
im pretty ambivalent about it. it feels like TOM DELONGE only feels compelled to rejoin the band that made him able to pursue his LAME side projects when one of the other two core members survives a life-threatening situation. those being a PLANE CRASH with TRAVIS BARKER and CANCER with MARK HOPPUS. it seems like there is a reason this lineup split up twice and i really wonder what chemistry they still have at this point. it just smells like a cash-grab to be totally honest.
and that neednt be the case since BLINK-182 had put out two stellar post-DELONGE albums with his more than competent replacement MATT SKIBA of the iconic CHICAGO PUNK ROCK band ALKALINE TRIO. id even argue that the band was on a creative hot streak with singles that matched if not surpassed the classic lineup at their peak. they managed to sound ENERGETIC, SNARKY and dare-i-say-it, MATURE. with DELONGE back in the fold its difficult to surmise a reason other than the fact that outside of GREEN DAY, BLINK-182 is arguably the most influential POP PUNK band of all-time. this line-up will no doubt allow for a cash-in unlike anything seen in recent memory.
i just have my concerns of how long this will last. inevitably DELONGE will return to his yes-men in ANGELS & AIRWAVES and put out more unlistenable, D-grade U2 retread music from the profits of this coming go around.
get the feeling sometimes that you're being used? i do.
MICHAEL "FAT MIKE" BURKETT of LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK veterans NOFX has long been quite the OUTRAGEOUS personality in the PUNK underground and ALTERNATIVE music scenes going back to the 1980s. in some sways that AUDACIOUS public persona, most recently exemplified by the NOFX memoir THE HEPATITIS BATHTUB AND OTHER STORIES (review linked HERE), has run the risk of eclipsing his many musical and BUSINESS ACCOMPLISHMENTS (he runs and owns FAT WRECK CHORDS to this day with his ex-wife ERIN).
what i love about his FAT MIKE'S FAT MIC podcast is that it really marries the two aspects of his personality: his need to be CONFRONTATIONAL and his artistic / BUSINESS ACUMEN. there are many examples of celebrities and musicians who have turned to podcasting as a supplementary marketing avenue or potential revenue stream, but with FAT MIKE'S FAT MIC there oddly seems to be a real effort to pull back the curtain and dare i say it, EDUCATE. interviews include discussions with collaborators involved with varying aspects of the MUSIC INDUSTRY including MIXERS, MUSIC VIDEO DIRECTION, VOCAL COACHES and BOOKERS. being a PUNK elder statesmen at this point, FAT MIKE does promote those who came before him (JACK GRISHAM of T.S.O.L., GREG HETSON of REDD KROSS / CIRCLE JERKS / BAD RELIGION and legendary ROXY THEATRE owner - and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW film producer - LOU ADLER) as well as those that came after (GET DEAD, CODEFENDANTS, THE D.O.C., OLD MAN MARKLEY, IGNITE, THE BOMBPOPS, LONG BEACH DUB ALL-STARS, BAD COP BAD COP, DAYS N' DAZE, MAD CADDIES and THE LAWRENCE ARMS). FAT MIKE also gets into TOURING, ART and POLITICAL ISSUES surrounding the ENVIRONMENT and WOMEN'S RIGHTS.
the FAT MIKE'S FAT MIC podcast seems to be on a bit of a break at the moment but in my opinion it stands out not because of its BRASHNESS, but instead its THOUGHTFUL, REFLECTIVE nature about the inner-workings and limitations of the MUSIC INDUSTRY and, more importantly, as a platform (and force multiplier) to get the word out about MEANINGFUL SOCIAL JUSTICE INITIATIVES and ENVIRONMENTAL ADVOCACY efforts.
its pretty incredible and FAT MIKE'S FAT MIC is well worth checking out.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA POP PUNK icons BLINK-182!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
up until 6th grade my family lived in the ORANGE COUNTY city of BREA. at the time being 11 the extent to which i knew of bands from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA outside of THE BEACH BOYS were prominent bands that were being played on the local radio station 106.7 FM KROQ out of LOS ANGELES like BAD RELIGION and THE OFFSPRING. so i was utterly clueless about the underground music scene in and around my hometown during the period of my life when i actually lived in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
it was when i entered high school a few years later (on the other side of the country in MASSACHUSETTS) that i was fascinated to learn about notable HARDCORE bands that were not just from nearby ORANGE COUNTY cities like FULLERTON (SOCIAL DISTORTION, ADOLESCENTS, D.I.), GARDEN GROVE (THE OFFSPRING), PLACENTIA (AGENT ORANGE) and SANTA ANA (THE MIDDLE CLASS), but also neighboring LOS ANGELES COUNTY neighborhoods like LONG BEACH (T.S.O.L.), HERMOSA BEACH (CIRCLE JERKS, BLACK FLAG), VENICE BEACH (SUICIDAL TENDENCIES), MANHATTAN BEACH (DESCENDENTS, PENNYWISE) and HUNTINGTON BEACH (THE VANDALS) that i visited often as a child. it was like learning about an alternate cultural history of a place i thought i knew but learned i knew very little about.
so i was pretty excited and thought long and hard about the bands i included on the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK show i did back in early 2021. contrary to the name i also included bands outside of the greater LOS ANGELES metropolitan area and included SAN DIEGO (BATTALION OF SAINTS) and POWAY (BLINK-182) as well.
what i found interesting when reading and learning about the original scene in LOS ANGELES in the late 1970s was how INCLUSIVE and EXPERIMENTAL it was. with bands like THE GUN CLUB, THE WEIRDOS, X, THE FLESH EATERS, THE BAGS and THE GERMS you had such a wide array of bands finding their distinct voice through a litany of ROCKABILLY, COUNTRY and POST PUNK influences (well not THE GERMS, they were just abrasive sonic nihilists). very much seemed reminiscent of the nascent PUNK ROCK scene at CBGBs where you had PATTI SMITH, TALKING HEADS, TELEVISION, THE DEAD BOYS, BLONDIE and THE RAMONES all sharing the same small stage and supporting one another. the following NO WAVE and especially the NYHC scene seemed to occupy the seemingly polar opposite positions relative to unbridled EXPERIMENTALISM and PUNK ROCK FUNDAMENTALISM. that same dynamic played out in LOS ANGELES with the advent of HARDCORE and all the bands from the suburbs (like ORANGE COUNTY) coming in and taking over and bringing the angry jocks contingent with them.
this dynamic i have covered in several documentaries and several books listed below. definitely check them out as well as DEER GOD RADIO episode dedicated to the history LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK embedded below. definitely a highlight of my radio show.
DO WHAT YOU WANT: THE STORY OF BAD RELIGION BAD RELIGION & JIM RULAND
VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY ALICE BAG
UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK JOHN DOE
KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA DEWAR MACLEOD
MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR KEITH MORRIS & JIM RULAND
THE HEPATITIS BATHTUB AND OTHER STORIES NOFX
GET IN THE VAN: ON THE ROAD WITH BLACK FLAG HENRY ROLLINS
CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALL OF SST RECORDS JIM RULAND
CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY JONATHAN W.C. MILLS
A FAT WRECK SHAUN MICHAEL COLON
FILMAGE: THE STORY OF DESCENDENTS/ALL DEEDLE LACOUR & MATT RIGGLE
MY LIFE AS A JERK DAVID MARKEY
PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN: A FILM ABOUT FACE TO FACE MATHEW BARRY & MAUREEN EGAN
REALITY 86'D DAVID MARKEY
WE JAM ECONO: THE STORY OF THE MINUTEMEN TIM IRWIN
BOOK REVIEW | "CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALLOF SST RECORDS" BY JIM RULAND
my introduction to SST RECORDS as a teenager, like i presume with most people, was through the AMERICAN HARDCORE icons BLACK FLAG. for me the record label, much like DISCHORD, EPITAPH, ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES or FAT WRECK CHORDS, was the symbolic representation of the DIY ethic and the attached value system of SELF-DEPENDENCE and COMMUNITY-BUILDING that 80s HARDCORE epitomizes. BLACK FLAG, more than any other band of that era, trail-blazed and literally fought for a nationwide network of alternate venues that later bands of multiple genres benefitted from.
so for me reading CORPORATE ROCK SUCKS: THE RISE & FALL OF SST RECORDS (HATCHETTE, 2022) by JIM RULAND was pretty eye-opening in that it very much showcases the CONFLICTED, DUAL LEGACY of a legendary label that both opened doors for untapped talent (from DINOSAUR JR, THE MEAT PUPPETS, HUSKER DU and SONIC YOUTH to SAINT VITUS, THE MINUTEMEN, SOUNDGARDEN and OXBOW among countless others) yet effectively exploited them in turn. and it is that second legacy of EXPLOITATION that feels incongruous with the initial ETHOS and CULTURAL WEIGHT of BLACK FLAG, as the band exemplifies more than any other of its era the idea of uncompromising INTEGRITY. such is the crux of this incredible book.
the band and the label both came out of a bloated 1970s cultural scene in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA that saw radio and means of promotion being corporatized to the point that all ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINTS were seemingly edged out of the conversation. what GREG GINN accomplished with his band and label was to promote an ALTERNATIVE COMMUNITY that appreciated different perspectives and musical ideas. his label very much promoted emerging scenes from seemingly unrelated genres of INDIE ROCK (DINOSAUR JR), MELODIC HARDCORE (THE MINUTEMEN, HUSKER DU, THE DESCENDENTS), DOOM METAL (SAINT VITUS), PSYCHEDELIA (THE MEAT PUPPETS) and even experimental NOISE ROCK (SONIC YOUTH). in turn, the CULTURAL LEGACY of the label was one of being at the forefront of culture, well beyond its HARDCORE roots. these bands mentioned are the well-known ones, for the label put out many, many more by more OBSCURE and AVANT-GARDE musicians that ran the gamut from JAZZ and ELECTRONIC experiments to IMPROVISATIONAL SPOKEN WORD performances. the label was very much over the map.
which gets at the current state of SST RECORDS. a dormant label that has largely been abandoned by its founder and has not nurtured the immense cultural legacies of its artists with comprehensive re-releases of landmark albums. worse, there are rumors that it has either misplaced or improperly stored master tapes. it just feels tragic that for a label that gave so many artists access to a community it fought so hard to initiate, that in the end they left it all to rot. or worse stagnate and fester as GINN refuses to voluntarily give artists their music rights back. music that his label has chosen to sit on, in some cases, for decades.
its that dual notion of GINN as both a RIGHTEOUS SUPPORTER and a CORPORATE GOON that is difficult to swallow for those on the outside. just the idea that SST RECORDS is as much a part of that soulless corporate business-as-usual approach that they supposedly were fighting against.
it is unfortunate.
a common theme throughout many documentaries concerning PUNK ROCK and its assorted, tangled family tree of sub-genres (HARDCORE, POP PUNK, POST HARDCORE, NEW YORK HARDCORE, etc) is the concern over what constitutes "success" to an artist by definition catering to a niche community. is it being INDEPENDENT and SELF-SUFFICIENT from the larger recording industry? is it making business decisions that cut back on PROFITABILITY or CONTROL but allow your fan base greater access to products, shows and the like? is being PUNK about not making money? to my knowledge, there is no right answer.
and that is the crux of what is at stake in the documentary PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN: A FILM ABOUT FACE TO FACE (ANTAGONIST FILMS, 2006), released shortly after the breakup (which would end up being an extended years-long hiatus) of the veteran SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK group FACE TO FACE in 2004. the film is as much about the business and cultural forces that have led to numerous internal lineup changes as it is about the career of the band itself. on the face of it, the band enjoyed a mid-level career where they were signed to independents and mid-major labels (most notably FAT WRECK CHORDS and VAGRANT) and were able to sustain headlining tours for the better part of a decade from the mid 1990s through the mid 2000s.
as with most films about this pre-internet period, where RECORD SALES and the PHYSICAL DISTRIBUTION of product in stores was a paramount concern, it only shows how inverted the whole pyramid has become in the years since. back then you toured to sell records. now you put out records at a loss to make money on the road through ticket and merchandise sales. that obvious fact aside, the through line of the documentary is how the permutations in the lineup mirrored a refinement in focus and intention of purpose with the remaining members. when a founding member became a purist and was philosophically not on board, he was let go to pursue other pursuits (with PULLEY and NO USE FOR A NAME among others). another member becomes too much of a rock star and indulges in selfish behavior detrimental to the unit, same deal. hell, even a member left voluntarily to honorably spend more time with his young children.
as a film PUNK ROCK EATS ITS OWN is pretty bare-bones with extensive interviews with former and then-current members. its spare, no-frills aesthetic plays into the authenticity of the bands itself, who largely escape vanity with badly lit and recorded, horrendously angled, spur of the moment interviews that get at the heart of the band: their connection to the fans. i only wish they had extended the interviews beyond the band and their manager to other bands and fans.
if you are a fan of PUNK ROCK or the 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion, than this documentary is worthy of further investigation. enjoy.
its been documented that when PUNK ROCK migrated from the initial late 1970s HOLLYWOOD scene south to ORANGE COUNTY, that the scene became less artsy and inclusive and more REACTIONARY and VIOLENT. the music turned essentially into a soundtrack to the interactive slam dancing in the crowd which replaced the pogoing of before. once bored jocks and the irrepressibly unruly (skinheads, white power, etc.) infiltrated the scene did things truly DEGENERATE with the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK and the local authorities.
the documentary CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY (ENDURANCE PICTURES, 2012) recounts this transition through the history of the legendary HUNTINGTON BEACH venue THE CUCKOO'S NEST as told by its owner JERRY ROACH and members of local bands T.S.O.L., BLACK FLAG, THE CIRCLE JERKS, AGENT ORANGE, THE ADOLESCENTS, THE CROWD and THE VANDALS and notable fans like SKATEBOARDING legends STEVE OLSON and DUANE PETERS. what transpires is a narrative of bored SUBURBAN, disaffected youth looking for an outlet to burn off some steam that comes from being a product of such a culturally and socially conservative enclave. HARDCORE was a reaction to that tired social milieu as well as the REAGAN ADMINISTRATION and coalesced into one hell of a youth phenomena.
i grew up in ORANGE COUNTY until my family left in 6th grade and to tell you the truth, we never looked back. i remember telling my basketball coach that i was moving to AFRICA and his wife thought that such was a state. seriously. that is the level of naivete and ignorance that was endemic in that environment some 10-15 years after the events that transpire in this film. to say that these kids were raised in a protective cocoon is not hyperbole. ORANGE COUNTY is an inward-facing community that historically is a bastion for regressive REPUBLICAN politics and social conservatism. this film basically allows a view of how such a closed system reacts badly to a new burgeoning YOUTH CULTURE. as they do with all other aspects of foreign influence, they didnt react well. in fact they shut that shit down.
in some ways the HUNTINGTON BEACH scene presented is a microcosm of AMERICAN politics writ large. decades later the contents of this documentary do not feel all that much removed from the unrepentant racist and blatant xenophobic ethos of the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION and MAGA world. it feels like our current chaos incarnate. just saying.
FILM REVIEW | DESERT AGE
there is an arc to INSULAR art and music scenes as they become discovered and heralded by forces outside the COMMUNITY, especially in the pre-internet age. such was famously seen in SEATTLE in the early 1990s whereby a geographically secluded region ironically provided the necessary INSULATION for a cultural evolution to take place with the advent of what became marketed as ALTERNATIVE ROCK. what is very interesting is there was very much a concurrent scene taking place in the COACHELLA VALLEY more than 100 miles east of LOS ANGELES.
DESERT AGE (BACKWOODS, 2016) is a documentary the celebrates that COMMUNITY of artists and musicians associated with the desert scene of the 1980s and early 1990s that initiated and supported that cultural movement up until its collapse as it was discovered and ultimately infiltrated by outsiders. notable interview participants include musicians such as SEAN WHEELER (MUTUAL HATRED / ZEZO ZECE ZADFRACK / THROW RAG), MARIO "BOOMER" LALLI (DEAD ISSUE / ACROSS THE RIVER / YAWNING MAN), BRANT BJORK (KYUSS), BRIAN MALONEY (UNSOUND), PAUL MITCHELL (TARGET 13), IAN TAYLOR (UNSOUND), SCOTT REEDER (DEAD ISSUE / ACROSS THE RIVER / KYUSS), JESSE HUGHES (EAGLES OF DEATH METAL), DAVE GROHL (FOO FIGHTERS / NIRVANA) and JOSH HOMME (KYUSS) among many others.
what seemed to mark this scene was its DIY PUNK ROCK ethic and internal celebration of EXPERIMENTATION and INDIVIDUALITY. there was no arms race of sorts, as in the nearby LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene, to be the hardest and most HARDCORE band in the area. instead bands were mutually encouraged to seek out their own sound. part of this was just the nature of being in a small closed COMMUNITY with limited resources. famously LALLI had a generator that allowed for concerts to take place beyond the city limits in the vast space of the open desert. that unique venue alone spurred INNOVATION with the upcoming musicians of the area, who had to tackle the concept of playing in such an open venue. at these "generator shows" it would not be odd to have a PROGRESSIVE band play next to a PUNK band and so forth. the ETHOS really was EXPERIMENTATION and seeking out ones own sonic signature. having shows outside the city limits, although LIBERATING in one sense, also allowed for certain local lawless, violent elements (biker gangs, meth dealers) to take advantage of the situation.
i was happy to say that this film did not devolve into an unofficial KYUSS hagiography, as they are the most famous direct export of the scene by far (as the antecedent root for the globally successful QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE). this was my fear and i was glad to see that such an an itch was not scratched. instead the majority of the film outlines how the efforts of key scene initiators like the older SEAN WHEELER and MARIO "BOOMER" LALLI laid the groundwork for the cultural revolution that followed. this film is largely a celebration of their efforts to promote art and music in a barren cultural island whose true identity was the very meth-addled inversion of the popular iconography associated with celebrity playgrounds like nearby PALM SPRINGS.
interesting film worth your time if you have any interest in the desert scene or ALTERNATIVE and STONER ROCK in general.
FILM REVIEW | REALITY 86'D
REALITY 86'D (WE GOT POWER FILMS, 1991) is a documentary parceled together from footage of the last 1986 tour conducted by legendary HARDCORE band BLACK FLAG in support of their final experimental IN MY HEAD (SST, 1985) record. it showcases the final touring lineup of HENRY ROLLINS, GREG GINN, C'EL REVUELTA and ANTHONY MARTINEZ as they make their way around the country playing small venues and dealing with uppity local POLICE, belligerent FANS and deceitful CONCERT PROMOTERS. in many ways this film feels like the documentary version of the ROLLINS' memoir GET IN THE VAN (review linked HERE) which similarly chronicles his touring career with BLACK FLAG and the immense PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL toll that came with that experience.
given the SPARTAN, self-made, DIY nature of the band and the HARDCORE movement in general, what really strikes me about this film is how UNGLAMOROUS touring life was during this period for an INDEPENDENT band. obviously BLACK FLAG were the early pioneers that blazed the trail, establishing the very UNDERGROUND network of VENUES, BACKYARDS, BASEMENTS and VFW halls that made up the independent TOURING CIRCUIT that later PUNK-influenced ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands of the next decade would commercially benefit from. its a real gift to see how MUNDANE and AWFUL it is to watch a bunch of anemic vegans carting in their own speakers and equipment to shitty venues and then drive the bus to the next town. just the act of watching it feels EXHAUSTING.
and that may be the point. this film really stands as a document of what PUNK ROCK and HARDCORE once was in its infancy. you get the sense that what was lost in terms of creature comforts back in the day was made up for handsomely with a begrudging, hard-earned sense of CAMARADERIE, which is ironic given that this film is essentially a documentation of the breakup of a POWERFUL and massively INFLUENTIAL band.
id consider REALITY 86'D required viewing. definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in the 1980s HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK scenes that paved the way for 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK. compelling stuff.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i love the idea of long-form interviews as the basis of a research project.
in fact i've made no secret, writing before (linked HERE, HERE and HERE) about my experience as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA where i spearheaded an oral history project aimed at the impact of the KOSOVO conflict on how both sides of the border dealt with the influx of refugees in 1999. it was a taboo subject internally but i thought it was information worth pursuing from the older generation (along with other unrelated topics such as life under the communist ENVER HOXHA regime) so that there was a record for future generations. similarly the questions themselves werent mine but my students at the UNIVERSITY OF VLORA where i was stationed at. my prompt to them was what questions they thought their grand-children would would want to ask their great-great-grandparents. talk about epic, a four generation question! it got them thinking in that scale and those were the questions i asked, not mine as an AMERICAN, i was just the conduit.
i came across the WOMEN OF ROCK ORAL HISTORY project recently online and i thought it was the coolest thing. the contributions of women to the cultural achievements surrounding ROCK N ROLL cannot be understated but are often overlooked.
i feel that i am guilty of this as well. when i look at past playlists for my DEER GOD RADIO show on nonprofit radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC i am often confronted with a list of male artists. while there have been past shows specifically on the RIOT GRRRL movement and prominent artists such as BJORK, KIM DEAL and LADYTRON, as well as other shows that prominently investigate female musicians and artists within wider constructs (example: CAROLE KAYE contributions with THE WRECKING CREW), there is a lack of balance that i recognize. that is something i am working on. in the future i plan to add shows focused on PJ HARVEY, COURTNEY LOVE, KRISTIN GUNDRED, LUSCIOUS JACKSON, NO DOUBT, CHARLI XCX, PATTI SMITH, JOAN JETT, BLONDIE and producer SYLVIA MASSY (MELVINS, TOOL) to the mix. it is a work in progress.
these filmed interviews with the likes of PUNK ROCK / ALTERNATIVE ROCK / NO WAVE / INDIE ROCK luminaries like ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), LYDIA LUNCH, GAIL ANN DORSEY (DAVID BOWIE), KATE SCHELLENBACH (LUSCIOUS JACKSON, BEASTIE BOYS), EXENE CERVENKA (X), DONITA SPARKS (L7), MELISSA AUF DER MAUR (HOLE, SMASHING PUMPKINS), AMANDA PALMER (THE DRESDEN DOLLS), KRISTIN HERSCH (THROWING MUSES) and SHIRLEY MANSON (GARBAGE) among many others are a great resource for all musicians to receive a fuller understanding of the real history of ROCK N ROLL. its pretty exciting since this project is still very much a current operation especially in recent months with the advent of effective COVID-19 vaccines providing an opportunity for in-person, on-camera interviews again.
the WOMEN OF ROCK ORAL HISTORY is definitely worth checking out and revisiting. what a gift to music fans.
BOOK REVIEW | "KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA" BY DEWAR MACLEOD
photo by nacrowe
much like the previously reviewed UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (linked HERE) KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA (UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS, 2011) by DEWAR MACLEOD deals with the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene that began primarily around HOLLYWOOD in the late 70s and then quickly proliferated to the surrounding suburbs and statewide thereafter in quick succession.
whereas UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN is by design an oral history by participants of the original scene with some HARDCORE musicians sprinkled in, MACLEOD's take on the subject is of a more academic, anthropological variety including economic, media criticism and social historical insights. unlike UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN, he analyzes both scenes, those being the original LOS ANGELES scene and the fragmented suburban scenes it spawned, with equal critical attention and weight.
in UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN there is the presentation of HARDCORE as the bastardization of the original scene which was described as diverse and inclusive of various art and minority communities. the almost exclusively WHITE MALE kids that made up the HARDCORE scene in the suburbs where abrasive, boorish and exceedingly violent and their music was a sped-up, dumbed down, sonically conservative variant. that was general criticism of such from that book.
MACLEOD here presents HARDCORE instead as a progression of an art form by kids who grew up within communities that by definition had no center, no core, no essence as they were part of the seemingly infinite suburban sprawl. their communities were defined by shopping centers and shallow consumerism. HARDCORE and its community was both a rejection of that complacency and a brutal, primal return to a cultural of year zero, L.A PUNK that preceded it included. these were not sophisticated art kids that jumped on PUNK as a means of expression as the original scene originated in the wake of the example of the SEX PISTOLS and the BRITISH variant's social and stylistic concerns, which were mimicked. HARDCORE, as MACLEOD argues, was the manifestation of a generation of kids raised in the suburbs with seemingly no locust of control over their surroundings, it was this dislocation, this imbalance that led them collectively to seek out HARDCORE in its extremities as a public sublimating ritual for control. that was what i gathered from this book regarding the violence that grew out of HARDCORE with the transition from BRITISH inspired "pogoing" to "slam dancing" behavior.
with HARDCORE in a SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA context you also have to be aware of the sensationalism behind its portrayal at the time by the media. cops at shows became a regular occurrence after the inexplicable 1979 ELKS LODGE MASSACRE, a show played by first-wave L.A PUNK bands like THE PLUGZ, THE WEIRDOS, THE SKULLS and THE DICKIES among others that was famous infiltrated by plainclothes police and resulted in a mini-riot and the public beatings of PUNK kids. after that event and the media attention that followed, the scene in LOS ANGELES was viewed as volatile and senselessly violent, which only drove those types of people to future shows, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. thereafter the scene ceded control to the masses.
one other thing that interested me about this book was MACLEOD's sociological read of the early scene which included various participants, cliques and independent zine writers/editors all attempting to define the scene to no avail. when i think of NYC where PUNK originated i think of closed, defined, claustrophobic spaces, both physical and spiritual. PUNK was a burst of energy and a claim to identity rooted in this perceived hostile environment. with LOS ANGELES, you dont have that sense of enclosing space like in NYC. but what you do have is the sense of the painful vacuous, vapid nature of the middle AMERICAN mindset, which i would argue is just as reductive and spiritually exhaustive.
interesting book that presents lots of interesting reads on a scene that no-doubt has had ripple effects on modern AMERICAN culture beyond the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s. definitely worth seeking out.
in the past few years there have been a number of books published to address the critical void in PUNK ROCK history surrounding the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene that emerged in the late 1970s and transitioned into the more aggressive, militant and arguably influential 1980s HARDCORE scene made up of bands from the SOUTH BAY and nearby outlying counties (ORANGE, VENTURA, SANTA BARBARA and SAN DIEGO). this includes X guitarist JOHN DOE'S UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (DA CAPO, 2016), MASQUE venue owner BRENDAN MULLEN's WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB: THE UNTOLD STORY OF L.A. PUNK (THREE RIVERS PRESS, 2001) and LEXICON DEVIL: THE FAST TIMES AND SHORT LIFE OF DARBY CRASH AND THE GERMS (FERAL HOUSE, 2002) and STEVEN BLUSHES's AMERICAN HARDCORE: A TRIBAL HISTORY (FERAL HOUSE, 2001) among many other notable titles.
what makes VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY (FERAL HOUSE, 2011) by ALICE BAG of THE BAGS a compelling memoir is not only her unique perspective on the initial scene, which she was an active participant in, and its notable participants (THE GERMS, THE WIERDOS, X, THE MIDDLE CLASS etc.), but also how her upbringing as a LATINA in EAST L.A. affected her worldview. in my estimation, that distinct perspective is what is missing in other recent books on the subject and makes this autobiography a particularly noteworthy and vital addition.
regarding that perspective, BAG presents a scene made up of misfits and artistically-inclined eccentrics with varied interests and backgrounds who created an anarchic, underground and ultimately inclusive community of like-minded individuals. in her description of this early scene there is very much a sense of FREEDOM at play, where PUNK ROCK had opened the doors to personal expression with no expectations. and the initial community, which was quite INTIMATE and SELF-SUSTAINING, supported such. much like other scenes that blew up, its success was its downfall as it transitioned into the HARDCORE scene. audiences from the suburbs flooded in and transformed the scene into something quite different entirely, arguably a more REGIMENTED, VIOLENT and ultimately CONSERVATIVE affair.
much of this book is focused on that of her family and the aggression and rage inherited from her father, who on occasion mercilessly beat her mother in public view of her neighbors. you really get the sense of the generational TRAUMA of such TOXIC MASCULINITY and how it affects and inhibits your ability to interact and navigate relationships and the wold in general. lucky for BAG, her music and the support of her community allowed her a unique avenue for sublimating such for position change, but it is interesting how she feels somewhat culpable for the transition the scene ultimately took towards a more orthodox and less inclusive community that seemed NIHILISTIC in its almost ritual celebration and fetishization of VIOLENCE. her music was violence and aggression as a catharsis and means of deeper communicating and engagement with her audience. what later emerged was music as a background soundtrack to sanctioned random AGGRESSION.
an aspect i really appreciated about this memoir was how it was written and structured. BAG has a real gift for being direct and concise while providing intimate details of what it was like being an adorable music-obsessed dork growing up in the 1970s complete with loving descriptions of her clothing, hair and that of her peers, especially with regards to her fandom and emulation of ELTON JOHN. the book is structured as a series of short chapters that almost serve as small vignettes, each one providing a glimpse into a wide narrative without making it to fragmented in the process. it is a remarkable narrative strategy that more than mirrors the ethos of her music, which likewise is VISCERAL, MEMORABLE, CONCISE and ultimately quite IMPACTFUL.
i feel that VIOLENCE GIRL: A CHICANA PUNK STORY is an effective introduction to the story of the LOS ANGELES PUNK scene and its transformation. given her perspective as a minority and a woman it is really interest a treat to explore her experience in the scene. it makes me wonder why more of these books do not exist regarding PUNK ROCK in general as the community is far more diverse than the literature would suggest. after this i am definitely primed to seek out THE SPITBOY RULE: TALES OF A XICANA IN A FEMALE PUNK BAND (PM PRESS, 2016) by SPITBOY drummer MICHELLE CRUZ GONZALEZ.
if anyone is aware of other titles hitherto not reviewed in this forum, please let me know.
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO that examines over 40 years of LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
i know that SUBLIME get a bad rap due to the fact that their fans are by and large assholes. and by that i mean oafish frat boy meatheads and their adjacent WHITE PRIVILEGE and warped sense of ENTITLEMENT that use the band as an entry point into REGGAE without having to understand thorny issues like JAMAICAN / AFROCENTRIC politics, history and culture. in essence SUBLIME get tagged for WHITE-WASHING REGGAE and DUB in a similar fashion to how ORANGE COUNTY third-wave SKA did for that genre.
i get that. i really do. the number of times ive been to a beach somewhere stateside or even in SOUTH AMERICA, SOUTHEAST ASIA or the MEDITERRANEAN where AMERICANS are vacationing and inevitably listening to "BADFISH" off of their 40oz. to Freedom (SKUNK, 1992) is to many to count. its cringeworthy.
however, that being said i dont question the intent or integrity of the late songwriter BRAD NOWELL when he released his string of records in the mid 1990s. in a sense he was able to bridge the gap between SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK and ROOTS REGGAE, which he got into after a childhood trip to JAMAICA with his family. SUBLIME was one of several bands (311, RANCID, etc.) playing with this sort of hybrid but in my estimation they had more of an edge. they re-contextualized it for the work-class white inhabitants of the SOUTH BAY in greater LOS ANGELES.
their eponymous, and final, record SUBLIME (MCA, 1996) was the high-water mark of the band and their sound. even now it sounds unique and hasnt really been co-opted and aped as was the case with other influential bands of the era, namely NIRVANA (which begot bands like PUDDLE OF MUDD, SEETHER) ALICE IN CHAINS (NICKLEBACK, GODSMACK) or RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (NU-METAL in general). songs like "SANTERIA," "WHAT I GOT," "WRONG WAY" and "DOIN' TIME" were all well-constructed hits on ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio at the time, but for me this record is really about the skanked-out bliss of songs like "PAWN SHOP," "APRIL 29, 1992 (MIAMI)," "SAME IN THE END," "BURRITOS" and especially "GARDEN GROVE." for me those songs successfully crossed PUNK ROCK with REGGAE in a cohesive, seemingly organic manner while lyrically providing commentary on issues of ECONOMIC INSECURITY, SUBURBAN BOREDOM and RACIAL INEQUALITY.
just kind of sucks that the band is associated with FRATERNITY culture. i think NOWELL deserved better.