Monday, June 30, 2008

Can't Stand Up Straight In Here The Pipes Are Low

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In the late 80's there was no band higher on the list for me than Breaking Circus. Like almost all of the great Mid-Western post-HC bands of that decade, they brought a toughness and attitude with them that bore the unmistakable residue of hardcore-- exactly what it took to catch the ear of a stupid ex-straight-edge kid like me-- while writing songs that were flat-out amazing, taking their cues from a whole variety of places: Oi!, metal, Brit-pop, hard rock, punk, you name it. Plus, I doubt you could find any three musicians who were more assured at their craft than Breaking Circus.

Steve Björklund was seriously one of the coolest guys I've ever met. As a frontman, his stage presence was like Marlon Brando and Keith Richards all rolled into one. His lyrics were wry as hell (listen to "The Imperial Clawmasters' Theme" from "The Very Long Fuse" and you'll die), and his musical tastes seemed impeccable. I saw Breaking Circus twice in Boston; once at The Rat, where I interviewed them, and once at a place in Cambridge called T.T. The Bear's. At the T.T. The Bear's show, Steve recognized me as I was walking up the sidewalk and put down the equipment he was unloading to talk for a while, which I thought was pretty cool. During Breaking Circus' set, I shouted out some Oi! song, either Cock Sparrer's "Running Riot" or "Bad Man" by the Cockney Rejects-- I don't remember exactly which one-- but Steve flashed a grin and instantly started playing the chords. I don't think the rest of the band knew the song, but Steve played it anyway.

I can still clearly remember the day I pulled "The Ice Machine" out of my P.O. box; somehow, I ended up on the Homestead promo list in 1987, meaning once a month I'd get a mailer with two new LPs in it, which seemed to be how Homestead's pressing schedule went. I didn't know I was on the list until a box showed up in the mail on the first week of January '87; inside was Squirrel Bait's "Skag Heaven" and "The Ice Machine" by Breaking Circus, two of the greatest indie rock LPs ever. Homestead was untouchable as a label back then, but even now I can't imagine any label being able to flop two records on the table to beat that pair.

Breaking Circus' previous record, "The Very Long Fuse", was more of a mellow, moody affair, so when I first put "The Ice Machine" on the turntable and "Song of The South" kicked in, it served notice that Breaking Circus were ready to rock at this time, thank you very much. And rock they did.

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Breaking Circus -

"Took a Hammering"

"Song of The South"

"Swept Blood"

"Caskets and Clocks"


"Gun Shy"

"Laid So Low"

"Evil Last Night"

(these files are now listen-only)

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Take This Shit Back

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I can't say that I lament the passing of the early 90's noise rock scene all that much; ultra-derivative dudes acting all pissed off and shit, with an occasional bad metal band slipping through the cracks... though that's not to say they didn't produce a few forthright jams. Plus I still have some of those records, so what the heck.

"From Twisted Minds Comes..." starts off with a bad-ass Action Swingers track, easily the best, and shortest, blast on here (Surgery's, on the other hand, is the longest and the worst, so that figures). Pocket Fishrmen's non-trad punk rock stands out for being the least like any of the other bands on the record; I also have their "Leader Is Burning" single (Noiseville #1), though I can't say I've listened to it all that much.

To save me from having come up with any more descriptions, here are some notes that I scribbled down as I was ripping the songs:

P.S. Every band on this compilation is an offshoot of Drunks With Guns in some way or another, including the Jack Wagner hidden bonus track.

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Action Swingers -


Unholy Swill -

"White Trash Shouldn't Rap (Colors)"

Bench -


Bootbeast -


Bullets For Pussy -

"Bullets For Pussy"

Pocket Fishrmen -

"King Hatred"

(these files are now listen-only)

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Friday, June 27, 2008

I Hate Your Fucking Mess

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In their time the New Bomb Turks churned the earth better than any band alive, so it's funny to hear them cover the Anti-Nowhere League, one of the worst punk bands ever.

With all due respect to Scandinavian death metal, the Entombed song is almost five minutes long and really drags. Jeezus fuck, guys-- Minor Threat, ever hear of them?

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New Bomb Turks -

"I Hate People"

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Bricklayer's Mentality

From the same stupid minds that brought you Damp fanzine (a total piece of crap) and the "Footprints Of God" compilations (pure brilliance), if I remember correctly... I'm pulling out all the stops by presenting you with a real piece of Connecticut music history here. If this thing ever sold more than 100 copies, I'd be truly dissapointed.

There's probably some outsider 70's fusion band (or some bullshit on Siltbreeze) that sounds exactly like this, but that's not my area of expertise, which sorta leaves me at a loss of how to describe Woodchipper to you. Pre-Geezer Lake? New Bad Things meets the Animals? Paul McCartney and Wings record their best songs ever and then immediately break up?

Whatever the deal is, this thing's got more rock than a 6-piece McNugget.

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Woodchipper -


"She Got Elected"

(these files are now listen-only)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I'm Not Easy To Defend

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I don't know how many of you have heard of The OffRamps, but they have a new CD that just came out earlier this month called "Split The Difference". The OffRamps sound like a dead ringer for "Don't Tell A Soul"-era Replacements, only a lot less dour, so if that seems like it could be your thing then scoot on over to and go for it.

Slug Bug was The OffRamps' Jeremy Porter's band back in the 90's; that was when I picked up the second Slug Bug single in some 50-cent bin somewhere and liked it, so I put a few bucks in an envelope and mailed away for their first EP, "Live It Down". Judging by the note that I got back with the record, I must've foisted my standard "AC/DC or Cheap Trick?" query (a running gag from the last couple of issues of Brushback) upon Slug Bug's Chicago-based label, Red Eye Growler, when I sent out my order, and it looks like they answered somewhat correctly.

I'm sure Slug Bug caught my ear because they sounded like they probably listened to the same records that I did growing up (Replacements, Hüsker Dü, whatever). You can hear a little of the Ringing Ear bands (Doc Hopper, Sinkhole, Huffy) in them, with some Doughboys, Punchbuggy, and maybe some early Uncle Tupelo too.

I'm including one of the "Cheap Trick vs. AC/DC" bits from a ten-year-old issue of Brushback down at the bottom, though I'm sure it was a lot funnier back when people still had some idea of what Fizz was.

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Slug Bug -

"Live It Down"

"Wednesday Tonite"

(these files are now listen-only)

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stumble My Way

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I guess I gotta get around to posting my own records eventually, meaning the ones I released (all three of them), so here's my singular contribution to 80's Connecticut hardcore-- the "Make It Work" compilation. At the time it wasn't much more than an EP of local bands that I gave away for free with the third issue of Run It, only now it's listed in Wikipedia as the first vinyl appearance of Youth of Today, since it beat out the release of their "Can't Close My Eyes" EP on Positive Force by about a month.

Run It might've also been the first fanzine to come with an actual vinyl record and not a flexi, though it's not something that I've ever verified. I was planning to release a flexi originally, but then Jim Spadaccini of the Vatican Commandos convinced me that a 7" would me more worthwhile. The bands had sent their songs to me, taken from demos or practice tapes or what have you, along with a million other songs which were all on ordinary cassette tapes I carried around in my backpack, and that's what I gave Jim to use to make the record.

Jim took the tapes and got them pressed at the same place the Vatican Commandos records were made, so at least the two VC songs on here aren't from a beat-up cassette but are studio tracks from "Crusading", the album that the Vatican Commandos finished but then never released 'cuz they broke up. I'm pretty sure the two Vatican Commandos tracks on the "Connecticut Fun" compilation are also from "Crusading", but other than that the rest of the album sits in a can somewhere. In any case, the Vatican Commandos were one of my favorite bands at the time, and though a lot of kids in the scene started knocking them for "going metal", their two songs here clock in at 1:30 and 1:11-- hardly "How We Rock"-type territory.

For years I told a neat story about how singer Chuck Wheat's name really was Charles Wheat, since that's how his dad answered the phone when I called to get the lyrics for the lyric sheet, but then Chuck Wheat himself sent me a comment last year disavowing that story, so now I'm not sure what I remember.

The Youth of Today songs here are two extra songs that were recorded for "Can't Close My Eyes" but didn't make the record, although Positive Force released "Take a Stand" on the "Another Shot For Bracken" compilation (yeah, that's not one that I've ever owned, either). Of course, Revelation's full-length reissue has all the songs on it. Youth of Today were awesome back then; the Youth Crew clone bands were still a couple of years away from developing, so Youth of Today were like a force all to themselves at that point, and there was no other band in CT who could match their ferocity. Crippled Youth, from nearby New York, were about the only other band in the area who were doing somthing similar (until we heard Straight Ahead on the "End The War Zone" comp), and Ray kept pushing me to put Crippled Youth on the compilation also, but I wanted it to remain all Connecticut bands instead. I can only imagine what sort of collectible that would've been.

Ray and Porcell always got a kick out of stirring up shit, so as Violent Children were breaking up and Youth of Today were just getting started, there was a bunch of stuff going around the CT scene about which bands were "soft" and which bands were "hard", which a lot of the old guard in the scene (Seizure, 76% Uncertain, Contraband-- the so-called "soft" bands) didn't think was too funny. Chronic Disorder were more no guard than old guard, being from the boonies north of Hartford, but they were the ones who were first to write a song about it.

It started with something I said in an interview with Jason ("Spit Respectable") of Chronic Disorder. After we spent a while ripping everyone else in the scene up and down in the interview, Jason finally said, "Wait, why are we cutting on other people when I don't give a shit?" and I said, "Because everyone cuts on you." Jason was like, "What do they say?" and I said, "Nobody moshes to Chronic Disorder." Jason had a sense of humor about himself, at least, so when it came time for him to send me a tape of songs for "Make It Work", as a joke he put a song on it that he had written called "Unmoshable Chronic Disorder". I don't think he thought I'd actually use it on the record, but I did.

The other song Jason sent me was a studio version of "Welcome to The Modern World" that he had recorded mostly by himself, including playing the drums, which I thought was pretty bad. There was a louder, faster version of "Welcome to The Modern World" on a rough practice tape that Chronic Disorder had made which had a lot more balls to it, so I told Jason that I wanted to use that one instead. Jason went along with it, though he wasn't all that sure about it; he thought the practice version was inferior, but I thought it captured something.

After the record came out, Jason would sometimes good-naturedly grumble about how I had released a song of theirs that was "recorded in a garage somewhere." On the "Mutiny on The Bowery" compilation (recorded live at CBGB's in '86), Jason introduces "Welcome to The Modern World" by first playing the opening verse to "Unmoshable", and then saying, "This is the other song, called 'Welcome to The Modern World'-- the one that sounds like shit in front of it.. yeah, that one," which I think is a joking reference to "Make It Work". ("Mutiny on The Bowery" was posted on "Something I Learned Today", so you can still find it there and listen to it if you want.)

Seizure's song, the Flipper-ish "Mary Lou" (recorded live at CBGB's), is a song that a bunch of people told me had to be on the record because it cracked them up so much. Karl, who was the singer for Seizure at the time, later joined Corrosion of Conformity, but it's Sex Bomb who does most of the singing on this one. Seizure had a bunch of goofy songs back then, like "Jackie" ("Jackie on the corner got V.D./Jackie on the corner she gave it to me"), "Mary Lou", and "Guns For Everyone", so most people didn't take them too seriously. Then when their first record came out a year later, called "All Hail The Fucking System", a lot of people were surprised because it was a totally great record, and a really heavy political record too.

I don't remember how many copies of "Make It Work" were pressed; probably 300 at most, which I had made in two batches because I didn't have the money to pay for them all at once (hence the "second pressing" notation on some of them, which is a bit of a misnomer). About 200 of them came inside the zine, without a sleeve (just a little quarter-page lyric sheet), and then maybe another 100 or so had an elaborate fold-out sleeve that I had printed up. I didn't like the way the fold-out sleeve came out, so when I had less than 30 copies left, I switched to the photocopied picture sleeve that you see here; some were on gray paper, while others (like the one here) were on blue. Out of this version, maybe 15 of them came with the lyric sheet you see down below.

I was amused to see a gray-sleeved copy (with the original first-run lyric sheet) listed on eBay for $175 a few months ago, though I don't think it sold.

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Vatican Commandos -

"Your World is Flat"


Youth of Today -

"Take a Stand"

"We Just Might"

Chronic Disorder -


"Welcome to The Modern World"


"Mary Lou"

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Here are some photos and other crap from Run It #3, the issue that the record came with:

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These three Youth of Today photos (from Run It #3) are from two different shows in 1985 at the original Anthrax Club in Stamford. The first one I took, and the other two were taken by Jordan Cooper of Revelation Records (only Revelation didn't exist yet). In the one I took, you can see Matt from Crippled Youth in the background wearing a Uniform Choice shirt, and standing next to him is Scott Munroe. The show was literally Crippled Youth's second or third show ever, with Matt playing guitar and singing.

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