The last time a hardcore band was my new favorite band was Supertouch, back in the late '80s. Their records maybe fell a bit short on different levels, but you almost cannot believe the power they had in those first couple of years ('87-'89) if you didn't actually get to see them back then or at least hear the live WNYU tape.
What was awesome about Supertouch was that they took the melodic D.C. hardcore sound (Scream, Marginal Man, Kingface, Bad Brains) and added their own NYHC twist to it, which made it harder and even better. Mark Ryan smoothed out his words like an MC, giving his singing a flow that no other hardcore frontman could pull off at the time, except for maybe Richie Underdog, though Mark was way better at it.
Mark was sort of a spindly guy, all arms and legs, and he had dance moves like no one had ever seen, including his "chicken mosh", where he'd keep his hands down by his side while picking his knees way up in the air. To me and the rest of the suburban Ct. kids who would travel down to CB's for Sunday matinees, Mark's credibility was almost untouchable. He'd been in the NYHC scene for longer than anyone I'd ever met, and was known for supposedly having a dozen copies of "United Blood" (which turned out not to be true), and for his band, Death Before Dishonor, being on the Agnostic Front/7 Seconds flyer that hung on almost every Youth Crew kid's wall back in the '80s. Mark also never bothered bending his will to match what everyone else was doing, and he would openly speak out against white power skins and write lyrics knocking the straight edge scene, which was sort of unheard of within the circles we traveled (again, except for Richie Underdog), but Mark didn't really give a shit. He was going to say what he thought was right, and who cares what everyone else thinks.
I got to hang out a bit with Mark during the summer of '86, when Supertouch hadn't really formed yet; Mark had a lot of ideas, though, and you could tell that he was up to something big. I remember him also saying that he wanted to record a rap song, too -- "a real one, and not a fake one like the Beastie Boys." When Supertouch finally played their first show, at the Anthrax in '87, it was friggin' immense. You gotta remember that this was when everyone was trying to be just like Ray Cappo, jumping around a lot and wearing a hoodie on stage with nonstop chirping going on between every song, and then Supertouch came out and they were just smooth. It was like a different gear from everyone else. Their songs were great, they had all these great stomp parts in 'em, and I remember going home thinking, "God, this band is awesome!"
I remember one time when a new issue of Flipside was out and I started flipping through it, hoping that someone else was writing about how great Supertouch were, and the funny part was that everybody in Flipside was raving about this new band called Superchunk instead. I was like, "Superchunk? They've got the wrong fucking band!" That's when I knew that things were getting fucked up, as far as people really starting to not like hardcore anymore.
By the time the Supertouch album came out, even I had slowed down listening to hardcore as much, and I didn't even buy the CD until years later. Too bad that a lot of the songs that I used to love early on, like "True Colors Don't Run", never made it to this recording, because as good as the CD is, it's not really like the band I remember those first few times I saw them.
All of the photos here are from the various times I saw Supertouch at the Anthrax; I saw them a few times, in '87, '88, and '89, so I've lost track of which specific year the photos are from. I'm pretty sure the photos with Mark in a light-colored t-shirt are from the Jan. '88 show that also featured Underdog on the bill, and I'm thinking now that the rest are from either '89 or '87.
At the bottom of this post there's also a video of a full Supertouch set from '88 at what looks to be the Anthrax, which someone just posted on YouTube a few months ago. Not only is it pretty great, but it really gives a good idea of what those early Supertouch shows were like.
"Anything It Takes"
(these files are now listen-only)