Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I already wrote the intro paragraph to this post back on November 3rd, 2004, in a piece on Forgotten 1980s garage punk 45s. So no need to do it again:

"I guess some would surely quibble, but for me, the single best generational update on the 1964-67 American, UK & AU/NZ garage rock template was the award-winning class of the early 90s: the GORIES, the CHEATER SLICKS, the NIGHT KINGS, SUPERCHARGER, the OBLIVIANS, and all the others I've flogged on this site and in my fanzine from that era. Something about the 1990-95 time period lent itself to one killer 45 after another from these bands and their peers, and what they did to mold and expand that very simple 60s template (adding in Scientists-style feedback & hiss in the case of The Cheater Slicks; amping up and exploding into chaos in the case of The Oblivians -- for instance) puts these bands in a class by themselves....."

This sound was obviously only a small corner of the 1990s rock universe, but I think it was way exciting & distinct and singular enough to merit its own retrospective. Some outstanding labels popped up around this time to document this hyper-aggro activity, IN THE RED being far & away the kingpin. When In The Red were too slow on the point to discover some tiny regional act (like Supercharger or The Inhalants) or passed on a decent band, various other garage-focused labels stepped into the breach and ran charge: Bag of Hammers, Rip Off, Datapanik, Crypt, Womb and Pre-BS, among many others. While the latter half of the 90s also had many fine 60s-inspired combos, a 1977-style punk attitude really told hold among the "garage" bands, and therefore tempos sped up astronomically, Maximum RocknRoll began paying attention, and Rip Off more or less ruled the roost. At least that's what I thought at the time, though In The Red totally held strong, as they continue to do. The first half of this decade has seen a flowering of virtually every flavor of "garage punk" and a bazillion such bands of every stripe, to the point that one such band hit the mainstream charts in a big way, and the genre's acceptance is at an all-time high, however loosely defined. Yet there's still a sub-underground, powerhouse scene of tiny bands releasing boundary-pushing garage punk music on 45rpm singles (still!), hotshit bands like THE FATALS, the RADIO BEATS, HUNCHES, and yes, the A-FRAMES (whose latest 45 on S-S is punk rock on wheels).

Let's return to a time when only dorks like me bought "garage punk" singles, not Rene Zellweger and Scarlett Johansson!

1. GORIES : "Telepathic / Hate" -- The loose-limbed A-side's probably their most stomping song ever, and the B-side's a roaring 60s punk cover rendered in The Gories' patented tubthumping, inept way. The drums sound like they're being pounded with forearms instead of sticks. Remarkably, Mick Collins sings neither song yet it's still their best 45 ever, and maybe the best single 1990s 45 in this genre.

2. FIREWORKS : "Untrue / She's A Tornado" -- While they never came close after this debut single, FIREWORKS were pretty special for a few months. Raw, fired-up covers of two rockabilly staples, recorded on the cheap and delivered with a big frothing scream pasted on the singer's lips. Seriously, this is a holy grail record for fans of the genre and one you've got to hear before you ascend.

3. SUPERCHARGER : "Icepick / Want It Bad" -- Their first LP was all right, not nearly as clueless as they made it out to be, but this one-sided 45 that followed it heralded the blossoming of a true hellfire trio. One of the Top 10 records of the 90s, "Supercharger Goes Way Out!" followed this 45, but its overloaded, amps-on-11 sweatin'-to-the-oldies sound was born here.

4. CHEATER SLICKS : "I'm Grounded / Can It Be" -- I had a new favorite band within hearing the first sixty seconds of this stunning, head-spinning 45, and I still think the Slicks are one of the last great innovative guitar-based rock and roll bands. No one, but no one, has sucked more from, and added more to, the original sixties punk template than these guys.

5. TEENGENERATE : "Out Of Sight / Pushin' Me Around" -- Blazing speed garage on Rip Off Records, one of a dozen-plus 45s this Japanese band humped out in their career, and easily the best. Tight as a gnat's ass & faster than hardcore. You'd love it.

6. DIRTY LOVERS : "Teenage Love Bomb / All I Want" -- You know the In The Red logo, with the needle pushed all the way to the right & ready to shatter glass? That's this 45. I used to have to make a bunch of adjustments to my deck's recording volume for this single when I'd "tape" it for people, back in the days of "tapes". Unfortunately the band lost a couple of members in a car wreck down Australia way shortly after this was recorded. They could've been serious contendas!

7. NIGHT KINGS : "Bum / Ain't No Fun" -- Another overmodulated monster, with Rob Vasquez's howling pipes getting a real workout, even above his usual throat-scraping standard. Something tells me this 45 and all this band's vinyl is going to be paying my son's way into college 17 years from now.

8. JOHNNY HASH : "Blues Is Depressing" -- Drunken, animalistic slide guitar blues, backed with precision cardboard-box drumming and barked vocals. A gnarly, no-fidelity blues trash masterpiece that still makes me weep with desire for the LP that never came from these guys.

9. THOMAS JEFFERSON SLAVE APARTMENTS / MONSTER TRUCK 5 split 7" -- The A-side contains two retarded SLAVE APARTMENTS bashers, that, while not "garage punk" per se, are so primitive and underdeveloped and bursting with joie de vivre that I think they count regardless. You'll find them on the "Hey, You Lookin' For Treble?" CD compilation of their excellent early work. The flip is hyper noise rock of a rare vintage from the MONSTER TRUCK 5, who sound like they infused their Touch & Go-era noise punk with some hefty Union Carbide Productions-style ear bleed. They appear to have been completely and totally lost to time.

10. MOTARDS : "I'm A Criminal / The Fast Song / My Love Is Bad" -- Stupid simple, "learning to play" rock of the highest order, from a quartet of snotty Texans who never made one this good again. This gravel-voiced fuck-you style of garage punk seems to be what the kids today enjoy the most. This is the best of it I've ever heard.

11. CHEATER SLICKS : "Wedding Song / Walk Up The Street" -- Another whomper from the best band of their ilk, circa 1994. Crypt took up the Cheater Slicks mantle for a few shining months & did themselves proud with this crazed 45. If you believe Panache magazine, all sorts of bands are now pouring out of the woodwork & claiming the Cheater Slicks as a major influence. File under "I'm dubious". (Note: I've been corrected -- correctly, even. In The Red put this 45 out; Crypt put out another scorcher from the same sessions: "Trouble Man / Hook or Crook"...)

12. INHALANTS : "Kolchak, The Night Stalker / Middle Ages" -- More Texas ineptitude from a short-lived band who nailed it on their first try. Hectic, sloppy and chaotic in all the right places, played about two beats faster than the band themselves can keep up with. Singer has one of those punk rock voices for the ages, all nasaly and fried like a true barroom poet. Available for only four bucks here!