One of the bands I never got into but apparently every single one of my now-grown-up friends did is Jawbreaker. I don’t remember it being a conscious decision to avoid them, but I do remember reading their name in the pages of Slug and Lettuce and MRR, and thinking “a lot of people sure seem to be going gaga over this band. Maybe I should check them out sometime”. I bought Dear You when it came out, and remember everyone being a little insane about that, but not really comprehending what it meant since I never really got around to checking them out until 4 or 5 years ago. Dear You wasn’t horrible, but I didn’t get why everyone was going nuts.
A couple years ago, I gave Bivouac a proper listen while out for a walk, and it clicked. I got it. It’s great. But I suspect it won’t ever have a place in the pantheon of Josh’s Big List Of The Best Records Ever just because it wasn’t part of my record vocabulary when my music-fan identity was being forged in the late 90’s. That boat (the one no longer on a hill) has sailed. Maybe in a year I’ll listen again and I’ll hear it differently and I’ll feel the need to come back here and update this post. Maybe not. So it goes.
Another band I passed up checking out in their heyday was J Church. This I remember being much more of a conscious decision. I saw their name in reviews in zines next to bands I loved. I distinctly remember being interested, but not knowing where to start, and feeling intimidated by how many records they had out. “I’ll get to them someday,” I told myself. Still kicking myself over that brilliant decision. Just imagine all the J Church vinyl I could have been buying for a decade and a half. UGH.
Things that discouraged me from checking either of them out:
1. They both played a kind of music that defied simple genre definitions, and were loved by people all across the punk spectrum as a result. Ie, tough to pin down.
2. Both bands started with the letter J.
3. They were both from San Francisco, so played with a bunch of the same bands. Don’t know why this mattered, but for some reason it added to the confusion.
4. I read in a review somewhere that they shared a member or members, which sort of made them (in my mind, anyway) seem more akin than different. Remember, I still hadn’t heard much from either band until much much later. I think this was more a function of J Church being Lance + a sort of a revolving cast of other musicians than any real connection between the bands. Bands with active musicians playing in the same city at the same time sharing members? Seems obvious in hindsight, and almost surprising it didn’t happen more.
5. This all happened during the late 90’s, before the internet allowed one to just go listen to some songs without shelling out cash.
Add all of these factors up, and even completist loads-of-disposable-income-while-living-with-my-parents-20-something-me was too overwhelmed to dive in. Besides, there were tons of other bands to check out without the swirling clouds of confusion obfuscating their catalogs.
When Lance died a few years ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and devote some time into figuring them out. I hadn’t even bothered to learn that Cringer was Lance’s band before J Church, and even early on, I LOVED Cringer. Serious WTF moment.
So, now I find myself on a quest to track down as much J Church stuff as possible. I’m getting there, but with a discography that’s got hundreds of things in it, it’s a marathon kind of journey, not a sprint.
One of my friends who shares a love of most-things-90’s-pop-punk, Andy, who co-runs ¡Muy Auténtico Records!, mentioned a version of Razors that was done by Cringer. I knew this was a Monsula song, and asked if that’s what he meant. “No, I know it’s Cringer. it’s a cover of the Monsula song,” he replied. THIS I had to hear.
He found a youtube video of the complete record, and sure enough, there’s Cringer covering Monsula.
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
Monsula covers a Cringer song! Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not really a Cringer song, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard Winnie The Pooh sing it, so in my book, it’s a Cringer song.
There’s also a Jawbreaker track and a track by northern California band Nuisance, who (in the interest of not letting another post go without mentioning Lookout Records) had a song on The Thing That Ate Floyd, as well as a couple of full lengths on the same label. Nuisance, to me, perfectly bridge the gap between the Lookout/Very Small pop punk sound that came to be in the late 80’s and whatever came before it. UK82 was over. 1981 HC was done and most of those bands had morphed into sXe bands or tough guy hardcore or, even worse, bad metal offshoots of tough guy hardcore.
So, Nuisance, although not one of the larger bands on the label, is kind of front and center when I think about that time (90-92, altho they put stuff out as late as 94,) that place (California north of the Bay Area,) and that sound. Dark and broody, almost grungy but fast enough and with enough of a political bent and short song lengths to be considered poppy punk. I’m no fan of grunge® in the least, but the connection here is pretty obvious and impossible to deny. I’ve got a few more Nuisance records I hope to post in the coming days.
So, Andy found the youtube video, I was amazed, and Andy got me the record for Christmas when he found out I didn’t already have it. Had it shipped all the way from Japan just for me! Thanks so much, Andy!
And here it is. Brouhaha on Piggly Wiggly Records: