Chicago Week; Vol. 7: Marc’s a Dick and Gar’s a Drunk: The Johann’s Face Story – Johann’s Face Records

Marc’s A Drunk and Gar’s a Drunk

I don’t remember my introduction to Johann’s Face Records, but I remember avoiding them for a long time. I got the label confused with the Gern Blandsten label, which in hindsight should have led me to get into their records much earlier. But no, I was a teenage idiot who couldn’t stand to give things outside the umbrella of pop punk a real chance. My loss.

Now, I can’t get enough. The label is still in operation 25 years later, altho a few of the earlier records are long out of print. Many or most of the bands on those early records have long since broken up and moved on to other cities/bands/projects/families. The label is based in Chicago, although some of the bands on this specific record aren’t. Johann’s Face was a label that I trusted to always deliver the greatness, and I have yet to find a release from them that disappoints.

The liner notes kind of tell the story of the label so I’ll leave that alone for you to read there if you’re so inclined. This compilation includes a bunch of bands who have other releases on the label, but is FAR from one of those cheap label comp CD’s that labels shit out by the truckload in the 90’s. It not only captures the essence of the kind of thing the label was putting out at the time, but it does a good job of capturing what was so amazing about the time, place, and sound that was Chicago punk and pop punk in the 90’s. The fact that it does both speaks to finger-on-the-pulse-dness of the label itself.

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The Strike. This band is so goddamn good. Communist scooter riding mod-punk from Minneapolis. Long broken up but three of the members are still playing music in one form or another.
The Traitors. My first introduction was via an order from Harmless Records, who I talked about a few days ago. Their brand of hardcore was completely outside the realm of what I was expecting from a label I had shoehorned into a pop punk-only label, and I didn’t like them at first. Like I said, a teenage idiot.
Smoking Popes. One day, I had this record on and this song came on, and I was like “wow, who is this band?” Suddenly, the song was right, the context was right, and all those years of my friends telling me I was crazy for not liking them more made sense. I still haven’t taken the full leap yet, but this is the song that sold me on them. Go ahead and judge. I’ll wait.
Not Rebecca. One of the things about going through compilations that I’ve had for years and years and commenting on the songs one at a time that I’ve found interesting and a little embarrassing is when I discover a song that rules that’s been here all along but I never noticed before. Like this one. Great song. Don’t know anything else by them. Don’t know how I missed it but it’s obviously an amazing song like the liner notes even say . Will definitely dig for some more.
Alkaline Trio – I was in Germany when Slapstick broke up, and without the internet providing up to the second updates about band members’ plans or whatever, it would be a few years before I would even learn about it. I was aware that they had splintered into a bunch of different bands but didn’t have any friends who had kept up with them all to tell me who was doing what. In my mind, my plan was to sit down one day and figure out who was who and which band they were in now and get caught up in an intentional, active listening kind of way. That never really happened. I remember hearing a Tuesday song and thinking “wow, this isn’t really pop punk at all.” and giving up on the whole idea. Which is my long, roundabout way of telling you that I’ve never really gotten into Alkaline Trio, The Larries, or any of the other post-Slapstick Slapstick member bands.  I don’t have anything against them, and I kind of get why they’re so big, but they’re just not for me. That said, this song is pretty good. If I’d heard this song in 1996, I wonder if they would have clicked for me…
No Empathy – Marc (he of the label and name of the record we’re visiting today) Ruvolo’s band. One of the great things about revisiting this stuff and finding bands I missed earlier was rediscovering great stuff. Obviously the odds of being able to see them live now are next to zero, but that’s the risk one takes by not listening to and trying to connect with every piece of music that comes across one’s cultural field of vision. This is great and 1996 me was an idiot.
God’s Reflex – Maybe the most emo track on this record. Don’t let that dissuade you. It still rocks.
Apocalypse Hoboken – Classic Chicago punk band. Something about the vocals has always irked me, but the music’s great. HUGE catalog from this band. I wish I knew them better; they deserve at least one post dedicated to them as part of 1000 Yesterdays’ Chicago Week.
Sidekick Kato – This song is a lot more noisy than I remember. In a good way. I don’t remember them rocking this much but I’m not complaining.
Cletus – Snotty as hell pop punk band fronted by Johnny Puke. Like a more produced Connie Dungs if I had to oversimplify their sound to my ears into one
J Church – This band isn’t from Chicago but I can guarantee you at least one member has lived in or around Chicago at some point. Figuring out which member(s) that is is left as an exercise for the reader.
Flavor Channel – This one reminds me of something British in the 80’s. Undertones or Jam or maybe even Stan Ridgeway or Oingo Boingo or something. There’s a lot happening in this song. Not exactly like “their” sound, but with a catalog as huge as theirs, it’s not like they had “a” sound One of a handful of bands to have been immortalized by Wesley Willis, who wrote a song that shares a name with this band.
The Smoothies – Riot Grrrl-y pop punk song. I guess this band was pretty short lived but much loved.
International Hoodwink – And here’s my least favorite track. Kind of glad it’s at the end. Altho I wonder if I would have felt different about the song or the record if it this one were first or second in the lineup. Guess we’ll never know.

Get it.

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2 Responses to Chicago Week; Vol. 7: Marc’s a Dick and Gar’s a Drunk: The Johann’s Face Story – Johann’s Face Records

  1. dan says:

    i’ve got this comp on vinyl available for sale. if you’re interested, get in touch!

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