Various Artists – Lump Of Coal

Every year, my friends on the internet and I hash it out over what the best punk Christmas song of all time is. Is it The Ramones’ Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)? Fear’s Fuck Christmas? The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York? The Kinks’ Father Christmas? Danny Says by the Ramones? The Angry Snowmans?
All close, and all at the top of the list, but no, it’s none of those. It’s the Showcase Showdown’s Merry Christmas, I Fucked Your Snowman. That is obviously hands down the best punk Christmas song ever.
That said, the SECOND best Christmas song is actually one of the ones above. The Kinks’ song about a shopping mall santa being held up and robbed by a bunch of thugs in my mind perfectly captures the essence of what this season is all about. I’m not going to post a Kinks song on this here blog. You’ll have to dig that up elsewhere for yourself.
But I’m certainly not above posting a cover of the Kinks song. As far as I know, the only cover of that song. By, what I’m sure is clear now, is one of my favorite bands of all time, Everready. Amid other Southern California mid-90’s pop punk bands covering Christmas classics, you’ll find Jon Cougar Concentration Camp, Dodgeball, Spazboy, Carter Peace Mission, and Third Rale. Dodgeball offers up the snarkiest version of Blue Christmas I’ve ever heard. Carter Peace Mission brings new levels of awesomeness to Good King Wenceslas. And somehow, Second String (who One Sided War tells me is an all star band made up of members of other bands on this record) manages to cram all 12 verses of the 12 Days of Christmas into under 3 minutes. About the only thing this album lacks in order to be perfect is Tiltwheel covering Wonderful Christmas Time.

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It’s now the day after Thanksgiving and officially Christmas music season. Go ahead and blast the Pogues and the Ramones and Fear and Elvis and Bing and Barbra Streisand and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. But start with this one. Methinks  you’ll slide those others to the back of the queue more than once this season.

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Mike Warnke – A Christian Perspective On Halloween

Remember back in the 70’s and 80’s, when satanic ritual abuse was happening left and right, and the huge underground network of satanists were still practicing human sacrifices with children, among other horrors?

What’s that you say? It all turned out to be nonsense that was exposed as a bizarre manifestation of fear-of-the-other with zero evidence of the existence of any real criminal organization related to the Church of Satan? Biased doctors were implanting fake memories in “victims” for things that never happened? Mike Warnke apparently never got the message that this stuff wasn’t real. He still stands by his story of having been a high priest in the Church of Satan, despite having been debunked several times over. But I’m not here to talk about the man. There’s plenty online and in print about the dude and his exploits, fictional, real, or otherwise. An entertaining start would be the 1-star reviews on Amazon of the exposé book about him.

I bring to you today, dear readers, a wonderful interview from a Christian radio broadcast wherein Mr. Warnke describes in pretty great detail the made up history, imagined folklore, and outright lies about dangers of Halloween. Solid listening, even if only for putting cool samples between songs of your mix tape. There’s some amazing 80’s keyboard bumper music sprinkled throughout as well.

When I first came across this LP, I imagined/hoped that it would be part of a larger series of “A Christian Perspective On”, where they would have various misinformed and/or underqualified  speakers talking about UFO’s, cryptozoology, and maybe vampires or something and the Christian take on them. Alas, this appears to be the only one of its kind.

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Various Artists – This Is Fucked This Is Shit 7″ – Homemade Records

When I was first headed down the rabbit hole of independent punk and hc music in the mid 90’s, J Church was a band whose name popped up everywhere. Classified ads in MRR and Slug and Lettuce. Glowing reviews in Fucktooth. Every other compilation I came across. I remember reading a review of something they did, and they mentioned Jawbreaker having shared members. Jawbreaker being another band who seemed to kind of transcend genres and sound like whatever the fans needed/wanted them to sound like. Both bands went on my “should check out someday” mental want list.

Not knowing where to start with either band, I just moved on. Put “those two ‘j’ bands” on the back burner for a decade or two. It’s now 2014 and Lance died so I’ve got no chance of seeing them/him live ever, and I’ve finally made the leap. Fucking hell.

But this record is more than just a J Church record and much more than just a Lance Hahn record. I just fell the need to get that out there up front since I don’t think I’ve mentioned my history and deliberate willful ignorance until now. Also, upon looking into who these bands were, and their shared, incestuous membership, it becomes clear that Lance was more than just a Bay area musician. He was at the center of a swirling vortex music, art, community, all of it.

 

Jolt was a highly underrated Bay area punk band who put out a few great great records, then disbanded. I think most of the credit they got for being amazing came after they broke up. For shame. Their discography (handful of singles and some comp tracks) is worth tracking down. What I have of theirs is in my “long term queue” to post here. For those keeping score, so far as I can tell, there’s no direct connection between Jolt and Lance.

Good Grief shard members with Cringer and Buttafuoco, who were on Farmhouse Records, and shared another, non-Good Grief member with…drum roll please…J Church. I know, it’s not all THAT shocking to find a bay area band from the late 80’s or early 90’s with members who played with Lance at some point or another. And I said this wouldn’t be a J Church post.

If you had told me Jabberjaw and Monsula (three guesses as to which prolific bay area guitarist/songwriter spent time in Monsula…)  shared a member or two, I’d have believed you without question. I guess a couple of their members went on to be in Indian Summer and a few other bands I’m only familiar with by name. There’s another 7″ by these guys posted (with a couple more links to other Jabberjaw related things as well as a recently updated DL link, even) on the always amazing Willfully Obscure.

I learned more about this record, the band Jabberjaw, and the Homemade Records label from the amazing emo90’s blog, which seems a little stagnant but also has active links.            CoverInside-1Inside-2Inside-3Inside-4BackSide-1Side-B
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Get it.

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Various Artists – Punk? A 27 Band Punk Rock Compilation – Backspin Records

Of all the compilations in my collection, this may be the one I’ve listened to the most. Definitely more than any of the Fat comps (to which I stopped paying attention after the Survival of the…), definitely more than Punk Sucks, definitely more than more than any of the Punk-O-Rama’s. Bringing up the only one that might give this thing a run for its money in terms of how many times I’ve listened to it would be a whole other can of…..something.

Punk? somehow manages to put a bunch of bands together that are almost all (dear reader, please say hello to Peaceful Nonexistence, the lone dissident) at least vaguely pop punk, but also manages to mix up the sound from band to band, so you get a widely diverse mix. The other surprising thing is that despite it being 27 songs, 73+ minutes, there’s hardly a stinker in the bunch. There’s a few songs on here that aren’t great, but nothing I feel compelled to skip, which almost every other comp has at least one of.

This compilation was the introduction to and jumping off point for so many smaller diy bands I now know and love:

-Underhand introduced me to Mutant Pop.
-Everready introduced me to Liquid Meat.
-My Pal Trigger, Vanbuilderass, and In Like Flynn introduced me to other bands from Florida.
-Tiltwheel is on here, but I didn’t really discover their genius until I got into Liquid Meat/Everready. That said, their song here is great.
-Discount introduced me to every band to ever have a female vocalist.
-Safehouse I actually knew about, having seen them play in Sierra Vista once. They might be the reason I bought this.
-The Skif Dank song is the one ska song on the album but it’s weird/downbeat/minor chord enough that it kind of fits and doesn’t throw off the rhythm of the whole collection too much.
-Jon Cougar Concentration Camp introduced me to Jon Cougar Concentration Camp. This song is some kind of weird anomaly in terms of JCCC’s catalog. It’s slower and weirder than their other stuff but it’s great. Wish there was more like this.
-The Donut Run song on this is one of my favorite pop punk songs. Possibly in the top 3 of all time. Donut Run later turned into Pivot and released at least one full length and they were on the Totally Fucking The 80’s LP comp full of cover songs, but I suspect they did more than just those two things. If anyone has a lead on a CD or LP of that record or anything else, please let me know.If anyone reading this knows someone from either of these bands, please get in touch.

There’s a reference in the liner notes to different artwork. I can only assume is the cover shown on Discogs, which I’d never seen before until I came across it while writing this post.


CoverInside-1 Inside-2CD Tray-CardGet it.

 

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Various Artists – Cause That’s The Way You Like It, Baby – Crap Records

I think I got this in the mail not long after it came out. Probably saw an ad for it in MRR or Punk Planet or it was on a distro flyer stuffed into some mail ordered record or another. The Thirsty and I Farm songs were what sold me on it, but the Nerd and Secret Sqrrrl are what keep me coming back. I even met Carly Crap, label president, once, on a trip to Ithaca for “the last” Plow United show, in 1997. I’m pretty sure I annoyed her with lots of dumb questions about the bands on this once I was introduced to her. Sorry, Carly. And thanks for putting this thing out. It’s still a solid comp, 19 years later.

At some point, I lost my copy of this somewhere. Maybe I sold it during The Great And Horrible Selling Of Records Of 2000 Debacle®? I was reminded of the Secret Sqrrrl songs a few years ago when one of them got lodged in my brain and I tracked down another copy on the intertubes.

“OK, josh, you bought a CD on the internet, and now you’re writing about it? THIS IS SO ENTHRALLING.”

Every time someone tries to tell me that the internet has taken something away from collecting records or buying music or whatever, I think of a situation like this. In 1993, tracking down an out of print, fairly obscure, 20 year old album like this seems like it would have been impossible.

The Songs:

Pop punk cover songs have always had a special place in my heart, long before the “Punk Goes” series put in some serious effort to ruin the genre and audiogalaxy tried confusing all of us with its mistagged “Every punk cover song ever is by NOFX. Every non-punk parody song is by Weird Al.” tagging rule.  Ifarm turns in a great cover here, and with a little more authenticity, verve, and bittersweetness than the original. It’s hard to imagine Bryan Adams being all that sad about not being in a shitty garage band anymore while he’s on a world tour.  Ifarm somehow manages to get the tight-to-sloppy ratio just right, as expected.

The two Six-O-Seven songs here would be just as home on the Dear Fred: It Was Me That Did It comp. There’s something of a Quadiliacha/In Like Flynn/Rubber Sole quality to them that I really dig.

Every time I listen to this and Smak comes on, I forget that they’re not a pop punk band like the others on the album. I can’t bring myself to believe that this isn’t a jokey hardcore band just playing chugga chugga riffs for fun.”Everybody hit the deck ’cause we came to wreck it?” Maybe they were a serious hardcore band who were serious about “wrecking it.”  Either way, it’s not my bag and I wind up skipping it if I’m near the skip button.

End Of One is on the punk side of the pop punk fence, but they could hop back over on a moment’s notice if they needed to. I’m not blown away but I like to imagine these songs were from early in the band’s existence and later recordings are better. I have no idea if there are any later recordings or not. These just remind me of early songs from other bands that don’t hit as hard as later songs from the same bands.

Nerd‘s Welcome Home Race Fans seems like somewhat of a novelty song for some reason, but holy shit, it smokes. And its social commentary is hilarious. This being a comp of bands mostly from in and around Ithaca, NY, I’ve always wondered how big NASCAR is up there. Their other two songs don’t hit as hard but are still great.

The Secret Sqrrrl songs are some of my favorite on here and all I can think when they’re over is that I want more Secret Sqrrrl. Female fronted straight up 90’s diy pop punk.

Buglite sounds exactly like Buglite sounds and I love them for it. Fuzzy, hyper pop punk with vulnerable, sung vocals. Such a great unique sound. I feel like this could be it’s own genre.

The three Thirsty songs on here may be my favorite I’ve ever heard from the band. There was a time before I had heard this comp when I had sort of labeled them mentally as a sloppy, local pop punk band that wouldn’t ever write songs more complex than their Getting Along Together 7″. Then these songs came along and changed how I thought about them. I don’t know if there’s a lineup change involved or what, but these songs are so much better than those. Again, I’m left wanting more Thirsty. As far as I can tell, they only did this, Getting Along Together, and a split with Ifarm. If anyone knows about anything else, please let me know. I’d love to hear it.

CoverinsertCDTrayCardGet it.

 

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Cometbus Fanzine Presents: Lest We Forget; 35 Great Old Berkeley Bands, BBT Tapes

I’ve always sort of imagined the birth of Lookout Records and the opening of the Gilman Street Project as the birth of  the sound I think of when I think of East Bay/Berkeley/pop punk. I know there were things happening before that, (um…this entire post is about those things) but when I think of pop punk’s origin story, that time and that place is pretty much the starting point.
All of the bands on this tape predate Lookout and Gilman. A lot of them went on to release records on Lookout. Some or most of them played at Gilman. One of them was the first band to ever play the venue. Altho they’re not directly related in terms of who put them out or what label they were on, I tend to think of this tape almost as the Reservoir Dogs to The Thing That Ate Floyd’s Pulp Fiction. Less well known, less money spent on production, less polished. Some of the same actors, some of the same or related characters.

I first learned of this tape a few years ago online somewhere. A few weeks later, it popped up on ebay. There’s no way I was letting this one go, but either it flew under everyone’s radar, the seller didn’t list it very well, no one gave a shit, or some combination of the above, because I got it for way less than I was expecting to pay. From what I understand from the internet and the liner notes, it’s a tape comp released on Aaron Cometbus’s tape label, with songs from other tapes and records, including some released via his own BBT Tapes. (Anyone know what BBT stands for?) Between low/no budget recording, and 30 years of magnetic tape storage, sound quality on some of these tracks is obviously less than a stellar vinyl/CD rip of a studio recording. Some of them almost painfully so. But considering that a lot of these bands had no other official recorded release, I’m happy to have this. It’s by no means a complete history, but it is a great sample of what was happening musically in Berkeley prior to the pop punk/punk explosion of the late 80’s/early 90’s.

This tape (for me) is sort of a look back at what led directly into that time. I’ve thought a lot about what the East Bay must have been like. There are a few bands on here that you’ll recognize, (Crimpshrine, Sweet Baby Jesus, Kamala And The Karnivores*, Soup, Spent, the Vagrants, and two songs by pre-Op Ivy’s Basic Radio), and a ton you won’t. But thankfully, Aaron’s ability and desire to get this stuff out includes a pretty good writeup of which bands are who and how they’re connected to each other in the liner notes. Are there hits? Goes without saying, doesn’t it? Are there misses? Certainly, but it’s tough to classify anything as a “miss” if you’re looking at this as more of a document of a time and a place than of a killer album.  It’s definitely not something I put on all the time. I don’t even put it on regularly. I’ve probably listened to this 6 or 7 times since I got it and ripped it. That said, it’s sort of like looking at baby pictures of your friends. I dare you to listen to Basic Radio and not think of a teenage Tim and Matt writing songs, not knowing they’d go on to be in Operation Ivy and then Rancid for the next 30 years. I grew up listening to a lot of music that bands on this tape inspired or turned into.

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Get it.

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Various Artists – Spinnin’ The Chamber – Last Resort Records

Not much to say about this one. I got this a few years ago after it came up in a discussion with some internet buddies about classic pop punk compilations. This and Planet Mini-Van came up, and I hadn’t heard of either of them until that conversation so I went shopping.

I’m certain I would have picked it up if I had have ever come across it in the wild, based on a couple of bands alone. Fighting Cause, Blanks ’77, McRackins, Bollweevils, etc etc.

Last Resort Records was also the home to the Fighting Cause non-compilation discography(one 7″, one split 7″ with the McRackins, and a full length), the Fuckboyz’s Hawaiian Mafia 7″, and a slew of other mid-90’s lesser known bands that are mediocre to great.

A few notes upon listening to this for the first time in a while:
-I’m still amazed at the connections made between bands stateside and overseas pre-internet. There are bands on here from Japan, Canada, Sweden, Germany…who was making these contacts and connections? I guess I tend to gloss over and forget the entire network of punk zines and ads and touring musicians and what not that existed and mostly went by the wayside once email came into being.
-Pounded Clown are one of two or three bands I can think of that pull off the punk/pop punk band-with-horns that doesn’t slide down the slippery slope of simply being a ska band. They had a lovely split with the Horny  Mormons (who turned into the Bananas). They also had a website in 1996, which happens to still be up.
– Why aren’t the McRackins more popular and/or more well known? They’ve been around forever, toured like crazy through the 90’s, and write great songs.
– Moral Crux. Same question.
– Fat Day. I’ve heard the name but own nothing of theirs and know nothing about them. Should I?

CoverInside-1Inside-2Inside-3 TraycardCDGet it.

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