Crap Rattler: The Unheard Musings
by Raymond Epstein
Since the rain seemed like it would never end, it seemed as good a time as any to have a discussion column about randumb things associated (loosely and more tightly) with punk music. As such I present to you a brief summation of things I've come across, pondered, been vexed by and/or laughed at of late. I hope you will find it vexing and amusing. Thus, in no order of importance...
All by myself:
I was a quiet shy kid growing up until around 6th grade when my circle of friends broadened. I still spent a great deal of time to myself, drawing, listening to music, skateboarding, surfing, riding my bike, whatever. I became adept at entertaining myself as my parents worked and I was often left to my own devices. As time went on I developed larger circles of friends and had groups I did things with. This included some of the aforementioned activities and going to shows starting in middle school. I continued to go to shows with groups of friends in high school mostly to bum rides and/or to use connections/fake ID's to get into over-18 shows. However, upon moving to DC for college I routinely went to shows alone. Sometimes I'd find people to talk to, sometimes not, but I was there for the music primarily. I did not need anyone to make the experience better. I mean, it was nice and I am certainly not a hermit, but the music was the point. Many of those solo expeditions lead to some epic evenings/experiences I would not have had in a group. I still go to shows alone occasionally, because it's still about the music and having that experience. If you have not done so get out there. Obviously be mindful of safety, but you can find some great stuff out there by yourself.
Chores with Doom:
No one gets excited about house cleaning. It's something you do hopefully before your domicile may be legally defined as a Hazmat zone or a candidate for an episode of "Hoarders". Being a music kook I always have something playing and one curiosity that has become routine for me over the last few years is doing any kind of chores with some kind of doom metal on in the background. Generally it's something that I am not entirely familiar with, eg: cuing up Metal Detector or tossing something random from YouTube on. I cannot explain it, but there is something about the oppressive sounds that I find very conducive to otherwise menial work. Curiously, I really do not listen to much of the genre outside of my home efforts. Maybe I am just a kook, I don't know. Put on something slow, crushing and see how it goes for you.
My love affair with fuzz pedals began more than thirty years ago when I first wondered where the insane guitar tone that I heard on many garage rock revivalists records came from. I found my first couple of fuzz pedals in a bin of pedals that the music store owner couldn't sell. I think I paid less than $30 for both of them. Those pedals (Univox Super Fuzz and a Maestro Fuzz) are crazy collectible today, go figure. In the 90's a few companies released fuzz tones in mass with bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Dinosaur Jr popularizing them again. However, what has me incredibly stoked these days are the seemingly endless small boutique fuzz pedal makers making every possible incarnation of fuzz you can think of and many you cannot. You no longer have to pay exorbitant prices for them either. There are tons to check out, but I particularly like Idiotbox Effects.
I am not a particularly nostalgic person nor am I a collector. I do not want to go back to my youth and relive any glory (far less than more often than not). I have plenty of old junk from the past, but I am not that hung up on it and most of is stored away for whatever I end up doing with it. I have always been of the mindset that if it isn't providing me with amusement, employed in some decorative fashion or being currently used for whatever purpose then someone else can enjoy it or it can go in the round file. This also applies to music and the experience therein as well. I often say that I've seen/played with more bands that I've forgotten than most will ever see. Sure, I loved that stuff, going to and playing shows the whole thing. Still do. However, I do not lament that the bands of today or the music they are doing are not what I grew up seeing/listening to. I will listen to and see pretty much anything, but who wants to keep seeing the same stuff played the same way like some punk rock Groundhog Day? There were great bands then and there are great bands now (see below). I want to hear new takes on things. I want see what is coming out that grabs me today. I want bands to take the original yardstick for hardcore and smash it to pieces. Over and over. Old punkers saying "back in my day" seems quaint at best. It's never been easier to find music that is way off the beaten path than it is today. Grab some new kinds of kicks (pay the bands from Bandcamp or steal; I won't tell nor judge) and get to it. I’ll get you started in the next paragraph:
Okay yeah lets talk about music...here are three new(er) releases that came out last year that have been in heavy rotation for me.
Black Tusk- TCBT
I will start off with a band from my now-home state. I first heard of these guys a number of years ago, but other than a few songs I really did not pay them much mind. Their previous releases were solid, but dare I say too involved (complex?) for my nastier rough edge tastes. TCBT, however, is a straight up ripper start to finish and would stand with any of the best hardcore records of my youth. Seriously, it ticks all the boxes...harsh vocals (not cookie monster rock though), jagged guitars, but not overly metal, tight compositions that are neither wandering nor excessive and nothing really slow. I generally listen to this record straight through as it all fits together and does not get annoying. I was fortunate enough to get to see Black Tusk recently and they not only ripped live, but were all around good dudes. If you like metallic rocking hardcore ala Poison Idea, old C.O.C., D. R. I. etc. definitely check it out.
Tongue Party- Looking for a Painful Death
Next up from another city that I called home for a few years is Tongue Party. I came across them on a Noise Rock forum and was floored. All of their stuff is high speed with a heavy does of mechanical and noisy flourishes. Borderline math-rock, but way more brief and chaotic not to mention furious. These guys are really young and to come out of the gate with this is damn impressive. They really have a pretty unique sound filled with fuzzed out guitar, machine gun drums and crushing bass with tormented pissed off vocals over top of the maelstrom. Think classic Amphetamine Reptile territory with some Krautrock and you'll be in range of this record that has all the subtlety of tossing a potato masher into a fair trade coffee shop.
Here’s a video in case you’re struggling with that description:
Beach Rats - Wasted Time
Finally, a will end on a hardcore supergroup of made up of members of Bad Religion/Dag Nasty/Minor Threat, Bouncing Souls and Lifetime. I am aware of all of those bands, but the only ones I really ever listened to/liked were Minor Threat and few Dag Nasty songs. The rest of it was never my thing. Too melodic? Too precise? I don't know, but as I said I tend to favor messier sounding bands. So I was rather surprised with this recording as it is loud, fast and way more raw than any of the output of the members respective bands. It is still melodic, however the guitars are brash and the drumming is classic high speed hardcore. The vocals are nicely sung without being cloying and all of the songs clock in at under two minutes. No wasted time (see what I did there?). Lastly I happen to love their rat logo. I have no idea if they'll do anything else as this seems like a one-off kinda thing, but they did actually play some shows last year.
About Ray: Hello Tidewater and World! I am native of Norfolk/VB, however I now call Alpharetta (topside of Atlanta), Georgia home. I grew up playing guitar (and some singing) in numerous bands from high school on for which a punishing amount of detail can be found somewhere in the archives 'round here. These days I am a dentist, cyclist (mostly mountain biking), half-assed graphic artist and I still occasionally pop up in some hair-brained music outings. I've probably forgotten seeing/playing with more bands than most will ever see and still find my way to shows despite my otherwise domestic milieu. Hit me up with questions, comments, hate mail and dirty pictures.