Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Twitter Tirade

Some disdain micro-blogging site Twitter, launched in 2006 [!], for  the glib shallowness that can result from the site's enforced brevity. A lot of those critiques of the limitations of 140 charter tweets ring true but yet still the site's reach grows. So, in the interest of moving past disdain and into qualified acceptance, I present my take on Twitter:

1. It's chaotic
As someone said, the signal to noise ratio on Twitter is insane. Between the links to worthwhile articles, musical minutiae and little chiseled jewels of snark there is an endless stream of inanity. So, as a wheat-chaff separator, it's pretty porous, unlike, say Google Reader (R.I.P.). This problem can be minimized, of course, by simply not following (or unfollowing) the Twitter twits.

2. It's partisan
After I followed the hilarious ant-Republican LOLGOP and a few like-minded sorts my feed quickly suffered epistemic closure. To counteract the onslaught of snappy, pre-digested soundbites, I added Matt Lewis, Ross Douhat, Ramesh Ponnuru and some American Conservative columnists to keep the mental door ajar.

3. It's direct
Between followers, hashtags, @usernames, favorites (sic) and re-tweets you're more likely to come into direct contact with the people you're writing about than anywhere else. This can lead to a leveled, more democratic discourse or it can lead to petty back-biting but that's somewhere between a glitch and a feature.

4. It's addictive.
Despite the wide array of shallow tweeters, there's still a slew of people with things to say and links to share. So, whether its' columnists who never sleep like Matt Yglesias, curious curators like Eric Alper, forgotten bands on the re-rise like Death, Twitter-critics like JADEDPUNKHULK, political activists like ShitHarperDid there is always something going on...

Until the next platform comes along to re-wire/fuck-up our methods of communication, Twitter still holds much in the way of possibilities. Come check out what I do (yes, Twitter is also heavy on self-promotion) and hopefully I'll give you some good things to read, hear and see.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reality 86'ed: The Black Flag Documentary

We've spent much of the last week assessing the present and the past of LA hardcore pioneers Black Flag (See HERE). While the band has yet to see the full-scale documentary treatment, too much bad blood I expect, David Markey from Painted Wille did make a documentary on the band's final tour called Reality 86'ed. While it's far and away my least favourite phase in the the band's seven year career, it's a fascinating document for sure.

The documentary has never been officially released and Mr. Ginn frequently has it pulled down, so here it is on Vimeo just in case.

REALITY 86'd from KICK TO KILL on Vimeo.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Covered: Wagon Wheel

Well, Bob Dylan's song, "Wagon Wheel" has hit #1 of the country charts, via Hootie (a.k.a. Darius Rucker). It's been a long, strange trip so let's review (and don't forget to weigh in on the song in the COMMENTS section when you're done!):

Gittin' Started

Back in 2001, Ketch Secor, of string-band revivalists Old Crow Medicine Show, took an unreleased fragment from Bob Dylan's soundtrack to the 1973 film, Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, originally called. "Rock Me, Mama", added his own verses to it, and created the 2st century standard, "Wagon Wheel".

Secor revised Dylan's rough draft to tell a story of a pivotal point in his own life, in a manner both particular and universal. The on-going, cross-genre appeal of "Wagon Wheel" today is a reminder just how effectively older idioms can express contemporary experiences.

In November 2011, Secor, celebrating the song's reaching gold status, considered its origins in the blue tradition, " So, from Big Bill to Big Boy to Bob and on down to me, “Wagon Wheel” has become a true American folksong, borrowed, half-stolen, and sung out far and wide."

The First Wheel: The Blues and Mr. D.

How much of Dylan's original fragment comes from blues sources is unclear, at least to this listener. Ethno-musicological battles are best left to rock-critics-turned-blues-scholars like Greil Marcus, who hold the blues tradition as their rightful territory. While the wagon wheel is a well-established blues trope, the Broonzy version, often credited as the direct forbear, has different chords, melody, tempo and, where you can hear them, lyrics. So while Dylan may have begun by riffing on this blues standard, what he came up with was a new, if incomplete, thing. It's that new thing, with its indelible hook, that OCMS's Secor picked up and ran with.

Big Bill Broonzy "Rock Me Baby"

Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup  "Rock Me, Mama"

Bob Dylan "Rock Me, Mama"

And, for an alternate take on history, Jason Webley and Rev. Peyton tried to cover Dylan's version as closely as possible:

The Second Wheel: Old Crows and Under Grads

Despite the song being a product of the Internet age, it took a few years for this song to spread to others who exist in the same musical Twilight Zone, between darkness and light, ancient and modern, popular and acclaimed and enter the lexicon of the indie-folk elite, including Scotland's Bodega, England's Mumford & Sons and upstate New Yorkers (and OCMS allies) The Felice Brothers.

Old Crow Medicine Show "Wagon Wheel (live)"

Bodega  "Wagon Wheel"

Mumford & Sons "Wagon Wheel"

Felice Bros. "Wagon Wheel"

The Third Wheel: Out of the Indie Rut

Eventually,  the song crept into the repertoire of both blues artists (Matt Anderson and Shane Dwight) and mainstream country aspirants like Jeremy McComb Jason Lee Wilson (both of whom altered the beloved-by-college audiences 'had a nice long toke' line in their own special way.) and Nathan Carter from Ireland.

Jeremey McComb  "Wagon Wheel"

Shane Dwight  "Wagon Wheel"

Nathan Carter  "Wagon Wheel"

Jason Lee Wilson   "Wagon Wheel"

Matt Anderson   "Wagon Wheel"

The Fourth Wheel: Punk It Up

Likely via former teenage anarchist, Tom Gabel (now Laura Jane Grace) of Against Me!, the song entered the punk vernacular. Gabel's versions, solo or with the band, both cleave close to the accepted style of the song. Scranton, Pennsylvania's The Mezingers add a bit of bite, newer Chicago punk band, The Fuckers dive bomb the song and Indiana ska'ers Green Room Rockers go at it in a two-tone style.

Tom Gabel   "Wagon Wheel"

Against Me    "Wagon Wheel"

The Mezingers  "Wagon Wheel"

The Fuckers  "Wagon Wheel"

Green Room Rockers "Wagon Wheel"

The Fifth Wheel: WTF DIY?!?

The often humourless Wikipedia has designated the song, "the new "Free Bird"" and boy does YouTube ever bear that charge out.  Literally dozens of homebrew takes on the song are on tap for your consumption and believe me the variations are plentiful enough to make you woozy. Interestingly, one of this sort of amateur pick-up version is what inspired Mr. Rucker to tackle the song.

A cappela  "Wagon Wheel"

Bluegrass  "Wagon Wheel"

Rock and/or Roll   "Wagon Wheel"

Nervousteen-core   "Wagon Wheel"

One Man Band    "Wagon Wheel"

and  oh so many more...

So love it or hate it, give us your view on "Wagon Wheel" and whose version is the best in the COMMENTS section!

Flag vs. Flag, 2013

Black Flag are like a worm, chop them in half and instead of dying they just split into two separate, subterranean organisms. And that's what happened in 2013, we got two bands playing the crushing music of Black Flag. One iteration, using the name Black Flag, features Ron Reyes and Gregg Ginn plus two hired guns, while the other, who go under the name FLAG  (more HERE), feature Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson and Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton.

These L.A. Eighties hardcore progenitors saw seventeen members pass through their ranks in eight years, so that's a lot of people with Black Flag on their resume. In fact, I'd argue that, academically anyway, you could chop that worm up into three and make another version of the band, let's call them BF, with Rollins on vocals, Kira on bass, Robo on drums and, since FLAG bent the rules to fill in for Ginn, Mike Neider from BL'AST on guitar.

Idle speculation aside, it's fair to say that if Greg Ginn decides to call a band 'Black Flag' then they are, damnit. That's why it's so fitting that FLAG play up the "We're doing this for fun" angle, while Ginn & co. take the "(We're not) some sort of greatest-hits act" tack and Mr. Rollins goes the "Music had moved on" route.

Of course, that all this Flag-waving has not gone without raising some ire. Some argue that old men wrapping themselves up in the Flag is undignified or unseemly or unworthy. However, I'd argue that neither is a false Flag and both attest to the long-lasting inspiration created by a group of disaffected men and women set on making their own musical nation.

So, if you missed Black Flag the first time around (I had other plans that kept me from Desh Bhagat Hall in 1985) there's little reason not to take this opportunity by the throat, I know I will, given half a chance.

So which, if any, version of Black Flag would you see in 2013? 
Let us know in the COMMENTS section!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Punk Portraits: Chris Shary

As soon as I found the bootleg of FLAG (see HERE), I asked design-man Ian to make some artwork, maybe using a (Raymond) Pettibon image. Ian responded immediately,  "How about a Chris Shary?" 

The resulting cover (or at least the insert!) were perfect because Chris Shary is one the defining visual artists in American punk rock.

While Chris is primarily know for his work with All and The Descendants, a quick Google image search reveals the shitload of albums covers, logos, stickers and T-shirts he's designed.

Chris' love of brightly coloured cartoon graphics with a playful malevolence lurking beneath them mark him as a genuine original.

Sure it's occasionally tempting to curse the man when yet another lackluster pop-punk band slaps a Shary-esque cartoon band portrait on their album, but the price of great art is often mediocre imitation.

Over at his always entertaining Facebook page, Chris is revealing his sketching skills and is racing towards the 200 mark in his Punk Portraits series.

Chris notes, "The rules are I only used Sharpie markers, and did no planning in pencil at all. These are all quick sketches. Enjoy!"

While I did need the labels to ascertain the identity of some of the lesser-known figure in punk history that he's portraying, most these ones I chose for you are pretty much instantly recognizable. 

Say goodnight, Phil.

Let us know what you think of these sketches in the COMMENTS SECTION!

For ~150 more portraits go HERE!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

FLAG: Live at Groezrock Festival 2013-04-28

  (Covers designed by Ian)

You daily of ferociousness is here, beware of an overdose! Here's a live recording of the re-united/re-configured FLAG, Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson and guitarist Stephen Egerton, ripping through a set of Black Flag songs. If you want to see what Greg Ginn & co. are up to, here's Black Flag 2013 doing "Rise Above" and "Down in the Dirt".

The sound quality of this bootleg is solid, if a little boxy, as if the mike was real close to the stage.

(Drawing by Chris Shary)

Meerhout (Belgium), Groezrock Festival (Etnies Stage)
28th April 2013

01 Revenge
02 Fix Me
03 Police Story
04 I Don't Care
05 Depression
06 I've Had It
07 No Values
08 My War
09 No More
10 Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
11 White Minority
12 Jealous Again
13 Wasted
14 Clocked In
15 Nervous Breakdown
16 American Waste
17 Spray Paint
18 Thirsty And Miserable
19 Six Pack
20 Rise Above
21 Louie Louie

(Photo by Bob Medina - more here)

Let us know what you think of this re-jigged version of Black Flag in the COMMENTS section!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

NoMeansNo: Live at Emo's, 1994

This is a great video - thanks Bandit999 - of history's mightiest jazz-punk trio, Victoria, B.C.'s NoMeansNo. This is the tour for the album "Why Do They Call Me Mr. Happy, which was their first without Andy Kerr (and their first with Tom Holliston. While in the early days Holliston stayed in the background far more than Kerr ever did that just left more space for the Wright brothers to freak you out!

So what's your take on the post-Kerr era of NoMeansNo? Let us know in the COMMENTS section

Support the band







Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Toxic Reasons: God Bless America (1984)

Toxic Reasons (more HERE) lost vocalist Ed Pittman after the 1982 LP Independence but guitarist and founder Bruce Stuckey took up the mike and the band recorded the incendiary God Bless America EP.

As if to prove that they they would not flinch in the face of change, the band struck back with three songs every bit the equal of the material on their debut. In fact, the concentrated force of the two-minute-and-thirty-four seconds of "Destroyer", constitutes one of the one of the most deadly blasts in the annals of American hardcore.

A1         God Bless America        
B1         Can't Get Away        
B2         Destroyer

If you want more Toxic Reasons, vote with your words in the COMMENTS section!

Support the band!


Angelfire (really!)


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Toxic Reasons: Ghost Town (1981)

Arguably Toxic Reasons' (more HERE) singular achievement, "Ghost Town" sounds like what would have happened if Stiff Little Fingers had come from the American Rust Belt instead of the war-ravaged north of Ireland. "Ghost Town" is a throbbing punk-reggae track that evinces despair and fury in equal parts. The Ghost Town EP (Risky Records, NX 5232, 1981) also includes the anthemic "Noise Boys" and the finger-pointin' "Killer".

A Ghost Town 5:17    
B1 Killer 2:13    
B2 Noise Boys 2:40

If you want more Toxic Reasons, vote with your words in the COMMENTS section!

Support the band!


Angelfire (really!)


Saturday, May 11, 2013

MTL PUNK: The First Wave (1977-1980)

When I interviewed director Susanne Tabata (HERE), we both we debated the same question that I soon repeated with Winnipeg Cinematheque programmer Dave Barber; "Does any other Canadian city have the the sheer amount of quality period footage to match "Bloodied But Unbowed"? Well, the first city to try and answer that question will be Montreal dans la belle province du Quebec. The preview looks interesting but as with all punk docs, the ratio of back-slapping to actual historical analysis has to be determined before final judgement can occur. I'll let you know...


Toxic Reasons: Dedication (1989)

It's possible to label Dayton, Ohio's Toxic Reasons the American D.O.A. Both Alternative Tentacles-affiliated bands were long-running survivors of the early eighties hardcore era who withstood ever-shifting memberships. They also both shared a reputation as road warriors, boozers, political radicals as well as for a fixation on a fierce rocked-up punk sound (with a glaring exception apiece*). Such a a label of course risks overselling the importance of the band's friendship and commonalities with D.O.A. Musically, Toxic Reasons refined their own very aggressive but still catchy style that recalls the harsher English sounds of bands lumped under the UK '82 and the NWOBHM banners.

I saw Toxic Reasons on the Dedication tour and they tore up the place, leaving blood behind despite a crowd far less then they deserved. As for album itself, Dedication is steely manifesto which never gives you a moment to catch your breath.

A1         Payback     2:13    
A2         Apes Of Wrath     2:29    
A3         Killing Game     2:32    
A4         Your Perfect World     4:18    
A5         Goin' Nowhere     3:15    
A6         Ohio     2:03    
B1         Turn The Screw     2:18    
B2         Justifiable Homicide     2:27    
B3         Us & Them     3:10    
B4         Critical Condition     2:29    
B5         I'm Ready     2:03    
B6         Whole World's On Fire     2:03

*Toxic Reasons' post-punk-ish "Within These Walls" and D.O.A.'S mainstreamized "Let's Wreck the Party, both from 1985[!]

If you want more Toxic Reasons, vote with your words in the COMMENTS section!

Support the band!


Angelfire (really!)


Sunday, May 5, 2013

V.A. Powerpearls (1979-1982) Volume One

(All cover scans by Roberto)

(A re-up, let me know if you want to see the rest of the series...)

A quick history from one of the Powerpearls creators:
The comps started back in 1998 with #1 and ended 2003 with #10. There was another one planned called "Best of Powerpearls", but was not realized due to less interest of the customers.
You might know the Killed by Death and Bloodstains compilations, which were focused on punk rock in the 90's. We thought it's a good idea to give people an idea of the more poppy part of punk. The idea was to release just one track of every band. There was much interest in punk and power pop record collection end of the 90's. Extremely high prices were paid for the original records. For example the Fingers on PP #4 reached $3000-4000.
It's good to know that there are still a lot people around who love the music. Nowadays it's so easy with mp3, no vinyl to need...


Volume One of Powerpearls is stellar set of mod-punk-power-pop-new-wave ravers that, while predominantly of UK origin, also includes other European nations, some Commonwealthers like Canada and New Zealand and a couple of American bands.

* Everyday, Everyway (Really Thirds, UK, 1981, from only 7")
* One Out All Out (Straight Up, UK 1979, from only 7" [split with Justin Case])
* Feel The Pain (Bureaucrats, Canada, 1980, from only 7")
* Language School (Tours, UK, 1979, from 1.7")
* Modern Time (Gents, Germany, 1980, from 2.7")
* One Last Night (Atlantics, UK, 1979, from only 7"?)
* Nora's Diary (Jimmy Edwards, UK, 1979, from 1.7")
* That Girl (Techtones, New Zealand, 1980, from 1.7")
* Who's Kissing You (Famous Players, UK, 1980, from only 7")
* Fashion (Tweed, France, 1979, from only 7")
* It Doesn't Bother Me (Distractions, UK, 1979, from 2.7")
* Playing With Fire (TV21, UK, 1980, from 1.7")
* The Kids Are Dancing (News, USA, 1978, from only 7")
* It's Your Birthday (Fastbacks, USA, 1981, from 1.7")
* Susan's Day (Rousers, Holland, 1980, from 3.7")
* No Fear (Squares, UK, 1978, from 1.7")
* Liberty (Small World, UK, 1982, from 1.7")
* Blast The Pop! (Local Heroes, UK, 1980, from only 7")

This re-furbished, re-upped series needs to be re-enforced by some reactions (i.e. COMMENTS) from you, dear re-readers!