10 More Underrated Punk Records: A Christmas List
It's that time of year again, kids. I'm sure you know the one. It's time to ask your Aunt Jean for a new record to throw on the family stereo at inopportune times so you can show how tortured your teenage soul has become. You need this, badly, and Aunt Jean is just crazy enough to say yes, take you down to the local record store, and pony up the dough for a record or two your parents would never buy.
Solely because I care, here's a list of 10 records you can ask the ol' spinster for, because though they are classics in some households, sadly, they've been overlooked in too many others. They come guaranteed to piss off your dad, render your mom incontinent, startle your pastor, and turn your older sister into a drug addict, but what do you care? Record collecting is where it's at, and someday you're going to work in a strip mall anyway, so you'll need a good Christmas (or Hanukah or Festivus) story to share.
If you can find 'em, buy these . . .
Dayglo Abortions -- Feed Us a Fetus (1986, Fringe Product)
Holy shit, this record kicks all kinds of ass. There is no way you can listen to it without banging your head. Is it metal? Is it hardcore? Is it metalcore? No. It's Canadian punk rock at its finest, and this is the best album by the best lineup the Dayglo Abortions ever had. For those of you who are, like, "What the heck? Gee willikers, I can't ask my matron Aunt Jean for an abortion record," please, just relax. These are Canadian abortions. Where they come from, both are free and relatively untouched by social stigma. Rumor has it, the 35-year-old band is still going to this day, but sadly, only one member, Murry Acton (or, as credited on the record, The Cretin, who played guitar on this fine slab o' wax) remains from the era when this record was recorded, between 1981 and 1985.
On Feed Us a Fetus, which features Ron and Nancy Reagan getting ready to chow down on some BBQ'd baby (maybe one of the best punk rock record covers ever, BTW), The Cretin was joined by Wayne Gretzky (not the hockey guy, but the other one) on guitar, Couch Potato on bass, and Jesus Bonehead on drums. These, of course, are pseudonyms, or as they say in Canada, "fake names, eh." Anyhow, the whole family will love this record. It starts off with a crushing quartet of songs, "Stupid Songs," "Argh Fuck Kill," "Die Sinner Die," and "Bedtime Story." These four songs, in about nine minutes of time, will completely change how you feel about punk rock, and the Dayglo Abortions are just getting started. Make sure you slip over and steal some of the neighbor's Molson Golden before you finish listening to the rest, because Feed Us a Fetus was made for beer drinking. Other standout tracks include, "Proud to Be a Canadian," "Wake Up American," and "Black Sabbath."
Victims Family -- Apocalicious (2001, Alternative Tentacles)
The Santa Rosa, California trio featuring guitarist/vocalist Ralph Spight, bassist extraordinaire Larry Boothroyd (both current members of the excellent Guantanamo Bay School of Medicine, which backs up ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra), and drummer David Gleza was one of the better bands to come out of the fertile Bay Area scene. Apocalicious is definitely a record to get the family rockin' around the dinner table in the weirdest of ways. Noisy funk-punk with a steady undercurrent of "fuck you" and a large dose of psychedelic mind alteration, the 13 tracks start out strong and do not relent. There is not a weak link on this record.
Pay special attention to Boothroyd's killer bass line on "Worthy Adversary" and the excellent lyrics contained across the record, delivered with a side of sneer by multi-talented guitar shredder Spight, who along with Boothroyd also made up two-thirds of both Saturn's Flea Collar and Hellworms. Additional tracks worthy of special note, "Screw in a Lightbulb," "Bananafishing," and "Fridge," which may be the only song ever to start with the following line, "I am a moldy piece of cheese."
Apocalicious makes a great soundtrack for bonging out in the basement and playing video games or making out with your favorite tonsil-tickling partner while the family goes caroling. Either way, you can't lose, unless the pastor comes over and you end up grounded.
Christ on Parade -- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing (1987, Mind Matter Records)
We stay in the Bay Area for this one as well. Aunt Jean is blissfully ignorant thanks to the bottle of Xanax she holds so dear, but if you can persuade her to buy this one for you, you definitely are on the road to Torture Town for the parents. I've always thought there is a hidden link somewhere between Christ on Parade and the desert punk scenes of Phoenix and Tucson. Christ on Parade fits right in between the raw sound of Junior Achievement and the gnarled punk of Tucson's Useless Pieces of Shit. Members of the band later would go on to join or form bands like Neurosis, Grinch, Econochrist, and the Hellbilly's. There are more than a handful of great songs on this record, and the place to start is with album opener "Teach Your Children Well," full of trippy riffs and even better lyrics and the vocal styling of Barrie Evans.
"Well, all you really have to do / If you want them to approve of you, is shut your mouth, don't complain, don't even try to think for yourself / Shut your fucking brain" -- from "Teach Your Children Well" by Christ on Parade.
Be sure and check out "Pressure to Succeed," "Rock and Roll Armageddon," and "Dead Meat" as well and you'll be more than sold on this record. Sadly, Christ on Parade no longer plays shows, but if you can find a copy, you'll have the next best thing.
Nomeansno -- 0 + 2 = 1 (Alternative Tentacles, 2001)
More Canadians for your romp through your parents' nightmares, although this album just might garner the folks' attention long enough to suck them right in and have them rocking along with you, especially if they pay attention to stellar opening track, "Now." The brothers Wright (Rob on bass and vocals and John on drums, vocals, and keyboards) were joined by guitar player Andy Kerr on this brilliant record. 0 + 2 = 1 is often overlooked when folks talk about these ageless scene vets from the Great White North, but I've never understood why.
The awesome thing about Nomeansno is its ability to write some of the greatest punk rock riffs but also create awesome proggy-punk anthems like "Ghosts" and "Mary," which both grace this almost perfect record. Stylistically, they are more like a punk rock Rush (another crazy Canadian trio) than the Dayglo Abortions, who were formed in the same year (1979) as Nomeansno, but bring the rock as hard as any band out there. Considering the mature nature of the Wright brothers, it's possible Aunt Jean might have gone to school with one of these guys at some point.Fleshies
--Kill the Dreamer's Dream
(Alternative Tentacles, 2001)
Eventually, this list (and your shopping trip) will break the cycle of following a Canadian band with a Bay Area band, but not just yet. Oakland's Fleshies were about the hottest live act around for a few years and still play the occasional show, although they don't tour anymore. Johnny No Moniker (now of the Street Eaters) leads the way for Fleshies on vocals and is one of the more charismatic and crazy frontmen out there. In addition to Johnny, guitarist Mattowar, drummer Hamiltron, and bassist Vonny Bon Bons are about the nicest bunch of guys you'd ever want to hang out with, gig with, or have as house guests.
"Yes, I'm Starting Shit" is one of the real standouts on this beautiful record. You have to love a song that starts, "Can your satellite see my middle finger?" Fleshies crossed several punk style lines on this record and did it with aplomb. It's noisy, occasionally poppy, and there are some really huge rock 'n' roll riffs, but "Kill the Dreamer's Dream" remains completely snotty and pissed off through and through. Perfect for displaying an appropriate level of teenage loathing, self and otherwise. Play it for your sister and she'll be dropping acid in no time.
SNFU -- And No One Else Wanted to Play (Better Youth Organization, 1984)
One last trip to Canada, but this is balls-to-the-wall punk and a classic at that. It is necessary to add this to your list of albums that will make your parents hate Aunt Jean and her meddling ways. What's next? Is Aunt Jean going to start helping you apply eyeliner and buy you a pair of combat boots, too? Hopefully, she's got an extra bedroom because you're about to be kicked out of your house.
SNFU's amazing debut record is still just as rad 30 years later as it was when it came out. The original cover was controversial because SNFU used a 1962 photograph by Diane Arbus depicting a young boy holding a toy hand grenade, but they neglected to seek Arbus' permission to use the image. If you get Aunt Jean to spring for one of these, you're a lucky little punk because they are very rare.
"Broken Toy" starts the record, and it blazes along from there. Mr. Chi Pig's lyrics are like a slap in the face, and the buzzsaw dual-guitar attack from the Belke brothers, Muc and Brent, rides on top of Jimmy Schmitz's killer bass lines and "Tadpole" Jones' stellar drums about as perfectly as punk rock can be played. SNFU's early live shows were insane, and this record captures their intensity better than any of the albums that followed "And No One Else Wanted to Play." Songs like "Misfortune" and "Bodies On the Wall" make the little hairs on the back on your neck stand up, for sure, but you're missing the boat if you don't play "Cannibal Café" for your mom.Logical Nonsense
--Expand the Hive
(Alternative Tentacles, 1997)
Sheer brutality. This record will scare the pants off of your family. These lads from Santa Fe, New Mexico, were angry, and something about this record suggests they probably still are, even 17 years later. This record is a mixture of punk rock, '90s hardcore, and some thrash metal. Expert knob twiddler Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Swans, Melvins) had the helm on this one, and it's right up there with some of his best work.
"Expand the Hive" brings back some fond memories of driving around Phoenix late at night looking for trouble. This album is not for the weak at heart and there is not a bad track on it. It's a shame Logical Nonsense no longer exists, but if "Expand the Hive" joins your collection, it will put hair on your chest. Fast, furious, and fun as hell. Now hit up Auntie for a tattoo.Bratmobile
(Kill Rock Stars, 1992)
A little something for the ladies is always nice to have in your collection, and this noisy little riot grrl classic was forgotten quicker than the TV show Girls will be when it finally goes away. In the early '90s, though, Bratmobile (Allison Wolfe, Molly Neuman, and Erin Smith) were instrumental in helping create the riot grrl scene through making zines, working with labels like Lookout Records, and playing in a variety of bands, including Peechees and the Frumpies. Bratmobile's Pottymouth is a gloriously lo-fi excursion into raw fem punk and it has some killer songs. Crank up "P.R.D.C.T" and "Fuck yr Fans" and watch your sister start dressing more and more like a boy.
Rich Kids on LSD -- Greatest Hits Double Live in Berlin (Destiny, 1989)
This double slab of vinyl captures the punk rock fury that was Rich Kids on LSD (RKL) in its prime. It is unrelenting, totally rockin', and completely inspiring. How you could listen to these records and not want to join a punk rock band is beyond me. The album features some excellent stage banter, and the versions of "Feelings of Hate," "Sargasm," "Pothead," and "Beautiful Feeling" are absolutely top-notch. Sadly, two of the guys who helped make this record as amazing as it is are no longer with us. Jason Sears and Bomer Manzullo both have passed away, but the memory of this Montecito, California, band lives on through this kick-ass live record, featuring some of the most psychedelic cover art ever.The Vandals
--When in Rome . . . Do as the Vandals Do
(National Trust, 1985)
A painful reminder of how a band can be hijacked by one cunning member and ruined, but even so, When in Rome . . . is still a great and underrated record. The Vandals formed in 1980 in Huntington Beach, California, and were made up of some pretty interesting characters. Lead singer Stevo did his best to steal the show in the classic punk movie Suburbia, and in this follow-up to the awesome (and utterly classic) EP Peace Through Vandalism, he definitely succeeds in doing just that. "Lady Killer" is one of the first crossover rap/punk songs (nod to Youth Brigade's "Men in Blue") and the cover of "Hocus Pocus" is highly entertaining. While this record is not, by a longshot, the most hardcore punk record ever released, it is a ton of fun and even fairly offensive at times, as the band pokes fun at a variety of stereotypes on songs like "Master Race in Outerspace" and "Viking Suit," although "Slap of Luv" is completely unacceptable, unless of course, you're playing it for your parents. Seriously, kids, abuse is never oaky. Angry letters can be sent to Joe Escalante because he invented the Vandals, punk rock, and the law.
Tom Reardon has been an angry Phoenix punk rocker in four decades now. His highlights include Religious Skid ('80s), Hillbilly Devilspeak ('90s), North Side Kings ('00s), and now The Father Figures. He loves small furry animals, playing soccer with his kids, and skateboarding.
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