Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
Last Saturday at Rips Ales & Cocktails I got to see a band of men collectively get it up and re-inhabit their namesake for the first time in eight years (all right, it was their second show in that many years but it's the first time yours truly got to see it). That band of four wild galoots was and still is known as The Eleven Forties and they didn't disappoint. SInger Johnny Bionic somehow benefitted from not having a row of nearby tables to knock over somebody else's drinks like he did back in the days of the Emerald Lounge performing "Electronic Blood." Somehow he rebounded all his misspent energy back onto himself and onto Rips' stage floor where he rocked in the fetal position. Which if you ask me is what all lead singers should do to be respectful during a guitar solo.
No you won't see The Eleven Forties in any Tempe Music Museum and it's by design, as if they had the foresight to envision this kind of enshrinement, decide it was a bad idea, and do this kind of music instead. The Eleven Forties never made much of a splash except to the beer holders who saw their MC5-fisted freedom rock up close and spilled hops on themselves. They recorded a five-song EP called Get the Meat Ready, with a picture of them grinning in your grocer's freezer, seen on our Heritage Hump commemorative sleeve. That meat was a way of alluding to the Fab Four's Meet the Beatles debut without looking or sounding anything like it. I did get to review that EP in June of 2005, two years after Pat Singleton and Johnny Bionic played together in a band called the Heartgraves. I'm not sure everyone in the Heartgraves ever completely went along with adopting the band's name as their individual last name like the Ramones did, which may have sewn the seeds of their destruction. The Heartgraves featured ex-members of power pop bands like Sugar High, The Lemmings, Danny and Johnny's Trailer Park Disaster. Here, for those of you who view the click of the mouse as too much over-exertion, is that review in its entirety.
"It's no surprise when bands with multiple writers break up, and local faves the Heartgraves were hardly an exception. On the one extreme, you had Andrew Lockwood churning out touch-sensitive piano ballads, while on the other you had Johnny Bionic, charging like a shirtless party animal and leaving no table of drinks unturned. The inevitable split had quite a liberating effect on both factions. Lockwood, free to pursue multiple keyboards and heightened sensitivity, formed Dolphins Kill For Love and just released an exquisitely pretty single, "If I Could," while Bionic and PJ Heartgrave formed The Eleven Forties and unleashed their love offering to the gods of thunder, beer, and rock 'n' roll. With the solid, rocking Troy Gag of Quarter Inch Crown on axe, Bionic is finally free to put down the guitar and go full-bore as maniacal front man — and he's no bore, landing somewhere between Iggy Pop and Handsome Dick Manitoba, injecting "Yeaaah" and "Nooooo" at the end of every appropriate line. The band previewed its five-song EP, Get the Meat Ready, by mailing out an mp3 a week leading up to its release. Paying customers should note the advantage of cranking hedonistic anthems like "Grab it and Go" and "(My Baby Has a) Fake ID" in the car instead of sitting like a wuss at a computer. And for those of you without a car, Bionic has written "Red Line Bus," the first song about the futility of waiting for Phoenician mass transit to arrive ("Red Line bus, WHAT ABOUT US?!")."
That EP was followed up by a self-titled album released in 2007 by Wahalla Music from which this week's Heritage Hump Single was plucked.
Before we go any further, I should let you know that even today, in The Eleven Forties' second coming, you will need a nickname key to know who everybody is:
Vocal: Jonathan Blinco a/k/a Johnny Bionic
Guitar: Troy Gag a/k/a T-Bone D Stretch Macadocious Sweetwater III
Bass: Pat Singleton a/k/a PJ Heartgrave
Drums: Mike Shwambeck a/k/a Mike Album
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Says Singleton of the Eleven Forties' origin story, "The band was formed in 2004 because Jonny Bionic, T-Bone D Stretch Macadocious Sweetwater III, and PJ Heartgrave were sharing a house with an awesome band room and we didn't want it to go to waste. The band broke up in 2008 because drummer Mike Album was thrown in prison.
"We reformed this year because Mike had paid his debt to society and now he's paying his debt to us."
Of this quintessential Eleven Forties cut, SIngleton says, "'Roxboro Avenue Massacre' sums up the band with its insane lyrics, catchy riffs and shouting-type chorus. It doesn't lollygag around but gets straight to the point and ends rather abruptly. Kind of like the first phase of our career!"