Try as they might, the evil powers that control the recording industry haven't yet been able to completely stamp out vinyl; there are still seven-inches aplenty filling the bins at your hipper Valley record stores (Stinkweeds, Eastside, Zia are a few). The short-playing discs are inexpensive to put out and inexpensive to pick up, a fine way to sample bands--sometimes up to four per record--before shelling out the big money for a CD. Plus, for the somewhat anal collector (like yours truly), they're simply neat things to have. They look great; some of the most creative cover art going can be found on single sleeves these days. So let's return to that bygone era when recorded music products knew the beauty of a pop and scratch; after all, it ain't opera on these things.
Way up in that strange, fertile land known as the Pacific Northwest there lives a band called the Mummies. They drive around in a hearse, wear mummy suits and play some of the most wonderfully filthy garage rock you're ever likely to hear. And sometimes the members mutate into a little project called the Phantom Surfers, donning white jackets and Lone Ranger masks, driving around in God knows what, and playing some of the most wonderfully filthy surf music you're ever likely to hear. If you don't believe me, then check out the Surfin' Europe Tour 1994 seven-inch the band shares with the equally surf-conscious Astronauts (Pin Up Records) and dive into the magical vortex of Fender Twin reverb sound.
The Surfers' takes on "Surfari" and "Dark Eyes" aren't going to win any awards for groundbreaking originality, but you'll get a splendid earload of manic, metallic instrumental surf skronk circa 62, recorded with the same spirit and energy the Surfaris and Ventures had way back when. Plus, you'll get the quartet's "Special Message" bonus track, a nod to all its fans overseas. ". . . Thank you all, each and every one of you, for it's you little people, even of insignificant nonsuper powers, that make us what we are. . ." Let's take a look at what Born Against and Screeching Weasel have to share with us on this two-songs-each 45 (Lookout Records), though just looking is somewhat deceiving. Born Against opts for a nice bit of retro art (Fifties babe in bra ad) then delivers a couple heavy/predictable songs, one fast, one plodding. And these guys are mad--just check out this title! "Go Fuck Yourself," the slow one, is a numbing rant against punks (Grab you by your punk rock hair and smash your brains"). "Janelle" is a sarcastic take on a punk female, also an utterly typical-sounding punk-rock song. No wonder these guys are so confused--they haven't figured out they hate what they're playing.
Screeching Weasel--with what looks to be a linoleum cutting of a man carrying an early Singer sewing machine on his back on its cover--relies heavily on the classic standards of early punk. "El Mozote" has a Clash/Ramoneslike swagger that combines "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" hooks with lyrics about El Salvadoran death-squad atrocities. Informative, and you can dance to it. "Fuck This"--there's that word again--is the Weasels' commentary on what absolute hell it is to live in these United States, where "millions are unemployed," "everyone works until starvation," and, apparently, bands are allowed to put out unremarkable records with tired lyrics, all in five chords or less.
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Not only is listening to Teengenerate's "Sex Cow"/Bad Boy" (Estrus) release a fabulous way to spend just under four minutes of your time, but this is an actual single in the traditional sense. Same band on both sides, and it goes around at 45 rpm instead of 33. Teengenerate is another in an ever-lengthening line of bands from Japan, but you'd never detect a hint of the homeland on this record. Strictly two guitars, bass and drums ramming through the Stoogeslike "Sex Cow" and thrusting the old Larry Williams fave "Bad Boy" into head-slamming realms the Beatles never dreamed of taking it. Is singer Fink slurring phonetically or snarling with a perfect command of the language? Who cares? Great stuff.
Do you really need to hear another version of John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road, Pt. One"? I have no idea what you need to hear, but if you feel so inclined, then Monsieur Jeffrey Evans and the 68 Comeback has just the thing for you. Another version of "Tobacco Road, Pt. One" (Sympathy for the Record Industry). It's loud, it's raunchy, and, yeah, it does sound like some anonymous, 26-year-old blues-rock band. The B-side--yes, another one-band, one-single situation--is the original tune "Hedzaz," a track not included on the Comeback's recent debut album, Mr. Downchild. We fade into the tune already in progress, into a kind of mutant space jam anchored by a surf beat, featuring an inspired noise guitar solo. Probably sounds great live with a few beers and some colored lights to add that little extra je ne sais quoi that's just so hard to find in the studio.
Jabberjaw (Mammoth) rotates at 33, and it has to in order to accommodate the four-barreled sonic helping of Helmet, Slug, Unwound and Hammerhead. Helmet turns in a blistering live version of "Turned Out," followed by Slug slurring through a short, sweet, powerful thing called "Borax." Flip it over, and we have the highlight of the batch: Unwound doing "Broken E Strings," a Dischord-drenched number that starts off in a white-boy, melodic guitar groove and then explodes into a raw burst of energy. Hammerhead's "Cleaning Woman" bats cleanup, and is a perfect, unrelenting piece of rock. Big beat. Not too many chords. Vocals you can't understand. What's not to like? Be sure to stop and appreciate the record's cover art by Coop, the man responsible for the Teengenerate cover, as well, among others.
Back to Seattle and over to Japan again for the Young Fresh Fellows and The Mutant Monster Beach Party, respectively. The Fellows continue to churn out utterly bitchin' stuff that I and about 17,500 people worldwide unconditionally love, but that no one else will touch with a ten-foot cattle prod. "Stop Breathing (You're Foggin' Up My Mind)"--or, as the cover spells it, "Stop Breating . . ."--is part cartoon punk, part low-down blues, all just right. Okay, it's funny or stupid, depending on your point of view, like most things in life. The Beach Party's "Beautiful Song" is the A-side here, according to me (whether it's labeled or not). Minor-key pop worthy of repeated listening, sung by Kummy in a voice that's a seductive mixture of Pet Clark and Yoko Ono. One hell of a mix. I think she sings in Japanese, but the lyrics printed on the sleeve are filled with awesome lines: "Please love me choke of my breath/Please love me viorently about my bone is creak." It Crawled From the Bins: Who needs a stiff martini after work when you can settle back with the mellifluous tones of Emile Franchel on his album Bridge the Gap Between Daytime Tension and the Evening's Relaxation? On Psychoscope Records, Inc., of course. Hard to believe anyone would get rid of a supreme antidote like this, but it didn't walk to Thrift Town on South Central by itself. And you know something, if the record didn't have so many pops and scratches on it, it just might work. Look into his eyes. Watch the hypno-wheel in the red vinyl spin. Emile doesn't pull any punches; he's onto you. "When the body signals, you take a goof-ball, use a tranquilizer, swallow a sleeping pill, or fly to the hypodermic needle." Whoa, there, pal! At least he's cool with Budweiser. The liner notes tell us that Brit-born Emile "accidentally discovered" at age 17 that he had "what appears to be a unique ability, in making people relax." Big deal, Emile--I bore em to death every week with this column!