"Supergroup" is one of the lamest, most cliched labels a music critic can slap on a band. The term conjures the image of conceited, balding, fallen guitar gods posed riding the cash cow on a reunion tour.
Doubtless, Berkeley, California's the Peechees will get the superdupe treatment by plenty of music hacks to come, but Revolver smokes that notion straight away: The Peechees are not a supergroup; it's just four talented young punks with impressive resumes.
The band consists of newlyweds Molly Neuman and Christopher Appelgren (drums and vocals, respectively), with Carlos Canedo (guitar) and Rop Vazquez (bass). Chris is co-owner of Lookout! Records, Berkeley's most notorious (and successful) punk label. He also sang for the East Bay band Bumblescrump, and published several notable 'zines and two books of poetry.
Molly is one of the original riot-grrrl 'zinesters and the former drummer for Bratmobile. She also works at Lookout! and drums for the Frumpies in her spare time. Carlos and Rop are both vets of the San Diego hard-core project Rice, dedicated to publicizing the revolutionary wonders and beauty of the world's favorite grain (Rop is also currently a Lookout! wage slave).
Given their pedigree, the Peechees are a startlingly unassuming and loose band, whose music pitches manic power riffs and start/stop rhythms against ultrasnotty vocals. "Brat-core" is an appropriate descriptor for the band's simple, beer-and-piss-stained song styles.
The Peechees' latest release, Radio Disappears (GI Records), is a split seven-inch with the equally eclectic Drags, where the two bands cover each other's songs. The Drags do "Slick's Livin' It Up (On the Bottom of the Sea)," easily the best song on the Peechees' last LP, Do the Math. It's sufficient, but the best song on Radio is the Peechees doing the Drags' "Well Worth Talkin' About," a genius pop ode to the joys of gossip that easily ranks among the Peechees' best tracks.
Revolver called up Molly last week to ask about the machinations behind her panache, and to ask if working and playing in a band with her husband will drive the average grrrl insane.
Revolver: Has getting involved on both the business and artistic ends of the music industry jaded you?
Molly: Yes! I kinda feel like I know too much. Most bands in general are concerned about writing songs and having fun, and the reason they're doing it is to forget about the other bullshit, especially the business end. I feel caught a lot. It's easy to get stuck being in your business hat or your artistic hat.
R: Is it difficult working and playing in a band with Chris?
M: It's difficult to keep on an even keel sometimes, to not have it become a hierarchical thing, where one of us thinks they're the boss and the other one's not performing right or whatever. It's a constant process of reevaluating how we interact with each other and how we work together. It wasn't fun getting married and working together. It's too emotional of a thing, to always be around each other going, "Why aren't you calling the caterer?"
R: You guys are all vets of the whole new-school, '90s punk thing. Would you trade it all in to be involved back in the '70s, when punk was just beginning?
M: No, because it broke down in the same way back then that it's doing now. The sense of community's being lost. The reason I started playing music and felt confident enough to pick up a guitar was because I was inspired by my immediate community. It wasn't, like, a rock-star thing. Being around bands that have become somewhat popular; witnessing Green Day, Fugazi, even Bikini Kill to some extent "making it," I feel less connected, which is kind of a bummer. But, no, I don't wish I was in a different era. I'm really excited and feel lucky that I've been part of something that I think is very powerful. (GI Productions, P.O. Box 6348, San Jose, CA 95150)
The Mine Has What?
Chapel Hill, North Carolina's Superchunk has defined manic-sensitive-boy-punk (a la Lou Barlow on uppers) for the past six years, evolving its trademark sound from hyperpogo three-chord songs to sprawling, brooding pieces on more recent albums. Foolish (1993) brought the band into the slower, think-punk mode, and it continued in that direction on last year's Here's Where the Strings Come In.
'Chunk's new disc, The Laughter Guns EP, has all the power of its early releases (rarely does an organ rock so hard as it does here), but the music is no less complex than the last two recordings.
Laughter Guns sports four songs--"a small definition" and "her royal fisticuffs" are the classic poppy, excitable Superchunk, and "hero" is a bloodied, driving anthem for escapism. But then there's "the mine has been returned to it's original owner," which is something of a head scratcher. Revolver's analysis team has pored over this sinister epic of sneaking bastards and lost inheritances, trying to divine the hidden meaning with no luck. The plot is complicated but well-thought-out, the organ and plodding bass line provide vital atmosphere, and the overall effect is more suspenseful than a Jim Thompson novel. Bonus track: an extended analysis and deconstruction of "Hyper Enough" from Here's Where the Strings Come In by several Chapel Hill deejays. (Merge Records, P.O. Box 1235, Chapel Hill, NC 27514)
Combing the Shadows
Cana-duh's Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet have the dubious distinction of recording the hippest TV-series theme song ever with their jingle for The Kids in the Hall. Now they're fodder for the Rolling Stone rock anthologies, and two of the Shadowy ones have taken residence in a new band called Phono-Comb.
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There are obvious Shadowy similarities on Phono-Comb's debut LP, Fresh Gasoline--guitar-oriented instrumentals with sprinkles of surf rock and jazz--but also glaring stylistic differences. Phono-Comb's songs are infinitely more atmospherical, moody and free-flowing. Fresh Gasoline is flu music--best enjoyed while lying in bed sweating and shaking for hours, wacked out on Nyquil. (Quarterstick Records, P.O. Box 25342, Chicago, IL 60625)
Phono-Comb is scheduled to perform on Monday, November 18, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa. Showtime is 8 p.m. (all ages).
Heaven's in Oxford
Starting with the 1990 LP Heavenly Vs. Satan, Oxford, England's Heavenly has polished its ultracute, jangle-pop, two-girl harmonizing to a fine luster. The band's latest LP, Operation Heavenly (K Records), fits in with most of your cutesy-pop albums on first glance, but Heavenly isn't about to let you off that easy. Lyrics about sexual issues ("He says he can't waste a good erection/I think I'm starting to lose affection"), loneliness and pain, pain, pain in general prevail. There's one exception--"Pet Monkey," a love-song duet with Calvin Johnson. This album is like one of those trick candies with fish flavor in the middle, except a little more fun. (K Records, P.O. Box 7154, Olympia, WA 98507)