This obsession with lists is overwhelming at times. Full disclosure, not a fan, unless it rankles someone somewhere or serves some sort of purpose I can get behind. I enjoy irritating people almost as much as I enjoy making people feel good and I can live with the dichotomy. Perhaps someone should make a list of my peccadillos, but I digress. This particular list is way more important, at least to me.
The goal here, at least at first, was to come up with a list of the best punk rock records to come out of Arizona. With so many awesome bands over the years, and so many good recordings to choose from, how could you come up with just 10? Or 20? The first challenge that faced me is the reality about our weird music scene and its amalgamation of genres, sounds, and styles. I had to come to grips with the fact many of the bands I love and have been part of this scene are not purely punk. In reality, they are so much more.
Case in point, Seven Storey Mountain. I loved them. Visceral, powerful, and beautifully raw, but not punk. Someday I will write about them, and others like them, but not now.
For me, punk started with two records. Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks and the amazing compilation of songs from the film, Decline of Western Civilization, which featured X, the Germs, Fear, and many others.
Two friends of mine, Kevin and Mark Banderet, introduced me to these late in the summer of 1982 as I was about to enter eighth grade. What I didn't know at the time was that punk had existed here in town for several years prior to my discovery of it and, from what I've learned, was in the process of dying its first round of deaths. I had no idea about bands like the Liars, the Consumers, the Exterminators, and the Feederz. I was aware of JFA, of course, as all relatively hip junior high kids were, but I had not heard them yet. The saddest thing was that I had no idea there were shows you could go to and see these bands in person on a somewhat regular basis.
But this is no pity party.
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The conclusion I came to, dear reader, the conclusion to which I cling is there is not a "10 Best Arizona Punk Records" list to write, but there are 10 (maybe 11) records that are the most influential. Cop out? Probably, and again, in the spirit of full disclosures (of which there may be many), a lot of the folks I'm going to write about are now my friends and peers, but they are also the people, at least locally, who inspired me and countless others to grab a microphone, then later a bass, and join in the fray. They deserve to be written about because they rock, or rocked, in some cases, since some of these musicians no longer play music and some of them no longer breathe.
Initially, I went to the people (power to the people, as always) to find out what they thought were the 10 best Arizona punk rock records. There is a little website called Facebook which attracts the best and brightest, so back in April or May, I put out a question to folks I thought would have an opinion on the matter. There were several albums almost everyone mentioned and some only a few people brought up, and even a few I played on -- but I can't write about myself, now can I? A couple of recent things that are really, really good came up, like Gay Kiss' monument to noise and hardcore, Fault, and Blanche Davidian's Attack of the Killer, but as I mulled it over and over, the most influential and probably the best albums to come out of Arizona were all done in the late '70s and early '80s.
I have given each album a ranking from one to 10, so there will be much to gripe about. The rankings are mine and mine only, based on the musicianship, the pure punkness they possess, and how much they absolutely rock. The beauty of records like these, and the lessons they primarily taught me, is how they encourage independent thought and to "bow to no man."
Over the next several weeks, we will reveal the order of these 10 most influential Arizona punk records, counting down from 10 to the one, and present an in-depth look at each album, including interviews with band members and/or those involved with the production. For now, here's a look at the albums that will populate the list. Feel free to give your own ranking in the comments.
The list wouldn't be complete without Meat Puppets, who strayed from punk about as quickly as they mastered it, and their seven-inch In a Car. It's the first of many amazing Meat Puppets records, but really the band's only foray into hardcore, or at least the hardcore of the time. In a Car can be experienced in its entirety in about the same time it would take to make yourself a peanut butter sandwich, so do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven't listened to it for awhile. Was this the Puppets way of saying, "Sure, we can play your stupid punk rock better than you?" Maybe. Either way, it is still a defining statement 30-plus years later.
Jody Foster's Army released "Valley of the Yakes" in 1983. The argument can certainly be made that "Blatant Localism", which was their first official release is every bit as influential as Valley of the Yakes, but it really only showed the true promise of the bandValley of the Yakes would completely capture two years later. AZPX founder Rob Locker recently found a copy of this record in pretty decent shape at a garage sale for $2 which is not too shabby for a record that typically goes for just under $40 online.
the Zany Guys, who are playing locally for the first time in about 27 years on October 24th and 25th, and their glorious seven-inch, Party Hits Volume II are more than worthy of being on this list. While they were never a "serious" punk band, they could more than hold their own and play "that old hardcore." Most valley punks of a certain age have a Zany Guys story or two, and if you catch me in the right moment, I'll share mine as well. These guys were only around for a short time, but their impact on the Phoenix punk scene is vast. They made it okay to be up front about having a sense of humor as a band.
"Fade to Black" byJunior Achievement is arguably the most popular punk record to come out of this town, and definitely one of the most sought-after to possess on vinyl. For many years, from the mid-to-late '80s, it wasn't a party in Phoenix until this record got played. There is an element of punk/metal crossover here, which is why this particular slab of wax (later re-released on CD by AZPX records) has multiple layers of influence in the valley. Singer Jon Yousko was one of the scene's best lyricists and drummer Scott Chazan, well, wow. Just wow.
Conflict (Tucson) put out "Last Hour" in 1983, the same year as JFA's Valley of the Yakes came out and it is every bit as lean, raw, and energetic. Conflict possessed a strong DIY sensibility and put Last Hourout on their own label, Unjust Records. They did receive a little help from Phoenix's Placebo Records in distribution, but eventually imploded before being able to take their powerful show across the country and the Atlantic ocean to get the recognition they deserved.
Mighty Sphincter is a longtime, much chronicled Phoenix band. For me, this one one of the tougher bands to decide to keep on the list, but after being cajoled into listening to their first 7", the eponymous "Mighty Sphincter" which came out in 1984, I realized this list would be incomplete without it. For one thing, you cannot deny the ridiculous chops both guitar player (and band leader) Doug Clark and late, great bass player Joe Albanese possessed. The influence of both of these gentlemen has been felt across more than just the Arizona punk and weirdo music scenes, and in this case, the term "weirdo" is both a compliment and a word of warning to those who are faint of heart.
Victory Acres/Joke Flower split album is a big Clark party, featuring former Phoenix punk rock power couple Dan and Mary Clark. While there are great moments on the Joke Flower side, the Victory Acres side is pure desert punk in its most primal and most psychedelic. Featuring a couple of Meat Puppets, a Mighty Sphincter, and a Sun City Girl, the real treat here is a bunch of former Feederz' bass player Dan Clark's killer songs.Tons of Phoenix punk and noise musicians grew up trying to figure out just how Victory Acres did it and even when you listen to it now, you still have to just shake your head and wonder.
The Feederz Jesus EP is among the more profane pieces of early punk in America. Reactionary psycho-surf punk with lyrics meant to make normal folks cringe, The Feederz were notorious in the valley for their mixture of performance art and straight-up punk fury. Frank Discussion and his band of miscreants, whether it was Clear Bob and Art Nouveau in the original Phoenix version of the band, which started in 1977, or any of the later lineups, the Feederz were always pushing the limits of punk, let alone the mainstream.
The Consumers belong on the America's Mount Punkmore. They were in on the first wave, even though most punks have no idea who they were. Almost as underground as Detroit's Death, the Consumersrecorded the songs which would eventually be released as All My Friends Are Dead in 1977. As many punk historians know, some of the songs on this record were later re-recorded by the Los Angeles-based band, 45 Grave, but the power and musicianship were not nearly as good as their stunning predecessors. if you don't know or have this record, get it right now.
Killer Pussy. This is a no-brainer. Teenage Enema Nurses in Bondage. was appreciated here in the desert, plus down I-10 a few miles in Los Angeles. Snarky agit-punk at it's finest, this classic EP is more than just a well-turned phrase. It oozes the attitude copied by dozens of local punk girl singers over the years while trashing the new wave bullshit it lampooned brilliantly.
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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