(Originally posted on my Hedonist Jive blog in 2012)
WATCH THOSE EARDRUMS & BRAINWAVES – VOID “SESSIONS 1981-83”
Eight years ago I wrote up an “American Hardcore Hall of Fame” piece on my Agony Shorthand blog, designed to settle all debates around who were the greatest hardcore punk acts of all time. I’m pretty sure all debates did end after this post, in fact. Clocking in at #4 was Washington DC’s VOID, a legendary group who barely registered in terms of vinyl output when they were around. One half of an LP and two compilation tracks – not bad, I guess, when you consider the lifespan of most of 1980-83’s honor role. I came across their psychotic flipside of the FAITH/VOID split LP back in college in the 80s, and I’ll admit that I actually did a little thrashin’ about the dorm room to it more than once. No punk rock had ever been this intense, art-damaged, creepy or loud – none. Here’s what I wrote about it on the old blog:
If you’ve never heard the incredibly twisted artcore of VOID, I have to say there’s never been anything like it before or since. These guys were supposedly thick-necked suburban jocks with pickups & gun racks, but lurking somewhere in their collective psyche were a surrealist, a Dadaist and a deranged mental patient. Their side of this split LP starts strong and hard, but gradually gets more and more insane and weird, until the last 3 tracks, “War Hero”, “Think” and “Explode”, which are off-the-charts damaged, full of stops and starts and reverses galore. Totally amazing, and it blows me away every time I hear it.
I actually only mark about three “scenes” as having been responsible for 95% of all great hardcore punk records: Boston, DC, Michigan/Wisconsin and….that’s it. VOID stood apart from all their peers, and only the Japanese hardcore that came a year or two later was as weird and eardrum-damaging. I heard rumors that Void, like so many of their once-great peers (SS Decontrol, Gang Green, Negative Approach, you could argue Die Kreuzen), morphed into a punkish “hard metal” after their record, and since no one was apparently interested, these recordings never got officially released. What did come out, on a couple of 7” bootlegs, were Void demos and live recordings. I bought one semi-official EP of 1981 recordings called “Condensed Flesh” that was OK. Never thought there’d ever be another VOID release of any significance – until, uh, now!
Dischord Records, the label that put out FAITH/VOID back in the day, has compiled 34 tracks spanning their career called “SESSIONS 1981-83”, with studio tracks running up until 1982 and then two live tracks from 1983 at the very end. None except for the two tracks that made it to the “Flex Your Head” compilation have ever been “officially” released. Is any of it as good as the Void side of Faith/Void? No. No it is not. That said, you can track the evolution of the band into the monster they became, and even at their most generic in their early ’81 days, they weren’t generic. In other words, even when they’re singing about being “Annoyed” or how “Suburbs Suck”, they still rule a far sight over most HC lunkheads. John Weiffenbach’s vocals were terrific, and even before they’d incorporated feedback and odd time signatures, guitarist Bubba Dupree still shredded like no one this side of Greg Ginn.
Then around the last third of the CD you can hear the parasites start to take over these four gentlemen’s brains. Songs start with weird feedback hums, split-second breaks happen in hugely unexpected places, Weiffenbach raises the tonal level of his voice a couple of octaves and starts enunciating like a cartoon character, and wow – it’s amazing, breakneck stuff. The live version of “Explode” is awesome – a song you can’t even slam to! It’s too crazed! The other live track brought me back to the thankfully-gone days of “Pass the mic around – let the audience sing the chorus!”. Remember that? “SESSIONS 1981-83” should on no uncertain terms be your entrée into the twisted world of Void, but once you’ve successfully marinated for a while in their side of Faith/Void, let this one be your proverbial dessert. You’ll have earned it.