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(Originally written in 2006 on my Agony Shorthand blog)

A couple of years ago I made a list, as I so often do, of the hallmarks of early 80s American hardcore punk rock. #1 with a bullet was the debut LP from Milwaukee’s DIE KREUZEN. I said something along the lines of:

Simply put, this is just the fiercest, most punishing record I’ve ever heard. If that sort of bluntness piques your interest, then the debut LP from Milwaukee’s finest is made for you. It makes God weep, Motorhead tremble and Danzig look like a mincing little pansy. In other words, it’s ballistic blast after blast of savage screams and guitars pushed into the bleed zone, and it transcends superficial ear-shredding with massive riffs and chops that move by at lightning speed. When it came out people were dumbfounded. Tim Y at otherwise poor tastemakers Maximum Rock and Roll wrote a review that was the words “This is fucking great! This is fucking great!” repeated over and over. It’s just that kind of record, barely connected to the art-metal they pursued just one album later.

I stand by that description and then some, with the exception of "barely connected to the art-metal they pursued just one album later”, as that’s almost certainly exaggerating to make a point. “Die Kreuzen”, the album, is unlike any other HC record ever. It scrapes the edges of light-blur metal and jagged, weirdo post-punk night sounds to come up with a wholly singular & incredible record. You know, it actually came about a little late in the hardcore lifecycle – 1984 to be exact – and I’ve never felt it’s received its due for being as shredding as it is.

Consider the vocals. Dan Kubinski’s raw, throaty near-falsetto was multitracked and amplified such that he sounds like a screaming, lunatic creature of some kind, totally in keeping with the LP’s bizarro futuristic cover art. You might call it “heavy metal singing”, but that’s wildly off the mark to my ears. Guitars straddle the border between sci-fi art sounds and straight-up ripping hardcore, and that’s something they carried through to the next album (“October File”) as well, albeit with a totally different production style. I reckon that for many a hardcore punk partisan, that strangeness might have been a bit too much to take. Most importantly, if you can handle how jarring this entire record is, you will find that is absolutely impossible to play it at anything but maximum volume. Thus it’s perfect for a window-rattling solo car ride or for an evening when everyone else is out of the house & you need to let out some of your pent-up shit. I call it a masterpiece, and one of my Top 20 favorite records ever.

PS – I suppose it would help to mention that you can find this album on Touch & Go’s CD of “October File”. It is illogically sequenced after their 2nd album, and starts in around Track #15.

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(Originally written for my Agony Shorthand blog, November 2004)

VARIOUS ARTISTS : “CHARRED REMAINS” cassette……

I used to buy Maximum Rock and Roll during hardcore punk’s golden years (1981-83) and marveled at the huge array of “scenes” all over the USA and globe. It was almost downright hippie in the way loving attention was slathered on how “the kids” would organically come together in places like Milwaukee and Fresno to create awful punk music and fight the fuckin’ pigs. All it took to file a scene report was to file one – that is, write up what bands formed in your town, who was putting out 45s this month, which crazy punks got stinking drunk at which parties, detail any police harassment at the VA Hall and add a few parting words on how Reagan was about to murder us all, and your scene report was ready to go.

Chequering all this exciting banter were cool advertisements for micro-releases from around the world. MRR kept their ad rates low enough that a 15-year-old kid with a pressing-of-200 45 could get out his glue sick and a thick pen and have a quick ad in there for maybe $10. It was just such an ad that I remember seeing for this 1981 cassette-only release called “CHARRED REMAINS”, which (retrospectively) is sort of a who’s-who of hardcore, both good and horrible. I’d never heard the tape until last week but had long wanted to, but noooo, I ordered the Wisconsin scene overview “America’s Dairyland” tape instead back then. Someone threw a clean copy of this tape up on Soulseek and I pulled it down, making sure to earmark some royalties directly to SIN 34 and THE MISGUIDED, of course. 

Based on what I could track down on the World Wide Web, this tape was put out by a guy named Bob Moore who ran a ‘zine called NOISE and later a record label called Version Sound. DIE KREUZEN fans, of which I am a big one, will remember this label as the one behind the “Cows and Beer” 7"EP and subsequent “Master Tape” LP comp, which featured super lo-fi versions of the tracks that eventually made up the single greatest US hardcore punk album of all time, the self-titled debut Die Kreuzen record on Touch & Go. Their tracks are pretty much the best on “Charred Remains”, but there are a few other corkers I’d never heard before.

Best is “Crime Watch-Block Parents” by DOGS OF WAR, a real spinner from back in the days when crime was out of control in the US and each suburb had “block parents” that kids could run to if some vile creep offered them a ride. It’s got great vocals and reminds me of a faster AUTHORITIES (“Radiation Masterbation” and “I Hate Cops” – you know you love ’em). I’ll still stand by LA’s SIN 34 even though they’ve a longtime butt of wasn’t-hardcore-awful jokes; they’ve got two relatively strong tracks on here, and another surprise was VIOLENT APATHY from the Midwest. You might know these strapping young fellas from “I Can’t Take It” on the “Process of Elimination” EP (famous for also including Negative Approach, The Necros and The Fix), but they’ve got 3 red-blooded meathooks on this, served up fast-n-loud.

There are also two from VOID, who just plain ruled (though their non-Dischord stuff like this is incredibly tame compared to their godhead side of the split LP). On the down side? Well, how about ARTICLES OF FAITH? What a crap band – each track is way too long, too involved, too English to merit even a first listen. Ditto for the TOXIC REASONS, who were a living parody of a bunch of American kids trying to be Discharge or GBH, complete with horrendous British accent. Rounding out the pile are HUSKER DU (a track lifted from “Land Speed Record”), UXB, PERSONALITY CRISIS (Canadians! Guy had monstrous vocals here and elsewhere, but the band was pretty weak), Sacramento’s REBEL TRUTH (horrid) and a handful of nonentities. A total nostalgia trip even if you weren’t there (and I wasn’t), yet one you might not ever want to listen to more than once a decade.

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Just received one of those newfangled cassette-transfer contraptions in the mail recently, one of those things that lets you take ancient cassette tape recordings and transfer them into new, improved digital versions. Even figured out how to use it. Just in the nick of time, too – I mean, I have a garage full of 1980s mix tapes, live show recordings, and radio shows I once did in college moldering and decaying. Another year or two and they’d be sawdust. This post is the first of several rescue/reclamation projects.

On June 14th, 1989, a 21-year-old version of me did his final “White Trash” radio show on KCSB-FM in Santa Barbara, CA, as he graduated from college that very week. It was taped, and after festering in aforementioned garage for 24 years, was transferred this evening and uploaded for what interested parties there might be to then download and listen to. Having listened to the tape for the first time in at least 20 years before digitizing it tonight, it naturally brings forth much embarrassment – so please humor me and let me add a few careful disclaimers in case you wanna listen to it (and you should – the music is smokin’). 

After doing a radio show at KCSB for four years, and having had access to all the records in their library (and being a rabid music hound/record collector of the most obsessive order), I got to be fairly knowledgeable in the limited punk rock/heavy underground rock genres I’d permitted myself to like. My dismissive, albeit very studied, insecure cockiness is on display in this show. I’m not sure I’d actually like this DJ right now as a human being if I was hearing him on the radio for the first time. Though I love every song I played in this, “My Top 40 favorite songs of all time” show, I can’t believe how dudely it all is. For the 1989 version of me, it was all dudes, all punk, all raw and all aggressive. The only chicks allowed were those rare cool ones from The Bags, The Avengers and Sonic Youth. That’s it. The Fall sucked already, and The Lazy Cowgirls were the best live band in the world.

It’s also preposterous that someone with such a limited musical life experience and frame of reference could even deign to determine a 40-greatest-songs-of-all-time list. As you might expect, approximately 37 of mine came from the 1980s. One of the highlights/lowlights of this show is the recording that starts the show, a nervous, mealy-mouthed 16-year-old me doing a “guest DJ” slot on KFJC (on the “Ransome Youth Show”) in 1983. Then the 21-year-old me mocks him mercilessly, with all the wisdom and experience that 5 years of perspective and deep life experience brings. 

Now that I’m doing a fake radio show podcast here in 2012/2013 – Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio  – I was startled to see some identical on-air back-announce mannerisms crop up from ‘89 that mirror the blather I’m doing today. Hopefully you’ll enjoy forty dudely 70s/80s songs from the likes of The Pagans, Mudhoney, Black Flag, Scratch Acid, Die Kruezen, Electric Eels and more. I have even worse shows sitting in the garage ready to be rescued and maybe even posted at a later date. 

Download “WHITE TRASH” Radio, June 14th 1989, KCSB-FM