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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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A modicum of praise for Los Angeles’ SIN 34 in NO MAG, circa 1982.

Sin 34 (whom the editors of Dynamite Hemorrhage have a bit of a guilty-pleasure soft spot for) were the perennial opening band on hardcore bills all over LA and the San Fernando Valley in the early 80s. Members later went on to Painted Willie; Dave Markey became an infamous underground filmmaker and was putting out We Got Power fanzine around the time of this review as well.

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This morning I listened to a podcast version of a old KXLU show from 1988 hosted by “Adam Bomb” in LA, whom I believe was actually Pat Hoed from the band The Nip Drivers. He “interviewed” ANARCHY 6, the best phony hardcore punk band of all time, which featured the Redd Kross McDonald brothers ripping it up Circle One/Suicidal style.

The interview wears thin pretty fast, although they said some pretty great stuff. They were playing the tiny Anti-Club later that night, and mentioned that it was “the first Gary Tovar show ever held at the Anti-Club”. Tovar and his Goldenvoice concerts were putting on mega-spectacular hardcore shows at the time at the huge Olympic Auditorium and sometimes the Santa Monica Civic.

They also opined that “you have to look fast to be fast”, and so to play hardcore, you’d better cut your hair, hippie. To the best of my knowledge, the show at the Anti-Club that night was the only show the band ever played, and I actually drove down w/ my cousin from Santa Barbara and went to it. It was hilarious.

The band backing up the McDonald brothers were Phil and Dave from SIN 34. They played about 15 minutes, skanked a bunch on stage and in the pit with the rest of us, and at the end Steve McDonald’s bandana was torn from his head and his long hair came spilling out. They kept making jokes I didn’t understand about “breaking Julie out of jail” (Julie being Julie Lanfeld of Sin 34). And they did the song you see here, their only documented online performance, from the movie “Lovedolls Superstar”. Totally, totally ‘core.

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I got this book in the mail yesterday, and totally immersed myself in it for an hour before being called away for more important duties, like parenting and husbanding and being responsible & all that. It’s a fantastic look/read so far – capturing the early 80s LA suburbs and punk’s surreal explosion there better than anything I’ve ever seen, thanks to photographs of participants as opposed to solely of bands. More to come on this one.