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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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(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.