Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hardcore Time Capsule: Old School Huntsville Resurrected


Various Artists - Angry Kids Unite: Old School Huntsville Hardcore Vol. I

While this is for all intents, purposes and otherwise, a blog about the 90s, I recently stumbled upon a goldmine that enabled me to take just a few more steps back into my hometown's humble beginnings in punk rock. Peer Pressure Productions has done an amazing and thorough job archiving Huntsville, Alabama's 1st wave of hardcore punk from the early 80's on up through 1995 or so.

It goes without saying that this stuff was a couple years before my time, though, I was definitely aware of it well before I was able to participate. My first brush with that scene came when I was handed a flyer while waiting in line to see Suicidal Tendencies open for Queensryche at the VBCC in 1991. I wanted very badly to go, but was instantly denied access by Mom. She said it was probably dangerous and that there would be gangs there. Of course, there was no need to argue, 'cause parents just don't understand. The flyer though, featuring the names of bands like I.R.S., Skeletal Earth, and Random Conflict (all featured here) with the headline "Angry Kids Unite", stayed tacked to my wall for the next 6 or 7 years.

Getting back on track, I assembled this compilation myself, cherry-picking some of my favorite tracks from Peer Pressure's overwhelmingly large archive. Though they may have been living in the butt crack of America, kids in 'Bama had plenty to be pissed off about in the Regan era. This collection features tunes by Alabama's alleged first punk band The Knockabouts, and one of its longest running, Random Conflict (both of whom I've deemed important enough to post about separately in the coming weeks). Other bands include Monster God/Dog, Humanicide, Snapdragon, Insomnia, Skeletal Earth and I.R.S.

If you too are interested in this stuff, by way of either nostlagia or sheer curiosity, I strongly suggest you check out Peer Pressure Productions' Myspace profile, where you'll find a great deal of it ripe for the taking.

Rise of the Nashville Compilatons pt.II : Our Scene Still Sucks


This is the sequel to the compilation I posted the other day. The Nashville Scene article I quoted was actually in reference to this release, but revealing that would have interrupted my flow a little. Since I've know idea who 3/4 of these bands were, I'll let the full clipping tell the story:

Our Scene Still Sucks, a brand-new House O’Pain EP arriving Saturday. The record gathers tracks from several local bands, ranging from the pop-punk thrash of Situation No Win to the grinding hardcore of Process Is Dead. This time, however, the music actually shows signs of health in the local scene, according to House O’Pain’s Donnie Kendall.

“What it’s intended to say is that the Nashville scene doesn’t suck,” says Kendall, co-owner and cofounder of the pioneering local punk label. For the first EP, Kendall notes, House O’Pain had to work to scrape up decent tracks. This time around, he had a wish list of 15 bands, and of those he said maybe 10 submitted quality tapes.

Does the scene still have problems? Sure. Press coverage of punk and indie rock in Nashville is usually minimal, Kendall says, and a brief flurry of outside interest in the local scene seems to have abated. “Last year, and the year before, the kind of music we make started to come out a little,”he explains. “But it’s slipped back underground, which is fine with us.”

For a glimpse into the underground, sojourn to Lucy’s 8 p.m. Saturday night for the Our Scene Still Sucks record-release party, which features Brown Towel, The Vibes, Process Is Dead, Situation No Win, and Junkie War Stories. EPs will be on sale at the door, and the cover charge is $5. And if you really want to keep the local scene from sucking, go to a show and make some noise—or pick up a guitar and form your own band. As Donnie Kendall says, “If more people get into it, it’ll only get better.”

Thee Autobots

It’s been easy thus far to write about almost all the bands on this blog so far in that, to my knowledge, none of them have read or are even aware of the stuff I’ve posted here. But given the frontman for this next selection is a regular contributor by way of informative, insightful comments, I’m a bit more self-conscious than usual.

From the ashes of Huntsville’s least understood, but most notable nerd-punk band Themack, rose singer/songwriter/guitarist Jack Themack (aka Jack Renuzit, now Jack Saturn) and his then new ensemble Thee Autobots. While Themack always seemed like they just wanted to rock out while coming off as misfits by default, Thee Autobots took every opportunity to stand out, even adding a saxophone player to the mix. The pop cultures references didn't stop with the Transformers-inspired name, with Jack and Co. cramming ironic, dated hip hop references, tongue-in-cheek odes to heavy metal, admiration for 80s breakdancing, and goofy samples in every open space.

The result is an eclectic pop-flavored collection of catchy heartfelt punk songs that takes me back to a time before “pop punk” was synonymous with whiny bullshit. Each cover was originally black & white with the Autobots logo hand-colored red.

Thee Autobots lasted little more than a year, and allegedly have at least 16 other songs released elsewhere or not at all, which Jack has been promising to put out for a few years now. Maybe this post will increase the demand? Jack lives in Portland now and is involved with such projects as Natural Bridges and The Online Romance. Bassist Doug Lehman moved to Nashville in the mid 90s and plays in the signficantly known garage rock band The Clutters. Their drummer Solomon still lives in Huntsville last I checked, playing in a rootsy bar band called The Cracker Jacks.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rise of the Nashville Compilatons pt. 1: Our Scene Sucks

From the annals of time and the archives of Music City history, I introduce to you now this four part series featuring those sure-fire golden nuggets of punk rock history -- the coveted compilation 7”.

The first is a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating package titled Our Scene Sucks by House O’ Pain Records. While I like to inject a little personal insight to each of these reviews, I was 14 when this was released and lived about 100 miles south of Nashville, so most of these bands are unfamiliar to me. But luckily, the Nashville Scene is a little more on top of things. They wrote this about the comp in 1997:

Five years ago, House O’Pain Records issued a broadside of a compilation EP under the modest title Our Scene Sucks. The music was snotty, sloppy, and loud—a ragged artifact of underground Nashville in the early 1990s, when House O’Pain and the appearance of Lucy’s Record Shop triggered a burst of local activity. Back then, the EP’s title might as well have been the mantra of the city’s disenfranchised teenage punk audience.
“What it’s intended to say is that the Nashville scene doesn’t suck,” says Kendall, co-owner and cofounder of the pioneering local punk label... [Donnie] Kendall notes, House O’Pain had to work to scrape up decent tracks.

Of the four bands on this comp: Floor, Lethargic, Canibal Holiday and Teen Idols -- the only one I’m familiar with is Teen Idols, who I saw and enjoyed many times in their prime. But, there’ll be plenty more on them later once I gather up a little more of their catalog. In the meantime, enjoy this 7” time capsule and all its DIY glory and anticipate more of them to come.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Vaction Music: No Fraud

So, it’s summer time. I’m sure lots of you Southerners are prepping for your sunny vacations down in Florida (aka, “the poor man’s California”), so I thought I’d dip down there myself for a post on some FLA punk rock.

Once upon a time, I published a little zine called Urine Idiot. It was a badly written, sometimes funny xeroxed rag full of half-baked ideas I usually half stole from someone else. But despite its flaws, it did make its way into bigger zines like Factsheet 5 and Maximum Rock n Roll, and around the continent via various distros and the like. Well, somehow the guys in No Fraud got a copy. Given the “Baywatch” spoof theme of this record, and the fact that I’d ironically interviewed an actual cast member of the show, they thought they’d send me a copy to review. And hey, 13 years later, I’ve actually gotten around to it. In all fairness, I never actually published another issue of my zine after the point in time they sent me this. I’d moved out of my parents house, gotten a girlfriend, and no longer had the surplus of mind-numbing free time I once did.

As far as background, I’ve managed to find a little on the web -- even a Myspace that may or may not be theirs. It’s also likely the No Fraud I’ve been finding info on is a completely different band, but, if I’m correct, these guys came from Venice, Florida (the "poor man's Venice") and had been around since the 80’s, starting up in that cold, flavorless, spraypaint-and-stencil, late-Reagan orgy of thrash, hardcore, and skate punk.

What you get here definitely sounds descended from that ilk, but a little more light-hearted than the usual. There’s some goofy, ham-fisted skits between songs about Baywatch (“Babewatch”), Milwaukee’s Best (“The Beast”), and the usual anti-authority/society stuff. In traditional fashion, they keep it short, sweet, and cram as many jams into a slab of vinyl as possible (7 in this case). Enjoy it, and don't forget to crank it loud on your way down to Panama city.

Bonus Links:
Early No Fraud 7" courtesy of True Punk Metal
Even more music from what may or may not be the same band.

Thursday, May 28, 2009



Highstrung - self-titled 7" [House O' Pain, 1996?]

So, I may not have grown up in Nashville, but I’ve been here long enough to pick up some clues, pieces, and tidbits about the old days from the folks who were there. Much of this info has come in handy now as I write up this little piece on Highstrung, as I’ve found almost literally NO information on them whatsoever (and of course, I rely on your comments to compensate for the insight that I lack).

Highstrung played my hometown several times in the mid-90’s. And though I never caught them, I did wind up playing a show with them in ’98, opening for The Groovie Ghoulies. Young, obnoxious, and ready to fuck shit up, Highstrung weren’t anything special in the way of their tunes, but their live shows were exceptionally entertaining and their members went on to make some pretty great music in various other bands.

If I understand what I’ve heard correctly, Highstrung actually started out as a band called Fecal Matter. Then only two members, they were both somewhere in the ripe young age range of 13-15. Allegedly, there was a documentary made about them -- and I may or may not have just missed them opening for Propaghandi and Cavity in Birmingham, AL in 1996. Legend has it, their mother did not approve of the “Fecal Matter” moniker, and the band wound up changing the name to Highstrung. After adding a few members, they became the band you hear here on this 7”. The tunes are about what you’d expect from a pack of teenage boys with penchant for speedy beats and beer and an aversion to society, convention, authority, etc.

Eric and Dallas of Highstrung later formed thrash punk outfit Booby Hatch (with Donnie Kendall and Chris Fox of Fun Girls from Mt. Pilot), and considerably successful. full-on thrash metal band Asschapel (also with Chris Fox). Highstrung drummer Roger later joined Pine Hill Haints, Natchez Shakers, and fronted Snakeskin Machinegun.

Rednecks in Pain

As we embark on this foray into Nashville’s 90s punk history, the most logical place to start seemed to be Rednecks in Pain. Since no official information is available to me at current (Google searches are fruitless), the following background info is only what i’ve pieced together.

R.I.P. seemed to be together from about 1988 - 1990 (give or take a year). They released two demos, and two EP’s and remain pretty legendary around these parts. Equipped with a goofy, country boy sense of humor, a nasty disposition, and hardcore punk hooks that could snap your neck, I don’t doubt these guys used to put on a hell of a show.

Singer Cat and guitarist Don Kendall went on to form Fun Girls from Mt. Pilot, who were featured on this blog last year. While the music between the two isn’t a whole lot different most of the time, R.I.P. were a little less focused in terms of style. Tracks like “AK-47” and “Painted a Pretty Picture” stray into hard rock, metal, and psychedelic alternarock territory.

Provided here is 3/4 of their discography. Their second demo cassette, Sick Semen, is mostly there for posterity. I did my best to make it as listenable as possible, but unfortunately, I think this is as good as it gets for 20-year-old DIY cassette release.

Bonus: a little digging turned up this video of a band that may or may not be the same Rednecks in Pain:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Nashville Motherload: Our First Donation

I'm sending out a big thanks -- and encouraging you to as well -- to Don Kendall (formerly of Rednecks in Pain, Fun Girls from Mt. Pilot, Booby Hatch and one of the folks behind House O' Pain Records). Don unloaded a few pounds of old school Nashville punk vinyl on me this morning. So as I make my way through it, this blog is going to be very Nashville-heavy for the next few months.

If you're an old school Music City punker, prepare for a flood of nostalgia and tell all your old homies to stop in from time to time and check it out. If you're like me and heard most of this from a distance - or just enjoy this kind of shit in general, you too are in luck.

bonus link: TMQ Zine Archive has some more info on Don's House O' Pain zine.