Unpublished Punknews Reviews

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Blood In Blood Out - Demo, Split, and Unreleased


 
Blood In Blood Out - Demo and Split

Blood In Blood Out was an extremely underrated hardcore band from La Porte, Indiana. They enjoyed their heyday throughout most of the 2000's as part of the Spook City roster, alongside bands like Folsom and Dead and Buried. Their sound was what you'd expect: metal-tinged and heavy. But what set Blood In Blood Out apart from their contemporaries was their musical ability.

The guitar work on the band's recordings is exceptional, especially for a hardcore band. Back when I was in Meantime, we used to play with Know the Score from Miami a lot. Jake, lead guitar for Blood In Blood Out (as well as Fight Like Hell) joined Know the Score after moving down from Indiana. The guy was a borderline virtuoso and had the ability to play much more palatable music. But he chose metallic hardcore and Blood In's sound was all the better for it.

Now, that's not to dismiss the rest of the band. Their rhythm section was perfect for their style: aggressive, unrelenting, and efficient. Add to that some fantastically raw vocals and confrontational lyrics and you've got a far above average heavy hardcore band. Unfortunately, Blood In never really seemed to get their due accolades.

Blood In released two LP's with Spook City (2003's No One Conquers Who Doesn't Fight and 2005's Respect Our Loyalty). In 2008 they put out an EP, Hopeless and Heartless, with Thornz Records. In addition to these, the band also had a demo from 2003, a split with Chicago's Undo Tomorrow, and a compilation of odds and ends, All These Years and Nothing, released in 2010. I've uploaded the demo and the split as they are woefully unavailable in physical format and I've posted links to two unreleased tracks from All These Years above.

To my knowledge, Blood In is officially quits, but you can still purchase music and merch at the links below. Also, Jake is in a new hardcore band called Penitentiary.

All These Years and Nothing (physical copy)
Hopeless and Heartless (physical copy)
Under City Records (digital copies of No One and Respect)
Cold Cuts Merch

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Omega Point - Demo

"Never forget where you came from / In the hardest of times you’ll never stand alone."

Oxnard lives. The spirit of In Control and Retaliate is strong with this one. Omega Point rips through these five tunes like a dog with a shitty owner that just got off its chain. And any band who names themselves after an In Control song is aces with me (and they even cover it on this recording). $2 is well worth the download. Bash or be bashed.

My Gripes (Part 1): The Homeless Gospel Choir

Cool.

It goes without saying - but I'll say it anyway - music is subjective. What I like, you might hate, and vice versa. What hits my ear like a choir of angels might, to you, sound like a bucket of pig guts being dumped on a pile of wet towels. I know everyone has a right to enjoy whatever strikes their fancy. We're all beautifully unique snowflakes - got it.

But.

Sometimes something comes along that doesn't just strike me as "bad." Or even "worse than bad." Or just plain "horrendous." Sometimes I hear something that is so objectionable, I can't fathom the situation where anyone would enjoy it. Have your ears been stapled to your ass? Were you bashed in the brain with a rusty shovel?

Because only appalling physical injury could begin to explain how Derek Zanetti - alias the Homeless Gospel Choir - has an audience.

I'll admit, I wasn't aware of this guy's existence until recently. I chalk that up to having a very effective auditory defense system. I can sense bullshit before I even hear it.

"One guy? Calls himself a choir? Acoustic? Says he's 'protest music'? Talks a lot about being sad and/or the difficulties he experiences being himself? UhhhBLOWITOUTYOURASS."

But even I am not completely immune to having a proverbial bucket of piss poured into my ears every now and again. And Christ is that what it felt like when I heard Zanetti sing his song "Crazy."


Woaf.

Aside from his straining, taxing whine of a voice - which I might be able to compartmentalize - it's the lyrics that upset me the most. Actually I lied: this dude's voice is like having my scrotum punctured with kebab skewers. However, I digress. Let's examine the first verse:

"I feel crazy half the time / The other half I wanna die / It's harder to go outside / When all you wanna do is cry / My old friends don't call me / Likely because they're busy / But my mind, it's not easy / Not easy to believe..."

The phrase "heart on your sleeve" doesn't even begin to cover it. This is intestines coiled haphazardly under one arm and dragging in the dirt.

Perhaps Zanetti has been through some horrific trauma in his life. I don't know. I looked around for something earth-shattering, but I couldn't find anything. I even read through Zanetti's AMA on Reddit - a site that traffics primarily in vacuous horror - and I didn't see any dead dogs or structure fires. And at any rate, past tragedy doesn't enter into it. When you put yourself out there as an artist, you are fair game for criticism, so long as said criticism is somewhat rational. And my criticism is this:

I have a problem with music like the Homeless Gospel Choir. I believe overly emotional, wallowing, feeble pop music is just as harmful (if not more) to an impressionable kid than the worst lean-promoting, gun-waving mumble rap.

Why? Because it's weak.

"Oh here we go. Some cis, gender binary-enforcing, Jock Jams fan is here to tell us how he feels marginalized."

I'll explain if you'll let me.


I'm sorry you're you too. It sounds awful.

Weakness is not a good thing. Weakness invites ridicule, stymies progress, normalizes aberrant behavior, and drags others down.

Having a problem with weakness doesn't make you a bully. It doesn't mean you can't have empathy or compassion. And it certainly doesn't mean that you can't have vulnerable, emotional moments. I'm a human being and my emotions run the gamut according to the situation.

But it is the fear of being weak that keeps me in check. And that fear is a rational one. I don't want to hurt my hard-working friends and loved ones by demanding they prop me up because I just can't do it myself. We all need help sometimes, but if you let your spine turn to jelly - you're kind of an asshole.

Music reinforces the best and worst parts of ourselves. An aggressive song might make you go for just one more rep at the gym (exercising doesn't make you a dick either). It might also make you feel a little mean and unreasonably territorial in a live setting. You need to watch that shit. A sad song might shine a new light on a bad situation. It might also make you feel more sedentary and hopeless, thereby exacerbating your depressive spiral.

A balanced intake is essential, whether it be food, hobbies, and yes, entertainment. Music does influence us, but that's not a bad thing. Make doesn't make you do anything like, say for instance, shoot up a school. It simply amplifies your emotions and personality.

Look, if you like this douche Zanetti than support him. Buy his records, go to his shows, make him the next Frank Turner. You're not going to see me protesting the guy like some WBC nutball. Remember what I said at the top of this piece? Music is subjective, even if what you listen to gives me diarrhea.

That being said, you should consider who and what you support.

Sicking up your insecurities and vulnerabilities to roll around in - and offering no solution for the problems you highlight - is an exercise selfishness. I understand music has an emotional, often irrational component. Many artists are looking for catharsis. But the best artists offer solutions, or at the very least - hope.


Yeesh.

I see no hope in Zanetti's lyrics. I see self-indulgence, vague, knee-jerk politics, and a predilection for ham-fisted, self-deprecating, forced awkwardness. He has a fear of being himself - as he puts it on the aptly named "Depression" - an embarrassingly first world complaint. Hey, Derek: most of us had a crappy time in our teens and twenties, especially those of us who were into punk rock. But all those mishaps and all that angst we felt entitled to built the character we needed to be better adults.

Zanetti calls himself "protest music" which I think might be a case of this overly sensitive boy being extremely insensitive. As he says on "Everyone": "Everyone can't be a policeman. If we all were policemen, who would the policemen kill then?" What a lazy observation masquerading as a half-baked political stance. Cops are dicks like plumbers are dicks. Most just want to pay the bills, a few more go above and beyond, and a few less are evil pricks.

You know who played protest music? Hendrix. Hendrix played protest music. Creedance and Springsteen played protest music. Public-fucking-Enemy and N.W.A. played protest music. And you know what those artists have in common? Whether through a guitar, a mic, or a turntable they each possessed an intensity, an aggression, a determination to get shit done. I believe that's called strength. And that strength provided listeners with inspiration, not depression.


"I got a letter from the government the other day / I opened and read it / It said they were suckers / They wanted me for their army or whatever / Picture me given' a damn, I said never."

To paraphrase George Carlin: "Soft music makes soft people." And hey, soft people: I don't believe in you. Yeah, I know you're sad, you're confused, you're just so awkward.

Do you want to fix it or just keep sobbing into your sweater? Sweater sells more records, huh? Cool.

Monday, June 18, 2018

In Defense of the Indefensible (Part One): Smash Mouth.


Two years ago, someone over at Gawker - which, from what I can gather, was a news blog that posted the usual "Trump Bad" articles, a lot of memes, and stupid shit about DJs and cats - posted an "article" about a Twitter war the band Smash Mouth was caught up in. The article consisted mostly of Twitter screen grabs, but you can read it here.

Anyway, for those of you who are like me and the sight of more than one Tweet makes your gorge rise because this - this - is how vapid discourse has become, I'll give you the gist:

A bunch of Tweeters Tweeted Smash Mouth and pointed out that the band had only one number one single ("All-Star," obviously) and how it was only a hit because it was featured in Shrek. Because in our first world society if we're not actively engaged in a snarky social media conflict, we have to create one - even if it's innocuous, meaningless, and infantile.

The band, in a clearly inadvisable move, fed the trolls and went on the defensive ("We had two #1's," "The song was a hit before Shrek," etc.). This misstep resulted in a landslide of insulting hat-on-a-hat Tweets like, "Sing it donkey," and the brutally clever, "No wonder you're one-hit wonders."

But why am I bothering to write about what a defunct hipster news site had to say about a Twitter beef between a bunch of children and a moderately successful band from the 90's?

Because. I like Smash Mouth.

It's an admission tantamount to a war crime, but it's true. I like Smash Mouth.




Yes, yes, I know the Gawker article resulted in angry fan blow back, with Smash Mouth devotees haranguing the author. And, to her credit, she managed to have a sense of humor with these fedora-wearing mongoloids and published a follow-up article that was a bit less snarky So, I say good on you, lady.

But back to me liking Smash Mouth - that hulking, infected elephant in the room.

It was 1997 and we - that is, middle and high schoolers like me - were still flopping around at the epicenter of the third wave ska explosion. And while I was digging my little seventh grade hands through record crates at the local store looking for anything aggressive, I still enjoyed the hell out of reggae chords and bright horn blasts. Smash Mouth wasn't a ska band, but they had a few ska songs and that was good enough for me.

Fush Yu Mang was the band's first full-length and though they had yet to pen their oft-derided masterpiece ("All-Star" appeared on the band's follow-up, Astro Lounge), the album produced three singles: "Walkin' On the Sun," "The Fonz," and a cover of War's "Why Can't We Be Friends?" Both "Walkin' On the Sun" and "The Fonz" had a weird, but accessible lounge vibe while the War cover turned the funk classic into a ska tune. The remaining nine tracks were mostly competent punk songs executed with a thorough pop sensibility and a good sense of humor.





We all know that Smash Mouth vocalist Steve Harwell looks like a 90's Seattle lesbian. And track one, "Flo," deals with this resemblance right off the bat. The song details a rocky relationship between Harwell and a "former" lesbian. Apparently this confused lady keeps screaming her ex's name - Flo - out in bed with Harwell. And he's just about had enough and wants Florence to come collect her smitten ex-lover. Guys, Harwell isn't just convinced his girl isn't over Flo - he knows he looks like her. He's painfully aware he has lesbian face. And anybody who writes a song with that funny of a premise - fuck the Recording Academy - they deserve a Grammy.

Other stand-outs include, "Heave Ho," a fast, fun tune about your asshole landlord booting you from your shitty punk house; "Padrino," a cartoonish examination of the mafia; and "Nervous In the Alley," which treads the same ground as Sublime's "Wrong Way" but leaves out the banging an underage girl verse.

It may be difficult for the perpetual eye rollers to believe, but Smash Mouth was still years away from becoming a meme. At the time they were just another semi-popular band and people actually liked them unironically.

Two years after Fush Yu Mang, Astro Lounge was released. To be honest, I wasn't paying too much attention at the time. My musical endeavors had taken me further underground. But even in the midst of discovering hardcore in all its many forms, I couldn't escape "All-Star." And why would I want to? It's an infectious, heart-warming tune for a beautiful day outside. Ugh. How simplistic. I bet you fuckers turn down ice cream too.

When you strip away the fedoras, the Oakleys, and the Hawaiian bowling shirts, Smash Mouth is really just a pop band. They borrow from other genres, but pop is their foundation.

One glance at our current musical climate will prove that the masses, both hip or tragically unhip, seem to have no problem with pop music. Internet music nerds extol the virtues of both Beyonce and Burzum. Falsetto-voiced man boys are free to sob their problems into the faces of fans who should - by all rights - go limp from embarrassment transfer. And shit, this is hip hop now, apparently.

So why are Smash Mouth so maligned when pop music is as popular as it's ever been? Why do so many people - I'm looking at you Gawker, even though you're gone now - take shots at them specifically? What is it about them that makes music snobs go into writhing spasms of distaste?

I think I know why, though I'll admit, my evidence is anecdotal.




I have a lot of friends who are music snobs. I've played in bands with them and gone to shows with them since I was in high school. I've watched them "mature" from NOFX to Deathcab to the Decemberists to - somehow - fucking Phil Collins. And I never understood the change. To me, all of the aforementioned bands - save for NOFX - are low-frequency and boredom-inducing. And they could all be considered pop, or borrowing from the pop genre.

What's the difference between the Decemberists - or any of their maudlin, miserable ilk - and Smash Mouth?

Smash Mouth isn't brooding enough. They're not self-indulgent enough. They're not difficult enough.

That's why music snobs are such cretins. They cling to this belief that if music doesn't make you uncomfortable, if it doesn't mine your most negative emotions, than it isn't real. It's pablum, it's surface, it's inauthentic. And unless the experience - whatever it is - is "authentic," music snobs and all other subspecies of hipsters aren't interested.

There's just one thing many of them overlook: discomfort doesn't always run parallel to authenticity.

I listen to a lot of angry, sad, and upsetting music. But the only reason I can listen to such a glut of negativity is because I balance it with an equal amount of positivity. This isn't lip service: I listen to Fush Yu Mang about once a month still and it always puts a genuine smile on my face. When I have a horrific day at work I don't come home and watch Apocalypse Now or Bad Lieutenant - admittedly two of my favorite films. I watch Tommy Boy, or Seinfeld, or the Golden Girls which also top my favorites list.

I want to lift myself up out of the doldrums, not hammer myself deeper into them. The world is a ball of shit sometimes and you need salve to heal the wounds. Smash Mouth is one of many salves I employ to keep myself from bleeding out.

And another thing to consider: just because entertainment is happy doesn't mean that it's mindless. When did we arrive at that conclusion? Hey navel gazer: not every artist has to be a tortured, screaming, waifish freak in order to connect with an audience.

Fuck yeah I could use a little fuel myself. And we could all use a little change.


Did you forget about Mystery Men? I bet you did.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

It was all a dream...

Back in 2006, I wrote a feature for one of my old zines about potential dream projects, unmade records, unlikely collaborations, and imaginary super groups. Like a Dream Team scenario except with hardcore idiots.

One of my entries detailed an (as of then unrecorded) new Skarhead LP, featuring guest appearances from CIV and Eddie Leeway. And wouldn't you know it: just three years later I got my wish.

Now, did I will such a thing into existence? No, I just think great, creative minds think alike. But just in case I am some sort of chaos magician who can bend the universe to do my bidding, here's a waste of my powers: a rebooted version of that now twelve-year-old article.

-

One Fusco Down

Rob Fusco quits Most Precious Blood, passes the bar, and actually becomes a hardcore attorney at law. His defense strategy involves barking at the judge like a rabid dog until his client receives an acquittal.

Most Precious Blood decides to soldier on so they sequester themselves in a morgue to write a new record. While guitarist Rachel Rosen dissects the recently deceased victims of a still-at-large serial killer, the band forges their most imposing masterpiece yet: Gotham City. Artie Philly takes Fusco's place because people need another band with Tom Sheehan singing like like they need a fork in the fucking eye.



The Comeback Kid

Jason Shevchuk stops dicking around with indie rock side projects, or managing his own vegan cupcake shop, or whatever he does, and Kid Dynamite officially reunites. They tour with Lifetime and Paint It Black and even though he does triple duty every night, Dan Yemin refuses to complain. Dave Wags does quadruple-duty because Good Riddance is also on the bill. Kill Your Idols and the reformed Philly Curse take the opening slots. Upon the tour's conclusion, Kid Dynamite signs to Fat and releases their long-awaited third LP: Poppie's A Little Sloppy.



Jorge Don't Text

Jorge from Merauder heads to Hollywood to bank on his rugged image and lands his first big role alongside Danny Trejo in the third Machete movie: Machete In Hell. He plays Machete's other brother, Eduardo, a.k.a. El Gancho ("The Hook") because his trademark is gutting people with a meat hook,. The plot involves the brothers getting shit hammered on liquid snake and riding their motorcycles to hell.

With the original Masta Killer enjoying his newfound success, Merauder finds themselves without a vocalist. Freddy Madball accepts the offer to fill in, but only after securing Roger Miret and Ezec to front Madball until he returns. The chemistry between these too is so electric that they write a second Icepick record, thereby adding Roger to the already dual vocal line-up of Ezec and Jasta.

Drive By Stabbing is released to much fanfare and many crazed fans actually attempt to carry out these eponymous assaults. This results in a lot of punctured tires and run-over hands. A YouTube video of Ezec addressing the phenomenon goes viral when he calls one of the would-be perpetrators a "clown-ass, pterodactyl-looking, baby rhinoceros." Bravo approaches him to star in a reality show and thus, Skarhead House is born. Most episodes consist of coke-fueled brawls and amateur porn shoots. The first season's finale is a two-parter featuring Ezec venturing into the Norwegian wilderness to find Dwid and bounce a fire extinguisher off his head again.

Icepick once again writes a theme song for UFC heavyweight Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski ("Get Your Eyelids Chewed Off"). The tune gets Arlovski so pumped that he K.O.'s Stipe Miocic in the first thirty-seconds of the first round and eats Joe Rogan.



Dr. Dan's NFG Remedy

Dan Yemin helps New Found Glory write their new LP, We Kicked Out the Diddler. The final product sounds like the first track from Catalyst fourteen times in a row - only better. The International Superheroes of Hardcore are never mentioned ever again. Chris Carrabba shows up to the studio begging for a guest spot, but - thankfully - Jordan Pundik beats him to death with a palm frond.



Misanthropy Is the Balrog of Every Man

Matt Fox travels to the Netherlands in search of Geert van der Velde. He finds him, flaming sword in hand, chasing tourists away from the Dikke Boom. Though he tells Fox he has been awaiting the call of Wodan to embark on the Wild Hunt once again, he still agrees to return to Poughkeepsie with his former comrade and rejoin Shai Hulud.

The band produces their most ambitious work yet, a double album set to rival their epic comeback, Reach Beyond the Sun. The new record is entitled For That Which Is Thought To Be But Is Not What It Should Be and For That Shall It Always and Forever Be: The Blood of the Fire, the Heart of the Shire, and In Dragon's Talons Will This Hated World Be Crushed and Forgotten Though Only Those Who Have Not Forgotten Shall Ever Know Rest. Between each track, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro read from a recently discovered, one-of-a-kind, unpublished manuscript of The Silmarillion. Seven orcs and one Balrog are murdered during the recording sessions.



Bionyx

Even though I'm the only person in America who enjoys the song "Judgement Night," Biohazard and Onyx decide to pool their efforts once again - this time to create an entire record. Evan Seinfeld returns to the fold, though he is still in mourning over Tera Patrick. And Sonsee realizes that somehow Onyx sucks without him so he reluctantly rejoins Fredro and Sticky.

With everyone back in their rightful place, this crazy septet of NYC hoodlums enlists hip hop super producers the Snowgoons to produce the new album, entitled Every Emcee A Warrior, Every Man A King. Premier fires off a few tracks for the project, along with Buckwild, Marco Polo, and Havoc. The guest list is unbelievable, reading like a who's who of the realest of the real: Raekwon, Ghostface, Method Man, Redman, Busta Rhymes, DMX, B Real, Chino XL, Ill Bill, Immortal Technique, Vinnie Paz, R.A., Ezec, Scott Vogel, Mike Score, Jasta, Skinhead Rob, and Freddy Madball.

About halfway through the recording sessions, everyone realizes no one's called M.O.P. When Billy Danze and Lil Fame show up, the Goons decide to extend the album to twice its original length, adding the two Brooklyn emcees into the mix, making it a collaborative three way of the most gangsterish, rowdy shit ever committed to tape.

Upon its release, Every Emcee fuels a wanton criminality so severe that within six months, New York City looks like a smoldering mix between Fury Road and The Warriors. Fake emcees are rounded up by the dozens and beat to death on national television. Sticky personally curb stomps Tekashi 69 for biting his vocal style and Fredro forces Lil Pump, Trippie Redd, and Lil Xan to intentionally piss themselves before being hacked to bits by Wu Tang's personal shogun bodyguards. Internet beef is cause for an automatic death sentence and rappers who are caught whining at each other over Facetime are fed to DMX's pitbulls.



Revenge On Sobriety

In the wake of Buddah's sexual assault allegations, White Trash Rob pulls himself out of a heroin nod and decides to soldier on without this portly pederast.

To retain Blood For Blood's trademark duel-vocal attack, Billy Milano is asked to join the band. Live shows now consist of a mix of Blood For Blood, Ramallah, and S.O.D. tunes as well as ample downtime for paramedics to tend to the wounded. This new incarnation of Blood For Blood is banned from every venue in existence so Rob opens his own place in Southie: The Shit and Piss Hole. Beers are a quarter and there are four stabbings a night, minimum, but most people don't mind because Paul Bearer and Colin of Arabia join the band for an encore of "Spit My Last Breath" and "Bitch Called Hope" at the conclusion of every show.