"If the beat gets to the audience, and the message touches them, you've got a hit." Casey Kasem

Friday, June 17, 2011

Waiting Room

When I was in 12th grade, I discovered Minor Threat. There's pretty much a shelf-life on hardcore bands that ends at about the same time that the pre-frontal cortex is fully formed (21-25) or when one starts paying his / her own bills and doesn't live at home with his parents. This rule can be completely neglected if one is 53 years old today (happy birthday, Jello!) and is pretty much angry at everything... spurning making good money on it to keep their punk rock cool by not allowing his bandmates to sell "Holiday in Cambodia" to Levi's.
That said, if a sound financial plan and vacations are in the cards, uh... the above rule is enforced thoroughly.
I grew up with a mix of heavy metal in junior high school and pop / new wave prior to that. I don't want to turn this into songs that changed me because a few of them (David Bowie's "Changes" and The Smiths "There Is a Light That Will Never Go Out") deserve entries all their own, but there were songs that changed me, and somewhere in 10th grade, there was a kid named Nate who turned me on to punk rock. My friend and next door neighbor Tom knew him, and he was willing to record his vinyl and tapes if we got him tapes, so I did, and I got a bunch of Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, and other bands I can't quite remember (forgettable crap like the Surf Punks) as well as a list of "cool" bands before he moved to a different state.
Over time, I would buy to experience (it's not like going on Youtube or Myspace to hear something now), and there was some good stuff, and there was some not so good stuff. For example, my cousin Michelle had a tape by the Exploited (Punk's Not Dead), and she lent it to me. It was OK. Frankly, it was better if you
hadn't heard much punk music. And I'm not talking about good punk stuff like The Ramones. I'm talking about loud and annoying British mohawk sporting 1970s leftover bands still trying to perform in the 1980s while doing too much bad needle drugs and taking too much dole money. Well, unfortunately, I got stuck buying that tape because somehow Tom lost the case, and I ended up having to buy a new tape of it (not exactly easy to do at Mall stores), which left me stuck with the original tape and short of $10 (and you wonder why Napster was so revolutionary for those of us who felt that the music industry owed us thousands of dollars for all of the crap that we bought just to try it since it wasn't on commercial radio at the time - thank God for used CD shops at the time that were at least willing to trade our crap for better crap).
And there were some good bands then. Minor Threat was one of them. A lot of the DC bands on Dischord were really good, and they seemed to stand the test of time better than some of the other stuff (especially the New York stuff that seemed to want to be metal or skinheads). Alternative Tentacles offered some great non-Dead Kennedys choices as well (Alice Donut and Nomeansno), but it's hard to listen to them the same way as I did when I wasn't a quarter of a century old (though I will say, I can still listen to them more than a lot of other stuff that was SOOO... cool back then).
There was some good stuff on SST as well; however, it's not like anyone over the age of 25 can listen to Black Flag or Bad Brains for longer than a couple of songs either (if that long). Nevertheless, at 16, I was captivated by the guy at the mall who looked so cool with his Black Flag jacket. He wore Misfits shirts, so I discovered them, too, and let me tell you (in another column at length), they're still awesome (at almost age 40).
Some bands moved on and became mature than straight up noise and angst-filled short "fuck the world" songs. Husker Du, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr were some of the best, and I can elaborate on them in other columns, too (and I will).
But Minor Threat and their 1-2 minute songs were anthematic... at least at the time.
And they did it with a lot of stuff that related to why high school life sucked so much (instead of real world politics that I thought I understood better than I did).
Now... not so much. The same is true with other good Dischord hardcore stuff like Dag Nasty. Even some of the Ian Mackaye side projects (Egg Hunt and Pailhead) have lasted, but other stuff (Embrace) is simply nostlagic pre-emo / straight edge history of a time long since forgotten in the course of daily life (though thinking about them here makes them come alive again).
But Fugazi... and that first 7 Songs vinyl release... and we all had the 2nd one for Margin Walker, too. They were liberating forces of life in 1989. Blueprint was equally fantastic in 1990, and by the time Steady Diet of Nothing came out prior to that tour in 1992 where my friends and I met them and took a million pictures (none of which came out - damn you digital age for not being here soon enough and damn you Tony for not loading or removing the film correctly!), they were the greatest. However, by 1993, In on the Killtaker was good, but it wasn't the same as the live versions of the songs or the older discs. The later albums like Red Medicine and The Argument didn't match the intensity of a full on band's assault and timing with lyrical and musical masterpieces like the ones that comprised those first 13 songs. Those 13... they were and still are the greatest example of what the days of hardcore music could mean. Twenty two years later, they're still awesome as I listen to the digital versions from my computer's speakers.
And "Waiting Room" can be mixed with Destiny's Child and Rihanna and still be great, but when it's by itself, it's still one of the best of all time, which is a lot more than I can say for anything that the Butthole Surfers ever did, but you didn't need me to tell you that.
Or did you?

No comments:

Post a Comment