DIE KREUZEN – Land of Treason/Pink Flag 7”
I’ve bought probably half a dozen – tops – 7”s since the mid 1990s. They are not a format I prefer. They’re expensive and you get little bang for your buck. I consider myself an Album Man. Of course, I do have a healthy stash of 7”s collecting dust in the spare room (very inconveniently placed on the bottom level of a bookshelf… right behind a mountain of miscellaneous crap. You have to really want to get to them if you’re hoping for a singles binge), though I rarely ever play them. When I was first riding the punk rock gravy train as a young teen, I bought a stack of the things, as they were usually all I could afford. In that time, I bought some classics and, yep, a whole load of crap, too. Come ‘round to my place some time and I’ll play you a few timeless tunes by Adrenalin O.D., Splat Cats, Total Chaos and the Subsonic Barflies (actually, that last one ain’t bad). It was a sign of the times: you’re young, enthusiastic, don’t know your ass from your elbow and are willing to take a few blind stabs in the dark if the cover looks cool. The thing is, unlike my CDs or LPs, I’ve never sold a 7”. After all, outside of the collectible ones – which I’m sure I have a fair number of – they’re not really worth anything, and what the hell, they take up so little room they don’t bother me, even if I hardly ever play the things.
The second phase of my 7” buying spree was in the early ‘90s, mainly focused around the kind of music Ajax was distributing at the time (hey, I’m just being honest). Again, if you’re looking for any rarities by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Dead C., Ramleh, Refrigerator, Sun City Girls, Monster Truck 5, Jonestown, Bugskull, Mike Rep, Crawling With Tarts, Blowhole, Azalia Snail, Goosewind, Royal Trux or Donkey, I may be the guy to help you out (I await the onslaught of enquiries). And then it stopped. My interest in the then-current u/ground scene dried up to a big, fat zero by mid decade and I ceased purchasing any quick-fix singles. It’s not likely to start up again any time soon, but in the meantime I’d still have to hail this 2-tracker from Milwaukee’s finest sons, the 1990 covers 7” by Die Kreuzen, as my fave of that decade.
Released as a stop-gap between their Gone Away 12” EP and Cement LP, it stands tall as one of the very few 7”s I tend to rip out for a 6-monthly reappraisal. Every time it passes with flying colours, I give it an A+ and file away for the next rainy day. A double A-side, it features the ‘Kreuzen lads paying homage to their adolescent punker roots in covering two killer tunes from their forebears: Wire and the Germs. You’re right, that’s a pretty easy way to start off: cover two really great songs and hope for the best. Y’ see, the magic of this single is the fact that both versions surpass the greatness of the respective originals. And given the awesome stature of the originals, that’s either yet another case of myself suffocating on my own hyperbole, or something which should tickle your interest.
“Pink Flag”… it’s a great song, though hardly my favourite from that album. I’m an “Ex-Lion Tamer” man myself, having always been of the opinion that the hard-as-nails cockney vocals on the title track held it back from true greatness. It sounded contrived at best and plain fucking annoying – I vote for a little of both – at its worst. After all, this is Wire, not Sham 69. Leave your bovver-boy accents at the door. DK gave the tune a Midwestern swing which lends the song a certain momentum lost on Wire’s take, and substitutes Colin Newman’s George & Mildred twang with Dan Kubinski’s sweeping, Ozzy-like drawl (which I guess is as cockney as you get, but bear with me here…). By song’s end, when all is collapsing, Kubinski is letting out an unearthly screech which crawls down your back. It’s a beautiful moment.
The Germs, man, the fucking Germs… they don’t make ‘em like that anymore, and if they did, I’d probably be the last guy to discover them anyway. Yeah, I’m a fan, and if the bomb ever hits I’m taking my copy of (GI) down to the bunker, but until then I can also enjoy DK’s take on “Land Of Treason”, one of the many great songs featured on that very disc. There’s nothing wrong with the Germs’ version of “Land Of Treason”, of course. It is, after all, one of their own tunes, but DK took it one step further. Their rendition is a goddamn musical wreckingball. Once the opening chord is struck, you know you’re gonna have to twist, shout and shake it all about. Tight as a nun’s bun, the band hurdle their way through the beautifully monotonous verses like a well-oiled machine, then reign it all back in for the bridge. The song in itself doesn’t really possess any kind of chorus; it’s just line upon line of Darby’s garbled poetry until the singer sounds out of breath, though Kubinski’s screeches and howls his way through it like a man possessed, never letting up until the song disappears around him. I’ve flogged this side a thousand times and it never ceases to amaze: Die Kreuzen out-Darby’d the Germs. Take a bow, I say.