Wednesday, November 24, 2004

CHARLES BRONSON – Youth Attack! 10”
COMBATWOUNDEDVETERAN – I Know A Girl Who Develops Crime Scene Photos LP; Duck Down For The Torso 10”
I paid little to no attention to any kind of hardcore in the 1990s. By the end of high school, I was pretty much over it as a musical force in my life, bar the essential 80s stuff I’d spent my teen years listening to. There’s probably a handful of great bands I missed out on, and maybe one day I’ll get around to listening to them, but for now they remain names I know yet bands I’ve heard little of. For instance, last night a friend of mine (who’s a good six years younger than me) asked me what I thought of Born Against. I could only say that I knew of them, had read about them in fanzines at the time (which would be the early ‘90s), but, and not to sound like too much of an old fart about such things, they were a band that came a little too late for me. People tell me they made some killer albums. They could be right.

Skip to the end of the ‘90s and I found myself working in a predominantly hardcore/punk-oriented record store for a living (yeah, take a wild guess). This’ll be a breeze, I smugly thought, I can wax lyrically to all the young kids about the glory days of HC, when bands like Negative Approach and the Dicks reigned supreme and when MRR was almost readable. I’ll bore them to tears with my third-hand stories of Black Flag’s endless tours, the DC Vs. Boston straight-edge wars, the halcyon era of Chi-town punk when Naked Raygun and the Effigies would play double bills. I’ll be King of the Kids! Well, to put it bluntly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Kids didn’t give a fuck, and they probably just wondered who this clueless old relic was and how he managed to land a job in their favourite record store. Every day The Kids would come in and quiz me about some new power-violence band from Kansas who just put out a split 10” with that Estonian crust outfit, or that new emo (a term I hadn’t used or heard since I was a 16-year-old Rites Of Spring/Embrace fan) group on Vagrant everyone’s talking about. The first few months, I must admit, were a little dispiriting, and I felt like a fish seriously out of water, blundering its way through a pond it had no business being in.

After a while I finally found my feet. I made it my duty to research all this music I’d completely ignored for nearly a decade, buried my head in a library of Short, Fast & Loud, Punk Planet and Heart Attack! fanzines (you things you gotta do for work…) and at least felt confident enough that I wasn’t humiliating myself in front of a horde of teenagers on a daily basis. Of course, you didn’t have to care all that much about this music, but it wouldn’t hurt that you had the vaguest idea of what you were talking about when attempting to recommend a HC disc to someone (I should mention that the shop did/does also carry a wide array of indie-rock, jazz, noise, etc which I felt a certain cockiness in handling). But anyway!... Amongst all this, I did actually manage to find a crop of contemporary HC bands whose existence I was not only aware of, but whom I actually liked as well. Not only that, but at the ripe age of 29, I found myself in the unlikely situation of purchasing a handful of HC discs I’d grown fond of.

I still know little about Charles Bronson (CB) or Combatwoundedveteran (CWV). CB hailed from Chicago and were around from approximately the early to late ’90s and put out a swag of 7”s, EPs, 10”s, split EPs and probably a couple of 9”s for good measure. It’s all collected on a Complete Discography 2CD which you’ll likely find on the ‘net somewhere. Two CDs of this stuff is probably way too much listening for this kind of music, so I say stick with a 10” or two and that’ll keep you satisfied for a lifetime. Smart-alecs all the way, CB almost amounted to being a HC parody or tribute outfit, aping and taking the piss out of every early ‘80s HC cliché they could find, but they at least had the wit and musical chops to what in lesser hands would result in little more than a one-joke gimmick (a little Crucial Youth, anyone?). Taking their cues primarily from the early DC (Void, Minor Threat), Boston (SSD, Gang Green, Siege) and Midwestern (Necros, Negative Approach, early Husker Du) scenes, CB toasted up a hilarious, fist-shaking array of blistering noise played 1,000 mph, with even this 10” containing 20 songs which are over before you get the chance to sit down and enjoy them. It’s pretty goddamn blistering stuff, and nostalgic as it may seem, they put a fresh face on a well-worn formula which even managed to win over a grumpy old turd like myself. Ace, bold, black & white graphics, whirlwind Huskers cover (“Punchdrunk”) and laugh-out-loud song titles (“Marriage Can Suck It”, “Fuck Technology, I’ll Keep My Pocket Change”, “Let’s Start A War So I Can Sing About Stopping It”, “I Just Can’t Avoid The “Void” In Avoid”) make this a swish package I have no intention of trading in anytime soon.

CWV hailed (hail?) from Florida and feature members of another band worthy of a spiel or two, Reversal of Man. Again featuring some impressive graphics, this time in full, eye-dazzling colour – those HC kids take great pride in their packages – both of these discs are platters I like to spin when the urge for pure energy (and not much else) takes hold of me. I Know A Girl…, from 1999, is a rougher recording where the songs, much like CB, are almost over before they start. Righteosities are screamed, indignations are proclaimed, governments and betrayers are cursed and drums flail at the speed of light. Less nostalgic in approach than CB, CWV sound contemporary yet overwhelmingly good, and never make the mistake of merely blurring into grindcore or power-violence. This is HARDCORE done just like the pioneers used to. You know, just like the olden days…

Duck Down… is a 4-song EP from 2001 or ‘2 (little details are listed regarding dates) which I actually bought well after my tenure at said store had expired. Gee, I guess you’d call me a “fan”! Again gracing cover art fine enough to hang on your wall, CWV took a slight detour here and dedicated the A-side to a wall of noise, samples, guitar feedback, pounding, offbeat drums and the occasional incomprehensible lyrical scream. Straight-down-the-line punkers thought it was a joke, and not a funny one at that. Me, I dig the hell out of it, and if you don’t like it, there’s always the wall-shaking screamers on the B-side to allay your fears. I purchased this over two years ago and haven’t bought any HC since. Still, the other week, I did find myself fumbling through the CWV section, just wondering if they were still around and had released anything in the meantime…

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