Mike Rep/Photo: Mary Jo Bole
By Dave Cantor
As suburban sprawl began its duplicitous creep, a kid named Mike Hummel and his family took up residence in Timberlake, a region southwest of Ohio’s capital. It was the 1960s.
Hummel, better known to scum punk collectors as the titular character of Mike Rep & the Quotas, stuck it out in a place he refers to as nowhere a few times in emails and over the phone. But if it weren’t for Timberlake and his parent’s affinity for R&B and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the character of Columbus’ musical topography would waver differently all these years later.
In addition to his family’s good sense, though, Rep reveled in a friendship that would wind up spanning decades and countless bands.
“When ‘Israelites’ came out on AM radio, it was a Top 40 hit in America,” Rep reminisces. “To us, it just sounded like a weird take on R&B. … The first time I met Tommy Jay was at a basketball court near where we lived, and we discovered it was both of our favorite song on the radio at the time.” Read the rest of this entry »
Being able to maintain punk’s enthusiasm and jittery charm while inserting a bit of harmony is a unique ability only a handful of groups have been able to achieve over the last few decades—Alabama’s Thomas Function recently hit the fever pitch before disappearing. At about the same time those Southerners properly channeled Elvis Costello, an Irish guy named Brian Kelly, who was then living in South Korea, started sputtering out pop-heavy punk gems and eventually wound up issuing a few discs for Tic Tac Totally. Amid everyone within reach of a computer staring glassy-eyed at screeds about the importance of lo-fi, Kelly’s So Cow released a self-titled long player that easily towered over the masses of garageniks, toning it down just enough to be poppy. A few years later, no one mutters word one about lo-fi and certainly, no self-respecting band tags itself with the name. So Cow had the misfortune of being lumped in with all those also-rans, but has continued to explode the confluence of sweet and tart musics. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
The Midwest can be alright. But it’s also a place that a lot of folks can’t stand.
The sprawling plains and seemingly dead industrial centers stretching through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio track a decaying history of punk that only folks who lived it can properly comprehend.
“People just didn’t know what it was,” Dale Lawrence says over the phone from Indianapolis. “So it’s gratifying to be able to play every few years.”
Lawrence and several other recruits were dug out of Bloomington, Indiana to constitute the Gizmos. Read the rest of this entry »
What ties this bill together isn’t necessarily going to be audible to casual listeners. Detroit’s spazzy Tyvek, krauty CAVE and the hard-to-palate Running sound remarkably different, while each act attempts to assimilate music from the seventies and early eighties into some sort of contemporary context. Tyvek and Running deal in more punky strains, the latter pulling on hardcore’s yolk more than the other two groups performing. Tyvek turns over the corpse of early Rough Trade acts, adding in a downer Midwest vibe that dour Brits wouldn’t be able to conjure even if it were their goal. With a headful of their hometown’s history, the ever-shifting Tyvek lineup has been able to dash its jangly paranoia with a garage intent, resulting in weirdly satisfying simplicity. Read the rest of this entry »
You’re not likely going to walk into a grocery store and hear Unwritten Law playing over the loudspeakers. While Green Day and similarly minded pop-cum-punk groups turned a corner, producing widely palatable works, this SoCal troupe kept to a more hard-rock territory, subverting some of its punkier inclinations over time. Hearing Unwritten Law’s first two discs—the 1994 “Blue Room” and its 1996 follow-up “Oz Factor”—it’s difficult to hear what made the band attractive enough to garner major label attention. Differentiating between a track like “Suzanne” with its plainly sung vocals, hints of harmony and rudimentary pop construction, and then-contemporary groups on Fat Wreck Chords or Epitaph is virtually impossible. Read the rest of this entry »
Riot Fest limps on for another year, turning its focus to expanding in other cities, booking bands like Rise Against or the Offspring to fill out time between Iggy and his geriatric Stooges. Even Andrew WK, who has apparently insinuated himself into the NYC underground by sponsoring a well-thought-of venue, is slated to make an appearance. Read the rest of this entry »
Who woulda guessed that knife hits would eventually lead to dance hits? Puffy Areolas’ musical trajectory hasn’t moved in a calculable curve so much as it darts erratically from sub-basement loner punk to euphoric tape-deck manipulation and on to primal R&B. After the all-points Ohio band led by herb-scented Damon Sturdivant moved on from collectable tape and vinyl releases to the Siltbreeze-issued “1981,” it would have been easy to write the whole endeavor off, guessing that song after song would simply comprise a repetitive two-note screed. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a good thing that Keith Morris, formerly of Black Flag and Circle Jerks, decided to continue recording and performing hardcore punk music. With OFF!, Morris is perpetuating the nostalgic scene that was dear to so many anarcho-punks of old, giving today’s youth a more tangible reason to call themselves hardcore. Although Morris appears to be balding (the frontman has dreadlocks that must be falling out one by one) he retains his in-your-face attitude and on-stage energy. Read the rest of this entry »
For the remainder of Sam McBride’s life, his public appearances are going to be marred by an incident that occurred in the late eighties. He up and killed his girlfriend, reportedly during a smacked-out frenzy. It’s pretty much impossible to skirt the fact when mentioning his band Fang, which counts as a reasonably important part of the East Bay’s punk and hardcore scene. From the time Fang started laying waste to cheapo recording setups, McBride—or Sammytown as he’s now known—made clear he had a fascination with drugs and warped characters. The beginning of “Red Threat” includes a weird a cappella group sing-along about Charles Manson being God. Read the rest of this entry »
The States are woefully short on soccer riots. So, if there’s one band that should do well, working in that vacuum, it’s the Cockney Rejects. During the band’s brief early eighties heyday, the United Kingdom group was best known for stuff like “War on the Terraces” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Tossed on the heap of bands Garry Bushell dubbed Oi!, the Rejects kicked on for a few years after issuing “Greatest Hits” in two volumes as a pair of cheeky 1980 albums. Everything skinners-in-training need to know about the band—and a bit more—is contained on those discs. There’s a wealth of coulda-been hits if someone had taken the time to ramp up a proper punk/Oi! chart thirty years back, but “I’m Not a Fool”’s as catchy as the genre gets. Read the rest of this entry »