Rebellious Jukebox XXIX: Better Days vs Judge Nothing

IMG_20150605_145709Originally published April 2015

More punk rock! This month we’ve got the “Nope” 4-song 45 from Better Days, their second release on Encapsulated Records, though I guess the first one came out back when Encapsulated was still called I Hate Punk & Better Days had a slightly different line-up. Does that make this their label debut? Their band debut? Both? Neither? I don’t know! Punk rock! The 4 songs presented here live in the mid-world between hardcore & skate-punk. There’s a little too much melody for hardcore, but the hoarsely harsh vocals (& lack of backup “whoah-oh-ohs!”) keep it from being too pop-punk pretty. There’s one sort of break-down mosh-y part, but the Better Days shows I’ve seen have generally just been full of dudes drinking beer instead moshing. Granted, those shows were mostly at Lemmon’s (RIP), & that place was generally just full of dudes drinking beer. Short songs! Clear vinyl! Punk rock!

I first saw Judge Nothing when they opened up for 7 Seconds at Mississippi Nights in 1990-ish, & I remember there being a guy standing in the middle of the crowd just flipping them off the whole time. I guess he didn’t think they were punk rock enough, but I thought they were pretty great, & I picked up a copy of their 4 song debut 45. The songs are definitely more punk rock than their later Midwestern post-grunge work, but only in the same way that the first couple Lemonheads records are sort of punk rock. It’s angry & angsty & has cool guitar parts, but the vocals are a little too clean & the songs take a few too many interesting twists to please all of the hardcore all of the time. Listening to this for the first time in years has me really looking forward to Boxing Clever’s forthcoming Judge Nothing “Cassette Demos” LP release! Punk rock!

Better Days-Troll Toll

Judge Nothing-Myself & Me (not on the 45 in question, but an early live fave)

Rebellious Jukebox XXVIII: Gibbous vs Max Load

IMG_20150605_150130Originally published March 2015

The hits keep coming from Lumpy Records, & they pretty much always zig when you expect ’em to zag. Although Belleville wave-punks Trauma Harness have had a handful of limited-run cassette releases & one split 45 (with my band Bunnygrunt, conflict-of-interest trainspotters!), they remain criminally unrepresented on vinyl for as hard working a band as they are. So what does Lumpy do to rectify that? Release a solo 45 by bassist Andy Peterson (the “Quiet Harness”), of course. And like everything else I’ve heard on Lumpy Records, it’s great (of course).

Operating as Gibbous, the two songs Peterson presents here aren’t a wild departure from the Trauma Harness sound, but they do fill in the background a little. Side A(I guess)’s “No Elevators” is a driving low-fi punk track that would have sounded just right a few years back on Dirtnap Records. Some squalling saxophone sets it apart from the pack, harking back to those X-Ray Spex-y kinda times, when saxophones didn’t sound weird in punk rock. The flip dips into synths & drum machines with “Mortal Crust,” sounding like what early 00’s synth-punks thought early 80’s synth-punk sounded like. Do androids dream of stage diving?

Belleville punks Max Load were looking to the 80’s for inspiration, too, only they were doing it way back in 1979. Released on their own 198X (pronounced “1980-X”) Records, their “X-Rod/Magazine Sex” 45 is one of this region’s few early punk rock records to be known nationwide, having been distributed by Bomp! Records, & later bootlegged on some “great lost punk 45’s” type compilations. The two songs revel in dirt-rock, B-movie pop culture themes, but musically show an open-mindedness that was was already using punk rock as an excuse to expand the future, not as a set of rules to limit it. Ripples of this restless creativity still resonate in bands like Trauma Harness today. Or maybe Belleville’s just weird.

Gibbous “Mortal Crust”

Max Load “X-Rod/Magazine Sex” (clip lists them backwards, ha!)