Rebellious Jukebox XXXI: The Warden vs Fragile Porcelain Mice


I am 100% sure that there is no one who talks about short-lived early 90’s East Side Weirdos-ish garage-punks the Disco Zombies more than I do, including the dudes who were in the band. Probably less than fifty people ever saw ’em play, & I am undoubtedly one of maybe 5 people who heard their 3-song demo (& that was only because a buddy of mine recorded them), yet every few months I find myself telling somebody about their dumb/brilliant live mash-up of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (music) & REO Speedwagon’s “Golden Country” (lyrics). If that was their only peak, that would be enough for me to forever wave their flag, but add in a song about aliens landing in Shiloh IL so they could hang with the locals & drink beer in the parking lot of Hardee’s, or their never-completed rock opera about a janitor & they are firmly in “greatest band that absolutely NOBODY else remembers” territory. Members went on to be in bands like LoFreq & Potomac Accord, but this edition of the Jukebox follows up on their singer guy, who went on to be the singer guy in Fragile Porcelain Mice.

The Mice eventually hit it kinda big around these parts, releasing a bunch of CDs & getting a bunch of airplay on “Modern Rock” giant the Point (back when that wasn’t something to make fun of), & doing some touring & stuff. They still reunite every year or so ( I wanna say around Thanksgiving, but I might be confusing them with the Urge) for what is no doubt a packed blast of a show. Back in 1993, when their only vinyl release came out, though, they were still just some dudes jumping off tables at the Wabash Cafe. I wasn’t super into them at the time, but I’d still go see ’em every once in a while. There were less bands back then, so you couldn’t be too picky. Plus, the singer dude would wear funny outfits & was generally an entertaining spazz on stage, so of course I bought their record when I saw it at the Granite City Vintage Vinyl, though I’m pretty sure I’d not given it a spin in the 21st century, before this morning.


As is the case with a lot of 90’s hard-ish alt-ish metal-ish rock-ish stuff, I like it a LOT more now than I did at the time. Maybe I was less open-minded back then, or maybe…no, I’m pretty sure it’s that I was less open-minded back then. The playing is heavy & tight, the songs are well-recorded & interesting, & the vocals are yell-y & goofy. Why was I such a dick? The first song is “Skantch,” & to this day, if I think about Fragile Porcelain Mice, the “whatcha-thinkin’, whatcha-think-ya-thinkin'” chorus is what immediately pops into my head. “More Cop Shows” has a little bit of that nü-metal/rap-rock feel to it, which I generally run screaming from, but here, with the found-sounds thrown in & the discordant guitar (& those vocals!), it’s closer to the Butthole Surfers making fun of the Red Hot Chili Peppers than it is to some Guitar Center employee’s band.  Side two’s “Toss” finds them fully in Drive Like Jehu territory, at least musically. I’m sure I’m making the record sound a bit better than it is, but it’s twenty times better than I remember it being, so I’m over-compensating. The truth is probably in the middle somewhere.


The Warden just released their 8-song vinyl debut, & it’s an immediate throat-grabber. The breathless intensity of the recording is probably a match for their live show, though I’ve not seen ’em yet. Sorry. There are too many good shows these days.  There are supposedly four songs per side, but they blend into each other with screeches of feedback & screaming & rumbling breakdowns to the point where I couldn’t begin to tell you when one song ended & the next began without following along with the lyric sheet. If they get around to recording a full length, they should go all in & just call it one long song. Maybe make it a rock opera. Maybe about a janitor.


Fragile Porcelain Mice-Skantch (the link says 1991, but the record sleeve itself says 1993, so who  are you gonna believe?)


The Warden-Side One (ha! I didn’t know that they had lumped all the songs on the side together for the bandcamps when I wrote the above. They don’t know when they start or end either!)





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