When called to testify, as I surely someday will be, I can take comfort in the fact that I can hold up this weathered copy of the Rebellious Jukebox, brittle with age, & present it as evidence that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a punk rocker. I like the punk rock, I buy the punk rock records, & I go to the punk rock shows, but when push comes to mosh, I don’t really know that much about the punk rock & I can’t really argue about what’s the good stuff & what’s the bad stuff, I buy lots of my punk rock records used at record stores instead of mailorder or out of some kid’s distro box, & there are more shows these days than I even KNOW about, let alone have the time to attend.
It’s through these slackings-off that I have not seen St Louis punk rockers Q, & don’t even know who is in the band (& if told, I probably won’t know who any of those people are). Still, I bought the record when it came into the Jerk Store. It’s on Lumpy Records, after all, so it was bound to be good/trashy/sort of chaotic. And boom, it is! The five song 45 starts off with some dry heaving grunts & muffled drum pounding, like somebody locked the singer in the galley of a slave barge, & for the rest of the record he’s gonna have to row his way out. Then the distorted bass comes rumbling in, the feedback squeals on, & the record takes off. There are slower parts & there are faster parts, there aren’t any guitar solos getting in the way of things, & the vocals are hoarsely bellowed, yet almost intelligible. It’s a pretty good record. If I had seen them somewhere & they had been as good live as they are in the studio, I would probably have bought a copy from them at the show. If they’re still even a band playing shows. Who knows? Not me! I don’t know anything!
This isn’t a new phenomenon, though. As long as I’ve been buying records I’ve been buying records by St Louis bands who I hadn’t seen live & didn’t know anything about. That’s how I bought that great Duck Duck Goose 45 at Streetside (I’ll get around to reviewing it one of these days), & that Barking Aardvarks cassette (if anybody’s digitized that, hook me up), before I was even going to shows on a regular basis. So it’s no wonder I missed out on the existence of Never Alone. I don’t remember ever seeing them on flyers or hearing anyone mention the name. That wouldn’t be THAT surprising, though, if three of the five members hadn’t spent time playing in various incarnations of Ultraman, & everybody knows Ultraman. And so I picked up a copy of their “Hidden” ep when it popped up used at the Jerk Store. Judging the record by the front cover art & the brooding white t-shirted tough guys on the back, I was expecting some boot stompin’ street punk, but the music falls much more to the poppy side of things. In today’s underground it would barely qualify as punk rock, but the boundaries were a little looser when this came out in 1991. That early Soul Asylum stuff was still considered kinda punk, & Husker Du had broadened things a bunch, melodically. This sounds a bit closer to the former than the latter, though the chugging guitars do definitely keep some punk in there. I kind of wonder what would have happened to them if they had stuck around long enough to cash in on alternative rock’s punk-grab. Who knows? Not me! I don’t know anything!
Never Alone-Seasons live on Critical Mass (this version is LOTS more punk rock than the studio version!)