Rebellious Jukebox XXXIX: Soda Boys vs The Gentleman Callers

imageAnd back into the garage…

It seems like there’s a big “garage rock resurgence” every five years or so, but that’s pretty much just for people who are looking for something to write about in fancy music magazines. The reality is that there’s never NOT a bunch of garage rock bands kicking through some corner of the underground. Lucky for me, most of them put out records, so I get to write about them in my non-fancy non-magazine.

I used to go see the Gentleman Callers all the time. Featuring 3/4 of the late lamented El Gordo’s Revenge, the GC’s took their high school band’s rawer, thrashier garage punk & slowed it down to a shimmy, trading in the noisy metal guitar solos for bluesier ones, & the pop culture joke lyrics for more basic girl-done-me wrong type stuff. When it worked, it was great, & they were always a blast live. Their sole vinyl offering, 2002’s 3-song 45, is a little more hit-or-miss, though, at least in retrospect. The tempo is a lot slower than I remember it being, & man, these songs are LONG. I almost got a little bored re-listening to this, & again, I used to go see these guys all the time! Trash Dog’s solos are pretty righteous, & Kevin had a pretty good snarl, though, so there’s still plenty to dig for fans of the garage scene.

Soda Boys take a step from the refined side of the garage back into the dirty, oil-stained side. As far as I can tell, all of their songs are about soda and/or fast food, & that fry grease gets all over their tunes. Their just-released debut 45 is a short, fuzzy, entertaining slap in the nuts put out by Total Punk (home to other Rebellious Jukebox-covered artists Black Panties, Cal & the Calories, & Lumpy & the Dumpers!). The two songs blur by in a lo-fi haze, though the clear & confident (even if occasionally iffy-pitched) lead vocals recall the early days of the LA garage punk scene. Angry Samoans come to mind, maybe. The current garage scene seems to have little or no reverence for them’s what came before, though, & good for them. If you’re drawing from a style of music that pre-dates the Beatles, no sense in studying the past. You’re gonna repeat it anyway, so who cares?


Soda Boys-Burgers & Fries


Gentleman Callers-not a song from the 45, but this reminded me why I went & saw ’em a lot (actually, if I really looked, I could probably find myself in this video)

Rebellious Jukebox XXXVIII: Skin Tags/Hardbody vs The Star Death

imageIt’s been a while, sorry. Maybe you should put out a record, huh?

Skin Tags & Hardbody dropped their split 45 just before Christmas, but I’m just now getting my hands on it. Glad I finally did, though, because it’s quite good. Both bands sprouted out of the dearly departed Spelling Bee, but while both have some elements of that band, they end up not really sounding that much like Spelling Bee, or even really that much like each other.

Skin Tags is made up of Mabel Bee on guitar, joined by Lucy Little Big Bangs on bass, & a drummer who I don’t know, but who pretty much kills. The sound is in-the-red loud for the most part, with shouted sloganeering over minute & 1/2 punk nuggets. The continuously twisting guitar lines & drastic tempo changes keep the songs from being a wall of muck, though, & the drumming really keeps everything solid.

Hardbody is helmed by Joseph Bee on drums, joined by two guys I don’t know (but probably should; I don’t know anybody any more). They veer away from conventional song structure almost completely, instead spewing a tightly focused stream of notes, clattering drums, & abruptly disconcerting silences. My first time seeing them, I remarked “Only in St Louis can you call a band “Yowie-esque” & have that mean something.” Hardbody don’t seem to have captured the underlying humor that Yowie have, but they’ve put out a good debut, & they obviously practice like crazy.

Any band in St Louis working the noisier end of personal gender-political art-punk owes a debt to early 2000’s world destroyers the Star Death. I liked the Star Death so much that I bought 1000 copies of their 45 (yes, I’m reviewing another record that I put out, cancel your subscription). The first time I saw them I fell in love with them. They were like the Minutemen, with Blueberry howling & preaching & promising, slashing at her guitar, while Tobi dropped deep funk bass lines that somehow didn’t sound out of place in this noise punk context, & Aleta swung her long blonde hair & never let her face show how hard she was hitting those drums. Their live shows were¬† glorious events, with forays into chaos matched by passages of startling pure beauty, but I gotta admit that their CDs were a little too overwhelming for me. Given the open-endedness of the studio, they crammed so many ideas into everything that the listener ended up as baffled as they were impressed. I was really happy that they agreed to let me put out a record for them, & I was blown away by the two songs they gave me. Side B’s Song To Save You was a re-recording of an earlier song & had a solidly mid 90’s San Diego guitar underground sound to it, but the unquestioned hit was Femistica. Lyrically it’s pure poetry, musically it’s pure muscle. The Star Death broke up a few years later, & since they all ended up moving away from St Louis, they’ve kinda fallen out of this town’s short memory, which is a shame. For a few years, they were the best thing we had, & they paved the roads that bands like Skin Tags & Hardbody are still walking today.

Skin Tags: We Need To Talk

Hardbody: Cash For God

The Star Death live in Chicago (w/guest sax player): not from the record, but a hint of their power

(…and if you want a Star Death record, paypal five bucks to