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

https://skintags.bandcamp.com/track/we-need-to-talk

Hardbody: Cash For God

https://hardbodystl.bandcamp.com/track/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 bertdax@hotmail.com)

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