Hey Punk! Take Our American Hardcore Frontman Survey!

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If you haven’t seen the 2006 documentary American Hardcore, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Chronicling the US hardcore punk scene’s heyday from 1980 through 1986, American Hardcore features interviews and vault video and photo footage from pretty much every US punk band that mattered at the time (at least the ones that were responsible for creating the “hardcore” sub genre.) I know there are a lot of differing opinions as to who the best band from this era was, so it’s in that spirit I present the American Hardcore frontman survey! I’ve chosen the four frontmen from (arguably, sort of) the four best bands of the time, and it’s up to you choose who will be victorious! Your choices are…

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Henry Rollins of Black Flag!

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Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat!

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H.R. of Bad Brains!

and

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Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks!!

Not an easy choice for anyone, I know. If you need help deciding, might I suggest you give Damaged, Out Of Step, Bad Brains S/T and Group Sex all a spin around the turntable. That should help (or at least remind you how fucking amazing each of these bands really were.) Do it, punk!

Love Kills: A Love Letter To Sid and Nancy by Eric D. Leach

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Today’s entry in our ongoing exploration of punks on film is brought to you by our good friend Eric D. Leach from The Cult Movie Reviews, where you can find Eric waxing nostalgic about all manners of classic and contemporary horror films. Find that HERE

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When Basement Screams offered me the opportunity to review a punk orientated movie I chose Alex Cox and his wonderful, no holds barred 1986 biopic film Sid & Nancy, based on two of the most unlikely but important iconic punk figures of the mid era of the 1970’s music scene, it was a ‘no brainer’ really. There are ample reasons for appreciating this fine piece of movie glory on many structured levels besides what the films obvious title infers in its biographical context. This film is not just a feature based on two famous but extremely damaged characters, (Nancy Spungen in particular) but what this gem offers us in the first part of Alex Cox direction is a fantastic recapturing atmosphere of a very specific, important and retrospective moment of historical musical provenance and how and what the ‘punk’ scene ultimately came to epitomise for both the right reasoning but sadly and more oftly for the wrong reasons which in the main and particularly in the case of The Sex Pistols seemed inevitable. Those interested in the punk phenomenon who were either not born, too young, or cared little at the time (after the event) for what many would in later years appreciate for being part of a very important cultural uprising. Sadly those who wanted to gain in financial terms e.g. Malcolm McLaren who often used aggressive manipulation methods as a marketing ploy and the use of nurturing self publicising exercises that deliberately courted controversial media coverage that included numerous record labels throwing silly money at the band in order to entice them to sign for them, glaring example being (EMI). Cox in this early reminisce deals with two major points of memorable significance which included the now famous live early evening Thames television broadcast of the Today Programme that became known by the press in particular as ‘The Filth and the Fury’ incident which saw Pistols lead guitarist Steve Jones use abusive language in a pre-watershed verbal tirade during Bill Grundy’s (condescending and provocative) interview of the band and their entourage that included amongst its brethren one Siouxsie Sioux, she of the Banshees. Then there was the very famous barge on the Thames incident during the 1977 Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II June 7th celebrations which ended in the high-profile arrest of guests, band members, and Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren by the London constabulary, all incidents well documented here by Cox who does well to segregate the film into well proportioned retellings of the tale and the different strands that made the bands story so unique and excitable for the time. What makes the direction of Cox so plush and vibrant is how he deals with the band issues as well as using important juxtapositions to integrate the main focal point before eventually concentrating in greater detail on Vicious and Spungen and their descent into eventual oblivion. Before the movie moves into drug addiction and violence, Alex Cox starts at the beginning by highlighting the events that started it all and early on provides answers to why The Sex Pistols became public enemy number one and gained the punk rock movement it’s often negative stereotypical notoriety. Continue reading

Reality 86’d – A Look At Black Flag’s Final Tour, guest review by Tim Murr

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The wheels on the Damaged bus go ’round and ’round as Tim Murr of Stranger With Friction takes a look at Dave Markey’s still-unreleased document of Black Flag’s last tour. Find all of Tim’s antics at his site HERE

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Black Flag toured like no other punk band before or after. Their tour schedules were grueling, spirit breaking affairs that took months in cargo vans and brought them to every out-of-the-way dump in America. They were true trail blazers, opening up the US for every other punk/indie band who followed. This could be one of the reasons the band burned through fourteen different members in less than a decade.

When Flag went out for six months in ’86 to support their In My Head album I doubt anyone knew this would be the band’s swan song. On the album, drummer Anthony Martinez had replaced Bill Stevenson (Descendents, ALL) and before the tour bassist Kira Roessler left and was replaced by Cel Revulta.  In My Head may have been Black Flag’s finest recorded moment, sonically speaking-crystal clear production, a consistency in song writing, and a cohesiveness that albums like My War and Slip It In lacked.

Tensions were high in the band and had been for some time particularly between  founder Greg Ginn and fourth vocalist Henry Rollins. Ginn had become more interested in instrumental music while Rollins had matured and hardened into a creative force in the band and not merely a yes man for Ginn.  The all instrumental Process of Weeding Out seemed like a clear message to Rollins, but he stuck it out.

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They struck out across the country with Painted Willie (Dave Markey was the drummer/vocalist)  and Ginn’s jazz/punk three-piece Gone (which featured future Rollins Band rhythm section of Sim Cain on drums and Andrew Weiss (Ween) on bass). Markey brought a Super 8 camera along and captured this odyssey. The end result of Reality 86’d is a loose, irreverent look into a LSD and weed driven journey of thirteen individuals that at different times come off as brilliant, silly and/or boring. No one seems especially self-conscious, the bands sound amazing (particularly Gone). It’s an adventurous art film and captures the last recorded moments of one of America’s most influential bands (you can clearly see the roots of Grunge). But what’s missing is an emotional depth, probably due to the fact that Markey didn’t know that he was capturing the end of Black Flag, in other words, this ain’t no Last Waltz.

I would say there are two books that are required reading to accompany Reality 86’d that give the film a gravity and an emotional punch that it lacks on it’s own. First and obviously is Rollins’ Get In The Van: On The Road With Black Flag. The last half of his book is intense reading, especially the Apocalypse Now feel of the ’86 tour. Second is Rollins’ friend Joe Cole’s book Planet Joe, which chronicled in wild detail this tour along with the first Rollins Band tour. Cole served as roadie and documented some of the most harrowing moments of those six moths. (Cole would tragically be shot dead in ’91 when he and Rollins were being mugged outside of their home).

Reality 86’d is an important document, it has a great psychedelic/punk vibe like it’s a vision of the future from a more primitive time and should have a place on every punk or music nerd’s shelf. But sorry, sunshine, you can’t own it. Not legally anyway. Greg Ginn blocked any release of this film for reasons known only to him. Even as recently as 2011 he demanded it be taken down from Vimeo, where Markey had uploaded it for free viewing,  but the internet wins, because you can view it all over the web (I watched it on YouTube). I hold out hope that Reality 86’d will get an official release someday along with Flag’s ’82 demos which any fan must hear.  Flag has reformed, going out on tour and releasing a new album this year, so all hope may not be lost, but then again, I’m an optimist.

Tim gives Reality 86’d 3.5 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

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Night Of The Punks – Slam Dancing For Satan

SANIf your youth was spent watching Return Of The Living Dead and Night Of The Demons and fueled by a snot-filled, three chord soundtrack then director Dan Riesser’s 2010 short film Night Of The Punks is just what you need to occupy yourself for eighteen minutes after you read this. Carrying the horror-comedy torch lit by the aforementioned films, NOTP is the story of The Brain Deads, a small-town punk band that finally has their first out-of-town gig. Anyone who has ever been in a local garage band, or hung out with guys who were, will instantly relate to the opening sequence in the car. On the way to the gig, the four members of the band and their merch girl talk shit, blast the radio and crack open road beers in anticipation of the show. Unfortunately, when they arrive at the gig the only people in the place are the super-creep promoter, the sound-guy, two douchebag hipsters and half a dozen seemingly normal leather jacketed, hooded Ramones-clone punk rockers at the bar.

Raymond, the creepy promoter, wants the band to start playing right away, even without a crowd and with their bass player in the bathroom with pre-gig “nervous shits.” It’s not long into their set when all hell breaks loose as it turns out the punks in the crowd are actually flesh hungry demons. Turns out Raymond has a little ritual he likes to perform involving sacrificing traveling bands to satan. That’s right, it seems the Dark Lord’s taste in tunes has progressed a bit from the eighties when he was rocking out to Ozzy and the Crue. Now he’s pogoing in hell with Sid Vicious and GG Allin!

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The effects in Night Of The Punks, are predominately practical with a little bit of well-done CG, and look really good. I especially like the look of the demon punks, which is reminiscent of the Evil Dead demons. Another thing NOTP gets right is the balance between the humor and the horror, giving it the eighties vibe it’s obviously going for. You can definitely tell that Riesser has some well-loved 80s horror tapes tucked away somewhere in his collection. Another bonus is that a lot of the humor is aimed at music nerds, which I very much enjoyed being an unapologetic music nerd myself. There’s a scene in Raymond’s office that will have vinyl junkies chuckling as the band’s drummer Hooch nerds out over a crate of records. If a well-crafted punk rock horror comedy is your particular cup of piss then look no further, you can watch this slice of throwback goodness below. After you do, leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Night Of The Punks scores 4 out of 5 Screaming Jamies

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Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Shawn Robare Reviews Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains!

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This installment of Damaged, is brought to you by our friend Shawn Robare, who you may know as one-third of the Cult Film Club podcast and website, which you can find HERE. You can also find him laying down nostalgia and rolling in it like a pile of Jem and the Hologram dolls at Branded In The ’80s HERE. So without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains!

“I think that girl is great, she said what I think all day long…”

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Though most might recognize Diane Lane’s from some of her early performances in The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, and as the highly kidnap-able rock goddess Ellen Aim in Water Hill’s 1984 rock opera Streets of Fire, it was as Corrine Burns, frontwoman for the titular punk band in Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains where she really kicked the door down and took Hollywood by storm.  One part Poly Styrene, one part Patti Smith, one part Exene Cervenka, with a dash of Belinda Carlisle, sixteen year-old Lane’s Corri…excuse me, 3rd Degree Burns encapsulates the listless, pissed off, and slightly hopeless tone of the late 70s, early 80s West Coast punk scene. I’m not sure where the flick falls in the echelon of punk or punk inspired movies like Sid & Nancy, Repo Man, Suburbia or Rock ‘n Roll High School, but on my list it’s right there near the top.

Written by the woefully under-rated Nancy Dowd (Slap Shot, Coming Home, Cloak & Dagger – uncredited) and directed by legendary music/film producer/director Lou Adler (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Up in Smoke), the film is probably most notable for helping to kick off Lane’s career as well as managing to wrangle the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook, alongside Paul Simonon of The Clash to form the backbone of the punk super group The Looters, fronted by Ray Winstone. The Looters are basically an on-screen variation of Jones & Cook’s short-lived, post-Sex Pistols band The Professionals, and their song, aptly titled “Professionals” is the central song to the soundtrack and the plot of the film.  The flick also features Vince Welnick and John “Fee” Waybill from The Tubes as a couple of over-the-hill bloated glam/metal rockers in the band The Corpses.

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In short the film follows a young all-girl punk band, The Stains (Lane, Laura Dern and Marin Kanter), as they try to escape from the doldrums and depression of a rural suburban town.  After catching a local show featuring an up and coming UK punk band the Looters opening for a rundown metal outfit known as the Corpses, the girls talk their way into joining the cross-country tour.  Though at first The Stains are essentially ignored or booed off stage, things quickly change as Burns unleashes a side of her personality she had been keeping in check.  Donning some fish net stockings, underwear, a see-through blouse and a cut up heavily streaked new hairdo, Burns starts grabbing the mike and in true Patti Smith fashion starts mixing poetry and rage to incense the audiences of the local dive clubs.  Before you can blink an eye The Stains start winning over the young girls in the crowds with their new look, and after stealing the Looters one big hit, they single-handedly take over the tour and rocket to superstardom.

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Though written as a satire of the music industry with a heavy hand placed on the ignorance and tossing aside of talent over the money-making machine of mass marketable, pre-packaged bands, the strength of the film lies in its ability to capture a decent amount of the nihilism and ennui that pervaded the punk scene of the early 80s.  To me it nails that sensibility of pissed off suburban kids who want to scream and shout, lashing out at the over indulgence and commercialism of the previous decade; a time when you only needed to know a couple of chords and how to keep a basic beat, where the passion of the music came from the intensity and anger of the musicians expressing themselves with raw abandon.  It’s in the little moments, like at the beginning of the film when an interviewer is questioning Burns (Lane) on her life as an orphan and whether or not she thinks that her views will change as she grows older, to which Burns innocently replies, “Grow older?”  Though the music in the film is nowhere near this level per-se, it reminded me of what it was like to hear Black Flag or the Minutemen for the first time and it evoked that feeling that a handful of guys and gals who hand enough talent to play, but who weren’t trying to write commercially viable songs or become the next big thing.  Even though the film is aiming to tackle the urge to rise quickly to fame, there’s a punk rock heart at the center that’s impossible to ignore.

Suburbia – guest review by Nom & Razor of The Church of Splatter-Day Saints

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We kick off our celebration of all things punk rock in film with a guest review from the tag team of trash, Nom and Razor from The Church of Splatter-Day Saints. For more of their bastardly antics check ’em out HERE

A group of Reagan-era punks and skins squat in an abandoned California suburb after fleeing their dysfunctional homes. They are The Rejected……..and this is their story.

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Nom DePlume:  This is the first real-punk movie that I fell in love with and it was due purely to the realism of being an outcast at that particular moment in time.  The cast is mostly comprised of actual punks – not actors – so even in their ineptitude they excel as the film is realistic in its portrayal and not a contrived piece of shit.  They can see through the “American Dream” bullshit and are pissed off that the society (from the wealthy to cops, community leaders, and their parents) that looks down on them are soulless fucks who abuse, molest, mistreat, disown and abandon their own children. So they do the only thing that makes sense to them: move out and take care of their own by squatting in an abandoned suburban tract home and raiding open middle-class garages for food and supplies.  This is an astonishing first feature from Spheeris and I have to give her insane credit for keeping it genuine and about the kids and the lifestyle and not turning it into some plastic Hollywood bullshit to turn a quick profit. (and with Roger Corman producing that’s saying something)

Razor88: I concur – the film is very authentic. The fact that the kids in the film aren’t actors does show through but it adds to the integrity of the film in this case. I wasn’t “living the life” so to speak when I discovered it but having grown up in the 80s it’s always struck a chord with me. I remember seeing it in the video stores with that hideous neon pop art cover that made it look like a David Bowie sex tape/sci-fi thriller. I swear that fucking box art kept me from actually seeing this film that would ironically become a staple of my viewing repertoire.  And really, how can anyone deny the awesomeness of a film that shows a toddler getting mauled by wild dogs within the first three minutes? Talk about kicking you in the teeth from the get-go and it doesn’t let up until the very end. I know Corman wrote the check but he certainly didn’t have a hand in it as far as I can tell. No space ships or insect rape here (although to be fair, most films would benefit from insect rape – this is one of those rare exceptions).

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Nom: Ugh! That cover was embarrassing, a new-wave/Liquid Sky rip-off having nothing to do with the film at all. Speaking of new-wave, there’s the scene at the D.I. show where Skinner insults the new-wave poser and then with the help of a few others proceeds to humiliate and rip her dress off. I’ve read some reviews where they really rake this movie over the coals for that but it was about her being a radically out-of-place scenester who was there for all the wrong reasons. It was about having some fucking integrity and sex aside, you don’t get a free pass because you’ve got a gash, ya know? It was about teaching her a lesson if she had been strong enough to hear it. Speaking as a punk who grew up during the cold war and seeing the massive changes that have gone on within the community in the last 25 years this movie stands as a time capsule of an era. There was a sense of hopelessness and apathy trapped inside the angst-ridden kill-or-be-killed mentality. We see that same girl later in a Citizens Against Crime meeting dressed like the girl next door as her Daddy complains about the T.R. gang and punks in general. My attitude has always been that she was dutifully weeded out and not that the punks were being just as fascist as those they oppose. They opened their doors to anyone – social class and sex made no difference – it was about survival and need and not about how some poser slut dresses so that she can piss her parents off on the weekend. That little rant aside, I have always wished this movie would have had better bands – Circle Jerks, FEAR, etc. Why oh why did fucking TSOL have to be in this? Puke.

R88: The bitch was asking for it… I didn’t feel sorry for her in the least. Actually it always kind of irked me that the singer for D.I. starts whining at the kids assaulting her. That’s not a dig at D.I. – They’re alright – but come on. I do agree it would have been nice to see some better bands in this. FEAR would have been killer, GG Allin a wet dream (although I seriously doubt they would have been able to get a release very easily with the Troubled Troubadour’s performance).  I like TSOL… at least the stuff they did prior to what they were performing in Suburbia. Could the guy have had more makeup on? At least they were fun to watch, and incidentally the best of the three bands in my opinion.

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I noticed a fair bit of poignant symbolism here. The phone booth at the beginning – a monolith of hope in the darkness right before the dogs come, the T.R. kids living in a dilapidated house that was meant to be someone’s utopian dream home now a rotting husk of economic ruin and shattered dreams yet right on the outskirts of where “civilized” society lives and breeds. Even the land they live on is owned by the county and therefore outside the city’s influence. The kids are truly isolated from everything in every way and Spheeris really drives that home brilliantly. It’s almost like T.R. are unto themselves a pseudo-dystopian society nestled amongst the straight-laced, invading their space to take what they need like some sort of rebel force overthrowing an oppressive regime. The irony here is these kids are truly just products of their environment. I really liked that Spheeris has a lot to say and the film isn’t just a showcase or excuse to put a few punk bands into a movie.

Nom:  That’s interesting because I thought some of it was a little heavy-handed… the wild dogs being a metaphor for the kids, remnants of lives that effortlessly move on without them now left to fend for themselves and becoming feral in the process (The alternate title of The Wild Side would have been fucking tragic). The hokey comic-relief-obviousness of the redneck assholes passing moralistic judgment on T.R. as they sit in a fucking strip club watching titties jiggle and plan their ignorant, right-wing attack on children. That being said, there were a few scenes of absolute brilliance that for fleeting moments transcended celluloid and evoked the beauty and power found in unity. I’m speaking of course of the slow motion shot of the gang walking in the upper middle class neighborhood and the shot of all of them scattered motionless and silent across Sheila’s front yard. Fucking gorgeous. The thing that I probably love most about the film is that it ends on such a down-note, it doesn’t wrap up in a neat bow at the end with everyone going back home to happy families. It ends as it begins, in the midst of tragedy and loss with no definitive path and no answers in sight.

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Nom/R88: Suburbia perfectly captures a frustrated subculture in an era of depression. It pulls no punches, is exceedingly thought-provoking and remains relevant to this day. Essential viewing.

Official COSDS Nunspank(TM) Rating: 4