American punk pioneers – Chicago Reader


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Pinball

Sex bomb babe

(Infinite Zero / American)

Effigies

Remains invisible

(Touch and go)

It’s a bit ironic that punk rock is now as American as apple pie and produces millions of sellers like Green Day and Offspring, given that it started out as a boring but negligible force on the cultural fringes. . Boredom themes remain the vital legacy of music, but today’s kiddie punks typically opt more for bubblegum melodies in the midst of bashing than the brutal rants of yore. Yes, times have certainly changed. Green Day wouldn’t have rocked the charts ten years ago; just look at the pathetic jokes of the Dickies, who still seek that elusive breakthrough (they’re playing Crobar on October 26 and shouldn’t hold their breath). Now Green Day is a post-Nirvana gold mine setting the precedent for punk rock on the charts. Beneath all of their blue hair and blue hair, however, Green Day is nothing more than a scruffy pop group singing about masturbation, watching TV and girls. Over a decade ago, the bay area where Green Day originated was run (at least in an artistic sense) by Flipper, who was not making any money at the time, and despite the changes attitude towards punk rock, this is surely not the case today. In fact, a few new early to mid-1980s American primo punk rock CD reissues exude a sense of power, character, and danger that is lacking in today’s charts, which of course. is a big part of why they climb these charts in the first place.

While the generic Flipper album (1982) is Flipper’s undisputed masterpiece, the recently re-released collection of singles and compilations, Sex Bomb Baby, hands down the unmistakable power and innovation of the misguided quartet. of San Francisco. “Sex Bomb” was Flipper’s quintessential song – a brilliant reduction of the sex-obsessed nihilism of rock ‘n’ roll. With seven words – “She’s a sex bomb, my baby yeah” – they conveyed the delusional drama of a final fold, a Dionysian celebration of self-destruction through reckless carnal pleasure, booze and fast cars; the climax of the song, the dead silence, is preceded by the shrill cries of a car wreck. “Ha Ha Ha” ponders the insane reactions to the prolonged boredom in the suburbs: “What to do, she said / He said come on baby / And I’ll show you a good time / So they went downstairs / To one of those cheap motels / And they all got wet and wet. Sex with Flipper just helps pass the time. When a sick buddy asks for some help in “Get Away,” he is reprimanded with, “Come on, go away.” Flipper’s songs may not have been particularly violent, but they expressed a cold disaffection that preceded gangsta rap by years. , albeit from a less prominent white perspective. While Green Day just shrugs in annoyance, Flipper responds with self-annihilation, especially heroin abuse, which ultimately has claimed the life of bassist Will Shatter in 1987.

While Flipper offered an almost poetic tale of humorous desperation, his ugly music had no problem pulling off on its own. Flipper was the first grunge band, existing when the word only meant dirt. It’s hard to imagine Nirvana without Flipper, although you would never confuse the two. While nearly all of his hardcore contemporaries lived by the “fast and loud rules” philosophy, Flipper often opted for funeral tempos. Bruce Lose and Shatter both played bass, together creating a gloriously sloppy jumble of distorted sonic sludge that was also a creeping creak swaying in drunken unison with the thundering drums of Steve DePace and reckless guitar machinations of Ted Falconi and the Feedback Splatter. Sex Bomb Baby brings together the group’s three singles and a number of first compilation songs, but even with a partly sloppy build, it provides a powerful example of Flipper’s fleeting glory. The band continued to make records, though none of them were very good, including the weak 1993 reunion album American Grafishy. But their early work is isolated.

The Effigies were one of Chicago’s first punk groups, and like Flipper their music was largely anomalous, given the large, similar-sounding hardcore groups scattered across America. Originally released in 1989 on the late local indie label Roadkill and now available on CD via Touch & Go Records, Remains Nonviewable is an essential gathering of their debut single, the first two EPs and a few tracks from their debut album, For Ever Grounded. Sharing more with dark English postpunk bands like the early Ruts and Stranglers than with their hyperactive Yankee brethren, frontman John Kezdy’s lyrics eschewed the cowardly nihilism of Flipper and the shallow political slogans of most other American punk outfit. His words were certainly political, but more often they touched on the politics of the individual. He did not come up with cliché punk-rock attacks on Reaganism, but he berated those who simply regrouped the status quo to be ripped off by Man. Les Effigies weren’t afraid to employ traditional rock movements – especially Earl Letiecq’s brutally tearing, almost metallic guitar solos – to get their point across. Letiecq’s solo on the 1981 vitriolic rant against commodified comfort, “Security,” for example, tears up Steve Economou’s harsh postdisco battery.

The band’s music eventually became more laconic and focused. A desire for variety tripped them at times, especially some ill-chosen contemporary production tricks that hurt part of their mid-1980s production. Les Effigies embraced punk idealism rather than its stylistic features, and their later albums had little obvious resemblance to the genre; even We’re da Machine’s “Techno’s Gone” from 1983 used aggressive acoustic guitar playing, a move that definitely goes against standard punk tenets. The Effigies also unceremoniously fizzled out and put on a less than inspirational sort of reunion, but the music gathered here is their biggest achievement. And as the so-called legions of punk-rock bands clog the airwaves of alternative rock in search of a gold record, listening to those old Flipper and the Effigies recordings is sternly, in very different ways, reminiscent of. what punk used to mean. . The fear, despair and faint hope that floated through this music remains palpable a decade and a half later. In 2005, Green Day will likely sound like the Knack.

Art accompanying the story in a printed journal (not available in this archive): photos / Vince Anton, LL Logman.

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