I've been enjoying the hell out of Double Cross recently -- it's a real kick to read stories about all the bands I worshipped as a teenager, see pictures of groups I'd long forgotten, find out more about names that were just mysteries on a lyric sheet thank-you list.
One of the posts got me to listen to Bl'ast! (or BL'AST! or however you prefer to type it) for the first time in ages. Probably 15 years at least. I was almost trembling with excitement as I put "It's In My Blood" on, sure that this was gonna kick my ass like it did when I was 18, and then, uh, I didn't like it. It sounded pretty awful in fact. I know a lot of people hold them up as fabulous, and once I did too, but they didn't age well. (In eternal optimism, I've half convinced myself that I just needed to get back in through "Power of Expression" instead.)
But it got me started on a mini-kick of revisiting the stuff that I listened to when I was much, much younger. Not stuff that I've listened to pretty consistently over the years, like Gorilla Biscuits or Black Flag or Laughing Hyenas, but stuff that I played over and over at 17 years old but haven't brought out in the last 15 years or so. So here's how a few of them stack up.
Helmet - throughout college, a big part of my life was putting "Strap it On" on the stereo, and playing it over and over as I played Sega hockey. Listening to it now, I can only conclude that I must have had a much higher threshold of tedium than I do now -- every song sounds pretty great for the first 30 seconds or so, but then I realize that I've pretty much got everything there is to get out of that particular song, and the rest of the time is just watching the seconds count down to the next song. The one exception is "Sinatra," which still sounds pretty fantastic (but isn't quite the world-beater I once thought).
Supertouch - there's two bands on this list that I was REALLY surprised to find I like as much as I do now -- in fact, I probably like them more than I did when I first heard them. I was the proud owner of a "The Earth is Flat" t-shirt, earning me the scorn of my peers who all thought this was really boring. I remember being secretly disappointed at how rock it was, AND IT HAD REFERENCES TO DRINKING, but still finding it kind of moody and satisfying. Now, with the exception of a couple clunkers, it's sounding really good to me. Who knew Revelation was putting out something geared to 35-year-old me when I was 17? Bonus fun fact: there's rumors floating around the web that Supertouch's singer went on to be a porn star, which cheers me to no end.
Crumbsuckers - I remember seeing the ads for "Beast on My Back" in "Rip" or "Thrash Metal" or whatever Pulitzer-winning periodicals I was reading when I was 15, and thinking that these guys wearing Jams and hitting each other with mallets looked really cool. Now, they sound like the most generic crossover thrash possible, notable only for some goofy vocal effects. And I swear every time I listen it's halving my IQ. But -- it's still kinda fun. I roll my eyes when it comes on, then find myself bobbing my head a bit. If I can find room in my heart for the Cro-Mags and Youth of Today at my age, I really can't turn away the Crumbsuckers.
Bad Religion - I have this theory about BR, stating that since basically everything they've put out since "Suffer" sounds more or less the same (there's some variation, but not on a Uniform Choice-Staring Into the Sun level), that whatever was current whenever someone gets into Bad Religion is going to be that person's favorite, and everything else is going to sound like a pale copy. It's not a fully-realized theory yet, but you'll have to wait for my doctoral thesis. I got into them in 1989-1990 or so, and therefore "Suffer," "No Control" and "Against the Grain" are well-loved while "Generator" and "Recipe for Hate" and so on kinda put me to sleep. Greg's holy trinity of Bad Religion albums hold up just fine now -- I think I liked "No Control" best back then, but now I'd put "Suffer" not only as the best but actually as one of my all-time favorite punk/hardcore albums. Since I brought this out a few weeks back it's been in heavy rotation and it's just great. I could listen to the opening of "Forbidden Beat" hourly for the rest of my life and be pretty happy.
Pressure Release -- I had completely forgotten this band existed until a post on Double Cross, which prompted me to track down "Prison of My Own", and holy crap. Welcome to the second band that sounds better now than they did 17 years ago. I remember this record really confusing all of us down in Tucson -- there were dark mutterings that it had been pressed at the wrong speed or something, rendering it weird and scary. Sounds great to me now, good old hardcore with enough unexpected moves and strangeness to interest me. Hard to believe this came out on the same label that was churning out stuff like Powerhouse and Outspoken. Can anyone find me a Pressure Release longsleeve?? (kidding. I think.)
Heroin -- Their second 7" had a big ol' impact on us Tusconans when it came out -- four songs of furious, anguished thrash that left me feeling pretty exhausted after it was over (six minutes or so). It led me back to their first 7", which is in the running for worst production ever, and then when their 12" came out it was good, but edging into meandering territory. Then they broke up and went on to form lots of art punk bands that I never got into. I listened to the whole discography yesterday, and it follows the same pattern: first 7" starts off pretty well but ends up just kinda eh, second 7" sounds amazing (with the benefit of history, though, you can see a whole bunch of really bad anguished bands being birthed in those four songs), the 12" has some great moments but you can feel the members thinking "what if we start doing improvisational hardcore?" I remember thinking these guys had really smart lyrics -- now, with a wince, I imagine myself listening to lines like "We just want distractions" and nodding, saying "that is so right! We DO just want distractions!" I really wanted to believe in hardcore, ok?
Two amusing (to me, at least) Heroin stories (who doesn't have amusing heroin stories?): at one point the singer (I think) somehow got my work number and called me to see about setting up a show in Tucson. He sounded kind of like my friend Britt, so I assumed that it was just Britt being a dork, and I started being a jerk in return (saying "you might have to play in a vacant lot," stupid crap like that), eventually realizing a) hey, Britt is sticking with this joke for a really long time, and b) hey, this isn't actually Britt. I apologized incoherently. The show never happened, but I don't think it was because of my poor phone manner. Britt started calling me at work and saying "hey, this is Chaka from Burn" and "hey, this is Walter from Quicksand." Second story: the lyric sheet to that second 7" had the line "this is why I sleep insolate". That drove me to the dictionary and reaffirmed my belief in the amazingness of their lyrics -- what could it mean to sleep insolate? Something astonishingly insightful, to be sure! It's only yesterday -- YESTERDAY -- that I realized that they had simply eliminated some spaces on the lyric sheet, and they're actually sleeping in so late. Maybe I shouldn't cast aspersions on anyone's intellect.
Government Issue -- a bit of cheating here, since I started listening to them pretty regularly again a couple years back, but rules are made to be broken. I've basically flipped 180 degrees on this band -- young me thought that the more hardcore stuff ("Fun Just Never Ends," I guess) was the shit, whereas the later stuff was pretty dull. I knew a guy (Sean Higgins, Triggerman's drummer) who had the cover to "You" painted on his jacket by Gavin Oglesby, and while I admired the art, I wondered "why?" Why not get something really awesome, like the Up Front album cover?? Now, the early records sound kinda generic (with the exception of "Bored to Death" and "Mad at Myself," two songs I still embrace) while I finally realize that yeah, "You" is really really really good. Unfortunately I still haven't learned to love "Crash" (aside from the Jay Robbins-vocaled title song) but maybe someday.
This was kinda fun (for me at least) so I'll probably do it again sometime soon. Things to look forward to: how do bands like Token Entry, Vision, Exodus, Side by Side, Up Front, Iceburn, and (if I'm brave) 411 stack up? Find out soon, unless I blow it off!
* - this is apparently an album by Threadbare, a band I vaguely remember listening to in the mid-'90s. No details at all though. The title, obviously, has lodged in my head as it's the first thing that popped into my mind when I started doing this.