In his journals Kurt Cobain wrote down his list of Top 50 albums. At #8 was Scratch Acid’s 1984 self-titled debut. In talking about his early musical influences the Nirvana frontman once said:
At that time hardcore was totally dead. Speed metal was the next big thing and I hated that shit. The reason I like Scratch Acid so much was because they had structure to their songs, real simple pop structure that you could follow real easily, and it was almost like an Aerosmith song, but it was really fucked up. And that’s what I was doing and that’s what I wanted to do.
The Texans show some influences from their home state on tracks like “Monsters”, which comes off like a deranged punk rock country song, but you can’t easily pin them down stylistically. Yes, it’s punk in attitude. But as Cobain mentioned, these songs aren’t just ridiculous noise fests; they’re songs. “Owners Lament” carries a weight, but then overlays it with goth-like vocals and a catchiness that would have been a perfect fit for college radio at the time. And hell, the bass work on “Mess” is straight-up 1970s hard rock. You can feel how a record like Scratch Acid influenced what was to become grunge just a few years later.
I lucked into this thing down at Vancouver, WA’s 1709 Records, sitting on the wall right next to another gem, Green River’s Rehab Doll, an amazing 1-2 find. It probably won’t be cheap if you’re fortunate enough to find a copy in the wild, so if you just want the music I’d recommend picking up the band’s 1991 comp The Greatest Gift, which includes all eight songs from this record as well as all of the band’s other recorded output.
As crazy it it seems to me, this is, as near as I can tell, the fifth time I’ve written about a Yugoslavian band or release. Go figure. A few months back I blogged about Azra’s live triple-album Ravno Do Dna and talked a bit about the country’s history under dictator Tito, and one of the things we learned is Tito was OK with rock and punk so long as it didn’t directly talk crap about him. Well, by 1992 he’d been dead for over a decade and many didn’t view his reign through rose-colored glasses any more, hence Tito Nikada Više!, which translates to “Tito Never More”.
The comp includes 16 songs from nine bands, and stylistically most of it falls into either the hardcore or thrash camps. The insert provides lyrics to all the tracks, maybe half of which are in English. Much of it is overtly political with songs like “Citizen’ Choice”, “National Conflict”, and “Madman”, but we’re also treated to some more apolitical fare like the aptly named “Skate or Die”. The recording is a bit flat, but not so much so that it detracts from your enjoyment – it sounds like half the tapes I had back in the 80s. The bands themselves sound good, a bit raw and unpolished, but not in an amateurish way. Particular props to Ekstremisti and their two tracks.
I’d like to know how this ended up in a record store in Denver, but alas that’s something that will have to remain a mystery. If you can get your hands on a copy, I definitely recommend it.
I’m finally circling back around to some of the records we brought back from South Korea that still remain on the “to listen to” shelf. In one of Seoul’s tiny record stores I found what looked like a whole run of excellent condition albums by Sinawe. Since my cash was limited I had to make some strategic decisions and I figured it was best to go with the band’s first album, 1986s Heavy Metal Sinawe, because it’s considered one of the very first Korean metal records and I wanted to hear what that was all about.
Sinawe guitarist and founding member Shin Daechul is a second generation rocker. His father Shin Jung-hyeon is often referred to as the nation’s “Godfather of Rock,” starting out playing guitar to US servicemen and putting out his first albums in the late 1950s. Unfortunately an arrest for marijuana possession in 1975 put him in the grips of a dictatorship’s security apparatus, landing him in prison where he was tortured before being sent to a psychiatric hospital. When he got out four months later he was banned from performing, an exile that remained in place until 1979 and the assassination of South Korean President Park Chung-hee.
Shin Daechul followed in his father’s footsteps, and the guitarist founded Sinawe in 1986 at the ripe old age of 18. The band’s debut, Heavy Metal Sinawe, sold over 400,000 copies, and given that the lyrics are all in Korean I have to think that pretty much all of those copies were sold in their home country – an impressive feat. It looks as though it originally came out only on vinyl, though I can’t be 100% sure and there was definitely at least one CD release put out in 2012. Musically you get exactly what you’d expect from a mid-1980s metal album, or at least what the mainstream referred to as metal, with driving, guitar-based songs and soaring vocals. There are even a couple of slower songs thrown in for good measure.
Sinawe has gone through various periods of inactivity and re-formation over the last few decades. Their last album looks to have come out in 2006 (Reason of Dead Bugs), though there were rumors that a new album was in the works as recently as 2015. As for me, I’m filing the name Sinawe into my mental database and will make sure to be on the lookout for their records when I’m out digging.
This collection documents the current Chicano Musical Renaissance. Each of the bands have incorporated various fusions of traditional Latino and contemporary rock music to develop their own unique sound. However, what truly sets this LP apart is most of the bands’ strong commitment towards the inclusion of social commentary in their music.
That blurb from the jacket of Los Angelinos – The Eastside Renaissance probably sums up this record better than I can, and this this blog about it on Amoeba’s website gives it a bit more historical context. For me it was a seemingly cool pickup from Denver’s Twist & Shout Records, and I was not disappointed. The Plugz and The Brats each contribute a pair of punk-meets-new-wave tracks, most notably The Brats’ very Ramones-like “High School”. But it’s not all punk, nor even rock. Con Safos closes out side A “c/s” with a sort of spoken word history of race relations in California, all laid over a funk jam. The B side is a little more chill, with The Plugz giving us the reggae-esque “Electrify Me” and the salsa-like “La Musica” by Califas.
I was particularly taken with The Brats, and while originals of their limited output are expensive I was pleased to find that in 2017 the replaced a 2XLP compilation of all their music, including previously unreleased material. At $27 this was a more economical way to get more of their stuff, while still having it on vinyl. It’s available from Amazon and a number of other online sellers.
So first things first. In 2016 Rolling Stone put out a list of the “40 Greatest One-Album Wonders”, and this record came in at #38. Here’s the summary:
Had they become a Gorillaz-level success, this fictional group could have made The Big Chill soundtrack for the Blade Runner generation. Silicon Teens were marketed as a quartet of teenagers performing rudimentary pocket calculator-sounding synth-rock, blipping out cheery ca. 1962 Dirty Dancing nostalgia like “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Let’s Dance,” “Do You Love Me?” In actuality everything was performed by Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, with Fad Gadget’s Frank Tovey providing a “face” for the accompanying music video and press photo. The project’s “chip ‘n’ roll” sound was a perfect Venn diagram of deference to pop history, deadpanned punk pranksterism and embrace of an emerging electronic revolution. Early fans of the project would include Depeche Mode, who soon signed to Mute themselves and — presumably — monopolized whatever time Miller would have had for a follow up.
So you have a fictional band that may, in fact, have invented chiptune. And do so with a series of covers and early-rock style songs. Their cover of Manfred Man’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”? Pure genius. (♠) “You Really Got Me”… “Sweet Little Sixteen”… in fact I think there are only two originals on this whole album. is the whole thing just a giant “piss take” or secretly brilliant? I don’t know. I bought this as a shot in the dark, but it turned out to be an amazing pick-up, one about three decades ahead of its time.
If you like chiptune, check this out because Silicon Teens, joke or not, may be ground zero for the genre.
(♠) Holly 100% disagrees with this assessment. You could hear her eyeballs rolling around in the back of her skull like they were little marbles when the song started.