Mudhoney – “Morning In America” (2019)

This one came as a surprise – announced out of the blue in early August and on my front porch by September 14, like some kind of musical ninja.  Pretty much all of the info I can find online about Morning In America is what Sub Pop communicated when announcing it.  The seven songs were recorded during the Digital Garbage sessions.  One is an alternate version, three are outtakes, and the other three are songs that have appeared on various singles and/or limited edition releases (one of these, “Ensam I Natt” is a Leather Nun cover).

America hates itself.
America hates itself.
America would rather be someplace else.

— “Morning In America”

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Morning In America is definitely in the same vein as Digital Garbage, a disappointment-laden description of today’s America.  Now, certainly not everyone in America is disappointed by how things have gone over the last few years.  The racists seem to revel in being able to be out in the open with their views.  Personally I was surprised to see so many of them crawl out of the woodwork, and while it’s disappointing, at least now we know who they are since they don’t seem to feel the need to hide anymore.  Mark Arm casts his venomous net wide, covering the racists and ignorant, the liars and the corporate thieves, the zealots and the image-obsessed, while the sludgy and fuzz-drenched music carries the emotional content in viscous waves.

My heart is breaking,
My mind is racing,
And now I’m bracing
For the terrible things to come.
— “Vortex of Lies”

Sonically Morning In America is at times oppressive (“Morning In America”), but at others triumphant (“Let’s Kill Yourself Live Again”, a different version of “Kill Yourself Live”), though I suspect the latter is more ironic than literal.  After all, the song is about the perceived importance of portraying the perfect digital image, regardless of what your real life is like.  The only time the music doesn’t feel like an integral component of the overall message is on the cover, “Ensam I Natt” (“So Lonely Tonight”), a refreshingly straight-forward punk song reminiscent of Mudhoney’s early career (Mudhoney, like Green River before them, always pick great songs to cover and do them justice).

The Loser edition comes on white marbled vinyl and includes a download card.  If you want a sample, you can stream “One Bad Actor” for free over at the Sub Pop website.

Poison Idea – “Kings of Punk” (1986)

poisonideakingspunkGiven that they hail from just down the road in Portland, Oregon, it’s odd to me that I’ve somehow missed Poison Idea all of these years.  I guess I just chalk it up to not having been into punk when I was growing up.  Or ignorance.

Poison Idea were certainly influential, a number of prominent artists citing them as among their favorites.  Hell, when guitarist Tom Roberts, a.k.a. Pig Champion, passed away in 2006 he earned an 11 paragraph obit in The New York Times.  After listening to Kings of Punk I can see why.  While the base is hardcore, there are definite thrash elements here as well, which is right up my alley.  I might need to go pick up one of those new 2019 re-releases of their debut Pick Your King EP that Jackpot recently put out.

Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies – “Pyramid Punk” (1980) and “Maroon Balls” (1981)

Daddy, where are my balls?
— “Prepubescent Punk”

Sometimes you find the records.  Sometimes the records find you, catching your eye for reasons unknown and eventually going home with you.  Which is precisely how I got pulled into the orbit of Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies.  Their two releases were displayed on the wall of Bend, Oregon’s Ranch Records during our recent visit, and the absurdity of the band’s name all but forced me to check my phone and see what I could find out.  Which, at the time, wasn’t much (though later I found a great history by one of the Silverking Crybabies HERE)… but it was enough to not only buy both records, but to also break one of my cardinal rules, “Don’t Buy Old Sealed Records Because They’re Always Warped”.  Fortunately my rule breaking paid off, as the self-published Pyramid Punk is in a sturdy jacket that never got messed up by the dreaded shrinkwrap shrink.

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Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies formed as a revolt against not only disco but also crappy punk.  The result is Pyramid Punk, a quasi Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of concept album about a kid with some extra chromosomes named Jerome who is accidentally castrated by a drunk Dr. Sadistic, an unfortunate event that sets his life on a trajectory of teenage binge drinking, discovering punk, herpes, being held hostage in a bondage condo in Aspen, Colorado, then escaping and living in a dumpster… before being kicked out of the dumpster too.  All the while railing against everyone from his fellow punks to Aspen’s wealthy.  Gucci-Pucci asshole / Small dogs / Big cars / Face lift / No scars!  Stylistically it’s punk attitude to be sure, but musically almost more like show tunes, a blend of light rock, doo-wop, new wave, funk, and glam.  There’s nothing hard or fast here, but that doesn’t matter, because the whole thing is one big middle finger at anyone and everyone.

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The crew continued Jerome’s story a year later with Maroon Balls, Jerome having apparently survived the events of Pyramid Punk despite the album ending with him being beaten to a pulp (“Beat Me to a Pulp”) and the playing of “Taps” to close out the record.  The emphasis, however, shifts to Dr. Sadistic himself, as he travels to Aspen and becomes the frontman for the Crybabies.  From there it gets racy, irreverent, ridiculous, and everything in between (as well as on top of and underneath).  Musically the Crybabies play in a style similar to that on Pyramid Punk, a blending of various genres and this time even adding in a dose of polka (“The ‘Won’t You Please Go Back to New Jersey…’ Polka”), all of it played quite well even if the whole thing is tongue-in-cheek.

Will I ever play these Dr. Sadistic albums again?  Well… I don’t know.  Maybe.  Maybe not. Their absurdism is tempered by decent playing, so while both records would almost qualify as novelties, they’re awfully good ones.  But regardless, I’m glad they found me.

“The Sound of Hollywood Copulation” (1984)

soundofhollywoodThis is a solid mid-80s hardcore comp.  Quite a few of these bands were from California, but other west coast entries include Sado Nation (Portland) and the Mentors (Seattle), plus Government Issue is from DC, so it feels like it’s more about the Hollywood punk scene than it is local bands per se.

This probably my favorite of all the various hardcore comps I’ve listened to over the years. Songs from this period were fast, but you could still follow along and understand most of the lyrics.  Sure the Mentors inject a dose of their typical sloppiness, but so be it.  Only available on vinyl, it appears there was a 2015 re-release that’s more affordable than an original pressing ($20 versus $40-50 for a nice 1984 version).  A good primer for someone looking to start exploring the 1980s LA hardcore scene.

D7Y – “D7Y” (2019)

d7yd7yThe Icelandic punk band D7Y recently followed up their 2018 six-song Demo with their first full-length, a collection of a dozen blistering d-beat rockets.  The self-titled album, available on black as well as translucent green vinyl and put out by Seattle’s Iron Lung Records, includes the  Demo material along with a sixer of new songs.  And with the longest of the bunch, “Örþrifaráð”, clocking in at a high octane 1:19, it’ll be over before you can say “damn that was fast”.

Definitely hardcore, you can also feel thrash influences on D7Y – it’s more metal than punk to my ears, but at the end of the day those are all just labels and not important. The songs are fast and hard, the vocals shouting at you accusingly.  They’re also tight – nothing sloppy, nothing wasted.  Everything feels 100% intentional, the band settling for nothing less then producing precisely what they intended.

Give it a listen and pick up your vinyl copy on Bandcamp HERE.