Archive for 'Consumer Report'

Parody Beef Primer

Alright, in previous years I used this space to highlight some of my favorite records that could be had on Discogs for the cheap, but I’m taking this moment to share with you a different genre of vinyl release that I find endlessly appealing: that of parody beef. Before the internet consumed our every waking thought, you could only troll someone in the punk scene by sending in a letter to MRR, making your own zine and passing it out at shows (or even better, running masked into a local record shop and dropping a stack near the door before running out ala the local one-pager Faux), putting up flyers around town, or, if you really wanted to go for it, pressing and releasing a record for that specific purpose! I’m To be clear, I’m talking about records that satirized their targets, were generally pretty unfriendly about it, and usually utilized some form of trickery or subterfuge in doing so. Bonus points for when the attack is sincerely hilarious, of course. Thusly, I’m not counting records that are simply hoaxes (such as the Frothy Milkshakes’ ingeniously fabricated Killed By Death #11 “compilation”) or records that are simply parodies (like the truly pitiful Gayrilla Biscuits). Allow me to discuss five of my favorite examples of this beautiful phenomenon below!

Oxes / Arab On Radar split 10″ (Wäntage USA, 2000)
Let’s start on this absolute gem of a fraud: the Oxes / Arab On Radar split 10″. Oxes were a great math-rock trio out of Baltimore (who apparently are putting out a new LP sometime in the near future after years of dormancy!), and a snide sort of unfriendly prankishness was always part of their MO – for live shows, both guitarists utilized wireless setups, which allowed them to run through or out of the venue, onto tables, in peoples’ unsuspecting faces; to basically do anything they shouldn’t be doing. To my knowledge, they’re the only instrumental math-rock group (of any era) to have released an album that came with a poster featuring a photo spread of the band snorting drugs with full-frontal nudity on display, if that helps set the scene. Anyway, they released this “split” with Arab On Radar, which ended up being not actually Arab On Radar but rather Oxes doing a spot-on impersonation of the Providence noise-rock pervert kings. Hilarious! They ape the nail-on-a-chalkboard guitars and high-pitched babble of vocalist Eric Paul, complete with brain-dead sex-pun song titles like “Fallopian Boobs” and “Rough Gay At The Office” (which is actually dangerously close to the real Arab On Radar album title Rough Day At The Orifice). I love Arab On Radar, and I also love that Oxes were able to imitate them so expertly, as if to say “look at how dumb your silly self-serious band is, that we were able to do basically the same thing in five minutes”. At the time, word on the street was that Arab On Radar were sincerely pissed about it, to which someone involved with the band or label ended up claiming that the record was actually meant to be billed as a sole Oxes release with the title of JVPVJ NO QVJV, because that’s the way Arab On Radar’s name on the cover looks if you read it upside down – mmhmm, suuuuuure that’s what you meant! If anything, I’d say both bands benefited from this record, as it elevated Arab On Radar to the level of “band that is worth trying to piss off”, while also showcasing Oxes as the most outrageous underground pranksters of Y2K. I remember when R5 Productions here in Philadelphia ended up booking both bands to play together around that time, but I can’t fully recall what went down – I think Arab On Radar cancelled? Either way, I’ll tell you who reaped the rewards from this silly mess: music fans like you and me.

Plainfield Jello Biafra With Plainfield 12″ (“Alternative Tentacles”, 1995)
This is actually the record that inspired this column, because wow, this is about as demonic of a fraudulent parody as any record listed here! Neither Plainfield nor Jello Biafra, this record was apparently written and performed by Grux, the San Franciscan maniac behind Caroliner and Rubber-O-Cement and a dozen other obscure projects that draped their records in paint and wet cardboard and zero discernible information. Grux imitates both Plainfield (the noise-rock group) and Jello Biafra here, opening the record with a phony phone call between Plainfield’s Smelly Mustafa and Jello Biafra wherein they make plans to commit homophobic murder and necrophilia later in the evening. It really sets the tone, which then leads into “Eric’s Throwpillow”, a chunky noise-rock instrumental with “Smelly” berating and admonishing “Jello”. “Jello” makes it clear he is only appearing on the record for the paycheck as he puts minimal effort into his vocal part while mumbling about lawsuits with Chumbawumba among other nonsense. It’s absolutely side-splittingly hilarious! The fake Jello voice is close but not perfect, and their banter is such a direct indictment of punk fame and its over-the-hill pointlessness. “Nuance Of Fifty Cents” follows with “Jello” on a bullhorn, ranting about everything and nothing over a scattered improv mess. Grux continues to make a fool of Jello over the rest of the record, attempting to reveal him as a past-his-prime businessman more interested in preserving his own status-quo than promoting any sort of creativity or commitment to the underground. The music is great, but the full scope of the record bears mention: Grux swiped the Alternative Tentacles logo for this release, complete with a “Virus 132” catalog number (which curiously does not exist on the real Alternative Tentacles!) and re-appropriated “1950s nuclear family” artwork to perfectly nail the aesthetic. Apparently, Jello and his crew took note, allegedly releasing DUH’s The Unholy Handjob in retaliation – I’m getting that from Wikipedia, because I’m unable to determine how exactly any of it pushes back against Grux. Maybe the song title “Our Guitarist Is In Faith No More” is a shot at how they don’t care about fame and fortune? I do know that Chris Dodge (of Spazz and Stikky fame) played on that DUH record, which is fitting as he is one of my favorite ’90s hardcore jokesters. Seems like Jello took the beating like a champ, which is really the best he could do when faced with this ludicrous and obscene indictment.

The Locust The Locust 7″ (I Don’t Feel A Thing, 2001)
I was a teenager active in hardcore-punk in the late ’90s, and let me tell you, The Locust’s 1998 tour supporting their debut full-length led to the most profound alteration of the state of the scene I’ve ever witnessed. It wasn’t just a tour, it was an evangelical cataclysm that seemingly changed the scene’s aesthetic overnight: you could watch as band t-shirts went from size XL to size S almost immediately following their show in your town (with the great Jenny Piccolo opening). Suddenly, you had cutesy pop-punkers Bedford turning into sassy Locust clones An Albatross, baggy skate-shorts turning into skin-tight girls jeans, and black-dyed Spock cuts replacing, I dunno, that thing where you grow your hair long on top, shave the sides and wear it in a ponytail? The Locust seemed to revel in the attention and infamy, inciting audiences to wear costumes (or nothing at all) at their shows, and releasing weird/annoying things like a 3″ CD (causing a riot amongst fans who listened to CDs in their cars, which was pretty much all of us) and a remix album with a single seventeen-second track on one side of a 12″ record. Not to mention their belt buckles and “coke mirrors”, which is probably the first instance a lot of my friends had even heard of coke as a viable party drug (we were so innocent!). Anyway, history seems to have forgotten the profound cultural change that The Locust heralded – would there have even been a Makeout Club or crab-core without them? – and I want to make clear the severity of their influence at the time. I was a huge fan (though I found my interest waning by the time they started wearing those bug costumes on stage), and still love their full-length debut, but along with popularity comes haters, of which The Locust had plenty. I remember stories of their van being vandalized on tour, but someone out there took it a step further and pressed up this one-sided clear-vinyl 7″ under their name. Rather than imitating the group musically, the prankster utilized an extended clip of a baby violently crying. If you told me this was actually a Haters record, it’d certainly make sense, but as a diss, it’s mostly ineffective – sure, the guilty party still doled out fake song titles in the convoluted Locust fashion, but it’s kind of a flimsy attack otherwise. Are they trying to say The Locust were crybabies? Crybabies about what, exactly? I suppose the entry of a new, fake Locust record to the marketplace could cause the band some grief, but besides that, it seems The Locust got the last laugh here. Just another notch on their white-belt of infamy (which, come to think of it, is probably a Locust song title).

Grudge Project-Ex 7″ (Jism, 1989)
Is there a more reviled / beloved topic in the hardcore underground than The Straight Edge? Methinks not. Countless feuds have erupted over its strict philosophy, lines drawn in the sand over and over again, with humorless and hilarious soldiers on each side of this never-ending war. At the height of straight-edge’s powers, members of Orange County hardcore band Half Off put together this one-off band and 7″ EP as a scalding send-up of essentially all of straight-edge’s top players at the time, and they did so masterfully. The amount of references, jokes and insults they crammed into this single 7″ EP is utterly staggering – this is a master-class in vinyl-based roasting. A few examples: the label Jism is a gag on popular edge-core label Schism, “Drinking’s Great” parodies Youth Of Today’s “Thinking Straight”, vocalist Carl Of Tomorrow is clearly a play on Ray Cappo’s “Ray Of Today” moniker, Grudge mocks Judge, guitarist Keg Ahead mocks Sick Of It All’s Craig Ahead… it truly never ends. They do a skit mocking Raybeez and Warzone, the cover is a Gorilla Biscuits parody with a wimpy straight-edger being beaten down, and the phony “live” shots of the band playing in their bedrooms with black electrical tape Xs covering their crotches and sneakers is a glory to behold. Grudge go so hard in their parody of the form that one could easily read this as a loving tribute as much as a bullying middle-finger, and if you were to ask me, I’d say it’s certainly both. These songs rip, and have also made it impossible for me to hear Youth Of Today’s “Thinking Straight” without mentally substituting Grudge’s inebriated words. One could argue that Project X (who are clearly referenced in the title of this EP) are the inverse of Grudge, a side-project that calls for direct violence against the non-edge quotient, but even though it seems unwise to take Project X’s aggressive lyrics at face value, they didn’t have an ounce of Grudge’s knuckleheaded humor (though Straight Edge Revenge is rightly lauded as one of the top five straight-edge EPs of all time). An original Project X 7″ will run you hundreds of dollars at this point, but you can still get a Project-Ex on beer-colored vinyl for like seven bucks!

Voodoo Glow Skulls & Hickey split 7″ (Probe, 1997)
Of all the records listed here, this is by far the most sophisticated take-down of the bunch. As the story goes (which is covered in exhaustive detail in the twenty-six page zine that accompanies this record!), Voodoo Glow Skulls and Hickey played a show together in Mesa, AZ in the fall of 1995. Through events that mostly remain unexplained (I’d love to get the ‘Glow Skulls perspective on that particular evening), Voodoo Glow Skulls were furious with Hickey’s performance and forced them to leave the venue immediately after playing, unable to collect their previously-agreed-upon fifty-dollar fee. On their way out, one of them swiped a trumpet belonging to Voodoo Glow Skulls (valued at an alleged and unbelievable four grand!), an unscrupulous move that set the wrath of The Glow Skull upon them. In the ensuing weeks and months, Hickey received numerous threatening voice-messages from the Glow Skull camp, which they then decided to save and press as the Voodoo Glow Skulls side of this split 7″, overlaid with, get this, the tuneless bleating of one of Hickey’s members playing the stolen horn. Impeccable! Thank god this conflict happened before text-messaging, otherwise we’d have what, some screenshots on Instagram to enjoy? Who cares. Seriously, can you think of a more infuriating way to handle the situation? Imagine having Riverside punk gangsters threatening you, and purposefully escalating the situation in response. If it wasn’t already clear at that point, Hickey DGAF, and this proudly-advertised move practically begged Voodoo Glow Skulls’ burly crew to come hang them up by their shorts. Unfortunately for us beef lovers, the zine documents that Hickey did give the horn back shortly thereafter, thus presumably ending the conflict (amazingly without an actual beatdown). They covered their tracks nicely by sending proceeds (though they don’t specific exactly how much of the proceeds) from this split 7″ to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, because what are Voodoo Glow Skulls gonna do, sue to have a few hundred bucks taken out of the hands of a noble charity? Truly a masterclass in trolling, and one of the finest documents of the “you’re a sell-out if you associate with Epitaph” movement of the ’90s.

It’s time again for another blast of Discogs cheapness! If I’m not careful, Yellow Green Red could devolve entirely into a “cheap Discogs deals” fan-site, so I’m gonna keep doing this once a year (or less). If you’re a new reader, let me explain: I like to share a few older records currently available on Discogs for five dollars or less, in hopes that you check them out, or maybe really go for it and buy them! It’s not a get-rich-quick scam – none of these records are sold by me personally – trust that I am keeping my personal copies of these underappreciated gems. I know, I really want to pick up the new Joshua Abrams Natural Information Society album too, but you can get all these records combined for significantly less than what that one will run you, so keep that in mind! Alright, let’s dig in…

Billy Bao Fuck Separation 10″ (S-S, 2007)
Billy Bao is probably the most contemporary Discogs Cheapo entry thus far – this record comes from 2007, and although the Billy Bao alias seems to be retired at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if some new triple-LP gatefold came out next week. As far as I’m concerned, this plain-looking 10″ on the S-S label is Mr. Bao’s musical peak – two absolutely shredding cuts of bloodstained noise-punk. I feel like the contemporary hardcore-punk scene has fully realized how great The Leather Nun’s “No Rule” is at this point, and I’d say these two tracks are about as close as a modern group has come to emulating that same sense of combustible, no-brakes menace, like Motörhead riding a bridge to hell in search of revenge. As with all Billy Bao records, I am sure there is some philosophical concept to this one (each side features a single track of exactly ten minutes length), but as far as my ears can tell, the only concept at play here is to demolish every other monotonously-chugging punk band in their wake.

Defektors The Bottom Of The City LP (Nominal / Grotesque Modern, 2010)
There must be a million bands that sound like this – trust me, I get at least three or four albums like it a month! I’m talking about hard-driving post-punk groups that stabilize their musical focus between The Hot Snakes and The Wipers, trying to be tough but mature, psychotic yet wise, all while violently strumming their guitars downward in speedy unison. And yet, I feel comfortable in saying that Defektors are the absolute best at it, truly the best, and The Bottom Of The City, their sole full-length, is their flawless pinnacle. They have that rare magic where every song sounds exactly the same yet each track comes equipped with distinct hooks; it’s that special form of Ramones superpowers that is almost impossible to locate, particularly in a style done so frequently. It’s like you’re either born with this ability or you’re not, and the short-lived Defektors truly excelled. If only they were also ex-Drive Like Jehu, they’d be headlining arenas right now, but they were three nobodies from Canada somewhere, so they’re relegated to the arena in my heart.

The Dramatics $50,000 LP (Menlo Park, 1997)
How ironic, seeing as The Dramatics’ $50,000 is currently the cheapest of the bunch, yours for a whopping $2.99! The Dramatics were a Baltimore based junk-rock duo, clearly harnessing the spirit of no-wave years before the no-wave resurgence, and doing so in their own particular fashion. Which is to say, lots of tuneless percussion, wild fumbling, squelched guitars and exactly the sort of musical tomfoolery that hooks me in. Kind of a Load Records style, but prior to all the Load Records bands who embodied similar styles came to be. Seems like Derek Bailey and The Boredoms were probably on The Dramatics’ mind as well, but who can really say? Baltimore avant-garde fixture Jason Willett was one of the members, who currently plays with Half Japanese, and had a group in the early ’00s called Leprechaun Catering who had sort of a more electronic take on The Dramatics’ sound (and whose sophomore album I proudly released!), but it almost feels like $50,000 is where it all first snapped together for Willett, this insane freedom to layer six thrift-store guitar tracks with shaken cans of beans, children’s electronic toys and some high-pitched babbling. Truly a fine freakout, which could also be said for much of Menlo Park’s exquisite discography, much of which is of similar high quality and budget price.

Excelsior Land Of Enchantment 12″ (Belladonna, 2000)
Around the turn of the century, crude rock n’ roll wasn’t exactly at a surplus, and Philadelphia was no exception to that drought. And yet Excelsior, a rag-tag group of frenemies who would rather drink cheap beer and crack jokes on their stoop than put together any sort of meaningful touring regimen thrived in this time, perhaps because pretty much no one gave a damn about them. While their other two albums are quite good (one of which sadly never made it to vinyl), Land Of Enchantment displays Excelsior at the height of their powers, somehow merging the bitter indie-punk of The Monorchid with the swampy guitars of Lynyrd Skynyrd and some punishing yet precise drumming. The vocals are snarling with snot, the riffs are danker than anything Man’s Ruin was releasing at the time, and I’m telling you, the drumming is absolutely magnificent – I wonder whatever happened to that guy? Basically every member of this band was too good to be in a band that is heisting a rental van to go play a show in Allentown to a crowd of fifteen people, but that’s exactly what Excelsior did, and I will forever love them for it.

The Kill-A-Watts Kill Kill Kill Kill 7″ (Rip Off, 2000)
With few exceptions, it seems that mostly any garage-rock / garage-punk 7″s released between 1999 and three months prior to the moment you are reading this are relegated to the dollar-bin. It’s easily affordable if you’re a fan of the stuff, but there’s a lot of mediocrity to wade through. Unlike the 2000 debut single by Wisconsin’s Kill-A-Watts, that is, which features two of the most misanthropic and catchy garage-punk rippers of the ensuing decade, both on the same side of the 7″ (as was the Rip Off Records style of the era). “Mutant Brain” is the initial killer, railing against someone severely lacking intelligence, and “Treat Me Like A Jerk” spits venom all over someone foolish enough to disrespect one of the ‘Watts. They look great in the photo on the cover, in their horizontal stripes and angry faces, like they’re going to stick their gum in your hair if you even think about getting in their way. The rest of the group’s output was good (if not always great), but this single is the stuff that Y2K Killed By Death dreams are made of, if anyone were to conjure such a dangerous dream.

Media Children But They Still Ignore… 7″ (Mass Media, 1991)
Musically, Media Children’s sole 7″ EP is probably the weakest of the records listed here. Okay, I’m absolutely positive it is. But as far as charm goes, this one is tops, right up there with the most tuneless offerings found within Kugelberg’s DIY 100 or any Bullshit Detector comp. It’s political crust done with all passion and no technique, complete with the vocals of a singer named “Shant” who maintains the same off-key high-pitch tone for all of her shouted vocals, much to my delight and the agitation of my neighbors. Amazingly, there are multiple YouTubes attached to the record’s Discogs entry (including demo and unreleased tracks?), not to mention full scans of the cover and inserts, so I’m clearly not the only person infatuated with this slice of early ’90s DIY crust-punk. I’d recommend you check out “H-Bomb” first for a dose of clunky d-beat destruction, but the entire EP is spirited, raging and gloriously painful to listen to.