Sat. April 30
(Le Grand Mix, Tourcoing)

Sun. May 1
(The Pit's, Kortrijk)

Thu. May 5
Awesome Tapes From Africa dj set
(Treehou5e Open Air, Ghent)

Fri. May 6
Invisible Hands / Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex / DSR Lines
(Vooruit, Ghent)

Sat. May 7
(De Ruimte, Ghent)

Tue. May 10
(De Pit's, Kortrijk)

Thu. May 12
(DOK, Ghent)

Fri. May 13
(Het Bos, Antwerp)

Sun. May 15
THRONEFEST (Taake, Inquisition, Mgla, Batushka, Inferno, Dysangellium, Wiegedood & The Commitee)
(Kubox, Kuurne)

Thu. May 26
(Den Trap, Kortrijk)

Fri. May 27
(Trix, Antwerp)

Wed. June 1
(Botanique, Brussels)

Wed. June 8
(Vooruit, Ghent)

Wed. June 22
(Het Bos, Antwerp)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WE NEVER LEARN: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001

Last year, Kris Verreth from Demolition Derby Records forwarded me a mail from NEW BOMB TURKS singer Eric Davidson in which he announced his upcoming book about ‘90s garage punk and asked people for old flyers, pictures and anything from that era and those kind of bands. Ever since, I have been looking forward to this book because as a fan, I was part of the scene from the very beginning and knew Davidson was the right man for this job.

I remember a THEE HEADCOATS/THEE HEADCOATEES double bill in my hometown in 1991. As I was DJ'ing that night, Kyra from THEE HEADCOATEES came to me and asked if I had any Crypt records. I didn’t have a clue since I had never heard of the label. Little did I know that for the next decade, I would be buying almost every new Crypt Records release. At the time, I did have a few Sympathy For The Record Industry releases though (THE LAZY COWGIRLS, THE CREAMERS, CLAW HAMMER) which probably were my first introduction to what Davidson calls “gunk punk”, a word that is totally new to me. I myself always preferred to call this loud, raw and out of control ‘90s garage punk “punk rock & roll” or “punkrawk”.

Davidson kicks off his book three years earlier in 1988 with Cleveland’s hometown heroes DEATH OF SAMANTHA, a band that made him realize that rock & roll should be fun in the first place. A rather strange departure as I never associated DEATH OF SAMANTHA with punk rock & roll. Probably as a reaction to sterile hardcore bands and depressing grunge units, wild guitar bands like THE LAZY COWGIRLS, DEVIL DOGS and THE RAUNCH HANDS started to appear on the scene and labels specialized in wild garage punk came into business: SFTRI, Estrus Records, Crypt and In The Red (to name the big 4).

Soon, a shitload of exciting young bands started releasing records on multiple labels and went on tour in Europe mostly thanks to Crypt Records’ head honcho Tim Warren who always linked a Crypt record release to a European tour. Throughout the book, you can feel Davidson’s gratitude to Warren because his label released the NEW BOMB TURKS’ first 2 albums and a singles compilation, organized many Euro tours and as a matter of fact, had kick started the whole scene with his essential 60s garage punk compilations 'Back From The Grave' and 'Garage Punk Unknowns'.

I remember the first European show by the NEW BOMB TURKS at the mighty Pit’s in Kortrijk, Belgium on March 21, 1993. The record wasn’t even available yet (everyone at the club bought a copy directly from the band after the show) but the VPRO had given the NEW BOMB TURKS’ awesome WIRE cover “Mr. Suit” some decent airplay. Needless to say, the show was a blast from start to finish and it’s interesting to read about Davidson’s reflections 17 years later.

One week after THE NEW BOMB TURKS’ very first European triumph, another legendary double bill took place at the Pit’s: Frisco’s lo-fi kings SUPERCHARGER/THE MUMMIES! SUPERCHARGER was clumsy but great while THE MUMMIES were absolutely mind-blowing. Total wreck & roll mayhem and definitely one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed! In the book, Trent Ruane complains about the complete catastrophe of their second European tour half a year later. He blames the audience although I can tell you that THE MUMMIES played a bigger venue this time and had the bad luck of having to compete against a stellar supporting act: the killer debut live show by Belgian’s own SIN ALLEY. THE MUMMIES did suck that night.

Another highlight that year (I never realized all this took place in the very same year until I read this book) was the legendary Sub Pop Euro tour with the DWARVES/REVEREND HORTON HEAT/SUPERSUCKERS triple-bill. At the entrance, everyone received a little note telling that the Democrazy club could not be held responsible for possible injuries. It was the first time that I experienced the dangerous side of rock & roll. THE REVEREND HORTON HEAT and THE SUPERSUCKERS were both awesome but the 22 minutes set by THE DWARVES, which started with a naked He Who Cannot Be Named smashing his guitar into pieces, was the sonic equivalent of a flame-thrower: a scorching & ultra-violent set but also lotsa fun! Afterwards, I heard Blag Jesus asking a guy next to me what he thought of the show and if he had as much fun as the band itself on stage. This kinda dangerous fun was a complete revelation to me at the time and it’s great to read about all the wild adventures from this infamous tour.

Davidson does a great job putting the whole 90s punk rock scene into perspective. WE NEVER LEARN is filled with sharp observations and enlightening interviews by the likes of Pat Todd (THE LAZY COWGIRLS), THE RAUNCH HANDS, BILLY CHILDISH, Blag Jesus (DWARVES), Long Gone John (SFTRI), Trent Ruane (THE MUMMIES), Johan Kugelberg and numerous quotes by Jay Hinman, Jeffrey Evans, Larry Hardy, Mike LaVella, Greg Lowery, Mike Mariconda, Kim Shattuck, Rick Sims, Jon Spencer, Alicja Trout etc. Only Dave Crider from Estrus Records refused to contribute which is rather lame to say the least.

There are some statements that you really have to take with a grain of salt like Ned Hayden claiming that 'Complete London Toe Rag Session' is THE ACTION SWINGERS’ best album (that's undoubtedly Decimation Blvd!) and even an inaccuracy (“Chris Verruth” (that’s Kris Verreth) never lived in Kortrijk, home of the Pit’s) but after all, this is minor quibble.

Davidson ends his book in 2001, the breakthrough year for THE HIVES, THE STROKES & THE WHITE STRIPES and goes into detail about the Long Gone John/Jack White and Jim Diamond/Jack White controversies. Davidson also explains the title of his book: when bands finally get the chance to earn some dough by means of a reunion, they are immediately nitpicked by hordes of so-called fans for selling out. We will never learn how to deal with success, both fans and bands.

WE NEVER LEARN is a terrific read and absolutely mandatory for all those who were part of the scene, be it as a fan or as a band member. The recommended discography at the end and the free 20 song download is an extra bonus. Music book of the year!

An interview with Eric Davidson about his book can be read here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i never felt the urge to be a part of that whole scene (though i'm familiar with several of the bands), but your enthusiasm is infectious, so i'll keep an eye out for a copy, seems like an interesting read