Arriving at San Diego’s Balboa Park a couple of hours early, my wife and I thought we’d take our our six-year-old daughter and her two cousins to a few museums before the Drive Like Jehu reunion show started. No such luck because they were all closed. It worked out, though, because we heard the sound check begin and booked over to the Spreckels Organ Pavilion to catch it. There were perhaps two or three dozen friends, fans, and nerds present and I was stoked to be one of them.
Street Eater’s badass new album is relentlessly raw and heavy, and I was stoked to hear the East Bay duo’s latest rippers alongside favorites at The Redwood. Holy crap, they are one of my favorite bands ever, empowered by straight-up DIY punk via Gilman and pushed over the top by the two-way animalistic empowerment that happens between two human beings who dominate at their instruments. Did I mention that their lyrics are smarter than shit? So good.
There were two great openers, too. Nerve Beats are a somewhat jazz-infected, melodic punk trio in the tradition of the Minutemen and Nomeansno. Coming all the way from Honolulu, of course they were really nice dudes as well. I bought some hand-burned CD-Rs and really dig ‘em. I’d tell you which songs especially rule if the titles were listed somewhere.
Last week, I went to see an in-store/record-release show by The Muffs at Amoeba. They played most of the great new LP and were as aweseome as ever–combining ultra-catchy girl group melodies with no-holds-barred punk rock attitude and out-of-this-world musicianship. So it was an honor to see one of my pictures printed full-bleed on the insert. Kim and Ronnie had asked me for the file but I wasn’t sure how it would be used or if it wound up on the cutting-room floor. My photography is far from great but the photo looks pretty damn good printed 12″ by 12″ and there is some poetry in the situation.
You might recall that Giant Robot mag was spawned in the era of punk rock zines. Before starting it, Eric Nakamura and I had both contributed to publications like Fear of Grown-Ups, Flipside, and Fiz, and he actually has had photos printed on Muffs 7″ singles. (So did early GR contributor Vicki Berndt.) The print version of GR has run its course but I still go to shows and take and share photos, so it’s very cool that one of them would be used by one of my favorite bands and I would join the esteemed ranks of Eric and Vicki. Thanks, Muffs!
I went to some other shows, too… I think it was Pabst that sponsored a night of heavy music at The Echoplex. Deep Six band To The Point opened, featuring members of Fetus Eaters and Spazz. I only caught a few songs but their powerful brand of hardcore was straight-up, filler-free, and a perfect way to fire up the evening.
Next up was one of my favorite bands and the new-school kings of skate rock, The Shrine. Does anyone rip harder or have more fun onstage than the trio from Venice? And are there nicer dudes anywhere? So what could be better than having the homies practically in my backyard at a six-dollar show. No, they didn’t play “Symptom of the Universe” (Sabbath, of course). Yes, they sang, “The Duke” (by friend and supporter Chuck Dukowski). Friends on the East Coast and in Japan, don’t miss them when they head your way.
Holy crap, the new Street Eaters LP is perfect. From the backwards-masked vortex that leads into “Reverse,” one is immediately sucked into a brutally even struggle between drumstick wielder Megan March and guitar killer John No–each trading animalistic vocals as they trade primal beats and post-punk riffs like heavyweight boxers trading blows. And just as there’s no time for musical filler, there’s no space for lyrical stupidity, either. The sound may be rough but the songs are smart and solid and suitable for those of us who grew up on indie punk as well as the crusty kids that use dental floss to sew patches onto their black Army surplus jackets.
After listening to the brand-new, hand-stamped CD (that comes in a stitched jacket) for weeks nonstop, I shot over some questions to the real-life couple/post-punk pair. Naturally, they answered my queries as a duo and from the road. Can’t wait until they finally roll into SoCal next month…
Blood::Muscles::Bones is a pretty stark title. Or does science necessarily equal bleakness?
The title was intended to evoke the bare necessities of life–in a sense, cutting out all the extra baggage that holds us back. Blood, muscles, and bones are vital components of the body that are found in every part of it and are always growing, changing, and moving. That sense of movement+change is also key to understanding how we approached making this record, which is about self-preservation and survival. I’m not sure if it was intended to feel bleak; rather, strong and real. Sometimes, if you want to build yourself to a place of strength, you have to face the bleakness head-on and accept it for what it is.
That first song is a real ass kicker! Street Eaters’ sound isn’t about studio tricks in any way, but the backwards tape part is so perfect for a song called “Reverse.” Can you tell me about that?
We do like to keep things raw and intense, which is something that can totally be lost along the way with a lot of studio tricks. We recorded onto 2-inch analog tape at Buzz or Howl Studios with Stan Wright, keeping things driving, and he did an old-school board mix in the studio. Non-digital, so if we wanted to change something we’d have to set the levels and mix it all over again from scratch. We decided to do the intro for “Reverse” after the song was already recorded, and we had a minute to think about it. We basically just picked a part of the song and ran it backwards, did some wild stereo panning, and it sounded perfect.