Friday, August 27, 2004


House Burning Down (1987)
Dischord Records (023) - No Longer Available on LP or CD

A band of frustrated opportunities, noble ambitions that ultimately left you unfulfilled -- but for a time the best live hardcore band in DC and one of my favorite first records (Plays for Lovers). Two LPs was the sum total of their output but their influence was channeled into the first wave of emo (Rites, Happy go Licky, Fidelity Jones).

Tomas - designated "fool", sometimes played naked, hippy-rasta vibe, usually seen in the '80s down by Reagan's house banging drums. Most likely the lyricist which are often sublime - I'll throw some down at the bottom. Still around. Great hardcore singer.

Dug - owl-glassed floppy funky bass player (see also Descendents) with the v. serious studious respect-all-life PETA attitude. Once got into a Maximum R&R letter war over abortion (he wuz against it, everyone else for it). Tomas and Dug later formed Fidelity Jones. Last seen with All Scars. Accomplished computer engineer.

Fred - our hero. Black leather potential Jimi - great when he wasn't drunk, perhaps greater when he was. Just liked the guy more than the other two, nicer, more approachable. Didn't feel like you had to put a hair shirt on just to talk to 'im. Later in the under-rated, under-appreciated Strange Boutique. Shows up for SB reunion shows. Apologizes for anything he said or did while drunk.

Kenny - well, Kenny. Gotta say something nice - great guy, I guess, though I never met 'im. But just plain wrong as a drummer trying to keep up with Dug and Fred. One song ("Insurrection Song") would have been the best song of the album if he hadn't stumbled over the rhythm inna, what, third verse. Not sure if he's still kicking.

Beefeater - first multi-racial Dischord band I know. Don't know why they broke up so soon after forming but I surmise there was probably constant tension between the puritans and the hedonists. ' nuff said.

House Burning Down - trying to push the boundaries of what a Hardcore record was with the comedic Ian MacKaye introduction, the arty interludes, back-ups and so forth from a collective of, again, multi-racial guest artists (cellist Rogelio Maxwell, DC poet M'wile Yaw Askari, Dischord scenester Amy Pickering, Ian's bro Alec MacKaye who sings lead vocals on "With You Always"). As always, stellar production by Don Z of Inner Ear. And all this surrounds some decent but not awesomely great songs.

Ultimately, not a great record but good and an earnest stab at doing something different.


Live the Life - a hard rock - reggae cover of gospel artist's Thomas Dorsey's song closes the album suggesting the spiritual underpinnings of
Beefeater and the Dischord emo scene in general.

One Soul Down - this is more representative of what I remember of the band live and more evidence of their Christian leanings. Very tight, fast, with the blippin' base and some nice Fred guitar work. short and sweet. Here's the lyrics:

When i looked pon how the poor man died, i swear to you, my body cried
bound against the shooting post, say "i loved you" to your ghost
with black plastic bag around his head, led the brother to his bed
- O my God, help our dizzy souls, we know not what we do

And who did the shooting, and who stood by
And who eased th dead man down, just when he died
And who gave the order, and who obliged
And who stood by watching, as Brotherman died
And who had the callous, presence of mind
To cut the warm bundle, from his final bind?

Seen the body drop like the weight of stone, i can't believe we're so alone
I can't believe that one soul can shoot bullets at a living man
With lifeblood spilling to the ground, a head com falling so far down
- O my God, help our dizzy souls, we know not what we do

Here are some other cuts I found on someone else's site:

With You Always -
Faith's Alex MacKaye on vocals
Sinking Me - "Cryin' out loud, you're sinking me"
Bedlam Rainforest - about the years of daily protests in front of the White House

Notes: Recorded, where else, at Inner Ear. All Beefeater records are out of print at Dischord but there was a CD released that combined Plays for Lover with this LP.


Eric said...

Never saw them live, but the potential on the albums is amazing. I agree though - great as individual songs, as an album it was unsatisfying. I believe they had a 12" either before or after House Burning Down called "Need a Job" - not sure if it has been reissued or not.

Kenny's contribution shouldn't be overlooked - "Ain't Got no Time, ain't got no goddamn time"

Sleeve said...

Nice writeup, I totally missed this band due to my headlong plunge into weird industrial stuff around '85. I still see the records around, one day I'll pick one up. What I really wanted to comment on is that RED C and VOID were actually the first interracial Dischord bands. Funny you missed that 'cause Red C is Tomas along with bass player Toni Young and another guy (see: Banned In DC book, plus they had 4 tracks on Flex Your Head), and Void had guitarist Bubba Dupree. Their split with Faith just destroys the younger MacKaye's band.

likeablefilms said...

I saw Beefeater a bazillion times, I must say in my youth I got a bit tired of the righteous politics, the 1st album amazing, especially when amy pickering starts singing amazing grace over Fred's howling guitar. Lets not forget wars in space my personal fave on Alive & Kicking 7". Bruce Taylor played drums on the first album but quickly left the band too much freakiness for him he was replaced by Mark Schellhass supa freak who's contributions to the band should be noted, Need a Job came out on Olive Tree Records a shady short lived label part of the HR dave Byers crew, I doubt those tapes even exist. My band Lunch Meat played one of our first official legit punk shows with Beefeater at our very vanilla local community center, I remember Fred showing up with a 40oz, we were also going to share equipment so a nervous scott mccloud (of Girls vs Boys fame) was talking to Fred about his marshall half stack, it was a big deal to us, Fred said do what you have to , turn it up, blow it out, throw it off the stage, whatever you need to do to, do it. I'll never forget that scene, and Fred in my mind is one of the coolest dudes ever for putting up with the original wigger Tomas Squip. I was lucky enough to tag alog with rites of spring and catch beefeater, rites of spring, and HR I believe at Columbia University, NY. amazing.

Jim H said...

Thanks for the memories, Lunch Meat.

TeethofSkull said...

I saw one of their last shows @ Fender's Ballroom in Long Beach. Fred smashed his Dan Armstrong. I was very young and very wowed! Gang Green played after them and were vocal about being anti-PC and ant-Beefeater.

Fred later moved to Hollywood, and bounced at various clubs. I and a pack of friends hit him up one night and told him how much we all liked Beefeater and he was totally flipped. Last I heard he had changed his name officially to "Freak"

Rappin' Jo said...

Void had a black guitarist.

Anonymous said...

Scream was just as "multiracial" as Beefeater, even if maybe they don't sound like it.

Anonymous said...

"Dug - owl-glassed floppy funky bass player (see also Descendents)"

huh? that dug didn't play in the descendents. perhaps you're thinking of doug carrion?

Jim H said...

I meant the similarities in name and looks.