Compiled by Tim Yohannan, Jeff Bale and Jello Biafra (Maximum Rock 'n' Roll)
Alternative Tentacles Records (double LP), 1982
Most notable for the Flipper cut and about 89% of the reason I bought it, this compilation claims to be one of the first regional compilations of a punk band scene; and like a tsunami wave, many similar efforts followed. We'll get to the best songs but first I gotta get on my soapbox and attack a beloved punk icon.
This record claims to "document" the scene, but it spends too much time elevating the people that compiled the songs and plugging their radio show. Maybe the original 48 page booklet had more information on the bands but either I lost my copy or just chucked it in disgust (I seem to remember it just being crammed with black and white Winston Smith collages). There is a rote call-to-arms essay by Jeff Bale that was on one of the record sleeves that suggests "the youth of America may not be rioting in the streets yet, but in greater numbers than ever they're flaunting ossified social conventions and starting to embrace alternative values, a necessary first step in America's peculiarly sterile cultural and political context." Damn those "ossified social conventions" that are only present in America's "peculiarly sterile cultural and political context"... I mean, really?
So instead of saying anything meaningful about the bands themselves and using precious space for their lame screeds, all we get are their names and their cities of origin. Not alot to help someone trying to get more info on such and such band. Other later regional comps would include band member names, addresses and so on. Eh, maybe I'm just being a crank.
Still, Maximum Rock 'n' Roll bills itself as a fanzine but music takes secondary status to lengthy political diatribes and conspiracy theories in tiny font, bloviating "columns" about "the scene" and band "interviews" (usually sent in by the band in question). The "fanzine" rarely takes a stand on music except in requiring that most bands it features hew to some sort of anarcho-leftist political kant. It favors quantity over quality - most reviews are about two sentences long and rarely provide much information beyond a pat on the back. Music is a "hook" in MRR, not its reason for its being. It should be called Maximum Youth Indoctrination. That said, let's give them props for 924 Gilman, a great and wonderful venue (once you get past the pamphlet tables) in downtown San Francisco. And I enjoy the occasional 50,000 word Noam Chomsky reprint as much as the next guy. Cheers, MRR!
So alot of the cuts here are pretty forgettable but there's about 25% worth saving and, about 15% is worth noting. Here are my top selections followed by some notes on each song:
"Dead Men Tell No Lies" - No Alternative
"Worker Bee" - Angst
"Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" - Impatient Youth
"Dan With The Mellow Hair" - Naked Lady Wrestlers
"No More Riots" - Bent Nails
"Turmoil" - The Frigidettes
"Sacrifice" - Flipper
No Alternative was one of the original '77 Bands who along with The Dils and The Avengers were a big part of the early San Francisco punk scene. By 1982, when this comp was put together, they were about the only surviving band. They've got a pretty good cut here called "Dead Men Tell No Lies." Here's a page (from IRS Corner) with some biographical information (more than what's provided on Western Front's liner notes). Some of their music has been reissued but hard to find - look for their classic song: "Johnny Got His Gun" if you do the file sharing networks. (IRS Corner is trying to document every band ever released or distributed via IRS Records - I'd mention Sisyphus but then look at what I'm doing)
Angst were an unknown when they appeared here. By the end of the decade, the Pope Bros. made a name for themselves by putting out a series of incredible eclectic (pop/punk/folk/dance) albums on SST - part of the "second generation" of SST bands. Here's their minute-long pogo dance unknown classic - based on that surreal slogan from Auschwitzz - "Worker Bee". See Angst's Trouser Press review.
Impatient Youth's "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" has become a sort of punk folk song and is a satirical take on the World War II song -- it is one of those obscure songs that gets covered by other bands, the most notable being the folky (Young) Pioneers. Some Impatient Youth background from IRS Corner. Here's the story behind the original song (which is not the same as this one) inspired by an incident during the Pearl Harbor attack.
Naked Lady Wrestlers kind of remind me of the New Jersey/Phillie jokeband scene. They used to play shows with Free Beer (another band on this comp) during Fleet Week in San Francisco just to see the look on the sailor's faces when they realized there were in fact no naked lady wrestlers or free beer (link to story). Cruel but kind of funny. Their cut "Dan With The Mellow Hair" utilizes a recognizable Scottish highland melody and has some stupid patter before and after the cut. Here's IRS Corner's page on them.
Bent Nails "No More Riots" is distinguished by the offbeat twangy guitar lead on top of an otherwise decent punk pose anthem. Members of the band went onto the Mister T. Experience (aka MTX).
The Frigidettes have a SF/Brit female punk sound. Their antiwar cut, "Turmoil", has some off-tune singing, a snakey guitar riff and cool sound effects that I accentuated by setting the iTunes equalizer to Loudness (one of my favorite settings). Here's a page with some bio information on the band.
Flipper was the major draw for me to buy this compilation - at one point I was a record collector scum when it came to Flipper. This cut is "free and legal" from the Alternative Tentacles website where they are selling this entire thing on CD. There are links to other cuts - most of which I rejected. You can check them out if and see if you disagree with my assessment. "Sacrifice" is a sonic treat for Flipper fans and like most of their best stuff it appears to be live. It, like some of the tracks above is like nothing else on the rest of the album. Highly recommended for noise rock fans. This cut also appears on Sex Bomb Baby, a 1988 release that compiled their singles and comp tracks. A Flipper fan page with appropriately blurry photos.
Some other notable cuts are Fang's drugged-out "Fun With Acid", Rebel Truth's speed-noise "All I Know", Risby's "Collapse" - sorry, don't have enough webspace to include them.
- Dance of Days, a history of DC 80's - 90's punk by Mark Anderson and Mark Jenkins. It's a shame nothing similar was included with the reissue of this compilation.
- Maximum Rock 'n' Roll
- Alternative Tentacles
- Winston Smith's art has gotten better even if it is still one-note Johnny when it comes to subject matter
- Buy the CD reissue here
- Gilman photo by Gwen (hosted by Flickr)
BORING SAUSAGE MAKING NOTES:
I encoded all of these cuts using RazorLame 1.1.5, an open source WAV-to-MP3 encoder, which is appropriate for single cuts that you are trying to digitize that don't need any noise reduction. You can convert all the cuts in a single batch. I'm not sure I had the settings correct (I used the default settings) so if you have any comments on the sound or your own experiences with this software, please chime in. I did some post-processing in iTunes by setting the volume level up, setting song endings in case I picked up some of the next cut during the recording, and using their equalizer algorithms (everything has been set to Loudness). As you can see I also added the album cover art.