Monday, April 25, 2005

A disappearing act

One thing that also always impressed me about the hardcore scene in the Northwest, at least back when I was living in that area, was its integrity and willingness to give new bands a shot and reach across musical genres to make shows happen and bring people together. There used to be frequent ‘unity showcases’ with half hardcore and half punk bands (their success was another issue, but hey, at least they tried) and of course there’s Dave Larson’s feature-length epic “Edge of Quarrel,” a hilarious rendition of the West Side Story that substituted straight edge and punk kids for the Jets and the Sharks, featuring appearances by Trial, Botch and the Murder City Devils. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend getting a hold of it.

Unlike the aforementioned bands, however, there were a few that never quite achieved their wide acclaim, among them Jough Dawn Baker and Vade, who teamed up for a split 12” ep on Henry’s Finest Recordings in or around ’96. After that, members of Vade went on to play in the Blood Brothers, but I have no idea what happened to the guys in Jough Dawn Baker. Here’s all I know: They were from Bellingham, WA, they put out a self-titled seven inch previous to the split with Vade (also on Henry's Finest) and one of the guitarists played an instrument that I think was baby-blue and looked like it was built from scratch. The intensity of the sound that came out of that guitar and from the rest of the band was immense. Why they disappeared is a mystery to me, but I don’t think it was for lack of support or creative impulse.

There were only 1,000 copies of the 12”, packed in a beautiful fold-over cardboard cover with the names of the bands on the front. Excursion still has it listed in its distro section (there’s also a review that sums up pretty well what the bands sound like), though I’m not sure how dated that listing is. If you see it anywhere, buy it. (Excursion also still sells “Edge of Quarrel” and a few other movies you should see.) Vade’s blend of thoughtful melody and explosive climaxes is every bit as good as the JDB side and I may post them at some later point. If you can tell me anything about the musical whereabouts of JDB’s members post-break-up, please let me know.

JDB – Mannequin 2-On the Move
JDB – Boise Cascade
JDB – Let off some steam, Bennitt

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


You know how new bands are frequently described as "a mixture of thisband and thatband," when in fact newband sounds little like thisband or thatband, because they're really ripping off otherband? As writers trying to get across what we think we are hearing in music, we have a fairly limited assortment of semantic tools at our disposal, particularly when it comes to heavy music. Over time, adjectives became outdated, overused, meaningless, and comparisons become stale. As a consequence, writers have been playing with all sorts of evasive techniques, sometimes circling around the music like hungry wolves, acting aloof, but tearing into it as soon as they have established their dominance, sometimes probing it with a long pole, only to retreat when it threatens to overwhelm them. Sometimes it's all trial and sometimes all error, passionate at best, perfunctory at worst. I'm sure you all have read reviews or articles that provided next to no information about what the artist in question actually sounds like, as well as pieces of writing oozing with so much admiration that you were inclined to categorically disbelief the writer.

I'll admit it, I like name-dropping. I hope to one day figure out a way to be able to organize my records as if they were a map of associations, because that's what it looks like when I think about the different sounds bands create, because sound is more enduring than adjectives. In the end, though, you're best off trusting your own ears.

Now that we've established that, here's an absolute exception - a band that sounds exactly like a mixture of thisband and thatband and it's a total treat to boot. Take equal parts Bloodlet and Damnation a.d. and what you get is Bloodnation, a one time only collaboration of the core members of the two bands - two vocalists, two guitarists, two bassists and drums. As far as I know they recorded only one song, 'Flesh of Another,' released in 1995 on the Squirrel comp. 7" out on Level Records. As you will hear, it really sounds like they just split the writing duties down the middle in the studio. Also featured on the comp. are songs by Tuscadero, Chisel and Frodus, but none are as memorable as this one. If you've never really listened to either of these bands, I highly recommend that you get a hold of Bloodlet's Eclectic and Entheogen records (on Victory) and Damnation a.d.'s No more dreams of happy endings (on Jade Tree) and then work your way forward from there. Perhaps I'll post some more out-of-print Damnation a.d. stuff at some later time, but for now, here's Bloodnation!

Bloodnation - Flesh of Another

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Misery seeks tragedy

To begin with, a word on how this thing looks: Barren. I know. And, well, that's not going to change anytime soon. I know y'all like the pictures and y'all like the links, but right now I don't really have the time to worry about that. You're just goint to have to do with the music for now.

Which brings me to today's update. For a while in the late nineties, bands from the San Diego area had a pretty big influence on what kids in ol' Germany where doing; the looks, the artwork and also the music, as sort of a lead-in to the even more stylized screamo-ish music that started to get popular shortly thereafter. Kids were all over bands like Swing Kids, The Crimson Curse, Festival of Dead Dear, the mighty Unbroken and of course The Locust, resulting in many imitators and a few bands that tried to expand on the SoCal sound. Unlike bands like The Coleman Quintet, who went more with the swing angle, June's Tragic Drive were one of the bands that picked up on the more serene and stripped down aspects of what the San Diego bands were doing. If you like the last two Unbroken eps, you're probably going to be into what June's Tragic Drive did in their prime.

June's Tragic Drive consisted mostly of former members of Steadfast, who changed their name after one of the members died in a car accident. Perhaps owing in part to this private strategy, both their sound and lyrics took a definite dive for the bleak, with lines like "sometimes loneliness just won't leave you alone" ('Goodbye January') or the mixture of humility and self-deprecation in 'Sunday Evening Thoughts' that culminates in the gut-wrenching lines of the chorus, "this is today and tomorrow is a lie." It's naked misery reaching for the bottom and, once that bottom is found, stomping on it, trying to hold on to these moments "because tomorrow they are gone." Some damn fine post-break-up music, I tell ya.

The recording history of June's Tragic Drive was sporadic and not very long-lived. Below you will find one pretty old and simple, but yet fairly powerful song called 'emptyman' that appeared on the Rhythm, Rhyme and Reason 7" comp on makahannya haramita shingyo as well as both songs from a split they did with Enfold, out on Tomte Tumme Tott. Those two songs, also quoted above, represent the height of their creative realization for me. It's raw, no question about that, but heavy as fuck. The only later recordings I am aware of are a self-titled 7", also on Tomte Tumme Tott (with an awesome handmade cover) and one song on the About Life... full-length comp on React with Protest. While good recordings in their own right, they started to draw on other influences (the s/t record sounds a lot like a more rocked out The Swarm - i.e. Cursed, before Cursed existed as a band) and I think they could have been fantastic records if the material was just a tad more cohesive and the recording better. Good stuff and worth checking out nonetheless. In fact, I think you might still be able to get many of these records from smaller European distros. Members of June's also went on to play in the much more grindy Cheerleaders of the Apocalypse, who put out a discography LP not too long ago, also on React with Protest, that should be fairly easy to find.

June's Tragic Drive - emptyman
June's Tragic Drive - Goodbye January
June's Tragic Drive - Sunday Evening Thoughts

This is a first

Alright, here is my inaugural post. First, I'd like to give myself a little slap on the back for figuring out how to work my server space and ftp account, after being holed up in my livingroom half the day while outside the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and kids are setting off car alarms all over the neighborhood. I hope the download links will work fine for everyone. They worked when I tried them, but please do let me know if you encounter any problems.

But enough about my lack of tech-competence and on to the music.

I first picked up Saint James Infirmary's four-song demo cassette at a Harkonen show in Redmond, WA, ca. 96/97. They had been playing a few shows together up and down the West Coast, though unfortunately I missed those. But I was immediatelly hooked to the music. What you get here isn't really straight-up hardcore or emo, it's more of a mixture of the visceral energy of hardcore with more basic rock'n'roll elements, wrapped up in tight arrangements with a nice discordant edge. Unfortunately, I don't really know much about what happened to these guys. They were from the Bay area and, to the best of my knowledge, only ever released two eps (the demo and another three-song 7" on Alternative Tentacles) and one full length, on Allied/ Frenetic. In my opinion the eps have more of an edge to them, though I enjoy the full length as well. Apparently one or several of the members went on to play in The Pattern. You can find a well-written, though outdated, bio and a number of reviews here. The two songs below are from the demo ep.

Saint James Infirmary - bsadd
Saint James Infirmary - Fucking American

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A kind of mission statement

Every once in a while, i sit down by myself in my living room and start pulling out seven inches that I haven't listened to in years only to be blown away by how powerful the music is. this usually turns into a night-long pump-up-the-volume and dance-on-the-couch extravaganza. and it always leaves me wondering whether i am the only one who still listens to those records or how many other people there are out there who do the exact same thing - or who would do the exact same thing, had they ever had a chance to hear some of this music.

So that's where this blog comes in. I just recently saw some pretty cool mp3 blogs, but they didn't seem to be covering quite the same types of music that I would consider indispensible in my collection. So I thought, hey, maybe I can do this, too. At this point I should say that I am completely ignorant of the art of blogging. I'm not sure how well this is going to work. But I'd be thrilled if there are just one or two people out there who will hear some of this stuff and dig it.

Disclaimer: All music featured hereon will consist of out-of-print, never-reissued material. I'll allert you to the bands' in-print releases or where you might be able to find the vinyl. If anyone has a problem with me posting their music, it shall be removed immediately.

Support your scene and consume music responsibly!