ACTION FRIEND: Self-titled: CD

Mar 24, 2009

Action Friend’s heavy debut immediately penetrates your warm, wet, sonic psyche—whether you like it or not—and that’s how it is for the rest of this erratic, yet well planned and expertly executed sonic voyage into the genre blending, grunge-saturated, mind-fuck zone. You will either love it or hate it, but it’s not going to stop. Track one, “Powerbate,” instantly erupts hardcore/grunge style just long enough to get the hard head-nod rhythm going before sliding into rapid, Herman Munster-like surf for a few measures—complete with old-school hand claps—before bridging into some very stony, traditional reggae. Then it spasmodically returns to the original furious brain bashing. Just when you feel the rhythm and think you know where these songs are going, they make abrupt shifts in style, tone, speed, and direction. While other fusion bands seamlessly blend in and out of various styles, Action Friend’s genre-bending is much more segmented while remaining clearly connected to what came before. It’s like being thrown around on a rough carnival ride that has a few deliberately broken bolts and no restraining bar. Track three, “Decorator’s Lament,” evolves from a hip-swiveling ditty to a Dick Dale-like surf tune, to a brief double-bass fueled Slayer-like metal interlude, more Melvinsish coagulated fuzz, and some of that creepily soothing muzak stuff, before allowing all of these elements to dance in and around each other. There are no words, only seven expertly executed tracks of delightfully weird rhythmic concoctions—with added pummeling by Melvins’ Dale Crover—that create a strong sense of deliberate madness. I love playing this and watching people’s expressions of amazed confusion. 

 –Marcus Solomon (Pelvic Thrust)

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Cheap Shots By Chris Barrows, 144 pgs.

August 11, 2020
You probably know Chris Barrows as the vocalist of one of the best punk bands to ever come out of Florida (and that’s saying a hell of a lot), the Pink Lincolns. His new book Cheap Shots delivers an immense and impressive collection of his minimalist band photography, mostly from the ’80s and ’90s, which includes bands like D.R.I., Redd Kross, The Damned, The Donnas, D.O.A., Los Crudos, Circle Jerks, MDC, and a ton more. With a completely different vibe than most books of this genre, Cheap Shots captures punk rock in its natural state: unedited, unwashed, and uncorrupted by the threat of mass appeal. The Pink Lincolns’ brand of punk rock was perfectly stripped-down leaving the music to speak for itself, which it did in heaping helpings. In Cheap Shots, Barrows applies a similar philosophy to his photography. There are no fisheye lenses or blurred light effects. No digital bullshit. Barrows suggests in the notes that some of the photos were taken with old school point-and-shoot film cameras. Indeed, Cheap Shots is not a collection of glossy live pics of hip young bands taken on good hair days, with audience members thrusting fists in the air as the stage divers do their thing for the camera. Instead, Cheap Shots exposes a very real day-to-day side of punk rock. A young Greg Ginn (Black Flag) is caught smiling and eating a slice of watermelon. Milo Aukerman (Descendents) doesn’t look as much like a scientist here as he does someone you might consider suspect when your weed goes missing. Glenn Danzig (Misfits) doesn’t resemble the ultra-intimidating rock’n’roll antichrist we know him as, rather a grinning dorky metal dude stoked to be on tour with his friends. There’s no theme here, but it’s obvious that the subjects throughout the book seem to have been captured with their guard down. On a side note, the grimy dirtiness of punk rock tour life is in no way concealed in Cheap Shots. Florida is a hot and humid (and sometimes disgusting) place, and this shows, especially in the live and post-show band photos—a lot of fucked up, greasy hair and unusually dirty, sweat-stained clothing. As Ben Weasel says in the foreword: “Just be thankful it’s not a scratch-n-sniff!” Subject-wise, Cheap Shots sticks to bands, and there’s a wide range of time periods, musical styles, and ultimate success levels represented here: Sonic Youth to Pork Dukes, and PiL to Roach Motel. There’s a never-before-seen shot of U2 on their first U.S. tour playing to thirty people in an unspecified tiny space. Three photos of Jawbreaker in nearly identical poses from three chronological tours show the band members literally growing up before the reader’s eyes from weird young punk kids into weird adults. There is almost nothing in the way of text here (each photo has maybe a one-sentence caption), but in no way does that undermine the gravity of the content. Cheap Shots isn’t just a killer punk rock photobook. It’s also a vital rock’n’roll history document. –Buddha (Rare Bird Books, rarebirdlit.com)
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