The last time my poison pen intersected with the pack of colorful Don King-style hairdos known as the “Casualties,” my readers found me being a bit of a nattering nabob of negativity. As a sort of a human CO2 alarm, culturally speaking, I thought I had caught a deadly whiff of fakeness, a toxin that is every bit as lethal as truthiness. So I squawked robotically and eventually, I’m sure, wound up annoying people, just like an alarm low on batteries that beeps through the night, even when there is no real threat whatsoever. I wasn’t even drunk when I wrote this particular review in question; but, nevertheless, my sober simian brain took over and made me blow hard about how I had come across something (namely, the Casualties’ fashion-punk “flourishes”) as unnatural and cosmetically altered as Kenny Rogers’ new face. I even had the gall to question whether the “mohawk” haircut—that hallowed symbol of the social porcupine that was co-opted from the Wyandot tribe so long ago by Wendy O. Williams—still packed a punch now that it was being widely sported by the likes of the Osbourne kids and various “nü-metal” dorks. For this outburst, I received a couple pats on the back, but the much-expected negative responses were conspicuous by their absence. But I think it’s a safe bet that my mohawked friends, by in large, weren’t happy with my rant.
In Reality TV terms, I had basically voted the Casualties off “punk island” in favor of a stupid woodpecker with a haircut I felt was considerably less stilted than the ones those gentlemen brandish like Anna Nicole used to brandish her formidably fake tits. Looking back, I’m not sure my snide little review really did anyone any good. If anything, I probably managed to do the equivalent of jamming a jack boot straight into the soft little glands that secrete the very self-righteous ooze that rushes up to their heads, envelops their brains like a birdcage, and ultimately makes their hair follicles stick up in neon bellicose defiance—not to mention pure punk rock rectitude. But what was I to do? I couldn’t pretend to just ignore them. As anyone who runs a daycare can tell you, if try to ignore the shouting fits of some boogery little brat, he’s just going to turn up the volume until someone finally acknowledges his histrionics. So here’s the deal: what people didn’t seem to pick up on with that review was that it was simply a textbook case of tough love.
The truth is, I think that, under all the sticky hair products, the Casualties have the potential to be a pretty good band. And this DVD proves it. Basically two movies in one, Can’t Stop Us shows the boys and their hairdos touring Mexico (in part one) and Japan (in part two.) Much footage is provided capturing hair erections at various stages of engorgement while the band is entertaining their worshipping fans in these foreign lands with loud, fast, anthemic street punk. In Mexico, we see them dealing with things like Montezuma’s Revenge, deciding whether to sing in Spanish or English, and being hit in the head with 40 oz bottles filled with rocks and dirt. My favorite Mexico moment though is when some young, emboldened tuff gets up on stage to inform Jorge and the boys in the band that they are capitalists, not punks. But I have a soft spot for all things confrontational. My least favorite Mexico moments were all the ones where someone thought it would be funny to repeatedly stick some stupid Muppet into the camera over and over again. As a general rule of thumb: Muppets suck. Leave the puppets at home next tour, fellows.
The Japan footage here is much more of the same sort of thing we saw in the Mexico footage, though the hairdos seemed a bit more erect this time around. Here we see the band dealing with squid jerky, the horrors of the Hiroshima Memorial Museum and, of course, more adoring fans who consider the band members to be “gods.” When you consider that Jerry Lewis is a “god” to the French and David Hasselhoff is a “god” to the Germans, the idea of a few drippy Japanese glam punks thinking the Casualties are gods, isn’t necessarily a national embarrassment.
Now, as my harsh review from way back proved, I fall somewhat short of considering the Casualties to be gods. But in a world where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a radio playing the unctuous baby spit-up of wretched bands like Nickelback, the Casualties could do a whole helluva lot worse in my book. And, as they come across in this DVD, they actually seem like pretty decent chaps. Hell, one guy even saves a scrawny lost kitten from a rooftop and feeds it milk. So who am I to belittle these guys? Underneath the jutting shards of hair and protective shells of leather and spikes, beat hearts of gold, apparently.
Plus, the songs started to grow on me a bit. It’s slightly pedestrian street punk, but likeable enough. But enough with the making nice. I do have a helpful hint for the band: don’t be so damn militant about your “nonconformity.” Ease up a bit. Maybe let the hairdos go limp a little more often. But start with baby steps: go out and get some fat slob in a T-shirt who has male pattern baldness and work him into the band. Don’t force him to color what little hair he has with Jell-O brand gelatin or to glue it into little attention-getting spikes. Just let him be the drably colored sack of potatoes that he is and then see what happens. And keep as your motto the words of bum poet laureate Charles Bukowski: “don’t try.” You might be surprised at the results. If nothing else, imagine the amount of money you could save next time the Avon Lady comes around. –Aphid Peewit (Side One Dummy, 1944 N. Cahuenga Blvd., LA, CA 90068)