CATHOLIC DISCIPLINE: Underground Babylon: CD

Feb 21, 2008

Total LA punk rock archival boner. Catholic Discipline, memorialized in Decline of Western Civilization, never recorded track one in a studio, was a supergroup of sorts, lasted only six months almost a quarter of a century ago (‘79-’80), and only played out of LA once. And here are twenty-one tracks from live recordings and radio performances on one handy CD. It’s got the feel of the Screamers LP that was put together twenty-plus years after the fact. It’s half “this is weird, good, and well played” and half the feel not unlike legendary folk music collector Alan Lomax’s scouring the south in the 1930s and 1940s for original music made by real people in the field. Folks. Spirit over fidelity. Crudeness and honesty over any sort of professional validation. Varied recording levels, dropouts, and uneven recordings merely underscore the “fuck it, we’re all going to be nuked anyway” attitude of late ‘70s punk. This time, with Catholic Discipline, it’s urban, cynical, and fueled and shaped by a chain-smoking, heavily drinking Frenchman. The vocal charge and captain of the ship was Claude Bessy (Kickboy Face, editor of Slash, RIP). The band was co-formed by Craig Lee (Bags, long-time LA Weekly contributor, RIP) who plays drums. Phranc (Nervous Gender and long-time solo artist) on guitar, Rick Brodey (B-People, who was married at the time to Pat Bag) on bass, Richard Meade on synths, who would be replaced by Robert Lopez (Zeros, and currently he’s El Vez) rounds out the troupe. The idea behind the band was that even though all of the members were accomplished musicians (except Claude. It was his first band), they picked up instruments they hadn’t played before and started from scratch. Listening to this, and it may be through telekinesis or pollution, there are echoes of Catholic Discipline in more than several current Southern California punk bands. The Distraction, Radio Vago, The Fuse! and The Sharp Ease come instantly to mind – the angularity, the sharp and jagged use of instruments, the mordant tempos, all tempered by an almost subliminal melody. My only slight criticism is that I wish there were lyrics to these songs. It’s not merely archival curiosity, but because Claude was respected as one of the best writers in the original LA punk rock wave and it’d be cool read what he was singing about. Excellent stuff.

 –todd (Artifix)