Featured Reviews from Issue #69: From Poland to Pedro.

Sep 18, 2012

Image by Candice Tobin

It’s important to me that Razorcake isn’t a monolith. It isn’t “a bible of punk.” I’m much more interested in the fuzzy edges of everything; of paying people back who put the time in. Meritocracy instead of dictatorship. Buying in instead of crying sellout.

One of the small ways we do it is intentionally run multiple reviews of certain records. Often times, we do it to show contrast; that a band can hit reviewers totally differently, some liking it, some hating it. Other times, we do it to show—holy fucking shit this band is awesome! But it’s not prescribed. I never force people to write good reviews. We don’t have “kill” clauses for bad reviews of advertisers. (Read Alternative Press if you want that type of activity. They killed plenty of my reviews. They send the same piece of music to multiple reviewers then run the positive one. They pay half price for killed reviews. Do the math on that type of culture. It equals hair gel and corporate sponsorship.)

Four people favorably reviewed Toys That Kill’s Fambly 42 in Razorcake #70. But they’re all written in people’s own voices; all show different angles on the diamond. I like that. That’s pure excitement, folks. That’s pure, un-publicity-driven sincerity.

Then Jimmy nails down some Polish hardcore.

Because we’re fuzzy at the edges.

-Todd Taylor

I really like food metaphors. That’s probably because I like food a lot. Well, I know for a fact that once you find a restaurant that makes your favorite dish, you like to go back. Sometimes the chef, being an artist, will change things up a bit. If the chef is any good, you will be opened up to some amazing new flavors and if not, you’re pissed. Toys That Kill are master chefs. This record is the aural equivalent of a culinary masterpiece. My first thought was, “It sounds a lot more like Underground Railroad To Candyland than the last one” but why wouldn’t it? Three quarters of the band are in URTC and this is the first TTK record that they’ve recorded at their own Clown Sound studio. The next thought was, “That’s rad!” On repeated listens (of which there has been many), the magic of Toys That Kill took over: the seemingly random yet important lyrics, every little underlying sound and voice that is there on purpose. It all fits together in a way that only these four guys could pull off. I especially love how the record is paced. Todd sings then suddenly there is Sean, right when you’re looking for him. And when they both sing together it’s like mystical cheesecake from the sky falling right into my mouth! As I flip the record again, I can only hope they don’t take as long a break as last time. –Ty Stranglehold (Recess)

This record is so ridiculously TTK and still so breathtakingly original. It’s like in the last six years they uncovered another level of what it means to be Toys That Kill. And within the level they found the ability to be both harder and softer than they had on previous records. The ability to get even weirder, but never straying too far that it would seem unnatural. In the context of the last five years, Fambly 42 fits in perfectly with albums like New Animals, C I V I L W A R, and The High Hate Us. Sometimes a great record can take awhile. There’s no rush, because in the end these records will be remembered for a long time. –Daryl (Recess, recessrecords.com)

Twelve years ago (damn near the day, even), I first heard TTK. My tastes were strongly rooted in meathead-y ECHC, oi, and street punk at the time, but new friends all had a burned copy of the yet-to-be-released Citizen Abortion playing nonstop, and I was quickly hooked. There was something there that I never found in F.Y.P., something less silly, but still refusing to be too serious. Since then, I’ve seen them potentially hundreds of times and picked up every release. For the most part, every show is better than the last, and each record has topped itself, but in a slow grow. When the clear green vinyl (yeah, nerds, go get it) first hit the table, I liked it. Liked, not loved. Within a day, it was beyond a craving. I couldn’t get enough. I was seriously reading liner notes from other TTK albums while listening to Fambly 42 because I wanted to have it even more. I don’t know if it’s in the recording (it’s a little rougher—they recorded it in Todd Conge’s Clown Sound studio themselves instead of at Sweatbox as the previous albums) or just a hint of a different approach, or (ugh) growth, but there is something here that’s pure fucking magic. If it’s left the record player, it hasn’t been for long, and I don’t anticipate that changing any time soon. Easily a Top Ten of the Year already. –Megan (Recess, recessrecords.com)

Okay, I see there are several other reviews for this record in this issue. They explain the sound, so if you’ll indulge me, I want to step back and offer a larger view. Let’s unpack what DIY punk can mean on its best days. 1) DIY punk is some of the best music in the world. Ever. TTK is an excellent example of workable, long term DIY punk on a sustainable level. I’m not here to sell you a bandwagon to jump on. (There is no bandwagon.) 2) Real bands are made up of human beings, not heroes. Heroes are for political manipulation, television dramas, and the history of civilization. TTK, however, are all extremely talented musicians. I’ve seen them so many times, that, often, I’ll just watch one of them the entire set and still not understand how the fuck they do what they do. 3) There’s something wicked about hearing a brand new song—“Oh, that sounds like TTK”—and then having the song surprise you, having the song show new depths. On one hand, you know what you’re getting. On the other hand, it’s a new revelation, an organic growth, a new light in the color spectrum. How often does that happen? And their songs have legs. The Citizen Abortion’s over ten years old now. It’s now on automatic recall for me, like The Big Lebowski. 4) Repeat this a couple of times: “Don’t take great local bands for granted. Don’t take great local bands for granted.” Unequivocally, TTK’s one of L.A.’s best punk rock bands. 5) The road to true democracy is paved by imperfect democracies existing in tyrannical times. TTK—partially via Recess also—operates like the life of the band depends on controlling its music, from recording, to distribution, to touring. They’re buying in (the initial dividends are always smaller) instead of selling out. Let’s talk about bands like this more instead of the all-too-regular, all-too-predictable next wave of bands that’re going to be seduced by “increased exposure” via corporate fucklords. 6) Although it’s been six years since the last full-length, Shanked!—don’t forget their split LP with Grabass, URTC, and Stoned At Heart—it was worth every second of waiting. Instant gratification doesn’t build lighthouses. Fambly 42 is a beacon of light for punk rock in 2012. It’s not going to be outshone by ten other records this year and it’s gonna help a bunch of people with tons of shit in their lives from crashing onto dark rocks. Mark it, dude. The power of DIY punk. –Todd (Recess, recessrecords.com)

DEZERTER: Jeszcze Zywy Czlowiek: LP
I would venture to guess that the average contemporary punker under the age of, oh, thirty or so would have one pisser of a time fathoming just how fuckin’ hard it was to be openly active in the punk thing during the 1980s. Sure, some places it’s still a bit rough to walk around with “fuck” written on yer shirt, and no, this is not some “when I was a youngster” diatribe, so you can unbunch your undies now. Merely sayin’ sometimes it was fuckin’ hard and varying levels of dangerous back then to be a punk, even in freewheeling, “liberal” places like Los Angeles, New York and so on. Lotta fighting, violence, police harassment, assholes on the hunt for mohawked freaks, catcalls, and, on occasion, some serious beat downs were the order of the day, often for no more than having the temerity to have your hair cut a certain way, the shirt you were wearing, or even the color and cut of your Levis. Now, imagine if you will, not only dealing with all the usual bullshit, but to do so under the constant scrutiny and threat of reprisal from a totalitarian regime. Dezerter was a punk/hardcore band raising hell in fuggin’ 1980s Soviet-controlled Poland, an existence that no doubt required a level of dedication and huevos of steel that most punks dealing with shit in 1980s United States or England likely couldn’t have fathomed. Throughout that period, they were hassled for their name (they originally went under the name SS-20 after the Soviet missiles aimed at points West until the government decided no, that name wasn’t a good one for a band to have), hassled with authorities over “controversial” lyrics and had to keep modifying their name on gig flyers to keep one step ahead of the powers that be. Somehow, though, they still managed to become quite popular in Poland, released a few records (one of which, 1987’s Underground out of Poland, managed to be released in the United States by Maximumrocknroll and is considered one of Poland’s most crucial musical releases), and play to large festivals. The recording presented on this double LP, parts of which were originally released on a cassette of the same name and on Underground out of Poland, is of a live performance at the 1984 installment of the Jarocin Festival in front of some 20,000 people. True to form, their set courted controversy and, according to the liner notes, included some drama over the band’s concern for the safety of the crowd, something the event’s organizers apparently weren’t interested in concerning themselves with. The sound quality is mostly straight off the board, with occasional bits from a crowd recording to fill in the gaps, the performance is strong, and the historical significance of this recording is off the charts; a crucial document of a time when being a “punk” was a wee bit more of an act of civil defiance than it is now, where too many bands are more interested in units shifted, popularity polls, and figuring out which major label to ink a deal with than they are about being aware of what’s going on in their world and what can be done about it. For the record, Dezerter remains an active band, with releases spotting the past three decades, and I’m willing to bet you’ve better odds of getting hit by a meteor than they have of ever becoming Disney Radio’s latest punk-fop darlings and yes, that’s exactly how it should be. –Jimmy Alvarado (Pasazer)

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