PANICS, THE: 1980-1981: I Wanna Kill My Mom: CD

I’ve spent well over ten years living in Bloomington, Indiana over the course of my life, and honestly, at this point I feel I’ve gotten as much out that town as there is to get. Despite having the basis for what could be a decent creative environment for music, it’s hard for me to avoid an assessment of Bloomington’s music scene as basically one huge exercise in squandered potential. The few good bands that got going tended to die out quickly from lack of support; the long-lived bands were cursed with lack of vision or spineless commercial careerism or terminal media drought; and then, of course, there’s the fact that the town is and always has been choking on its collegiate hick love for cover bands. Okay, you don’t know whether I’m telling the truth or pushing my own agenda or what, maybe you have your own opinion and you disagree with me, whatever. Makes no difference to me. Just take this simple test: think of a town, say Chapel Hill, NC, or Austin, TX, or Athens, GA (which is very, very similar to Bloomington in many ways). Being the kind of person you are, reading this sort of thing, you probably can think of at least three or four nationally-recognized bands from Chapel Hill, or Austin, or Athens. Now think Bloomington. What springs to mind? That’s right, John Cougar Mellencamp. If you’re well-read in terms of music “literature,” maybe the Gizmos. Oh, and David Lee Roth was born in Bloomington, but moved away almost immediately. That’s about it, and all those things happened well over twenty years ago. Of course, there are always a few bright spots amidst the waste, the main two being Virginia’s Scraping (the various bands of Phil Traicoff, and a review for another day), and the bands formed by the partnership John Barge and Ian Brewer: The Panics and the Walking Ruins. I personally witnessed the Walking Ruins blow other bands out the doors of various clubs around Bloomington more times than I can remember – they were real punk rock, unleavened by hyphenated bastardization (i.e. ska-, folk-, whatever-punk): the last true unknown unspoiled punk band. Frankly, they could have stood to be a little more spoiled in their time – I don’t know how many times I’d be reading about some supposedly great new punk band in Maximum Rocknroll and then when I’d check them out I’d think ‘Geez, the Walking Ruins could crush these guys without even trying.’ So, from my perspective, The Panics were essentially the proto-Walking Ruins, and The Panics’ newish CD 1980-1981: I Wanna Kill My Mom!!! is merely the first chapter in a long and tangled tale – but an essential chapter, and one that’s been almost wholly unavailable for far too long. The Panics’ sole Gulcher 45 (recorded August 1980) is augmented with a surprisingly clear-sounding live show recorded about a week after the single, plus a couple of post-Panics cuts and four songs from the one-shot night in 2000 that featured a reunited Panics playing with a reunited lineup of the Gizmos. Barge’s detailed and informative liner notes puts the story in perspective, and there’s even a Quicktime movie included on the disc for you computer-savvy punx. It’s a great snapshot of a time when the idea of punk was clearer, or maybe it just seemed that way. There weren’t ten million punk bands yet, there certainly weren’t ten million punk records yet, and no one thought it was a way to have a career in music. If you’re the kind of person who bought, say, the book collections Search & Destroy or Punk magazine, or the Germs CD anthology, or Clint Heylin’s book From The Velvets to the Voidoids, you really need to add this CD to your collection. Otherwise, frankly, you’re missing a relatively important chapter in punk rock history, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?

 –guest (Gulcher)