Razorcake Podcast #150: With Todd Taylor

Mar 11, 2011

Razorcake Podcast #150: With Todd Taylor

Sesquicentennial, dude! Mark it!
150 podcasts!
A hot dog and a sparkler!

So in grand Razorcake tradition of being a dipshit about self-promotion and being bad at commemorating our milestones… I didn’t do anything different this time out… besides the usual of focusing on kick-ass, high caliber, (mostly) in-the-now DIY punk put out by legit labels.

I picked seventeen songs that I encountered in the past couple of months, chose my favorites, vaguely thought of them in clusters, wrote out a track listing (with little cheats on the speed of the vinyl and how to find the tricky tracks), then sat down with Daryl to record.

The weirdest part about the process for this ceremonious podcast was that both Daryl and I independently decided to not to drink beer during it… and there was cold beer in the bunker’s fridge mere feet away. Strange.

A big part of me can’t believe Razorcake’s been doing podcasts for almost three years straight, every week… but I’m not surprised they’re just getting more fun to do.

Hot dog!


Dirty Marquee, “Dinosaur” (Squirmy)
Gestapo Khazi, “The Atomic Kind” (Eradicator)
Nuclear Family, “Believer’s Voice of Victory” (Loud Punk)
Dark Rides, “The Opponent” (Do Ya Hear We?)
Closet Fairies, “Painted in a Corner” (Shock To The System)
Rough Kids, “So Sophisticated” (Margin Mouth)
Firestarter, “Saturday Night (Is the End of the World)” (Shit Sandwich / The Modernist)
Marvelous Darlings, “Galloway” (Deranged)
M.O.T.O., “Here Comes Our Rock” (Windian)
Gentleman Jesse And His Men, “You Got the Wrong Man” (Hozac)
The Zeros, “Handgrenade Heart” (Last Laugh)
Tiltwheel, “Believe” (Drunken Sailor)
Street Eaters, “Ashby and Shattuck” (Starcleaner)
ADD/C, “Emily” (Mauled By Tigers / Plan-It-X South)
Occult Detective Club, “Torture” (Red Lounge Records)
Mean Jeans, “Cool 2 Drive” (Trouble In Mind)
Bird Strike, “I’m a Punk” (Bite The Cactus)

DIRTY MARQUEE: Self-titled: 7”EP
Warmth. Melodic, moldering glows. Nothing too fast. Nothing too loud. Constrained, but jumpy and really catchy. That’s tough stuff to pull off because it runs along the ridge of slipping down the steep cliffs of boredom, corniness, or cliché. Pulling the string from Superchunk’s long legacy, echoing the ache and drive of The Carrie Nations’ Be Still, and reminiscent of the sweat-cooling, mellower parts of Sexy, this is another example of DIY punk not necessarily sounding “punk” to the outside listener. And that’s totally an advantage here because Dirty Marquee can both run under the radar and totally soar without a lot of tight-ass, honky pigeonhole constraints. Excellent all around. –Todd (Squirmy)

GESTAPO KHAZI: “Escalators” b/w “The Atomic Kind”: 7”
With bands as obviously well realized as Long Beach’s Gestapo Khazi, I have to resist going into my record collector geek/reviewer cubby hole and rubbing obscure references all over myself like Scrooge McDuck in a money vault. But I think a brief trip down Southern California’s back alleyways that feed into the Big Punk Boulevard won’t harm anything. Gestapo Khazi’s accomplishment stems from a secure understanding of several tributaries of past, but being able to channel them into a sinister, anxious, cold vibe. I hear both death rock (Super Heroines and 45 Grave) and rockabilly (Blasters); I undeniably hear the warbling, haunted wraith of not only the Gun Club’s Jeffery Lee Pierce, but also of Rob Ritter and Terry Graham (so, by way punk’s family shrub, I hear a bit of The Bags—where those two guys came from, too). Gestapo Khazi is all those things, and more, played like none of that other stuff had to exist to come to this particular musical conclusion. And that makes it pretty damn great on its own two feet, even if you’ve never listened to any other band mentioned in this review. –Todd (Eradicator)

NUCLEAR FAMILY: Self-titled: 12”: 8-song EP
Strong, melodic DIY punk that threads the strident, defiant stance of Tilt to the anthemic crackle of Bikini Kill and the bike-down-a-steep-hill velocity of Black Rainbow. Unwrapped, that means the vocals are clear, loud, and sung with both smiles and sneers. The lyrics are deeply concerned with strong identity in the face of whelming social, societal, political, and religious odds. The music’s tight, but heart-tight, not technician-at-cyborg-band-school tight. Fellow Razorcaker Daryl handed to this to me and said, “I have absolutely no doubt you’ll like this.” Fuck if he didn’t hit the bullseye on that one. Really taken by this band. –Todd (Loud Punk)

DARK RIDES: Self-titled: 7”EP
2011 is a much different DIY punk trip than 2001. The 00s have shifted over to the left. What was once a 10,000 print run is now 1,000. So it takes a certain level of grit to just keep your head above water. It takes a larger amount of buoyancy to make songs that are about soul, about the power of human will, of fighting back not with weaponry but thoughts and actions. The short crib is that Dark Rides is superlative “Chattanoog-y” (the “y” because I’m not sure they all live in Chattanooga) melodic punk. It’s sweet, rough, catchy, homegrown, modest, and forthright: People and music beautiful from scars. Beautiful glints in the eyes when brushing themselves off from being knocked down again. Sparking and staring right through opponents. Dark Rides bark militant compassion and sing about not giving up as the only viable option. For those who’re drawing out the band family trees on napkins, Dark Rides includes Eric and Buddha of Hidden Spots, Ashley of Future Virgins and Sexy, Amy of Savage Weekend, and Morgan of Tulsa and Black Rainbow. This record’s awesome and totally worth seeking out. –Todd (Do Ya Hear We?)

CLOSET FAIRIES: “Popular Science” b/w “Painted in a Corner”: 7”
I’m imagining a movie from the ‘80s that’s set in the ‘50s, and this is the band at the prom that storms the stage with a new form of music—rock’n’roll—and everyone rips their shirts off and loses their shit. Teachers, janitors, virgins, the mascot, cheerleaders, and the awkwards all learn to not give a fuck and loosen the shackles of conformity. To DIY punks, my Ouija planchette hovers around Space Cookie, Scared Of Chaka, Dick Army, and The Sneaky Pinks. Catchy, low-ish—not turd-ish—fi, party songs that ain’t afraid to cunningly slip some class war on the B-side into the lyrics. Super strong. –Todd (Shock To The System)

FIRESTARTER: “Saturday Night (Is the End of the World)” b/w “Rock’n’roll People”:7”
Figuring the turnover rate in punk, pardon me if you know this tune: Firestarter’s some of the guys—Fifi and Sammy, I do believe—from Teengenerate. Teengenerate were a Japanese garage band who handed America its ass in the ‘90s. Firestarter are Teengenerate’s power pop / smoother (dare I say Bay City Rollers at times?), well-groomed doppelganger. For whatever awesome reason, they sing in English and for the untuned ear, it takes a bit to realize they’re not singing in Japanese. It adds to the charm. So, since this is 2011 and if you’re down with Gentleman Jesse, Rough Kids, and Marvelous Darlings, it’s probably a good idea to do some back-exploring to Firestarter. This 7” is great. I wonder if 2003’s Livin’ on the Heat LP will ever get released Stateside, vinyl-like. –Todd (Shit Sandwich / The Modernist)

MARVELOUS DARLINGS: Live at Gales Snack Bar: 12” 45
Live records are a risky business. On one hand, yes, of course, seeing a band live is the best possible scenario for music. Plug in a recorder; capture magic. Sounds like a no-brainer. On the other hand, something’s always lost in translation from live to tape or video. Also, rarely, if ever, are there new songs released on live records. And if there’s a lot of banter between songs, it’s difficult to repeatedly listen to the record. Live at Gales Snack Bar works very well. It confirms what I’ve suspected down the golden brick road of all the Young Governor, The Bitters, and Marvelous Darlings 7” has laid down before: Ben Cook is a performer of a high order. If you don’t make hard and fast distinctions between pop, powerpop, punk, hardcore, and garage, but like maximum melody and volume, he’s well worth checking out. This is one of those rare live records that could win over new fans instead of solely rewarding the already-faithful with a kickass set in a Toronto greasy spoon with insanely cheap prices. Try the grilled cheese. –Todd (Deranged)

M.O.T.O.: Kissing All the Wrong Asses: 7” EP
M.O.T.O.’s Paul Caporino has put in several lifetimes as a musician. By default, punk’s claimed him (which he seems ambivalent to, at best). Any way it’s sliced as music (not commerce), it’s a victory for both artist and audience. Huge, catchy guitar riffs—think Kinks, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, T Rex—but not as cock-and-balls wagging. More outsider. More weirdo. Not ironically. Not as a come-on. But as someone who’s unsure of how to act in society aside from making amazingly catchy songs that could become national anthems of disenfranchisement. I like how M.O.T.O. songs vibrate, like you’re hearing two things simultaneously, so it’s always a bit off and totally on. This EP’s as good as any in Paul’s extensive catalog. –Todd (Windian)

GENTLEMAN JESSE AND HIS MEN: “You Got the Wrong Man” b/w “Stubborn Ghost”: 7”
I’m always taken a bit by surprise when I re-remember that Paul Weller was barely scraping twenty by the time The Jam released All Mod Cons. And since I was five or six when those Jam records started coming out and was too busy falling out of trees, I got the discography order all jumbled up. Being thirteen or fourteen at the time when I started listening closely to The Jam, I wanted shit as fast and jumpy as possible and All Mod Cons got played last, behind In the City and This Is the Modern World. Count it as the perspective of age, or being here when the timeline’s in real time, but I really dig it when Gentleman Jesse And His Men play a couple of slow burners, like on this 7”. I’m in no way saying that these gentlemen musicians are “onionskin on a lightbox”-ing Bruce Foxton and Co., it’s just that I find myself appreciating their sense of fire and harmony, the bubbling and support of the bass, the vignette-like style of the lyrics, and forlorn-but-fuck-’em attitude. Thumbs up. –Todd (Hozac)

ZEROS, THE: “Main Street Brat” b/w “Handgrenade Heart”: 7”
My joke is that “The Zeros are one of East L.A.’s first punk bands… really south… Chula Vista south.” The joke’s not very funny, but The Zeros often get mistaken for an East L.A. band (and their first couple of singles were on L.A.’s Bomp! Records), but they were from a town north of San Diego. Geography aside, there’s no denying that this is a legit re-issue of two great songs on the superior, big hole 45 7” format. (It’s not a re-issue of a previously available 7”. These songs were on full lengths.) I always dig hearing bands on the West Coast in 1977 channeling early punk—think Iggy And The Stooges, Richard Hell-style narratives, and revved-up Chuck Berry. A welcome vinyl addition to first-wave bands getting their due. –Todd (Last Laugh)

TILTWHEEL: “Teach Your Children Hell” b/w “Believe”: 7”
My Cher’s songs-made-to-video memory is full of holes. But since Tiltwheel’s a San Diego band, San Diego has a huge naval base, and Davey’s really charming, that the powers that be would allow a video of Davey in a lacey, buttless thong and leather jacket, suggestively straddling a 16” gun, then prancing on the deck of a destroyer while sailors cheer to his lip synching. That’d be awesome in my book and the type of answer I have queued up when the next person asks me what I’d do with a million dollars. This 7” was supposed to be tour support for a European tour that didn’t happen, so it’s totally feasible that “Teach Your Children Hell,” that’s also on The High Hate Us LP, wasn’t out at that time. The B-side’s a cover of Cher, and for those who’ve heard Leatherface’s cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” it weirdly illustrates how well crafted musically—and how tender the words to—the originals were. –Todd (Drunken Sailor, myspace.com/drunkensailorrecs)

STREET EATERS: “Ashby and Shattuck” b/w “Mother”: Picture 7”
Street Eaters seem to be concerned with archeological time—like the millions of years it takes to for stalactites to form in a cave. Doing so, the Street Eaters have already seen the collapse of civilization and are making music for insects, more than humans. Not really, but it’s a different headspace for a husband and wife bass and drums duo and it’s an interesting way to approach making music. Aurally, think of a more community-based Dutch band The Ex (who they cover) and the fun-art-jam-exhilaration of Shellshag (who put out the record). The pieces fit well together. Whereas Fleshies—another band John’s in—deals in maximizing the maximums, Street Eaters maximize the minimums. Both approaches work very well, while ending at two very different musical conclusions. Strong stuff. It’s really accented by Megan’s artwork on the picture disc. –Todd (Starcleaner)

ADD/C: Busy Days: LP
On its best days, DIY punk is a joyous reaffirmation that there is something worth fighting for in our day-to-day lives, no matter how big and sloppy the shit sandwich we’re constantly served is. ADD/C has created an existential—as in, why do we exist? What we do today is more important than yesterday or tomorrow—and soulful record. I’ve enjoyed past ADD/C records, but Busy Days has than earnest, honest ache for communication that doesn’t come around all that often. It has many of the earmarks of contemporary Chattanooga DIY punk—gruff, but clear and sung vocals, excellent-but-not-pro-dude tech playing—in line, but clearly far from aping The Hidden Spots, The Jack Palance Band, and The Future Virgins. I know so very little about what records will stick close to others record players for the long haul, but I see Busy Days’s chances pretty good that it’s going to keep company with Bent Outta Shape’s Stray Dog Town and The Tim Version’s Decline of the Southern Gentleman in my household.The record comes beautifully packaged with a full-sized zine lyric sheet and great artwork throughout. –Todd (Mauled By Tigers, mauledbytigers.com; Plan-It-X South)

This came with a tiny note on a rectangle of lined paper: “Alex from Maaster Gaiden’s new band.” That’s publicity I can understand. Decoded, it means that in the middle of Texas another musical terror is spawning. Alex is a dude who channels bedroom recording ala Ryan Rousseau, Alicja Trout, and Ben Cooke into slippery anthems that tie high and low fi into seductive little knots—tied in a manner that you’re not quite sure if they’re pretty bows on presents or twisted wires set to detonate garage rock bomb blasts. (It’s both.) From a Maaster Gaiden point of view, Occult Detective Club takes more breaths between notes and has injected a nice level of creepiness and bounce to the proceedings. Being so, distant echoes of the Adverts, The Ramones, and Roky Erickson and comparisons to and shared bills with contemporaries like Something Fierce wouldn’t be too far off the mark. Tortures sounds effortless, juicy, and dire. As an aside, this is the first record I’ve ever seen that was made in Karlsruhe, the German city that was reportedly one of the heavy inspirations for WashingtonD.C. –Todd (Red Lounge Records, redloungerecords.de)

MEAN JEANS: “Tears in My Beers” b/w “Cool 2 Drive”: 7”
The essence of comedy is taking the darkest shit in humans’ psyche and making us laugh in spite of ourselves. It attempts to be a small slash of light in a fucked-up world with no shortage of truly horrible stuff happening every nanosecond. So when the Mean Jeans pull on the Ramones denim and stuff a couple sausages of songs down the front, we all know they’re not really encouraging everyone to drive drunk. Right? I mean, if you’re taking the Mean Jeans at their literal word, you’re going to run into some serious life management issues sooner or later that’ll involve jail time, someone getting injured, liver cirrhosis, or, at the very least, high cholesterol. Fuckin’ love the Mean Jeans. They take some of the sting out of George Carlin and most of the Ramones being dead. –Todd (Trouble In Mind, [email protected])

Sloppy, blown-out, sad-fun, bilingual (English/Spanish) punk rock. What it lacks in fidelity (I mean, it is a legit demo, as advertised), it more than makes up for energy and nice little instrumental flourishes inside its crashing wave. It does what a demo should—makes me like the band while making me excited to hear these songs with a wee less spit and a wee more polish. (My only complaint is that “We Could Complain,” is mastered so loud compared to the rest of the CD, I almost blew out an eardrum and some speakers.) This is the exact type of band that should be playing a front room with a low-hanging plastic-molded-candles chandelier overhead. Classy, but 40oz classy, not conspicuous luxury classy. Includes the already-classic-around-these-parts jam “I’m a Punk.” –Todd (Bite The Cactus, [email protected])