Razorcake Podcast #98: With Todd Taylor

Mar 12, 2010

Razorcake Podcast #98: With Todd Taylor

“That, my friends, is a double-edged sword.” I have tons of conversations with myself. All. The. Time. On one edge, I’m stoked that Razorcake has a definite focus of DIY punk rock. That we’re this little, self-contained island. I’m also happy to enjoy more than solely the music with many of my favorite bands because I consider them friends. But, I become concerned when a band is called a “Razorcake-style band.” And when Razorcake is back-handedly considered a “niche market.” (That would probably come with a glue-on beard, a drinking problem, a roll of duct tape, a map of bad directions, and a beer gut.) I dunno. It just sounds bad to me that my hard-earned life’s preferences are a “niche,” and the only way to get out of that is to become more popular. (Because outlandishly popular music is the only form of music that isn’t labeled as “niche.”) Music on Razorcake podcasts and inside Razorcake fanzine is just stuff I really enjoy and our over one hundred contributors enjoy. There are no strict guidelines besides being super-cautious about stuff on majors and keeping the focus on DIY punk. Not being an asshole helps.

If it’s said as a compliment, thank you. But the word “Razorcake-y” sometimes creeps me out because although I have definite tastes and have a good grip on what I like versus what I don’t like, I still have an open ear towards new bands. I don’t think nor act like Razorcake’s a musical ghetto or quarantined off from the rest of the world. Many bands that others may think wouldn’t fit into the Razorcake canon, I often won’t think twice about playing on my podcasts. I just have to like it. Simple.

One main aspect that has kept me listening full-time to punk music over the past twenty-five years are bands that have created their own universes, that are obviously more than a sum of previous influences, that are playing much more than just the notes floating in air. That way, it means something more to me.

Yeah, I know it’s a bit too easy to rip on the Internet, but music programs that select “same type bands” by “breaking down the music to its components” are shit. That way of listening, I guaran-fuckin’-tee you, will get old fast or burn you out quickly. The idea here isn’t to listen to the same band with a different name over and over again, or for music to be another accessory target-marketed to match your shoe preference, but this continual, constantly morphing path that is parts now, past, and future that makes your life just a little bit better.

Raise the banner, one note at a time, and don’t be afraid to sing along.


Dan Padilla, “Far from Home” (Little Deputy)
Estranged, “The Masses” (Dirtnap/Black Water)
Vapors, “Bunkers”
Flyboys, “Crayon World” (Frontier/ Flyguy)
Airfix Kits, “(I Love Yr.) ‘80s Aesthetic” (Deranged)
Fleshies, “Fire It Up” (Recess/Sugar Mountain)
Ready The Jet, “For Western Radar” (Enith)
Smalltown, “Radio Radio” (Pirate’s Press)
Cheap Girls, “Her and Cigarettes” (Paper and Plastick)
Squirrel Bait, “When I Fall” (Dexter’s Cigar)
Delay, “Hairband” (Salinas)
Japanese Monsters, “Chicken Feet” (Enith)
Middle Class, “Out of Vogue” (Frontier)
Bloodbath and Beyond, “Eat a Bag of Fuck Stick” (Little Deputy)
Raydios, “Are You Ready?” (Dirtnap)
Sundowners, “Liquidized,” (Dirt Cult)
Pu$$y Cow, “Punk Hand Shake” (Chorizo Bonito)
Mean Jeans, “Let’s Pogo B4 U Gogo” (Dirtnap)


DAN PADILLA: A Collection, An Erection, Not Perfection: LP
In this roulette of time, circumstances, and finances, Dan Padilla—J.Wang, Gene Doney, and Davey Quinn—have released these songs in some way, shape, or form since the formation of Dan Padilla, a band named after a man who is not in the band. And although I have versions of these songs on split 7”s, the Burrito CD, and the limited-run Foosball Club CD that was made due to touring Japan—knowing that it’s solid financial concept to sell things on tour in a foreign land—it’s a comfort to have them all sidled up next to one another in a long-playing 12” slab of colored vinyl that looks like streaked carpet underlayment. There’s something entirely reassuring about this collection—that you’ve finally alphabetized your records, all your socks are matched up, the puke stain’s finally off the ceiling, all the empty cans are in the recycling bin—and most, if not all, of your Dan Padilla songs have a nice place to roam around together. What’s it sound like? Gruff-voiced, cuddly underbelly, hard-earned DIY punk with secret, catchy-yet-twisted, and drought-hardened guitar lines that scrape like running through a dense copse of chaparral. Includes three covers: Pretty Boy Thorson, Jesus And Mary Chain, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Orient your map to that. Meet you there. PS: Totally fucking with you on the Erection part of the album title. –Todd (Little Deputy)

ESTRANGED, THE: Self-titled: LP
It’s a singles collection of the most-if-not-all-sold-out Estranged 7”s (and an unlisted track. I believe it’s off their debut LP, Static Thoughts). At the moment, I’m putting the Estranged in the camp that’s occupied by Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Hex Dispensers, The Young Offenders, and the Marked Men. Stylistically, they’re nothing alike, but their approaches to the heart of music are similar. Oh, one could say, “That’s nothing new,” and they wouldn’t be wrong. But they’d be more wrong than right. (It’s not squeaky intergalactic balloon music played with vacuum cleaners in a tonal range that’s aimed at making your pancreas quiver. Or a “whathaveyou.”) The Estranged are exploring the dark ventricles of music that was usually accompanied with a brooding synthesizer. Think Bauhaus or Sisters Of Mercy, but by died-in-the-wool punks shorn of spookiness and frilly-edged shirts. Artful pretense is replaced by hard-edged instruments and scuffed boots. And, away from the comfortable trappings of an already created subculture and the genre limitations that come with them, The Estranged make music that is pumping intriguing, rare blood in real time. I’m super glad that these songs are staying in print. I figure the more people getting into The Estranged, the better. –Todd (Dirtnap / Black Water)

FLYBOYS: “Crayon World” b/w “SquareCity”: 7”
The Flyboys’ story is tragic, and this tragedy has, quite possibly, kept them mainly as a footnote in Southern California’s punk rock history. Right around when their self-titled, seven-song 12” EP was released on Frontier, the keyboardist/vocalist, David Wilson (noted on this record as David Way), was killed in an automobile accident. Another version of the band, called the Choir Invisible, would later resurface. The drummer, Dennis Walsh (punk name Dennis Rackett), would go on to join the long-running Huntington Beach stalwarts, The Crowd (Razorcake #2’s cover band). This is a re-issue of their first 1979 self-released 7” (Flyguy Records) and it has the feel of a band that was comfortable straddling between the not-yet-concrete-wall separation between new wave and punk. Within half a year of this 7” coming out, and the bands existing within thirty miles of one another, the Knack would score a worldwide hit with “My Sharona.” The Flyboys remain largely obscure. What I didn’t know is that The Flyboys were the first day-glo punks in California—often called “the male Go-Go’s”—encouraging their fans to have fun, instead of acting disinterested or spitting at them. Great stuff. Well worth bloodhounding down. –Todd (Frontier)

AIRFIX KITS: “Playing Both Sides” b/w “Leaving”: 7”
AIRFIX KITS: Flex Time: 7” EP
Ten years ago, I sneered at the idea of “singer songwriters,” casting them off into the Yacht Rock camp of Loggins and Messina or post-Wings McCartney. But, as in this often cicada-short lifespan of many punk bands, it’s a worthy enterprise tracing particular folks through their various bands, discovering which of their fingerprints were on the steering wheel of a particular musical conveyance. Airfix Kits emerge from the Giant Haystacks cocoon, vocally led by Allan, a British ex-patriot. The Airfix Kits shed many of the Haystacks’ Minutemen-isms. Charming noodling is replaced by tighter, bouncier songs. And the reason I’m intentionally covering two 7”s in the same review is that they have a nice “snapshots of a time” feel to them. The 7”s work great by themselves, but played one after another, it’s like several short stories—think of author Alan Sillitoe, if that helps—telling a larger one: of a man emotionally betrayed, a man trapped by his lack of ambition, a man who’s surrounded by friends making bad decisions. It’s reminiscent, in the best ways, of early Who, early Jam, and Gang Of Four: specific, but universal narratives played like actual lives are at stake… with a beat you can snap your fingers to. –Todd (“Playing Both Sides”/Dirtnap, “Flex Time”/Deranged)

FLESHIES: Brown Flag: LP + CD
Pure speculation: John Geek, the singer for the Fleshies, has found an inner happiness and resolve. This is the most posi Fleshies record, by a landslide. Also, the pseudopodal separation of Triclops! from the “don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been here all along” Fleshies has completed. Triclops! (a band that features many of the same members of the Fleshies) takes care of all the huge and loud and longer tangents. Fleshies takes care of the smart whips of weird pop sensibilities. Explanation: Fleshies have been grooming an AC/DC meets direct-to-the-central-nervous-system form of DIY punk for years. This is their most singularly focused effort. I’m making another assumption that the cover of this album is a close-up of some mold or fungus or something. It sorta looks like asphalt on first glance. But when it’s all blown up, the little details that you’d most likely miss if you glance at the mold at arm’s length start revealing intricate details and patterns and neat stuff. And that’s what this record sounds like, in a purely Fleshies way. Definitely recommended. –Todd (Recess / SugarMountain)

Japanese Monsters: Sarcasm, cynicism, and “I’m-over-it”-isms abound. It could be said that they’ve been huffing Off With Their Heads’ model glue fumes, but that wouldn’t be completely fair. These two songs show a nice range, from a direct punch to one more spooling, filled with a caustic tension. Ready The Jet: I miss Superchunk—I unabashedly celebrate their entire catalog, even the slower stuff—and that style of indie rock. The power and brightness of jangling guitars. The positive bounce. The poetic-without-wincing lyrics. Softer voices sung rather than shouted. Tight rhythm section. Excellent split. –Todd (Enith, no address listed)

SMALLTOWN: Read between the Lines: 10”
This may sound weird: It’s sometimes better to forget what got you into a band in the first place, especially when raging fire and uncontained electricity are replaced with a hand-warming smolder and reliable indoor lighting. Critically, it’s unfair for me to return to the head-and-rock space of their first couple of 7”s and lament that that boat’s sailed. Smalltown’s more introspective and musically slower now, with frequent incorporations of reggae, but all in a style that’s immediately recognizable as them. I can’t say that this 10” lit my head on fire like a match, but like really hot water, I’m slowly adjusting, inch by body inch, dipping into Smalltown’s new musical pool. Side A is four originals. Side B has covers of The Strike, The Statues, and Elvis Costello. The packaging on this 10” is gorgeous: die-cut “rising sun” cover and delicious-looking red vinyl. Sneaker hit or just a sleeper? Only time and more spins—which I’m more than willing to give them—will tell. –Todd (Pirate’s Press)

DELAY: Plain Language: LP
Imagine a sped-up Weakerthans, with the high prairie Canadian cold being swapped out for a floating-on-air excitement. Perhaps a couple of balloons, for good measure. Fronted by two high-register twin brothers from Ohio, I get quick flashes of the wide-eye wonder of everything from early Redd Kross to Defiance, OH, and… well, it goes back to the Weakerthans. There’s a nice, supple poetic feel to the pretty straight-forward pop punk songs that gives them a gentle, heart-felt aura without them sounding like treacle or being overly slick. Sounds handcrafted and gentle without being precious. I like it. –Todd (Salinas)

MIDDLE CLASS: Out of Vogue: 7”EP
Author of American Hardcore, Steven Blush, I’m lookin’ directly at you. You’re wrong about one critical piece of history that your book is named after; and I’m just looking at the date on this label. Middle Class. “TortureGarden Music. 1978.” Bad Brains—love ‘em. Highly influential. I’m with you there. However, they were not responsible for the first hardcore punk record in America, as much as you’d like a band on your side of America to be the vinyl first-men-on-the-moon for an entire genre of music, it isn’t so. Bad Brains’ “Pay to Cum.” Released: 1979. It’s. On. The. Label. Middle Class are, unquestionably hardcore: lighting fast playing, barely attached melody. Awesome. The only other serious contender, if you’re using a highly subjective slide rule of “influence” to overcome the date pressed directly on the record, like Middle Class just “doesn’t count”? Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown. October, 1978. My math’s shitty and I get my days of the week wrong all the time, but 1978 was before 1979. Check it. Re-release of the first-ever American hardcore record ever that was getting damn hard and expensive to find. –Todd (Frontier)

Expectations destroy. Schedules are for squares. Being on time gives you ulcers. Knowing what day of the week it is is a weakness. All weed is medicinal. The part of the burrito that runs down your arm? That’s where all the vitamins are. This was recorded way before caffeine and taurine were taken out of Sparks. Beer = brain food. A motivational speech goes as following: “I like pickles! I like bunnies!” Supergroups = Damn Yankees. In April of 2005, Paddy Costello (D4), Mike Napkin (Observers), Davey (Tiltwheel), and Ben Snakepit (J. Church) oiled up their party bellies, shaved for battle, and got down to the business at hand of making… a purely American record. It’s a paradox. It simultaneously supersedes and falls short of expectations. It’s a mess, but it sounds chaotically alive. It’s a clever gimmick—all the way, starting with the name—but it’s not a joke record that lives out its welcome after a spin or two. If George Carlin grew up listening to Ass Rash, Battalion Of Saints, and the Effigies? Maybe. Dudes having fun, wanting dudes of both genders to have fun with ‘em? That’s the target demographic. “Did you just puke on the carpet?” –Todd (Little Deputy / Recess)

Japanese punk that’s the midpoint between some of these dudes’ previous bands: Teengenerate and Firestarter. Here’s the story I remember, to the best of my recollection.  I’m telling you this because every record mentioned is worth your time to track down and listen to. Years ago, Teengenerate wanted to be a power pop band. They had a rough-and-tumble demo and sent it to Crypt Records. Tim Warren, the label honcho, flipped at the raw aggression—of a band tapping into the wellspring of the asphalt and drag strip heart of rock’n’roll. He convinced the band to not touch the demo, and in 1994 Get Action! was released. Garage and proto-punks clenched their fists in glee. The next two years would see two more excellent records: Smash Hits!! and Savage! Teengenerate disbanded. In 1996, many (if not all) of the members—Fifi, Fink, Sammy—reformed and became Firestarter. This time, they recorded and released the album they had conceptually thought Teengenerate would have been: power pop perfection. It’s got this unadulterated power chained to bouncy melodies, like FM Knives and Gentleman Jesse. Don’t let the Bible-lookin’ cover of Livin’ on the Heat deter you from purchase. (As far as I know, it’s still unreleased in the States.) In 2005, Fink left Firestarter and started Raydios and it’s the mid-point between a contemporary Japanese version of Eddie Cochran and the Knack through the valves of Estrus and Sympathy Records: driving hooks, plenty of meat and screech, and impeccable, unsterilized musicianship. Cool stuff. –Todd (Dirtnap)

SUNDOWNERS: Gnome and Glacier: LP
[Looking at the cover, and then pondering.] I’ve never given much thought to the type of music that a bunch of garden gnomes would make if they had the opportunity. Would it be Smurfy? Small and bearded music? I bet there’d be some polka. They’re probably shit-tired of Christmas music, looking at rosemary bushes, and being crawled over by snails. I put the Sundowners in the same sect as North Trolls, Audacity, and Thee Makeout Party. The larger chunks of their music making can be traced to top-tier DIY punk like Shark Pants, The Bananas, and Shang-A-Lang, but they’re smart enough to not put tracing paper on light tables of their mentors’ songs. I suspect it’s a mixture of youth, drugs, infrequent bathing, and enjoying the moment that gives ‘em their own signatures and style. Good stuff, akin in the chose-your-own-adventure spirit of the Abi Yoyos. Warms up on repeat listens. –Todd (Dirt Cult)

PU$$Y-COW: Drinky Birds: CD
There are some things that you just accept about Los Angeles. The liquor aisle at Food4Less closes before the rest of the store. All DMV employees are safely behind bulletproof glass for good reason. L.A. would be absolutely beautiful… if you could just see it through the smog. Folks with much better shoes and cell phones will ask you for money… and ask you to hold. Then there’s the food, especially in the neighborhood Pu$$y-cow and Razorcake share: Highland Park has some of the best, most street-available, reasonably priced Mexican (all districts) food anywhere outside of Mexico. It often gives Northern culinary visitors—whose previous exposure to Mexican food has been from cans or Taco Bell—a big, ol’ stomach ache. They’re just not used to the spices, the lard, the cheeses. Pu$$y Cow: there’s nothing rotten or off about ‘em; they definitely won’t give you “music poisoning,” but there’s something distinctly L.A.-native about their approach to music. Your ears will have to eat through their Dickies meets Dwarves meets Stevo-then-cow-punk-era Vandals, meets crazy dude with nice shoes asking for change, meets eccentric, spazzy musicality. And, to me, I like ‘em. It’s a taste I’ve acquired while living in the neighborhood, but I understand that they’re not for everyone. (Their name is from a popular mis-hearing of a popular car dealer who advertises on TV all the time in the Southland. “Go see Cal, go see Cal.” Sounds a lot like “Pussycow, Pussycow.”) –Todd (Chorizo Bonito)

MEAN JEANS: Are You Serious?: CD
Whoah! The dumb knob is pegged at twelve and it comes with its own party pants. This is making both the Spits and the Trashies look like, well, not like geniuses, but a bit smarter. It’s sorta like if Mad magazine came with a soundtrack or Alfred E. Newman started a band with Stir Crazy-era Gene Wilder and Joey Ramone. Stoooooooooopid with ten “o”s. And I love it, like I love pizza grease running down my arm, the twinge of unmistakable joy when a cube of Pabst is pulled from the supermarket cooler, and watching the opening credits to Blazing Saddles, knowing you’re going to be laughing and rockin’ at the same time for the next little bit of your life. Temporarily dissolve the gloom cloud of reality. Being this dumb and this catchy without being a joke? It’s way harder than it sounds. Direct hit, Mean Jeans. –Todd (Dirtnap)