Wednesday, June 22, 2005

O

Omaha- Accident

I remember buying this because it was on Doghouse, the same label as Metroschifter and Split Lip (before they changed their name to Chamberlain). The Bob Weston production credit didn’t hurt, and neither did the two dollar price tag- gotta love the bargain bin, at least in theory.

I totally got what I paid for in the case of Omaha. This is some very tightly played, heavy rock music that caroms off in unexpected angles, heavily influenced by Rodan and bands of their ilk, with vocals which remind me of, get this, that band Paw. Remember them? Jesus. Paw was this heavy rock band from Kansas who were being touted as the next big thing when Nirvana hit. Like Omaha, they were more than competent- in fact, the actual performances on ‘Accident’ are tight as shit- but unlike Omaha, they got to tour in a bus and have their faces on MTV for a little while before resuming whatever lives they had pre-rock. I love this shit and I’m still like whatever.

1.6 Band- Broke Up

The kids still maintain reverent tones about the early days of ABCNoRio, the anarchist punk collective in New York City that has hosted all ages punk shows for years. The inception of the space yielded a bunch of bands- Citizens Arrest, Go!, Born Against, Rorschach- whose names are casually dropped in the same conversations as like Black Flag and Crass. I’ve always had mixed opinions about the whole thing. For better or worse, I was nominally involved in the Elvis Room scene in Portsmouth in the mid-90’s, and its importance to me can’t be understated. Thing is, as much as I blather on about it, I realize that the whole scene was most important to the people who were in it, and then another level of importance comes about afterwards, the ‘you shoulda been there’ phenomenon that gets applied to things in retrospect. The nostalgia phenomenon is aided by documentation. ABC had plenty of it- bands recorded, people from the scene became spokespeople in big fanzines, etc.

So, I guess I have always had a healthy respect for the whole ABC thing, the bands and the organization of the place, even though a lot of the music has never really hit me in the way that I think it should have. Born Against is a great example, a band that I think shook things up by blurring the lines of personal/political, even though their records just don’t click with me (‘Born Against Are Fucking Dead’ is a pretty rad song, though’).

Charles Maggio, he of Rorschach, another ‘much respect’ band for me, started Gern Blandsten records sometime back in the day and documented the band that were playing the space. 1.6 Band, an act he put out on his label, was one of those ABC bands (though they weren’t one of the seminal ones, I don’t think).

I continue to think that 1.6 Band is criminally overlooked. The downsides are there, and they’re obvious right away: tinny sound and a singer (Kevin Egan, who later went on to be the singer for The Last Crime) who has a three note range and hits two of ‘em with anything approaching regularity. But the benefits! There are these totally traditional song structures that the band operates in, right, but the players’ instrumentation makes you forget about verse-chorus-verse, or supercedes it, something. The rhythm section of Lance Jaeger, bass, and Vin Novara, drums (later of Crownhate Ruin with some refugees from Hoover) totally play around the beats- Novara, in particular. Man, the guy’s just an octopus back there. Meanwhile, while the beat and rhythm of the song are being alluded to, Egan’s screaming his minimalist tales of everyday woe over this fuckin’ OUT THERE guitar that Mike Lawrence-Yannicelli plays. I’d be hard-pressed to find a single chord on the whole discography. Seriously- it’s all this lightning-fast guitar, like 32nd and 64th notes with harmonics liberally tossed in. Completely sick, just insane musically but presented in such a way so that the hardcore kids would understand it. A little one-dimensioned, yes, but a hell of a goddamn dimension. So many cues were taken from this band, you don’t even know, even though they’re not in the upper echelons of the ABC canon.

Operation Ivy- s/t

So then, on the other side of the coin/country, you’ve got Operation Ivy.

I’ve always thought of Gilman Street in the same mental breath as ABCNoRio- collective, non-profit space in an urban area (Berkeley, CA) that spawned a scene and provided a venue for bands. I’m way more familiar with the Gilman posse than I am the ABC crew- Gilman held my interest actively for years, whereas I felt kinda obliged to backtrack and check out all of the ABC stuff after the fact. There are exceptions, but Gilman stuff was a little bit more accessible to these ears- Crimpshrine, Green Day, Jawbreaker, Samiam, and, of course, Operation Ivy. Didn’t hurt, either, that Tim Yohannon and the staff of Maximumrocknroll were based out of the Bay Area- the number of namechecks per issue made me feel like the Gilman Street scene was in my own backyard (to be fair, some of the ABC folks made their way into Maximum- it wasn’t like there was a lot of outward competition visible between scenes. Still, though, reading a column by NYC’s Mike Bullshit [of Go!] every month was a drop in the bucket when compared to the number of bay area peeps writing stuff).

I tend to think that a lot of Op Ivy’s popularity stems from the fact that their stuff was played liberally in a bunch of the era’s most prominent skate videos. H Street’s “Shackle Me Not” changed everything in skating when it came out- one of the finest documents of street skating ever recorded, along with Blind’s ‘Video Days.’ Seriously, the H Street video dropped and everyone (myself included) started to work on their no comply, you know? When the follow-up video was released, everyone was all over it, waiting to see what Matt Hensley (who now plays in Flogging Molly, no shit) would do next. Tony Magnusson and the rest of the H Street team not only skated to the cream of Operation Ivy’s crop, but they hyped the band, as well. At the end of the video, there was this bit where the skaters talked to the camera about what everyone had skated to: “John Sonner skated to ‘Jaded’ by Operation Ivy” or whatever. Everyone knew the band’s name after that.

So the video played the band’s greatest hits, and the skater kids ate it up- elements of punk, hardcore and ska with catchy choruses that sounded good at the show or at the ramp. The thing that we all found when we went out and bought the album was that THERE WERE NO CLUNKERS. Seriously, the band’s track record is amazing- these songs either skank or zoom by and you totally know the chorus by the end of the song and then another one starts and it’s more of the same. Damn. The band even manages to sound charming in their relative antiquity- there’s the lyric that goes “It’s 1989, stand up and take a look around” which should totally make me cringe. It doesn’t, because the reference makes me think back fondly to trying to learn step-off shove-its in Terry’s driveway before we bummed a ride over to the mall with his mom.

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