Monday, August 08, 2005


Shotwell/Miami- split

So Iggy Scam has changed his name back to Erik Lyle and is trying to get freelance work. It’s a little bit sad- there goes my youth- but the guy’s been living the life for sooooo fucking long. I remember seeing his graffiti in town as far back as 1998. By my count, it was more than ten years of dumpster diving, hopping trains, touring around the country with rickety punk bands in equally unstable vans. It’s a bit of a drag that the golden age of ‘Scam!’ fanzine has passed, that awesome articles like ‘Let’s Steal Electricity!’ are going the way of the dodo, but I get cranky when I don’t get eight hours of sleep. I can’t even begin to imagine hopping jobless from squat to squat for years. God bless him, I say.

The Shotwell/Miami split features two of Iggy’s old bands. I have no idea which band is which- I think the first bunch of songs are by Shotwell, followed by Miami stuff. Maybe the bands alternate. We’ll operate under the assumption that the first batch are in fact Shotwell songs, followed by Miami’s material. (Any emendations are gratefully accepted, Ig.)

Shotwell, if memory serves, is a band that featured squat fanzine impresario Aaron Cometbus for a little while, though apparently not during the Ig’s tenure. The act moves along with the goofy propulsiveness of a freight that drank a dozen cups of coffee, with seriously hoarse croaking vocals and a guitar sound that evokes the feedback and squall of Black Flag circa: ‘Slip It In.’ Sloppy and poorly recorded, the perfect medium for a Bay Area fleabag punk band. Awesome.

The stuff by Miami is much of the same, except that it features dual vocals that sound pretty Crimpshrine-y- more gravel, less croak. Crimpshrine never had a female vocalist, though. Songs about the neighborhood, community, too many instruments crammed onto four tracks.


My first year of college found me at some pretty cool shows- the Beastie Boys and Rollins came by UNH, stuff was going on in Boston, local bands- but not with anything approaching consistency. There were frathouse basements,fly-by-night clubs that went into and out of business in the blink of an eye, rooms rented out in the student union. The only solid, reliable places to see bands play were hippie clubs, which I was (and am) totally all set with.

After my freshman year, this cool/weird coffeehouse called the Elvis Room opened up in Portsmouth. There was an immediate scene- you could go and hang out and smoke cigarettes and the owners, these two awesome, butch-y women covered with tats, would totally hang out, pick on people, rock out. Then they got the room next door, knocked out part of a wall, and boom: the show space that the area needed, owned by the right people.

Jon Clark did a lot of booking for the place, which was a godsend. Jon had been in the Durham, New Hampshire’s finest punk rock band, the A.G’s. They released a bunch of singles on a national label, toured, the whole thing. Jon started a record label, a vehicle for his new band, Sinkhole (the A.G’s plus Eliot minus the old singer), used the contacts he had made to have bands come and play the Elvis Room. This was the zenith of the pop-punk scene, and all the heavy hitters were coming through Portsmouth, playing the little local club.

Sinkhole (or Doc Hopper, which was Sinkhole’s drummer’s band) played most of the shows, headlined for like whatever saccharine 1-4-5 Lookout! act happened to need a date between shows in Maine and Boston. Because they played with so many pop-punk bands, Sinkhole was lumped into the genre. They sure as hell weren’t an emo band (Portsmouth didn’t have many of those, although we did have THE FINEST NEW HAMPSHIRE EMO MATH METAL BAND THAT EVER WALKED THE EARTH, although that’s a story that I couldn’t fit into a dozen reviews). There was nothing else to call ‘em, though, so hey, pop-punk.

Sinkhole played this music that had enough bounce so that you could technically consider it pop, even though the progressions and licks used were being played fast enough so that headbanging was more of an option than dancing around like a character in a Peanuts cartoon, you know? Shit was fast enough so that it was punk, but well-played enough so that the confines of genre were totally transcended. Jesus, watching Chris Pierce play drums was always something, this totally nerdy looking guy with nappy hair and big thick glasses who’d take off his shirt to reveal enough jailhouse SST tats to send Ginn scrambling for whoever his laywer was that week. Pierce would sit down behind hit kit and just wail, pushing the band to play these already speedy songs even faster. It was hilarious- guitarists Jon and Eliot were pretty mild-mannered in their looks, total Riot Nrrrds, with bassist Thatcher looming over the proceedings, this huge man with a proclivity for forgetting how songs started (sometimes how they went) jerking his head up and down, trying to keep up with the growing blaze of Sinkhole’s bratty, too-educated snarl. The mild mannered guitarists, though, wrote these guitar lines that took the whole Screeching Weasel notion of punk, the three-note melodic lead and Buddy Holly whoah-oh-oh vocals over the chainsaw guitars, and threw that shit out the window. Guitar leads and rhythm were never trite, always a few steps ahead and away from the MRR masses with stops and starts, secret codes that led to the band’s love of Drive Like Jehu. Dry humor accented the blaze (‘I’ll sit around and pick my knee/read comic books, lick batteries’), especially on the songs where Thatcher sings.

So yeah. ‘Retrospectacles’ is a comp of seven songs that the band never got around to releasing (two of which, ‘Anything And Everything’ and ‘Fat Girl’, I remember from the probably twenty shows I attended) and twelve songs culled from the act’s three LP’s, two of which (‘Groping For Trout’ and the superior ‘Core Sample’) I suspect are massively out of print at this point in the game. Yeah, I’m biased as shit, but completely essential.

MIX TAPE: Spooge


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7:47 AM  

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