There has hardly been a shortage of hardcore biographies clogging up bookshelves over the past year, but metal/punk press Bazillion Points manages to keep their reputation ironclad with the release of We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes From 1980s Southern California by David Markey and Jordan Schwartz (306 pp, hc, $39.95).
We Got Power originally started out as one of many photocopied and stapled fanzines during the crucial So Cal hc salad days of 1981 to 1983, but what made it stand out from the rest was its irreverent humour. Refusing to take the testosterone-driven hardcore of the scene completely to heart, Markey and Schwartz were not afraid to take pot-shots at the sacred cows while passionately hoisting the more deserving bands up on pedestals.
All of the fanzine issues are collected in the back of the book and, despite its obvious ham-fisted writing and amateurish layout, it offers a great peek at this mercurial time. The real reason you’re going to want to pick up this tome is the incredible photos, which see the light of day for the first time here, as well as key So Cal players like Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, Black Flag’s Chuck Dukowski and Dez Cadena, Tony Adolescent, Mike Watt and a host of others who contribute their own personal memories of these heady days.
The first wave of punk rock died on the stage of the Winterland in San Francisco when the Sex Pistols wheezed their last breath. Almost immediately, a charged and inspired set of fierce, angry, violent and creative beach kids, skaters, surfers and artists rose from the ashes of punk and created hardcore. The first-hand accounts of the LAPD’s brutality at punk shows and the scene’s riots and random violence are all here, but it’s the sense of community and the embracing of DIY culture that really rings out.
We Got Power’s initial print run was done on a shoestring budget, but Bazillion Points also gives the early So Cal hardcore scene the respect it deserves with a completely gorgeous packaging. Clad in an embossed hardcover, the photos are crisp and laid out perfectly. This is guaranteed to spruce up any coffee table.
We Got Power is in no way the definitive document of the time, but trying to encapsulate the brief surge of the initial wave of hardcore within its first two years is near impossible.
If you’re looking for a great glimpse, you could do much worse than cracking this spine. If you’re looking for some additional punk rock reading over the oncoming frigid months, keep yer eyes peeped to this column next week when I take a look at Sam Sutherland’s book on the first wave of Canadian punk: Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk.
Tuesday – Buckle up for two truly rad picks of the week, the first of which smashes out of the gate tonight at la Tulipe. High on Fire finally return with NOLA’s Goatwhore, metal supergroup Primate and Lo-Pan. True, High on Fire’s last effort De Vermis Mysteriis was not as ballast-blasting as past records, but now that HOF (and ex-Sleep!) guitar slinger Matt Pike has been released from rehab, the man will be truly playing fer keeps. Do Not Miss!! After High on Fire, come and say hi to the ol’ Johnson when I man my monthly residence at Casa as part of the longest running DJ night in the city, We Sold Our Souls to Rawk and Roll.
Wednesday – Dead Messenger are once again one of the busiest bands in town, making up for lost time after their year-long hiatus with yet another gig at l’Escogriffe with Cerbère in the sweat act slot. Expect them to drop their new record in the new year.
Friday – As mentioned above, there are two top picks this week. High on Fire is guaranteed to be a major rager, but equally rewarding will be an all too rare performance by Six Organs of Admittance (aka Ben Chasny) at Casa. If you want to know what the quintessential sound of modern psych is, or at least should be, step right up. Perfectly merging drone with freak folk, noise and Eastern ragas, this is guaranteed to seriously fuck with the frontal lobes. If you want to dip yer digits into the deep waters of Six Organs, first try and hunt down his amazing records The Manifestation, Luminous Light or the exhaustive three-LP collection, RTZ.
A perfect capper after Six Organs would be to check out the psych/funk/electronic/experimental/garage/’70s rock and prog sounds of the weekly Electric Oats hosted by DJ Andrew Dickson (Tricky Woo, Soft Canyon) at Notre Dame Des Quilles.
Saturday – Easily one of my favourite power pop bands in the city, Sonic Avenues (think Flamin’ Groovies, the Nerves, Yum Yum’s, the Exploding Hearts and pretty much the entire roster of the Bomp label), park their Chuck Taylors at l’Escogriffe with the Steve Adamyk Band.
Metal fans will want to cool their heels at Casa when metal monthly Jour de Sabbat cranks out the best of black metal, glam, sludge, thrash, death metal and more with DJs Luci and Fer. If you shit the bed on this one, you can also check out their weekly every Sunday at Rockette with additional DJ Taylor Hoodlum Stevenson. Horns up!
Monday – For those of you seeking music from leftfield, catch some Zs, some “Hmmmmmmm” (featuring Will Eizlini, Alexandre St-Onge and Sam Shalabi) and a little Drainolith at Casa. ■
Current obsession: Six Organs of Admittance, RTZ