Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.
I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.
I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average fisherman’s knowledge of lures and lines. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Fishing. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.
Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.
I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).
According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.
If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.
So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:
Today I’ll be listening to the compilation album Complete Discography, by the US Hardcore Punk band Minor Threat. It collects all their officially released studio material, including the highly influential Out Of Step. I got it for my birthday, just like the Manowar albums I mentioned in the last First Impressions article, but I’ve been saving it until now because I’ve been portioning out my gifts because I didn’t want to “lose” albums in the herd. I’ve learned my lesson. Every Christmas or birthday something loses. In 2009 Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier lost for example, and I still never feel like I listened to it enough, so this time… I’m spreading out the gifts so they all get their own brain-space.
Heck, when I got back to the city after my awesome holiday, my flatmates had gotten me four CDs for my Birthday, (what great guys, and what a prosperous Birthday this year!), which upon consideration I have decided that I am now locking out. The new Judas Priest album for example is banned until the start of next month and the rest are banned to the start of the next month… that way all this awesome stuff can all be appreciated, and none of it “lost” in the herd. Also, it will help me not buy new things if I know these new things are coming.
Now; I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. The genre of this one is Hardcore Punk, as I mentioned above. What do I know about Hardcore Punk?
Well; apart from groovy, Metallic, 90s NYHC, not much to be honest. All my Hardcore knowledge is pretty second hand, or Metal-informed. My history with Hardcore is pretty much that I got into Biohazard in 2001, and have loved them ever since (well, in waves, it waned for a while and came back strong in 2006 and never went away). I saw Sick Of It All’s “Scratch The Surface” on MTV2 around the same time (and later “District” too) and loved it, but didn’t get around to buying an album until last year , as part of this series. This was shortly after becoming a
Madball fan, which I got the idea for when Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed (who I’d liked since 2001, but properly fell in love with in 2009 following my 2008 acquisition of their Live Dominance DVD causing a building love for them that exploded the following year upon the released of their suberb 2009 Self Titled album) listed his favourite albums in a magazine, including Madball’s Set It Off, and I got curious.
In that same year, I also got into Life Of Agony, who are in that world but are rather unique, and bought a Vision Of Disorder record (well, a two-in-one set of the first two V.O.D albums), and that band are within that world, but are a lot more ragged, unhinged , noisy and high pitched. Oh yeah, and Downset, who were sorta half in that world and half considered Nu Metal. In the same way Hatebreed are more in the Metalcore scene than the Punk scene.
This was all about two years or so after I’d watched the excellent documentary American Hardcore and learned all about the American Hardcore of the ’80s… the kind of stuff like Bad Brains and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and indeed, Minor Threat. The kind of stuff Slayer covered on their Undisputed Attitude album. Since that time I’ve been really in love with the song “Fucked Up Ronnie” by the Canadian band D.O.A, which I bought individually off iTunes, but I haven’t gotten around to hearing a full album by the band yet. I also got gifted an autobiography of their singer Joey Shithead last Christmas and it was excellent. Really made me want to get into the band… which I probably will eventually. Anyway, that one song is probably my only comparable thing to Minor Threat in my whole iTunes… unless you count S.O.D, or the Punky joke tracks on any given Nuclear Assault album… but that’s really Crossover Thrash if we’re splitting hairs.
Speaking of which, after the band gave it away for free online, I also did a First Impressions in the early days about the Crossover Thrash band Cro-Mags’s debut album, The Age Of Quarrel but its not something I listen to a lot these days. I actually stuck it on out of the blue some time this week, and it was OK, but I didn’t fall in love with it or anything.
Then of course there is Gallows’ Grey Britain, which I guess is technically Hardcore, but comparing it to this ’80s American Hardcore is like comparing Tool’s 10,000 Days to Iron Maiden’s debut album. Sure, they’re technically both Heavy Metal according to some people, but lots of people will get pernickety about that, and also they sound a million miles apart because one is raw and true and the other is adventurous and genius but also way-out-of-basics so people can argue the genre.
This is about Minor Threat. All I know about the band is that they are in part responsible for the straight edge scene… which I more and more can understand these days, seeing as I dislike drinking, don’t smoke, and have no interest in drugs at all. Sounds like a good enough scene to be apart of if you are so inclined. I’ve also seen straight edge people extending that idea into things like fitness and vegetarianism and the like… and my current headspace is all about fitness, and I’m also experimenting with meat reduction. Anyway…. That’s all a side-note. I’m not going to tattoo two “x”s on my hands anytime soon, don’t worry.
What else do I know? Their singer is called Ian McKaye and he is also the founder of Fugazi, who I haven’t heard, despite their massive fame and importance to my musical world. I also know Minor Threat have a song called “Guilty Of Being White” which isn’t as racist as it sounds, although it sounds even worse when Slayer cover it and then say “guilty of being right” and come across as a bit Neo Nazi for doing-so and make us all feel pretty uncomfortable. I guess that racial issues can spoil anything. Maybe that’s why Dead Kennedy’s wrote a song called “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” because it must suck to like Punk and then be associated with Nazis. Just like enjoying Black Metal means you have to put up with NSBM and their Nazism. Nazis and music maybe shouldn’t team up. Nazi’s should at least team up with chocolate instead… so then losing weight would be easier.
Other than that? They’re a short-lived Hardcore Punk from the ’80s (in the D.C. scene) and lots of Metal bands like them. I’m hardly an expert as you can tell, and this is more or less a blind-purchase (although it’s a gift anyway) based on reputation and the fact that I might like it, and even if I dislike it, I’d enjoy the learning experience and associated blogging (Nerd, remember?).
So, without further ado, I’m going to crank this.
The album starts off with a track that I recognize from the Slayer cover; “Filler.” Its only quick at 1:32, but that’s what you’d expect from a band at that time in this scene. I think a lot of Hardcore is quite short, and that’s probably how Napalm Death got to writing “You Suffer,” – an evolution of that idea, many steps down the evolutionary road.
The production of the rhythm section reminds me of early Overkill, the production of the guitar reminds me of The Sex Pistols. The relationship between the bass and the guitar reminds me of Motorhead. The shambly guitar playing and fluffed notes remind me of The Libertines b-sides like “Mayday” and “Skag & Bone Man.”
“I Don’t Wanna Hear It” – 1:13; This is quite bouncy, a bit more catchy than the previous song. It was also covered by Slayer. The music kind of reminds me vaguely of Overkill’s “Rotten To The Core.”
“Seeing Red” – 1:02; This song reminds me of Green Day’s heavier material, like “Geek Stink Breath” or “Take Back.” Again, that d-beat in this production reminds me of Feel The Fire era Overkill. It’s a lot more up my street than the Cro-Mags album, but I couldn’t actually explain why.
“Straight Edge” – 0:45; This is what the majority of my brain tells me Hardcore Punk sounds like. If I think of Hardcore Punk… my brain makes a mental picture that sounds like this. I could do a perception of a genre by one track series, and if I did, the track for Hardcore would be this one. (Prog would be “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, Death Metal would be “Hammer Smashed Face” by Cannibal Corpse, etc.)
“Small Man, Big Mouth” – 0:55; Quite bouncy and fun. I like it when floor toms are used in this way.
“Screaming At A Wall” – 1:31; Nothing particularly new here. Its just another song in the same style as those before. Not a favourite of mine. The fast snare rolls are fun though. Oh, cancel that, I should have waited until the end before I said that, it gets quite different at the halfway point and has a slow middle-eight. It in fact does have an identity of its own. Fair dos, Minor Threat.
“Bottled Violence” – 0:53; This is short and energetic, but I can’t really talk about it in any other way. It reminds me of grasshoppers? This song was responsible for Henry Rollins painting his fence back in ’82? This is the Scottish National Anthem? I got nuthin….
“Minor Threat” – 1:27; This is a bit of a change of pace. It is more mid-paced, and has a lot more melody than everything else so far. Until it speeds up in the middle, but still, this is one of the more distinct tracks so far. It has more tuneful singing than you’d expect too. I can see how Punk got from Sex Pistols to this, to Descendants to Green Day, to My Chemical Romance. This is what I love about going back… I want to buy a Saxon album and inadvertently learn something new about Pantera. I want to go to the past and understand the present and even predict the future. I love the jigsaw aspect of all of this.
“Stand Up” – 0:53; Well, this is certainly a song in the Hardcore Punk style, other than that I can’t really comment. For some reason it is rather fun, sort of reminiscent of Metallica’s “Motorbreath” in some weird way.
“12XU (Wire Cover)” – 1:03; The band are experimenting with dynamics here, going between open chords, chugging, then cutting the guitar out. Well, I don’t know if Minor Threat or Wire are experimenting, I haven’t heard the original.“In My Eyes” – 2:49; This starts with a straight four-four Hard Rock beat and super messy bass fumbling and then purposely jumbles and ends and the real song begins… I can hear the Nirvana in that intro. Then its got a fun tom-build-up part. This is also a highlight so far for me.
“Out Of Step (With the World)” – 1:16; hmmm… it isn’t in my iTunes… I don’t know what happened here. Oh well, moving on…
“Guilty Of Being White” – 1:18; Ok, I mentioned this before. Musically, I can see why Slayer covered it, it is a quite fun song, lots of energy, and a bit of a hook to it. Just a shame about the lyric thing. Also I don’t like listening to it in this neighbourhood in case I look like some sort of BNP person. I’ll turn this one down and close my windows…
“Steppin’ Stone [Paul Revere And The Raiders Cover]” – 2:12; Ok. Back to full volume. A lot more variety here, reverb on the cleaner vocals, but then it is a cover. I can here Monster Magnet in this, in a way. I bet Dave Wyndorf likes it.“Betray” – 3:02; The production here is a lot better. There’s melody to the singing. This is the Out Of Step album’s opening track. It sounds a bit more professional, again I hear Motorhead in it in a way… mostly the high guitars over rumbly bass. Its quite a long track for this band as well! Hey, they even throw in a slow section just before the end.
“It Follows” – 1:50; Not quite as fun as “Fucked Up Ronnie” but it kind of reminds me of it. Also, I can now see why Green Day are pop Punk. Like, I can here the connection between this and something off Kerplunk or ‘Slappy Hours… or whatever.
“Think Again” – 2:18; Quite a different sound for the band, a more distinctive riff than the usual thrashing. A bit mid-paced. Quite soft in parts compared to the all out thrashing of the first few tracks.
[A quick break to go on a nice date with my lovely gal to The Handmade Burger Co, which incidentally is awesome! Go there if you can. Their spicy bean burgers are sublime! Be warned however, chips portions are so generous two people should never buy two separate portions, if they don’t want to burst!]
“Look Back and Laugh” – 3:16; This opens with a slightly Russian-sounding slow riff, that reminds me of Brent Hinds for some reason. Then it turns into a slow sunny punk song, that reminds me of people skateboarding on Venice Beach, LA, while eating Goodburger burgers and high-fiving Ronald Regan-themed cardboard cut-outs (my mind is a confused place).
It reminds me vaguely of that one Pennywise video where the guy skateboards around town and goes to a record store and paws a Black Flag vinyl but doesn’t buy it. Its quite varied and diverse and fully-realized. Its not just a quick blast of speed, its got dynamics and lots of different ideas.
“Sob Story” – 1:50 ; This song is halfway between the last one and a quick angry blast from earlier on the record. It’s got dynamics up to a point but is fairly straightforward.
“No Reason” – 1:57; Pretty much the same as the previous track but ever so slightly more aggressive, and the guitar solo segment is more melodic.
“Little Friend” – 2:18; I’m getting a bit exhausted with the formula now if I’m being perfectly honest. I haven’t stumbled across anything as noteworthy as “Fucked Up Ronnie” yet. This song is another slightly samey go around the Minor Threat wheel. The coolest thing is at the halfway point there is a slow part that feels like a “Mosh Part” as described by Scott Ian in any documentary about Thrash and Hardcore’s link.
“Out Of Step” – 1:20; This one is the one that helped spawn the Straightedge thing. (“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t fuck, I gave up, I’m out of step with the world.”) Its ok I guess. I thought I’d identify with it more than I actually do. Its ok. It’s a bit more memorable than the last three or four tracks. I was expecting a giant anthem that I’d want to scream out embarrassingly loud and be too-into. Oh well.
“Cashing In” – 3:44; This one is probably the most musical and advanced track on the record so far. Its got lead guitar, recurring choruses, a messy prog bit and that leads into a rousing heavy metal section in the middle where he keeps saying “there’s no place like home” and they play a kind of NWOBHM part, and that’s the end. I don’t know if it is a send-up of Metal or not, I can’t really tell on initial listening. A lot of Punks hated Metal so its pretty likely, although cross-over happened too, so maybe it isn’t ill-natured. Hard to tell.“Stumped” – 1:55; This is more advanced, this marks the start of the Salad Days EP, and it is a bit of a step-up in musicianship and production, but still more or less the same sort of thing. It starts off with a slow, pleasant bassline that could be Green Day or The Offspring. The chugging guitar slowly builds, then the song lilts into a soft gentle groove that reminds me of colourful pop-punk music videos from the ’90s. Rancid videos. The vocals are kind of half-assed and lazy, in an intentional punk way. The song dies, intentionally.
“Good Guys (Don’t Wear White) [The Standells Cover]” – 2:14; It reminds me of the 1950s. I don’t know the original, just like I don’t know the original bands that Poison (“Your Momma Don’t Dance”) or Motley Crue (“Smokin In The Boys Room”) cover (parenthesis, much?). Hmm… turns out they’re a garage rock band from the ‘60s, like when Heart cover “The Witch” by The Sonics. Its ok. Its quite summery and bright, it kind of reminds me of The Proclaimers for some reason. Also, the acoustic guitars with punky production thing reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins and the entire ‘90s.
“Salad Days” – 2:46; Here we go, final song. It starts with some loose strumming on a guitar, then a raucous Motorhead style rumbly bassline, and then a disco drumbeat and bells come in. When it finally kicks in, it goes into a D-beat. Its kind of their usual style, but with cleaner production and a bit more melody. Its all a bit smoother. I could see some wieners saying the band lost their edge or whatever, but it’s a decent song.
Ok. And that was that. It didn’t really make for good reading. I can’t really discover much on an album that is pretty samey. I’m not sure how I feel about this collection overall so far. Maybe I’ll love it after a few more listens. I often find that when writing about these records at the same time, I don’t enjoy them as much… Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes From A Memory being a prime example. Maybe that album was just a grower though? I’m sure I loved it in a past life or something…
I think I could take this band more in small doses. Maybe a whole discography all at once was a bit of an overkill (is that good grammar? “A bit of an overkill” ? Should it be “A bit overkill” ?) (Should I just go and listen to Overkill?). I guess that’s why most of these type of bands released EPs and singles so much. Actually that’s not true, it was because it was cheaper, it was a financial thing. Also, what band would want to limit their audience’s consumption of them? Still… I think I’d like a Nasum or Terrorizer or Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP more than a full album. So, maybe it is a small-doses situation? Maybe. If anyone knows, comment that shit!
I enjoyed this one from a historical/educational perspective… but I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. I still really want to check out things like Black Flag’s Damaged and Bad Brains’ Self-Titled debut, and all of Dead Kennedys’ early albums, but at the same time, I can foresee them being a bit boring and not-to-my-tastes. I think it may just be the case that I’m not a Punk person. Its ok. Not everyone has an ear for everything. My housemates just can’t enjoy Metal. My brother just cannot enjoy Hair Metal. My friend just cannot like any Extreme Metal…. Maybe I just am not equipped to like Punk.
Well; that’s why God invented Crossover, Groove Metal, Stoner, Grunge and Metalcore isn’t it?
I think I’m going to go listen to Napalm Death cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” instead of listening to the original. And that’s Ok.