IT'S A LIVING… BUT IT'S NOT A LIFE #13.98
J Church and Honey Bear Records - Novembering - Hardcore Temptation

 

TOUR DATES

Here are a few updates for our upcoming little tour. I think the Atlanta and Denton dates changed a little...

NOVEMBER

16 Jackson, MS ­ The Red Room w/ The Urchin (Japan), Toys That Kill
17 Pensacola, FL ­ Sluggo's w/ The Urchin (Japan), Toys That Kill, Sexy, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, Bent Outta Shape, Bloodbath and Beyond
18 Gainesville, FL ­ hanging at the Fest
19 Gainesville, FL ­ Common Grounds w/Ted Leo, Radon and a million more
20 Gainesville, FL ­ probably starting to get a little sick of the Fest
21 Atlanta, GA ­ tba w/ The Urchin (Japan), Black Cougar Shock Unit
22 Chattanooga, TN ­ Ziggy's tba w/The Urchin (Japan), Sexy
23 Denton, TX ­ Hailey's w/The Urchin (Japan)

 

NIGHT OF RAGE

Thanx to everyone that came out for the Night of Rage show at Emo's. It was a lot of fun learning how to play all the Filth songs. It was cool finally being in a band with Jake. I used to sleep on his floor back when he was living with Betsy and Hayes in El Sob. I think we're gonna play at least once more. It will either be a house party or the bridge or the Parlor. Something more intimate and all ages.

 

2005 CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH JAPAN TOUR DIARY PT. 1

MAY 24th ­ Austin/Houston (departures)
Another auspicious beginning to a tour; after flying from Austin to Houston, our next flight is delayed for five hours due to engine trouble. I hate flying. I really don't like being up in those air coffins. But it's a necessary anxiety I've learned to live with. The only way I face it is like going in for surgery. I just want to get it over with. I sort of feel that way about most things in my life. So, as Tom Petty so astutely noted, the waiting is the hardest part. Not to mention that this wait in particular only served to point out that the George Bush International Airport has about as much character as the man it was named for. Veggie noodles from Panda Express are functionally good in any city. I used to love their logo, with the panda bear drinking a soda with a straw. I wonder why they changed it?

MAY 25th ­ Tokyo (arrivals)
Immigration just waves us through. I think they feel bad that our plane was delayed. The girl at customs just asks me where I got my necklace. Thank fucking God. Next to flying, I hate crossing borders the most. It must say something about me that I've chosen a lifestyle that forces me to do things I completely dread on a regular basis. How many flights have I taken and how many borders have I crossed since starting to play music?

We change some money, eat some musubi, and then get the train to Tokyo where Yoichi meets us at Ueno Station. We're running around trying to catch the connecting train to get to Shimokitazawa where he lives. Japan is always about running around especially when you're are trying to work out the complicated train system that actually makes a lot of sense if you analyze it. But with all the running around we're already blown away by the lights, sights and sounds.

Yoichi's place is the second apartment of his I've been to in something like 10 years of coming to tour Japan. I sort of think of Shimokitazawa as the Gypsy Hill of Tokyo. Eating food from the Family Mart is like getting breakfast at the beloved Gypsy Rose Café. At Yoichi's place, he's got some homemade hummus and guacamole. Kaori comes over with some beers and we have a little reunion.

MAY 26th ­ Tokyo/Yokohama
We do the tourist thing with Kaori walking around Shimo. Everything is so fucking cool I just wanna buy it all. Of course, everything is also crazy expensive and even though I saved a lot for this trip, I'm still on a serious budget. Village Vanguard Books has a million cool things I wanna buy for Liberty. I settle on Brown Diary, a photo book of a teddy bear's travels. I get myself a Japanese edition of a Gorey book.

Yokohama is an hours drive from Tokyo and we arrive just as Hard Skin show up. A quick sound check and it's already a lot of fun. It's funny. Between me, Yoichi and Sean and Ben from the Skin, we've all known each other for over a decade. But this is probably only the second time that all of us have been in the same place. I think the last time was when we toured the UK with the Urchin five years ago. J Church with Sean head over to Disc Union. I guy a crazy Mingus triple LP box set and a new copy of the Stalin photo book Timmy, uh, permanently borrowed from me. That boy owes me some records!

The show is packed. Zero Fast are great. We played with them last time. They were a little subdued this time around. But it was still great catchy punk. I got a copy of their new CD single. The Havenot's are fucking amazing. Ripping and catchy punk rock that is really a live thing. They're one of those Japanese bands that really look like a band. Of course Hard Skin are great. This is, what, the fourth or fifth time I've seen them. The new songs come off great live. I love the new album. But especially in this audience those songs come across as strong as the first LP tracks.

They're probably one of if the not the hardest band we've ever had to play after. How do you go on after the greatest Oi! band of all time? Lucky for us, this is Japan and the only place where a band like us gets to play after otherwise huge bands like Propagandhi, Hi-Standard, etc. The generous crowd is really up for it and we get two encores that actually feel like encores and not just pity. I grab some Soba noodles from the mini-mart and we're asleep before midnight. Rock-n-roll!

MAY 27th ­ Tokyo
We all got up around 8:00 AM. We checked out a little more of Shimo (as I've taken to calling Shimokitazawa as I am in essence a lazy American). I wound up getting a second Stalin book. This one comes with a manga about the band and a DVD! Were these guys some sort of superstars over here? I loved them. But I never new just how popular they were. It makes me feel really happy for some reason. Someone told us that "emo" in Japanese means "potato", as in "sweet emo" or "potato-core".

Tonight's gig is in Shinjuku, so Sean and I have some shopping to do. We start with Base and Boy. Kaori takes me by the offices of Doll Magazine so I can get a copy of the latest issue. They ran my Antisect article that was originally in MRR. I know that it's not a cool fanzine or anything. But I've always dug Doll. I know. I'm probably being lame and exoticizing Japanese punk and hardcore like Maximum has been doing lately. I have to admit I was a little psyched to see my name as a writing credit in the magazine.

Most of the others go sightseeing with one of the guys from Paintbox. But Sean and I are on a mission and the next few hours are spent thumbing through mile after glorious mile of vinyl. The greatest find of the day was a Japanese edition of the first Crass 7" on Rough Trade. I was expecting to pay up to $100. But it was about a third of the price. I think they only other time I've seen this record was in Sean's collection. Now I've got the Japanese editions of Reality Asylum and Penis Envy. I wonder what the story was with these records? Record shopping in Shinjuku is a very, very painful experience. I could easily spend $20,000 in a day walking around here...

Kaori's band, the Happening, are first on benefiting from an excellent new drummer. With her best band yet, it turns out the bassist is quitting tonight to pursue professional surfing. Who does that? People in Japan I guess. The Urchin are Japan's best kept secret. They are so gifted and every song is a pop masterpiece. In their latest incarnation, they even have adopted moments of hardcore, Oi! and early `90s style pop punk. The band is well practiced and, man, they can play. I picked up their new CDEP and it's fucking amazing. Every song is perfect.

Tonight is the best I've ever seen Hard Skin. The sound is amazing and they're actually pretty tight. These guys are some of my closest friends, so it's great seeing them either way. But it's a bonus that they play some of the best music in the world. I know this all started as a joke band. To a certain degree that is still very much the case. But I maintain that I can't think of a better Oi! band ever. No group has been so consistently excellent. Ben is a very underrated songwriter and Hard Skin are like his revenge on anyone who ignored Thatcher On Acid.

Our set is a perfect mirror of the last time we hit Tokyo. This may be my favorite place in the world. The sound is excellent. The crowd is fanatical. It's a lot of fun. Even Ben admitted to Sean he thought we were great. I think we were all bummed that these were the only two dates we had together on this tour. We went out for a late night meal typical of this type of situation where the food and drinks come out in various rounds. I wish every night was like tonight.

 

IN THE J CHURCH LISTENING ROOM

AKUTT INNLEGGELSE - Echoes From The Asylum 7"
AKUTT INNLEGGELSE - demo

Here's another band that nobody gave a shit about back in the day. Now people are starting to come around. Norway's Acute Admission were an unusual punk band but perfect for the archaeologist punks trying to uncover forgotten gems from that largely unscathed hardcore era of the early `80s.

Before recording a demo, the band released a wonderfully primitive three song EP. It sounds like a garage recording and the vocals are similar to a young CCM in many ways. CIA ­ KGB is a great chanted riff while Superstjerne is more typically punk with shitty guitar solo and everything. Shit, these kids were 13 when they recorded this.

Man, I loved these guys. I remember getting this tape and just staring at the cover all the time. It was a wall of skulls and to my sixteen-year-old mind it was a trip. In one short year, the band had progressed hugely largely due to the singers voice finally breaking so he didn't sound like a little kid anymore and more like a super fucked Pere Ubu. The songs are also a lot faster and tighter. Fast is a cheap and easy way to cover your tracks if you have trouble sounding tight. I remember as a kid thinking that there was something really strange about this recording that I couldn't put my finger on. You know when you hear something and you just instinctively know something odd is going on but you can't actually isolate one sound or instrument as being the source? That's the same with this recording. Years later, I realize that the PA is feeding back while they're playing and they didn't really bother to stop and fix it.

The band would go on to appear on several amazing compilations like ROIR's World Class Punk, Cleanse The Bacteria and a couple of the BCT comps. But they never recorded another tape or record.

 

EXECUTE - '82 demo
EXECUTE - flexi
EXECUTE - Hardcore Temptation 7"
EXECUTE - Criminal Flowers 7"
EXECUTE - An Omen Of Fear 7"

I used to love Japanese hardcore. I'm from Hawaii, so Japanese cultural is everywhere. I remember looking through some big Japanese glossy fashion mag. It had a spread on punk with amazing photos of punk kids all done up wearing GISM shirts and crazy safety pins. It was a huge turn on. I was really hooked.

Nowadays everyone who is fascinated with old school Japanese hardcore mostly think of GISM and Gauze and not much else. I like those bands. But they were never near the top of my list. The Execute, Stalin, Confuse, these were the bands that I really loved. Nowadays nobody remembers The Execute and it's a shame.

The band came out punching with a live recording in 1982 released as a demo tape. It's a muddy sound but it's big. It's not your typical demo as they're pretty tight and sound like a band ready to record. The tape is really worth hunting down for people who dig the band as only three of the eight tracks were ever re-recorded for subsequent vinyl releases. The tracks did find their way onto one of the Execute LP singles collections.

The group's debut flexi is the band at their rawest. The singer belts it out like he's been gargling glass. It's actually quite reminiscent of the old LA peace punk band Iconoclast. Even the guitar sound is similarly riffy without getting too metal. Highlights are definitely Answer and Peace, Japan (though the demo version is also great).

From Pushead on down, people think of the Hardcore Temptation EP as being the quintessential Execute document. It's a fantastic hardcore record. The vocals are as good as ever. The production is good but avoids `80s trappings. The real breakthrough is the additional guitar work that while maybe trying to be metal, is more harmonically driven. And it's not overloaded with solos. Final Attack is a classic and blows away the version that appears on the P.E.A.C.E. comp. When you consider what else was coming out in 1983, it was easy to see how this might seem like the most brutal record on the face of the planet. In the pre-E.N.T./Concrete Sox/Heresy world, this was shocking hardcore.

Criminal Flowers is the group's attempt to branch out a little. I guess in some ways the intro to the title track should have been an indication that by the end of their run they would be doing goth shit like The Antagonistic Shadow. Yeah, that singing is kind of weird on the title track. But the band redeem themselves on Slash and Moron turning in two of their best thrash tracks. Even the fucking fade-in on the Moron, which I usually hate, works.

The group's final EP was 1986's An Omen Of Fear. A lot of people were slagging off bands like The Execute for getting too metal. It's funny because if we all knew then what we know now about how metal was going to totally poison the scene in much bigger ways than a few extra guitar solos, we would still be embracing the Execute and going after the real crossover bullshit. This record is for the most part straight hardcore with a few metal guitar parts. But the production is raw and avoids most of the drum and vocal polish that for me really marks the worst aesthetic elements of crossover metal. I don't know. Maybe they wanted Your Eyes to sound like Maiden but just couldn't get there. It's better this way, that's for sure. At any rate, the band seemed to have run their course by this time. Hardcore groups aren't really meant to progress and therefore, they're not really meant to last. That's okay. DC was one of the only scenes to realize this.

Two other tracks well worth mentioning are Sag and The Voice from the Great Punk Hits compilation. The recording feels like it fits somewhere between the flexi and Hardcore Temptation.

 

MOB 47 - Karnvapen Attack EP
MOB 47 - Racist Regime LP

I got to know Mob 47 from the P.E.A.C.E. comp. They were one of the bands that really stood out for me and I wrote to them. I had this weird fear that Karnvapen Attack was their "hit" and the rest of their set might be throwaway stuff. I was really happy to find out that the first EP was totally solid. Every song had distinction even if it took little start/stop gimmicks. I had never heard a record that sounded like it was cheaply recorded, but you could still weirdly hear everything clearly. It was a different way of looking records. You didn't have to hear every instrument all the time. Sometimes bass or drums are just implied. This record like some of the other early European hardcore records were great contributions to our way of looking at cheap recordings.

If the nine song EP seemed like a lot of music crammed onto a little piece of vinyl, Racist Regime was an opus. The 20 song bootleg is a non-stop barrage that pieces together several different recordings mostly from the groups 1986 demo and 1983 Hardcore Attack demo though neither is featured in complete. While the 1986 final demo is crisp and clean and totally proficient, it lacks the energy and ultimately the distorted noise of the '83 material. This material is closest to that of the EP and is perfect for anyone wanting more of the same. Another bonus of the early group versus the later group is it seems like only a young punk band would write a song like Fuck Bowie.

 

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