Last night brought another fruitful practice with Desperado, the Linda Ronstadt tribute band that Tyson and I have been fooling around with. I can hear that sneer curling your lips from here, but I stand by this project – say what you will about Ms. Ronstadt (the Eagles are kinda her fault, and that's hard to forgive), she had excellent taste in songwriters, so essentially this is a chance to work up our own versions of songs by the likes of Lowell George, Warren Zevon, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Gram Parsons, Roy Orbison, even Judee Sill if we feel like it. Plus I get to examine my own relationship with the woman who most shaped my particular tastes in feminine pulchritude … as a pre-teen I hung a large poster of Linda’s image from the back cover of the Prisoner in Disguise LP above my bed, a tight close-up highlighting her thick brunette tresses, lush bow-tie lips, adorable button nose and coy wide-eyed gaze. I’ve been helpless ever since.
The past week also brought me a virus for my laptop … if your computer is suddenly overcome with pop-up advertisements for a Microsoft product called “XP Police,” well, it’s too late, but just know that despite clever graphic design it isn’t a Microsoft product at all, but rather an irritating virus believed to have originated in Russia. It announces that the computer has been infected and forcibly directs you to a webpage telling you the only way to clean it out is purchasing this fake software. After hours of work, the main problem (hundreds of pop-ups) is gone, but the thing still runs so slow that it’s essentially useless. Most of the files I have backed up elsewhere, but that information is scattered among dozens of discs. No matter the outcome here, it's going to be an expensive inconvenience.
I could tell you how my mood has been lately, but what's the point? I feel pretty good today, and that's all that matters to me right now.
This massive international punk compilation was organized by the infamous MDC and released on the band's R. Radical Records label in 1984. The worldwide hardcore scene was at its peak at this point, still underground enough to repel corrupting outside influences like major labels and heavy metal, but already hardened into a rigid aesthetic and political dogma that often encouraged groupthink and musical conformity. Peace War documents the state of Reagan-era hardcore, just before the popularity of extreme music spread through decidedly non-radical camps and into the mainstream. Among the 55 bands on board are well-known acts like the Dead Kennedys, Crass, Butthole Surfers, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and D.O.A., but the best tracks are courtesy of obscure groups representing local scenes from Argentina to South Africa to Japan. Most of the bands included retain, either through design or some bizarre quirk of ineptitude, a stamp of individuality on their sound that makes this an entertaining collection. The Italian bands, such as Negazione, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, and Declino, provide the most brutal attack, creating a blurry din of speed, distortion, and hoarse caterwauling. Japan's G.I.S.M. stands out with a metallic crunch, cartoonish vocals, and great lines like "They detest to awake you from fool." Taking the prize for the shortest tracks are PPG (aka Pounds of Polluted Garbage) and Zero Defex, both from Ohio, who turn out moronic anti-nuke anthems with skills so rudimentary they defy description. Other highlights include great breakneck rock from nearly forgotten bands like Iconoclast, the Offenders, Reagan Youth, and the Dicks. An extensive booklet insert is packed with political rants, cartoons, and suggestions for further reading, making explicit the double-LP's theme of activism and action against a corrupt authority. Plus, each band is provided with a full page to express their ideas (and plug their wares) with printed lyrics and crudely effective collage art. Peace War was reissued on CD in 1997 by New Red Archives, dampening the archival quality of the compilation somewhat by tacking on a few tracks from some of the label's current Clintonian punk bands. FRED BELDIN
While Halloween is given credit for establishing the groundwork for the teen-slasher flick phenomenon of the 1980s, it was the success of this underachiever that ensured a glut of routine splatter-fests. Suddenly no summer camp in America was safe, and fornicating youngsters were being dispatched with extreme prejudice, especially on holidays. Friday the 13th is fun for genre enthusiasts primarily as a compendium of clichés, none of which originated here but exist in abundance. False scares, a crusty old-timer who tries to warn the kids, a premonitory dream of rain and blood, a full moon, cut telephone wires, discordant violins -- it's all on display without apology, along with the greatest cliché of them all, a cunning killer who screws up by taking the time to explain her motivation to the final victim. The youthful camp counselors are a lot more wholesome and likable than the crass, amoral bunch that appear in similar films, but it doesn't stop us from reveling in each demise. This is a film with a body count, and the audience isn't encouraged to mourn. Still, Friday the 13th is far less gory than the imitations that followed (despite an effective axe-in-the-face effect), and in a "seen one, you've seen 'em all" genre like slasher films, this is the only entry that most casual viewers will need to witness. FRED BELDIN
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! I hope you all get whatever you deserve.
PS. The End Times hit the New Frontier Lounge in sunny Tacoma WA this Saturday evening, yes that's right Valentine's Day. Our perpetual foils Pillow Army will also perform. If you live in Tacoma and you think you can handle it, then I dare you. We don't know much about this New Frontier place, but apparently it's totally cool.
I've been moody the past week for vague, unknowable reasons ... long-frustrated plans are finally in motion, blood reds cool into mellow pinks and certain puzzles yield clues I could not have foreseen, yet still my default setting is low gear. Ours is a neverending futility, with each victorious advance bringing new proof that nothing matters. But "act as if" might be the best advice I've gotten in years.
Both End Times weekend performances went very well, thank you, and it was non-stop action from start to finish. At various points over the past 48 hours, we: Played in two cities, drank Sparks, got waylaid by a boxing match, received free pizza and bourbon, stole a TV, hung out in the pantry, listened to Charlie Rich and the Turtles on the jukebox (real records with skips and everything) and heard a band from Port Townsend called The Solvents who were very good. Oh, and Abi bought a cat. Thanks, everybody.