Saturday, April 5, 2008

Look Back and Laugh: A Prank Records Crust Primer

Still Life

Southern crust’s Fort Sumter. These gay positive, feminist bunny huggers fired the scene’s first shots and set the tone for what was to follow on their first, and only, full length album, later reissued by Prank.
Antischism set the blueprint for much of what was to come: metal technique welded to punk ferocity, the male and female mic passing and the urgent, jaundiced lyrics that catalogued the time’s ills. Updating the sounds of Dishcarge and Amebix for a death metal and hardcore generation, Antischism’s buzzing attack set the tone for the southern bands that followed and helped keep the crust sound vital more than a decade after its emergence.
Though they flamed out early, members kept the spark burning with stints in Initial State, dotfuckingcom and Guyana Punch Line. Guitarist Kevin Byrd is currently active with a new band, Thank God.

His Hero is Gone
Monuments to Thieves

His Hero is Gone were Southern crust’s darkly melodic lords and their middle child, Monuments to Thieves, saw them surveying their domain in triumph.
The apocalyptic worldview and scalding political diatribes, ringing lead guitar work and scraping riffs transcended the southern crust scene, making HHIG worldwide icons. Staunchly luddite – eschewing the rising internet (though electric instruments and recording studios were somehow kosher?) – and fiercely DIY, the Memphis misanthropes carved a path through punk that generations of lesser lights would continue to tread.
Like weeds they did grow and even after their demise, the band’s seeds took root in the fertile Northwest, pollinating a new generation of punk, including From Ashes Arise and the mighty Tragedy.

Burning Cold
After the Antischism Jr. outing of Rise and Fall, Damad roared back a few years later, crossing Neurosis with Antischism and presaging much of today’s Southern sludge revival with stark songs about alienation, dejection, death and environmental destruction on their second and, sadly, final disc.
Album art by Pushead and production by Billy Anderson, Burning Cold was a buzzing, chugging, churning mess of frustration and anger cemented by guitarist Phillip Cope’s alternately spiraling and excoriating fretwork.
Victoria Scalisi was also one of the most intense and versatile frontwomen to ever hoist a mic. From pint sized pitbull to rabid Donald Duck, Scalisi changed up her vocal style on nearly every one of the album’s eight tracks.
Cope rode the Southern wave with his new band, Kylesa, while Scalisi briefly found a place for her formidable pipes in Karst, but it was Burning Cold that easily cemented the duo’s punk and metal legacy.

Violent Resignation: The Great American Teenage Suicide Rebellion
While it’s hard to imagine the stone faces in His Hero is Gone so much as cracking a smile, Columbia, S.C., merry pranksters In/Humanity never forgot that getting together with your friends to play hardcore is s’posed to be, ya know, fun.
Inspired by Jello Biafra’s savage satire, I/H headman Chris Bickel heaped his sarcasm on whatever target traversed his transit, but his keenest cuts were saved for the harder core than thou punk scene itself. Under the guise of emoviolence, a not so subtle elbow in the ribs to the powerviolence scene on the opposite coast, and occultonomy, a laughable brew of magick and anarchy, Bickel laced his band’s sloppy, spazzy punk with a deadly satiric core.
But emoviolence and occultonomy eventually gave way to a new tongue in cheek movement…

Guyana Punch Line
…Smashism! Bolstered by faux punk sloganeering (“Home Fucking is Killing Prostitution,” “Reality is Elitist”), Chris Bickel, with Antischism’s Kevin Byrd in tow on guitar, realized occasional rehearsals were not anathema and updated and tightened the spastic In/Humanity sound for a new century.
Subtitled Songs to Disturb the Comfortable, Songs to Comfort the Disturbed, Irritainment buzzes, thrashes, stumbles and slithers through 21 tracks of speedy, crusty punk, tongue embedded in cheek, that spends more time excoriating the self righteous punk scene (“Skinz and Punks,” “Old Guy in the Pit,” “Punk Rock Sloganeering”) than it does ripping on corporate greed, political apathy and douchebaggery in general.
At a time when punk when seemed comfortable with formula, rules and that 2X4 rammed up its collective ass, Bickel and Co. philosophized with a hammer and were a refreshing middle finger to the scene itself, which is about as punk as fuck as you can get.

Scrotum Grinder
The Greatest Sonic Abomination Ever

Hailing from Tampa, where sweatpantsed, white sneakered death metal reigned, at first glance, the band’s moniker and choice of album title scream tired Carcass clone retread.
Instead, The Greatest Sonic Abomination Ever, southern crust’s rear guard, was one of the burliest albums to grace Prank’s roster to that point. This Florida enclave’s sole album was a late entry to the Southern crust scene, but it makes up for its tardiness with sheer sonic heft.
Sure they devote a good chunk of the album to beating up on Ronald Reagan, a man who had been out of office for 12 years and was sliding into senility, but with every red tied Republican falling over themselves to name drop #40 during the presidential primary, it comes off less late than prescient in retrospect.

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