Sunday, May 18, 2008

The fresh sounds of hardcore

If you're in New York, set your dial to 93.9FM Monday at 2pm; you can also listen live on the web on the WNYC site. I will be on Soundcheck to discuss why it's so hard to find women who rawk hard these days. Oooh, incendiary!

Speaking of rawk, it erupted as if from some broken sewer pipe at Southpaw this past Wednesday when the reunited Negative Approach hit Brooklyn. And hit it did. Holy cow! NA was a classic Detroit hardcore combo that formed in 1981 and released an album on Touch & Go in 1983. For me the main draw in seeing the band now was singer John Brannon, whose post-NA project was Laughing Hyenas. I saw them a couple of times back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and back then I loved the interplay between Brannon's vocals and Larissa Strickland's guitar; they were uneven (and could get too dirgey for my taste) but at their best, the Laughing Hyenas were a worthy American answer to the Birthday Party. Unfortunately they also had a similar penchant for self-destruction, with heroin abuse turning into a big problem. Strickland, who had started as a singer in Detroit's L-Seven (not to be confused with LA's L7), died in November 2006 of a prescription-drugs overdose.

Brannon seems to be doing fine now, and he still has one of the most amazing sets of pipes in rock, a sandpapery growl that can strip paint off walls. On Wednesday, NA showed it had lost nothing of the ferocity that made them a dangerous band 25 years ago. The pit was a chaotic mess and I had to fumigate my clothes after getting home—the beer had literally been flying. I have to say, however, that the guys slamming into each other weren't in the flower of youth. Either NA hasn't turned into a cult that can attract new fans, or the newbies didn't dare face off with the middle-aged meatheads pawing each other in front of the stage (and sometimes on it). The biggest of them all was a humongous mohawked steroid case who at one point seized the bassist's mike to sing along—and turned out to have a little pipsqueaky voice, even though he tried his darnedest to sound tough.

Here's the opening song in its entirety:

Opening band Clockcleaner, a bit of a Dilettante fave, did a short but efficient set that included the awesome "Vomiting Mirrors" and ended with a Negative Approach cover. Nice. Also nice: When frontman John Sharkey, being his usual obnoxious self while testing the reverb on his mike, was pelted with a full cup of beer. It was that kind of night.

Negative Approach "Can't Tell No One" (from Negative Approach EP, 1982)
Negative Approach "Tied Down" (from Tied Down, 1983)
L-Seven "Clear Vision" (1983)
Laughing Hyenas "Candy" (from Merry Go Round CD, 1987/95)
Laughing Hyenas "Hitman" (from Life of Crime, 1990)

1 comment:

judy said...

Awww! Flashback! I sold that ep a couple years ago for something like $300!! I haven't seen them since the very early eighties and meant to go to that show, but am old and forgot about it. Der. Thanks for the report!