Riff Raff

By Bryce Dunn

Hello once again! Summer is upon us and the living is easy, as they say, but it’s always better when good music is playing. To begin, why not indulge in the summer sounds of the Throwaways, from their newly minted split release with the Spastic Panthers. In fact, there is even a “Summer Song” to get you in the lovesick mood, and that spills over into their ode to “Mikey Erg!” leader of the now defunct seminal pop-punk group the Ergs! (Just for the record guys, in reference to the lyric, “I don’t know where you are today or what you’re doing now” he’s in the awesome band Psyched To Die, check’ em out!). The other two tracks, “Pterodactyl Clap” and “Got A Problem?” sound like a thrashier, noisier version of the Brentwoods or the Tourettes. Live, these gals and guy rip it up: yours truly has watched them and grinned from ear to ear as a result. I can’t say I feel the same about the Spastic Panthers, however, as they barrel through four songs of mid-’80s hardcore/skate rock that just don’t do much for me. It’s played expertly enough and they seem to be having a blast, but I have difficulty getting past a song called “(I’m Gonna) Punch You In The Dink” that’s sung by a bunch of guys approaching an age not befitting the exploits of a troublemaking three year old. Know what I mean? While “Volatile,” a short and bulbous blast of Black Flag worship, fares better as a sequel to their Rock and Roll Beasts EP, it doesn’t stray far from the formula of the hardcore punk style of Jerry’s Kids or the Circle Jerks.

Here’s a question: are you setting yourself up for failure by calling your newest EP Too Dumb To Quit? Knowing that this title has probably been used a million times over to signal the death knell of any band past its prime, it’s good to know that the Radio Reelers don’t take themselves too seriously. They are, however, serious enough to rock the heck out on their latest slab. Four songs of fast living, fire-breathin’ rock (with choice covers of the Problematics and the Pogues, no less) grace my wine-coloured copy. I reviewed a single in 2001(!), and they haven’t changed one iota thanks to their Ramones-meets-Devil Dogs songbook. Too dumb to quit? Nay, too smart to die.

Finally, when you think of the City by the Bay, you think of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf as picturesque cultural landmarks. Now,those San Francisco icons have been tainted with a significant amount of East Bay Grease, my friends, and the stuff is sticky and tricky to remove. Led by the enigmatic entertainer Harold Ray (formerly of HRLIC) along with members of Drunk Horse, Red Meat and the Deadly Snakes, East Bay Grease makes music to drink, fight and love to and their debut is a can of whoop-ass. It’s unleashed by a honky-tonked version of the Nervous Eaters proto-punk classic “Just Head” along with two of their own: “Happily Married Man” and “Brass Digger” (the latter tune noteworthy because of its tongue planted firmly in tobacco-stuffed cheek ode to desperate women looking for love in all the wrong places). But lest you think Johnny Lee is the only point of reference, think Tower of Power and whiskey-soaked boogie rock, and you’ve got yourself covered in East Bay Grease, too.

See you in a few!

The Throwaways/Spastic Panthers: Handsome Dan Records
Radio Reelers: Meaty Beaty Records
East Bay Grease: Classic Bar Music