LA Punk Report
By Glenn E. Friedman
(This article was first published in the UK weekly Sounds magazine on April 10th 1982)
LOS ANGELESE is happening - no lame hype here. LA has never been respected anywhere for anything for years (except maybe its movies and year round nice weather) until now, where in the US and other parts of the globe it is regarded as the core of true hardcore punk (if you must label it).
All of Southern California is responsible for what is known as 'LA Punk.' The area is unlike most others where punk has developed to any extreme extent. Basically, because of how spread out the area is (Los Angeles and Orange, the two major counties where punk flourishes in Southern California, cover an area of almost 5,000 square miles), much of the scene is very suburban - a very sharp contrast with those in NY, UK and other major cities. The people are just like most others, they have the obvious will to survive and at the same time be able to live their lives the way they want to, as much as, if not more than, people anywhere else.
The last two years alone have seen the largest amount of growth in a music scene than perhaps ever witnessed throughout the prior decade. There are literally dozens upon dozens of punk bands all over the place, and dozens more getting together all the time. LA has been constantly ridiculed by members of the rock press everywhere because of its attempts at fabricating rock legends out of nothing bands to stay in control of the music industry and to cash in. Well not this time - the LA hardcore are their own, not created or made by anyone but themselves, their frustrations and anguish.
THIS WHOLE big negative thing towards the new music and scene is taken on by a very large portion of the media, from newspapers to television.
It is being assassinated by the same hype that build up all of the fake LA bullshit in the past, and outside of LA it's still not being given the notice it deserves now that there is finally something new and original to offer.
The people who are trying to push it off are scared, they're losing control over what they used to own. The Police Department in LA and surrounding counties also seem to be afraid and are very aware of the power of the Southern California punk. The 'Police Force' (this is what they call themselves) does not support the type of free-thinking freedom at all and therefore they attempt to break up big shows very often. Many times they beat kids up, scaring them away so they will not return to future shows, afraid they may get clobbered by some cop who wants to force his conformed life style down the kids' throats. This, along with the negative and gross overexaggeration of violence shown through the media, has stirred up some attention within the communities.
Most of it has a very negative effect on the overall scene which is basically young, healthy, creative and intelligent.
problems, the Southern California punks thrive and have an enormous power in their numbers, but the power is not at all a violent one.The overall cry is not that of complete anarchy and chaos but one of a type of philosophical anarchy (I hate to use the word, so cliched, but it fits), where the kids can be able to make their own choices, think for themselves - not be told or feel any obligation towards what they must think.
So the fight for survival of the movement is left to the kids, indie record companies, clubs and the bands that bring all of the people together for shows to help it stay alive. It's proven now that the independent labels such as SST, Frontier, Posh Boy, Slash and others, along with the bands, can live without radio airplay as well as sell records and attract large followings. The indies are getting out new music all the time, selling tens of thousands of records, getting the people what they want. There are probably between five and ten thousand hardcore fans in this area now and it's still growing.Most of the early hardcore people were really upset by the enormous growth of the scene, partly because of it's becoming so impersonal at times, unlike the early days when everyone knew each other.
Actually, most of the bands today think the growth is great, not necessarily for the sake of making a couple of extra bucks, but for the fact that now that there are so many people involved, it just makes it that much harder for authority to control it and keeps it very exciting.In LA, the bands and the people are very much parts of each other, meaning that most of what the bands are into, so are the fans. The anti-rockstar, anti-pose thing among the hardcore is still very serious here on all levels, from the kids who are going to shows for their first time to the bands that have played shows for five years.The only club that consistently has punk shows three to four days a week three to six bands a night, is a relatively new club called Godzilla's. It was originally run by an LA based group of punks. The Better Youth Organisation (BYO), who want to keep the scene run by people within it so it stays pure. The BYO is presently in its strongest form to date, since its initial emergence 18 months ago. The support from bands, fans and clubs has helped them get organised into promoting the good aspects of the scene to all those who may be interested. They are presently putting on shows in various halls around the area, bringing together many bands from all over, including UK acts. They will also be releasing records on a BYO label and hopefully be setting up a touring network across the country.
THE PRESENT LA scene's intense popularity came about due to the fearsome aggression and rawness that emerged from early Hollywood area bands like the Germs and the notorious beach bands such as Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and countless others. Black Flag are probably the most popular hardcore band in the country, and for good reasons. They worked hard for it. They are a completely self-managed, self-motivated unit.
In LA, the band have been promoting themselves and their whole idea by putting out their own records on the SST label, spray painting their name almost everywhere and pasting thousands of flyers wherever they could be seen. They do all of this themselves, literally. They have made four successful creepy crawls (tours) of the entire country, playing almost anywhere and everywhere possible, from five thousand seat auditoriums to house parties (at one a couple of months ago I remember, they played iri the kitchen of a friend's house. Henry, the lead singer, remembers, "Yeah! I put my head through the wall there"). Black Flag is real pure, frenzied, emotional, high energy drive. As if you don't already know this band does not compromise!
The Circle Jerks are another one of the old reliables. Their refined, multi-speed mayhem must be seen live to be believed. The singer Keith Morris, was the original singer for Black Flag in 1979.
Soon after, he split and formed the Circle Jerks with Greg Hetson on guitar (formerly of another one of the notorious beach bands. Red Cross) along with drummer Lucky and bassist Roger, to bring about a sound and statement that is as serious at times as Jello Biafra's intense satire and as fast and thrashable as anyone else's around anywhere.
Really clean sound compared to many of the new totally thrashable bands in the US.
Smouldering under LA's towering infernos lie numerous hardcore divisions of defiant punk attack.
Hammering forth staggering doses of unrestrained speed and hardcore rawness. Fear attacks with gruesome jokes and explosive excitement as maniac thrashers gob back in return and enjoy the last laugh.
The youngsters. Wasted Youth, deliver split second boisterous thrusts of abrasive havoc without any real intense messages, just plain old thrash. Nothing too serious with these guys.
Channel 3 frantically rip and tear wild power packed punches of clamorous fury. The threshold of what's to come in high speed flailing with power.
Uncontrolled noise detonates the brain as Aggression and Circle One's hard-hitting, charging rhino attack leaves you bulldozed under.
The Descendants mile a minute seizures dash from incredibly loud brain blistering speed to serious but seemingly comical attempts of life; their sound and anti-rock pose has you hurting for more.
Not far from Disneyland come the Adolescents, suburban youth destined to get your adrenalin pumping with their hyperactive approach to life in the fast lane punk, gnarlier than a ride on the Matterhorn. They represent a transition from } thrash to the political punk pop sound of some LA punk.
Some of these bands include the outrageous Social Distortion and the militaristic Youth Brigade, whose interesting songs assault the unknown barriers of punk with tremendous bursts of spontaneous hardcore combustion induced with charges of absolute exhilaration.
Bad Religion and the Blades are not hesitant about incinerating docile authority, pushing away social pillars intensified with their raw, unrelenting sound.
Shattered Faith roar into splendid glass shattering storm poised with determination and undenying manifestation. Strong lyrical content that is overtly political and loaded with quick insistent rhythms all in less than a minute, typify the Minute Men, determined to deliver their piece.
From punk to death, TSOL (True Sounds Of Liberty), haunting, diversified, aggressive punk sound slices into fear inducing, delirious evil mania leaving you dreaming of gross necrophilia.
Street punk delivered with hard metal thrang from Overkill, can at times be compared to early raw Aerosmith but 10 times more powerful, other times like a more punk version of Motorhead.
Full doses of China White will send staggering chills through your veins as you experience this nitro-punk injection.
From East LA, the Stains metal punk jolts your body with intense hardcore warfare that would make a frantic Doberman foam at the mouth.
This is only a sampling of the assault that is taking place. There are numerous other bands ready to attack. Southern California will not give up. The time is NOW!
(April 10th 1982)
More features from the Don't Care collection of Punk will be displayed here soon! - Peter Don't Care