Off the Charts
In 2003’s power-pretty punk parade, FM Knives/Exploding Hearts (R.I.P.)/Briefs easily equaled Undertones/Generation X/999 circa 1978-79, but none of them quite managed a Singles Going Steady or Pure Mania (look it up, kids) or Crossing the Red Sea With the Adverts. Seattle’s deliriously voice-cracking Briefs (featur- ing Steve E. Nix!) do turn the Adverts’ Gary Gilmore song into a discussion of Gary Glitter’s kiddie-porn problems, however. Their previous album took on Bob Seger and Dolly Parton and crazy girls with knives. This year the crazy girls wield hammers instead, unless they’re found dead after kissing you in a church parking lot. And the Americans forget the president and the national debt because they can’t read.
“Money or Your Life” has even more fun eating the rich than the Briefs did in 2001’s “Poor and Weird,” but the only other major political statement on the latest from San Diego’s brutal Dragons (featuring Alejandro Escovedo’s baby brother!) is the maybe Jose Padilla-inspired “Dirty Bomb,” which comes out in favor of radioactive explosions. (The part-Hispanic/ part-Asian American band’s previous Rock n Roll Kamikaze had warplane pictures, and emerged right around 9-11-01.) Elsewhere, lotsa full-throttle skull-and-crossbones ride-or-die bumper stickers for bar-stooled bikers, live-in-studio lunch-bucket pub-shout metal for hearty men who remember the Count Bishops, and better Eau Claire puns than Cheap Trick.
La La La
The asterisk is theirs, and has been, on and off, since the late ’70s. The radioactive-explosion song is a despairing staccato onslaught called “Heat Seeking Missile, Destroys Your Self Respect” that aims to blow up the planet like a rocket from the tombs. The crazy-girl-with-knives song is “Swimming Pool Filled With Trash.” The suicide note starts as a ridiculously catchy “I wanna” list. “You’re a Real Mother F*cker” opens with Beethoven, then sets “going to war with the world will not improve our reality” to the album’s most propulsive Farfisa. The rhythm section owes its slimy vamps to Motown or the Music Machine. The flat, sardonic Chicago accent up front might owe its drug-punk existentialism to the Fugs or Flipper or (very early) Flaming Lips. The guitarist squeals feedback all over the place, and frequently sounds sad about it. The previous album, Oh No It’s the C*nts, was released in a limited edition of 1,000, and sounded even more brain-damaged.