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By Jim Testa The Reverb Motherfuckers play it, record labels avoid it, fanzines love it, the Lismar Lounge books it, and Mykel Board says he named it. What're we talking about? We're talking scum. Scum Rock. Catchy little moniker, ain't it? Of course, like most labels, nobody's really sure what it means. The term's been floating around for a while, although it really started to catch on when Mykel Board profiled the New York "Scum Rock" scene last summer in "Downtown" magazine. You could define it geographically: Scum Rock bands play in the Bermuda Triangle of Manhattan clubland bordered by the Pyramid Club to the east, Downtown Beirut II on Houston Street to the south, and venerable CBGB to the west. The fact that the Bowery is as close as any of these bands ever get to midtown should tell you something right away. All of these clubs - and let's not forget the Lismar Lounge, Nightingale's Bar, or little unmarked holes-in-the-wall like Chameleon, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut or ABC No Rio while we're at it - live up to most people's expectations of scumminess. The bands that play these places by and large can't get gigs anywhere else, and most of them don't want to. It's not that Scum bands don't take their music seriously; just that, more often than not, they don't take themselves very seriously at all. Like the Reverb Motherfuckers, who take off their clothes and cover themselves with bar-b-q sauce, or Porno Dracula, who do a credible Iggy Goes Las Vegas thing. We are not talking careerism, here, that's for sure. Scum Rock bands don't have any set sound, unless "LOUD" qualifies as a genre unto itself these days. Lots of these bands stoke the flames of the 70's revival (cf. Sub-Pop, Seattle, Raging Slab, and Das Damen for more on that). Freaks, whose day-glo orange presskits and comic-book caricature flyers suggest a trippy, Roger Corman Acid Rock thing, tend to flounder once John Fay starts cranking out the 15th or 16th grungey Led-en solo of their set, but they have their moments. The Ex-Lovers (formerly Traci Lord's Ex-Lovers) don't even look scummy, and their sound is as sweet as chocolate syrup mixed with seltzer. This band makes a yummy egg cream kind of sound . Chris Parrish of Holy Crow looks (and sounds) like Joan Jett and her band has this great Ramones Go To Hell grunge-punk kick, while the runty guys in Hammerbrain, with their spikey hair and tattoos, look like they're gonna gob on ya while they're spewing out their angry, fiery punktoons. "At this point," says Mykel Board, the dean of Scum Rock critics, "Scum Rock has to be any band that won't deny it." See, most of these combos - including the ones I just mentioned - hate being called Scum Rock. The biggest problem is that in Board's original Scum article, he intimated that most scum bands don't play their instruments very well or sing in tune or write good songs, a notion that the bulk of the scum scene denies vehemently. "I'm too young to remember, but it seems to me that everything they used to say about Punk, they're saying now about Scum," says Jon Ment, a sometime-college student, fanzine editor, as well as bassist/singer for the band Slugfest. "I agree that there is a scum scene and I wouldn't deny we're a Scum Rock band, but I don't agree with the stuff Mykel Board wrote about scum bands not being very talented." Frankly, I think Ment is exactly right. Scum bands may be casual about re-tuning between every song, but they are far from untalented - and it's exactly the same sort of reverse snobbism that plagued the Punk scene of the late '70's. In defense of punk rock, I need only point out that the biggest selling album of 1976 (the year in which Never Mind The Bollocks...Here's The Sex Pistols was released) was Frampton Comes Alive!, a masterpiece of well-tuned guitar playing and in-key vocals. And I don't really have to point out which record is still listened to 13 years later, do I? Some of the other cool bands making the scum scene include the Unsane (not to be confused with the 8 or 9 other bands called The Unsane going around nowadays, including a really sucky one on New Renaissance Records). Gerard Cosloy picked the NYC Unsane as Best New Live Thrash/Fusion Band (or something) in the last Flipside poll, and he's right. They're real good. Not your typical 3-piece death thrash combo, these guys are loud and shit, but tuneful too, and good lookin'. You can tell they're Thrash/Fusion 'cos they all look so different from one another - the drummer is a blond hippie type, the lead singer/gtr is a tall skinny dude in a baseball cap, and the bassist is a skinhead. (How come if there's a skinhead or a girl in the band, it's always the bassist?) Another excellent if scummy band to watch for is The Thing, fronted by Jesse Ostbaum, who's been kicking around New York looking for a band to be magnificent in for about 5 years now. Well, he finally found it. Between shooting off firecrackers and smoke bombs and screaming his lungs out and waving his long curly hair at the crowd, Jesse gets to listen to his pal Sal Canzonieri wail out some immensely thick harmonic guitar. These guys got the psychokiller melodramatics of the Buttholes, the killer punk- crunch of White Zombie, and the post-psychedelic drone of the Velvet Monkeys at their most possessed. The Thing swears they're not Scum Rock either. Bands like Pussy Galore, the Buttholes, B.A.L.L. (with Shimmydisc's Mark Kramer on bass and Velvet Monkey Don Fleming on guitar), and Sharkey's Machine helped influence and create the Scum Rock scene - but most of those bands have released albums, toured, and play nicer clubs. Call them Scum Alumni. GWAR are Viking Scum. (Any band on Shimmydisc has at least one foot in the slime, by the way. The label's trademark horseshit guitar sound and Manny's Garage-caliber production make almost any Shimmydisc release at least part Scummy.) Ed Gein's Car plays out with the scum bands an awful lot; they're scum-by-association (and, as a New York hardcore band that's neither teenaged, positive, straightedge or on Buy Our Records, they have no real constituency of their own anyway.) Last, and probably even least, nothing on Scum Rock would be complete without some mention to Letch Patrol. If you read Maximum Rock 'N Roll, you probably already know the name - they hold the record for most consecutive mentions in a Scene Report. In fact, self-promotion is what they do best. Lead singer Harris Pankin (who, more than any other human being, sums up the word SCUM in everything he does) even turned the Thompkins Square Park police riot in a Letch Patrol media circus, turning up repeatedly on the evening news and talk shows in a Letch Patrol t-shirt, making sure to mention the band in between showing off a nasty scalp wound (courtesy of some out-of-control NYC cop's nightstick). Unfortunately, Letch Patrol keeps falling apart at the seams, losing and finding new members. Without a viable lineup for 1989's Scum Fest at CBGB, they did the next best thing - took the stage, made an elaborate show of tuning up for about 15 minutes, and then lip-synched their single. Letch Patrol really epitomizes what Scum Rock is all about - making do at the bottom rung of the rock 'n roll ladder, coping with a dying club scene and an indifferent public, finding ways to make music and have fun. And if you can throw a few pies into the face of proper society while you're at it, all the better.] Scum Rock's Greatest Shit "On The Rag Compilation" w/ Hammerbrain, Roadkill, Ex-Lovers (Urban Rag Records) Letch Patrol "Love Is Blind"/"Axe To Grind" 45 Honeymoon Killers "You Turn Me On" EP Buy Our Records The Thing 6 Sick Songs Cassette Reverb Motherfuckers "Route 666" lp Bands Only A Mutha Could Love Compilation CD Mutha Records X-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-X Another file downloaded from: The NIRVANAnet(tm) Seven & the Temple of the Screaming Electron Taipan Enigma 510/935-5845 Burn This Flag Zardoz 408/363-9766 realitycheck Poindexter Fortran 510/527-1662 Lies Unlimited Mick Freen 801/278-2699 The New Dork Sublime Biffnix 415/864-DORK The Shrine Rif Raf 206/794-6674 Planet Mirth Simon Jester 510/786-6560 "Raw Data for Raw Nerves" X-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-X

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