After the summer of 1987 I returned to Perrysburg Junior High School to find a few of my punk friends sporting Dead shirts. Being 13 and slightly more clueless than I currently am, I assumed they were a punk or metal band... I mean hippies wouldn't be into skulls, right? I still recall the vexed look on the face of the woman at Sam Goody as I purchased My War as well as the first Grateful Dead album. Said look had nothing on the look of horror on my face as the needle hit the groove upon my return home—then I put on the Dead LP.
I smashed hippie record within moments of the first side ending, called Matt Burson on the phone and told him he was a posuer and he told me that I'd get more pussy listening to the Dead than I'd ever get listening to Black Flag. I was fuming and hung up the phone. I tried listening to the Black Flag record again, stopped after the title track and went out to skate.
Lessons to be learned:
• My War still sucks
• So does the Dead
• Hippies like skulls
• Girls are awesome.
Furthermore, My War is an abortion of a record, the title track is almost okay but other than that it sounds like some high school band from like Antioch, California or something. I actually sold the copy mentioned in this tale in like 1989. I recently had mountains of trade credit at Amoeba, and so when I saw a copy of My War for like $3.99 I picked it up, figuring its been like what nearly twenty years, I'll give it another shot. I mean, I shouldn’t just rely on my memory, as it does tend to fail me from time to time these days—for which I’d like to publicly blame Matt Mindieta and his sock drawer filled with random pills and acid.
I made it through the title track and then skipped around trying to find a good part. Then I flipped it over to the vomit on vinyl that is side two. The meandering riffs, the faux poetic angst of Rollins layered over the proto-sludge fecal-esque fretboard masturbation… does it get any worse than this? I quickly filed it away to be sold sometime in the future.
In summation, “My War" the song is the last, dying breath of a vicious beast, a ferocious monster of a band which sent shivers of fear into the hearts of mothers worldwide as it creepy crawled across the earth, in turn being a catalyst for DIY punk rock in town both great and small—while the remainder of the album is said beast bowels relaxing and all the waste being released… one steaming pile of festering detritus which earns its place in my top three records only because it serves as a monument to what I don’t want in a record, what I don’t want in music, what I don’t want in life—no more pretentious filler, I want it all stripped down to the raw core.
I suppose this is a more roundabout way of stating that what first really moved me, first shook me to the core, is Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown. It was this record, which more than anything I’ve heard before or sense, which really made the world make sense… I mean we’re talking about someone who made two attempts on his own life at the age of fourteen and thanks solely to nerves and the lack of understanding how one overdoses on pills (like 25 aspirin doesn’t quite do it, just fyi) I made it out to tell the tale. It was like every ounce of alienated teen angst I had every felt had been laid to rest upon the grooves and each time I spun it the tingles ran up and down my spine… fuck even to this day, the reaction is the same. This is the record that made realize, that no matter how much I try, how much I pretend—I cannot and will not be one of them.
Where will it end? Where will it end? Where will it end? Where will it end?
Around the same time as the aforementioned travesty of my friends turning into hippies and become obsessed with the Grateful Dead, I acquired the rather ironic taste for lysergic acid diethylamide. So, while my newly tie dyed and Birkenstocked formerly raging friends would prefer to spend their early evenings staring into the sun down by the Maumee River listening to Jerry regale them with tales of Casey Jones or some sort of mystical darkened star, my preferred soundtrack for the melting of my mind remained the brooding Unknown Pleasures. Taking an opposite sonic approach from temper-tantrum filled, primal rage fest which was Nervous Breakdown, Joy Division spoke to the same dark places in my head that Black Flag did, but did so in an even more embittered manner. More than any other track, the song “Dead Souls” provided the perfect accompaniment to a life growing up in town which amounted to little more than a series of farms connected by strip malls on laid out on the outskirts of the rusting Midwestern city of Toledo, Ohio. I would take copious amounts of psychedelics and just wander around listening to this tape over and over on my Walkman. Decades later, despite the straight edge, despite the departure from said town, despite the general reduction of teen angst; the darkness of the record continues to move me, continues to inspire, and continues connect with me in a way that is difficult to describe.
Walking in cage everyday, I wonder what makes us live this way…
Fucked Up came into my life like a bomb. It’s weird to have such a recent record have such a major impact into my life, but so it goes, Litany is such a record. Its odd because I’m so jaded, I’m so cynical—but the laser focused sentiments come plowing through the the sea of tuneless paddle thrash that makes up so much of hardcore in this day and age. Litany is the aging punk rocker’s Age of Quarrel, and while that record sums up everything one needs to know about the 1980s, Litany provides the aftermath. The tale of questions which remain when the promise to live an exemplary life goes astray, only to become mired in the grinding repetition of just making a living, and forgetting to make a life. Every and anytime I place this record on the turntable, or the tracks come shuffling on my iPod, I’m forced to give pause and just think about what I’m doing with myself, the broken promises I made to myself to inspire and be inspired, as well as a constant reminder of what could have been and my need for more life.
This was originally written for my friend Chrissy Piper'sThree Records zine. You should order one from her.