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Written by David Lichius
Wednesday, 05 April 2006
Los Angeles greaser-punkers the Bronx played a set that served notice that they might be the best live punk band in the universe.

Wrote opening act Riddle of Steel in an alarmist MySpace bulletin: “If you arrive at 7 p.m., you will be too late to see us, and most likely you won’t get in because this shit will SELL THE FUCK OUT. ARRIVE EARLY. 6:30pm.”

And on February 15, in front of the Creepy Crawl, a group of people had arrived early. Whether or not ROS’s message prompted them was unknown. However, the warning turned out to be unnecessary, as Riddle didn’t start playing until 7:20—and the crowd, though solid, was not at capacity.

After ROS and Ottawa, Canada’s Buried Inside came the thundering drum-and-bass duo, Big Business. Big Business had played the STL on two previous occasions, both performances rather dull and disappointing. This time would be different.

As they took stage, it was apparent that Big Business had brought along some new twists. Aurally, Jared Warren’s vocal effects were far more noticeable than before. In fact, before they started, Warren wrapped his mic with a dingy, old-man hanky. Also at his feet was a wired toy keyboard that he stepped on throughout the show.

By adding new tracks from their four-track, tour-only CD, Big Business breathed some freshness into their set. They also touched on tunes from their debut Head for the Shallow, including “O.G.,” “Easter Romantic,” and “Off Off Broadway.” For the first time in three St. Louis appearances, Big Business received a healthy dose of claps and appreciation from the assembled masses.

Los Angeles greaser-punkers the Bronx played a set that served notice that they might be the best live punk band in the universe. Sailing their ship to sea, Matt Caughthran masterfully guided the Bronx through their set. As they opened with “Heart Attack American,” their fans screamed in recognition. Fast, raucous, and filled with positive energy, Caughthran—sporting a Kix “Blown Fuse Tour 1989” tee—moved around the stage testifying his way through “White Tar,” “They Will Kill Us All,” “Bats,” and others, passing out dedications left and right. Recipients included the ocean, the Creepy Crawl bar staff, Dapper Dan’s, and former NFL running back Sammy Winder. Through all this, Caughthran even found time to jump into the crowd for a little bonding. Verdict: an excellent set by an excellent band.

Then came High on Fire, which brought to mind the infamous Casey Kasem outtakes in which the furious DJ profanely complained about the transition that led from an upbeat song straight into a long-distance dedication about the death of a little dog named Snuggles. This night had a similar situation, minus one dead canine.

After the Bronx’s up-tempo set, transitioning back to High on Fire’s vibe was impossible. High on Fire are without a doubt one of the best metal outfits in the world today. However, given the circumstances on this night, High on Fire was an annoying and colossal bore.

Break Down | Chin Up Chin Up

Break Down | Chin Up Chin Up

Written by David Lichius

By the time Chin Up Chin Up blows through SXSW and wraps up recording their second LP, vocalist Jeremy Bolen should be feeling just fine. That is, if he catches all the breaks.

“I think by then I’ll probably be close to something of breakdown of some sort,” Bolen said.

Slated to enter the studio in May, CUCU is already feverishly practicing five days a week preparing the tracks that will make up their yet-to-be-named record.

“Making an album is always a very, very tough process because it takes everything out of you,” Bolen said. “We’ve been really concentrating on writing the album because we still have a lot to do with it.”

Bolen stated that the new disc, slated for release October 11, would be more of a rock record than We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers, but would still possess a sound that is unmistakably Chin Up Chin Up. However, before CUCU hits the studio, they are getting yanked away from their bunker for a couple of shows at SXSW…not just another gig, in other words.

“We’re really excited about it and are treating it with a lot of care,” Bolen said. “We’ve already had talks about how were going to have to watch our alcohol intake, because we’re playing a show at noon that has free beer and then we’re off to play a show at ten.” The later show will be at the showcase of their new label, Suicide Squeeze. This could have produced a strange dynamic, as Chin Up Chin Up’s new bass player, Jesse Woghin, is the co-owner of their former label, Flameshovel.

“It’s definitely something that could have been a sticky situation. [Woghin and James Kenler, Flameshovel’s other co-owner] were both really cool about it,” Bolen said. “They’re friends of ours and were very supportive of the growth.”

And what does Bolen have planned when SXSW and their record is all said and done?

“I plan on not picking up a guitar,” Bolen said with a laugh.

TONE: SOLIDARITY (NEUROT RECORDINGS)

TONE: SOLIDARITY (NEUROT RECORDINGS)

To love Tone is to love repetition. This Washington, D.C. eight-piece grabs a hook and rides it for all it’s worth. This post-punk, instrumental outfit has followed up 2003’s Ambient Metals with Solidarity that turns the tempo down a bit, but is no less compelling. On paper, the concept of playing a single melody with the occasional curve ball thrown in may not sound all that interesting. However, this octet pulls it off with relative ease. With five guitarists at their disposal, Tone layers their tracks creating a much fuller and thicker sound. As with their previous records, the songs on Solidarity are on the longer side—seven tracks in 54 minutes. Thankfully, they have a firm grip on building a composition to a fitting crescendo as evidenced by post–ten-minute tracks “The Willing” and closer “Texas.” On the other hand, “Sketch” does not spend time winding up, as it is full throttle from the start. It just so happens to be the shortest song on Solidarity.

Good, but not great, Solidarity isn’t the best record they’ve recorded—Ambient Metals holds that distinction—yet it is a worthy and solid return after a three-year absence. | David Lichius

RIYL: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Trans Am, Fugazi
MERCURY RADIO THEATER: THE BLUE EYED MODEL (FRICTION/LUJO)

On The Blue Eyed Model, Philadelphia’s Mercury Radio Theater continues its combination of splitting up their musical tracks—which its Man or Astro-man–inspired surf—with narrative tracks that slowly piece together a story. Mercury Radio has chosen to tell “the story of Gregor, a young collegiate with a penchant for making his own coed out of the leftovers of his blind dates.” In addition, the disc also comes with a 24-page booklet filled with artwork that illustrates the story. Suffice to say, this is not your typical record. Foregoing the status quo in favor of experimentation is wonderful when it works. However, in this case, the experiment is a miserable failure.

If judged solely by the musical tracks, this release would fall in positive territory. However, when you break the music up with self-indulgent narratives, the record transforms into an unmitigated disaster. The concept is bad enough, but the voice of the narrator, speaking with an accent straight out of the Renaissance Festival, pushes the disc down the basement steps. Simply put, The Blue Eyed Model is an ostentatious, laughable mess. | David Lichius
The Ladies | They Mean Us (Temporary Residence)

Hella’s Zach Hill and Pinback’s Rob Crow—known here as the Ladies—might not seem like a duo that would collaborate. However, on their debut LP They Mean Us, the Ladies show that two distinctive sounds can combine and produce a record that contains attributes of both mother bands and not be an aural train wreck. While Crow throws in melodies and vocals that any Pinback fan will surely recognize, the songs on They Mean Us are accompanied, and at times interrupted, by Hill’s herky-jerky, unconventional drumming style.

On the lead track “Black Caeser/Red Sonja,” Crow chirps in with his distinctive vocals and a melody that could have been found on a Pinback B-side. However, around 40 seconds in, the melody stops and Hill takes over for the next 35 seconds, only for the song to shift back to Crow and the air that commenced the track. In addition to the Hella/Pinback interplay, the Ladies throw in a tad of Storm and Stress’s schizophrenic improvised vibe (see “Mandatory Psycho Freakout”). In the end, They Mean Us honestly sounds equal parts Hella and equal parts Pinback. With that combination, you have a winner of a record that should appeal to fans of both outfits and even those curiously looking over the fence. | David Lichius
Henry Rollins: The Girls at the Office Say I’m Shallow

By David Lichius


Good spoken word performances are few and far between. Where Jello Biafra overloads your brain with enough damning historical/political facts to make your head explode, Henry Rollins tends for the most part to keep things on the lighter side. Self-effacing stories about the time he knocked himself out seconds into a Rollins Band gig or stories about his youthful misadventures are the type of fare you can expect. If you sit through an entire Rollins spoken-word show and don’t laugh your ass off at least once, chances are you were probably weaned on an iceberg.

Like the late Johnny Cash, Rollins has been literally everywhere the past 25 years. Best known for his years singing for the punk band Black Flag, Rollins, through his own grit and will, has built up a body of work whose breadth is larger than most professional “entertainers” could ever dream of. Rollins, while continuing his musical career in the Rollins Band, has established a career as writer/poet, actor, voice-over talent, publisher, hovercraft captain, and a spoken-word entertainer without peer. Late in 2003, Rollins embarked on his first USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour. The “meet and greet” took him to military bases in Afghanistan, Qatar, and Kurdistan.

Rolling toward Cleveland the day after his forty-third birthday, a rather reserved Henry Rollins discussed just what keeps his pilot light lit after all these years and the impression the USO tour left on him. “It was an eye-opener, and I met a lot of really good people. It gives you a sense of just how stupid wars are. They’re just stupid, you know. There’s just no sense to it. It’s almost like being in a movie. It’s surreal, because if everyone just put the guns down, there would be no war. It’s all you would have to do, and all of a sudden, it’s a different day.”

While Rollins let it be known that he doesn’t agree policy-wise with the Middle Eastern conflicts, he jumped at this chance and plans for a second USO tour in April. “I think the war in Iraq and the thing in Afghanistan is about something else. I don’t think it’s about ‘We feel so bad for Iraq.’ I don’t think our president feels that bad about an evil dictator. While I don’t agree there, I do see the predicament of these young people, and I can understand their loneliness and their isolation and their displacement, and that’s what I respond to.”

In his interaction with the military personnel, Rollins found out later, through their correspondence to him, the gravity of discontent among some of the men and women stationed overseas. “It’s not in person, but it’s the letters that you get later where they say things like, ‘Oh, I’ve been in Baghdad for like four months, and I still don’t get it. I don’t know why we’re here, or this is bullshit.’ They will say things like that.”

That USO tour all but closed out what was another endless working year for Rollins. Starting roughly on January 6 through December 15, his typical year will take him on the road for musical and spoken-word tours upwards of 180 days a year. When not on tour, Rollins uses his “downtime” to get caught up on his other projects.

“Between tours, it’s usually steady office work, which is editing a book, working on releases at the label (2.13.61), voice-over work, auditions, or a movie or TV thing. When I’m home, I work through the weekends. I get a lot of work done during the weekends, writing-type stuff, just because the office is quiet, and I can do a lot of typing, a lot of research on stuff.”

So with a schedule so bogged down with tours and “downtime,” what exactly does he do to fend off burnout? “I just basically switch mediums, and it kind of gets me out of one thing and into another. I get burnt on one thing, and I just go to the next.”

Despite changing up his schedule, Rollins’ career leaves room for very little else; in fact, there are aspects of his career that are not so pleasant. “There’s an element of vigorous work ethic, but I can’t overstress the unflattering aspects of it, which is, like I said, I don’t have a whole lot else going on, to the exclusion of probably a lot of things that I could be checking out. The girls at the office say I’m shallow.”

Whether Rollins is truly shallow is frankly irrelevant, for he remains driven by his own philosophic ideas of what the artist work ethic is. “This sounds really strange, but I really thought, and still do, that the real paradigm of the artist-type is vigorous work.”

Rollins bases this ethic on the lives of John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, and Henry Miller. While he does not equate his life with his heroes, their lifestyles have left a big mark on how Rollins carries himself professionally today. “They just worked all the time. They were; therefore, they worked. They were their work, and their work was them, and they were happy with that.”

One can also dig deeper into Rollins’ past to find the seeds of what drives his engine. “I come from the minimum-wage working world with a high school education. So I went from an ice cream store job paying four or five bucks an hour…to being in a band where I was all of a sudden completely broke all the time [Black Flag], and little by little, one thing led to another, and I can pay my rent now. Knowing where I come from gives me a lot of backbone, because I got a break.”

So after 24 years on the road, what accomplishment stands out as the one thing of which he is the most proud? “Pride is a weird word. The thing that I am the happiest about is not any single release or anything; it’s the fact that, after 24 years of touring, I’m still touring, still releasing stuff, and people are still showing up. Like anybody else in my situation, I’m very grateful.”

One can give up the love to Henry Rollins as he hits town March 6 at the Pageant.

Fragile Porcelain Mice Unload Some Baggage

Fragile Porcelain Mice Unload Some Baggage

By David Lichius

Standing on the side of Pop’s stage, Fragile Porcelain Mice vocalist Scott Randall (decked out in a green, striped terrycloth tank top and pants) has a line of five people before him with pens in their hands. Typical grip and greet conversations go on as Randall signs T-shirts and ticket stubs. A couple of fans hand him two one-dollar bills. Randall makes a crack to the guys that defacing federal currency is a federal offense. This round of catching up with old friends is, in a way, three years in the making. Six years since the release of their previous LP, All This Baggage, Fragile Porcelain Mice have just concluded the official CD release show for their fourth LP, The Best of Modern Rock. Written over the course of three years, FPM has released the most meticulously prepared album of their career. However, the path to the present started with the recording and promoting of 1998’s All This Baggage.

“I think we had put so much emphasis on All This Baggage. We called it ‘taking it to the next level.’ Which I think was getting signed. We pushed the records labels and I don’t know how many rejection letters we got,” Randall chuckled.

When no label bit at the record, FPM chose to put the record out themselves. It was shortly after this point that founding guitar player Tim O’Saben chose to leave the band to return to school. Exit O’Saben. Enter Chandler Evans and J Robertson, both from the recently defunct Geishamen. FPM was now a five-piece. Suddenly, the dynamic of the band had changed dramatically.

“When J and Chandler came into the band, I could totally see where it didn’t feel right,” Randall said. “It was good, because I think those guys wrote some really good stuff. But for me, Dave, and Mark, we were different. We weren’t working. Certain things like how we worked with Tim. Basically we would get there and ‘jam.’ You fed off one another. Tim would feed Dave. I mean that’s unspoken. [FPM as a five-piece] didn’t have that.”

Not that the new FPM couldn’t have morphed into something close to it. “Who’s to say if J and Chandler would have stayed in the band another year or so, we may have gelled into that.”

That eventuality never came to be. In 2001, O’Saben returned to the band and Evans and Robertson departed on good terms. Fragile was a four-piece again.

“We all sat down. Back to the original lineup; what do we want to do?” Randall said. In between a few one-off shows, what they decided on was The Best of Modern Rock.

“The goal was, ‘Let’s write a record that’s an actual record.’ Like an album that has some fluidity to it,” Randall explained. “It gave us something to direct ourselves, like ‘Are we relevant?’ That was the goal, mainly to stay relevant.”

Toward which FPM put forth much effort, in the form of multiple delays in the release date of The Best of Modern Rock.

“A lot of it was us, mainly just tweaking it. We would just listen to it critique it. We’re probably our harshest critics,” Randall said. “We were just like, ‘There’s something that’s maybe not there.’”

Luckily, whatever was missing was easy to fix, as Heinz is a recording engineer.

“We live real close to one another. If we needed to add another vocal track or add some instrumentation, we could do that,” Randall expained. “We constantly pushed it back on our own terms because we did not feel like it was there yet.”

On this record, however, FPM does not have a great deal of marketing and selling of this record as was the case six years ago.

“With this record, the goal is to just get it into people’s hands as much as possible,” Randall said. “If it gets picked up by a label sometime down the line, then great. If it doesn’t, hopefully enough people will have it in their hands and they’ll listen to it on a regular basis.”

Listening to The Best of Modern Rock, it’s easy to see what Randall means by fluidity. Not only does it meet that goal, it surpasses it. Starting off with “We Have A Problem,” Randall, in robotic monotone, repeats the song title followed by the bitter reality of “but there’s no so solution here.” The mid-tempo melody very obviously foreshadows a record ready to teeter off its platter—which it does with the breakout speed of “Disposable,” spot-on FPM. Everything sounds familiar yet refreshingly new. Dave Winkeler’s bad-ass bass picking, Heinz’s crisp and sharp drumming, Tim O’Saben’s hooky guitar riffs, and of course Randall’s decidedly distinctive vocals. As the record progresses with number after number, the realization sets in that this record really does have continuity and a consistent level of quality to it that was lacking in their previous three LPs. There have been some memorable songs in their back catalogue, but The Best of Modern Rock is by far the best album of FPM’s career.

While it may be their best career album, The Best of Modern Rock had to be one of the worst album titles ever. FPM couldn’t have chosen that title with a straight face.

“I kind of liked how it sounded,” Randall stated. “Really, it’s just tongue in cheek. I think it sounds to me like one of those K-TEL records.”

Together since 1991, The Best of Modern Rock might just be the right title for a band that finds itself in front of aging fans and a whole new generation of young ones. With the six-year gap between albums, would the band be put off by a “You mean they’re still around?” attitude?

“I don’t take offense to it. I think that would be a common reaction. As long as they remember us, that’s not a bad thing. It’s better than ‘Who are they?’” Randall said.

It’s a common enough reaction that even Randall would have shared back in the day.

“If you told me in ’95 that I would still be doing this, I probably would have told you you’re crazy,” Randall said. “I think the thing is that we enjoy playing music and it’s hard to get it out of your system.”

As for any touring, don’t expect anything more than regional gigs for now. Full-time jobs, wives, and kids are going to prevent any kind of extensive touring.

“We can’t be playing out of town just to be playing out of town. The goal is to play shows that make sense,” Randall said. “We don’t really have the luxury of going out for, say, a month. It may not be to your benefit to play a Wednesday night in Portland, Maine, in front of five people.”

So for now, Fragile Porcelain Mice are contenting themselves with gigs on friendly turf.

“Right now for us, just playing in general is fun because people want us to play,” Randall said. “We’re lucky that people want us to come play a venue and people would still be willing to come out.”

For the latest Fragile Porcelain Mice gig postings, check out www.fragileporcelainmice.com.

ZZZ -- Creepy Crawl, June 1, 2005

ZZZ -- Creepy Crawl, June 1, 2005

Maybe its just me, but I can’t help but to snort up a low-brow snicker when discussing Holland’s ZZZ. To start with, ZZZ is a two-piece outfit consisting of drummer/vocalist Björn Ottemheim, a shaggy-haired, tall, heavyset fella that doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a frontman, and the more stylish and youthful Daan Schinkel on organ. Add to that the fact that they play a sleazy rock/dance club hybrid with its collective lyrical aura leaning heavily on what some folks refer to as “plowing the fields.” And to cap it all off, ZZZ is from Amsterdam. All potential hash/red-light jokes aside, ZZZ unload songs that would probably fit at the Velvet Room as well as the Creepy Crawl. Their Stateside debut Sound of ZZZ firmly establishes this theory with rhythm and melodies that are sure to induce massive freak-ons more than Death From Above 1979 fueled freak-outs. Also, with song titles that include “Ecstasy,” “House of Sin,” and “Sweet Sex,” the sexual connotation of the group is impossible to ignore. While it would be quite easy to lump the two bands together, the only things they have in common is they’re both two pieces and that they lay the sleaze on heavy and often. What sets ZZZ apart from DFA 1979 is the organ and the fact that ZZZ’s sleaze feels much more authentic.

While it’s terribly overplayed, the word for this evening was “fun.” Playing first, The Paul Bearers started their set with lightning-fast punk complete with Rancid-style bass and the overall feel of a band from the Fat Wreck Chords’ roster. However, as their set progressed, The Bearers showed multiple dimensions, throwing in a little bit of funk and ska into the mix while extorting plenty of movement throughout the set.

The Fusion followed and played what is a true rarity in this town: real, true garage rock. Light-hearted and good-natured, this was music you could dance to with fear of getting hit with a flying body tackle.

Following a rather lengthy sound check, ZZZ took stage with a rather sparse collection of kids standing up front. For a band that one would assume feeds off the enthusiasm of those in attendance, ZZZ played as if the place was packed. As the set entered into its back stretch, the Creepy took on the aura of a high school dance with people glued to their collective iron fence, wall, or concrete pillar, afraid to be the first one to start dancing. When they were through, ZZZ had made one hell of an impression.

Scene of Irony arrived at the Creepy expecting to play third, only to find that they were the headliners for the evening. With the daunting task of following ZZZ, Scene of Irony played straightforward Nirvana-influenced rock. While this style doesn’t do a great deal for me, SOI had meaty hooks and, better yet, solid musicianship. They didn’t blow the roof off the place, but who could have. All in all, this was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. | David Lichius
Unsane -- The Gearbox at Lil’ Nikki’s, May 18, 2005

The P.A gods couldn’t take it anymore. After 15-odd years of abuse, the tables were about to be turned on Unsane’s Chris Spencer, Destroyer of Rock Club Speakers. No longer would they be the victims of the wall of noise called Unsane.

Doors were at 8 p.m. at The Gearbox. The first band, The Adversary Workers, didn’t go on until 10 p.m. That provided plenty of time to observe the little things that a concert attendee does when bored. Let’s go check out the merchandise table. Let’s get a cup of coffee. Let’s play some video bowling. Let’s check the merch table again. I think I’ll get another cup of coffee? Damn. It is colder than a witch’s tit in brass bra in here. Ah, fuck it, let’s get a beer.

Following their Collective Records brothers, The Adversary Workers (who brought the good noise to open the evening), came Belleville’s The Conformists. Simply put, the Conformists are good. Really good. One might think that many of their songs are improvised; however, as I observed, it’s a no-brainer that they got the shit down hard. On a rather lengthy number, it would appear that a cohesive melody was coming forward, only for it to collapse into a wall of schizophrenic noise. Shortly after the instruments would go silent and vocalist Michael would stand parallel to the mike, face contorted, furiously mouthing lyrics. More crash of drums, bass, and guitar and then you had near silence. Then, on cue, the melody would start again with fans wildly shaking their fists in time, for they knew what was coming all along. Mighty impressive the Conformists are.

The New Orleans drum-and-guitar collective known as The Blackfire Revelation is heavy rock stripped down to its foundation—with a wall of amps stacked with a pair of antlers placed on top. Guitarist John Fields and drummer Hank Haney didn’t have a strip of pedals to trick out their sound, they just brought the rock. Nothing fancy, just plug and play. One should keep track of BFR for they are definitely a band I’m going to check out the next time they pass through town.

Unsane took the stage around 12:30 and, after some final tune-ups, busted into “Release” from their new LP Blood Run. That was when the gods struck as Spencer blew out his amp. Justice had at last been served. However, this in turn caused a delay as BFR’s John Fields swapped in his. Once the technical problems were fixed, the set began in earnest again. In their hour, Unsane played ten songs, seven of which were on Blood Run. As 1:30 a.m approached, they dipped into some old favorites, ending their set with “Scrape,” “Alleged,” and “Empty Cartridge.” It was not the greatest Unsane show that I’ve seen, but who am I to complain? | David Lichius
Unsane w/Turbo ACs and Hearts of Darkness -- Creepy Crawl, October 18, 2003

The last time Unsane came through St. Louis, it was promoted as their reunion tour. At that time, vocalist/guitarist Chris Spencer and bassist Dave Curran had already formed new bands in the Cutthroats 9 and J.J Paradise Players Club. So I figured that I was seeing the last of Unsane. Now wasn’t I naïve? As it turns out with most reunion/farewell tours (can you say The Dismemberment Plan?), Unsane wasn’t quite finished. Earlier this month, Relapse Records released the band’s career-retrospective Lambhouse (24 tracks and a free DVD to boot), so like the D-Plan, Unsane found their way back to Creepy Crawl for one more round.

Local lads Hearts of Darkness like to drink; of this I have no doubt. They had their dancing shoes on and were ready for a Yo-Ho-Ho set of beer and whiskey rock ’n’ roll. Most people would classify them as a punk band—and they do have a very heavy punk influence in their tunes—but they’re really just a flat out fast, “here to kick your ass” rock band. Lead vocalist Jim Mulligan, dressed head to toe in black, swaggered through a set full of songs about drinking, drinking, and more drinking. Throughout the set, Hearts of Darkness laid on all the rock ’n’ roll clichés one could possibly think of. In one of the few non-booze related songs, “Cursed,” Mulligan bragged about the band being banned from clubs all across town. Whether that was accurate or not didn’t really matter. The folks up front bought into Mulligan like he was selling volcano insurance. People jumped up and down, fists were shook, a guy up front dropped to floor and flopped around like a Holy Roller, and the first song played on the PA after the set was “Ace of Spades.” I felt it quite fitting. I couldn’t tell if the Hearts of Darkness took their rock swagger that seriously or if they were playing the part a lá the Rye Coalition; I could only hope it was the latter.

The crowd quickly filled up front for the ACs. This was the band the crowd came to see and they did not disappoint. In town to support their Gearhead Records release Automatic, they had their patented rock ’n’ roll moves down to a T. Call them garage rock, rockabilly, surf-punk. They rocked, in that PBR, two shots of Jagermeister, elbow-in-the-kidneys sort of way; most Gearhead Records bands do. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for bands like the Turbo ACs and The Dragons. Their songs, are fast, simple, and over before they get derivative. I love the Smugglers and Man or Astroman, but I wouldn’t want to stand through 90 minutes of either band. I do not mean that as a knock, but simply an observation of the genre.

Unsane took their sweet ass time setting up. When they finally took stage, the familiar soundtrack montage from “Taxi Driver” that introduced the majority of their shows started to play over the speakers. Grinning like loons, Spencer and bassist Dave Curran started reciting Travis Bickle’s lines, which they both had heard literally a thousand times. Not to get sappy, but they grinned like two friends, enjoying the rush of playing together for probably one of the last times. Meanwhile, drummer Vincent Signorelli sat in a trance, staring ahead, abusing his drum kit like he was praying for rain. Then the wall of noise started and people cleared out of the Creepy Crawl like someone had dropped a canister of tear gas.

Chris Spencer yanked the microphone off its stand with his teeth; eyes bulging like a cornered wolf. Shirt off, Spencer bore a nasty scar from when a gang of Austrian punks nearly kicked him to death. Spencer has always been a fairly intense looking guy on and off stage, but the scar just added to the effect. The hour- long set was filled with standards like “Committed,” “Body Bomb,” “Empty Cartridge,” and “Scrape.” The show ended with tourmates the Turbo ACs joining them onstage for a loud, extended free jam.

NYC’s Unsane isn’t for everyone; they’ve never been. People either like it or they don’t. Noise rock is generally like that. Gauging how empty the Creepy Crawl was when Chris Spencer & Co were finished, I’d say the majority chose the latter; which is too bad because it’s probably the end of the line of for one of the finest noise rock bands around.

While Unsane may be done, it appears that Spencer and Curran have work with their newer outfits in the not-too-distant future. Curran said that J.J Paradise Players Club had just finished up their second LP the day before Unsane left on tour. As for the Cutthroats 9, look for them to be on tour with the JJPPC sometime next spring. Whether or not St. Louis will be on the itinerary remains to be seen.—David Lichius