Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bristle: Won't Die For You

Review # 64
Artist: Bristle
Title: Won't Die For You
Format: LP
Label: Ransom Note Recordings
Year: 1995
Songs: 14

The last several posts now have been about Seattle area punk bands, and this review follows suit but also concludes that trend for the time being. Bristle is/was one of the most enduring and beloved Seattle punk rock bands.  I never got to see Bristle back in the early days down at the Lake Union Pub, but they're a band that refuses to stay dead. So, while Lonny, Tim, and Graham have all gone on to do other things (including but not limited to Dreadful Children, the Load Levelers, The Villans [sic], Skeezix, and Cyanide Destruct), Bristle still gets together for shows now and again, and the result is that I've seen them play a good number of times now. They're a great band and a nice bunch of guys.

What kind of music does Bristle play? Bristle plays punk. They're not part of this or that sub-genre. While the street punk influence on the band is probably most apparent on this record and all their releases, it's also easy to hear the influences of thrash, metal, and crust (especially in Lonny's guitar lines) and also '77 style and even pop punk influences (especially in the songs that Tim wrote). What this means is that if you like punk rock, there's something here for you, no matter which kind of punk is your particular cup of tea. Bristle is a political band when they want to be. Songs like "Officer Right," "No Society," and my personal favorite "Liberty's Lying" criticize consumer society, corrupt police, and jingoistic patriotism. Other songs like "Fired From Live" and "Stand My Ground," and "Judgement Day," however, deal with more personal issues like the loss of loved ones and the havoc that drug addiction wreak on people's lives. But it's not all doom and gloom either: there are also songs that are just silly fun, both lyrically and musically, like "Dodge Ram," a song about driving around in a Dodge Ram with no brakes, and "Lake Union Pub," an homage to long since closed Seattle bar that had notorious shows back in the days when people in Seattle still worried about the Teen Dance Ordinance. Regardless of the lyrical content, the songs are fast and fun. There's enough melody on this record for fans of melodic punk, but enough hard-edge to make it enjoyable for fans of hardcore punk, too.

Maybe that's why Bristle has been so loved by Seattle punks for so many years. The band doesn't try to sound like one scene, they just play songs they like. To the trained ear, there's a lot of diversity on this record. Bristle recently released a cd that includes everything except their most recent full length, which encompasses this whole record. One of these days I'll get around to reviewing that. I've held onto this record anyway, because it's just such a good collection of songs.

Some day I suppose Bristle will call it quites for good. They're all in other bands and none of them are getting any younger (but then, neither am I... I'm already 7 years older than Lonny was when this came out, so it's all relative I suppose). When that finally happens, the Seattle punk scene will have lost some of its greatest champions. In the meantime, next time Bristle gets together for a show, go check it out if you're in the area.

Suprisingly, I can't find a youtube video of anything from this record.  Sorry about that.

Just three more "B" reviews to go...
Total songs listened: 803

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Briefs: Sex Objects

Review # 63
Artist: The Briefs
Title: Sex Objects
Format: LP
Label: BYO Records
Year: 2004
Songs: 14

Sex Objects is the third LP by the Briefs, and, like their first LP which was the subject of the previous review to this one, it's a fun and bouncy record of '77 style punk tunes in the vein of Generation X, Eater, 999, the Jam, and so on. Musically, it's a little more developed and complex than the first record, with better use being made of having two guitars in the band. Lyrically, while there's plenty snotty and/or goofy songs that are more attitude than content (e.g. "So Stupid," "Antisocial" and the title track "Sex Objects"), there are also some songs that  make a stab at social commentary. This record was released the year that George W. Bush, the president who was (rightly) the most maligned by punk rockers since Ronald Reagan was re-elected, and songs like "Orange Alert," "No More Presidents," and even the sillier "Vitamin Bomb" clearly reflect that social context. The lyrics and music, then, are both a bit more mature than their first effort.

So in a lot of ways, this record is objectively better than Hit After Hit, which has left me sitting her playing the record and wondering why I don't like it as well. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine record, but I never even got around to buying it--it's another one of the records I got from my friend Tim when he moved to NYC and abandoned his record collection. I've given it some thought this morning and I think I've figured it out. This record has more lyrical depth and musical complexity, but the fact is, that's just not what I ever wanted from the Briefs. The reason their first album was so great was that it was just so much fun to bounce around to. It was stripped down and basic and didn't make you think. It captured the simplicity that made the first records by many of the first wave of British punk bands fun and different from the lumbering dinosaurs of '70s rock that punk rock put out to pasture. Make no mistake, Sex Objects is still a fun and enjoyable record, but it lacks that primal feeling of "who cares, let's just play some fast music" that characterized the first LP. Probably if I heard Sex Objects for the first time in the year 2012, and then heard Hit After Hit for the first time shortly afterward, I'd think Sex Objects was the better LP. But as I mentioned in the last review, the Briefs' first record was the right record at the right time in the Seattle music scene and its simplicity and devil-may-care attitude was part of that.

Lest you should think I don't like this record, let me be clear: this is a fine record and I enjoy listening to it. If you like '77 style punk, this is worth having in your collection. Check out the title track "Sex Objects" and decide for yourself.

Total songs listened: 789