Friday, October 19, 2012

1999 Revisited

By popular demand (meaning one person asked), I now present the next installment in my "history project" on 1990s punk. In previous posts on 1996 and 1997, I reminded myself of how many phenomenal punk records were released in those years. To many of us of a certain age, that 1995-2000 revival of "classic" punk music was our 1977. Whether or not that whole scene was at its peak in 1999 or already on the downswing is very much open to debate. As the list below indicates, there was no shortage of outstanding releases in '99 in all the primary sub-genres I'm known for covering ('77 punk, garage-punk, pop-punk). How does this list compare to the ones from '96 and '97? You be the judge!

As always, I'll preface this list by saying it's my current idea of the top 15 punk records of 1999. Some of these titles would have ranked higher or lower had I actually made this list in '99. And some of these albums didn't become favorites of mine until a few years after the fact. There are probably a few LPs I raved about in '99 that did not make the cut this time. And I guarantee you that I forgot about a couple albums that probably should have made this list. But any way you shake it, it was a hell of a good year. Here goes:

15. The No-Talents - ...Want Some More!
"A stiff right uppercut of obnoxious hi-energy trash that's noisy and ferocious, fusing Cecilia M.'s snotty burd vocals and Lili Z.'s (who also bashes guitar for The Splash 4) nasty broken glass power chord blitzkrieg with a pummeling rhythm section that kicks the stall like the primest of the prime Killed By Death slop." I'd call that truth in advertising.

14. The Proms - Helpless Romantic
One of the best bands and best releases in the history of Mutant Pop Records, this full-length debut from The Proms is a forgotten classic of bubblegummy pop-punk.

13. Lillingtons- Death By Television
I never 100 percent warmed to The Lillingtons turning into a sci-fi/horror themed band. I still prefer their earlier releases. But nonetheless, Death By Television is a terrific album, and was very much in the spirit of Y2K weirdness.

12. Lombardies! - Throw Your Love Away
New England youngsters dished out snotty garage-punk with a poppy sensibility and a girl-crazed teenage world view. Released on Lawless Records.

11. Zodiac Killers- Most Thrilling Experience
A lot of people will maintain that Rip Off Records was past its peak by '99. I would vehemently disagree. This is the first of three ROR titles to make this list. Zodiac Killers were Greg Lowery's first band post Infections and sounded like the second coming of the Angry Samoans. This was their first and best LP.  Features the tender love ballads "Feed It To Your Mom" and "Come On & Die".

10. Reducers SF- Backing The Longshot
One of the great street punk bands of the late '90s, Reducers SF had an anthemic, melody-driven sound a la Cock Sparrer/Slaughter and the Dogs/Sham 69. This was their long-awaited debut album, and it was no letdown! 

9. The Wongs- Reanimate My Baby
In my opinion, this album should be remembered as one of the better LPs issued by Rip Off Records. It seems to have been all but forgotten. Catchy garage trash from Arizona with a touch of Pagans/Dead Boys nastiness.

8. Libertine- See You In the Next Life
After a couple of EPs and a fair amount of hype, Libertine really found its groove on its debut LP, infusing its '70s glam/punk sound with the moody melodies of early '80s Brit new wave. Sadly, this would be the band's only proper album.

7. U.S. Bombs- The World
These were the years when the Bombs could do no wrong. One of their best albums!

6. Raydios- Original Demo Recordings
This was Fink and Sammy from Teengenerate doing pure '77 punk. I'm not quite sure why this awesome record went under the radar.

5. Reatards- Grown Up, Fucked Up
Ah, The Reatards! This was their legendary second LP- a blistering onslaught of lo-fi garage-punk informed by Killed By Death comps and fuck-off adolescent rage. An incredibly influential record that's endured through the years.

4. The Metros - self titled
I consider this one of the all-time great Rip Off LPs. Not a typical ROR release, this is a hooky bad-ass rock n' roll record from a band that shoulda been huge. Detroit represent! 

3. Stiletto Boys- Rockets and Bombs
Classic debut full-length from Lancaster, PA's favorite sons. You had your bands that were into the rockin' side of '77 punk, and you had your bands that were into the poppy side of '77 punk. Stiletto Boys were into both, and played at breakneck speed to boot!

2. Dimestore Haloes- Revolt Into Style
All these years later, I still feel the same way about this record. Loved it then, love it now. "Born Too Late" might have been their greatest song.

1. Guitar Wolf- Jet Generation
Imagine if The Ramones had been Japanese, and were into rockabilly and sci-fi movies, and they went out and made the loudest record in the history of time. I put this LP up there with the all-time classics of punk rock.

Honorable mentions:
Dirt Bike Annie- Hit the Rock
Boris the Sprinkler- Suck
High School Sweethearts- Passing Notes 
Romeo's Dead- It's All Your Fault 
TV Killers- Have A Blitz On You

I haven't even touched on all the awesome singles of 1999 (Chemo Kids, The Beltones, The Disappointments, Stitches/Le Shok split...). But the LP list alone tells me that my original perception of that time being "special" was pretty on-point. 1999-2000 was a crazy moment in our history, with technology advancing rapidly and more than a few people expecting the world to end (Hmmm, sounds a lot like this year, too!). For me, it would be my final year doing an exclusively print zine. The very next year, Now Wave Magazine went on-line as a web-zine. I, a longtime resistor of technology, would eventually go 100 percent digital. Some of the stuff I'm doing today - like embedding audio clips into record reviews- would have seemed like science fiction back in the day! But while the way I covered it changed, the music itself did not. Here we are 13 years later, and the punk/garage/powerpop scene is still thriving enough to warrant me doing a blog like this. I think that's pretty freaking cool. Not many of the above bands are still around, but no doubt they all helped inspire what's still happening today.

And, yeah, I know I skipped over 1998. I've been doing this whole project out of order. '98 will be next - then perhaps '95!


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