Hardcore for Nerds

"Why sneer at the intellectuals?"*
punk music, left politics, and cultural history - previously found here.
contact: gabbaweeks[at]gmail.com (sorry, no promos/submissions, thanks) or ask
Dublin/Galway, Ireland. 26, history graduate & human rights student
HFN | Best New Punk | HFN 2012 2011 2010 2009 | HRO 2k9 | Hoover Genealogy Project | @HC4N
*from the title of a review of Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure by Michael Foot, Evening Standard, Nov. 26, 1943.
Dec 01
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The Weakerthans, ‘Confessions Of A Futon-Revolutionist’ from Fallow (1999)

Never knowing what survival means

The anti-Save Your Generation?

(Source: Spotify)

the weakerthans punk 90s
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Oct 26
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dischord:

Two positive Hoover write-ups, Feces #4. 12/94.
Hoover’s The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 is back in print on LP.

Kinda hard to read, but I think the write-up on the left for the Hoover/Lincoln ‘Two-Headed Coin’ split 7” says “You need this, don’t torture yourself any longer! Psst it’s emo.”
Also, good news!

dischord:

Two positive Hoover write-ups, Feces #4. 12/94.

Hoover’s The Lurid Traversal of Route 7 is back in print on LP.

Kinda hard to read, but I think the write-up on the left for the Hoover/Lincoln ‘Two-Headed Coin’ split 7” says “You need this, don’t torture yourself any longer! Psst it’s emo.”

Also, good news!

hoover dischord emo 90s post-hardcore
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Oct 03
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But when it is jokingly suggested that, had Shields released m b v in 1994, as initially planned, he could have kiboshed Britpop, his mood changes. “Britpop was massively pushed by the government,” he says. “Someday it would be interesting to read all the MI5 files on Britpop. The wool was pulled right over everyone’s eyes there.”
My Bloody Valentine 90s politics
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Aug 28
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therearedemonsinsideofus asked: Kerosene 454

Am I a fan: Definitely. Or, at least, of Situation at Hand/Race - I never got into their later albums and I mainly like that album for its intense ‘sound’.

First song I heard by them: Probably ‘What Was’, via the Epitonic page for the band (discovered a lot of post-hardcore stuff browsing that website back in the days when individually downloading mp3s was a thing) or maybe if it was on the Fourfa page - at least if I didn’t hear it there, I got the description:

"A temple to the DC octave-chord noisy over-distorted SG/Marshall guitar. This is the guitar sound bands dream about. These are all sweet pop songs made impossibly heavy by the crushing weight of the loudest guitars ever recorded."

Bonus points for the Kerouackian use of the adverb “impossibly”, which certainly appealed to me at the time (and to be honest still does). 

Favorite song: I think maybe ‘Greener’, just cos it’s the opener and kicks you with that headlong rush of sound. I’m not the greatest at the best of times for remembering particular songs, and the ones on Situation at Hand tend to run into each other in the best way possible. Andrew makes a good case for ‘Pointer Ridge’/’Nines’ here though.

Seen them live: Lol no (this is probably going to be a recurrent answer)

Favorite member: Whichever (or both?) of the Wall brothers who were involved with Slowdime Records and a few Hoover family bands. 

kerosene 454 emo post-hardcore 90s
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Jul 07
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Regulator Watts - ‘The Ballad of St. Tinnitus’ from The Aesthetics of No-Drag (1998)

It can be difficult sometimes to figure out where really good guitar playing fits into ‘punk’ - especially in hardcore, but also and even post-hardcore - as a music of immediacy and no bullshit. Partly that’s just a hangover from the prison of three-chord propaganda and a cultural distrust of indulgent noodling, but there’s still a barrier to expressing admiration for something primarily in terms of virtuosity. Perhaps because on a technical level it can be outdone by other genres (particularly metal) yet what makes it great, to me as a punk listener, is actually something else additional and less quantifiable: I can’t think of a better word than ‘soul’ (soul that is subjective, mutable and often historically/temporally contingent, of course). 

For many people, I know it is Fred Erskine’s bass playing which makes Hoover, and I won’t disagree - I just wish I had a better sense for rhythm to more fully appreciate it, rather than just a dim concept of complexity. In the later records of the genealogy, however, it is definitely Alex Dunham’s guitar which has always stood out for me. Entwined within the twin-guitar shifting attack of Lurid Traversal, it takes the centre role in his later work. Three songs in particular never cease to captivate: the pure melodic earworm of '(312)' from Radio Flyer’s In Their Strange White Armour, the deep and moody layering of Abilene’s 'October' from their self-titled first album, and this one - arguably the most visceral, certainly the loudest, of them.    

There’s a line in Lou Reed’s Talkhouse review of Kanye West’s Yeezus where he’s talking about never thinking about music as a challenge to the audience - “you do this because you like it, you think  what you’re making is beautiful” - and he describes his own notorious Metal Machine Music album as “if you like guitars, this is pure guitar, from beginning to end, in all its variations.” I don’t know if he’s being entirely serious and honest - I haven’t gone over the background to the album to divine evidence of the deliberate mischief one might suspect, but I don’t really care either way - although I do quite like the record, as an experience. Actually, I misunderstood the statement at first not to be saying purely guitar (as I assume he means) but ‘pure’ guitar, which is a somewhat odd description of an album based on feedback and little or no deliberate melody. Distortion is technically impure as well, yet this is the song I think of when “pure guitar” as an overwhelming, metaphysical notion is proposed: ‘St. Tinnitus’ is aptly named for sanctified noise.

Of course, there’s more going on than just Dunham’s guitar alone. As is often the case, for a three-piece Regulator Watts bring a lot of noise and intensity. Bassist Cret Wilson (who doesn’t seem to appear in any other band, Hoover-related or otherwise, although he is credited for the original Sea Tiger logo on the back sleeve of their album) underpins the wild squalls and swells of guitar with a steady rhythm that is mostly obscured, except when the screen of noise thins out to reveal it more distinctly. Around them the drums of Areif Sless-Kitain (who later went on to play in Bluetip, and is currently with this rather pleasing ‘post-rock and psychedelic pop’ project) dance with unpredictable yet precise shapes. The Aesthetics of No-Drag is an intensely spacious album, despite the apparent oppressiveness of Dunham’s guitar (in songs such as this and bookending scorchers 'Mercurochrome' and 'Witchduck'), as it weaves its way in and around the groove of the rhythm section (the following track to this, ‘Pemberton Red’, is almost danceable!). Influences of jazz and dub, as in the rest of the Hoover family tree, abound on the record.

One of the benefits of getting back into my Hoover genealogy phase is remembering things I’d forgotten I’d had, like a transcript of this album’s lyric sheet that another fan had sent to me in an email (I did unfortunately once have the chance of picking up the LP secondhand but missed it; however, I try not to be possessive about stuff like that, or at least not things I don’t have). Anyway, it’s supposed to be only a partial lyric sheet - Dunham once stating in an interview that he didn’t like putting the pronoun ‘I’ down on paper - but it’s useful in deciphering some of his tortured howls. Lately I thought I heard the phrase “lost my body to the music”, which would be an appropriate and poetic reflection of the title, though not quite of the apparent theme of the lyrics. Instead I think it’s just the repeated line “I lost my mother to the needle”, as in the schema below:

mother to the needle

father to the bottle

hope to the sound we follow

only forever

so the places sting

the ring rings

make the people sing

"[I lost my] hope to the sound we follow": is that the personal statement expressing the nub of the emo catharsis, the 90s D.C. (and Chicago) sound; the soul of post-hardcore?

29 plays
regulator watts hoover HGP alex dunham 90s post-hardcore
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Jul 03
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Sea Tiger - ‘Blind Reggie White’ (vinyl rip) from The “Teenage Bandit” LP (Troubleman, 1998)

Just got this in the post today. I had heard it before in a download which I now can’t find on my computer (oOoo…), so I decided to track down an LP online (you can buy the MP3s here too). It’s quite an interesting record, rather like the Sorts but with a few extra flourishes - more eclectic and experimental, perhaps. I found this rather good article talking about the “new D.C. sound” (from 1999) that discusses the influence of hip-hop as well as soul and funk on Josh LaRue of Sorts and Sea Tiger - the latter “masterminded by LaRue and Sorts bassist Stuart Fletcher with help from various members of the D.C. funk-jazz sect”.

"Leading a pack of similarly minded D.C. bands, such as the Boom (with which Sorts guitarist-vocalist Josh LaRue sits in, on the trombone) and Sea Tiger […], the Sorts have managed to remain a distinct entity despite the overlapping-band-member tomfoolery. Not that sharp distinctions have really crossed their minds, though.

"If things overlap and people switch in and out, it’s hard to identify a certain group of people with a sound," LaRue concedes. "But it keeps things interesting for the people in those bands." 

I had two Sorts and Sea Tiger 7”s already but they don’t provide much or any information on who’s playing what, so in that respect the LP is far more helpful. As stated, it’s basically a duo except on three songs - ‘King Cab’, ‘Blind Reggie White’, and ‘Song E (Live)’ - which feature the “Sea Tiger Live Band” comprising, according to the back sleeve: 

  • Joseph P. “The Fez” McRedmond - G&L bass
  • David “Bad Sneakers” Batista - electric piano [who also played drums on the Crownhate Ruin demos with Alex Dunham on guitar]
  • Chris “Kid Charlemagne” Farrall - percussions
  • Joshua “Peg” LaRue - trap set [i.e., drums]
  • Stuart “Josie” Fletcher - electric guitar

Christopher Farrall is also credited with percussion on four further tracks, while intriguingly “Special Thanks” are given to Alex Dunham “for playing lead June 1, 1997 and for original bass duties”. So theoretically at one stage this band could have been 3/4 of Hoover… regardless, clearly all these bands remained incestuous - and I recall reading a comment from someone who had seen a Boom/Abilene/Sorts show that in fact featured all the members of Hoover amongst the players on stage at the end. Juan Carrera also recorded this album, along with many others in the ‘D.C. sound’, right back to Lurid Traversal and before.

Anyway, I particularly like this track which reminds me a lot - in its humming, buzzing guitar, and moments of rolling percussion - of post-Slint project The For Carnation although slightly funkier (the Funk Car Nation?) or perhaps more pertinently, the first Abilene album. Excellent listened to on headphones.

20 plays
sea tiger the sorts HGP 90s
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Jun 25
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well that wasn’t quite as difficult to make as I expected… although I couldn’t put a name beside every album, or else it would be a mass of text (especially with June of 44 and The Sorts), I put at least one per band and it should be fairly clear after that.
edit: added in Regulator Watts, The Mercury CD (1998)
note: I somewhat arbitrarily finished around 2002, since that is the year of the final Abilene and Sorts albums, although Frederick Erskine continued on releasing with Just A Fire and also his more recent project Freddie T and the People (good post about them here), while Christopher Farrall is listed as contributing to this Dischord project. 

well that wasn’t quite as difficult to make as I expected… although I couldn’t put a name beside every album, or else it would be a mass of text (especially with June of 44 and The Sorts), I put at least one per band and it should be fairly clear after that.

edit: added in Regulator Watts, The Mercury CD (1998)

note: I somewhat arbitrarily finished around 2002, since that is the year of the final Abilene and Sorts albums, although Frederick Erskine continued on releasing with Just A Fire and also his more recent project Freddie T and the People (good post about them here), while Christopher Farrall is listed as contributing to this Dischord project

hoover 90s 00s post-hardcore june of 44 the sorts HGP
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I figured what the Hoover Genealogy Project was lacking was an infographic - so here’s a first attempt. It’s restricted to albums (or, well, potential albums) that at least two of the four members of Hoover - Alex Dunham, Frederick T. Erskine, Christopher Farrall and Joseph P. McRedmond - played on, as far as I can work out from both my own collection and BandtoBand. For that reason, it doesn’t include the output of Dunham in Regulator Watts, Radio Flyer or the first Abilene album, Erskine in the (many) June of 44 releases or Farrall’s earlier Sorts albums (Farrall also played percussion on the second Boom album). 
As it stands, however, as well as illustrating the various post-Hoover intersections I think it shows an interesting trajectory from post-hardcore into increasingly jazzier territory, with Abilene’s Two Guns, Twin Arrows as the reunification of Dunham’s darkly twisted guitar work with Erskine’s insistent trumpet grooves, making one the best albums of the whole tree (while the Sorts’ final album, featuring the other former half of Hoover, is an almost entirely different but also excellent dubby instrumental record).
With the possible exception of Sea Tiger’s The “Teenage Bandit” (to give it its fully accurate title) and the two Boom albums, none of these should be especially difficult to find, in digital form at least. I have streaming tracks from the unreleased Boom album and the Crownhate Ruin demos with Alex Dunham here and here, respectively, although the full downloads of the recordings - courtesy of Joseph McRedmond - have unfortunately since lapsed. I’d be willing to post them up again if anyone was interested, however. Inevitable corrections to the above graphic also welcome (a full tree would obviously require many more divergent lines, but I feel like the diagrammatic simplicity of this one is somehow appropriate to the Hoover aesthetic).

I figured what the Hoover Genealogy Project was lacking was an infographic - so here’s a first attempt. It’s restricted to albums (or, well, potential albums) that at least two of the four members of Hoover - Alex Dunham, Frederick T. Erskine, Christopher Farrall and Joseph P. McRedmond - played on, as far as I can work out from both my own collection and BandtoBand. For that reason, it doesn’t include the output of Dunham in Regulator Watts, Radio Flyer or the first Abilene album, Erskine in the (many) June of 44 releases or Farrall’s earlier Sorts albums (Farrall also played percussion on the second Boom album). 

As it stands, however, as well as illustrating the various post-Hoover intersections I think it shows an interesting trajectory from post-hardcore into increasingly jazzier territory, with Abilene’s Two Guns, Twin Arrows as the reunification of Dunham’s darkly twisted guitar work with Erskine’s insistent trumpet grooves, making one the best albums of the whole tree (while the Sorts’ final album, featuring the other former half of Hoover, is an almost entirely different but also excellent dubby instrumental record).

With the possible exception of Sea Tiger’s The “Teenage Bandit” (to give it its fully accurate title) and the two Boom albums, none of these should be especially difficult to find, in digital form at least. I have streaming tracks from the unreleased Boom album and the Crownhate Ruin demos with Alex Dunham here and here, respectively, although the full downloads of the recordings - courtesy of Joseph McRedmond - have unfortunately since lapsed. I’d be willing to post them up again if anyone was interested, however. Inevitable corrections to the above graphic also welcome (a full tree would obviously require many more divergent lines, but I feel like the diagrammatic simplicity of this one is somehow appropriate to the Hoover aesthetic).

hoover 90s post-hardcore dischord the crownhate ruin abilene HGP
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downedcityrise:

March 7, 1996

Three excellent bands, and a poster design in what seems to be - along with this further example - the industrial style of Regulator Watts’ 1997 album, The Aesthetic of No-Drag (designed by Jason Farrell).
I was looking at the sprawling Hoover family tree on BandtoBand, and came across an entry I don’t remember giving much attention to before: Watts Systems Ltd. Justifiably so, perhaps, in that they appear to be just an extended incarnation of Regulator Watts who recorded a single track, ‘Two On One Arm’ for a compilation The Eagle Has Landed on Tranquility Base Records, (one of the many 2xLP compilations of 90s post-hardcore bands of varied notability - this one also featuring At The Drive-In and Don Caballero).
There’s one tantalising and quite informative blog post with, unfortunately, a dead download link (and nothing else on the blog…) which notes that it was recorded during the Aesthetics on No-Drag sessions at WGNS, as Discogs confirms (the credit for Hoover/Regulator Watts guitarist and singer Alex Dunham as “Other [Booze]” is hardly an indication of great seriousness, however). I’m not really much of a completist, generally, but in the case of the Hoover genealogy I’ve tracked mostly all of the significant recordings down. Does anybody else have this track, and is it of interest?

downedcityrise:

March 7, 1996

Three excellent bands, and a poster design in what seems to be - along with this further example - the industrial style of Regulator Watts’ 1997 album, The Aesthetic of No-Drag (designed by Jason Farrell).

I was looking at the sprawling Hoover family tree on BandtoBand, and came across an entry I don’t remember giving much attention to before: Watts Systems Ltd. Justifiably so, perhaps, in that they appear to be just an extended incarnation of Regulator Watts who recorded a single track, ‘Two On One Arm’ for a compilation The Eagle Has Landed on Tranquility Base Records, (one of the many 2xLP compilations of 90s post-hardcore bands of varied notability - this one also featuring At The Drive-In and Don Caballero).

There’s one tantalising and quite informative blog post with, unfortunately, a dead download link (and nothing else on the blog…) which notes that it was recorded during the Aesthetics on No-Drag sessions at WGNS, as Discogs confirms (the credit for Hoover/Regulator Watts guitarist and singer Alex Dunham as “Other [Booze]” is hardly an indication of great seriousness, however). I’m not really much of a completist, generally, but in the case of the Hoover genealogy I’ve tracked mostly all of the significant recordings down. Does anybody else have this track, and is it of interest?

regulator watts 90s post-hardcore kerosene 454 the crownhate ruin
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Jun 24
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dischord:

Order sheet by Ryan Nelson. 9/11/96.

…and here’s the key, if you haven’t memorised all the numbers. Obviously early Fugazi and Minor Threat were big sellers, and good to see both Crownhate Ruin and Hoover selling well (98 and 89). I know it’s only one order sheet, but Nation of Ulysses (and Make Up) fans - 99, 71, 57 and 62 - seem to particularly like vinyl…

dischord:

Order sheet by Ryan Nelson. 9/11/96.

…and here’s the key, if you haven’t memorised all the numbers. Obviously early Fugazi and Minor Threat were big sellers, and good to see both Crownhate Ruin and Hoover selling well (98 and 89). I know it’s only one order sheet, but Nation of Ulysses (and Make Up) fans - 99, 71, 57 and 62 - seem to particularly like vinyl…

90s dischord punk hardcore post-hardcore
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