Doing the whole 1537 thang, I’ve come to realize I own far more compilations than I ever thought I did*, here’s another one God Bless America (Posh Hits Vol.1). Given the title I know you’re all thinking that this was an acoustic LP of patriotic campfire songs, offered up in praise of the US of A; and you’d be completely right.
… in a totally wrong way. The Uncle Sam-style skeleton on the front, the stencilled-effect writing and the poorly-reproduced Vietnam/Korean War photos on the back point you in the right(eous) direction, this is a snapshot of the LA hardcore punk scene from 1983. In fact it’s a bit more specific than that, it’s a compilation of releases from Posh Boy Records, who in the manner of the time and scene released a whole slew of singles by the, now legendary/feted, likes of Circle Jerks, Black Flag and T.S.O.L, alongside acts whose own mothers would struggle to remember.
I bought this after buying a great book called American Hardcore: A Tribal history by Steven Blush on holiday in 2007. I just wanted to sample a load of the bands I hadn’t heard before. The book is brilliant by the way, dealing with US hardcore on a thematic level and then going on to deal with each nascent hardcore scene geographically. The tales of fighting and bloodshed … they didn’t call it hardcore, without reason, just like Henry Rollins’ Get In The Van if you can’t deal with repetitive stories of noses being hammered flat, then push-off to the bit where they sell those wizard books!
Anyway, these guys. I am always impressed by the tunefulness of Agent Orange ‘Everything Turns Grey’ they stand out head and shoulders here as a ‘real’ band. Social Distortion rock, although ‘Moral Threat’ hasn’t got the song writing clout they’d develop later on. the rush of Circle Jerks and Crowd are all fine but on the first side of the LP, Red Cross – shortly to become Redd Kross**, hit the heights here with two tracks of revved-up punk-pop ‘Annette’s Got the Hits / Cover Band’, the latter with some very scathing lyrics; it’s not worthy of their brilliant Third Eye LP, but it really ain’t bad.
You can’t leave the first side of the LP without dealing with the turd in the corner that is Baby Buddha’s ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’. Now I’m not American and therefore my exposure to Hank Williams is commensurately less than if I was. I’m no country fan, but I read a lot of Kinky Friedman at one point and I can understand that Hank was a true original, even if his tunes aren’t totally to my taste. But even if he was the lowest, dreg in the whole of creation he really REALLY didn’t deserve this. Hell, I’m astonished the South didn’t invade and sack Huntington Beach for this one. Don’t listen, it’ll shave a piece of your soul away and you won’t get it back. Yes, that bad.
The second side is as brilliant as the first side is okay. My personal favourite and proof that you don’t have to thrash away punkily to be both amusing and quite punk is, Los Microwaves ‘Time To get Up’^, which is a funny, discordant and true song about not being able to raise your lazy carcass out of the sack. This barges straight into Channel 3 ‘You Make Me feel Cheap’, which is a great British-style punker with some great female vocals courtesy of Maria Montoya – if this doesn’t make you happy, then your blood group is definitely Punk Negative. Black Flag’s anthemic ‘Louie Louie’ is next, in this comparably lightweight company they sound like a Sherman tank rolling through your living room. True story.
The simple tonic of The Simpletones ‘I Like Drugs’ amuses (N.B: 1537 doesn’t advocate anything stronger than a bracing espresso, for self-discovery and enlightenment), as does the snide and spunk of Shattered faith ‘I Love America’. The rest is fine until the LP closes with the astonishing Nuns ‘Suicide Child’, which sounds like Alice Cooper jamming with an evil Gwen Stefani in Marilyn Manson’s crypt, the protagonist’s only epitaph …
You stole my junk
You lowdown punk
I like God Bless America, it really captures a time and place. The Californian bands here, by and large a little less political than the folks back east and riddled with a bit less neurosis. There’s fun to be had here and you can easily spot the bands with a bit of extra potential who would stretch and warp the punk blueprint to their own ends and boost their own longevity accordingly.
Independence of thought, heavy weight self-belief and a willingness to stand up and be counted – I can’t think of an LP that better shows off some superb national values and qualities. Well played Posh Boy!
*possibly because I neurotically file them under their title, rather than as ‘Various: Pulp Fiction O.S.T’. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night if I let it.
**pah! pandering to a small ass bunch of aid givers! Wusses! You won’t catch my next band The First Aiders doing that anytime soon!
^I may be biased here as the Welsh word for microwave is POPTY PING – literal translation, ‘Oven that goes Ping!’ – the best Welsh word ever? easily!