The Power of Suggestion

OFF! | The First Four EPsOFF! | The First Four EPs

I’ve been driving people completely crazy raving about this band over the last several weeks.

“Yes Jon, we know. You talked about them last time too. They sound just like early Black Flag. They even have a bug spray related name and Raymond Pettibon cover art. But it’s not like a rip off or anything. They’ve got the original singer of Black Flag (and we won’t forget the Circle Jerks) and he still sounds like it’s 1980, and we can’t ‘front’ on the rock resumes of the other band members either, so it’s more like a return to form, a full on, from-the-very-essence rebirth of all that is good and right about hardcore punk. Yes we know how awesome it is. Alright, alright, just settle down, shut up and try some decaf fer crap sake...”

OK, maybe I’m a little over-excited, but man... This should be blaring from the rooftops of every record store left in the world. It needs to be played on a non-stop loop for every 16-20 year old kid with a guitar thinking about starting a band so they understand that this...this is it - not that pasty My Chemical Romance swill - this right here is what it’s all about.

Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

The Black Keys | Magic PotionThe Black Keys | Magic Potion

Of all the "two piece guitar and drums blues-rock bands" that seem to have cropped up over the past 5-6 years, The Black Keys are the best. Magic Potion is my favorite record because more than other recent releases, it showcases Dan Auerbach’s mind-blowing guitar riffs. “Elevator” and “Give Your Heart Away” are standouts in that regard.

There’s a super-authenticity and simplified accessibilty about the dry guitar sound and striped down production. From the jump-start opening of “Just Got to Be” to the deep tremolo bend in “Just A Little Heat” and the low down, mellow groove of “The Flame” to the stomp of “Black Door”; influences from classic blues like Junior Kimbrough to Jimmy Page are laid out clearly and honestly. Then built on and expanded with Auerbach’s “modern day bluesman” sensibility.

You can count on this record to deliver every time. I cannot get enough.

Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Obits | Moody, Standard and PoorObits | Moody, Standard and Poor

Is that an album title or a description of my personality? Heh.

So get a blender. Drop in big hunks of singer/guitarist Rick Froberg’s previous bands; the surging power of Drive Like Jehu and the frenetic urgency of Hot Snakes. Pour in some Stooges and the best parts of early Rolling Stones (Froberg sounds a bit like a pissed off Mick Jagger in places). Sprinkle in a touch of Yardbirds, and some grit off of the garage floor and you get the beautiful, straight up rock cocktail that is Obits.

“No Fly List" kicks you in the teeth, “Naked To The World” rolls in some 60’s surf and “Spot The Pikey” touches on Jimi Hendrix for second there. Damn good, every bit of it.

Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Pulled Apart By Horses | self-titledPulled Apart By Horses | self-titled

Speaking of throwing things into blenders... On Monday my co-worker Danielle asks if I’ve heard of this band from the UK. They’re a little too hardcore for her, but I might like them. She sends me the link and I click on over to their site and...

Holy. Crap.

I had something else in mind for this spot in this week's 5, but that got pushed out by one of the most exciting bands going right now - potentially the most unique band out of the UK I’ve ever heard. These young blokes blast out with ferocity and a completely insane mix of influences. There’s everything in this sound from the straight ahead, raw hardcore of British contemporaries Gallows to the quick metallic flourishes of Mastodon to some kind of sped up, mid 70’s Aerosmith to like Sonic Youth on 50 gallons of coffee.

Spectacular song titles like “I Punched A Lion In The Throat”, and “Back To The Fuck Yeah” really say it all. Thanks for the tip Danielle.

Check it out: Grooveshark | Band website

Gallows | Grey Britain

Gallows | Grey Britain

And speaking of ferocious British hardcore... P.A.B.H. got me going on some Gallows.

This is a rare situation where a band signs a big record contract then puts out their heaviest, most intense album ever. Usually it goes the other way, but there is no screwing around here. They’re “serious as a heart attack”.

Grey Britain is arranged like a hardcore rock opera of sorts. It ebbs and flows from blazing, crunching riffs and vengeful vocals that make you want to throw your fist in the air against oppression down into Oasis-like acoustic bits and fully orchestrated overtures. Which would seem out of place, but it works because they always drive all the way back again with seemingly even more raw power.

It’s totally epic record reminiscent of Conflict’s The Final Conflict, but with a harder, perhaps more American influenced edge.

Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

The All Time 5

Welcome to Desert Island 5. This is basically how it works: Music is essential to survival so I put together a playlist of 5 records that I feel will keep me going all week, then blab about them on Friday. Content will mostly focus on punk, hardcore, metal and indie rock, ‘cause that’s my bread and butter, but my music collection ranges from Billie Holiday to Slayer so there should be some variety as well.

It’s not about what’s new and certainly not about what’s popular, but what’s keeping me afloat. Each week a different 5.

For instance, this week I’m in the midst of an all-encompassing 80’s hardcore binge that’s been inspired by Keith Morris’ back-to-the-core new band OFF! I’m deeply engrossed, its like the last thirty years of music haven’t even happened. It’s a non-stop barrage of Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, D.O.A., Adolescents, Minor Threat, Void, Faith, Bad Brains, Cro-mags, The Freeze, SSD et. al. All the truly great, incendiary stuff that I was born ten years too late to really be a part of.

So normally this week’s 5 would include OFF! and some of the aforementioned, but since we’re just starting off, I thought I’d begin with "The All Time 5" (which actually does include the almighty Flag).

This is the holy quintet that shaped and formed the basis of a lifetime of musical taste. These still send shivers up my spine no matter how many times I hear them. I couldn’t live without them.

Black Sabbath | ParanoidBlack Sabbath | Paranoid

I was little – maybe nine or ten. At the time, most of my musical influence came from what my older brothers were listening to - a lot of J. Geils Band, CCR and Springsteen. I would routinely raid my their records and tapes, take a haul down to the stereo in the living room and sit for hours with headphones.

One time, thinking nothing of it, I popped this unmarked tape into the player. This slowly marching thud crept into the speakers. As anticipation began to peak, a droning heavily distorted guitar blasted in from nowhere and this menacing, metallic voice proclaimed, "I AM IRON MAN!”

It was the scariest thing I had ever heard. I was instantly hooked.

The vicious staccato of "War Pigs", the indisputable power of "Iron Man", the punk-foreshadowing speed of "Paranoid", the deeply sullen groove of "Planet Caravan", the pure evil drone of "Electric Funeral" changed everything and set the tone forever after. J. Geils just didn’t cut it anymore.

This is the all time supreme number 1 album ever. Everything else comes after. Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward are the most powerful combination of musicians that has ever assembled.
Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Black Flag | The First Four YearsBlack Flag | The First Four Years

I remember seeing these older skater kids wearing Black Flag t-shirts and thinking, “Man that is really cool. I’ve got to find out what this Black Flag thing is all about.” There was a really exciting sense of mystery about anything that was “from California” especially if it was "punk rock". So one day I finally rode my bike over to Strawberries and picked this up on cassette. There were a bunch of Black Flag tapes to choose from (this was 1988ish), but I figured that The First Four Years seemed like a logical starting point.

If hearing "Iron Man" for the first time was an awakening, the blazing opening riff of "Nervous Breakdown" and Keith Morris’ signature growling, snotty, surfer dude vocals were a punch in the jaw. The unbridled, raw fury of Greg Ginn’s guitar completely enthralled me and I instantly knew that this music would be a driving force for me going forward.

In American Hardcore (required reading), Henry Rollins talks about how Ginn didn’t have a volume control on his guitar, only an on/off switch. That’s why you hear all that feedback at the beginning of every song. I love that so much. Ginn was my first true guitar hero and remains such today. Every time I pick up my guitar I play a Black Flag riff.

Later this record would spark a big debate among my friends as to who the best singer for Black Flag was. Honestly, trying to choose between Morris’ vocals on "Nervous Breakdown" and "I’ve Had It", or Ron Reyes on "Jealous Again" and "Revenge" or Dez Cadena on "American Waste" and "Damaged I" (or Rollins in later years for that matter) is a total wash. They’re all amazing.

Black Flag will be mentioned here A LOT.
Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Fugazi | 13 SongsFugazi | 13 Songs

My old friend Kurt was the first one to get his license, so then began regular pilgrimages to Newbury Comics in Burlington. We would drive down there and buy ‘zines and records and tapes and completely immerse ourselves in all the punk, hardcore, metal and counter culture we possibly absorb. It was great.

Kurt had this tape at one point that we all dubbed from him that had some Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Nuclear Assault, Butthole Surfers and maybe some Dead Kennedys and/or GG Allin. I don’t remember exactly, but I bet if looked hard enough I probably still have it. Anyway, this tape was my first exposure to one of my favorite and one of the most recognizable vocalists of all time: Ian MacKaye.

When we heard that “Ian from Minor Threat” had this new band that was really cool, on the next trip to Newbury, I made sure to pick up the Fugazi self titled and Margin Walker EPs on cassette.

I popped the self-titled EP into the tape deck on the ride home and was immediately exposed to music that was so good and so cool it was completely indescribable. Kurt thought it sounded like The Clash, but I thought it didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard before. It wasn’t “punk” and it sure wasn’t “hardcore”. Joe Lally’s intricate, soulful bass lines, Brendan Canty’s absolutely incredible drumming (forget Neal Peart, Brendan Canty is the greatest drummer of all time) holding it down for Ian and Guy’s sometimes searing ("Glue Man"), sometimes sweet ("Provisional") guitars and vocals. Fugazi completely defied categorization. Songs like “Bad Mouth” and “Give Me The Cure” and, of course, “Waiting Room” went on every mix tape I made for years to come.

I wore those tapes out completely to the point my Margin Walker cassette just frayed apart and snapped. I was very happy to pick up the 13 Songs CD years later. It’s pretty funny to talk about cassettes and CD’s now.
Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Swiz | No Punches PulledSwiz | No Punches Pulled

Swiz was absolutely one of the most underrated hardcore bands ever. With Shawn Brown’s raw, throaty vocals and inspired lyrics and Jason Farrell’s high powered, chugging jack hammer guitar assault, they were crunchier and more aggressive than their DC contemporaries and smarter and more complex than anything out of Boston or NYHC at the time. But they never seemed to get their due in the short time they were around.

With powerful songs like "Toon" and "Wash" and "Sun Stroke" and especially "Cakewalk", I can’t see why.

"Cakewalk" features my favorite song lyrics ever:

My little dying
You look so drop dead beautiful I can’t turn away
You’re like a saccharine kiss
Inside an iron fist
And from this hole I’ve been diggin’
You seem like all I need

Hell yes.

I feel lucky to have caught them live. I saw them at The Rat in Boston with Bad Trip and Killing Time in January of 1990. (See here and here.) Not the greatest sound quality on those videos, but I can assure you they were tight and powerful and by far the best band of the afternoon. Which is not say that Bad Trip or Killing Time were bad. They were both great too. It’s just that Swiz was on another level. I bought a 7” at the show, but I didn’t buy a t-shirt, which I regret to this day.
Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon

Jets to Brazil | Orange Rhyming Dictionary

Jets to Brazil | Orange Rhyming Dictionary

How can something so relatively recent make into the All Time 5? Well... Front man Blake Shwarzenbach’s previous band Jawbreaker was a staple of the soundtrack that helped me through some of the darkest, most frustrating times of my life. You know how some people reflect warmly on their college years and have a bunch great stories of fun and reverie? Yeah. Not me.

Anyway, Jawbreaker was one of the greatest bands of the 90’s and put out some truly memorable records, which we’ll get to in future 5’s. Then in ’95 some major label looking for another Green Day swept them up, which quickly, sadly lead to the bands' demise.

That experience seemed inspire Mr. Shwarzenbach and he emerged in ’98 with a new rhythm section and the musical, lyrical magnum opus that is Orange Rhyming Dictionary. This remains his best song writing effort. Deeper and more mature than anything Jawbreaker did and by far the best Jets release – so strong that they couldn’t even come close to matching it. You don’t just listen to this record. You experience it. You live in its world for 52.6 minutes. You feel everything that every word, every hook and every riff expounds.

So it’s a truly inspiring record on it’s own, but the real reason it makes the cut is that two of the most significant events of my life bookmark 1999: my father passing away in January, and my wedding that October. A tumultuous emotional year to say the least. I listened to this record at least twice a day during that time and it’s a testament to the power of music to provide a soundtrack and help you stay sane.
Check it out: Grooveshark ::: Get it: iTunes | Amazon


Survive a week without music? Not likely.

Each week Di5 recaps 5 records essential for survival. It’s not about what’s new or hot, but what’s keeping us above water.

Content is pretty much entirely punk, metal, hardcore and indie rock, but there’s also the occasional foray into blues or jazz or cheesy 80’s pop metal.


"I've an obligation
To dream or be dead..."

- from "Dream Or Be Dead" by Dax Riggs