Chunks of Mid-West Punk: A new Album Of The Month

Liquids, Trauma Harness and Rick & The Pigs get weird n desperate, man.

Life is pain, IDIOT!?

LIQUIDS, Life Is Pain Idiot

But sometimes it’s just sweet and sour enough to keep you upright am I right? This week we’re looking at a couple of slabs of punk that have managed to slice through the shutters in Monorail to make us feel ALIVE babyyy. It includes a new Album Of The Month too.

Liquids are from Indiana, that Mid-Western state in this kind of Bermuda Triangle of punk that includes Ohio, St. Louis and surrounding environs. It’s a strange, desperate zone that has always dealt in strange versions of punk, from Rocket From The Tomb to Devo to Coneheads to Lumpy & The Dumpers and all the strange nutters who run DIY labels from around that suburban and rural and ok urban wastelands. What is it about all these groups? They always sound pissed off but not in the jaded as hell L.A. style or ragged macho Boston style, they’re always nasally, anally-obsessed or just plain weird, you know? But they always write amazing songs with melodies, somehow. 

Mat Williams is at the heart of Liquids and though he’d waxed a slew of tapes, 7”s and an LP from 2015 to 18, this is the first newness from whatever Liquids is right now in 4 years. Jeez it’s hit us like a house-sized hammer full of sherbert and speed all mixed up into a fizzy 200mph buzz. Imagine, right, that you’ve bought a Buzzcocks or Damned 7” and totally forgot that you only have 78RPM (ask your Gran) turntable but fuck it you’re gonna play it anyway and enjoy it. At this breakneck speed the music burns up into a super thrilling Rock n Roll salad of CLASSIC power pop melodies played like The Nerves were rolling down a massive hill in Death Valley with no breaks. 

There’s barely a song over 2 minutes and yet something like Don’t Wanna Get To Know You seems to reference Yellow Pills power pop, Hozac Records garage punk with a classic chorus and then it’s straight on to a primitive early Devo slammer. The ghost of New Wave gets riddled with bratty bullets on You’re Burning, on Think Too Much they blithely throw out a track that sounds like it could have been written by Rudi in Belfast in 1978. Lemon Rice is pure, unadulterated Rock ’n’ Roll with a 3 chord blues structure punched up to brain melting speed and fun and in another universe they do a whole album like this and it’s on Goner and it’s equally amazing. 

Look, it’s all goddamn classic. However, what I’ve been skirting around for this whole piece is the piece de resistance which is, I shiteth thee not, a double speed cover of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell. Rendered Liquid it doesn’t sound out of place, instead it sounds like the power pop holy grail it always was if twas recorded on an 8 track in a mouldy basement with only 6 tracks working and even then the damn thing is close to burning up.

Is Liquids, Life Is Pain, Idiot our Album Of the Month? Give me a HELL YEAH, because it is. It’s burning us all up, we’re all bats in its hell. RIP Meat.

TRAUMA HARNESS, Ten Years Of Trauma

We’re still lost in the Mid-West though, so don’t go anywhere bub. On the ever-reliable Lumpy Records, Trauma Harness were totally knew to us but when that label puts something out, specially when it looks as cool as this, you sit up and listen. 

From Belleville, Illinois, Trauma Harness are a trio that are exhuming the outer regions of Post-Punk from, say ’79 onwards, like gravediggers not content to settle in one genre corpse. Instead they’re building a highly affecting music with guitars dripping in Goth-tinged effects and a hyperactive drummer who still manages to just about play the Post-Punk game with 16-beats in the almost Keith Moon-style lead drumming style. 

Beginning in 2011, Trauma Harness have that world-building thing down, like the three guys took a welder to their cold storage tank and sealed themselves in with a bunch of records and equipment to create a totally unique language. Ten Years Of Trauma is a collection of tracks taken from the group’s 11 year career compiled by Lumpy’s Martin and it’s a bewilderingly brilliant collection. You can hear everything from *deep breath* The Cure, Minimal Man, Diat, Seivehead, Total Control, Magazine, Women, Killing Joke, small town desperation, urban gloom, kicking trash about the doughnut shop parking lot, Mid-West sunsets while blazing out your mind on too-strong weed, Television Personalities, even irony-free takes on British synth pop (a cover of Heaven’s Magic’s Cathy Don’t Go) that comes across sounding like Go-Kart Mozart.

At the heart of this inelegantly wasted punk adjacent emotional slurry is a little kernel of emotion, some might call it a heart, which sets this band apart. A close analogy might be Melbourne’s Total Control who mix up media, can be arch and layered with meaning but at the core of every track and idea there’s definitely some pain being worked through. As we drift into compilation the Magazine style guitar lines give way to glacial synth cold waves, the hiss of rain on The Serpentine That Stole The Light showing a band restless to always try something new before exploding out in a punk smash riddled with we might not make it but we’re gonna try heartfelt pleading. On Northern Lights they touch on a Noise Pop bordering on Indie, with a drum machine, dual guitar attack and succinctly British sounding accent to their nasal vocals. Seriously, what is it about the Mid-West punk singers, it’s like they never quite grow up right. Long may it continue.

By the end of the compilation the symbiosis between electronics and guitars reaches a New Order-ish fever pitch with Grove by Grove, all sweeping synths and chugging Peter Hook basslines navigating some cavernous reverb drums. I can’t tell exactly the timeline of the compilation but you can definitely see the evolution. By this point the group have kept this innate sense of drama in the songwriting while expertly dragging in all these classic British and Oz post-punk influences into the stew and wow, what a band. Have they really stopped? If anything this is testament to band’s just doing it for the love, no real care if they get championed by the global punk squatiratti (I just made that up) or not. They mean it. 

RIK & THE PIGS, The Last Laugh

OK, so they’re not from the Mid-West, but Rick And The Pigs ARE on Lumpy so we’re staying with the theme. Way more ROCK in that thrilling way the early 80s hadn’t quite metastasised into Hardcore, we’re thinking The Dictators with sloppy, fuck you attitude oozing out like old fat from chip fryer. Or would that be Fry Fryer?

This is blistering rock music that easily slips off the planet into Flipper, Big Boys territory with the scythe-like 7 minute blues gruntwork that is the band’s calling card Life’s A Bust. But what does Lumpy say?

“Feeling Lower than the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Me too, but this record is helping. When I heard it I finally believed that one guy with long hair and a green shirt who told me “Those Cats Can Really Play!” Rik and his deplorable Pigs imploded in 2018 but not before recording two final sessions in California – one with Mike Kriebel (The Beat Sessions guy), another with Tony Santos. They skipped town before paying the bill, but we’ve stepped in to pick up the tab because we think it’s a great value. The Pigs, man…those guys are the laziest delinquent sort of pig slobs ever born, but at least they’re well rehearsed. They’re salty from marinating in the degenerate RNR Dick Manitoba, Cheetah Chrome and Dave E gave us long ago and it shows. Ricky the cunning wordsmith delivers with weasel verve, as one with an actual Venus in Taurus would. There’s a rawness and honesty here that has more to do with 80s hardcore than the modern garage rock scene that has embraced them. “Lifes A Bust” is the hit – a scorching groove that lasts 7 minutes 26 seconds and still somehow feels too short. Play it at the bar and the people over 40 will be tapping their toes. “The Last Laugh” is probably a great gift for your father or father’s father, get it while it’s hot!”

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