A few weeks ago I fished out a tape of a college radio show "Zen Crux" from
KZSC UC Santa Cruz's show. This show was from about October or November 1990. After 14 years in Pleasanton, my mom sold our house and we moved out of our apartment across town. So I split to Santa Cruz. I picked it up down in Aptos when I worked at the Pixie Plaza market. Pixie Plaza was a convienience store that catered to mostly drunk idiots. One of it's biggest selling items was this foul concoction of fruit juice and hard alcohol - called Cisco.
This particular "Zen Crux" show was during their pledge drive which normally would've been irritating but the DJs made it pretty fun. This was college radio in the age before Pitchfork and even before Nirvana. This was indie rock with an emphasis on ROCK. I'm not saying that it's perfect but take a look at this list of bands & songs and see how different this is from the puds who play The Decemberists and Death Cab For Cutie and feel like they're doing something "cutting edge". The problem with a lot of college stations and so-called "indie bands" isn't so much that they don't rock (OK, maybe it IS!) but it seems to be that the bands that take real risks get overlooked.
* Screaming Trees - "Ocean Of Confusion" - Seriously rockin', perfectly melodic and catchy. The Van Conner brothers and Marc Langean worked so well together. It's a damn shame they've gotten overlooked after Nirvana hit it big. Lanegan's solo stuff is fantastic as well. I lucked out and saw them play live twice in the same night when they opened for Sonic Youth.
* Mustard - "Lady Day" (live on KZSC). Mustard along wiht Hedgehog were played a lot on Zen Crux and it's precursor show Zen Bubblegum which was essentially the same show with a different co-host. This song is a John Coletrane cover even though I've never heard the original it has that odd mix of hippie jam band mixed with passable '68-'71 era psych rock interplay. I was always suspect about Mustard as they were from Santa Cruz AND had a song called "Groovy Waters".
--- DJ back announces calls Mustard "local, groovy band" and says about Screaming Trees "another underground band makes the majors". Interesting as this was in the pre-Nirvana time. He also played "Stargirl" by Seaweed which I had on another tape. They played this song a lot but it wasn't till I heard their debut on Sub Pop "Weak" when I got really into Seaweed. I got to interview them in 1993 for KSJS. They were really nice, funny guys. We talked about all kinds of stuff outside their band like Venom, AntiSeen and strange cover songs of Lee Hazelwood songs. (i.e Einstrüzende Neubauten's version of "Sand")
Seaweed like a number of bands in the 90's got pretty bad as time went on. Their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" was just the beginning. They just seem so goddamn smug playing that shitty song. I have yet to hear their one & only major label album "Spanway" but it apparently is pretty spotty. Although this video is pretty cool. Oddly enough in 1994 they were ahead of the curve by showing 80's retro stuff like Pre-X Games era BMX bikes and dudes in 3/4 sleeve concert tees. I can relate, gimme
Diamond Turbos and a Rush '84 tour shirt & I'm good.
* Stooges - "I Wanna Be Your Dog" - The first time hearing this oddly enough. It still sound raw and powerfully (no pun intended). The Stooges haven't haven't been worn out by nostaligia trips for me. At least not yet. I went out a week later and got a copy of "Raw Power" on gatefold LP at Logo's for a scant $3.50. Still plays just fine.
* Helmet - "Repetition" - Another first. Once I heard that first riff kick in I though "whooa- what the HELL ? This is FUCKING HEAVY!" Riff after after and even a guitar solo? Wait this was metal or at least really close. Thing is the vocals are either shouted or almost spoken. This was the new stuff on a label I had just discovered then - Amphetamine Reptile -which I read about in Maximum Rock N' Roll. I heard a few of their early releases on KFJC but Helmet was really new. Helmet live was another story. They became a one trick pony. I saw them once in 1992 second to last on the bill with Quicksand, Gray Matter (D.C., the Discord band not Grey Matter which was a medicore "alt.rock" band in early 90's San Jose), Hammerhead (the AmRep band) and Melvins (who headlined). Helmet was pretty dull live. The first time I saw them they got blow away by the openers and the headliner. Then the next time they out outshined by both the openers - Therapy? and Jesus Lizard.
* Boredoms - "Bubble Pop Shop" even though I had heard the Boredoms via Maximum Rock N' Roll's radio show on KFPA a few months earlier - THIS was something way the fuck out there. Screaming male and female vocals, bashing drums, audio martial arts ("hi-yah"), and some insane variations of "We Will Rock You". I later found out that this LP sounds incredible awesome played backwards.
* Wedding Present - "Kennedy" - I never heard of "the Weddos" (as N.M.E. would called them) before this. In college I had 4 friends that had most of their records. This is a pretty phenomenal track especially considering the time. Plenty of bands (re: lame ones) played 'jangle rock" guitar but the Wedding Present played it and fast with a huge bass line with a enough variation in the chords that kept your attention. Really sarcastic lyrics with the refrain "too much apple pie".
* Victim's Family - "Supermarket Nightmare/Polka" Victim's Family is one of those bands in the 90's I wanted to really like but never really could. They played great but they songs were kinda samey. Fast bouncy, slightly funky and proggy bass lines both of these tracks are above water but overall they just never really did much for me. I bought a copy of "White Bread Bread Blues" at the original Streetlight Records in San Jose. Anyone remember when they were in that converted house next to the freeway?
--- DJ #1 backannouces - "...(the Boredoms) that was the Japanese answer to the Butthole Surfers" DJ #2 "Can you say that?" "Rollins would want you to donate to KZSC...it's a very Rollins, punk rock thing". (DJ #1 says "grooviness" again, WTF?)
* Rollins Band - "What've I Got?"/"Tearin' Me Apart" - While I think I liked Black Flag when I first heard 'em (it was "My War" around early '85) I just forgot about it in the onslaught of metal obsession. These two songs go me into Rollins Band (as did his killer cover of The Pink Faries "Do It") that made me go back and check out Black Flag. I saw Hank & a guy named Don Bajemia do spoken word in December of 1990 at UCSC. It was in a lecture hall that held about 400 people. I briefly talked with Henry after the show - he signed my copy of "High Adventures in the Great Outdoors". He seemed pretty cool but really overwhelmed and intense (go figure).
* Negativland - "Car Bomb" - I had heard Negativland's "hit" "Christianity Is Stupid" a few times and even listened to their bizarre "Over The Edge" show on KPFA earlier in the year but this song was really different. This is Negativland at their most straight up punk yet it's still pretty weird. It's a list of different car parts with a fast thumping beat and a clocking ticking down, explosions and the crazy, shouted chorus of "...Carrrr-- Booaaammmmmb!"..."covered in a bumpersticker that says...'no other possibility".
*Click*...Time to flip over the tape.