RODE HARD, PUT AWAY WET: CLEVO HC ’89-’93 – Face Value (Smog Veil Records)
As weird as it might seem, the ‘90s as nostalgia are here, along with archival releases of bands that folded the tent after “the year punk broke.” Perspective’s all: the Yardbirds seemed like ancient history when I stumbled onto them, two years after they split up. Now I play music with guys who came up listening to hardcore and were informed by that sensibility, but myself, I totally missed that boat. In Texas, pogoing hadn’t yet given way to slamming when I enlisted in the Air Force, February 1982, and by the time I was back on the street a decade later, “Nevermind” had been released, you could buy leather ‘n’ spikes at Hot Topic in the mall, and the new crop of blue-haired kids (my own kids’ cohort) thought “punk” meant Green Day. Those guys were more like cleaned-up-for-mainstream throwbacks, though. Face Value was the real deal.

They came together in ’89, during the presidency of Bush the Elder, and they were straightedge kids who were more into fun than aggro. (The longevity of moshpit violence is a whole ‘nother story for another time. A kid I work with at the market dislocated his thumb in a pit last week – at a “Christian metal” club. The mind boggles.) They cut a five-song demo in ’89, released a 7” EP (“Coming of Age”) in ’90, a full-length LP (“ Price of Maturity”) and a live 7” (“Loud”) in ’91, and a second LP (“Kick It Over”) in ’93. Original bassplayer Tony Hinton went to prison mid-tour in ’92, and frontman/wrestling Uberfan Tony Erba quit at the end of ’93. The band carried on with replacements until ’95, and the originals (minus founder/drummer Scott Doland) reformed last year.

In the band’s bio, Erba sums up Face Value’s trajectory thus: “This was long before cell phones, the internet, ‘street teams,’ cheap ways to manufacture merch, affordable recording studios…there were no booking agents, roadies, Paypal, Myspace, or safety nets. We all lost our jobs every year, and some of us were homeless at the end of a tour, not to mention thousands of dollars in debt.” Sounds like a party to me. Rode Hard, Put Away Wet collects their first demo, EP, and full-length, plus four songs from the second LP and a DVD of live performances that includes a couple of unreleased tunes. The discs are packaged with a large foldout that includes liner notes done with a shitty typewriter, punk zine style.

In the studio, Doland and guitarist “Downtown” Anthony Brown sound like the best two-man band since Steve Jones and Paul Cook, while Erba does his job, which is to serve as a provocateur more than a singer. For all of Erba’s grousing about studios of the time not knowing how to record or mix hardcore, the “Price of Maturity” and “Coming of Age” tracks are pretty well recorded. By the time they cut “Kick It Over”, they’d started slowing the tempos down a bit (and using flanger on the guitar – a kiss of death since Mick Jones bought one on the Clash’s ’79 U.S. tour), perhaps as a result of introducing covers of cross-generational signifiers like the James Gang, Mountain, and Black Sabbath into their sets when they were forced to hustle gigs at rock or metal bars on the road. On the DVD, their energy seems more diffuse -- albeit with shitty camcorder sound -- but the band’s connection with their audience at the middle American rawk dumps and VFW halls they played is palpable, no matter how you feel about the ritualized mayhem of the pit (I’m not a fan, as you might have guessed). A worthwhile document, all in all. - Ken Shimamoto

 

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