Super Sunday Hamster Blender Blog

28 April 2006

Untangling the Blood Clot

Filmmaker and musician Don Letts released a DVD in 2005 called “Punk: Attitude,” which serves as a nice chronology of punk rock and its impact on society. Among the footage is an interview with Henry Rollins, former Black Flag front man, who defines what “punk rock” means today. He was explaining how punk rock moved from being a musical classification to a definition of attitude. In his example, if one kid rolls a shopping cart into the side of a car, another kid would say “that is so punk rock!” It’s a rebellion thing.

It’s kind of tough to be punk rock today, especially from where I and many others sit in our towers of responsibility and social conformity. Most of our rebellion comes from devious activities such as calling in sick to work, or not shopping at Wal-Mart to boycott their labor practices, or giving other drivers the middle finger under the dashboard. Tame and lame. Fact is, we get comfortable in our lives and ignore the opportunities to embrace that punk rock attitude. You even forget what it feels like at all. Our youthful passion is filtered by the effect of being responsible for our children, paying taxes, and saving for retirement. Our blood becomes nonchalant.

To make matters even fuzzier, punk rock as music, fashion, and attitude has been methodically commercialized, sanitized, pasteurized, and bastardized for public consumption. MTV used to be an underground thing, boys and girls, and now it’s a toddler playground for the hair-gel crowd. Clash songs are used to sell Jaguars, Ramones songs sell Verizon. Punk is so air-brushed over that you cannot even recognize it anymore. Mohawks retreat into four-bedroom suburban homes and watch American Idol.

That is, you can’t recognize it until it punches you right in the face, as it happened to me on Tuesday, April 25th. The venue is Bentley Billiards, in Westfield, Massachusetts. A drizzly, cold evening, but the bar is well-lit, and every pool table has a game going on. This is the kind of place where the pool studs bring in their own cues in nifty over-the-shoulder bags. They aren’t even drinking that much. Serious business.

The band Crazy Pineapple is playing tonight. Now, Crazy Pineapple is a youthful quartet (all 18 and under), who play a brand of punk-infused music – harsh speed and angst-riddled lyrics. The crowd that faces them tonight are in the 35-55 age bracket, contently shooting pool and listening to the beloved Charlie Daniels over the house stereo. These are the people who are responsible for their children, paying taxes, and saving for retirement. And probably listening to any investment advice Charlie Daniels would offer.

My first thought is that they will get absolutely zero reception from this crowd (my deduction of Mensa-like proportions), and possibly have pool balls heaved at them from short distances. There is a man sitting directly in front of the band, at the first table, and he looks like Art Carney, only moments before he died. How can these kids get pumped for the potential disaster that will certainly befall them?

Besides, this is only Crazy Pineapple’s second show. They need encouragement and support from an adoring, supportive crowd, right? These are just innocent kids, whose egos and confidence are fragile and under development and…

…they walk in, survey the crowd, and smile. An evil, bloodthirsty smile. After they setup, still smiling, they decide to modify the set a little bit by opening with a very brief acoustic instrumental. This is done on purpose, mind you, to set an expectation that they wish to contradict. No, make that destroy.

This, I decide, is very punk rock.

After the faux intro, the distortion is tripped, and they ramble headlong into their first song. They are not dismayed by the challenge in front of them; no, they don’t see any chance of converting this crowd. Instead, they play in defiance. They know they will be despised. They know they will annoy the bejeezus out of them, disrupting their games, angering them with their indifference. And this motivates them. To legendary levels.

I am smiling as singer Alison screams “you are my favorite fucking liiiii-arrrrrrrrrrr!”

The place is bewildered. Games come to a complete halt. As the first song closes, Art Carney gets up and says “no more!” The retort he gets is the band launching into “Garbage Disposal,” a vicious 75-second rant pinning the speedometer. This is probably their least-accessible song for the masses, and they put it in the number two spot. How punk rock is that?

After the third song, the crowd now understands this is not going to go away, and begin to do their best to shuffle about their shuddering pool tables. Bassist Eggface announces to the crowd, “I hope you are enjoying us, as we have a lot more songs to play. If you don’t like us; well, sucks to be you.”

I am reminded of the Sex Pistols playing Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio in 1978; British punk meets America’s cowboys. A mismatched forged in the furnace of Wal-Mart.

Not content to stand there and be punk rock shoe gazers, the band prances and minces and leaps about. Dsatt, the guitarist, is a study in contortion, making as many ridiculously goofy faces and mock-rock poses as possible. Eggface follows suit, his baseball cap shook violently by his decapitating head bobs. They lay on the ground. They spin on the ground. They jump, hop, bounce, twirl, mug, dip, kick. Sloppiness reigns. They don’t care. They’re laughing. They are baiting the entire bar.

They are pushing shopping carts into the sides of cars.

And they play hard. Not just fast-hard, but fast-we-need-to-break-spines-hard. Tim’s drum kit needs repair at the end of just about each song. Of course, he’s yelling “let’s rock, Westfield!” at every chance.

By the time they reach the point where they do a cover of a song learned in bible camp at age four – which starts with an a cappella “we are a family, a Christian family” - and ends with massive doses of unrestrained un-Christian-like screaming – many of the tables have evacuated. The survivors huddle at the table farthest from the band, like timid fish in one corner of the aquarium, avoiding the piranha at the other end.

Prior to the last song, Tim makes a plea to the remaining soles – “will the last table down at the end please leave? We want to be able to say we cleared the place out.”

I do not think I stopped smiling the whole time. I smiled in admiration for the attitude they had in the face of adversity, in the way they relished the situation. I smiled at their utter goofiness. Best of all, I smiled because I recognized punk rock again. Thank you, Crazy Pineapple, thank you. Thank you for never giving up. Thank you for playing for yourselves. I felt my blood again.

Now I have to go manage my retirement savings.

Crazy Pineapple can be found at -

10 April 2006

The Center for Deforming Arts

With the new re-publication of our web site, we thought we would do the equivalent of marketing suicide by executing this gimmick of releasing four one-minute songs. But these aren’t just any one-minute songs; these are four highly dysfunctional one-minute songs.

The concept goes like this –

We will make four one-minute songs.
Each band member writes and sings one song. Four band members equates to four songs (mathematics is a required band competency).
Each band member cannot play the same instrument twice across all four songs. For example, our drummer can only play drums on one of the four songs.
Each track is recorded separately, and the next track is simply (and painfully) built upon it. Therefore, you are at the mercy of the first person up for each song. If you are fourth in line, then you are at the mercy of the three incompetents prior to you. It is kind of like trying to make apple pie, but using ingredients such as oranges, mustard seed, a piñata, and thumbtacks. We used a rotating schedule to give each person the same disturbing opportunity to screw things up.

Well, so what can one expect when the drummer ends up playing lead guitar and the marimba becomes a lead instrument?

You get songs about potholes, rugs, skiing, and the Spanish channel.

And you get timing issues. Recording each instrument totally independent of each other wreaks havoc with whoever is playing drums, especially when 75 percent of our hamster nation does not play (and can’t spell) drumms. If you listen closely, you may possibly notice some of these alleged timing issues.

OK, so you don’t have to listen too closely. We were like a stuttering grandfather clock in the back of a dump truck going down concrete stairs. Driven by Dick Cheney as if he were trying to run over some old lawyer guy.

So I know you are begging with the question of “why did you morons do this? You can barely piece together a song with instruments you think you can play.”

A valid accusation, to which we respond, “semper ubi sub ubi.” Which, in grammatically incorrect Latin, means “always wear under wear.’” A phrase my brother taught me when I was a wee lad.

Oh, wait, wrong answer. Plus we don’t abide by that rule anyway. So I will do the annoying thing and answer a question with a question – “have you ever sat behind a drum kit?”

Yes, this was just a total excuse to get everyone besides our drummer to sit on that spindly chair and be able to pound the holy bejeezus out of something and call it “music.” Such a powerful feeling. Even for those of us too uncoordinated to synch our feet with our hands and thus eschew the feet altogether, we felt this great power, a tremendous release of psychotic energy; very similar, I am sure, to how Dick Cheney felt when he shot that old lawyer guy.

Absolutely unnecessary segue – try the answer-a-question-with-a-question thing for, like, a day.

“Hey, I need you to go to the 1 PM status meeting and present an update on the Brent contract. Do you think you can make it?”

“Do you think I can do it?”

“Um, yeah. You put it together. Why would you say that?”

“Why would you ask me to go?”

“Because you put it together! Do you have a problem with going?”

“Do YOU have a problem with going?”

“Yes! That’s why I am asking you! What the hell is wrong with you?!?”

“What the hell is wrong with YOU?”


“Why are you screaming?”

Oh, what fun!

Actually, most of our band practices sound like this. Or Dick Cheney’s defense in shooting that old lawyer guy.

America: “Dick! You shot an old lawyer guy! Why did you do that?”

Dick Cheney: “Why wouldn’t I do that?”

America: “Good point.”

Anyway (he said, bringing resolution to one long, drawn-out segue), what’s done is done (so said Brutus after he whacked Caesar); or in other words, “semper ubi sub ubi” (so said Brutus after he whacked Caesar; this time, however, his tone was mocking). So we got this out of our system; this unorthodox bucketful of unencumbered bile, and we will be back to making the same orthodox bucketful of encumbered bile we know you expect from us.

Unless, of course, the whole concept of the lead marimba becomes this kind of marketing gimmick…