By Scott Hefflon
Every so often, a comp comes out that nails it. How We Rock is one of those comps. Unlike Now That’s What I Call Shitty Music: Volume Four Billion (all the manufactured radio Top 40 dance shit), How We Rock compiles 19 hotshots and whatnots both trendy and “classic.” We’re now calling mid-’90s “real rock” “classic,” just so you know… The bio blames the brief and polished-shiny moment where electronic music “threatened” rock’n’roll for this resurgence, and that makes sense. Like how punk rock was originally a direct response to, like, Queen and Yes and art/prog shit “back in the day,” Dwarves, New Bomb Turks, Supersuckers, and Rocket From The Crypt (among plenty of others not presented here) were the rockier end of the punk rock resurgence of the mid-’90s that was bored with grunge and watered-down, mopey altrock mainstream pap. It was dreary and faux artsy and majors had signed everyone in flannel whether they had anything to say or not. Cuz singing and playing meant little by that point.
Fast-forward to the present where for years we’ve been choking on emo whining (immature, watered-down indie rock by “cute” dorks who can’t sing and can’t write dynamic tunes) and nü metal/rapcore (white guys angry about, uh, stuff, who grew out of hardcore and couldn’t make the leap to “real metal” with, like, guitar solos and snakespit vocals, or liked rap cuz chicks shake their bootie to it, and they never fully get how silly they look in their ball caps strutting back and forth across the stage like blacks do, mostly cuz suburban white kids have never been “locked down” and should bless their virgin little buttholes that they haven’t been, so they have no idea what “pacing like a caged animal” means), and don’t even get me started on the state of “punk rock.” Much as I like a lot of the peppy punkpop, it’s fast pop (at best). “Punk” usually doesn’t come into play.
So, with the great majority of music sucking ass and selling well (I’m glad when Dave Matthews comes on the radio because, comparatively, he drives me to murder significantly less than the latest Ra Rule duet), it makes sense many are looking back to the sticky-floored clubs for vital music. Trouble is, emo’s rubbed off and “the kids” are kinda far removed from The Sex Pistols, or even GG Allin, and AC/DC and “classic rock” is their shaggy older brother’s domain, so even though Electric Frankenstein is actually pretty mid-tempo and dull, we all flock to them because most everything else sucks a lot worse. So while the “old school” rockers are fist-bangin’ and shot-pounding to the classics mentioned above – as well as Zeke, The Hellacopters, Gluecifer, and Gotohells – “the kids” are “shakin’ it up” all jerky Mod style (I always picture Mike Meyers in the black turtleneck, all pretentious and arty, never breaking a sweat) to The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Division of Laura Lee, and this particular track by The Hives (“Main Offender”), which is probably their breakthrough hit cuz it’s not as crazy, wild, sloppy, and dangerous, and therefore safe for trendy kids who wanna “rock out” but have no idea how to cuz they grew up on emo, grunge, and other lazy musical styles.
To get this far into the review without mentioning Turbonegro, who open this comp as they should open every comp released, is a sin, and I’ll ask forgiveness at the Alter of Rock and promise to recite 30 “For Those About to Rock, We Salute You”s. If you missed this very-influential-in-the-underground mid-’90s Scandinavian rock band cuz your friends are posers and never pressured you into buying and memorizing every word so you could scream “Motherfuckin’ pizza tonight!” with them, it’s time to get new friends (and every Turbonegro record you can lay yer paws on).
So How We Rock does what it sets out to: It shows the breadth of today’s rock. There are a few not-great tracks: The Peepshows‘ “Never Say No” which rips Maiden’s “The Trooper” and plods through it like US Bombs plod through pretty much everything; Puffball‘s “Ace of Spades”-era Motörhead barrage which ain’t bad, but any speed-poppin’ rock fan can surely mention three dozen cuts they’d’ve replaced it with; and Danko Jones‘ fizzling closer which, again, is finger-snapping soul rock (black singers help, as un-PC as that might sound) and ok, but where’re Backyard Babies (ok, they only had one good record, but it was GREAT), or The Flaming Sideburns, or “Demons,” or The Quill, or, for that matter, any of the more stoner/hard rock bands? Sure, ya don’t wanna get too far into the shaggy stoner Fu Manchu/Monster Magnet “Black Sabbath ruled!” genepool, but hinting that it exists as valid rock might’ve been nice. Then again, Bad Afro’s Pushing Scandinavian Rock to the Man Vol. III and Small Stone’s Sucking the ’70s two-CD cover comp are both out, so fill in the blanks by getting them too.
This is the domestic release of a Burning Heart CD, and Burning Heart’s in Sweden, so a few tracks don’t credit labels in the U.S. who’ve fought and probably lost money delivering The Rock. And, ironically, Epitaph has since dropped most of the early rock bands listed here in favor of the “hip” Mod stuff, so I wonder how that tastes… Geek info: Zeke was on Scooch Pooch (who still owes me money) and then Sub Pop, as were Gluecifer and Supersuckers (on Sub Pop, I mean); The Hives, New Bomb Turks, The Hellacopters, and maybe another are/have been on Gearhead who doesn’t even get mentioned here; Sahara Hotnights (who sound like yelpy early garage Donnas, but one of the chicks is dating one of The Hives, so that makes them good or something) are on Jetset, as are The Flaming Sideburns (can I namedrop them more?); Randy and T(I)NC have both been on G-7 outta Canada; and EF have been on every decent rock label in North America, so finding a list of labels they’ve been on’d probably turn almost anyone onto some good folks releasing good rock to a devoted few.
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