Slaughter Boys are here to remind us that the heart of punk and roll is still beating.
Most of us outside of southern California were unaware of the existence ofSlaughter Boyseven after they dropped their magnificent self-titled debut LP in 2019. That record was on the English label No Front Teeth Records, so American distribution was a bit spotty. Hopefully the band joining the Garage Rock Records family forTil the End of the Weakwill get them the exposure they deserve. For those of us lucky enough to have heard the first full length, the follow up was among the most anticipated releases of 2022.
Slaughter Boys have mastered the straight up punk banger, and they build off of that. (Night Birdsalso come to mind.) Too many bands try to mess with the formula before they’ve got the basics down. The first three tracks on side A, “Iron Lung”, “Beggin’ For Love” and “Problem”, are all rippers. They’re fast with raspy vocals and jagged guitars. “Rash” incorporates some animated honkey tonk piano, while “Free Ride” marries a classic rock riff to an eerie True Sounds of Liberty like lead guitar line. “Customize” also has a keyboard part that wouldn’t have sounded out of place onTSOL’s 1983 albumBeneath the Shadows.
Side B kicks off with three more raging songs, “Bite or Prey”, “Happy Captive” and “Destruktions”. On “A Million Ways”, they weave some washed out, new wavey guitars into the punk chaos. Second to last track, “Buyer Beware”, is among the album’s best. There is no filler onTil the End of the Weak. Closer, “Meltdown”, has a big anthemic lead guitar line and chorus. The beauty of Slaughter Boys is their ability to incorporate lots of different influences (and even organ) without losing their sound along the way. That sound is so full that it’s hard to believe the band is only a trio.
There is definitely no sophomore slump onTil the End of the Weak. If rock and roll really is dead, somebody forgot to tell Slaughter Boys.
For vinyl fiends: Garage Rock Records is a newer SoCal based label that started strong in 2019, before getting suckerpunched by the pandemic. Even in that short time, they’ve established a precedent for high quality vinyl releases. (In this case, the wax even came before streaming!)Til the End of the Weakis a nice heavy (160 gram) black press, with a lyric insert and sticker. Don’t sleep on this one – the first 200 are hand numbered and come with an embroidered patch.
If I had to list the best punk records from the 90s, Smogtown’s“führers of the new wave” (it just has been remastered and reissued) would certainly be among the best. They were, in my opinion, one of the best bands of their generation, unknown to many and underrated by others. They managed to combine the best of bands like Black Flag, circle jerk, weirdos or Adolescents with lyrics about the dystopia of living in the suburbs of big American cities like Los Angeles on 30 minutes killer records. They decided to dissolve the band and rename them as GrossPolluter, with the same style and attitude, after the departure of their original guitarist a few years ago. Having released 3 eps which are for sure some the highlights of punk hc of the last years, mixing the aggressive sound of Smogtown with keyboards provideding a unique touch of post-punk to their sound. Now they have decided to release their first full length and it does not disappoint at all. Sounding somewhat more aggressive than their eps, hiding the keyboard in some songs, the album starts with Suburban weekend lockdown, a great song in the Black Flag´s style, especially for that guitar playing remembering Greg Ginn´s, and they no longer slow down with fast songs like Time enough or stag distro, some of them sounding to me like Circle jerks´s wild in the streets(just here for the violence) but with their own style. The best of the album comes in the middle : the two songs in a row that are Mastvr, which already came out in an ep with the name of running wild, however this version is much better with highlighting the keyboard throughout the song, and Sleepless city (the best song for me), which also came out in another ep, but with another singer and a different mix where the keyboard had a lot of weight. In this take, the magic of the keyboard is lost, but much is gained with aggressiveness when playing it. The album continues running without lowering the rpm until the final song Breakwater Blues, in a different version than the ep, that puts the finishing touch on one of the albums of the year. Buy or Die.
GROSS POLLUTER: The People Get… What the People Get: LP
May 28, 2020 - Razorcake Magazine
It has been a long, winding road of transformation for the legendary Smogtown to become Gross Polluter (a tale detailed in Razorcake #114). With a handful of EPs over the last few years and members coming, going, and coming back, the release of their debut full length album shows it’s clear that everything has finally locked into place. I mean, of course they sound like Smogtown. How could they not? The thing is, they manage to sound different at the same time. Young aggression morphs into experienced discontent. Snapshots of the sun-baked Southern Californian suburban nightmare are still presented with the shocking clarity that we have come to expect, but with a new and often unsettling perspective. It isn’t just the lyrical content painting these portraits. Have you ever wondered what suburban decay and late stage capitalism sounds like? It’s Gross Polluter. The menacing groove, occasional keyboards and stabby, slashy guitars immediately bring forth the soundtrack to this soft launch apocalypse that we are wandering through. Get polluted! –Ty Stranglehold (GarageRock! Records)
GROSS POLLUTER: The People Get…What the People Get: LP
May 28, 2020 - Razorcake Magazine
Many a creative minds have been lost to the suffocating nature of SoCal monoculture. But between the cinderblock and stucco the cretins plot their counterattack. Gross Polluter (interviewed in Razorcake #114) were those cretins— and even now as they enter middle age—are still those cretins. They play aggressive O.C. punk with lots of gang vocals, but there’s something that separates it from the pack. It’s weird. It’s artful. It’s well thought-out and each track offers something different than the track before. Never thought a beatdown could be so dynamic, but here we are, listening to an album that radiates vitality and danger and the same seething critique of the American suburban experience that these guys began dishing out in the late ’90s while operating under the alias Smogtown. The H.O.A. doesn’t stand a chance, the hoodlums have become homeowners, and Gross Polluter’s cynical scumbaggery is here to stay. –Daryl (GarageRock! Records)
SMOGTOWN: Führers of the New Wave (20th Anniversary Edition): LP
May 27, 2020
It isn’t often that you get to review an album that has been a part of your life for twenty years. I still remember the day I heard Führers of the New Wave for the first time. My pal Dustin Jak made a tape for me and we listened to it in my car on the way to band practice. He explained that it was a concept album telling the story of a band of miscreants doing battle with the boring suburban status quo and their soldiers Bodie 601. I was instantly enthralled. I could pick out elements of the story in the songs, but it didn’t seem to be linear. It didn’t matter because it was (and still is) one of the best albums ever. Now here we are twenty(?!) years later and the record has been given the anniversary treatment. A remix and remaster by original recorder Jerry Adamowicz and a revelation. There was a reason why the story didn’t seem linear. The original release did not have the songs in the originally anticipated order for one reason or another. This is the first time the songs have been presented in the order they were intended. Prior to listening I had concerns. The album has sounded a certain way and in a certain order for two decades. Is changing it up going to fuck it over? The answer is a resounding “hell no!” The new mix is bright, and the songs are a fresh as ever. It was shocking how clear the overreaching story is with the songs in this order. Even parts I have been singing along to for years but had no idea how they fit the narrative became key plot points. We now have this interesting situation where there now exists two versions of the same album with both being vastly different and are equally crucial. How often does that happen? I can’t imagine that you’re reading Razorcake and not aware of Smogtown (and Gross Polluter), but if for some reason you’ve missed out, you need to rectify that immediately. Smog City Waver #114 signing off. –Ty Stranglehold (GarageRock! Records)
Gross Polluter interview by Todd Taylor and Sean Carswell
Southern California’s history is propped up on beautiful lies and seduction. There are powerful industries based on the promise of shiny things and the delivery of something much more rotted out and bloodstained. Quaint beach communities—to the touristic eye—are sunshine, palm trees, tans, and carefree living. Like a tooth rotting with cavities but veneered by an unscrupulous dentist, real trouble isn’t immediately noticeable. It takes awhile to notice the core damage taking root, infecting the bloodstream.
The sun is cancer. Almost every palm tree is an invasive species that provides no shade. Hundreds of thousands of homes were precariously financed on adjustable rate mortgages. Slum mansions. Racially restrictive covenants. Hep C-infected waves. An ominous black ball flapping on a tattered yellow flag planted on a white, sandy beach.
I discovered Smogtown in 1996, shortly after moving to Los Angeles. They were as conspicuous as a surfer wearing a gasmask, even amongst their punk peers in the New Beach Alliance. Their first full length—a true punk classic—Führers of the New Wave, is a prophesy, a blazing, uncompromising concept album that served as my own personal sunglasses to see the skinless-alien They Live version of Southern California. Lead singer, Ray Chavez, Nostradamus’ed the next twenty-plus years. Shit’s fucked in suburbia. Kids are casualties. Adults struggle under incredible invisible weights of “security” and “comfort.” Façades overpower infrastructure. Domesticviolenceland. In other words, Smogtown’s predictions have come to pass. As a society, we’re far worse off for them being right. But for music fans—well—the music’s as potent as ever.
Then Smogtown dissolved—that’s covered in this interview—and through the exhaust haze of unspent fuel, Gross Polluter crept around the corner.
What happens when you look in a mirror and it no longer shows a drug-accelerated, youthful punk kid hell-bent on destroying suburbia, but a parent who sees the value in stability and a well-paying job? What happens when you’re the adult who got up early to take your kid to motocross on Saturday? What happens when your neighbor casually mentions today’s win is he didn’t blow his head off? What happens when you live in a neighborhood that’s so apolitical, when they talk of presidents, they’re talking of CEOs? What happens when a young fan of your old band with its logo painted on their leather jacket flips your SUV off? What happens when you see an alternative future in your best friend, when you drop him off at a homeless encampment? Those questions are all answered by Gross Polluter, a different beast of a band and an unexpected, welcome return to a landscape that looks so beautiful it hurts.
Introduction by Todd Taylor, Smog City Waver #92
Songs: “Sleepless City” and “Mastvr” from The People Get… What the People Get LP on GarageRock Records.
DOGS, THE: 1994-1998: Sick as a Dog: LP
Sep 26, 2019 - Razorcake Magazine
A true lost classic here! These songs were recorded back in 1996 and lingered unreleased, until now. Why? I haven’t a clue. These twelve songs are all killer and no filler, and, honestly, they stand in league with all the classic 1980 California hardcore punk bands. Think of Adolescents and early DI crossed with Rudimentary Peni, and nihilistic to the core. The music ranges from fast to mid-tempo, frantic, lurking, and raw. Pre-Broken Bottles, if you were wondering. You need this album. Get it! Limited to one hundred with a pin, embroidered coffin shaped patch, and hand numbered. –Matt Average (GarageRock! Records, garagerock-records.com, email@example.com)
Not that DOGS, but the best 1980s record not from the ’80s that I’ve heard in a minute. This OC band existed for four too-short years in the ’90s, most of whom went on to start BROKEN BOTTLES, who I’m not super familiar with. These guys came in a little too early, and much too close to the ’80s, as you could see them going over real big today. They most likely tore up house parties with the likes of the STITCHES, STARVATIONS, and the SPOOKY, but there is no pogo here. Just slaming and crawling classic OC hardcore punk. The big comparisons here are the ADOLESCENTS and DI, who they obviously worship, but also CHINA WHITE or even AMERICA’S HARDCORE. Leather-jacketed goons roaming the beaches looking for blood and trouble fill my head as I’m whisked away to Reaganland. They easily could’ve been included in the never-made Suburbia II soundtrack, but make no bones, this is from the ’90s, and the DOGS are sorely missed today.
FRONTIER CLUB is an odd name for a band from Southern California, as it brings to mind that old timey SoCal record label that put out Group Sex and the Blue Album? Would you ever name your band “Slash Team” or “Dangerous House”? Anyway, this isn’t FRONTIER CLUB’s first record, so I’m sure somebody’s already picked up on that. As it stands, this slab is much more post-punk than CIRCLE JERKS, or even TSOL. Plenty o’ sharp guitars, plaintive vocals (just enough emoting to keep it interesting), and lockstep drums and bass. Good shit. The guitar on these three tracks is particularly tough and muscular, but still a little dark, a little gothic, and a little mysterious—kind of like a jock who works out two hours a day but also wears a beret and a black trenchcoat or, alternatively, Xena Warrior Princess. Similar to the WYNONA RIDERS, but with different singing and much more contemporary than that band ever was. Less dreary than it could be, more fun than it should be. Like it.
If you hang around the punk scene long enough, there will come a time when you start buying more reissues than new releases. I’ve been near the tipping point for years. The lack of interesting (to me, at least) new records in 2020 seems likely to finally push me over the edge. The good news is, sometimes that means I’m discovering things I missed the first time around. It blows my mind that records released in 2000 are now 20 years old. Time really does fly when you’re (occasionally) having fun.
What’s the point of all this rambling, old man Trauma? My most recent discovery is the 20th anniversary reissue of Smogtown’s debut LP, Führers of the New Wave. Smogtown formed in one of the many beach suburbs of Orange County in the late 90’s. (Most of the band still plays today as Gross Polluter.) They made a handful of albums and even more singles, but Führers remains their most enduring work. And for good reason.
Führers is pretty much universally loved by critics and those lucky enough to have heard it. The thing that makes this Garage Rock Records version extra cool is that it’s presented as the band originally intended it. At some point, unintentionally, Führers became a loose concept album. Twenty years ago, the people at Disaster Records made the unfortunate decision to resequence the tracks. So here, the 13 songs are in order according to Smogtown’s original vision.
Musically, Smogtown is certainly influenced by the OC bands that preceded them. Bands like Agent Orange, Social Distortion, TSOL, DI and Adolescents. It’s a strong pedigree to be sure. There are traces of surf-punk, but they were even more influenced by skateboarding culture. Ultimately, the music is straight up punk. There is no metallic hardcore or pop-punk, both of which were very popular in fearful era of Y2K.
Lyrically, Führers seems to be set in a space aged, dystopian future. But in reality, it deals with the problems the California kids were facing at the time. Problems like youthful boredom and the death of the suburban dream. The songs are loosely tied together, but each is also more than capable of standing on its own. It’s hard to pick favorites, but a few do stand out. Side 1 opener “Teen Age”, “Neighborhood Brat”, “Payola or Die”, and closer “Static Ecstatic” are all excellent.
On side 2, my favorites are probably “Judy’s a Model”, “I Am the Cancer”, “Ode to Street Violence”, and finally, the title track. Like any proper classic, there’s not one bad song. You don’t have to care at all about following the storyline to thoroughly enjoy the music. That being said, even in the digital age, this is a record that’s best taken as a whole. This new Garage Rock pressing comes with a huge 24” by 36” fold out cover, and the frst 200 are hand numbered and include an embroidered patch.
Growing up in the ‘80s, we lived in constant fear of nuclear annihilation. I didn’t realize that two decades later, the kids had similar anxieties. The truth is, this record feels like it could have been made in the ‘80s. Coming from me, that’s a huge compliment. It has that timeless punk quality. If, like me, you missed this the first time around, consider yourself lucky. You get a second chance to discover Smogtown and the amazing Führers of the New Wave.
JUSTSOMEPUNKSONGS - Blog
Gross Polluter - Just Here For The Violence (review by Kevin Patrick McGovern)
This is his write up on Gross Polluter and their new album The People Get... What The People Get
I had become very disillusioned with the American punk scene back in the tumultuous year of 1998. Bands were starting to contaminate their sounds with generic hard rock riffs and pretentious metal productions. The music had gone from raw to disingenuous. It was bound to happen. The chaotic and crazed garage-punk sounds of the early to mid 90s couldn’t maintain their purity unless the band broke up after a few releases. A strange metaphor for life in a way. The punk revival had become too self conscious and eager to please. Blind worship of the usually nauseating flavor of the month became the norm and merch sales were more important than song quality. A new band called Smogtown from the suburban hell of Orange County released Smog on 45, an intense and unfiltered 7” of destructo beach punk that annihilated everything in its path. A hard reset for a genre that had lost its way. Their soundscapes were gloomy and radiant with menacing guitar and cool as hell catchy vocals. A much needed shot in the arm for punk purists. The band would go on to release a number of devastating full lengths and scorching singles. All killer and no filler. Here we are again in 2020, living in a time of great paranoia and heavy reliance upon virtual reality. Things seem off kilter and unwound in the modern world. You would think raging punk rock bands would be blasting out of the woodwork all the time but instead there seems to be a small handful committed to the cause which brings us to the brand new full length by Gross Polluter. Made up of former Smogtown members, this monster of a record will kick your ass all over the place. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
The People Get…What the People Get is a scathing indictment of a socially engineered civilization addicted to instant gratification and superficial superiority. If the Adolescents Blue Album had been recorded in 2020 it might sound something like this but with more artistic risk taking. Classic punk sounds are reconstructed with psychotic interludes and symphonic guitar damage. These guys have never sounded better. There is an unhinged tunefulness and urgency that runs throughout all 10 tracks. Precise in its recklessness, you won’t find a single boring song on here. Gross Polluter’s latest release is epic in its brevity and supercharged angst. This is the best record of 2020 if you ask me. You need this. Available now on GarageRock Records. https://garagerock-records.com/