Sympathy For The Rebel
Old Habits Die Hard - Junkyard (Acetate Records)
It ain't no easy gig being a rock 'n' roll singer.
I'm re-reading that old hardback Steven Tyler book I bought second hand at a thrift store for two dollars, 10 years ago, for entertainment purposes right now. When I'm not busy doing stuff, because I'm at that time of year where every stray dime must go towards providing the impossible Santa haul for kids brought up in a capitalist culture of insane competition and peer pressure and mandatory conforming to the never ending juggernaut of acquisition and updating and unboxing and having the latest special edition gizmo and gadget and sports celebrity running shoe.
Even if you won the fame and fortune lotto in another decade when it was still possible, even if you were the one-in-a-million, scenery chewing, limelight sponging, draq queen bozo, who actually even "made it" with your band and wrote "Dream On", and wore your tired bones down, singing and performing every night, once the wives and lawyers and song doctors and managers get involved, you always gotta be "on", you always gotta bring the magic, the good thoughts and fairy dust that elevates the room so everyone can fly, AND simultaneously get chastised and judged and resented and shamed by all the suits who could never do it, and even the pills and powder hoarding, hanger-on ladies who want more stuff, all for being the designated patient, microphone stand whirling, spotlight standing, scout and point man, tip of the spear, trailblazer, cracked actor, ring of fire, cross-roads storyteller, forever convicted of egomania by an extended entourage of people who rely upon his confidence for all their personal greed and desires-the sacrificial "feed him to the lions", pursed lipped, rooster dancing, monkey boy.
That ain't no desk job at the day-spa, easy walk in the park, it's a tough job, dancing in the circle of fire. Wears you out. People are always so jealous, they even bet against you, root against you, there's always subterfuge and sabotage. The office casuals and cable zombies and bitter spinsters and dog woofing Hooters clientele will always hate your guts if you have even a touch of fatal charm or talent, they don't forget that, baby-it's in the job description, if you read the small print. Sometimes, those of us who unexpectedly live way past that scary 27 club highway marker, can't help but kinda long for the free and easy daze, when all we owned was a pair of old cowboy boots, a crushed up box of smokes in the pocket of a faded denim vest, and all we had to do was smile. 'Cause we live in a greedhead war culture, and once you make it past that dreaded 27, whooh-whee, the race is on. You gotta become the empire provider, the Big Time Santa, or else. Ya know? Backstabbing and ratrace competition, money and stuff.
Always liked this rootsy, Hollywood punk/metal band called, Junkyard, 'cause even when they'd "made it" to the metal years magazines' merry go round of MTV and bubblegum trading cards, they could not really help but stray off brand, and you could always tell they did not really fit in the assembly-line hair metal, power ballad/stadium anthem headbanger box. They were just too hellraiser cowpunk, too sacred heart crusty, too pink houses bar band.
Now I'm old as hell and my knees are ruined, as is my lower back, and my eyesight's bad, and I got all the usual boring PTSD symptoms, the depleting and exhausting, abrupt going up and coming down, fight or flight adrenaline and cortisol, always rattling through my frayed old nervous system, a haunted head full of memories, so their sleazy old, beer soaked songs still resonate with me, now more than ever.
Very few of Junkyard's former colleagues from punk, or metal, ever made even one record, that kicks as much ass, as this frenzied and unrestrained keg-party, "Old Habits", that the self importantly smirking, gold-watch suits from Geffen didn't care to promote, because it wasn't sufficiently gloomy, in the year of moaning in flannel. Never follow the squares-ya know?
It stands to reason that if you need to determine if some record's good, or if some hellion band has mass-appeal drawing power, and potential to reach a broad rocknroll audience, never ask a numbers crunching, know it all, rich guy with a new automobile, and a desk-job and a suntan, who wears white shorts in public, and incessantly refers to his charts and graphs and focus groups and Nylon magazine market trends on his I-Phone XK-15, or whatever. You gotta ask somebody who still wears black concert T-shirts and blue suede brothel creepers and loiters sullenly in the parking lot of the local Dairy Queen-somebody who's on a dart-team called the Whiskey Dicks, somebody who still has a stash of wrinkled old Mentors and GG Allin and T.S.O.L. fliers from the eighties, somebody who's frowning all the time, somebody like me.
You know how all those '80s metal hairband hams are just pathetically fat and stupid and pompous cash-cow, plastic surgery disasters, now? David Roach is the stand-alone '80s presence who not only still has his original mojo, but he's actually gotten better, with age. His significant art is exceptionally cool, comic book and tattoo influenced paintings and devilish road to ruin cartoons that can really make a wall come to life.
He's an unsurpassed frontman with a heavy-weight band of dangerous notables, who still give off a marvelously relentless, kid-like energy. He has his fully intact poetic integrity, and you know, to me, authentic rocknroll soul power is EVERYTHING, David Roach would still be an absolutely dynamite jewel of a stage presence, even with half of his brassy vocal ability, but he is clearly blessed with an enviably giant singing range.
Junkyard's formidable third album that never saw the major label heave-ho was an absolute monument to passionate co-dependence, dutiful brotherhood, heavy substance abuse, backstage fistfights, vomiting out of moving car windows, and laughing your ass off in the graveyard with your trustworthy comrades, beneath the big anaemic Michigan moon, this kind of music is so revitalizing, it's like a volatile accelerant, has a real visceral, rejuvenating effect on us lifelong, old rockers.
I happen to know, first-hand, that there is always an ardent and faithful audience for uninhibitedly dynamic, fire breathing rocknroll, you just have to get it out there in front of The People, which has gotten harder in some ways, because of the corporate pig-media monopolies' tightly restricted playlists, and the crappy and generally unwelcoming overpriced venues.
Personally, I was never moved much by that whole "Alternative" music, hollow marketing-hoax, that happened in the nineties. To me, it was just a bunch of disingenuous, buzzkill, bummer rock and some private school prissy complaining about privileged lifestyles, and the burdens of owning the most cake , it was all just too mopey and groan-y for me, none of it rang true, at all.
All I really liked from that whole overhyped grunge scene was maybe, ohh...Mother Love Bone, the Nymphs, maybe some Mark Lanegan songs. I just was NOT into that depressing bullshit, at all. At all. It was mainly like, bandwagon follower, jock Tarzans and abrasive social climbing, mansion dwelling, journalist threatening, capitalist hooker divas complaining about their lavish heroin budgets-who cares-ya know?
In the 90's, the cloistered suits at the record label were all busy chasing the media fed, artificial fad-music trends of the day and were otherwise distracted by the never-ending mergers and media-consolidation, when "The Man" (just five status quo-protecting executives, at this point...) was busy firing anti-war journalists from the "news" channels, and purging all real music of any genre from the public airwaves, replacing it with divisive paranoia, corporate propaganda, and profitable unreality "lifestyle programming", so this uninhibited collection of energizing anthems got lost in the file cabinet, until Murkkka's best underground-music label, Acetate Records, has finally released this exhilarating album, on cd for your careless pleasure.
If your old man is a dedicated, diehard rocker in his fifties and you can't afford to buy him a motorcycle, or Van Halen pinball machine, or a $200 new tattoo, I'll tell you what you can buy him for Christmas that he won't re-gift, or have to just pretend to like, that is affordable, that he will undoubtedly love, and get to enjoy many times-"Old Habits" by Junkyard! A big bottle might last the geezer two or three hours, tops, but the carousing yobbo, booze-brawl jamboree,
"Old Habits Die Hard" is like a little time machine, tonic for the soul, that can take the sad-eyed oldster away on an upbeat, uplifting, revitalizing headtrip for awhile. It's a vacation in a can. What was supposed to be the follow up to "Sixes, Sevens, And Nines", "Old Habits" featured original members David Roach, Brian Baker, Chris Gates, Todd Muscat, and Pat Muzingo, and it's a sonic feast, a decadent splurge, a short film, that the embittered old mummy can listen to, and take solace from, again and again, whenever he needs a sonic safe haven, a temporary autonomous zone refuge, an oasis momentarily removed from the heavy weight of his own hard knocks hooligan history, and lifetime of missed chances and failures and betrayals and permanent banishments, all the responsibilities and bills and anxieties and disappointments, if you wrap up this handsome package up, for the disreputable grease bag, in some halfway pretty paper, he can at least, sometimes retreat to his cold shed, for a brief escape from all the consumerist ruckus and television clamor, extortionist demands, and alimony and shit.
He can sit down in his rickety old-man chair, and put on some headphones, and get to revisit his own sun-lit, carefree, long lost glory days, back when he could impress the farmer's daughters at the arcade in the bowling alley with his fearsome pinball skills, and mirrored Smokey & The Bandit shades, and a purple leather jacket from the big city.
Junkyard has that unruly outlaw rock 'n' roll optimism that's in such tragically short supply, nowadays-they actually seemed to expect their bad luck was gonna change, that something was gonna go right, eventually, ya know? They knew it was gonna happen, someday. They weren't banking on the worst always happening,' cause like it says in that movie, "True Romance", sometimes, it can go the other way, too!
Junkyard seemed to take delight in defying all reason, and fracturing good order, scoffing at the rules, dismissing all the pencil necked, number crunching, accountant's math homework about the impossible odds, shrugged off convention, mocked the dummy consensus, and had zero desire to change, be altered, made-over, or assimilate/conform/or otherwise, join the irretrievably rigged system, or suck up to the man. They were disobedient, hard driving, disorderly road dog, riotous rabble rousers, who shamelessly had a good time, in the eighties, dressed the way they wanted, drank some beer, laughed too loud, kissed some girls, and still ain't sorry.
You hear "Pushed Too Far" and can't help but smile a little, even if you ain't a real big smiler. They just had so much ungovernable, powerhouse talent, and righteous rocknroll atomic energy, to burn, back then. Reminds me of me. A couple of you might have seen my own ramshackle, set to self destruct before our fifteen minutes, short-lived, flash metal suicide bands from 25 years ago, and 90 percent of the time when I listen to the media-praised scene darlings of today, I always think, "well, God, I can do better than that", but man, Junkyard were some next level shit, they were way better than any of my little live fast/die young, gin-joint smashers, and I don't really, honestly, think that, too very often.
Generally, I have to button my lip and say nothing. You can't tell nobody the hard truth. It's easy for me to see how JUNKYARD were able to flirt with big-time, mainstream, commercial success, because they had all the right stuff. I remember when some girls I knew from Ohio made a big display out of Junkyard promo posters and album flats at the commercial record store in the mall, in the late '80s. Summa those girls are grandmothers, now. Sheesh, where does the time go?
Junkyard had a turbulent tornado of a frontman with an appealing voice, fiery guitar players who effortlessly cranked out those snaky, old school Aerosmith or the Joneses style blues-punk licks, and an unusually live wired, power station, rampaging rhythm section. The right drummer is the hardest person to find. The right drummer makes anything and everything possible, 'makes the stonewashed cowgirls with the big Aqua-Net hairdos shake their hips and wanna let their hair down. 'You remember that funny old Brian Setzer lyric about living in the eighties? "We get together on a Saturday night and watch each other's hair fall down..." I'm still living in the '80s. I have to push, I have to struggle.
"Tried & True" instantly pulls at my weary heartstrings-I think it's the raw and naked soulpower of the honestly aching vocal , it's very reminiscent of the 70's golden age Rolling Stones stuff-you know-like "Lovin Cup" and "Torn & Frayed" and stuff like that. I'm personally overjoyed to be hearing this insurgent fireball blues punk, particularly 'cause holidays always suck for me, but especially, in these unprecedentedly dark hours, because something about real human expression is so healing and nutritional and medicinal-ya know what I mean?
I can FEEL this stuff, it's...sincere and real and heartfelt, they weren't fakin' it. It's a far grittier and more desolate take on the countrified blues beltin' the Black Crowes were milkin' in their early day, pre hippie jam band, before the Robinson brothers turned into Phish, or the Counting Crows, or whatever. It's just really good stuff, easily in league with the Quireboys or Crybabys, it aptly demonstrates how undeniable a rock group becomes, when every member can play, and is putting some real heart into the music, which is really, supposed to be the whole point. "Fall To Pieces" is a musically up-tempo, celebratory blowout and snotty as fuck-these rambunctious hoods are outta line, and got this insistent locomotive rhythm that would have made this tune a surefire hit with the wet t-shirt Skid Row and Cinderella people, had it gotten any proper label promotion, whatsoever, back in the day.
I mean, can you remember all that laughably awful, overproduced and contrived bull shite that both Motley Crue and Guns N Roses were offering up in the grunge year? "Blue Sin" is all boisterous bravado and after hours debauchery, and soul confessions, and righteous testimony. Back then, these midnight brawlin' demon preachers were ON FIRE. Think: Elvis Presley, or Top Jimmy, or Charlie Sexton, if they were just blind drunk, moon howlin', unleashed crazy, raw and wasted. Like the Beasts Of Bourbon, ya know-late night bar-room madness, all the way evil, like the Cramps, or Howlin' Wolf, or Screamin' Jay. None of those spandex-turd, tattooed millionaires, or nasally grunge complainers, or eager beaver Hot Topic Warped fest punks could ever rock like this.
Junkyard's reigning, blazing flame, guitarists really smoked, and the audaciously confrontational singer could easily hit the high notes, and hold his own, next to any of the armies of high pitched, opera screechers all imitating Axl Rose, in unison, back then, but David Roach was never your standard issue metal dude, because he had a lot more goin' in the firebrand heart, and soul department, a natural born inciter and resistor, he mighta shared some influences with nobodies like Me, or Scrooge McDuckish Waxl, but David Roach was carvin' out his own thing, scrawlin' his own unique hieroglyphics on the bathroom wall, in style or not. He could tear the place up like the Dwarves, or Dogs D'Amour, or Horseheads, or whoever, but turn around, and a moment later, compose the perfect, heart- felt love song about drivin' around with some beautiful girl and watching the early evenin' small-town street lights lights play across her face. "Holdin' On" is another satiating buzz that coulda-shoulda-woulda been colossal with all those floozy hairspray queens and shirtless motorcycle roughs we used to know. MAN, he could really sing, too.
"Staredown" has a dizzying hit, a fast head-rush of liberty, real crazy energy-they weren't fuckin' around, at all, back then. I love this kind of raunchy, pulse hastening, rock 'n' roll, it is always liberating, makes you wanna try. If you've ever seen KIX live, that's the always enticing intensity JUNKYARD were playing at, on their stupidly misplaced third record. Everybody who loves real rocknroll deserves to hear this reckless insurrectionist, lawless hellraiser, Molotov slingin' punk 'n' roll.
"I Come Crawling" has even more dynamo urgency and red eyed speed freak, gonzo, cross-country force that'd make any of my rowdy renegade friends drive as fast as they can, this ain't the kind of music people who can follow legally ordained speed limits ever listen to.
"Hangin' Around" sounds like Tom Waits, at first, it's gorgeous, autobiographical, backporch drunken, true story-tellin', the kind I can always relate to, and strongly identify with-this is downhome, golden hearted, saloon survivor, intimate testimony-this one's the cherry on the whole flamin' boozy concoction, if you ask me. The song I'd put on your holiday cassette mix, had those Midwestern meth pricks not stolen my duel cassette ghetto blaster, along with my grandfather's sword, and my pink $100 guitar, outta my storage unit. It's gratifying, glamtastic, cowboy gospel, moonshine mysticism, this song, it's got the holy spark of heartfelt divinity, honestly. Get this on the pronto, all my brothers and sisters and friends of the revolution.
I feel really sorry for our young folks, growing up in this run amuk police state, uptight authoritarian age, when all the gentrifying study hall monitor, snitch patrol, Nurse Ratcheds and Agent Smiths are just lookin' to make a bust, and always being subjected to all that all the insufferably torturous, push button garbage pop on the state radio, because when we were kids, there really were lots of places to run to, if you were a nomadic ne'er-do-well, in makeup and silver spurs, you could storm down your own personal rain slick Thunder Roads making a break for the much longed for, still somewhat distantly accessible paradise cities on the coasts, you could be dramatic and adorn yourself in tight leather pants and feather vests, at least in the big cities...you could still rent a little shithole apartment in the ghetto, on a dishwasher or record store clerk salary, it wasn't just this elitist bullshit where the cities are monopolized by the greedhead yuppie tech-heads and billionaires and Namaste fake-liberal gentrification honkies, and their awful fucking detestable kids in the mustache wax and expensive Johnny Depp hats-there weren't all these jack-booted, uniformed gestapo enforcers shoving us everyday people out of view, to make safe spaces for idle heiresses and mimosas sipping millionaire brunchers, there weren't tasers and stop 'n' frisk tactics, or immigrant babies in concentration camps, or government gropers.
There wasn't all this violent and oppressive DEA and ICE and TSA and NSA kidnapping and knocking down doors bullshit, and spying on churches, and finking on paying customers at hotels, and media whores "normalizing" (okey-dokeying) the arrests of whistle blowers, and dissident journalists, and pipeline protestors, and shit, everywhere you went. There was a lot more freedom, mobility, choices, you could smoke in bars, a plane ticket to Newark was $39 on Piedmont or People's Express, hotels were maybe $30 or $40 a night, ya know-and nobody was allowed to touch your private parts at the airport just because elitists like Michael Chertoff and Dick Cheney said they could. We thought Tipper Gore and the P.M.R.C. was bad.
"Hangin' Around" alone, is probably worth the cover charge for this lost album, it really is like a solidarity campfire you can revisit, again and again. It's just bracingly beautiful. Brings home all your best sentimental memories of van keys and string bikinis, menthols, and Frisbee dogs, and sparklers, and gas station sunglasses, and walks to the corner store to get another 12 pack. I'm gonna play it again here, right now. I can absolutely connect to this one, and if you know me, personally, you'll get it right away. You'll feel it, too. "Take Me Home" is throwdown, honky tonk blues jam, all night drug culture at it's most festive and frolicsome, kinda like vintage Circus Of Power or Rock City Angels--it's naughty and deviant, but friendly....Dangerous, but not trying to hurt anybody-it's just filthy as hell, barn burning, full blast, hedonistic, roadhouse party music. Do you even know anybody who parties, anymore? "I took a little downer 'bout an hour ago...!" Ya know what I mean? All my own wildly treasured, Jim Morrison friends with the "fuck disco" tattoos and brass knuckled belt buckles are long, long gone. I miss 'em-they died. So obviously, "One Foot In The Grave" is my kinda holiday cheer, ya know? It's crystal clear that I'll be spending a lot more time with this handy, $11, portable-bacchanalia, through the holidays and into the new year, it's a really boss package, too-cool artwork, liner notes, the whole enchilada, for a mere $11.
"One Foot In The Grave" is unceasingly pure and from the heart rock 'n' roll-timeless, classic, stellar by every standard, whether you prefer Generation X or Rose Tattoo, Slaughter & The Dogs, or L.A. Guns, this record could be loved by any age group's defiant hoodlums and dissident droputs. It's fuming and irate rebel music, with a sloppy surplus of sneering delinquent, buckaroo swagger. In my ridiculous travels, many CD's have passed through my crooked, arthritic hands that only got played once-this is not one of those. Rivalling even their impeccable modern-day classic, "High Water", also available for a mere $11 on Acetate, "Old Habits Die Hard" is full of kicks and soul and good music and plenty of picturesque lyrics to chew on.
If Junkyard are not irrefutably Murkkka's very best, still standing, most vital, rip snortin', red blooded, wild eyed, two fisted, guerilla rock 'n' roll band, they ARE, inarguably, right up there with Dramarama and the Hangmen. Of course, if you read this far, you probably know that both Junkyard and Hangmen feature the legendary Coma-Tones card sharp gun-fighter, Jimmy James, the fastest draw in the wild, wild West, on lead Bloody Mary, so yeah, you'll wanna make sure your favorite aging scuzz punk has his very own copies of both "High Water" and "Old Habits Die Hard", this Christmas. I ain't heard the new Hangmen, yet.
"Old Habits" is an uncommonly essential artifact of reckless abandon and sweet deliverance, for those of us who live and breathe the subversive, untamed spirit of unbridled rocknroll. By all means, please do go the extra mile, to obtain this rollicking overindulgence for your outsider loved one, you'll be thankful you did.
A couple of you might know I'm pretty jaded at this point, and sincerely grateful I have my own copy of "Old Habits...", it's my kinda mash whiskey in another paper cup. Speaking of which, have you heard anything about this new Skrewball peanut butter-whiskey(!!!) that people keep murmuring about? What the fuck is that? These are crazy times we're livin' in. If your little world keeps getting smaller, and the roll-call keeps getting shorter, and there really ain't much space or time, to revel in the old pleasures, you can always listen to this vividly alive, high voltage reminder of when we tasted freedom, on the highway of excess, all those years ago. It's kinda like being able to revisit the good times.
My ace best friend and former road manager, Mitch, died 25 years ago yesterday, and I always say his passing marked the end of my youth. He would have loved this album, and probably blasted it on his way to see me.
I turn 50 in a couple of weeks, and have every intention of playing this record loud, at some point, in the days to come. David Roach, in addition to being a highly gifted visual artist, in a day of the dead, garish blue dragon tattoo, underground comic book, outsider voodoo, folk-art tradition, he also has the hottest band in the land-his rhythm section are just indomitable, unstoppable, and man oh man, can that boy ever sing his insubordinate guts out. I'm not even into that whole sham of pitch perfected vocals as sports, it's TV brainwashing bullshit where say-nothing note hitters compete like trained seals, I'm not interested in that phoney commercial shit, at all: "The Voice", "American Idol", any of that manufactured, toxic slop. That's the opposite of rock'n' roll.
Roach has an ability to carry a tune, but more importantly, shoots that melody up with genuine emotion. How rare is it that we ever get to hear even one damn song that communicates real feeling, nowadays? Right? And rarer, still , is it that we ever witness a whole gang, a pirate crew, a mutual-aid communal circle of bona-fide friends, who are able to all effectively, collectively, share space democratically to express their experiences in song?
These fuckers are one of the last bands still trotting the boards, who really, really seem to mean it, man. Everybody else has forgotten how to do it. Joe Strummer said that punk rock was having exemplary manners and a spirit of inclusive generosity towards your fellow human beings, and in my experiences, JUNKYARD always done that, too. The last word around here, is obviously, still, JUNKYARD!