Tuesday, April 19, 2005 at 9:33 AM

Strawman / 'No Generation'

Strawman were something of an important band to me in the early nineties. To this day, I still consider them one of the most thought-provoking political punk bands I've ever heard of. This was a band who dedicated one of their albums to the Russian anarchists who resisted the Bolsheviks immediately following the revolution of 1917. Now, I had some preconceived ideas about politics at that point, but I was still very young, so nothing was very well-formed. And anarchist resistance to Soviet communism was not something I would have learned about in junior high school history texts. I didn't run out and become an anarchist, but Strawman definitely set me down the path of understanding that in history and politics, there's no such thing as black or white and that the simple narrative rarely applies.

This song is a scathing attack on the punk scene circa '95, and appeared (appropriately) on the Allied compilation Invasion of the Indie Snatchers. Remember, this was the time of Green Day's arrival on MTV and the subsequent signings of Bay Area stalwarts Jawbreaker and Samiam. In fact, Jawbreaker's Adam Pfahler had served as Strawman's drummer for what was probably their most popular album, Shoot Me Up. Here's what the band wrote in the liner notes for this song:

'Punk Rock' in the U.S. has become a bunch of cartoons in costumes that feel the Ramones are a progressive musical force and care more about who is a 'sell-out' than the now dirt poor worker next door - a bourgeois clique with insipid middle-of-the-road politics dancing with joy in the belly of the beast.

While I don't agree 100% -- one wonders what Tommy Strange must think of 'the scene' as it exists now -- there was definitely some truth to that. And there was even more truth in the lyrics:

All the punks have got haircuts from '81 sitcoms
And all the workers they sold their songs to
Are blind, young and so happy to be used.

No generation with fortitude
Nobody with guts or vision enough
All the punks got lawyers
All the brats got lawyers

My artist friends just turned into whores
And all the morals they painted our struggles on
Have just become one more advertising song

I always considered Jawbreaker's "Chemistry" to be a response to Strawman's charge, with Blake Schwarzenbach singing:

My stupid hair is so '82 to you
At least I don't fit in

Who knows, though. The rest of the song was all about high school, so it's quite possible he really was just singing about chemistry class. But I still think the whole thing was a metaphor -- the punk underground as high school. You don't need to give it too much thought to get the significance.

After the breakup of Strawman, Tommy Strange and Diane Glaub went on to form Songs for Emma, whose music can be found at eMusic. Strange also now runs the anarchist book store 6th Street Books in San Francisco. I can't find too much info about the shop, but I'm sure it's worth checking out.

No Generation
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Tuesday, April 05, 2005 at 9:01 PM

Greyhouse / 'November 26'

There isn't really much for me to write about Greyhouse. The band was legendary in certain circles in New Jersey and certain circles in the national punk and hardcore scene in general, but I'd be lying if I said they were ever huge.

Sadly, I never got to see them play as they were just barely before my time. And though I did get to know two of the members of the band in later years, I never asked either of them about Greyhouse. Basically, as far as I knew, they didn't get along too well, and I didn't want to piss anyone off.

In the late nineties, a label called GrapeOS (whose website is hilariously still active and quite out of date) got the band back together to record a few songs for a discography disc. A good friend of mine did the recording and it reportedly came out awesome, though I've never heard it. Hopefully it's not too late for the disc to see the light of day.

Until then, here's a live track I pulled from WFMU's Pat Duncan show. It was recorded on September 19, 1991. The recorded version appears on their 'Revolution by Numbers' 7". I have a few more tracks on vinyl and on (get this!) a tape comp that I hope to post in the future as well. Hell, if I get someone's permission, I'll post every damn song they ever recorded.

November 26
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