Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Top 30 Hardcore Punk Vocalists Of All Time

The criteria are the following: stage presence, vocal and lyrical quality. Length of quality was also taken into account. Another factor, as the frontman is ultimately the voice of the band promoting any kind of aesthetic or platform the band may have, the band's legacy is also considered. Special thank you to Will Mecca (of Paranoid Anxieties), Nick Lucchesi, Chris Ulsh, Mark Bronzino (of Iron Reagan) and Luke Kislak (of Eel, The Decapitators) for consulting on the formation of this list.

Honorable Mentions:

John Weiffenbach (Void)
Carl Fisher (Blitz)
Jules Masse (Side By Side)
Zack De La Rocha (Inside Out)
Daryl Kahan (Citizens Arrest)
Scott Vogel (Terror, Buried Alive)
Human Warhead (Pisschrist, Kromosom)
Jimmy Rose (Annihilation Time)
Freddy Madball (Madball)
Steve Ignorant (Crass)
Lou Koller (Sick Of It All)
Ryan George (Carry On)
Roger Miret (Agnostic Front)
Tommy Carroll (Straight Ahead)
Chris Ulsh (Impalers, Mammoth Grinder)
Jason O'Toole (Life's Blood)
Sothira Pheng (Crucifix)
Doc Corbin Dart (The Crucifucks)
Dave Insurgent (Reagan Youth)
Chaka Malik (Burn)
Chris Erba (H-100s, Ruiners, Upstab, Avon Ladies)
Mike "Judge" Ferraro (Judge)
Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks)
Jack Control (World Burns To Death, Severed Head of State)
Paul Bearer (Sheer Terror)
Richie Birkenhead (Underdog, Into Another)
Carl "The Mosher" Griffin (Icemen, Dynamo)
Crow (Crow, Grave New World)
Jeff Perlin (Breakdown, Slumlords)
Tony Erba (Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, Face Value, Fuck You Pay Me)
Kawakami (Disclose)
Mauro Codeluppi (Raw Power)
Pushead (Septic Death)
Fugu (Gauze)
Eddie Sutton (Leeway)
Paul E. Wog (Cider, Inmates)
Tomas Jonsson (Anti-Cimex, Wolfpack)
Alex Hughes (Hatred Surge, Put To Death)
Brendan Radigan (The Rival Mob, Soul Swallower, Battle Ruins)
Jack "Choke" Kelly (Negative FX, Slapshot)
Human Furnace (Ringworm)
Rob Miller (Amebix)
Brendan Rafftery (SFA)
Tokurow (Bastard, Judgement)
Jason Tarpey (Iron Age, Far From Breaking)

30. Ben Cook (No Warning)

29. Damian Abraham (Fucked Up)

28. Lynda "Tam" Simpson (Sacrilege)

27. John Joseph (Cro-Mags)

26. Ray Cappo (Youth of Today, Better Than A Thousand)

25. Sean McCabe (Ink & Dagger)

24. Justin "DFJ" DeTore (Mind Eraser, No Tolerance)

23. Raymond "Raybeez" Barbieri (Warzone)

22. Jerry A (Poison Idea)

21. Todd Burdette (His Hero Is Gone, Tragedy, Warcry)

20. Darby Crash (Germs)

19. Shaun Dean (Cold Sweat, Men's Interest, Repercussions)

18. Ishiya (Forward, Death Side)

17. Wes Eisold (American Nightmare)

16. Gary Floyd (The Dicks)

15. Dwid Hellion (Integrity)

14. Kelvin "Cal" Morris (Discharge)

13. Jay Reatard (The Reatards, Lost Sounds)

12. Nick Blinko (Rudimentary Peni)

11. Joe DeNunzio (Infest)

10. Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain)

9. Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi)

8. Henry Rollins (Black Flag, Rollins Band, S.O.A.)

7. Sakevi (G.I.S.M.)

6. Martin Sorrondeguy (Limp Wrist, Los Crudos)

5. Greg Sage (Wipers)

4. Joey Ramone (The Ramones)

3. John Brannon (Negative Approach)

2. GG Allin

1. H.R. (Bad Brains)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


All our lives we're conditioned to chase goals. We're taught to work toward these things like starting a family, becoming rich, and pursuing our passions. We believe that if we do this, our lives will have had purpose, fulfillment, and direction. The trouble is that all of this is an illusion. There is no textbook definition of what gives our lives meaning, no true north. We're born into this world searching for something and most of us spend its entirety hoping to find it, often coming up short. The reality is that we're just drifting, passing time, and existing until our time comes and we can look back and ask "did I make it?" The story of Weezer involves the asking and answering of this question. It is about a band who started out lost, decided they were found, and have feigned being lost ever since. It is a story about someone who brutally exposed himself for all the world to see, only to be rejected for his honesty then accept the things he hated for comfort.

I'm only going to talk about the first two Weezer records (Blue and Pinkerton) as they are the most pertinent. The story of Weezer is really only worth telling after a little after the second album is released. After Pinkerton the band's persona morphs into the cookie cutter, alternative rock by numbers band that has caused today's audiences to sneer at the mere mention of their name. To this point, when I informed a friend I wanted to write about Weezer, he expressed shock that I was even a fan. It has been twenty years since the band produced anything of note so it is no surprise that the band's importance has faded. It is interesting how Weezer is digested within the sonic discourse today. There are the normos who love "Buddy Holly" and even go into Weezer's much later discography. In a sense, these are the people who never understood what the band was trying to do with their music. These were the people who turned on Rivers after the release of Pinkerton. These are the people who listen to Blue, hearing catchy songs and pay no thought to them. 

Blue is an album that represents a lot of us go through in life: the show we put on for people, the desire to escape from our lives, and some of our deepest insecurities coming through. It is an album that shows Rivers' revealing his jealous nature ("No One Else"), abandonment issues ("The World Has Turned"), and intrusive thoughts ("Only In Dreams"). The other side of the album was a self-aware Rivers expressing his desire to escape from himself. It's bizarre that on one album Rivers can recognize his flaws, but rather than write any type of song about overcoming them, he just says "I'm someone else now" or "I'm out of here". It does fit the immature and youthful sonic aesthetic of Blue, but it does illuminate a critical failing of Rivers' person (one that comes crashing in on Pinkerton). Songs like "Holiday", "Surf Wax America", and "Buddy Holly" put a spotlight on Rivers' desire to get away from himself. The fact that the band became such a runaway sensation despite the deep-seeded psychological themes of Blue is enigmatic (much like how the ravings of a heroin addict from Seattle were considered the voice of a generation). Perhaps this is a testament to how fucked up Generation X really was.

The standout song of the album is its final song "Only In Dreams". The song, clocking in at eight minutes, is a lethargic and despondent number about a literal dream girl. It talks about how this girl is the most real and existing person in our lives but only appears while we're asleep. A person who is both real but imaginary at the same time. The ultimate paradox. The part that has stuck out to me for years, ever since the first time I heard it, is the build to the song's climax. While I rarely discuss music itself as an emotional force, the build to the ending of "Only In Dreams" is where you will hear everything. For two minutes, you hear every single bit of thought, feeling, loss, struggle, pain, joy, happiness, anger, frustration... all of it. From the guitars which quietly sound listless and lost to the drums which keep building. It encapsulates the feeling of not knowing your place in life, where you're going, who you'll be with, and what you'll be doing while you try to beat at all of the negative energy hoping it will go away. The drumming on this part is some of the hardest I've heard from a non-aggressive rock act. It doesn't even sound angry. It just sounds desperate and almost hopeful. And the sad reality is that all of that hitting, no matter how hard, doesn't matter. The song tells you from the start it is hopeless. What you want isn't there. The song, much like the album, carries a double meaning. Maybe death is the answer, then we can sleep forever and be reunited with 'her' in an endless dream. The other side is that tells us to keep hitting and keep going because something will come from it. After this build, there is a final reprise of the song's chorus. After the preceding part, it almost sounds triumphant. As if to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or it could just mean that death came to pass after all (again, double meaning). The acrimonious bridge is clear, the final reprise is not.

The band's second album Pinkerton is an altogether bizarre affair. After the success of Blue, Rivers took his own advice and left to find himself. He enrolled to Harvard where he hoped that he could find a dose of reality (something he detailed in a b-side "Longtime Sunshine"). What he instead found was more of the social failings that led him to Blue. This time around, in large part because of an audience that enabled his expressiveness, Rivers left nothing on the table. What followed was Pinkerton. An album that included songs about Rivers fantasizing about a fifteen year old Japanese girl ("Across The Sea"; the label demanded he change the lyrics to 18 years old, but the line "I could never touch you, I think it would be wrong" remained), falling in love with a lesbian ("Pink Triangle"; includes the politically incorrect line "everyone's a little queer, why can't she be a little straight?"), and getting rejected by a girl in a Weezer shirt who didn't know who Rivers was ("El Scorcho").

On Pinkerton, all of Rivers' flaws fully come to bare. Gone are the catchy songs veiling his insecurities. Instead they are laid out for all the world to see. The result was rejection. The guy from the "Buddy Holly" video was apparently an obsessive pervert ("Across The Sea", "Tired of Sex") who was scared of everything ("Why Bother?") and hated himself ("The Good Life"). One does not look like the other. People wanted a cartoon character, a caricature and they hated Rivers for not giving it to them. They wanted the dork in the blazer to be a dork in a blazer. What they got was someone trapped inside himself and unable to reconcile it. The cathartic leap from Blue to Pinkerton is something that very few musicians have ever made. For all the platitudes made about Nirvana and other 90s bands, so many more are left unsaid about Weezer. What happened after the critical shelling Pinkerton took is a bizarre turn unto itself (detailed at length in Andy Greenwald's Nothing Feels Good). Rivers didn't turn on the album so much as he turned on himself. He blamed himself for being so honest and his failure as a songwriter to properly capture his feelings to song. In a way the same outside forces that shaped him into the mess that he was were the same ones criticizing him for being such a mess (the pains of pandering to the mainstream).

Blue and Pinkerton represent personal imperfection. They also represent a deep desire to try and bury that imperfection. It is easier to put on a blazer and pretend to be on the set of Happy Days than to fix yourself. It also shows that if you do a song and dance, the world will look passed your flaws because you're fun. They show that we should never be too honest about who we are to people. Flaws are problems, but so are people. More people knowing your problems will almost certainly mean more problems for you.

More than anything, these albums truly teach us about what feeling lost truly means. It isn't a tunnel we trudge through until we get to the light at the end. It is a desert we have to blindly navigate. Success is literally meaningless. If we make millions of dollars, we're not 'found' so much as we've arrived at a different point of the desert. There is no true place we can arrive at where we can declare 'we made it'. The next place we arrive at will look like the place we left in some form or fashion. Life is a giant problem. Relationships, work, money, friendship, school, and, most important of all, ourselves. The only constant is that we'll always have to keep sorting through our problems until the day when we're finally out of the desert. Is that even possible? I don't know. Weezer might have answered that question in "Only In Dreams".

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Top 10 NYHC EP's of All Time

Justified Arrogance loves NYHC. This is one of the more passe observations that can be made about this blog as time goes on. There could be two separate discussions made on best LPs ever and best demos (which equates to an academic dogfight). This list is for the top 10 EPs to ever come out of New York City. Special thanks to Jacob Duarte (Dress Code / The Pose / Narrow Head), Jose Mora (Gag / White Wards / Combat Knife / Mongrel), Sean Holland (Neutral Accents Zine), Jesse Gasface (No Parole / Criminal Intent) for consulting with the formation of this list.

Honorable Mentions:

Breakdown - Blacklisted
Confusion - Taste of Hate
Crippled Youth - Join The Fight
The Mob - Step Forward
Underdog - Underdog
Beastie Boys - Polly Wog Stew
Stimulators - Loud Fast Rules
Burn - Burn
Sheer Terror - Fall From Grace
Warzone - Lower East Side Crew
Side By Side - You're Only Young Once
Urban Waste - Urban Waste
Heart Attack - God Is Dead
Supertouch - What Did We Learn
Sick of It All - Sick of It All
Crown Of Thornz - Train Yard Blues
Alone In A Crowd - Alone In A Crowd
Citizen's Arrest - A Light In The Darkness

10. Straight Ahead - Breakaway

9. Judge - New York Crew

8. Madball - Ball of Destruction

7. Youth of Today - Can't Close My Eyes

6. Outburst - Miles To Go

5. Antidote - Thou Shalt Not Kill

4. Cause For Alarm - Cause For Alarm

3. Life's Blood - Defiance

2. The Abused - Loud And Clear

1. Agnostic Front - United Blood

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rest In Peace David Bowie

I've had enough death for one year and it's only begun.

David Bowie died.

I'm not even going to pretend to act like I was a big fan of his discography. I wasn't. I'm not even going to pretend that I liked the singles. I didn't. I didn't dislike his music, it just never really struck a chord with me for whatever reason. That being said, this fact only proves what Bowie's importance was to culture. Not music, not style, not fashion, not art... culture. I've spent the last 24 hours trying to put Bowie's death into perspective. I got nothing. Words like 'important' and 'brilliant' are so unbelievably passe when it comes to David Bowie that me trying to eulogize what he represented into mere words is insulting to his memory, so I won't do that.

One thing I've taken from the reaction toward Bowie's death is how intensely personal his impact was on every individual. No two stories really seem to be the same when people recount their favorite memories connected to Bowie's output. That's what makes his passing so unique. There's no singular meaning to it. It is a loss. For all of us. I can't tell you I know what you're going through. I don't. That says a lot about what David Bowie meant. He was yours without being anyone else's. What you had with him was special. That was as true with his music, his personas, and now his memory. All I have to go on for the rest of this post is to talk about what David Bowie meant to me (the fact that I don't have a ton of connection to his music should really exemplify how far his influence reached) because that's all any of us really can do to grieve.

David Bowie taught me that being yourself meant you could be anyone else. You could create personas borne from entirely new worlds and a backstory of your own fancy and that was you. This sounds stupid but that really struck a chord with me. By watching Bowie just immerse himself into these personas, I saw that you didn't have to be resigned to the life behind your face. That your face could create new lives. All it took was a little showmanship and commitment. For a teenager who struggled mightily with the way people perceived him, seeing this kind of bravado gave me a lot of courage to experiment with my personality and create new me's that could say and do the things I never would. That sounds really dumb, but it is something I carry with me today. Even in my own creative endeavors where one of the main characters on the television series I wrote is another version of myself. David Bowie reinvented himself over and over again because he could. Because the gears never stopped turning. His creativity and imagination are absolutely unrivaled. For that reason, he is one of my biggest influences. We are our own greatest conduit for creation. Muses and collaborators are dilutions.

The other thing Bowie taught me is that life is really just one giant performance. We wake up, get dressed, put on the face we want, and we show the world us. We play to their reactions and, more importantly, we can incite them. Bowie walked into a room and controlled it. He knew what he wanted out of the crowds and he got it from them. That kind of visceral connection to PEOPLE, not audiences, is unheard of. I think about it constantly. From a psychological perspective, you almost want to call it magic. There's no logical explanation for how he had his way with people. We could talk about someone like Hitler (who Bowie once said was an original rock star, citing Hitler's control of crowds) and how he was able to control people because of propaganda, war fever, etc. There's an explanation to it. Bowie's was raw charisma. I've spent countless hours trying to balance abrasiveness and charisma into a personality like Bowie's. It's impossible. Everything he did made you want to hate him, but instead you watched and waited for his next move. He lived the life you were too afraid to live.

I could tell you I'm having a hard time about Bowie's passing tonight, but I would only be lying to you. I can't tell you I'm sad that he's passed on because I know he's not suffering anymore. I can't tell you that he had so much left to do because the fact is he had conquered the world over decades ago. I can't tell you that he needed more time because I have never seen someone of his stature be so at peace with their impending end. What I can tell you is that David Bowie put on a show for the world every day of his life. I can tell you that he unconditionally lived his life on his own terms. As for myself? You taught me what I needed to know about creativity and showmanship. I know you lived in the stars. All I have left to do is join you there one day with the tools you gave me.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

We found the flyer for the greatest show ever

This show happened on January 2nd, 1989. It was a benefit show for Agnostic Front frontman Roger Miret who was facing legal troubles. 

Special thanks to Brendan Rafferty for scanning this in.