Three heavyweights of contemporary punk rock share the stage Thursday night at Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge: Pink Reason and Little Claw roll into town for the first time and Suspected Terrorists play their first hometown show since the recent release of their debut album.
All three groups are perfect examples of what the best current wave of DIY rock bands have to offer. Though each has a dissimilar sound, they share a common ethos, the same ethos that allows Flipper, The Swell Maps, The Fall, The Germs, The Electric Eels and The Minutemen to sound fresh today, nearly 30 years later.
It is also the same genre-defying ethos that somehow ties all of these bands together. None of Thursday’s three try to reinvent the wheel or create a new language, though they do understand that injecting unique character into a form can be the breath of fresh air that keeps staid mimicry at bay. This type of punk rock doesn’t equate itself with a fashion statement.
While the Internet has caused the slow death of the CD, inversely, vinyl album sales have been on the rise for the last 10 years. Coinciding with this resurgence is the recent rebirth of the 7-inch single, or 45.
One of last year’s most heralded singles was an out-of-nowhere debut from Kevin DeBroux, the man behind Pink Reason. His music has a distinctly Midwestern home-taper feel that blurs the lines between downer folk, industrial and mid-tempo, psychedelic punk anthems with shades of goth (very light on the eyeliner).
The Wisconsinite’s opiated vocal chords stretch out into a bleak universe that hovers somewhere between Ian Curtis and Jim Shepard. The single’s eerie, “What year is it?” feel landed Pink Reason a home at the Siltbreeze record label, who released this year’s Up The Sleeve full length to much critical acclaim.
When not on tour, DeBroux, who split his formative years between Wisconsin and Russia, doesn’t stay in one place too long, bouncing around from town to town. He is the lone consistent member driving the shifting vehicle that is Pink Reason.
Suspected Terrorists, alongside Gaj Mustafa Cell and The Touched, represent a new breed of local punk rock that has much more in common with the original cast of local yokels, like early Circle X and the entire roster of the extraordinary “Bold Beginnings: an Incomplete Collection of Louisville Punk 1978-83.”
In other words, Suspected Terrorists tap the center of the pale of the first wave of punk rock, as told by the aural histories found on the Killed By Death, Bloodstains and Messthetics compilations — all of which are to the punk world what the “Nuggets” collections are to 1960s psychedelic garage rock.
“The lyrics are most important; they hold the meaning of our songs,” says Dan Willems, ST’s singer and bass player. “The idea is to leave no doubt about what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it.”
Songs like “Patriot Act,” “Mr. America” (“So little time/So much to buy”), “Shoot You In The Back” (“Deadly force is a lazy cop/Who’ll pull the trigger and …”), “Henry Ford is Dead (and I’m glad)” (“Henry Ford gave you a choice/Work or die for him/he shot at the union rally/Was loved by the Nazi Party”) and “Torture Island” (”Guantanamo Bay”) give the band’s scathing message a relevance that is missing in the lion’s share of contemporary music.
Combined with a musical rapport honed over more than 20 years of playing together in various bands, and what you have is easily one of the best debut albums ever written and recorded in Louisville.
Michigan’s Little Claw completes the night’s bill. The band’s debut LP was recently released on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace record label. They have a reputation for ferocious live shows filled with loud, shimmering feedback, twisted pop and a powerful female vocalist whose lyrics verge on the psychotic with lines like, “Killed my father, I wear his head like a crown!”
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