WILDMAN fashion designer Kai got into yet another nightclub scuffle — this time at Luke & Leroy’s "Misshapes" party. The crazed couturier was thrown out of the West Village hotspot by two bouncers Saturday night after he allegedly kicked a member of rock band the Explosion, then started swinging at security when they tried to break it up. "He was literally tossed onto the sidewalk, thong hanging out, as he tried to take on the two bouncers," says our spywitness. Kai then tried to throw a trash can at the bouncers — before wisely jumping into a cab. Among the hipsteratti there for the outburst were Nine Inch Nails bassist Jeordie White, model Anouk Lepere and Heatherette designer Traver Rains.
For a while, there’s been alot of good street-punk bands, as well as pop-punk, post-punk, emo and an assortment of other bands with colorful prefixes. But what’s happened to all the straight up punk rock bands? It would seem the talent of all those bands that would have been has drained and pooled into Boston’s The Explosion.
From the opening track "No Revolution" to it’s final song "True or False", Flash Flash Flash is nothing short of a masterpiece. My personal favorite is "Tarantulas Attack" with lyrics that seem to have come right out of the recent David Arquette stinker "Eight Legged Freaks", and riffs that make ear drums bleed. With social conscience lyrics and killer riffs, The Explosion’s Flash Flash Flash is nothing short of a must have for anyone who claims to like punk rock music.
The tattered punk-rock banner has been passed on to a few pimply faced teenagers from suburban New Jersey, and rock ‘n’ roll is a better place for it. Whether or not they are actually from the Garden State is debatable, but one thing remains clear: The Explosion provides an ample portion of punk rock heat to convert the non-believers. Combining the best elements of heroes past like Stiff Little Fingers and the Descendants with the accessibility of today’s catchier punk acts, this band creates a quality 14-track recording entitled, Flash Flash Flash, released on the fine Jade Tree label, better known for their more "emotional" acts like the Promise Ring and Joan of Arc.
With strong cuts like "God Bless the SOS," and "Broken Down and Out," the Explosion opt for a full-throttle attack on all-too-prevalent mediocrity pervading the current state of punk rock. Like a Magnum shot in the arm or a cyanide injection into the bloodstream, the boys in the band rock out without subtlety or a care in the world. And that’s one of the main successful components to the punk rock equation, children. "Three cheers for Flash Flash Flash!," cried out the village idiot, shortly before unintentionally throwing himself into the lake.
From the opening call of Flash Flash Flash’s "No Revolution," Boston’s punk rock patriots the Explosion make their statement quite clear. Lyrics like "We look to the past, and ask for nothing more" drive home the band’s unapologetic point — sure they wish it was 1977, but they know full well that it isn’t. With that in mind, the band’s debut LP still sees them tumble through 14 tracks of dirty Clash-styled punk rock in under a half hour — a performance that would make their forefathers proud. It’s simple music and far from mind-blowing lyrics that form the basis of the Explosion’s attack, but it’s their high-energy attitude that carries their music to the next level. Tracks like "Terrorist" and "God Bless the S.O.S" are short speedy bursts of punk packed with catchy choruses and thick guitars, a recipe that the band often employs and generally finds success with. After their poorly recorded first EP, Flash Flash Flash’s to-the-point presentation makes it clear that all this band needed was a little polishing to make a great record. They certainly got it down this time around, and the result is one of the better punk albums to arise from a scene that has already lasted a few more decades than expected.
They’ll be dismissed by those who don’t take the time to listen as just another pseudo-punk band with high ideals and a strange devotion to The Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers. An MTV-loving friend of mine upon hearing them on my car stereo compared them to Green Day and The Offspring (ugh!), until we got to "Terrorist" and "The Ideal" and he noticed that we were driving about 90 in a 45.
This Boston 5-piece sports a gnashing, double-guitar attack that epitomizes their name. The punk part is obvious, but the high-end production (this is no DIY job) and rock-and-roll arrangements push it over the edge from stereotype to head rush. Vocalist Matt Hock knows how to sing punk with melody — he’s not just another atonal howler. And everything else just plain rocks with a blistering intensity that Offspring/Green Day could never touch on their best day.
These fist-in-the-air anthems aren’t so much about angst as anger, frustration and warning, from another loser trapped in a plastic, corporate world he never made. He may be too weak to escape, but he’s strong enough to gather forces. We’ve heard it all before in the first two punk waves, but Hock and company have managed to put a new shine on this very old apple, thanks to unbridled chutzpah and ability to write a damn fine hook. Each compact, 3-chord ditty sports a sonic nugget nestled among the power chords and at least one clever line per song. Inspirational verse: "On the edge of tomorrow/What are we fighting for?/We fight each other/Whenever we get bored."
Punk purists will cringe at how clean and tidy everything sounds, and yeah, this really is a pop CD, but who cares? It’s a huge leap in quality over their first Jade Tree release (which was a rather boring affair), and is easily the best new "punk-pop" CD I’ve heard in a couple years.
With so many bands claiming to be representing a return to old school punk, it’s nice to know that some of them are actually doing a reasonable job of it. Although only two years old, the Boston-based quintet has managed to recapture the sound and spirit of the imported British punk sound of the early ’80s. Their 14-track debut, which follows the release late last year of a self-titled EP, rocks with musical and lyrical intensity and sincerity. Although not terribly diverse in what it has to offer, it’s executed with the right doses of passion and piss and vinegar to keep it from sounding tired or clichéd.
Rob Biavati interviews the band…
Rob Biavati: So how’s the Warped Tour going?
Damien: We just started a few days ago and we’re actually on tour for two weeks. So far, its actually even better than we’d thought it would be.
Sam: Yeah I think so, its been really positive so far. Especially once we’ve gotten in the groove of it a little bit more. Today actually was the first day I really started to feel the O Great Signator (?). Its a lot of confusion but if you take the good aspects of it and just enjoy it…
RB: Its seems "punk" has become rather commercialized over the last five years or so. What do you guys think about that?
Sam: I think that’s true.
Damien: Yeah, The Warped Tour is an independent idea and the whole idea is to bring independent bands together and just make it bigger and more accessible for a lot of people. But if you look around, you see, ya know, the Target symbol everywhere, you see the "Toyota Vibe" you see these people trying to make money off of youth culture. Its like, "get in the Vibe and check it out!" I mean graffiti is the back wall (for the display) and stuff like that I can’t really get down with. At the same time, punk has been around so long that it has evolved. You don’t have a major label, you don’t have a Sire Records putting out Dead Boys or Stiff putting out Elvis Costello on a bigger level, the independents had to do it themselves. Its been (going on) so long they’ve just found better ways of doing it. To some people, that may seem like its more commercialized, I think if someone wants to make a living off of putting out punk rock records or putting on a punk rock tour I think that’s great.
RB: What about the capitalization off of the fashion? "Punk" rock clothing used to be, for the most part, home made. Now everything is ready made and there are the Hot Topics etc. producing it.
Damien: Its pretty funny that you can get your shirts pre ripped and with safety pins already in them. My favorite shirts are the ones I make myself. At the same time a company like Dog Pile, that makes bondage pants, I hear that guy is just some old punk rocker. Punk fashion, if you want to say, that just started in the sex shop with Malcolm McClaren (sp?) and he just wanted to make money off it to. I think fashion is always going to tend to be that way.
Sam: I think that people make their own decisions and if its something that makes you feel good to do yourself, like if making your clothes yourself is your vibe, then do it. If putting out your own records is what you want to do then do it. That’s the thing, especially with younger kids, its like "I’m going to Hot Topic to buy my clothes because that’s where my friends go and buy their clothes." Or they go to Tower to buy their records because in their town they don’t have an independent record store like CI records in Philly. I think that on both sides of the spectrum, that maybe those kids will get a little older and realize that "hey, me and my friends can fuckin’ do this on our own." We’ve all gone through both parts of our lives doing things ourselves and having at least witnessing some of the consumer aspect of it.
RB: What do you think about all this "pop-punk" with "emo" (if you will) tendencies that’s big right now?
Damien: (laughing) We don’t have much affiliation with that ourselves. I was thinking the other day, maybe its just because we’re on Warped Tour, but sometimes people will give us this tag of being a really young band. We’re like the ages of 21 and 25 but people never call like New Found Glory or pop-punk bands young, because I guess its just sort of given because they talk about girls and High Schools etc. I don’t know, maybe those are things they can relate to but we were never really attracted to it or a part of it.
Sam: I think our background is more in the aggressive music scene.
RB: Such as…
Sam: Stuff like TYS, Slap Shot, Minor Threat, Bad Brains.
Damien: Yeah, just being in Boston and Philadelphia and seeing hardcore bands, going to punk shows, that’s what attracted me more to it. It wasn’t so I could bop around, it was more like, AGGG, just gettin’ off on the aggressive music, you know?
RB: What do you think about people being overtly political?
Sam: I think that the best politics are personal. Start with yourself first, if you can change yourself and you can do things for yourself and think independently. Then you can share those ideas with others, not forcing them on others, is a really cool way to get people talking and make changes.
Damien: I think even a band like Dillinger 4 who seem to have really political lyrics, but I don’t consider them a political band. I think they’re just really passionate about their opinions and they put it in their music in such a way that its not just one thing like "boycott this or boycott that," its still personal but its attacking something greater. At the same time, if someone’s passionate, different things drive different people to want to put out a message and its politics, more power to ‘em.
RB: Do you think you’ll get flack for playing the Warped Tour? Do you think people will say "oh they don’t have any credibility?"
Sam: We’ve fuckin’ been on tour for the better part of this year and I think the Warped Tour is the smallest amount of time we’ve been with a group out of all of it. We went to Europe with Sick of it All, we went on tour with Rocket from the Crypt for five weeks.
Damien: We’ve done shows on our own.
Sam: Yeah, we’ve done shows of our own on the West Coast to about 100 kids. That’s the pay off. Being able to do shit like that comes with giving up your life for a while and going on tour. If people have a problem with that…then go do something you know.
Damien: Like I said, we were a little skeptical about Warped Tour too. We weren’t really sure how it would go so we said "fuck it, lets try it for two weeks" and I think we’ve been impressed with how much everybody gets along, how every body is really nice to us and some of my favorite bands have done Warped Tour. Hot Water Music, Descendents, Social Distortion, Rancid, AFI, Sick of it All, Quick Sand, so I respect a lot of the bands who have done it so.. I mean how could we say it was something bad if we had never tried it.
Sam: I think that’s kind of a lesson that people in the band learned too. We talked about this a lot before doing it and made the decision to do it as something we didn’t know about until we were here. Even with the Warped Tour its nice to have a reputation in other places besides Boston. It would be nice to come back here (Dallas) some day maybe on our own tour.
RB: Did the Warped Tour ask you to do this or did your record label ask you to do it or…?
Sam: They (the Warped Tour) asked Margie our booking agent and she asked us so that’s kind of how we get offered tours.
RB: Do you think street credibility has any place in the music or has any significance?
Damien: Well, what is street credibility? Its just Mr. Johnny Popular in his town saying that the band is cool and everyone else follows his opinions. It seems like with independent music, hardcore punk or whatever you want to call it, sometimes it seems like the trend to try and find anything bad or negative about a band that you can. I’ve experienced this in bands where people don’t even know you or the band but they make statements that’d make you think other wise. Street credibility, you can’t worry about that, you just have to be a band and make the music you want to make and do the things you want to do.
Sam: That speaks for both of us.
RB: I’ve heard it said that people who are way into punk rock when they’re in their twenties or thirties are people who have never progressed beyond freshman year of High School.
Sam: That’s fucked up man. That’s bullshit. I’d love to still be into punk rock even at fifty. Not to say that I’d be that age and still be up here rocking with a band or on tour, but I’d love to have the same innocence and the same fuckin’ worldliness that I’ve found in my punk friends and kids I’ve been in bands with that I’ve hung out with since…I’ve been listening to pissed off music.
Damien: Yeah at the same time, how could anyone say I’m stuck in freshman year of High School? I’ve seen parts of the world, I’ve learned…you do learn things about business when you’re in a band. You learn things about getting along with other people and communicating and all that shit. Listening to bands, I’ve learned things I wouldn’t have learned in school, you meet people and they tell you about the fucked up things that go on in their places or whatever. I don’t think punk rock is narrow at all. I think bands like Hot Snakes or even a band like Trail of Dead or Cat Power, I think those bands are punk in their own way to.
RB: Well look at the Business, I mean how old are they?
Damien: Yeah. They put on such an awesome show the other day I just had a smile on my face.
RB: What do you think about all the kids who are eighteen, nineteen, twenty, who already have their bodies covered in tattoos?
Sam: To each his own. If that’s you, awesome. If that’s what you want to do, then nothing could be better. For all I care, wear shirts with three sleeves! It doesn’t matter. Its your own shit, its your own personality.
RB: Are we alone in the universe?
Damien: Definitely not. Because Sam didn’t come from here.
Sam: Yeah, there’s speculation that I may be an extrasensory person.
RB: Do you think there’s a lot of misplaced affection in society today?
Damien: misplaced affection? I think there’s misplaced importance because like you said, there’s a lot of things like fashion or money those sort of things are really misplaced. Everybody’s priorities are just way out of line. I think the reason people kill their kids or people just kill and shoot random people is because they’re so disconnected from their own heart and mind.
RB: What do you think pushes someone over the brink to commit murder?
Sam: Not enough affection. Imagine growing up and having your parents just not give a fuck about you at all. You would grow up and you wouldn’t love anybody else. That’s the thing, when people talk about society’s problems they talk about them, like Damien said, in the realm of money, economics, class and things like that. They don’t realize so much of it is just the way people treat each other and how that’s really fucked up sometimes.
RB: I saw a documentary on Jeffery Dahmer and his parents seemed to love him.
Sam: Was he even raised by his parents?
Damien: I don’t know, I don’t know the whole story on Jeffery Dahmer but I don’t have the mind of a serial killer either. maybe some day when I snap and I shoot a few people, give me a call.
RB: Have you guys experienced anything weird on this tour?
Damien: No. Its only been a few days though. Other than minimal amounts of clothing on very young, pre-pubescent girls. That would be the most bothersome thing.
RB: What do you think happens when you die?
Sam: I’ll field this one. When you die there could be one of many things that happen; the way I break it down its either you die, and you cease to exist, your body rots and your essence is gone. That’s it. You were the only one. Or, you die and you go on. Whether that’s in the afterlife or you get reincarnated for example there’s a child down the line who ends up looking like you some how your maintained. I’d like to think that. I’m not really religious, maybe its just a comforting thought. I’d like to think I wouldn’t just drop off the face of the earth.
Damien: I think actually our other guitarist Dave is writing a book on it so (laughing) check that out.
RB: Who do you think should be running the country today?
Sam: Anybody but who is running the country.
Sam: Just fuckin’ get him outta there man!
Damien: I think Ralph Nader could have done a good job.
RB: Why Ralph Nader?
Damien: Just because he was one of the only politicians who was able to work within the system and was able to expose and admit it had problems and it needed changes. You look at the representatives, and they’re all old white guys, most of them from the same back grounds of a family in politics or a family of money. They’re not representatives. Everyone talks about how America is a melting pot, but there’s no melting pot in the White House.
Sam: There’s so much money that changes hands between people; for instance like Pat Robertson or the far religious right like that faction of the right wing got the president where he is. Shit like that, I mean, I don’t believe in those things, why should that person be president and be taking money from all these people.
RB: Well a lot the Republicans being on the same ticket with the religious right has to do with single issue voters who only look at things like abortion or no abortion.
Damien: Yeah when I was home for Christmas, my aunt was like "what people don’t understand is that Gore is for killing." But I was like yeah, but Bush was the governor from the state that kills the most people. I was like how is that different?
RB: What do you guys think about the MTV?
Damien: Oh, my God. Its funny, I was just talking to somebody about that today.
Sam: Its boring. There’s no videos anymore, its all fuckin’ T.V. shows.
Damien: I just turned twenty four and I remember I used to feel like it was part of my generation and I still flirt with that, because you see their commercials and visuals and you think this is pretty fuckin’ cool but then its the same rotated shit. Another funny thing is the guys from Good Charlotte, hang out all the time. They just sit around and hang out with all the rest of us but because they’ve been on MTV all these kids want to get their picture taken with them and I can tell it weirds them out. Even a band like SUM 41, I think their album just went platinum, and I don’t think they are more or less talented than other bands on the tour, but they’re platinum because of MTV and the radio. They (MTV) are so selective, and there is so much music out there but they only play five videos an hour.
RB: How long is the Explosion going to be around?
Damien: We’re planning on breaking up tomorrow, its good that you did this interview, you caught us at the right time. You never know, being in a band is the hardest thing in the world some times. Its like having four girlfriends. We could break up at any time.
Wait, a band on Jade Tree not named after some obscure literary figure and whining about how that girl doesn’t know they’re alive? Yup, a band on Jade Tree that’s decidedly not emo! While some labels seeking to branch out (get it, Jade Tree, branch out? Oh I slay myself!) beyond their standard repertoire may be tempting fate, here Jade Tree have signed somebody that’s really good.
That somebody being Boston punk rock and roll quintet the Explosion. This 6-song EP clocks in at a mere 13 minutes (just under, actually), and yet contains more good songs (all six) than many a Jade Tree full-length. Sometimes you can just look at a CD’s cover and know it’ll be good – when a punk rock band contains a bunch of scruffs looking like lost members of the Heartbreakers and one in full-on Mod gear, these are very good signs indeed.
For you who may’ve already heard of these guys, this EP was previously released as a demo on Standhard Records (while everyone should check this out, no sense buying a second copy).