The year: 1991ish. I was heavy into skateboarding and just ending a short relationship with grunge music to start digging into less mainstream artists. It was time to renew my subscription to Thrasher so I could plaster my walls and ceilings with pages and pages of dudes doing skateboarding things. As part of my rededication to the skateboarding culture of the early nineties, Thrasher provided me with a tape. A band called Big Drill Car.
The first track plays and I'm instantly 14 again. Just enough hair metal from the 80's lingers in the guitar licks of the opening song, but the independent production values foreshadow my love of east bay pop punk. Big, bombastic vocals definitely say words, but they're not particularly earth-shattering prose or deeply meaningful postulates on the human condition, they're just words. I'm not even really sure what this first song is about after listening to it hundreds of times, it just sounds good.
The flavor of punk that continues on the record is clearly southern Californian (Cruz is an offshoot of SST... ) with lots of palm muting and hot guitar licks verging on feedback. Plenty of rhythmic changes undoubtedly influenced by label-mates ALL (Bill Stevenson also produced!), but more radio friendly despite probably only being played on college radio. Listening to it now after 26 years of pop-punk exploration it sounds less exciting and interesting than what I remember, but it definitely fits in my timeline with Suicidal Tendencies and Circle Jerks and a childhood of hair bands. There's moments in there where I sort of want to sing along, I suppose, but mostly it feels like I'm visiting a museum of 80's punk. It's sort of like those old Thrasher pictures, the tricks are either standard or out of favor and many of them don't provide that same inspiration so many years later.
Before I totally give up on this thing, however, I have to make a note of the cover song that shows up as track 8: Devo's Freedom Of Choice. I had never heard Devo before this tape showed up in the mail, so I didn't really recognize that this was a cover song as a kid. It's one of those covers that isn't particularly different from the original other than sounding a little "punker". Actually, it's also not super inspiring, so if you like Devo, don't go seeking this out or anything. I think it may have been used in someone's skate video part, though...
Unfortunately, I think that's the type of record this has ended up as for me. It's just something to happen in the background while something more interesting is happening. On this modern day listen, I didn't really feel like singing along or tapping along and, for me, that's a sign that this record will just sit on my shelf until I get desperate enough to sell my collection. It's full of nostalgia and I wish I had that original tape, but I loaned to a friend who never returned it, but the cheap used CD copy I have on the shelf will be a good reminder of my formative years.
1: Take Away
2: Restless Habs
3: If It's Poison
5: Never Ending Endeavor
6: In A Hole
8: Freedom Of Choice