Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Singing along with The Lewd, The Freeze and Social Unrest

J. Sats Beret and The Lewd in Mountlake Terrace, Wash., a few years ago. (All Andy photos)
By Andy

Who cares what some smart-mouthed, dyed-hair punk kid thinks when it comes to a pleasant record-buying experience.

The place: Recycled Records in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

The year: 1982

The record: The Lewd's "American Wino"

I was anticipating the record's release, snatched it out of the L bin right away, and then continued perusing the stacks for more solid slabs of vinyl one Saturday afternoon. However, the aforementioned guy -- whom I'd seen around and who always gave me the evil eye for some unknown reason -- spotted me with the record, and when his buddy mentioned that The Lewd album was out, he groaned, "Big deal, they suck." (Good one, real words of wisdom.)

Maybe I was deemed uncool by this lad because I sported my natural brown hair (it was a bit spiky, though, since I've got a cowlick), but, hey, I donned an Adolescents T-shirt and knew my punk rock. Maybe it was a "I'm-more-punk-than-you thing," but I wasn't having any of that ... I liked The Lewd and soon I would be in my room blasting that record, and loving it.

Guitarist Bob Clic and Sats.
That ICI Records offering still rules today, complete with J. Sats Beret's gurgly vocals (my friend John and I always had a good time mimicking his delivery) on a host of tunes with both dark and humorous lyrics matched with more rock song structures that defied the hardcore speed demons of the day.

On "Beyond Moderation," how could you not help but smile at the line, "Don't be a wimpy powder puff, Too much is not enough"? "Polluted Brain" chipped in with, "I'm not playing with a full deck, I am not a total wreck, Don't know why my mind's on void, Don't ask me I'm not Sigmund Freud." And "Dressed in Black" was a ray of sunshine: "Smoke-filled skies block out the sun, As I greet oblivion, Upon my brother I turn my back, I will always be dressed in black."

Weird thing is that, a few months down the road, I had a nice exchange with my nemesis from the record store. While the crowd was thrashing about at the front of the stage during a Redd Kross gig at the Bijou Theater in Hermosa, we both looked at each other, grinned and banged our heads in unison.

Cliff (Hanger) Croce with The Freeze in Seattle.

Cliff (Hanger) Croce of The Freeze is a short-story writer. A punk lyricist of the highest order.

When John and I snagged the "This is Boston Not L.A." compilation in 1982, we thoroughly dug the speed and wildness of bands like Jerry's Kids, Gang Green and the F.U.'s -- and, of course, the Proletariat's marching beat and insightful lyrics stuck with us, as well -- but The Freeze closed out the album with eight mid-paced punk gems.

The songs were fun, the lyrics didn't tread any new ground, but they were worded in such a way that you gained somewhat of a different perspective on things. A plus for an aspiring journalist like myself was the words were written in full sentences and in paragraph form, giving it a story feel.

In "Broken Bones," Croce offers:
"The broken bones begin to mend and bruises slowly fade. I feel perversely satisfied thinking of the friends I haven't made. I've since taken up karate and I've bought myself a gun. Next time they want to beat up a punk I'm going to have myself some fun."

"Time Bomb" starts with, "Boredom Boredom dulls my senses, so I activate all self-defenses. The world won't offer sympathy, they'd just as soon get rid of me. But I'm a time bomb."

Last year, we saw The Freeze for the first time at the Funhouse in Seattle and it was a long time coming to see Croce in action, all wide-eyed and fuming about his daily occurrences.

Creetin K-OS leads Social Unrest in Seattle.

When Tim Tonooka from Ripper magazine sent me a mixtape in 1982, Social Unrest's "Making Room for Youth" was one of the standout tracks. The pride of Hayward, Calif., razor-sharp vocalist Creetin K-OS led the way on the band's English-punk-sounding tune that fit in well on the tape with the Battalion of Saints' rock-styled songs and the Zero Boys' power-pop-punk. (Husker Du, The Fartz, The Lewd, Crucifix, The Necros, The Meatmen, The Fuck Ups and The Fix rounded out the brilliant cassette.)

Social Unrest were a bit of a mystery band for me, but I soon learned more when they released the seven-song "Rat in a Maze" in 1982.

... "And there's nothing to do -- enemy; To stop war games -- enemy; Nothing to do -- enemy; Because our leader is insane." K-OS's screams (even melodic in a gritty punk sense) gave the opening track "General Enemy" a kickstart that would last throughout "Red, White and Blue" all the way to the closer, "I Love You." That little yellow lyric sheet, complete with the Social Unrest logo, American flags and a pic of the band, was the perfect companion to the band's raucous sound.

When I enrolled at San Jose State University in 1987, a new buddy, Tim, noted that he roomed with K-OS's successor, Jason Honea, in West Hall the year before and they threw raging parties. I never saw the band with either K-OS or Honea at the singer's helm during those days, but we finally caught up with the band at the Funhouse -- again! -- last year with K-OS back in his frontman role.

And wouldn't you know it .... during "Making Room for Youth," I ran up front and K-OS put the mic in my face to sing along.
K-OS sports the Social Unrest logo.


  1. Can u plz post social unrest rat in a maze's lyrics??? Im lookin all over....! it'll make me so very very happy