|CH3 in Seattle. (Cat Rose photos)|
CH3 always delivers.
You're gonna get some punk, some pop, some rock -- all volleyed your way with heaps of gusto and intellect. No-holds-barred tunes that come in tandem with a sort of pat on the back and a nod from an old friend.
I'm especially stoked that the band's new album, "Put 'Em Up," comes our way today on TKO Records, because there were a handful of years without CH3 releases and I wished the band was back in action. In 1990, I befriended original CH3er Kimm Gardener on my messenger-guy route at his place of employment in the band's hometown of Cerritos, Calif., and told him they should get things happening again. In fact, Gardener and fellow CH3 founder Mike Magrann were to meet the following week to discuss the band. A few years later, I was tossed back to my early '80s days at the Cuckoo's Nest and other SoCal clubs when CH3 hammered out a set at the Berkeley Square. And they've kept the punk spirit alive ever since.
So, here we are today, with another CH3 album in the collection and a whip-smart batch of songs chugging through the headphones. Am I 15 again, lounging in my bedroom after snatching up a copy of their debut EP at Zed Records? After all, we all have one foot in the past, but are plugging away full bore in the present as well. CH3 is doing it with just as much vigor as anyone else with guitars and drum sticks in their sturdy hands. Bassist Anthony Thompson and drummer Nick Manning complete the foursome.
With the opening track "Model Citizen," CH3 is right at home with everything that's worked since Day 1: pounding drums, chunky and melodic guitars, Magrann's biting vocals and a catchy chorus. We're right there with 'em and ready for more.
Within the walls of the 10 tracks -- produced by old CH3 pal and bandmate Jay Lansford -- there's some fast tunes and some slower offerings alongside the band's crucial backup vocals, but nothing that CH3 fans aren't used to hearing. As always, there's stellar musicianship and some twists and turns thrown into the mix to keep things fresh and people's minds on 10 while eyeballing the lyric sheet.
On the lyrics front, there's some heavy, heart-wrenching topics addressed, especially on the title track, which in today's political climate has Magrann again referencing Manzanar and Japanese internment camps of World War II. His mother and other family members were sent to a camp, and Magrann said in a press release, "Decades later, we see families ripped apart once again by a decree based in fear. People baited into hatred, action engaged without thought. Once again, we turn to our guitars and microphones to express ourselves."
Things get way toned down on the campfire-like song "Half the Day," but for those of us who dug "Gone Drinkin'" from CH3's past, it's right up our alley. For others who are strictly on the fast-and-raw trip, it's OK to hush things down and get reflective once in a while. We won't tell your pals in the pit, even though a lively version of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" might get the dance floor moving in a CH3 gig setting. (Later, a rocked-up companion piece to "Half the Day," titled "All the Night," makes an appearance to complete the picture.)
To close things up for this round, CH3 digs into its old song titles again on "Take Me to Your Leader" with lyrics that include "out of control," "wanna know why," "Indian summer" and "fear of life." Full circle? Sure. But also full speed ahead.
"Put 'Em Up"
It's not the same, these voices have changed
Once was a discussion but it's now a spitting rage
Bring us your tired, bring us your poor
Just drop em off at the prison doors
A call to prayer, you hear a call to arms , A turn to Mecca as a civil alarm
Out in the fields they all fall to their knees They sign the cross as they pull the weeds
Put em up in the stables boy
Freeze em out in the snow _
We'll build a wall out of ignorance
And hatred heavy as stone_
Checkpoint, check, put the curfews in place, re open up Manzanar
Let's concentrate on concentration, put ‘em up in boxcars
So feed your fears and put up your walls
To block your view of injustice for all
Our melting pot is now a pressure cooker, and here we come to the boil
You offer your sweat, your food and your culture, but where the fuck is your oil?
The anger that you bury down in the dark, That fecund fertile place
It pushes up through the soil of your heart, a seed married to your fate
The crack in your heart let the light turn black, the hope all turn to gloom
What will load each empty chamber, which caliber of doom?
History is written at night Put up your hands, give up your rights
History is written at night When they come will you put up a fight?
Put em all away