Monday, January 18, 2016

NYHC Top 50 7"s Of All (My) Time - part one: 41-50


50. SFA - New York
Label: Noo Yawk Rehkids
Year: 1988

After a couple of demos with Mike BS of future GO! "fame" at the helm, he took his leave and Brendan Fafferty stepped into the front man position, but not before they both contributed vocals to the first official SFA record, this, the 'New York' 7" (first awkward sentence of the article alert!). The band had been kicking around since 1984 at the tail end of the first wave of hardcore, but it took a few years to get their songs together and onto vinyl. Listen, and you can hear the echoes of that original hardcore DNA in their sound, but you also hear them scratching away at a newer sound. Something with a bit more groove to it, something that would begin to define the ABC No Rio version of NYHC, something that pulls from later, darker Black Flag. The dawn of Hatecore!
I would put the song "Gyroscope" up against almost any other NYHC song now or then. It's a jam beyond reproach.
The 'New Morality' lp that came after this (and after Mike BS) is also a certified classic.
Mike Bromberg (Mike BS) - SFA, Ego, No Mistake, GO!
Brendan Rafferty - SFA
Jan Lorenzen - SFA
Jerib - SFA
Bill Arbizu - SFA


49. Underdog - Underdog                                                     
Label: New Beginning
Year: 1986

Based on most people I’ve ever talked to about this record, which sadly is way more than any normal person should have, I guess I’m in the minority in my opinion of Underdog’s merits. Like, this 7” is good, I like it, and I think it represents a distinct voice in the NYHC pantheon, but I can’t stand the ‘Vanishing Point’ lp. Hate it. The vocals don’t work with the music, and then you get the hackneyed reggae bullshit which…man, I just can’t tolerate it. Sorry everybody.
But that’s not this. And this isn’t that. This is this, and this is pretty quintessential of the era, a mix of thrashing old school hardcore blister mixed with some vague crossover metallic leanings, and the nascent beginnings of what would become the ultimate NYHC calling card; the breakdown. At this point they (the aforementioned breakdown) weren’t called that, and they weren’t even called mosh parts (nobody said “moshing” in 1986), they were simply tempo changes that accentuated the heaviness of the riff and gave a slight breather to the usual speed. Obviously, they ignited people to go nuts (I still have a crystal clear memory of my buddy returning from a trip to New York and saying to me, “man, up there they go off to the SLOW parts of the songs!”) and can prove irresponsible in the wrong hands, but this injection of half speed sludge would come to define the genre down the road.
Underdog had a unique voice, a definitive style, and they brought the aggressiveness of hardcore while injecting the artistry of their skateboarding backgrounds. That I like. This I like. Plus, it’s worth the price of admission to hear Richie Birkenhead essentially write a song goading “someone” to “say it to my face”. A long way from the Richie Birkenhead of Into Another with his tripping on quasars and shit.
Danny Derella - Underdog
Greg Pierce – Underdog, Letch Patrol
Richie Birkenhead – Underdog, Into Another, Youth Of Today
Russ Iglay – Underdog, Murphy’s Law


48. Token Entry - Ready Or Not…Here We Come!         
Label: Turnstyle Tunes     
Year: 1985               

First sort of wildcard entry into the countdown here, because this band was a strange anomaly at the time mixing and matching a wide array of styles and influences, but remaining hardcore. And also because this record maaaaaaaaaaaybe hasn’t aged as well as some of the others and is coasting in on sentimental merits. Maybe. I mean, it’s good, I honestly believe that. The song “Death Row” comes correct with some proto-mosh stomping power, “Psycho” has a definite strangeness to it that not a lot of NYHC bands were messing around with, “Antidote” channels southern California Posh Boy style surfiness, and “Forbidden Zone” is the best Leeway song that Leeway didn’t write. Plus, they channel some pretty authentic Adolescents worship, which I have exactly zero problems with, so, it’s all around a solid four banger. There’s just a slight cheese factor here, one that rears its ugly head later on in their career (thankfully after the crucial ‘Jaybird’ lp) when they take a turn for the funk on ‘The Weight Of The World’ (funk was a real scourge circa 1990…super unfortunate), and I wince once or twice upon listening to this today, but still…fuck it. Token Entry ripped, and this 7” is gold.
Ernie Parada – Token Entry, Krakdown, In Your Face, Gilligan’s Revenge, Black Train Jack, John Henry, Greyarea, Higher Giant, The Arsons
Anthony Comunale – Raw Deal, Token Entry, Killing Time
Johnny Steigerwald – Token Entry
Mickey Neal – Token Entry

47. N.Y. Hoods - Neutral ’86 Demo                                                    
Label: United Riot        
Year: 2012                    

Originally released in 1986 on cassette by the band in an unknown (to me at least) run, and then re-released on 7” in 2012, this is one of a few entries in the countdown that started out as a tape. So, you could technically say, “oh, well, that’s not really a 7”, it’s a cassette demo”, and you’d be right, but you’d also be a fucking nerd. A bigger nerd than me anyway.
These songs helped to codify what NYHC was going to be for the next couple of years. They maintained a vaguely punk overtone, but smoothed out some of the rougher edges that bands who proceeded them had. Not in terms of sound quality, mind you. This is still a demo, so it has a roughness of its own, but the song structures have an archetypal “New York” sound to them. You can hear the direct line between this and Raw Deal/Killing Time, or Side By Side, or bands like that. It was a weird time for hardcore you’ll recall, as the original wave had died down a few years earlier, and the second, more metal-influenced wave, was transforming (or crossing over if you will) into pure thrash or metal or hard rock, so N.Y. Hoods were making an attempt to salvage the hardcore they had grown up on with some of those outside influences while still staying true to a musical style that obviously meant a lot to them.
They had one more demo after this, a couple WFMU sessions, a supposed split lp with Krakdown that was most likely never recorded (the Krakdown side was) and then splintered off into their next projects. Short lived, but crucial.
Gavin Van Vlack - Burn, Die 116, Big Collapse, N.Y. Hoods, Pry, Absolution
Bobby – N.Y. Hoods, Gilligan’s Revenge, Cold Front
Matty – N.Y. Hoods
Kevin – N.Y. Hoods


46. Rest In Pieces - Rest In Pieces                                                                
Label: Incas                                       
Year: 1985

Rest In Pieces is a rare hardcore band that had two albums that are better than their 7”. Usually the 7” is the defining statement, it captures the “right” amount of energy without letting up, and it encapsulates what the band are about. Not that this particular 7” isn’t good, on the contrary, but the two Rest In Pieces full lengths are actually better.
Unfairly described as a Sick Of It All side project, Rest In Pieces had an identifiable sound of their own. Less polished and more primitive than Sick Of It All, on this debut release they play around with some paint peeling speed as well as some slower passages that on later releases will bloom into full on mosh breakdown gut punches. And they do it with a sense of humor, not in a jokey way, but if you’re going to “cover” Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’, then…well, you get it.
Rob Calhoun – Rest In Pieces
Albert Brand – Rest In Pieces, End Product
Armand Majidi - Sick Of It All, Straight Ahead, Rest In Pieces
Josh Barker – Rest In Pieces


45. Shelter - No Compromise                                                             
Label: Equal Vision                           
Year: 1990

A divisive record if there ever was one (in these small circles anyway). Musically it was basically a continuation of what Youth Of Today’s last record sounded like (they were running concurrent) but vocally Ray Cappo was stretching his vocal range to include more melody, and lyrically, well, lyrically this was Ray coming out as full on Krishna and Shelter was to be his vehicle for his new gospel. 'Twas a wee bit polarizing to say the least. But Ray Cappo being Ray Cappo, he managed to make living life as a cultish monk seem somehow…”appealing”, and just an extension of all the straight edge, vegetarian, morally straight stuff you’d already bought in on throughout Youth Of Today.  It was a weird time…I wore those Krishna beads for a minute myself, and may or may not have visited a temple once to check it out…but I’m not sure. Saltpeter wreaks havoc on memory.
But, no matter your thoughts on this religion, this band did something pretty radical within hardcore, and they had the musical chops to back it up (at least through 1992 or so), so they deserve to be here in this top 50. These songs brought a different approach to ripping hardcore by infusing melody and some of the Washington D.C. post hardcore Revolution Summer mojo. I dug it, and of all the Shelter records, this and ‘Perfection Of Desire’ are the only two I still listen to. So there’s that.
John Porcelly (Slam) – Bold, Project X, Shelter, Ray and Porcell, Never Surrender, Young Republicans, Last Of The Famous, Judge, Youth Of Today
Ray Cappo – Violent Children, Reflex From Pain, Youth Of Today, Shelter, Ray and Porcell, Better Than A Thousand
Sammy Sielgler (The Youth) – Youth Of Today, Judge, Project X, Side By Side, Rival Schools, Civ, Glassjaw, Nightmare Of You, Head Automatica, Shelter
Graham Land – World’s Collide, Shelter, Battery, Better Than A Thousand, Face The Enemy
Yasomantinandana Das - Shelter


44. Youth Defense League - American Pride                                                              
Label: Oi! Core                                  
Year: 1990

Another record that could clear a room and alienate friends, but another crucial element in the atomic makeup of NYHC. I mean, I’ll grant you that they appropriated the whole “white working class struggle” thing, and while not racist per se you could make a case that they were at least mildly xenophobic. Or maybe not. They had members in the band who were Spanish and Middle Eastern, so, that would seem incongruous, right? Revelation thought they were worth inclusion on the ‘New York City Hardcore’ compilation, and they wouldn’t vouch for anybody uncouth would they? But YDL did shout out RAC, and were photographed wearing Skrewdriver shirts, so there’s that too. The band has always maintained that they were simply skinheads who promoted American pride not to the derision of anyone else, but…something. I don’t really know. Let’s just say it was sketchy. Like most Oi music. Sketchy.
New York has had other notable bands who flirted with conservative rhetoric (to put it politely) and somehow managed to pass through the scene unscathed (Biohazard, Carnivore, Sheer Terror, SOD, Agnostic Front, etc.). New York is strange that way. Maybe the guys in YDL really were simply anti-communist (which, to their credit, was a “thing” in 1986 when they started), and their ideologies were misconstrued by some, but again, I don’t really know.
Musically, it’s a mix of Cock Sparrer styled punk Oi, and Agnostic Front street hardened hardcore. It was a weird time.
Nick – Youth Defense League
Nick L. – Youth Defense League
Rishi Puntes – Youth Defense League
Dean – Youth Defense League


43. Pressure Release - Prison Of My Own                                                        
Label: New Age                                
Year: 1990
Technically speaking, Pressure Release were outliers to the NYHC due to three of the five members being residents of Connecticut. But, their rhythm section lived in NYC, they recorded a few times in NYC, and had ties to bands like Gorilla Biscuits…and...most importantly, this record slays so hard that I have to include it. Had they been fully 100% NYC, this 7” would be higher up on the list (and probably would have come out on Combined Effort rather than New Age).
Musically speaking, by the time of this 7” (their only 7”) the band had shed a lot of their youth crew influences (but not all), and were pulling much more liberally from the darker, warped vein of hardcore like later era Black Flag, C.O.C., Void, and Bl’ast! They weren’t afraid to layer in guitar solos, or throw in Metallica-esque passages, or launch into a flat out Cro-Mags breakneck pummel. They claim to have been influenced a lot by the stranger bands of the NYHC scene, bands like Absolution and Life’s Blood, and when you throw those names around, I’m in.
Alex Napeck – Pressure Release, Burn
Doug Byrnes – Pressure Release
Tae Park – Pressure Release
Tom Kuntz – Pressure Release, Funhouse
Sam Haffy – Pressure Release


42. Bold - Bold                                                                                
Label: Revelation                              
Year: 1989
True confessions time: I’m not a fan of the Bold lp. To me it was boring, the very definition of medioCORE. I mean, sure, “Talk Is Cheap” and “Nailed To The X” are legit X jams X, but the energy wanes before the halfway mark of the album, and if not for “Wise Up” being sequenced where it is, there would be no reason to even listen to side two. So then, what is this ‘lil platter doing here, now?
It has to be the addition of Tom Capone into the band, right? Because all of a sudden this 7” has dynamics, melody, and urgency that the full length didn’t. I distinctly remember thinking when I heard this for the first time, “Is that dude fucking singing?!” due to Matt Warnke stretching his vocals from the standard hardcore bark to include a trace of harmony. Your girlfriend will still consider it gruff, but we know better. You can explain the machinations of a hardcore band "maturing" and how that effects the microcosm of scene dynamics and policies. I'll leave that one up to you.
Tom Capone (TC3) - Bold, Shelter, Handsome, Instruction, Crippled Youth, Quicksand
Matt Warnke – Crippled Youth, Bold, Running Like Thieves, One Sided War
Tim Brooks – Crippled Youth, Bold, Shelter, Youth Of Today, A.R.E. Weapons
Drew Cardellichio (Thomas) – Crippled Youth, Bold, Youth Of Today, Into Another, The New Rising Sons, God Fires Man, Dead Heavens
John Zuluago (Zulu) – Crippled Youth, Bold, The Hoof


41. The Abused - Loud And Clear                                                              
Label: Abused Music                        
Year: 1983
If not Patient Zero of the classic NYHC sound, then pretty fucking close. This band helped to craft the template that would define a scene for years to come: super tight and fast, sandpaper-y gruff vocals, big guitar roar, the hint of metal sneaking in, and the “back against the wall, I’ve got to fight my way out” mentality. Not to mention, Kevin Crowley could have been the first guy to rock construction gloves on stage…crucial! First wave Lower East Side noise.
And let’s not overlook the iconic imagery of that cover (drawn by Kevin Crowley)! Along with numerous flyers Kevin drew, he developed the muscled super hero skinhead/hardcore dude archetype. You’re welcome!
Raf Astor – The Abused
Dave Colo’n – The Abused
Kevin Crowley – The Abused
Brian Dundon – The Abused



Tore Nielsen said...

Awesome! Thank you!

The Snake said...

This is a cool idea with all these NYC hardcore classics. But I could never tolerate that Youth Defense League bullshit. I have read few interviews with them from back in the day and they were complete boneheads so fuck their white pride or whatever bullshit they claimed they were into. Other than that, cool job.

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