Thursday, May 5, 2011
Part-Time Christians - Rock and Roll is Disco
Fast and furious? Check. Anger spat out in a spleen venting eruption? Yep. Gut-wrenching, grinding guitar riffs? Oh, yes. An absolutely bizarre fixation with . . . bowling? Uh, yeah. We got that too. Forget skate punk. The Part-Time Christians may just be the world's founders (if not the only members) of the Bowling Punk genre. Yeah, maybe you hadn't heard of it before now. But you should, because the P.T.C.'s are killer at what they do.
I gotta admit, I took to this CD a bit more rapidly than I may have otherwise once I read the liner notes where bassist-cum-lead screamer Cosmo lays out a tale that hit real close to home. And I mean that literally. While I'd never heard these guys before, it seems they formed back in my days, right in my backyard. In those notes Cosmo reveals how he left his evil step-dad's home in Iowa and moved west to Modesto and then Concord, California. Knowing that Concord was just a stone's throw from SF and having just seen his first Dead Kennedys show, he envisioned himself knee-deep in an alternative culture where punk kids ruled society, hardcore was the national anthem, and piercings and punk attire was the Gucci couture. Big mistake. Back in the early '80's, as Cosmo soon discovered, Concord, California was "quite possibly the most outwardly racist, heavy metal hell" he'd ever set foot in. And it was. I know this. I nearly got my ass kicked several times growing up outside of Concord. And I was a metal head! But the difference was I didn't wear my AC/DC allegiance on my sleeve, drive a pick-up, and spout out like a lunk-headed, jock jackass. I was into Maiden and Saxon and Motorhead back when Concord didn't know they existed. In their one-neuron-shared mind, I was just as weird as the punks were. So I got on well with the punk kids. I wasn't one of them, but I was just as much an outsider by musical proxy as they were. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that rubbish.
Despite this wall of hatred around them, Cosmo managed to field together a band, get East Bay Ray from The Dead Kennedys to listen, produce their initial stuff and release some 7"'s on Alternative Tentacles Records. After a blitzkrieg career that found the East Bay band playing alongside such acts as the Dead Kennedy's, Suicidal Tendencies, T.S.O.L., Exodus, Social Distortion, Butthole Surfers, Faith No More, Death Angel, and the Lords of the New Church, the band broke up. Now, 22 years later, P.T.C. has reformed and this Taang! release compiles 21 songs into a must have retrospective and current snapshot of the underground legends.
First up, we get the whole 8 song Rock and Roll is Disco EP originally released in 1984 and appearing here on CD for the first time. And there it is. Everything that made the band tick. A vicious low rumble of bass, a maniacal smashing of cymbals and drum, a larynx shredding vocal attack of pure, unadulterated punk. "Religion on a Stick" just attacks out of the speakers with a huge middle finger raised to the religious hypocrites who "church on Sunday, sin on Monday." Probably just as powerful now as it was back in the day. But the boys don't just vent. There's a pounding to the guitars and bass that captivates. There's some chord progressions that definitely take this out of the ordinary. Dynamic changes. Structure. Nearly a singable chorus. It's pure hardcore of the first order, and possesses that little something extra. "Bonique" follows and again it become apparent that these guys may have been full-on punk, but that doesn't mean they were instrument bashers. They knew how to play, how to write some songs, mash in some heavy metal elements to the punk assault. Truly, they were a hybrid crossover between punk and metal long before that term ever existed. And suddenly, the times they played with Faith No More, Exodus and Death Angel begin to make sense.
Then there's that other thing. The bowling obsession. And when I say obsession, I mean OBSESSION. How do the song titles "Strength Through Bowling", " Bowling Pin Massacre," "Orthopedic Bowling Shoes"," and "Gutterball" grab you? But don't worry, these weren't novelty attacks by the band. "Strength" is a hardcore frenzy of staccato vocals and buzzsaw guitars. "Bowling Pin Massacre" is a very early punk/funk/rap fusion that actually is more fun (and more funky) than you might expect. "Orthopedic" almost qualifies as post-punk with it's chiming guitar lines, while "Gutterball" is anger and venom, just as it should be when your "life is a gutterball."
But one thing that makes this release so cool is the hint of what the future holds for PTC. From their 2008 reunion we get four songs in the form of the P.T.C. Lives EP. With a revamped, but familiar line-up P.T.C. come raging back sounding just a vital as ever. "Chrome (Got What it Takes)" is pure hardcore/metal melding energy. Rampant bass and roughshod guitars buzz under Cosmo's barely contained vocals. This is seriously heavy, seriously intense, and seriously good. It reminds me of the latest Leatherface offering, and if that band hit's your musical G-spot then you really should check P.T.C. out. Compared to back-in-the-day, the songs may be a touch slower, but if anything, they're a bit meaner. A more metallic edge has been ramrodded into the mix. "Electric Fence" almost sounds like a cross between Sabbath and the DK's. Which, if you think about it, is pretty f-ing cool. "Bionic Cop," keeps the crossover heat rising with pure thrash riffery and hardcore gang-vocal choruses. Finally, "One Dead Bee" expands the metal-punk reformation to the epic with its 6:44 assault to the frontal lobe.
Adding to the cool factor of the whole thing is the final section. 8 song demo versions recorded in 1983. Raw, crude. An attitude more than an actual band here, the song's are fun for filling in the history line of the band. But truthfully, with the rough sound quality, these are probably more of interest to committed P.T.C. fans rather than new acquaintances. Still, some of the cuts that never made it onto the Rock and Roll is Disco EP are pretty fricking fun, like "Sex in a Sub-Compact" and the gothic/punk horrorscapade of "Cemetery" leading the pack.
Funny, how I had to wait 27 years and needed the assistance of a Boston-formed punk rock label to introduce me to guys that fought the same battles I fought back in high school, right in my own backyard. But there it is. I'll be looking for the next P.T.C show in the Concord area and be sure to be there moshing to welcome back the boys.
Buy here: Rock And Roll Is Disco