A friend of mine and I have had this on-going debate about how kickass Jersey punk and especially hardcore was. In my opinion, no scene was more of an underdog scene than Jersey. My friend contends that Jersey’s bad reputation was well deserved. He agrees with Stephen Bloom that although Jersey had a million bands, 99 percent of them sucked. Well I say balls to that. And since I have a blog and he doesn’t, I’m gonna set the rekkid straight.
Back in the day, hardcore thought it was all about being “street” and “urban”. All of us hardcore kids were trying to prove how tough we were in our respective cities. Problem was, most of us were from the suburbs. Where punk was an urban phenomenon, usually centred on wealthier kids who were slumming it in the streets, hardcore was a suburban phenomenon. It was centred on middle class kids from the outlying boroughs. Take the Necros, for instance, they weren’t from Cleveland or even Toledo, they were from Maumee. Now I understand that this is a generalization and I’m sure plenty of readers can prove me wrong by pointing out that inner city scene full of working class kids and there were exceptions (Boston and NYC come to mind) but generally, hardcore was suburban.
This is why LA was like OZ to us. Have you ever been to Orange County? It’s the biggest fucking suburb I have ever seen. Here in the middle of the country it was no different. In St Louis for instance, both White Suburban Youth and Drunks With Guns came from North County. Even in cities like Chicago where the scene seemed real urban, most of the kids were living in the city but had grown up in the suburbs. Like I said there were exceptions, especially on the East Coast. But those bands and scenes seemed different than other places. I knew that the Dischord kids were privileged long before I read it in Banned in DC. I could tell from their music. Not to slight it. HarDCore was amazing. It just didn’t feel suburban to me. Most of the other DC bands (like Void for instance), were from the suburbs.
The one big scene on the East Coast that did feel suburban though? Fuckin’ Jersey. And all they got for it was grief. They were looked upon as a bunch of out to lunch hicks. Check out this review of the first Chronic Sick single.
Last and definitely least The Cutest Band In Hardcore E.P. by Chronic Sick. This is the worst. The worst words. These kids should get beat up. If they want to be shocking why don’t they kill themselves on stage. I think that’s better than writing racist and sexist songs that will make people want to kill them anyway. We appreciate a colourful crowd so if they know what’s good for them they won’t play New York again.
-Javi Savage, from Big City zine #4, May/June 1983
That’s crazy! Have you ever heard those Chronic Sick singles? They are amazing! Sure they’re offensive and stupid but so was FEAR and The Angry Samoans. Do you honestly think these guys WERE serious? In the most famous photo of them from this very single, one of them has a swastika inked on his forehead while another one is in drag. Gimmee a break. But they took a lot of shit along with most other jersey bands, for being out of it from the punk elite. What was really going on here was exclusion and snobbery.
Another example of this is the label Mutha Records. Yes, Jersey had its own label and it was a mighty badass label at that. Started in 1982 by Mark “Mutha” Chesley, the manager of the Worst, Mutha went on to release a whole slew of well-produced classic hardcore releases. One look at the labels discography today and you’re slapping yourself on the head and wondering whatthafuck? Why isn’t this label more well-known now?
But even outside the Mutha label there were a shitload of Jersey bands and just like any other identifiable scene (Long Beach, Seattle, Chicago, DC, and Boston), the Jersey bands had their own identifiable aesthetic. The Jersey sound was lyrically centred on offensiveness and vulgarity. You can leave all the talk about unity and scene pride to DC, Boston and NYC. Jersey bands wrote songs that were offensive, stupid, and funny as hell. Like a lot of other East Coast (and Midwestern) scenes there was a metal/hard rock influence in the music that was never as overt as say, Let it Rock, but still there.
This actually started well before hardcore and the Mutha label. Even the punk rock bands from Jersey had this aesthetic. Take Dead Rock-n-Rollers for instance. Tell me that you didn’t laugh your ass off the first time you heard it. And there were no sacred cows for these guys, John Bonham was weak but Jim Carrol needed to die too. They didn’t care. Another early Jersey band, Shrapnel used to occasionally trek into CBGBs and was generally panned as being reactionary and dumb. True, but they had some fun songs. Probably the best of the early Jersey bands (barring of course The Misfits), the Violators, most famous song was about a serial killer. Grim Klone Band and Ambient Noise, two KBD discoveries also wrote offensive songs. None of these recordings would be classified as pop-punk. So when the hardcore thing started to happen it grew outta this misanthropic, gutter view of the world.
You can hear all this below, Howzabout Send Help telling you that fucking sheep is better than fucking the cows in their town? Howzabout Mental Abuse’s lovely ditty about the Sock Woman? Howzabout Chronic Sick characterizing a racist suburbanite who is scared of other types of people moving into his neighbourhood? Listen to that fucking riff by the way. That’s some classic rock style shit as filtered through 18 year old, brain damaged, tone deaf delinquents. I love it!
Speaking of hard rockin’ riffs, check out Kill The Cattle, a lovely ode to vegetarianism by Youth In Asia. Every once and a while the vocals go into Teezar territory, which is just good for everybody. Then check out The Beast towards the end of the mix. One of Mutha’s later releases and definitely intended to be crossover. When the singer proclaims that he is the “heavy metal power beast” are you gonna be the one to disagree? Check out I’m Appalled by Fatal Rage, one of the best bands on the Mutha Label. Those guys did their time listening to Nazareth before discovering punk rock.
Another big influence on Jersey was Flipper. This is evident in two notorious releases by Cyanamid and My Three Sons. Shit, This Is Hell has GOTTA be the best Flipper rip-off this side of Drunks With Guns. In fact it might be even closer to Flipper if for no other reason than it was farther away from the Kiel Auditorium. It’s no surprise really that Flipper was a big influence in Jersey. These bands ate misanthropy for breakfast. If you want affirmation that the human race isn’t utter dogshit go listen to posi-core. You won’t get any warm fuzzies from this stuff.
There were a few other strains running through Jersey as well. Both Rosemaries Babies and Mourning Noise were from Lodi and they were walking in the footsteps of Lodi’s bastard sons The Misfits. Sacred Denial, were a band that sort of defied definition. Probably the most underrated Jersey band of them all, they at times resembled Void and I think you will be able to hear that in What Religion below. The Secret Syde, threw in a neo 60s element but just rocked too hard to really be a paisley underground type band. By and large, the Jersey bands were gutter bands. They wanted to offend you and be stupid and as the scene developed they just didn’t seem serious enough.
At the time, I was aware of a few of them. I loved AOD, who really were quite typical of the Jersey approach. Musically, they were hardcore as fuck, but lyrically they were just stupid in a good way. Sand in The Face’s posthumous album found its way into my hands in the mid-eighties and I played it relentlessly. But most of these bands were posthumous discoveries for me from a scene that got very little cred back in the day. Much like Philly really, except Jersey even had a label. I have repeatedly been impressed when I hear one of these bands for the first time. Enough that I decided to shed some light on it and put together this mix.
New Jersey Punk and Hardcore Podcast
Dead Rock and Rollers – Detention
Sex With Sheep – Send Help
Working for the Kremlin – Teenage Depression
N.Y. Ripper – The Violators
Kill The Cattle – Youth In Asia
Sock Woman – Mental Abuse
There Goes The Neighbourhood – Chronic Sick
Go to Hell – The Worst
Laundromat Loverboy – Active Ingredients
We Don’t Want You Hanging Around – Child Abuse
Suburbia – Borscht
Wendy O – Bodies In Panic
This is Hell – Cyanamid
peggy’s got a problem – Genocide
Lost in Space – Bedlam
Song X – Sand In The Face
White Hassle – Adrenalin OD
Verbal Abuse – The Undead
I’m Gonna Be Sick – Rosemary’s Babies
Combat Love – Shrapnel
Where Eagles Dare – The Misfits
Burnt – Public Disturbance
Heat’s Rising – Grim Klone Band
I See Through Your Mind – Secret Syde
I Was There At The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Ambient Noise
What Religion – Sacred Denial
Sandwich Meat – Mental Decay
Kids’ Habits – Stetz
Fighting Chance – Mourning Noise
I’m Appalled – Fatal Rage
dismal wit – Social Decay
Electric Shock – TMA
Obedience School – Pleased Youth
The Beast – The Beast
Starving Artist – My 3 Sons