Los Angelenos – The Eastside Renaissance (Rhino Records) 1983. Recently we celebrated National Record Store Day here in the States but I didn’t take much notice because every day is Record Store Day for Joe Stumble. Case in point, this recent acquisition from The Academy Annex in Brooklyn of all places. I guess it surprised me seeing it there because it is such a Los Angeles comp, or Los Angelinos as it were. Maybe some LA transplant, low on fundage, had to sell their West Coast treasures? Always one of my favorite record store moments. “How did this get here?” Not saying that this comp probably wasn’t on sale in NYC during its heyday. It’s on Rhino, so it was probably well distributed. However, what relevance could this have to an outsider? Being that this is not a compilation based upon music like All’s Quiet on the Western Front and it is not a compilation based upon a label like Flex Your Head. Instead this is a compilation based upon a shared cultural identity and a particular region of Los Angeles. Consequently, the music contained herein spans the gamut from la rancheras de Los Perros to the proto-hardcore of The Brat. Any hard-line punk rock fan will not be pleased, but those with open minds or barrio experiences will probably enjoy this compilation both for its historical perspective and the musical goodies contained in the grooves.
Me, I come at it with a deep love for the music and art generally, and an interest in The Plugz and the Brat primarily. So it’s a win-win. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some duds on this compilation. Some of it sounds like music you would have heard at a block party back in 1983, when this was released. One of those bands that you can still hear at street fests and block parties out west. In Saint Louis its bad rhythm and blues, out west it sounds like this. I can’t help but be reminded of Cheech and Chong’s band in Up in Smoke before they discovered punk rock. As Cheech Marin so eloquently put it, “You don’t have to know how to play. You just got to be a punk.” The Los Mestizos track is a good sample of what you will be getting into. Another track that is better than the Los Mestizos track but still ages somewhat poorly is Con Safos’ theme song which has a nice little low-rider groove to it but suffers a bit from the vocals and overall approach. Caveat Emptor as it were.
So now that I got that out of the way, lets take a look at some of the other tracks. Any long time reader knows that I am a huge fan of The Plugz. I think they were one of the greatest punk rock bands ever, from any part of the world. Tito Larriva’s lyrics always struck the perfect balance between aching romanticism and macho swagger. Too much of one and you get indie rock. Too much of the other and you get Ted Nugent. Achin’ by The Plugz represents the perfect center. He’s Achin’ for chrissakes! Achin’ to Break Your Heart. Can you get next to that? Cuz I can. And I’m not the only one that appreciates the brilliance of this song, 9 out of ten punk rock bloggers agree that this song kicks ass. A later version of this with different lyrics and less punch appears on The Plugz second album Better Luck. But this more obscure version is the one to hear.
This is followed by a great song called The Wolf by The Brat who were just an amazing band. Their first EP Attitudes was produced by Tito Larriva and graphically enhanced by none other than Exene Cervenka. Quite a pedigree when you think about it. The Brat should have been a lot bigger in my opinion. The Wolf has all the So-Cal tunefulness that you would expect with excellent lyrics that are political without being preachy or stupid. All in all, it reminds me of Stiff Little Fingers or something as filtered through a So-Cal Chicano perspective. I assume The Wolf is a later track by The Brat as well, considering that High School, one of my all time favorite punk songs, is also on this comp and showcases an earlier version of the band playing shit fast with some crazy-assed Stains type guitar lines running through it. For further enjoyment, check out the great video of the Brat on YouTube featuring a very young Teresa Covarrubias performing High School in a mu-mu, as introduced to me by the always entertaining and insightful Mrowster. Then wait patiently for the release of their anthology like I am currently doing. Like I said, nine out of 10 bloggers agree…
The rest of the comp doesn’t match the sheer brilliance of these two bands but it does come pretty damn close. In fact, Los Perros is exactly the kind of medicine I need right now. Specializing in a form of Latino-Folkloric protest called Nueva Cancun, Los Perros sounds to my gringo ears like Los Lobos Del Este De Los Angeles, which means they sound pretty damn great. Felix and The Katz do a hopped-up rockabilly number, Odd Squad add an excellent new wave track, Califas are like a mellower version of Los Perros. Really besides a few dated missteps, this compilation is great. Perfect listening material for your upcoming Cinco De Mayo celebrations. Also if anyone has any old recordings by Thee Undertakers, Los Illegals, The Warriors and any others please drop me a line. Tumors ELA, I’m talking to you man. The present day Pachuco refuses to die!
Los Angelenos – The Eastside Renaissance
The Plugz – Achin’
The Brat – The Wolf
Felix and the Katz – Boys and Girls
The Brat – High School
Odd Squad – Moving Your Mouth
Con Safos – c/s
Thee Royal Gents – You Really Do Want My Love
The Plugz – Electrify Me
Califas – La Musica
Thee Royal Gents – Lady Love
Mestizo -What Am I Gonna Do
Los Perros – El Corrido to End Barrio Warfare