The Bird Turds Ruin It All
Post-pubescent whine-yowl-high-hat-clanking-neo-Punk is often uniformly the same, a fact that is spuriously ironic, considering that the original Punks carried a flag of individuality and non-conformity. Or maybe not. Now that I think on it the original punk sub-culture was just another clique, one where everyone had safety pins in their shredded denim, bones in their noses and wore their hair in colorful mohawks or had no hair at all. And they all started bands that didn't stray far from the trail blazed by the rare unique greats (The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Stooges, Kennedys, Voidoids, et al.).
And then there was The Offspring who started out in this same collapsed vein and went on to achieve mainstream status when it became fashionable, in the mid-to-late-Nineties, for modern rock bands to have short hair and devise more complex but still formulaic melodies.
Pour Habit is not unlike early-to-mid-career Offspring. Indeed, they share some of their qualities in choruses and performance. Otherwise they have the sound of most mid-level second stage West Coast punkers. Which isn't a bad thing necessarily. It's just a shame they don't have something signature to bring to the table like your Ramone or Biafra, because, lyrically, they have a lot to say.
Again. Maybe not. The ground they are covering—institutional avarice, lying, self-immolation and corporate slavery—has been covered a gazillion times over, by more colorful and capable artists. The tracks here never drive home their topics with any overt force because it is all the same patently obnoxious A-Z white beach-boy-in-the-know-bukkake. And it means absolutely nothing that two members of the group are black. They might as well be Alex P. Keaton
I don't hate this album, even if I should, rather I find myself bursting out in guffaws instead of getting truly angry when I hear something like "Zion," where a generic Reggae background is trampled by abrasive teen-tuned vox and arbitrary Oi-Oi-style shouts in which these LBC ray sponges credit the allure of the Promised Land to Bob Marley. Probably because they are too retarded or too caucasian to recognize Selassie as the savior of the Twelve Tribes.
I am all about political music, but "Suiticide" has nothing more to contribute in the way of social commentary than a season of "Beavis & Butthead" and I would argue that it has far less. To say that you won't "sell out" is a bogus claim in the middle of a recession economy where even the induction of a fresh-faced rock star president on a platform of change can't seem to turn around the murky status quo.
To scream that you won't be a part of the machine does not get you street cred, not with me, not when the young need to infiltrate and evolve the machine more than ever. And to do so with the same lame, four-cord beer tongues butchery only makes for a worse headache than we started out with.
When I hear a CD like this it makes me think that Fat Mike is like the mildly attractive yet wholly insecure girl who surrounds herself with morbidly obese slobs in repulsive skin-tight belly shirts that accentuate their every sweat-slicked roll of body lard—By booking a roster of mediocre same-song pseudo-punks, Mike can make his own chops look better, more sharp, more fun and more important...Which they are and this does.
I would listen to 2006's NOFX EP "Never Trust A Hippy" twenty times on repeat, from beginning to end, before I'd listen to "Suiticide" all the way through just one more time. And that speaks oodles of truth ooze since "Never Trust A Hippy" is neither a full-length effort nor a particularly brilliant disc compared to everything else in the NOFX/Me First & The Gimme Gimmes canon. In spite of anything even hinting at second tier on 'Hippy' every tune on it is more dense with purpose and political ire than anything on Pour Habit's CD.
"It's quality, not quantity." Anyone who hasn't bumped uglies in awhile had repeated that at least once. And it's an adage that rings true. The new UK rock group Band of Skulls has a sampler disc out consisting of five songs and any three of them is better than the eleven songs on display here. Might seem unfair to compare since Pour Habit is supposed to be Punk and Band of Skulls is straight Rock, but good music is good musik, no matter how you spell it.
It is worth mentioning that a certain punk band from the 90's sang about killing the white man and, while their message was clearly tongue-in-cheek, it kind of makes perfect sense. It is also worth mentioning that Bad Brains, one of the first punk outfits and also one with the most longevity and influence, was and is fronted by a dude of color.
The debate has been on since the hey day of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley, that the white man has consistently appropriated or flat out plundered every cultural innovation or high point that the Negro has ever conceived of. Especially the Jamaican.
Jamaica has produced ska, mento, rocksteady and reggae and most all of these have found their way into American punk, especially that of the WASPY West Coast scene where blond dreadlocks are somehow acceptable, even hip. And a lot of it is fucking great, just as good as Presley's better joints...that he didn't even write. But what would Lee "Scratch" Perry have to say about all this? Perry is still on the scene, even though he is older than Kunta Kinte's back scars and he's still got his mojo, strutting around the Jamaican lime light with a much-needed cane, calling himself Pipecock Jaxxon. So what would he say about all this privileged white mimicry? My guess is, "Bun Di Chi Chi!" Yes, burn the queer. That would only begin to cover reparations.
I have been trading fluid-drenched sex sonnets with a Rasta girl who works for me for over a month and the prospect of getting some salacious sugar cane from the Brillo crop between her milk chocolaty thighs and having her throw her back into my groin is a prospect that has made me behave antsy, capricious and weird.
But the more I go over the history of the white man's plunders, even the questionable Nubian blood that runs through my family tree's bloodline and makes the back of my head nappy, is alarming and shameful.
In a perfect world we would all take a cue from Bulworth and just fuck and fuck until we're all the same shade, but the world we live in is a dystopia and Bulworth got clipped at the end of that movie. I go home with a blazing hard-on and beat one off to Beauty Dior instead of sampling the juices from the dark berry.
Because I refuse to upset the black men whose great-grandfathers, grandfather or maybe even fathers were cheated of a sound and on-going output that they created. I know there is no logic here, but like I said, my behavior has been erratic. I think it's all the bad music nullifying my central nervous system.
So I force myself to listen to "Zion" again and I can't help thinking that beacon of peace Marley may have reconsidered the offer to join the Black Panthers if he knew that, a couple decades on, he'd be mentioned in a song of dubious spiritual origin so homeless and ignorant as to yield a new off-shoot of punk solely for simple faggots who don't have dreams of their own. Bun di chi chi, dawta. Bun di chi chi.
Eldridge Cleaver wrote of the white children who would throw off the shackles of their birthright and rebel against the evils of their parents' bigoted and amoral institutions. But somehow I don't think he was talking about kids who skim the page for something mildly risqué or seemingly hip to talk about. In the case of lyrics like, "The time has come to have fun, so this is what I say—Hot damn do I feel like I'm in Zion," there is no iconoclasm and definitely no fun in the delivery. This is why the chuckles should stop.
As a member of the press I am expected to be a shameless huckster who swallows second-rate facsimile semen and spits it on the paper in eloquent words that simply reinstate what was already promised by the band's publicist. And the reward for your keeping up your end of that covenant is a continuing influx of free CD's, swag and concert tickets. In most cases this just ain't worth it.
Free shit is still shit. But I dig Fat Mike and his many musical excursions. So to honor that covenant I will say this: Fat Wreck Chords is a credible label with credible releases. Except this one. And they manufacture some of the most enduring punk available in the modern music realm. Even if Mike insists on hanging out with Martha Dumptruck and the rest of his corpulent friends.