Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Exterminators' "Product of America"

Ain't no punk like an old school punk, and I sure as shit don't mean Blink 182 or Green Day. As the first generation of punkeroos that teethed on the Ramones and Sex Pistols hits 60, it's worth noting that playing this music meant something different than it does today, back when the people who lived and loved it had to seek it out -- not just rekkids (back in prehistory, before the intarweb made everything instantly available) and zines, but like-minded individuals, and audiences were likely to be less-than-sympathetic to the point of physical violence. So bands like Phoenix, AZ, desert rats the Exterminators started where, say, the Stooges ended up -- playing to flying beer bottles heaved by hostile cowboys and bikers.

Formed in '77 by the Clark brothers, Doug (aka Buzzy Murder, guitar) and Dan (aka Johnny Macho, voxxx), the Exterminators were part of a nascent punk scene that included the Consumers and the Liars (who morphed into Kray-Zee Homicide, and whose drummer Don Bolles wound up replacing OG Exterminators drummer Doug Goss). They played a handful of shows before Bolles and bassist Rob Graves decamped for L.A., leaving the Clarks to continue their punk odyssey with bands like the Feederz, the Brainz, and Mighty Sphincter, sometimes including songs from the Exterminators' unrecorded repertoire in their setlists.

Earlier this year, the Clark brothers and Bolles met up in a Phoenix studio with Meat Puppet Cris Kirkwood handling bass and production chores, and bashed out the tunes they'd played as teens, live and raw ("either first take, or as close as possible," Bolles writes in his engaging and informative liner notes). We can only imagine what the Exterminators sounded like in their youth, but as mature men, they attack the tunes with sabre-toothed fury and lots of fire in the belly, Dan Clark shredding his vocal cords while brother Doug blasts out crunchy chords and shrieking leads over a slamming riddim section that just won't quit.

Some of the songs on Product of America -- short, sharp shocks of adrenaline, vitriol, and bile -- echo the hard rock of the time, while others predict the heavy music that would follow. The titles tell the story: "I Hate You" (credited to "Some Kid From The Neighborhood"), "Destruction Unit," "I Don't Give A Fuck," "Sometimes I Don't Know." The closing "Serena II" is a surprise: a poem from Samuel Beckett's Echo's Bones, declaimed with dark menace by Dan Clark with guitar sound painting by his brother in the manner of Saccharine Trust. A cathartic rush from start to finish; highly recommended.


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