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25 years of
Fireworks and Alcohol, August Premier's debut on Fueled By Ramen records, I just know this four-piece kicks ass live. With members coming out of the Midwestern pop/punk band Cut-to-Fit and the hardcore influenced Slag, the recording displays a crunching mixture of both genres. With Mickey Molinari on drums and Mark Halminak on bass, the rhythms are coming from the heavy-duty/headbanging side, yet there's also plenty of hooks and riffs provided by guitarists/vocalists Chris Rogner and Danny Halminak that have more in common with blues rock than with punk rock. That makes for a powerful sound behind some very personal lyrics. "In Loving Memory," perhaps the most bitter of several in this vein, has the sarcastic refrain "You know that I forgive you" pointing a taunting finger at a departed parent. For a band whose sound borders on the commercial, August Premier can get pretty nasty. So it shouldn't surprise me that they freely throw around an abundence of 'fucks' and 'God damns,' yet these oaths come out sounding somewhat gratuitous considering the spit and polish of their recorded sound. It probably all works effectively live and in front of pumped-up and beering-impaired air punchers, but on this recording it appears (even if it probably isn't) an affectation. A minor flaw in an otherwise impressive debut.

Fueled By Ramen is a fairly new label out of Gainesville, Florida with a most interesting roster that includes Slowreader, Kissing Chaos as well as New York City's own A.K.A.s.
Keith Grave is the mastermind behind the Shielded by Death compilations featuring a variety of notable bands out of the Northeast's punk, hardcore and metal scene. To date, there are three releases in the series with the latest showcasing bands that were active from '78 to '87 such as the Thrills and the Transplants from the Boston area and the Hot Bodies, the Reactors and Last Supper out of Connecticut. The last two in the Sheilded series are on the Dionysus Records label which has established itself as one of the dominent sources for both hard to get and must have rare cuts. Grave himself knows this stuff inside out. He started out on the Connecticut scene in '81 with S***** White Pigs, went on to play with the Sanity Assassins and the Dispossessed and has been doing it ever since. He currently plays bass, sings and shares writing with the bands Blastmat and Chicken McHead.

Keith also put together the Dennis Most and the Instigators'
Excuse My Spunk Best Of LP on Rave-Up records (he also plays with Most when he comes through the area), and compiled the Jack Tragic & the Unfortunates album Coming Down Like A Hammer (also on Dionysus). The Jack Tragic CD runs the gamut from hardcore through heavy metal. It has three of its tracks produced by the Dictator's Andy Shernoff and is further aligned with that band by a very strong groove that is often reminiscent of Dick Manitoba's Wild Kingdom of the early 90s. Meanwhile, Grave's own Blasmat release, 1984, has plenty of punk 'tude with a social sense on songs like "Friendly Fire," "Taliban Fighting Song" and "Lives For Lies." Grave's Chicken McHead demo, Squawk! displays a somewhat less heavy group that mixes some unique instrumentation and twitchy tunes like "Running of the Bulls" and "Party Animals."

Besides all that, Keith Grave has several other interesting compilations in the works, including
Gore Gore Girls Vol. 3 with four all-female and/or female-fronted bands that includes Detox Darlings and Betty Blowtorch (to be released on France's New Wave Records) and a fourth, all hardcore, Shielded By Death issue (on Blazing Guns Records).
At a time when the late 70s Boston punk scene was starting to transition into the pop and commercialism of new wave, the Phantoms emerged as a unique aberration. The brainchild of Micky Metts and Angelo “Vice” Aversa, the band never played it safe and if they had any aspirations of being pop stars it was purely a part of their very tongue in cheek act. Micky was one of the handful of woman brave enough in those early days to follow the lead of (NEON’s own) Lorry Doll and front her own band in the very macho environment of Boston – in fact they usually had a second woman playing bass in the trio. Micky was also the only ‘person-of-color’ on the scene. That was a bigger deal than it may seem today.

All that aside, the Phantoms were a great and fun band so I was thrilled to learn that a secret (shhhhh!) limited edition release from that era is becoming available – recorded live at Micky and Angelo’s Club One, the after/before/during hours, very much underground joint they ran (I could drop some of the names that passed through, but I don’t want to spoil the stories Micky and Ange would tell much better). The Phantoms, and their later incarnations, the hardcore punk Organ Dönörs and the punk metal Diabolix, had one or two (by now, I would think, extremely rare) singles and gigged in NYC on occasion. They were hard, yet catchy and definitely art bands just by virtue of the fact that their principals were very much themselves works of art. If you can find their
secret site you can find out more and hear a sample.
Mostley is a trio that plays very dark, yet on occasion, uplifting songs of angst and alienation. The night I saw them at CBGB they set a mesmerizing groove, especially on the melodic “Can’t Wait To Feel” with its mantra-like chorus: The way I feel when I don’t feel at all – hopefully I got that right, I may have been on the verge of being hypnotized – sort of like smoking pot and listening to the Syd Barrett flown Pink Floyd. At length, some of the compositions bordered on becoming dirge-like anthems, but crisp harmonies and tight musicianship prevailed. You might think that all this dark heaviness might be kind of deppressing, but actually it was just a little frightening more than anything else. Don’t they mostly come out at night … Mostley? The band along with Coppermine were the first two groups signed to Paved Earth Music and a release is imminent. You can hear samples of “Can’t Wait To Feel,” “Anyways Round” and “Long Way Home” at their website.
Photo: Jeff Rey
Quick Cuts contributors:
Jeff Rey, Malcolm Sane, Michele Falk, Bonnie Tagate
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