Flipper Still Lives By its Own Rules

Punk rock specialized in confrontation, but Flipper took it to a new level. By the early ’80s, giving the middle finger to mainstream culture had become ritualized. Be faster, be snarky, and be political. Hardcore was in its infancy, and it added “be wordy and incomprehensible” to the playbook. San Francisco’s Flipper challenged the monoculture that punks found stifling, but it fought punk orthodoxy as well.

JD McPherson Finds His Place in Rock, R&B, and Rockabilly

JD McPherson learned much of what he needed to know from punk rock. That’s not obvious on his four albums including 2017’s Undivided Heart and Soul, where his debt to Buddy Holly and the pioneers of rock ’n’ roll, rockabilly, and R&B are far more evident. But punk rock was his gateway drug when he grew up in rural Oklahoma in the 1980s. It got him started playing in bands, and it introduced him to the artists who influenced the bands he liked. 

Becoming the Residents

The Residents’ anonymity has been the band’s stylish calling card. The members have protected their identities by appearing in public and in photos wearing costumes, most commonly in their signature eyeball helmet/masks and tuxedos. Their music doesn’t draw attention to individual members either. Vocals are usually processed or distorted in ways that make it hard to be sure if the band has one lead vocalist, or if The Residents pass that chore around.

Downtown Boys Played to the Room

The context for Downtown Boys reasserts itself weekly if not daily. The band formed in 2014, two years before Donald Trump was elected president, but the Trump Administration gives the political punk band a reason to exist almost every time he or his Cabinet members open their mouths. Team Trump didn’t invent racism, sexism, transphobia, colonialism and toxic masculinity, but it uses these tools to assert the preeminent position of wealthy straight white men in the culture daily. 

The Mekons: Still Punk Rock After All These Years

When opportunity knocked, The Mekons pretended they weren’t home. Actually, that’s not true. They just didn’t stop what they were doing to answer the door. The British punk band were art school mates with the Gang of Four and recorded their answer to The Clash’s “White Riot”—“Never Been in a Riot”—in 1978. At the time, primitive skills were badges of honor in the fight against the tyranny of technique as embodied by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Eric Clapton, and any musician who intentionally played in 11/4 time.

Tusk in a Box

The red-blooded American in me loves a box set. Who doesn’t want lots of stuff, particularly if it’s attractively packaged? But the specifics of a box set are the rub. If you’re a fan of the artist, you likely already have much of the material on the box. If you’re not, buying one is a pricey way into an artist. They also rarely hold up from end to end. There’s frequently a disc that presents the artist in process, or one that honors the later material that only diehard fans care about.

OFF!'s Keith Morris is a Human Being

Keith Morris is no stranger to an aggressive soundscape. “I live under flight paths of emergency helicopters,” he says from his home in Los Feliz near the corner of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards, “one of busiest intersections in Los Angeles.” He has a movie theater between him and the traffic, but there’s a fire station around the corner. “There’s always something going on, but the energy is not a positive energy.” 

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