Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm & Views

MAY 18, 1998: 


Strength Through Struggle
Code Of Ethics


Focused I Become

FOUR STARS FOR local recordings? All you punk knobs out there can keep your nationally famous Jimmie's Friggin' Korn Deftone Shacks. For aside from routine matters of heaviosity, of which there are quite a few I'll get to in a second, Gat*Rot and Parasite are utterly unique among the local scene, which seems increasingly infested by either altrock dorks who think a tongue piercing will enhance their vocal charms, or unreconstructed folkies whose idea of a "gentle yet resonant" lyric is something like, "Woke up this morning/Was missing you/Poured a cup of coffee/And wrote this song." Bah. Wake up and bring the noise. If Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead socio-cultural apocalypse ever comes to pass, and I think it will, you'll want Gat*Rot and Parasite on your side.

Parasite's debut is a masterful blending of trad hard-rock, latter-day speedmetal, post-hardcore thrash, and a surprising sprinkling of psychedelia. The twin guitar assault is more than impressive--it's honed and oiled to such a keen edge that you'd swear it was sculpted by dudes who crop up on the covers of national ax mags, not by unknown locals. One moment they toll like midnight gongs in the graveyard of despair ("Behind Closed Doors"), the next they spray dum-dum bullets that ricochet in all directions ("Greed"), and the next they spiral asunder in the kind of rich, twining melodies that Metallica wishes it could still write ("Shadows"). Add a coupla very disturbed, masochistic dentists (that's "rhythm section" to you, bub) and the now-acceptable face of crushed-larynx, lye-gargled vox at the mic--to Parasite's further credit, the vocals are recorded with plenty of clarity so you can understand the socially-aghast, emotional lyrics--and we have, in the parlance, a combo that knows how to kick out the jams.

Gat*Rot, likewise, divines the subtle difference between "rock" and "rawwwkkkk." They've got the guitar-bass-drum angle well-covered, a sleekly ominous punk-metal monolith that bears favorable comparison to nationals like Tool or Rage Against The Machine. Where the band breaks from format and dumps its collective psyche in the meat grinder is its incorporation of a turntablist (for maximum sonic saturation--there's never a moment when things let up, and his scratching interludes are dropped in like a WWII air raid), and not one but two vocalists.

Rock bands with rappers as frontmen are nothing new, but Gat*Rot really does take it to another level. "Down" in particular is electrifying, the two voices utilized simultaneously as message-bearers and instruments: the grunt as low end, the rasp as high, and an extemporaneous spew of lyrics as solo. And with politically charged lyrics lending the band a sense of desperate mission, Gat*Rot, like some of the great hardcore and straightedge bands that've gone before, joins the noblest of rock and roll traditions: that of challenge and resistance to the status quo. Incidentally, both discs are professionally packaged with great artwork, photos and lyrics included (Gat*Rot's is a handsome eight-page booklet). You can usually spot a local release a mile away by its crummy presentation. Not so here. In fact, make that five stars apiece.

--Fred Mills


Thrill Jockey

IN THE FINE tradition of late '70s Cleveland proto-punk stalwarts like the Pagans, Rocket From The Tombs, and the Dead Boys, the Nerves, three punks from the mean streets of nearby Chicago are currently on the rise. Think of a speedy, hard-as-nails version of the Real Kids-meets-the-Jon Spencer Blues Explosion with a heaping spoonful of the Electric Eels' grating vocal/instrumental attack. Vocalist/guitarist Rob Datum would surely relish the annoying, epileptic company of Eels frontman Dave E. and his agitated, convulsive delivery propelled forward by his punishing three-chord AK-47 guitar fusillade. The rhythmic slugfest furnished by drummer Elliot Dicks and bass mauler Seth Skundrick batters and tortures opponents the same way Evander Holyfield's devastating left hooks destroyed Tyson. Sample the mid-'60s garage-slop delirium of "Blackbearded Woman," and the punch-drunk cover of the Seeds' "Try To Understand" for sonic sensory overload. Datum's venomous tongue on "Devil Baby" spews forth suspiciously like John Felice belting out deranged Stooges-fueled lyrics to the 13th Floor Elevators garage crud classic "You're Gonna Miss Me." The Nerves would feel right at home visiting Roky Erickson at the state mental hospital.

--Ron Bally

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