Screamers - Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 Music Album Reviews

Screamers - Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 Music Album Reviews
These influential but under-documented L.A. punks finally get a proper release, and the five demos here reveal an adventurous band pushing the boundaries of punk orthodoxy.

Outside of crude bootlegs of sub-demo quality and grainy videos, the Screamers have existed mainly in wistful anecdotes conveyed by L.A. punk royalty like Jello Biafra, Exene Cervenka, and Pat Smear, who claim the band’s outsized influence and lament their lack of proper documentation. Despite never recording an official album or single, Superior Viaduct has unearthed the closest approximation of such with Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977, a collection of five demo tracks recorded at the band’s outset.
For the uninitiated, the opener, “Magazine Love,” may initially sound incomplete, like the guitar track is missing from the mix. But all the hallmarks of the burgeoning L.A. punk sound are there. Drummer K.K. Barrett bounces, hitting the snare on the one and the three, a beat similar to the one on Fear’s “I Love Livin’ in the City.” Singer Tomata du Plenty blithely snarls about mainstream publications like Family Circle and Tiger Beat. A throbbing pulse of synthesized bass propels the song forward. But, by design, the Screamers completely eschewed that ubiquitous talisman of first-wave punk: the extremely loud electric guitar. Unconventional as it was, the Screamers looked and sounded punk anyway, and in 1977, before hardcore hegemony, that was enough.

Performing for most of their history as a quartet—toward the end, the Screamers augmented their live shows with two violinists and a female vocalist—the band swapped out guitar and bass for dual keyboards. Tommy Gear, who co-wrote most of the band’s songs with du Plenty, played an ARP Odyssey synthesizer, and David Brown mutated the sound of his Fender Rhodes by channeling it through a Big Muff distortion pedal. The Screamers were, to their dismay, contemporaneously compared to Kraftwerk, and “Punish or Be Damned” is probably the reason. Clocking in at five minutes in length—an eon in punk time, especially adjusted for inflation—the synths pave the way, swirling in ascending spirals as du Plenty adopts a staid monotone over a mostly electronic drumbeat. It’s not quite krautrock, but it makes sense that the punks at L.A.’s famous punk club the Masque watching a rail-thin du Plenty deliver his lines under meticulously styled German expressionist lighting thought so.

The twin keyboardists that defined the band’s sound had clearly designated roles, which are easiest to discern on songs like “Anything.” Gear starts with a repetitive high single note on what sounds like an organ. A few seconds in, Brown’s skronking keyboard descends like an alien ship onto the song. When the drums kick in, that extra-terrestrial noise essentially becomes the distorted bassline, and Gear’s note—still the same—acts as the lead. That sonic duality is echoed in du Plenty’s delivery of the song’s message, a combination of societal rage and personal desire that permeates much of the band’s output. “I get so sick of the fashion and the fascism/Makes me crazy, wanna try a little smash-ism!” du Plenty screams in his idiosyncratic rasp during the verse. But then he seems to stare down the listener, quietly sing-speaking: “You wanna have fun, you want a reaction/I wanna have you, I want a sex action.”

Much of Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977—and indeed band’s catalogue—deals with sex and sexuality. There’s the suggestion of smutty reading materials in the title of “Magazine Love” and the description of du Plenty’s peers on “Peer Pressure”: “Some of them are straight, and some of them are queers.” On “Mater Dolores,” du Plenty breaks into a staccato yelp to convey an existential crisis for the Virgin Mary, stifled by piety and “with no one to charm her.” He combines the sacred and the profane with one lonely image, lamenting that there are “no angels in the boudoir.” Gear and du Plenty first performed together as part of an all-drag trio following du Plenty’s early days in Seatlle’s late-’60s gay theatre underground. Their flamboyant stage presence and du Plenty’s life as an out gay punk didn’t appear to alienate the 1977 Los Angeles scene.

In September 1978, early punk documentarian Joe Rees filmed the Screamers performing at San Francisco’s Mabuhay Gardens for his studio, Target Video. One of the only other existing documents of the Screamers, it shows an audience that largely seems to worship the group. Once, a snotty punk shouts “You suck!” during a break in one song, but another voice screams, “We love you, Tomata!” and the throng of spiky-haired, mostly male kids scream along and pass du Plenty beers when he asks. Perhaps the Screamers stacked the deck for the professionally filmed set, loading the crowd with its most ardent Bay Area fans, but most evidence points to total acceptance of wherever the band wanted to take them. Before punk begat hardcore, a largely homogenized and dogmatic genre—1981 seems to be the turning point, which is coincidentally the year the Screamers split—the punks could fuck around and be as weird as they wanted. Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 finally bottles up that singularity.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Screamers - Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 Music Album Reviews Screamers - Screamers Demo Hollywood 1977 Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on January 28, 2021 Rating: 5


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