Or ... something. I dunno. It's a chicken-and-egg kinda thing. Anyway, here's the story of one proto-goth band in particular.
In the late-'70s, as disaffected youth in the United States and the United Kingdom were channeling their bile into a fast and loud new form of rock music called punk, a segment of those punks were just a little darker than most. Or, at least they had more of an interest in crappy horror flicks. Either way, they dressed in black, wore makeup that enhanced their pallor and favored bands that reflected their own pool o' broodin'.
There weren't many bands that fit the bill. The Brits had the Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division and Bauhaus (the latter two being almost solely responsible for the later de rigueur practice of having a singer who sang in a really low register, in a sort of I-am-a-scary-monster-singing-a-song kind of voice); East Coasters had the Misfits; and SoCal had True Sounds of Liberty.
T.S.O.L. , as they were more commonly known, sprang up in Huntington Beach in 1978, which gives them the distinction of not only being one of America's first goth-punk bands, but also, along with Social Distortion, of being one of the first punk bands to come out of Orange County, a scene that would go on to churn out acts like the Adolescents, Agent Orange, the Vandals and--hey, don't blame T.S.O.L.--the Offspring.
In 1981, with the lineup of singer Jack Grisham, guitarist Ron Emory, bassist Mike Roche and drummer Todd Barnes, T.S.O.L. released its first LP, Dance With Me, a classic slab of wink-and-nod dark punk: The lyrics of "Silent Scream" are entirely composed of a series of horror-flick clichés; "Code Blue" is just about the most fun song about necrophilia this side of Alice Cooper's "Cold Ethyl." For its second album, Beneath the Shadows, the band added a keyboardist and drastically revamped its sound, becoming a bit more arty and a lot more artful--confusing its fan base in the process. Soon after that, Grisham and Barnes left the band and were replaced--in Grisham's case, by Joe Wood, his brother-in-law.
From there, things got even weirder. The Wood-fronted version of the band started hanging out with the likes of Guns N' Roses and veered first toward punk-metal, then pretty much removed any semblance of punk left until they were just another hair-metal band from California. Eventually, no original members remained.
But then the original lineup began performing together again, also under the name T.S.O.L., until drug problems and Wood's threat of a lawsuit derailed them. In 1999, with their problems finally behind them, they took the T.S.O.L. name back from Wood for good and went out as part of that year's Vans Warped Tour. After Barnes died of a brain aneurysm, in December of the same year, the band replaced him and soldiered on.
Another breakup, reformation and a couple more albums later, the band earlier this month released Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Free Downloads, a new 10-song album available for free download at hurley.com/tsol, meant to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
But that's not all. T.S.O.L. is also hitting the road for a two-week tour of the Southwest that will bring them to Vaudeville, 110 E. Congress St., on Sunday, Jan. 25. Black President (either recently formed or prescient) and The Besmirchers open around 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available at all Bookmans locations for $12.50. Call 622-3535 for more information.
Ray, of course, is the other half of that folk-pop duo, and has always provided the grit that counterbalances Saliers' earth goddess. It was Ray who founded the Daemon Records label in order to release material by smaller indie types, as well as her own solo albums--2001's Stag, 2005's Prom, and her latest, last summer's Didn't It Feel Kinder. Where Indigo Girls are a rather kind--and gentle-sounding, if often sociopolitically charged--folk act, on her first two solo albums, Ray revealed another, more rocking side, drawing on self-proclaimed influences such as Patti Smith, the Replacements, Joe Strummer and the Pretenders. Even on her solo records, Ray brings in collaborators, and you didn't need to listen too hard to understand the input that Joan Jett and the Butchies had on those albums.
Didn't It Feel Kinder, then, which was assembled in fits and starts over the course of a year, doesn't exactly feel "kinder" than Ray's previous solo albums. As evidenced by songs like "SLC Radio," a Who-like anthem that declares to the "LDS nation," "I'm not here to fuck the family"; and "Who Sold the Gun," a jaunty little ditty about the Virginia Tech shootings, she's as pissed off as ever--but it's an awful lot more sonically subdued and less raucous than its two predecessors. Former members of the now-defunct Butchies are back on board, joined this time by the Asheville, N.C.-cum-Brooklyn band Arizona, singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, and bassist-producer Greg Griffith. In a letter that accompanied the release of the album, Ray writes: "In musical terms, I didn't even really know what I wanted this record to be. I knew I wanted it to be a wide-open vista, the prairie at twilight, a mountain road at 3 a.m., a heartbreaking news broadcast."
If nothing else, Ray has succeeded in making a damn good album that sounds very little like her former solo work and even less like the Indigo Girls.
Amy Ray performs at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Jan. 24. The hugely acclaimed singer-songwriter Jennifer O'Connor opens at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12, available in advance at plushtucson.com. For further details, call 798-1298.
The Tucson date is the second-to-last show for which O'Connor will open for Ray. The upcoming West Coast leg of Ray's tour will feature the aforementioned Arizona as openers, but before that, the group--who sound a bit like the Kinks if Ray Davies had bought into the psychedelic revolution--will play a headlining show at Solar Culture Gallery, on the same night Ray plays at Plush, no less.
Catch Arizona, along with local openers Crossing Sarnoff and Maggie Golston, at 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission to the all-ages show is $6. For more info, call 884-0874.
"America's Funnyman" Neil Hamburger is the alter ego of Gregg Turkington, a writer and former label owner who grew up in Tempe. His act, which consists of Hamburger telling horrible jokes from beneath a veil of flop-sweat (and clearing his throat more often than actually telling those jokes), pretty much defines the concept of "you either love him or hate him." If you're a fan of Andy Kaufman or Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (on which he has appeared), chances are it'll be the former. He'll be at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Jan. 24, along with openers B4Skin. Advance tix are available for $5 at hotelcongress.com. They'll be $7 on the day of the show. Doors open at 7 p.m. Call 622-8848 with questions.
Also of note: Sleeping Violet's CD-release party at O'Malley's, 247 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 24; Fred Green and the Red Elvises at The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 24; Sublime tribute band Badfish, Skitn, The Hounds and Scotty Don't (Badfish playing original material) at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., next Thursday, Jan. 29; Tera Melos at The Living Room, 413 E. Fifth St., next Thursday, Jan. 29; KaiserCartel at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., next Thursday, Jan. 29; Booze Bombs and the F-Holes at Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., on Saturday, Jan. 24; and, fresh off a tour with the Meat Puppets, Portland, Ore's The Shaky Hands with Pretty Bird. Smash. at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Monday, Jan. 26.