It freaks me out that touchstones of my youth are so ancient these days; the first Replacements album came out almost 20 friggin' years ago (19, to be precise). Same with the Meat Puppets and Black Flag and Husker Du; and it's been a full two decades since the Minutemen were first waxed for posterity. I feel ancient, maaaan.
So it's always refreshing when people from that era--the early '80s American punk rock scene--stick around in vital ways. It's rare, to be sure: the old burnout versus fade away thing'n'all. But who is cooler on the planet than Mike Watt, who has survived the demise of both the Minutemen (due to the van accident near Tucson that took the life of his bandmate and best friend Dennes Boon) and fIREHOSE, and continues to tour the country "econo-style" in a van with his buddies, spreading the punk rock gospel?
And though old Jello's anti-consumerism message becomes a little hazy in light of his recent court battle, a band that has, ostensibly, gotten paid better than East Bay Ray and his brethren over the years (they've resided on Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label for 15 years now), and have indeed proven vital for just as long--is Vancouver, British Columbia's NoMeansNo.
The band has always appealed to this aging punk rocker for combining the funkiness of the Minutemen with the politics and humor of the Dead Kennedys and the weirdness of The Residents.
I imagine it'll sound just as pleasing to those weaned on Mr. Bungle or Primus, though. Perhaps the most astounding thing is that their latest album, 1998's Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie (Alternative Tentacles) still kicks ass 18 years later, and is in no way a mere retread of past glories. Call it prog-punk if you must, but these guys have been doing it as well as anyone for as long as anyone, and they deserve serious attention and accolades. The rarely touring band's live shows are legendary, and they've worked hard at retaining an anonymity that only adds to their mystique.
Don't miss NoMeansNo, along with openers Removal, at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets for the all-ages show are available for $10 at CD Depot, Guitars, Etc., Hear's Music, Zip's University, and Congress Street Store. They'll be $12 at the door. For more info call 798-3333.
VOTE FOR ALDERMAN: A funny thing happened to Portland, Oregon-based singer/songwriter Lael Alderman on the way to pop stardom: He got the shaft. After self-releasing the acclaimed alt-country title Slowdrag, he and then-new backing band The Loved were signed to a $200,000 contract with Geffen Records. But after eight months of getting dicked around by the label, they were unceremoniously dropped when Geffen merged with Interscope after the Giant Corporate Merger of Seagram's and Universal, their new parent company.
Alderman forged ahead, scarred but smarter, and recorded the album intended to break him to a national audience. Adding insult to injury (thanks to a quirk in his songwriting deal with Sony/ATV), he was unable to release any material under his real name. He decided to revert to his middle name and released 1999's Diary himself under the moniker of Lael Leroy and the Loved. Geffen doesn't know what it missed.
Diary is a superb meeting of sad 'n' purdy modern country-rock, à la Scud Mountain Boys or The Jayhawks, with a decidedly pop edge that at times recalls Crowded House or Ben Folds Five. These are songs that sound sufficiently familiar and timeless so as not to sound out of place sandwiched between "Temptation Eyes" and "I Saw the Light" on the FM oldies station.
He's dropped the band for now, touring solo and trying out new songs for a fall release, but his songwriting is riveting enough to pay the nominal cover charge when Alderman performs at 9 p.m. Thursday, June 22, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Questions? Give 'em a call at 670-9202.
BAND WAGON: Poetic drama punks the Fireants make their way back to town via SoCal this week for a show with local girl punks The Wrecks and (speaking of the Dead Kennedys) Über Alice. The show, part of the band's Hotter Than Hell Arizona Tour, hits 7 Black Cats at 9 p.m. Friday, June 23. That number again is 670-9202.
The Gay Pride March that begins in the park at Fourth Avenue and Second Street on Sunday, June 25, will wind up at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., for an after-party benefit for OUTrage and Lesbian Avengers. The club promises performances galore, and cover is $5. For more information, call 622-8848.
HEADS UP: Here's forewarning for distinguished rockers all over town, regarding next Thursday, June 29. You have a big decision to make: Do you go see the Reverend Horton Heat, with Hank Williams III and Thunderosa at the Rialto; or do you head over to Solar Culture for the Delta 72 and Apocalyptics show? Either way, the real winner is you. More next week.