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The Shirks, the scuzzed-out D.C. speedpunk primitivists who brought us the anthemic ditty “D.C. Is Doomed” in 2009, don’t sound like a band that practices in the garage. The Shirks sound like a band that sets the garage on fire just to watch it burn. They’re the kind of guys who, asked to describe their sound, say simply, “Loud.”
Having released four 7-inches since 2007, The Shirks—which include Andy Gale (drums), Kevin Longendyke (bass), Ned Moffitt (guitar), and Alec Budd (vocals/guitar)—have finally released their debut LP. Like its former label, D.C.’s Windian Records, The Shirks take beer-stained punk rock to obnoxious new heights. To learn much about The Shirks, you’ve gotta find ’em in the real world; the band refuses to market itself on the Internet. That’s too bad, in a way. Music this uncivilized needs to be accessible to every teengenerate in the civilized world.
There’s nothing artsy about The Shirks, though to quote poet Arthur Rimbaud, they invoke “a derangement of all the senses.” The band keeps its songs nasty, brutish, and short: Only two tunes on its self-titled record exceed two minutes, and the three-minute “I Don’t Want to Work It” is a Yes epic by their standards.
Opener “Motherhood of the Wolf”—the band’s ode to the women who work at Café Saint-Ex—is an aural blitzkrieg steeped in fuzz; the guitars sound like panzers roaring into Poland, while Budd sings like he actually has a wolf for a mother. If The Stooges threw up hairballs, they would sound like The Shirks.
“Sex Gear” boasts a sound as filthy (presumably) as the subject matter. The wonderfully titled “9:30 Dicks” sounds like a Ramones song—only three times faster—while the Sex Pistols–fast “I Don’t Want to Work It” is comparatively a ballad. “Dirty Teen Wolf” has Budd singing, “I don’t know a thing about love.” Maybe not, but these guys sure know a thing or two about eardrum pummeling.
It’s a coincidence that The Shirks saw fit to make their debut the week after one of the biggest D.C. hardcore nostalgia fests in recent memory: the opening of Corcoran’s “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s” and the related Funk-Punk Throwback at the 9:30 Club the same weekend. (Washington City Paper is a media sponsor of the exhibit.) While their harDCore elders were fondly reflecting on the good old days of socially responsible punk rock, The Shirks were proudly releasing who-gives-a-fuck scunge of the sort that once led Mitch Miller to sneer, “It’s not music, it’s a disease.” If so, it’s a disease D.C. needs to contract: sordid, offensive to the average human ear, and guaranteed to reduce parents to hysterics if discovered sitting next to their daughter on the sofa. Who needs statehood? I’ll take three chords.