According to a statement issued by Cyclops Records Vice President (and Vile Geezers drummer) Tavo Conti, the subtitle of the label’s new Capitol Crisis (The D.C. Underground) refers to the fact that the disc’s 18 acts are outside the loop of local-music acceptability. While the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) and local clubowners consider them too wild, he explains, “Dischord doesn’t like them.”
If true, this alienation must be more a matter of attitude than style. These bands play fairly standard rock ‘n’ roll, sometimes seemingly rootsy enough for WAMA, other times surelypunky enough for Dischord. The venerable Black Market Baby, who contribute the pounding “Drunken Bull,” used to share stages with young harDCore outfits, while the Suspects (“Graveyard”) are stalwarts on the Positive Force circuit. Only moderately more eccentric is Factory, whose “Puerto Rican Street Fight” takes a New York Dollsy approach to roots rock, and 9353, whose “Redneck Funhole” defies the mainstream with its nyah-nyah melody and Zappafied warble.
There’s no ambient, jungle, or triphop anywhere near Crisis, but there is plenty of attitude: Such song titles as “When Rebels Were Real” (Blue Balls Deluxe), “Grab My Cock and Cry” (Albert Strange), “Feelin’ Filthy” (Three Bean Soup), “Drugs” (Reprobates), and “Rip It Up” (Broken Promise) demonstrate these bands’ enthusiasm for the time-honored linkage of pop music and trouble. (“I’m guilty!” shout the Suspects.) If the album has zero tolerance for traditional family values, it’s steadfast for rock traditionalism: These songs tend to be punchy, no-nonsense, and tuneful; Alyce Read’s “All I Want” is even pretty.
This stylistic conservatism has its benefits: There’s nothing startling on the disc, but neither are there any tracks that are hopelessly unlistenable or exasperatingly self-indulgent. Crisis, in fact, is more consistent than most local sampler albums. Based on the available evidence, none of these 18 bands is singular or slick enough to scale the heights of pop-music success, but they certainly deserve to make it above-ground.
To mark the release of Capitol Crisis, nine acts will perform Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 15 Minutes. Adam West, Alyce Read, Factory, Hottentots, Vile Geezers, Jaime Holiday’s Cathouse, Murder Ink, Blue Balls Deluxe, Albert Strange, and “surprise guests” are billed for the night, while the album is available from Cyclops, 1508 S. Randolph St., Arlington, VA 22204.