It hurts when you realize you could’ve seen a beloved band before their end. The Ramones, Nirvana, the Smiths…I know I never could’ve caught them in their heyday. But Discount, Jets to Brazil, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros and Latterman were all within my reach. I even remember specifically choosing not to go to what would become Latterman’s last Philadelphia show.
I am a fucking idiot.
Another band to add to my list of never-saws is Shorebirds. The band’s two new-ish 7"s came in the mail two days after I read about the band’s breakup. I’ll leave the Something’s Wrong / Shorebirds split for another writer; right now I want to focus on We Do What We Want: Olympia Punk Comp Vol. 1. Packaged with a zine and sleeve made from a polka compilation (note to self: check out Frankie Yankovic’s “Pennsylvania Polka”), the comp has an intimate D.I.Y. feel before even putting needle to wax. It also boasts five top-notch Washington punk bands, three of whom have already broken up as of this last writing. As for the last two, I’m just assuming they’re still together since I can’t find anything saying otherwise online.
The accompanying zine claims “We’re smart. We’re beautiful. & We’re Loud,” which pretty much sums up the five bands. Son Skull opens the comp with “Down the Street.” Bottom-heavy, lo-fi, and short, “Down the Street” has a rough charm to it. Son Skulls is one of the two bands whom I suspect may still exist, so maybe one day I’ll experience this track in person. Contrary to what the record’s label says, Shorebirds follow Son Skull with “Bubz Song.”
Shorebirds is almost certainly the band you all want to hear about. Good thing, too, since they don’t disappoint. “Bubz Song” has the same world weary “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” tone of Shorebirds’ eponymous debut, but somehow the band sounds more triumphant about it here. Could be the energy in the vocals. The slurred ending gives the song a “you heard this at a party” vibe, which helps. While it doesn’t surpass older Shorebirds material, “Bubz Song” definitely gives me my Matt Canino fix, or at least until that full-length drops. Small complaint, though: ex-Jawbreaker bassist Chris Bauermeister’s performance feels phoned in. If the low end was handled by someone I’d never heard of, I wouldn’t care. But because it’s the guy from Dear You, his lack of command feels slightly disappointing. Regardless, would’ve been nice to hear this one live.
Comin’ Up Roses, the other active band on this comp, closes out Side A with “Look Out Your Eyes.” It’s a little more atypical than Son Skulls or Shorebirds, but if you dig Hot Water Music and Leatherface, there’s no reason not to dig this track. Unless you’re one of those jerks who hates fun. Way to be, jerk.
Side B comes with a double dose o’ defunct, starting with Black Bear’s “We Fight This with Our Flesh.” This song depresses the heck out of me, but only because Black Bear broke up after the release party for this friggin’ compilation. Appealing to fans of HWM, Nakatomi Plaza, and Ugly Organ-era Cursive without ripping any of them off, “We Fight This with Our Flesh” is my favorite track on We Do What We Want. Boasting violin (viola?) over dirty power chords, this one is a powerful dirge. So if any former Black Bear members read this, do you have any other songs recorded? Being a capitalist born and bred, I will pay for them.
We Do What We Want closes out with “Penelope” by Hooky, another deceased, Canino-featured band. Matt only plays guitar here, though. Erica Freas and “Chainsaw” are the ones who deliver the vocals. “Penelope” is a Lawrence Arms-like quick shot, with vocal cords soaked in whiskey and ripping apart. Like with Black Bear, and the rest of We Do What We Want, I wish I had more to hear. Get on it, Rumbletowne!