The Reactionaries - 1979 [12-inch] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Reactionaries

1979 [12-inch] (2010)

Water Under the Bridge

The Cliff's Notes version seems appropriate for such a band: The Reactionaries were a short-lived act that preceded the Minutemen, with their entire lineup in tow plus vocalist Martin Tamburovich (dude would found New Alliance Records a few years after their breakup). Their only real recording, and even "real" is pushing it here, is a practice space session laid to tape and appropriately dubbed 1979 for this vinyl release put out last year by Water Under the Bridge.

Don't expect the Minutemen's complex, funk-enhanced spasms: This is pretty bare bones punk rock, like the proto take on early '80s hardcore. Granted, there are hints of more progressive things to come, with some shaky power-pop undercurrent to "Video Madonna" and '60s garage tinges to "Getting Existential on the Beach". Overall, it's decent, though it often blends together, and feels like the band's peers of the time far surpassed them. As far as the simpler goes, "Cheap False Teeth" goes the route of charred guitars and rambled, barely comprehensible hooks, and it shows what the Reactionaries can do best in just under two minutes. Is this classic? I'd disagree wholeheartedly, but it's a sloppy, fun mess all the same.

All things considered, the recording isn't terrible. Tamburovich sounds like he's singing into a paper bag (it somehow gets somewhat better by "God and Country"), but Mike Watt (who wrote most of these songs) lays down a steady, audible groove for the rambunctious vibe while D. Boon sloppily chops away and George Hurley backs more than competently.

Perhaps realizing that 1979 spans all of 21 minutes, they've stocked a bonus side B with covers of all nine tracks from various members of San Pedro-affiliated bands from yesterday and today. It's actually pretty cool, since it not only beefs up the album, but offers better recorded variations on the tracks. If there are two highlights, one's "Video Madonna", anchored on vocals by the instantly recognizable Watt himself. "Tony Gets Wasted in Pedro" is a strong, strong closer including Adam Gaxiola, Jerry Trebotic (a frequent drummer for Watt's bands), and Sean Cole (F.Y.P./Toys That Kill); definite Descendents vibe, oddly. "Cheap False Teeth" is a snotty, cool redux, and it happens to include Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag) and Todd Congelliere (F.Y.P./Toys That Kill) among others. "My Heroes" is sharp and quick, though "Brigate Rosse" might be a little twee for its own good, mostly due to Cindy Vodo-Bradley's vocals–John Blazing [the Three O'Clock] lays down the riffs well, though.

I realize I've talked far more about 1979's bonus content than the actual recording/practice session itself, but that's just because the covers side is actually preferred a bit. Still, overall this is a worthwhile document for hardcore Minutemen fans, or early punk historians.

Cheap False Teeth
Video Madonna
Getting Existential on the Beach
God and Country