You were right.
If you remember back in 2002 we at Punknews.org published our yearly " best of" lists. You responded, like so many of our readers do, with a list of what we got wrong, particularly the lack of attention paid to the Pacific Northwest scene. As it always goes with retrospective articles I tend to regret what I've chosen a few months later, not because the bands I enjoyed had lost their lustre, but because I simply had not heard everything that was eligible. For some damn reason those real gems always seem to be discovered in the first few weeks of January.
So I challenged you John to review for us some material from that scene. You delivered with a great look at the self titled Spits album. Meanwhile I was making an effort to discover this purported treasure trove of excellent punk for myself. I even made it official, titling it the "Punknews Coverage Project," and making scheduled checkups with Seattle labels like Dirtnap and Empty along with the like-minded rosters of Pelado, In The Red, Mortville and others.
The funny thing is it started to seem like I didn't have to do all that much digging. Consider the Exploding Hearts, prior to the tragic accident that claimed three lives of the brilliant young group they not only released one of the best records of 2003 but they were in negotiations with Lookout Records. The Epoxies surprised everyone by signing with Fat Wreck Chords. Then there's the Briefs, well, the Briefs had the sweetest deal of them all and signed to with Interscope (of the deep-pocketed Universal conglomerate). It seems that the punk rock mainstream, if not the overall music mainstream, was going to uncover the Pacific Northwest for us.
However I guess nobody was surprised that The Briefs' major deal fell through, as often happens with fickle corporations more concerned with projected profits and marketability than actual music. If you ask me John, The Briefs are better for it. Hopefully they walked away with enough of an advance to buy some new shades, and at least they can play Gilman Street again. So where were they to go from there? It became quite obvious during this time that The Briefs' frenzied and revitalized mix of first wave punk rock influences had nowhere to go but up. Enter BYO Records, who didn't seem very obvious at first but in retrospect are a perfect fit for a band growing at the Briefs' rate.
BYO really lucked out with Sex Objects; it's a hell of a rock record and one of the purest, archetypical punk albums in recent memory. The hearts of the Seattle band are clearly back in 1977, their spirits closer aligned with the kids rocking the 100 Club or the crowd at 315 Bowery than anything contemporary. However their energy and songwriting is far superior to a simple revival act. Sex Objects strikes a balance between catchy irreverent pop and sneering social commentary, all wrapped in a particular charm and personality that puts other bands to shame.
"Orange Alert" is a perfect example of how relevant observation and fun rock'n'roll are not mutually exclusive. The band rattles through a track of speedy sing-along punk while at the same time commenting on the atmosphere of fear in the United States. The key is that it's political but not bleakly dark and depressing like these songs tend be. There's an interesting coupling of serious and humorous tracks on the record, as silly tunes like "Halfsize Girl" (but she's living in a full size world) lead into the spitting "Destroy the USA." It happens again as "No More Presidents" joins up with Winona Ryder send-off "Shoplifting At Macys." There's no shortage of infectious, danceable tunes on this album either, from the nervous jangling title track to the bubblegum-pop of "Sally I Can't Go To The Beach." When the band drops their tempo they also create some truly memorable songs, as you'll learn when singing along to "Ephedrine Blue" and "Antisocial."
You know John, it's hard to predict the lasting importance of a record. It's not that we don't try! Like all music fans we make short-sighted judgements all the time and usually come off looking pretty silly a year later. However I'm so tempted to make some grandiose statement about the importance of Sex Objects, it's just one of those solid feel-good punk rock records you'll be singing along with and dancing along to long after its initial buzz has passed. I hope you don't mind all of us getting on board with the great music coming out of the Pacific Northwest. I know how too much attention can spoil a good scene, but we'll try to be careful.
Remember John: you asked for this.
The Briefs - Orange Alert
The Briefs e-card
We're running a huge Briefs contest until July 9th. Check it out!