Now that Green Day is once again a household name and millions of young and old Suburban Jesuses are getting their first taste of what they consider to be punk rock, I've taken it upon myself to try to familiarize a few of these American Idiot enthusiasts with the musical protoplasm of the East Bay melodic punk sound which their beloved Green Day would ride to fame and multiplatinum success. Far from the million dollar mixing sessions and sugary studio glaze of Green Day's latest chartbuster is a merry band of scruffy outcasts with crummy instruments who released some of the most crucial, woefully overlooked, ruggedly honest punk music ever recorded, a band called Crimpshrine.
The roster of musicians who have tinkered around in Crimpshrine at one time or another reads like a punk rock A-list, including Tim "Lint" Armstrong of Rancid, Ben Weasel, Jesse Michaels, and fanzine editor Aaron Cometbus. Prior to writing this review, I scanned the internet to see what other people thought of Crimpshrine, and I wasn't surprised at what a few reviewers complained about: The recording sounds like a bunch of rickety pawn-shop instruments being played directly into a shitty Fisher-Price tape recorder, and vocalist Jeff Ott sings like a chain-smoking asthmatic with a frog stuck in his throat. What these people fail to realize is that the crusty sound and croaking vocals are part of this band's charm and appeal, the same kind of rough-sounding allure that keeps Black Flag's Damaged album spinning on turntables to this day. The thrumming, powerful bass-lines and simple, catchy melodies crafted for this album would spell out the blueprint for what would become one of today's most widely-employed and recognizable styles of melodic punk rock, influencing everyone from Jawbreaker to Screeching Weasel to the aforementioned Green Day.
While the musicianship may be unimpressive by virtuoso standards, the poignant incisiveness of the lyrics is nearly unmatched. Each song on Duct Tape Soup reads like a succinct, memorable chapter in a book about friendship, romance, and the desire to retain purity and individuality in a world of artificial substitutes, compromises and conformity; all of it is spiced with a warming optimism and a willingness to keep moving forward in spite of the tragedy. Even if I didn't like the music, I'd still shell out the thirteen bucks just so I could read the words in the booklet. I would love to paste the entire lyric sheet in the body of this review, but I think the following passage will suffice for now:
You're just a fucked up kid / And no one ever gives you a break / Just a fucked up kid / But how much more can you take / Of the day to day frustration / Filling out job applications / But no one will hire you / It's pretty hard to survive / When no one knows that you're alive / Think no one cares about you / But I do.After allowing Crimpshrine's work to grow on me until it became a body of music that my collection feels naked without, I felt the urge to fire off a spiteful e-mail to the people who wrote negative reviews about it, castigating them for their fruit fly attention spans and their ignorance of this band's tremendous importance and influence, but I chose not to. Instead, I wrote this review in hopes that a few people will seek out this band's albums and the various 7-inch records and comps that they contributed to, and that the music will affect them as strongly as it affected me. If you don't own this album, I'm not going to revoke your punk license, I'm just going to feel sorry that you're missing out on "the heart and soul of the East Bay," and one of the best kept secrets in punk rock.