Perfect Youth

Updates now at perfectyouthbook.com

Posted on June 22, 2012 by

I’ll now be blogging about Perfect Youth from perfectyouthbook.com. Set your browsers towards this new, highly professional address for future updates.

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A letter from Steve Leckie

Posted on November 8, 2011 by

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Excuse the lapse in posts here; an initial, incomplete draft of the book was finished at the start of the summer, and I spent the last few months clearing out my brain and conducting a few extra interviews to help bring this project to a close. It’s still far from complete, but my head is back in the game, and I’m planning to get back to the business of writing here regularly.

I’m in the middle of finalizing one of the more agonizing sections of the book — the Viletones chapter. With so much information, so many rumours, and so many bizarre personal anecdotes to sort through, it’s been a portion of this story that I’ve struggled to tell. In many ways, the story of the Viletones is best told by Steve Leckie, because, truly, he is the Viletones. Our second interview began with him reading this letter to me, a foolscap piece of my paper with my name written in big, bold letters at the top. When he was done reading it, he didn’t hand it to me. He just folded it back into his pocket and started our interview.

What can you do when the medium of first generation punk requires not a stage but a tight wire because the true craft of punk demanded not a persona but a life? A life to even sacrifice on the altar of a life and death attempt to bear witness to the purity of a spectacle, that in history would be understood by perhaps the Aztecs as in a human sacrifice or maybe general custom. Misunderstanding or doubting that is only proof that those who through their mediocrity stand on the sidelines not only of punk rock, especially Viletones, but any art ahead of its own time. The words of Rimbaud not only told but warned over 100 years ago this spectacle would come, and I, far more than most of first generation punk artists embraced and heeded that future vision. A vision that manifests in high art reality. That punk art is the bastard son of no one. Of no other movement. An orphan. But an Artful Dodger orphan. And the death count in punk is much higher than those Dickens himself could have foreseen, for there is no Fagan to pay off but something much greater. Immortality itself, though an Aztec spectacle of sacrifice, whose virtues have been eroded through time.

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Tyranna

Posted on April 12, 2011 by


A few weeks ago, I was inside my 1989 camper van in a Hamilton parking lot with Mickey DeSadist of the Forgetten Rebels, trying to get a few questions asked before Teenage Head, now with new lead singer Pete MacAulay, hit the stage for their first hometown show since the passing of Frankie Venom. It was one of those strange, high-energy nights where it feels like a packed room full of 200-plus people have known each other for years. Probably because, in this case, they have. I met a lot of great folks that day – Chris Houston from the Rebels, Edgar Breau from Simply Saucer, and, after having only spoken on the phone or over e-mail in the past, Gord Lewis from Teenage Head. So why am I posting a Tyranna song here? Because Mickey and I wasted a significant chunk of our time together talking about how great this band was. I had been listening to their five song EP all day, and he professed to have a CD-R copy in his car that he had been trying to get Chris Houston to check out for weeks.

It wasn’t until 2008 that this release finally saw the light of day. A long-lost treasure of Toronto’s first wave, Tyranna were fantastically ferocious, as songs like “Back Off Baby” attest to. Fronted by Vera “Rabies” Syke, the band’s song have a real raw sonic power, while Syke’s snarling delivering belies some great pop songwriting underneath. One of the greatest lines in the sand between many first wave groups was musical ability; some had it, and other most definitely didn’t. Which isn’t to say that those who couldn’t play didn’t make some amazing contributions, since even the casual observer knows that this isn’t true. But sometimes, it’s great to get group of people who can play, write, and act the part. Tyranna were that group. I mean, look at the photo, right? That shit pops.

Tyranna: “Back Off Baby”

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222s

Posted on April 11, 2011 by

I’m in the middle of The Montreal Chapter right now, and wanted to post what will likely be the titular song for the whole section. “First Studio Bomb” is a great fucking song from the first and, for a time, only punk band from Montreal. The 222s started as a more New York Dolls-y post-glam outfit and morphed into a proper punk band as they were exposed to the stripped down sounds coming out of New York at the end of the decade; the only other form I’ve found this in is as a live track from their 2006 collection Montreal Punk – 78-81, recorded at the Ottawa punk hole the Rotter’s Club. It exemplifies the kind of catchy, driving songs the band were so good at creating, from the hyper-sexual anthem of “Female” (“You look like a female / But you fuck like a man”) to to lightweight “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Perhaps the best thing about the 222s (at least from a storytelling perspective) is that, at the end of their career, they teamed up with the Montreal mob for their final single. The recording sessions ended with the band having a gun pulled on them over ongoing creative differences. The 222s called it a day pretty soon after.

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Popular Mechanix

Posted on March 11, 2011 by

I’m in the midst of trying to wrap my head around the early Winnipeg scene, which I knew little about (aside from the fact that it birthed the best hardcore band ever, Personality Crisis). But where did those prairie weirdos come from? Turns out they came from stuff like this – Popular Mechanix were one of the first punk-ish bands in the city, although, as you can see here, this isn’t quite the Sex Pistols (heads up, this footage comes from a reunion show). That said, it’s still light years ahead of Goddo or Trooper, and laid important groundwork in the city of Winnipeg for bands like Disharge, Lowlife, and, eventually Personality Crisis. They were a pioneering band in a city that wasn’t exactly welcoming of new musical styles, and they offered early punk bands some of their first shows opening up for them, by then an established force in the local music community.

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Infamous Scientists

Posted on March 8, 2011 by

Consisting of some Victorian (as in, from Victoria, BC, not the era of Queen Victoria) youngsters that would later go on to form one of the best bands in the world, ever, Infamous Scientists displayed an unnatural ability to build left-field punk songs out of syncopated rhythms and an uncharacteristically present bass tone at a shockingly early point in their career. Hailing from the same strange scene that birthed the Neos, Pink Steel, and the Dayglo Abortions, Infamous Scientists would later morph into Nomeansno, becoming one of the most recognizable names in Canadian punk on the international stage. But before that, before Wrong, before the Hanson Brothers, there were these teenage geeks playing their hearts out. This shit rules.

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The Bureaucrats

Posted on March 4, 2011 by

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Ottawa has been a tough city to wrap my head around. I hadn’t heard much from anyone in nearby cities as to the relevance or vitality of the early scene. Someone might have mentioned the Rotter’s Club once, but it wasn’t with any great degree of reverence. In my slow crawl across this country, it’s taken me a while, but only the tiniest bit of digging was required to discover some of the amazing punk bands that Ottawa had in the late ’70s and early ’80s. And the Rotter’s Club was the centre of that early scene, hosting bands like DOA and the Dils while giving locals like the Red Squares and the Action a home. Then there’s the Bureaucrats, whose “Feel the Pain” single has been in constant rotation in my house since I first found it on the amazing Killed By Death Records blog this past weekend. An righteous Nerves-type power pop number that really starts to melt my mind after the first chorus, this song might be one of my favourite single-track discoveries of this project so far. It’s the kind of nugget that makes you glad that you just spent your whole weekend attempting to dredge up some nearly-lost part of Canadian history. And also makes you kind of dance awkwardly around your living room when your girlfriend is out.

The Bureaucrats: “Feel the Pain”

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Gentlemen of Horror

Posted on February 17, 2011 by

For the past few days, I’ve been deep in some unnecessarily heady papers about Canadian identity, culture hybridity, cultural drift, the garrison mentality in Canadian literature, and other stuff that I’m mostly just pretending to understand. If it hasn’t been made clear enough already, one of the aspects of early Canadian punk that fascinates me most is the isolation; even in major urban centres like Toronto, bands like the Vilteones existed with the knowledge they they were unlikely to snag the major recording contracts of their American and British peers, which helped created a more unhinged, erratic expression of punk than anywhere else in the world. But what really blows my mind is the punks who lived in parts of Canada that were really, actually, extremely fucking isolated. Places like Kelowna, BC, that bred weirdos like the Gentlemen of Horror, a band that only played about 20 shows but whose recordings regularly sell for several hundred dollars on eBay. While it’s clear that GOH were drawing on a fairly standard set of punk and hardcore influences, the fact that they existed in a cultural vacuum without immediate influences makes their particular blend of those influences an entirely unique one. And that rules.

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The Modernettes

Posted on February 9, 2011 by

Teen City

I’m currently going over some stuff in John Armstrong’s autobiography, the immensely readable and wonderfully bad behavior-ridden Guilty of Everything. Sent me down a worm hole of Vancouver music videos, of which there are a few, including this one for the Modernettes’ “Barbra”, a certified classic from its era. This song exemplifies what I love about a lot of the Vancouver bands, which is the simple fact that so many of them ended up writing slightly tweaky power-pop songs that, thirty years later, rival anything in the early Elvis Costello catalogue. Best moment in this video comes twenty seconds in when a guy dunks behind Armstrong for no apparent reason other than it seems edgy or hip or something.

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“Punk is leather, lust and liquid”

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

I’ve spent the day combing through the archives of Ubessey, the student paper at University of British Columbia. Founded in 1918, every single issue of the paper is available as a PDF through the library’s online archive. It’s a pretty awesome (biblical usage) collection. I’m sure there’s some incredible non-punk-related gems in there, but I’m obviously tunnel vision-ing for some good photos and interviews with bands like D.O.A. and the Pointed Sticks. In my search, I came across this magical op-ed by Peter Menyasz from January, 1979, all about his experience at a Subhumans show. Titled “Punk is leather, lust and liquid,” it contains such golden journalistic nuggets as

Look closely at the band. You might as well look, there’s nothing worth listening to. The guitarist plays all five chords he’s learned while the bass player pounds his instrument.

And

Dance? Are you sure they’re dancing? All they’re doing is jumping up and down, arms rigidly held at their sides. Heads shake from side to side, and blank stares are the order of the day.

Finally

You flee in terror. Back in the club, the band has stopped playing and people are standing around, not sure what to do now. You feel vaguely sorry for them.

Full text is here [PDF]. Page four, and very much worth your time.

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Red Tide

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

In the interest of coastal fairness, I wanted to post a song from Red Tide, one of my favourite bands from the early Victoria scene. Like Da Slyme and the Reaction in St. John’s, Red Tide were more isolated than the already-pretty-fucking-isolated kids in places like Edmonton and Winnipeg. But unlike those kids, Victoria bands like Red Tide, Infamous Scientists, and the Dayglo Abortions had the Vancouver scene to draw inspiration from. The result seems to be a weird mutation of the already weird mutations of the early Vancouver bands, who were themselves influenced by their proximity to what was happening in California. It’s like a game of sonic broken telephone, but one that starts with the Screamers and ends with Nomeansno.

This Red Tide song comes from a cassette comp called Medium Raw that was archived over at the amazing Model Citizen mp3 blog. For anyone with any interest in the early Victoria scene, there’s an awesomely compressive book / two-disc comp titled All Your Ears Can Hear that was released a few years ago which covers all the fascinatingly bizarre stuff going on in early Victoria. It’s currently out of print, but I’ve been told that it’s getting a second pressing soon. Keep your eyes out, this shit is tight.

Red Tide: “My Son is a Kuwahara”

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The Robins

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

Probably one of my favourite bands to have unearthed for myself over the course of this project is the Robins. The second or third ever punk band from Moncton (the first was the Punks, natch), the Robins were one of many incredible, original, and utterly strange musical projects undertaken by Mark Gaudet, one of the most incredible, original, and utterly strange guys to have emerged from this fine country. Better known for his work in seminal east coast acts Eric’s Trip and Elevator, Gaudet was also Moncton’s first punk, at the core of every single punk band in the city until the early ’80s. The Robins were more left-field than Gaudet’s earlier experimentations, including the proto-metal Purple Knight and aforementioned Punks, and the few recordings that exist from that era (along with a handful of bootlegs floating around on YouTube) showcase a unique band making some strange, strange noise.

You can order a lot of classic east coast recordings and videos through Gaudet’s Venison Creek zine. No resources online. Just give him a call some time at work to get a free zine and catalogue. I’m not even kidding. And it’s totally worth it.

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The Reaction

Posted on February 8, 2011 by

Finally got around to checking out the Reaction discography I got in the mail late last week. These guys were one of two active punk bands in St. John’s, Newfoundland in the late ’70s and early ’80s. No small feat, when you consider how culturally isolated that part of the country was. Unlike their bi-coastal brethren in Victoria, who had the nearby Vancouver scene to draw substantial influence from, punks in St. John’s were nowhere near… anything. A ten hour drive from the western tip of the island, which only gets you a few hours ferry ride from Sydney, Nova Scotia, being a punk in St. John’s in the ’70s is pretty goddamn astounding. That the Reaction and Da Slyme (the other punks in town) managed to nail the sound and aesthetic so effectively is equally goddamn astounding.

This song comes from their two-disc collection, Old and New, which pairs one disc of ’78’-81 material with post-reunion material culled from sessions done in 2005.

The Reaction: “In Tune with the Times”

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