Saturday, January 17, 2009

Subhumans “Death Was Too Kind” CD

Two summers ago I got to meet Joey Shithead at a show out in Newmarket. His label had been putting out a lot of great old Vancouver landmark releases, like the “Vancouver Complications” comp and the YOUNG CANADIANS and POINTED STICKS. But there was a glaring absence from the set of re-issues – the SUBHUMANS. There was a bit of uneasiness about the question that I didn’t really understand. Actually I still don’t understand it because DOA and the SUBHUMANS were peers. In talking about the early Vancouver scene you couldn’t talk about it without mentioning both bands. Both bands had a hard rockin’ sound as applied to hardcore. Both bands had an overtly political message. In fact, the SUBHUMANS walked the talk minus action equals zero line with Gerry Useless being part of the Squamish Five. Bombing a bomb factory is pretty much sending a message to the man. So in a lot of ways I think SUBHUMANS were the more important band out of that scene. Maybe that is part of the rift. Anyway Joey said something about how he had encouraged the SUBHUMANS to talk to Alternative Tentacles about re-releasing their old material. I guess they did. And this is quite the collection of early singles and lost tracks. “Death to the Sickoids” was the band’s first ep. That came out in 1978. The B-side was the clever take on the national anthem re-written about the shit going on up here at the time. It’s amazing how little has changed. Anyway this was originally released as a self-released 7” of 500 run. So this is an act of mercy making this first ep available again. I remember NOMEANSNO covering “Oh Canaduh” and as good as NOMEANSNO are the original is better. A year later Quintessence, which was a label that would do a lot of the important Vancouver releases, would put out a 12” of four new tracks. This included “Fuck You”, which a lot of people mistake as DOA’s song and “Slave to My Dick”. These are probably the SUBHUMAN’s most best known songs with “Death to the Sickoids” and “Firing Squad” being close behind. So in a singles collection release it makes sense to include the “Firing Squad” ep too. All three of these eps are punk rock gold and I’m not referring to what they fetch on e-bay. But “Death Was Too Kind” also collects two songs recorded around the “Incorrect Thoughts” era that were lost tracks and only appeared on “Pissed Off … and with Good Reason” that Essential Noise put out in 1995. These two tracks are lost gems and it is good to see them here. It is also good to read about the motivations behind the songs. It helps put context to a band that lived Talk minus action equals zero. Anyway, I can’t recommend this release enough. I do hope that “Incorrect Thoughts” and “No Wishes, No Prayers” are being considered for the same treatment. The SUBHUMANS are one of the most under-appreciated punk bands in Canada. (Alternative Tentacles Records – P.O. Box 419092 / San Francisco, CA / 94141-9092 / USA / - SP

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