The Spits

The Spits

Damn if The Spits don't make their brand of musical retardation all seem so easy: Like all their releases before them, they've stocked School's Out with 10 instant classics, with each and every song in its place and every single one of 'em indispensable. Don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, that's pretty rad and in the pantheon of all that was originally cool about first wave American punk (and why it still remains as essential as it did from day one), with this, their best release to date, The Spits have earned themselves a much deserved seat at the table alongside groups like the Ramones, Bullet-era Misfits, Crime, The Eat, et all...

Spiced up with some Are We Not Men-era Devo and maybe a little dash o' Chrome thrown in too (bassist Erin Wood's SPIDER side project showing through), School's Out is the accumulated, fetid stew of body fluids left behind in the mattress room of Plato's Retreat where some crotch crickets got introduced to the tableau and ultimately made the place really start to jump, and on these ten songs they're jumping every which way.... School's Out is so enjoyably diseased, your pie hole will stretch and bear pearly whiteness ear-to-ear. School's Out's a proverbial flea circus celebration of nihilism, wanton drunkenness, incorrigibility, juvenile delinquency, teen sex, vandalism, petty crime, hooliganism, self-mutilation and aliens-which is just about everything in a not-so-perfect world punk rock is supposed to be.

See, The Spits are so much of THAT era, but not a revivalist act by any stretch. For one thing, they're FRESH and newfangled without the vagaries of modernization or plasticized homage that'd otherwise give 'em a whiff of falsehood and illegitimacy. The Spits actually manage the not so easy trick of making it all their own and consequently they've pretty much single-handedly revitalized this thing of ours and paved the way for a completely new generation of maladjusted squids giving 'em the go-ahead to squirt ink anew. And if all that seems rife with over-statement, then stop and consider the long line of bands who site The Spits as a major influence (Black Lips, King Khan....) or the laundry list of new-jack labels currently du jour (HoZac, Woodsist-hell, even the newly reconstituted Siltbreeze to name several) in one form or another shine a little brighter because of them.


Useless Eaters

Seth Sutton learned a lot from Jay Reatard in the last two years of his life—a time that included taking Sutton's band (Useless Eaters) on tour and pressing one of their many limited singles—but one lesson stood out above the rest.

"Jay always felt like he was running out of time," explains Sutton, "so he thought it was important to try and be as musically productive as possible."

That's certainly been Sutton's case over the past four years, as the singer/guitarist crammed a couple side projects (the nihilistic hardcore of Vile Nation, the power trio transmissions of the aptly titled Feral Beat) into an already packed schedule of rehearsing/replacing band members and releasing as many records under the Useless Eaters name as humanly possible. That includes such standout releases as the catalog-combing Cheap Talkcompilation and the road trip-ready Daily Commutealbum. The latter's a glaring example of Sutton's meaty melodies, loose-limbed riffs, and undying love of punk-not-punk artists like Television, Wire and, well, just about every other glass-gargling history teacher in Legs McNeil's legendary Please Kill Me book.

"It showed me that punk is more of an idea and an attitude than a fashion statement," says Sutton, a self-taught musician who considers dropping out of high school "the best decision I've ever made," because it "gave me the freedom to focus on my art and music."

While that phrase has been uttered by many self-taught musicians over the years, Sutton's songwriting actually speaks for itself. Take his forcoming LP Hypertension, for instance. AsUseless Eaters' cult following first heard on the "Addicted to the Blade" 7'' and Black Night UltravioletEP, Sutton's cleared yet another layer of dust from his scrappy sound and pushed a revolving door of haymaker hooks and restless rhythms to the fore. That goes for everything from the neon-bathed locked grooves of "Life on a Grid" to the welcome, climatic cacophony of "Vertical Africa." Meanwhile, Sutton continues to channel a lonely childhood of living on army bases—and eventually finding his creative footing in Memphis, Toronto and his current hometown Nashville—into lyrics that reach well beyond tired punk tropes, whether that amounts to metaphorical love stories or brutally honest nervous breakdowns.

"I think everyone struggles with things like that," he says. "The whole idea behind Hypertension is that most people aren't aware—or just don't care about— their situations and will buy into anything.

He pauses and adds, "I guess I just write about people and thoughts."

If only things were that simple...



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