tom smith | make green bay weird | april 2015
This month's edition of Make Green Bay Weird is dedicated to the memory of Leonard Nimoy. I'm a lifelong fan of the works of Mr. Nimoy, which of course started with “Star Trek," then “Mission: Impossible" (and I must point out in season five, you get to see Nimoy polka to a polka band) and then his transcendent status was cemented with “In Search Of." What I've mentioned is just part of Nimoy's immense career that was truly more than meets the eye. Leonard Nimoy also had a recording career where he may not have sold as many records as Slim Whitman, but he produced wonderfully strained pop music that was simultaneously timeless and dated, and at times devastatingly beautiful. A great example of this is his version of Jackie DeShannon's “Put a Little Love in Your Heart." The Nimoy cover is used in episode one, season four of “Eastbound And Down" with marvelous results. The last time I saw cinematography and music matched up so well was in “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" when “Search and Destroy" is being blasted. In fact, this song placed in that episode inspired me last year at this time to, for an April Fool's joke, write a record review for a fictional Leonard Nimoy album called “I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll," fictitiously produced by Rick Rubin. Nimoy's character of Mr. Spock on “Star Trek" is one of the most beloved and revered characters in television and science fiction. The term “iconic status" is bandied about a lot these days, but Spock is truly deserving of it. At this point, I find it would be highly logical to wrap up this memorial.
April is going to be a great month of music in Green Bay. The highlight of course will be Record Store Day on April 18. Both of Green Bay's record stores, The Exclusive Company and Rock N' Roll Land have a full day of events including live music. The Exclusive Company (where I work) will have Wendy and Ryan from Milwaukee's Ramma Lamma as guest DJs from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day. At 6 p.m. we will have a solo performance by Ian Olvera followed by The Traveling Suitcase. The Traveling Suitcase will be joined on a bill at the Crunchy Frog that evening by Holly and the Nice Lions. Other highlights for April include The Queers, Richie Ramone, The Atom Age and Beach Patrol on Friday, April 3 at Phat Headz. This show will be an unforgettable night of punk rock action, unless somebody puts something in your drink. The Ghost Wolves, Last Sons of Krypton — this is a reunion show, I don't even know how many years since they've played last, will be using a 1996 lineup — and The Foamers?, will be at The Crunchy Frog on April 15. Boston garage rock legends, the Lyres, established in 1979, will be making their debut Green Bay performance Thursday, April 16 at Phat Headz with Rev. Norb and the Onions and Narco States. Last but not least, I must mention and highly suggest that you consider attending Fun w/ Atoms, Green Bay's longest running original rock band, at the Lyric Room Saturday, April 11 in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their debut album “Main Street." This show will definitely be a great flashback to the days when Fun w/ Atoms were regulars at Lefty's. The Chocolateers will open this show. I myself am definitely not missing this show.
The three albums I will be reviewing this month have these common denominators: all three of these bands are from Wisconsin, and all three of these records are coming out on Certified PR Records. The genesis of Certified PR Records was in Manitowoc, Wisconsin in late 2000/early 2001 by Steve Ziarnik. For the last thirteen years, Certified PR has been based in the state of Florida. Certified PR doesn't just put out records by bands from Wisconsin, but Ziarnik's connection to the state has allowed him to keep an eye on Wisconsin's underground rock and roll scene. Ziarnik's eyes and ears have been very keen with these three releases, he's batting a thousand.
Last Sons of Krypton
Timebomb Rating: 13 of 13
Certified PR Records is doing us all an immense public service by releasing upon the world this twenty track raging slab of explosive garage punk hits. I had forgotten how great this band was, and I was lucky enough to see them up close and personal living in Wisconsin. The first time I booked them at the Concert Cafe in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I immediately was convinced this band was onto something. Their music was a youthful (unpretentious), garage-y punk rock attack, like Angry Samoans and Black Flag mixed with early Devo. Last Sons of Krypton, a band of young teenagers that grew up in Manitowoc — a town that had a rich punk rock history — tapped into that history and went about things their own way … not really quite an attitude, but they didn't mind ruffling a few punk rock feathers (including mine) along the way. Listening to this record instantly flashes me back to an era of rock and roll that no longer exists, when we had rock animals roaming the world such as SuperCharger, Teengenerate, and of course last but not least, The Rip Offs. That's pretty rarified garage punk rock air to be associated with, but I honestly believe Last Sons of Krypton is definitely within spitting distance of hanging with that crew. The first six tracks are from their first demo cassette; highlights of those tracks are “Meteorite," and “I Want Action." Track seven, “I Want" is from the out of print, various artist compilation Sawmill. Tracks eight through 10 are previously unreleased. Track 11 is an alternate version from a previously released seven-inch. Tracks 12 through 17 are unreleased demos. Tracks 18 through 20 are from The Smuts first demo tape, a band the Last Sons of Krypton had morphed to in '99. This record is an excellent way to discover a lost gem of Wisconsin's punk rock music history, and that's the bottom line because Time Bomb Tom said so.
Time Bomb Rating: 13 of 13
Ramma Lamma hail from Milwaukee and they may be the coolest export from Milwaukee since The Fonz, or, at the very least, “Laverne and Shirley." This band is practically a supergroup comprised of Wendy Norton (from the Lookers) on vocals, guitar, and piano; Ryan King (of the Kill-A-Watts) vocals and guitar; Daniel James (Indonesian Junk) on bass and Bart Ferrara (from Bleed) on drums. This group of individuals deliver — no, wait, make that barge through — ten songs of sizzling non-stop chainsaw-riffed glam garage punk rock that really boogies, also. The album starts out with the title track “Ice Cream" that roars like an Elvis Presley fronted version of Hanoi Rocks. On track two, “Showstopper," Wendy takes a turn on lead vocals but the assault is still relentless. Track three, “Sit On My Face" has a boogeyish element thanks to Wendy's piano, but at the same time the drums propel the song with a glam rock stomp. The hits keep coming. The song “Ain't No Rock N Roller" is quite the rock n roller. Ryan takes the helm again on “Danger" and Daniel James switches to guitar and whips out a mean solo. Side two starts out with “Hot Stuff," one of my favorite songs on the album. “Wet Denim" is chock full of snarling guitar and snarling vocals. The album ends with “Buzzkill," a savage rocker that leaves us wanting for more.
Rev. Norb & The Onions
Time Bomb Rating: 13 of 13
Did someone say “icon?" Well the singer of the next band we're about to discuss reached that status while still in high school. Norb Rozek, a.k.a. the Rev. Norb, the second most famous alumnus of East High School, pillar of the Green Bay punk rock scene, actually, more like the pope of the Green Bay punk rock scene; no, wait, make that the Space Pope of the Green Bay punk rock scene, while he was in high school gave the world, hands down, the greatest punk rock fanzine ever: Sick Teen. Norb also was the singer and bass player in Green Bay's Suburban Mutilation, whose only album “The Opera Ain't Over Til The Fat Lady Sings" was re-released for its thirtieth anniversary last year on Record Store Day. Norb has also been a columnist for Maximumrocknroll and Razorcake, as well as damn fine editorial cartoonist for UWGB's The Fourth Estate. He's a trivia master of disaster, a comic book connoisseur, he's a funky alligator, he's the prime mover. Nuff said.
OK, so now that we've gotten that out of the way, Norb currently is the singer of Rev. Norb & The Onions, who have released their debut album. Norb is joined by Brad X on guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals (Brad also produced this album), Nick on bass and Jesse on drums. This album brings home the bacon and cooks it up, too. The toe tapping commences immediately with “(She's Got) Thoughtcrime." “Negative 13" keeps up the up-tempo rock and roll with authority. “Teenage Tantrum" — the foot is still on the pedal. “Let's Get Ripped (At The Minahan Crypt)," is a full steam ahead ode to day-drinking at a cemetery overlooking the Fox River. This crypt contains the remains of William Minahan that were recovered after his death in the Titanic tragedy. “Oddy Knocky" downshifts a couple gears and Brad's keyboards give the song a swampy, Stranglers feel. “Medication Now!" hits the nitrous oxide and we are once again back in fifth gear, one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Rocket 707077" - I'm summing up this song with two words: Relentless Aggression. “She's A Stain" is another of my favorite tracks, makes me think of a garage-y Toy Dolls with a pinch of Stooges thrown in. Is this record punk rock? Is this record garage rock? Is this record punk garage? Or even garage punk? Find out for yourself, buy local!
Live long and polka.
Since 1984, when he first began selling records at Galaxy of Sound inside the Port Plaza Mall, Tom Smith has been part of the Green Bay music scene. Promoting his first show 1986 and hitting his stride with the Concert Café (1995-2001), Smith continues to promote shows in Green Bay. Hefirst honed his journalistic chops while serving as a student DJ at WGBW, interviewing such icons as Motörhead and the Ramones. Today you can find him championing live music and managing The Exclusive Company in Green Bay.