Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Long Hundred 020/100: Extent Fanzine Silver Five Inch Collection Vol. 1 which I was given a preview of a new life.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

The practice of pairing a magazine with a compilation CD was ubiquitous in the Nineties - but it was a practice that didn't carry over when those magazines made their way to South East Asia, since A) music licenses were specific to the countries those magazines were published in, and B) The cheap glue that bound the CDs to magazine covers were no match for music fans with stickier fingers.

Lent to me by a high school friend (who could actually afford to order fanzines from overseas), Extent was a punk/hardcore zine created by John LaCroix of the band Ten Yard Fight. It had better than average graphic design for its time - foreshadowing LaCroix's present career as a creative director who works with big ticket brands like Samsung and Mitsubishi - and featured a wide variety of hardcore, punk, and relatively heavy indie rock bands.

[The entire issue is archived online.]

Of primary interest were tracks by Breach and 59xThe Pain, which added to the picture of Swedish hardcore formed by the Northcore compilation, as well as my first taste of the Friction album. As someone who had just started identifying as straightedge, I was immediately drawn to Battery, Ten Yard Fight and Damnation AD (or xBatteryx, xTen Yard Fightx and xDamnation ADx, as they were otherwise known).

Logical Nonsense, who were one of the first bands I wrote about in this series, gave me my first taste of power violence with a 90 second fantasy about punching Nazis in the face. It's a song that's unfortunately as relevant as ever.

But the most interesting band on the compilation was Starkweather. I was a metal fan with a growing interest in hardcore - unbeknownst to me, there were like minds within the hardcore scene willing to meet me halfway. Starkweather were one of those bands, and their sludgy songs could just as easily be compared to Obituary as Neurosis.

[An interesting aspect of metal/hardcore crossover: Hardcore kids referred to slower sections in metallic hardcore as "metal parts", which is baffling to someone who grew up on thrash, death metal, and Iron Maiden; whereas the "hardcore" influence on bands like Machine Head and Sepultura inevitably meant groove and single chord chugging; it seems the two genres can't help but misunderstand each other.]

If there was one takeaway from this comp, it was that the larger world of "punk" was more diverse than my limited exposure to NYHC and bands on Epitaph led me to believe. It also wasn't as fiercely anti-commercial as I had expected - bands like Project Kate and Metroschifter were as radio-ready as anything on Sub Pop. [Metroschifter were an important part of the Louisville, KY punk scene whose singer Scott Richter ran for Mayor of that city; Project Kate's inclusion on the Extent compilation probably had more to do with singer/guitarist Kate Reddy being married to one of the owners of Equal Vision Records.] In truth, it was only the thinnest of musical barriers separating mainstream "alternative" from so called "indie" rock. Memorable choruses and a photogenic singer were all any of these bands needed for the major labels to come calling; their placement alongside the hardcore bands on comps like this had less to do with any shared beliefs as it did a shared homeliness. The underground was and remains the provenance of the unattractive.

I taped the Extent comp in the waning weeks of my senior year; as a result, it was constantly with me, either in my backpack or Walkman. My skater friend Tee hosted our high school graduation party - most of my friends in my own grade had been kicked out or moved back to their own countries by the time I was finishing high school, so I had no reason to attend my own graduation, let alone a party celebrating people I hated. But I showed up at Tee's house early to hang out with what few high school friends I had for the last time. And since it was just us (and at my friend's house), I put my Extent tape on.

I figured that with there was enough indie/melodic hardcore on the tape to appeal to the pedestrian tastes of my graduating class (Green Day was huge at the time), but complaints led to the organizers politely asking me if they could change the music to something else. I was able to convince them to play one last song. When the shoegazing chord progression came through the speakers, I belatedly remembered that one song in the compilation began deceptively Smashing Pumpkins-like before suddenly turning heavy.

As Starkweather's "Shroud" made its shift, one of my classmates threw a fit and started yelling, "CAN WE TURN OFF THIS DEATH METAL STUFF?!? I mean, no offense, but...CAN WE TURN OFF THIS DEATH METAL STUFF?!?!"

That was all the invitation I needed to leave. Starkweather had made me unwelcome at my own high school graduation party, but it was worth it. There was a new, better life waiting for me at the end of the summer, on the other side of the world.

The Extent compilation was a preview of the new life I was about to embark on. A few months later I was in New York City, and it wasn't long before I was seeing Logical Nonsense and Damnation A.D. in person. It was the best 5 years of my life: There was a gig to look forward to every weekend, and each gig brought the same experience of hearing the Extent compilation for the first time. At forty, it's doubtful I'll ever have anything as great to look forward to again. But I'm glad they happened, and that I heard the Extent compilation when I did to foreshadow those five years.

Never Forget:

Northcore: The
Polar Scene Compilation