Rewind Review: Early Indiana Punk and New Wave: The Crazy Al’s Year(s) 1976-1983 (2014)


I’m a Gen X’er, which means I grew up in the 1980’s, and I was among the first and last true punk rockers at East Noble High School. I was in a garage band (Stranger Yet) and spent my Sunday nights at a punk rock club (after which this blog is named) in a dive bar attached to a seedy hotel on the east edge of Fort Wayne, Indiana. So, the Early Indiana Punk and New Wave: The Crazy Al’s Year(s) compilation is right up my alley.

It’s a stunning collection of rare singles and live cuts from bands that mostly played in the Bloomington, Indiana area (the location of the short-lived club Crazy Al’s). Where Time Change Records found some of these cuts is beyond me, but I’m guessing they had a lot of friends involved in the punk and new wave scenes back then who contributed some of the recordings. I’m also guessing Time Change Records employs some of the best crate diggers of all time.

The two-disc set has many standouts. The Jetsons’ “Genetically Stupid” sums up how many people felt about us punk freaks back then, and Dow Jones and the Industrials’ “Can’t Stand the Midwest” sums up how us punk freaks felt about everyone else back then. Your Grocer’s Freezer’s “We’re All Gonna Die” is a perfect example of the nihilism that was always on the edge of the scene, especially when we all thought nuclear war was coming any second.

Want pure punk? Repellents have two solid punk cuts on the collection – “Technorama” and “AFC!” – and the Slammies’ “P-U-S” is another good choice. Cheeses from France’s “Heart of Gold” is wonderfully weird and almost a krautrock track. The Gizmos proudly display their love of the New York Dolls on “Mean Screen” and “Mommy’s in the Kitchen.” Joint Chiefs’ “I Hate Pretty Girls” is an anthem for awkward guys who were spurned or insulted by the cute girls in school.

It wouldn’t be an Indiana punk collection without the Zero Boys, and they have two fine tracks here – “Commies” and “I’m Absent.” We’re Jimmy Hoffa were a punk band that loved John Carpenter movie soundtracks, and their song “Rock ‘n Roll” is something you’d expect to hear at a club in Carpenter’s future NYC as Snake Plissken cracks heads on the dance floor.

I can’t help but think that the parents of the lead singer of the Panics were laughing as he sang “I Wanna Kill My Mom,” because the song is pure snotty punk hilarity. Dancing Cigarettes’ “Pop Doormat” sounds like the Kinks if the Kinks decided to become a new wave band. Last Four (5) Digits bring in a goth touch on “Don’t Move” that is somewhere between Bauhaus and early Wall of Voodoo. Cast of Thousands brings an angry Brit-punk sound on “War Maker.”

Amoebas in Chaos bring back the fun with “Have You Slugged Your Kid Today?” and “Ronald Reggae” (which is live punk chaos with saxophone and plenty of guitar feedback). E-in Brino’s “Watch Alarm” is fine post-punk with heavy synths and and near-frantic vocals. Vibrato Fetish rounds out disc 1 with the rocking “Surf Bandits.”

Yes, all that’s just on the first disc.

There are plenty of prime cuts on disc two. The New Avengers’ “Mary’s in a Coma” is a lost 1980’s track you swear you’ve heard before and is even better than you remember it. The Positions’ “Follower of the Space Race” is great new wave, sounding like a mix of Devo and the B-52’s. Your Parents’ “Whiplash” is heavy post-punk, and “No Substitutions” shows their Ramones influence. The Race Records’ “Baby Take Me Back” brings rockabilly into the mix.

Lip Service’s cover of “Money (That’s What I Want)” is full of skronky guitar and peppy organ, and MX-80 Sound’s cover of “Paint It Black” is a slick instrumental. The Obvious’ “Feelings of Love” sounds like an early Blondie track. Hugo Smooth’s “Won’t Play Bumpum Cars” is so new wave that it wanders into a jazz lounge hosted by Frank Zappa. Club Pressure’s “Slinkin’” is fine punk-reggae, and the Shouts’ cover of “Gloria” (which seems to have always secretly been a punk song) is outstanding.

It’s an essential mix of Midwest punk and new wave acts, and God bless Time Change Records for putting it out there for us old schoolers and new fans alike.

Keep your mind open.

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Nik Havert

I've been a music fan since my parents gave me a record player for Christmas when I was still in grade school. The first record I remember owning was "Sesame Street Disco." I've been a professional writer since 2004, but writing long before that. My first published work was in a middle school literary magazine and was a story about a zoo in which the animals could talk.

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