|return to main||return to main|
TROUSER PRESS (October 1977)
"Hot wire my heart" b/w "Baby you're so repulsive" - CRIME.
There's no label name and no record number, and in the shuffle of trying to avoid reviewing it I managed to lose the address. But it's available in stores like Golden Disc, Rather Ripped and Rhino, who carry lots of domestic punk stuff.
They sure have the pose down, judging from the picture sleeve, showing four Nazi-oid leather types with the hipper-than-thou look. Great titles too. But though they may pose cooler than the Pistols (who are grungier than thou), their music is a bunch of noise. Maybe you had to be there.
CRIME (CRIME Music) Hot wire my heart/Baby you're so repulsive.
Where do they come from anyway? Where have they been hiding? They look like neo-nazi perverts, and they sound like your average terminal speed-freak nightmare. Truely dangerous anti-music, even the recording engineer must have fled the room ten seconds after they started (which explains the incredibly shitty-but-effective mixing: everything is buried under everything else, and the singers voice appears and disappears at random moments). This must be the trend that is scaring everyone right now, from big rock superstars right on down to the secretaries at the big record companies reception desks and the ladies that put the records in their sleeves in the basement! I mean, how do you seriously package this stuff? Somehow they did it (three cheers for CRIME Music, whoever they are) and the results are awsome. If these creatures keep it up they gonna start banning rock music all over again, which means they must be doing something right. Not too sure what it is yet (it can only be taken in very small doses, you know!) but it could be the next big menace to civilization. (If some fanatic of the old order does not go after them with a .44 magnum!) get it if you can. You can always insult me afterwards, if hearing it hasn't turned you into a drooling idiot!
No Exit #2
CRIME - Murder by guitar/Frustration (CRIME Music).
Murder by guitar starts at a slow threatening pulse beat and turns stronger and stronger like a jet taking off, it's like the Velvets go 80's, almost over the edge and suddenly with a scream is turned into pure rock n roll a la 50's-80's. FRUSTRATION, frustration is in the Damned vein but goes beyond, fast original one of the first 45's in a while that really twists you, the core of the song is high nervous energy just like the title. Definately buy it....
Ripped and Torn (British fanzine) - SINGLE OF THE YEAR
Murder by guitar/Frustration (CRIME label, import).
A hot one from San Francisco, this single is so powerful I'm surprised the customs men let it in the country. They've got laws against this sort of thing, but it's here, and how.
Stick it in the turntable and a slow, pounding riff marches relentlessly outta this, and baby it don't take no prisoners. Those of you lucky enoughto have seen the Ants will recognise it as nearly identical to the riff the band play at the start of the set before Adam comes on, it's the beginning of "Plastic Surgery". The same doomy, irresistably commanding beat, a forewarner of whats about to rear it demented head any minute now. If anything is a musical definition of hopeless frustration and severe depression it could well be this, and might even drive an unstable mind completely over the edge. Heavy stuff huh?
The beat goes on with Johnny Strike's guitar alternately helping and hindering by scratching across his fretboard, playing mad solos and joining in the beat almost as suddenly, it's chaos, but rehearsed. A scream of feedback is answered by a human (humanoid?) scream and the song speeds up through a mist of distortion into the "fast bit". If you remember their first single, the classic "Hot wire my heart" and its chaotic splendour, well it's the same sort of thing here only more guitars this time. The lyrics are only there to off-set the guitar, mainly being random "Murder by guitar", "it looks like murder", "Death by noise", and "What do you feel" shouts by vocalist Frankie Fix who's also weilding a guitar, but the record is a showcase for Johnny Strike and his guitar, on a gutter level.
Y'know, I reckon if there was ever such a thing as good heavy metal then it wouldn't sound a million notes away from this. I can't stand heavy metal but hell I just love this single. And I never thought I'd say that about a mainly instrumental, guitar-hero type song. Stuff as good as this restores my faith in punk/life, and do I need it now!!
BAM Magazine (January 1978)
"Frustration"/"Murder by Guitar" (CRIME Music) CRIME.
If punk rock is supposed to de-emphasize guitar hegemony, nobody has bothered to tell CRIME - not that they'd listen anyway. As a band, CRIME doesn't take it's cues from anybody - at least, from no source identifiable through their music or bizarre image. Their approach to music might be best described as the raw barrage sound - a self-conciously outrageous assault on the aural senses. Their second 45 has met with widely mixed reactions.
A KSAN d.j. who inadvertantly put it on a turntable called it "the worst record in the world." The influential English punk fanzine, Ripped and Torn, recently named it 1977 Single of the Year. "Frustration" is a raucous and nasty autobiographical song about maintaining sneering defiance in the light of seemingly insurmountable difficulties. "Murder by Guitar" is less idea-laden. It emphasizes a not unpleasant guitar build-up which culminates in a vicious instrumental frontal attack. The vocals are too integral to be superfluous, but the lyrics themselves aren't exactly crucial. If you have the stamina, this is a good record - the new wave at it's most uncompromising.
Option #41 (Nov/Dec '91)
CRIME: San Franciscos Doomed.
It's criminal that this band has been so neglected in the annals of punk rock. If you've never heard of them, don't worry about it; they're never mentioned along side names like the Ramones, the Clash, or the Pistols, yet CRIME was every bit as energetic and raw as those groups. It's sad that bad punk bands like Alice Bag have been immortalized on film while CRIME has been mostly forgotten. Sounding more like their British counterparts than the Ramones, the Dead Boys, or hometown contemporaries such as the Avengers and the Dead Kennedys, CRIME was badmouthed by critics and scenesters alike.
The only places you'll find a trace of their existence other than this record are old San Francisco police reports, old copies of Bay Area newspapers, and a small credit beside "Hot Wire My Heart" on Sonic Youth's Sister. CRIME was everything punk stood for: a grating, hard-rocking, passionate rock'n'roll band. They loitered about the Bay Area in SFPD uniforms, attracted violent audiences, and broke up before they had a chance to become "significant". This collection has it all - the great straight-ahead punk of songs like "Frustration" and "San Francisco's Doomed" to the chaotic "Murder by Guitar". Punk rock is dead as hell, and this album drives that fact right home; listening brings on feelings of both melancholia and exhilaration. I recommend it, but with a caveat: look back, but don't stare.
Ugly Things Issue 13 (1994)
CRIME - SAN FRANCISCO'S DOOMED (Solar Lodge) LP/CD.
While other bands fell over themselves in the late '70s trying to be "punk rock", CRIME set themselves apart from the herd, boasting they were "San Francisco's first and only rock 'n' roll band". No doubt about it, CRIME had an attitude.
They also had a stark, vicious image to go along with it. Their sneering, legs astride stance of tough boy cool mixed in hints of belladonna-skinned androgeny - no doubt a residue of their glam roots - and the full, regulation police uniforms they often wore made them more striking.
CRIME's music didn't conform to the norm either. They didn't use the standard-issue highspeed buzzsaw guitar approach. Instead their noisy attacks were an unpredictable stew of clanging, howling guitars and shuddering rhythms - more of an intense sonic RUMBLE than anything else. Lead guitarist Frankie Fix somehow managed to wring the most violently dischordant notes out of his Flying V; his style mixing elements of James Williamson and Johnny Thunders yet with a surreal, chaotic twist which make any firm comparisons invalid.
Unfortunately CRIME only released three singles- all very hard to find - leaving them all but forgotten except by a few collector dweebs and diehards who were there at the time. Recently though, more CRIME material has started to surface - and the world is a better place for it. San Francisco's Doomed has actually been out for a while now, but it's so essential I couldn't pass up writing about it here. Basically, this is probably the closest we'll ever get to an actual CRIME "album", combining two rehearsal sessions (one from March '78, and one from July '79) - 20 tracks in all. The sound quality is a little murky, with the vocals and drums somewhat submerged beneath the guitars, but that is a minor detraction from the great music.
The '78 session kicks off with "Frustration" (their second single), a song so brilliant it defies rational description. It's pure, raw rock'n'roll emotion with Fix's guitar peeling bloody strips off the songs fleshy wall of noise and a vocal leering: "Feeling frustrated, baby, make a move on you / Frustration, honey, don't know whatta do / I see your face nearly every day : And all you hippies can fade away!"
Basically it doesn't let up from there on in as the band bashes out a string of gut-charged songs, each every bit as weird and great as their song titles suggest: "Crime wave", "Rock'n'roll enemy #1", "Twisted", "Murder by guitar"...
"Piss on your dog" has to be singled out for particular attention, a dark, dirge-like riff, almost grotesquely out-of-tune, chundering along like some kind of obese robot - fuckin' beautiful.
The'79 session finds CRIME incorporating elements of rockabilly and R&B into their sound, while still keeping their strange and dangerous edge. "Flipout", "Dillinger's brain" and "Rockabilly drugstore" are just three of the standout rockers here, all utilising timeless rock'n'roll tools but still coming off as unique and innovative.
"Monkey on your back" is a real favourite, grafting an intensely crazed vocal and scorching dual guitar noise onto a throbbing Junior Walker soul groove. The overall effect is not unlike that of some British punk R&B band circa 1966!
Pick up San Francisco's Doomed at all costs, along with the equally essential 7-inch EP reissue of CRIME's first two singles, and prepare for a full spread on CRIME by Phantom Surfer Michael Lucas in the next UT. Study up hard, there will be a test.
Michael A. Lucas:
History is written by the winners, as some wise guy once remarked...in the case of the mid-seventies punk rock, of course, the "winners" were the mainstream "rock" critics, the "entertainment" conglomerates and bourgeoisie society (pardon my lapse into profound punk thinking) which proved, once again, that it can chew up absolutely anything in the continuing quest of the masses for superficial novelty.
Yes, the same jerks who were most definitely not invited to the party are the ones who have played the most significant roles in establishing (in piecemeal fashion) the widely perceived "history" of punk rock. Not surprisingly, the obsequious, fudgy-faced toadies who had to compromise the ideals of rock and roll for a grab at the brass ring (and let's face it, most of the simps in "the scene" then, as now, don't really care about what they sound like as much as they care about playing "rock star") figure most prominently in the "official" history.
Of course, even the oldest fart of "rock critic" has to new ascribe some "importance" to bands who were around and releasing vinyl in 1976. Except for CRIME, whose single "Hot Wire My Heart"/"Baby You're So Repulsive" was released in late '76 (making it one of the first punk singles of the seventies), and (thankfully) never existed in the same universe as the buffoons who leek at the current sanes charts and proclaim some laughable nonentity (pick most anyone form the "rock" or "alternative" Top 50) an "important force in rock music" when the bastards couldn't rock to save their lives.
To illustrate the importance of CRIME's first single in human terms, (in other words, in terms that give legitimacy to my side of the story) I'd have to recount the story of my cousin from Washington State's first exposure to the Sonic's "The Witch" in 1965. "I was sittin' down at your Uncle Chris's house, an' they had a li'l stereo system built into their bookshelves", he explained, "I was listenin' to the radio and all of a sudden, 'The Witch' came on and I jumped about a mile in the air and I said 'Hot damn! That sounds like a bunch of niggers!'"
Being a sophisticated suburban teen myself, my reaction to "Hot Wire My Heart" a decade later was free of recial epithets. It was otherwise remarkably similar, as I jumped about a mile in the air and thoughtfully pondered, "Hot Damn! That sounds like a speedfreak Little Richard and James Williamson session". This was what I'd been waiting years for.
Prior to the release of the first single, CRIME had played only one show. In 1977, as the "scene" developed and more venues were available, CRIME gigged regularly in San Francisco as well as touring out of town (including one trip to LA with a "Fun Bus" full of rabid fans, myself admittedly included, in tow and a show at San Quentin penitentiary-roll over Johnny Cash!). From their first post-"Hot Wire" show (January 19th 1977, the pre-Dirk Dirksen Mabuhay Gardens) to their very last days (in the early '80s) there was an interestin paradox about CRIME shows on their home turf. They always drew well, but a significant part of the audience was apathetic and there were always a few people vocal in their dislike of CRIME, ofttimes resulting in violence and, when the police were involved, riots (CRIME's habit of wearing regulation police uniforms at shows and around town caused a certain amount of friction with the SFPD). Their alienation from certain factions of the "scene" seemed to be owing to CRIME's adamant refusal to go along with whatever the local punk "party line" was supposed to be at the moment. They had more interst in rock and roll than in "punk" as a "movement", with the result that they made enemies of most of the serious trendoids in the area. the self-proclaimed "authorities" on the "punk movement" recognised by the organs of mainstriam culture (in addition to those individuals who regarded their own lack of connection to the big bad men in their "corporate uniforms" as some sort of validation of their "punk politics" which usually consisted of the Zoove Groover-hippie phase dictum "Don't bum me out, Mr. Businsessman") downplayed CRIME's importance in favour of the few local punk rock bands stemming from the same perios (who downplayed the "rock"in coming to have more to do with imagined art movement) as well as bands of a much later date.
Jeff A. Heermann - 12/09/98 18:36:19
True story: back in late August of '92, a friend and I ducked into a donut shop on 16th St. here in San Francisco. After we'd settled down with our coffee, I looked up from my maple bar to see Frankie Fix standing by the cash register, ordering a sandwich to go. Since CRIME had been my favorite p. rock band for a long while, I was able to recognize him from the record covers. I said to my friend, "dude--it's Frankie Fix", and he heard us and quickly ducked behind the display case before bolting out the door. I guess he was used to getting recognized, but he might have thought we were some drug dealers who were out to break his legs and mess his hair up.
I saw him a couple of years later, standing on Van Ness Ave. with a cardboard sign that read "starving musician--please help", and it bummed me out for a week. He looked like he'd been through some hard times since the days of "Hot Wire My Heart" when he was playing at the Mab and hanging out with the likes of Debbie Harry. A few weeks later he came into the cafe where I was working, clearly trying to do some shoplifting. I talked to him a few minutes, and he was cool enough, but you could tell that he had other things on his mind than records he'd played on nearly twenty years before. I haven't seen him since then, and apparently he died within the last year or two. I don't know the details, but I can imagine it had something to do with controlled substances.
Why aren't there 14-year-old kids walking around with "Frankie Fix Lives" t-shirts?
'Hot Wire My Heart' was the first West Coast punk rekkid I ever bought. It cost me a buck at some gone forever punk store in NYC. This was like 1979 or thereabouts. It had been around a while like a handful of other West Coast things (Bags, Germs, Weirdos, Nuns) but we kind of sneered at it (and the others). NYC had a chip on it's shoulder.
We thought we created and owned the shit and that London was a valid and fantastic reaction to it. The images we got from Cali were of kids dressing up and acting like English anarchy punks. We figured that poser shit would die, especially after Sid died. But it didn't. And then Reagan was president. And then we understood. California screaming. Suburban wasteland. Middle class hippy. Fuck. Hardcore USA exploded and it's direct roots were these records we balked at. So we bought 'em all and played the fuck out of 'em. Total energy spread. The Ramones were hippy Reaganites. We hated Reagan. Still do. CRIME will always be relevant. Fuck Bush. Frankie Fix Rules.
|return to main||return to main|