Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Screeching Weasel--Kill the Musicians (Remastered Reissue)

The last of the Asian Man Screeching Weasel reissues (although 2 Riverdales reissues still to come this year). I have to say these last two reissues (Enemies & KTMM) have been pretty ...(ahem) lackluster...efforts.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any rarities/b-side compilations that are recommendable to anyone but the most hardcore fans, and this one isn't much different. Being one of those hardcore fans of Weasel, of course I own or have owned most of the original pressings and was pleased to get the CD when it was released in 1994. There are a few great tracks on here (I prefer the version of "Hey Suburbia" included here to the Boogadax3 version, for example, and "Radio Blast," "Around on You," and "Mary Was An Anarchist" are worth a listen, as are the live-from-Gilman tracks "Veronica Hates Me," "I Can See Clearly Now," "Supermarket Fantasy," and "Science of Myth".

If you have all the other pre-Emo albums and can't get enough of the band, I'd suggest picking this up next. Only the most hardcore of hardcore fans probably need the second collection, the 2xCD Thank You Very Little (the 2nd disc does feature a nice live set from 1993). The set isn't as cool as the There's a Screaming Otter in My Pants bootleg, though, which captured a great show of the band at their peak. And I wouldn't recommend Emo or Teen Punks in Heat to anyone.

The KTM reissue cover art and titles do look sharper and I do prefer the new CD "art." The arguably termed "brand new" artwork consists of a few new color photos along with some of the original photos now in color. The original CD artwork and a couple old photos included in Ben's original liner notes (one was of All Night Garage Sale, Ben and Jughead's pre-Weasel band) are no longer included.

As these tracks were already remastered in 1994, sound quality is not so much a concern when deciding whether to buy this version or track down the out-of-print Lookout! CD, which really shouldn't be too hard if you apply yourself.

Ben's in-depth History of Screeching Weasel essay has been replaced with a rather uninspiring lecture on how the bad old days aren't really worth commenting on. Short notes from Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio) and Matt Smith (Strike Anywhere) are also included, as well as a lenghty, sentimental essay from Mass Giorgini who eulogizes his late, cancer-stricken father in the context of his working relationship with Screeching Weasel over the years. While this is a nice essay with some interesting tidbits (the story about Ben's original vocals for "Kathy's on the Roof" was amusing--think about it: "Kathy's on the roofagin"), it's not especially informative and not nearly as interesting as Ben's original liner notes, which Ben derides as "voluminous, rambling, and nonsensical." In fact, Mass's liner notes would have made much more sense had they been included in the barren Enemies reissue packaging.

Now I don't know about you, but I'd kinda like the guy putting out the records to know what he's talking about, so when Mike Park (Asian Man)'s liner notes talk about how much he loves rarities collections and how this collects a lot of great stuff, blah blah, and how it would be nice to "have the original CDs in your collection, but that's what eBay is for," it irks my fact-checker that none of the KTM tracks appeared on CD before the original release of KTM (as far as I know the tracks that were released were on various 7" releases and 10" or 12" vinyl compilations). Sure it's obvious he meant the original vinyl pressings, but, c'mon. Is a little attention to detail too much to ask?

Perhaps most unforgiving however, is the lack of a list of which tracks came from which releases. Originally that information could at least be gleaned from the liner notes (or, from the discography that was included in the original pressing of Enemies--also deleted from the reissue packaging). The recently relaunched has an incomplete discography at the moment.

Some armchair QB'ing suggestions on what might have made this a more intersting reissue package (I'm just spitballing here):

Maybe original cover art from all the EPs and compilations would have made some nice, "brand new artwork" for the packaging.

The 4 songs from the Weasel Ramones cover LP now seem superflous now that the whole LP has been released on CD, and it would have been ok w/ me if they had deleted those 4 tracks to make room to include some other songs (maybe even the Formula 27 bonus tracks off the Ramones CD, even though they're not from the era represented on this collection). Perhaps "My Friends Are Getting Famous" or "Disgusteen," or the 7" EP tracks left off originally because as Ben said in the original liner notes: "they blow."

"My Friends Are Getting Famous" is off 1994's Punk USA compilation, compiled by Ben, which featured exclusive-at-the-time tracks from Screeching Weasel, Jawbreaker, face to face, the Queers, the Vindictives, Rattail Grenaider (Mass Giorgini's pre-Squirtgun band; basically Squirtgun w/ a different singer), and more (an unlisted Garden Variety track is also on the CD--apparently, they drew the ire of Mr. Weasel by including the song on their album that came out shortly before the compilation's release; it was too late to cut them from the CD, but not too late to cut them from the packaging. Of the bigger names on the record, the Weasel, Queers, and face to face songs still seem to be exclusive. Hard to imagine that over 10 years later this comp still sells enough copies to justify keeping tracks on it exclusive, so why not add "My Friends Are Getting Famous" to KTM?

"Disgusteen" was the title song to a really bad, super low-budget gay-vampire flick Ben wrote and directed that I'm sure he would love to forget ever happened (not sure how he feels about his appearnce in Bruce LaBruce's gay porn film, Super 8 1/2). Ben recorded "Disgusteen" with Chicago's 8-Bark as his backing band. So, it's not Screeching Weasel, true, but from what I remember of the nth-generation VHS copy I used to have, the soundtrack wasn't terrible. Including the 7" version of "I Wanna Be a Homosexual" with Bruce LaBruce's intro would've been good, too.

Another possible inclusion of an out-of-print Weasel-related project was The Shotdowns, who released a 7" on Lookout Records. Ben did some A&R work for Lookout and "found" them an old school hardcore act from Maine. Lookout bit on it and put out the 7". Turned out later it was actually Ben, Jughead, and Jersey Beat's Jim Testa.

Wouldn't have been good for Weasel purists maybe, but would've been some nice added value.

Original Release: 8/10
Reissue: 5/10


Blogger RD said...

You've made your point well that the re-release of KTM is a step-down from the original.

However, I think you really do an injustice to the band's work on this compilation. Some of their best songs are featured here: "Celena," "The Girl Next Door," and "Marry was an Anarchist" are some of the band's best material. As far as I'm concerned, "Mary was an Anarchist" may well be the best punk ballad ever written.

I also think that even the band's later stuff is worth a listen, and, yes, that includes Bark Like a Dog, TVCD, Emo, Teen Punks in Heat, and First World Manifesto. Would I recommend that over the big three (My Brain Hurts, Wiggle, Anthem)? Of course not! Enemies might not be as strong as the preceding, but the presence of Mike Dirnt is charming, and it is at least a worthy follow-up to the other albums released on Lookout! Records.

9:09 AM  
Blogger rdp said...

I have come around a bit on Emo and Teen Punks in Heat. The assessment in my original post was a little harsh. Emo's biggest problem is the production and the vocals. If I was going to remix, remaster, re-record or whatever with it, I'd leave off "Linger" though. I've always thought that album might as well have been Ben's first solo album, as well.

Speaking of the solo records, I never feel the need to listen to Fidatevi or Iron String Quartet.

Teen Punks has "You're the Enemy," which is what I consider one of his most honest songs really exemplifying his contempt for his audience and frustration that not nearly as many people care nearly as much about his solo efforts or even the Riverdales. The Riverdales break-up is really a shame, too, because they only seemed to be getting better and Tarantula is probably their best record start to finish. But, back to Teen Punks. It's not a great thing that one of the best songs on it is a Manges song ("I Will Always Do"). It also has "Cat-Like" on it.

I thought First World Manifesto was not too bad of a 'comeback' effort when it came out, but I don't listen to it much now. At this point, I would say only the Carnival of Schadenfreude is a truly embarrassing release. I absolutely never feel the need to pull that out and spin it.

Baby Fat is an interesting effort, but I haven't felt the need to put myself through listening to that more than once since it came out either. I don't think that should've been released under the Screeching Weasel moniker anyway. That would've been like Fat Mike calling Home Sweet Home a NoFX album.

11:03 AM  

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