Saturday, September 26, 2009

Something old is new again! GEARS and D.I.'s mega set!

Wow! Let's start with that for a word to sum up this new set of mighty music from Hepcat Records. I gotta admit that I was a bit jealous when Axxel G. Reese first told me about this reissue of the old GEARS stuff. My thinking is always biased toward my own label -'natch. I know the passion that I have to make sure that a group's music is packaged right and looks swell and all that. My first thought when hearing that Hepcat was putting out a reissue of the GEARS material along with the D.I.'s material, I was "Oh no...I hope they don't fuck it up!". Well...let's go back to that one word...Wow! Gabby, the head honcho at Hepcat, has outdone it on this extra lux package.

First off, having a disc of remastered GEARS LP and EP tracks is a wonderful thing and anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a big fan of the GEARS. They are punk...they are rock'n'roll...they are the band that should be revered as gods, but somehow they have always eluded the fame that ilk like BAD RELIGION got...well...I could make comparisons to the past, like with LINK WRAY and PAT BOONE (You know which guys records I'm spinnin' right?), but we all know that the best bands are sometimes overlooked until it's too late. If you have not yet heard the GEARS infectious and catchy surf cum rockabilly cum punk sound, do yourself a favor and get this for that alone. The nice bonus with the GEARS are the recently discovered 1979 demos which are a bit more raw and primitive than what they later refined. Of the five demo tracks that end this complete discography of the GEARS unique California sound wall O' punk, there is only one totally previously unheard song on here; "Girl Crazy". This song is a revelation in as much that any unheard GEARS song would be, but it also has the same frenetic drive that all their other songs have and somehow manages to sound like greasers from the 50's have resurfaced in the 1970's and understand both rockin' and punk. Timeless stuff. Hell, this shit puts my wife in a good mood whenever she hears it so that's gotta be good. I know it helps me out when I'm in a jam....

Okay...let's give some time to the D.I.'s. I will admit my lameness here before one and all. I always avoided this record. The cover was cool, but it reminded me of heavy metal albums and I remember punk purists being totally dismissive of it back in the day. So...I ran across hundreds of copies...some for only 99 cents and still never picked one up even though I knew that I liked the earlier music from all the geezers in the band. Well, Hepcat sets the score straight. What we have with this second disc of the GEARS/D.I.'s boxt set is a chance to hear what many of us missed. The D.I.'s take off where the GEARS left off. The sound is reminiscent of the GEARS, but goes off into much deeper rockabilly, garage and even some blues areas. The punk is left behind and what we have here is the 100% pure rockin' sound. After years of these guys playing in other bands, the D.I.'s sound is tight and growls along with a sonic purity that is only found in the best of head-bouncing, toe-tapping rock and roll. The feeling is more rhythmic than before and the sound is much fatter overall. The lyrics are similar to the GEARS and maybe the closest link to that earlier band. As a rockabilly purist myself, I was overcome with how great this stuff sounds and how uncontrived it sounds compared to the more recent psychobilly (crap!) movement (bowel?). Some songs border on 60's garge punk like the track "Yo-Yo", but mostly this stuff just rocks no matter how you want to label it. Fans of fast, tight, aggressive rock with good lyrics and enough rhythm to get you boppin' will like this. Listening to these tracks is a definite eye-opener to me. Great stuff. Boy, I'm lame for missing out the first time. Thanks Gabby for setting me straight!

Okay, packaging...both discs are full of music. EVERYTHING by both bands (with the one exception of the recent GEARS demos that Chris Ashford just released on his new label...damn! Another got away from Artifix!). Both discs feature nice color layout and production notes. The real winner is that the GEARS disc comes with a poster with tons of pics of cool GEARS memorabilia like fliers, concert tickets, etc. The D.I.'s set comes with a poster too of D.I.'s memorabilia and also includes a small four-page booklet with some band history. Sound is great, packaging is top glad that Hepcat had the foresight to loose these tunes out of the vault once again.

On a side note, I remember when kids at my school were going to have a big fight (rumble?) after school over who was better...rockers or rockabillies...this was around 1982. I remember as a self-labeled punk rocker, I didn't care about taking sides, but the metal dudes tried to convince me that punk was more aligned with metal so I should be on their side against the rockabillies. I stayed out of the 30+ kid fight, but now I know better...punk is more closely linked to rockabilly than metal in my philosophical view of it. The rebellion is much the same as attitudes of the 1950's. Not wrapped in the hedonism that heavy metal offers. No more "Mohawk vs. DA" for me unless you start telling me that NEKROMANTIX are a good example of what rockabilly really is...then we're on! -Greg/Artifix Records