Friday, June 3, 2011

Hell Comes To Your House...And Turns 30

Released in 1981 on Bemisbrain Records (and reissued in '97 by Time Bomb Recordings), Hell Comes To Your House is an absolutely flawless album. Boasting contributions from the greatest names in the then-flourishing American West Coast “Deathrock” scene (Christian Death, 45 Grave, Super Heroines, the somewhat-out-of-place Social Distortion and Red Cross), this compilation remains essential listening for adventurous music fans 30 years after its original release.

Highlights: Social Distortion's “Lude Boy” and “Telling Them” show that the band's ability to crank out extraordinary anthems was in place even at this early stage of their career, while an equally wet-behind-the-ears Redd Kross (known as Red Cross here) whine and snarl their way through a snot-nosed rendition of The Dolls' “Puss 'N' Boots.” Armed with a killer guitar sound, great production and just the right amount of incomprehensible singing, Long Beach's Modern Warfare leave their mark with “Out Of My Head” and "Street Fightin' Man," while the bass-heavy thump of Secret Hate's “Deception” makes one wonder what Fear would have sounded like on record if Flea hadn't jumped Lee Ving's ship for the Chili Peppers. The Conservatives offer three fast slabs of Circle Jerks-meets-Jack Grisham California hardcore, while 100 Flowers (formerly known as minimalistic punks The Urinals) go all Joy Division on us with the dirgey “Reject Yourself.” Proving that the West Coast underground scene was about art as much as it was about chaos, Rhino 39 make “Marry It” a memorable experience through quirky musicianship and offbeat singing. Of course, “Hell Comes To Your House” is best remembered these days as the debut of a teenaged Rozz Williams. In a handful of minutes, Christian Death's “Dogs” simultaneously establishes Williams as a young lyrical genius and sets the foundation for the entire American Goth scene of the 1980s.

The Best of The Best: Without a doubt, the greatest stars of Hell Comes To Your House are the ladies. Led by Kat Arthur, the amazing Legal Weapon raise the bar with “Daddy's Gone Mad,” while Super Heroines leader and future Goth goddess Eva O. brings her deep voice and sinister guitar to the party with “Death On The Elevator” and “Embalmed Love.” As impressive as these tracks are, nothing competes with the jaw-dropping triple-shot of perfection delivered by Dinah Cancer and the incomparable 45 Grave. Like Killing Joke meeting the Shangri-Las at Lou Reed's sleepover, “Evil,” “Concerned Citizen” and “45 Grave” still sound ahead of their time three decades later. The drumming? Exquisite magic courtesy of Germs timekeeper and living art project, Don Bolles.

Where Are They Now?: After assorted bust-ups, lineup changes and trips to jail, Social Distortion grew Into a permanent, professional band by the release of 1988's Prison Bound and haven't looked back since. In addition to Social D., frontman Mike Ness has pursued a successful solo career, becoming a role model for many a name-tag wearing gas station attendant along the way. After an admirable stab at commercial Rock with the albums Life Sentence to Love (1988) and Take Out the Trash (1991), Legal Weapon fizzled by the mid '90s; guitarist Brian Hansen later worked with Rozz Williams, who committed suicide in 1998. A vastly different incarnation of Christian Death (fronted by guitarist/singer Valor Kand, who joined the Williams-fronted band in 1983) continues to tour and release albums, while Dinah Cancer staged a comeback circa 2005 by using the “45 Grave” name for an ensemble featuring (among others) Christian Death's Rikk Agnew and Chemical People's Jaime Pina. Aided by Pina on guitar and original Christian Death member James McGearty on bass, Eva O. toured a few years ago under the name “Christian Death 1334,”performing Christian Death material in tribute to her late partner, Williams. Retiring the “100 Flowers” moniker years ago in favor of their original name, The Urinals continue to play around Los Angeles sans guitarist Kjehl Johansen, who ended up making noise with yours truly circa 2002 in an LA-based band called The Sixth Chamber. 45 Grave's Rob Ritter is no longer with us, while Redd Kross continues to make music following the 1999 death of later member, Eddie Kurdziel.

And Don Bolles is still Don Bolles. Thank God for that.