The Upshot: Potent, powerful, pulverizing punk delivered 40 years after the fact.
BY FRED MILLS
Phoenix punk bands were always a bit… different from their peers across the desert in L.A. While there was no shortage of anti-authoritarian ‘tude and a healthy appreciation for punks shock value, they were less image-conscious than the Sunset Strip crews and more than willing to fuck shit up just for the sake of fucking shit up, traits that persist to this day in the Arizona music scene. Call it the cowboy mentality.
And the Exterminators, though remarkably short-lived even by typical punk standards—the liner notes to Product of America (by Arizona-born Don Bolles, drummer for the Exterminators as well as numerous L.A. bands over the years, and author/journalist of no small repute) maintain the quartet played, at best, three or four shows before its members headed to the City of Angels seeking fortune and infamy with the likes of the Germs, Feederz, Bags, etc.
Yet this LP—pressed on seductive royal blue vinyl, no less—isn’t some long-lost archival recording of demos and now-rare singles, because according to Bolles, the Exterminators “never recorded anything,” at least not properly. (They taped a few rehearsals but that was it.) Instead, the 16 songs here, most of them clocking in at under a minute and a half, were recorded in the present by Bolles (drums), Johnny Macho (aka Dan Clark, vocals), Buzzy Murder (Doug Clark, guitar), and Cris Kirkwood (from the Meat Puppets of course, bass—the bassist back in the day was the late Rob Graves, later of Bags/45 Grave/Gun Club). And as a combined time capsule/legacy homage, those songs definitely pull their weight. Kirkwood offers up a no-frills production that’s as true to the material as possible.
Vocalist Macho has the perfect punk sneer, even four decades after the fact, and between the muscular Bolles-Kirkwood rhythm section and Murder’s bandsaw guitar riffage, you’d be hard pressed to do the blindfold test with the album and peg it as a present-day recording. From the tender sentiments and drillpress vibe of “I Don’t Give a Fuck” and the sizzling hardcore romp that is “Just Like Your Mom” to a beautifully brutal slice of Stooges nihilism, “Destruction Unit” and a ground-zero-punk workout titled “I Hate You” (whose songwriting credit is not one of the bandmembers, but “some kid from the neighborhood”), this is potent, powerful, pulverizing stuff. There’s also a freaky spoken-word closing number, an adaption of Samuel Beckett’s violent/erotic “Serena II” that finds Macho intoning gravely while Murder sculpts thick waves of distortion in the background. Who said punks aren’t sensitive?
DOWNLOAD: “Static Planet,” “Destruction Unit,” “I Don’t Give a Fuck”