Neutron Bombs

Vintage L.A. punk, reissued.

ON THE NEW PUNK compilation Let's Get Rid of L.A. (Star Maps/Revenge), even the liner notes refuse to be contained. They're presented in the form of a 44-page manifesto/band historiography that's included with every copy of the CD. It's a superb resurrection of DIY fanzine culture, and it's also a brilliant way of overcoming the frustrating anonymity that tends to doom local scene comps. The only possible problem here is in the mag's blustery opening essay, where Razorcake magazine scribe Todd Taylor sets the tone of the comp by simply sucker punching the straw man: "Who the hell has the audacity to enforce the idea that no more notes could be played to reinforce L.A.'s underground tradition?" Well, the answer is obvious: the only folks who really care about the undergroundthose who live there.

So the album is L.A. giving itself a good talking-to, unlike the Randoms song it's named after: "Let's Get Rid of New York." The B-side from the first single on L.A. punk's epoch-making Dangerhouse Records was the West Coast's salvo against an enemy everyone could agree upon in a time when people were still trying to figure out how to be punk in America. (When the Randoms played the song live, they called it "Let's Get Rid of L.A.") Now the culture war has caught up with the parameters of real, modern war. The enemy is invisible, and when you do meet it face-to-face, it looks just like you. Aping one's idols is bad? The Pinkz's blazen rip of the Go-Go's ("Right or Wrong") proves that it's fun and easy, come again soon. That's a kind of nostalgia I can't even begin to dissect. Radio Vago's mawkish synth-punk doesn't just make me want to go and pull out my Romeo Void and Avengers 7- inches again, it renders that desire obsolete. But contrasting all of this is a band like Squab, whose mechanical synthesizer tantrums and queasy tempo surges (in their song "Hanger") really do remind us of punk's premise: Just because you can't play your instruments doesn't mean you don't know exactly what you're doing.

Back in 1978, the Weirdos wished they had the neutron bomb (and sometimes I wish they did, too). Twenty-five years and a billion records later, Let's Get Rid of L.A. posits itself as the opposite of the neutron bomb: a WMD that could incinerate the Sunset Strip, the Capitol Records building, and the entire written and recorded history of West Coast punk, leaving only the survivors and the Platonic ideal of punk without its social and economic trappings. Let's not think too closely about trappingswe have electricity and beer. If we do decide to hit the red button, let's do it in the interest of beautification.

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