Friday, February 10, 2012

The Crumbs - s/t (Lookout, 1997)

Earlier this year, Lookout Records (According to former boss Larry Livermore, the name was never intended to be written with an exclamation point) made the decision to cease operations. Though I'd paid scant attention to the imprint's later releases, it was still somewhat shocking to hear the news of Lookout's demise. Like Amphetamine Reptile, Junk, Pelado and others before it, so smothered another flame from what time has proven to be a productive '90s for likeminded labels. The first album I owned from Lookout was Screeching Weasel's Wiggle. A friend had picked up the disc for me as a belated birthday gift. The bratty vocals, cultural references and thoughtful lyrics laced their Chuck Taylors as tightly as the Ramones' most beloved pairs. Twenty years on (Where in the hell did the time go?), Wiggle remains one of the best punk rock platters of any era. In 1996, the same bud passed along a dubbed tape with The Mr. T Experience's Love Is Dead on side "B." (The Humpers' Positively Sick On 4th Street covered the front half!) Whereas the Weasel mostly fed on a 1-2-3-4 diet of Bowery-like blasts, MTX balanced their "Gabba Gabba Hey!" intake with the smoother hooks of power pop. I've got fond memories of Love Is Dead powering the cassette deck as my friend and I drove around aimlessly on Independence Day in search of a free cookout. We ended up at Kempsville Inn with a pitcher of Miller Lite (100% drank by yours truly), three plastic darts and an otherwise empty room. I'd dug The Queers' Killed By Death-compiled cuts like "At The Mall" and "I'm Useless" for a great while, but I only recently became a convert of their 'Mones-meets-Beach Boys proper catalog. With statements such as "Ursula Finally Has Tits" and "I Can't Stop Farting," 1993's Love Songs For The Retarded is a spirited celebration of eternal juvenile behavior. All of the aforementioned LPs are prime staples in the now-gone Lookout catalog. However, my favorite leather-jacketed lads from the label hail (Yeah, they're still making music!) from the decidedly non-rock outpost of Miami, F-L-A.

My first nibble on The Crumbs was on the shared space of a Stiff Pole Records 7-inch single with fellow Sunshine State roustabouts Pink Lincolns and Gotohells. "What Do They Know?" flew its Ramones flag high with a punchy patchwork stitched by snottiness and uptempo beats, but the threads of Aussie punk popes The Saints and '50s greaser rock also pledged allegiance. The Chris Bailey-esque snarl and the familiar Lower East Side trademarks shine their stripes even brighter on The Crumbs' self-titled effort. Around the time of the album's release, an Arizona trader sent me a tape containing a broadcast from the nearby college radio station. Finest moment from the mix? "Get On With My Kicks." Framed by some serious rock 'n' roll riffin', it's the tale of a reckless woman who's constantly on a first-name basis with trouble. She's got no qualms about dropping everything and hitting the road with a Clyde to her Bonnie in search of illicit substances. Indeed, the willing tag-along is "all shook up even more than Elvis allowed." "No Time" shares a title with a Saints song from (I'm) Stranded. Even with different lyrics, the feeling of being trapped by a Timex is most relative ("Are you stuck inside the classroom?/The teacher always putting you down/The bell never rings and the minutes go by too slow"). "Long Distance Luv" tracks a lonely heart beating strongly for a displaced crush made possible by the USPS ("I've only seen her once/She lives a thousand miles away/But every time I get a letter/In this world I wanna stay"). Descriptions of a modern "Shakespeare": "He got no money and he got no home/He got no place to go/He got no license, no degree/Got no PHD." Tasting toast with diet pills and raiding liquor cabinets satiate the cool kids who exhibit "All Style." "It's Gonna Take All The Time I Got" sets its broken Swatch on drunk o'clock ("Here comes a girl from another land/She said she saw me playing in a rock 'n' roll band/Turns out she's the daughter of this clingy place/Drinking without paying 'til I fell on my face").

So long, Lookout Records. I'll still keep my eyes on you.

-Gunther 8544

1 comment:

Rutledge said...

Hands down, one of the best bands of the '90s (and beyond!). I think the Lookout association actually hindered them a little. They were perceived by a lot of people as pop-punk or Ramones-core, which was unfortunate. Their later albums rule as well!