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SF Weekly Music Awards 2003

Americana DJ/Selector/Turntablist Electronic/Electro Hard Rock/

Metal Hip Hop/Rap Jazz Latin/

International Lifestyle Music New Genre/Beyond Pop Punk Rock/Indie Rock Soul/Funk/ R&B 

If music be the brandy of the damned, then we're drunk off our asses


Page 9 of 11


Bottles and Skulls

Originally a trio hailing from Florida, Bottles and Skulls formed in 1999 before moving to the Bay Area and adding an additional guitarist. The group plays mildly varied punk rock that incorporates bits of garage and pop but with an emphasis on energy, anger, and spastic rocking. While recording its latest full-length, Born in a Black Light, with legendary grunge producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, the Dwarves, Murder City Devils), the band tightened its songwriting and sound, producing a record that's 37 minutes of pure searing and flailing. Singer/guitarist Brent Travis Jones shouts distorted, adenoidal lyrics about bullet holes, the devil, television, girlfriends, and plastic bags (hey, it can't all be deep). Most compelling is when he touches upon universal themes: "I love death, death loves me/ I'm begging death please/ Please, please me/ I love myself, myself loves me/ I'm begging me please/ Please, please me," he sings on "Please, Please Me," a good indication of how the band's lyrics mimic its fearless instrumental sounds. Jones and guitarist Christian Erik rock the ominous axe tones, reminiscent of both Black Sabbath and Guns N' Roses, but far more vigorous. Meanwhile, bassist Johnny Hildo and drummer Scavuzzo make sure to provide solid beds of tight, aggressive rhythms. It's not easy to dispatch punk that's at once vicious, visceral, and intelligent. The fact that Bottles and Skulls does so almost effortlessly is why you see it listed here.


While the MTV-sponsored parade of crap bands sporting perfectly coiffed mohawks might lead some cynics to argue that punk rock has indeed bought the farm, the Oakland-based hooligans who make up Fleshies are doing their damndest to keep the anarchic spirit of the music alive. Formed in 1999 by lead screamer Johnny No Moniker, guitarist Mattowar, bassist Vonny Bon Bons, and drummer Hamiltron, the foursome established an early reputation for unhinged live performances. Dishing out a feral brand of noise akin to what the kids from The Lord of the Flies might have come up with had they been given guitars and sequestered in a dingy East Bay warehouse, Fleshies concealed their lack of actual songs with over-the-top onstage abandon.

Happily, the band soon started pounding out quality material that easily equaled the intensity of its delivery. The raging tunes found on Fleshies' Alternative Tentacles debut, Kill the Dreamer's Dream, matched the agitated lyrical bile of No Moniker's vocals with a careening assault of power-rock riffs that teetered brilliantly on the edge of total collapse. The band's 2003 follow-up, The Sicilian, took Fleshies into more unpredictable territory, sneaking moments of sweet melancholy in between pounding sociopolitical diatribes and ironic meathead anthems. Relentless touring has honed the group into an unstoppable juggernaut that deals out lawless mayhem wherever it goes -- onstage, No Moniker becomes the clothes-shedding, crowd-surfing heir apparent to the now-defunct Jesus Lizard's David Yow. Fleshies trump the mindless hardcore regurgitation of their so-called punk peers with an original brand of rock 'n' roll chaos.

FM Knives

Comprised of former members of punk bands such as Nar, Los Huevos, Lil' Bunnies, and Karate Party, FM Knives might very well be Northern California's reigning kings of Buzzcocks-style punk rock. What makes the quartet interesting though, is that, rather than simply spouting anti-establishment lyrics about "the man," like so many other punk bands, singer Jason Patrone shows instead of tells. "I wake up screaming/ At mortgaged ceilings/ Everyday at 5 to 8 I/ Tell the mirror one more day/ My Monday tie/ The porno lied/ Watch the snow on Channel 8 then/ Thirty minutes on the train," Patrone sings on "The Man From OSI" from 2002's Useless and Modern. Here, and throughout the group's three records, we get insight into our own lives, what it means to perceive the world as being bleak, bloated, and boring. But the effect of FM Knives is anything but depressing -- cathartic is more like it. Lyrics aside, the Knives are proficient at playing unabashed punk rock, complete with distorted bar chords, driving, melodic bass lines, and playful, but manly, drumbeats. There are even moments that suggest an early Ramones playing to a pierced, leather-clad CBGB's crowd. Of course, if you even slightly consider yourself a fan of local punk rock, you probably know all this already.

Rock/Indie Rock

Coach Whips

In this complicated world of recall elections and record companies throwing the book at 12-year-old girls, it's good to know that, at least for one local band, not much has changed since the Kingsmen's famously down-and-dirty, unintelligible take on "Louie, Louie" 30-some-odd years ago. Led by Mission maven John Dwyer, who has arguably graduated a step from his "tardcore" band Pink and Brown, the Coach Whips make no apologies for simple three-chord tunes, most under two minutes long, with mangled lyrics shouted passionately over messy lo-fi drums and Casio keys. As John Harlow's cymbals sizzle like 50-cent steaks in a Las Vegas flophouse and Mary Ann McNamara sets a boogieing surf tone on either keyboards or tambourine, Dwyer's spazzy, hyper guitar drives the band while he gargles lyrics through several layers of grease. Though the Whips have been compared to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a more apt analogy might be Spencer spouse Christina Martinez's Boss Hog (the vintage, early-'90s version), all slutty innuendo and dirty twang. Dwyer dispenses with even the modicum of polish that marks Jack White's guitar playing in the White Stripes, and wisely avoids reaching for the art-school pseudo-philosophy of White's lyrics. Instead, "Look into my eyes when you come" is about as deep as things get. Which is not to say that there isn't any artfulness here, or musical talent. Dwyer is an accomplished musician, and both Harlow and McNamara have ties to the performance art scene that derives from the San Francisco Art Institute. It's just that in a town where music audiences are more apt to sit on their hands than stand up and shout, the Coach Whips are a welcome splash of stanky, gritty firewater.


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