By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
From nowhere--or Lantana, Florida, more precisely--arrives this 16-song tombstone, to be placed on Stick Men with Ray Guns' unmarked grave. Noisy, messy, and unholy, this disc of previously unreleased lumps of coal--most of them recorded live around Dallas and Houston, none ever intended for official release--does nothing to spoil the memory of this long-dead Dallas punk band, because no actual memory of it exists. All that remains are myths and legends and police records, compiled by fetishists out to set straight the record about the band born from the remnants of the Nervebreakers and Bag of Wire (both of which featured Clarke Blacker on guitar) and the Teenage Queers, the latter of which spat out Bobby Soxx, lead singer-strangler of Stick Men. Those who do still tell their tales of DJ's, the Hot Klub, and other local punk asylums long since disappeared do so only to remind themselves of their youthful mistakes; they choke up their stories through what-the-fuck smirks, happy to resurrect the memories but afraid they might turn into zombies that devour the present. They no longer "Hate in the '80s"; that was another lifetime and four marriages ago.
Besides, there's nothing at all charming about this backward-glancing disc. Stick Men was the middle finger of local punk rock, a shove from behind and a kick in the head. Even now, Clarke Blacker prefaces the band's Web site (www.stickmenwithrayguns.com, from which this disc is available), with a warning that Stick Men "was not a racist, white power, or Nazi band"--despite taking its name from a Soxx-penned comic about a kid who uses a laser to "smell that sweet stench of fried nigger" (look, it's all there on the Web site). Blacker explains that "we were exploring the irrationality of anger, and the intention was to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible." He offers this as both rationalization and apology, since 20 years of hindsight can make even a proud man mighty regretful.
This disc will neither embellish nor sully the reputation of Dallas' most beloved and most reviled band. You can barely make out the lyrics to "Grave City" ("The trench coat of oppression/It screams, to leave them death," Soxx coughs up), much less the chord changes to "Satan Baby" and "Buttfuckers (Try to Run My Life!)" and "Pee Pee in the Disco Mommy (I Gotta)." It's a mass of confusion and distortion, a postcard from the past that comes marked "return to sender." Only the nostalgia rapists will find any pleasure in listening to this hazy static, which sounds as though it was recorded through a transistor radio placed inside a coffin. And yet, something like Some People Deserve to Suffer needs to exist, if only to clarify the past and remind some of us that great myths do not always leave behind great, or even good, music. Sometimes, we confuse the two. Not this time.
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