Refuse to Lose

Musician Christy Darlington could have—and perhaps should have—quit years ago. So why didn't he?

"My stuff's been in and out of the pawn shop so many times," he says. "I just scrape by eating mac and cheese and ramen noodles. I can barely afford to do shit."

And yet, he always manages another album. His latest is Euthanize Me, which touts a political edge not seen in previous efforts. His concerns are left-leaning and not particularly sophisticated--don't tell me how to live my life, you conservative white Nazis; skateboarding is not a crime, etc. "Rich whites get away with everything, while all the lower-class poor get it up the ass," he sings in the opener, "F-Em." It's not exactly what you expect from the man who wrote "Pajama Party" and "Boobs, Boobs, Boobs."

Euthanize Me is distributed by Disaster Records, the California punk label co-owned by former US Bombs member Duane Peters, and like many of Darlington's other albums, it was recorded in a blur of about 24 hours. Visneau played on it, along with bassist Omar Yefoon, but they didn't even learn the songs until getting into the studio. The liner notes read, "I know people are gonna slag this record off like they do all my other records, saying my vocals suck, my lyrics are dumb, the production's bad, it's all a big ripoff, etc. etc., but I don't care."

"Anyone who says they don't want to be popular and famous and have as many people listening to their music as possible is full of bullshit," Christy Darlington says.
Mark Graham
"Anyone who says they don't want to be popular and famous and have as many people listening to their music as possible is full of bullshit," Christy Darlington says.

Which is too bad. My problem with Euthanize Me is more or less the problem I have with every Darlington album: Amusing songs sit alongside too many sloppy ones. It's slapdash even for a genre founded on chaos and three chords.

That was the problem Last Beat had with Darlington. The studio recorded two albums and had plans for a third, but they changed their mind. "I was interested in 15 songs, but I wanted 15 great songs," Tami Thomsen explains. "If I had to say, for lack of a better word, Chris' weakness, that's it. Sometimes quantity has risen above quality."

Listening to his rather voluminous body of work, I wish Christy had been more patient, culling the best of his songs for one great album instead of spreading them thinly across eight. This has been the critical rap on his work: good ideas, bad execution.

"I guess I could take two years to record an album and try to make it perfect," he says when I mention this to him one afternoon. "But if you're out of the public eye for too long, people forget about you." He shot back with a series of excuses for his albums' inadequate production, from financial considerations to punk aesthetics.

The following day, he sent me an e-mail. "i dont think production has much to do with whether an artist sells or not," he wrote. "some people happen to think the production on some of my cds is quite good...read my reviews. the good ones praise me like i am amazing. are those people unqualified to make a judgement? or are the only people qualified those who say negative things?"

The life of any artist is littered with rejections and a thousand nos. Those who endure the beatdown are the ones who can turn off the noise, filter out all the negativity and just keep walking into the storm.

Sometimes, though, you wish they'd take the hint.


A few days later, Christy had already found possible distribution for his next album, Lab 257, named after the controversial biowarfare lab. If he could trust a recent series of adoring, polite e-mails he'd been receiving in broken English, the album was going to find a home--in Russia.

He's always been rather ingenious about finding ways to release his albums. After the band was dropped by Last Beat, he found alternate distribution on New York-based Whoa Oh ("Losing money since 1998!") and Holland-based Stardumb. He has eight albums, yes, but also four split 7-inch EPs, four full 7-inch EPs, one split CD, one split 12-inch on vinyl, one full 12-inch on vinyl, and he's been on somewhere between 15 and 20 compilations. On Interpunk.com, an online store, Darlington has 30 items on sale--from albums to T-shirts to buttons to a key chain that reads, "Party Like a Sorority Girl."

"I don't think people here realize all these things he's doing," says Dylan Silvers, who played with Mess and is now the vocalist-guitarist for [DARYL]. "I remember seeing a 7-inch from Italy with our picture on it--with my picture on it--and I was like, 'What?' I didn't even know that was happening."

More than anything, it's this restlessness, this utter relentlessness that sets Christy Darlington apart from everyone else. "I can see Chris, 20 years from now, still getting under people's skin for one thing or the other, still being opinionated, still calling the Observermusic editor and introducing himself," Thomsen says. "Maybe he's unrealistic, maybe he's naïve, but I like that about him. I'm a rather realistic person myself."

His local fan base may have withered over the years, but Christy maintains an online cult of hardcore pop-punk fans who blog his every release. One superfan described him as his own personal Elvis. Another, an Ivy League student in Boston, tattooed Christy's face on his leg.

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