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Notes from the underground
Independence Makes Distribution Difficult
Various artists
Buzzmonger

This compilation from Buzzmonger is the musical equivalent of the 'zine that spawned it--loud, wacky, abrasive, abusive, as worthless as it is worthwhile. And like the fanzine culture itself, which thrives on an us-versus-them attitude, Independence Makes has a difficult time separating the trash from the treasures, celebrating the mediocre merely for being loud and different and pissed-off--which, to a large extent, is why the punks now have long headbangers' hair and the metalboys are listening to Green Day. Who can tell the difference? No one, because they don't have to anymore.

So most of this 21-"song" disc is noise by way of what used to be called metal before it regressed back into punk, whether it's the disco-industrial of Stink!#bug ("She Said," a rare highlight) or the dirge-industrial of Prison Rape Scenes ("Beer, Ammo, Meat") or the schmuck-punk of Dead Boy Choir ("Condom Sense") or the avant-noise of Vas Deferens Organization ("Dondes Los Medios") or the speed-metal of Austin's Agony Column ("Drink & Fight"). None of it's easy to take for any substantial length of time (say, a minute) because, in the long run, it's nothing but a fuck-you to the audience that would buy it in the first place. There's a reason this stuff doesn't get signed to the major labels Buzzmonger hates so much: Either it's already got a deal (Pantera and every death-rock band on Relativity seems to be a common frame of reference), or it reeks of yesterday's trash. But give this compilation credit: Unlike most collections, it's at least consistent.

For the first 15 tracks, Independence Makes plays itself out like a Tuesday night at the old Basement--bands so hilarious or so lousy or so hilariously lousy that it all becomes a blur of guitars and testosterone looking for credibility behind a curtain marked "punk." For every band that sticks out for a bright moment among the darkness (Thermus; The Big Train; Jeff Liles' cottonmouth, texas, who shouldn't have degraded himself so by agreeing to be on here), there are four or a dozen suckers to spoil the moment. And then the disc devolves quickly into the techno-disco-industrial-trance-dance section that climaxes with a squalid feedback-and-static episode from something called Scar 99 that someone no doubt confused with "art."

Independence Makes Distribution Difficult is available by sending $10 to Mike Wilshin/Buzzmonger CD, P.O. Box 1205, Dallas, 75221-1205.

--Robert Wilonsky

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