Sacramento, City of a Beer

Posted on February 2, 2011 – 10:37 AM | by OldManFoster
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By Dennis Yudt

When the Sacramento: City of a Beer 7” EP came out in the late spring of 1998, it was intended to be a document of the Midtown punk scene that had centered around The Loft, the now legendary/infamous performance space that inhabited a 15’ x 30’ room behind Time Tested Books on 21st Street. The six bands featured – The Bananas, Nar, The Lazy J’s, Karate Party, The Transplants and Los Huevos – exemplified the “Sacto Punx” sound: irreverent and smart-alecky lo-fi songs that had a broken heart of pop that bridged the gaps between the Class of ’77 UK punk, the first wave of Rough Trade bands and the sounds coming outta the East Bay via the Too Many, Very Small and Lookout! labels. It was an infectious mix and sounded great with a couple tall cool ones under the belt.
Compiled by Scott Soriano for his Moo-La-La label, the intention was simple – to put together a perfect EP – and the results reflects Soriano’s quality control and his seasoned ear for great songs. All six tracks are essential listens for anyone with a passing interest in not only punk, but our cool, self-contained music scene in Sacramento.

The Bananas jump out of the gate like a rabid thoroughbred, Sea Biscuit racing towards oblivion completely out of his gourd. Their song “Enemies Everywhere” is NorCal hardcore in delivery with a paranoid bent, its “I look around me/All I see are enemies” isn’t so much tongue-in-cheek as much as tongue-through-the cheek. The bridge towards the end is especially sweet.

“Tradewinds,” the track by the criminally under-appreciated Nar, clocks in at barely under two minutes and in those scant 120 seconds you can hear everything from Wire’s pure-pop moments like “Map Ref…” or “Outdoor Miner” and Television Personalities to early, early Guided By Voices, Tullycraft and the more abrasive sounds off the Sarah and Postcard label (think Orange Juice, Boyracer and The Pastels). Guitarist/singer Scott Miller’ is one of my all-time favorite vocalists; his enthusiastic and endearing yelp sweetens whatever fidgety pop constructs the band throws out. And on drums is this issue’s brewing history point man, Ed Carroll, who also wrote the liner notes for this release, a faux “history” of Sacramento brewing.

Mr. Carroll is also featured on my favorite track on this comp, “She’s So Refined” by the Lazy J’s. Sounding both retro and contempo at the same time, it’s a stuttering adrenaline chug of garage-isms andgreat big hooks-both vocally and musically. If a cross between Biff Bang Pow!, Rubber Soul-era Beatles and the Undertones warms the nether regions, listening to this track should be a top priority. Lazy J’s featured the late Micah Kennedy on guitar/vocals and this song immortalizes his voice and talent and that in itself makes this a special record.

The flipside takes more chances sonically with not-quite-straight versions of p-rock formalisms. Karate Party’s “Ball Game” is purportedly about the national pastime and if all sport-themed songs were this unhinged, I might be seen in the bleachers more. A straighter take on early Boredoms, The Fall’s Grotesque LP at 45 RPMs and the singy-songy side of Happy Flowers all come to mind hearing “Ball Game”. And as Harry Carey use to say “Holy fucking shit!” Or something like that.

Never saw the Transplants play live, but after hearing their ditty “Hella Tight”, I now have one more regret in my life. About a minute long, it certainly wouldn’t be out of place on a mix tape between tracks by The Urinals and Schlong. And by the end of the song, you’ll think your turntable has taken a massive dump. Which is always cool to hear.

The grand finale is by some schlubs called Los Huevos with their barely-recognizable cover of “Rocks Off” by some band called the Rolling Stones. Dropping the ramshacked smack-blues of the original and replacing it with slam-glam-garage and a line of speed was a fine, fine idea. Most people on this comp played in Los Huevos at one time or another, kinda making them the Jazz Messengers of Sacto punk, which is both weird and cool to think about.

Sacramento: City of a Beer comes housed in a sweet lil’ 12-page booklet, with bios and discogs on all the bands, a mission statement by Major Domo Soriano, a page of Dave Smith-isms and the aforementioned “A Partial History of Brewing in The Sacramento Valley” by Ed Carroll. Throw in a Pete Frame-styled family tree of Sacramento Midtown punk from 1977 thru 1998 and you have a definitive and essential compilation, a love letter to our scene here and a perfect moment/memory frozen in time. That’s worth hoisting a pint to. You’re buyin’, right?

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  1. 2 Responses to “Sacramento, City of a Beer”

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    By Kendra on Feb 22, 2011 | Reply

    I just found a copy of the 7″ at KALX in Berkeley last week and was bummed I didn’t know about it sooner. This write-up makes me want to go listen to it right now.

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