Music News

New Bomb Turks

For a movement intended to destroy every bloated, redundant, stereotypical genre in its path, punk rock sure turned out to be conservative. Most bands currently operating within its boundaries wouldn't think of trying anything new. Their idea of success isn't exploding expectations but catering to them by slavishly imitating every riff, beat and nuance of a formula that's been in place since long before Johnny Rotten had a talk show on VH1. In this sense, they're not a whole lot different than oldies acts playing the corporate circuit. Beyond the costumes, that is.

And yet there are moments when the sheer aggressiveness of punk at its best overcomes all objections -- and Nightmare Scenario is full of them. This four-piece, which has been hammering away since 1990, when its members were all students at Ohio State University, doesn't go in for that pop-friendly Blink-182 style. Singer Eric Davidson and associates prefer a scorched-earth policy, and on "Point A to Point Blank," an amphetamine rush featuring the cocky boast "I dare you to hum this," they use their instruments like flame-throwers. Better yet, the disc seldom allows you to catch a breath; "Killer's Kiss" and "Your Beaten Heart," which qualify as mid-tempo for these guys, keep the pot warm until "Continental Cats" and "Spanish Fly by Night" make it boil over.

Things get hot lyrically as well, particularly on "Turning Tricks," which is filled with bizarre Biblical imagery ("Mary kissed the feet/Well, I can kiss feet too/But I'd rather dance/There's no apology in this tramp's pants"), and "Quarter to Four," an end-of-the-night song that does Frank Sinatra a good hour better. Even better is "End of the Great Credibility Race," a declaration of purpose that doesn't shy away from naming names. Shouts Davidson, "I wasn't built to spill/I ain't no modest mouse.../Life's too short for all this fucking crap/Before you know it, you're at your crypt/Reading your epitaph."

Such impolitic behavior is all too rare in commercial punk, which is as much about sales as is Britney Spears -- but this what-the-hell? attitude is what makes the disc stick. When the Turks are tearing things up, punk rock still seems like something worth caring about. Can you believe it?

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts