CH3 (aka Channel 3) – “Fear of Life”

What first attracted me to Fear of Life was the album cover.

The bottom line is that one of the main reasons that cassettes, and later CDs, had a hard time competing with records is the album covers. You almost have to squint to see the cover designs on those smaller formats, but on a 12″ it’s right there in front of you, begging, insisting that you look. And when the cover had two hands holding a Colt .44 in such a way that it’s pointing at the holder, it catches your attention. So when I saw this at Jive Time Records I knew it was worth a spin on their turntable, and 30 seconds later I knew I had to buy it.

CH3 aka Channel 3 aka Channel Three is classic early 1980s punk from California. It’s faster than it’s late 70s counterparts from England, with a speed that is moving quickly towards hardcore, but isn’t quite there yet. For one thing, one of the songs (“You Make Me Feel Cheap”) has backing vocals from a chick… backing vocals really aren’t hardcore, but they work great here. Plus the songs are too long. I can’t find a readily available source for track lengths, but they’re closer to the 3-4 minute range than the typical 1-3 minutes in punk. Really what we’re talking about here is a punk/hard rock hybrid, and one that works.

So what’s the deal with Channel 3? Well, the boys are from Cerritos, California, and they’re still making music (www.chthree.com)… which I didn’t know until just now, and frankly it makes me want to try to see them live. Because Fear of Life is hard and fast. It’s in your face. It’s no frills, but it’s still got some good music on it. Sure, it’s angry. Yeah, there’s a gun on the cover. But the insert photo shows singer Mike Magrann wearing an Aerosmith shirt (to be fair drummer Mike Burton is wearing a Sex Pistols shirt… and sporting an amazing molest-ache), which I think shows the rock roots of Channel 3. Mind you, I’m basing my entire analysis on one album and the t-shirts guys are wearing in one set of photos, so I’m probably not the world’s foremost authority here. But I know what I hear, and it’s some hard driving, early 80s punk that makes you want to get up and start moving around.

I don’t really have a favorite song on Fear of Life. “You Make Me Feel Cheap” sticks out due to it’s female backing vocals, and it’s a good song. “Strength in Numbers” is a tight anthem, complete with the sound of marching soldiers at the end. “You Lie” even reminds me a little of Black Flag – it goes back and forth between fast punk and the slow heavy sound that Flag fans flipped out about on side B of My War. But overall I think this is just a top-to-bottom solid album, one I probably need to burn to mp3 and put on my iTouch so I can listen to it at work while I’m trying to power through spreadsheets (yes, I know, spreadsheets aren’t very punk rock, but I need to work to pay for my records).

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