CH3 (Channel 3) – “Land of the Free” b/w “Make It Home” 7″ (2012)

I accidentally ran across a copy of CH3’s 1982 debut punk masterpiece Fear of Life a while back, and I’ve been following the band on Facebook ever since. And you know what? They’re still putting out new songs. They put out a 7″ last year, and back in 2012 did this little single, which is kind of a mini album in a way – because not only do you get the two songs cut into the vinyl, but you also get a download card including them… plus five more songs! That’s seven songs for the price of a single, my friends.

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t notice the download card until Discogs alerted me to it. The reason is that it actually looks like a CH3 drivers license (you can see it in the pic), and I never bothered to flip it over and look at the other side. So I need to go get my downloads!

(me getting downloads)

Wait, what? OK, CH3 is blowing my mind. Because there weren’t seven songs in the download… there were nine! So CH3 pretty much gave me an entire album for the price of a single.

CH3 has been playing punk for 30+ years. Their style has moved a bit towards the poppy side of the genre, but they still have a bit of that old school sneer. It’s not as angry as their early material, but c’mon, can you really stay that angry for that long and still stay alive for 30 years? I doubt it. But CH3 are putting out some solid music and touring, so good on ’em.

(me sleeping…)

So I didn’t post the above when I originally wrote it Thursday, and since I was working from home the next day I figured I’d check out the download at a somewhat higher than moderate volume. There’s some quality stuff here, so much so in fact that I even spun my copy of Fear of Life afterwards so I could see what kind of a difference 30 years makes. As it turns out, not as much as you’d think. Channel 3 have stayed pretty close to their roots of basic old school punk rock. Fear of Life was certainly rawer and a bit more stripped down than the material from 2012, but the familiarities are there to be heard, right down to having Maria Montoya provide some vocals, appearing on “You Make Me Feel Cheap” in 1982 and “Little Things” on the download. Pretty cool.

“The Enigma Variations” Compilation (1985)

On Friday I decided to stop in at the local used record store on the way home. It’s a relatively small shop, and sometimes the New Arrivals bin doesn’t really look all that new, even though it’s been two or three weeks since I’ve stopped in, but I’m all about trying to support the indie shops so it’s worth poking around. This time there was some new material, and I almost flipped right past this one (for the record, I did flip past it… but came back to it about a minute later because I couldn’t get the cover out of my mind) since the cover gave no indicate as to what it was.

It turned out to be a two LP comp from the Enigma label that came out in 1985, with 26 tracks of various Enigma artists from 1984-85 releases – including one previously unreleased song, “Playback” by SSQ. My interest grew when I saw TSOL and Channel 3 featured on side three, so I decided to make it mine and see what Enigma had going on. I was a little bummed as the second LP turned out to be a bit more warped than I would have expected or liked, but it still played OK… and that’s the risk you take with buying vinyl sometimes, especially if you don’t pay close attention.

Anyway… there’s some good stuff here. The first record seems mostly post-punkish, though Greg Sage’s “Straight Ahead” channeled some Clash-esque attitude, while John Trubee’s “A Blind Man’s Penis” really needs to be heard to be believed (it sounds like an old country recording; about a blind man’s penis; so there). Side three is where the real gems reside, opening strong with 45 Grave’s “Insurance From God” and working through to TSOL (“Flowers by the Door”) and Channel 3 (“True West”) it’s mostly mid-80s style punk rock. The flip side of that disc has a few other worthwhile tracks too, most notably the reggaeish “Lebanon” by The Untouchables and the minimal-synth-new-wave-pop unreleased track by SSQ that wraps the whole thing up.

I know I overpaid a bit for this – even before I bought it I’d confirmed I could have picked it up online for a little more than half the price (and likely with half the wobble), but I’m still glad I bought local and had it to enjoy with Holly and a couple of cocktails on a Saturday night. Except for that song about the blind guy. That was kind of weird…

 

CH3 (aka Channel 3) – “Fear of Life” (1982)

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).