Johnny Thunders & The Chesterfield Kings – “Critic’s Choice” 7″ (1992)

I tell the truth,
Even when I’m lyin’…
— “Critic’s Choice”

Johnny Thunders was arguably one of the more inconsistent musicians ever, and certainly a poster boy for not doing heroin. A one-time member of classic bands like the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, his live performances ranged from brilliant to drunken drug-addled disasters.

The “Critic’s Choice” 7″ was released in Japan in 1992, the year after Thunders’ questionably caused death the prior year, one attributed to either an overdose or homicide. The three-song record sees Johnny performing with garage rockers The Chesterfield Kings, material that seems to have a sort of country rock vibe to it. The B side includes two live tracks, “I’d Much Rather Be With the Boys” and “London Boys,” the latter of which is the most punk song on the collection. The quality is OK; the live tracks are certainly a bit muddy, but hey, they’re live, right?

You probably have to be a big Johnny Thunders fan to get much enjoyment out of this. “Critic’s Choice” is decent, but there isn’t a lot here terribly exciting for the casual fan.

“So Indie It Hurts – ROIR Rocks! Vol. One” (2009)

I almost flipped right past this comp the other day in my rush to get my hands on the best of the vinyl that was still available at Easy Street Records right before it closed. After all, there it is right on the cover in big letters – “INDIE”. That word immediate conjures up images of early 90s skinny jeans wearing snotty pretentiousness. But something else caught my eye even as I was in the process of quickly flipping to the next record – “DICTATORS”. Now wait a minute. The Dictators are many things, but what they are not (at least in my way of thinking) is “indie”. I flipped back and was immediately impressed with the artist list on this thing – Bad Brains, Johnny Thunders, Flipper, MC5…. it was actually a hell of a lineup. And it was on sale, so into my growing stack of vinyl it went.

Readers of this blog know I like a good comp. Which sometimes strikes me as odd. I mean, I’m the guy who never listens to his iPod on shuffle, but instead picks an album and listens to it all the way through (at least I do at work… in the car I’ve been known to bounce around all over the place). I don’t even create playlists! So why do I like comps, which are really a lot like a playlist on shuffle? I don’t know, man. There’s probably something wrong with how my brain is wired, which may also explain why I’m into Icelandic music, why I like Japanese fiction, and could even get to the root of why I use the word “dude” so much in conversation and never seem to tell the same story in exactly the same way twice. Or those could be completely unrelated quirks. In the interest of full disclosure, in the second grade I did crash face first into a vertical metal pole on the playground (the supports for the monkey bars) hard enough to see stars and drive my lower teeth through my lip. So it could be that too. We won’t even talk about all the crap I did in high school.

But back to So Indie It Hurts. This sucker has a really nice track list covering a pretty long period of proto-punk to hardcore:

Side A

Bad Brains – “Big Take Over”
Styrenes – “Radial Arm Saws”
Dub Trio w/ Mike Patton – “Not Alone”
Flipper – “Ha Ha Ha”
The Dickies – “Hideous”
Johnny Thunders – “King of the Gypsies”

Side B

James Chance & The Contortions – “Contort Yourself”
Bush Tetras – “Punch Drunk”
MC5 – “Skunk (Sonically Speaking)”
Mirrors – “Another Nail in the Coffin”
Dictators – “Science Gone Too Far”

The one downside of So Indie It Hurts is the inconsistent sound quality. Some tracks, like “Big Take Over,” sound great, but others like “Ha Ha Ha” and “King of the Gypsies” are really low and sound flat. My guess is it was the best they could do with the recordings they had available, and unfortunately this is all too common on punk records, especially early recordings and live tracks. While the quality does detract from the listening experience a bit, there’s some good material here and they did a pretty good job in the band and song selection. So if you know and like some of the bands here, but haven’t heard some of the others, So Indie It Hurts is a good introduction to some new material for you. For me that band was Bush Tetras, who I enjoyed a lot. Who will it be for you?