Rediscovering punk's appeal
Reviewed October 2009
Rockin' at Ground Zero
By The Gears
Hepcat Records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Listening to The Gears is like discovering punk rock all over again. One of the greatest things about music is its ability to regenerate itself, constantly breathing new and exciting life into the same old tones and words. You listen to an album, band or genre way too many times, until it seems you never want to hear it again. But then, after some time, the magic returns. For me, this is especially true with punk rock, my first true musical love. What was enthralling and exhilarating grew stale with time. Even I occasionally tire of the same three chords and angry messages. Then, lightening strikes all over again, reminding me of what was so endearing about the stuff all along. The Gears' "Rockin' at Ground Zero" is my latest shot of electricity.
True, there's no supreme artistry here, no profound soul searching or gut-wrenching confessions. What you do get is a good dose of loud, raw, fast rock 'n' roll, played by a group of no-goodnicks who sound as if they're sincerely enjoying it which can be rare for punk music. That's really the key to the disc's ability to renew my love of late '70s, Southern California punk rock. Hearing them getting their rocks off reminds me of why the music was so vital it allows us to blow off steam and have fun while exorcising our demons.
The music sounds new and fresh, because it was to them. The band formed in 1978, a time when the punk scene was really taking shape in Los Angeles. It's no derivative, new-school crap. It's the stuff smelly, angry teenagers would pogo to in dilapidated, humid clubs, enamored with the fact that their version or rock 'n' roll was so much louder and faster than their parents'. Some of it is surprisingly melodic, with tinges of rockabilly, but it never gets poppy enough to take away from the growl and attack. Song titles such as "Don't Be Afraid to Pogo," "High School Girls" and "I Smoke Dope" give you a feel of the kind of world you're entering by popping on this album. They're some of the more memorable tunes, too.
With this CD, you get the original 1980 LP of the same name, as well as a few tracks from singles and some demos. Some editions also have a separate disc with the complete recorded works of The D.I.s, the band vocalist Axxel G Reese and drummer Dave Drive formed after The Gears broke up in 1982. This one is of a similar vein, but is more poppy with an even stronger rockabilly vibe. It's fun to hear the band expanding and exploring new genres, but it doesn't quite pack the wallop that The Gears material does. You best bet is to pick them both up, since they're worth the price and will each satiate different moods, but if you're only getting one, stick with the earlier stuff. Who knows, hearing young hooligans discover a love for punk rock may even rekindle an aging fascination.
Review by Stacy Brandt. Stacy is a writer and musician in San Diego.