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To me, the Killed By Death compilations are the holy grail of punk rock. Sure, the bands covered in STEVE BLUSH’s book, American Hardcore, as well as other oral history books like Please Kill Me and We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb, are great in their own right (well, most of them anyway) and their legacy deserves recognition, but, as with the Nuggets collections, most of the best punk rock and hardcore came from bands that put out a 7” or two and then disappeared into the realities of life.
Take DETENTION’s “Dead Rock ‘N Rollers” 7”, for instance. It has to be one of the best punk singles ever cut, period. Not only are the lyrics hilarious, but the band could actually play! Listen to the guitar – it’s not a typical riff or a typical style of playing for this type of music. The B side, “El Salvador” is also atypical in it’s musical approach – almost post-punk – even if the lyrics are typical hardcore politics. Did I mention that nobody seems to know who Detention were, except that they were from New Jersey?
It’s precisely bands like this, and THE ABSENTEES and THE MAD and THE REACTORS from LA (not Tulsa, OK’s LOS REACTORS, though they were pretty cool, too) that blew my mind when I first heard the KBD LPs years ago.
So maybe you can imagine my excitement when I found Killed By Death Records online. The site is run by PETER, who used to drum for a Swedish jazz-thrash-hardcore band called RAPED TEENAGERS and now drums for a power pop band called THE FLAKES, also from Sweden. I don’t know if he was involved in releasing any of the KBD volumes, but he has most of the songs from those LPs – plus the flip side of the 7” or entire EP depending on the situation – on his website free of charge.
Admittedly, there are moral quandaries connected to downloading in this fashion. Nobody’s getting royalties, etc., but look at it this way: Most of this music is long out-of-print, so the only way to get these records is from record collectors who are going to charge you $400 for a piece of plastic. And do you think that money is going to the band? HELL NO!
The fact is, after the original KBD records came out, various bands and labels realized that there was a demand for more from these unknown bands, and numerous expanded reissues have been released in the past few years. I say download freely from KBDR and, if you like what you hear, look for a reissue and BUY IT (or download it from Emusic or iTunes or something). Let’s face it – most of the people involved with this music are well into their forties (fifties, even), with families and mortgages in their priorities, so do the right thing and help them pay their bills. (By the way, this also helps magazines like The Big Takeover stay in business: when the independent labels make money, they buy ads in magazines like ours, which keeps us in business.)
ALTERNATIVE TENTACLES has done an excellent job reissuing bands like THE EAT, THE MENTALLY ILL and THE SUBHUMANS from Canada. The Absentees, THE LEWD and VKTMS have all been reissued on various labels as well. Yet there are still bands like The Mad and GASOLINE and L SEVEN (not the LA band; the Detroit band featuring LARISSA STRICKLAND of THE LAUGHING HYENAS – RIP) that remain forgotten. Besides, the 7” of FEAR’s “I Love Livin’ in the City” is drastically different from the album version; I’ve never seen the original 7” version of BAD BRAINS’ “Pay to Cum” available on CD anywhere; and, the CHAINSAW collection We Are Not Very Nice completely ignores the See-saw EP. Get my drift?
Looking to rediscover punk all over again? Killed By Death Records is the place to start.
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