Graded on a Curve:
Gang Green,
Another Wasted Night

Another Wasted Night—if I were to ever write the story of my youth that would make as good a title as any, although I’m still leaning towards I Lost My Beer Drinking My Mind or 30 Budweisers Over Littlestown. Every night my friends and I got drunk listening to songs about getting drunk like “Six Pack” and “TV Party” and “Too Drunk to Fuck” and “Wasted” and “Weekend” (“I’m doin’ my homework in the bar!”) in somebody’s basement or at the side of a country road or in my pig farmer pal Kevin “Only Guy I’ve Ever Known Who Drank Rock and Rye” Harrison’s trailer. I still get rhapsodic over the smell of pig shit; it reminds me of getting shitfaced.

Provincial philistines that we were, we’d never even heard of Braintree, Massachusetts’ Gang Green, and hence never got to sing along with what is almost certainly the greatest-ever booze-till-you-lose anthem, “Alcohol.” (Second place: Black Flag’s “Six Pack.” Third place: Black Market Baby’s version of “Drunk and Disorderly.”) Even now, 30 odd years later, I could kick myself. All those nights I could have been singing, “We’ll drink until we drop/My blood is 100 prooooooof!!” Lost forever. It remains one of the great regrets of my life.

Gang Green—not to be confused with the execrable Green Day—were for one very inebriated season the Thrash and Beer Kings of Beantown, unrepentant waste cases of the type I have an undying affection for and a staggering, pie-faced, coke-snorting rebuke to the “Boston Crew,” a gang of straightedge assholes who congregated around the bands DYS and Al Barile’s infamous SS Decontrol, the most fascistic and ultra-orthodox “X on the hand” band in the land. The teenie Brownshirts in the Boston Crew helped make Boston’s the most violent hardcore scene outside LA, and Gang Green’s substance-abusing antics were a welcome antidote to SSD’s straightedge thuggery. Even Ian MacKaye was appalled, saying, “Those guys in Boston take straightedge too far. They’re militant about it.”

Gang Green originally formed in 1980, led by 15-year-old vocalist Chris Doherty, but the only songs this first incarnation of the band released during its 4 years in existence were seven tracks on the 1982 compilation This Is Boston, Not L.A. In 1984 Gang Green split up. Doherty spent a year in Jerry’s Kids, then reformed Gang Green with a new line-up consisting of Chuck Stilphen (lead guitar), Glen Stilphen (bass, vocals), and Walter Gustafson (drums). While Gang Green Mark II lasted only a year, it was they who released Another Wasted Night on Taang! Records in 1986. And little did the “Ozzy-loving, beer-swilling, slightly offensive Rock guys” (in the words of XXX editor Mike Gitter) know it, but they had just recorded a hardcore classic, and an inspiration to lushes everywhere except my hometown, where we was too ig’nant and smashed and backwards to know a good thing when we didn’t hear it.

There are lots of reasons to love Gang Green. They had a sense of humor, for one, something your average Straighedger sadly lacked, because as scientists have conclusively demonstrated, people who don’t smoke, drink, or fuck tend to devolve until they’re thinking solely with their lizard brain, and lizards aren’t renowned comedians. Gang Green’s covers of “Sweet Home Alabama” (called “Sold Out Alabama”) and “Crocadile Rock” (sic) are hilarious, as are many of the songs on “Another Wasted Night.” Furthermore, they kept it simple; three chords should be enough for anybody, and are almost as good as two chords. Finally, they didn’t have a protest bone in their body, and if I remember anything about the hardcore years it’s that everybody (even my beloved Minutemen) was ranting on about Reagan this and Reagan that, as if their impotent and unheard cries of outrage were going to push the senile nut out of the White House. As XXX editor Mike Gitter noted, “If Boston bands lacked a sense of social commitment, Gang Green never even considered it.” Asocials—I love ‘em! Almost as much as I love nihilists!

Finally, Gang Green injected a healthy dose of metal into its hardcore, and Ozzy-lovers that they were, sometimes sacrificed loud hard and fast for big crunchy power chords. Anybody who has ever listened (suffered through?) Husker Du’s Land Speed Record knows the absurd lengths bands went to take fast in particular to the very limits of the possible. Whereas Gang Green adapted hardcore for their own purposes the way The Minutemen did, although the two bands sound nothing whatsoever alike.

Anyway, Another Wasted Night is a great album, from its iconic cover photo of a shirtless Chuck Stilphen shredding his vertical guitar to “Alcohol” to the anthemic “Another Wasted Night” to the cranked and cracked cover of ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry.” (The 2006 reissue includes “Voices Scary,” a slow version of the tune with big, dance-friendly drums, synthesizer, and lots of screams and insane laughter in the background. It beats hell out of any of the Madonna-related crap the incorrigible artistes in Sonic Youth ever recorded, that’s for sure.)

I’m reviewing the original U.S. release, which opens with “Another Wasted Night” unless you bought the cassette, in which case the opening track was a live version of “Haunted House,” a studio version of which would also be the first track on their 1987 follow-up, You Got It. Very odd. And there’s also a cassette-only version “L.D.S.B.” as well. Very, very odd indeed. But despite the fact this review is being published in The Vinyl District, let’s pretend you bought the cassette, because you were too stupid to install a record player in your Ford Pinto, the one you totaled when you tried to pull your cassette of Scorpions’ Love at First Sting out of the player and it emerged with about 3 feet of unspooling tape and you were so busy cursing and crying because “Rock You Like a Hurricane” was your very favorite song you veered off the road and sank up to your nostrils in a water-filled ditch.

Anyway, “Haunted House” isn’t my fave, probably because it has nothing to do with beer, but it’s fast as a new-wave zombie (thank God zombies have gotten faster) and as much metal as hardcore, what with its guitar solos—hardcore thought it killed the guitar solo, but the guitar solo is just like a zombie. Gustafson’s drumming is great, Stilphen is a bona fide guitar ace, and the chorus (“There’s no way out/Of a haunted house”) is catchy as Ebola. You were wise to buy the cassette, even if you did wind up spilling beer on it and it sounded funny after that.

“Another Wasted Night” is a classic, a throbbing slice of hardcore that only slows down for the great chorus (“Another wasted night/I’m out on the ground/I’m called a disgrace to this town”). Stilphen plays another pair of metallic KO solos, Gustafson is a pile driver run amok, and Doherty has a great “I don’t give a shit” voice as he delivers the classic lines, “I drink Budweiser religiously/Get so fucked up I can’t even see.” Unlike most of their defiantly pro-drunk tunes, “Another Wasted Night” actually points out the negative consequences of alcohol abuse, demonstrating a sense of self-awareness that I, for one, find regrettable. You’d never catch Germany’s Tankard questioning the glories of the liquored life. Evidently the Krauts in Tankard stay comatose around the clock, thus keeping bothersome ethical questions about their chosen lifestyle at bay. And I say good for them.

I’m not totally enamored of “Skate to Hell” simply because I don’t give a flying fuck about skate culture; I’ve never once had the urge to fly along on a board on wheels, which is good because I’m so spastic I’d be sure to break my neck. That said, “Skate to Hell” is a fine but rather generic-sounding slice of hardcore, and unlike its companion piece “Hell,” another skater tune on Another Wasted Night, it lacks the sheer propulsion and concision (“Hell” clocks in at 1:08) to make you feel like you just did a good honking line of crank. What I do like about “Skate to Hell” is Stilphen’s mean-ass guitar shredding and Doherty’s berserker vocals. That and the fine lines, “Ride the boards/Fuck the pigs/We bring the beers/Who could ask for more.” You’ve got to love a band that doesn’t even give enough of a shit to come up with a lyric that rhymes, and that hates the cops, although when I think about it every rocker hates the cops with the exception of Elvis, who was made a Federal-Agent-at-Large in the long-defunct Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs by President Richard M. Nixon despite the fact that he was ingesting more narcotics than the entire Principality of Liechtenstein.

Gang Green’s cover of “Voices Carry” is brilliant thanks largely to the rough-edged, straining vocals of Doherty. That and the big power chords of Stilphen, Gustafson’s usual drum assault and battery, and the great group vocals on “Hush hush!” The synthesizer doesn’t hurt either, and I love the way the song grows louder and more frantic as it comes to a close. And unlike “Sold Out Alabama” and “Crocadile Rock” they’re not cracking wise. Their take on “Voices Carry” is not a parody or cut up, but completely irony free, and in its own way carries as much emotional force as the original. Meanwhile, “Last Chance” is an actual song about romance, and probably my least favorite cut on the LP. Well, I say romance, but that might not be the right word for a song that includes the lines, “This is your last chance/To get inside my pants.” The song starts at breakneck speed, which I like, but the long (for a 2-minute song that is) slow, middle section leaves me cold. That said, Doherty’s vocals are wonderfully raw, Gustafson is a wonder of nature on drums, and Stilphen’s song-ending solo is shredding at an industrial level. Oh, and I love the way the boys shout “Last chance!”

What can I say about “Alcohol”? It’s one of the best songs of the whole era, a poke in the eye to tight-assed teetotalers everywhere and a happy lark at the same time. It opens with a repeated chant of “Gimme a line/Gimme a line” then explodes into a supersized Chuck Berry riff before taking off like a rocket car on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Doherty barks out lyrics like “99 bottles of beer on the wall/I’d rather drink than fuck!” and stretches out words (“That is my destinnnnny!”), the whole crew joins in on the chorus (No doubt about it/I can’t live without it/Alcohol!”), and Stilphen plays like the Wild Man of Borneo, spewing deranged riffs and a short solo. But what I like best about the song is its mixture of defiance and unrepentant glee; rarely has a band made self-destruction sound like so much fun. I try to listen to this baby at least once a week, to remind myself of why I drank (it is fun tearing down your own moral fabric!) and why I don’t drink anymore (100 blackouts, and that’s a conservative estimate.)

“19th Hole” is another boozer, I think (it’s hard to know since I can hardly make out a word and the lyrics aren’t Googleable, a word I just made up), and an odd metaphor for a bunch whose closest brush with golfing probably involved passing out drunk on the 7th green. It opens with some great hardcore drumming, Stilphen comes in with some metallic whiplash guitar, and the song is dominated by Gustafson’s drums and Doherty’s vocals. Oh, and Stilphen’s shreddage, another word I just made up. He plays two wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am solos that’ll have you playing air guitar (oh yes they will). The song has a staggered rhythm and never really goes into full flight, which is probably why I don’t like it as much as some of the album’s other tunes. It’s a foreshadowing of the band’s future metallic direction, which I don’t consider a sell-out but just the way things went—hardcore could only take you so far, and musicians unfortunately got better on their instruments, which left them the option of heading metalwards (a third word I just made up) or following on the heels of Dag Nasty, whom I hold personally responsible for a whole despicable generation of three-part harmony punks. I think the bands that went metal made the right choice; better a metalhead than a purveyor of sissified CS&Ncore any day.

“Have Fun” is a wonderful little ditty, over in a flash but chaotic as the Central African Republic while it lasts. “We just wanna have some fun/We just have some fun!” shouts Doherty over and over while Stilphen has fun on the guitar, throwing out barbed hooks and riffs while Gustafson plays a two-second drum solo that I would trade for John Bonham’s self-indulgent solo on “Toad” in a Beantown second. Meanwhile, the cassette-only closer “L.D.S.B.” is fast but far from hardcore fast, and probably isn’t hardcore at all, but it makes up for its lack of speed with its great group vocals on the chorus (“Let’s drink some beer!”), Stilphen’s titanic hooks and speedy little solo, and Gustafson’s—I love this guy—drum pummel and bona fide drum solo. I’m sorry we Littlestown drunkards didn’t this one to sing along to, because it’s simple enough to remember even when you’re comfortably dumb.

Gang Green never made another album as good as Another Wasted Night, for the reasons stated above and because Doherty fired the entire band and started fresh with new musicians. Since then the band has broken up and reunited more often than Eric Clapton has sold his soul to the Devil, has returned to making punk, and even dabbled in a more pop sound. I can’t say I love any of their later albums, although they all have at least a couple of really cool songs on them. The Taang! Records compilation Preschool is worth owning, because it’s made up mostly of short blasts of hardcore, but only on Another Wasted Night do Gang Green find their métier and true subject matter, one they can pour their heart and soul into the way you pour beer from a pitcher.

Another Wasted Night is a sudsy salute to the shit-faced life, almost certainly the best one ever recorded, Tankard’s multiple paeans to getting totally polluted included. If you like beer the way I like beer, which is to say you’re not some foppish connoisseur who actually judges the stuff by taste but just drinks it in volume to get totally hammered without giving a shit whether it has an oaky finish or not, then you owe it to yourself to drink, I mean listen to, Another Wasted Night. It’ll fuck you up.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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  • the_gillian

    “sissified CS&Ncore”!!!  That is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

  • Michael Little

    Thanks Gillian. What would I do without you, love?

  • the_gillian

    Michael LittleThe feeling is mutual!

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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