Graded on a Curve:
Frantix,
My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic

Mention the Rocky Mountains and music, and people immediately think John Denver, the chipmunk-cheeked eco-folkie who sang about sunshine on his shoulder making him high and going crazy and trying to touch the sun. I don’t know why the man’s considered such a square commodity. He sounds like a raving acid casualty to me.

John Denver will always be Colorado’s most famous spiritual son, in part because he was all over your television set and in part because he liked to hang with such high-profile glamour set types as the Muppets. But Colorado was also home to one of my favorite hardcore bands, Frantix.

If you’ve never heard of Frantix, I get it; Colorado was barely a stopping point on the hardcore circuit, much less a breeding ground for indigenous bands. Denver was Deadsville, and Frantix didn’t even come out Denver–they were spawned in the sprawling Denver suburb of Aurora. But no surprise there; many of America’s greatest hardcore bands emerged from the teenage wastelands of suburbia, and in the early ’80s Aurora had the distinction of being the fastest growing suburb in the United States.

I like the John Denver-Frantix dichotomy–it speaks to a Colorado schism that is both geographical and spiritual. You have Denver seeking God and Inner Peace in the mountains, and Frantix finding nothing worth living for in the God-blasted cities of the plains below. In their own ways both Denver and Frantix were spiritual entities–Denver sought the divine in the sanctified heights, while Frantix cursed God’s absence in the urban sprawl of materialist America’s equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Me, I never even heard of Frantix in my hardcore days; heck, I wouldn’t know about ‘em at all if Steven Blush hadn’t mentioned them in passing in his book American Hardcore: A Tribal History. But I’m very happy to discover them now in the form of the 2014 Alternative Tentacles 23-track compilation My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic. The comp includes the two 7-inches the band released during its short career, along with a whole slew of unreleased live cuts and demo recordings.

Frantix eschewed the louder-faster ethos of early hardcore for the molten grind of such great slower-than-thou bands as Flipper and No Trend, and good for them–faster and louder was THEE FORMULA back then, and it got real old real fast. The only bands that won my attention and abiding love were the ones who possessed the good sense and originality to break with hardcore orthodoxy. To quote the Butthole Surfers’ King Koffee, “I thought bands who played straight-ahead Hardcore music missed the whole point. Playing Hardcore became like being in a rockabilly band… the ritual became retarded.”

That said, Frantix weren’t as uncompromising as Flipper–not all of the songs on My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic move at the steamroller pace of the title track or “Face Reality.” As a matter of fact, most of them (see the clocks-in-at-less-than 30-seconds “Cat/Mouse” or the superfuzz monsters “Static Cling” and “FM Ear”) actually motorvate. But Frantix ups the sludge factor to 11 throughout, so that regardless of the tempos you feel like you’re drowning in molasses. It’s a short leap from sludge to grunge, and not for nothing did three of the members of Frantix go on to help form those Sub Pop mainstays The Fluid.

This is HEAVY music; the title cut grinds exceedingly slow, striking a perfect balance between Flipper and Cows’ cover of “Shakin’ All Over.” (These guys were playing noise rock before the term was even coined!) Their live instrumental “cover” of P. Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” might as well be by Black Sabbath; I’ll betcha the stage-diving mooks in the audience hated it. “Car” may head down the highway at a faster than legal clip, but it’s anything but a formulaic hardcore tune; the bottom’s too big, the guitar too fuzzed up and flat-out ugly. As for vocalist Marc Deaton, he never deviates from an emotionless bellow–you can blame “melodic hardcore” on a whole lot of assholes I’ll never forgive, but these guys ain’t them.

Look, it’s real simple. If you like the kind of unreconstructed noise that’s guaranteed to give you a brain tumor, or you’re a fan of Flipper or No Trend or any of the bands (Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Butthole Surfers, etc.) that said sayonara to Hardcore and went their idiosyncratic ways, you’ll love Frantix. Just check out their immortal club anthem “Dancin’ to Punk” if you don’t believe me. How it didn’t conquer dance floors from Harlem to Helsinki is beyond me.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A-

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