Bits Of Shit : Cut Sleeves
While serving out his jail term in the mid-'70s, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer avoided aligning himself with the so-called punk scenes on either side of the Atlantic (in jail, the label of ‘punk’ was little more than a ticket to cruel and inhumane punishment from fellow inmates). Outside the walls of Kramer’s temporary penitentiary residence, artists, critics, scenesters and industry shysters strove unsuccessfully to nail the definition of the jelly-like concept of punk to the sociological wall. Like American Supreme Court judge Felix Frankfurter’s famous subjective assessment of pornography: punk is in the eye of the beholder.
Thirty-five years later, and punk is no closer to precise definition. An ever-changing collage of attitude, confrontational rhetoric, musical style and visual aesthetic, punk is what it is, to anyone who gives a shit. And Bits Of Shit give a shit about punk rock. It’s there immediately in the band’s name: profane, juvenile and self-deprecating, it is a self-flagellating rhetorical statement that flips the bird at the efforts of other bands to fellate their way into punk rock credibility.
And then there’s the music. Bits Of Shit’s debut album Cut Sleeves – released on Richie Ramone’s newly minted Homeless Records – is everything rock’n’roll should be, in its most abrasive guise. It starts in honourable fashion: F is built on a bullet-proof foundation of dirty rock riff and pulsing back beat, the track building gradually to a crescendo, dragging even the most sceptical observer along for a ride down the blood-and-speed-stained back streets of LA c1978. Rock Sing roars into aural consciousness like a kid thrashing his V8 on a suburban street. The vocals are laden with attitude and invective, the image of a ranting Jello Biafra just visible in the distance. On Ownership, Bits Of Shit are a bunch of geezers in the old country, rallying against the sludge and drudge of the mainstream world around them. Every lick hits like a one-inch punch from Bruce Lee, each lyric spat with Lydon-esque passion.
The Wedding Song offers a brutal journey into threatening territory where the only matrimonial action is the man-love for Ian Rilen’s tattooed pop sensibility. Out Of Toon is a sneering misfit walking into town with a handful of Germs bootlegs, and confrontation on his mind. Patrol is borderline psychotic, resisting all efforts at constraint, waiting on the edge of Richard Hell’s peculiar concept of sanity for the signal to go ballistic. Red Blade is the closest thing to a linear rock song on the album; like the somnambulant junkies of punk rock yore, there’s a level of catharsis bubbling below the lo-fi surface, and it’s best to keep your ear to the ground. On Traps, the extreme end of Greasy Pop rears its battered head. Reign marries the dumb and dirty attitude of The Ramones with the guitar heroics of its post-Birdman imitators. Tally’s Blind is as sophisticated as Depression kicking the shit out of a flaccid emo act. Flunkies shadow-boxes in the dimly lit corners of the Roxy – bleary-eyed but still keen to impress. On Intro, Kiss’s Makin’ Love slides into bed with Pissed Jeans and makes deep and passionate love. There’s a Celibate Rifles-style arid punk-rock sensibility in Orphan Age that’s just crying out to be embraced and covered with drunken displays of affection.
This isn’t just a good punk-rock record, it’s what punk rock should always be. Bits Of Shit have seen the future of rock’n’roll, and it’s brash, arrogant, loud and provocative. And long may it reign.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: F
If You Like These, You’ll Like This: BLACK FLAG, PISSED JEANS, DEAD KENNEDYS
In A Word: Punk