08 December 2007


My 11 Favorite Milwaukee Bands Of The 1980's

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11: The Frogs
It's entirely possible that The Frogs were merely a myth in Milwaukee in the 1980's...Stories of them existed on "the streets", as I recall, but it wasn't until the 1990's and some inconceivable link to the Grunge movement that I ever saw 'em live or heard their recordings...In fact, my sole experience with The Frogs was their opening slot on Pearl Jam's show at the Marcus Ampitheater in the summer of 1995...By that time The Frogs were notorious on a national scale for their racist, homophobic lyrics and propensity for wearing huge angel wings on stage...Anyways, it was a fun and interesting and quite memorable performance that evening - Eddie Vedder joined 'em for a couple of songs, and later dedicated one of Pearl Jam's tunes to 'em...

10: E*I*E*I*O
EIEIO was probably the most traditional band that I liked back then, and they really were pretty fucking traditional with their roots rock and rockabilly stylings...Add a dash of punk verve, some jangle, and basically what ya get is Milwaukee's version of REM crossed with The Blasters...A very tight band, as I recall, and I probably saw them live about 8 times, most of them quite by accident, like walking into the UWM union one day and finding the band setting up their gear, or walking bored and aimless around the eastside, and finally ducking into Vitucci's and finding 'em on the bill...

09: Bad Boy
I took an easy poke at Bad Boy in a previous post, but the truth is, I saw Bad boy play live about as often as any other "cooler" band in the local scene back then...It's easiest to call them a Hair Metal band, though saying they were Power Pop isn't out of the question...In fact, guitarist Xeno had once upon a time played in Cheap Trick, and Bad Boy did, in fact, have alot in common with that band...Let's not forget, I lost my virginity to Cheap Trick's Heaven Tonight album, so my feelings run deep with this kinda stuff, deeper than an aging hipster like myself might care to admit...Anyways, Bad Boy had teased hair, satin pants, and plenty of songs about champagne, cocaine, and sex on yachts...My cousin Chico once left my copy of Bad Boy's Private Party LP on the hood of his car...He did replace the LP eventually, but I'm still waiting on those two Nightranger albums he wrecked as well...A decade later he did a stint in the state pen, and nowadays I think he sells cars up near Sheboygan...Our family is not tight, and I've lost track...

08: The Oil Tasters
The Oil Tasters were probably the most high-minded band of the Milwaukee scene back in the 1980's. Musically they played a fairly potent blend of Art Funk/Jazz Junk that I recall as being pretty original back then, especially coming from a drums-bass-sax trio, but would probably sound fairly pedestrian nowadays. Think of the band Morphine with a music education, or The Violent Femmes with some Afro-Soul...Anyways, in the end it was The Oil Tasters trippy lyrics that set 'em apart. Now, legendary Milwaukee band Couch Flambeau had trippy lyrics as well, but The Oil Tasters took the dada to a whole new poetic level. If I were a bit older, I could imagine The Oil Tasters being much higher on this list, but they were probably about 3-4 years too soon for me, and I was underaged when they were making the Milwaukee scene. Finally, I should note that Guy Hoffman was The Oil Tasters' drummer, and Mr. Hoffman must surely be considered one of the BIGGEST of players in Milwaukee's rock history. First, he was a founder of The Haskels, perhaps the first and best and most popular Milwaukee Pop Punk bands from the 1970's, then The Oil Tasters, the BoDeans, and finally joining the Violent Femmes in the 1990's after Victor DeLorenzo's departure from that band...

07: Yipes!
To be honest, Yipes! eponymous debut was released in 1979, but it got plenty of spins on my turntable over the next few years, so I figure they qualify...Plus they did release a second album some time in the actual 1980's, even though it was a pale imitation of the debut...Anyways, Yipes! was nothing more and nothing less than a tight and clever Power Pop band, with wry and clever lyrics about rich girls, gutter punks, and that whole Romeo & Juliet kinda thing...If Yipes! had been just a little more New Wave and a bit less mid-western, they would have been perfect for the film Valley Girl...

06: Blacklist
As their name should suggest, Blacklist were a Heavy Metal band...To be more specific, they were a denim and leather kinda biker metal band, akin to Saxon and Judas Priest and a slew of other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands popular at that time...Except Blacklist had beer bellies, and less impressive moustaches, and their duel-lead guitars weren't quite as tight as their British brethren...Still, they were just about the heaviest, metallist thing going in SE Wisconsin back then, and that's gotta count for something, right?

05: Boy Dirt Car
Boy Dirt Car were formed in 1981 by two dudes, Darren Brown and Eric Lunde, but they had many co-conspirators in the creation of their industrial punk sounds, including Dan Kubinski and Keith Brammer of Die Kreuzen...When I say "industrial", I really mean it, because these guys relied heavily on scrap metal and tools for much of their percussion and plenty of their songs textures...Oh sure, there were guitars and synths and basses too, but these guys were playing a pretty radical kind of music for the era, in a city like Milwaukee...

04: Killdozer
Killdozer maybe shouldn't be on this list, because they were a Madison band, but when it's a 75 minute straight shot on I-94 between Madtown and the Cream City, who's gonna argue? Killdozer played Milwaukee plenty, and my teenaged circle certainly visited Madison whenever we could wrangle a reliable car, but I must admit, I only saw two or three or possibly four Killdozer shows in the day, but damn, they laid down some pretty righteous sludge...Mostly mid-tempo, with plenty of feedback, vocals that growled and screeched oftentimes humorous words about city living and leftist politics...Another example of how Grunge could have just as easily happened here in the midwest. As it was, Killdozer ended up on Touch'n'Go, and were maybe the most successful band ever outta Madison until Garbage made the scene.

03: Die Kreuzen
I've written my share about Die Kreuzen in previous posts, so I'll be brief here...As far as I can tell, their name, Die Kreuzen, roughly translates from German as "The Hybrid", and that name pretty much somes up the potent mixture of so many influences found in their music - Metal, Punk, Prog Rock, No Wave, and even, I daresay, Jazz. Riveting stuff from an intense and skillful band that is only now starting to get a bit of their due...

02: The Violent Femmes
I'm sure anybody reading this has at least heard of The Violent Femmes, and I would guess plenty of you have heard, or even own, the band's eponymous debut album...Indeed, that album is actually one of the ten on my DESERT ISLAND DISCS, that's how much I love that album, and how much it means to my sentimentally...I've got sooo many Femmes-related stories that I could easily do one or two very long chapters just about them if I ever found reason to write an autobiography...And you know, if I could take another ten albums to that deserted isle, I may very well grab their second album, Hallowed Ground, as well...After that, the band kinda lost their mojo, but for a brief, brilliantly shining moment, the Violent Femmes were perhaps the greatest band in my universe...

01: Couch Flambeau
And yet, after gushing over the Femmes, here I am ranking Couch Flambeau as my favorite Milwaukee band from the 1980's...But see - here's the deal...Couch Flambeau wrote silly, stupid, sometimes Dada songs about silly, stupid subjects, and these songs were far from musically sophisticated, and Jay Tiller, Neil Socol and Ron Faiola were not exactly the most skillful players on the scene, and I think it was this snarky simplicity that endeared this band to me and my teenaged friends...This was perfect stuff for a bunch of 15 year olds, and great inspiration for those of us trying to write songs and play in bands ourselves...In the end, they were definitely doing something right, because I can still listen to their Curiosity Rocks cassette for the 1000th time, and it still sounds good, and fresh and fun...

Hotcha! Hank

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about "3 on Fire"?

January 05, 2009 8:08 PM  

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