Thursday, February 22, 2007

There are no more happy campers ‘cause there is nowhere left to camp.

The blog world seems to be doing just fine with its coverage of new music (referring specifically to the self-sufficiency it retains in keeping up on every bit of air exhaled by Klaxons, Arcade Fire and Lily Allen), so I’ll reserve this day for old news.

Anyone get a chance to watch Punk O Rama TV at the beginning of the decade? It was a half-hour show put on by Epitaph Records, consisting only of videos by the label’s bands, airing on an Anaheim public access channel every Saturday night/Sunday morning at 1:00am (conveniently beginning after SNL ended). If you had better things to do than watch public television on Saturday nights, you probably answered with a “no.” Either way, that show was how I first found out about Dennis Lyxzén projects Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and even through the latter’s awkward handshake with the mainstream, I’ve remained bizarrely obsessed with the man and his work.

93 Million Miles recorded only five songs between 1996 and 1997, spread over a seven-inch and a compilation for Simba Records (both of which, according to Interpunk, are limited to pressings of 1000). In 2003, Simba managed to put them all onto an EP, making the tracks slightly more accessible for batty Refused fans to access. I’d never physically seen this CD until a few days ago – amen for Amoeba’s San Francisco branch – and wound up simultaneously appalled and impressed by the extreme DIY nature of the recordings. A side project including Jon Brännström
and Dennis Lyxzén of Refused (just before Refused released the brilliant A Shape of Punk to Come), as well as bassist Jonas Eriksson (former Refused touring bassist, now of Brisco) and Anders Johansson of Saidiwas, the band marks in its liner notes that the songs were “recorded in a big studio for free by ourselves.” High five!

But aside from “This Party Sucks,” one of the two tracks available on Love is a Dog From Hell, this EP isn’t necessarily an essential, even for a massive fan of Refused and its members’ alternate projects. The sloppy first three tracks aren't much better than what would result from 16-year old emo kids rocking out in a garage; the vocals are a reminder that Lyxzén is a screamer and not a singer (see the Lost Patrol). The lyrics, though politically in line with those of Refused, are not nearly as sharply penned – “this fuckin’ system sucks/one day we will take it all” (of “Campsite Closed”) sums it up about so. Things start picking up a bit over the last couple of tracks, recorded earlier than the first three, and much of this is due to the energy of “This Party Sucks,” ambiguously written about the dullness of pretentious socialites and/or the repugnant political parties that we (don't get to) choose from. It's nothing if standing next to any track from The Shape of Punk to Come, but its hardcore energy is solid enough that with a bit of cleanup (and a bit of tea for Lyxzén's tired throat, it seems), it could almost pass for a piece of the Everlasting EP.

As far as quality goes, this likely isn't going to get much play past the first curious listen or two, though it does get increasingly catchy provided you've got decent headphones to minimize that tin can factor and pick up any of the few layers that are here. What 93 Million Miles does have going for it, as is the case with anything Dennis Lyxzén leads (save for Armed Love, natch) is its sense of urgency; these few songs feel like impulsive efforts that - despite less sophisticated lyrics than usual - take on unapologetically blunt approaches to social class hierarchies, rebellion against capitalism, and workers' woes. Per usual. This band won't see a prominent place in the history of punk rock, twenty years down the line, but for those who've followed Lyxzén's career and are dreading the next clean 'n shiny Rick Rubin-produced T(I)NC album, this EP may be a breath of fresh air. You know, provided you hadn't already gotten your hands on it in the last three years. Forgive the belated review.

Sample and buy [93 Million Miles]
Or, you know, just sample the album


Anonymous said...

i remember the show so well (punk o rama) that i started my own blog just to talk about it.

China said...

Whoa! We were both nerds in 2001. Fabulous.