In 1984, I was entering grade six in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At some point, somewhere towards halfway through the school year, I believe, a new kid named Keith showed up and he was clearly cut from a different cloth than the bulk of the other kids at my school, who were largely moneyed preppy/jock types.
I felt totally alienated at the school and gravitated towards new kids from different backgrounds – two neighbours who were both children of NSCAD art school students/graduates, the son of a country reverend, and the like. I had an interest in skateboarding and so did Keith. Keith hinted at an alternate musical world that he probably gave me a brief introduction to. Bands with curious names like The Adicts, The Toy Dolls, Killing Joke, and so on. I was intrigued.
Keith had an older sister named Pandora who was a fabled creature that I never really saw but Keith had incredible stories about. She had fuchsia pink hair that would make Robert Smith jealous and she was a skatepunk who skated the half pipe at St Andrews community centre. She’d even moved to Montreal and worked for Psyche Industries for a spell.
At various points band stayed at her mom’s house while passing through town for a gig at the Flamingo – The Nils, Doughboys, Swamp Thing, Asexuals, and so on.
Pandora’s bedroom was holy ground –– it featured a large, immaculate and very realistic pencil rendering of Monkey from the Adicts, a huge and very badass Killing Joke poster above the futon, and photos of her with various punk bands including one of her standing between the fully nude members of the Doughboys.
The smell of her bedroom room was magical to a 12-year old boy. Some punky feminine combination of, what, incense and beauty products? And to top it all off she had a flat of New York Seltzer in her closet. Though I probably hardly ever saw her in person, and never spoke more than a few shy words to, I was infatuated.
Keith told Pandora that I was interested in punk and she made me a mix tape. What luck! It was heaven. I don’t recall the exact contents but I have a feeling it included a number of song from both Toy Dolls and The Adicts, as well as DOA, The Clash, and Wendy by the Descendents. I would dearly love to hear that tape again.
For Christmases and birthdays and however else I could put together some cash or convince my parents to buy a record, I would seek out punk and hardcore records. It didn’t amount to much of a collection given the limited means of a sixth grader.
But I spent a fair bit of time at Track Records on Argyle St – owned and operated by a very daunting yet ultimately helpful and friendly dude and filled with amazing records of all underground genres who I later heard became an ambulance driver, and Sam the Record Man in Bayer’s Road, which was staffed by a pretty punk/skateboard type girl that I had of course also had a big crush on.
I assumed that it was under her influence that that Sam’s had a fairly robust collection of punk and hardcore vinyl. One of the best scores I found there was You Are The Scene by Montreal’s Fair Warning. We briefly had another shop here in Halifax called The Record Corner that had a very reputable selection as well of things such as Fugazi, and Blast! and so on and so forth.
Onwards towards grade seven or eight and a friend of a friend had access to his somewhat absentee fathers credit card and/or his father would go away for a considerable length of time and leave him with a stack of money.
With these various sources of revenue, he started taking friends down to Track to buy what they referred to as “Bulk HC”. Huge piles of records were purchased at a time. This seemed wrong to me, it seemed to dishonour what for me was the sacred act of going to the punk record shop and buying an album, which would later be deeply revered and listened to ad nauseam.
I did nevertheless obtain cassette copies of many of the “Bulk HC” purchases including some well-loved Misfits. And Uniform Choice’s Screaming For Change. I was a huge fan of Minor Threat’s Out of Step and later their self-titled cassette. At the time I wrote Screaming For Change off as a Minor Threat knockoff and didn’t give them too many listens or much thought.
At various points later in life I sought out many of the holes in my early punk and hardcore listening. And worked my way back to Screaming For Change, which has been reissued by the mighty Southern Lord label.
The band indisputably owed a huge debt to Minor Threat. Nevertheless they were a tight and capable straight edge hardcore machine, with good songs. Alternating between fast and furious, and the slow sprechstimme-style talky bits that Ian Mackaye was known for. The band does add its own flair to the sound – and then there’s the hair-metal tinge of Once I Cry. The gang vocals as well are something I don’t recall Minor Threat ever venturing into and work nicely here.
A memorable moment in hardcore history brought back to life by the fine folks at Southern Lord. Recommended listening for fans of old school hardcore and straight edge, and if you have fond memories of this album from your youth, this reissue will serve you well.