St. Louis' rich punk history has grown exponentially from the likes of '70s bands Raymilland and the Welders to '80s cult figures Drunks With Guns and White Pride. Through the '90s and into the early '00s, the ball continued rolling with bands like Cardiac Arrest and Civic Progress, which sprouted from important communities such as the 2 Keys Industries and the Slaughterhouse.
However, as shows migrate from venue to venue, with bands and people moving on, a question is often asked: Are people still doing this stuff?
In a word, yes. Like any growing community, punk continues to break the boundaries of social and musical norms. And luckily, a new wave of hardcore stalwarts has stepped up. In typical fashion, the hardcore-punk community is an ever-growing swap of bands, band members, shows and venues that continue to thrive off a love for raw chaos and a significant cultural bond. Although some of these bands have been around for a while, they continue to make their marks, ensuring that St. Louis is known for its invaluable talent, unmatched hospitality and unflinching heart.
Operating from the south side of St. Louis, this Wipers-obsessed band's roster reads like a punk-rock rap sheet. Featuring St. Louis everywoman, Ashley Hohman, Ben Smith (of the late Corbeta Corbata) and Erik Meyer (of Sweet Tooth), Doom Town has solidified its sound with the recent addition of Shaun Morrissey (of Humanoids fame) on drums. Taking notes from Swedish punks Masshysteri and punk legends X, DT sounds like a garage-punk squall underlined with a galloping rubber-band rhythm. Sharing vocal duties, Hohman and Smith's songs are lyrically superb, focusing on introspective tales of south-city paranoia, calculated anxiety and breaking away from societal chains. The band self-released its demo early last year, complete with a silk-screened cover and 'zine-like insert. The band's latest recording, a self-titled seven-inch, will be released on New Dark Age, the label run by the Red Dons' Will Kinser, in the upcoming months. Having played numerous live shows across the St. Louis area, the group plans to take its act overseas for a European tour very soon. Whether at a live show or on the street, the members of Doom Town transcend the typical punk stereotypes.
Born out of the disintegration of local grindcore heroes Las Contras, Shaved Women has made a mark in the hardcore scene by standing alone as one of the only bands in town to harness a unique brand of feedback-drenched dirge. The quartet has bridged the gap between weirdos and punks, feeding the frenzy with a heavy dose of downer-vibe vocals and
caterwauling walls of noise and feedback. Lead singer Ben Salyers' animalistic vocal approach meets the power-grinding guitar of Chris Eck, while acrobatic bassist John Birkner's erratic style pounds to the crashing waves of percussion from drummer Tom Valli. Treading the line between crushing hardcore and acid-induced sludge, SW's broken-down sound is akin to bands such as Pissed Jeans, Sex Vid and Total Abuse. Shaved Women's flawless live shows are characterized by their ability to simultaneously smolder and combust; band members often throw themselves to the floor in a nihilistic rage. Following its demo from last year, the band has been busy putting out more recordings available to the public. It's just released a new twelve-inch, graced with the artwork of local genius Jeremy Kannapell (a.k.a. Ghost Ice) and screenprinted by Cacaw's Kyle Reynolds), on Rotted Tooth Recordings, while a live tape (recorded at Apop Records is on the horizon.
Alien conspiracies and punk rock? Who knew they'd be the perfect match? Apparently Maximum Effort. The band's been around for over two years now, solidifying the lineup with bassist Justin Rao. Mixing UFO-conspiracy-theorist literature and chugging punk power chords, Maximum Effort has brought fun back to the St. Louis punk scene. More rock than punk, this south-city quartet exhibits proficient musical skill, coupled with catchy-as-hell punk riffs. Stylistically similar to the West Coast punk sound of the late '70s/early '80s, ME conjures memories of Dangerhouse Records bands and the Angry Samoans. Lead singer Nick Zengerling's paranoid lyricism rants and raves with tales of black helicopters, secret agents and government cover-ups. As proof of its excellent songwriting, ME showcases its ability to rile up camaraderie with sing-along songs such as the anthemic "NOYFB (None of Your Fucking Business)." With plans of future recordings, you can expect Maximum Effort to continue spreading the gospel, exposing the truth that is hidden from us all.
From the east side of things hails Belleville/St. Louis cronies Sweet Tooth, which has made a name for itself as one of the newer and more exciting bands to rise from the heap. These kids take a lesson from the school of legendary hardcore vanguards Deep Wound, Void and early '00s thrash from the likes of such bands as What Happens Next. Its first demo, Sugar Rush
, is an examination of teenhood and suburban angst, delivered by powder-keg bursts of angry vocals and lightning-fast drums. With songs clocking in at under two minutes, Sweet Tooth's furious brand of stop-start hardcore explodes with screamed lyrics that cover everything from skating to the corruption of youth. The band's chaotic style is marked by extremely fast tempos, a love for traditional hardcore breakdowns and heavy mosh parts. Live, singer Kevin Tod commands the floor, thrashing about in a surge of rabid mania backed by bassist Landon Zirkelbach, and brothers Erik and Martin Meyer. Sweet Tooth has just released its Japanese Void
seven-inch on Cowabunga Records, and it already has plans for another seven-inch in the near future. Like any good band, Sweet Tooth has a handful of tours under its belt, with an East Coast jaunt planned for the 2011 summer. Serving as inspiration to anyone doubting hardcore, this youthful quartet remains fun and enthusiastic in a community stifled with jaded has-beens and bottom-of-the-bottle burnouts.
Suburban Smash has been around for years now. Starting out when they were still young enough to be grounded, these former county kids have progressed immensely. Initially influenced by the likes of the Crucifucks and Articles of Faith, Suburban Smash has fine-tuned its sound in terms of songwriting and speed. Admittedly terrible in its infancy, SS has changed up its style over the years, but always with a firm foot in hardcore. Headed by the Plant brothers Mark and Alec (kin to Scott Plant of Civic Progress/To No End) the group's fast, stomping approach is reminiscent of bands such as Life's Halt and Infest. The group's songs explode with furious bouts of vexation ignited by the festering boredom borne out of suburban sprawl. Demonstrating a punk-rock ethos, SS has carried on the duties of the DIY community by releasing tapes on its own and bringing bands to basements throughout St. Louis. Having just recorded a new tape, Suburban Smash plans on a future release and tour. Claiming that this fresh material is the band's best to date, Suburban Smash is changing its name and reforming. this will put an end to the Suburban Smash moniker, it also ushers in a new era for the boys.