“It’s better to burn out, then to fade away.” – Neil Young
I open this review of live cassette from a punk band, with a quote from my favorite hippie (and current spiritual guide) Neil Young. Why? It’s not just because Cobain’s suicide note (in which he quoted this line) looms large with the Nirvana anniversary bullshit taking over every record store on the planet, but rather because the song this lyrics is from (“My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)”) is about punk, getting old, and the quality of rock and roll in a more general sense. Neil sings “The King is gone but not forgotten/This is a song about Johnny Rotten\It’s better to burn out then to rust” Now for a full explanation you gotta really understand, what Neil means about rust. In 1979 Neil told Mary Turner about Rust “ I can relate to ‘Rust Never Sleeps.’ [the album this tune is off of]…The longer I keep going, the longer I have to fight this corrosion” So while most have emphasized the spirit that neil speaks to in they lyric “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, most forget about the song. The song is ultimately about the subtle glacial drift of our spirit that comes inevitably with aging. The point for punks and about Cobain means this – there’s rust encroaching our youthful spirits, and we may fight it. Neil’s called this spirit “the burn”, and Neil would say about Cobain years later “When you see the way he [Cobain] was in those two performances, there’s no way he could ever get through the other end of it. Because there was no control to the burn. That’s why it was so intense… For me it works, because I’m different. It worked for me to stop playing really hard music and go the other way while I get my strength together, get my head back. Because if you run out of fuel – spirit and inspiration – then you’re just going’ through the motions. I think maybe that when he ran out of fuel, he through he was dead.” Punk has since it’s inception been about the burn, and we may choose to read Cobain’s death as ultimately one punk’s refusal to rust. Yet, while we may look at Cobain as punk’s last haunting cry of the futility of music, life, and ultimately punk I think Sudor (and some of the best bands in hardcore today) have rebuffed that story.
The point here is not that Sudor is not some harbinger of a “new wave” of “real punk” or that punk ever died (in fact there have alway been, and will always be punk band’s who either get it right, or get close to getting it right), but rather that the sonic quality of this tape points to what it was all about to begin with, and what happens once we give up on giving up. The tape (I know… Finally) is a gritty recording of a live show. The tape opens with some glasses clanging, and some stuff in spanish that sounds like it’s about anarchy. The fuzz overtakes you soon, and you’re left with some pretty great classic d-beat (i.e. Discharge). This is straight up fast 1-2 punk, with an occasional plodding ripper that is more Grand Funk riffage, than Tragedy’s crust bird soaring. How is it musically? To be honest, it’s nothing particularly amazing. Yet, at their better moments, the band devolves – falling apart, through sheets of guitar solo noise, screaming, and pounding drums – and reflect something greater than just the chords. These moments occur more often, and better than most of the fucking garbage calling itself punk these days, but they are still fewer and farther between than I would like. To me, these moments have always been what Neil would call “the burn”.
As my introduction hinted at, the answer to the question of “Is it better to burn up than to fade away?” is “Not really… its about controlling the burn.” Since Cobain, and Sid Vicious before him, people have always wondered about the longevity of punk. As a movement designed around a model of constant revolution that Jefferson would be proud of, it leaves little to hold onto. Some have chosen to live inside the burn (i.e. GG Allin, Cobain) and be consumed by it, while other’s have rejected that it can be maintained (i.e. Those who claim that “punk’s dead”). This live tape, shows that burn can still be courted, and showcases it in its natural habitat – a live show. At moment’s you can feel utter abandon that comes from smashing a whole in your wall when you’re 15, or from punching your boss in the face. It’s that feeling, that burn that’s so dangerous and that ultimately appears from time to time. Yet, while Sudor have courted the fire, they have yet to live inside of it and musically integrate it. Musically (what lies beneath the layer of fuzz) it plays pretty tried and true, for those who like classic UK 80‘s hardcore you’ll love this (myself included). But the tape showcases something that exists beyond the actual notation of the tunes – the moments of chaos the band hits are indicative of a dance with the devil. Unfortunately, the devil is still in control. He has been courted, but not mastered into submission. In short, he’s here to fuck you, and lose your number.
What makes this tape worth the buy, is that ultimately the burn is there at times. Considering that most people who involve themselves with punk (and noise for that matter) forgot (or never knew) what the burn sounded and felt like, this thing is probably one the best recordings to come out in recent years, and should serve as a reminder to both punks and noise kids alike. The intensity in musical choices both scenes focus on often make it so that we expect the burn, but for both scenes what I’ve called “the burn” is often confused with the more obvious qualities of “loud” and “offensive”. This tape provides an excellent reminder that neither of these are the same, or stable properties. The burn is often quick, catch it when you can.
Review by Larry Funkhauser
Afeite Al Perro one-sided cassette