A Hello Kitty World

And F-Minus is waking up screaming

"I like fun," says Brad Logan, as convincingly as he can. He likes making sock puppets with his artist wife for their four-year-old son. He likes going to parks and the movies. It's a Hello Kitty world, he laughs. Except for what he—after a brief sigh—calls "that stuff." He means that stuff in the Middle East; that stuff in Washington, D.C.; that stuff seeping out of his TV set. "That stuff," he says, "is totally mapping out your life."

And that stuff is what he's thinking about when he peels off the sock puppet and puts pen to notebook paper (and later pick to guitar strings) to write songs for OC band F-Minus, who—like alliterative antecedents the Fix and the Fartz—amplify brutally bleak political nihilism to pipe-bomb-under-a-police-car decibel levels. Not coincidentally, the first wave of hardcore punk surged out of a nation of damaged teenage brains the last time we had an apocalyptically bent Republican idiot dropping bombs (well, does Grenada count?) and slashing social services in the White House. The times, one might think, are appropriate.

"Myself and my friends feel powerless to do anything except write it down and scream it out to the 10 people who are there listening, or put it on a record or a flier," says Logan. "It's either that or throw a brick. Which is an option as well."

He's not a tough guy, he says—hypothetical bricks aside—and neither are F-Minus bassist Joe Steinbrick, guitarist Erica Daking and drummer Adam Zucker. These songs are written by sensitive people, he says, but that doesn't mean they're ever gonna use acoustic guitars. "The reason these songs are screamed from the gut?" he says. "These are tormenting subjects. I don't know any other way to get this stuff out."

And there's a lot of screaming on the new F-Minus album: Daking's vocals start at Lyz Antischism and head for Henry Rollins; Logan's vocals start at Henry Rollins and head for nuclear destruction. The album (on indie Hellcat) is even called Wake Up Screaming, after a title track that's ringing a little too true right now: "God is a bullet/Heaven a gun. . . . We had all the peace money could buy/That's over now/We're all gonna die!"

They've been screaming since 1996—songs such as "Fuck You, OC," the entire lyric being "GREED KILLS!"—but they're starting to put a little inflection to it, says Logan. Screaming might have a lot of screaming, but it also has a little Joy Division. The problem with being a hardcore punk band that rebels against everything, says Logan, is that you eventually have to rebel against hardcore punk.

"We'll be rehearsing now and be like, 'This stuff is too fast!'" he says. "We've written 200 minute-long, million-mile-an-hour songs—I love it to death, but it just gets old. We want to put that energy into something else."

Like keeping their politics close to their power chords, maybe: Logan is vociferously anti-war and has been since before there was an actual, current war to protest. Not long after Sept. 11, F-Minus stepped onstage and told the audience, "Fuck a war." They got blank stares and a fusillade of middle fingers—at the Glass House. But Logan said he has since been to a calendar's worth of shows—as a musician or just an audience member—where things are different, where being anti-war means being in the majority.

"Underground shows are political fucking rallies," Logan says. "Kids are fired-up; college students are fired-up—they're not afraid to speak about it, hang a banner, yell it fucking out. There are bands playing right now that are every bit as vital as the Clash that will never be seen or heard beyond the city limits of fucking Lancaster or something."

He doesn't quite buy the idea of Reagan Syndrome—our contention that bad Republican politics makes for good music—but he acknowledges the principle. For a guy who's playing hardcore punk in a Hello Kitty world, it's healthy to go to shows where the bands pause midset for informed political discussion with the audience—and it keeps him charged-up for when he has to deal with, um, that stuff again.

"It's maddening sometimes," Logan says. "I'm not saying all life is shit, but I guess I'm inspired in spots where it's like, 'FUCK I CAN'T FUCKING TAKE IT ANYMORE! I DON'T WANNA DO THIS! WHY AM I HERE?!'"

F-Minus perform with the Transplants and All Bets Off at the House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Dr., Anaheim, (714) 778-2583. Sat., 8 p.m. $15. All ages.
 
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