This Year's Album That Saved OC Rock

Billy Corgan-y'know, the Smashing Poopkins' head goofball? In '98, he went around giving interviews declaring that rock was dead. Brilliant move, Billy boy! Start a band that becomes one of the biggest rock outfits in the known universe, and then declare the genre that made you obscenely rich is now kaput-as if to say your band was the last one that really mattered.

What a genius! What a bold, cutting-edge vision! What a cultural prophet!

What a dick.

Let Corgan make a public arse of himself. We know better because Orange County/Long Beach rock has never, ever been stronger than it was in '98. In the clubs, there were loads of hot-shit bands (some of them, strangely, only the Weekly seems to write about, which just proves how much incredibly good taste we have).

Some weekends were packed with so much whup-ass rock & roll going on-in such clubs as Koo's Art Cafe, Chain Reaction, Linda's Doll Hut, Club 369, Hogue Barmichael's, Club Mesa, the Juke Joint, the Rockfield Tavern, the Tiki Bar/D.P.'s and at least a couple of bowling alleys-that there were times when we coulda thunk we were in Austin during South by Southwest. Really!

And we do mean rock rock-not punk, not ska. Not that we have anything against punk and ska, mind you-the Pharmaceutical Bandits, Jeffries Fan Club, Drain Bramaged and the Co-Dependents, among a slew of others, are all quite fabulous.

It's just that, despite our whiny pleas, people are still-still!-farting out stupid, uninformed rants about how, gosh, there ain't nothin' but punk and ska bands in Orange County. We caught one area writer just a few weeks ago still trying to pass this lie off as carved-in-granite fact; we know better, of course, because we actually go out and see local bands. We could even see different OC bands every weekend for a whole year, and not one of 'em would be punk or ska.

A shameful number of musicians are infected with this just-plain-lazy mindset, too, as the Locals Only department is still-still!-getting tapes and CDs with silly notes attached, pleading “we're an Orange County band, but we're not punk or ska, so you'll like us-you really, really will.”

All of you! Go flog yourselves! And make it hurt till you bleed real bad! But first, get thee to an indie store and pick up a copy of Jon Halperin's soo-purb Hey Brother Volume 4 compilation CD, which came out in June on his Vegas Records label.

It's an important disc, awrighty. It's also good. It's really good. It's the Album of the Year.

Wise man, this Halperin. He, too, realized that something needed to be done to purge the county of its collective ska/punk tunnel vision, and he tells us that he put it out because he wanted to make everyone aware of some of OC's superfine rock bands.

Okay, so maybe he was just bored because his first three Hey Bro volumes were almost all ska, and he has several ska bands on his label already, so he was looking to break out of the ska rut himself-that's beside the point here.

“The OC pop/rock scene is like the OC ska scene was five years ago,” Halperin says. “Some people say this is the next Seattle, but it always was Seattle-it's just been underground.”

Hey Bro 4 is a thing of fine beauty: 26 bands-most (but not all) of whom are based in OC-stuffed into 74 minutes, at a cheapo price of just $3.99 (even cheaper if you look around).

The CD also blows the “OC ska/punk wasteland” stereotype away like a chile-pepper enema through your grandpa's anal cavity. At the very least, it's a showcase for Halperin's damn fine taste, which is almost as good as ours.

It starts off with “When I'm Down” by Tub, by whom we were enamored long before we slapped this comp on, but it sure made the rest of the disc promising. Then comes Bank of Brian's “Rock With Us,” a cheesy, cheeky pronouncement that's so sincere about wanting to entertain everybody, you can't not grin like an idiot. And the Gain's glorious “So Low” is a slice of raucous, liberating, bashing noise that made us really depressed when we found out they're from Simi Valley of all places; they're one of the few local-but-not-local-enough bands on here.

From there, the hits just keep a-comin', and the myths just keep a-fallin', each track knocking you out for totally different reasons: Action League's gnarly “Sequence of Events.” The Killingtons' anguished “Belly Dancer.” The Iron-Ons' guitar-soaked “Stock Bailout.” The expert '60s garage rock of the Measles' “Hold on, Hold on Baby.” Fluf's “Chocolate,” a tune to implode a building by. Longfellow's “Mediocrity,” which is far from it. Joe & the Chickenheads' hilariously stoopid Chuck E. Cheese murder fantasy, “Pest Control.” The Bleeders' snarling near-punk of “Last Night.” The Ataris' sad “Alone in Santa Cruz” lament, soaring straight into Hey Bro 4's three magnificent closers-Filmore's “Swept Aside,” which sounds a lot like the Feelies, with its winsome guitar intro, until it blasts off into the power-pop stratosphere; Supernovice's “You're Divine,” which just might be the most perfect tune on here, certainly the one we hummed the most over the summer; and One in a Million's bubbly, dreamy “Hugo.” Ahhh.

(For the record, we would have loved Hey Bro 4 even without the Tub and Killingtons songs.)

Punk and ska are already well-entrenched in OC, and a lame, watered-down, Rage Against the Machine-style of punk rap is threatening to become the new thing for 1999. That's okay, we'll let it-we'll just go off and seclude ourselves with our copy of Hey Bro 4, which in 1998 told us that whatever happens, never forget about good ol', basic, hornless, tattooless, fun, anger-free, three-sometimes-four-or-five-chord rock & roll, which, at least in OC, is still very much alive.

On the posters advertising Hey Bro 4, Halperin wrote something about how his comp will become a classic by the year 2000, a prediction that many of the bands on the CD will move on to far greater things. We hope he's right, and he's got another year to plug it. Meet us here 'round this time next year, and we'll see what's happened.

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