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Album Review

THE D.I.s
>>>Rare Cuts!<<<

With Special Guests: The Gears!!! Well, not really, but for punk lovers during the Los Angeles punk run of the 80s, it would have been a dream lineup and one easy to promote. The Gears and The D.I.'s shared vocalist Axxel G. Reese and drummer Dave Drive and as a result had similar sensitivities to the music, that drivin' surf punk sensibility if you can handle that. And if you can't, well, in the vernacular of the punk scene of those days, fuck you!

Which is not even close to the truth. True, the two bands had a hard edge to them but unlike many of the punkers, they had class too, if only in small quantities. Four letter words were kept to a minimum and, judging by the tracks on these two compilations, the attitude was too. How can you come off like the Sex Pistols singing songs like Let's Go To the Beach and Heartbeat Baby, let alone promoting such healthy exercise as that famed punkish dance, the Pogo. I don't think any song starting with “Surf's Up!” is going to send badasses screaming into the night. Then again, what the hell do I know?

I know one thing. The Gears must have put on one hell of a show back then. Driving percussion, pounding bass and crunching guitar cranked to the max had to have had the kids pogo-ing like madmen. About all I knew of the band before hearing Rockin' at Ground Zero was the four tracks on Wondercap Records' Four on the Floor EP and Don't Be Afraid To Pogo, the fast-paced punk track ready-made for packing ten minutes of strenuous activity into barely a minute and a half. A minute and a half to turn you into a pool of sweat. Sounds like fun.

It is fun. The people at Hep Cat Records made sure. They crammed 23 crunching, hip-gyrating tracks onto this disc and they did it with class. You get fifteen tracks from regular sessions, all amphetamine-paced and guaranteed sweat-wrenching. You get three tracks originally released on 45s (Let's Go To the Beach and Don't Be Afraid To Pogo album versions are included as well). And as if you deserve a real bonus, they insert demo versions, five of them, from sessions held in 1979 (the 'real' sessions took place in 1980). How cool is that? Great music AND history! Doesn't get better than that, eh?

Well, actually, it does! That's right, because those Hep Cats also released The D.I.'s Rare Cuts! album in tandem with The Gears and now, I'm impressed! The Gears are fun, but The D.I.'s rock! They take you on a train trip to the fifties and beyond in five easy sessions: Dreamship (February '83), Lock 'n Load (March '84), Lucky Dog ('84), A&M (November 1985), and Track Record (September '90). Some tracks harder and more punk, they all have that basic Rock & Roll template tossed aside by the more hardcore of the movement. The tracks wend their way from one session to the next in progressive fashion, always hard and always rocking, with songs like Your Dad's a Cop and Mohawk vs. DA giving way to Hot Bitch and People Like Me to the inevitable what-the-hell-is-this-doing-here cover of the Buffalo Springfield's Mr. Soul. And they really kick in during the Track Record Sessions, the guitars and mouth harp working hard and working well together. Very impressive stuff here. Very impressive.

These albums are '80s L.A. punk in a bottle with a heavy dose of attitudinal Rock & Roll thrown in for good measure. If you were there, you need to pick these up. They will bring back memories, trust me. If you weren't, my condolences. These tracks are every bit as important to the L.A. scene of that time as any out there. Maybe more, in retrospect.

Each comes with small foldout sheet showing many photos and posters of the day, and the D.I's album has liner notes by Jonny Whiteside explaining the path from one session to the next. Like I said. Good stuff.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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