“This Is Boston Not LA”
So sang The Freeze in 1982. A period when L.A. burnt so brightly that other American regions felt the effect of the areas thriving musical growth so fiercely it became both an epicentre and a powerful galvanising force. The Freeze sang out of defiance but also out of realisation and acceptance. Los Angeles had become the benchmark and for a brief moment, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle and pretty much anywhere just looked stagnant and irrelevant. Progression into challenging and innovative new realms of both music itself but also of the very means by which music was consumed and distributed had come about as a direct form of reaction.
This cause and effect dialogue is a natural manifestation of musical evolution. Just as the Sex Pistols and The Clash razed the excess of Floyd, Old Grey Whistle test bucolic rambling and Prog frippery to a new ground zero in mid 70’s London so the late 70’s and early 80’s hardcore punk movement in L.A. that Fear and The Germs began and Black Flag continued
A quarter of a century later this binary is repeating itself in eerily similar circumstances. Black Flag, The Minutemen and The Circle Jerks were railing against new-wave mediocrity and Reaganite repression at DIY shows in venues like the infamous ‘Church’ in Hermosa Beach while releasing affordable 7” records on labels like Greg Ginn’s own SST. Innovation came musically by playing at greater tempo’s and with more anger than had been witnessed up until that point in time
After years of enduring bland Red Hot Chili Peppers funk, awful Papa Roach style nu-metal and in a political climate of fear, corruption and Bush administrated lies a group of bands have emerged in Los Angeles centred around the West Hollywood all-ages venue The Smell
By sidestepping the daily socio-political strife and distractions and operating through the traditional punk-rock DIY channels that their early 80’s forebears created a scene has slowly been allowed to develop around and has been nurtured by putting on shows that anyone of any age can attend and self-releasing records through small independent labels like Post Present Medium
The most exciting development is of course the music that this support network has allowed to come into being. Buoyed by a sense of artistic security, freedom and support a diverse and innovative array of bands and artists have emerged over the last 18 months to create what Angus Andrew described in a recent Pitchfork interview in very excited terms: “I am excited about what's going on in L.A. right now. I hate the word "scene," but it's a good community of artists making interesting music. Bands like No Age and Mika Miko, and of course the Smell being the genesis of all that. I've been in L.A. a lot recently, and I've noticed a lot there, and I hope it gets more attention.”
Arguably the most well known of the current L.A. crop are No Age
Of the rash of bands that have followed in No Age’s wake possibly the most exciting are Mika Miko
Although both of these bands have, to some extent, broken out of the close-knit L.A. Smell based scene it is the strength in depth and variety of the other bands vying for attention and creating in a communally creative environment that mark a movement as opposed to flash in the pan. From (deep breath) Brendan Fowler’s dialogue obsessed, spoken word set to music project Barr
alongside the Silver Dagger’s
The story of Los Angeles musical past is one of innovative swings and barren roundabouts. The area offers a soulless expanse that allows a blank canvas of such magnitude that any vision can be realised yet this freedom equally engenders the power to quash dreams and aspirations in an instant. Saturated as it is with the false facade of Hollywood the city’s size and the superficial embrace that it offers can eat as many young, talented prospective musicians alive as it does motivate others to the point of creation. By operating within a viable alternative network the current L.A. scene has to some extent woven its very own Los Angeles allowing talent to be nurtured, developed and set free to soar in whatever direction it chooses. For this brief moment in time I would far rather be in L.A. than Boston.