Being friends with David M. (founder and still frontman of NO FUN, the Beatles of Surrey) means that I have learned to appreciate a good Christmas-themed punk show. How can one not love (rude, funny) NO FUN originals like "Christmas is a Sad and Lonely Time," or their slightly altered seasonal covers, like the Subhumans' "Slave to My Dick" festively re-interpreted as "Slave to My Gifts"...?
But what are the odds that two distinct bands would have their own Christmas-themed version of that Vancouver punk classic? Check out "Slave to St. Nick," by Angry Snowmans, riffing on the same song. Fun, eh? (People in the dark about the Angry Snowmans' name are probably unaware that there is a punk band called Angry Samoans. The Samoans and the Snowmans have no other overlaps that I'm aware of; it's just another of the many Yuleish repurposings, or Christmasizations, if you will, of things punk that the Victoria-based Snowmans perpetrate).
Despite a week-long cold, presumably caught at that Dead Bob show, I was able to do some productive "local-level" music journalism in the run up to the show last night. For instance, it was to my great pleasure that I established that not only does David M. (pictured below) know the music of the Angry Snowmans, but that Ty Stranglehold, singer of the Angry Snowmans, knows and is a "huge fan" of NO FUN at Christmas (so he tells me on Facebook; and for the record, I do think that NO FUN at Christmas is among the punkest of things that M. does, even though David M. will purportedly safety pin you if you call him a punk, and NO FUN's music is usually not very punklike at all. But songs like "Folk Christmas," their re-seasoning FEAR's "Fuck Christmas" add to the punk spirit, and originals like "The Turkey Song" are punk in all important regards except the musical one).
I mean, it figures that Stranglehold and M. would have encountered each other, but I'm still pleased; I don't know if the connection has been officially made in public elsewise. Let it be done, now! A new fact of local music lore, unearthed and otherwise unremarked upon!
It is, in fact, one of two significant contributions I have made in the last year to the scholarship around NO FUN, the other being confirming a rumour (long heard and wondered at by David M) that Murray Action, of the Dayglo Abortions and Lummox (whose "Put the Cunt Back in Cuntry" was played as house music last night) used to cover NO FUN's "Mindless Aggression," one of their best-known, most-heard songs, since it appears on the esteemed Vancouver Complication, which is where Acton encountered it (again, he told me so on social media). This was actually in the days before the Dayglos, when Acton was helming a band whose name seems inconsistently given as the Sick Fucks or the Sickfucks, whom you can hear via Supreme Echo's essential All Your Ears Can Hear release. "I still love that song to this day," Murray told me. "I love the first Vancouver Complication comp in it's entirety. That album had a great deal of influence on my late teens and more or less put me on this road to ruin that I travel to this day."
As an aside, note that you can get "Mindless Aggression" and others of NO FUN's greatest hits on the album NO FUN's Greatest Hits, which is cheapest to purchase in digital form on NO FUN's first bandcamp page, but can also be purchased on vinyl via the US label Atomic Werewolf. It is not cheap, let it be known, but it is being made, I believe, on a print-on-demand basis and sent from Europe or something.
I have been hanging onto M's own sample copy until such a time as I could write about it. In point of fact, many of my favourite NO FUN songs are not on it, because I tend to go for M's more obscure gestures, like "Ambivalence (Gets Me)," off Snivel. I do love two of the songs that are on it with special fervour, namely "To Hell with the Past" and "Paisley Brainbolts of the Mind," about the apocalyptic inner life of a passive-aggressive, drug-usin' hippie, but many of the other songs on this album, by virtue of being concert staples at NO FUN shows, have been heard more by me a bit more frequently than by your average casual consumer of things NO FUN, and I have come to feel about them the same way as a deep diver might feel, when seeing the Blue Oyster Cult, about "Burning For You." I love "Burning For You" but would rather hear almost any other song off the BOC's first five studio albums played in its place in concert or representing them on a comp; I know they WILL play it, and I will enjoy it, but deep divers kind of have to grin and bear such concessions to necessity. Similarly, I have loved all the songs on NO FUN's Greatest Hits at one point or other, but by virtue of having heard them vastly more than most people, I could list a dozen NO FUN songs that I would rather hear than "Mindless Aggression," "Ream Me Like You Mean It," and "Me & Warren Beatty (and Mick Jagger)" (great though these songs may be). Songs I like better and would better have on vinyl would include the non-COVID-themed original version of "Oh To Be on Heroin," "Can I Please Take the Drugs Now?," "Groovy Daddy" and the aforesaid "Ambivalence (Gets Me)," all off Snivel: "Not in Your Town," "Snog," "No Orchestra Required," and "Jah Seh (Veni, Vidi, Vici)," off 1894; "These Are the Names of the Folks I Hate," "The Communist Boys" and "Allez Vite Les Twist" off The New Switcheroo, and especially "The Awful Truth" off Ghost Paper Boy in Robin's Gay Trailer Park. That last is probably the most significant omission from the LP, since it remains on M's sets and he clearly likes it plenty still; it gets played live a lot more than "It Came from Heaven" (an important song for NO FUN, but not as good as "The Awful Truth") or a few other songs on the album. I would bet other NO FUN associates (Pete Campbell, David Dedrick, Kent Lindsay, or even the late great Lester Interest, were he available for comment) would have their own ideas about the songs they'd most like, what their own version of NO FUN's Greatest Hits might look like. Hell, for me, all of 1894 and Snivel would suffice (may they see vinyl release eventually).
But the album isn't called "Allan's NO FUN Favourites." So to heck with me! The vinyl is impressively made, a labour of love, nice and thick, with a great cover photo, given a matte presentation, and with superior mastering compared to M's own 2015 digital version of the album. It also has a pleasing, unique smell, which I would go re-experience now that I might describe it, except I'm still a bit plugged up with this cold (but yes, I sometimes sniff my records, especially new ones, which habit I got into thanks to the unique stink of the ink on Crass Records, back in the day; I'm not sure if they still smell the same, but like the smell of the shitwater leaking down from the "old Cobalt" ceiling, it is a smell that, while not in itself normally what you would call "a good smell," has very pleasant associations for me. Note that there is nothing unpleasant about the smell of NO FUN's Greatest Hits. It does not smell like shitwater, even shitwater I grew fond of).
As for sonic matters, I'm not an audiophile, don't have audiophile equipment, and can offer no in-depth observations about the quality of these recordings, but I have now listened to the album from start to finish and can honestly report that it sounds great to me, given the limitations of my ears, brain, and stereo equipment. I am going to order a copy of it for myself as my Christmas gift to M... it's gonna cost something like $80 Cdn with the shipping, but I love the idea of buying something for Christmas, the act of doing which is the gift, while the ownership remains with me. And then I can give him his own copy back! Merry Christmas!
Anyhow, while M. remained un-Waldorfed last night, this added level of knowledge (that Ty Stranglehold is also a NO FUN fan) and a slight improvement in my cold (combined with six reassuringly negative COVID tests) made it essential that I get out to see the show myself. I wore a mask, and avoided getting near Wendy (who needs no further illness at the moment), save to offer her an extra hoodie that I'd packed (she was complaining on Facebook that she was cold, but by the time I showed up, hoodie in hand, had solved that problem, apparently borrowing some fake furs; she declined my offer). To think, when I first saw the announcement of the show, it was Night Court I was keen to see!
But that was before I realized that the Snowmans were fronted by Ty Stranglehold, whom I have some history with; we were writing about the Subhumans at the same time, at one point, and Chris Walter hilariously once mis-identified me at a show and inscribed a book that I was buying to Ty (which I then made him cross out and fix; it prompted some bemused conversation between Ty and myself, the next time I ran into him at the Cobalt: "We don't even look alike," Stranglehold observed, "except that we're both white and large.")
Sadly, the night proved a bit too much for me, in my depleted state. I was a bit worn out by the two opening acts, both offering different flavours of west coast punk, with Stale reminding me of muscular grunge served with a generous sprinkling of Afghan Whigs, and Paul is Dead ("It's Paul McCartney, dude, fuckin' Google it") reminding me more of South California punk by way of Grant Hart. Or something like that, I dunno. They were both decent bands, just more than I needed, and not quite as playful as either the Snowmans or Night Court (who ended their set on a cover of ABBA's "S.O.S.," as is heard on Humans; I shot some vid of their originals, here. I love that they have a bat-themed song that seems to intersect with the song David and I wrote together, but they did not play it last night, presumably because they want me to come see them again sometime; I guess I shall!).
Thanks to the un-announced addition of a fourth band, there was no way I would end up seeing the whole Angry Snowmans set, which indeed I did not, leaving, exhausted but happily satiated, after "Ebenezer Uber Alles," which I guess they played around 11:30, given that I got back to Metrotown after midnight. I would much have preferred the advertised three-band bill, or even just two bands, but... well, whatever. I guess the priority was to sell alcohol for as long as possible. And while I enjoyed the Snowmans immensely, the somewhat unruly crowd was shouting down Ty's between-song patter ("Shut up and play a song!"), which (the patter, not the shouting) I would actually have liked to hear more of. They seemed more interested in moshing enthusiastically to the band's estimable covers, like they couldn't have cared less about the inherent wit of the lyrics or the various seasonal alterations. Ah well. The high points, for me, were "Wrecked XMas" (a hilarious riff on X's "Los Angeles," off What We Do Is Festive, which the band actually had vintage vinyl of) and a nod to Victoria's own Nomeansno, "Eight Deer One Sleigh on One Run," which they played at full throttle and punctuated at the mid-song break with a complete performance of their very silly rewrite of Minor Threat's "Seeing Red." The band was tighter and faster than I thought they would be, based on various videos I had perused on Youtube, which don't entirely capture how solid they are live and in person. They're actually an estimable punk cover band; the wit is just a star atop the tree. By the way, Ty confirms that their material is all cover tunes; there were some songs didn't recognize, but that's just because they dive even deeper into punk than I do. If we look at my vid from last night, obviously "Bright Lights" is the Clash's "White Riot," but I had no idea that "Fruitcakes" was Agent Orange's "Bloodstains."
You have a few chances to see Angry Snowmans on the island this seasn -- in Nanaimo, tonight, and on December 16th in Victoria; go see NO FUN at Christmas on December 22nd at the Princeton. May there come a day when Ty Stranglehold, Murray Acton, and David M. share a stage somewhere! A consummation devoutly to be wished.
I have nothing further to say, but here is a whole whack of photographs that I took last night. I won't be blogging all that much between now and Christmas -- I have other trees to decorate. Maybe I'll see you at Keithmas or something? (But I'm gonna let myself off the hook for reporting about it; excited to see what Art Bergmann will do, but I'm going as a concert attendee, not as a writer, if I can help it). Or perhaps we'll cross paths at the Princeton on December 22nd, for NO FUN at Christmas? Either way... Merry Christmas!