You'll have to forgive me if I have a soft-spot for punk rock. You see, I'm admittedly not a native Okie. In fact, I'm originally from Indianapolis and as I grew up, our local club scene was a haven for up-and-coming punk bands. Not only did acts such as Minute Men, The Meatmen, Black Flag, Meat Puppets (pre-MTV crossover) and Firehose frequent our little clubs, but the scene also spawned bands like Zero Boys and linked to members of LA's Circle Jerks.
With that explained, you might understand why I'm humored and excited when a good punk band pops up, especially here in the middle heartland. I've never made a secret of the fact that I enjoy the spirit, music and work ethic of First Lady Assassins, lament the fact that I missed out on N.O.L.A. and get a little spastic for the occasional Los Reactors reunion. Lately, however, one of Tulsa's more light-hearted and entertaining punk acts has been stirring again, and it's time to show them some love.
Originally formed in 2003, The Decomposed have weathered a series of bassist changes of near Spinal Tap status, performed as a two-piece on occasion, survived a bad management contract and still managed to walk out the other side intact. Although the band did appear in Urban Tulsa's NewVo concert series, performing at Deadtown Lounge in 2005, the group's constant trials and tribulations have kept it from creating a higher profile. Even so, hard work and determination have kept the band alive and kicking.
Cloaked in alter-egos and a humorous pseudo-biography to complement the band's horror-punk persona and song's storylines, I couldn't even prompt surnames from lead singer Bryan, who performs as "Hellmouth" and originally formed the band with drummer Tim "Eyeball" Chambers. The current lineup has expanded the band to a four-piece, with "Stillborn" on bass and "Alvis Deadly" on drums, allowing "Eyeball" to move to guitar and freeing "Hellmouth" from guitar duties to prowl the stage and become more animated.
For the uninitiated, an obvious reference point for The Decomposed is The Misfits, with its horror-punk lyrics and goth-greaser stage images. Listen closely, though, and you'll hear even more--perhaps a touch of The Germs and hints of Goldfinger, Green Day and even a bit of Metallica.
Mostly, however, the band is grounded in the more organic, roots and rockabilly leanings of Social Distortion, a distorted'50s rock and Doo-Wop take and decades' worth of basic three and four chord garage bands.
When asked about the band's influences and direction, Bryan said, "I've always loved '50s rock and roll and doo-wop, while Tim was into that and metal music. He turned me onto the Misfits and originally proposed the idea that we should form a horror-punk band. It seemed like a great idea at the time."
While the group was originally inspired by The Misfits and Social Distortion, Bryan said that the writing process simply started with himself and "Eyeball" in his apartment with a couple of guitars and some beer.
To that extent, not much has changed. "There's no apartment now, it's a house, and we've got a kid running around, but it's basically the same," Bryan said. "And now, we listen to our own music to inspire us when we're writing."
Even though the band has experienced a revolving door of line-up changes, the membership has settled in and the chemistry is finally working properly, allowing The Decomposed to reestablish itself on the local scene.
This past fall, the band started playing more frequently again, opening for The Misfits at Cain's Ballroom, playing Ballroom Blitz (albeit, as the last band of the night) and becoming a staple act at Downtown Lounge. From here, it looks like 2010 should be a relatively smooth ride.
Lyrically, you can't help but laugh (or at least chuckle to yourself) at the schlock and humor of songs such as "Cemetery Love" and "Death on Lover's Lane." You also can't help but get sucked in by the band's energy and enthusiasm. This is what the original punk movement was about--simple energy and a return to no-pretense rock & roll. A night with The Decomposed is unadulterated fun.
If anything, the changes in the band's lineup throughout the years have made it stronger and added to the group's performance. This isn't the same band from 2005--not only because the membership has rotated, but because "Hellmouth" has become a more dynamic performer and front-man.
No longer hidden behind the guitar, he tends to prowl the stage and frequently leaves to get the audience more involved, whether that be by singing along, dancing or just adding to the general joy and chaos of the show.
Although the band does have a six-song EP that it recorded at Valcour Studios with Hank Charles a few years ago, the group is overdue to release some new material.
According to "Hellmouth," the group is chomping at the bit to get back to the studio and has even recently started recording with Ryan Wallace at Armstrong Studios. Beyond that, the band's vision for 2010 includes playing more local shows (including taking advantage of an open invite to play at Downtown Tavern, where they've become a house favorite) and the possibility of setting up some shows in Texas.
Just the fact that The Decomposed is back on the scene and alive and kicking should make local rock and punk fans happy. I know I'm near overjoyed.
Beyond the make-up and shtick, you can call it whatever you want. Punk is the current label, but at its core, The Decomposed throws out gritty, organic from the gut garage rock. Horror stories and gimmicks just add to the fun--and fun, it is.
If you're ready to get back to simple, straight up punk and rock and roll, you won't want to miss The Decomposed when they play Mercury Lounge Friday night, Jan. 29. You might hear a choice Misfits cover like "Dig Up Her Bones" or a Social Distortion tune, but mostly, it will be a night of original tunes, tongue-in-cheek humor, horror stories and uncut garage punk with a foursome of guys who like rock out and return the fun to music.
Do Unto Others
During the past couple of weeks there have been a handful of impromptu benefit shows for the earthquake and tragedy in Haiti. All of them have been worthy causes and only missed mention here because they came together so quickly. We've got another one coming up this weekend at Living Arts of Tulsa, however, that has allowed me a little lead time to draw some attention to it.
Friday night, Jan. 29, you'll have an opportunity to help the victims in Haiti and have some fun at the same time as Haitian native Marjorie Bontemps and Living Arts of Tulsa hold a benefit show and party at the Living Arts studios from 7pm to midnight. The beginning of the evening will be a family friendly affair with a steel drum band playing from 7-8:30pm, while the doors are open for music, food and the opportunity to donate shoes, clothes, perishable items and even money for the earthquake victims.
A silent auction also begins at 7pm and runs throughout the evening to help raise money for the cause.
At 9pm, the studio transitions for a dance party featuring DJ Pedro Sanduga, spinning Salsa and Caribbean tunes until midnight, while projectors rotate images from the island along with some of the country's history. A $10 cover will be charged at the door for the dance party with all proceeds directed towards shipping donations to Haiti. In addition, a cash bar and food vendors will be on hand with a portion of those proceeds directed to the cause as well. Whether you're looking to dance and party or just make a donation, it will be well worth your time to visit Living Arts of Tulsa Friday night.
It's hard to believe we're still in January with some of the temperatures finally warming up a little. Nevertheless, it's starting to feel a little like spring and the clubs are starting to come back to life. If you're searching for live music, all you've got to do is look. This weekend is packed with good shows, and we've got the highlights.
Thursday evenings aren't always busy, but they usually give you a few options to start your weekend early. This week, if you're not in the mood to settle into Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education weekly gig at Eclipse, you can check out KRSNSA the Scarecrow at Flytrap with Floodlyne, Crazy Love, Yellow Pansies and The Heat Circle for your live rock fix. If you feel like dancing, check out DJ Moody's Thursday night Get Down at The Marquee or step into Soundpony and chill to the grooves of DJ Sweet Baby Jayzus.
Friday, Jan. 29 is crazy busy. If you're not into the aforementioned punk rock of The Decomposed or dancing the night away for Haiti, there's plenty more to choose from. Singer-songwriter fans will want to check out another amazing All-Souls show with Eliza Gilkyson and KC Clifford, while Red Dirt and jam fans can catch Brandon Jenkins with Dirtfoot and Nick Gibson at Flytrap.
Indie rock fans can't miss The Non's CD release party at The Marquee with Dead Sea Choir, and country fans will love Eli Young Band at Cain's Ballroom.
Saturday, Jan. 30, isn't as busy, but includes the second of a two-night stand by Eli Young Band at Cain's (see page 43 for details), while Alex and the Anders bring the party to Mercury Lounge and La Panther Happens keeps Soundpony hopping. Meanwhile, Eclipse hosts Panda Resistance, Daniels and Low Litas for an eclectic night of music.
If you're looking for something a little more family friendly, Red Dirt Rangers are performing at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, pulling double duty with two shows: one at 3pm and another at 7pm, as part of the Tulsa Children's Museum Family Concert Series. Tickets are only $10 for either show.
The rest of the week has plenty of cool shows as Cain's hosts The Used with Atreyu in the Ballroom on Monday night, Feb. 1, followed by Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and Red Eyed Gravy in Bob's on Tuesday and That 1 Guy with El Paso Hot Button on Wednesday.
If you're into buzz bands, though, this week's can't miss show is Manchester Orchestra with Harrison Hudson and The City Lives at The Marquee on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Get your $12 tickets early, though, before the show sells out.
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