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March 7th, 2007 Jason Simms | Riff City
 

Broken Record

Riot Cop finds itself in bad company on a new punk comp

     
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IMAGE: Lukas Ketner
When Riot Cop's Dominic Drumgo saw the booklet for Choke On It—a vinyl compilation of Portland punk that features his band—he treated the record just as he used to treat those by the famously anti-Semitic Screwdriver: He snapped it in half.

Riot frontman Alex Lilly did the same thing. "There's a swastika and a dripping vagina in the lyric book," he told bassist Justin Wilson, "and bands calling people fags and bitches." A letter from Wilson (posted on LocalCut.com) explains why a box of early-edition copies of the record were returned to their creator, Tucker Reda of Blind Spot Records, with a cracked copy on top "as a political statement."

"I absolutely disagree ideologically with several of the bands," wrote Wilson, citing specifically Statch and the Rapes, the Fags and PRF—formerly Wolfgang Williams and the Punk Rock Faggots, whose old moniker caused quite a stir last winter ("Punk Rock Faggots Come Under Fire," WW, March 8, 2006). Wilson views the comp as a "disappointing representation of Portland punk." But a letter from Reda (also posted on LocalCut.com) stresses that Riot Cop—who asked to be on the comp—didn't listen to the music before passing judgment.

Choke On It features 27 songs (15 of which are new) that represent only a certain strain of local punk: the fast, raw and drunk. The Belligerents' track, for instance, lives up to a booklet quotation from Maximum Rock 'n' Roll: "Sub-par beer-punk homophobic bullshit." The sloppy band seems to bear its tastelessness like a badge of honor, and, in a way, the Belligerents enliven the comp the way a bad-guy wrestler enlivens a match.

But, without a doubt, the comp's baddest bad guys are the Manholes. Sure, documenting Portland's most out-of-control band (Manholes shows usually end in blood and broken equipment) is an achievement for Reda, but with lyrics like, "The first rule about packing fudge/ You don't talk about packing fudge" (from "Chuck Palahniuk Is a Fag"), it's also ridiculously offensive.

Yet, the Manholes' offensiveness is entirely self-aware: Ryan Manhole is actually credited with "homophobia" instead of "vocals." And with references to Palahniuk "interwetting" himself, it's clear the song was inspired by the author's 2004 coming-out-on-his-website fiasco—in which he urged his fans to kill Karen Valby, the Entertainment Weekly reporter who was planning to out him. The author then took back the request in a string of frantic online posts—a hysteria Ryan Manhole's ranting vocal style aptly mimics.

To contrast his band from others on the comp, Wilson wrote, "We consider ourselves allies to the underdogs of society." Oddly, if there were one theme on the record, his words would encompass it: "I support bootlegged records sold on the street!" screams thrash band Jumanji; Straitjacket employs a fake British accent to sing of corporate punks: "It's a sham, it's a ruse/ It's our name they abuse." But conflict is endemic to punk music, and Choke On It is an underground punk compilation on vinyl—something Portland has needed for awhile. As a glowing review in UK zine No Front Teeth put it: "Sure as shit not enough of these coming out these days."


Choke On It is available at Green Noise, Second Avenue and Discourage Records and at myspace.com/blindspotrecordspdx.
 
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