The Return Of The D.R.I. Truck!

In fact, I was just thinking about D.R.I. the other day — can't remember why now, but I think it had something to do with the Greater New York Show (don't ask). D.R.I. is one of those memories that sit inert in your head until you suddenly come across the "Skanker Man" logo (that's what the Wikipedia calls it anyway):

D.R.I. Truck In Front Of E&I Deli & Grocery, 49-12 Vernon Boulevard, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Queens, October 21, 2010

I've seen this truck before — I assume it delivers something to the deli that it's double parked in front of — and every time I'm amazed that Skanker Man still exists on a level where folks feel compelled to spray paint it places.

Lately it seems that the type of graffiti that doesn't serve as a backdrop for a Marc Ecko fashion shoot has mostly been eradicated, either by the strong arm of the law or by providing red light districts for it, but one place it persists is delivery trucks. People care about the subways, various walls and even now the roll-down gates on storefronts, but no one really seems to notice or care about the graffiti on delivery trucks. Maybe those spots have been ceded to the writers/vandals (take your pick with the terminology — I'm not sure I care either way anymore) . . .

Vernon Boulevard, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Queens, February 28, 2006

But Skanker Man — dude, Skanker Man exists! I think Skanker Man is cooler than Andre the Giant — he's definitely less self-consciously oddball (to use Talk of the Town terminology) than Andre. And I wonder if Shepard Fairey was thinking about D.R.I. instead of Kilroy when he made Andre . . .

The question this morning for me was whether the spray painter painted Skanker Man because he is Skanker Man or because the painter is a D.R.I. fan — that's Shepard Fairey's semiotic point, right? If he's a Skanker Man fan, then big props to Eric Brecht, the band's original drummer, who came up with the logo (again, according to the Wikipedia); he created something that outlasted the band.

On The Staying Power Of The Early 1980s Thrash Band Dirty Rotten Imbeciles

On the other hand, I shouldn't really write "outlasted the band," since it appears that they're still around. The Beer City Records page says they're playing in Peekskill, NY at Popeye's Pub on November 9. Wow.

On Why I Shouldn't Really Be Feigning Surprise That D.R.I. Is Playing In Peekskill On November 9

On yet another hand, I shouldn't really write "Wow" because I think about D.R.I. more than I let on. I think — though I can't be sure — that I have a vinyl copy of their Dirty Rotten LP. If I do, it's in one of the eight or nine boxes of albums that are squirreled away in our not-quite-500-square-foot apartment. I hadn't listened to those things for years and years until Jen got me an MP3 turntable for Christmas and I began listening to these things again. Just so everyone understands, the Circle Jerks' Group Sex is a brilliant album. Others are maybe less brilliant. Butthole Surfers sound dated, for example — I recorded the records I have of theirs but haven't brought myself to make the MP3s yet. And I still don't know why I have all those Live Skull LPs, though I already dutifully converted those tracks (they sometimes crop up on the Shuffle when I'm out running — believe me, nothing gears you up to exercise like four minutes and fifty seconds of "Wallow In It").

Anyway, over the years — during slow times at work, for example — I'd start to go back into my memory and pull up all sorts of things . . . the Dirty Rotten LP, for one! My memory of it was that it was a total mess and the songs were like five seconds long. I think I found this live footage on YouTube back then:

The second song (at about 1:32), "Reaganomics" ("Reaganomics killing me/Reaganomics killing you!") is typical — about 40 seconds long — and they just plow through it. It actually looks a lot more put together when you see them perform it than it sounds on the album. And — I guess over time I've built up a high tolerance for noise or something? — it's not as skronk! as I remembered it being. One funny thing about thrash is how much energy the singer and drummer put into the performance as opposed to the guitarist and bassist — it certainly doesn't look like those other guys are putting in as much effort!

If you want to familiarize yourself with the Dirty Rotten LP, go to iTunes. The great thing about the iTunes store is that they have that preview feature where you can listen to 30 seconds of each song. The great thing about Dirty Rotten LP is that there are many songs under 30 seconds.

Now that we've done that math, in my mind Dirty Rotten LP was the quintessence of — I don't know what to call it — pow! skronk! zblam! — rivaled only by Hüsker Dü's absurdly skronky! Land Speed Record, which I think might be even messier (maybe one day we'll get into that, too). Point being, D.R.I. has been on my mind for a while now, this in spite of the fact that I really wasn't that much into thrash music, just that Dirty Rotten LP sticks out.

D.R.I. lost its allure to some when they adopted a "crossover" approach that combined thrash with heavy metal. Maybe the band just wanted a more equitable division of labor — drums slow down, guitar gets more solos, etc. Here's a YouTube from that era:

By 1987 this would have been a lot less appealing to me. I never sold my Metallica albums, but in general I was interested in hearing less heavy metal and not more heavy metal. I trace this to 1986 when I first heard The Dead Kennedys' Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.

A classmate lent me the cassette tape of Fresh Fruit and I dutifully 69ed two silly desktop tape recorders — I didn't own a dual tape player — and tried to be as quiet as possible while one the tape played and the other player recorded (I never knew what the lyrics were until much, much later). Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was the first thing I heard that made me see that Mötley Crüe might not be the most rocking band there ever was. For some, punk was a movement, a release from society's constraints, a new community to join and build — whatever it was. But for me punk meant a whole wonderful genre of music that was actually more awesome and intense than even Mötley Crüe.

Suffice it to say, the music during D.R.I.'s crossover era would have lost me. (I did enjoy Neil Strauss' The Dirt, however — very much, in fact. Mötley Crüe might be the first outfit that is better as a book than as a band.)

I think I will go check to see if I still have Dirty Rotten LP . . . if I can dig that far into the closet, that is.

Posted: October 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: M+/MR | Tags: , , ,