Track This: Filth's "The List"
When I was a young and impressionable punk rock kid in the 1990s, I went down a lot of paths. I was indoctrinated into the fold like many a naïve youth of the time by Green Day and then after pursuing their earlier albums and the Lookout Records catalog, I stumbled on to Fat Wreck Chords and Epitaph before disappearing ever further into the underground and classic hardcore. I flirted with many labels and have moved into other genres practically entirely, but I never forgot my love for those earlier records.
The Shit Split, the joint collection from Bay Area crusty bands, Blatz and Filth, was one that was stamped indelibly on my mind, and I wish I had been in the scene when it was released in 1991. I made up for lost time when I got it later on CD, but I now I wish I had invested in the vinyl. I do have the 7 inches because I scoured every bin for Lookout releases for years. Blatz's “Cheaper Than The Beer” has been a longtime turntable favorite, but I was always partial to the ultra political hardcore ravings of Filth. While Blatz wrote catchy, memorable songs with off kilter vocals. Anna Joy Springer and Annie Lalania and their throaty garblings are a cure for any sugary pop music hangover, while Jesse Luscious provides a no more tuneful counterpoint to their raspy assault. Their lyrics were insightful, yet chock full of expletives. “Fuk Shit Up” and “Berkeley is my Baby (And I Wanna Kill It)” are just two of their political and hell-raising numbers that I blared out of many a car stereo over the years. Hell, my friend Daniel James and I still break into “Fuk Shit Up” every once and awhile. Blatz has to be heard to be believed. They are not for the fainthearted nor for the pop punk bourgeoisie.
Filth takes it to another level. Less cartoony and more in the vein of crustcore with lyrics that challenge the system on a more cerebral level, the band combines Jake Sayle's harsh yelling with Len Rokk and Jim Gray's tuneful guitars, Mike-O the Psycho's propulsive punk rock bass, and an insidious edge. Sadly, Michael “Mike-O the Psycho” Monsanto” lost his ongoing battle to prostate cancer earlier this year. The band played a few reunion shows in 2010, and Blatz played a benefit at Gilman St. in 2013 for his cancer treatment fund. Of course, I broke out the Shit Split to commemorate Monsanto after his death, and I haven't put it away since. The song, “The List” has always been a favorite, and its visceral impact hasn't mellowed.
“The List” starts with a growl and then a clean melodic guitar line comes in for a few bars before the drums, rhythm, guitar, and bass join in. The song feels like it is going out of control until Jake Sayle's starts singing. The music remains dangerous, and his vocals call the punk scene and society to task in the manner of numerous punk songs, but the band's passion shows their commitment as something more than just false sloganeering. Sayles sings “The list is thousands long / People who decided it wasn't for them /Did they really make that decision? /Conditioning runs deep in the U.S.A.” The song is a call to arms to not just false punks, but anyone else who is controlled by the media. He sings “Remember punk is more than teenage rebellion / Sure it starts there / But why does it end? /And the list is thousands long.” The song is anthemic and the rhythm section keeps blasting for its almost three minute length locking into a tight groove. There are no guitar solos in sight and the only reprieve is when Sayles talk sings before breaking back into a scream. Monsanto's bass is prominent in the mix like most East Bay punk records and Rokk's guitar tone is clean and poppy.
“The List” sounds as fresh as it did in 1991 and the Filth side of The Shit Split is made up of many other anthems that, despite their hardcore leanings, are catchy and memorable. Filth created something real and heartfelt that was far removed from what others were doing in the East Bay at the time. They took a style prone to repetitiveness and cliché and fashioned something new. Many punk kids will continue singing to it and others might not understand, but fucking shit up and rebelling will always have a place and the scene will live on. I'm certainly thankful for that.
Listen to "The List"
Buy The Shit Split