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Suicide is Brainless

[whitespace] Whit
Peter Saporito

Drum and Drummer: Whit, SPFU's drummer, backs the one-time Santa Cruz band at its CD release show at Palookaville.

SPFU grows up with a new album and live show

EX-SANTA CRUZ SKA-PUNKERS Soda Pop Fuck You recently released their second CD, Timing is Everything, on the formerly town-based brainstorm label Bad Monkey Records, in coalition with New Disorder Records. Suddenly, after the band's long hiatus, its members assembled in Oakland and started spewing out new material. Simultaneously, producer Mike Mechanic learned the beauty of mastering a recording, which buffers and polishes SPFU's sound.

On Wednesday night, the band played a release show at Palookaville, supported by Oakland buddies American Steel and the Muggs, more ex-locals. I guess we must still occupy a soft spot in their sophisticated big-city hearts.

On the new album, the silly pop-anthems that used to reinforce the band's, dare I say, "ska-pularity" (scathing letters gracefully accepted) are fading, unsheathing a more finely crafted short story. The plot goes something like this: American kid is born with some degree of privilege, no shortage of intelligence and an overdose of emotional sensitivity. Then life starts in with its razor edge, until all dreams are things of the past and he/she is left to super-glue the fragments back together, equipped only with loud music, camaraderie and old-fashioned gumption.

The self-conscious torrent of growth communicates onstage as well--SPFU played with the right kind of tension--equal parts nervousness and resignation. The audience seemed to consist of die-hard fans, which cut down the show's mass but buoyed its enthusiasm. The band has a knack for playing with a smile and doesn't feel a need to justify itself. I was especially impressed with "Suicide," a short and sparsely veiled metaphor about heroin abuse that steered effectively clear of dogmatism and left a chill.

I predict the days of oblivion are over for SPFU. My only fear is that they might grow up--and grow out of it--too quickly.

Correction: Mat Fitzsimmons sings for Herbert. Mike Anderson plays guitar. Sorry for the error.
Arwen Curry

Three for the Road

I got into Palookaville just in time to catch The Muggs. I'd like to encourage all local bands to sell their musical equipment and stop practicing now because you can't top the Muggs. Twisted sugar-and-spice vocals, a stop-on-a-dime rhythm section (featuring new drummer Chewy), and loopy song structures make them truly awesome live. Tracy's unconventional guitar leads, particularly on "Sour Grapes" and "Princie," get her elected to the NFU all-star team.

American Steel exported tight, no-frills working-class punk down from the East Bay, making Santa Cruz the first stop of their new tour. Lots of raspy sing-along anthems a la Crimpshrine and Stiff Little Fingers. What American Steel lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in hearty, chiseled riffs.

All this hype about Soda Pop Fuck You reminded me of a saying--"If it sounds too good to be true, you bet your bloody elbows it probably is." Well, this show proved it wrong. Soda Pop delivered the musical goods despite a minor feedback problem and performed a polished, upbeat and confident brand of mutant rock & roll. "Sweaty Palms," with its hauntingly soulful vocals and lounge-lizard feel, instantly impressed me. Victor showed off some amazingly fine bass magic tricks. Cristina, dressed in Def Leppard "Pyromania" threads, soared into vocal overdrive during the cathartic refrain to "Mama-Age" and the "Every Minute of Every Day" chorus from "Oi Song," my personal fave.
Matt Koumaras

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From the June 18-24, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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