Monday, May 18, 2015

The Vapids- "Punitive Damage/Thin Skin"

At the dawning of punk rock's emergence into the music universe, Teenage Head was the Canadian answer to the Ramones. Lots of great bands sprouted up on either side in America and Canada from that point on, but at the peak of things in the early nineties which in my opinion was the last era to see ones start who completely understood the gospel of this message, The Vapids were there to meet The Riverdales. While the Canadian counterparts from the 70's or 90's never seem to be revered as they should be, it's hard to take a look at The Vapids even on a superficial level and deny the power of their contribution. From their start in 1993, to what seemed to be the last release which was "The Point Reamins The Same" EP in 2009, they did not rest for a moment, managing to make more than 20 releases, countless comp appearances, and almost 500 live performances happen. Since then, Jimmy has released three fantastic solo 7"s(click here to check them out if you've not done so yet!) but in mid December I did a double take and blinked my girl Dee Dee eyes twice to make sure I wasn't mistaken at what I was reading on his blog. He announced something that I was extremely surprised to see... The Vapids were coming back with new material! From then I was on standby, waiting for a glimpse at what was to come and finally got to hear last week what I will back 100% as one of THE BEST punk rock releases of 2015, "Punitive Damage/Thin Skin".

After freaking out over these songs in the first listen I decided to search out Jimmy for a closer look at the process that brought all this to life and lucky for me, he kindly obliged. The songs were recorded during late November of 2014 in the span of just a few hours at Matthew's house by his roommate Nathan Daniel Burger on an analog tape machine. Mastering was done by Alan McC who kept things computer free as well, running the tape through an old tube EQ machine. I love everything about the way these songs were recorded because the plain and simple truth is: If natural talent is present in a recording situation, modern fixes and trickery just aren't necessary. You won't hear any bullshit auto-tune here! Just good songs by a veteran band, who knew exactly how to bring their work through in an honest way with the help of a good engineer. Keep it mono, people! Please. Jimmy handled the artwork which was nicely inspired by The Misfits "3 Hits From Hell" cover art and it turned out great. It's simple but makes a bold statement, just like The Vapids! Release is happening today on Surfin Ki Records which is a fantastic label ran by my pal Carlo out in Pisa, Italy since 2009. This first pressing is available in the limited amount of 300 copies. 100 on solid red wax with a red cover or 200 on black wax with a black cover is what you can choose from and it comes with a digital download code. Hang on before you think to yourself, "But I don't want to pay international shipping charges!", because the label actually has a flat shipping rate of 7 euros to almost any country outside of Italy, no matter how much you order. That is a good deal! 

A couple new songs might not seem like much to get excited over but The Vapids show that a few seconds is all they really needed to pull you in with the first track, "Punitive Damage". Less than fifteen seconds into it had me completely engaged and so happy to hear what was coming in through on my headphones. This band has a wonderful way about them where the initial foundation they built that could be compared to The Ramones at their toughest, The Dead Boys lack of fucks to give, and the grittiness of Dee Dee Ramone ICLC all rolled into one always stays true as the main element, but evolution is also there. They become bigger and brighter each time. The guitars are full of attitude, Scotty's drumming is on point, and Jimmy's voice as always is a total punch in the face. One that that you want! Aggressive and magnetically beautiful all at once, he knows exactly how to use it with his skill as a magnificent poet. To be honest, that two minutes and seventeen seconds telling a story of personal transformation could have easily appeased my little rock 'n' roll heart because the song is THAT GOOD but there was another one waiting. "Thin Skin" is an even quicker, under two minute burst of  what they do so well with some great changes, and grabbed hold of me just as fast. Those two perfect songs had me head over heels but there was another one waiting at the end that impacted me the most. Untitled and meant to be discovered on the flipside, you'll quickly pick up on the fact that it is a memorial song. It was written for Robert "Robo" DeGrunt who played guitar for The Vapids from 2004 to 2008 and left this world much too soon in 2012. Full of pain but so lovely, the song deeply touches on the loss, who Robo was to them, and had me in tears pretty fast with the way Jimmy connects to the emotion in it. It's the only one you won't hear unless you buy the record for now and I think that's the way it should be.   

As this 7" is released, it's pretty uncertain if The Vapids will ever play again but I can tell you wholeheartedly that this little gem belongs in your collection. Get with Surfin Ki for your copy before they're gone and you can stay tuned to the band or Jimmy's solo work which there will be news for on both fronts soon through their website. It was an absolute honor to write for this band and in closing, I thought the only way this review should end is with the lyrics for the untitled song, so here they are in memory of Robo...

"This one goes out to metal black 
And BC Rich guitars
Anyone who's lost a friend 
Vanished into the stars
This one goes out to you, our brother 
There never was, or will be another

Souvenirs in picture frames
No tombstone flowers
We merely blinked and you disappeared
The hand of god had struck the hour
We hang our heads and cried
No time to say goodbye

There's not much that we can do
But keep your torch burning
Think back as the years go bye
And this shitty fucking world keeps turning 
It's already seemed so long
We wrote you a song

We waited three years for this
And it's the last song we ever write
From us and the ones who loved
We'll see you in another light
There never was, or will be another
This one is for you, our brother

A blank space fills the air
You went where the eagles dare"

The Vapids are...
Jimmy Vapid- Vocals and Guitar
Scotty Vapid- Drums
Eric Felgner- Bass
Matthew Ellis- Guitar

All songs written by Jimmy Vapid

Side A
1. Punitive Damage 
2. Thin Skin
Side B 
3. Untitled