For Fashionable Idiots, Good Punk Comes in Threes
by Kevin J. Elliott

I’m desperately in need of a new stylus. I’m in fear of damaging my priceless slabs with each spin. Never been much of the audiophile, picking up inferior dollar records just to hear those records is common. A scratch or two never hurt me or my experience with Rumors or (lately) Todd Rundgren, for that matter. Comforting then that the latest trio of releases from Minneapolis’ Fashionable Idiots label just showed up. There’s something quite romantic about brand new vinyl already clipped and popped properly, dunderheaded punk under a dull needle (or knife, if you want blood). The romanticism even extends to a love of the upper Midwest; if Prince couldn’t prove the Twin Cities were simultaneously mythical and uncomplicated, then a scrappy, no-budget, apartment-borne upstart pressing sides like a Xerox copier easily does. So far it’s been a label that can blow from both cheeks—from the crumby meta-collector scum comedy of Rot Shit to the amphetamine caveman grunt of the Homostupids and back to the direly grim three-chord choke of Pink Reason. This is the back of your 7-Eleven label, as if the classics matter as long as you have something new.

Those closest to the pizza aisle are Sinks, who appear on the cover like they’re purposely ditching study hall for some shitty Little Caesar’s and a photo op. C’mon, “Beat Out My Brains” is blunt and chunky, phlegm-soaked but rightfully grungy and true. The B-sides fare even better, tapping Minnesota boredom in “Don’t Wanna Go to Work” and “3025.” The sloppy Goner/Memphis model of garage rock is whittled down to rudimentary grunts and fists. No one wants a job, so that sentiment, though redundant in phrase, never gets old if played properly. Here it’s executed with no embarrassment and fast enough to get out of the freeze before fingers get numb.

I’m sure there’s a ton of that in Minnesota, because the Sleaze, teenage jerks from right down the street, seem just as anxious to get the message across. “Smokin’ Fuckin’ Cigs” (all that abbreviation!) is the gem of this installment’s entire playlist. Yeah it’s G.G. and the Jabbers’ “Don’t Talk to Me” almost verbatim, but they’re smokin’ Basics and the singer is a taxpaying alley-cat screaming at the price of ‘em (all that abbreviation!). If Fashionable Idiots operates under the mantra of “moron music for a moron world” than the Sleaze, the snottiest of the roster, is king of the moronic universe—and that’s the highest compliment. The fact that they ripped off the sleaziest scumfuk of them all is proof they’ve been spending plenty of time with solos that can be played in five seconds and on one note. Investigating “Machine Hand,” a song on the other side, and previous MySpace posts shows they aren’t afraid to Germs-it-up slowly, pulling tendons into taffy like anti-blues destructors.

It may be in the water in Minnesota, but the marquee of this bunch is Denton, Texas’ Wax Museums, and the Magnet 7-inch is possibly too high-art for this imprint. With a cover (courtesy of Mike Sniper) unbecoming of the black-and-white-on-whatever-color-paper-is-cheapest I’m used to with Fashionable Idiots and a nearly conceptual two-part A-side, complete with warped interludes to boot, it’s almost like the band has a message or is at least putting in an effort to compete with contemporary fake lips. In the two years since switching from the Wrists, this is their umpteenth release, and within that time they’ve excelled past the “zoo full of Ramones” tag they gave themselves. Wax Museums are composed of soul full of gross-outs (see “I Eat Vomit”) and the spoils of teenage existence (see “Billy’s Room”); with “Magnet Part I” and “Magnet Part II,” they tend to play older brother. Should I be cognizant of the lyric that has to do with war? Is this the Circle Jerks baiting the Reagan Administration all over again? Could the “magnet” be a metaphor? Too much thinking. Be that as it may, I’m confident this is simply more Urinals-esque parody, and of course there’s plenty of melody strapped onto the sure thing of a punk quartet. Sold with “Jerkoff Rat” months ago, the tone-warbling and knob-twiddling surroundings of a solid anthem is probably the finest work they’ve given a label yet.

As long as there’s a rebellion going on there will be a Fashionable Idiots that will document every unconscious/stupid decision thrown in its face.