Noise Pollution #41: Dirty Black Summer Pt II

Published: June 27, 2024

I guess I’ll just run with that theme for the summer, it’s not like I’ve done that title to death elsewhere anyway. Also, in keeping with originality I’ll stick with the summer of 1995 a bit longer.

About a year ago I was struck with the memory of a Danzig poster (one of many) I had hanging up in my room. It was from the Lucifuge era and featured a photo of a (I’m assuming) very nice lady with demon wings, taken in black and white, Bergmanesque scene. I remembered that it was European and was really fucking big, at least in my memory. Thus began a search to try to reclaim a part of my youth, some thirty years gone. As far as mid-life crisis territory, this isn’t as bad as a sports car or some poor girl substantially younger than me having to somehow explain me to her friends and family. 

I mostly misuse comparisons and metaphors because I’m stupid, but also sometimes it’s because you’re stupid. 

Anyway, it turns out it’s a still from the “Her Black Wings” video that I forgot existed, around 3:26 if you’re curious. So I was right about comparing it to genius classic cinema.

I was able to find a few being sold in the States but I scoffed at paying $50. Now the only one for sale is in France, so fuck me. That doesn’t really compare to the price of some of my other old posters, especially any early 90s Danzig, some of which are going for $200, which would classify it as fine art in my office and I’m not sure if that’s a tax break in Virginia or not. Now, a year later, this poster came back into my mind, more than likely because of looking back on the summer of 1995 in my previous column. Did you read that one? Go do that now, I’ll wait. Why? Because it will help give context to how insufferable it must have been to be around me back then. Now? Nowadays I’m a fucking peach.

I grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey, and because of this I was fairly isolated from the greater world at large until myself and my friends figured out how buses work and then I learned to drive. But those are exciting stories for down the road. Right now I’m looking back to a time in my life where the world didn’t really extend too far from the island. And fortunately, Ocean City actually provided some fertile land from which to grow. We had access to multiple independent record stores, either on the island or close by. There was a fairly vibrant hardcore scene surrounding the area as well, though I wouldn’t really pay much attention to that until a few decades later, but I’m sure that helped fuel the local record store economy, which remains somewhat high even thirty years removed. 

While there’s something to be said about each of them, only two of them really had what, I guess you could call, importance to the local culture. Those two would be ACRAT and The Surf Mall. ACRAT I think I’ve covered somewhere over the last three years or so, and I’ll probably cover it again, as it was my first indie record store job years later. But the only importance that ACRAT (that’s Atlantic City Records and Tapes, neat) has to this story is that through one of the guys working there, Chuck Miller, who owned Temperance Records and I guess became the Blake Judd of that scene, minus the drug use, introduced me to the greater world of shit Glenn Danzig had done besides his namesake, including the Black Aria record, which was my first foray into ambient music. Also, I think he might have tried to fuck my mom.

But, also Danzig-related was The Surf Mall, in Ocean City. It was a giant warehouse that had a bunch of alcoves which small businesses would rent space in and make a facsimile storefront. It had mostly the kind of shit you’d expect at a shore town in the 1990s, ocean related shit, shitty novelty shirts, shitty food–sky’s the fucking limit. But the back half of the building was an enormous floor to ceiling wall of posters and shirts, something like thirty feet high. That’s where the Danzig poster at the beginning of what might be the least fascinating thing I’ve ever written came from. It was a weird bastion of outsider rock‘n roll culture just out in the open, next to tchotchkes you would bring home to your neighbor to thank them for making sure your house didn’t get robbed. 

There were tapes, patches, pins, stickers etc, from all genres. They had a blacklight room that had, shocking reveal, blacklight posters and other shit that would glow. Of course I loved it. And there was a lot of random metal. Sometime in the late ‘90s I bought a fucking Celtic Frost postcard from them. But the strangest thing, looking back on it, is I don’t remember ever talking to anyone who worked there about any metal, ever. They didn’t seem to care or notice, which leads me to the question-who the fuck was currating all of this? It wasn’t like these were easy things to come by back then, nor that deep of a selection, without whoever was bringing it in actually knowing a little about it. 

This would be one of the first times I would ever blind buy music based on the cover and the label that released it. I know I grabbed a lot of tapes there that spring/summer but the one that I remember most was Enchantment’s Dance the Marble Naked, which I thought looked like it would be like My Dying Bride (I don’t think I really knew that there were plenty of bands like that, most better than Enchantment) so I took a gamble and bought the tape. 

I still think the record has some great moments: the intro of the first song and the final instrumental, “Meadows”, are great, but those vocals? I guess this is why I didn’t really play this one much after that summer. 

Within a few weeks, my room would be covered in shit that I bought from The Surf Mall, Danzig posters, Dead Kennedys, blacklight posters, etc. It was such an important hub for me and my friends, a messy, disorganized and odd smelling place full of wonder and discovery. It was really only during the spring and early summer of 1995 that it held this kind of importance to me: by the end of the summer I’d started ordering from Relapse and Metal Disc, the floodgates just opened there, but to have this kind of weird place at the right time was fucking magical. There were places like this all over the Jersey shore as I’d come to learn years later, but none that had this scope. I was going to post the question of if these sort of places still existed or, because of the internet and the ease of discovery, have we made these places obsolete, but a few keystrokes and I’ve discovered it’s still there, still open and it looks like it’s still somewhat weird, only now they sell vinyl.

But just because it’s there, is it still important? I guess this is something I can ask at a later point, since we’re already a few hundred words into this. But it’s something for me to think about.

Ending this week is a bit about the debut LP from Retsu, the new band of Extinction of Mankind/Doom/etc guitarist Scoot.

Full speed ahead crusty anarcho punk is the order of the day here, with more than a few subtle nods to Killing Joke-esque stomping postpunk, Retsu was a pleasant surprise when Scoot announced the Never Trust a Tory 2023 Demo, but with this self-titled full length there’s already noticeable strides forward. If you’re already familiar with Scoot’s work with EoM or his time with Doom, then you’ll instantly recognize his guitar’s voice here. Just a fucking ripper of a punk record, probably my favorite record out of the UK scene next to last year’s excellent debut from Wreathe and 2021’s Serfs Out from Anthrax. If it’s still legal for me to write at the end of the year then I’m sure this will be in the top ten. 

Rock / Metal / Alternative
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