We suck. Deadguy came to Philly and let everybody down. Everyone fuckin’ hates us…
And we don’t fuckin’ care…
So an exasperated member of Deadguy announces over the PA at an August 1996 Philly show amidst an extended post-set heckling by a very aggressive Vinnie Stigma superfan accusing the band of acting like “rock stars” — laughable considering not only the abrasiveness of the music, but also how much time various members spend trying to reason with him — and demanding to know, “why you let me and all the other older hardcore kids down by not fuckin’ doing what we expected you to do.”
“Is that my job?” guitarist Tom Yak asks, unable or unwilling to mask his incredulity.
“I played the same way tonight I did five months ago,” pleads guitarist Chris “Crispy” Corvino, before telling the crowd. “Hey this guy had a bad time — I apologized three times.”
Someone begins singing, “For he’s a jolly good fellow.”
(Badgering begins around 26:20. Hear someone say, “Play ‘South of Heaven’ and everything will be okay” at approximately 28:20.)
Alas, the twilight years of 1996-97 were not always kind to the guy of dead.
What makes this treatment all the more incredible, however, is that at this point the band was less than a year removed from dropping a gloriously nasty noise rock bomb on metallic hardcore via the landmark Decibel Hall of Fame game-changer Fixation on a Co-Worker and only a couple months out from the release of the seriously under-appreciated Steve Austin-helmed Screamin’ with the Deadguy Quintet — or, as the Discogs “notes” section prefers it, “the first release written by the oft-described ‘scab’ Deadguy line-up” — a deliciously unhinged eighteen minutes of pure savagery which never received its due.
Well, first of all, the mid- to late-1990s hardcore scene had a Mean Girls-esque predilection for social drama and unnecessary excommunication — let’s call it the it’s-Monday-you’re-wearing-sweatpants effect.
Was it fair to be skeptical of how the Deadguy sound would be affected by the loss of vocalist Tim Singer and guitarist Keith Huckins — even then (and, subsequently, only more so) considered two of the greatest, most influential extreme music practitioners of the last twenty-five years? Sure. But there was a Scarlet Letter vibe to how personal and collectivist the rejection got. Indeed, when your humble correspondent saw the band play approximately eight months after the above show at the completely insane Really Loud Music Fest in Northampton, MA there were self-appointed Hardcore Hall Monitors patrolling the crowd to let people know between songs that what they were seeing wasn’t the “real” Deadguy. And many of us from that era have heard tell of balloons with the words “Kiss It Goodbye” scrawled across them in magic marker floating around at Deadguy gigs.
I’d argue that kind of outsized scene-policing effort stems less from a dispassionate appraisal of the music than a desperate attempt to cultivate authenticity and advertise in-group membership by injecting oneself into the interpersonal affairs of people you do not know personally.
Second, the “metal” end of “metalcore” was in that moment ascendent. The refined, more condensed/measured pummeling Singer and Huckins’ Kiss It Goodbye meted out on the instant classic She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not… simply proved a better fit for the times than Screamin’, which ran the Jesus Lizard-y aspect of the Deadguy sound through a nightmarish, perception-bending Today is the Day-esque meat-grinder. (Interesting to note Austin’s stellar chaos-capturing production here came mere months before he put his own Hall of Fame masterpiece Temple of the Morning Star to tape…) You want scene cred? The record’s got Jim Baglino from Human Remains and Monster Magnet thundering away on bass on it for fuck’s sake!
Maybe none of this should come as a surprise. “Crispy was not a guitar player, so when he played he created a lot of organic, noisy, off-time stuff,” Deadguy drummer Dave Rosenberg tells Brian Peterson in the fantastic oral history Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound. “Keith brought the chugga-chugga heavy side out of us. In some ways he made us truly metal.”
With Huckins gone, it was, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war” time. And Deadguy made the most of it.
“The music is kind of a mess,” Rosenberg tells Peterson, “and there is a ton of really heavy, weird shit coming at you from every angle.”
Which, of course, is precisely what is so goddamn beautiful about the record and why — even at this late hour and with so much water under the bridge — heavy music fans should stop fucking up and chase their Fixation fix with a little Screamin’.