It’s happened only a handful of times in my life: I’ve innocently strolled into a record store, overheard something playing therein and become so instantly intrigued that I fly to the counter, ask what I’m hearing, purchase same immediately and rush said vinyl/cassette/compact disc straight home to a privileged, ever-lasting spot of honor in my collection.
This is how, in Orange County, Calif., circa very early 1982 I first met a thoroughly groundbreaking little album called “Sundown” by Hoboken-by-way-of-Austin-Texas’ one and only Rank and File. Its bright yet raucous hard-twang approach reminded me somehow of Buck Owens one moment, the Everly Brothers the next, yet thundering beneath was a ferocious depth of drive I could only logically equate with them ornery Ramones. The latter was not so surprising after all when, upon encountering the band at one of its shows shortly thereafter, I realized leaders Chip and Tony Kinman’s pedigree included San Francisco’s legendary punk-popping Dils.
Still, in that distant era before the “alt.country” pigeonhole had yet to be fashioned, and despite rave reviews from the L.A. Times’ Robert Hilburn, an appearance on Austin City Limits and even a cover of its “Amanda Ruth” by those above-mentioned Everlys themselves, R & F lasted only three albums before flaming completely out. Original guitarist Alejandro Escovedo was the first to embark upon a deservedly successful post-Rank career. Only Dwight Yoakam, to my knowledge, has properly cited the band as the truly pioneering, highly influential combo it was — and remains.
Nevertheless, I’ve continued to monitor the Kinmans’ careers in the ensuing quarter century, through their gravely industrial Blackbird band to the slyly retro-cowpunk of Cowboy Nation.
And now, Chip Kinman returns to the scene, saddles fully blazing and tongue still firmly up cheek, with the delightfully Dil-worthy My First Punk Rock Record.
“A punk rock record for kids… who da thunk it?” in the words of the forever trail-scorching man himself.
Incredibly, 15 songs — and even a couple of cool stickers to boot — in just a little more than 11 minutes flat, the longest clocking in at a totally Minutemen-like 1:09 for all your li’l ADD’ers out there. Because, after all, as Chip explains, “Why does a record have to be 40 minutes long? Our record is not song parts, but real songs with intros, verses, bridges, guitar solos, drum solos, bass solos and more!”
Somehow still, the extremely wide range of subject matters blasted through and through include schoolyard obesity, blessed Disney Volkswagens, Andy Warhol‘s Velvet Underground-y banana, possibly illegal aliens and even one beloved former first lady.
Elsewhere, “ABCD” drags Sesame Street kicking and screaming straight down the Bowery, “Rockstar” offers a four-step guide to becoming the nation’s next Guitar Hero in a way unheard since The Byrds‘ fourth long-player and “Old Candy” (not to mention “La La La Go!”) should be sent over to the head of music programming at Nick Jr. ASAP.
All this, plus the possibly definitive reading of “Louie Louie” (I kid you not) makes My First Punk Rock Record one of the speediest, screechiest, yet ultimately rewarding quarter-hours your entire family could ever spend in this increasingly go-go world.
“I wrote this album quite by accident,” says Chip. “Waking up one morning having coffee in bed with Chickenbone, my wife — we grabbed our guitars and started singing ‘Love Bug,’ writing and singing it almost automatically. We recorded it later that day and realized that we were on to something good. We decided to make the loudest, fastest, shortest album ever. And we did!”
Record business, or should I say what’s left of it, please take note.
“It’s a punk rock record for kids. All eighth notes and down strokes, using the 1977 bag of punk rock riffs. Adults dig it as well because it is outrageous.”
And may I just add my cat really loves it, too.
“But remember,” all-grown-up p-rocker Chip still yells, “the kids are all right!”
My First Punk Rock Record by Chip Kinman and PCH can be found right now at www.fundamentalrecords.com. Chip’s MySpace page is www.myspace.com/chipkinmanandpch
And for all you California girls and boys out there, the official record release party takes place Aug. 2 at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.