On their latest release Street Punk, Hunx and His Punx eschew their usual bubblegum garage pop in favour of raucous, in-yer-face punk thrashers.
With Street Punk, the cartoonishly flirty and openly gay Seth Bogart (together with permanently cat-eyed power belter Shannon Shaw of Shannon and The Clams and fiery, big hair-wearing drummer Erin Emslie) has made a somewhat unexpected transition from the cooing, doe-eyed romanticism of Too Young To Be In Love and the highly personal ballads of Hunx solo effort Hairdresser Blues.
Street Punk is a raging 20 minute hormonal flux with all the usual hallmarks of the condition; stubborn acne, libidinous angst and a dizzying adrenaline overdrive.
Not that it is strictly a gay album, but for those bored of the dull macho affectations of rock music, the gay underground has always been a much more interesting place musically…and the amorphous sexual identity of punk makes perfect sense for Bogart, who can now rightly claim his place alongside other defiantly queer or gender bending trailblazers of the genre, like Gary Floyd of The Dicks and Jayne County of The Electric Chairs.
The opening notes of “Bad Skin” grind like a greasy biker’s slow, deliberate pelvic thrusts while savouring some drunken, uncoordinated sex before things blow up in a blustering fury of snarling vocals and textbook punk double time percussion.
The brash, bile-soaked 32 second chant “Everyone’s a Pussy (Fuck You Dude)” features a deliciously deep low end bass and reveals the band’s inherent sense of humour behind the bratty toughness of the record.
Shannon Shaw’s contribution is made known as one of the album’s key strengths with “You Think You’re Tuff”, where she purrs and growls like ‘evil Elvis’ crooner Danzig did in those classic early Misfits songs which shaped the thrilling delinquencies of my music-fuelled teenagerhood. Now I know just how ideally suited she was to play the part of Shanzig during a Shannon and The Clams Misfits Halloween cover set in Oakland, CA last year!
I have a soft spot for oddball love songs, so “Tuff” was an instant favourite of mine, as Shaw wrestles mixed emotions of repulsion and desire while falling for her ‘gross’ nemesis.
Bogart’s nasally sneer provides one of the catchiest of the album cuts with “Born Blonde”, and the tail end of the song at the 1:40 minute mark particularly tickles my aural pleasure centers.
The aggro returns with a vengeance (literally) in “I’m Coming Back”, as Bogart warns double crossers to watch their backs in a fairly prototypical punk structured number. Despite this format’s familiarity, the band’s indefatigable personality shines through and lends the track a special simmer of its own.
“Mud In Your Eyes” I like to think continues the amorously conflicted narrative of “You Think You’re Tuff”, with Shaw now singing about her acceptance of her perverse desires (“You’ve got mud in your eyes, but I don’t care/You’ve got blood on your teeth, but I don’t care/You’ve got grass on your skin, and I don’t care/You’ve got dirt on your hands, and I don’t care”). Shannon Shaw is the master of balancing sass and sweetness, with a totally believable, aching earnestness that makes me fall in love with her every time I hear the complex nuance of emotions in her skin-pricklingly powerful voice.
Title track “Street Punk” serves up the archetypal nihilistic rage and alienation theme, while Bogart’s conversational whine conjures the ghost of Darby Crash (which I’m sure is deliberate, since it even name checks “Communist Eyes”). “Street punk/and I don’t fit in/I don’t fit into your world”, Hunx matter-of-factly declares, and although it’s not a new lyrical revelation and perhaps even a little clichéd, rebel songs like this still create that ageless and all-important chemical bond between outsiders and the artists they adore, forever spawning new generations of great, badly behaved music makers.
At only 27 seconds long, “Don’t Call Me Fabulous” is like an ADD temper tantrum; an angry rejection of what is seen as the ultimate gay compliment, which has now become a tiresome, overused word.
The skuzzy imagery of “Rat Bag” segues perfectly into an 80’s hardcore-era Beastie Boys cover, “Egg Raid On Mojo”, followed by the brazen and scratchy guitar squeals of the Erin Emslie penned “Kill Elaine”.
Clocking in at just under 4 minutes, closer “It’s Not Easy” is the longest track on the album, and closest in spirit to the band’s previous work; a romantic outsider anthem to sway along to under a spinning mirror ball, which features a big fat glam guitar solo for some purifying relief after all the abrasive spit and spunk.
It’s worth noting that several song fades on Street Punk contain unrestrained clucks of laughter from Hunx, and that this is clearly the sound of a band amusing themselves with very little regard for other people’s opinions! Luckily, some artists do their best work when they’re feeling loose enough not to care too much about the results and just follow their instincts.
Though not as sweet or candy-coated as previous releases, the trademark rough and ready charm of Hunx and His Punx is still present on Street Punk, albeit with an extra dose of ill-mannered cockiness, swagger and spleen…And as different as the album might appear on the surface, it has an instantly recognisable trashy glamour that remains quintessentially Hunx. Afterall, as Rodney Bingenheimer once famously observed of the 1970’s LA punk movement, “Punk is just dirty glitter”, and it’s still true today!
All words by Carrie Quartly, you can read more of her writing on the site here.