Monday, December 12, 2016

Greg Ginn-Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore); Cruz Records, 1994

If for no one else than Disaster Amnesiac, the requisite amount of time has passed with no real news from Greg Ginn and SST Records. I find myself wondering, "what's up with Ginn?" a lot these days. The past silent stretches have often been the result of fucked up contracts with distribution companies or conceptual re-ordering of the musical variety; Disaster Amnesiac can't help but wonder, though, if the internecine war of three years back within the SST/South Bay gang put such a damper on Greg as to make him cease musical activity all together.
Being the Ginn obsessive that I am, I've had to turn to older releases for the need Ginn-tar fix that has been an almost daily habit for over thirty years now. Thankfully, as we all know, there's TONS of that floating around, a prime example being his 1994 solo LP Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore).
For the longest time, Disaster Amnesiac has pondered the title of this great release. Is it a sarcastic riff on the "Indie-Nation" heroes The Replacements Let It Be title? A very unsubtle jab at the then-crumbling micro-world of SST and his possible true feelings about it? Obviously, only Ginn knew for sure, and he's not one to bother talking about those types of aspects of his body of work. Song title such as Drifting Away, I Don't Want It, and Lame Excuses have always struck this listener as possible clues to the overriding theme, and the the lyrical vitriol of Taking the Other Side and Destroy My Mind seem to back this up. Whatever Greg was thinking about when he penned these lyrics, it was most definitely pissing him off to a huge extent.
In speaking of the lyrics, the subject of Ginn's singing voice, pretty much debuted here, must come up. It's not as though Disaster Amnesiac has ever had a conversation about it, but I've pondered what others have thought of it. I like it a lot. Way more warble-ey than Rollins', obviously, and without the hard confidence of Henry's Flag declamations, but fine for Punk Rock statements and said vitriol. The lyrical subjects aren't pretty, so why should the singing be so? For the Ginn fan, it's just kind of fun to hear him take a turn at the mic, too.
If you've ever seen the footage of Black Flag in Decline of Western Civilization, you'll recall that while the rest of the group was being interviewed at the Church, Greg had his Mosrite in hand and was doing scales during part of that clip. I've always figured that that portion was telling re: Ginn's work ethic when it comes to, especially, the guitar. Say what you want about him, but in many ways, he's all about the music, and moving it forward. Another fascinating aspect of Let It Burn is the ways in which Ginn's developments at that time are on full display. In a fine interview with Mark Prindle in Citi-zine, Greg described his early 1990's fascination with the Techno of that time, and how he'd play along with radio broadcasts featuring that style. On tunes such as Military Destroys Mind/Body, In Your Face Motherfucker, and Hey Stupidface, he fuses Techno drum and rhythm programming to his burning solo riffs. I've been listening to this LP for almost twenty years, and never tire of its blending of Hardcore Techno with Hardcore Punk Rock musical aesthetics. Ginn's guitar voice is diminished not one whit within these moves, and his bass playing is funky and loopy within its moves. The more traditionally rocking tracks such at Let It Burn, Taking the Other Side, Exiled From Lame Street, and Drifting Away all feature more burning guitar solo statements, exemplary tight riffs, and really moving bass/drum rhythm section interaction. I Don't Want It blazes at levels equal to any of the great mid-late period Black Flag pieces, as does Destroy My Mind with its cool cowbell hits and odd, psychedelic voices floating in the background. Indeed, Let It Burn is, across the board, just as finely rocking as any Flag.
Who knows what the future holds for Greg Ginn and SST Records. Disaster Amnesiac has been patiently holding on for any news from them for the past couple of years. It seems as though, like many other labels and performers of that generation, the output is slowing down. Still, it'd be great to hear some new stuff from him and whichever cohorts he may have at this time. Until that happens, and hopefully soon, Disaster Amnesiac will have to enjoy the great merits of releases such as Let It Burn (Because I Don't Live There Anymore). There's scads of fun sounds within it and just about any other project he gets going. Still, I'm kind of begging for more, here. Any time you want, Greg!


Pig State Recon said...

That's an interesting bit of context you've highlighted here: Ginn playing along to Techno music radio broadcasts. It totally helps me understand his early 90's recordings better. We all know somebody who always seems to have a guitar in their hands, noodling scales/working out musical problems whilst half engaged with their ambient surroundings (chatting with others, watching TV, etc). Clearly, Ginn is one of these people. His Cruz albums aren't all that removed from that sort of experience, sort of bringing the play-along-to-techno-radio into the studio.

And that voice! But wait - didn't he first sing on "You Bet We've Got Something Against You!" Or was that Chuck all along?

Mark Pino said...

Good point! I always thought that was Duk's voice.