Love God, Love One Another
Black Humor Love God, Love One Another LP (Fowl, 1982)
I first heard of the band Black Humor as many others did, via a review in an early Maximum Rocknroll, in which the band was taken to task for the reverse label of this LP being a graphic of a swastika made from crutches, song titles such as Auf Weidersehn Juden, and lyrics making fun of teenage political punks who had the answer to all the world's problems. The review received a reply from one of the band members. He stated that the symbolism of a swastika made out of crutches should be pretty obvious, that Auf Weidersehn was about people playing victim and the band had Jewish band members who agreed with the song's sentiments, and that teenage political punks do not have the answer to all the world's problems. He added that any intelligent person would have been able to figure these things out and if anyone wanted to hear what Black Humor was about than they should check the record out themselves and ignore MRR.
Now I've never been a MRR basher and think that many of its critics tend to pick mercilessly at a few obvious faults and blow them up out of proportion. They give MRR too much credit for "brainwashing" the scene and not enough for aiding the internationalization of hardcore punk and the revival of the DIY punk (including garage punk) scene of the 1990s. However, it is very easy to box MRR up as just some piece of agitprop when moronic reviews such as the Black Humor one appeared in its pages. To MRR's credit they let the band respond to the review (to which MRR replied that they would take a wait and see attitude toward the band).
This little controversy wedged itself deep enough in my teenage mind that when I came across a copy at a Tower Records warehouse sale in the early 80s, I snatched it up. Thinking I was in for the most offensive record ever made, I was sorely disappointed when I got home and played it. Ironically, the record from that haul that grabbed me the most was the pre-nazi Skrewdriver's All Skrewed Up. The Black Humor record? It got filed between Black Flag and Black Randy, taken out once a year for a relisten...and it still didn't click.
Fast forward to the late 90s and Min from the A Frames is raving about this band Black Humor. I tell him I have the record and I'll trade him for something. I don't know what garbage I got from him. Maybe it was twenty-five bucks. I don't know, but six months later, I find another copy in a local record store. I buy it and play it thinking maybe Min is right. Nope. Nothing. I throw it on ebay and sell it for forty bucks. A couple years pass and yet another copy shows up in a record store. It is priced at $3.98 so I buy it. I get home and throw it in a stack. Some months go by and I finally get to it. I don't know what it was but that listen it finally sinks in. What makes this revelation so strange is that the record should have grabbed me years earlier.
Black Humor's one and only LP has the mood of Cleveland 1976. You can easily imagine them on some bill with the Styrenes or Pere Ubu. They share the same raw emotional streak that runs through the Electric Eels or Rocket from the Tombs, as well as the darkness of the Easter Monkeys of a few years later. But Black Humor wasn't from Cleveland. They were from San Francisco, home of the most politically minded bands of the day, many of them playing at speeds and with pep far more spunky than what came out of Cleveland.
Ahhh but Frisco was also home of Flipper, not to mention a healthy synth punk and pre-dance industrial scene. Looked at in that context, Black Humor fits very nicely in the city's "art punk" underground. Black Humor takes Flippers nihilism and runs with it. They lyrics are hateful, wishing people dead or being glad that someone has died. The song titles are among my favorites: Too Stupid to Die, Kill Them!, I Should've let 'em Die! Subtlety has little room in the words of Black Humor. The music, though, does have undertones and switches mood. It also has a sound that is markedly San Francisco and that is because the guy recording it is Tom Mallon, who also turned the knobs for Toiling Midgets, Flipper, Arkansas Man, Fuck Ups, and many other of Frisco's glummest.
From what I've been able to find out, Love God... only came out in a pressing of 500, so it is a miracle that I found three copies of the thing. Each copy is in a hand made cover. About half the songs on the record are as good as any American DIY punk ever made. The other half are okay.
maybe I will feel the same way someday about this "DEMO-MO Demolish NYC" piece of shit that I never got rid of. or maybe the BBQ-KILLERS. hmmm....I doubt it.
I sometimes think Dragnet should reissue it on CD, but haven't convinced myself. I think the 50-200 people who would like it already have it, or a dubbed version or mp3s.
But you didn't sell or trade me the record -- you had just sold it right before I emailed you for it.