You have to love a band that formed around the goal of making music that sounded “less gross than Foreigner”. The Skabbs were a “Class of ’77” West Coast punk band that was making jagged “disaffected with the world” punk right around the same time that similar-minded (though not necessarily similar sounding) bands like Black Flag were first starting out. Adding to the comparison, The Skabbs went into the studio to record with producer Spot right around the same time Black Flag recorded “Nervous Breakdown”.
According to the band’s bio, The Skabbs “were (are) a punk rock or new wave band formed in 1976 or 77. Four guys from Torrance (aka: Lawndale, CA) convinced a uniquely talented guy named Steven J. Salazar (of South Pasadena) to join their already established "band" as lead singer, keyboardist, and songwriter. Over the next year or so, Salazar wrote a large quantity of songs for The Skabbs, performed with them, had the time of his life and then died. Eventually (thirty years later) we thought, "who else is gonna play this stuff?". Ultimately, the four of us decided to play Steve's songs again.”
In the disc’s liner notes, the band describes The Skabbs’ concept as “[d]umb guys who can’t play their instruments very well and don’t care if anyone likes them or not”. This comment doesn’t do the band justice as their music fits well alongside with DIY punk bands of the time and the bands that followed. There isn’t a core Skabbs’ sound but, on many of the songs, the band combines quirky and jittery rhythms with the start-stop playing that was the hallmark of a number of the SST bands that sprouted up in later years. Just to confuse things though – on other tracks, the band sounds closer to acts like The Dickies (“N-N-N-Nervous”) or The Avengers (“Long May She Wave”, “Who Killed the Kennedys”). Adding to the disc’s punk charm, these rehearsal tracks were recorded on a open mic two-track reel-to-reel so there is a lo-fi “ragged but right” aura (which sometimes borders on the demented) to these songs. There isn’t a lyric sheet with the disc but, of what I can hear, lyrical themes range from ‘typical’ teen angst nihilism to socio-political punk.
Fans of old-school SoCal punk are going to want to pick this one up.
The Skabbs have started playing live again though, based on their current set of tour dates; it looks like they are just playing local and weekend shows.
The Skabbs Tour Dates
April 14th - Suzy's Bar & Grill, Hermosa Beach, CA
April 21st - Permanent Records, Eagle Rock, CA (In-Store Set for RSD @ 6PM)