Sugar Skulls were a Philly band from the early 2000’s which was often referred to as Philadelphia’s answer to X. The comparison came in a large part due to the late Red Burns (Tequila Worms, Hellfire and Brimstone) and Heather Brann sharing lead vocals. Red also played Guitar along with Dave Burch (Derelict Hotel). Brian Murray (Psyclone Rangers) played bass and made all of the very distinctive art work for the band. Dane Wilson (Derelict Hotel, King James Version) was the drummer.
While the X comparison is easy to understand if you go deeper there is evidence of a lot of other influences that gave Sugar Skulls their own unique sound.
Their album Waking Hour is not included here, you can get it here or on itunes here. Thanks to Brian Murray for the cds and flyers.
A very recent nice development has been members of bands from the 80’s getting back together and/or starting new bands. Three of them from Philly all have members from of one of my favorites Electric Love Muffin. Another fan of ELM has been releasing records by these new/old bands on Sister Raygun Records. According to him the label’s main goal is to promote local Philly bands (though we have non-Philly bands too). Plus it is “purely a labor of love for me — just trying to help put out some good under-the-radar music….” The great part is these bands aren’t rehashing the sound of any of their old bands they are expanding on those sounds in many new directions. For some videos Check out the Sister Raygun YouTube channel
Now, getting back to the three bands:
Poppy was first formed in the early 1990s with members of 2 of 80s Philly punk scenes favorites Electric Love Muffin (Brian Campbell) and Scram! (Craig Heim) with Kate Campbell’s powerful vocals and loud guitar. They returned a few years ago and have been playing all over Philly. First time I saw the reformed Poppy was at the Tusk (I think) and they were heavier than I had remembered and it was just a good time seeing them again. In November of last year (2019) they released a new album Snakes of New Jersey. There are a variety of styles on the album from Noisy Blues with powerful vocals to straight ahead pop rock to one song Marga, which in some ways reminds me of (I’m not sure what it’s been labeled) but bands like Seam/ Dustdevils/ Breaking Circus/ Polvo.
FoxyContin formed in 2003, the band features members of 2 Philly punk legendary bands The Electric Love Muffin and Krhissy. Rich Kaufmann (ELM singer) wanted to start a band that channeled the first wave of punk rock after the end of his country rock, the Rolling Hayseeds. He was working with Ravine Veneer at Silk City who played guitar and got Michael Barndt (Krhissy) on drums and Mike Stifel on bass. I missed recent Foxycotin shows since they have been back, but once we can return to seeing bands, I plan on going, Their long awaited debut album This Time You’re On Your Own (see below) comes out on August 7th on Sister Raygun. There is something for everyone on this album. A song for the sad state of politics in America (The Whole World Knows I’ll Never Get Over It Now), A reworked Rolling Hayseeds song (It’s Starting to Show), and a couple of songs have organ music by Sam Steinig (Mondo Topless and GTVs) that reminds me of the organ parts of early Elvis Costello songs, plus lots of cool covers from all over the musical spectrum.
Mt Vengeance is Rich Fravel – singer/guitarist (Uptown Bones, Latimer, Ashtabula, Blue & Realtor extraordinaire who helped me buy my house), Brian Campbell – bass (Electric Love Muffin & Poppy) and Nicky Santore – drums (Valsalva, Glory Hole). I have seen them live a few times and for me it was a strange (in a good way) mix of nostalgia for the 90s but with enough freshness to it to make it sound new. Their first album Covered in Dust from 2018 was one of my favorites of that year and the new album Machines is even better (see below). There are a lot of different styles on this album. A few songs have a pop sensibility but with a harder edge. Others like Nil By Mouth has distorted noisy guitar with a grove. Then it all wraps up with the song Machines which has a metalish Hawkwind sort of sound.
Here is a video I shot before the Photon Band / American Trappist / Mt. Vengeance show at JB’s. Brian (ELM, Poppy, Mt. Vengeance), Rich (Uptown Bones, Mt. Vengeance), Art (Uptown Bones, Photon Band) & Noel (Uptown Bones) played two Uptown Bones songs and an ELM song.
Other Sister Raygun bands include Philly’s own Beretta 76
Good Power Pop Italian band Mad Rollers
I have to use the bandcamp description for Pre-Cog in the Bunker – a sci-fi post-punk duo blending punk noise, classic melodies, and literary lyrics.
And The Professor Fuzz 63 is a cool, lo-fi, rocking’ trio from Dallas,
Two demo tapes from late 80’s Philly band Orifice. In the late 80’s early 90’s some of the scene was moving from punk/hardcore into Industrial Noise à la Test Department & Einstürzende Neubauten. Philadelphia had a some good examples of that move in Orifice, King Carcass, Sink Manhattan, Nine Firemen Nine and I’m sure other I can’t think of right now. The band was made up of Bryan Willette (ex Love Battery (philly one not sub pop band that came later)) Grant Acker (Un), Pete Danz, Don Glass, and Frank Phobia (Anthrophobia),
I made a video for (I believe) their song the Burning Bus for a RTF class at Temple. I would love to put the video in this post but my partner on the project kept the only copy of it and I have never been able to see it again. I’m sure it was brilliant piece of 1st year of film school cinema. 🙂
Thanks for the tape files Frank!
2 Live shows from JC Dobbs in 1992 by Richmond VA band Mudd Helmet. There is not a lot of info about them online but it looks like Mudd Helmut broke up in 1993 after releasing one 7″ and one tape (1990). Thanks for the tape files Brett Noise Addiction II
Deadspot were in my opinion the best of the Philly Metal crossover bands. They definitely had a more metalish sound but retained punk/hardcore ethos. For the demo tape the bass player was Richard Birch who was also the guitarist for Decontrol. One of the Deadspot songs from their tape was on the Philly comp: Disc Pan Hands. Deadspot’s line up featured Larry Horn (listed as The Kid) on drums, Mike Illes on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Paul Juestrich on lead guitar and Larry Leifheit on bass. Besides the Demo Tape I have included their first album Adios Dude and the 7 inch Built-In Pain.
Their 2nd album Built in Pain LP is still available to buy.
I’ve also included a couple of videos I put up on YouTube from Lenny Crunch (RIP) & flyers.
The A’s were one of the early bands to get major label notice from Philly underground. They were around from 1978 to 1983 with Richard Bush (lead vocals), Rick DiFonzo (guitar), Rocco Notte (keyboards), Terry Bortman (bass), and Michael Snyder (drums). This is a radio concert recording of them from Emerald City in Cherry Hill.
Eddie Hacksaw was a pioneering DJ at WXPN in the early days of the Philadelphia scene. Personally I never got to meet him but I’ve always heard he was a great DJ that did a lot to promote the local scene. Tragically he died in a car accident August 1986.
This is a recording of one of his shows from December 1982
A video clip of the Victims from North Jersey/New York. They were originally together in 1977-1979 and released a couple singles and an LP that are classics in the KBD world. They came back together in the mid-00’s and played in Philly a few times. Always great.
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