Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Angry Samoans "Back From Samoa" (1982)

The Angry Samoans were abrasive, irreverent, sarcastic, crude and, as often follows, damn funny. On their second album, Back From Samoa, they were absolutely brilliant.

Fronted by the snarling "Metal" Mike Saunders, the Angry Samoans were part of the first wave of L.A. hardcore bands in the late 1970s.  While they played as hard and loud and fast as any of their contemporaries, they stood apart from the crowd in attitude. Other bands may have taken the political route or tried to deliver some sort of message in their music, but not the Samoans. Instead, they reveled in B-movie schlock, class-clown antics, and a devastatingly sharp skewering of the very scene they were a part of. They refused to take themselves too seriously, but they had enough of an edge to make you think that they just might be dangerous.

On  top of all that, they were good. Damn good. Their songs were short and punchy (Back From Samoa's 14 songs fly by in just over 15 minutes!) but solid, and the musicianship matched.  Even at top speed, the riffs are crisp, the rhythm on point, and the energy just crackles through the speakers.

Taken at face value, especially in today's Politically Correct world, the album could be seen as jaw-droppingly offensive; in the context of its time and place on the musical spectrum, the calculated shock factor is so defiantly over-the-top as to go beyond cartoonish and into the realm of self-parody. Songs like "They Saved Hitler's Cock," "Homo-Sexual," and the staggeringly foul "Ballad Of Jerry Curlan" (in which the title character's perverted sins, including incest and bestiality, are listed in specific detail) are so far over the line that only the most purposefully obtuse could possibly take them seriously.  The band isn't actually encouraging you to  "put a fork in your hand/poke your eyes out" (from "Lights Out"), they're just having fun (and poking fun at) being a stoopid punk band. Remember, in those days mainstream America thought punk rock was going to take us all to Hell in a hand basket.  The Angry Samoans played right up to that fear and had a good laugh about it.

There are real gems to be found on the album as well:  "Gas Chamber" is in the running for best hardcore song ever written; the sci-fi drenched "Not Of This Earth" foreshadows the direction the Samoans would go musically as the years went on; their cover of the Chambers Brothers' hit "Time Has Come Today" is not to be missed.

Back From Samoa is a classic punk album through and through.  It has been reissued many times on many labels over the years, so tracking down a copy is not difficult at all.  Obviously, the easily offended should stay away; those who can look past the surface and are willing to wallow in the muck for a bit will have a blast.  To give you a taste, enjoy a clip of the Angry Samoans performing "Gas Chamber" and "Not Of This Earth" on New Wave Theater (with a brief interview that includes Saunders grabbing the microphone for an important message) and the actual video the band made for "Time Has Come Today."  Enjoy!