Under A Broken Street Lamp by Michael Essington and David Gurz


Under A Broken Street Lamp
Written by: Michael Essington and David Gurz
Essex Digital Media

Middle-age can be murder. The resiliency of youth has gone. The bones have become brittle. The blows seem to sink deeper–each one making the chances of mounting a spirited attack less likely. Only stubborn pride keeps you from sinking to the mat and curling up like a fetal pig.

Pride and the legs of that girl holding up the round card. Looking at those sexy scissors circling the ring between beatings helps. “If I don’t get KO’d, I just might have a chance at that.”

No chance at all, really. But middle-age will make a man cling to his delusions. They’re a cheap substitute for hope. Like a shrunken head necklace. Made out of fake shrunken heads.

Ah, hope. I remember rotary-dialed phones that were attached to a wall. Cigarette ads on TV. Drinking Schlitz beer through a triangle you punched in the can. Being able to go to 4th-grade shit-hammered drunk.

And hope.

Don’t bother looking around Under A Broken Street Lamp for any. You won’t find it. This little chapbook is antiseptically free of anything even slightly resembling it. It is cover-to-cover bummer and pain. For a natural depressive like me, lifts my spirits. Some weird counter-effect. Like giving speed to a spaz calms them down. Doom Lit picks me up.

It just so happens, the authors, Michael Essington and David Gurz are middle-aged. Coincidence? Hardly. If you need a strong downer fix, find an older dealer. They always have the strongest, most bestial brands. Middle-aged Misery can tie Teen Angst to a bunk and rawhide it like the little bitch it is.

In “Walter,” Essington has the middle-aged protagonist, desperately flailing in mid-life crisis. A loveless marriage. Unresponsive children. A growing paunch. Thinning hair.

Eventually, Walter has enough. He decides to Carpe him some Diem. Begins banging out a twenty-something Scheherazade that works in his company’s mailroom. Winds up taking her to Paris. Spends the kid’s college fund. Alienates everyone he knows.

Bold action, indeed. Not for the timid, or those hindered by the fetters of conscience or reason. Bravo, I say.

Well, Walter finally nutted up and followed his bliss, and surprise, surprise, it destroys his family life. As if those two could’ve ever co-existed. Without giving away how it all ends for Walter, let’s just say that suicide plays a big part–which sometimes, especially when you’re in a relationship with a much younger woman, is about as good an ending as you can hope for.

So that’s good.

Dave Gurz’s contribution, Dead Calm, is a cheery little tale featuring an aging punk who just wants to be left alone to drink beer and read his Bukowski, and the sociopathic, serial-killing, junkie hooker that decides to become his sexy friend.

I don’t know why this one particularly raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I guess Gurz is a good writer because I could really picture this little vignette going down. And for some reason, in my imagination, at The Desert Sands Motel on Central Avenue in Albuquerque, N.M. Back in the winter of ’98.

Well, I don’t want to ruin this ending either, so like the kids today say, “spoiler alert,” because it’s not the hooker that gets her throat slit.

Sure, that’s a refreshing change, but not enough to qualify it as a happy ending. I mean, the dude really was minding his own business. She didn’t have to kill him. She could’ve taken his wallet. Given him crabs. Told him she was pregnant. Moved in and not paid any bills.

Okay. Maybe he did get off easy.

So that’s good.

Also, subterraneans and sub-cult crawlers should enjoy Dave’s Unter Kultur references. Ol’ Gurz can get as real and grimy as a bus station handshake. Always enjoy the Gurz.

Oh, and as an added bonus, there’s a poem by Essington, “Lazarus.” A delightful ditty. The subject climbs out on a ledge to jump, but, without giving away too much, thanks to a pigeon’s needy look, decides not to. The mastery here is that by the end of the poem, Essington leaves you subtly convinced that our man, made the wrong decision. Should’ve stomped the bird, and then taken the Nestea plunge.

Now that’s good writing.

I realize this sort of fare might not be for everyone. Unrelenting sadness and desperation might not be your cup of tea, and I know that sometimes I have to be in the right mood for suicide or murder.

Just keep in mind, that often, it’s the bitterest tonic that has the strongest kick. Something having to do with alkaloids, I don’t know, but Under A Broken Street Lamp packs a pretty decent punch in the guts, and fucks nicely with the head. What’s not to love about that?

Pick it up and give it a read. Feel the sorrow drip off your elbows and pool around your shoes in big black puddles of gloom. It’s a short-read chapbook. You can hit it quick. Then shit-can it. Along with the rest of the failure, you call your life.

Bon Jour.

TSOL – Weathered Statues


Weathered Statues
1982 – Alternative Tentacles
Producer: Thom Wilson

Jack Grisham – Vocals
Ron Emory – Guitar
Mike Roche – Bass
Todd Barnes – Drums
Robert Taylor – Keyboards

1. Man & Machine – 1:37
2. Weathered Statues – 3:09
3. Thoughts of Yesterday – 2:37
4. Word Is – 2:34

I picked this one up at Moby Disc in Sherman Oaks the week it came out. It came out on the heels of Dance With Me. They had left Frontier and put this out on Alternative Tentacles.

Opening with Man and Machine, a fast-paced hardcore tune similar to those found on their first EP, but from then on TSOL goes to a more Dance With Me sound.

Their two EPs (TSOL’s self-titled EP, and Weathered Statues) sandwiched TSOL’s 1981 debut album Dance with me, one of the finest pieces of American punk ever.

Topped off by Ron Emory’s great guitar work, and a smoking bass line, the Weathered Statues EP ends with Word Is, which has a bit of a ska vibe. And after this release, TSOL would go in yet another direction.

If you don’t own it, you may be in the garage mixing radiator coolant and Sudafed.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

The standout cuts are Man & Machine, and Weathered Statues.

If you can find it, buy it.

On to the story . . .

Sometime around November of 2009, I was sent an “Event” notice on Facebook. I get one or two of these a week nowadays. Someone is promoting a club, a concert, a seminar, or sometimes a movie premiere or having a birthday party. I’m a real flake, I always reply with a maybe. If it’s in the Valley, and I don’t have to do much driving, I’ll say I’m attending.

Anyway, this guy Eric that I was friend’s with for a time, back in school, wrote to everybody who he was still in touch with from High School and said this girl Terri who had moved to Texas was going to be in the Valley for two weeks.

So, he wanted everybody to get together at a Coffee Bean, and shoot the shit. He set up an “Event” page on Facebook. With two dates, one right after Christmas (I think the 27th), and another one right after New Years.

I clicked that I would attend the one after Christmas.

I mark the calendar and come that Sunday I plan to do my regular weekend routine. Breakfast with my Son; maybe swing through the local Goodwill (I buy books, DVD’s, and an occasional video game for the boy), and the necessities for the house at Wal-Mart.

Unfortunately, this Sunday was screwy. We did breakfast, and then the Wife called and said her elderly Uncle was in the hospital. He had been fasting during Christmas (he is an Orthodox Catholic), and became weak and fainted. He’s a real good guy and digs my Son, so after breakfast, we head to Northridge Hospital (hey, I was born there), and visit him for a while.

Then we head for Porter Ranch to find the Coffee Bean. Stroll in, look around and. . . nobody! My Son and I order our drinks (chocolate milk for him, and decaf for me). After about after 20 minutes to a half an hour, Terri walks in. She looks around, and says where is everybody, and I say “I’m it, so far.”

It’s been about 25 years since I’ve seen her so . . . I don’t know what to say. My Son took over the conversation for a bit, he starts showing her his Nintendo DS and starts explaining how the Mario and Sonic Winter Olympic game works.

Then she utters the funniest thing, I see her hemming, and hawing and she says, “Um, I remember you in high school, you were kind of into . . . . I guess new wave.” Her face is now red as if you just confessed the most embarrassing moment of your life.

I looked at her for a moment, and said: “I think you mean punk.”

You just looked at me, then “yeah, I know, but I didn’t want to say that.”

I kind of laughed and blew it off. But the more I thought about it, the more it tripped me out. Being into punk is like saying I did a 15-year bid on a manslaughter charge. It brings out that kind of shame and embarrassment.

So, my Son and I hung out for about an hour, and shot the shit, about who we could remember, and who is up to what. All the while compiling a list in my head of what I want to buy at Headline Records once I get the hell out of there.

Then two more classmates of ours (they met up later in life, and married) come walking up, they sit for a while.

Then the “Wife” says to me: “I remember you used to have spiked hair, and a razor earring, didn’t you listen to new wave or something?” I smile and say “I think it was punk.” She looks away, and smiles, and says “Oh, OK.”

Then, the “husband,” oblivious to the prior conversations looks at me, and says, “So, how are you?” I say “Good, yourself?” He says, “Fine. Weren’t you into new wave or something? I remember you in a leather jacket; it had TSO . . . something painted on it.”

At this point I gave up, I said: “Yep, loved me some new wave.”




Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

The Gears – Rockin’ At Ground Zero


The Gears
Rockin’ At Ground Zero
2009 – Hepcat Records

Axxel G Reese- Vocals
Sean Shift – Drums, vocals
Mike Manifold- Bass, vocals
Eric Arcane- Guitar, vocals

1. Baby Runaround
2. Let’s Go To The Beach
3. Don t Be Afraid To Pogo
4. Elks Lodge Blues
5. Teenage Brain
6. Wasting Time
7. Darlin’ Baby
8. Trudie Trudie
9. High School Girls
10. The Last Chord
11. Heartbeat Baby
12. Rockin’ At Ground Zero
13. I Smoke Dope
14. Keep Movin
15. Last Chance
16. Let’s Go To The Beach (original 45)
17. Hard Rock (original 45)
18. Don t Be Afraid To Pogo (original 45)
19. Girl Crazy (1979 demo)
20. High School Girls (1979 demo)
21. Darlin’ Baby (1979 demo)
22. Heartbeat Baby (1979 demo)
23. Rockin’ At Ground Zero (1979 demo)

It might be because the original release of Rockin’ at Ground Zero was limited to something like 2000 copies, or the fact that The Gears came along a bit later than the first wave of California punk bands, but, for whatever reason, this band and this album have never received the acclaim and recognition it/they deserve. Sure, allot of diehard punk fans know about the Gears. I think that this album ranks up there with the likes of Los Angeles, GI, Damaged and Group Sex. One of the best things about this album is that it is fun and has plenty of energy and attitude. The original LP copy, with the red cover, is a treasure, but this reissue is cool because it also features The Gears’ first 7″ plus a handful of demos.

If you don’t own it, go get it.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On with the story . . .

Back in November of 2014, when my brother took me to see Judas Priest there was an enormous opportunity for me to people watch.

One of the best things I saw was a guy with some kids toys two or three rows in front of us. He was about sixty years old. His hair was dyed Gene Simmons ultra-black and looked just as fried as Mr. Simmons hair’. He wore a sleeveless black shirt and was sleeved on both arms with tattoos, so I thought.

As the evening wore on I noticed after his fiftieth time throwing up his devil horns, some of his tattoos started to wrinkle a bit. Being nosy and easily amused by this kind of oddity, I leaned over my seat a bit and noticed that his sleeve “tattoos” were actually clear Lycra with roses and tribal artwork imprinted up and down the sleeves.

It was clear the man wanted to rock, but neither had the funds or pain threshold for real tattoos. So, the next best thing was Lycra.

Too funny.




Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb



In February of 2017, I’m going stop writing for strangereaction.com. I’ve done the Mike Check column for them since February of 2007, and I think it’s time to step away.

It’s been a helluva lot of fun and I’ve heard so much music and seen so many shows. I’m grateful Scott let me come aboard.

After a decade, I’m not sure what else there is to say. Thanks to everyone that stopped by and read my rants.

#michaelessington #misconceptionsofhell




Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Battalion of Saints – Fighting Boys


Battalion of Saints
Fighting Boys 12” EP
1982 – Nutron Records

George Anthony – Vocals
Chris Smith – Guitar
James Cooper – Bass
Ted Olsen – Drums

1 – E/B 1:11
2 – Fighting Boys 1:43
3 – Modern Day Heroes 1:13
4 – (I’m Wanna) Make You Scream 2:28

I remember the exact moment that I first found out about Battalion of Saints, it was when I picked up Flipside number 31, the Spring 1982 issue. I would do my usual flip-through, then go back, and read whatever caught my eye. I would start flipping through, and it was there on page eleven, staring back at me was some of the coolest artwork, punk or otherwise, that I had ever seen! This guy “Mad” Marc Rude had taken every cool art element, comic book, graffiti, and thrown it all together into one cool-ass piece of work. It reminded me, a bit, of the Bernie Wrightson art from the early 1970’s Swamp Thing comics, but a bit more dangerous.

Like most of my purchases back then, I made the trip down to Moby Disc in Sherman Oaks, CA to pick this one up. I know the saying goes “never judge a book by its cover,” but in this case . . . I did just that. I admit it, based solely on Marc Rude’s art I bought this! The packaging was incredibly slick, there was also a poster inside, and they really went all out. The band only pressed 2,000 copies of this EP.

What surprised me about them was, I later learned, was that they were from San Diego, but looked like they were a British band, like they may have grown up down the street from Discharge. At one point they had Capt. Scarlet play bass for them. Scarlet, who was from England, had played for the Exploited, and the U.K. Subs for a short time. From 1978 to 1981, they played under the name the Nutrons.

Something else that impressed me was, the singer, George Anthony’s tattoos, he had some really good-looking tattoos. Now, this was before the early 1990’s Mickey Rourke era tattoo explosion. One of his tattoos was a skull on a bible, and another was some kind of skeletal creature in a graveyard. Great looking.

I have to admit when I put the record on, back in 1981, I liked all of the songs right off. They had a definite wall of sound about them. But as I am writing this I’m re-listening to this for the first time in almost 20 years, I now think songs one, and three are pretty much filler tracks. They were typical of most of the music coming out at that time. There’s a lot of energy in these songs, but “(I’m Wanna) Make You Scream” is Battalion at their best. The guitar in this song is really infectious, and George Anthony’s vocals soar.

E/B, the first track, and the shortest track has a lot of energy, but the lyrics, like all of the tracks on this EP, were a bit weak. After listening to Bad Religion, and hearing the type of lyrics Greg Graffin was able to produce at the age of 16 is phenomenal. Graffin was able to make very socially conscious songs without compromising the sound, or quality of the song. Another notable lyrist was Darby Crash, he had an ability to write about things and have you understand, and be confused at the same time. E/B was done in kind of a British hardcore style, slipping between screaming, and a singsong type chorus. I have no idea what the title means. If you listened to any Hardcore in the early 80’s you probably heard these types of lyrics rehashed a few times. The lyric “Governments will try to make sure we have no private lives” is more relevant in this current administration, than ever before.

Fighting Boys, the second track, has a lot of energy in this song. The verses are so wordy, that at times it seems like George is rushing past the music to spit them out. After a few listens, the chorus hooks you:

“Fighting boys have no choice
But to Fight, Fight, Fight
Fighting boys go out in the streets
And go wild!”

Modern Day Heroes is probably the worst song on here. I understand what the plan was here. Like most of the British Hardcore bands of the time they were very socially and politically aware, so this is what Battalion was trying to do on this side of the pond, but because of the way it was written it comes off sounding very forced:

“Killers now are so drab
They’re modern day heroes
Killers are now heroes
Modern day heroes
Killers are now heroes.”

(I Wanna) Make You Scream, the longest song on the EP, music-wise this is also the best song. By the time you get to this track all the doom and gloom is a bit much. Having been a fan of this type of music for a little under forty years, I’m not saying I want a happy-go-lucky type track, but different groups of this time, like the Adolescents have given the negativity a break for a second and still were able to put out good tracks like Amoeba. Whether you liked Amoeba, or not, it was a fun track.

“I wanna make you scream
With his hands around your neck
I wanna make you scream
It’s a better world now that you’re dead.”

Like all hardcore music from this time, you have to be in the mood for certain bands. But this one is cool to own, throw it on when you’re driving or having a party. A short party, the EP is only 6:34 minutes. But by today’s standards, that’s 30 minutes of someone else’s music. The original EP is extremely rare, every once in a while a bootleg of this will pop up (one from Mexico came out years ago on green vinyl), and the music has been re-released on a CD called Death R Us, released in 1995. They also had three original songs on the BYO Records compilation “Someone Got Their Head Kicked In,” which was, also, released in 1982.

The original Battalion of Saints lineup put out the “Fighting Boys” 12″ EP, and the “Second Coming” LP, plus numerous compilation tracks. Most of this material has been re-released on the “Death-R-Us” CD available on Taang Records.

In 1984, Chris Smith the guitarist for Battalion of Saints died. The story was that he slipped in the bathtub, and cracked his head open, proceeding to drown. They actually had found him lying dead in the bathtub with syringes lying all over the place from shooting up heroin, and speed.

In 2002, Battalion of Saints reformed, the current line-up includes San Diego veterans Matt Anderson on bass, Scott Bartoloni on guitar, Steve “Gerabix” Gearhardt & Mario Rubalcaba sharing duties on drums, and Londis “TK” Kues also on guitar.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

The standout cuts are: (I Wanna) Make You Scream and Fighting Boys.

If you can find it, give it a try.




Misconceptions of Hell is available now: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

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