Motley crews

By BRETT MILANO  |  November 15, 2006

To some extent, it seemed the scene was all about pop — Tribe, Letters to Cleo, the Gravel Pit, and the Gigolo Aunts all gave Boston an overload of melody. But this period also saw a run of high-volume bands like Stompbox, Slughog, and Roadsaw, plus the all-female Malachite. And 1994 also saw what may be the Boston-based world’s most memorable incident on nationwide TV, when the Upper Crust hit the Conan O’Brien show. After Lord Bendover, Jackie Kickassis, and the Duc D’Istortion all introduced themselves, Conan sized them up and deadpanned, “You guys spend too much time on the names.”

The scene today is harder than ever to pin down, since nearly everyone mentioned here is still performing in one form or another. But whether one leans to the art circle or the loud-guy rock, it still comes down to Boston wrestling with that Puritan heritage. Did the same scene really spawn Dropkick Murphys and the Dresden Dolls? Nü-metal pile drivers Godsmack and acoustic nice guys Guster? Fluttr Effect’s art-rock epics and Darkbuster’s “Balls the Size of Cantaloupes”? That old dirty water still runs deep. Or as the Turbines’ John Hovorka succinctly put it in the ’80s, “Waaahh-HEY!”

Phoenix freelance writer Brett Milano’s Boston rock history The Sound of Our Town will be available next fall from Commonwealth Editions.

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