Decontrolling the price of punk

By DOUG SIMMONS  |  November 14, 2006

This article originally appeared in the October 13, 1981 issue of the Boston Phoenix.

SS Decontrol and its followers sure are ugly. Most of them are skinheads – and I mean down to the skull – and they favor boots, tight jeans cuffed above the ankles, and T-shirts with bands and slogans scrawled on them (Black Flag … Adolescents … Kill the Hippies). Like their fans, the SS members are either in or just out of high school. Fronted by a weasely 17-year-old named Springa (the brother of rock photographer Phil in Phlash) and a muscular, mean-looking guitarist named Lethal, they play exceptionally clumsy LA-speedrock. Songs begin with Springa yelling something like, “We’ve been shit on far too long.” Then the band surges into a thrash-slash buzz, forcing Springa into the din, where he becomes a hoarse, unintelligible teen growl. The whole jagged mess generally rakes your ears for a minute, some songs even less.

Except for the Freeze but definitely not Leper (whose manicured Mohawks and cartoonish stage act place it in the Plasmatics’ camp – in other words, an amusing fraud) SS is the only hard-core LA-style band in town. Despite its use of Nazi imagery and its well-intended but still stupid insistence that the initials stand for Social System and not Schutzstaffel, I like SS Decontrol a great deal. (Why couldn’t it call itself something less confusing, like the Limp Dicks or the Pox or the James Brady Bunch? When will it realize that swastikas are a cliché shock tactic? I mean, even Jagger got into them.)

In any event, SS Decontrol has already started a home-grown hard-core scene in Boston, no small feat. The band met one another over the summer at a Black Flag and Dead Kennedys gig. All four members are middle-class and still live with their parents. Springa goes to high school in Quincy; drummer Chris Foley does the same in Wellesley; bass player Jamie is a sophomore studying marketing at Bentley; and Lethal has a 40-hour-a-week factory job. It’s not surprising to learn, of course, that each of them is extraordinarily angry at the world. “I’m pissed off about everything,” Springa says with a doleful sincerity, adding that only three things make him happy: “slamming, playing , and listening to hard-core music.”

Perhaps 150 people were at Streets a week ago, the second time I saw SS Decontrol; and when the band went on, 20 of them gathered menacingly in front of the stage, forming the pit. From the first scream on, those 20 became one with the band. A song ignited the pit action. Some would stalk goonishly about, bumping and crashing into whomever was in the way. Others leaped and flailed. A few scampered onto the stage and dove off, sometimes backward, knocking people down like candlepins. Still, this slamming crowd differed from all the other pits I’ve watched. The dancers monitored themselves with an unprecedented compassion. If someone fell, he or she (two women participated) was helped to his feet. If a mike stand tumbled, a fan retrieved it and set it back up. And often as not, when you saw someone leap atop someone else, the grip, examined closely, was more a roughhousing act of affection, a raucous hug, than an attack. There was a perfect balance between danger and fun, chaos and control. As Lethal alter explained, “There’s a feeling you get in the pit. You can feel who’s cool and who’s not. If they’re not cool you can usually get them out of there.” Nevertheless, midway through that set I got terrified.

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