Drew’s Amen Corner – Episode One: In Which Your Humble Correspondent Fears (And Fights) Irrelevance
Albums discussed this week:
Hose.Got.Cable – s/t EP + Live At The Kings Head Inn (Bandcamp Link)
Hose.Got.Cable – Antidisestablishmentarianismesque (Bandcamp Link)
Hose.Got.Cable – Majesty (Bandcamp Link)
(Funeral Recordings; funeralrecordings.bandcamp.com)
Doug asking me to start contributing weekly reviews to The Auricular was really exciting for me, mainly because I’ve been really out of touch with local music since the pandemic killed my RVA Mag show column. I’m a middle-aged lady these days (45 years old, to be specific), and even before shows all went away, it was very rare that I actually attended one. Writing about local music was what kept me in the loop; once there wasn’t any more local live music to keep obsessive track of through Facebook invites (one million “interested” responses and counting), I started to feel like I had no idea what was going on anymore.
Of course, Doug also said I could write about music from any time period of Richmond’s history, and one big pitfall as you become an aging music listener is the temptation to stop paying attention to any new music in favor of recycling the stuff you loved in your teens and twenties over and over until you die. This is such a widespread phenomenon that a study about it came out around seven years ago. I remember interviewing Sea Of Storms in 2015 and bassist John Martin mentioning that the study in question found people stopped listening to new music at 33. I asked how old he was and he said, “I’m 34. And I’m leaning into it.”
That’s both funny and understandable, but I’ve always had the opposite inclination. The older I get, the more worried I get about the possibility that I’ll ignore new music, miss out on decades worth of songs and albums I might love, and become fatally mired in the detritus of the ’90s cultural era I most strongly relate to and feel part of. Therefore, I try to fight against it, to stay aware of new things and never let calcified “back in my day” thinking keep me from being open to advances in the world of music.
I wanted to continue doing that with this new weekly contribution to The Auricular. I wanted to write this week about something new. Sadly, though, I’m just too out of the loop. And while I refuse to elaborate upon my current employment situation on the grounds that it may incriminate me, I will tell you that I’m engaged in several different endeavors, all of which are part time and bring in a very spotty cash flow while stressing me out as much as a full-time job used to. So I don’t instinctively know what’s going on locally in 2021, and I don’t really have the time or energy to do the necessary research. (If you’ve got tips for me, drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m 100% serious.)
So fuck it, let’s split the difference, shall we? Let’s talk about some relatively new releases that actually consist of material that first hit the Richmond scene in the early to mid-’90s, when I was in my late teens, bumming around a college I’d eventually drop out of. I’m referring to the expanded digital reissues of Hose.Got.Cable’s discography, which quietly appeared on Bandcamp in 2016, though I didn’t find them until late in 2019.
If you’re under 40, you might not remember Hose.Got.Cable. They broke up in 1996, after releasing two EPs, an LP, and a couple of comp tracks. Members did go on to play in RPG and Alabama Thunderpussy, but that was a lot later, and the local fanbase for those groups was largely made up of older people who’d been around for Hose.Got.Cable when they were younger anyway. So let’s talk about who the heck these guys were.
Hose.Got.Cable grew out of two different bands from the Richmond/Hampton Roads area. First was Hgual, a quintet that featured three guys named John. Partin was on vocals, Peters was on bass, Skaritza was on drums, and their lineup was rounded out by guitarists Brian Davis and Mark Morton — yes, the one who is in Lamb Of God now. Hgual (“laugh” backwards) released a CD EP called Riding On Three Wheels in 1990, and I have a copy somewhere, but considering that my CD collection is still packed away in boxes even though I’ve lived in this house for three and a half years, I haven’t been able to dig it out and listen to it. What’s more, I don’t think I ever listened to it more than once back when I got it, so exactly what it sounded like is a bit of a mystery to me now, though “noisy post-hardcore” seems like a safe bet.
Groove, who were from the Virginia Beach area, were the other band Hose.Got.Cable grew out of. That band featured Chris Wade on vocals, and when Chris moved to Richmond to attend VCU, he started hanging out with the Hgual guys. At some point, both Groove and Hgual fell apart, and (as Chris Wade once told me in an interview I conducted about… Jesus, fifteen years ago now) Chris and the three Johns had the idea to start a band in which a talented, polished rhythm section was fronted by two guitarists who were still just learning their instruments. They thought the potential for chaotic sounds that retained a well-constructed foundation could lead in some pretty great directions. It should tell you something about my particular taste in music that, even if I’d never heard the sounds that resulted, I still would have thought the exact same thing.
Hose.Got.Cable’s first release was a three-song EP that came out on Richmond label Catheter-Assembly in 1993. It documented the early era of the band, and Funeral Recordings (a label that Chris Wade ran in the 90s and has revived on multiple occasions since) has appended their reissue of this EP with an eight-song live performance recorded at Norfolk’s Kings Head Inn around the same time. (The performance ends with a band member telling the crowd “Enjoy Askance and Avail,” which means that this tape was probably captured the same night as Avail’s Live At The Kings Head Inn EP.) Hose hadn’t really come into their own at this point; all three of the songs here are based around largely repetitive riffs that gain their power from using that repetition to continually build tension that erupts when the vocalists start to scream. Opening track “Ditto Rush Limbo” has some entertaining lyrics that reflect the cultural moment in which this record was released (do the kids today even know about Rush Limbaugh fans saying “dittos” or “megadittos” to express their love for his Rushness? I’m so old): “American therapy isn’t what it used to be,” they declare at one point. “Purpleface” is the noisiest, most driving track here, and the moments when the rhythm drops out in favor of distorted guitar chords escalating up the scale into screams and the dramatic return of the beat do offer some real catharsis.
However, it’s “Discover,” the final track and the entire B-side of the original vinyl EP, that really shows what Hose.Got.Cable are capable of. This song became a centerpiece of their live sets, and there was even a pretty spectacular live version of it released on the now-vanished-without-a-trace 1995 cassette compilation UB2B Volume 2, which probably deserves an entire article of its own (though you won’t be able to listen to it, so that’s probably a bad idea). Even here, in the original studio version, it gets pretty wild and wooly, stretching over six minutes in length and building from its incredibly propulsive initial rhythm to something well beyond intense. After a rumbling opening section in which the bass and drums bring in a repetitive but strong dual-guitar riff, the song drops back down to rhythm section only so Partin and Wade can bark some indecipherable lines that eventually devolve into a long scream of “eeeeyeahhhh!!” before the guitars come back in: loud, dissonant, and full of distortion. By two minutes into the song, Partin and Wade — both of whom, keep in mind, still barely knew how to play — had departed on a noise odyssey worthy of “European Son” by the Velvet Underground, which continues for several minutes even as Peters and Skaritza remain locked into the driving rhythmic groove that is this song’s indestructible foundation. As the guitars get further and further out into the free jazz stratosphere, the feeling that some dramatic crescendo is coming grows and grows. The studio version never entirely pays this off, with the rhythm section eventually just bringing the song to an agreed-upon close as the guitars trail off into incoherent feedback.
However, the version of “Discover” that ends Hose.Got.Cable’s Live At The Kings Head Inn shows just how much more monstrous this song got during live performances over the band’s next several years of existence. As the ending draws nigh, Skaritza and Peters accentuate the drama with choppy, syncopated variations on the main rhythm. Finally, at a point when Wade and Partin are fully lost in interstellar space noise, someone in the band incoherently screams a four-count and, on a dime, the whole band lands on the one, perfectly returning to the original riff in a manner that gives it the maximum possible impact, finally ending the song after four perfect bars. I saw and heard them play this song several times, and it always had this kind of stunning power. It’s wonderful that this live recording captures it and brings it back into the world after all these years.
As for the rest of Live At The Kings Head Inn, it is a bit of a treasure trove for the Hose.Got.Cable superfan (if there are any besides me out there). Aside from “Discover,” “Purpleface,” a track called “Pat’s Song” that eventually surfaced on Antidisestablishmentarianismesque under the name “2616,” and “Heraland” (sadly, the only one of Hose.Got.Cable’s studio recordings that isn’t on any of these reissues is the version of this song that was released on the Dixie Flatline comp CD in 1994. You’ll have to find the now-out-of-print Hose.Got.Cable discography CD issued on Cadillac Flambe in 2005 for that one), this recording is made up entirely of unreleased Hose.Got.Cable songs. I can remember them playing “Sweetooth” live, but the others were new to me on first listen to this. They’re pretty good, for the most part, though mostly not as promising as the contemporary material they ended up releasing, so it’d probably be better for any new listeners to get to know the other studio material before spending too much time with these. The version of “Heraland” does make up for the lack of a studio version of that track, though, and thank god for that as it’s always been a personal favorite.
Antidisestablishmentarianismesque, originally released as a double 7-inch on long-gone Richmond label Tenderizer Records in 1994, is the record that really made me love Hose.Got.Cable. I saw them play for the first time around the time this EP came out, and that performance was more than enough to convince me to buy this EP as soon as I saw it for sale. The Funeral Recordings version has the least bonus material of any of these three reissues — it adds “Proof Without Mark,” Hose.Got.Cable’s contribution to the All The President’s Men compilation LP (which also featured fellow Richmonders Maximillian Colby), but otherwise is just the original six-song tracklist, albeit with a new transfer directly from the original DAT master for this Bandcamp release.
Listen, here’s the thing though — that’s more than enough. The original six songs dubbed off a crackly vinyl version of the original release would have been enough for me. This, if you ask me, is Hose.Got.Cable’s finest moment; it contains most of my favorite songs by them, features a thick guitar sound and a strong recording that really captures their live intensity, and at 23 minutes, is just about the perfect length to really make an impact while not overstaying its welcome. If you’re only going to take a chance on one of these (and they’re all name-your-price downloads at Bandcamp, so why the fuck not?), this is the one you should get.
It comes roaring out the gate with opener “Chevy Chase, Motherfucker,” one of two songs that took up a full side on the original double vinyl EP. Only six seconds shorter than “Discover,” “Chevy Chase, Motherfucker” is shorter and sharper than it seems from its running time, in light of the fact that the song is largely over by the four-minute mark. And really, it leaves its hardest impact with the first half, which is full of sharp, driving riffs accompanied by pounding, virtuosic drumming from John Skaritza and some incredibly caustic vocal performances by John Partin and Chris Wade. John Peters’ bass is a bit farther in the background, but if you tune into it, he’s doing some interesting stuff too. Really, this whole thing is great.
It also shows more dynamic range than anything on the first EP, as two harsh verse-chorus iterations in the first 90 seconds eventually give way to an intense bridge over which one of the vocalists (I honestly can’t tell them apart) screams “Get your mask, put it on” in a mushmouth manner that was at one time parodied on a MySpace page for Hose.Got.Cable (created on the occasion of that Cadillac Flambe reissue I mentioned earlier), rendering the line as “getcha wow, pudded ow.” And yeah, that’s about right, but they deliver it with more than enough commitment to make it convincing. That bridge ultimately moves into a quieter, moodier riff, over which the band chants a few melancholy lines, and finally, after four and a half minutes, the whole song falls apart. The last 90 seconds are just the sound of open guitar strings held in front of an amp, humming with gradually decaying sustain.
Whew! What could this EP offer after that? Well, let’s start with “The Smallest Living Thing,” a song that starts as a bluesy lament before building that initial blues riff into a vaguely emo-tinged chaotic hardcore noisefest. Even better, there’s “Gumwrapper Roses,” which builds from a wire-tight post-hardcore groove into a showcase for mutated hardcore riffs and the always-perfect tandem screams of Partin and Wade. “Proof Without Mark”s quiet percussion-driven opening leads quickly into a pell-mell downhill ride that draws some of its strengths from the moments when Partin and Wade still their squalling guitars in favor of tandem screams; the riffs just hit that much harder when they pick the guitars back up. “2616” puts a brief spotlight on Patrick Kennedy, who often carried gear for Hose.Got.Cable; he was around so much, they gave him a song to sing. It’s a good song, too, and Patrick’s raging vocal attack might be what ultimately got him the position of vocalist in Pen Rollings’ post-Breadwinner group, Ladyfinger (who have also vanished without a trace).
On Antidisestablishmentarianismesque, it’s clear that Hose.Got.Cable were part of a musical moment that was hitting its crescendo about 1994. While a lot of people would call this stuff — which I referred to as “chaotic hardcore” at the time — “first-wave screamo,” I really think this does a great injustice to stuff that was, yes, emotional in feel, but never lost the harsh fury of hardcore at its best, and if anything just took it in an even more intense and unhinged direction. Not really an aggressive direction, though, and I think that’s what fuels such inaccurate characterizations. Here’s the thing, though — hardcore doesn’t have to be tough and belligerent. It’s more interesting when it’s not.
Hose.Got.Cable took this contention to its logical conclusion on Majesty, their lone LP. And really, a lot of people would probably tell you it’s more like half an LP. That’s because side one is made up entirely of a nearly 15-minute track that has elements of a traditional Hose.Got.Cable song, but is more of an experimental noise jam than anything. On the Cadillac Flambe reissue, this track was moved to the end of the songs from Majesty (and the end of the CD, so you could just turn it off when it got there), but I learned from my long-ago interview with Chris Wade that it was always intended to begin the album, to be the first thing the listener was confronted with when they put the record on. Of course, if you were a Hose.Got.Cable nerd at the time (and how many of those were there?) you might have recognized what this long noise jam (identified on the Funeral Recordings reissue as “___”) actually was — a strange, exploded version of the Hose.Got.Cable song “Ego,” which they often played live in a much more standard form. The version on the new reissue of Majesty eases the pain for the listener a bit, adding a new noise intro but cutting some of the several minutes of trailed-off feedback that drew the original version out long enough to take up the full side of an LP.
It also adds what I’d call a decoder ring — a live version of “Ego,” recorded at another Kings Head Inn performance, this one in 1994. All the pieces are there, starting with the repeating single-chord drone intro — the only part of the song that was mostly preserved unchanged on the LP version — which reveals itself as yet another of Hose’s exercises in building intensity (even as John Partin repeatedly yells that “I think the price of postage stamps is way too high” before moving on to a rant about Taco Bell needing to lower their prices; I wish I could see the look on 27-years-ago Partin’s face if I could have told him how much the USPS and Taco Bell charge today). By five minutes in, that repeated single chord is starting to feel even more like the approach of an impending storm than the closing minutes of “Discover” often did during Hose live performances. Thankfully, instead of falling apart into a quiet hum, occasional piano chords, and the disembodied voices of Wade and Partin singing the lyrics (as the album version does), this 1994 performance of “Ego” allows the listener the pure satisfaction of hearing the raging headbanger chaos that all that repetition was building up to. Releasing the deconstructed noise version of this song back in 1996 robbed a quarter-century of Hose.Got.Cable fans the opportunity to hear this song as it was originally intended to be. This live track finally, at long last, fixes that. And for me, that was the whole reason to get this reissue of Majesty in the first place.
But I mean, I have the Cadillac Flambe CD Discography. Until I fell on hard times and had to sell my record collection to pay rent, I had the vinyl LP too. I didn’t need the five honest-to-god jams that made up the B-side of the Majesty LP. But if you don’t have either of those older editions, you definitely do. By this point in their career, Hose.Got.Cable had gotten really into alternate time signatures, and songs like the rollicking “Look/Fuck,” the juddering noise groove machine “Occupatus 4:19,” and the moody, funky “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” bring a new complexity to what this band was capable of. At points, they remind me less of mid-90s chaotic hardcore and more of unconventional noise-rock groups from the era, like Barkmarket or The Cows. The fact that this five-song stretch ends in 11 minutes, less than half of Antidisestablishmentarianismesque‘s running time, makes me wish we could have gotten more material from this final era of Hose.Got.Cable. If anything, though, the shorter runtimes show how tight they’d gotten with their songwriting by this point, and that after three years, Partin and Wade really did know how to play their guitars well enough that entire new sonic frontiers were opening up.
We’ll have to leave those mostly unexplored at this point, though. If you want to hear what the members did next, there’s certainly plenty out there to dig into. Wade went on to Orlock, whose material is also available from the Funeral Recordings Bandcamp page. Partin’s later group RPG is easy to find online. Peters’ work in Alabama Thunderpussy can be heard on the albums Staring At The Divine and Fulton Hill. John Skaritza played on most of the later Men’s Recovery Project EPs and was in the experimental combo the Rah Bras. Put all of those groups together, and you’ll probably end up with something approaching the noisy, complex chaos of prime Hose.Got.Cable. Or you could just listen to these three reissues a whole bunch of times. That latter course of action is the one I recommend.