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Album Review: Carsickness “1979-1982”

Every punk fan tries to one up their fellow punk fans—it’s just a fun game we like to play. “Oh, you like that obscure punk band from the early ‘70’s? Well, I like THIS obscure band from the late ‘70’s!” and so on, and so on. It’s quite the learning experience and in the end everyone wins because you learn about awesome music.

Well, here’s one band that’ll win you a bagillion cool points, Pittsburgh-natives, Carsickness.

“Music that’ll punch holes in your brain,” was how this band was described back in the ‘80’s and it still holds up. Before their break they had already played with big-timers like U2, Black Flag, The Pogues, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so many others. They’ve also influenced current popular bands like punk/ anti-government group Anti-Flag (the Carsickness percussionist actually passed down his original paint-splattered drum set to guitarist and vocalist, Justin Sane).

Their music was the pioneer to cool obscure punk bands everywhere. They utilized every sound and instrument possible, with lots of saxophone, zipper noises, organ, etc., which was not easy to come by back in those days. Now, we’ve got all kinds of punk bands unafraid to add a little sax or bells or whatever to their sound.

Photo by Stacey Weiss, 1979

Carsickness, 1979

This Friday, April 21, Get Hip Recordings will be releasing a re-mastered Carsickness album filled with tracks from their heydays of 1979-1982, it even includes a never-before-released acoustic version of “Bill Wilkinson.” If you haven’t heard it before, it’s relevant now more than ever, with it’s chorus being: “What do you say to the KKK? FUCK YOU!”

Back in 1979 in a dark and dingy basement filled with rebellious rejects and misfits, Carsickness was born. Not many know this, but Pittsburgh, PA had a vibrant and hearty punk scene, not like the ones going on in the U.K. with The Sex Pistols and The Clash, or even the one in NYC with Iggy Pop and The Ramones. As Carsickness drummer, Dennis Childers, explains, “it wasn’t a punk scene like the rest of the world was having, it was more of an explosion of creativity—it was the beginning of Pittsburgh’s transition from smoky old town, to the renaissance city we live and work in today.”

Carsickness Flyer, 1980's

Carsickness Flyer, 1980’s

Carsickness was comprised of pioneer punk rockers Karl Mullen (guitar/vocals), Steve Sciulli (synthesizer/ miscellany), and Dennis Childers (drums), and later transformed with the addition of Chris Koenigsberg (bass), Dan Roelich (saxophone), and Hans Werner (guitar/ keyboards).

Childers opened an art show in downtown Pittsburgh entitled “Non-Punk Pittsburgh” that displays hundreds of photos of old school punks being unequivocally and unapologetically self-expressive. When you look at the subjects of these photos it’s obvious that people now are trying their hardest to portray just this. The Pittsburgh scene during that time was comprised of people who just wanted to share with the world what they love and are passionate about, even if the world was too afraid to accept it.

Carsickness formed during an Internet-less time, when knowing what’s going on in your community or in the world could only be done so through print news/flyers/posters, scheduled television shows, and word of mouth. Carsickness and other bands from that scene spearheaded the collage flyers. Yes, that’s correct, those flyers you see as the header image for the Facebook event you’ve click “Interested” and that was made to look like cutouts of magazines and news paper clippings, was based off of what the punks used to do back in the day (currently, some of these flyers are hanging at Non-Punk Pittsburgh).

It’s difficult to review a re-issuing of songs, but this album is just too good—some of these songs never even made it into pressing, like “I Don’t Think So,” a classic crowd pleaser. Another crowd pleaser was, of course, “Bill Wilkinson.”

Bill Wilkinson was an Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—the height of this group was during the early ‘80’s when they had over 2,500 members. Carsickness was not going to stand for any of this! The song is a hit because it’s not only melodically catchy and extremely fun to scream along too, (since you’re screaming fuck you to a KKK member) but also because it helped spread a message of equality and shone light on the extreme racism and intolerance.

Members of Carsickness, 1979

Members of Carsickness, 1979

The rest of the album continues to embrace this ideology and constantly calls out the injustices in the world with songs like “Give To The Poor,” “Plastic Beauty,” and the very relevant “Police Dog,” which is about police brutality (yes, it’s been a problem for a very long time). They also cater to their very unique sound. They’re melodic and organized, but still have a home-recorded feel with an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude—real pioneers of the punk rock you see today.

Make sure to get your copy of Carsickness’ 1979-1982 this Friday from Get Hip! and start racking up your cool points.

Find Carsickness online

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