While Seattle may have been the biggest star on the American punk and rock n’ roll map of the early to mid-nineties, there was probably no scene more prolific and arguably groundbreaking than the one that emerged in San Diego. Rather than trying to get caught up in the prevailing wind of the sound from the Northwest, bands like the Locust, Swing Kids and Angel Hair offered abravise, visceral hardcore punk rock unlike anything else that was around. No less than three locally based labels—Gold Standard Labs, Three One G and Gravity (all still in operation today)—worked at documenting the ever growing and fertile scene while reaching out to similar minded acts to add to their eclectic rosters.
Though Jenny Piccolo hailed from Northern California, they shared a similar approach with many of their colleagues on Three One G. The three-piece played a straightforward brand of furious hardcore, with songs as brutal as they were efficient. The 52 songs presented here are over in 36 minutes, not allowing the listener much breathing room. This self-titled discography compiles all the previous Three One G releases, along with other split releases and compilation tracks, providing an exhaustive offering of 30-second punk rock blasts.
Unfortunately, many of the bands from this era worked with limited budgets, and it didn’t always allow for the best production values. And though Dan Maier did his best to digitally master the material, the sound quality (which wasn’t great to begin with) varies wildly. Additionally, with some of these releases originally vinyl-only singles, one gets the impression that Maier may have pulled tracks directly from the vinyl instead of the original tapes. Whatever the reason for the inconsistent sound, the power is undeniable. It’s a simple formula, simply played but effective, and it undoubtedly carried a wow factor live.
Lyrically, however, the band stumbles quite a bit. The issues addressed as fairly boilerplate—war, racism, consumerism—without the band bringing any particularly compelling viewpoints to the table. For example “Red Dead” offers these deep insights: “Bigotry calling me / ethnic genocide / burn fucker burn.” Yes, those are all the words to the song. Or take these pearls of wisdom from “Freshly Grown Warheads”: “You taught us all about your religion / all about your dos and don’ts / take pride in who you are / but let me ask how much war we can take / thank God the war was won / it’s all in your mind.” I suppose it’s hard to cram anything significant to say in less than a minute, but I can’t imagine anyone is listening to this to gain new views on hot-button issues.
At the end of the day, the Jenny Piccolo discography is strictly a fans-only affair. The band was an interesting but wholly unimportant chapter in the overall scope of the ever-changing landscape of the San Diego scene. For older punks who hide their tattoos under the dress shirts at their office jobs, it will be a trip down memory lane on the morning subway ride while listening to their iPods. The sweat and energy are palpable, but for anyone who hasn’t heard them before, it’s inessential.
// Notes from the Road
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