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Area Pirata Records Keeps the Tuscan Punk Flame

Steeplejack

Steeplejack

The city of Pisa, perhaps exclusively infamous for its leaning tower, also has an incredibly vibrant and important underground rock scene, starting with two of the finest bands to emerge from the city: Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, from the late 1970s, and Useless Boys, from the early 1980s. Before them, things were a little less unique.

In the 1960s, Italian rock music was fairly derivative of the American and British scenes. This resulted in a whole genre’s worth of bands that sounded somewhere between Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors, few of them particularly memorable or exciting. This interest in garage and psych-rock, though, was instrumental in the musical evolution that began in the late 1970s with the emergence of punk, new wave, and heavy metal. Garage and mod-revival bands from the ’60s are still very popular in Italy, especially in Tuscany, the seat of the Granducato Hardcore scene (GDHC).

Useless Boys were the first in the country to fuse Italian garage and psych with nascent upstart punk. They were around for just two years of countless gigs, releasing a demo in 1981. Their Dream’s Dust Factory tape, initially released in 1983, and since bootlegged all across Italy and beyond, has a sound that’s rooted in the freakout psych-garage of bands like 13th Floor Elevators or The Sonics but is still very much punk.

Even though they had a less straightforward approach than their GDHC peers, Useless Boys still ended up playing many, many shows with various punk and hardcore bands from the region. Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers (CCM), oftentimes described as the “Italian Black Flag”—though that term unfairly paints the band as some sort of copycat when they were truly creating something original—were loud, abrasive, super fast, and angry, both in the tone of the music and in their incredibly bleak political lyrics.

The CCM discography, aptly titled The Furious Era 1979-1987, was finally released recently—three decades after the band broke up—by Pisa label Area Pirata Records. It includes tracks off their first two 7-inches, a 12-inch split with I Refuse It! from Florence—an incredible band in their own right that mixed the vicious weirdness of Flipper with the jazzy post-hardcore of Saccharine Trust—and the Into the Void LP, recorded in Indiana while the band was on a cross-country tour of the United States in 1986. That album was produced by Paul Mahern of legendary punk band Zero Boys, who also sang backup on the song “Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry.”

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