By Michael E. Miller
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Chuck Loose likes to talk about punk rock. Already a fast talker by nature, when the subject comes up, the words fly even faster, delivered with the kind of enthusiasm born of passion and conviction. He was only four years old when the first punk records were released in 1976, yet Loose is well versed in the music's past, from celebrated icons such as the Ramones to the somewhat obscure Pagans, a brilliantly ratty early-era band from Cleveland. Loose is also doing what he can for the music's future, as a contributor to South Florida punk 'zines such as Rational Inquirer, as well as to the glob-ally distributed Maximumrocknroll, the self-proclaimed Holy Bible of punk rock (he has a Florida Scene Report in this month's issue). He also silk-screens T-shirts for local bands. And when he's not writing, silk-screening, or working at a Fort Lauderdale graphics company, Loose plays drums for the Crumbs, a snarling Fort Lauderdale quartet that specializes in primal power chords and slurred, raspy vocals delivered over a crushing 4/4 beat.
Since they formed three years ago, the Crumbs have released a handful of indie-label singles and EPs, and are about to undertake a month-long trek across the U.S. Along the way they'll stop at Sonic Iguana studio in Lafayette, Indiana, to record their debut album for the Berkeley-based Lookout Records, former home of Green Day and current roost for the Queers, Pansy Division, and the Mr. T Experience, among others. "They just liked us and decided to do a record with us," Loose says of the Lookout deal, which in addition to a long-player includes two singles, all of which are scheduled to be released next January. "We were on one of their compilations [A Slice of Lemon], so it kind of came out of that."
Before the winter onslaught of Lookout material, the Crumbs will be paired for a split EP with Miami's Stun Guns, to be released by the Torrance, California, label Recess. Titled You Don't Take a Knife to a Gunfight, the disc arrives on the heels of the Crumbs' Get All Tangled Up EP (on the Fort Lauderdale label Far Out) and features five roaring Crumbs cuts: four originals written by the band and a cover of "Communist Radio," the cult classic by first-run Miami punks the Eat, whose straightforward, twin-guitar sound echoes throughout the Crumbs' originals.
"We stick pretty much to simple, three-chord punk rock," Loose states proudly. "That's basically what we're into -- real simple rock and roll, like the Ramones, Chuck Berry, the Pagans. I think punk rock has twisted and turned in so many ways and I appreciate it all, but our stuff is basic. Compared to Cavity or Los Canadians, we're pretty formulaic," he adds, nodding to a pair of Miami punk outfits Loose describes as "fucking amazing."
Actually, the Crumbs are more derivative than formulaic. Like the Stun Guns, the band works solely within the confines of the most basic and raw old-school punk: On Tangled and Gunfight, you'll hear traces of everyone from the Vibrators and Stiff Little Fingers to the Ramones and Radio Birdman. Throughout, guitarist/vocalist Raf Luna affects a voice that's more South London than South Florida, and the group's lyric concerns range from boozing ("Whether I Win or Lose") to brooding ("Monica's on Her Own . . . Again"). Guitarist Johnny Bee keeps his leads as simple as the crude, pummeling rhythms of Loose and bassist Emil Busse.
"We aren't like a professional, tight band," Loose states matter-of-factly. "It's only been over the last couple years that a core of bands in South Florida has developed who play punk rock and don't give a shit about being pros. Before you'd have these bands like Load who weren't playing [all-ages shows] and were all concerned about being professional and becoming the next big thing and making lots of money at it. Now, though, you've got bands and kids who are more concerned with getting a decent punk scene together, making something happen. It used to be a real loose group of only 40 or so kids. Now there's people coming out of the woodwork."
Loose attributes the audience increase to the mainstream popularity of groups such as Green Day, the Offspring, and Rancid, who over the past few years have followed Nirvana in establishing punk as a commercially viable genre. Loose embraces this recent development, albeit with some reluctance. "It's kind of weird," he admits. "This is our culture and our lifestyle. It's the way we live every day, and that's not something you want to see commercialized. But I think it's really helped inspire a lot of kids. Now you have a lot of open-minded kids at the shows and all these bands like Against All Authority and Stun Guns and places like Cheers that let them play. Part of a healthy punk scene is having new people coming in and bringing new points of view. Otherwise it just gets stagnant and boring."
New Times is looking for a few good writers. Latin music writers, that is. Specifically, writers who can put together entertaining and well-written features, reviews, and essays covering the ins and outs of the city's Latin music scene. Solid English-writing skills are a must, and it would really help if you're bilingual. We need someone who can write with clarity, authority, and insight about the wide range of Latino sounds: from young rock en espa*ol acts to Afro-Cuban jazz legends both past and present. In other words, the deeper your music knowledge, the better.
If this is you, prove it. Send your three best clips -- in English, please -- along with a resume and some story ideas to my attention at New Times, Box 011591, Miami, FL 33101. I'll send back your clips if you enclose a stamped and self-addressed envelope; otherwise your stuff will be filed away in a very special place. And please, please, I beg of one and all, no phone calls. Thank you.