By Cindy Filipenko
Who: Rebel Spell
When: Sunday, Jan. 21
Thirty years ago punk stormed across the Atlantic into some of North America’s better, seedy clubs. Loud and fast, politically charged music, made for pissed off kids by pissed off kids; it struck a chord (or more accurately three chords) with the young and disenfranchised from New York to Vancouver, Seattle to L.A.
Today, bands like The Rebel Spell continue to distill their anger and discontent into distinctly radio-unfriendly driving anthems of rage.
The Rebel Spell, who take their name from the lyrics of a song by ’90s French anarcho-rockers, Mano Negro, give the same weight to politics as their namesakes. While lead singer Todd Jenkins’s rapid-fire delivery sometimes makes the lyrics hard to decipher, the band’s website makes it perfectly clear where they stand. Their links page makes the Utne Reader look like Alberta Report .
Bassist Chris Weisschnur says the band members don’t subscribe to any particular political philosophy.
“We’re just a bunch of pissed off people that hold a lot of contempt for this global, corporate death machine. We’re just pretty much disgruntled with the way the world is, be it politics, be it war, be it consumerism, television, celebrity-worship…”
Weisschnur believes that the enduring appeal of punk comes from its youthfulness and rebelliousness.
“Live punk is such high-energy, fun music. The ethics and politics behind it are things that people getting into their 20s and 30s hold onto if they’re a little bit active on the left — people who have a more open mind I think, which goes with any alternative or underground music.”
The Rebel Spell shares a common disdain for mainstream cultures with the bands that paved the way for them.
That said, it’s hard to imagine that a punk band like DOA or The Pointed Sticks would have ever included a line about its drummer being off on maternity leave in its official band history. (New mom drummer Stepha will make her return to the lineup when the band arrives in Whistler to play Punk Night on Sunday.)
Accessibility means more than addressing the needs of a new mom drummer for the band, they extend this belief to the distribution of their music. By remaining independent they’ve been able to keep the price of their music down and sell their CDs at their gigs for cost — cheap enough that their fans don’t have to go the free download route.
“You’ll find free downloads of our music all over the Internet,” said Weisschnur. “But the quality isn’t as good as CD. And you don’t get things like the artwork and the lyrics.”
Weisschnur believes that the do-it-yourself, rebel nature of punk music makes it unsuitable for major labels.
“It shouldn’t be treated as a business to make money off of.”
He points to The Offspring and Green Day as examples of what happens when good independent bands go the big label route.
“Offspring videos now look like hip-hop videos with flashy cars. We can’t even really call that stuff punk. Like the new Green Day album, even though they used to be a punk rock band, that’s not a punk album they put out — they don’t play punk anymore, they play pop-rock.”
To keep their appeal as broad as possible, The Rebel Spell has always been committed to playing all ages shows as well as bar dates.
“We see people who were going to our all ages show when they were 16 now showing up at our bar shows…. Depending who we play with we sometimes see older people also at our shows.”
For first timers this gig is an invitation to smash the sate. For older punk fans, The Rebel Spell provides an opportunity to get back to your egg white and sugarcoated, Mohawk — supporting roots. Go to their show at Garfinkel’s, order what you were drinking in 1979, close your eyes, imagine the smell of smoke thick enough to eat and you’ll swear you’re back at The Smilin’ Bhuddha.
With two CDs to their credit, Days of Rage and Expression in Layman’s Terms , and appearances on seven compilations, The Rebel Spell are testament to the fact that there’s still room for pissed off, independent voices.
The Rebel Spell takes the stage for Punk Night, Sunday, Jan, 21 at Garfinkel’s with Joey Only Outlaw Band.