Sunday, March 1, 2009

Records We Love: Inside Out (California) EP

As I've said in the past, Gordo has a real knack for breaking down and dissecting these records that he loves. Personally I have a great time reading these because I know how much he puts into it, how much each of these records mean to him and ultimately, the response that follows. As far as I'm concerned, whenever the inspiration comes and he's motivated to do these, I'm psyched to get them up here.

With this particular EP, it's definitely one I also feel very strongly about. I remember the buzz that surrounded Inside Out right from the get-go. Being a huge fan of Chain Of Strength, Hard Stance and Beyond, when I knew guys from those bands were coming together and doing a new band, I was pumped and the expectations were through the roof. I think the first thing I remember hearing was a tape of a few of the songs that would ultimately end up on the EP. At the time I don't think I remember hearing anything like those songs. Inside Out took heaviness to another level and Zack's vocals were just crushing. Those roars, my god those roars were unreal.

What was legendary about Inside Out and was recognized by many after their early shows was the band's stage presence. Everyone talked about Vic and how he literally lost it every set. Throwing his guitar and body around with no regard to anyone's safety was Vic's MO. People talk a lot about so-and-so looking possessed on stage, but Vic and Zack... that was serious possession. Zack would turn as red as a freakin' cherry, tremble and shake with convulsions, fall to the ground and actually look cool doing it. Each and every set was like an offering to those that were lucky enough to be in the same room.

Unfortunately for myself, the only thing I would ever know about a live Inside Out show was to be learned through watching videos and hearing stories from my friends. When Inside Out came through the east coast and hit the local venues with Shelter and Quicksand, to my own dismay, I was stuck doing family stuff and never made it to any of the shows that my friends did. At the time I was disappointed and very bummed, but had no idea that those particular shows would end up being my only chance to see Inside Out. Let's just say, I took way too many show opportunities for granted and did not do anything and everything I could and should have. The result was missing out on some of the best bands and shows I could have seen and would go on to regret even to this day.

In terms of the EP and my favorite song, all of them are great and I mean great in a big way, but the one song that always seems to hit me the hardest was "Sacrifice" which ended up only appearing as bonus material on the CD. Lyrically, those words ripped my guts out. Possibly the greatest lyrics about betrayal ever. Lines like, "I kept you from drowning when I couldn't swim, now I'm sinking and you're not there" and "And should the bottom fall out of your life, you'll turn around and I'm not there", that shit still gives me chills.

Back to Gordo, I don't want to take too much time away from his piece here, so I'm going to cut myself short. Because this entry is so large, we'll be cutting this into two pieces, one for today and one for tomorrow. Without any further ado... take it away Gordo. -Tim DCXX

Zack with Inside Out at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

RECORDS WE LOVE: Inside Out (California) EP by: Gordo

My introduction to this record indirectly occurred a few years before I ever heard it. In 1992 I was ten years old and on the cusp of really getting into hardcore. Along with fellow Lollapalooza-type bands that were being forced down everyone's throat by the alternative/punk marketing boom in mainstream music media, Rage Against The Machine was impossible to miss. The kids I was starting to ride bmx and skate with had the Rage album, and I remember them saying this was a "hardcore" band and the dudes were from older "hardcore" bands - probably one of my first run-ins with the term. Calling this a definitive "hardcore" record was a combination of young ignorance and what MTV fed us...but we were all young and just trying to make heads or tails out of things. I remember thinking that while this record was powerful and that I definitely liked it (and I still do today on some levels, though it seems to be more of a dated-sounding guilty pleasure than anything), it didn't make me put a "Free Leonard Peltier" sticker on the family truckster, and it wasn't exactly what I envisioned as "hardcore."

Fast forward a couple years, and by then I had jumped into HC head first, bringing me in contact with the Inside Out EP pretty early on. Obviously by this time I had well learned that Rage was in reality a mainstream band doing a totally different thing. But when I heard the Inside Out record, I realized that it was EXACTLY what I had hoped a few years prior that Rage record was gonna sound like. It was like the raw, blistering, uncensored form of it. There were some connections between the two (obviously I knew it was Zack on both), but they were also worlds apart. It was stripped down, darker, heavier, angrier, uglier, and more real. Some parts faster, some parts slower, but always more driving and organic. Absent were the bow-wow-chicka-bow-bow Guitar Center parts, slick production feel, hip hop-flavored beats, dreadlocks, and "Yeah! What! Come On!" pre-Lil Jon style MC commands that plauged the RATM record and ulimately made every suburban kid who was a fan feel that he was entitled to rap over a guitar effect and drop a "bombtrack" (whatever the fuck that means). It was like the less urban yet crazier, darker, and superior version of Rage Against The Machine. It was...perfect. Fifteen years later, it's still on my list for top HC EPs.

I'm now choosing to write about it because I've realized that ten years ago, and maybe even less, I'm not sure I even heard of anyone in HC who didn't view this four song musical blood bath as anything short of great. It always just seemed to be one of the records placed in the elite category of "adored by everyone."

Sure enough, in the past few years especially, I've seen this thing dissed more often than I would have ever expected. Maybe the crowd of naysayers is just small and loud, but whatever the case, the Inside Out EP just doesn't seem to command the same respect that it seemed to at one time. There have been various criticisms which I will touch on, but there is one I gotta address up front because it bothers the shit out of me:

"It doesn't hold a candle to the EP by the same-named NY band."

Ok look, there are some great parts on that Inside Out NY EP, especially the intro part to "Beat Life", and it's NYHC so it already has a leg up by default. Rat tails, mesh tank tops, gold chains, stealing Nikes from Caldor, being on parole, and government cheese are some of my favorite things and I love NYHC as much as the next guy, but come on. That record isn't THAT good. It's like 3rd tier at best. I'm fine if you say you don't like Inside Out from California, but please don't say the NY band is better, because that is just scientifically impossible. If a band has a lyric that reads, "your shopping is done at the beatest mall," they automatically lose. Or, maybe they automatically win. I don't know, all I know is that while typically I will take most things from NY over most things from anything else, Inside Out NY is not the better band here. Inside Out Cali doesn't have a single legitimate mosh part on this record, but it doesn't even matter. It wins, ok?

Vic and Alex with Inside Out at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

So...Inside Out Cawl-E-Fahneea (Schwarzenegger stylee). I won't get into the band backstory other than to say that I'm glad they waited until they were a real powerhouse before recording. Having started in '88 with a different line-up and no Vic, those first songs (which can be heard on early live tapes) are mere shadows of what would come later. While I always get the timeline confused as to when Bratton played drums and when Alex Pain played drums, I will say it was a nice boost for the band to have had Bratton playing on this. Alex was a good drummer in his own right (though a bit more spastic and loose), but Bratton shines on this, has a great drum sound here, and his style is a centerpiece of this recording that wouldn't exist without him.

Inside Out was also perhaps the first band of this younger California SE scene to distinctly move away from HC confines, while still being a definite part of the HC scene. Chain Of Strength, Hard Stance, and No For An Answer came out as clearly self proclaimed "hardcore" bands that were loud and clear about it. When asked if they were a hardcore band during their KXLU interview, Inside Out's answers ranged from "it's what you hear when you listen to it," to "it's punk," to "it's hard to put a label on it." So clearly, this wasn't simply X INSIDE OUT X - Dedicated To O.C. Hardcore. But it was also that musical push (probably helped in no small part by Vic) that makes this record unique.

"Burning Fight" opens with the best sounding feedback possibly ever recorded, something you would hear while being tortured in a Bangkok opium den. It's a well-modified BC Rich cranking through a vintage Marshall, and then Bratton's high hat count signals the dawn of the apocalypse, which is officialized by Zack's classic announcement of "BREAAK!!!" - a vocal which like all vocals on the record, was recorded in the dark. The entire intro is some sick mix of the Cro-Mags, Satan if he had moved to Irvine and gotten in a fist fight with Krishna, and a very emotionally hurt, 135 pound kid using his vocal chords to his absolute fullest. The fast part/verse of the song has Bratton at the heartbeat of it all, pounding away with precision over a killer riff that apparently Zack (yes, Zack) wrote, with just the right metallic tinges on top of it. Even when the pace slows, it hits on just the right amount of head-nodding groove before shifting back into high gear.

Vic overdubs his leads and trickery at just the right moments and in the right doses, hitting you again and again with an absolutely eerie guitar sound that sends napalm into your spinal cord. Strangely, when we interviewed Vic for DCXX some months back, he mentioned that the actual final mix for this EP had his third and final guitar track completely deleted by Walter and Jordan without his approval, thinning out the sound he strived to perfect. I don't know what was on that third track, but I would love to hear it and can only imagine.

Zack in front of the Anthrax crowd in Norwalk Connecticut, Photo: Tim Brick

Ultimately, every Inside Out song can in some ways be centered around "Burning Fight" - the "raging part into grooving part" musical formula, dark yet optimistic lyrics of anger, betrayal, and survival, heavy riffing and tasteful metal worshipping over top of foot-heavy Bratton bashing and "Helmet" Hayworth's perfect-tone bass lines. It's easily my favorite Inside Out track, and I think it epitomizes the band at their most realized potential. It is, in short, a perfect song. I could never listen to this song and say, "well they could have done this or that, or made this longer, or this shorter." No. It's just one of those songs that you know when these guys first created it, they just looked at each other and said, "that's it. No other changes necessary." It's an ultimate classic track that cuts across sub-genres of heavy music, and possesses that true anthemic feel that so few songs do.

"Undertone" follows it up, and as the shortest Inside Out song and one of the more linear ones, it is the EP sleeper. More demented feedback and tremolo swells signal the opening (have I mentioned Vic's guitar sound on this is perfect?), which turns into a Quickness-like metal-tinged chunky riff that would single handedly help destroy hardcore over the coming years by countless terrible imitators trying to do the "groovy slow metallic hardcore song." The result of that bastardized style was a lot of basement shows filled with bowl haircuts, striped shirts with back packs, and the heartfelt tap-your-chest-with-your-hands-while-convulsing-in-the-same-standing-position-and-look-like-you-are-on-the-verge-of-tears thing.

But here, that style is still fresh and perfect, and it is also interesting to note how this is also very similar to what Walter was doing with some of the early Quicksand songs, and Morello would end up doing with RATM in countless songs about the Zapatista. From that chunk riff, the song out of nowhere goes into an almost Infest-like paddle blast beat freak out part that even Zack can hardly keep up with, before reverting back to the chunk riff. Before you know it, it is over.

"By A Thread" is actually pretty melodic and shows a DC influence creeping in - which you know all of these dudes were worshipping. Bratton opens it up with a signature Bonham triplet fill which, yeah, again cements him as a God, Zack actually sings to a degree, and Vic keeps it pretty calm, respecting the more rhythm driven aspect of the tune and Hayworth's finger-played bass lines. But of course he gets his time to shine (His ego gets his time to shine? Sorry, couldn't resist), and during some type of calm-down bridge, he busts out a lead that sounds like something Eddie Janney may have played after listening to Maiden for an hour or so. Overall, this song never really hits level ten like the first two tracks.

Another observation is how these guys made it a point to not always end a song on a nice clean note...there is often some type of feedback burst or sloppy dischordant off timing signaling the end of the track (and usually the beginning as well). Not that this is anything unprecedented or unique in music in general, but it is another subtle move on this record that shows it is not a clean cut, paint by numbers, think-inside-the-box hardcore EP.

To be continued...

Vic using a mic stand to help create that patented Inside Out noise, Photo: Ken Salerno


Anonymous said...

One my favorite records of all time. As a fairly new HC kid coming into the scene, this was one of the first EPs that i got into.

I wished the Inside Out - Rage Against The Machine LP made it into the studio. Listening to their live bootleg set with unreleased tracks such as "Lost Cause", "Blind Oppressor", "Darkness of Greed", and especially "Rage Against the Machine" blow my mind away. I can't even imagine how amazing the LP would have been. Such a waste it never got to see the light of day...

Ben Edge said...

"please don't say the NY band is better, because that is just scientifically impossible."

Right on! And remember - this isn't a west coast vs. east coast thing, because Vic is east coast. This is an exceptionally awesome vs. mediocre thing.

Important sidenote: if they had chosen Ebullition instead of Revelation, the record would have been an LP, and would have come out almost a year earlier (and the CD version would probably have come out ten years LATER). We can only imagine what songs like "Rage Against The Machine" would have sounded like in the studio.

I was telling my bandmates last week that if a band came out today that had the intensity and vibe of Inside Out CA, (without necessarily sounding like them), they'd be the biggest phenomenon in hardcore, no question. There is so little emotion being put into modern hardcore, that this yet-to-be-determined band would wipe the slate clean, and everyone would have to start over.

D. Sine said...

Inside Out was one of the most intense, powerful, and fun bands to see live.

Unknown said...

I must have listened to all the wrong songs because I'm not a big fan of Inside Out.

Anonymous said...

like someone else said, some of the later unreleased material that i've heard through bootlegs almost tops some of the songs on the ep. so good. and i'm not even sure if vic was even involved in writing those laters songs...

Anonymous said...

I've never heard anyone claim the NY band was better, but the fact that anyone would dare make such a claim makes my face melt. The NY band is not even close to being remotely near the same league. I don't think I ever played the NY band's 7" a second time, but this EP is one of the greatest releases ever known to mankind!

luciferyellow said...

Long time lurker, first time commentator (overall great site, BTW). I remember when this EP and the Quicksand 7" came out in 1990 and the ripple effect that it had, opening Revelation Records (and my own little musical world) to new musical stylings.
I totally agree with Ben Edge above, this type of intensity and emotion is sadly missing from most HC bands nowadays (but in all fairness was only ever achieved by the best of the genre anyway; H.R.; Richie Birkenhead; Ray Cappo, maybe).
I mean, just look at Zak's hands on the cover picture of the EP; every single fiber of his body is in that scream... This EP to me is the definition of real emotional HC.

JD said...

To this day I have yet to see a band match the intensity of Inside Out. I had never heard them when I saw them play and I was just awe-struck.

Anonymous said...

That 3rd guitar track isn't totally mixed out. If you listen with headphones you can hear it mixed really really low. I can see why they made that decision, it would be a much different record if that was upfront. It's easiest to hear on No Spiritual Surrender and By A Thread. I never noticed it was there until recently when a friend of mine was talking about listening to this record on headphones, and he was right.

Anonymous said...

shit, maybe the best rev release. i hate how ratm gets shit on all the time though, i think they were a great band, that first album still holds up. someone should clean up those live songs and the kxlu set and do a proper IO discography.

chad said...

this is one of my all time favorite HC releases ever. so many great aspects, which gordo is touching on in his review.. mainly i love how it's coming from late 80s youth crew hardcore but is also progressing into something new without losing its "hardcoreness". it seems like all of my favorite bands from this era have somewhat of an element of that.. Burn.. Statue.. etc

man... does anyone have a copy of that original tape demo that has the alternate mix? would LOVE to get ahold of that. i realize it's all the same songs, but the alt mix would be great to check out.

i remember hearing vic also say something about how not only was there a 3rd guitar track mixed low instead of high, but the rev version has the guitars panned hard to the left and right rather than being in the center...? something like that..

rp said...

Easily my favorite ep ever, and possible my favorite collection of songs ever. Personal side note: My favorite times ever being in a band were those nights of rehearsal after 2 hours of jamming, sweating, screaming and feeling the energy in the room climb ever higher when would cover these songs. I love these articles you guys are doing.

Anonymous said...

i was never a fan of the late 80's youth crew/revelation style stuff, but this record was impossible to deny. the songs are so powerful and when i listen to this ep (which is often) it's hard not to want to scream along with the lyrics, even if i'm on the bus or something.

the fact that there aren't real recordings of those live unreleased inside out songs that are floating around seriously bums me out. someone should get them in the studio to record those for old time's sake.

Anonymous said...

I could've gone to see Inside Out around Halloween in '90. Instead, I opted to go to some lame Halloween party in L.A. with a couple of chicks. Even though I wound up making out with one of 'em (the better looking one to boot) most of the night, if I had it to do over again, I would've gone to Inside Out instead.

adam said...

i saw them a few times on the shelter/quicksand tour.. omfg...intense..

i still get chills during the intro to burning fight..

the kxlu set needs to get put out on some sort of "lost recordings" cd or perhaps a discography with the unreleased stuff.

SFader said...

Nice one Gordo. Part 2 should be good.

D.Sine pretty much covered it, but I'll add some. Their live sets were just insane. Screaming, sweaty, noisy and just plain blistering. They did revolve a few members from drums and bass, but it was always amazing. The ONLY part I (and MANY others) could've done without, was the length of time Zach would go on preaching. He had a lot of valid things to say, but in a hot, suffocating room, full of sweaty dudes and chicks, he would go on and on forever until even the band was over it. By the end of his rants he would be screaming, veins bulging, chicks would be crying, it was a mess! If you were unfortunate enough to shout something at him to hurry it up, you would just about get knifed! Hahaha I know this sounds like an exagerration but it's not, it was really that intense at their shows.

I do want to comment about the drummers. Although Bratton was technically better and perfect, Alex was more entertaining to watch. Probably because he was "spastic and loose" like Gordo mentioned. I guess it was like the difference between Bonham and Keith Moon.

As far as the NY Inside Out, although at the time I thought it was ok, and the 2 singer thing was sort-of cool, they definitely seemed a lot less serious and original. Comparing the 2 just doesn't work, they are musically just not in the same league.

p.s., D.Sine is on the cover

Anonymous said...

Blackspot's Greg Brown is on the cover too.

SFader said...

Well Jake, I was trying to avoid being the ass-tool that names all the guys on the cover by just slipping in the D.Sine. HA

Anonymous said...

hands down one of the most inspired live sets i'd ever managed to witness.

Anonymous said...