Cynical I may be, but I'm highly suggestible too, so I was not all that surprised to wake up on Black Friday with a hankering to buy some shit I really didn't need. I do believe I'd fallen asleep to CNN's non-stop cheerleading for post-Thanksgiving gluttony. But I don't know. I was probably just looking for any excuse to hit up Best Buy for a Blu-Ray player that could stream Hulu. I already have a Roku box. And my Wii streams Netflix. And my iMac streams everything. But this sinister whisper just above my shoulder was telling me I needed a new DVD player for my living room. Because, yes: I MUST BE ENTERTAINED AT ALL TIMES AND BY THE NEWEST PLASTIC AVAILABLE.
That is how I came to be caught in a sick swirl of ravening humanity at a Best Buy on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I can't say I was able to do much more than stare at various black boxes before becoming ill. I'm not patting myself on the back here: my nausea was in no way induced by some ideological prick or philosophical illumination. I was still ready to buy some shit! I was simply overwhelmed by the selection. Let me be very clear: I was not at all disgusted by the sheer number of brand names marking the identical hunks of black plastic. I was not having a DeLillo moment. I just had a tummy ache because I couldn't decide what to buy. That's it. Not necessarily proud of that, but there you go.
I left Best Buy empty-handed but still saddled by this hunger for new stuff, and I thought about record stores, and about how I don't spend enough money on records, and about how I hadn't visited the new Green Noise Records (3840 SE Gladstone St.) yet, and about how a good hour of browsing there might cure me of this unseemly need to throw hard-earned and fairly scarce cash around.
Thirty minutes later, I was on the other side of town in the new Green Noise, which is just like the old Green Noise but suffused with natural light and across the street from a different bar. Ken still plays music at teenage bedroom volumes, and the selection of new and used vinyl (especially of the punk variety) is as solid as ever. You should go there.
Anyway, this whole capitalistic rigmarole eventually ended with my purchase of one of the best punk albums of 2011, and the real reason I have gathered you all here today is to tell you about this album that I bought at Green Noise with money I'd originally intended to waste on a Blu-Ray player. Punk's kinda not quite dead yet!
I'm talking about Portland's fucking radical Ripper and its killer debut album, Into Oblivion, an unassailable dose of metal-punk shredding. I don't know much about Ripper, which is rather refreshing in an age of internet ubiquity. They have a MySpace page where you can hear demo versions of half the tracks on Into Oblivion. My friend Mike Meyer wrote about them for the Portland Mercury a couple years back, revealing that one of the guys in the band cooks at Paradox. But that's about all the internet will tell you, and the information on Ripper's LP sleeve is vague in true old school fashion: band members' first names, a thank you list composed of still more first names, a record label address and lyrics devoted to dark stuff.
(The record label, by the way, is Portland's own Blackwater, which doesn't share any information about Ripper on its website, deepening the mystery and enriching my fascination.)
But whatever, right? What is important is just how great Into Oblivion is. I'm sure you'll be able to find it regardless of Ripper's desire to lurk in the shadows. So find it. I am writing as someone who's never been too keen on the artists Ripper seems to have been influenced by. Motorhead's an obvious touchstone, and I sense some old UK punk (Discharge, GBH, Broken Bones, The Exploited) in Ripper's record collection as well. Such a spiky, guitar solo-friendly punk sound is generally not my cup of tea, but Ripper has finally made this brand of traditionally corny punk rock legitimately menacing and fun and worthy of a prominent spot on some kid's ridiculous leather jacket.
So buy it. Then buy a leather jacket. Then buy some spikes for your new leather jacket. Then buy a burrito. Then buy me a Blu-Ray player. Bye bye.