Sunday, November 8, 2009

postpunk on the prairie: PEGBOY

This post has been a long time coming.

As the 1980s came to a close, the legendary Naked Raygun utterly dominated the Chicago punk rock scene. Their fierce blend of Buzzcockian pop sensibility, Misfitsish "oh-wey-ohhh" vocals, and the amplifier-crunching colossal guitar attack - courtesy of John Haggerty - set the stage for the postpoppunk revival of the 1990s. And for the most part, Raygun missed it.

1990 came around with John feeling burnt out on Raygun. So he quit and started over again. Teaming up with former Bhopal Stiffs Larry Damore (vocals) and Steve Saylors (bass), and joined by his brother Joe (ex-Bloodsport and Effigies) on drums, Pegboy was born.

Why should you care? Because no band, or rather no progression of bands (in this case, Naked Raygun -> Pegboy), best represents the old-skool "Chicago sound". The second (or was it third? #2 and #3 came within a week of each other) gig I ever saw was Naked Raygun in 1989, and to this day I remember that night like it was yesterday, it meant so much to me.

And in 1990, your humble blogger also attended Pegboy's debut gig at Chicago's Metro.

Paring down the sound to basics - wall-of-crunch guitars, gruff vocals, throbbing bass, and flailing drums, with songwriting to match, Pegboy was perhaps the greatest punk band to ultimately make it out of the Chicago scene. Oh many will disagree with me, and on some days I would disagree with myself as well, but Pegboy just did their job, day-in and day-out, not particularly messing with the formula.

In 1990 the foursome asked legendary Chicago punk producer Iain Burgess to record a 4-song demo. The resulting recording was so powerful it was released as-is, as the band's debut on newly-formed Touch and Go offshoot Quarterstick Records (coincidentally, also Quarterstick's debut release as well). Three-Chord Monte opens with the anthemic "Through My Fingers", which is John Haggerty's sound to a T. Possibly the greatest Chicago punk song ever, at least in the top 5. And the other three tracks on the EP are none too shabby either.

1990 Quarterstick Records

01 Through My Fingers
02 My Youth
03 Fade Away
04 Method

- -

1991 saw the band release their debut LP, also recorded in Chicago by Iain Burgess, entitled Strong Reaction. With more of the same stellar playing and songwriting, this record just solidified the impact generated by the EP and presented the band to the world. Tracks "Strong Reaction" / "Field Of Darkness" (also released as a 7" single) / "Superstar" are the standouts, with the rest nearly as melodically strong. It's hard to locate a single bit of filler in the bunch, this record truly is one of the greatest Chicago punk sets EVER. Larry isn't the world's greatest singer, but it works here, and works wonders.

1991 Quarterstick Records

01 Strong Reaction
02 Still Uneasy
03 Not What I Want
04 What To Do
05 Locomotivelung
06 Superstar
07 Field Of Darkness
08 Time Again
09 Believe
10 Hardlight
11 (untitled)

- -

Sometime following Strong Reaction, founder bassist Steve Saylors left the band. Yet with songs to record and a name to keep out there, to build on the goodwill created by the EP and debut LP, the band returned to the studio anyway, this time with Big Black / Rapeman / legendary engineer Steve Albini on bass. Albini also engineered the recording session, and the resulting EP Fore really digs down deep into the angular crunch of the band. Perhaps the band's hardest-sounding record, nonetheless the songs are great. And the cover art just has to be seen to be believed, who'd have thought they'd see Albini in golf attire ;)

1993 Quarterstick Records

01 Never A Question
02 Witnessed
03 Minutes To Hours
04 Jesus Christ

- -

Abini on bass was obviously only a temporary solution to the needing-a-bassist problem, with Albini's new band Shellac (not to mention his busy engineering career) demanding most of his attention. So, with Naked Raygun now in indefinite hiatus, legendary bassist Pierre Kezdy suddenly was free and Pegboy wisely snapped him up.

Moving on, 1994 saw the band's second LP Earwig come down the pipe. This time the band traveled to provincial France to record in Iain Burgess's newly built residential studio, and the resulting record is stellar. More of the same classic Haggerty guitars, and a more tuneful Larry (did he get vocal coaching?), mean this record will also get stuck in your ears. "You" is one giant slagpile of melody, and with perhaps a tighter vocal melody this might have been a hit. They also pull off a reverential Mission of Burma cover ("That's When I Reach For My Revolver", here shortened to simply "Revolver"), throw Clint Conley's original vocal track on top and you'd not know you weren't listening to the Burma musicians. And as far as I know, "Over The Hills" is Haggerty's first-ever acoustic track and it's spectacular.

1994 Quarterstick Records

01 Line Up
02 Sinner Inside
03 Gordo
04 Sideshow
05 Spaghetti Western
06 Revolver (Mission of Burma)
07 You
08 Blister
09 Wages Of Sin
10 Mr. Pink
11 Over The Hills
12 Louisiana

- -

The band basically dropped from the scene for a while, then came back in 1997 with the as-of-now final LP Cha Cha Damore, recorded by a returning Steve Albini. Featuring the same Damore/Haggerty/Haggerty/Kezdy lineup as the prior LP, this time the band returns to the more focused pop/punk of their earlier efforts, a choice that benefits supremely by Albini's recording methodology. The drums here sound amazing - as good as they've ever sounded on a Pegboy record - and the songwriting remains stellar. And the surprise cover this time? Cheap Trick's "Surrender", done with love and an obvious passion for the original.

1997 Quarterstick Records

o1 Dangerwood
02 Can't Give
03 You Fight Like A Little Girl
04 Dangermare
05 Dog, Dog
06 Liberace Hat Trick
07 Dangerace
08 Hey, Look, I'm A Cowboy
09 In The Pantry Of The Mountain King
10 Surrender
11 Planet Porno

- -

The band functionally disbanded in 2000 yet never officially gave up the ghost - they did pop up now and then for the odd one-off gig, but then in 2007 played the Touch And Go 25th Anniversary gig, and in 2009 toured in the summer with new bassist "Skinny" Mike Thompson replacing Pierre Kezdy (who had rejoined the reactivated Naked Raygun).

So I present to you all of the above, in compendium style, as is the wont of The PoIT. I'm only missing three tracks in their entire discography - the "Field Of Darkness" / "Walk On By" 7" single (what I've been able to track down online is pretty crap sounding), a Thin Lizzy cover "Emerald" from a 1995 Thin Lizzy tribute, and the 1996 "Dangermare" split single with Kepone.

Three RAR files as usual, gotta download each one.

edit: Removed link.



  1. Here's a link to the songs from the Walk on By and Dangermare 7"'s, the Vagabonds of the Midwestern world and Magnetic Curses comps.

    The 7" rips were done by me. Walk on By sounds tinny for some reason, maybe a pressing issue?

  2. At the time that EARWIG came out, i couldnt get into it much, but grew to love it over the years. Can't go wrong with any Pegboy releases in my opinion. It was great to see the reunion footage a while back

  3. You can still order the Pegboy/ Kepone split through Quarterstick and I have the Walk on By 7" if you want to rip it.

  4. Just found this blog and wanted to say thank you. MY copy of 3 chord monte on cassette is beat to shit.

  5. Cheers 4 these. I bought everything up until Earwig as i got into techno around 93 and of course came crashing back to what i love best.
    Sorry to hear about lain.
    Field of darkness 7" was just the best!