“Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behavior patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!” – Wendy O. Williams
Whoever said anything in the world of legitimate punk rock was supposed to be safe or friendly missed the point completely. So much, in fact that it’s sad to think about. I’m one of those people that identifies with the notion that punk is more than just a genre of music, it’s a way of life. I’ve always figured that way of life includes, almost exclusively, distinct ways of thinking, speaking, and generally expressing one’s self to the world. To stray from the herded masses, to be 100% proud of being the black sheep that forever has a trembling middle finger shoved knuckle-deep into the eye of a willfully backward society that looks down on it so unjustifiably. The utterance of the words “hardcore punk” are not supposed to invoke images of polished-for-the-mainstream, G-rated dickheads jumping around in a crisp wardrobe fresh out of the local Hot Topic or the like. Save that crap for the food court. The very essence of the genre seethes and screams with a violent disdain for our society and the endless hordes of slobbering shitheads that it is comprised of. What better place for such a band to be spawned forth from the vile masses than the bible-clutching, culturally-choked abyss known as the Midwest region of the good ol’ U.S. of A.
Hailing from Indianapolis, Indiana, the hardcore punk wrecking crew known as Toxic Shock Syndrome assembled late last year, and has since put their collective boot straight into the face of the city’s ever-growing aggressive music environment. Featuring former members of crust/grind outfit, Denogginizer, horror punks, Order of the Black Hand, and old school hardcore crew, Off Balance, TSS wields enough experience to level the structure of your choice, be it the church next door, your mom’s house, or what have you.
Recorded and produced by the band’s bassist, Jerry Burns, at Poor Man’s Studio in Indy, the five-song demo, No Strings Attached, hit the streets of Circle City and beyond earlier this year. Each track possesses a decidedly old school approach (i.e. Discharge, Poison Idea, etc.), with the lead-off number, “Fuck Your False Sense of Self Entitlement” serving as the introductory TSS ice-breaker “fuck you” statement. Up next is the somewhat justifiably titled “I Hate Everything”, with vocalist Elizabeth Jenkins screaming loud and clear about everything that is disgustingly wrong with American society and all the assholes in it…as backing vocals are provided by none other than The Ghost Dad Choir (who all appear on drinking anthem, “Party Time” and the short-fused explosion that is “Anger Management”, as well). Closing out this beast is the 80’s hardcore punk flashback known as “Posi Song”, with a slow, old school hardcore intro erupting into a faster, cyclonic punk riff somewhere around the middle that follows suit nicely.
If you ask me, the only noticeable drawback to No Strings Attached is how, just as I reached the “really diggin’ this” point, the demo was over. So I guess it’s only fitting that, just as I am finishing up this review, I get the news that they’ve split up. Regardless of their somewhat short run, Toxic Shock Syndrome is another fine example one of those bands that know full well what the worlds of punk and hardcore are about, and No Strings Attached is a recording that shows everyone what’s up. All of that being said, I have only one thing left to say: “Laaaaaaabia!”