They’ve long done things differently in Austin, Texas, and the take on hardcore pioneered by one of the city’s sons, the Big Boys for five years in the early 1980s was no exception. Where peers Scratch Acid, The Dicks and MDC pursued hardcore or art-punk angularity, Big Boys were mixing furious hardcore with loose-limbed funk and tight pop, all the while penning lyrics that struck a blend between punk ideology, angsty alienation and goofy humor. It was delivered via 7”s, Eps a split LP, compilations, three studio albums, and the live DIY shows that were audience participation-fueled free-for-alls. The idea was for fans to leave feeling like they were part of the band.
Originally released on the Wasted Talent label and reissued last year by Modern Classics Recordings, 1981’s debut album Where’s My Towel was inspired by the group’s growing dissatisfaction with their part in the release of Live At Raul’s. Returning with Lullabies Help The Brain Grow two years later, they were still striking out at situations around them. The opening track, “We Got Your Money” is a sort of rally cry to the misunderstandings of their scene , and to the fraternity boys and girls that came to gawk or cause trouble: “And to all you frat boys/We got your money in our hands!” they shouted, gleefully. Song titles include “We’re Not In It To Lose”, “Fight Back” and “Assault” proved that the gloves were off.
Produced by Spot, legendary in-house producer at SST Records, Lullabies is an album that caught the band in ever-turbulent mode, switching drummers through the recording from Fred Schultz to Rey Washam – the fourth person to occupy the stool for vocalist Randy “Biscuit” Turner, guitarist Tim Kerr and bassist Chris Gates. The album found the band testing the boundaries of their wide-ranging sound, with double-quick thrashers like “Lesson” and double-funky jams like “Funk Off” (helped along by the brass of the Fun Fun Fun 12" horn section). Kerr took lead vocals on two tracks, and on “Sound On Sound” they combine his languid delivery and pendulum bass in a way that must have pricked the ears of a young Steven Malkmus.
With features in the earliest issues of Thrasher Magazine and coveted spots on their influential Skate Rock tape comps, Big Boys were the first band to be labeled “skate rock”, the nascent version of the world-conquering skate punk of the late 1980s and 1990s. Now, Light In The Attic’s Modern Classics Recordings imprint is bringing their pioneering music to a new audience. Following the 2013 re-release of Where’s My Towel / Industry Standard, 2014 sees reissues of both Lullabies Help The Brain Growand the following year’s, No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There’s Always A Seat, which brought the band’s story to a close.
Famously, the Big Boys would end shows with the foursome shouting, “OK y’all, go start your own band.” Their message was inclusion – and action. Start a band, write a zine, participate. So what are you waiting for? Listen to this record.