The Fear Record
The End Records
Fear’s 1982 debut The Record eschewed the standard Ramones blueprint of punk for a more obtuse, syncopated sound that pushed the guitar back while simultaneously pushing forward the antagonism and social apathy that marked the genre. To this day there’s honest fright to behold in the album’s grooves as the jarring barbs of singer Lee Ving fly by in operatic style beside a band that sounds like some kind of malfunctioning machine. Alas, The Record can no longer stand alone proudly in its own field: Ving and his latest version of Fear re-recorded the entire album last year as The Fear Record for reasons that were never made entirely clear.
The Record was originally released via L.A. punk label Slash; Slash was bought up years ago by Warner Bros, and if I were a betting man I’d say Lee Ving probably attempted to buy back the original tapes at some point before this and gacked on his own tongue when WB slipped him the price. There could also be some legal red tape with Fear’s other original surviving members, inventive guitarist Philo Cramer and hyperactive drummer Spit Stix. On the other hand, considering Ving’s propensity for re-recording Fear oddities and b-sides in the past, maybe he simply decided 2012 was the right time for a do-over of his most ballyhooed creation. Whatever the reasoning, it was faulty. This endeavor is the underground equivalent of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho.
The Fear Record brings a meaty NOFX-style sound to the material, which of course never needed those kinds of sonics to come across punk. Philo Cramer’s frayed guitar work was enough to convince you Fear were no normies. A Cramer solo is a spine-bending affair that projects an acute sense of odd; here, we get half-hearted wanks sitting atop of Xeroxed Johnny Ramone pounding. Speaking of pounding, original drummer Spit Stix was the best reason anyone had to take Fear seriously as musicians, circling around in strange time signatures and playing with such fervor Dick Dale famously accused him of “goosing the beat.” Fear’s current drummer Andrew Jamiez does an okay Spit Stix impression on The Fear Record but ultimately makes you yearn for the real mccoy.
Of course, most Fear boosters will probably be focused on Lee Ving’s voice, which by this point has become a phlegmy shadow of its former self. It was a bad move to start The Fear Record off with Lee croaking out the famous “I Love Livin’ In The City” refrain—more of a lozenge commercial at this point than ironic rallying cry. Sadly, there are several spots throughout where you can apply the same put-down. At least Lee gets through the album’s faster numbers like “We Destroy The Family” and “Gimme Some Action” without losing his place.
Whatever other good things you can say about The Fear Record (the songwriting itself retains some of its original magic, there are no kazoos, as far as I know no pets were maimed during its recording) are outweighed by the massive pointlessness of the endeavor. What did Lee Ving and his latest Fear cronies (Jamiez, Paul Lerma, and Dave Stark) stand to gain by giving us a take two on one of punk’s greatest entries? Who knows. The only thing we gain from this lark is a sharp reminder that the original version of The Record is an amazing relic that cannot be improved upon.
FINAL SCORE: One Xeroxed Johnny Ramone (out of four).
Cornuzine [korn-yew-zeen] -noun. 1. A subpar Internet music magazine created by JG2 in 1999; folded 2003. 2. The best-selling foot ointment in outer Uzbekistan.
I think the intro I originally wrote for this piece is pretty solid, so I’m gonna leave it be. As for the interview itself, my only regret is not pressing Lee harder about the failure of the MD.45 project. What can I say? I was star-struck (in my world, this guy is like Bruce Willis).
JG2 GETS SCHOOLED BY LEE VING
Countless rumors surround Lee Ving, mysterious frontman for punk agitators Fear. Is he the bastard son of one of the Bowery Boys? Did he actually get his start as a singing waiter? Did he really schtup Madeline Kahn on the set of Clue? None of that came up in our interview. Instead, I focused on the real issues – Flea, beer, and that infamous appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”
JAMES GREENE, JR: I seem to recall reading something recently about a FEAR box set. Is this a reality or just a figment of my imagination? At any rate, what is the current state of Fear?
LEE VING: Box set in progress, state of Fear very strong.
JG2: Is the box set going to contain any Fear rarities, like “Hank Williams Was Queer?”
LV: No. All Barbara Streisand tunes.
JG2: A-ha. Many interesting characters have passed through the ranks of Fear. One such character was Flea. How exactly did that happen?
LV: By luck.
JG2: Did it have anything to do with the film you two made, Dudes?
JG2: Do you still keep in touch with him?
JG2: It’s my understanding that you played some acoustic gigs recently. Have you ever considered doing a whole acoustic solo record?
LV: Yes, [that’s] in the works.
JG2: What do you make of this whole Dead Kennedys fracas?
LV: Who are they? What fracas?
JG2: Who are the Dead Kennedys? Oh, c’mon, Mr. Ving, surely you jest.
LV: I’m into music, not Frisco scene rabble.
JG2: Ouch. You did a record with Dave Mustaine a few years back called MD.45. How did that come about? Was it ever intended to be more than a side project?
JG2: Do I sense some animosity here?
LV: No, Capital [Records] just made sure the project failed.
JG2: I’ve been trying to avoid the cliché Fear questions, but after all these years, I am still fascinated by your appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” They show so many embarrassing and controversial moments from other episodes in syndication constantly, yet Fear’s wild performance they never rebroadcast. Why is that? I mean, did Lorne Michaels just throw the tapes away or something? Is NBC just a bunch of pricks?
LV: They are timid, lacking humor, and scared of their own shadows.
JG2: I agree. Mr. Ving, you like the beer. Is there any particular brand you just can’t stomach?
JG2: Have you seen Chuck Biscuits lately? No one seems to know where he is.
LV: I don”t know that name.
JG2: Chuck Biscuits…he was in Black Flag, D.O.A., uh, FEAR at one point, I believe…anyway, Gibby Haynes once stated, “It’s better to regret something you have done than something you haven’t done.” Would you agree with this philosophy?
JG2: Alrighty! Are there any musicians out there today that you’d really like to collaborate with?
LV: Yes. Chick Corea, Billy Cobham, and Stanley Clark.
JG2: Man, that would be some fucked up shit right there. Chick Corea alone…well, Mr. Ving, thanks for your time.
LV: All the best, man. Jazz forever.
– Cornuzine.com, 2000