Reissue of the Week: SIN 34 Do You Feel Safe? LP

  • Published November 12, 2014 By Grace Ambrose
  • Categories Reviews

Yes! This is the reissue of the sole LP by SIN 34, one of the first (the first?) Southern California hardcore bands to be fronted by a woman — and a raging teenage punk girl at that. Formed in Santa Monica in 1981, rumor has it that Julie Lanfeld stole most of a drum kit for Dave Markey (of We Got Power fanzine) after he told her he wanted to start a band. He learned to play without a kick pedal or snare, using a metal lampshade as a cymbal and literally kicking the bass drum when he wanted to use it. By the time they entered the studio to record this LP, Markey had upgraded to a “proper” kit, but the songs retain their somewhat desperate quality — these kids loved NECROS and DEVO equally (even covering the latter), saw and played with and absorbed the sounds of their co-conspirators TSOL and BLACK FLAG. Like all truly great bands, everyone here learned to play their instruments for this group — it’s not inept, but rather, chaotic. This is straightforward hardcore, but they are songs written via osmosis and immersion, rather than careful study, identifiable conventions twisted and warped as a result. They are funny and pissed off in equal measure. Julie switches from deadpan to aggressive in a second, sixteen years old and absolutely furious.

I’m currently reading a book about Naomi Petersen, the staff photographer for SST and one of the lone women in the hyper-masculine orbit of Black Flag. It was a gift, and the inscription describes it as “Carducci’s hesitant capitulation to feminism, a typical man-apology.” A lot of things about the text are infuriating but it’s also one of the only documents of the role women played in what was both one of the most macho and most influential punk scenes in history. The importance of women like Naomi and Julie cannot be overstated and their histories have largely been erased. Tobi Vail contributes liner notes to this reissue, reclaiming Julie and the other women like her for the history of USHC and the global punk and wider cultural movements it influenced. They are required reading. An excerpt: “[This record] is irrefutable proof that teenage girls actively participated in the creation of American hardcore… Briefly, so the story goes, after women helped invent punk/new wave in the ’70s we were pushed to the sidelines in the ’80s when the music and dancing got too aggressive and “hardcore,” i.e. too masculine for us to hack. Then, in the early ’90s riot grrrl supposedly came along to rescue girls from male oppression and we have ruled the pit ever since. Bullshit. Girls were there the whole time. We just didn’t have the visibility or respect we got later on. We fought to be taken seriously and we won. We all deserve credit for this cultural shift but the women involved in ’80s hardcore punk especially need to be recognized for their contribution to the evolution of culture. This history does not deserve to be obscure.”

Hopefully it won’t be any longer. Released on CD (with three unreleased tracks) for the first time ever, and back in print on LP (with the original track listing) for the first time in many decades later this fall, it also includes commentary from Dave Markey and Thurston Moore (whose contribution is mercifully so short I almost missed it). I’m thrilled that this record will be recirculating in the world.
(Sinister Torch)