Bam Bam Villains (Also Wear White) 12″
I love when a record is reissued and it completely upends how we understand music history, giving us new classics to revere and pioneers their proper place. Chicago label Bric-a-Brac’s reissue of the 1983 EP (as well as some unreleased demos) by BAM BAM is like an editor’s red pen scratching out and rewriting the history of Seattle underground music as we’ve all known it. There’s been a lot written about BAM BAM lately as “proto-grunge,” or the “godfathers/godmother of grunge,” but I cringe to use the G-word at all in writing this review, as I don’t relate much of what BAM BAM displays on this record to anything that came in the Nevermind ’90s. This is simply an excellent ’80s Pacific Northwest punk record that you could put against fellow Seattlites SOLGER or the FARTZ or even POISON IDEA. BAM BAM’s songs are exceptionally more hooky and melodic than your average punk band at the time, but I can’t imagine songs like “Villains,” “Stress,” or “Heinz 57” not bringing a crowd in 1983 to a slam dance frenzy. While Tommy Martin’s seared, string-bending leads stand out, it’s Tina Bell’s vocals that give the band its sharpened tip. Her finely-honed pipes are given raw-throat voice as she tears through the band’s whirled din. There’s a gravity in her voice, a confidence in her delivery, and a passionate conviction in the words she’s singing that sounds like she was channeling from a deeper well than your average hardcore hollerer. The fact that we’re only giving Tina her just due, flowers, and kudos in 2022 (ten years after her untimely passing) is almost absurd given the evidence on this record. This should have been a classic already, but hopefully this lovingly-made reissue will finally give Tina Bell her stature in the punk pantheon next to other major voices like Poly Styrene and Alice Bag. Play it loud and burn a candle for Tina while you’re at it, a woman of color who fought for her place in a music scene that didn’t have one carved out for her.