One of New York’s most deserving punk legends, Kraut made their live debut opening for the Clash in 1981 and went on to play a big part in the city’s burgeoning hardcore scene. On its first album, the quartet throws off awesomely dense but distinct slabs of post-Pistols/Clash guitar chords while galloping along at a good clip. Although genuine ex-Pistol Steve Jones played guitar on three songs (“Onward,” “Sell Out” and “Kill for Cash”), the spotlight remains firmly fixed on Doug Holland, one of punk’s best-ever string smashers. The urban reality/armageddon lyrics are only a bit above the usual monosyllabic protest, but no matter. (Jones also performed with the band on occasion, and a version of the Pistols’ “Bodies” appears on the Kraut live compilation, Night of Rage, recorded in New York and LA.)
Whetting the Scythe, a brief nine-song album, finds Kraut abandoning punk for tasteful demi-metal, using doubled guitar leads and charging, articulated power at more moderate tempos. It’s a partially successful variant, easier to follow than hyperdrive punk. Kraut has the chops, the intelligence and (occasionally) the songs to make something really unique.
After doing some unfinished sessions, Holland left to become a Cro-Mag and was replaced by Chris Smith (ex-Battalion of Saints). The new lineup completed three of those hard-rock items in ’85, but Smith drowned and Kraut threw in the towel. Singer Davy Gunner (taking up bass) and drummer Johnny Feedback (Koncz) went on to form Gutterboy with singer/songwriter Dito, formerly of Major Conflict, and guitarist Dan Hulsizer. The Movie, a 27-track CD, combines the three previously unreleased tracks with both studio albums in their entirety.
On the group’s debut album, Gutterboy — with Eric Hulsizer joining his brother in the lineup, taking over bass from the departed Davy Gunner — attempts to glorify punk ruggedness as stylish tough-guy sexuality (undershirt chic!). The contrived quartet sounds like a street-level cross between Bruce Springsteen and U2. With Dito getting outside songwriting assists (probably on lyrics, which are well-suited to the group’s mission), the material is obvious but entertaining; the foursome’s playing is as exciting and credible as their carefully manicured looks. The second Gutterboy album contains new versions of many of the same songs, the result of a short stay on DGC followed by a quick move to Mercury and an effort to give the relaunch the band without wasting its repertoire.