The title of the Stimulators’ ROIR cassette-only release is a bit of a misnomer. In the wake of supersonic hardcore thrashers like the Bad Brains and the Descendants, the Stims sound like they’re keeping the speedometer close to 55.
Which is fast enough for me. The Stims, seminal NY punks who stuck by their guns long enough to be around for the second generation hardcore scene, maintain relative control of their sonic barrage and push a respectable degree of melodicism to jet-engine volume levels. On top of which they’ve managed to inspire a generation. Founded in 1978, the Stimulators brought headbanging rock to extremely young, extremely rowdy audiences. In a New York scene laden with 30-year-old retros singing about high-school loves and losses, the Stims thrashed it out with frenzied teenage audiences.
The 1979 single “Loud Fast Rules” became an anthem for NY’s maladjusted teens. Audiences at Stims gigs forsook their budding maturity and worked out their frustrations in a fray of adolescent violence. Leather-clad 13-year-olds pogoed, slam-danced, and, in the vernacular of an earlier generation, let it all hang out. Like all good teens alienated by the number of rules constricting ordinary human expression in this society, the Stimulators and their fans made up a few of their own: “Loud rules/Fast rules/What rules?”
At the head of the headbanging youth was Stims drummer Harley Flanagan, an 11-year-old cutie when he first joined the group, who periodically held the band’s sound together. But even when Harley couldn’t keep the gang together, they never let things get too out of hand. This ROIR tape, from a live 1981 gig in Raleigh, North Carolina, is the band’s first release since the “Loud Fast Rules” 7-inch and it shows the progress they’ve made. The songs, while characteristically bottom-heavy, are decidedly tuneful. Guitarist Denise Mercedes mixes inspired noise with solid hooks, and Patrick Mack’s vocals cut through the sludge with authority.
The dozen cuts are a melange of pile-drivers and lighter pop destroyers with an offhand reggae number thrown in for atmosphere. Rousing renditions of Kiss’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night” and Iggy’s “I Got a Right” show what the excitement was all about. The Stims turn these two teen anthems into joyous party revels as Harley propels band and fans into teenage America’s favorite credo: “I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night/And party every day.” Empathy never sounded so good.
The set’s clincher is the title track, a buoyant pop tune through which the band just burns. Hell, I’d have slam-danced with my mom if I’d had stuff like this when I was a kid. Mercedes’ guitar sounds like Keith Richards in overdrive. And as if the message weren’t all in the beat, Mack spells it out: “It’s time to fill your head with sound.” I’m all ears.