Armagideon Time

If nothing else, the process of putting together a collection of personally significant records has been an interesting exercise in mental inventory taking. Don’t let my writings fool you — for every memory recounted here in excruciating detail, countless others have utterly evaporated or only exist as cryptic scribbles in the margins of my psyche.

The haziness is thickest during those bouts of wheelspinning where I fell into a comfortable routine with little to distinguish one day/week/month from another. I prefer those circumstances to the non-stop shitshow of the past twelve months, but they don’t leave much in the way of distinguishing my 1994 from my 1996 from my 1998. Music, comics, and other popcult artifacts can help clarify timelines, though my retro tendencies still muddy those waters a great deal. Plus, there’s a lot of crap in those crates I simply cannot remember buying at all, much less when.

The point is that I can sift through a year like 1991 — which was pretty damn memorable — to compile a comprehensive list of the artists and albums which soundtracked that period for me, and still get blindsided by a “how the hell did I forget THAT” a few months later.

Such was the case with Frontier’s two volume compilation of Dangerhouse Records singles. I picked up both as secondhand cassettes shortly after their original release, mainly because old school punky shit was thin on the ground at the time and three bucks a pop was too good to pass up.

Despite its short existence and small number of releases, Dangerhouse was the preeminent label of the primordial LA and California punk scene — an eclectic roster of acts including X, The Dils, Black Randy (whose members ran the label), The Weirdos, The Avengers, and The Bags. Like the early Boston punk sound, it was more strange than spiky…and like the early Boston punk sound, it was completely eclipsed by the emergence of a meathead headcore movement that became synonymous for the local scene.

I listened to a lot (read: too much) hardcore and oi and other aggro punk subgenres my late teens, but it was kinda by default. Those — alongside stuff by the Pistols and Clash — were the only readily available punk releases during the back half of the Eighties and early Nineties. Everything else was out of print or commanded astronomical collectors’ market prices. You had to take what you could get back then, but I was always on the lookout for material outside those echo chambers.

I knew of X and The Bags from Decline of Western Civilization (a film which captured the LA scene’s shift from experimental oddness to aggressive noise). Their presence was enough to justify picking up the first Dangerhouse comp. It took a few listens to decide whether I liked it or not, but the comp and its follow-up went onto a long residency in my off-brand Walkman for half a year or so.

It fell off my radar because there weren’t many opportunities to follow up on what it revealed. I already had X’s debut album and a bootleg collection of Avengers studio tracks. Everything else was either inaccessibly out of print or a one-off release. With Punk and Disorderly or This Is Boston Not LA or The Oi of Sex, there were always new leads to chase, but the Dangerhouse comps existed in their own isolated pocket of history.

When I did finally remember the two collections and deem them worthy of my “essentials” list, there was still the question of whether or not they’d ever received a vinyl release. It tends to even money for 1991/1992 albums, even less for domestic market made-for-the-midlist albums. A little digging revealed they did not get a vinyl version on initial release, but did receive a half dozen LP reissues during the later Aughts.

I’m not really sure why, but I’m not complaining.

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