CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1)
August 1, 2020
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite punk songs, c. 1974–1983.
“SEX BOMB” | FLIPPER | 1981
The winter of 1983–84 was one long night. It was a circle of wet, street-lit pavement on a median strip in Portland, Oregon. I was eighteen, living alone. I had a mattress, a table, no phone, a loaner boombox, and a few homemade tapes. The last song on the B side of one of them was “Sex Bomb.” That was how I first heard Flipper: alone, eighteen, rewinding “Sex Bomb” over and over and exploring it like a vivid dream. It was still everlasting night, but the circle of wet pavement widened out to a cavernous space with something in every part of it. Distant feedback, then bassline up front leaning against the wall. A bomb drops from the rafters, resolving into a wolf whistle. Snare and splash of a drum kit under a naked bulb. Scream-singer climbs something unsteady and trumpet-blasts while saxophones zigzag across the floor below. “Sex Bomb” was a party I wanted to get to.
I saw Flipper last fall on their 40th-anniversary tour, at the Middle East in Cambridge, in a room that had been a bowling alley when I was misspending my youth. I kept running into people I’d met over the years, at the long party that began for me in 1984: Jay from Kilslug, Jeffrey from Green Street Station, Jojo from 188 Brookline, Josh and Susan, Kristin, Chrises B. and N.
Will Shatter is long gone, and Bruce Loose can’t tour anymore. When Ted Falconi and Steve DePace called us to order with the opening squall of “The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise,” the lip of the stage thickened with bodies, and David Yow from the Jesus Lizard took up the mic. It was immediately clear that he was not just drunk but ominously, shamanically drunk. He merged with the crowd, a roadie holding his cord aloft, so that I couldn’t see him from where I was. A song or two in, everything stopped. Yow was down. For a moment I thought the set was over, and then they surged back to life.
Something was happening, but it was not a performance. Yow was not “being” Shatter or Loose; he was possessed, a spirit enacting a journey across a dark ocean that stretched from then to now. When it seemed like he could not possibly go on, he turned to Falconi and they embraced, and then they began again. Yow stayed standing until “Sex Bomb,” when it was time to turn it over to the crowd. There, suddenly at center stage, was a young trans woman I’d been tracking in the corner of my eye all night, stalking the room alone and fierce in a schoolgirl skirt — waiting, perhaps, for this moment when she turned her head to the side and yanked up her shirt and we beheld her beautiful new tits.
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): Series introduction by Josh Glenn | Mimi Lipson on Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” | James Parker on The Jam’s “Going Underground” | Dan Fox on The Cramps’ “Human Fly” | Adrienne Crew on Bad Brains’ “I and I Survive” | Devin McKinney on Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never” | Deb Chachra on The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” | Mark Kingwell on The Demics’ “New York City” | Jessamyn West on Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor” | Douglas Wolk on The Homosexuals’ “Soft South Africans” | Josh Glenn on The Freeze’s “This is Boston, Not L.A.” | Stephanie Burt on Sorry’s “Imaginary Friend” | Luc Sante on Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image” | Miranda Mellis on X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” | Adam McGovern on The Clash’s “Washington Bullets” | Mandy Keifetz on Germs’ “Forming” | Gordon Dahlquist on The Sex Pistols’ “Problems” | Anthony Miller on The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” | Deborah Wassertzug on The Mekons’ “Where Were You?” | Tor Aarestad on Gang of Four’s “Return the Gift” | Marc Weidenbaum on The Pop Rivets’ “Dream of ’63” | David Smay on The Rezillos’ “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” | Vanessa Berry on The Cure’s “So What” | Chelsey Johnson on The Slits’ “Typical Girls” | Lynn Peril on Crass’s “Smother Love” | Mike Watt on The Dils’ “You’re Not Blank.”
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.