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SPERMBIRDS / WALTER ELF- Don’t forget the Fun! Split 7″EP (X-Mist Records, Germany, 1986)

This is one of these little pearls that were maybe more of regional importance – at least until SPERMBIRDS became the best export of the not so great mid 80s German Hardcore scene. In retrospective, it’s weird: You had these great German (Hardcore-) Punk bands like Razzia, Toxoplasma, Middle Class Fantasies, Chaos Z, Vorkriegsphase, Vorkriegsjugend, Buttocks, Cretins, Nikoteens, Inferno and the lot – they all had a very aggressive, sometimes a bit metallic sound that was quite special – and then they either disappeared or changed style. U.S. Hardcore (“Amipunk”, as it was called) was big – everybody loved those frantic records and somehow these bands inspired the German scene massively, but except for maybe Nikoteens and a few others, there were no bands around that actually tried to sound alike. Could be that the strong anti-american ressentment of the 80s were responsible for this, but in 1984-1985, American Hardcore finally arrived in Germany. At first, it was mainly a fashion issue: bandanas, shirts, skateboards and such, as seen in the blossoming Italian scene and the italian bands that toured Germany, Holland, Switzerland etc.
Then, step by step, the music changed and the funny thing is: Germany, already divided into west and east, became divided into south and north too: Hardcore à la USA was big in the south, the north was dominated by Punk nostalgia (leather jackets, mohawks and such). Consequently, one of the first “real” HC fanzines came from southern Germany and it was the center of the movement: “Trust” – “The southern German Hardcore fanzine”, as it said in the subtitle. A couple months later, a new fanzine named “Dust” was issued (in mid-northern Germany, of course), with the hilarious subtitle “Northern German brutal-pogo fanzine”.

The rivalry didn’t last long and I think that had much to do with bands like SPERMBIRDS. They were so energetic, fresh and vital – they were irresistible. Other groups like Challenger Crew, Everything Falls Apart (both from the “Trust” fanzine milieu), Sons of Sadism, Skeezicks (actually Armin X-Mist’s band), Desaster Area and many more surfaced at around the same time – but to me, SPERMBIRDS were by far the best and that had a lot to do with the singer Lee, an American citizen who had either worked on some military compound or stranded in Germany, I don’t remember. This guy represented the whole Hardcore thing – a fast talker, great singer, kinda Jello Biafra-like performer, backed by a band that got tighter and tigher but never sounded “Metal” (not until 1988). The shows were fantastic! Some of the most intense live memories I have: bands like SPERMBIRDS, Skeezicks, Challenger Crew in a sweaty basement, 50-100 people capacity but filled with twice as many – a sea of bodies and what Paul from Exodus would have called “friendly violent fun”. These three songs are so damn great – just like the first SPERMBIRDS LP (and parts of the 2nd). If Joe and Lee read this: Hats off!

I never cared for WALTER 11 too much. Beer, soccer and funpunk: Worse than Hitler.

I decided to also scan the flyer from “Speed Airplay”-Röbi who had a little distro (SM – short for not our favorite sport, but “Sensemann”, “reaper” that is) and who sold this split EP in Switzerland. Great memories.

SPERMBIRDS:
My God rides a Skateboard.mp3
Shit rolls downhill.mp3
She’s got VD.mp3

WALTER 11:
Fünfzehn Bier.mp3
Kaiserslautern.mp3

21 Comments

  1. Javi

    Invaluable insight and historical background, as usual.
    And the Spermbirds were downright gorgeous.
    Their “Something to Prove” album is, quite possibly, 1986 best album, besides “Reign in Blood” and “Master of Puppets” (yeah, I dig that one).
    The “No Punks in K-Town”/ “Scumbag” medley is particularly cum-inducing, but the whole record is a master class about how a “Melodic Hardcore” LP should be done.
    My only complaint about that record is that I usually get the feeling that the guitar tone is kinda slick, almost verging on what you call “mosquitose”guitar sound, not meaty enough for a Hardcore band, don’t cha think so, Erich?

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 13:10 | Permalink
  2. Glad you enjoy this, Javi 🙂

    As for the mosquito guitars: It seems to me that the meaty, SLAYER-ersque guitar sound had nothing to do with Hardcore. On the contrary, bands like Urban Waste or Negative Approach, Minor Threat or the Necros had this really thin, but in your face sounding guitar tones. I think that was part of the magic and it allowed the sound to be individual, complex and a bit mysterious too. I’d say the guitars can’t be thin enough in an aggressive yet gloomy band. Just check out Bedboys – I mean, that’s ART, dammit!!!!!! 😀

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 13:23 | Permalink
  3. Javi

    Yeah, I get what you say: those bands were so brutal and heavy without studio gimmicks.
    Anyway, I meant “meaty” guitar sound in a kinda Dayglo Abortion’s “Feed us”/ Poison Idea’s “Kings of Punk” way, not in that modern chugga chugga shit trend. I fucking despise that Metalcore sound, pal.

    As for the Bedboys (Italian HC band, ain’t them?), I’ll try to check them out!

    Thanks so much again!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 13:42 | Permalink
  4. You should find BEDBOYS on this very blog. Maybe it’s time for a repost? One of the best 7″ ever released!

    Maybe we could it that way: Hardcore had a variety of guitar sounds. Metalcore chugga chugga crap has nothing to do with HC. HC – 1978-1986 (ca.). R.I.P. – you know the gospel 🙂

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 13:52 | Permalink
  5. Man when you say you’re gonna do better on your scans as some had requested, you didn’t fuck around. Night and day difference between the two bands, but actually enjoyed both. “My God Rides a Skateboard”, with it’s nice intro was the fave for me. Thanx, as always for the words and the music.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 16:29 | Permalink
  6. Got meself a new scanner, mate!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 16:48 | Permalink
  7. noah

    this is awesome! I mean spermbirds. they sound a lot like agent orange. was there a wall between the south and north in germany?

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 17:35 | Permalink
  8. Yeah, Noah: The southerners called it the Slamdance Wall, the northerners the Pogo Wall.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 17:40 | Permalink
  9. Niels

    Hey, I always liked that Kaiserslautern song! Spermbirds were definitely the greatest band to come out of the USA-inspired German scene which, apart from being 3 years too late, was mostly little more than a re-enactment of USHC “we are the crew”-type of bullshit.
    I liked the Skeezicks too; we (Gepopel) once played with them in some park near Armin’s place; they played all their songs in 4/4 tempo; one year later their EP came out with the same songs in 2/4!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 17:50 | Permalink
  10. What's the Truth?

    Excellent! I’ve been listening to that first Razzia LP you recommended to me some time ago, and I must say, though I originally thought the second was a bit better, this one is growing on me quickly.

    Quick question, though: I always thought Slayer’s tone was the exact opposite of “meaty” (I always think of James’s tone on Ride the Lightning as one of the classic examples of a meaty tone,) sounding rather thin and mosquito-like, though maybe not to the extent of some of these hardcore bands.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 10-Oct-09 at 19:52 | Permalink
  11. adamski

    I’m a fan of that mid-80’s German hardcore sound. I love early HOA, Manson Youth, No Allegiance, Combat Not Conform, Challenger Crew, etc. The first Spermbirds LP is fantastic, too.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 11-Oct-09 at 13:09 | Permalink
  12. Jay Thurston

    Great record! I even love the B side…so there. Haha.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-Oct-09 at 02:03 | Permalink
  13. Just to complete this: WALTER ELF were a great live-experience! They were fun and they were punk. Only later fun-punk turned into a fad…
    Maybe their side doesn’t do it for you, but it definitely made sense back then!
    And pretty funny what Niels wrote about the SKEEZICKS: Actually we really HATED doing recordings in the studio. It was a pain in the ass. Most probably that’s why it never came close to the live-thing…
    Apart from all that, take my word: HOA were the absolutely undenaible best german band of that era!!!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-Oct-09 at 18:25 | Permalink
  14. Ringo Reblaus

    When I think of the Spermbirds, I, like you, remember their fantastic live shows with packed basements, sweat dripping from the ceiling and all the energy on stage and in the audience. And growing up not so far from k-town, i had the opportunity to see them live a lot of times…I wonder if back in the day we were ever on the same shows?
    Too bad you never cared for Walter 11, which, at this time, were basically the same people and this is why I always thought that “kaiserslautern” was a great hardcore-song with, well…, strange lyrics about soccer. But hey, what would you expect from a band that named itself after a soccer team? Later on they really had to cope with their “funpunk”-image and the audience they attracted, so much even that they changed their name and began to sing in english.
    While you listen to this record I would recommend you to drink some dry riesling from the Pfalz…;-)

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-Oct-09 at 19:27 | Permalink
  15. Thanks for the input, Armin. Good to see you commenting on this one! The SKEEZICKS absolutely shred on the EP and the live shows were so great. I still have a recording I made in 1985 (?) when you guys played with CC and the ever pretentious EFA.
    Yeah, HOA’s EP was killer, that’s true. I keep forgeting about them, maybe they came from too way up north 🙂

    Cheers Ringo – didn’t we already find out we must have been on the same shows back in the days when we were even prettier than we are today? Maybe you saw Fear Of God with Spermbirds in Niederolm? That was a shit show (of ours), hahaha. Just had some Zürich – Riesling last saturday. I guess the Pflaz one blows that one away 😉

    [Reply]

    Posted on 12-Oct-09 at 19:35 | Permalink
  16. Clinton

    It was interesting to have this post the week of Spermbirds playing in Australia. I’m not sure if I can really imagine Spermbirds in 2009-we’ll see what the weekend brings.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-Oct-09 at 12:18 | Permalink
  17. Keep us posted on how the shows were, Clinton!

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-Oct-09 at 12:51 | Permalink
  18. Great post of a great record that many of us seem to have good memories of!

    Concerning the German mid-80´s Hardcore scene, some of your readers might be interested to see photos that I made of the Hamburg scene, including some from the Spermbirds first show at Störtebeker. Despite being in Brutal-Pogoland and having no US-style Hardcore bands, we had a pretty good scene back then:

    http://berlindiyhcpunk.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/i-dont-wanna-see-my-face-in-the-web/

    Plus I posted the Challenger Crew 45 and a few anecdotes a while back here:

    http://mischalke04.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/challenger-crew-start-in-den-tod-1987/

    [Reply]

    Posted on 13-Oct-09 at 16:04 | Permalink
  19. I used to have this and remember the cover being yellow? My god rides a skateboard is so much fun, even today. I thought the Spermbirds singer was a yank? I’m probably wrong. Another cool post cheers.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 14-Oct-09 at 05:33 | Permalink
  20. Sean

    I actually knew a guy who REALLY spermed on his bird (accidentally). No, it REALLY wasn’t me.

    Erich, I bring this up because WHAT THE FUCK did their name represent???

    I like the 2nd song…only heard them once on the manic ears comp LP.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 14-Oct-09 at 10:02 | Permalink
  21. I’m beating myself over this question since 23 years now, Sean, hahaha.

    [Reply]

    Posted on 14-Oct-09 at 11:18 | Permalink

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