Doin' their part to keep that punk spirit underground
by John O'Neill
The familiar refrain "Punk is dead" -- that thunderbolt of judgment generally
delivered by older, tamer rockers who once embraced punk as their own --
couldn't be any further from the truth. No need for a moment of silence, a few
choice words in Latin, or a retrospective/eulogy delivered from some sorry-ass
Patti Smith-type. Nope, real punk is alive and well, maybe even a little
leaner, and still waving the finger as it heads into a fourth decade. And while
it's living in semi-obscurity, punk is no less vital than it was some 20-plus
years ago, when Sid Vicious, that dimwit punk poster boy who single-handedly
repulsed a generation of adults, swung his bass across the noggin' of
journalist Nick Kent for the ultimate wake-up call.
Take a stroll by the Espresso Bar on a Saturday night or check out Clinton's
St. John's gymnasium, and you'll find hundreds of kids going ape for the amped
out, three-chord buzzsaw guitars and in-your-face vocals. The fact that punk
continues to operate underground is just as much the fault of a fickle music
media, who choose to fixate on whatever new sound is being pushed, in much the
same manner a baby becomes fascinated by the mobile hanging over his crib (how
else do you explain electronica?).
"I've noticed that you can go to a Boston punk show and there'll be 400 kids,"
says Mark Lind of the Ducky Boys. "We still get no [media] attention
. . . nobody touches the punk scene around here."
Formed in 1995, Boston's Ducky Boys have become in short time, one of punk's
brighter hopes. A fact that's pretty amazing when you consider the only reason
they started playing in the first place was as a way to kill some free time.
"We weren't even thinking we'd play shows," Lind explains of their humble
beginning. "We just wanted to see if we could make up our own songs."
After a music reviewer from Boston's now-defunct Pit Report was
introduced to the band (bassist/vocalist Lind, Mike Marsden on guitar/vocals,
and drummer Jason Messina) at their rehearsal space, the band were talked into
making a demo tape that got great reviews in local fanzines. They wound up
playing their first gig in Providence, their second at the legendary Rat, and
had interest from four record labels after only three live gigs. Signing on
with the Atlanta-based GMM Records, self-described as "The World's Shittiest
Record Label," the Ducky Boys recorded in Boston at Salad Days with Brian
McTernan and released the full-length No Gettin' Out in 1997. With 15
tracks that clocked in under 39 minutes, No Gettin' Out was an
effective, straightforward affair that showed a young band with promise but
ultimately suffered from redundant production.
"We should have waited to record, we were all in our first band and none of us
had studio experience. But we had a buzz going," agrees Lind. "We didn't know
what a background vocal was!"
No Gettin' Out did get out though, and the Ducky Boys buzz factor
increased as the band continued to win over fans with their no-nonsense style
and positive message. They also added a second guitarist to fill out their
sound, settling on Mike O'Leary, a fan who was asked to join the night before
the sold-out Punk Olympics show because he knew all the songs by heart.
They recorded a second album, Dark Days, with Jim Siegel (Morphine,
Sugar) behind the board. Where No Gettin' Out came up short on sound,
Dark Days is a more textured, brighter album that chimes as much as it
grinds. Complete with sha-la-la-la, and hey-na-na-na choruses, the Ducky Boys
have learned the most important lesson that punk is really nothing more than
redefining old-fashioned rock and pop in relevant terms. And that's the mark
that separates good punk bands from great punk bands. They understand and
appreciate music history, and the direct influence old AM radio had on the
first wave of American punk.
"Mike is really into the older stuff, and I listen to the oldies
station," Lind says. "We do Dion's `The Wanderer' and we're working on `Run
Away,' by Del Shannon."
The Ducky Boys have stretched their sound to include a greater number of
influences. Hardcore to Oi!, power-pop to cock-rock, Dark Days is a
great listen -- the sound of a band who have developed in a year and continue
to develop. Currently at work on a third album for GMM, the band promise a few
surprises for fans. "We had a guy come down and play organ and keyboard. It's
not a Winger power ballad, it kicks in like a real rock song,"Lind says.
The Ducky Boys are slated to open the Rancid show at the Palladium this
Saturday night and find themselves at the juncture of bigger things. They'll
perform at this year's Bosstones-sponsored "Hometown Throwdown"; and they play
New Year's Eve with the Dropkick Murphy's. They'll also head out for a
seven-week tour this summer with the Dropkicks (ex-Westie Jamie Lynch filling
in for O'Leary) and, with any luck, move to a bigger label.
"GMM does as much as they can for us, so we couldn't be happier, " says Lind.
"We'll never get that much attention from a bigger label.
"For now we're just a local band that does weekends away, hopefully, we'll get
to be popular the way the Dropkicks did," says Lind of the bands impending date
with the big boys. It's a road that has led them from cellar-club shit-holes
and keg parties all the way to hanging out with their heroes. As to whether or
not commercial success will roll over and open a sleepy eye to them, it doesn't
really matter. The Ducky Boys, at least according to both Lind's estimation and
their credit report, are in it for the long haul
"We're balls to the flame about the band," says Lind with an easy conviction
that comes naturally. "We're in debt up to our ears, my credit card is loaded.
For now it's sealed in an envelope! Hopefully we'll pay it off little by