In One Ear 

ONWARD TO THE FUTURE

You’ve just gotta love the free flow of information that’s at our fingertips nearly 24-7. All I was doing was innocently poking around on the Internet, not looking to bother nobody, just trying to find some musical adventure. That’s when I stumbled upon the Web site for downtown coffeehouse/all-ages music venue io (it's at 1529 Broadway — in the space C-Pop Gallery occupied for a hot second).

Because sometimes what’s in a name is enough reason to make that quantum leap to consumer action, my future-fetish brain gravitated to the words "This Robot Kills" on io’s schedule. These apparently cyborgapocalyptic rockers will be playing a show Feb. 13 with western Michigan’s finest no-wave punkateers, the Night Doctors, and Ypsilanti’s lovesick — a band that’s been known to cause spontaneous snogging with it’s heart-on-the-sleeve emo-core. If This Robot Kills was half the band its name seemed to guarantee, this promised to be a night worthy of using pen in the old day planner — but I had to know for sure.

I set out on a quest for vinyl of the 7" variety and struck gold at only the second record store I visited when I found said 7" released on Pontiac’s Utilitarian Records. As I snuggled up to the speakers and started picking apart the record’s packaging, a world of DIY inspiration unfolded before my eyes. Inside the This Robot Kills record sleeve is a set of four silk-screened, black light and hyper-bright-colored faces, sort of future-ancient totems (pictured) — one for each band member — with a one-quarter portion of the four songs’ lyrics on the back of each one. The grooves of the record scream with dissonant, new-no wave nightmare rock — a sort of lo-fi version of Brainiac built upon a slippery foundation of 1977 punk chaos.

Poking further around the packaging — as TRK’s electronic howls and squalls ebbed and flowed with the guitars and drums — I found a revelation in northern suburban DIY culture. The lad who helms Utilitarian Records, James Marks, had a dream of "a space equivalent to Shredder’s adolescent haven in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie." But behind the whimsy of that sentiment was a desire to foster a sense of community amongst the punk scene in which he hung out — many of whose members were vegan vegetarians. To that end, he leased a 4,000-square-foot building a year ago which now houses Vegetarian Grocery an all-vegan grocery store and a book and record store that stocks mostly independent, punk and hardcore records and cultural items. All of the endeavors are staffed by a group of volunteers that realize where it’s at is where you are and you can build it your damn self if you try.

An exercise in self-sufficiency as much as an idyllic hideaway, the building is also home to Utilitarian and a screen printing shop. Pure independence such as this in a city that’s largely built upon major-league, corporate, entertainment lucre is about as inspirational as it gets, no?

You see, discovery is sometimes purely an accident and amid the sometimes sloppy chaos of online reality, you can choose your own adventure in the real world.

For more information, write to Utilitarian Records — which has also released 7"s by Cleons Down (a side project of Jay from the Suicide Machines), Little Rock Nine and Small Brown Bike. A compilation of Michigan punk and hardcore is on its way in early February — at 162 N. Saginaw St., Pontiac, MI 48432 or call 248-332-9997. FYI 7" rekkids r $3 ppd.

Recorded evidence of lovesick’s groovy-osity is available by writing Ypsilanti label Westside Audio Laboratories at P.O. Box 970021, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. Westside is online via a link from Ann Arbor’s Fantastic Records.

Go get started! We’ll bump soundbites and swap spit on the Web.

More by Chris Handyside

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