E140 - Top 5 Challenging (but Rewarding) Artists (with CURRENT RAGE)
Challenge accepted! For our last "regular" episode of Season 3 (before our holiday party and best of 2022 shows), we discuss the artists who continue to challenge us, defy expectations, and create uncompromising art. Some of these artists have such deep catalogues that it can be daunting to take it all in, some may be too esoteric or eccentric to immediately grab you. But the 25(!) artists that we pick during this episode have one thing in common...stick with them, and their music will reward you handsomely.
In other words...you'll come around, Gregg!
On the other hand, there are certain artists who we find immediately appealing...even if it took 40 years, like the Atlanta band Current Rage. To celebrate the 40th anniversary reissue of their 1982 mini-album Seven Songs on Propeller Sound Recordings (now generously expanded to 15 tracks) is guitarist John Moore, drummer Paul Lenz, and singer/guitarist Oliver Bewley (son of late Current Rage singer Chris Bewley). It's a powerful rock n' roll story about family, loss, redemption and second chances that you won't want to miss. It's the Penicillin Sound!
Get the Seven Songs reissue at: https://propellersoundrecordings.com/
About Current Rage:
Current Rage are a four-piece, post-punk, musical group that played live in the Southeastern United States during the early eighties. They were comprised of Chris Bewley, John Moore, Pat Kirkland, and Paul Lenz. In the landscape of a fertile, burgeoning Athens/Atlanta music scene Current Rage gained notoriety and a loyal following performing with such musical icons as REM, Pylon, Swimming Pool Q’s, The Fleshtones, The Bush Tetras, and The Bongos. Eventually Current Rage would headline shows on their own at such iconic venues as Athens, GA’s 40Watt Club, Atlanta’s 688 Club, Chapel Hills’s The Cat’s Cradle, Birmingham’s The Nik, and Nashville’s Frankensteins.
Current Rage first formed in 1979 when skaters, Chris Bewley and John Moore, began writing songs together after school on a pair of second-hand guitars. The two first met as early teen-agers having been recruited separately by Mike Maloof, founder, and manager of Atlanta-based Progressive Skate shop. Bewley and Moore traveled the Southeast competing and marketing Maloof’s “Equalizer” skateboard decks and “Accelerator” wheels. Eventually, Moore was recruited by the Z-East team, in Jacksonville, Florida to ride professionally for their Z-Flex brand of decks and wheels. While Bewley was recruited by Sabre Skateboards out of northern Alabama to represent their laminated skate decks at competitions and demos.
In the summer of 1979 Moore entered his freshman year at Georgia Tech University and Bewley was invited by his older brother Randy to join his group Pylon as they made their way to New York for their first show opening for Gang of Four. During this trip Bewley became immersed in the New York post-punk music scene and was inspired to start a band of his own. Once back in Atlanta Bewley and Moore began writing songs and practicing. The early version of Current Rage was Bewley and Moore on guitar, Pat Kirkland on drums and Norman Hanson on lead vocals. In mid-1980 Current Rage performed their first show in Athens at the 40th Watt Club opening for The Method Actors. Next, they performed at Atlanta’s newly opened 688 Club with The Swimming Pool Q’s. Current Rage became the “go to” opening act that year at the 688 Club performing several times each month opening for numerous national and regional acts. By the beginning of 1981 Current Rage was headlining shows in both Athens and Atlanta and began venturing out to Charlotte, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Birmingham. Once the band had found their true drummer in Paul Lenz, who they enticed away from the Atlanta underground band, Vietnam, the original drummer Pat Kirkland shifted his focus to lead vocals and supplemental percussion while Hanson left to start his new band Feast of Friends.
Current Rage released an indie label E.P. album called Seven Songs on EOD Records in late 1982. Current Rage was known for short catchy post punk tunes dripping with danceable irony as well as darkwave surf instrumentals. “Seven Songs” was produced by legendary Athens-Atlanta engineer, Bruce Baxter. Baxter had engineered the B-52’s single, “Rock Lobster”, Pylon’s debut album “Gyrate” followed by the debut albums of The Swimming Pool Q’s and Love Tractor. Current Rage’s album was the first release on Ron Bond’s EOD (Entertainment on Disc) Records. “Seven Songs” was recorded in April 1982 at Channel One studios with Bruce Baxter handling engineering and sound mixing and was released in late October. It is highly regarded by record collectors seeking out early eighties DIY releases.
The first pressing of “Seven Songs” yielded 400 copies that were sold primarily at Southeastern independent record stores. Garnering significant east-coast distribution from Important Records, the band rushed to press another 500 records within three months of the initial release. Current Rage gained significant regional buzz from college radio stations WRAS, WREK and WUOG among others across the southeast who played songs like ‘Waikiki’ and ‘Sweet Torture’. They also released several music videos that were played regularly in Athens-Atlanta area nightclubs and screened on the weekly music video show on Channel 36 WATL in the early-years of the MTV era. Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone magazine wrote, “an enviable and impressive explosion of new music was emerging from the Atlanta-Athens area at this time” in his Rolling Stone magazine feature article charting the explosion of innovative bands coming out of Atlanta-Athens in 1983. He noted Current Rage as “An up-and-coming standout.”
Current Rage has shared the stage with such local legends as Pylon, REM, the Method Actors, The Roys, The Brains, The Swimming Pool Q’s, Love Tractor, Vietnam, Kilkenny Kats, and the Side Effects. By 1983, they will have also performed with Col. Bruce Hampton’s Late Bronze Age, and Tinsley Ellis’ Heartfixers, as well as Guadalcanal Diary and Jason and the Nashville Scorchers. Current Rage’s lyrics sketched out wry, lyrical observations about pop-culture fads in “Right Side of the Brain” and “Gidget goes Digital” and expressed vivid, realistic, expressions of common psychological experiences in “Sweet Torture” and “Bitte Schӧn [Beat to Shame]”. In some of their most memorable songs they championed mock-anthemic choruses that affirmed ordinary, everyday, phenomena such as living with an aging dog in “My Dog Sam” or scoring some cool shirts at thrift stores in “Bag of Shirts”.
Current Rage’s distinctive sound is brash, energetic, and rhythmic, showcasing two drone-based guitarists with crunchy, first-position chords strummed beneath chiming post-punk leads on top of fast frenetic drumming. The relative scarcity of “Seven Songs” today suggests the item does not circulate on the marketplace often. The combination of a small batch release plus, eye-catching three-color cover art, and short catchy songs connects you to the ‘golden age’ of the Athens-Atlanta music scene. After Current Rage ceased performing each of the members followed different paths. Paul played drums in several successful bands, The Nightporters, Drivin-n-Cryin, and Michelle Malone’s Drag the River. In 1983 he founded a successful musical charity, Rat Aid, which raised much needed funds for targeted relief of local area members of the Atlanta music scene. Today, Paul has a successful audio visual production business in metro Atlanta. Pat had a successful modeling and acting career in Los Angeles, later moving to Phoenix. John returned to school eventually becoming a humanities professor at a college in South Carolina where he still teaches today. Chris took up a career in graphic design gaining a position with the United States Printing Office in Washington D.C., a skill he developed designing concert flyers for local bands and clubs in Atlanta and Athens. In 2018 while living in Charlotte Chris succumbed to a heart attack at the age of 57.
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