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Bottoms up
Darkbuster get loaded, and the Konks go Bomp!

Thereís one question you might not want to ask the members of Darkbuster. Go ahead and say their music sucks, or insult their families. Just donít ask do they really drink a whole lot or is that just a put-on.

When we meet up at the Middle East, that question is met with a shocked silence from the usually talkative band members, who then take swigs of their beers. "Do we really drink? You mean, do I drink like I did in Vegas last week, where I had that bacon martini? Believe me, we donít do the David Lee Roth Ďice tea in the Jack Danielís bottleí thing." Bassist Mike Gurley continues, "Weíve been known to have a drink or two before a gig . . . no really, we donít. We absolutely never drink before a gig. And make sure that Kevin [Kevin Patey, who manages the band with his wife, Mary Lou Lord] hears about that." Drummer Eric Edmonston adds, "You should be there when I have to carry the rest of these guys off the stage." Guitarist Danny OíHalloran concludes, "So thatís, uh, yes."

Thatís the Darkbuster Boston has come to know and love: a bunch of friendly delinquents fueled by beer and irreverence. And thatís the Darkbuster you get on A Weakness for Spirits (on Patey & Lordís Jittery Jack label) ó but not all the time. The disc comes a full seven years after Darkbusterís debut, with a break-up and a reunion in the middle. That debut wasnít a joke record, but itís the joke songs everybody remembers. Even the title, 22 Songs That Youíll Never Want To Hear Again!, was contributed by Edmonston after an especially tough mixing session. Those 22 songs included the trilogy of "Jerk," "You Jerk," and "You Fuckiní Jerk" (each of which ran exactly as long as it took to yell the title), plus "Lilith Fair," a song aimed at every male rocker who got dragged to that event by his girlfriend. Then thereís "Amazing Royal Shaft," a true story of rock-scene intrigues ("Donít laugh, itís not as funny as it sounds/My girlfriend fucked the singer of the Royal Crowns").

There are some good yuks on the new disc, with "Grandma Was a Nazi" (about Lashleyís grandmother, a German ex-pat who really was photographed at a Hitler rally) already a local hit and "Cantaloupes" (as in, "Heís got balls the size of . . . ") sure to follow. But you know things have changed a little when the best song on a Darkbuster album (and the single) is "Shoulda Known Better," a punk/pop rouser in the proud Buzzcocks/Queers/Green Day tradition. Elsewhere, they refer to Iraq on "Armageddon Time," whose heavy-anthem sound is closer to Dropkick Murphys territory. And "Give Up Dope" is the kind of responsible statement they wouldnít have bothered with earlier. It also makes sense that both Dicky Barrett from the Bosstones and Ken Casey from the Murphys add vocals, since Darkbuster seem likely to be the next "populist Boston punk heroes." And you donít get that from jokes alone.

The idea that Darkbuster have matured gets the same reaction as the suggestion that they donít drink. "I donít think maturing is the same thing as getting older," says Edmonston. "We just got older. There were a couple of love songs on the first record, but we had a budget for this one. Before, it was like, ĎWe have two hundred bucks, letís go into the studio.í " Lashley says, "I can say I was pretty miserable when we made the first record. Now a couple of us are married, and everybody has a significant other. But if it sounds more mature, it doesnít come from drinking any less in the studio." Edmonston adds a more serious note: "I know this makes it sound like we take the whole thing lightly, but we donít. Weíve all been on the road, weíve been in different bands. Weíre in it to win it."

Talk of Iraq also puts them in serious mode. Lashley: "Without getting too political here, obviously everyone in this outfit feels we should support the guys over there, whether you agree with the war or not." Gurley: "We started getting e-mails from guys in Iraq who were sick of all the CDs they had. So we got together with a bunch of other bands and wound up sending about 50 packages of CDs over. I just feel itís normal kids who are stuck over there, whatever your political beliefs are. And there are different ones in the band."

Darkbuster also promise not to make any more bad business decisions, like breaking up a year after winning the Rumble. Their 2000 showing was pretty spectacular, with the band tearing up the house and the fans following suit. (The show even had to be stopped when a fight broke out.) Yet they called it quits after a less glamorous spell on the road. Lashley: "Thirty days in a van with five smelly drunk people . . . and that was the good part." Gurley: "I think the last straw was when the van broke down in a desert in California. We called U-Haul to pick us up . . . and they asked if they could call us back. On a pay phone in the middle of a fuckiní desert." Lashley spent a few years doing acoustic punk with Lenny & the Piss Poor Boys before the band sold out their first reunion at Axis two years ago.

And the difference between the two phases of Darkbuster? Lenny points out, "Well, I donít want to quit every day. And Eric is drinking again, so he fits in better." As for the pressure of following up an album thatís become something of a local classic, he says, "There was some pressure to come up with something after the Rumble, that was one reason we quit. This time, nobody thought we were gonna do anything, just that people kept coming up with songs until we had a record. And if you want to know about pressure, ask us on April 12, when we still have 2500 copies sitting in our basement." But when I suggest the album could cement Darkbusterís status as a leading Boston band, Edmonston gets a little concerned. "You mean weíre not the biggest thing in this fuckiní town already?"

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Issue Date: April 8 - 14, 2005
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