Lookout! Records’ Best Singles

lookout-logoIn the late 80s and into the mid 90s, Lookout! Records was one of the most important and best labels on the planet.  West coast punk was shaped and defined by the music they released in that period.  The 7″ single was the lynchpin of the label and Josh Mason and I  feel these eight were the true fucking cream.

op-ivy-hecticOperation Ivy “Hectic” (1988)

BRAD: If someone wants to make the argument that this is the greatest 7″ ever, I wouldn’t put up much of a fight.  I’ve previously stated how Lint really was why Op Ivy ticked, but the pairing of Lint and Jesse Michaels is one of punk rock’s greatest duos.  Hectic has everything.  I’m still looking for a yoga studio where “Healthy Body” is just played on repeat forever.  Oh, and for the record “Yellin’ In My Ear” is my “Stairway To Heaven.” Anytime I pick up a guitar, that’s always, 100% of time the first riff I play.  This is utter fucking perfection.JOSH: While Armstrong & Co. lost some favor with me after “Life Won’t Wait” (well…the 2000 S/T album was pretty solid) Operation Ivy is just as golden as the day I heard it. The floppy Freeman bass lines. Lint’s ‘pump-up-the-treble’ guitar tone. Jesse Michaels’ schizo vocal stylings. Dave Mello’s marching snare drum. It all culminates in “Hectic”—the holy grail of ska-punk.

fifteen-oozeFifteen “Ooze” (1996)

JOSH: “Landmine” is inarguably the best Fifteen song they ever wrote. Jeff Ott created a timeless protest song that can pretty much be updated lyrically in a live/cover setting every decade that our government makes, well, pretty much any decision at all. It’s a no-nonsense song that right from the beginning lets you know “we, the suffering, are pissed.”

BRAD: Yeah, “Landmine” might be the best song Lookout! ever released (okay probably not true but it is in the conversation).  This ranks this high for that alone.

pinhead_gunpoweder-fahzPinhead Gunpowder “Fahizah” (1992)

JOSH: I break this out whenever I am reminded of how awful Green Day is these days, and what could have been. I also have to believe that Joni Mitchell is into their rendition of “Big Yellow Taxi.” How could you not be? For me its stands as the greatest pop punk cover song (with “Mahogany” running a close second.) To this day, I will buy any record that features Cometbus on drums, regardless of how good it is. Also, he has the best handwriting ever.

BRAD: It’s so hard to believe current-day Green Day was born here huh?  The cover is spot-on (I’ve always been quite partial to Screeching Weasel’s “I Can See Clearly”), and it’s the moment you can totally hear where Green Day formed and it’s still better than 99% of all Green Day songs (and I’ve got a lot of love for the first three Green Day records).  If I hear it on Monday it’ll still be stuck in my head on the weekend.  That’s something fucking special y’all.

crimpshrine-quittalkinclaudeCrimpshrine “Quit Talkin’, Claude” (1989)

JOSH: This band was so incestuous. Between ’82 and ’89 it featured past and future members of most bands we’re talking about here. I actually found out about the ‘shrine by following the Fifteen timeline backwards.

BRAD: The unsung heros of ’80s and ’90s west coast punk if you ask me.  Like Josh said, Crimpshrine basically featured past and future members of almost every band on this list, but there’s also the early roots of what defines the Lookout! sound for me on this 7″.  “Situation” is a personal favorite.  I mean, can you imagine the Lookout! universe sans Crimpshrine?  Nope.

go_sailorGo Sailor “Don’t Go” (1995)

BRAD: I had a bunch of friends who fucking loved Cub and I couldn’t deal with just how twee they were.  Go Sailor was the thinking person’s Cub.  It’s light and airy (and honestly twee as fuck), but there is something more grown-up and fulfilling about Go Sailor (Rose Melberg never wrote anything as fucking dumb as “Satan sucks but you’re the best!” (someone is going to point out some equally awful shit she wrote now, huh?  I mean, The Softies errrr)).  Go Sailor was the closest thing America had to Heavenly (all-timers right there) and for that I’ll always love em.

JOSH: “The thinking person’s Cub”, ha! I like that. I remember being unsure if it was ok for me to like this band when I was in high school. It’s not exactly ‘punk’ per se, there is zero distortion and Rose Melberg’s vocals sounded the way that most candy tastes. But for whatever reason I spun this thing, especially “Ray of Sunshine,” over and over and over and over. If I wasn’t so lazy/busy I would loop this song for 10 hours and upload it to YouTube. At the time it was such an anomaly in the Lookout catalog, as there weren’t too many girl fronted bands of this caliber on the roster (save maybe Kamala & The Karnivores)

filth-livethechaosFilth “Live The Chaos” (1992)

JOSH: I remember being attracted to this record on the basis of the cover art alone. I can still remember myself, maw gaping, blindly ordering this WITH CASH IN AN ENVELOPE from the back of an issue of Punk Planet. Upon its arrival, it was promptly dubbed onto cassette so as to listen to it in my friend’s station wagon that had holes rusted through the floor to the road below. Halyc..CHAOS DAYS.

BRAD: Hilariously, I bought this record based on the cover art too, but when I heard it the first time, I remember feeling like I was being pummeled.  Live The Chaos is raw as fuck, pure energy that’s inescapable.  I’d jump around in my room screaming my head off until my throat felt like it was bleeding listening to this over and over, even though I knew about 10% of the words.  Filthy.

queers-surf_gThe Queers “Surf Goddess” (1995)

BRAD: Besides Op Ivy, The Queers are likely my favorite Lookout! band and this is their finest hour (with apologies to Love Songs).  Why Surf Goddess is so great is having Dan Vapid on guitar alongside Joe King.  The doubled-up guitars makes the entirety of this single fueled by a pop-punk molasses.  It’s so good.  Also, the “Mirage” cover is ridiculous (and also on the ‘best punk covers’ list).  Their run from “Grow Up” to “Move Back Home” is ridiculous.

JOSH: Bubblegum pop-punk at its finest. I actually have a really fond memory of my mom coming into my room to tell me to turn my music down, only to realize that the fuzzed out jam playing was a rendition of a Tommy James song, and I’m pretty sure that was the last time we danced together. This is also a really good example of Chris Appelgren’s art style that became totally synonymous with Lookout! Records

riverdales-back2u'The Riverdales “Back To You” (1995)

JOSH: When I was young—before the internet—the only way I had any idea of telling if I was going to be into a record was based on the album cover/art. I remember seeing this one and thinking “Huh, these guys look like the Ramones. I should check this out.” Then I play it and think “Huh, did I just buy a Ramones record?” I mean, they weren’t even trying to not be the Ramones, but it’s Weasel and The Dan’s so…I should have known better. I always preferred Vapid’s voice to Ben’s, and am still confused to this day why “Judy Go Home” wasn’t made a single.

BRAD: It’s really too bad Ben Weasel is such an asshole (The Queers warned us about this ages ago). Anyway, my friend, here has committed sacrilege by preferring Vapid over Ben in the vocals department and I’m a little bit shocked.  I admit that Vapid can sing better, but that doesn’t matter.  Ben Weasel is up there when it comes to punk rock frontmen.  He eats Vapid for fucking breakfast.  But anyway, Ramones worship reached its absolute peak with The Riverdales and considering where I rank The Ramones among my all-time favorite bands (#3 on a bad day, #1 on a good one), that’s no bad thing.