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Beltones | Cheap Trinkets | review | punk | Lollipop

The Beltones

Cheap Trinkets (TKO)
by Morgan Coe

"Streetpunk" is one of those made up words I've always had trouble with; an "irregardless" for the tight-pants-and-bad-tattoos set. Most of the bands flying the streetpunk flag aren't from "the streets" in any meaningful sense, and it's been a long times since "punk" alone scared anyone, so what're we left with? You don't have to answer that, by the way...

Luckily, for those of us who give a fuck, The Beltones are more than just another Stiff Little Fingers tribute act. Like so many of the streetpunk class of Y2K, they've borrowed their idols' catchy-songs-sung-gruffly approach but diluted their furiously biting wit ("White Noise" managed to make The Clash sound complacent, for crying out loud), and - get this - they even do a rocked up Marley cover ("Concrete Jungle," standing in for "Doesn't Make It Alright" from Nobody's Heroes). On the other hand, their romantic streak saves them from uselessness; think Social Distortion rewriting "Barbed Wire Love," or would that be SLF covering Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell?

To make a long story short, what you've got is 1977-style punk that's a little bit pop and a little bit rock'n'roll. It's not too fast or too slow; not too aggressive and not too wussy; not too basic and not too tricky. Basically, this band is going to live or die by lead singer Mad Bill McFadden's singing and songwriting. He's got a powerful voice that can make lines like "they look at me like I'm a strong man but I'm two feet tall, yeah I'm nothing at all - I'm fucking weak" really work. On the other hand, unless you're Tom Waits in the mid-'70s, it can be pretty hard to sustain this kind of hard-luck vibe through an entire record. Still, Cheap Trinkets is definitely worth checking out if you're into retro punk rock that isn't all about politics or drugs.
(4104 24th St. #104 San Francisco, CA 94114)

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