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The Screamers | Live in San Francisco 1978 | review | dvd | Lollipop

The Screamers

Live in San Francisco 1978 (MVD)
by Brian Varney

Although the name The Screamers is intoned in hallowed terms by the hardest of hardcore underground punk fans (Jello Biafra is quoted on the front of this DVD calling them "The best unrecorded band in the history of rock and roll"), the band remains a mystery to most of us since, as the Biafra quote implies, they never released a record. The series of demo recordings that have circulated on various bootlegs and this live video (originally filmed and released by Target Video) are the only recorded evidence we have of the band's existence, so it's a damn good thing MVD saw fit to reissue the show on DVD.

Witnessing the Screamers for the first time on this video, it makes sense that the band never saw fit to record, since so much of the impact derives from the visuals. Vocalist Tomata Du Plenty is a riveting presence, his spiked hair and manic scream (memorably captured in Gary Panter's more-famous-than-the-band logo) compelling you in the face of the band's super-aggressive and minimalist attack (just synths and a drummer). It's pretty unlike anything you've ever heard and, therefore, it's punk rock in the best and truest sense of what the term used to mean. The members of the Screamers may be misfits and they may not have a truckload of musical talent, but they have something to express and a unique and captivating way to do it. Tomata Du Plenty may not be able to sing at all, but I can't argue that his raw animal performance on "122 Hours of Fear" is anything other than dead perfect. As chaotic as the band sounds, though, the songs are surprisingly memorable, which means that once the charge of seeing such a pure display of emotion wears off, you're left with songs that you'll catch yourself singing a day or two later.

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