This will be the first post of a brand new feature I'll be doing here on Chug Life, called 7" Inch Spotlight. Basically, I'll be picking and reviewing a 7" from my own personal collection. I think these posts will be fun for me to write and also break up the sometimes monotonous full discography posts we do sometimes.
Punk, being the completely ass-backwards genre that it usually is, has become perhaps almost as unequivocally associated with the media form of vinyl records as peanut butter has become perpetually paired with jelly.
Match this with the fact that punk is a relatively small subculture, (although it's forays into the nether regions of pop culture only continue to become more prevalent as the genre itself gets a little more aged with every passing year), as well as the fact that it is, actually, still very young: whether you say '74, or '77, (or even earlier), punk has really only been around four about 35 years or so, and you might be able to get a better idea of the vinyl collecting hobbyists that are just as diehard and nerdy as your fanatical stamp or baseball card collector.
The fetishist culture that has arisen around collecting punk records has created a situation that has indelibly helped the art form survive as well as retain it's aesthetic core values. Vinyl is often held up on a pedestal, as some sort of monument to the ideal of purity and elitism that sometimes can beget an unfortunate image of the concept of punk music (which more often than not is embodied by that one shitty quasi-intellectual snobby douche bag at the show...there's at least one in every scene). However, vinyl also reflects some of the more positive and heralded aspects of punk. The concept of DIY, as well as a widespread tradition of continuing to release material on vinyl (and other dead formats) despite the rise of CD-ROM and mp3 technologies, and the attention to detail that is often associated with many band's vinyl output in terms of liner notes and artwork are all certainly recognized by many to be some of the most pleasurable and nostalgic aspects of being involved in punk culture.
And, more than probably any era, the late '80's and early '90's have come to embody the golden age of obscure, limited edition vinyl releases and handcrafted DIY workmanship. Maybe that's why I decided to start my feature with the Shotmaker/Watershed split, because it comes from and is a great example of DIY culture in that very same era; from the chunky guitars and iconic 90's emocore vocals to the obligatory black and white antique photograph and photocopied zine featuring a rant on DIY, apparently from the runner of the record label that put out this gem, Vital Communications. Let's face it, it pretty much screams 90's emo.
Shotmaker's side of the split does not disappoint, and is pretty much in line with the rest of their fortunately rather sizable discography. Chunky guitars, grimy bass, and precise drums form the band's relentless and influential sound.
"Selector" rolls right along with a tight, groovy feel and the bare-bones screamed/sung vocal approach that helps make Shotmaker such an intense, interesting band to listen to. And the trademark palm mutes are back once again on "Public Eye Opinion," that features one of the band's most melodic choruses without losing any of their heaviness and gritty approach. It's splits exactly like this one that helped make Shotmaker one of the more well known bands to emerge from the era and enjoy continued popularity due to the rise of download and blog culture.
Watershed, although clearly the far more obscure band featured on the split, is certainly not to be ignored. Their side of the 7" is an amazing emo gem, and honestly holds up just as well as, if not better than many of other early 90's groups that are more well known due to having put out game-changing records or touring extensively. It's bands like these that makes colecting hardcore and emo records so rewarding. I bought this split purely for the Shotmaker side, and was very pleasently surprised when I flipped the record over and listened to Watershed's offerings.
The first song, "Eyes," starts off with a sound clip featuring someone, presumably a doctor in a promotional or educational video, promoting the use of morphine on medical patients playing over a heady, slow guitar riff that sounds almost ahead of its time. The vocals were maybe the most surprising thing about the band for me. They don't necessarily sound like every other band from the era. They're raised high in the mix, and are incredibly melodic when they're being sung, as they are for the first half of this song. This mesmerizing melodic part gives way to a breakdown that conjures up images of 90's heavyweights like Indian Summer, Lincoln, or Moss Icon, and displays are more raw and desperate vocal style.
That sound carries over into "Stand Alone," which relies heavily on a cut-up, stop and start structure that's balanced wonderfully by a chorus you'll find yourself bobbing your head along to.
Unfortunately, the only thing I really know about Watershed is that they were presumably from Canada and this was apparently their only recorded material as a band.
Check out this great French blog too see nice picture of all the inserts and cover art for this release, including the Vital Communications zine that came as an insert in these seven inches.
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Shotmaker/Watershed Split 7" (1994)