The Queers: still spreading message


Who: The Queers with The Apers, J3 and Turbo Lovers

When: 9 p.m. Monday

Where: The Lemon Grove, 122 W. Federal St., Youngstown

Tickets: $10; call 330-301-0282

By John Benson

Early on, punk rock’s mantra was to shock the world with not only band names but song titles to boot. From The Sex Pistols to the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away,” early punk rockers somewhat achieved their goal. Today, times are different. For instance, when Hollywood markets a major movie named “Meet the Fockers,” the mainstream’s shock value is all but nonexistent. This explains why old-school punk act The Queers is still touring strong without any hassles about its noteworthy moniker.

“Most punk rockers get the joke,” said The Queers frontman- visionary Joe King (aka Joe Queer), calling from his New Hampshire home. “When I grew up, it was the Angry Samoans, The Dickies and Black Flag. So the bottom line back then was a lot of bands had a good message, but there was humor. They were also laughing at themselves. I kind of try to keep that idea with The Queers. We really have not gotten much [expletive]. A couple of times, gay people walked in inadvertently thinking it was something else, but they’re all good-natured. It doesn’t really happen much. In this day and age, how do you shock people anymore with the name The Queers? It’s just a name they remember now.”

Formed in 1982, The Queers has existed off and on for the past three decades spreading its decidedly underground sound, which varied from Ramones-style pop-punk to, oddly enough, a Beach Boys pop sound. Even though the outfit has gone through dozens of lineups, something King attributes to the nature of the genre, its music remains consistent and relevant.

This is overwhelmingly the case with the act’s new CD, “Back to the Basement,” which was released last year. One listen to the frenetic album, and you’d swear Reagan was still in office, and Michael Jackson was alive and in his “Thriller” phase. In talking to King about the new effort, this retro sound was no mistake.

“We wanted to go back to the old production values when you’d go into a studio and couldn’t be too cute,” King said. “Back then, we’d just hit the record button and have three hours. We’d be in tune, start together and end together. We would do a take and put it on an album. These days, the production values are so radio friendly for the punk bands. So we said let’s forget the Protools and stuff and just go for the energy. We recorded it on a tape machine where we couldn’t even do [overdubs]. Every take is real, and it’s a pretty-honest album.”

King can’t remember if The Queers ever played Youngstown in the past. He said if they did, it was a long time ago, which makes the band’s return to Youngstown on Monday at the Lemon Grove that much more special.

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