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The Record

Fear - The Record ©1982 Slash
1. Let's Have a War
2. Beef Baloney
3. Camarillo
4. I Don't Care About You
5. New York's All Right If You Like Saxophones
6. Gimmie Some Action
7. Foreign Policy
8. We Destroy the Family
9. I Love Livin' in the City
10. Disconnected
11. We Got to Get Out of This Place
12. Flesh Flesh
13. Getting the Brush
14. No More Nothing
15. Fuck Christmas

Fear's noteriety in the punk scene is easily traced back to their appearance in the 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. Their onstage antics and audience baiting forms one of the most memorable segments of the film, which undoubtedly has lead many fans to rush out to buy their record immediately after seeing it. Though Fear had been playing since 1977, their debut album didn't appear until 1982, which was after the infamous movie appearance.

To a degree, there's been a sense that Fear was a parody of punk, especially considering Lee Ving has been an actor (insert automatic Who's the Boss guest role reference here) over the years. This is not to suggest Fear was a mere joke band who could barely play their instruments. On the contrary, Fear was quite adept and Ving's vocals are exceptional, particularly compared to some of the contemporaries (Darby Crash comes to mind) of the time. However, Fear's carefully crafted image of a redneck, homophobic band should not be taken any more seriously than any other form of satire. At least, one hopes Lee Ving wasn't serious with lyrics about his "Beef Baloney" (a euphemism for penis, for those not adept in dick jokes). Punk initially was meant to be confrontational and Fear certainly did their part.

The Record is not a perfect album by any means, but it contains the classic songs that everyone associates with Fear: "I Love Livin' in the City", "Let's Have a War" and "I Don't Care About You". There's a few songs that feel like filler material, which is distressing for a record that is less than a half hour long. The musicianship is suprisingly decent, although not at Yngwie Malmsteen level. But then again, what musician truly can achieve that sort of mastery? The Record easily stands as one of the more remarkable punk records of the early 80s and should be in the collection of any fan of that genre and era.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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More Beer

Fear - More Beer ©1985 Restless
1. The Mouth Don't Stop (The Trouble With Women Is)
2. Responsibility
3. More Beer
4. Hey
5. Strangulation
6. I Am A Doctor
7. Have A Beer With Fear
8. Bomb The Russians
9. Welcome To The Dust Ward
10. Null Detector
11. Waiting For The Meat

By 1985, Fear had gone through some fundamental changes as a band. Original bassist Derf Scratch had been fired and the band forged ahead with a few different bassists (one of which was Flea, but he didn't last long enough to actually record with Fear). Eventually Lee Ving got the band into the studio to record a follow up to 1982's The Record, but it's pretty evident the band was running on creative fumes as well as simply just not being funny anymore. To a degree, one could take the "controversial" lyrics on The Record with a grain of salt because it felt obvious that Fear had planted their tongues firmly in their cheeks to rile up stuffy, small minded people. Unfortunately, by More Beer, the lyrics are far from funny and often just cross boundaries into utterly poor taste. Considering that the music is often subpar, More Beer is a generally disappointing, pathetic showing.

Generally speaking, I only find "Responsibility" and the title track to be worth anyone's time with this album. "Responsibility" neatly sums up how rotten life as an underpaid blue collar worker can be. "More Beer" shows off Lee Ving's singing abilities quite nicely as he wails about his hangover and the lack of having a little hair of the dog in the aftermath of the morning after. Beyond that, there's very little to recommend on this album. The misygonist lyrics of "Strangulation" and "The Mouth Don't Stop" are so far from funny or satirical that I cringe listening to either song. And considering I laugh at dead baby jokes, this is saying something. This perhaps is due to fact that one gets the feeling Ving might be taking his right wing persona a bit too far.

In general this album was a very poor followup to The Record. It's neither funny, nor musically brilliant, so there's just not a whole lot to bother with. There's a fine line between good satire and just sounding mean spirited, and unfortunately Fear falls into the latter category.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/2011

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Live...For the Record

Fear - Live...For the Record ©1991 Restless
1. Null Detector
2. I Love Livin' In the City
3. New York's All Right
4. Beef Bologna
5. More Beer
6. What Are Friends For?
7. Welcome to the Dust Ward
8. I Am a Doctor
9. We Gotta Get Out of This Place
10. Fuck Christmas
11. Responsibility
12. Hey
13. Waiting for the Meat
14. Camarillo
15. Foreign Policy
16. Give Me Some Action
17. We Destroy The Family
18. I Don't Care About You
19. Let's Have a War

From the band's inception in the late 70s till the release of this live record in 1991, Fear had managed to record two relatively short studio albums. One will never confuse them with the word "prolific". And considering the material for this live release came from 1986, it's evident that Fear was not exactly whittling away the hours in the practice space writing new songs. Instead, this release strikes me as something Restless Records put out to get some sort of cash for having Fear on their label. I'm generally rather ambivalent about live albums in the first place and this one does nothing but solidify my opinion that they're often a useless addition to most band's back catalogue.

Although the sound quality is better than a bootleg, it's not exactly the most riveting of productions. It perhaps manages to capture a live performance, but not exactly in a way that supercedes the existing studio versions of these songs. There's a bit of banter, but not the kind of audience baiting Fear was famous for in their early years. One song, "What Are Friends For?", doesn't appear on either studio album, but that's not great reason to rush out to find a copy of this. In essence, this recording smacks entirely of cash-in by the record label, with the oddity being that Fear was probably not the hottest commodity in 1991 having been out of the loop for at least five years (and before the 90s punk revivalism).

Live...For the Record does little to actually enhance Fear's already limited discography. The Record is an undeniable classic of the late 70s/early 80s era of punk, but it's easy to point out that Lee Ving coasted on that noterieity ever since. There is no particular reason to bother with this album, at least where it concerns you giving someone else part of your hourly wages from your sad job at the local 7-11. Spend that money on a six pack of some cheap swill and listen to The Record instead.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2012

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Have Another Beer With Fear

Fear - Have Another Beer With Fear ©1995 Fear/Sector 2
1. U.S.A.
2. I Believe I'll Have Another Beer
3. Bck Into Battle Again
4. Demons Sticking Pitchforks In My Brain
5. Bad Day
6. Ugly As You
7. Legalize Drugs
8. Drink Some Beer
9. F-You Let's Rodeo
10. Beerfight
11. Chaos
12. Honor And Obey
13. Untermenschen
14. Meat And Potatoes
15. Public Hangings
16. Free Beer

One of the original bands to explode from the early L.A. punk scene, Fear represented possibly all the worst (and best) tendencies of the potential of punk rock to offend and harrangue listeners. Formed by guitarist/vocalist/actor Lee Ving, Fear's early years were a carefully calculated effort to shock, anger and rile audiences with homophobic, redneck and deliberately offensive lyrics. Their stage show was outrageous as Ving and Co. took great pride in their ability to stir up such rage and hatred in their audience that the audience would try to attack the band onstage. This hilarious act was best documented in The Decline of Western Civilization in easily the best segment of that movie.

In the years since, Fear has appeared ever so sporadically with usually a different bassist on each tour. 1985 saw the band release More Beer, which saw the band moving away from the blatant special interest group baiting to anthems that more represented the working class, blue collar types. A live record appeared a few years later, but Ving mostly kept himself busy as a character actor, appearing in Flashdance and television's Who's the Boss. The mere fact that Ving is an actor should clue you immediately to how seriously you should take Fear's lyrics and music. The band did finally resurface with an entirely new lineup for this, Have a Beer with Fear, a rehash of More Beer's themes.

While the band still retains the classic Fear sound, much of the material is devoid of the same spirit that personified the band's earlier years. Certainly the lyrics represent a "Texas-styled" viewpoint on life, with more anthems about drinking beer (four in all), rodeo, pro United States sentiments and the "proper" place for women to be in society ("Honor and Obey"). This incarnation of Fear, which absolutely tore it up on stage when I saw their tour in 1995, was solid and talented, but many of the songs seem like an excuse to make a record so they could tour. That said, "Ugly as You", written by former Fear member Philo Cramer, is one of the band's best songs ever. Unfortunately, that song is heads and shoulders above the rest of the record. For the most part, Have a Beer with Fear is a band running through the motions and on cruise control. It has a certain degree of silly, hedonistic fun going for it, but not enough to justify high praise.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2001

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