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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Party by the Slice: Simple Punk Songs, About Pizza

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On paper, the concept of Party by the Slice doesn’t seem like it would work: Milwaukee hardcore punk scene veterans get together to extol the virtues of pizza through spastic thrash numbers with titles like “Zombie Food Fight” and “Unity Man & Friendship Boy.” But after listening to the band’s contributions to split 7-inch EPs with In Defence and Malparido, I’m now a firm believer—in both the inherent goodness of pizza and the aural power of Party by the Slice.

Yes, there is an element of humor to the band. How could a listener not laugh at such couplets as “You might ask me why I’m so chubby/The answer is stupid people make me hungry,” from the wonderfully titled “Stupid People Make Me Hungry”? Yet there is also a speed and intensity to these songs—in the spirit of pre-Crossover D.R.I.—that elevates Party by the Slice’s material out of the dreaded realm of “joke” bands. Adroitly produced by Shane Hochstetler at his Howl Street Recordings—I’m surprised Hochstetler isn’t developing more of a national reputation for getting even the most basic of hardcore outfits to sound impressive—the group’s recorded output should remind hardcore punk fans that Milwaukee is continuing to turn out some of the best bands in the scene.

To Party by the Slice bassist Jeni Rudnik, the reason for the band’s success is that they understand, like many luminaries that came before them, that hardcore should never take itself too seriously. Black Flag had their “T.V. Party,” Born Against were known to cover the theme to “The Jeffersons,” and Party by the Slice has “Pizza Rules.”

“We play simple, fast songs about things we like or things we want to comment on,” Rudnik explains.

Such things include humorous topics like zombie food fights along with more serious concerns regarding the relationship between countercultures and growing older.

And the members of Party by the Slice are a bit older than your average hardcore aficionado. What is perhaps most refreshing about the band is that this doesn’t seem to matter. The band collectively scoffs at the idea that one should “grow out of” hardcore punk by a certain age.

“To me, punk and hardcore has always been a way of channeling anger into something more positive and creative,” drummer Zachary Holochwost says. “I don’t think growing up has anything to do with growing out of things. I’ve always loved punk and hardcore and I just don’t see how I could ever give it up. It is who I am, even at the age of 33.”

It is inspiring to hear such an answer, and the band, through its support of the Milwaukee scene, seems intent on making sure that such a scene remains alive for those yet to experience the transformative power of punk rock.

But why all the love for pizza? When confronted with this question, Party by the Slice guitarist Dave Rudnik responds with the same words I once used to explain to my less enlightened peers the reasons I loved such “noisy” bands like Minor Threat: “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Suddenly, it all made sense to me.

Party by the Slice plays the Eagle’s Nest on Friday, May 14, with School Jerks, Sticks N Stones and Culo.

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