Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009

Badger A Go-Go Captured Milwaukee's '80s Music Scene

By Evan Rytlewski
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Twenty years ago Atomic Records released an album that remains an essential listen for any student of Milwaukee music history—Badger A Go-Go, a compilation that testified to the city's vibrant late-'80s college-rock scene. The bands featured remain some of Milwaukee's most storied: power-poppers Liquid Pink, psychedelia enthusiasts Plasticland, industrial pioneers Boy Dirt Car, punk icons Die Kreuzen and Couch Flambeau. An early, unburdened incarnation of Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans even make an appearance.

So what was it that made Milwaukee's iconic record store become, however temporarily, a record label?

"It was pretty common at the time for compilations to come out documenting regional scenes," explains Atomic owner Rich Menning. "Atomic had a little extra cash after Xmas '88 so I decided to make the leap and take a musical snapshot of my local faves. Initially I hoped to do it every year but, y'know, things happen. Or in this case things didn't happen. Either lack of time or lack of $$ or lack of a fresh crop of bands to fill up an LP. (In fact, many of the bands on [the compilation] broke up before it was released, making me aware of the fragile nature of local bands.)"

Menning took the album's title from 1967 album of the same name, which was also the inspiration for the compilation's kitschy cover art:

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Next month, a couple of the bands featured on Badger A Go-Go will repay the favor to Atomic. A recently reunited Boy Dirt Car and an unprecedentedly reunited Liquid Pink—doing their first show in 17 years—will top a Feb. 14 bill at the Miramar Theatre commemorating Atomic Records, which is closing this March after a quarter century in business (the store's last days were initially supposed to be in February, but Menning talked to his landlord about staying longer to continue selling rarities from the store's basement, which there's been high interest in). Also reuniting for this "Atomic Valentine" concert are Sometime Sweet Susan (an outstanding, unfairly forgotten SST-styled group doing their first show in 15 years) and The Lovelies ('90s darlings doing their first show in 7 years). Cherry Cake, The Etiquette, The Might Deer Lick, Eric Blowtorch and Mark Waldoch and His Good Grief round out the bill.


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