Sharpen Your Sticks
The Boston Phoenix says: 'Along with Bullet LaVolta, the Bags are the band most often credited (or blamed, in some circles) for introducing punk metal to Boston. Which means that they don't have to worry too much about their sound having gone out of style since they last rocked. In fact, to a large extent, the new CD picks up where 1991's Night of the Corn People left off. There is a key difference, though: the CD of Corn People had 13 songs and ran 69 minutes. (Granted, one of those songs was 'Waiting for Maloney,' the first and only lengthy rock opera about commuting from Allston to rehearse.) The new disc serves up 15 songs in 36 minutes: the sound is still metallic, but the songs are all punchy and punky. Meanwhile, the lyrics from Wood and Hardy amount to a puncturing of metal's ponderous tendencies. Imagine the post-therapy self-loathing of Metallica's St. Anger played for laughs and you'd have the Bags' 'Believer' or 'Ass Kicker' ('You're gonna kick my ass, that I do know - Kung Foe'). So forget about this being just a respectable comeback and call it the Bags' best album. Period.' -Brett Milano 'Cavemen Rejoice' - from Sharpen Your Sticks - is featured in the hit PlayStation 2 video game Guitar Hero. Jon Hardy, Jim Janota, and Crispin Wood formed The Bags in the summer of 1985. They unleashed their unique blend of hard rock and punk on the Boston club scene in September of that year. In 1987 they recorded and released their debut album Rock Starve. Charles M. Young wrote about Rock Starve in Playboy (March, 1988): 'The Bags (from Boston) fall somewhere among the Ramones, Husker Du, and early Kiss. Their debut, Rock Starve (Restless), consists of thrilling guitar-bash riffs that pound like the sound of a herd of giant woolly mammoths going over a cliff, just enough melody rasping though shredded vocal chords and lyrics wholly unbesmirched by any panty-waist college-poetry influence.' The Bags toured the U.S. in 1988. In 1989, The Bags released their first single on Stanton Park (I Know / Hide And Seek). They also took top honors by unanimous vote, winning the 11th Annual WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble. Later on that year they released an album on Stanton Park under one of their many aliases, Swamp Oaf. Byron Coley wrote about Swamp Oaf in Spin (February 1990): 'This Boston trio (perhaps best known for their non-thug work under the name the Bags) have a sense of compositional burl most redolent of early/mid period Blue Cheer. The guitar quick-switches between ass-puddle wah-boom and overblown zorch-flash with Leigh Stevens-oid flair, and these guys don't get even close to the Zep cliche path most of their 'peers' are treading. In 1990 The Bags released their eponymous LP The Bags, again on Stanton Park. David Fricke wrote about The Bags in the 1990 Yearbook edition of Rolling Stone: 'With the grade-A snarl and swagger of their self-titled second album, the Boston raunchers the Bags (Stanton Park LP) are shoo-ins for Kings of Garageland 1990. At their best, the Bags rip it up like the Meat Puppets-meet-Motorhead, a marriage surely made in bar-band heaven.' In 1991 the band released two singles - one for Stanton Park (L. Frank Baum / Max Roach), the other for Italian label Helter Skelter (Dr. Lb. / Frilly Underwear). At the end of the year, after six and a half years of playing together, The Bags celebrated the release of their album Night of the Corn People (Stanton Park / Helter Skelter) by breaking up. The Bags left behind a large following and a reputation as a killer live band. The Bags reunited once in 1996, headlining the Pipeline! Live Boston Rock on WMBR CD release party downstairs at the Middle East in Cambridge. Brett Milano said of the show in the Boston Phoenix (April 4 - 11, 1996): 'In the end, however, the weekend belonged to one band. The Bags were one of six groups DuBrow approached for reunion sets (the others were the Zulus, the Cavedogs, Orangutang, Big Dipper, and Christmas, all of whom declined); on Saturday they played their first official gig (a one-shot, according to guitarist Crispin Wood) in five years. The Bags had a big influence on the current scene, reviving hard rock - not quite heavy metal, but hard, chunky, fist-wavin' Rock - and making it hip again. They also have something that a lot of their successors lack: a three-word phrase beginning with 'sense' and ending with 'humor.' Although never a joke band, the Bags always had a tongue-in-cheek, Spinal Tap-informed sensibility - an undertone of 'Yeah, we know this is ridiculous, but isn't it cool?' In 2003 The Bags reformed and began writing and rehearsing songs. Their 'debut' performance at the Middle East in February of 2004 sold out quickly and was a huge success. The following June they released a live 2 song CD on their new Oaf Records label and returned to the Middle East Downstairs for another sold out show. The band spent the summer and fall recording Sharpen Your Sticks, their first full-length album in over 13 years.