No Idea Records has been plugging away since its inception as a zine in 1985. Years before the bearded, PBR-addled masses flooded the Gainesville streets for The Fest, the fledgling and storied label was laying the foundation for a scene that thrives generations later.
Releasing the early works of Less Than Jake and Hot Water Music, there are countless others that aren’t nearly as well documented. As with any history, the gems are sometimes hidden beneath the cushions. From the first 7 inch of their salad days to their final (as of now) release of Dead Bars’ Dream Gig, the light bulb has always blazed for the Floridian institution.
In the words of the esteemed Mike Park… mailorder is fun. After Hot Water Music's 1997’s seminal Fuel for the Hate Game album, I became a total mark for anything with the Stressface logo emblazoned across the back. I promptly ransacked the No Idea catalog via mail, relying on the shaky cooperation of shitty dialup internet, well concealed cash, and the US Postal Service.
Rabidly monitoring the mailbox, it became the ritual for a budding punk. Also central to my story, as it were, are the label’s monumental releases. Chief among them was Against Me’s Reinventing Axl Rose. Yet, I needn’t attempt to relay the importance of game-changing albums nor do I need to profile Jud Jud. It’s all out there.
I’m here to shine a light on some stunning albums that you need to dust off. Perhaps you’ve never met them at all. Introducing No Idea Records… Slept-On Records style. If you’d rather jump right to the sonics, I’ve compiled a playlist to accompany the journey (available at the bottom of the piece).
I was initially tempted to go chronologically. Yet, out of fear that you, dear reader, would tire of my gushing and move on to something else, I pushed my favorite to the front. If you take anything from this piece, let it be The Holy Mountain. Their entire discography is essential but, for our purposes, 2005’s Entrails album is my focus.
When I tell you I hold this in the same regard as Tragedy’s first two LPs and Nightmares by From Ashes Rise, that should at least raise your crust punk hackles. The Holy Mountain sports members that’re scattered across the No Idea discogs in some for or the other, but I won’t muddy opinion with lineage.
Full stop, this is one of the best crust/D-beat albums of all time. It’s an absolutely rampaging release, pairing apocalyptic, scorched earth punk with a burly low end and hardcore bark that elevates it to godhead status.
I had the great fortune of catching them at Charm City Art Space. Even at a poorly attended Tuesday night show in a suffocatingly hot basement, their fury couldn’t be contained. It felt like the floor was giving way. This still packs an unmatched world-ending heaviness. The Holy Mountain is a summit worth hiking towards.
The pandemic has allowed for a few idle pursuits. Top of that list is a thorough re-run of my favorite music bios and oral histories. After some consideration, I still come back to Jon Resh’s Amped: Notes From A Go-Nowhere Punk Band as my chart topper. Imagine a more self-deprecating and romantic take on Get in the Van. The aformentioned Resh sang for Spoke, whose 1994 collection, Done, compiled their early '90s output in one place.
The ragtag and less refined collection still burns with an earnest and rugged flair that informs the spirit of Gainesville punk to this very day. Their sound is still singular, landing somewhere between gruff melodic punk and the Chapel Hill college indie sound.
Fans of Seaweed, 7 Seconds, and Naked Raygun should find themselves equally satisfied with the discovery.
Alongside the superlative goofs Radon, they were the bedrock for some of punk’s most important bands. If nothing else, track Resh's book down.
Armalite’s S/T 2006 album is likely the most oft-ignored LP that happens to bear the Yemin name. Handling bass on this one, he joined Philadelphian forces with Mike McKee, Jeff Ziga, and one Atom Goren who, thankfully, left his Package at home.
Straight up? It’s a perfect record that splits the difference between gritty pop-punk, melodic hardcore, and Swiz vibes. It’s a total blast of a record that made me retroactively realize how great and transgressive Atom and His Package albums truly were.
My lifelong obsession with Jawbreaker was what led me to the underrated classic that is A History of Rats by This Is My Fist. Drummer Adam Pfahler of the Bivouac punks gushed about the band at some point and I hurriedly snagged the 2006 album.
This is rollicking and catchy DIY punk that absolutely smashes most other things at the time. Jawbreaker themselves isn’t an altogether bad comparison, but Annie’s vocal performance is somewhere closer to the Gits’ Mia Zapata or an alternate universe Courtney Love, had she chosen the punkhouse lifestyle.
It’s unquestionably my favorite singing on this list, managing to somehow be fragile and powerful in the same breath. A History of Rats is crammed with melodic hooks around every corner and would likely wow fans of Latterman and, subsequently, RVIVR.
Next up on the slate for a proper dusting off is Panthro U.K. United 13. The mysteriously named Gainesville bunch’s Sound of a Gun is a relatively forgotten release amongst the glut of stellar albums to grace shelves in 1998.
A glance at the name and you’re more likely to think it’s a union name, which is fitting considering their blue-collar lunchpail brand of melodicism.
They peddled a sound akin to Pegboy but incorporated some really unique vocal stylings that recall absolutely no one else. I was fortunate to catch them with Baltimore heroes The Thumbs and left an impression deep enough to stick in my old ass memory.
Relatively short lived, Panthro had a run of dates with Leatherface and Hot Water Music, influences that continue to pay dividends in the world of orgcore.
Youth Crew is likely the last thing anyone would associate with the No Idea Records scene. While their latter day slate of releases would veer away from the sound, Anthem Eighty Eight’s Define a Lifetime is an absolute gem that always deserved better.
For what ostensibly started as a Chain of Strength cover band, Anthem Eighty Eight boasted 3 members of Assück and acapella jokesters Jud Jud. Though it’s nothing new, they played a really fast and exceedingly tough brand of hardcore that somehow got completely lost in the shuffle. This shit rips and it’s a minor tragedy that it’s not more beloved.
Assholeparade is a name that readers are most likely familiar with. The band’s 1999 Student Ghetto Violence, though technically a collection of the band’s entire output at the time, is a bandana clad thrashterpiece that predated that particular renaissance by a few years.
Alongside bands like What Happens Next? and Bones Brigade, this group of flip-brimmed Floridians is top of the heap. As expected for a band as inspired by Bay Area grind and power violence, there’s samples galore.
You can practically feel the roadrash from bombing a hill on their more skate-centric tunes. This is exceedingly fun hardcore, though they find time to wax political at time. Equally essential is 2006’s Embers. Get rad, y’all.
For anyone else that happens to worship at the altar of post hardcore, Strikeforce Diablo is quite possibly the biggest of blindspots. 2004’s The Albatross and the Architect is a muscular masterclass in rock that fits at the center of a Venn diagram with Jawbox, Fugazi, and Rival Schools.
There are as many calls to Handsome or Failure as there are to the more familiar Gainesville sound. Their propensity to go angular and choppy keeps things endlessly fresh.
Whether or not you’ve heard Combatwoundedveteran, you’ve likely seen the album cover. An absolute assault on the senses, their 1999 release I Know a Girl Who Develops Crime Scene Photos is as chaotic as the gruesome neon of the cover.
The band garnered a great deal of buzz, due in part to superlative splits with the likes of heavy-hitters Orchid and Reversal of Man.
The album still feels massive and dense, owing its longevity to a Morrisound recording! The entire catalog boasts top-shelf and grotesque screamo, grind, mathcore, and power violence that’s unafraid to experiment.
Much like the fractured nightmares of their art, they also incorporated harsh and damaged electronics a la Locust and wacko samples a la Spazz. This album rules and frankly there’s no excuse... 19 songs in 19 or so minutes. We’ve all got that kind of time.
Glass and Ashes dropped two exceptional LPs through the label and were long compared to Planes Mistaken for Stars. Even if that were true, would that be anything but an awesome thing? Regardless, I always found that comparison a bit lazy.
The band’s second long player, the S/T 2008 album, dishes out an exceptional amount of pained grit and chaotic structure, but there’s a far more unhinged rock 'n' roll edge to what made them special. I even hear flashes of the mini-movement of hardcore gone “rock” that gifted us BARS.
There are flashes of Southern swagger that call to mind an angular crust band covering Every Time I Die. Worry not, it sounds odd to me, too. This shit rules. I’d recommend this to anyone whose collection has space for Frodus, These Arms Are Snakes, Breather Resist, and The Hope Conspiracy.
We travel a great distance from Florida on the next one. Long one of my favorite releases is Be Not Content, the 2004 album from Sweden’s Trapdoor Fucking Exit.
As you might have already guessed, there’s more than a small touch of Refused in here. Not so much informed by the sound, but there’s a swaying confidence to the band that’s not found across most year’s Fest lineup. Trapdoor is all the better for it, injecting their Drive Like Jehu-like vibes with a bit of confident rock 'n’ roll. Actually from Sweden, major Jehu vibes.
There are surprises all across the runtime of this one, including an almost-ballad that calls to mind early Deep Elm Records. Wanna get out? Fall in the trapdoor.
The moment anyone mentions No Idea Records, there’s typically the sound that you think of. Gunmoll is, in my opinion, the absolute best of said bunch and gets not even a mention these days.
Everything they dropped was worth picking up, but 2003’s Board of Rejection is awaiting the discovery and subsequent fandom for anyone that digs Leatherface, Jawbreaker, Small Brown Bike, and HWM.
Incidentally, the band featured members of both Less Than Jake and the seminal I Hate Myself. Singer Mike Hale sounds as if his vocal regimen consists of whiskey, gravel, and Lucky Strikes. It’s unbelievably impassioned and desperate delivery that puts this one over the top. He’s also low key one of the better “punks gone country” figures.
My entree into punk was, in no small part, due to Aaron Cometbus. Through the absolutely essential omnibus zine collection and the 1999 Down in Front compilation, I fell head over heels for all things Bay Area punk.
Compiling material from bands Cometbus played in, there’s a roadmap to countless killer records here all sprouting from the zinester’s family tree.
Aside from the mighty Pinhead Gunpowder, it was Astrid Oto that stole my heart first. Their eponymous 2002 collection is a ramshackle good time. There’s a clear throughline from the Berkeley/Gilman sound that also featured the vocals of one “South Bay Cindy.”
I later came to learn that Cindy in question was none other than another legend in the zine world… Cindy Crabb, of Doris fame, elevates the proceedings with a sneer and snot that places this squarely in a basement squat. The album is the soundtrack to punk love and rent strikes.
Up the punx.
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