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The Queers (courtesy photo)

New Hampshire's Queers keep hope alive for drunken-lout punk

The Fuck Emos will always be my favorite band to ever come out of Austin. Why? Who knows. They are perpetually inebriated, intermittently hostile, puerile beyond all comprehension, and notoriously late for gigs - if, that is, they bother to show up at all. But when they do show up ... wow.

After years of watching them flop around the stage, all but drowning in a self-induced sludge of pulverized dog tranquilizers mixed with Black Label beer, they landed an opening gig for Johnny Cash at SXSW and nailed it. It was, hands down, the best local set I've ever seen at Emo's.

In essence, the Queers are New Hampshire's answer to the Fuck Emos: loud, silly, irreverent, and bloody good despite every deliberate effort to the contrary.

The Queers occupy a subset of punk rock fittingly described as drunk rock - a state of discarnate lunacy in which straight boys label themselves queer and actually manage to land decent record deals. Also like the Fuck Emos, their name serves as an instant litmus test, a means of weeding out the uptight while guaranteeing little chance of legitimate mainstream crossover. They seem to revel in the fact that their work offers no redemption on any given level, a quality to which few artists aspire and an arena in which even fewer succeed.

The Queers originally formed in 1983 as a four-piece, mimicking the formula of their heroes the Ramones with a marginal degree of success and a huge dose of hilarity. The band's first EP featured guest vocals by a mentally disturbed, alcoholic neighbor whom they loaded up with copious amounts of Thunderbird and coerced into spouting a string of obscenities into a tape recorder. After a series of lineup changes (including dropping their original singer and a crack-addled drummer), a stint in Boston, and a brief relationship with the London-based punk label Shakin' Street Records, the Queers returned to New Hampshire in 1990.

The Queers, Suicide Machine, TSOL, The Front, Western Waste, Dispicibles

Thursday, November 27
Sin 13
1902 McCullough
They have existed as a trio ever since, with founding member Joe King on guitar and vocals, B-face on bass and vocals, and Hugh O'Neill on drums and vocals. In 1993, the band signed with Lookout Records, also home to The Donnas and the Gaza Strippers, as well as quintessential crossover success story Green Day, early Rancid, and an occasional Alkaline Trio effort. Despite the blockbuster success of some of their peers, the Queers turned down a record deal with Epitaph in the mid-'90s, and have gone on to release more than 20 singles, EPs, and albums on Lookout over the last 10 years. The past decade has also produced a subtle mellowing in the band's sound, embodied in their ever-increasing penchant for sugary Beach Boys harmonies.

It's a welcome progression from their traditional, old-skool, full-frontal assault approach to music making. So far, they have successfully avoided dilatory and glossy overproduction - qualities that effectively expelled bands like Green Day and Rancid from the pantheon of post punk and enrolled them in the wholesome school of pure pop, complete with heavy rotation on every commercial radio station in the country. Besides, with song titles like "Drop the Attitude, Fucker" and "We'd Have a Riot Doing Heroin," it's doubtful that radio airplay is on the Queers' to-do list in the near future. •

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