Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, while Portland was undergoing its hardcore hazing, the Boston scene was cranking out scads of teenage hardcore bands like the FUs, SS Decontrol and Gang Green, who played faster than anybody. “Welcome to Boston,” goes one snarling line in “Daisy Chain,” penned by the FUs. “It’s a company town/Play by the rules or you’ll be stomped to the ground.”
The ’80s were a fertile and influential decade for Boston music (though rather too late in the game for the arena-rock band named in the city’s honor), with the raucously poppy Mission of Burma slugging it out cheek by jowl with the hardcore kids just a few scant years before the city gave birth to its most influential indie scion, the Pixies. The Beatings belong to a Boston of a different time—the present day, post-everything, when 25 years of punk and everything after are happening at once. Misleading band name aside, The Beatings’ 2002 Midriff Records album Italiano is more like a slathering—of rough-edged pop-punk that once would have sounded right at home not in Boston but in Minneapolis, another influential seat of early indie rock, among bands like Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum who had already started to push the confines of punk orthodoxy. Where do Beatings members and adopted Bostonians Eldridge Rodriguez and Tony Skalicky feel their band fits in to this tumultuous Beantown continuum?
“I don’t know if we could really answer that question until years later,” Rodriguez contends, “because what happens with most Boston bands is that they break up and don’t get any notoriety until one of them is dead and the other is a junkie somewhere they can’t be reached.”
Why do Rodriguez and Skalicky suppose that is? Is Boston a really incestuous scene, with lots of side projects that eventually take over bands the members were borrowed from? Why, as the Beatings insist, does the average Boston band call it quits long before the local press even recognizes their existence?
“It’s incestuous,” Skalicky admits, “but at the same time, when you’re too close to anything, you start to have some contempt for it, and I think the Boston scene does that to itself quite a bit. They’re very proud of their scene when it comes down to it, but while it’s happening they’re very competitive with it and hold it in a good deal of contempt. But that might be the case with any town. I don’t have any basis of comparison that would indicate it’s exclusive to Boston.”
Not asking you to testify on anyone else’s behalf, hoss. Just asking your personal impressions of it. Any scene can feel small sometimes.
“Right,” says Rodriguez. “Well, the cool thing is there’s so many bands and so many musicians, you can have five things going on at once with all different members. I’ve been here for a really long time and I’m still meeting people within the scene. It’s a fairly big scene, and very cool in that regard. You’re kind of asking the wrong band, though. We’ve stayed outside the popular scene in terms of what Boston thinks of as the popular scene.”