Wednesday, July 13, 2005

BULLETPROOF NOTHING:The Top 10 Sins of Rip Off Records

So yeah, from now on, all BpN material will be psoted on this blog. Why is that? Because people actually READ this blog.

Here ya go:
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I thought I'd start this fucker off by addressing something that a LOT of us have thought about in the last four or five years, i.e.:the undeniable fact that Rip Off Records has gone downhill. This notion is nothing new; in fact, one of the reasons Lowery even let me write columns for the Rip Off site back in early 2002 is because I was one of the increasily few people that were still sticking up for the label.

That was a long time ago though and now I agree with all the naysayers. The label is at death's door, at it's peak it was THEE best label around. How did it topple from such loftly heights? Let's take a look at how it happened in the appealing bullet point format:

-They stopped doing seven inches: Obviously, a big part of that Rip Off identity were those fucking seven inches. One sided, two songs and something insulting written on the back label. Anyone with even a rudimentry knowledge of marketing knows that brand identity is a key factor in the success of a product. Once Rip Off stopped the flow of the very thing that made them who they were, people began to lose interest.

-Full color covers:The Rip Off I knew and loved was all about shitty xeroxed covers and LPs that were black & white with MAYBE one other color. Once business took off Lowery loosened the purse strings some and shelled out for packaging that was not quite so "econo". What they gained in bright neon they lost in identifying characteristics. And so another part of the Rip Off greatness was flushed down the turlet.

-The new bands were just imitating the old bands: The first wave of Rip Off bands sounded they way they did because of their random collection of influences. That second generation of bands though, your Teenage Rejects & Killawatts & Dirty Sweets, they were trying to ape the "Rip Off Sound". Not that I don't love most of those bands(not the Sweets), but it was very clear that some of the originality had been lost; things were dumbed down a bit. Its the same way with every musical sub-genre, you have the originators who are fresh and inspiring; then you have the imitators who were inspired by the originals and by the time you get to the third or fourth wave, things start to get shitty and overplayed. The Atomsmashers were to "The Rip Off Sound" what Junkyard were to hair-metal, i.e.:a day late and a dollar short.

-Lowery Lost Touch: As time went on with the label Greg Lowery got old. And I don't mean in a chronological sense, I mean he lost touch. Back in the 90's he used to keep up with bands, he stayed abreast of all the most current, coolest groups. As things lingered on though, you could tell he was dropping the ball. He just didn't have interest in newer, awesome labels like Big Neck, Trick Knee or In The Red. He got set in his craggy ways and wouldn't listen to anything that fell outside of his definition of "punk rock". He wouldn't even admit to the obvious greatness of combos like the Lost Sounds or Catholic Boys, bands which would've been ON Rip Off in better days.

-They lost the "Cool Factor":
For a while after it's '97/'98 peak, Rip Off coasted on their reputation. They didn't have to work to attract cool bands to the label because EVERYone EVERYwhere wanted to be on Rip Off. They were definetly the "it" label of the time(deservedly so) and bands flocked to them. The thing was, once the release rate slowed and the quality of a few dipped into "only okay" territory people started to lose faith. They started to jump ship right and left. The Spits were almost on Rip Off, but they just didn't CARE all that much about the label. Being a "Rip Off Band" no longer held the cache it used to. Fuck, the final nail in the coffin for all of this is when even the Marked Men left for the "greener pastures" of Dirtnap.

-The Internet: Well, in the last few years the internet really has fucked a lot of labels, but it's affected Rip Off in more than just the standard P2P filesharing way. Ya see, Lowery started making a doofus of himself on message boards. Now usually, this is a good thing, but he somehow managed to make it very clear via his various posts that he just couldn't adapt to this new millieu. He wasn't "in on the joke", he "couldn't hang", he wasn't "gooble gobble, gooble gobble, ONE OF US, ONE OF US." Where as most new labels greatly enHANCED themselves with their internet pressence, Lowery just made himself(and by extention, the label) look like a tard. He couldn't handle the constant, ultra-intense peer review of your average message board. The critcism was too much for him.

-The "Rip Off Attitude" went sour: When I was 17 and I read the insults on the back of that Registraitors' single I said to myself, "Wow, do they really think I'm a dipshit? Does Rip Off really hate me?" As time went on and I got less naive I realized that NO, they didn't hate me and it was all just part of the fun of the Rip Off Attitude. Their gospel was that is was FUN to be an asshole and no one should take any of that shit too seriously. The thing was, as time went on, Lowery started buying into his own bullshit image. Where-as the jerky verbiage was once something light and fun, he started to take it seriously. The same thing happens all the time with pro-wrestlers, they sell some inflated image of themselves and once OTHER people start buying it, they get a big head and start to believe that all their ego-manical claims are true. In these later days it's been made painfully clear that all the arrogance and jerky posture are no longer "just a joke".

-They Lost That "Mystery": Its always a bad idea to get to know the people you idolize, they'll always let you down. No one can live up to the hype. In the early days, Rip Off seemed like some far away, golden institution on the coast, something that none of us could ever be a part of. Once we all got involved with the community more and actually got to "know" Rip Off, a lot of the old awe and wonder fell by the wayside. No longer was it a gaggle of warrior gods dead set on taking over the world, no, they were just a bunch of socially inept dorks...just like us. Fuck...

-The Label Became a full time job for Lowery: Yeah, Rip Off started making money. The label was fairly successful fiancially for a while. It went from being a hobby to being a JOB. No longer was it okay to loose 500 bucks on a record. Tweren't for fun no more, twas serious. The passion died, and I mean DIED.

-They hardly ever put out any fucking records anymore: This is my last point and the most obvious one. It you are gonna be the "greatest punk rock label in the world", you have to take some fucking chances. You can't play it safe by only putting out three records a year, gimme a fucking break. Jesus Christ, take out a loan or something and keep the releases flowing out so the label doesn't lose heat. The way things are now it makes it look like even Lowery doesn't give a fuck about the label... It's a shame.

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So yeah, there's the list. I feel bad about bashing Lowery, he really contributed a lot to this community, but at this point, this whole list is just me "calling a spade a spade." Don't get me wrong, even after all of this, I still love Rip Off, but the glory days are cleary over. Obla-dee, Obla-da, life goes on...

Join me again in a few days for the latest installment of "Bulletproof Nothing". Also be sure to check out my non-music blog "The Jesus Of Failure" about hipster culture. It can be found at www.jesusoffailure.blogspot.com.