One of my favorite era of hardcore are the nineties for sure, and maybe I’m saying this all over again but be prepared to read this, a lot, because I’ll write it down again. Aside from the fact there was the most variety of sounds, it was also the most prolific era both politicaly and ideologically, leading to a lot of things, sometime a bit weird but some others really great. And you’ll know I prefer my jam with deeper thoughts.
If I’m telling you this, it’s because two years ago, the hardcore community lost Bay Area’s Sarah Kirsch (formerly known as Mike Kirsch) and this individual sure belonged to the second category. She wrote and played most of my favorite songs in hardcore punk and was active until the end in a scene she sure loved, carrying positive and constructive ideas through her music.
She played in numerous bands, mostly Ebullition style jam or early Lookout! punk rock oriented, all great bands. I won’t review them all, I’ll just pick a few of my favorites one, but be sure to check out the list of all her bands I’ll put at the end of this article it’s totally worth it, even if you’re not into this kind of sound, we’re talking history right here.
Fuel – Monuments To Excess LP (1990) | Cargo Recs & Ebullition Recs
This right here is actually one of my favorite LP she was involved in. Out in 1990 on Cargo Records and repressed by Ebullition records, I do think it’s a milestone for nineties emo, with heartfelt guitar playing and rough vocals on enligtened lyrics. Some people say it sounds a lot like early Hot Water Music, personnally I can’t make this kind of connection, important emo release nonetheless.
Sawhorse – S/T EP (1991) | Ebullition Recs
I think this band is the direct evolution of Fuel, both sound and lyrics. Also released on Ebullition records, they had a short lifetime, do not mistake with the 2008 band, there no link between those two. Sarah played guitar and sung, I assume she also wrote the lyrics by the look of it, but i’m not certain. There’s also the two Give Me Back comp. track on the youtube video. Which is propably their whole discography.
Navio Forge – As We Quietly Burn A Hole Into LP (1993) | Shadow Catcher Recs.
A very short lived band, only one release, and what a very intense one. Sarah only played guitar in this band, messier riffs than the previous bands but still piercing right through the heart. This time, Sean Linwood was on the lyrics duty and it’s really deep, there’s even a legend as he was crying during the recording of Yellow And Fed, I don’t hear it but it’s possibly true.
Torches To Rome – S/T LP (1999) | Ebullition Recs
More noisy punk rock oriented, as if Sarah grew a love for weird riffs and arangements through the years. Powerfull stuff , the more I listen to it the better it gets. This time I think she wrote everything, even the lyrics, which are in the same direction than her previous band : passionate and involved So called best Kirsch band, almost true though, 8 of the greatest songs out at the time.
John Henry West – S/T EP (1994) | Gravity Recs.
Last but not least, Gravity Records n°8, the harsher band of the genre, and released on this precise label, you know what it means. What a great piece of work, the best band she played in period, way over Torches To Rome. This is actually some intense product, with a more aggressive sound and more straight to the point lyrics. Well it’s not a youth crew records but it’s a little more hardhitting. For me, this EP is insane and shows how much Sarah can go for melodic punk rock to more violent and aggressive sound.
(Love that Verbal Assault shirt.)
As said above, she played in a handful of other bands, be sure to check it out at least one time.
The Skinflutes (guitar and backing vocals, 1988–89)
Fifteen (second guitar on s/t 7”, 1990)
Silver Bearing (vocals on split LP with Moss Icon, 1990)
Pinhead Gunpowder (guitar and vocals, 1990–1994)
Sixteen Bullets (guitar and vocals, 1994)
Bread and Circuits (guitar and vocals, 1998–1999)
Please Inform the Captain This Is a Hijack (guitar/vocals/samples/beats, 2000–2003)
Colbom (guitar and backing vocals, 2001)
Baader Brains (guitar and backing vocals, 2005–2010)
Mothercountry Motherfuckers (guitar and vocals, 2010–2012)
I’ll throw there my favorite live footage of her bands, but there’s plenty on Youtube if you’re curious.
(Baader Brains and Mothercountry Motherfucker were weird bands, but I’d really wanted to witness them live once, because it looks awesome from this footage. Sorry for the shitty sound quality.)
This is more or less the musical story of an individual that inspires me through hardcore. Among ohers of course, but she got a huge impact both musically and ideologically. She also wrote down some articles for Maximum Rock’n’Roll back then, if you can find them it’s worth reading it.
R.I.P Sarah Kirsch.