Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Steve Bjorklund: Strike Under + Breaking Circus [1981~1989]

Live at Tut's, Chicago, ca. 1981
Here is some Chicago punk history for you. Steve Bjorklund formed Strike Under in 1980 after the end of his first band, which was apparently a garagey, protopunk sort of group called the Rabbits. Strike Under consisted of Steve, his brother Chris (later of the Effigies), Pierre Kedzy (later of Naked Raygun), and Bob Furem, who later played in Da. Their first show was at Northeastern University, and through 1980 and 1981 they played the usual places such as Tut's and Oz.

Their only proper release was 1981's Immediate Action 12" EP, which is notable for being the first record from Wax Trax, back before it was a powerhouse of industrial music. The songs are melodic without sounding too polished. Is this the so-called 'Chicago Sound?' I dunno, but it's pretty clear to me that the songs 'Sunday Night Disorientation' and 'Elephant's Graveyard' make this EP worth having. Long out of print. You can read a great Coolest Retard review of this record, as well as a review of Da's Dark Rooms 7'' and a Strike Under interview, in the Dementlieu Punk Archive.

a pretty stacked night, this one
Strike Under also had two songs on the 1980 Busted at Oz live comp, which I will probably post eventually. Also, in 2010 there was a sort-of reunion of Strike Under, as part of the Busted at Oz reunion shows. Vic Bondi from Articles of Faith was one of the dudes in the 'Strike Under covers band,' as it was called. The performance was taped and can be acquired at this wonderful blog.

After Strike Under broke up, Steve kept at it, forming Breaking Circus in 1983. Their first gig was at the Cubby Bear, back when they would regularly book punk bands. They released The Very Long Fuse EP in 1985, and Steve Albini designed the cover art. It's very much an '80s record, sort of like post-punk plus folk plus drum machine (later, when the band relocated to Minneapolis, the drummer's spot was taken by Todd Trainer, who you probably know as the drummer for Albini's Shellac). Famously includes '(Knife in the) Marathon,' which is one of the catchiest songs ever. I defy you not to get it stuck in your head.

For the hell of it, I also put up a single that Mr. Bjorklund did in the late '80s, after the demise of Breaking Circus. It was put out under the band's name, but appears to be only Steve and a drum machine. The A-side is a very bare take on Naked Raygun's 'Home of the Brave,' and the other is a UK Subs song, again quite transformed by Bjorklund's arrangement. I'm pretty certain it's out of print.

Tomorrow morning I just will not get up [1981]
An unidentified third-world athlete was wrestled to the ground by security [1985]
Jeanie walks out on the home of the brave [1989]

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