Review Summary: They were just talking about life, man.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Lance Hahn died from blood pressure and kidney complications during the fall of 2007 at the age of 40. His untimely death came only weeks after notices were sent out to contribute to the Paypal account designed to pay for Lance's medical bills (because he had no health insurance). The punk universe that surrounded J Church was poorly documented because it struggled to keep up with their multitude of new releases and Hahn's dynamism. However, the news of Lance's death quickly propagated throughout the punk rock community. It was a tragedy and he'll always be remembered.
If we go back thirteen years to 1994, the uncannily named Prophylaxis
was the band's second major release on Allied Recordings (1990-1999). Lance Hahn leads with guitar and vocals with fellow Hawaiian-born Gardner Maxam on bass and backing vox. Brendan Murdoch–a former pro skater–only played drums with the band for two years, but he's featured on this album. His short tenure was during a self-described period of “four records a month”. He promptly broke his arm after this release. Lydia Ely plays piano on several tracks. Her name may not sound familiar but she happened to work at the infamous Haagen Dazs in Washington D.C. with Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye (I've not confirmed if she actually took any of the now infamous pictures but I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is yes).
Much of Prophylaxis
is fast-paced surf-inspired punk rock. The bass undulates over every verse with constant frequency, drums keep steady time during the chorus, and the guitar picks up pace mid-song before the band launches into a groove like a propeller hitting water. It's fairly consistent in its delivery. Some of the songs are serrated, some somber, but the attitude is clear–these dudes are just rocking out. It's typical punk rock done professionally well.
Lance was talented enough as a guitarist that he toured with major recording artist Beck from 1994-1995. But the guitars aren't necessarily the highlight of this album. There are a few fun riffs interspersed to keep the mood light. He had the potential to showcase his talents but Prophylaxis
is devoid of solos and obnoxious interludes. Hahn doesn't have vocals worthy of competition, let alone karaoke night. So he growls through each chorus so you can see his grin. The chorus is where the fun can be found, whether it's “I'm face dowwwnnn, I'm face dowwwnnn”, on Lucidity, or “It's no surpriiiiiise, it's no surpriiiiiise, surprise surprise surprise it's no surprise” on No Surprise. The music is fundamentally generic but not repetitive from song to song so it doesn't relent from being fun after multiple plays.
is so much like every other J Church release that succeeded it, as easily criticized for being generic as it could be praised for being ineffably catchy. The albums end up somewhere in the middle, tending toward easily accessible, fun, though underwhelming. However underwhelming, each song delivers with an endearing simplicity. It's largely due to Lance's dedication to putting out music with an evident standard. J Church balanced quantity and quality with the best punk bands to date.
J Church made a specific type of rock & roll. They typified punk rock with their aggressive tempo, but left plenty of room to think over slow thumping bass lines. They were just talking about life, man. The message was delivered straight because they knew no other means with their 3-piece outfit. They excelled in providing imagery to the listener that oscillated between urgency and calm, anointing each song with the opening guitar riff as appropriate. You'll picture the graying skate park in Huntington Beach, CA. Or dragging your wet feet between the crooked streets of San Francisco, passing The Fillmore without a wayward glance, dripping into a generous house show. Maybe even Lance in the studio, itching with dissatisfaction months after a new release, flipping the cassette and playing again.