I couldn’t get down with crust punk back when I was young and naive enough to potentially join up with a squad of anarcho-vegan Dumpster divers. That was partially because of my aversion to white kids with dreadlocks, partially because I’m too much of a pussy–crust kids don’t fuck with bands like Heavenly, and I do. But I’ve always loved crusties for the same reasons I love Hells Angels hippies and the kids at the gritty raves where sketchy meth dealers hung out–they’ve turned people’s worst nightmare of a fringe socio-musical grouping into their day-to-day existence. There are probably a lot of middle-American moms who imagine that the mall punk their kid’s getting into is the starting point of a descent into hard drugs, petty crime, face tattoos, and nearly illegal personal hygiene. Crusty kids fulfill all of those bad expectations, and probably worse ones.

I don’t see many crust punks in Chicago anymore, though I recall a group of baby crusties hanging out in Wicker Park back in the summer, decked out in crisp new Crass shirts and fuzzy dreads. I’m in Portland, Oregon, at the moment, and the real dirty kids are still holding it down here. Watching them spare-change downtown on a trip earlier this year partly inspired my recent obsession with the stuff. Other contributing factors are the recent Nausea anthologies on Alternative Tentacles, the outrageously corrupt Bush administration (and the almost suffocating rage it has inspired in me), and Tragedy’s Nerve Damage album. Tragedy doesn’t have an online presence aside from fan pages on MySpace, their liner notes reveal little more than the names of the people involved and the lyrics they howl, and they make massive jams that weld furious D-beat hardcore to some sort of rock music that sounds like Motorhead,  if Motorhead was Pink Floyd. The air raid sirens that start off Nerve Damage are kind of subtle compared to the dread and chaos that follows them. I loaded it up on my laptop before I flew out here, partially because nothing complements early-morning flight terrors like a deranged fucker screaming that everything really is as bad as it seems.