Compilation: Home Alive: The Art of Self Defense
Home Alive is a charity organization set up to teach people self defense so that they are able to defend themselves against an attack. The foundation was set up after the violent death of punk singer Mia Zappata from The Gits. This benefit compilation came along at the exact moment when I both wanted an dneeded it to exist. I was already devouring all the local music I could find on the radio (which was abundant at this time), but having a 2CD set of artists predominantly from Seattle was instrumental in furthering my trajectory of music nerd-dom.
For brevity, I have selected 10 of the 45 tracks on this compilation to give brief summarys. As such, we start with track three, The Fastbacks singing “Time and Matter”. The Fastbacks were heavyweights of the early Pacific Northwest grunge scene. They featured a female lead singer, Kim Warnick, and were active from 1979 through 2001. I saw the Fastbacks open for PUSA in March 1996 and vividly remember waiting to hear this song.
Track seven on the compilation is “Time is Dead” by the band Monster Truck Driver. The track is a fusion of stereotypical grunge with a harder straight edge sound. The effect is sludgy music with harsh vocals. I have been unable to find this song on youtube, but their album, Winner Takes All, is available for listening here: https://play.google.com/store/music/artist/Monster_Truck_Driver?id=Aurnlllqplpf5cgwyc5auba3rfq
Track 10, “She’s My Bitch” by The Supersuckers, was the second song I had ever heard by the band. The Supersuckers had previously struck barely radio-releasable material with the track “Born With A Tail”, so hearing more by them was an eye-opener. The track itself doesn’t fit with the theme of women’s empowerment, and so I’m forced to conclude that the song was marketed as a parody of itself, mocking the machismo of men who treat women as sex objects. The Supersuckers went on to market themselves as Phsychobilly, or country-punk, to some success. Lead Singer Eddie Spaghetti has been battling cancer of late, and because “fuck cancer”, donations can be made to help defer his medical bills here: http://supersuckers.com/eddie/
Perhaps the farthest reaching track on the album is Pearl Jam’s cover of “Leaving Here” a track originally written in 1963 by the trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The track is a stab at men who abuse their partners. The track itself suggest that women will be leaving town if men don’t change their ways and treat them right. Obvious fodder that fits well in with the Home Alive overarching theme.
The last track I’m going to talk about on disc 1 of Home Alive is “Broken Dreams” by a band called North American Bison. The band was fronted by Rob Ropkins, a fixture in Seattle punk rock. He currently is the lead singer of Pinned Red. The song itself is fast paced guitar work and shouted lyrics, which gives the effect of immediacy.
Disc two starts off with “Confusion” by Seattle Alternative stalwarts The Presidents of the United States of America. The non-album track was first released exclusively on Home Alive, but was re-released in 2004 as part of the deluxe edition of their debut album.
Mia Zapata, lead singer of The Gits and the reason this charity and this album exists, brings her brash directness to the track “Social Love” about how men objectify women while women are supposed to pretend not to notice. Below is the original full band’s heart-wrenching version, especially when taken into account that she was brutally raped and murdered in 1993. The Gits performed with replacement singer Rachel Flotard for the first time in over 20 years at a benefit concert in December 2015.
Three tracks later, Evil Stig, the band The Gits as fronted live by Joan Jett and Kathleen Hanna. Evil Stig | Gits Live (get it?). The band released an album in 1995 which also featured this song, “Guilt Within Your Head”. Also posted is the same song, as performed by The Gits at their last show with Mia Zapata on June 27, 1993, just 10 days before her death.
I’ve always found Soundgarden’s contribution, the awkwardly titled “Kyle Petty (Son of Richard)” to be a curious track. The reference is to two Nascar drivers, but the song seems to be about a father who hates everybody and raised his kids in the same style. As obscure as that seems, I think it’s more probably than the fact that Chris Cornell is a racing fan…
A couple of tracks later, we find the band Dancing French Liberals of 48 features all the surviving members of The Gits. Their contribution, the track “Spit in Your Eye”, is three minutes of power pop, but sadly not available on Youtube. Here is a sample of the track from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0013S2VLY?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0
The next-to-last track on the compilation has become one of my all-time favorite tracks. It is a live version of the track “Solidarity” by the hard-punk band Tchkung! Tchkung are best remembered for starting a riot at Bumbershoot 1994. That makes their inclusion in a live track a mere 18 months later an inspiring inclusion. Tchkung were an anarcho-punk band who created their own instruments. The track itself is a blistering repudiation of the constructions of society.
This album was a highlight of the burgeoning Seattle music scene of the mid-1990s. Twenty years later, there is a campaign to get this album released on vinyl for the 20th anniversary. I would love to see and behold such a beast, but unless it happens for Record Store Day (oh please, oh please), I don’t see it happening. Not featured in my review is a live version of Nirvana’s “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter”, a track which I have long thought should be a single (think about it, a single making fun of singles). If a re-release of this album were done properly, perhaps that could be the radio/promotional single. Oh the possibilities.
In 2010, Home Alive ceased being a non-profit charity and converted to being a volunteer organization. They still offer free self defense classes to victims of abuse.