If there's one thing musicians hate more than day jobs, it's being categorized. And each year, that's exactly what we here at Scene do to Northeast Ohio's top artists. Because of this, lots of great bands routinely go unrecognized, either because they failed to garner enough votes to get into the increasingly competitive categories, or because their particular strengths sneak somewhere between Punk/Hardcore and Reggae/ World Music. Following is a look at the top local artists who may forever defy music-award classification. It's also another chance for us to spout off, which is really what it's all about.
As guitarist for Tiger Beat pinup Connor O' Brien, Dr. Bob could easily be overshadowed. But that never happens, because the guy dresses like a punk-rock Elton John. We've seen Bob clad in everything from blood-red tuxedos to bitchin' lime-green chinos. He's known to create glitter mohawks upon his shaved head, and he has a collection of shades in different colors for every day of the week -- coordinated, of course, with the rest of his ensemble. You can catch him in action at his Flats rock club, the Vortex (1078 Old River Road), where the retina-frying decor is inspired by Bob's closet.
Best Band to Reissue a Punk Masterpiece
Nine Shocks Terror
Zen and the Art of Beating Your Ass
Most band hyperbole is bunk. But when hardcore nutbags Nine Shocks Terror describe themselves as "a rather unruly pack of slack-jawed, pear-bodied, draggin'-ass mufuckers playin' their wares throughout the U.S. of fuckin' A." on their website, we can't really argue. Combining the bass rumble and hit-or-miss hygiene of Motörhead with blinding velocity, Nine Shocks are the ultimate Cleveland ragers. Zen and the Art of Beating Your Ass, their full-length debut, is a shitstorm of Mach 3 guitar, screamed epithets, and blast beats. The band's penchant for truth in advertising continues with cuts such as "Bullshit Tantrum" and "Pissing & Moaning in the Key of D Minor." Originally released in 1998, the disc has been remixed and repackaged with all the bands' previous seven-inch releases. That's 34 cuts of must-have misanthropy.
Best Gospel-Themed Rockabilly Band
Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival
Kickin' the Devil in the Balls
Rudimentary as a six-year-old's penmanship, this album should sound like holy crap: It's little more than a mess of piss-drunk proselytizing, vocals delivered through a bullhorn, half-played guitar, and cardboard drums. The result, inexplicably, is 25 minutes of roughshod rock and roll with titles such as "I Banged a Sinner." They're absurdly catchy foot-stompers that have us genuflecting before the altar of Uncle Scratch.
Best New Band
This Moment in Black History
Though the Chargers have been shelved, guitarist Chris Kulcsar isn't missing a beat with his new band, This Moment in Black History. Also featuring members of the Bassholes and Neon King Kong, This Moment brings raw-lunged rock that's both angular and anthemic. Kulcsar twists and shouts over herky-jerky rhythms that make it damn near impossible to remain seated while the band's debut EP, "The Cleveland Finger," is spinning. Get up and get yours.
Best Viking Rappers
Okay, so this wasn't the most competitive of categories. Still, any band that intermingles In Flames with Ice Cube, while brandishing broadswords, deserves a tip of the horned hat. Led by the gruff rhymes of MC Valhalla Ice, Norse Law blends black-metal riffs with potty-mouthed raps that would make Eric the Red blush. With their second album -- Sweet Home Scandinavia -- on the way, Norse law is out for blood. But they'll settle for beer.