As punk becomes retro, debate rages over the originals -- like the Styrenes. Were they the Sex Pistols? No way. Were they the Ramones? Closer, at least in "official" histories. Fronted by Paul Marotta and Jamie Klimek, the Styrenes were far more underground and far less fashionable.
Born in Cleveland, the band has been living in New York City since 1980 and is coming back to town to showcase two CDs, In C on Enja Records and It's Still Artastic on ROIR. Styrenes music surfaces every so often on deeply independent labels; one of the best samplings appeared in 1997 on Scat, when Robert Griffin released Those Were Different Times, previously unissued recordings by the Styrenes, the Electric Eels, and the Mirrors, all early to mid-'70s Cleveland bands.
While the Styrenes weren't as aggressive as the Eels or as pop as the Mirrors, the band may have been the most adventurous, spanning the scabrous "Drano in Your Veins," the goofy "Mr. Crab" (eat your heart out, B-52's), and the ethereal "Thirtyfour." No telling what these Styrenes (rounded out by Eels founder and legendary angry man John Morton) will sound like, which is just as it ever was. That the troupe's show will be a scene complete with adventurous instrumentals, emotive vocals (hold the emocore, please), and modernism is for sure.