As D.C. hardcore heroes Minor Threat would title their final EP, the early to mid-1980s were indeed the “salad days” that allowed the independent American underground to find its footing. Dischord Records, the groundbreaking label cofounded by Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson, was one of the movement’s epicenters, a staunchly DIY and pro-community imprint birthed with the ethos of documenting the vibrant D.C. scene.
But lurking inside the D.C. punk base was a small contingent of outsiders. Although they occasionally joined forces with the likes of Minor Threat and Government Issue on local hardcore bills, they had their own sense of purpose. One such band was No Trend.
Hailing from the Maryland suburbs, the nihilistic noisemakers in No Trend seemed to push back against everything the popular hardcore contingent stood for. Nowhere to be found in the band’s gloriously weirdo cesspool of bloodcurdling howls, gnarly dissonance and lurching grooves were the impassioned themes of righteousness, politics, straight-edge culture and community that MacKaye and company espoused.
For better and worse, No Trend’s aesthetics epitomized the anti- approach to both darkly comical and intensely frustrated extremes. They were rabblerousing outliers who lived by the words they would scrawl on their show flyers: “NO TREND, NO SCENE, NO MOVEMENT.”
Philadelphia hardcore-punk crew Pissed Jeans are one band that has taken that credo to heart and proudly carries its torch. Singer Matt Korvette’s punch-drunk and snotty presence is undeniably No Trend-like; not surprisingly, he’s a big fan. “No Trend have been a fine influence on multiple levels,” he says. “Musically they are just so gnarly and evil-sounding, but not in a contrived ‘demons and skeletons’ sorta way … just true anguish caused by real things and captured in the raw.
Mark Robinson, Teen-Beat Records chief and guitarist/singer of indie-rock pioneers Unrest, discovered No Trend as a teenager growing up in D.C. and witnessed many of their chaotic live shows. “There wasn’t a circuit, but there were these shows you’d go to with, not necessarily the exact same bands every week, but it was Government Issue and Minor Threat, so there was like a scene,” he recalls. “Sometimes No Trend would be on those bills; sometimes they’d be on different bills. But I feel like No Trend were the anti-scene band with the ultimate punk perspective, lyrically.”
Decades after vocalist Jeff Mentges, guitarist Frank Price, bassist Jack Anderson and drummer Greg Miller self-released their early records via their own label, No Trend is finally getting its due.
Music writer and No Trend super-fan Jordan N. Mamone and later-period No Trend guitarist Buck Parr have finally realized their decade-long labor of love in the form of Too Many Humans/Teen Love, a sprawling box set released by the prominent indie label Drag City. The anthology collects long out-of-print recordings and previously unearthed material, including the remastered Too Many Humans LP (originally released in 1983), two versions of 1983-’84’s Teen Love EP, demos, live sets, a massive 40-page booklet complete with a historical band timeline, interviews, photos and flyers, and other ephemera.
Looking back, Parr puts No Trend’s antagonism into perspective. “The band was interesting and original and different from what was generally going on,” he says. “While being different, they also played in basically a hardcore milieu. They were playing hardcore shows with hardcore bands but were playing something completely different. You go out, you see these bands and they’re great and all their songs are 45 seconds long; they got the thrash beat, you’re jumping around and getting all sweaty. Then this other band is like a fly in the ointment. … You’re like, ‘Why are they here?’”
Mamone talks of a “cloud of doom” that hung over No Trend, but the band did enjoy a taste of exposure, occasionally inside their hometown but mostly outside of it. Not only did Robinson see No Trend on local bills with Dead Kennedys and Half Japanese, but the booklet Mamone and Parr compiled details high jinks on tours and shows with Sonic Youth, the Flaming Lips, Hüsker Dü and Butthole Surfers. (The Dead Kennedys gig, a historic D.C. punk show also featuring Scream and Void, almost turned into catastrophe when the fire marshal threatened to shut it down. After the crowd of more than 1,000 staged a sit-in, sing-along protest, DK was able to perform a truncated set.)
For Mamone and Parr, Too Many Humans/Teen Love finally seeing the light of day is a dream come true. But it wasn’t easy. In fact, over the course of their quest, there were setbacks and challenges they didn’t believe could be overcome. Among the obstacles they faced: the original label pulled out of the project; the master tapes were destroyed; and a mountain of detective work was needed to recover material for the booklet.
Mamone credits Parr, who wasn’t even a member of No Trend at the time of Too Many Humans and Teen Love, with soldiering on and seeing the project through to completion. “Buck is the only person who ever played in that band, in at least the impression I got, who really cared at all about preserving it, giving it any kind of legacy or ensuring that other people would, perhaps, hear them in the future,” Mamone says. “Everyone else is either just not interested, deceased or was a peripheral member that wasn’t really in it for very long.”
Price, the misanthropic heart and tortured soul of No Trend’s earliest recordings, died in the late ’80s. Bassists Bob Strasser and Jack Anderson and drummer Michael Salkind are still around, but left the band in their rearview mirrors long ago. The same goes for Mentges. Both he and Strasser remain close friends with Parr, but as far as No Trend is concerned, they’ve moved on.
Nevertheless, with bands like Pissed Jeans and the recently disbanded Priests having sung No Trend’s praises, and with the release of the box set, it seems like the time has arrived for No Trend to reach a new audience.
Mamone and Parr are already plotting their next move: reissuing the rest of No Trend’s catalog, comprising more avant-garde, free-jazz and funk-influenced recordings like their collaboration with No Wave queen Lydia Lunch, A Dozen Dead Roses (1985), Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex (1986) and More (1987).