Anti Band: The Unruly Legacy of NO TREND

A new box set from Drag City uncovers the brazen contrarians of the legendary D.C. hardcore scene.

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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.

“I also connected with their lack of conformity within the underground subculture, which often has just as many unspoken rules and regulations as the mainstream. They weren’t contrarians for the sake of being rude [or at least not all the time], so much as they were frustrated by herd mentality and popularity contests, and just so damn weird that obviously they’d never really fit in anywhere.”

“[No Trend] were frustrated by herd mentality and popularity contests, and just so damn weird that obviously they’d never really fit in anywhere.”
Pissed Jeans’ Matt Korvette

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.”

Robinson says the portrayal of No Trend and the D.C. punk scene as warring factions has become somewhat overblown. “I feel like people did not like them, and I feel like people that were involved that were Dischord bands did not like them either. But No Trend were writing songs making fun of some of those people, so it’s understandable in a way. At the same time, I thought, this was a band that was so good. How come more people weren’t listening to them?”

Jeff Mentges (left) and Frank Price. Credit: All images courtesy of Drag City.

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?’”  

One can understand why straight-edge hardcore kids would recoil in horror at the sight and sound of No Trend before clearing the room. A noxious and obnoxious splattering of Flipper-ish sludge-punk and the buzzsawing angular rhythms of Public Image Ltd, the salvos unleashed on Too Many Humans and Teen Love are pure brutality. “You have this band that was very negative, that was just criticizing conformity in general, whether it was punk-rock conformity or your neighbor’s conformity,” Mamone explains. “Here’s this guy in this trench coat with a stocking cap and some pantyhose over his face screaming ‘Kiss Ass to Your Peer Group’ at you, with this slow, horrible noise in the background. Some D.C. straight-edge kid who wants to slam dance and talk about how drugs and alcohol are really bad for you is taking this as an affront to everything he stands for — even if it might not have been intended as such.”

“One can understand why straight-edge hardcore kids would recoil in horror at the sight and sound of No Trend before clearing the room.”

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.)  

Despite their taste for in-your-face confrontation and sneering raunch, No Trend also had a gift for crafting catchy hooks within the thick waves of hellacious noise. “Mass Sterilization Caused by Venereal Disease” and especially “Teen Love” first introduced Mamone to No Trend when he was a high-school kid listening to college radio in the ’80s and the early ’90s. “Teen Love” is a deranged, speak-screamed earworm that wouldn’t sound out of place on PiL’s Second Edition. Then there’s Too Many Humans, a deliciously angsty slab of molten punk fury that can be filed under proto-noise-rock. The epic opening blast of “Family Style,” “Blow Dry” and “Reality Breakdown” finds Price firing his “stiff, dissonant, repetitive arpeggios,” as Mamone described his influential guitar style, while Mentges rails against cultural norms with Price-penned lyrics. 

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.

“They are more bemused by it than anything,” Parr says. “I don’t think they understand what a great thing they have. They are both really private people and have been for years. I don’t think they have an appreciation of their legacy. Jeff thinks [the box set] is ridiculous, as does Bob [though both were interviewed for the box set’s booklet]. They don’t understand why it’s happening. These guys are really not ego people, and they’re just kind of shaking and scratching their heads. They just don’t understand the appeal. They just don’t care.”


No Trend, c. 1983: Michael Salkind, Bob Strasser, Frank Price and Jeff Mentges (from left).

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).

Says Mamone, with tongue-in-cheek: “I see this as a three-volume thing, but not if it takes 10 years and 10 years after that. I’ll be retired by then.”

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