NA’s brand of hardcore was savage and nihilistic, exuding frustration, alienation and rage. This was personified in the band’s vocalist John Brannon, an intimidating and intense young man with a shaved head, piercing stare and belligerent attitude. His vocal style and stage presence set the standard for those that followed. NA’s musical style was based on Detroit proto-punk icons The Stooges, British punk rock (especially Discharge) and Oi! music (Blitz, 4-Skins, et al.), although from the start their sound and demeanor were considerably more aggressive and brutal than that of their influences.
Negative Approach was formed in August 1981 by John Brannon and Pete Zelewski, supposedly after seeing a Black Flag/Necros show. The first NA lineup consisted of Brannon on vocals, Rob McCullough on guitar, Pete Zelewski on bass and Zuheir on drums. Not long after, Zelewski left the band to form The Allied and was replaced by Rob McCullough’s brother Graham. Zuheir was later replaced by Chris “O.P.” Moore. The lineup of Brannon/McCullough/McCullough/Moore would remain unchanged until NA disbanded.
NA’s first gig was in the basement of Necros drummer Todd Swalla’s mother’s home. Soon after, they recorded a demo, and followed that up with an appearance on the Process of Elimination compilation 7” EP, released on Meatmen frontman Tesco Vee’s fledgling Touch & Go label, named after his fanzine of the same name. The comp also featured the Necros and The Meatmen, among others. NA, the Necros and The Meatmen then embarked on the Process of Elimination tour. Though this “tour” consisted of a mere three shows (Boston, New York City and Washington, DC), it is cited as being a key event in the early spread of hardcore.
The first proper Negative Approach studio release came in 1982 with their self-titled 7” EP, also on Touch & Go. It contained now-legendary songs such as “Can’t Tell No One,” “Ready To Fight” and “Nothing,” which is considered by many to be the quintessential NA song. The sound quality of the recording is average, but the performances themselves are powerful, and the record is now held in nearly universal high regard by hardcore fans.
The following year saw the release of the Tied Down LP, also venerated as a hardcore classic. While it mostly contains more of the same ultra-fast, angry music as the 7”, the band also branched out somewhat and included a plodding dirge (“Evacuate”) and a (relatively) mid-tempo rocker (“Dead Stop”) on the album.
The classic line-up fell apart in 1983 during their tour in support of Tied Down, playing their last show in Memphis.
Afterwards, Brannon assembled a new line-up with members Kelly Dermody (guitar), Dave (bass) and Mike (drums). This version of Negative Approach played a series of live shows throughout 1984 which featured some new songs, such as “Obsession,” “Tunnel Vision,” “Kiss Me Kill Me” and a cover of “I Got A Right” by the Stooges. This line-up can be heard on the Live at the Newtown Theater bootleg 7” and some live tracks recorded at Boston’s Paradise club that appear on the Total Recall discography CD.
It was announced in May 2006 that Brannon and Moore would play a Negative Approach reunion show, of sorts, for Touch & Go’s 25th Anniversary show on September 9, 2006, as well as two later shows in the UK - London on December 7 and at All Tomorrow’s Parties on December 10. Despite repeated efforts by Rob and Graham McCulloch to be a part of the reunion and have the classic NA lineup play, John refused; it was instead announced that Harold Richardson (of Brannon’s current band Easy Action) and Ron Sakowski (formerly of Easy Action, Laughing Hyenas, and Necros) would complete the lineup. Rob and Graham maintain that the appearance shouldn’t be labeled as Negative Approach without the classic NA lineup. The whole affair has generated controversy, and there is little agreement as to who is in the right and for what reasons.
Negative Approach closed out the No Fun Fest in Brooklyn, NY on May 20, 2007.
Edited by corytester on 3 Jun 2011, 01:33
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