City Slang: “The Space Age Playboys” revisited

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Kory Clarke is apparently one of those dudes from Detroit who pissed off a bunch of people and then skipped town for pastures new. Back in the ‘80s, he was the drummer in arty local hardcore-ish band L7 (not to be confused with the all-girl ‘90s band of “Shit List” fame) alongside future Laughing Hyena Larissa Strickland. In Steven Blush’s book American Hardcore, Detroit promoter Ken Waagner says that, “Kory Clarke was the closest thing I knew to a Kurt Cobain-type person When I first met Kory, he was 18 with spiky blond hair, looked just like Billy Idol, had been completely ostracized in school. Everybody thought he was a freak; nobody liked him – except girls, who thought he was cute.”

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Clarke certainly annoyed Meatmen frontman Tesco Vee, who had a song on the first album called “Kory Clarke Dude Ranch”. Now, I neither know nor care if Clarke is gay. Nothing could be less relevant. What is certain is that Vee saw fit to lay into Clarke through verse. Former Necros / Big Chief man Barry Hennsler is another hardcore dude who seems to be anti-Clarke. “Kory was a new wave gay boy, and then he became a rock & roller; that’s the bottom line,” Hennsler said in the book. “He’s one of those dudes that annoyed me enough when I was 16 to smack him and years later it was the mortal wound of his life.”

So there you go. For whatever reason, Clarke wasn’t a particularly popular figure around town during his L7 days. It’s probably no surprise, then, that he relocated to New York as the decade came to an end, and formed the metal-tinged rock ’n’ roll band Warrior Soul, switching from the drum stool to the front man role.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Warrior Soul put out an awesome debut album in 1990, Last Decade Dead Century, then four more magnificent records until their first break-up in ’95. The best of the bunch was The Space Age Playboys, released in ’94.

It’s around this time that Clarke started referring to the music that he and Warrior Soul were making as “acid punk”. To be honest, that was bullshit. It didn’t mean anything. Warrior Soul was an amazing rock ’n’ roll band. They seamlessly blended snarly punk with sleazy glam and heavy metal. They were roundly dismissed (despite critical acclaim) because the general public wasn’t ready for them. Nobody knew what to do with them. They would tour with Metallica (Lars Ulrich was a big fan) and the crowd would boo them for being too “glam”. They’d tour with glam bands or punk bands and be dismissed as too metal. They couldn’t win and that’s a shame because, no matter what anyone thinks of Clarke, he was making some killer music. Sadly it was at least a decade ahead of its time.

So here we have the kick-into-gear of “Rocket Engines”, the glorious drone of “The Drug”, the nihilistic beauty of “Let’s Get Wasted” and so on. The record is a work of art. Like Warhol and Thunders working in harmony. Clarke's vocals are dripping with fuck-you attitude throughout the whole thing, like he's exorcising demons.

He should be welcomed back with open arms.


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