Screamin' Fist EP - 7"
Vile - 1977
For certain greying punks in Canada's largest city, it's a matter of civic pride that the Toronto punk scene was second only to New York's (and perhaps San Francisco's) back in 1977. Just as in Britain, it was probably the Ramones who lit the fire here with a pair of gigs at the New Yorker Theatre in September of 1976. Bands like the Diodes (who opened the first Canadian punk club The Crash'n'Burn), the Ugly and the Viletones were out of the blocks soon after, with the Viletones' classic line-up of singer Nazi Dog, guitarist Freddie Pompeii, bass player Chris Hate and drummer Motor X making their debut at Toronto's dank Colonial Tavern on Yonge Street.
The Viletones were easily the most infamous of Toronto punk bands, with leader Nazi Dog (a.k.a Steven Leckie) - like many a punk at the time, a rough amalgam of Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop - taking the "destroy" credo to its extreme, slashing himself on stage and delivering Nazi propaganda speeches at gigs. By July of 1977, the Viletones would travel to ground zero, playing a four-night run at CBGB, along with the remainder of Canada's punk royalty at the time, the Diodes and Teenage Head. Lester Bangs would later write in the Village Voice, "This guy Natzee Dog hung from the rafters, crawled all over the stage, and hurled himself on the first row until his body was one huge sore."
While it's hard to say whether Screamin' Fist was the first punk record released in Canada, it was probably the most talked about. And rightfully so. 'Screamin Fist' is killer punk, from the ominous bass/drums intro to Leckie's gruff scowl. This must have had quite an impact on a local scene hungering for its own voice. And while the sludgy 'Possibilities' lets up a bit on the throttle, the frantic 'Rebel' sticks to the formula - loud and fast rules! - and is all the better for that.
The Viletones followed up in 1978 with the 5-song Look Back in Anger EP, and seemed to be riding high in the saddle, when Leckie's Nazi schtick drew the ire of the infamous, and now-outlawed, Jewish Defense League in the U.S. After allegedly receiving bomb threats, a clearly contrite Leckie explained to the Toronto Sun, "At first we did it just to shock the old people. And the kids like it. But I'm no Nazi. Nazi Dog was a name to get attention to the band. I can't believe some people really get bothered by it."
What's worse, Pompeii, Hate and Motor X had all conspired to leave the band, quietly forming the aptly-named Secrets with ex-Diode John Hamilton, leaving Leckie to reform the band anew. The reformed Viletones released a pair of live albums in the 1980s, but by then punk's original swagger had long since bowed to the thrashier hardcore scene.
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