Book Review: "If He's The Singer, What The Hell Is He Saying? The Complete Step Sister Lyrics: 1994-2003"
Reviewed by A. Iwasa
A review of the lyrical anthology and music of Step Sister, a '90s rock revival band from Cleveland fronted by Clevo music scene pioneer Tom Dark.
When I first became aware of Step Sister around 2001, I was misinformed as them being simply bassist Tony Erba's new band. Erba was basically everything hardcore to me, from the positive, anthemic youth crew of Face Value to the grinding cidercore of the H-100s, so I was expecting something along those lines, especially since they were playing with the infamous metalcore band Ringworm.
I would call Step Sister rock revival, which was not at all what I was expecting, and the larger relevance of the band still had yet to register with me. Only years later, while watching a short film about mid-1980s Cleveland hardcore, did a Traveler Friend connect the dots for me between longtime Clevo punk artist Tom Dark from the early 1980s with The Dark through Step Sister who wrapped in up in 2003.
I still didn't really appreciate the connection until Cheese Borger of the Pink Holes and Cleveland Steamers sent me a copy of his Pie and Ears Vol. 2, Cleveland: Old Scars - New Blood, which included the Step Sister track "Wild Ride."
Why didn't this music resonate with me in 2001? That year had practically started with The Donnas and ended with The Strokes for me, with The Murder City Devils and locals Crash of '59 somewhere in there for me. I consulted the oracle and quickly ordered this book and a couple Step Sister CDs from Red Hour Records, and they are all solid!
To me this raises the question, when a band of long time artists forms like Step Sister in 1994 and produces cutting edge rock, why didn't they go on to become as big as The White Stripes or any of the other bands that I consider to define early 2000s rock revival?!
Also, with a limited run of only 100 copies printed in 2003, how was I able to order it new (or should I write, not used?) in 2021?!
If you don't like punk, you probably wouldn't appreciate these lyrics as poetry, and I suppose it's a bit of an of courser that Erba wrote "You Ain't Worth The Foam In My Piss." But as was a frequent refrain of mine in the mid-1990s...it's fucking artwork, man! It's fucking artwork!
I first became aware of self-publishing when I read that Jim Morrison had printed two volumes of his own poetry as "The Lords / Notes on Vision and The New Creatures and did small print runs just for his friends. I think this volume is a continuation in that tradition.
For more about the early years of Clevo style punk and hardcore, please watch Cleveland's Screaming!
$5.00, limited 100 copies
Red Hour Records
PO Box 44302
Cleveland, Ohio 44144
Available for purchase through Red Hour Records here.