The once sleepy S.F. punk scene is wide awake. Throughout most of the '90s the East Bay scene -- fueled by the Gilman Street pop punks and their kin -- held the keys to local punkdom, leaving San Francisco punks reminiscing about the good ol' Fab Mab days. But now groups like the Workin' Stiffs, along with several other promising home-grown bands, are rekindling the spirit of yesteryear with fresh, kick-ass, beer-swillin' punk and several promising new releases.
The 3-year-old outfit isn't a new group by any means, but one listen to their sophomore release, Liquid Courage, proves the Stiffs haven't been sitting on their asses. The band -- the surnameless Dave, Mike, Eric, and Kevin (the last from the Swingin' Utters) -- has dropped the bratty thrash for a more mature pub-style punk: faster guitar crunch, clearer vocals, better bass lines, and newfound sense of harmony. This is best exemplified on the third track, "Three Ring City," a well-written screed against S.F. politics that roars along at breakneck speed until cutting into a midtempo chorus: The guitars and drums stop, a bouncy bass pulls along the melody, and what sounds like all the members pick up with the chant, "Down at City Hall." This may make some punks wince, but none of the Stiffs' angst is compromised. Reason enough to join them in celebrating their new release with the hometown folks this weekend.