Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honor Role: Gut-wrenching, eye-opening tuneage

Judgement Day: Bob Schick and Honor Role live. (Joey Odette photos)

By Andy 

At first listen to Honor Role's album, "The Pretty Song," in Corrosion of Conformity's van with drummer Reed Mullin at the wheel, I wondered what this music was all about.

It was heavy, melodic, quirky and something you couldn't turn away from. Listen after listen — and Mullin played it repeatedly — brought about new parts that skipped by you the first time because you were focusing on the vocals and not the guitar, or the drums and not the bass, etc. Each part not only contributes to the whole, but tells its own story, so to speak ... and you want to give equal attention to everything. When you grasp your ears around the whole deal, you find that it's groundbreaking stuff — and still not many people know about it today.

Seeing them live at the Fallout Shelter in Raleigh, NC, in the summer of 1986 gave me hope that honest, gut-wrenching rock was alive and well.

Lyrically, "Observation" is one of Honor Role's many insightful, brutal journeys into the human condition:

At first glance, man seems a curious breed; Full of will and strength, a noble breed
But under closer scrutiny, threads are observable
These threads and hopes, they do define the thicknesses and weaknesses that form the personality
And as the stress, the stress increases, the threads separate and begin to fray

Then I look inside you, and I know you feel it 
When I pull at your threads, I can see how you react
Though you think I don't notice it, nothing escapes my view
Don't think it's obvious, to see what it takes to manipulate you

When I'm finished, yeah finished for the day, I'll leave you in the corner and go out to play
Leave you in the corner, so you can pull yourself together, pull yourself apart
In time, yeah time, you know, time heals all the wounds of love
Someday we will hold each other close, and probe the lines that are your scars.

Here's a story I wrote about the Richmond, Va., band for my El Camino Community College paper (Gardena, Calif.) in '86:

With the uprising of so many similar-sounding bands these days, it's refreshing to see and hear Honor Role doing something different to break away from the pack.
Six-string intensity: Rollings

After making a lengthy trek across the United States from its hometown of Richmond, Va., the band recently stormed Hollywood with a show at Raji's.

While the band paced the stage waiting to begin, there were feelings of anxiety and curiosity among the small crowd. Reasons for this can be explained by the variety of material Honor Role has released over the past few years, which has ranged from hardcore to a unique rock style.

When the green light finally flashed, Honor Role was off, as the foursome stitched both the past and present into a solid musical experience.
Opening with the pounding, and somewhat mind-boggling, "Anonymous Cave," the band would make the grade both musically and physically throughout the entire show.

Guitarist Pen Rollings is easily the band's focal point, as his talent and bizarre, fidgety stage presence had onlookers shaking their heads in amazement.

Of the songs glided through, chief writer Rollings seems to structure them in a way the listener can't predict what will happen and must always stay alert.

Next up, add lyricist and vocalist Bob Schick to the menu, as he grips the microphone stand tightly while gouging it into the stage.

The rhythm section of bassist Chip Jones and Schick's younger brother and drummer Steve made the sound and performance complete. Schick and Jones especially jelled on "Purgatory," which thumped along at a steady, perfect pace.

 Live Honor Role video action circa 1987 at CBGB's:


  1. Love reading this blog -- it's the best -- and great for the memories, too. keep it up and more fun pics. Is Cheap Trick playing by you anymore? That would be AWESOME!

  2. Damn, here's another show we were both at!

    Honor Role were hanging out at Toxic Shock (where I worked) all day and they were amazing dudes. Their two 7" never moved me that hard but because they were such great guys I had to witness them live. Before the show my girlfriend (who later became my wife and is now my ex) baked some cookies for the band and they proceeded to devour them on the spot. When they hit the stage I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Much like CoC but not sounding like CoC, they carried themselves with an intensity and power that leaves you speechless by the end of the show. This was again a show where there was about 10 to 20 people in the audience, which is pretty damn sad looking back.

    A year later they played at Fenders Ballroom with CoC to a much larger crowd. After the set my girlfriend and I went to say hello and Penn said "You were the one who brought us the cookies. Those things were amazing!"

  3. Hi there, Honor Role were indeed a wonderful and above all most underrated band. Unfortunately, living over the pond, I never got to see them live while they existed. Bob is a very kind and helpful guy (the others I never got in touch with). I asked him for a discography of some of the bands he was/is involved in and got it a little while later! Since photographies of the band are extremely hard to come buy and I finally found some on your pages, is there any way of getting me in touch with the photographer Joey Odette, so I can ask for more? Thanks for letting me know - Plasmatzee

  4. Hey there, Plasmatzee, thanks for reading... yes, Honor Role was indeed a great band. I got in touch with Joey Odette on the HR Facebook page: