NURSES - Destroy Your Friends (Live & Demos 1979-1981) (

Although they were one of the first and arguably one of the most important bands in Washington DC's late-70's punk scene, the Nurses (and contemporaries like the Urban Verbs, Razz, and Slickee Boys) have been relegated to the dustbin of musical trivia, overshadowed by the D.C. hardcore punks who followed them in the Eighties. I was lucky enough to have spent a lot of time in D.C. back in those days (only because Nurses' frontman Howard Wuelfing was one of my best friends from college,) so hearing the 20 or so songs captured on this disc (culled from a handful of demo sessions and several live recordings) brought back a rush of nostalgia. The weird thing is that although I hadn't heard any of these songs in a good 20 years, I remembered almost all of them immediately. And if this disc were released today by a new band, people would be raving about the Nurses' fearless genre-bending and their fresh approach to punk. The pre-hardcore D.C. of the late 70's had its own well-defined niches - garagey power-pop on one side, pretentious art-rock on the other - but the Nurses tread an indefinable middle ground, mixing up everything from Buzzcocks-powered punk to ragged reggae-dub rhythms to Monkees power-pop. Howard Wuelfing's high, thin but pleasingly melodic vocals, Marc Halpern's inventive slashing guitar parts, and Harry Raab's precise drumming all sound as vital and alive today as they did 20 years ago. The Nurses' career ground to a halt in 1982 when Halpern died of a heroin overdose. That was a sad day for music, but it's great to see the Nurses' legacy live on. - Jim Testa