The end of the world?
Apocalypse Hoboken stretches
the boundaries of punk
by Marty Behm (

Say this much about punk rock: nearly 30 years in, the mere mention of its name still elicits a strong reaction -- positive or negative -- from virtually any music fan. For local punk mainstays Apocalypse Hoboken, it's a reaction with mixed blessings, one that can close just as many doors as it opens.

"There are plenty of bands that have started out punk and went beyond it, (like) the Replacements," says drummer Andy Petersen, "and I would think that they all went through the same thing. I wouldn't imagine that they thought, 'Hey, let's be really commercial.' It's just that they got better."

Which is exactly the case with Apocalypse Hoboken, formed in the early '90s in the west suburbs. Though hardly commercial, their latest album, Microstars on Kung Fu Records, finds the band stretching the boundaries of punk through solid songwriting, sonic experimentation and great production from Dave Trumfio of the Pulsars.

"People either completely fall in love with us or completely hate us, and for that reason we don't fit the mold of what's popular in quote, unquote 'punk rock' music," explains lead singer Todd Paglialong. "All of our influences derive from punk, but there's just so much more music out there, and it's unfair to be labeled a punk rock band. We've constantly tried to get past that, but that's the scene we play to."

Along with guitarist Scott Thompson (sic) and bassist Kurdt Dinse (guitarist Sean Seeling recently dropped out to return to school), Paglialong and Petersen enlisted Trumfio to produce Microstars after the death of longtime friend and engineer Phil Bonnet.

"Meeting anyone for the first time can be strange, but I'd say after the second day of recording with him that everything was great," says Paglialong. "He became excited about it."

Though Microstars still packs plenty of feral, punk energy into its 14 songs, midtempo stretches like "Make Them Die Slowly" and "Lonely Socks," as well as a refreshingly un-ironic, though crushing, take on Prince's "Darling Nikki" set it apart from the three-chord crowd.

"We knew that we wanted to record this record differently, but we really didn't write it differently," says Paglialong. "It was more of a case of the different sounds that we got, the moods that were created."

If Apocalypse Hoboken's sound has gone through mutations over the years, the punk scene has changed as well.

"The people who comprise the punk scene now are much younger," says Paglialong. "When I started going to shows in the late '80s, it was older people, and there was an element of danger to it. It's very segregated now, there's different types of punk music. You've got emo, ska, hardcore, pop-punk, and there are different factions of kids that go to these shows."

Could the addition of Microstars' opening track "Little Fingers" to the new Q101 local compilation expose the band to these new punk audiences? And if so, what will the old fans think?

"I don't know," says Paglialong. "I would hope that people who like us are smart enough to know that we have been playing the same. I mean, if more people end up liking us, that's great. That's why we're in a band."

Marty Behm is a Chicago area freelance writer.