Roach Motel
It’s Lonely at the Top
Florida’s Dying

In the liner notes for It’s Lonely at the Top, members of Roach Motel readily admit that they were ripping off the Dead Boys as best that they could. That’s a formula that was surely replicated by restless teenagers across the country once the trailblazers of punk and hardcore—bands like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Necros—made tour stops riling up the disaffected youth. By the early ’80s, every scene had their own (insert seminal punk band here) to soundtrack summer boredom and weekend beer blasts. For Gainesville, it was Roach Motel, who also claim to be the first punk band in all of Florida. That doesn’t make It’s Lonely at the Top essential listening, but it’s an integral document to connect the dots of punk’s progression into the suburbs nonetheless. This compilation includes pretty much everything the band recorded and is interchangeable with any other hardcore upstarts from the Midwest or Southern California. Revisionist history removes what might be the band’s most controversial moment (the song “Wetback” from their debut 7-inch), which would only show the naive bigotry that was common back in the pre-PC punk era. What remains is highly entertaining, but won’t change your mind as to just how integral Roach Motel was in the grand scheme of things.

If anything, Roach Motel was a gnarly pub-rock band turned on its head with amphetamines and visceral riffs. Singer Bob Fetz displays a distinct snarl that lies somewhere between Darby Crash, GG Allin (especially on “Now You’re Gonna Die”) and Lemmy. It’s his barks and screams that lead Roach Motel through their best material. Guitarist George Tabb was the perfect foil to Fetz, providing his best Greg Ginn impersonation over odes to death, beer and catharsis. They share a similar velocity and ferocity present with those early hardcore groups, but were thematically the antithesis to something like Minor Threat. Their cache of songs seems alcohol- and drug-obsessed with “Mad Dog 20/20,” “Mom Likes Drugs” and “More Beer” (which they claim was stolen by Fear) leading the pack. Dick jokes abound, while Roach Motel veer dangerously between cretin nihilism and puerile humor, never really coming up for air. How much one appreciates Roach Motel depends on one’s tolerance for titles like “My Dog’s Into Anarchy” and “Burger King Is Dead.” The band’s shining moment, “I Hate the Sunshine State,” is all one really needs to get the gist of how combative they were with their surroundings. By 1983, with the departure of Tabb and the arrival of new guitarist Jeff Hodapp, things were beginning to crumble. Hodapp provided a much needed thickness to the band’s sound, and there are even hooks present on “Frenzy” and “Nothing to Lose.” Alas, it wasn’t enough to keep the unit together, and Roach Motel fizzled out by 1984. Another short-lived, short-fused punk footnote that isn’t entirely necessary, but if you’re looking for an old-school party, Roach Motel more than provide.
Kevin J. Elliott