cruelster are upset with all musicians in cars

A whirlwind beef over promotional photographs in cars has come to this: one band reckoning with an entire visual canon.

cruelster are upset with all musicians in cars
Cruelster, photo by David MacCluskie

Cruelster stepped in it big time. The Cleveland band, known for their undefeated Instagram presence as much as their records, were photographed drinking in the front seat of a car for a feature in Creem. Soon after, the West Coast band Pardoner revealed that their photograph in the front seat of a car came first. A whirlwind Instagram beef was aired and swiftly squashed. “We cast a forgiveness spell,” Pardoner said in a statement to see/saw. 

“We have been pardoned by Pardoner after physical threats from our agent to make us ignite internet beef with this band who is actually good,” the band said in a prepared statement on May 4. “We don’t regret anything as it was out of fear in which we acted wrongly. We did nothing wrong and Pardoner did everything right. The case will however proceed in federal court, but we hereby refuse to comply with any subpoena.”

Thank Christ these two aren’t feuding anymore. The ever-tenuous garage punk ecosystem can’t stomach these two bands at each other’s throats over a photographic trope that, it turns out, has existed in some format or another. Alerted to this reality, Cruelster typed out some thoughts about other artists who have dared to in the front seat of a car. [Editor’s note: The opinions reflected below by Cruelster are in no way endorsed by the proprietor of]

The Birthday Party

We hate this but it’s not because of the car show ghoul (though we’re currently involved with a federal lawsuit with Big Daddy Roth). But it’s because the band is called the Birthday Party and I absolutely hate when people talk about this band or bring them up, especially in person. It’s really bad. It’s like that band “clapyourhandssayyeah.” I don’t ever want to hear anybody say that band name in real life and I especially don’t want to hear anyone ask if I like “the Birthday Party.” It’s like how every city in the ’80s had a band called “Free Beer” because they thought it would be funny to put that on a flyer. So people think it’s free beer and not a band called Free Beer. You think it’s funny to put “birthday party” on a flyer and trick children like that? 

Helmut Zacharias

This one is a big problem. Most importantly, it’s one guy instead of five guys and he’s sitting on top of a moving vehicle instead of sitting instead of a parked Silverado drinking our fourth favorite kind of beer. His name is Helmut, which is fine, but he is playing Beatles songs on a fiddle and that is a red flag. This guy has done horrible things to people and has been violent to innocent people. He has likely caused great distress and trauma to many people in his life. The photo isn’t fooling me. If you have to refer to something as “happy,” it is inherently dark beyond comprehension.

Kash Doll

This one is extremely concerning. Two sexy cowboy women in a burning vehicle. In their final moments, we read giant word art that means very little.

The Minutemen

Minutemen are a terrible funk band forever tarnished by the fact that they licensed their soul to the rich adults doing penis stunts on MTV2 known as Jackass. Fuck the Minutemen… have you ever listened to this band? Good luck getting through one song. Disgusting. Not to mention this album cover is a total rip off of an old MySpace pic of me and Jo sitting in the back of my parents’ 1995 Plymouth Voyager.

Bela Fleck

This is a Reddit guy turning around to ask r/punk if Cruelster is egg punk, satire, or hardcore. 21 people are in the back of the limo answering the question. This album cover is also a direct rip off of our many Instagram videos of one of us turning around from the front seat of the van. 


This album cover was brought to our attention during the discovery phase of the federal lawsuit with Pardoner. It’s concerning because it’s very close to home. The band Advertisement is only four hours away from us, while we are unlikely to ever meet Pardoner because they are on the West Coast.

James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke

James Corden is too harsh for us to even find an angle to make legitimate commentary. Let’s just say everything you’ve heard about QAnon is directly related to James Corden.


So when Creem magazine did the article about Cruelster, they wanted us to send a ton of pictures and flyers and memorabilia, like a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame type thing. We took a bunch of pictures with our friend David Macluskie. We had absolutely no control over what pictures were chosen for publication. We sent many pictures of us in intense realist situations (ala Caravaggio) but I think Creem wanted more of a “Drunk Driver” vibe and not a theater kid vibe. I don’t want to say whose idea the car photo was because at this point it would be incriminating.

More and more people started sending us the picture of Pardoner in the same type of photo (but without beer?) and it got to the point where we couldn’t stay silent. We spoke out loudly and proudly and they almost immediately proved that their photo was first. To my knowledge, their photo might be the first photo of its kind. It even pre-dates the Advertisement album cover and That 70s Show. Well we immediately and responsibly issued our accountability post, it was very well received by the public, and we even became great friends with Pardoner and decided they are a good band.

Sadly though, the lawsuit has already been filed in federal court and we don’t know how to unfile it. So I hope those guys have a big big giant lawyer.

Pardoner’s upcoming EP, Paranoid in Hell, is out next week. The Cruelster compilation Lost Inside My Mind in Another State of Mind: The Singles Collection LP is out now.