Archive for the ‘1990s’ Category

Black Angel’s Death Song

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Nothing Equals Nothing 7″
Dionysus Records, 1991

Following the line from the namesake Velvet Underground song “Black Angel’s Death Song” all the way to current Austin psych darlings The Black Angels, you’ll find a number of VU-inspired troupes carrying the underground freak rock flag. This loose-knit Los Angeles group from the early 1990s put out some inspired singles like this one, which falls somewhere in between the nonchalant scrap pop of Pavement and slo-mo guitar haze of Spaceman 3. The title track “Nothing Equals Nothing” is sneering ’80s So-Cal punk accented with ’60s bongo beats, neatly connecting the counterculture strains of each era to create a timeless hybrid that’s as relevant now as it was in 1991. In fact, it may be even more relevant today in the sonic blender of the MP3 age, where decades of rock genres and subgenres are so easily condensed and referenced.


Black Angel’s Death Song – “Nothing Equals Nothing”
Black Angel’s Death Song – “What Do You Mean?”


Black Angel’s Death Song on MySpace

The X-Rays

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Speed Kills CD
Empty, 1996

A number of my favorite records made me laugh the first time I heard them. Melt-Banana‘s Scratch or Stitch LP was so ridiculously jolting and squeaky that I grinned ear to ear in bemused amazement. Emperor‘s Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk is so preposterously melodramatic and fast that I still can’t take it seriously. And who can listen to Xerobot‘s dazzlingly robotic Control Panel CD with Greg Peter’s spastic vocals without busting a chuckle? All classic, all amazing, and all noteworthy for an x-factor quality that really made them stand out from the pack. In this great pantheon of underground benchmark albums lies The X-Rays’ Speed Kills CD. While they were part of the mostly unremarkable Gearhead zine garage punk scene of the mid-1990s, they upped the ante with an outrageously loud, fast, and over-the-top take on the whole leather jacket punk rawk thing. I can still distinctly recall hearing the first few seconds of “Racin’ Outta Napolis” for the first time, shaking my head and laughing at the audacity and overdrive of this Nottingham psycho squad. It begins like a number of lesser gearhead punk albums, complete with revving engines throttling to take off, but after a quick count it lurches into crazy territory and races into one of the more noteworthy garage punk records of the genre. Their Empty follow up Double Godzilla with Cheese continued the wacky hi-jinx with the entire album playing backwards after the last track.


The X-Rays – Speed Kills (28.1MB)

Ritual Device

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Ritual Lips / Grandma 7″
Aural Rape, 1991

Probably one of the most literal versions of the “pigfuck” genre — loosely defined as ugly midwestern noise rock with a nasty mean streak, ala Big Black, Killdozer, Drunks With Guns, etc. — this Omaha band of miscreants was a minor legend in these parts, upping the ante for twisted records and live performances. Being a fellow Nebraskan, I had the opportunity to see them a number of times and still consider them on par with more widely known acts of the era. One particularly memorable scene (as recounted in the Horror Punk 101 countdown last Halloween) was seeing them open for the Jesus Lizard at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City. Being a college town, there was a sizable and drunken crowd, and at one point in Ritual Device’s set, singer Tim Moss started tossing out rendering plant refuse into the crowd. I can still see the shocked horror in the eyes of a pair of alternagirls picking up leathery, hairy sow ears, thinking it was some type of sticker toss or something. And that pretty much sums up the Ritual Device experience: ugly, visceral, and unnerving. And brutally rifftastic with a sick sense of humor. Members went on to other heavy ’90s bands like Men of Porn and Ravine after releasing a few other 7″s, a split 10″ with Killdozer, and a solid LP, Henge. Here’s their rare debut 7″…


Ritual Device – “Ritual Lips
Ritual Device – “Grandma”


Ritual Device on Built On A Weak Spot blog
Ritual Device/Ravine history from website

Galloping Coroners

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Jumping Out The World / Instinct / Teach Death A Lesson CD
Alternative Tentacles, 1991

When you think of Jello Biafra, his antagonistic spoken word tirades and cult status as the brain behind the Dead Kennedys are the first thing to come to mind. However, it should also be noted that the man is a fanatically obsessed and rabid collector of music. I once witnessed him tear through the beloved stacks of wax at Love Garden Sounds with the deftness of a librarian on crank, nabbing an armful of choice selections all while bullshitting with the starstruck locals. And if you’ve ever read the second volume of the fantastic RE/Search Incredibly Strange Music books, you’d know exactly how hardcore a vinyl hound he is. So it should come as no surprise that this area of expertise has resulted in some of the more interesting documents of “punk” music from his Alternative Tentacles label, resulting in absolute classics from the Butthole Surfers, Flipper, The Crucifucks, Alice Donut, Victim’s Family, Phantom Limbs, and many more. Yet among all those well-known groups lurk some overlooked monsters. I found this CD reissue of this Hungarian band’s 1988 and 1990 LPs for a measly dollar in a cutout bin years ago and it’s easily one of my favorite records from the entire AT catalog. With over an hour of wild, tranced-out heavy psych glazed with shamanistic howls echoing at High Rise/Mainliner levels in the blissed out format of krautrock disciples like Wooden Shjips, this disc continues to get better—and weirder—with age. Although the Neurot label had the good sense to put out Dancing with the Sun in 2000, these early records have yet to garner the praise they deserve and have remained out of print for quite some time.

Galloping Coroners – Jumping Out The World+ CD (94.1MB Zip file)

Galloping Coroners website
Galloping Coroners on MySpace
Galloping Coroners page at Neurot Recordings

Jack O Nuts

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Raw Candle Vote / Antonin Artaud 7″
Radial Records, 1993

A number of factors may explain why this Athens postpunk outfit never got the respect they deserve. It was easy to confuse them with Jaks, another excellent band in the mid-nineties that mined similarly angular, bass-driven noise rock alá The Jesus Lizard. Their name could also be confused with Tim Kerr’s (Big Boys, Poison 13, Monkeywrench, Lord High Fixers, etc) mid-90s project Jack O’ Fire. Or perhaps all the accurate but dismissive fanzine reviews describing them as a Jesus Lizard with a female singer didn’t appeal to the unwashed, male-centric indie masses who were still dealing with the Riot Grrl backlash. Whatever the reason, it’s a damn pity because they definitely had a unique take on the tense, mangled-but-regimented sound that cropped up in the 1990s underground. The good news is that their two LPs are relatively easy to find, so if you dig this great single — which includes a solid Bauhaus cover — you can easily score some more Jack O Nuts.


Jack O Nuts – “Raw Candle Vote”
Jack O Nuts – “Antonin Artaud” (Bauhaus)


Jack O Nuts on Built on A Weak Spot
Jack O Nuts on Beyond Failure

Jay Reatard

Sunday, February 14th, 2010


It’s been a month since the Memphis garage maestro died and I’m still recalling all the raging records he left behind. I remember the first time I heard The Reatards, blown away by the intensity and freshness he brought to the safe, conventional confines of the garage punk scene. Jay really took it to the next level and influenced a whole generation of in-the-red ragers as a mere teenager. He continued to evolve and was never afraid to push into new territory, as demonstrated with the darkwave synthpunk of the Lost Sounds, or the jerky, angular postpunk of Nervous Patterns and Angry Angles. Even his last solo release, Watch Me Fail, the most polished and commercial album of his career, his masterful combination of KBD-style primitive punk and classic pop tweaked convention enough to make his music his own distinct beast. It’s ridiculous how many quality releases the guy had under his belt. It may have seemed like overkill at the time, but ya gotta be thankful for the massive back catalog he left behind without even reaching 30. Here are a few of my favorites…


The Reatards – “Blew My Mind”
The Reatards – “Sick When I See”
The Reatards – “Teenage Hate”

Final Solutions – “Eye Don’t Like You”

Nervous Patterns – “Beautiful Brutal”

Angry Angles – “Apparent-Transparent”

Lost Sounds – “Dark Shadows”
Lost Sounds – “You Don’t Know Remote Control”
Lost Sounds – “Black Flowers”

Iowa Beef Experience

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Jubilix / Nitro Burning Funny Cow 7″
Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1991

From where else but Iowa City, Iowa could such a burly ass sludge punk band named Iowa Beef Experience go ripping into early-nineties grunge obscurity? Actually, IBX did have a bit of clout in the pre-Teen Spirit world of grunge, with an interview in Maximum Rock ‘n Roll and an LP released on the London-based Vinyl Solution record label. In 1991 they may well have been the best-known punk band from Iowa, despite the fact that Iowa had, and has always had a pretty healthy little scene. Learn a more about it from previous posts here and here, or from The Secret History of the Cedar Valley wiki site here. Anyway, IBX had a fairly unique take on the pigfuck genre, namely with some of the gnarliest growling vocals you’ll ever hear, and a gut-rumbling guitar sound that can only gurgle up from the deepest depths of the rural midwest. This 45 is their best release, featuring forceful, antagonistic riffs and a floor-rumbling production that some of their other releases lack.


Iowa Beef Experience – “Jubilix”
Iowa Beef Experience – “Nitro Burning Funny Cow”

Medusa Cyclone

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Mr. Devil CD
Third Gear, 1998

Have a taste for dark, atmospheric, spaced-out trance rock? Then you need to aquaint yourself with the out-of-this-world tunes of Detroit’s Keir McDonald, aka Medusa Cylone. This relatively unheard classic from the late ’90s is essential listening, with a slight krautrock influence, warm analog electronics, and layers of ethereal effects-laden guitar. And where many similar-minded groups tend to get a bit monotonous from setting up a nice repetitive groove, Mr. Devil never gets boring as its songs are masterfully constructed to expand and contract and pull the listener in with an unending palette of pulsating exotic guitar, heavily-processed samples, and other sinister aural oddities. If your iPod is full of tracks from Loop, Hawkwind, Spacemen 3, F/i, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, or even the sample-happy urban sonic decay of Illusion of Safety or tense clang of Sonic Youth’s quieter moments, chances are this album will be of interest to you.


Medusa Cyclone – “The Smith Can”
Medusa Cyclone – “Invisible World”


Medusa Cyclone on MySpace

Helios Creed

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The Warming / Your Spaceman 7″
Amphetamine Reptile, 1991

No self-respecting blog with the word “noise” in its title would lack at least some mention of one of the most mind-blowing noise-centric brainfry guitar gurus ever to drift across this mortal coil. Grandiose introductions aside, the contributions, or more accurately, distortions, to the rock music form that Helios Creed made starting from the late 1970s are nothing short of legendary. And while his radically inventive work in Chrome rightly overshadows his long and prolific solo career, the slew of releases he cranked out throughout the 1990s are worth taking a closer look at. Some of my favorites came out in the early part of the decade, after his first tinny and weaker solo records X-rated Fairy Tales and Superior Catholic Finger — both listenable, but synth-heavy and staid compared to the blown-out fuzz of his following records, starting with 1989’s The Last Laugh. This single, released between 1990’s Boxing the Clown and 1992’s Lactating Purple perfectly captures the best elements of the Helios Creed oeuvre: overblown effects-ridden guitar, synthetic alien vox, and swirling psychpunk riffs that practically ignite speaker cones.


Helios Creed – “The Warming”
Helios Creed – “Your Spaceman”

Slug (Part 3)

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Slug 7″ EP
Magnatone Records, 1990

In this final installment of the Slug singles series, we go back to a massive slab of double-density noise jams, the debut vinyl release from this legendary Los Angeles noise unit. Along with Cop Shoot Cop, they were one of the early adopters of non-traditional rock instrumentation, featuring two bassists, two guitarists, a drummer and a vocalist — a novelty that both piqued the interest of mutant rockers while also overshadowing their interesting musical ideas. Reviews of this 4-song monster often emphasized the quantity of players instead of the quality of the overall sound, reducing them to gimmicky purveyors of sludge. I never got to see them live, but other reviews reflected on the inability to effectively capture the full scope of their sound on vinyl, which I imagine would reveal a whole new level to the massive Slug experience. Still, with proper volume there’s a lot to dig from this souped-up noise rock classic. If you can’t find this somewhat hard-to-find 7″, it’s included on the CD version of their Swingers 10″ release, which I’ve seen in $1 bins from coast to coast.


Slug – “Sore Thumb”
Slug – “Painbaby”
Slug – “Freak of Nature”
Slug – “Aversion”