Even if I believed the good ol' days of music are over -- I don't -- I'd still manage to go broke slightly before each paycheck, living in this golden age of reissues and archival godsends. Audiophile LPs of the Stooges and Captain Beefheart catalogs! Multiple compilations of obscure Aussie DIY/punk/garage idiocy! Jerry McCain and the Upstarts singles! The hospital bill for my appendectomy!
First Album and Future Shock EP
CD reissue (Flying Nun [NZ])
1980's Future Shock EP can stand tall in the company of first singles by Black Flag, Pere Ubu, and the Minutemen, and it's better than the first Mekons single. To hell with Cream, this is my kinda power trio: great dirty bass and insistent drums pushing glass-cutting guitar and panicked vocal yelps. The album's great, too, with room to stretch out used to great ugly effect. One of the most sorely neglected bands of the '80s -- you can still be the first on your block.
I'm proud to be an American, since we're a font of flawed geniuses -- Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, the Butthole Surfers, et al. -- but being a Kiwi would make a fine second choice. For one thing, The Clean had a top-40 hit in 1981 in New Zealand with their first single, a raucous slice of indie-rock recorded on a four-track by The Tall Dwarfs' Chris Knox. Disk One of Anthology covers a mess of EPs recorded 1980-1982, and every minute is raw and playful and alive. The only thing they did wrong was to fail to record a few full albums. Disk Two covers their Who-like series of reformations and breakups from 1989 to 1996, and while it's more polished there's still plenty going on -- how can you resist a song title like "Wipe Me, I'm Lucky"?
Peter Brotzmann/Fred Van Hove/Han Bennink
CD reissue (Atavistic Unheard Music Series)
Free jazzers, art-punks and industrial creeps should have at least a passing familiarity with Herr Brotzmann. He has a reputation as a "sonic terrorist," in the words of Richard Cook, and while he's fond of severely overblown sax (the guy once broke a rib FROM THE INSIDE!) and rude titles, he's not just some punk noisenik. 1970's Balls finds him in fairly restrained mode, especially as compared to monsters like '68's Machine Gun. This is not to suggest Balls is Xanax-sax lullabies for the dentist's lobby, but the record's sound is dominated by Van Hove's stabs at the piano, and Brotzmann's sound is more wounded flurries than vicious blasts. Fans of Cecil Taylor's Unit with Jimmy Lyons should feel right at home. Bennink uses his cymbals for impressions of catfights in trash cans, with an occasional tumbling foray through the skins for good measure. This is truly inspired ache, played by musicians beyond first-rate.
Heavier Than A Death In the Family
Les Rallizes Denudes
CD (Not Group Sounds)
This CD is probably gone by the time you read these words, swallowed up into a black hole of collector-scum living rooms. But if you believe me when I say this band rules, pay careful attention -- there's bound to be another ultra-limited gray-market CD or LP in a few months. It worked for me! Rallizes was a Japanese band of the 1970s who, like the Ramones, liked to combine Ronettes melodies with big, stupid rock riffs. Unlike the Ramones, they were also really fond of 11-minute washes of grinding noise. If you've spent any time listening to High Rise or Fushitsusha, and you should, then Rallizes will sound instantly familiar to you -- strange, plaintive vocals over heavy guitars running all over the place while bass and drums provide the rock. Tremendous, so click your heels together and maybe someone will give this great music a proper reissue.
-- Chris Selvig