Blasting Minds

19 Jul

So you wanna talk about redefining rock LPs of the 1980′s? Ya just gotta include THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II in there, chief. Anyone who hoped those “difficult” mid-period BLACK FLAG and SACCHARINE TRUST records were just a fluke couldn’t deny that, by 1985, SST Records had undergone a complete and total aesthetic overhaul. The HC punk had become heavy, found hippie, turned jazzy, gone fishin’ and then . . . well, kids everywhere were shaking their heads in utter disbelief. This just wasn’t what they wanted their oh-so precious punk rock to sound like. Ever.

THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II encapsulated those revelatory changes, and suggested a dozen more. It was a bold, powerful, collective artistic statement that directly challenged unexamined musical prejudices throughout punk & underground scenes at the time. While the first BLASTING compilation merely corralled previously released material on a handy 12″, most of this stuff never turned up anywhere else, making it primary SST documentation. Yes it’s got the most boring cover in SST’s early annals; but do check out the original, unused Pettibon artwork in the backpages of Joe Carducci’s Rock & the Pop Narcotic – a very different graphic representation to ponder when cracking an ear to this aural wonder. Blow by blow, it’s

SAINT VITUS: “Look Behind You” – One of my fave early VITUS cuts. Carducci makes mention of a creeping paranoia floating around SST back then, and VITUS pins it here with a singularly leaden, dull blade. Ouch. This version beats the slightly later, Wino-led version what with more inspired vocals by Scott Reagers and superior drumming from Armando.

DC3: “Theme From an Imaginary Western” – Dez the crooner, won’t you take the mic? Oh my god, how I love this. It’s hard, heavy, and poignant – brings tears to my eyes. And these eyes don’t cry easily.

SWA: “Mystery Girl” – Not my fave SWA song, as it’s got one of them distended, disjointed riffs that clutter up their early LPs. But Merrill sounds E. Bloomin’ hot and raring to go-go-go, like he’s about to whip his dick out in front of whatever loser audience ain’t gonna be able to handle SWA this week. You might, but me? I don’t ever fast-forward past this one.

BLACK FLAG: “I Can See You” – One of the more off-kilter melodies Ginn came up with in FLAG, and when he solos I start feeling a bit woozy. But lyrically it fits the rec perfectly, as if Ginn’s responding to the VITUS track above. Who says he didn’t grow eyes in the back of his head?

GONE: “Watch the ‘Tractor” – One of GONE’s defining moments: pure metallic punk/prog mayhem bliss. A buddy of mine always maintained GONE was responsible for the very best in-store performance ever in the greater Washington DC area, which is totally believable if they sounded anything like this.

WÜRM: “Death Ride” – I am one yahoo who actually digs Simon Smallwood’s vocals and the BLUE CHEER bronco these guys saddled on their Feast LP. WÜRM were far too early in the scheme of Heavy Revival to be considered anything more than a joke. But like VOX POP, they helped reintroduce OTT metal to punkers in LA, back when you were still making excuses for owning Haysi Fantayzee records.

OVERKILL: “Over the Edge” – OVERKILL put out the best SST LP most of you never bothered with, and this singularly-great MÖTÖRHEAD bomb is an outtake from that crucial rec. Merrill’s vocals are buried which makes him sound even more feral, and drummer Kurt Markham positively murders. I can’t not bang my head hard when this one comes on.

SACCHARINE TRUST: “Emotions and Anatomy” – A short outtake from their Worldbroken live record, so it’s got Mike Watt playing bass. At the time, this kinda deep searching, exploratory sound got me thinking there were absolutely no more limits to just how far out underground rock could be taken. You younger free-rock types oughta all come pay your respects.

PAINTED WILLIE: “The Big Time” – Not a bad bit of REDD KROSS-like sneer from guys who struggled to find their voice after the brilliance of their initial Ragged Army 7″ 45. Most of their records suffer from shitty production, but as I always empathized with punkers who tried rocking it hard and heavy, no doubt I’d have paid to see em do it live if I could.

ANGST: “Just Me” – Depressive folk rock that nicely illustrates the strengths of this Bay-area band. Again I’ll maintain that this is entirely in keeping with the vibe (if not the sound) of primo SLEEPERS/NEGATIVE TREND material.

MEAT PUPPETS: “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” – I prefer the PUPS covers of “Child of the Moon” and “No Quarter” but they’re all zigzagging stripes off the very same three-legged zebra. I always laugh when Curt maintains she don’t love you anymore/ she likes my love better.

MINUTEMEN: “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love” – Here you probably figured Merrill Ward or Henry Rollins would be the first to come out of the closet with a love for VAN HALEN. Nope: it was Boon who was the real Diamond Dave aficionado all along. I love that, in true MINUTEMEN fashion, they’ve parred this back to only the 3rd verse and the hey hey heys.

HÜSKER DÜ: “Erase Today” – a great New Day Rising-era outtake. This doesn’t actually sound like much else here, but that just illustrates how distinctive these guys’ sound actually was. I’m not a huge HD fan, but this is a classic midwestern barnburner anyway you wanna cut it.

OCTOBER FACTION: “I Was Grotesque” – Lifted from the their less-than successful second LP, wherein Dukowski, Ginn, Baiza, Stevenson et al tried to FACTIONalize within the unnatural confines of the studio. They couldn’t pull it off and I admit it: I sometimes skip past this one. But I’ll always admire their impulse to take the music one step beyond.

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG: “Todo Para Mi” – A far from ideal cut to end things on, given the quality of all that came before. Me I woulda chose Tom’s cover of ANDY & THE RATTLESNAKES “Patience” which ended his own DOG LP from this same year. But really, what better man to bring down these BLASTING curtains than the hippiest, deadheadiest SST roadie of them all? Anybody who couldn’t deal would’ve given up loooong before this track; those who stayed to appreciate it no doubt went on to form all my favorite bands over the next couple decades.

——–

Paging Greg Ginn: re-release this lost treasure! It’s one that’ll blow minds, forevermore.

27 Responses to “Blasting Minds”

  1. Dave Lang July 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    OF COURSE I’m gonna be the first guy to comment on this! I was spinning this at my brother’s place a month or two back: he’s still kept his copy he bought 20 or more years back. Originally we just threw it on for 2 reasons:

    1) To laugh at SWA

    2) To hear DC3′s awesome Mountain cover (after having just spun the original from a newly-purchased Mountain reissue my bro picked up that day)

    …and we found ourselves playing the whole thing through, from start to finish. I care what no man says, you nailed it right on the head: this is a great line-in-the-sand benchmark for u/ground US rock in the ’80s. SO MUCH of the music from the time was still caught up in haircuts and Limey worship that the idea of turning a generation of punkers onto ’70s heavy metal, psych, stoner-boogie and free jazz was a brave move. Not sure if it paid off (financially) in the long run, but I for one admire such a brave move.

  2. mrowster July 19, 2008 at 1:15 pm #

    I admire it too. Here’s hoping some enterprising young label (hint, hint) will take up the monumental challenge of negotiating a reissue of this.

  3. mark July 19, 2008 at 5:45 pm #

    SST made a lot of money off of me from this one! I bought releases by every band on it! DC3′s track, at the risk of sounding really corny, saved my life for two REALLY bad years in a crappy Virginia High School. Seriously. Mike, you’re right on about St. Vitus’s track. It’s a high water mark for that great band. I’ve always felt that every track represents a high point for all bands included, ‘cept the Minutemen’s track. For some reason that one has always felt like a toss off to me. What a great fucking record. What great fucking memories. Row, you rule!

  4. Steve July 19, 2008 at 8:45 pm #

    Is Over the Edge really an out-take? It’s one of my top 10 SST favourites!

  5. mrowster July 19, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    Steve: Well I’m making an educated guess here. The band with Merrill singing was together for only like a year and a half; they couldn’t have hit the studio more than a couple of times. And that cut sure wasn’t made by the early, weaker line-up who recorded the Hell’s Getting Hotter EP.

  6. mrowster July 19, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    Mark: Thanks man. Yeah I’ll bet these guys’ music helped a lot folks through horrible high school experiences. There just wasn’t much else around of real substance to cling on to back then.

  7. Dave Lang July 20, 2008 at 1:23 am #

    I’ve been hassling Greg about reissuing a few things from the label, but… we’ll see. Certainly no promises there. I don’t want to jinx my chances by really even discussing it!

  8. mark July 20, 2008 at 2:29 am #

    The other day, I was walking home from work, listening to Dinosaur Jr., and it dawned on me that the reason I was not so impressed with the big Nirvana hit was that I’d heard it before, e.g. a lot of the SST stuff. I guess that’s just a platitude at this point, but still, come on Wurm or Cobain? Overkill or STP? No f’in contest at all. SST was there way before. I guess Carducci’s covered it all ad nauseum.

  9. Dave Lang July 20, 2008 at 4:36 am #

    The whole “grunge” broohaha was nothing but recycled SST sounds from 5 years previous (Flag/Huskers/Pups/Vitus/etc.) mixed up w/ a bit of Scientists/Wipers/Sabbs/etc. No secret there! I’d rather jump off a bridge than listen to a Stone Temple Pilots album, though I’ll take Nirvana over Wurm any day of the week. I mean… let’s keep some perspective here!

  10. mrowster July 20, 2008 at 7:53 am #

    So WÜRM + THE PIXIES = NIRVANA?

  11. mark July 20, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Nah, I gotta say I’d rather listen to Wurm. More interesting, to me. Dead Hippie’s lyrics and persona appeal to me more than Cobain. Just my bias, though. It’s probably a California thing. I’ve been known to have worse taste than that even. Wanna come over and dig some Keith Jarrett? But, yeah, I agree that mass marketing of the kind that fueled “Grunge” ripped off the likes of SST et al. It was kind of shitty to see Ginn play a few weeks ago to 20 people, while those that have made huge profits in his wake with retreads play to thousands. That’s life, though. I figure he makes a lot of dough off the Flag back catalog. It turns out that my copy of BC2, which I last had on cassette, was given away along with two trash bags FILLED with other cassettes in an effort to please my wife’s need for order. Gonna Amazon that shit, pronto. You guys………

  12. Steve July 20, 2008 at 8:02 pm #

    Actually I wasn’t suggesting you were wrong about Over the Edge (I’ve no idea either way) – it was more an expression of astonishment that something so fantastic might have been a left-over!

  13. nazz nomad July 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    The DC3 Mountain cover was a mind blower when this came out. As was the Minutemen’ VH cover. And we dug the shit out of the Painted Willie too.

    I was on the SST mailing list during this period (Hey – college actually had a benefit) and I remember getting alot of these records in the mail and wondering Whut The Fuk was going on out in Ginn-land.

  14. mark July 21, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    Make the universal sign for pot smoking.

  15. mrowster July 21, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    I think Nazz might BE the universal sign for pot smoking.

  16. Donut Duck July 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    What a coincidence – i was writing some piece up for my blog and some friend pointed me to yours.
    I am running an SST blog if that matters and The Blasting Concept will get posted soon.
    Thanks!

    DD

  17. mrowster July 24, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    Donut: Nuts. If my SST-fixation doesn’t turn off a lot of people, yours will drive em outta their skulls! Good luck, mate.

  18. Lisa B-K July 25, 2008 at 3:43 am #

    Oh, Wurm.

    I played “I’m Dead” to effing death on my radio show after discovering their 7″ in the bin while I filed records at Cheapo Records in St. Paul, MN (ironically the same store the Husker Du guys hung out at) in 1989. Wurm!

  19. Joe July 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm #

    I’m late on this one but yeah, this album was a big release for me back then. I always thought it was such a low-budget thing that I didn’t know anyone else was impressed. The track that blew me away when I heard it for the first time “emotions and anatomy”. When Baiza got to that whole “becasue the world is PERVERSE” bit, I think entire genres of music instantly just became acceptible for me to enjoy.

    One other thing…about SST pre-dating grunge and Sub Pop. Everything said is true but its also worth mentioning their actual participation (as opposed to their influence) in early grunge with the Soundgarden, Screaming Trees and Das Damen releases. For a brief time there it was like there were 2 grunge labels but Ginn understandably lost interest.

  20. mark July 25, 2008 at 6:19 pm #

    Good point, Joe. I guess for me Sub Pop et al kinda focused more on image than musical thought. They make a lotta money off of it, so there you go. The world IS perverse. Thanks for the clarity, Jack Brewar!

  21. mrowster July 25, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    Lisa: Do CENTAUR sound anything like WURM?

  22. Lisa B-K July 28, 2008 at 12:18 am #

    Centaur? Like Wurm?

    Oh, HELL NO.

    CD recorded by Keith Cleversley (Mercury Rev, Hum, Flaming Lips, all from the early 90s), which should tell you quite a bit.

    I like it all!

  23. Lisa B-K July 28, 2008 at 5:57 pm #

    Just had to correct myself – Keith did NOT do Mercury Rev’s records – that’s Dave Fridmann, I think.

  24. BZ June 6, 2009 at 3:14 am #

    I picked this up on vinyl last summer for about $5. The DC3 track is my fave. Didn’t realize until after that it was a Mountain cover. I’m not too familiar with them.

    One of the instrumentals towards the end is pretty horrid. Either October Faction or Tom Trocolli’s Dog?

    Overall, a decent comp.

  25. Felice March 24, 2011 at 4:00 am #

    I’ll give you guys some info on “Over The Edge” It was recorded with the rest of the Triumph of the Will songs. Just somehow it was omitted from the LP, and ended up on the Blasting Concept Comp.

    • mrowster March 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

      Felice: thanks for clarifying this for us, it’s a an absolutely amazing cut, just like the entire Triumph Of The Will LP. Is it true Merrill’s vocals were overdubbed a couple years after the rest of it was recorded?

      • Felice Lococo January 29, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

        Overdubbed? As far as I know Merrill did all the vocals on the SST releases. He was in the process of doing the vocals 1982, when the shit started hit the fan, and was booted. The record was then shelved for 2 or 3 years. He went back in to the studio and completed the record in 1984-1985. Sorry for the late reply to this.

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