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GreateSST Hits

7 May

No, this is not the start of a new SST Records-related series of posts. It’s just today’s fleeting desire to gab about a few nearenuf, shouldabeen, honest-to-god almost hits from the SST RECORDS family, ca. world domination period (’86-’92). Yeah you probably cried sell-out back then, but in 2008, with 20-20 hindsight? Well listen again:

1. DOS – “Taking Away the Fire” – (Dos LP, New Alliance Records, 1986) The early DOS song you’d hear spun the most on LA’s KXLU radio, probably since it’s got vocals. The wiggly, prog bass harmonics were totally haunting & singular ringing out amidst the bland sea of tunes by THE CULT and SISTERS OF MERCY they was pushing hard back then. And I’ve always interpreted the lyrics as Kira struggling to come to terms with her drastically less intense, post-BLACK FLAG existence. I admit I was one of the last to truly get the awesome power of DOS, but once I did . . .

2. ANGST – “Some Things (I Can’t Get Used To)” (Mending Wall, SST Records, 1986) Frank Fucking Black covered this, but forget about that for a sec. ANGST was this cool mid-80’s SF trio whose strummin’ sound harkened back to mid-60’s political folkrock as often as their vocals summoned up the blunted tonal palette of amazing, recently deceased Bay area bands like THE SLEEPERS and NEGATIVE TREND. All their records have a handful of rueful, biting keepers on em. This was their most serious contender in the Reagan-era, personal-is-political sadcore sweepstakes.

3. ALWAYS AUGUST – “Flatlands” (Geography EP, SST Records, 1988) Not actually a hit by any stretch but it’s the one I most-associate with these Virginia hippie jazzbos, as a pal of mine spun this rec alot back then. Dig that fretless bass! It’s the very best DEAD-inspired coalescing on a label that was infamous throughout the land for a burning, heretical DEADication. For a moment there, I actually believed this kinda freeform, barefoot sound was gonna REIGN SUPREME over the underground for the next decade. Boy, was I ever wrong. This tune along with a whole gaggle of wildly disparate, Ginn-approved tunage can also be found on the quaintly-titled SST Godhead Storedude In-Store Play Device #5 cassette, freely available for public bemusement/befuddlement here.

4. GRANT HART – “2541” (2541 EP, SST Records, 1988) Out of all the early SST signings, HÜSKER DÜ interested me the least. Maybe it was because I had no line on em – they were a 1000 miles away in Minneapolis, not a 15 minute drive down PCH in Hermosa Beach. Or maybe, it was their drug choice (heroin) that rubbed my then hyper-caffeinated metabolism the wrong way. Whatever, I shied away for years – until it was just about over and bitchen solo projects like Grant’s Intolerance started to emerge (read what the astute Aussie blogger at Lexicon Devil had to say about that period here). “2541” saw Grant revisiting his early HD years via a cool, Tom Pettyesque pop rock tune that suits his ernest vocals like a homeknit sock. Me, I suspect he could’ve eventually out-Westerberged ol’ Paul, if only the music industry had cut him some slack.

5. ALL – “She’s My Ex” (Allroy’s Revenge, Cruz Records, 1989) Goofy as you may think this one-time college radio staple is/was, this comes from the very-best ALL record of alltime (Allroy’s Revenge), an LP every one of you so-called rocker types should explore in fine detail before you die. While this particular track is pure pop pabulum, the rhythmations that Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton, and Karl Alvarez get up to elsewhere on this rec are unparalleled, especially given how damn radio-friendly so many of the tunes are. And if this is just too embarrassing for you to revisit, try this: pretend singer Scott Reynolds is singing in Swahili, and this will go down like a 6:00 am whiskey flip.

6. JACK BREWER BAND – “Why Did God Create Assholes” (Harsh World, New Alliance Records, 1992) He had songs I liked better, but after a handful of beers, few punch lines sounded more right on. This was the one the audiences (ok, me) cried out for more than any other, “Dog’s Liberation” aside. And boy, Jack loved to give audiences what they loved – when he wasn’t making them feel kinda worried/uncomfortable, anyway. Saw him do this live opening for SONIC YOUTH on their Daydream Nation tour, in all his clutzy glory. He nearly brought down the house.

Thanks to lasvegashardcore for the photo