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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.

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DC3’s Liftoff

17 Oct

Yeah that’s right – it’s the other SST band you love to hate.

DC3 was Dez Cadena’s ill-fated post BLACK FLAG gig wherein he was matched with ex-SCREAMERS keyboardist Paul Roessler, then just outta his tangled TWISTED ROOTS. Four albums, a handfull of tours (I saw em open for FIREHOSE and THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS in downtown LA in ’87), a pantload of gtr solos, and a 100-car long boogie train. How could it ever go wrong?

Their 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th records – yes, I admit it – all had serious drawbacks. The almighty boog showcased on The Good Hex LP would’ve been compelling if it had been played by an imaginative rhythm section (it wasn’t), while Dez’ open-hearted love songs seemed at odds with Paul’s wild OffBroadwayisms found on the schizo You’re Only as Blind as Your Mind Can Be LP. The final, live Vida LP ain’t all that bad I guess, but hey . . . today we come to pay homage to their first LP. The original. The best. The one that stills stands tall with you/me today.

DC3

This Is The Dream (SST Records, 1985) far and away, tops them all. This is DC3’s choicest/most inspired collection of songs, including two tunes – “I Believe It” and “Ain’t No Time Here Now” – that the colossal 5-piece BLACK FLAG used to play regularly. But here they’re done one better: not racing hardcore but burnin’ hardrock, a bit slower/heavier and with world-weary Dez instead of manic Hank on vocals. It’s on this record that Paul’s contributions feel the most integrated, the most DC3-like; check out his great and bluesy “Twisted and Turning Inside”. It’s their best produced (by SPOT of course) and their most flowing/intuitive mix of rockin’ & sounds.

Criticisms? Really, I don’t have many. I don’t think others would’ve either, if they’d bothered to listen to it more than once back in ’86 or whenever. True, this record woulda benefited by the presence of an actual bassist, like Kira. While Paul’s left hand does do admirably, it feels a little less than grounded at points. But this is the only LP outside OVERKILL’s amazing Triumph of the Will to include Kurt Markham, one of the mightiest drummers in the entire SST extended family. Totally unlike the tight, snare-precision he demonstrated on the OVERKILL LP, here Kurt takes a loose but wide-ranging approach, channelling both the heavy AND lighter aspects of BLACK SABBATH drummer Bill Ward. He wipes himself all in/around this rec, as if attempting to get down there and into the void left by the lack of bass gtr. I coulda used a dozen different records with him playing in a dozen different styles (he’s clearly capable) – but, sadly, after this he shut out the lights on rockin’.

The vast majority of beefs levelled then/now can be distilled to the fact that egads! Dez ain’t a punker no more! He’s honestly playing heavy boogie-blues rock! The shame! The horror! This bummed out lame losers who couldn’t possibly comprehend the worth of a ROBIN TROWER LP – let alone a SAVOY BROWN rec – in ’85. But to the few who bothered (FATSO JETSON’s Mario Lalli and THE MELVINS’ Buzzo come to mind) Dez & co. were/are equated with A LITTLE BIT OF AURAL HEAVEN. We agree, we agree.

All you stoner rock dudes out there, do take note: at this stage DC3 really were vying for the KingsofSoCalHeavyRock crown with nobody else but SAINT VITUS. Yeah ok, maybe with CIRITH UNGOL too. If only Kurt had stayed in the fold . . . if only Spot had stayed in SoCal . . . if only . . . if only . . .

DC3“Ain’t No Time Here Now” (apologies for the sudden end cut)
DC3 “Twisted and Turning Inside”