Featured Release Roundup: October 8, 2020
Sonic’s Rendezvous Band: Detroit Tango 12” (Svart Records) Detroit Tango takes the expansive 6-CD Sonic’s Rendezvous Band box set that came out in 2006 and whittles it down to a double LP with no repeated songs. If you aren’t familiar with SRV, they’re a Detroit band who existed from 1974 to 1980 and only released one single during that time. However, that single is a track called “City Slang” that is one of the most exhilarating pieces of Detroit rock-and-roll you’ll find. The “Sonic” in the band’s name refers to Fred “Sonic” Smith, who played guitar in the MC5, and SRV’s drummer was Scott Asheton from the Stooges, so they’re Detroit royalty. To me, their music is more streamlined than either the MC5 or the Stooges, downplaying those two bands’ soul/R&B and avant/jazz influences (respectively) and focusing on hard-edged, riff-driven hard rock. SRV, despite featuring these first-wave Detroit players, reminds me more of bands like Radio Birdman who took what those first-wavers did and took it into the punk era. While Sonic’s name is on the marquee, for me it’s Scott Asheton who makes this band. I can’t even imagine what he would sound like playing on something that sucked, and whenever his drums kick in here (and even on the live recordings the kick drum always hits you like a gut punch) it kicks everything up several notches. Detroit Tango does an admirable job of being the SRV album they never made. While it peters out a little on side four with a few weaker tracks, the bulk of this is a bonanza of riffs and rhythms, as pure an expression of rock-and-roll as you’ll find anywhere. My only complaint is that “City Slang” doesn’t appear on the record, but all that means is that you need two SRV records in your collection rather than just this one.
Fuzzy Duck: S/T 12” (Be With Records) I first came across Fuzzy Duck a few years ago when deep diving into early hard rock and psychedelia. When you’re scrolling past album after album on sites like rateyourmusic.com, Discogs, or Prog Archives, you can’t help but notice that artwork… it’s so gloriously WTF that you just have to hear what kind of music would fit that artwork. However, while the artwork might draw you in, it’s the music that will keep you coming back. Fuzzy Duck’s membership features musicians from a heap of second and third-rate psych and rock groups (Five Day Week Straw People, The Killing Floor, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown), but aside from the classic Arthur Brown track “Fire,” I like this better than anything I’ve heard from those groups. Part of that might be where it falls in the intertwined history of freakbeat, psych, prog, and blues rock. On this album I hear freakbeat’s tough, danceable rhythms, the textures of psych, the musical intricacy of prog, and the heaviness of blues rock in a balance that no one else achieved. If you like the jammed-out sounds of anything from early Cream to the Pink Fairies or Hawkwind, you should check this out. I know this isn’t the normal Sorry State fare, but I can’t take this one off the turntable.
Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan: 2019 demo 12” (self-released) Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan started in Augusta, George in the 00s, and at some point they resurfaced in Portland, where they’re still based. When they were in the southeast, I got to see them a few times and I always thought they were an underrated band. I’ve always had a taste for hardcore punk with progressive elements, and Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan has stuck with that basic idea through years of punk trends. This latest release is a one-sided 12” that features one long track. According to the band, they were writing a new album when COVID forced them to pause, so they let this piece out into the world. The track is killer. The basic foundation is crusty hardcore punk, but throughout the track gets spiced up with unexpected vocalizations, countless rhythmic changes, and interesting lead guitar work filtered through what must be an impressive collection of effects pedals. Despite the track’s length and scope, it never feels pretentious or “epic.” Like the Subhumans’ “From the Cradle to the Grave,” it hardcore punk with a lot of thought put into how the short bursts of power and speed fit together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. If you dig on groups like Crow, Grave New World, and Lebenden Toten, I urge you to help rescue this band from the “underrated” category.
The Generics: Cost Cutter 7” (Feel It) You can check Feel It’s description for a more fleshed-out version of the story, but the Generics were a teen (really, TWEEN!) punk band from the small town of Cross Lanes, West Virginia. They made a single in 1983, most of which they distributed to classmates at their JUNIOR high school. A few years ago, record collectors got hip to the Generics and word got out. Now Feel It has put together this official reissue that compiles that two-song single along with two outtakes from the same session. It’s funny that the Generics were so young, because to me they have little of the innocent playfulness I associate with very young punk bands like the ones that appeared on the No Puberty compilation we carried a few years ago. Instead, the Generics’ hard rock riffing and drawled vocals remind me more of sleazy bar-punk bands from the KBD era like La Peste, the Suicide Commandos, or the Zeros. All four tracks here are excellent, and as always with Feel It Records, the packaging leaves nothing to desire.
The Zits: Back in Blackhead 12” (Feel It) Alongside the Generics reissue, Feel It has also reissued another slice of killer KBD-era teen punk, this time from Virginia’s the Zits. Like the Generics, the Zits released a two-song single during their time as a band, to which Feel It has added several worthy outtakes to make this excellent LP. Musically the Zits couldn’t be more different from the Generics. Whereas the Generics seemed weary beyond their years, the Zits (unsurprisingly, given their name) were all about juvenile humor. The a-side of their single is about puking on people, while the b-side revels in the cartoon violence you see in Looney Tunes cartoons, the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat,” and GG Allin’s “Beat Beat Beat.” While the lyrics are silly, the music is top-notch, with great songs and melodic lead guitar indebted to the Undertones (whose “Get Over You” the Zits cover here). If you love obscure punk from the KBD era, you shouldn’t waste any time picking up both new Feel It Records releases.
Humant Blod: Flykten Från Verkligheten 7” (Desolate Records) This week’s second Atlantic Ocean-spanning band is Humant Blod, whose members are spread across New York City and Sweden. Jeff covered the background info when he chose Flykten Från Verkligheten as his staff pick back in August, but the short version is that Jesse and Mike from Extended Hell hooked up with Joe B from Fairtytale and Condominium, cooked up a batch of the ferocious d-beat hardcore they have perfected, and Poffen from Totalitar and Mattis from Dissekerad flew over to New York for a weekend to add vocals and guitar. You’d be right to have sky-high expectations given this group of musicians, but Flykten Från Verkligheten does not disappoint. This is one of the most blistering, crushing, and uncompromising records since… well, the Extended Hell LP! It’s what you want it to be in every way, a relentless onslaught of crushing heaviness. This record’s first press sold out instantly, which isn’t surprising because if you’re a hardcore fanatic you’ll need this in your collection the second you hear it. Fortunately, Desolate and Havoc are keeping it in print for those of you who are slower on the uptake.