Modern Industry: Man in Black 7” (1983, Toxic Shock)
I have a soft spot for records in less than perfect condition. While I have accumulated plenty of minty records over the years, I kind of prefer the ones that don’t feel like they’ve been sealed in a vault for decades. I like my records to feel lived-in a little, to have some personality. I have so many records with missing and tattered sleeves, radio call letters, and other “defects” that would drive some collectors mad, but these flaws make me love them even more, especially when it means I could pick up the record for a bargain price. Recently someone posted a small collection of hardcore records on Discogs saying that the jackets had heavy wear and radio call letters but the vinyl looked great. The list included a few important wants, so I jumped on the deal. It turns out that all the records came from the library of WTJU, the college radio station at the University of Virginia, the state where I grew up.
The lot of records included a few really cool originals whose music I already knew, but I took chances on some cheaper items too. This 7” from California’s Modern Industry was one of the chances, and I think it paid off. If you read the stuff I write for Sorry State, you’ll know I have a taste for hardcore punk that’s a little odd or quirky, and Modern Industry fits that bill. At their core, the four songs here are death rock-infused punk that’s of a piece with Christian Death’s first album, 45 Grave, Legal Weapon, or the Burning Image 7” that Going Underground reissued a few months back. It’s about 20% death rock, 80% SoCal hardcore, and that’s a mix that’s close to perfect to my ears.
Where Modern Industry deviates from the formula, though, is their use of some very odd keyboard sounds. The keyboards aren’t on every track, but when they appear they lend the recording an extra dash of spookiness. A gearhead could tell you how they achieved this sound, but it’s not one I’m used to hearing in punk or death rock… it sounds like a 60s Hammond organ through one of those rotating Leslie speakers. It sounds old and weak, like it could break down at any second. The whole recording is raw, but the keyboard sounds extra rickety. In contrast to the grand theatrics of bands like the Damned, if Man in Black was a movie, it would be an Ed Wood, no-budget production.
While I don’t recall hearing Modern Industry before picking up this 7”, interestingly enough after the band broke up 3/4 of the members formed the Abandoned with Tony Adolescent, whose Killed by Faith I chose as my staff pick a year and a half ago. Drummer Mark Duda also played in the Flower Leperds, another favorite with a similar sound. I guess if my research skills were better I would have heard Modern Industry years ago, but finding a cool record in this haphazard way is a lot more fun.