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Spike In Vain: Disease Is Relative 12"

Spike In Vain: Disease Is Relative 12"


Tags: · 80s · hardcore · hcpmf · weird
Vendor
Scat Records
Regular price
Sold out
Sale price
$23.00

The cover art by the band’s Chris Marec tells nearly everything one needs to know about this album: a misshapen, CHUD-like figure wanders in a graveyard bearing a cross, while a mutated fish flops in a polluted ditch and a clutch of factories belch their smoke above it all. The message of the illustration is not to frighten or warn, but to celebrate and admire.
Originally released in January of 1984, Disease Is Relative is an unapologetic and wholesale embrace of death, disease, and dystopia, with liberal doses of absurdism and an unrelenting devotion to anything unexpected, chromatic, or evil sounding. Sporting influences as diverse as no wave, death rock, funk, post-punk, hardcore, metal, and prog rock, this music somehow happened in the midst of a first wave hardcore scene, before there was a “post-” to be “post” of. Less surprising is that this happened in Cleveland, which also inspired a desire to recreate the feeling of the city’s post-industrial desolation in sound. There’s also some epic screaming and crazy guitar playing.
The album features three songwriters (brothers Andrew & Chris Marec, Robert Griffin), who also divide guitar, bass, and vocals equally between themselves here. Drummer Bruce Allen is the secret weapon, and provides a clue to what a young Bill Bruford might have done in a band like this. And yet, beyond all odds, the end result is cohesive, cathartic, and utterly idiomatic. The distinct vibe of the album, and its sheer quantity of killer riffs, songs and performances have made it an album that people have championed over time, while others have come to know it through the interwebs as a result.


Our take: Disease Is Relative is the only official, stand-alone Spike in Vain vinyl release that came out during the group’s original lifespan, appearing on the (band-operated?) Trans Dada label in 1984. Disease Is Relative is, for me, one of the great unheralded punk albums of the 80s. While its 1984 release date places it at the tail end of hardcore’s explosion, it sounds like the product of a brief moment when arty bands like Saccharine Trust and the Flesh Eaters made records that we can classify, at least broadly, as hardcore. The people in these bands seemed like they wrote poetry outside of school assignments, and these artist types saw hardcore’s loud, fast, and angry sound as an intriguing possibility or a color on their palette rather than a set of rules. Eventually the meatheads took over and these artists made their way into more open-minded scenes, but before that happened, many of them made records that sounded like hardcore records, but not just hardcore records, and Disease Is Relative is one of the best of those. On every level, it delivers more than I expect from a hardcore record, whether you’re talking about the brilliant, evocative lyrics (“God on Drugs?” Fuck!) or the music itself, which borrows the rhythmic inventiveness of post-punk bands like Gang of Four (“E.K.G.”) and the compositional complexity of 70s art rock. Somehow, it accomplishes all this without sacrificing the explosivity that is a strict requirement of hardcore. If you don’t have this record already and you love albums like Saccharine Trust’s Paganicons and the Minutemen’s What Makes a Man Start Fires?, you need to buy this now. You’ll thank me later, I promise.