Shatterbox: Strung Out on the Line 12"

Shatterbox: Strung Out on the Line 12"

Tags: · 70s · clearance · garage · melodic · power-pop · reissues · spo-default · spo-disabled
Dig Records
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DIG! Records Archeological Division presents Strung Out on the Line, the all but lost private press powerhouse LP from SHATTERBOX.

The band formed in 1979, at a major and sketchy (read: majorly sketchy) generational crossroads for what threatened to be the last gasp of Rock’n’roll in the ‘70s, and the shaky-new directions it’d take in the ‘80s. Recorded in their Seattle basement, the band utilized a mobile studio unit ala a low-rent D.I.Y. Exile Main on St., and self-released the album on New Year’s Day 1981 in an unknown – or, at least now forgotten – quantity, and in an array of handmade album art designs: stencil and spray paint; paste-on Xerox cutout; and bare-white factory sleeves, SHATTERBOX never followed standard operating procedures and Strung Out on the Line captures the band’s wild and ragged original sound and style in full.

Newly restored and re-mastered by David Eck from the original quarter-inch reels and housed in properly printed jackets with liner notes displaying the numerous versions of album art and an oral history from the band’s sole surviving member, Richard Pleasant, this LP is finally receiving the presentation it deserves – now, nearly forty years down the line.

Rocketing through twelve brash and energetic cuts of exuberant Punk Rock and raw Power Pop, the album sonically falls somewhere between THE HEARTBREAKERS, NERVOUS EATERS and either –or, better yet – both iterations of THE GIZMOS. Archetypal subject matter ranging from Sex to Drugs and onto Rock‘n’roll are all addressed on tracks like “Anytime”, “Got To Have It”, “Dance Tonight”, “Just Can’t Help It”, “Go Down” and “Brand New Girl” – typically all in the same song! More complex themes surface on a Proustian examination of time (“Time”) and the quantifiable burden of modern life (“Too Much Traffic”), while the band’s own creative force can be summed up by the chorus to “Pop City”: Ain’t nothin but a rock song. Ain’t nothin but a pop song. Ain’t nothin but a punk song. So whose doin right or wrong?

Strung Out on the Line is an unlikely album for rediscovery, given its diamond in the rough mystique – the precious few remaining copies fetch hundreds in collector circles – but fortunately for today’s rocker, there’s no expiration date on the musical contents contained herein. SHATTERBOX made their own way, shirking record industry conventions and sidestepping the musical trends touted by their Hardcore Punk and New Wave peers, to create something at once their own, and now ours again.


Our take: Official reissue of this private press power-pop obscurity from 1981 Seattle. Power-pop can mean a lot of different things to different people, and Shatterbox offer a particular take on it… rather than the polished pop of bands like the Cars or the Nerves, they’re more on the trashy, Stones / Dolls-influenced end of the spectrum, but with a pop sensibility that’s more early Lennon/McCartney than Jagger/Richards. I was listening to this in the store and Jeff noted that it reminded him a lot of the Exploding Hearts, which I can definitely hear on tracks like “Dance Tonight,” “Too Much Traffic,” and “Anytime” (which seems to borrow the main riff from the Beatles’ version of “The Hippy Hippy Shake”). For me, there are two dangers with this kind of power-pop: that it gets to sappy / syrupy or the band just doesn’t have the songwriting chops to deliver real hooks. Shatterbox have neither of these problems. Strung Out on the Line is exactly the type of raw, catchy, and aggressive music that you’re looking for when you head down the rabbit hole of private press late 70s / early 80s power-pop, and if you’re a fan of that style this is well worth checking out.