Meanwhile, down on the ocean beach at SST premises…
Bye bye Ladbroke Grove & Rough Trade !!
In 1982 SST continued to broaden their Hermosa / Redondo Beach label beyond its original inner core circle (Black Flag – Minutemen – Saccharine Trust) sifting peculiar talent among punk-rockers, surfers and freaks in larger LA area and even outside California. Stains, Overkill and Meat Puppets (via Thermidor label) had already been recruited the year before in ’81. Dual guitar Black Flag (on obligatory hiatus due to lawsuit) recorded phenomenal Demo ’82 which would be the central event of the year. Würm regrouped because Dukowski wasn’t allowed to play bass under Black Flag anymore. About that time Saint Vitus, the Subhumans, Dicks and Hüsker Dü (via New Alliance label) joined the SST ranks. According to signor Carducci, Bad Brains had an open offer too.
So, let’s bring Blasting Concept back in slightly different way, following a linear timeline more precisely, beginning with late ’82 / early ’83 recording activities with legendary SST house engineer and producer Spot.
Various Artists: Blasting Concept ’83 Revisited
(1) Saint Vitus – The Psychopath (from “Saint Vitus” LP 1984) A
Saint Vitus – mammoth of a band (pulled out from La Brea tar pits!) – recorded seminal self-titled album in late ’82 with Spot. The tapes were sitting on SST shelves until early ’84 waiting for the cash inflow. The album sounds immense in its primordial slowness. Saint Vitus’ inclusion was ineed a tectonic move/ment for SST camp, not immediately recognized outside LA. It took many sloth years before humble Saint Vitus started to get reappraisal, mainly through fellow bands interested in heavy rock. Nowadays they are metal kings – highly appreciated grandfathers of (millennial) Doom or so called Stoner Rock.
(2) the Dicks – Pigs Run Wild (from “Kill from the Heart” LP 1983) B+
Heavy Texan punks Dicks didn’t shy away from blues-rock and soul while playing punk rock. Early songs from their first single and live split w / Big Boys are indeed classics but this debut LP brought something else to the table beside fearlessness. “Kill From the Heart” is (flawed) masterpiece that illustrates diversity of American punk-rock bands often superficially categorized same as cheap and formulaic hard-core boybands. Although I appreciate communist slant and passionate rage of young singer Gary Floyd, sometimes I’d rather hear about “pigs” (cops), “nazis” or “klan” in a more refined way. Personally, I don’t mind “Dicks Can’t Swim” funk jam but it sounds hamfisted a little. “Kill From the Heart” was probably recorded in late ’82. Political and social activist Gary Floyd would soon leave for San Francisco… and the good ol’ boys returned home in Austin after brief Frisco scene try-out. Dicks (mk I) split up.
Indicative cover version: Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix Experience.
(3) Husker Du – Deadly Skies (from “Metal Circus” mini-LP 1983) A
“Metal Circus” was finished very early in ’83. Typical hard-core songs from yesteryear were dropped from the repertoire and the world of rock music got an almost perfect mini-LP in rushed mid-tempo, albeit heavy enough. Buzz bomb from Minneapolis invokes Cold War dread on “Metal Circus”, even more personal than collective this time around. American individualism, you know. Using Minutemen spiel it could be dubbed “Buzz and Howl Under the Influence of Cold“.
(4) the Subhumans – America Commits Suicide (from “No Wishes, No Prayers” LP 1983) B
The Subhumans, politically active band from Canada, drove south from Vancouver bringing along spirited and moderately melodic take on old school punk-rock. It was not that dissimilar to the sound of their fellow citizens D.O.A., maybe a bit lighter. Their second full length album “No Wishes, No Prayers” was recorded in late ’82 or early ’83 with partialy changed line-up capturing original group’s last gasps. There was only one “No Wishes, No Prayers” pressing because the Subhumans had already split up before SST managed to put it out.
Indicative cover version: Screwed Up by Menace.
(5) Minutemen – Little Man with the Gun in His Hand (from “Buzz or Howl…” EP 1983) A
“Buzz or Howl…” was recorded in two sessions: 01/83 and 05/83. Beloved caffeinated Californian leftist punks of the first order were enamored with politically charged UK art punk. More so than any other band related to SST. On the other hand, Minutemen were not ashamed of US arena rock that dominated their formative years too. Hard-rock moves to come (past one-off novelty trick “Project Mersh” EP) didn’t suit them. Their final album “3-Way Tie For Last” is actually an average 12″ EP stretched to a stodgy hodge-podge LP.
(6) Meat Puppets – We’re Here (from “Meat Puppets II” LP 1984) A
It took only year and a half from art/redneck hard-core punk cacophony of “Meat Puppets” (ruined by drunken/affected vocals) to this evergreen masterpiece. “Meat Puppets II” was recorded in (eternal) spring of 1983. Cock your ears and hold the breath! They are here.
(7) Saccharine Trust – Our Discovery (from “Surviving You, Always” LP 1984) A
“Surviving You, Always” is Saccharine Trust’s first LP, recorded in October ’83. Saccharine Trust didn’t care for UK stuff (music) one bit, it seems to me. These insular jazz cats were influenced by James Blood Ulmer, Beat poetry & Old Testament in equal measure. Saccharine Trust never made it, God knows why. Were they ignored (by American college radio and common punk rock fans of the day) due to “non-communicative” material lacking obvious POP hooks. Or were they just lazing around in drunken stupor too much? A hidden SST jewel. Lovely black sheep.
Indicating cover version: Peace Frog by the Doors.
(8) Husker Du – Somewhere (from “Zen Arcade” dbl LP 1984) B+
Somewhere over the rainbow? No such place on the horizon. Zen Arcade Tour de Force is still exciting conceptual double album done as a tribute to the Who (who are real rock archetypes for fucked-up childhood / upbringing). “Zen Arcade” was recorded very quickly in October ’83 as well, desperately trying to reach see-through zen state of mind with high intake of amphetamines. I totally flipped out during crossover punk-rock / speed-metal side-B while revisiting whole album for the purpose of this blog post. Mind bending stuff!
Indicative cover version (a howling scorcher!): Eight Miles High by the Byrds.
(9) Würm – 98 DA (from “Feast” LP 1985) C
Würm tapes were recorded sometime during 1983 with Ethan James and then they were bunkered. Sound of “Feast” gives off great live feel from roomy acoustics of old Radio Tokyo studio. The evil content might be a required taste. The second coming of Würm could be regarded as warming up for SWA since they broke up right after completion of this mongrel album. Just like SWA (Merrill Ward) they had theatrical singer looming above band’s uncertain future like bad omen. Simon Smallwood’s approach had more in common with lysergic madness though. “Feast” offers grotesque psychedelic hard-rock worth hearing in its entirety at least few times. Perhaps Dukowski had to vent his pent-up anger somehow.
(10) Black Flag – Nothing Left Inside (from “My War” LP 1984) B+
Recorded in December ’83 under (outstanding guitarist & SST boss) Greg Ginn’s tight reins. “My War” is exceptionally important and influential work-out recorded during Black Flag’s transient line-up still without official replacement for original bass player Dukowski. Album grade was a bit lowered just because Dukowski’s propulsive aggro playing is somewhat missed on “My War”.
Blast your mind with half an hour long alternative take: Blasting Concept ’83 (ver.)
1984 can re-start right now!
Progressive punk rockers indeed. I’ll remain impressed forever.