Each month, American hardcore punk historian Tony Rettman will tell you about some new old shit to buy. Like talking to your friend at the bar, but your friend has much better and more interesting taste than you.
Over the past few years, there has been a significant uptick in music being reissued, repackaged, and reevaluated. Parallel with this phenomenon, we’ve seen music history revised in order to turn a profit.
Whether it’s the endless parade of unneeded anniversary editions or music media outlets earning a commission for giving the thumbs-up to re-ups of third-rate emo bands from the ’90s, it all results in one big festering pile of uninspired, uninformed horseshit. But if you shine a light bright enough, you’re sure to find intriguing and undiscovered artifacts among the muck; music that legitimately requires a second listen due to its historical significance. Or, you know, merely for the reason that it rocks and demands your attention.
In the mid-’60s, there were the Stonemen, who hailed from the small village of Cap-Pelé in Canada, where they gained local celebrity status due to their regular appearances on the local teen TV show Top Ten Plus. In ’67, the band released a 45 on their hometown label Maritime, a stable to such other acts as the Nova Scotia Playboys and local singing sensation Melinda Abbass. Unlike the pap country & western and teen pop Maritime was releasing, the Stonemen were purveyors of primitive psychedelia, and a reissue from the Celluloid Lunch label proves this fact. The A side, “Faded Colors,” is a blistering lurch—like Alice Cooper’s “I’m Eighteen” created three years too early in a podunk town devoid of hope. Unsurprisingly, the flip side, “In the Evening,” is similarly drenched in fuzz and desperation.
Sometimes the reissuing of an elusive release can be absolutely admirable and an obvious labor of love. Sometimes it can also be bogged down with an excessive amount of unnecessary bonus material that hinders the proceedings. Case in point: Southern Lord dispensing with Hunted Down, the sole record by upstate New York hardcore pioneers the Catatonics. When it was originally self-released by the band in 1984, Hunted Down was a five-song, seven-inch EP packed to the brim with blinding, unhinged thrash not unlike Boston’s Jerry’s Kids or Philly’s long-running punk veterans Flag of Democracy. Expanded into a full-length LP, the original material is outnumbered by unheard demo recordings and a heap of live tracks that sound like they were recorded from the mens' room of whatever VFW Hall the band was playing that day. Although the demo tracks are just as potent as anything on Hunted Down, the live material is muddy as fuck and unneeded. Perhaps the original tracks from the record were more than enough? And what’s with the lyrics section of the booklet? It looks like it was scanned at 30 dpi. After the impeccable job Southern Lord did on Neon Christ’s 1984 and Uniform Choice’s Screaming for Change, this seems a tad off the mark. I’m just sayin’...
When talking turkey about “pre-punk” bands from the U.K, names like the Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, and Third World War are usually cited, but it’s kinda rare to hear the name Stack Waddy fall from the lips of the average music know-it-all. Loud ’n’ drunken louts from up north in Manchester with a penchant for raucous and rambling Captain Beefheart covers as well as relieving themselves on stage mid-set, the band were completely out of step with the peace-and-love vibrations reverberating around the world when they formed in 1969. Unsurprisingly, famed DJ and lover of all music left-of-center John Peel signed them to his fledgling Dandelion record label for two albums: a self-titled one in 1971, and the wonderfully named Bugger Off!, released the following year. Their debut LP, recently reissued by Sundazed, is a truly grubby affair—the kinda music that reeks of stale cigs and vomit. Made up of covers ranging from Muddy Waters and Jethro Tull to the aforementioned Beefheart, the band’s talent for contorting and bashing the songs into their own bluesy, boozy, and crude creations—to the point of becoming indistinguishable from the original—is mesmerizing for those who enjoy such challenging things. Check out the band’s pile-driving take on Them’s “Mystic Eyes” for proof.
The Poison Idea reissue campaign can’t be stopped over at TKO Records, with the latest addition being a new, souped-up version of the band’s first 12-inch, Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes, now cleverly retitled as Record Collectors Are Still Pretentious Assholes. When it was released in 1985, Record Collectors... was the world’s first taste of the band since their scorching 13-song, seven-inch debut EP, Pick Your King, from two years earlier. Although the band didn’t sway from moving at the speed of sound on the 12-inch, it showcased some growth from the them sonically, with the exhilarating, stop-’n’-go pace of “Thorn in My Side,” the unexpected musicality of the pummeling “Rubber Husband,” and the caterwauling send-off of “Time to Go”—all standing as testaments to Poison Idea being more than one-trick thrash ponies. With a beefed-up mastering job and tracks from 1985 Portland hardcore compilation Drinking Is Great and Pushead’s classic Cleanse the Bacteria tacked onto the B side, it’s a handy-dandy time capsule of where Portland’s Kings of Punk were in their formative stages. Don’t snooze, chump!
If you’re looking for the soundtrack to your next chemically induced transcendental experience, I highly recommend Jackpot Record’s reissue of the sole album recorded by Ceyleib People in 1968 entitled Tanyet. Recorded by a cabal of Los Angeles session musicians such as guitarist Ry Cooder and future Eric Clapton drummer/mother murderer Jim Gordon, Tanyet might have been a studio-concoted attempt to cash in on the psychedelic pop culture boom, yet something tells me it might have been a bit too out-there for even the hippest of hippies. Through the means of studio trickery, the album collages loosey-goosey sitar-led jams, mellotron freak-outs, random bursts of classical violin, and some angular rhythms similar to the ones on a little ol’ record Cooder worked on a year earlier, Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band’s Safe as Milk. Is it a mere coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. All I can tell you is Tanyet is a timeless mindfuck of an album worthy of attention by heads young and old. Strap in and enjoy.
Possibly the most interesting archival release of the past few months has been Evil World, out on Supreme Echo, a collection of recordings made by Pharaons, a thrash band from Madagascar during the 1980s. As a fan of the arcane, spirited, and raw, Evil World scratches all my itches with its primitive musicianship and earnest sociopolitical lyrical content. However, what’s most compelling about the release is how accidently experimental the band got while working within the thrash metal framework. The decision to vacillate between a drum machine and their actual drummer Mamy was most likely done out of sheer practicality—just listen to how he struggles to keep up on “Bloody Red Book.” But it’s the tracks with the programmed beats that are the darkest—certainly the most menacing and effective—like the humid and hiccuping “Nagaski” and the densely twisted “DGDIE Are Gestapos,” fueled by a hypnotizing, militaristic drumroll. The type of racket Pharaons made is a required taste, perhaps, but there’s no way anyone could listen to this and not be intrigued.