Suicide Commandos – “Make A Record” (1978)

suicidecommandosmakearecordI’m not going to be able to tell you anything new about Minneapolis’ Suicide Commandos or their debut LP, Make A Record.  For whatever reason I’m only just now getting around to listening to them for the first time, having found a nice copy of this at the outdoor record fair in Brooklyn last month.  And it’s killer.  First generation sped-up-rock-n-roll-style punk; sharp, angular, and deliberate.

I’m closer to 50 than to 40 these days, and I’m still “discovering” stuff that’s decades old and blows my mind.  This makes me both excited and a bit melancholy.  Excited because I know it’s still possible to capture that feeling you get when the first listen to something just blows you a way.  And a bit sad because, man, there just isn’t enough time to find and listen to it all.  Oh well.  Enough of that.  Time to go play some more records…

Blacklight Braille – “Electric Canticles of the Blacklight Braille” (1981)

So this is… um… wait, let me start over.

Electric Canticles of the Blacklight Braille is a lot like… well, kinda… OK, maybe not so much that but…

Look, this thing is weird, OK?

Blacklight Braille are a collective from Cincinnati, one that often records with somewhere around ten members.  Electric Canticles of the Blacklight Braille was their first album, one recorded not in a studio, but at the Sargent Tool and Manufacturing Company.  In addition to the typical suite of instruments and electronics, other instrumentation listed includes metal drill, metal saw, grinder, and claw hammer.  On the jacket reverse the band refer to themselves initially as “fringe rock”, but then go on to suggest that perhaps just “fringe” is more accurate.

On this last point I agree.

There are portions of this record that I flat-out dislike.  There are others that I find completely and absorbingly captivating (generally those without vocals).  It’s an insane collection and amalgamation of sounds and voices.  At times rock, at times avant garde, at times electro-industrial in the truest sense of the genre by combining electronics and actual industrial tools.

Bottom line is this is some strange stuff, and you’d be best served by experiencing it for yourself.  I think the below is one full side.  Enjoy, and good luck.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Hórmónar – “Nanananabúbú” (2018)

We first encountered Hórmónar at Iceland Airwaves in 2016.  They were fresh off their win at Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s annual “Battle of the Bands”, a competition that has launched some pretty decent careers over the last decade or so.  We were in a small club and this was one of their first live performances.  You could tell that they were a bit nervous, but also see that they were having a lot of fun.  We enjoyed their hard rock stylings and vowed to keep tabs on them.

Fast forward one year later and nervousness and swinging hair were gone, replaced by a heavy dose of swagger and L7-like intensity.  Gone too was that hard rock sound, replaced by something that was both more punk and more metal at the same time.  The photographic evidence is below.  I’ll let you make the call (top – 2016; bottom – 2017):

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The band’s debut was a four-song self-titled EP in 2016, which they followed with a full-length in August of this year.  The 11-song Nanananabúbú includes the four tracks from the original EP, but I believe all four were completely re-recorded for their latest effort.  The entire album has an insistent quality to it, a sort of underlying anxiety like a band that has so much they want to play for you but they’re afraid if they don’t get it out there quickly they might somehow lose the whole thing, like trying to hold onto a fistful of sand and watching as it runs through your fingers no matter how hard you try to keep a grip on it.  Highlights include the alternating passion and gloom of “Költ”, the stripped-down rocker “Kynsvelt”, and the oddly playful “Glussi”.

Nanananabúbú was released on CD as a limited edition of 100, but I haven’t seen that offered for sale anywhere so my guess is they’re long since sold out.  But have no fear, because you can still get the album via digital download from the Hórmónar Bandcamp page HERE.  While that is my format of last resort, I still broke down and purchased a digital copy because that’s how good it is.

When Thunder Comes – “Eyes of the Wolf” (1987)

wtc1It was the Post-It note on the front cover of Eyes of the Wolf that first caught my attention. “Front Cover Rocks, Back Cover Sucks”.  Which meant I had to at least look at the back cover.  And I’m not here to talk crap…. because look, if you’re of a certain age, you can probably go back in time and look at a photo of yourself from 20-30 years ago and cringe.  And, well, because I had a haircut very similar to the one the guy with the mustache was sporting.

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As for the rest of the Post-It, calling Eyes of the Wolf “gothy post-punk” is stretching it a bit.  “Elevator” may get close, but the whole thing is probably closer to new wave that arrived a bit too late, being pressed in the era of hair metal and just prior to the rise of grunge.  Such is life.

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When Thunder Comes were originally known as Mission, and they put out a pair of albums prior to Eyes of the Wolf – 1983s The Last Detail and 1986s When Thunder Comes, the latter of which they later took as the name of the band.  This gives us a bit more insight into their new wave sound, as they clearly can trace their origins back to the genre’s popularity apex.  Interestingly when looking at the insert for Eyes of the Wolf it appears that the songs themselves cover wide period, with writing dates ranging from 1980 to 1986.  That probably explains when it feels like the whole thing doesn’t have a stylistic center.

Capital Punishment – “Roadkill” (1982 / 2018)

An experimental band comprised of high school students in New York City in the early 1980s.  Four young guys experiencing a widening range of music and the shooting-star-like no wave scene.  What they lack in talent the make up for in their willingness to experiment, and eventually in 1982 the put out an album that pretty much no one buys, and after high school they go their separate ways and have some pretty successful careers.

  • One gets his undergrad from Yale and PhD from the University of Chicago and is today a professor specializing in German and Czech literature, teaching a the University College London
  • One gets his undergrad from Berkley, then his JD from the University of Maryland, and is today a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court
  • One is a descendent of the family responsible for designing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and is a documentarian and musician
  • One became Derek Zoolander

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It’s probably the last guy who people know best.  I speak, of course, of Ben Stiller.

Captured Tracks has been working on re-releasing this forgotten nugget of oddness since 2015, and it finally hit the shelves last month.  And it’s pretty damn weird.  There’s a definite avant-gardeness to it, with elements of electronica, jazz, rock, and even sampling thrown in for good measure.  I’m not sure what I’d compare it to.  Zappa?  Beefheart?  Butthole Surfers?  Zeppelin? (OK, definitely not Zeppelin)  It’s more of a musical collage than a coherent album, a hodge-podge of sounds and ideas.  Sure, it’s a bit amateur, but that’s a big part of the charm – at least every single track is interesting if nothing else.

Rolling Stone did a good interview with Stiller and former bandmate Kriss Roebling (the documentarian) HERE that gives some good background on the project.  The red vinyl version is limited to 500 copies, and I believe both versions come with an eight-page booklet and a download card that includes two bonus tracks.  The booklet is particularly cool because it includes reminisces from each of the band’s four members.