I came across this copy of the 3 X LP box set God Bless America over at Easy Street Records when I was there for RSD Black Friday a few weeks back. What first caught my eye was the packaging – a box set inside a bag made from an American flag. A few searches later and I found out this compilation was put out in 1985 by RRRecords, a 31-song collection of experimental music. What’s surprising isn’t that I picked it up and gave it a hard look, but that I put it back without buying it. I even remarked to Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane that I showed some restraint not spending the money on something I’d probably only listen to once.
But because I’m an obsessive, I kept looking at it on Discogs, and when I woke up last Saturday morning I knew I was going back to Easy Street and buying it if it was still there. And it was. And it was marked down a few bucks, which was nice. Which is how I find myself sitting in my living room on a Saturday afternoon and busting into this box.
There were 500 copies of the vinyl release of God Bless America, with 200 of those coming in the screened flag bag. The interior boxes are themselves artworks, with only 25 copies made of each version, meaning there are eight subsets within this group of 200, and in fact they’re even numbered to reflect this – mine is “16 / 25 / 500”. The inside of each box is hand-painted as well, adding further to the uniqueness. Inside are three record and a handful of flyers and inserts. Based on the images on Discogs my copy might be missing a few, assuming that each box set contains the same inserts… which I can’t be sure of, though I do suspect that’s the case. Oh well. There are also some 2 X cassette versions of this release, though with only 21 songs the tape sets are 10 tracks shorter than the vinyl box set.
But let’s get to the important part – the music. There is some wild stuff on God Bless America. All of it experimental to a degree, but not all of it way out there. Psyclones’ “Outta My Way / Food Stamp Dub” could easily have appeared on an On-U release from the same period, a funky, groovy dub made perhaps a bit absurd by the vocal subject matter. That’s followed by the more disturbing Smersh and “The Good Life” with its discordant horns and strained, almost anguished vocals. Clearly God Bless America is one of those collections that has you wondering what’s waiting for you with each new track.
A number of these compositions flirt with Americana themes and songs. Dimthings’ “God Bless America” samples the song “God Bless America”, while Max + Mel’s “Parade With Baby” uses the “Marines’ Hymn” and, of course, Noizeclot’s “Star Spangled Strangled” uses the “Star Spangled Banner”. I’m sure there are some others I missed along the way. Plus America is specifically mentioned in the titles of a handful of tracks while others reference the Constitution (“The Bloated Constitution” by Screaming Dukduks) and phrases like “One Nation Under God” (by Blackhouse). We even have audio from Ronald Reagan’s oath of office. So there’s a definite political take here too.
I’m finding myself enjoying God Bless America more than I expected to. I only recognized three of the artists (Smegma, Smersh, and Master/Slave Relationship), so I didn’t have much to go on. In addition to the previously mentioned Psyclones, I’m also a fan of Un-Film’s “Rhythm of Fear” and Data-Bank-A’s industrial dance jam “Is God a Monster?”. The first record was more chill and dreamy; the second more agitated and industrial (especially the closing track by Blackhouse – holy hell that thing is nuts); the third is, well… weirder than the other two. I can’t full explain that last part, you’re just going to have to take my word for it. I feel like I’ll play the first record from time to time, though honestly I’m not sure about the other two.