Saturday, June 02, 2007

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NAKED RAYGUN - Understand? LP (Caroline/1989)


What's the verdict on Naked Raygun at this stage of the game? I'm giving them an A-, which means I dig 'em a whole lot. Though not in the supremo A-grade league of obvious contenders Black Flag, Bad Brains or Minor Threat, NR released some mighty discs back in the day, and this one remains my fave. That verdict usually stumps many 'Raygun fans, since many of them didn't dig this a whole lot when it first came out. Criticised heavily for its slick sound and occasionally leaden tempos, many considered it a whitewash. Au contrare!

Sure, I'll admit the production is a bit cleaner than need be (a friend thinks this sounds like "a punk-rock Boston"), and the guitar is almost entirely washed out in a couple of tracks, it's the songs, my friend, the songs w/ the trademark killer NR hooks which make it a winner. In fact, as I browse the back cover, I've mentally noted the fact that there is not a single song on Understand? which remotely approximates a dud. Every tracks possesses that great '80s Angloid Chi-town combo of HC aggression and Brit-influenced vocal enunciation and football-club chorus chant. One of the first American HC bands to mix up their US of A roots with a few moves copped from old Joy Division and Gang Of Four platters, NR were the toast of the town for many a folk back in the '80s, praised to the skies by Albini and his posse, then they kinda sunk from trace after they called it quits.

Touch and Go has the done the public a great service in getting all their catalogue back in print, so you can once again witness and behold the great winning streak of releases the band had in the '80s: Throb Throb, All Rise, Jettison and Understand?. Not bad at all...

ENDNOTE: Naked Raygun neglected? Maybe not. Or perhaps they're just seen as hometown heroes these days. According to this video, the band sold out a 4,000-seat venue two nights in a row last year in Chicago, something they likely could never have accomplished during their peak 20-odd years ago.

OTHER GOODIES...

1) YARDBIRDS - Roger The Engineer 2CD (Repertoire)

New 2-CD version featuring both mono and stereo versions of this killer. A trainspotter's delight, but it's a cool package nonetheless. Now, I must admit confusion... what is the deal with Roger The Engineer and Over Under Sideways Down? Are they different albums? If so, ummm, why do they both appear to have the same songs?

2) MAURICE MCINTYRE - Humility In The Light Of Creator CD (Delmark)

Supremo 1969 blowout from this AACM horn-honker, with the Art Ensemble's Malachi Favors on bass. Gonzo vocalese + cosmic percussion = a good time for all.

3) VARIOUS - Back To Peru: The Most Complete Compilation Of Peruvian Underground 64-74 CD (Vampisoul)

This one's definitely worthy of a full-fledged review one of these days. There is only one description necessary for this collection: "a Peruvian Nuggets" will suffice. An unbelievably excellent and consistent and excellently consistent blend of freak beat, psychedelic soul, weird exotica-tinged garage rock and heavy guitar jamming all on one shiny disc.

4) OVERPASS - Manhattan (Beach) CD (Smells Like)

A belated purchase of this ex-Slovenly band's 1995 album, produced by the Red Krayola's Mayo Thompson. Sound-wise, it's like a mixture of Red Krayola's Soldier Talk LP (all scratchy guitar seperated from the hot rhythm section), early '80s Lou Reed (both vocally and with the Quine-like guitar workouts) and Thinking Of Empire period-Slovenly. To be dug.

5) THROBBING GRISTLE - Part Two: Endless Not CD (Mute)

Well, a couple of listens to this 2007 release has at least proved the fact that Throbbing Gristle recording once again after a very long break has been more fruitful than in regards to the Stooges. Time has caught up w/ Genesis and the gang, and with all due credit for their pioneering work back in the day, a lot of this sounds like it could've come from a recent Wolf Eyes CD. Then again, we all knows who's ripping off who, and if this was from a Wolf Eyes CD, I'd have to credit the band for creating a tasty brew of misanthropic electro-noise spuzz. One of the better releases of 2007 thus far, that's for sure.


8 comments:

G said...

RE: NR neglected 20 years ago. Yep, I saw them in L.A. then and they had to open for All- couldn't even get them to pull up the curtain for a SLF cover...I'd still have to right the Effigies "Forever Grounded" as beating all of NR's albums in the kind of quasi-sub-category of Chicago punk bands copping moves from the Brits and surpassing them.

Anonymous said...

haunted town records out of chicago is set to rerelease all of the raygun records on vinyl in the next 6 months or so.

ryan

http://www.deadmetaphor.com/squirrelheart/

mrow said...

I recently checked out the new THROBBING GRISTLE - thanks for reminding me to listen to it. It's good/intuitive/reaching in a way recent Genesis stuff just has not been (and yeah I do keep up with what he's been up to). To these ears, Peter Christopherson is looming alot larger sound-wise in TG than ever before. Which is a great development - I never thought much of Chris Carter's KRAFTWERK-isms all them years ago.

Jay said...

I saw Naked Raygun in 1987 in San Luis Obispo, CA and the next year in LA, and they just didn't cut it as a live band. Now that music just sounds really formulaic, clean and sing-songy for me - the kind of stuff a 19-year-old, which I was, would like. Maybe the Hard-Ons of Chicago?

Dave said...

Jay, I understand what you mean, regarding NR being formulaic and sing-songy, but it's a pretty GOOD formula and at least damn catchy. I'd still list NR as a second-tier band - not quite up there w/ the greats - but I can still enjoy their albums for what they were. Hard-Ons of Chicago? Hmmm... NR were too Brit-damaged. The Hard-Ons were more like the Descendents of Australia. Now THERE is a band worthy of a 21st-century hanging judge to give the verdict. Care to give it a go? I still stand by "Milo Goes To College", no matter how many awful bands they inspired.

Jay said...

I don't really dislike the Descendents. First album and second 45 - very, very good stuff. Everything else - pretty awful.

Armen said...

Funny enough, my experience is just the reverse of Jay's. I picked up a few NR albums in my teens but didn't like them--not hc enough & hooky in all the wrong ways (unlike say, Buzzcocks, who you could sense were up to strange and sly things in their music). That was then. Now that fast hc has played itself out and musically twisted/smart pop has become the norm, NR's formulaic anthems actually sound really poignant in a "Walk Among Us" kinda way. Actually that last song on "Understand" is quite Buzzcocksy. Ditto "Milo Goes to College", which is pure 2nd album Buzzcocks with no filler, and where the love sick lyrics have decayed into total misogyny. I exercise to it all the time.

Shipping / Receiving said...

the band sold out a 4,000-seat venue two nights in a row last year in Chicago, something they likely could never have accomplished during their peak 20-odd years ago.
I can verify this. Around the time of 'All Rise', which I reckon was their peak in Chicago, they played the 2500 seat Riviera Theater about every three or four months.
The band that is apparently back together to take a stab at new material, though "classic-era" guitarist John Haggerty is not on board.