I've been playing this LP non-stop the last week, the first time I've given it a flogging since some time back in the '90s (much like my experiences w/ the Stooges and Miles Davis, I ran MX-80 so heavily into the ground at the time that they remained for a very long time a band I didn't wish to reaquaint myself with), and it certainly stands alone as a one-of-a-kind disc possessed w/ a unique vision and a sound certainly no-one else at the time had. Much has been made about the supposed "heavy metal" nature of MX-80 at the dawn of the '80s, but there's no denying it: if you were to typecast any band under the sun as "art-metal", you'd make it MX-80. Or perhaps Voivod, whom MX-80 are/were big fans of (see that FE interview for proof), but that's another story.
1977's Hard Attack, somehow released on the British wing of Island Records (coz their New Wave-friendly A & R guy dug MX-80's self-released debut EP and was looking for "another Devo" Stateside), suffered a mighty strange mix which has never really been taken care of in subsequent CD reissues; it remains w/ the vocals up way too high and the rhythm section buried under a mound of guitar slop. I dig it OK, though the real goods remain their two Ralph LPs from 1980 and '81 - Out Of The Tunnel and Crowd Control - respectively. Out Of The Tunnel is a compelling mixture of Rich Stim's deadpan, Lou Reed-esque vocal philosophising, the best post-Beefheart rhythm section at the time not known as Watt/Hurley and brutal, metallic guitar attacks which, frankly, wouldn't sound out of place on an early Metallica disc.
I'm not sure I'd still place Out Of The Tunnel in my top 10, though it was in my top 50 which I listed a while back and will probably remain there until I drop dead. Along w/ Crowd Control, it was something I taped onto cassette to take to friends' places back in the early/mid '90s for many evenings of booze/music-fuelled shenanigans, and along the way I managed to convert many, often singing along to the zombie-esque chorus on "I Walk Among Them" or shaking our grunge-length hair to the opening guitar crunch in "Someday You'll Be King", a magnificent, Ginn-like blend of post-punk choppiness and metallic prowess.
MX-80 sunk from view for a number of years after Crowd Control, though have been more or less active again since the late '80s. They've got a web site here (where you'll read the sad news that their long-time drummer, Dave Mahoney, passed away last year), they're still playing, recording and releasing music, and indeed there's a swag of post-'81 recordings from the band which are well worth searching out, but... you know where I'm heading here. Much like their fellow Ralph Records-associated oddballs in Chrome, it's their second and third LPs you really need, and if you're at all into the kind of rock music I like to consider the absolute pinnacle of human audio achievement - Stooges, Pere Ubu, Black Flag, Captain Beefheart - then do not for a second consider Out Of The Tunnel to be a superfluous purchase. Readers, it remains goddamn essential.