Thursday, October 25, 2007
THE CRUCIFUCKS - Wisconsin LP (Alternative Tentacles/1987)
The first time I heard a track from this album, it was "Pig In A Blanket", was in late 1987 on 3PBS. It was the famed '80s mainstay, the imaginatively-titled "Punk Show". The DJ in question - still on air on a weekly basis, by the way - is well known for his strangulation of the English language, and when he back-announced the track he was trying to say the band's name without, you know, dropping the "F" word (still a no-no in those days). What did he say, after the mandatory couple of stumbles? "That was the Cruci-... err... the Cruci-intercourses, if you know what I mean". I still chuckle at the memory. I used to sit by my stereo on such evenings w/ the tape machine set on "record" and "pause", always ready to tape a killer track or two and edit out the filler later on in the evening. I taped the song, flogged it into the ground over the subsequent next couple of weeks and made it a mission to get the album said track sprung forth from: Wisconsin.
The Crucifucks were one mother of a band, and one of the finest "anti-HC" hardcore bands of the 1980s, a bracket I would place other greats such as No Trend, Flipper and Culturcide in. You might think they either blew or were of no interest to you, possibly because of the Alternative Tentacles association and their habit of releasing quite a lot of really bad music, but you're missing out. Big time. Deliberately offensive and quite obviously in some sort of cultural brotherhood w/ the baldies, the Crucifucks still kept their distance by dint of their sheer fucking oddness. Singer, Doc Dart, was (and is) a good 10 years older than many of his HC brethren, a professional baseball-card collector (he has/had a shop dealing in such things) and has a voice that'll likely make your skin crawl. Like others from the Alternative Tentacles fold, there's some Jello damage in the windpipes, but rather than warbling, he screeches like a dying animal. Putting it mildly, the Crucifucks are/were an aquired taste.
You can get a CD of this and their 1984 self-titled debut on one CD. The debut features Steve Shelley, later of Sonic Youth (duh), on drums, and has its moments, though the more expansive sound of Wisconsin, featuring multi-tracked guitars (acoustic and electric), piano and even a "ballad" or two, not to mention the sheer strength of the material, is what makes it so special. Really, if you took the screeching vocals off this and had someone step in w/ a voice perhaps more palatable to the general public, I see no reason why this couldn't have been some sort of small-scale indie "hit". Musically, this runs the gamut from Buzzcocks/Fall-style art-punk through to folky stomps and a kind of near "industrial-rock" sound, sans drum machines and eyeliner. If they were from Finland or Japan, you'd all love them.
I'm looking at the back cover right now, glancing at the songs, trying to pick out a favourite... damn, the consistency has me stumped. I'll take the last track, the acoustic "The Saviour", as the stand-out, since Dart refrains from screaming 'til the last coda. There's also an unlisted bonus track at the end which you should wait around for, what appears to be a love song w/ Dart crooning on piano before a guitar comes in and jolts it into an almost REM-ish pop number. Did I just put you off? Fuck you very much. I have some zines from the timeframe giving Wisconsin a bit of verbiage, and the reviews are telling. Your Flesh was more honest and announced it as one of 1987's finest platters, whilst Forced Exposure felt almost embarrassed to admit that a band still strongly related to the hardcore scene - in spirit, if not musically - and one on A.T., no less, could actually make a record of such middling interest to the art-fags of FE. Hey, I liked FE as much as the next guy, though I sensed a whiff of dishonesty the moment I glanced the review. Just admit it: Wisconsin is a great, great record.