Big Black a few years back and it merely sounded like a NIN/Marilyn Manson tribute act. Sorry), were not an nth-rate act. Certainly not A-grade, for sure, but one I can still listen to in '09, a good 21 years after I first bought the records of theirs I own, 1987's Jupiter Eye and '88's Triskaidekaphobe, and that's gotta be sayin' somethin'.
The band started out in NY in '84 and pretty soon caught the ears of one Thurston Moore, who released their debut, self-titled 12" EP on his own Ecstatic Peace label. It was later reissued by SST label once they signed the band in '87 and released their debut full-lengther, Jupiter Eye. Although criticised for its poor production and likely selling next to zip, you could do a whole lot worse than pick it up if you ever catch a glimpse of it in a bargain bin (which is likely where you'll find it). And the same could be said for the follow-up, '88's Triskaidekaphobe. The former's got a major Sonic Youth fixation thing a-happenin': think Bad Moon Rising/Evol w/ a heavier, metallic glow not unlike Dinosaur Jr.'s stoner-boogie that was taking the u/ground by storm at the time. Fact is, there's some really great songs here: the two that close out side one, "Where They All Want" and "Name Your Poison", are terrific slabs of late '80s US u/ground rock which, whilst not re-writing the songbook of rock 'n' roll (DD were, as said, totally in the ballpark of post-hardcore SST grunge-rock), warrant repeat listens and have the hooks and songwriting skills to leave you wanting more. And as for the supposedly poor production: sounds fine to me. Maybe Jim Steinman was on holidays or something.
Triskaidekaphobe has cleaner production and steers a little from the SY-style NYC art-fuzz of the debut and delves heavier into a kinda psych-glam mode, sounding a lot like a Dinosaur Jr./Redd Kross hybrid. Hey, it was 1988, so think Neurotica/You're Living All Over Me, 'k? The first three numbers slay me: "Spiderbirds", "Reverse Into Tomorrow" and "Pendant". Primo punk/metal/psych/glam with a wall of distortion and the right riffage to deliver the goods.
Which leaves me wondering: have Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr. or Redd Kross written and recorded songs as great as these in the last 15 years? I only say this because I have never in my life met anyone who's cared one iota for this band. NOT IN THE LEAST. Even in this one-horse town, I have met folks who have - completely independent of me and my rantings over the years - bowed down to such esoteric entities often praised by moi such as Dawson, Pell Mell and Slovenly... but never, EVER Das Damen. Let's get the facts straight: DD aren't the kind of band people should get crazy about - I merely believe they remain a decent but forgotten band who released at least two fine albums in their time (their follow-up, on Twin/Tone, after being booted off SST for a lawsuit involving Michael Jackson's lawyers [Google it if you care], is supposedly a turkey, and I remember it clogging up bargain bins in a major way at the dawn of the '90s) and since said albums will cost you next to nothing (I know coz I checked ebay this afternoon), then I'm recommending the plunge be taken. There were lots of flat-out "bad" underground rock albums released in the US in the late '80s, and neither of these fit that category. Not even close. Had the band released these albums 5 years later, when the general marketplace was a little more open to all things loud, fuzzy, distorted and long-haired, they might've even sold a few records.