Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm not going on record saying Trotsky Icepick were a great band. They weren't. But at least a couple of their albums - Baby and El Kabong - feature a few excellent songs which make their purchase a worthwhile pursuit. Chances are you'll get these for a nickel or two somewhere, as they were released amidst the SST glut of 1987-'89 (mind you, there was a lot of goodness in that glut, too!). Somewhat of an LA post-punk supergroup who, in their lifetime, featured ex- members of such luminaries as 100 Flowers, Leaving Trains, Middle Class(!) and The Last, they managed to pump out over half-a-dozen albums throughout the mid-'80s to mid-'90s without making a huge dent. El Kabong is one of them. Heavily influenced by Brit post-punk - Magazine, Wire, The Fall - their sound was part SST-damaged "rock" (there's a Meat Puppets/Minutemen "vibe" floating around there somewhere) and part trans-Atlantic angst. Sounds like potentially a great thing, though I'd be lying if the results were anything to write home about. So why am I writing about a band prone to generating such non-excitement levels? Because there's three songs on El Kabong which rule. You know, the way good things rule. The first is the opener, "The Conveniences Of Life", an ode to the dazzling technologies available to the average putz in the late 1980s: microwaves, VCRs, fax machines et al. It's a stomper in a kinda first-album Magazine/Pink Flag way, booming snare drums lending it a party-starting quality. Next up is a cover of Magazine's "The Light Pours Out Of Me", a great song in its own right, but one also easy to fuck up. Trotsky Icepick don't stray too far from a basic xerox approach, and in my opinion better the original with their energetic tribute. Now flip the record over to side B. First track is "Astronomer": that's the one you're looking for. Funnily enough, it doesn't differ much in sound, structure or approach to the two previously mentioned tracks: that same drum-driven stomping rhythm (think "TV Eye" or Eno's "Needle In A Camel's Eye") with flange-soaked guitar chords atop. Best of all, after the chorus comes the big descending guitar hook, noodling notes spewed out like the best leads on Marquee Moon. That's the clincher, and those three tracks alone make this worth keeping. I bought it upon release, along w/ their Baby (also definitely worth a shot for SST tragics, as it bears an overall consistency which El Kabong lacks) and Poison Summer (their debut from '86, and an album I haven't listened to for so many years that at this stage I'd need a re-listen before I could say anything about it) LPs. I still own all three of them over 20 years later, so I guess that says something about 'em. Walk, don't run, but if you stumble upon any of these in your travels - and most specifically El Kabong and the three great songs it contains - then there's worse things you could do w/ a few spare bucks than add them to the pile.
POSTSCRIPT: True story dept. - In 1989, my final year of high school, I screenprinted "Trotsky Icepick" on the back of my black denim jacket. That's commitment. To what, I don't know...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lots of live Trotsky Icepick in