To the editors:
Re: Record review of 7/31
After an evocative and accurate description of Big Black’s hammering ambiance, Mr. Jenkins let everything slide out of place, value-wise. First of all, Mark, you might want to consider the impact of other bands on Big Black’s sound rather than writing it off to such as the Au Pairs. After all, Steve Albini praised the abrasive Pop Group (whose influences can be heard clearly on the Hammer Party collection) in the pages of “fanzine” Forced Exposure, and when it came time to record a cover, they turned to Wire’s stunning, minimal Heartbeat (creating, incidentally, an incredible single that I suspect even Albini likes more than the Headache EP. Headache came with a sticker on the cover saying “WARNING: DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP”).
But I didn’t really get huffy till I read your review of Wailing Ultimate. I guess that “arty-garage” is an OK label for Homestead if you have to label them, but WHY BOTHER? The Salem 66 song is about as “powerful” as a fresh container of Yoplait, and your intimation that the Squirrel Bait, Breaking Circus, and Dinosaur records aren’t some of the most ownable things around is just heinous. Dinosaur’s all-out creative gush and Squirrel Bait’s urgently raw power are things EVERY CITIZEN NEEDS. If you’d dug Breaking Circus’s Ice Machine LP, you would’ve realized that these guys come from a secluded, top-secret HANGAR, not a “garage.” It strikes me as something less than insightful when you fling aside Naked Raygun’s cherished (you should have heard their covers of Buzzcocks and Stranglers tunes at last year’s WZRD benefit) and obvious influences and describe them as “predictable New York death-rattle stuff . . . except from Chicago.” If you’d considered most attempts to describe Chicago’s underground sound, you’d realize that Raygun, Black, the Effigies, Bloodsport, the Defoliants and others define something real–and it ain’t Sonic Youth.
Finally, we must consider the issue of the Jesus and Mary Chain and “grunge.” However you define it, I just don’t think that a band that plays half-hour sets without sweating a drop and steals DIRECTLY from the Renettes can master it. The way you slight Live Skull (the title of whose towering new live LP, Don’t Get Any on Me, could have come from Jim Reid’s mouth) in this regard isn’t nice. Sure Live Skull’re structured and repetitive, but so are the Ramones. No, the Jesus and Mary Chain, fun as they are, hardly beat anyone out as a garage band, much less a “ruling” one. GARAGE BANDS DON’T HAVE CD’S ON WARNER BROTHERS AND CASSETTES THAT ARE AVAILABLE EVEN AT TRUCKSTOPS IN GERMANY! April Skies just might be the best buy in the bunch, but that’s because people should be buying older, hotter LPs from the bands you slag rather than OK middle-aged stuff or greatest hits compilations.
Seth L. Sanders
S. Stony Island