Wednesday, January 21, 2004

#96) Rocket From The Crypt - Group Sounds (released in 2001, purchased probably on the day it came out at City Lights. I've been nuts about these guys since I saw the "On A Rope" video on 120 Minutes back in 1995)

Finally, something not remotely alt-canonical (though still alt, dang it)! Until doing the 2/3-year-long record collection reappraisal that led to this list (and the decision to get rid of a third of what I owned), I’ve been under the assumption that my favorite RFTC album was their latest, Live From Camp X-Ray, thanks to its coherent lyrical zeitgeist (no album better captured my own distanced-by-TV, horrified/fascinated mindstate about 9/11, let alone connected it to fratphobia). While that album does represent an impressive step for a decade-plus old band (it’s #154 with a bullet here), Group Sounds remains their crowning achievement. Combining the scabrous sound of their indie 7-inchs with the songcraft of their two major label full-lengths while cutting down on the filler, the songs here burst forth with a compact frenzy resembling Pink Flag performed by Otis Day & The Knights.

Speedo a.k.a. John Reis (RFTC songwriter and lead singer, Hot Snakes guitarist, Swami Records president, personal hero and boycrush recipient) is a master of effective arrangements, intertwining memorable vocal, horn and guitar (even bells – which I’m a sucker for – on “This Bad Check Is Gonna Stick”) hooks to create melodic beasts that once inspired my college roommate Ben, a real ragtime piano enthusiast, to announce with delight that RFTC sounds like his kind of music performed “really, really, really fast.” This focus on musical interplay (along with Reis’s cryptic mushmouth – I thought “Savoir Faire” was “Sidewalk King,” “White In White Belt” was “What In The Hell,” and “Straight American Slave” was “Save, American, Save!”) has kept the band from getting the mainstream attention fans like me think they deserve. They played in State College twice to promote this album, one show being an lunchtime acoustic set at a local video rental hut, to the delight of probably a hundred people total; I think God was doing me a big favor or something.

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