Various Artists

Killed by Death: Volume One

Johan Kugelberg is somewhat or directly responsible for many things that I love in life: Ugly Things magazine, The Monks reissue and the major label debut of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and V-3 as well as his crowning achievement, the first four volumes of Killed by Death.

The early Killed by Death comps document punk’s most belligerent and brilliant moments circa 1977-1982, but later comps piss in the bathwater and shine a light on lesser mortals. However, the first four volumes may be the most primal collections of punk I’ve heard. It belongs next to the Nuggets, Pebbles and Back to the Grave compilations as a logical extension to their documentation of the rawest nubs of rock. You can hear the groundwork for hardcore and other offshoots of punk in each track. However, these tracks bear little resemblance to British punks like the Clash, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks and the Damned. The Ramones, Dead Boys, Voidoids, Dickies and Pagans were more up their alley.

Punk has always been a singles scene for me. Outside of the Wipers, Wire, Clash, Pere Ubu, Drive Like Jehu, Cheater Slicks, Oblivians, Saints and Real Kids, I cannot name many punk albums that I will listen from end to end without complaint. Therefore, these comps appeal to me because they skim the fat and leave us with the most lean, deserate sounds of American punk. Personally, I strongly believe the first volume of Killed by Death is flawless in every way. It captures the crude, ham-fisted glory of all that was great about this era in music.


Out in the Treetops 2×7′

I don’t quite know why the Bassholes occupy such a tender place in my heart. Only the Cheater Slicks consistently rival their ability to take garage rock and pervert it into something entirely their own. I love the Nuggets, Pebbles and Killed by Death comps, but most of it draws from the same well. The Bassholes are a stripped-down reduction of rock and roll, blues and punk like many other bands in the same vein, but their version is so much more eccentric than the rest. I always wondered why John Fahey reissued their Blue Roots album alongside Derek Bailey, Cecil Taylor and Charlie Feathers, but repeated listens convinced me that they were innovators who channeled their roots into new, exciting directions.

Don Howland is the main dude and his previous band, The Gibson Brothers, released some great albums on Homestead Records, but they were to focused on the canon. The Bassholes generally break punk and blues down to a minimal pound and wail that embodies all that is raw and immediate about punk rock. This double 7-inch includes covers of The Who’s “Tattoo” and The Stooges’ “Raw Power” and both are mangled beyind recognition. The others are originals, but one reminds me of an unlikely hallucination of Joy Division recording for In the Red or Crypt records.

Cheater Slicks

Whiskey (NEW LINK)

One of America’s most unsung rock n’ roll bands, the Cheater Slicks have flown under most folks’ radar during their twenty years of existence. Sure, they garnered some attention when Jon Spencer produced and contributed to their Don’t Like You album, but only garage rock aficionados have been their “largest” supporters. Don’t Like You wasn’t even close to their best effort, but Whiskey, their debut for In the Red, should’ve been the one that opened more eyes to the raw power of their music. Many of Whiskey’s songs make it clear that the band was enamoured with the Sonics, Stooges and the the great singles compiled on the Nuggets, Back From the Grave and Killed by Death series. They weren’t down with the fruity “Incense and Peppermints” style of psych, but the primal hate and aggression of “The Witch.”

Before their signing to In the Red, the band’s music was fairly great if you were in the mood for sloppy, aggressive punk, but lacked a certain je nai se quois, but they sure found their goddamn quois on this one. Prior to Whiskey, their ranks included GG Allin’s brother Merle, who wore dresses during live performances. However, the addition of Dana Hatch, a friend of Half Japanese and one-time member of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy’s live unit, solidified their ranks and pushed them into more experimental territory.

Even if the rest of this album was a hunk of schlocky schtick, it would still remain a classic for one song. By the way, the whole thing is pretty essential. “Thinkin’ Some More” is a twenty-seven minute tour de force that deserves to stand alongside the Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray” for sheer rock n’ roll brilliance as it begins as a straightforward garage punk shitstorm and coalesces into a fecal typhoon. The word “jam” seems like an oxymoron when applied to punk, but this is one hell of a punk jam session where all members play the holy hell out of their instruments and become psychedelic masters on par with Hawkwind, Major Stars and other heavy lifters. One of the best rock albums of the 90s.