“If you think you ‘get’ the music of the mid-1980s but you don’t know Tupelo Chain Sex, you’re wrong. The cover of 1984’s Spot the Difference may suggest a hardcore outfit, but it’s not remotely as simple as that. Because what hardcore band includes fiddle (c/o Don Sugarcane Harris) and saxophone in its weaponry, not to mention reggae, jazz and other unbound tendencies? And man, did they kill it live! True, some of the lyrics were rather dumb (the stuff about the Jews roaming around murdering blacks – seriously?). Welcome to 1984, I guess. Passion and rage as big as the world, and about as rational.” (Philip Random)
“Yeah, Jim Morrison was an asshole, who died for his own sins, nobody else’s. But damn, the Doors were a strong band, and yet they were pretty much nothing without him. And that first album in particular – well, somebody had to do it. 1967. Summer of Love – offer at least a hint that there was a darker side to things even as it was rocketing to the top of the charts. Soul Kitchen makes the list because it’s remained mostly well hidden over the years, and thus, no allergies.” (Philip Random)
Apparently, Buffalo Springfield are the greatest band nobody’s ever properly heard, unless you were lucky enough to catch them live way back when, with the psychedelic 60s ripping a hole through time. Neil Young and Stephen Stills (and the other guys), brash and wild and still mostly unknown, desperate to be heard, to wake people the f*** up. The records just don’t capture that. They’re too restrained, too produced, which isn’t to say they don’t have some moments, just lacking that overall carnivorous bite.
In which first wave American punk band X (straight out of LA) rein in the intensity of their attack a touch and rather brilliantly nail down the zeitgeist circa 1983. Which was that, come year three of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, humanoid reptiles were in full ascendancy. Look no further than the radio dial. Where was any band that mattered? Nothing left to do but tell the truth.
In which young Frank Zappa (with help from his Mothers) files his report on the Watts Rebellion (aka riots) of August 1965, pulling no punches lyrically or musically. In fact, it’s the song that got the band signed to MGM Records in the first place, producer Tom Wilson having heard it and decided, yeah, a white blues band from LA, why the hell not? The rest is, shall we say, history.
You had to love the cover of Tupelo Chain Sex’s first album, 1984’s Spot the Difference. Little punk kid sporting a Ronald Reagan Adolph Hitler t-shirt, getting pulled two ways at once. But the real treasure was the music. Not just another hardcore band from LA, these guys were brilliantly all over the place. Reggae, dub, ska, jazz, rockabilly, hardcore – everything, with lead off track The Dream (an extrapolation on an old Cab Calloway hit) serving as a whip smart intro to what remains one of the great (mostly) forgotten albums of any era.