I just got to finally hear the MARS “Live at Artists Space” LP and it’s pretty wild. It suffers, as all live albums do, from being recorded and not actually live. You miss the deep, ringing thud of the atonal and raw sound of Mars churning through your ribcage and inner organs. They’ve always been my favorite of the No Wave bands, and their tracks “3E” and “Helen Forsdale” are among some of most crazed and legendary rocknroll of all time.
The LP has two sets from Mars’ turn at the festival in May 1978. Recording is pretty good, as these things go. Most of their tracks start with tribal drumming that enters and starts scattering into shards, almost like a warning, with guitar scrape and caterwauling vocals from another planet following posthaste. Each of the 2 sets have pretty much the same track order, and the closing “Puerto Rican Ghost” from the second set appears to have Lydia Lunch “sitting in” on “vocals”. Here’s what the label that put this out, Feeding Tube, had to say about it:
In May of 1978 there was a five night music festival at Artists Space on Hudson Street in Tribeca. Although almost no one cared at the time, the event has since entered the halls of legend, as one of the signal events in the history of the No Wave era – one that managed to include both the Lower East Side bands and those fronted by their Western contemporaries. On the final night of the festival the two bands playing were Mars and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. What we are presenting to you today are both sets by Mars – the most mysterious, and bizarrely-styled NY band of their day. One set takes up each side, and while they are similar in song selection, it’s wild to hear how different they are in terms of attack, sonics and approach. The quartet – Nancy Arlen, China Burg, Sumner Crane, Mark Cuningham – was never captured at its mutational best in the studio, but this live slab is revelatory. Tunings, structures and rhythms from a place Capt. Beefheart once called “the other side of the fence,” this is Mars at their most glorious. A futher live Mars LP will be forthcoming in the spring.
The new LP mentioned here is now out, and I’ll be getting to that one presently.