JACK RUBY have long been a band who merely existed by whisper and rumor. Some old-timers would mutter they were the most amazing band of the ’77 NYC no wave scene that ever there was, a totally fried proto-punk explosion of Stoogoid power and crazed stun-guitar on the level of Mars or Red Transistor. Ultimately, it’s kind of hard to meet that level of expectation, I’m sure you’d agree.
Now that this stuff’s finally out on a 2xCD compilation called “Hit and Run”, it appears that Jack Ruby really only pulled it off in the studio thrice, on the songs “Hit and Run”, “Bad Teeth” and “Bored Stiff” (which I’m posting for you here), which by themselves are reason enough to spend what you have to on this collection – particularly when there are only five studio-recorded “rock” songs on the two discs. These three are monstrous, and well worth the wait, with a swagger and an aggression that was radical and intense for both its own time and any other.
The rest? This is where tastes may fork. On the rehearsal tapes, which date from a 1977 practice, Jack Ruby sound like a KBD punk band who even leaned skinny-tie power pop on a few numbers, except when they do an exceptional (and fairly different) version of “Hit and Run” – which amps up its “Loose”-style riffage with a free-form guitar interlude that absolutely drenches the room with chaos and uncontrolled feedback, and has all the subtlety of a fat lip.
The remainder – and these are more than half of the running time of the entire collection – is electronic, avant-garde “pieces” that are as far away from rocknroll as Guy Lombardo and Dinah Shore. Don’t be fooled by the number of titles on this thing – it’s those 5 studio recordings that you’re looking for, and maybe one or two live tracks – everything else is pure stuffing that allows for a comprehensive “complete recordings” to be packaged, marketed and sold.
Sure, I played this song on the most recent Dynamite Hemorrhage Radio Show podcast, but I think it’s important that you hear it here as well in case you haven’t downloaded or streamed that show just yet. I may have questioned this song’s staying power on the show, but a few days and listens later I think I’m getting to be a true believer.
PRIESTS are from Washington DC, and they summon some intense, caterwauling spectres of dirty no wave, spastic garage lurch and shrieks & artastic wordcore ripped from a very primal place. They have a 2-song single you can buy and/or download from their Bandcamp page, and I suggest you do so right now.
A crazy and panic-stricken version of the obtuse “Puerto Rican Ghost” by MARS, recorded live at Artists’ Space in New York City, 1978. Lydia Lunch moaning in the background.
Anyone remember RAT AT RAT R? Totally great and mostly unheralded NYC post-no wave group with one very good album on Neutral Records from 1985, commonly known as “Rock & Roll Is Dead, Long Live Rat At Rat R”. (There was another release as well, and I’ve never heard it).
This photo’s from around the time of that album. From the looks of it, they were totally walking the walk. Big Rock Joke Doll!
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.