Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Day The Earth Met The Rocket From the Tombs

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Mirrors
Hands In My Pockets
Overground (UK)

The Electric Eels
Eyeball Of Hell
Scat

Listen, my children, and you shall hear of … well, not Paul fuckin’ Revere, that’s for sure. But these artifacts are the alarm-bell clang of a revolution just the same. Malcontent hippie-nihils amped on a lurid Velvets/Stooges/MC5 squall and psychedelicized by Beefheartian intellectuosity, all three outfits shared a time (early ’70s), a place (Cleveland) and an attitude (pre- or proto-punk, take your pick).

They even shared the occasional member — plus at least one early local gig, in 1972. Headlining that night was the Electric Eels, a flamboyant exercise in rough trade avant-skronk that finally got around to recording “properly” some three years later; Eyeball Of Hell has 24 tunes from ’75, captured in reasonable, if occasionally VU meter-peaking, fidelity (ditto the other two discs). The depth and breadth is impressive, encompassing sneering, snot-and-meth garage swagger (“Agitated,” eventually a UK single; “Zoot Zoot”), stream-of-consciousness dropout boogie (“Spinach Blasters” clearly nods to the good Captain), even a twisted appreciation for the “classics” (a gnarly cover of “Dead Man’s Curve”).

The Mirrors’ 19 tracks are culled from assorted studio sessions and live gigs circa 1973-75. Nominally more “traditional” than the Electric Eels, the sound was at times indebted to both the Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd; the title track is an unapologetic rewrite of “Think I’m Falling In Love,” while the backward-tape effects and pastoral drone of “Violent Shadows” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” But the Mirrors were still a wholly original band, as both the dreamy/hypnotic pop anthem “Shirley” and the slashing, hard-rock jam-screed “She Smiled Wild” testify with vision and potency.

Rocket From The Tombs, of course, is the diseased DNA dump from which both Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys subsequently emerged. Included on their astonishing, riveting document is a February ’75 rehearsal-space taping plus selections from two gigs later that year. From a malevolent, metaphysical “Sonic Reducer” (which guitarist Gene O’Connor/Cheetah Chrome would take with him when he formed the Dead Boys) and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” (future Ubu vocalist David “Crocus Behemoth” Thomas yipping like Beefheart on helium) to a mesmerizing, totemic “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” and a then-mandatory Velvets cover (“Foggy Notion”), this, kids, is where the mainline is tapped. No tying off required.

Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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