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Rocket From The Tombs - The Black Album

  by Adrian Janes

published: 11 / 1 / 2016

Rocket From The Tombs - The Black Album
Label: Fire Records
Format: CD


Reinvigorated with new members, pioneering and reformed 70’s band Rocket from the Tombs' resurrection continues on their third album with their original energy and attitude still very much present

In their original incarnation in the mid-1970s, Cleveland’s Rocket from the Tombs never released anything officially. But with their split leading to the creation of two influential bands (Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys), both of which recorded Rocket from the Tombs material (such as Ubu’s now-classic ‘Final Solution’), over the years a curiosity about the band has grown. Although only containing two original members in David ‘Crocus Behemoth’ Thomas and Craig Bell, this album is both the fruit of years of experience and a direct connection to the kind of electric energy that was flowing back in their early days. Over blazing guitar, Thomas opens ‘Waiting for the Snow’ in a curmudgeonly mumble: “Black culture’s bankrupt/White folks lost their spine/Muslims want to kill us all/And you’re no friend of mine,” a set of sentiments almost guaranteed to set liberals screaming. Whether this is what he believes or him simply playing a part, the attitude is that which comes over in the music throughout the whole album: aggressive, assured, hard-nosed. Steve Mehlman thrashes out a furious beat on ‘Welcome to the New Dark Ages’, the band playing an irresistible rock and roll, almost as if they enjoy living in a time when “Lights are dim/The story enrages” and are dancing on their own grave. Talking of fatality, next up is a cover of garage band the Sonics’ ‘Strychnine’ which with similar energy and an absurd glee hymns its superiority to other tipples. But as a choice of song, it’s revealing of the musical roots and values of Rocket from the Tombs. For the Dead Boys, ‘Sonic Reducer’ (which Thomas co-wrote) was the key song which they took from Rocket’s ruins. Much more straight ahead late 1970s rock than the twisted direction Ubu took, this is about as good a version as you can get of something so orthodox, Thomas’s unique bray certainly giving it the edge. ‘I Keep a File on You’ is perhaps a confession that’s only to be expected of a man who once wanted to subject a romantic relationship to a ‘Non-Alignment Pact’. It drives along on a relentless beat scattered with electronic effects like a radio being tuned, the overall sound and feel reminiscent of Chrome. Though the opening riff of ‘Nugefinger’ evokes Iggy and the Stooges’ ‘Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell’, its rhythm is more of a controlled, compulsive groove, Thomas sometimes pitching his voice uncharacteristically low. A musette freak-out gives him the chance to express his inner Beefheart amongst the slow-burning guitars. ‘Spooky’ is another typically disturbed and disturbing view of romance. “It’s creepy/It’s spooky/How I love her so”, Thomas intones over a slow tom-tom beat and the resonant, trembling guitars of Buddy Akita and Gary Siperko. Of the remaining songs, ‘Coopy (Schrödinger’s Refrigerator)’ is rather standard Rocket from the Tombs fare, the one song that leaves me feline indifferent. In immediate contrast, the collective urgency of ‘Hawk Full of Soul’ is amplified by Lamont Thomas’ vocal accompaniment, the song ending on the verge of screams. ‘Read it and Weep’, the only song credited to Craig Bell alone, has a traditional ‘My girl done me wrong’ sentiment, but it’s still musically a storming chunk of rock, with a wild solo throttled out at the end which almost runs out of neck. To finish with a song called ‘Parking Lot at the Rainbow’s End’ is one last demonstration that, although the music may not be as unconventional as Pere Ubu, there is still a “strange kind of wit” at work, a surreal yet unblinking eye regarding the world as Thomas observes that his lot will be “I’m gonna be the one changing the tyres for you.” With ‘Spooky’ and ‘Nugefinger’ especially, Rocket from the Tombs are reminiscent of Grinderman, another bunch of aging rockers who don’t let the mere passage of time stop them. In fact, they use the inspirations of their youth and their experience in alliance, to make great rock music today that reminds you, thrillingly, of why you loved it in the first place.

Track Listing:-
1 Waiting for the Snow
2 Welcome to the New Dark Ages
3 Strychnine
4 Sonic Reducer
5 I Keep a File on You
6 Nugefinger
7 Spooky
8 Coopy (Schrödinger's Refrigerator)
9 Hawk Full of Soul
10 Read It and Weep
11 Parking Lot at the Rainbow's End

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