It’s Still Artastic
There must be something odd in Cleveland’s Lake Erie that mutates normal middle Americans into twisted rock thugs. Rocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu, and The Styrenes all sprang from a seemingly fertile scene in Cleveland in the 1970s, creating warped pop and rock and roll that was part Stooges and part space. The Tombs and Pere Ubu have garnered the most attention over the years, but with the release of It’s Still Artastic the world can make up for lost time and lavish praise upon perhaps the oddest of them all, The Styrenes. Largely the brainchild of Paul Marotta, this band has been recording music off and on since 1975, and this collection captures a healthy 27-song chunk of it.
What do you get for your buck? Well, any record that starts with “Drano in Your Veins” and includes a raw take on The Pagans’ “Eyes Of Satan” is strong stuff. Not easy listening, recorded crudely into whatever they had, Marotta and a ever-changing cast of fellow musicians (including drummer Anton Fier of The Golden Palominos, early on) press mightily toward a high standard that only they can truly understand, and in large part succeed. Some of it is basic to the point of pain — warbling vocals, indistinct instrumentation and lo-fi recording taken to levels that Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices would find unacceptable, but when it works, such as the bipolar soap opera “Back In Hell” or the garage rock thump of the later live material, there is a current of unflinching integrity and valor not often found in music. This is the sound of men who truly don’t give a damn. Freed from chasing the bright lights of fame and fortune, they (not so quietly) developed a unique and uncompromising vision, which will alienate 90% of those who stumble upon it. So be it. The other 10% of us know the truth — Cleveland rocks.
ROIR Records: http://www.roir-usa.com