Before the Quiet
To be frank, it’s a headscratcher. I’m not quite sure why Controlled Bleeding mainman Paul Lemos recently chose to dig quite thiiiiiiiiiiiiiis deep into the Controlled Bleeding archives (especially with so many of their really primo recordings long out of print) to spotlight a time when Controlled Bleeding weren’t really even Controlled Bleeding. In point of fact, at the dawn of the 1980s, they were an exceedingly whip smart New York new wave act that took influence from disparate freaks and boundary pushers like Pere Ubu, Devo, early Eno, King Crimson, Henry Cow, and old garage/surf rock. Sounds like a strange brew, no?
The instrumental tracks start out razor tense, like new wave meets the Ventures or ? and the Mysterians for the first part of the album (“Fiddles and Eggs” being most characteristic), with songs generally turning more proggy and weird as the boys in the band progressed and got more impatient — fast-forward fusion that stays firmly rooted in the garage rock idiom due to their use of freakout rinky-tinky organ (which does start to sound a little gimmicky and forced about eight songs in).
And then these restless upstarts discovered Einsturzende Neubauten. And once you’ve seen the end of music as you know it, well, there’s no looking back really. But there is none of that on Before the Quiet! Argh!
There are a couple of numbers (“Veal,” “New Day Meat Dub/Protein Son,” “No Flies On Frank”) that hold seeds that would eventually germinate into the flowers of evil which Controlled Bleeding utterly reveled in at their peak. But the music on this album is just clever hybrids of the more outré rock music of the time. There was still oh-so-much to be learned and oh-so-much to be rejected. It’s like scratching your chin versus getting your head slammed into a porcelain toilet bowl full of blood, piss, and hair. Being a sightseer versus fully immersing yourself in the horror of civilized man at the end of the 20th Century. Early Controlled Bleeding were too rooted in their place, their urban New York environs, whereas later Controlled Bleeding were rootless and incandescent and timeless. Their rapid evolution must have been something beautiful to behold.
Before the Quiet is for CB completists or NY postpunk archivists only, as much as I hate to say it. The best thing to hope for from this aural scrapbook would be if it heralds an extensive reissue campaign, highlighting everything, and then, THEN you’ll see what I’m fucking talking about.