Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hadn't listened to this for years but dusted off a CD-R that a friend sent just this past week for a reappraisal. I went through a massive fit of PAGANS-mania when I first heard that band in 1986 (remember the "Buried Alive" compilation? Whew!), and I bought everything and anything connected to the band, including all the weak live late 80s reunion stuff which was coming out on Twin-Tone at the time. This comp was a 1982 LP collection put out by The Pagans called "Cleveland Confidential", which followed a similarly-monikered 1980 7"EP. The CD brings you both, LP tracks first. Most area compilations have got dramatic swings in quality, but this one’s pretty all-right from top to bottom; figure that The Pagans’ influence and tastemaking made this the quality release(s) that it is. It’s surprising how, um, “grown up” the Cleveland scene as represented here sounded in 1982 – no kids farting around with hardcore (OK, the OFFBEATS’ speedy pop comes close), no novelty poop and no overly ambitious moves – just a lot of intriguing experiments along the borders of punk and deep-DIY art-spazz.

While THE PAGANS take top honors for their two screamers “Boy I Can Dance Good” and “Cleveland Confidential” (aka “1979” and/or “Real World”), the biggest surprise is a blobby mess of free horns, down-tempo funk and weird time signatures from RED DECADE called “Scars of Lust”. This band would easily have made sense on one of the experimental-meets-punk comps coming out of Los Angeles’ New Alliance/New Underground stable around the same time, slotting in next to The Slivers, The Plebs and Artless Entanglements. Nothing will beat the live-on-the-radio a capella take I've heard of "Love Meant To Die" by the ELECTRIC EELS' Dave E., where he unveils his soon-to-come record label "Christmas Pets", but his full-band JAZZ DESTROYERS version on this comp is none too shabby. Since I’m lazy, I’m not really sure if THE WOMANHATERS’ “Cry 816” and SEVERE’s “Her Name Was Jane” are truly the Pagans in drag, since both tracks were ditties that the Pagans were performing around this time, but they’re real fine to listen to no matter how they’re labeled. Other chooglers of note are THE DEFNICS’ “Suicide Trip”, the dark descent of the EASTER MONKEYS’ “Cheap Heroin” and AK-47s' “Accident”. The town’s musical victories in the 70s continued on into the first half of the 80s for sure, a fact lost on most dabblers & particularly those not yet acquainted with this collection. There’s no question that a night out by the banks of the flaming Cuyahoga circa 1982 could potentially be a night of mystery, discovery, tinnitus and inebriation.