Agony Shorthand

Thursday, March 16, 2006

When I put together my mp3 blog in a few years (when I can finally "live the dream"), "Two Lives" is definitely going up for all to sample & cherish. Until then, here's a thing I wrote about it 'round 1998 and that, if pressed, I would defend to this day......! :

Here's one I'm young enough to remember - the 1988 debut 7" from this Minneapolis trio came out in a tiny pressing on a nowhere label called Skidmark. Once the mystery of this darkly jarring set of songs spread across the phone lines and printing presses of the US, Forced Exposure magazine pressed up their own big batch and sang its priases six ways to Sunday. VERTIGO were, for about a month, the basement geniuses on every clued-in hipster's lips. Little wonder, because the beauty and power of these three numbers will stand up in any age, whether the record was a simple accident of history or not. Vertigo's debut remain the absolute pinnacle of what the indies were offering in the late 80s, a time when labels like Amphetamine Reptile and even Sub Pop were exciting and forward-looking. Except this was a case of the farm team upsetting the big leaguers, because Vertigo came in from nowheresville, and once called to the majors, just couldn't deliver any big blasts in the clutch (cc: their AmRep material).

The fucked-with stills from some ancient monster movie on the record's sleeve hinted at what was inside. "Two Lives" is foreboding and weird throughout its 3+ minutes, when barely-harnassed feedback providing the bedrock for a simple, hanuting guitar squall. The singer - when there are vocals at all - sounds distant and a little bit annoyed, like he's parked in a bedroom behind a locked door & not entirely capable of providing his disinterested commentary. "Front End Loader" is a crazed instrumental with a hall-of-fame riff - it makes sense that these guys covered CRIME's "Murder By Guitar" later on, because I'm telling you, they are easily in the same league. Finally, "Phil 105" might be the best of them all, with thinly-disguised melodics that are the diamond in a showering frenzy of heavy guitar-shard feedback. If this one passed you by 10 (editor's update = now 19) years ago, do yourself a big favor and track it down, because until someone cobbles together a Killed By Death for the late 80s, this gem will remain far too elusive.