Mars

78+

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Originally released in the mid-'80s, and then slightly expanded for its late-'90's resurfacing on Atavistic (thus the "+"), 78+ puts together pretty much everything the band did in the late '70s in one form or another. Then again, there's a bit of after-the-fact tweaking, in that J.G. Thirlwell (aka Foetus) did a fair amount of remixing of the tracks, so until a straightforward version of "No New York" resurfaces properly, this will have to do. For all the complaints at the time of the band's supposed unmusicality, the original 7" single that kicks things off, "3-E/11,000 Volts" is actually pretty dang catchy, the former practically inventing bass-led post-punk without trying, while Sumner Crane's nervous vocals slip between the shuddering, deeply strange percussion. That said, there's plenty in the overall clamor and discordant nature of the band's songs that pretty clearly show where any number of bands, not least Sonic Youth, picked up on what the group was doing and then ran with it as desired. The "No New York" tracks themselves are certainly more in the way of textured and strange noise -- Brian Eno was clearly having a great time being a new kind of studio-based producer, at the least, with the metallic wash and murky mix really finding a missing link between the Velvet Underground and the Jesus and Mary Chain's early industrial strength abuse. On the best number, Crane's snaky bass holds down the center of "Helen Forsdale," while China Burg's lead vocals take a nervous, post-Yoko Ono approach. The live tracks are comparatively clearer in comparison, though the band does their best to capture that sense of compressed, dank chaos just as well on stage as in studio -- the extreme drift and float of "Hairwaves" is particularly haunting. As for the new extras that conclude the reissue, "Scorn" is a quick, clanking, overdriven-treble rant of sorts (not a bad thing, really!), while "N. N. End" is pure bass-stab feedback-howl freakout in excelsis.

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