It's Artastic! Cleveland '75 to '79

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A splinter of the complicated Cleveland punk scene, the Styrenes grew out of the Electric Eels, Mirrors, and Rocket from the Tombs, a trio of bands first inspired by seeing the Velvet Underground perform regularly at La Cave in the late '60s. It's Artastic! represents four years from the first Styrenes session in September 1975 through recordings made in late 1979. While the earlier aforementioned acts focused on a more raw approach, the Styrenes veered more toward the Frank Zappa-influenced complications also favored by their former Rocket from the Tombs bandmate and Pere Ubu leader David Thomas. The disc's earlier efforts, like Paul Marotta's "Drano in Your Veins," wouldn't sound out of place on an early Mothers of Invention album, with distant notes of '60s garage pop. Especially after the 1977 departure of Anton Fier (who moved to New York and began to play with the Feelies, among others) about halfway through the disc, the band's songs grew concurrently more complicated, slick, and theatrical. The latter quality, especially, is underscored by a live recording of "Drano in Your Veins." Jamie Klimek's "Girl Crazy" and "Where the Girls Are," from 1978, keep the bubblegum intact, like more exacting Ramones, but just as common are less interesting jazz excursions, like "Tom's Problem." On a seven-track session from 1979, they sound like a not always successful halfway point between the knowing art of fellow Ohioans Devo and the wry pop of the Cars.

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