October Faction

October Faction

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Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn's growing drive to express himself instrumentally led him to form a dizzying array of side bands, with varying degrees of success. This sprawling collective of musicians from Ginn's SST label offered his most uncompromising expression, being a free-form enterprise whose participants could play what they wished. (The back cover boasts an unlikely quote from U.S. President George Washington to bolster that philosophy: "He who would trade his freedom for his security deserves to lose both.") SST merchandising man Tom Troccoli had already been playing in yet another Ginn side band, Tom Troccoli's Dog, so he slid into the frontman's role, telling stories on-stage as the music wound behind him. (He also blows some unimpressive, off-key harmonica.) Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins also appears, along with its drummer of the time, Bill Stevenson, and ex-bassist Chuck Dukowski, who contributes his own off-kilter vocals. Saccharine Trust guitarist Joe Baiza is Ginn's sparring partner. The credits suggest an indie-punk supergroup, but the results are anything but predictable, as Ginn and company squawk and snarl through seven totally improvised compositions before a live audience. David Claasen's dense, murky mix -- as improvised as the music -- makes it hard to tell who's doing what, forcing listeners to get the drift from such potentially intriguing titles as "Trail of Tears" and "It Don't Mean Shit." They won't get much help from Troccoli's hoarse vocals, which are equally hard to pick out. The vocal and instrumental hurricane does yield some powerful moments -- particularly the self-explanatory "Bad Acid" -- but only the most die-hard SST collector will revisit this territory often. That's not to say the idea is bad, but the execution is uneven, and some judicious editing would definitely have helped the cause.

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