Live Skull

Pusherman

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New York noisemongers Live Skull were gaining confidence and skill in the recording studio when they cut this three-song EP in 1986, which sounds like a compact variation on the progress the band made with the Cloud One album. The centerpiece is a six-and-a-half-minute deconstruction of Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman" that turns Mayfield's cautionary tale into a slow, throbbing meditation on addiction and opportunism on the Lower East Side; while you can't quite dance to it, you can certainly slink around the room to its sinewy textures, which is a major step up from Live Skull's earliest work. A better sense of groove also marks the two originals on Pusherman, "Swingtime" (which bears a vague musical resemblance to Flipper's "Sex Bomb," albeit with slower tempos and less messed-up joy) and "Raise the Manifestation" (where Tom Paine and Mark C.'s guitars butt heads with impressive force). Martin Bisi's production gets Live Skull's murk on tape effectively without adding much of his own, and the Pusherman EP is a short but potent stop between Cloud One and Thalia Zedek's arrival in the band with Dusted, which is when they began doing their best work. [For the 2014 CD reissue of Pusherman, Live Skull transformed a 17-minute EP into a 43-minute album with the addition of six live bonus tracks. While the fidelity of the live recordings leaves a bit to be desired, they certainly confirm that Live Skull were a lot more powerful on-stage than in the studio, with considerably more energy and momentum, especially on "Bell Shaped Heads" and "Wallow in It." The more aggressive tone of the live tracks makes them a bit of a mismatch with the original studio material, but despite that, anyone with a taste for Live Skull's gritty world-view will certainly want to upgrade to this new edition of the EP.]

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