Rome Wasn't Built is a collection of 39 songs recorded from 1992 to 1996, including a cover of Beat Happening's "Bad Seeds." It's the rough and immediate kind of stuff that should be on college radio at midnight, the same place you first discovered bands like the Swell Maps and Bevis Frond. The mutant child of genres as diverse as punk rock, keyboard jingles, country, and folk, the Shepherd Kings gathered under the rubric of lame wave art rock. Jason Elbogen's noise-bop starts with the ominous, thumping drums of "Freaky Meat Worlds" and then turns to screeching punk. "Kashuba Baht Razahn" travels the land of country-tinged, acoustic folk. "Mirror" sounds like the X-Ray Spex on Germ Free Adolescents. And "See Naples & Die" is good enough to be an early Pixies tune, complete with crazed yelps. Like Black Francis, Elbogen's lyrics are always absurd, a little disturbing, and either utterly meaningless or transcendently meaningful. On "Poets Not to Be" he sings "right now nobody wants a mutant child/except in the future but that'll be awhile." Maybe now the world is ready.
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