The Aberrant Years

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Thanks be to Sub Pop. The label has assembled a box set of four 1980s albums recorded for Australia's Aberrant label by the Sydney, Australia trio feedtime in their definitive lineup: Rick (guitar, almost always played with a slide), Al (bass), and Tom (drums) -- no last names. Using the word "original" would be inaccurate; there were two unrecorded incarnations before this. Feedtime's sound was at once primitive and contemporary (of its time); it was influenced by everything from Australian hard rock bands Rose Tattoo and X (Melbourne), punk rock, American Delta blues, Cajun music, and a whole lot of other stuff -- if you want to a more complete range check their Cooper-S album from 1988 (included here) which is made up exclusively of covers. But feedtime never sounded like anyone but themselves: raw, repetitive, loud, and proud. Their debut self-titled album came raging out of Sydney at full-tilt to no notice in its homeland. The band's lyrics were minimal, the music was intense and rhythmic as hell; you could dance to it, but you couldn't hum it. There are sourced covers here, too -- almost fully credited. On "Mandead/Searching the Desert," they don't cop to using the riff to "Gloria" by Van Morrison (but one else ever does, either), but they do to Blind Willie McTell and Blind Boy Fuller. Their cover of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "What's the Matter with Papa's Little Angel Child" rips and roars like nothing you've ever heard. Shovel, issued in 1987 is the band's best-known -- and arguably finest -- recording. It's more firmly rooted to traceable sources, but it punishes and delights in equal measure. It will leave you forever wondering where you were mentally before you heard it. One listen to the title track, "Rock & Roll," and the all but unrecognizable cover of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" -- which should erase Led Zeppelin's version permanently from memory -- are fueled by an incessant, overdriven bass throb and syncopated snare skitter; the heart of a sonic black hole that envelops everything around it. The slide guitar wails and winds around the entire glorious mess. Album-closer "Plymouth Car Is a Limousine" has to be heard to be believed. Cooper-S is a blast of a covers record, the group paying their own chugging tributes to all that they love. The band's final album with this lineup, Suction, issued in 1989, was mastered by Butch Vig. Its vocals are much more clear, the bass standing out a little further, but it's still a notorious rock & roll racket -- even when they play "straight" gospel-blues. Rick left on the eve of an American tour and this lineup was no more. It doesn't matter. The four records in The Aberrant Years are augmented by bonus tracks; the box contains a booklet with photos and an historical liner essay. Individually and together, these records are as potent, squalling, and beautiful as when they were issued.

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