Pell Mell

1982: It Was a Live Cassette

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And so indeed it was -- eight songs recorded at a 1982 Portland show, initially self-released and then re-released almost two decades later on CD. The band already had an EP and a couple of compilation appearances under their collective belt by the time of this particular show, and as a snapshot of a young group exploring sounds both fashionable and waiting to be rediscovered, it's an enjoyable listen indeed. The major difference between this release and nearly everything that followed was the absence of Steve Fisk -- though he mixed and produced the release, he didn't join until the following year, so this is the group as a trio, though already defiantly and solely instrumental. Robert Beerman and Greg Freeman are audibly on board and already doing a great job as a rhythm section thinking as one mind. While there's a connection to no wave and post-punk on many cuts -- opener "Spanner" sounds like a merrier take on a Metal Box composition, "Shirts and Skins" at points more intensely so -- the deeper Krautrock roots already come to the fore. Still, the sound is often bright and open and reliant on sudden tempo changes in favor of mesmerizing jams à la Can or Neu!, while "Estacada" breaks into a full-on disco funk effort -- with whistles. That the group has a value for on-the-money, tight performing is audible throughout -- there's nothing sloppy about the various songs, and everything from the exploratory riffing to the sharp rhythm jams feels both well-rehearsed and immediately alive. There are enough hints of a new wave context to place the group in their time and place -- especially in some of the Andy Summers-style guitar riffs -- but though the group only had the three members, this isn't a Police cover band or anything of the sort (thank goodness).

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