The Screamers

Demos 1977, Vol. 1

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It's still hard to fathom that the Screamers, the biggest and best band of the late-'70s L.A. punk scene (along with their friends, the Weirdos), never released a record -- they thought the medium passé -- and hadn't been documented by one posthumously two decades later. Listeners must content themselves instead with bootlegs such as this (and the hotter 7" boot Live From the Masque Dec. '78). This inept, anonymous label doesn't even list song titles, but that aside, this is another longed-for glimpse of what made this trio such a fearsome legend. In the early, pre-close-minded days of punk, they could exist with just a banging, relentless drummer (K.K.), a weird, Wall of Sound keyboard player (Gear), and most of all, the outrageous, fierce, frightening, blunt, sneering singer Tomato du Plenty (whose straight-up-in-the-air hair and violently screaming visage are still famous via the Gary Panter t-shirt drawing that forms the cover of this 7"). Without any guitar or bass, the Screamers sound as dangerous, ingenious, intellectual, and primal as anything the punk genre ever fabricated and ingested.