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Racket Review

by Stewart Mason

Until Racket was released on CD in 1992, most power pop fans had never actually heard anything by the legendary North Carolina group led by Chris Stamey and Mitch Easter, whose records were released in minute quantities on tiny indies in 1976 and 1978, before D.I.Y. albums like this were able to get decent distribution and media attention. Of course, the dB's and Let's Active, not to mention their respective production careers, have since made both Stamey and Easter titanic figures in the history of American indie music, so 1992's Racket is an important document. Unfortunately, it rewrites history quite a bit. For some reason, the packaging makes it appear as if Stamey and Easter were the entire band, minimizing the contributions of drummer Will Rigby, guitarist Rob Slater, and bassist Robert Keely (who appeared on the debut EP, Condition Red). Perhaps more damaging in the eyes of musical anthropologists, it remixes (sometimes drastically) most of the songs and completely re-records three of them. But while this means Racket is not entirely historically accurate, it does improve the songs considerably. A weird mix of pure pop, heavy guitars (Easter has claimed that his guitar hero is Uriah Heep's Mick Box, and he's probably not entirely kidding), and odd experimental pursuits, the songs on Racket are akin to the similar experiments R. Stevie Moore was pursuing one state over in Nashville during the mid-'70s, with possibly a more attuned sense of songcraft. However, the most priceless moment is Easter's unsolicited (and presumably unused) commercial for a local delicacy, the B&G fried pie.

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