San Francisco's Still Doomed

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Being ahead of your time is often a bad career move, and Crime is as good an example of this theory as any band around. Crime was one of the very first acts to emerge from the West Coast punk scene, and certainly the first to record. But given California's reputation as the holy land of all that was mellow, it would take a few years for the West Coast underground to gain credibility, and record companies were ignoring the new California bands in favor of what was happening in New York City at the time. Crime only released three singles before calling it quits in 1982, and this collection of two sloppily recorded demo sessions, released by a small British label in 1992, is as close as anyone will ever get to a proper Crime album. But San Francisco's Doomed does manage to capture what a wild, powerful, and thoroughly unique band Crime was; Johnny Strike's guitar lines took a blues player's call-and-response style and stripped the structure to the frame after beefing up the body with a cranked-up Marshall stack, while Ron the Ripper's hyperactive basslines ran roughshod up, down, and around the melodies and neophyte drummer Hank Rank drove the songs home with lots of muscle and little fuss. The songs are manic bursts of pure energy that sound a shade more sophisticated than what the Ramones were doing at the same time, but with a surreal menace that's something else altogether, aided by the twisted but forceful vocal/lyrical style of Frankie Fix. It might not be absolutely clear just what "Piss on Your Dog," "I Stupid Anyway," or "I Knew This Nurse" are supposed to be about, but that won't stop listeners from trying to bellow along. Brutal, rough-edged, and with no audible sense of compromise, Crime was among the best and most distinctive of the early West Coast punk outfits, and while a deserved major retrospective has thus far eluded the band, San Francisco's Doomed at least preserves Crime's sound on plastic in all its abrasive glory, and it's a wonder to behold. San Francisco's Still Doomed was mired in legal hassles throughout much of the 1990s and was finally issued again on CD in 2004 with two bonus tracks in the form of alternate takes of 45 rpm tracks "Hot Wire My Heart," (later made infamous by Sonic Youth's cover version), and "Baby You're So Repulsive." Unfortunately, Crime's killer single "Gangster Funk" is still missing in action as are the original versions of the two bonus cuts, making this a welcome but still not definitive reissue.

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